Thursday, December 31, 2020

Events Aplenty: 2020

There is a word we use in legal briefing to denote a case or statute or other document that is cited so often throughout the brief that it would be too cumbersome to list in the table of authorities all the pages on which it appears: passim.  This word aptly describes the many disastrous events that repeated themselves so often throughout this tumultuous year that it would take up an inordinate amount of space to list every occurrence below.  For example:

Draconian responses to the coronavirus...........passim
Assaults on President Trump............................passim
Assaults on representative government............passim
Violent assaults on individual persons.............passim
Media whipping up panic.................................passim
Economic consequences of the coronavirus....passim
Authorities showing themselves tyrants..........passim
Church leaders colluding with tyrants.............passim
Constitutional rights trampled.........................passim
Crass stupidity prevailing................................passim

As always, I have used Wikipedia to refresh my recollection, and focused on those items which were of particular note to me.  So, if this Year in Review smacks of parochialism...oh well.


2: U.S. forces kill a high-ranking Iranian general in an air strike, in retaliation for attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
7: CNN settles with Nicholas Sandmann, one of the Covington Catholic school kids dragged through the mud over being confronted by Nathan Phillips in front of the Lincoln Memorial in January of 2019, who sued it and other news organizations for defamation.
8: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, “step back” as senior members of the Royal Family.
16: Beginning of the bogus impeachment trial of President Trump.
22: The Oakland Raiders officially relocate to Las Vegas.
26: A helicopter crash kills Kobe Bryant, his teenaged daughter Gianna, and seven other people.
27: 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
31: Three and a half years after the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, Brexit is finally accomplished.

Deaths: Mary Higgins Clark; Fred Silverman; Marj Dusay; Kobe Bryant; Jim Lehrer; John Karlen; Terry Jones (Monty Python); Christopher Tolkien; Sir Roger Scruton; Stan Kirsch (Highlander).


2: An Islamic terrorist attacked two people on Streatham High Road in London with a machete before being shot dead by police.
3: Rush Limbaugh announces that he has stage 4 lung cancer.
4: President Trump awards Rush Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the State of the Union address.  A butt-hurt Nancy Pelosi tears up her copy of the address.
5: President Trump is acquitted of the two bogus articles of impeachment against him.
12: Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation on the Amazon Synod fails to deliver the goods to modernist clerics pushing for married priests and women deacons.
18: President Trump pardons former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich.
20: Beginning of a major stock market crash, from which the coronavirus panic served to divert attention.
24: Sexual predator and all-around creep Harvey Weinstein is convicted of rape in New York.
26: The city of San Francisco declares a public emergency over coronavirus, before ever there has been a reported case there.  Also: murder spree, Milwaukee, Wisconsin: a fired employee opens fire at the Molson Coors brewery in Milwaukee, killing 5 before turning the gun on himself.
29: The first coronavirus death in the United States.

Deaths: Bill Britten (Bozo the Clown); Kirk Douglas; Orson Bean; Robert Conrad; Joseph Shabalala (Ladysmith Black Mambazo); Kellye Nakahara; Ja'Net DuBois; Hosni Mubarak.


1: During the month of March, jurisdictions all over the country begin shutdowns and stay-at-home orders and endless states of emergency.
2: An outbreak of 13 tornadoes in Tennessee kills 25 people.  Also: MSNBC host Chris Matthews is abruptly removed for complimenting women on their appearance and comparing Crazy Bernie Sanders' campaign to the Nazi invasion of France.
5: After a fourteen-year restoration, Egypt re-opens the stepped Pyramid of Djoser.
8: The Italian Bishops' Conference suspends all public Masses due to the coronavirus. Before long, all the world’s bishops will follow suit.
13: President Trump declares a state of emergency over the coronavirus.  Also: Shooting death of Breonna Taylor during police execution of a warrant.
18: A magnitude 5.7 earthquake hits Salt Lake City, Utah.
23: Colorado abolishes capital punishment.
27: Pope Francis gives a special Urbi et Orbi blessing in an empty St. Peter’s Square.  Also: discovery of Comet NEOWISE, which was visible to the naked eye through the month of July.
31: Public announcement of the Bishop of Boise’s directives to priests cracking down on traditional observances at parishes.  Also: A magnitude 6.5 earthquake strikes near Challis, Idaho, and is felt all over Idaho and into neighboring states.

Deaths: James Otis; Barbara Martin (the Supremes); Max von Sydow; Johnny Yune; Lyle Waggoner; Kenny Rogers; Curly Neal (Harlem Globetrotters); Tomie de Paola; Bill Withers.


7: The High Court of Australia vacates George Cardinal Pell’s child sex abuse convictions.
8: Joe Biden becomes the presumptive Democrat nominee when Bernie Sanders suspends his presidential campaign.
11: Eruption of Anak Krakatoa in Indonesia, a remnant of the island of Krakatoa that was destroyed in an explosive eruption in 1883.
20: President Trump announces an executive order suspending immigration into the United States.
21: Due to the rona, the city council of Pamplona cancels the July festival of San Fermin, which includes the running of the bulls.
23: Facebook removes “pseudoscience” and “conspiracy theory” as options for targeted ads on its platform, allegedly in a bid to prevent misinformation about the rona.

Deaths: Ira Einhorn; Honor Blackman; Linda Tripp; Danny Goldman; Kenny Young; Brian Dennehy.


7: The Department of Justice drops its prosecution of Gen. Michael Flynn for allegedly lying to the FBI; the presiding judge tries to keep the case alive notwithstanding the government’s unwillingness to press the charges. 
15: Amid the coronapanic shutdowns, J.C. Penney files for bankruptcy.  Also: The state of Nevada is hit with a magnitude 6.5 earthquake, the largest since 1954.
17: NASCAR becomes the first major sports enterprise in the U.S. to resume events since the coronapanic began.
21: The University of California system begins phasing out the use of SAT and ACT scores in making admissions determinations.
25: Death of George Floyd while being restrained by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Beginning of nationwide rioting.
28: Cancellation of the Boston Marathon due to the rona.
29: President Trump takes the United States out of the World Health Organization.

Deaths: Little Richard; Jerry Stiller; Rolf Hochhuth (author of The Deputy, the play that calumniated Pope Pius XII); Fred Willard; Ken Osmond (Eddie Haskell on Leave It to Beaver); Richard Herd.


3: Murder by rioters of David Dorn, retired police chief, while he was protecting a pawn shop from looting.
4: The idiot governor of Virginia orders the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee in Richmond.
7: The Minneapolis city council passes a resolution to abolish the city police department.
15: The U.S. Supreme Court interprets the 1964 Civil Rights Act as including sexual orientation and gender identity.
23: NASCAR determines the infamous Bubba Wallace “noose” is just a garage door pull that had been in place for many months.
28: The Mississippi legislature votes to remove the Confederate battle flag from its state flag.

Deaths: William Sessions; Tariq Aziz; Dame Vera Lynn; Sir Ian Holm (Bilbo in The Lord of the Rings); Joel Schumacher; Julian Curry (Claude Erskine-Browne in Rumpole of the Bailey); Johnny Mandel; Carl Reiner.


