Sunday, October 31, 2010

¡Viva Cristo Rey!

With the foolishness of the American election season upon us, with Jacobins, Whigs, Fabians, and Bonapartists of all varieties trying to sell their vacuous selves into the highest offices in the land with but carefully calculated buzzwords, and thus to further legitimate in the eyes of the general public their rebellion against the divine and reasonable and just order of human society--even the supposed conservatives among them ("Tea Party?")--and also with the 15th anniversary of the referendum that would have made been the first step of making a republic out of my beloved Québec being defeated by a razor-thin margin yesterday, it is providential that Mother Church, according to the traditional calendar, presents to us in solemn memorial the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, before Whom even the mightiest empire, with all its military force and sweeping plans for social improvement, is of as little substance as an anthill is to us.

Lest we ever think the social kingship of Christ may come about through statist means:

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away".

Sic transit gloria mundi. Yet our sovereign King shall remain.

Thanks to James MacMillan and Musica Intima for the above.

Most sweet Jesus, Redeemer of the human race, look down upon us humbly prostrate before you. We are yours, and yours we wish to be; but to be more surely united with you, behold each one of us freely consecrates himself today to your Most Sacred Heart. Many indeed have never known you; many, too, despising your precepts, have rejected you. Have mercy on them all, most merciful Jesus, and draw them to your Sacred Heart. Be King, O Lord, not only of the faithful who have never forsaken you, but also of the prodigal children who have abandoned you; grant that they may quickly return to their Father's house, lest they die of wretchedness and hunger. Be King of those who are deceived by erroneous opinions, or whom discord keeps aloof, and call them back to the harbor of truth and the unity of faith, so that soon there may be but one flock and one Shepherd [particularly on this "Reformation Day"]. Grant, O Lord, to your Church assurance of freedom and immunity from harm; give tranquility of order to all nations; make the earth resound from pole to pole with one cry: Praise to the divine Heart that wrought our salvation; to it be glory and honor for ever. Amen.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

For Hallowe'en

"The Raven"
Edgar Allen Poe

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
''Tis some visitor,' I muttered, 'tapping at my chamber door -
Only this, and nothing more.'

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; - vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the lost Lenore -
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore -
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me - filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
''Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door -
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; -
This it is, and nothing more,'

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
'Sir,' said I, 'or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you' - here I opened wide the door; -
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, 'Lenore!'
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, 'Lenore!'
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
'Surely,' said I, 'surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore -
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; -
'Tis the wind and nothing more!'

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door -
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door -
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
'Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,' I said, 'art sure no craven.
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the nightly shore -
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!'
Quoth the raven, 'Nevermore.'

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning - little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door -
Bird or beast above the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as 'Nevermore.'

But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only,
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered - not a feather then he fluttered -
Till I scarcely more than muttered 'Other friends have flown before -
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.'
Then the bird said, 'Nevermore.'

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
'Doubtless,' said I, 'what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore -
Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore
Of "Never-nevermore."'

But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore -
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking 'Nevermore.'

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
'Wretch,' I cried, 'thy God hath lent thee - by these angels he has sent thee
Respite - respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!'
Quoth the raven, 'Nevermore.'

'Prophet!' said I, 'thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil! -
Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted -
On this home by horror haunted - tell me truly, I implore -
Is there - is there balm in Gilead? - tell me - tell me, I implore!'
Quoth the raven, 'Nevermore.'

'Prophet!' said I, 'thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us - by that God we both adore -
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels named Lenore -
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels named Lenore?'
Quoth the raven, 'Nevermore.'

'Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!' I shrieked upstarting -
'Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! - quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!'
Quoth the raven, 'Nevermore.'

And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted - nevermore!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Solesmes and Dom Guéranger

In this month a millennium ago was founded a Benedictine monastery in Solesmes, a priory of the nearby abbey at Le Mans. Unlike such other antique monasteries as Monte Cassino or Cluny or Cîteaux, the importance of Solesmes lies not in its remote past, but rather in its much nearer history.

Throughout the modern period, monasticism, once and likely still the mystical core of the Church, diminished gravely, to the point that, the author of the linked article notes, only 30 Benedictine abbeys remained in Europe in the early 19th century. Even so fine an place as this was up for sale, and was bought by l'Abbé Prosper Guéranger, a local priest, and was soon made an abbey with Guéranger as abbot. Dom Guéranger came to make Solesmes a shining beacon of a Catholicism battered by revolution and apostasy, but still in the end triumphant over the world with Christ, her king and judge. Monastic life came to be renewed here, as well as Gregorian chant. The Liturgical Movement, so influential on such popes as St. Pius X and Benedict XVI, could even be said to have started here, and all affected by the revolutionism and iconoclasm so prevalent in this day, in Church and society alike, can look to the great work of Solesmes as both analogy and precursor to the struggles faced today.

Gary Potter and the Saint Benedict Center (always an excellent source) speak more about Dom Guéranger here:

We need to remember this was 1831. The liberal monarchy of Louis-Philippe was less than a year old. One of its first actions had been to crush the effort to revive a Trappist monastery in the Diocese of Nantes. (The monks were dispersed and the abbot thrown into prison.) Fr. Guéranger’s “aspirations” seemed pure folly in the circumstances.

Still, as he would write in another passage of his incomplete autobiography: “My youth, the complete lack of temporal resources, and the limited reliability of those with whom I hoped to associate — none of these things stopped me. I would not have dreamed of it; I felt myself pushed to proceed. I prayed with all my heart for the help of God; but it never occurred to me to ask His will concerning the projected work.”

