Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Baroness Park

One of the greatest spies who ever lived. (Via Genevieve.)
When Daphne Park was revealed as the face of British Intelligence by Panorama in 1993, many were surprised to find that the James Bond of the public imagination bore a greater resemblance to Miss Marple: a woman whose genial, maiden aunt exterior belied a doughty, pugnacious character. Her drink of choice was Earl Grey tea, "stirred not shaken", as she put it.

Losing Friends

When a friendship dies it can be one of the most difficult things in the world. On the other hand, lifelong, enduring friendships have been one of my greatest consolations. According to the Wall Street Journal:

I know, it's a terrible question. But think about it: Some of the worst breakups in our lives are not with romantic partners. They are with friends—the people with whom we often share our deepest thoughts. Friends provide guidance, encouragement, laughter and a refuge. Losing a good friend can be one of the saddest experiences in life.

And yet, many friendships just don't last. Some simply fizzle out, victims of routine life events such as moves, job changes, divorce or a divergence of interests.



There is probably much that we will never know about the tragic situation that led to the recent suicide of fifteen year old Phoebe Prince. It is pretty clear that the cruelty of her peers led to the destruction of the young girl's morale. Phoebe's family is grieving "the loss of the incandescent enthusiasm of a life blossoming."

Dr. Keith Albow discusses the phenomenon of bullying, which cyberspace has given a new dimension for harm:

It’s very likely, however, that Phoebe's bullies knew something more about her than the fact that she was a pretty girl. They may have intuited that she was more sensitive than they were or that her sense of self had yet to fully develop.

Bullies are good at detecting victims who feel things deeply or who are unsure of themselves because, underneath it all, they are on the run from their own feelings and uncertain of their own worth. That’s why they band together and go on the offense as a group. They can pretend to be more valuable than their targets and less vulnerable.

Make no mistake about it: The suffering of Phoebe Prince had to have been sport for these teens. Dehumanizing her had to have been intoxicating. They were getting high together. Hating another person, like any drug, has the effect of distancing people from their own deep doubts and despondency.

In the age of the Internet and Facebook, more teens than ever are busy getting the surface of their lives to look good, while their inner, emotional lives are built on the most fragile ground imaginable. Bullying, like all drugs, can become epidemic in such circumstances.

More HERE.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

American Cicero

Charles Carroll of Carolltown. (Via Joshua) I was confirmed in the parish church on what had been his country estate, built by his daughter. To quote:
The ascent of Carroll was surprisingly strenuous. Although he was the scion of a super-rich landowning family (later in his life Charles Carroll was regarded variously as the richest man in America or as the greatest landowner in America) and had the benefit of serious studies on the “Continent,” he had to struggle against suspicions and even discriminatory attacks against his religion. He did so by bringing in play his Jesuit and classical education at Louis-le-Grand in Paris and Saint-Omer in northern France, where many of the surviving British Catholics used to send their children. (Charles’s cousin John was to become the first Roman Catholic archbishop in the newly independent United States.) Significantly, Carroll also read meticulously and with enthusiasm Montesquieu’s Esprit des lois, in my view the most prestigious study of politics after Aristotle’s Politics, and an outstanding example of moderate Enlightenment. He was equally influenced by the great Coxe and Blackstone (pillars of British juridical science), by the great Jesuits Bellarmine and Suarez, by Burke (whom he knew personally), by Addison, by David Hume’s historical/political writings, and by those of the great proto-conservative Bolingbroke.

Once returned to Maryland, Charles Carroll engaged in successful public and journalistic polemics in which he supported in sophisticated ways the idea of American independence and of human and local rights. He argued (as did others at the time, but perhaps less articulately) that any action of physical opposition and resistance was justified by the innovative, progressive, and thus distorting initiatives of the London authorities, by the fact that said authorities were illegally modifying the “original Constitution” of the Commonwealth. Thus, an American Revolution would be inevitably a conservative revolution, a return to the normality of customs, laws, and regulations, as they had always existed.

Carroll’s position on religious issues was equally moderate: he merely requested freedom of faith and general equality between Christian denominations. He was among those Founders who thought that the new nation ought to use democracy as one of the three key ingredients for its present and future evolution. Even on slavery, he took a middle-of the-road stance: in theory slavery was wrong, but it ought to be abolished gradually and voluntarily, with the return to Africa of the descendants of those brought by force on another continent; he himself provided manumission for a number of his slaves. (One wishes Birzer would have offered more details in this respect.)

In any case, Carroll’s prestige grew rapidly as many embraced his arguments. He held or was considered for high diplomatic functions. He signed the Declaration of Independence and other important documents. (He was the only Catholic among the original signatories.) Soon (1788) he became a U.S. senator. As such, he worked closely and supportively for and with George Washington and later John Adams and Alexander Hamilton. He was suspicious, even afraid, of Thomas Jefferson, even (almost amusingly) of James Madison. Carroll, who originally had a relatively approving position toward the French Revolution, soon came to abhor its excesses and to fear its possible influence on America.


Know-Nothing Schooling

The struggle for the soul of America began long ago. Share

Monday, March 29, 2010


Gracious the lady is, and débonnaire
For her beauty many look at her,

And in her heart is loyal love astir

Oh God, oh God, the dawn! it comes so soon!

~ from The Night's Dark Shade

Above is a portion of the "dawn song" which Sir Martin sang at Raphaëlle's wedding in The Night's Dark Shade. While Sir Martin composed and sang songs, he did not make a living at it as did the professional troubadours. (A female troubadour was called a trobairitz.) According to Virtual Medieval Church:

Troubadours were poet-musicians who emerged in the south of France in the 12th and 13th centuries. They composed their lyric verse in the language known as Provençal (langue d’oc). Poitiers seems to have been the first major center of troubadours. However, as time went by troubadour song extended to such places as Bordeaux, the north of Italy, and Catalonia. These poet-musicians combined their poetry and music in the service of courtly love. In the judgment of the troubadour, courtly love or fine amour was the source of all true virtue and nobility. In Courtly Culture: Literature and Society in the High Middle Ages, Joachim Bumke writes that:

[C]ourtly love could be unrequited love or it could culminate in sensual fulfillment. Love could be directed at a lady of high nobility or at a woman of more humble descent. If the chosen lady was married, courtly love was adulterous in nature. … Courtly love frequently demanded lengthy service by the man, yet sometimes it was quickly consummated without service. (361)
It is the element of service that becomes most important when medieval religious writers begin to adapt or rehabilitate courtly love in terms of the Church and religious love of God. For example, St. Francis of Assisi in his service of the poor solemnized a marriage with Our Lady Poverty. The troubadours used different verse forms to suit a variety of moods. The pastourelle was a song about an amorous encounter between a knight and a shepherdess. The tenso was the verse form employed to debate over questions of love. The alba was a dawn song about the nightingale that warned lovers of the approaching day. The escondig was the form used as a lover’s apologia, while the formal love song was known as the canzone, canso, or chanso.
Eleanor of Aquitaine was responsible for the growth of courtly culture and for bringing the troubadours to England. Her son, Richard the Lion-hearted, was counted among the most famous troubadours, as were other knights and kings. Share

Music of the Romanovs

Compositions by members of the Imperial Family.
The Romanov Dynasty, which was in service to Russia since the 13th Century, and not only became a tragic part of country’s history but also contributed to the cultural heritage.

