Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Nov 30: Saint Andrew and the 2,000 Byzantine monks on the Holy Mountain

[first published November 30, 2016]

MOUNT ATHOS in northeastern Greece is one of the powerhouses of prayer that keeps our tired old world going -- because sturdy men of faith submit their hearts to God.

On this feast day of the Holy Apostle Andrew, it is right that we deepen our understanding of our Christian brothers in Greece and Russia. East and West, the bonds of a praying brotherhood define the monastic and Apostolic Church. But in the heart of this all-male environment where even the animals must be male, there is a special presence and she is decidedly feminine.

"There are 20 monasteries on Mount Athos of which 17 are Greek, one Russian, one Serbian, and one Bulgarian. There are also twelve Skites (similar to monasteries but much smaller), a large number of Kellia (large farm houses), Kalyves (smaller houses), Kathismata (small houses for a single monk) and Hesychasteria (hermitages or caves in desolate cliff faces, for the most austere hermits)."



From the parish bulletin of a Russian Orthodox church in Minneapolis:
Last October, Fr. Andrew and I visited Mt. Athos, affectionately known as the Garden of the Theotokos. As we experienced this beautiful place where God’s glory seems to radiate from everything, we were made aware of her presence. When we spoke to the monks in that holy place, they would refer to her and say things like: "Whatever the holy Mother wants." They live in humble submissiveness to her and understand the value of her intercessory prayers and guidance. We met an older monk on one of the remote walking paths by his hut (it was very old and abandoned-looking), who explained to us that he had lived 30 years alone with the Mother of God in "her garden." 

Sit back and enjoy one of the finest segments that has ever appeared on "60 Minutes."


UPDATE: Here is a short video of one of President Putin's visits to Mount Athos. He was joined by the Patriarch of Moscow.

Let us praise Andrew, the herald of God, / the namesake of courage, / the first-called of the Savior’s disciples / and the brother of Peter. / 
As he once called to his brother, he now cries out to us: / "Come, for we have found the One whom the world desires!"

Sunday, November 27, 2022

ADVENT and the three comings of Christ

(first published December 1, 2013; edited 2017)

by Dr. David Pence

The Church year begins today as we enter into the Advent season to prepare for the Coming of Christ in History, in Mystery, and in Majesty.

First we recall the long period of history before He came to Mary at the Annunciation and was born in Bethlehem the first Christmas night. We reflect on the setting aside of Israel and the setting aside of Mary – the perfect temple who is a template for our souls. But the significance of Christ's entrance into history cannot be confined to the short time humans have been on earth. His coming is the cosmic culmination of matter itself.  The Incarnation of Christ is the epicenter of natural history, in that physical matter now has a new interpersonal center of gravity in Christ and His Queen Mother. The great mass of the physical universe dissipates into space while the tiny earth is set aside for life. The garden is set aside for man, the Israelites for Mary, and Mary for Christ.  His life and death will form the center of human history as he makes holy the forms of interpersonal communion that will be the foundation stones of a Living Temple. He establishes his holy priesthood. His sacred brethren will man the Ark of the Church and lead the hunt to separate the Evil One from the communion of the living. Christ has come in history. 

The separative and unification acts which characterized His coming in history are continued in the liturgy. The Holy Spirit draws mankind into the Trinity by incorporation in the Body of the Son. The Apostolic Church fishes for men dispersed at sea and reconstitutes mankind through Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist. This present-day coming of Jesus is fully experienced only in the sacramental life of the Church. His Real Presence is still with us here on earth. We are not just with Him but becoming Him through the Eucharist. Being in the state of grace secures us to an ark of angels and saints amidst the floodwaters about us. The unspeakable intensity of this Eucharistic incorporation has always made Catholics less likely to discuss our day-to-day "personal relationship with Christ".  Theosis  or becoming a member of the Mystical Body of Christ through sanctifying grace seem better ways to express this sacramental reality. Christ comes today in mystery.  

Christ has established His Kingdom on earth and is reorganizing all social relations around the Eucharistic priesthood, the sacrament of marriage, and the covenants of the nations. He is moving history to its culmination when He will return amidst his angels and the Church to fully restore His kingship by uniting the submitting nations and dispersing the Evil One from the earth. We are not waiting for our individual souls to go to heaven. We are working to draw humanity into the Body of Christ. That is truly the Opus Dei which Christians share. Led by the Holy Spirit, we conspire to make humanity fit to be the Body of our returning Head. This is the one true world wide conspiracy. We have put on the Heart of Christ and are building the Kingdom on earth to be consummated in the fitting time of the Lord. Our mission is to be sure at that time of the final separation and expulsion, the Devil gets as few of our people as possible. Christ is coming in majesty.  

So let us begin our Advent – the little Lent in which we set aside some part of ourselves to better attend these three comings.


Saturday, November 26, 2022

Religion, Nations, and Geopolitical Review: SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 26

by A. Joseph Lynch


BROGLIO ELECTED USCCB PRESIDENT: Archbishop Timothy Broglio will succeed Gomez to be the new head of the USCCB. Broglio, head of the military archdiocese, is staunchly pro-life, called for the protection of military personnel who refused the coronavirus vaccines, and fought for those who opposed Obamacare's contraceptive mandate. We look forward to seeing what he does in his new role.

THE JESUITS: What went wrong?

WHY GO TO CHURCH: Anthropologist Mary Douglas has made several appearances on AoA (see here and here), and we're glad to see Rod Dreher reflect on her work concerning the anthropology of religious worship.


TRUMP '24 RUN: President Trump has announced he will run for president in 2024. His announcement speech was formal, on message, and very presidential. It was exactly what it needed to be. Only days later, however, Biden's Justice Department announced it was appointing a special prosecutor to dig for any dirt he can find on Trump. Funny enough, we remember Trump being impeached when he asked Ukraine to investigate Biden scandals in Ukraine long before Biden announced he planned to run for president - yet Biden announces a massive investigation of Trump immediately after Trump announces his intent to run. We await calls from Democrats for Biden's impeachment the ferocity with which they demanded Trump's.

WWIII AVERTED... FOR NOW: The AP has apologized for its recent reporting that two Russian missiles struck Poland when indeed it was one (or possibly two) air defense missile that hit Poland. Of course, the missile was spun as "Russian-made" since it was an old Soviet S-300 that landed in Poland. Most Ukraine-backing governments are nevertheless blaming Russia, since they blame Russia for starting the war that led to the Ukrainian missile killing two Polish farmers - which Ukraine has yet to apologize for. But thank the Lord that some Polish firefighters took pictures of the missile fragments or else we might just be in WWIII by now as Poland - which had to know from radar data alone that the missiles were not fired by Russia - immediately invoked NATO's article four in preparation for all out war. In the end, a potential false flag attack went no where while European governments continue to support a Ukrainian regime that kills its citizens - and this includes the new "conservative" leader of Italy, who continues to support Ukraine as Ukrainian terrorists linked to the Azov Battalion are captured plotting terror attacks within Italy.

