Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Statue

There is a controversy surrounding the new statue of Blessed John Paul II. Liz Lev reports:
Regrettably, the statue resembles neither the handsome 58-year-old who charmed the Romans by speaking their dialect, or the suffering 83-year-old who inspired them with his courage. It evokes neither the warm sparkle in his eye seen during his 331 visits to Rome's 337 parishes nor the determined set of his face when he sternly denounced the mafia preying on the Italian people.

Mostly, the indistinctness of the work seems to be a betrayal of the man. John Paul II was clear and outspoken, never ambiguous. This is the man who restored the Sistine Chapel to return beauty to the world and the best Rome can offer is a befuddling bronze blob? For a city that immortalized Augustus with the Prima Porta statue, where Michelangelo left us Moses, and Bernini's sculptures seem to speak, Oliviero Rainaldi's efforts make one wonder where the proud tradition of art has gone.

Suddenly Pope Julius II, micro-manager of the arts, breathing over Michelangelo's shoulder or overworking Raphael, seems like a patron devoutly to be desired.
(Image) Share

An Impermanent Paradise

It's called California. Charles A. Coulombe discusses the history and the dream.
In 1769, our royal founder, Charles III of Spain, was afraid that the Russians would swoop down from Alaska, annex the then-unsettled Alta California, and menace New Spain. He dispatched (and funded) an expedition to evangelize and claim California, headed by the saintly Franciscan Friar Junípero Serra. By the time Mexico forced California into independence from Spain in 1822, the Spanish had built up a rather impressive infrastructure: 21 missions stretching from San Diego to the Bay Area; four presidios; two civilian pueblos; a network of ranchos, and, running like a vertical spine through most of the land and tying us to our sister colony of Baja California, El Camino Real —the King’s Highway.

Despite the best efforts of leftist activists and Indian revisionists to convince you otherwise, Spanish California was quite a pleasant place for most of its denizens. But again, paradise would not last. As in the rest of Latin America, overthrowing the Spanish crown led to a dreary cycle of civil wars and petty dictators, albeit in a typically Californian comic-opera manner. As a result, when the Americans conquered California during the Mexican War, resistance was halfhearted or nonexistent in many places, though los Californios showed what they could do at the Battle of San Pasqual. (Read entire article.)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Jehanne la Pucelle

"O how beautiful is the chaste generation with glory: for the memory thereof is immortal...." Wisdom 4:1

On Wednesday, May 30, 1431, the Vigil of Corpus Christi, Jehanne Darc, or Jehanne la Pucelle, "the Maid," as she called herself, was led into the public square of Rouen by enemy soldiers to where the stake awaited her.  It was noon. Nineteen years old, her head shaven, surrounded by placards branding her a witch, idolatress, and abjured heretic, she invoked the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, and St Michael the Archangel. She had been calumniated and condemned by those whose holy office it was to guide and protect her soul; she had been exposed to lewdness and impurity by those whose sacred duty it was to shelter her innocence and virginity. She was abandoned by the king whose crown her victories had won. She was in great interior darkness; the voices of her saints were silent.

Although she conversed with angels and saints, Joan the Maid was known to be practical and blunt. Very feminine, she missed her embroidery and her mother, yet she emerges on the pages of late medieval history like someone from the Acts of the Apostles. Surrounded by miracles, she was herself a Miracle; she led an army to victory at the age of 17, an illiterate peasant girl, who knew nothing of war or politics. She saved France as a nation, for it had all but ceased to exist when she came on the scene.

Such was her Faith that she confounded her judges, while exhausted, frightened and pushed to the breaking point of her mental and physical strength. Denied the Sacraments by her persecutors, she gazed upon the upheld crucifix, calling out, "Jesus! Jesus!" as the flames consumed her. When Joan's ashes were scattered in the river, her heart was found, untouched by the flames, and still bleeding.

"If I walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for Thou art with me, O Lord Jesus." Communion Antiphon for the Feast of St Joan

St. Joan, pray for us!

Catherine Delors explores the art and literature which honors La Pucelle. To quote Madame Delors:
But Jehanne is not content to win battles. She knows that military success is meaningless if it is not consolidated by the symbolic and religious power of the French monarchy. She convinces the Dauphin to have himself crowned King. Here she is, attending the coronation ceremony of Charles VII at Reims, still holding the banner she carried into battle. This moment is her work, and marks the peak of her glory in this world.

A New Tiara

The Mad Monarchist reports.
HH Pope Benedict XVI has been presented with his own papal tiara, paid for by German businessman Dieter Philippi and constructed by artisans in Sofia, Bulgaria, symbolic of the hope emphasized by Benedict XVI for greater unity between the eastern and western Churches (always a good thing in my book). It is even odds if the Pope will ever actually make use of his new tiara but I would consider it only polite to do so -don't want to seem unappreciative of such a gift right? The absence of a papal coronation in recent decades is one of the losses I mourn in western civilization. Of course, as most know, Pope Benedict XVI has adopted a much more "traditional" style compared to his predecessors on the Petrine throne and it was said that he had wanted to have a coronation but was told that it would be impossible to organize at such short notice after his election.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Last Plantagenet

Yesterday was the feast of Blessed Margaret Pole, last princess of the royal house of Plantagenet. Accounts of her heroism and suffering, HERE, HERE and HERE.


Rebuilding Cambodia

Here is an interesting interview with a bishop who is trying to rebuild the Church in Cambodia.
Bishop Schmitthaeusler: I think in Cambodia, during the Khmer Rouge's four-year reign of terror under Pol Pot, everything was destroyed -- culture and all forms of religion including Buddhism and Catholicism. Then under the 10 years of post-Khmer Rouge Vietnamese Communist occupation, again no form of religion was permitted. Over the last 20 years, the Cambodians have started rebuilding their traditions as well as their religious practices and now, I think, the people are more open than before. This is very beneficial especially for the Catholic Church.

