Wednesday, November 30, 2016


A place I loved to go when I was young. From Southern Lady:
On the banks of the Potomac River, historic Georgetown withstands the test of time, preserving its distinguished past while evolving into a bustling commercial district. Less than 10 miles from our country’s political epicenter, this signature American city invites travelers to venture away from the frenzy of Capitol Hill, and stroll along its tree-lined avenues and cobblestone streets. While rooted in a historic background, Georgetown has transformed into a thriving focal point of contemporary culture.

In 1751, The Maryland Assembly established this port city as the namesake of King George II, and it served as an essential shipping hub during the American Revolution. The newly formed United States of America incorporated Georgetown in 1789, and the metropolis flourished as a center of commerce with the construction of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal in 1825, which created a vital trade route to the Ohio River in Pennsylvania.

Today, Georgetown infuses its polished style with a modern edge that appeals to locals and visitors alike. Contemporary art galleries display eye-catching pieces, and antiques shops offer a plethora of vintage décor. The city’s infectious energy hums on M Street, the main avenue running through the heart of town, where row houses-turned-retail boutiques and trendy restaurants buzz with innovation and activity. Lines at hip bakeries snake around street corners, and shop windows showcase the season’s du jour fashions. (Read more.)

The Implosion of the American Left

From The Washington Post:
Hey Democrats, want help to rally the country around Donald Trump? Here’s a great idea: Have a crowd of wealthy, out-of-touch Manhattan liberals (who can afford $849 tickets to “Hamilton”) boo Vice President-elect Mike Pence while the cast of the Broadway show lectures him on diversity.

The Democratic Party’s alienation from the rest of America was on full display at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Friday night. And the left seems completely oblivious to how ridiculous it looks to the rest of the United States. Professors at Yale and Columbia universities and other elite schools postpone exams and cancel classes for students who could not deal with the election results. Kids in Washington schools cut class with tacit approval from administrators to march in protest of the results of a free and fair election. School officials in Montgomery County offer grief counselors to “help students process any concerns or feelings they have about the election.” (Funny, I don’t recall anyone canceling exams or offering my kids grief counselors when Barack Obama was elected).

People in the American heartland see all this, and they shake their heads in disgust. Today’s Democrats have become a party of coastal elites completely disconnected from the rest of America. Doubt it? Take a look at a county-by-county map of the 2016 presidential election. You can drive some 3,000 miles across the entire continental United States — from sea to shining sea — without driving through a single county that voted for Hillary Clinton. (Read more.)

Of an Insane Swede and Elizabeth I

From English Historical Fiction Authors:
One of Elizabeth’s suitors was Swedish. As per the prevalent opinion, he was a dashing young man, beautiful enough to turn heads on the street. Erik Vasa, Prince of Sweden, not only had legs to die for, but he was well-educated and the heir to the Swedish throne – in itself a new-fangled concept, seeing as up to Erik’s father taking the throne, Swedish kings had always been elected. Erik also suffered from moments of borderline insanity – not something that would have been shared with a future bride.

Erik and Elizabeth had a lot in common; both born in 1533, both of them redheads and members of relatively young royal dynasties, both of them bright and vivacious… the list is quite long. They also had very forceful fathers, but by the time Erik proposed to Elizabeth, hers was long dead while Erik’s father, Gustav Vasa, was very much alive, and not at all in favour of an alliance with England.

Gustav Vasa is an enigmatic character whom people love to hate and hate to love. Brave and principled, ruthless and avaricious, he shares a number of traits with Henry Tudor, foremost among them the fact that he won his crown by conquest, not by undisputed blood-right. After having escaped with his life from the horrors of the Stockholm bloodbath, Gustav Vasa was essentially the only remaining Swedish noble capable of challenging the Danish king (who had annexed Sweden in a most brutal fashion), and challenge him he did, until that propitious day in June of 1523 when Gustav rode into Stockholm to the loud acclaim of the people, there to claim his throne. (Read more.)

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Down in the Pecan Grove

From Southern Lady:
As fall begins to settle over the family farm, it brings along with it previews of crisp air and signature colors at the start of pecan season. Turn this annual time into a true harvest celebration. Young ones especially will enjoy collecting the fallen treasures into baskets and crates, and at day’s end, all can give thanks over a delicious meal centered on the grove’s rewards. Farmhouse polish is the idea behind this easygoing setting that blends earthy pottery, bold floral linens, and sweet vintage details. Underscore the country-side atmosphere with a simple bouquet that feels as if it were plucked from field and garden. Certainly pecans become part of the scene, scattered about the table and piled into hurricanes holding tapers. And they shine in every course from salad to dessert, where instead of peanut butter, pecan butter forms the base of a chess pie made all the more decadent with a scoop of butter pecan ice cream. (Read more.)

Why Christians Voted for Trump

From LifeSite:
The attacks on Christians from the highest levels of government have been relentless now for nearly a decade. Obama wants to force Christian churches and schools to accept the most radical and most recent version of gender ideology, and he is willing to issue executive decrees on the issue to force the less enlightened to get in line. Christian concerns are dismissed out of hand as “transphobia.”

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton informed one audience that Christians would have to change their beliefs on some issues. And now Christians are having conversations around the dinner table about what do if the government forces curricula on them that they cannot accept, because their own government is increasingly indicating that Christian parents are too homophobic and too hateful to teach their own children. Can you understand how terrified mothers and fathers are at the prospect that those in power want to actively prevent them from passing their beliefs on to their own children? (Read more.)

The Banbury Case

From English Historical Fiction Authors:
When I first encountered Lord Edward Vaux and his fiancée, Lady Elizabeth Howard while researching the Gunpowder Treason, I entertained a suspicion they may have inspired Vaux’s friend Will Shakespeare’s ill-fated adolescent lovers Romeo and Juliet, but I never cast young Elizabeth as the adulterous Countess of Banbury. She was not a child of  lesser members of the Howard dynasty. Her birthright put her closer to the center of the circle of  nobility than either of the Tudor consorts who were Howards-- namely, poor silly Catherine Howard and bold, arrogant Anne Boleyn. Lady Elizabeth Howard, the Juliet in our story, was a granddaughter of the executed Duke of Norfolk, who had been England's highest ranking peer. Her father was Thomas Howard, Earl of Suffolk. Her mother Catherine was Suffolk's second wife, the first ranked lady in waiting to the  Queen. (Read more.)

