Saturday, July 30, 2005

This Makes Sense

The higher the percentage of Catholics, the lower the percentage of HIV infections.

Some people actually do live their faith.

Why Attend the Latin Mass?

Excellent essay from a Harvard undergraduate in the New Oxford Review.

One of the Saint Lawrence Nine Is A Theology Professor At A Catholic University

The Cardinal Newman Society dug up her identity.

She had been using a pseudonym. Now the bull of excommunication can be filled out properly.

Soon It Will Not Be Legal To State That The Practice Of Homosexuality Is Objectively Disordered

That was a concern raised back in early April by then-Cardinal Ratzinger.

Why is it important to say that?
1) It is true.
2) It is the belief of all Catholics in union With Rome.

And the Holy Father was certainly correct. Canada seems to be on the verge of doing just that, in the name of political correctness and banning "hate speech."

Today's Catholic Cultural Heritage Image

Early monk's cellsSkellig Michael, a tiny windswept island off the coast of Ireland, where generations of Irish Catholic monks preserved and protected the traditions of classical learning and texts while the rest of Europe was submerged in a flood of barbarism. Skellig Michael was settled as a monastic community some 80 years after the death of Saint Patrick.

Just how tiny, barren, and remote Skellig Michael is.

Who Ever Thought We Would See This?

It was not so long ago that a massive Soviet blitzkrieg threatened to burst the inter-German border, roll through the Fulda Gap, and on to the Atlantic Coast.

But the Soviet Union has not existed in 15 years. And there is no inter-German border.

Some US units that have been garrisoning southern and western Germany for decades are being relocated. Some to the US, some to new bases in Poland.

October 16th Is Now A National Holiday In Poland

It is the anniversary of John Paul the Great's accession to the Papal throne.

Link via St. Peter's Helpers.

Look For A New Section Of Links Here After Next Weekend

I've decided to spend part of next weekend working on a new category of links:

Catholic Homeschooling Resources

I think this will meet a need in the conservative/tradionalist Catholic community that Recta Ratio is currently not addressing well. Since I am a passionate advocate of homeschooling, and since the school year is fast approaching (I can't believe it is almost Lammas!) I think it is time for this service.

War Games

There is a vastly fascinating discussion of board war games over at Secret Agent Man, and continued over at Dyspeptic Mutterings. I guess Dale, SAM, and I constitute St. Blog's official 40-something nerd contingent.

War games were the light of my life between the time toy soldiers were (briefly) not the thing, and the time I started re-enacting: roughly prep school, college, and law school (1978-1989).

Much more impressive than my collection

For those who are completely at sea about what on earth we are talking about, here is a good, fairly typical on-line description of a simple game about Patton's Alsace-Lorraine Campaign of 1944 designed by one of the great game designers, James F. Dunnigan, author of A Quick and Dirty Guide To War, and How To Make War.

Dunnigan has much mor eto say in The Complete Wargamers Handbook, a e-text available here.
I found especially interesting what Dunnigan's market research told him about the wargaming profile.

My first war games were Avalon Hill's Panzer Leader and Panzer Blitz. These games are platoon-level World War II games with map boards with hexagonal grids, and the units, or counter represent roughly 5 vehicles or 50 men. The games (Leader is about the Western Front 1944-45, while Blitz covers the Eastern Front from the same period) are of minimal difficulty, employ a good game system (that was also used in a game I bought a few years later, The Arab-Israeli Wars.

My next game was from a different maker, Avalon Hill's main rival Simulations Publications, Inc., or SPI. Napoleon At War was a 4-pack (quad) featuring games utilizing the same system. Each game was one of Bonaparte's epic battles: Marengo, Wagram, Jena/Auerstadt, and Leipzig. This was a much simpler system, with the counters representing division-sized units.

Then came Squad Leader, and one of its modules, Cross of Iron. This was Avalon Hill's foray into World War II small unit tactics. Avalon Hill produced several Advanced modules for the basic Squad Leader system, abut I found this not as playable (given that almost 100% of my gaming was, like the rest of my childhood, solitaire).

Over the years, many offerings from Avalon Hill and SPI filled my shelves.

Avalon Hill games I bought included Kriegspiel, Feudal, Kingmaker, Diplomacy, 1776, Air Assault on Crete/Malta, Napoleon: The Waterloo Campaign Game, Frederick the Great, Panzerkrieg, The Guns of August, Napoleon At Bay, Caesar: The Epic Battle of Alesia, Alexander, Wooden Ships and Iron Men, The Struggle of Nations, and The Battle of the Bulge.

Meanwhile, SPI also filled my shelves with titles like The Next War, Atlantic Wall, The Campaign For North Africa, Terrible Swift Sword, Team Yankee, Wellington's Victory, and Napoleon's Last Battles.

Plus I think I remember I had a Game Designer's Workshop game called The Campaign For France, 1940.

As I said, almost all my gaming was solitaire. My prep school friends and I set up a Statis Pro Baseball league one year (but I never bought the game). We also tried mightily one year to play The Struggle of Nations after school, but other commitments kept us from getting past the set-up phase.

I spent a lot of time looking at game components, reading rules and especially Designer's Notes. It was in the Notes that some of the most fascinating tidbits of info were gleaned. Russian tanks of World War II mostly lacked radios. Russian tank platoons had only 4 tanks, where German platoons had 5.

And what did I learn from so much exposure to the details of historical warfare? Well, I like to think that I picked up a working knowledge of what will work and what will not in armed conflict. Some of the rules regarding things like supplies were pretty easy (leaving a line of supply with hexes not dominated by enemy counters) and some complex (rules regarding evaporation of gasoline in the desert heat for The Campaign For North Africa). For instance, despite the continual losses in Iraq, I can see that the US is in the catbird's seat from a strategic standpoint. Though losses will continue, and might be catastrophic if we get careless, I can see that there is nothing to fear. The war is won. The insurgents will not triumph.

Even gaming solitaire, you develop an innate understanding of strategy and tactics. Once you have held off the waves of Gauls attacking the fortifications around Alesia, taken HMS Victory across the bow of the Santissima Trinidad, secured the airfield at Maleme, swept the plain of Persians at Guagamela, and duplicated Manstein's backhand blow 100 miles north os where it actually took place, and defende dthe Fulda Gap against a Soviet blitzkrieg, you can see that the basic principles, mass, concentration, surprise, the indirect approach all work very well across all generations.

The military uses wargaming as part of training and in understanding the dynamics of developing situations. The use of wargames and miniatures in training goes back to the 18th century, and was widely used by the Prussians in the 19th century (and the Germans later). While Saddam was invading Kuwait in 1990, people in the Pentagon were gaming the situation. Before Desert Sword and the Iraq War were undertaken, complex games of all sorts were used at various levels to see how things would develop.

