Sunday, March 29, 2015

"Catholics are born for combat"

From Pope Leo XIII's encyclical Sapientiae Christianae:
14. But in this same matter, touching Christian faith, there are other duties whose exact and religious observance, necessary at all times in the interests of eternal salvation, become more especially so in these our days. Amid such reckless and widespread folly of opinion, it is, as We have said, the office of the Church to undertake the defense of truth and uproot errors from the mind, and this charge has to be at all times sacredly observed by her, seeing that the honor of God and the salvation of men are confided to her keeping. But, when necessity compels, not those only who are invested with power of rule are bound to safeguard the integrity of faith, but, as St. Thomas maintains: “Each one is under obligation to show forth his faith, either to instruct and encourage others of the faithful, or to repel the attacks of unbelievers.”(12) To recoil before an enemy, or to keep silence when from all sides such clamors are raised against truth, is the part of a man either devoid of character or who entertains doubt as to the truth of what he professes to believe. In both cases such mode of behaving is base and is insulting to God, and both are incompatible with the salvation of mankind. This kind of conduct is profitable only to the enemies of the faith, for nothing emboldens the wicked so greatly as the lack of courage on the part of the good. Moreover, want of vigor on the part of Christians is so much the more blameworthy, as not seldom little would be needed on their part to bring to naught false charges and refute erroneous opinions, and by always exerting themselves more strenuously they might reckon upon being successful. After all, no one can be prevented from putting forth that strength of soul which is the characteristic of true Christians, and very frequently by such display of courage our enemies lose heart and their designs are thwarted. Christians are, moreover, born for combat, whereof the greater the vehemence, the more assured, God aiding, the triumph: “Have confidence; I have overcome the world.”(13) Nor is there any ground for alleging that Jesus Christ, the Guardian and Champion of the Church, needs not in any manner the help of men. Power certainly is not wanting to Him, but in His loving kindness He would assign to us a share in obtaining and applying the fruits of salvation procured through His grace.
15. The chief elements of this duty consist in professing openly and unflinchingly the Catholic doctrine, and in propagating it to the utmost of our power. For, as is often said, with the greatest truth, there is nothing so hurtful to Christian wisdom as that it should not be known, since it possesses, when loyally received, inherent power to drive away error. So soon as Catholic truth is apprehended by a simple and unprejudiced soul, reason yields assent. Now, faith, as a virtue, is a great boon of divine grace and goodness; nevertheless, the objects themselves to which faith is to be applied are scarcely known in any other way than through the hearing. “How shall they believe Him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? Faith then cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”(14) Since, then, faith is necessary for salvation, it follows that the word of Christ must tie preached. The office, indeed, of preaching, that is, of teaching, lies by divine right in the province of the pastors, namely, of the bishops whom “the Holy Spirit has placed to rule the Church of God.”(15) It belongs, above all, to the Roman Pontiff, vicar of Jesus Christ, established as head of the universal Church, teacher of all :hat pertains to morals and faith.
16. No one, however, must entertain the notion that private individuals are prevented from taking some active part in this duty of teaching, especially those on whom God has bestowed gifts of mind with the strong wish of rendering themselves useful. These, so often as circumstances demand, may take upon themselves, not, indeed, the office of the pastor, but the task of communicating to others what they have themselves received, becoming, as it were, living echoes of their masters in the faith. Such co-operation on the part of the laity has seemed to the Fathers of the Vatican Council so opportune and fruitful of good that they thought well to invite it. “All faithful Christians, but those chiefly who are in a prominent position, or engaged in teaching, we entreat, by the compassion of Jesus Christ, and enjoin by the authority of the same God and Saviour, that they bring aid to ward off and eliminate these errors from holy Church, and contribute their zealous help in spreading abroad the light of undefiled faith.”(16) Let each one, therefore, bear in mind that he both can and should, so far as may be, preach the Catholic faith by the authority of his example, and by open and constant profession of the obligations it imposes. In respect, consequently, to the duties that bind us to God and the Church, it should be borne earnestly in mind that in propagating Christian truth and warding off errors the zeal of the laity should, as far as possible, be brought actively into play.
Priests could do a lot worse in their homilies than simply reading selections from old papal encyclicals, the writings of the saints, or Fulton Sheen's broadcasts. I don't know about my five faithful readers, but just this short excerpt inspires me. Show courage, never recoil before an enemy, hold fast to true doctrine, teach the ignorant and the errant, and have confidence in the Lord.

