Thursday, June 06, 2019

75 June 6ths Ago: The Longest Day

"Believe me, Lang, the first twenty-four hours of the invasion will be decisive...the fate of Germany depends on the outcome...for the Allies, as well as Germany, it will be the longest day."
Field Marshal Erwin Rommel to his aide, Capt. Hellmuth Lang, April 22, 1944

From Part One, Chapter 13 of The Longest Day, by Cornelius Ryan (available, by the way, on Kindle):

Now Eisenhower stood watching as the planes trundled down the runways and lifted slowly into the air.  One by one they followed each other into the darkness.  Above the field, they circled as they assembled into formation.  Eisenhower, his hands deep in his pockets, gazed up into the night sky.  As the huge formation of planes roared one last time over the field and headed toward France, NBC's Red Mueller looked at the Supreme Commander.  Eisenhower's eyes were filled with tears.

Minutes later, in the Channel, the men of the invasion fleet heard the roar of the planes.  It grew louder by the second, and then wave after wave passed overhead.  The formation took a long time to pass.  Then the thunder of their engines began to fade.  On the bridge of the U.S.S. Herndon, Lieutenant Bartow Farr, the watch officers and NEA's war correspondent, Tom Wolf, gazed up into the darkness.  Nobody could say a word.  And then as the last formation flew over, an amber light blinked down through the clouds on the fleet below.  Slowly it flashed out in Morse code three dots and a dash: V for Victory.

Now you know where the title of this blog comes from.

75 June 6ths Ago: Two Presidents Commemorate D-Day

President Reagan's speech at Point du Hoc, June 6, 1984 -- the 40th anniversary of D-Day.

President Trump's speech at Normandy, June 6, 2019 -- the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

75 June 6ths Ago: President Roosevelt's D-Day Address to the Nation

FDR's address to the nation on June 6, 1944.

My Fellow Americans:

Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our Allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.

And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest -- until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men's souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

And for us at home -- fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them -- help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

Many people have urged that I call the nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.

Give us strength, too -- strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.

And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee; faith in our sons; faith in each other; faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment -- let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace -- a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

Thy will be done, Almighty God. Amen.

75 June 6ths Ago: Ike's D-Day Address to the Allied Expeditionary Force

Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!

You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.

But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to Victory!

I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory!

Good luck! And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.

75 June 6ths Ago: The Great Signal

The French poet, Paul Verlaine (1844-1896), never dreamed of the role he would play in a great drama that would take place exactly 100 years after his birth.  Seventy-five years ago today, the French Underground tensely awaited the great signal that the Allied invasion of Normandy -- the greatest amphibious operation in history -- was immanent.  This signal was the first stanza of Verlaine's poem, Chanson d'automne. 

Les sanglots longs
Des violons
De l'automne
Blessent mon coeur
D'une langueur

Tout suffocant
Et blême, quand
Sonne l'heure,
Je me souviens
Des jours anciens
Et je pleure

Et je m'en vais
Au vent mauvais
Qui m'emporte
Deçà, delà,
Pareil à la
Feuille morte.

The long sobs
Of the violins
Of autumn
Wound my heart
With a languor

All suffocating
And pale when
The hour strikes
I remember
The old days
And weep

And I go away
In the ill wind
that carries me off
This side and beyond
Like the
Dead leaf.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Memorial Day

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Good Friday

Today is a day of fast and abstinence.  Let not the aroma of apple-wood barbecue waft its charms before your quivering nostrils.  Listen not to the hiss of rib-eye steaks landing on a hot grill.  Avert your gaze from that mouthwatering slab of juicy prime rib.  And don't even think about delicately crispy, maple-tinged bacon.

This is a time of year when one reflects on the affluence that has made us weak and effeminate.  There are only two days out of the whole year when the Church asks us to fast, and this is one.  And it is a wrench!  We devote so much time and energy to scoping out the outer limits of the Church's breathtakingly lenient regulations.  We rack our brains to come up with ways of getting away with as much as possible without actually breaking the law.  We go out of our way to avoid the slightest discomfort.

There is nothing wrong with affluence in itself, that we ought to feel guilty merely because we have everything we need, plus extra.  There is something wrong with the undue attachment to our stuff that makes it an end in itself.  There is something wrong with having the thought of parting with it, or even setting it aside for a time, disturb our peace.  And there is something wrong with not using it to further the Kingdom of God.  It all ought to further the Kingdom of God, even the stuff we keep for ourselves.  What we keep for ourselves ought ultimately to be geared toward getting us into heaven.