2: Arrest of Ghislaine Maxwell, girlfriend of the slimy Jeffrey Epstein, on charges relating to aiding and abetting his sexual predations.
4: Black Lives Matters thugs tear down a statue of Christopher Columbus in Baltimore, Maryland and cast it into the harbor.  Two days later, private citizens hired a dive team to rescue the statue.
8: The U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of the Little Sisters of the Poor in their battle against the Obamacare contraception mandate.
10: Turkey turns Hagia Sophia, which started out as a church was later turned into a mosque, and was until this date a museum, back into a mosque.
11: The historic Mission San Gabriel near Los Angeles is damaged by fire.
13: The Washington Redskins announce they are going to drop the name “Redskins,” without having first come up with a substitute.  Ridicule abounds.
18: A fire, apparently arson, destroys the 400-year-old organ in the cathedral in Nantes, France.
21: In a world where allegedly free societies are pressuring their citizens into wearing face muzzles, the German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg bans Islamic face coverings for all school children in the state, on the grounds that the practice is incompatible with a free society.
22: The U.S. House of Representatives votes to purge Confederate statues, as well as a bust of Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney, from the Capitol.
31: The First Circuit Court of Appeals vacates the death sentence of Boston Marathon bomber Dzokhar Tsarnaev and remands for a new sentencing.  Also: Beginning of the Apple Fire in California.

Deaths: Hugh Downs; Charlie Daniels; Mary Kay Letourneau; Kelly Preston; Mike Adams; Regis Philbin; Olivia de Havilland.


6: The city of Los Angeles announces that power and water will be shut off to properties hosting large parties.
9: North Carolina is hit by the biggest earthquake since 1916 near the town of Sparta.
11: Kamala Harris is chosen to be the Democrat party’s vice-presidential candidate.
13: Announcement of the normalization between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, in exchange for Israel suspending West Bank annexation plans.
21: Lori Laughlin and her husband are sentenced to five months’ imprisonment for their role in the scandal of elites employing fraud and corruption to get their kids into choice colleges.  Also: Serial killer Joseph De Angelo, the Golden State Killer, receives multiple consecutive fixed life sentences for 13 counts of first-degree murder.
23: Shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, touching off riots in that city.
25: 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhaus shoots three rioters, killing two, in Kenosha.  Video footage shows the rioters attacking him before he opened fire.

Deaths: Wilford Brimley; Brent Scowcroft; Trini Lopez; Jack Sherman (Red Hot Chili Peppers); Tom Seaver.


4: A report emerges that a young priest in the Archdiocese of Detroit discovered, via videotaped evidence, that he was not in fact a priest due to his never having been baptized.  The deacon who "baptized" him 30 years earlier messed with the form of the Sacrament, rendering it invalid.  The priest was validly baptized and had all the subsequent Sacraments, including Holy Orders, properly administered.
13: Two L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies, one a mother of a six-year-old, are shot while sitting in their patrol car in Compton. 
16: A second priest in the United States, in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, discovers that he is also not really a priest due to his having been invalidly baptized.  He too properly receives all the Sacraments.
18: Death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.
27: Publication of the New York Times’ claim that Donald Trump only paid $750.00 in taxes in 2016 and 2017.

Deaths: Kevin Dobson; Diana Rigg; Ed Bearss; Helen Reddy.


2: President Trump announces that he and the First Lady are positive for coronavirus. 
8: 13 men are charged in an alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
9: Vermont legalizes recreational marijuana.  Also: the second presidential debate is cancelled after President Trump refuses to engage in a “virtual” debate.
12: The Michigan Supreme Court puts the kibosh on coronavirus measures by Governor Whitmer.
13: Scientists determine that mountains on the planet Pluto that are apparently covered with snow are actually covered with methane frost directly condensed from the atmosphere.
19: A magnitude 7.5 earthquake strikes the Alaska Penninsula.
21: Pope Francis apparently comes out in favor of civil unions for same-sex couples.
25: Pope Francis announces the forthcoming elevation of the extremely liberal +Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C. to the college of cardinals.
26: Confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court.
29: Islamic terrorist attack at Notre Dame de Nice in Nice, France, in which three people are murdered.

Deaths: Margaret Nolan; Johnny Nash; Eddie Van Halen; Rhonda Fleming; Jerry Jeff Walker (“Mr. Bojangles”); Sean Connery.


3: The Election, in which news outlets, including Fox News, drop any pretense at fairness, balance, objectivity and letting their audiences decide what the truth is based on the facts. 
7: In an attempt to make news rather than report on it, the news networks call the election for Biden/Harris, despite Trump campaign challenges and widespread evidence of voter fraud in key states.
9: The Trump campaign files electoral fraud lawsuits in key battlegrounds states.
12: Israel begins the process of legalizing weed.
14: Huge crowds turn out in D.C. to protest the attempted theft of the election from Donald Trump.
18: Three Republicans in the Michigan House of Representatives introduce a resolution calling for the impeachment of Governor Whitmer over her pandemic measures.
25: The U.S. Supreme Court puts a check on Governor Cuomo's restrictions on religious observances in New York State.  Also:  President Trump pardons Gen. Michael Flynn.

Deaths: David Prowse (the guy in the actual Darth Vader costume); Abby Dalton; David Dinkins; Alex Trebek; Norm Crosby; Geoffrey Palmer; Elsa Raven (the "Save the clock tower!" lady in Back to the Future).


4: The U.S. House of Representatives, sensing the need to keep the restless plebes in bread and circuses, votes to legalize weed.
11: The Supreme Court rejects Texas v. Pennsylvania.  Also: Boko Haram kidnaps hundreds of boys from a boys’ secondary school in Kankara, Nigeria.
13: The Cleveland Indians announce they will be changing their name.
14: The Electoral College elects Biden.  Republican electors also show up to vote for Donald Trump, to preserve potential legal challenges.
15: Hungary bars same-sex couples from adopting children.
16: Spain decriminalized euthanasia.
18: Switzerland legalizes gay “marriage” and the changing of sex on official documents.
21: Kilauea volcano in Hawaii erupts.  Also: The Great “Christmas Star” Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn.
25: Three people are injured in an RV explosion in downtown Nashville, Tennessee, which authorities believe was deliberate.  Strangely, the RV blared out a warning to evacuate for a period of time before it exploded.
29: Convicted spy Jonathan Pollard moves to Israel.
30: Argentina, the home country of Pope Francis, legalizes abortion to the frenzied acclaim of crowds of feminists.

Deaths: Walter Williams; Valery Giscard d’Estaing; Rafer Johnson; Chuck Yeager; Paul Sarbanes; David Lander (Squiggy); John Le Carre; Charley Pride; Ann Reinking; Barbara Windsor; Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett); Chad Stewart (Chad and Jeremy); Fr. Reginald Foster (renowned Latinist); Pierre Cardin; Dawn Wells.

I hope and pray 2021 turns out to be a better year.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Merry Christmas!


I think of this as my Charlie Brown nativity scene.  It was only $12 on Amazon, because it was damaged.  When it arrived, the donkey’s ears were broken off (I could only find one); the ox’s horns were broken off (I couldn’t find them at all); the angel’s right wing was smashed into a thousand pieces (one day I may take a crack at trying to reassemble them); and St. Joseph and one of the Three Kings (in hiding until Epiphany) needed to have their heads glued back on.  Nevertheless, I am very glad to have this nativity scene, and thankful to have a place to display it.

