Thursday, July 31, 2014

Dark Countess Proved False

As if we didn't already know. People, however, won't believe anything unless it is confirmed by a DNA test. The odd triangular shape of the tomb is supposed to be a masonic symbol, or so I read once. Via Vive la Reine:
The scientific testing on the remains of the mysterious “Dark Countess” has finally been completed. The testing, which including DNA testing, concluded that the woman was not Marie Thérèse Charlotte, the daughter of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, despite persistent rumors to the contrary.

Her real identity is not yet known, although further research may now be done in an attempt to uncover her real identity.

More information about the scientific research done on the remains and a documentary (in German) can be  viewed at MDR. (Read more.)

PTSD in Romania

From Quotidian Wonders:
For the past twenty-three years, Romanians have been suffering of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The fact that it was not recognized as such made it challenging to properly engage with its causes and deal with its symptoms. Described as a medical condition occurring “after a person has experienced or witnessed a traumatic or terrifying event in which serious physical harm occurred or was threatened” (WebMD), in Romania’s case the PTSD was caused by Nicolae Ceausescu’s brutal personal dictatorship. As that took place at national level and made the disorder a social phenomenon, it could be re-labeled in this case as Group Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (GPTSD). Romanians are not, by any means, the first nation to deal with GPTSD, although I am not aware of any other commentators who used a similar term. Postwar Germany and Japan, for instance, dealt with these issues after being defeated in WWII.

Romania’s special case within the former Eastern European communist block as the most violent personal dictatorship has never been formally identified as national trauma by the country’s new political leadership, which was more interested in installing itself in power and perpetuating the tools of oppression through different means than its predecessors. As a consequence, Romanians were not educated about how to understand themselves as victims of abuse and did not engage with that traumatic experience in a healthy way. While they displayed all the symptoms of PTSD, “shock, anger, nervousness, fear, and even guilt” (WebMD), Romanians re-directed that energy and dealt with the trauma as a loss. The history of post-communist Romania is thus an open book for Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief. (Read more.)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Maria Theresa of Spain

From Tiny-Librarian. The Queen and first wife of Louis XIV, Maria Theresa may be the one who said something vaguely similar to "Let them eat cake,"  such as "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche?" but Marie-Antoinette did not say it at all. Maria Teresa, who was very religious and had many charities, would not have said such a thing out of callousness, but rather she might have been suggesting that the poor be given brioches and the pastries and pastry crust from the patisseries. Cake was not even eaten in France at the time. However, there is no solid evidence that Louis XIV's Queen ever made such a remark either.

An Angel in the Sun

Emmet O'Regan on World War I and the Apocalypse. To quote:
In pitting the nations of the world against each other, the true focus of Satan's attack is against the Church itself, by calling faith in an omnibenevolent God into question. A fact which is reflected in the fact that the forces assembled by Satan lay siege to the Church, which is represented by the Heavenly Jerusalem:

And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city...
(Rev 20:9)

The theme of Satan gathering the nations together for war at the end of the world is given earlier in the Apocalypse, which places these events at the Mount of Megiddo (Hebrew Har Megiddo - from which we get the word Armageddon), which should be equated with Mount Carmel - the location of the contest between Elijah and the prophets of Baal for the fate of the land of Israel.

The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, to prepare the way for the kings from the east. And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. (“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”) And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.
(Rev 16:12-16)

The Apocalypse gives a number of signs that mark the beginning of the "little while" given to Satan, upon which he gathers the nations together for war. The above passage cites one sign as the drying up of the river Euphrates, which could possibly be linked to the construction of the Hindiya Barrage (completed in 1913), which required the river Euphrates to be temporarily dammed. Rev 9 mentions two further signs that herald the unbinding of Satan in the abyss towards the end of the age - a star falling down to the earth and the appearance of metal-clad flying "war horses" that look like locusts:

And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit. He opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft. Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth. 
(Rev 9:1-4)

The most famous occurrence of a "star" or meteorite falling to the earth, and the largest impact event in recorded history, is that of the Tunguska Event in 1908 - which just so happened to coincide with the invention of military airplanes. In addition to this, the key to the bottomless pit/abyss/hell/Hades which is given to the angel in Rev 20:1 is equated in Rev 1 with the seven stars held in the right hand of Jesus - which appears to suggest that the opening of the abyss would also be marked by a rare alignment of the seven classical planets - which occurred at the beginning of Advent in December 1899, just months after Pope Leo XIII consecrated the world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus:

In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.
(Revelation 1:16-18)

It seems then that the "angel" who is given the keys of Death and Hades is none other than the figure of the pope himself - which accords with the words of Christ when he conferred St. Peter with the keys to heaven...(Read more.)

The Fundamental Option

Part of the heresy of modernism. To quote:
...The theory holds that mortal sin is not a specific action, but an orientation that lies at the deepest level of freedom within an individual who rejects God. But given the gravity of such a rejection, the theory holds that such an orientation is nearly impossible for those of sound mind. If an individual makes the fundamental option for God, then his actions, no matter how grave, cannot be mortal sins – or damnable offenses – because, at root, the person means well.
Fundamental option’s separation of action from orientation, along with its revision of mortal sin, was roundly condemned by St. John Paul II in paragraphs 65-70 of Veritatis Splendor:
the so-called fundamental option, to the extent that it is distinct from a generic intention and hence one not yet determined in such a way that freedom is obligated, is always brought into play through conscious and free decisions. . . .To separate the fundamental option from concrete kinds of behavior means to contradict the substantial integrity or personal unity of the moral agent in his body and in his soul.
Yet like every heresy before it, fundamental option theory today still has adherents and proponents long after its condemnation. (History shows that the biological solution, rather than the magisterial decree, ultimately puts heresies to bed.) But it is the subject matter of fundamental option that gives it an especially pernicious and sinister color. Fundamental option is, at root, about salvation, and its proponents believe they know better than the Church, when it comes to how we are saved. (Read more.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Marie-Antoinette began each day with a cup of chocolat. From the Metropolitan Museum of Art:
Chocolate was often consumed at breakfast, usually in the privacy of the bedroom or dressing room. Here, a servant is presenting the beverage to a woman in a dressing gown; there are also sweet Savoy biscuits on the table. Chocolate was considered healthy, particularly for the stomach and the voice, and its consumption was permitted even during the fasting days of Lent, provided it was served without milk or eggs. (Read more.)

