Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Georg Ritter von Trapp

A hero for liberty.
Many people have probably heard of Captain Ritter von Trapp because of the hugely successful film "The Sound of Music", but not many may be aware of the whole story of this upstanding man and devoted son of Austria. Georg Ritter von Trapp was born on April 4, 1880 in the coastal city of Zara, what is today Zadar, Croatia but what was then a Hungarian port, part of the Hapsburg Empire of Austria-Hungary. The son of a navy captain, the sea was in his blood from the very beginning. He listened to his father's stories of naval adventure all his life and eventually attended the Naval Academy and became an officer in the Imperial and Royal Navy of Austria-Hungary, first seeing service in the suppression of the Boxer Rebellion in China where he earned his first combat decoration. (Read entire post.)

Freedom of Religion

Is it a thing of the past? Archbishop Dolan reflects.
Religious freedom is the lifeblood of the American people, the cornerstone of American government. When the Founding Fathers determined that the innate rights of men and women should be enshrined in our Constitution, they so esteemed religious liberty that they made it the first freedom in the Bill of Rights.
In particular, the Founding Fathers fiercely defended the right of conscience. George Washington himself declared: "The conscientious scruples of all men should be treated with great delicacy and tenderness; and it is my wish and desire, that the laws may always be extensively accommodated to them." James Madison, a key defender of religious freedom and author of the First Amendment, said: "Conscience is the most sacred of all property." (Read entire article.)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Scale Model Cities

Made for the Kings of France.
When defending his realm, Louis XIV not only thought big, but he also worked in visionary 3D. In 1668, his war minister, the Marquis de Louvois, commissioned a large relief map of the port city of Dunkirk to be used in planning the city's fortifications. Others followed—huge exact-scale models of frontier cities and their surroundings—hills, gullies, rivers, forests, villages, roads, farms—that might sustain an enemy siege. The royal collection of scale-model cities grew under Louis XV, Louis XVI and both Napoleons, until modern warfare, post-1870, made them obsolete. Of the original 260, some 100 have survived, most housed in their own museum in the Hôtel des Invalides—28 on display, the rest stored in pieces.

Sixteen models from the reserves, some never before shown in public, have been re-assembled under the immense glass-roofed nave of the Grand Palais for "La France en Reliefs"—a spectacular, beautifully mounted, must-see show.(Read entire post.)

Herb Whisperer

How to grow an urban garden.
Seattle's Amy Pennington once oversaw the office of acclaimed chef-restaurateur Tom Douglas. Now free from the nine-to-five life, she's the verdant thumb behind GoGo Green Garden, a one-woman consulting shop that helps urbanites plant their own produce. The 37-year-old teaches her clients to reap harvests in the most petite of plots—or, if need be, window boxes. In both her latest book, "Apartment Gardening," and "Dirt City," the bi-weekly column she recently started writing for the website Food52, Ms. Pennington shares her know-how with metropolitan types everywhere.

She applies the same principles of wasting nothing and maximizing space to home cooking. Visit her streamlined one-bedroom apartment, and you'll see her template for sustainable living and perfectly stocked cupboards. Potted plants populate her narrow balcony, and homemade condiments and organic grains bought in bulk fill her kitchen. (Read entire post.)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Friar of Carcassonne

Here is a review about Stephen O'Shea's new biography.

Bernard Délicieux, the delightfully named Franciscan friar who is the hero, albeit a flawed hero, of this book was a native of Montpellier.

He entered the province of Provence of the Friars Minors in 1284. At considerable cost to himself, he fought the excesses of the papal Inquisition in its campaign against the Cathars, a dissident movement in southern France.

Stephen O’Shea, the author of an earlier work on the Cathars, has rescued Délicieux from relative obscurity by tracing his efforts to defend the innocent victims of the ecclesiastical repression of heresy. The special object of Délicieux’s ire was the Friars Preachers, or Dominicans, who were mainly responsible for implementing the Inquisition. He accused them of using tainted and unreliable evidence in their judicial proceedings.

One of the most notorious buildings in the city of Carcassonne, where Délicieux was a popular preacher, was the Wall, the popular name for the prison where the Dominicans incarcerated suspected heretics. Not even the dead escaped the attention of the methodical friar-bureaucrats who staffed the Inquisition. There were instances where they exhumed the bodies of deceased suspects and consigned them to the flames.

O’Shea is a gifted storyteller who seems unencumbered by the occupational addiction of some historians to whisper to one another about esoterica in the footnotes. He has a good story to tell and he tells it well. (Read entire article.)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

2012 Royal Ascot Dress Code Announced

The Lady on what to wear in the Royal Enclosure:
Ladies: “Dresses and skirts should be of modest length defined as falling just above the knee or longer.” This replaces the less clear instruction that miniskirts are considered unsuitable.
“Hats should be worn; a headpiece which has a base of 4 inches (10cm) or more in diameter is acceptable as an alternative to a hat.” So, absolutely no fascinators are now permitted in the Royal Enclosure.
Gentlemen: “Gentlemen are kindly reminded that it is a requirement to wear either black or grey morning dress which must include a waistcoat and tie (no cravats), a black or grey top hat and black shoes.”
So no cravats chaps and black shoes MUST be worn with morning dress. (Read entire article.)

The Improved Irish Coffee

From The Wall Street Journal:
The beauty of the Irish Coffee is threefold: part pick-me-up, part dessert, part winter warmer. Like any simple cocktail—it's nothing but coffee, Irish whiskey, cream and sugar—this drink is more than the sum of its parts. All too often it's made with too much whiskey, weak coffee and whipped cream from a can, which is unfair because...this classic is too good to dwell in mediocrity. (Read entire post.)