Monday, November 28, 2016

Pickling and Preserving

From Southern Lady:
When South Carolina native Martha McMillin thinks back on childhood trips to the grocery, she recalls how often her mother lamented that food just wasn’t what it used to be. Shopping as an adult, Martha came to the same conclusion, and for years, she bounced around the idea of leaving her law career behind to start a business in the food industry. She dreamed of sharing the delectable flavor of produce canned and preserved at the peak of its season and preparing food the way she’d seen her mom and aunts do, with the love, care, and methods used for generations.(Read more.)

The End of Identity Liberalism

From The New York Times:
The media’s newfound, almost anthropological, interest in the angry white male reveals as much about the state of our liberalism as it does about this much maligned, and previously ignored, figure. A convenient liberal interpretation of the recent presidential election would have it that Mr. Trump won in large part because he managed to transform economic disadvantage into racial rage — the “whitelash” thesis. This is convenient because it sanctions a conviction of moral superiority and allows liberals to ignore what those voters said were their overriding concerns. It also encourages the fantasy that the Republican right is doomed to demographic extinction in the long run — which means liberals have only to wait for the country to fall into their laps. The surprisingly high percentage of the Latino vote that went to Mr. Trump should remind us that the longer ethnic groups are here in this country, the more politically diverse they become.

Finally, the whitelash thesis is convenient because it absolves liberals of not recognizing how their own obsession with diversity has encouraged white, rural, religious Americans to think of themselves as a disadvantaged group whose identity is being threatened or ignored. Such people are not actually reacting against the reality of our diverse America (they tend, after all, to live in homogeneous areas of the country). But they are reacting against the omnipresent rhetoric of identity, which is what they mean by “political correctness.” Liberals should bear in mind that the first identity movement in American politics was the Ku Klux Klan, which still exists. Those who play the identity game should be prepared to lose it.

We need a post-identity liberalism, and it should draw from the past successes of pre-identity liberalism. Such a liberalism would concentrate on widening its base by appealing to Americans as Americans and emphasizing the issues that affect a vast majority of them. It would speak to the nation as a nation of citizens who are in this together and must help one another. As for narrower issues that are highly charged symbolically and can drive potential allies away, especially those touching on sexuality and religion, such a liberalism would work quietly, sensitively and with a proper sense of scale. (To paraphrase Bernie Sanders, America is sick and tired of hearing about liberals’ damn bathrooms.)

Teachers committed to such a liberalism would refocus attention on their main political responsibility in a democracy: to form committed citizens aware of their system of government and the major forces and events in our history. A post-identity liberalism would also emphasize that democracy is not only about rights; it also confers duties on its citizens, such as the duties to keep informed and vote. A post-identity liberal press would begin educating itself about parts of the country that have been ignored, and about what matters there, especially religion. And it would take seriously its responsibility to educate Americans about the major forces shaping world politics, especially their historical dimension. (Read more.)


A novel from Marie-Antoinette's library. From Anna Gibson:
The novel tells the story of Evelina, the legitimate but unacknowledged daughter of an English aristocrat who has been raised in seclusion until her 17th birthday because of her father's refusal to acknowledge her. Evelina travels to London but finds herself the source of ridicule when she makes amusing but thoroughly embarrassing social mistakes in front of her peers. As she struggles to come into her own while facing the trials and tribulations of London society, she meets a serious of both new and familiar faces who may help or hinder her on her way to a happy life.

The book was originally published anonymously by Burney due to the potential for backlash if she openly acknowledged her authorship. Burney went to great lengths to keep her authorship a secret from the general public, even going so far as to use fake identities and having her brother go in disguise to sign the publishing contract. It was a "private secret" among Burney's circle that she had written Evelina, but it was not until George Huddesford named her as the author in a footnote of a single line in his work 'Warley, a Satire' ("Or gain approbation from dear little Burney*? [* The Authoress of Evelina.]") that her name was publicly connected with the book. Whether Huddesford knowingly revealed the secret out of malice or simply breached etiquette without realizing it, Burney was not pleased--she referred to his work as a "vile poem" in a letter.
(Read more.)

Sunday, November 27, 2016


 The winter residence of the President-Elect was built by Marjorie Merriweather Post. The pictures are old but interesting. From Veranda:
In 1973, cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post donated her 128-room Palm Beach mansion to the U.S. government to be used as the winter White House. And if the house's current owner Donald Trump wins the presidency in November, that's exactly what it will become. Here, T&C takes a look at the history of the property. Post was one of the world's richest women when she finished building Mar-a-Lago in 1927 at a cost of $7 million.

American architect Marion Sims Wyeth designed it (he also built the Florida governor's mansion in Tallahassee). The house is on 17 acres that border the Atlantic Ocean on one side and Florida's Intracoastal Waterway on the other. Post willed it to the American government upon her death for use as the winter White House. But in 1980, the government returned the house to Post's daughters because of the $1 million in annual maintenance costs. (Read more.)


Bullying and Suicide

Schools have long been places of torment for sensitive young people but now they are fatal. From Lifezette:
And most recently last week, 11-year-old Bethany Thompson of Cable, Ohio, shot herself after she endured relentless bullying for her appearance from boys who attended school with her at Triad Middle School. A battle with a brain tumor when she was three years old had left her smile “crooked,” and this small detail gave the boys an excuse to insult and abuse her ruthlessly. She worked with a school counselor to offset the onslaught of cruelty, and even participated in an anti-bullying campaign with the school. But the harassment never let up, and finally she told her best friend she just couldn’t take it anymore. (Read more.)

