Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"This isn't Spain, you know."

Thomas More and the Duke of Norfolk, from "A Man For All Seasons"

In Tudor times England liked to flatter itself that it was an enlightened nation ruled by law, by contrast with Spain, which the English considered a benighted land of autocratic brutality.  So, in "A Man for All Seasons," when Thomas More confesses to the Duke of Norfolk that he is afraid, Norfolk replies "This isn't Spain, you know. This is England."   In fact, it would be in England where the rights of the vibrant and popular Church would be trampled, its property seized, its priests and other faithful put to death (Thomas More among them), and where crushing fines would be levied upon Catholics, and their rights restricted in other ways.  The Duke of Norfolk himself barely escaped execution. That legal formalities were often observed doesn't obscure the autocratic brutality of these acts.

America, like Tudor England, flatters itself that it's the land of the free, with a government of laws, not men.   In California, at least, this is no longer the case.  There, in August, the Department of Managed Healthcare (!) ordered all elective health plans in the state to cover elective abortion.  "All" of course includes health plans administered by religious institutions, even those with objections to elective abortions based upon their religious beliefs.  In other words, California permits a mere bureaucratic body, not even its legislature, to trample on rights guaranteed to its citizens and churches by the first amendment to the US Constitution.   Six churches have filed lawsuits.

Meanwhile, the shadows lengthen and deepen.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Where have I heard this before?

Here's roughly half of the Foreign Legion fighting ISIS

When I saw this on Instapundit

it sounded familiar, since I had proposed something similar back in August.   At that time, I had called upon the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (Melinda is Catholic) to take a break from spending millions to teach Swedes and poor people how not to procreate, and instead raise a volunteer army to defend Christian populations under threat from Muslims.  I even emailed the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation directly, in case they don't follow this blog.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been maintaining a discrete silence with regard to my proposal ever since.

The man in the picture is Jordan Matson, and although he may not be a Marine, as he seems to have claimed, he is fighting ISIS because he "couldn't just sit and watch Christians being slaughtered anymore" and for this I commend him.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

100,000th page view less than a month away (probably)

Conversion of St. Hubert, Studio of the Master of the Life of the Virgin

Inigo Hicks will reach the prestigious 100,000 page view plateau soon.  The contest to guess the day this historic event will actually happen is still going on, and it's pretty wide open, since to date we have received only one guess.   As of right now, we've had 97,860 page views, and we've been getting around 2,500 page views a month.  The prize for the first person to guess the date Inigo Hicks hits 100,000 page views is a rosary custom made by the Sisters of Carmel, who make the best rosaries on the web.  Everybody gets one guess.

The rosary has black oval cocoa wood beads on a black cord, an Our Lady of Fatima centerpiece, and a St. Benedict crucifix.  It was supposed to have a St. Ignatius medal attached to the centerpiece, but I must have clicked the wrong button, because it has a St. Hubert medal instead.   For those not familiar with St. Hubert (c. 656–727 A.D) here is his story.  After his wife died in childbirth, St. Hubert spent all his time hunting in the Ardennes forest.   According to legend, one Good Friday, when everybody else was in church, Hubert was out hunting in the forest when he had a vision of a stag with a crucifix between its antlers.  Hubert also heard a voice saying "Hubert, unless thou turnest to the Lord, and leadest an holy life, thou shalt quickly go down into hell".  Hubert duly turned to the Lord, giving away his possessions, becoming a priest and eventually a bishop.  His feast day is Nov. 3.  It would be kind of interesting if that turns out to be the day this blog hits 100,000 page views.

Another interesting thing about this contest is that the prize was lost for about a month.  The Sisters of Carmel emailed me that they shipped it on the same day as another rosary I'd ordered a few weeks earlier.  The other rosary arrived, but the prize rosary didn't.  After a few days passed, and the prize rosary still hadn't arrived, I assumed the rosaries had been shipped in the same package and I'd accidentally thrown out the prize rosary along with the packaging of the rosary that was delivered.  The rosary was in a pretty big envelope with a lot of plastic peanuts so it was possible the prize rosary was in there but I didnt see it.  I didn't want to hassle the Sisters of Carmel about it, so I said a prayer to St. Anthony of Padua, the go-to saint when you need help finding a lost object, and figured I'd have to order a replacement.  After about a month, though, I got an email from the Sisters of Carmel telling me they'd found the rosary, and would ship it right away.  That was a little weird, since I never told them I didn't receive the rosary.  I've also been imagining how the discovery of the unshipped rosary might have taken place.

"Who keeps leaving their rosary on the "Rosaries to be Shipped" table?  I swear this one has been here everyday for at least a month."

"It's not mine."
"It's not mine."
"It's not mine."
"I keep my rosary in this small, holster-like device."

"Fine, then whose is it?"

"Maybe that rosary needs to be shipped to somebody.  That's probably why it's on the "Rosaries to be Shipped" table."


Anyway, the rosary finally arrived, and it's a beauty.

Please enter your guess in the comments section of this post.