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Temple Palace

From Vive la Reine, a sofa from the Comte d'Arois' Turkish boudoir at the Temple palace. It is true that both brothers of Louis XVI were quite extravagant, much more so than Marie-Antoinette. To quote:
The “Temple” in Paris was essentially a small city within a city, housing numerous buildings, including a palace used by the comte d’Artois since the 1770s. When the royal family and their small entourage was first brought into the Temple enclosure in the fall of 1792, they were led into the palace and given food. The king, at least, assumed they were to be held in the palace and began to designate rooms for his family, the waiting women, and their servants. It was not until later that they were led into the Little Tower and shortly after told that the royal family would be separated from their entourage and moved to the Great Tower as soon as it was furnished. (Read entire post.)
A supper given by the prince de Conti at the palace of the Temple in 1766

Bringing Up Children in an Age of Conformity

From author Randy Hain:
We don’t have all the answers, but we do have a lot of lessons!  Here is what we have learned in our parenting journey so far about raising independent and faith-filled children:
  • Model strong faith and prayer.  Attending Mass, Holy Days, PSR and evening prayers are to be expected.  We go to Reconciliation frequently and let the kids know why it is so important and that we look forward to it.  We also make sure our children pray with us in public over every meal.  We frequently pray for others and are trying to incorporate family Rosary time in our home.  Bottom line:  we love our faith and pray and hope that they see and model our behavior.
  • Engage and Guide.  If we don’t spend quality time with our kids, they may fill it with something potentially harmful (inappropriate peers, harmful video games, bad TV, etc.).  Dinner time is sacred at our house.  We play games and read together as often as possible.  They are allowed TV and video game time, but we carefully audit both and there are time limits.  We engage in conversation about the real world and never cease to be amazed at how interested they are in politics and other issues.  Often, they just want our time and an active listening ear.
  • Encourage independent thinking and creativity.  We provide guidelines, but also encourage the boys to come up with their own answers to questions.  We give them ample opportunity to make decisions and encourage them to think creatively.  Instead of telling them the answers to questions, we often respond with “What do you think is the right answer?”
  • Encourage them to dream.  We figure if we encourage them to have their own dreams and goals, they will be less likely to follow the pack mentality in their schools.  Their goals may change each month (our experience), but at least they are being genuine.  When they share a goal or dream with us, we can then talk about what they will need to do in order to achieve it.
  • Don’t try to keep up with the Jones.  We honestly don’t care what our neighbors and friends have in the way of material possessions.  We weren’t raised that way and it just isn’t a priority.  Our kids see this and hopefully learn from our example.  To reinforce it, we often discuss the family budget, saving and giving money to the Church and other causes.  They are also encouraged to save up for things they might want with their own money.  Christmas and birthdays are the only gift-giving days in our house.
  • Encourage gratitude.  Be grateful for what we have and encourage this through involving the kids in volunteer activities that help those less fortunate than us.  We say what and who we are grateful for during prayer time.  Our observation is that grateful children are less likely to be greedy children and they won’t covet what advertisers and their friends say they should have.
  • Embrace old-fashioned thinking.  Yes, we actually teach our kids to open the doors for ladies and senior citizens, to say please and thank you and to write thank you notes when they receive a gift!  Respecting us, other people and themselves is also critically important.  It goes much deeper of course, but we had some pretty good lessons from our parents and living in “modern times” doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to throw out what works. (Read entire post.)


Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Last Victim of Henry VIII

 Thus I alone, where all my freedom grew,
In prison pine, with bondage and restraint:
And with remembrance of the greater grief,
To banish the less, I find my chief relief.~
Henry Howard
Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, a cousin of two of Henry VII's queens.
The Earl's father, Thomas Howard, the Third Duke of Norfolk survived just because Henry VIII died before signing the final order for execution. The Earl was executed on January 19, 1547 because Henry VIII feared that he wanted to usurp the throne from Edward, the Duke of Cornwall and Prince of Wales. (Read entire post.)

Fathers as Protectors

From Zenit:
Thousands of men are answering the call to rediscover God's plan for fatherhood, inspired by a new movie, "Courageous," due to be released on DVD on Tuesday. The film, which debuted in theaters Sept. 30, follows four men striving to fulfill their mission "to serve and protect," both as law enforcement officers and fathers. Stephen Kendrick, producer and co-writer of the film, told ZENIT that every day he sees some 200 e-mails from "people sharing how the movie has impacted, inspired and blessed them."

"The stories they share are so heartfelt and moving," he said. "Countless dads are now reaching out to win the hearts of their children."

Kendrick continued: "One man realized he needed to step up and reconnect with the daughter he'd abandoned."

Many have chosen to forgive their dads.  "Wives are saying that 'my husband was a good dad, but now he's becoming a great dad after seeing this movie.'

"Couples heading for divorce have reunited and said that they must resolve to leave a legacy of faithfulness to their children like the men in the movie. We thank God for this!" (Read entire article.)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

At Sotheby's

French art treasures are on display. Share

Wallace and the Pope

There is a letter from the King of France which mentions William Wallace.

A 14th-century letter asking Pope Boniface VIII to look favorably upon the Scottish patriot Sir William Wallace during his visit to Rome has been returned to Scotland.

“This document is an enigma,” said George MacKenzie, head of National Records of Scotland at the unveiling ceremony in Edinburgh on Jan. 12.

“It’s a letter from the French king to his officials at the Vatican mentioning Wallace, but we don't know what his business was with the Pope. What we do know is that the document still fascinates, 700 years after it was written.”

The life of Sir William Wallace was famously portrayed by Mel Gibson in his 1995 Oscar-winning film “Braveheart.” Until Jan. 12, the letter about the real-life Wallace was held in England, since being discovered in the Tower of London in the 1830s.

The letter was originally written in 1299, when Wallace traveled to the court of Philip IV of France to try and persuade him to support the Scots against Edward I of England. A year after Wallace’s arrival, Philip IV wrote the letter in question to his agents in Rome.

The letter, begins, “Philip by the grace of God, king of the French, to his beloved and loyal people appointed at the Roman Court,” and commands the French officials to “ask the Supreme Pontiff to consider with favor our beloved William le Wallace of Scotland, knight, with regard to those things which concern him that he has to expedite.” It is signed at the royal castle of Pierrefonds on the Feast of All Saints, Nov. 7, 1300.

“We do not have a lot of tangible links with Wallace as most of the documentation has been destroyed, so to have something that Wallace actually touched is a massive boost for Scotland,” said Duncan Fenton of the Society of William Wallace, who had campaigned for the return of the letter.

The document suggests that Wallace intended to visit the papal court of Pope Boniface VIII, but it is unknown whether he actually reached Rome.

