Wednesday, April 27, 2011


I looked in the mirror today and realized I once had more hair than now I do. What happened?

Guess I can't embed any longer.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Gods of the Copybook Headings

As I pass through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market-Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall.
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn,
That water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision, and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market-Place;
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch.
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch.
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings.
So we worshiped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "Stick to the Devil you know."

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbor and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "The Wages of Sin is Death."

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selective Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "If you don't work you die."

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew,
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four —
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

* * * * * *

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man —
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began: —
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

--Rudyard Kipling

Friday, March 18, 2011

Quick notification

Dear friends, due to my busy schedule and technology problems, I have found myself unable to update in a while. Never fear, however; Et Lux in Tenebris Lucet shall be springing to life once more within the near future, with plenty, I am sure, to talk about.

In the meantime, in solidarity with our friends, a great nation, and the world's last empire:

Our Lady of Akita, pray for Japan.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Courage of François de Charette

Tea at Trianon refers us to an account of the capture and execution of one of the greatest French Royalist heroes:

The trial took place on the 28th of March. After five hours of examination, during which the Vendean belied not for a single instant the firmness of his character and the nobility of his cause, his judges pronounced upon him sentence of death. He heard it without emotion, and requested only, that as he had fought, so he might die, a Christian, and that he might enjoy the consolations of religion. They sent him the Abbé Guibert, a priest who had taken the oath to the constitution. Before entering his cell, the ecclesiastic begged that the prisoner might be searched. Charette was indignant at the man’s alarm. “Does he think,” cried he, “that the general of the Catholic and royal armies is an assassin? Let him come without fear.”

The Abbé then entered, and said, in a trembling voice, “I am come, monsieur, to offer you the consolations of religion in your unhappy strait.”

“It is for that purpose I sent for you,” replied the Christian hero. “I abhor your principles, I do not regard you as a legitimate minister; but I know that in the hour of death you have power to absolve me. Come, listen to my confession. I do not want your exhortations, I desire absolution.” So saying, he fell on his knees, and, notwithstanding his wounds, remained in that posture for two hours. Then he arose, pardoned, and ready to appear before his God.

At last the fatal moment arrived; the gate of the prison opened, and Charette was led forth to the place of execution….By his calm attitude and noble and resigned bearing, he attracted more attention than all the magnificence and pomp with which his enemies sought to adorn their triumph. As he passed by a certain house in a street indicated by his sister, he humbly bowed his head. An old man clad in black, and holding a white handkerchief, was at a window; it was a Catholic priest, whom the piety of Mademoiselle de Charette had stationed there to give to the warrior, who was going to die for God and the king, the benediction of heaven. None but a few Vendeans who were hidden in the crowd knew why Charette thus inclined his head; but they blessed God for the grace He had accorded to His faithful soldier.

Vive le Roy.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

King Charles I

From Cromwell. The king here shows the same courage that his French counterpart and descendant would a century and a half later.

Sic Semper Tyrannis

Cromwell's body, hidden in the wall of the middle aisle of Henry VII Lady Chapel, took effort to exhume because the wood and cloth were difficult to shift. On 28 January 1661, the bodies of Cromwell and Ireton were taken to the Red Lion Inn in Holborn, joined the following day by the body of John Bradshaw, before being taken to Tyburn for execution. On the morning of 30 January 1661, the anniversary of the execution of King Charles I, the shrouded bodies in open coffins were dragged on a sledge through the streets of London to the gallows, where each body was hanged in full public view until around four o'clock that afternoon. After being taken down, Cromwell's head was severed with eight blows, placed on a wooden spike on a 20-foot (6.1 m) pole, and raised above Westminster Hall.

Wikipedia relates more regarding the unusual history of Oliver Cromwell's head.

