Friday, January 31, 2014

The Real Tara

I discovered an article about the house upon which Margaret Mitchell based "Tara" in Gone with the Wind. It was the plantation house of her great-grandfather Philip Fitzgerald, who had emigrated from Ireland. The house was called "Rural Home" in Clayton County, Georgia; it was not the neoclassical pillared mansion of the famous film. Mr. Fitzgerald's road to success reminds me of that of my own great-grandfather Daniel O'Connor, about whom I am writing a novel. Although they both came to North America around the same time, built a successful life, married and had a houseful of daughters, Daniel settled in Canada and so did not keep slaves. As the article says:
"Rural Home,” as Philip Fitzgerald’s house was known to his descendants, evolved from a simple, two-story, four-room house that was built in the early 1830s and acquired by Fitzgerald in 1836. Growing up in Atlanta in the early twentieth century, Margaret Mitchell and her brother, Stephens, often enjoyed visits with their great-aunts who had inherited and continued to operate the place when Fitzgerald died in 1880. Mitchell’s memories of the place and the stories that she heard from her great-aunts who had lived through the Civil War and Reconstruction, were a significant part of the lore that she mined in creating her Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel, Gone With the Wind.

Before it was destroyed in 2005, the Fitzgerald House was an excellent example of the plantation-plain style, a type of residence that was widely built across the South throughout the nineteenth century. In 1873, Fitzgerald built a large, two-story, Italianate addition to the house, and it was the resulting rambling farm house that Margaret Mitchell first visited as a child some thirty years later. Last occupied in the 1970s, the house sat vacant for several years until 1982 when the owners decided to have all of the buildings cleared from the site. Moved to what was to have been a temporary site near Lovejoy, Georgia, in 1982, the house was demolished after being damaged in a storm in 2005....

Philip Fitzgerald was born in 1798, among the younger of at least nine children of James and Margaret O’Donnell Fitzgerald.[4] Family tradition, which is documented in a variety of sources, including a hand-written family history that Margaret Mitchell’s father appears to have begun in 1917, is sometimes muddled in restating Philip Fitzgerald’s birthplace in County Tipperary, Ireland, but it appears that he was born in or near Fethard, a walled town in southeast Tipperary.[5] As reported by Stephens Mitchell, the house in which Philip Fitzgerald was born was built in the mid-eighteenth century, perhaps by Philip’s grandfather John Fitzgerald (1719-1798), and was still standing in the mid-twentieth century.[6]


There is a family tradition that the Fitzgerald house was not built by Philip Fitzgerald. As Stephens Mitchell wrote, "The story or tradition, as I heard it, was that Philip Fitzgerald purchased land with a house on it. The home was a 2-story house and contained a dining room and bedroom and kitchen downstairs and two bedrooms above it. It had been built in the 1820s or 1830s.”[20] Since this is not contradicted by the physical evidence in the house itself, it suggests that the house was built by John Chambers sometime between 1831 and February of 1836 when he sold LL 145 to Philip Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald paid Chambers $200 for an entire land lot and what would have been considered one of the better houses in western Georgia. Whether or not this reflected the true value of the property at the time is unclear, since it is possible that family tradition is incorrect and that Philip Fitzgerald himself built the house sometime after 1836.

Some have suggested that there were special circumstances surrounding the property’s sale. One of these traditions is that Fitzgerald won the property in a poker game, but that may simply be the reiteration of Mitchell’s description of the fictional origins of Tara in Gone With the Wind.[21]There is also a family tradition that Fitzgerald bought the property at a sheriff’s sale and that the widow of the former owner cursed him for it. As Stephens Mitchell related the story, "The woman whose home it had been stood by with her children around her. She looked at Philip and her eyes were hard on his as she laid a curse on the land. ‘You’ll never raise a man child on it,’ she said and spat."[22]

On several occasions, Fitzgerald did buy property that was being auctioned because the owner was unable to pay taxes or debts on the property or, as in the case of the nearby McElroy plantation that he bought in the 1850s, because the estate was being liquidated after an owner’s death.[23] And while it may be true that the Fitzgeralds’ only son did not live past infancy, there is no indication in the recorded deed that Chambers’ sale of LL 145 in 1835 was forced.

It is not clear how Philip Fitzgerald met his future wife, Eleanor Avaline McGhan (1818-1893), but both were from Catholic families in a part of the state in which Baptists and Methodists formed a large majority. The McGhans were among a group of Maryland Catholics who came to eastern Georgia in the 1790s and settled at Locust Grove in what is now Taliaferro County. Eleanor herself was born near Madison in Morgan County, Georgia, but appears to have grown up in Harris County, some twenty-five miles northwest of Columbus.

Eleanor McGhan and Philip Fitzgerald were married on 18 December 1838, probably at her mother’s plantation in Harris County.[24] According to family tradition, the young couple began their married life at their house on LL 145, where all of their ten children were born.[25]  Three of the children died as infants, but there were seven daughters who grew up on the Fitzgerald plantation along the Flint River. The eldest was Mary Ellen or “Mamie” (1840-1926), followed by Margaret Mitchell’s grandmother Ann Elizabeth (1844-1926). Agnes Bridget (1846-c. 1930), Sarah or “Sis” (1848-1928), Isabelle (1851-1932), Katherine (1858-1894), and Adele or “Della,” 1860-1943) rounded out the family. (Read more.)

And HERE is an article about the casting of Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara. To quote:
Leigh became Scarlett 75 years ago. Before casting her in the role, producer David O. Selznick's team interviewed close to 1,400 women and screen-tested 31 of them. Convinced he could find a better Scarlett, Selznick began filming his epic without casting the role.

He and George Cukor—the film's first director who Selznick fired over creative differences—met Leigh on December 10, 1938, while shooting the Burning of Atlanta. In 1973, Cukor told The Atlantic that he knew immediately Leigh was perfect for the role: she was "charged with electricity" and "possessed of the devil." She learned she had won the role on Christmas Day. Selznick made the official announcement on January 13, 1939.
It's only recently struck me what an outrageous choice Leigh was for the role. Not only was she not a Southerner, she wasn't even an American.

Many in Hollywood were put off by Leigh's British-ness. "Mr. Selznick was two years deciding on his Scarlett," sniped gossip columnist Hedda Hopper. "And out of millions of American women couldn't find one to suit him." She predicted that Americans would stay home in protest.

But Leigh threw herself into the role, perfecting a speech cadence which passed as Southern and captured Scarlett's wit and sass. When the movie debuted in December 1939, it became the highest-earning film to that point.

While Leigh's Scarlett was part of the movie's success, its release was also well-timed. It embodied the struggles of mid-20th century America. (Read more.)
Here is a fascinating documentary about the life of Margaret Mitchell and how she used the money she made from Gone with the Wind to educate African American doctors. Share

Jewish Surnames Explained

From Slate:
Ashkenazic Jews were among the last Europeans to take family names. Some German-speaking Jews took last names as early as the 17th century, but the overwhelming majority of Jews lived in Eastern Europe and did not take last names until compelled to do so. The process began in the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1787 and ended in Czarist Russia in 1844.

