Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Dancing Princes and Princesses

Marie-Antoinette (the small girl in blue and silver) and her brothers and sisters dance for their brother Joseph's wedding. (Via Vive la Reine.) Share

Baseness for the Base

From Dr. Esolen:
It is hard to see how any genuine society or culture can be built up out of the atoms of self-will, since the friendship and the piety it demands and fosters depends upon human beings who see themselves as fulfilled not by gratifying their peculiar desires, but by love; not by consuming, but by being given away.  But there is a strange and telling analogy between a people who measure their worth by how much wealth they amass and those who measure their "happiness" by how many desires they gratify.  Both of those peoples misconstrue liberty.  They see it as something extrinsic to their persons.  It is a state-sanctioned empty field.  It is defined, or rather undefined, by what the State cannot tell you that you cannot do.

It should strike us with a shock that this view of law has a pretty meager heritage.  The Greeks and Romans knew nothing of it.  The Jewish prophets and scribes knew nothing of it.  The Christian jurists of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance knew nothing of it.  Even as late as the nineteenth century, despite the state-of-nature fantasies of Hobbes and Locke, most people assumed that one of the purposes of law, if not the principal purpose, was to be a teacher:  to help make men good.  They knew, too, that goodness was more than a superficial affability.  Goodness required the exercise of the virtues, and virtues are hard-won. (Read more.)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Danish Princesses

Dagmar and Alexandra. One became Empress of Russia and the other became Queen of England. Share


Many people are annoyed with Gwyneth Paltrow lately. I find it annoying to see her compared to Marie-Antoinette. Nevertheless, the following article makes some cogent points. To quote:
Moms like me -- divorced moms, working moms -- are still buzzing about Paltrow's stupid statements as of late.

Paltrow -- a privileged child of Hollywood who is now a 41-year-old actress and a Martha Stewart wannabe -- thinks moms with regular jobs have it a lot easier.

"I think it's different when you have an office job, because it's routine and, you know, you can do all the stuff in the morning and then you come home in the evening," she recently told E! "When you're shooting a movie, they're like, 'We need you to go to Wisconsin for two weeks,' and then you work 14 hours a day and that part of it is very difficult. I think to have a regular job and be a mom is not as, of course there are challenges, but it's not like being on set."

I was first alerted to this E! interview when moms on Facebook started sharing a working mom's response to it.

My favorite line is in the New York Post "open letter" by Mackenzie Dawson: " 'Thank God I don't make millions filming one movie per year' is what I say to myself pretty much every morning as I wait on a windy Metro-North platform, about to begin my 45-minute commute into the city. Whenever things get rough, all I have to do is keep reminding myself of that fact. It is my mantra." (Read more.)

Life as Prayer

From NPR:
In the cloistered world of classical music recordings, there is great interest in choral music by Catholic nuns these days. In the past year, two separate albums by a group of monastic nuns shot to the top of the classical charts.

Now comes the Mother of the Eucharist, a community of nuns outside of Ann Arbor, Mich., that is releasing its debut album Tuesday. It's titled Mater Eucharistiae.
For three carefully chaperoned hours last week, I was invited into the quiet confines of their community. For afternoon Vespers, the sisters — dressed in white habits with long rosaries — filed into the ornate chapel, stood in their individual choir stalls and opened their breviaries. The ethereal purity of their voices resonated inside the vaulted chapel space, seeming to make time come to a stop with the reprise of these ancient Latin chants.

"Usually when we're singing, it's just us and God," says Sister Maria Suso, 26, a native of Clearwater, Fla., who's studying to be a secondary teacher of English and biology. "But with the CD, we were able to bring other people into that space of prayer when we're singing. And that's something that is humbling and makes us a little vulnerable. These are our special songs." (Read more.)

Monday, April 28, 2014

Marie-Antoinette in Prison

Via Tiny-Librarian. Share

Veiling at Mass

From Catholic Stand:
If veiling is an outward sign, then there must also be inward signs. The weight of the veil becomes about more than covering, focus, or devotion. To be beneficial to the eternal soul, we must transform ourselves. Are we simply displaying our faith on our heads or are we transformed interiorly? To be true devotees the answer must be both. Are we more charitable, more giving, and more sacrificial? Do we volunteer to assist the parish in service to others? Do we pray more deeply, fervently?

When we make a commitment motivation is key but the ideal, put into practice, is even more important. Those of us who have chosen to follow this devotion are in it for the long haul and for all of the implication it carries. To emulate the Blessed Mother, to veil our feminine God-given attributes, and to offer ourselves entirely to Jesus – these all go hand in hand with actions.

So if we wish to pattern our lives after Mary’s, we must look beyond the surface. The devotion should indicate an inner holiness and submission to the will of God. If the resolve is to be taken seriously, if the Lord is to recognize our gift of self, our actions must speak fully and without reservation. Otherwise we are no more than the clanging gong of self congratulatory vanity. (Read more.)

Blood in the Gourd

It is not Louis' blood after all. I wonder what went wrong with the first round of tests. From the BBC:
Early forensic tests suggested it was possible that this was the blood of the French king. But this latest research casts doubt on its royal provenance. To investigate, the scientists examined stretches of the sample's genome that relate to physical appearance. Portraits of Louis XVI depict him with blue eyes, but this sample belongs to a person who was far more likely to have had brown eyes.

"The probability of this guy having blue eyes is very low - it is about 3%," said Prof Lalueza-Fox.

Historical records, including correspondence from Louis XVI's wife, Marie-Antoinette, also state that the king was very tall. While the average height was about 167cm (5ft 5in) at this time, the King was thought to be at least 185cm (6ft 1in) in height. Prof Lalueza-Fox said: "Not all the genetic basis of height is known. However, we do know the genetic markers in extreme cases for very tall people or very small people.

"But this sample doesn't have an excess of markers that could be related to a very tall person. It really looks like we don't have the king here."

The scientists also looked at genetic ancestry, which shows which parts of Europe a person's ancestors came from. The DNA from the sample suggests the individual had roots that traced mainly back to France and Italy, while many of Louis XVI's ancestors came from Germany and Poland. The team concludes that it's extremely unlikely that this is Louis XVI's blood. (Read more.)

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Chelengk

From Alan Phipps:
A chelengk was a decoration of the Ottoman Empire... It was a jewelled aigrette consisting of a central flower with leaves and buds, and upward-facing rays. In modern Turkish, a çelenk is a wreath or garland, a circular decoration made from flowers and leaves, usually arranged as an ornament.

