30 December 2011

The Power of Faith

He whose heart is ever watchful taught me that He works miracles even for those whose faith is like a tiny mustard seed, to make it grow, while, as in the case of His Mother, He works miracles for His dearest friends only after He has tested their faith. He let Lazarus die, even though Martha and Mary had sent word that he was sick; and when He was asked by Our Lady at the marriage feast of Cana to help the master of the house, He said His time had not yet come. But after the trial, what rewards! Lazarus rises from the dead, and water becomes wine. This is how her Beloved dealt with His Thérèse--a long testing, and then He realized all her dreams.

--St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Story of a Soul, 102

29 December 2011

On Redemptive Suffering

Saint Gemma Galgani, letters
Jesus spoke these words; "My child, I have need of victims, and strong victims, who by their sufferings, tribulations, and difficulties, make amends for sinners and for their ingratitude."

Ven. Mary of Agreda, Mystical City of God, Book VI, Chp. V
Words of the Queen: "I remind thee that there is no exercise more profitable and useful to the soul than to suffer....Therefore, my daughter, embrace the cross, and do not admit any consolation outside of it in this mortal life. By contemplating and feeling within thyself the sacred Passion, thou wilt attain the summit of perfection and attain the love of a spouse...I find so few who console with me and try to console my Son in His sorrows..."

Diary of Saint Faustina
"Jesus says; 'My daughter, I want to instruct you on how you are to rescue souls through sacrifice and prayer. You will save more souls through prayer and suffering than will a missionary through his teachings and sermons alone. I want to see you as a sacrifice of living love, which only then carries weight before Me. You must be annihilated, destroyed, living as if you were dead in the most secret depths of your being. You must be destroyed in that secret depth where the human eye has never penetrated; then will I find in you a pleasing sacrifice, a holocaust full of sweetness and fragrance. And great will be your power for whomever you intercede. Outwardly, your sacrifice must look like this: silent, hidden, permeated with love, imbued with prayer. I demand, My daughter, that your sacrifice be pure and full of humility, that I may find pleasure in it. I will not spare My grace, that you may be able to fulfill what I demand of you."

Saint Teresa of the Andes, on Religious Life, (age 15), Letters p.121
"Her sacrifice is perpetual, without mitigation, from the time her religious life begins until she dies as a victim according to the example of Jesus Christ. And she does all this in silence with no one aware of it. Yet how many are there who think of this life as useless. Nevertheless, she (the religious) is like the Lamb of God. She removes sins from the world. She sacrifices herself to bring back to the sheepfold those sheep who have gone astray. But just as Christ did not know the world, neither does she know it. This abnegation enchants me completely. There is no room for self-love. She doesn't even see the fruit of her prayer. In heaven alone will she know this."

Saint Therese of Lisieux, Story of a Soul, p.27
"I understood that to become a saint one had to suffer much, seek out always the most perfect thing to do, and forget self. I understood, too, that there are many degrees of perfection and each soul was free to respond to the advances of the Our Lord, to do little or much for Him, in a word, to choose among the sacrifices He was asking. Then, as in the days of my childhood, I cried out: 'My God I choose all!' I do not want to be a saint by halves, I'm not afraid to suffer for You, I fear only one thing: to keep my own will; so take it, for I choose all that You will!"

Padre Pio, Secrets of a Soul, p.47
"Jesus said to me; 'How many times would you have abandoned Me, my son, if I had not crucified you. Beneath the cross, one learns love, and I do not give this to everyone, but only to those souls who are dearest to Me."

24 December 2011

Sailor's Carol

Noel! Noel! Noel! Noel!
A Catholic tale I Have to tell!
And a Christian song I have to sing
While all the bells in Arundel ring.

I pray good beef and I pray good beer
This holy night of all the year,
But I pray detestable drink for them
That give no honour to Bethlehem.

May all good fellows that here agree
Drink Audit Ale in heaven with me,
And may all my enemies go to hell!
Noel! Noel! Noel! Noel!
May all my enemies go to hell!
Noel! Noel!!

--Hilaire Belloc

[For those who have a deficit in humor, I do not wish a single soul to go to hell. Now that that's cleared up, Merry Christmas!--Ed.]

23 December 2011

Montmartre, Paris, 1946. Photo: Edward Clark, LIFE

21 December 2011

Hitchens, Hell, Kim Jong-Il

Mundabor puts into words some of what I've been thinking about all this.

One might respect Hitchens for a number of reasons: his willingness to stand on conviction, even when it rendered him unpopular; his ability to turn a phrase; his wit and intellect; his refusal to mince words, etc. But all those things, as interesting or attractive as they might be, don't work an ounce in one's favor when we stand before the throne of God to give an account of our lives. And in the end, what matters? Not the wit, the intellect, the ability to speak charmingly or arrestingly, but rather how much we have conformed our lives to the Crucified One.

