31 August 2011

The same archbishop who wrote this has just issued a letter discouraging the faithful from kneeling for Holy Communion.

Archbishop Conti, 77, has already submitted his mandatory resignation to the Holy Father. The Pope has the right to accept or refuse.

I have a feeling it'll be the former.
Even preachers have the habit of so framing their sermons as to displease nobody. Their intentions are good and their activities splendid, but they do not persuade very many to amend their lives. Why?

Is it that there are so few who are led by sermons to abstain from public sin? Do you know what I think? It is because preachers have too much worldly wisdom. They do not fling all restraint aside and burn with the great fire of God, as the Apostles did; and so their flames do not throw out much heat. I do not say that their fire could be as great as the Apostles', but I wish they had more than they have.

--St Teresa of Avila. Life, Ch.16

28 August 2011

One Feminist Gets It

Naomi Wolf on pornography's deadening effect on male desire:
The onslaught of porn is responsible for deadening male libido in relation to real women, and leading men to see fewer and fewer women as “porn-worthy.” Far from having to fend off porn-crazed young men, young women are worrying that as mere flesh and blood, they can scarcely get, let alone hold, their attention.

Here is what young women tell me on college campuses when the subject comes up: They can’t compete, and they know it. For how can a real woman—with pores and her own breasts and even sexual needs of her own (let alone with speech that goes beyond “More, more, you big stud!”)—possibly compete with a cybervision of perfection, downloadable and extinguishable at will, who comes, so to speak, utterly submissive and tailored to the consumer’s least specification?
And later, this observation:
I will never forget a visit I made to Ilana, an old friend who had become an Orthodox Jew in Jerusalem. When I saw her again, she had abandoned her jeans and T-shirts for long skirts and a head scarf. I could not get over it. Ilana has waist-length, wild and curly golden-blonde hair. “Can’t I even see your hair?” I asked, trying to find my old friend in there. “No,” she demurred quietly. “Only my husband,” she said with a calm sexual confidence, “ever gets to see my hair.”

When she showed me her little house in a settlement on a hill, and I saw the bedroom, draped in Middle Eastern embroideries, that she shares only with her husband—the kids are not allowed—the sexual intensity in the air was archaic, overwhelming. It was private. It was a feeling of erotic intensity deeper than any I have ever picked up between secular couples in the liberated West. And I thought: Our husbands see naked women all day—in Times Square if not on the Net. Her husband never even sees another woman’s hair.

She must feel, I thought, so hot.

27 August 2011

Canadian priest Fr. Paul Nicholson (who each weekend offers mass in both the ordinary and extraordinary form) gives one of the clearest presentations on the differences between the two rites of mass. One little nugget during his discussion of ad orientem worship:
The priest should have the same right to be able to face the risen Lord, to face the Lord in His mystery. When he has to look out and see everyone going to the bathroom, it's not very nice. I didn't want to have to say that, but...seeing everyone walking back and forth, why? Sit down. It's only one hour. You don't need to go that often...
I laugh...and laugh...and laugh...

The CIA episode itself is groundbreaking, not because it reveals anything new to traditionalists who have always been aware of the machinations during the Consilium and its major players, but because it is the first time that anyone has presented them to a mass audience in an accessible way via the new media. The fact is, the great majority of modern Catholics are simply unaware of any of the facts presented, and they ought to be!

26 August 2011

The story of Job is re-enacted in some way in the life of every soul dear to God; he was tried in his property, his children, his own person, deserted by his friends, and ridiculed by his wife.... Why does He let us suffer?... Because God wishes to try [us] as gold is tried in the furnace, purifying [us] and raising [us] to a good, to a state of happiness immeasurably superior to the goods and the happiness of earth.
The least act of hope, of trust in God, made in the midst of trials, in a state of interior or exterior desolation, is worth far more than a thousand acts made in times of joy and prosperity.

--Divine Intimacy, Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D.

25 August 2011

One Brit's View

There has been much commentary floating about with regard to Michael Voris, some of it accurate, and some of it not so much. Yesterday, he gave a talk in London, and it is said the line was 100 yards long half an hour before the event, and the galleys were packed.

