Donald R. McClarey
Well chosen silence can be quite eloquent. Pope Francis gave an example of this during his visit to South Korea:
During the solemn visit, part of his prearranged itinerary to South Korea, the Holy Father and his entourage stopped for a moment and prayed in silence in front of hundreds of small white crosses representing victims of abortion. Accompanying the Pope was Father Lee Gu-won, a representative of pro-life groups in Korea and missionary to people without limbs.
The moment of prayer today came after the Pope visited Kkottongnae (“Village of Flowers”), a Catholic center about 60 miles south of Seoul which seeks to provide care and rehabilitation to the severely disabled, homeless and those afflicted by addictions. The Pope’s visit to the memorial was especially appropriate given the stigma of disability in Korea and that genetic deformities are often used to justify abortions.
On August 17, 1864 Grant was heartened when he received a telegram of support from President Lincoln. Go here to read about it. Grant remarked to his staff after reading the telegram: “The President has more nerve than any of his advisors.”
Lincoln had advised Grant: Hold on with a bull-dog gripe, and chew & choke, as much as possible. Unbeknownst to the President, Grant already had underway an operation to do just that. Major General Gouverneur K. Warren was ordered by Grant to take his V corps, supported by units of the IX and II corps and a small cavalry division, and move to the left to capture a section of the Weldon railroad, the main supply line for the Confederate forces at Richmond and Petersburg, which led south to Wilmington, the last major port of the Confederacy.
By 9:00 AM on August 18, 1864, Warren had brushed aside Confederate pickets and reached the Weldon railroad at Globe Tavern. He deployed a division of his corps to destroy track, held another division in reserve and set another brigade, deployed in line of battle, north to guard against Confederate attempts to retake the railroad. A.P. Hill, launching his attack at 2:00 PM used two divisions from his corps to retake Globe Tavern, but Warren counterattacked and recovered the ground he lost, his troops entrenching as night fell.
On the 19th, the IX corps reinforced Warrens V corps while the Confederates received three brigades of Major General William Mahones’ division along with “Rooney” Lee’s cavalry division. Mahone, cementing his reputation, after the part he played in retaking the Crater, as one of the best generals for the Confederacy in 1864, launched a slashing flank attack that captured two Union brigades. A Confederate frontal assault by Major General Henry Heth was easily repulsed, and the fighting ended with a IX corps counterattack leading to hand to hand fighting as nightfall brought a close to the day’s fighting.
Torrential rains on the 20th prevented large scale combat. Warren withdrew on the night of the 20-21 to a new fortified line. Confederate attacks failed to dislodge him, and the battle of Globe Tavern ended with the Union in permanent possession of several miles of the Weldon railroad which necessitated the Confederates to bring in supplies to Petersburg and Richmond thirty miles from the nearest section of the Weldon railroad not under Union control. Union casuaties were 4, 296 to 1,620 Confederates but the noose had been tightened around Petersburg and the Confederacy.
Here are the comments of General Grant on this operation in his Personal Memoirs: Continue reading
And the Pope has cast his arms abroad for agony and loss,
And called the kings of Christendom for swords about the Cross.
GK Chesterton, Lepanto
Hattip to Pat Archbold at Creative Minority Report. Father Robert S. Hewes recalls some very relevant history:
Getting all medieval..
“Does it please Thee, O God, to deliver into the hands of these beasts the defenseless children whom I have nourished with Thy Love?”
The words above stood out like a thunderclap.
Earlier this morning (August 11th) I was reading the entry in “Butler’s Lives of the Saints” for the saint of the day: St. Clare of Assisi, a friend and contemporary of St. Francis of Assisi in the 13th century.
I had not thought to have read such words from a Saint who followed her fellow-townsman Francis in the spirit of poverty and simplicity. As a line from a movie has it, Clare “got all medieval” that day.
Well, St. Claire WAS “medieval”.
However, the account of the events that lead to long-ago prayer of Claire are strikingly modern. An army in the service of (of all people) the “Holy Roman Emperor” in the year 1244 advanced on her city. This host was ravaging the area around Clare’s convent just outside Assisi and was largely composed of hired “Saracens” (i.e., Arab Muslim warriors) and approached the walls of her enclosure. She took herself to the wall, the Blessed Sacrament borne before her in a pyx and she faced the advancing Islamic troops. It was then she prayed the words that began this article.