US BASES MAPPED: Did you know that the US operates 867 military bases throughout the world? If you'd like to see where, there's a new online map tool to show you.

BLAMING THE US: Turkey was recently hit by terror attacks in Istanbul which were subsequently blamed on the Kurds and their key partner, the United States. In response Turkey has begun attacking the Kurds in Syria and in northern Iraq. One might wonder if Turkey, Russia, Iran, and Syria's Assad might all begin to apply pressure on the US to withdraw its oil-stealing military units from Syria in the months ahead.

EU'S ECONOMIC EXTINCTION? In siding with the US against Russia, the EU is finding itself hit from all sides. They are now fighting an unwinnable economic war against Russia as "green" policies undermine its economy at home. Meanwhile the US is seen as an "existential" threat to Europe's industries as American subsidies, combined with spiking energy costs, appear to be drawing more and more of Europe's businesses overseas to America. And what's more, what will the EU do if 8 million Ukrainian refugees storm Europe as Russia shuts down Ukraine's eclectic grid and water supply? We suspect its about to get very ugly.


BASED ON A LIE? One prominent psychiatrist argues that the gender industry bases its "science" on a study that was quite unscientific

GOP BETRAYAL IN THE SENATE: A whopping twelve Republican senators betrayed marriage by voting to join the Democrats to enshrine gay marriage under federal law. While senators like Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins were no surprise, one might not have expected a Mormon like Mitt Romney or a senator from a deep red state like Iowa's Joni Ernst would abandon their voters in such a shameful way. To be clear, we at AoA were not surprised that these twelve RINOs would vote the way they did. We encourage our readers in their states to seek better representatives in future senatorial elections. And moreover, no one should be surprised at the 2022 election results - why so many conservative voters stayed home - when this is what can be expected from Republicans in office.

WORLD CUP SHENANIGANS: Islamic Qatar is hosting the World Cup... let the liberal meltdown ensue. Rod Dreher reported that while the Americans planned to abstain from pork while in the country so as not to offend pious Muslims, they planned to wear rainbow flags on the field in protest of Islam's defense of marriage. It's a real headscratcher as American liberals favor Islam against Christianity, yet can't help but attack Islam - and every religion for that matter - in the liberal quest to push their idolatry on the nations.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

THANKSGIVING: Don’t call it Turkey Day

[first published November 22, 2012]

David Pence writes:

Thanksgiving Day is an embarrassing holiday for the atheists. Whom should one thank?

Nonbelievers first turned this day of formal national prayer into a rekindling of an earlier bliss betwixt Pilgrims and Indians. A little rewriting, and secularists turned the feast into a memorial of Pilgrim settlers thanking the native-born Americans for their ecological wisdom that allowed us a full table and survival through the winters. As usual, the guilt-ridden white folk reminded us of something true but missed the real story. There were formal acts of prayerful thanksgiving before we became a nation but unfortunately for the Protestant imagination the first such acts were in that old liturgical  form of the Catholic Mass.

The Pilgrim parable was soon debunked by Indian activists who reminded the well-meaning storytellers that the only gifts white men gave Indians were smallpox blankets. "Who wants to celebrate that, white man?"

Instead of returning to the first Congress or Washington or Lincoln to get the holy day back on track as a civic duty of a repentant nation to a Sovereign God, our adaptable consumer culture had a new answer. Let the appetites be sacralized! There was a surge to elevate not "Whom We Thank" but "What We Eat." Turkey Day was proclaimed!

No more messy cross-cultural narratives. Instead of asking that our sins be forgiven and as a nation we bow to God, a turkey was pardoned and the whole affair was consummated in a next-day orgy of shopping called Black Friday. That spin-off Feast Day is demanding a vigil service of its own, which may drive the whole embarrassment of public thanksgiving to God  back in the memory hole where school prayer now abides.

Contrast our evolving celebration of  Black Friday Eve with George Washington’s understanding of Thanksgiving Day in the first sentence of his 1789 Proclamation:
“Whereas it is the duty of all nations to recognize the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor…” 
Contrast Turkey Day with the content of his prayer:
“And also that we may unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions -- to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually…” 
This is a day as a nation we are supposed to perform a religious duty -- to ask forgiveness and give thanks to a Divine Ruler who governs not only the lives of men, but the public communal forms of men: the nations. That is what Congress requested Washington to declare; and that is what this national day of prayer for forgiveness and thanksgiving is still meant to be. Let us assemble in our houses of worship, at community kitchens, and at our family tables but remember we are acting as members of the larger national political community.  Let us ask God forgiveness for turning away from Him and allowing these sacred goods to be defiled: His holy Name, our sacred flag, our national brotherhood, the institution of marriage, the protective love of mother for child, and the sacred virginity and innocence of our young. In Lincoln's words: "with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience...we fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and union."

UPDATE: Be sure to check out Andrew Lynch's essay.

The Thanksgiving proclamation of our First Continental Congress.
 A reminder from "War on the Rocks" that Thanksgiving is a holiday forged in national wars.
  Lincoln declared the last Thursday of every November as a national holiday at the bequest of Sara Josepha Hale, editor of the popular magazine, Godey's Lady's Book. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

NOVEMBER 22 -- The Maturation of Christian Manhood: John Kennedy and the Spiritual Destiny of Nations

[first published 11/22/13]

Dr. David Pence writes:

"A word is not the same with one writer as with another. One tears it from his guts. The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket." 
         (Charles Peguy)

A half-century ago, on the feast of Saint Cecilia, an armed atheist assassinated the first Catholic President of Christian America. It was a well-aimed blast. Those ringing shots of death silenced the voice of an elected Knight who was calling his nation and other nations into an articulate and armed defense of the ordered liberty that is the hallmark of Christian civilization. 

John Kennedy was a masculine liberal. He went forth to lead the land he loved, knowing that establishing a just political order amidst the nations was an assignment that God had given the laymen of the Church that claimed him since infancy. Deep in his heart, in his mind, and in his soul he understood that our shared identity as Americans was built on a band of brothers who had fulfilled a sacred obligation. When he spoke, the timbre of his voice called men into that band of brothers. Women cheered that such a bond would protect them.

When he spoke in 1960 to the Houston Ministerial Association on the religious question, he turned their eyes outward to the atheist menace that threatened Protestant and Catholic alike in our shared nation under God. He reminded them there was a military oath that secured religious liberty in the dangerous world of tyrants and the mass armies of paganism. That same military oath drew together Catholic and Protestant men at the Alamo. Only the record of their last names would attest their ancestral faiths, for "there was no religious test at the Alamo." It was this brotherhood of battle that Washington had hoped would leaven the national feelings of affection among Americans. It was such bonds that Lincoln proposed as the sinews of a new nation baptized in the bloodshed of Gettysburg. It was such bonds that the patriarch Abraham marked in that first shedding of male blood to forge a public. All nations were blessed in Him when he fathered the masculine covenant that sustains every nation.

