Saturday, July 17, 2004

Carmelite Martyrs of Compiegne

Today is the feast day of the Blessed Carmelites of Compiegne. On July 17th, 1794 a number of Carmelites from that city were guillotined at Paris during the Reign of Terror.   Their brutal execution and the manner in which they conducted themselves (mounting the scaffold singing Laudate Domino) helped end the terror.  Within a week of their execution, Robespierre fell from power and was himself introduced to Madam Guillotine.
They are very worthy of admiration in my view on two counts. First they were members of the Carmelite order, for which I have a special reverence.  The Carmelites were instrumental in bringing me back to an active faith and regular attendance.  Secondly, they were martyred by the French revolutionaries in that orgy of blood known as the Terror. Anyone martyred for the sake of the Faith by the French revolutionaries, or the Spanish Communists, or the Russian, Chinese, Cuban, Vietnamese, Laotian, Cambodian Communists, or by the Moslems, or as part of the protestant rebellion, has a special place in my devotions and is a worthy example of the Faith.
Update:  I just saw that John at The Inn At the End of the World has an excellent discussion on the Carmelite Martyrs of Compiegne

Friday, July 16, 2004

Over At the Yahoo Group

At Recta Ratio:  The Yahoo Group I added a Photo Album of images of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (in honor of her feast today).
I have been working on a calendar of saints' days and feasts, which is now fairly complete.  It is not comprehensive, as there are a half-dozen saints for every day of the year already.  But this is a concise listing of what I consider the most important saints.  Happy to add others on request.  the Calendar can be found among the Files.

Flos Carmeli

Flower of Carmel,
Tall vine blossom laden;
Splendor of heaven,
Childbearing yet maiden. 
None equals thee.
Mother so tender,
Who no man didst know,
On Carmel's children
Thy favors bestow. 
Star of the Sea.
Strong stem of Jesse,
Who bore one bright flower,
Be ever near us
And guard us each hour,
Who serve thee here.
Purest of lilies,
That flowers among thorns,
Bring help to the true heart
That in weakness turns
And trusts in thee.
Strongest of armor,
We trust in thy might:
Under thy mantle,
Hard press'd in the fight,
We call to thee.
Our way uncertain,
Surrounded by foes,
Unfailing counsel
You give to those
Who turn to thee.
O gentle Mother
Who in Carmel reigns,
Share with your servants
That gladness you gained
And now enjoy.
Hail, Gate of Heaven,
With glory now crowned,
Bring us to safety
Where thy Son is found,
True joy to see.
Flos Carmeli,
vitis florigera,
splendor caeli,
virgo puerpera
Mater mitis
sed viri nescia
esto propitia
stella maris.   

Radix Iesse
germinans flosculum
nos ad esse
tecum in saeculum
Inter spinas
quae crescis lilium
serva puras
mentes fragilium
fortis pugnantium
furunt bella
tende praesidium
Per incerta
prudens consilium
iuge solatium
Mater dulcis
Carmeli domina,
plebem tuam
reple laetitia
qua bearis. 
clavis et ianua,
fac nos duci
quo, Mater, gloria

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Both the reformed and traditional calendars of feasts specify today as the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. For generations, Carmelite monks maintained a monastery on Mount Carmel in what is now Syria. At the time, the Carmelites were a contemplative order under the patronage of the Blessed Mother.
In the Thirteenth Century, Simon Stock, an Englishman, became general of the Carmelite order. In 1226 Pope Honorious III recognized the rule of the Carmelite order on July 16th. On July 16th, 1251, the Blessed Mother appeared to Simon Stock, and provided him with a brown scapular, with a promise that those who wore it to honor her would be released from Purgatory on the Saturday after they died. This feast was extended to the whole Church in 1726. Simon Stock was later canonized.
I have a special devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. For one thing, July 16th is my birthday. For another, when I returned to an active faith many years ago, it was largely through the Carmelites. As I started to become active in the Church again, a Carmelite priest heard my first confession in about ten years. At the time I was a bachelor without very much in the way of direction or guidance.
The Carmelite Chapel at the North Shore Shopping Center became my regular parish for almost two years. Yes, for those not familiar with the area, there is a Carmelite chapel on the lower level of a mall here. It is very well-frequented- SRO for most of its Saturday masses. It appeals to people who don't want to be attached to a regular parish, dislike the pastor at their own parish, or just don't have the time or resources to seek out a new parish. Since then, I have become acquainted with several third order Carmelites, and one cloistered Carmelite who took her final vows two years ago today in Iowa.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Mike Ditka Might Run For US Senate In Illinois

After what the Democrats pulled in New Jersey in 2002 with Lautenberg, I say all is fair. Go for it, Mike.

