Fr. Fidenzio Volpi, OFM Cap., R.I.P.

Fr. Fidenzio Volpi generously assumed a position of authority within the Institute at the bequest of the Holy Father which he neither asked for or wanted.  He did so under extraordinarily difficult circumstances and in the process paid the price by being pilloried in the gauntlet of the Catholic Internet, for the most part by people who did not know him and who knew nothing about the situation with which he was dealing apart from what they read from bloggers with an axe to grind.

I am personally grateful for the sacrifices he selflessly made on behalf of the Church and our Institute.  It was a no win situation for him, but he never complained about it.  He just continually asked us to do what the Churched asked of us, and gave us an example to follow.  He was a good man, and much aligned in the manner of a true follower of Christ.

Please pray for the repose of his soul, and for the good of our Institute.  There has already been enough talk and too much sabotage.  Now is the time to believe like Catholics and use supernatural means to achieve what can only be a supernatural end, namely, the restoration of unity within our Institute and its perseverance.

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The Dishonored Patrimony of the Boy Scouts

Nobility is a patrimony of excellence handed on from one generation to the next.  Fathers consider it their responsibility provide their sons with a better and more honorable life than they themselves have had.  In turn, sons consider it their responsibility to treasure what they have received, to respect it and preserve it, and again, to augment it for the next generation.  This is the ideal.  The tradition of chivalry is one of the means by which it is strived for.

One can rightly say that the leaders of the Boy Scouts of America have had the same noble responsibility, and tragically have failed to preserve and hand on the excellent patrimony of scouting in America to the next generation.  Instead, through their capitulation to the homosexual agenda, they have created a profound contradiction between the broadbased ideals of scouting and the natural law.  Worse, they make it impossible for Catholics to clarify and lift-up the scouting ideal in the light of the full revelation of Christ. Continue reading

The Quiet Witness of a Catholic Sportsman

From William Doino

If you love sports, as I do–and/or are interested in how our faith often interacts with them–you might like reading my new First Things “On the Square” column, attached via link below, on Tom Konchalski– a legendary Catholic basketball scout (and graduate of Fordham), whom I was able to interview recently.

One of the reasons I so appreciate writing is because, in doing so, I frequently come across wonderful people like this, whose quite witness in a chaotic world serve to remind us about the importance of what Russell Kirk memorably called “the permanent things.” There are unrecognized saints among us, and one of them just might be Mr. Konchalski.

“Tom Konchalksi’s Quiet Witness”

Devotion

The president and the first lady are kind of like the mom and the dad of the country.

“Dad, will you protect us from all those nasty guns?”

“Sure, Johnny, we will have all the guns.”

“Dad, will you pay for our contraception?”

“Sure, Johnny, enjoy yourself.”

“Dad, will you let me marry Steve?”

“Of course, Jonny, as long as it makes you happy.”

“Dad, will you kill those bad men?”

“Jonny, you have no idea what they got coming,” thinking, “nor does anybody else.”

“Dad, you’re so smart!”

“You’re a good boy, Johnny.”

Catholic Encampment 2011

This year’s Catholic Encampment for fathers and sons will be conducted at Camp Canonicus, Exeter, Rhode Island, not far from the Griswold friary:

Friday, September 9 – Sunday, September 11

Click image to link to Encampment Page that includes the encamplment flyer, registration information and the registration and release form.

The image in the side bar has the link also and will remain there for the duration.

Lost in the Archives

Well, not totally lost.  I am just reading most of the time that I don’t have other duties to which I must attend.  I hope to soon have a post on an interesting aspect of the occult pertaining to the difference between Christian mysticism and neopagan, magical consciousness.  The attraction of “alternative religion,” is that it promises “supernatural” or transcendent consciousness, the experience of unity, integration and joy without dogma.  It is a big temptation.

Please pray that I get this book on Harry Potter and the occult done soon.

I am uploading here a very cogent list of 10 non-religious reasons why same-sex marriage should not be legalized for your consideration.  (I am not the author of the list.  I neglected to mention this.  The author is anonymous.) BTW, did you know that 85% of all abortions, according to Planned Parenthood research arm, the Guttmacher Institute, are obtained by unmarried women.  My understanding is that the latest statistic has it up to 87%, but I have not been able to verify that.  Either way, it is a tremendous statistic.  The erosion of marriage is directly related to the incidence of abortion, and the elimination of children from the culture of marriage is obliterating the most fundamental social institution of our race.  If we want to stop abortion we have to address the problem with marriage.