On that day in Houston, Kennedy reminded the religious men of duty who gathered to hear him that he, his fallen brother, and they were bound by a common civic duty. He offered himself to fill the office, which would govern the military brotherhood, which secured their liberty as ministers to fulfill their religious obligations to God. He ended his oration reminding his listeners that the presidency was an oath, and he had taken oaths before -- "so help me God."

A decade before his speech to the Protestant ministers, Kennedy explained his understanding of the person, national loyalty and the Kingdom of God to students and faculty at Notre Dame.  

“You have been taught that each individual has an immortal soul, composed of an intellect which can know the truth and a will which is free.  Because of this every Catholic must believe in the essential dignity of the human personality on which any democracy must rest… A Catholic’s dual allegiance to the Kingdom of God on the one hand prohibits unquestioning obedience to the state on the other hand as an organic unit.”

Five months before his assassination, Kennedy demonstrated his providential view of the role of nations in the destiny of mankind during his visit to Ireland.


“For the Ireland of 1963, one of the youngest of nations and the oldest of civilizations, has discovered that the achievement of nationhood is not an end but a beginning. In the years since independence, you have undergone a new and peaceful revolution, an economic and industrial revolution, transforming the face of this land while still holding to the old spiritual and cultural values…

"Self-determination can no longer mean isolation. No nation, large or small, can be indifferent to the fate of others, near or far. Modern economics, weaponry and communications have made us realize more than ever that we are one human family and this one planet is our home.

" 'The world is large,' wrote John Boyle O'Reilly.
'The world is large when its weary leagues two loving hearts divide,
But the world is small when your enemy is loose on the other side.'

"The world is even smaller today, though… across the gulfs and barriers that now divide us, we must remember that there are no permanent enemies. Hostility today is a fact, but it is not a ruling law. The supreme reality of our time is our indivisibility as children of God and our common vulnerability on this planet.

"Some may say that all this means little to Ireland... It may be asked, how can a nation as small as Ireland play much of a role on the world stage?

"I would remind those who ask that question, including those in other small countries, of the words of one of the great orators of the English language:
'All the world owes much to the little five feet high nations. The greatest art of the world was the work of little nations. The most enduring literature of the world came from little nations. The heroic deeds that thrill humanity through generations were the deeds of little nations fighting for their freedom. And oh, yes, the salvation of mankind came through a little nation.' "

John Kennedy as a Catholic man of the Irish tribe integrated the male citizenship of powerful and accomplished Anglo-Saxon Protestant America. He furthered this integrative work by proposing immigration reform no longer linked to racial ancestry quotas. He, slowly but then surely, argued the case for racial integration. Like Eisenhower before him, he sent federal troops to save black students from the fury of the huge popular protest movements against integration. The first cries of “power to the people” against authority in the 1960s were white mobs opposing integration.

Catholic Kennedy had argued that public offices could have no religious test. In his televised address to the nation on civil rights he proposed that America could not fight tyranny abroad if it was not colorblind at home. “We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution… I want to pay tribute to those citizens North and South who have been working in their communities to make life better for all. They are acting not out of a sense of legal duty but out of a sense of human decency. Like our soldiers and sailors in all parts of the world they are meeting freedom's challenge on the firing line, and I salute them for their honor and their courage.”
Always he spoke of honor, courage, and shared duty.

That November when he died had begun with the assassination of two Catholic brothers who were fighting for their Asian nation in the struggle against the armed atheism of state tyrannies. On All Souls Day the president of South Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem, and his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu were assassinated in a military coup inflamed by newspaper reporters, and instigated by the new US Ambassador and members of our State Department. The CIA, the US military, and the Catholic Attorney General opposed the killing. President Kennedy mismanaged the rift in his government leading to the killing he called "abhorrent." The Mandate from Heaven was removed from both Catholic Presidents that month of the dead in 1963.

John Kennedy, like King David, marred his public life by sins of infidelity. Like King David he wept at the death of an infant son; and like David, his older son would die hanging between heaven and earth. He paid for his sins against marriage with the deaths of his male heirs. He paid for his betrayal of his Asian Uriah with his own death by the hand of their common atheist foe.

An ancient Roman liturgy, which he attended on Sundays and Days of Obligation, shaped John Kennedy. He knelt to pray and went to auricular confession. He lit candles in churches all over the world for the soul of his brother killed in a naval plane crash over the English Channel. He saw religion as a public duty to the Sovereign of the nations. He saw the nation as a brotherhood of protectors, and he understood an alliance of nations as the agents of History. He had a deep Catholic sense of humanity as one, and a sailor’s view of the earth as a small ship upon the sea of the universe. He knew what Nikita Khrushchev knew and Mao Tse-tung did not appreciate. He knew nuclear war must be prevented. He also knew what both of them knew: that there was a great conflict about how mankind should be organized. He wanted the flourishing of free nations under God. The Communists would use "national fronts" to re-institute the Tower of a Globalist Atheist Babel, which needed no god and would in time dispense of the churches, nations, and families.

A hero like Kennedy has many descendants who claim his name but few men who share his heart. He tried to replace the overwhelming technology of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) with Special Forces of men who would fight on the ground and win the hearts and minds of the new national leaders of Africa, South America, the Mid-east and Asia. He would replace the fleets of nuclear bombers with Green Berets and helicopters for security; and the Peace Corps and water wells for infrastructure and education. Launching unmanned drones inside Muslim nations and bombing the Orthodox cities of Serbia as a substitute for foot soldiers countered his legacy.    

He was no stuttering king in the war against the armed atheists of state tyrannies. Archbishop Philip Hannan, the combat veteran who gave JFK’s funeral homily, built it on Kennedy’s Scriptural syntax. The celibate combat bishop and the biblical fighting liberal are men our nation needs again. Their world was one of embedded un-chosen obligations, marked by protective duties assigned by gender, and priestly piety and purity proclaiming the supernatural order. On this feast of the virgin martyr, whose sweet life made her the patron of music, let us remember the warrior king who made words beat to move the hearts of his countrymen:  
“And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.” 

