Saturday, April 30, 2011


I've been progressing slowly through "The Making of the English Working Class," by the English "New Left" historian E.P. Thompson.  It's a highly admired book, written back in the days when lots of academics like Thompson went around airily claiming that, although they were not Stalinists, they were nevertheless highly committed Marxists.   The jacket blurb from Michael Foot, the far left Labour Party leader accused of having been a Soviet spy, which describes the work as a "masterpiece" probably goes too far, as jacket blurbs often do.  Still, there's a reason Foot liked the book, and shared political sympathies have a lot to do with it.

On page 439, in the midst of a discussion on the effect the arrival of migrating Irish peasants had upon English working class conditions, I found this howler:

In the most squalid cellars there might still be found some of the hocus-pocus of Romanism, the candlesticks, the crucifix, and the "showy-coloured prints of saints and martyrs"...

I'm not sure whether it's funny because Thompson's hatred for "Romanism" was so powerful he was blind to it, or couldn't control it, even in the pages of an academic text, or because his editors, sharing Thompson's views so completely, didn't notice his departure from cool academic discourse, and let it stand, or because it was Thompson himself, the guy claiming we could have all the good things Marxism offers in theory with none of the bad things which accompany Marxism in practice, who was actually engaged in "hocus-pocus."

Update:  Pope Benedict fleshes out the point somewhat more fully.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Hail, Seraphic Virgin

"St. Catherine of Siena Besieged by Demons," Valeria Espinosa, ca 1500 AD

This is the feast day of St. Catherine of Siena , one of the more extraordinary women in all of history.  Mystic, stigmatist (from humility she asked that the wounds be removed, and they were), and, though uneducated, adviser to popes, the author of several major works of mystical theology, as well as, perhaps most amazingly of all, a Doctor of the Church, St. Catherine was the 23rd of 25 children born in Siena to a dyer (which was a good job at that time) and his wife, who was the daughter of a poet.  The Black Death was ravaging Siena at the time, and her twin sister, Giovana, did not survive.  As a teenager St. Catherine resisted her parents' wish that she marry, and instead shut herself in a room in her father's house, where she cultivated a life of prayer and humility.  In 1366, at the age of nineteen, St. Catherine was advised in prayer by Christ to begin a public life of service to the sick and the poor.  From this small beginning, through travel and correspondence St. Catherine exerted considerable influence on the politics of her day, and was instrumental in achieving the return of the papacy to Rome from Avignon, where it had been subject to domination by the French monarchy.

From the Dialog of St. Catherine of Siena, dictated by St. Catherine during a state of ecstasy while in dialogue with God the Father:

I tell you that this way of [Christ's] doctrine, of which I have spoken to you, confirmed by the Apostles, declared by the blood of the martyrs, illuminated by the light of doctors, confessed by the confessors, narrated in all its love by the Evangelists, all of whom stand as witnesses to confess the Truth, is found in the mystical body of the Holy Church. . . . His doctrine is true, and has remained like a lifeboat to draw the soul out of the tempestuous sea and to conduct her to the port of salvation.


At least they managed to stay solvent until the feast of their founder, St. Jean Baptiste de La Salle, was well past.  May St. Jean Baptiste de La Salle intercede for the Institute he founded, and help them cultivate the spirit of faith, piety, mortification, and obedience which once characterized the Christian Brothers.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

New Fiction

A few days ago The New Yorker notified me that they're not going to publish a short story I sent them just after Christmas.  I'd hoped The New Yorker would like this story, since it didn't have religious undertones or overtones, unlike most of the other short stories I send them.  I have published it instead on Amazon.  You can read it if you have a kindle, but it will cost you 99 cents.   Click the "Amazon" link under My Fiction.  There are two short stories published there.  The one without religious undertones or overtones is called "360 Degrees of Separation."   The one called "The Resurrection of Max" is full of religious undertones and overtones.   For those who click, thank you.

