Saturday, December 18, 2004

O Adonai

O Adonai, and Ruler of the house of Israel, Who didst appear unto Moses in the burning bush, and gavest him the law in Sinai, come to redeem us with an outstretched arm!

O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel, qui Moysi in igne flammæ rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

Meditation For Saturday of the Third Week of Advent

From the Franciscans at AmericanCatholic.org.

Day Nineteen of the Advent Novena

Say this novena prayer 15 times a day between St Andrew's Day and December 24th:

Hail, and blessed be the hour and moment at which the Son of God was born of a most pure Virgin at a stable at midnight in Bethlehem in the piercing cold. At that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, to hear my prayers and grant my desires.

(Mention your intentions here)

Through Jesus Christ and His most Blessed Mother.

Ember Saturday In Advent

This is another great prayer for Embertide. It was written by St. Thomas More while he was a prisoner in the Tower in 1534. I have modified and stadardized the structure slightly.

Give me the good grace, Lord,
To set the world at naught.
To set my mind fast upon Thee
To not hang upon the blast of mens' mouths.

To be content to be solitary.
To not long for worldly company.
To be concerned with the world less and less.
To rid my mind of all the world's busy-ness.
To not long for any worldly things.
To deem unpleasant even hearing the fantasies of the world.

To be gladly thinking of God alone.
To call piteously for His help.
To lean upon Him for comfort.
To labor busily to love Him.

To know my own vileness and wretchedness.
To make myself meek and humble under the mighty hand of God.
To bewail my past sins.
To suffer adversity patiently for the purging of them.
To bear gladly my Purgatory here.
To be joyful of tribulations.

To walk the narrow way that leadeth to life.
To bear the Cross with Christ.
To have the last things always in remembrance.
To have my ever-possible death always before my eyes.
To make death no stranger to me.
To foresee and consider the everlasting fire of Hell.
To pray for pardon before the Judge comes.

To have continually in mind the Passion that Christ suffered for me.
To give Him thanks continually for His benefits.
To redeem the lost time that I have wasted.
To abstain from vain discussion.
To eschew light and foolish mirth and merriment.
To cut off unnecessary recreations.

To set the loss of worldly substance, friends, liberties, and life, at naught,
If their loss means the gaining of Christ.

To think my worst enemies my best friends,
For the brothers of Joseph could never have done him so much good
With their love and favor as they did with their malice and hatred.

These attitudes are more to be desired by every man than all the
Treasure of all the princes and kings, Christian and heathen,
Were it all gathered and laid together upon one heap.

Friday, December 17, 2004

I Know I Just Wrote That Society Has Collapsed, But This One Still Shocks Me

A beautiful, young woman 8 months pregnant butchered (that alone is inconceivable to me) and the baby ripped from her dying womb to be sold by the butcher.

Our government is functioning just fine, but we need a cultural coup de etat, to stop the slide deeper into the mire. But I have no idea how you can stage a societal putsch.

I remember an historian commenting that Alexander Hamilton would be happy with what government in the US has become, and that his enemy Thomas Jefferson would be happy with how US society has changed. If that is true, than Jefferson can rot in Hades.

Threnus Prayer of St. Augustine

A very good prayer for Embertide.

Based on the translation by Michael W. Martin:

If we place before Thy eyes, O Lord, our misdeeds and the wounds we receive,
The less we suffer and the greater we merit.
We feel the punishment for sin,
Yet we do not shun our obstinacy in sinning.

Our fragile nature is shattered by Thy scourges,
Yet our evil ways remain unchanged.
The sick mind is wrenched and the stiff neck is not bent.
Life sighs in pain and yet it does not amend itself.
If Thou waiteth, we do not reform,
If Thou punisheth, we do not last.

When accused, we admit what we have done, yet when punished, we forget.
If Thou punisheth, we make promises;
If Thou holdeth back the sword, we do not carry out our promises.
If Thou strike us, we cry out that Thou might spare us;
If Thou sparest us, we again provoke Thee to strike us.

If difficulties come, we ask for a time for repentance.
If mercy comes to our aid, we abuse the patience which has spared us.
Even when our wounds are scarcely healed, our ungrateful mind forgets.
If Thou hearest us quickly, we become haughty from mercy.
If Thou art slow, we complain out of impatience.

We want Thee, O Lord, to keep what Thou willst have done,
But we do not fear to neglect what Thou willst have us do.

Thou hast, O Lord, the accused; be merciful, for Thou art faithful.
For with Thee is much pity and abundant forgiveness.
Grant, without any merit on our part, what we ask,
O Thou who hast made from nothing those who ask Thee.
Have mercy on us crying out to Thee, O Lord.

May the voice of the faithful and of the tearful stir Thy mercy.
May that forgiveness not consider that we sin, but reflect on the fact we ask.
Since it is a great misery that we are accused,
May the fact that we are miserable make Thy mercy be the greater.

