Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Weapons of War: Old-Fashioned, But Never Out of Date

In my rejection of the wisdom and truth which the Church has preserved, and which she has used to establish the harmony and order set forth by Christ, I had set myself adrift on an uncharted sea with no compass.  I and others like me grasped with relief the fake certitude offered by the materialists and accepted this program which had been made even more attractive because they appealed for "sacrifice for our brothers."  Meaningless and empty I learned are such phrases as "the brotherhood of man" unless they have the solid foundation of belief in God's Fatherhood.
Bella V. Dodd, School of Darkness: The Record of a Life and of a Conflict Between Two Faiths, Devin-Adair, New York, 1954 at 233.

Thus Bella Dodd -- the Communist Party official who, after being expelled from the Party, reverted to Catholicism under the direction of Bishop Fulton Sheen -- sums up the wasted years of her life as an instrument of the Communist conspiracy.  The Party that preached comradeship and unity in the struggle to build a new world wrung as much work as it could out of her; then, when she ceased to be useful, it threw her naked out into the darkness.  But in the darkness, a door opened, and a friendly light streamed out: the light of Faith.

In her autobiography, Bella Dodd focuses primarily on her involvement in the teachers' union movement in New York, how this led her into the Communist Party, and what then ensued.  She does not discuss the Communist plot to infiltrate the Catholic Church and destroy her from within; she does not mention the penetration of Communist agents into the clergy and ultimately the hierarchy; nor does she discuss the long-range plan to make the Church completely unrecognizable.  She does, however, illustrate the capital importance of taking seriously our obligation to know our faith well, and to be good soil for the seed.  Tracing her path from the cultural Catholicism of her childhood to the slow drift into Communism, and back to the Faith that she had abandoned, Dodd sheds light on some of the methods and tactics of the Enemy, particularly against well-intentioned yet poorly formed Christians.  However hoary these counterfeits and artifices may be, and however many times they have been deployed over the centuries, our own ignorance and short-sightedness still give them devastating effect:

-- False Asceticism.  This was a tactic of the Albigensian heretics that St. Dominic battled in the 13th century.  Observers comparing the threadbare Albigensians to the extravagant priests and bishops wallowing in luxury inevitably concluded that true virtue lay with the former.  So it was with the Communists.  Bella Dodd recounts her first meeting with international agent Harriet Silverman:
When she stood up to go I looked at her threadbare tweed coat, her shapeless hat, and I was moved by her evident sense of dedication....She was the new type of ascetic of our day, a type I was to find prevalent in the Communist Party.  She lived in a small remodeled apartment on the East Side and I climbed four steep flights to reach it.  The room had a cloistered atmosphere; it was lined with bookshelves on which I noticed Lenin's complete works, Karl Marx, Engels, Stalin, Bimba's History of the Labor Movement, and other books on sociology and labor.  There was nothing trivial there.  I noted no poetry.  On one wall hung a large picture of Lenin, draped with Red flags bearing the hammer and sickle.
School of Darkness at 66-67.

Dodd describes the power of false asceticism, which helped her persevere in Communism despite the occasional glimpse of the Party's fangs:
Harriet was ill the night I visited her.  She sat in an old flannel bathrobe and talked with intensity of plans to remake the world.  I was impressed by the fact that she was not concerned about her own poverty, and thought only of the working people of the world.  Suddenly I felt that my efforts to increase salaries for a few college teachers were insignificant.  She  made me feel ashamed of having a good job and a comfortable apartment.  So moved was I that I pressed on her all the money I had with me.
Id. at 67.

False asceticism also provided the Communist Party with martyrs, in mockery of the Church.  Consider the tragic example of the girl who spent herself unstintingly for the enemy of her Faith:
I remember especially an Irish "Catholic" girl, an organizer of the unemployed and a leader of mass demonstrations.  Helen Lynch was tubercular, but she never stopped working for the Party until she died.  Then the Communists claimed her as a martyr.
Id. at 71.

Sometimes poverty reflects true detachment from the goods of this world; and sometimes it is the outward manifestation of inward spiritual bankruptcy.  If we neglect prayer and study, how will we ever be able to tell the difference?

