31 January 2007

Marlie Casseus

Truly a remarkable story, and a remarkable girl. The program "A New Face for Marlie" aired over the weekend, and moved me profoundly. Suffice it to say, all my grumblings seemed petty in comparison to her quiet, years-long suffering. Marlie Casseus, a Haitian adolescent, is afflicted with Polyostotic Fibrous Dysplasia, a disease that affects the bones and causes irregular growth. Hers is the most severe case yet documented, causing her face to balloon to monstrous proportions.

When she was found, she could hardly eat or breathe, and could not speak. Though loved by her family, she was shunned by society as a monster and left to die. She had to hold her head in her hands because it weighed 16 pounds, and constantly ached. Since her discovery last year, she has undergone four surgeries at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, through the donations of kind strangers. Each surgery is a major ordeal, because it involves cutting off large portions of her face and bone, and realigning the tissue. Her last surgery took place on October 6, 2006, and she was able to go home to Haiti for Christmas. Although the surgeries have been considered successful, Marlie has a long way to go before looking and feeling human again.

She spoke her first words in many years in December: Thank you.

To learn about her progress, click here.

23 January 2007

Vagina Monologues to Return to Notre Dame

To my great shame. (There is something perfidious about juxtaposing the play's title next to the Blessed Virgin's own descriptor.) Here is the latest message from Project Sycamore, a group dedicated to restoring Notre Dame's Catholic identity:
We have learned that a student group has begun preparations for another staging of "The Vagina Monologues" soon. As we note on the Project Sycamore website, Father Jenkins has stated that, if this issue arises again, it will be reviewed again. Therefore, we urge everyone who is opposed to University support of this play and who has not signed the Project Sycamore petition to do so promptly. The petition will be sent to Father Jenkins after allowing a brief period for additional signatures.
Petition can be found here.

21 January 2007

Camellia sinensis var assamica

In May of 1838, 350 pounds of Assam tea were sent to London. It sold at India House the following January, to great success. Thus was born the tea industry in Assam, the greatest of all teas.

Assam is a region in northeast India, where the tea leaves grow in the lowlands. Assam blends can be found in English, Irish, and Scottish Breakfast teas. Today, Assam constitutes approximately half of all tea production on the continent. The Tea Board of India has given Assam its own distinctive logo, which is displayed on only 100% Assam teas.

I didn't start drinking tea until I lived in England. As a Floridian, drinking it throughout the day was the only way I could keep warm in my underheated Oxford flat. It's fair to say I am now a tea addict. I must have my pot of dark red Assam in the morning, and a second one in the afternoon (sometimes I switch to Darjeeling). It's generally expensive to buy in tea emporiums, but how delighted I was to find a great big bag of the stuff at the local Indian grocery store, sold for a pittance. The way I make it, it comes out malty, red, and dark as coffee. Pour it steaming hot into the cup, add a bit of cream: lovely.

14 January 2007

If ever you start feeling sorry for yourself for hardships you're enduring, think of Mary Queen of Scots, and count your blessings. Here was a woman who:

was widowed by the age of nineteen;

inherited a throne of a people who did not want her because she was "foreign" and Catholic;

married a man who plotted to overthrow and imprison her while she was pregnant with his child;

was forced to marry her third husband, after her second husband's untimely death, because he had allegedly taken her by force;

was betrayed by her closest advisors in an uprising, and deposed;

when seeking refuge in England under her cousin Queen Elizabeth, was imprisoned unjustly instead;

languished in prison for nineteen years, much of that time suffering from gastric disorders that occasioned bouts of vomiting and fever, only to be told by her jailers she was faking it;

was betrayed by her only son (raised a Puritan in Scotland) when he secured an alliance with Queen Elizabeth;

was lured into the Babington plot by the machinations of Walsingham, and beheaded for it;

and whose last wishes, including a Catholic burial, were never honored by Queen Elizabeth.

When they arrested her shortly before her execution, Mary cried, "I desire neither goods, honours, power nor worldly sovereignty, but only the honor of His Holy Name and His Glory and the liberty of His Church and of the Christian people." Queen Mary died with the courage of a martyr, and Pope Benedict XIV noted that nothing stood in the way of declaring her a martyr for the faith except for lingering historical doubts about her second husband Darnley's death. Mary's confessor, however, proclaimed her absolute innocence in the matter.

Maria Regina Scotorum, ora pro nobis.

12 January 2007

The more you know and the better you understand, the more severely will you be judged, unless your life is also the more holy. Do not be proud, therefore, because of your learning or skill. Rather, fear because of the talent given you. If you think you know many things and understand them well enough, realize at the same time that there is much you do not know. Hence, do not affect wisdom, but admit your ignorance. Why prefer yourself to anyone else when many are more learned, more cultured than you?