The Destruction of the Church in Iraq

Who needs to apologize? From Opus Publicum:
Alot of focus has been placed recently on Mark Movesian’s First Things (FT) blog piece on the deplorable situation of Christians in Iraq, “A Line Crossed in the Middle East.” You should go read it; it’s quite good. The article does, however, inadvertently raise the question a friend of mine asked, “What responsibility does FT bear for Iraq?” For those of you too young to remember, during the 1990s and 00s, FT was the main hub for neoconservative Catholicism. The late Fr. John Neuhaus, along with his ideological sentries George Weigel and Michael Novak, beat the war drums leading up to the United States invasion of Iraq in 2003 while trashing those Christians who stood in the way.

While FT has undergone some significant internal shakeups since the death of Neuhaus in 2009, the magazine—which at this point is a minor Catholic institution—has never publicly repented of its support for the Iraq War and, by extension, the misery which followed it.
Soul searching does not come easy for Americans. When we do it, we do it begrudgingly. When political leaders such as our current President, Barack Obama, issues public apologies on the world stage, it is taken by many as a sign of weakness and shame. To own up to a past mistake or bad intellectual bet amounts to a self-inflicted reputational gunshot wound, or so we often fear. While it is understandable—though hardly defensible—that overtly ideological rags such as The National Review, The Weekly Standard, and Commentary aren’t falling over themselves to issue mea culpas for America’s Mid East debacle, shouldn’t we expect better of a Catholic publication? It seems almost self-serving and shallow for FT to run pieces condemning the genocide in Mosul without first coming to grips openly for its support of the military action which made a murderous band of radicals like ISIS possible.

Now, some might say that FT only had a “minor role” to play in the Iraq affair, and to a certain extent they are right. In the grand scheme of things FT is a small-time player compared to mainstream conservative publications. For American Catholics, however, FT was, and still remains, a powerful voice. At the very time when certain Catholic intellectuals in America and Europe were expressing skepticism toward the justness of going to war with Iraq, FT was there to set consciences at ease that invading a country which had not attacked the United States was meet and right. There are more than a few Catholics in “my generation” (I am 34) who will say with a straight face that FT tipped their hearts and minds to backing the American invasion of Iraq. Besides, no matter how one judges “influence,” there is no doubt that FT came out for the war and dedicated column space to defending it. That is sufficient for putting them on the culpability hook.

Others might argue that while the FT of the 1990s and 00s bears responsibility for getting into bed with neoconservatism and supporting the Iraq War, today’s FT is a different story. The editorial leadership has changed and many of the regular contributors were not around back then. Ideologically speaking, FT appears to be more diverse than it ever was. Are the children responsible for the sins of their fathers? Well no, not directly. However, as custodians of a publication which committed itself to a disastrous political position, the current editorial leadership, along with its supporting staff, owe it to the Christians now suffering terribly in Iraq to repent of the publication’s misdeeds. Perhaps no single editor or writer on FT is responsible, but here we are talking about a publication/institution which still carries a lot of heft. Shouldn’t it be easier for the current leadership at FT, as compared to the old guard, to take a hard look at the magazine’s past position on Iraq and publicly distance themselves from it? (Read more.)

Via A Conservative Blog for Peace. Share

Monday, July 28, 2014

Touching His Robe: Reaching Past the Shame and Anger of Abuse

Touching His Robe by Leslie G. Nelson is a must-read for survivors of trauma, particularly the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. Let me first say that this sort of crime has occurred throughout history; it is not endemic to our own corrupt times as many think. I once read from an old manual for parents written by a priest in which the author enjoined mothers to have the greatest vigilance about whom they chose to care for their small children. The priest said that if they knew what he had heard in confessions they would never leave their children at all. The problem is that today, because of the easy availability of pornography on the internet, persons with such a weakness are probably more likely to transgress the laws of God and of nature than in the past, having built an almost incurable obsession. At any rate, we are speaking of a disease from which children must be protected. And, if having failed to protect them, we must be grateful for those like Mrs. Nelson who are able to articulate, through their love for Christ, both the their agony and their pilgrimage to wholeness.

In reading Touching His Robe what struck me the most is the recurring tendency in the victims to struggle with the overwhelming urge to commit suicide. More than anything else, this made me understand the damage done to their psyches as small children, when  not only their bodies but their souls were violated by a person whom they trusted. Part of the mystery of each person is the mystery of their sexuality, and when that mystery is violated, then there is no other mystery but that of death. This became clearer to me more than ever while reading the book.

While the subject is a bitter one, Mrs. Nelson infuses the book with hope which comes directly from her love for her Savior. Touching His Robe is full of the wisdom the author has gleaned from her own experience and from working with other victims. It comes from her life of prayer and her pondering of the Scriptures. There are many practical suggestions and resources offered for those suffering from the trauma perpetrated upon them when they were too young to process it. It shows the support which can come from the ecclesial community when a member of the Body of Christ is enduring torment. What is offered in Mrs. Nelson's book is the best of pastoral and psychological counseling, helpful in its brevity and frankness. Every parish library should have a copy of it. There are no words of praise lavish enough to express the admiration I feel for persons such as Mrs. Nelson who have the courage to speak out about their journey towards healing

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

Mysticism and the Magisterium, Part I

From Fr. Angelo:
I begin this series on Mysticism and Magisterium with the notion of “thinking with the Church” because discernment is so basic to the spiritual life.   For a Catholic, every authentic spirit is characterized by its “ecclesiality,” which means that the Holy Spirit works in and through the Church and always leads to communion with the Church.
In recent years, the sacred magisterium has frequently recommended the sentire cum ecclesia in order to remind us that a true sense of faith implies “a profound agreement of spirit and heart with the Church” (Donum Veritatis  [DV] 35).   One’s personal faith must be the faith of the Church.   It is “never an isolated act” of an individual or even a group within the Church.   In fact, St. John Paul II told religious that by thinking with the Church they become “experts of communion,” and “architects” of God’s plan for unity within the Church (Vita Consecrata [VC] 46).   We are one with Christ because we are of one mind and heart through our communion with the Church.

This ecclesiality runs directly contrary to the modern religious spirit, which is the worship the autonomous personal conscience.   Most often today this radical autonomy takes the form of personal moral relativism, which is a private disregard for what the Church teaches, say, for example, in regard to its condemnation of contraception.   More serious, however, is public dissent from Church teaching, especially by well-known figures, whose scandal harms the unity of the Church in a profound way.

Unfortunately, it is not only the progressives who have adopted this individualistic spirit. Even in the name of Tradition, some today speak of a pre- and post-conciliar Church, thus creating a rupture between the past and the present.   In this way, they submit everything the magisterium has to say to a test that ultimately sets the Church against itself.