This mother attended the event, and offered her own observations (it seems her opinion was shared by many):
[H]e came across as sincere, authentic and profoundly Catholic. You got the sense that you were listening to a man with a genuine love for Christ, who is profoundly grateful for his re-conversion and the shot at eternity it gives him. A man who has discovered the pearl of great price, and wants to share it with as many people as possible.

He started and ended with prayer, and constantly redirected our focus to the Holy Trinity. This was not the "Michael Voris" show; he was the medium not the message.
To be Catholic is to embrace Our Lord fully and to be prepared to accept His cross. You might be made fun of, you might lose a few friends or compromise your career, but, argued Voris, none of these measure up to the sacrifices made by early Christians so that we could have the Faith handed down to us.
Based on last night's talk, I'd say that none of the criticisms I've heard leveled at Michael Voris would stick. He was humble, charitable, amusing, self-effacing, meticulously faithful to the Magesterium, Catholic down to his very essence. Oh, and to knock another myth on the head: his hair was clearly all his own.
[Never doubted it for a moment.-ed.]

Among the people I went with there was (at least) one skeptic who, by the end of the talk was utterly convinced of Voris's sincerity and orthodoxy. The general consensus was "What's not to like?"
One sees Voris at his best and most candid, not on the scripted Vortex videos (which he himself says are deliberately provocative), but rather during the presentations and talks he gives. It's also worth watching his hour-long interview with Canadian talk show host Michael Coren (you may have to sign up for a free account to gain access to the link). I found his talks in Madrid to be especially inspiring, to demonstrate a man on fire with apostolic zeal, in love with his faith, and genuinely full of love for souls. The caricature one sometimes hears of him--arrogant, self-righteous, superior--is so grossly off the mark one doesn't even know what to say.

He has also done a powerful exposé on the cost of abortion, available to watch free here; a tape of this was sent to each member of Congress.

The Sort of Mother that Makes a Saint

Coronation of Louis VIII and Blanche of Castile in 1223, Miniature from Les Grandes Chroniques de France

King St. Louis IX of France embodied all that a monarch ought to be: he ruled with justice, integrity, generosity, and holiness. He and Queen Margaret of Provence bore eleven children, their line reigning over France until the French Revolution put a brutal end to it. (As the guillotine fell onto the neck of Louis XVI, Abbé Edgeworth, his confessor, cried, Le fils de St-Louis, montez au paradis!--"Son of St. Louis, ascend to Heaven!")

St. Louis' mother told him often as a child, Je t'aime, mon cher fils, autant qu'une mère peut aimer son enfant; mais j'aime mieux que tu soit mort à mes pieds que tu commettes un péché mortel. "I love you, my dear son, as much as a mother can love her child; but I would rather see you dead at my feet than that you should commit a mortal sin."

How many mothers today, I wonder, could say such a thing, and mean it? Are most not often busy worrying about their children's physical well-being, their education, their careers, reputations, relationships? How many among us can say that the welfare of our children's souls is truly first and foremost in our hearts? A mother's worst fear is to lose her child early--but if we as Catholics truly believe what we claim to believe, should our worst fear rather not be that our children's souls be eternally lost? And should we not therefore throw the entire weight of our efforts and prayers toward that end: the salvation of their souls?

When St. Louis grew to manhood and became a parent himself, he would write to his eldest son Phillip III, "You should, with all your strength, shun everything which you believe to be displeasing to Him. And you ought especially to be resolved not to commit mortal sin, no matter what may happen and should permit all your limbs to be hewn off, and suffer every manner of torment, rather than fall knowingly into mortal sin."

St. Louis once asked his friend, the Sieur de Joinville, whether or not he would prefer to be one of the lepers who wandered the byways, or to commit a mortal sin. Joinville replied, "I would rather commit thirty mortal sins than to be a leper." The King said, "When a man dies, he is healed of leprosy in his body; but when a man who has committed a mortal sin dies, he cannot know with certainty that he has in his lifetime repented such that God has forgiven him; he thus must stand in great fear lest that leprosy of sin last as long as God is in Paradise."