In the town of Hadley, Mass., are believed to be buried two of Cromwell's associates in the murder of King Charles I. This is not far from me, and often I've spoken with friends there about attempting to find the graves of William Goffe and Edward Whalley, who also signed the king's death warrant and took refuge in Hadley, that the public justice due a regicide may be meted, just as it was in Cromwell's case. That plan, however, never really got beyond a pub conversation.

Whalley and Goffe sailed from England as soon as possible. They arrived in Boston in July, 1660, and they lived there openly under assumed names. In August of that same year, Charles II issued a royal writ for their arrest and execution, the man-of-war bearing these warrants set sail for Boston. Friends of the two regicides found out and secretly chartered a fast sloop by which to send a warning. The sloop over took the King's man-of-war just off Cape Ann, pressed on to Boston Harbor where it arrived too late to reach the city that night. The ship's captain, taking his mission very seriously, manned his small boat with his strongest men and rowed to shore. Governor Endicott was having a party for the two regicides that very evening at the State House. The captain, still dressed in his seaman's clothes, refused to be turned away from the door, arguing his case at length. Governor Endicott overheard the discussion and listened to the captain's message. Realizing that Goffe and Whalley were facing apprehension, the governor ended the reception and sent the two men out of Boston that very night.

From 1661-1664, the two fugitives were housed in and around New Haven and Milford, Connecticut. When the King's men started looking for them in Connecticut, Whalley and Goffe decided to hide out at the back of beyond, in the small settlement of Hadley. Reverend John Russell hid them in his house in the center of the village until Whalley's death in ca. 1674 and Goffe's death some time around 1680. Although a few trusted people knew the two men were secretly hidden in Hadley, everyone involved kept the secret because if the truth were revealed, John Russell as well as the two fugitives would face death.

More about these regicides and the legend of the "Angel of Hadley" bound up with them can be found here.

God save the King.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sarko calls Alsace "Germany"

Photo courtesy of European People's Party
I generally make no secret about my distaste for the President of the French Republic, M. Sarkozy, a distaste I hold for a great many reasons. However, this gaffe takes the cake:

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has caused outrage by suggesting that the Alsace region which his country won back from the Nazis after World War II was still ‘in Germany’.

The French President made the hugely embarrassing mistake during a speech in the Alsatian town of Truchtersheim, which is less than 20 miles from the German border...

I’m not saying that simply because I’m in Germany,’ he continued, before correcting himself to say: ‘I’m in Alsace.’

The crowd immediately began jeering and then booing Mr Sarkozy, who appeared shocked by what he had said – putting his hands up in the air as if surrender.

Alsace, historically one of the most strategically crucial regions in France, was contested constantly between France and Germany during the 19th and 20th Century.

Read more:

I don't necessarily wish here to go into a rant regarding "foreigners" or such, for indeed I greatly enjoy the rich and diverse cultures of other lands. But I do have a great animus for "rootless cosmopolitans," those who will carpetbag about seeking a comfortable enough place to hang their hats, then, without any regard for the shared common loves of the people of that place, seek to make it into their own little socially-engineered utopia. Nicolas Sarkozy is not very French, and this gaffe shows how un-French he is, not even knowing enough about the country he purportedly governs to know that Alsace is French, not German. What an insult to those men who honourably served that Alsace may remain a part of the great French realm! My family has not lived in the Hexagon for generations, yet even I am heartily affronted by this.

As though we needed yet another case proving that mass elections are an excuse for large-scale fraud and pandering. Those elected often set themselves against the nation they purport to serve, make no attempt to share in the nation's customs and traditions, often leading many to believe that they actively stand against their supposed fellow-citizens. Sarkozy is terrible in this regard; Obama is worse. Great nations deserve great leaders, and, honestly, Western world, we can do better. Monarchs still reign, but with little power; many other royal families have lost their thrones but remain waiting in the wings should they ever be called upon again. Frankly, what have we to lose in calling upon them? Indeed, the situation as it stands cannot get much worse. Even a bad monarch was much more a Frenchman, or an Englishman, or what have you, than the internationalist carpetbaggers ruling today. For the sake of our continuing identity and survival, give them a chance.