In attempting to build modern nation-states, the authorities insisted that Jews take last names so that they could be taxed, drafted, and educated (in that order of importance). For centuries, Jewish communal leaders were responsible for collecting taxes from the Jewish population on behalf of the government, and in some cases were responsible for filling draft quotas. Education was traditionally an internal Jewish affair.

Until this period, Jewish names generally changed with every generation. For example, if Moses son of Mendel (Moyshe ben Mendel) married Sarah daughter of Rebecca (Sora bas Rifke), and they had a boy and named it Samuel (Shmuel), the child would be called Shmuel ben Moyshe. If they had a girl and named her Feygele, she would be called Feygele bas Sora.

Jews distrusted the authorities and resisted the new requirement. Although they were forced to take last names, at first they were used only for official purposes. Among themselves, they kept their traditional names. Over time, Jews accepted the new last names, which were essential as Jews sought to advance within the broader society and as the shtetles were transformed or Jews left them for big cities.

The easiest way for Jews to assume an official last name was to adapt the name they already had, making it permanent. This explains the use of "patronymics" and "matronymics." (Read more.)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Women vs. Women in the Workplace

Here is an article about women being cruel and violent in the workplace. Cat fights are nothing new. Anyone who has read any history of any royal court will know about the schemes and intrigues that went on among the ladies of the court against each other. There have always been the Madame de Merteuils, and sadly, always will be. But must women sink so low? As the author of this article says: "But you still have to make a living in the company of your fellow women. Do it well. Do it with courtesy and feminist dignity." In other words, be a lady. To quote:
I have twice feared physical violence from female co-workers after life went well for me and a little less well for them.
Women — usually older women, even as I age — have gone after me from every angle and left me with sliced viscera, the floor slippery with office fluids.
They have barked at me in the hallways like dogs, actual growling, the kind you hear in ill-fenced parks. Female co-workers have micro-knifed me anonymously and shredded me like a cabbage for everything from my ankles (non-matching) to my allergenic perfume (but I wasn’t wearing any, I swear, dabbing wetly at my neck) to my words (criminal, insufficiently earnest, etc.). Some have blanked me for years (awkward in the office washroom).
I once spent a week in a courtroom covering the sentencing of a serial killer where the ongoing hatred of two female journalists towards me frightened me more than he did. It was a courtroom where a radio guy screamed at me for writing a feminist column, and I still feared the women more.
Women have hissed at me about the horror of other women — go ahead, I don’t snitch — which would be absolutely fine if they had ever found a male co-worker to deplore.
Feminism has been a warm companion all my life. Writing this is like voluntary defenestration. (Read more.)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


The granddaughter of Madame de Polignac was a beauty in her own right. From Gio:
The charming Corisande Armandine Sophie Leonie de Gramont was the daughter of Aglaé de Polignac and granddaughter of Gabrielle, Marie Antoinette's best friend. Born in 1783, for the first few years of her life she enjoyed a carefree and privileged existence in France.

Then, the Revolution broke out. Corisande escaped with her family to England, where she found refuge in the household of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, who was a good friend of Gabrielle. Corisande was brought up alongside Lady Caroline Ponsonby (later Lamb), and the two soon became good friends. (Read more.)

School in 1882

No cancellations for bad weather. From The Atlantic:
Record-low temperatures caused by the Polar Vortex have forced schools across the country to close this week. Weather-related school cancellations tend to raise anxieties about whether we're a nation of wimps. During President Obama's first winter in Washington, he complained when his daughters' school closed for bad weather: "We're going to have to apply some flinty Chicago toughness to this town." In response to this latest round of school closings, a Virginia mom sighed, "Hasn’t anyone heard of gloves, scarf and a hat when it’s cold?? Just bundle up—people do it all over the world. We are such wimps to cancel school."

A story about a teacher assigned to a one-room schoolhouse in South Dakota in the 1880s will confirm suspicions that America has gone soft when it comes to dealing with the cold. The story is from These Happy Golden Years, the second-to-last book in Laura Ingalls Wilder's beloved "Little House" series about growing up on the American frontier. It describes the protagonist, a 15-year-old teacher named Laura, traveling a half a mile in the snow to get to school....(Read more.)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Crown of St. Stephen

Empress Maria Theresa is shown in the Royal Hungarian regalia. It is interesting that her gown is based upon the Hungarian peasant costume and has an apron, similar to what her daughter Marie-Antoinette would later wear at Petit Trianon. (Via European Women in History)

Marie-Antoinette and Her Children by Adolf Ulrik Wertmüller


The New Eunuchs

From The Washington Examiner:
Since 1960, the percentage of married Americans plunged from 72 percent to 51 percent, while the rate of unwed motherhood skyrocketed from 4 percent to 41 percent, causing 24 million boys to be raised in fatherless homes — ominous trends considering children of single mothers experience less economic mobility.

As the New York Times explained, the ensuing vicious cycle means less successful men “are less attractive as partners, so some women are choosing to raise children by themselves, in turn often producing sons who are less successful and attractive as partners.”

Two recent books, both “cries-de-coeur” in support of men, chronicle the male achievement gap and propose remedies — The War Against Boys, by American Enterprise Institute scholar Christina Hoff Sommers, and Men on Strike, by psychologist Helen Smith.

Citing myriad studies, Sommers details how educational reforms and ideologies that deny gender differences have created hostile environments for rough-and-tumble boys, causing a serious academic achievement gap.

Out: structured, competitive, teacher-directed classrooms that best support boys’ learning and outlets for natural rambunctiousness, including conflict-oriented play like "Cops and Robbers." Last year, 7-year-old Coloradan Alex Smith was suspended for throwing an imaginary grenade at “bad guys.”

In: behavior-modifying drugs designed to make boys attentive and controlled.
Distressingly, boy-enthralling, job-directed schools — like Aviation High School in New York, which specializes in teaching and graduating at-risk kids — are under assault because females are under-represented.

Sommers laments that “male-specific interventions” — including masculine readings, single-sex learning opportunities, and teachers trained in boy-friendly pedagogy — “invites passionate and organized opposition” from feminist groups.

As young men disengage from school, alarming numbers are opting-out of post-secondary education, considered by Sommers the “passport to the American Dream.”

Women disproportionately possess these passports, having earned post-secondary degrees in the following percentages: associate’s (62), bachelor’s (58), master’s (60), doctorates (52).

Expanding on Sommers’ argument, Smith taps into her counseling experience to explain that by opting-out of family life, risk-averse men are responding rationally to social institutions that offer fewer rewards and more costs.

The pendulum has swung too far, Smith argues, when male victims of statutory rape and paternity fraud are made liable for child support, or when collegiate men are assumed sexual predators before proven innocent (see the Duke lacrosse case).

America’s young men aren’t “Breaking Bad” drug dealers, but they are suffering bad breaks in a society rife with misguided policies.

The answer is not to “raise boys like we raise girls,” as Gloria Steinem suggested, but to recognize that, while the sexes are equal, they’re naturally different — and that’s beautiful.
Every human being arrives on earth with unique gifts, and our short life’s mission is to realize them. Shouldn’t society’s goal be to enable this process?

