Sunday, June 26, 2011

Let All the Poisons That Lurk in the Mud Hatch Out

That, at any rate, seems to be what the Enemy thinks suits his purposes at the moment.  How diabolical that the Catholic priesthood should sustain so many body blows during the month dedicated to veneration of the Sacred Heart, and that the heaviest of these should have coincided with Father's Day weekend.  

I must confess to not having a lot of personal investment in Fr. Corapi, who announced his departure from active priestly ministry last weekend, three months into an investigation into allegations of offenses against his vow of chastity.  The business that shook me the most this past week was the breaking Rosminian sex scandal, and particularly, the case of Fr. Kit Cunningham, the much-loved former pastor of London's oldest parish church and unofficial chaplain to the habitues of Fleet Street.  It is only now that Fr. Cunningham has been dead for seven months that it has become generally known that he sexually abused boys at the Rosminian school in Soli, Tanzania -- and that he covered for other priests who were doing the same thing.  It is also apparent that, for quite some time now, this has not been news to Fr. Cunningham's superiors, who, in the wake of a BBC documentary on the affair, have issued an apology for their inadequate response to the corruption in their midst.

These revelations shook me up, even though I had less personal investment in Fr. Cunningham even than in Fr. Corapi.  Fr. Cunningham has not been as high-profile this side of the Pond (though I seem to remember watching him in a documentary about the church of St. Etheldreda on EWTN).  But here was an apparently conservative, orthodox priest who upheld high liturgical standards; offered the Mass of Tradition; loved his Catholic heritage and restored the medieval church under his care; and, appears to have done a lot of real good over many years to a lot of people, none of whom picked up on his dark side.  The fact that this man had so many people going for so many years made me instantly recoil in thought from priests who have been my friends.  What is it that I'm failing to detect, I wondered.  Could it be that these priests, whom I would instantly defend if attacked, actually deserve to be attacked?  This shock was on a par with the shock that provided the excuse for my brief defection from the Church some years ago, when all the sex abuse scandals really started coming out, and especially when it transpired that bishops were accessories after the fact, covering up for abusers under their jurisdiction.   

The realization of where this could lead made me stop and think.  What I was experiencing this time was not a particularized suspicion based on articulable facts, but a generalized paranoia bordering on panic.  The end result of such paranoia, if I were to persist in it, could be to avoid priests; fail to have recourse to them in need; withdraw all affection and regard; fail to pray for them; and ultimately, quit receiving the Sacraments, quit going to Mass, and, for all intents and purposes, stop being a Catholic.  How can I have a shepherd if I just quit the fold?  Besides which, nothing about convicting a priest in the kangaroo court of my own head on the basis of no evidence comports with the requirements of charity.

Still -- I objected to myself -- we come back to the case of Fr. Cunningham, of whose transgressions it seems few, if any, had the slightest hint.  After working with the criminal classes over most of my professional life, I do not believe, as some claim, that it is completely impossible to detect a child molester, or at least to pick up on the fact that there is something not right about a particular person -- though I do acknowledge that not everyone has the gift of discernment, or the practical experience that aids in spotting a deviant.  I also acknowledge the power of affectionate regard to cloud one's judgment, especially if such regard exceeds the bounds of moderation.  Were there really no signs, and no eyes to see them?  Even the best actors cannot keep up the pretense indefinitely: at some point, they must revert back to who they really are.  Yet such signs as have been reported about Fr. Cunningham could hardly be said to point infallibly to that which has actually emerged.  It is said that he drank a lot; but then, priests who struggle with alcoholism are, unfortunately, not unique.  It is also said that he seemed overly familiar with his housekeeper; but who would take this as indicating a predilection for boys?

And yet...priests are sinful human beings, just like the rest of us.  Does prudence really require us to read into a priest's every lapse in judgment and every sign of human frailty a reference to a hidden life of sexual deviancy?  Is this how we would wish to be judged ourselves?  If someone were doing that to us, would we call it "charity"?

Surely, the only purposes that blanket paranoia serve are those of the Enemy.  He hates all human beings, but especially priests.  He targets priests especially to get to us: when a priest falls, he's liable to take an awful lot of us with him.  But if the devil can't make a priest fall, he can at least drive a wedge between him and his flock; then, he still stands to reap a rich harvest of  souls who begin by rushing to judgment without evidence and end by jumping off the Barque of Peter.  That is the game he is playing with all these June surprises. 