That last statement may surprise us, but Dom Guéranger explains: “The need of the Church seemed to me so urgent, the ideas about true Christianity so falsified and so compromised in the lay and ecclesiastical worlds, that I felt nothing but an urgency to found some kind of center wherein to recollect and revive pure traditions.”

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

In Hoc Signo Vinces

On this date in 312, after seeing the vision described below, Emperor Constantine I defeated Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge, paving the ground for his becoming undisputed emperor and ending the anarchy that had been engulfing the world for so long. Constantine became the first emperor to openly profess Christianity, and his reign could be considered the transition from the classical age to the age of Christendom.

Accordingly he called on him with earnest prayer and supplications that he would reveal to him who he was, and stretch forth his right hand to help him in his present difficulties. And while he was thus praying with fervent entreaty, a most marvelous sign appeared to him from heaven, the account of which it might have been hard to believe had it been related by any other person. But since the victorious emperor himself long afterwards declared it to the writer of this history, when he was honored with his acquaintance and society, and confirmed his statement by an oath, who could hesitate to accredit the relation, especially since the testimony of after-time has established its truth? He said that about noon, when the day was already beginning to decline, he saw with his own eyes the trophy of a cross of light in the heavens, above the sun, and bearing the inscription, Conquer by this. At this sight he himself was struck with amazement, and his whole army also, which followed him on this expedition, and witnessed the miracle.

He said, moreover, that he doubted within himself what the import of this apparition could be. And while he continued to ponder and reason on its meaning, night suddenly came on; then in his sleep the Christ of God appeared to him with the same sign which he had seen in the heavens, and commanded him to make a likeness of that sign which he had seen in the heavens, and to use it as a safeguard in all engagements with his enemies.

At dawn of day he arose, and communicated the marvel to his friends: and then, calling together the workers in gold and precious stones, he sat in the midst of them, and described to them the figure of the sign he had seen, bidding them represent it in gold and precious stones. And this representation I myself have had an opportunity of seeing.

Now it was made in the following manner. A long spear, overlaid with gold, formed the figure of the cross by means of a transverse bar laid over it. On the top of the whole was fixed a wreath of gold and precious stones; and within this, the symbol of the Saviour's name, two letters indicating the name of Christ by means of its initial characters, the letter P being intersected by X in its centre: and these letters the emperor was in the habit of wearing on his helmet at a later period. From the cross-bar of the spear was suspended a cloth, a royal piece, covered with a profuse embroidery of most brilliant precious stones; and which, being also richly interlaced with gold, presented an indescribable degree of beauty to the beholder. This banner was of a square form, and the upright staff, whose lower section was of great length, bore a golden half-length portrait of the pious emperor and his children on its upper part, beneath the trophy of the cross, and immediately above the embroidered banner.

The emperor constantly made use of this sign of salvation as a safeguard against every adverse and hostile power, and commanded that others similar to it should be carried at the head of all his armies.

Eusebius, Life of Constantine

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Port-Royal Captured, 1710

A recent anniversary:

The handful of French soldiers defending Acadie were hungry and tired of war on Monday, October 6, 1710, when ships from New England returned to the Annapolis Basin, this time under the command of Francis Nicholson, and under the eye of Samuel Vetch, an ambitious Scotsman who had a promise of governorship of Canada if he could take it from the French. Vetch had put together the attacking force and made Nicholson it commander in chief.

This time, the siege lasted a week, but Subercase did not have the men or material he needed. On Saturday, October 11, Subercase wrote to Nicholson, "I now write to you to tell you, Sir, that for to (sic) prevent the spilling of both English and French Blood, I am ready to hold up both hands for a Capitulation that will be honorable to both of us."

The final articles of surrender were signed on October 13, 1710. They decreed, among other things, that inhabitants of Port Royal "within cannon shot of the fort...shall remain upon their estates, with their corn, cattle, and furniture...they taking the Oaths of Allegiance and Fidelity to Her Sacred Majesty of Great Britain."

The banner of France was raised for the last time at Port Royal at sunrise on Thursday, October 16, 1710. Midway through the morning, French officials and soldiers and their families, 258 people, paraded from the little fort, boarded British ships, and sailed for home. As they left, British and American troops and officers marched into the fort, hoisted the Union Jack, toasted Queen Anne, and gave the town her name. It has been Annapolis Royal since then.

In 1713, the Treaty of Utrecht ended the War of Spanish Succession in Europe. It ceded Acadie and Newfoundland to England. This time it stayed in British hands.

According to the language of the treaty, "...all Nova Scotia or Acadie, with its ancient Boundaries; as also the City of Port Royal, now called Annapolis Royal, and all other things in those Parts, which depend on the said Lands and Islands; together with the Dominion, Propriety, and Possession of the said Islands, Lands, and Places; and all Right whatsoever, by Treaties, or by any other way obtained, which the most Christian King, the Crown of France, or any of the Subjects thereof, have hitherto had to the said Islands, Lands, and Places, and the Inhabitants of the same, are yielded and made over to the Queen of Great Britain and to her Crown for ever."

Vive l'Acadie.

750th anniversary of the consecration of Chartres Cathedral

On this date in 1260, 750 years ago, was consecrated Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres, perhaps the finest example of Gothic ecclesiastical architecture and one of the greatest temples of Christendom, in the presence of King St. Louis IX and the royal family.