A specially-made chelengk was awarded to Horatio Nelson by Sultan Selim III in honour of the Battle of the Nile in 1798. This was the first time that a chelengk was conferred on a non-Ottoman. The usual seven rays were augmented to thirteen, as described in a contemporary letter:

The Aigrette is a kind of feather; it represents a hand with thirteen fingers, which are of diamonds, and allusive to the thirteen ships taken and destroyed at Alexandria, the size that of a child's hand about six years old when opened;

In Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey–Maturin series of novels, Captain Jack Aubrey is awarded a chelengk by the Sultan after capturing two rebel ships. His chelengk was worn, like Nelson's, on his dress uniform hat and contained hidden clockwork, so that the diamond strands shimmered in the sun. (Read more.)

Saint John XXIII and the Divine Office

From Vultus Christi:
The piety of Pope John XXIII was liturgical, priestly, and devotional. (Do not miss Pope John’s lovely proposal that priests pray the Divine Office together with their Guardian Angels!) It was, at once, lofty and childlike.  Sacrae Laudis reveals his profound understanding of the sacred liturgy in the life of the Church and, in particular, of the uniquely exalted quality of the Divine Office, the Church’s daily sacrifice of praise. In reading the holy Pope’s Apostolic Exhortation on the Divine Office for the Council, it becomes clear that he had no intention of overturning the liturgical practice of the Roman Church as it had developed organically, over the centuries, under the gentle guidance of the Holy Ghost. Thus does he write:
The Breviary is in very truth a perennial and inexhaustible fount of supernatural light and grace. Small wonder, then, that the Breviary serves this Second Vatican Council as a source-book, as is evidenced in the reports of the careful, unremitting work of the various preparatory Commissions. It is a mine of purest doctrine and wisest counsels of ecclesiastical discipline, admirably adapted to present needs. We are therefore justified in Our assertion that in entering upon a new era we have preserved our ancient heritage intact. It is an era which seems to hold the promise of a great spiritual advance.
(Read more.)

Two Popes Canonized Today

Author Stephanie Mann quotes The Wall Street Journal and offers her own reflections as well. To quote:
As I grew up in the Diocese of Wichita, I believe that I was spared some of the confusions of the implementation of the Second Vatican Council. We had a wise bishop, David M. Maloney, may he rest in peace. Nevertheless, I remember some of the vapid songs we sang, and of the ridiculous catechesis I endured in high school (interpreting the lyrics of Simon and Garfunkel! "I Am A Rock" as the foundation of life!), and some other horrors ("Stairway to Heaven"--instrumental only at least--at Mass!).

The crucial issue, certainly highlighted in the last sentence of the second paragraph I quoted above, has been the interpretation of the Second Vatican Council and even more, the "expansive spirit of Vatican II". Ay, there's the rub! Blessed John Paul II--not in any disagreement with either of his predecessors--addressed the fullness of the interpretation of the Council, according to the Council Fathers' intent. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI continued Pope John Paul II's work; as a peritus at the Council, he had his own view of what happened in its aftermath. Another great contribution he made to the historical view of the Council was the term a hermeneutic of reform or continuity; not seeing the Second Vatican Council as a break with the past, but as part of the history of the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit. Benedict XVI presented this "hermeneutic of continuity" early in his reign, at the end of 2005:
Well, it all depends on the correct interpretation of the Council or - as we would say today - on its proper hermeneutics, the correct key to its interpretation and application. The problems in its implementation arose from the fact that two contrary hermeneutics came face to face and quarrelled with each other. One caused confusion, the other, silently but more and more visibly, bore and is bearing fruit.

On the one hand, there is an interpretation that I would call "a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture"; it has frequently availed itself of the sympathies of the mass media, and also one trend of modern theology. On the other, there is the "hermeneutic of reform", of renewal in the continuity of the one subject-Church which the Lord has given to us. She is a subject which increases in time and develops, yet always remaining the same, the one subject of the journeying People of God.

The hermeneutic of discontinuity risks ending in a split between the pre-conciliar Church and the post-conciliar Church. It asserts that the texts of the Council as such do not yet express the true spirit of the Council. It claims that they are the result of compromises in which, to reach unanimity, it was found necessary to keep and reconfirm many old things that are now pointless. However, the true spirit of the Council is not to be found in these compromises but instead in the impulses toward the new that are contained in the texts.

These innovations alone were supposed to represent the true spirit of the Council, and starting from and in conformity with them, it would be possible to move ahead. Precisely because the texts would only imperfectly reflect the true spirit of the Council and its newness, it would be necessary to go courageously beyond the texts and make room for the newness in which the Council's deepest intention would be expressed, even if it were still vague. . . .
Read the rest of the WSJ article here. Read the rest of Benedict XVI's comments on the implementation of the documents and reforms of the Second Vatican Council here. (Read more.)

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Communist Chic

What? Believe it or not, there is such a thing. I know, it's crazy. From Messy Nessy Chic:
There is a phenomenon that exists called ‘Eastalgia’ (or ostalgie), referring to a wistful longing for the Cold War era, Berlin Wall-separated, Stasi-policed German Democratic Republic of the 1970s and 80s. Seriously. The phenomenon has even spawned a bit of an industry catering to those with strangely fond memories of the short-lived communist state and its long queues for food, intimidating secret police, cheap tin can cars and television with only three government-controlled channels. In Berlin, there is a German Democratic Republic museum where visitors can immerse themselves in the everyday communist culture of ‘the good old days’, several shops also sell nostalgic household objects and consumer products of the GDR, and then of course, taking it one step further, is the Ostel Hostel(Read more.)

A Holy Icon

From Mystagogy:
According to St. Sophronios of Jerusalem, who wrote the biography of St. Mary of Egypt, when she was about to enter the Church of the Holy Sepulcher on the feast of the Exaltation of the Honorable Cross, she was prevented from doing so by an invisible power due to her sinful intentions. After trying again and again to gain entry but failing, and seeing with what ease those around her entered, she looked up and saw an icon of the Theotokos and realized that it was her sins that prevented her from entering. Immediately she prayed to the Mother of God to allow her in and lead her by the hand on the path of repentance, promising that she would renounce the world and dedicate herself completely to Christ. Having fulfilled her promise, she became a model of repentance for centuries to pious Orthodox Christians.

At the southern tip of Mount Athos is the Cave of Saint Athanasios the Athonite, inside of which is believed to be, according to living Athonite tradition, the very icon of the Theotokos before which St. Mary of Egypt made her repentance. This icon is known as Panagia Eggyitria (Guarantor or Surety), and it was found in this cave by the founder of Athonite communal monasticism St. Athanasios himself around 965 A.D. Later he took the icon to Great Lavra Monastery so the fathers there could venerate it, but in the morning the icon disappeared and in a mysterious manner it was brought back to the Cave. St. Athanasios rediscovered the icon in the Cave and brought it back to his Monastery and placed it in the church, but again the next morning it was mysteriously found in the Cave. The miraculous icon was never again disturbed and has remained in the Cave ever since. (Read more.)