Obviously you can read all of Pope Leo XIII's encyclicals online, for free. Nonetheless, I purchased them in book form way back when to support a good Catholic publisher. TAN has provided invaluable services to the Church. Imagine what it was like for the early Traditionalists before the internet made it possible for us to keep in contact and to easily disseminate the writings of the saints, doctors, and popes worldwide.

h/t: From Rome

Palm Sunday

This hymn has been continuously sung on Palm Sunday since the 9th century:

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Book Review: The Rough Riders, by Theodore Roosevelt

It's difficult to overstate the badassery of Theodore Roosevelt. TR grew up a weak and sickly child but he built himself up into a scholar, rancher, explorer, hunter, soldier, politician and president through sheer force of will. One of the high points of TR's life was his participation in the "splendid little war" that gave birth to the American empire. Once Spain and the United States declared war upon each other, TR resigned from his position in the Navy Department and helped found the First Volunteer United States Cavalry - "The Rough Riders."

Roosevelt was 39 when the war began, an age when most of us have settled into boring careers and begun developing spare tires. Alongside his friend Colonel Leonard Wood, a future Army Chief of Staff, he recruited volunteers from all around the country. The striking thing is how many Ivy League students and graduates joined. Some of them were old friends from TR's days at Harvard, but others came from Yale and Princeton in order to serve their country and test their manhood in the heat of battle. How many Ivy Leaguers do that now? The United States had been at peace since the end of the Civil War 33 years before. One interesting anecdote Roosevelt tells is that when his regiment was traveling through the South on their way to Florida and then Cuba, elderly former Confederates told him they never expected to see the Stars and Stripes so vigorously cheered in those parts ever again. The Rough Riders were part of a cavalry division led by former Confederate General Joseph Wheeler. Wheeler purportedly called out during a battle with the Spaniards, "Let's go boys! We've got the damnyankees on the run again!"

In addition to the scions of Eastern elites, the Rough Riders were made up of cowboys, lawmen, former outlaws, ranchers, full- and half-blooded Indians from the West. Roosevelt had served in the National Guard beforehand which provided him with invaluable experience in dealing with common troopers. Fortunately, the Rough Riders didn't need much training when it came to riding and shooting. Close order drill, long derided by the pros as Mickey Mouse bullshit, does have an important purpose. It helped these men, used to independent living, to live and work as a team. Roosevelt praises them to the skies throughout his memoir, both for their soldierly qualities and their bravery in battle.

The copy I checked out from the local library has notes written in the margins from a decidedly liberal reader. He or she wrote several comments disparaging Roosevelt's racism, imperialism, machismo, and other progressive boogeymen. One thing they pointed out was that there's almost no trace of the usual meditations on war's hellish nature. Roosevelt personally enjoyed his time in Cuba to no end. To hear him tell it, his men almost made a competition out of who could be more badass. Throughout, Roosevelt says that men who suffered the most grievous wounds or who suffered from tropical diseases made no grumbles or complaints. Men had to be ordered to go see the doctor, and even then it was 50/50 whether they'd actually obey.

The only complaints Roosevelt makes are about logistical issues, confirming the old cliche that amateurs talk about strategy and tactics while professionals talk about logistics. The soldiers never wanted for ammunition but food, water, medical supplies, and baggage were subject to constant bureaucratic roadblocks. The U.S. military was still using mostly black powder ammunition, while the Spanish had switched to smokeless powder. This made it comparatively difficult for the Americans to locate Spanish snipers in the dense Cuban jungle. Roosevelt praises Spanish valor at several points, but for the snipers hidden in the trees, he ordered his men to show no quarter as those snipers often targeted Red Cross and other medical personnel.

Cliches are cliches because they're generally true. For example, it's a staple in all military literature that "Officers must take care of their men." In TR's book, he shows what it's like in practice. The officers subjected themselves to the same hardships as the men. They ate the same hardtack and pork when it was available, they slept under the stars, they carried the equipment of men who fell out of marches from wounds or sickness, and they led from the front. Roosevelt said that the men appreciated all of this, and that it was to the credit of that principle that the men refrained from all complaint.

After the Battle of San Juan/Kettle Hill, the Rough Riders were told to hold their position outside of Santiago. For several weeks they waited while unbeknownst to them peace negotiations had begun between the US and Spain. Roosevelt said this was the most trying part of the campaign because the weather and widespread malaria and yellow fever made it difficult to find things to keep the men occupied. Men go to pieces if they don't have a mission to perform or duties to fulfill. The same held for the return trip to the United States when the transport ships were too crowded to make drill or exercise practicable.