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Bending the knee to "Christ the King of Fearful Majesty" as the Church Year ends with the final Drama

[first published November 25, 2011]

"Yes, I am a king. I was born for this, I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice."  (Gospel of St. John)

Dr. Pence writes:

The liturgical year of the Church ends with this feast day to remind us how sacred history will come to its fulfillment with the return of Christ as King. Yes, Jesus is your personal Lord and Savior. He is also the Ruler of Nature, the Lord of History, and the Slayer of the Leviathan.  We know Him in the Eucharist as we are becoming not his friend, but incorporated in His Body. We remember his Incarnational transformation of physical nature at the Annunciation, and we await his triumphant coming again as Head of the Mystical Body incorporating all of humanity in Himself. Catholics are always living within these three comings of Christ. Maybe because the Eucharist is less like friendship and more like incorporation, we don’t emotionally emphasize our "personal relationship with Christ" -- but we look, instead, from the vantage of Holy Communion, both backward and forward to the actions of the Cosmic King.
          The feast of Christ the King was  instituted by Pope Pius IX in 1925 as atheistic movements were persecuting Catholics in Spain and Mexico and the Orthodox in Russia. In his encyclical Quas Primas he asserted the independent authority of the Church in relation to States. He also asserted that political communities were subject to the authority of Christ as well. Christ is King of the whole man and the whole of his social relations. This feast calls Christian men to understand that civic life cannot be divorced from God. As we deepen our bonds in the church we must shape our nations as well in a fraternal international order in consonance with Divine Providence. Establishing the Kingship of Christ is more a matter of ordered loves than creedal assertion. Christ the King and devotion to the Sacred Heart are deeply tied. Pius IX ordered on this day every year that MANKIND be consecrated to the Sacred Heart.  Politics is one of man’s  highest callings when understood as forming fraternal bonds to provide for the civic common good by enforcing justice. Such a city on a hill gives honor to Christ as King and Lord. A man is a sign of Christ when he exercises legitimate authority. This feast is a good day to reflect on this dimension of Christian identity. We are meant to be rulers over ourselves first. The father and mother are to rule over their children. Politically men are called to establish law and order to rule our civic communities and lastly as a human race we are ordered to have dominion over the earth. It is a great threat to both Church and State that the ruler as an integral part of the Christian personality has become so neglected. This is particularly true in the priesthood which is the primary Christian template of a fraternity of ordered love and authority.

Christ shows us not only the face of God, but He has enlightened us to our own true nature as well. Man is by nature a eusocial organism in which all of humanity is united in  an interpersonal union headed by the alpha male. That is our final perfection as creatures truly made in the image of an interpersonal Trinity. On our way to that final union we live in the communal forms of marriage and nations. Christ’s Kingdom on earth is His Father’s Kingdom. Christ is King, but he is a Son as well. We are incorporated in his sonship-filiation. This is what we pray for in the prayer He taught us, that the rule of the Father would be done on earth as it is in heaven. Let us bow to the king and accept the order of patriarchy. A particular concern of Pius IX in declaring this feast was to reassert that modern man is not an emancipated individual but still a subject to the authority of the one true King. Let us contemplate this final feast in the Church calendar, in order to better greet the baby at Christmas and receive His Body in the Eucharist -- remembering that when the trumpet finally sounds, indeed, he will "bestride the narrow world like a Colossus" and Eternal King


UPDATE -- A stanza from a translation of the 'Te Deum':

"From Thy high celestial home,
 Judge of all, again returning,
 we believe that Thou shalt come
 in the dreaded Doomsday morning;
 when Thy voice shall shake the earth,
 and the startled dead come forth."

Saturday, November 19, 2022

November 19: “Give rest, O Savior, to the soul of thy servant”

“…whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet…”   
                           (Ishmael in Moby Dick)

Entering this week of high anniversaries of President Lincoln’s words at Gettysburg (Nov 19, 1863) and of John Kennedy’s death in Dallas – as well as the liturgical year drawing to a close, with the Church bowing before the authority and power of Christ our King – the opening scene of Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago came to mind:
They walked and walked and sang “Memory Eternal,” and whenever they stopped, the singing seemed to be carried on by their feet, the horses, the gusts of wind. Passersby made way for the cortege, counted the wreaths, crossed themselves. The curious joined the procession, asked: “Who’s being buried?” “Zhivago,” came the answer. “So that’s it. Now I see.” “Not him. Her.” “It’s all the same. God rest her soul. A rich funeral.” The last minutes flashed by, numbered, irrevocable. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof; the world, and those who dwell therein.” The priest, tracing a cross, threw a handful of earth onto Marya Nikolaevna. They sang “With the souls of the righteous.” A terrible bustle began. The coffin was closed, nailed shut, lowered in. A rain of clods drummed down as four shovels hastily filled the grave. Over it a small mound rose. A ten-year-old boy climbed onto it. Only in the state of torpor and insensibility that usually comes at the end of a big funeral could it have seemed that the boy wanted to speak over his mother’s grave. He raised his head and looked around from that height at the autumn wastes and the domes of the monastery with an absent gaze. His snub-nosed face became distorted. His neck stretched out. If a wolf cub had raised his head with such a movement, it would have been clear that he was about to howl. Covering his face with his hands, the boy burst into sobs. A cloud flying towards him began to lash his hands and face with the wet whips of a cold downpour. A man in black, with narrow, tight-fitting, gathered sleeves, approached the grave. This was the deceased woman’s brother and the weeping boy’s uncle, Nikolai Nikolaevich Vedenyapin, a priest defrocked at his own request. He went up to the boy and led him out of the cemetery.

“Alleluia. Weeping at the grave creates the song.”

Friday, November 18, 2022

The Dedication of the Basilicas of Saints Peter and Paul

[first published November 18, 2015]

by David Pence

The Catholic Church on this day each year celebrates the dedication of the churches of St Peter and St Paul in Rome.  St. Peter and St. Paul drank of the Lord's Chalice and were both martyred in Rome.  “Those two famous shoots of the Divine Seed burst forth in a great progeny.” Their sacral brotherhood of blood served as the foundation stones of the apostolic Church.

Their tombs were pilgrimage destinations from the beginning. The basilicas were built over their sacred remains by Constantine in the 4th century, and then refurbished and rededicated in later centuries. Christianity’s priesthood  is centered in Rome where the graves of the martyred blood brothers signal the early development of Christ's Body as surely as Bethlehem and Nazareth. The reclamation project of winning back territory from the Prince of this world is celebrated especially when a sacred space is carved out of the land and stone to consecrate a church.  

Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls

Interior of St Paul's

Basilica of St Peter

The Chair of Peter upheld by
Saints Ambrose, Athanasius, John Chrysostom, and Augustine

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Religion, Nations, and Geopolitical Review: SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 12

by A. Joseph Lynch


The major story of the week – and the sole story we’re covering in today’s R&G – is the aftermath of the US elections. As of this writing, we still have no confirmation as to which party will control the House and the Senate come January. And this comes as a shock considering Republicans were poised to ride a “red wave” – or even a “red tsunami” – to power. As it now stands, Dr. Oz lost to a stroke victim who can’t form coherent sentences while the AP has projected a Mark Kelly win in the traditionally red state of Arizona. Walker is headed to a difficult runoff in Georgia as cameras in a major Nevada vote counting facility went mysteriously dark during the night on Thursday. While it is still likely that the GOP wins the House, it is not at all inconceivable that they suffer a net loss of one seat in the Senate or remain in a (Harris-breaking) tie. 