Not very ecumenical we might think. Maybe she was too harsh?
After all, can’t we all just get along?
It takes two to get along.
You and I are used to assuming all people are basically good, and all religions are essentially good. How often do we think ‘we all believe in the same God”?
What is emerging and is rampaging today now in the form of “ISIS” or “ISIL” is an old story: militant Islam carrying the sword and demanding total submission to Allah as they conceive him to be. We are in merely the newest phase of a struggle that has gone on intermittently from 1400 years in the Middle East and has now spread West, as it once did. Continue reading
The gaunt man, Abraham Lincoln, lives his days.
For a while the sky above him is very dark.
There are fifty thousand dead in these last, bleak months
And Richmond is still untaken.
The papers rail,
Grant is a butcher, the war will never be done.
The gaunt man’s term of office draws to an end,
His best friends muse and are doubtful. He thinks himself
For a while that when the time of election comes
He will not be re-elected. He does not flinch.
Stephen Vincent Benet, John Brown’s Body
In August of 1864 the bottom seemed to be giving out from underneath the Union war effort. Grants’s drive against Richmond and Sherman’s drive against Atlanta seemed to have stalled, with Confederate armies holding tenaciously to both cities. Casualties, especially in the eastern theater of the War, had been appallingly high since the campaigning season opened in April, and after a massive effusion of blood the War seemed no closer to a Union victory. Northern governors feared draft riots in their cities in the face of a growing conviction that the South could not be conquered. On August 15, Grant wrote to Chief of Staff General Henry Halleck, in response to proposals that troops could be sent from the Army of the Potomac to put down draft riots:
CITY POINT, VA., August 15, 1864-9 p. m.
Washington, D. C.
If there is any danger of an uprising in the North to resist the draft or for any other purpose our loyal Governors ought to organize the militia at once to resist it. If we are to draw troops from the field to keep the loyal States in harness it will prove difficult to suppress the rebellion in the disloyal States. My withdrawal now from the James River would insure the defeat of Sherman. Twenty thousand men sent to him at this time would destroy the greater part of Hood’s army, and leave us men wherever required. General Heintzelman can get from the Governors of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois a militia organization that will deter the discontented from committing any overt act. I hope the President will call on Governors of States to organize thoroughly to preserve the peace until after the election.
U. S. GRANT,
Lincoln responded to Grant, and, if the anachronism may be allowed, his message back had a Churchillian ring to it: Continue reading
Vacations are always fun, although the older I get the more I find that I need a rest and recuperation period to recover from the vacation! (The work that no doubt has piled up on my desk in my absence makes such periods of after vacation rest brief indeed.) My son has started in at SIU law school and he has received the usual law school admonition that they will teach him to think like a lawyer. (What a terrible threat!) He seems to be off to a good start. GenCon was fun as always. The high point for me was when the family and I attended the 12:10 PM Assumption holy day mass at Saint John the Evangelist across from the convention center in Indianapolis. The mass began with the packed congregation belting out Hail Holy Queen, always one of my favorite hymns, and the congregation was so loud that I was able to sing at the top of my lungs, something I enjoy doing but that I rarely do since if I could be heard I fear it would quality as at least a misdemeanor if not a felony! I was then delighted to learn that the three priests concentrating the mass were all gamer priests from around the country there to attend GenCon and who were substituting for the pastor who was on vacation. Continue reading
Something for the weekend. Ye Cavaliers of Dixie, sung by Bobby Horton who has fought a one man crusade to bring Civil War music to modern audiences. Written by Benjamin F. Porter, the song was a riff on the popular song Ye Mariners of England.
The King looked up, and what he saw
Was a great light like death,
For Our Lady stood on the standards rent,
As lonely and as innocent
As when between white walls she went
And the lilies of Nazareth.
One instant in a still light
He saw Our Lady then,
Her dress was soft as western sky,
And she was a queen most womanly—
But she was a queen of men.
Over the iron forest
He saw Our Lady stand,
Her eyes were sad withouten art,
And seven swords were in her heart—
But one was in her hand.
GK Chesterton, Ballad of the White Horse
And he saw in a little picture,
Tiny and far away,
His mother sitting in Egbert’s hall,
And a book she showed him, very small,
Where a sapphire Mary sat in stall
With a golden Christ at play.