Am I pointing fingers?  No.  I suffer from the same disordered attachments to my stuff, of which I have far too much; and I am also far too invested in comfort and convenience.  I am a huge fan of indoor plumbing, and central heating, and iPhones, and wi-fi lights, and high-speed Internet; and I really, really love butter and bacon.  I'd hate to have to do without these things.  But, after all, that is what a fast day is about: learning to do without.  Fasting trains us in the regulation of our passions.

And, contrary to popular fears, a well-regulated fast does not hurt us.  Fasting is healthful.  

It's also very simple.  Maybe, instead of coming up with ways to play with the Church's fasting regulations, it would be a lot simpler to just not eat at all today and only drink water, tea or coffee?  Then we can know for sure we have complied with the law and not have to worry about it!

Just a thought.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Septuagesima Sunday: Pope St Gregory the Great’s Homily on Matt 20:1-16

Thanks to The Divine Lamp.

I. This Gospel containing many things which need explaining, I will try as far as possible to shorten my explanation, that it may not become tedious to you. The kingdom of heaven, so we are told by our Lord, is like to a householder, who went out early in the morning to hire laborers into his vineyard. Who, indeed, is more justly to be likened to a householder than our Creator, Who is the Head of the household of faith, ruling over those He has made, and being Master of His chosen ones in the world, as a master of those in his house? He it is that has the Church as His vineyard, a vineyard that ceases not to bring forth branches of the true Vine, from just Abel to the last of the elect that shall be born in the world. This householder, then, for the cultivation of his vineyard, goes out early in the morning, and at the third hour, the sixth, the ninth, and the eleventh, to hire laborers into his vineyard. Thus the Lord, from the beginning to the end of the world, never ceases to gather together preachers for the instruction of His faithful people. The early morning of the world was from Adam until Noah; the third hour from Noah until Abraham; the sixth from Abraham until Moses; the ninth from  Moses until the coming of the Lord; the eleventh from the coming of the Lord to the end of the world. At this eleventh hour were sent forth as preachers the Apostles, who received full wages, though they came in late. For the cultivation of His vineyard, that is, the instruction of His people, the Lord has never ceased to send laborers into it. First by the patriarchs, then by the prophets and teachers of the law, and lastly by the Apostles, He dressed and tended the lives of His people, as the owner of a vineyard dresses and tends it by means of workmen. Whoever, in whatever degree, joined to a right faith the teaching of justice, was so far one of God’s laborers in God’s vineyard. By the laborers at early morning, at the third, the sixth, and the ninth hour, may be understood God’s ancient people, the Hebrews, who, striving to worship Him with a right faith, in company with His chosen ones from the beginning of the world, continually labored in His vineyard. And now, at the eleventh hour, it was said to the Gentiles: Why stand you here all the day idle? The Lord speaks of their carelessness and indifference concerning their salvation, for they had not yet done anything to be assured of it; yet, if you ponder upon their answer to the householder sending them to his vineyard, you will have cause of being ashamed. Their answer to the householder’s question, why they stood all the day idle, was: Because no man hath hired us. Indeed, they, unlike others, had neither patriarchs nor prophets to instruct them. No one had hired them, for no one had shown them the way leading to salvation. As to us, who neglect the practice of good works, and lead an idle life, what shall we answer for our justification? For we received the true faith, so to speak, in the womb of our mother; we heard the words of life when still in the cradle, and we drank the milk of Christian doctrine, given by our holy Church at the time when, for the life of our bodies, we were sucking the breasts of our natural mothers.

II. The different hours of the parable may also be compared to the different periods of man’s life. Childhood, on account of the small sphere of knowledge, is the early hour of morning; youth may be compared to the third hour, when the sun rises and the heat of years increases; the sixth hour represents manhood, the virility, when the sun has reached the zenith of his course; by the ninth hour, showing the sun slowly retreating from his height, we recognize the elderly age of man, when he loses the strength and power of younger years; whereas old age is figured by the eleventh hour.

Now, consider how some are called, already in their childhood, to lead a perfect and holy life ; others in their youth; these in their manly age; some others in advanced years; and lastly others in their old age. Do you understand that all of us are laborers, who may at any time be sent into the vineyard of the Lord? Again, beloved brethren, consider your own lives, and ask yourselves whether you are worthy laborers of the Lord, whether you are mindful of the work you are doing, and lastly whether you labor indeed in the Lord’s vineyard. Be sure that those who work for their own interests only, have not entered the vineyard of the Lord; for those only are accounted as His laborers, who prefer the glory of God to their own profit and interest. Such worthy Christians endeavor to serve God with ardent love and sincere devotion; they strive to win souls to God, and exert themselves to take others along with them to the habitation of the Saints; whereas those who live for themselves and try to satisfy their vices and concupiscences, are condemned as idle laborers, making no effort to work in, or care for, the Lord’s vineyard.

