Saturday, August 30, 2014

If you don't win this time, you can try again in the 200,000th page view contest

  Sisters of Carmel making rosaries

We have decided on the prize for our contest to guess the exact date Inigo Hicks reaches 100,000 page views.  It's a Rosary custom made by the Sisters of Carmel, who make the best rosaries on the web.  The rosary has black oval cocoa wood beads on a black cord, an Our Lady of Fatima centerpiece, a St. Benedict crucifix, and a St. Ignatius Loyola side medal attached to the centerpiece.  The St. Ignatius medal is there because I graduated from St. Ignatius Loyola Grammar School, and because Fr. John Hardon, our patron, belonged to the religious order founded by St. Ignatius.

Since the rosary is a custom job, I couldn't find any photos on the web.  It will look very nice, and will stand up to years of use by even the most devoted prayer of the rosary.

First to guess the exact date Inigo Hicks hits 100000 page views wins.  You get one guess.  If no one guesses the exact date, I keep the rosary for use in a future contest.  Enter your guess in the comments section of this post.  Good luck.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The first 100,000 page views are the hardest (I hope)

Al Gore berating someone for having too big a carbon footprint
Sometime soon, and probably before the end of the year, Inigo Hicks will reach the 100,000 page view plateau.  When this happens, as everyone knows,  Al Gore, the inventor of the internet, will emerge from his massive mansion, fly to my house by private jet, demand a recount, berate me for having too big a carbon footprint, and then fly back to his massive mansion.  I can't wait.

To celebrate this upcoming milestone, we decided to have a contest.  The first person to guess correctly the date on which Inigo Hicks reaches its 100,000th page view will win a prize.  We haven't decided what the prize will be, but it will have a higher cash value than an Inigo Hicks refrigerator magnet or an Inigo Hicks coffee mug.  If there are no correct guesses, I will keep the prize.

Here is a clue to help you figure out when we will reach the magical 100,000 page views plateau.   This is today's page view counter:

Enter your guess in the comments section of this post.  Good luck.

The prize for guessing when Inigo Hicks will reach 100000 page views has just been announced.

My unsolicited advice to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Council of Clermont 1095 AD
"[Y]our brethren who live in the east are in urgent need of your help"

Bill Gates, the Microsoft founder and very very rich man ($80 billion dollars, give or take), married a Catholic woman, is raising his kids Catholic, and attends a Catholic church.   Mr. Gates and his wife established a charitable foundation called the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (Mrs. Gates name is Melinda, in case you were wondering) which does some helpful things but mainly cheerleads for and underwrites abortion and birth control, especially amongst the world's poorest.  A search for "family planning" on the Foundation's "Awarded Grants" page returns 307 results.

It's nice that Mr. and Mrs. Gates want to give away their money, but there are lots of needy organizations which pursue goals more consistent with Catholic belief than the Clinton Health Access Initiative Inc (yes, those Clintons, who got a $4 million grant) or the Swedish Association for Sex Education (which got $1.3 million).

Here's a suggestion for a use of his wealth which may appeal to the entrepreneurial Mr. Gates.  Christians are under attack in Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Central African Republic and other places.  Why not raise an international army to defend them?  Not only is this project highly worthwhile, and a fitting challenge for Mr. Gates' executive talents, but circumstances are currently highly favorable to such an undertaking.

Raising the manpower shouldn't be a problem.  The Pentagon is laying off thousands of mid-career officers, so highly trained fighters have suddenly become idle and presumably are available.  In addition, there are 2.4 million American veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, some of whom will be interested in helping.  Britain has a lot of Iraq/Afghanistan veterans, too, and many will be interested in putting their military experience at the service of a good cause.  Of course, all trained fighters who want to protect Christians will be welcome to sign up.

It might cost surprisingly little to equip this army.  The Pentagon gave away a half billion dollars of military equipment last year alone; shouldn't be hard to persuade them to give that much equipment to a volunteer Christian-protecting army instead, especially since this army would be relieving the Pentagon of a great headache.

The Gates Foundation would not have to bear the cost all by itself.  Two of the other top five wealthiest people in the world are also Catholic (Carlos Slim, worth $82.5 billion, is a Maronite Catholic, and Amancio Ortega, worth $62.3 billion is a plain Roman Catholic).  Those guys might throw in some cash.  Plus, Rupert Murdoch, whose net worth is estimated at $13.4 billion, was made a Knight of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great by Pope St. John Paul, and might be counted on to contribute a few shekels.  

