Friday, December 31, 2004

The New Year

The New Year will be upon us all shortly. My relatives in Ireland have less than 10 minutes to go at this writing.

Enjoy your Hogmanay and mind the first footer -- the first one through the door in the new year must be a dark-haired man or you'll have nae luck at all in the new year. (If it's a blond, he's probably a Viking; pillage and rapine is no way to start the new year.)

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Laissez les bon temps roulez!

Someone reached my blog this morning or last night searching for "New Year's Eve Parties in Toronto". What could Yahoo be thinking of to send the poor soul here? I'd be hard pressed to find him a New Year's Eve party here in Greater Metropolitan Long Beach never mind 4,000 miles away in Toronto. If he does stop by, I can offer a glass of eggnog or maybe some port. In fact, there's even some Sam Adams Winter Lager in the fridge if I'm in an especially generous mood. Other than that there'll be about 5 minutes of whoopee at midnight: the guy next door says he saved a few fireworks from the 4th of July, the kids across the street will again be banging pots and pans with large kitchen spoons, and I will serenade one and all with a bit of Auld Lang Syne on the pipes.

That pretty much exhausts the carrying on in this neighborhood.

Consolation That The World Knows Not

This is from this morning's breakfast reading, the "From The Mail" column in the latest number of The Wanderer:

"As From the Mail was thinking about what kind of Christmas column to prepare in a time of war, it naturally turned to Pope Pius XII's famous Christmas addresses. While flipping through the pages of The Major Addresses of Pius XII, this passage from 50 years ago (Christmas 1954, "Coexistence: Its Meaning and Future") jumped out:

"It seems that in the field of concrete politics reliance is no longer placed on either rational or moral principles, for these, after so many delusions, have been swept away by an extreme collapse into skepticism.

"The most obvious absurdity of the situation resultant from such a wretched state of affairs is this: Current political practice, while dreading war as the greatest of catastrophes, at the same time puts all its trust in war, as if it were the only expedient for subsistence and the only means of regulating international relations. This is, in a certain sense, placing trust in that which is loathed above all other things....

"[T]here again clearly appears the absurdity of that doctrine which held sway in the political schools of the last few decades: Namely, that war is one of many admissible forms of political action, the necessary, and as it were the natural, outcome of irreconcilable disputes between two countries; and that war, therefore, is a fact bearing no relation to any kind of moral responsibility. It is likewise apparent how absurd and inadmissible is the principle — also so long accepted — according to which a ruler who declares war would only be guilty of having made a political error should the war be lost. But he could in no case be accused of moral guilt and of crime for not having preserved peace, when he was able to do so."

"Over a decade earlier, in his 1943 Christmas address, Pope Pius lamented the fact that an ever-growing technological progress [in warfare] is accompanied by an ever-greater decline in the realm of the soul and of morality.

It is a form of war which proceeds without intermission on its horrible way and piles up slaughter of such a kind that the most bloodstained and horrible pages of past history pale in comparison with it. The peoples have had to witness a new and incalculable perfection of the means and arts of destruction, while at the same time they see an interior decadence which, starting from the weakening and deviation of the moral sense, is hurtling ever downward toward the state where every human sentiment is being crushed and the light of reason eclipsed....

But in this dark night the faithful see the light from the Star of Bethlehem shine out, to indicate and illuminate the road to Him ... the road to our Redeemer. . . .

A Christian who is nourished and lives by faith in Christ, in the conviction that He alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Light, carries his share of the sufferings and sorrow of the world to the crib of the Son of God and finds in the presence of the newly born Child a consolation and support such as the world knows not.

This column isn't on-line. But the website at the link has subscription information.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

St Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury: The Hooly Blisful Martir

Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open eye-
(So priketh hem Nature in hir corages);
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes
And specially from every shires ende
Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende,
The hooly blisful martir for to seke
That hem hath holpen, whan that they were seeke. . .

--Geoffrey Chaucer, "The Book of the Tales of Caunterbury"

No other pilgrimage in Britain was as popular as that to the shrine of today's saint, St Thomas Becket, also called St Thomas a' Becket or St Thomas of Canterbury. Chaucer's Canterbury Tales are told by travellers on such a pilgrimage to the shrine of St Thomas.

John Adair in "The Pilgrim's Way: Shrines and Saints in Britain & Ireland" gives several pages of descriptions of the first Canterbury pilgrims. A sampling:

Within days of the martyrdom of St Thomas pilgrims from the town and countryside near Canterbury began to converge on the cathedral, the first streams which swelled into a mighty river of pilgrims. The wonderful efficacy of the Saint’s entombed body and the few drops of his blood mixed with gallons of water – the famous Water of St Thomas – drew invalids towards them like iron filings attracted to a magnet. Soon a monk called Benedict, who had heard the sounds of Becket’s murder as he hid inside the cathedral, received directions to act as custodian of the relics and to minister to the sick folk whom he described as ‘lying in pain all about the church.’ Later a more credulous monk called William was appointed to act as his colleague. William had also heard the knights enter the cathedral, but when FitzUrse bellowed ‘Strike! Strike!’ he fled away and justified himself later on the grounds that he felt no call to be a martyr. From Benedict’s record of the miracles performed by St Thomas in the first year after his death we are able to identify some of the earliest Canterbury pilgrims by name, and to catch a glimpse of their humanity.

The news of Becket’s murder certainly travelled fast. Two days later, the wife of a Sussex knight prayed to St Thomas and experienced a miraculous cure. On Saturday a Glocester girl found that her head pains had gone after she invoked the martyr, while on the following day the swollen arm of William Belet, knight of Enborne in Berkshire, resume its normal size.

It is no wonder that pilgrims hearing such stories hastened to the tomb at Canterbury. Robert, a smith of Thanet , blind for two years, received his sight back that first Whitsuntide after the martyrdom: three medallions of stained glass in the rebuilt Trinity Chapel, where the shrine later stood, depict the cure and his subsequent offering of a large bowl of gold pieces in gratitude. Mad Henry of Fordwich, dragged by his friends struggling and shouting to the tomb of St Thomas and left there all night, recovered his senses. Two servants of the elderly and paralysed SirWiliam of Dene supported their master in the saddle, one walking on each side, but thanks to his mraculous cure he returned home on foot leaving his crutches at the tomb. A lady called Saxera of Dover slept by the tomb all night and dreamt that St Thomas appeared to her saying ‘Rise, offer thy candle.’ When she awoke her intestinal complaint had disappeared. Richard, son of Walter, a scholar of Northampton, who had endured diarrhoea and liver trouble for nine years, arrived in a carriage but walked away from Canterbury completely cured.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

The Saint could be vindictive to those who deceived him or showed disrespect to his relics. He struck blind a man who had been pretending to be blind. Two boys who fell asleep at his shrine leaning their heads upon it returned home unhealed. An impious person frequently found his pyx of Water mysteriously emptied before he had taken many steps from the cathedral. These early wooden boxes or pyxes containing the ‘blood’ of the ‘Lamb of Canterbury’, some with mirrors fitted inside the lids for lady pilgrims, tended to leak anyway. Earthenware broke too easily, so the townsfolk used cast lead or tin phials. These ‘ampullae’, usually hung around the neck, became one of the more popular badges or tokens of the Canterbury pilgrimage, just as the scallop-shell served for St James of Compostela and the palm-leaf for Jerusalem.