Therefore, when we, and the crushed crowd of kneeling worshippers around us, lift our eyes at last after the miracle of the mass, we see, far above the high altar, high over all the agitation of prayer, the passion of politics, the anguish of suffering, the terrors of sin, only the figure of the Virgin in majesty, looking down on her people, crowned, throned, glorified, with the infant Christ on her knees. She does not assert herself; probably she intends to be felt rather than feared. Compared with the Greek Virgin, as you see her, for example, at Torcello, the Chartres Virgin is retiring and hardly important enough for the place. She is not exaggerated either in scale, drawing, or colour. She shows not a sign of self-consciousness, not an effort for brilliancy, not a trace of stage effect--hardly even a thought of herself, except that she is at home, among her own people, where she is loved and known as well as she knows them. The seven great windows are one composition; and it is plain that the artist, had he been ordered to make an exhibition of power, could have overwhelmed us with a storm of purple, red, yellows, or given us a Virgin of Passion who would have torn the vault asunder; his ability is never in doubt, and if he has kept true to the spirit of the western portal and the twelfth-century, it is because the Virgin of Chartres was the Virgin of Grace, and ordered him to paint her so. One shudders to think how a single false note--a suggestion of meanness, in this climax of line and colour--would bring the whole fabric down in ruins on the eighteenth-century meanness of the choir below; and one notes, almost bashfully, the expedients of the artists to quiet their effects. So the lines of the seven windows are built up, to avoid the horizontal, and yet not exaggerate the vertical.

The architect counts here for more than the colourist; but the colour, when you study it, suggests the same restraint. Three great windows on the Virgin's right, balanced by three more on her left, show the prophets and precursors of her Son; all architecturally support and exalt the Virgin, in her celestial atmosphere of blue, shot with red, calm in the certainty of heaven. Any one who is prematurely curious to see the difference in treatment between different centuries should go down to the church of Saint Pierre in the lower town, and study there the methods of the Renaissance. Then we can come back to study again the ways of the thirteenth century. The Virgin will wait; she will not be angry; she knows her power; we all come back to her in the end.

Or the Renaissance, if one prefers, can wait equally well, while one kneels with the thirteenth century, and feels the little one still can feel of what it felt. Technically these apsidal windows have not received much notice; the books rarely speak of them; travellers seldom look at them; and their height is such that even with the best glass, the quality of the work is beyond our power to judge. We see, and the artists meant that we should see, only the great lines, the colour, and the Virgin. The mass of suppliants before the choir look up to the light, clear blues and reds of this great space, and feel there the celestial peace and beauty of Mary's nature and abode. There is heaven! and Mary looks down from it, into her church, where she sees us on our knees, and knows each one of us by name. There she actually is--not in symbol or in fancy, but in person, descending on her errands of mercy and listening to each one of us, as her miracles prove, or satisfying our prayers merely by her presence which calms our excitement as that of a mother calms her child. She is there as Queen, not merely as intercessor, and her power is such that to her the difference between us earthly beings is nothing. Her quiet, masculine strength enchants us most. Pierre Mauclerc and Philippe Hurepel and their men-at-arms are afraid of her, and the Bishop himself is never quite at his ease in her presence; but to peasants, and beggars, and people in trouble, this sense of her power and calm is better than active sympathy. People who suffer beyond the formulas of expression--who are crushed into silence, and beyond pain--want no display of emotion--no bleeding heart--no weeping at the foot of the Cross--no hysterics--no phrases! They want to see God, and to know that He is watching over His own. How many women are there, in this mass of thirteenth century suppliants, who have lost children? Probably nearly all, for the death rate is very high in the conditions of medieval life. There are thousands of such women here, for it is precisely this class who come most; and probably every one of them has looked up to Mary in her great window, and has felt actual certainty, as though she saw with her own eyes--there, in heaven, while she looked--her own lost baby playing with the Christ-Child at the Virgin's knee, as much at home as the saints, and much more at home than the kings. Before rising from her knees, every one of these women will have bent down and kissed the stone pavement in gratitude for Mary's mercy. The earth, she says, is a sorry place, and the best of it is bad enough, no doubt, even for Queen Blanche and the Duchess Alix who has had to leave her children here alone; but there above is Mary in heaven who sees and hears me as I see her, and who keeps my little boy till I come; so I can wait with patience, more or less! Saints and prophets and martyrs are all very well, and Christ is very sublime and just, but Mary knows!

--Henry Adams, "Mont Saint Michel and Chartres"

More glorious images of Chartres may be found here.

From the end of the pilgrimage to Chartres this past Pentecost:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Blessed Charles of Austria, the Last Emperor

A Christian Soldier and Catholic Monarch

On June 28, 1914, word is sent from Sarajevo that the Heir Apparent, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, is assassinated, making Karl the new Heir Apparent and changing his life forever. As a consequence of the assassination, war breaks out and quickly engulfs Europe. Karl is called to lead various military actions, and comports himself with valor and honor. He leads victorious efforts on the eastern and southern fronts, and is known for incorporating his moral convictions into his battle plans. In Italy, he commands his officers to avoid needless bloodshed, and:

. . . to ensure that the wounded are taken care of as quickly as possible and that the troops are always provided for as well as possible…I forbid the order to take no prisoners…I forbid most emphatically stealing and plundering and wanton destruction. Every soldier in the 20th Corps must be filled with the conviction that we are the bearers of culture, even in the land of traitors.