It was St. Louis who bought the Crown of Thorns, which now lies in the beautiful Chapelle St-Louis in Paris. He attended mass twice daily, supported priests and bishops in their work, and was never afraid to chastise those who failed their duty. In such reverence did he hold obedience that he refused to put to death the traitorous son of Hugh de la Marche, who acted at his father's behest: "A son," the King said, "cannot refuse to obey his father's orders." At times, when called on to put down rebellions, he always made restitution to the innocent harmed. If an infidel was taken prisoner, he ordered that, rather than put him to death, he be given the chance to receive Christian instruction and be baptized. Determined to live a life of holy purity, he exhorted all in his court to put away their concubines and live chastely, or otherwise regularize their situation and marry. One woman in his court known for her extravagent and immodest dress was brought to amend her ways through his private and gentle admonishments.

The good king died from illness while leading a crusade. At 3 o'clock, the hour of mercy, he uttered his last words, "Into Thy hands I commend my spirit," and passed into glory. He was canonized 27 years later.

St. Louis, priez pour nous!

24 August 2011

Get out!

A nice little anecdote about Abp. Fulton Sheen, recounted by this fine fellow:
It was the United States’ Bicentennial, July 4, 1976. As part of the celebrations, Archbishop Fulton Sheen was delivering the guest homily at the noon Mass that day and I was one of the altar boys.

I was fourteen and had heard about Sheen from my Dad. I’d heard he used to be on national television every week and quite regularly placed number one. Even at my young age of 14, I knew that was a big deal. So, I knew instinctively when I got picked to serve the Mass that this was a big deal.

But it was what happened AFTER Mass that I remember most vividly. In the sacristy, he was visiting with us altar boys, smiling and cracking jokes about too much incense... He was being a kindly old grandpa figure. He was 76 and this was three years before he went back to Our Blessed Lord.

Suddenly a younger...neatly dressed hippie came into the sacristy from the other side of the room and started walking toward Sheen brandishing a book of which he said he was the author. He said he’d just come back from the Far East after some years and had written this book and combined the best of Catholicism with Eastern Mysticism and he would like Sheen to read it.

With all the justifiable anger he could muster Sheen wheeled around and shouted--and I mean shouted at the man--"Get out! Get out! The Catholic Faith is a gift from Almighty God and I will not have you polluting it. GET OUT!"

Within a moment he returned to his grandpa self with us and resumed joking.

I’ll never forget that scene. That was 35 years ago. I’ll NEVER forget that scene.

Of course, today, many in the culture would say Sheen was some cranky old man with some personality disorder. Many in the Church would say he was not charitable enough; he should have sat down and dialogued with the man, exercised more prudence, not been as judgmental, blah, blah, blah.
More like this, please!

Catholics taken aback by the archbishop's reaction perhaps need to be reminded of this: the Archbishop understood--as so few today understand--that, there in the presence of Our Lord in the tabernacle, before the altar where the Holy Sacrifice had just taken place, they stood on holy ground. One who struts arrogantly into this sacred place waving a book blaspheming Our Lord should expect nothing less than a stern rebuke--which the good bishop had the moral clarity (and manliness) to give. Would that we had more shepherds made of such stock.

21 August 2011

Gestapo Supervision of the Laity

Fra J. M. notes:
Now that I celebrate the EF Mass frequently and ad orientem as is the tradition for this Mass, I don't get distracted by either the good or less than good things that happen out in the congregation. I have no compulsion to observe, critique or even stop the Mass if I don't like what I see in order to correct it. I don't have to be a gestapo in ad orientem worship.

But when I face the congregation, I see people coming and going at the worst times possible, some chewing gum, others in a day dream and still others doing their own thing, like striking their breast as in the old Mass when it isn't mandated in the new; some who pray the rosary or have their head buried in a book or read the bulletin. And now people use electronic devices to follow the Mass or to watch something else or to text message!!!