Helper in Childbirth

It has been my intention for many years to install a Marian pro-life shrine in our chapel in Griswold, Connecticut. I wanted something very special that would be an exorcism against the culture of death, but would also be beautiful and positive—something truly representative of the Culture of Life.  I spoke about this with an iconographer we have worked with over a number of years, Marek Czarneki, and he was very excited.  He had thought about doing something along these lines also.

He told me about a devotional image used in the Orthodox Church by midwives, The Helper in Childbirth:

This particular image is not altogether liturgical, as Our Lady’ hair is uncovered, a feature which ordinarily has erotic connotations.  This is why, Marek tells me, Eastern Christian tradition permitted unmarried women to uncover their heads as a sign of their availability, but not married women. In the case of this icon, I surmise the uncovered head indicates the Virgin’s recent delivery, which connects it to the labor of those who were blessed by this image during the experience of childbirth.

Parenthetically, I might note that the liturgical canons of iconography indicate a Theology of Clothing rather than one of nakedness.  The nuptiality of the liturgy is not a carnalization of the sacred mysteries, contrary to the mythology of some.

So Marek went to work in order to make this wonderful prototype more fitting for public veneration in a liturgical context.  Here is the result:

See AirMaria for the Blessing of the Icon, last Epiphany Sunday and for an interview with Marek.

The following is Marek’s explanation of the Icon:

While there is only one Virgin Mary, scholars have catalogued more than 1,100 distinct icons of the Mother of God. Spread out in front of us, it is difficult to understand why there are so many.  In their variety, we wonder if they all could possibly represent the same historical individual?  Every icon represents a different part of Our Lady, emphasizing specific facets of her life, personality, and intercession.  Despite the multiplicity of her icons, no single image has captured her fullness or proven adequate.

Some icons are named for shrines and places where miraculous events occurred, like the Virgin of Vladimir, a city in Russia.  Some are titled with words of praise, like the icon called “Life-Giving Spring” or “All Creation Rejoices in Thee”.  Other icons are titled after our own needs, and testify to Our Lady’s intercession.   We know of icons called  “The Mother of God, Confidence of Sinners”, or “She Who Soothes My Sorrows”, or the very beautiful and famous icon called “Perpetual Help”.

This icon of the Mother of God is called “The Helper in Childbirth“.  The first prototypes of this icon appeared in Western Russia, in the early 19th century.  It was made for a very practical and urgent need – the difficulties in conceiving and giving birth.

A variation of the ancient and famous icon of Our Lady of the Sign, this icon differs by showing the Mother of God folding her hands in prayer over her heart, instead of holding them outstretched to the sides.  Under the protective arch of her hands, we can see the newly conceived Christ Child, emanating from inside her womb in an almond shaped-halo of light.  To show He is the “Logos“, or Word of God incarnate, He holds a small white scroll.  She is filled and radiant with light from inside.

Originally, in a time when too many women died in childbirth, midwives carried this icon to help alleviate the pains and dangers of this life-giving process. Because of the practical purpose of this icon, it belonged more to the life of lay people and popular piety than the public, liturgical life of the Church. It would have been unusual to find it venerated in a church, or depicted on a large panel, since it needed to be small enough to carry among the other urgent, portable tools of a midwife’s work.

This icon is a prayer, from one mother to another: “Mother of God, you know my anxiety. Help me in this time of danger and happiness”.  It is an icon of remarkable empathy, from one Birth-Giver to another birth-giver.  Yet an icon cannot be closed in its meaning and use; it must be open to everyone at all times, in all circumstances, as the Mother of God herself is open to us in all our needs.  It is not an icon only for women in labor.

Every pregnancy is a miracle that fills us with joy, awe and dread at the same time. Surely the Mother of God will help us in this need.

We can pray for the difficulty in conceiving; she certainly understands miraculous conceptions, as did her own mother, St. Anne.

We can pray to her in the difficulty in carrying a child to term, and to safeguard us in the all the possible complications; imagine how she prayed, pregnant and riding on a donkey, only to give birth in a stable.

We can pray in front of it in joy and thanksgiving for her protection and guidance in helping us bear and raise children.

We can pray in front of it in the pain of the loss of a child, as the Mother of God herself knew the death of her only Child.

But what use is this icon of Divine Maternity to the single person, or the celibate?  Despite her miraculous conceiving, she still remains a virgin; one Orthodox hymn calls her the “unwedded bride”.

We can all stand in front of her, and pray in thanksgiving for being born; all of us have experienced the mystery of our own conception and birth.  We all have parents, and all are children.

Through her prayers, the Mother of God stands beside us as our midwife and model. In all ways, through our own human will and the grace of God, we all are expected to give birth to Christ into the world. St. Teresa of Avila reminds us, now we must be His hands, to bless and heal.