We beg Thy help, and before Thee we place the evils and sorrows of our crimes.
By our prayers we look for Thy mercy, the very mercy which we have spurned by our sins. Raise us up in Thy mercy, o Lord our God,
So that in the fellowship of salvation and the joy of charity, while we long to be saved,
We may rejoice in the faith and peace of all the nations.

Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Who livest and reignest in unity with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end.

Wow, did St. Augustine capture human nature in this prayer, or what? He certainly captured my nature.

No Wonder the Brits Keep Re-Electing Labour: They Are Too Drunk to Vote Wisely

According to the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS), 48 percent of British men and 31 percent of women aged 19 to 24 admit to having been blind drunk at least twice a month during the past year.

Similarly, 38 percent of Britons of both es first got drunk before the age of 13, compared to just 12 percent of the French. Within Western Europe, only hard-drinking Danish and Finnish teens outrank the British under-18s, with a tally of 40 percent

The British government is getting tough on public drunkeness over the Christmas season, and that is a part of an old story regarding the manner of celebrating Christmas, which we can get into next week.

I've never been drunk to the point of passing out. I've only gotten sick from drinking once (and I only had 1 hard cider that time, but a 20 oz glasss on an empty stomach followed by a cigar stronger than I am used to). I've never had a hangover. When I drink, I have 1 or 2 glasses, then I stop.

Around Christmas/New Year and at St. Patrick's Day, I drink a little more, to the point of being very cheerful, singing cheerful. Then I stop.

I habitually forgo any alcohol for the duration of Lent (36 hours around St. Patrick's Day excepted), and often enough go 3-5 months without taking a drink at all. Today, the last time I had anything to drink (one glass of mulled wine) was about a month ago.

Since the problem in the UK seems to be with younger people, are we dealing with a lack of self-discipline? I think so, because the familial and societal mechanisms that enforced proper behaviour on young people have broken down to a great extent over the last 60 or so years.

Nothing in the popular culture gives young people the message of self-restraint and self-discipline. And that holds true for computer games, , drinking, , tattooes, piercings, who to associate with, when, and so on.

Society has broken down, and not just in the UK, but here as well, though things are healthier, generally, in pockets in the Bush States.

The consequences of this unrestrained behaviour are early , debilitating disease, and general failure. Yet, since most manage somehow to pull themselves out of the downward spiral before "wet-brain syndrome" sets in, people fail to understand the depth of the problem.

Now I believe in having a good time around Christmas as much as anyone, and am no tea-totaler, as my grandparents were. But I have to say, having seen some of the consequences for behaviour as described in the article, being that drunk that frequently is not good.

In the end, I'm with Charles Ryder's cousin Jasper, who told him that no one minds a chap being tight once in a while, in fact a fellow ought to once or twice a university term, but being drunk constantly is socially unacceptable (or being under the more insidious influence of some non-traditonal substance; I tend to think that Europeans ought to stick to alcohol, and little of that). At least it is socially unacceptable to me, and the right-thinking remnant of civilized culture.

Ember Friday In Advent

Another day of prayer, penance, and mortification of the flesh in preparation for Christmas.

Day Eighteen of the Advent Novena

Say this novena prayer 15 times a day between St Andrew's Day and December 24th:

Hail, and blessed be the hour and moment at which the Son of God was born of a most pure Virgin at a stable at midnight in Bethlehem in the piercing cold. At that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, to hear my prayers and grant my desires.

(Mention your intentions here)

Through Jesus Christ and His most Blessed Mother.

Meditation For Friday of the Third Week of Advent

From the Franciscans at AmericanCatholic.org.

O Sapientia

O Wisdom that comest out of the mouth of the Most High, that reachest from one end to another, and orderest all things mightily and sweetly, come to teach us the way of prudence!

O Sapientia, quæ ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiæ.

How To Pray the O Antiphons

Over the next few days, I will be publishing the O Antiphons in both English and Latin.

One is prayed each evening at Vespers time (around sunset), and families can make up their own ceremonies using the Antiphons, Scripture, sacred music, etc. An 8-symbol Jesse Tree could be beautifully and most appropriately incorporated into the O Antiphon traditions.

Whatever you do, set the scene, as you should with all Catholic family devotions: burn incense, lower the lights, light candles, use sacred music at appropriate times, meaningful symbols, etc.

To pray the O Antiphons as in the Divine Office, begin with the Antiphon, then pray the Magnificat, then repeat the Antiphon. It would be wonderful if perhaps one parent can read the Antiphons in Latin, with the second parent reading them in the vernacular afterwards

Thursday, December 16, 2004

More Than "Visions" of Sugar Plums

Since the Thursday of Ember Week is not a penitential day, why not dip a toe into the water and post my first Christmas entry today?

You have heard, courtesy of C.C. Moore, of "visions of sugar plums."