-- False Charity.  Whereas true charity demands nothing in return, and even delights in uplifting those who can never repay, Communist "charity" only indebted its victims to the Party, anesthetized them, and solidified its hold over them:
It was true that it was an infectious thing, this comradeship, for so often it helped in dire need such as Rent Parties where Communists gathered money to pay the rent of some comrade.  This sort of personal aid did much to overcome the doctrinaire aridity of orders by the "functionaries," the title given the bureaucrats, the skeleton staff which stand ready to take over when the Revolution comes to pass.

This is an especially dangerous weapon in an age when the character of true charity has become so distorted in the minds of so many.  Charity has come to mean "handouts," which gives it a bad name.  But even worse, it has come to mean refusing to speak the truth when speaking out is necessary for fear of making wrongdoers feel badly about their wrongdoing.  Like the rent parties that kept Communists and fellow travelers indentured, this false charity keeps people enslaved to sin. 

-- Divide and Conquer.  We see this weapon being deployed right now by means of the clergy sex abuse scandal.  What difference is there between what we are seeing today and what Dodd describes during the first half of the 20th century?
During the Spanish War the Communist Party was able to use some of the best talent of the country against the Catholic Church by repeating ancient appeals to prejudice and by insinuating that the Church was indifferent to the poor and was against those who wanted only to be free.

The Communist publicists carefully took for their own the pleasant word of Loyalist and called all who opposed them "Franco-Fascists.  This was a literary coup which confused many men and women.  Violent communist literature repeatedly lumped all of the Church hierarchy on the side of the "Fascists," and using this technique, they sought to destroy the Church by attacking its priests.  This was not a new tactic.  I had seen it used in our own country over and over again.  When the Communists organized Catholic workers, Irish and Polish and Italian, in labor unions they always drove a wedge between lay Catholics and the priests, by flattering the laity and attacking the priests.
Id. at 87-88.

Now, in the 21st century, we see unprecedented attacks on priests.  What Party functionary sitting in Communist headquarters in New York City in, say, 1938, could ever dream up the spectacle of Western governments proposing laws to effectively abolish the seal of the confessional -- much less imagine that one of them would be then-staunchly Catholic Ireland?

-- The Abolition of Distinctions among Men.  In Federalist No. 10, James Madison declared that the first object of government was to safeguard the "different and unequal faculties of acquiring property." These differences result in the unequal distribution of property, differing interests, and class distinctions.  After years and years of socialistic indoctrination, we tend to think of these things as bad in themselves; yet Madison understood that to safeguard the diversity of faculties is to safeguard liberty itself.  The Communists understood this too, and therefore made the destruction of all this diversity a priority:
A great leveling process was at work in American life and at that time it seemed to me a good thing.  So it also seemed to the Communist Party, but for a different reason.  Their professional leveling would fit teachers better into its class-struggle philosophy and so bring them to identify themselves with the proletariat.
Id. at 102.

For the last several decades, we have seen the same thing going on in the Church.  In the name of Vatican II -- which actually taught the opposite -- we have seen the attempt to abolish distinctions between clergy and laity.  We saw an effort to make the Pope just another bishop, one among many, without any special dignity or distinction.  We see it in the Order of Preachers, elements of which try to change reality by changing the language: abolishing the term "Third Order" and ordering Dominican laity to use the designation "O.P.", previously reserved to those in the religious life.  This is not reform, but destruction.

-- The Subversion of Women. At a couple of points in her book, Dodd gives us some insight into the Communists' use of women to achieve their destructive aims.  The Party made use of the Second World War in its bid to recruit women in re-making American society in its own image:
The Party did all it could to induce women to go into industry.  Its fashion designers created special styles for them and its song writers wrote special songs to spur them.  Use of womanpower in the war industries was, of course, inevitable, but it also fitted into the communist long-range program.  War-period conditions, they planned, were to become a permanent  part of the future educational program.  The bourgeois family as a social unit was to be made obsolete.
Id. at 153.

