Friday, October 31, 2008

The Danube Express

The return of glamorous train travel. (Via LRC) Share

Thursday, October 30, 2008

"Vive Henri IV"

It was the entr'acte and a ballet was performed to the strains of Vive Henri IV. The audience sang with the chorus.

"How often must they play Vive Henri IV!" lamented Dorothée. "I am glad we shall soon be departing from Paris." She waved her fan as she spoke, in an effort to draw Talleyrand's attention back to herself.

"Oh, you young people," mused Talleyrand. "You do not know how sweet life was before the Revolution."

~from Madame Royale by Elena Maria Vidal, Chapter Eleven, "The Opera"

The royalist anthem Vive Henri IV was from Collé's 1770 opera La partie de chasse d'Henri IV. In 1774 it was often sung to honor Louis XVI, became popular again during the Restoration in 1814, as is told in the novel Madame Royale. Here are the lyrics which celebrate the monarch who was seen by the French people as the epitome of justice, kindness, and virility. (Sorry, I am still working on a decent English translation!)

Vive Henri IV
Vive ce roi vaillant !
Vive Henri IV
Vive ce roi vaillant !
Ce diable à quatre
A le triple talent
De boire de battre
Et d'être un vers galant.

It was an attempt to identify the Bourbon dynasty with the popular first Bourbon monarch, Henri IV. Louis XVI had also been seen as sharing with the King from Navarre an easy manner with the common folk, as well as a strong sense of justice and love of the hunt. Early in their reign, the King and Queen held a costume ball where everyone came in dress from the era of le bon roi Henri, with Marie-Antoinette herself 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. During the Restoration, members of the Bourbon family, especially the daughter of Louis XVI, the Duchess of Angoulême, were frequently welcomed with the anthem. After the fall of the Bourbons in 1830, the anthem was no longer played, and soon became a relic of the past. Share

All Hallows Eve is Not Pagan

It is Catholic. I have never run into so many Puritans in my life as I have in some recent Halloween debates. I went trick-or-treating all throughout my childhood and I have NEVER, not once, felt tempted to dabble in witchcraft. Not once. It was always fun to dress up and be creative with costumes. The best costume I ever had was when I went to a Halloween pageant as Empress Josephine, in sixth grade. In some ways, in our country, Halloween is the American version of the fancy dress ball. It has some pagan elements but then so does Christmas. Christmas trees come from the Druids.

he Catholic religion has always skillfully united devotion and feast days with wholesome merry-making, something which many Protestant sects are unable to do. Our ancestors were pagan and the Church incorporated many of their customs into our celebration of holidays. If you want to strip every Christian holiday of every single vestige of paganism, then just become a Puritan, and be done with it. There are many genuinely evil and scary things from which our children need to be protected, but dressing up at Halloween is not one of them. Share

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Anne of Austria

Catherine Delors has a fascinating post about Anne of Austria, Queen of France and mother of Louis XIV. Like Marie-Antoinette, Queen Anne was married at age fourteen. However, while Marie-Antoinette had her first child when she was twenty-two years old, Anne was thirty-seven when, after twenty-three years of marriage and many, many prayers, she gave birth to the future Sun King. Share

Calumny in the Blogosphere

Calumny is a serious offense before God. (Catholics seem to be better at it than everyone else.) (Via The Crescat)
Calumny is cheating. It does not play by the rules. It is unsportsmanlike in the extreme, even viciously so. It uses half truths, innuendo, misrepresentation, disregard for context and downright lies, all in the hope that some negative bit of mud, no matter how distorted or absurd, will stick to the person or organization under attack.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pope Benedict's Bavaria

English journalist Eric Hester has kindly offered to share with Tea at Trianon some photos and reflections of his pilgrimage to Bavaria in 2005. He also went into Austria. I have been to the wonderful restaurant in Salzburg that he mentions. After reading Mr. Hester's article, I am ready to go back.

Share Pope Benedict’s joyful enthusiasm for his beloved Bavaria
By Eric Hester
In 2005 I had a holiday – better to call it a pilgrimage – in Bavaria with my wife, her sister and husband, which made me very clear that it is no accident that this wonderful area has produced a pope. This year the four of us went again and found it just as good.
What a marvelous area Bavaria is! The people are a sunny, courteous, hospitable, kind, generous people with a great capacity for enjoying life.

Best of all, they are intensely Catholic. Not only in the public hotels where we stayed were there were crucifixes and statues of Our Blessed Lady but also on the corners of buildings and inside shops such as the Chemist’s. The standard Bavarian greeting in shops and everywhere else is not the normal German Guten Tag but Grüss Gott! “God’s greetings."

We flew from London Stanstead to Munich in 2005 and picked up a hired car, but this year we flew to Salzburg which, though in Austria, is just as handy. Again, we made our base the town of Traunstein. This is where the young Joseph Ratzinger lived from 1937, his father being the local policeman, where he had his “gymnasium” or grammar school education at the diocesan junior seminary, and where after ordination he said his first Mass. He calls it the most beautiful town in the world and, even allowing for his bias, one has to admit its charm. That the Holy Father has happy memories of it is not surprising.

We stayed at the Parkhotel Traunsteiner Hof hotel and it is one of the best we have ever been in. At this hotel, you will see a very beautiful statue of Our Blessed Lady on the main stairs. The food is excellent, with drink to match, not just Bavarian beer, but wines of the highest class. The hotel is a family one that has belonged to the same family since the nineteenth century. The present owner greets one at breakfast and again goes round to each table at dinner. An article such as this cannot go into details of prices but it is worth mentioning that this hotel was considerably cheaper than a certain famous hotel in the middle of Oxford where we stayed recently.