Today, wargaming comes in three variants. Board games, as I've discussed, miniature wargaming using small, often painted toy soldiers and model vehicles, and computer wargames, which I have never played (though I have the feeling that if I ever started I could never stop, given what happens to me when I play Free Cell and Solitaire on the computer: many hundreds of wasted hours). In miniature wargaming, the same toy soldiers (or military miniatures, as hobbyists prefer to refer to them) that can be used in static displays, or dioramas with scenery depicting historic events are used as game pieces, instead of the cardboard counters used by board gamers.

A Revolutinary War game in progress, utilizing excellently done figures.

And then there is the sense of geography you pick up. The game board of Kingmaker is a map of England at the time of the War of the Roses. The board for Napoleon At Bay is a map of the Champagne region of France. The Struggle of Nations is waged across the continent of Europe, from Gibraltar to beyond Moscow. Playing Panzerkrieg, you can see why the sheer size of the theater was a severe problem for the Germans on the Eastern Front.

Even in games without the grand sweep, tactical games involving a specific locale, like Wellington's Victory, where the chateau of Hougomont takes up several hexes (about as many hexes as Paris does in The Campaign For France, 1940) the player develops an appreciation for the factor of geography in warfare. Only so many troops can attack La Haye Sainte at once. Defenders holding woods and hilltops have innate advantages over attackers. Just playing some of the scenarios of Panzer Leader that feature woody terrain allows you to appreciate the horror of the Hurtgen Forest battles, and why the 20th Maine was able to hold Little Round Top against superior forces, as well.

It used to be that military service was a wide-spread experience in American culture. Mass armies needed for the Civil War, and the World Wars (even Vietnam and Korea) sucked in huge percentages of the young adult male population of the country. That meant that some 25-40% of that cadre knew something of warfare and military service, even if they never left Fort Dix. Warfare has changed with technology. And mass armies will probably neve be needed again, unless we end up fighting a land war against China, India, or Russia. My generation, the kids who came of age years after Vietnam, picked up our experience of warfare from toy soldiers (military miniatures as we got older) and wargames (both board and miniature: I've played both), and re-enacting. And in some cases, we might understand the principles of warfare more clearly than some practicioners (like Saddam Hussein) and maybe even some participants (General Custer? General Westmoreland?). In many cases, guys who have played the games (and much of higher level military training involves wargames just like we play), kept up on the weapons and how they are used , and have done side-reading on the priciples of strategy might be more knowledgable about warfare than others holding elective office.

Victor Davis Hanson's major thesis in his historical writing is that the western way of war is particularly devastating and dominant because it draws upon the democratic
modes of expression and thought, production and science, capitalism and faith that have prevailed in Western society since the Greeks. Now that we no longer need mass armies, wargames and re-enacting benefit society by more widely distributing military knowledge in the democratic society and electorate that must support today's armies.

So these small packets of former nerds like me, who never wore the uniform of the United States, but diligently learned about war by other means are a leaven in the body politic which aids the informed discussion of a democratic electorate in making choices about warfare issues it faces.

Plus we've had a lot of fun at it over the years.

The French Do Something Right

For a change.

These people have to be effaced from Western culture and societies. The Brits ought to take a lesson from the French on this one.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Today's Catholic Cultural Heritage Image

Rose window, Chartres Cathedral c. 1220 A.D.
Explore more images of Chartres Cathedral here.

The Cyber Bug

I think the military could use about 50,000 of these things in Iraq and Afghanistan, just to start.

You Know...

If she were a woman of her word, it would be worth it for Vice President Cheney to run.

If for no other reason.

Two Boston Diocesan Pervert Priests Defrocked

Father Eugene O'Sullivan and Father Paul E. MacDonald are no longer priests.

O'Sullivan sodomized a 13 year-old altar boy back in 1984, among other things.

But of course, the scandal is not about homosexuality. Oh, no.

Some Norms For Adoration

From Roman Catholic Blog.

Some Thoughts On Harry Potter And the Half-Blood Prince

I finished the latest Harry Potter yesterday evening, and took the night to think it over a bit.

Well, one wonders what to make of Dumbledore's trust in Snape. What was the basis of that trust? Was it merely that he had been remorseful (or said he was) over the consequences of his action in putting Voldemort on the trail of James, Lily, and infant Harry Potter? Was Dumbledore really that foolish to trust a fellow who was so far into the Dark Arts, and was so obviously playing both sides to see which would emerge victorious? Or was Dumbledore's trust much deeper than that?

Was it that Dumbledore had omnisciently forseen that Snape would betray and murder him just as he did, and that his own death was a necessary pre-condition for Harry to stand on his own and become the true hero? Was, therefore, Dumbledore's death planned (even connived at with Snape: remember the argument between them that Hagrid partially overhears) to achieve a higher end?

Moreover, are we being treated to a pseudo-death like that of Gandalf in LOTR? Remember the phoenix that rose from his tomb at the funeral. Remember that the souls of all the Hogwarts headmasters continue to "live" through their portraits. Might Dumbledore's portrait not continue to be a source of advice for Harry? Recall also the phrase that Dumbledore has not truly left Hogwarts as long as there are people there who are loyal to him. That was repeated from an earlier book. The phoenix is so closely associated with Dumbledore that it is difficult to believe that this death is final. Perhaps our generation has had too much of these deaths that are not final to be unbiased here. Sherlock Holmes going over Reichenbach Falls, Spock in The Wrath of Khan, and Gandalf in The Fellowship of the Ring all have jaded our view of death in these fantasy stories. And since the phoenix is a christological symbol because of the death and rebirth, one tends to suspect that Dumbledore will have some sort of "resurrection."

Rowling has not done a good job at surprising us at Dumbledore's death. It was clear to me, as he is giving Harry, finally, everything he knows about Voldemort, that he was giving him a final briefing. With all the knowledge about Riddle's past now imparted to Harry, what further use did Dumbledore serve in the plot? As soon as I read the last Pensieve episode, I knew Dumbledore was a goner. He was clearly decreasing, so that Harry could increase. His withered burned arm that would not heal throughout the book was a foreshadowing of his death.

Notice how we stepped back in this story from the intensity of The Order of the Phoenix? In that book, Rowling had Harry and Co. at the very epicenter of the struggle against Voldemort, Sirius Black's house at Grimmauld Place for a good part of the time. The war was very up-close and personal for most of the book. There was much talk of what was going on in the struggle.