Neither I nor anybody else in this world can judge the soul of Fr. Corapi, or the eternal destiny of Fr. Cunningham, who has now stood before God's throne and answered for his deeds.  Nor can we judge the state of the soul of any other priest, or legitimately direct suspicion at them without a particular reason.  Surely, we are called to go on loving and respecting our priests in spite of these scandals.  If we ask the God Who specially chose each priest, with all his warts, and consecrated him to His service, He will not fail to guard us and them, and to give us prudence and discernment.  But these are things we must ask for.  

Suppose it should turn out that a priest we love does in fact have skeletons in his closet, even on the order of those in Fr. Cunningham's closet?  In his Dialogue Concerning Heresies, St. Thomas More answered a similar question about the veneration as saints of those who are in fact damned.  If it should ever turn out, he said, that a person was wrongly venerated as a saint who did not deserve such, it does no harm to our souls to be thus mistaken, because we venerate them in the honest belief that they are the friends of God, and for the sake of God.  Surely the same is true of priests.  As long as we love them for the sake of the God Whom they serve, then no harm can come to our souls on that account. 

And if we love them, then we must pray for them.  Our Lady of Akita said that we must pray the Rosary for priests, bishops, and the Pope.  I hope everyone who reads this will join in the 54-day Rosary novena that began on Father's Day for all priests and bishops: for the repentance and conversion of the unfaithful ones, and for protection and perseverance for the faithful ones who suffer unjustly on account of their erring brethren.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher: Canonization Homily

St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher were canonized by Pope Pius XI on May 19, 1935 -- four hundred years after they sacrificed their lives for the Faith.  At the time these two saints and friends were raised to the altar, the West was beset with moral paralysis while Communism and Hitlerism prepared to unleash the chastisement of war on them, and especially on the Catholic Church.  These perils seem not to have been far from the Holy Father's mind while he spoke about the new saints; perhaps they lent a special urgency to his plea to England to consummate the moment so ardently longed for by the Church and return to the faith of her fathers.   

Here is the English translation of the homily of their canonization, recorded in the June 1, 1935 edition of -- of all things -- The Tablet:

As Jesus Christ, according to the words of St. Paul, is eternal and immutable, “yesterday and today, and the same forever,” so the Church founded by Him is destined never to perish. Generations follow and succeed each other with their perennial vicissitudes. But whereas human institutions give way and disappear before the levelling tide of time, and human sciences, reflecting inconstant light, undergo repeated transformations, the Cross of Christ, reared steadfast above the engulfing billows, never ceases to illumine mankind with the beneficent splendour of Eternal Truth.

From time to time new heresies make their appearance and, under the guise of truth, gain strength and popularity; but the seamless garment of Christ can never be rent in twain. Unbelievers and enemies of the Catholic faith, blinded by presumption, may indeed constantly renew their violent attacks against the Christian name, but in wresting from the bosom of the militant Church those whom they put to death, they become the instruments of their martyrdom and of their heavenly glory. No less beautiful than true are the words of St. Leo the Great: “The religion of Christ, founded on the mystery of the Cross, cannot be destroyed by any sort of cruelty; persecutions do not weaken, they strengthen the Church. The field of the Lord is ever ripening with new harvests, while the grains shaken loose by the tempest take root and are multiplied.”   

These thoughts, full of hope and comfort, spring up in Our mind as We, in this majestic Vatican Basilica, are about to proclaim briefly the praises of our two new Saints after having raised them to the honours of the altar. They, the bright champions and the glory of their nation, were given to the Christian people, in the words of the prophet Jeremias, “as a fortified city, and a pillar of iron, and a wall of brass.” Therefore they could not be shaken by the fallacies of heretics, nor frightened by the threats of the powerful. They were, so to speak, the leaders and chieftains of that illustrious band of men who, from all classes of the people and from every part of Great Britain, resisted the new errors with unflinching spirit, and in shedding their blood, testified their loyal devotedness to the Holy See.