Elegant Modesty

Why do modesty and elegance go together? To quote:
Young women are particularly focused on their appearance in order to attract men. This is the biggest market for retail clothing! For decades now clothing marketed to women, particularly the teen/college age group, is designed to emphasize the sexual availability of the wearer – not the sexuality, the availability.

Understanding the desire of women to attract men, one must also realize how men think. Women who dress to send the signal of a cheap eyeful, or an easy one-night stand, will attract men who want this. Do these men care what is in the head or the heart of that woman? Unlikely.

However, there is good news: women can dress attractively to interest men who will notice first her head and her heart. Then what follows will more likely be a respectful, enduring relationship. The goal is to conceal, not reveal. The artistic eye of a good clothing designer can help by providing clothing that sends this signal: I am beautiful – inside and out. The designer will use the tools of line, color, contrast, fabric, quantity, coverage, fit, and combination, and situational appropriateness, to draw the eye of the beholder up to the face. (Read more.)

Friday, April 25, 2014

Salon d'Apollon

A rare photo of one of the state rooms, the Apollo Salon, in the Tuileries Palace before it was burned and torn down. Share

Salt in Crimea

Sometimes it all boils down to salt. From Amusing Planet:
The Crimean Peninsula lies between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, just south of the Ukrainian mainland, and is almost completely surrounded by water. It is connected with the Ukrainian mainland by the Isthmus of Perekop - a strip of land about 5 to 7 kilometers wide, and is separated from the Russian region of Kuban on the east by the Strait of Kerch. To the northeast is located the Arabat Spit, a narrow strip of land that separates a system of shallow salt-water lagoons named Sivash, from the Sea of Azov.

These lagoons nearly cuts the Crimean Peninsula off from the mainland, and serves as a natural border between the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the Kherson Oblast that passes through Sivash. To the north, the Isthmus of Perekop separates Sivash from the Black Sea and at the same time, connects the Crimean Peninsula to the mainland. (Read more.)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Maria Carolina in Old Age

The Queen of Naples was Marie-Antoinette's favorite sister as well as the last to die of the daughters of Empress Maria Theresa. (Via Tiny-Librarian.) Share

Killing Chivalry

From James Sama:
As the saying goes, “If chivalry is dead, then women killed it.”

This, of course, is referring to the increasingly prominent ‘I can do it myself’ independent attitudes of women. But, there’s also another saying about not letting one rotten apple spoil the bunch, or bushel, or something like that. You get the point.

Take a peek at these surprising statistics:
  • Only one in seven men will offer their seat to a woman on a train or bus.
  • Over a third say they never assist mothers struggling with heavy prams (Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System).
  • But only 7% of women view chivalrous acts as patronizing.
  • Three in five men appreciate women holding doors open for them.
I’ve bolded the third point above for a reason. Often times, men don’t perform chivalrous acts because they feel that it will be offensive to the woman. That it implies that she is not able to do something herself, which means everyone is missing the point of chivalry – showing respect to others.
Of course, there are a lot of men out there who don’t do these simple acts because they just need a lesson in manners, but that’s a whole other article. (Read more.)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Marie-Antoinette by David

David's sketch of Marie-Antoinette on the way to the guillotine is well-known. These other sketches of the Queen are at the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library.


Conservatism as Counterculture

Ayn Rand vs. Flannery O'Connor. From The Imaginative Conservative:
This updated conservative tradition consists of several complementary propositions:
As human beings, our first responsibility lies in stewardship, preserving our common inheritance and protecting that which possesses lasting value. This implies an ability to discriminate between what is permanent and what is transient, between what ought to endure and what is rightly destined for the trash heap. Please note this does not signify opposition to all change—no standing athwart history, yelling Stop—but fostering change that enhances rather than undermines that which qualifies as true.

Conservatives, therefore, are skeptical of anything that smacks of utopianism. They resist seduction by charlatans peddling the latest Big Idea That Explains Everything. This is particularly the case when that Big Idea entails launching some armed crusade abroad. Conservatives respect received wisdom. The passage of time does not automatically render irrelevant the dogmas to which our forebears paid heed. George Washington was no dope.

In private life and public policy alike, there exists a particular category of truths that grown-ups and grown-up governments will respectfully acknowledge. For conservatives this amounts to mere common sense. Actions have consequences. Privileges entail responsibility. There is no free lunch. At day’s end, accounts must balance. Sooner or later, the piper will be paid. Only the foolhardy or the willfully reckless will attempt to evade these fundamental axioms.(Read more.)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

King and Queen in Porcelain

From Vive la Reine. Share

The First Balloonists

From Pandodaily:
As autumn merged with winter, Rozier and the Montgolfier brothers’ worked on a larger, more durable vessel in the shape of a giant lemon, equipped with a circular wicker compartment that looked like a giant bracelet and hung near the bottom with a separate iron fire basket. The balloon’s skin was painted blue and gold and ornamented with gold fleurs-de-lis, the monogram of Louis XVI.

No one thought it prudent to dispatch two men into the atmosphere without first conducting tests. The group settled on ropes to hold the balloon in place while Rozier climbed aboard and was slowly raised to a height of 80 feet, where he maintained his position by fine-tuning the fire’s intensity. Four days later Rozier rose to 250 feet, the vessel was pulled down, Marquis Arlandes joined him onboard, and the two floated up to 350 feet.

On the appointed hour and day, November 21, 1783, at Chateau de la Muette, the sky was partly cloudy and the wind puffed in from the northwest. The first attempt went awry, however, when a hard gust blew the balloon into one of the garden walks. The ropes rubbed against the fabric, causing several tears, the longest stretching six feet.
Two hours later at 1:54 p.m., after repairs were affected, the world’s first aeronauts set off. There was a hush as the balloon cut a majestic figure as it rose over the palace.
“No one could help feeling a mingled sentiment of fear and admiration,” attested an octet of observers that included Benjamin Franklin in a signed affidavit later that day. (Read more.)

Monday, April 21, 2014

Glove Etiquette

From Maura Graber:
Back in January, I blogged about a query I received from Bernadette Petrotta (more of a lament than a query) on etiquette and gloved hands with drinks in them, on the popular period drama, Downton Abbey.  She was lamenting the fact that they were so incorrect with their glove manners on such an otherwise great show.  I had told her that I gave the show a pass on that particular faux pas, as they get so many other things historically accurate, and I then quoted Judith Martin, who once wrote, "The only place where it seems to be traditional for ladies to eat or drink with gloved hands is in costume dramas. In real life, it was always considered crude, not to mention yucky, but in every period film, television show, play and opera, it is evidently intended to add a touch of what passes for 'class.'"
I immediately called Bernadette, who had asked me the original question about Downton Abbey and the glove etiquette.  She and I had previously discussed her love of the fashions on Downton Abbey and she had been looking to purchase some.  I sent a response to Genevieve, and asked if she sold her gloves online, and if she shipped to the U.S.  Her answers were "Yes" and "Yes."  So if you are inclined to take a look at the beautiful gloves she has available for purchase, you will find them at Cornelia

She offers day gloves, evening gloves, lace gloves, leather gloves, and more.  I may even order a pair, as I have a birthday coming up, though I really only wear gloves for driving.  I am the only person I know anymore, who actually has gloves in the glove compartment of my car.  I keep three pairs of gloves in there and people are always a bit surprised.  But even in sunny, Southern California, my hands can, and do, get cold driving at night. (Read more.)

