13

New Year’s Resolution #1: Pray for my enemies

“Good resolutions are useless attempts to interfere with scientific laws. Their origin is pure vanity. Their result is absolutely nil. They give us, now and then, some of those luxurious sterile emotions that have a certain charm for the weak…. They are simply cheques that men draw on a bank where they have no account.”  Oscar Wilde, “The Picture of Dorian Grey”

It’s that time of year for starting afresh, making a list of how we want to be different.   Generally, I’m with Lord Henry, Dorian Grey’s patron (header quote), but this year I have resolved to suffer fools gladly and to pray for my enemies.   Now, there are all sorts of prayers that you could make for people whom you think are bad, but I have in mind prayers for their good, stuff that will “Make the punishment fit the crime,” as the Mikado would have it.

I recall Fr. Bernard Groeschel’s prayer for Madonna, that she mend her ways and enter a cloistered nunnery.  That’s the sort of thing I have in mind.

So, here’s the list–not in order of importance, but as they have occured to me:

  1.  For commenters who shout by use of all uppercase–that their keyboard “caps lock” and “shift” keys never work (and, incidentally, that they take anger management programs until they too learn to love their enemies).
  2.  For Fr. Antonio Spadaro, S.J., who tweeted (what an awful way to communicate purported truths!) “Theology is not #Mathematics. 2 + 2 in #Theology can make 5″, a six month course in basic arithmetic and a year course in elementary logic, to be passed with a grade of at least B+ (89%), or to be repeated.
  3. For all Catholic Hierarchy (you know who this will include) who maintain that humans significantly affect climate (as in anthropic global warming), a required stay from November 1 to March 1 (no trips out) in International Falls, MN .  Each will be given four sets of  thermal underwear and a parka.   Residences will be in log cabins heated by wood stoves.   (Wood will be supplied.)
  4. For Mark Shea–whatever Don McCleary would have.

There’s more, but that will do for now… And perhaps you, dear reader, can add some of your own.

And a blessed and happy 2018 to you all.

PS–I have some other New Year’s resolutions, but you don’t need to know what these might be.

4

Make the Sign of the Cross, and Go In!

 

My avatar when I blog and when I comment on blogs is Major General William Rosecrans.

Outside of his family, General William S. Rosecrans had three great passions in his life:  His religion, Roman Catholicism, to which he had converted as a cadet at West Point, the Army and the Union.  In the Civil War all three passions coincided.  Rising to the rank of Major General and achieving command of the Army of the Cumberland, until he was removed in the aftermath of the Union defeat at Chickamauga, Rosecrans conducted himself in the field as if he were a Crusader knight of old.

Raised a Methodist, Rosecrans’ conversion was a life long turning point for him.  He wrote to his family with such zeal for his new-found faith that his brother Sylvester began to take instruction in the Faith.  Sylvester would convert, become a priest, and eventually be the first bishop of Columbus, Ohio.

His most precious possession was his Rosary and he said the Rosary at least once each day. In battle the Rosary would usually be in his hand as he gave commands.  He had a personal chaplain, Father Patrick Treacy, who said Mass for him each morning and would busy himself the rest of the day saying masses for the troops and helping with the wounded.  In battle he exposed himself to enemy fire ceaselessly as he rode behind the General.   Rosecrans, after military matters were taken care of, delighted in debating theology with his staff officers late into the evening.

As a general Rosecrans was in the forefront of Union commanders until his defeat at Chickamauga.  His removal from command following the battle was controversial at the time and has remained controversial, some historians seeing in it a continuation by Grant, who was placed in charge of Chattanooga following Chickamauga, of his long-standing feud with Rosecrans.  Certainly Rosecrans had already drafted the plan followed by Grant to reopen the lines of supply to the Union forces in Chickamauga.  Go here to read a spirited defense of General Rosecrans which appeared in issue 401 of The Catholic World in 1898. Continue Reading

10

Saint Saruman

Dave Griffey at Daffey Thoughts has been on fire lately:

Court upholds colossal fine against Christian bakers for refusing to cater a gay wedding.  Of course homosexuality is the club the left long searched for in order to bludgeon all resistance.  The growing number of Christians willing to explicitly, or implicitly, align themselves with this movement by following the St. Saruman principle of cozying with whatever power is rising in the East, own what happened to this small business owner.  Not that they care.  But it’s worth noting they are responsible. 

Go here to read the rest.  That this was in explicit violation of the First Amendment to the US Constitution bothered the Oregon appellate court panel not at all.  Nullification and soon secession are the latest tools that so many leftists are eager to embrace to build their squalid little politically correct police states.  Christians signing on for this are either idiots or CINOs.

 

1

Auld Lang Syne

Something for the weekend.  Auld Lang Syne.  Written by the immortal Scots poet Bobby Burns in 1788, his poem captured perfectly the grandeur of human memory as it ponders the cherished past.  It is very appropriate that it has become an essential part of New Year’s Eve celebrations.  Here is his original version:

 

 

 

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

and never brought to mind ?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

and auld lang syne ?

For auld lang syne, my jo (or my dear),

for auld lang syne,

we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness

for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp !

and surely I’ll be mine !

And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,

for auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes,

and pu’d the gowans fine ;

But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,

sin auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn,

frae morning sun till dine;

But seas between us braid hae roar’d

sin auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!

and gie’s a hand o’ thine !

And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,

for auld lang syne.

Translated into Sassenach: Continue Reading

12

“Could Not Come To An Agreement”

If your local Catholic radio is now branded as Relevant Radio, you may be aware that Catholic Answers Live will not be carried after the first of the year.

Various news reports said they “could not come to an agreement.”

Turns out that is true…because Relevant Radio, which is west coast only (and not all of the west coast Catholic stations, thankfully), wanted exclusive rights to broadcast, and exclusive branding rights.

“Hey, you guys who actually have a functioning magazine, whose website is literally catholic dot com, drop a minimum of two thirds of your stations, leave satellite radio, and turn everything you’ve got over to us.  Or we won’t carry your show.”

Catholic Answers is being a lot nicer about this than they probably should, but they do at least give the whole story without any dancing around*; I do wonder whose brilliant idea it was to offer such an obviously designed to not be accepted offer in this day and age.  Good on Catholic Answers for remembering their calling.

* You know you’ve seen that, where there’s been a “misunderstanding” and one side wants to spin it as no big deal– and the other goes along and helps them manipulate people, because otherwise it “looks bad” or something.  Leaving this at “could not come to an agreement” is a flat falsehood, because it gives the impression of two reasonable sides just not managing to come together.

9

Keep Christ in Christmas

So said Pope Francis:

 

“In our times, especially in Europe, we’re seeing a ‘distortion’ of Christmas,” the pope said in his final General Audience of 2017.

“In the name of a false respect for non-Christians, which often hides a desire to marginalize the faith, every reference to the birth of Christ is being eliminated from the holiday,” Francis said. “But in reality, this event is the one true Christmas!”

“Without Jesus, there is no Christmas,” the pope said, drawing strong applause from a crowd gathered Wednesday morning in the Vatican’s Paul VI Audience Hall.

“If he’s at the center, then everything around him, that is, the lights, the songs, the various local traditions, including the characteristic foods, all comes together to create the atmosphere of a real festival,” he said.

“But if we take [Christ] away, the lights go off and everything becomes fake, mere appearances,” the pope said.

Go here to read the rest.  Dave Griffey at Daffey Thoughts gives us the American context for these remarks:

 

Yep.  You heard that right.  For years, post-Conservatives have proudly joined the secular, non-Christian Left in mocking the whole ‘war on Christmas’ and ‘culture wars.’  This laughable notion that we should care that our society demanded the Christian element of the Christmas holiday be eliminated from public acknowledgement was condemned by those wishing to separate themselves from those defending the traditions of the Christian West.

From Mark Shea to Southern Baptist ethics leader Russel Moore, open contempt for those bothered by this push to silence the Christian elements of Christmas has become almost a confession of the post-traditional Faith.  It was a way to say “we’re not like those non-liberal types over there.”

And now, suddenly, Pope Francis has jumped in an echoed – what those bemoaning the secularization and elimination of Christ from Christmas have been lamenting.  He’s not alone.  I’ve met several over the years from other countries who were shocked that American Christians  seem to easily accept being pushed around and out the door of public discourse and celebration. 

Will this become a wake up call for the Christians who have been fighting the Long Retreat over the years?  Those who figure the Left has won, the West is dead, and it’s best to cozy up to the new power as best we can, and that might include avoiding the C-Word in Christmas settings on the off chance we offend someone who matters?  We’ll see.  I’ve noticed that for a pope who is adored and loved by the majority, there seems to be about 1/2 of what he says that drops through the storm drains. 

Go here to comment.  Societies sometimes become one-trick ponies and find themselves in a dead end.  China with its exam system eventually produced government officials who were mainly good at passing exams and nothing else.  Assyria was hell on wheels for military conquest until it aroused endless domestic civil wars, with its matchless army turned upon itself, and foreign coalitions that eventually made Assyria a half forgotten memory.  The deep South depended so entirely on slavery that it would destroy the Union to protect it, and ended up destroying its economic system as a result.  Secularization in the West is in a similar blind end.  Christ reminded Satan that man does not live by bread alone, and the pursuit of materialism solely produces societies with an inherent death wish, as man needs some better reason to exist than to satisfy physical needs and desires that have ever been a means and not an end in themselves.  We all have a God-sized hole in our souls, and attempts to ignore that fundamental fact of human existence are either bleakly humorous or bleakly tragic depending upon the mood of the observer.

5

Saint Thomas Becket, Sin and Contrition

Henry II:  Hear me!
People of Canterbury
and citizens of England,
as I have submitted myself to the lash,
so have I petitioned the Pope.
And this day,
I have received his answer.
Thomas Becket,
former Archbishop of Canterbury
and martyr to the cause
of God and his church,
shall henceforth be honored
and prayed to in this kingdom
as a saint.
(crowd cheering)
Henry II:  (sotto voce) Is the honor of God
washed clean enough?
Are you satisfied now, Thomas?

