First Knights

I here re-post my entry for July 2, 2008 on this the first anniversary of Thom Girard’s passing.  The accident occurred on June 30, but Marc survived into very early in the morning of July 1.  May our good knights rest in peace. I offered Mass for the repose of their souls this morning.

And when the last arrow
Was fitted and was flown,
When the broken shield hung on the breast,
And the hopeless lance was laid in rest,
And the hopeless horn blown,

The King looked up, and what he saw
Was a great light like death,
For Our Lady stood on the standards rent,
As lonely and as innocent
As when between white walls she went
And the lilies of Nazareth.

*******

Thom was one of our finest knights and a first rate example of all I wanted the knights to be: courageous, committed, kind, genuine and loyal.  Mark was his father’s son.

Thom has been the Grand Master of all our encampments, both last year and this year.  He had many years experience as a scout master, but more than that he had really imbibed the Spirit of Lepanto and understood how to communicate it to others.  He really was what I wanted all the knights to be.

Marc was inducted into the Knights at the spring encampment this year, after having been among the squires since we began the Knights several years ago.  When Thom became distressed as he was swimming with his daughter Hanna, Marc, who was swimming with his younger brother Lucas, told his brother to continue to the other side, went to the rescue and saved Hanna’s life and then attempted to save his father also.  Marc died a hero, a true knight.  He was his father’s son.

Please pray for the repose of their souls.  The one consolation I keep returning to is that now we have two knights who, in the words of St. Maximilian, have both hands free.

Thom and  Marc leave behind Carol, wife and mother, Jacqueline, daughter and sister, Adam, son and brother, Lucas, son and brother and little Hanna, daughter and sister.  Please pray for them also.  They are strong, full of faith and hope, but their suffering is hard to imagine.

Thom wrote an elaborate knight’s “ritual” by which we could induct the older boys into the Knights of Lepanto.  We have used it only once, for the induction of Marc back at the Spring Encampment.  I reproduce part of it here.  The words of the “Father” were pronounced by me, but the whole “ritual” was written by Thom.  This was a dialoque between father and son:

The Candidate then kneels before the priest.

Father:  In days gone by, there existed many orders of knighthood which recognized the skill and honor of their members.  In the service of their King, and in the defense of the noble ideals of chivalry, embodied in their Queen, did these orders achieve their exalted ranks. . .You have now been brought face to face with the Order of the Knights of Lepanto and have been adequately impressed with the seriousness of this obligation which you are about to take upon yourself.  As God is our King of Kings and Mary our Queen are you prepared to take the vow of the brotherhood?

Candidate:  In the name of God, I am.

Father:  Guards remove his penance . . .[after the penance is removed]  Will you be loyal to the Catholic Church, the Pope, to the Order of the Knights of Lepanto, and your brother Knights?

Candidate:  In the name of God, I will.

Father:  Good Brother, in our company you must not seek lordship or riches, nor honor, nor bodily ease.  You must seek three things:  to renounce and reject the sins of this world; to do the service of Our Lord and Our Lady; and to be poor and penitent according to your means.  Will you promise to God and Our Lady that henceforth, all the days of your life that you will do these things?

Candidate:  In the name of God, I will.

Father:  That you will live in chastity according to your means in life?

Candidate:  In the name of God, I will.

Father:  That you will uphold the good customs of this house?

Candidate:  In the name of God, I will.

Father:  That you will never leave the Order, neither through strength or weakness, niether in worse time or better?

Candidate:  In the name of God, I will.

Father:  In the name of God, of Our Lady, of St. Francis and St. Maximilian Kolbe and of our father Pope Benedict XVI, from its beginning and until its end, we accord you all the benefits of this house.  We promise you bread and water, hardship, work and the poor robe of this house.  Knight of the Patrocinium, bring forth the Great Sword of our order. . . .

Father: [holding the sword as the cross in front of the candidate] Acknowledge this sword, its brightness stands for faith, its point for hope, and its guard for charity.  Remember well that the sword of Chivalry should be drawn only in defense of God, or of those weaker than yourself. Do you acknowledge the values of this sword?

Candidate:  In the name of God, I do.

Father:  [returning the sword] Let the scroll be read.

Herald:  To all who can hear:  Whereas Marc has dedicated himself to high and noble service to God and the Kingdom of Heaven in war and in peace, we are minded to enroll him into the Knights of Lepanto.  We do hereby elevate and affirm Marc for his unique talents soon to be known throughout the world.  To which we set our hands this 24th day of May, as Christ is our King and Mary our Queen.