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Life's Troubles

Fr. Mark and his monks in Ireland have had a disaster happen on Good Friday. Please pray for them. Father has sought consolation in the writings of Mother Mectilde, specifically from her letter to the Duchess of Orleans. To quote:
Abandon yourself to the unknown designs of His love, for He knows how to plunge one into hell and draw one out of it. Never will a soul, subjected to His divine operations, perish. The hand that wounds in such dispositions is rigorous and gentle, opening the wound and healing it, bringing together both the sword and the remedy. You must not trouble yourself in this trial; it is what divine love does in souls who, without reserve, want to be all transformed into Jesus Christ. Such souls must be purified and, to this end, tribulations serve as fire. (Read more.)

The Perfect Digestive Biscuit

From The Guardian:
Originally conceived as a medicinal aid for the digestion-obsessed Victorians, the fact it's not allowed to be sold under that name in the US should tell you everything you need to know about the healthful properties of the average digestive biscuit. I'm not knocking the commercially produced variety – they're comfortingly familiar, even if certain big brands keep meddling with the recipe in the name of progress – but when palm oil features in the ingredient list, it's hard not to wonder whether you might be better off if you made your own. Get the recipe right, and you're set for life. (Read more.)

Friday, April 18, 2014

Plague Victims

In medieval London. To quote:
The skeletons provide a rare opportunity to study the medieval population of London, according to osteologist Don Walker, of the Museum of London Archaeology.

He said: "We can start to answer questions like: where did they come from and what were their lives like?

"I'm amazed how much you can learn about a person who died more than 600 years ago."
Analysis of the skeletons' bones and teeth indicates that:
  • Many of the skeletons appear to suffer signs of malnutrition and 16% had rickets.
  • There is a high rate of back damage and strain indicating heavy manual labour.
  • The later skeletons from the 1400s had a high rate of upper body injury consistent with being involved in violent altercations.
  • 13 of the skeletons were male, three female, two children, the gender was undetermined in the other seven skeletons.
  • 40% grew up outside London, possibly as far north as Scotland - showing that 14th Century London attracted people from across Britain just as it does today.
Mr Carver said: "We can see from the people here that Londoners weren't living an easy life.

"The combination of a poor diet and generally a struggle means they were very susceptible to the plague at that time and that's possibly one of the explanations for why the Black Death was so devastating." (Read more.)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Queen and the Nuns

How Anne of Austria as Regent for her son Louis XIV turned to contemplative nuns to restore peace in France. To quote:
The Abbot-Duke was utterly opposed to the foundation of new monasteries. Paris, he argued, was already cluttered with too many cloisters vying for economic support. He had promised the Queen Regent, Anne of Austria, that he would forbid the foundation of new monasteries in his territory. Already, for lack of resources, six ancient communities under his authority had ceased to exist. In vain did the Countess of Châteauvieux beg the Queen to make an exception; the Queen remained inflexible.

Divine Providence was at work, all the same. “We know that to them that love God, all things work together unto good, to such as, according to his purpose, are called to be saints.” (Romans 8:28) France was in complete turmoil. Forces in rebellion against the crown were gaining ground. The court was obliged to flee to Compiègne. The Queen Regent learned, to her dismay, that the rebellion had spread from Paris and Bordeaux to Orléans and Angers. In desperation she turned to the Abbé Picoté, a priest of Saint-Sulpice, and beseeched him to make whatever vow he thought necessary to obtain from God the return of peace, order, and stability to France.

The good priest, knowing absolutely nothing of Mother Mectilde’s proposed foundation, vowed that if tranquility were restored to France, the Queen would found a house of religious vowed to adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament in reparation for the outrages committed against the Sacred Body of Christ. The Abbé Picoté, in all likelihood, had heard that the consecrated Host was, more than once, trampled under foot by soldiers, and even fed to their horses. Miraculously, no sooner was the vow made in the name of the Queen, than the whole situation changed. On 21 October 1652, Louis XIV entered Paris in triumph. The revolt was over; peace returned.
In the meantime, the Abbé Picoté learned of Mother Mectilde’s project. Struck by the affinity between the vow he had made in the name of the Queen and the foundation that Mother Mectilde desired to undertake, he spoke of it to the Queen on 8 December 1652 while the latter was in retreat at the Benedictine abbey of Val-de-Grâce. The graces of the retreat must have been in operation because he found the Queen well disposed. In execution of her vow, the Queen ordered the Duke of Verneuil to authorize the foundation in his territory of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. The Duke-Abbot immediately entrusted the whole affair to his Vicar General, Dom Roussel, a Benedictine of the Congregation of Saint-Maur, and the prior of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. (Read more.)


From The Catholic Gentleman:
I’ll come right out and say it: Profanity isn’t always a sin—but it easily can be. But how are we supposed to know? Here are three principles I see in judging the morality of our speech.

The first principle is intent. What’s the purpose? For example, if you are furious with someone, and you tell them to go to hell (or worse), your intent is obviously to hurt the other person with your words. This kind of angry speech is always prohibited, even if no profane words are used. Jesus makes this clear when he strongly condemns hateful language: “But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire.” Of course, there are plenty of other motivations for using profanity besides anger, but the point is, examining our motives will help us determine if we are sinning or not.

The second principle is degree. It is well known that some profanities are more offensive than others, such as words that have an obviously crude and sexual connotation. The f-word is undoubtedly considered the most obscene word in the English language, for example, and I don’t see any cases in which its use can be justified. Frequency is also important. If every other word in your vocabulary is a vulgarity, it’s probably a sign of a deeper problem.

The third principle is graciousness. ”Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt,” says St. Paul— which is pretty funny since “salty language” is a euphemism for profanity. Anyway, we know what the great apostle means. Our speech should literally be grace-full. It should build up the hearer. (Read more.)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Hermit in the Garden

In eighteenth century Europe it became a popular romantic sentiment to have an ornamental hermit living in  one's garden. Some were genuine hermits. To quote from Atlas Obscura:
While some gardeners might now throw in a gnome statue among their flowers and shrubberies, back in the 18th century wealthy estate owners were hiring real people to dress as druids, grow their hair long, and not wash for years. These hired hermits would lodge in shacks, caves, and other hermitages constructed in a rustic manner in rambling gardens. It was a practice mostly found in England, although it made it up to Scotland and over to Ireland as well.

