The Whole World Awaits Mary’s Reply

You have heard, O Virgin, that you will conceive and bear a son; you have heard that it will not be by man but by the Holy Spirit. The angel awaits an answer; it is time for him to return to God who sent him. We too are waiting, O Lady, for your word of compassion; the sentence of condemnation weighs heavily upon us.

The price of our salvation is offered to you. We shall be set free at once if you consent. In the eternal Word of God we all came to be, and behold, we die. In your brief response we are to be remade in order to be recalled to life.

Tearful Adam with his sorrowing family begs this of you, O loving Virgin, in their exile from Paradise. Abraham begs it, David begs it. All the other holy patriarchs, your ancestors, ask it of you, as they dwell in the country of the shadow of death. This is what the whole earth waits for, prostrate at your feet. It is right in doing so, for on your word depends comfort for the wretched, ransom for the captive, freedom for the condemned, indeed, salvation for all the sons of Adam, the whole of your race.

Answer quickly, O Virgin. Reply in haste to the angel, or rather through the angel to the Lord. Answer with a word, receive the Word of God. Speak your own word, conceive the divine Word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal Word.

Why do you delay, why are you afraid? Believe, give praise, and receive. Let humility be bold, let modesty be confident. This is no time for virginal simplicity to forget prudence. In this matter alone, O prudent Virgin, do not fear to be presumptuous. Though modest silence is pleasing, dutiful speech is now more necessary. Open your heart to faith, O blessed Virgin, your lips to praise, your womb to the Creator. See, the desired of all nations is at your door, knocking to enter. If he should pass by because of your delay, in sorrow you would begin to seek him afresh, the One whom your soul loves. Arise, hasten, open. Arise in faith, hasten in devotion, open in praise and thanksgiving. Behold the handmaid of the Lord, she says, be it done to me according to your word.

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

The Flag of Sumter

Flag of Fort Sumter

As we close this year, one hundred and fifty years ago defeat loomed for the Confederacy.  It is good to recall at this point in our almost four year examination of the Civil War the courage with which the Confederates maintained for four deadly years their lop-sided struggle for independence against a nascent world power.  This courage is not better symbolized I think than by Conrad Wise Chapman’s Flag of Sumter.  The son of a famous American painter, Chapman painted a series of 31 paintings of Charleston Harbor at the request of General Beauregard while Chapman was on duty as an enlisted man during the long siege of Charleston.  This painting, with its lone Confederate sentry standing in the bombed out ruins of Fort Sumter under a proud but tattered Confederate banner, shows how Chapman perceived the War and how most Confederates viewed their fight.  On the horizon of the painting we barely glimpse the Union fleet, its power so much greater than any force the Confederate defenders could hope to summon, but the will to resist remains in spite of the overwhelming odds.  A majority of former Confederates in the decades after the War came to eventually accept that it had been good that the Union had been preserved and slavery abolished, but they always took great pride in the fight they had waged for a cause they thought a just one at the time.  One cannot hope to truly understand our Civil War without understanding that pride, preserved forever by this painting. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Quotes Suitable for Framing: Edmund Burke

Edmund Burke Quote

 

Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites, — in proportion as their love to justice is above their rapacity, — in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption, — in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves. Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.

Edmund Burke,  Letter to a Member of the National Assembly, 1791

Predictions 2015

 

predictions 2015

 

 

Once again I boldly go where angels fear to tread and make predictions for the coming year:

 

1.   The contraceptive mandate will be found to be unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court.

2.   A major component of ObamaCare will found to be unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court.

3.   Obama will veto at least ten pieces of legislation during the coming year.

4.   Pope Francis and the Pope Emeritus will be perceived to be increasingly at odds.

5.   A major development will be announced regarding the possibility of a warp drive. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Progress

 

pro-lifers

 

Some good news to end the year:

A new survey conducted by Operation Rescue of all abortion facilities in the United States has confirmed that the abortion clinic closure trend continued strongly in 2014. Operation Rescue is the only pro-life organization that maintains a listing of abortion facilities and tracks clinic closures and its extensive research has provided the most accurate accounting of abortion facilities known to exist.