Finally, the autonomous personal conscience sometimes lays claim to a false discernment when it sets private revelation and presumed personal graces against the magisterium.   The desire for union with God sometimes leads individuals to attach themselves to extraordinary manifestations of the “spirit,” but in such a way that weakens their attachment to the Church.   Thus, Catholics continue to embrace New Age spirituality, or some dubious private revelation, or a personal insight even though they know that their conviction runs contrary to Church teaching or discipline.

The discernment of spirits is so important today because there are many voices competing for our attention, and it is all so easy to assume that that what we hear, or even what we think and say comes from God.   We need to be careful, especially when we are tempted to think differently than the Church—to disregard or disparage her doctrine or choose a path that sets us at odds with the sacred magisterium. (Read more.)
 Via Terry Nelson. Share

Sunday, July 27, 2014


From Tiny-Librarian:
“Louis-Auguste, please understand one thing. I will never agree to leaving you. If I die, it will be at your feet, the children in my arms. My place is at your side; to escape without you would be cowardice and only playing into the hands of our enemies. Whatever storms assail us, we will face them together.”
Trianon - Elena Maria Vidal


Tolkien on Modernity, Part I

From Mary Victrix:
I would suggest that the meaning of “Death and Immortality” is related to the theme of contempt for the Machine in a fundamental way, and I speculate that this will come out more fully in the recording. Men use the Machine to control death, to quicken it upon their enemies and to delay it for themselves. Both temptations are in the Ring: power and lengthened life. Elves use Magic not to lengthen their own lives but to preserve the earth against their quasi-immortality. So men unnaturally attempt to lengthen their lives in order to cling to the world, and elves unnaturally attempt to lengthen the life of the world so they can longer enjoy it. This was Galadriel’s temptation to take the Ring. It would empower her to save Lothlorien and prevent her from having to leave Middle Earth. (Read more.)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

La Siesta

La Siesta
By Joaquin Sorolla.

La siesta en el jardin

Fertility Is Not a Disease

Young women explain why they choose not to use birth control. To quote:
As Catholics, we should know and understand that any form of contraception, even for “medical purposes” between a sexually active couple is never permitted. ( Ironically, most all of these “pro birth control” articles have been written in response the Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, and most of them address birth control that was never included in the ruling to begin with. Several of us have decided to write a response to these articles, sharing some of the health risks associated with the use of birth control as well as other reasons we opt not to use it. We do not use birth control……
“Because I don’t need anything to control me, I can control myself.”
“Because I like my water without other people’s estrogen in it.”
“Because it perpetuates the objectification of women as worthless sexual objects, constantly at the disposal of men in our commodity driven culture.” (Read more.)

Blaming the Mother

A husband defends his wife and their untidy home. To quote:
I stopped looking at the dirty dishes, assuming that they were evidence of Mel sitting around all day. Instead, I got up myself and started washing the dishes. I realized that this was not her mess, but our mess, and I started pitching in more.
I stopped worrying about the house, and started paying attention to the development of our children. I started to pay attention to how happy they were, and the kind of relationship they shared with their mother, and I noticed that we have a messy house, and really happy, bright kids.
I’m not saying that if you have a clean house, you are doing something wrong. But what I am saying is that I don’t judge my wife for teaching my son how to swim, rather than vacuuming the living room. I don’t judge her for potty training my daughter rather than clearing the table. And I don’t think you should look down on stay-at-home moms with a messy house, because chances are, they are using that time wisely. (Read more.)

Friday, July 25, 2014


Julianne Douglas reviews a new medieval novel. To quote:
For centuries, Christian pilgrims have plied the roads of Europe towards the magnificent cathedral of Saint James the Greater in Compostela, Spain. Streams of nameless pilgrims walked the Way of St. James to plead their intentions, exonerate their guilt, and render homage to the saint at his Spanish resting place. Lucy Pick, a professor of medieval religious thought and practice, has imagined the plight of one such pilgrim, Gebirga of Flanders, in her historical novel PILGRIMAGE (Cuidono Press, July 2014). A fresh and thoughtful read, PILGRIMAGE explores betrayal, friendship, healing, and redemption in a setting hitherto ignored yet vastly important to the fabric of medieval life.

Blindness descends on young Gebirga, the only child of Bertulf and Godeleva of Gistel, after she witnesses an altercation between her parents which results in her mother’s death. Her father establishes a convent in memory of his saintly wife and departs on crusade, leaving Gebirga in the care of his brother at the castle. Raised by her nurse to be independent despite her infirmity, Gebirga learns to navigate her environs with help of her dog and becomes a competent châtelaine. When her father unexpectedly returns to Gistel with a new bride, Gebirga expects to be relegated to the convent. However, a trip to Bruges occasions an unforeseen encounter with Katerinen, sister of the Count of Flanders, and the beginning of a new life for Gebirga as the headstrong girl’s attendant. The political schemes of the great require Katerinen and Gebirga to travel to Spain in the guise of simple pilgrims. The final two thirds of the book trace the details of the women’s journey to Compostela as members of a motley group searching for healing and forgiveness and finding friendship, love, and purpose along the way. (Read more.)

Post-Communist Trauma

From The Freeman:
During an international conference on political theory several of us were sitting in a restaurant in Tallinn, Estonia. Among us was a participant from Bucharest, Romania, a young woman, who listened as some from the West poked fun at the evident inefficiency of the Russians who still have a significant presence in the Baltic countries and who happened to be running this establishment. We noted the drabness of the decor, the ineptness of the help, the slowness of the service, and reminisced about the even worse olden days when the gray-looking Russians who dominated the Communist culture would run roughshod over everyone in sight.

Suddenly we saw our friend from Bucharest in tears. She was apologizing but unable to keep herself from sobbing. We were stunned—we didn’t know what we did to upset her. We all searched our minds for what we might have said but could not come up with a sensible answer. In a while she calmed down a bit and told us.

All of this amusing banter called to our friend’s mind not only what she had been living with for all of her life but what in her country is still largely the case, namely, the complete control of the Soviet-type bureaucracy over the society. She then went on to recount, in halting English and tearfully, how the daily lives of her family and friends had been utterly trapped in the abyss that so many in the West championed as the promising wave of the future. She gave example after example of how people suffered, from moment to moment how every ounce of some modicum of joy and pleasure, never mind genuine happiness, was rendered utterly impossible and inconceivable for them. She noted that people simply lost the will to live, that they could not even smile, not to mention laugh heartily, and how the most minute matters, such as the way in which parents played and talked with their children, suffered from this totalitarian impact.

It is often only when one finds oneself facing the facts directly, inescapably, that one can appreciate their meaning. This is especially true about facts that so many people would just as soon obscure with clever rationalizations.