Gordon Campbell, a Professor of Renaissance Studies at the University of Leicester, recently published The Hermit in the Garden: From Imperial Rome to Ornamental Gnome with Oxford University Press. It's the first book to delve into the history of the ornamental hermit in Georgian England. As Campbell explains in this video for the book:

"Recruiting a hermit wasn't always easy. Sometimes they were agricultural workers, and they were dressed in a costume, often in a druid's costume. There was no agreement on how druids dressed, but in some cases they wore what we would call a dunce's cap. It's a most peculiar phenomenon, and understanding it is one of the reasons why I have written this book."

How the live-in hermit came to be a fashionable touch to a splendid garden goes back to the Roman emperor Hadrian with his villa at Tivoli, which included a small lake with a structure in it built for one person to retreat. When the ruins of this early hermitage were unearthed in the 16th century, it was suggested that Pope Pius IV build one for himself, which he did at the Casina Pio IV. Yet from here it gradually verged away from religious devotees isolating themselves for spiritual reflection to hermitting being an 18th century profession for those willing to put up with the stipulations.

As Campbell cites from an advertisement referenced in Sir William Gell's A Tour in the Lakes Made in 1797, "the hermit is never to leave the place, or hold conversation with anyone for seven years during which he is neither to wash himself or cleanse himself in any way whatever, but is to let his hair and nails both on hands and feet, grow as long as nature will permit them." (Read more.)
 More on ornamental hermits, HERE. Share

Five Ways Women Cheapen Themselves

From James Sama:
They call themselves a “bad bitch.”
I can’t stand this term. I even hate writing it. Worse, I hate women referring to themselves in this way. Why does anyone actually want to be a bitch, let alone a “bad bitch?” If the girls of our generation think that this makes them sound more authoritative and respectable, well, it doesn’t.
A true gentleman will choose a good woman over a bad bitch, any day.

They have truck driver mouth.
Sure, when you’re in the comfort of your own home or around friends, the gloves come off in terms of language (though there are still some words I’d never say), but when typing tweets or status updates, even I get taken aback by some of the words that girls use these days.

The irony of it is that I was raised to do my best not to swear around women, and now they do it more than I do.

They talk about fighting other girls (and do it).
What? When did women become the new high school boys? With so much talk about drama and fights at clubs all over Facebook, if I blocked out the person’s name I probably couldn’t tell if the post was coming from a guy or a girl.

Keep it classy, ladies – no need to fight. (Read more.)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Charles X: the Man, the King, and the Reactionary

From author Shannon Selin:
Artois was said to be handsome, charming, generous and impulsive. He was a horseman, a gambler and a playboy – the “Don Juan” of Versailles. (1) Artois was a close friend of Louis XVI’s wife, Marie Antoinette. The two of them indulged in expensive frivolities, like the construction of the Château de Bagatelle. Their activities highlighted the gulf between the royal family and ordinary French people, and added to the unrest that sparked the French Revolution.

In November 1773 Artois married Marie Thérèse of Savoy (the sister of Louis XVIII’s wife), with whom he had two sons: Louis Antoine, the Duke of Angoulême and Charles Ferdinand, the Duke of Berry. The marriage was a dynastic alliance rather than a love match. You can read about Artois’s true love for the married Louise de Polastron on Elena Maria Vidal’s Tea at Trianon blog.

After the storming of the Bastille in July 1789, Artois and his family left France. He lived briefly in Italy and in Germany before settling in England in 1792. The Prince Regent (later George IV) gave him a generous allowance. Artois lived in London and Edinburgh with Louise, while his wife remained on the continent (she died in Austria in 1805). When Louise died of tuberculosis in 1804, Artois reportedly swore a vow of perpetual chastity and became devoted to religion. He must have retained some of his earlier spirit, though; in October 1811 Countess Harriet (Harryo) Granville wrote from her estate of Trentham in Staffordshire:
Monsieur forgets we are all beyond our teens and plays at bo-peep, etc. with Lady Stafford and me. (2)
(Read more.)


The Art of Justice

From the Intercollegiate Review:
Justice understood as the virtue corresponding to Pieper’s robust “right” resists the modern leveling mindset. If rights are possessed and invoked by persons, and what is due to the rights-bearer is rendered by persons, and if, as Kirk points out, the traditional concept of justice provides for the variety of things a person may be due well beyond material return,[6] then the judgment that determines the proper recompense, given the diversity of the human person, is only possible at the personal level, face to face. Thus we need to keep in mind Pieper’s observation that “justice can be discussed meaningfully and fruitfully only if it is regarded in the context of a complete moral doctrine. It is one feature in the sevenfold image of man; the part becomes fully intelligible only within the whole” (italics original).[7] The liberal notion of justice tolerates no such constraints—and for that reason it is in theory meaningless, and in practice crushing. (Read more.)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Description of Madame Elisabeth

From the Memoirs of Madame Vigée Lebrun (Via Tiny-Librarian): 
The features of this last named Princess were not regular, but her face expressed gentle affability, and the freshness of her complexion was remarkable; altogether, she had the charm of a pretty shepherdess. She was an angel of goodness. Many a time have I been a witness to her deeds of charity on behalf of the poor. All the virtues were in her heart: she was indulgent, modest, compassionate, devoted. In the Revolution she displayed heroic courage; she was seen going forward to meet the cannibals who had come to murder the Queen, saying, “They will mistake me for her!”

What is Feminism?

From Kamilla Ludwig:
Feminism It seems there are as many definitions of feminism as there are feminists. However, foundational to all feminisms is a common anthropology clearly illustrated in the oft repeated mantra, “feminism is the radical notion that women are people”. This plays out to varying degrees in the belief that women should receive equal pay for equal work (a notion thoroughly misused in the main), that they should be allowed to compete on an equal basis for jobs and places in schools and sports teams. At the extremes, feminists view all sexual encounters between a man and a woman as rape and all apparent differences (other than crude biology) as the result of social conditioning.

In history, feminism has come in various waves – from the Suffragettes of the 19th and early 20th Centuries (although it is something of an historical anachronism to call them feminists, a contention I will expand upon in future) the so-called 2nd wave sparked by Betty Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique” and on into 3rd and 4th wave feminisms. Then, too there are different schools of feminism – equity, gender, radical, etc. However different these feminisms all are, they have in common a view of the human person (anthropology) that departs from the historic or traditional one.

Religious Feminism is feminism carried into the religious sphere. Simple enough. In particular, the term will here refer to the importing of feminist principles into Christianity and the attempt to blend the two belief systems.