Apart from being a wonderful place in itself, Traunstein has the advantage of being on a good railway line with Salzburg only twenty minutes away and Munich not much more than an hour the other way. Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart, has its own charms and delights. We had lunch and dinner at The Stiftskeller St Peter, a restaurant some 1200 years old, which counts Charlemagne among its guest list and is mentioned by the Anglo Saxon writer from York, Alcuin. The food is wonderful and includes the famous Salzburgernockerl, a fine concoction of a dessert. While we had dinner there, in between courses, we were entertained to beautifully sung extracts from The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni and The Magic Flute. The proximity of Austria to Bavaria was a factor mentioned by the Holy Father in his book, which I recommend, Milestones, published originally under the name of Joseph Ratzinger.

Traunstein is also near the great lake Chiemsee, where, can you believe it, you can take boat trips to two inhabited islands on both of which there are churches with daily Mass and on one there is the extraordinary palace of Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria, something not to be missed. Those who visit the Tea at Trianon website will love this palace. It was intended as a replica of Versailles and, though unfinished, it has a Hall of Mirrors and other reminders of the French Court. It is surrounded by beautiful gardens and fountains.

In 2005, as we drove from Traunstein to our next base, Altötting, we were able to take in Tittmoning, a beautiful town where the Holy Father lived from 1929 to 1937 and which he obviously loved. This is not surprising. It is a gem. The Holy Father says of it: “Tittmoning remains my childhood’s land of dreams” and says, quite rightly that “it has a square that would do great honour to bigger cities.” As the Holy Father mentions, one can simply walk across the bridge over the river and into Austria. The half-day we spent there hardly did it justice.

We had decided to stay at Altötting in 2005 because of the Holy Father’s own recommendation of this city with a great Marian shrine. As Cardinal Ratzinger, he had written the Foreword to the town guide that we found so useful and he writes in the Guide: “I was very lucky to have been born near to Altötting and so pilgrimages together with my parents and family to this place of grace form a part of my earliest and most treasured memories.”

He ends his two-page introduction by saying of the Guide, “I hope that this book will not only be a guide to its exterior, but also a guide to its interior which helps readers to experience the grace of the city.” How many places have an entry from the Pope in the local guide? This tiny city does not disappoint. It is like a very small version of Lourdes but without the crowds or commercialisation.

The actual shrine to Our Blessed Lady of the Black Madonna is most moving and one can attend daily Mass there or at one of the other churches. In fact, nowhere in Bavaria will daily Mass be a problem.

We stayed here at another outstanding hotel –the Hotel Zur Post, right in the main square, and with outstanding cuisine and, as everywhere, scrupulously clean rooms and excellent facilities including a swimming pool. Best of all, one can sit outside and eat, and drink beer or tea.

From Altötting, Marktl, the village where the Holy Father was born, is a quarter of an hour by car. This sleepy little village is now on the tourist trail. The house where the Pope was born is right in the middle. There is a lovely little tourist centre where charming people proudly give information and advice. They have the air of a man who has won the lottery three weeks running. They are determined to preserve the character of the village while making it a proper venue for tourists.

The little church where the baby Ratzinger was christened Joseph on the day he was born, Holy Saturday, April 16th 1927, is proud of its most famous son. The banner stating Habemus Papam has a different meaning from the obvious one. Yet this church was the only disappointing building we saw in Bavaria in 2005 since it had been badly modernized. The village, otherwise, is much as it must have been over the years – of course, the beer gardens and inns sell Papst bier, “Pope’s beer,” but I cannot see anything offensive in that; we drank some and it seemed just as good as the other splendid Bavarian beer.

Another place not far from Altötting is the magnificent city of Passau, with its dignified cathedral containing the world’s biggest organ which we heard played in an organ recital, as happens virtually daily. Three rivers meet here, and one can, as we did, go on a mini-cruise on the Danube to see something of the city. We had a magnificent day out in Munich a city with fine buildings and an art gallery of world importance. When we were there just over a month ago, the Beer Festival was in full swing and yet we saw nothing of the unpleasantness that accompanies such events in England.

One remarkable feature is that the Bavarian and Austrian people are among the few in the world who wear as a matter of course, their national costume on ordinary days. The men wear coats, suits, waistcoats and other items of what we in England call Loden, a beautiful wool, mostly but not always in dark green. The ladies wear loden items such as coats and may also wear dirndl skirts. In the shops, on the street and, of course, in the churches, one sees these elegantly dressed people.

I spoke to a few people involved in the media and I was grossly embarrassed that they had become aware of the appallingly insulting treatment of the new pope by the British media, especially the BBC. What is one to say to fine young Bavarian Catholics when they quote the references to “rottweilers, panzers, Nazis, and Hitler Youth?"

They were surprised when I told them that most English people, and almost every single Catholic in England – except for the odd weird dissident - welcomed the pope as the obvious choice and a man of deep spirituality and integrity. They were pleased when I told them that at the church my wife and I attended in Bolton, the parish priest invited all the congregation to drink champagne with him when the news of the election broke just before the evening Mass.

English and American people who respect tradition and love the Catholic faith will find that Bavaria is the ideal place for them for a holiday that is also a pilgrimage.


Beware the Blues

With the days getting shorter, it is important to excerise and stay in the sunshine as much as possible. (via Lew Rockwell) Share

Monday, October 27, 2008

Madame Déficit

Marie-Antoinette has become the symbol of extravagance and decadence of the ancien-régime. It is overlooked that from the moment of their succession in 1774, she joined her husband in desiring to cut back on the enormous expenses of the court. She refused to collect the customary droit de ceinture tax levied on behalf of the queen at the beginning of every reign. Moreover, her charities were quite extensive.