After all, isn’t closing the gender gap the true definition of feminism? (Read more.)

The Coming Demographic Winter

From Crisis:
Of course we Americans are hardly in a position to boast since our own fertility rates are far from bullish.  Indeed, the birthrate over here has plummeted to the lowest levels in U.S. history, rivaling even the most dismal days of the Great Depression.  From 2007 to 2011, which is the period where the latest hard data exists, the fertility rate fell by 9 percent.  Another way of putting it is to compare the rates of maternity-free American women from the 1970s, which was 1 in 10, with those of today, which are twice that number, which is to say, 1 in 5.   And while the change is perhaps not yet as catastrophic as in Italy, where nearly one-fourth of childbearing women will never give birth, it is nevertheless a pretty dramatic and disturbing trend.  Across the Western world, in other words, a looming demographic winter is taking shape.

Not that there aren’t babies being born in the West, only that more and more they tend to be the offspring of immigrant women, whose openness to new life stands in striking contrast to the ennui that characterizes the resolutely childless.  And who are these immigrant women whose children more and more provide the numbers that keep the life force going?  Would it surprise you to know that many of them are Muslim?  And that the fertility missiles leaving the launching pad are fueled largely by faith?  The English philosopher Roger Scruton, in a moving piece from his book Gentle Regrets, puts it in chilling terms:  “The Muslims in our midst,” he writes,  “do not share our impious attitude to absent generations.  They come to us from the demographic infernos of North Africa and Pakistan, like Aeneas from the burning ruins of Troy, each with an old man on his shoulders, a child at his feet, and his hands full of strange gods.  They are manifestly in the business of social, as well as biological, reproduction.  They show us what we really stand to lose, if we hold nothing sacred: namely, the future.”

And to whom, finally, does the future belong?  It belongs to those who show up, which is to say, to the fertile.  Provided, that is, they remain tethered to life, to fruitfulness.  What happens to a society prescinded from that procreative urge, a society in which the full meaning of eros has been either thwarted or trivialized, is a kind of suicide.  That men and women will no longer do what the animals do without having to think about doing it?  What else can that be but an invitation to extinction.  A state of entropy entirely self-inflicted, too.  In an op-ed piece that appeared December 2012 in the New York Times, columnist Ross Douthat makes the point that society’s “retreat from child rearing is, at some level, a symptom of late-modern exhaustion,” a condition of “decadence,” he calls it, evoking “ a spirit that privileges the present over the future.” (Read more.)

Monday, January 27, 2014

Fire at the Hôtel Dieu

Here is Hubert Robert's 1773 painting of the ruins of the great hospital in Paris after it was destroyed in a fire. (Via Anna Gibson.) The seventeen year old Marie-Antoinette wrote of it to her mother, saying:
… All the gazettes will be talking about the cruel fire at the Hôtel-Dieu; they have had to move the sick into the [cathedral of Notre Dame] and the Archbishop’s palace. There are usually five or six thousand sick in the hospital; in spite of the care that was taken, it was impossible to prevent a part of the building from burning…
… The Archbishop published a letter ordering a charity drive; I sent a thousand écus. I never mentioned it; I am being given embarrassing compliments, but they say it must be so as it gives a good example …
—Marie-Antoinette to Maria Theresa, 13 January 1773


The NSA and You

From Infowars:
Did you know that the NSA can track the location of your phone even when it is turned off and the batteries have been removed?

This admission went largely unnoticed in a Washington Post report entitled NSA growth fueled by need to target terrorists. In the article, writer Dana Priest details how teams of NSA employees stationed around the globe are dedicated to tracking phones in real time.
By September 2004, a new NSA technique enabled the agency to find cellphones even when they were turned off. JSOC troops called this “The Find,” and it gave them thousands of new targets, including members of a burgeoning al-Qaeda-sponsored insurgency in Iraq, according to members of the unit.
At the same time, the NSA developed a new computer linkup called the Real Time Regional Gateway into which the military and intelligence officers could feed every bit of data or seized documents and get back a phone number or list of potential targets. It also allowed commanders to see, on a screen, every type of surveillance available in a given territory.
The technique by which the NSA can wiretap cellphones even when they are turned off and powered down is most likely being performed with the complicity of telecommunications companies who have proven friendly to NSA snooping. Trojan horse programs disguised behind routine system updates are the likely method through which the NSA gains direct access to millions of Americans’ cellphones and other devices.

“You may recall the fact that Verizon and AT&T notably did not sign the collective letter asking the government to allow affected companies to release information on government requests for data,” writes Tim Cushing. “Given this background, it’s not unimaginable that Verizon and AT&T would accommodate the NSA (and FBI) if it wished to use their update systems to push these trojans.”

As we have also previously highlighted, terms of agreement for many of the apps you download to your smartphone now use your microphone to listen to you and your camera to take pictures of you without your knowledge. (Read more.)

Out of Work, Out of Money

From The National Review:
A safety net can fast become a trap, and I wonder how many unemployed people who could be somehow engaged in the economy are waiting things out, taking their benefits and avoiding the risk of effort while they wait for something to open up. A shorter unemployment-benefit period would increase the pressure, awakening a creative work ethic in even the most reluctant. In retrospect, that would have been uncomfortable and stressful for me, but it would have changed my choices about how actively I tried to build a new, independent income source. (Read more.)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Inbreeding of Charles II of Spain

Here is a chart (click to enlarge) which shows the inbreeding among the Habsburgs which made Charles II mentally and physically disabled. (Via Tiny-Librarian.) To quote:
Dating to approximately the year 1550, outbreeding in Charles II’s lineage had ceased. From then on, all his ancestors were in one way or another descendants of Joanna the Mad and Philip I of Castile, and among these just the royal houses of Spain, Austria and Bavaria. Charles II’s genome was actually more homozygous than that of [a] child whose parents are siblings. He was born physically and mentally disabled, and disfigured. Possibly through affliction with mandibular prognathism, he was unable to chew. His tongue was so large that his speech could barely be understood, and he frequently drooled.  Charles II is known in Spanish history as El Hechizado (“The Hexed”) from the popular belief—to which Charles himself subscribed—that his physical and mental disabilities were caused by sorcery.
More HERE. Share

Abortion, Birth Control, and Breast Cancer

A new study in India shows that there is a fatal link. To quote:
NEW DELHI — A new study of women in India reveals that having used birth-control pills elevates the risk of developing breast cancer nearly tenfold, and having had an abortion increases their risk of breast cancer more than sixfold.

The study, published in the most recent issue of the Indian Journal of Cancer, matched 320 women with newly diagnosed breast cancer with 320 healthy women of similar age, economic and social status and medical background, and it found that “the risk of breast cancer was 9.50 times higher in women having a history of consumption of oral contraceptive pills.”

Doctors at the Department of Gastroenterology and Human Nutrition Unit at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi conducted the study to investigate the association of various reproductive factors with breast cancer.

