Father Angelo Against the World

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That’s me on the pillar! Off to Vermont to stay at Our Lady of Ephesus House of Prayer. At the end of my retreat there back in November, Mary Tarinelli invited me to preach at the yearly Divine Mercy Day that Her and her husband Don sponsor. I plan to get in a little day of recollection in on Monday. Be back soon.

Meanwhile here is the AirMaria interview with Mary about the House of Prayer.

Actually, my habit is not that ragged.

Twain’s Joan II

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Everytime I read this passage, I am profoundly moved. . . profoundly. Ah, chivalry!

In the train of wains laden with supplies a man lay on top of the goods. He was stretched out on his back, and his hands were tied together with ropes, and also his ankles. Joan signed to the officer in charge of that division of the train to come to her, and he rode up and saluted.‘What is he that is bound, there?’ she asked.

‘A prisoner, General.’

‘What is his offence?’

‘He is a deserter.’

‘What is to be done with him?’

‘He will be hanged, but it was not convenient on the march, and there was no hurry.’

‘Tell me about him.’

‘He is a good soldier, but he asked leave to go and see his wife who was dying, he said, but it could not be granted; so he went without leave. Meanwhile the march began, and he only overtook us yesterday evening.’

‘Overtook you? Did he come of his own will?’

‘Yes it was of his own will.’

‘He a deserter! Name of God! Bring him to me.’

The officer rode forward and loosed the man’s feet and brought him back with his hands still tied. What a figure he was – a good seven feet high, and built for business! He had a strong face; he had an unkempt shock of black hair which showed up in a striking way when the officer removed his morion for him; for weapon he had a big axe in his broad leathern belt. Standing by Joan’s horse, he made Joan look littler than ever, for his head was about on a level with her own. His face was profoundly melancholy; all interest in life seemed to be dead in the man. Joan said -

‘Hold up your hands.’

The man’s head was down. He lifted it when he heard that soft friendly voice, and there was a wistful something in his face which made one think that there had been music in it for him and that he would like to hear it again. When he raised his hands Joan laid her sword to his bonds, but the officer said with apprehension-

‘Ah, madam – my General!’

‘What is it?’ she said.

‘He is under sentence!’

‘Yes, I know. I am responsible for him,’ and she cut the bonds. They had lacerated his wrists, and they were bleeding. ‘Ah, pitiful!’ she said; ‘blood – I do not like it’; and she shrank from the sight. But only for a moment. ‘Give me something, somebody, to bandage his wrists with.’ Continue reading

Twain’s Joan

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To follow up my comments on historical fiction and how they apply to the story of St. Joan of Arc, I thought I might commend Mark Twain, on his stupendous effort to translate the true history of the Maid of Orleans into a very readable and enjoyable novel.

Twain, as always, is full of invention and literary genius in this work, but not only does he avoid adulterating the true character of the saint, he actually enhances our appreciation for her character by the choices he makes as he integrates his own invention with the facts.

Mark Twain considered his Sieur Louis de Conte: Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc to be his greatest work, and assiduously researched the subject before he set to work. He had a strong personal devotion to the Maid, despite his decided lack of faith and his abundance of cynicism. He found St. Joan to be an exception to his general rule that “the noblest man’s meat is inferior to pork” (More Maxims of Mark). Twain was a determinist, that is, he believed that man was inherently and helplessly selfish. Here are serveral other of his cynical gems:

All I care to know is that a man is a human being–that is enough for me; he can’t be any worse. I can get right down and grovel with him.
– Mark Twain’s notebook #42

I am the only man living who understands human nature; God has put me in charge of this branch office; when I retire there will be no-one to take my place. I shall keep on doing my duty, for when I get over on the other side, I shall use my influence to have the human race drowned again, and this time drowned good, no omissions, no Ark.
– quoted in Mark Twain, J. Macy, (Doubleday, Page & co., 1913)

Twain loved St. Joan, because he thought she was different. Why he didn’t think anyone else to be different, I cannot say, but at least in regard to the Maid he was a believer.