Thom gave all the speaking roles to the other knights and to myself during the ritual, but all the words were his, and it was all meant for Marc.

When we performed the induction of Mark, I had only had the time to glance at the ritual very quickly.  I had  complete trust that what Thom had come up with would be appropriate.

But when I read the words out loud to Marc:  “as God is our King of Kings and Mary our Queen are you prepared to take the vow of the brotherhood?” I thought to myself, “I hadn’t planned on anyone taking a vow right now.”  And then when I heard myself saying: “Will you promise to God and Our Lady that henceforth, all the days of your life that you will do these things?”  and Marc said yes both times, I thought, “I will have to revise this for next time.”  In any case, I figured that it was all intended in the right spirit, and expressed the Spirit of Lepanto so perfectly, so I said nothing.

Little did I know that Thom and Mark had providentially entered into the Knightly order together and were to seal their promise in this tragic and yet heroic event.  Thom and Marc used exactly the right words and they meant what they said.

Thom will be buried with the Great Sword of our order.  Similar arrangements are being made for Marc as well.  They promised to be true knights of Our Lady, and,

In the name of God, they were.

St. Augustine and the Theology of the Body

In doing some research in order to answer a question of a commenter I found this article by Monsignor Cormac Burke, whose book on marriage I highly recommend.  It is an article on St. Augustine and his views concerning marriage and sexuality.  St. Augustine is identified by many–but not by Christopher West, to my knowledge–as the bogeyman of Catholic puritanism because of his negative views of sexuality based on his over-emphasis of original sin.  Monsignor Burke shows that this interpretation of great western doctor is not accurate.  This article is also helpful aid to the understanding of TOB in context.  The Church has always emphasized the inherent goodness of human sexuality.

Here is a quote from St. Augustine:

Let these nuptial blessings be the objects of our love: offspring, fidelity, the un­breakable bond. . . . Let these nuptial blessings be praised in marriage by him who wishes to extol the nuptial institution.

Here is part of Monsignor Burke’s conclusion:

It may well be that earlier in the twentieth century Christians needed to shake off a certain Puritanism in sexual matters, although it should be said that this was a particularly Protestant problem. In any case, it is scarcely the problem fac­ing us today.

In this context, it is interesting to recall how Augustine had first to defend marriage and sexuality against the Manichean tendency to treat them with contempt or ha­tred, and later had to continue to defend them against the Pelagian tendency to treat them as if there were nothing deli­cate or problematic about them.

Insofar as Puritanism or Jansenism contained some semi-Manichean elements, we have moved away from them. Augustine’s firmly held, middle-of-the-road position can warn us of the dangers coming from a neo-Pelagianism, with its false suggestion that nothing is wrong with sex, that there is nothing needing control in sex.

To Chris West: Enough Already. How about a Response?

I am just following up on the latest developments of the West controversy in which I have been lately involved (pretty severe content warning).

Christopher West, in the last couple of days has been in the Catholic press–not responding to his critics, mind you.  All he says is public relations as far as I can tell.

In Our Sunday Visitor he is quoted as saying:

“Many good people seem unaware of what the great saints have taught about the mystical dimensions of our sexuality. This is where John Paul II’s theology of the body leads us — into the mystical depths of our creation as male and female, and the call of the two to become ‘one flesh.’

In my latest piece, linked to above, I show how West misconstrues St. Louis de Montfort as supporting some kind of holy fascination with the body of the Blessed Mother.  I do this not by quoting West out of context, but by actually showing from the text of the saint that he says nothing like what West suggests.

Then the National Catholic Register, reports the following:

West’s struggle to stem the confusion reflected a desire to both defend his reputation and to prevent a backlash against the late Pope’s teachings, which have begun to enter the mainstream of Catholic catechetics with the encouragement of Pope Benedict XVI.

It is not clear how accurately this statement reflects the actual views of Christopher West; however, there is no question that West and his supporters claim that he is the authority on TOB and that his assertions are compatible with the views of John Paul II.  The above statement goes so far as to suggest that disagreement with West is tantamount to disagreement with John Paul II.   But from the point of the critics the objections have nothing to do with the Holy Father’s teachings, but with the extrapolations of West.

And this is precisely the point of this post.  West and his supporter are avoiding to deal with the substantive issues raised in the critiques.  They say “The critics should have done it privately.”  “They should quote sources.”  When we quote sources they say  we  “are taking everything out of context.”   They tell us “West has good instincts; trust him.”