Wallace was later betrayed and captured by English forces near Glasgow in 1305. He was then taken to London where he was executed following a show trial at Westminster Hall. Scotland’s freedom was subsequently secured, however, when Pope John XXII recognized the country’s independence in 1320.

“I am delighted to welcome the Wallace letter back to Scotland,” said Scottish Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop. “To have it here in Scotland, where it can be viewed by the Scottish public, is very significant indeed.”

The historic document will now go on public display this summer at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, alongside another rare letter associated with Wallace that dates back to 1297.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Empress Elizabeth of Russia and the Death Penalty

 The daughter of Peter the Great tried to continue her father's reforms.
Elizabeth was worried that abolishing the death penalty, with the fear such a punishment inspires, would increase the numbers of crimes committed. But that wasn't the only reason that held her back. Elizabeth was the only one who wanted to abolish the death penalty. The Synod would happily have released the Empress from her promise, and even the Russian people wouldn't understand why she wanted to give mercy to criminals. The Senate too was against it. They had just approved a law that, in addition to the usual forms of death penalty (including burying alive, drowning and even forcing people to drink liquid metals), recommended two new ones: hanging by the rib and being torn apart by horses. The Empress refused to approve that law. (Read entire post.)
More HERE. Share

Objects of Devotion

How artists and craftsmen of old gave physical form to the Faith. (Via Supremacy and Survival.)
Medieval luxury came in various materials and forms, alabaster carvings among them, and a new show at the Princeton University Art Museum reveals the intimate beauty and expressiveness of this art. "Object of Devotion" highlights a selection of 60 Medieval English alabaster panels and freestanding sculptures from the vast collection of London's Victoria & Albert Museum. Touring for the first time in North America, these carvings of holy figures and narrative scenes were produced for churches, royal chapels and domestic altars in England and exported to the Continent. And they represent an English industry that thrived from about 1350 to 1530, after which the Protestant Reformation's ban on religious imagery, combined with the Dissolution of the Monasteries in England by King Henry VIII, not only ended the demand for such works but also led to their outright destruction. (Read entire article.)

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Sinking of the Lusitania

What really happened and why?
It is generally accepted now that the ship was carrying arms destined for Britain and her Allies. This fact alone made the ship a legitimate target for a U-boat, particularly when the British blockade of the German fleet was an attempt to starve Germany out and, for some time, it seemed to account for the speed with which Lusitania sank. The explosion caused by the German torpedo was immediately followed by a far bigger explosion and, though nowadays it is believed that this was due to the torpedo igniting coal dust or one of the engines, for a while it was thought that it was due to the igniting of the hidden arms. In a scene reminiscent of the bombing of an Iraqi hospital, which was said to be built over one of Saddam’s arms depots, the innocent passengers were basically used as a human shield. Of course, the killing of civilians (including children and citizens of a neutral country) cannot be excused....(Read entire post.)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Downton Abbey

The Crawley Girls
 Many Americans, myself included, are enjoying Downton Abbey on PBS. Professor Simon Schama recently criticized the popular British miniseries in no uncertain terms. At least Schama admits in the article that he is a Jacobin and that one if the reasons he dislikes the show is that in the past the "toffs" have damaged his self-esteem. Jan Moir of the Mail Online responds to his criticism. To quote:
Yes, Schama has taken to the pages of Newsweek magazine to disparage the award-winning television series, now being shown in America. He says Downton is guilty of ‘cultural necrophilia’ and is littered with inaccuracies and clichéd storylines. Tell us something we don’t know, big guy. That is exactly why we all love it so much, you silly teacake. 

Really. I am half-minded to fetch a pennyworth o’ borax and get Mrs Patmore to wash his naughty mouth out. Schama, who currently lectures  — it’s his hobby as well as his calling — at Columbia University in New York goes on to express his dismay at the series which he believes is ‘overacted and hyper-overacted’. 

The very nerve of the fellow. (Read entire article.)

The Family is the Place of Life

The Family is presented as an antidote to the economic crisis.
ROME, JAN. 19, 2012 (Zenit.org).- A rabbi who spoke of the family, an economist who spoke of morality, a priest who spoke of conjugal love. All this took place during the meeting "The Family as an Engine of Economic Growth: Values and Prospects," which took place Tuesday afternoon in the Regina Room of the lower house of the Italian Parliament, the Chamber of Deputies. The meeting, organized by AISES, the International Academy for Economic and Social Development, examined what is one of the most debated topics in this new year: the family. The symposium was introduced by Maurizio Lupi, vice president of the Chamber of Deputies, who described the family as the "first social shock absorber of the economic crisis."

"The family must become not an element but the element of economic development, and on this we have found more agreement than opposition," said Lupi. This is reflected in the recent government budget package that for the first time includes an increase in exemptions for families.

"Judaism and Christianity are the only two religions that put the person, the family and children at the center," said the director of ZENIT, Antonio Gaspari, moderator of the symposium, before introducing Valerio De Luca, president of AISES.

"A united family leads to a more cohesive and supportive society and the economy and politics must protect this fundamental cell," De Luca said.


Riccardo Di Segni, chief rabbi of the Jewish community of Rome, described the family as a "failed institution," given what is presented in the first pages of the Bible. "It is a paradox, but right from the Book of Genesis we are shown negative family situations: Cain and Abel, Joseph sold by his brothers; Esau and Jacob, and so on. This shows, however, that the family is the place of life, where mistakes are made, there are errors on the part of parents, but without it one cannot live," he said. He continued on, addressing the current family crisis, which according to Di Segni, in reality is nothing other than "transformation" of a "system that from the start was based on the family" to another "modern" system according to which "the patriarchal family has become the mononuclear family; the rate of feminine fertility has been reduced to 1.3%; women give birth after 30 years of age and there are no longer marriages, but in the best of cases cohabitation."

A crisis of the family that has led to an economic crisis, hence, it is an economic crisis that "has put the couple and conjugal love itself under pressure," observed Monsignor Lorenzo Leuzzi, chaplain of the Chamber of Deputies. "Economic law has taken the upper hand over the whole of the life of society and has become its 'soul,' neglecting its identity of 'body,' of something, that is, instrumental."