In all, 73 abortion facilities shut down for all or part of the year. The total number of all remaining abortion clinics in the US is currently 739. Surgical abortion facilities account for 551 of that total while the number of medication-only abortion facilities stands at 188.

Out of 60 surgical abortion clinic closures, 47 were permanent. This represents a 23% decline in surgical abortion facilities over the past five years.

Thirteen surgical facilities were allowed to reopen after initially closing, primarily due to court action that enjoined abortion safety laws that had shut down the substandard facilities.

Thirteen facilities that provided only medication abortions account for the remaining closures in 2014. That more than doubles the number of medication abortion facilities that closed in 2013 when six were shuttered.

abortionclinic5

While the abortion clinic closures did not eclipse the high water mark of 93 total closures in 2013, the 73 closures this year far exceeds the two dozen closures recorded in 2012.

The 2014 figures represent a net decrease of 31 surgical abortion facilities nationwide. even though the number of medication abortion facilities increased by 11 over 2013 numbers, they still remain below the high of 196 facilities in 2012.

abortionclinic6“We are continuing to witness the implosion of the abortion cartel in America,” said Troy Newman, President of Operation Rescue. “The only things that are preventing total collapse are court injunctions that are blocking several state abortion safety laws from being enforced. Once those laws clear the courts, we expect to see even more dangerous abortion facilities close. This is great news for women and babies because when abortion clinics close, lives are saved.”

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The greatest number of closed facilities took place in Texas as the result of the 2013 abortion law known as HB2. Eleven surgical and three medication-only facilities shut down permanently over the course of 2014.

Closures far outpaced clinic openings. Fifteen facilities either added surgical abortions or opened for the first time. Thirteen clinics, primarily Planned Parenthood centers, added medication abortions to clinics that previously did not provide them. Eight clinics that formerly provided surgical abortions made the decision to halt those procedures, but continue to sell medication abortions.

“As new states laws add safety standards for surgical abortions, we are seeing the beginnings of a new trend. Abortion providers who cannot or will not comply with the higher standards have, in some cases, dropped surgical abortions in favor of medical abortions so they did not have to become licensed,” said Newman. “This allows incompetent abortionists to continue exploiting women for money while evading the need to increase patient safety.”

Some of the more notable abortion facility closures included:

Outpatient Services for Women, Oklahoma City, OK: This surgical clinic shut down after the arrest on December 9 of clinic owner and operator Naresh Patel on charges of fraud and racketeering after Operation Rescue filed complaints. Patel had been caught selling abortion pills to women who were not pregnant.
All Women’s Health, Chicago, IL: Clinic owner, abortionist Mandy Gittler, closed this facility after local activists protested there over the death of Tonya Reaves, which was killed by Gittler in 2012 at a Chicago Planned Parenthood clinic.
Novi Laser and Aesthetic Center, Novi, Michigan: This facility shut down after being evicted from two locations this year. After the last eviction in November, owner Michael Arthur Roth had nowhere to go.
Aid for Women, aka Central Family Medical, Kansas City, MO: Operation Rescue discovered evidence of multiple abortion abuses and lodged complaints. This facility was best known for suing in court for the right to stop reporting child sex abuse. Under pressure from the medical board and struggling for business, Aid for Women, finally shut down.
Affiliated Women’s Services, Indianapolis, IN: This facility, associated with the infamous late-term abortionist LeRoy Carhart shut down in July due to financial woes and a lack of demand for abortions.
Femcare, Asheville, NC: Its shut down earlier this year for two dozen serious health and safety violations caused an outcry from abortion supporters since it was thought to be the only facility that could pass new safety standards. It reopened briefly before permanently closing after its abortionist, Lorraine Cummings, announced her retirement and placed the building for sale.

 

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Wolves in Wolves’ Clothing

images27IWE9WS

 

 

 

Anti-Catholic bigot, homosexual activist and Episcopalian minister Harry Knox is back in the news.  Long time readers of this blog will recall that President Obama appointed Knox to his Advisory Council on Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships back in 2009.  Go here to read a post on that appointment.

Knox  became the head of  the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice back in 2012.    He had a post on the Huffington Post explaining why religious people should support the slaying of children in the womb, a post which proved, once again the truth of Socrates’ adage that an unexamined life is a tragedy.