In the West, especially in American newspapers, academic journals, and college classrooms, the collapse of the Soviet empire is now nearly forgotten. People everywhere are talking about why there isn’t some kind of major economic boom in response to this fall. A Business Week editorial remarked, “Communism has been vanquished in much of the globe, the victim of its own failure to deliver a decent living to its citizens under its rule. Yet capitalism in the industrialized nations is limping along.” It is as if “one, two, three,” and our world will simply put 40 to 70 years of bloody dictatorship and command economy out of mind and bounce back as if nothing had happened. (Read more.)

Cardinal Mercier

From Aleteia:
Post-First World War politics go a long way to understanding the later neglect of Cardinal Mercier. In his time, he was celebrated for his courageous protests against the monstrous crimes and barbarities that the German occupiers visited upon his homeland of Belgium. For many years after the war, though, elite public opinion in the West became very cynical about the claims made about such atrocities, dismissing the so-called “Rape of Belgium” as meaningless propaganda.

Without those bogus atrocities, why should anyone care about Mercier?

The problem was that the wartime claims had a very solid core of truth. Contrary to later attempts at debunking, German behavior in Belgium really had been abominable, and actually looked much like later Nazi savagery. At the height of their invasion in August and September of 1914, German forces slaughtered six thousand civilians in Belgium and northern France, most (falsely) on the suspicion of being snipers or saboteurs. The German army earned worldwide condemnation by sacking the historic Catholic city of Louvain. They torched the library and its collection of rare books and manuscripts, as soldiers carried out random mass shootings.

During their occupation, the Germans treated Belgians as serfs. In 1916, they deported seven hundred thousand civilians to work in their farms and factories, transporting many in cattle trucks. Much like Poland in 1940, Belgium looked like a country destined to be removed from the map. Foreshadowing other later tyrannies, the Germans built a lethal electric fence along the Dutch border, an early prototype of the Berlin Wall. This Wire of Death killed some thousands of Belgians who attempted to escape.

Belgian national survival depended on the heroic Désiré Mercier, Archbishop of Mechelen and (since 1906) a Cardinal. At Christmas 1914, he issued a Pastoral Letter detailing the horrors of the German onslaught and calling for resistance, patriotism, and endurance. Remarkably, given the circumstances, he made no concessions whatever to German censors, no euphemisms or circumlocutions. As the mails were tightly controlled, copies of the letter were circulated by hand, and given to priests to be read in their churches. Many of those priests suffered imprisonment, while Mercier himself was placed under house arrest. (Read more.)


Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Habsburg Emperors

From the Mad Monarchist:
Emperor Frederick III: Known as “Frederick the Peaceful”, Frederick III was the first Hapsburg to be elected Holy Roman Emperor and the last to be crowned by the Pope in the city of Rome in 1452. Known as an aloof, distant sort of man with a tendency to be indecisive, Pope Pius II sardonically said that he wished to “conquer the world while remaining seated”. Still, it seems to have worked for him and some have a tendency to unjustly dismiss Frederick III. He was not so much slow as methodical, not so much unimaginative as cautious, careful, sober and realistic. He negotiated a concordat with the Pope that governed Hapsburg Church-State relations for nearly four hundred years and his patience and determination allowed him to triumph over seemingly insurmountable obstacles. His brother rebelled against him and defeated him at every turn, yet Frederick III persevered and maintained himself on the throne. He failed to defeat the Hungarians, who won numerous victories over his forces, yet he survived and did manage to pull off a real long-term victory over Burgundy, securing an advantageous marriage for his son and the inheritance of that choice piece of real-estate. He died in 1493. (Read more.)

The Pope, Persecution, and Religious Freedom

From The Catholic World Report:

The photo in the June 27th edition of L’Osservatore Romano shows the Holy Father with a layman in suit and tie. Standing to the side are another layman and a cleric who looks like he might be a bishop. None are identified. The tall layman and the Holy Father are seen holding out a basketball jersey on which is the name “St. John’s” along with the number “10”. It turns out that St. John’s University and Roman Libera University were holding a joint conference on religious freedom, and Pope Francis delivered an important, if brief, address to those gathered.

“The debate over religious freedom,” the Pope began, “has become very intense.” He recalled that the basic document for Catholics on this matter is Dignitatis Humanae,on religious liberty from Vatican II. “Every human being,” he said at the start, “is a ‘seeker’ of the truth of his own being and of his own destiny.” Thus, Francis began his reflection, as it were, from within each human person. “In the person’s mind and in the ‘heart’, thoughts and questions arise, which cannot be repressed or smothered, such that they emerge from a person’s intimate essence. They are questions of religion and, in order to fully manifest themselves, require religious freedom.”

Religious freedom thus is not a top-down matter but one that rises out of the facts of human existence seeking meaning. Religious freedom allows such reflections to flourish. As such, even though a chaos of differing and often contradictory views arise, we must have some object standard by which we can judge the validity of the vast differences of views. (Read more.)


Don't give in. To quote:
Psychologists tell us that one of the chief evils of our age, an evil apparently less evident in earlier ages, is that of easy defeat. Be this as it may, most people who are honest with themselves would probably have to admit to indulging in despondency. They are fortunate if they have nothing worse to confess than despondency; there are many who labor under the weight of near-despair. Whether guilty of surrendering to the tempta­tion or whether burdened with a sense of guilt that in fact is without foundation, a man can reduce his spiritual vitality so as virtually to close his soul to the operation of hope. When hope dies, there is very little chance for faith and charity.

It is a commonplace to observe that the saints were not those who never fell, but those who never gave in to their falls. It is less generally understood that the saints felt just the same longing as we do for the excuse to go on falling. The parable of the wheat and the cockle should show us that the saints were not only as divided against themselves interiorly as we are, but that they had to go on struggling all their lives against the de­sire to let the cockle have its way.

A mistake we make is to think of the saints as triumphing over temptation by the felt force of ardent love. Some of them, certainly, experienced this fire, but for the most of them it has been a question of grinding out dry, hard acts of faith and hope through clenched teeth. The saints have had to fight every inch of the way against discouragement, defeatism, and even despair.