The Queen's spending on hairstyles and gowns was nothing compared to the extravagance of the mistresses Madame du Barry and Madame de Pompadour in the previous reign. Antonia Fraser in her biography of Marie-Antoinette says that when the eighteen year old queen adopted the elaborate poufs, it actually caused a lucrative trade in feathers to spring up in Paris. Patronizing French luxury goods was a duty of the crown. According to Lady Fraser:
...Paris was a city dependent on the financial support of the noble and rich to maintain its industries, which were in the main to do with luxury and semi-luxury goods. For foreigners, fashion was part of the point of being in Paris....As the Baronne d'Oberkirch remarked on her first visit to the French capital, the city would be sunk without its luxurious commerce....Against the spectacle of an exquisitely dressed Queen, her appearance a work of art in itself- French art- must be put in the balance of the dress bills that mounted, and the dress allowance that was never enough. (Fraser's The Journey, pp 148-149)
Within a very few years, as she matured, the Queen herself had introduced much simpler fashions and hairstyles. Her simple white dresses were not well-received, and were seen as an attempt to patronize the Flemish weavers of the Habsburg Empire over the French silk merchants. How ironic that Marie-Antoinette was given the nickname of Madame Déficit by her enemies in the 1780's at a time when she was trying to be cut expenses in her household and in her wardrobe, which included having old gowns refurbished so that they could be worn again.

There is no doubt that she went over her budget, especially as a young Queen, on clothes, jewelry, gambling and gardening. Nesta Webster, in Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette before the Revolution, breaks down the Queen's expenditures. It should be noted that in 1774 when Louis XVI became king, Marie-Antoinette was put on pretty much the same budget as the staid Queen Marie Leszcinska, who had died some years earlier. However, the livre had decreased in value, while costs had risen due to inflation. Interestingly, even Queen Marie had exceeded the limits of her privy purse and had to ask for extra money, three times. To quote Webster:
Under the old régime, the expenses of the Queens of France were paid out of at least three different funds. These were:-
1. The sum for the maintenance of the Queen's household, which for centuries had stood at 600,000 livres....This sum had long proved inadequate and had to be supplemented by what was called the dépenses extraordinaires, which by July 1774...had mounted up to two million livres....The Queen had no control over these dépenses extraordinaires, which led to great abuses.

2. The cassette de la Reine (or privy purse) for alms, presents, pensions, and other acts of generosity...but not for anything in the way of dress. For this, Marie Antoinette received the same as Marie Leszcinska, that is 96,000 livres a year, and out of it she continued to pay pensions accorded by the late Queen....

3. The Wardrobe, for which 120,000 livres was allowed yearly, a fund which was administered entirely by the dame d'autours (lady of the bedchamber).... (Webster's Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette before the Revolution, pp. 60-61)
Because Marie-Antoinette insisted upon paying, out of the cassette de la reine, the pensions of the old servants of the old queen (although Count Mercy begged her to drop them) she went over the budget of her privy purse. In addition, she paid pensions for her own retired servants. She refused to petition her husband for more money; it was Count Mercy, the Austrian ambassador, who intervened for her allowance to be increased. (see Webster, p 31)

The Queen's ladies were given commissions from various merchants for buying their wares for the royal wardrobe; likewise, the ladies were permitted to sell the gowns after the Queen was finished with them, and pocket the money. Such confusion and potential for abuse contributed to the Queen's expenses going beyond the budget, along with the high prices of her dressmaker, Rose Bertin. Caroline Weber in Queen of Fashion discusses how Marie-Antoinette used fashion as previously only royal mistresses had used it, as a means of strengthening her position in a hostile court, where she was a foreigner. Former queens had been less stylish; her clothes, therefore, caused quite a stir.

However, Marie-Antoinette's situation in those years before she became a mother was tenuous, especially from a political point of view. Her marriage was not consummated and the potential of an annulment was hanging over her. Louis XVI deliberately kept her out of political matters in the beginning of his reign, encouraging her to divert herself at Petit Trianon. (He thought that Madame Pompadour had ruined France and so was suspicious of women meddling in political affairs.)

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 not one of the pious aunts, neither had it been the late devout and dowdy Queen. It was Madame du Barry who ruled the roost, of whom the young Dauphine innocently exclaimed, "I want to be her rival!" It became important for Marie-Antoinette to give the impression that she was her husband's mistress as well as his wife, to appear to be the one who influenced his decisions, even though she did not, as the matter of Bavaria proved in 1778, and the American Revolution as well. Her brother frequently pressured her to use her role as consort for Austrian interests. Louis XVI, to Joseph's frustration, continued to do what he thought was best for France, not what was best for Austria. Placed in a very awkward situation, Marie-Antoinette used clothes to establish herself; her interest in fashion was not mere hedonism, not at all.

Once Marie-Antoinette became the mother of a Dauphin, of course, her position changed dramatically, and her influence on the king became genuine. She no longer needed the flamboyance, and dressed with greater moderation. She had become, however, like the mistresses of old, a convenient scapegoat for all the problems of the nation. As the determined and energetic mother of the next king, she was perceived as a genuine threat to the adversaries of the crown. The pornographic pamphlets, the epithets such as Madame Déficit, were only the beginning of the attempts to weaken the esteem of the people for the Queen. Share

The Controversies of Halloween

Scott Richert explores the matter and his conclusions are quite interesting. Halloween was originally attacked for being too papist.
The current attacks on Halloween aren't the first. In post-Reformation England, All Saints Day and its vigil were suppressed, and the Celtic peasant customs associated with Halloween were outlawed. Christmas, and the traditions surrounding that feast, were similarly attacked, and the Puritan Parliament banned Christmas outright in 1647. In America, Puritans outlawed the celebration of both Christmas and Halloween, which were revived largely by German Catholic (in the case of Christmas) and Irish Catholic (in the case of Halloween) immigrants in the 19th century....

A new backlash against Halloween by non-Catholic Christians began in the 1980's, in part because of claims that Halloween was the devil's night; in part because of urban legends about poisons and razor blades in Halloween candy; and in part because of an explicit opposition to Catholicism. Jack Chick, a rabidly anti-Catholic fundamentalist who distributes Bible tracts in the form of small comic books, helped lead the charge.

By the late 1990's, many Catholic parents, unaware of the anti-Catholic origins of the attack on Halloween, had begun to question Halloween as well, and alternative celebrations became popular.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

An Autumn Evening

Dark hills against a hollow crocus sky
Scarfed with its crimson pennons, and below
The dome of sunset long, hushed valleys lie
Cradling the twilight, where the lone winds blow
And wake among the harps of leafless trees
Fantastic runes and mournful melodies.

