31 December 2014

Like Juggling Indeed




“Tell me candidly, have you ever heard Sebastian say anything you have remembered for five minutes? You know, when I hear him talk, I am reminded of that in some ways nauseating picture of ‘Bubbles.’ Conversation should be like juggling; up go the balls and the plates, up and over, in and out, good solid objects that glitter in the foot-lights and fall with a bang if you miss them. But when dear Sebastian speaks it is like a little sphere of soapsud drifting off the end of an old clay pipe, anywhere, full of rainbow light for a second and then—phut! vanished, with nothing left at all, nothing.”

--Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited


Te Deum Laudamus, Te Dominum Confitemur




In youth I sought the golden flower 
Hidden in wood or wold 
But I am come to autumn 
When all the leaves are gold.

-- G.K. Chesterton

As we end the calendar year, here within the Octave of Christmas and on the Feast of Pope St. Sylvester I (of whom I can never think without recalling Benson's Lord of the World), ready to usher in the New Year tomorrow on the Feast of the Circumcision of Our Lord, I thought I would put out a few lines. As Chesterton wrote so beautifully, the older I get the more I realize the gold that God has dropped within my daily reach.

1. I pray that all my readers are having a blessed and holy Christmas; I thank you for the many well-wishes and words of encouragement you have sent during the year. I thank those whom I annoy for sending me the many amusing comments that usually lift my spirits--and only occasionally dampen them-- as well.

2. The end of the year is a traditional time of thanksgiving for the blessings of a loving, almighty God. So for myself, I thank Him most of all for His Being, His Love, and all that He does for us. It is pretty nice of Him to keep the world and all of us in existence, and He sent His only Son to suffer, die and rise to save us from sin. I thank God for His Holy Catholic Church, which is the means of the salvation of man. I am grateful for His Mother, and I thank her as well for all she does to assist me as I try to work out my salvation in fear and trembling. I renew my consecration of myself, my family, my work and all that I do to her. Mother, do with me as you will.

I thank God for the embarrassing bounty of spiritual and material blessings He gives me. My sainted wife (far better than I could deserve), my beautiful children, the means to earn a living to support them, good friends, family and everything else. Our family has grown by one this year-- the sweetest little girl you ever did see. And all of my children had their special triumphs and tragedies, and "advanced in wisdom, and age, and grace with God and men."


I also thank him for the efforts of Cardinal Burke in particular, and of the other brave and faithful bishops, priests and laymen who so well resisted the attack on the family at this year's Synod, and pray that a similarly successful effort may be maintained in the coming year.

And I thank Him for the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest. I credit the Institute with being the oasis of the faith in my life. All of the canons, oblates, sisters, seminarians, candidates and lay members are in my daily prayers, and I am aware of what their spiritual efforts mean to me and mine.

3. Yes, there is much for which to be thankful. But it is well to remember our sinfulness and to beg earnestly for mercy. This recent post by Msgr. Charles Pope is a healthy reflection for today as well.

4. St. Francis de Sales Oratory will again be singing a solemn Te Deum in thanksgiving for the past year today at 5 pm. The faithful who attend may receive a plenary indulgence, under the usual conditions of detachment from sin, sacramental confession, Holy Communion, and prayers for the intentions of the Holy Father.

Te Deum laudamus:
te Dominum confitemur.

Te aeternum Patrem
omnis terra veneratur.

Tibi omnes Angeli;
tibi caeli et universae Potestates;

Tibi Cherubim et Seraphim
incessabili voce proclamant:

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus,
Dominus Deus Sabaoth.

Pleni sunt caeli et terra
maiestatis gloriae tuae.

Te gloriosus Apostolorum chorus,
Te Prophetarum laudabilis numerus,
Te Martyrum candidatus laudat exercitus.
Te per orbem terrarum
sancta confitetur Ecclesia,

Patrem immensae maiestatis:
Venerandum tuum verum et unicum Filium;
Sanctum quoque Paraclitum Spiritum.

Tu Rex gloriae, Christe.
Tu Patris sempiternus es Filius.
Tu ad liberandum suscepturus hominem,
non horruisti Virginis uterum.
Tu, devicto mortis aculeo,
aperuisti credentibus regna caelorum.

Tu ad dexteram Dei sedes, in gloria Patris.
Iudex crederis esse venturus.

(kneeling)Te ergo quaesumus, tuis famulis subveni:
quos pretioso sanguine redemisti.

Aeterna fac cum sanctis tuis in gloria numerari.
Salvum fac populum tuum,
Domine, et benedic hereditati tuae.
Et rege eos, et extolle illos usque in aeternum.

Per singulos dies benedicimus te;
Et laudamus Nomen tuum in saeculum, et in saeculum saeculi.

Dignare, Domine, die isto sine peccato nos custodire.
Miserere nostri domine, miserere nostri.

Fiat misericordia tua,
Domine, super nos, quemadmodum speravimus in te.

In te, Domine, speravi:
non confundar in aeternum.


(Translation, because it's Christmas:)

We praise thee, O God :
we acknowledge thee to be the Lord.
All the earth doth worship thee :
the Father everlasting.

To thee all Angels cry aloud :
the Heavens, and all the Powers therein.

To thee Cherubin and Seraphin :
continually do cry,
Holy, Holy, Holy :
Lord God of Sabaoth;
Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty :
of thy glory.

The glorious company of the Apostles : praise thee.
The goodly fellowship of the Prophets : praise thee.
The noble army of Martyrs : praise thee.

The holy Church throughout all the world :
doth acknowledge thee;
The Father : of an infinite Majesty;
Thine honourable, true : and only Son;
Also the Holy Ghost : the Comforter.

Thou art the King of Glory : O Christ.
Thou art the everlasting Son : of the Father.
When thou tookest upon thee to deliver man :
thou didst not abhor the Virgin's womb.
When thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death :
thou didst open the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers.

Thou sittest at the right hand of God : in the glory of the Father.
We believe that thou shalt come : to be our Judge.

(kneeling) We therefore pray thee, help thy servants :
whom thou hast redeemed with thy precious blood.

Make them to be numbered with thy Saints : in glory everlasting.

O Lord, save thy people :
and bless thine heritage.
Govern them : and lift them up for ever.

Day by day : we magnify thee;
And we worship thy Name : ever world without end.

Vouchsafe, O Lord : to keep us this day without sin.

O Lord, have mercy upon us : have mercy upon us.
O Lord, let thy mercy lighten upon us :
as our trust is in thee.

O Lord, in thee have I trusted :
let me never be confounded.


---------------


Merry Christmas again, and a very happy and blessed New Year!

30 December 2014

"For some reason, we have allowed the malcontent to assume moral prestige."

Please indulge me, as we come to the end of another calendar year, to borrow rather extensively from a much better writer than myself, on the subject of gratitude and its importance in the various spheres of human activity we call--collectively-- "life". 

These excerpts come from a discussion on politics and the difference between the liberal and the conservative.  Please note that these labels are used by the writer in 1985, and would perhaps be understood quite differently today by those who would self-adopt them. Instead of focusing on those terms, and on the notion of politics, I ask you to take a broader look, and see what this writer said nearly thirty years ago in its relevance in our own Church, let alone in our world and nations.  What kind of Catholics are we? Amazed at and grateful for our patrimony, or not?

The insights are brilliant, and apply in all sorts of situations.  See if you don't agree.

Let's all be grateful to God for the blessings of this year and of our whole lives; in a time such as the one in which we live, it is amazing we are cognizant of the good at all.  Let us not fail to thank God for His provident love, correction and protection:

_________________

"...It may help if we step back from politics a bit.

