Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Passing Scene: 2013

Herewith the annual V for Victory! year-end highlights, with thanks as usual to Wikipedia for refreshing my recollection:


2: The "fiscal cliff" is allegedly averted with the signing into law of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.
4: The Church of England admits homosexuals in civil partnerships to its episcopacy, on condition that they live in continence.
5: Murder spree, Aurora, Colorado: a gunman murders three inside a home before dying as a SWAT team storms the house.
10: A 16-year-old student opens fire inside a classroom at a high school in Taft, California, critically wounding another student before surrendering to authorities.
15: Murder spree, Hazard, Kentucky: shooter kills two and wounds one at Hazard Community and Technical College before turning himself in to authorities.  The motive appears to have been domestic-related.  Also: horse meat begins to be discovered in beef products in European supermarkets.
18: Lance Armstrong admits to Oprah Winfrey that he doped.
20: Murder spree, Albuquerque, New Mexico: shooter, aged 15, murders two adults and three children at a home.
23: The U.S. military lifts its ban on women in combat.
24: North Korea announces a new nuclear test and states that long-range missiles are aimed at the United States.
27: 240 people perish and 168 are wounded in a fire at the Kiss night club in Santa Maria, Brazil.
29: An outbreak of at least 57 tornadoes within a 25-hour period begins to strike the American Southeast from Oklahoma to Georgia.  Also: A gunman kidnaps a five-year-old boy from a school bus in Midland City, Alabama, after murdering the driver, who dies defending the children on the bus; he holds the child hostage in a bunker for seven days before being shot by police, who then rescue the boy.
30: Murder spree, Phoenix, Arizona: a gunman murders two and wounds one during a mediation session, and later turns the gun on himself.

Deaths: Huell Howser (host, California's Gold); Patti Page; Pauline Phillips, aka Abigail van Buren ("Dear Abby"); Quentin Smith (Tuskeegee Airmen); Conrad Bain (father in Diff'rent Strokes); Ned Wertimer (Ralph the doorman in The Jeffersons); Stan "The Man" Musial; Patty Andrews (last of the Andrews Sisters).


1: Two die in a suicide bombing outside the U.S. embassy in Ankara, Turkey.  Also: Hillary Clinton steps down as Secretary of State and is replaced by John Kerry.
2: Former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle and another man are gunned down at a shooting range near Glen Rose, Texas.
4: A skeleton found by archaeologists in Leicester, England is publicly identified as the remains of King Richard III.
7: Beginning of the February 2013 nor'easter, a massive blizzard that affected Canada, the northeast United States, Iceland, Britain and Ireland, leaving 18 dead and hundreds of thousands stranded or without power.
11: Pope Benedict XVI announces his abdication, effective February 28th at 20:00 Rome time.
12: North Korea announces the successful test of a nuclear weapon.  Also: A three-county shooting rampage in southern California that left four dead ends when the shooter, ex-LAPD officer Christopher Dorner, commits suicide during a stand-off with police in the San Bernardino mountains.
14: Oscar Pistorius, South African amputee sprinter and Olympic contender, is charged with murder in the shooting death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.
15: A 66-foot, 11,000-ton asteroid enters the earth's atmosphere and explodes in the air near Chelyabinsk, Russia.  The shock wave damages 7,200 buildings in six cities and results in about 1,500 injuries.  On the same day, a near-earth asteroid approximately 160 feet across passes within 17,200 miles of the earth's surface.
19: North Korea threatens the final destruction of South Korea at a UN disarmament conference.  Also: murder spree, Orange County, California: a murder-carjacking spree leaves three dead and three more wounded before the shooter turns the gun on himself.
25: Keith Cardinal O'Brien, Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburg, steps down amid allegations of sexual misconduct with priests.  He will decline to take part in the upcoming papal conclave.
26: Murder spree, Santa Cruz, California: a suspect in a sexual assault case murders two plainclothes detectives, and is shortly thereafter killed in a shootout with police.  Also: Chuck Hagel is confirmed as Secretary of Defense.

Deaths: Ed Koch; Peter Gilmore (British actor); Paul Tanner (trombonist, last surviving member of Glenn Miller's orchestra); Rev. Mr. Bill Steltemeier (attorney, Catholic deacon and chairman and CEO of EWTN); Mindy McCready (country singer); C. Everett Koop; Van Cliburn; Dale Robertson; Richard Street (The Temptations).


3: A two-year-old Mississippi girl who was born with HIV is pronounced HIV negative following treatment.
7: North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear strike against its enemies.
11: North Korea cuts the telephone hotline between North and South.
12: The Cardinals of the Catholic Church meet in conclave in the Sistine Chapel to choose a successor to Benedict XVI.
13: Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio is elected Pope, and chooses the regnal name Francis.
25: In another pathetic attempt to prop up the failing Eurozone, the government of Cyprus and the EU reach a "bailout" agreement that involves the theft of funds from people's bank accounts.
28: New scientific experiments show that the Shroud of Turin is not a medieval fraud and can indeed be dated to the first century A.D.
29: North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un orders preparations for rocket strikes against the United States mainland.
30: North Korea declares itself to be at war with South Korea.
31: Kaufman County, Texas District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, are murdered at their home, two months after another district attorney from the same office was murdered on his way to work.

Deaths: Anthony Lewis; Harry Reems; Frank Thornton (Are You Being Served?, Last of the Summer Wine); Ieng Sary (co-founder of the evil Khmer Rouge); Malachi Throne (character actor); Hugo Chavez; Bonnie Franklin; Phil Ramone.