In The Half-Blood Prince, Harry in his grief pulls back, along with his cohorts. He is now largely a spectator, reading the casualty reports in The Daily Prophet. He wants nothing to do with the Black house, which Sirius has left to him. And, in fact, after the first chapters, we learn little of the wider struggle against Voldemort and the Death Eaters. The survivors of the Order of the Phoenix are scattered on various assignments. No Mad Eye Moody. Very little Remus Lupin or Tonks (and in fact, they seem more concerned with their romance than with anything else). Voldemort does not even appear in this book, at least in his current incarnation.
The Life of Riddle

We see much of the past of Tom Malvolo Riddle unfolding through the Pensieve. Rowling, I think, contrives to string-out the Pensieve experiences in rather unconvincing manner. If teaching Harry about the past of Voldemort is that important, why not do it all at once?

As it is, the Pensieve episodes are used as a framework on which to hang the plot, much of which, as usual, revolves around Quidditch, the stormy but inevitable romance of Hermione and Ron, and the quieter emotional needs of Harry and Ginny. I think I counted only 4 Pensieve encounters with the past of Voldemort, and those strung out throughout the year. The Pensieve uses are scattered over months, as Dumbledore is "busy" offstage. Harry, and we readers, are given little crumbs, but not a comprehensive history of Voldemort all at once.

The Pensieve provides a rather distorted view of Riddle's life. We see only key moments. We don't see the confining, limited, mundane, sad, numbing, fantasy-inducing, and downright depressing day-to-day reality that contributes to turning Tom Marvolo Riddle, orphan into Lord Voldemort.

Aside from the Pensieve, nothing much goes on throughout the academic year. Draco, despairing of his task of repairing the cabinet that will serve as a portal for the Death Eaters' entry into Hogwarts, makes two clumsy efforts to kill Dumbledore from a distance. Both hit unintended targets (Katie Bell and Ron) and fail to kill anyway. The Quidditch schedule, which in past books was a chronological framework that marked the passing of the academic year, seems very quirky. There are only 3 games (and the book ends just before exams, with no talk of a Quidditch Cup winner).

The flow of bad news at the start of the book is not continued. We start with things being bad enough that the actual British Prime Minister needs to be briefed by Fudge and the new Minister of Magic. Deadly hurricanoes in Wales, bridges breaking in two and people in their cars swept to a watery grave, grisly and unexplained murders, disappearances, government ministers going suddenly batty, and a dreary, depressing misty fog that just hangs over all England for months are what we see at the start.

The idea of the worries of the PM is interesting, but Rowling did nothing with it. That same device worked well in more skillful hands in William F. Buckley's Blackford Oakes novels. Opportunity lost, or did it she do more with it, but it ended up in her editor's Recycle Bin?
In Ollivander's Shop

One disappearance is worth nothing, and was, I think, foreshadowed in The Sorcer's Stone. Ollivander, the wand merchant, has gone missing without a trace. Remember when he was giving Harry the wand that is the match for Voldemort's own? How he describes Voldemort? "He did great things. Terrible things. But great." Wanna bet he has gone over to the Death Eaters?

But the momentum that was with Voldemort is allowed to idle through most of the book. There are no new spectacular tragedies. We don't see what Voldemort and the Death Eaters are up to at all, aside from a few disappearances. Surely, the Dark Lord has not been so idle? Is he really putting all his eggs in the "Draco kills Dumbledore" basket for so many months, and moving ahead on no other fronts?

Voldemort must be the worst strategist in the history of wizard warfare. First he is entrusting what should be his Number One priority to a 16 year old who is a poor excuse for a wizard (he has been pretty consistently bested by Harry). Even with Snape and a squad of Death Eaters in reserve, are we to believe that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named has no better resources at his disposal? He concentrates on one objective at a time, in a way that allows the forces of good to counter him, if they are smart enough.

Second, isn't it time for him to launch a "peace offensive" to lull the dim-watts at the Ministry into thinking they can appease him by just giving him what he says he wants? Surely that would work. And once Voldemort is Minister of Magic, then he can dispose of Potter as he likes, with the authority of the Ministry behind him.

What became of the giants? Voldemort was said to be pursuing an alliance with them in The Order of the Phoenix? Hagrid was sent off at the end of that book on a diplomatic mission to them to counter Voldemort's influence. But we are not told how that worked out. Some of the catastrophes at the start of the book are said to have possible giant involvement, but we are no longer privy to how the war is really shaping up.

And the Dementors seem to be quite idle. They are said to be breeding, which is why everything is so foggy and gloomy. But are we just going to be presented in the next book with this huge Dementor Army, rather like the Clone Army in Star Wars, or the Goblin Army in LOTR?
The Chosen One

That said, what of Harry? It is mighty hard to come up with a career choice when the most powerful dark wizard ever is determined to kill you and anyone who looks like you. He effectively kisses his job opportunities with the Ministry good-bye when he sends Scrimgeour off twice with a wigging. So much for becoming an auror! And besides killing Voldemort (and presumably now, Snape and Draco) what does he want to do with his life?

Even so, the decision to leave Hogwarts cannot be a good one. For one thing, is it wise for Rowling to have Harry drop out? He has only one more year to go. He has his Apparition Test during the summer. By not getting his degree (or whatever) there, he is jeopordizing his chance to stay on as faculty or staff, or ever come back.

And what of the example Rowling is setting! Harry a drop-out? Admittedly, at Oxford and Cambridge, even elite students who are not planning a career in academia often drop out. But wouldn't it be better if Harry completes his education?

Though, on the other hand, one must ask, if Harry has a change of heart and goes back is he sitting duck at Hogwarts? Draco is certainly not coming back. Crabbe and Goyle, who knows? But penetrating Hogwarts' security when he needs to has not been an insuperable task for Voldemort with Dumbledore alive. Now that he is dead? Plenty of dark wizard wannabes in Slytherin to help him out.

On another note, one must wonder if all the protective spells that have encased Privet Drive (and Hogwarts) that were set in place by Dumbledore are now as impotent as the binding spell Dumbledore put on Harry just before the climax. As soon as Dumbledore died, his spells ended. Harry is only planning a short visit to Privet Drive, then out before his 17th birthday, when Dumbledore's spells were set to end anyway.

His romance with Ginny is sad, in a way. You know that he will do the noble thing and give it up to protect her, and he does. He seems fated to be a loner locked in a solitary quest that only he can complete, like Frodo. Until that is done, there is no place in his life for attachments, no matter how the hormones call.

He recovers well from the death of Sirius. But so many losses have been piled on this kid now. His Father. His Mother. Sirius. Cho. Now he has to push himself away from Ginny. I can identify with that kind of loss. But does it leave him ready to emerge as a true hero, raher than merely a protagonist?