St Thomas was at the center of a church-state controversy and was killed by the king's knightly courtiers who may or may not have misinterpreted as an order the king's outburst "What sluggard wretches! What cowards have I brought up in my court who care nothing for their allegiance to their master! Not one will deliver me from this low-born priest!" As a Catholic in America, and particularly one who is a pastoral subject of the Cardinal Archbishop of Los Angeles, it is interesting to reflect that the origin of the controvery between King Henry and Archbishop Thomas was the Archbishop's refusal to allow his diocesan clergy to be tried in the civil courts for their undoubted crimes. Of course, at that time the Church had its own courts, and indeed, its own prison in which to place the offending cleric. Not a complete parallel. But 950 years later, a similar issue.

For more on St Thomas, see the always reliable Catholic Encyclopaedia article or this link which itself links to two more retellings of his story. The medieval "Golden Legend" treatment of his story, which can be found in full here, ends this way:

Now after that S. Thomas departed from the pope, the pope would daily look upon the white chasuble that S. Thomas had said mass in, and the same day that he was martyred he saw it turned into red, whereby he knew well that that same day he suffered martyrdom for the right of holy church, and commanded a mass of requiem solemnly to be sung for his soul. And when the quire began to sing requiem, an angel on high above began the office of a martyr: Letabitur justus, and then all the quire followed singing forth the mass of the office of a martyr. And the pope thanked God that it pleased him to show such miracles for his holy martyr, at whose tomb by the merits and prayers of this holy martyr our blessed Lord hath showed many miracles. The blind have recovered their sight, the dumb their speech, the deaf their hearing, the lame their limbs, and the dead their life. If I should here express all the miracles that it hath pleased God to show for this holy saint it should contain a whole volume, therefore at this time, I pass over unto the feast of his translation, where I propose with the grace of God to recite some of them. Then let us pray to this glorious martyr to be our advocate, that by his petition we may come to everlasting bliss. Amen.

from: "The Golden Legend or Lives of the Saints." Compiled by Jacobus de Voragine, Archbishop of Genoa, 1275. Englished by William Caxton, First Edition 1483

The Canterbury Pilgrimage: A Sidelight

More from Adair's "The Pilgrim's Way":

“Not far from Southwark Chaucer’s miller began to play upon his bagpipes. In the reign of Henry IV an accused Lollard could tell his questioner, Archbishop Arundel of Canterbury:

I know well that when divers men and women will go after their own wills, and finding out a pilgrimage, they will order to have with them both men and women that can sing wanton songs; and some other pilgrims will have with them bagpipes, so that every town they came through, what with the noise of their singing and the sound of their piping, and with the jangling of their Canterbury Bells, and with the barking out of dogs after them, that they make more noise than if the king came that way, with all his clarions and minstrels. And if these men and women be a month in their pilgrimage, many of them shall be half a year after great janglers, tale-tellers and liars.

“The Archbishop replied:

Pilgrims have with them singers and also pipers, that when one of them which goes barefoot strikes his toe upon a stone and makes it to bleed, it is well done that he and his fellows begin then a song, or else take out of his bosom a bagpipe, to drive away with such mirth the hurt of his fellow. For with such solace the travail and weariness of pilgrims is lightly and merrily brought forth.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

December 28 - The Holy Innocents

Audit tyrannus anxius
adesse regum principem,
qui nomen Israel regat
teneatque David regiam.

The uneasy tyrant is told
of the coming of the King of Kings
to rule over the people of Israel
and to ascend the throne of David.

Exclamat amens nuntio:
"Successor instat, pellimur.
Satelles, i, ferrum rape,
Perfunde cunas sanguine!"

Beside himself at the news, he cries out:
"He is here to take my place. I am dethroned.
Guards, go, sword in hand,
and drench the cradles in blood."

Quo proficit tantum nefas?
Quid crimen Herodem iuvat?
Unus tot inter funera
Impune Christus tollitur.

Of what avail is so great an outrage?
How does this monstrous wickedness benefit Herod?
Though so many were put to death,
yet one, Christ, escapes unharmed.

Salvete, flores martyrum,
Quos lucis ipso in limine
Christi insecutor sustulit,
Ceu turbo nascentes rosas.

Hail, martyr flowers!
On the very threshold of your life
Christ's persecutor destroyed you,
as a whirlwind does the budding roses.

Vos prima Christi victima,
Grex immolatorum tener,
Aram sub ipsam simplices
Palma et coronis luditis.

You, Christ's first fruits,
a flock of tender sacrificial victims,
now play with your palms and crowns
right up by the very altar.

Iesu, tibi sit gloria,
Qui natus es de Virgine,
Cum Patre et almo Spiritu,
In sempiterna Saecula. Amen.

O Jesus, born of the Virgin,
to you be glory
with the Father and loving Spirit,
unto everlasting ages. Amen.

[This is the proper hymn at Lauds for the feast of the Holy Innocents. The translation is that of Fr Joseph Connelly.]

Christmas at Chatsworth

In the current number of The Spectator, the Duchess of Devonshire describes the season at Chatsworth House, as it is and the way it used to be.

Granny had a famous cook who trained under Escoffier, no less. Mrs Tanner has left books of receipts and the Christmas food was rich and rare — as were the menus, which seemed to go on for ever. The dining room, schoolroom and nursery all had different menus. The poor children had to eat the hateful bland food thought suitable for their ages. Even the Christmas puddings were made of different ingredients according to where they would be eaten. Those for the staff were mostly suet and breadcrumbs mixed with stout and milk, whereas Mrs Tanner’s ‘Best Christmas Pudding — Buckingham Palace receipt’ included French plums, stoned raisins and half muscatels, plus half a bottle of brandy — underlining the great unfairness of life. It is too late to give recipes for these; they should have been made months ago, like the rich fruit cake in the Chatsworth farm shop which matures in the loft and is not sold till it is nearly a year old.

Much more here.

Monday, December 27, 2004

While the Tsunami is still in the news. . .

. . .it may be a good time to point out that our chances of being hit by an asteroid on Friday April 13, 2029 are increasing. They are now 1 in 37. It will not be an earth-killer, "merely" a 20,000 megaton regional devastator. If it lands in the ocean, the tsunami scenario comes into play. There are many articles out there (here's one referred by Jerry Pournelle) but I haven't seen any in the local "major media".

Christmas Day

Fr Bishop celebrated a wonderful Christmas day Mass in the traditional Roman Rite at Santa Teresita Chapel. The choir outdid itself with excellent chant and polyphony accompanied all the way through by the chorus parvulorum, the treble rumble and roar provided by our indult Mass babies. You have to laugh at the know-all pontificators like the one recently in America magazine, a Fr. Thomas Something-or-other, who predicted that since our Mass is only for ancient fuddy-duddy nostalgics it will soon die out. Hah! Maybe twenty percent of our congregation is under five years of age. If it does disappear, it certainly won’t be for that reason.

Since it was a Saturday, I expected to be listening to the Met broadcast on the drive home. God help us: Janacek. What a din. The Met management must hate Christmas. I much preferred listening to the babies. If God had wanted me to listen to Janacek, He never would have made sure I had a cd of “King’s College Choir, Cambridge Singing 15 Favourite Carols” along in the car.