The icon will remain in the sanctuary of the chapel for forty days after which it will be installed in a special shrine at the side of the chapel.  Our hope is that pilgrims will come to find strength in Her.  It is an image of life through which mothers (and fathers) who have miscarried or who have had abortions might find healing; through which couples who wish to conceive may find a hearing, through which mothers who are carrying a child might find protection for a safe delivery.  It is also an image through which pro-lifers of all stripes might appeal to the Mother and Son for a victory of the Culture of Life.  We will also have a place for flowers near the image to be decorated at will by the Virgin’s clients.

The Queen of Courtesy will Conquer.

Encampment Version 2.0 in Development

The Fall Father and Son Encampment has been cancelled for a number of reasons, not least of which is my current status of living mostly in New Bedford until November when a new Guardian will arrive to take over the run of the house there.  It may be a good time to take a break anyway, as we have been tossing ideas around about how to make the Encampments better and the preparations more manageable.

Right now we are talking about taking the weekend “off campus,” so to speak to a campground and conducting perhaps one larger event every year, instead of three smaller ones.  (We will continue to use the obstacle course at the friary for other events.)  I would also like to open the Encampment to boys who have no fathers (or fathers who are involved with them at this level), since fatherlessness is a big problem and one that has long concerned me.

Please pray for the Knights of Lepanto who have worked so hard to make these encampments a success.  We have had a great deal of positive feedback and are very much encouraged.  We hope to have something really great, innovative and powerful in the Queen of Lepanto to present for next year.  I will keep you all abreast of the developments from this forum.

Thank you for all your support and please spread the word about next years open encampment.

War in Paradise: Tonight’s Discussion Group Topic

Update: Post on Tonight’s subject matter added below.

The somewhat adventurous,tumultuous, perilous and thrilling relations between men and women will be the topic of tonight’s discussion. Later in the day I will update this post with my profound insights into the matter.  (It should be a very short post.)

Send me an email so I can hook you electronically in to the discussion beginning at 8:10 pm tonight, or better yet, come to the friary in Griswold for the holy hour at 7:00 Pm, followed by the discussion.  Don’t be discouraged if I don’t email you right back.  I promise you will have the login information in advance of the meeting time.

Should be interesting.  Look forward to seeing you.

(BTW, I will have the next Templar video up tomorrow.)

Update:

Patristic interpretation of sacred scripture, especially in St. Irenaeus, establishes the Garden of Paradise as a kind of paradigm for the whole of human history.  The story of creation, of sin and the promise of redemption is recapitulated and re-circulated over and over at different levels, from type to fulfillment to final consummation and completion.  At the heart of the paradigm is the relationship between man and woman.

There is much to unpack in that paragraph, but for our purpose it is sufficient to point out that all this is summarized in the idea that Christ and Our Lady are the New Adam and Eve, who by means of a parallel but antithetical action undo the disobedience of our first parents by their obedience.

The first paradise was a fortress in which peace reigned until Eve opened the gate to the dragon and, seeing the danger, Adam ran and hid.  That pretty much summarizes it.  Ever since then, the enemy has wrought havoc in the City of God and often seems to be the Lord of the World.

In the first paradise, peace reigned because there was harmony between God and man, between man and woman and between the faculties of man within himself.  In attacking man and overturning his internal integrity and harmony of soul, the serpent assaulted above all man’s relationship with God, but also the human relationships and, most specifically, the relationship between man and woman.  And even while the most extreme effects of the disorder that entered into mankind is witnessed in global dissention and war, our most common and profoundly painful experience is found within marriage and the family.

But this cosmic war, as we know, did not really begin in the Garden.  It began, rather, in the “heavens,” before the creation of man.  The symbolism of Apocalypse chapter 12 concerning the Woman clothed with the sun in battle with the red dragon has been interpreted as a primordial revelation to the angels before any had fallen of God’s plan to send his Son into the world born of a woman.  Thus, Jesus and Mary were the predestined archetypes for all humanity, and when Lucifer’s pride drove him to reject the heavenly King and Queen in anticipation of their coming, he prepared himself to make war on the rest of the Woman’s seed (Apoc 12:17).

We are under attack.  That is the history of our race and while religious persons recognize this truth in respect to their relationship with God and in regard to their own personal integrity, I am not so sure that men and women, husband and wives, realize that their private wars have the Father of Lies as the instigator.

I have touched upon the relations between men and women a number of times before on this blog, in particular, in the posts “Damsels in Distress” and “Ditching the Marital Biases.”  I put a great deal of thought into both of these pieces.  Each time I finished writing, I had learned something myself, but I also had a real experience of dissatisfaction.