The compositions to be performed at the concert are mostly small pieces of saloon music from the second half of the 19th Century – piano pieces or pieces for voice and piano, marches, polkas, songs and romances, the director of the Globalis orchestra, Stanislav Simonov told Apart from these, a remarkable composition by the Tsar of the Russian Empire, Alexander II – a fantasy on Ukrainian themes titled “Maria” – will be played.

All members of the Royal family were traditionally given a brilliant musical education, which turned into beautiful musical artworks. The orchestra will also present compositions by Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich of Russia and Grand Duchess Aleksandra Iosifovna of Russia.

Incidentally, Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich of Russia was not only a talented musician, but was also known in poetic circles. Many of his poems were turned into romances that are still being performed. Moreover Konstantin Konstantinovich wrote several plays and was also a successful painter.


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Rob Roy (1995)

Mary MacGregor: "Honor is the gift a man gives himself." You told our boys that. Would you have stolen from yourself that which makes you Robert Roy MacGregor? ~Rob Roy (1995)
I must admit the film Rob Roy did not appeal to me when I first saw it. The brutality and rough language were a little overwhelming and nothing like Sir Walter Scott's novel. However, after watching it a few more times, I have really come to appreciate not only how it brings to life the famous Scottish hero, but also for the portrayal of married love and devotion. Liam Neeson and Jessica Lange are Rob Roy and Mary MacGregor, who go through just about everything to emerge more closely bound together than ever. As described in Entertainment Weekly:
Neeson's Robert Roy MacGregor, known as Rob Roy, is the mythical hero of Scottish folklore, an 18th-century clan leader who presides over a community of tenant farmers. He's a man who believes in the primacy of honor as much as he believes in his own life. Still, he's no stony island. His strength derives in part from how deeply he loves and reveres his wife, Mary (Jessica Lange), a redheaded lass every bit as spirited and intransigent as he is....The heart of Rob Roy is the passionate interplay between Neeson and Lange, and the two are superb together. Their scenes give off a touching erotic glow; you couldn't begin to separate the MacGregors' lusty ardor from their devotion to each other. When Mary becomes an aggrieved victim, Lange's acting turns startlingly powerful. She reveals not just the distress you expect but a fervid strength, an understanding of her husband's code of honor that is deep enough to tap a hidden core of rue. And Lange's performance finds its analogue in Neeson's climactic duel with Roth, which is no fleet swashbuckler but a fierce, bloody, knockdown affair, pitting Cunningham's superior finesse against Rob Roy's grinding moral will. This is the kind of sword fight in which the action has true emotional force, and it helps make Rob Roy that rarity, an old-fashioned entertainment you can actually believe in.
The MacGregors are one of the oldest Scottish clans, known as "The Children of the Mist." Because of the way in which they antagonized the English over the years with their general contrariness and later Jacobite sympathies, they were forbidden to use the MacGragor name. Being called something else did nothing to alter the disposition of the MacGregors. As one history says:

In 1589, the MacGregors killed a royal forester - an offence against the crown, which promptly issued letters of "fire and sword" against the clan, making it illegal to shelter or have any dealings with clan members. Various "fire and sword" orders were continually proclaimed against the MacGregors for the better part of 200 years - they simply couldn't keep out of trouble. In 1603, after Clan Gregor trapped and murdered the Colquhouns, an Act was passed proscribing the very name MacGregor. This meant any member of Clan Gregor (if caught) could be beaten, robbed or killed without fear of punishment. Anyone with the name MacGregor was banned from the church (no marriages, burials, communion, etc.). It was complete ostracism for the entire clan.

During this time, the Earl of Argyll, chief of Clan Campbell, promised safe conduct out of the country to MacGregor of Glenstrae and his men, then turned them over to be hanged. This treachery united the entire highlands in their loathing of the Campbells.

Though reduced to the status of outlaws, the MacGregors never forgot or relinquished their identity. They fought for the king (who had renewed the Acts against them) with Montrose in 1644-45 (the Campbells fought on the other side). In 1661, the Acts were finally repealed, but only for about 30 years, until William of Orange and his successors renewed them and kept them in force. No wonder that Clan Gregor fully supported the Jacobite risings in 1715 and 1745. The Acts were finally repealed permanently in 1774 - Clan Gregor surviving almost 200 years as outlaws.

Given that he came from such a clan, it is not surprising that Rob Roy was constantly in trouble, of which the film depicts a colorful portion. An interesting aspect of the movie is that it shows how someone like Rob Roy, living in a hovel with his family, struggling against destitution, was nevertheless a threat to the the rich and powerful of the world, and so hated by villains like the foppish Cummingham (Tim Roth). Perhaps because Rob Roy amid all his poverty and desperation was a free man, fearing nothing but losing his integrity, knowing that he must ultimately answer to God. Wealth and fine clothes cannot bestow security upon the insecure, who resent those who possess within themselves what money cannot buy. Rob and Mary, in spite of every form of abuse being heaped upon them, could not be stripped of their dignity, just as they could not be stripped of their love.


For the Dishwasher's Sake

Go easy on the detergent. Share

Palm Sunday

A history. Share

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Maria Josepha of Bavaria, Holy Roman Empress

The second wife of Joseph II, unloved and neglected. According to the Mad Monarchist:
Joseph had previously been married to Isabella of Parma who had died in 1763, whom he had adored, as had most everyone. The rather difficult “enlightened despot” was heartbroken and had not wanted to remarry at all but Empress Maria Theresa was adamant that her son take another wife and produce an heir to the Hapsburg throne. Maria Josepha came to Austria in the shadow of Isabella and she could never hope to take her place. Going into the marriage reluctantly, Joseph criticized his new wife for her weight and her bad teeth but also admitted that her character was “irreproachable”, that she did love him and that she had many admirable qualities. Yet, Joseph declared it a pity for all of that as he simply had no love for her in return.