I will in this and the next post excerpt at length from the online edition of Twain’s Joan of Arc. This first excerpt (excerpts of chapters 36 and 37, plus the whole of chapter 38) is one of my favorite passages, because it integrates historical knowledge with his own literary invention, a marvelous invention, I might add. His creative genius stays true the the real Joan, I think, and illustrates a really important part of her character, namely, that she was an ordinary girl, given extraordinary gifts. As a peasant girl she was feminine and unambitious, happy to be with her family. But in the execution of her duty as General of the armies of France, she was self-assured, deliberate and unbending. This is true to history and Twain drives this home with an exquisite literary sense.

In this passage we find St. Joan of Arc with her family after the crowning of the Charles at Rheims. As she sees it, she has accomplished her principle task and is dreaming of returning home with her family, who, for their part are surprised to hear her express a desire to leave her military career and return to the humdrum of life in Doremy. (It should go without saying that this passage is full of *SPOILERS*): Continue reading

Chivalric Code of War

Exploding another myth about the middle ages.  BTW, the above video is part of a series that deflates many myths concerning medieval life.

And here is an article, printed in the New York Times during the World War I–that horrible ordeal–advocating the Knightly Code. It has a surprising and mortifying ending.

How uncompromising was the sentiment for the maintenance of honorable methods of combat may be seen from the decree of Pope Innocent III, prohibiting the use, against Christian enemies, of the arbalest or crossbow, and of machines of the hurling projectiles of the type of the ballista.

Gone are those days. Instead we have:

The Knightly Code considered it a disgrace to win a battle in a dishonorable way. Winning was not just a matter of being victorious, but of fighting honorably as well. Better to die with one’s honor, than to conquer in a shameful way.

For this reason at our encampments, the boys compete, but are judged, not only on their performance but on their sportsmanship as well.

The Passion of Joan of Arc. . . Again

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Well, good St. Joan was betrayed by the Burgundians, condemned by ecclesiastics who should have protected her, abandoned by the King she fought for and burned by the English. As a reward her story has been printed to celluloid I don’t know how many times now, and most of this waste of celluloid should be burned in the square of Rouen in reparation for the crimes of Hollywood against this great Virgin Warrior.

In spite of his flaws, I have a great deal of respect for Mel Gibson and wrote a little booklet, praising his Passion movie. Even so, I have been stopped in my tracks. Tabloid sites are claiming that he now plans to produce another Passion movie, this time a remake of the The Passion of Joan of Arc, a 1928 French silent movie that has been hailed as a landmark of cinema.

The gossipy part of the story (and I hope it is just gossip) is that he has asked Britney Spears to play the title role. The funny thing is, given Gibson’s quirkiness, he is just the man to do it and perhaps even to pull it off. Nevertheless, the yuck factor is a bit too much for me. I wish Miss Spears well, and hope she gets her life together; however, she would have to turn a miraculous performance to make me forget what she has stood for, which is diametrically opposed to the holiness and purity of the Maid of Orleans. I know. . . I know. . . This is what actors do. Their job is to pretend to be someone they are not. Even so . . .

I just hope this is not another crime that Hollywood will have to atone for. I will be the first to throw a fagot on the pyre. Continue reading

Regina Caeli

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Queen of Heaven Rejoice!
O Queen of heaven rejoice! alleluia:
For He whom thou didst merit to bear, alleluia,
Hath arisen as he said, alleluia.
Pray for us to God, alleluia.
Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia.
Because the Lord is truly risen, alleluia.

This is the Regina Caeli, the great Marian antiphon for Easter, and, when it is first sung at the celebration of the Easter vigil, we will be reminded of the preeminence of Our Lady’s faith. She is the first to rejoice in the Easter mystery, not because She sees the empty tomb, but because She is certain, without need of seeing that sign, that what the Lord has promised will come to pass.