For Karl, the culture he bears is Christianity, and in the face of being in a war he considers immoral, he insists that he and the army act morally.

In the midst of war, Karl is summoned to the side of a weary and elderly Emperor Franz Josef. On November 30, 1916, Karl is near the Emperor’s deathbed praying the rosary with Zita when he hears the words “Your Majesty” addressed to him for the first time. His first priority as Emperor is to bring peace and security back to Europe and his empire. He begins secret peace negotiations through his brother-in-laws, the Princes Sixtus and Xavier of Bourbon-Parma, who are in a position to smuggle letters from Karl to the Entente leaders in France and England. These negotiations occur from November 22, 1916 through February 20, 1917, when a new government in Paris puts a halt to the talks.

He begins a second series of attempts that last until the end of the war. In these negotiations, his Foreign Minister Count Czernin and the French Representative Count Armand, discuss terms in Switzerland. However, these talks come to nothing, and are damaged by the French revelation to the world press of the “Sixtus Affair.” The leak also hurt Karl’s reputation and ability to function as an intermediary in the effort to bring peace to the world.

Pope Benedict XV proposes a plan for peace as well, but only Emperor Karl accepts the Pontiff’s solutions—the other belligerents are intent on continuing the war for their own selfish advantages. With the advent of the United States in the war, President Wilson issues “Fourteen Points” necessary for the war’s conclusion. Karl accepts all of them, but by this time the Entente no longer recognizes him as a legitimate ruler.

Although Karl’s attention is focused on peace throughout his reign, the Emperor still has to wage a war that is not of his making, and care for his suffering people. Upon his accession to the throne, he grants a general amnesty.

Militarily he prohibits the fighting of duels, and the practices of flogging and binding wrists to ankles. He despises and forbids the use of mustard gas on the enemy, and the employment of submarine warfare. He orders that soldiers, prisoners, and the wounded must be humanely treated, and creates a great books program for soldiers. Whenever possible he commutes death sentences— both military and civil.

Civilly, he organizes soup kitchens, uses the palace’s horses and carriages to deliver coal to the Viennese, he fights against usury and corruption, and gives away his personal wealth— distributing alms beyond his means. He is the first world leader to establish a Ministry of Social Welfare, which is commissioned to deal with youth welfare, the war-disabled, widows, orphans, social insurance, labor rights and protection, job placement, unemployment relief and emigration protection and housing.

Spiritually, Emperor Karl shares in the same privations as his people, and orders the palace to observe food rationing and smaller portions. He invokes the name of God in all decrees and governmental acts, creates a Catholic press, and plans the building of more churches in Vienna to serve the growing needs of the faithful.

Exile, Restoration Attempts and Death

Despite working himself to exhaustion, the war continues to erode the empire until it collapses on November 11, 1918. The war is finally over, but so too is the concord of the Habsburg Empire. Karl is asked to abdicate, but he refuses, stating that his crown is a sacred trust from God, and he will never betray God, his subjects, or his dynastic inheritance. His ministers finally coerce him to withdraw from personal participation in government, and go into seclusion with his family at a family-hunting lodge in Eckartsau. However, the new, socialist government continues to deem Emperor Karl a threat because he has not abdicated; so they send him into exile in Switzerland.

In Switzerland the family lives a quiet, humble lifestyle for a time—until the Emperor hears from many of his subjects begging him to return to his Hungarian Kingdom and take the reins of power once more. Karl makes two attempts to regain his throne. During the first attempt, his regent, Admiral Horthy, persuades the Emperor that the time is not yet auspicious, and that he should return to Switzerland until all of the necessary preparations are made. When it becomes clear that Horthy has betrayed him, and plans to illegally retain power, Karl makes a second attempt, which has the support of the people who appeal to his coronation oath. Furthermore, a“White Terror” against Jews, union members and political opponents is taking place in Hungary. However, Horthy once again betrays his true monarch, arrests him and hands him over to the Entente as a prisoner. Zita accompanies him on the second attempt, and joins him on the long journey into final exile on the island of Madeira.

On Madeira, the Imperial Couple is penniless, without any means to support themselves. Their children, who are initially kept separated from them, do not join their parents for several months. Finally, the family is reunited on February 2, 1922, and the family takes comfort in each other’s presence.

Their joy is short-lived, when a few weeks later Karl becomes ill with pneumonia and influenza. Emperor Karl prays and suffers for several days, saying: “I must suffer like this so that my peoples can come together again.” When he realizes he is dying, he calls his son, Archduke Otto, to his bedside to say goodbye and to show him “how a Catholic and Emperor conducts himself when dying.”

On April 1, 1922, he whispers to his wife, “I long so much to go home with you. Why won’t they let us go home?” She holds him in her arms for most of the morning, and he receives Holy Communion and the Sacrament of the Dying. The Eucharist is exposed in his bedroom, and Karl tries to hold a crucifix in his hands. Shortly after noon, he tries to kiss the crucifix and whispers: “Thy Holy Will be done. Jesus, Jesus, come! Yes—yes. My Jesus, Thy Will be done— Jesus.” He whispers “Jesus” a final time and expires. The Peace Emperor, husband, father, and man of faith, is dead at the age of 34. more

Andrew Cusack speaks more about the last emperor here.