3: South Korea reports that North Korea is denying workers access to the jointly-run Kaesong Industrial Park.
9: North Korea threatens to launch a missile the following day.
11: Servant of God Fr. Emil Kapaun is posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his valor during the Korean War.
12: A tornado-laden storm strikes the midwestern and southern United States, causing three deaths.  Also: North Korea threatens Japan with annihilation.
15: A pair of brothers from Chechnya set off home-made bombs at the Boston Marathon, killing three and wounding 183, from motives of Islamic jihad.
18: The Boston Marathon bombers murder a policeman in his car at MIT.
19: The Boston Marathon bombers engage police in a firefight, in the course of which one bomber is run over by the other and killed; the other is found in a boat by a man who stepped outside for a smoke, and eventually captured.
21: Murder spree, Federal Way, Washington: shooter murders his live-in girlfriend, then murders three other people in the apartment complex before being shot by police.
24: Murder spree, Manchester, Illinois: shooter breaks into a house, murders a family of five, then dies in a shoot-out with police.  Also: The feds admit to having been previously warned about the Boston Marathon bombers by the Russian government.  Also: A garment factory building in Bangladesh collapses, resulting in 1,127 deaths.
29: Back-bencher Jason Collins of the Washington Wizards announces his homosexuality,  making him the first NBA player to do so, to the delight of the media and the White House.
30: Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands abdicates the throne in favor of her son, King Willem-Alexander.

Deaths: Margaret Thatcher; Milo O'Shea; Roger Ebert; Leslie Broderick (one of the last survivors of the Great Escape); Annette Funicello; Maria Tall Chief (first American Indian prima ballerina); Jonathan Winters; Frank Bank ("Lumpy" on Leave It to Beaver); Richard LeParmentier (telekinetically throttled by Darth Vader in Star Wars); Allan Arbus; George Jones.


2: Rhode Island legalizes same-sex "marriage."
5: A bomb explodes inside a Catholic church in Arusha, Tanzania, killing 1 and injuring 57.
6: Cleveland, Ohio: three women and one child are rescued from captivity in the home of Ariel Castro, who had held the women and sexually abused them for a decade, fathering the child on one of them.  Castro will later hang himself in prison.
7: Delaware legalizes same-sex "marriage."
8: Jodi Arias is convicted of the first-degree murder of her boyfriend in Arizona.
13: Pennsylvania abortionist Kermit Gosnell is convicted of various felonies, including three counts of murdering newborn infants.
14: The IRS admits to targeting Tea Party and other conservative organizations for special treatment.  Also: Brazil legalizes same-sex "marriage."
17: The brightest meteor impact yet observed takes place on the Moon.
20: The Church of Scotland votes to allow openly homosexual ministers.
22: Lee Rigby, a British army drummer, is hacked to death in the street in Woolwich, London, with knives and meat cleavers by two jihadists.
23: The Boy Scouts of America is opened up to openly homosexual members.
26: 150,000 people take to the streets of Paris, France to protest same-sex "marriage."
30: Nigeria bans same-sex "marriage."

Deaths: Dr. Joyce Brothers; Marshall Lytle (Bill Haley and the Comets); Fr. Andrew Greeley; Jean Stapleton.


2: Heavy rains lead to disastrous floods all over Europe.
3: The U.S. Supreme Court holds that DNA samples can be collected from criminal suspects without their consent.
4: Britain celebrates the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II's coronation.
6: Classified documents leaked by NSA contractor Edward Snowden are published, revealing massive U.S. government surveillance activities.  Snowden will flee the country to avoid arrest.
7: Murder spree, Santa Monica, California: shooter sets a house on fire and goes on a rampage at Santa Monica College, killing 4 before being killed.
13: Murder spree, St. Louis, Missouri: a home health-care business owner kills three and then himself.
14: Heavy rains begin in northern India that will result in flooding that will leave thousands presumed dead.
15: Murder spree, Omaha, Nebraska: gunman kills two and wounds two more before being shot by police.
17: The U.S. Supreme Court strikes down an Arizona law requiring voters to show proof of citizenship in federal elections.
18: Russia passes a law banning adoption of Russian children by foreign same-sex couples.
21: Edward Snowden is charged with espionage.
25: The U.S. Supreme Court strikes down that part of the Voting Rights Act that required certain jurisdictions to seek federal approval before making changes to voting practices.
26: The U.S. Supreme Court strikes down that part of the Defense of Marriage Act that codified non-recognition of same-sex "marriages" for federal purposes. Also: Proposition 8, which had banned same-sex "marriage" in California, is stricken down.
30: 19 firefighters perish in a wildfire in Yarnell, Arizona.

Deaths: Frank Lautenberg (U.S. Senator from New Jersey); Esther Williams; Jiroemon Kimura (verified oldest man in history, dying at age 116); Vince Flynn; James Gandolfini; Slim Whitman; Marc Rich.


3: The Egyptian military seizes control of the government from the Muslim Brotherhood.  Also: King Albert II of Belgium announces he will abdicate in favor of his son, Philippe.
5: The forthcoming canonizations of Bl. John XXIII and Bl. John Paul II are announced.
13: George Zimmerman is acquitted of the murder of Trayvon Martin.
17: Same-sex "marriage" becomes legal in England and Wales.
22: A son, now third in the line of succession to the throne of England, is born to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
26: Murder spree, Hialeah, Florida: gunman starts a fire, murders six people and takes two more hostage at his apartment complex before being shot by police.
30: Suspected U.S. spy Bradley Manning is acquitted of aiding the enemy but convicted of five counts each of espionage and theft.  He will be sentenced to 35 years.

Deaths: Paul Jenkins (character actor); Leonard Garment (figure in Watergate scandal); Mel Smith (the albino in The Princess Bride); Helen Thomas; Dennis Farina; Eileen Brennan; Michael Ansara.