"If they wish to give back to the economy its true role, if they wish to overcome the idea that society does not grow just by producing more, we must recover conjugal love, the first community where people learn not only to produce, but to build," said Monsignor Leuzzi in conclusion to the conference. (Read entire article.)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Last Nun

Here is a fascinating article by author Nancy Bilyeau about the fate of the English nuns during the Protestant Revolt.
Historians studying the dissolution have noted a remarkable fact: in several cases, nuns attempted to live together in small groups after being forced from their priories. They were determined to continue their vocations, in whatever way they could. Elizabeth Exmewe shared a home in Walsingham with another ex-nun of Dartford. “They were Catholic women of honest conversation,” said one contemporary account. A half-dozen other Dartford refugees tried to live under one roof closer to Dartford. Meanwhile, Henry VIII had their priory demolished. He built a luxurious manor house on the rubble of the Dominican Order, although he’s not believed to have ever slept there. It became the home of his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, after he divorced her in disgust in 1540.  (Read entire article.)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Education of Young Bess

From History and Other Thoughts:
A precocious girl gifted with excellent memory, Elizabeth had a great grasp of the English language by the time she was five or six. It was now time for her to start studying foreign languages. Kat taught her the rudiments of Latin but pretty soon it became clear that the pupil had learned all her teacher knew and needed other tutors. Luckily, she was allowed to share her brother Edward's tutors: Jean Belmain, who taught French; Richard Cox, Provost of Eton who taught Greek and Latin, mixed with modern events such as Henry VIII invading France and conquering Boulogne, and was able to turn studying into a game; and John Cheke, regius professor of Greek at St. John’s College and a classic linguist who focused on readings of the Holy Scriptures, Cicero, Aristotle and Plato. Cheke quickly noticed Elizabeth's precocity and suggested to her step-mother Catherine (Parr), that the young girl should be given a private tutor. (Read entire post.)

The Rise of Fiction

Novels are more popular than ever.
Choosing novels over non-fiction is a long-term trend; fiction has climbed from 67% of the titles in USA TODAY's weekly top 150 in 2007 to 78% last year. And the reason the retiree sitting in the beach chair next to yours and the businesswoman relaxing in the airport lounge are reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo? We're craving that "Calgon, take me away" moment.

"People are interested in escape," says Carol Fitzgerald of the Book Report Network, websites for book discussions. "In a number of pages, the story will open, evolve and close, and a lot of what's going on in the world today is not like that. You've got this encapsulated escape that you can enjoy."
Non-fiction's downward slide — there were only five titles among 2011's top 20 best-selling books — can be blamed in part on the Internet, Fitzgerald says. "If you want to examine an issue, you can easily Google the topic and come at it 10 different ways in five minutes. That's the way it is with social media." (Read entire article.)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Marie-Antoinette's Books

From her private library at Versailles. They're not what you would think.
The Latin and French books are bound in citron moroccan leather and have triple gilt fillet borders.  The covers are stamped with Marie Antoinette's coat of arms. 

The titles are:

L'Office de la semaine sainte, à l'usage de la maison du roi by the Abbot of Bellegarde

Les Plaideurs by Jean Baptiste Racine

Officium parvum B. Mariæ Virginis, ad usum ordinis Cisterciensis.

Histoire des Celtes...nouvelle édition by Simon Pelloutier
(Read entire post.)

To translate, the books are The Office of Holy Week, The Litigants by Jean Baptiste Racine, The Little Office of The Blessed Virgin Mary: According to the Usage of the Cistercian Order, and History of the Celts by Simon Pelloutier. Marie-Antoinette had two sisters who were nuns, and history was one of her favorite subjects. She enjoyed plays and novels as well.


The Duchess of York and the Turks

I find this story extraordinary.
The Duchess of York may have done some toe-curlingly awful things in her life – not the least ghastly of which was trying to persuade someone (who of course turned out to be a journalist on the prowl) to give her half a million for an introduction to Prince Andrew. But she has done some very good things as well. One of them, little-known and wholly untrumpeted by the media, has been raising millions towards the care and resettlement of Romanian orphans. This led her to another, I think, splendid action: together with an ITV team, she encompassed the exposure of the mind-bending cruelty with which mentally disturbed children were (and presumably still are) being treated in Turkey.

The sensitivity of the Turks at the time the ITV programme was first broadcast (three years ago, when they kicked up a huge fuss) clearly had to do with their ambition to enter the EU. They even accused the Duchess herself of trying singlehandedly to scupper this ambition....

One thing is clear enough: that if Turkey were now a member of the EU, the Duchess of York would already have been arrested on a European arrest warrant, and would probably already be languishing in a Turkish jail awaiting trial. So far, the worst case involving these appallingly unjust warrants (against which there is no appeal in an English court) led to a year in a stinking Greek jail for an innocent man. That case could one day be horrendously overshadowed by new injustices, beginning with the most sensational of all: for if ever Turkey does join the EU, the Duchess of York will undoubtedly, soon after the country’s accession, be in handcuffs on a plane to Ankara, there to await trial and a probable jail sentence of up to 22 years, for doing something which in any other EU country would have been perfectly legal. (Read entire article.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Priest Holes in English Houses

Christine of Laudem Gloriae has some wonderful pictures, the like of which I have never seen before.
Under the reign of "Good Queen Bess", a law was passed prohibiting the celebration of Mass, on pain of extradition. On a second offense, the guilty priest would be sentenced to a year in prison, and on the third offense, jailed for life. In some cases, the offending priest would be put to death, usually by hanging, drawing, and quartering. Another law was passed that punished with death any Catholic who should convert a Protestant.

It was during this time that the Jesuit priest and martyr Nicholas Owen was called on to design and build priest holes in all the great Catholic manses in England. He spent the greater part of his life doing so. (Read entire post.)

Marie-Antoinette's Traveling Case

It included everything needed for tea-time. Share

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Mary of Teck

The Mad Monarch posts about the consort of George V.
King George and Queen Mary were the image of the model family; a happy couple, devoted and faithful to each other with many children who focused on doing good deeds and setting a proper example. They were the first sovereigns to celebrate their accession as Emperor and Empress of India on the subcontinent and when World War I erupted she set a magnificent example at the palace for the Royal Family being in solidarity with the British public. She saw to it that everything was rationed (as it was for the people) and even though it caused her great emotional distress she frequently visited the badly wounded troops of the BEF evacuated from the front in France and Belgium. Just before the war ended Queen Mary was devastated by the death of her ailing son Prince John; few at the time knew just how devastated. Yet, through it all, she was seen as a tower of strength at every public appearance, proper, determined and devoted to duty. She certainly was a great help to King George V who relied on her advice, emotional support and calming influence.(Read entire article.)