I sound like a fundy, but there it is. It's the uncomfortable and annoying truth.

I sincerely hope Hitchens, in his last moments, accepted the Divine Mercy as it reached out to him in a final act of love--after a lifetime full of reaching out and being rejected. I sincerely hope this, and pray for his soul. But those who cavalierly assume he wound up in purgatory, because God just doesn't send souls to "the other place" anymore, are unwitting victims of the modernism that's infected our age, in large part due to the absolute silence on hell from the pulpits.

Even Fr. Robert Barron, an eloquent apologist for the faith, has fallen prey to von Balthasar's soft stance, considering hell only a very real possibility rather than a place actually and currently inhabited by souls for all eternity. I'm not entirely sure how he can square his stance with the words of Our Lady of Fatima, an apparition approved by the Church:
Souls are falling into hell like snowflakes because there is none to pray and sacrifice for them.
--Our Lady of Fatima

And then there's this anecdote from St. Leonard of Port-Maurice's famous sermon on the number of the saved, which caused scandal in his day as it would no doubt cause scandal in our own:
Saint Vincent Ferrer relates that an archdeacon in Lyons gave up his charge and retreated into a desert place to do penance, and that he died the same day and hour as Saint Bernard. After his death, he appeared to his bishop and said to him, ‘Know, Monsignor, that at the very hour I passed away, thirty-three thousand people also died. Out of this number, Bernard and myself went up to heaven without delay, three went to purgatory, and all the others fell into Hell.’
Only five out of 33,000 saved, and two of them who died in the odor of sanctity.

Yet Hitchens *must* be saved, we assume...

We do him and others no favors by our cavalier assumptions about salvation. Why did the saints of old wear themselves out for souls, and consider their lives nothing but one long toil for the sake of souls? It is because they took hell seriously--unlike Catholics today, for whom hell is only some quaint possibility, who cheapen God's grace and the sacrifice and suffering required to save souls.

Annoying sermon over.

20 December 2011

There but for the grace of God go I.

We know the story of St. Philip Neri, who, on seeing a murderer being led to the gallows, said in all sincerity, "There but for the grace of God go I."

The wise man knows the same applies to him, and to every individual born in sin.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone be found boasting."--Ephesians 2:8

"All is grace."--St. Therese

Bring Back All-Boys Schools

Finding the Masculine Genius

With all the recent talk about the feminine genius, it's time to recall what seems a forgotten notion: the masculine genius. Anthony Esolen eloquently discusses it here:
Q: What could men learn from Christ, the ultimate man, in terms of developing masculinity?

Esolen: The first thing they could learn is not to be embarrassed by their manhood. It is holy! It has been created by God, and for a reason.

Then they might notice that Jesus is not the cute boyfriend that many of our churches make him out to be, the one who never goes too far -- forgive me if that is a little coarse.

Jesus loves women, as all good men must; Jesus obeys his mother at Cana; but Jesus does not hang around the skirts of women; he speaks gently, but as a man speaks gently, and when he rebukes, he rebukes forthrightly and clearly, as a man.

His closest comrades are men, though they are not necessarily the people he loves best in the world. He organizes them into a battalion of sacrifice.

He is remarkably sparing in his praise of them; certainly, as is the case with many good and wise men, he is much more desirous that they should come to know him than that they should feel comfortable about themselves.

From his apostles he seems to prefer the love that accompanies apprehension of the truth, rather than love born of his own affectionate actions toward them.

In fact, they respond to him as men often respond: They admire and follow with all the greater loyalty the man who rebukes them for, of all things, being frightened when it appears their ship will capsize in the stormy Sea of Galilee!

Men can learn from Jesus to seek the company of other men, at least in part for the sake of women, and certainly for the sake of the village, the nation, the Church and the world.

They can learn that there are two ways at least in which man is not meant to be alone: He needs the complementary virtues of woman, and he needs other men.

A soldier alone is no soldier.
Worth reading the whole thing.

18 December 2011

Tales from the Hinterland

Archbishop Fulton Sheen was National Director for the Society for the Propagation of the Faith for a number of years, and came across some rather remarkable stories from those toiling in the vineyard. They remind us, among other things, that life is one long labor for souls. Those who seek rest and comfort in this life miss the point.