This year, our Owners and Masters throughout the world, and even in the Church, have made war on Christmas, abusing the coercive police powers of the state in order to put the kibosh on any hint of celebration or cheer, allegedly to protect us from a virus, but really because they are godless and heartless.  In some places these edicts are ignored; in others, they are ruthlessly enforced.  

There are some things we need to keep in mind.  Firstly, if we have Mass and the Sacraments available, we need to partake of them today, because this is a holy day of obligation.  Even if it weren’t, we should still partake, because they are our necessary sustenance.  Secondly, no matter how badly this year has gone for us, and continues to go for us, we should still celebrate as best we can.  If we really believe that Christ is born, and that the Word Made Flesh has come to dwell among us, then we should be happy and rejoice!  Misery is for Calvinism, and we Catholics are not a bunch of Calvinists.  Not long ago, we discussed in this space the fact that the holidays and all the good things that attend them are a reminder and a foretaste of heaven, for which we are made.  We also reminded ourselves that the devil’s deputies on earth have tried to take the holidays away from us because they hate the joys in which they do not share because they do not love; they hate the hope of heaven, of which they despair because they think there is no heaven; they hate the people who possess these things; and ultimately, they hate God.  

But no matter how bad things get, we have to remember that There is nothing to prevent us from praying (especially the Rosary), and nothing to keep us from making the best of our circumstances for the sake of God and His holy days.  Even if our Elders and Betters were to succeed in stamping out every vestige of celebration of Easter and Christmas, they cannot stamp out the truths they celebrate.  They cannot eliminate heaven, they cannot undo the Incarnation, and they cannot cancel God.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

The Titan versus the Christ Child

The other day I found myself standing next to and contemplating a little statue of the Infant of Prague.  Have you ever noticed the orb with the cross that He holds in His hand?  It represents the whole world, of which He is King and Lord.  Earthly monarchs also have orbs surmounted by crosses as part of their royal regalia.  There is one in the British crown jewels.  It is a reminder to them of Who is really in charge.    

Photo by Petr Šleich

In classical mythology, there is another figure with an orb: Atlas, the titan who, having been defeated in war by the Olympians, was condemned to hold up the heavens.

So on the one hand, we have gigantic, muscular Atlas, straining every sinew to hold up just the heavens, crushed under the weight of his load.  On the other hand, we have the tiny, apparently weak Christ Child, effortlessly carrying all of creation in the palm of His little hand.  And not only is He not close to being crushed beneath the weight of it; He still has a free hand with which to extend His blessing.

There is a lot to meditate on in the contrast between these two images, from the macro to the micro.  It is the difference between man-made religions and the true Catholic faith, between false gods and the one True God.  It is the difference between mankind straining and striving to do his own will, and God’s will effortlessly moving everything from galactic superclusters to subatomic particles and beyond.  It is the difference between me trying to manage just one of my own affairs, and God’s providence easily and sweetly disposing of every aspect of my life, down to the smallest detail, if I would only allow it.

One doesn’t like to leap to conclusions, but there is probably some sort of lesson in this.     

Thursday, December 17, 2020

The United Oligarchy of America

2020 has been an eye-opening year.  We are seeing, in Technicolor, realities about the true current situation with both Church and State that we have ignored for many years.  We can no longer ignore them.

The chaos surrounding this year’s presidential election shines a spotlight on just where we are as a nation.  I think we are seeing on full display what has always been the case: political power does not in fact reside with the people, but with a powerful, moneyed minority of parasitic elites.  Maybe we should have figured this out years ago, from the fact that we keep getting hit with things that are bad for society, contrary to the common good, and not wanted by most people with common sense:

- Abortion.  We as a nation didn’t vote for abortion; it was imposed upon us by the Supreme Court.  Has anybody ever stopped to consider why, after almost 50 years, we have failed to get rid of it?  Why has the party that purports to be pro-life never mustered the political will to do away with it once and for all, even when it has been in power?
- Pornography as free speech.  Why doesn’t this kind of sex trafficking bother liberals?
- Gay marriage.  Even California voted against this (Proposition 8), yet overnight it became the law of the land in all 50 states.
- Women in combat.  Who wanted this?  How did this happen?  What has this done to our combat readiness?
- Dudes in the ladies’ room.  Did the screeching harridans of the ‘70s, like Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan, figure they were fighting for the right of men to invade ladies’ rooms?  Why do we not hear from them on this?
- Dudes invading women’s and girls’ sports.  Did the same screeching harridans figure males have a right to cheat at sports by taking advantage of their biological edge and pitting themselves against weaker opponents?
- The legal establishment of multiple genders.  Why aren’t feminists upset about “transgender” men making a mockery of women?
- Mask mandates and economic shutdowns, with dire threats for non-compliance from government officials who, in theory, are supposed to be our servants.  Clearly it is we who are the servants — nay, slaves.  Servants are at least treated with respect.

What all this should tell us is that what we have is only the illusion of political power, because we can VOTE.  But any time we vote wrong, we get punished.  What does our vote really mean in a world where, every time the Supreme Court is in session, we sit on the edge of our chairs, biting our nails, wondering what new 16-ton weight the Court is going to drop on us?  What does our vote really mean when the oligarchs who own us can effectively set aside the political process any time, in their estimation, we do the wrong thing?  

The United States is radically off-track, in the most literal sense of the word “radical.”  Although our Declaration of Independence contains vague allusions to an almost impersonal “Creator,” it cannot be denied that from our beginning as a nation we rejected explicitly the Kingship of Jesus Christ and tried to govern ourselves according to our own lights.  Thus we have made ourselves easy prey for the godless parasites who govern us with an iron rod.  These parasites now have the means and the technology to reach more deeply into our private affairs than they have ever been able to before, as well as armies of rioters to scourge anyone who falls out of line.  As Charles Coulombe puts it, we have managed to create for ourselves a mixed government that features tyranny, oligarchy and mob rule.

Perhaps the single biggest service President Trump has rendered this country is to flush out our Elders and Betters, forcing them to scurry out into the light and show themselves for the cockroaches they really are, and to expose the Potemkin village we have been living in.  It is a painful process for us who have invested so much faith in our political institutions, but a necessary one if we are ever to find our way back to the light.

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

December 9th: St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin

In 1474, Cuauhtlatoatzin ("Talking Eagle") was born a member of the Chichimeca people and a subject of the Aztecs in what is now part of Mexico City, during an epoch that was destined very soon to end. When he was 18, Christopher Columbus landed in the New World. By the time he was 47, Spain had conquered the materially advanced yet barbaric and blood-soaked Aztec Empire. However, within a decade, the Indians were laboring under crushing oppression at the hands of corrupt Spanish officials.  The first Bishop of Mexico, the Franciscan Juan de Zumárraga, struggled vainly to defend his new spiritual charges, who were close to rebellion. The harried bishop begged the Blessed Mother for her aid. 

It was in this turbulent time, less than five years after the conquest of the Aztecs, that the Talking Eagle encountered the religion of the Spaniards. Even as a pagan, he appears to have led a life of penance and contemplation that no doubt laid the groundwork for what was to come to him in later life. The Talking Eagle became one of the earliest indigenous converts to the Catholic faith, accepting Baptism together with his wife and taking the name of Juan Diego in about 1524. Every Saturday and Sunday, a barefoot Juan Diego walked 14 miles to Tenochtitlan to attend Mass and receive religious instruction. After the death of his wife in 1529, Juan Diego moved in with an uncle, Juan Bernardino, which left him with only nine miles to travel to pursue his faith. 