8: Murder spree, Dallas, Texas: shooter kills four and wounds four more in two homes before being apprehended.
10: James Lee DiMaggio, who kidnapped a teenage girl and murdered her mother and brother in Boulevard, California, is found with the girl at a campground near Cascade, Idaho, and shot by the FBI.
17: Start of the Rim Fire, the third largest wildfire in California history, which will take more than two months to contain.
19: Track star Oscar Pistorius is charged with the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.
22: Aaron Hernandez, formerly of the New England Patriots, is indicted for murder in the gunshot death of Odin Lloyd.
23: Nidal Malik Hassan, the jihadist shooter in the 2009 Fort Hood massacre, is convicted of multiple counts of murder and attempted murder.  He will be sentenced to death.

Deaths: Gail Kobe (character actress and producer); Margaret Pellegrini (one of the last surviving Munchkins from The Wizard of Oz); Karen Black; Eydie Gormé; Jack Germond; David Frost.


8: My birthday.
12: The Anglican Church in Wales votes to allow female bishops.  Also: NASA announces that Voyager I has left the solar system and reached interstellar space.
16: Murder spree, Washington Naval Yard in D.C.: gunman murders 12 and wounds three more before being shot by police.
21: Jihadist gunmen attack the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, killing 61 civilians and six soldiers.

Deaths: Rochus Misch (last survivor of the Führerbunker); Cal Worthington; Ray Dolby (inventor of Dolby surround sound); Kim Hamilton (To Kill a Mockingbird).


1: Beginning of a partial shutdown of the federal government over the debt ceiling crisis that sends liberals into apoplectic fits.
3: A boat carrying Libyan migrants sinks off the Italian island of Lampedusa, killing 359.
16: The government shutdown ends in a deal that merely kicks the can that started the crisis down the road.
21: A student at Sparks Middle School in Sparks, Nevada murders a teacher and wounds two other students before killing himself.  Also: New Jersey legalizes same-sex "marriage."
26: Murder spree, Phoenix, Arizona: gunman murders four and shoots two dogs at their home before committing suicide.
27: Murder spree, Brooklyn, New York: killer stabs his cousin's wife and four children to death, and is later arrested.  Also: the St. Jude Storm strikes northwest Europe, killing 17.
29: Murder spree, Greenwood County, South Carolina: shooter kills five and then turns the gun on himself at a house along Callison Highway.

Deaths: Tom Clancy; Tom Foley (former Speaker of the House); Nigel Davenport (Norfolk in A Man for All Seasons); Marcia Wallace; Lou Reed; Graham Stark (character actor).


1: A gunman opens fire at LAX, killing a TSA employee and wounding several others.
3: Formation of Typhoon Haiyan, which will strike southeast Asia and especially the Philippines, causing more than 6,100 deaths and at least $1.5 billion in damage, and displacing millions of people.
12: Hawaii legalizes same-sex "marriage."
22: Crystal Mangum, false accuser in the 2006 Duke Lacrosse case, is convicted of second-degree murder for the 2011 stabbing death of her boyfriend.
24: For the first time, the relics of St. Peter are publicly displayed for veneration.
28: Comet ISON grazes the sun and (mostly) disintegrates.

Deaths: Paul Walker; Manfred Rommel (son of Erwin Rommel); Jane Kean (Trixie Norton on The Honeymooners); Paul Crouch (televangelist).


2: Pope Francis meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
6: The beginning of an extraordinary wave of cold weather, snow and ice storms that will strike the United States east of the Rockies.
10: Barack Obama humiliates the United States by taking a selfie of himself with the Prime Ministers of Britain and Denmark during Nelson Mandela's funeral.
11: Pope Francis is named Time magazine's Person of the Year.  Also: India's Supreme Court upholds the criminalization of homosexual activities.
13: Snow falls in Cairo, Egypt, for the first time in more than a century.
19: Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame is suspended by A & E for his frank comments about the sinfulness of homosexuality in an interview; the network will later do an about-face as a result of an immense viewer backlash.  Also: New Mexico legalizes same-sex "marriage."
20: The Canadian Supreme Court strikes down that country's anti-prostitution laws.
23: World War II codebreaker Alan Turing is given a posthumous royal pardon for the homosexual acts for which he was was convicted and chemically castrated in 1952.

Deaths: Ray Price; Joan Fontaine; Peter O'Toole; Tom Laughlin (Billy Jack); Eleanor Parker (character actress); Nelson Mandela.

May 2014 be a vast improvement over 2013.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Angelic Children and "Hedge-Priests"

Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson (1871-1914)
Some of the most worthwhile literature, both fiction and non-fiction, is that which leads us to other worthwhile literature.  I came upon something interesting today while re-reading Hillaire Belloc's absorbing Characters of the Reformation.  In his chapter on Elizabeth I of England, Belloc mentions a pamphlet by "Hugh Benson."  This did not mean much to me when I first read this chapter a few years ago; but now that I know who Robert Hugh Benson was, this reference caught my attention.  Robert Hugh Benson was an Anglican priest who entered the Catholic Church in 1903 and was ordained to the Catholic priesthood the following year.  He was also a celebrated author: his excellent novel, Lord of the World (1907) is a fictionalized account of the coming of Antichrist.

The Benson pamphlet in question, published in 1906, compares and contrasts the death of Mary Tudor with that of her sister, Elizabeth, half a century later.  It is shocking, at least to anyone brought up on the mythology of "Bloody Mary" and "Good Queen Bess," and sobering, and provides much food for meditation.

The Death-Beds of "Bloody Mary" and "Good Queen Bess"
By Robert Hugh Benson, M.A.