17 August 2011

Fr. Christopher Smith recounts his seminary days:
I had just entered the seminary when Cardinal Ratzinger’s book, The Spirit of the Liturgy, came out. I had an English copy expressed to me and brought it with me into the chapel as my spiritual reading during our daily community Holy Hour. One of the older men knelt next to me as I was engrossed in Ratzinger’s chapter on Rite and whispered, “Do you want to get kicked out of the seminary? Change the book cover now.” All of my attempts to not publicise the fact that I actually knew the Old Latin Mass had apparently been blown out of the water by this defiant act of wanton schism. Suddenly seminarians began to knock on my door and counsel me how to survive the seminary, and so I exchanged Ignatius Press’ book cover for one entitled “The Pastoral Letters of Paul VI.”
So in my seminary experience I encountered two phenomena: a lack of knowledge and a positive hatred of one form of the Church’s liturgy. Since then, we have had Ratzinger elected Pope, as well as Summorum pontificum and Universae ecclesiae. The nature of the game has changed, even if there are some who are unwilling to admit it.
Yes, and thank God.

I am well aware of criticisms of Michael Rose's explosive Goodbye, Good Men, some of them from conservative circles (although Rose has adequately rebutted such criticisms), but one thing each review agrees on is that such seminary abuses were egregious and rampant. Modern church-goers are often shocked to discover that orthodox seminarians were, if not outright persecuted, at least treated as outcasts by largely pro-gay faculty and student bodies; they are even more surprised to find out that complaints made to the local bishop often went ignored.

The aftermath of such revelations included the punishment of two faithful and orthodox priests, well known to us: EWTN's Fr. John Trigilio, and Fr. Bryce Sibley of the now-defunct A Saintly Salmagundi. A chapter of Rose's book was devoted to describing the anti-orthodox, anti-heterosexual animus displayed by some faculty, students, and, yes, clergy that Fr. Trigilio had to endure for twelve long seminary years. The chapter itself started out with the quotation, "If you wore a cassock, you were a reactionary 'daughter of Trent.' If you wore women's underwear, they'd make you seminarian of the year."

This rankled the higher-ups, and payback was swift. Bishop Trautman of Erie, PA was so angered by the statement that he suspended Fr. Trigilio's priestly faculties in his diocese.

Fr. Sibley, who did no more than publicly confirm the pro-homosexual atmosphere at the American College of Louvain (the USCCB-run college in Belgium), received a six-month suspension from the local bishop after the rector at Louvain complained.

Crisis weighed in by running an article questioning Michael Rose's journalistic integrity; the article cast doubt on Louvain's allegedly pro-gay environment by quoting from former students and priests who claimed that "there was nothing like that going on." Rose responded by citing the "astounding naïvete" of those at the conservative Crisis Magazine. (That naïvete, I've noticed, isn't confined to one organization; I've seen it exhibited in well-intentioned practicing Catholics who will give bishops the benefit of the doubt in great heaping doses while writing off complaints made by laity and priests.)

Rose's account, the evidence bears out, is the more reliable. In 2009, the aptly named Fr. de Cock received his doctoral degree at Louvain with the completion of a dissertation on homosexual love, titled "Touched by Love: An Attempt at a Theological Anthropology of the Body and Homosexuality." As we all know, one doesn't receive a doctorate unless the faculty approve, and Louvain clearly had no problem with Fr. de Cock's thesis. The College has since closed its doors, unable to compete with the robust and orthodox Pontifical North American College in Rome.

R.I.P. You won't be missed.

Fortunately, the worst seems to be over, and the Vatican issued (thanks in part to Rose's very necessary exposé) an instruction, under Pope Benedict, that no man with deep-seated homosexual tendencies should be allowed into seminary. Since its issuance, the Vatican claims there is less evidence of homosexual behavior in seminaries:
Of course, here and there some case or other of immorality – again, usually homosexual behavior – continues to show up,” according to the report. “However, in the main, the superiors now deal with these issues promptly and appropriately.”
One hopes. Considering that previous evaluations of American seminaries were largely a sham--insiders claim orthodox books and cassock-wearing clergy suddenly appeared when the bishop made his visitation, then promptly vanished once he left--it's too soon to start celebrating. The very fact that one large archdiocese--that of Miami--was only recently exposed as a hotbed of gay activity must give us pause. Of course, that oft-seen naïvete reared its head when the usual suspects--well-intentioned, mainstream professional Catholics--immediately called the exposé into doubt, claiming the author of the article has an axe to grind, that the situation can't be as bad as he claims, etc. Christifidelis, however, the lay Catholic group exposing the corruption, has no axe to grind--and the published documents from its report are telling (and graphic).