Becket(1964)



 

 

 

 

 

Today is the feast day of my confirmation saint, Saint Thomas Becket, the holy, blessed martyr.  His story tells us how foreign to our time the Middle Ages are.  Becket was a worldly cleric who had risen to be chancellor of England for Henry II.  Henry seized the opportunity to place his man, Becket, on the throne of Canterbury as Primate of England.  Becket had a sudden and complete religious conversion and fought Henry for the liberty of the Church for which Becket suffered exile and, ultimately, murder.  In penance for Becket’s murder Henry had himself beaten by the monks at Canterbury before the tomb of his former friend who, two years after his death, was canonized by the Pope.  For over three centuries his tomb became one of the major pilgrimage sites in Europe and inspired the immortal Canterbury Tales.

The Middle Ages were fully as immersed in sin as our own time, although with different mixtures of evil, but the sins of the Middle Ages were often followed by great penances and acts of contrition that brightened and inspired countless lives down through the centuries.  This we have lost and this we must regain.  G.K. Chesterton put what we lack in high relief when he wrote about Saint Thomas:

At the grave of the dead man broke forth what can only be called an epidemic of healing. For miracles so narrated there is the same evidence as for half of the facts of history; and any one denying them must deny them upon a dogma. But something followed which would seem to modern civilization even more monstrous than a miracle. If the reader can imagine Mr. Cecil Rhodes submitting to be horsewhipped by a Boer in St. Paul’s Cathedral, as an apology for some indefensible death incidental to the Jameson Raid, he will form but a faint idea of what was meant when Henry II was beaten by monks at the tomb of his vassal and enemy. The modern parallel called up is comic, but the truth is that mediaeval actualities have a violence that does seem comic to our conventions. The Catholics of that age were driven by two dominant thoughts: the all-importance of penitence as an answer to sin, and the all-importance of vivid and evident external acts as a proof of penitence. Extravagant humiliation after extravagant pride for them restored the balance of sanity. The point is worth stressing, because without it moderns make neither head nor tail of the period. Green gravely suggests, for instance, of Henry’s ancestor Fulk of Anjou, that his tyrannies and frauds were further blackened by “low superstition,” which led him to be dragged in a halter round a shrine, scourged and screaming for the mercy of God. Mediaevals would simply have said that such a man might well scream for it, but his scream was the only logical comment he could make. But they would have quite refused to see why the scream should be added to the sins and not subtracted from them. They would have thought it simply muddle-headed to have the same horror at a man being horribly sinful and for being horribly sorry.

Bishop Stephen Gardiner who helped Henry VIII destroy the Catholic Church in England so long under the protection of Saint Thomas Becket, Henry plundering and destroying the tomb of Saint Thomas as a symbol of the Catholicism he hated, later repented and sought to restore the Catholic Church in England under Queen Mary.  He died before Queen Mary and therefore he did not live to see the failure of the attempted restoration as a result of Mary’s death and the accession of Bloody Elizabeth.  As he lay dying he purportedly said something in his grief that I think gets at the heart of what sickens the modern world:  Erravi cum Petro, sed non flevi cum Petro.  (Like Peter I have erred, unlike Peter I have not wept.)  Sin remains sin, no matter what the world in its folly calls it.  Sin without repentance leads to damnation in eternity and endless evil in this world, something the Middle Ages knew well and our Modern World has almost completely forgotten.

 

3

Holy Innocents

A voice in Rama was heard, lamentation and great mourning; Rachel bewailing her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not. 

Matthew 2:18

Herod’s murder of the Holy Innocents is remembered on this feast day of the Holy Innocents.  The video below is a moving depiction of this horrendous crime from the film Jesus of Nazareth

Herod ordered this massacre in a futile attempt to stop the Light of the World from completing His mission of salvation.  In our day Holy Innocents are slaughtered each and every day in an ultimately futile attempt to deny what Christ taught:  that we are all brothers and sisters and that we must love God and love one another.  Some day this modern Herod emulation that goes by the name of legal abortion will cease, and the feast day of the Holy Innocents is a very good day for us to resolve to work unceasingly to bring that day closer. Continue Reading

1

Quotes Suitable For Framing: Theodore Roosevelt

“There are those who believe that a new modernity demands a new morality. What they fail to consider is the harsh reality that there is no such thing as a new morality. There is only one morality. All else is immorality. There is only true Christian ethics over against which stands the whole of paganism. If we are to fulfill our great destiny as a people, then we must return to the old morality, the sole morality.”

Theodore Roosevelt, State of the Union Address, 1905

13

Where Angels Fear to Tread

 

 

Time for my annual attempt to gaze into a crystal ball and give predictions for the forthcoming year:

 

 

 

  1.  Defying current polls the Republicans will hold onto the House and gain five seats in the Senate.
  2.  The sex abuse scandal will claim the scalps of at least 3 more Senators and 10 members of the House.
  3.   Pope Francis will have a health crisis.
  4.   There will be an announcement by the Federal government regarding extraterrestrial life.
  5.   A major terrorist attack involving poison gas will occur in Europe.
  6.   Jeff Sessions will be fired as Attorney General.
  7.   The anti-Trump movement will grow increasingly hysterical as election day approaches next November.
  8.   Mark Shea will issue at least three mea culpas.
  9.   Economic growth will hit five percent in the third quarter of next year.
  10.   McClarey will be wrong on some of his predictions.

 

6

Alexa, OK Google, Siri–Which gives Catholic information?

The truth is, we’re all cyborgs with cell phones and online identities.–Geoff Johns, Brainyquote.com

I was intrigued by a YouTube video in which a comic, Steven Crowder, got Alexa, the Amazon.com echo device, to say that Jesus Christ was a fictional character.   Now all these search and information devices are (sometimes) a blessing, a boon, and a wonderful tool.

Nevertheless, I have asked myself “how reliable is the information you get from these artificial semi-intelligences?”    So I proposed a mini-test, relevant to my own situation, and easily carried out.   I have a new Kindle HD8  (uses Alexa), an Apple Iphone 5s which uses Siri, and my son–visiting over the holidays–an android device with OK Google.   So, here was the test.  “Is there a nearby Catholic Church?”  (All devices had my location.)    And here are the results:

Alexa gave me the name “Red Roof Inn” (I wonder where that came from?) and the address about 2 miles away of that establishment;

OK Google gave me the name “St. Joseph Church,” the address and Mass times;

Siri gave me the name “St. Joseph Church”,  the address and phone number.

The two answers about St. Joseph Church were correct.  Draw your own conclusions.

8

Predictions of Times Past

Time for me to look at my predictions for this year and to dine on a bit of crow:

1. President Trump will issue a pardon to Hillary Clinton.

Nope.  She may well wish he had by the time all the current investigations are done.

2. Isis will be eliminated from Iraq.

Yep.  A great victory.  Go here to read about it.

3. There will be more than one assassination attempt against President Trump, each unsuccessful.

No assassination attempts as President, although a huge number of death threats have been made.

4. Pope Francis will attempt to excommunicate one or more of the Cardinals who oppose him.

Not so far.

5. There will be a major confrontation between Trump and Putin, and Putin will back down.

No, Trump and Putin have found themselves opposed to each other on any number of flashpoints, but no major confrontation yet.

Continue Reading

6

Scientists and Catholic Prolife Advocates Call for Reform of Pontifical Academy of Sciences

A statement by prominent Catholic scientists and prolife advocates has been released that calls for a reform of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (hat tip to William (“Matt”) Briggs, one of the signers of the statement).   Here’s a link to the statement.   I’ll quote from the “Conclusions” section:

“CONCLUSIONS

29. The Catholic Church exists for the salvation of souls. She has a long history of sponsoring and conducting scientific research, education, and human advancement. The Pontifical Academies of Science and Social Sciences are useful institutions and provide a valuable forum for dialog with the Church about the latest and most advanced findings on difficult and challenging issues as well as knowledge of exciting discoveries.

30. Since the time immediately after her foundation by Christ, the Church has always described Herself as “… one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic …” In secular terms, this is manifested as a worldwide, unified, yet multicultural institution that professes and teaches a common Faith. These are attractive characteristics for those wishing to leverage global issues or effect change on a global scale.

31. The world faces a number of serious challenges from issues relating to the environment. Resolving these challenges and providing the conditions for human life to thrive is both an issue of scientific, technical, and social/economic expertise and a matter of human capacity, will, and morality. Secular efforts to address such challenges always face the question of the moral and ethical guidance to be followed, and indeed the ever-present temptation to suspend moral and ethical principles in pursuit of quick results for what is perceived to be a larger good. Even programs aimed at addressing humanitarian needs can contain unjust, ineffective, or morally unacceptable elements. Globally organized programs of human development and environmental protection or management have been particularly prone to this problem.

32. A chronic problem in the operation of the academies recently has become acute. The Pontifical Academies, in their focus on issues of global environmental challenges and human development, have been importing secularist values, perspectives, and philosophies into their documents and statements, making it appear as if the Church was morally uncertain and is holding open different views on core teachings at the heart of Gospel teaching on matters of grave importance.  The Church cannot accept, especially implicitly, that humanity can contracept and abort its way to a healthy environment, economy, or society.[emphasis added]

33. The problem is not the secularist scientists or economists of the Pontifical Academies as much as it is the Church supervision of the Academies. The membership of the Academies do not offer moral expertise. Yet the leadership of the Pontifical Academies consistently engages in selective invitation of experts who are leading advocates of morally problematic approaches, and provides a privileged forum for their views, which inevitably carries an implied endorsement by the Church. This pattern confuses Catholic lay faithful and those who observe the Church from the outside, and needs to be reformed before a virtual counter magisterium is set up under the sponsorship the Church Herself.