St. Louis de Montfort

Although not celebrated this year on account of Easter Week, today is the feast of St. Louis de Montfort  (January 31, 1673 –  April 28, 1716).  If you do the math, you will see that St. Louis died rather young, at 43.  He was poisoned, and although he didn't die of it, the poisoning may have sped his demise.  I've been reading St. Louis' "The Secret of the Rosary" during my commute.  St. Louis was remarkable for his devotion to Our Lady, as well as his contributions to the theological understanding of Mary's role in salvation.  St. Louis's writings influenced several popes, including John Paul II, whose motto, "Totus Tuus" was derived from a prayer composed by the Saint.   The full text of the prayer is "Totus tuus ego sum, et omnia mea tua sunt" ("I am all yours, and all that I have is yours").   Henryk Gorecki composed a chorale with this title to celebrate John Paul II's third visit to Poland.  You can listen to a sample here.
The following quotation is taken from the introduction to what is likely St. Louis's most admired work, "True Devotion to Mary:"

And yet in truth we must still say with the saints: De Maria numquam satis : We have still not praised, exalted, honoured, loved and served Mary adequately. She is worthy of even more praise, respect, love and service.

Here is St. Louis's statue in St. Peter's Basilica.  He was accorded this honor as founder of the Daughters of Wisdom.

The Angelus

We live within the sound of our parish church's bells.  Dom L having told us once that church bells are like the voice of God, I began to pay more attention to them, and noticed that in addition to tolling the hours there was a special sort of ringing in the morning, evening and at noon.   I wondered what that special ringing could be, and had a hunch it was the Angelus bell.   Having been born on the cusp of Vatican II perhaps excuses my ignorance of this ancient custom of the Church.  I'd heard of the Angelus, of course, but didn't know much about it.  I've since learned the Angelus prayer, and when I hear the bells I now do more or less what the people in the picture below are doing.  In case you, too, grew up when this practice had fallen into disuse, here, courtesy of New Advent, is the text:

The Angelus
During Paschaltide, this prayer, said kneeling, is replaced by the Regina Coeli (see below).
V The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.
R And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.
All Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou
among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy
Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and in the hour of
our death.
V Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
R Be it done unto me according to thy word.
All Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou
among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy
Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and in the hour of
our death.
V And the Word was made Flesh.
R And dwelt among us.
All Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou
among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy
Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and in the hour of
our death.
V Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God.
R That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
V Let us pray. Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into
our hearts; that, we to whom the Incarnation of Christ, Thy Son,
was made known by the message of an Angel, may by His
Passion and Cross, be brought to the glory of His Resurrection.
Through the same Christ our Lord.
All Amen.
Regina Coeli
All Queen of Heaven rejoice, alleluia: For He whom you merited to
bear, alleluia, Has risen as He said, alleluia. Pray for us to God,
V Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia.
R Because the Lord is truly risen, alleluia.
V Let us pray : O God, who by the Resurrection of Thy Son, our Lord
Jesus Christ, granted joy to the whole world: grant we beg Thee,
that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, His Mother, we
may lay hold of the joys of eternal life. Through the same Christ
our Lord.
R Amen.


The De Facto Established Religion

Mark Shea contemplates the demand by some atheists for military chaplains.  Next they'll demand holidays.

"Free Exercise" Becoming Less So All the Time

The chaplain to the Knights of Columbus argues that religious freedom is becoming more a matter of governmental sufferance and less of a God-granted right.  I don't think there's much doubt about it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Teach Your Children

We've suffered a couple of deaths in the family recently, so Filius and I have added the Eternal Rest prayer  to our nightly repertory.  Here is the text, in English, and, for the ambitious, in Latin, courtesy of the estimable fisheaters:

Eternal rest grant unto him/her (them), O Lord; and let perpetual light shine upon him/her (them). May he/she (they) rest in peace. Amen.
Réquiem ætérnam dona ei (eis) Dómine; et lux perpétua lúceat ei (eis). Requiéscat (Requiéscant) in pace. Amen.

It is our practice to add "May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen."

He's Actually Been Going Easy On US

From now on, it's no more Mr. Nice Guy for Dr. Dawkins when it comes to Catholics.


Interesting post on Lepanto at InsideCatholic.  Among those who fought in the glorious victory was Miguel de Cervantes, who suffered three gunshot wounds in the fight, including one which cost him his left arm.  Cervantes considered it an honor to have been wounded in the service of such a great cause, declaring he would rather have been present in the "glorious enterprise (of Lepanto), than to be whole in his limbs, and not to have been there at all."
I like Cy Twombly's 12 panel painting of Lepanto .  I've never read an explanation of Twombly's choice of this subject.  Maybe the date of  Lepanto's first exhibition (early 2002, shortly after 9/11) explains it.