The main political line of division in the United States is between people we call liberals and people we call conservatives. The debate between them has been described in various ways; I would like to offer one of my own, based not so much on theory as on personal introspection.

At certain moments I find myself enjoying life in a certain way. I may be alone, or with friends, or with my family, or even among strangers. Beautiful weather always helps; the more trees, the better. Early morning or evening is the best time. Maybe someone says something funny. And while everyone laughs, there is a sort of feeling that surges up under the laughter, like a wave rocking a rowboat, that tells you that this is the way life should be.

Moments like that don't come every day, aren't predictable, and can't very well be charted. But the main response they inspire is something like gratitude: after all, one can't exactly deserve them. One can only be prepared for them. But they do come.

This may seem a thousand miles from politics, and such moments rarely have anything to do with politics. But that is just the point. Samuel Johnson says:

How small, of all that human hearts endure,
That part which laws or kings can cause or cure!

But the same is true of all that human hearts enjoy. Laws and kings can't produce our happiest hours, though in our time they do more to prevent them than formerly.

"To be happy at home," Johnson also remarks, "is the end of all human endeavor." That is a good starting-point for politics, just because it is outside politics. I often get the feeling that what is wrong with political discussion in general is that it is dominated by narrow malcontents who take their bearings not from images of health and happiness but from statistical suffering. They always seem to want to "eliminate" something--poverty, racism, war--instead of settling for fostering other sorts of things it is beyond their power actually to produce.

Man doesn't really create anything. We don't sit godlike above the world, omniscient and omnipotent. We find ourselves created, placed somehow in the midst of things that we here before us, related to them in particular ways. if we can't delight in our situation, we are off on the wrong foot.

More and more I find myself thinking that a conservative is someone who regards this world with a basic affection, and wants to appreciate it as it is before he goes on to the always necessary work of making some rearrangements. Richard Weaver says we have no right to reform the world unless we cherish some aspects of it; and that is the attitude of many of the best conservative thinkers. Burke says that a constitution ought to be the subject of enjoyment rather than altercation. (I wish the American Civil Liberties Union would take his words to heart.)

I find a certain music in conservative writing that I never find in that of liberals. Michael Oakeshott speaks of "affection," "attachment," "familiarity," "happiness"; and my point is not the iname one that these are very nice things, but that Oakeshott thinks of them as considerations pertinent to political thinking. He knows what normal life is, what normal activities are, and his first thought is that politics should not disturb them.

Chesterton (who hated the conservatism of his own day) has good remarks in this vein. "It is futile to discuss reform," he says, "without reference to form." He complains of "the modern and morbid habit of always sacrificing the normal to the abnormal," and he criticizes socialism on the ground that "it is rather shocking that we have to treat a normal nation as something exceptional, like a house on fire or a shipwreck."

"He who is unaware of his ignorance," writes Richard Whately, "will only be misled by his knowledge." And that is the trouble with the liberal, the socialist, the Communist, and a dozen other species of political cranks who have achieved respectability in our time: they disregard so much of what is constant and latent in life. They fail to notice; they fail to appreciate.

We can paraphrase Chesterton's remark about reforming without reference to form by saying it is futile to criticize without first appreciating. The conservative is bewildered by the comprehensive dissatisfaction of people who are always heedlong about "reform" (as they conceive it) or are even eager to "build a new society." What, exactly, is wrong with society as it is already? This isn't just a defiant rhetorical question; it needs an answer. We don't have the power to change everything, and it may not be such a bright idea to try; there are plenty of things that deserve the effort (and it is an effort) of preserving, and the undistinguishing mania for "change" doesn't do them justice--isn't even concerned with doing them justice. What we really ought to ask the liberal, before we even begin addressing his agenda, is this: In what kind of society would he be a conservative?

For some reason, we have allowed the malcontent to assume moral prestige. We praise as "ideals" what are nothing more than fantasies--a world of perpetual peace, brotherhood, justice, or any other will-o'-the-wisp that has lured men toward the Gulag.

The malcontent can be spotted in his little habits of speech: He calls language and nationality "barriers" when the conservative, more appreciatively, recognizes them as cohesives that make social life possible. He damns as "apathy" an ordinary indifference to politics that may really be a healthy contentment. He praises as "compassion" what the conservative earthily sees as a program of collectivization. He may even assert as "rights" what tradition has regarded as wrongs.

"We must build out of existing materials," says Burke. Oakeshott laments that "the politics of repair" has been supplanted by "the politics of destruction and creation." It is typical of malcontent (or "utopian") politics to destroy what it has failed to appreciate while falsely promising to create. Communism, the ideal type of this style of politics, has destroyed the cultural life of Russia, which flourished even under the czars. The energies of radical regimes are pretty much consumed in stifling the energies of their subjects; they try to impose their fantasies by force and terror, and their real achievement is to be found not in their population centers but at their borders, which are armed to kill anyone who tries to flee. Communism can claim the distinction of driving people by the millions to want to escape the homeland of all their ancestors.

Nothing is easier than to image some notionally "ideal" state. But we give too much credit to this debased kind of imagination, which is so ruthless when it takes itself seriously. To appreciate, on the other hand, is to imagine the real, to discover use, value, beauty, order, purpose in what already exists; and this is the kind of imagination most appropriate to creatures, who shouldn't confuse themselves with the Creator.

The highest form of appreciation is worship. I don't insist that there is a correlation between formal religion and conservatism. But there is an attitude prior to any creed, which may make a healthy-minded unbeliever regretful that he has nobody to thank for all the goodness and beauty in his life that he has done nothing to deserve. One might almost say that the crucial thing about a man is not whether he believes in God, but how he imagines God: as infinitely good and adorable, or merely as an authoritarian obstacle to human desire? The opposite of piety is not unbelief, but crassness.

Even more modest forms of appreciation take some humility. The investor who finds a way to make soap from peanuts has more genuine imagination than the revolutionary with a bayonet, because he has cultivated the faculty of imagining the hidden potentiality of the real. This is much harder than imagining the unreal, which may be why there are so many more utopians than inventors. The utopian wants to fly by disregarding gravity instead of understanding it.

The point of all this is not just to censure the malcontent for failing to come to terms with this world. I am arguing for an appreciation of the role of appreciation. In our lives we don't really spend much time or gain much profit by doing the kind of abstract thinking that usually passes for intellection nowadays. Most of the time we are evaluating the concrete alternatives available to us--buying and selling, choosing careers, wooing and wedding, groping for the right word, convicting or acquitting, finding homes, that sort of thing. None of these is a utopian activity. (Neither, by the way, is voting.)

We are forever exercising our powers of imagination on the real and the given, in other words, not on the purely hypothetical. Our energies go into actual decisions, which express the evaluations we are in a position to express with our wills. We take it for granted, but we need to remind ourselves that this is what life is all about for most normal people. Everyone has the capacity to make choices of various kinds, always within limits. The freedom that matters is the freedon to exercise such choices, though they are beneath the notice of so many of our theorists.

[...]

Most of the world is a mystery. Consciousness is a little clearing in a vast forest; every individual has his own special relation to the area of mystery, his own little discoveries to impart. Discovery is by definition unpredictable, and it is absurd for the state to foreclose the process of learning. There are moods when we are too exhausted to imagine that there is still more to be learned; an ideology is a system of ideas that wants to end the explorations we are constantly making at the margin of consciousness, and to declare all the mysteries solved. This is like the congressman who introduced a bill a century ago to close the U.S. Patent Office, on the ground that every possible invention had already been invented.