“We found long-term use of oral contraceptive pills (OCP) higher among those suffering from breast cancer, 11.9%, compared to healthy individuals, 1.2%,” Dr. Umesh Kapil, a lead author of the study told the Times of India. Breast cancer is caused by repeated exposure of cells to circulating ovarian hormones, he explained, and long-term use of birth-control pills, which contain estrogen and progesterone, may contribute to the elevated risk.

“The relationship between contraceptive use and occurrence of breast cancer is not known,” Dr. G. K. Rath, the head of Bhim Rao Ambedkar Institute Rotary Cancer Hospital, told the Times of India in the wake of the study. “But there is enough evidence to show the hormonal imbalance caused by them, increasing the risk. Early menarche, late marriage and childbirth and abortions are important factors.” (Read more.)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Trianon Palette

Dior has a new make-up line inspired by Marie-Antoinette. Share

Folding a Fitted Sheet

There is, apparently, a correct way to do everything. To quote:
Every now and then we come across a household chore that can be a real pain to complete. Think of a cleaning task that you absolutely detest and could definitely live without ever having to do again. That's how we used to feel about folding fitted sheets, that is until we found a few simple steps that help make this dreaded task a breeze.
We wanted to share out new-found wisdom with you, so here's a step-by-step guide that is guaranteed to take the pain out of all your sheet folding endeavors. (Read more.)

Rediscovering Hesiod

Why it is important for  Christian education to include the ancient Greeks. To quote:
The Ancient Pagan writers were inspired in heart, mind, and soul; they kept the sparks of truth alive until Christ came to fan them into flames. C.S. Lewis confirms that “the Pagan stories are God expressing Himself through the minds of poets, using such images as He found there.” The wisdom of pagan poets is the mercy of Divine Providence.

In the Homeric age, around 700 B.C. there was a shepherd named Hesiod born in the ancient city of Askra near Mt. Helicon, a land that the shepherd himself described as “a cursed place, cruel in winter, hard in summer, never pleasant.” Out of that hard land grew Hesiod, who became known as the Father of Greek Didactic Poetry. His writing was inspired by the nine Muses born from Memory. One day Hesiod received a commission from the Muses to be their prophet and poet and they “breathed a sacred voice into” his mouth; that same “sacred voice” that is the pagan image of the “sacred breath” we know to be the Holy Spirit. (Read more.)

Friday, January 24, 2014

A Letter from Madame Royale

Here is an intriguing find from Tiny-Librarian:
A letter that is supposed to have been written by Marie Therese Charlotte while in exile in Vienna after being liberated from the Temple Prison. The site says it was written in 1793 with a question mark next to that. That date is indeed impossible, since she didn’t reach Vienna until January of 1796.
…I have received your two letters…with pleasure, but I am no longer able to…if it were possible…despite all my desire to see that my good Aunt Elizabeth [Louis XVI’s youngest sister, Elizabeth Philippine Marie Helen de France]…I have the consolation that [she is with you] and that you say everything is [arranged] for your departure…She has told me privately that…she desires that you…a girl…despite all her sorrows she thinks following the example of her dear Bombelles [?] and me. I love you and think about you and want to see you but then this is impossible, I have the consolation of writing to you and to say to you that I always loved you, in spite of my great youth when I knew you. I had the happiness also to become one who in this country everyone loves and admires, something which doesn’t happen in France. Your poor Mother seemed well when I had seen her. I hope also that Mr. de Bombelles and all your children are well…Goodbye, dear Madam, love me always and regard me as a person whom you love and also whom my Aunt loves and love me the same as you would wish to be loved [?]
Marie-Therese was imprisoned with her mother, who was executed on October 16, 1793. Elizabeth, the aunt to whom she refers in this letter, was executed the following year on May 10, 1794. Bearing the remnants of the original black-wax seal, the letter remains in very good condition.
The letter is written to Madame de Bombelles, the close friend of Madame Elisabeth and the daughter of Madame de Mackau, under-governess of the Children of France. Share

Atheism is Doomed

The birth control pill is like cyanide for secularism. From The Telegraph:
New Atheists comfort themselves with the idea that religious people will continue to drift their way, like rustics to the city, but the figures do not bear this out. It is true that liberal religious people continue to embrace atheism at a rate that alarms the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Methodist Churches, and Reform synagogues. Once religions start to accept secularism and rationality, their young people usually reach the logical conclusion of doubt – unbelief.

More conservative religions do not have that problem. Only 5 per cent of the more traditional Amish leave the faith, and when a community’s birth rate outstrips the national average by 200 or 300 per cent they can easily afford to lose one in 20 of the flock.

While the likes of Richard Dawkins aim their bile at traditional Christianity, fundamentalists are largely immune to their attacks, and become only stronger as the more committed members of the established churches head their way. Those religions that survive will become more conservative.

God alone knows what will happen to the Church of England this century, but we can safely say that the Catholic Church will become smaller but more committed. It will continue to exist at the margins of an atheist-dominated Europe ruled by an increasingly intolerant secular Left.

Widespread anti-religious feeling will only get more intense as the coming demographic changes outlined by Kaufmann appear to ring true, and as Evangelical Christians start to become more significant in, for example, the British Conservative Party.

But that smaller, more orthodox Catholic Church will have a huge inbuilt advantage – what French Canadian Catholics used to call “revenge of the cradle”. Many orthodox Catholics I know have 3 or 4 children – that’s not a recklessly high number, but in a society where the atheist fertility rate is around 1 child per woman, that advantage will show over a few decades, especially since orthodox Catholics have a far smaller drop-off rate than their liberal brethren.

Much as this will anger the New Atheists, which is a plus, Kaufmann’s thesis is disturbing. Personally I prefer Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and Anglican civilisation to some of the wackier strains of Evangelical Christianity. As for fundamentalist Islam…

It’s happened before: Kaufmann believes that Christianity’s rise from 40 followers to 6 million within three centuries had less to do with conversions that with higher birth rates, since the Christians rejected such pagan practises as polygamy and infanticide.

Today we view the ancient world’s attitude to infanticide as barbaric and incomprehensible, but perhaps future generations will look at our attitudes to abortion in the same way – that's not because pro-lifers would have won the argument, simply that (in addition to the effect of the Pill) abortion is killing the atheists of tomorrow. (Read more.)

The Destruction of Cluny

One of the casualties of the French Revolution. To quote:
The other day I was looking on the Internet for some pictures of the remains of the abbey at Cluny in answer to an enquiry from a friend, and as I did so I was once more struck by the enormity of the destruction of the abbey in the years after the dissolution in 1790. Having visited Cluny last year that is all the more borne in upon me. The remains are an indicator of what has been lost, and the realisation of just what was once there. The scale of the destruction is, in its own way, quite awesome. It is also profoundly shocking. This led me back to a recurring line of thought with me when confronted by such wanton destruction, that is of just how wicked it is.
It was whilst thinking along these lines in the devastated remains of the great Norman abbey at Jumièges, also a casualty of the 1790s, in 2004 that an Anglican priest friend opined to me that it is not much comfort in such places to think that the perpetrators of such vandalism must surely be in Hell, and I agreed with him.
At Cluny as a result of the demolition which begn in the 1790s and continued into the 1820s  only the main south transept of what was for centuries the largest church in Christendom  - and then only surpassed by St Peter's in Rome - survives intact.There is an introduction to the history of the house at  the online account Cluny Abbey

Today we often hear the phrase "crime against Humanity" about massacres and political violence, and yes, such they may indeed be, but crimes can also be committed against Humanity which do not involve the loss of human life or physical injury. There are crimes against Humanity which involve the destruction of the things of the spirit and of objects of beauty. By doing so, and the destruction of Cluny and Jumièges are classic examples, future generations are impoverished of great and wonderful things that could and no doubt would have enriched their souls and minds. This is not just loss for the art historian or the heritage-minded - it is a loss for all of Humanity. (Read more.)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Mrs. Washington

The General's Lady. (Via Tiny-Librarian.) Share


From Mashable:
The pop-culture tuning fork known as the Academy Awards will reveal its film nominations on Thursday, and if the recent Golden Globes win by Her on Sunday for best screenplay is any indication, the film’s writer and director, Spike Jonze, may score his first-ever Oscar win.

