9th International Conference on Marian Coredemption

Symposium Fatima

The speakers at the symposium in Fatima:

Back Row (Left to Right):  Father Edward Ondrako, Dr. Mark Miravalle, Father Peter Damian M. Fehlner, Father Stefano Cecchin, Father Stefano M. Manelli, Father Etienne Richer, Father Alessandro M. Appolonio

Front Row:  Father Paulo M. Siano, Father Settimio M. Manelli, Father Angelo M. Geiger, Father Serafino M. Lanzetta

Not pictured here is Msgr. Arthur Calkins who wrote a paper which was read at the symposium but was unable to attend.

God bless all those who contributed and participated in this work in honor of Our Lady.

The published version of the of the  previous symposia can be obtained here under the series title Mary at the Foot of the Cross.  The papers from the latest symposium will be published, hopefully, before the beginning of the new year.

Hat tip to Winston for the photo.

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Triumph or Triumphalism

Today at the “9th International Conference on Marian Coredemption” here in Fatima, the first four papers were read, including one by Msgr. Arthur Calkins, renowned Mariologist.  His paper is entitled “Mary and the Church in the Papal Magisterium before and After the Second Vatican Council.”  One would think that in the many years since the council some theologian would have written on the subject of Mary’s relation to the Church in papal magisterium, but apparently not.

In a particular, a remark of Msgr. Calkins made about what he calls “Vatican II triumphalism” struck me:

“Vatican II triumphalism” is virtually always a partial and one-sided interpretation of council documents which favors a position espoused by one party at the time of the council and studiously avoids mention of any conciliar statements which would counterbalance the “favored” position.

Boy, that nails it for me.  This has been particularly true in the case of Mariology, which is the exact context in which the monsignor presents this observation.  But this VII-T Syndrome has been adopted in many other respectes as well.  Without belaboring the point, I think there is a robust TOB-T (Theology of the Body Triumphalism) at work here in the United States as well.

One instance of this problem in Mariology has been the way in which the relative place of Mary in the Church in respect to the magisterium has been minimized.  The ancient title of  Our Lady, Doctrix Apostolororum (Teacher of the Apostles) is not a very popular idea among the VII-triumphalists and has been judged by them to be an “outmoded form of theological attribution and piety.”  Yet both John Paul II (see note 8 at this link for quote) and Benedict XVI (March 22, 2006) have acknowledged that the Marian dimension of the Church is prior and more fundamental than the petrine (having to do with the office of Peter).  The triumphalists will say that on these points the popes are out of step with Vatican II, just as they did when John Paul II used the title Coredemptrix six times during his pontificate.

But the idea of Doctrix Apostolorum, is neither a post-Vatican II innovation, nor is it an idea that has been condemned or discouraged by Vatican II.  Msgr. Calkins quotes Pius XII at length on the same subject.  I will just give a bit of it here:

More exalted than St. Peter, the Vicar of Christ on earth, the Mother of our Lord Jesus yet has in common with Peter in a manner all her own a dignity, an authority, a power which associates her with the Apostolic College as its Queen.

This Marian office does not supplant the petrine or apostolic, but it is, nevertheless, superior to it.  Pope Pius goes on:

While Peter has the key of heaven, Mary has the key to God’s heart;  while Peter binds and looses, Mary also binds with the chain of love and looses with the gift of pardon (address to pilgrims from Genoa, April 21, 1940).

Another speaker today, Father Etienne Richer, pointed out that in the eithgth chapter of Lumen Gentium which treats of the Blessed Virgin, the council fathers write that the council

does not, however, have it in mind to give a complete doctrine on Mary, nor does it wish to decide those questions which the work of theologians has not yet fully clarified. Those opinions therefore may be lawfully retained which are propounded in Catholic schools concerning her, who occupies a place in the Church which is the highest after Christ and yet very close to us.

Thus VII triumphalism has gone way too far.  It is time to stop presuming that the Church woke up to the modern age in the 1960’s.  It is just not true.  In particular, in respect to Marian doctrine and devotion, we should be cooperating with the Queen of Apostles to bring about the Triumph of Her Immaculate Heart and not hindering it by misguided triumphalism.

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.

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?

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.