How could it be otherwise? No virtue can be productive of good unless it comes up against the evil that is its opposite. Courage is not courage until it has experienced fear: courage is not the absence of fear, but the sublimation of fear. In the same way, perseverance has to be tried by the temptation to give up, by the sense of failure, by an inability to feel the support of grace. The reason Christ fell repeatedly — one tradition would have it that He fell seven times — is at least partly be­cause we fall repeatedly and have need of His example in re­covering from our falls. The difference between His falls and ours is that, whereas His were because of weakness of the body, ours are because of weakness of the will. The likeness between His and ours lies simply in the use that can be made of them. (Read more.)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Childbirth in Regency England

From Historical Hussies:
Once the mother was in labor, the birthing or lying-in rooms were heated and completely shut up to prevent the flow of air. Fear of drafts causing the mother to catch cold created the practice of building up the fire, putting blankets over all the windows and doors, and covering every crevice. Not only would have that been uncomfortable and not allowed for adequate oxygen but it would have been a breeding ground for bacteria so it likely caused the very problem they were trying to prevent.
Many accounts report the mother lying in bed directly on her back, while only a few cite having the mother lie on her side. Apparently, the upper classes were more likely to lie in beds more than the poor who are generally depicted sitting in birthing chairs. This may have been due to the desire to keep the lady more modestly covered but certainly would have made it difficult to push effectively. (Read more.)
And here is an article on breastfeeding in Regency England. To quote:
 Generally, wet nurses were paid to feed the babies of the wealthy. Much thought and care went into their selection, and their milk was examined for texture, color, viscosity, and taste. Some thought that aspects of a wet nurse’s personality could be passed through her milk, and therefore her character had to be impeccable. Cassandra Austen, Jane Austen’s mother, sent all her children to the nearby village of Deane to be nursed in their infancy.  Although Cassandra Austen visited her babies daily, they did not return to the family fold until they were around 18 months of age.

The popularity of wet nurses stemmed from the fact that royalty often wanted large families. Wet nurses were hired to feed the newborn so that the royal mother would soon regain fertility and become pregnant again. When royals stopped breastfeeding their children, other women from wealthy families soon followed suit and began to farm their babies out to wet nurses.  This practiced continued until the end of the 19th century, when it largely died out. (Read more.)

Confederate Attack on Washington, DC

As the war stretched on, lower class white women faced an uphill battle to survive.  The Confederate government stepped up efforts to conscript men, and the absence of male providers coupled with ongoing problems with inflation and shortages, led many women to seek paid employment.  The Confederate government hired seamstresses as “pieceworkers” in Atlanta.  They produced coats, pants, and shirts for $.50 to $1.50 per hand-stitched garment.  However there was never enough work to go around, and Atlanta’s pieceworkers competed with women who took the train into the city daily from nearby communities.  Atlanta’s Confederate Arsenal employed women who earned $.75 to $1.00 per day rolling and sewing cartridge bags.  A growing number of children, ages eleven to fifteen, also entered factory work.  They earned a pittance at the Arsenal, usually $.35 to .55 cents per day.  While family members pooled their resources, prices continued to rise.  By 1864, a bushel of sweet potatoes cost $20 and fabric to make a woman’s dress ran $108.  Not surprisingly, lawlessness became an increasing problem.  Desperate civilians, including women and children, stole vegetables from gardens, chickens from henhouses, food and clothing from local stores.   One frustrated resident wrote a letter to a city newspaper suggesting that high prices injured the cause of Confederate independence as much as did Yankee invaders, “by causing the poorer classes, to a great extent,” to call for “peace upon almost any terms.” - See more at:
I grew up near the Monocacy battlefield. From Smithsonian:
Professional soldiering seems not to have appealed to Jubal Early; he resigned from the U.S. Army in 1838, just one year after graduation from West Point, and went back only briefly in 1846 to do his duty in the Mexican War. He had argued caustically against secession and for the Union until his state seceded, whereupon he became an equally caustic supporter of the Confederacy and a colonel in its army.

It soon became clear that he was that rare commodity, a forceful and courageous leader of men in battle. This had been so at First and Second Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. As his commands increased in size, however, his touch became less sure and his luck more spotty. Yet such was General Lee's confidence that in 1864 Early had been given command of one of the three corps in the Army of Northern Virginia.

And now here he was, on the brink of history, about to quench the boundless thirst for recognition that glittered ceaselessly from his black eyes. Pursuant to Lee's instruction, he had chased one Federal army away from Lynchburg, Virginia, and clear into the West Virginia mountains where it disappeared. He met another near Frederick, Maryland, on the Monocacy River, and swept it aside. On fire with the glory of it all, forgetting his limited objective, Early now rasped out his orders to Maj. Gen. Robert Rodes, commander of the leading division: throw out a skirmish line; move forward into the enemy works; attack the capital of the United States.

Abraham Lincoln himself visited the fort and watched the sinuous dust clouds raised by enemy columns approaching from the northwest. "In his long, yellowish linen coat and unbrushed high hat," an Ohio soldier who had seen him at the fort wrote, "he looked like a care worn farmer in time of peril from drouth and famine." Far away to the south, the relentless Grant had refused to be distracted from his slow strangulation of Lee's army. On the whole, Lincoln approved; he had, after all, tried for three long years to find a general who would devote himself to destroying the enemy armies instead of striking attitudes and defending Washington. But it must have occurred to the President, that afternoon, that maybe Grant had gone too far. (Read more.)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Shakespeare and the Franciscan Order

From Homiletic and Pastoral Review:
Despite Elizabethan persecution of Roman Catholics, the dramatic genius—who, according to Harold Bloom, invented the human personality—gave several pivotal roles to characters from an order that had virtually disappeared from England several generations earlier during Henry VIII’s first dissolution of the monasteries. These characters, while not leading protagonists, were much more than bit parts. Shakespeare took a political risk in overtly portraying them in their traditional garb onstage, where the royal censor, the Master of the Revels, might well have objected, demanded their removal, and even prosecuted the playwright’s company. What reasons, dramaturgical, political, or religious, might have led Shakespeare to take such a risk to his livelihood and person? (Read more.)
(Via Stephanie Mann.) Share

Monday, July 21, 2014

In Defense of Franz Ferdinand

From the Prague Post:
Karl von Habsburg is a grandson of the last Habsburg emperor, Charles I (1916–18), and is the current head of the House of Habsburg. The assassination of Franz Ferdinand, Charles I’s uncle, by a Serb nationalist in Sarajevo 100 years ago triggered World War I. Franz Ferdinand is often depicted inaccurately, Karl von Habsburg told LN.This is also true of his relationship with Emperor Francis Joseph I (1848–1916). It was much better than generally believed, he added.
Franz Ferdinand, successor to the throne, was absolutely loyal to the emperor, Karl von Habsburg said. Nevertheless, he had his own political ideas he wanted to implement at the moment he would have become the emperor, he added. Asked whether Franz Ferdinand would have been able to reform the monarchy, von Habsburg said he was a personality with a very exact idea of the internal state of the monarchy. As he knew both its weak and strong points, he prepared some reform plans, von Habsburg said.

His relations to the Lands of the Bohemian Crown (which roughly correspond to the present-day Czech Republic) was very positive, he added. He was able to recognize the weakness of the dualism (the division of power between Germans and Hungarians in the empire), from which he could derive some conclusions, von Habsburg said.