If Maria Theresa had pushed the marriage to obtain an heir she was to be disappointed. Joseph always kept Maria Josepha at a distance and it is doubtful that their marriage was ever even consummated. He went to considerable lengths to stay apart from her and avoid even having to see her. Maria Josepha suffered on under these conditions which did not improve in 1765 when her husband became Emperor Joseph II and she became Holy Roman Empress beside him. Whereas ordinarily she would have the place of ‘first lady’ in Vienna, that post was still very much filled by the formidable Empress Maria Theresa, a very religious and conservative woman, who distrusted the more liberal “enlightenment” tendencies in her son.

Glamor at the Drugstore

A new trend, and a nice one, since many women buy their cosmetics at drugstores anyway.
Fans of upscale cosmetics have long associated drugstore makeup with dingy, crowded rows of lipsticks in colors suitable for Grandma. A big downside was that shoppers couldn't try on the product—part of what makes makeup shopping fun. But as women are shopping less at department stores and more frequently at cheaper, more convenient alternatives, mass retailers have seen an opportunity to woo cosmetics shoppers.

Meritocracies of Love

"We're not here to be happy; we're here to change things for the better in the ways that we can." Share

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Tudor Rose

Henry VIII's sister. Share

A French Prince in Texas

Prince de Polignac and the Confederacy. Share

Conference for the Theological and Historical Examination of the Orthodox/Catholic Dialogue

A wonderful new blog called Irenikon has information about a conference occurring this summer at Fordham University.
In preparation for the publication of Orthodox Readings of Augustine (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2008), the co-founding directors of the Orthodox Christian Studies Program were struck by ways in which Orthodox authors, especially in the twentieth century, had created artificial categories of “East” and “West” and then used that distinction as a basis for self-definition. The history of Orthodox Christianity is typically narrated by Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike as developing in the ‘East’, which is geographically ambiguous, but usually refers to the region in Europe east of present-day Croatia, Hungary and Poland. In contemporary Orthodoxy, ‘West’ refers not simply to a geographical location, but to a form of civilization that was shaped and influenced by Latin Christendom, which includes both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. The “West,” thus, represents a cluster of theological, cultural and political ideas against which Orthodox self-identify. In other words, Orthodox self-identification often engages in a distorted apophaticism: Orthodoxy is what the “West” is not. (More HERE.)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Isabella of Parma

Holy Roman Empress and the controversial bride of Joseph II. Isabella was Marie-Antoinette's sister-in-law and Louis XVI's first cousin. Share

Citizen Lafayette

Patriot or traitor?

The eventful summer of 1789 found Lafayette riding a wave of popularity at home. His role in the American Revolution gave him favor among all French revolutionaries.

For his part, Lafayette saw the initial turmoil of the French Revolution as indication of a healthy struggle for democracy. He hoped it would prosper like the American experiment in self-government. He fully endorsed the purpose of Jacobin club members who banded together to defend the new French Constitution. However as 1789 gave place to 1790 and the Jacobins began to demand the deposition of King Louis XVI, Lafayette withdrew his initial support.


A History of Christianity

The first three thousand years. Share

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


One of my favorite tales is about a clever woman who saved her life through her story-telling. (Via Hermes) According to the legend:

The main frame story concerns a Persian king and his new bride. Upon discovering his wife's infidelity, the king, Shahryar, has her executed and then declares all women to be unfaithful. He begins to marry a succession of virgins only to execute each one the next morning. Eventually the vizier, whose duty it is to provide them, cannot find any more virgins. Scheherazade, the vizier's daughter, offers herself as the next bride and her father reluctantly agrees. On the night of their marriage, Scheherazade begins to tell the king a tale, but does not end it. The king is thus forced to postpone her execution in order to hear the conclusion. The next night, as soon as she finishes the tale, she begins (and only begins) a new one, and the king, eager to hear the conclusion, postpones her execution once again. So it goes on for 1,001 nights.

The tales vary widely: they include historical tales, love stories, tragedies, comedies, poems.... Numerous stories depict djinn, magicians, and legendary places, which are often intermingled with real people and geography, not always rationally; common protagonists include the historical caliph Harun al-Rashid, his vizier, Ja'far al-Barmaki, and his alleged court poet Abu Nuwas, despite the fact that these figures lived some 200 years after the fall of the Persian Empire in which the frame tale of Scheherazade is set. Sometimes a character in Scheherazade's tale will begin telling other characters a story of his own, and that story may have another one told within it, resulting in a richly layered narrative texture.

The different versions have different individually detailed endings (in some Scheherazade asks for a pardon, in some the king sees their children and decides not to execute his wife, in some other things happen that make the king distracted) but they all end with the king giving his wife a pardon and sparing her life.

The narrator's standards for what constitutes a cliffhanger seem broader than in modern literature. While in many cases a story is cut off with the hero in danger of losing his life or another kind of deep trouble, in some parts of the full text Scheherazade stops her narration in the middle of an exposition of abstract philosophical principles or complex points of Islamic philosophy, and in one case during a detailed description of human anatomy according to Galen—and in all these cases turns out to be justified in her belief that the king's curiosity about the sequel would buy her another day of life.

The Arabian Nights is available HERE. And Rimsky-Korsakov's symphonic suite is magical, too.


The Abuse Scandal: Fact and Fiction

Separating fact, fiction and anti-Catholic bias. To quote Chronicles editor Scott Richert:

Until now, I've held off on writing anything, because it's hard to separate fact from fiction, let alone account for anti-Catholic bias. Much of the reporting is mixed with commentary, and it's all rather sensationalistic. Otherwise respectable news outlets, such as, have given professional anti-Catholics such as Christopher Hitchens carte blanche to write pieces that viciously attack Pope Benedict XVI by making connections that really aren't justified by the facts as we know them.

None of this is to suggest that the vast majority of allegations aren't truthful.


Head Case

Can psychiatry be a science?
Greenberg is repeating a common criticism of contemporary psychiatry, which is that the profession is creating ever more expansive criteria for mental illness that end up labelling as sick people who are just different—a phenomenon that has consequences for the insurance system, the justice system, the administration of social welfare, and the cost of health care.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Fall of Anne Boleyn

There is another review of Alison Weir's The Lady in the Tower. To quote The Catholic Herald:
On May 1, the King suddenly left the jousts at Greenwich, giving Anne, who was sitting beside him, no explanation and no farewell. By the evening of the next day, Anne and four gentlemen of her circle, along with the musician Mark Smeaton, were in the Tower. By the morning of May 19, Anne was dead: the path from Queen to headless corpse had taken a mere 17 days.