The Faith of William Wallace

Some insights into the life and beliefs of the real Wallace.
On the gallows, he confessed to the Archbishop of Canterbury and asked, as his final wish, to be able to pray the Psalter. He died disembowelled as he recited the penitential Psalms. An English priest present at the execution, later stated he had seen William’s soul welcomed into Heaven by a host of angels. Whether it was fact or legend, this vision of Braveheart taken to Heaven by angels became a recurrent theme in sermons for many years to come. (Read entire article.)

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Enduring Power of the Maid

Here is a tribute to St. Joan of Arc from The New York Times in honor of her six hundredth birthday on January 6. (Via Nobility.)
What is it about Joan of Arc? Why is her story of enduring interest more than a half a millennium after her birth?

By the time Joan of Arc was 16 and had proclaimed herself the virgin warrior sent by God to deliver France from her enemies, the English, she had been receiving the counsel of angels for three years. Until then, the voices she said she heard, speaking from over her right shoulder and accompanied by a great light, had been hers alone, a rapturous secret.

But in 1428, when the voices pressed her to undertake the quest for which they had been preparing her, they transformed a seemingly undistinguished peasant into a visionary heroine who defied every limitation placed on a woman of the late Middle Ages. The least likely of military leaders, Joan of Arc changed the course of the Hundred Years’ War and of history.

Joan said she sheared off her hair, dressed in male attire, put on armor and took up her sword at God’s behest. She was feverish in her determination to succeed at what was, by anyone’s measure, a preposterous mission. As Joan herself protested to her voices, she “knew not how to ride or lead in war”; and yet she roused an exhausted, underequipped and impotent army into a fervor that carried it from one unlikely victory to the next. She raised the siege of Orléans by defying the cautious strategies of seasoned generals to follow inaudible directions from invisible beings.

Illiterate and uncouth, Joan moved purposefully among nobles, bishops and royalty. So intent on vanquishing the enemy that she threatened her own men with violence, she herself recoiled at the idea of bloodshed. To avoid having to use her sword, she led her army carrying a 12-foot-long banner emblazoned with the words Party of the Kingdom of Heaven. Witnesses said she was luminous in battle, light not glinting off her armor so much as radiating from the girl within. Her enemies spoke of clouds of butterflies following in her wake, a curiously beatific report from men who said she was in league with the devil.

In the aftermath of combat she didn’t celebrate victory but mourned the casualties; her men remembered her on her knees weeping as she held the head of a dying enemy soldier, urging him to confess his sins. Her courage outstripped that of seasoned men at arms; her tears flowed as readily as any other teenage girl’s.
After a series of victories, Joan suffered the reversals her voices had predicted. Captured and sold to the English, and shackled in a dank cell for more than a year, Joan was put on trial for her life. For refusing to renounce the voices that guided her as deviltry, Joan, 19 years old, was burned at the stake before a jeering crowd, her charred body displayed to anyone who cared to examine it. Thirty years later, in 1450, a Rehabilitation Trial overturned the guilty verdict that condemned her to death; the 19th-century rediscovery of the transcripts from both trials resulted in her canonization in 1920.

Like all holy figures whose earthly existence separates them from the broad mass of humanity, a saint is a story, and Joan of Arc’s is like no other. (Read entire article.)


Science confirms the wisdom of the traditional liturgy. (Via The Crescat)
Religious leaders have contended for millennia that burning incense is good for the soul. Now, biologists have learned that it is good for our brains too. An international team of scientists, including researchers from Johns Hopkins University and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, describe how burning frankincense (resin from the Boswellia plant) activates poorly understood ion channels in the brain to alleviate anxiety or depression. This suggests that an entirely new class of depression and anxiety drugs might be right under our noses. (Read entire post.)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

"Villainous" Marie-Antoinette?

Mr. Harvey of Royal World aptly expresses the disgust many admirers of Marie-Antoinette feel as the late queen is once more publicly degraded. The cartoons in question, which I will not have on this blog, are insulting to Mr. and Mrs. Obama and to Louis and Antoinette. Neither couple resembles each other in any way. When politicians and pundits have to sink to insults and ridicule in order to make their point it merely shows how bankrupt their agenda is. I wish they would focus on some of the vital issues at stake instead of throwing mud. To quote from Royal World:
The cartoons also attempt to link President Obama with Louis XIV, or possibly Louis XVI, though it's not clear that their creators have any idea who either king was or what they looked like. As if the ignorance inherent in maligning Marie Antoinette (1755-1793) were not enough, the painting spoofed by "Gateway Pundit" and identified in the Mail article as one of her husband Louis XVI (1754-1793) actually depicts his great-great-great-grandfather Louis XIV (1638-1715), with whom I'm pretty sure Mr. Obama has nothing in common other than also being a head of state. But of course if the contemptible ignoramuses producing these defamatory images cared about such pesky details as historical facts, they wouldn't be producing them! It is supremely ironic for these disgusting liars to be labeled "right-wing," since that the whole ideological concept of the "Right" dates from the time of the French Revolution, when the Right were the defenders of the great French Monarchy. (Read entire post.)
Political debate is a healthy part of the process; it can become heated but when it sinks to naked mockery then it shows the emptiness of the cause. As for Bill O'Reilly referring to Marie-Antoinette as "villainous" I can only say that I am appalled that someone so clueless is given so much air time. (I always thought Bill would do better sounding off in a bar than on prime time television.) The "villainous" Queen's charitable works are a matter of public record. She oversaw the upbringing of several needy children, whose education she paid for, while caring for their families. She established a home for unwed mothers, called the Maternity Society. During the famine of 1787-88, the royal family sold much of their flatware to buy grain for the people, and themselves ate the cheap barley bread in order to be able to give more to the hungry.