But the film, which depicts a man in the not-too-distant future who falls in love with his computer operating system, may be less important as an epic love story and far more relevant as the best and most widely accessible film we’ve seen about an idea known as the Singularity.

Popularized by science fiction author Vernor Vinge as well as inventor and now Google director of engineering Ray Kurzweil, the Singularity is a theoretical point in future history when artificial intelligences exceed the power of the human mind, become self-aware and dramatically change the balance of power on the planet while simultaneously transforming the very nature of humanity itself. (Read more.)

The Real Charlotte Gray

From The Daily Mail:
Nancy Wake was born in New Zealand and brought up in Australia, a difficult child who took the first opportunity to leave the Antipodes for Europe. There, she partied between assignments as a journalist, before marrying a rich businessman from Marseille who could indulge her taste for champagne, caviar and the good life.

Nancy was visiting London, for, of all things, a slimming course, when war was declared in September 1939. When she tried to join up to fight she was pointed, to her disgust, in the direction of a Naafi (Navy, Army and Air Force) canteen. So she went back to France and, when that country fell to the invading Germans, she proved herself as brave and as aggressive as any man — and more than most.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Marie-Antoinette's Ceiling

The ceiling in the Queen's bedroom at Versailles. (Via Louis XX.) Share

The March for Life

Our Lady will lead.
Taking a quarter of the student population more than 1,000 miles is expensive, but Kathryn  said she got a call over Christmas break from the college’s advancement office that they had found a donor.

“Her only stipulation was that we carry a copy of a picture she had seen on EWTN of the Blessed Mother with Jesus in her womb,” said Kathryn.

The students also got a call from the World Apostolate of Fatima — Our Lady’s Blue Army. The group has a statue of Our Lady of Fatima that was blessed by Pope Francis in October a week after he consecrated the world to Mary. They wanted Benedictine College to carry the statue in the March for Life, as the first leg of its nationwide tour.

That is appropriate, because this  year has become a kind of Marian Year on campus after Benedictine College was consecrated to Mary on Sept. 8 — Mary’s birthday — by Abbot James Albers. As a student, Albers participated in the college’s first March for Life trips, and he will ride the bus with students and will be holding the lead-off banner in the March.

So will President Stephen D. Minnis, who started the Memorare Army to pray for religious liberty and for the college, and who has helped lead the school in Marian devotion. Hundreds of the college’s students have consecrated themselves to Mary at the school this year, following his example and encouragement.

When I asked students why they were marching, senior Karianne Bolduc told me, “It is my goal to grow closer to Mary this year.”

What does Mary have to do with the March for Life? “Spiritual adoption,” said Karianne. “As a Catholic, I believe that as Jesus was dying on the cross, he gave Mary to each of us as our spiritual mother.” (Read more.)

How Far We Have Fallen

From The Eighth Way:
If there's no God, there's no heaven. If you live as if there's no God, then you live as if there's no heaven. The net result is the same. Either way is a life doomed to be bereft of hope for the future glory promised to those who repent and believe in the Gospel. One without this hope is bound to seek happiness only in transitory goods. In other words, one is relegated to live a life seeking those things which delight only the senses. Man's spirit is neglected; it atrophies and dies....

A simulacrum of hope has become a weak replacement in the lives of so many people. Since there is nothing to look forward to after this life, or if we live as if there is nothing to look forward to after this life, then we end up simply seeking those goods we find laying about us. The great good of fulfillment has been replaced by the limited goods of satiety and pleasure. The great good of immortality has been replaced by propagation. The communion of persons has been replaced by casual encounters. In short, heavenly bliss has been replaced by sexual promiscuity.

This isn't simply a case of falling prey to our baser human inclinations. No, the pagans did paganism with far more panache than we could ever muster. We've fallen into a far worse state than our former pagan ways. We've reordered the heavenly and the infinite to the earthly and the finite. We've aborted our hope. We've placed our salvation in our sexuality. (Read more.)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Suit Rules for Gentlemen

How to look dapper and gentlemanly. To quote: 
Pocket squares add an extra level of polish, but make sure it doesn’t match your tie in either pattern or fabric choice.Before you go totally conservative, remember that the pocket square is where you get the most freedom and the one place you get to add a little pizzazz to your suit. (Read more.)

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Council of the Cursed

The Sister Fidelma series by Peter Tremayne deals with the exploits of a seventh century feisty Irish sister who solves crimes in her native Ireland and beyond. She is called "Sister" Fidelma because she is a brand of religious that they had in Ireland at the time. The author refers to her using the French term religieuse. Because Fidelma is married she is not what Roman Catholics would think of as a nun; rather her status is comparable to that of what today we would call a tertiary. Her husband Eadulf should be seen as the same, although he is not Irish but an Angle. I recently read one of the more recent books, called The Council of the Cursed, which I found to be an excellent mystery story as well as a source of information about the Dark Ages. In Tremayne's point of view, it was dark everywhere but in Ireland, which in the Fidelma novels is the happy land of Tír na nÓg, where women have equal rights and slavery is unknown. Tremayne's real name is Peter Berresford Ellis, a Celtic scholar who is in love with Ireland, although his Ireland may be a bit over-idealized.

According to Kirkus:
Sent to France as advisors to the Celtic church, Fidelma of Cashel and her husband Brother Eadulf find dissension and murder.
Bishop Leodegar of Autun, who is hosting church leaders from various areas of western Europe, is an innovative administrator whose community has recently embraced celibacy, a new departure for the Roman church in 670 CE. Monks living at his abbey have been forced to put aside their wives and children, most of whom are now living at the Domus Femini under the rule of iron-fisted Abbess Autofleda. Fidelma and Eadulf arrive on the heels of a murder: The corpse of Hibernian Abbot Dabhóc has been found in a room with two unconscious clerics, who both deny any complicity in the crime. Leodegar finds it distasteful to have a woman investigate, but Fidelma’s reputation (Dancing with Demons, 2008, etc.) precedes her, and the powerful papal delegate knows her from a former case. A slave trader, a young monk whose love is missing from the Domus Femini, and the passive, carousing local governor’s powerful mother all come under Fidelma’s scrutiny. Suspecting that there is more to this murder than meets the eye, she resists pressure to come up with a quick solution, putting her life in danger to save innocent lives and reveal a complicated plot.