This thrilling reversal of fortune remains one of the most fascinating and macabre episodes in English history, and, as Weir makes clear, must have seemed even more so to a contemporary audience. And audience there certainly was. The crowds gathered along the river to watch the Queen being conveyed to the Tower in her barge; 2000 people crowded into the Tower for her trial, and a similar number for her execution; at the latter, there was an effort to exclude foreigners. The Queen's fall was a public drama, deliberately staged, a piece of political theatre. Other queens had committed adultery and earned no more than a ticking off. No queen had ever been executed.

The nearest previous parallel in English history had been the Eleanor Cobham, Duchess of Gloucester, imprisoned for life on the Isle of Man for witchcraft. Thus, by the standards of the age, the execution of Anne Boleyn was most unusual.

One revelation in a book full of them is that the famous executioner from Calais was summoned to do his job before the Queen's trial had even begun. Indeed, from her arrest onwards Anne was doomed, as she seems to have realised, asking on her arrival at the Tower: "Am I to go to a dungeon?" and "Shall I have justice?" suggesting she expected a quiet rather than a public death. Henry needed Anne out of the way to ensure that his next marriage would be of unquestioned validity; but Weir finds convincing evidence that the execution of Anne was primarily the work of Thomas Cromwell.

On Passion Sunday, April 2, a month before her arrest, Anne had her almoner preach to the court against "evil counsellors, who suggested alteration in established customs", which was, with its pointed references to the story of Queen Esther and Haman, taken as an attack on Cromwell. They had already quarrelled about the way the property of the despoiled monasteries should be used; now it seemed that Anne was seeking to have Cromwell dismissed and executed; she had, after all, been instrumental in the fall of Wolsey, and the executions of More and Fisher. Cromwell, in attacking Anne and her closest friends, was in fact making a pre-emptive strike to save his career and his life.

If this is true, and Weir's argument is persuasive, it largely exonerates Henry VIII from the charge of wife murder. While no one else believed in the charges brought against Anne, and Weir proves them to be incoherent and bordering on the farcical, Henry certainly did believe them; presumably Cromwell framed just the sort of charges that his master would believe. The two that created the greatest frisson were those of incest with her brother and adultery with Smeaton, who was not a gentleman. But would Anne have conspired the King's death? It seems impossible, given the fact that the King was her only friend. For, as Cromwell surely knew, and events proved, Anne had no friends - neither in the court, nor among the common people. She was hated by those who held Queen Katharine and Princess Mary dear (both of whom Anne had pestered Henry to execute, without success, though she was credited with poisoning the former and trying to poison the latter); the Imperialist party loathed her too, and the Francophile element who might have sympathised with her, kept quiet, as did the 10 bishops she had appointed.

Her own uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, loathed her, as did her aunt, Lady Boleyn, both of whom made her final days as unpleasant as they could. Only Philip Melanchthon, the German reformer, mourned her passing.

She had, in short, the gift (never a good one in a politician) of alienating people, yet she made a dignified end. Having played the game, she was a good loser, and she did what was expected of her, dying bravely, with a speech about the King's kindness on her lips. And, despite what Melanchthon may have thought of her, she died a Catholic; indeed, Weir's book deals a blow to the idea of Anne as a promoter of Protestant reform. The sermon of April 2 indicates that she wished the monastic wealth to be used for educational and charitable works (something many Catholics had long wished for) rather than to enrich the Crown; one of her remarks in the Tower suggests she believed in the doctrine of merit, rather than justification by faith; she heard Mass on the morning of her death (celebrated by the almoner who had preached the sermon), and the Blessed Sacrament was reserved in her apartments in the Tower.

Nowadays we are accustomed to seeing politicians voted out of office, rather than making their farewell speeches from the scaffold. Weir's tremendously readable book reveals Anne more as a politician than a wife; as such she was a political failure; but so too was Cromwell, who was to follow her to the scaffold four years later, and to die with less courage and dignity.

Weir tells us that Elizabeth I wore a ring containing her mother's portrait. She died in her bed, an old woman, perhaps having learned from her mother's mistakes. But, as Weir points out, had Anne lived to be old, she would not be the object of such fascination.

This book, by one of our best historical writers, does this strangely compelling woman justice.

It's on my Wish List. Share

The Triumph of the Insurance Companies

Scott Richert on the real winners of the health care debacle. To quote:

The Republicans who opposed the bill knew that, which is why they spent all of their time talking about abortion and other side issues rather than attacking the biggest corporate welfare plan in American history. When all is said and done, this gift to the insurance companies will dwarf the bailouts of the banks and the auto industry. The Republicans wanted to make sure that they would get their cut of the cash, too.

The big losers, of course, are the businesses that face fines if they do not provide adequate health insurance to their employees (Caterpillar estimates that the legislation will cost them $100 million, which likely means that their next plant will be built in Mexico or China rather than in Illinois), and those who are self-employed or work for small businesses exempt from the requirement to provide insurance. Like the businesses, they will be fined unless they purchase health insurance.

In the worst position will be those who do not currently have health insurance because they truly cannot afford it. They will be eligible for tax credits to make their mandatory insurance more affordable, but those tax credits will be nonrefundable, so if they owe very little or nothing in taxes, the credits will do them little to no good. They still won’t be able to afford health insurance, but now they will be forced to pay a fine—a minimum of $95 or one percent of their income (whichever is higher) in the first year, ratcheting up to a minimum of $695 or two percent of their income by 2014.

The New York Times has this to say:

There would be costs to consumers, too. Affluent families would be required to pay additional taxes. Most Americans would be required to have health insurance and face federal penalties if they do not buy it. And it is still unclear what effect, if any, the legislation would have on rising out-of-pocket medical costs and premiums.

But there is no question that the legislation should benefit consumers in various ways. Beginning in 2014, for example, many employers — those with 50 or more workers — could face federal fines for not providing insurance coverage. Several of the other changes would take effect much sooner.


The Abuse Crisis

Gerald Warner on the crisis at hand. (The comments are quite interesting, too.)
The “neglected” sacraments and devotional practices that the Pope says could have prevented this did not just wither on the vine: they were actively discouraged by bishops and priests. In the period when this abuse was rampant, there was just one mortal sin in the Catholic Church: daring to celebrate or attend the Latin Tridentine Mass. A priest raping altar boys would be moved to another parish; as for a priest who had the temerity to celebrate the Old Mass – his feet would not touch the ground.