After the war, on orders from Moscow, an attempt was made to organize women into an international "peace" movement, appealing to their honorable intentions in order to corral them for Communist purposes.  Dodd explains the reasoning:
Since it was supposedly a movement for peace, it attracted many women.  But it was really only a renewed offensive to control American women, a matter of deep importance to the communist movement, for American women do 80 per cent of the family spending.  In the upper brackets they own a preponderance of capital stock and bonds.  They are important in the making of political decisions.  Like youth and minority groups, they are regarded as a reserve force of the revolution because they are more easily moved by emotional appeals.  So the Soviet campaign for peace was especially geared to gain support of the women.
Id. at 194-195.

Nowhere is the use of women as tools in the fight against the Church more apparent than in the creeping feminism that has penetrated parish and chancery all across the country, and that finds its worst expression in the quixotic crusade for women's ordination.  All mothers are women, and many teachers are women: corrupt the mothers and the teachers, and you end up with a new generation corrupted from childhood.  The feminist assaults on masculinity in general and the male priesthood in particular have shipwrecked the faith of many, destroyed many congregations of women religious and crippled priests.  (And have you noticed the disdain of feminists for Mary, the greatest woman who ever lived?)

The last of the weapons on this list is by no means the least, and seems particularly relevant in the United States:

-- Making Somebodies out of Nobodies.  Bella Dodd uses herself as an example of how and why the Communists advanced unknown figures to overnight prominence:
The "progressive" bloc at the State Federation convention that year decided to run me for a position in the State Federation of Labor.  It seems ridiculous to me now that one so newly come to the labor movement should have been pushed forward against the established machine.  But this, too, was a communist tactic, for Communists have no hesitation whatever in bringing unknown people forward into leadership, the more callow or ill-equipped the better, since they will therefore more easily be guided by the Party.  The weaker they are, the more certainly they will carry out the Party's wishes.  Suddenly and dramatically the Communist Party makes somebodies out of nobodies.  If tactics change, they also drop them just as quickly and the somebodies again become nobodies.  
Id. at 81.

Remind you of anybody you knOw?

Ever since the days of Senator McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee -- neither of whom, by the way, were mistaken -- it has been fashionable to ridicule "conspiracy theories."  But there is nothing theoretical or hypothetical about the great conspiracy of the 20th century on which Bella Dodd shines a spotlight in School of Darkness. Nor is there anything hypothetical or mythical about the ultimate author of this conspiracy -- or the war he continues to wage, using perhaps different tools but the same tactics that have served him so well and so often in the past.

P.S.: Keep praying for priests and bishops.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Rosary Novena for Priests and Bishops Continues. Are You In?

Father's Day marked the beginning of a 54-day novena of Rosaries -- the Irresistible Novena -- for all priests and bishops (including, of course, by definition, the Holy Father).  This date was chosen to begin this novena because (a) priests really are fathers in the supernatural order, and (b) that's the weekend the priesthood took it on the chin with the Corapi and Cunningham scandals.

Some people have undertaken to join in this novena.  Are you still in?

Hell has always been at war against Catholic priests, but now the conflict is kicking into high gear, and the offensive comes both from without and from within the Church.  Have you noticed?  We have, among many other things, the 300+ fallen priests in Austria, rising up in open rebellion against a cardinal archbishop whose response thus far has been to announce plans for a meeting with the offenders.  We have the assaults on the Church in China, where the government kidnaps and imprisons priests and bishops, and forces the consecration of bishops against the will of Rome.  We have the business in Ireland and Australia where the government plans to invade the confessional and try to force priests to violate the sacramental seal.  In the background, the drip-drip-drip of scandals involving clergy proceeds.  And all the while, like a sniper on the rooftops, the devil is picking off individual priests, one after the other.

The Communists understood that in order to gain ground among Catholics, they had to drive a wedge between the Catholic laity and their priests.  The same Enemy who taught the Communists this lesson is at it again.  He goes after our priests in order to get to us.  We ought to pray for priests for our own sakes as well as for theirs.  Priests, too, need to pray for their own protection and perseverance.