Egalitarian is the term preferred by religious feminists who say they are Evangelical Christians, also known as Evangelical Egalitarian. While this term is sometimes used as a courtesy here, the proper generic term, religious feminist, will be the normal use. Egalitarians generally hold that the priesthood of all believers is a controlling belief and often point to Galatians 3:28 as a key verse. They hold that there is no difference in ways authority are exercised in the home and the church and that church office is open to those who claim a gift and a calling, regardless of maleness or femaleness. In addition, Egalitarians hold that all patriarchy is abusive by definition.

Complementarian is the term preferred by neoTraditionalists to describe the form of soft patriarchy to which they hold. Rather than set down a clear definition and practice of authority, Complementarians coined their new term to avoid the negative connotations patriarchy has in the culture at large as well as its abuse. While the Complementarians came together to respond to feminism within Evangelicalism, they view “Egals” as colleagues with whom there are (generally) no first order theological differences. Complementarians believe the husband is the head of the wife means there is a differential in authority between husband and wife and that only men are eligible for the presiding office (pastor), although some Complementarians will hold that women may hold a sort of associate pastoral office as long as they are under the authority of a male senior pastor. Complementarians are deeply divided on the matter of authority in the culture and government, as the recent candidacy of Sarah Palin for VP illustrated. A primary weakness of Complementarianism has been their failure to articulate a theology of sex and authority that stems from creation but yet does not seem to apply in all of creation. (Read more.)


Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Last Days of Jesus: His Life and Times

Let us go forth therefore to him without the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have not here a lasting city, but we seek one that is to come. ~Hebrews 13:13-14
 The Last Days of Jesus by Bill O'Reilly explores the historical background of the life of Jesus, building an authentic portrait of the world He lived in. With genuine respect for his subject, O'Reilly writes of the politics, culture, beliefs and balance of power among the different groups in first century Palestine as if he were reporting from the scene. Written in simple and direct language, the author clearly and succinctly depicts the year by year, day by day journey of Christ to His Cross on Calvary. While showing the forces which plotted His ruin, O'Reilly makes it clear that Jesus Christ was highly aware of what the end of His earthly life held for Him and yet He would not turn back.

The childhood of Jesus is described in light of Scripture, archaeology, and Jewish tradition. The problems faced by Mary and Joseph are brought to life in the context of their culture and the Law. Many Jewish customs and expressions are explained in a manner which can only deepen one's understanding of the Gospels. The book provides many illustrations and charts which enhance the verbal portrait of the most fascinating Man Who ever walked the earth. The author shows the gamut of emotions experienced by the Apostles, who believed in Jesus and yet were continually mystified by His words and  His actions. The Last Days of Jesus emphasizes how the ritual slaughter of the lambs in the Temple was going on while Jesus was dying on the Cross as the Lamb of God

The Last Days presents the economic realities of the Roman system of taxation: the taxes were high and many people were forced into destitution because of them. What is worse is that the Jewish leaders were richer than ever, having figured out how to work the Roman system, and thus they cheated their own people. The author points out what should be obvious: how the love of money was intrinsic in bringing about the death of Our Lord. Judas wanted money; Pilate and the chief priests did not want the flow of money interrupted by anyone, even if He was the Son of God. The priests, of course, saw Jesus as a threat to their power and were determined to get rid of Him. As the author emphasizes at the end, they had no way of knowing beforehand that the Jesus they tried to destroy would conquer in the end.

The Last Days of Jesus would be excellent for youth Bible study groups, and is helpful Lenten reading for adults as well.

(*NOTE: This book was sent to me by the author's representative in exchange for my honest opinion.) Share

The Queen's Toys

From The Guardian:
An exhibition brings together toys and belongings of royal children dating back more than 250 years, as well as previously unseen photographs and film footage. The show, called Royal Childhood, is part the summer opening of the state rooms at Buckingham Palace from 26 July to 28 September. (Read more.)

What Will Happen?

Clyde Wilson on the American political scene. From Chronicles:
Nobody can predict the future, least of all a mere historian. There are often long-term changes under way that nobody notices until they suddenly emerge. And the course of our poor human race through time takes place in the mind of God, Who may disregard the plans and expectations of men. Allowing for such, we can make some projections based upon recent history. I will venture a few predictions. Anybody who likes can remember and call me to account at a later time.

The Democratic presidential nomination will be contested between the minorities, who want to maintain their prominence, and party regulars who want a practical chance to push their agenda, though of course the true nature of the struggle will not be admitted.    How this will turn out is unpredictable. The ideal candidate, who can hope to capture the Obama enthusiasm, will  be a minority woman with Establishment credentials.  Let’s keep in mind always that no matter who is the candidate, the leadership of both parties is owned body and soul by the financiers and the neo-conservatives.

The Republican nomination will be hotly contested because it will be expected that it is the GOP’s turn for the top spot, especially since the Obama bubble has burst for many people. The Republican money men and the professional politicians who serve them while serving themselves almost always pick the candidate. Whether you know it or not, that is exactly what we mean when we say “the party of Lincoln.” If a maverick somehow gets the nomination, he will either be torpedoed like Goldwater or co-opted like Reagan. So we can expect to see a field of Romney-like wannabes, the usual  photogenic and respectable Deep North corporate types, which could include a carpetbag governor of Florida. It will be mildly amusing.

It is true that there is considerable unrest, unfocused and futile, at the Republic grassroots, and that the old appeal of the lesser evil is getting somewhat threadbare.   But doubtless there are still plenty of Republicans out there who still have not figured out that by voting for the lesser evil they are accomplices in turning their country over to evil. And sometimes it is not even the lesser. And there are still the sad types who prattle about restoring a Constitution that ceased to exist long ago.

A maverick candidate, who is wise, brave, and  somehow able to communicate with the people over massive jamming by the  media, could perhaps get a message across about the real dangers to the commonwealth (debt, imperial over-extension, the ongoing  proletarianisation of the middle class, to mention just a few). We can be certain that the two parties will never touch a real issue, which might upset their cozy relations with each other and the media. For such an outsider to succeed would require extraordinary circumstances indeed. However, he might accomplish the wrecking of the Republican party, which would be a great service to the restoration of good government. (Read more.)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Story of Chanel's Tweed

From Elle:
There is nothing quite as iconic as a classic Chanel tweed piece. If you’ve had the honor of wearing one—a jacket, a dress, a skirt—you know that its texture, its weight, and its very aura are the things magic is made of.

Her use of the now legendary fabric was not only inspired by menswear, but by a man—and a Duke no less. After borrowing sportswear from her beau, the Duke of Westminster, Chanel realized the comfortable, supple fabric had a sophisticated quality that would lend itself well to her designs. Beginning in 1924, Chanel enlisted a Scottish factory to produce her iconic tweed fabrics for everything from sportswear to suits and coats. She’d choose colors she was inspired by from the Scottish countryside, bringing back leaves and bits of earth to her manufacturers. (Read more.)