This one's dedicated to you, Monsieur le Président:

Pope Benedict on Jeanne d'Arc

From today's general audience in Rome:

Our catechesis today deals with Saint Joan of Arc, one of the outstanding women of the later Middle Ages. Raised in a religious family, Joan enjoyed mystical experiences from an early age. At a time of crisis in the Church and of war in her native France, she felt God’s call to a life of prayer and virginity, and to personal engagement in the liberation of her compatriots. At the age of seventeen, Joan began her mission among the French military forces; she sought to negotiate a just Christian peace between the English and French, took an active part in the siege of Orleans and witnessed the coronation of Charles VII at Rheims. Captured by her enemies the next year, she was tried by an ecclesiastical court and burnt at the stake as a heretic; she died invoking the name of Jesus. Her unjust condemnation was overturned twenty-five years later. At the heart of Saint Joan’s spirituality was an unfailing love for Christ and, in Christ, for the Church and for her neighbour. May the prayers and example of Saint Joan of Arc inspire many lay men and women to devote themselves to public life in the service of God’s Kingdom, and encourage all of us to live to the fullest our lofty calling in Christ.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Au Ciel / J'Irai La Voir un Jour

I recall older relations of my grandmother's and great-grandmother's generation singing this while about their daily work.

Thanks to The New Beginning for helping me rediscover this.

Marquis de Montcalm

The Mad Monarchist speaks about the great hero of New France:

Upon his arrival, Montcalm was less than impressed with the situation in New France. There was not much that was up to his high standards and although he was polite and diplomatic with his Indian allies he also abhorred their methods of making war. He squabbled with the local governor and received precious little support from the homeland. Yet, the Marquis brought a new sense of professionalism to the French war effort in America and against all odds he won a string of stunning victories over the British. Despite being heavily outnumbered the Marquis de Montcalm took the offensive and began methodically reducing the British presence in upper New York. In 1756 he won a great victory that secured French control of Ontario with the capture of Fort Oswego. The devout Marquis credited God with the victory and erected a memorial cross in thanks. The following year his skillful siege tactics resulted in the capture of Fort William Henry, a name perhaps most famous for the Indian massacre of British soldiers and civilians who had evacuated the fort. Much blame has been heaped on Montcalm for this but, in fact, he never ordered such an atrocity, was horrified when he learned of it and acted quickly to stop the killings even to the extent of offering his own life in exchange for the parolees.

It was, however, the battle of Fort Carillon in 1758 that was to be the masterpiece of Montcalm’s military career. With only 3,800 men he successfully repelled a British army of over 16,000. The British lost 2,000 men killed or wounded while the Marquis lost only 352. Again, Montcalm attributed the victory to God and erected another memorial cross in thanks for their deliverance. It was the height of French war effort in North America and the height of the career of the Marquis. Despite being at every disadvantage, the French had not only defeated the British campaigns against them but struck back to the point that the very presence of the British in America was imperiled. However, stirred to action, things soon changed as the British sent over massive reinforcements from the home islands with the intention of wiping out the French presence in Canada once and for all.

Read more here.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Murder of King Louis XVI

On January 21, 1793, the French Republic committed one of the most unspeakable crimes, the murder by guillotine of Good King Louis XVI. I reproduce here the report of L'Abbé Edgeworth de Firmont, the King's confessor who accompanied him to the scaffold.

The King, finding himself seated in the carriage, where he could neither speak to me nor be spoken to without witness, kept a profound silence. I presented him with my breviary, the only book I had with me, and he seemed to accept it with pleasure: he appeared anxious that I should point out to him the psalms that were most suited to his situation, and he recited them attentively with me. The
gendarmes, without speaking, seemed astonished and confounded at the tranquil piety of their monarch, to whom they doubtless never had before approached so near.