Je me souviens

When I lived in beautiful Québec City in late 2006, one could go nowhere without hearing this song. Reflecting on the canonization of Frère André, and noting that earlier this week was the memorial of the North American Martyrs, whose bravery for the sake of the Gospel cannot fail to inspire, I am finding myself today increasingly nostalgic for la belle province. More specifically, I'm experiencing the same nostalgia as Mes Aïeux here, a nostalgia for a simpler, healthier, more traditional, more Catholic Québec before the Quiet Revolution, the land whence my ancestors came, the land whence Frère André came.

Thus, I'll post some more traditional-style music today, in commemoration of the eldest daughter of the Eldest Daughter of the Church.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Saint André Bessette

I recall older relations telling me, when I was a small boy, about how when members of my family would always visit Frère André when they visited Montréal. Much has changed in that city since that time, no doubt, but the magnificent shrine built by this small, humble porter in honour of St. Joseph still stands on the mountain, along with the cross, brilliantly illumined at night, to remind us of the glorious heritage and, we can hope, destiny of the city of Montréal and the province of Québec. Like my kinsmen of old, I too make it a point to visit the Oratoire Saint-Joseph whenever I am in Montréal.

Today Frère André is raised to the honours of the altar by our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, along with several others, including Mother Mary MacKillop, the first saint from Down Under. May their intercession gain us the graces and favours we need in this world.

O Dieu qui est admirable dans tes saints,
Nous te demandons de nous accorder
Par l'intercession du Frère André, l'apôtre de saint Joseph,
la faveur que nous sollicitons... Afin qu'il soit glorifié dans l'Église
Et que nous soyons portés à imiter ses vertus.
Par le Christ, notre Seigneur.


Brother André Marie of the Saint Benedict Center speaks more about St. André here.

Vive le Québec catholique.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Murder of the Queen, 1793

It is now sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the queen of France, then the dauphiness, at Versailles; and surely never lighted on this orb, which she hardly seemed to touch, a more delightful vision. I saw her just above the horizon, decorating and cheering the elevated sphere she had just begun to move in, glittering like the morning star full of life and splendor and joy. O, what a revolution! and what a heart must I have, to contemplate without emotion that elevation and that fall! Little did I dream, when she added titles of veneration to those of enthusiastic, distant, respectful love, that she should ever be obliged to carry the sharp antidote against disgrace concealed in that bosom; little did I dream that I should have lived to see such disasters fallen upon her, in a nation of gallant men, in a nation of men of honor, and of cavaliers! I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards, to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult.

But the age of chivalry is gone; that of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded, and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever. Never, never more, shall we behold that generous loyalty to rank and sex, that proud submission, that dignified obedience, that subordination of the heart, which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of an exalted freedom! The unbought grace of life, the cheap defense of nations, the nurse of manly sentiment and heroic enterprise is gone. It is gone, that sensibility of principle, that chastity of honor, which felt a stain like a wound, which inspired courage whilst it mitigated ferocity, which ennobled whatever it touched, and under which vice itself lost half its evil, by losing all its grossness.

--Edmund Burke, 1793

Read here the last letter of Marie Antoinette to her sister-in-law Mme Elisabeth.

Vive la Reine.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Opening of the Americas

From Columbus' letter regarding his first voyage:

Truly great and wonderful is this, and not corresponding to our merits, but to the holy Christian religion, and to the piety and religion of our sovereigns, because what the human understanding could not attain, that the divine will has granted to human efforts. For God is wont to listen to his servants who love his precepts, even in impossibilities, as has happened to us on the present occasion, who have attained that which hitherto mortal men have never reached. For if anyone has written or said anything about these islands, it was all with obscurities and conjectures; no one claims that he had seen them; from which they seemed like fables. Therefore let the king and queen, the princes and their most fortunate kingdoms, and all other countries of Christendom give thanks to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who has bestowed upon us so great a victory and gift. Let religious processions be solemnized; let sacred festivals be given; let the churches be covered with festive garlands. Let Christ rejoice on earth, as he rejoices in heaven, when he foresees coming to salvation so many souls of people hitherto lost. Let us be glad also, as well on account of the exaltation of our faith, as on account of the increase of our temporal affairs, of which not only Spain, but universal Christendom will be partaker.

Monsieur de Brantigny speaks about the controversy regarding Columbus here.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Victory at Tours

On this date in 732, the Frankish infantry of Charles Martel defeated the numerically superior Moorish cavalry of Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi near Tours. This is doubtless among the most significant of events faced in the West, and a great triumph that should not be readily forgotten. The sapling of Western Christendom planted in the wake of the fall of Rome would now be free to grow into the mighty civilisation which has benefited us all so very greatly. The threat of the Umayyad Caliphate, then the world's most expansive empire, overtaking the Catholic lands was largely eliminated, the border was drawn at the Pyrenees, and even that would not hold, for as the West strengthened, Iberia was gradually reconquered. Moreover, the esteem of Charles Martel grew even over and above the Merovingian kings of the Franks, and his victory paved the way for his son Pépin to take the throne with papal blessing. Pépin began the work of unifying most of the realms of Western Christendom and subduing and Christianizing the pagans of Saxony, a work brought to glorious completion by his son Charlemagne, the first Roman Emperor in the West since 476. Within a hundred years of Tours, lands from Navarre to Hungary were united into a Holy Roman Empire, the Pope had been granted temporal sovereignty over his own domain, and arts, letters, and learning flourished among the clergy. Truly, then, could Westerners no longer be thought barbarians, but stand as cultural peers of Arabs or Greeks, and even come to exceed them in centuries to follow.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