" 'BLOODY MARY,' a sour, bigoted heartless, superstitious woman, reigned five years, and failed in everything which she attempted. She burned in Smithfield hundreds of sincere godly persons; she went down to her grave, hated by her husband, despised by her servants, loathed by her people, and condemned by God. 'Good Queen Bess' followed her, a generous, stout-hearted strong-minded woman, characteristically English; and reigned forty-five years. Under her wise and beneficent rule her people prospered; she was tolerant in religion and severe only to traitors; she went down to her grave after a reign of unparalleled magnificence and success, a virgin queen, secure in the loyalty of her subjects, loved by her friends, in favour with God and man."

So we can imagine some modern Englishman summing up the reigns of these two half-sisters who ruled England successively in the sixteenth century -- an Englishman better acquainted with history-books than with history, and in love with ideas rather than facts.  It is interesting, therefore, to pursue our investigations a little further, and to learn in what spirit each of these two queens met her end, what was the account given by those about them, what were the small incidents, comments, and ideas that surrounded the moments which for each of them were the most significant of their lives. Death, after all, reveals what life cannot; for at death we take not only a review of our past, but a look into the future, and the temper of mind with which we regard eternity is of considerable importance as illustrating our view of the past. At death too, if at any time, we see ourselves as we are, and display our true characters. There is no use in keeping up a pose any longer. We drop the mask, and show our real faces.

We should expect, then, if we took the view of the ordinary Englishman, that Mary Tudor would die a prey to superstition and terror; the memory of her past and the prospect of her future would surely display her as overwhelmed with gloom and remorse, terrified at the thought of meeting God, a piteous spectacle of one who had ruled by fear and was now ruled by it. Elizabeth, on the other hand, dying full of honour and years, would present an edifying spectacle of a true Christian who could look back upon a brilliant and successful past, a reign of peace and clemency, of a life unspotted with superstition and unblameable in its religion; and, forward to the reward of her labours and the enjoyment of heaven. There will be no mummery or darkness round her bed, as round her sister's.

Let us turn then to history and see how far our expectations are justified by it.

Our first extract will be from Clifford's Life of Jane Dormer. This lady was one of Mary's greatest friends, a woman of extreme simplicity and beauty of character, who, after refusing many other offers, finally married the Duke de Feria, after her mistress' death. She was in Mary's service during all the years of her reign, and was actually with her when she died.

The Death-bed of "Bloody Mary."

"When it chanced that Jane was not well, as that she could not well attend upon the Queen, it is strange, the care and regard her Majesty had of her, more like a mother or sister, than her Queen and mistress. As in the last days of this blessed Queen, she being at Hampton Court and to remove to London, Jane having some indisposition, her Majesty would not suffer her to go in the barge by water, but sent her by land, in her own litter, and her physician to attend her. And, being come to London, the first that she risked for was Jane Dormer, who met her at the stairfoot and told her that she was reasonably well.

"The Queen answered, 'So am not I,' -- being about the end of August, 1558. So took her chamber and never came abroad again. . . .

"It pleased Almighty God that this sickness was her last, increasing daily, until it brought her to a better life. Her sickness was such as made the whole realm to mourn, yet passed by her with most Christian patience. She comforted those of them that grieved about her, she told them what good dreams she had, seeing many little children, like angels, play before her, singing pleasing notes, giving her more than earthly comfort, and thus persuaded all ever to have the holy fear of God before their eyes, which would free them from all evil, and be a curb to all temptations. She asked them to think that whatsoever came to them was by God's permission, and ever to have confidence that He would in mercy turn all to the best."

[Life of Jane Dormer; sometime Lady-in-Waiting to the Queen, afterwards Duchess of Feria; by Clifford, quoted by Miss Stone.]

Cardinal Pole, who was ill at the same time as the Queen, and who died a few hours after her, thus writes to Philip a few days before her death:

"During her malady, the Queen did not fail to take the greatest care of herself, following the advice of her physicians" (quoted by Miss Stone) and Monsignor Priuli, the Cardinal's friend and secretary, thus writes of the illness and death of them both: --

"During their illness they confessed themselves repeatedly, and communicated most devoutly, and, two days before their end, they each received Extreme Unction; after which it seemed as if they rallied, and were much comforted, according to the fruit of that holy medicine."

One of the things about which Mary was most anxious, was the future of England. It must be remembered that, at that time in English history, a sovereign had a great deal of influence in the appointment of a successor. Perhaps it is not possible to say that Mary could have prevented Elizabeth's succession, but, if she had been the spiteful and revengeful woman that her enemies suppose, she could at least have given Elizabeth a great deal of trouble, by bequeathing the crown to her husband or to some other Catholic claimant. But she was simple enough to trust Elizabeth's word, and to believe that when that lady promised solemnly to preserve the Catholic faith, she meant what she said. After all, Elizabeth had been regular in hearing two Masses a day for at least a year or two; she had protested her orthodoxy even with tears, again and again, and Mary preferred to trust her sister, and to bequeath the crown to her rather than to treat her as one in whom it was impossible to put any confidence. Here is Clifford's account of the matter: --

"Queen Mary in her last sickness sent Commissioners to examine her [Elizabeth] about religion, to whom she answered, 'Is it not possible that the Queen will be persuaded I am a Catholic, having so often protested it?' and thereupon did swear and vow that she was a Catholic. This is confirmed by the Duke of Feria's letter to the King, who in this sickness of the Queen visited the Lady Elizabeth. He certified him that she did profess the Catholic Religion, and believed the Real Presence, and was not like to make any alteration for the principal points of religion." [Life of Jane Dormer, quoted by Miss Stone.] Elizabeth, as we know now, kept her word just long enough to secure her succession; she was crowned with Catholic rites by a Catholic bishop, and then immediately set to work to break her promise. She began by striking at the very heart of the Religion she had sworn to preserve, by her action in forbidding the Elevation of the Host at Mass, and so proceeded to re-establish the "Reformation principles" which she had explicitly abjured. Here is the account which Mr. David Morris B.A. , an historian of strong Protestant views gives of her energy: --

"Thus the Reformation was again the law of England and the work of Pole and Mary faded away. 'The nuns and monks were scattered once more, the crucifixes came down from the roodlofts, the Maries and Johns from their niches, and in Smithfield Market, at the cross-ways and street-corners, blazed into bonfires, as in the old days of Cromwell.' . . . These changes were not carried out without much opposition. . . . All the bishops, excepting the Bishop of Llandaff, refused the oath of supremacy, and were consequently deprived of their sees."