Herminone and Ron are loyal and vow at the end to continue the struggle with him. But the bottom line is that getting rid of Voldemort is his job, not theirs. Through most of the book, they were too tied up in their own concerns to be of any real help. They thought Harry was crankily obsessed about what Draco was up to. You would think that, by this time, Herminone and Ron, of all people, would trust Harry's instincts when it comes to anything involving Voldemort and his allies. Herminone and Ron mean well. They mean the best. But the practical use they may be in the final volume is questionable. It will ultimately depend on what Rowling has in mind. Is this work about friendship and teamwork, or about the individual hero? I think Harry will need their help to get past key elements of the agenda. But the final task will be Harry's.

Harry got a needed setback for his ego at the start, when Draco caught him in the Slytherin car spying under the invisibility cloak on the Hogwarts Express, petrified him, and beat the snot out of him. Harry has too often mistaken that invisibility cloak for an invincibility cloak. And he has bested Draco a little too easily since their first year at Hogwarts. Overconfidence has been a problem for Harry. Perhaps this lesson will change that. He was certainly humbled.

Is he ready to take on Voldemort? It sure does not look like it. He will come of age during the summer vacation. But how can he handle Voldemort when even Snape clearly outclasses him? He can barely apparate. How can he be ready for the monumental task that awaits him?

He looks like he has irrevocably cast his lot with Voldemort. I have seen him as a double-agent since Voldemort's comeback at the end of The Goblet of Fire. But has he? Again, remember the argument with Dumbledore that Hagrid partially overhears. Snape said he did not want to do something, and Dumbledore was insisting that he do it. Was Dumbledore putting him up to going through with the implications of his Unbreakable Vow, and killing him? Or was it something else? Snape does not kill Harry when he probably could have. Do you believe that he only refrained because Voldemort wants to kill him himself? Do you seriously think that Voldemort would take away Snape's birthday if he reported back saying that he had killed Dumbledore, and the Potter kid got in the way and had to be killed, too? I don't. I think there is something that Rowling has in mind here. Don't write Snape off entirely. He may yet have a part to play for the good in this saga. But I admit that this is a minority view.

My money says it stays open. But I think some Ministry hack ends up as headmaster, not Minerva. Having the headmaster murdered by a faculty member in league with Voldemort and the Death Eaters is not good for publicity and will effect enrollment. Everytime something bad happens there, there are threats to close the place down. We saw that a lot in The Chamber of Secrets. But there are serious students like Herminone who need the place to be open. She has a promising career (probably at the Ministry) and needs to graduate.

If it is still open in the next book, the atmosphere will be oppressive. No more Hogsmeade weekends. Quidditch probably cancelled for the duration.

How can Slytherin House continue to be part of the school? The house has more dark wizard wannabes than a Salem coven. I was asking myself that even after the last book. I don't see how Slytherin can co-exist with the rest of Hogwarts.

This one is quite a mystery. Potentially, R.A.B. could be the deus ex machina who will permit Harry to complete the task in just one more book. If he (or she)has been happily capturing all Voldemort's horcruxes and wiping them clean of the fragments of Tom Riddle's soul, then that simplifies Harry's task enormously. So far, we know that Harry took out one of the seven horcruxes (the diary). Dumbledore has taken out another (Slytherin's ring). R.A.B. has accounted for Slytherin's locket. Has he also done the others, so that Voldemort is now, in fact, only a mortal wizard, who does not know it? But equally importantly, who the heck is R.A.B.? Some Rowling Lara Croft or Indiana Jones with a thing against Voldemort?

That leads us to the task ahead of Harry, which seems too great for the single remaining volume Rowling is planning. Hufflepuff's cup, something of Gryffindor's or Ravenclaw's, and one other horcrux remain. Harry must find each, and overcome the protective curses and other defenses Voldemort will have over them, and wipe them clean of the part of Voldemort's soul they contain. Then, he has to fight all the Death Eaters who will be around Voldemort, maybe including Snape, who showed himself to be a much more accomplished fighter than Harry at the end of this book.

And then there is Voldemort himself.

Even if all the extra fragments of his soul have been destroyed without his knowing it, the one fragment in his mortal body is still protected by the most skilled dark wizard ever. Rowling makes the point that evil can never be completely defeated, but at best it can be held at bay. Will Voldemort die once and for all in the next book, or will he merely be banished to the same state in which he has been for the 10 years after his first attack on Harry?

On the whole, Rowling's saga continues to intrigue. Those who have read all the novels and followed developments in the plot closely will not be disappointed with Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. But it would not stand on its own well. In this it is rather like reading the last few of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin novels. O'Brian was no longer at his best, but one still had to read to find out what was going to happen to the charcters one had come to love. The Half-Blood Prince continues the story, and adds some interesting elements to an established franchise. But it is not all it could be. It will, nevertheless, sell well, and film well. And people could be reading much worse things.

A great deal much be said for a series of novels that contains characters that one can identify with, that one roots for, that one is fascinated to see what happens to. O'Brian accomplished that in the Aubrey/Maturin novels. To a lesser extent, Cornwell did it with Sharpe. Tolkien did it with LOTR. And Rowling has done the same thing. It matters not if all the parts are pure gold. Some may be brass tricked out to look like gold. And even they are worth reading for those who are fans.

Saint Martha of Bethany

Martha was the sister of Mary of Bethany, and of Lazarus. She was the one who fussed over cooking for Jesus and His Apostles, while her sister Mary sat and listened to the Lord's discourse. She complained that Mary was doing "nothing" while she was doing all the work. But Our Lord explained that Mary had chosen "the better part," and that Martha ought to be less concerned with the minutiae of entertaining than with listening to His message.

A listing of her patronage shows her connection to housekeeping and entertaining:
butlers, cooks, dieticans, domestic servants, homemakers, hotel-keepers, housemaids, housewives, innkeepers, laundry workers, maids, manservants, servants, servers, single laywomen, travellers.

She may have been a part of a mission to southern Gaul, where she may have died around 80 A.D.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

At Lunch I Nearly Finished The Half-Blood Prince

The ending (so far, I have one more chapter to go) is emotionally wrenching. Younger readers may need to be guided and supported as they reach the end.

All of the points Regina Doman made about the books on John Granger's site remain true.
I think that it’s natural for serious Catholics in these dark times to be suspicious of the books, and that people should be forgiven for assuming that wildly popular books like the Potter series must be successful only because they are about the occult. I never dreamed that the books might be so incredibly popular because they are so incredibly good.

But once I read them, I started to realize that this might indeed be the case. Perhaps the jaded and beauty-starved and morally-adrift children of the world are devouring Harry Potter because the books are full of truth, goodness, and beauty – although disguised with unfortunate terms like ‘wizard’, ‘witch,’ and ‘magic.’ If so, then Rowling has pulled the biggest literary coup in modern history, similar only to Tolkien’s success in becoming the greatest author of the twentieth century.

