Saturday, October 07, 2006

A season of wonder...

Second only to Christmas in retail.

It's Halloween. Having worked late tonight, I drove home in the dark, the wind blowing autumn leaves around in little tornadoes. I noticed houses all alight with orange jack-o-lanterns and tomb stones decorating their front yards, with bed-sheet ghosts suspended from trees. People go all out to be spooky. If it is done well, it's kind of fun - but talk about kitsch!

I'm not as opposed to Halloween as other Christians seem to be. I do think it is fun, although, being without children, I've never really celebrated it - except when I was little. The history goes way back of course - after all, it's a celebration of All-Hallows Eve - the vigil of All Saints day. What's scary about that?

Of course it's a big occult holiday for witches as well, so I understand the opposition of Christians. Parental guidance and faith is needed for children. Adults and teens seem to be the ones who go over to the dark side. So watch your pets and your kids. (And remember, you can't burn witches any longer.)

It is amazing however, that it has become such a big holiday across the country - truly, second only to Christmas in retail, what with cards, decorations, costmes, parties, etc. It may possibly indicate a rampant re-emergence of neo-paganism, while being a somewhat arrogant rebellion against death on some level.

Merchandising Advent wreaths at the store reminded me that the wreath was once a pagan symbol as well, albeit Christianized now. I never got into that either.

I like the lights though - when it is so dark and spooky outside...

(Note: "Nosferatu" was the scariest vampire movie in the history of cinema, and every original still that I tried to grab, from a variety of sites, would not print on this blog - just the puppet image would post...I'm so scared! Somebody quick - call Michael Brown at "Spirit Daily"!)

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Question of Limbo...

Is there such a place?

News today is that the Holy Father has made no pronouncement of any new understanding of limbo, the place, or state, unbaptised infants go to. Here is the traditional teaching on it:

"Persons, such as infants, who have not committed actual sin and who, through no fault of theirs, die without baptism, cannot enter heaven; but it is the common belief they will go to some place similar to Limbo, where they will be free from suffering, though deprived of the happiness of heaven." - Baltimore Catechism

The Catholic Church's official catechism, issued in 1992 after decades of work, dropped the concept of limbo and says: "As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God … " CCC

It has never been a defined dogma of the Church, albeit the traditional belief. The concept of limbo was one I was taught in school. Some saints held that it is actually a place on the "outskirts" of hell, while others have described it as a paradise separate from the beatific vision. An uber-Catholic I work with seems to prefer the place in hell concept, which fits in well with his fire and brimstone spirituality.

In the part of the creed wherein we profess "He descended into hell" it is commonly believed that it refers to Christ's descent into limbo to free our first parents and the saints of the old testament. Some theologians, such as Hans Urs Von Balthazar believe Christ really did descend into actual hell - I can't remember in which of his writings wherein he discusses that. I believe many Orthodox Catholics accept the same belief, as did the early Christians - although I could be mistaken. Nevertheless, it remains a matter of speculation to some degree.

Press reports claim that the Commission studying the subject, as well as the Holy Father will abolish the belief. I doubt that. You just don't undo tradition to assuage the modern human sentiment that everyone must be saved, do you? Then what does, "He descended into hell" really mean? Of course some Orthodox legends have it that in the end, the Blessed Virgin will obtain the release of all the souls in hell as well, such mystical fantasies have never been taught in the Latin Church and are contrary to the faith.

As Cardinal Ratzinger, the Pope has said he believed the concept of limbo could possibly be set aside because it is "only a theological concept" and "never a defined truth of faith." Nevertheless, this is a vastly different statement than saying it does not exist.

One ought not to depend upon the media for papal teachings.

Update: Gerald has a post from Asia News on the same subject.

Queen of the Holy Rosary

What do you think when it comes to this feast? That it occurs in the "Month of the Holy Rosary" and that is why October is dedicated as such? It is a feast in thanksgiving for the victory of Christianity against the Turks at the Battle of Lepanto.