The King and Queen were patrons of the Maison Philanthropique, a society founded by Louis XVI which helped the aged, blind and widows. The Queen taught her daughter Madame Royale to wait upon peasant children, to sacrifice her Christmas gifts so as to buy fuel and blankets for the destitute, and to bring baskets of food to the sick. Marie-Antoinette took her children with her on her charitable visits. Every Sunday, Marie-Antoinette would personally take up a collection for the poor, which the courtiers resented since they preferred to have the money on hand for gambling. Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette contributed a great deal throughout their reign to the care of orphans and foundlings. They patronized foundling hospitals, which the Queen often visited with her children. The king and queen did not see helping the poor as anything extraordinary, but as a basic Christian duty. The royal couple's alms-giving stopped only with their incarceration in the Temple in August 1792, for then they had nothing left to give but their lives.

(Sources: Memoirs of Madame de la Tour du Pin, Marguerite Jallut's and Philippe Huisman's Marie-Antoinette, Vincent Cronin's Louis and Antoinette, Antonia Fraser's The Journey, Madame Campan's Memoirs, Mémoires de madame la Duchesse de Tourzel, Maxime de la Rocheterie's The Life of Marie-Antoinette)

Another story of Marie-Antoinette's kindness and compassion is HERE. Share

Staying Catholic at College

There is a new movement to help students to continue to practice their faith during their college years and afterwards. "Sowing wild oats" can lead to many tears and to mistakes that have lifelong repercussions.
  ....Ms. Leya has also become part of a nationwide pilot program designed to keep actively Catholic college students just as actively Catholic after the last mortarboard has tumbled to earth. The program, Esteem, has operated from the contrarian premise that a college graduate who is suddenly reduced to being the young stranger in a new parish may well grow distant or even alienated from Catholicism.

“I can’t imagine shirking my faith,” Ms. Leya said in an interview this week at St. Thomas More, the Catholic chapel and center at Yale, “but how do you keep it important around all the chaos of med school? How do I become a meaningful member of a new parish? How do I allow the kind of experiences I’ve had here to continue?”

For Ms. Leya, like about 70 other students on six campuses, Esteem has provided intensive education in the Catholic practice, especially the role of laity, and a handpicked mentor who combines professional success with religious devotion. In Ms. Leya’s case, he is Dr. Leo M. Cooney Jr., a professor of geriatric medicine in Yale’s medical school, and, as important, a veteran of his own spiritual walkabout. (Read entire post.)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Jesus Christ the Apple Tree

Pentimento loves this song and so do I.
1. The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree.

2. His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne'er can tell
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.

3. For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
I missed of all; but now I see
'Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

4. I'm weary with my former toil,
Here I will sit and rest awhile:
Under the shadow I will be,
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree.

5. This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.
More HERE.

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Why Tolkien Lost the Nobel Prize

Revealed at last. (Via Lee Hamilton.)
Basically, in the eyes of the Nobel jury, Tolkien just wasn't good enough. The Nobel committee keeps a vise-like grip on its secrets, only making its inner processes available to the public 50 years after the awards are handed out. A Swedish reporter found the records for the 1961 Nobel Prize and found Tolkien's name on the ballot—he'd been nominated by his good friend and contemporary, The Chronicles of Narnia's C.S. Lewis.
And, while the competition was fierce—Robert Frost, Graham Greene and E.M. Forster were also nominated in '61—Tolkien lost because, in the eyes of the jury, his prose "has not in any way measured up to storytelling of the highest quality." (The 1961 Nobel would eventually go to Yugoslavian writer Ivo Andrić.)

Ah, there's nothing quite like being so fundamentally wrong ... and then having people find out why. (via The Guardian)
 (Read entire post.) 

It only proves to me the whole thing is a big nothing.


Friday, January 13, 2012

The Fictional Life of Prince Albert Victor

It's much more lurid and melodramatic than the Prince's actual life, as author Christina Croft explains:
So unpleasant is the way in which this poor prince has been presented that he was even, for some bizarre reason (undoubtedly to sell books!) posthumously accused of being – or being associated with – Jack the Ripper! Such a notion is totally without foundation and the stories attempting to make the association become increasingly wayward despite the fact that Court records prove that Prince Eddy was not even in London at the time of the murders! Other books suggest that he didn’t die in 1892 but was hidden away by the family and later became ‘the Monster of Glamis’!! Poor Albert Victor!

 The fact that one of his associates was involved in the Cleveland Street scandal also led to various spurious allegations about his dissipated life and some authors claim that the stories of his dissipation are supported by Queen Victoria’s letters. In fact, like many a grandmother, Queen Victoria might well have worried about her grandson’s morals – we need only think of her response to the Prince of Wales as a young man becoming involved with the actress – but there is nothing to suggest that Prince Albert Victor was any more licentious (in fact he was probably less so!) than most young men of his era and class. His younger brother, George, also had a mistress at the time and yet he is portrayed as the model of sobriety and morality! (Read entire post.)

The Charities of a Duchess

The young Duchess of Cambridge has chosen some charities to patronize.
 Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge has officially unveiled which four charities she will become patron of, in her new life as a member of the British Royal Family, all of whom have a traditionally heavy schedule of involvements with national charities.

The Duchess is to become patron of Action on Addiction, the National Portrait Gallery, the East Anglia's Children's Hospices, and The Art Room, reflecting her interest in social issues, art and children's health. The  least-known of the four, The Art Room, is an Oxford-based charity which seeks to engage with 5-16 year-olds with behavioural issues. Julie Beattie, the founder and director of The Art Room, said she and the entire organisation were "overwhelmed and thrilled" by the Duchess's decision to become their royal patron. She went on to say that "it will raise the profile of the charity and get people to see the work we are doing." The Duchess is understood to have spent the time since her marriage deciding carefully which charities to begin her royal career with. (Read entire post.)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Health Benefits of Tea

Does milk ruin tea?
Although this area of research still remains an area of controversy, we do not believe that there is reliable evidence to show that key health benefits will be lost if milk is added to tea. While there are not many studies in this area, here is what we know.