The main problem with the books could simply be that they are new. When I was growing up, I was encouraged by serious Christians to avoid The Lord of the Rings because the book was thought to encourage interest in the occult. After all, it had spawned the occultic Dungeons and Dragons games. But now Tolkien’s book is hailed as a Christian classic, simply because it has passed the test of time.

If the Potter series ends in the same way as it has gone so far, then it could be true, paradoxically, that the best-selling books of the 21st century will have been Christian fiction in disguise.

Considering Carlson's Canned Commentary

Roman Catholic Blog takes on Margaret Carlson's latest blast of dung.

The Archdiocese's Realty Distress Sale Continues

Six churches sold, including a former Italian parish in Malden.

Two of the churches were sold to protestants, so that their cults can expand.

Maybe instead of selling church buildings to protestants, we ought to be learning something from them regarding how to expand. At least the Evangelicals do it by claiming that all who are not part of their cult (meaning Catholics) are damned.

The Episcopal Crack-Up Continues

Conservative Episcopal priests in Connecticut are taking their bishop to their ecclesiastical court over his removal of another priest.

Cool New Stuff At Bettnet

Dom's gallery of images of 19th century anti-Catholic propaganda.

Senator Durbin's Dirty War On Judge Roberts

From the Catholic League.

Today's Catholic Cultural Heritage Image

Communion of the Apostles by Signorelli. This was used for the altarpiece of a Company of Gesu oratory in Cortona . Note Judas slipping the Host into his pocket.

The July 7th London Attack Was To Have Been Bigger

Explosives for a second wave of attacks to be carried out that day by other members of the terrorist group have been found.

The barbarians were planning to set off an additional 12 nail bombs in a second wave of attacks that day, but the police got to the car in which they were stored before their accomplices.

Nail bombs, as you can see here,

are bombs that contain lots of nails, that are designed as anti-personnel weapons. They would be devastating in a crowded subway train loaded with unprotected civilians.

I am re-thinking my "barbarian" term for this scum. They give barbarians a bad name.

Filene's: RIP

Another name for the list of New England institutions that are gone, but not forgotten. First they took away the name "Jordan Marsh." Now its old rival across Summer Street is going to disappear.

“Let’s Stop With the Euphemisms-They Killed Her”

President of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Heath Care, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan on what happened to Terri Schiavo.

I like a Vatican official who basically says, "Let's speak plainly, without diplomatic nice-nice." It was a judicial murder on behalf of a worthless wretch of a "husband."

Who Would Have Thought?

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a Ravenclaw!

A Ravenclaw.

I'm about 80 pages from the end of The Half-Blood Prince, with Draco and Dumbledore poised atop...

Found this via Steve Riddle at Flos Carmeli.

Relics of Saints Theresa and Mother Cabrini Stolen

From a Chicago church.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Today's Catholic Cultural Heritage Image

Saint Francis and the Sultan

Saint Francis had tried to set off for territory controlled by the Moors on three occasions. The first two times, he was unable to get there. He yearned to win converts or suffer martyrdom for the Faith. When he finally reached Moorish territory, he and his companions were at first abused, but then brought before the Sultan, who, while he refused to be swayed by St. Francis, admired his bravery, eloquence, and Faith. He tried to load St. Francis down with presents, instead of having his head removed.

My current reading, temporarily interrupted by Harry Potter, is Saint Bonaventure's Life of Saint Francis.

Slow News Day So Far

While I generally agree with the sentiment behind the saying, "May no new thing happen," new things, being, by their nature, more likely to be bad than good, that does not hold true for people in journalism or on its fringes like those of use in the blogosphere. A lack of things happening makes for rather boring blogging.

So, I'm taking advantage of this lull in the news to read Harry Potter And the Half-Blood Prince. I started yesterday, and am about half-way done. So far, so good.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Patriarch of Jerusalem

Sandro Magister has a fascinating look at this situation. Frankly, I knew nothing of this before I read this article.

I have been looking West (in Roman terms) at the coming Anglican Meltdown. Interesting things are going on in the East, too.

Time For Catholic Bishops To Act As One

With regard to "Catholic" politicians whose votes make abortion and gay "marriage" possible.

To get that, you need better bishops than the current timid time-serving crowd who care more about what McBrien and Curran think than what the Vatican is making it plain ought to be done.

And frankly, the lack of uniformity is a major problem, one that creates injustices like the ones mentioned in the linked article. It isn't fair that a Kerry or a Kennedy can consider themselves "Catholics" and receive the Blessed Sacrament while supporting abortion and forms of gay "marriage" because their bishops (Archbishop O'Malley and Cardinal McCarrick when they are DC) are not doing their jobs properly and ordering every priest in their jurisdiction to deny them the Sacraments until they change their voting pattern, when other bishops, like Archbishop Burke, and Bishop Bruskewitz, are doing their jobs properly.

On this one, when in doubt, don't cower and wait for specific, individualized instructions from Rome. It is plain enough what ought to be done. Just do it.

First the Danube Seven

Now the Saint Lawrence Nine.

They did it.

Nine more excommunications, please.

A Boston Weather Blog!

The one thing that I have missed since I gave up network TV 8 years ago is the in-depth weather forecast. You know, where the the possibilities are discussed, the movements of fronts described, that sort of thing. I want more than just what the high and low temps will be, and whether there will be some form of precipitation some time during the day. I want details!

On-line weather is great in that it gives you a radar image that allows you to gauge the movement of precipitation (though much longer loops would be appreciated). But in terms of actual weather discussion, there is not much.

The weather blog is a possible solution to that problem. And The Boston Globe has it.

You know this one is making the links column!

We're Baaacckk!

God protect them.

"The Holy Father's" Blog


Contra Coffee

I don't usually drink hot coffee during the summer (though from September-April, I love my morning cup).

The Anchoress is highlighting what sounds to me like a great idea: Contra Coffee.
In addition to paying its growers a premium for the coffee, Contra gives 50% of its profits back to the cooperative for development projects. The company also donates 5% of revenues to Freedom Alliance, which exists to “advance the American heritage of freedom by honoring and encouraging military service, defending the sovereignty of the United States and promoting a strong national defense.” The company recently donated $250 to the Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund, which helps children of those who have been killed or disabled during military service to attend college.

But I suggest that the time has come for a name change. The contras are now ruling Nicaragua, more or less. Time for a name that fits the national needs of the day better. How about Coffee Crusade, with St. James the Moorslayer as patron?

What Do You Remember From the 1960s?

Dympna's Well has a good thread going on this topic.

Great Post

Dale Price on Gettysburg. Go. Read. Absorb. Enjoy.

