Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Jeanne d'Arc, patroness of soldiers

Today is the feast day of Joan of Arc, burned at the stake in 1431.

In the spring of 1920, with the fields of Europe still blasted and blood-sticky, the Catholic Church declared the warrior maiden to be a saint.  A century later the Continent is a melange of irreligion, sterility, and sentimental pacifism.

Here are the concluding paragraphs of Mark Twain’s book on Saint Joan:
"With Joan of Arc love of country was more than a sentiment—it was a passion. She was the Genius of Patriotism—she was Patriotism embodied, concreted, made flesh, and palpable to the touch and visible to the eye.

"Love, Mercy, Charity, Fortitude, War, Peace, Poetry, Music—these may be symbolized as any shall prefer: by figures of either sex and of any age; but a slender girl in her first young bloom, with the martyr's crown upon her head, and in her hand the sword that severed her country's bonds—shall not this, and no other, stand for PATRIOTISM through all the ages until time shall end?"

Sunday, May 27, 2012

"To safeguard the veil of the temple… the ramparts of the city must be manned"

From an address by Dr. Pence -- delivered Memorial Day 2008 -- on the grounds of the University of St. Thomas near a monument to John Ireland (the first and greatest archbishop of St. Paul):

"For the man whose statue we stand by and for the men whom we remember tonight, there was never any question that the culture of life and the culture of protection formed a seamless garment. They knew (even if we have forgotten) that the freedom to worship can only be secured if there is a willingness to protect. This campus has long fashioned Catholic men of both the priestly cloth and the soldier’s uniform. We do well to gather here. Let us remember what they never forgot.  Because there is evil in the world, whatever is signified as precious or sacred will be attacked and degraded if there is no protection. To safeguard the veil of the temple… the ramparts of the city must be manned.

 Washington DC statue by Frederick Hart

"We remember that before the apostles were emboldened by the Holy Spirit, they fled when Christ was first arrested. We also remember that when Christ died he entrusted His sacred mother to John and the other apostles for safekeeping. There is an old tradition in the Church that the apostles kept her in hiding until she died; and it is a dogma of the Church that her body knew no corruption as she was assumed into heaven.  So let that icon burn into your memory – the ordered band of men, Peter and the apostles, gathered around the sacred beauty of Our Lady in protective order. Each of them except John would die a martyr’s death – but not Our Lady. Our Blessed Mother Mary who came into the world protected by the Father from any stain of sin or hold of Satan was protected in her last years by the apostolic fraternity. Christ did not leave Our Lady’s safety to chance. He did not leave her well-being to the good will of the high priests and soldiers who had tortured and murdered her son. He did not assume that Satan would disappear if everyone just acted like the Devil doesn’t exist. Christ left his mother in the protective care of the apostolic church… A culture of life must always be a culture of protection.

"A people are formed and reformed in their public acts of remembrance. This indeed was the commandment at Sinai which structured sacred time around a Sabbath—Remember keep holy the Sabbath day -- a day to be kept holy so a people might be kept whole.  That commandment to sacralize time was not meant to be celebrated as a family barbecue or a long weekend… Holy days for both religious and civic communities are supposed to interrupt the flow of work! The holidays are holy days. They interrupt our daily routine to remind us that the fruits we enjoy are not created by the work of our hands but given by the grace of God and the sacrifice of our fathers.

"We set aside days -- special days because every day is not the same. We set aside sacred space because every space is not the same. We have different spaces and roles for men and women because in our differences there is the capacity to enter a sacred space where life is given. Our altars are set aside like the Holy Ground where Moses stood.  Moses was told to remove his shoes because that ground was not the same as the rest of the ground.

"When we collapse our holy public days into family weekend fun, we lose the ability to make the distinctions of the sacred from the profane and the public from the private. It is just such distinctions which distinguish us as human beings.

"Every time we allow something sacred to be defiled and go unprotected, we lose a little more of our capacity as a community to exercise communal human emotions.  We lose the capacity to mourn; we lose our capacity to be angry; we lose our ability to love in common.”

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A minyan multiplied

Pence writes:

Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, was filled one Sunday in May with over 40,000 men in formal attire promising to erect a fence of purity around their own souls and the eyes of their children.  That "fence around the Law" is the Jewish tradition of establishing communal practices that protect man from getting too close to the defilement of sin. 