What to do? Continue what one has always done: pray, hope, and love (remembering always that love requires truth). It would be a mistake to give way to discouragement, because that's to acknowledge that the enemy has won. One soldiers on--cheerfully, if possible, and if not, temperately.

16 August 2011

CNA interviews Bp. Jean Laffitte concerning Theology of the Body:
CNA: Do you identify any problems in the manner that Blessed Pope John Paul's teachings on this issue have been popularized, particularly in the English-speaking world?

Bishop Laffitte: ...The English translation of Blessed John Paul II’s doctrinal teaching as “Theology of the Body”, while not incorrect in a strict sense, does not typify the entirety of his Catecheses on human love. [I]f people have no formation on creation, on God's design, on the anthropology of man and woman, or on the differentiation of the sexes, they then have no ability to defend against the gender ideologies rampant in our secular world today.
There is a danger of vulgarizing here a crucial truth of our Faith that needs rather to be contemplated. It requires a silence. Sometimes in reading Blessed John Paul II’s Catecheses, you read only half of a page and then have to stop … you cannot continue … because it provokes within you a kind of loving meditation of what God has made. You enter into the mystery.
There is a dignity, there is a loving manner to be united …There is a respectful expression of love and God’s design needed in relating this teaching.
Alice von Hildebrand's critique of Christopher West's presentation of Theology of the Body remains the best I've read thus far.
In a simple ceremony last Sunday, I was invested with the scapular of the Secular Discalced Carmelites, and am now officially a novice. It isn't the same as the brown scapular that many wear; it's larger, with two patches of brown cloth about a foot square each, laid over the chest and back, much like that in the photo to the right. After the novitiate, one proceeds to make temporary promises, and three years after that, definitive promises. If one wishes, one may afterwards make simple vows (according to one's state).

The Carmelite community to which I belong has been a blessing, although it's been through some difficulties through the years. Itself an orthodox community, it has had a few questionable elements now and then (of which it has been purified, Deo gratias). For some time we were meeting at the local Carmelite monastery and directed by the Superior of the community. They were one of those dying communities, where no sister was under the age of 50, and they used a gender-neutral breviary. They hosted a website where each sister offered social and political commentary, and their Masses were nothing short of a horror. Same-sex couples filled the pews rows of stackable chairs, the Jesuit priest offered a homily about liberation theology activists, during which he had a question & answer session with the "audience", and Holy Communion involved passing a glass bowl full of consecrated Hosts from person to person, each communicant helping himself, while "Dream the Impossible Dream" played (loudly) from the speakers. Afterwards, during the thunderous chatter, the sisters let their black labrador roam the chapel licking people's hands.

Of course, I wrote a letter to the Vicar General (who also happened to be pastor at my parish) letting him know of the liturgical abuse, prayed intensely for the madness to end, and things were soon taken care of. Their website was eventually taken down, and a year or so ago they were forced to sell their monastery and move in with a Franciscan community hours away. The monastery is now a bustling and orthodox diocesan seminary; part of our Carmelite community's apostolate involves spiritually adopting seminarians and praying for them.

We also had a long-time member who, it was soon revealed, was a dissident, in favor of women's ordinations and everything else that goes along with that. I remember offering a silent prayer to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel on my drive home that She would purify our community. It was not long after that that this particular lady decided to leave our "too rigid" group in search of tenderer shores. I've recently learned she is now a professed atheist. Prayers for her soul, but good riddance, I say. One doesn't "dialogue" with people like that; one says goodbye, prays, and hopes they return to right reason one day.