I have always found it significant that the last apparition at Fatima happened in October with the great miracle of the sun. The name 'Fatima' being the same as Mohammed's daughter, hearkens back to the days when a large part of the Iberian peninsula was under the control of the Moors. I cannot help but think the purpose of Heaven has been to alert us to what is happening in our own day, with the conflict between Islam and the Christian West. It may be good to muse about these things and give the prayers of the Rosary greater place in our spiritual lives.

Presented here is an excellent homily for today's feast from an English priest:

[snip] "On 7 October 1571 the forces of Christendom, under the command of Don Juan, defeated the Turks at Lepanto. The famous sea victory was attributed to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin because the Rosary had been recited both by the soldiers before battle and by many of the faithful in Rome. St Pius V instituted the Feast of Our Lady of Victories and, shortly afterwards, Gregory XIII changed this to Our Lady of the Rosary. In the early eighteenth century, following some further victories against the Turks, the Feast was extended throughout the Church. And so October became known as the month of the Holy Rosary." [snip] -Roman Miscellany

"Pray the Rosary every day." - Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima

Joanna Bogle's response...

Painting, "Elizabeth II"

A few days ago I commented on Mrs. Bogle's blog, with sincere questions, hoping to get a response in answer to my questions. (She could have told me to read a book on history.) Without ever insulting my intelligence, she very graciously and succinctly explained why the monarchy is valued in Britain. Thank you Mrs. Bogle! I copied and pasted her friendly response:

Joanna Bogle said...
Well, here goes....I'm terribly sorry that you were offended that I didn't publish your comments or reply to you....but the system of comments on my blog doesn't provide for my being able to send you a direct personal reply. I had to track down your blog via Google, so here I am!!

I have made clear on my blog that I honestly can't get involved in lengthy discussions except on specific issues largely related to Catholicism.....The blog's essentially a diary with Catholicism as its chief ideolgical component rather than any political issues. I like to steer the thing along those lines, and don't want to get side-tracked into debates with Americans - however delightful and friendly! - who quite obviously will have a different approach on Monarchy and our Royal Family.

However, for what it's worth, my comment goes like this:

America is a great and splendid nation, and one which has proved a blessing to many. It's a joyful place to visit, too - there is a sense of purpose and of welcome which lifts the heart. But it certainly has its own version of an hereditary tradition within its political system: please don't try to say that the Bushes and the Kennedys and so on don't have hereditary power! The difference is just that: there is real power wielded by great families, rather as Britain had in its days of imperial authority. George Washington imposed his family's coat of arms as the nation's flag - no harm in that, and the flag has stood for prosperity and a decent way of life for millions, including those who arrived poor and hungry fleeing from real oppression and injustice.

In Britain, we have found - not without some travail, including a bitter civil war between monarchists and their opponents - that a Monarchy and Parliamentary democracy work extremely well. We have adapted to massive social change without the struggles that this entailed in America (the "civil rights" movement, etc) and the sense of community and family that is engendered by our monarchy and its associated heritage has served us admirably. We look with pity on those European nations - France as perhaps the supreme example, currently in its 5th Republic with probably more to follow - that lack the blessings of stability bestowed on us.

We don't specially expect Americans to value our monarchy as we do, and we recognise the value of their own tradition: there are many among us who despise and reject the crude anti-Americanism that frequently sweeps Europe, and we are not unmindful of the poignant graves of young American soldiers and airmen who lie with honour in our Cambridgeshire countryside, and of the sacrifice of life they gave with generous hearts in a war that preserved our freedom.

When we speak our Queen, we don't, actually, mostly think in soap-opera terms - which is why we have been distressed by Royal events of recent years - but of the ideal of nationhood embodied in an anointed monarch consecrated to public service in a tradition stretching back through millenia. It's not an absurd idea, and we think it carries a quiet resonance at least as noble as anything that a larger republic can offer. What is likely to destroy it, tragically, is the loss of our nation's Christian identity: we admire Americans for their stalwart adherence to a Faith that many in Britain now denounce or deny.