When young people become Christians, for instance during baptism, we invite their parents and grandparents to participate. Two years ago we had a funeral. A funeral is very important for Buddhists and they have this perception that the Catholics are not very interested in the dead and have no respect for the dead, especially the dead parents. They were all waiting to see what I was going to do during the funeral ceremony. They were very impressed afterward. I followed their funeral tradition including the seven days wake in the Buddhist tradition. I tried to impress upon them that we Catholics do not reject the dead, that we have prayers for the dead and that we believe and hope in the Resurrection. It was an opportunity for us to be a witness for Christ and an opportunity for the Buddhists to see what we do.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Tech Rudeness

With the rapidly changing technology, are the rules still the same? The Wall Street Journal wonders. To quote:
Or what about constant checking of BlackBerries and Smartphones? When I’m out with colleagues, most of us tend to check our BlackBerries once in a while, which in the news business is understandable.  (As one of my colleagues once wrote, “Looking down is the new looking up.”) There are often stories that need to be looked after once we’ve left the office. But there are a few colleagues that check in constantly. It leaves me thinking that they would rather be at work, or are at least more interested in what is going on at work, than having a conversation. That, to me, spells rude. Being disrespectful of a colleague’s time, whether on the job or not, probably does more harm than incessant checking in does good for your career.

Readers, do you think the concept of rudeness has changed (or not) with mobile technology? Do you agree, as Markoe describes, that to some people, “what’s rude is asking for privacy in any place that gets a signal, because you’re interfering with someone else’s rights of expression”? (Read entire article.)
This is what I think: the heart of manners is consideration for those around us. It is an intrusion into the lives of others to foist loud noise, be it music or conversation or shouting, upon them. Also, the people in whose company we are in at the moment deserve our immediate attention, not those texting or phoning us, with the exception of emergencies. If we need to take a call or answer a text, then we should excuse ourselves profusely and later try to take up the conversation where it was when interrupted. Share

Attributes of a Gentleman

Mr. Darcy's rules of engagement.
Thus, right at the start, the gentleman is one who is willing and able to judge well. He is discriminating in his judgments and does not shy away from making hard distinctions even when they cause him discomfort and even when he is forced to stand alone. And while admitting the social differences between our day and Jane Austen’s, I think it is possible to glean from her work several key attributes of the gentleman, attributes that are as applicable today as they were in her time. Austen’s gentleman par excellence is Mr. Darcy and it is his example that is foremost in my mind. However, as readers of Pride and Prejudice know, Mr. Darcy himself has lessons to learn and room to improve—as have we all.

First, the gentleman has a firm sense of propriety. Propriety is a word that has fallen out of fashion, but that is unfortunate. A person possessing a sense of propriety knows what is appropriate for every situation. This requires wide-ranging experience in various social settings. It furthermore requires the ability to distinguish between timeless principle and cultural practices that can vary from place to place. A sense of propriety, when properly formed and not merely a sense of personal dignity, requires an awareness of other people. A person with a well-developed sense of propriety makes other people feel at ease. This may at times even require the violation of a cultural norm in the service of a fundamental principle. (Read entire article.)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Was Lady Jane Grey an Abused Child?

Author Susan Higginbotham ponders the question.
Correspondence by those who knew Jane also fails to bear out the notion of Jane as a mistreated, abused child. If anything, the picture that emerges is of a father, at least, who took pride in his daughter’s intellectual accomplishments and shared her religious views. In July 1551, Jane wrote to thank the reformer Henry Bullinger in Zurich for “that little volume of pure and unsophisticated religion” which he had sent to her and her father; both were reading it, she added. Earlier, in May 1551, while Jane’s father was in Scotland, John ab Ulmis wrote to Bullinger that he had been visiting Jane and her mother at Bradgate, where he had been “passing these two days very agreeably with Jane, my lord’s daughter, and those excellent and holy persons Aylmer and Haddon [Jane’s tutor and the family chaplain].” Ulmis went on to gush, “For my own part, I do not think there ever lived any one more deserving of respect than this young lady, if you regard her family; more learned, if you consider her age; or more happy, if you consider both.” (Read entire article.)

Communist Cannibalism

How various regimes used starvation as a means of producing social and political change.
To collectivize the land in a "great assault on the peasantry," Stalin used starvation as a weapon, particularly against the Ukrainians. This policy resulted in the death of roughly 6 million people, including 4 million in Ukraine. Here in Kharkiw in 1933, the peasants became indifferent to the daily phenomenon of death. Cannibalism was so widespread that the government printed posters that said: "Eating your children is an act of barbarism." (Read entire article.)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Be Cultured, Be Healthy

According to one study, cultured men are happier and healthier. (Via Lee Hamilton)
Men who visit art galleries, museums, and the theatre regularly tend to enjoy better health and are more satisfied with life, reveals a study published online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The study found that both men and women who play musical instruments, paint or visit the theatre or museums felt in better health, enjoyed life more, and were less likely to be anxious or depressed then people who do not participate in cultural activities.

However, the effect was most pronounced in men who were interested in watching and looking at culture rather than doing creative or active cultural activities themselves.

The Norwegian researchers used questionnaires to determine how frequently 50,797 adults living in Nord-Trøndelag County participated in cultural activities and to assess their perceived state of health, satisfaction with life, and anxiety and depression levels.

All types of cultural activities were significantly associated with good health and satisfaction with life, and people who engaged in cultural activities had lower levels of anxiety and depression.

Moreover, the more culture was experienced, the greater were the benefits to health and wellbeing. The greatest benefits were seen in men who did "receptive" cultural activities, such as visiting theatres and museums.

"The results indicate that the use of cultural activities in health promotion and healthcare may be justified," comment the authors.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

For Those Who Love Toile de Jouy...