Update: No he won't.

St. Swithin's Day

A Third Damp, Gloomy Day In Boston

My 40th birthday tommorrow.

Democrats coming to town in huge numbers starting in about a week.

Kerry leading in many polls.

ImmaculateHeart.com, which I link to for an awful lot of the images in various photo albums of Recta Ratio: The Yahoo Group is disabled, which means that the links no longer work.

The Church's bishops have been unable to agree on the basic proposition that they ought to do everything in their power to stop abortion-favoring pols.

Gay "marriage" is in full swing here, and a vote in Congress has to fallen short because of liberal Republicans (and almost all the Democrats). BTW, anybody want to bet how many of the Democrat delegates who will be infesting Boston shortly will take the opportunity to avail themselves of our absurd new law by judicial fiat(despite the provision about out-of-state "couples")?

Mike Ditka, the Illinois GOP's best hope for the US Senate race said no.

The Yankees are far more likely to end up with Randy Johnson than the Red Sox are, and if the Red Sox should "luck out" it would be at the cost of Nomar Garciaparra.

Gloomy days indeed.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

A Second Gloomy Damp Day In Boston

Well, we did have two weeks of great weather: sunny skies, temps in the 70s and low 80s, and low humidity. No real heatwaves yet.

Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Bastille Day

Tomorrow (July 14th) is the national day for the people most of us love to hate, the French. What is it that we dislike so much? The answer depends upon your perspective. There are so many things to dislike about the French that it is difficult to pick out just one.

As a veteran British re-enactor, I can say that there are few joys greater than driving home a bayonet charge against "French" troops. Some of that is just disdain for lazy re-enactors who chose the French because they could keep their moustaches, whose drill is poor, and who are slow and unskilled on the battlefield. But it goes much deeper than that.

Someone portraying an 18th or early 19th century Brit is necessarily steeped in what it was like to be a Brit of that period. For them, the great enemy was France. Britain and France were at war from 1689-1698, from 1701-1714, from 1740-1748, from 1755-1763, from 1778-1783, from 1793-1802, from 1803-1814, and again in 1815. And that came a couple of hundred years after the Hundred Years' War. "Confusion to the French" was one of the most popular toasts in any British officer's mess, in war or peace (and is still heard after the first couple of bottles of port today).

In the 18th Century, England looked to the continental colossus across the Channel with fear, disdain, and loathing. Of course, there was the religion issue. England was protestant, isolated, xenophobic. Catholic France was the "great nation" the largest single one in the West, with a population more than twice England's. France was despotic under the kings, dangerously chaotic under the Terror, and globalist and destabilizing under the Directory and Bonaparte.

Englishmen viewed Frenchmen as poor, priest-ridden, ignorant peasants. The diet of the ordinary Frechman was represented as thin gruel, while Englishmen ate roast beef. If the French had wine, England had much more healthy beer and cider. Check out this print by William Hogarth called O, The Roast Beef of Old England. Notice the greedy monk fingering the joint of English beef, while the half-starved French soldiers follow along. Note that the hand of authority is resting on Hogarth's shoulder on the left of the print (he was detained for sketching in Calais in real life).

Frenchmen were so poor, the English thought, that they wore clothes made from canvas and wooden shoes (the wooden shoes that we Americans think of as a quaint Dutch thing were seen by 18th century Brits as signs of hopeless poverty, and possibly tyranny: a British politician opposed a census or a tax, or some centralizing measure, with the dire prediction that the the "canvas frock and wooden shoes will soon be pressed upon us."). This attitude was reinforced by Englishmen on the Grand Tour, who were met at the quays of Calais not with glasses of Chambord or French noblemen, but by hordes of beggars hoping to batten off the rich Englishmen.

And the policy of the French government, harboring the Jacobite pretenders to an English throne they could only reclaim at the point of French bayonets, did not soften the British view. The French managed to support Jacobite invasions of the British Isles in 1715 and 1745. In 1798, the Directory aided and abetted the United Irishmen in their rebellion, and even managed to send a small force of French troops to Ireland (a rebellion put down by Lord Cornwallis, of Yorktown fame). Bonaparte threatened to invade England itself with a large French army, until Nelson smashed the French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar.

You think I'm making this up, don't you? Well, if you don't believe me, read these passages from the works of the historical novelist (and Brit) Bernard Cornwell.