Now make the vision a reality:

Sugar Plums
1 cup raisins
1 cup bite-size pitted prunes
1 cup pitted dates
1 cup currants
1 cup candied cherries, dried cherries or dried cranberries
1 cup walnuts
1/2 to 3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
Granulated sugar
Using a food processor, grind the fruit and nuts and mix well. Work into the mixture as much confectioner’s sugar as it takes to form 1-inch balls. Roll balls in granulated sugar and refrigerate in single layers between sheets of wax paper in airtight containers for up to 1 month.
Yield: 4 1/2 dozen

Variation: chocolate-coated sugar plums-- melt some dark chocolate, and dip the sugar plums in the chocolate, and allow to cool, as you normally would when dipping things into chocolate.

BTW, there is a positively sinful assortment of recipes for cakes, candies, cookies, pies, desserts, holiday beverages, and entrees, as well as menus for a tree-trimming party, for Christmas Eve Dinner, for Christmas Dinner, and for St. Stephen's Day Dinner over at my Recta Ratio: The Yahoo Group in the files section under "Recipes and Menus." Always free to join, and a great place to explore once you do join, if I do say so myself.

More Christmas entries Sunday and Monday.

The Price of Fruitcakes!

I wandered into Williams Sonoma and noticed that they have a Trappist fruitcake for sale. The two-pound cake in a tin, sells for $42.00.

Now I make a 10-11 pound cake, just one, unless I have a request for one as a gift, and with my non-existent economies of scale, it costs me $50.

So, if it costs me about $50 to produce a 10-11 pound fruitcake, if the Trappists have similar economies of scale problems (they don't) it should cost roughly $10.00 to produce each 2-pound cake.

That means Williams Sonoma is taking quite a mark-up (more than the standard 100%) on the cakes, assuming that the Trappists are selling to them for about $20.00 per cake.

I'll bet you that the Trappists are only walking away from the transaction with $5 of profit, because they are undoubtably not selling to Williams Sonoma for the $20 I posited, but probably $15-17 each.

But, I would bet that the Trappists themselves, since they produce a lot of fruitcakes and benefit from economies of scale, as well as wholesale prices on ingredients, don't have to pay $10.00 to produce each cake.

So what does this mean? It means a cake that it costs the Trappists probably $7.00 to produce, is selling in Williams Sonoma for $42.00.

It also means, I ought to get into the fruitcake business, a notion I have toyed with for years.

Hey, Where Are All the Christmas Postings?

Not really in the mood yet this year, but after the ember days are past, I'll go whole hog with a host of recipes, suggestions, poems, and song lyrics.

Meditation For Thursday of the Third Week of Advent

From the Franciscans at AmericanCatholic.org.

Day Seventeen of the Advent Novena

Say this novena prayer 15 times a day between St Andrew's Day and December 24th:

Hail, and blessed be the hour and moment at which the Son of God was born of a most pure Virgin at a stable at midnight in Bethlehem in the piercing cold. At that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, to hear my prayers and grant my desires.

(Mention your intentions here)

Through Jesus Christ and His most Blessed Mother.

60th Anniversary of the Start of the Battle of the Bulge


On December 16th, 1944, three German armies began an offensive along the Western Front, under cover of low clouds and fog. The Germans threw some 600 tanks into the attack, and aimed them at 3 American divisions (one veteran divison badly in need of rest and replacements after months of fighting, and 2 brand new, untried units) holding a quiet sector of the line in the Ardennes.

The German objective was ambitious, perhaps too ambitious given the resources available to them. The wooded Ardennes was to be crossed, pushing aside the American resistance, the River Meuse was to be crossed in the vicinity of Dinant, where the Germans had broken through in 1940, and the port of Antwerp was to be reached. If they got there, they would cut the Allied line in two, probably driving the Brits int he north into the sea. Taking Antwerp would also disrupt Allied logistical arrangements, as they were using the port to bring in supplies.

German secrecy had been impressive. Planning for the offensive began in September. Reserves of manpower, fuel, ammunition, and armored vehicles were carefully husbanded for it. All orders concerning the attack had been banned from radio traffic, and were delivered by hand of officer only.

The result was that the Allies were caught by surprise, since almost everyone thought the Wehrmacht was finished and that the war would soon be over. Eisenhower and Montgomery had a well-publicized 5 Pound bet on whether it would end by Christmas or not. Patton was due to begin an offensive south of the area the Germans attacked in a few days. Many senior officers were on leave, and the General Bradley had only the two American Airborne Divisions, the 82nd and 101st, in reserve, and both were refitting after having been committed too long to the fighting in Holland in September and October.

The Allies had been able to completely thwart all Geman efforts at an armored offensive, in large part because, with unchallenged air supremacy, Allied planes swooped down on attacking German formations with machine guns, bombs, and rockets, and took a heavy toll on German tanks, supply columns, and massed troops.

But the low clouds and fog meant (in 1944) that virtually no Allied planes were flying.