One of Fidelma’s best, and the subject of clerical celibacy is particularly relevant today.
Reading The Council of the Cursed made me want to refresh my memory about Celtic monasticism, and so I did a little research. It seems that from the beginning of his apostolate St. Patrick founded monasteries in which married couple were welcome to live as part of the community. This does not mean that the Irish did not value celibacy for the sake of the kingdom, since many people sought monasteries to live as genuine monks or nuns. There is much written in the Irish monastic writings extolling virginity, and the Rule of St. Columbanus is as strict as the Rule of St. Benedict that Fidelma dreads. Irish monasticism, however, was more permeable than monasticism on the continent. According to one source:
In permeable monasticism, people were able to move freely in and out of the monastic system at different points of life. Young boys and girls would enter the system to pursue Latin scholarship. Students would sometimes travel from faraway lands to enter the Irish monasteries. When these students became adults, they would leave the monastery to live out their lives. Eventually, these people would retire back to secure community provided by the monastery and stay until their death. However, some would stay within the monastery and become leaders. Since most of the clergy were Irish, native traditions were well-respected. Permeable monasticism popularized the use of vernacular and helped mesh the norms of secular and monastic element in Ireland, unlike other parts of Europe where monasteries were more isolated. Examples of these intertwining motifs can be seen in the hagiographies of St. Brigid and St. Columba.[68]
One of the main characters in The Council of the Cursed, Bishop Leodegar, is none other than the martyr St. Léger; like most non-Celtic characters in the novel he is shown in a negative light: harsh, authoritarian, rigid and sexist. Tremayne is under the impression that monks and nuns were allowed to get married. While married men were often ordained to the secular clergy as this time, celibacy was one of the ancient pillars of the monastic life Although double monasteries, which included both men and women, existed from the early days of Christianity and later were popular in the Middle Ages, the men and women usually had separate quarters.  Such monasteries were often for noble ladies in that they were ruled by an abbess from a great family; with the exception of the priests, the men were there as monks to work in the fields which supported the monastery. However, in The Council of the Cursed celibacy is treated as some radical innovation and a departure from tradition, which of course it was not.

As much as I enjoyed my first Fidelma book, especially the witty repartee between Fidelma and Eadulf as they quote the Fathers in Latin, I do find that the anti-Romanism in the book reminds me of the Protestant myths about the Celtic churches being forerunners of Protestantism. This and the view towards clerical celibacy hampers my enjoyment because I feel the authenticity is compromised. Otherwise I find the characters and their adventures to be enjoyable. Share

When License Replaces Liberty

Sexual license has become the bottom-line in defining liberty in America. To quote:
It is no surprise, then, that people whose belief systems are a muddle of Casey’s sweet-mystery-of-life passage and Modern Family bridle at the strict sexual morality of the monotheistic religions. This is exacerbated by traditional Christianity’s refusal either to conform to the spirit of the age or to go away and be quiet. The erosion of the state’s role in upholding public morality both foreshadowed and led to the cultural rejection of religion’s right to judge the morality or immorality of certain acts.

Evangelicals still loudly proclaim that one should “wait until marriage,” even if that command is largely honored in the breach. The Catholic Church has not relaxed its prohibition on contraception, even if many of its adherents ignore its teaching or even loudly oppose it. Both Evangelicals and Catholics (and those members of mainline churches who hold to traditionalist norms) grapple with the culture on multiple fronts—praying outside abortion clinics, attending the March for Life, objecting to FDA approval of abortifacients, decrying pornography, etc. In short, they have remained a thorn in the side of an ever-more-permissive culture for over forty years. (Orthodox Christianity, Orthodox Judaism, and Islam also adhere to strict moral norms regarding sexual behavior, but attract less attention because of their status as minority religions.)

This cultural attitude has led to religious liberty’s current embattled position. Catholic bishops teach that contraception is a sin? Break them. The charities they oversee must, in some way, be forced to provide free contraception and abortifacients to employees. Contraception has been available for over forty years, but now, suddenly, we must force business owners and religious orders to provide drugs and devices they believe to be sinful.

The proponents of the sexual revolution successfully persuaded the state to support their views. Now they seek to use the power of the state to force private persons to violate their religious beliefs and conform to the new morality.

To illustrate the degree of the incursion on religious conscience, religious liberty advocates often compare the contraception mandate to requiring all Jewish deli owners to serve pork sandwiches or requiring a Muslim business owner to pick up the tab for his employee’s heart-healthy red wine. This is a valid comparison, but perhaps the average American thinks, “Oh, the government would never do that.” And they’re right; probably the government never would. Why? Because food is considered too unimportant to be bothered with, whereas consequence-free sex has become an American totem. (Read more.)

Tyranny of Numbers in the Digital Age

From The Star:
This tyranny of numbers, distracting from more far-sighted views, goes hand in hand with the “selective exposure” that the Internet encourages.
The Internet’s illusion of proximity to the like-minded, no matter how dispersed — the fellowship it creates in the virtual sphere that affects our behaviour in the real one — is one of its most distinctive properties. In the digital age, we gather all too easily alongside those whose messages are consonant with our own. Our aggregation into groups of the like-minded confers legitimacy through the mass of numbers, rather than by engagement with rival opinions that might enrich us. It says, “Look how many think just like me! I must be right and you must be wrong!” and allows us to disregard our true neighbours and the worth of their opinions and grievances.
Engagement across the parapets — what we used to call “dialectics” and regard as a positive thing — is destined to be a rare phenomenon until that moment when it becomes a property of the web that we debate rival views unhesitatingly. Until that moment, perhaps, when some bright Silicon Valley dude invents a site with categories for Friends, sure, but also “Rivals,” “Opponents” and “Nemeses” and a respectful way to contend with them.
The variety of opinions and healthy argument that we used to depend upon in the march towards the better society are casualties of exactly the kind of discussion — better said, the lack of it — the Internet promotes. We click on a video with the most prior views, trust the tweeter with the most followers, and as we push that with which we are in agreement, for whatever reasons bad or good, the count of likes vaults forward and creates a momentum of its own. It does not occur to us to ask if a thousand lemming views amount to the gatekeeping of one intelligent expert. To wonder as much is to pander to “elites.” It is to put the opinions of a select leading few above those of the following masses and to challenge the vindication of numbers in today’s counting world. (Read more.)

Sunday, January 19, 2014


Every lady should have one on a cold winter's day. From Gio:
When they first became popular, in the early 18th century, muffs were small and cozy, but overtime, their size increased, until it almost reached the knees! What started as a practical fashion accessory became a very cumbersome thing to carry around with you! With your muffs, you could go anywhere. You could use them to go for a walk, to the opera, or even just to warm your hands in your cold sitting room. (Read more.)

The Churching of Women

From Catholic Stand:
Once upon a time in colonial America, there was something called a “lying in” period. This was the time, typically a month or so, following childbirth when a community would rally in support of a new mother. She would rest, regain her strength, and bond with her baby while the community kept up the household. Many of her attendants would be relatives, none of whom were paid, and the favor was returned following their own deliveries....