God Bless America!
And, in this small island with a large history: God save the Queen!
With warmest good wishes
Joanna Bogle

I'm such a brat, having coerced a response from this wonderful woman. Yet I'm delighted and impressed to have heard from her...and just a tad embarrassed that I betrayed my lack of intelligence regarding Monarchy.

From now on, when you may disagree with me, maybe take a lesson from Joanna Bogle on civility when commenting.

I like the Bogle's!

Thursday, October 05, 2006


Holy Father St. Bruno...

Speaking about the Charterhouse:

"Many wish to come into this port, and many make great efforts to do so, yet do not achieve it. Indeed many, after reaching it, have been thrust out, since it was not granted to them from above.

Therefore, my brothers, you should consider it certain and well established that whoever partakes of this desirable good, should he in any way lose it, will grieve to his death, if he has any concern for the salvation of his soul." -Letters of St. Bruno. Office of Readings.

Each year I read this, what I know by heart, recalling it many times throughout the year.

Pray for us St. Bruno, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

St. Bruno's eve...

The feast of St. Bruno always makes me rather nostalgic. The Carthusians was the one order I finally found that I thought was meant for me - the only order I considered to be authentic.

The Prior of the Charterhouse I spent a month at, Fr. Raphael Diamond, a somewhat famous Jewish convert and friend of Von Hildebrand, as well as a psychiatrist, determined that I would be better suited for another form of monasticism or mendicant religious life - albeit, at that time, there wasn't much to offer by way of faithful religious life. I was absolutely crushed. I went to Europe as a pilgrim, emulating St. Benedict Joseph Labre after that.

My experience at the Charterhouse was very intense and sublimely spiritual. It was the most real experience of my life. Nevertheless, I left with a greater freedom of spirit, and after two decades, knew and understood what Fr. Raphael, now deceased, meant. (In monastic life, one is Fr. "By the first name" as opposed to the somewhat imperious Fr. "By the last name" in secular priesthood. I frequently "get caught" in that mistake. It often goes along with Professor "By the last name". One learns their place.)

This rather odd photo of a Carthusian, somewhat "Harry Potter" looking and kind of spooky - is not too far off. The Carthusians, being hermits, are a bit idiosyncratic, some I met were nothing short of eccentric. If anyone has been to the American Charterhouse in Vermont, and stayed awhile, they would know what I mean. (One Father wore sunglasses over his regular glasses, all of the time, he was kind of different.) Although, I expect if one had the occasion to visit the desert fathers, one would meet with similar experiences.

In the Charterhouse, one may encounter the most authentic form of eremetical/monastic life in existence, not unlike the early desert fathers, far superior to Mt. Athos - in my opinion. It's a wonderful life, and I am always full of repentance and compunction when I consider that I was not permitted to stay. I consider my experience a "remorse" akin to purgatory; it is the feeling, that I must wait for heaven, not yet able to enter.

I have confessed to two hermits in my life, one at the Charterhouse, another elsewhere, both were so taken aback and scandalized, I had to explain the psychological dimension of my sins in order to almost console them, as it were. The experience in my confession at the Charterhouse was the cause of my speaking to the Prior, which determined my being sent away. It is a source of sorrow to this day, yet it is the consequence of sin. My confessor in Boston scolded me for being so candid - they were old sins I brought up - Fr. Gregory thought I should have been admitted. Oh well, I still get in trouble for my candor. (One thing everyone has always said about me, secular or religious, I am always sincere and honest.)