If you wish to learn and appreciate something worth while, then love to be unknown and considered as nothing. Truly to know and despise self is the best and most perfect counsel. To think of oneself as nothing, and always to think well and highly of others is the best and most perfect wisdom. Wherefore, if you see another sin openly or commit a serious crime, do not consider yourself better, for you do not know how long you can remain in good estate. All men are frail, but you must admit that none is more frail than yourself.

The Imitation of Christ, Bk I, Ch I

11 January 2007

Sub Voce. New blog. Amusing.

10 January 2007

The ABA and Judicial Nominees

It's worth reading this article to get an idea of the ABA's powerful influence on the judicial confirmation process. What I find disturbing is the left-leaning prominence of its committee members (keep in mind, the ABA is supposed to be the nonpartisan "national representative of the legal profession" in the U.S.):
John Payton is on the board of People for the American Way, a group vitriolically opposed to President Bush's judicial nominees. He is also a board member of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights, which is on the hard Left on racial issues and has fervently opposed President Bush's judicial nominees as well as his two nominees for attorney general. In a 2005 speech, Payton decried the "serious erosion of fundamental legal rights that we cherish and promote as Americans" that has supposedly taken place since 9/11.

Kim Askew is on the board of trustees of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights.

Marna Tucker is a founding board member of the National Women's Law Center, which promotes "reproductive rights" and publicly opposes judicial nominees who are not committed to its agenda. Tucker has long been an activist within the ABA for feminist causes. A strong ally of Hillary Clinton, she has contributed heavily to her as well as to John Kerry, Ted Kennedy, EMILY's List (the pro-abortion PAC), and other liberal causes.

Teresa Wynn Roseborough is the former chairman and a board member of the American Constitution Society, which describes its mission as "promot[ing] a progressive vision of the Constitution, law and public policy." A political appointee in the Clinton administration, Roseborough publicly stated that "I was so excited about the opportunity to work for a Democratic administration partly because I was so dismayed with what I saw happening to the legal regime under Republican administrations."

Roberta Liebenberg serves on the board of Womens Way, a Philadelphia-based group that, among other things, "fight[s] for . . . reproductive freedom."An admiring profile of her in the Philadelphia Business Journal says that she "pursue[s] law with an activist bent."
To the ABA's credit, it gave both Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito the "highest qualified" rating, and when testifying before the Senate Judicial Committee, in response to Senator Kennedy's liberal prodding, responded, "We don't do politics." Well, in that instance, perhaps not; but not so in the case of Michael Wallace, who has asked that President Bush not renominate him to the Fifth Circuit. This article details new Committee Chair Liebenberg's dishonest testimony about the ABA's evaluation of Wallace. Upon being challenged by Ed Whelan to defend her false statements, Liebenberg demonstrates the sort of doublespeak and equivocation that make lawyers look bad. There is a reason the Federalist Society has an arm committed solely to keeping track of the ABA's movements.

08 January 2007

Le Dynasty

My maiden name, Le, has no coat of arms because it is of Asian origin; instead, the family name has a dynastic dragon (the one above is from the Ly Dynasty, as I could find no image of one from my own family name). I descend from the Le dynasty, one of the several great dynasties of Viet Nam that governed free from Chinese rule from 944 onwards. The early Le dynasty reigned from 980 to 1009, and the late Le dynasty, ruling over the Golden Age of Viet Nam, reigned for more than three centuries, from 1428 to 1776 (our fall from power coinciding, interestingly enough, with the American Revolution). The greatest ruler of the later Le Dynasty was Le Thanh Tong (1460-97), who venerated Confucius, and tried to live a moral life. He was considered a noble and virtuous king. This was, of course, before the Catholic faith had arrived to the country's shores. The Jesuits did not begin their missionary work in earnest until the arrival in the 1620s of Alexandre de Rhodes, considered the pioneer in romanizing the Vietnamese language. In 1700, there were only forty-five Vietnamese priests.

As to Le Thanh tong, according to this entry
His rule was one of the high points in the history of Vietnam and was referred to as the time of a "Flood of Virtue" (Hong Đức). He instituted a wide range of government reforms, legal reforms, and land reforms. He restarted the examination system for selecting men for important government positions. He reduced the power of the noble families and reduced the degree of corruption in the government.
Interestingly enough, he halted all building of Buddhist and Taoist temples, instead erecting temples of Confucian literature. He also implemented a new legal system in which women were granted greater status in society, and daughters were granted equal inheritance rights with sons (shockingly progressive for that time).

The Nguyen Dynasty, the last to rule Viet Nam, has its own order: The Imperial Order of the Dragon of Annam, a dynastic property bestowed by the French government in 1886 (which at this time occupied Indochina). The Vietnamese Constitutional Monarchist League seeks the end of communist rule and restoration of the Nguyen Dynasty. I heartily support its aims.