In talking of mystery this way, I don't at all intend to sound mystical. It is a very practical matter. The world is inexpressibly complex. Every individual is a mystery to every other, so much so that communication is difficult and fleeting. Moreover, the past is a mystery too: very little of it can be permanently possessed. We have various devices--words, rituals, records, commemorations, laws--to supply continuity as forgetfulness and death keep dissolving our ties with what has existed before.
There is no question of "resisting change." The only question is what can and should be salvaged from "devouring time." Conservation is a labor, not indolence, and it takes discrimination to identify and save a few strands of tradition in the incessant flow of mutability.

In fact conservation is so hard that it could never be achieved by sheer conscious effort. Most of it has to be done by habit, as when we speak in such a way as to make ourselves understood by others without their having to consult a dictionary, and thereby give a little permanence to the kind of tradition that is a language.

Habits of conservation depend heavily on our affection for the way of life we are born to, which always includes far more than we can ever be simultaneously conscious of at a given moment. We speak our language and observe our laws by habit. It would be too much of a strain to have to learn a new language or a new set of laws every day. Habit allows a multitude of things to remain inplicit; it lets us deal with ordinary situations without fully understanding them. It allows us to trust our milieu.
Only a madman, one might think, would dare to speak of changing the entire milieu -- "building a new society" -- or even to speak as if such a thing were possible. And yet this is the current political idiom. It is seriously out of touch with a set of traditions whose good effects it takes too much for granted; it fails to appreciate them, as it fails to appreciate the human situation.

[...]

A tradition incorporates so many implicit things that Joseph de Maistre rightly speaks of the "profound idiocy" of supposing that "nations may be constituted with ink." And yet the liberal is constantly trying to do approximately this, by manufacturing new laws, new "rights," repealing old ones, meanwhile, with equal facility. He regards the past (as in "the dead hand of the past") with contempt and shame; naturally, it inspires no affection in him, and he finds little to admire in it. He reserves his affection for kindred spirits, especially socialists, who are busy abroad imposing new schemes and cutting their own nations' ties to the past. ("I have seen the future, and it works.")

For the modern liberal, who is essentially a man of the Left, the immediate has apocalyptic urgency. He is an active member of the Cause-of-the-Month Club, forever prescribing drastic action to prevent the world from being blown up, overpopulated, poisoned, oppressed, or exploited. He thinks a government that maintains law and order--a big job at any time--is "doing nothing"; because to his mind a steady and quiet activity is nothing more than inactivity. Though he speaks the language of environmental preservation well enough, he never pauses to imagine the "environmental impact" of his own policies on a social ecology that is, after all, no less real because he disregards it.

In short, he is always sacrificing the normal (he is barely aware of it, or sneers at it as "bourgeois") to the abnormal. Life, to him, is a series of crises, inseparable from politics. He is too concerned about our "rights" to bother about our health--rather as if a man dying of cirrhosis were to toast the repeal of Prohibition. If he ever has moments of well-being outside of politics, he has no vocabulary in which to talk about them.

[...]

"Men can always be blind to a thing, so long as it is big enough," says Chesterton. One of the things most men are currently blind to is the total politicization of man. This development doesn't strike the liberal as particularly sinister; if he notices it at all, he thinks of it as a good thing. After all, he is a thoroughly politicized man; and isn't all of life essentially political anyway? Isn't it up to us to decide what sort of society we are going to build, what sort of laws and morals and distribution of wealth we are going to have?

The liberal has no specific objection to totalitarianism for the simple reason that he is already operating on totalitarian premises. He may be less headlong and bloodthirsty than the Communist, but he has as little regard for the past as little sense that there may be anything in the tradition he inherits that deserves the effort of appreciation or surpasses his understanding. He judges everything in terms of a few ready-made political categories, which are expressed in a monotonous cant of "equality," "discrimination," "freedom of expression," and the like. He never thinks of these as possibly inadequate to his situation, because he never thinks of himself as working in partnership with the past, let alone as the junior partner in the relationship. Patience and humility aren't the marks of the malcontent. He is too busy making war on poverty to think of making his peace with prosperity: if the real economy doesn't spread wealth as quickly and evenly as he would like, he blames it and tries to remake it, taking no responsibility, however, for the adverse results of his efforts.

The chief objection to liberal moralism, in fact, is that it is immoral. This is equally true of all ideologies that dispense with realities they can't include in their visions. The economy, they think, has failed; the family has failed; the church has failed; the whole world has failed. But their visions have never failed, no matter what their cost in waste of human lives and possibilities. The dream itself is sovereign; to reject it is to be guilty of refusing to aspire; to embrace it is to lay claim to a moral blank check. As Burke said of the French revolutionaries: "In the manifest failure of their abilities, they take credit for their intentions."

But the conservative knows that the dream itself is guilty. It springs from a failure to appreciate the real, and to give thanks."

--- Joseph Sobran, 1985

29 December 2014

Rebuking the English Martyrs: Is This the Program?

Merry Christmas to all, and a blessed Feast of St. Thomas of Canterbury, known also as St. Thomas a Becket.  St. Thomas suffered during his life, and was ultimately martyred, for steadfastly maintaining the rights of the Church against the secular power of his day.

There don't seem to many such Bishops in our Church at present, Cardinal Burke and a few others excepted.  There doesn't seem to be a St. Thomas in the See of Rome, either.  But we do have this:

Pope Francis Expected to Instruct One Billion Catholics to Act on Climate Change

...to which I humbly append the following sub-header:

"Has Chance of Success with (at most) 999,999,999 Catholics"

We see already that the martyrdoms of Saint John Fisher and Saint Thomas More were based on a rigid, soul-dead legalism that lacked mercy, merely because they were foolish enough to give their lives to follow Jesus Christ's actual words recorded in the Gospels.

We have also seen that the martyrdoms of Saint Edumund Campion, Saint Nicholas Owen, Saint Robert Southwell, Saint Margaret Clitherow, and countless others were based upon a triumphalistic, self-absorbed neo-pelagianism that arrogantly condemned our separated Protestant brethren, turning their backs, Pharisee-like, on these fellow chums in the faith.

We now see that even the martrydom of St. Thomas of Canterbury was a wasted gesture.  The Vatican is merely the local party office for the UN, the homosexual movement, godless environmentalism, the secular world order, or what-have-you.

Stand up to the King?  Ha!  Be his willing accomplice, rather.

I encourage all of you to read Gueranger's reflections on St. Thomas of Canterbury in The Liturgical Year.  If you don't have it, there is a free pdf file here, and the entry begins on page 310 of the pdf (p. 303 of the book itself).  Contrast the heroism of this great martyr with the current climate. Compare St. Thomas to Cardinal Burke, if that suits you better.

I had set out to excerpt the essay here, but there was so much trenchant material that you know I would have just copied all of it.  For considerations of space-- and only for that reason-- I will forego the exercise.  Please read it.

And pray for the Church.

St. Thomas a Becket, pray for us!

Welcome Back!






























25 December 2014

God Bless Us, Every One!





Merry Christmas yet again! I don't mean to start a good old trad-libertarian -distributist fracas by posting this piece by economist Gary North. I just want to celebrate Christmas. I thought North had an interesting take on the Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol, and I wanted to pass it along:

Dining With Scrooge

I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.

~ Charles Dickens (December, 1843).