One of the odder plot devices in “A Christmas Story” invaded my real-life Christmas. (Or what passes for real life around here.) I spent at least a small portion of Christmas day in, would you believe, a Chinese restaurant. Nothing to do with the Bumpus's dogs, though. An elderly friend of mine wanted some Chinese take-away to tide him over until his son came to get him for Christmas dinner. So we drove all over creation until we found an open Chinese restaurant. They were happy to oblige him so there we sat. He didn't get either goose or duck, so there was no head to be whacked off. No one sang "Deck the Harls With Boughs of Holry" either but I may have been wished "Happy Horidays".

Beannachtai na Nollaig a dhuibh!

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Joyeux Noel!

Friday, December 24, 2004

Christmas Eve-1776: "We. . .considered ourselves a vanquished people."

224 years ago today American armies were on the run. General Washington's army had been driven out of New York and across New Jersey and into Pennsylvania.

What to do? Why, attack. L'audace, l'audace, toujours l'audace as another of our French allies (we used to have them, you know) said during a later war.

AS 1776 was drawing to a close, Elkanah Watson, a young man in Massachusetts, expressed what many Americans feared about their war for independence. "We looked upon the contest as near its close," he wrote, "and considered ourselves a vanquished people."

There was good reason for pessimism. The British had driven Gen. George Washington and his men out of New York and across New Jersey. In early December, with the British on their heels, the Americans had commandeered every boat they could find to escape across the Delaware River into Pennsylvania. They were starving, sick and cold. The artist Charles Willson Peale, watching the landing from the Pennsylvania shore, described a soldier dressed "in an old dirty blanket jacket, his beard long and his face so full of sores that he could not clean it." So disfigured was the man, Peale wrote, that at first he did not recognize him as his brother James.

In these desperate circumstances, George Washington made a stunning decision: to go back across the Delaware and launch a surprise attack on the Hessian mercenaries occupying Trenton. On Christmas night, he led 2,400 men, many of them with their feet wrapped in rags because they had no shoes, to a crossing point nine miles upstream from Trenton. As freezing temperatures turned rain to sleet and snow, they began to cross the river.

The rest of the tale is here in today's NY Times.

Christmas 1864: The Confederate "White House", Richmond, Virgina

I found this at a civil war re-enactment site and have now lost the reference. With apologies to the webmaster for the lack of citation. (If it's yours, let me know so I can refer visitors to your site.)

Mrs. Jefferson (Varina) Davis describes their last Christmas in the Confederate White House in Richmond, Virginia.

She begins by stating “…as Christmas season was ushered in under the darkest clouds, everyone felt the cataclysm which [impended] but the rosy, expectant faces of our little children were a constant reminder that self-sacrifice must be the personal offering of each member of the family.” The Davises then went on to ensure that their children, their servants, and the children of the local Episcopal church orphanage had as merry a Christmas as possible, given the circumstances, which by 1864 included severe shortages of most of the things normally taken for granted at Christmas.

Mrs. Davis tells how she and other ladies of the neighborhood got their children to scour up all their old toys, to be spruced up and given to the orphan children at a party planned for Christmas Day in the basement of the Episcopal church, with a special gift to be given to “the most orderly girl” among the orphans. The Davises’ trusted manservant, Robert Brown, volunteered to make the prize gift, a “sure enough house, with four rooms.”

On Christmas morning all the servants gleefully “caught” President and Mrs. Davis by wishing them a “Merry Christmas” first, which gave the servants a right to a gift; the gifts, though small, were given to each one. The Davis family did not use their carriage on Sunday or Christmas, so walked to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, where “Dr. Minnergerode preached a sermon on Christian love, the introit was sung by a beautiful young society woman, and the angels might have joyfully listened.” Mrs. Davis goes on to describe the Christmas party for the orphans later that day, in which President Davis helped to distribute toys to the children, and the little girl who won the “sure enough house” was speechless on receiving her gift.

On returning home the Davises learned that General Lee had called, to tell them that a barrel of sweet potatoes intended for the Davises had mistakenly been delivered to him, and that he had taken a plateful and given the rest of the potatoes out to his men before he discovered the mistake. Mrs. Davis’s comment on this: “We wished it had been much more for them and him.”

The Pool of Healing

And as Jesus passed by, He saw a man which was blind from his birth. . . .

. . . .He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and He annointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay,

And said unto him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is, by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.
-- John IX: 1; 6-7.

According to this morning's Press Telegram, archaeologists claim to have found the pool of Siloam. You can find it here, alas, without the pictures.

And From The Sublime To The, um, . . .

. . .well, yes, ridiculous. But I was a true-believer when I was five. And now Tom Hennessey reveals the lost secrets of Rudolph's past. He was almost "Rollo, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" for heaven's sake.

And in the event you need a coffee after that starting revelation, there is this.


One more "O" Antiphon

In England, there was an eighth antiphon, 'O virgo virginum', 'O virgin of virgins', applied to Mary; an example of English exuberance spoiling
the careful and spare patterning of the Roman liturgy.
-Fr. East.

O Virgin of virgins, how shall this be? for neither, before thee was any seen like thee, nor shall there be after. Daughters of Jerusalem, why marvel ye at me? the thing which ye behold is a divine mystery.

Most authors agree that there were seven original 'O Antiphons' and that they are a very ancient expression of Christian Prayer. While their author is unknown they are cited in at least two works as early as the eighth century. Both Cynewulf, an Anglo-Saxon author, and Amalarius, a liturgist and the Archbishop of Trier (d. 850), who was a student of the teacher Alcuin, cite the existence of the 'O Antiphons' as early as the seventh/eighth century.

The 'O Antiphons' get their name from the fact that they all begin with the interjection 'O': O Sapientia (Wisdom); O Adonai (Lord); O Radix Jesse (Root of Jesse); O Clavis David (Key of David); O Oriens (Dawn of the East); O Rex Gentium (King of Gentiles); O Emmanuel.

While the original 'O Antiphons' numbered seven, over time a number of others were added to the liturgy of particular regions, and sometimes for particular religious feast days which fell during Advent, or even in the liturgy of some medieval religious orders. Some medieval religious churches had as many as twelve O Antiphons which were sung in the Advent Liturgy leading up to Christmas Eve.

Among these, there was an important Marian 'O Antiphon' which appears in both the Gallican (France) and Sarum (England) liturgies. Although it is difficult to establish just when this antiphon was first introduced, it was certainly known in the Middle Ages.

This Marian Antiphon is still used today in the liturgy of the Norbertine Order. While the Latin Liturgy begins the O Antiphons on the 17th of December with 'O Sapientia,' and ends on the 23rd with 'O Emmanuel,' the Liturgy of the Norbertine Order beings their O Antiphons on the 16th of December with 'O Sapientia,' and ends on the 23rd of December with the beautiful Marian Antiphon 'O Virgo Virginum.'

