Friday, June 29, 2007
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
My sister recently played me a recording of the chant hymn "Ave Maris Stella." I was struck by the great beauty of the melody and by the fact that it was entirely unfamiliar to me.
In addition to its aesthetic recommendations, the hymn carries Our Lady's promise of protection: "During a riot at Rome, a mob came to the house where St. Bridget lived; a leader talked of burning Bridget alive. She prayed to Our Blessed Lord to know if she should flee to safety and He assured her to stay, saying: 'It doesn't matter if they plot thy death. My power will break the malice of thy enemies: If mine crucified me, it is because I permitted it.' The Blessed Virgin added: 'Sing as a group the Ave Maris Stella and I will guard you from every danger.' [I found that story and a translation of the text here.]
When reading The Lord of the Rings, I always delighted in the power of names, e.g. when Frodo is stabbed on Weathertop, he repels the Nazgul with the cry "Elbereth Gilthoniel!" With what delight, then, do I discover that this aspect of Middlearth is but another reflection of the True Myth.
Friday, June 08, 2007
A Catholic Perspective on the Iraq Conflict
Side Note: Unfamiliar with the parts of prudence (gnome, eubulia, and synesis) mentioned by Simplex Sacerdos, I sought for enlightenment in the Summa Theologica. In the Secunda Secundae, Question 48, Article 1, St. Thomas mentions that: gnome “concerns judgment in matters of exception to the law”; eubulia “refers to counsel”; and synesis concerns “judgment in matters of ordinary occurrence.”
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Regina Coeli, Restore the Earth!
In the purity of her whole person on earth, and in the glory of her whole person in Heaven, the Mother of God is the Church's image and beginning, the promise of final beauty for the members of Christ. What she is now, the Church is meant to be and one day will be. The Woman clothed with the sun and crowned with the stars is both Mary and the Church: the Church in Mary and Mary in the Church.
There can be no Christian culture without Christ, but without true devotion to the Mother, true faith in the Son soon withers. As Cardinal Newman saw in the last century, the Reformation's Maryless Christology developed, in Liberal Protestantism, into a Christless Christianity...The Theotokos - by her name and her icon, by her lovely person and her loving prayers - is the God-given protector of the truth about her Son. As it was in antiquity, so it is again in modernity: the Blessed Virgin crushes all the serpents of heresy('cunctas haereses sola interemisti in universo mundo').
True devotion to the Blessed Virgin builds up the Civilization of Love because it leads men into the admiration and contemplation that fill her heart, the admiration without which there is no love, the contemplation without which there is no civilization.
The great German Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper has argued that leisure is the basis of human culture. By 'leisure' he means, not procrastination, but contemplation. He compares and contrasts the two powers of the human mind as distinguished by the Schoolmen: ratio and intellectus. The first is discursive activity, the mind examining and searching, arguing and defining. The second is contemplative rest, the mind simply and effortlessly gazing upon the truth. The two operate together in our knowledge in this world, but there is no doubt that the second is the higher of the two. Discursive reason is properly human, but there is something superhuman about contemplative intuition. In Heaven, Thomas and Bonaventure no longer argue and deduce, but they rest and they see, they see and they love, they love and they praise.
There is no culture, then, without contemplative wonder at the beauty of being. Now this natural attitude is perfected supernaturally and most perfectly in Our Lady, who magnifies the Lord for His marvels (cf. Lk 1:46) and ponders the things of Jesus in her heart (cf. Lk. 2:51). It is the Virgin Mary, even more than Martha's sister, who 'hath chosen the best part' (cf. Lk 10:42)...she is pure in her openness and therefore perfect in her contemplation. The gazing at divine beauty is itself a beautiful act, for which the spiritual beauty of chastity is an essential requirement: the man whose reason is clouded by concupiscence cannot see clearly. No human person is purer than the Immaculate, so none is more suited to contemplation.