 34. By contrast, the Catholic Church, by Her very nature, must always fulfill Her unique role as a protector of innocent human life. The Church did so, against the consensus of the international scientific, technical, and policy elites of the day, in the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development. In our time, Church leaders face the same temptation to remain silent on matters related to population control in order to preserve the good opinion of scientific, technical, and economic cultures that generally hold the Church’s mission in low regard. If this were to happen, Church leaders would then place human dignity and freedom at risk, most especially regard for the value of unrepeatable, individual human persons.”

I have written in posts on my own blog that the Church should not meddle in, i.e. make judgments about, science.  (See “Galileo Redux: When should the Church meddle in science?”  )    Climate change and population control are not issues on which the Holy Father and the members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences are qualified judges, nor were the Cardinals on Galileo’s advocacy that the earth circled the sun.

Let me conclude with an apt quotation from the Book of Wisdom:13, verses 1-9 (Douay-Rheims American Version):

 ¹But all men are vain, in whom there is not the knowledge of God: and who by these good things that are seen, could not understand him that is, neither by attending to the works have acknowledged who was the workman:

But have imagined either the fire, or the wind, or the swift air, or the circle of the stars, or the great water, or the sun and moon, to be the gods that rule the world.

With whose beauty, if they, being delighted, took them to be gods: let them know how much the Lord of them is more beautiful than they: for the first author of beauty made all those things.

Or if they admired their power and their effects, let them understand by them, that he that made them, is mightier than they:

For by the greatness of the beauty, and of the creature, the creator of them may be seen, so as to be known thereby.

But yet as to these they are less to be blamed. For they perhaps err, seeking God, and desirous to find him.

For being conversant among his works, they search: and they are persuaded that the things are good which are seen.

But then again they are not to be pardoned.

For if they were able to know so much as to make a judgment of the world: how did they not more easily find out the Lord thereof?

NOTE:

The featured image (from Wikimedia Commons) is of Abbe LeMaitre, the priest who formulated “The Big Bang” theory of cosmic evolution.

2

On Caesar

 

Caesar was and is not lovable. His generosity to defeated opponents, magnanimous though it was, did not win their affection. He won his soldiers’ devotion by the victories that his intellectual ability, applied to warfare, brought them. Yet, though not lovable, Caesar was and is attractive, indeed fascinating. His political achievement required ability, in effect amounting to genius, in several different fields, including administration and generalship, besides the minor arts of wire pulling and propaganda. In all these, Caesar was a supreme virtuoso.

Arnold Toynbee

Among the gifts my bride gave me at Christmas was a copy of The Landmark Julius Caesar, a new translation of Caesar’s Gallic War and Civil War, along with The Alexandrine War, The African War and The Spanish War, authored by unknown contemporaries of Caesar, and which rounded out the tale of Caesar’s campaigns during the Civil War.  Go here to download 334 pages of essays on Caesar that accompany this volume.

 

Of all the “bold, bad men” that infest the pages of human history, Caesar has always had a special fascination for me.  He completed the suicide of the Roman Republic, that had been initiated a third of a century before he was born.  A man of genius, and so recognized by his contemporaries, he had not a scintilla of sentiment for the political forms that had governed Rome for perhaps five centuries and clearly had lived beyond their time.  It is beyond ironic that he did not live to create the new state that his life was clearly dedicated to bringing into being.  That task was left to his great nephew, the colorless Octavius, aka Augustus Caesar, who was devoid of military talent, but who knew how to make good use of men of genius in all spheres, and who, while creating permanent one-man rule in Rome, constantly proclaimed himself a Republican, and actually at one point proclaimed that he had restored the Republic.  (He had learned the lesson well of his great uncle’s assassination, that one man rule in Rome needed to be disguised and not flaunted, even if everyone could see through the fig leaf.)   Elite opinion in Rome was intensely Republican during his life, but almost all realized that a return to the Republic meant a return to endless Civil War.  Thus Octavian gave to Rome a century of civil peace, and banished from the ancient world the concepts of liberty that inspired  “the Glory that was Greece and the Grandeur that was Rome.”  Men like Caesar remind us how swiftly that political freedom can die an unmourned death.

 

SCOTT: I must confess, gentlemen. I’ve always held a sneaking admiration for this one.
KIRK: He was the best of the tyrants and the most dangerous. They were supermen, in a sense. Stronger, braver, certainly more ambitious, more daring.
SPOCK: Gentlemen, this romanticism about a ruthless dictator is
KIRK: Mister Spock, we humans have a streak of barbarism in us. Appalling, but there, nevertheless.
SCOTT: There were no massacres under his rule.
SPOCK: And as little freedom.
MCCOY: No wars until he was attacked.
SPOCK: Gentlemen.
KIRK: Mister Spock, you misunderstand us. We can be against him and admire him all at the same time.
SPOCK: Illogical.
KIRK: Totally. This is the Captain. Put a twenty four hour security on Mister Khan’s quarters, effective immediately.

Star Trek, Space Seed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13

White Flag Pope

 

 

Pope Francis has long reminded me of popes who reigned at various points in the Middle Ages, seated by some powerful Emperor, King or other political entity, and who then spent their papacies rubber stamping what their political sponsor wanted to do.  RR Reno at First Things explains the resemblance:

 

 

 

 

This papacy is not hard to figure out. Pope Francis and his associates echo the pieties and self-complimenting utopianism of progressives. That’s not surprising. The Jesuit charism is multifaceted and powerful. I count myself among those profoundly influenced by the spiritual genius of St. Ignatius. Yet there’s no disputing that for centuries Jesuits have shown great talent in adjusting the gospel to suit the powerful. And so, I think the European establishment can count on the Vatican to denounce the populism currently threatening its hold on power. I predict that this papacy will be a great defender of migrants and refugees—until political pressures on the European ruling class become so great that it shifts and becomes more “realistic,” at which point the Vatican will shift as well. What is presently denounced will be permitted; what is presently permitted will be denounced.

Adjustment, trimming of sails, and accommodation are inevitable. The Catholic Church is not set up to be countercultural. Catholicism, at least in the West, has establishment in its DNA. But this papacy is uniquely invertebrate. I can identify no consistent theological structure other than a vague Rahnerianism and post–Vatican II sign-of-the-times temporizing. This makes Francis a purely political pope, or at least very nearly so. No doubt he has an evangelical heart. But ever the Jesuit, he seems to regard every aspect of the Church’s tradition as a plastic instrument to be stiffened here or relaxed there in accord with ever-changing pastoral judgments.

This will not end well. The West has seen a long season of loosening, opening up, and deconsolidation, of which the sexual revolution is but a part. Our establishment is committed to sustaining this consensus. This is why it has been at war with Catholic intransigence, which is based on the Church’s insistence that she answer to timeless, unchanging, and demanding truths. It’s foolish for the papacy to make a peace treaty with this establishment consensus. It’s theologically unworkable. It’s also politically inept. For the establishment consensus is failing, and that includes the sexual revolution, which made many promises that were not fulfilled.

Go here to read the rest.  The easiest way to understand Pope Francis is to see him as the “White Flag Pope”, as the Vatican seeks to largely capitulate to the dominant political force in the West.  Such cowards and time servers have ever infested the higher echelons of the Church.  A study of Church history gives us the reassurance however, that such capitulations to the World tend to be relatively short-lived, as the Church is designed to serve the cause of Christ and not the cause of those who wish to hijack her to serve other masters.

100 Racist Things of 2017

I trust everyone had a grand Christmas.  The law mines are usually fairly quiet between Christmas and New Years.  I have two real estate closings on tap this week and otherwise I hope I can use the time to perform some necessary, albeit mundane, tasks and, in general, to catch up.

 

 

 

 

 

Tucker Carlson provides a list of a hundred items proclaimed by some Leftists to be racist this year.  Go here to view the well documented list.  Feel free to add to it in the comboxes.  Racism is a terrible thing, but Leftists have largely rendered the charge a nullity by insisting to use it as a shorthand insult for people who have the temerity to disagree with them.  It also doesn’t help that while Leftists purport to be all about fighting racism, most Leftists express sentiments against whites that are clearly racist.  This seems to be a common mode of operation for the Left these days, embracing what one claims to be fighting.  Thus we see Leftists calling themselves anti-fascists while embracing groups that dress in black, punch out people in the streets and howl down in public forums speech that they hate.

1

On the Feast of Stephen

But his deeds I think you know better than I could tell you; for, as is read in his Passion, no one doubts that, rising every night from his noble bed, with bare feet and only one chamberlain, he went around to God’s churches and gave alms generously to widows, orphans, those in prison and afflicted by every difficulty, so much so that he was considered, not a prince, but the father of all the wretched.

              Cosmas of Prague, writing in 1119 about Saint King Wenceslaus

 

It has always seemed appropriate to me that the hymn Good King Wenceslas, written in 1853, ties together Saint Stephen and Saint King Wenceslas.  Saint Stephen is the original martyr of Christ, the first of that glorious line of Christians who have testified to their Faith in the God who died for them by surrendering their own lives for Him.  The Apostles had cut poor figures indeed on the night when Christ was betrayed, and Saint Stephen heroically and unforgettably demonstrated a better example, that would be followed by the Apostles themselves who later died as martyrs.  Bravery in the face of a martyr’s death takes a great deal of courage and faith, and we Catholics have ever honored our martyrs.

 

Wenceslas was born in 907 into a turbulent time and place.  The eldest son of Duke Vratislaus I of Bohemia, Bohemia was a country that was only beginning to convert to Christianity and was riven by conflicts between pagans and Christians, Germans and Czechs.  His mother Drahomira was the daughter of a pagan tribal leader and had only converted at the time of her marriage.  His father’s father was a Christian convert.