The procession lasted almost two hours; the streets were lined with citizens, all armed, some with pikes and some with guns, and the carriage was surrounded by a body of troops, formed of the most desperate people of Paris. As another precaution, they had placed before the horses a number of drums, intended to drown any noise or murmur in favour of the King; but how could they be heard? Nobody appeared either at the doors or windows, and in the street nothing was to be seen, but armed citizens - citizens, all rushing towards the commission of a crime, which perhaps they detested in their hearts.

The carriage proceeded thus in silence to the Place de Louis XV, and stopped in the middle of a large space that had been left round the scaffold: this space was surrounded with cannon, and beyond, an armed multitude extended as far as the eye could reach. As soon as the King perceived that the carriage stopped, he turned and whispered to me, 'We are arrived, if I mistake not.' My silence answered that we were. One of the guards came to open the carriage door, and the gendarmes would have jumped out, but the King stopped them, and leaning his arm on my knee, 'Gentlemen,' said he, with the tone of majesty, 'I recommend to you this good man; take care that after my death no insult be offered to him - I charge you to prevent it.'… As soon as the King had left the carriage, three guards surrounded him, and would have taken off his clothes, but he repulsed them with haughtiness- he undressed himself, untied his neckcloth, opened his shirt, and arranged it himself. The guards, whom the determined countenance ofthe King had for a moment disconcerted, seemed to recover their audacity. They surrounded him again, and would have seized his hands. 'What are you attempting?' said the King, drawing back his hands. 'To bind you,' answered the wretches. 'To bind me,' said the King, with an indignant air. 'No! I shall never consent to that: do what you have been ordered, but you shall never bind me. . .'

The path leading to the scaffold was extremely rough and difficult to pass; the King was obliged to lean on my arm, and from the slowness with which he proceeded, I feared for a moment that his courage might fail; but what was my astonishment, when arrived at the last step, I felt that he suddenly let go my arm, and I saw him cross with a firm foot the breadth of the whole scaffold; silence, by his look alone, fifteen or twenty drums that were placed opposite to me; and in a voice so loud, that it must have been heard it the Pont Tournant, I heard him pronounce distinctly these memorable words: 'I die innocent of all the crimes laid to my charge; I Pardon those who have occasioned my death; and I pray to God that the blood you are going to shed may never be visited on France.'

He was proceeding, when a man on horseback, in the national uniform, and with a ferocious cry, ordered the drums to beat. Many voices were at the same time heard encouraging the executioners. They seemed reanimated themselves, in seizing with violence the most virtuous of Kings, they dragged him under the axe of the guillotine, which with one stroke severed his head from his body. All this passed in a moment. The youngest of the guards, who seemed about eighteen, immediately seized the head, and showed it to the people as he walked round the scaffold; he accompanied this monstrous ceremony with the most atrocious and indecent gestures. At first an awful silence prevailed; at length some cries of 'Vive la Republique!' were heard. By degrees the voices multiplied and in less than ten minutes this cry, a thousand times repeated became the universal shout of the multitude, and every hat was in the air.

Photograph courtesy of Eric Pouhier

Vive le Roi-Martyr.

Monday, January 17, 2011

An interesting contrast

On January 15, 1559, Bloody Elizabeth (am I incidentally the only one who believes the cocktail should be renamed?) was crowned Queen of England. Her reign took England definitively out of the Catholic sphere, culminating in her excommunication by Pope Pius V, her weathering of the attack of the Spanish Armada, and her slaying of large numbers of Catholics in her realm, among them her cousin and heiress presumptive, Mary, Queen of Scots.

Exactly 451 years after that, the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham was canonically erected better to allow for the reunion with the Holy See of Anglicans disaffected with the established Church of England. Three former Anglican bishops were ordained priests.