There was a determined resolve among the bishops to deny any meaningful catechesis to the young. That is the generation, wholly ignorant of the faith, that in Ireland achieved material prosperity in the “Celtic Tiger” economy. Initially it still attended Mass (or what passed for Mass) out of social conformity. Then the sex abuse scandal gave Irish post-Vatican II agnostics the perfect pretext for apostasy: tens of thousands who had never been abused, nor met anybody who had, found an excuse to stay in bed on Sunday mornings.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Tragedy and Irony

Readers of Madame Royale will recall Marie-Amélie and her predicament, as discussed here on The Cross of Laeken. To quote:
Her mother, Maria Carolina of Austria, was the favorite sister of Marie-Antoinette, so the royal court of Naples had very close and cordial family ties to Versailles. Maria Carolina raised all her children with a profound respect for the Catholic monarchy of France, the foremost in Europe. Alongside the language, history and literature of their native land, she ensured that Amalia and her siblings learned to appreciate those of France. The Queen even spoke French most of the time with her children. At an early age, Amalia, for her part, was destined to marry her cousin, the Dauphin, and eventually become Queen of France.

Tragically, Amalia's little fiancé died in 1789. His death ominously concided with the beginning of the French Revolution, ushering in a whole series of traumas that would profoundly mark the young Amalia, a thoughtful, sensitive girl. In her old age, she would still vividly recall the horror and deep mourning in Naples at the executions of her uncle and aunt, Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. Her face flooded with tears, the Queen of Naples had solemnly assembled her children to tell them the terrible news that her own sister, the Queen of France, had been beheaded, before leading them all into the royal chapel to pray together for her soul. Everyone was appalled by the treachery of the Duc d'Orléans, who had voted for the death of the King, his own cousin. In the years to come, the proud, forceful, energetic and determined Maria Carolina would champion the cause of the Bourbon monarchy against all odds, generously supporting French émigrés while battling Napoleon with crusading ardor. The war brought many sorrows to the people and royal family of Naples. In 1798, Amalia, her parents, and siblings were forced to flee Naples and take refuge in Sicily.

Disapproval as Kindness

Some reflections from author Genevieve Kineke.
Disapproval of sin is not only kind, but it is wise and just, and that has a splendor all its own. God’s order is for our own good and our salvation. Joining our will to His Will means that there must be limits to our tolerance, for such is the nature of authentic love. When such disapproval is grounded in affection, generosity of soul, and purity of intention, it has a capacity to apply its inherent effect and give witness to the dignity to the other. God the Father has shown the way and no one is kinder than He.

In Defense of Catholic Clergy

Elizabeth Lev looks at how the clergy were vilified on the eve of the French Revolution, saying:
After the National Assembly diminished the authority of Louis XVI in 1789, anti-monarchical literature dwindled, but fierce accusations against Catholic clergy for misdeeds past and present increased. Isolated cases of clerical immorality were magnified to make depravity appear endemic to the entire priesthood (ironically, in an age where sexual libertinism was running rampant). The French propagandists labored night and day, dredging the past for old scandals whether decades or even centuries distant.

In his Reflections on the Revolution in France, published in 1790, Burke, a Protestant, asked the French, "From the general style of late publications of all sorts, one would be led to believe that your clergy in France were a sort of monsters, a horrible composition of superstition, ignorance, sloth, fraud, avarice and tyranny. But is this true?"

What would Edmund Burke make of the headlines of the past few weeks, as stories of a clerical sex abuser in Germany a quarter century ago, made front page headlines and top TV stories in US news? What would he think of the insistent attempts to tie this sex abuser to the Roman pontiff himself through the most tenuous of links?

In 1790, Burke answered his own question with these words: "It is not with much credulity I listen to any when they speak evil of those whom they are going to plunder. I rather suspect that vices are feigned or exaggerated when profit is looked for in their punishment." As he wrote these words, the French revolutionaries were readying for the mass confiscation of Church lands.
As the present sales of church property to pay settlements swell the coffers of contingent-fee lawyers and real estate speculators, one has to credit Burke for a profound and historical sense of human nature.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

Andy Sachs: But what if this isn't what I want? I mean what if I don't wanna live the way you live?
Miranda Priestly: Oh, don't be ridiculous. Andrea. Everybody wants this. Everybody wants to be us. ~The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
I planned to review The Devil Wears Prada after writing about its precursor The Best of Everything over a year and a half ago, but never got to it. It is a good thing, since I have had the opportunity to watch the film several times on cable television and solidify my thoughts. People have told me that I should just watch and enjoy films for pleasure, without dwelling overmuch on the moral aspects (or lack thereof) of a given piece. The Devil Wears Prada, however, is a bit of a morality tale, or at least aspires to be one, in a bizarre sort of way. The heroine Andrea (Anne Hathaway) is a lovely, highly educated, aspiring journalist, who lives with a scruffy, oafish aspiring chef. They do not appear to be engaged or otherwise seriously commited except in a romantic Mimi and Rodolfo sort of way. Although Andrea must support herself, she is expected to be at the beck and call of her boyfriend. Nate, in his turn, makes her grilled cheese sandwiches.

In order to further her journalistic career, Andrea takes a job as the secretary to Miranda Priestley (Meryl Streep), the editor of a fashion magazine. Andy, being a quick study, soons learns how to dress appropriately for her new job and rise to the challenges of the highly competitive fashion industry. She accomplishes several Herculean tasks for the demanding and unreasonable Miranda. Miranda, in spite of her elegant apparel, is one of the rudest, most unladylike women in filmdom, tossing her coat at people and snatching things that are handed to her in the most vulgar manner possible. Perhaps that is how the world of wealth and power affects certain personalities.

Andy accepts it all with grace, determined to succeed at her job. She no longer has as much time for scruffy Nate, who resents her fashionable new clothes, saying boorishly: "I liked the old clothes." Now this is where the movie frustrates me. Why does Andrea stand for that? Nate did not pay for her clothes, old or new. Who is he to criticize what she worked very hard for and what she is expected to wear for her job? He is not even her fiancé. He infers that she is sacrificing her values for material possessions and losing her integrity. Is he willing to provide for her? NO. Does he want to be her husband? NO. Then he has no right to complain about the time she has to devote to her work in order to provide for herself. And how dare he say a word about her clothes. What a bum.

I think that Andrea is in no danger of ever becoming Miranda Priestley, although that seems to be everyone's fear. She is too altruistic at heart to ever become a cutthroat. Working for Miranda is merely an opportunity for learning, seeing the world, and meeting all kinds of interesting people. Nevertheless, all of her so-called friends beg her to give up her position so she can go back to being Nate's plaything. I agree with the reviewer at Good News Film Reviews who says:
The transformation of the character of Andy from Ohio girl to fashion fancy pants is so complete that by the time she has to decide if she should stay with the fashion hierarchy or go back to shopping at The Gap, it seems stupid for her to turn back. She’s sacrificed everything, gained a great deal, and her old life seems troubled and petty. Granted, the fashion world is the sham, but it is sold in the film as being better than hanging with the grunts of the world.
In the end, after getting rid of Nate, Andrea almost dies of joy that he is considering taking her back. What is wrong with her? I think that love is often confused with a codependent need to be physically used and psychologically abused. At least Gigi was offered a house and a diamond bracelet and dinner at Maxim's before deciding to give herself body and soul to a man who had no interest in marriage. Why does Andy hold herself so cheap? I would have stayed in Paris.