The Germans managed to penetrate the Allied line, though a stiff shoulder on the northern flank of the attack around Elsenborn Ridge and the villages of Krinklet and Rocherath held up progress. To the south, there was less in the way of natural lines of resistance, though a mixture of American units were holding a vital crossroads at Bastonge. Thus the German gains looked like a large "bulge" in the Allied line.

Bradley reacted slowly, but decisively. Patton was ordered to call off his offensive in the Saar, and get his units on the move north to drive into the German gains from the south. The 82nd Airborne was sent to help stiffen resistence around Elsenborn Ridge, and the 101st was committed to hold Bastonge. Montgomery ordered British units to backstop the Americans, holding a line on the far bank of the River Meuse.

The fighting around Bastonge, with the 101st going in virtually unarmed, and scrounging ammunition from the dead and wounded, and holding for more than a week (in fact, they moved very little in over a month of fighting), the pompous German demand for surrender, and the response from the acting diviisonal commander, Brig. McAuliffe, "Nuts!" is the stuff of which legends are made.

With Patton driving up from the south towards Bastonge, and every man who could carry a gun being scrapped out of billets behind the lines and made into combat infantry replacements, with the clearing of the skies for the Allied air forces shortly before Christmas, the tide turned against the Germans. The 2nd US Armored Division, with a lot of help from close air support from the Army Air Corps, stopped the German 2nd Panzer Division in the vicinity of Celles, a few miles from the Meuse.

It took a month of very hard fighting, some of it in deep snow (though on December 16th, based on many photographs I have examined, the weather appears to have been raw with rain and fog, but no snow over most of the sector) before the Germans were made to slowly give back every square inch they gained in the first 5 days of the offensive.


What was the significance of the Battle of the Bulge?

It shortened the war considerably, since in using up his reserves in this attack, Hitler wasted an opportunity to use them to blunt the Russian winter offensive that carried them onto German soil, and eventually to Berlin itself. It turned the American soldiers, most of whom had had a relatively easy war since breaking out of Normandy, into first-rate soldiers, who met Hitler's best, and stopped them. And it showed, yet again, the importance of air power in modern warfare. The lack of air power allowed the Germans to make an impressive advance, and when that ability to utilize airpower was restored, the German gains were reversed.


We are lucky to still have many Battle of the Bulge veterans with us, who possess a living memory of this event. In recent years, through such means as Stephen Ambrose's Band of Brothers, and the movie, A Midnight Clear, Americans have come to gain a better understanding of the horror of the fighting in Belgium in December, 1944 and January, 1945.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Charities Are Hurting This Year

Give more than you might otherwise.

But be selective about where you give your money.

Organizations with low salaries and a higher percentage of direct aid are the best. Forget United Way. "Catholic Charities" aren't. Try your local parish's food pantry, the Salvation Army (which I see is taking heat for its proper Christian stance against homosexuality).

Don't give to beggars on the street. Nearly 100% of your money given to them goes direct to liquor stores and drug dealers if you do. If you really want to give a street begger something, hand him a $1 gift certificate for McDonald's.

This Year...

Make a point of saying, "Merry Christmas!"
(Link thingee still not working:

Banish "Happy Holidays" and "Seasons' Greetings" to their richly-deserved quietus.

The Message This Sends Is...

If they are going to close your parish, raise hell, and they will back down if there are enough of you.

Linking not working today:

will_keep_open_two_ parishes_set_for_closing/

Prayers For An Ember Wednesday Holy Hour

Prayer, fasting, abstinence, almsgiving are all appropriate for Ember Days.

Here is an outline of an Advent Ember Day Holy Hour:
1) Sign of the Cross
2) Act of Contrition
3) Confiteor
4) Acts of Faith, Hope, and Charity
5) Prayer Before A Crucifix
6) Invocation Of St. Michael the Archangel
7) Nicene Creed
8) Prayer of St. Thomas More
9) Prayer of St. Terese of Avila To Redeem Wasted Time
10) Dies Irae
11) The Jesus Prayer (repeated nine times)
12) Prayer For the Souls In Purgatory of Saint Gertrude
13) Aspiration Prayer For A Happy Death (repeated 3 times)
14) Kyrie
15) Agnus Dei
16) Litany of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows
17) Stabat Mater Dolorosa
18) The Seven Penitential Psalms
19) The Seven Prayers of Saint Gregory
20) The Divine Mercy Chaplet
21) The Advent Novena
22) The Sign of the Cross

An average person not burdened with so many needs in the novena, and with the texts in front of him, ought to be able to get through this program in just over an hour.

I think the overall tone of these prayers creates a healthy and necessary recognition of sin, penitence, death, judgment, and divine mercy. Since Ember Days are penitential days, I think my combination is just about right.

No, "We are all resurrection people" here. I think these prayers leave no doubt that we are all sinners and in dire need of the Sacrament of Penance, and divine mercy.