But is this a disaster? If the Republicans do win narrow control over the Senate and House, they will have won the 2022 midterms. Indeed, the slow counting of the ballots may in part be Democrat districts draining conservatives of any joy over their coming win - and publicly bringing about divisive recriminations within the GOP - precisely by dragging out the count for days on end. 

Yet conservatives are right to be disappointed after pollsters had projected the GOP would hold some 240 House seats and 54 Senate seats. And given Biden’s abysmal approval numbers, an economy in recession, sky high inflation, and a disastrous foreign policy, one would have expected a red wave far greater than we saw in 2010. What happened?

There are many reasons for the stunning underperformance of Republicans this cycle:

  • No energy, no message: It turns out that there were many conservative voters like me out there this year. The GOP doesn’t seem to understand that the scars of 2020 run deep for many conservative voters. We watched democracy go down in flames as the GOP establishment lined up like Brutus to put the knife in Trump’s back while January 6 protestors were treated like 9/11 terrorists. During this year's primaries, the GOP neocon establishment did everything it could to keep Trump supporters off the ballots while downplaying Trump in the run up to the election. What motivation did we have this cycle? I voted out duty, not out of excitement. In Pennsylvania, a million Trump voters stayed home. That’s how you lose elections.
  • Democrat machine: The pandemic voting experience of 2020 helped Democrats hone their skills at mail-in voting and ballot harvesting. They had a well-oiled machine going into 2022, one that allowed them to get their votes collected and locked in weeks in advance. Meanwhile Republicans had to rely on conservative enthusiasm – which wasn’t there – to get their people to the polling stations on Election Day. And as we’ve heard from Arizona, some polling stations went down during the day and some people had to visit three different locations in order to vote. This was a perfect storm that spelled disaster for the GOP.
  • Conservative infighting: It appears that Mitch McConnell might be on the way out of GOP leadership in the Senate. So obsessed with his war on Trump, he made sure that funds didn’t go to Trump-supported candidates (like Blake Masters in Arizona), and thus helped torpedo their chances of victory. We’re glad to see Marco Rubio and Josh Hawley effectively call for an end to McConnell’s leadership, yet nevertheless there remains a massive divide within the GOP between the neocon establishment and the MAGA nationalist-populists – a divide that ultimately helped undercut what should have been a massive Republican win this cycle.

Looking ahead to 2024, what does the GOP need to do to turn this around? First it's obvious that Donald Trump should have announced his candidacy for president before the election. The GOP is still the party of Trump, and a Trump announcement alone would have given millions of Trump-loving conservatives a reason to head to the polls. Going into 2024, we believe the best ticket – the dream ticket – would be a Trump-DeSantis ticket. Just as Pence won over conservatives skeptical of Trump’s conservative credentials in 2016, so DeSantis will help Trump win over voters who might have turned away from him back in 2020. Republicans need also to start playing the mail-in vote and ballot harvesting game that the Democrats are playing. It’s fine to focus on Election Day voting, but having millions of votes in bag before the big day arrives can only help all the more. Lastly, it’s time once and for all to rid the GOP of its neocon establishment leadership. They have no vision for the future, no vision for the nation. They are war-mongering imperialists allied to the globalist cabal who care nothing for the American people. We look forward to the rumored Trump announcement next week as a dramatic first step in this direction. We have our work cut out for us, but we hope and pray 2024 is the year that brings our nation out from the darkness.

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Nov. 9th -- Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome: Sacred Space and the Cleansing of the Temple

(first published November 9, 2014)

by David Pence

It may seem odd that a feast day celebrates the consecration of a church. Think of it as a time to reflect on all the ways God and his Church have set aside sacred space to bring Creator and man in closer union. Out of nothingness, he set a platform of matter where man could stand and know and love. In the hostile expanding universe, He set the solar system and earth in just the right place for life. Then, from inanimate matter he enclosed a cell: a set-aside enclosed space which is the structure of all physical life. He set aside a garden amidst the earth for the best of his handiwork.

After man was cast out from the holy place because he defiled it, Noah and his sons were instructed to set aside an ark where they could survive the Deluge. God made all the men under Abraham a set-aside sacred brotherhood when he ordered them circumcised. When He gave Moses the Ten Commandments, He also instructed him in building a new sacred space: the Ark of the Covenant. There God would dwell amidst his elected people. That holy chest of the desert wanderers eventually became the Temples of the Promised Land. And from that Jewish culture came the Virgin-Mother, the new sacred Ark. She was set aide in her beginning by her Immaculate Conception and at her earthly end by her Assumption into Heaven. She was the ultimate sacred space. And He dwelt among us.

There is a setting aside of sacred spaces, and days and persons, because the whole of matter and living beings is not destined to be drawn into the Body of Christ. There is a separation which makes this ground here, holy; and that ground over there, profane. There is a separation that will send the devil to Hell, while drawing the poor in spirit into the Body of Christ. Maintaining this separation is so crucial to the divine plan that spaces and persons which have been consecrated must be destroyed or purified if they become contaminated. The root of the word "holy" actually means "set aside or separated."

The celebration of Hanukkah by the Jews is an 8-day commemoration of the Purification of the Temple after it had been defiled by a desecrating Greek king. When the Maccabees cleansed the temple altar from the Greek abominations, they destroyed the old altar and then rebuilt a new one. The Maccabees could end the desecrations only by warfare. They were led by a father and his sons. Once again we hear the biblical lesson that without a fighting patriarchal fraternity there is no defense of the sacred center. (Hanukkah really isn't "the Jewish Christmas.")

The liturgy of this day reminds us that human beings are temples of the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit of God dwells within us. Ezekiel has his vision of the sanctifying sacramental graces flowing like a river from the new temple of the Church. This day's Gospel recalls the Maccabees. Christ swings a purging whip to cleanse his Father’s house. In that same week on the night before he dies, he will do his other great pre-Crucifixion purifying act when he cleanses his sacred Apostles of the Judas-priest and orders them to do the same through the ages. Today, let us reflect on sacred spaces and our duty to keep them pure.

by El Greco (d. 1614)

UPDATE: The Lateran in Rome  was dedicated in November 324. It was the first  Church built in Rome after Constantine's Edict in 313 allowed Christianity a recognized public identity.  Emperor Constantine convoked the first Ecumenical Council - at Nicaea -- the following May.