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Spring Meals

Some ideas.
Asparagus has always been considered one of the most regal of vegetables. King Louis XVI of France loved the vegetable so much that he had his gardeners grow it in hothouses year-round. It's no wonder the asparagus had such a royal following, considering it's tall and slender with a crown-like tuft. Long praised for its taste and texture, asparagus can be cooked, boiled, baked or grilled, and it is equally versatile as the starring attraction of a menu, or when partnered up with a host of colourful veggies in a side dish. Tortino con gli asparagi is just the thing to serve for a spring dinner. In this dish, plump, fleshy asparagus spears are combined with eggs, whole milk, grated Pecorino cheese, butter, breadcrumbs, nutmeg, and salt. The end product is a wonderful flan that can be served as a main course or as a side platter.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Toile de Jouy

An enchanting fabric, popular in the reign of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, has enjoyed a comeback. Here is a little history:

In the 1770’s Oberkamp produced his first toile. The timing for its introduction was serendipitous. It adhered to the style that is now known as Louis XVI (1774-1792). On the whole, this style was a reaction against the excessive and bizarre fancies of the Louis XV era. Louis XVI returned to the classic ideals. Printed cloth, in particular those known as toiles, became very popular during this era.

Due to the designs that Oberkamp chose for his toiles, it is no surprise that his operation was designated a royal manufactory in 1783. In honor of the occasion, Oberkamp commissioned a special historical toile to celebrate this event. (Read More)


To Whet Your Appetite

A flatware folly. According to etiquette consultant Carol Bory:
When demonstrating the placement of flatware during a dining etiquette program, I am frequently asked why the cutting edge of the knife needs to face the center of the plate.

The reason for the placement of the knife blade stems back to the Middle Ages. During this time men regularly carried at least one knife. For the common man, the knife served two purposes: one as an eating utensil for spearing meat on the tip of the blade, the other for use as a dagger. For aristocratic men, they carried two knives. One knife for use as a kitchen tool for cutting meat before the feast, the second knife as a dagger carried in a sheath suspended from a belt around their waist.

In fact, have you heard the expression, “To whet your appetite?” It comes from the practice during the Middle Ages of placing a whetstone before the entrance of an eating room so men could sharpen their knifes before they would partake in a feast of food.


Maya White on Posture

Why people no longer sit and stand correctly. (Via The New Beginning)
We have photographs and scientific evidence that our ancestors until early in the 20th century used their bodies well in everyday positions and movements. And in fact, there still exist populations in much of the pre-industrial world where everyone has beautiful posture and strong, graceful physiques.

The flapper age in the 1920s, the breakdown of kinesthetic transmission across generations with family members no longer living close to each other, and the poor design of most modern furniture have all contributed to the disastrous habit that most of us have of tucking the pelvis (curling our tails under us). Realizing this was causing people to hunch, someone came up with the idea of lumbar support and lumbar curvature. Well, terrific – now we have two problems instead of one. Now not only are most people still sitting with a tucked pelvis (which is damaging for the L5-S1 disc and indirectly leads to a whole host of other problems, including hunched shoulders, forward head, misaligned legs, and muscle imbalances), but they are also ending up with swaybacks. Conventional wisdom has come up with all sorts of devices and exercises to promote the S-shape spine, which is now considered the normal shape for the spine. Well, just because S shape is the norm in our culture does not mean it’s healthy! We have to stop mistaking average for normal. And we certainly have to stop mistaking average for ideal! After all, would you settle for the average body fat percentage in our culture? I didn’t think so.


Friday, March 19, 2010

Babes in the Woods

The saddest fairy tale of them all. (Via Hermes.) The wicked have always been with us, and the mistreatment of children is nothing new. To quote from the old ballad:
These pretty babes, with hand in hand,
Went wandering up and down;
But never more they saw the man
Approaching from the town.
Their pretty lips with blackberries
Were all besmear'd and dyed;
And when they saw the darksome night,
They sat them down and cried.

Thus wandered these two pretty babes,
Till death did end their grief;
In one another's arms they dyed,
As babes wanting relief.
No burial these pretty babes
Of any man receives,
Till Robin-redbreast painfully
Did cover them with leaves.

Jane Austen Exhibit

At the Morgan Library. Madame Delors shares her thoughts, saying:
One can admire Cassandra's handiwork with the scissors, deftly snipping here and there an offensive word or two, or sometimes boldly amputating an entire corner of a letter. So few letters, so few manuscripts are left... but they are there, all the more precious.

Gillray's crude, unforgiving caricatures of Regency life immerse us in a bawdy world, decades before Victorian mores took over England. And Jane Austen's influence and literary legacy are also reviewed, from the timid succès d'estime she enjoyed during her lifetime to her current immense fame. And yes, the inescapable Colin Firth is there to remind us of the more or less questionable film adaptations of her works.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dancing to the Precipice

There is a new biography about Marie-Antoinette's irrepressible and highly opinionated Irish lady-in-waiting, Lucie Dillon. According to The Independent:

Lucie de la Tour du Pin led an interesting life. Born to an aristocratic family in Paris in 1770, she saw many of her friends and family guillotined, but managed to escape the Terror with her husband and flee to America, where she forgot her aristocratic ways, learnt to milk cows and became a farmer.

After another brief sojourn in France, she sought refuge in England, and then returned to France when her husband, a career soldier-turned-not particularly diplomatic diplomat, was granted a post under Napoleon. When Napoleon fell, she went into exile with her husband again, this time in Italy, where she wrote her memoirs, which didn't see the light of day until 1907, when her great-grandson published them. She was as great a survivor as Talleyrand – whom she knew, of course. Actually, she knew everyone, from Marie Antoinette to Chateaubriand to the Duke of Wellington.

Caroline Moorhead's affection and admiration for Lucie come across strongly in her biography, and there was much to admire: Lucie was clever, clear-sighted, courageous and survived the buffets of fortune with coolness and good humour. Liberal in politics, aristocratic in temperament and outspoken by nature, she raised the hackles of both royalists and Jacobins. Born to wealth, she died, aged 83, in straitened circumstances. A loving wife and mother, she saw five of her six children die (her son Humbert was killed at 26 in a foolish and entirely avoidable duel).

As well as a portrait of a remarkable woman, this is also a portrait of an age of transition, when the ancien régime gave way to the beginnings of the modern age.