John Fisher, gifted by nature with a most gentle disposition, thoroughly versed in both sacred and profane lore, so distinguished himself among his contemporaries by his wisdom and his virtue that under the patronage of the King of England himself, he was elected Bishop of Rochester. In the fulfilment of this high office so ardent was he in his piety towards God, and in charity towards his neighbour, and so zealous in defending the integrity of Catholic doctrine, that his episcopal residence seemed rather a Church and a University for studies than a private dwelling.

He was wont to afflict his delicate body with fastings, scourges, and hair cloth; nothing was dearer to him than to be able to visit the poor, in order to comfort them in their miseries and to succour them in their needs. When he found someone frightened at the thought of his faults and terrified by chastisements to come, he brought comfort to the erring soul by restoring confidence in God’s mercy. Often when celebrating the Eucharistic Sacrifice, he was seen shedding abundant tears, while his eyes were raised to heaven in an ecstatic expression of love. When he preached to the multitudes of the faithful that crowded round to hear him, he seemed neither a man nor a herald of men, but an angel of God clothed in human flesh.

Nevertheless, whilst he was meek and affable towards the afflicted and the suffering, whenever there was question of defending the integrity of faith and morals, like a second Precursor of the Lord, in whose name he gloried, he was not afraid to proclaim the truth openly, and to defend by every means in his power the divine teachings of the Church. You are well aware, Venerable Brethren and Beloved Sons, of the reason why John Fisher was called in judgment and obliged to undergo the supreme test of martyrdom. It was because of his courageous determination to defend the sacred bond of Christian marriage—a bond indissoluble for all, even for those who wear the royal diadem—and to vindicate the Primacy with which the Roman Pontiffs are invested by divine command. That is why he was imprisoned and afterwards led to death. Serenely he advanced toward the scaffold and with the words of the Te Deum on his lips, he rendered thanks to God for being granted the grace of having his mortal life crowned with the glory of martyrdom, and he raised up to the Divine Throne a fervent prayer of supplication for himself, for his people and for his King. Thus did he give another clear proof that the Catholic Religion does not weaken, but increases the love of one’s country. When finally he mounted the scaffold, whilst a ray of sunlight cast a halo of splendour about his venerable grey hairs, he exclaimed with a smile: “Come ye to Him and be enlightened, and your faces shall not be confounded.” (Ps. xxxiii, 6.) Most assuredly the heavenly hosts of angels and saints hastened in joy to meet his holy soul, freed at last from the fetters of the body and winging flight toward eternal joys.

The other star of sanctity that traced a luminous path across that dark period of history was Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of the King of England. Endowed with the keenest of minds and supreme versatility in every kind of knowledge, he enjoyed such esteem and favour among his fellow-citizens that he was soon able to reach the highest grades of public office. But he was no less distinguished for his desire of Christian perfection and his zeal for the salvation of souls. Of this we have testimony in the ardour of his prayer, in the fervour with which he recited, whenever he could, even the Canonical Hours, in the practice of those penances by which he kept his body in subjection, and finally in the numerous and renowned accomplishments of both the spoken and the written word which he achieved for the defence of the Catholic faith and for the safeguarding of Christian morality.

A strong and courageous spirit, like John Fisher, when he saw that the doctrines of the Church were gravely endangered, he knew how to despise resolutely the flattery of human respect, how to resist, in accordance with his duty, the supreme head of the State when there was question of things commanded by God and the Church, and how to renounce with dignity the high office with which he was invested. It was for these motives that he too was imprisoned, nor could the tears of his wife and children make him swerve from the path of truth and virtue. In that terrible hour of trial he raised his eyes to heaven, and proved himself a bright example of Christian fortitude. Thus it was that he who not many years before had written a work emphasizing the duty of Catholics to defend their faith even at the cost of their lives, was seen to walk cheerful and confident from his prison to death, and thence to take his flight to the joys of eternal beatitude.

Here, Venerable Brethren and Beloved Sons, we may justly repeat the well-known saying of St. Cyprian, Martyr: “O blessed prison which conveys men to heaven! O blessed enchained feet which with salutary steps are directed towards paradise!”

