Monday, May 28, 2012

Planning, Working, and Praying

A tip from the peerless Father Erik has led to about an hour's reading on a subject not inappropriate for Memorial Day: one of America's most colorful and successful generals, George S. Patton.  In view of Patton's work, beliefs, sayings, and general outlook on life, it was perhaps a mercy that he did not long survive the troops who had given their lives under his command, or live to see the fruits of their hard-won victories squandered.  It is not hard to guess what his take would have been on the West's increasing post-war confusion, or the muddle of the Vietnam War, in which his own son, George Patton IV, served as a general, and which our politicians willed to lose. It is tempting to meditate on what would happen if, by some miracle of modern medicine, the elder Patton had lived long enough to find himself under the overlordship of the present occupant of the White House.

One notable incident of Patton's career in the European Theater has become distorted in our sissified, politically correct times, and needs to be set straight.  The 1970 movie Patton contains a scene in which the general is shown bullying a chaplain into praying for good weather for killing Germans, against the chaplain's conscience.  The chaplain in question -- Msgr. James H. O'Neill, Chief Chaplain of the Third Army -- told a rather different story in an account he wrote in 1950, which was published 21 years later in Review of the News, when Msgr. O'Neill was a retired brigadier general.  He describes General Patton as a devout and practicing Episcopalian, possessing "all the traits of military leadership, fortified by genuine trust in God, intense love of country, and high faith In the American soldier"; he describes himself, the allegedly bullied chaplain, as not at all reluctant to carry out his commander's wishes in the matter of the prayer.

The story begins, interestingly enough, on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 1944.  Disturbed by the unrelenting, torrential rain that hampered his war effort, Patton called up the Chief Chaplain and asked him if there was a prayer for good weather.  Not finding an appropriate prayer, the chaplain undertook to compose his own:
Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for Battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish Thy justice among men and nations.
Chaplain O'Neill typed the final draft of this prayer on a 5"x3" filing card, along with a Christmas message to the troops from Patton, and presented it to the general, who affixed his signature to the Christmas message and ordered the printing of a quarter of a million copies for distribution to every man in the Third Army.

Then Patton asked O'Neill a question that would probably get a commanding officer in today's Army court-martialed: how much praying was being done in the Third Army?  When told that not much prayer was going on, Patton said:
Chaplain, I am a strong believer in prayer. There are three ways that men get what they want; by planning, by working, and by praying. Any great military operation takes careful planning, or thinking. Then you must have well-trained troops to carry it out: that's working. But between the plan and the operation there is always an unknown. That unknown spells defeat or victory, success or failure. It is the reaction of the actors to the ordeal when it actually comes. Some people call that getting the breaks; I call it God. God has His part, or margin in everything. That's where prayer comes in. Up to now, in the Third Army, God has been very good to us. We have never retreated; we have suffered no defeats, no famine, no epidemics. This is because a lot of people back home are praying for us. We were lucky in Africa, in Sicily, and in Italy. Simply because people prayed. But we have to pray for ourselves, too. A good soldier is not made merely by making him think and work. There is something in every soldier that goes deeper than thinking or working--it's his "guts." It is something that he has built in there: it is a world of truth and power that is higher than himself. Great living is not all output of thought and work. A man has to have intake as well. I don't know what you it, but I call it Religion, Prayer, or God.
Whereupon the general ordered the chaplain to draft a training letter to all the chaplains on the importance of prayer.  "We've got to get not only the chaplains but every man in the Third Army to pray. We must ask God to stop these rains. These rains are that margin that hold defeat or victory."

So Chaplain O'Neill got to work on Training Letter No. 5.  Both it and the prayer cards were distributed to the troops in the Third Army between December 12-14.  On December 16th, the Germans, favored by the poor weather, launched their final offensive of the war through the Ardennes: the Battle of the Bulge.  On the 19th, Patton and his Third Army rushed to Bastogne to meet it; and on the 20th came perfect weather for wave after wave of Allied air attacks on the Germans.  The prayer for good weather was answered, and the Germans were defeated.

What if George S. Patton had lived to observe the state of this country in 2012?  No doubt his prescription would include, among other things, planning, working and -- above all -- praying.  Especially praying: and to hell with any executive orders, acts of Congress, federal regulations, Supreme Court decisions or any other government directives to the contrary.  

Monday, May 21, 2012

Partial Eclipse

On May 20th, the annular eclipse that swept across the western United States was visible from the Boise area as a partial eclipse.  I decided to grab a sandwich, a diet Coke, and go out somewhere where I'd have a good view and investigate.

Tension heightened as the day progressed because of the persistent presence of pestiferous clouds.  But as the eclipse began, the clouds actually turned out to be a good thing, making it possible to get a direct (if a little fuzzy) shot of the moon taking a bite out of the sun.  (Note: never look at the sun through the eyepiece of your camera.  My camera doesn't have an eyepiece, but if it did, I wouldn't have looked through it, because that would have been dumb.)