...Here are some lovely examples from the Maison de Lin. Share

The Past is a Foreign Country

Gareth Russell comments on the Queen's speech at the official state dinner during the royal visit last week, saying:
And then, all of a sudden, you feel goose pimples shoot up and down your arm when the Queen begins a speech in Irish. It's then that you realise that the world has changed and that Ireland isn't a place of  ghosts, rebels, blood and loyalists. It's 2011 and it's a great place to live. It's a small country, one of the smallest of the English speaking nations, and yet its national saint's day is a holiday in one of the largest; Irish charm, hospitality, friendliness, ease of living, inappropriate sense of humour and the indefinable quality of craic is known and praised throughout the world. On both sides of the border, despite the south's current economic crisis, high standards of living are enjoyed and in the north, economic prosperity is made all the more remarkable when, as the Queen reflects, it's been just over a decade since it emerged from what was one of the most vicious political conflicts in western Europe after the Second World War. In Ireland, everyone's supposed to know what you are, who you vote for, what sports you follow and which type of passport is sitting in your bedside drawer. Our identities have all been very clearly drawn, right down to the way you pronounce the letter "h." We're pros at telling through a dozen subtle signals what type of church you pray in on a Sunday and, based on that, which national anthem you'll stand for. And then, the Queen of England speaks Irish.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Last Portrait of Marie-Antoinette

The subject of many portraits during her lifetime, the Queen of France was sketched during her last moments by Jacques-Louis David. Some say the sketch is more of a caricature than an accurate depiction, in that David might have made the Queen look worse in order to mock her.


Alice Adams

A reflection on the Booth Tarkington novel and the Katherine Hepburn film.
One thing though must have been as obvious in 1922 as it is now: Mrs. Adams has no idea what is important in life, an ignorance that destroys her son and nearly destroys her daughter.

Monday, May 23, 2011

"Capet, wake up!"

 Below is an excerpt of a poem by the great Victor Hugo in honor of the little son of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. After being dragged from his mother's arms at the age of eight, he was mistreated in the Temple prison. The child was beaten, given strong drink, and generally corrupted in order to force him to testify against the queen and his aunt Madame Elisabeth. The French title of the poem, Capet, éveille-toi! or "Capet, wake up!" recalls how the little king was repeatedly awakened in the course of the night and prevented from a decent sleep, as an additional method of torture. He died at the age of ten on June 8, 1795, covered with sores, diseased, mute and alone.
What if thy wasted arms are bleeding yet,
And wounded with the fetter's cruel trace.
No earthly diadem has ever set
A stain upon thy face.

"Child, life and hope were with thee at thy birth;
But life soon bowed thy tender form to earth,
And hope forsook thee in thy hour of need.
Come, for thy Saviour had his pains divine;
Come, for his brow was crowned with thorns like thine;
His sceptre was a reed."
Image from Vive la Reine. Share

Marie-Antoinette's Private World

Some detailed photos the like of which I have never before seen. Share

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Great Alcuin

He brought education to the empire of Charlemagne.
Alcuin was eminently qualified to be the schoolmaster of his age. Although living in the world and occupied much with public affairs, he was a man of singular humility and sanctity of life. He had an unbounded enthusiasm for learning and a tireless zeal for the practical work of the class-room and library, and the young men of talent whom he drew in crowds around him from all parts of Europe went away inspired with something of his own passionate ardor for study. His warm-hearted and affectionate disposition made him universally beloved, and the ties that bound master and pupil often ripened into intimate friendship that lasted through life. Many of his letters that have been preserved were written to his former pupils, more than thirty being addressed to his tenderly loved disciple Arno, who became Archbishop of Salzburg. Before he died Alcuin had the satisfaction of seeing the young men whom he had trained engaged all over Europe in the work of teaching. “Wherever”, says Wattenbach, in speaking of the period that followed, “anything of literary activity is visible, there we can with certainty count on finding a pupil of Alcuin’s.” (Read entire article.)

The Woman Who Could Not Forget

What really happened to Iris Chang? The Western Confucian reports on the death of the author of The Rape of Nanking, saying:
Concluded Ying-Ying Chang, Iris's research-scientist mother, "I believe Iris's suicide was caused by her [prescribed] medications." In his two-and-a-half-year-old review of an earlier book, Finding Iris Chang: Friendship, Ambition, and the Loss of an Extraordinary Mind, Eamonn Fingleton notes that "some Bataan survivors have speculated that Chang's death was not a suicide" — Whatever Happened to Iris Chang? His conclusion:
All the evidence, however, seems to suggest that this goes too far. The real question is whether new forms of coercion were instigated against Chang in her final months. What is clear is that the pressures in the field are enormous and few Westerners stay long without being relieved of their truth ethic. Either that or they voluntarily sideline themselves in bland peripheral aspects of the subject. Chang retained her Western truth ethic to the end -- and kept her gaze unflinchingly on the center of the target.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Point of Light

From The Dutchess:
The fairy poet takes a sheet
Of moonbeam, silver white;
His ink is dew from daisies sweet,
His pen a point of light.

~Joyce Kilmer

Good Food and Drink as Stress Relief

Family meals are a key to good health. (Via Serge) To quote:
Did you ever see a movie (or better, the real thing) of a big Italian family around a dinner table, talking and laughing while "Mama" passed big plates of pasta and "Papa" poured the wine? Mealtime was historically geared to enjoyment and relaxation, conversation and sharing each other's lives. And, of course, the same is true in many other places and cultures.

Families like that don't have nearly the heart and other health problems so common today in America. Every wonder why? Compare just the heart attack and obesity figures for these two charts. Food and a happy dinner time isn't the whole story, of course, but after thirty years of nursing I've seen far too many stressed out people who seldom or never found any peace or joy along with their food, even when it was the most nutritious stuff they could manage to find.

Look around your own dinner table tonight and listen to what goes on. That is if you even eat at the table. So many people eat on the run, behind the wheel of a car, in front of the TV or computer, or they live and eat with people they don't like or respect. Dinner table (or other mealtime) arguments and fights are so common that I wonder if most people even notice anymore how unnatural and destructive it is.

And then there are the people (such as myself) who live and eat alone most of the time. Many have little or no desire to cook for just themselves, and quite a few have few cooking skills to start with. Some people are quite content to be on their own, but many live with deep regrets or grief over a lost spouse or other family relationships. Some wallow in false guilt or sad memories. (Read entire article.)