O Virgo virginum, quomodo fiet istud? Quia nec primam similem visa es nec habere sequentem. Filiae Ierusalem, quid me admiramini? Divinum est mysterium hoc quod cernitis.
--Fr. Benedict D. O'Cinnsealaigh, Mount Saint Mary's Seminary of the West, Cincinnati. From the very useful Marian library maintained by the University of Dayton.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Preparing for Christmas

If you're in the Los Angeles or Orange County area and you're not already thoroughly involved in bedecking your own parish church with evergreens like these folks, you might like to know that there will be several opportunities in this part of the country to attend the traditional Roman Rite Mass under the papal indult. Courtesy of a notice in the Orange County Una Voce website, some of them are:

Midnight Mass on Friday, Dec. 24th at Serra Chapel, Mission San Juan Capistrano. Christmas Carols begin at 11:30 p.m. We advise you to arrive 1/2 hour to 45 minutes early to assure a seat. Map Driving Directions

8 a.m. Mass on Saturday, Dec. 25th at Serra Chapel, Mission San Juan Capistrano. Again, we advise you to arrive 1/2 hour to 45 minutes early to assure a seat. Map Driving Directions

10 a.m. Mass at Santa Teresita Hospital in Duarte. Driving Directions

According to Una Voce Los Angeles' website there will also be a Christmas Day Mass at the San Fernando Mission Chapel. [MISSION SAN FERNANDO, SAN FERNANDO VALLEY. 15151 SAN FERNANDO MISSION BLVD., MISSION HILLS. 405 FWY. NORTH EXIT SAN FERNANDO BLVD. TURN RIGHT.]

Rome: More Latin, Please

Noted in the December issue of the Los Angeles Lay Catholic Mission:

"The Year of the Eucharist: Suggestions and Proposals", a document issued on October 13 by the Holy See's Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, gives several recommendations to make Pope John Paul II's Year of the Eucharist a success. Among these, according to an October 14 Catholic News Service report, is one that encourages "familiarity of Latin, indicating its necessity, especially in houses of formation and in seminaries, for prayer and singing in Latin, particularly Gregorian chant." Among other proposals, the document suggests the promotion of Eucharistic adoration, reflections by priests on such problems as the priest shortage, low Sunday Mass attendance, and teaching the faithful how to behave properly in church.

Fond as I am of Latin (and I note the use of the word "necessity", not just "desirability" or "appropriateness") but I think in this year of Our Lord 2004, I would nudge "teaching the faithful how to behave properly in church" a bit further up toward the top of the list.


The Seventh of the "O" Antiphons

O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the Desire of all nations and their Salvation: Come and save us, O Lord our God.

It is the day before the Holy Night; expectation turns into joy at the certainty of imminent fulfillment. As if drawing a joyful breath after long suspense the Church prays at sunrise: "Behold, all things spoken by the angel of the Virgin Mary are now fulfilled." How humanly sensitive the liturgy is! After weeks of intense longing, our souls are relieved by the quiet certainty of fulfillment.
"The Church's Year of Grace" vol. I, -Rev. Dr. Pius Parsch.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

More Advent/Christmas/Yuletide Spirit Than You and I Deserve

Have you been visiting Recta Ratio during Advent? I know, of course you have. This is just for those others who've been missing out. There is a wealth of Christmas readings and Christmas cheer at that link. And today after perhaps ten years of listening to the Chieftain's tape "The Bells of Dublin" and not quite getting the Latin chorus to The Boar's Head, I find it spelled out for me here. Christmas riches await a click on that link.


The Sixth of the "O" Antiphons

O King of the Nations, and their Desire ; the Cornerstone Who makest both one: Come and save mankind, whom Thou formedst of clay.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004


The Fifth of the "O" Antiphons

O Dayspring, Brightness of Light Everlasting, and Sun of Righteousness: Come and enlighten them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Words Fail

I can't even think of a snarky headline. There was an article on this "service" in this morning's Press Telegram and it cited the "Life Gem" website. I've searched for some indication that it's a hoax. But no. Apparently, they really will make grandma's remains into a tasteful piece of jewellery. And just in time for Christmas, too.


The fourth of the "O" Antiphons

O Key of David, and Sceptre of the house of Israel ; that openest and no man shutteth, and shuttest and no man openeth: Come and bring the prisoners out of the prison-house, them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death.

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like . . . the 4th of July

Or maybe Halloween. Certainly not Christmas. It was in the 80s over the weekend. Christmas is predicted to be somewhere in the 70s. Even for this part of Alta California that's a bit unseasonal, although not unprecedented. We never get a white Christmas but it is at least a sweater-worthy time of the year. Not this year. I'll be off shortly to do some practicing in the park: short sleeve shirt and a straw hat to keep off the sun.

Oh, yes, and the decorations are up. But calling some of them "Christmas" decorations may be stretching a point. Mary and I walk around the neighborhood most evenings for about an hour. It's a three mile walk, more or less, depending on the route. The decorations get odder every year. Most are still just lights or nativity scenes or Santa and his reindeer. But at least one household on our route thinks that nothing says Christmas like a 10 foot tall, illuminated, inflatable squarebob spongepants, or whatever its name is. Another house also had an even taller illuminated inflatable Homer Simpson. But at least Homer had a santa suit of sorts.

And the most amazing thing about it all is that I love it. I love the little house with just the Christmas tree in the window and the other house with the clamjamfrey of mismatched Christmas stuff, all in plastic: snowmen and two different sized Rudolphs and, unaccountably, the three wise men but no nativity scene. And even the giant inflated cartoon characters. I know I'm supposed to harrumph at everything except nativity scenes. (And I do; but that's largely because harrumphing is fun, too.) But it's still wonderful. Inexplicably wonderful.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

One Day Only!

This link to the cartoon "Jump Start" isn't going to be relevant if you are reading this and it isn't Sunday, 19 December 2004 and if it isn't about someone's "pop" who won't set foot in a mall. Maybe this link will last longer. It's relevance is. . .it's about me! I may not be an older black guy, but it's still got me nailed.


The third of the "O" Antiphons:

O Root of Jesse, Which standest for an ensign of the people, at Whom kings shall shut their mouths, to Whom the Gentiles shall seek: Come and deliver us, and tarry not.

"Do You Hear The Angels Speaking To You Tonight?"

Christmas deliveries to the poor in Oklahoma on the eve of the 4th Sunday of Advent. Here is another one of Robert Waldrop's all-too-infrequent posts on his Catholic Worker Blog: On Pilgrimage in Oklahoma City.

We got to St. Charles parish and there were people there waiting for us. Lance Schmitz and his wife (I missed her cello recital last night, , as I was making up the route lists for today's delivery, two members of the theological faculty at Southern Nazarene (Lance is a real organizer), Marcus Evans, Sean and I. We prayed and thanked God for this opportunity and then got the truck loaded in no time with all kinds of food, powdered milk, beans, rice, apple sauce, orange juice, cases of miscellaneous "meal helpers", peanut butter, spaghetti sauce, a ton of food, literally. The back of my pickup was filled with boxes of stuffing and cases of mushroom soup which I got at discount stores (they weren't available from the food bank), 210 loaves of bread donated by a certain friend who donates bread every month, and several bags of candy cans and chocolate Christmas candy.. 200 Better Times were in the front seat. I had the delivery routes sorted geographically and typed for the volunteers. We were set. (Many thanks to Marcus Evans who kept the Regional Food Bank initiative going and pushed it right through to a successful beginning.) Well, not quite. We decided we needed more flour, so I gave Lance a hundred dollars and sent him to Buy for Less. The people there asked him as he was loading up the flour, "Are you with that big guy with the beard who comes in here and buys everything in the store?" He said yes, hehehe.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

So that was my day, tomorrow is the 4th Sunday of Advent, Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday, and we certainly have much to rejoice about. We will hear the reading, "For behold, a Virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel. It is also a reading in which St. Joseph is prominent, and that is always special for us because St. Joseph is so important to us. Mary, a single woman, pregnant, and Joseph knew for a fact that he was not the father. Yet, he trusted God, believing the word that the angel had brought to him, and he kept his faith with Mary and took her as his wife. "He did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him." If only more people would follow his holy example and do what the angels of the Lord are commanding them to do. Sure, it's not hard to notice that we are surrounded by evil, but we are also surrounded by good. There are angels everywhere, offering help and hope to us, and most importantly, bringing the word of God to us. Do you hear the angels speaking to you tonight? If not, "be still and know that God is Lord", and perhaps you will hear the angels God is sending to help you through the trials and tribulations of your life.

