When Caesar’s sun fell out of the sky
And whoso hearkened right
Could only hear the plunging
Of the nations in the night.
GK Chesterton, Ballad of the White Horse
It is easy to lose sight of the historical Saint Patrick in all the fun and frolic of Saint Patrick’s Day. He was a man of the fifth century and what a disastrous century it was for Patrick’s time and place. The Western Empire was going down under wave after wave of barbarian invasion, pagan when they were not loosely converted Arian heretics. Civilization was manifestly dying and Catholicism seemed to be faced with extinction, as it would almost entirely be extinguished in Patrick’s homeland of Britain in the terrible decades to come. Patrick’s capture by Irish pirates and being held as a slave was typical of the fate of many Christians as the law and order of the old Empire became a fading utopian dream. In these circumstances Patrick could have been forgiven for running and hiding in a cave as a Christian hermit, convinced that it was his fate and the fate of his generation to see the End Times predicted in Revelations.
Instead Patrick, after his escape from servitude, was filled with a burning zeal to convert the Irish, fired by a dream:
I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. His name was Victoricus, and he carried many letters, and he gave me one of them. I read the heading: “The Voice of the Irish”. As I began the letter, I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice of those very people who were near the wood of Foclut, which is beside the western sea—and they cried out, as with one voice: “We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.”
Obtaining such education as could be had on the Continent, he was ordained, given the powers of a bishop, and sent back to the land of his slavery and labored night and day to bring the Irish into the light of Christ. By the end of his life he could truly say that he had found Ireland entirely pagan and now it was mostly Christian. His mission was one of pure Christian optimism in the face of disaster when most rational men would have told him that what he was doing was all for naught. Instead, in the ages to come, Ireland became the fabled land of saints and scholars, where western civilization was maintained in the darkest of centuries and where the true sons and daughters of Saint Patrick, Catholic missionaries, brought the light of Christ back to lands which had forgotten Him. It was a grand story, and no miracle attributed to Saint Patrick can surpass what he accomplished in cold historical fact.
To understand what Saint Patrick was up against, and the true miracle of what he accomplished, read below a letter of his in which he discussed the massacre of Catholic converts: Continue reading
Something for the weekend. From those endlessly talented folks at History for Music Lovers, Viva Roma No. V to the tune of Mambo No. 5.
Civis Romanus sum said Saint Paul, or its Greek equivalent, and even while Christians were savagely persecuted by the Roman Empire many of them remarked about what a wonder in human affairs it was.
There is also another and a greater necessity for our offering prayer in behalf of the emperors, nay, for the complete stability of the empire, and for Roman interests in general. For we know that a mighty shock impending over the whole earth—in fact, the very end of all things threatening dreadful woes—is only retarded by the continued existence of the Roman empire. We have no desire, then, to be overtaken by these dire events; and in praying that their coming may be delayed, we are lending our aid to Rome’s duration.
Tertuallian, Christian Apologetics
Saint Augustine, living in the twilight of the Roman Empire in the West, with savage Vandals besieging Hippo at the time of his death, in his City of God raised the eyes of men to the imperishable City of God, while also yet acknowledging that God was the cause of the rise of the Roman Empire, along with the traditional Roman virtues: Continue reading
The following is a column written by Tom Hoffman of the American Thinker.
The culture war begun in the sixties has, in large part, been won by the left. Nowhere is this clearer than in the feminization of men. The virtues of manhood which had been extolled and celebrated throughout the middle ages right up to the 1950s have been completely expunged from academia and pop culture. The baby boom generation was the last to be taught the values of rugged individualism, risk-taking, courage, bravery, loyalty, and reverence for tradition. John Wayne epitomized the rugged individual who was committed to fighting “the bad guy,” but he was only one of a whole host of competing figures cut out of the same cloth. What happened?