Now, just in time for the Christmas season, Susan Michelle at Live Action News brings us up to speed on his latest antics:

The not very reverent Rev. Knox heads up the largest faith-based pro-abortion organization in the nation, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC). Churches like the United Methodists, Evangelical Lutheran, Presbyterian USA, and Episcopals, as well as a host of more well-known liberal churches, are the composite of this campaign for death in the name of the One who came to bring us life. The RCRC is a shame to the reality of Christianity as it manipulates the truth of the faith.

Knox sends many letters, all in an effort to campaign for abortion rights by asking people for money — echoing the letters of Planned Parenthood, who at least doesn’t use Jesus to fundraise, as Knox does. Earlier in December, he sent what was perhaps the most abhorrent letter of all. In it, he lamented that abortion access in the United States is so limited now that “it’s as if the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade didn’t happen.” Women don’t really have a choice, Knox says, when they can’t get to an abortion clinic easily. Sounds like Planned Parenthood, right? But wait! Knox wants you to know that true Christians support abortion. He says:

[T]he majority of people of faith, and the majority of Christians support legal access to abortion. And so they wrap their anti-choice ideology in something that sounds warm and fuzzy.

The Christian tradition says that Jesus advised his disciples to, ‘Watch out for false prophets. They come to you dressed like sheep, but inside they are vicious wolves. You will know them by their fruit.

Stunning words coming from a man who leads an organization advocating death of innocent children for any reason whatsoever. Indeed, Knox shows us what a false prophet actually looks like. RCRC and its members are the ones actually walking around with fuzzy sheep coats, but underneath the costume is a vacuum that sucks a living life from the womb of a mother who’s been led to believe that death is acceptable if she can’t see the baby, doesn’t want the baby. But no, Knox says, we are the real wolves. He continues:

These laws, and the anti-abortion legislators that promote them, are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They say one thing that sounds very nice, but we know them by their fruit. They want nothing more than to deny women the right to decide to have a child on her own terms.

They’re telling a lie. In biblical terms, they’re bearing false witness. Where I come from, that’s a sin.

These false prophets – these vicious wolves – are tearing women’s rights to shreds. And they need to be stopped.

Sometimes I read words that are difficult to take seriously. I wonder how anyone with a faith in Christ and a belief in the Bible could possibly be blind enough to read a letter like this and nod in agreement or click a link and donate money at Christmas to kill a baby.

The reality is that many believe this guy, the one actually bearing false witness. The witness of Christ is the purpose of His life. In the Gospel of John, Jesus says:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:10-11, ESV)

The witness of Christ is the reality of giving His own life so that others may live. The witness of the enemy Knox mentions, whom Jesus addresses in this text,  is destruction, such as that of abortion. This seems so obvious. Somehow, to these folks, it’s not. Somehow, they neglect to see that if Mary were carrying Jesus in today’s culture, many would suggest she abort her baby and go on with her life.

Knox ends his letter with a live link that says, “Click here and make a donation because the wolves are circling and we need your support today.” →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Predictions of Times Past

Well it is that time of the year again for me to review predictions that I made last year and eat a little crow in the process:

1.   Elections 2014-The Republicans will gain 10-15 seats in the House and the GOP will take the Senate with at least a two seat advantage.

Correct!  The Republicans gained 13 seats in the House and have a 54-46 advantage in the Senate.

2.   Our fowl President-Obama’s lame duck status will be confirmed time and time again next year, with even Democrats in Congress considering him to be a spent force.

Correct!  Even liberal Democrats like Senator Chuck Schumer (D.NY) are beginning to attack Obama on his focus on ObamaCare for example.

3.   ObamaCare Code Blue-ObamaCare will become an ever increasing debacle.  Legislation will be passed by June to largely gut ObamaCare which the President will veto.  The Republicans will be able to win an override vote in the House, but fail to do so in the Senate.

Nope.  No such legislation was passed, but the most onerous features of ObamaCare have yet to be implemented due to the Obama administration unilaterally postponing them.  Wait until the employer mandate kicks in during 2015 for the feathers to truly hit the fan.