Excommunication According to the Holy Rule of St. Benedict

From Vulus Christi:
Dante helps us to understand that for Saint Benedict and his monks, community life means salvation. To be separated, even for a time from community life, is strong medicine. In too great a dose it can be deadly. The monk who is cut off, even for a limited time and to a degree, from the life of the community understands that if he persists in his contumacy, or pride, or disobedience, he will find himself frozen in isolation. When a small child is given the punishment of “time out”, it is not long before he begs to be reintegrated into the family circle. To “excommunicate” a child momentarily from the family circle can be salutary; to alienate him for too long from the family circle can harm him irreparably. This is why Saint Benedict would have the measure of excommunication be left to the judgment of the Abbot.

Given post–modern man’s descent into isolation, excommunication may not  be a suitable remedy in all cases. The model of our life remains the κοινωνία of the Most Holy Trinity depicted in Roublev’s icon of the Holy Trinity: there we see unity in love expressed in a shared life, in humility, obedience, and mutual reverence. Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est. Where charity and love are, God does there abide. (Read more.)

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Jackie Kennedy's Childhood Home

An old article from when the house was for sale, but still worth seeing. From Veranda:
Kennedy's grandfather, John Vernou Bouvier, Jr., owned the property — whose name comes from a Native American word for "Place of Peace" — in the 1920s. Before Krakoff and his wife, interior designer Delphine Krakoff, purchased the estate for $25 million in 2007, it hadn't been renovated in decades. The couple is reportedly selling because they're spending more time at their Connecticut estate, which they purchased from the estate of Huguette Clark for $14.3 million. Scroll down for a look around the property. (Read more.)

Who Is Your Real Enemy?

Anxieties and fears also cause us to be distracted. The Devil causes us to fixate on fears about passing things while neglecting to have a proper fear of the judgment that awaits us. Jesus says, Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Matt 10:28). In other words, we should have a holy reverence and fear directed towards the Lord. If we do this, many of our other fears will be put into better perspective or will go away altogether. In this matter of fear, the Devil says just the opposite: we should fear the myriad things that might afflict us in this passing world and not think at all about the most significant thing that awaits us—our judgment. At the heart of all diversion is the fact that the Devil wants us to focus on lesser things so that we avoid focusing on greater things, such as making moral decisions and attending to the proper overall direction of our life. (Read more.)

The Authorship of "A Visit from St. Nicholas"

From Reid's Reader: 
I must admit I had never heard of any controversy surrounding the authorship of The Night Before Christmas (also known as A Visit from St. Nicholas) until I bumped into Professor Emeritus MacDonald P. Jackson at a book launch some months ago. I remember Mac as one of my lecturers in English at the University of Auckland forty-odd years ago. He was the man who trained us in Bibliography and got us to fold bits of paper so that we would know the difference between a folio and a quarto and a duodecimo. He now has an international reputation as a leading scholar in providing correct attributions for the authorship of Elizabethan and Jacobean plays and in working out how and by whom such plays were printed. It’s a matter of extremely close textual analysis, including statistical tabulations of the linguistic preferences of authors and of the typographical habits of printers. (Look up on this blog my fleeting reference to Mac in the review of James Shapiro’s ContestedWill.)
Now, Mac informed me, he had written a book on the Night Before Christmas problem.
I admitted my ignorance. Like most people I can quote the first two lines of this popular American poem (“ ‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, / Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.”) and I know the names of at least some of the reindeer drawing Santa’s sleigh (Dasher, Dancer, Comet, Vixen etc.) although apparently Donner and Blitzen were originally called something else. I also had a vague idea that this was the poem that set the template for popular depictions of Santa Claus  - the jolly chap in the sleigh coming down the chimney to distribute presents. But there my knowledge ended. Maybe it’s because recitations and readings of the poem at Christmastime tend to be more an American tradition than a New Zealand one.
So Mac sent me a copy of his book and this is how it goes. Apparently the 56 lines of anapaestic rhyming couplets first appeared in an obscure New York newspaper the Troy Sentinel in 1823. (Thinking of it as poem from the Victorian era, I was surprised at how early it appeared). It was printed anonymously under the title Account of a Visit From St. Nicholas. No pre-publication manuscript of the poem survives. Only 14 years later, in 1837, was the poem attributed to the New York Professor (of Greek and Oriental Literature) Clement Clarke Moore, who allowed it to appear in his collected poems a few years later. Some circumstances did seem to attach it to Moore and the poem has continued to be attributed to him. There is even a popular legend about how he wrote it. But the descendants of another minor poet, Henry Livingston, have always claimed that the poem was really Livingston’s. Be it noted that Livingston died in 1828, before the poem was attributed to Moore (who died in 1863) and before Livingston could contest its appearance in Moore’s collected poems. (Read more.)

Friday, November 25, 2016

Miniature on Ivory

Marie-Antoinette in 1785. Share

Black Friday

"This is a stunningly lovely book, the perfect thing to get lost in for an afternoon." ~from the San Francisco Book Review (starred review)

"...Historical fiction at its best" ~D.Donovan, eBook Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

"The Paradise Tree does what good novels should. It tells us a story, it shows us what it means to be human—replete with the triumphs, sadness, and conflicts entailed in being human—while whisking us away to another world that is not our own. For 232 pages we are extracted from our lives and into the lives of the O’Connor family. We root for them. We feel their hardships. We feel their connection and disconnection as a family while we are shown a distant time and place, filled with potentially unfamiliar folkways. In the end we are pleasantly reminded that the O’Connors’ story is just as much ours as we traverse the familiar territory of faith, family, and love, and how we still find ourselves dancing in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds." ~ The Portland Book Review

Purchase The Paradise Tree HERE

Trianon: A Novel of Royal France
"A master of storytelling, the author makes you laugh and cry, right along with the characters. A true masterpiece, I rank this book along with the great Classics." ~Wilsonville Public Library Blog

"Through the tragedy and the violence, the genocide and the thousand petty cruelties, Trianon remains, resolutely, a novel of hope." ~Gareth Russell, author of Popular and The Emperors

"It's very refreshing to see fiction that strays away from the popular view of Marie Antoinette. Vidal has done extensive research on the royal family and it truly shows." ~Anna Gibson at Reading Treasure

Purchase Trianon HERE.