Little did Charles Dickens suspect in 1843, when he sat down to write “A Christmas Carol” in the hope of earning enough royalty income to pay off a debt, that his story would become the most popular piece of fiction in the English language. Generations that ceased to read it have seen it performed on stage and on screen, both large and small. I doubt that any other work of literature has been transferred from the printed page to the silver and digital screens with such artistic faithfulness to the original. In the case of Alastair Sim’s 1951 portrayal of Scrooge, the movie version is better than the original.

The book sold out the entire edition of 6,000 copies in its first week: the week before Christmas.

It was in 1843 that the phrase “Merry Christmas and a happy New Year” first became popular, due to Dickens’s story and the first Christmas card.

Dickens was obsessed with debt. His father had been imprisoned for debt, and Dickens was taken out of school and put to work to support his family. He made Scrooge a money-lender.

The story of Scrooge is the story of a redemption — the buying back of a lost soul. G. K. Chesterton was correct when he observed that Scrooge’s redemption was like the redemption of a sinner at a Salvation Army meeting, with this exception: The Salvation Army’s redeemed man was likely redeemed from the punchbowl, whereas Scrooge was redeemed to it.

Dickens saw Christmas as a festival: a celebration marked by feasting. All around Scrooge on the day before Christmas, there were preparations for a feast. From rich to poor, men were preparing for a great meal.

Scrooge makes no such preparations. Indeed, his rejection of an invitation to a feast is at the heart of his stiff-necked ways. When his nephew Fred, a poor man compared to Scrooge, invites him to Christmas meal, Scrooge resists to the point of rudeness, and not mere rudeness: a satanic affirmation. Dickens’s language is subtle but profound.

“Don’t be angry, uncle. Come! Dine with us to-morrow.”

Scrooge said that he would see him — yes, indeed he did. He went the whole length of the expression, and said that he would see him in that extremity first.


For Scrooge, food reveals his lifestyle. It is his silent affirmation.

Scrooge took his melancholy dinner in his usual melancholy tavern; and having read all the newspapers, and beguiled the rest of the evening with his banker’s-book, went home to bed.

In Sim’s version of the story, Scrooge asks for extra bread. That will cost a half penny extra, the waiter tells him. “No more bread,” answers Scrooge. The screenwriter got Scrooge exactly right, even though Scrooge would have known about the extra charge by then and would not have made the request.

Just before bedtime meal, he takes a bowl of gruel. He even explains Marley’s apparition in terms of food.

“What evidence would you have of my reality beyond that of your senses?”

“I don’t know,” said Scrooge.

“Why do you doubt your senses?”

“Because,” said Scrooge, “a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!”


AFFIRMING HOPE

In contrast to Scrooge was the society around him. Men prepared for the annual feast. No matter how poor, men spent their hard-earned money on the makings of a memorable meal.

Dickens sketched a compelling contrast between London’s coal-blackened physical environment in 1843 and London’s residents at Christmas.

The house fronts looked black enough, and the windows blacker, contrasting with the smooth white sheet of snow upon the roofs, and with the dirtier snow upon the ground; which last deposit had been ploughed up in deep furrows by the heavy wheels of carts and waggons; furrows that crossed and re-crossed each other hundreds of times where the great streets branched off; and made intricate channels, hard to trace in the thick yellow mud and icy water. The sky was gloomy, and the shortest streets were choked up with a dingy mist, half thawed, half frozen, whose heavier particles descended in a shower of sooty atoms, as if all the chimneys in Great Britain had, by one consent, caught fire, and were blazing away to their dear hearts’ content.

But Christmas stood as a public challenge to this hostile environment.

There was nothing very cheerful in the climate or the town, and yet was there an air of cheerfulness abroad that the clearest summer air and brightest summer sun might have endeavoured to diffuse in vain.

The people were happy.

For, the people who were shovelling away on the housetops were jovial and full of glee; calling out to one another from the parapets, and now and then exchanging a facetious snowball — better-natured missile far than many a wordy jest — laughing heartily if it went right and not less heartily if it went wrong.

Matching the joy in the hearts of Londoners were shops filled with food. Here, Dickens’s words serve as a primary source document regarding the monumental economic changes that the Industrial Revolution had begun to produce by 1843.

The poulterers’ shops were still half open, and the fruiterers’ were radiant in their glory. There were great, round, pot-bellied baskets of chestnuts, shaped like the waistcoats of jolly old gentlemen, lolling at the doors, and tumbling out into the street in their apoplectic opulence. There were ruddy, brown-faced, broad-girthed Spanish Onions, shining in the fatness of their growth like Spanish Friars, and winking from their shelves in wanton slyness at the girls as they went by, and glanced demurely at the hung-up mistletoe. There were pears and apples, clustered high in blooming pyramids; there were bunches of grapes, made, in the shopkeepers’ benevolence to dangle from conspicuous hooks, that people’s mouths might water gratis as they passed; there were piles of filberts, mossy and brown, recalling, in their fragrance, ancient walks among the woods, and pleasant shufflings ankle deep through withered leaves; there were Norfolk Biffins, squat and swarthy, setting off the yellow of the oranges and lemons, and, in the great compactness of their juicy persons, urgently entreating and beseeching to be carried home in paper bags and eaten after dinner. The very gold and silver fish, set forth among these choice fruits in a bowl, though members of a dull and stagnant-blooded race, appeared to know that there was something going on; and, to a fish, went gasping round and round their little world in slow and passionless excitement.

The people had hope for tomorrow’s celebration, and through this feast, they affirmed hope for the future. It was a ritual affirmation, though Dickens did not see it this way. It was the same ritual affirmation that had brought the Hebrews to Jerusalem once a year at Passover.

It was an affirmation that announced to the world, “There’s more where that came from.”

By 1843, this was not a vain hope in London. It was verified daily by the world around them.

EMERGING CAPITALISM

Dickens was living in the second generation after the Industrial Revolution began. Sometime around 1780, an economic revolution like no other in history had begun. It was marked by compound economic growth which did not permanently reverse — not in wartime, not in a post-war depression, not in times of bad harvest and bad weather. Men were escaping at long last from their dependence on the weather and the soil. Nature was losing its grip on men’s lives because of the growing division of labor, described by Adam Smith in 1776 in his story of the output of a pin factory.

Specialization of production in 1843 was slowly extending its reign through voluntary exchange, releasing mankind from the tyranny of the weather. Excepting only the famine of the 1840s in Ireland, which began while Dickens was writing his story, the West would not again experience a famine. That long-dreaded horse of the apocalypse was put out to pasture.

The driving force of this revolution was specialization — specialization funded by capital, itself the product of thrift, by double-entry bookkeeping, and by attention to detail. In short, it was men like Ebenezer Scrooge who were the architects of capitalism.

In a heartless environment marked by scarcity, there must be careful attention to details, to ledgers, to costs of production. There must be alertness to profit opportunities, which are found where consumers demand to be served — demand through competitive bidding, one against the other. In short, there must be attention to business.

Here lies the great paradox of free market capitalism. The spread of capital is the basis for men’s increased productivity. The spread of the bookkeeper’s mindset is the basis of net retained earnings, which in turn finance additional capital. Taking care of business reduces poverty as nothing else in man’s history ever has. Yet men like Scrooge take care of business.

Dickens did not understand this. Neither have generations of capitalism’s critics. They accept Marley’s self-condemnation.

“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

Yet no man can deal successfully with a comprehensive ocean of responsibility. It is the specialization of production and market competition — forced on all producers by consumers — that has reduced the burden of poverty. The results of the process of steady compound growth were visible in the shops of London in 1843, and Dickens described them well. He did not understand their origin.