We're a small and diverse group, and, curiously enough, I've noticed that the ones on either side of the age spectrum--the oldest and the youngest--tend toward traditionalism, whereas the middle-aged are less vocal about the status quo. Our oldest member, a lovely 90-year-old grandmother, sharp as ever and jolly, has a difficult time with the sloppy liturgy and catechesis at her parish, and the complete irreverence toward the Holy Eucharist. She's decided, though, to stick it out in the hope of offering a counterweight to the common, Lord bless her.

She happens to have nine grown children. Compared to her, I'm just getting started, yet already feel a need for a massive break from childbearing, as pregnancy isn't the easiest thing to bear, with all its aches and pains and hormonal unrest--not to mention the frequent remarks by the well-meaning with regard to the respectable size of my belly. Yes, two months to go, and I'm already looking as if I'm ready to burst. But the baby herself is healthy, as are all my children, and I'm not doing so poorly myself, all things considered, so I won't complain...

11 August 2011

Instructional Verse

My dear parents, if you seek an introduction to poetry beyond Mother Goose, might I recommend Hilaire Belloc's Bad Child's Book of Beasts and, for the slightly more advanced, Cautionary Tales?

The former is a compendium of short rhymes on various creatures: the Dodo, the Marmozet, and the Learned Fish, to name a few.

The latter is filled with delightful titles, such as JIM, Who ran away from his Nurse, and was eaten by a Lion, HENRY KING, Who chewed bits of string, and was early cut off in Dreadful agonies, and GODOLPHIN HORNE, Who was cursed with the Sin of Pride, and Became a Boot-black, among others.

On opening this book of verse, one is greeted by the following introduction:

Upon being asked by a reader whether the verses contained in this book were true.

And is it true? It is not True.
And if it were it wouldn’t do,
For people such as me and you
Who pretty nearly all day long
Are doing something rather wrong.
Because if things were really so,
You would have perished long ago,
And I would not have lived to write
The noble lines that meet your sight,
Nor B.T.B. survived to draw
The nicest things you ever saw.
—Hilaire Belloc.

The mysterious B.T.B. is Basil Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, 4th Marquess of Dufferin and Ava, who apparently didn't want his name known--but as he's since passed on to his reward, there's no harm in its disclosure.

Of course, the overly literal child, while grasping the moral of each tale, might also be sent into convulsions of tears. Here, discretion is key.

I close with

Who was too Freely Moved to Tears, and thereby ruined his Political Career.

Lord Lundy from his earliest years
Was far too freely moved to Tears.
For instance if his Mother said,
"Lundy! It's time to go to Bed!"
He bellowed like a Little Turk.

Or if his father Lord Dunquerque
Said "Hi!" in a Commanding Tone,
"Hi, Lundy! Leave the Cat alone!"
Lord Lundy, letting go its tail,
Would raise so terrible a wail

As moved His Grandpapa the Duke
To utter the severe rebuke:
"When I, Sir! was a little Boy,
An Animal was not a Toy!"

His father's Elder Sister, who
Was married to a Parvenoo,
Confided to Her Husband, "Drat!
The Miserable, Peevish Brat!
Why don't they drown the Little Beast?"
Suggestions which, to say the least,
Are not what we expect to hear
From Daughters of an English Peer.

His Grandmamma, His Mother's Mother,
Who had some dignity or other,
The Garter, or no matter what,
I can't remember all the Lot!
Said "Oh! That I were Brisk and Spry
To give him that for which to cry!"
(An empty wish, alas! For she
Was Blind and nearly ninety-three).

The Dear Old Butler thought—but there!
I really neither know nor care
For what the Dear Old Butler thought!
In my opinion, Butlers ought
To know their place, and not to play
The Old Retainer night and day.
I'm getting tired and so are you,
Let's cut the poem into two!

To read the Second Canto, which describes Lord Lundy's public fallout, buy the book!