The chilly purple air is threaded through
With silver from the rising moon afar,
And from a gulf of clear, unfathomed blue
In the southwest glimmers a great gold star
Above the darkening druid glens of fir
Where beckoning boughs and elfin voices stir.

And so I wander through the shadows still,
And look and listen with a rapt delight,
Pausing again and yet again at will
To drink the elusive beauty of the night,
Until my soul is filled, as some deep cup,
That with divine enchantment is brimmed up.

by Lucy Maude Montgomery

(Artwork: "Autumn Leaves" by John Millais) Share

Coffee and Chocolate

They are keys to a healthy life. (Via LRC) Share

Saturday, October 25, 2008

St. Philip Howard


He is one of my favorites among the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.
Thereon began his long term of imprisonment, never knowing from day to day which would be his last. Each day he spent several hours in prayer and meditation; he was noted for his patience in suffering and courtesy to unkind keepers. Weakened by malnutrition and not without a suspicion of having been poisoned, he died on 19th October, 1595. He was 39 years old and had spent the last eleven years of his life in the Tower of London.

Written on the step before the Shrine is this inscription: "The more affliction we endure for Christ in this world, the more glory we shall obtain with Christ in the next." This is a translation of the original Latin cut by St. Philip over the fireplace in the Beauchamp Tower, which visitors to the Tower of London can still see:

Quanto plus afflictionis pro Christo in hoc saeculo, tanto plus gloriae cum Christo in futuro. Arundell - June 22, 1587.


Old and new. Share

Friday, October 24, 2008

Young Bess (1953)

Ann Seymour: Do not attempt to confuse me by using words beyond my understanding.
Bess: I am sorry, madame, but they are difficult to avoid.
~from Young Bess (1953)

Every generation has its own interpretation of the complex soul of Elizabeth Tudor. The 1953 film Young Bess, starring Jean Simmons as the future Elizabeth I of England and Stewart Granger as Thomas Seymour, is a romanticized version of Margaret Irwin's historical novel. I read the book as a young teen, and first saw the film when it ran one night on the late movie back in the '70's. Although it is replete with 1950's technicolor glamor, Young Bess still surpasses many contemporary renditions of the life of Elizabeth I for its fairly authentic exploration of the unique situations of her youth. The focus is on her tragic involvement with her stepmother's husband Tom Seymour, who in the film is shown as being Elizabeth's overwhelming first love. Simmons and Granger, who were married in real life, are able to communicate the intensity of the dangerous infatuation while hardly touching each other. I remember, watching the film way back when, how my mother said, "Those old movies were so full of passion and no one ever took their clothes off."

While the film, like most films, can be picked apart from a historical point of view, Jean Simmons' portrayal of the teenage Elizabeth Tudor is positively brilliant. Jean is much prettier than the real Elizabeth, but her beauty does not prevent her from becoming Bess. She captures the combination of intense vulnerability and insecurity of a motherless girl whose paternity has been questioned. In Jean's first scene she projects with a flash of the eyes the strong will, the indomitable determination of the adolescent princess to survive at all costs. Always one feels Bess' sense of her dignity as the daughter of a king, a dignity which she will not compromise even though it strives against her longing to be loved.

Jean Simmons' Bess confronts her changes of fortune with incredible poise and self-possession, while emanating the very real anxieties that the daughter of Anne Boleyn had to face. One can understand in her portrayal why the love-starved girl became smitten with Tom Seymour. Yet in spite of her devastation at the tragic outcome of the highly inappropriate relationship, she keeps her head, and does not let herself be destroyed.

Charles Laughton is the best Henry VIII ever, a villainous old swine, conflicted over his past deeds, and especially torn in his feelings for "Nan Bullen's brat." Deborah Kerr is the lovely, gracious sixth queen, Katherine Parr, who tries to create a semblance of family life for the motherless Bess and her brother Edward. It is sad that because of Seymour, Bess loses the motherly guidance of Queen Katherine, and comes to the verge of public disgrace. In the last scene, as the new young queen greets her people, the inner pain and deep bitterness radiate from her face amid the triumph and promise of glory.


When the Bow Breaks....

The heartbreak of mothers who fail. Share

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Queen on Horseback

Fashion is My Muse considers to explore the attire of Queen Marie-Antoinette. Following the hunt was one of the ways she could be with her husband. (In those years before the children came, she would do just about anything to get Louis' attention.)
Although much is made of Marie Antoinette's choices of gowns, hairstyles and accessories, one of the Dauphine's most rebellious fashion choices is rarely written about. After learning to ride in order to accompany her husband and grandfather on the hunt, she abandoned the long flowing skirts of a sidesaddle rider and adopted slim breeches as part of her equestrienne habit....

In 1771, Marie Antoinette commissioned her portrait of herself in a masculine-style riding outfit by Josef Krantzinger. While this painting has been lost, it is believed that the artist captured "her joy so effectively that even her mother was mollified when she saw the painting, declaring it one of the most true-to-life images she had yet seen of her daughter" (Queen of Fashion, Caroline Weber, Picador Press, 2005, page 87).

November 4 is Coming

Mary Jo Anderson discusses the priorities. Share

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Blessed Karl of Austria

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Yesterday was the holy emperor's memorial. Last Sunday, the relics of Blessed Karl were venerated in Chicago with members of his family present.

More HERE.
His Holiness, Pope St Pius X, had granted a private audience to Karl’s fiancée, HRH Princess Zita of Bourbon-Parma, a short time before their wedding, and the saintly Pope had prophesied that he would one day become Emperor. Zita corrected the Pope reminding him that Charles was only 2nd in line after HIRH the Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

Nevertheless, the holy Pope insisted that it would be so and told her that when he was Emperor they must both work zealously for peace. Thus St Pius X also indirectly predicted the First World War.
Scenes from the last Habsburg coronation. Share


Quotes from Vogue's Book of Etiquette, 1969.
A person's good manners are primarily a matter of considerate actions; a house's good manners are largely a matter of considerate furnishings that are comfortable, co-operative, and easy to live with. They take into account the fact that things, no matter how beautiful, are less important than people....