4.   Asia War-A high possibility of a naval or air clash between Japan and China.  I doubt if it would spiral out of control, but the old power relationships that maintained the peace since World War II are weakening around the globe, especially in Asia.

Nope, although the situation remains dicey.

5.  Pope Francis and the Left-The bloom will be off the rose on the love affair that the left has with the Pontiff next year.  It will increasingly dawn on them that the Pope has no power over economies and that on social issues the teaching of the Church will not change.

Mixed.  I see fewer paeans to Pope Francis on non-Catholic leftist sites, but Catholic leftist sites are still in seventh heaven over having a pope they perceive as on their side.

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Grant on the Fort Fisher Fiasco

Fort Fisher

 

 

Examples of gross military incompetence were not rare in the Civil War.  Perhaps the most outstanding example is the bungling of Major General Benjamin Butler in his handling of the first assault on Fort Fisher, the fort that guarded the last major port open in the Confederacy, Wilmington.  Grant in his Personal Memoirs gives us the details:

 

I selected General Weitzel, of the Army of the James, to go with the expedition, but gave instructions through General Butler. He commanded the department within whose geographical limits Fort Fisher was situated, as well as Beaufort and other points on that coast held by our troops; he was, therefore, entitled to the right of fitting out the expedition against Fort Fisher.   

 
  General Butler conceived the idea that if a steamer loaded heavily with powder could be run up to near the shore under the fort and exploded, it would create great havoc and make the capture an easy matter. Admiral Porter, who was to command the naval squadron, seemed to fall in with the idea, and it was not disapproved of in Washington; the navy was therefore given the task of preparing the steamer for this purpose. I had no confidence in the success of the scheme, and so expressed myself; but as no serious harm could come of the experiment, and the authorities at Washington seemed desirous to have it tried, I permitted it. The steamer was sent to Beaufort, North Carolina, and was there loaded with powder and prepared for the part she was to play in the reduction of Fort Fisher.   

 
  General Butler chose to go in command of the expedition himself, and was all ready to sail by the 9th of December (1864). Very heavy storms prevailed, however, at that time along that part of the sea-coast, and prevented him from getting off until the 13th or 14th. His advance arrived off Fort Fisher on the 15th. The naval force had been already assembled, or was assembling, but they were obliged to run into Beaufort for munitions, coal, etc.; then, too, the powder-boat was not yet fully prepared. The fleet was ready to proceed on the 18th; but Butler, who had remained outside from the 15th up to that time, now found himself out of coal, fresh water, etc., and had to put into Beaufort to replenish. Another storm overtook him, and several days more were lost before the army and navy were both ready at the same time to co-operate.  

 
  On the night of the 23d the powder-boat was towed in by a gunboat as near to the fort as it was safe to run. She was then propelled by her own machinery to within about five hundred yards of the shore. There the clockwork, which was to explode her within a certain length of time, was set and she was abandoned. Everybody left, and even the vessels put out to sea to prevent the effect of the explosion upon them. At two o’clock in the morning the explosion took place—and produced no more effect on the fort, or anything else on land, than the bursting of a boiler anywhere on the Atlantic Ocean would have done. Indeed when the troops in Fort Fisher heard the explosion they supposed it was the bursting of a boiler in one of the Yankee gunboats.    

 

 

 
  Fort Fisher was situated upon a low, flat peninsula north of Cape Fear River. The soil is sandy. Back a little the peninsula is very heavily wooded, and covered with fresh-water swamps. The fort ran across this peninsula, about five hundred yards in width, and extended along the sea coast about thirteen hundred yards. The fort had an armament of 21 guns and 3 mortars on the land side, and 24 guns on the sea front. At that time it was only garrisoned by four companies of infantry, one light battery and the gunners at the heavy guns less than seven hundred men with a reserve of less than a thousand men five miles up the peninsula. General Whiting of the Confederate army was in command, and General Bragg was in command of the force at Wilmington. Both commenced calling for reinforcements the moment they saw our troops landing. The Governor of North Carolina called for everybody who could stand behind a parapet and shoot a gun, to join them. In this way they got two or three hundred additional men into Fort Fisher; and Hoke’s division, five or six thousand strong, was sent down from Richmond. A few of these troops arrived the very day that Butler was ready to advance.  

