Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tragedy of the House of Kennedy

My senator, Ted Kennedy, passed away this morning.

I do not plan on this blog to address the vicissitudes of partisan politics in the United States, being utterly repelled by both of our two parties, the Whigs and the Bonapartists. However, Kennedy's death brings several broader cultural issues into focus. Though there is no contradiction between the two, I will address this first primarily as a monarchist, and then primarily as a Catholic.

To begin, it has often been remarked since the "Camelot" days of JFK's presidency that the Kennedys were a species of American royal family. To this day, those who know little of the policy of John or Robert Kennedy know their image, their oratory, Jackie's grace, and, of course, their tragic deaths. It may indeed be somewhat stretching it to call them royalty, fo that would imply an ecclesiastical mandate and consecration, but they were no doubt a nobility, which can be witnessed by the esteem in which John and Robert are held to this day, and even in the esteem in which Ted was held even across the Senate aisle until his death. For after all, a true aristocrat is not a ravenous ideologue, an intellectual fundamentalist who savages his opposition, but rather a magnanimous man, who has principles and stands by them, but whose opponents will nevertheless go away from a discussion or even argument with him with a much greater respect for him, a man who understands that his calling is not to favour himself or his friends unduly, but to provide service for others, for all, even those we dislike the most. In the ugly business we call law-making, Ted Kennedy had served in the United States Senate since 1962, since a more humane and genteel day, before political culture degenerated into the war dogs of the New Left and neoconservative ideologies barking at one another. The loss of Ted Kennedy is an indication that the American governmental process, as deficient as it always has been, is only going to get worse--and I say this even despite the fact that I almost always had sharp disageements with the Senator.

Now I indeed half-expect some contrary commentary from some of my co-religionists about my gall in eulogizing a man who dared support abortion (aside, another topic generally verboten on this blog; let's not congratulate ourselves for holding the right point of view, for even the Pharisees do that, and let's indeed not be tricked by various warmongers, despots, and demagogues who think abortion the key to our vote. As I said before, all their ideologies are rotten and un-Catholic.) and other radicalisms of the New Left while still calling himself Catholic. This brings into relief another important observation. Like the Kennedys I am from Massachusetts. And the Northeast is both the most strongly Catholic (by self-identification) and the most strongly Democratic part of the United States. Until the 1960s-70s, this would seem unsurprising and rather natural, as the Republicans of early century were the party of wealthy, liberal-Protestant, often eugenicist, industrialist "progressives" whereas the Democrats were the party of working-class urban Catholics and various regionalists (like the Southerners). However, the Democrats of today have become the Republicans of yesteryear, the Republicans of today have become imperialists, and the old Catholic Democrats have become politically homeless.

What has happened? That's easy to explain with but one word: assimilation. Catholics, long regarded as foreigners and scarcely even as "white," finally found themselves with a new respectability in American society at some point in mid-century, found their social, educational, etc. needs met now by FDR's New Deal state, rather than by the Church structures that had done so since they had got off the boat, and moved out of their ethnic enclaves in the cities to a ranch house with lace curtains in that surreal, cultureless place known as suburbia. Thus fell the "machines" like Tammany Hall which had characterized urban Catholic politics. Before long, Catholics saw themselves as indistinct from their non-Catholic neighbours. Then the liturgy lost its distinct qualities. Then the Catholic universities revolted and a generation joined in the radically-stoked temper tantrum of the 1960s. And they're still here today, quite comfortable with their Marty Haugen earworms and their National Catholic Reporter. And now there seem to be two flavours of American Catholicism: liberal-Protestant (John XXIII Santo subito!) and evangelical-Protestant (John Paul II Santo subito!)

But back to the Kennedys. P.J. Kennedy and John F. Fitzgerald were old hands at the old urban ward politics, and the shrewd business practices of Joseph P. Kennedy brought the family to national prominence. All were fighters, tough men who simply refused to quit. And all were pious Catholics. Joe Kennedy was quite close, I understand, to Cardinal Spellman and Cardinal Pacelli, later Pope Pius XII (Santo subito!). I also noted this on Orbis Catholicvs:

"I once heard that when Cardinal Pacelli came to the USA in 1936 little four-year-old Teddy climbed up on his lap to say hello when the Cardinal paid a visit to the Kennedy family at their Bronxville, NY home and that Teddy was confirmed by the newly elected Pius XII when he went to the Vatican for the coronation of the new Pope in 1939. After the coronation he and the family were received into a private audience with the Pope. Ted was later married by Cardinal Spellman in 1958."

And so like the rest of my neighbours, the Kennedys finally made good--better than good, they became a significant national dynasty--and slacked off. Ted's crossbench work in the Senate, like so many other old icons, too will fade in the age of homogeneous barbarity we seem to be entering. May God have mercy on his soul.

+Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetuam luceat ei.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

St. Louis IX de France

The feast day of our finest king.

Crusader, patron of the arts, and pious Catholic. Perhaps more so than anyone else, St. Louis IX exemplifies Christian kingship.

Vive le roy!