It's not uncommon to enjoy a novel and want to read more novels by that author; it's less common to think the same about a biography, but after reading Dancing to the Precipice, I definitely want to read more biographies by Moorhead.


Josephine's Wine Cellar

At Malmaison. Share

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Napkin Etiquette

Nothing says more about your table manners than the way you use your napkin. Share

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


It has always fascinated me how the telling of stories was held in high regard in Irish culture. Here is a little history:

In medieval Ireland, bards were one of two distinct groups of poets, the other being the fili. According to the Early Irish law text on status, Uraicecht Becc, bards were a lesser class of poets, not eligible for higher poetic roles as described above. However, it has also been argued that the distinction between filid (pl. of fili) and bards was a creation of Christian Ireland, and that the filid are were more associated with the church.[3]

Irish bards formed a professional hereditary caste of highly trained, learned poets. The bards were steeped in the history and traditions of clan and country, as well as in the technical requirements of a verse technique that was syllabic and used assonance, half rhyme and alliteration, among other conventions. As officials of the court of king or chieftain, they performed a number of official roles. They were chroniclers and satirists whose job it was to praise their employers and damn those who crossed them. It was believed that a well-aimed bardic satire, glam dicenn, could raise boils on the face of its target.

The bardic schools were extinct by the mid 17th century in Ireland and by the early 18th century in Scotland.

The bards played an important role in preserving the traditions and legends of the Irish people, as well as their genealogical connections. Stories were passed on through poems, songs, ballads and the loricas. According to one article:

Bards are found in Celtic cultures (Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Manx and Brittany) and a rough equivalent can be found in Norse culture, too, where they were known as "scops."

There is no real equivalent to the Celtic Bard in Anglo-Saxon England, however.

In Ireland and Scotland, the use of the word "Bard" apparently fell into some disrepute, as the records we have show that the Bard was simply a minor poet, while the "filidh" (seer) or the "ollave" (master poet) occupied the former status and functions of the Bard....

The word "Bard," in Wales, denoted a master-poet. In Ireland it meant a poet who was not an Ollave, one who had not taken all the formal training. Apparently even the lower-status Irish Bard was on a level with the Welsh Bard in knowledge and poetic education, however, and these were what I have termed "hedge-bards," above.

In the Celtic cultures, the Bard/Filidh/Ollave was inviolate. He could travel anywhere, say anything, and perform when and where he pleased. The reason for this was, of course, that he was the bearer of news and the carrier of messages, and, if he was harmed, then nobody found out what was happening over the next hill. In addition, he carried the Custom of the country as memorized verses...he could be consulted in cases of Customary (Common) Law. He was, therefore, quite a valuble repository of cultural information, news, and entertainment.


No Apologies

Women should not be made to apologize for devoting themselves to their families. Our value as persons is too often reduced to how much money we are contributing to the household, or how much of an impact we have made in the world at large. When is our society going to realize that creating a loving home for her husband and children is the greatest and most challenging of achievements for a woman. It requires constant dedication, thought, and creativity. It is a full-time job in itself. Unfortunately, too many women are forced to wear multiple hats, which can be quite a strain. As wife and mother Kate Wicker says:
Womankind doesn't need to be saved or fixed or changed. We don't need to prove ourselves by juggling a career, motherhood, and a slew of other accomplishments. We don't have to wear power suits to be powerful. Our power is found in our femininity, in the wombs that give women the ability to be sacred chambers for new life. Everything that makes women women is what makes them valuable to society. We don't have to contribute to the GDP to be productive. Mothers produce souls -- souls that have eternal value. And women who never have children of their own are still spiritual mothers, helping and nurturing society's underlings.

Whatever Happened to Modesty?

Some thoughts from Michael Hyatt. Share

Monday, March 15, 2010

Thirteenth Century Costume

The neckline was of an oblong cut; the sleeves were snugly laced. The stockings matched, as did her pointed yellow slippers. Around her hips was knotted a kirtle of purple samite. Next came a surcoat of fine plum wool, embroidered along the trailing hem and around the wide armholes in an intricate pattern in gold thread. The armholes were open almost to the knees, making the surcoat more of an apron than a gown. Margot clucked over the saffron dress in disapproval. “In my young days, nice young ladies did not wear yellow – only hussies.” ~from The Night's Dark Shade by Elena Maria Vidal
One of the most exciting aspects of writing a historical novel is researching the clothing. Here is a general description of thirteenth century apparel from Medieval-Life:

From the 11th through the 13th centuries, medieval clothing varied according to the social standing of the people. The clothing worn by nobility and upper classes was clearly different than that of the lower class.

The clothing of peasants during the Middle Ages was very simple, while the clothing of nobility was fitted with a distinct emphasis on the sleeves of the garments. Knights adorned themselves with sleeveless "surcoats" covered with a coat of arms....Fine leather shoes were also worn. Imports such as turbans and silks from the East were common for the more fortunate of society.

As with today, clothing styles of medieval men changed periodically. At the end of the 13th century, the once loose and flowing tunics became tighter fitting. Besides tunics, the men also wore undershirts and briefs covered by a sleeveless jacket and an additional tunic. Stockings completed the ensemble. Men's medieval clothing also consisted of cloaks with a round opening that was slipped over the man's head. Such cloaks were worn over other clothing as a type of "jacket".

Early medieval women's clothing consisted of "kirtles", which were tunics worn to their ankles. These tunics were often worn over a shirt. When the women were in public, they often topped the tunics with an even shorter "kirtle." Of course the more affluent women wore more luxurious clothing than those of the less affluent lifestyle. Women, especially those who were married, wore tight-fitting caps and nets over their hair, which was wound in a "bun" on their heads. Other women wore veils over their hair, which was left either hanging loosely, or braided tightly.

A knight, a prince, and a Templar.

A knight's family.

Hospitallers of St. John. (They could be Sir Gaston and Sir Martin.)

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Policing Public Opinion

In the French Revolution.
In this impressive first book, Charles Walton explores the fate of free speech from the last years of the ancien regime, through the decade of the French Revolution, to the repressive regime of Napoleon Bonaparte. His focus, however, is on the first five years of the Revolution. As he puts it quite succinctly in his introduction, "This study examines the many reasons for the tragic reversal in freedom of expression between 1789 and the Year II (1793-1794)" (p. 4). As the title of the book suggests, Walton places this work in the context of much recent scholarship on the role of public opinion in France in the late eighteenth century, but he also engages the debate among historians over whether or not we should see the trajectory of the Revolution as essentially the product of ideology. For Walton the answer is plainly "no." In his view, the anxieties and frustrations generated by the exercise (sometimes abuse) of free speech contributed to the radicalization of revolutionary politics and ultimately the repression of free expression under the Terror. To understand that development, he argues, one must look first to the culture of calumny and honor in ancien regime society....