Feast of Saints Anne and Joachim

This has apparently always been Saint Anne's Day, but Saint Joachim's has bounced all over the calendar over the centuries. His feast has been celebrated September 16, December 9, March 20, and on the Sunday after the Assumption. Finally, it has been joined to that of his spouse. This is another of those reforms of the calendar that actually make sense (not all of them do).

This is a brief biographical sketch of the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but since the New Testament does not mention them, there is not much that has come down to us, except from dubious sources like the "Gospel of James."

Saint John Damascene had this to say about the blessed couple:
Joachim and Anne, how blessed a couple! All creation is indebted to you. For at your hands the Creator was offered a gift excelling all other gifts: a chaste mother, who alone was worthy of him.

Joachim and Anne, how blessed and spotless a couple! You will be known by the fruit you have borne, as the Lord says: "By their fruits you will know them." The conduct of your life pleased God and was worthy of your daughter. For by the chaste and holy life you led together, you have fashioned a jewel of virginity: she who remained a virgin before, during, and after giving birth. She along for all time would maintain her virginity in mind and soul as well as in body.

Joachim and Anne, how chaste a couple! While leading a devout and holy life in your human nature, you gave birth to a daughter nobler than the angels, whose queen she now is.

Via Catholic Forum.

Saint Anne with the Blessed Virgin

The embrace of Saints Anne and Joachim at the Golden Gate

Requiescat In Pace

Awful tragedy at a Boy Scout Jamboree in Virginia, in which 4 adult Scout leaders from Anchorage were killed.

The Boy Scouts as an organization are the best this country has. They have gone through problems, like the Catholic priesthood, and have hit upon the same solution to the problem that the Church ought to use (and most likely will use). This has earned them the emnity of traditional society's enemies in the cultural "elite."

Prayers for the repose of the souls of those fine gentlemen killed, and for the families which have lost fathers. Requiescat in pace/

Monday, July 25, 2005

Scholar Says: "Shakespeare Was An RC"

One of our boys, maybe. An awful lot of literary criticism needs to be re-written if this one is correct.

Link via Rich Leonardi's Ten Reasons.

While We Are On the Subject of Saint James

His alleged burial place is at Santiago de Compostela, in Spain. This is one of the great pilgrimage sites in Christendom, and the site of a cathedral that has undergone many renovations. It has bits of Romanesque, bits of Gothic, and bits of Baroque.

But one of the things it has is this enormous thurible:

Forget about the electronic version that was making the rounds of St. Blog's over the weekend. This is the real thing.

I Do Wonder

If Archbishop Levada has the fortitude to be as swift with the excommunications as then-Cardinal Ratzinger was with the Danube Seven.

I hope so.

One of the Women Being "Ordained" Today Is From Father Ethan's Hometown

And he provides a good account of the lunacy, the intransigence and just plain un-Catholicness of the people involved:

David, who opposes mandatory celibacy for priests and is married to a former priest, shrugs off the possibility of being excommunicated by the church, saying ''there would be a sadness, but I refuse to recognize their authority to tell me that."

When the entire corporate body of the Church from Pope Benedict down to the local bishop says no, it means no, it ain't happening. Continuing in the face of that kind of opposition is heretical, and deserving of rapid excommunication.

And the Church has an absolute right to determine who is, and who is not, a Catholic in good standing. David can consider himself whatever he wants to. He can call himself a "Catholic" until the cows come home. But his actions say he is a modernist. If I call a goat a dog continually from now until the end of time, it will still be a goat.

Saint Christopher

While we are being politically incorrect, today is also the feast of one of the most popular saints in Christendom, who was unwisely deprived of saint status after Vatican II, but is nevertheless widely venerated and prayed to anyway.

Here is the story of Saint Christopher.

Both Christopher and James the Greater were martyrs for the Faith.

Saint James the Greater

Saint James, Slayer of the Moors

A very politically incorrect account of veneration for Saint James.

Holy Trinity Parishioners Begin Protest To Save the Indult Mass

Latin Mass parishioners from Holy Trinity have begun protests at the Cathedral, and are getting some good publicity.

The message coming out of the Archdiocese is pure rag-time. They have proven themselves to be all sweet words and nice-nice talk, but few sweet deeds again and again (see Talking About Touching). There is no good reason for closing Holy Trinity. It has no debt, is self-supporting, and growing. There are always around 200-250 people there for the Indult Mass. The Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, the Institute of Christ the King, and the Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem would all be very happy to take over responsibility for Holy Trinity and the Indult Mass for the Archdiocese of Boston. And the parishioners would all be happy to be shot of Father O'Regan, who seems to have replaced his primary parish (St. James the Greater) on the closing list with Holy Trinity for his own ends.

The only reason for the closure is that the Archdiocese is greedy for the money that can be raised by turning the home of the Indult Mass over to developers, so that it can be turned into condos for upscale homosexual South Enders. That plus many in the chancery have a deep antipathy for the Latin Mass.

Protest has worked for so many other parishes faced with closing. The Archdiocese's record is that it backs down when confronted. So protest seems to be the way to go to achieve the objective, which is to keep the Indult Mass at the only parish in greater Boston that fulfills all of its needs (parking, access to public transportation, altar rail, ample seating for a growing community, our own musical traditions, ad orientem set-up, high altar, altar boys only, etc.): Holy Trinity.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

This Blog Has 106 Images On the Main Page

That includes images included in posts currently visible. The Catholic blogs included in the links now number 103, the largest single category in the extensive links collection.

Even with a fast connection and tons of memory, it takes a few seconds for the whole blog to load. It must be slow if you are using a dial-up or have limited memory, or both.

But it is worth it. Be patient.

PS, if you want to play with Burgoyne, Recta Ratio's cute-as-a-button virtual pet, he is now permanently on the bottom of the Archives.

And I solved the problem of the old Missal images on the bottom of the page creeping up the right-hand column on some browsers and attaching themselves to the Archives. I blocked them with a large image, by Fra Angelico, of the Annunciation. It is too big to creep up the side, and they cannot get past it. Simple solutions to complex problems.

About the Shooting of the Guy In London

It turns out that the fellow was not any sort of Moslem terrorist, but a Brazilian. Of course, there is a lot of hand-wringing going on about the arming of Britain's police.

But over at The Corner, John Derbyshire raises a very good point:
It turns out that the man so dramatically shot by British police on Friday was not a suicide bomber.

However, the following facts seem pretty well established:

---He emerged from a house that was under police surveillance for terrorist connections.

---He was wearing a bulky, heavy jacket on a hot summer's day.

---When challenged by police, who ordered him to stop, he ran from them, and tried to get on a subway train.