Niles Coat of Arms

My husband's surname is Niles, taken from his adoptive stepfather. Some history on the family:
Origin: Scottish
Coat of Arms: Silver and gold at the top, two red hands, and in the base a dagger point downward. (Coat of arms can be viewed here.)

Motto: His regi servitium. ("With these we render service to the king.")

The meaning of Niles is descendant of Niall, or champion.
Spelling variations of this family name include: Neilson, Nielson, Nilson, Nylson and others.

First found in Ayrshire where they were seated from early times and their first records appeared on the early census rolls taken by the early Kings of Scotland to determine the rate of taxation of their subjects.

Some of the first settlers of this family name or some of its variants were: Elizabeth, James, Jane, John, Joseph, Norman, Neilson all arrived in Baltimore in 1803; George Neilson settled in Virginia in 1716; Thomas Neilson arrived in Charleston in 1822.
His biological father's surname is Vannier, of French origin, whose coat of arms includes a black shield, semy de lis, and a silver lion rampant.
My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Empress Christine the Inexorable of Lower Beanthrop in the Hedge
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title
I am married to His Eminence the Very Lord David the Charming of Helions Bumpstead.

(Nod to Fr. Tharp)

07 January 2007

My parish, pictured here (Novus Ordo rite shown, but it also offers the traditional Latin Mass daily) is currently raising funds to restore the parish to its former glory. Some of the post-Vatican II changes, predictably enough, involved repainting elaborate murals behind the altar and covering up stained glass windows, as well as other minimalist overhauling. We aren't a very large parish, so any help is welcomed. To help out, click here.
Order your 100% pure beeswax candles in time for Candlemas. The Orthodox Monastery of St. John has one of the best deals around; one pound of candles for only $7.00. You can order in bulk here.

06 January 2007

Twelfth Night

It denotes the Feast of the Epiphany, the first manifestation of Christ as God to a few chosen ones (the three magi). It also marks the end of the twelve days of Christmas. In more pagan circles, it marks the end of the festivities begun on Halloween, during which misrule and disorder reigned until things were set aright on Twelfth Night. (Shakespeare's eponymously titled play involves all manner of mistaken identities and bizarre love triangles, which are happily resolved in the end. The play was performed on Epiphany in 1602.)

In England, it was customary on this day to make Lamb's Wool, a drink of cider or ale with roast apples and spices. An early recipe for Royal Lamb's Wool contained six beaten eggs; the froth of the whipped eggs and cider or ale mixed with the white pulp of floating crab apples, hence the name. It is the same as "wassail", of Christmas carol fame:
Here we come a-wassailing
Among the leaves so green;
Here we come a-wand'ring
So fair to be seen.
Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too;
And God bless you and send you
a happy New Year.
Wassail descends from the Old Norse ves heil and from the Old English was hál; it was a greeting that wished the other to "be in good health" or to "be fortunate." You find the term in works from as early as Beowulf to Monmouth's History of the Kings of England to Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. In any case, I set forth a modern recipe below. Enjoy!

1 gallon apple cider (add about 4oz sugar if it's very dry ) 12 small apples peeled and cored
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
16 fl oz whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Slowly heat 3/4 of the cider till warm but not boiling. Put remaining cider in another pan with the apples, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger and bring it to the boil. Simmer vigorously until the apples lose their shape and become ' frothy '. Combine the two liquids and pour into a heatproof bowl. Whip the cream with the salt and brown sugar until it peaks and spoon it onto the wassail, or add some cream to each drink as it's served. Drink Hot. (You can substitute dry white wine, light ale or stout for the cider if you wish.)

The toast is "WAS HAIL!" and the reply is "DRINK HAIL!"

03 January 2007

The New York Times apologizes, in a way, for misreporting abortion facts in El Salvador.
One thing is clear to me, at this point, about the key example of Carmen Climaco. Accuracy and fairness were not pursued with the vigor Times readers have a right to expect. .

02 January 2007

Here's an article on how the Supreme Court is changing shape under new CJ Roberts.

01 January 2007

Not only is New Year's Day the title of the best of U2's songs, it also happens to be the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Unfortunately, some of our non-Catholic brethren think the title Theotokos merely another example of Catholics' idolatrous tendencies, when in fact Mary was declared Mother of God at the third ecumenical council, the Council of Ephesus. The doctrine had little to do with Mary, and everything to do with Christ. A christological controversy was then raging over His dual nature, thanks to the heretic Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople, who taught Christ was not only made of two separate natures, but was actually two separate Persons, Man and God. He claimed Mary gave birth to the human Christ only, and should therefore be called Christotokos. Such a title results, of course, in the de-emphasis of Christ's divine nature and the overemphasis of His human nature. The Council rejected the title in favor of Theotokos, thus saving the doctrine that Christ was fully God and fully Man, yet One Person.