Please pray the Irresistible Novena for priests and bishops.  It's never too late to join the one that's ongoing; it couldn't hurt to start new ones, either.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


H/T Mulier Fortis

Hell's useful idiots in the governments of Ireland and Australia are trying to pass legislation that would purport to require priests to turn in penitents who, in the Sacrament of Penance, confess to sexual crimes against children.  Independent Senator and Nick Xenophon of Australia argues that priests shouldn't be "allowed" to "hide" behind a "religious practice." Says the howling ignoramus and dupe of Satan: "There is no contest when it comes to protecting the innocence of a child or maintaining a religious practice.  Why should someone be absolved of their sins...when it comes to child abuse because they've got a pat on the back from their priest?"

Just one question.  How many of you people who support this assault on the sacramental seal in the name of "protecting the innocence of a child" also support:

Abortion on demand?



Sex education for children?

Gay adoption?

The distribution of contraceptives to children?

Abortions for minors behind their parents' backs?


Friday, July 22, 2011

July 22d: St. Mary Magdalene

A few months ago, in this space, I lamented the miserly spirit and false love of poverty within the Church that has deprived us of the treasures, great and small, that had hitherto nurtured many generations of Catholics.  Today, a wonderful follow-up from a parish that enjoys the patronage of today's saint, whose popularity once rivaled that of the Mother of God herself.  Fr. Ray Blake publishes his beautiful homily for the feast of Mary Magdalene, celebrated for her extravagantly generous love for Our Lord -- including a bit that was not preached but which deserves to be trumpeted from the rooftops:
How interesting that the response of the Counter Reformation to the pale, cold, tight-lipped parsimony of the Protestant Reformation was the exuberance of the Baroque. It is the theology of the Incarnation, of the Eucharist, of the essential goodness of creation, of God's presence in the material, all of those things Protestantism tended to reject, expressed in art. Pattern on pattern, art on art, craft on craft, colour on colour, voice on voice, it is luxury and generosity. The white wash of the Reformers was fought by marble and gilding, carpet and textile. The preaching gown, countered with lace and silk, the broken statue, the defaced wall painted with the exuberance of Titian and Caravaggio, the lost churches and cathedrals of the North with the Michaelangelo and Bramante temples in the South. The despoiled monasteries and silenced cloisters were replaced by the new Orders, the enthusiasm and generosity of the young followers of Neri, Loyola and de Lellis.

So today on our sacred Feast day, where are the fountains flowing with wine, the trumpets, the drums, the canons? Where are the golden cherubim, the flowers to cover the floor and perfume the air?  Where are the choirs and orchestras, the dignitaries, the roasting oxen, the partying, the processions, the flags, the street shrines, the banners hanging from windows, the houses decked for the festival? Where are the fireworks?

Where are the new clothes for the poor, where is their food, where are the enemies being reconciled and the stranger welcomed? Where are the keys of the prison and [gaol]? Where the medicines for the sick? Where are the bright faced young men and women willing to go to the ends of the earth or suffer martyrdom for love of Christ? Where were the streams of penitents earnestly waiting for mercy, having spent sad nights and bitter days with already returned penitents  preparing for this day of days?

Where the lavish gift and generous hearts?
St. Mary Magdalene, it was you whom the Lord praised for breaking a costly jar of nard over His head, and not the Iscariot, who rebuked your extravagance.  Intercede for the Church Militant, infected with the world's false asceticism that quenches the Spirit, and obtain for her the widespread revival of true charity and generosity.  Amen.   

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Dashing Ourselves on the Iceberg of Law, Order and Security

As a denizen of the criminal justice system, I can't help reflecting constantly on how much charity has cooled in the world.  It is not merely the crimes that people commit against one another that inspire these reflections.  More frequently, they are inspired by that which is done in the name of law and order.  We are now so enmeshed in a thicket of picky laws rigidly enforced that it is becoming increasingly difficult to go about one's business without running afoul of the authorities; and when we do, we suffer penalties out of all proportion to the gravity of the offense.  We put up with all this because we are led to believe that it is necessary, for the good of ourselves and of society at large.