You can sleep when you're dead.
One of the first visitors whom I received in my role of National Director was a bishop in Pakistan. He told me that at the outbreak of the war he, being an Italian missionary bishop, was arrested, put into jail and told that he would not be released until the war was over. A few days later he received a visit from a thirteen-year-old girl named Clara Mark, a Hindu whom he converted to the Faith. She said: "Bishop, you will not be here in this prison very long; you will be released at the end of six months and will continue to serve as a bishop for years to come."

The Bishop inquired how she knew he would be released from prison. She said: "I have offered my life for you, and for the success of your work." Six months later the authorities unlocked the prison door and told the Bishop that he was free to continue to live as a bishop in Pakistan. His first visit immediately after leaving prison was to Clara Mark, and he learned from her parents that she had died that morning.

Read more »

17 December 2011

What really happened to Fr. Demets?

Remember the incident involving Fr. Laurent Demets, FSSP? The rest of the story here:
Three months after the actual incident, without the consent or permission of the parents, and based on some anonymous eavesdropper’s false report, the non-problematic disciplining of an emotional child was turned into a major incident. Then, without any formal investigation it was broadcast throughout the world in a manner that makes the whole thing appear like carefully crafted character assassination.
The family had no problem with the disciplinary action he took, but they were in fact very hurt and upset by the way the Diocese of Little Rock chose to handle it. The child has been more traumatized by the media storm, the investigation, and the loss of the Latin Mass community than the slapping. And it was, in fact, the Diocese of Little Rock, not the Department of Human Services, that chose to release the information to the news media. Bishop Taylor never met with Father Demets to discuss the removal of his faculties or to explain the diocesan policy that had been violated.
Apparently, the Fraternity is none too happy with the way the diocese chose to handle the situation, and Superior General John Berg refuses to send another priest down there to replace Fr. Demets. Who can blame him?

16 December 2011

If I could design my own library...

it would undoubtedly look like this one, in Dunrobin Castle, Scotland, down to the blood-red drapes, dark wood paneling, and even the leonine rugs. Save the bright, airy spaces for the public; I'll take this musty, ancient, dimly lit library for my own private hours. Of course, there'd be a laptop propped up in the middle of the desk...

13 December 2011

Highland Scene, Richard Sidney Percy, oil on canvas, year unknown.

Wanderings in Post-VII Land

A reader queries Fr. Z: "[S]hould the Aztec dancers present the gifts before or after the priest incense the altar?"

And he's serious.


The bishop of Aberdeen on this most necessary habit:
There can be no real relationship with God, there can be no real meeting with God, without silence.
Who can imagine Mary as a noisy person? In the Gospels, St Joseph never says a word; he simply obeys the words brought him by angels. And when John the Baptist later comes out with words of fire, it is after years of silence in the desert.
And here comes a difficult question: what has happened to silence in our churches? Many people ask this. When the late Canon Duncan Stone, as a young priest in the 1940s, visited a parish in the Highlands, he was struck to often find thirty or forty people kneeling there in silent prayer. Now often there is talking up to the very beginning of Mass, and it starts again immediately afterwards. But what is a church for, and why do we go there?"

Priests can get themselves in trouble talking like this

But if you don't care, then it doesn't matter.
I have here sometimes used the provocative image of the TLM being the grown-up Mass (T-Bone steak and Cabernet) and the Novus Ordo, at least as celebrated in many places, as the kiddy Mass (jar of pureed carrot and milk). Condescending? I suppose. I can live with that. While milk and pureed carrots are the proper food for the very young, sometimes adults eat it too, as for example when she has a broken jaw.

12 December 2011

Miracle Attributed to Abp. Fulton Sheen

On Sept. 16, 2010, Travis and Bonnie Engstrom prayed for an hour straight that their stillborn son, James Fulton Engstrom, would take his first breath. In the 61st minute of his life, he finally did.
Bishop Daniel Jenky of the Peoria Diocese officially sealed the findings Sunday, which were sent to the Vatican for further examination. If they are found to be legitimate, they will lead to the Archbishop's beatification.

10 December 2011

The State of French Catholic Traditionalism

Professor Luc Perrin offers an overview of French Catholic Traditionalism from its beginnings to its current status:
The lack of support from the French bishops is mainly illustrated by what I call the containment policy unofficially adopted to stall the implementation of Summorum Pontificum. If there are now a handful of dioceses left without a single official T.L.M., if the increase of the locations since 2007 has been noticeable (around 40%), we are still far behind to meet not the expectations but the actual official requests of the faithful. Not only in too many cases, bishops have retained the final decision, implementing … Ecclesia Dei adflicta of 1988, but very often they have the initial word before any pastor could use his right to decide. One parish pastor of Paris who took this liberty had to seek refuge in Bishop Rey’s diocese after his mandate was not renewed by the Cardinal-archbishop. In this regard, there is little change to be expected with the Instruction Ecclesiae universae (2011) because the containment policy is more subtle than a frontal opposition.
After this grey picture of French Traditionalism, I want to offer a few words of conclusion with some encouraging elements.