At the death of his father, in battle, in 921, his paternal grandmother, Ludmilla, briefly held the regency.  His mother, Drahomira, who was a real piece of work, remained a pagan at heart, and had Ludmilla strangled. (Ludmilla, who had always been noted for her charity and her strong Christian faith, was canonized shortly after her death.)  Wenceslas was now under the control of his murderous mother.  In 924 or 925 Wenceslas began to rule and exiled his mother, understandably enough.

During his reign he was noted for his charity and the strong impetus he gave to the evangelization of Bohemia.  He placed great reliance on Catholic missionary priests from Germany and this stirred resentment not only among his pagan subjects, but among some Czechs.  Taking advantage of this opposition, his brother Boleslav had Wenceslas murdered as he was walking to mass in 935.  From the instant of his death, Wenceslas was hailed as a martyr, popular devotion to him spurred by miracles that began at his funeral, and swiftly became the patron saint of Bohemia.  Holy Roman Emperor Otto I, bestowed the title of king upon him, posthumously.  His brother, who would reign for almost four decades, now remorseful, helped spread Christianity throughout his kingdom during his reign and venerated the man he had murdered as a saint.  His feast day on September 28 is celebrated as a national holiday in the Czech Republic.

 

 

According to some of our sources Wenceslas knew that his brother was plotting his murder but took no action against him.  What might be considered a dereliction of duty in a King was not one for a Saint, and Wenceslas was always more intent on a heavenly crown than he was on his earthly crown.  He pledged himself early in his reign to perpetual virginity and left no children of his body behind him.  However, all Czechs hail him as the father of their nation, and his martyrdom helped lead the Czechs to embrace the Faith and to solidify their consciousness as a people.  God uses martyrs for His purposes, and what can seem foolishness in earthly eyes when a martyr dies is often, even in earthly terms, the highest of wisdom as the centuries pass.

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Christmas–A Bad Time for Addicts and Alcoholics? Faith Is the Answer.

For some, the sights, signs and smells of the holidays bring joy and a warm feeling. But, while others are joyously diving into the season, some of us are dipping into conflict, guilt, and a sense of guilt.
—Melody Beattie, The Language of Letting Go, Dec. 24.

If I could speak to other parents facing the same situation, I’d say, “You need to hand your children over to someone greater than yourself, because you can’t control your children or the addiction. You are not helping them if you try to—hold on! It gets better.
—Anonymous, “Stories of Faith and Addiction”, St. Joseph Catholic Church Drug and Alcohol Ministry Website

“Tis the season to be jolly!” …Or is it? For many addicts, alcoholics, their family and friends, there are triggers—Christmas tree ornaments that once were scattered in a drunken rage, the Christmas Eve phone call from the ER about an overdosed child—that are a reminder of bad times in the past.

Now, I don’t intend to dampen the spirit of this sacred holiday. Rather, this article is a plea to support efforts to bring faith into the lives of addicts, alcoholics and their families. As an example, our parish has formed a “Drug and Alcohol Ministry”. We meet monthly, with a prayer/rosary session beforehand. Our mission is not to give advice—that’s left to the professionals and 12 Step groups—but to give support and to help people, those afflicted, their families and friends, know that faith in Jesus Christ will give them hope.

The web site for the ministry contains the following resources: a prayer for the month, a list of local 12 Step meetings, a list of counseling services and stories of recovery through faith in God. In our area, the Higher Power of the Twelve Step meetings is explicitly God. But this may not be the case elsewhere.

The statistics for recovery are a mixed lot. Some reports give 10% (or lower) recovery rates from just 12 Step programs. Others give higher figures for 12 Step programs plus extensive counseling. But the most significant statistic is 60 to 75% recovery—abstinence two years after release from rehab—if there is a significant faith component to rehab efforts. And it must be realized that recovery is not only for addicts or alcoholics, but for their families.

So, let us pray to God and to St. Jude, worker of miracles:

 

“God of life, You made us in Your perfect image to live in Your love and to give You glory, honor and praise. Open our hearts to Your healing power. Come, Lord Jesus, calm our souls just as You whispered “Peace” to the stormy sea.  St. Jude, holy Apostle, in our need we reach out to you. We beg you to intercede for us that we may find strength to overcome our illnesses. Bless all those who struggle with addiction. Touch them, heal them, reassure them of the Father’s constant love. Remain at our side, St. Jude, to chase away all evil temptations, fears and doubts. May the quiet assurance of your loving presence illuminate the darkness in our hearts and bring lasting peace. “—Prayer of the Month, website, St. Joseph Church Drug and Alcohol Ministry

One Solitary Life

“There is no greater drama in human record than the sight of a few Christians scorned or oppressed by a succession of emperors, bearing all trials by a fierce tenacity, multiplying quietly, building order while their enemies generated chaos, fighting the sword with the Word, brutality with hope, and at last defeating the strongest state that history has ever know. Caesar and Christ had met in the arena and Christ had won.”

Will Durant, Caesar and Christ (1944)

 

 

All the armies that have ever marched All the navies that have ever sailed All the parliaments that have ever sat All the kings that ever reigned put together Have not affected the life of mankind on earth As powerfully as that one solitary life

From One Solitary Life

I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.

H. G. Wells

O felix culpa quae talem et tantum meruit habere redemptorem

Exsultet, Easter Vigil

Continue Reading

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St. Augustine Day by Day:
“It is Christ’s Birthday”

Here is another “St. Augustine Day by Day” for Christmas:

“Rejoice you who are just.  It is the birthday of Him Who justifies.  Rejoice you who are weak and sick.  It is the birthday of Him Who makes people well.  Rejoice you who are in captivity. It is the birthday of the Redeemer.  Rejoice you who are slaves. It is the birthday of the Master.

Rejoice you who are free. It is the birthday of Him Who makes us free.  Rejoice all you Christians. It is Christ’s birthday.”–St. Augustine of Hippo, Sermon 184, 2

And again,

“Let us devoutly celebrate this day. For just as the first ones to share our faith adored Christ lying in the manger, let us adore him reigning in heaven.”–St. Augustine of Hippo, Sermon 203, 3

And a Happy and Blessed Christmas to you all.

 

 

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A Proclamation

 

The twenty-fifth day of December.

In the five thousand one hundred and ninety-ninth year of the creation of the world from the time when God in the beginning created the heavens and the earth;

the two thousand nine hundred and fifty-seventh year after the flood;

the two thousand and fifteenth year from the birth of Abraham;

the one thousand five hundred and tenth year from Moses
and the going forth of the people of Israel from Egypt;

the one thousand and thirty-second year from David’s being anointed king;

in the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel;

in the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad;

the seven hundred and fifty-second year from the foundation of the city of Rome;

the forty second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus;

the whole world being at peace,

in the sixth age of the world,

Jesus Christ the eternal God and Son of the eternal Father,
desiring to sanctify the world by his most merciful coming,
being conceived by the Holy Spirit,
and nine months having passed since his conception, was born in Bethlehem of Judea of the Virgin Mary, being made flesh.

 

Messianic Prophecies: Genesis 49: 10

Concluding our Advent look at Messianic prophecies for this year, a series which we began in Advent 2011 and continued in 2102, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016, the earlier posts of the series may be read here, here, here ,here, here, here, here, here , here here, here, here, here , here, here, here , here,   here, here here, here, here ,  here, here here, here ,   here,  here  , hereand here, we come to Genesis 49: 10:

[10] The sceptre shall not be taken away from Juda, nor a ruler from his thigh, till he come that is to be sent, and he shall be the expectation of nations.

 

Saint Augustine said of this passage:

While he then reigned over Argos, and Eratus over Sicyon, and Balæus still remained king of Assyria, Jacob died in Egypt a hundred and forty-seven years old, after he had, when dying, blessed his sons and his grandsons by Joseph, and prophesied most plainly of Christ, saying in the blessing of Judah, A prince shall not fail out of Judah, nor a leader from his thighs, until those things come which are laid up for him; and He is the expectation of the nations.

 

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Who Do We Say That He Is?

 

 

 

[15] Jesus saith to them: But whom do you say that I am?

[16] Simon Peter answered and said: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God. [17] And Jesus answering, said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. [18] And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. [19] And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven. [20] Then he commanded his disciples, that they should tell no one that he was Jesus the Christ.

Matthew 16: 16-20

 

A good question to think about on Christmas Eve.

The all important question about Christ is the one He asked.  Who do you say that I am?  In trying to make sense of Christ and his ever present impact upon this world, that is the question that is ever addressed.

A popular answer among some atheists is that Christ never existed.  This has always been a minority position since the evidence for the historicity of Christ is so overwhelming, especially for a figure who lived in obscurity.  Written accounts by His followers were drafted within decades after His death.  Saint Paul writes about Christ within a decade of the Crucifixion.  Non-Christian accounts, notably Tacitus, mention Christ.  His followers in Rome are persecuted within thirty years after His death.  Attempts to get around all this involve large amounts of conspiracy theories, ignoring inconvenient facts and academic hand-waving.  Regarding Christ as a myth may satisfy a semi-educated atheist, but it simply is not an intellectually honest position.

Much more popular, and not simply among atheists, is that Christ was a simple preacher and healer from Galilee.  His post death reputation bears no relationship to the kernel of a completely unremarkable life.  Tall tales involving miracles are complete inventions of his followers, and, in life, Christ was a common enough type of his time and place.  An interesting little theory if it only fit the facts.  All we know about Christ indicates that Christ was regarded by none of His contemporaries as either common or typical.  Leaving aside His miracles, He spoke with authority, unlike the Sadducees, Scribes and Pharisees.  His parables are masterpieces of thought and story, unforgettable after the first telling.  Much of what He said was mysterious to His followers and recalled by them even though it bore no relationship to Judaism as practiced prior to Christ.  He was viewed by the native rulers of His people as a mortal threat.  No, unless we are willing to cast aside all written evidence about Christ, and completely ignore His passionate and ever-growing following after His crucifixion, the idea of Him being common and typical is simply laughable.