My thanks to Mme Vidal.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The archbishop vs. Moralistic Therapeutic Deism

Courtesy of Rod Dreher

"In our conversations with young people, we have to avoid the temptation to fudge--to adapt the Catholic faith so as to make it palatable to modern tastes and expectations. This so-called "accommodationist" approach generally fails, and it fails doubly with young people. There is a risk in this approach that the Christian message becomes indistinguishable from everything else on offer in the market stalls of secularised religious faith: "In the powerful yet soft secularising totalitarianism of distinctively modern culture, our greatest enemy is...the Church's 'own internal secularisation' which, when it occurs, does so through the '...largely unconscious' adoption of the 'ideas and practices' of seemingly 'benign adversaries'" (Nichols 2008, 141)."

My sentiments exactly--so much so that this reads exactly like a letter I wrote to a prince of the Church some three years ago.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Roncevaux Pass

Today fell the greatest knight of the greatest emperor ever to rule in Christendom:

  "Ah!  Durendal, white art thou, clear of stain!
Beneath the sun reflecting back his rays!
In Moriane was Charles, in the vale,
When from heaven God by His angel bade
Him give thee to a count and capitain;
Girt thee on me that noble King and great.
I won for him with thee Anjou, Bretaigne,
And won for him with thee Peitou, the Maine,
And Normandy the free for him I gained,
Also with thee Provence and Equitaigne,
And Lumbardie and all the whole Romaigne,
I won Baivere, all Flanders in the plain,
Also Burguigne and all the whole Puillane,
Costentinnople, that homage to him pays;
In Saisonie all is as he ordains;
With thee I won him Scotland, Ireland, Wales,
England also, where he his chamber makes;
Won I with thee so many countries strange
That Charles holds, whose beard is white with age!
For this sword's sake sorrow upon me weighs,
Rather I'ld die, than it mid pagans stay.
Lord God Father, never let France be shamed!"

(from the Song of Roland)
Vive le Roy!

In honour of the Queen above all others

O how does the source of life pass through death to life? O how can she obey the law of nature, who, in conceiving, surpasses the boundaries of nature? How is her spotless body made subject to death? In order to be clothed with immortality she must first put off mortality, since the Lord of nature did not reject the penalty of death. She dies according to the flesh, destroys death by death, and through corruption gains incorruption, and makes her death the source of resurrection. O how does Almighty God receive with His own hands the holy disembodied soul of our Lord's Mother! He honours her truly, whom being His servant by nature, He made His Mother, in His inscrutable abyss of mercy, when He became incarnate in very truth. We may well believe that the angelic choirs waited to receive thy departing soul. O what a blessed departure this going to God of thine. If God vouchsafes it to all His servants--and we know that He does--what an immense difference there is between His servants and His Mother. What, then, shall we call this mystery of thine? Death? Thy blessed soul is naturally parted from thy blissful and undefiled body, and the body is delivered to the grave, yet it does not endure in death, nor is it the prey of corruption. The body of her, whose virginity remained unspotted in child-birth, was preserved in its incorruption, and was taken to a better, diviner place, where death is not, but eternal life. Just as the glorious sun may be hidden momentarily by the opaque moon, it shows still though covered, and its rays illumine the darkness since light belongs to its essence. It has in itself a perpetual source of light, or rather it is the source of light as God created it. So art thou the perennial source of true light, the treasury of life itself, the richness of grace, the cause and medium of all our goods. And if for a time thou art hidden by the death of the body, without speaking, thou art our light, life-giving ambrosia, true happiness, a sea of grace, a fountain of healing and of perpetual blessing. Thou art as a fruitful tree in the forest, and thy fruit is sweet in the mouth of the faithful. Therefore I will not call thy sacred transformation death, but rest or going home, and it is more truly a going home. Putting off corporeal things, thou dwellest in a happier state.

Angels with archangels bear thee up. Impure spirits trembled at thy departure. The air raises a hymn of praise at thy passage, and the atmosphere is purified. Heaven receives thy soul with joy. The heavenly powers greet thee with sacred canticles and with joyous praise, saying : "Who is this most pure creature ascending, shining as the dawn, beautiful as the moon, conspicuous as the sun? How sweet and lovely thou art, the lily of the field, the rose among thorns; therefore the young maidens loved thee. We are drawn after the odour of thy ointments. The King introduced thee into His chamber. There Powers protect thee, Principalities praise thee, Thrones proclaim thee, Cherubim are hushed in joy, and Seraphim magnify the true Mother by nature and by grace of their very Lord. Thou wert not taken into heaven as Elias was, nor didst thou penetrate to the third heaven with Paul, but thou didst reach the royal throne itself of thy Son, seeing it with thy own eyes, standing by it in joy and unspeakable familiarity. O gladness of angels and of all heavenly powers, sweetness of patriarchs and of the just, perpetual exultation of prophets, rejoicing the world and sanctifying all things, refreshment of the weary, comfort of the sorrowful, remission of sins, health of the sick, harbour of the storm-tossed, lasting strength of mourners, and perpetual succour of all who invoke thee.