It was during one of these journeys in 1531 that the veil between heaven and earth was drawn aside for the humble farmer and mat-weaver. The 16th-century native scholar Antonio Valeriano describes what happened on that day in the Nahuatl-language Nican Mopohua (1556), the oldest and most authoritative account of the Guadalupe apparitions:
On a Saturday just before dawn, he was on his way to pursue divine worship and to engage in his own errands. As he reached the base of the hill known as Tepeyac, came the break of day, and he heard singing atop the hill, resembling singing of varied beautiful birds. Occasionally the voices of the songsters would cease, and it appeared as if the mount responded. The song, very mellow and delightful, excelled that of the coyoltototl and the tzinizcan and of other pretty singing birds. Juan Diego stopped to look and said to himself: “By fortune, am I worthy of what I hear? Maybe I dream? Am I awakening? Where am I? Perhaps I am now in the terrestrial paradise which our elders had told us about? Perhaps I am now in heaven?” He was looking toward the east, on top of the mound, from whence came the precious celestial chant; and then it suddenly ceased and there was silence. He then heard a voice from above the mount saying to him: “Juanito, Juan Dieguito.” Then he ventured and went to where he was called. He was not frightened in the least; on the contrary, overjoyed. Then he climbed the hill, to see from were he was being called. When he reached the summit, he saw a Lady, who was standing there and told him to come hither. Approaching her presence, he marveled greatly at her superhuman grandeur; her garments were shining like the sun; the cliff where she rested her feet, pierced with glitter, resembling an anklet of precious stones, and the earth sparkled like the rainbow. The mesquites, nopales, and other different weeds, which grow there, appeared like emeralds, their foliage like turquoise, and their branches and thorns glistened like gold. He bowed before her and heard her word, tender and courteous, like someone who charms and esteems you highly. She said: “Juanito, the most humble of my sons, where are you going?” He replied: “My Lady and Child, I have to reach your church in Mexico, Tlatilolco, to pursue things divine, taught and given to us by our priests, delegates of Our Lord.” She then spoke to him: “Know and understand well, you the most humble of my sons, that I am the ever virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the True God for whom we live, of the Creator of all things, Lord of heaven and the earth. I wish that a temple be erected here quickly, so I may therein exhibit and give all my love, compassion, help, and protection, because I am your merciful mother, to you, and to all the inhabitants on this land and all the rest who love me, invoke and confide in me; listen there to their lamentations, and remedy all their miseries, afflictions and sorrows. And to accomplish what my clemency pretends, go to the palace of the bishop of Mexico, and you will say to him that I manifest my great desire, that here on this plain a temple be built to me; you will accurately relate all you have seen and admired, and what you have heard. Be assured that I will be most grateful and will reward you, because I will make you happy and worthy of recompense for the effort and fatigue in what you will obtain of what I have entrusted. Behold, you have heard my mandate, my humble son; go and put forth all your effort.” At this point he bowed before her and said: “My Lady, I am going to comply with your mandate; now I must part from you, I, your humble servant.” Then he descended to go to comply with the errand, and went by the avenue which runs directly into Mexico City.
Juan Diego complied with our Lady's request.  But to his great disappointment, Bishop Zumárraga, who had kept him waiting a very long time before granting him an audience, would not believe him. Dejected, he went back to the Lady on Tepeyac Hill and told her how he had been rebuffed. "For which I exceedingly beg, Lady and my Child," he said,
that you entrust the delivery of your message to someone of importance, well known, respected, and esteemed, so that they may believe in him; because I am a nobody, I am a small rope, a tiny ladder, the tail end, a leaf, and you, my Child, the least of my children, my Lady, you send me to a place where I never visit nor repose. Please excuse the great unpleasantness and let not fretfulness befall, my Lady and my All.
However, the Lady insisted that this important mission was for Juan Diego alone, and bade him go back and try again. He obeyed, and this time the bishop questioned him closely regarding what he had seen and heard, and told him to ask the Lady for a sign. When he returned to Tepeyac Hill after this second interview, the Lady told him to come back the next day, and then he would receive the sign that would convince the bishop to comply with her request. 

Meanwhile, however, Juan Diego's uncle, Bernardino, became so ill that his life was despaired of.  Bernardino sent his nephew to fetch a priest. Knowing that the Lady would be waiting for him on Tepeyac Hill, Juan Diego avoided the place so that he would not be diverted from his urgent errand. But the Lady was not foiled.  She accosted him and asked him where he was going. When he told her, she said:
Hear me and understand well, my son the least, that nothing should frighten or grieve you. Let not your heart be disturbed. Do not fear that sickness, nor any other sickness or anguish. Am I not here, who am your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your health? Are you not happily within my embrace? What else do you wish? Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything. Do not be afflicted by the illness of your uncle, who will not die now of it. Be assured that he is now cured.
She then told Juan Diego to climb to the top of the hill, where he found a variety of choice Castillian roses growing out of season and on a barren patch of land. He gathered them and brought them back to the Lady, who arranged them herself in his frail cactus-fiber tilma and told him to present them to the bishop. 

Juan Diego again did ask he was asked.  When, after yet another long wait, he finally saw the bishop, he unfolded the tilma, and the roses fell out; and as the roses scattered on the floor, the image of Our Lady as Juan Diego had seen her on Tepeyac Hill appeared on the tilma. This put an end to Bishop Zumárraga's doubts and convinced him that this was Our Lady's answer to his prayers. In obedience to the Blessed Mother's request, a shrine was built at the foot of Tepeyac Hill, and the miraculous tilma was housed in the chapel.  Juan Diego gave everything he owned to his uncle -- who had indeed been cured and had also seen the Lady at the very moment she told his nephew about his cure -- and moved into a small dwelling at the shrine, devoting himself to prayer, virtue, and the care of the shrine and the pilgrims who came to visit it. He received the then-extraordinary privilege of receiving Holy Communion three times a week, and died in the odor of sanctity on May 30, 1548 at the age of 74. 

At the very moment when entire nations were defecting from the Church in the rebellion touched off by the apostate priest Martin Luther and his minions, the Blessed Mother visited the Americas.  By means of the miraculous image and the humility and obedience of her servant, Juan Diego, she won millions more souls for the afflicted Church, and averted the bloody rebellion that had loomed on the horizon in Mexico.  

 A footnote.  Fulton J. Sheen was a great devotee of the Blessed Mother, and remarked that he prayed for the following intentions regarding his death: (1) that he "drop dead" at the age of 80; (2) that he die on a Saturday in honor of Our Lady, or (3) that he die on one of her feast days. In fact, he died in 1979 at the age of 84; on a Sunday; and not on a feast of Our Lady. He was disappointed on every count. 

Or was he? The date of Fulton Sheen's death -- December 9th -- was the anniversary of the first apparition on Tepeyac Hill, and is now the feast of St. Juan Diego, whom Pope John Paul II canonized at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in 2002.