Two thousand years ago, the Rabbi forbade killing a man, but He added a fence: “Don’t call him a fool.”  He forbade adultery, then added the fence: “Look not with lust.”  All these practical acts of separation to better safeguard the law and purity are priestly acts protecting the Holy. And since Adam, men have been charged with guarding the purity of the Garden.

The visual icon of the all-male group bound in common duty under God was a striking reminder of the public masculine protective bond that forms the fundamental accord of public life. Public communal life is not built on families or marriages. Marriage and family are protected by a larger male covenant sealed by blood – sacrificed to G-d.  This covenant is everywhere in our history guiding us through the desert.   In these troubled times, though, the feminist implant has so confused our souls that we disdain the public brotherhood that will safeguard us from the Evil One.  Just mention “males gathering in public,” and the Nazi jackboot creeps to mind and Gestapo sirens fill the ears. Civic militias and religious patriarchy are denigrated as the chicken hawk flies free and the serpent slides unnoticed.

The male public bond is as central to Christianity and America as the singular male-female private bond is to our country and Church.  Christ built his Church on twelve men with priestly powers to separate men from sin, disease, and death.   Arthur built his Roundtable on brother knights swearing their masculine might for right. (If only he had called it an anti-bullying program!)  America’s nation was consecrated not in a royal marriage, but by a blood oath sealing an honor code among the Founding Fathers.

The New York stadium (built large enough to show these men, but not to hold them) was a field of contest built in the heart of a city. For the city cannot survive without a band of brothers to fight for her. All of New York sleeps better tonight. For this time Sodom found her ten just men… and a whole lot more.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Know the Mount Athos monks and the other geopolitical players

Anyone who has visited tiny Bard College in the Hudson River Valley can attest it’s the last place you would expect to find a wise down-to-earth professor of foreign affairs such as Walter Russell Mead.  (The school still has an Alger Hiss Chair of History!)

Take a look at Mead’s superb summing up of the new alignment between Greece, Russia, Israel, and the island of Cyprus.

[Here is a map of the area. In NE Greece, there are three "fingers" coming down; Mount Athos (twenty monasteries with 2,000 monks) is on the easternmost one].

"Therefore, we must make ourselves indifferent to all created things"

Those are the words of Saint Ignatius, founder of the Jesuits.  From the principle and foundation of his Spiritual Exercises:
"Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God Our Lord, and by this means to save his soul.  The other things on the face of the earth are created for man to help him in the attainment of his end…"
One of the noble sons of Ignatius in our lifetime was Walter Ciszek (d. 1984), who spent more than two decades in Soviet prisons and labor camps. He was finally repatriated to America a month before the assassination of President Kennedy.

Father Ciszek mentions those words of the erstwhile Spanish knight in describing his own early despair in Russia over his fellow prisoners: deeply afraid, they would not speak of God or hear of God.

Ciszek’s temptation – man’s temptation – rather than humbly walking in the twenty-four hours set before us, is to rebel and flee the Lord.  ‘Non serviam.’

To learn to bend the knee to our immediate circumstances, to the true will of God rather than what we want it to be, is to realize that “there is no greater security a man could ask, no greater serenity a man can know.”

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mr. Weigel, why omit God and Holy Scripture in Catholic commencement speech?

As a longtime fan of ‘First Things’ magazine, I’d have to say the most puzzling thing about many of their writers is a seeming indifference to the call of Vatican II to address modern man in the vibrant tones of Biblical personalism.  They must feel that they won’t be taken seriously by the secular rationalists if they don’t routinely steer all matters of philosophy out into the Desert of Dry Bones…

George Weigel traveled to the heartland on Saturday to receive an honorary degree from Benedictine College in Atchison.  But reading his address (posted the same afternoon at ‘National Review’ under a headline trumpeting its “Un-Sebelius” nature), a person starts thinking that the former Kansas governor would have to wake up with the chickens and go a good country mile to out-do the papal biographer in scrubbing all references to our mighty Triune God and his Holy Writ!

Certainly that was not the approach of President Kennedy or Reverend Martin Luther King.  Several months ago, Pence gave high praise to a bookStone of Hope – that explains the importance of the rhetoric chosen by the black civil rights movement.  As the Catholic philosopher Blaise Pascal phrased it: "God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the philosophers nor of the Wise."