Today, the Boy Scouts are fighting the last battle in a lost cause. Any man who stands up to the “women’s movement” is completely marginalized as a sexist and homophobe. These names have become just as stigmatizing as “racist” used to be. It is no wonder that women now are the majority of college graduates and are increasing their role in every institution from private enterprise to public service, including the military. Is this a healthy trend? The answer is clearly “no.”
Edward Gibbon chronicles the increasing femininity of the Roman Empire in his six-volume work, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. He catalogues the progressive decadence that rendered the once-proud republic into spoils for barbarian hordes. The consuls in the early republic, who were warrior-generals adhering to a strict code of honor, gradually gave way to the backroom emperors who were no more than brazen criminals and thugs. It is the same script in all noble human enterprise: The fabric which bred success is torn apart by the complacency of the successful. When warfare is demonized as violence and negotiation is raised to an art, the end is near. Today, we are there.
Continuing on with my series on the seven notes, I would call them tests, which Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman developed for determining whether some aspect of Church teaching is a development of doctrine or a corruption of doctrine. We began with Note Six-Conservative Action Upon Its Past, and I would highly recommend that any one who has not read the first post in the series read it here before proceeding with this post. We will now take the remaining notes in numerical order. This post will deal with the First Note-Preservation of Type.
In regard to Preservation of Type, Cardinal Newman takes pains to point out that the idea underlying the doctrine remains of the same type while the external manifestations of the idea may change greatly. His illustration from Roman history conveys his point well:
On the other hand, real perversions and corruptions are often not so unlike externally to the doctrine from which they come, as are changes which are consistent with it and true developments. When Rome changed from a Republic to an Empire, it was a real alteration of polity, or what may be called a corruption; yet in appearance the change was small. The old offices or functions of government remained: it was only that the Imperator, or Commander in Chief, concentrated them in his own person. Augustus was Consul and Tribune, Supreme Pontiff and Censor, and the Imperial rule was, in the words of Gibbon, “an absolute monarchy disguised by the forms of a commonwealth.” On the other hand, when the dissimulation of Augustus was exchanged for the ostentation of Dioclesian, the real alteration of constitution was trivial, but the appearance of change was great. Instead of plain Consul, Censor, and Tribune, Dioclesian became Dominus or King, assumed the diadem, and threw around him the forms of a court.
In other words in determining whether there has been the preservation of type in a development of doctrine we must look at the substance and ignore the form. For example, in the Middle Ages laymen would often receive communion once a year out of great reverence for the body of Christ. Now we are encouraged to be frequent communicants. However, the underlying reverence that the Church commands for the body and blood of Christ remains the same.
Cardinal Newman concludes:
An idea then does not always bear about it the same external image; this circumstance, however, has no force to weaken the argument for its substantial identity, as drawn from its external sameness, when such sameness remains. On the contrary, for that very reason, unity of type becomes so much the surer guarantee of the healthiness and soundness of developments, when it is persistently preserved in spite of their number or importance.
Newman on the First Note:
The fourth and final part of my presentation of the four sermons on the Anti-Christ delivered by John Henry Cardinal Newman before his conversion during Advent in 1835. Part I is here, part II is here and Part III is here.
In this last sermon Newman speaks of the persecution that will attend the reign of the anti-Christ. In Newman’s day, living memory could recall the savage persecution that the Church endured dring the initial years of the French Revolution. In our time, we have the blood-stained last century when millions of Christians were martyred for their faith. It is all too easy to suspect that those terrible persecutions were trial runs for the persecution of the Anti-Christ. The last century brought to reality these words of Newman: “Let us then apprehend and realize the idea, thus clearly brought before us, that, sheltered as the Church has been from persecution for 1500 years, yet a persecution awaits it, before the end, fierce and more perilous than any which occurred at its first rise.” Certainly all prior persecutions pale before what Christians experienced in the Terrible Twentieth.