Unfortunately, they are making this worse for themselves.  I will do everything in my power to see to it that this remains a gentleman’s disagreement.  But I will not be told I am a prude for disagreeing with Christopher West or that I disagree with him because I have a personal animus.  I find this methodology and “strategic management” tiresome, to put it mildly.

Dawn Eden records some of the wearying methodology employed by West to deal with objections to his presentation in her latest post.  I refer to the incident transcribed by her in my latest contribution on her blog.


Seven in the Heart, One in the Hand

king_alfred

One commenter pointed out that in my exposition of the Blessed Mother’s courage (“Damsels in Distress“), that my distinction between the masculine courage of action and the feminine courage of suffering, according to St. Bonaventure, did not sufficiently take account of the many biblical images, nor of the great Chesterton’s “The Ballad of the White Horse.”  She is right, of course, that discussion about passive courage does not do enough to account for the Blessed Virgin’s active role in the redemption of mankind, or of women in general throughout history.  I have no disagreement with the commenter.

In fact, I have have written on the subject Our Lady’s presence in “The Ballad of the White Horse” in a paper I delivered at our international symposium on the Coredemption in England, 2001, entitled “Seven in the Heart, One in the Hand:  The Mediation of the Immaculate in the Poetry of Hopkins and Chesterton” (Mary at the Foot of the Cross II:  Acts of the International Symposium on Marian Coredemption, New Bedford:  Academy of the Immaculate.  395-439).  I am attaching here a pdf of the complete paper for those who are interested.  Also, FYI, there is an excellent reprint of the 1928 illustrated edition of “The Ballad of the White Horse,” published by Ignatius Press, that also includes a very helpful introduction and endnotes by Sister Bernadette Sheridan.

Since I have been studying the Theology of the Body lately, I would like to suggest that one of John Paul II’s insights–one that is thoroughly traditional–would be helpful here.  There is no question that man is characteristically the “giver” (“the one who loves”) and woman the “receiver” (“the one who is loved”; cf. TOB 92.6); however, the Holy Father also  says:

The two functions of the mutual exchange are deeply connected in the whold process of “gift of self”: giving and accepting the gift interpenetrate in such a way that the very act of giving becomes acceptance, and acceptance transforms itself into giving (TOB 17.4).

By way of analogy, I think we can say that the “giver” is also the “defender,” and the “receiver” is also the “defended,” but this does not preclude a mutuality, though the courage of action in a woman, such as in the case of Judith or St. Joan of Arc is particularly marked by empathy and uniquely maternal characteristics.

I think of St. Joan, in particular, who received the ability to ride a horse, to formulate military strategy, especially the placement of artillery, as an extraordinary grace.  She was not merely a figure head of the French army; nevertheless, she never raised her sword against a man.  It was merely enough for her to get to the enemy castle and touch it with her banner.  I also recall how she nursed the dying, including the English, and shed tears over them.

I include below an apropos excerpt from my paper.  Without burdening this post with too much back story, one should at least know that at the beginning of the ballad, King Alfred, who is leading the Saxons against the invasion of England by the Danes, receives a vision of Our Blessed Lady in an hour when he has all but lost hope.  In desperation he asks Her:

“When our last bow is broken, Queen,
And our last javelin cast,
Under some sad, green evening sky,
Holding a ruined cross on high,
Under warm westland grass to lie,
Shall we come home at last?”

Her answer is paradoxical:

“I tell you naught for your comfort,
Yea, naught for your desire,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher.

“Night shall be thrice night over you,
And heaven an iron cope.
Do you have joy without a cause,
Yea, faith without a hope?”

Alfred then goes onto gather his chiefs and army in order to enter into a battle and quest in which he is offered no promise of victory.  Here is the excerpt from my paper:

King Alfred, after an initial victory in battle (Book V), and then the eventual slaying of all three of his chiefs (Book VI), was left in a predicament very much like the one he had been in when he had seen Our Lady, although his later doom and England’s was far more imminent.  The Battle of Ethandune was all but lost.  In a long speech Alfred convinced what was left of his army that “death is a better ale to drink” (bk. 7, 119) than to drain the cup of surrender to heathendom.  Convinced by their captain, the soldiers “stood firm” and “feeble” (153).  Alfred blew his horn calling his men to the hunt, and “The people of the peace of God/ Went roaring down to die” (184).  But in the desperation of the situation the Immaculate was present in Her causeless joy and hopeless faith:

And when the last arrow,
Was fitted and was flown,
When the broken shield hung on the breast,
And the hopeless lance was laid at rest,
And the hopeless horn was blown,

The King looked up, and what he saw
Was a great light like death,
For our Lady stood on the standards rent
As lonely and as innocent
As When between white walls she went
In the lilies of Nazareth.