09 August 2011

Although the difficulties we encounter may be serious ones, discouragement is never justified.... God sometimes permits us to find ourselves in very difficult situations which cannot be solved by human means. He permits us to undergo painful spiritual trials, resulting in states of real anguish, and He permits this for the sole purpose of forcing us to practice the virtue of faith, which in certain cases can and must become heroic. If then, God visits us with similar trials, we must believe that it is not because He has abandoned or rejected us, nor that He wants to discourage or destroy us; He acts thus to make us strong, yes, even heroic in our faith.

--Divine Intimacy, Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, OCD

08 August 2011

Nagasaki: The "Catholic Capital of Japan"

On August 9, 1945, God’s inscrutable providence allowed an atomic bomb named “Fat Man” to be dropped from a B-29 into the heavily populated city of Nagasaki. The epicenter of the blast was the Urakami district, the heart and soul of Catholicism in Japan since the sixteenth century.

[A witness] remembered two strange stories, one by a nurse and some others in his radiology department telling of some women singing Latin hymns on the midnight after the blast. The next day they found the twenty-seven nuns from the nearby Josei Convent. The convent was demolished and all were dead, horribly burned to death; and yet they died singing! The other incident concerned girls from Junshin, a school where his wife Midori had taught, run by nuns that he knew well. During the dark days of 1945, when the people worried of being firebombed, the girls had been taught by the principal nun to sing, “Mary, my Mother, I offer myself to you.” Remarkably, after the bombing, though many of the Junshin girls were instantly killed, Nagai heard several reports of different groups of Junshin girls who had been working in factories, fields and other places, singing, “Mary, my Mother, I offer myself to you.” Many would be dead within days, but they were heard singing.
The entire article can be found here.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan on Our Lady of Nagasaki:
"And it is this head that is haunting: she is scarred, singed badly, and her crystal eyes were melted by the hellish blast. So, all that remains are two empty, blackened sockets.

"I’ve knelt before many images of the Mother of Jesus before: our Mother of Perpetual Help, the Pieta, the Virgin of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Lourdes, just to name a few.

"But I’ve never experienced the dread and revulsion I did when the archbishop showed us the head of Our Lady of Nagasaki …

05 August 2011

A Gentleman Never Arrives Emptyhanded

Summer is here and with it a bevy of seasonal social obligations: barbeques, picnics, dinner parties, and weekends away. Never arrive at someone’s home without something more to contribute than your personality, as stunning as it might be. Take this opportunity to man up and accept this simple rule: no matter what the occasion, a gentleman never arrives empty-handed.
Wine or liquor seems to be the gift of choice among men. The above reminds me of this pictorial collection of beautiful home bars--sure to make the viewer thirsty...

02 August 2011

Adventures in Translation

One of the nice things about living in France was running into all sorts of obscure, out-of-print French works one could never find Stateside. Just outside one of the bus stops in downtown Dijon, right around the corner from Église St-Michel, sits an antique book store, run by a wealthy and eccentric Catholic matron (who I later discovered has a deep devotion to St. Teresa of Avila). Judging from the traffic, I doubt much money passed hands there, and she probably ran her little shop more as hobby than as business. While waiting for my ride, I'd spend happy moments within, rummaging through the leatherbound titles stacked floor to ceiling, fingering the yellowing pages, inhaling the ancient must. I don't think I ever left without some volume or other, whether it be an original printing of St. Thérèse's last pensées, or a hundred-year-old Latin copy of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary (and all for a pittance).

One of the little treasures I found was a fraying collection of out-of-print essays on fugitive priests during the Terror. There were accounts of King Louis XVI's last moments with his confessor, the secret Mass said in the Queen's cell the day before she died, and the harrowing ministry of priests in disguise in the dungeons of the Conciergerie. Many of the names of these brave souls are lost, forgotten, ignored in the modern Republic, and largely unknown to English speakers. Returning to the States, we had three boxes of books shipped overseas. On this score, I cannot recommend French freight mail, as only two of our boxes ever arrived, one of them mysteriously having been doused in water, the other broken into with a third of its contents taken. The last--it had to be the one full of my rare French volumes--went missing entirely. *Sigh*. At least I still had one last French book, which escaped pilfering by coming over with me in the suitcase. But no such luck; the bewhiskered miscreant got to it eventually.