It was supremely fitting that these holy martyrs who shed their blood for the Christian faith and for the defence of the sacred rights of the Roman Pontiff should receive, together with the aureole of sanctity, their due glorification here in the very centre of the Catholic world, close to the glorious sepulchre of the Prince of the Apostles, through the instrumentality of Us who are the heir and successor of St. Peter.

And now it only remains for Us to exhort, with paternal heart, all of you who filled with veneration are grouped around Us, as well as those who, wherever they may be, profess themselves Our sons in Christ. We exhort you to imitate with all diligence the great virtues of these holy martyrs, and to implore for yourselves and for the Church militant their powerful protection. If all of us are not called to shed our blood for the defence of the holy laws of God, all none the less, according to the expression of St. Basil, with evangelical abnegation, with Christian mortification of their bodies, with energetic striving after virtue, “must be martyrs of desire, in order to share with the martyrs their celestial reward.”

We desire moreover that with your ardent prayers, invoking the patronage of the new Saints, you ask of the Lord that which is so dear to Our heart, namely that England, in the words of St. Paul, “meditating the happy consummation which crowned the life” of those two martyrs, may “follow them in their faith,” and return to the Father’s house “in the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God.”

Let those who are still separated from Us consider attentively the ancient glories of their Church which were at once a reflection and an increment of the glories of the Church of Rome. Let them consider, moreover, and remember that this Apostolic See has been waiting for them so long and so anxiously, not as coming to a strange dwelling place, but as finally returning to their paternal home. In conclusion, let us repeat the divine prayer of Our Lord Jesus Christ: “Holy Father, keep them in Thy name whom Thou hast given me; that they may be one as we also are.” Amen.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Time for a Novena

Unless you attend Mass in the Extraordinary Form, you have probably never seen a maniple on a priest's arm, as it fell largely into disuse after the Second Vatican Council.  Like the mappula, or handkerchief, that the Romans wore knotted around their left arm to wipe away tears or sweat, the priest wears this over his left arm during Mass.  In a solemn High Mass, the deacon and subdeacon also wear maniples.  The maniple has never been abrogated, and there is therefore no reason why it cannot be worn even in the Mass of Paul VI.  In fact, in these times, it would be especially appropriate.  The maniple is a symbol of the toils and suffering of the priesthood.

Many of the vestments worn by priests -- vestments whose use has lapsed, or whose meaning has been forgotten -- are in fact reminders of suffering.  The amice that covers the priest's neck and shoulders symbolizes not only trust in God, but the blindfold the soldiers placed on Jesus while they slapped His face.  The alb symbolizes not only purity of heart, but also the garb that Herod put on Jesus to ridicule Him.  The chasuble represents not only divine love, but also the purple robe the soldiers threw over Jesus when they crowned Him with thorns.  The girdle, stole and maniple together represent the cords that bound Jesus, and the rod used to beat Him.

The priest is in fact alter Christus -- another Christ -- and in nothing does he resemble Christ more than in his suffering.  The heart of the priesthood is self-sacrifice.  As alter Christus, the priest is truly priest and victim at Mass, just as Christ was Priest and Victim on Calvary, of which the Mass is an unbloody re-presentation.  The priest really immolates himself every day at the altar.  That is why -- at least in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass -- the chalice is vested in a veil that matches the priest's vestments: to underscore the unity between the priest and the gifts on the altar.  And in receiving Holy Orders, the priest has knowingly and willingly sacrificed himself to the service of God.  This is why (apart from the fact that the Church cannot ordain women) feminists who want to be "priests" do not have an authentic calling: they are in it for prestige to which they feel entitled, not sacrifice.  Recognition of the self-sacrifice of priests is also one of the reasons why they used to be given precedence and enjoy a certain amount of deference.  Today, in an age when all the symbolism of the liturgy and vestments, the Catholic sense of the supernatural, and even the legitimate distinctions between clergy and laity have been swept away, much of this has been forgotten, even by many priests themselves.   