It was in this manner that Elizabeth observed her promise made to her sister. However, this is by the way; we must return to our subject.

Of the final scene of Mary's life we have a tolerably detailed account, taken down from the relation of Jane Dormer herself, who was one of the few friends who remained with Mary to the end. Most of her other attendants had already made their way to Hatfield, to pay their court to the Princess who would presently be in power. This account is an interesting comment on the way in which Mary's religion was a support to her in the crisis, and forms an agreeable comparison with the same element in her sister's death nearly fifty years later. Of course Mary's devotion in no way proves the truth of her faith; it is only an evidence of her absolute and serene sincerity.

"That morning hearing Mass, which was celebrated in her chamber, she being at the last point (for no day passed in her life that she heard not Mass), and although sick to death, she heard it with good attention, zeal, and devotion, as she answered in every part with him who served the Priest, such yet was the quickness of her senses and memory. And when the priest came to that part to say, 'Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,' she answered plainly and distinctly to every one, 'Miserere nobis, Miserere nobis, Dona nobis pacem.'

"Afterwards, seeming to meditate something with herself, when the Priest took the Sacred Host to consume it, she adored it with her voice and countenance, presently closed her eyes and rendered her blessed soul to God. This the Duchess [Jane Dormer] hath related to me, the tears pouring from her eyes, that the last thing which the Queen saw in this world was her Saviour and Redeemer in the Sacramental Species, no doubt to behold Him presently after in His glorious Body in heaven. A blessed and glorious passage, 'Anima mea cum anima ejus.'" [From Life of Jane Dormer, quoted by Miss Stone.]

Mary thought it her duty also, in common with most Christian people, to make some provision for the disposal of her body and her goods after her death -- again offering a comparison with Elizabeth's action. She had already impoverished herself with efforts to restore to the service of God what her father had taken "to his own use"; and on her death-bed she made further dispositions in the same direction. In her will and codicil, every page of which she signed painfully with her own hand, she bequeaths her soul to the mercy of Almighty God, and to the "good prayers and help of the most pure and blessed Virgin St. Mary, and of all the Holy Company of heaven"; and her body to be buried at the discretion of her executors. She leaves large sums to the poor, to the Religious Houses which she had re-founded, to the poor scholars at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and to Hospitals, especially to one for disabled soldiers; she also leaves legacies to her ladies and her servants, as well as to her husband and executors. This will was entirely disregarded by Elizabeth, and lay, as Miss Stone remarks, in obscurity for over three hundred years.

So far, then, we are agreeably surprised. There is no terror of the future, or agonised remorse: there is repentance, of course, and confession of sin and shortcomings, but that is scarcely to Mary's reproach. There is tranquil confidence in religion and the mercy of God; she encourages her friends, makes her will, trusts her sister, and gives up her soul during what was to her, throughout her life, the most sacred and holy action of the day. Whether or not her religion was true is not our affair now; we are only concerned with the way in which it was her support during her last moments, and even if we are not satisfied as to its objective truth, we can at least be satisfied with its power to uphold one who believed in it with all her heart. In this sense, if in no other, we can say, with Jane Dormer, "A blessed and glorious passage! May my soul be with hers!"

We turn now to

The Death-bed of "Good Queen Bess";

and, if we happen to be of the religion of that lady, and an admirer of her character and achievements, we shall expect to find her last moments marked with the same kind of incidents and aspirations as those of her superstitious sister. If a false religion can give peace and serenity, a true religion can do no less; in fact we might reasonably expect it to do a good deal more, considering the conspicuous advantages that it gave to Elizabeth, at any rate from a worldly point of view. We should expect, also, that a religion which claimed to be an improvement upon Popery should at any rate be free from superstition -- at least in the case of such a professor as the common-sense Elizabeth. Whether that was so or not we shall hear from Elizabeth's companions.

We begin with an extract from the account given by Lady Southwell, one of the women in attendance on her a few weeks before her death: --

"Her Majesty being in very good health one day, Sir John Stanhope, Vice-Chamberlain, came and presented her Majesty with a piece of gold of the bigness of an angel, full of characters which he said an old woman in Wales had bequeathed to her on her death-bed and thereupon he discoursed how the said testatrix, by virtue of the piece of gold, lived to the age of 120 years, and in that age, having all her body withered and consumed, and wanting Nature to nourish her, she died, commanding the said piece of gold to be carefully sent to her Majesty, alleging, further, that as long as she wore it on her body she could not die.

"The Queen in confidence took the said gold and hung it about her neck . . .

" Though she became not suddenly sick, yet she daily decreased of her rest and feeding, and within fifteen days she fell downright ill, and the cause being wondered at by my Lady Scrope, with whom she was very private and confidant, being her near kinswoman, her Majesty told her (commanding her to conceal the same), 'that she saw one night her own body exceedingly lean and fearful in a light of fire.' This vision was at Whitehall, a little before she departed for Richmond, and was testified by another lady, who was one of the nearest about her person, of whom the Queen demanded 'Whether she was not wont to see sights in the night?' telling her of the bright flame she had seen. . . .