It was wrought in the monk’s slow manner,
From silver and sanguine shell,
Where the scenes are little and terrible,
Keyholes of heaven and hell.
In the river island of Athelney,
With the river running past,
In colours of such simple creed
All things sprang at him, sun and weed,
Till the grass grew to be grass indeed
And the tree was a tree at last.
Fearfully plain the flowers grew,
Like the child’s book to read,
Or like a friend’s face seen in a glass;
He looked; and there Our Lady was,
She stood and stroked the tall live grass
As a man strokes his steed.
Her face was like an open word
When brave men speak and choose,
The very colours of her coat
Were better than good news.
She spoke not, nor turned not,
Nor any sign she cast,
Only she stood up straight and free,
Between the flowers in Athelney,
And the river running past.
One dim ancestral jewel hung
On his ruined armour grey,
He rent and cast it at her feet:
Where, after centuries, with slow feet,
Men came from hall and school and street
And found it where it lay.
“Mother of God,” the wanderer said,
“I am but a common king,
Nor will I ask what saints may ask,
To see a secret thing.
“The gates of heaven are fearful gates
Worse than the gates of hell;
Not I would break the splendours barred
Or seek to know the thing they guard,
Which is too good to tell.
“But for this earth most pitiful,
This little land I know,
If that which is for ever is,
Or if our hearts shall break with bliss,
Seeing the stranger go?
“When our last bow is broken, Queen,
And our last javelin cast,
Under some sad, green evening sky,
Holding a ruined cross on high,
Under warm westland grass to lie,
Shall we come home at last?”
And a voice came human but high up,
Like a cottage climbed among
The clouds; or a serf of hut and croft
That sits by his hovel fire as oft,
But hears on his old bare roof aloft
A belfry burst in song.
“The gates of heaven are lightly locked,
We do not guard our gain,
The heaviest hind may easily
Come silently and suddenly
Upon me in a lane. Continue reading
Truly we are passing through disastrous times, when we may well make our own the lamentation of the Prophet: “There is no truth, and there is no mercy, and there is no knowledge of God in the land” (Hosea 4:1). Yet in the midst of this tide of evil, the Virgin Most Merciful rises before our eyes like a rainbow, as the arbiter of peace between God and man.
Pope Saint Pius X
The Conclave of 1903 was a highly unusal one. The first Conclave to occur within the glare of modern media, the proceedings leaked like a sieve to eager waiting journalists, so much so that after this Conclave Pope Pius decreed that participants were to take an oath of silence as to the proceedings of all future conclaves.
The front runner was Cardinal Mariano Rampolla, Leo XIII’s Secretary of State. He would almost certainly have been chosen Pope by the Conclave but for the exercise of the Austrian veto by a Polish Cardinal at the behest of Austrian Emperor Franz Josef. (Three Catholic powers had traditionally claimed a right of vetoes in conclaves: the King of France, the King of Spain and the Holy Roman Emperor. Contemporary Catholics who sigh for Catholic confessional states are often bone ignorant as to how much traditional Catholic confessional states interfered in the operation of the Church.) Why the veto was used remains a mystery. The Cardinals met the use of the veto with outrage, but its use stopped Rampolla as a viable candidate. After the election of Pope Pius, he banned the use of vetoes in any future conclaves. Continue reading
In late July Northern newspapers were filled with the raids into the North being staged by Jubal Early and his corps in the Shenandoah Valley. In order to distract Lee from sending reinforcements to Early, Grant decided to make another attempt on Richmond at the sector named Deep Bottom north of the James River. (Grant had just made a similar attempt at Deep Bottom to divert Confederate attention just before the mine explosion of the battle of the Crater. Go here to read about the first battle of Deep Bottom.) As in the first battle of Deep Bottom, Hancock’s corps crossed to the north side of the James, with hard fighting on August 14-20. Hancock could not make any substantial headway and withdrew south of the James on the night of the 20th. Union casualties were 2,889 -1500 Confederates.
Here is Grant’s account of this operation in his Personal Memoirs: Continue reading
I have always been struck by the Lyceum speech made by Abraham Lincoln at age 28 in Springfield, Illinois on January 27, 1838. It was a complex meditation on a topic that is very relevent to our own day: how Americans are to retain what the Founding Fathers bequeathed them: a free nation. Lincoln understood that the essential threat to our free society was not external but internal:
How then shall we perform it?–At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it?– Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never!–All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.