It is a well-known fact that he wanted to give a better position to the Slavic nations of the monarchy, he said, adding that this was to be a sort of trialism (a federation or union of three states within the empire), Karl von Habsburg told the paper. Franz Ferdinand knew about the problem (of Czechs' position inside the monarchy), and he advocated some change, he added. Eventually, this caused his assassination by a Serb nationalist terrorist because a strengthening of Slavic nations within the Austro-Hungarian monarchy would have weakened Serbia's effort to gain dominance of all Slavic nations, von Habsburg said. (Read more.)

Chinese Hackers

From The New York Times:
Chinese hackers in March broke into the computer networks of the United States government agency that houses the personal information of all federal employees, according to senior American officials. They appeared to be targeting the files on tens of thousands of employees who have applied for top-secret security clearances.

The hackers gained access to some of the databases of the Office of Personnel Management before the federal authorities detected the threat and blocked them from the network, according to the officials. It is not yet clear how far the hackers penetrated the agency’s systems, in which applicants for security clearances list their foreign contacts, previous jobs and personal information like past drug use.
In response to questions about the matter, a senior Department of Homeland Security official confirmed that the attack had occurred but said that “at this time,” neither the personnel agency nor Homeland Security had “identified any loss of personally identifiable information.” The official said an emergency response team was assigned “to assess and mitigate any risks identified.”

One senior American official said that the attack was traced to China, though it was not clear if the hackers were part of the government. Its disclosure comes as a delegation of senior American officials, led by Secretary of State John Kerry, are in Beijing for the annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue, the leading forum for discussion between the United States and China on their commercial relationships and their wary efforts to work together on economic and defense issues. 

Computer intrusions have been a major source of discussion and disagreement between the two countries, and the Chinese can point to evidence, revealed by Edward J. Snowden, that the National Security Agency went deep into the computer systems of Huawei, a major maker of computer network equipment, and ran many programs to intercept the conversations of Chinese leaders and the military.

American officials say the attack on the Office of Personnel Management was notable because while hackers try to breach United States government servers nearly every day, they rarely succeed. One of the last attacks the government acknowledged occurred last year at the Department of Energy. In that case, hackers successfully made off with employee and contractors’ personal data. The agency was forced to reveal the attack because state disclosure laws force entities to report breaches in cases where personally identifiable information is compromised. Government agencies do not have to disclose breaches in which sensitive government secrets, but no personally identifiable information, has been stolen. (Read more.)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

All That Remains

A powerful film about the Catholics of Nagasaki and the nuclear holocaust. To quote:
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
~1 Corinthians 13:13~

“All That Remains”, is a powerful true story of atomic bomb survivor Takashi Nagai, pioneering scientist, Christian convert, and dedicated peace-activist.

Takashi Nagai, a descendent of a Samurai family, a patriot and a pioneering scientist emarks upon a quest for the “ultimate truth” – the meaning to life and death. It is a journey of discovery that will change his life forever. An extraordinary story of persecution, courage, faith and love unfolds as he uncovers the Christian legacy of Nagasaki and meets his own destiny.

Along the journey we meet Paul Miki and the 26 martyrs of Japan and learn how the building of Urakami cathedral – the grandest cathedral in the East came to symbolize the enduring faith of the Nagasaki Christians. Then Takashi meets Midori, the woman who will finally transform a sceptical man of intellect, into a man of the heart.

But on one sunny, August morning in 1945, everything vanishes in a blinding flash of light, and the world is turned into a burning inferno. The second atomic bomb to be used in warfare has just exploded over Nagasaki. Midori is one of the estimated 80,000 souls killed instantly.

Now the scientist is forced to turn to God, as he must become a father and a teacher, not just to his two young children, but to an orphaned nation, sick and debilitated by war.
It is his faith that will guide him back to Atom bombed Nagasaki, and it will be his faith that will him inspire him to help rebuild a city from rubble and ash.

Having been diagnosed with leukemia (a result of prolonged exposure to X-rays), he dedicates the rest of his short life to promoting world peace through his work as a writer. After a battle against censorship, his first book “The Bells Of Nagasaki”, becomes an instant bestseller though out Japan, as a people, defeated and demoralised by war, re-discover through his words, the healing of power of love.

Now confined to his bed and sensing his time is running out, Takashi begins to write his final and most poignant book, “Leaving My Beloved Children Behind”, a serious of letters addressed to his children.

“All That Remains” is an inspiring story of supreme sacrifice and a testament to the strength of faith and the power of love.

We’ve also just launched our All That Remains blog page which will act as a production diary, so we’ll post more in-depth updates, more behind the scenes glimpses etc. The blog will continue to run for the entire length of the production. (Read more.)

Yellowstone Volcano

From Freedom Outpost:
It’s not a case of if Yellowstone erupts, but when. Eventually, the pressure will build and the magma will rise, forcing its way out of the ground. The effects will be felt around the globe in lower temperatures and failed harvests. Some even predict a nuclear style winter from the massive ash fallout that an eruption at Yellowstone would bring. (Read more.)

War and Religion

It is a myth that religion is the number one cause of war. I have found that even wars that claim to be over religious issues are usually motivated primarily by politics and economics. To quote:
Atheists and secular humanists consistently make the claim that religion is the #1 cause of violence and war throughout the history of mankind. One of hatetheism's key cheerleaders, Sam Harris, says in his book The End of Faith that faith and religion are “the most prolific source of violence in our history.”1

While there’s no denying that campaigns such as the Crusades and the Thirty Years’ War foundationally rested on religious ideology, it is simply incorrect to assert that religion has been the primary cause of war. Moreover, although there’s also no disagreement that radical Islam was the spirit behind 9/11, it is a fallacy to say that all faiths contribute equally where religiously-motivated violence and warfare are concerned.

An interesting source of truth on the matter is Philip and Axelrod’s three-volume Encyclopedia of Wars, which chronicles some 1,763 wars that have been waged over the course of human history. Of those wars, the authors categorize 123 as being religious in nature,2 which is an astonishingly low 6.98% of all wars. However, when one subtracts out those waged in the name of Islam (66), the percentage is cut by more than half to 3.23%. (Read more.)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Inns and Alehouses

From History is Now:
Inns and alehouses were and are one of the most important buildings in towns and villages, as they are places to socialize, have a meal, discuss various matters of the day, and - for some people - to get drunk. Two important elements of the inn are food and drink. I am going to be looking at the food and drink that was sold in 17th and 18th century inns and what travellers, who used inns, thought of them. To do this I am going to be looking at travel diaries, notably the diaries of Celia Fiennes, who travelled around England in the 1690s, John Byng, who travelled around England and Wales between 1781 and 1794 and Karl Moritz, who was German, and travelled in 1782. (Read more.)