Non-rich Catholics would undoubtedly contribute, too.  Even the Inigo Hicks Foundation, which is among the most non-rich foundations in the world, is sure to make a suitable donation.

The biggest threat to Christians at the moment is ISIL, which is undeniably brutal: today they executed 250 Syrian Army POWs.   But ISIL only has about 4000 fighters; if ISIL were a country they would rank #106 in the world for total military strength, about half the size of Slovenia's military, which is #105.  It may not be easy to neutralize ISIL, but it's not super-daunting either.    

We are in a religious war.  Our opponents are motivated by religion, and have targeted Christians on account of their religion.   To win, we must of course first re-dedicate ourselves to holiness.  Next we must consider whether, in picking up the sword to protect the defenseless, we are acting justly.  According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, these are the criteria to be weighed in determining whether a war is just:

  • the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
  • all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
  • there must be serious prospects of success;
  • the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated.
My analysis may be summarized as follows: check, check, check, and check. 

For those who are still unsure whether picking up the sword to defend Christian populations against an organized and deadly threat is just, St. Augustine of Hippo, whose feast day is today, assures us:

"They who have waged war in obedience to the divine command, or in conformity with His laws, have represented in their persons the public justice or the wisdom of government, and in this capacity have put to death wicked men; such persons have by no means violated the commandment, "Thou shalt not kill."'

Deus vult.

RELATED: Christian soldiers much rarer now than in the ancient days of WWII.
RELATED: Looks like the Christians who need protection may be us.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Ora et labora is not the motto of the Benedictines

Monks Praying
Monks working

Contrary to popular belief, Ora et labora ("pray and work") is not the motto of the Benedictines, nor is the even worse Labora est ora ("work is prayer").   Instead, the Benedictines go with the simple, classy and always in style motto "Pax."  However,  St. Benedict's Rule does establish a balanced regimen of prayer and work, and so, for Labor Day, here are some reflections on idleness, labor and prayer by Fr. Richard Marx OSB, of Subiaco Abbey (that's Subiaco, Arkansas, by the way):

"St. Benedict opens his chapter on the daily manual labor with the short maxim: “Idleness is the enemy of the soul.” The arrangements which follow spell out the stated hours for work and those for lectio divina. For Benedict, the way to avoid idleness is through a good combination of both prayer and work.

The so-called “Protestant work ethic” of today played no part in the thinking of the early monks. Work had not been exalted to the status of man’s highest vocation and dignity as in Communist theory. But neither was work reduced to a piece of merchandise to be bought or sold.

Greek and Roman civilizations tended to think of work as “what slaves did.”

The Hebrews, on the other hand, were a working people. The pattern of work and rest was taken from God’s creative work and rest in the Genesis creation story.

St. Paul writing to the Thessalonians spoke of work. “If he is not willing to work, then neither let him eat!” He thought one should work in order to support oneself, but also in order to have something to help others.

The Desert Fathers and St. Benedict saw work as a good balance to prayer. A story is told about Abba Silvanus that when a visitor saw the monks working he commented: “Do not work for the food which perishes. Mary has chosen the better part.” Abba Silvanus gave the brother a book and sent him off to pray. At meal time he did not call him to eat. Later the brother complained why he was not called to meal? “Because you are a spiritual man and do not need that kind of food. We, being carnal, want to eat, and that is why we work. But you have chosen the better part and read the whole day long and you do not want to eat carnal food.” The visitor saw his error and repented.

For St. Benedict human labor has dignity; it is not a distasteful and burdensome thing, but rather something to be esteemed, an honor and a joy."

Much more along these lines here.

Happy Labor Day.

Monk tasting wine (probably to break the monotony of praying and working)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Around this time, Matisse also became a much nicer guy

Matisse sketching in the Chapelle du Rosaire in Vence 
Matisse designed the Chapelle in gratitude to his nurse, Monique, 
who entered the cloister there
The stained glass windows behind Matisse were designed using cutouts.