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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

Douglas Kmiec: Victim

Brian Brown from the National Organization for Marriage has directed me to a new blog which is well worth your attention. It is called Moral Accountability and is the work of Robert P. George and his colleagues.  There Matthew J. Franck critiques the latest mental gymnastics of Doug Kmiec.

Writing in Commonweal, Kmiec complains that he has been vilified by the right without justification, that basically all the opposition to his support of Obama has taken the form of name calling.   Here’s a taste:

Noting my continued good health, the editors of Commonweal invited this essay which I submit even as I acknowledge the wisdom of Sr. Pius’s eighth-grade counsel: “Douglas, just offer it up!” That was good advice; and indeed I have at times considered the blog calumnies hurled at me as penance for occasions when I have put on a bit of a false front. We all want to be perceived as intelligent, kindly, and well considered, and we all occasionally speak too glibly for our own good-as I did, for example, representing Obama on the campaign trail while chastising him for his criticism of Justice Clarence Thomas; or suggesting, out loud and even on camera, that his one-time pledge of support for the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) during the primary was “boneheaded.” These are not politic statements, but unlike most blog entries, they represent honest, substantive dissent illustrating how it is possible for a person to be capable of admiring both Barack Obama and Clarence Thomas, and of supporting Obama while rejecting legislation that would in any way limit religious freedom or insult the church. (My message to President Obama on FOCA, by the way, will remain what it was to candidate Obama: FOCA runs contrary to the pursuit of the common good.)

Just a couple of things.  First off, Mr. Kmiec is dodging when he says that Obama’s support of FOCA consisted of a “one-time pledge.”  Senator Obama was cosponsor of the bill which was introduced into the senate April 19, 2007.  Then, on  January 22, 2008, 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Senator Obama released a statement in which he promised as president to see FOCA passed: Continue reading

When Worlds Collide

olg-painting

From a homily of mine for today’s feastday:

The story of Our Lady of Guadalupe is about the conflict between two worlds, or better between two diametrically opposed visions of the world. When the Immaculate Virgin appeared to St. Juan Diego and spoke the gentlest words of encouragement to him, She was standing, quite literally, on top of the shrine of the mother goddess of the Aztecs. That image of the Woman Clothed with the Sun, standing on Tepeyac Hill upon the ruined idolatrous shrine is little snapshot of the whole of history: I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel (Genesis 3:15).

There can be only one ultimate outcome of the struggle between the two visions of the world. The kingdom of darkness will fall and the kingdom of light will prevail. But the outcome remains in play as regards the individual destiny of each person. We have a choice. In fact, we must choose. There is no standing on the side lines in this conflict.

Why would we choose not to be on the winning side, on the side of right, of godliness and virtue? The tragedy and incongruity of human history is that many do in fact choose ultimately to lose their life forever. But the Virgin of Guadalupe has the strongest objections to our being lost.

PDF of the entire homily

Talking Turkey About the Moose Hunter

Okay, I have a touch of Palimania.  I admit it.  But I am on the road to recovery.  Still, I will say up front that the Palin pick has swayed my vote.

Think about it.  All the mythology about The One, which took 18 months and the art of Hollywood to create, was all blown away in a few days by a real middle class, religious, staunchly pro-life mom who does not appear to be politically motivated.  Even if the Republicans loose, the moment is too sweet not to savor.

BTW, Palin’s speech came close to surpassing the record breaking viewership of the big 0’s speech, even though Palin’s had been carried by 4 fewer networks.  No smoke and mirrors, no Greek god motif and no support from Oprah!  Not bad.

Whatever might be the celebrity effect that has been caused by her gender, attractiveness and story, I think that the kind of support she is receiving from the right could in no way be generated if she were not the no-nonsense, social conservative that she is.

Considering what is at stake, I think Catholics and other Christians who brush this ticket off are going to die old maids.  At some point you have to be thankful for what you have, even if it is not perfect.  That just might as well be a donkey in the back of that truck.

Even so, the objections raised against the whole working mother iconography of Sarah Palin, one that militates against the traditional socially conservative religious view of marriage and family life, cannot easily be dismissed.  I was a bit mortified by this post by Debbie Schlussel:

And for the last several days, my jaw dropped to note the partisan pandering on both sides of the aisle, first as prominent liberal feminist women suddenly discover that a woman actually should stay home and raise a family, but second–and far more disappointing to me–as conservatives and Republicans suddenly endorse the fictional notions that 1) a woman can do it all and working women are good at raising a family–nix on both; and 2) it’s not a problem that a man quit his job and subvert his life to raise the family in submission to the ambitions of his wife.