My trip to Oakland a couple of weekends ago provided me with an especially sobering occasion to reflect upon the retreat of charity from the world, and how "necessity" provides us with excuses for driving it away.  At the Boise Airport, after having been divested of my shoes, my purse, and everything out of my pockets, I committed the unforgivable crime of not unpacking my liquid toiletry items from my carry-on suitcase before putting it through the X-ray machine.  A rubber-gloved TSA goon pawed through my personal items and held them up for public view.  While another set of goons in the background selected cute young girls out of the crowd of passengers to put through the naked scanner, I received a lecture about exceeding my ounce limitations for liquid shower soap.  As he shoved my soap, shampoo and toothpaste into a ziplock bag, the TSA goon sought to assure me of the indispensability of this degrading process.  "All this is necessary," he said, the corner of his mouth upturned.

Yeah?  When human beings are herded like cattle; made to take off their shoes and belts; groped or forced to stand naked (in effect) in front of an electronic scanner; subjected to a myriad of petty humiliations; crammed into a confined and cramped space for the duration of the flight, during which they are bossed around and generally treated like infants pursuant to federal law -- and are charged exorbitant rates for the privilege -- it is difficult, if not impossible to remember that we are incarnate spirits, made in the image and likeness of God.  Does this reflect a civilized order?  And if civilization is to collapse, what exactly are we defending that is worth all this?

Just as we are inclined to purchase peace at any price (and history is full of examples), it appears that we have allowed ourselves to be reduced to saving our hides at any price, as if there is nothing in this world or the next that is worse than death.  We will jettison every virtue, from modesty to charity, in order to stay alive; and in the process, we become slaves.  To quote a line from a famous Charlton Heston movie: is life in bondage better than death?

We must remember that we are not put on this earth for the sole purpose of prolonging our time on it.  Our overriding duty is to view this life in the light of eternity, and act accordingly.  So far from providing us a way of running from our problems, including threats to our security -- viewing the world in the light of eternity does not require us to jettison common sense -- this would actually provide us with the only really worthwhile solution. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Joys of Tradition and Other Reflections

This is the altar at Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Church in Caldwell, Idaho, set up for sung Mass in the Extraordinary Form last Friday, July 15th.  It was a votive Mass in honor of the Precious Blood of Jesus, celebrated by -- who else? -- the inimitable and irrepressible Fr. Andrew Szymakowski of the Baker Diocese, and attended by the Bl. Margaret of Castello chapter and a number of visitors.  This was Father's next-to-last visit to the Dominicans before going to Catholic U. in D.C. to get his degree in canon law.  

This was an historic occasion: the first Mass in the Extraordinary Form ever offered in this parish.  I wish I could have snapped some shots during Mass, but I had to lead the schola.  I was terrified of being responsible for knowing when to begin each of the propers, as this was only my fifth ever Missa Cantata, but I have it on the best possible authority that I did not err in that regard. The propers for the feast of the Precious Blood are, hands down, the hardest music our little schola has ever tackled up to now; everything else should come as child's play after this.  

I wish everybody who hungers after reverent, traditional Catholic worship and solid, forthright, undiluted Catholic preaching could have been there.   Would that more people had heard Father's homily on the Eucharist, the need for reverence for the Blessed Sacrament, the need for proper dispositions when approaching the Eucharist, and the capital importance of confession and not receiving Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin.  Someone commented that we hadn't heard the words "mortal sin" from the pulpit as many times in the last year as we did in just that single homily.  

There is a common misconception that those who love Catholic tradition are dour, gloomy and joyless.  It is indeed tough, after tasting the beauty of the Tridentine Mass, and drinking at the fountain of sacred chant and polyphony, to be cheerful while listening to "Gather Us In" and dodging gropey little old ladies during the sign of peace at the Masses we usually attend; and some of us are not as good as we should be at concealing our abhorrence.  But the absence of the happy and clappy, or of a taste for the same, is not a sure-fire sign of misery, any more than the presence of these things infallibly indicates authentic joy.  