At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.
Lincoln knew that the memory of what the Founding Fathers accomplished over time would fade. He would be saddened, but not surprised, that in the third century of the Republic our schools spend little time teaching our children about the Revolution, and instead spend a great deal of time in indoctrinating children in the fashionable, and often pernicious, political shibboleths of our day. A people cannot love what they have forgotten, and if I had to put my finger upon one factor that has most contributed to the current problems we face, it is a collective ignorance, almost an amnesia, about our past, among a majority of Americans. Lincoln’s closing passage served as a warning in his day, and it is even more relevant in our own: Continue reading
A nice spoof by Andrew Klavan of the demonization of white Christian men that seems to be an essential feature of the contemporary left in this country. What was started by the Founding Fathers, as pointed out by Lincoln in the stirring quote below, was to free us from looking at people as groups instead of as what we truly are: children of a loving God who endowed each of us with unalienable rights:
These communities, by their representatives in old Independence Hall, said to the whole world of men: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This was their majestic interpretation of the economy of the Universe. This was their lofty, and wise, and noble understanding of the justice of the Creator to His creatures. [Applause.] Yes, gentlemen, to all His creatures, to the whole great family of man. In their enlightened belief, nothing stamped with the Divine image and likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on, and degraded, and imbruted by its fellows. They grasped not only the whole race of man then living, but they reached forward and seized upon the farthest posterity. They erected a beacon to guide their children and their children’s children, and the countless myriads who should inhabit the earth in other ages. Wise statesmen as they were, they knew the tendency of prosperity to breed tyrants, and so they established these great self-evident truths, that when in the distant future some man, some faction, some interest, should set up the doctrine that none but rich men, or none but white men, were entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, their posterity might look up again to the Declaration of Independence and take courage to renew the battle which their fathers began — so that truth, and justice, and mercy, and all the humane and Christian virtues might not be extinguished from the land; so that no man would hereafter dare to limit and circumscribe the great principles on which the temple of liberty was being built.
Abraham Lincoln, August 17, 1858
Back when I was a boy, I watched entirely too much television. Of course, who could blame me? Tempted by a luxuriant three, count them, three channels, albeit one of them fuzzy in bad weather, to choose from! However, I do not regret watching the Early Show on Channel 3. Back in those bygone days, many stations would run old movies from the thirties, forties and fifties, between 3:00 PM-5:00 PM. Thus I first experienced some of the classics of cinema, and one of my favorites was Double Indemnity, 1944, the first of the film noire genre. Adultery and murder were perhaps too mature topics for me in my initial pre-teen viewings, but I was fascinated by it because it seemed to be a playing out on screen of what I was learning at the time from The Baltimore Catechism: that sin will lead inevitably to destruction unless contrition and amendment are made. The film was fortunate to have at its center three masters of the craft of acting.
Fred MacMurray, born in Kankakee, Illinois, 37 miles from my abode, in 1907, was a good guy in real life and usually in reel life. A firm Catholic and staunch Republican, he tried to join the military after Pearl Harbor but a punctured ear drum kept him out of service. He adopted a total of four kids with his two wives: his first wife dying from cancer in 1953, and his second wife remaining his wife until his death. (Such fidelity was as rare in Hollywood then as it is now.) On screen MacMurray played to type and was almost always a good guy, but not always, and it is ironic that the two best performances of his career came when he played bad guys: weak, lustful and doomed Walter Neff in Double Indemnity and the scheming, cowardly Lieutenant Thomas Keefer in The Caine Mutiny.