Afterwards, in the melancholy of her sickness she desired to see a true looking-glass, which in twenty years before she had not seen, but only such a one as on purpose was made to deceive her sight, which true looking-glass being brought her, she presently fell exclaiming at all those flatterers which had so much commended her, and they durst not after come into her presence. [LADY SOUTHWELL, quoted by Miss Strickland.]

While Mary sees heavenly children playing and singing about her bed, Elizabeth sees her own body exceedingly lean and fearful in a light of fire, and examines her looking-glass to see if she were really as beautiful as her courtiers declared. But to continue; Sir Robert Carey writes: --

"When I came to Court I found the Queen ill-disposed, and she kept her inner lodging; yet she, hearing of my arrival, sent for me. I found her in one of her withdrawing chambers, sitting low upon her cushions. She called me to her, I kissed her hand, and told her it was my chiefest happiness to see her in safety and in health, which I wished might long continue. She took me by the hand and wrung it hard and said, 'No, Robin, I am not well,' and then discoursed with me of her indisposition, and that her heart had been sad and heavy for ten or twelve days, and in her discourse she fetched not so few as forty or fifty great sighs. I used the best words I could to persuade her from this melancholy humour, but I found by her it was too deeply rooted in her heart, and hardly to be removed . . . From that day forwards she grew worse and worse. She remained upon her cushions four days and nights at the least. All about could not persuade her either to take any sustenance or go to bed." [SIR ROBERT CAREY.]

And again, the French Ambassador writes to his master: -- [March 19.]

"(The) Queen Elizabeth (hath) been very much indisposed for the last fourteen days, having scarcely slept at all during that period, and eaten much less than usual, being seized with such a restlessness that, though she had no decided fever, she felt a great heat in her stomach and a continual thirst, which obliged her every moment to take something to abate it. Some ascribed her disorder to her uneasiness with regard to Lady Arabella Stuart; others to her having been obliged by her Council to grant a pardon to her Irish rebel, Tyrone. Many were of opinion that her distress of mind was caused by the death of Essex; but all agreed that before her illness became serious, she discovered an unusual melancholy, both in her countenance and manner.

[March 22.]

"The Queen of England had been somewhat better the day before, but was that day worse, and so full of chagrin and so weary of life that, notwithstanding all the entreaties of her councillors and physicians for her to take the proper medicine and means necessary for her relief, she refused everything." [DE BEAUMONT, quoted by Miss S.]

"Bloody Mary," then, lies in bed, hearing Mass each morning, receiving the sacraments with devotion and serenity, looking back indeed on a short life that had apparently failed, but to an eternal future which seemed full of hope. "Good Queen Bess," in the midst of honours and success, after a long and magnificent reign, does not sleep; she lies on cushions; it is suggested by her friends that her melancholy may arise from having been compelled to pardon her enemy; and there is no word as yet, of religion. It can scarcely, surely, be the past which she regrets! Has she not prospered in all to which she has put her hand? Can it be death, judgement, and eternity of which she is afraid? And, if so, is it possible that the religion for which she has sacrificed her plighted word, has no comfort for her now?

Her visions, too! Her own body, "exceedingly lean and fearful in a light of fire," -- is that a mere superstition with nothing to justify it, or is it something worse?

Her own kinsman adds another terrible detail or two; let us hear them in Miss Strickland's words:--

"The [Lord] Admiral [Howard] came and knelt beside her where she sat among her cushions sullen and unresigned; he kissed her hands, and with tears implored her to take a little nourishment. After much ado he prevailed so far, that she received a little broth from his hands, he feeding her with a spoon. But when he urged her to go to bed, she angrily refused, and then in wild and wandering words hinted of phantasma that had troubled her midnight couch.

" 'If he were in the habit of seeing such things in his bed,' she said, as she did when in hers, he would not persuade her to go there' . . .

"When Cecil and his colleagues were gone, the Queen, shaking her head piteously, said to her brave kinsman --

" 'My lord, I am tied with a chain of iron about my neck.' The Lord Admiral reminded her of her wonted courage, but she replied, desponding:

" 'I am tied, I am tied; and the case is altered with me.' "

She was carried to bed soon, but again left it. The French Ambassador continues: --

"The Queen continued to grow worse, and appeared in a manner insensible, not speaking above once in two or three hours, and at last remained silent for four and twenty, holding her finger almost continually in her mouth, with her rayless eyes open and fixed on the round, where she sat on cushions, without rising or resting herself, and was greatly emaciated by her long watching and . . . . This morning the Queen's Music (i.e. the choir) has gone to her. I believe she means to die as gaily as she has lived. . . ."


"The Queen hastens to her end, and is given up by all her physicians. They have put her to bed almost by force, after she had sat on cushions for ten days, and has rested barely an hour each day in her clothes."


About this time Lady Southwell adds a significant story: --

"The two ladies-in-waiting discovered the queen of hearts with a nail of iron knocked through the forehead, and thus fastened to the bottom of her Majesty's chair; they durst not pull it out, remembering that the like thing was used to the old Countess of Sussex, and afterwards proved a witchcraft, for which certain persons were hanged."

[LADY SOUTHWELL, quoted by Miss S.]

Let Miss Strickland continue: --

"Lady Guildford then in waiting on the Queen, and leaving her in an almost breathless sleep in her privy chamber, went out to take a little air, and met her Majesty, as she thought, three or four chambers off. Alarmed at the thought of being discovered in the act of leaving the royal patient alone, she hurried forward in some trepidation in order to excuse herself, when the apparition vanished away. Lady Guildford returned, terrified, to the chamber; but there lay Queen Elizabeth, still in the same lethargic motionless slumber in which she had left her."