Read the rest here.

There's more of Christmas there than in a thousand red-ribbon-wrapped Lexii.

Saturday, December 18, 2004


The Second of the "O" Antiphons:

O Adonai, and Leader of the house of Israel, who appearedst in the Bush to Moses in a flame of fire, and gavest him the Law in Sinai: Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.

Friday, December 17, 2004


The first of the "O" Antiphons:

O Wisdom, which camest out of the mouth of the Most High, and reachest from one end to another, mightily and sweetly ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence.

"Psychology" Trumps the Constitution

Nearly 8 Years in Prison Without A Trial And this is without The Patriot (sic) Act.

The Values Voters

There is still a lot of media play on the “values voters” who put George Bush back in the White House. There doesn’t seem to be all that much press focus on the fact that the Republican party has played them for suckers. Every day it seems there is another bit of evidence that the old conservatives and the religious and traditional values voters were conned. The incidents that got the most coverage were the appointment of an apparently anti-life attorney general and the decision of the Republican majority, led by the ostensibly pro-life Orrin Hatch, to allow Arlen Specter to be chairman of the judiciary committee. In the event that Mr. Bush actually appoints pro-life judges that could be of real significance.

And now this:

Rocco Buttiglione, the internationally esteemed Italian philosopher and statesman, visited Washington last week. Doors were opened to this Italian Cabinet member and devout Catholic as a courageous exemplar of conservative Western ideals against the European Union's leftist ruling establishment. But one door was closed to Buttiglione. It was George W. Bush's door.

Displaying arrogance, ignorance or both, the Bush White House refused to grant one of America's best friends in hostile Western Europe an appointment with President Bush or a senior aide. There was no pretense of an overly tight schedule. It was just plain ''no!'' Tim Goeglein, Bush's staff liaison with Catholics, told Buttiglione's entourage there was nothing he could do. Father Robert A. Sirico, president of the Acton Institute, based in Grand Rapids, Mich. (sponsoring the visit), informed the White House the snub was ''politically imprudent'' and ''morally revolting.''

While this conduct contradicts Bush's campaign posture, there is no mystery about what is going on. The re-elected president is offering a hand in friendship to ''Old Europe,'' at the cost of alienating the traditional Catholic constituency so avidly courted the past four years. Never having to worry about running again, Bush can give the back of his hand to Buttiglione, just as the leftist-dominated, anti-American EU refused to seat him as a commissioner.

I haven’t even been paying serious attention to the Republican party’s gratitude – or lack thereof – to the values voters. Those are just three incidents that I’ve noticed without really trying. And we haven’t even had Inauguration II yet.

[A fellow parishioner of St. Blog's discussed the Orrin Hatch/Arlen Specter spectacle when it first disgraced the news. I don't remember who it was and now I can't find the post. But the headline was wonderful: "Don't Count Your Hatches Before They've Chickened." Outstanding. Congratulations, whoever you are.]

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Wielded by "a back-stabbing coward", the axe has fallen on Scotland's entire military tradition.

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon today confirmed the axing of four infantry battalions in a major restructuring of the Army.
The widely-trailed move prompted angry scenes in the House of Commons with SNP MP Annabelle Ewing ordered out of the chamber by the Speaker after calling Mr Hoon a “backstabbing coward”.

She was angered by Mr Hoon’s confirmation that two single battalion regiments in Scotland — the Royal Scots and The King’s Own Scottish Borderers — would merge into a single battalion and would combine with the other four Scottish regiments, including The Black Watch, to form the new Royal Regiment of Scotland.

Ms Ewing’s Perth constituency is the home of The Black Watch, whose troops have just returned from perilous duty in Iraq.

Following her ejection from the Chamber, Ms Ewing said, “I have every respect for the Deputy Speaker, but absolutely no respect for a shameful minister who has put Scottish soldiers in the line of fire and then stabbed them in the back.

“Over these past few months I have spoken to dozens of current and past members of The Black Watch and their families. They are outraged by the government's plans and I share their anger.

More here.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Funereal Thoughts

Yesterday was completely occupied playing for a funeral in San Diego. The largest bit of the day was devoted to driving down and back. The next largest chunk, as usual, was spent waiting. Actually playing the pipes involved very little time at all. For the most part, then, I stand and wait and observe. In the words of Yogi Berra, the sage of the Bronx, "You can see a lot of things just by watching."

Irish-Americans smoke more than any other ethnic group. Or maybe they just smoke more at funerals than any other ethnic group. "Aha!" I hear you saying. "But you only play for the Scots and the Irish." A misconception. I have played for Japanese, Philipino, and African-American funerals, in addition to most of the European ethnicities. I played once for a Bulgarian Orthodox gravesite service. The deceased had played the Bulgarian pipes but they couldn't find another Bulgarian piper to play for his funeral. So I filled in, and me without a single Bulgarian tune to my name. And they seemed quite happy with the results. (Yes, the Bulgarians do too have pipes, as do all of the European nations. I think they call them the "koza" as the Poles do. But I could be wrong here. If you can find Anthony Baines' book on the pipes of the world you'll find what a widespread instrument it really is. At least in the basic physics of the thing.)

And I repeat: no one smokes at funerals like Irish-Americans. There's a federal grant for a study lurking here. "Health" or "Sociology": your choice.

Lots of folks don't like cemeteries. I have an aunt who avoids them at all costs. But this is absolutely not true for anyone who is, say, 8 years old or younger. Without regard to race, religion, or ethnic background, little kids love cemeteries. They take one look at that enormous expanse of green and the urge to run and play chase is irresistible. The mommies in their black high heels clump around trying to chase them down and restore some order but it's a lost cause. I don't care what the literary historians say. Jack London got the idea for The Call of the Wild watching little kids in cemeteries.

Families are wonderful things. But some families are more wonderful than others. (Although, I'm sure yours is among the best.) A tip for those seeking someone to marry: if you have a choice and are torn between two people (no, it never happened to me either; but it sure happens a lot in the movies and in country and western songs) study the families. Go to family weddings and funerals and observe. Some families are not much fun at weddings. Some are a delight even at funerals. You want to be a member of the second.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

At Mass Today

This may be one of those where "ya hadda be there". Nevertheless: as I knelt in my place after Holy Communion, the line was still going down the aisle. I heard an odd noise next to me and looked up. And there being carried up to the altar rail was this tiny little fella in his jacket and tie sound asleep in daddy's arms. And snoring like a buzzsaw. Funny, incongruous, and terminally cute. Ya hadda be there.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Something New

I ran across this website today: "Hereditas: A Catholic Literary Magazine". They hope for a print edition by next year. It looks a worthwhile project.

(I especially liked Charlotte Ostermannn's sonnet "The Shawl"; you'll find it here.)