For proof of this, one need look no farther than the example of Friday's gathering, and particularly the person of the worthy young priest of the old school who traveled so far to give us this special occasion.  I suspect that people who don't like unalloyed Catholicism -- and there are many -- have listened to Fr. Andrew's no-holds-barred preaching, or run afoul of his charitable yet uncompromising exercise of priestly authority, and written him off as a stilted, dour, severe, puritanical, Latin-spewing, Prussian-style killjoy.  Such a judgment would be as wrong as it is rash and unjust.  After Mass, Fr. Andrew and the Dominicans went to a local restaurant and had a laugh-fest that brought the house down -- all without drugs, alcohol, or raunchy humor.  Father himself laughed until his stomach hurt; then he laughed some more.  Nor was this a one-off: casting out doom and gloom is part of Father's stock in trade.  I am sorry for all those who have cut themselves off from ever seeing that side of him, or who would fail to appreciate it even if they did see it.

And I am sorry that the attempt was made by some in the Church to cut Catholics off from the joy of Catholic worship as it has been performed for so many centuries.  The Mass is truly the Passion and Death of Christ, the Sacrifice of Calvary re-presented on the altar in an unbloody manner; it is also a window on eternity, an image on earth of the worship that is offered forever in heaven, where every tear is wiped away, and death and mourning and crying are no more.  I have said before in this space that the Mass of tradition communicates truths of the faith more clearly than what we have been used to seeing over the last 40 years.  The joy of heaven is one of these truths.  Even if we are not immediately conscious of it during Mass, it bears its fruits. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

To Oakland and Back

This last weekend, I traveled with the founder of my lay Dominican chapter, John Keenan, and The Redoubtable Marcus Magnus to St. Albert's Priory in Oakland, California for the annual Lay Dominican Provincial Council meeting.  Others elsewhere will talk about the substance of the meeting; I'd prefer to focus here on the periphery.  The sum and substance: the weather was fine; the priory was as welcoming as ever; the food and the company were top-notch; and there were no riots going on this year, like there were at the time of the last LPC meeting.

Just to avoid ending on a sour note, let me start with something that, for some reason, we just had to see while we were there -- kind of like a sore in your mouth that you just have to keep touching with your tongue, even though you know it's going to hurt.  Behold the Taj Mahony's prime California competitor for the title of World's Ugliest Cathedral: Oakland's Cathedral of Christ the Light.  I feel sorry for the worthy bishop of Oakland, +Salvatore Cordileone, for having such a...cathedral.  The two tiny figures near the front entrance are Mark and John, probably gaping in disbelief.

This is the sanctuary.  What looks like scrap metal coming out of the walls on either side is actually the pipe organ.  I guess I should at least be glad there is a pipe organ present in the building.  The giant Buddha-looking thing in the middle is an image of Christ made by lasers.  There is an actual crucifix to the left of the altar.

To the right of the altar sits the bishop's chair.  This is somewhat an odd view, because people were gathering for Mass and I had to be somewhat discreet about taking pictures.  But then again, quite honestly, the view is odd from any angle.

The rectangle that appears to be in cross-hairs is -- I think -- the tabernacle.  At least it is front and center.

No, you are not inside a concrete bunker on the Maginot Line, or one of Rommel's pill boxes on the beach at Normandy.  This is supposed to be a Catholic cathedral.  Those little squares along the wall are meant to be Stations of the Cross.  As I went through this place, I kept thinking of the line I read years ago in one of P.J. O'Roarke's descriptions of residential blocks in then-East Germany: "Commies love concrete." 

These stacks of two-by-fours are -- believe it or not -- the confessional.  It is in a recessed yet open space, with no privacy, no anonymity, and no apparent means of muffling sound. 

The ceiling basically reflects the shape of the building: the Eye of Sauron meets the Superdome.

Yet the hideous, stark sterility of cathedrals that reflect the Golden Age of Contraception rather than the Catholic faith is not all there is in Oakland.  Fortunately, there is still St. Albert's Priory, the lovely Dominican house of studies on Birch Court in one of the older neighborhoods in the city.

This is a view of the cloister at St. Albert's.  St. Dominic stands in the middle, surrounded by his fish pond.  In the background is the chapel.  I felt kind of badly about how noisy we lay Dominicans were being in the cloister, until I saw a group of friars come out of the house talking and carrying on every bit as loudly as we were.

Here is one of the cloister koi, with a number of small companions.  At the time of day I shot this picture, most of the fish were gathered under the shade of the statue.  If you catch them at the right time, the fish will all stick their heads out of the water and open wide, waiting for food.