I love the Prayer Against Pride which is said after Psalm 6.

"Our Lord Jesus Christ humbled Himself, obedient unto death, even death on the Cross. And I, the most vile of worms, am but dust and ashes. I am the greatest of sinners who has merited Hell a thousand times....Do not, I beseech Thee, throw me down into the pit of Gehenna with proud Lucifer and his servants..."

That is what I call a prayer!

None of the bloated self-satisfied stuff of the 1960s (Here I Am, Lord, doesn't that just make Your day?, We're so holy because we go to Mass that we must be a Priestly People You have raised up On Eagles' Wings).

People who actually believe that nonsense about themselves, and don't recognize that the medievals had it pretty much right on human nature, might well be in serious trouble on Judgment Day.

Not for them the sentiments of the Dies Irae:"That day will be a day of wrath,"
"What great fear there will be when the Judge is coming,"
"I am a miserable wretch, and what can I plead, whose patronage can I seek, when even the righteous man will be saved only with great difficulty?,"
"Do not send me into perdition on that day,"
"I groan as one already condemned, my cheeks are red with shame for my sins,"
"My prayers are not worthy, but in Thy mercy make it so that I do not burn in the unquenchable flames,"
"Lord Jesus, in pity, give them rest."

It does the soul much good, I think, to be aware of how very sinful we all are, and how much we need God's mercy. And I thank God that there are Ember Days, Fridays, Lent, Passiontide, and Ash Wednesday to remind us of that. It is far better to think about these things now, than to be surprised to be confronted with the fruits of self-complacency on the Day of Wrath.

Day Sixteen of the Advent Novena

Say this novena prayer 15 times a day between St Andrew's Day and December 24th:

Hail, and blessed be the hour and moment at which the Son of God was born of a most pure Virgin at a stable at midnight in Bethlehem in the piercing cold. At that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, to hear my prayers and grant my desires.

(Mention your intentions here)

Through Jesus Christ and His most Blessed Mother.

Meditation For Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent

From the Franciscans at AmericanCatholic.org.

Wednesday In the Advent Ember Week

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.

For some reason the image I want to use won't load, but you can see it here .

The Church, through an Ember Week in Advent is saying, "We interupt the holiday merry-making to remind everyone about the reality of sin, the devil and his demons, death, judgment, heaven, and hell."

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Fighting the Noonday Demon

Regarding the problem of acedie, which Steve Riddle brought up the other day, here is an article from First Things on combating this menace.

I have found that a holy hour spent with the Blessed Sacrament (or with the Blessed Mother) is a good antidote. I have been trying to make this a daily practice since Easter, and have found that the noonday devil has been less my companion since then. In the very black days of last fall and early winter (2003), though, before I started it, I suffered much.

But the noonday devil is persistent. Sometimes, I put aside my rigid schedule of adoration prayers, and all the doubt, questions, self-accusation, and begging over and over for the desired outcome now just comes pouring out uncontrollably. If I stick to my rigid program of prayer, I can minimize it, sometimes.

This Works Better

As you may have noticed, since I found out that I could post images to the blog, I have added a couple to the template, and a few to blogs.

I had the Advent wreath gif at the top of the page, as part of the template, but it forced the rest of page down too far. I now incorporate it daily with the Advent novena prayer, which I think I like better.

Dick Clark Will Miss New Year's Eve Telecast

He suffered a stroke last week, and will not be well enough in time to host the New Year's Eve show. He has been there every year for more than 3 decades.

I suppose it is a sign of my age that I can remember the guy he replaced: Guy Lombardo.

Pedro Gone

He signed with the Mets.

So much for that dream rotation I floated the other day.

Jack Frost Is Nipping At Our Noses

This morning around 6, it was still pretty pleasant out, but a cold front must have passed through between 6 and 8, as it was windy and much colder at the later hour.

Winter is here, but we in Boston have been fortunate so far, being spared snow and ice except for a couple of inches that fell around Martinmas and melted quickly.

Day Fifteen of the Advent Novena

Say this novena prayer 15 times a day between St Andrew's Day and December 24th:

Hail, and blessed be the hour and moment at which the Son of God was born of a most pure Virgin at a stable at midnight in Bethlehem in the piercing cold. At that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, to hear my prayers and grant my desires.

(Mention your intentions here)

Through Jesus Christ and His most Blessed Mother.

Meditation For Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent

From the Franciscans at AmericanCatholic.org.

Saint John of the Cross

A great Carmelite mystic. I read his The Dark Night of the Soul and The Ascent of Mount Carmel during the last 15 months, to my great profit.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Today, The Real Presidential Election Takes Place

The Electoral College will convene all across the country today, and cast 286 electoral votes for President Bush, officially re-electing him.

Pats Clinch AFC East

With a win, making them 12-1 on the season, so far.