Housekeeping. . . . again

The blogroll is starting to look like a blogroll again. Much of the old material is back with some new items. I was surprised - not to say embarassed - by how many of the old links were dead. Some of the old "Meditations on Carmelite Saints" were linked to pages that would no longer accept a direct link, although the material is still on line. To find them again, check the link to the Monastery of St. Joseph de Clairval below in the post on Saint Maria Maravillas de Jesus. Then follow the internal links to the "Monthly Letters". They're still there, along with much else that can side-track you for a while if you're not disciplined.

Thus the long-postponed aggiornamento of the blogroll is now getting done, albeit slowly. It's by no means finished; there are still a few categories that aren't represented at all. And some of the current ones still need to be added to. Tomorrow may bring an Irish section if I have time.

Gaudete in Domino Semper

This Sunday is Gaudete Sunday. If your parish has a set of rose vestments this will be one of only two occasions during the year when you'll get to see them. Otherwise, it's violet/purple again. The pastor (the very good pastor, actually) of a former parish wore what he always explained were rose vestments. But truth to tell, I suspicion we were witnessing a case of color blindness in action. Electric pink. Definitely, electric pink. Thank God it was only seen twice a year.

This is also the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a major feast day in this neck of the woods. As it co-incides with a Sunday in Advent it is totally eclipsed. But our Mexican parishioners will not forget their patronal feast. The alcove where her picture is located just to the right of the sanctuary will be filled and over-flowing with flowers - mostly roses - by the end of Sunday. All of them brought by her devotees.

A lovely site dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe can be found here.

Home Again

About 200 members of the Black Watch return home for the Christmas and New Year's holidays. More here.

Mother Maria Maravillas of Jesus

The Carmelite calendar today commemorates a new saint, Mother Maria Maravillas de Jesus. Mother Maravillas died only in 1974 after 65 years as a nun of Carmel. The short biography composed for the Carmelite office propers reads this way:

She was born at Madrid in 1891. She entered the El Escorial Carmel, Madrid on 12th October 1919. In 1924 she was inspired to found a Carmel at Cerro de los Angeles, alongside the monument to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. From this foundation followed nine others in Spain and one in India. She always gave first place to prayer and self-sacrifice. She had a true passionate zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. Even while living a life of poverty in the cloister she helped those who were in need, initiating apostolic, social and charitable works. In a particular way she helped those of her own order, priests, and other religious congregations. She died in the monastery of La Aldehuela, Madrid, on the 11th December 1974.

This website dedicated to her contains some pictures and the beginnings of a biography.

There is a longer and fuller treatment of her life here on the Vatican's website.

Yet another version, perhaps more of a meditation on her life can be found here at a site maintained by the Benedictines of the Monastere St Joseph de Clairval. (At one time a direct link was blocked although it seems to be working now. If it doesn't work, you might want to enter through the front door here and follow the "Monthly Letter" links to the article on Mother Maravillas.)

Friday, December 10, 2004

Changing Times

I never seem to be reading the current issue of anything. This morning it was the September issue of Chronicles. Chilton Williamson's column "What's Wrong With The World" contained the following couple of paragraphs which struck me as particularly demonstrative of how the world and this country have changed. Not just computers and other gadgets but a completely different ethos. (The point of his essay is not Iraq or even war in general, despite how this excerpt begins, but education, spurred by a notice in The New York Times that the ambitious middle class family these days sends it children not to summer camp but to "getting-into-college camp".)

The Spanish-American War was the direct (though infinitely more successful) forebear of the calamitous Iraqi war now being fought. Yet, while the war in the Philippines produced atrocities far exceeding those of Abu Ghraib, the Cuban campaign had its gallant aspect, provided in considerable part by Theodore Roosevelt's volunteer Rough Rider regiment -- which, so far as I am able to recall, has no parallel in subsequent American warfare The Rough Riders included recruits from Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, and clubs such as the Knickerbocker of New York and the Somerset of Boston. (Hamilton Fish, Jr., the ex-captain of the Columbia crew, was among the first casualties on the slog from Daiquiri over to Kettle Hill.) It included as well hunters, ex-sheriffs, cowboys, mining prospectors, and mountain men from the Western territories -- uncouth frontiersmen who had hardly suspicioned the existence of anything like a Fish, a Page, or a Channing.

Roosevelt was initially pleased by the refusal of the bluebloods to lord it over their social inferiors by demanding commissons for themselves, being content instead to serve under whatever roughneck they were assigned to; after the regiment had returned stateside and been mustered out, he was delighted to be able to claim that not a single man had backed out after volunteering for service nor failed to do his enitire duty. As for himself, Roosevelt explains in "The Rough Riders",

"During the year preceding the outbreak of the Spanish War, I was assistant secretary of the Navy. While my party was in opposition, I had preached, with all the fervor and zeal I possessed, our duty to intervene in Cuba and to take this opportunity of driving the Spaniard from the Western World. Now that my party had come to power, I felt it incumbent on me, by word and deed, to do all I could to secure the carrying out of the policy in which I so heartily believed; and from the beginning I had determined that, if a war came, somehow or other, I was going to the front."

Imagine Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, or Douglas Feith forming a regiment and taking it to the Iraqi front. Or a modern-day Harvard or Columbia graduate volunteering for service with it. Really, it is unimaginable. Probably fewer than ten percent of American males with college degrees have ever handled a firearm. America in 1898 was still a whole society, raising up whole men. The difference between then and now is, to some degree, the difference between summer camp and college camp.

Unimaginable indeed. Oh, surely the ivy league is not completely unrepresented. But they are also just as surely counter ivy league cultural.

[Chronicles has a website (linked above) but this article is not on it.]

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem

The Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem have a new website here showcasing their new location in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. The canons are a new order using the traditional Roman Rite. The founder, Dom Daniel Oppenheimer, was one of the early members of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. He received the permission of his superiors to found this new community and spent a year with the Norbertine canons of St. Michael's in Orange, California, in formation learning the spirituality and ethos of a canon. I was able to meet him at St. Mary's two or three years ago and was quite impressed. He has ambitious plans and the spirit to carry them out. God's blessing on the undertaking.

007: Both Shaken And Stirred Over Coming Demise of All The Scottish Regiments

Sir Sean Connery threw his weight behind the "Save the Scottish Regiments" movement yesterday. The story in the Dundee Courier can be found here.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Hoon goes on a "photo op" PR tour with the Black Watch a few days before he's scheduled to give them and Scotland's military tradition the axe. The Scotsman reports it here.

The "Save the Scottish Regiments" link appears to the left. But it couldn't hurt to repeat it again here.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

In festo Immaculatae Conceptionis Beatae Mariae Virginis

Aurora soli praevia

O Dawn, sweet herald of that Sun
Whose day salvation's course doth run;
Plead Thou, we pray, O Maid of light,
That we may brave the soul's dark night.

As once the Ark of God, in peace
Made Jordan's angry waves to cease,
Which else had whelmed the passers-through;
So bring to man God's peace anew.

As wet the fleece and dry the ground,
Or dry the fleece with dew all 'round,
Like Thee, kept free of earth's control;
Pray God for every earh-bound soul.

As, when the dragon reared his head
To belch abroad his poison dread,
Him Thou didst crush beneath Thy feet;
Sure victory for us entreat.

O Mother kind, look on our tears;
Regard our struggles, prayers, and fears;
Thou who by grace didst conquer hell,
Aid us its power to repel.