One instant in a still light,
He saw Our Lady then,
Her dress was soft as western sky,
And she was queen most womanly–
But she was queen of men.

Over the iron forest
He saw Our Lady stand;
Her eyes were sad withouten art,
And seven swords were in her heart–
But one was in her hand. (185-205).

In the moment of supreme sacrifice, the Mother of God interceded on behalf of Her children.  The seven swords of Her own heartfelt sorrow, became one which She wielded in hand on behalf of those for whom She suffered:  In the first vision of King Alfred Mary had said to him:

“But you and all the kind of Christ
Are ignorant and brave,
And you have wars you hardly win
And souls you hardly save” (bk. 1, 250-53).

Thus we are shown how this intercession of the Immaculate in temporal war is also connected to a greater war for the salvation of souls.  These wars hardly won and souls hardly saved are remarkably juxtaposed in another of Chesterton’s poems whose theme is along the same lines, viz., “The Queen of the Seven Swords.”  That poem is actually the introduction to seven monologues delivered by seven saints of Western Europe, who, as Chesterton notes, “have no connection with the historical saints” that “bore their names,” but rather are types of the different nations, viz., St. James of Spain, St. Denys of France, St. Anthony of Italy, St. Patrick of Ireland, St. Andrew of Scotland, St. David of Wales and St. George of England.  There, in “The Queen of the Seven Swords,” Chesterton records a dream in which he saw Europe as a waste land, and after surveying the panorama of desolation said:  “There is none to save.” It is obvious from his descriptions that the wasteland is typical of moral desolation.  In the gloom, however, he saw a source of hope:

I saw on their breaking terraces, cracking and sinking for ever,
One shrine rise blackened and broken; like a last cry to God.

Old gold on the roof hung ragged as scales of a dragon dropping,
The gross green weeds of the desert had spawned on the painted wood:
But erect in the earth’s despair and arisen against heaven interceding,
Whose name is Cause of Our Joy, in the doorway of death she stood.

The Woman who had asked of Alfred “Do you have joy without a cause?” is in fact the Cause of His Joy, and this as She stands in the “doorway of death.”  Thus we begin to understand that the doom of Alfred is not a joy strictly without cause, but one without any natural explanation, for his joy has its source in the Heart of the Queen of the Seven Swords.  Chesterton goes on in “The Queen of the Seven Swords:

The Seven Swords of her Sorrow held out their hilts like a challenge,
The blast of that stunning silence as a sevenfold trumpet blew
Majestic in more than gold, girt round with a glory or iron,
The hub of her wheel of weapons; with a truth beyond torture true.

That truth which is beyond torture true is that faith which saves, not in spite of suffering, but because of suffering.  Hence we understand what the Lady meant when She asked Alfred “Do you have faith without a hope?”  Not a natural hope, or a conviction that things will get better, but a conviction that God is faithful to His promises.  In “The Towers of Time,” Chesterton says that “the heart of the swords, seven times wounded,/ Was never wearied as our hearts are.” And in the poem “In October,” honor is due to Mary, because Hers was “The broken Heart and the unbroken word.” Is this not why in his Encyclical, Redemptoris Mater, the Holy Father compares the Blessed Virgin to Abraham, saying with St. Paul that in hope believed against hope, She is blessed for Her unwavering faith?

Pinto Leads the Choir

Matt Pinto, founder and president of Ascension Press, the publisher of Christopher West, came to the defense of his star author the other day.  In the first sentence he resurrected Mark Shea’s “bayonet our own troops” line:

Over the past few weeks, I have watched a friend and fellow soldier in the Church get assaulted by his own troops . . .

There have been various ways in which the critique of West has been handled, but for the most part the thoughtful critiques were respectful and sedate.  In particular, I have made a point of trying to be constructive, as I said:

The problem is that sometimes the combox is too easy a place to lock and load, fire and reload. But the sword cuts both ways: I am not out to sentence and execute Chris West, so don’t suggest that a critique of his thought, even if you disagree with that critique, is an effort to, in Shea’s words, “bayonet our own troops.”

