Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Entire 19th century: no Poland on the map

Hung out to dry between thieves with long knives, Poland ceased to exist as a sovereign nation for 123 years!

During the latter part of the 18th century, it kept being partitioned by Russia, Prussia, and Habsburg Austria – until, finally, there wasn’t any more Poland to be swallowed up.
[Click here to see the three maps].

Many nations would have simply kept “a-mouldering in the grave,” but there was something singular about the Polish spirit that resulted in its resurrection after the First World War. 

One of the heroes who built up the Polish nation again was Jozef Pilsudski (1867-1935).

UPDATE: The suppression of the Jesuit religious order for nearly half a century (until 1814) is tied in with the story of Poland’s partitioning.

The monarch of Russia, Catherine the Great (d. 1796), resisted the papal decree to close down the Society of Jesus:

"Because millions of Catholics (including many Jesuits) lived in the Polish provinces recently annexed by the Kingdom of Prussia and the Russian Empire, the Society was able to maintain its existence and carry on its work all through the period of suppression."
Several of the leaders of the Jesuits during those storm-tossed years were Poles.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The original 13 colonies

There were four in New England: New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.

The four Middle Colonies: New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.

And there were five in the South: Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.

[Click map to enlarge].

The most sparsely populated was Georgia – it was not founded until 1732 – so it was the most generous in offering land to veterans after the Revolutionary War.

Virginia was the first colony founded (1607)… and African slaves were brought there a dozen years later.  It was the most populous colony.

The smallest in land area, Rhode Island, was the first to declare independence from England.

By 1775 there were about 2 ½ million settlers in the colonies.  (The population of Britain was more than three times greater.) 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

"The Byzantine Empire survived nearly a millennium longer than its Western ancestor"

The former Hagia Sophia cathedral, built in the 6th century

The end came in 1453 with the fall of Constantinople to the Turks.

Four centuries earlier, Christian brother had broken with Christian brother: the Church of the East and of the West hurled bitter anathemas at each other (the Schism of 1054, which has never been resolved). 

After the Turks overran much of Asia Minor (1071), the Eastern emperor did appeal to Rome for military assistance.  So, the pope – Urban II – called the First Crusade (1095); but as the western warriors approached Constantinople on their way to the Holy Land, they must have felt like shabby country cousins.  They were absolutely stunned by the fabulous wealth and advanced culture of the Eastern empire.

The schism deepened with the Massacre of the Latins (1182), in which much of the Roman Catholic portion of the imperial capital was wiped out.

The event that permanently crippled the Byzantine Empire was the bloody retribution of the Fourth Crusade – in which the Frankish crusaders, sailing from Venice, sacked and burned Constantinople (1204).  Thousands of Eastern Christians were butchered.

[The Imperial Library, last of the great ancient libraries, was almost completely destroyed.

This is the crusade in which the warriors looted such items as the bronze horses that were carted back to grace the cathedral in Venice.

The illustrious Venetian traveller, Marco Polo, was born fifty years after the Fourth Crusade].

With the collapse of the Byzantine Empire in the 15th century, the center of Orthodox Christianity shifted to Moscow and the Russian Empire.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The 33 most populous nations (part 2 of 3)

Philippines’ largest cities: Quezon City (former capital), Manila, and Caloocan – these three abut each other.

Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and Hai Phong (which served as France’s main naval base in Indochina).

Ethiopia: Addis Ababa, Mekele, and Adama (for half a century Haile Selassie re-named it “Nazareth” after the Biblical town).

15. Egypt: Cairo, Alexandria (the capital for nearly a thousand years until the Muslim conquest in the 7th century, it is the Mediterranean’s largest seaport), and Giza -- where you can find the great limestone Sphinx.

Germany: Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, and Cologne. [Dresden, eleventh in size, is the largest city that had been wholly under East German control].

Iran (77 million): Tehran, Mashhad, Isfahan, Karaj, and Tabriz (site of last week’s earthquake in the country’s NW corner, this city in the year 1500 was the world’s fourth largest!)

Turkey: Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir (site of ancient Smyrna, one of the seven churches in the Book of Revelation).