Perhaps then Christ was simply one of those great moral teachers that History casts up now an again, His followers post death transforming him into a supernatural being?  In part, certainly, Christ was a great moral teacher, but He taught that He was so much more than that.  What other great moral teacher has, as the center of his teaching, that he is God, the creator of All, and that his followers must eat his flesh and drink his blood?  If Christ is regarded simply as a great moral teacher, he is one who had at the core of his teachings a blasphemous lie.

Christ as lunatic perhaps, a madman who thought he was God?  That category simply doesn’t work either.  Could a madman have responded to the clever trap of asking whether the Jews should pay tribute to Rome, by stating that the Jews should render unto Caesar his coin while giving to God what was His?  The Christ portrayed in the Gospels is sane, humane and exceedingly original and clever.  In spite of His remarkable claims, He gives not the slightest impression of psychosis.

Christ simply does not fit into any of our neat human categories, something that His contemporaries, both followers and adversaries, understood.  He came like thunder and lightning out of a clear dawn and humanity has never been the same.

I see in Lycurgus, Numa and Mohammed only legislators who, having the first rank in the state, have sought the best solution of the social problem but I see nothing there which reveals divinity…nothing announces them divine. On the contrary, there are numerous resemblances between them & myself, foibles and errors which ally them to me and to humanity.
It is not so with Christ. Everything in Him astonishes me. His spirit overawes me, and His will confounds me. Beside Him and whoever else in the world, there is no possible term of comparison. He is truly a being by Himself. His ideals and His sentiments, the truths which He announces, His manner of convincing, are not explained either by human organization or by the nature of things.

His birth and the history of His life; the profundity of His doctrine, which grapples the mightiest difficulties, and which is, of those difficulties, the most admirable solution; His Gospel, His apparition, His empire, His march across the ages and the realms, is for me a prodigy, a mystery insoluble, which plunges me into a reverence which I cannot escape, a mystery which is there before my eyes, mystery which I cannot deny or explain. Here I see nothing human. The nearer I approach, the more carefully I examine, everything is above me, everything remains grand—and of a grandeur which overpowers.

His religion is a revelation from an intelligence which certainly is not a man. There is a profound originality, which has created a series of maxims before unknown. Jesus borrowed nothing from our sciences. One can absolutely find nowhere, but in Him alone, the imitation or the example of His life.

Napoleon

 

Advent Sermons of Saint Augustine: The Word Made Flesh

This is our fourth and final look this Advent at the sermons of Saint Augustine.  Saint Augustine meditates on how inadequate human words are to describe The Word:

 

It is not at all strange that human consideration and human speech are inadequate when we undertake to praise the Son of God, the Word of God and God Himself, the Life and Light of men, as He exists in the bosom of the Father, equal to and co-eternal with Him in whom all things visible and invisible, in heaven and on earth, were established. For how would our tongue be able to pay suitable tribute to Him whom our heart, destined by God to be the instrument by which He is to be seen, as yet cannot see, if iniquity would be purged, weakness be healed, and the clean, of heart become blessed because they will see God? It is not strange, I say, for us to fail to find words in which to speak of the Word by whom the word was spoken which gave being to us who would now say something about Him. For our mind brings words into existence after they have been thought over and formed, but our mind itself is formed by the Word. Nor does man fashion words in the same way in which man was made by the Word, because the Father Himself did not beget His only Word in the same way in which He made all things through the Word. For God begot God, but the Begettor and the Begotten are one and the same God. Moreover, God made the world but the world passes while God remains. Although these things which were made certainly did not make themselves, He by whom all things were made was made by no one. It is not strange, then, that man, one of those created things, does not know how to discuss the Word by whom all things were made.

 

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Christmas Greetings From Larry

(This is a repeat of a post from 2013.  Recently my bride and I purchased a new Ford Transit Connect Wagon.  When my bride came out on the morning of December 21, 2017 to drive into the law mines she found all the windows rolled down.  The car doors were still locked and nothing had been disturbed in the car.  The car automatically locks after the drivers door is closed, and it would have been impossible thereafter to lower the automatic windows.  Now many people might find this incident puzzling or even alarming.  However, we took this as yet another visit from our late son.  Larry during his life liked sneaking into our cars to retrieve  music cds.  We suspect this was his way of saying hello to us at our fifth Christmas without him.  No greater Christmas present could have been given us.  Death stands helpless before lasting human love and the hope beyond the grave that all Christians possess.  Special things can occur at Christmas and such an event has blessed my family.)

 

 

Something for the weekend.  One of my favorite Christmas carols has always been I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.   It is based on the poem Christmas Bells written  by poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on Christmas Day 1863.  Still devastated by the death of his wife in a fire in 1861, he had been rocked by news that his son Charles, serving as a lieutenant in the Union army, had been severely wounded at the battle of New Hope Church in November of 1863.  In a nation rent by civil war, along with his personal woes, one could perhaps understand if Longfellow had been deaf to the joy of Christmas that year.   Having suffered a grave personal loss this year, the death of my son Larry on May 19, I can attest that the message of salvation and eternal life that Christmas brings has a special meaning to me this year. Continue Reading

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George Washington and the Divine Author of Our Blessed Religion

 

 

A contemplation of the compleat attainment (at a period earlier than could have been expected) of the object for which we contended against so formidable a power cannot but inspire us with astonishment and gratitude. The disadvantageous circumstances on our part, under which the war was undertaken, can never be forgotten. The singular interpositions of Providence in our feeble condition were such, as could scarcely escape the attention of the most unobserving; while the unparalleled perseverance of the Armies of the U States, through almost every possible suffering and discouragement for the space of eight long years, was little short of a standing miracle.

                                                                       George Washington

 

 

In 1783 the Revolutionary War was coming to a close, Washington now waiting for negotiations to conclude and the British to evacuate New York.  On June 8, 1783 he sent a circular letter out to the states discussing his thoughts on the importance of the states remaining united, paying war debts, taking care  of the soldiers who were wounded in the war and the establishment of a peace time military and the regulation of the militia.  It is an interesting document and may be read here.

Washington ends the letter with this striking passage: Continue Reading

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A Warning From Charles Dickens

No doubt you’ve heard of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I have the book and have watched different movie versions all my life, but only in recent years have I noticed a tie-in to Faith and Reason in a short, but important part of the story.

Therefore…at this festive season of the year it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for Catholic Faith & Reason, which suffers greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of basic Church teaching; hundreds of thousands are in want of common sense, so please enjoy this excerpt from my book, Faith with Good Reason, appropriate for the season…

In the famous tale of A Christmas Carol we are given a ghostly warning about “our business”. Mankind is our business, the common welfare, charity, mercy, forbearance and more1.  Another ghost exclaims, “This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom…”2

We are to help “the girl”, but our doom seems to stem ultimately from “the boy”. Why? Because what we know directs what we do. If God is Truth, then Truth should direct the will. If love is an act of the will, then to love or judge something, we need to know it. The primacy of the intellect is important in order to love and judge properly. In the end, you will not love a God you do not know—and you will not serve a God you do not love.

Our will reaches for what our understanding has seen. If we are ignorant of what is true, how will we direct our will? What will be our criterion for judging? Scripture gives us a subtle warning on the topic. “My people are ruined for lack of knowledge!” (Hosea 4:6). If we chose to ignore “the boy”, then doom will engulf us all, because it all starts with ideas, and ideas have consequences. “Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.”3 In the 25th chapter of the Gospel of Mathew we hear, “For I was hungry and you gave me food”. This is certainly about physical food, but also about the spiritual work of mercy to feed the intellect. One can think of “Truth” as a kind of health food for the mind. The seeds of God’s image and likeness are in every person, so we have a natural hunger for truth/knowledge. Stop and contemplate “hunger” for a moment. What happens to people if they are hungry enough, for long enough? They’ll eventually eat something; they’ll eventually eat somewhere, but will it be good food or will it be garbage? Will they care where the food comes from as long as it gives some satisfaction? If we lazily accept anything that gives gratification we risk defaulting to our animalistic sensibilities and have the habit of replacing God with other masters since it seems to save us so much trouble.

We all like to think of ourselves as independent thinkers, but people are like sheep and everyone eventually sits at the feet of a master. Who will feed your intellect about the Good, the Beautiful, the True? Will you sit at the feet of Jesus through His Church or will it be some politician or political party, a celebrity or talk show host, a television evangelist, your favorite college professor, or will it simply be the always “infallible” majority? Who is your master? Whoever it is, be prepared to give an account for what you believe and what you say. “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will render an account for every careless word they speak” (Mt 12:36).

Beware the boy most of all…

“The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1:5).

– Bible verse from the New American Standard Version

 

  1. Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, (New York: Barnes & Nobal Books, 2003), p. 28.
  2. Dickens, A Christmas Carol, p. 84.
  3. Charles A. Fowler, Biblical Truths for Men (Innovo Publishing, LLC, 2014), p. 115.

Top photo by John Leech – https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=448357

The Vessel With the Pestle

Hands down the most hilarious sequence in all the films I have seen is the below from the Danny Kaye movie The Court Jester (1955).

Hawkins: If I die, just pray that I die bravely.

Witch: You’ll not die, you’ll not have to fight him. Griswold dies as he drinks the toast.

Hawkins: What?

Witch: Listen. I have put a pellet of poison in one of the vessels.

Hawkins: Which one?

Witch: The one with the figure of a pestle.

Hawkins: The vessel with the pestle?

Witch: Yes. But you don’t want the vessel with the pestle, you want the chalice from the palace!

Hawkins: I-I don’t want the vessel with the pestle, I want the chalice from the what?

Jean: The chalice from the palace!

Hawkins: Hm?

Witch: It’s a little crystal chalice with a figure of a palace.

Hawkins: Th-the chalice from the palace have the pellet with the poison?

Witch: No, the pellet with the poison’s in the vessel with the pestle.

Hawkins: Oh, oh, the pestle with the vessel.