Madame Royale: A Novel

"An unforgettable portrait of a royal life... Madame Royale is a fantastic tribute to one of Europe's most tragic, but courageous princesses." ~Gareth Russell, author of Popular and The Emperors

"Vidal gives us a gripping portrait of a woman whose personal destiny is enmeshed with the convulsions of the French Revolution and European history." ~Catherine Delors, author of For the King and Mistress of the Revolution

Purchase Madame Royale HERE.

The Night's Dark Shade: A Novel of the Cathars

"From the first page, Vidal draws the reader into a vibrant world of action and emotion. Raphaelle de Miramande is an engaging young heroine, bravely facing physical and moral dangers and dilemmas in search of truth and love. Vidal's novel captures the spirit of the Middle Ages." ~Stephanie A. Mann, author of Supremacy and Survival

"A harrowing and engrossing journey." ~Catherine Delors, author of Mistress of the Revolution and For the King

"The novel illustrates how easily and insidiously the abhorrent becomes desirable, the selfish honorable when individuals seek nothing beyond the fulfillment of their own desires, a message perhaps even more relevant today than it was centuries ago." ~Julianne Douglas, Writing the Renaissance 

Purchase The Night's Dark Shade HERE

Marie-Antoinette, Daughter of the Caesars: Her Life, Her Times, Her Legacy

Here is a quote from a letter I received from a reader in Belgium: "I immediately began to read, and I really love your style. I love the way you tell us stories about Marie Antoinette and how you put yourself in these stories. This way of writing deeply touch me because it is very personal and it's like...comfortably sitting by the fire and listening." Marie-Antoinette, Daughter of the Caesars is available internationally from


Heavenly Outlook

From Daniel Mitsui:
Opinions about art are diverse, strongly held and contradictive. Facing such conflict, many hoist a flag of surrender and say that art is just a matter of personal taste. Some even fly that flag triumphantly. They heatedly argue that art is not a thing worth arguing; they insist that nothing about art is objectively true except its objective lack of objective truthfulness.

This idea is not entirely new; de gustibus non est disputandum has been uttered for centuries, although I suspect that it has only recently been understood in an absolute sense. I see an error at the start of this line of reasoning: the assumption that in order for a thing to be real (and not just a product of the mind), it must be quantifiable. This is the perhaps the most popular error of modern thinking. At the end of this line of reasoning is a colorless, mechanical view of reality. The Catholic philosopher and physicist Wolfgang Smith described it well:

We are told that [the physical universe] consists of space, time and matter, or of space-time and energy, or perhaps of something else still more abstruse and even less imaginable; but in any case we are told in unequivocal terms what it excludes: as all of us have learnt, the physical universe is said to exclude just about everything which from the ordinary human point of view makes up the world.... What is being bifurcated or cut asunder are the so-called primary and secondary qualities: the things that can be described in mathematical terms, and those that cannot. Logically speaking, the bifurcation postulate is tantamount to the identification of the so-called physical universe (the world as conceived by the physicist) with the real world per se, through the device of relegating all else (all that does not fit this conception) to an ontological limbo, situated outside the world of objectively existent things.... Let it be said at once that this reduction of the world to the categories of physics is not a scientific discovery (as many believe), but a metaphysical assumption that has been built into the theory from the outset.
New technology impresses this way of thinking even more deeply. Computers have it built into their every function, for they actually cannot heed anything unless it is reduced to a number. And technology imparts its bias to its users. To a man with a hammer, the adage goes, everything looks like a nail; to a man with a computer, everything looks like a datum.

The modern mind has acquired the habit of quantifying, sorting and ranking things that are not inherently numerical: beauty, intelligence, friendship, originality, love. This is, to the modern mind, the only way to prove that they are real. Art is recalcitrant to numerical description; hurrah, I say, for art. The criterion of the modern mind does not need to be met; it needs to be dismissed.

My first advice to anyone who wishes to appreciate or make sacred art is not to treat art like data. Do not rate it with stars; do not make top-ten lists. Real appreciation is gotten by paying serious attention to a work of art, just looking at it for a very long time. It is in the looking that communication through art happens.


Truth and Good, those things that sacred art intends to communicate, are transcendental; they are names of God. According to Dionysius, the author of The Divine Names, Beauty is another:
The Beautiful which is beyond individual being is called Beauty because of that beauty bestowed by it on all things, each in accordance with what it is. It is given this name because it is the cause of the harmony and splendor in everything, because like a light it flashes onto everything the beauty-causing impartations of its own wellspring ray.... It is forever so, unvaryingly, unchangeably so, beautiful not as something coming to birth and death, to growth or decay, not lovely in one respect while ugly in some other way. It is not beautiful now but otherwise then.... It is not beautiful in one place and not so in another, as though it could be beautiful for some and not for others.... It is the great creating cause which bestirs the world and holds all things in existence by the longing inside them to have beauty.
Sacred art has a permanent content that is knowable from tradition. The art called Gothic, which began in the twelfth century, is fully traditional; its makers did not predicate their originality on a rejection of the art of the past. Rather, they put it into order and expressed it more clearly. Gothic art is the visual equivalent of a medieval encyclopedia. It is as complete and disciplined a system as Byzantine iconography, but aligned to the Latin liturgy and the Latin church fathers. This is why I make it the basis of my own artwork.

I do not think of Gothic as a mere historic style belonging to a certain time and place; that would make it a very boring thing. Rather, I think of it as the best example of an art made according to Catholic principles - principles that are always and everywhere true. They are not merely useful for creating sacred art as it was during certain centuries of European history; rather, they are useful for creating sacred art in any place or time, including our own. (Read more.)

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Seven Most Elegant Hostesses in Literature

From Veranda:
"Where Mrs. Trenor leads, all the world follows." So writes Edith Wharton of socialite and hostess extraordinaire Judy Trenor, House of Mirth's high priestess of the Manhattan upper crust. It's no wonder that Judy's parties are pitch-perfect—while high-born but destitute protagonist Lily Bart works long hours as a milliner's assistant, Judy's afternoons are filled with china selection, matchmaking between her guests, and bullying the lower classes. Mrs. Trenor's moral character could use some work, but one thing's for sure—her parties are immaculate. (Read more.)