Teas like green tea are typically valued for their unique phytonutrients, including catechins and other polyphenols that function as antioxidants and that can provide special support for our cardiovascular system. These phytonutrients can support our cardiovascular system in many different ways, and it is important to preserve them in the tea that we drink. In one German study, the addition of milk to green tea was found to interfere with one of these support mechanisms (although not with others). A study by the United Kingdom Tea Council showed no effect on the availability of these phytonutrients when milk was added to black tea, and a third study in India showed some mixed effects in this regard. Taken as a group, we do not believe these studies demonstrate consistent loss of key health benefits when milk is added to tea. For individuals who enjoy their tea both with and without milk and are not lacking in any of the nutrients that milk provides, it might make sense to leave out the milk given the research controversy in this area. For individuals who only enjoy their tea with milk, or who may be lacking in the nutrients that milk provides, we do not believe it makes sense to eliminate the milk based on current research. (Read more.)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The She-Apostle

I never heard of Luisa de Carvajal but Stephanie Mann has a review of a new biography about her and it sounds interesting.
Luisa de Carvajal reminded me of Venerable Mary Ward, the English Catholic who attempted to establish an active order for women modeled on the Society of Jesus. On a small scale, de Carvajal succeeded where Ward failed, perhaps because of her position in Spanish society. The back cover of my paperback edition refers to her as a "martyr manque" but Redworth presents evidence that she could be considered a martyr--as her final illness might have been brought about by her imprisonment in 1614, when she was only 48 years old. I suppose an argument against that position is that she had been ill for years (which only makes her efforts and her endurance more remarkable). I admit that I never really warmed to her character, which seems to have been more than a little manipulative, but de Carvajal certainly had a great regard for the Catholic priests and martyrs working in England. She persevered in her goals to their attainment, whether hampered by her brother's demands for settlement of their inheritance, personality conflicts within her community, or official discouragement of her efforts to live and work in London as a Catholic missionary and a contact for imprisoned priests. The one part of the book I could not fathom was the description of the torture meted out to her as a young girl by her uncle and guardian; even more disturbing was her reaction to it (Redworth is definitely disturbed by it too). Excellent resources, including plates, notes, and bibliography. (Read entire review.)

Writing History in a Digital Age

A history professor reflects:
From one point of view, the new digital libraries represent an immense democratization of knowledge, since any student in any high school or community college can now access as many books online as students and professors at the most elite institutions were once uniquely privileged to possess on their campuses. One can now search and read books online that even a decade ago weren’t nearly as accessible even at institutions lucky enough to own them—and no institution owned them all.
From another point of view, though, there is much to worry about in this picture. Longstanding legal and intellectual traditions of fair use and public domain access that have been absolutely essential to scholarship are being eroded in ways that few anticipated. Even the ability of historians to quote from primary documents is more at risk today than ever before, with the possibility that significant swathes of the historical record may essentially become privatized at the very moment when open access seemed about to triumph.
More worrisome still, the very act of reading is undergoing such subtle and sweeping changes that it’s hard to know what it will look like 10 or 20 years from now. Not only are readers gaining more and more of their “content” via screens rather than paper; they are doing so in ever smaller and more fragmented bites that undermine the richly contextualized interpretations and narratives of traditional history writing. When I reflect on how little time my students now spend reading books—indeed, how much less time I devote to such reading than when I was younger—I worry that the human ability to navigate book-length texts may be diminishing in ways that could have worrisome consequences for the long-form prose we historians cherish.
(Read entire post.) Share

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Expert Cook in Enlightenment France

A book review. To quote:
Cooks, as Takats explains, held a unique place in 18th century society. Both men and women worked as  cooks, and unlike other occupations which were primarily male or female, cooking was seen as neither masculine or feminine.  The occupation of a cook was not entirely domestic, like a house servant, or entirely professional, like an architect. This in-between occupation created a greater degree of autonomy and freedom for cooks when it came to looking for employment. They often bargained with employers for wages and other benefits, and had much more freedom when working in the home than a typical domestic house servant. Cooks also published cookbooks, recipes and other instruction manuals, which was not common outside of 'behavior' manuals written with domestic servants in mind.

However, their role in society was at times contradictory. Although employers gave cooks much freer 'reign' than a typical house servant, cooks were greatly mistrusted. Satirical prints and stories about dirty, evil, and sexually promiscuous cooks abounded in 18th century France. Cooks intended to improve their status by reforming methods of cooking, recipes, and the kitchen itself, however these reforms only inspired greater suspicion of cooks and cooking. When 'modern cuisine' was developed, it was intended to showcase the power that cooking and food could have on the body and establish cooking as a legitimate science. These attempts to establish the importance of cooking only caused greater problems - after all, reason followed that if food could be used to improve health, it could cause destruction and death as well. The poor reputation of cooks at the time only helped to strengthen the stereotype of the cook as a dangerous, secretive person. Unfortunately, efforts by cooks to improve their reputation in society generally fueled the suspicion and derision he general populace held for them. However, despite this setback, cooks played an important role with 18th century society and used the Enlightenment to help pave the way for French cooking as we know it today. (Read entire review.)

An Era of Perpetual Revision

Some reflections from The Wall Street Journal. E-books are open to constant revision and updating.
An e-book, I realized, is far different from an old-fashioned printed one. The words in the latter stay put. In the former, the words can keep changing, at the whim of the author or anyone else with access to the source file. The endless malleability of digital writing promises to overturn a whole lot of our assumptions about publishing.

When Johannes Gutenberg invented movable type a half-millennium ago, he also gave us immovable text. Before Gutenberg, books were handwritten by scribes, and no two copies were exactly the same. Scribes weren't machines; they made mistakes. With the arrival of the letterpress, thousands of identical copies could enter the marketplace simultaneously. The publication of a book, once a nebulous process, became an event.

A new set of literary workers coalesced in publishing houses, collaborating with writers to perfect texts before they went on press. The verb "to finalize" became common in literary circles, expressing the permanence of printed words. Different editions still had textual variations, introduced either intentionally as revisions or inadvertently through sloppy editing or typesetting, but books still came to be viewed, by writer and reader alike, as immutable objects. They were written for posterity.

Beyond giving writers a spur to eloquence, what the historian Elizabeth Eisenstein calls "typographical fixity" served as a cultural preservative. It helped to protect original documents from corruption, providing a more solid foundation for the writing of history. It established a reliable record of knowledge, aiding the spread of science. It accelerated the standardization of everything from language to law. The preservative qualities of printed books, Ms. Eisenstein argues, may be the most important legacy of Gutenberg's invention.