Jean: The vessel with the pestle.

Hawkins: What about the palace from the chalice?

Witch: Not the palace from the chalice! The chalice from the palace!

Hawkins: Where’s the pellet with the poison?

Witch: In the vessel with the pestle!

Jean: Don’t you see? The pellet with the poison’s in the vessel with the pestle.

Witch: The chalice from the palace has the brew that is true!

Jean: It’s so easy, I can say it!

Hawkins: Well then you fight him!

Witch: Listen carefully. The pellet with the poison’s in the vessel with the pestle, the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true.

Hawkins: Where the pellet with the poison’s in the vessel with the pestle, the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true.

Jean: Good man!

Witch: Just remember that.

Random Guard: Sir Giacomo! Sir Giacomo, into your armor! And you, to your place in the pavilion.

Hawkins: The pellet with the poison… the pellet with the poison is in the vessel with the pestle, the chalice from the palace has the true that is brew. Eh… brew that is tru- The pellet with the poison’s in the vessel with the pestle, the chalice from the palace has the true that is brew. Eh, eh, brew that is true. Eh. The chestle with the pal- eh, eh, palace with the…

Random Guard: Look out!

[lighting strikes armor, magnetizing it]

Random Guard: Hurry, now, get into your armor!

Hawkins: The pestle with t… the pellet with the poison’s in the vessel with the pestle, the palace from the chalice has the brew that is blue. Eh, no… The pellet with the poison’s in the vessel with the pestle. The cha- eh, the pellet with the plip… the pellet with the poisle’s in the vessel with the plazzle. Eh, the plazzle with the vlessle. Eh, the the bless… The vessel with the plozle is the plazzle with the…

Random Guard (interrupting): Come along, Sir Giacomo. His majesty is waiting.

Hawkins: The pestle with the poilet…

Random Guard: And take your helmet!

Hawkins: (Muttering “pellet with the poison”) Thank you.

Hawkins: The pellet with the poisley’s from chalice with the pazley.

Hawkins: I’ve got it! I’ve got it. The pellet with the poison’s in the vessel with the pestle, the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true, right?

Witch: Right. But there’s been a change. They broke the chalice from the palace.

Hawkins: They broke the chalice from the palace?

Witch: And replaced it with a flagon.

Hawkins: Flagon.

Witch: With a figure of a dragon.

Hawkins: Flagon with a dragon.

Witch: Right.

Hawkins: Did you put the pellet with the poison in the vessel with the pestle?

Witch: No! The pellet with the poison’s in the flagon with the dragon, the vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true!

Hawkins: The pellet with the poison’s in the flagon with the dragon, the vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true.

 

Witch: Just remember that.

Hawkins: Yes, thank you very much. The pellet with the chasley, eh… the pellet with the poison is in the pasley with the chazzle. Eh, just remember that.

Griswold’s Lackey: Beware of the drinks. One of them is poisoned.

Griswold: Poisoned! Are you sure?

Griswold’s Lackey: I heard the witch.

Hawkins: The poisel with the plesley is the chaz… eh…

Griswold: The pellet with the poison’s in the flagon with the dragon, the pestle with the pizzle… the pizzle with the f- the, the, the viss…

Griswold’s Lackey: No, no, no…

Hawkins: The pellet with the poisley is the chalice with the… he he (laughs nervously at guards)

Griswold’s Lackey: …Vessel with the pestle.

Griswold: The vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true.

Griswold’s Lackey: Right. Don’t forget it.

Griswold (mutters): The palace with the dragon… no, no, no.

MC: The knights will approach each other!

Crowd: (Cheers)

Hawkins: The pellet with the poisle is in the flaggle with the chalice.

Griswold: The poison’s in the dragon with the pestle.

Hawkins: Eh, ah, the chazzle is in the poisley with the plellice with the plan- eh, plaglice.

Griswold: The pellet with the dragon’s in the pestle with the poi-

Hawkins: The pezley with the poisle is…

Griswold: The dragon with the poisle’s in the pestle…

Hawkins: Pazzle with the fleegle…

Griswold: (Retrieves helmet magnetically held by H’s armor)

Hawkins: The poisley with the plazzle is the plazzle with the ploizle

Griswold: (Mutters)

Hawkins: The chalice with the pa… the flagon with the cha… the floizle with the flagon is the chalice with the poison.

MC: The knights will face the king!

Hawkins & Griswold: (muttering) (sight gags)

MC: They will approach the royal pavilion!

Hawkins: The pellet with the poison’s in the flagon with the dragon!

Griswold: The vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true!

Hawkins: Oh, no, pglk, you’ve got the wrong one!

Roderick: Stop this mockery! There will be no toast! Put them to horse, let them choose weapons, and fight!

 

 

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Chappaquiddick the Movie

Don’t get your hopes up, but based upon this trailer it may be possible that some posthumous justice will be served to the “Lion of the Senate”:

 

 

I recall a case I had when I was engaged in verbal jousting with a fellow attorney before a Judge.  My adversary was very able.  After he was done the Judge applauded his efforts, indicated that it was always  a pleasure to hear spirited advocacy, but that there was only so much perfume that could be placed on this particular set of bad facts.  It is difficult to give a positive slant on leaving a young woman, who might easily have been saved, to die a terrifying death by suffocation in the dark.  We shall see.

8

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

I don’t think he should have been characterized as the insane show-off that 20th Century-Fox wanted to make him- which I resisted down the line. He had many admirable qualities: duty, honor, country and so forth instilled in those men. The most admirable quality about him was- I have to be so precise in wording this- that he disapproved of taking casualties. Almost fanatical disapproval, and coupled with that, his intense desire to inflict casualties on the enemy.

George C. Scott

 

 

 

Films as Necromancy

O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention,
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!
Then should the warlike Harry, like himself,
Assume the port of Mars; and at his heels,
Leash’d in like hounds, should famine, sword and fire
Crouch for employment. But pardon, and gentles all,
The flat unraised spirits that have dared
On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth
So great an object: can this cockpit hold
The vasty fields of France? or may we cram
Within this wooden O the very casques
That did affright the air at Agincourt?
O, pardon! since a crooked figure may
Attest in little place a million;
And let us, ciphers to this great accompt,
On your imaginary forces work.
Suppose within the girdle of these walls
Are now confined two mighty monarchies,
Whose high upreared and abutting fronts
The perilous narrow ocean parts asunder:
Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts;
Into a thousand parts divide on man,
And make imaginary puissance;
Think when we talk of horses, that you see them
Printing their proud hoofs i’ the receiving earth;
For ’tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings,
Carry them here and there; jumping o’er times,
Turning the accomplishment of many years
Into an hour-glass: for the which supply,
Admit me Chorus to this history;
Who prologue-like your humble patience pray,
Gently to hear, kindly to judge, our play.

William Shakespeare, Prologue, Henry V

My bride and I, along with our son, will finally see Darkest Hour, the film that depicts the period in 1940 when Churchill became Prime Minister.  I will have a full review next week.

Churchill was a remarkable man for  any number of reasons, but I have always been intrigued by the fact that he was both a first class statesman and a first class historian.  He understood the turning point in history where he stood, and his speeches resonate with that knowledge:

 

What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”

How to bring such a man to the screen?  Of course the film making industry has a dismal record when it comes to historically based film.  Generally the history is mangled and the film produced has all the historical value of a bobble headed toy depicting a historical figure.  As the Shakespeare quote at the beginning of this post indicates, this was a problem that long predated films when it came to entertainment recreation of a tale from history.

However, there are exceptions to the usual run of failure of historical epics.  Failures in costuming, and the telescoping of events, even distortions of fact do not bother me, if the film gives us a good evocation of the period.  The film Spartacus (1960) comes to mind.

 

The film is full of historical howlers, par for the course for Hollywood. Crassus, the richest man in Rome, was not a proto-Fascist dictator. Spartacus, who is a shadowy figure because the source material is sparse (only Plutarch’s Life of Crassus and a brief section in Appian’s Civil Wars), did not simply march to the sea to escape Italy with his liberated slaves, but marauded throughout Italy, defeating several Roman consular armies in the process. There was no Senator called Gracchus, magnificently portrayed in the film by Charles Laughton, who led the opposition to Crassus, and Crassus wasn’t interested in personal dictatorship in any event during the time he put down Spartacus and his slave army.  The formations used by the legions in the battle sequences were two centuries out of date. The list of substantial factual errors in the film could go on for considerable length.

However, all that is beside the point. The film is a magnificent work of art, and it gets the atmosphere of the late Roman Republic right: old Roman morality being forgotten, a growth of decadence fueled by ever more wealth from foreign conquests, endless amounts of slaves flooding into Italy from the same foreign conquests, factions in the Senate engaging in what amounted to a cold civil war between bouts of hot civil war, the Roman Republican government teetering on the brink of military dictatorship, the movie presents all of these elements more clearly than any classroom lecture could.

 

Similarly the film Lincoln (2012) captures with preternatural accuracy both the man and his time:

 

Shakespeare in Henry V, with his magnificent poetry, brought to the Englishmen of his day the pride their ancestors had in their great warrior kings.

 

 

Next week I will report if Darkest Hour may be numbered in this august company of movies and plays that get history right.  If it does, I assure you that Churchill will be smiling in the world to come.

4

Night of the Meek

 

Originally broadcast on December 23, 1960, the Twilight Zone episode Night of the Meek features Art Carney as a drunken Department Store Santa with a big heart who substitutes for Santa on Christmas.  Rod Serling sums up the message:

A word to the wise to all the children of the twentieth century, whether their concern be pediatrics or geriatrics, whether they crawl on hands and knees and wear diapers or walk with a cane and comb their beards. There’s a wondrous magic to Christmas and there’s a special power reserved for little people. In short, there’s nothing mightier than the meek.