Barbara Stanwyck had a Dickensian childhood from which she was lucky to emerge alive, her mother dying of a miscarriage and her father going off to work on the Panama Canal and never being heard from again. A series of foster homes followed, which Ruby Catherine Stevens, as Stanwyck was then named, constantly ran away from. Dropping out of school at 14 to begin working, she never looked back. Breaking into show business by becoming a dancer in the Ziegfield Follies at age 16, she was a star on broadway in the play Burlesque before she turned 20. Changing her name to Barbara Stanwyck, she broke into films immediately thereafter, displaying a flair for both drama and comedy, specializing in strong independent women. Her personal, as opposed to her professional, life was a mess. Married in 1928 to her Burlesque co-star Frank Fay, they adopted a son, Stanwyck having been rendered sterile by an abortion at 15. The marriage ended in divorce in 1935, Fay during the marriage often slapping Stanwyck around when he was drunk. Stanwyck got custody of their son. Stanwyck was a hovering and authoritarian mother, leading to a life long alienation from her son after he became an adult. Stanwyck married actor Robert Taylor in 1939, and, after numerous acts of infidelity on both sides, divorced in 1950. Ironically Stanwyck and Taylor did stay friends after their divorce, Stanwyck, who never remarried, referring to him as the true love of her life. In her politics Stanwyck was a staunch conservative Republican who supported the investigations of Congress into Communist infiltration into Hollywood. Remaining in demand as an actress almost until her death in 1990, she filled her last years with charitable work. Stanwyck was well equipped by her own tumultuous life to give depth to her portrayal of the murderous, scheming Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity.
Although remembered today chiefly for his gangster roles and his portrayal of the rat-like Dathan in The Ten Commandments, Edward G. Robinson was actually an actor with a very broad range of work: comedies, dramas, historical epics, you name it. By 1944 he was age 51 and realized that his days as a leading man were coming to a close. His half comedic role as the insurance claims adjuster Barton Keyes in Double Indemnity he viewed as a step in his transition to being a character actor. Always a liberal, Robinson was blacklisted in Hollywood due to his affiliation with Communist front groups. Robinson admitted as much by an article he wrote for the American Legion Magazine entitled “How the Reds Made a Sucker Out of Me”. His comeback came when anti-Communist director Cecil B. DeMille, who thought that Robinson had been treated unfairly, cast him in the scene-stealing role of Dathan in The Ten Commandments.
Spoiler alerts in regard to the following: Continue reading
We have set the seal of Solomon on all things under sun,
Of knowledge and of sorrow and endurance of things done.
But a noise is in the mountains, in the mountains, and I know
The voice that shook our palaces—four hundred years ago:
It is he that saith not ‘Kismet’; it is he that knows not Fate;
It is Richard, it is Raymond, it is Godfrey at the gate!
It is he whose loss is laughter when he counts the wager worth,
Put down your feet upon him, that our peace be on the earth.
GK Chesterton, Lepanto
The good news is that the spirit of Urban II is not quite dead in all Catholics. The surprisingly good news is that it is apparently alive and well in the soul of a 77 year old nun in London:
That nun was Sister Christine Frost, a Roman Catholic 77-year-old who has lived in and served the deprived local community for 44 years, as a member of the order of Faithful Companions of Jesus. Continue reading
At the mountain of God, Horeb,
Elijah came to a cave where he took shelter.
Then the LORD said to him,
“Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD;
the LORD will be passing by.”
A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains
and crushing rocks before the LORD—
but the LORD was not in the wind.
After the wind there was an earthquake—
but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
After the earthquake there was fire—
but the LORD was not in the fire.
After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.
When he heard this,
Elijah hid his face in his cloak
and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.
Of all the figures of the Old Testament, Elijah has always stood out for me. The most powerful of the prophets sent by God, he lived at a time of mass apostacy in the Kingdom of Israel. Under King Ahab and his Queen Jezebel, a daughter of the King of Sidon and a priestess of Baal, a great spirit of what many today would call ecumenicalism went forth, as Israel turned away from the stern God Yahweh, to the pleasure seeking ways of Baal. Elijah, his name means “Yahweh is my God”, would have none of it, and led the Traditionalists among the Yahweh worshippers who opposed the new spirit abroad in the land. The deeds of Elijah are well known, from the battle of the gods on Mount Carmel, to his being taken up to Heaven by a chariot of fire, but the most striking passage in his career is the incident of the still, small voice, set forth in today’s reading at Mass. Continue reading
Something for the weekend. Leaning on the Everlasting Arms sung by Iris DeMent. Anthony Showalter wrote the hymn in 1887. He had tragically received two letters from former pupils who told him that their wives had died. In his letters of consolation he referenced Deuteronomy 33:27: The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms, which became the theme of his hymn. Showalter wrote the refrain and Elisha Hoffman, at the request of Showalter, wrote the remaining lyrics.