The last time I saw a partial solar eclipse was when I was a kid living in Southern California.  I watched the eclipse on the concrete floor of the garage, projected through a hole in the old wood-shake roof.  Remembering this, I decided to use the projection method to observe this eclipse.  After some trial and error, I finally got my jury-rigged pinhole projector to work.
This set-up might have been more elegant if I had been more organized.  The campaign ad covers a too-large hole in the cardboard.  
And here is the equally jury-rigged projection screen: a small notepad I use for grocery lists.
I remember that the world looked quite odd under the first partial eclipse I ever saw.  The sun was noticeably dimmer, as though it were cloudy out, but instead of the diffuse sunlight that shines through clouds, one saw the same clear-cut shadows as when the sky is cloudless.  This time, even at maximum eclipse, the sun did not appear dimmer because it had been partly cloudy all day. Here's the projection at the moment of maximum eclipse.  The sun was just a sliver, like a fingernail clipping, yet it would still have been far too bright to look at directly.   

After maximum eclipse, the clouds came back, and it was possible to get another direct shot at the sun, which is circled in red.  If you look closely, you can just make out the crescent shape.  (Note: see note above.  Never gaze directly at the sun without some safety equipment.)

I hope next time I have the chance to see a solar eclipse, I will be more organized and better set up.  I also hope one of these days to be in the path of totality.  Still, even a partial eclipse is pretty cool.    

Saturday, May 19, 2012

"I Be Concubining" II: Supercharged

A girl must be like a blossom
With honey for just one man. 
A man must be like honey bee 
And gather all he can. 
To fly from blossom to blossom 
A honey bee must be free, 
But blossom must not ever fly 
From bee to bee to bee. 

-- "Song of the King," from The King and I

But that was because we hadn't yet met the Grand-babydaddy of Concubining, Mr. Desmond Hatchett of Knoxville, Tennessee.  Mr. Hatchett, who must be like the honey bee and gather all he can, has thirty (30) children by eleven (11) different blossoms.  "I had four kids in the same year.  Twice," he says by way of partial explanation.

But it's turning out that this honey bee, not being as wealthy as the King of Siam, is not in fact as free as all that, or gathering very much either, flying from blossom to blossom to blossom.  He's finding out the hard way that (a) the authorities are not going to let him get away with not supporting his children, but (b) you can't support thirty (30) kids on minimum wage, which means (c) half his wages (the legal maximum) are garnished, and (d) he's in constant trouble with the courts.  Yet (e) he fathered nine of these children within the last three years, proving that (f) it still hasn't occurred to him to keep his britches zipped.

Nevertheless, Hatchett is seeking a break on his child support payments.  Some of his kids -- ranging in age from toddler to 14 years -- are collecting the princely sum of $1.49 a month.

Are the taxpayers going to let these kids starve?  Of course not.  Nor should we.  It's not their fault that they were born to such rotten parents.  But thanks to the wanton irresponsibility of Desmond Hatchett and the idiot women who spread their legs for him, coupled with the immorality of the welfare state that encourages them to continue in their follies, these kids start life at great risk for living in poverty, being the victims of violence at the hands of the other jerks their mothers bed down with, getting involved in drugs and other criminal activity, and generally ending up as losers like their parents.

So what's the answer?  Contraceptives are not the answer.  This guy is the product of a society that has eaten, slept and breathed contraceptives for decades, as evidenced by his willingness to use numerous women as masturbatory aids.  Abortion -- the compounding of sexual abandon with murder -- is certainly not the answer.

The answer lies in the last place few people in today's world are willing to look.  Two thousand years ago, a Man born in a stable and crucified on Calvary gave us the perfect system for avoiding situations like Desmond Hatchett's and the dreadful plight of his thirty unfortunate children.  The only trouble with it, from the point of view of honey bees and blossoms like Hatchett and his concubines, is that it compels one to make sacrifices.  But a little self-denial goes a long way, and living a virtuous life is a great antidote to indentured servitude.

H/T Charleston Thug Life.     

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Speaking Truth to Totalitarians

The Left is fond of the idea of "speaking truth to power," but what they really mean by it is: leftists destroying traditional institutions, and drowning out the voices of those who support such institutions.  When leftists are in power, and anyone has the temerity to gainsay them, it's a whole different story.

Exhibit A: the European Parliament's responses to British member Nigel Farage, former commodities broker and now leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP).  Here he is last June, addressing the Parliament on the subject of its relationship with reality.  Clearly, they would like nothing better than for Farage to just dry up and blow away.