It is this time, when we are thus weakened, that the Enemy has chosen to launch one of his fiercest attacks on priests.  Priests today are suffering intensely, and all the more so because it is frequently at the hands of those who should be loving and supporting them, including their own.  It is just as Our Lady of Akita predicted on October 13, 1973:
The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, and bishops against other bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their Confreres. The Church and altars will be vandalized. The Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord. 
She also provided the solution: "With the Rosary, pray for the Pope, the bishops and the priests."  Now seems like a good time to begin a 54-day novena of Rosaries for the Pope, the bishops and the priests -- and especially those whose spiritual peril is greater than ordinary.  This prayer, attributed to St. Therese of Lisieux, might be a good way to close each Rosary:
O Jesus, eternal Priest, keep your priests within the shelter of Your Sacred Heart, where none may touch them.

Keep unstained their anointed hands, which daily touch Your Sacred Body.

Keep unsullied their lips, daily purpled with your Precious Blood.

Keep pure and unearthly their hearts, sealed with the sublime mark of the priesthood.

Let Your holy love surround them and shield them from the world's contagion.

Bless their labors with abundant fruit and may the souls to whom they minister be their joy and consolation here and in heaven their beautiful and everlasting crown. Amen.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Organ Transplants and the Culture of Death

Paragraph 2296 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
Organ transplants are in conformity with the moral law if the physical and psychological dangers and risks to the donor are proportionate to the good sought for the recipient. Organ donation after death is a noble and meritorious act and is to be encouraged as a expression of generous solidarity. It is not morally acceptable if the donor or his proxy has not given explicit consent. Moreover, it is not morally admissible to bring about the disabling mutilation or death of a human being, even in order to delay the death of other persons.
This paragraph reaffirms the principle, taught by Aquinas, that one cannot do evil in order that good may prevail.  But this principle is vacated so often in today's world that one has to doubt seriously that an ethical post-mortem organ donation is possible.  Call me selfish, but I refuse to be an organ donor: immediately in the wake of the first successful heart transplant in 1967, the definition of death changed so as to allow organs to be harvested from people who are not in fact dead (see this and this).  

What proponent of assisted suicide and euthanasia does not also advocate organ donation?  That the serial killer Jack Kevorkian was an outspoken proponent of harvesting organs, particularly from suicides and criminals, should give us pause to consider to what extent organ donation serves the cause of death, rather than life.  But it turns out that Kevorkian was merely one of a line stretching all the way back to Dr. Christiaan Barnard, who performed the first successful human heart transplant.  In his excellent 1980 essay on euthanasia, "The Humane Holocaust," Malcolm Muggeridge sheds light on the ghoulish side of the man lauded by the world as a medical hero:
Dr. Barnard’s own attitude to his surgery is well conveyed in his autobiography, One Life. His account of his first post-mortem is almost lascivious; as are his first essays with animals, whose snug little abattoir, he tells us, “smelt of guinea pigs, rabbits and hundreds of mice. Yet it was like heaven, and even today those odours excite me with memories of our first days, so filled with hope and dreams.” One of his dreams was to “take a baboon and cool him down, wash out his blood with water, then fill him up with human blood”; another, to graft a second head on a dog, as has allegedly - though I don’t believe it - been done in the USSR.
In the world's first successful human heart transplant, Barnard took the heart of 24-year-old Denise Darvall, who had suffered severe brain damage in an auto accident, and put it into the body of 54-year-old Louis Washkansky.  Washkansky survived for 18 days.  It turns out that Barnard injected potassium into Denise Darvall's heart in order to paralyze it, so that she would be technically "dead" for purposes of performing the transplant.  In other words, he murdered her for her heart.

Wasn't the killing of Denise Darvall worth it?  Heart transplants are all but routine now, thanks to her sacrifice and the pioneering work of Christiaan Barnard.  Besides: she would either not have survived long, or else she would have lived out her days as a vegetable.  The answer is that we come back inevitably to that now-foreign principle that you cannot do evil in order that good may prevail.  How can we press cold-blooded murder into the service of life?