It is really rather appalling -- this atmosphere of superstitious fear that lay round the Queen. Whether Lady Guildford was mistaken, or whether that uneasy spirit in some manner manifested itself in the gloom of the gallery, it is impossible to know. But at least we know the mood in which the Court found itself -- this Court which dared not run from this dreadful old woman as its predecessor had run from her sister, to pay homage to the rising sun.

As regards her attitude to her own Church ministers we have the following significant facts. "When she was near her end," writes Miss Strickland, "the Council sent to her the Archbishop of Canterbury and other prelates, at the sight of whom she was much offended, cholericly rating them, 'bidding them be packing,' saying 'she was no atheist, but she knew full well they were but hedge-priests.' "

Did she think then, one wonders, of men who were not "hedge-priests" of her making, but of a Church which claims to rule, not to be ruled by princes: a Church, too, to which she had promised allegiance and with whose rites she had been crowned -- men who under her orders had suffered a death, compared with which the "fires of Smithfield" were mercy itself, for no other crime than that of ministering to the souls of men the Word and Sacraments that were still all but universal in Christendom? Mary had, indeed, burned men for heresy, according to the laws of the realm; it had been left for tolerant Elizabeth, the champion of Private Judgement, to strip and disembowel living priests and laymen for the crime of allowing their Private Judgement to differ from her own. One cannot help wondering whether she now remembered Campion, Briant, Sherwin, and the rest -- and the rack, and the rope, and the butcher's knife, and cauldron; whether the thought crossed her mind that perhaps such men as these might have had a message to her soul that others could not have.

However, it was too late, and as death became imminent, even "hedge-priests" were better than none at all. At least they might soothe her for a few minutes, even if they could do no more.

"About six at night," writes Sir Robert Carey, "she made signs for the Archbishop and her chaplains to come to her. . . . Her Majesty lay upon her back, with one hand in the bed, and the other without. The Bishop kneeled by her and examined her first of her faith, and she so punctually observed all his several questions, by lifting up her eyes and holding up her hand, as it was a comfort to all beholders. Then the good man told her plainly what she was, and what she was to come to; and though she had been long a great Queen here upon earth, yet shortly she was to yield an account of her stewardship to the King of kings. After this he began to pray, and all that were by did answer him. . . . The Queen made a sign with her hand. My sister Scrope, knowing the meaning, told the Bishop the Queen desired he would pray still. He did so for a long half-hour after, and then thought to leave her. The second time she made sign to have him continue in prayer. He did so for half an hour more, with earnest cries to God for her soul's health, which he uttered with that fervency of spirit as the Queen to all our sight much rejoiced thereat, and gave testimony to us all of her Christian and comfortable end."

For even such dumb signs as these, interpreted by Carey's charity, I suppose all sincere Christians must be thankful, but they are all the reassurance we can get.

There is no word of repentance or of her desire for God's pardon; there is no suggestion apparently from her or from any other that it would be at least seemly for a dying woman to receive what she would have called "the most comfortable sacrament of Christ's body and blood." No; the "hedge-priests" prayed long and loud by the bed; the Queen made occasional signs for them to continue; and the bystanders rejoiced at such a "Christian and comfortable end." That, then, was what the "Reformed Religion," the "glorious light" of which Henry VIII of matrimonial memory was the dawn and Virgin Elizabeth the full-orbed day -- this was all that it could do for her: and, at three o'clock in the morning, "Good Queen Bess" died and appeared before God.

As regards her care for the future and the disposition of her property, we read in Nichols's Progresses that "she made no will, neither gave anything away; so that they which come after find a well-furnished jewel-house, and a rich wardrobe of more than 2,000 gowns, with all things else answerable," -- which must have been a great satisfaction to all concerned.

But all this proves nothing?

Oh, no! it proves nothing!

May, 1906.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Holy Innocents

Salvete flores martyrum, – Hail Martyr Flowers
quos lucis ipso in limine – On the very threshold of the dawn (of life)
Christi insecutor sustulit – Christ’s persecutor destroyed (you)
ceu turbo nascentes rosas. – like the whirlwind does the budding roses.

Vos prima Christi victima, – You, Christ’s first fruits
grex immolatorum tener, – A flock of tender sacrificial victims
aram sub ipsam simplices – right up by the very altar
palma et coronis luditis. – now play with your palms and crowns.

Iesu, tibi sit gloria, – Jesus to you be glory
qui natus es de Virgine, – who were born of the Virgin
cum Patre et almo Spiritu, – with the Father and loving Spirit
in sempiterna saecula. Amen. – unto to eternal ages. Amen.

Translation by Msgr. Charles Pope

Herod the Great ordered the massacre of the Innocents in order to eliminate the Christ Child, Who he feared would deprive him of his kingdom.  Herod was a great murderer in general, particularly of his own children: the Emperor Augustus is said to have remarked that he would rather be Herod's pig than his son.   Not long after the birth of Christ, according to the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, Herod died a disgusting, excruciating death in Jericho -- a city that, in Scripture, symbolizes the world that is opposed to the kingdom of heaven.

Herod -- who was killing people right until the end, and even tried to have the murders continue after his death -- was punished in this life by colon pains, convulsions, terrible itching all over his body, fever, and the putrefaction and infestation by worms of his private parts.  What kind of punishments can we expect, who have outstripped Herod's homicidal assaults on babies in both numbers and brutality, even going so far as to enshrine the murder of the unborn in our laws as a constitutionally guaranteed "right"?  When have we ever hated children more than in this present day?