St. Denis

From the Golden Legend:

But the devil which had envy, and saw every day his power minished and destroyed, and that the church increased and had victory of him, moved Domitian the emperor in so great cruelty that he made a commandment that whosomever might find any christian man, that he should constrain them to do sacrifice or torment them by divers torments. And then he sent the provost Fescennius of Rome to Paris against the christian men. And found there the blessed Denis preaching, and made him cruelly to be beaten, bespit and despised, and fast to be bounden with Rusticus and Eleutherius, and to be brought tofore him: And when he saw that the saints were constant and firm in the acknowledging of our Lord, he was much heavy and sorrowful. Then came thither a noble matron, which said that her husband was foully deceived of these enchanters, and then anon the husband was sent for, and he abiding in the confession of our Lord, was anon put to death. And the saints were beaten cruelly of twelve knights, and were straightly bounden with chains of iron, and put in prison. The day following, Denis was laid upon a gridiron, and stretched all naked upon the coals of fire, and there he sang to our Lord saying: Lord thy word is vehemently fiery, and thy servant is embraced in the love thereof. And after that he was put among cruel beasts, which were excited by great hunger and famine by long fasting, and as soon as they came running upon him he made the sign of the cross against them, and anon they were made most meek and tame. And after that he was cast into a furnace of fire, and the fire anon quenched, and he had neither pain ne harm. And after that he was put on the cross, and thereon he was long tormented, and after, he was taken down and put into a dark prison with his fellows and many other christian men. And as he sang there the mass and communed the people, our Lord appeared to him with great light, and delivered to him bread, saying: Take this, my dear friend, for thy reward is most great with me. After this they were presented to the judge and were put again to new torments, and then he did do smite off the heads of the three fellows, that is to say, Denis, Rusticus, and Eleutherius, in confessing the name of the holy Trinity. And this was done by the temple of Mercury, and they were beheaded with three axes. And anon the body of Saint Denis raised himself up, and bare his head between his arms, as the angel led him two leagues from the place, which is said the hill of the martyrs, unto the place where he now resteth, by his election, and by the purveyance of God. And there was heard so great and sweet a melody of angels that many of them that heard it believed in our Lord. And Laertia, wife of the foresaid provost Lubrius, said that she was christian, and anon she was beheaded of the wicked felons, and was baptized in her blood, and so died.

In the early 7th century, Dagobert, last Merovingian king of the Franks, had built an abbey at the place of Denis's burial. In 1137 Abbot Suger ordered the basilica rebuilt, and this was the first architectural work in a style bound up in our popular imagination of the Age of Faith, which we now call Gothic. The abbey's sacred banner, the oriflamme, became the battle standard of the king of France, and the name of St. Denis was used in France's war-cry, "Montjoie Saint Denis!" (Montjoie is thought to be a derivation of mons Jovis, the Latin term for signposts or milestones, the idea being that St. Denis would guide the way of the king to victory.)

The abbey, now a cathedral-basilica, is perhaps most notable as the final resting place of most of our kings and royalty, from Clovis onwards to Louis XVIII. Though the tombs were opened and the remains desecrated and taken out into pits during the revolution, they were eventually returned to the crypt--though sadly not into their individual tombs, as it was impossible to tell whose bones were which. Most recently, the heart of Louis XVII, upon its definitive identification, was sealed into the cathedral wall in 2004.

Here is a prayer reported from a guide to the basilica in 1965, with my own addition of an intercession for the king.

O Bienheureux Saint Denys,

Voyez en ce moment votre peuple, réuni autour de votre autel.
Il vient vous renouveler son hommage et ses confiantes prières.

Depuis le jour où votre apostolat, couronné par le martyre, fit briller la foi de Jésus-Christ en cette région parisienne, votre nom y fut toujours honoré. Et vous, en retour, vous n’avez cessé de prodiguer à Paris, aux pays voisins, à la nation française tout entière, la marque d’une constante protection.

C’est ici, en votre sanctuaire, que nos Pères vinrent tant de fois pleurer leurs deuils, célébrer leurs joies, et, aux jours de péril, trouver dans l’Oriflamme qui ombrageait votre tombeau, l’espérance et le gage du salut de la Patrie.

Les siècles écoulés ne peuvent briser l’alliance contractée entre vous et la France.

Puisque la confiance de nos Pères renaît en nos coeurs, que par vous, ô Pontife, les mêmes bienfaits descandent sur nous.

Vous souvenez-vous de notre roi plus chrétien, Louis XX, de la reine, du dauphin, et de tous qui porte le sang royal de la France.

Conservez à la France la vocation des anciens jours ; obtenez à tous ses fils, à toutes les familles, et à nous-mêmes, le courage et l’union dans la fidélité au service du Christ, qui aime toujours les Francs, et qu’après les Luttes de cette vie terrestre, nous puissions triompher éternellement avec vous dans le Ciel.

Par Jésus-Christ Notre-Seigneur

Ainsi soit-il.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Victory at Lepanto

by G.K. Chesterton

White founts falling in the Courts of the sun,
And the Soldan of Byzantium is smiling as they run;
There is laughter like the fountains in that face of all men feared,
It stirs the forest darkness, the darkness of his beard;
It curls the blood-red crescent, the crescent of his lips;
For the inmost sea of all the earth is shaken with his ships.
They have dared the white republics up the capes of Italy,
They have dashed the Adriatic round the Lion of the Sea,
And the Pope has cast his arms abroad for agony and loss,
And called the kings of Christendom for swords about the Cross.
The cold queen of England is looking in the glass;
The shadow of the Valois is yawning at the Mass;
From evening isles fantastical rings faint the Spanish gun,
And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun.