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Mary, Conceived Without Sin, You DID Know

Raise your hand if you have ever heard the song "Mary, Did You Know?" within the precincts of a Catholic church.  I can't see you, but I know you're out there.  My hand is also up.  Somehow, because this song mentions the Mother of God, it has become a Christmas tradition in some parishes.  But although the non-Catholic gentleman who wrote "Mary, Did You Know?" clearly means well, this song is both musically inappropriate for Mass and subversive of the Catholic faith.

From a musical standpoint, "Mary, Did You Know?" is basically a pop song, and although the Mass has been saturated with such for a couple of generations now, the fact remains that it is not sacred music suited for use at Mass.  But even more objectionable, from the Catholic point of view, is the lyrical content.  

"Mary, Did You Know?" is based on some abysmally erroneous assumptions.  To begin with, it is supposed that Mary does not know that her holy Infant is the Son of God.  Some saints -- for instance, St. Alphonsus Liguori, bishop and Doctor of the Church -- are of the opinion that even before the Annunciation, Mary had a profound understanding of prophecies and Scriptures concerning the promised Messiah.  But even without such an understanding, it would have taken a high degree of inattention on Mary's part to the message of Gabriel and the inspired greeting of her cousin Elizabeth for her to labor under ignorance of her Son's divinity.  It is further supposed that Mary does not know that her Son will suffer for the redemption of mankind.  This would have required her to utterly gloss over the prophecies of holy Simeon concerning her Son as God's salvation, a sign of contradiction, and concerning the sword of sorrow that would pierce her own soul.  The idea of the Mother of God not being in possession of the most critical facts about her divine Son, particularly in view of explicit revelations received by her, is absurd on its face.

But there is an even more blatant error in the lyrics of "Mary, Did You Know?" that ought to induce in every Catholic a sharp intake of breath.  It is a defined dogma of the Catholic faith that the Mother of God was conceived without original sin.  On December 8, 1854, in the Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus, Pope Pius IX defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception:
We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful. 
Contrast this with the following lyrics from "Mary, Did You Know?":
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered, will soon deliver you.
Whereas Catholics accept as revealed truth that Mary was free from sin from the instant of her conception by virtue of the anticipated merits of Jesus' suffering and death on the Cross, the foregoing is based on the assumption that Mary was under the sway of sin at the time she gave birth to the Christ Child, and that she would remain so until His Sacrifice of redemption.  In short, it is a flat denial of the Immaculate Conception.  As such -- and for this reason alone -- it should never be sung in a Catholic church, or find any place in any Catholic liturgy, and Catholics should not embrace it.

Perhaps a fitting way to honor today's feast of the Immaculate Conception -- in addition to fulfilling our obligation to attend Mass -- would be to defend the dogma which this feast celebrates by doing what we can to see that "Mary, Did You Know?" remains unheard in our parishes during this and every Christmas season.

Potuit, Decuit, ergo Fecit: Why the Immaculate Conception Must Be True

I will shew thee all good, and I will proclaim in the name of the Lord before thee: and I will have mercy on whom I will, and I will be merciful to whom it shall please me.  
Exodus 33:19

A self-professed ex-Catholic turned non-denominational once commented on this blog:
Mary had to have sinned. She called Jesus "my Savior" and what is Jesus the Savior for? Sinners. She had sinned. And there is no biblical evidence for her having no sin.

Those of you with a kick against the Immaculate Conception always want to set limitations on God.  You generally have no problem acknowledging in theory that God is infinitely good, infinitely holy, infinitely perfect, infinitely merciful and infinitely powerful; but in practice, what you really want is a sort of bite-sized God, One that we can wrap our woefully inadequate brains around and Who does not confound our puny capabilities.  So when God actually goes and does something that only an infinitely good, holy, perfect, merciful and powerful Being could do, you protest.  The fact, however, is that God can do whatever He wants; and whatever is fitting, we may be sure that He will do.

God can do the impossible more rapidly and easily than we can blink our eyes or draw a breath.  It was perfectly within His power to preserve Mary free from the taint of sin from the instant of her conception.  This singular privilege of His grace was purchased for her by the limitless merits of Christ's suffering and death on the Cross.  God, not bound by the constraints of time or space, was perfectly capable of applying these merits beforehand and granting this privilege in advance of the Crucifixion.  Thus God really was Mary's Savior, and did not need her to sin in order to be her Savior: His intervention to prevent her from receiving the taint of sin that she would otherwise have contracted as a descendant of Adam was also a salvific act.  Have you never been prevented from committing sins, by being deprived of means or opportunity, or because you have never experienced the temptation to commit particular sins?  These are also interventions of God's grace.  So you should know from experience that God saves us, not only by forgiving sins we have actually committed, but also by preventing us from committing sins we would otherwise have committed, perhaps to our eternal ruin.   Why, then, should it be so hard to accept that God, out of the abyss of His goodness and mercy, could exercise His infinite power to prevent the Mother of His Son from being tainted by the least stain of iniquity from the very instant she began to exist?

It is altogether fitting that God should preserve Mary inviolate and immaculate from the first instant of her life.  God always gives us the grace we need to do the work He gives us: the greater the work, the greater the grace given to carry it out.  Was ever a more important mission given to a mere human being than that entrusted to Mary?  It was her task to supply the matter out of which the all-holy Son of God would take flesh, to bear Him in her womb, to nurse Him and to rear Him to manhood, and to share in her soul in the agonies of His Passion.  This touches on a point raised by my correspondent in a follow-up comment:
Jesus was the perfect sacrifice for dying for our sins because He was without blemish. If Mary had no blemish either, that would pretty much validate her for crucifixion too. Which would make Jesus less important.
Here my correspondent, though off the rails in the implications for the importance of Jesus, hits on an important truth.  Mary did in fact suffer with her divine Son, more than any other human being could have.  The saints (e.g., St. Alphonsus Liguori) are of the opinion that her sufferings were greater than that of all other men who have ever lived or will ever live put together, and that only a miracle kept her from dying of grief.  This is why Catholics honor her under the titles of Mother of Sorrows and Queen of Martyrs: only her Son's sufferings exceeded hers.  When she presented her Son in the Temple, holy Simeon prophesied that a sword would pierce her soul, that out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed (Luke 2:35).  It makes sense that she should bear so great a share in her Son's Passion: not only was she his loving mother; she was also fully aware that He was God, and therefore of the horrible outrage that He should be murdered by His own creatures.  Moreover, would it have been possible for her to suffer entirely for his sake and not at all for her own if she herself had had a share in the sins that caused Him to be nailed to the Cross?  Still, this share of hers in Christ's suffering does not in any way diminish Him.  Jesus was the perfect Sacrifice not only because He was without blemish, but because He was God.  Mankind had outraged the infinite God, and therefore it would take infinite merits to repair the outrage; these could only be offered by the Son of God. 

If you do not accept the Immaculate Conception, then I am bound to ask you why you would want the Mother of God to have been a sinner.  Is this not tantamount to wanting an unworthy vessel for the Incarnate God?   Does it make sense for the woman entrusted with bearing and caring for and suffering alongside the Son of God to have spent even a single instant under the dominion of hell?  No: especially when you consider that the Woman of Genesis 3:15, between whom and the serpent God put enmity is none other than the Mother of God, and her Seed is none other than Jesus Christ:
I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.
Here is scriptural proof of the Immaculate Conception.  If God creates perfect and implacable enmity between the Woman and the serpent -- and surely it is unthinkable that if God creates enmity between the Mother of God and evil, this enmity will be imperfect and half-hearted -- then it follows that she could never be under the serpent's sway, or in allegiance with him, as she must be if she had sinned.  Thus it was fitting for God to preserve her without sin from the very beginning.