Here he is again just the other day, on the legitimacy of the EU's authority:

Most sobering of all is this exchange in the Parliament in the wake of the Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty in 2008:

After discovering this guy on Dr. Sanity over the weekend, I spent some time watching videos of him giving interviews and addressing the European Parliament.  The sight of Nigel Farage telling the eurocrats where to get off, bursting their bubbles, calling out their totalitarian tactics, and even identifying the "ex" Communists among them -- all right to their faces -- is not only first-class entertainment, but also positively bracing in this age of mealy-mouthed political correctness.  Besides plainly exposing Euro-hypocrisy, Farage's trenchant comments have the additional virtue of eliciting reactions from the eurocrats that cause them to betray their antipathy for liberty, their disdain for the hoi polloi, and their dedication to ideology at the expense of flesh-and-blood human beings. 

I don't pretend to be versed on the ins and outs of Euro-politics, but I do know plain speech when I hear it, and courage when I see it.  It is looking more and more as though the sole virtue of the European Parliament is that it provides a forum for Nigel Farage to speak truth to totalitarians.  May this good work of his soon be no longer needed; and until then, may he keep it up. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Prophetic Diagnosis

Ever wonder why the religious orders went so far off the rails?  Since the crisis in the religious life is much in the news with the crackdown on the LCWR, it seems worthwhile to focus attention on the thoughts of Jean Cardinal DaniĆ©lou (1905-1974).  Forty years ago, this brave Jesuit gave an interview on Vatican Radio in which he spoke frankly about the insanity that was already blatantly apparent in the religious life, its causes and the necessary remedies.  For this, he was ostracized by his brother Jesuits, and his untimely death was permitted to appear as though it had taken place under compromising circumstances.

The crisis of consecrated life is a worthwhile subject of consideration, for the simple reason that the rot and corruption within convents and priories and monasteries spread far beyond their walls.  St. Paul tells us that when one part of the Body of Christ suffers, the whole Body suffers with it; surely no one can doubt that the infirmities of secular society are intimately linked to those in the religious orders.  A sample of Cardinal DaniĆ©lou's brief yet powerful interview:
I think that there is now a very grave crisis of religious life, and that one should not speak of renewal, but rather of decadence. I think that this crisis is hitting the Atlantic area above all. Eastern Europe and the countries of Africa and Asia present in this regard a better state of spiritual health. This crisis is manifesting itself in all areas. The evangelical counsels are no longer considered as consecrations to God, but are seen in a sociological and psychological perspective. We are concerned about not presenting a bourgeois facade, but on the individual level poverty is not practiced. The group dynamic replaces religious obedience; with the pretext of reacting against formalism, all regularity of the life of prayer is abandoned and the first consequence of this state of confusion is the disappearance of vocations, because young people require a serious formation. And moreover there are the numerous and scandalous desertions of religious who renege on the pact that bound them to the Christian people.
Get the whole thing here.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Penance, Penance, Penance!

In what should come as no surprise, Obama has come out in favor of same-sex "marriage."

But not content to prostitute the prestige of his office, he added -- speaking as an alleged "practicing Christian":
[O]bviously this position may put us at odds with others, but when we think about our faith, the thing at root (is) not just Christ's sacrifice on our behalf, but the golden rule, treat others the way you want to be treated.
Are we to understand the current occupant of the White House to be saying that sodomy is a sacrament, equivalent to the Sacrifice of Calvary?

In all the years of our nation's life, who could have imagined that the American people would put a man at the head of our government capable of uttering a blasphemy of this magnitude?  Nor is this an anomaly in a country that for forty years has been steeped in abortion, contraception, promiscuity, concubinage and the celebration of homosexual acts.  How can this country expect to escape divine retribution?

We always have a duty to keep ourselves in the state of grace, but most of all during this time when the forces of hell are on the march.  Now more than ever we need to frequent the Sacraments of Confession and Communion.

Here is where you can order this:

Time for us to order a lot of them, distribute them, and repair with them to the nearest tabernacle.  Time for us to pray the Rosary every day.  Time for us to do penance.  Penance.  Penance.  We certainly shall not escape it.

Monday, May 07, 2012

France Recedes into the Darkness

Two decades after the precipitous collapse of the Soviet Union, France opts for socialism -- proving once again that democracy is only one safeguard of human liberty, and not always the best.  Proving also the capacity of French voters to completely ignore a century of catastrophes brought about by socialism in every country in which it has been tried; and, what is far worse, proving how far France has strayed from her Catholic heritage, since she embraces a system diametrically opposed to the Faith.

It is tempting to throw up one's hands and dismiss this as a case of France getting exactly what she deserves, since she brings this unmitigated disaster upon herself.  But socialism always seeks to export itself; the bitter chalice France has mixed for herself will overflow and spill across her borders.

And when Europe again ignites, will the United States have the wherewithal and the moral fiber to step forth to its rescue once again?