Let’s take a step back. What can we do in our parishes to cultivate a culture that esteems motherhood as it should? We recently attended a baptism in the extraordinary form, as it would have been celebrated until the mid-1960’s in most parishes. Included in the celebration was a largely forgotten rite called “The Churching of Women.”

The what of whom?

The Churching of Women is essentially the Church’s way of welcoming new mothers back following childbirth. Why the need to welcome back? Well, do you know the Church permits women to stay home from Mass, without culpability, for 6 weeks after giving birth? Traditionally, infants were baptized within the first weeks, if not days, of life, and the mother was often absent from the Baptism while lying in. The Churching rite not only became a means to welcome the mother back after her postpartum leave, but also a way for the mother to give thanks to God for the birth of her child. Lest ye think “Churching” is some gratefully discarded pre-Vatican II relic, the practice has been carried forward in an altered form as the “Blessing of a Woman after Childbirth,” contained in the Book of Blessings published in 1984.

Churching is an ancient practice having roots in the Jewish tradition we still commemorate on the Feast of the Presentation, February 2, forty days after the birth of Jesus. While Mary went to the Temple in Jerusalem for the ritual purification required under Jewish law, the Christian extension of that practice has an entirely different understanding. The rite is now focused on blessing and thanksgiving rather than any requirement for purification of the woman following childbirth. While the current baptismal rite contains a blessing for the mother, the Churching rite is a more pointed, special blessing and can be given individually or collectively to mothers after a Baptism or Mass. (Read more.)
(Via The Practicing Catholic.) Share

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Another Little Princess

Louis XVI's youngest sister Madame Elisabeth of France as a child. (Via Vive la Reine.) Share

Manners for Children

Here are twenty-five rules of etiquette they should know by age nine:
Manner #1

When asking for something, say "Please."

Manner #2

When receiving something, say "Thank you."

Manner #3

Do not interrupt grown-ups who are speaking with each other unless there is an emergency. They will notice you and respond when they are finished talking.

Manner #4
If you do need to get somebody's attention right away, the phrase "excuse me" is the most polite way for you to enter the conversation.

Manner #5
When you have any doubt about doing something, ask permission first. It can save you from many hours of grief later.

Manner #6
The world is not interested in what you dislike. Keep negative opinions to yourself, or between you and your friends, and out of earshot of adults.

Manner #7
Do not comment on other people's physical characteristics unless, of course, it's to compliment them, which is always welcome. (Read more.)

Avoiding Anachronisms in Historical Fiction

A helpful article by author Priscilla Royal. To quote:
Research into our chosen era is crucial. We need to understand how and why people thought the way they did. Some of that may feel so illogical or strange to us that we know readers will find it hard to sympathize with the characters we portray as positive. How to get around this? My answer is to remember the wisdom of my favorite grump, Ecclesiastes, who so famously wrote that there is no new thing under the sun.

In any modern period, people are inclined to believe that their era is wisest, full of fresh ideas, and better than any other. In fact, democracy in some form was present in Athens and even medieval monasteries. The confederation of the original twelve tribes of Israel, albeit under a king, resembles the beginning of the United States with the thirteen colonies. Are there differences? Yes, but there is a resonance.

The more original sources from the medieval era I read, the more I am struck by similarities between that era and many others, including this one. Western Europe may have been predominantly Christian, but it was also influenced by Islam in medicine, mathematics, language, and even spices. There were non-believers, gay people, powerful women, and Jews who were respected and accepted. The trap for historical fiction writers in recognizing this is giving their characters modern perceptions and rationales for the deviances from the conventional attitudes, also known as the era’s party line. What we cannot do is use our frame of reference and logic to present a point of view that proves the universality of human thought. (Read more.)

Friday, January 17, 2014

Lamentation of Marie-Antoinette

From Reading Treasure:
Marie Antoinette's Lamentation, in her Prison of the Temple by Mary Robinson. Published in The Oracle on March 8th, 1793.
When on my bosom Evening's ruby light
Through my thrice-grated window warmly glows,
Why does the cheerful ray offend my sight,
And with its lustre mock my weary woes?
Alas! because, on my sad breast appears
A dreadful Record — written with my Tears!
(Read more.)

The Royal Medicine

A history of homeopathy in the British Royal Family. To quote:
The British royal family has had a longtime and deep appreciation for homeopathic medicine, ever since Queen Adelaide (1792–1849), wife of King William IV, first made public her special interest in this “new medicine” in 1835. Other British aristocrats shared the queen’s interests, including the Marquess of Anglesey who crossed the British Channel to go to Paris for treatment by the founder of homeopathy, Dr. Samuel Hahnemann.

In 1830, the Earl of Shrewsbury (1791–1852) had asked Hahnemann for the name of a homeopath who could come to England to be his doctor, and Hahnemann suggested Dr. Francesco Romani (1785–1854) of Italy. Dr. Romani’s cures were so remarkable that he soon created a sensation in London and its surrounds. Queen Adelaide heard about this new medical system from his good work. However, the cold climate didn’t suit the Italian homeopath, and he returned home just one year after his arrival (Granier, 1859).

Queen Adelaide had been suffering from a serious malady that the court physicians couldn’t cure. The queen called for the services of one of Hahnemann’s oldest and most faithful colleagues, Dr. Johann Ernst Stapf (1788–1860), who cured her, creating the first of many supporters of homeopathy from British royalty. The British homeopath to the titled Marquess of Anglesey, Dr. Harris Dunsford (1808–1847), wrote a book on homeopathy that was dedicated, with permission, to Queen Adelaide (Dunsford, 1842). This dedication made public her interest in and her appreciation for homeopathy. She was instrumental in helping to establish homeopathy’s early popularity, especially among the upper classes in England. (Read more.)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Imperial Family at the Opera

Emperor Francis Stephen and Empress Maria Theresa at the opera with all of their children. Marie-Antoinette is the smallest girl in the blue dress. (Via Treasure for your Pleasure.) Share

St. John Vianney's Pastoral Plan

Restoring the Church, one soul at a time. To quote:
Though separated by nearly two hundred years, the cultural landscape between 19th century France and 21st century America is also similar. Mentioned here are the relevant contours of 19th century France; the thoughtful reader can make the connections with present day America. Father Vianney arrived at his parish a generation after unparalleled cultural and political upheaval in France. The Revolution and subsequent Terror, the hardships under Napoleonic rule, the widespread devastation of churches, religious communities and practices, and the outright attack on the Church in France herself, were still fresh in the minds of many. The Revolution’s spawn of secularism had permeated much of French society, with even the smaller villages feeling its reverberations. God and the Church were relegated more and more to the margins of French life.