The Regina Caeli is about the victory of Our Lady’s faith. There is a tradition that the antiphon was composed, after a manner, by St. Gregory the Great, when in 596 Rome was ravaged by a plague, and he in response turned in confidence to Our Lady. St. Gregory organized a procession through the streets of Rome, which began at the ancient Church of Santa Maria in Ara Coeli on the capitoline hill, where He took into the procession an ancient Icon of Our Lady, said to be painted by St. Luke. As he passed the Tomb of Hadrian, as it was then called, he heard angels sing the first three lines of the Regina Caeli. He responded with the fourth line: Pray for us to God! The plague was ended, the Tomb of Hadrian was renamed Castle Santa’ Angelo (The Castle of the Angel), and the Regina Caeli was inscribed on the ceiling of the Church of the Ara Coeli. The same ceiling, centuries later, would be gilded and paneled in commemoration of the Victory of the Christian forces over the Ottoman Turks at the Bay of Lepanto on October 7, 1571. St. Pius V at the time instituted the Feast of Our Lady of Victory, because it was through Her intercession, obtained by praying the Rosary, that led to victory. The Queen of Heaven is Our Lady of Victory, and She is always victorious because of Her faith. Continue reading

Mother of All Vigils

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The Seventh Sorrow of Our Lady:
The Entombment

Hail Heart of Seven Swords,
The last blade stays Thee.
Sealed is the tomb of the Womb-Sealed,
And waiting is the One
who stood Her ground.

Holy Lily, Garden Enclosed,
Show the Great Sign
To those who run from
the Cross’s shadow.

In this little versified meditation, I try to convey the faith that Our Lady possessed in spite of Her sorrow. She stood Her ground at the foot of the Cross, and now She watches for the Return of the King.

In the tradition of the Church, we often celebrate Saturdays as the day of the week dedicated to Our Lady, for example, the votive Mass in honor of Our Lady on free Saturdays in Ordinary Time. One possible ancient reason for this custom is to remember Our Lady’s vigil of faith on Holy Saturday. She alone in the perfection of Her faith actually believed that Our Lord would rise. This is why She did not visit the tomb with the other holy women.

Pietá

The Fifth Sorrow of Our Lady: Mary Stands at the Foot of the Cross

Hail Heart of Seven Swords,
The fifth blade slays Thee.
Pierced as the Last Word is spoken,
Thy broken Heart Thou lift
up to the Father.

Holy Woman of the Promise,
Crush in us the serpent.
Enter our hearts and
make them Thy own home.

The Sixth Sorrow of Our Lady: Mary Receives the Body of Jesus From the Cross

Hail Heart of Seven Swords,
The sixth blade fells Thee.
Cedar hewn down to a manger.
Madonna bears Her Child
anew in sorrow.

Holy Stricken Image of Pity,
Supplant complacence
With Thy compassion
in our Communions.

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The Pietá is a snapshot of the Passion that Compresses the whole tragedy and grief into a moment. Mel Gibson’s Caravaggio-esque rendering of the pieta was the best possible ending he could have chosen to complete the drama of the Cross. From there we can only fade to black.

We call it the Image of Pity, not in the fist place because we pity Our Lady, but because Our Lady pities Our Lord, and us. The modern sense of the word “pity” meaning sorrow or sympathy for another’s suffering, often has a condescending note to it. We pity those who share a lot worse than ours and deign for a moment to regard their misery, though an emotional and moral separation remains. Pity in its etymological origins and in its classical sense means compassion according the the latter’s etymological definition: from com- “together” + pati “to suffer.” Thus, true pity joins the witness of suffering to the one who suffers, so that they both suffer together in solidarity. To plumb the depths of this mystery accomplished at the foot of the Cross is to begin to enter into the mystery of Coredemption (cf Col. 1:24).

Worthy of note is the following:

Also fresh in the memory of the Holy League was the defense of Malta that had taken place only six years before in 1565. The Knights Hospitaller, or Knights of St. John (later known as the Knights of Malta) had come to the Island of Malta in 1530, after having been driven by the forces of Suleiman (father of Selim II) from Rhodes in December of 1522. The chronicle from time records that the Grand Master’s galley left the Island of Rhodes, “with a single banner lowered to half mast, on which was painted the picture of the Glorious Virgin Mary in tears, holding her dead Son in her arms, and the inscription Afflictis tu spes unica rebus, that is: In all which afflicts us thou art our only hope” (Spirit of Lepanto).

Marian Chivalry has always been with us.