"In Christian terms, of course," says Muggeridge, "all this is quite indefensible."
Our Lord healed the sick, raised Lazarus from the dead, gave back sanity to the deranged, but never did He practice or envisage killing as part of the mercy that held possession of His heart. His true followers cannot but follow His guidance here. For instance, Mother Teresa, who, in Calcutta, goes to great trouble to have brought into her Home for Dying Derelicts, cast-aways left to die in the streets. They may survive for no more than a quarter of an hour, but in that quarter of an hour, instead of feeling themselves rejected and abandoned, they meet with Christian love and care. From a purely humanitarian point of view, the effort involved in this ministry of love could be put to some more useful purpose, and the derelicts left to die in the streets, or even helped to die there by being given the requisite injection. Such calculations do not come into Mother Teresa’s way of looking at things; her love and compassion reach out to the afflicted without any other consideration than their immediate need, just as our Lord does when He tells us to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked. She gives all she has to give at once, and then finds she has more to give. As between Mother Teresa’s holocaust of love and the humane holocaust, I am for hers.
How easily murder disguises itself as compassion.  But the reality is that as soon as we are in a situation where we can avoid one evil only by committing another, we have at that moment reached the end of human resources.  Then the only course open to us is to prostrate ourselves before Him in Whom no one trusts in vain.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Pentecost in Oregon

A rare treat for Pentecost: Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form at the old St. Francis Church in Bend, Oregon, celebrated, as ever, by the inimitable and irrepressible Rev. Andrew Szymakowski.  Your humble correspondent had the privilege of joining the local schola cantorum (directed by Stephanie Swee) in the loft.  We also had the benefit of the expertise of Father's old friend Bill Costa, a retired chorister and director from Dallas, Texas.

St. Francis did not entirely escape the ravages of the spirit of Vatican II (carpeting, stark Novus Ordo ironing board in front of the main altar, and no more altar rail), but it is still a beautiful little church.  It is, however, also a poorly-lit church, and so I was not able to get pictures of the high altar and reredos, which contains some of the most stunning statues I have ever seen of St. Francis, St. Patrick and St. Teresa of Avila.  Still, I did not leave with an empty memory card.  Here is one of the side altars:

And here is the statue of Our Lady on top of the other side altar:

It was a beautiful Mass, for which alone the six-hour drive to Bend would have been worthwhile.  But there was more to come. On the old calendar, Pentecost is not over: this is the Octave of Pentecost.  Instead of heading straight home on Monday morning as planned, I went up to the little town where Father is currently stationed and attended High Mass for Pentecost Monday and Pentecost Tuesday.  Bill Costa and I formed the choir for both Masses.  The rest of the time was devoted to meals, conversation and laughter -- just like in the Nyssa days when we'd take Father to dinner after Mass.  By the time I started back for home on Tuesday, the three of us had all the world's problems solved.

So I got not one, not two, but three High Masses this weekend, as well as three and a half days in Oregon making new friends and visiting with old ones.  It was a tonic for body and soul.

Monday, June 06, 2011

67th Anniversary of D-Day

Every year, V for Victory! commemorates the anniversary of D-Day, the great invasion of Festung Europa that opened the long-awaited Second Front and ultimately engulfed Nazi Germany.  Each June 6th is a little more poignant than the last, as the number of surviving veterans dwindles.  This 67th anniversary comes just over three months after the death of Frank Buckles, the last surviving American veteran of World War I, and one month after the death of Claude Choules of Perth, Australia, the world's last surviving combat veteran of World War I, and the last veteran to have fought in both world wars.  Hopefully, the readers do not mind the revival of some classic D-Day posts.

Battle-scarred Pointe du Hoc on the coast of Normandy, France, four miles south of Omaha Beach.  The U.S. 2nd Ranger Battalion suffered heavy casualties scaling these cliffs on June 6, 1944, only to find that the 155 mm guns they had been sent to take out had been removed two days before the invasion.

June 6, 1944: D-Day

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.

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.

President Reagan Commemorates D-Day

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

Sunday, June 05, 2011

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.  Sixty-seven 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.

June 5, 1944: The Liberation of Rome

Sixty-seven years ago today, American troops led by Lt. Gen. Mark Clark captured Rome.  This is General Clark riding in his Jeep past St. Peter's Basilica, basking in his evanescent glory.  Within hours, all eyes would be turned to France, and the opening of the long-awaited Second Front in the greatest amphibious landing in history.

It is said that when Gen. Clark visited Pope Pius XII, he apologized to the Holy Father for disturbing him with the noise of his tanks.  The Holy Father's smiling reply: "General, any time you come to liberate Rome, you can make as much noise as you like!"