A reasonable amount of shabbiness is nothing to be ashamed of, and certainly should not be confused with dirtiness...Too much newness can have overtones of a store display and give the impression that a house is more of a showpiece than a place for enjoying a full life.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Trouble with Corsets

Marie-Antoinette hated them. According to Fashion is My Muse:
To French aristocrats, a tightly corseted body represented "the norms of stiffness and self-control" expected of the ruling caste. Marie-Antoinette's position required her to wear a form of corset called a grand corps. This more rigid form of corset was the "mark of supreme distinction". Only France's greatest princesses had the right to wear this undergarment on a regular basis. Other noblewomen were allowed to wear it only on the day of their presentation at court and after that, only at specially designated formal functions. This corset was stiffer than a regular corset and made breathing, eating and even moving one's arms difficult.

(Via Versailles and More)


Wife Dressing

For wives and future wives, some wise words:
Discipline makes you the woman you are. You are you. Not the model in that photo, or the girl beside you in the elevator, or even the gal sitting at the next lunch table. Discipline is the secret to good grooming, no matter your budget. Discipline prevents you from being deluded about the squishing into the wrong size, or buying something just because it’s on sale. Discipline makes you a stickler for details which left unchecked could lead to a catastrophe.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Morning Gazettes

Louis XVI and his newspapers.
Louis subscribed not only to the daily Gazette de France, but also to the main European newspapers of the day. Some of these included the Morning Chronicle of London and the Gazette de Leyden, a premiere Dutch publication. He would not read them all over breakfast but spent many hours in his library pouring over both books and the news. So if you assumed he was not on the 'in' he was in fact very well informed of events in Europe from point of views outside of France!
The mystery of Lapérouse.
Louis XVI, who personally supervised the planning of the voyage, specifically forbade the mistreatment of any native peoples and stated that he would consider it "one of the highest accomplishments of the expedition that it be completed without costing a single human life."

How to be a Modern Gent

He behaves well, naturally. (Via LRC) Share

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Royal Family at the Foundling Hospital, 1790

Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette contributed a great deal throughout their reign to the care of orphans and foundlings. They patronized foundling hospitals, which the Queen often visited with her children. Above is a picture of an occasion in February, 1790, after their removal to Paris, when the king, the queen and their children toured such a facility, where the nuns cared for abandoned babies and little children. As is reported by Maxime de la Rocheterie, the young Dauphin, soon to be an orphan himself, was particularly drawn to the foundlings and gave all of his small savings to aid them.

(Pictures from L'Affaire Madame Royale) Share

The Parents of St.Thérèse

They are beatified today.
One lesson that believers might take from the new "blesseds" is that sanctity comes in many styles. If it were up to their youthful selves, neither would have married: Zélie wanted to be a nun as much as Louis hoped to be a monk. After setting aside their celibacy, they provided a warm home for their children, five of whom fulfilled their parents' thwarted hopes for life in a religious order. The wife died early; the grieving husband struggled with mental illness, including hallucinations in which he saw "frightful things," according to his daughter Céline.

Let us ask them to intercede for the fleeing Christian families of Iraq, and the suffering Christians in India. Share

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Pius XII

Father Rutler writes of the greatly maligned pontiff:
His was a rare voice in a world of immoral silence. Today that silence is deafening in those same institutions that, in those war years, ignored the progress of evil: the universities, the media, and the courts. No one who lives is subhuman: no baby, however young, and no invalid, however old. To say that in our generation is to indict the academics, journalists, and jurists who stammer when the voice of God calls out, as in Eden: "Where are you?"

Henry VIII's Rosary

Yes, he had one. Share

Friday, October 17, 2008

Enthronement of the Sacred Heart

Don Marco mentions the importance of enthroning the Sacred Heart of Jesus as King of our families.

The value of images of the Sacred Heart derives from this: that the pierced Heart of Jesus sets before our eyes the whole mystery of the merciful love of God, softens our resistances to that love, and invites us to grown in confident surrender to it. One understands just why Our Lord said to Saint Margaret Mary: "I will bless those places wherein the image of My Sacred Heart shall be exposed and venerated."

Enthronement of the Sacred Heart

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me" (Ap 3:20). The enthronement of an image of the Sacred Heart in one's home is a way of opening family life to the merciful love of Christ. Those who introduce an image of the Sacred Heart into their homes express their desire to say with the Apostle John, "So do we know and believe the love God has for us" (1 Jn 4:16). God who inspires that desire will also fulfill it.


The Joys of Stationery

Victoria Thorne discusses the lost art of sending and receiving letters and invitations~ in paper envelopes. To quote Mrs. Thorne:
Although an incredible number of invitations and notes are sent on the internet, it's still the siren call of stationery--real paper, real envelopes, real stamps, real ink in a real pen--that gets to a lot of us. Maybe it's the retro joy of opening the mailbox and finding real correspondence.

Maybe it's the pure art of it, when it is well done: the thrill that comes when one receives their own little bit of thoughtful beauty in an envelope.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Pius VI on the Death of Louis XVI

A few months after Louis XVI was executed, the pope denounced the regicide in his allocution of July 17, 1793, Pourquoi Notre Voix:
The most Christian King, Louis XVI, was condemned to death by an impious conspiracy and this judgment was carried out. We shall recall to you in a few words the ordering and motives of this sentence. The National Convention had no right or authority to pronounce it. In fact, after having abolished the monarchy, the best of all governments, it had transferred all the public power to the people -- the people which, guided neither by reason nor by counsels, forms just ideas on no point whatsoever; assesses few things in accord ance with the truth and evaluates a great many according to mere opinion, which is ever fickle, and ever easy to deceive and to lead into every excess, ungrateful, arrogant, and cruel.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Auction at Christie's

It is strange and fascinating that after so many years the possessions of Marie-Antoinette are still being auctioned off.