O wonder surpassing nature and creating wonder! Death, which of old was feared and hated, is a matter of praise and blessing. Of old it was the harbinger of grief, dejection, tears, and sadness, and now it is shown forth as the cause of joy and rejoicing. In the case of all God's servants, whose death is extolled, His good pleasure is surmised from their holy end, and therefore their death is blessed. It shows them to be perfect, blessed and immovable in goodness, as the proverb says: "Praise no man before his death." This, however, we do not apply to thee. Thy blessedness was not death, nor was dying thy perfection, nor, again, did thy departure hence help thee to security. Thou art the beginning, middle, and end of all goods transcending mind, for thy Son in His conception and divine dwelling in thee is made our sure and true security. Thus thy words were true: from the moment of His conception, not from thy death, thou didst say all generations should call thee blessed. It was thou who didst break the force of death, paying its penalty, and making it gracious. Hence, when thy holy and sinless body was taken to the tomb, the choirs of angels bore it, and were all around, leaving nothing undone for the honour of our Lord's Mother, whilst apostles and all the assembly of the Church burst into prophetic song, saying: "We shall be filled with the good things of Thy house, holy is Thy temple, wonderful in justice." And again: "The Most High has sanctified His tabernacle. The mountain of God is a fertile mountain, the mountain in which it pleased God to dwell." The apostolic band lifting the true ark of the Lord God on their shoulders, as the priests of old the typical ark, and placing thy body in the tomb, made it, as if another Jordan, the way to the true land of the gospel, the heavenly Jerusalem, the mother of all the faithful, God being its Lord and architect. Thy soul did not descend to Limbo, neither did thy flesh see corruption. Thy pure and spotless body was not left in the earth, but the abode of the Queen, of God's true Mother, was fixed in the heavenly kingdom alone.

O how did heaven receive her who is greater than heaven? How did she, who had received God, descend into the grave? This truly happened, and she was held by the tomb. It was not after bodily wise that she surpassed heaven. For how can a body measuring three cubits, and continually losing flesh, be compared with the dimensions of heaven ? It was rather by grace that she surpassed all height and depth, for that which is divine is incomparable. O sacred and wonderful, holy and worshipful body, ministered to now by angels, standing by in lowly reverence. Demons tremble: men approach with faith, honouring and worshipping her, greeting her with eyes and lips, and drawing down upon themselves abundant blessings. Just as a rich scent sprinkled upon clothes or places, leaves its fragrance even after it has been withdrawn, so now that holy, undefiled, and divine body, filled with heavenly fragrance, the rich source of grace, is laid in the tomb that it may be translated to a higher and better place. Nor did she leave the grave empty; her body imparted to it a divine fragrance, a source of healing, and of all good for those who approach it with faith.

We, too, approach thee to-day, O Queen; and again, I say, O Queen, O Virgin Mother of God, staying our souls with our trust in thee, as with a strong anchor. Lifting up mind, soul and body, and all ourselves to thee, rejoicing in psalms and hymns and spiritual canticles, we reach through thee One who is beyond our reach on account of His Majesty. If, as the divine Word made flesh taught us, honour shown to servants, is honour shown to our common Lord, how can honour shown to thee, His Mother, be slighted? How is it not most desirable? Art thou not honoured as the very breath of life? Thus shall we best show our service to our Lord Himself. What do I say to our Lord? It is sufficient that those who think of Thee should recall the memory of Thy most precious gift as the cause of our lasting joy. How it fills us with gladness! How the mind that dwells on this holy treasury of Thy grace enriches itself.

This is our thank-offering to thee, the first fruits of our discourses, the best homage of my poor mind, whilst I am moved by desire of thee, and full of my own misery. But do thou graciously receive my desire, knowing that it exceeds my power. Watch over us, O Queen, the dwelling-place of our Lord. Lead and govern all our ways as thou wilt. Save us from our sins. Lead us into the calm harbour of the divine will. Make us worthy of future happiness through the sweet and face-to-face vision of the Word made flesh through thee. With Him, glory, praise, power, and majesty be to the Father and to the holy and life-giving Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.

-St. John of Damascus

Monday, August 10, 2009

The End of the French Monarchy

Madame Vidal, Monsieur de Brantigny, and Madame Delors relate the events of this tragic day.

It always strikes me that those who shout most loudly against "tyranny" always aver themselves tyrants in the end, just as Dr. Johnson said that the loudest cries for liberty always come from the drivers of slaves.

Face it, the basis of democracy is hypocrisy; the tyranny we endure now in the States and indeed throughout the West is far worse than when a Christian king was running the show.

Vive le Roi!

In dedication to the Swiss Guards slain during the riot of the sans-culottes:

My thanks to all.

Back from a brief respite

Dear friends,

Kindly forgive my having been away for a spell; certain issues needed to be dealt with. Among them were compiling a list of all the books I've read over the past 15 years. Needless to say, it's been somewhat arduous.

Nevertheless, Et Lux in Tenebris Lucet is still operational, and the reasons why I've been composing all my various vitaes shall be made apparent within the very near future, as I contribute my promised essays on the man behind the blog.

I do find myself now with some liberty, and so I can presently resume where I left off.