Offering God the Finest

From The Imaginative Conservative:
I remember reading about the holy Curé of Ars, St. John Vianney, that he starved himself on potatoes, but spared no expense for the embellishment of the sanctuary. He knew, like Archbishop Laud, and like faithful Christians of every age, what came first and what came second. The same was true of St. Francis, pace the falsification of his legacy by hippies who groove on Nature rather than adoring the Blessed Sacrament. Indeed, Franciscan churches are some of the most beautiful in Europe, magnificently decorated—even those that were built in periods when the friars themselves were dirt-poor beggars who didn’t know where their next meal was coming from, except that the Lord would surely provide. They knew what came first; they knew that when it is God who is to be honored, the work calls forth everything in us, everything great and glorious we can muster, for His sake. This is why the Catholics of old never built cheap churches, if they could help it, and, at least on special occasions if not more often, brought together the best musical forces they could find, to provide the most glorious music they knew.

Let no excuses be made; it should not be any different for us. Take Americans: We are a wealthy and industrious country. If we had a proper religious formation combined with some education in virtue and nobility, the trite ditties of our hymnals would evaporate and our churches would be filled with music of artistic merit. We would insist that it happen; we would make it happen through personal sacrifices; we would absorb its fruits with gratitude as we let these heavenly harmonies penetrate and shape our very souls. The same would be true of the churches we build. (Read more.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Miniature of the Princesse de Lamballe

Superintendent of the Queen's Household, known for her extensive charities. Share

A Populist Election and Its Aftermath

From Fr. Rutler:
After the election, histrionics have abounded in academia. College campuses have long been breeding grounds for self-absorption and corruption of sense, or what John Henry Newman described in his “Tamworth Reading Room” letters as “a mawkish, frivolous and fastidious sentimentalism.” A new name for these callow narcissists is “Snowflakes.” This brings to mind the apologia of Mae West: “I used to be Snow White, but I drifted.” Professors who never attained moral maturity themselves, reacted by providing “safe spaces” for students traumatized by reality. In universities across the land, by a sodality of silliness in the academic establishment, these “safe spaces” were supplied with soft cushions, hot chocolate, coloring books, and attendant psychologists. More than one university in the Ivy League provided aromatherapy along with friendly kittens and puppies for weeping students to cuddle. A college chaplaincy invited students to pray some prescribed litanies that offered God advice in an advisory capacity.

The average age of a Continental soldier in the American Revolution was one year less than that of a college freshman today. Alexander Hamilton was a fighting lieutenant-colonel when 21, not to mention Joan of Arc who led an army into battle and saved France when she was about as old as an American college sophomore. In our Civil War, eight Union generals and seven Confederate generals were under the age of 25. The age of most U.S. and RAF fighter pilots in World War II was about that of those on college junior varsity teams. Catholics who hoped in this election for another Lepanto miracle will remember that back in 1571, Don Juan of Austria saved Western civilization as commanding admiral when he was 24. None of these figures, in the various struggles against the world and the flesh and devil, retreated to safe spaces weeping in the arms of grief therapists. Yet pollsters ritually cite the attitudes of “college educated voters” as though colleges still educate and those who have not spent time in college lack an equivalent or even superior kind of learning shaped by experience. (Read more.)

Lost in Our Devices

From Monsignor Charles Pope:
We see it everywhere:
  1. Bored children sit in classrooms, almost incapable of staying focused to listen to the simplest instruction, sneaking peeks at their phones for something more interesting.
  2. Teenagers at family gatherings barely speak to one another, let alone to the adults; they sit alone in a corner with their earbuds in, lost in games or videos on their phones. Trying to break in with a simple “Hi” yields a grunt or irritable glance in return. And don’t expect any eye contact!
  3. Even in public places like the subway or the sidewalk of a city street, many people are lost in their devices, inwardly focused, barely noticing the humanity around them.
  4. I recently asked a priest personal director what he thought was the biggest difference between younger and older clergy. I expected him to say something about theological differences, but he surprised me by replying, “Younger clergy do not answer their phones. They just text.” It seems that real conversations, even if only by phone, are on the outs with a generation raised on electronic devices.
In a thoughtful article published in First Things, Patricia Snow writes about the effects on high school and college students of extended immersion in cell phones (and other devices). I want to take up her call: “Look at me!” She begins by describing the problem and its symptoms:
Inevitably, in some of our young people espe­cially, we are reaping deficits in emotional intelligence and empathy; loneliness, but also fears of unrehearsed conversations and inti­macy; difficulties forming attachments but also difficulties tolerating solitude and boredom. … The teachers tell … that their students don’t make eye contact or read body language, have trouble listening, and don’t seem interested in each other, all markers of autism spectrum disorder. … Students are so caught up in their phones, one teacher says, “they don’t know how to pay at­tention to class or to themselves or to another person or to look in each other’s eyes and see what is going on.” Another says uneasily, “It is as though they all have some signs of being on an Asperger’s spectrum …. [Yet] we are talking about a school wide problem.”
(Read more.)

The Problem with Time Travel

From author Steve McEllistrem:
One theory for time travel involves wormholes, which might allow for a shortcut from one point in space to another and from one point in time to another, yet many scientists who study this subject believe it isn’t possible. Another theory is that cosmic strings might contain enough mass that they could warp space-time around them, allowing for movement from one point in time to another. Again, we have no evidence that it’s possible, only a theory. The only way we know of for traveling through time is to move at close to the speed of light. Time slows down when we do that, so if we could get inside a spaceship and travel at nearly the speed of light, much more time would elapse outside the ship than in it and we could see the future. The problem is, we couldn’t get back to the past (our former present).