UDATE: Auction results, here. Share

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Here is an interesting post about Marie-Josephine of Savoy, the Comtesse de Provence, Marie-Antoinette's sister-in-law who spread a great many false rumors about her. Share

Pink Ribbons

Genevieve voices a warning too often disregarded. Share

Four Canonizations

And prayer requests for the persecuted Christians in India, Iraq and the Congo.
Pope Benedict XVI presided over the canonization of four saints today in St. Peter's Square. One of them was the first Indian woman to be canonized, Sr. Alfonsa of the Immaculate Conception (Anna Muttathupadathu) (1910-1946), of the Congregation of Claretian Franciscans. He said that she spoke of her cross as a means of preparing for the heavenly banquet, as she said "I consider a day without suffering as a day lost." He also spoke about the lives of the other three saints canonized today. In his homily, the Pope also spoke of the "singular beauty" of these saints, inviting people to imitate them. After the canonization, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims and spoke about the religious persecution in India, Iraq and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He asked people to pray for them and assured them of his own prayers. Mentioning St. Alfonsa again, he said that she reminds us that in deep suffering, "God always provides the strength we need to overcome every trial."

A full translation of the homily can be found at Papa Ratzinger Forum. Catholic News Agency has one article about the canonization and another about his words after the canonization. Asia News also has an article.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Dance of the Sun

October 13 marks the anniversary of the final apparition of Our Lady at Fatima, when the sun swirled in the sky, a phenomenon witnessed by thousands of people. The three children-- Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta-- saw Our Lady appear as the joyful Virgin Mother, the Sorrowful Mother, and finally as Our Glorious Lady of Mount Carmel. They also saw St. Joseph in the sky, holding the Child Jesus. In his book entitled St. Joseph, Fatima, and Fatherhood, Monsignor Joseph A. Cirrincione offers some thought-provoking reflections.
The role of the priest in relation to Christ is strikingly analogous to the role of St. Joseph in relation to God the Father. Just as the Eternal Father willed to share His Fatherhood with St. Jesus willed to share His Fatherhood with the priest.... (p.28)
Likewise, "the sun stands out in a special way as a symbol and figure of God, and also of His Church...." Monsignor goes on to say that at Fatima "the 'miracle of the sun' represents not so much a threat of evils to come as it does a foreshadowing of the dethronement of God the Father, and an intimation of the appalling consequences inevitably to follow." One month after the "dance" of the sun in Fatima, the Communists took control of Russia.
The combination of atheism and secularism-- which practically speaking amounts to the universal and official rejection of the Fatherhood of God by mankind across the entire face of the earth....And I believe it was foreshadowed by the 'miracle of the sun' at Fatima in 1917.

Rejection of the Fatherhood of God by the vast majority of mankind inevitably has set in motion a chain reaction of consequences affecting fatherhood under every aspect that we have considered here. The notion of fatherhood in many families, for example, has been reduced to a biological fact. And the role of the father as the head of the family has completely gone out of style...the disintegration of the family inexorably and inevitably is leading to the disintegration of society itself....But the spirit of anti-fatherhood has entered even the Catholic Church. Recognition of the fatherhood of the Vicar of Christ...has eroded to an alarming degree...the role of priestly fatherhood is now coveted by women, seeking to escape the noble destiny which God has prepared for their sex, but which nevertheless they are taught to regard as drudgery. (pp.40-41)
Our Lady of Fatima's remedy for societal and moral ills is the prayer of the rosary, consecration to her Immaculate Heart (symbolized by wearing the brown scapular), and the loving performance of our daily duties. It is becoming increasingly more difficult for Christians to perform the most basic duties of their individual states of life. Yet it is the fulfillment of our ordinary duties upon which our salvation depends. Let us have an ever increasing confidence in the prayers and protection of the Mother of Mercy. Share

More on Human Qualities and Apostolic Charity

In raising man to the supernatural plane, God did not intend to destroy in him what had already been created, but only to sublimate and to elevate it. In the light of these principles, we understand why it has been said that the apostle, as well as the priest, must be a "perfect gentleman" (Cardinal Newman). We also grasp why the saints are the more perfect men, in the sense that they have carried the natural virtues to their highest perfection and sublimation. It follows that the saints are more capable than others of surrounding men with amiability, delicacy, and understanding, while loving them with a purely supernatural love; thus they more easily win their hearts. This perfect courtesy, ever self-possessed, even with the importunate and even in moments of weariness, can only flow from great supernatural virtue and delicate charity.
~from Divine Intimacy by Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, OCD., p.1010 Share

Debased Currencies

John Laughland on the "brutal return of reality."
A realist attitude in politics is the opposite of an ideological one. Ideology seeks to bend reality to pre-conceived concepts; it is based on the assumption that reality can essentially be created, or at least fashioned by thought. Examples of ideological thinking include revolutionary movements or constructivist ones like the European Union which assume that societies can be easily moulded, and reality changed, by political fiat.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Raintree County (1957)

They say in Raintree County there's a tree bright with blossoms of gold.

But you will find the Raintree's a state of mind, or a dream to enfold.
~"The Song of Raintree County"
Perhaps the sign of a classic film is if it means one thing to you when you are young but takes on a whole different meaning in later years. Raintree County is one such movie. I saw this movie as a young person and loved the romance, the clothes, the rivalries, which all seemed so exciting. Now I see the tragedy of a young man losing his dreams and his great love through one moment of misspent passion, a passion that would beget many sad repercussions for many people. Montgomery Clift captures the idealistic and brilliant John and his quest for redemption in the form of the elusive raintree. Elizabeth Taylor is in rare form as his mentally ill Southern belle seductress, struggling with demons brought on by family dysfunction. Eva Marie Saint is lovely and spirited as John's true and lost love, although you totally understand how he falls for Taylor. As usual, there is great chemistry between Taylor and Clift. The supporting actors are in top form. It is one film that is pretty faithful to the book, which was much more tragic. Share

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Family Tree


I love this Norman Rockwell picture. (Reminds me of my own family tree, especially the pirate.) Share

Faithless and Foolish

A rabbi weighs in on the latest ridiculous attempt to mock people of faith.
What Maher seems not to know, or to understand, is that religion is not a fantasy flung upward but an intuition of something far greater than ourselves. Everyone who lives with open eyes has reason to question. In the search there will be missteps, even cruelties and division, but also sublimity, kindness, beauty, wonder and faith.