While suffering from duodenal cancer late in his life, Matisse underwent a religious conversion, returning to the sacraments for the first time in a decade.  Matisse's conversion also led to an artistic rebirth.  Although no longer able to stand before a canvas, Matisse nevertheless wished “to make God’s glory visible through purely terrestrial means.”  Matisse cleverly hit upon a new artistic technique, the "cut out,"  which made it possible for him to create vibrant, colorful and large scale works of art while remaining seated.  An exhibition of Matisse's cutouts is currently on at the Tate Modern in London, but naturally they don't mention the spiritual rebirth which inspired them.

More stained glass windows designed with cutouts
from Chapelle du Rosaire

Thursday, August 21, 2014

In planning their black mass, the OKC satanists overlooked one little fact

 "St. Michael the Archangel," Vatican City

The OKC satanists have bragged about using a consecrated host in their upcoming black mass, but you can only get a consecrated host from one place - a Catholic church.  And since Catholics would never knowingly give a consecrated host to satanists,  they must have obtained it by fraud or by stealing it.   Which means the satanists do not have a legal right to possess the host.  The archbishop of OKC has just sued for the return of the host within 5 days, and the judge has already ordered the satanists not to destroy the host in the meantime.

The archbishop of OKC has asked people to pray to St. Michael the Archangel during the next five days for help in winning this fight.  Here is the prayer:

St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Archbishop drops suit; consecrated host returned.   The leader of the satanists explained: “I don’t feel like wasting thousands of dollars fighting over a cookie.”  Yeah, right.  Sounds just like something the father of lies himself might have said.   Still, no one will claim Satan got the best lines in this particular epic.  
Deo gratias et Michaeli Archangeli gratias

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

"The Organic Development of the Liturgy"

 "Charlemagne instructing Louis the Pious" artist unknown,  
from the Grandes Chroniques de France, France, Paris 
(BnF Fran├žais 73, fol. 128v) 9th Century AD

Another interesting perspective on liturgical reform from Alcuin Reid's "The Organic Development of the Liturgy"-

Charlemagne was a Frankish king who understood the advantages of establishing his empire upon a Roman model.  Charlemagne thought it would also be a good idea to align the Liturgy celebrated within his domains with the Liturgy as celebrated in Rome.   So, at the end of the eighth century AD, Charlemagne sent to Rome for liturgical books so that he could have copies made and distributed throughout his realm.  Charlemagne was the most powerful ruler in Western Europe, and the protector of the pope, so when his request for liturgical books reached Rome, scribes immediately began racing to complete the job.  Their haste shows in the finished product, which is full of copyists' errors.  Also, the liturgical book they sent to Charlemagne contained only texts for liturgies celebrated by a pope, omitting liturgies celebrated by ordinary priests.

Rome had done its best, however inadequate the result, so Charlemagne realized he would have to fix the book's shortcomings himself.  Charlemagne gave the job of correcting the liturgical book and supplying the omitted liturgies to a scholar in his court (probably the English monk Alcuin).  This scholar had many liturgical texts to draw upon in doing his work, and went about his job with scrupulous care.   In "The Organic Development of the Liturgy," Alcuin Reid notes the following five principles evident in the editor's work:

1. a necessity for the development (the sacramentary supplied was inadequate; further texts were required);
2. a profound respect for liturgical Tradition (insofar as possible the compilation of required texts using elements already belonging to the Tradition, in this case Roman;
3. little pure innovation (the editor collects rather than composes);
4. the tentative positing of newer liturgical forms alongside the old (his preface accepts that they may be considered a "superfluity");
5. the integration of the newer forms following their acceptance over time.

The end result was not liturgical uniformity in the Carolingian empire, but increased liturgical unity.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

On the Liturgy and the pope

People who want to do whatever comes into their [giant puppet] heads

I'm reading Alcuin Reid's "The Organic Development of the Liturgy," which I recommend highly.  This is from Pope Benedict's Preface:

"The pope is not an absolute monarch whose will is law; rather, he is the guardian of the authentic Tradition and, thereby, the premier guarantor of obedience.  He cannot do as he likes, and he is thereby able to oppose those people who, for their part, want to do whatever comes into their head.  His rule is not that of arbitrary power, but that of obedience in faith. That is why, with respect to the Liturgy, he has the task of a gardener, not that of a technician who builds new machines and throws the old ones on the junk-pile."