In Sharpe's Siege, Sharpe, commanding a small British force near the close of the Napoleonic Wars, is holding a fort miles behind French lines (Wellington at the time was invading France from Spain), but is uncharacteristically low on confidence (because of the feared illness of his wife). He confides this to his friend Captain "Sweet William" Frederickson. Cornwell puts this gem of a reply in Frederickson's mouth,

...I...would fight the bastards...Why?...Because they are Crapauds! Because they're slimy Frogs! Because as long as they are fighting us they can't go south and give the Peer a headache!
Because the English have a God-given duty to rid the world of the French! Because its what I'm paid to do. Because I've got nothing better to do! Because Napoleon Bonaparte is a foul little worm who
grovels in his own excrement! Because no one's ordered me to surrender just because the odds are unhealthy! Because I don't want to live under French rule and the more of those bastards I kill the more the rest of them will slowly comprehend that fact!

And that from an urbane gentleman who spoke fluent French, loved nothing better than to sit and sketch architecture, and appreciated French food, art, and culture. British troops always called the French the "Crapauds", which in French means "Toads". The French, by the way called the British troops the "Goddamns" because of the norotious profanity of the British soldier.

A great deal of what we Americans think comes from 18th Century England. An American whose attitudes were not formed in part by Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, Samuel Johnson, Edward Gibbon, Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift and, yes, John Adams, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson is actually quite rare. Of these, Jefferson was the only one who was an all-out lover of all things French. He was also the least sound and stable of the Founding Fathers. John Adams set the good American precedent of speaking English to the French king, and just making it slower and louder when the king could not understand. Washington fumed over the pretensions of the French ambassador Genet.

Americans thinking back to the early days of our own republic can recall the arrogance of the Directory in general, and Tallyrand in particular, in demanding that we grease the Great Turncoat's palms before he would deign to meet with our envoys. That was the XYZ Affair, which brought on an undeclared naval war between the US and France during John Adams' term (we got the better of them, but with help from the Royal Navy). "Millions for defense: not one penny for tribute!" was the first rallying cry of our government. And it was directed at France.

The event the French have chosen as their national day, the storming of the Bastille, represents one of the saddest events in world history, not the triumph of liberty they tell us. The French Revolution is better forgotten, not glorified. Burke spelled out the reasons for this more than two hundred years ago in Reflections on the Revolution in France. The Terror was not a step forward for freedom, but a triumph of barbarism. Bonaparte was no better, a man of blood ruling by the sword, and trying to force the rest of Europe to adopt France's "system". Why couldn't they pick the feast day of Saint Joan of Arc, or a date in the life of Henry IV? Why not the day in August when Paris was liberated?

Nor have the French done much since Waterloo to gain the approbation of the right-thinking. Socialism first reared its ugly head there, as the red flag waved over the barricades in 1830 and 1848, and 1871. Once the Germans put France in its place in 1871, French national policy consisted of nothing but revenge.

When the opportunity came for revenge in 1914, French armies failed. They were again out-fought by the Germans. Then as the war dragged on, it was the French army that was in the greatest danger of mutiny and collapse (in the same manner and in the same cause as the Russian army did-communism). France between the wars was even less enthusiastic than Britain in restraining Germany.

The collapse came in 1940, after weak resistance. There followed four years of pouring wine for their occupiers, and precious little genuine resistance, despite all the movies about the Maqui. Meanwhile, in the south, Vichy did its best to toady to the Germans, and happily shipped its Jews to the gas chambers. When American troops landed in Operation Torch, they were fired upon by the French. Then, when the Germans were too weak to hold on any more, the French finally found courage and organized an army (with American help). Even when deigning to deal with allies, they could be dificult. Churchill said that the heaviest cross he had to bear was the "Croix de Guerre", referring to de Gaulle. Winston also said that sometimes he managed to get de Gaulle into a towering rage, when he resembled nothing so much as a female llama who has been surprised in her bath.

Since World War II, France has paid nothing but lip service to the cause of the alliance. It was unable to maintain its responsibilities in Vietnam, which led the US to get involved there. The French could not even keep Algeria, which they considered administratively part of France. The French, in a fit of pique (their distinguishing national characteristic of the 20th century) and jealousy at American leadership, bolted the military part of the NATO alliance in 1966.