All honour, laud, and glory be,
O Jesu, Virgin-born, to Thee;
Whom with the Father we adore,
And Holy Ghost, for evermore. Amen.

The Collect

Deus, qui per Immaculatam Virginis Conceptionem dignum Filio tuo habitaculum praeparasti : quaesumus ; ut, qui ex morte ejusdem Filii tui praevisa, eam ab omni labe praeservasti, nos quoque mundos ejus intercessione ad te pervenire concedas. Per eumdem Dominum. Amen.

O God, Who in the foreknowledge of Thy Son's most precious death didst consecrate for Him a dwelling place by the spotless Conception of the Blessed Virgin : mercifully grant that She Who was preserved from all defilement may evermore pray for us until we attain unto Thee in purity of heart. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Making Progress. . .

. . .with the format. Some blog links are added. If yours isn't there, it may yet show up. They're being added one at a time, just like they were originally. Since I lost the original html for the St. Blog's parish webring link the one that's there now is home-made. Here's hoping it isn't an excommunicable offense. Bell, book, and delete key. Shudder.

December 7, 1941 -- On Board the U.S.S. Nevada

In this morning's paper, Tom Hennessey talks with a sailor who was there 63 years ago today. The article can be found here.

For more on the attack on Pearl Harbor, National Geographic has a multi-media site that will take you through the day that will live in infamy with maps, photographs, spoken descriptions, and more. You'll find it here.

Accomplishment #1. . .

. . .was to get rid of that ridiculous "latest posts" list at the left. That might make sense on some blogs but surely not on this one. My posts are just not that long; a short scroll and you're into last week.

And now the site meter is back along with the collect of the day and the little weather indicator. Progress.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Whatdya know? They meant it.

When they said "If you make this change, you will lose all your customizations", that is. Turns out "customizations" includes all my links. Sigh. Well, I had planned on up-dating them and doing a bit of re-arranging some day. It looks like some day has arrived. They should all be back in some form or other by, say, the new year. So it shouldn't be a total loss, let this be a lesson for you: if you plan on changing your format, copy the relevant parts of your template first.

(I rather like the new format, though. It looks more like an inn at the end of the world. I wonder if I'll still like it after a few hours of re-instating links.)

The Nasty Chasuble Contest

Over the past thirty-some post-conciliar years I have seen a few dead-cert winners for this competition. Alas, I never have a camera at the appropriate time. You may want to sort through the family album and take another look at the snaps from little George's confirmation. You may already be a winner!

Expeditionary Strike Group Five

The news story is here.

I mention it in order to pass on a request for prayer from one of their Catholic chaplains received on one of my Catholic e-mail lists:

Now that we are underway I can ask your prayers for the Sailors
and Marines of Expeditionary Strike Group Five. We deployed today
for the Pacific and points west. Our mission has yet to be announced
but if you watch the news you will probably hear about it as soon as
we do. For all the dangers involved this can also be a great moment
of grace as these young men and women are confronted with the stark
realities of life and death. It was a beautiful, clear and sunny day
as we set sail with the great battle ensign flying from the mast,
Sailors and Marines manning the rails and Anchors Away and the Marine
Hymn playing. May God's provident care accompany us, protect us and
bring us by His Grace safely home. Amen.

Found While Looking for Something Else Dept.

I was rummaging through my bookshelves this morning looking for a copy of a medieval engraving of St. Nicholas to scan and post for St. Nicholas' Day. I didn't find it. Instead I found the special issue of The Chesterton Review put out in 1996 dedicated to Fr. Vincent McNabb, O.P. Which led to an hour or so of browsing which should have been spent elsewhere.

Still it was an excellent way to spend part of a morning, caught up in the optimism and joy which surrounded Fr. Vincent, Chesterton, Belloc, Baring and the others who made Catholicism explode into life in the first half of the 20th century. Chesterton said of Fr. Vincent, "Now I am nervous about writing here what I really think about Father Vincent McNabb; for fear he should somehow get hold of the proofs and cut it out. But I will say briefly and firmly that he is one of the few great men I have met in my life; that he is great in many ways, mentally and morally and mystically and practically... for at least nobody who ever met or saw or heard Father McNabb has ever forgotten him."

In searching the web for something to refer you to on Fr. Vincent, (and save myself a fair bit of typing) I find that Gerard Bugge, God rest his soul, produced a webpage based on this same special issue. You can find it here.

One of Father's anecdotes that Gerard doesn't recount:

I well remember going off to America in 1913 finding myself in the steerage of the ship with 400 or 500 emigrants all seeming to be in the depths of sorrow and gloom. There was nothing to look out on but the huge warehouses of Liverpool docks. It was a dull day, nothing to eat, nothing there but the sea and the sky like lead. People were sitting on their luggage (we were being kept on deck while we were case-papered or something), sadness in their hearts, hungry. I thought "Isn't this awful?" Then a few children came along very shy and quiet at first. I thought "Thank goodness there are children. Now things will begin to liven up." They looked at each other gloomily for a moment and then they started dancing and singing "round and round the Mulberry bush" round a great steel stanchion. We could only see a steel stanchion -- they saw a mulberry bush. I have never forgotten the vision God gave me in a few moments in Liverpool docks.

And one more, which I think St. John of the Cross would very much approve of:

Thank God I have never had any visions. I don't want any. The Apostles' Creed is quite enough for me. I've never yet understood the whole of it. I've never had anything approaching a vision or a revelation but I've had answers to prayer innumerable.

Some links to distributism and related topics, Fr. McNabb included.

Oh, who loves Nicholas the Saintly,
Oh, who serves Nicholas the Saintly,
Him will Nicholas receive,
And give help in time of need,
Holy Father Nicholas!

Today is the feast of St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, and the patron of children, of Russia, the Ruthenian Byzantine Rite Church, sailors, and much else. In the middle ages even robbers took him as their patron, although that's one patronage that never quite got the ecclesiastical seal of approval.

St Nicholas also participated in the Council of Nicea. One story has it that he was expelled from the Council for giving Arius, he of heresy fame, a punch in the nose. "Pastoral" councils, it seems, came later.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

A Veiling Oneself

Found on Fiat Mihi this evening, another of Hilary's wonderful essays, full of insight and delight:

The logical principle of non-contradiction is something that is understood, at least at an instinctive level, by conservatives. Few people know this, but the agony being experienced in our cultural movements now, comes from this contradiction; liberalism, as Malcolm Muggeridge put it, has a death wish. It is because liberalism is founded upon the idea that you can ignore the logical principle of non-contradiction and just get on with doing whatever you want. This idea, is of course, self-contradictory; hence the pain of cognitive dissonance we are experiencing on a grand pan-cultural scale. The death wish is the desire to reconcile the irreconcilable - an unconscious desire for anihilation.

It's ostensibly about women's head-covering in church, but as you can see, really about much more.

Vistare decet.

Fatwah on Frosty

The Diocese of Kerry, Ireland has banned the song "Frosty the Snowman" from all Kerry churches this season. The good news is that they've done it; the bad news is that it needed to be done at all. There is a link here to a fatuous editorial column in the Irish Independent on the issue so I dare say we can presume it is a fact. But don't actually read the column; it's too silly to waste the time on.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

St. Barbara

4 December is the traditional feast day of St. Barbara who is the patroness of artillerymen, apparently because her father, who caused her to be beheaded, was killed by a lightning bolt after her death. There is a military Order of St. Barbara promoted by American artillerymen. They have a website here.