Friday, May 20, 2011

A History of Hats

Why people wore them and why we don't anymore. (Via Beaux Mondes Designs)
Humans have covered their heads since time immemorial.  Initially headwear offered protection from the elements and from injury from falling rocks, weapons or masonry.  Later head coverings became symbols of status of authority.  Soon after hats progressed to become not only a uniform, but also an art form.

In fashion terms, hats are a very noticeable accessory because the onlooker’s attention is first drawn to the face. A hat is the most noticeable fashion item anyone can wear.  The old saying goes 'if you want to get ahead and get noticed, then get a hat'.  Indeed the word 'ahead' means just that one head further forward.

Since some body heat is lost through the head, in inclement conditions it is important to cover the head. Babies in particular lose heat rapidly through the head, thus ensuring a baby or toddler has a warm covered head in winter is important. (Read More.)

Suffer the Little Children

Cohabitation and the abuse of America's children.
This new federal study indicates that these cases are simply the tip of the abuse iceberg in American life. According to the report, children living with their mother and her boyfriend are about 11 times more likely to be sexually, physically, or emotionally abused than children living with their married biological parents. Likewise, children living with their mother and her boyfriend are six times more likely to be physically, emotionally, or educationally neglected than children living with their married biological parents. In other words, one of the most dangerous places for a child in America to find himself in is a home that includes an unrelated male boyfriend—especially when that boyfriend is left to care for a child by himself.

But children living with their own father and mother do not fare much better if their parents are only cohabiting. The federal study of child abuse found that children living with their cohabiting parents are more than four times more likely to be sexually, physically, or emotionally abused than their peers living in a home headed by their married parents. And they are three times more likely to be physically, emotionally, or educationally neglected than children living with their married biological parents. In other words, a child is not much safer when she is living in a home with her parents if her parents’ relationship does not enjoy the legal, social, and moral status and guidance that marriage confers on relationships. (Read entire article.)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Howards

A noble Catholic family. Stephanie Mann reports:
On October 4, 1646, Thomas Howard, 21st Earl of Arundel and 1st Earl of Norfolk, and Earl Marshal died--also known as the "Collector Earl" for amassing a fine array of ancient marbles and Renaissance paintings. He was the son of St. Philip Howard, who died in the Tower of London after asking to see him, who had been born after Philip was imprisoned--that request being denied by Elizabeth I's government unless he renounced his Catholicism and become an Anglican (heartless!).

James I restored the family Earldom to Thomas in 1604. He then married a wealthy noblewoman, Alethea Talbot, in 1606. Thomas Howard evidently swore oaths of loyalty to both James I and Charles I--because he served in their governments and courts--although he returned to the Catholic Church sometime before his death.

Thomas and Alethea Howard had three children, one of whom, William Howard, 1st Viscount Stafford, would be accused, because of his Catholicism, in the Popish Plot, executed on December 29, 1680 and beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1929.

A Beautiful Mind

I just found a fun new blog with advice on things like posture and table manners. Here is a post on how important it is to regulate what you put into your mind.
For the rest, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever modest, whatsoever just, whatsoever holy, whatsoever lovely, whatsoever of good fame, if there be any virtue, if any praise of discipline, think on these things. ~Phil.4:8

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Riding Habits

In the eighteenth century, they were worn for more than just riding.
In his Reminiscences, the Rev. T. Mozley noted that "Till...1835, it was a very ordinary thing to meet with ladies who, to save the trouble and cost of following fashion, never wore anything but a close-fitting habit. It required a good figure and bearing, that is, beauty unadorned....The effect, however, was apt to be masculine, and when prolonged to middle age gave the lady a kind of epicene character, in which she could take what part she pleased."

Planning a Road Trip?

Here are some excellent tips for a cross-country trek with the family.
During a road trip it is essential to bring with you some things for emergency because you never know what will happen so it's better to be prepared. These are some of the things that we brought with us:
  • car tools, extra tire and car cleaners
  • medicines and First Aid kit
  • gallons of distilled water
  • ready to eat can goods, nuts and chocolate
  • 2 coffee mugs, paper plates, bowls,cups and plastic spoons and forks
  • personal things like sunglasses, pen, cameras, paper, tissue paper, beauty kit etc.
  • personal IDs and all important contact numbers and account numbers.
  • iPod, if no iPod some kind of music player.
  • clothing, extra shoes
  • Light jacket, blanket sand pillows - in case stranded (Read More.)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sleeping Porches

A lovely place to sleep.
The screened-in sleeping porch enabled adults and children to sleep outside with protection from rain and insects during the hot summer months. With the advent of electric fans and air conditioning, it was erased from blueprints for new homes. But perhaps the high price of energy these days will bring about its revival, or families will start building them on their own.

Perfect Picnics

Some ideas on how to savor the summer. I am partial to the French-style picnic myself. Also, some drink ideas for a hot day. And let's not forget barbecue time.

To get in the picnic mood, I recommend  the 1955 film, Picnic.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Marie-Antoinette and Expectant Mothers

Marie-Antoinette was known to show special kindness to women with child. One of her ladies-in-waiting, Madame de la Tour du Pin, who does not refrain from criticizing Marie-Antoinette when she sees fit, remarks in her Memoirs on the Queen's consideration towards her when she was expecting. There is also the famous story, included in my novel Trianon, about how Marie-Antoinette got down on the floor to pick up the paints and brushes for Madame Vigée-Lebrun when the artist was in the family way. The Queen also founded a home for unwed mothers called the Maternity Society. And I recently came across a charming anecdote in which Marie-Antoinette helps a passing stranger who is with child. To quote:
When the expecting mother was about to sit down, the Queen called over a servant and said: “Go to my bedroom, and bring a cushion for this lady,” and then explained her gesture, saying, “Many cares are required when in your condition. This marble bench is too cold for you to sit down on.”

After which, a long and friendly conversation sprung up between one mother and the mother-to-be.
How sad that so many of the genuine accounts of the Queen's charity are forgotten by history whereas falsehoods such as "Let them eat cake" are remembered forever.