However, most time travel stories, even those that involve traveling to the future, generally include either a return to the present or (traveling backwards in time) or describe traveling to the past to change some event that will then change the future (the present in the story). If such stories are well done, well written, they can be enjoyable, but it’s difficult to avoid the trap of temporal contradiction (or temporal paradox) and it’s essentially impossible to explain how time travel would work in a way that satisfies me. The best example of the paradox is probably going back in time and somehow killing your grandparents or parents so that you are not born. How then can you exist to travel back in time and kill them? As a result, time travel stories fit much more securely in the fantasy genre than in science fiction. And it takes an awfully good fantasy to appeal to me. Dune was one such story, The Lord of the Rings another. (Read more.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Thanksgiving Tablescapes

From The Nesting Bird:
The truth is, we need to come together as Americans. So let's start talking about setting our... THANKSGIVING TABLES! What? What did you think I was talking about? If your friends and family represent both sides of the political aisle, there's no doubt some of your Thanksgiving Dinner conversations will be...(pause for affect)...AWKWARD! So let's distract them with pretty-sparkly-things, clever-place-settings, and delicious eats. Oh, and alcohol. Don't forget the alcohol. Seriously. Don't. (Read more.)

The Persecution of Dr. Anthony Esolen

From The Catholic World Report:
Anthony Esolen, professor of literature at Providence College, who is likely known to many CWR readers as his writing appears frequently on nearly every Catholic web site known to mankind, has written several columns critical of some of the decisions made by the administration of his institution. 

Engaging in lively argumentation and debate is one of the longest standing traditions of the academy, from its ancient roots in Plato’s Academy, hearkening back to the practice of Plato’s greatest teacher, Socrates of Athens, to the medieval origins of the modern university at places such as Paris and Oxford, where the manner of teaching was often in the manner of the “disputed question.”  In the twentieth century, professors frequently authored articles decrying the policies of their universities, whether it was involvement in Vietnam, support of the military-industrial complex, or disinvestment in South Africa because of its support of apartheid.  The ability to speak openly in this way has long been considered one of the proudest traditions of American universities. “I might not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Thus when Prof. Esolen authored an article arguing, in his own inimitable style with his usual exuberant and evocative prose, that his institution had adopted a wrong-headed attitude toward “diversity,” one might have hoped that anyone who disagreed with his position would respond in a way worthy of the deepest traditions of any academic community: a thoughtful written response, laying out evidence, supplying facts, adducing arguments, contesting premises, disputing inferences, or perhaps merely appealing for a different set of perspectives. (Read more.)
More HERE. Share

Speaking Up For the Christians

From CBN:
 After more than two years, the U.S. State Department finally admitted what already seemed clear to most of the world: ISIS is on a genocidal rampage against Middle East Christians. With that diplomatic declaration, religious leaders are wondering when the Church in the West will step up and speak out about this historic persecution. From world leaders to authors on the front lines to Christian humanitarians, the alarm is going out over the plight of Christians in countries besieged by ISIS.

"Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims," Secretary of State John Kerry said.

Tom Doyle, author of Killing Christians, said "We're hearing of more and more crucifixions. We're hearing [about] young boys being killed."

"We're witnessing a once in a 2,000-year crisis and it's not an exaggeration to say that we can see the elimination of Christianity in the place of its birth," Christian humanitarian Johnnie Moore said. Even though the Church in the Middle East is suffering genocide, some say the Church in the West could do more to stand with their fellow believers. Moore has been working with big names such as Mark Burnett and Roma Downey to bring attention to this tragedy. (Read more.)


How liberals portrayed African-Americans in the 1920's and 30's. From Reid's Reader:
Even if we accept Heyward’s rendition of black speech as authentic, there are those unnerving moments where his language turns patronising. Women are referred to as “negresses”, Crown is a “buck nigger”, and blacks grow “wool” on their heads. Porgy would in the afternoons “experience a pleasant atavistic calm, and would doze lightly under the terrific heat, as only a full-blooded Negro can.” (Part One) This sounds like the white Southerner’s stereotype of the cheerful, lazy black man, just a mite away from Stepin Fetchit.

And of course the novel’s blacks are credulous and superstitious. After burying the murdered Robbins in the graveyard, the superstitious mourners (including the presiding clergyman) have a race to get out of the graveyard, as they believe the last to leave will be the next to die. Porgy gets a “conjer’ woman” to cast a spell to make Bess well. When a buzzard lands on the roof after Crown is killed, Porgy thinks it’s the soul of Crown coming back to haunt him.
Which brings me to what I think is the most unpalatable aspect of the novel for modern readers. It is clear that DuBose Heyward sees black life in Charleston as quaint and colourful partly because blacks are unsophisticated and “uncorrupted” by education or the influence of Northerners. There is the clear implication that it is better for blacks to live their “simple” lives rather than become part of a complex modern city or civilisation. In short, Heyward really thinks that they should “know their place”. The novel caricatures the one black who has some advanced formal education - the “lawyer” Frasier, who offers cheap (and non-legal) divorces. (Read more.)

Monday, November 21, 2016

A Small Enchanted Cottage

From The Nesting Bird:
When I was a child, my Grandfather built me a playhouse. The exterior was painted a 70's lime green with a moss-covered pathway leading up to real shrubs and curtain-covered windows... and the inside... well, the inside is where my imagination took flight.
A place for countless tea parties. Pounds of plastic pork chops, cooked on a tiny white wooden stove, with cranky black knobs and painted "hot" burners. A place for piles of dishes that needed to be rinsed. Then dried. Then put away, only to reemerge moments later to play all over again. A place for sleep-outs. A place for blanket-covered-flashlight-face ghost stories. A place for giggles. A place for tear-stained cheeks. A place for teddy bear luncheons and summertime popsicle playhouse retreats. There were lessons in laughter and silliness, lessons in bravery and friendship, all contained in a 5x8 space. A small space with big memories, to last a lifetime.

So, when my husband and I were deciding which play structure should live in the backyard (for our 2 year old daughter), naturally I wanted to rebuild a space that would hold all of HER memories. And so, the construction of one pink & white playhouse began...(Read more.)

Why Americans Elected Trump

From Tori's Thought Bubble:
It’s easy to point to these small, impoverished towns and name racism, the second amendment or plain stupidity as the only reasons why these people would ever vote for a man like Donald Trump. I find this to be highly intellectually dishonest, though. To write this off as simple racism is to ignore the very real and very heartbreaking struggles small town America faces.