 
  On the 24th the fleet formed for an attack in arcs of concentric circles, their heavy iron-clads going in very close range, being nearest the shore, and leaving intervals or spaces so that the outer vessels could fire between them. Porter was thus enabled to throw one hundred and fifteen shells per minute. The damage done to the fort by these shells was very slight, only two or three cannon being disabled in the fort. But the firing silenced all the guns by making it too hot for the men to maintain their positions about them and compelling them to seek shelter in the bomb-proofs.    

 
  On the next day part of Butler’s troops under General Adelbert Ames effected a landing out of range of the fort without difficulty. This was accomplished under the protection of gunboats sent for the purpose, and under cover of a renewed attack upon the fort by the fleet. They formed a line across the peninsula and advanced, part going north and part toward the fort, covering themselves as they did so. Curtis pushed forward and came near to Fort Fisher, capturing the small garrison at what was called the Flag Pond Battery. Weitzel accompanied him to within a half a mile of the works. Here he saw that the fort had not been injured, and so reported to Butler, advising against an assault. Ames, who had gone north in his advance, captured 228 of the reserves. These prisoners reported to Butler that sixteen hundred of Hoke’s division of six thousand from Richmond had already arrived and the rest would soon be in his rear.  

 

 

 
  Upon these reports Butler determined to withdraw his troops from the peninsula and return to the fleet. At that time there had not been a man on our side injured except by one of the shells from the fleet. Curtis had got within a few yards of the works. Some of his men had snatched a flag from the parapet of the fort, and others had taken a horse from the inside of the stockade. At night Butler informed Porter of his withdrawal, giving the reasons above stated, and announced his purpose as soon as his men could embark to start for Hampton Roads. Porter represented to him that he had sent to Beaufort for more ammunition. He could fire much faster than he had been doing, and would keep the enemy from showing himself until our men were within twenty yards of the fort, and he begged that Butler would leave some brave fellows like those who had snatched the flag from the parapet and taken the horse from the fort.  

 

 

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Cold Winter of Unbelief

Holy Innocents

The Holy Innocents
Today, dearest brethren, we celebrate the birthday of those children who were slaughtered, as the Gospel tells us, by that exceedingly cruel king, Herod. Let the earth, therefore, rejoice and the Church exult — she, the fruitful mother of so many heavenly champions and of such glorious virtues. Never, in fact, would that impious tyrant have been able to benefit these children by the sweetest kindness as much as he has done by his hatred. For as today’s feast reveals, in the measure with which malice in all its fury was poured out upon the holy children, did heaven’s blessing stream down upon them.

“Blessed are you, Bethlehem in the land of Judah! You suffered the inhumanity of King Herod in the murder of your babes and thereby have become worthy to offer to the Lord a pure host of infants. In full right do we celebrate the heavenly birthday of these children whom the world caused to be born unto an eternally blessed life rather than that from their mothers’ womb, for they attained the grace of everlasting life before the enjoyment of the present. The precious death of any martyr deserves high praise because of his heroic confession; the death of these children is precious in the sight of God because of the beatitude they gained so quickly. For already at the beginning of their lives they pass on. The end of the present life is for them the beginning of glory. These then, whom Herod’s cruelty tore as sucklings from their mothers’ bosom, are justly hailed as “infant martyr flowers”; they were the Church’s first blossoms, matured by the frost of persecution during the cold winter of unbelief.

 St. Augustine

Saint Augustine pray for us as we do battle with those who would bring on a new cruel, cold winter of unbelief, replete with millions of new Holy Innocents. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Unbroken: A Review

 “If I can take it, I can make it.”

Louis Zamperini

 

Unbroken is the best picture that I have seen in many a year.  Its themes are faith, patriotism and endurance in the face of seemingly overwhelming adversity.  Everything about the film is superb.  My review is below and the usual caveat as to spoilers is in effect. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Christmas Star

Christmas Star

Artist Herbert Morton Stoops had served in World War I in France in the field artillery.  In 1944 he painted the above immortal picture that conveys powerfully the meaning of Christmas to a soldier far from home.