The Chemistry of Attraction

How the birth control pill messes with nature.
Much of the attraction between the sexes is chemistry. New studies suggest that when women use hormonal contraceptives, such as birth-control pills, it disrupts some of these chemical signals, affecting their attractiveness to men and women's own preferences for romantic partners.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Pope Gregory VII

Speaking truth to power. The Mad Monarchist reports.
Purely in terms of the Catholic Church, Gregory VII was a great reforming pope. He brought about a revival in the understanding of the “true presence” and in the character and quality of the clergy as he was greatly distressed, upon taking the throne, to see how many priests and bishops were living immoral lives, were ignorant of many basic teachings and who had obtained their offices in irregular ways. Celibacy was made, unequivocally the rule and selling Church offices was condemned. He cleaned up, reformed and improved the Church in a big way, however, those clerics who gained their positions in an “irregular” way was something that caused a great deal of trouble in dealing with. This led to what is known as the “Investiture Dispute” between Pope Gregory VII on one hand and the Holy Roman Emperor on the other. Originally, this was a dispute over who had the right to appoint bishops; the Pope or the Emperor. At heart, however, it was a clash between the power of the Church and the State such as would be seen time and time again throughout history.

Natural Attraction

It can be destroyed by birth control pills as new research demonstrates.
Much of the attraction between the sexes is chemistry. New studies suggest that when women use hormonal contraceptives, such as birth-control pills, it disrupts some of these chemical signals, affecting their attractiveness to men and women's own preferences for romantic partners.


Help for parents from Heidi Saxton, who has been through it all. Share

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Dinner Jacket

How did the dinner jacket, popularly known as the "tuxedo," come to replace the traditional tailcoats in modern formal wear? According to The Wall Street Journal:
The story of how the tuxedo made its initial debut in American society dates back to the Gilded Age, when the founders of the posh Tuxedo Park resort in Orange County, N.Y., are thought to have introduced the coat at their exclusive sporting club. This fall, current residents of the Park, along with the local historical society and the distinguished Savile Row clothier Henry Poole & Co. plan to celebrate the legacy of the tuxedo in a manner befitting its eminent birth. But significant questions linger, like when and where the coat was truly born, or even why it's called the tuxedo.

For generations, one account eclipsed all others as the creation myth of choice. (Read entire article.)

Westminster Abbey

A little history from Once I Was A Clever Boy.
The practice at the abbey of displaying their spectacular altar plate on these occasions either on the altar or on the side of the sanctuary appears reminiscent of the way in which medieval nobles showed off their plate on grand occasions on sideboards or buffets - as in the picture of the Duke of Berry at table in the Tres Riches Heures. However I wondered if the origin of the practice at the abbey is not so much a desire to show off their treasures or wealth as such, but a memory of the pre-Reformation practice of displaying relics and statues of the saints on festal occasions. Thus at York in 1483 when King Richard III created his son as Prince of Wales in the Minster the altar was decorated with silver gilt figures of the Twelve Apostles. I do not know, but thought it possible, that, after the loss of such reliquaries and votive figures, the memory lingered that on great occasions the altar should be decorated with something in silver or gold, and in default the alms dishes and such like were displayed.

Suffer the Little Children

Cohabitation and the abuse of America's children.

This new federal study indicates that these cases are simply the tip of the abuse iceberg in American life. According to the report, children living with their mother and her boyfriend are about 11 times more likely to be sexually, physically, or emotionally abused than children living with their married biological parents. Likewise, children living with their mother and her boyfriend are six times more likely to be physically, emotionally, or educationally neglected than children living with their married biological parents. In other words, one of the most dangerous places for a child in America to find himself in is a home that includes an unrelated male boyfriend—especially when that boyfriend is left to care for a child by himself.

But children living with their own father and mother do not fare much better if their parents are only cohabiting. The federal study of child abuse found that children living with their cohabiting parents are more than four times more likely to be sexually, physically, or emotionally abused than their peers living in a home headed by their married parents. And they are three times more likely to be physically, emotionally, or educationally neglected than children living with their married biological parents. In other words, a child is not much safer when she is living in a home with her parents if her parents’ relationship does not enjoy the legal, social, and moral status and guidance that marriage confers on relationships. (Read the entire article.)

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Nazi and the Cathars

I found this creepy article via a World War II forum. It is about the Nazi fascination with the heretical Cathars, particularly Otto Rahn's morbid quest. Like the Nazis, the Cathars held the Jews in some disdain. In the case of the Cathars, they believed that the God of Israel, who was the God of the Old Testament and therefore of the Jews, was not the Good God but an evil demiurge who had created the material world. Read with discernment. To quote:
Rejected by his mother and bereaved by the death of his older brother Rudolph, Otto grew into a solitary, introverted boy who assimilated the bare bones of German Romanticism through his avid childhood reading, which included Greek, Roman and Nordic mythology. It must have been hard for him to fit in at school, as his father, Karl, was a magistrate who was often transferred from town to town, making it difficult for Otto to form lasting friendships. His niece, the psychiatrist Ingheborg Rhoemer-Rahn, told me that Otto had inherited ‘second sight’ from his father who, after going blind in later life, grew increasingly convinced that he could “see heaven” or “talk to angels”.

Otto’s generalised affinity with Romantic­ism became an all-consuming passion for the stories of Parsifal, Lohengrin, the Nibelungenlied and the tales of Jacob and Benjamin Grimm, fellow denizens of the Black Forest, whom he saw as role models in his chosen career as philologist and folklorist. While attending the University of Giessen he was encouraged by his professor, Freiherr Von Gall, to focus his studies on the history of the Cathars, the events of the Albigensian crusade and the massacre that occurred at Montségur in 1244, effectively putting an end to the Gnostic tradition in southern Europe. Rahn is quoted as saying that “My ancestors are witches and I am a heretic… It was a subject that completely captivated me”.