Amidst an ageing and rapidly declining cafeteria Catholicism, the « Tradiland » offers a younger face with numerous active lay people.... Traditional communities are in France, like everywhere else, a cradle for religious and priestly vocations. French liberal dioceses (ex. Poitiers) have become vocational deserts ; in Strasbourg, from around 40 seminarians less than ten years ago, we have now 14 and a single new one in first year. It is commonly estimated, based on the present stats, that traditional institutes will provide nearly 20% of French ordained priests around 2015. Moreover, when they are not pressured to quit, trad-oriented seminarians, if not traditionalist themselves, are a growing number in the surviving diocesan seminaries.
(via Rorate Caeli)

09 December 2011


This is the sort of mangled reasoning modernists have used to foist their wreckovations on contemporary parishes everywhere. In response to a sincere question asking why there exists the modern tendency to strip churches of every vestige of the sacred and replace them with the barebones minimum, some fellow in the comments box writes the following. The most surprising thing about it all is that he actually believes what he says:
Gothic and Baroque styles are not always thought to be beautiful, sometimes they're considered gaudy, and they're certainly expensive. Much more expensive than a minimalist aesthetic. [If God's not worth spending money on, then nothing is.]

Sacred spaces have been built in the style of the day for as long as humans have been building them. Certain modern styles exalt minimalist approaches. [And some styles are more successful than others--which is why a hundred years from now, people will still be oohing and ahing over the soaring and elaborate heights of baroque cathedrals while the minimalist edifices will have been either sold to the government and turned into state penitentiaries or (please God) razed to the ground.]

Minimalism has a certain beauty to it... [You confuse medieval austerity with that 1960s architectural fad put to such extensive use in communist regimes]

Meister Eckhardt once said something to the effect of, "the more you speak of God as ineffable, the less you say about God as ineffable." There is a sense that in God's divine simplicity, images, statues, and ornate ambos do not come any closer to the reality of God than does a stout, blank wall and plain wood benches. [Thus reasoned Protestant reformers as they gleefully smashed statues and high altars, burned vestments, and melted down golden vessels.]

The final piece that I can imagine is that an austere church, without the gold, or expensive artwork, does not cause scandal through an ostentatious display of wealth in stark contrast to the physically impoverished people it may hope to minister to. [These "physically impoverished people" would box this fellow on the ears if they could; visit any poor Catholic community in a third world country (before 1965), and more often than not one would find, amidst the hovels and privation, ornate, gold-gilt chapels built and maintained by the poor themselves. The harshness of life as they knew it in their slums and daily toil was ameliorated by the beauty of such sacred spaces, where the careworn mother could kneel before a statue of Our Lady and find comfort, or where the laborer could find refreshment for his soul as he prayed before the golden tabernacle before returning to his backbreaking toil. To rob the poor of the consolation of beauty by using the very protestant excuse of "scandal" is more than patronizing; it is cruel.]
After reading such nonsense, I have to ask myself: is our aesthetic sense so blunted that we can no longer tell the difference between ugliness and beauty? Apparently, in some cases, yes.

06 December 2011

St. Nicholas H-Slaps Arius

Taylor Marshall on the bishop's zeal to defend Our Lord's honor:
During the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea (AD 325), Arius was called upon to defend his position on the inferiority of Christ. Saint Nicholas just couldn't listen to all of Arius' nonsense and so he stood up and laid in to Arius with his fist.

The Emperor Constantine and the bishops present at the Council were alarmed by Nicholas' act of violence against Arius. They immediately stripped Nicholas of his office as a bishop by confiscating the two items that marked out a man as a Christian bishop: Nicholas' personal copy of the Gospels and his pallium (the vestment worn by all bishops in the East).

Now if that were the end of the story, we probably wouldn't know about Saint Nicholas, and our children wouldn't be asking him for presents. However, after Nicholas was deposed, the Lord Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary visited Nicholas who was being held in a prison cell for his fist-fight with the heretic.

Our Lord Jesus Christ asked Saint Nicholas, "Why are you here?" Nicholas responded, "Because I love you, my Lord and my God."

Christ then presented Nicholas with his copy of the Gospels. Next, the Blessed Virgin vested Nicholas with his episcopal pallium, thus restoring him to his rank as a bishop.
Egads! the modern man gasps. Surely Our Lord doesn't condone violence! Actually, at times, He does. Recall that he fashioned a cord of whips, overturned the tables, and drove the moneychangers out of the temple.