Anglican Father Hunwicke describes the ethos of the first Mass of Father Andrew Burnham, formerly Bishop of Ebbsfleet, as follows:

Fr Aidan returned, today, to the great enterprise of gathering up the fragments that none be lost; of appropriating, for the good of all the church, the Anglican inheritance discerned through the purifying prism of Catholic Orthodoxy. He mentioned that Bishop Andrew is engaged in the liturgical side of that - but made clear, referring especially to Blessed John Henry and the Tractarian Fathers, that there is much more to it than Liturgy. His homily, I think, counts as the Programmatic Statement of the Ordinariate as far as theology is concerned. I hope he stays involved.

If Fr Aidan's homily was characteristic, so was Bishop Andrew's liturgy. Fine music (Byrd; Morales); Latin from the Sursum corda until the Communion. We had examples of what the American blogosphere now calls Common Sense and Mutual Enrichment. Sanctus covered the (silent) first half of the Canon Romanus and Benedictus the second half; we were spared those horrid 'Acclamations' after the Consecration. At the Invitation to Communion, Bishop Andrew continued his custom of using the New ICEL translation of Ecce Agnus Dei. More here.

All in all, an excellent start on a very auspicious date. Et Lux in Tenebris Lucet extends its congratulations and its promise of prayers to the new ordinands and to all crossing the Tiber into this new ordinariate. May your rich theology and liturgy, picking up the mantle of Blessed John Henry Newman, come to enrich us all.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Blessed John Paul II

The beatification shall take place on May 1.

I've noted that many liturgically minded people have lately come to disparage the pontificate of John Paul II as not traditional enough, or as the same "Spirit of Vatican II" but this time with a veneer of doctrinal orthodoxy. These critics, however, fail to appreciate the profound difference between the situation he inherited from Paul VI and John Paul I and the situation he passed on to Benedict XVI. Does anyone under the age of 60 buy liberation theology as a reflection of authentic Catholic doctrine any longer? No? Then thank John Paul for it. And then while you're at it, thank him for tearing down the Iron Curtain and ending Communism in Europe, or is your memory so short as to forget this?

(UPDATE: Further information regarding the conflict between the Soviet bloc and the Church during the Wojtyla pontificate may be found here.)

I'll be frank; I didn't like much of what I saw in the John Paul years, like the Assisi meetings--do we really need another one?--the Piero Marini designed liturgies, and the prominence of such self-aggrandizing shysters as the Legion of Christ and those pushing the Medjugorje apparitions. I was a teenager in the 1990s, and saw many of the Church's attempts to appeal to young people in that day as crass and pandering, whether they were Life-Teen rock concerts or mellow Kum-Ba-Yah-singing sessions that felt more like motivational speaking or group therapy than divine worship. I was very private then as I'm private now (is this not the lengthiest digression about myself that I've made on these pages yet?) and was quite unwilling to speak about my inmost feelings to perfect strangers, let alone usually even close friends or family; such are known but to God. Moreover, others being so personal with me was rather affronting, and I could barely wait to return home to sit by candlelight in a darkened room and listen to the chant album of the monks of Santo Domingo de Silos, which was very popular at the time, wondering why, if this was religious chant, why were we dealing with guitars, tambourines, and maracas at Mass?

I digress in this manner only to cite the fact that I had significant problems growing up Catholic in the John Paul era, but one thing strongly impressed on me is that there actually is a doctrine of faith, not some hodgepodge slapdash nihilistic egalitarianism of ideas that so many seemed to hold to. Even if the orthodoxy presented me in my youth was often quite minimal, it was still orthodox, and by no means did the minimalism of its presentation preclude me from further study. The kernel of Catholic truth reached the world ever more broadly under the aggiornamento of Pope John Paul II; now it is putting down its roots--its religious, cultural, political, and aesthetic peculiarities from the modern world--in a way that I had only dreamed of in my youth under the ressourcement of Pope Benedict (everywhere, if news is to be believed, except in my own diocese). The one must logically follow on the other, particularly after the uprooting and iconoclasm that the wake of the Council brought. To my mind, that good alone, and its logical development, outweighs all that I'd critique.