Theodore Roosevelt is one of my favorite presidents. His short memoir of the Spanish-American War provides many excellent lessons in leadership and manhood: lead by example, take care of those under you, fulfill your duty no matter the cost, don't complain, keep yourself busy, and don't trust the bureaucrats. 5/5, would read again.

With apologies to Sean Connery

When pastoral language becomes political rhetoric:
Mark Bauerlein’s post on the rhetoric of anti-discrimination points clearly to the problem which traditionalists face: In a world where ethics is aesthetics, the language of victimhood has become a subjective concept which is a potent weapon in the hands of the powerful.
...This hope for common ground and co-existence is sadly misplaced. There is the fact noted above that the language of political correctness and the language of pastoral Christianity overlap only at the level of phonetics. Conceptually, they are built on different notions of virtue. It is also clear that this strategy underestimates the ambitions of the identity politicians. Common ground with an opponent is only of real interest to those who are on the losing side. The PC lobbyists are increasingly in control of the political and legal environment and will thus see the linguistic games of the Christian establishment for what they are: Signs of fatal weakness. Ultimately, they will present such institutions with a straightforward choice: Abandon the common language or adopt the common concepts. 
Common ground? Losers are always whining about dialogue and common ground. Winners go out and convert the heathens.

It's admittedly not as punchy as John Mason's line as delivered by Sir Sean Connery in "The Rock," but the sentiment is the same. Trueman makes a good point. Modern ecumenism and interreligious dialogue generally involves the Catholic Church approaching Protestants and non-Catholics, hat in hand, and asking if they could pretty please participate in a big confab where we'll all play nice, maybe sign a joint statement or two, and isn't it nice that we can put all of these petty disagreements about silly doctrines behind us to work together for the common good of mankind?

This is in stark contrast to how the Church used to play it before Vatican II. Strictly speaking, the Catholic Church needs absolutely nothing from non-Catholic religions. Nothing at all. They are the ones who need to reject their idols, heresies, and false doctrines in order to formally join the one true Church founded by Christ himself outside of which there is no salvation. People may rush to swim the Tiber, or they may angrily reject such stark terms, but they can't ignore such a strong message.

Seeking common ground is, almost by definition, what the weaker party wants when it is in danger of being conquered or already lies prostrate before a victorious opponent. Only God knows how many unnecessary acts of buffoonery and cowardice have been committed in the name of seeking common ground. I don't want to seek common ground with the things I deliberately turned my back on when I was received into the Catholic Church. I want the Church to be what she is supposed to be and to not give a damn what those outside of her think about it. The Church was far more influential and had far more converts, priests, and religious back when she took a more adversarial stance toward the world. All three measures have plummeted since she decided to play nice.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Enemies I can take, it's my damn friends I can't stand

A Catholic school removes teacher for defending the faith:
Two weeks ago, when Patricia Jannuzzi, a religion teacher at Immaculata High School in the Diocese of Metuchen, posted a statement supporting traditional marriage on her personal Facebook page, angry same-sex “marriage” advocates, some of them Immaculata alumni, demanded that she be removed from her teaching position, and that the school address the “homophobic undertones in the school.” Creating a petition called “Stop the Public Hate Speech of Teachers” alumnus Tom Robinson (class of 2001) posted: “I know that many of you want to see Mrs. Jannuzzi fired, but addressing the systemic problem of homophobic undertones in the school and publicly posted on social media is much more important than one person keeping her job.” For Robinson, anyone—including a religion teaching at a Catholic high school—who refuses to support the goodness of homosexual acts is an enemy that must be destroyed.
Jannuzzi is indeed being destroyed. Much of the media—including the local newspapers—have described Jannuzzi’s Facebook posting as a “rant” when the reality is that she wrote: “We need healthy families with a mother and a father for the sake of the children and humanity!” Pointing to her statement that “(gay activists) want to reengineer western civilization into a slow extinction,” as evidence of her hatefulness, more than 1,000 individuals have signed the petition to have her removed. And, rather than defending Jannuzzi for her willingness to defend Catholic teachings, the principal and the pastor of her school have suspended her—sending a letter to alumni, parents and students apologizing for “any hurt this has  caused to any individuals and the negative light in which it has cast our school.”
And, to make matters worse, on March 20, Bishop Paul G. Bootkoski, the episcopal leader of the Diocese of Metuchen, appeared to concur with the high school administrators by saying that “the teacher’s comments were disturbing and do not reflect the Church’s teachings on acceptance…. Pope Francis reminds us that we are to accept all of our brethren. We must ensure that our educators steer away from harsh and judgmental statements that can alienate and divide us.”
There he goes again. I'm well aware Pope Francis is on record describing gay "marriage" in similar terms as Jannuzzi. Somehow, some way enemies of the Faith, including ones wearing Roman collars, draft him into their cause or use some of his other remarks as a fig leaf.