Winter in Boston

It has been mighty bleak since at least Wednesday. We've had pouring rain, heavy mist, clouds, and even some spitting snow. There could be more snow soon, as it is about to get much colder.

Ah, to be someplace where the temperature is always between 65 and 70 degrees F during the day, with low humidity, and no rain, except at night!

Meditation For Monday of the Third Week of Advent

From the Franciscans at AmericanCatholic.org.

Day Fourteen of the Advent Novena

Say this novena prayer 15 times a day between St Andrew's Day and December 24th:

Hail, and blessed be the hour and moment at which the Son of God was born of a most pure Virgin at a stable at midnight in Bethlehem in the piercing cold. At that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, to hear my prayers and grant my desires.

(Mention your intentions here)

Through Jesus Christ and His most Blessed Mother.

St. Lucy

From Catholic.org:

Lucy's name means "light", with the same root as "lucid" which means "clear, radiant, understandable." Unfortunately for us, Lucy's history does not match her name. Shrouded in the darkness of time, all we really know for certain is that this brave woman who lived in Syracuse lost her life in the persecution of Christians in the early fourth century.

Her veneration spread to Rome so that by the sixth century the whole Church recognized her courage in defense of the faith. Because people wanted to shed light on Lucy's bravery, legends grew up. The one that is passed down to us tells the story of a young Christian woman who had vowed her life to the service of Christ. Her mother tried to arrange a marriage for her with a pagan.

Lucy apparently knew that her mother would not be convinced by a young girl's vow so she devised a plan to convince her mother that Christ was a much more powerful partner for life. Through prayers at the tomb of Saint Agatha, her mother's long illness was cured miraculously. The grateful mother was now ready to listen to Lucy's desire to give her money to the poor and commit her life to God.

Unfortunately, legend has it, the rejected bridegroom did not see the same light and he betrayed Lucy to the governor as a Christian. This governor tried to send her into prostitution but the guards who came to take her way found her stiff and heavy as a mountain. Finally she was killed.

As much as the facts of Lucy's specific case are unknown, we know that many Christians suffered incredible torture and a painful death for their faith during Diocletian's reign. Lucy may not have been burned or had a sword thrust through her throat but many Christians did and we can be sure her faith withstood tests we can barely imagine.

Lucy's name is probably also connected to statues of Lucy holding a dish with two eyes on it. This refers to another legend in which Lucy's eyes were put out by Diocletian as part of his torture. The legend concludes with God restoring Lucy's eyes. Lucy's name also played a large part in naming Lucy as a patron saint of the blind and those with eye-trouble.

Whatever the fact to the legends surrounding Lucy, the truth is that her courage to stand up and be counted a Christian in spite of torture and death is the light that should lead us on our own journeys through life.

In Her Footsteps: Lucy is the patron saint of the blind. Braille is an important means of communication for those with visual impairment or blindness. Support the teaching of braille in schools and learn about it yourself by calling your local chapter of the National Federation of the Blind.

Prayer: Saint Lucy, you did not hide your light under a basket, but let it shine for the whole world, for all the centuries to see. We may not suffer torture in our lives the way you did, but we are still called to let the light of our Christianity illumine our daily lives. Please help us to have the courage to bring our Christianity into our work, our recreation, our relationships, our conversation -- every corner of our day.

Saint Lucy is still widely venerated by Italians.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Save Holy Trinity Yahoo Group

I just got back from the Indult Mass, and noticed in the bulletin that a new Yahoo Group designed as an information forum for the effort to keep Holy Trinity open has been formed.

I just joined, and will be posting a link to it prominently in my blog.

I'm not unalterably opposed to closing Holy Trinity. If they want to move the Latin Mass to St. Clements, I think that could be done, and would even like it better.

But I suspect that the decision to close Holy Trinity is not so much a correct judgment on the non-viability of the German parish, but is, in fact an attack on the Indult Mass, and a back-handed way of trying to kill off the healthy Latin Mass community.

I suspect that Father Coyne's promise that the Latin Mass would be relocated was, like his promise that Sister Eustace's thrift styore would be reopened, a lie. I think the hope is that the Latin Mass community, once kicked out of Holy Trinity, will wither away, forced to trek to one side of the Archdiocese one week, and to the other the next, until it collapses from sheer frustration.

Birthday of Patrick O'Brian

On this date in 1914, novelist Patrick O'Brian was born. Patrick O'Brian was a new identity adopted by the author Richard Patrick Russ after service in British intelligence in World War II, and a rather discreditable abandoning of his first wife and children in England.

As Patrick O'Brian, he settled in the south of France and started writing and growing grapes. O'Brian's first love was the Royal Navy of the Age of Nelson. In the 1960s, he produced the novel Master and Commander, featuring Captain Jonathan Aubrey, RN and his ship's surgeon, Stephen Maturin.

Both main characters have great depths.