Almost every time the US has needed to get something done, it has been France that has put roadblocks in the way. When President Reagan bombed Libya, France refused to allow US aircraft in England to fly over France, forcing a long detour, that, if I recall correctly, contributed to the loss of a plane and its crew. France was a force against determined effort in Desert Storm. Its brittle military was entrusted by General Schwartzkopf with as much as it could reliably handle-- basically guarding empty desert.

Today, the French refuse to extradite Moslem terrorists to the US because of their hypersensitive disdain of the death penalty. As the US urges action against Iraq, it is France that is the great nay-sayer. With regard to Israel, France has praised the Palestinians, permitted anti-Semites there to conduct a vicious campaign against Jews and synagogues (as if the poor Jews of France had not been adequately betrayed by their government between 1940-1944), and counseled the US to put pressure on Israel to just roll over and let the Palestinians murder Jews to their hearts' content. And they are the leading force in creating a United Europe, not to cooperate with the US, but as a rival.

And then, there is French "culture". I'm not talking about Fragonard, or David, or even Renoir or Manet. I'm talking about that ethos so compelling to Bohemian lefties the world over. That "culture" consists of nothing but sitting in cafes on the left bank, sipping coffee that is too strong, talking about nothing (like a never ending episode of Seinfeld but with the air of a philosophe), praising the truly reprehensible Picasso and Sartre and Camus and partaking of decadence combined with communism and nihilism, and cultivating a nasty self-important attitude and morals lower than the average alley cat while wearing black.

Anti-French sentiment has really taken off in the last ten years. A good deal of the credit goes to Jonah Goldberg of National Review, and his inspired adoption of The Simpsons' "Cheese-eating surrender monkeys" monicker for the French. The war-years' attitude that the French were gallant allies forced to surrender by circumstances and who rejoined the fight as soon as possible has been replaced by a new consensus. The readiness of the French to give up and live under the heel of any oppressor has been given more attention. Doubt it? A couple of years ago, Get Fuzzy cartoonist Darby Conley produced a witty anti-French piece (sadly no longer in the archives). Brits have been playing villains in Hollywood for years. But the French are about to eclipse them. Think about the NATO admiral in Behind Enemy Lines. Even if he wasn't French (he may have been Spanish) his character had the feel of a French admiral.

Of course, the French are not all bad. Some few Frenchmen are still pious Catholics. French peasant culture is fairly healthy. Peter Mayle writes amusing books about them. They produce nice wines (though California is gaining on them). The world owes Angier a debt of gratitude for Cointreau. Pates, truffles, and Brie are the embodiment of high cuisine. France has managed to do what Britain has not; elect a conservative government. And years ago, the French actually had the chutzpah to sink the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior when it got in the way of a French nuclear test. That was the last time I gave the French a cheer.

For the most part though, and particularly in its government's shameless whoring on behalf of Saddam Hussein in our late war to rid the world of that terrorist regime, France has been a boil on the backside of the civilized world for some time. When last heard from a few months ago, the French Navy was participating in wargames off democratic Taiwan with the Communist Chinese Navy.

If we wish to summon up warm thoughts for our French "partners" this Bastille Day, I'm afraid the best we can do is to sip a nice Sauterne ("its heaven with strawberries"- points if you know where that comes from), serve a nice goose pate and some brie, and fondly recall the Rainbow Warrior going to the bottom.

So, this Bastille Day, I offer this, "Confusion to the French!"

St. Henry II

Duke of Bavaria.

No Traction, Part 2

As I recall, I said Edwards would not even be able to deliver his home state to the Democrats.

The latest poll has President Bush leading by 15% in North Carolina.

All-Star Break Assessment

Well the Red Sox have made it to rougly the middle of the season. They are 7 games behind the Yankees in the Eastern Division. However, they are currently the leading contender for the Wild Card slot. But if they are unable to beat New York, the Wild Card is just a patch of ground with no honor in it but the name (and revenue for one round of playoffs).

Again, the Sox started the season ahead of New York, but then faded. What hope have they to overtake the lead the Yankees have opened up? Small.

Things could be getting worse really soon. There are rumors that a trade could send Randy Johnson to the Yankees for the remainder of the season. Notice that his coming to Boston is not among the rumors. What hope then for Boston, which, as usual, has found itself outspent in the talent sweepstakes.

I don't know about a "Curse of the Bambino" (though I tried a new Brigham's ice cream flavor yesterday called "Reverse the Curse" and it was OK). It is just the sad fate of the Red Sox to be the best second-place team in American League history. Ultimately, despite the nex playoff system, if you don't end up with World Series winner rings adorning the hands of the players come December, you are a nobody.

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