Dim drums throbbing, in the hills half heard,
Where only on a nameless throne a crownless prince has stirred,
Where, risen from a doubtful seat and half attainted stall,
The last knight of Europe takes weapons from the wall,
The last and lingering troubadour to whom the bird has sung,
That once went singing southward when all the world was young.
In that enormous silence, tiny and unafraid,
Comes up along a winding road the noise of the Crusade.
Strong gongs groaning as the guns boom far,
Don John of Austria is going to the war,
Stiff flags straining in the night-blasts cold
In the gloom black-purple, in the glint old-gold,
Torchlight crimson on the copper kettle-drums,
Then the tuckets, then the trumpets, then the cannon, and he comes.
Don John laughing in the brave beard curled,
Spurning of his stirrups like the thrones of all the world,
Holding his head up for a flag of all the free.
Love-light of Spain--hurrah!
Death-light of Africa!
Don John of Austria
Is riding to the sea.

Mahound is in his paradise above the evening star,
(Don John of Austria is going to the war.)
He moves a mighty turban on the timeless houri's knees,
His turban that is woven of the sunsets and the seas.
He shakes the peacock gardens as he rises from his ease,
And he strides among the tree-tops and is taller than the trees;
And his voice through all the garden is a thunder sent to bring
Black Azrael and Ariel and Ammon on the wing.
Giants and the Genii,
Multiplex of wing and eye,
Whose strong obedience broke the sky
When Solomon was king.

They rush in red and purple from the red clouds of the morn,
From the temples where the yellow gods shut up their eyes in scorn;
They rise in green robes roaring from the green hells of the sea
Where fallen skies and evil hues and eyeless creatures be,
On them the sea-valves cluster and the grey sea-forests curl,
Splashed with a splendid sickness, the sickness of the pearl;
They swell in sapphire smoke out of the blue cracks of the ground,--
They gather and they wonder and give worship to Mahound.
And he saith, "Break up the mountains where the hermit-folk can hide,
And sift the red and silver sands lest bone of saint abide,
And chase the Giaours flying night and day, not giving rest,
For that which was our trouble comes again out of the west.
We have set the seal of Solomon on all things under sun,
Of knowledge and of sorrow and endurance of things done.
But a noise is in the mountains, in the mountains, and I know
The voice that shook our palaces--four hundred years ago:
It is he that saith not 'Kismet'; it is he that knows not Fate;
It is Richard, it is Raymond, it is Godfrey at the gate!
It is he whose loss is laughter when he counts the wager worth,
Put down your feet upon him, that our peace be on the earth."
For he heard drums groaning and he heard guns jar,
(Don John of Austria is going to the war.)
Sudden and still--hurrah!
Bolt from Iberia!
Don John of Austria
Is gone by Alcalar.

St. Michaels on his Mountain in the sea-roads of the north
(Don John of Austria is girt and going forth.)
Where the grey seas glitter and the sharp tides shift
And the sea-folk labour and the red sails lift.
He shakes his lance of iron and he claps his wings of stone;
The noise is gone through Normandy; the noise is gone alone;
The North is full of tangled things and texts and aching eyes,
And dead is all the innocence of anger and surprise,
And Christian killeth Christian in a narrow dusty room,
And Christian dreadeth Christ that hath a newer face of doom,
And Christian hateth Mary that God kissed in Galilee,--
But Don John of Austria is riding to the sea.
Don John calling through the blast and the eclipse
Crying with the trumpet, with the trumpet of his lips,
Trumpet that sayeth ha!
Domino gloria!
Don John of Austria
Is shouting to the ships.

King Philip's in his closet with the Fleece about his neck
(Don John of Austria is armed upon the deck.)
The walls are hung with velvet that is black and soft as sin,
And little dwarfs creep out of it and little dwarfs creep in.
He holds a crystal phial that has colours like the moon,
He touches, and it tingles, and he trembles very soon,
And his face is as a fungus of a leprous white and grey
Like plants in the high houses that are shuttered from the day,
And death is in the phial and the end of noble work,
But Don John of Austria has fired upon the Turk.
Don John's hunting, and his hounds have bayed--
Booms away past Italy the rumour of his raid.
Gun upon gun, ha! ha!
Gun upon gun, hurrah!
Don John of Austria
Has loosed the cannonade.

The Pope was in his chapel before day or battle broke,
(Don John of Austria is hidden in the smoke.)
The hidden room in man's house where God sits all the year,
The secret window whence the world looks small and very dear.
He sees as in a mirror on the monstrous twilight sea
The crescent of his cruel ships whose name is mystery;
They fling great shadows foe-wards, making Cross and Castle dark,
They veil the plumèd lions on the galleys of St. Mark;
And above the ships are palaces of brown, black-bearded chiefs,
And below the ships are prisons, where with multitudinous griefs,
Christian captives sick and sunless, all a labouring race repines
Like a race in sunken cities, like a nation in the mines.
They are lost like slaves that sweat, and in the skies of morning hung
The stair-ways of the tallest gods when tyranny was young.
They are countless, voiceless, hopeless as those fallen or fleeing on
Before the high Kings' horses in the granite of Babylon.
And many a one grows witless in his quiet room in hell
Where a yellow face looks inward through the lattice of his cell,
And he finds his God forgotten, and he seeks no more a sign--
(But Don John of Austria has burst the battle-line!)
Don John pounding from the slaughter-painted poop,
Purpling all the ocean like a bloody pirate's sloop,
Scarlet running over on the silvers and the golds,
Breaking of the hatches up and bursting of the holds,
Thronging of the thousands up that labour under sea
White for bliss and blind for sun and stunned for liberty.