I don't know whether this guy deserved to be shot, but he surely deserved a Darwin Award for sheer life-threatening stupidity.

Note to self: While in London next month, if challenged by armed police, stop, raise hands above head, freeze in place, and call out in a loud clear voice: "It's a fair cop, guv'nor." Do not dive into the nearest subway train.

Others have pointed out that he also jumped the turnstile to get to the subway system. None of these, in and of themselves justify shooting, of course. But taken together, and in light of recent events, they do not constitute reasonable behavior.

Red Sox Are...

Two and a half games ahead of the Yankees, and three and a half ahead of Baltimore, going into this afternoon's game in Chicago against the White Sox. Toronto is only 5 out, and not out of it yet.

Requiescat In Pace

Myron Floren, accordion player on The Lawrence Welk Show died of cancer at the age of 85. Lawrence Welk was a Saturday night staple in our house growing up (earlier Saturday viewing was first cartoons, then my father's westerns). Floren was accomplished and always had a smile while playing, as I recall. Requiescat in pace.

Nice Summer Weather

Love those "summer polar air masses"! Here in Boston, it is around 80F with little humidity, bright sun, and a nice breeze. The heat returns tonight and through Wednesday.

Meanwhile, I see in Drudge that it is 110F in Chicago.

Pray for those folks, as many will suffer and some will die in that type of heat.

Saint Thomas a Kempis

If today were not Sunday, it would be the feast of Saint Thomas a Kempis (or "of Kempen"), the author of The Imitation of Christ, the second-most-read Christian devotional book of all time (Number One being the Bible!).

Read about St. Thomas' devotion to the Blessed Sacrament here.

Winston On Islam

Mark has Winnie's take on Mohammedanism (and you thought my calling them "Moslems" was un-PC!) over at Irish Elk.

Judge Roberts' Pastor

Catholic Tradition has found an archive or good solid sermons by the priest who is probably closest to Judge Roberts and his family.

A New Feature Over At Recta Ratio: The Yahoo Group

Yesterday, after a month of inacitivity over at the Yahoo group side of Recta Ratio, I added a few files for a new category that I hope to expand later: Great Sermons. The topic of the first sermons I added is Hell (and they won't all be about that).

To celebrate this new feature, and to mark Sunday, here is the text of one of the first sermons, Saint Anthony Mary Claret on the pains of Hell. Found via Our Lady of the Rosary Apostolate.

The sensation of pain in hell is essentially very dreadful. Picture yourself, my soul, on a dark night on the summit of a high mountain. Beneath you is a deep valley, and the earth opens so that with your gaze you can see hell in the cavity of it. Picture it as a prison situated in the center of the earth, many leagues down, all full of fire, hemmed in so impenetrably that for all eternity not even the smoke can escape. In this prison the damned are packed so tightly one on the other like bricks in a kiln....Consider the quality of the fire in which they burn.

First, the fire is all-extensive and tortures the whole body and the whole soul. A damned person lies in hell forever in the same spot which he was assigned by divine justice, without being able to move, as a prisoner in stocks.

The fire in which he is totally enveloped, as a fish in water, burns around him, on his left, his right, above and below. His head, his breast, his shoulders, his arms, his hands, and his feet are all penetrated with fire, so that he completely resembles a glowing hot piece of iron which has just been withdrawn from an oven. The roof beneath which the damned person dwells is fire; the food he takes is fire; the drink he tastes is fire; the air he breathes is fire; whatever he sees and touches is all fire....

But this fire is not merely outside him; it also passes within the condemned person. It penetrates his brain, his teeth, his tongue, his throat, his liver, his lungs, his bowels, his belly his heart, his veins, his nerves, his bones, even to the marrow, and even his blood.

"In hell," according to St. Gregory the Great, "there will be a fire that cannot be put out, a worm which cannot die, a stench one cannot bear, a darkness one can feel, a scourging by savage hands, with those present despairing of anything good."

A most dreadful fact is that by the divine power this fire goes so far as to work on the very faculties of the soul, burning them and tormenting them. Suppose I were to find myself placed at the oven of a smith so that my whole body was in the open air but for one arm placed in the fire, and that God were to preserve my life for a thousand years in this position. Would this not be an unbearable torture? What, then, would it be like to be completely penetrated and surrounded by fire, which would affect not just an arm, but even all the faculties of the soul?

Secondly, this fire is far more dreadful than man can imagine. The natural fire that we see during this life has great power to burn and torment. Yet this is not even a shadow of the fire of hell. There are two reasons why the fire of hell is more dreadful beyond all comparison than the fire of this life.

The first reason is the justice of God, which the fire serves as an instrument in order to punish the infinite wrong done to his supreme majesty, which has been despised by a creature. Therefore justice supplies this element with a burning power which almost reaches the infinite....

The second reason is the malice of sin. As God knows that the fire of this world is not enough to punish sin as it deserves, He has given the fire of hell a power so strong that it can never be comprehended by any human mind. ? Now, how powerfully does this fire burn?

It burns so powerfully, O my soul, that, according to the ascetical masters, if a mere spark of it fell on a millstone, it would reduce it in a moment to powder. If it fell on a ball of bronze, it would melt it in an instant as if it were wax. If it landed on a frozen lake, it would make it boil in an instant.

Pause here briefly, my soul, and answer a few questions I will put. First, I ask you: If a special furnace were fired up as was customarily done to torment the holy martyrs, and then men placed before you all kinds of good things that the human heart might want, and added the offer of a prosperous kingdom ? if all this were promised you on condition that for just a half-hour you enclose yourself within the furnace, what would you choose?

"Ah!", you would say, "If you offered me a hundred kingdoms I would never be so foolish as to accept your brutal terms, regardless of how grand your offer might be, even if I were sure that God would preserve my life during those moments of suffering."

Second, I ask you: If you already had possession of a great kingdom and were swimming in a sea of wealth so that nothing was wanting to you, and then you were attacked by an enemy, were imprisoned and put in chains and obliged to either renounce your kingdom or else spend a half-hour in a hot furnace, what would you choose? "Ah!", you would say, "I would prefer to spend my whole life in extreme poverty and submit to any other hardship and misfortune, than suffer such a great torment!"

Now turn your thoughts from the temporal to the eternal. To avoid the torment of a hot furnace, which would last but a half-hour, you would forgo all your property, even things you are most fond of, you would suffer any other temporal loss, however burdensome. Then why do you not think the same way when you are dealing of eternal torments? God threatens you not just with a half-hour in a furnace, but with a prison of eternal fire. To escape it, should you not forgo whatever He has forbidden, not matter how pleasant it can be for you, and gladly embrace whatever He commands, even if it be extremely unpleasant?