Thus, I feel a defense of the late pope is very much in order for those who would put forth critiques of his pontificate. Though I may indeed be in accord, I dare say an understanding of the context of the pontificate of John Paul II is much in order before one casts stones.

Viva il Papa.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Shakespeare was Catholic

Well, as I am sure readers will agree with me, I hardly need to preach to the converted. Just one other thing: the greatest poet and dramatist of all time (you can keep your Racine and your Goethe) was an Englishman – and a Catholic. I will readily admit that the evidence for this is disputed (unlike the authorship of the plays for 200 years after his death.) Shapiro does not go into this; he is simply concerned that prove that Shakespeare wrote the plays. But there is still enough contributory knowledge of his childhood influences, his family milieu and his acting circle to make his religious beliefs more than a conjecture. His parents were devout Catholics; so were his school masters; so were many of his friends, his acting troupe and his patrons. (Fr Peter Milward SJ has written about Catholic aspects in the plays themselves.)

Shapiro surmises that one of the reasons there is so little biographical documentation about Shakespeare during his life is that, as the follower of an outlawed faith (he did not want to be hanged, drawn and quartered after all, and who can blame him) he destroyed the evidence. Peter Ackroyd’s biography discusses this question in greater depth, as does Clare Asquith’s Shadowplay, which suggests that the plays are crammed with coded allusions for Shakespeare’s co-religionists. more

Stephanie A. Mann of Supremacy and Survival speaks of Shakespeare's executed cousin Edward Arden here.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Birthday of Ste. Jeanne d'Arc

On Epiphany in 1412, Joan of Arc was born in Domrémy (now Domrémy-la-Pucelle) in Lorraine.

Already, I am sure, news has reached your ears of a certain Maid, sent to us, as we devoutly believe, by God, and in order that I may briefly set forth her life, deeds, station and character, and shall first tell of her origin. She was born in the small village of Domremy, in the country of Bar, within the confines of the Kingdom of France, on the river Meuse, near Lorraine, of upright and simple parents. It was during the night of the Epiphany of Our Lord (January 6, Twelfth Night), when men are wont most joyfully to recall the acts of Christ that she first saw the light in this mortal life. And, wonderful to relate, the poor inhabitants of the place were seized with an inconceivable joy. And though ignorant of the birth of the Maid, they rushed hither and thither in search of what might be the new event. Their hearts as one were conscious of a new gladness. What can one add? The cocks like heralds of a new joy, against their wont, burst forth in songs not heard before, and with flapping wings for more than two hours appeared to foretell this new event.

--Percival de Boullainvilliers writing to the Duke of Milan. More of his letter may be found here.

More testimonies of her birth may be found here. Also, here is an image of the place where she was born.

It is indeed rather appropriate that, France having been born on Christmas, her greatest defender should be born on Little Christmas.

Noël! Noël!
Ste. Jeanne, priez pour nous.

Happy Birthday to a dear friend

To my darling Myfanwy: happy birthday, kid.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


The elaborate story that we know today can be found in the Historia Trium Regum, the History of the Three Kings, which is attributed to the fourteenth-century cleric John of Hildesheim. In this compilation of the legend, we are told much more about the star: "When the day of the nativity was passed the Star ascended up into the firmament, and it had right many long streaks and beams, more burning and brighter than a brand of fire; and as an eagle flying and beating the air with his wings, right so the streaks and beams of the Star stirred about." And we are told that the three wise men, named Melchior, Balthazar, and Gaspar, are the kings of "Ind, Chaldea, and Persia." They only meet on the outskirts of Jerusalem having traveled from their own lands "in great haste" and without stopping. And so they reach Bethlehem and present their gifts. When the kings depart, they continue together until the reach the Hill of Vaws, or Hill of Victory, on the border of Ind, where a watchtower was maintained (it was here that the Star was first sighted). There, before departing to their own countries, the three made "a fair chapel in worship of the Child they had sought. Also they agreed to meet together at the same place once in the year, and they ordained that the Hill of Vaws should be the place of their burial."