Matt Pinto, it seems, is counting on an easy dismissal of the critics based on the reputation of Christopher West.  He argues that the fruits are good, therefore, there is nothing meriting criticism.  One commenter (Which Fruits Shall We Pick?) notes the weakness of this argument:

For years, people defended the now disgraced pedophile and father of at least one illegitimate child Fr. Marcial Maciel by claiming that he couldn’t possibly have led an immoral life because “the fruits” of his work were so good. No less a Catholic intellect than the late Richard John Neuhaus made this explicit claim in an article still available at Catholic Exchange (a site Matt Pinto helped found). The article, available here http://catholicexchange.com/2002/05/14/93167/ bears a startling resemblance to Pinto’s current piece “By his fruits you shall know him.”

(I am not equating West to Maciel, but rather pointing out that an inadequate defense from 2002 makes a poor model for today).

It should serve as a cautionary tale to Pinto and all those who make the “fruits” argument. To them, I would caution – pardon the obvious pun – that you cannot pick your “fruits.” Are the fruits of those scandalized by West any less valid than the fruits of those who have seen benefit? How shall we weigh these obviously contradictory consequences?

Pinto, a publisher of West’s books and a colleague from West’s Institute has written an interesting response to David Schindler, but at the end of the day, I have a fundamental problem with his premise.

From the long-running discussion, and many people who have commented that West makes them uneasy, or worse, it is clear that there’s an abundant harvest here, at least some serious portion of which is not nourishing. Not all fruits are good. Perhaps those who make the fruits argument should remember Maciel, and, of course, the Garden of Eden…

In any case, Pinto completely avoids addressing any of the substantive concerns raised by the critics, apparently, in the hope of not having to, ever.  For the most part, this tactic will probably  work.  He is shooting the messengers:  “Bad critics. Nasty West haters, all of you.”

Another commenter (Where’s Waldo) asks:

Now that we have heard from West’s publisher, who is next? His literary agent? His copyright attorney? Or his Public Relations firm? Where is HIS response.

Good questions.  How will he respond to Schindler’s offer to discuss this with him over time in the pages of Communio?  I don’t think Schindler will be easily pooh-poohed by West or one of his choir boys.

Damsels in Distress

kill-bill

I started on this post more than a year ago and have come back to it from time to time.  While I am up at Mount St. Francis, hiding in my cave and working on my paper for our Coredemption conference in July, I thought I would finally knock it out.  I shot a video on the same topic  a while back.

****

As one interested in helping to bring about a revival of Christian Chivalry, I have thought fondly of the image of the “damsel in distress” as being both iconic and inspiring of the chivalric ideals. I was horrified, then, to see such an honorable term being disparaged by those otherwise promoting the ideals of chivalry. Call me naive or nostalgic (or worse), but I cannot for the life of me see anything wrong with it.

I will admit, if we understand “damsel in distress” as it is caricatured, for example, by the film image of the pretty woman being tied screaming to the train tracks by Dastardly Dan and then being rescued by Agent Jim West, then there is much to be disparaged. The poor helpless thing is abused by one womanizer only to be rescued by another, and all the while is oblivious to everything but the attention she is getting. The ideals of chivalry have always been partially obscured by the cult of “courtly love.” There is nothing new under the sun.

Television and film have that curious ability of turning unalloyed gold into lead, and contrariwise, of cultivating a fondness for the most obvious absurdities. We have learned to despise feminine vulnerability and celebrate the wonders of the Bionic Woman.

So what is the “damsel in distress,” and why should her place in the venerable history of womanhood be preserved and honored? To answer this question we must first examine the contemporary feminist trend to idolize the Amazon.

Continue reading

On Peace Patrol

My latest contribution to the peace process.

In the context of the Holy Father’s remarks it appears to me that this “real and deep victory” concerns the refusal to consent to lust of thought, recognizing its intrinsic evil, but without the transference of the evil of that act onto its object, namely the body of a woman. And the danger of not winning that victory, in Manichaean terms, would be to excuse the sin of lust on the basis that one is overcome by the evil of a woman’s body. At least in this context, there does not seem to me to be a mandate to have a “fascination at the human sexual-body,” just an urging not to allow our rejection of lust to become a rejection of the goodness of the human body.

Thanks Dawn.

Living Off the Land

During the encampment last month, one of the activities for the boys was called “Living off the Land,” in which they were taught what plants on the property were edible and which were not. It was no surprise, then, that at the First Friday activities this month, certain little boys, at least one of which had not been on the encampment, were raiding all the presumably edible purple flowers.

I had not actually attended the class and I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between dandelion leaves and deadly nightshade, so I did not really know what to tell the panicked mothers. The next day the friars found half-eaten purple flowers all over the parking lot.

Turns out they are clover flowers. Not a problem. Watch.

more about “Mary Victrix“, posted with vodpod