Perhaps Maher's greatest misunderstanding of religion is his central indictment: that religion is responsible for the world's violence. It is not. Violence is a product of human nature. Before monotheism, the Assyrians were not kind; the Romans were bloodthirsty beyond the imagination of religious regimes. When religion became less potent in people's lives after the French Revolution, instead of making the world less violent, it became far more violent: World War I and WWII, communism, Nazism -- all shed blood on an unprecedented scale. None were religious regimes or religious wars.


As healthy as can be. (I just wish I could get my family to eat it.)
Like broccoli, cauliflower and collards, kale is a descendent of the wild cabbage, a plant thought to have originated in Asia Minor and to have been brought to Europe around 600 B.C. by groups of Celtic wanderers. Curly kale played an important role in early European foodways, having been a significant crop during ancient Roman times and a popular vegetable eaten by peasants in the Middle Ages. English settlers brought kale to the United States in the 17th century.

Both ornamental and dinosaur kale are much more recent varieties. Dinosaur kale was discovered in Italy in the late 19th century. Ornamental kale, originally a decorative garden plant, was first cultivated commercially as in the 1980s in California. Ornamental kale is now better known by the name salad savoy.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Sayings of Blessed John XXIII

Three past things:

The evil done.

The good left undone.

The time wasted.

Three present things:

The shortness of life.

The difficulty of saving your soul.

The few who will be saved.

Four future things:

Death, than which nothing is more certain.

Judgment, than which nothing is more strict.

Hell, than which nothing is more terrible.

Paradise, than which nothing is more delightful.

-Taken from the writings of Blessed John XXIII. (Via Terry Nelson) Share

Human Qualities and Apostolic Charity

It is not sufficient to love souls in the secret of our heart, working and sacrificing ourselves for them; this love must also be manifested exteriorly by an agreeable and pleasant manner, in such a way that those who approach us may feel themselves loved, and consequently encouraged to confidence and to trust. A rude, brusque or impatient manner might even cause some to go away offended, and perhaps, even scandalized. The apostle may well have a heart of gold, rich in charity and zeal, but if he maintains a rough and sharp exterior, he closes access to souls, and considerably diminishes the good he could realize. The saints, while being very supernatural, never neglected these human qualities of charity. St. Francis de Sales liked to say that, as more flies are attracted with a drop of honey than with a barrel of vinegar, so more hearts are conquered by a little sweetness than by rough manners. And St. Teresa of Jesus, who wished her daughters to be united by the bond of pure supernatural charity, did not believe it superfluous to make recommendations of this kind: "The holier you are, the more sociable you should be with your sisters...." (The Way of Perfection) This is very useful advice for anyone who wishes to win souls for God.

~from Divine Intimacy by Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, OCD., p. 1009 Share

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Montjoie Saint Denis!

It is the feast of St. Denis the martyr, whose name was the battle-cry of France. Montjoie Saint-Denis referred to the oriflamme, the ancient banner of the kings of France. Share

Dealing with Unemployment

acoffee Dealing With Unemployment Like a Man

Be brave and don't get depressed.
Unemployment for anyone is tough. Being an unemployed man is even tougher. Studies have shown that men who are unemployed are more depressed and more prone to substance abuse than women who are similarly out of work. Studies have also shown that men who are unemployed and in a relationship are more likely to physically abuse their partner than men who are employed. The reasons that researches give are twofold. First, men tend to find their identity in their job. Think about it. When you first meet a person, what question do they always ask you right off the bat? Probably, “What do you do?” When a man loses a job, he often loses a big part of his identity. Second, men, particularly married men, view themselves as the breadwinner in the family. Despite feminists’ efforts to change the perception of man as breadwinner, most men still believe this responsibility rests primarily on their shoulders. When a man can no longer provide for those he cares about, it can be a damaging blow to his manhood.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Anne of the Thousand Days (1969)

Anne: For six years, this year, and this, and this, and this, I did not love him. And then I did. Then I was his. I can count the days I was his in hundreds.
[picks up day counter]
Anne: The days we bedded. Married. Were Happy. Bore Elizabeth. Hated. Lusted. Bore a dead child... which condemned me... to death. In all one thousand days. Just a thousand. Strange. And of those thousand, one when we were both in love, only one, when our loves met and overlapped and were both mine and his. And when I no longer hated him, he began to hate me. Except for that one day.
~from Anne of the Thousand Days

I think what makes Anne of the Thousand Days stand out among the period films churned out by Hollywood is the outstanding screenplay by Maxwell Anderson. While a few historical liberties are taken for the sake of the flow of the story, Anderson captures the tumultuous rise and catastrophic fall of a young English aristocratic lady who once caught the glance of a king. Richard Burton totally projects Henry VIII's obsessive, all-consuming lust that is willing to destroy his wife, his daughter, his best friends, his church and thousands of his subjects in order to obtain his lady. Richard looks at Genevieve Bujold (Anne Boleyn) with such a mix of torment, passion and guilt that it is almost as if he were looking at Elizabeth Taylor, but such is the great actor's ability to become Henry VIII in this film. Bujold is magnificent as Anne, graceful, witty, winsome, and strong-willed. I was struck by the unhappiness of the couple when they were finally together, living in opulence from the confiscated monasteries. Henry's love of Anne seemed to die almost as soon as he finally sated his desire for her. Bujold's Anne goes to her death with brash dignity, while Henry moves on to another wife. An incredible tragedy in which many innocent people suffered is well-depicted with authentic costumes and stunning sets. Share

Archduchess Maria Anna of Austria

The eldest surviving child of Emperor Francis and Empress Maria Theresa. Most people do not know that Marie-Antoinette had a sister who became an abbess. Share

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Songs of a Housewife

Under the Gables discusses Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' poems about household chores. According to Mrs. Rawlings:
I was brought up to believe in the modern myth that housekeeping is only drudgery, and the housewife is a downtrodden martyr. I thought that any seemingly contented housewives were only 'making the best of it.' When I first began housekeeping in my own home, I felt that I had entered the ranks of the mistreated.