Easy Mayo

A recipe from Meduseld. To quote:
Making mayonnaise from scratch can be daunting.  The oil has to be incorporated very gradually into the eggs or it will separate.  I’ve avoided making it in the past because of the mess it would make with my blender.  Oil and eggs would spray all over the kitchen as I poured oil into the running blender.  What a mess!  It seemed to take more time to clean than to make the mayonnaise!

Recently, I decided I had to commit to making mayonnaise from scratch again.  The list of ingredients on the store brands, not to mention the exorbitant price, was enough to convince me to find a better way to make this delicious treat.  And did I ever find one!    A hand blender!

I have  an inexpensive Hamilton Beach hand blender (in Meduseld’s Amazon store) that I use for making Smokey Pumpkin Soup (recipe for that soon).  Using this nifty tool, you can make your mayonnaise in a wide mouth quart jar that can go straight in the refrigerator.  The only thing to clean is the hand blender attachment. (Read more.)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte as Charity

The daughter of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette is shown sheltering three little children at the time of the Restoration of the monarchy in France in 1814. (Via Vive la Reine.) Share

Vietnam: Dreams and Reality

My dear friend Christine Niles shares her family's harrowing escape from Communism. To quote:
I was too young to remember, but my family tells me the Communists seized everything we had. After some agonizing months, seeing the many souls who fled the city, knowing we had no future there, my father made the difficult decision to leave his homeland, and all that he knew and loved, to begin anew in France. (Read more.)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Mystery of the Dauphin

Portrait of Louis-Charles, Dauphin of France, later known as Louis XVII. (Via Tiny-Librarian.) Recently. some scientists have found a DNA link between the little king and the descendants of the claimant Naundorff. We are discussing it on the Tea at Trianon Forum, HERE. The historical background of the mystery is explored in the novel Madame Royale.
Louis XVII suffering in prison.


Buying a Château

A young couple purchases a crumbing château. To quote:
Since work began, everything started to get a little bit more interesting. Karina regularly updates the château’s official blog and social networking pages with snapshots of the progress, thanks to a building team of six, who are working around the clock to bring this sleeping beauty back to life.

While her husband Craig has returned to Australia to look after the children and continue working (they’re going to need plenty more of those Aussie dollars), Karina has been left in charge. Her fears and triumphs as an ex-pat in a rural French village trying to manage this monumental project are all delightfully unfolding on the blog too.

Château de Gudanes’ hidden treasures are constantly being discovered during the renovation process, with original details and century-old paintwork being uncovered at every turn. Karina constantly finds herself going through the discarded piles of rubble being accumulated on the front lawn, looking for anything to recycle as the house undergoes repairs and reinforcements. (Read more.)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


The successor of Louis XVI and Louis XVII was the former Comte de Provence, whose wiles are told of in my novel Madame Royale. (Via Tiny-Librarian.) Share

The Death of the Greasy Spoon

I love greasy spoons. My hometown of Frederick, MD had several. From SpliceToday:
My favorite meal is breakfast. I’d happily skip the other two meals of the day if it meant a huge brunch around 11 with cheesy scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, shredded hash browns with onion, Scrapple if they have it and an English muffin with orange marmalade. There are only a few places I can get this meal in my local area, and one of them is about to close.

Holly’s Restaurant, located on Route 50 (on the way “down the Ocean” for Marylanders) has been open since 1955. It’s still in the same family. The sign says it’s the “Meeting Place of the Eastern Shore,” and it’s true that on any given day you’ll see politicians, watermen, and local families dining on the fried chicken, meatloaf, ice cream, and other homemade goodies. It’s always been my favorite place to meet a friend for coffee; I usually choose the “Shore Scrambler,” which is a unique chopped-up blend of eggs, sausage, hash browns, onion, mushrooms, tomato, cheese and (for me) skip-the-green-peppers.

I’ll miss it. I cannot blame the family at all for selling to Royal Farms, but it’s very sad. They’ve held down the fort for nearly 60 years, much longer than most businesses could even imagine staying open. My kids loved the placemats that required knowledge of the 50 states; only the first letters were given and no matter how many times we went, we could never think of all the “M” states right away. Sometimes the placemat was a 50 states word scramble, which is exactly what you’d have to do to find all the states during your visit. (Read more.)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Pope's Gift

Here is the lapis lazuli orb Our Holy Father Pope Francis recently presented to the Queen for her great grandson Prince George of Cambridge. Stephanie Mann reports:
Pope Francis wisely featured St. Edward the his gifts to both Queen Elizabeth II and her great grandson Prince George. St. Edward is a shared saint between the Church of England and the Catholic Church--primarily because he was canonized by Pope Alexander in 1161 and his cult extended to the entire Catholic Church by Blessed Pope Innocent XI in 1679 (!) According to the Vatican's report of their meeting, "The Pope . . . presented the Queen with a replica of a decree from the Vatican archives, dating from 1679, by which Pope Innocent XI extended the veneration of St Edward the Confessor to the Universal Church, establishing his feast day on October 9th." (Except that sources I found say his feast day is October 13, since that is the date of the translation of his relics to Westminster Abbey.) It is interesting to think that Blessed Pope Innocent promoted this feast while Catholic priests in England were being executed because of Titus Oates' "Popish Plot". It's also important to remember that Innocent did not approve of Catholic King James II's methods in promoting Catholicism in England--nor of James's closeness with King Louis XIV of France (and probably not of Charles II's, either).
Additionally, St. Edward the Confessor was featured in the other gift Pope Francis presented to the Queen for Prince George, third in the line of succession to the throne:  "It was a blue, lapis lazuli orb, topped with a cross of St Edward the Confessor and around the base a dedication reading ‘Pope Francis to His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge’."
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip faced a greater challenge in giving ceremonial gifts to Pope Francis: what do you give to the man who does not really want anything? In keeping with the informal nature of the visit, they gave him a hamper "stuffed with goodies from her royal estates: honey from the gardens of Buckingham Palace, venison, beef and some best bitter from Windsor Castle, cider, apple juice and a selection of chutneys from Sandringham and some shortbread and whiskey from the Balmoral estate in Scotland." (Read more.)

How to be a Postmodern Conservative

From the Intercollegiate Review:
The modern world has now ended only in the sense that we have now seen enough of it to judge it. Although we have reason to be grateful for the wealth, health, freedom, and power that modern achievements have given us, we know that the individual’s pursuits of security and happiness will remain always pursuits—and not possessions. So even as the modern world continues to develop, we can be free of its characteristic delusion, its utopianism. We can speak of its strengths and its limitations from a perspective “outside” modernity, and that perspective is the foundation of conservatism today.
Conservatives can be (perhaps the only) genuinely postmodern thinkers. The reason we can see beyond the modern world is that its intention to transform human nature has failed. Its project of transforming the human person into the autonomous individual was and remains unrealistic; we can now see the limits of being an individual because we remain more than individuals. The world created by modern individuals to make themselves fully at home turns out to have made human beings less at home than ever. (Read more.)