III. What shall we say of those who put off their conversion to the end of their life? Are they not like those laborers standing in the market-place until the eleventh hour, to whom the householder said: Why stand you here all the day idle? Our Savior wishes them to understand that, having spent their childhood and youth in the service of the world and far from God, they are called upon to begin to turn to God, at least, now at the extreme limits of life, and with greater courage to walk on the road of justice, that leads to perfection and eternal life; for the work they are bid to do cannot last very long, since they came so late. Thus this good Householder invites them to come back to Him, and often rewards them before those who had been called from their childhood, since very often the last comers are called away the first. Remember the Good Thief (Luke 23). He came at the eleventh hour; but by the capital punishment he suffered, he obtained a reward certainly not deserved by his former sinful life.  He recognized Jesus to be the Redeemer of the world, confessed Him publicly, and almost at the same moment gave up the ghost. We see thereby that the Householder, giving the promised penny, began with the last; for the Good Thief was received into Paradise before St. Peter. The same happened to many good and pious souls living before the Law and under the Law. They had to wait for their reward, whilst those called after the coming of the Messiah, at once went to Paradise. We may also say, in all truth, that the same reward that is, a penny, was given to them that had worked one hour only, as to the others who had been working the whole day and had borne the burden of the day and the heats. For the eternal happiness, that reward given to them that worked well, will be common to all of them, both to those who came at the beginning and to those who arrived with the Redeemer. This very equality was the cause of complaints: These last have worked but one hour, and thou hast made them equal to us that have borne the burden of the day and the heats. Indeed, the first comers can say that they have borne the burden of the day and the heats, since their life was longer than ours. They came at the beginning, when the life of man was very long, and they had to fight against their own self for many years. We also feel in us the fire of concupiscence, against which we contend, and which we try to extinguish; and this continual fighting may be compared to the burden of the day and the heats.

IV. Besides all this, I ask, what is the meaning of the murmurs of those who received the reward in heaven very late? Also in what sense can we say that they murmured, since heaven will not be given to those who murmur, and since those who have entered heaven neither murmur nor complain? I answer: If I consider that the patriarchs, though leading a good and holy life, could not enter Paradise before the coming of the Son of God, Who by His death reopened the gates of heaven, we find therein, that is, in the delay preventing them to receive the reward for which they worked so hard, the real motive of their murmuring. After fighting for justice’s sake, and thus deserving the crown of glory, their souls went to limbo, a place of rest and peace. To them, therefore, we may attribute the murmurs of the laborers after their day’s work. However, after this presupposed murmuring, the souls of the just, leaving their prison, that is limbo, wherein they had been detained for a long time, receive the promised penny, namely, the happiness of the eternal kingdom, of which they take possession. As to us who, though arriving at the end of the day, receive a penny, we do not murmur like those who arrived the first. Since the coming of the Redeemer into this world, we enter into the kingdom of heaven as soon as we leave this life, and we receive without any delay the crown of glory granted to the patriarchs after their very long waiting (see note below). On this occasion the master of the house said to one of the laborers: I will also give to this last even as to thee. And, as the place in heaven assigned to a soul is an effect of His generous will, He adds: Or, is it not lawful for me to do what I will? It would be man’s greatest folly to criticize the manner in which God’s goodness deigns to act. Indeed, we could murmur against God, were He to refuse that which He is bound to give, but not when He refuses to grant what He is not in justice obliged to give. He, therefore, that murmurs, deserves this rebuke: Is thy eye evil because I am good? Hence we conclude that nobody is to boast of his work or of the time spent in doing it, for the Eternal Truth tells us: The last shall be first, and the first last. Though we be aware of our good works, we know not how strictly they will be scrutinized by the great Judge; yea, each of us ought to feel exceedingly happy to receive even the last place in the kingdom of God.

NOTE: It would be a mistake to infer from these words that St. Gregory did not believe in Purgatory. Their meaning is that a soul, leaving the body and having nothing to atone for, will be at once received into Paradise, unlike the just souls of the patriarchs which, before the coming of Christ, descended into limbo.