Upheaval was also felt within the Church in France. In the wake of the Revolution, the faithful were often confused about the relationship between faithfulness to the Church and allegiance to the State. The State had sought to subsume the Church, going so far as to force the clergy to take an oath to the State, effectively making the priest more of an employee of the State than a servant of the Gospel. The faithful, moreover, were scandalized when many priests succumbed to this pressure, including the then pastor of Ars, Father Saunier. Educated at the Sorbonne, Ars’s pastor took the oath in 1791 and the spiritual unraveling of the parish in Ars began. The next year the parish church was looted and Father Saunier left the priesthood. The sanctuary of the parish church was converted into a club where the “free thinkers” of the area held their meetings. Though restoration of the Church in France began in 1801, tension and confusion about the clergy still existed. Which priests could one trust? What of the priests who took the oath? What about those priests who refused and suffered or were even killed? France in the 19th century also was experiencing a priest shortage.

The religious ignorance and indifference spawned by the Revolution had their effect on the life of Ars. People frequently missed Sunday Mass, and work dominated the lives of most. The tiny settlement boasted of four taverns where the livelihoods of many families were squandered. The very people who could not find time for Sunday Mass spent themselves in festivities, lasting far into the night and ending in the usual evils. Religious ignorance was rampant in both children and adults. Ironically the efforts of the Revolution to replace worship of the living God with the goddess “Reason” reaped the fruit of widespread illiteracy, and only a minority in Ars could read. Ars, however, was no better or worse off than the other villages in France. Remnants of faith and morals were still found scattered about among some of the families. The faith and the priesthood were not despised, just ignored. The impact of the Revolution and Terror, and the poor example or lack of stable clergy left the parish unsettled, ignorant, confused and at best lukewarm.
Despite the many similarities to our own time, four primary differences exist between St. John Vianney’s time and our own. One obvious difference is that Jansenism, with its harshness, scrupulosity and anxiety, was still felt within the faithful. The heresy had been put down, but its bitterness could still be tasted in the spiritual groundwater. A second difference was respect for priests, and their authority, still existed in the culture. A third difference was the local government, embodied in the mayor and municipal counselor, who supported his efforts in the religious and moral regeneration of the village because it promoted the common good. Fourthly, differences existed within the Church between then and now. For example, today’s “culture of dissent” among some Catholic quarters and the problem of liturgical abuse were not so much part of Vianney’s time. (Read more.)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Louis XVI Assists the Poor

From Anna Gibson's collection: "A vintage illustration of Louis XVI giving charity to the poor. The image is likely inspired by similar paintings and other depictions of the king’s relief to the poor during the especially severe winter of 1783-1784." Share

Boys and Social Engineering

An astute article about how boys and young men are bullied by society. To quote:
...I would like to resolve the issue of bullying; but in order to do so, we need to take a long, hard look at our current situation.  This will not be easy and will even infuriate some.  But for the sake of our families and communities, this must be considered.  Social Engineers, to wrestle power away from men, have cunningly created a society where egalitarianism has become the norm.  They have done this by preventing boys from being properly mentored, forbidding men to congregate, and removing any semblance of male initiation.

Before we consider these three destructive developments, let us first consider egalitarianism itself – which should be rather easy, as it is all around us.  Egalitarianism includes the natural heresy of the genderless society.  The idea that there are no differences between the sexes would be laughable if it were not for the fact that so many people have accepted the notion.  Please take note: you cannot raise a boy as you would a girl and expect to have good consequences (and vice versa).  Here, we could cite a number of enlightening but ignored studies, but that seems pointless.  Lets try logic:  that cute little boy that we dress in gender-neutral clothing, force to play games that prohibit competition, punish when he exhibits aggression, and teach in the same manner we instruct girls, will one day experience stunning growth and physical prowess.  This unveils our point:  in days of long ago, boys were trained and mentored and prepared for the day they would “come into their own” and… for the most part, they were ready.  Guided by the virtues, they were intentionally readied for the day when their natural power would develop and they would be wielders of that power.  It would be similar to a family acquiring a lion cub.  Sure it is cuddly and cute.  Sure it lounges in the family room and eats a lot of food.  Sure it plays its curious games and rambles about the house.  But what happens when that cub passes through adolescence and discovers its own power?  If it has not been trained and prepared, it will likely eat someone.  In real life, the result of such idiocy is bullying, domestic abuse, gang violence, and domestic terror.

There is historical precedence here.  In the Middle Ages, town and country were plagued and terrorized by gangs of bullies:  young men who were reckless and abusive, and there was little societal restraint to correct their cruel behavior.  Thus, Holy Mother Church intervened.  Recognizing -even appreciating- the natural power and strength of these men, the Church asked them to place their might at the service of “the good.”  These men were asked to make solemn vows to protect the widow and the orphan and defend the church.  Hence, Europe witnessed the birth of chivalry and the appearance of the knight.

The way we treat young men today is tragic.  A man of high school age today is generally taught that he is essentially animalistic, that his urges are primal, that he is prone to violence or laziness, or that he is a candidate for addiction.  He is often regarded with suspicion or else completely ignored.  No wonder he sits in a closed room playing video games or viewing pornography for endless hours. (Read more.)

The New Feudalism

Here is an article which raises some pertinent questions. I think we are entering into a new feudalism, where in exchange for safety and having our basic needs met we give up our rights. In a feudal society the vassals must learn to live with a certain amount of interference from the feudal lords. It is unfortunate since our ancestors sacrificed a great deal for freedom. To quote:
Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the NSA has been empowered to undertake a mass surveillance program whose ultimate aim is to thwart terrorist attacks of the kind that took place on Sept. 11. The precise nature of Snowden’s disclosures is complicated, and their legal and policy implications largely pertain to the United States, but the gist of the matter is that the NSA, with the often willing help of companies like IBM, Apple, Microsoft, Google and Facebook, has been scooping up data from phone and Internet communications of a broad swath of people in the United States and abroad in a way that is almost entirely indiscriminate. There is little doubt in my mind that emails I have sent and phone calls I have made to colleagues and friends are somewhere in the vortex of the NSA’s servers.
While the NSA has periodically violated U.S. law on such matters, so far as anyone knows it has not as of yet misused the information on innocent citizens of the United States or elsewhere in what can only be described as a mass and shameless invasion of privacy. The question at this point should be whether those whose lives are remote from terrorist activities should really care whether the government monitors our electronic communications, especially if such surveillance marginally increases our personal security.
Why should we care about whether our phone and online activities are private and protected from the eyes of the government, so long as compromising personal information is not released to the public? We already entrust the government with lots of personal information. Though I do not live an especially racy life, I would prefer that my emails and phone calls of the past 12 years not be public, but doing so would have at most a minor impact on my life and none on my personal freedom. Why should I care? What is at stake? And why did any of us think that our lives and mercurial obsessions could be played out on the Internet with impunity and in complete privacy? The Internet, after all, does not resemble a bedroom. Sending an email is more like shouting in a public square than like whispering in someone’s ear.
Images of George Orwell’s Big Brother from his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, a not-so-subtle critique of totalitarianism, are often invoked in this context, yet totalitarian regimes typically come into existence through violence and not surveillance (surveillance comes later as a way of maintaining an illegitimate regime), and there is little reason to think that curtailing the activities of organizations like the NSA will prevent the emergence of totalitarian regimes in the future; the problems with our not-so-transparent democracies, governed as they are by money and influence and short-term interests, run far deeper. (Read more.)