Tomorrow I have to speak with my boss. I may be emulating Joseph Labre again.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Blessed Bartolo Longo

And Our Lady of Pompeii

Thanks to Don Marco I remembered it is Bl. Bartolo's feast day! He established the shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii. The image is a Spanish Colonial retablo he found, poorly painted, and had it re-touched and installed as the central image of the shrine, the centerpiece of devotion. Many miracles are attributed to it, or rather through the devotion of the Holy Rosary the image inspired. It remains my favorite image of the Queen of the Holy Rosary.

Check out Don Marco for more details.

Joanna Bogle

Mrs. Bogle is on the left in this photo.

I've only known of her because she and her husband James have a show on EWTN, which I find charming and informative. Now Mrs. Bogle has a blog, that I find charming, homely, and somewhat informative. I like her very much, finding her much more engaging than her husband. (He tends to be a bit Trandemish for my taste...) However, I'm pleased to link to her blog.

Disappointed however that a comment I left was never answered - she has "comment moderation" operative. Here is a section of one of her posts I commented upon:

"In the evening, went to see the new film "The Queen" about events at Balmoral surrounding the death of Princes Diana. It shows the Queen in a sympathetic light, and altho' it presents Tony Blair as something of the hero of the hour, the message is also in the end a fairly positive one about monarchy and continuity. But I wondered where people like me fit in: I was not there among the weepers and mass-grief-and-floral-tributes crowd and thought it all absurd and frightening. But I am certainly not Royal and wasn't at Balmoral, nor am I a politician involved with making events happen. Where do ordinary patriots of a once-mainstream kind, with a love of British history and a sense of the continuity of things, fit in to a country which sees Royalty as soap-opera and which talks in psycho-babble or slogans?"

I asked her, as an American who cannot understand the British Monarchy, why they exist. The Monarch has no power and the lives of the Royals seem so shallow. I then asked why the phenomena of the great outpouring of sympathy for the Princess Diana was "absurd and frightening" in her opinion. I found it curious. Nevertheless, she did not post my comment, nor did she respond.

I work with people who are "monarchists" and several traditional Catholics seem to be as well. I don't get it at all. There is absolutely no remaining absolute monarchy remaining in the western world. What on earth is the attraction? Is it even plausible to hope that a monarchical system could be re-established?

I wish Mrs. Bogle would have responded to my comment. It's not very cordial for a Brit not to have done so. Of course the Queen often doesn't acknowledge anyone either. (Nobility has its privilege.) Which brings up another point - as far as the Church is concerned, or let's say, the faith, has there been a legitimate monarch since Henry VIII? After all, the rest have been schismatics and heretics - well except for maybe one or two Catholic monarchs. But is a pretend monarchy sufficient for continuity? Continuity of what?

During WWII, Elizabeth's parents, indeed the entire family, were certainly morale boosters. Elizabeth II has maintained herself well all of her life and presented a very dignified and respectful presence, yet she does not rule Britania. The monarchy is nothing but a figure head - they do not rule. I don't get it - what's the point? In my estimation, the British seem to be a collection of eccentrics - intelligent and cultured perhaps - yet sometimes rather eccentric.

John Paul strikes back!

[Follow up on an earlier post.]
I've never liked Gaultier - his designs are tacky - but his response to the too thin controversy is fun. Actually, this model was the ideal in another century. (They say the French are getting more like fat Americans - because they are eating fast food such as MacDonalds more often.)

"Fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier found his own way to comment on the 'size zero' debate - by putting a larger model down the catwalk to show off his clothes.
Dressed in a daring black corsetry, the plus-sized model dwarfed her fellow waif-like catwalk queens.
Clearly more of a size 20 than the controversial model Size 0, this voluptuous woman proved big is beautiful as she strutted down the runway at Gaultier's 30th anniversary show yesterday during fashion week in Paris."

What if this becomes the norm? Then all the models will look like Russian matushkas! (Does anyone remember the '80's Wendy's ads depicting a Russian fashion show? It was hilarious - Moscow was insulted and Wendy's had to take down the ads.)

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The authentic St. Francis...