"Zeal for thine house has consumed me."

Does such zeal consume us?

In any case, St. Louis, the greatest of all French kings, would have acted with even greater severity. "A Christian," he said, "should argue with a blasphemer only by running his sword through his bowels as far as it will go."

05 December 2011

Le Chant des Templiers

Coolest chant ever. I envision the troop of Knights Templar attending Mass, chanting this at the top of their lungs before they ride into battle against the pagan hordes, banners flying and swords at the ready...

Wanted: Masculine, Holy Priests

Fr. Michael Rodriguez, the beleaguered priest who was transferred to another parish for speaking boldly against the homosexual lifestyle, has written an article asking for prayers for the as yet unnamed new bishop of El Paso. The former bishop--responsible for taking Fr. Rodriguez from his parish, where he regularly celebrated the Traditional Latin Mass--was recently and suddenly transferred to the diocese of Fresno, CA.
The Diocese of El Paso needs a new bishop and spiritual father who will begin to take the necessary steps to correct the moral and spiritual disorder of rampant homosexuality within our presbyterate. The abomination of actively homosexual priests is a sin that cries to heaven for vengeance and is crippling our diocese. El Paso needs a new shepherd who will demand of us priests what Christ demands: obedience, celibacy, a profound life of prayer, simplicity of life, a spirit of continual conversion, pastoral charity marked by kenosis (death to self), sacrifice, service, and true holiness in our public and private conduct. God willing, our new bishop will insist that we priests give priority to the spiritual dimension of our priestly life and ministry: offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass daily, administering the sacrament of Confession, guiding the parish’s life of prayer, and instructing the faithful according to the full and authentic doctrine of the Holy Roman Catholic Church. Good, pious, holy, and masculine priests are a priceless gift to Mother Church and the surest guarantee of success in fostering future vocations to the priesthood.
As ever, Fr. Rodriguez speaks with clarity and boldness.

01 December 2011

On the Nature of Assent Owed to Vatican II Teachings

Just written and published by Monsignor Fernando Ocáriz Braña, Vicar General of Holy Cross and Opus Dei, and Vatican representative in the doctrinal talks with the SSPX. It's sufficiently vague to keep the trad world guessing:
Not only should the Second Vatican Council be interpreted in the light of previous Magisterial documents, but also some of these earlier magisterial documents can be understood better in the light of the Second Vatican Council....

These are innovations in the sense that they explain new aspects which have not previously been formulated by the Magisterium, but which do not doctrinally contradict previous Magisterial documents. This is so even though, in certain cases — for example, concerning religious freedom — these innovations imply very different consequences at the level of historical decisions concerning juridical and political applications of the teaching, especially given the changes in historical and social conditions. An authentic interpretation of Conciliar texts can only be made by the Magisterium of the Church herself. Therefore, in the theological work of the interpretation of passages in the Conciliar texts which arouse queries or seem to present difficulties, it is above all necessary to take into account the sense in which they have been interpreted in subsequent Magisterial interventions. Nevertheless, there remains space for legitimate theological freedom to explain in one way or in another how certain formulations present in the Conciliar texts do not contradict the Tradition and, therefore, to explain the correct meaning of some expressions contained in those passages.
Rorate Caeli has the whole thing.

For the Faith in England

St. Edmund Campion died today in 1581. His Brag, circulated throughout England and addressed to that heretic and usurper Queen Elizabeth, ends thus:
Many innocent hands are lifted up to heaven for you daily by those English students, whose posterity shall never die, which beyond seas, gathering virtue and sufficient knowledge for the purpose, are determined never to give you over, but either to win you heaven, or to die upon your pikes. And touching our Society, be it known to you that we have made a league—-all the Jesuits in the world, whose succession and multitude must overreach all the practice of England-—cheerfully to carry the cross you shall lay upon us, and never to despair your recovery, while we have a man left to enjoy your Tyburn, or to be racked with your torments, or consumed with your prisons. The expense is reckoned, the enterprise is begun; it is of God; it cannot be withstood. So the faith was planted: So it must be restored.
Amen and amen. May it be so!

As we well know, St. Edmund Campion himself suffered all the torments above, never uttering a complaint, and forgiving his queen and tormentor with whole heart.

During his disembowelment, his blood splattered on the doublet of one young Henry Walpole standing nearby. Walpole would go on to become a Jesuit, suffering martyrdom for the faith at York fourteen years later.

Evelyn Waugh has written a wonderful biography of Campion, and the saint makes a cameo appearance in Fr. Robert Hugh Benson's inspiring work of historical fiction, Come Rack! Come Rope!