"The beauty and harmony of the churches, destined to give praise to God, also draws us human beings, limited and sinful, to convert to form a “cosmos,” a well-ordered structure, in intimate communion with Jesus, who is the true Saint of saints. This happens in a culminating way in the Eucharistic liturgy, in which the “ecclesia,” that is, the community of the baptized, come together in a unified way to listen to the Word of God and nourish themselves with the Body and Blood of Christ. From these two tables the Church of living stones is built up in truth and charity and is internally formed by the Holy Spirit transforming herself into what she receives, conforming herself more and more to the Lord Jesus Christ. She herself, if she lives in sincere and fraternal unity, in this way becomes the spiritual sacrifice pleasing to God.
Dear friends, today’s feast celebrates a mystery that is always relevant: God’s desire to build a spiritual temple in the world, a community that worships him in spirit and truth (cf. John 4:23-24). But this observance also reminds us of the importance of the material buildings in which the community gathers to celebrate the praises of God. Every community therefore has the duty to take special care of its own sacred buildings, which are a precious religious and historical patrimony. For this we call upon the intercession of Mary Most Holy, that she help us to become, like her, the “house of God,” living temple of his love. "
— Benedict XVI, Angelus Address, November 9, 2008

Saturday, November 5, 2022

Religion, Nations, and Geopolitical Review: SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 5

by A. Joseph Lynch


FRANCISCAN UNIVERSITY SCANDAL: An ex-priest at Franciscan University of Steubenville is now in jail after using his ministry to rape a student. Despite the university's claims to have had no knowledge of the crimes, a leaked draft copy of a lawsuit alleges that the college's current chaplain, Fr. Shawn Roberson, disregarded the victim when informed of the situation and gave aid to the now jailed former priest. More from The Pillar.

FRANCIS AND BIDEN FOR PEACE: President Macron of France has called on Pope Francis to intercede with Biden for peace in Ukraine. The hope is that Francis might be able to sway the "Catholic" Biden into pursuing peace in Ukraine. We're certain, however, that the chances of this are the same as the chances of changing Biden's mind on abortion. Don't hold your breath.

UKRAINE AS A RELIGIOUS WAR: The war in Ukraine is a war between the Atheist West, with its culture of death, and Christian Russia, with the world's religious nations. Patriarch Kirill understands this, which is why he calls Vladimir Putin "a fighter against the anti-Christ." Indeed, Putin himself is increasingly portraying the Atheist West as Satanic. US Rep Jamie Raskin (D-MD) also understands this, which is why he said: “Russia is an orthodox Christian country with traditional social values and for that reason, it must be destroyed, no matter what the cost to us.” And as the atheist West tries to draw in Taiwan as it has Ukraine, it's no surprise that Taiwan held a gay pride parade in support of Ukraine.


A RED TYPHOON? In a bad sign for Democrats, Democrat campaign funds are now pouring money into races won by Biden by 20+ points while Biden is campaigning in deep blue states like California and Maryland. There is a chance that the red wave might turn into a red tsunami - nay, a red typhoon. According to The Federalist, Tuesday's results might in part be the fruits of Republican efforts to protect the integrity of US elections

THE PELOSI MYSTERY: Nancy Pelosi's husband was attacked in their San Francisco home, yet questions remain on what exactly took place. The police refuse to release both the 9-1-1 phone call as well as the body camera footage from the police on the scene. NBC ran a story that contradicted the narrative - only to pull the story and scrub it from the internet almost immediately. Despite the fact that the alleged assailant was a pro-BLM and pro-LGBT illegal immigrant, Joe Biden has used the attack in his attacks on the Republican Party in general and President Trump's MAGA movement in particular. We believe the truth will eventually emerge, but the story is certainly not the "October surprise" that will save Democrats on Tuesday. 

THE PARTY OF WAR: There can be no doubts; the Democrats are officially America's war party. Just days ago the "progressive" and "anti-war" wing of the Democrat party in the House issued a letter calling for peace talks in Ukraine. The letter did not reject sending more money and arms to the country, nor did it demand an immediate end to the fighting. The letter was nothing more than a token gesture to the peace activists within the party no putting some pressure on "squad" members like AOC. Yet in a stunning move, the "anti-war" House Democrats retracted the letter! Let no one again call the Democrats the party for peace. 

GOING NUCLEAR: The PR war against Russia has been nothing but projection - and the latest example of this can be found in the discussion of nuclear weapons. Despite all the evidence in the contrary, it's become a common statement from Biden that Russia is planning some sort of nuclear attack in Ukraine. A recent article slammed ex-Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, for stating the obvious: that any threat on Russian territory - including the new regions that voted to join Russia - would allow Russia to use its nuclear arms in self-defense. Meanwhile the United States is shipping more nukes to Europe while changing its nuclear doctrine to enable the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear threats. So who really plans to go nuclear here? Again, projection at its finest. 


THE COMING GERMAN COLLAPSE: There's an old saying that the purpose of NATO is to keep Russia out, keep America in, and keep Germany down. The disastrous war is certainly bringing down Germany. The German economy - Europe's last manufacturer - depends on cheap energy from Russia and cheap good from China. Any chance of energy reconciliation with Russia was lost in the US-backed terror attack on the Nord Stream pipelines, while Sholz's trip to Beijing was a dud. Indeed, the US is pressuring all its allies to begin treating China as they've treated Russia. And speaking of America's control of its vassal states, Michael Hudson compares modern Germany with that of its medieval counterpart and its relation to the papacy. An interesting article worth checking out.

FALL OF BOLSONARO? It appears Christian nationalists Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil's president, has lost to the liberal Lula da Silva in last weekend's presidential run off race. Yet Bolsonaro is yet to concede and many of his supporters demand a military intervention to keep Bolsonaro in office. Dr. Steve Turley does a great job explaining the situation in Brazil and why there are legitimate questions about da Silva's candidacy.

NETANYAHU RETURNS: In something of a surprise to us at AoA, Benjamin Netanyahu has won his return as leader of Israel. The victory comes as Russia is quickly reshaping the geopolitical scene in the Mideast. Israel's self-identified enemies - Syria and Iran - are clearly aligned with Russia, while the major nations of Turkey and Saudi Arabia appear to be drifting into Russia's orbit. It will be interesting to see how Netanyahu walks the line between supporting US foreign policy on the one hand while dealing with the shifting geopolitical grounds in the Mideast on the other.

ITALY MUZZLES PEACE: We were skeptical at the electoral win of conservative Giorgia Meloni in Italy. We now have even more reason for this skepticism. Meloni comes to power with the aid of former Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi, who not only has the political expertise to help the fledgling leader but also has good connections with Russia. Sadly Meloni is muzzling her coalition partner after the leak of his private comments regarding making peace in Ukraine. Meloni appears to be in lock-step with the war - a sign that she cannot save Italy from economic doom at the hands of insane Russian sanctions. Time will tell, but as of now we have little confidence in Italy's new leader. 


PANDEMIC AMNESTY: Perhaps realizing that a reckoning is incoming, The Atlantic is leading the way in calling for amnesty over the pandemic hysteria of 2020-2022. Comedian Jimmy Dore has a word or two about this proposed amnesty (language warning).