Cincinnati's Old Main

Here are some photos of a splendid library, now vanished forever. To quote:
Cincinnati, Ohio's current downtown public library branch is grand in its own right as one of the busiest branches in the country. But its predecessor, demolished in the spring of 1955, was nothing short of stunning. Built in 1874, the 'Old Main' library was originally intended to be an opera house, with a towering atrium that instead became home to five tiers of stacked bookshelves. 
I've made many trips to Cincinnati's current main library and though it's a lovely modern building in itself, I never imagined its predecessor was so spectacular. There's no trace of it left where it stood on Main street, so the library's effort to preserve these photos and make them available to the public is especially meaningful to me as a fan of libraries and local history. Maybe it's worth a look into the archives of your own public library to find some images of what used to exist where you live - you may discover something truly wonderful. (More here.)

Family Meals

From For the Family:
The research is shared often: kids who eat family meals together are more likely to do well in school, make healthier choices, feel more connected with their families, sense that their parents are proud of them, and have a more positive outlook on life.

In their book The Hour that Matters Most, Les and Leslie Parrot state:
Study after study shows that the more often families eat together, the less likely the kids are to smoke, drink, do drugs, get depressed, develop eating disorders, become overweight, and consider suicide.
Those are the studies, but here is the reality: eating together as a family is challenging! Between busy schedules, cranky kids, and exhausted families, flipping on the TV or feeding the kids before sitting down as a couple is often easier than establishing a regular time of eating together as a family.

In our home, my husband’s work schedule changes from week to week, and we have a new baby.  As a result, regular mealtimes are a challenge for us!

Even so, we are working hard to establish regular mealtimes together as a family. There are definitely days, though, when I am overwhelmed by the work of preparing or maintaining family meals and I wonder if it’s worth the effort, so I wrote this list detailing why family meals are important, and what I hope our family gains through the effort. (Read more.)
(Via Kirk Cameron.)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Chinese Food Safety Issues

From Food Safety News:
Food safety has always been an issue (in China) due to lack of knowledge about contamination and hygiene standards. Even in Beijing I can count on contracting food poisoning at least once a year, despite all my precautions. The problem is, buying anything here that is processed becomes a roll of the dice.

Most Chinese believe the food safety system is thoroughly corrupt. Although there are protests, in general people say, “Mei ban fa,” or, “Nothing can be done.” This is the traditional Confucian attitude that teaches one to bend like a reed in the wind — never stand against it like a tree.

I do know that almost everyone here believes that government officials have their own private farms to assure that their personal food supply is safe. People also widely believe that the government lies about its results in food testing to avoid panic and protest. (Read more.)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Death of a Family

July 17 is a sad anniversary. To quote author and historian Gareth Russell:
It had been a horrible, violent, lawless death - carried out in secret, without a trial or without justice. It was a fate that was to befall millions of ordinary Russians in the years under Communist rule - a system of government which has still, inexplicably, managed to escape the historical condemnation it so richly deserves. The Soviet Union was a depraved and genocidal regime, which even on its best days bore all the qualities of a sociopath. It was devoid of morality or respect for human life. It was infinitely worse than any regime in Russian history. And although it had technically come to power in October 1917, it was the events in Yekaterinburg on 17th July 1918 that should arguably be seen as the Soviet Union's true birth-date. Everything that defined it and everything that it was prepared to resort to was contained in how it executed the Romanovs. As Trotsky so rightly pointed out, with his chilling disinterest in human suffering - it proved that there was no going back. It defined what was to come. (Read entire post.)

Restaurant Surveillance

From Distractify:
We are a popular restaurant for both locals and tourists alike. Having been in business for many years, we noticed that although the number of customers we serve on a daily basis is almost the same today as it was 10 years ago, the service just seems super slow even though we added more staff and cut back on the menu items...

One of the most common complaints on review sites against us and many restaurants in the area is that the service was slow and/or they needed to wait a bit long for a table.

We decided to hire a firm to help us solve this mystery, and naturally the first thing they blamed it on was that the employees need more training and that maybe the kitchen staff is just not up to the task of serving that many customers.

Like most restaurants in NYC we have a surveillance system, and unlike today where it's a digital system, 10 years ago we still used special high capacity tapes to record all activity. At any given time we had 4 special Sony systems recording multiple cameras. We would store the footage for 90 days just in case we needed it for something.

The firm we hired suggested we locate some of the older tapes and analyze how the staff behaved 10 years ago versus how they behave now. We went down to our storage room but we couldn't find any tapes at all.

We did find the recording devices, and luckily for us, each device has 1 tape in it that we simply never removed when we upgraded to the new digital system!

The date stamp on the old footage was Thursday July 1, 2004. The restaurant was very busy that day. We loaded up the footage on a large monitor, and next to it on a separate monitor loaded up the footage of Thursday July 3 2014, with roughly the same amount of customers as ten years before.
(Read more.)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

French Gowns

Several favorites from Tiny-Librarian. Share

The Old Metropolitan Opera House

From Untapped Cities:
In April 1966, the last month of opera performances, New Yorkers affiliated with the opera house were still making attempts to save it. Ten days before what would be the last performance, a group of composers, actors, and musicians made a final effort to save the opera house. They planned to raise $8 million dollars to buy the opera house from the Metropolitan Opera Association but the association countered saying they would make almost double that amount of money if they leased it to a development firm. During the last opera performance, on April 16,1966, the conductor, Leopold Stokoski made a final and simple plea from the podium: “I beg you to save this magnificent house.” (Read more.)

How Juan Carlos Saved Spain

Too bad the king could not keep the socialists from destroying the economy. From George Weigel:
Nixon, it seems, was concerned about what would happen in Spain when Franco, dictator since the late 1930s, left the scene. So he sent General Walters, an accomplished linguist who served several presidents in back-channel diplomacy, to see Franco. The dictator received him and after the initial pleasantries, Franco said, “Your president wishes to know what will happen to Spain after my death. I will tell you. Spain will become a democracy, for three reasons. I restored the monarchy. I created the Spanish middle class. And I saved the honor of the Spanish army. Tell that to President Nixon.”

Francisco Franco remains one of the most controversial figures of the 20th century. To some on the romantic Catholic right, Franco is the last crusader, the knight who successfully resisted the attempt by aggressive secularists and Stalinists to turn Spain into an Iberian imitation of the Soviet Union. To the North Atlantic left, Franco is a demonic figure who ruthlessly crushed the Spanish Republic and created a fascist regime that long outlasted its cousins in Germany and Italy. Those who understand that the Spanish Republicans perpetrated one of the most brutal persecutions of the Catholic Church in history must wrestle with the hard facts of Franco’s political repression in forming a judgment on his legacy. Those who deplore that repression would do well to acknowledge the savagery visited upon Spanish priests, nuns, and faithful laity, in making their judgment on Franco, his Nationalists, and their fight against the Spanish Republicans.