For Walton, then, it was a culture of calumny that led to the Terror, rather than ideology as it was for François Furet.1 We are still in the realm of words, here, though, and Walton struggles to explain how the Jacobins could move from what he characterizes as a "quasi-libertarian" position on freedom of expression in 1790-91 to the Law of Suspects in 1793 and the repressive regime of the Terror in the Year II, under which 37 percent of those brought to justice were punished for what they said or thought, rather than for what they did. We might find part of an answer to this conundrum, it seems to me, in Condorcet's pamphlet on press freedom, in which he had argued that the chief purpose of press freedom was to censure authority. So long as the monarchy existed, there was a clear authority to be censured. But once Louis XVI had been executed, attacks on authority became attacks on revolutionaries by each other. Such attacks had been there since 1789, of course, but in the absence of a king on whom to focus patriotic fervor, those attacks now became more deadly. And in the absence of a king, the sovereignty of the people, asserted as an abstract ideal since 1789, now called out for more precise definition.

Walton insists that one must consider circumstances, as well as this culture of calumny, to understand fully the path to the Terror, but in this area he is on rather less sure footing than in his discussion of published views on freedom of expression on both sides of 1789. He points, for example, to the laws of 4 December 1792 and 29 March 1793 as the products of a "rising intolerance for radical and royalist speech" (p. 129). War, the September massacres, and the looming trial of Louis XVI almost certainly influenced the first law, while the Paris market riots of February played a role in the heightened tensions that led to the second. Much is made of Jean-Marie Roland's efforts to shape and control public opinion (or esprit public, a rather different thing, as Walton notes) in his tenure as Minister of the Interior in late 1792. But when Walton discusses Roland's resignation on 21 January 1793, apparently as a result of the controversy generated by his propaganda campaign, he fails to note that this was also the date of the king's execution. The battle over the king's fate, I would argue, was more important in the ongoing struggle between Girondins and Montagnards than the war of words between the two factions. Roland, a hero to the people for having been dismissed as minister by Louis XVI in June 1792, could not function successfully as minister in the absence of that same king.


Sunday, March 14, 2010


It is hard not to notice that among Catholics nowadays there are so many labels; it is easy to get lost in it all. People are called many things: rad-trads, traditionalists, neo-caths, charismatics, converts, reverts, liberals, etc. It was not always this way. When I was a child, there were just Catholics, no other labels, except for those who belonged to the clergy or a religious order. There were Catholics and non-Catholics. All the Catholics that I knew went to church; there were no fallen away Catholics in my little girl life, although I have no doubt they were out there.

How things have changed. Now every other person in my extended family is fallen away. Now every practicing Catholic I know has a label. It began in the seventies with the charismatic movement. People who were charismatic were called "born again" or "in the Spirit." Since my parents were in the charismatic movement we naturally saw those who had been "baptized in the Spirit" as being more authentically Christian than the cranky old-timers still kneeling in the pews, telling their beads.

I remember being upset that I had never been "born again" in the Spirit— no gift of tongues...or anything. I was upset by this until realizing I had indeed received the Holy Spirit at my Confirmation and that a person could be filled with the Holy Spirit without gesticulating, fainting on the ground, or speaking in an ancient, unknown language. As a result, I began to receive the sacraments more often. I joined the Secular Carmelites.

I remember visiting the Carmelite nuns for the first time, and announcing that I was a "conservative Catholic." One of the sisters, still a good friend of mine, said, "No, you're not. You're just a Catholic." Just a Catholic. I still see myself that way, although the fact that I love the Pope, prefer the Latin Mass, and admire Marie-Antoinette (even though she was not a registered Republican), gets me slapped with all kinds of labels from time to time.

For instance, last week I had an interesting exchange with some local Catholics during which, in order to make my point, I quoted from canon law and some other documents on the Vatican website. As a response I received Scripture verses like shots from a gun, verses that had little connection with the topic at hand. The person, knowing little or nothing about me, just assumed that I was one of those people, the type that clings to Latin and the Pope, and therefore I needed to be enlightened about the true Word of God. He does not know that my formerly Protestant mother had me memorizing Bible verses as a child and, yes, the Bible is still something I read. Often.

How quick and how easy it is to judge people about whom we know little or nothing, making rash assumptions based upon a tiny bit of information. The older I get the more I tremble to think I have done the same thing in the past. May God forgive me.

This is the big problem with having so many labels. When we label someone, we make presumptions about them that may or may not be true. We put them in a box. We put an end to the conversation, if we even allowed a conversation to begin. We close ourselves up in little cliques, making the Catholic ghetto a dense and confusing labyrinth. I have no idea how the church will ever be restored to genuine unity with so many labels and so much name-calling. Only God Himself can lead us out of this dark tunnel. For our part, it would help if we stopped rushing to judgment. Even when we know someone very well it is dangerous to pass judgment; it is even more foolish when we do not know someone at all. Share

Brief History of the Albigensian Crusade

Here is a synopsis for those who are wondering what the crusade was all about. How humble the Cathars were is open to debate as far as I am concerned. Share

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Jezebel (1938)

   Aunt Belle: Child, you're out of your mind. You know you can't wear red to the Olympus Ball

    Julie: Can't I? I'm goin' to. This is 1852, dumplin,' 1852. Not the Dark Ages. Girls don't have to simp around in white just because they're not married. ~Jezebel (1938)

Jezebel, a tale of Old New Orleans, is a film that becomes richer and deeper with every viewing. Julie (Bette Davis) is not really evil, just headstrong, and determined not to be dominated by either her fiancé, Preston (Henry Fonda) or by Southern convention. Her flouting of tradition is a way of antagonizing her beloved, whom she obviously adores. My sense is that Preston and Julie have such a great yearning for each other, they don't know how to deal with it, except by driving each other crazy. One impulsive gesture leads to another, however, tearing the lovers apart, causing a series of tragic repercussions. After Julie's banishment from genteel society, the old family butler, Cato, says of her: "Well, I reckon princesses, they just naturally grows up to be queens, that's all." Cato reveals that one person at least understands that underneath Julie's selfish conniving is true nobility of character. During the epidemic, she rises to the occasion, and is willing to face death in order to save her lost love. In the final scene, she sits upright among the yellow fever victims, serene and peaceful, giving her life for Preston, as the nearby bonfire shows how her passion has at last found a means of expression. With a superb screenplay and score, and an array of sparkling crystal and mint juleps, Jezebel waltzes along; it's never a bore. Share