Monday, June 04, 2007
Following a link from Jeff Culbreath, I read the Last Letter of Marie-Antoinnete. This recalled Come Rack, Come Rope, Robert Hugh Benson's novel about Catholics suffering persecution in England. When I read it this past Lent, the account of Mary, Queen of Scots' execution moved me greatly. At the time, I wondered how closely it adhered to historical facts. I neglected the research until this morning:
Last Letter of Mary, Queen of Scots
" 8 February 1587
To the most Christian king, my brother and old ally,
Royal brother, having by God's will, for my sins I think, thrown myself into the power of the Queen my cousin, at whose hands I have suffered much for almost twenty years, I have finally been condemned to death by her and her Estates. I have asked for my papers, which they have taken away, in order that I might make my will, but I have been unable to recover anything of use to me, or even get leave either to make my will freely or to have my body conveyed after my death, as I would wish, to your kingdom where I had the honor to be queen, your sister and old ally.
Tonight, after dinner, I have been advised of my sentence: I am to be executed like a criminal at eight in the morning. I have not had time to give you a full account of everything that has happened, but if you will listen to my doctor and my other unfortunate servants, you will learn the truth, and how, thanks be to God, I scorn death and vow that I meet it innocent of any crime, even if I were their subject. The Catholic faith and the assertion of my God-given right to the English crown are the two issues on which I am condemned, and yet I am not allowed to say that it is for the Catholic religion that I die, but for fear of interference with theirs. The proof of this is that they have taken away my chaplain, and although he is in the building, I have not been able to get permission for him to come and hear my confession and give me the Last Sacrament, while they have been most insistent that I receive the consolation and instruction of their minister, brought here for that purpose. The bearer of this letter and his companions, most of them your subjects, will testify to my conduct at my last hour. It remains for me to beg Your Most Christian Majesty, my brother-in-law and old ally, who have always protested your love for me, to give proof now of your goodness on all these points: firstly by charity, in paying my unfortunate servants the wages due them - this is a burden on my conscience that only you can relieve: further, by having prayers offered to God for a queen who has borne the title Most Christian, and who dies a Catholic, stripped of all her possessions. As for my son, I commend him to you in so far as he deserves, for I cannot answer for him. I have taken the liberty of sending you two precious stones, talismans against illness, trusting that you will enjoy good health and a long and happy life. Accept them from your loving sister-in-law, who, as she dies, bears witness of her warm feeling for you. Again I commend my servants to you. Give instructions, if it please you, that for my soul's sake part of what you owe me should be paid, and that for the sake of Jesus Christ, to whom I shall pray for you tomorrow as I die, I be left enough to found a memorial mass and give the customary alms.
Wednesday, at two in the morning
Your most loving and most true sister
All this time they were pulling off her apparel, she never changed her countenance, but with smiling cheer she uttered these words, 'that she never had such grooms to make her unready, and that she never put off her clothes before such a company.'
Then she, being stripped of all her apparel saving her petticoat and kirtle, her two women beholding her made great lamentation, and crying and crossing themselves prayed in Latin. She, turning herself to them, embracing them, said these words in French, 'Ne crie vous, j'ay prome pour vous', and so crossing and kissing them, bade them pray for her and rejoice and not weep, for that now they should see an end of all their mistress's troubles.
Then she, with a smiling countenance, turning to her men servants, as Melvin and the rest, standing upon a bench nigh the scaffold, who sometime weeping, sometime crying out aloud, and continually crossing themselves, prayed in Latin, crossing them with her hand bade them farewell, and wishing them to pray for her even until the last hour.
This done, one of the women having a Corpus Christi cloth lapped up three-corner-ways, kissing it, put it over the Queen of Scots' face, and pinned it fast to the caule of her head. Then the two women departed from her, and she kneeling down upon the cushion most resolutely, and without any token or fear of death, she spake aloud this Psalm in Latin, In Te Domine confido, non confundar in eternam, etc. Then, groping for the block, she laid down her head, putting her chin over the block with both her hands, which, holding there still, had been cut off had they not been espied. Then lying upon the block most quietly, and stretching out her arms cried, In manus tuas, Domine, etc., three or four times. Then she, lying very still upon the block, one of the executioners holding her slightly with one of his hands, she endured two strokes of the other executioner with an axe, she making very small noise or none at all, and not stirring any part of her from the place where she lay."
Further Reading on the English Martyrs
The Martyrdom Of Father Campion and His Companions, William Cardinal Allen
Edmund Campion, Evelyn Waugh