Friday, August 15, 2014

Like Yogi Berra, St. Francis didn't really say everything he said

St. Francis preaching to the birds
(maybe they were the ones he told to preach the Gospel always and if necessary use words)

Yesterday over at St. Malachy's, Fr Dave dropped into his homily that line you've heard a million times about "preach[ing] the Gospel always and if necessary use words."  Fr. Dave credited St. Francis of Assisi, but it sure doesn't sound like something a twelfth century person would have said, and it doesn't appear in any of the standard sources on St. Francis of Assisi.   So where did it come from?  Maybe from this story, which St. Alphonsus Liguori recounts in a couple of places:

St. Francis of Assisi once said to his companion that he was going out to preach. After walking through the town, with his eyes fixed on the ground, he returned to the convent. His companion asked him when he would preach the sermon. We have, replied the saint, by the modesty of our looks, given an excellent instruction to all who saw us. 

The point about preaching without words is present, but the thrust is quite different.  Instead of a swipe at people who preach the Gospel without practicing it (I don't run into many such, but maybe I'm not very observant), St. Alphonsus's story illustrates St. Francis's great devotion to Christian modesty.  Still, it's possible this story inspired the better known, snappier, but likely less accurate quotation Fr. Dave used.  So where did St. Alphonsus Liguori get this story from?  Alas, in this case St. Alphonsus doesn't provide a source, even though most of the time he does.  I suspect if St. Alphonsus had a published source for this story he would have provided it.

An official Inigo Hicks refrigerator magnet to the first person who can track down the source of St. Alphonsus Liguori's story about St. Francis, or the source of the quotation, attributed to St. Francis, to "preach the Gospel always and if necessary use words."  

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Gary Sinise, Catholic convert

Gary Sinise

The actor Gary Sinise, probably best known for his portrayal of Lt. Dan in "Forrest Gump" and his support of veterans' organizations, recently converted to Catholicism.  Fr. Mychal Judge, the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and a hurricane all contributed to Sinise's conversion.  More here.

h/t Creative Minority Report

Friday, August 8, 2014

Praying always, old school style

Schola antiqua
The original "old school"

We've posted before about how to pray always, which St. Luke (Luke 18: 1-8) and St. Paul (1 Thess 5:17) say we ought to be doing.   Praying the Divine Office is a good way to pray (practically) always, and the internet has made this very easy.  You don't have to buy an expensive multi volume set of books anymore, since the Office can be found online on several sites, which means anyone who has a smart phone can say the Office anytime they want.  I like Divinum Officium, which offers a choice of several formats, from pre-Trident monastic to the 1960 version.  I tend to use pre-Trident monastic, mainly because they don't have anything more ancient.  The texts are presented side by side in Latin and English.  
At several points you must make the sign of the cross, and you also have to bow your head once.  On the bus, this sometimes draws curious stares.

"Pray, brethren, to the Lord, that my sacrifice, which is equally yours,..."

The Hereford Boy Bishop
In 1542 ADHenry VIII banned this medieval custom,
which means it was healthy and good

The text above is taken from the medieval liturgy used before the reformation at Hereford in England (where hurricanes hardly ever happen).  In Latin: “Orate fratres ad Dominum, ut meum pariter et vestrum in conspectu Domini acceptum sit sacrificium."  This reflects a deep understanding of true participation in the Mass.  New Liturgical Movement has more here.

The Council of Trent permitted the continued use of liturgies more than 200 years old, such as the Hereford liturgy.   By contrast, after the introduction of the Mass of Paul VI in 1969 AD, older forms of liturgy were not allowed except in private recitation, and by papal indult in England and Wales.  The indult was a favor to Cardinal Heenan of Westminster.

Monday, August 4, 2014

"Dulce et decorum est...."

Crowds in Trafalgar Square cheering as Britain enters Great War, August 4, 1914

In London at midnight, one hundred years ago today, a British ultimatum demanding that Germany guarantee Belgian neutrality expired, causing a state of war to exist between the two nations.  German troops then invaded Belgium, and the War, which had already flared in the Balkans, started in earnest.

Imperial War Dead Cemetery at Villers-Brettoneux

Of the 7 million killed in the war, about 1.2 million were from the British Empire, which at the time included Ireland.  It takes more than 2,000 cemeteries in France and Belgium to hold them.

The title of this post is also the title of the War's best known poem, by Wilfred Owen.  Owen lifted the line from one of Horace's Odes.  The full line reads "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori" which means "it is sweet and right to die for your country." 


Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots 
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud 
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest 
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.
Wilfred Owen
Thought to have been written between 8 October 1917  and March, 1918