This is an interesting passage from Newman’s sermon: “Again, another anxious sign at the present time is what appears in the approaching destruction of the Mahometan power. This too may outlive our day; still it tends visibly to annihilation, and as it crumbles, perchance the sands of the world’s life are running out.” I assume that Newman was thinking of the decline of the Ottoman Empire of his day, the sick man of Europe. Freed from this adversary, perhaps Europe would unite behind one man, reform or revive the Roman Empire, and bring about the conditions for the Anti-Christ. Small wonder that Hitler was frequently deemed the Anti-Christ during his lifetime. Of course Hitler was not the Anti-Christ, but perhaps merely one of myriads of anti-Christs who have arisen and fallen in the centuries since the coming of Christ, or perhaps he is a precursor of the Anti-Christ.
Part II of my presentation of the four sermons on the Anti-Christ given by John Henry Cardinal Newman during Advent in 1835 before his conversion. Part I is here.
In this second sermon Newman concentrates on what we can glean of the Anti-Christ from Scripture and from the writings of the Fathers of the Church. One thing stands out in this sermon for me. The idea that the reign of the Anti-Christ may involve both ferocious atheism and a return to paganism. This seems like a contradiction, but Newman points to the French Revolution:
In that great and famous nation which is near us, once great for its love of CHRIST’S Church, since memorable for deeds of blasphemy, which lead me here to mention it, and now, when it should be pitied and prayed for, made unhappily our own model in too many respects,-followed when it should be condemned, and admired when it should be excused,-in the capital of that powerful and celebrated nation, there took place, as we all well know, within the last fifty years, an open apostasy from Christianity; not from Christianity only, but from every kind of worship which might retain any semblance or pretence of the great truths of religion. Atheism was absolutely professed; -yet in spite of this, it seems a contradiction in terms to say it, a certain sort of worship, and that, as the prophet expresses it, “a strange worship,” was introduced. Observe what this was.
My apologies for taking so long to get back with a second part to this review. In the first installment, I covered the history of Rome’s early expansion, and how its commitment to establishing a safe horizon of allies, and defending those allies against any aggression, led the city of Rome to effectively rule all of Italy. From southern Italy, Rome was drawn into Sicily, which in turn made it a threat to Carthage and drew those two superpowers of the third century BC into a series of wars that would end with the total destruction of Carthage as a world power.
It may seem like overkill to write a multi-part book review, but historian Thomas F. Madden’s new Empires of Trust: How Rome Built–and America Is Building–a New World explores a thesis I’ve been interested in for some time, which has significant implications for our country’s foreign policy and the wider question of what our country is and what its place in the world ought to be.
The US has been often accused, of late, of being an empire. Madden effectively accepts that this is the case, but argues that this is not necessarily a bad thing at all. Among his first projects is to lay out three different types of empire: empires of conquest, empires of commerce, and empires of trust.
An empire of conquest is one spread by military power, in which the conquering power rules over and extracts tribute from the conquered. Classic examples would include the empires of the Assyrians, Persians, Mongols, Turks, Alexander’s Hellenistic empire, Napoleon’s empire and to an extent the Third Reich, Imperial Japan and Soviet Union. Empires of conquest are spread by war, and conquered territory is ruled either by local puppet rulers or by a transplanted military elite from the conquering power.
An empire of commerce is interested only in securing enough of a political foothold in its dominions to carry on trade, and is less concerned over political control or tribute. Examples would include the British and Dutch empires; in the ancient world the Pheonicians and Athenians; and later, medieval Venice. Empires of conquest are typified by a network of far-flung colonies directly controlled by the home country, at locations which are strategic for exploiting natural resources or trading with regional powers. They are less focused on conquering large swathes of territority than with controlling enough of a foothold (and enforcing enough stability in the surrounding area) to carry on their commerce.
The book, however, is primarily concerned with a third type of empire, the empire of trust, of which Madden gives only two examples: Rome and the United States. The term “empire of trust” itself requires some unpacking.