This tree that grows in the corner of the cloister (in the direction St. Dominic is pointing) is an example of the lush flowers that grow almost wild all over Oakland's residential neighborhoods.  We do not have anything like it here in Boise.  The flowers remind me of Gabriel's trumpet.

Here is one of the cloister turtles, sunning himself in the grass.  (I only assume it's a "he."  I really don't know how to tell.)

Cloister walk to the main chapel.

Among the highlights of a visit to St. Albert's are Mass and Divine Office with the friars.  Chant is an integral part of Dominican spirituality, and so the daily Offices are chanted.  This is the main chapel of St. Albert's, with choir stalls instead of pews.

The sable and argent Dominican shield, with cross fleury, in the floor at the rear of the nave.

The high altar, with statues of St. Dominic and St. Albertus Magnus.

Artistic detail: the ambo.

Good food and good conversation are also a highlight of visits with other lay Dominicans at St. Albert's.  Good, plain food is standard fare at the priory.  This is part of the refectory.  Lectio divina during meals is a long-standing custom in the Order, and this is the dais from which spiritual writings are read.  This was not done while we were there.

Before we left, we made sure to pay a visit to the grave of Mark's father, Bill, who passed away this past February.  It was difficult to find the grave, whose stone is not yet ready for placement, but Mark finally found the temporary marker.  Bill lies at the top of a hill that overlooks the Bay, in one of the highest points in the cemetery.  This is a partial view from there.

Although I snapped shots of the ugliest thing in Oakland (see above), I did not photograph some other, depressing reminders of why I left California, such as the slummy, trash-blown parts of town, multi-story jails, wandering packs of kids with pants down below sea level, aggressive panhandlers and graffiti-infested buildings and vehicles -- not to mention all the gay pride crap.  We do not have these things to as great an extent at home.  It was good to come back to the (relative) sanity of Boise.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

July 6, 1535: St. Thomas More Is Martyred

Although we celebrate the Feast of St. Thomas More on June 22, together with his friend and fellow martyr, St. John Fisher, it was actually 476 years ago today that our saint mounted the scaffold.  About his execution date, the saint wrote in his last letter to his daughter, Margaret: "I would be sorry if it should be any longer than to-morrow, for it is St. Thomas's even, and the utas of St. Peter; and therefore, to-morrow long I to go to God. It were a day very meet and convenient for me."

Some photos to celebrate Thomas More's birthday in heaven:
St. Thomas More's cell in the Tower of London. From these arrow slits, the saint and his daughter witnessed the first of the Carthusian Martyrs being led out to Tyburn Tree to be hanged, drawn and quartered.

How's this for a second-class relic: St. Thomas More's hat.  Fr. Thomas More, S.J., the saint's last male heir, who died in 1795, gave this and a number of other relics of his holy ancestor to Stonyhurst College, where they still reside.  Here is a fascinating description of the first- and second-class relics in the Stonyhurst collection. 

A saint pays homage to a saint. St. Josemaria Escriva had a great devotion to St. Thomas More. Here he is at St. Dunstan's, Canterbury, before the Roper vault, the probable resting place of St. Thomas' head. 

Margaret's in-laws, the Ropers, had a family vault at St. Dunstan's, which is now under the care of the Church of England.  In 1978, the Roper vault was opened for an archaeological survey and partial excavation.  The vault has since been sealed.  Margaret, who died in 1544, was believed to have been buried originally in Chelsea, with the head of her father in her arms, and then re-interred in St. Dunstan's after the death of her husband, William Roper, in 1578.  This photo shows the niche containing a lead box, which in turn contains the decomposing remains of a human skull believed to be that of Thomas More.  In an article which appeared in the Moreana journal in 1979, Hugh O. Albin describes the medical assessment of the skull in the niche:
Dr. P.H. Garrard was only allowed an external examination of the lead container set in a niche in the north wall of the Roper vault. The contents are visible at about one foot distance from an iron grille set in the wall. The container is about one foot cube : a hole cut in it gives a partial view.... Dr. Garrard recognizes the fragments as being bone from a human skull, namely:

(1) A small fragment of the vault of the skull about an inch across.
(2) The hard palate.
(3) Part of the maxilla next to it but separated, with one empty tooth socket.
(4) What appeared to be part of the thin boned structures in the posterior part of the nasal cavity.