In dismissing the two men who solicited a donation for the poor, Scrooge declared:

“It’s not my business,” Scrooge returned. “It’s enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people’s. Mine occupies me constantly. Good afternoon, gentlemen!”

Scrooge is a miser. He has a shriveled soul. He has a highly specialized notion of what constitutes a meaningful life, which he sees in terms of the ledger book. Yet without Scrooge and men like him, who are devoted to the details of their businesses, the shops of London would not be filled with cornucopias — at Christmas or all year round.

Something is missing here. What is it?

FEZZIWIG’S PARTY

The ghost of Christmas Past takes Scrooge to a party. Scrooge recognizes it instantly. He had been there as a young apprentice. So had the entire company.

In came all the young men and women employed in the business. In came the housemaid, with her cousin, the baker. In came the cook, with her brother’s particular friend, the milkman. In came the boy from over the way, who was suspected of not having board enough from his master; trying to hide himself behind the girl from next door but one, who was proved to have had her ears pulled by her mistress. In they all came, one after another; some shyly, some boldly, some gracefully, some awkwardly, some pushing, some pulling; in they all came, anyhow and everyhow.

They ate. They drank. They danced. Oh, how they danced, most notably the Fezziwigs.

But if they had been twice as many — ah, four times — old Fezziwig would have been a match for them, and so would Mrs. Fezziwig. As to her, she was worthy to be his partner in every sense of the term. If that’s not high praise, tell me higher, and I’ll use it. A positive light appeared to issue from Fezziwig’s calves. They shone in every part of the dance like moons. You couldn’t have predicted, at any given time, what would have become of them next.

Here was what by the ledger was waste — and what waste it was!

Scrooge here had his first encounter with a successful businessman’s ledger, but he had forgotten about this annual entry. The Ghost of Christmas Past reminded him.

“A small matter,” said the Ghost, “to make these silly folks so full of gratitude.”

“Small!” echoed Scrooge.

The Spirit signed to him to listen to the two apprentices, who were pouring out their hearts in praise of Fezziwig: and when he had done so, said, “Why! Is it not? He has spent but a few pounds of your mortal money: three or four perhaps. Is that so much that he deserves this praise?”


“It isn’t that,” said Scrooge, heated by the remark, and speaking unconsciously like his former, not his latter, self.

“It isn’t that, Spirit. He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count ‘em up: what then? The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.”

Here, in his praise of Fezziwig, Scrooge condemned himself — not merely as a man but as a manager of men. Here, a trace of light pierced the gloomy clouds of his misunderstanding.

The whole story is about how the light eventually prevailed, insight by insight. This is why it is beloved.

CELEBRATION

The heart of capitalism is service to the consumer. In serving the consumer, the producer must pay attention to what the consumer wants, at what price, when, and where. But the same is true of the producers’ attitude toward his employees. They, too, must be served: by better tools, better training, better work environments, and loyalty downward.

One mark of this attitude is the office Christmas party. Fezziwig had it right. Compared to the total annual budget, the party is a marginal expense. But it shows that the company is a team. Teams celebrate good news. Christmas is good news.

The most faithful person in “A Christmas Carol” is Fred, Scrooge’s nephew, who invites him to dinner, is rejected, and vows to do it again every year.

“I mean to give him the same chance every year, whether he likes it or not, for I pity him. He may rail at Christmas till he dies, but he can’t help thinking better of it — I defy him — if he finds me going there, in good temper, year after year, and saying Uncle Scrooge, how are you?”

This is the truest spirit of Christmas: to invite dour skeptics to celebrate the feast, despite their insistence of “humbug,” despite their insistence that they wish to celebrate in their own way — by not celebrating.

In the end, Scrooge comes to his senses and shows up at the party. He had already sent Cratchit a turkey, which had cost him money. That was not the most costly of his expenses. To go to the party, he risked having to be forced to eat a large portion of Christmas crow with all the trimmings.

That is how it is each year at Christmas. Men who have said “humbug” all their lives, in various ways, with various degrees of commitment, are asked to join the festivities. The price of admission is always the same:

BYOC.

Scrooge found that the festive surroundings left in him an irreducible joy. He became a friend, which meant he ceased looking out exclusively for Number One.

He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world.

There were costs, of course. There always are.

Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.

CONCLUSION

The free market does not make men good. It does encourage them to serve the consumer. It forces losses on them if they are less efficient in their service than their competitors. The free market society is not a dog-eat-dog world. It is dog-serve-master world. The consumer is the master.

Scrooge served the market well in both phases of his career. He did not wind up in poverty in phase two. Dickens understood the Fezziwig had the right approach.

In Sim’s version of the story, Fezziwig goes out of business because he cannot compete in the new world of capitalism. Dickens never hinted that this was the outcome of Fezziwig’s good cheer. My guess is that Fezziwig died rich. If he treated his employees well, he was probably in the habit of treating his customers well.

May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!


24 December 2014

Merry Christmas!

Joyeux Noël







To my favorite French Reader (for just a bit longer)!

Two Christmas Eves




Merry Christmas, everyone! I will remember all of you in my Mass intention tonight. Thank you for reading this blog whenever you do. God bless you and your families.

Now, part of the admission price of this blog is to endure my private likes once in a while. And Myles Connelly is one of these.

Each Christmas Eve I like to repost an excerpt from Connolly's book, Dan England and the Noonday Devil, about the personal and universal resonance of this night, particularly in a corrupt, violent, modern world.

If you don't like it, I think there is something wrong with you. Yes, Steve, I speak to you. But that's ok, too. I don't think you really are a cretin-- you just need to reread it! Or maybe age will work its magic in time. Thanks again to Reader X, who introduced me to this author, of whom I would otherwise have remained ignorant, to my loss.


___________________

There would be tea brewing on the stove in the kitchen. The coals would show red with thin blue flames where one of the stove covers had been tilted. Then, there would be a candle, perhaps two, for there could only be candles on Christmas Eve. They would be burned down pretty low now, it being after eleven o'clock when he would reach home. About ten minutes past eleven, he always reached home. His stamping the snow off his shoes on the steps outside would be the signal for the handful of tea to be dropped into the pot. There would be candles in the next room, too, the dining room they called it. And then beyond that, another candle or two. Always candles on Christmas Eve. Not many candles. A few candles, but good candles special for the vigil. They would spear the dark with steady yellow flames, and make long, rich shadows on the walls and on the pictures on the walls. The ceiling would be lighted without shadows.

There were never shadows like these Christmas Eve candle shadows. They gave mystery to the house, and a soft strangeness that you never found on any other night.

The Boy would throw his hat and coat on the chair by the kitchen stove. Then, he would go on through the dining room, as they called it, into the other room. She would meet him, as she got up from the floor where she would be setting out the presents before the tiny crib. Her knees would be stiff, he knew, and her poor body tired, but she would get up with her white face happy in spite of its whiteness, and her always bright eyes brighter, and she would turn to him for a glance of appreciative pleasure. He knew she would look for that, though she had made the house clean, had washed and mended the old lace curtains, had scrubbed the floors--hadn't he noticed the kitchen floor, white with the grain showing?-- had swept and dusted not so much for his pleasure this night, but because God was coming. But she would look to see if he were happy. He would scowl. It was defensive, or perverse. But he would scowl, and while he scowled he would notice how white her hair showed on the side that caught the light of the candles.

"My poor boy is tired," she would say.