It is hard to put a finger on it.  I often perceive myself as being ambivalent in speech and writing on the matter, taking men to task when I speak to them, and women separately, but always saying that it takes two to tango and finally qualifying everything by saying a special burden is placed on men because women are the weaker sex.

A certain narrative has developed because of feminism.  Historical memory, vocabulary, what we choose to talk about and what we choose not to talk about: the narrative of feminists has influenced it all.  The Church has developed an apologetic that speaks to the zeitgeist and is based on an acceptance the assumptions of the feminists if not their conclusions.  And apologetics is always limited in its scope of understanding.  As a method of teaching, apologetics does not seek the deeper meaning of the subject it treats, it only adapts a difficult argument or one that is at odds with the zeitgeist so that it can be more easily accepted.  Inevitably, it involves making generalizations, oversimplifying, avoiding the cans of worms, and accepting the assumptions of the interlocutor whenever possible.  This is called “speaking the language of the people,” or “meeting people where they are at.”  I have no argument with the method, insofar is it is necessary for apologetics.  My problem is that probably most Catholics do not recognize its limitations.

I think many men, even if they want to restore the dignity and importance of fatherhood do not believe the pastors of the Church are wholeheartedly supporting their efforts.  (This is even the experience of many pastors themselves.)  Let’s just say it is a common experience.

Most of the time, it seems that what we hear from pastors is the feminist narrative: that women have been maligned throughout history at the hands of men; that the good men (males) do is due to the support of women, for which women have not been fairly recognized, while  the sins that women commit are often due to the failures of men, for which women suffer unjustly; when speaking of the vocation of women, it is exclusive to women, but when speaking of the vocation of men (males), it is swallowed up in the general vocation of all humanity, i.e. there is no particular vocation of men (males) that does not also include women in the broad umbrella of all humanity.

(This is not my formulation, but one I have heard from another man.  I agree with it and would be interested in knowing the opinion of others.)

This insight is important, because while many of us have woken up to the problem men confront, we are not always sure where the assumptions of feminists are correct and where they are exaggerated.  And in any case, one takes one’s intellectual life into one’s hands if he or she questions any of it.

The fact is that women have a tremendous amount of power, even without ostensible authority.  Men virtually always lose the argument when the battle is fought on the field of the personal and emotional, and of course, this is where women hold their ground, and it is where they insist on fighting.

Rick Varieur, a Catholic psychologist and speaker in Rhode Island, once said that men are like desert fighters and women are like jungle fighters.  Women will step for a moment out of the jungle and taunt the man, and then run back into the jungle.  The worst mistake a man can make is to follow them back into the jungle, which is just exactly what they are tempted to do.  And when men make that mistake, they always get their throats slit.

Of course, this is not a new phenomenon, but it is one that is given validation by the feminist narrative.  I do believe that in societies in which women were expected to be obedient, and in which they had (and have) a real reason to fear abandonment, adultery or abuse, emotional and sexual blackmail are their weapons of choice.  Men, and specifically husbands and those in authority become the whipping boys, whether they deserve it or not.  Women develop the habit of never being satisfied with anything a man does, or reserve their approval until he proves himself to be Prince Charming.

When culture at large accepts the feminist narrative as the only legitimate point of view, then the vice of feminine crabbiness becomes the ingrained habit of an entire culture, indeed the very zeitgeist, the lens through which everything is analyzed.

I really don’t know what the solution is.  Almost anything that is said needs to be qualified by a contrary or at least complementary consideration.  Women belong to the weaker sex and they do need to be protected.  However, unless they learn to accept what they find to be the more impersonal and harder aspects of a man’s character, then they will always something to complain about, either because the man is not sensitive enough, or because he is not a good enough leader.

To the extent that feminist empowerment breeds contempt of men, even among non-feminists, is the extent to which their narrative will define the value of men in the eyes of the culture, and therefore will make it impossible for masculine authority, labor and protectiveness to be accepted without a spirit of hyper-criticalness and cynicism.

All of this is a bit of thinking out loud.  This conundrum brings me back to the original war in paradise and to the cosmic time before when the conflict between the Woman and Her Seed and the Dragon and his seed began.  I really do not have the answers I am looking for, at least not directly.  But the prophetic grace of our age has to do with the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart, and this will be a triumph also within the heart of man, male and female.

This is a war we cannot afford to lose, but we cannot win it if we do not proclaim the Mother of Jesus as Queen.  For some this will seem far off course from the subject, but it is at the heart of Marian Chivalry or any kind of chivalry that can be termed Christian, whether it is practiced by men or women.

For anyone who may think I am being too hard on women, I would recommend you read the two posts I mentioned above (“Damsels in Distress” and “Ditching the Marital Biases”), if you have not already.  I think I give both credit and blame where it is due on both sides.