Most of the skull has degenerated into a number of dark brown crumbling pieces and the floor of the container is covered with powdery and granular material. Some of the pieces are whitened by a deposit which is probably a salt of lead. The empty tooth socket , showing no signs of healing, implies loss of a tooth after death due to natural processes. The advanced degree of decomposition is due, Dr. Garrard suggests, to exposure to air, while the other bones in the vault were covered in earth.
As for the rest of St. Thomas' body, it was buried in a mass grave at St. Peter ad Vincula (St. Peter in Chains), the parish church of the Tower of London.  Excavations made during the latter half of the 19th century failed to result in the identification of the saint's remains, which were mixed up with those of so many others.

Such is the stuff of St. Thomas More in this world -- but only in this world: anonymous, lost, ravaged by decay, yet certainly destined to rise again in glory at the sounding of the Last Trumpet.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Can I Ask Just One Politically Incorrect Question Here?

In all honesty, I have not closely followed the Casey Anthony trial.  I haven't watched streaming video on the internet, and since I don't have cable or satellite or any other television signal coming into the house, I haven't seen most of the lurid coverage of the trial.  I did see part of the defense's closing argument, which I found tiresome as well as difficult to follow due to my not having seen most of the rest of the trial.  

One thing that does seem clear, however, is this: whatever the jury may have thought about the evidence that Casey Anthony was a miserable human being and a rotten mother, they did not think that it was enough to overcome the presumption of innocence on the most serious charges.  And now the floodgates of outrage open against the system, against the jury, and against the woman who is said to have chloroformed her child so she could go out and party.

So can I ask just one, tiny, politically incorrect question here?

Suppose that as soon as Casey Anthony found out she was pregnant, she had walked straight into a Planned Parenthood clinic and paid some doctor to abort that little girl.  Would we have gotten national outrage?  Wall-to-wall news coverage?  Twenty-four-hour legal pundit commentary?  Weeping talk-show hosts?  I mean, same outcome as what people generally believe now: a little girl, dead by her own mother's hand.

Yes.  I, too, hear only crickets.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Fourth of July

Prayer for Government

by +John Caroll, Ordinary of the Archdiocese of Baltimore and America's first Bishop and Archbishop; written November 10, 1791 for recital in all parishes in the archdiocese.

We pray, Thee O Almighty and Eternal God! Who through Jesus Christ hast revealed Thy glory to all nations, to preserve the works of Thy mercy, that Thy Church, being spread through the whole world, may continue with unchanging faith in the confession of Thy Name.

We pray Thee, who alone art good and holy, to endow with heavenly knowledge, sincere zeal, and sanctity of life, our chief bishop, Pope N., the Vicar of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the government of his Church; our own bishop, N., all other bishops, prelates, and pastors of the Church; and especially those who are appointed to exercise amongst us the functions of the holy ministry, and conduct Thy people into the ways of salvation.

We pray Thee O God of might, wisdom, and justice! Through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with Thy Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to Thy people over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality. Let the light of Thy divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty.

We pray for his excellency, the governor of this state, for the members of the assembly, for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare, that they may be enabled, by Thy powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability.

We recommend likewise, to Thy unbounded mercy, all our brethren and fellow citizens throughout the United States, that they may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of Thy most holy law; that they may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal.

Finally, we pray to Thee, O Lord of mercy, to remember the souls of Thy servants departed who are gone before us with the sign of faith and repose in the sleep of peace; the souls of our parents, relatives, and friends; of those who, when living, were members of this congregation, and particularly of such as are lately deceased; of all benefactors who, by their donations or legacies to this Church, witnessed their zeal for the decency of divine worship and proved their claim to our grateful and charitable remembrance. To these, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light, and everlasting peace, through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. Amen.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Feast of the Immaculate Heart

Ave Maria, by Tomas Luis de Victoria (1548-1611), priest and composer.  If you are familiar with the chant "Ave Maria," this is based on that.