Vivat Hispania!
Domino Gloria!
Don John of Austria
Has set his people free!

Cervantes on his galley sets the sword back in the sheath
(Don John of Austria rides homeward with a wreath.)
And he sees across a weary land a straggling road in Spain,
Up which a lean and foolish knight for ever rides in vain,
And he smiles, but not as Sultans smile, and settles back the blade....
(But Don John of Austria rides home from the Crusade.)

When we speak of the great moments in the history of Western Christendom, we would be neglectful to ignore the miraculous victory of Lepanto. Indeed, this was a victory five centuries in the making, the culmination of all the hard work, bloodshed, prayer, and strategic thinking engaged in in the West since the Turks at Manzikert ate a large chunk out of the Byzantine Empire, our buffer state against the Muslims and the statist East, thus imperilling our nascent civilisation. Thus, we crusaded, which did not in the end stop the Turks, but slowed them down enough that we should no longer be an easy target of raiding by Vikings, Magyars, or Saracens, but that we should be strong enough to defend our civilisation, our land, our religion from any and all comers. Thus the Normans, once Viking marauders, took and fortified the vulnerable Sicilies, Iberia was reconquered, and galleons rounded the Cape, opened the Americas, and traversed the world, returning with gold and stores. We were ready; let the heathen dare to enter our part of the sea.

Indeed we were victorious, but it was not quite the victory we had hoped, for Christendom had begun to break down. The eldest daughter prevaricated, even allying herself to the Turks for some time. England, lost to heresy, was actively persecuting the Church. Dutchmen, proclaiming their preference of Turk to Pope, revolted against Spain and turned to piracy on the high seas. Our external war may have ended, but our civil war was just beginning. Today servile states exist all about us, and a sort of slavery seems to be the status quo; one might justly wonder if the Turks had won.

We saved our civilisation though, and though all to many are willing to betray that for the generic and bland yet hostile "multiculuralism" so prevalent nowadays, I for one am proud to say, "I am still a Catholic and a Westerner." Yes, in spite of Lady Gaga, brutalistic architecture, polo shirts, ballcaps, and self-help books, I remember that we were once greater than this. Not only have we such great victories as Lepanto, Malta, and Vienna, we have the Church, and her saints throughout time. God willing, I will soon have a Mass said near me that reflects the way we worshipped from time immemorial until the Baby Boom came of age. We have our literature, our Shakespeares, Dantes, and Cervantes; our music, our Palestrinas, Bachs, and Mozarts; our Gothic cathedrals and our Baroque chapels; our manners and our interpersonal customs; our feasts and our fasts. Though we have lost broad society today, we have our memory, and thus know that we are not ephemeral as so many desire to be nowadays. Great men and women have shaped our society long before any of us were born; let us never break trust with them.

I should last note that credit for this great victory was universally given to Our Lady's intercession. Rosaries for the success of the fleet were offered throughout Christendom, and Pope St. Pius V declared this day, the anniversary of the battle, the feast of Our Lady of Victory, later Our Lady of the Rosary. Perhaps it was that the Turks were to conquer us, and that we should have had a period of Babylonian captivity under their yoke. But our merciful mother heard our prayers, and gave us instead our modern Thermopylae. Let us therefore take to our beads this evening, in gratitude for all this glorious heritage we have received, and in hope that Our Lady of Victory be also our intercessor for a restoration of the grandeur and beauty and faith that once so animated our society.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Revolution in Portugal

"For every monarchy overthrown the sky becomes less brilliant, because it loses a star. A republic is ugliness set free." --Anatole France

One hundred years ago this week, the Kingdom of Portugal came to its end when the Portuguese Army and Navy shelled the royal palace in Lisbon, causing King Manuel II to flee. The land of explorers and once among the mightiest of empires in the West betrayed its heritage, and became, like my motherland France, just another republic, and an anticlerical one moreover.

Restore Dom Duarte Pio to the throne.

Viva o Rei.

In commemoration of this sad event, the flags at this blog will be flown at half-mast throughout the day.

Republicans just don't throw good parties

As the bicentennial celebration of Oktoberfest draws to its close, the Radical Royalist informs us here of this festival's royal origins in a horse race held to celebrate the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig I) and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. That such festivity should have originated in a royalist and quite Catholic milieu is no surprise to me, for I've observed over the years that more traditional peoples simply know to have a better time.

And so, stein in hand, I conclude this merry season with a few toasts. First, to the man who would be King of Bavaria, Duke Franz.

HRH The Duke of Bavaria is incidentally claimant to the thrones of England and Scotland in the Jacobite succession, though he does not actively put forth that claim. Thus, I put my stein down for a moment in order to drain a dram of whisky to the king over the water.

Next I raise my stein to another illustrious royal resident of Bavaria, who even represented Bavaria in the European Parliament for a time, HI&RH The Crown Prince of Austria and Hungary, Dr. Otto von Habsburg.

And last but by no means least, I toast to Bavaria's greatest native son, our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.

After all that toasting, I shall return in a moment with a somewhat sobring thought.