Aubrey is depicted often as a supremely competent sailor with a rogue of a father and an utter lack of ability to handle his affairs while not at sea. He is a jovial, tall, blonde fellow who is old fashioned and conservative, wonderfully hospitable, enjoys his bottle and his wench (he is regrettably something of a whoremonger). But Jack also has some mathemetical and astronomical skill (is a member of the Royal Society for original scholarship on astronomy) , and becomes an accomplished violinist.

Stephen Maturin is an actual physician, a calling far above the norm for Royal Navy surgeons. He is a small, thin, ugly, dark Catholic Irishman, who has more than flirted with the cause of the United Irishman (he is a cousin of Lord Edward Fitzgerald), but is devoted to the destruction of Bonaparte. He has an Irish temper, is known to be a deadly duelist who has already buried many who insulted him. To make his personality worse, he develops an addiction to opium and is a bastard. He is a enthusiastic naturalist. He is also hopelesly in love with a lovely English lady who does not love him. As if this was not enough, he enters the Royal Navy's intelligence service. He too is an amateur musician, playing the cello.

It is what we now call baroque music that brings these two together. They sit next to one another at a concert in Minorca (where we are told that the quartet of Italian musicians are playing Locatelli) and nearly engage in a duel over Jack's exuberance at the performance. But Jack goes back to his lodgings, finds a message appointing him to command of his first ship, the little HMS Sophie, and in his happiness, apologizes and invites Stephen to dine with him (love of good food is a theme in most of the Aubrey/Maturin novels). During the course of dinner Jack finds out that Stephen is currently not employed and asks him to join his crew as surgeon.

And we set sail on a voyage that would go on for thirty years and twenty novels (and involve Royal Navy vessels of all shapes and sizes).

O'Brian ably blends themes and atmospheres from Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Homer, Ian Fleming, and other sources. He stresses old-fashioned values like friendship, continuity of culture, faith, hospitality, and appreciation of the arts. His history is first rate. He used the published reports of the Royal Navy, The Naval Chronicle and the adventurous life of Lord Cochrane for primary sources.

Period detail in naval terminology, food, medicine, politics, fashion, society, and literature permeates each of the novels.

Though he wrote in the same format as C.S. Forester's Hornblower, O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin is far superior as writing. Many literary critics believe that the Aubrey/Maturin novels, taken as a whole, are not only the best historical novels ever written, but possibly the best novels of the last four decades of the 20th century. Think about that. The competition is not that great.

Mr. O'Brian (know to his fans as POB) once said, "Obviously, I have lived very much out of the world: I know little of present-day Dublin or London or Paris, even less of post-modernity, post-structuralism, hard rock or rap, and I cannot write with much conviction about the contemporary scene." [Patrick O'Brian: Critical Essays and a Bibliography, edited by Arthur Cunningham].

In fact, Mr. O'Brian often seemed to have walked out of another era, and in his interactions with his publisher, he displayed a level of courtesy and civility rarely seen in our times.

I first read O'Brian in the spring of 1998. I had heard about the novels before, but resisted them. Remember, I am a re-enactor, and an infantryman. I was (still am) a great fan of Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series. I knew nothing about sailing or medicine. But in a dreary time in my life I needed some new literary diversion and started Master and Commander.

Six weeks later, I had read the then-existing 18 novels. What won me over? The baroque music (Jack and Stephen play duets for their own amusement on the long voyages in most of the novels), the period food and drink (I was for a year quartermaster for my regiment and in charge of provisioning the troops in the field with authentic grub), the unfamiliar world of sailing an 18th century man-o-war (I did a short stint of marine duty on the tall ship HMS Rose, a replica frigate not all that different from Jack's beloved HMS Surprise, some years before this), the good fellowship, the wonderful characters like Jack's steward Preserved Killick ("Which, I wish I could put ratsbane in their toasted cheese") and Heneage Dundas, another naval captain and life-long friend of Jack's.

When someone reads with sympathy a series such as this, at a time when one is virtually alone and friendless, one tends to identify with the characters, especially if they are a part of a time period you identify with.

And O'Brian is a master of making his characters real and attractive. In one book, Stephen is jilted and finding out, is left in desolation and tears upon the top of a mountain on an island the Joyful Surprise has stopped at. Who has not felt such pangs?

But tears of joy and loyalty came to my own eyes when Jack, having been stripped of his commission and put in the stocks for the fury of the London mob, is protected from harm by the serried ranks of naval officers and common sailors who have sailed with him over the years. Just this past summer, I happened to re-read that section in a used bookstore in Eagle River, Anchorage, and found the tears wanting to flow again, feeling Jack's disgrace and the love and friendhsip of so many old comrades.

I would not say that POB is a way of life, but a cottage industry has grown up around the Aubrey/Maturin books. O'Brian's publisher Norton, maintains the official Patrick O'Brian web page here.

The food of the novels is detailed in Lobscouse and Spotted Dog, with detailed recipes showing you how to recreate the feasts, and famines enjoyed and endured by the characters.