Once digitized, a page of words loses its fixity. It can change every time it's refreshed on a screen. A book page turns into something like a Web page, able to be revised endlessly after its initial uploading. There's no technological constraint on perpetual editing, and the cost of altering digital text is basically zero. As electronic books push paper ones aside, movable type seems fated to be replaced by movable text. (Read entire article.)

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Catholic Briefcase

It is an error, or rather a heresy, to try to banish the devout life from the regiment of soldiers, the shop of the mechanic, the court of princes, or the home of married folk. ~St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life 
But he that shall deny me before men, shall be denied before the angels of God. ~Luke 12:9

Holiness in the workplace is the theme of Randy Hain's new book The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work. A convert to Catholicism since 2005, Mr. Hain, co-founder of the site The Integrated Catholic Life, shares the methods which have helped him to combine faith and work in the business world. He demonstrates how our Christian beliefs must be just as alive at the office as they are at home or at church. We do not know when we may have been chosen to be the sole instrument of grace to persons in a certain venue, therefore with prudence and charity we must always be ready to speak of our love of Christ and His Church. As the author explains:
In the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes), the Second Vatican Council weighed in on this particular struggle, saying that we have grown to become erroneous in our ways by creating this dichotomy between a so-called professed faith and the practice of daily life. One of the main points was to emphasize that a Christian who shirks his temporal duties does so to his neighbor, neglecting God and endangering his eternal salvation. (p.xviii)
The necessity of cultivating an integrated life rather than a compartmentalized life is illustrated throughout the book by means of the Mr. Hain's anecdotes as well by the personal testimonies of his friends. The importance of self-surrender to God is shown as being one of the initial steps in the journey. Establishing a daily routine which balances prayer with action is emphasized; it is vital for every soul to find a few minutes a day for solitary prayer. The author gives many practical tips on how to find quiet time in the midst of a busy schedule. Prayer is not something we can compromise without severe repercussions to our spiritual lives, for it puts the present in its proper perspective.

One sentence in the The Catholic Briefcase which I would like to reflect upon is this: "We must trust that in return for our trustful surrender, Jesus will provide us with the strength we need to be successful in business and life and overcome the obstacles of pride, fear and excuses." (p.16) In light of the bad economic times, which Mr. Hain mentions later in the book, it is important to acknowledge that our ideas of success, particularly of success in business, may or may not coincide with God's plans for us. In some cases a failure may be better for our souls. We have to trust that God knows what He is doing. As St. Teresa of Calcutta said: "We are not called to be successful, but faithful." Perseverance counts more than any material success.

An aspect of The Catholic Briefcase which is particularly timely is Mr. Hain's discussion of networking and social media. Catholics in the business world need to support each other more and networking on and off the internet is a way to reach out. To those who say they do not have enough time to network, the author responds: 
This is simply a scheduling and commitment issue. Most people I have met in my professional life think this way but later regret their lack of attention to networking....You will be more likely to 'have time' if you schedule it. Take a client out to lunch, invite coworkers out after work, or just send correspondence to somebody daily. (p.78)
The Catholic Briefcase is helpful on many levels. While intended for those who are commercially or professionally engaged, the advice on prayer offers guidance to anyone seeking to deepen their relationship with God, especially those new to Catholic spirituality. Written in a direct and simple style, Mr. Hain takes a topic which many find formidable and presents it with both clarity and warmth. Holiness is within the grasp of each of us; we need only to be open to grace.

(*NOTE: The Catholic Briefcase was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.)


Carmelite Monastery Assaulted

Pray for the nuns in the Congo. It sounds like a terrible time.
 A group of youths assaulted the Carmelite Monastery of Kananga on November 28th. Political elections were ongoing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo at the time.

Taking advantage of election day, the hoodlums decided to assault all the monasteries in the area. They first went to the community of sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary where they were stopped by police guarding the convent.

After that, they approached the Carmelite Monastery (Saint Enfant Jésus). Police stationed at the door called two other policemen that were guarding the Theological Seminary of Kananga, which is near the monastery, but despite the four-man guard, the police were not able to stop the bandits from entering the monastery. (Read entire post.)

Franz Liszt, God and Civilization

A piece from The Brussels Journal.
Liszt lacked the propagandistic inclination of his son-in-law Wagner, so he wrote no grand theoretical statements explaining his music. Liszt’s inveterate reading and constant humble submission to tutors rendered him, however, a massively literate man whose philosophical identity defined itself as carefully and with as much conviction as Wagner’s. Liszt’s conviction differed from Wagner’s especially in their view of the Christian religion. (Read entire article.)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Happy Epiphany!

Here are some photos sent to me by my friends the Discalced Carmelite nuns in Rochester, NY.

High altar. Notice the choir grate over on the left.

High altar.

Choir altar and creche.

Choir creche

Creche inside the monastic quarters

Lovely Hummels, a gift to the monastery from a generous benefactor

Catherine of Valois

Henry V's Queen.
She was Queen consort and then Queen mother or dowager in the lifetime of Bishop Richard Fleming, who attended her coronation at Westminster on February 23 1421, and who took part in King Henry V's funeral in the autumn of 1422. (Read entire post.)

The Coming Year of Faith

Author Teresa Tomeo encourages us to prepare.
Pope Benedict XVI is giving us a great opportunity in this New Year to make a big difference.  In October he announced the “Year of Faith” which according to Vatican statements is designed to help Catholics around the world deepen their relationship with God, better appreciate the gift of our Catholic faith, and strengthen our commitment to sharing the Catholic faith with others.

The observance is set to begin October 11th, 2012 which also happens to be the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council. The “Year of Faith” will then conclude on November 24th, 2013, the feast of Christ the King.

We have ten months to prepare for this important celebration but are we or will we be ready when October 11th rolls around? What can I do better or differently to enhance not only my own relationship with Jesus but to help spread the good news?  These are questions I’ve been asking myself since the announcement was made.  Actually these are questions I ask myself quite often. Because of my work in Catholic media, I am blessed to be surrounded by some pretty amazing evangelizers.  It seems like at least once or twice a week I say “I want to be more like him or her. Why can’t I be that strong of a public witness?” (Read entire article.)