One almost can't help becoming cynical about working for the Church as a lay person, either as a paid employee or a volunteer. They ask us to pray for vocations, they encourage us to get involved... but if you're too Catholic or too bold about holding to orthodoxy, you'll get stabbed in the back by your brothers and sisters in Christ. Granted, Christ was betrayed by one of his handpicked Apostles, but this sort of behavior discourages otherwise good Catholics from working in the Lord's vineyard where their talents could be of real use.

Frankly, if you're not being cast in a negative light by the world, you're doing something wrong. The Gospel of St. John shows us that people said to Jesus Christ's very face that his teachings were too hard and that they walked with him no more. Do the clergy really think they're going to do Jesus one better? All Catholics have a responsibility to hold to the truth. The Holy Spirit is what moves people to repent and convert. If you speak the truth and people turn away from it, you've done your duty and they will be held accountable for it if they do not embrace the Gospel. If you do not speak the truth out of fear, then both you and your audience will be held accountable but you even more so.

Never never never give in

From Bonald comes this essay on the Church's perennial temptation:
Despite Leo XIII  and his Secretary of State Mariano Rampolla’s endeavor, this policy of dialogue was a sensational failure and unable to obtain the objectives it proposed. The Anti-Christian behavior  of the Third Republic increased in violence, until culminating in Loi concernant la S├ęparation des Eglises et de l’Etat on December 9th 1905, known as “the Combes law” which suppressed all financing and public recognition of the Church;  it considered religion merely in the private dimension and not in the social one;  it established that ecclesiastical goods be confiscated by the State, while buildings of worship were given over gratuitously to associations cultuelles” elected by the faithful, without Church approval.
...The spirit of ralliement with the modern world has been around for more than a century, and the great temptation to which the Church is exposed to, is still [with us]. In this regard, a Pope of great doctrine such as Leo XIII made a grave error in pastoral strategy. The prophetic strength of St. Pius X is the opposite, in the intimate coherence of his pontificate between evangelical Truth and the life  of the Church in the modern world, between theory and praxis, between doctrine and pastoral care, with no yielding to the lures of modernity.
I love Pope Leo XIII's encyclicals but he's a good example of how the Church can and frequently does err on the paaaaastoral level. That's why I regard Pope Francis with such trepidation every time he opens his mouth. We often speak of doctrine and being pastoral as if the two were competing in a zero sum game. The more you emphasize doctrine, the more of a merciless hardass you are portrayed to be. The priest with the reputation for being pastoral is often willing to toss doctrine onto the pyre in the name of mercy. Priests have to constantly walk on eggshells so as not to offend the congregation. In practice, this ends up resembling Gnosticism: the common folk get the comforting platitudes while the hard stuff is only for the inner circle.

My three favorite popes are all named Pius: V, X, and XII. They all united the pastoral and the doctrinal to heroic degrees. Pius XII is sometimes described as the Last Prince of the Church. All of his successors have been reformers to one degree or another, with the reforms often proving destructive. Pius XII had the Nouvelle Theologie's number in Humani Generis. If you don't know what Nouvelle Theologie means, you'll see what it means in practice at most suburban parishes.

Never, ever compromise with the Left. Compromise always means that they get their way.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Justus ut Palma Florebit

The just shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow up like the cedar of Libanus: planted in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of our God. Ps. ibid. 2. It is good to give praise to the Lord: and sing to Thy Name, O most High. Glory be to the Father...

St. Joseph was "a just man". This praise bestowed by the Holy Ghost, and the privilege of having been chosen by God to be the foster-father of Jesus and the spouse of the Virgin Mother, are the foundations of the honour paid to St. Joseph by the Church.

In Italy, St. Joseph is the man.

These novena prayers explain many of his virtues and titles.

My favorite title of his is "Terror of Demons."

St. Teresa of Avila and St. Alphonsus Liguori on Joseph.

This religious congregation has their seminary about 30 minutes from my home. The rector has given several talks to our youth and young adult group. Good men.

5 reasons Catholic men should cultivate a devotion to St. Joseph.

The feast of St. Joseph the Worker is celebrated on May 1, instituted by Pope Pius XII in the hopes of Christianizing the concept of labor and to counter the Communists.

Isidore of Isolanis, a pious Dominican of the 16th century, prophesied that "the sound of victory" will be heard in the Church Militant "when the faithful recognize the sanctity of St. Joseph."

A special 30 days prayer to the saint for any intention.