Guide for the Perplexed Who Listen Online

Since the much-lamented demise of "Choral Treasure" I have been searching for online music from the Catholic liturgical tradition.  I haven't yet found another Choral Treasure, but in the meantime I'm listening to a station I created on lastfm called "Tallis Scholars."   You may have to create an account first, but here is the web address:  Tallis Scholars.  If you use the "love track" button judiciously I believe the selections will track your taste more closely.  For a while I listened to a station called "William Byrd," but that included too much non-choral music.

Recommended Reading

Dom L from the nearby monastery recommended St. Alphonsus Liguori's "The Glories of Mary" to us recently.  Dom L had previously recommended daily recitation of the rosary to us, and as that had brought numerous blessings I figured his book recommendations were worth a try.  I bought a copy of "The Glories of Mary" from Amazon, and loved it.  I'd never read anything by St. Alphonsus before, and was impressed by the way he combines simplicity and scholarship.  The text is crammed with quotations from scripture, saints, Fathers, doctors and miscellaneous theologians, but any sixth grader can understand it easily.  Having nearly finished "Glories," on Monday I ordered another of St. Alphonsus' spiritual masterpieces, "The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ" and received it Tuesday (!).

Here is a sample of St. Alphonsus' prose, from the first chapter of "The Glories of Mary," which is devoted to explaining the first line of the "Salve Regina "(Salve Regina, Mater Misericordiae):

Is there any one who does not know the power of Mary's prayers with God? The law of clemency is on her tongue.  Every prayer of hers is as a law established by our Lord, that mercy shall be exercised towards those for whom Mary intercedes. St. Bernard asks, Why does the Church name Mary Queen of Mercy and answers, Because we believe that she opens the depths of the mercy of God, to whom she will, when she will, and as she will; so that not even the vilest sinner is lost, if Mary protects him.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mission Territory

At both Triduum services I attended, one at my own parish, the second at the far end of the state, the principal priest was African.  The US is truly mission territory now.   These African priests were far more joyous and far less diffident than the typical domestic variety.   I hope their re-evangelization bears much fruit, and quickly.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Tantum Ergo

Attended the Maundy Thursday Mass at my parish.  Very moving, notwithstanding the usual awful music.  Having set my ears like flint to accept the musical buffets, I was vindicated, (and had to fight back tears) during communion when the choir cleansed the aural atmosphere with a lovely "Ave Verum Corpus." Was I the only one tortured by this hint of the magnificence that could be a feature of every Mass, in place of the contemporary dreck which assaults us instead?
During the procession of the pre-sanctified hosts around the church, we were made to sing six verses (plus repetitions) of an ersatz "Tantum Ergo" in English.  Once the procession reached the place of reposition, we were rewarded with the singing of St. Thomas Aquinas's one and only Latin original.  More tears. 
There is no rite of dismissal on Holy Thursday, as the Church continues  its watch through the night.  People did not fly in haste, as usual, which was nice.  However, they tended to hang around chatting loudly, which was not  so nice.  One wondered if they had understood "Ave Verum Corpus," "Tantum Ergo," or, indeed, the Mass itself.  Otherwise, why would they behave so irreverently in the presence of Our Redeemer?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Wild Boar of the Forest

"The wild boar of the forest broke it,
every wild beast could graze off it."
Ps 79 (80), from the office of Lauds for Maundy Thursday

Reading these words we find ourselves considering the many recent breeches in the divine enclosure protecting the vine of the Church.  Certainly, depredation by wild boars and wild beasts has become depressingly commonplace.  We therefore pray with special fervor that the Lord of Hosts look down from heaven and tend this vine.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Spy Wednesday

I wished Filius and his visiting friend a good Spy Wednesday as I left for work.  They had no idea what Spy Wednesday was, so I asked them to guess what it meant.  The guesses all concerned the CIA, so I told them it was the traditional name for Wednesday of Holy Week, when Judas met in secret with the high priests to hand over Jesus.  This no doubt awakened related questions in their minds, but they did not voice these, and instead re-immersed themselves in the multi-media deep-dive into the meaning of their favorite electronic game which they have been conducting every morning before school.