 

 

 

 

16

Nineteen Trillion Dollar Economy

The size of the American economy is hard to comprehend.  By the end of the year total GDP should be a bit north of nineteen trillion dollars.  Our closest economic competitors, Europe and China, should have economies slightly more than half the size of ours.  (Japan has an economy of about five trillion dollars by comparison.)  In real terms the US economy has tripled in size in real terms since 1980.  Economic growth in the US since Reagan took office has created an economy the size of Europe and China.  Part of this is caused by the growth in population, but the result is still quite impressive.  In the past quarter the economy grew at 3.7% per annum.  Trump and the GOP are betting that the tax bill being passed today will help ensure that type of growth for the next decade.  Tax cuts usually have spurred economic performance in the past, and absent some huge world wide catastrophe I see no reason why they should not do so in the future.  We will all see.  However, always recall that economics is called the dismal science for good reason.

 

2

The Plot to Overthrow Christmas

 

How wonderfully daffy the golden age of Radio tended to be.  A broadcast on December 19, 1944 of the show This Is My Best:  Norman Corwin’s comedic poem The Plot to Overthrow Christmas, a hilarious look at a plot by Hell to stop Christmas, with Orson Welles starring as Nero.  Amazing the entertainment heights that could be reached without car chases, explosions, profanity, bathroom jokes and sex.

 

 

 

1

Video Clip Worth Watching: Brother Orchid Confesses

 

 

 

Brother Superior: When the heart speaks, Brother Orchid, other hearts must listen.

Brother Orchid (1940)

 

 

 

A brilliant scene from a brilliant movie, Edward G. Robinson as Brother Orchid takes a large step in his gradual transformation from being a mobster disguising himself as a monk into a real monk.  Although not a sacramental confession, the scene has always struck me as an example of the shame and redemption that a good confession brings to a sincere penitent.  After the scene Brother Orchid is forgiven, the “Brother Superior” wryly admitting that as a young monk he had been guilty of the same sin of paying a child to do some of his work at the monastery.  Go here to read about Brother Orchid (1940) an astonishingly moving screwball-comedy-film noir gangster-western-religious flick that makes great Advent viewing as it illustrates the impact of the grace of God on the most unlikely of souls.

7

The Sabbath Was Made for Man

Dave Griffey at Daffey Thoughts gives us the latest good deed by a company cordially hated by most leftists:

 

 

During the big power outage at Atlanta’s airport, the often embattled food chain stepped up and provided food for stranded passengers.  And yes, it was a Sunday.  That’s what’s called living the Gospel, rather than just talking it.

Of course the restaurant chain has been the target of many attempts to have it banned from various locations, venues, campuses and even cities.  This because of its stance on gay marriage.  Nonetheless, almost every time it comes to doing the right thing, it shows itself as a company founded on living the Golden Rule, rather than using it in debates. 

Well done Chick fil A.  That is a good witness.

 

Go here to comment.  The best preaching most Christians can do is simply to walk the walk.

19

Anti-Catholic Bigotry Alive and Well in DC

Just in time for Christmas:

 

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority threw down the hammer on the Catholic Church last month when it rejected a rather benign Christmas ad for the Church’s website FindThePerfectGift.org.

The Church turned around and sued the DC Metro claiming a violation of First Amendment rights. The Archdiocese of Washington said it in a statement the ad “conveys a simple message of hope, and an invitation to participate in the Christmas season.”

The ad itself has no words with an overtly religious message. It shows a silhouette of shepherds gazing up at the stars. The ad mentions the website which has Mass times in the DC area as well as Christmas activities.

The website also encourages people to donate their time and treasure to help those who are less fortunate. There is a video promoting becoming involved in feeding the hungry through St. Maria’s Meals.

The Metro is hiding behind its 2015 policy which prohibits “issue-oriented advertising, including political, religious and advocacy advertising.” This policy is almost impossible to apply equally. The American Civil Liberties Union even took issue with these rules claiming they are “misguided and impossible to administer fairly” and previously sued the transit authority.

The Metro accepts advertisements for hookup websites but has become hostile towards the Archdiocese’s ad claiming it is offensive. Perhaps the Church’s ad would have been acceptable if Santa Claus was plastered all over it.

I guess it would be superfluous to observe that the DC government is completely controlled by Democrats?  The Democrat Party hates the Catholic Church and currently is none too fond of the First Amendment.

2

Messianic Prophecies: Isaiah 11: 10

Continuing our Advent look at Messianic prophecies for this year, a series which we began in Advent 2011 and continued in 2102, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016, the earlier posts of the series may be read here, here, here ,here, here, here, here, here , here here, here, here, here , here, here, here , here,   here, here here, here, here ,  here, here here, here ,   here,  here and here, we come to Isaiah 11: 10:

[10] In that day the root of Jesse, who standeth for an ensign of the people, him the Gentiles shall beseech, and his sepulchre shall be glorious.

 

 

Of this passage Saint Jerome wrote:

 

As regards its site, lapse of time has but invested it with fresh grandeur. The Jews of old reverenced the Holy of Holies, because of the things contained in it—the cherubim, the mercy-seat, the ark of the covenant, the manna, Aaron’s rod, and the golden altar.973 Does the Lord’s sepulchre seem less worthy of veneration? As often as we enter it we see the Saviour in His grave clothes, and if we linger we see again the angel sitting at His feet, and the napkin folded at His head.974 Long before this sepulchre was hewn out by Joseph,975 its glory was foretold in Isaiah’s prediction, “his rest shall be glorious,”976 meaning that the place of the Lord’s burial should be held in universal honor.

 

8

How to Be Happy

[34] But the Pharisees hearing that he had silenced the Sadducees, came together:

[35] And one of them, a doctor of the law, asking him, tempting him:

[36] Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law?

[37] Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind.

[38] This is the greatest and the first commandment.

[39] And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

[40] On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets.

Matthew 22: 34-40

 

If you really want to be happy in this world, and in the next, do good to others.  It is a truly simple lesson, but it is amazing how many people lead their entire lives without grasping it.  This of course is not happiness in the “Wee, that was a wild roller coaster ride!” sense, but in the sense of the satisfaction of a joy that surpasses understanding, the type of joy that parents experience as they see their kids growing up to be responsible parents themselves, or the joy of a priest who sees a penitent sinner embracing wholeheartedly Christ.

It is not given us in this life to foreknow the tangled paths that our lives will follow or to predict what we will be remembered for, or if anyone will remember us at all after we are gone.  What we do know, however, is whether our lives are a blessing or a curse for those we encounter is very much determined by our own actions.  Altruism, love of neighbor, is an all important factor in determining the balance sheet of our lives, and often time that means going against our short-term selfish desires for what may turn out to be a path that leads us to what we will be remembered for.

A perfect example of this is George Washington.  Today is the 236th anniversary of the Battle of Trenton, in which Washington led a Continental Army on the point of defeat and dissolution across the Delaware and captured the entire Hessian garrison of some 900 troops at Trenton.  It is impossible to overstate the importance of the victory of Trenton.  It renewed hope in ultimate American victory in the struggle, led directly to a second American victory on January 3, 1777 at Princeton and the abandonment of much of New Jersey by the British.  But for this brilliant stroke by Washington, the American struggle for independence might well have died in the winter of 1776-1777.

And the man who worked this miracle, George Washington, was he a professional soldier who had always desired to be at the head of a great army and to gain victories that would echo down through the centuries?  Well, actually he was a Virginia planter and throughout the War, and when he served as first president of these United States, his personal correspondence centered upon Mount Vernon, his plantation, and instructions about the planting of crops, the care of livestock, prices for commodities, the upkeep of buildings, etc.  Left to his own desires Washington would have lived out his entire life at Mount Vernon, been quite happy, and been a footnote in our histories, if he appeared at all except for his service in the French and Indian War.  Instead, he answered the call to duty, took up the burden of command of the Continental Army in the Revolution, although he feared he was unequal to the task, and served as our first president, although he found the duties onerous and realized that he was sacrificing much of the remaining years of his life away from his beloved Mount Vernon.  Washington, as a result of his sacrifices, will be remembered as long as there is a United States and as long as men cherish freedom.  The path of altruism was for him also the path to his true life’s work.

The same can be said for George Bailey.

The above video is the pivotal scene in the movie.  George rises to the defense of his father’s life’s work:  the savings and loan that allows people in Bedford Falls to escape from Potter’s slums and become home owners.  To save the savings and loan, George gives his brother the money George has saved to go to college so that he can attend college while George takes over the presidency of the savings and loan.  His journey down the path of altruism will cost him his dream of being an engineer, traveling the world and building huge products.  Instead he gains true love, a family and the admiration and respect of the people he helps in Bedford Falls.   His altruism is not a one way street, even in regard to business success.

George Bailey is a man on his way up.  Due to his hard work, honesty and decency he has developed a strong community support for the Savings and Loan.  In a scene that is often overlooked in the film Potter is informed by his rent collector, played by Charles Lane, perhaps the best character actor of his era, that George Bailey is a mortal threat to his operation:

REINEMAN Fifteen years ago, a half-dozen houses stuck here and there. (indicating map) There’s the old cemetery, squirrels, buttercups, daisies. Used to hunt rabbits there myself. Look at it today. Dozens of the prettiest little homes you ever saw. Ninety per cent owned by suckers who used to pay rent to you. Your Potter’s Field, my dear Mr. Employer, is becoming just that. And are the local yokels making with those David and Goliath wisecracks!

POTTER Oh, they are, are they? Even though they know the Baileys haven’t made a dime out of it.

REINEMAN You know very well why. The Baileys were all chumps. Every one of these homes is worth twice what it cost the Building and Loan to build. If I were you, Mr. Potter . . .

POTTER (interrupting) Well, you are not me.

REINEMAN (as he leaves) As I say, it’s no skin off my nose. But one of these days this bright young man is going to be asking George Bailey for a job.