Then he could hold the scowl no longer. He would say:

"Ma, the crib is beautiful."

Then he would get down on his knees beside it. There would be a little red sanctuary lamp on the floor before it, with the white wick floating in oil. At twelve o'clock the lamp would be lighted. If you should happen into the room--the parlor they called it-- in the early hours when the candles would be out, you would see only this, the red lamp with its tiny light flickering. It would cast a spell over you, this unsteady small light showing red on the floor beneath you. You would stand there and look at it, unstirring, unthinking, for minutes.

So, the Boy would get down on his knees beside the crib. It would be the same little crib they had last Christmas, and the Christmas before that. There would be the little imitation thatch shed, open in front. Outside, would be three shepherds with two sheep, kneeling. Inside, would be St. Joseph with his brown cloak and white beard and our Mother with her blue dress. In back would be the ox and the ass, the ox with his head low. And in the center, on a few wisps of hay-- real hay that the peddler fed his horse--would be the tiny figure of Him who was all the world.

He would kneel there, before the shed that was not a foot high, and move the figures about a bit. He always liked to have the ox and ass close to the crib. Then, he would study the presents, laid out before the crib as tenderly as the Wise Men must have laid out their gifts. They would still be in their boxes. He would not touch them, not until daybreak. Then, they would all stop for a swift minute on their way out to Mass.

Afterward, after Mass and Communion, they, with their glass of water drunk but not yet with breakfast, would strew the floor with red strings and wrapping paper and boxes. How much colorful rubbish a few little things could make! For there were but a few things before the crib: a fountain pen, a tie, two books, a box of handkerchiefs... He could recognize everything from their boxes, thin square boxes for handkerchiefs, long boxes for gloves and ties. . . . But he knew, anyway. He and his mother had conspired together for the family. He had his gifts, too. But they would not be put out until he was safely in bed....

Then, she would call from the kitchen. He had better hurry. It was getting close on midnight. So he would have his cup of tea, and a slice of brown-crusted white bread that had come from the oven that afternoon. And maybe a piece of the fruit cake, the rich, dark fruit cake heavy with spice and raisins that was always in the house on Christmas Eve. She would have her cup of tea with the cream-- for they would use the cream tonight-- showing brown gold on top. But she would have only tea for it was the vigil of Christmas.

That would be beautiful. He would tell her all that had happened at work. How old Nelson was worried because his little girl was ill, and it was Christmas Eve. How the yardmaster who cursed constantly was quiet today, and swore only when he was mad. How Big Mike had gone down to St. Mary's to confession with him, and how the church was crowded. Everything, everything. . . .

And then he would empty his pockets of all his money, including the gold piece the firm had given him for Christmas. That would be his supreme moment-- to give over every dollar, every cent. He had been doing that so long now but it never, for some strange reason, failed to make him gulp with happiness. Hadn't they bought the piano together, his mother and he, the upright piano with the green covering that came with it? Hadn't thy bought the new heavy rug for the parlor, the two of them, conspiring this way? Weren't they saving now to buy the house?-- the house out of town a little distance, the house with a garden, quiet, but near the church.

How happily she would look at him. How proudly. And he would drain his teacup so that he could hold the cup high and hide his eyes, his moist eyes. . . .

That would be beautiful, beautiful.

"Pray for those poor souls who have no home on Christmas Eve," she would say, as always she had said.

And the Boy would pray.



The Pullman porter gave a quick turn to the Young Man's chair. The Young Man who had been dozing sat up abruptly.

"Grand Central, suh."

The porter was holding his overcoat.

The Young Man was dazed.

Wasn't there tea brewing, and a red fire showing where the stove corner had been tilted? And across from him. . . .

Across from him was a row of Pullman chairs. Empty, of course. Who else but a harried reporter would be traveling thus into New York at eleven o'clock on Christmas Eve?

The porter took his tip and was gone. The Young Man made his way hazily out into the station.

And there were candles, one or two that spotted the room with yellow flames and threw long shadows. . . .

"Reservation?" asked the room clerk in the hotel.

The Young Man nodded and wrote his name. A tall bald-headed man in a dinner jacket staggered across the heavily ornate hotel lobby. Two gaudy young women tittered.

Candles, a few candles. . . .

"Front!"

A thin, small, ageless bellboy, in blue uniform and silver braid, appeared mechanically. He took his bags and led the way to the elevator.

And she was there, rising from the crib on the floor. How white her hair showed where it caught the light of the candles. . . .

"The heat on, sir?" The bellboy was turning the valve on the radiator. The steam began to pound through the pipes.

The Young Man moved to the window. Twenty stories below him the city was stirring out of its newly laid cover of snow. Even in the dark, the roofs were white, the cornices and window ledges were white. Far, far down, the streets were white, white spotted with black, streaked with black.

"Looks like a white Christmas."

The bellboy spoke impatiently. The Young Man gave him his tip. He banged the door as he left.

The Young Man turned back to the window.

It was the same little crib with its imitation thatch, and the few wisps of hay-- real hay the peddler fed his horse. . . .

The Young Man looked down. Everywhere there were lights, ragged lights, pointed lights, clustered lights, solitary lights, white, red, yellow lights. But the Young Man did not see. He drew the shade and turned from the window.

And there was St. Joseph in his brown cloak and our Lady in her blue dress and the tiny figure of Him who was all the world. . . .

The Young Man still had on his overcoat. Under the mirror of the dresser was a collar button of a former guest which the maid, in her cleaning, had missed. He fixed his eyes on it but did not see. He was without heart and his mind whirred. Where, he was asking himself dazedly, where in this world's maze of people and places, where in this wilderness of stars and philosophies, where is Home?

Hadn't they bought the piano together, and the rug....

The Young Man threw himself on the bed.

"Dear Jesus! Dear Mother of God!"

His sobbing filled his cell in the mountain of earth and steel, glass and stone.

"Dear Mother of God!"

And she would say, "Pray for those poor souls who have no home on Christmas Eve..."

"Dear Jesus!" He sobbed.

The while midnight came, and with it Christmas.




--From Dan England and the Noonday Devil, Myles Connolly, 1951

23 December 2014

One Last Reflection before Christmas Eve

This entry makes one reflect on the state of affairs at His first coming and those now-- the state of Sion then and the state of the Church now.  This reading from Isaias, and the reflection on it from Dom Gueranger in The Liturgical Year, really hit home. 

We need God, and though we should tremble at the reality of our sins which made such a Redeemer necessary to us, yet we look with hope to the promises of such a loving God, Who will save us if we turn to Him.  It is a fitting last reflection before the Eve of the great Feast of Christmas.  

Christmas Mass schedule at St. Francis de Sales Oratory, Thursday, December 25:  Midnight, Solemn High Mass; 8 am, Low Mass; 10 am, High Mass.

Merry Christmas to you and yours, and may God bless you abundantly!

__________________
Isaias 64: 1-11


[1] That thou wouldst rend the heavens, and wouldst come down: the mountains would melt away at thy presence. [2] They would melt as at the burning of fire, the waters would burn with fire, that thy name might be made known to thy enemies: that the nations might tremble at thy presence. [3] When thou shalt do wonderful things, we shall not bear them: thou didst come down, and at thy presence the mountains melted away. [4] From the beginning of the world they have not heard, nor perceived with the ears: the eye hath not seen, O God, besides thee, what things thou hast prepared for them that wait for thee. [5] Thou hast met him that rejoiceth, and doth justice: in thy ways they shall remember thee: behold thou art angry, and we have sinned: in them we have been always, and we shall be saved.