Since it was perfectly possible for God to preserve Mary free from sin from the moment of her conception, and it was fitting that He should do so, it follows that He in fact did do so.  It would be a gross omission on God's part, and incompatible with His infinite perfection, if He should leave undone that which was fitting.  Therefore, we may safely take it that He did not leave it undone.  

Potuit, decuit, ergo fecit! He could; it was fitting; therefore, He did it!

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Christmas Cheer

Did I start to decorate for Christmas before Thanksgiving?  Why yes, I believe I did.  I have not put up a Christmas tree yet, but there are lights and garland and nativity scene in the living room, plus lights, garland and silk pointsettias in the study.  The craptaculous year; the darkness falling at quarter past five p.m.; our Elders and Betters, those purveyors of atheistic puritanism, trying to ration our (but not their own) holiday cheer with eyedroppers: the confluence of all these calls for laying it on early, and laying it on thick.  As you can see, Scarlett the Cat, Mistress of All She Surveys, thoroughly approves.

Nor will Advent get short shrift.  There are not one, but two Advent wreaths; and the outside lamps will shine purple (pink for the week beginning with Gaudete Sunday).  As Advent is a penitential season, I will deign to forego a chocolate or whiskey Advent calendar, though there might be a hot buttered rum on a cold Sunday evening.

Despite the disasters and anxieties that this year has brought, I for one have a lot to be thankful for.  In discouraging times, praise, thanksgiving and cheer are still the best medicines.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Holidays: A Foretaste of Heaven

In his book about Bl. Charles of Austria, Charles Coulombe has a passage describing in detail the Holy Thursday ritual of the washing of feet by the Emperor.  Twelve poor old men would be chosen and transported by carriage to the Hofburg in Vienna.  A four-course meal was laid out before them, then taken away.  The Emperor himself would then wash the feet of each man, and hang a bag containing thirty silver coins around the man’s neck.  Afterward, the men would be transported home by carriage, with royal attendants bearing the four-course meals which were given to them as a gift, dishes and all.  The Empress would perform a similar ritual with twelve poor old women.  

Coulombe, to whose podcasts I have become addicted, often urges his listeners to celebrate holidays and holy days and observe them as well as possible, with as much cheer as possible, no matter what else is going on in the world.  I was thinking about this and the above-described observance this morning in connection with the mania this year of our Elders and Betters to deprive us of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas after having shut down the public celebration of Holy Week and Easter.  I thought wryly to myself: what a better place this world is for our having gotten rid of the Emperor’s foot-washing ceremony!  How New and Improved we are!

Then a couple of realizations hit me.  

First, the realization that holidays and all the good things that attend them are valuable not so much for their own sakes, but as a reminder and a foretaste of heaven, for which we are made.  Every good thing, every rightly-ordered pleasure, every bit of innocent fun, everything warm and cozy and beautiful, is a foreshadowing of our long home.  This includes the pleasures of our senses: delicious foods well-prepared and lovingly garnished; good drink (including spirits); the warmth of a fire; lovely decorations; good music; the enjoyment of good company.  In these United States, founded on Puritan ethics, even Catholics have picked up by osmosis the classic abhorrence of the physical world and its enjoyment: some traditionalist Catholics devote a lot of time to preaching the evils of certain holidays like Halloween.  But God made us to interact with the world, and even with Him, via our senses, and so even though these can be abused, like all things, they cannot be evil in themselves.  The joys of the holidays are meant to encourage us in the midst of a fallen world, with the hope of joys that will never end, and that will be ours if we remain faithful.

The second realization was that the world may be able to make heaven less visible to us, but it cannot do away with the reality of heaven.  Taking away the hope of heaven is precisely what the devil and his human minions have set out to do in this campaign to deprive us of holidays and holy days.  They hate the joys in which they do not share because they do not love; they hate the hope of heaven, of which they despair because they think there is no heaven.  They hate the people who possess these things, and seek to force upon them the inordinate fear of death and the horror of eternity that seizes them because they are slaves to vice.  Most of all, they hate God.  But even if they were to succeed in stamping out every vestige of celebration of Easter and Christmas, they cannot stamp out the truths they celebrate.  They cannot eliminate heaven.

So, no matter what we see on the news (which we should probably stop watching for the sake of our sanity), and no matter what fresh abuses our Masters heap upon us, we should not allow ourselves to be overcome by gloom and doom and give up on the holidays.  We should indeed celebrate them as joyfully as we can, as acts of hope in the God Who has promised us deliverance from our tribulations, and who will cause all our sorrows to be swallowed up in the happiness with Him that will never end.

The Corruption of Professions

I woke up the other morning in the wee hours thinking about all the stories I have read and heard about medical professionals isolating patients from the Sacraments, even going so far as to prevent priests from visiting the dying, ostensibly because of the coronavirus.  These stories include a first-hand account from a friend who had to baptize a dying relative himself when the staff of the “Catholic” hospital refused to allow a priest up to the room.  Fortunately, he accomplished the baptism before being himself chased out of the room.

First-hand, second-hand, fifth-hand or twentieth-hand, I am inclined to believe these stories. Two and a half years ago, long before the current moral panic, my lapsed Catholic father lay in the hospital in a coma from which he would never emerge.  I had to fight with the staff of this allegedly Catholic hospital about getting a priest in to give him Extreme Unction.  Their excuses for fighting me on this were, number one, I did not count as next of kin, and therefore could be brushed off; and number two, the nurse in charge of his care actually could see no reason why I would want to have a priest see my father when he had lapsed from the faith.  

Here was a nurse in a Catholic hospital, dealing with patients in the grips of life-threatening maladies, who had to be educated on the reality of eternal damnation and the need to take it seriously.  The nurse passed me off to the chaplaincy office, where, amazingly, I had to have a similar argument with the staff there.  Ultimately, a priest was found who, seeing a basis to give my father the benefit of the doubt, came in and gave him the Sacrament.

The lack of supernatural faith in the medical profession, including its members who staff “Catholic” hospitals, is clearly a problem that predates the present coronapanic, and in fact has prepared the way for this situation where the sick and the dying are openly and unashamedly being denied the ministrations of a priest.  Why has this happened?  

Maybe the cause lies in our quest as a society to do whatever we want without suffering any consequences, a quest to which it was necessary to recruit the medical profession.  To be able to divorce sex from procreation, we needed people with the expertise to provide us with contraceptives, sterilization procedures, and abortion.  Since old people and the disabled also interfere with our freedom to do whatever we want, we also needed the medical profession to provide us with the means of dealing with those problems.  And my own profession, by the way, is not off the hook in all this.  Contraceptives, abortion and euthanasia all used to be illegal, so lawyers were needed to clear away those roadblocks to what we are pleased to think of as “freedom.”  Thus we enshrined revolution into law.