Holy Innocents, pray for us.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


This silver star in the Grotto of the Nativity in Bethlehem marks
what is believed to be the exact spot where Christ was born.
From the Great Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide on the Gospel of St. Luke:

There is a question as to what place was the first to receive Christ at His birth.  Barradius thinks it was the ground, that Christ might teach us humility.  Others think that Christ was received into the arms of His Mother, with exceeding joy -- for this would seem to be becoming for such a mother and such a son, and would be natural, and is gathered from what Luke immediately adds, "and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes."  Taking Him in her hands she adored Him, kneeling, and then kissed Him most sweetly, and wrapped Him in the clothes and bands.  Suarez thinks that Christ, as soon as He was born, was laid by angels in the arms of His most holy and loving Mother; S. Gregory of Nyssa implies the same.  This would be the place most becoming to Him, and most consonant to the wishes both of Son and Mother; and from thence she placed Him in the manger.

From St. Alphonsus Liguori, The Incarnation, Birth and Infancy of Jesus Christ:

But why did Mary, who had so earnestly desired the birth of this Son -- why did she, who loved Him so much, allow Him to lie and suffer on this hard bed, instead of keeping Him in her arms?  This is a mystery, says St. Thomas of Villanova: "Nor would she have laid Him in such a place, unless there had been some great mystery in it."  This great mystery has been explained by many in different ways, but the most pleasing explanation to me is that of St. Peter Damian: Jesus wished as soon as He was born to be placed on the straw, in order to teach us the mortification of our senses: "He laid down the law of martyrdom."  The world had been lost by sensual pleasures; through them had Adam and multitudes of his descendants till then been lost.  The Eternal Word came from heaven to teach us the love of suffering; and He began as a child to teach it to us by choosing for Himself the most acute sufferings that an infant can endure.  It was, therefore, He Himself Who inspired His Mother to cease from holding Him in her tender arms, and to replace Him on the hard bed, that He might feel the more cold of the cave and the pricking of this rough straw.

From St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, III, Q. 35, Art. 7:

...Christ willed to be born in Bethlehem for two reasons.  First, because "He was made...of the seed of David according to the flesh," as it is written (Romans 1:3); to whom also was a special promise made concerning Christ; according to 2 Kings 23:1: "The man to whom it was appointed concerning the Christ of the God of Jacob...said."  Therefore He willed to be born at Bethlehem, where David was born, in order that by the very birthplace the promise made to David might be shown to be fulfilled.  The Evangelist points this out by saying: "Because He was of the house and of the family of David."  Secondly, because, as Gregory says (Hom. viii in Evang.): "Bethlehem is interpreted 'the house of bread.'  It is Christ Himself Who said, 'I am the living Bread which came down from heaven.'"

...According to a sermon in the Council of Ephesus...: "If He had chosen the great city of Rome, the change in the world would be ascribed to the influence of her citizens.  If He had been the son of the Emperor, His benefits would have been attributed to the latter's power.  But that we might acknowledge the work of God in the transformation of the whole earth, He chose a poor mother and a birthplace poorer still."

The Collect for Midnight Mass in the Traditional Latin Mass:

Deus, qui hanc sacratissimam noctem veri luminis fecisti illustratione clarescere : da, quæsu-mus, ut cujus lucis mysteria in terra cognovimus, ejus quoque gaudiis in cælo perfruamur.

O God, Who hast made this most sacred night to shine with the brightness of the true light : grant, we beseech Thee, that we who have known the mystery of His light upon earth, may enjoy also His happiness in heaven.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Winter Solstice

Once again, we arrive at the shortest day of the year.  As the year progresses, the sun appears not only to move from east to west, but also to trace a path farther north or south in the sky.  This northerly or southerly travel continues until the solstice, when the sun appears to stand still and begin to reverse course.  Today is the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, which, for us, means the shortest day and the longest night of the year.  After this, the hours of daylight will increase, and the darkness will decrease.

Which may have something to do with the fact that Christmas falls right about this time.  According to the Julian calendar, in use at the time of Christ, the winter solstice was regarded as occurring on -- December 25th.  To the extent they acknowledge the existence of Christ at all, the modernists and skeptics, who hold that we created God and not the other way around, like to cast doubt on the historical validity of December 25th as the day of His birth.  But it was God Who created us, and gave us our taste for symbolism, and He satisfies it without the need for us to make up for any lack of ingenuity on His part.  Setting aside the difficulties of perfectly transposing the Gregorian and Julian calendars, the simplest and therefore probably true explanation for why we celebrate Christmas on December 25th is because Jesus Christ really was born on December 25th.

As I hope I may never tire of pointing out, the changes of season are freighted with spiritual significance, and not because we give them that significance ourselves in order to satisfy some primitive instinct for religion.  They are significant because God, Who is a God of Order and Harmony, interwove nature and salvation history.  The winter solstice coincides with Christmas, when the Light of the World enters the world and the days begin to lengthen.  The summer solstice, when the days begin to shorten, coincides with the Nativity of John the Baptist, who said that he must decrease while the Savior increased.  The vernal equinox coincides with the Feast of the Annunciation,  the beginning of the Incarnation and the end of the winter of Satan's reign.  It also coincides with Good Friday, when the Cross became the Key that opened the gates of heaven, barred by sin.  Then comes the spoliation of hell, and Easter, which marks its decisive defeat, and takes place on the first Sunday on or after the first full moon on or after the equinox (say that one five times fast).  There are no huge feasts that coincide with the autumnal equinox; my own theory on that (and it's only my opinion) is that, since it coincides with the time for harvest, it stands for the harvest of souls at the End of Time.

Next to all this, neo-pagan change-of-season festivals are pretty lightweight.  This Christmas, may we all seat ourselves at the rich banquet of Christianity, and pass up the New Age baloney sandwich.