[6] And we are all become as one unclean, and all our justices as the rag of a menstruous woman: and we have all fallen as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. [7] There is none that calleth upon thy name: that riseth up, and taketh hold of thee: thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast crushed us in the hand of our iniquity. [8] And now, O Lord, thou art our father, and we are clay: and thou art our maker, and we all are the works of thy hands. [9] Be not very angry, O Lord, and remember no longer our iniquity: behold, see we are all thy people. [10] The city of thy sanctuary is become a desert, Sion is made a desert, Jerusalem is desolate. [11] The house of our holiness, and of our glory, where our fathers praised thee, is burnt with fire, and all our lovely things are turned into ruins.

O God of our fathers! delay not, but show Thyself unto us.  The city which Thou lovest is desolate; come and raise up Jerusalem; avenge the glory of her temple.  This was the cry of the Prophet; Thou hast heard it, and hast come to deliver Sion from her captivity, giving her a new era of glory and holiness. Thou hast come, not to destroy but to fulfil the law; and, by Thy visit, Sion has been changed into the Church, Thy bride. But why, O Thou her beloved Saviour! why hast Thou turned away Thy face? Why is this Church of Thy love left in the wilderness, weeping like Jeremias over the ruins of the sanctuary, and as Rachel over her children that had been taken from her?  Why has her inheritance been delivered to the stranger?  

By Thy power, she had become the mother of countless children; she had nourished them; she had taught them, in Thy name, the things that pertain to the present and the future life; and these ungrateful children have turned against her.  She has been driven from nation to nation, bearing away with her the heavenly treasure of faith; her mysteries have ceased to be celebrated where once they were the glory and happiness of the people; and from Thy throne above, O divine Word, Creator of the universe, Thou seest everywhere, throughout the earth, altars overturned and temples profaned.  Oh! come, then, and rekindle the smouldering fire of faith.

Remember Thy apostles and Thy martyrs; remember Thy saints who have founded Churches, and honoured them by their virtues and miracles; remember Thy bride the Church, and support her during her earthly pilgrimage, until the number of Thy elect is filled up.  She longs to possess Thee in the eternal light of the vision; but Thou hast given her a heart with such a mother's love, that she will not leave her children as long as there is one to save, nor cease to save until that day come when there shall no more be a militant Church, but the one sole triumphant Church, inebriated with the enjoyment of the sight and embraces of her God.  But that last day has not yet come, O Jesus! there is yet time for Thee to descend from heaven and visit Thy vineyard. Restore to the branches of the tree the leaves which have fallen in the storm of iniquity. Let this tree of Thy predilection bud forth new branches; and the old ones, which have separated from it, and have seemed to force Thy justice to cast them into the fire, let them be once more grafted on the parent trunk, so torn by their rupture from her. Come, O Jesus, for the sake of Thy Church; she is dearer to Thee than was Jerusalem of old.

---

...Give her, during this year also, firmness of faith, the grace of the Sacraments, the efficacy of prayer, the gift of miracles, the succession of her hierarchy, power of government, fortitude against the princes of the world, love of the cross, victory over satan, and the crown of martyrdom.  During this new year make her, as ever, Thy beautiful bride; make her faithful to Thy love, and more than ever successful in the great work Thou has entrusted to her; for each year brings us nearer to the day when Thou wilt come for the last time, not in the swathing bands of infancy, but on a cloud with great majesty, to render Thy rebuke with flames of fire, and destroy those that have despised or have not loved Thy Church, which Thou wilt then raise up and admit into Thy eternal kingdom.


Old Leftist Nuns Engage in Meaningless Political Theater

Or, "What do we do after we lose our faith and almost all of our members?"

Lily Fowler has the answer in this piece at STLToday, from whence the above photo comes.  The photo really captures the spiritual and demographic reality, as does the unintentionally ironic first line of the article: 

"You wouldn't necessarily know they were nuns."

Actually, you wouldn't necessarily know they were nuns, except the fact that they are single women over the age of 65 wearing polyester pants holding up signs for some environmentalist cause.  

You would know they were leftist nuns from dying orders who have despaired of their order's charism and their own vocations.

You just would not know them as Catholic nuns, unlike those whose orders are flourishing because they have not succumbed to the modernist vibe of their barren counterparts.

Ms. Fowler adds a second section to the story, emphasizing the conformity of these dying orders with the spirit of the USCCB and the Pope as promoters of the global warming/climate change hoax.  All of a kind, this type of post-Christian political activism shows the lack of spiritual vitality of the modernist church member.  The hippies are running the asylum as they trudge toward the grave.  

After all, why pray, adore the Blessed Sacrament, sanctify families and their children through Catholic education, health care or contemplation, thus positively affecting billions of people-- and more importantly, billions of immortal souls-- when we can hold hands and make signs and feel all empathetic with mother earth? 

And the new regime in the Vatican, not even comfortable with the very mild admonitions begun by its predecessors, lets these orders off the hook for the incalculable damage they have done to the Church by their own self-destruction.  But of course, this doesn't surprise, as the current policy is to encourage such nonsense until the bitter end.

We can only pray that there are some Catholics left after the pretends are over.

O Yes I Did

Gregory DiPippo at New Liturgical Movement posted a very nice exegesis of the beautiful "O antiphons" (those proper antiphons anticipating Christmas which are prayed at Vespers from the 17th of December to the 23rd), placing these titles of the Messias, in the order prayed, in the history of salvation.

A good final prep for the feast.

Movieless Friday: Interview Edition

Off the beaten track for this blog, but the threats of mayhem issued against the showing of the movie, The Interview, about a plan to assassinate Kim Jong Un, have been blamed on North Korea by the FB of I.  You probably read that the studios cancelled its release as a result (though there are now efforts to show it an independent theaters).  

The editors at TakiMag sum it up pretty well:


This all slaps America in the face with a gruesomely comical irony: After 60 years of whining about McCarthyism, Hollywood has been terrified into silence by communists.



22 December 2014

Isaias 41: 11-16

[11] Behold all that fight against thee shall be confounded and ashamed, they shall be as nothing, and the men shall perish that strive against thee. [12] Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find the men that resist thee: they shall be as nothing: and as a thing consumed the men that war against thee. [13] For I am the Lord thy God, who take thee by the hand, and say to thee: Fear not, I have helped thee. [14] Fear not, thou worm of Jacob, you that are dead of Israel: I have helped thee, saith the Lord: and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel. [15] I have made thee as a new thrashing wain, with teeth like a saw: thou shall thrash the mountains, and break them in pieces: and shalt make the hills as chaff.

[16] Thou shalt fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them: and thou shalt rejoice in the Lord, in the Holy One of Israel thou shalt be joyful. [17] The needy and the poor seek for waters, and there are none: their tongue hath been dry with thirst. I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. [18] I will open rivers in the high bills, and fountains in the midst of the plains: I will turn the desert into pools of waters, and the impassable land into streams of waters. [19] I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, and the thorn, and the myrtle, and the olive tree: I will set in the desert the fir tree, the elm, and the box tree together: [20] That they may see and know, and consider, and understand together that the hand of the Lord hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it.




19 December 2014

On Christmas, Sort of, and the Need to Celebrate It


Isaias 40: 1-10


[1] Be comforted, be comforted, my people, saith your God. [2] Speak ye to the heart of Jerusalem, and call to her: for her evil is come to an end, her iniquity is forgiven: she hath received of the hand of the Lord double for all her sins. [3] The voice of one crying in the desert: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the wilderness the paths of our God. [4] Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough ways plain. [5] And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh together shall see, that the mouth of the Lord hath spoken.