Monday, April 7, 2014

On the Academic Hostility to Great Literature

From Dr. Anthony Esolen:
When I attended Princeton, it was as Father C. J. McCloskey once described it to me, with a matter-of-fact smile.  It was an evil place.  But stupidity was still far away.  The English department offered only real, solid courses, in genuinely great literature.  And some of them were hugely popular.  Freshman Shakespeare, the course most students took to fulfill their composition requirement (I placed out of that one), was thronged with hundreds of young people who adored the lecturer and actor, Daniel Seltzer.  John Fleming’s Chaucer course had eighty or ninety students in it, many of them not English majors.  Walton Litz’s course in the modernists Eliot, Pound, Frost, and Yeats had to be held in a large auditorium, with the master of ceremonies declaiming great poetry from the stage.  Thomas Roche’s course in Spenser had about 35 students—Spenser!

And now I find that, this spring at Old Nassau, there are only three upper-level English courses with an enrollment of more than twenty.  One is a course in Nabokov (30), cross-listed with Slavic Studies.  One is Shakespeare (66).  The third is a course in junky kid-lit (395).  The department is stocked with people who teach literature as everything under the sun except for literature—gender this and class that.  Even Princetonians seem bright enough to tune it out.  The trash is piling up, and there’s hardly a warm body left to take it to the curb. (Read more.)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Noah (2014): My Thoughts on the Film

He said to Noe: The end of all flesh is come before me, the earth is filled with iniquity through them, and I will destroy them with the earth. ~Genesis 6:13
By faith Noe, having received an answer concerning those things which as yet were not seen, moved with fear, framed the ark for the saving of his house, by which he condemned the world; and was instituted heir of the justice which is by faith. ~Hebrews 11:7
That Noah, with his family is saved by water and wood, as the family of Christ is saved by baptism, as representing the suffering of the cross.
~from St. Augustine, Contra Faustum, Book XII
Yesterday I took my daughter to see Noah. I have been reading about Darren Aronofsky's controversial film for weeks, both good and bad reviews. Nothing, however, prepared me for what a fantastic movie it is, surely one of the best Bible epics ever. I saw nothing gnostic or kabbalistic or even politically correct about it at all. What's more, it is an intensely pro-life film, filled with Catholic symbolism reminiscent of the writings of the Fathers of the Church. It is a work of art inspired by Sacred Scripture; as art it inspires in return, and inevitably points the way back to the Bible. The acting is superb; Russell Crowe gives a powerful performance as does Jennifer Connelly as Noah's wife, Naameh. Anthony Hopkins makes a wonderful Gandalf-like Methuselah. The other roles are nuanced and talented portrayals as well.

My daughter was excited to see Methuselah depicted in a film; she is intrigued by the idea of someone living to be almost a thousand years old. Once the movie started she was riveted; now we are having great conversations about Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden, the Fall, the antediluvian giants and, of course, the Ark. I am surprised I have not heard the film recommended for older children and teenagers because there is so much there to intrigue them and feed their interest in Scripture. Our daughter is familiar with the Old Testament and we have always taken her to art galleries so she was able to appreciate a film which is rich in symbolic imagery. That might not be the case for other youngsters, however, or even for some adults. After Noah we went pray the Stations of the Cross and then to Confession. I must say the film was a helpful meditation for each exercise, for it brought to the eyes of the soul the Four Last Things, with a special emphasis on the Judgment of God.

Noah is a film of Apocalypse. It is about our own time. Even the costumes hint at our era. The world of Noah has grown so evil that he and his family are forced to live an isolated existence in order to preserve their lives. Noah and his family obey the command of God to build the Ark in the darkness of faith. When the deluge comes the Ark is buffeted by the waves and howling winds, amid the cries of the lost. Seeing Noah and his family aboard the Ark reminds me of how Christian families today, clinging to the Church amid the storms of this world, must nevertheless face the darkness within themselves, conflicts and even the devil who lurks in the shadows. To have the wicked Tubalcain as a stowaway on the Ark was a stroke of genius. It reminded me of some of the Greek icons, particularly the Nativity icon, which show the devil hovering in the margins.

The film is supportive of the traditional family, emphasizing the role of the father as protector and head of the family. However, when Noah misunderstands God's command, and thinks he is meant to kill his grandchildren, his wife strongly intervenes. Noah's wife is shown as the mediatrix interceding for her children, a prototype of Our Lady. She intercedes in an earlier scene as well, climbing the mountain to pay a call on Methuselah, Noah's grandfather, who lives as a holy hermit and spiritual guide. Miracles follow her intervention. In Noah's family, marriage has a place of honor and the men in the family want "wives" so they can have families. This scenario is shown in stark contrast to the Cainites who use and abuse women, kidnapping them  and selling them for food. In the doomed world outside of Noah's circle, family life has obviously ceased to exist, leaving chaos and death in its wake.

 Methuselah has the gift of healing, as does the mysterious snakeskin, a relic belonging to the line of Seth. It is reminiscent of the serpent which, much later in the Bible, Moses places on his staff to heal those bitten by the poisonous snakes. (Numbers 21:9) As usually is the case in Scripture, physical healing corresponds with spiritual healing and redemption. Ultimately, the flood waters which destroy will also cleanse and renew the face of the earth.

Noah's temporary decision to kill the infant granddaughters corresponds with the pro-abortion mentality of our time. He has convinced himself it is a good thing for the babies to die. Because humanity is wicked Noah believes even his family must become extinct after they have fulfilled their task of saving the animals. It is an almost utilitarian view which, in the film, Noah is convinced is from the Creator. However, Noah is countered by his wife, and by Seth and Ila, the parents of the babies. Even as later in Genesis an angel prevents Abraham from killing his son Isaac (Genesis 22: 11-15), so Noah is finally stopped by the overwhelming love he feels for the small girls. Thus the future of humanity is saved by love.

One of the most poignant scenes is toward the end when, as the flood waters recede, Noah seeks his wife as she cultivates the earth. He reaches down and clasps her hand in the dirt, harking back to the first man, Adam, who was taken from the earth, and the first woman, Eve. The new parents of humanity lay their hands over the earth as if in blessing, and later the rainbows illumine the sky as the sign of hope. Whether the filmmakers intended it or not, everything points to Noah as the son of Adam and to the wonder and hope which will come in the new Adam, the Christ.

Here is a magnificent article about how Noah's Ark prefigures the Church. Share