After a time I began to realize, to my amazement, that I didn't feel at all downtrodden, and that I was thoroughly enjoying myself. I began to look at other domestic 'martyrs' from a new angle, and I have learned many things.

I have found that there is romance in housework: and charm in it; and whimsy and humor without end. I have found that the housewife works hard, of course--but likes it. Most people who amount to anything do work hard, at whatever their job happens to be. The housewife's job is home-making, and she is, in fact, 'making the best of it'; making the best of it by bringing patience and loving care to her work; sympathy and understanding to her family; making the best of it by seeing all the fun in the day's incidents and human relationships.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Elisabeth Christine, Holy Roman Empress

Marie-Antoinette's grandmother. She had a terrible weight problem later in life. Too much liqueur. Share

Saturday, October 4, 2008

St. Francis of Assisi

It is the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Here is an excerpt from one of his letters:
It was through his archangel, Saint Gabriel, that the Father above made known to the holy and glorious Virgin Mary that the worthy, holy and glorious Word of the Father would come from heaven and take from her womb the real flesh of our human frailty. Though he was wealthy beyond reckoning, he still willingly chose to be poor with his blessed mother. And shortly before his passion he celebrated the Passover with his disciples. Then he prayed to his Father saying: Father, if it be possible, let this cup be taken from me.

Nevertheless, he reposed his will in the will of his Father. The Father willed that his blessed and glorious Son, whom he gave to us and who was born for us, should through his own blood offer himself as a sacrificial victim on the altar of the cross. This was to be done not for himself through whom all things were made, but for our sins. It was intended to leave us an example of how to follow in his footsteps.

And he desires all of us to be saved through him, and to receive him with pure heart and chaste body.

Dolores Hart

The actress who became a nun. To quote Mother Dolores:
I met Pope John XXIII and he was very instrumental in helping me form my ideas about a vocation. When I was introduced to the Pope, I said, “I am Dolores Hart, the actress playing Clara.” He said, “NO, you are Clara! (”Tu sei Chiara” — in Italian). Thinking he had misunderstood me, I said, “No, I am Dolores Hart, an actress portraying Clara.” Pope John XXIII looked me square in the eye and stated, “NO. You are Clara!” His statement stayed with me and rang in my ears many times.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Thing About Beauty

The kind that radiates from the inside. Share

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Black Tower

Reading the The Black Tower by Louis Bayard made me remember once again why I relish good historical fiction. It is amazing how a well-crafted novel can conjure up the past, with its images of glory and horror, bringing back to life those long dead. Bayard's new work is one such novel, combining fictional characters with real people, weaving truth and fiction into a historical thriller.

The Black Tower revives, in the totality of his outrageousness, the infamous French police detective Eugène François Vidocq. Vidocq, a former convict, is considered to be the father of modern law enforcement. Coarse and cunning, with an unflinching sense of justice, Bayard's Vidocq has his hands full in the Paris of 1818, where the citizens are trying to forget the upheavals of the past twenty-five years. A bizarre murder forces Vidocq to reopen the case of the child king Louis XVII, tormented in the Temple tower in the darkest days of the Revolution.

The tale is narrated by Vidocq's reluctant sidekick Hector Charpentier, a medical student who has squandered his fortune on a former mistress. Hector lives in dire poverty in a boarding house kept by his mother, with a motley cast of eccentric "guests" who would do justice to a Dickens novel. Police protection must be given to a simple-minded young man named Charles, who appears to be the target of an assassination plot. When Hector is told by Vidocq to guard Charles, his life is further complicated, yet gradually transformed.

Charles, who suffers from amnesia, is a charming and gentle soul whose presence brings light to the inhabitants of the boarding house. Charles guilelessly says the wrong thing at the wrong time, as he and Hector are pursued all over Paris by an unknown enemy. As Charles' memories occasionally surface, Hector becomes more and more convinced that his charge is none other than Louis XVII, who had allegedly died in the Temple in 1795. Meanwhile, a long, lost journal gives the horrendous details of the cruelty inflicted on the child prisoner, while compounding the mystery of his fate.

Having researched the same era for the novel Madame Royale, I appreciate the realism with which Bayard depicts Restoration France. Bayard is able to capture the squalor and drudgery of the life of ordinary people in a land scarred and impoverished by the Revolution and the Napoleonic wars. While everyone is longing for forgetfulness, for normalcy, the past keeps emerging, as if the entire nation were laboring under post-traumatic stress syndrome. Hector discovers that he is inextricably linked with the distant sufferings of the small, frightened son of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. He learns that others in his life are connected as well to those long ago events. As Vidocq and his crew unravel the mystery, the old demons must gradually be confronted and exorcised. The author's insight into the agony of the Duchesse d’Angoulême, and the twist he gives to her dilemma, is as admirable as it is heartrending. Towards the end are some startlingly graphic scenes which did not lend themselves to the flow of the story. Otherwise, I am in awe of the writing. What a superb film The Black Tower would make.

Many thanks to my friend Catherine Delors, from whom I heard about this highly enjoyable novel. HERE is Madame Delors' interview with author Louis Bayard. Share

Altar Rails

Fr. Z rants and I couldn't agree more. Share