It’s odd–and, frankly, jarring–to hear formerly traditional family values conservatives throw it all former principle out the window to adopt the lingua franca of what was once the exclusive domain of the Gloria Steinems and Betty Friedans of the world, to call “sexist,” those who raise the issue of Sarah Palin’s ability to mother her family and be a full-time working woman at the same time.

What is, since Friday, now “sexist” to these many conservatives-cum-lemmings, was yesterday “traditional family values.”

Ouch.  O course, I know this.  It is why I pointed out that Palin’s political career appears more like the efforts of a mom, who was fed up with the good ‘ol boys, to set things right.  This has happened before, even in Catholic cultures.  Women have found themselves in extraordinary circumstances and have risen to unheard of prominence in order to right the wrong.  This usually happens when the men who should have done this, either were afraid to do it or were incapable of doing it.

I also have been willing to consider the possibility that providence has led us to this point.  How else do you explain the  fact that a middle class hockey mom with little backing, money and power has come this far, this fast?  And she is still nursing a special needs baby!  One might argue that just because she is stepping outside the traditional role, does not mean that every woman should.

The problem is Sarah Palin does portray herself as a feminist and does encourage women to break all the barriers.  It does seem as though she thinks that a mom can do it all, and all of it well.

Schlussel also points out that the Palimania is also causing the advocates of traditional values to except the emasculation of men:

When Palin was initially announced, last Friday, as the McCain choice, I cheered her on. What I didn’t realize is that she had five kids, some of them very young. What I also didn’t realize was that, for all the talk by the GOP about this “hockey mom,” the real hockey mom in this picture–for the last two years, at least–has been Mr. Mom, Todd Palin.

I am, as you can see, inclined to see the best in all this. I am not so sure that Todd Palin is quite as emasculated as Schlussel thinks.  It remains to be seen.

I also think that Schlussel goes a bit overboard on her comments about the situation with Bristol Palin.  Everyone knows that Sarah Palin advocates abstinence and has backed that up in both her political and personal life.

In the end Schlussel is not so scandalized that she feels obligated to abstain from voting for the McCain / Palin ticket, and neither am I:

I like Sarah Palin, and I will be voting for her, more than John McCain.

But is her Mr. Mom marital employment and child-rearing dynamic a good example for the boys of America? Is it a good example for the girls of America?

Only if you want your men–no matter how studly and masculine–to be women, and your women–no matter how good-looking and feminine, as Mrs. Palin is–to be men.

For conservatives to sweep these issues under the rug now that “one of ours” is doing it, is to say that for all these years, our movement was a fraud.

Well, I for one will not sweep it under the rug.  But neither am I so naive to think that this culture war is going to be won overnight and without some measure of imperfection.  I do agree, however that it is ridiculous for social conservatives to be suddenly screaming sexism when they are asked if a mother with five children can reasonably undertake the office of Vice-President.

Courtesy of the Local Newspaper

The Norwich Bulletin, as of this posting, has placed the friars latest video on Thom and Marc on their homepage in three parts.  This video altogether is about 12 minutes and is different than the In Memoriam video.

The link above will only help you find the video clips as long as the Bulletine keeps them on their homepage.

The Oprahfication of Gender Identity

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I debated whether I would say anything at all about this and just decided that I must. St. Paul makes a rather paradoxical statement in regard to the discussion among Christians of the sin of impurity:

But fornication and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is fitting among saints. . . . Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is a shame even to speak of the things that they do in secret; but when anything is exposed by the light it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light (Ephes. 5:3, 11-13).

Several times in this passage he says not to even name or mention the shameful deeds of impurity, but on the other hand he also commands the followers of Jesus to expose such deeds to the light. Perhaps the explanation is this: when such sins are committed in secret, we should not bring the scandal to light, but when they flagrantly committed before all to see, then it is necessary to overcome the scandal already given. Thus this post.

When I heard about the “pregnant man” my inclination was to leave well enough alone. But since the issue has been “Oprahfied,” and spread to the four winds, I figure its time to say something. It is also an issue appropos to this blog, as gender identity must be presumed if it is at all possible to speak of masculinity and femininity. Continue reading