Such is life. Another lesson in detachment.

Remembering how inspiring the collection of essays on fugitive priests had been, and how too few Americans know of the sacrifice and heroism of these men of the cloth during one of France's most evil times, and discovering that there is as of yet no English version, I decided to undertake the task of translating it for an English-speaking audience, with the aim, of course, of eventual publication and distribution Stateside.

Anyone who's ever undertaken translation of a work knows you don't just start the project willie-nillie. One must first obtain the translation rights from the author or his estate. In the case of old out-of-print books whose authors are deceased, things get tricky. My first port of call was Le Bureau du Livre Français in New York City. I shot them a short inquiry, and they responded promptly with the name of a publishing company in France I could contact. So contact them I did, and they, in broken English, responded by directing me to yet another French publishing house. I e-mailed that one, which answered in even more broken English that they no longer ran the business, but that I should contact the publishing house that had just referred me to them. Not helpful. Somehow, out of this muddle, I was able to find the name and postal address of the author's last living heir, a retired colonel living in a chateau in rural Limousin. With help from a Dijonnaise friend, I crafted a polite letter informing him how inspired I was by his father's writing and requesting translation rights for his work. I waited weeks, with no answer, and was resigned to the fact that it was not meant to be.

Then one day, the letter came--a little handwritten note of a few lines, that simply read, in French, "My husband recently passed away, but if I can speak on his behalf, I think he would be happy to grant you permission for this project."


So these days, frequently interrupted by the daily duties that make up domestic life, I happily sit down and translate. It is only in its first stages: the literal rendition, which will later be gone over a second time and rephrased into a lucid and accurate interpretation. Then the manuscript gets shopped around, and, if the good Lord wills, published. But that is a long way off yet.

Swiss Landscape, Alexandre Calame, 1830, National Gallery of Art

01 August 2011

I had never considered this until a regular reader mentioned it in a comment, and, frankly, I don't think I've a large enough readership for it to make a difference, but, considering your hostess has fallen on rather thorny financial times, I didn't think it would hurt to add a Paypal Donate button to my right-hand sidebar.

As my readers know, some years ago, when I had my first child, I forsook the prestige and profit of law firm life to stay home and raise her. I'm now expecting baby #4 this Fall, and, in spite of the limited income, I would not have changed my decision for the world. I've been fortunate enough to find some part-time work online, but the spotty income it brings has forced me to the difficult decision of having to return to part-time work outside the home--employ I am in the process of now seeking.

Although I'm not one to post personal information in public, I will add that I was forced to brave some rather rough waters some months ago when I found out (during Lent, appropriately enough) that my 11-year marriage is sacramentally invalid. Back when I was a lapsed Catholic, I married a Protestant in a Protestant ceremony, without the required dispensation from the bishop. That ipso facto makes the marriage null and void on its face. When I returned to the Church, no one ever raised the possibility of impediments to marriage, and it was something that I, as a revert unschooled in the faith, never even thought about. When I began thinking about it, I assumed that our marriage had been properly convalidated at a marriage retreat we had taken in 2003, where the priest had had all the couples repeat their vows, after which he gave us a blessing.

I discovered in March that this was not a proper convalidation according to canon law, and therefore our marriage remains null and void.

Convalidation is a simple enough process, taking all of fifteen minutes. It simply requires going before a priest in a Catholic church, saying vows in front of two witnesses, and receiving his blessing. In our case, however, things are not so simple. After lengthy converse with my parish priest, it was agreed that--because of numerous serious, ongoing issues--convalidation at this point is out of the question. And, if I am completely frank, it's more likely than not that it will forever be out of the question. That has all sorts of implications no wife and mother would like to face--but face them I must.

This post probably raises more questions than it answers, but suffice it to say, the situation is far from ideal. The uncertainty that looms before me is, I admit, frightening. It is a test of faith. But when I find myself faltering, I say with King Solomon, Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. Prov. 3:5

I would very much appreciate your prayers.