Otto was further inspired by the work of archæologist Heinrich Schliemann, whose theory that Homer’s Iliad reflected actual historical events led to his sensational ‘discovery’ of the ruins of Troy. Otto dreamed of achieving similar results by proving that there was a factual basis to Wolfram von Eschenbach’s epic narrative poem Parzival, a 13th-century re-creation of the story of the Holy Grail that had been left unfinished by Chrétien de Troyes. Interest in this chivalric romance had been revived in the 19th cent­ury by Wagner’s operas, and Otto set out to write a dissertation on Master Kiot, the Languedocian troubadour whose long-lost Grail ballads were said to have inspired Wolfram’s masterpiece.

Otto believed that the Cathars had been in possession of a sacred relic, described variously as a cup, a bowl, a plate, a book, or a hard, dark stone possessed of an extra­ordinary magical virtue. According to Wolfram’s text, whoever possessed the Grail or came into contact with the relic “would have eternal life and would be healed”. Otto was convinced that the secret of the Grail had been lost when the last of the Cathar parfaits had died on the orders of the Pope and the King of France. He sought to establish a direct link between Montsalvache, the Grail castle of Parzival, and the Cathar fort­ress of Montségur, scene of one of the Albigensian crusade’s most protracted sieges.

He observed that the culture of the medieval Cathars bore a strong resemblance to that of the ancient Druids, and believed that their secret wisdom might have been preserved by the troubadours, or minnesingers – the traveling poets and minstrels of medieval Europe. According to Otto, the war of the Roman Catholic Church against the Albigensians was simply a mat­erial manifestation of the ongoing apoca­lyptic struggle between the forces of Light and Darkness upon whose violent interact­ion everything in our illusory material Universe was predicated. Infinite goodness, the Cathar parfaits reasoned, was incapable of creating evil, hence the darkness, pain and misery in our world was not the will of God, but the work of the Devil, the demiurge who had hijacked creation and whom they referred to as ‘Rex Mundi’, the ruler of the transient, material world. They identified all clerical and secular rulers – principally the Catholic Church – as the personification of this Darkness and believed that it was possible through a form of direct initiation known as the consolamentum, or multiple incarnations, to eventually escape from the cycle of time and the deterministic prison of the material world, to literally return to the stars and the domain of the true, good God. (Read entire article.)
More about the Cathars, HERE. Share

Louis and Antoinette

He saw his wife before she saw him. Although he was terribly nearsighted, he knew which of the blurry white forms was hers, even before she came into focus. Squinting his eyes, as he did when aiming at his quarry, her image took on greater clarity. In her white muslin dress, the sheer fichu draped carelessly yet artfully around her neck and shoulders, veil fluttering off the side of her wide hat, she was a vision of beauty that always, when he had not seen her for a few hours, left him breathless.

~ from Trianon by Elena Maria Vidal
(Via Vive la Reine.) Share

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Return of Emma Bovary

There is a new translation of Gustave Flaubert's masterpiece, Madame Bovary. It sounds atrocious. According to Taki's Magazine:
Madame Bovary: A New Translation by Lydia Davis sounds exactly like what it is—a book written in 21st-century America. Hollywood period movies can be dated by the hairstyles; here the turn of phrase is a dead giveaway. There is “give me a hug” in place of “embrace me,” “deep in her soul” instead of “at the bottom of her soul,” and “waiting for something to happen” rather than “waiting for an event.” Little things, little things, though some would say that even a comma is big when it comes to translation and that a translator should be a slave to the original as the Slav Nabokov was to Pushkin, as the poet Baudelaire was to Poe—“servilely attached to the letter” at the risk of producing baroque and even painful results.

There is no pain for the reader in Madame Bovary: A New Translation by Lydia Davis—just smooth, easy, up-to-date, democratic Americanness. It’s a choice, but it’s a shame, because it doesn’t do justice to Flaubert’s style, and however one may dislike what he chose to write about, Flaubert knew how to write. (Read entire article.)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Royal Wedding Gown

People often ask what became of Marie-Antoinette's wedding gown. It no longer exists and was probably made into a set of  church vestments as were many gowns of that quality. However, to see something similar one only has to look at the wedding dress of the Protestant princess Edwige Elizabeth Charlotte Holstein-Gottorp, future Queen of Sweden, as shown on Lauren's blog. It is still in existence and was recently on display at Versailles.


Vanessa Redgrave and the Marxist Revolution

How being a revolutionary almost completely destroyed actress Vanessa Redgrave's family and career.
Vanessa stood twice as a WRP candidate in general elections, campaigning to smash capitalism, abolish the monarchy and replace the police with a worker’s militia. Inevitably, she began spending longer periods away from home.

Her small daughters, Joely and Natasha, would cling to her as she tried to get out of the front door. When she was six, Natasha asked her mother to spend more time at home. Vanessa tried to explain her political struggle was for the future of her daughter and other children. ‘But I need you now. I won’t need you so much then,’ said Natasha.

Later, Vanessa came to regret spending so much time away. The children ‘certainly suffered’, she admitted. ‘I came to see that was a big mistake.’

On top of that, she gave so much of her money away to the WRP that the family was short of cash. Their house in West London began to look unloved, the garden overgrown. Lynn Redgrave was so angry at Vanessa for putting ‘the people’ ahead of her children that she stopped talking to her. Vanessa’s former husband, the producer-director Tony Richardson, made her sign a legal document promising not to take their daughters to political meetings. (Read Entire Article)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Madame Elisabeth of France: The Forgotten Princess

"And what is martyrdom," asked Lamballe, "but the triumph of love?'
-from Trianon by Elena Maria Vidal

The French monarchy has become infamous to posterity for stories of dangerous liaisons. Louis XIV and his ladies, Louis XV and his Parc aux Cerfs, the Fersen legend, are the standard fare served to the public for generations. Not only does scandal sell books and movies but it reinforces the modern conviction that all royals were decadent and corrupt. The Bourbon dynasty, nevertheless, was remarkable not only for the amorous escapades of some of the kings, but for souls of fortitude and religious devotion, especially among the ladies. Queens Marie-Thérèse d'Espagne and Marie Lesczynska endured their husbands' infidelities with patience and forgiveness, while giving an example of virtue and devoted motherhood to the kingdom. The daughters of Louis XV, in spite of their eccentricities, were known to be pious souls, charitable towards the poor and the religious houses.