[6] The voice of one, saying: Cry. And I said: What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the glory thereof as the flower of the held. [7] The grass is withered, and the dower is fallen, because the spirit of the Lord hath blown upon it. Indeed the people is grass: [8] The grass is withered, and the flower is fallen: but the word of our Lord endureth for ever. [9] Get thee up upon a high mountain, thou that bringest good tidings to Sion: lift up thy voice with strength, thou that bringest good tidings to Jerusalem: lift it up, fear not. Say to the cities of Juda: Behold your God: [10] Behold the Lord God shall come with strength, and his arm shall rule: Behold his reward is with him and his work is before him.

All flesh is grass. The grass is withered.  The flower has fallen.

True words, and they resonate with me in this time of great tribulation for Catholics.  It seems that the time of Arius is combined with the time of Luther; all that remains is to mix in the time of Diocletian. 

So, falling prey to a slight spiritual malaise is pretty much a daily possibility-- and yet, I don't really feel down.  The situation in the hierarchy is sometimes so comically bad that it is impossible to do anything but laugh.  It is so bad that I realize that I cannot place my trust in frail and transitory flesh.

I ask you: do any of you have a relative or friend for whom you have been praying, or sacrificing, or just encouraging to embrace the Catholic faith?  Has the pope made that task easier or harder?

When the boss doesn't think we should advertise because he doesn't believe in the company's product line anymore, and tells potential customers to avoid the company's salesmen, discourages job applicants because the whole thing sounds too good to be true, and gives public support for his competitors, is it any wonder that sales plummet, employees quit and the organization is adrift?

Pardon the comparison of the Church, the Spotless Body of Christ, to a business concern.  But I also speak to Catholics who cling to the Republican party for some reason.  I kid because I love!

What is to be done, ask those who have not despaired of the product, the organization, and most importantly, its Founder?  

You make do.  Carry on. Ignore the inanity at the top.  Counteract the sabotage at all levels.  Form the best team you can to keep the company going.  Mind your own task-- man your trench, if you will-- and do that as well as you can.  Petition the Founder for help and be confident.

What ends up happening?  Maybe little.  But maybe you then identify just who really believes in the product, and who can be counted on when things are bleakest.  You form ties, little webs of organized beneficial activity.  You regroup, and ultimately are prepared to break through, take over, and renew the operation.

So, perhaps, the Franciscan "renewal" will bring about just that, though through the irony of unintended consequences. 

People, there is no glamour in being a practicing, faithful, morally sensitive Catholic.  Not one that stands for the moral law for which the hierarchy seems to have no use.  God's law embarrasses some.  You know who they are.  So what?  Stand up for it anyway.

There is no glamour in maintaining and standing for Tradition. Certainly no glamour in supporting the traditional Mass and the traditional formulations of the faith.  Some people call you "rigid", "judgemental", "spiritually dead", "neopelagian" (ha!).  PhariseesYou know who they are.  So what?  Stand up for it anyway.

Into this rambling post I wanted to mention two items I saw on the net this week that I wanted to second and amplify. They fit with this theme.  Tradition will survive-- it is attached to the Vine like nothing else in the Latin Church today. Read this piece by Michael Matt at The Remnant and this post be Hilary White with a nice perspective on it, and our times.  I love the analogy to Narnia she uses.

Christ is victorious.  He will vindicate.  He asks our faithfulness and love.  He is coming.

I love Christmas.  It's like saying I like chocolate ice cream, I know.  But I will celebrate Christmas this year like it could be the last.  Because it could be-- it always could be, you know.  Christ came in gentleness, love and peace, to save me from my wretchedness.  I want to love Him now, so I might not be the victim of just fear when He comes again in Justice and Glory.

I love His Church, and I pray for the grace to stand with and for her, despite anything and everything.

16 December 2014

Cardinal Burke: "Do not give way to discouragement."

Again, God bless Cardinal Burke! From LifesiteNews:

On Thursday, LifeSiteNews presented Cardinal Raymond Burke with a handsomely bound book signed by over 29,000 people who had expressed their thanks for the cardinal’s Vatican service, and pledged to pray for him and to follow his example.

The cardinal expressed his “deepest gratitude” for the show of “support and most of all for your prayers.”

An online petition of support for the Cardinal Burke, one of the most unequivocal pro-life and pro-family voices in the Catholic Church, was launched in November by LifeSiteNews after the Vatican announced that Pope Francis had removed him from his position as the prefect of the Vatican’s Apostolic Signatura. Burke was demoted to the position of patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a largely ceremonial role.

“We must all now, going forward, remain united in our Lord Jesus, defending the truth of our faith, especially with regard to marriage and the family,” said Burke after being presented the pledges by LifeSiteNews editor-in-chief John-Henry Westen. The exchange took place at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wisconsin on Thursday.

“We can be confident, even though things can seem rather dark to us, that if we cooperate with God’s grace, and are true defenders of the faith and promoters of the truth about marriage and the family, that Our Lord will not be lacking in his grace for us.”

“Of course, the victory is always his in the end. Let’s remain steadfast and not give way to discouragement,” the cardinal said.

[...]

“We must look to Our Lord himself who had to suffer and die for the sake of the truth and so too we have to be ready to accept whatever suffering comes our way in defending the truth of our faith, especially the very sacred truth with regard to God’s plan for man and woman in marriage from the very beginning,” he said.







Christmas Novena to the Infant King




I am happy to spread the word about the Christmas Novena to the Infant King at the institute's Shrine of Christ the King in Chicago. The novena begins tomorrow and concludes on Christmas Day. For intentions, offerings, and more information, just follow the link.

15 December 2014

Gaudete Gala 2014

I was fortunate last night to have attended the Fourth Annual Gaudete Benefit Gala for the sacred music program at St. Francis de Sales Oratory.  This year marked a different approach to the event, and I was curious to see if it was as enjoyable as years past. The evening exceeded my expectations, and I can only encourage any reader who missed out on the event to take steps to attend next year.

This year's Gala was held at the Sheldon Concert Hall, in the midtown theatre district (near the Fox and Powell Symphony Hall), showcasing the music of these wonderful vocalists and musicians, under the direction of Mr. Nick Botkins.  Previous Gaudete Galas were arranged around dinner, with music taking place in stages during dinner and dessert.  This made for a lovely evening, but the acoustics for this type of program were not optimal.

This year, the orchestra and choir made use of the fantastic acoustics of the Sheldon to let the beauty of the music shine.  I was reminded again of just how blessed we are at St. Francis de Sales Oratory to benefit from such wonderful sacred music.  Though there was of course Christmas music, the program included much more:  chant and polyphony, ancient and new--music requiring skill and subtlety. 

There was a pre-concert reception for an increased donation, but the concert itself was followed by a lovely champagne and dessert reception that was included in the cost of the standard ticket.  Both receptions were quite nice, and provided opportunity for fun and conversation on either side of the performance.  At the risk of oversimplifying things, previous Galas seemed to be a nice dinner, with beautiful music in the background, whereas this year it was a highly enjoyable concert, with time to eat, drink and be merry.  The star was the music itself-- the musicians and vocalists themselves were the center.  

And I think that is very fitting.  The proceeds of the event go to ensure that the sacred music program continues, and continues to grow in quality.  

A worthy cause. A beautiful evening.  

Can't wait until next year.