A most terrible thing about hell is its duration. The condemned person loses God and loses Him for all eternity. Now, what is eternity? O my soul, up to now there has not been any angel who has been able to comprehend what eternity is. So how can you comprehend it? Yet, to for some idea of it, consider the following truths:

Eternity never ends. This is the truth that has made even the great saints tremble. The final judgment will come, the world will be destroyed, the earth will swallow up those who are damned, and they will be cast into hell. Then, with His almighty hand, God will shut them up in that most unhappy prison.

From then on, as many years will pass as there are leaves on the trees and plants on all the earth, as many thousands of years as there are drops of water in all seas and rivers, as many thousands of years as there are atoms in the air, as there are grains of sand on all the shores of all seas. Then, after the passage of this countless number of years, what will eternity be? Up to then there will not even have been a hundredth part of it, nor a thousandth ? nothing. It then begins again and will last as long again, even after this has been repeated a thousand times, and a thousand million times again. And then, after so long a period, not even a half will have passed, not even a hundredth part nor a thousandth, not even any part of eternity. For all this time there is no interruption in the burnings of those who are damned, and it begins all over again.

Oh, a deep mystery indeed! A terror above all terrors! O eternity! Who can comprehend thee?

Suppose that, in the case of unhappy Cain, weeping in hell, he shed in every thousand years just one tear. Now, O my soul, recollect your thoughts and suppose this case: For six thousand years at least Cain has been in hell and shed only six tears, which God miraculously preserves. How many years would pass for his tears to fill all the valleys of the earth and flood all the cities and towns and villages and cover all the mountains so as to flood the whole earth? We understand the distance from the earth to the sun is thirty-four million leagues. How many years would be necessary for Cain's tears to fill that immense space? From the earth to the firmament is, let us suppose, a distance of a hundred and sixty million leagues.

O God! What number of years might one imagine to be sufficient to fill with these tears this immense space? And yet ? O truth so incomprehensible ? be sure of it as that God cannot lie ? a time will arrive in which these tears of Cain would be sufficient to flood the world, to reach even the sun, to touch the firmament, and fill all the space between earth and the highest heaven. But that is not all.

If God dried up all these tears to the last drop and Cain began again to weep, he would again fill the same entire space with them and fill it a thousands times and a million times in succession, and after all those countless years, not even half of eternity would have passed, not even a fraction. After all that time burning in hell, Cain's sufferings will be just beginning.

This eternity is also without relief. It would indeed be a small consolation and of little benefit for the condemned persons to be able to received a brief respite once every thousand years.

Picture in hell a place where there are three reprobates. The first is plunged in a lake of sulphuric fire, the second is chained to a large rock and is being tormented by two devils, one of whom continually pours molten lead down his throat while the other spills it all over his body, covering him from head to foot. The third reprobate is being tortured by two serpents, one of which wraps around the man's body and cruelly gnaws on it, while the other enters within the body and attacks the heart. Suppose God is moved to pity and grants a short respite.

The first man, after the passage of a thousand years is drawn from the lake and receives the relief of a drink of cool water, and at the end of an hour is cast again into the lake. The second, after a thousand years, is released from his place and allowed to rest; but after an hour is again returned to the same torment. The third, after a thousand years, is delivered from the serpents; but after an hour of relief, is again abused and tormented by them. Ah, how little this consolation would be to suffer a thousand years and to rest only one hour.

However, hell does not even have that much relief. One burns always in those dreadful flames and never receives any relief for all eternity. He is forever gnawed and stricken with remorse, and will never have a rest for all eternity. He will suffer always a very ardent thirst and never receive the refreshment of a sip of water for all eternity. He will see himself always abhorred by God and will never enjoy a single tender glance from Him for all eternity. He will find himself forever cursed by heaven and hell, and will never receive a single gesture of friendship.

It is an essential misfortune of hell that everything will be without relief, without remedy, without interruption, without end, eternal.

Now I understand in part, O my God, what hell is. It is a place of extreme pain, of extreme despair. It is where I deserve to be for my sins, where I would have been confined for some years already if your immense mercy had not delivered me. I will keep repeating a thousand times: The Heart of Jesus has loved me, or else I would now be in hell! The mercy of Jesus has pitied me; for otherwise I would be in hell! The Blood of Jesus has reconciled me with the heavenly Father, or my dwelling place would be hell. This shall be the hymn that I want to sing to Thee, my God, for all eternity. Yes, from now on my intention is to repeat these words as many times as there are moments that have passed since that unhappy hour in which I first offended You.

What has been my gratitude to God for his kind mercy that He showed me? He delivered me from hell. O, immense charity! O, infinite goodness! After a benefit so great, should I not have given Him my whole heart and loved Him with the love of the most ardent Seraphim? Should I not have directed all my actions to Him, and in everything sought only His divine pleasure, accepting all contradictions with joy, in order to return to Him my love? Could I do less than that after a kindness that was so great? And yet, what is it that I have done? Oh, ingratitude worthy of another hell! I cast You aside, O my god! I reacted to Your mercy by committing new sins and offenses. I know that I have done evil, O my God, and I repent with my whole heart. Ah, would that I could shed a sea of tears for such outrageous ingratitude! O Jesus, have mercy on me; for I now resolve to rather suffer a thousand deaths than offend You again.

It is of faith that Heaven exists for the good and Hell for the wicked. Faith teaches that the pains of Hell are eternal, and it also warns us that one single mortal sin suffices to condemn a soul forever because of the infinite malice by which it offends an infinite God. With these most positive principles in mind, how can I remain indifferent when I see the ease with which sins are committed, sins that occur as frequently as one takes a glass of water, sins and offenses that are perpetrated out of levity or diversion? How can I rest when so many are to be seen living continually in mortal sin and rushing in this blind manner to their eternal destruction? No indeed, I cannot rest, but must needs run and shout a warning to them. If I saw anyone about to fall into a pit or a fire, would I not run up to him and warn him, and do all in my power to help him from falling in? Why should I not do this much to keep sinners from falling into the pit and fires of Hell?

Neither can I understand why other priests who believe the selfsame truths as I do, as we all must do, do not preach or exhort their flock so that they might avoid this unbearable eternity of Hell. It is still a source of wonder to me how the laity - those men and women blessed with the Faith - do not give warning to those who need it. If a house were to catch fire in the middle of the night, and if the inhabitants of the same house and the other townsfolk were asleep and did not see the danger, would not the one who first noticed it shout and run along the streets, exclaiming: "Fire! Fire! In that house over there!" Then why should there not be a warning of eternal fire to waken those who are drifting in the sleep of sin in such a way that when they open their eyes they will find themselves burning in the eternal flames of Hell?

Time for a reprise of this image from Memling's Last Judgment which I posted last week:

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