But, as history demonstrates, revolutionaries are short-sighted, and fail to notice that, by overthrowing the social order, they are only preparing their own doom.  It’s unfortunate that so many of us no longer know history.  Many of the prime movers in the revolutions in France and Russia and Germany, for example, ended up suffering the same fates to which they had consigned those who opposed them.  And what of the religious revolutionaries?  One thinks of the accounts of the death of Martin Luther, who, at the end of his life, was surrounded by people who saw to it that he died reaffirming his errors.  Or the eyewitness accounts of the last days of Queen Elizabeth I, who, having driven all the Catholic priests into hiding or exile, realized she had no one left to give her absolution, and was plagued by visions of herself in hell.

The inevitable result of decades of indoctrination in the culture of death, and decades of court cases overturning laws that once held the culture of death at bay, is that doctors and nurses in this brave new world are expected to serve the cause of extinction.  Not all have bought into this ideology, but many of them have.  How many?  We are finding that out right now.  And how can we expect medical professionals who have bought into the culture of death to have any concern for eternal life, either for themselves or for their patients?  That is another thing we are finding out right now: they can’t, and don’t.  How terrible is the judgment that we bring upon ourselves, when, having revolted against the social order, we find ourselves, near to death, in the hands of those who have bought into our revolution.  

Now, more than ever, we need to pray for protection against sudden and unprovided death.

Friday, November 13, 2020

A Timely and Outstanding Read: Blessed Charles of Austria

Charles Coulombe is a Catholic author, historian, monarchist and podcaster whose wit, humor and joy are threads of gold in the otherwise almost uniformly dark gray tapestry of current events.  I recently discovered him in a Taylor Marshall interview about his latest book, Blessed Charles of Austria: A Holy Emperor and His Legacy.  Intrigued, I forthwith (a) started following his podcasts, and (b) ordered the book and read it.

Like most books, this one is not without its flaws.  However, in this case, these are minor issues.  Overall, Mr. Coulombe does a very good job of laying out the history and traditions that ultimately brought forth Bl. Charles, of setting his life within the context of that history, and within the context of his Catholic faith.  In our utilitarian age, when many dismiss as mere pointless and unnecessary pageantry the rituals and liturgies of kingship, Mr. Coulombe demonstrates how meaningful and necessary they in fact are, how they formed Bl. Charles, and how seriously Bl. Charles took them as his pledge of faithfulness as Emperor. 

Most of all, this book has touched my beady-black heart.  St. Therese of Lisieux, recounting the dream that made real to her the Communion of Saints, said that those in heaven love us and look after us as their own children, even when we never pray to them, even when we do not know who they are. I feel that through this book, Bl. Charles has reached out to me, introducing himself to me and offering to help me as I work out my salvation in fear and trembling. Probably he has been helping me all my life without my knowing it.

As I read the account of Bl. Charles’ prayers for divine aid in ruling, his sacrifices for his subjects, his strivings on their behalf, and his attempts to regain his throne, not because he was hungry for power but in fulfillment of his kingly oaths, I pondered the question why God seemed to allow his prayers and his efforts to be so often thwarted. Perhaps the answer is that the failures were God’s judgment, not on Bl. Charles, whom He ultimately rescued from this vale of tears, but on his ungrateful and undeserving subjects, and on a world that had given itself over to godlessness.  What a terrible thing to have God leave us to our own devices. Through the intercession of Bl. Charles, may He soon rescue us from the troubles we have created for ourselves.

Saturday, November 07, 2020

The Deep Relevance of the Traditional Mass

For decades, we have been subjected to endless drivel about the need to make the Catholic faith, and the Mass, "relevant" to the needs of modern man.  What's stupid about this is that, first of all, truth is always relevant, and attempts to spice it up and repackage it only manage to obscure its substance.  Secondly, if we pay attention, we find that both the faith and its expression in the Mass -- particularly the traditional Mass -- are relevant even to the details of our peculiar circumstances at any given time.

I think it's a good practice to prepare for Mass by reading the propers beforehand.  Sunday after Sunday, I am struck by how the propers for that day seem to be speaking directly to current events and circumstances.  Sunday after Sunday, (a) we get something we need to hear in our particular situation, and (b) the Church is praying for the very things we need to be praying for in our particular circumstances.  

Tomorrow is the 23d Sunday after Pentecost.  The Introit is something we need to hear in the midst of the active coup that is going on in our country right now.  It contains both consolations and marching orders:

The Lord saith: I think thoughts of peace, and not of affliction: you shall call upon Me, and I will hear you; and I will bring back your captivity from all places.

If we call on Him with a repentant heart, He will hear us, and, when the time is right, even deliver us from the troubles we have brought upon ourselves.  Remember His promise in Psalm 106:

Such as sat in darkness and in the shadow of death: bound in want and in iron.  Because they had exasperated the words of God: and provoked the counsel of the Most High: and their heart was humbled with labors: they were weakened, and there was none to help them.  Then they cried to the Lord in their affliction: and He delivered them out of their distresses.  And He brought them out of darkness, and the shadow of death; and broke their bonds in sunder....He took them out of the way of their iniquity: for they were brought low for their injustices.

In tomorrow's Collect, the Church prays:

O Lord, we beseech Thee, absolve Thy people from their offenses, that through Thy bountiful goodness, we may be freed from the bonds of those sins, which by frailty we have committed.

And in the Postcommunion, she prays:

O God almighty, we beseech Thee, do not leave to succumb to human dangers those who from Thee have been the happiness of being partakers of the divine nature.

The propers of the Mass are not decided upon on an ad hoc basis: every 23d Sunday after Pentecost, year after year, they are the same.  Yet they always have particular meaning for us year after year, and in them, the Church prays for precisely what we need at that given moment.

Many of the prayers of the traditional Mass do not survive intact in the new Mass.  Thank God that, when revolution struck the Church, there were churchmen who took care, even at great personal cost, to insure that the traditional Mass survived, so that, at least in some churches, prayers were being raised for those particular things we most need in our times.

Thursday, November 05, 2020

Nothing Else Has Gone Smoothly This Year, Why Should the Election Be Any Different?

Observations concerning the election, which is entirely consistent with the whole ethos of 2020:

- The ludicrously long, absurdly drawn-out presidential election of 2000 — can it really be that we already have a generation of adults too young to remember this? — was just a dress rehearsal for what’s going on right now.  What’s going on right now is an authentic coup, and it’s going to make 2000 look like a cake walk.

- In 2016, Hillary Clinton ran a very limp campaign, with few appearances, because she and everyone around her thought she had it in the bag.  It was a huge shock to the Democrats when she lost the election.  This year, Biden did very, very little campaigning, and, when he did surface, promised to do outrageous things like impose more lockdowns and national mask mandates and destroy the oil, coal and gas industries.  Was this because the Democrats had simply failed to learn any lessons from 2016, or was it because they instead devoted all their resources to pulling the present coup?

- The psy-ops is really obvious, from the censorship of dissenting voices on social media to the news purveyors — including Fox News — calling states for Biden before their polls had even closed or before the return of more than .007% of precincts.  

- If Biden was really winning in all those swing states, why was there the need to suspend counting in those states?

- The time is coming — maybe sooner than we think — when our Elders and Betters will decide they are done going to all the trouble of lying and cheating and stealing elections, and will just dispense with elections altogether.  After all, Trump has proven that the electorate is capable of making wrong decisions.  Just as we need to be protected from a virus with a less than 1% fatality rate, so we will also need to be protected from our propensity to disagree with Those Who Know Better.