St. Hubert and St. Anthony of Padua, pray for us.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Dave Brubeck, Catholic convert

Dave Brubeck (1920 - 2012 AD), the American jazz pianist and composer, best known for the jazz classic "Take Five," was a convert to Catholicism.  Although the horrors he witnessed during his service with Patton's Third Army in World War II jolted Brubeck into a spiritual awakening, he didn't actually convert until 1980.  However, Brubeck didn't think "conversion" described his case very well, since, as he said "I didn't convert to Catholicism, because I wasn't anything to convert from. I just joined the Catholic Church."  In 2006, the University of Notre Dame awarded Brubeck its Laetare Medal, its oldest and most prestigious honor.

Brubeck composed a jazz Mass, which is not my cup of tea, but you can listen to some of it here:

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Benedict Groeschel, RIP

Fr. Benedict Groeschel

Fr. Benedict Groeschel died last night, the vigil of St. Francis, at the age of 81.  Born in Jersey City, Fr. Groeschel entered the OFM Capuchins a few days after graduating high school, and remained a Capuchin for the next 36 years.  In 1987, motivated by his desire to live the Franciscan vocation more faithfully, Fr. Groeschel, along with 7 fellow Capuchins, left the order to found the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.   The FFRs now count 115 members, and a similar order for women, the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal, now numbers 35.

Fr. Groeschel had a PhD from Columbia, and although he didn't publish his first book until 1983, he would go on to author 46 books in all, and was at work on number 47.  His wispy beard and raspy, slightly lisping voice were familiar to viewers of EWTN, where he appeared regularly for 30 years.   Fr. Groeschel was humble, learned, orthodox and funny, and he had many admirers and friends, some of whom, like Mother Teresa, are now saints.  He will be missed, and I hope his own cause for canonization will move quickly.

Long ago, during my high school and college years, I met Fr. Groeschel several times at the retreat house he'd founded at the request of Cardinal Cooke.  At first I had no idea Fr. Groeschel was famous, and not just for his holiness and learning, but that became clear enough at meals, when everyone in the place, and especially his fellow Capuchins, would crowd around to hear his table talk, which was often uproarious, even though Fr. Groeschel barely spoke above a whisper.   Once, his gentle gaze having fallen upon the awkward, shy lad at far end of his table, he asked me what college I was attending.   When I told him Columbia, he asked if I'd ever visited Riverside Church, the towering, gothic, cathedral-like Baptist church built at enormous expense by John D. Rockefeller.   I replied that I had (it's a landmark a few blocks from campus), whereupon Fr. Groeschel said, in a confiding tone, "You know what that is, don't you?  Rockefeller's fire escape."

Fr. Groeschel's obituary here.

Requiem Aeternam dona eis, Domine
et lux perpetua luceat eis:
Requiescat in pace.  Amen

Friday, October 3, 2014

First Friday Devotion - You still have a few hours left

St. Margaret Mary's vision of Sacred Heart

Today is the first Friday of the month, so if you go to Mass today and receive communion, and keep that up for nine consecutive Fridays, you will not only receive the grace of final repentance, you won't die under God's displeasure, nor without receiving the sacraments; the Sacred Heart of Jesus will be your assured refuge in your last hour.

That is a promise St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647 AD - 1690 AD) received from Jesus Christ himself.  This promise was given in a vision; from her youth, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque had been granted many visions of Jesus (she at first assumed everybody got them).  In the course of these visions St. Margaret Mary received from Our Lord many tender expressions of his great love for mankind, along with many promises of graces to those who  practiced devotion to his Sacred Heart.

At the age of 9, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque had made a vow to enter religious life, but she did not enter a Visitation convent until she was 24 (after having been reproached by Jesus, in a vision, for not keeping her vow).  According to her fellow novices, St. Margaret Mary was humble, simple and frank, but above all kind and patient.  Jesus seems to be drawn to this type.  St. Margaret Mary was assigned to the infirmary,where she wasn't very good at her tasks.   Jesus also doesnt seem to care much whether you're a superstar at your job or not.

Her lifelong visions continued in the convent, but St. Margaret Mary had a lot of trouble convincing her superiors to take these visions seriously.   They eventually did, though a panel of theologians which investigated the visions did not consider them authentic.  St. Margaret Mary's own religious community shared the theologians' skepticism, and they made her life miserable for many years.   Finally, St. Margaret Mary visions found support among influential religious persons, in particular the Jesuits, who began to foster the devotion to the Sacred Heart taught by Jesus to St. Margaret Mary, and this devotion began to grow.

However, for nearly a century, the teachings and revelations of St. Margaret Mary, as well as her own personal qualities, continued to undergo a severe scrutiny.  At last, in 1928, St. Margaret Mary's visions and revelations received official approval in Pope Pius XI's encyclical Miserentissimus Redemptor (Most Merciful Redeemer).   In the words of the encyclical:

"[T]here is surely no reason for doubting, Venerable Brethren, that from this devotion piously established and commanded to the whole Church, many excellent benefits will flow forth not only to individual men but also to society, sacred, civil, and domestic, seeing that our Redeemer Himself promised to Margaret Mary that "all those who rendered this honor to His Heart would be endowed with an abundance of heavenly graces."

Other promises Jesus made to those who practice devotion to the Sacred Heart here; I like this one very much:

I will give peace in their families.