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Saint Pio (d. 1968)

Less than a fortnight before his death, Padre Pio wrote to Pope Paul VI:
“I know that Your heart suffers much these days on account of the happenings in the Church: for peace in the world, for the great needs of its peoples; but above all, for the lack of obedience of some, even Catholics, to the lofty teachings which You, assisted by the Holy Spirit and in the name of God, have given us. I offer Your Holiness my daily prayers and sufferings…
“I thank Your Holiness for the clear and decisive words You have spoken in the recent encyclical, Humanae Vitae, and I reaffirm my own faith and my unconditional obedience…”

The reaction of James Patrick Shannon, auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Saint Paul, to the encyclical on contraception was very different.

(After receiving his doctorate from Yale, he became one of the bright lights of Catholic higher education -- being named, at age 34, the president of the College of St. Thomas).

Two months after Padre Pio died, James Shannon resigned his bishop's seat in protest on November 22, 1968.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Progressives who pride themselves as allies of Islam

Why do the president and Secretary of State Clinton think that the rest of the world will be any more open to being hectored about the nobility of homosexuality, than were the more than 30 American states which amended their constitutions to ban same-sex marriage?

Leftists should stop trampling on the dignity of Muslims by trying to flood the Third World with contraceptive pills and abortion clinics.  This is the new benighted colonialism!

An excerpt from‘FrontPage’magazine:
In the early stages of the Iraq War, George Galloway -- a British Member of Parliament and an inveterate America-hater -- gave voice to the mindset underlying the socialist left's alliance with radical Islam. Galloway was asked: "You often call for uniting Muslim and progressive forces globally. How far is it possible under current situation?" He replied:
"Not only do I think it's possible but I think it is vitally necessary and I think it is happening already. It is possible because the progressive movement around the world and the Muslims have the same enemies. Their enemies are the Zionist occupation, American occupation, British occupation of poor countries mainly Muslim countries. They have the same interest in opposing savage capitalist globalization which is intent upon homogenizing the entire world turning us basically into factory chickens which can be forced fed the American diet of everything from food to Coca-Cola to movies and TV culture. And whose only role in life is to consume the things produced endlessly by the multinational corporations. And the progressive organizations & movements agree on that with the Muslims... So on the very grave big issues of the day - issues of war, occupation, justice, opposition to globalization - the Muslims and the progressives are on the same side."

UPDATE:   Corporations are bad, apparently, unless they make things that forward-looking people need.  Here is the tale of the first commercial oral contraceptive ("The prevailing wisdom was that no healthy woman would ever willingly take a drug that neither treated nor prevented disease.")

The Pill was manufactured by Searle – the company headed from 1977-85 by one Donald Rumsfeld.

Caryll Houselander (d. 1954)

Miss Houselander on modern man:
“He thinks that his bewilderment is caused by lack of knowledge about himself, but here man is wrong; the real source of his bewilderment is lack of knowledge about God…
“Man is constantly haunted by the fear that if he is not loved, he will cease to be; this is not a delusion, it is the truth.  If he were not loved, he would cease to be; he exists only because God wills him to be, and keeps him in being, that he may be the object of his own creative love.”

Monday, May 7, 2012

"Nothing in his [decade in Congress] / Became him like the leaving it"

The late Jesuit priest, Robert Drinan, was elected to the U.S. House two years before the Roe v. Wade decision.  During his tenure, Father Drinan (though claiming to be personally aghast at the practice) often spoke up in support of a mother’s freedom to abort.  An evangelical leader such as Jerry Falwell seemed more scandalized at the priest’s stance than Jesuit leaders or Cardinal Medeiros of Boston. 

Eventually, though, the Vatican forbade him from running for re-election.  Urged by many of his supporters to disregard the edict, Father Drinan showed no hesitation in displaying his nobler side:  "That would be unthinkable."

The tragedy of the nuns – such as this angry and confused sister in Saint Paul – who are currently facing off against Pope Benedict and the American bishops is that they are breaking faith with Drinan and Dorothy Day and earlier radicals.  They seem determined to send themselves to Coventry.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Maybe not the best guide to recovering masculine solidarity

The videos and talks of Father Robert Barron are often very impressive – such as this commentary on gender, and how best to steer a boy toward manhood.

Sometimes, though, Barron concedes way too much to trendy progressivism.  Why would he laud Father Richard Rohr as some kind of model of masculinity?

Rohr and his meditation center in New Mexico are hip-deep in a witch’s brew of enneagrams and strident disdain for the teachings of the Catholic Church.  If Rome did a bit more in reining in priests like him, the number of nuns turning feminist somersaults would be fewer.

One further aspect of the kookiness of Father Rohr: he has sung the praises of Eckhart Tolle, a spooky German mystic who is guru to Oprah and other Hollywood folks.