John of Hildesheim continues the story of the wise men: "after many years" a Star appears above the cities in which the kings dwell just before Christmas, indicating to them that their lives were nearing an end. "Then with one consent they built, at the Hill of Vaws, a fair and large tomb, and there the three Holy Kings...died and were buried in the same tomb by their sorrowing people." If we were to assume that this actually happened, that all three died at the same place at the same time, it might have been in the mid-first century (since the kings were adults already in Bethlehem). If so, the kings had little more than two centuries of rest in their tomb before beginning another journey. Their tour director would be Helena, the mother of Constantine and now St. Helena. After 323-324, when he defeated his last rival, Constantine began rebuilding the city of Byzantium. He rededicated it as Constantinople in the year 330. One of the new buildings was the church Saint Sophia (Holy Wisdom), the first of three that would have that name. In the same period, Helena went to the Holy Land and collected various relics, including the true cross, and brought them home to Constantinople (see Cynewulf for an unusual retelling of this). The relics of the wise men were among her trophies: "Queen Helen...began to think greatly of the bodies of these three kings, and she arrayed herself, and accompanied by many attendants, went into the Land of Ind...after she had found the bodies of Melchior, Balthazar, and Casper, Queen Helen put them into one chest and ornamented it with great riches, and she brought them into Constantinople...and laid them in a church that is called Saint Sophia."

John of Hildesheim is rather brief about the wise men's later career. On Constantine's death, he says a persecution of Christians led to the relics being moved by the emperor Mauricius, who had them placed in a church in Milan. This may refer to the attempted pagan restoration under Julian (361-363), but Mauricius is a bit later (582-602). Much later, Frederick I, the Holy Roman Emperor, was at war in Italy and requested aid against Milan, which the Archbishop of Cologne Rainald von Dassel provided in the form of an army. The grateful Frederick rewarded him with the relics of the wise men in 1164. And to Cologne the relics were taken, and there--whoever the bones belong to--they remain today. more

A merry feast day to all!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Days of Martyrdom

Lest we think they are behind us:


A local priest has said the toll could have been much worse if the car had exploded just a few minutes later.
After the attack witnesses say that many of the faithful gathered outside the charred remains of the car singing "We offer our lives and our blood through the Cross." The attack of last night brings to mind the October 31 massacre in Baghdad, in the Syrian Catholic cathedral, and the Al Qaeda threat against Christians in Egypt.


Dozens of armed men attacked the church, dragging the pastor out of his home and shooting him to death. Two young men from the choir rehearsing for a late-night carol service also were slain.

The group of about 30 attackers armed with guns and knives even killed two people passing by Victory Baptist Church. The assailants only left after setting the church and pastor's house ablaze. more


"For us Christians of Iraq, martyrdom is the charism of our Church, in its 2000 year history. As a minority, we are constantly faced with difficulties and sacrifices, but we are aware that bearing witness to Christ can mean martyrdom. In the Arabic language they have the same root: Shahid wa shahiid!. "

These the words of the Chaldean archbishop of Kirkuk, Msgr. Louis Sako, AsiaNews, summarizing what the past year for Iraqi Christians. Yesterday in Baghdad, six bomb explosions in front of Christian homes left two dead and 12 wounded. The bombs exploded in the Ghadir quarter, where there is a significant Christian presence in Yarmuk, Khadra, Dora, and Saidiya Karrada, near the church of Our Lady of Salvation, where last October 31 terrorists killed more than 50 Christians. more


A bomb exploded during Christmas Day Mass at a chapel inside a police camp in the volatile southern Philippines, wounding a priest and 10 churchgoers. more

Our distressed brethren in distant lands show very acutely to us what it means to share in the sufferings of Christ. Let us remember their example when we take up our daily crosses.

All ye white-robed martyrs, pray for them.