Congo (Democratic Republic): Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, and Mbuji-Mayi.  [Kinshasa sits on the Congo River directly across from Brazzaville, capital of the Republic of the Congo].

20. Thailand: Bangkok and two of its suburbs (Nonthaburi and Pak Kret).

France: Paris, Marseille, and Lyon (the Roman emperor Claudius was born here; and it was the episcopal see of Saint Irenaeus who helped vanquish Gnosticism).

United Kingdom (63 million): London, Birmingham (the world’s “first manufacturing town”), Glasgow, and Liverpool.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

"The tomb and death were not able to hold in sleep the Mother of God"

[A Coptic icon]

The Assumption is the oldest feast of Our Lady:

"For a time, the ‘Memory of Mary’ was marked only in Palestine, but then it was extended by the emperor to all the churches of the East. In the seventh century, it began to be celebrated in Rome under the title of the ‘Falling Asleep’ (Dormitio) of the Mother of God.

"Soon the name was changed to the ‘Assumption of Mary,’ since there was more to the feast than her dying. It also proclaimed that she had been taken up, body and soul, into heaven."

'Come, let us worship the King of kings, for today his Virgin Mother was taken up to heaven.'

[The Assumption was infallibly defined by the pope in 1950.  In this sermon, Monsignor Knox referred to the action as "a gesture against materialism."

It was a century earlier that the Church dogmatically stated Mary's Immaculate Conception -- that from the first moment of life in Anna's womb, she "was never subject to original sin."]

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Between Casablanca and the deep blue sea

One of the ten largest Islamic mosques in the world is named after the longtime king of Morocco, Hassan II.  It was completed several years before his death in 1999.

Its minaret is taller than any other (at 689 feet it would dwarf the Washington Monument's 555).

[The largest mosque is in Mecca.  Muhammad -- who died in 632 -- is buried a couple hundred miles north in the one at Medina].

Kids jumping into the Atlantic off the Casablanca mosque’s patio:

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The 33 most populous nations, and their cities (part 1 of 3)

The two giants over a billion are, of course, China and India.  The U.S. comes in at 316 million… and the last country on our list is Poland (39 million).

China’s largest cities: Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin (75 miles SE of the capital), Guangzhou and Shenzhen. 
[The two latter are near Hong Kong].

India: Mumbai (on NW coast), Delhi, Bangalore, and Hyderabad.

The five largest in U.S. -- New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, and Houston.

Indonesia (which, in a decade or two, will be passed by Pakistan as largest Islamic nation): Jakarta, Surabaya, and Bandung – all of which are on island of Java.

5. Brazil: Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, and Brasilia.

Pakistan: Karachi (on the Arabian Sea), Lahore, Faisalabad, and Rawalpindi.

Nigeria: Lagos, Kano (in the northern Islamic region), and Ibadan.

Bangladesh (153 million): Dhaka, Chittagong, and Narayanganj.

Russia: Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Novosibirsk (more than two thousand miles from Moscow in SW Siberia), and Yekaterinburg (where last Tsar was executed).

10. Japan's largest cities: Tokyo, Yokohama, and Osaka.

Mexico (112 million): Mexico City, Ecatepec de Morelos (on northern fringe of capital, and part of its subway system), Tijuana, Puebla, and Guadalajara.

Most magnificent of Jerusalem’s gates

O Jerusalem, glorify the Lord
 who gives you your fill of finest wheat.”

The Damascus Gate – on the north wall between the Christian and Muslim Quarters – is the principal entrance into the Old City.


The present structure was built in the 16th century by the Ottoman sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent.

[The bottom photo was taken around the time of Kaiser Wilhelm’s visit to Jerusalem in 1898].

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

"The great evil at the center of our culture is monotheism"

Years ago I remember watching an interview with Gloria Steinem.  She was asked which noxious philosophies she battles against.  Among the list was monotheism.

Albert Mohler describes a Harvard lecture delivered by Gore Vidal in 1992, in which he rallied the secular troops for an all-out war against the three great "sky-god religions": Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Feminist and homosexual activists – in their march to the Promised Land – are hell-bent to vanquish any notion of the One True God.