Dean King has written a biography of POB, a manual for the terminology used in the books, and an atlas of the voyages of Jack and Stephen.

Gibbons Burke maintains the terrific unofficial site. The links here are extensive. You could lose a day or more just navigating through the fascinating links.

There are even 2 CDs (not counting the movie soundtrack) of music Jack and Stephen might have shared on their long voyages, Musical Evenings With the Captain, 1 & 2.

Here is the Patrick O'Brian discussion forum, The Gunroom .

And here is an account (with photos) of O'Brian's visit to HMS Rose, the ship used to portray HMS Surprise in last year's Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.

Here is a great photo of HMS Rose as HMS Surprise. She has now been moored in San Diego and renamed HMS Surprise.

Use the Previous and Next buttons to see other images of HMS Rose as HMS Surprise.

O'Brian died January 2, 2000 in Dublin while doing research for the 21st novel in the series. That fragment has been published in the last several months under the title 21. I read it last month, and ardentoly wish Norton has transcribed the pages of O'Brian's manuscript into typescript, as his handwriting is more difficulat to decipher than my own scrawl.

Here is a drawing by Geoff Hunt, who painted covers for all of the novels, of HMS Surprise in mourning for him.

A glass of wine with you, sir?

As This Is December 12, It Would Normally Be Our Lady of Guadalupe

But the Advent Sunday takes precedence liturgically.

From Catholic.org:

Our Lady of Guadalupe December 12 (USA)
When we reflect on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe we learn two important lessons, one of faith and one of understanding.

Missionaries who first came to Mexico with the conquistadors had little success in the beginning. After nearly a generation, only a few hundred Native Mexicans had converted to the Christian faith. Whether they simply did not understand what the missionaries had to offer or whether they resented these people who made them slaves, Christianity was not popular among the native people.

Then in 1531 miracles began to happen. Jesus' own mother appeared to humble Juan Diego. The signs -- of the roses, of the uncle miraculously cured of a deadly illness, and especially of her beautiful image on Juan's mantle -- convinced the people there was something to be considered in Christianity. Within a short time, six million Native Mexicans had themselves baptized as Christians.

The first lesson is that God has chosen Mary to lead us to Jesus. No matter what critics may say of the devotion of Mexicans (and Mexican descendants) to Our Lady of Guadalupe, they owe their Christianity to her influence. If it were not for her, they would not know her son, and so they are eternally grateful. The second lesson we take from Mary herself. Mary appeared to Juan Diego not as a European madonna but as a beautiful Aztec princess speaking to him in his own Aztec language. If we want to help someone appreciate the gospel we bring, we must appreciate the culture and the mentality in which they live their lives. By understanding them, we can help them to understand and know Christ. Our Lady of Guadalupe is patron of the Americas.

Someting Of A Mixed Message?

Well, today is Gaudete Sunday, to be sure, but this is also the Advent Ember Week.

Remember that Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday of this week have been traditionally observed as special days of penance and mortification of the flesh.


Today is Gaudete Sunday, one of the two "pink" Sundays of the year. The other is Laetare Sunday, the 4th Sunday in Lent. Both "pink" Sundays serve the purpose of giving us breaks from the periods of preparation before the two major feasts. Gaudete means "Rejoice!" Laetare, fitting to the more somber Lenten season, merely means to be happy. On Laetare Sunday, Good Friday is still ahead of us. But there is no equivalent of that in Advent.

The twelve-day feast of Christmas begins in just thirteen days. The "O" antiphons start soon. That is indeed something to rejoice about. No matter how bad things seem, the cycle of Christian faith continues, through war, oppression, dissent, personal crisis, and scandal.

Rejoice! Not only is the Incarnation about to be observed again, but I think we are beginning to see light at the end of the Scandal tunnel. I fervently pray that all that has happened, and will happen, furthers the cause of cleaning things up in the Church in the US, and taking out of the way part of a generation and a half of Church leaders who have been wittingly (Weakland) or unwittingly (Law) obstructing genuine restoration of Catholic traditions, practices, and beliefs.

John Paul's pontificate has been a huge exercise in retrenchment and getting back to basics, especially clarity of Catholic doctrine, a revitalized cult of the saints, Eucharistic adoration, and the (now revitalized and more Christ-centered) Rosary. Let that work trickle down to the diocese and parish level here in the US, and the Church here will be more cohesive than ever.

Pray for it and Rejoice!

Day Thirteen of the Advent Novena

Say this novena prayer 15 times a day between St Andrew's Day and December 24th:

Hail, and blessed be the hour and moment at which the Son of God was born of a most pure Virgin at a stable at midnight in Bethlehem in the piercing cold. At that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, to hear my prayers and grant my desires.

(Mention your intentions here)

Through Jesus Christ and His most Blessed Mother.

Meditation For the Third Sunday of Advent

From the Franciscans at AmericanCatholic.org.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?