The majority of rhetoric going around says that if you’re white, you have an inherent advantage in life. I would argue that, at least for the members of these small impoverished communities, their whiteness only harms them as it keeps their immense struggles out of the public eye.

Rural Americans suffer from a poverty rate that is 3 points higher than the poverty rate found in urban America. In Southern regions, like Appalachia, the poverty rate jumps to 8 points higher than those found in cities. One fifth of the children living in poverty live rural areas. The children in this “forgotten fifth” are more likely to live in extreme poverty and live in poverty longer than their urban counterparts. 57% of these children are white. 

Education, particularly college, is less attainable to those living in rural areas. 64% of young people in rural areas attend college, compared to the 70% of students who attend universities in metro areas. 47% of these small town students who end up attending college only go for a two-year degree, while only 38% of urban students attain only a two-year degree.  And, when these students do fight the odds and attend a university, they don’t come back to their place of origin due to the lack of jobs.
Rural Americans also suffer from a lower life expectancy. Those living in Appalachia regions, in particular, have a life expectancy that is declining at a rate that is worse than anywhere else in the USA. Those living in rural America are more likely to suffer from depression. Alcohol and substance abuse  is prevalent in rural America and 25.9% of those entering rehab for addictions are between the ages of 12-17.  The chronic pain that comes from vocations such as mining has caused the heroin epidemic sweeping small towns.
The most well-known ailment of the rural Appalachian mountain region is mountain dew mouth, which is the rotting of teeth caused by an overconsumption of Mountain Dew. This soda is prevalent in Appalachian culture because it’s cheaper than milk, Mountain Dew originated in the Appalachian region and the water in these areas is often too polluted to drink.  In extreme cases, mothers have even been documented feeding their babies Mountain Dew out of bottles. Those living in rural America don’t even have access to many of the same services those living in urban America do. This includes health services, like clinics and hospitals, and social services.
Lauren Gurley, a freelance journalist, wrote a piece that focuses on why politicians, namely liberal ones, have written off rural America completely. In this column she quotes Lisa Pruitt, a law professor at the University of California who focuses many of her studies on life in rural America. Pruitt argues that mainstream America ignores poverty stricken rural America because the majority of America associates rural poverty with whiteness. She attributes America’s lack of empathy towards white poverty to the fact that black poverty is attributed to institutionalized racism, while white people have no reason to be poor, unless poor choices were made.
“For better or worse,” says Pruitt, “when we talk about poverty, we focus on black poverty, and we focus on Hispanic poverty. We’ve collapsed our nation’s poverty problem into our nation’s racism problem and it leads us to turn a blind eye to rural poverty.”
For arguably the first time since President Kennedy in the 1950’s, Donald Trump reached out to rural America. Trump spoke out often about jobs leaving the US, which has been felt deeply by those living in the more rural parts of the country. Trump campaigned in rural areas, while Clinton mostly campaigned in cities. Even if you do not believe Trump will follow through on his promises, he was still one of the few politicians who focused his vision on rural communities and said “I see you, I hear you and I want to help you.”

Trump was the “change” candidate of the 2016 election. Whether Trump proposed a good change or bad change is up to you, but it can’t be denied that Trump offered change. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, was the establishment candidate. She ran as an extension of Obama and, even though this appealed to the majority of voters located in cities, those in the country were looking for something else. Obama’s policies did little to help  alleviate the many ailments felt by those in rural communities. In response, these voters came out for the candidate who offered to “make America great again.”

I believe that this is why rural, white communities voted for Trump in droves. I do not believe it was purely racism. I believe it is because no one has listened to these communities’ cries for help. The media and our politicians focus on the poverty and deprivation found in cities and, while bringing these issues to light is immensely important, we have neglected another group of people who are suffering. It is not right to brush off all of these rural counties with words like “deplorable” and not look into why they might have voted for Trump with such desperation.

It was not a racist who voted for Trump, but a father who has no possible way of providing a steady income for his family. It was not a misogynist who voted for Trump, but a mother who is feeding her baby mountain dew out of a bottle. It was not a deplorable who voted for Trump, but a young man who has no possibility of getting out of a small town that is steadily growing smaller. (Read more.)

Muslims Who Voted for Trump

From IJR:
Asra Q. Nomani, a former Wall Street Journal reporter and a co-founder of the Muslim Reform Movement, says she is one of the “silent secret Trump supporters” that voted him into the nation’s highest office.

To avoid assigning any implied meaning to her words, we’ll let Nomani explain:
This is my confession — and explanation: I — a 51-year-old, a Muslim, an immigrant woman “of color” — am one of those silent voters for Donald Trump. And I’m not a “bigot,” “racist,” “chauvinist” or “white supremacist,” as Trump voters are being called, nor part of some “whitelash.”
I support the Democratic Party’s position on abortion, same-sex marriage and climate change.
But I am a single mother who can’t afford health insurance under Obamacare. The president’s mortgage-loan modification program, “HOPE NOW,” didn’t help me. Tuesday, I drove into Virginia from my hometown of Morgantown, W.Va., where I see rural America and ordinary Americans, like me, still struggling to make ends meet, after eight years of the Obama administration.
Finally, as a liberal Muslim who has experienced, first-hand, Islamic extremism in this world, I have been opposed to the decision by President Obama and the Democratic Party to tap dance around the “Islam” in Islamic State. Of course, Trump’s rhetoric has been far more than indelicate and folks can have policy differences with his recommendations, but, to me, it has been exaggerated and demonized by the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, their media channels, such as Al Jazeera, and their proxies in the West, in a convenient distraction from the issue that most worries me as a human being on this earth: extremist Islam of the kind that has spilled blood from the hallways of the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbaito the dance floor of the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla. (Read more.)

Evangelization and Six Cultural Trends

From Msgr. Pope:
I list here six presuppositions; I’ve tried to avoid an overly philosophical analysis, instead using a more descriptive approach. The first few may be familiar to you, but the last three are less often discussed. Feel free to add to this list in the comments box. I will discuss a few other presuppositions in tomorrow’s post.