St. Barbara is also the patroness of those who wish to be protected from artillery. Hmmmm. Seems to be a potential conflict of interest looming here.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Society of St. John Suppressed

The Society of St. John has been suppressed by its local ordinary. A sordid and depressing story, it can be found here. I mention it at all because I have linked to their website with approval in the past. (Their website is here, at least for the time being, if you're interested.) The rumors about them were frequent. I had hoped they were false. Increasingly, it doesn't look like it.

One quibble with the story: the Society of St. John was not a "traditionalist" society as that term is usually understood. The society used a good deal of Latin, an ad orientem posture at Mass, and many other traditional practices. But their liturgy did not employ "the liturgical books in use in 1962" as prescribed by the papal indults. Rather they used what is usually referred to as the "1965" liturgy although it included changes made even later than that. This is something usually not acceptable to the pricklier traditionalists. And, Lord knows, that probably describes most of us.

Distributism and Knute Rockne

Well, actually, they don't call it distributism. They call it The Third Way. But there's some distributism, some social credit, and some other ideas.

But to begin at the beginning. You will notice over to the left side of this internet edition of the Skibbereen Eagle*, the contact information text refers to "sources for good reeds". Michael Greaney of the ominously titled "Center for Economic and Social Justice" took that opportunity to drop me a note with the subject line "Good Reed" but which instead contained information on a "Good Read". In this case the good read is a novel, apparently a "boys book" as this sort of thing used to be known, by Knute Rockne. (Yes, of course, that Knute Rockne. How many of them could there be?) The rest of his note appears to be, um, shall we say, intended for a multiplicity of recipients. But the well-placed pun saved it from the virtual dust bin.

He included a link to a website. This one. Now, in fact, I can't find any reference to The Four Winnners: The Head, The Hands, The Foot, The Ball by Knute Rockne on that website. However, he did say I could find it on Amazon and the other usual suspects. And so I did.

But the website itself: what a treasure trove. All sorts of interesting ideas. I haven't read even 10% of it yet. But there is much good stuff, ecumenical, but founded on the papal teaching in the social encyclicals of the last 150 or so years. Some distributism, some social credit, and various other ideas. Take a look.

*Oh, and the Skibbereen Eagle. It was a local newspaper in the west Cork town of Skibbereen. It acquired its claim to fame in the middle of the 19th century when the British Empire was at loggerheads (again) with the Russian Empire. In a thunder-from-Olympus opinion piece, the editor warned Lord Palmerston and the Czar to mind their manners, ending "The Skibbereen Eagle has its eye on the Czar of Russia." And so does The Inn at the End of the World have its eye on Presidents and Cardinal-Archbishops. Caveate, domini mei, caveate! else all 100 (on a very good day) of The Inn's readers shall learn of your misdoings.

No Reason For this. . .

. . .I just can't get the melody out of my head this morning. "Nicky Tams" are leather straps, or often just pieces of twine, used by Scottish farm labourers 150 or more years ago to tie up the legs of their trousers below the knee. It kept them out of the mud and had occasional other benefits as the penultimate verse indicates.

A Pair o' Nicky Tams

Fan I was on'y ten year auld, I left the pairish schweel.
My faither he fee'd me tae the Mains tae chaw his milk and meal.
I first pit on my narrow breeks tae hap my spinnel trams,
Syne buckled roon my knappin' knees, a pair o' Nicky Tams.

It's first I gaed for baillie loon and syne I gaed on for third,
An' syne, of course, I had tae get the horseman's grippin' wird,
A loaf o' breed tae be my piece, a bottle for drinkin' drams,
Bit ye canna gyang thro' the caffhouse door without yer Nicky Tams.

The fairmer I am wi' eynoo he's wealthy, bit he's mean,
Though corn's cheap, his horse is thin, his harness fairly deen.
He gars us load oor cairts owre fou, his conscience has nae qualms,
Bit fan briest-straps brak there's naething like a pair o' Nicky Tams.

I'm coortin' Bonnie Annie noo, Rob Tamson's kitchie deem,
She is five-and-forty an' I am siventeen,
She clorts a muckle piece tae me, wi' different kinds o'jam,
An' tells me ilka nicht that she admires my Nicky Tams.

I startit oot, ae Sunday, tae the kirkie for tae gyang,
My collar it wis unco ticht, my breeks were nane owre lang.
I had my Bible in my pooch, likewise my Book o' Psalms,
Fan Annie roared, 'Ye muckle gype, tak' af yer Nicky Tams!'

Though unco sweir, I took them aff, the lassie for tae please,
But aye my breeks they lirkit up, a' roon aboot my knees.
A wasp gaed crawlin' up my leg, in the middle o' the Psalms,
So niver again will I enter the kirk wi'out my Nicky Tams.

I've often thocht I'd like tae be a bobby on the Force,
Or maybe I'll get on the cars, tae drive a pair o' horse.
Bit fativer it's my lot tae be, the bobbies or the trams,
I'll ne'er forget the happy days I wore my Nicky Tams.

"The Saracens": At It Again

One of the lesser-known saints commemorated today is St Anthemius of Poitiers. All I can find about him is this note in Engelbert's "Lives of the Saints":

St Anthemius. Bishop of Poitiers, apostle of the Saintonge, accompanied Charlemagne to Spain and was killed by the Saracens (8th century).

Thursday, December 02, 2004

St. Vibiana

2 December is the feast day of St. Vibiana, the principal patroness of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Her relics were given to Bishop Thaddeus Amat by Pope Pius IX and enshrined in 1876 in the then new cathedral dedicated to her. The old Italianate cathedral sustained some earthquake damage a few years ago and was found to be irrepairable and far too dangerous for Catholics to inhabit. Apparently secular folk are hardier souls and, after a bit of repair, find it an agreeable "cultural center" or restaurant or some such.

St. Vibiana no longer has a cathedral named after her. But she does have a chapel in the crypt of Los Angeles' new cathedral where her devotees can go and pray for happier times in the Archdiocese of which she is patroness.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Risking It

Whatever this is that is causing whole, vast buckets of liquid stuff to gurgle about in my lungs doesn't want to go away. It's been a nuisance for almost two months now. (And not just to me. Mary got up the other night to kill the mosquito that was buzzing around our bed. There was no mosquito. It was me, wheezing.) So I finally went to the doctor the other day and even had x-rays. Well, whatever it is, it doesn't seem to be pneumonia. I am now on three kinds of medication, two of which specify that I'm not supposed to operate heavy machinery. The reasonable and prudent man would interpret this to include keyboards also. One might kill oneself with the aforesaid heavy machinery. But keyboards connected to the internet allow one to make a collossal eedjit of oneself.

But I take the risk.

December 1 is the feast day of St. Edmund Campion, S.J., St. Alexander Briant, S.J., and St. Ralph Sherwin, a seminary priest of Douay and the English College in Rome. All of them were martyred for their priesthood.

It's also the feast of Blessed John Beche, O.S.B., Abbot of Colchester. At one time he took the oath of supremacy, acknowledging Henry as head of the Church in England. But later after the example of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More and the Carthusian martyrs, he recanted, denying Henry's right to confiscate his monastery and praising St. John and St. Thomas.