1 IN A MILLION? HOW ABOUT 100 MILLION: A new study suggests that the odds that the coronavirus pandemic had occurred on its own from nature stand at less that 1 in 100 million. What's more likely? It came from a lab leak.

TRANS TV DISGRACE: The Atheist West and its culture of death were on full display on Britain's Channel 4 as a transgendered man with breast implants sang "[I] wish that I could crawl back in the womb. And start again, against God's plans, with different glands and smaller hands" before stripping naked on live TV and began using his genitals to play on a piano. This is why Russia is fighting in Ukraine.

SCHOOL SHOOTING FORGOTTEN: A recent school shooting in St. Louis has disappeared from the headlines. Despite the use of an "AR 15-style weapon" (which means he didn't use an AR-15, but that term is used because it's the media's scare weapon at the moment), the media seemingly dropped the shooting story for some strange reason. It might either have something to do with the alleged shooter's race (he wasn't white) or the fact that his family had turned the weapon into police days earlier in order to prevent something like this from happening. How exactly was the gun returned? The media on this remains silent.

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

NOVEMBER 2: The assassination of President Diem

[first published November 22, 2012]

The tumultuous November of 1963 began with the assassination of a Catholic president: Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam. Three weeks later, another fell.

For years the U.S. strongly supported Diem, but the turning point was JFK’s appointment of Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. (Nixon’s running mate in 1960) as our ambassador – replacing Frederick Nolting.

Lodge – with allies such as Averell Harriman and newspaper reporter David Halberstam – completely undermined the Vietnamese leader.

Diem’s younger brother and top advisor, Ngo Dinh Nhu, was killed along with him. The widow of the latter, Madame Nhu, had acted as first lady since 1955 when the unmarried Diem had become the country’s first president.

(The always colorful Madame Nhu lived long in exile; she died last year in Rome on Easter Sunday.  After the Saigon assassinations on the second day of November, All Souls Day 1963, she said: "Whoever has the Americans as allies does not need enemies.")

Dr. Pence says that JFK’s greatest failure as a public leader was his betrayal of our ally, President Diem. Kennedy was never proud of having allowed his underlings to give the green light to the coup; and in a mysterious way, it marked the loss of the American leader’s ‘Mandate of Heaven’

[Diem’s older brother, Thuc (d. 1984), was the archbishop of Hue. One of the nephews of Diem was Cardinal Thuan (d. 2002), who after being imprisoned for years in the North, served as head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace].

Check out this interview with Ambassador Nolting, in which he calls our involvement in Diem's overthrow "disastrous."

 Here is a review of Philip Catton's book, Diem's Final Failure: Prelude to America's War in Vietnam.

2017 UPDATE: Interview with Geoffrey Shaw, the author of  The Lost Mandate from Heaven: The Betrayal of Ngo Dinh Diem, President of Vietnam. This is the definitive account of the greatest blunder of the Vietnam war-the American inspired assassination of President Diem in Nov, 1963.  The man with the heart of darkness was Averell Harriman of the State Department. The young atheist news reporter David Halberstam could never understand the Catholic Confucian president who was much more an authentic nationalist than Ho Chi Minh. Replacing Ambassador Nolting with the Brahmin Henry Cabot Lodge left no one to counter Halberstam's prejudicial reporting and Harriman's sinister machinations. The champions of secular liberal democracy orchestrated the murder of the one leader who could have negotiated a settlement in Vietnam. This  primal political lesson of the Vietnam War was hinted at but inexcusably misrepresented by the Ken Burns PBS series. It is easier to paint an Asian Catholic as a tyrant than accuse a liberal Democrat and secular journalist of leading roles in a generation's greatest tragedy. The wrenching Last Man Out account of the fall of Saigon.

Here are State Department documents and analysis-Did JFK order Diem assassination? by John Prados.

All Souls Day: Remember, Venerate, Pray

[first published November 2, 2014]

by David Pence

We live in a reality both visible and invisible. We trust our senses so much that we can become tricked into thinking realities which are not accessible through the senses are somehow not real. Some people call that epistemological error "the Scientific Revolution." They even boast of that great sundering of Truth as progress!

The Church begins the last month of the liturgical year by remembering the dead. Yesterday -- the saints. Today -- all the souls departed. Almost every human culture knew the dead were not really dead. It took modern intellectuals to deny the reality. We keep pictures of those who have passed in our homes. Other cultures keep a flame and incense. Let us learn from the veneration of ancestors that marks Chinese and other Asian cultures. (See our review of Simon Chan's Grassroots Asian Theology).


Let us embrace the Mexican tradition of gifts for the little ones on one day, and good drink for the adults on the next. Let us remember the ever-present skull in the paintings of a wiser age 500 years ago. So often the Church reminds us of the truth. On Ash Wednesday we are dressed in the ashes to remind us from whence we came and where we are headed. For Catholics the Mass is where we always, and everywhere, make trek with the dead. Let us, as Catholics, especially keep sacred the liturgy of the Mass so there is the distance and formality that allows us to live amidst the angels and the saints and truly recall the dead in our prayers. Nothing so distracts us from the invisible as too heavy an emphasis on those around us as the fundamental unit of community. There is a Capuchin church in Rome with crypts of bones on the walls. A placard in five languages reminds us of the lesson of this day: "What you are now we used to be; what we are now you will be..."

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

All Saints Day: Four Men striving to imitate our Lord, the true Man In Full

(first published November 1, 2014)

An interview with Dr. David Pence

Pope Pius (d. 1914)

You describe most men as falling into four main groups: soldiers, teachers, workers, and priests. How did you come up with that?

"Orare, laborare, studere, contendere." Those four Latin words describe the basic duties of the Catholic man. Each of us embody them in a greater or lesser fashion.

In my youth I attended  an all-boys high school, a Catholic seminary, and a federal prison. Each of those groups had different rules for finding one's place in the social order. I met the different types of men there. Some groups try to weed out certain character types. Leaving out one of these types of men always leaves a deficit. I went to a true Catholic boys school which did not define itself as "college prep." About 30 percent of the boys in our school were being prepared for college and life; the others were being prepared for life and some other kind of work. It was the most democratic and healthy maturation experience I can imagine. The modern university is, of course, dominated by teachers who -- with a vengeance -- have divorced religion from knowledge (out go the priests), military history from economic history (expel the soldiers), and the technology of the trades from engineering and science. The men who carry those disciplines are absent while bookish females are glad to fill in. Our seminaries seem to weed out warriors and workers.

Every man will have one or two of these tendencies more strongly than others, but you must know and appreciate all of them. This is also a good initial screen when your daughters are dating. My daughters and I always know pretty early with suitors which two of the four characteristics are present in their potential mates. My daughter in the convent says she has found a man who was a master carpenter, beat Satan at war, is the light of the world for knowledge, and gave the world the Our Father and the Mass as a priest. She plans to be his bride.