I Saw the Light

 

Something for the weekend.  I Saw the Light by Hank Williams.  Written by him in 1948 at age 25, it coveys the hunger for salvation that was always a part of Williams’ brief and tragic life.  Dead before he reached 30, Williams was a great talent, and he threw it all away with alcoholism and addiction to drugs, which shattered both his personal and professional life.  His life typifies what Christ spoke of in this parable:

The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.

However, that is not all there is to say.  This song has brought comfort to millions as they call upon Christ in this Vale of Tears.  I hope it weighed heavily in the balance when Williams appeared before the God he clearly loved.

Good King Wenceslas, Saint Stephen and Martyrdom

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, was remorseful for what he had done, 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.

 

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George Washington, Howard Roark and George Bailey

[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

(I originally posted this on December 26, 2012.  It seems like a good post for the day after Christmas, so here it is again.)

Joe Carter at Catholic Education Resource Center has a wonderful post entitled The Fountainhead of Bedford Falls, which compares the fictional characters Howard Roark and George Bailey:

Not surprisingly, Roark has become something of a cult figure, especially among young nerdy males entering post-adolescence. Although Roark is artistically gifted and technically brilliant, he prefers to take a job breaking rocks in a quarry than sell out to The Man. He provides a model for the underemployed, misunderstood, twenty-something misfit by choice. These see themselves in the uncompromising sulker, believing it better to vandalize and destroy than allow society to co-opt their dreams.

Rand herself would have certainly envisioned things differently. She would have sneered in disgust at the idea that Roark was anything like the slacker working at Starbucks the populists marching at Tea Parties. Her hero was a cross between the modernist architect Frank Lloyd Wright and the serial killer and child rapist William Hickman. Rand’s ideal was the nonconformist who exhibited sociopathic tendencies. She dreamed of the minority of brilliant, atheistic ubermensch who would “eventually trample society under its feet.” The vast majority of the people who read The Fountainhead might admire Roark, but they’d never emulate him.

Similarly, Capra’s audience flatters themselves by believing the message of Wonderful Life is that their own lives are just as worthy, just as noble, and just as wonderful’ as George Bailey’s. In a way, they are as delusional as the Randian Roark-worshippers. Despite the fact that they left their small-town communities for the city, put their parents in an assisted living facility and don’t know the names of their next door neighbors, they truly believe they are just like Capra’s hero.

Such delusions are the reason these characters have remained two of the most dominant archetypes of American individualism in pop culture. The pendulum of popularity is swinging back toward Rand but it’s Capra’s creation that should be our model for inspiration.

Roark is nihilistic, narrow-minded, and something of a bore. Bailey is far darker, more complex, and infinitely more interesting.

What makes George Bailey one of the most inspiring, emotionally complex characters in modern popular culture is that he continually chooses the needs of his family and community over his own self-interested ambitions and desires – and suffers immensely and repeatedly for his sacrifices.  

 Although sentimental, Capra’s movie is not a simplistic morality play. It’s true that the movie ends on a happy note late on Christmas Eve, when George is saved from ruin. But on Christmas Day he’ll wake to find that his life is not so different than it was when he wanted to commit suicide.

 He will remain a frustrated artist who is scraping by on a meager salary and living in a drafty old house in a one-stoplight town. All that has really changed is that he has gained a deeper appreciation of the value of faith, friends, and community – and that this is worth more than his worldly ambitions. Capra’s underlying message is thus radically subversive: It is by serving our fellow man, even to the point of subordinating our dreams and ambitions, that we achieve both true greatness and lasting happiness. ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Hallelujah Chorus Open Thread

 

 

Well, I trust that all of TAC’s contributors, commenters and readers had a Merry Christmas!  I am keeping the law mines shut today and enjoying the day with my bride and kids, who are home from college and law school.  We will be seeing the movie Unbroken which depicts the harrowing experiences of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic athlete and Army Air Corps Captain, as a “guest” of the Emperor during World War II.  A review to follow.

The usual open thread rules apply:  be brief, be charitable and, above all, be entertaining.

One Solitary Life

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 →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

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