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI had this to say recently about St. Francis:

“He was not merely an environmentalist or a pacifist. He was, above all, a converted man. I have read with great pleasure that the bishop of Assisi, Sorrentino, precisely in order to remedy this ‘abuse’ of the figure of Saint Francis, wants to proclaim the eighth centenary of his conversion as a ‘Year of conversion,’ in order to [...] demonstrate what conversion is by connecting us with the figure of Saint Francis, in order to widen the horizon of life. At first, Francis was a sort of playboy. Then he realized that this was not enough. He heard the voice of the Lord: ‘Rebuild my house.’ And little by little, he understood what it meant to ‘rebuild the house of the Lord’.” The entire article on;

The Transitus of Our Holy Father Francis

This evening one may solemnly commemorate the death of St. Francis of Assisi. The vigil of his feast day may also be a day of prayer and fasting.

The son of a wealthy merchant, many like to think of him as something of a playboy and romanticized knight. I suppose we can think of his youth in that way, yet it would be incorrect to compare his frivolity to how contemporary rich kids play...I doubt if he was as decadent as Paris Hilton's boyfriends. I think it is safe to assume Francis always remained a virgin. He liked to have fun and hung out with the guys, if you will.

His conversion after taking ill on his way to battle, allowed him to understand the vanity and brevity of life. He fell in love with Jesus. The vehemence of this love caused him to put aside everything and follow the Lord after the primitive example of the first disciples. Like Mother Teresa in our own day, he quickly gathered numerous followers.

Francis was a little saint. That is why I loved him and St. Therese so much in my youth. He was so simple and transparent he would weep at hearing a passage of the Passion read to him. His soul burned with seraphic love to such an extent he was conformed to his Crucified lover.

His III Order today still attracts the simple ones. Sinners seeking to amend their lives through penance and prayer. The 'official' III Order is now called "Secular Franciscans" and there is a tendency to focus primarily on peace and justice issues, while conducting a more academic approach to the life of St. Francis and the intellectualizing of the Franciscan charism. His doctrine has been more or less institutionalized, while his spirit seems to have been dissipated into something more "new age" than authentic Catholic asceticism.

Sometimes I think that is why, many folks, even some of the Friars, delight in the romantic aspect of the Saint's life. Surrounding themselves with bird baths and fountains of the saint with birds flocking all over the otherwise dreadful piece of sculpture representing him. Then there are those Brother Sun and Sister Moon ecological seminars many host in his honor. Yet Francis, in his most authentic image, is an icon of Jesus Crucified. He is in a tattered habit, his side and limbs wounded with the stigmata, his body like gnarled roots, barefoot, trampling the globe representing the world underfoot. He holds a cross, and perhaps a skull, representing the brevity of life and our final end. The authentic image of St. Francis calls us to penance, while urging us to love - to love love, and make love loved.

Yet I digress. This evening commemorates his transitus or death. In imitation of his Crucified Love. On this night, he rose from his death bed, removed his clothes and lay down upon the bare earth to die, covered only with a small cloth. The passion was read to him one last time before he died.

St. Francis of Assisi, father of the poor, example of penitents, pray for us now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Guardian Angels

What does your Angel look like?

Wouldn't it be wonderful to see and converse with him? St. Gemma Galgani did. So did Frances of Rome. Didn't Padre Pio do so as well? St. Catherine Labore had her angel appear as a little child to wake her and escort her to visit with Our Lady in the chapel at Rue de Bac.

Perhaps, if we were able to see him, we would try to hold onto him, maybe make "three tents" - well one or two - like Peter at the Transfiguration. We would want to simply "be" with him while neglecting our duties and responsibilities. We might fail in our exercise of charity, seeking our consolation in a friendship that we cannot penetrate or adequately embrace...such a thing is for the soul and God alone.

We must be content with the invisible.

"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye." - Saint-Exupery, "The Little Prince"

(Check out "The Penitent Blogger" for a fine commentary from St. Bernard on today's memorial.)