We've chosen a holy man or two, as examples for each of the categories. 

THE PRIEST: Why John Vianney (19th-century France) and Pius X (the pope immediately before WWI) for the priests?

The priest mediates between man and God. Saint Pius X was the great reformer of the seminaries, and a teacher against atheistic modernism. But his greatest priestly act was centering the lives of Catholics and our parishes in the miracle of the Eucharist by encouraging earlier (age of seven) and more frequent reception. He brought Christ in the Eucharist to the center of Catholic life. The Protestant Reformation scattered the Christian sacramental order by elevating the individualistic aspects of Baptism and faith. Pius X reordered the daily practices of Catholic life and the  sacramental order around the communal priestly acts of the Eucharist.

Saint John Vianney, the patron of parish priests, was willing to stay in the confessional for hours to help set his parishioners free from sin. To be saved is to be delivered from the grip of the Flesh, the World, and the Devil. Nobody can do that on his own. On the day he rose from the dead, Jesus breathed on the apostles and gave all priests the authority to deliver us from evil. John Vianney (the Cure of Ars) reminds us that the path to the red light of the tabernacle showing Christ's true Presence passes through a priest in a confession box. I think John Vianney would measure the health of a parish more by the length of confession lines on Saturday, than percent at communion on Sunday.

THE SOLDIER: Modern Jesuits, contra the 16th-century Spanish knight, think all problems can be cured with 'oil, soap, and caresses' (to borrow a pejorative phrase from Saint Pius). How did things go off the rails with today's company of Ignatian soldiers?

When Ignatius Loyola put away his cannons, he did not stop being a soldier. In every situation, he said, we must discern the spirits. It is not always apparent which is Satan and which is the Lord; but make no mistake, there is a battle of spirits and we are always helping one side more than the other. Chesterton once said we wake up on a battlefield, and there are hundreds of platoons and hundreds of different flags at battle. Which flag, which platoon, which battle? -- that is always the question. Ignatius is the warrior because he keeps the real enemy in front of us at all times. The modern Jesuit quit believing in Satan, and lost the emotion of hatred which is meant for Satan. Love without the discipline of a corresponding hatred becomes a syrup. It loses its ordering function. Let us hope the modern Jesuits can learn from our first Jesuit pope. Pope Francis keeps the reality of Satan and the discernment of spirits uppermost in his consciousness. One of the reasons he doesn’t draw the old lines of battle around abortion, contraception, and homosexuality is that he thinks there is a deeper line to be drawn against an Older Foe on other battlefronts we have too long ignored.

You teach at a seminary named after a new saint [Oct. 2016]: Saint Jose Sanchez del Rio (1913-1928). You say he, too, was a soldier saint. 

He was a Mexican Cristero fighting against an atheist government. He is the patron of all American men who will fight to align our nations under the sovereignty of God. He was only 15 when he gave his horse to a commander so the "more needed" commander  could escape from government encirclement. When Sanchez was captured, they asked him why he quit shooting. His answer was not exactly that of a pacifist: "I ran out of bullets!" He was imprisoned. The soles of his feet were peeled of skin, and he was marched to a graveyard. There he was shot for not renouncing Christ his King. Viva Christo Rey! We should not let it escape us that Saint Jose Sanchez and the Cristeros were establishing the rule of Christ by reforming their nation. The nations in all their splendid diversity are the communal forms by which men organize protection and law as fellow soldiers. There is only one King but there are many national callings.


THE TEACHER: You have been a teacher for years, along with your doctoring. Teaching the young is a high art. What, principally, do you try to pass on?

A teacher transmits the practices and wisdom of his culture to the souls of his students.
I've tried to teach them there is a God, that they have a soul, and we are a Church.

One of G.K. Chesterton's most popular smaller books is his biography of Thomas Aquinas. Give us your reaction to a few lines:
"On a great map like the mind of Aquinas, the mind of Luther would be almost invisible... [Luther] destroyed Reason; and substituted Suggestion."

Thomas Aquinas saw both nature and the God of nature. He explained how man fits in the whole scheme of reality. Luther feared for his soul, and squeezed the Lord into his pocket grasping the tiny rabbit's foot of personal salvation. Even if Luther had to bypass the purpose of the universe or overlook the fate of mankind, he was content if he could see his place set at the table. Aquinas got on his knees as his most natural posture, and from there he could see the universe -- and felt it his duty as a teacher to explain it to others. He was taught by the greatest natural scientist of the age, Albert the Great; and they shared the compulsion of all great teachers: to participate in external reality  and then invite students to participate with them.

"[Thomas crafted] the great central Synthesis of history... An acute observer said of Thomas Aquinas in his own time, 'He could alone restore all philosophy, if it had been burnt by fire' ...There is not a single occasion on which he indulged in a sneer. His curiously simple character, his lucid but laborious intellect, could not be better summed up than by saying that he did not know how to sneer. He was in a double sense an intellectual aristocrat: but he was never an intellectual snob."

Certain learned men accumulate knowledge like a bag of precious stones. They can display it for honor, share some with favorites, or use it to flail their foes or underlings.
There are other great teachers whose knowledge is a participation in reality. They are always inviting others: "Do you see what I see?" They are much more impressive than the bag-men; they do not seek to impress their students, but infect them. St Thomas Aquinas taught his students the unity of truth,  the reality of God and the purpose of human beings.  He is the teacher's teacher.

THE WORKER:    Benedict (d. 543) taught monks to pray, and by his rule he kept them disciplined but not fanatic. They were stable, so they could be hospitable -- and yet you identify Benedict, first, as a worker. Why?

The worker is the missing man in seminaries, universities, college-prep high schools, and both political parties. After men are ordered in prayer, they carry out God's command to cultivate the garden and subdue the earth. From the communal monastery of prayer the men set out to till fields of agriculture, and craft the shops of technology. They sanctified labor in a way the Greeks and Romans would never do. The Greeks elevated the philosopher and the Romans praised the warrior. They both consider physical labor the province of  slaves. The monks of Benedict radically changed this social norm.  This Christian form of men under God working cooperatively to produce wealth became the basis of the corporations and cites of Europe. Look outside at your city or town. Every bridge, every office  building, every house, every sewer sytem and telephone pole is the product of free men working in groups. The Benedictine monastery is all about us. Around the monasteries, communal economies become templates of productive towns and cities. This model of men linked first by prayer and then by productive work forms the Christian commonwealth. This cannot be reduced to  either capitalism or socialism. Benedict and his men show us that Christians are doing something different. Christ grew up under the tutelage of  St Joseph the  carpenter.  When he picked his apostles He chose fishermen. Benedict and his men carried this "working man’s party" of Christianity into the desolated hillsides of fallen Rome and gave us Europe.