However those arguments are resolved, though, the interim verdict of history in the early 21st century has to be that Francisco Franco told Vernon Walters, not what he thought the American president wanted to hear, but the truth about Spain’s post-Franco future. Spain became a democracy under a constitutional monarch, Juan Carlos. And when the fragile Spanish democracy was threatened by unhappy military officers in 1981, it was King Juan Carlos who held things together, persuading the officers that the honorable thing to do was to support the new Spanish democratic order.

I’ve often thought that, if the Norwegian Nobel Committee had any sense, it would long ago have awarded Juan Carlos its Peace Prize. But like F.W. de Klerk in South Africa, Juan Carlos seems fated to be one of the unsung heroes of the democratic transitions of the late 20th century.

The Spanish Civil War was one of the most awful spectacles in a century replete with awfulness. Memories of depredation were long and wounds were deep -- not least in the national psyche. And Spain, which was only cobbled together in something like its present form in the late 15th century, is naturally fractious. It’s hard to image who, or what, could have held Spain together in the late 1970s (while Portugal was flirting with communism) if it were not for Juan Carlos and the Spanish monarchy.

To revisit this is not to suggest that Juan Carlos was a saintly monarch in the Camelot mold; he wasn’t. It is simply to note that, in difficult democratic transitions (and they’re all difficult in some degree), national identity and unity must be embodied in someone or something. In the case of Spain’s democratic transition, that someone was Juan Carlos and that something was the Spanish monarchy. (Read more.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Actor

I cannot recommend highly enough Daniel McInerny's new play entitled The Actor. The drama explores the youthful acting career of Karol Wojtyla, known as "Lolek" to his friends, and known to history as St. John Paul II. Faced by Nazi oppression, Lolek and his companions begin an underground theater in which to perform Polish plays, in an effort to keep their country's culture alive. One sees the love of words, art, and spectacle that would come to characterize the apocalyptic worldwide ministry of the future pontiff. The play also shows how the arts can be a path for achieving a dynamic sanctity. It is through his growth as an actor that Lolek comes to self-knowledge and eventually finds his overwhelming call to the priesthood.

Written with humor, insight and wit, the dialog demonstrates the dilemma of young, devout Catholics who love their country as well as literature but who are kept down by a hostile, anti-Catholic power. In spite of, and perhaps even because of, the persecution of their people, they continue to work to bring beauty, faith and meaning to their lives. They arrive at insights and inspirations which they might never have had otherwise. God can raise up saints and artists in the darkest of times. As for the character of Lolek, a glimpse is given into the soul of the enthusiastic young man who would not let Nazis or Communists stand in his way. While I could see the drama unfold clearly in my mind while reading it, I hope to see it performed on stage someday soon; it deserves to become apart of the repertory of many a theater group. Share

Ven. Prosper Guéranger and the Refounding of Solesmes

Abbot Guéranger's fifteen volume work The Liturgical Year has done a great deal for my spiritual formation and appreciation of the sacred liturgy. From Crisis:
Solesmes became a great center of renewal for the entire Church and its refounding brought forward a larger than life figure, who would oversee this renewal. Guéranger (1805-1875), originally a diocesan priest, literally saw a local, beloved church in crumbles, a medieval abbey, whose remnants were meant for demolition, and felt a call to restore not only that building, but also to begin a new way of life as a monastic. His response, reminiscent of St. Francis, entailed not only a restoration of one particular building, but a propping up of the Church itself.

The crumbles that Guéranger noted were of the Abbey of Solesmes, noted for its medieval statuary. This was only one small piece of the general destruction of the Church wrought by the French Revolution and Napoleon. The Corsican tyrant had seen to the nearly complete extermination of monasticism from Europe, deeming contemplatives useless to society. As Guéranger was ordained a priest in the early nineteenth  century, the Benedictines were on the verge of extinction in France. He would oversee a return of monasticism not only to France, but also to Europe more generally.

It is frankly hard to underestimate the influence of Guéranger on the Church as a whole in the nineteenth century and beyond. Besides resurrecting the Benedictines, he battled the remnants of Gallicanism and Jansenism, initiated the liturgical movement, paved the way for the declaration of the Immaculate Conception and Papal Infallibility, and instructed generations of Catholics through his monumental, The Liturgical Year.

“Prayer is man’s richest boon,” begins Guéranger’s The Liturgical Year, a work for which he is probably best known. This work is testimony to Guéranger’s lifelong study and devotion to the Roman liturgy. It is hard to believe that when Guéranger was first ordained he had to receive special permission to say the Mass of the Roman rite, instead of the widespread Gallican rite of France. Guéranger would champion the Roman rite with great success in his homeland, but also proposed it as the center of spirituality for lay Catholics. The Liturgical Year provides a daily guide for Catholics to pray and meditate on the prayers of the Mass and breviary and to enter more deeply into the liturgical seasons.

Solesmes would also become the center of the renewal of Gregorian chant. Guéranger related that “the great impressions of the soul were meant to be sung,” and that “Christians … cannot be content to recite things; they must sing them” (quoted in Solesmes and Dom Guéranger, 95). In order to assist the Church in this end of praising God in song, Guéranger began another great work of rebuilding, dedicating Solesmes to the restoration of Gregorian chant. This was no easy task, as the ancient melodies and methodology had grown corrupt, to the point that Guéranger remarked that “authentic chant was ‘forgotten, mutilated, changed, altered’” (ibid., 104). To overcome this problem, the abbot turned to medieval manuscripts, and, with the aid of his monks, set about a great program of restoration. This project would reach a pivotal moment when Pope Pius X entrusted Abbot Joseph Pottier, a protégé of Guéranger, with the restoration of Gregorian chant for the entire Church, which produced the Vatican Edition of the Graduale Romanum.

Like the restoration of chant, Solesmes was also influential in collecting and promoting the works of the Church Fathers. Guéranger sent one of his monks, Dom Jean Baptiste François Pitra, on missions across Europe seeking manuscripts. Pitra collaborated with Migne in his monumental Patrologia series. Pitra was also known for his work in archeology and the Eastern Church, spending seven months in Russia and overseeing new liturgical books for Eastern rites. Pius IX named Pitra a Cardinal and appointed him librarian of the Vatican Library, confirming the universal importance of the work of Solesmes. (Read more.)