This causes Potter to offer George a job, which, after being momentarily tempted, he angrily declines.  George has found his life’s work.  He doesn’t get to build a few grand projects around the globe, but many small projects in Bedford Falls, grand to those he benefits as a result.  Success is coming his way, with even the loss of $5,000.00, stolen by Potter courtesy of the absent-mindedness of Uncle Billy, being only a momentary set back.

 

It has been said that sin is its own punishment and virtue is its own reward.  I believe that.  However it is interesting how even in this often unjust world we see sin punished and virtue rewarded.  There are no guarantees, and many people will meet with justice only in the life to come, but even here on earth it is not that uncommon to see that our actions do have consequences, for ill and good.  The paths of our lives are hidden to us, but often some act of altruism we have the opportunity to perform, points us on our way.  Something to keep in mind during Advent and all the rest of the year.

2

Mary Christmas!

 

And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:37)

With those words from Mary, the first Christmas was “on.” From that moment, God’s plan went into glorious effect for the celebration, nine months later, of His Son’s birthday. It was beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

No Mary, No Christmas

Mary’s “Yes” was incarnated in the Baby Jesus, in the flesh, conceived within her before she was even aware He was there. Her “Yes” is the reason for the Reason for the season. Mary’s “Yes” was a yes for all of us, for all time.

Mary’s choice was to have the Baby Jesus.  God did not force her to be the Theotokos, the God-bearer.  Mary freely decided to bear and give birth to the Son of God. She freely chose not to abort Him, to kill Him in her womb, or to kill Him once He was born; although infanticide was almost as common in the ancient world as it is today. Because her “Yes” meant the possibility of eternal life for all of us, to say Mary was prolife is the understatement of all time.

What if Mary had said “No,” or “No!” ?

This is difficult to ponder. Would there have been no salvation of all mankind? Would there have been no Christmas?  Did God have a second choice in mind, a runner up? Had someone already turned God down? Was there a No. 2, an understudy in the wings? We do know that God knew Mary would say “Yes,” although His foreknowledge did not prevent her from freely agreeing to bear and birth this holy Child.

If Mary had said  “No,” if there was no Christ Child, no Christmas, then, to plagiarize from a famous source and apply it to this hypothetical:

“The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.”  (Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus;  F. Church , 1897)

Part of our joy at Christmas is our joyful awe and thanks to Mary. Her “Yes” was yes for all God’s children. It meant, as the angel of the Lord told Joseph in a dream, that – because Mary agreed to mama this Child,  named “Jesus,”  –  we would all be saved  from our sins.  (Mt 1:21).

Mary Does Not Name Her Own Son 

Mary and Joseph are both told by the angel of God what the Child’s name will be. (Mary: Lk 1:31 ; Joseph: Mt 1:21).  Mary, the mother, and Joseph, the ostensible head of the family whose job it usually was, do not get to name Jesus; but they both, without grumbling, accept that God will name this Baby.

In Holy Scripture, naming someone is an act of power, and a name is a thing of power. Again and again, beginning in Genesis, naming is a major theme, including God naming things, God naming human beings, men and women naming things and offspring,  and God re-naming men and women.

The first book of Samuel makes it clear that a person is what a name says. (1Sam 25:25).  For the Jewish people a name was much more than a label, or a tag for distinguishing between persons. A name was the equivalent to the person himself or herself. A person’s name was his or her very person, identity,  worth, character, reputation, authority, will,  ownership, and power. 

In Hebrew, the name God gives His Son – Jesus – literally means “Yahweh helps” or “Yahweh saves.”  God is naming His Son God.

God’s naming His son Jesus is God’s announcement  – His, “Yes, that’s My Boy, chip off the old [very old] block” – gift of this Son. The Bible does not mention God handing out cigars. Such naming is referred to in Isaiah:

“Listen to me, you islands; hear this, you distant nations: Before I was born the Lord called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name.” (Is 43:1).

By naming His Son Jesus, God makes available to all of us the power of that name, the power of His Son.  For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Rom 10:13)Bottom of Form

Why Would God Let Mary Birth His Son?

Why would God send His own Son to us? Why, after the Fall of Adam, does God want His divine Son to become man?  Man, that creature of God as Francis Thompson tells us in his poem, The Hound Of Heaven, “of all God’s clotted clay, the dingiest clot.” St. John says: “Et verbum caro factum est, et habitavit in nobis.” (Jn 1:14). It is easy to think of reasons God would not want to “pitch His tent with us” (literal translation of “habitavit”) and let His Son live on earth as a man; and  reasons for His not having wanted to redeem us.

Still, God saw something in us, in each of us. To paraphrase some lines from Thompson’s poem,  whom would love ignoble me and you enough to come here and shiver in the cold  in Bethlehem so we did not burn in the eternal heat of hell? To be convinced of “how little worthy of any love though art” when we sin, all one need do is look in a mirror. I  think about all the times I have been to confession, and all my sins, since that day so long ago at St. Paul’s Parish in San Antonio, going in to talk to the very priest who had baptized me six years earlier, the preist who had married my Mom and Dad, and  even then and since being fully aware of my ignobility. Why would God want to redeem me? or any of us? Why would He want to ransom us from this ignobility and make us celestial nobles, His heirs, heavenly aristocrats, His princess, His prince?

The besutiful answer is in a poem, Love Came Down At Christmas,  by Christina Rosetti:

“Love came down at Christmas,

Love all lovely, Love Divine,

Love was born at Christmas,

Star and Angels gave the sign.”

Know Mary, Know Christmas

This embodied Christmas Love began with Mary’s love of God. But for that love, there may have been no Christmas.

So, what is there to learn from Mary’s not only talking the Christmas talk – “Yes. I’ll have this Baby” – but also her walking the Christmas walk ?  It’s about ninety miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem,  and it would seem much longer if you were about to deliver a child . (The scope of this writing is way too limited to enter into the discussion of whether or not she rode on a donkey. The ensuing intense theological debate will not be discussed here).

Mary’s “Yes” is startling evidence of her humility, obedience, generosity, trust, and love, love not only for God, but for all of us. Gabriel tells Mary her Son will be named “Jesus.” Mary knows what that name means in Hebrew, and she knows that God the Father Himself has given her Son this name.

As the angel proclaims to the shepherds, “a savior has been born for you.” (Lk 2:11).   Mary says “Yes, I will have this Baby for everyone.”

Merry Mary CHRISTmas!

 

5

The way it was: “The Mass in Slow Motion” by Msgr Ronald Knox

“I suppose it is the experience of all of us that the Mass, with its terrific uniformity- unvarying throughout Latin Christendom, varying so little from one feast or season to another-does not impose uniformity on our thoughts.”–Msgr. Ronald Knox, “The Mass in Slow Motion”

As a late-in-life Catholic convert (1995, at the age of 65), I was not familiar with the Latin Mass.   My wife and I have attended two Extraordinary Form (Tridentine) Masses  given by the FSSP,,  but I didn’t appreciate fully what the Mass used to be before Novus Ordo.   I didn’t understand the Latin and, so new to the Church, didn’t really see why the different liturgical forms were important.   We’ve attended many Anglican Usage Masses, which have many liturgical forms similar to the Tridentine:  the priest faces the Tabernacle (ad orientem) for most of the service;  Holy Communion is given on the tongue at the altar rail, with intinction; and, although there is no Latin, the form of the liturgy is similar to that of the Latin Mass.

After reading “The Mass in Slow Motion”, by Msgr. Ronald Knox, I have begun to understand why there are so many people passionately devoted to the Latin Mass, the older form, and wish for its full implementation.  Msgr. Knox was an English Catholic priest, a writer of detective stories, a raconteur on BBC, and a convert.  (Do a web search, “Ronald Knox,” for a full and impressive biography.)    The book (linked  above to an online pdf version) is a collection of sermons given to a Catholic girls’ school during World War II.   There is an introduction which provides an overview of the Mass, a reprise of a talk given to adults.   I’ll quote from that:

It’s an odd reflection, then, that when I say Mass or you hear it, though the words and the gestures are the same, and you would think there was no difference at all except the sins we thought about at the Confiteor and the intentions we remembered for the living and the dead, in fact there is a difference; the devotional overtones, the mystical nuances which the words and the ceremonies of the Mass suggest to us are not, probably, the same for you and for me. So I thought I would come clean, and try to analyse, thus publicly, the inwardness of my own Mass; talk about the odd bells that ring in my own mind, the odd vistas that open to my own view, to close again at once, in the hope that they may have some value for other people. Let me say at once that I know nothing about liturgy, so you won’t get any of the orthodox side- lights on the Mass which they give you in the books. Also that I am thinking about Low Mass; it is a long time since I had to sing High Mass, and when I did, the only thought I can remember entertaining was a vivid hope that I might die before we got to the Preface.

The Psalm Judica. What a disconcerting thing it is about the idiom of Hebrew devotion, that the psalms are always saying, ” I am upright, I am innocent, I never did anything to deserve this punishment “, whereas we are always wanting to say we are miserable sinners! Here, we prepare for the Confiteor by assuring God that we have walked innocently, and asking him to distinguish very carefully between us and the wicked. When I say this psalm, then, what should I think about? Perhaps, about myself as the representative of the Christian Church, so isolated, so shut away, in idea at least, from all the busy wickedness of the world. The Mass starts with the Church pushing the world away from her; the lodge is tiled, there are no profane onlookers, it is a cosy family party, just ourselves.”–Msgr. Ronal Knox, “The Mass in Slow Motion”, p.8, Introduction.

And there’s more.   The writing is elegant, but familiar–oh, how well the English know how to put words together!

There’s one other point that is crucial:  “catholic” means “universal” and this was how the term first began to be applied to The Church–a universal Church.  If you hark back to the opening quote, you see that the Mass was universal–it was the same in Japan, Nigeria and Iowa.  The Church has lost this, but we should recover this universality, this catholicity.   So,  I will join those who plead for the return of the Tridentine Mass.