I. Secularism – The word “secular” comes from the Latin saecula, which is translated as “world,” but can also be understood to refer to the age or times in which we live. Secularism is excessive concern about the things of this world and the times in which we live to the exclusion of the values and virtues of Heaven and the Kingdom of God.

Hostile – It is not merely a matter of preoccupation with the world, but often of outright hostility to things outside the saecula (world or age). Spiritual matters are often dismissed by the worldly as irrelevant, naïve, hostile, and divisive. Secularism is an attitude that demands all attention be devoted to the world and its priorities.

Misplaced Priorities – Secularism also causes those who adopt it to put their faith beneath worldly priorities and views. In this climate, many are far more passionate about and dedicated to their politics than to their faith. Their faith is “tucked under” their political views and made to conform to them. It should be the opposite—political views should be subordinate to faith. The Gospel should trump our politics, our worldview, our opinions, and all worldly influences. Faith should be the doorkeeper. Everything should be seen in the light of faith. Secularism reverses all this and demands to trump the truths of faith.

Secularism is the error through which one insists that faith give way when it opposes worldly ways of thinking or worldly priorities. If faith gets in the way of career, guess which one gives? If faith forbids me from doing what I please and what the world affirms, guess which one gives way? The spirit of the world often sees the truths of faith as unreasonable and unrealistic, and demands that they give way, either by compromise or a complete setting aside of faith.

As people of faith, we should put the world and its values on trial. Secularism instead puts the faith on trial and demands it conform to worldly thinking and priorities.

Secularism also increasingly demands that faith be privatized. Faith is to have no place in the public square of ideas or values. If Karl Marx said it, that’s fine, but if Jesus said it, it has to go. Every other interest group can claim a place in the public square, in the public schools, etc. But the Christian faith has no place. Yes, God has to go. Secularism in its “purest” form demands a faith-free, God-free world. Jesus promised that the world would hate us as it hated Him. This remains true, and secularism describes the rising tendency for the world to get its way.

To make this world our priority and to let it overrule our faith is to board a sinking ship with no lifeboats. With secularism, our loyalty is primarily to the world. This amounts to “rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.” If the world is really all that matters then we are the most pitiable of men, for everything we value is doomed and already passing away.

II. Materialism – Most people think of materialism as the tendency to acquire and need lots of material things. It includes this, but true materialism goes far deeper. In effect, materialism is the error that insists that physical matter is the only thing that is real. Materialism holds that only those things that can be weighed on a scale, seen in a microscope, or empirically experienced (through the five senses) are real. The modern error of scientism, which insists that nothing outside the world of the physical sciences exists, flows from materialism. (You can read more on that HERE.) (Read more.)

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Regency Weddings

From English Historical Fiction Authors:
Fashion plates from Ackerman’s and La Belle Assemblée illustrate gowns used for weddings. All though all these gowns are white, that is more indicative of the white gown being the ‘little black dress’ of the era, rather than white being the wedding color.

All these gowns followed the fashionable trends of formal gowns of the day, but were largely indistinguishable from other formal gowns, attested to by the La Belle Assembée dress being cited as both an evening dress and a wedding dress. Finer materials might be utilized if the bride could afford: silks, satins and lace. The trims might be altered for wear after the wedding.

None of these fashion plate brides wore a veil. That fashion, though common in France, would not take hold in England until the Victorian era. Caps, hats, bonnets or flowers in the hair were common though.

“Since wedding gowns were often worn - to the point of being worn out - after the wedding, brides had to cherish something else. Often this was one of her wedding shoes, a natural choice given the lucky connotations of shoes in this context. Many carefully preserved satin slippers remain with notes inscribed in the instep attesting to the wearer's wedding.” (Reeves-Brown) (Read more.)

World War III Prevented

From Lew Rockwell:
Many European politicians and media pundits were profoundly shocked by Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election. However, according to Willy Wimmer, former Parliamentary State Secretary in the German Defense Ministry, with Hillary Clinton as president, a third world war would have been just around the corner.
Donald Trump’s victory has prevented a global conflict, Willy Wimmer, a former Parliamentary State Secretary in the German Defense Ministry and a leading politician of the Christian Democratic Party (CDU), told Sputnik Deutschland on Wednesday.
“I was so relieved, like never before, for I had a feeling this morning that this decision saved us from a great war. I believe that the new American President, unlike his opponent, is ready for a reasonable, practicable and trustworthy collaboration with other countries in the world — and that gives me hope,” Wimmer emphasized.
(Read more.)
Via The Pittsford Perennialist. Share

An Ancient Soul in a Modern World

From Seton Magazine:

 As some of you already know, Father Constantine Belisarius, the chaplain of Seton Home Study School, was very sick lately. Without going into his medical history, suffice it to say that we weren’t sure whether Father was going to make it. But with the help of many prayers and penances of friends and family, he is, by God’s grace, on the road to recovery. The word “miraculous” has been used by medical personnel, but if you know something about God and you know something about Father Constantine, this series of medically remarkable events was perhaps foreseeable, if not outright predictable. Our Faith teaches us that God always brings something good out of something bad. Speaking for myself and perhaps many others, part of the “something good” was our chance for reflection and thanksgiving for Father.

In life’s dramatic dramas, we seem to lack the time to center on things that matter. But as I sat in the waiting room, waiting for a miracle, I had the chance to reflect a bit. And if you readers will indulge me, I want to express a few thoughts about Father Constantine. That should be easy to do. It isn’t. You see, Father Constantine Belisarius is more unique than his name. He is a priest, confessor, theologian, counselor, confidant, scholar, teacher, and spiritual warrior. And yet, when I think about Father Constantine, one quality pervades: he is my friend. And that is no mere footnote.

As C. S. Lewis wrote, “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.” Father Constantine gives life to those words. When you are Catholic, a friend is one who reminds you of the beauty of the True Faith; Father does that in a majestically Byzantine way. Obviously, I never knew a Father of the Church—I missed out on that privilege by about sixteen hundred years. (Read more.)