- Deus ex machina rescues from disasters are a staple of popular entertainment, but rare in real life.  That said, Donald Trump is not the wet-noodle, capitulating milquetoast that is the usual GOP political fare.

- Maybe the time really has come, as the monarchists hold, to reassess our whole system of governance.  Is our present system, which is currently failing spectacularly, really the one that best accommodates our human nature, and that best accounts for and safeguards against our human weaknesses?

- This is absolutely the time to pray, fast, do penance, repent and convert.  In case you think this is beyond your abilities, read St. Therese of Lisieux’s Story of a Soul for the details on how much spiritual value even the smallest sacrifices contain.  We need to pray for the assistance to get to the point where we deserve worthy leaders.

- This is also the time to remember that the Lord of History is not Bill and Melinda Gates, George Soros, Gavin Newsom, Gretchen Whitmer, Jeffrey Sachs, Pope Francis or even Donald Trump.  From our point of view, everything is in free fall, but from the point of view of the true Lord of History and His unfathomable counsels, everything is going according to plan.

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Being Above It All

There seems to be this idea, even among Catholics, that the moral high ground is that place you occupy when you don’t take a stand, when you are above the fray, when you look down from your mountain fastness upon the benighted combatants of both sides and apportion blame for the mess we are in equally to both sides.  Besides being annoying, this world view is misguided, unjust, and just plain wrong.  To not take a stand IS to take a stand.  And it’s a cop-out.  

To not take a stand is an overreaction to the anxiety of these turbulent times.  But it doesn’t make either the turbulence or the anxiety go away.  It is just running away, not pulling your weight, and leaving the fight, which cannot be avoided, to others.

To not take a stand saves you the trouble of examining the merits of each case, as if somehow they are not worth examining.  It is true that neither side is perfect, as each is made up of imperfect human beings.  But nevertheless, they are not morally equivalent, and it is outrageous to assume that they are.  One side does in fact conduce to the common good, and the other side does not.  It is important to know which is which.  You do an injustice to those who really are on the side of the common good by dismissing them as being no different from the other guys, and you harm the cause of the common good by not taking seriously enough those who are opposed to it.

To not take a stand is to succumb to human respect.  What is the point of making sure you are perceived as being above it all, if not to seem wiser and smarter than the average bear?  But in fact, you don’t seem wiser and smarter.  What you seem is smug and self-satisfied.  You only end up irritating the very people you are trying to impress.

Bottom line: you need to take a stand.  And you have a duty to make sure you’re taking the right stand.

These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true Witness, Who is the beginning of the creation of God: I know thy works, that thou art neither cold, nor hot.  I would thou wert cold, or hot.  But because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold, nor hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth.  Apocalypse 3:14-16.

Sunday, November 01, 2020

On the Feast of All Saints: The Odor of Rottenness Transformed

Today the Church celebrates all the blessed in heaven, whether known or unknown. In his homily, Father highlighted the fact that, although there is one basic path to sainthood — doing the will of God — saints are not printed off a copy machine: every saint is distinct from all others.  This got me to thinking about St. Vladimir I of Kiev (956-1015), who began as an evil-smelling specimen of the raw, rank, raunchy Slavic paganism of the early Middle Ages, yet managed, thanks to God’s grace, not only to die in the odor of sanctity himself, but to arrange for countless others to do likewise. He is honored as the man who Christianized the people of Kiev, and is patron, among other things, of Russia, of converts, of parents with large families and — murderers.

I cannot help comparing St. Vladimir with another pagan ruler who became a saint, King St. Aethelberht  of Kent.  Both were devoted to the worship of gods who demanded gruesome rites, including human sacrifice.  But unlike St. Aethelbehrt, who possessed a certain amount of natural goodness and decency even before his conversion, Vladimir was far from exhibiting those virtues for which the saints are often renowned.   He made war on his brother, whom he eventually slew after the latter surrendered; slew a prince and took his daughter to wife; took several other wives and numerous concubines, by whom he had a boodle of children; and set up a great many shrines devoted to Slavic pagan gods.  It is thought that Vladimir also may himself have participated in rituals involving human sacrifice — not a stretch for a fratricide.

Although Christianity was quietly and secretly blossoming in the lands under his rule, it was not until 987, while planning a campaign against the Graeco-Roman empire, that he began to be interested in Christianity.   He sent envoys to study the religions of various neighboring lands, and received glowing reports about the beauty of the Divine Liturgy celebrated at Hagia Sophia in Constantinople.  Thus was the finger of God, as Whittaker Chambers put it, laid on his forehead.  In 988, after beseiging the city of Kherson in the Eastern Roman Empire, Vladimir sent an embassy to Emperor Basil II of Constantinople asking for his sister Anna's hand in marriage, and threatening to march on Constantinople if he refused. The Emperor replied that a Christian could only marry another Christian, so only if Vladimir were a Christian prince could he sanction such a match. Vladimir replied that he had studied the Christian faith and was inclined favorably to it, so that he was ready to accept Baptism.

Which Baptism took place that same year, as depicted above by the Russian artist Viktor Vasnetsov, and was not without its effects.  Vladimir emerged from the laver of regeneration a changed man.  He married his Christian princess, Anna; returned the city of Kherson to its rightful ruler; returned to Kiev with his new bride; got rid of all his other wives and concubines, and set about expunging paganism from within his borders.  Catholic Encyclopedia describes the opening of his campaign:
When Vladimir returned to Kieff he took upon himself the conversion of his subjects. He ordered the statues of the gods to be thrown down, chopped to pieces, and some of them burned; the chief god, Perun, was dragged through the mud and thrown into the River Dnieper. These acts impressed the people with the helplessness of their gods, and when they were told that they should follow Vladimir's example and become Christians they were willingly baptized, even wading into the river that they might the sooner be reached by the priest for baptism. Zubrycki thinks this readiness shows that the doctrines of Christianity had already been secretly spread in Kieff and that the people only waited for an opportunity to publicly acknowledge them.
Vladimir did become known as a mild and devoted ruler (having given up warmongering), and was zealous for the spread of the Christian faith. Although two of his sons were later recognized as saints in their own right (Boris and Gleb), his later life was dogged by the intransigence of some of his older children. Vladimir died on the march north to deal with his rebellious son Yaroslav in 1015, and his feast is celebrated on July 15th.

Vladimir's conversion and subsequent recognition as a saint provide us with a striking example of the powers of Baptism, even in the case of a man with multiple murders and fornications on his conscience, whose appallingly evil life should have landed him in the bowels of Hell. Mere good will on Vladimir's part — especially mixed as it appears to have been, at least in the beginning, with political motivations —could never have been enough on their own to give him the purpose of amendment he obviously exhibited after Baptism, let alone save his soul.  But this crack of the door, however slight, was more than enough for God to penetrate with His grace.  Here is proof, if more is needed, that Baptism is no mere symbol.

So, on this feast of All Saints, let us raise a glass of vodka to St. Vladimir of Kiev and to all the repentant sinners whose overpowering stench, like that of Lazarus, dead and entombed for four days, was transformed into the sweet odor of sanctity, which rises like incense to God and pleads with Him that each of us may one day swell their ranks in heaven.