The sister of Louis XVI, however, outshines them all. In Madame Elisabeth was blended the piety of Saint Clothilde with the raw courage of Eleanor d'Acquitaine. She possessed the benevolence and common touch which distinguished the descendants of Henri IV. As her brother was hailed “Son of Saint Louis” at the moment of his death, so Madame Elisabeth could be called the “Daughter of Saint Louis” for she exemplified in her person everything that was fine, noble and magnificent about the House of France.

It is sad that in so many novels and films, Elisabeth is either erased or minimized, when her presence was a source of comfort to the king and the queen in their ordeals, even if she disagreed with them. She withstood the mob at her brother’s side and encouraged the rest of the family in the darkness of imprisonment. She became a second mother to her niece Madame Royale, and comforted the condemned on the way to the scaffold.

Madame Elisabeth (1764- 1794) became an orphan at the age of three and was raised by her governesses Madame de Marsan and Madame de Mackau. She was a stubborn child but eventually conquered her willfulness so that gentleness and kindness became her most outstanding character traits.
Mme. de Marsan asked the king to appoint Mme. de Mackau, who was living in retirement in Alsace, as sub-governess. This choice proved to have all the elements required to work a happy change in the nature of a self-willed and haughty child. Mme. de Mackau possessed a firmness to which resistance yielded, and an affectionate kindness which enticed attachment. Armed with almost maternal power, she brought up the Children of France as she would have trained her own children; overlooking no fault; knowing, if need were, how to make herself feared; all the while leading them to like virtue. To a superior mind she added a dignity of tone and manners which inspired respect. When her pupil gave way to the fits of haughty temper to which she was subject, Mme. de Mackau showed on her countenance a displeased gravity, as if to remind her that princes, like other persons, could not be liked except for their virtues and good qualities. (see Katherine Wormeley’s The Ruin of a Princess)
 Elisabeth always remained strong-willed when it came to adhering to her principles, however. Many princes sought her hand in marriage, including Marie-Antoinette’s brother Emperor Joseph II, but Elisabeth wanted to become a nun. She longed to join her Aunt Louise at the Carmelite monastery at Saint Denis, where she often visited and served the nuns at table. Louis XVI would not give his permission for her to enter, begging her to stay. “We will have need of you here,” he said.

 So Elisabeth took on the challenge of living the single, consecrated life in the world, without the support of a community, and living it amid the splendors of Versailles. As Elisabeth grew older she more frequently joined Marie-Antoinette at Petit Trianon, and she remained close to her brother, Louis XVI. She was devoted to her brother Artois, the rascal of the family, and tried to encourage him to reform his life, while comforting his forlorn and forsaken wife, Marie-Thérèse de Savoie. For her twenty-fifth birthday, Elisabeth was given a farm called Montreuil by the king and the queen, where she started a dairy to provide milk for poor children. While she organized her ladies in devotions and charitable works, Elisabeth also enjoyed music, embroidery, clothes and especially shoes. She loved to dance and was the last to leave any ball.

In the days of the Revolution, Madame Elisabeth disagreed with the conciliatory policies of her brother Louis XVI and the political maneuverings of Marie-Antoinette. She saw the Revolution as pure evil, as an attack upon the Church and Christendom and thought that it should be stopped with fire and sword if necessary. There were many heated arguments at the Tuileries and as author Simone Bertiere points out in L’Insoumise, Marie-Antoinette could hardly stand her sister-in-law at times. However, misfortune bonded the two women together as if they had been blood sisters.

Elisabeth was deeply aware of the danger to her own life but refused to leave her brother’s family. She stood at his side on June 20, 1792 when the mob stormed the Tuileries and hoped that the people would mistake her for the queen so that her sister-in-law would be spared. “Were it not better that they shed my blood than that of my sister?” she said. When Louis XVI was killed and the little Dauphin taken away and brutalized, Elisabeth comforted Marie-Antoinette and young Madame Royale, keeping them from despair. Nesta Webster reports in Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette during the Revolution that when a friend wondered if Madame Elisabeth could escape on her own, it was said, “Madame Elisabeth is inseparable from the queen; she would not leave her for the most splendid crown in the universe.” After the queen’s death in October 1793, the aunt and the niece remained in the Temple prison, enduring humiliations and taunts of the jailers. Elisabeth trained Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte how to survive in confinement, knowing that soon she would be alone.

In May, 1794, Elisabeth was removed to the Conciergerie. According to Deborah Cadbury in The Lost King of France, Elisabeth, knowing she was to die, offered to God the sacrifice of her life. At her trial she was condemned for plotting against the Revolution. While awaiting death, eyewitnesses reported how she inspired the other prisoners: “She seemed to regard them all as friends about to accompany her to heaven….the tranquility of her mind subdued their anguish.” (Cadbury, p. 138) On May 10, 1793 she recited the De Profundis on the way to the guillotine. The princess was the last of a group of twenty-five people to be executed; they each knelt before her, asking her blessing. (Some say she fainted in the process; the sound of so many decapitations was too much.) When it was Elisabeth’s turn, the executioner pulled her bodice down very low off her shoulders, and she begged for modesty’s sake to be covered. There were no cheers when Elisabeth’s head was thrown into a basket, the crowd was silent, and some reported the scent of roses filling the square, a miracle from the middle ages to disturb the dawn of modernity. Many regarded her as a saint, including Pope Pius VII, and perhaps someday her cause will be introduced.