V. The following words of this Gospel, many are called, but few are chosen, cannot but inspire us with terror; for many receive the light of faith, but to a few only is granted the happiness of heaven. On account of the festival there are now a great many gathered together here, and there is hardly room for all within the walls of this temple. Yet, who can tell how many of them will one day be found among the number of the elect? All voices are loud in confessing Jesus, but the lives of those who confess Him do not agree with their exterior acts of faith. The greater number of those here present think it sufficient to follow Jesus in words, whilst by their acts they are separated from Him. St. Paul points them out to us, saying: They profess that they know God, but in their works they deny Him (Titus 1:16). This is confirmed by St. James: Faith without works is dead (James 2:26). And the Psalmist repeats the words of God: I have declared and I have spoken; they are multiplied above number (Ps 40:6). By these words we understand that, when the Lord calls men through His prophets, the number of believers greatly increases. However, not all those who by the gift of faith obtain the knowledge of the truth will be numbered among the elect. It is certain that when a great number of wicked Christians are gathered together with true servants of God, because of the same faith that they profess, they nevertheless do not deserve to be numbered with the faithful on account of their unchristian lives. For it cannot be denied that, though the holy Church includes in the same fold the sheep and the goats, the Eternal Judge will one day separate the just from the wicked, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats (Matt 25:32). Know ye, therefore, and recognize that none of those now given up to the pleasures of the world will be received among the elect; that the Judge will exclude them from the happy fate of the humble, since in this world they were lifted up on the wings of pride. They had received the gift of heavenly faith, but they clung to the earth, and heaven will not be opened to them.

VI. Meanwhile, though a great many people, whose lives are unchristian, may be found in the Church of God, I beseech you, beloved brethren, neither to imitate them nor to think them to be lost. We are aware of the unhappy condition of these people to-day, but we know not what they will be to-morrow. It often happens that those whom we see behind us on the road to holiness, soon precede us on account of their progress in spirituality; then it is with great difficulty that we follow those whom at some time we seemed to precede. When St. Stephen shed his blood for Christ, his murderers laid their garments at the feet of a young man whose name was Saul (Acts 7:57), and who may be accused of having also stoned St. Stephen by assisting the murderers; yet, by his great labors undertaken for the Church, Saul has gone before the holy martyr, to whose death he contributed. Let us, therefore, consider these two things greatly deserving our attention. First, knowing that many are called but few are chosen, no one can help himself without the grace of God, and, though being called by faith, no one is sure of his eternal salvation. Secondly, when we see our neighbor in the clutches of sin and vice, let us not presumptuously think that he will be lost, for God’s infinite mercy is unknown to us.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

"Brain Death," "Useless Mouths," and Making Ourselves the Enemies of What God Holds Dear

I first ran this story in 2012.  I have been thinking about this little boy since radical Democrats have openly come out in favor of infanticide in New York and Virginia.

Nicholas Coke was born in 2009 without higher brain functions.  This is because all he had was his brain stem.  He was not expected to survive more than a few hours.  Indeed Nicholas did die -- two years and 11 months later.  Today [November 1, 2012], the Solemnity of All Saints, Nicholas Coke breathed his last.  

Nicholas defies the culture of death.  Having no brain, was he not "brain dead"?  Shouldn't he have been aborted?  Shouldn't his organs have been harvested for the sake of "worthier" children?  Yet his heart beat on its own; he breathed on his own; he could take nourishment and medication; he could respond to treatment; he moved; he grew; he smiled.  Persons who are dead can do none of these things, with or without machines, to which Nicholas was never hooked up.  Nicholas could neither see nor hear, but he gave signs of awareness that he was being held.  Clearly, the child had a soul, and was therefore very much alive, even though his faculties were severely impaired.  He had a soul, with all the gifts of the soul, dormant though they were in his frail body, even though he literally had no brain.  That is not supposed to be possible -- yet there he was!  Thank God Nicholas was born into a family that cherished his life.  He was surrounded by love, and touched hearts in his turn.

Nicholas Coke is not only a testament to love and life, but also a rebuke and a warning.  He is a rebuke to the arrogance of a society that purports to redefine death for the sake of convenience.  He is a warning that we have made ourselves the enemies of what God holds dear, and that sooner or later we will have Him to reckon with.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

On “White Privilege”

If there is really such a thing as “white privilege,” then:

- Why don’t we ever hear anybody claiming it?  Why, for example, has former President Obama, whose mother was white, never invoked “white privilege”?  Ditto Shaun King of Black Lives Matter, who is most emphatic on the point that he is not white?  Why do so many white politicians and academics distance themselves from the idea of partaking in “white privilege”?  Why should all this be, if it is really more advantageous to be white than black?

- Why are there white leftist activists like Rachel Dolezal and Elizabeth Warren who claim to be minorities when they aren’t?  Why did they consider it necessary to have themselves numbered among ethnic minorities, if being white actually came with privilege?

- Why isn’t “white privilege” doing the Covington kids any sort of good whatever?  If they had the benefits of “white privilege,” then shouldn’t they not be getting savaged in the media, even if they had done something wrong?  Shouldn’t the leftist mob at the March for Life have feared to molest them in the first place, if their race really gave them a privileged status?

Just a few of the questions that never seem to get answered.