*Note: The cause of beatification of Madame Elisabeth of France has now been introduced. Share

The Many Lives of Thomas Wyatt

There is a new book about the famous poet of Henry VIII's court. ( Via Writing the Renaissance)
Wyatt was pre-eminently a court poet, writing for a private audience. None of his poems was published in his lifetime – they survived in manuscript collections, one of which (Egerton MS 2711 in the British Library) contains more than 100 lyrics, mostly in his own hand, and some extensively reworked on the page. They are of interest to literary history for their pioneering use of continental forms, particularly the Petrarchan sonnet; but for Shulman they are mostly of interest as a veiled but intimate account of life inside the claustrophobic court of Henry VIII, with its fretful young men and women "fettered with chains of gold", its jockeying for power and prestige, and those sudden and often fatal reversals of political fortune which are hinted at in the opening lines of Wyatt's most famous poem: "They flee from me that sometime did me seek / With naked foot, stalking in my chamber."

....An earlier poem about Anne [Boleyn] is a sonnet cast in the familiar guise of a hunting metaphor: "Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind, / But as for me, hélas, I may no more." It is not hard to see the weary hunter as the warned-off lover of Anne, and the last lines tend to confirm this:
And graven with diamonds in letters plain
There is written her fair neck round about:
Noli me tangere, for Caesar's I am,
And wild for to hold though I seem tame.
Gareth Russell discusses Thomas Wyatt and Anne Boleyn, HERE and HERE. Share

The Monarchy Debate

Michael LaRue, a Knight of Saint John, looks at the matter, saying:
Monarchy is often done little help by its defenders, who usually say that it is irrational but beneficial.  Most often its attackers will say that it is "romanticism".  However, a look at the history of political theory reveals that it is not monarchy, but democracy, that is the product of Romanticism. 

Let me make clear that I am not making a critique of representative "democracy", which at its best, represents the "republican" element necessary for any healthy government: the people need to take responsibility for their own government (while at the the same it is an unavoidable fact that people must be governed).  There is thus, in some modern concepts of "democracy", as expressed by some, one thinks of Winston Churchill, or the previous Holy Father (to be beatified tomorrow), an essential truth that must be taken into account in order to have a just society. 

However, the previous Holy Father also warned against what he called "democraticism", that is the belief that a majority of the people must be right on any particular subject, that the fundamental and unchangeable truths of morality or religion are relative, and that their validity is subject to the judgment of the majority.  This idea, which underlies most modern democracy (as well as ancient critiques of democracy), the notion that somehow a majority of the people must be right on any issue, this notion in fact is from Romanticism, especially that of Rousseau, and further it is patently irrational.

On the other hand, monarchy exemplifies precisely that personalism that was one of the hallmarks of the John Paul II's philosophy, and an aspect of personalism on which all Christians, whatever their philosophical leaning, indeed anyone who has been a student of classical philosophy, should be able to agree.  This is the truth that human society is composed of and based upon relations between persons, and that therefore the good of human society is based upon loyalty to and trust in persons. (Read entire article.)
(Via Serge) Share

Monday, May 9, 2011

Taking Marriage Seriously

Mary Kochan discusses what can be learned from the royal wedding.
 Just as human beings do not create themselves, they do not create marriage. Marriage is an estate given to man by his Creator and human beings stand under the judgment of God regarding how seriously they take it.  There was no mincing of words on that score and everything attending the ceremony underscored the sacred nature of the proceedings. The couple did not use the wedding to showcase their hobbies or any other frivolity.  They married in a sacred place, the most opulent and venerable space available to them given their station in life. Their wedding was presided over by the highest ranking clerics available to them. And the ceremony was accompanied by beautiful sacred music, some traditional and some composed especially to mark the occasion – but composed, as was their own prayer, in accord with the religious tradition they both inherited and assented to, screwed deeply into the sacred history of that heritage and thus timeless.  Timeless the music, timeless the readings, timeless the prayers, and even the dress, for it is by such timelessness that we celebrate what is transcendent....
Woman...is a gift to man in a special way, something for him to “unwrap” and treasure.  Hence the handing over of her by her father; hence the veil; hence the virginal white of the gown. And here come the cynics to remind us that they have lived together already for four years. Yes, but they did not on that account forgo the ceremonial giving and rightly so, for while the gift may have been opened illegitimately before, the giving here was still real – some things are honored even in the breach and you could see it in her eyes. They no longer live a lie, but William has in the old, but so true, terminology, “made an honest woman of her” — they tell the truth now, to each other and the world. The woman is given to the man and the world should pause and ponder. (Read entire article.)

Being Poor On Paper

But not poor in reality. According to The New York Times:
The poorest place in the United States is not a dusty Texas border town, a hollow in Appalachia, a remote Indian reservation or a blighted urban neighborhood. It has no slums or homeless people. No one who lives there is shabbily dressed or has to go hungry. Crime is virtually nonexistent.

And, yet, officially, at least, none of the nation’s 3,700 villages, towns or cities with more than 10,000 people has a higher proportion of its population living in poverty than Kiryas Joel, N.Y., a community of mostly garden apartments and town houses 50 miles northwest of New York City in suburban Orange County.
About 70 percent of the village’s 21,000 residents live in households whose income falls below the federal poverty threshold, according to the Census Bureau. Median family income ($17,929) and per capita income ($4,494) rank lower than any other comparable place in the country. Nearly half of the village’s households reported less than $15,000 in annual income.

About half of the residents receive food stamps, and one-third receive Medicaid benefits and rely on federal vouchers to help pay their housing costs.

Kiryas Joel’s unlikely ranking results largely from religious and cultural factors. Ultra-Orthodox Satmar Hasidic Jews predominate in the village; many of them moved there from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, beginning in the 1970s to accommodate a population that was growing geometrically.

Women marry young, remain in the village to raise their families and, according to religious strictures, do not use birth control. As a result, the median age (under 12) is the lowest in the country and the household size (nearly six) is the highest. Mothers rarely work outside the home while their children are young.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Famous Jewels of Marie-Antoinette

Only a few pieces survive. An interesting post. Share

Missing Mother

A moving essay by author Jean Kwok.
I was moved to write this book because of my mother. I wanted to tell her story, and that of many other first-generation immigrants. My mother never really learned to speak English, although she tried her best, and to Americans she comes across as very simple. I wanted people to hear how eloquent, wise and funny she really was in Chinese.