Monday, January 17, 2022

EDI's 2022 Symposium: "Sex and Lies: Delusions of the Self in the 21st Century"

Our Eighth Day Institute 2022 Symposium was a wonderful event, held Friday and Saturday, January 14 and 15 at St. George's Orthodox Cathedral in Wichita, Kansas. Of course there were some glitches--the main one being that Rod Dreher, one of the plenary speakers, could not come to Wichita because he had tested positive for Covid and had lost his voice so he couldn't even participated digitally. All of the speakers spoke to everyone attending because we had no breakout sessions. And the presentations were wonderfully balanced between practical matters of current issues and theological explorations of the true model and how we should imitate Him: Jesus Christ. Thus, the icon for the event: The Pantocrator from Saint Catherine's Monastery.

Carl R. Trueman, from Grove City College in western Pennsylvania, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in DC, and author of The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution among other books offered two presentations, analyzing the cultural changes in the way we identify ourselves. Dr. J (Jennifer Roback Morse) of the Ruth Institute also gave two presentations on the effects of those changes on the family, on fathers and mothers, on children, on schools, etc, etc. While he outlined the situation we face, Dr. J offered tactics, ways of thinking and responding, all at the service of renewing the true doctrine of the family: a man and woman who marry for the sake, not of their appetites and whims, but for the loving stability of a home for children, who know who their parents are, know their identities, and live with both parents, unless a tragedy occurs.

Then Father Alexis Torrance and the Reverend Hans Boersma offered some theological and spiritual foundations--above and beyond the practical steps we have to take to help our culture to return to the reality of humanity, the family, and the common good--upon which to base our efforts. Boersma outlined how Hugh of St. Victor offered his monks a model of lectio divina based on spiritual analogies within the structures of Noah's Ark:

Sex and the Imagination: Focusing the Mind: Delusions of the self—and the sexual problems linked to them—do not just happen. They are caused by a wandering imagination. This talk discusses how the 12th-century spiritual master Hugh of Saint Victor tried to anchor his students’ character: through a mural painting of Noah’s Ark. We will turn to Noah’s Ark in our own 21st-century pursuit of focus and stability.

Here's another version of his presentation.

And the final presentation, by Father Torrance, was based on his 2020 book from Oxford University Press, Human Perfection in Byzantine Theology: Attaining the Fullness of Christ. He offered some insights from four saints based on chapters from that book:

2. Perpetual progress or eternal rest? Contemplating the eschaton in St Maximus the Confessor
3. Perfection before our eyes: St Theodore the Studite on the humanity of Christ
4. I am called by two names, human and divine: dogma and deification in St Symeon the New Theologian
5. The energy of deification and the person of Jesus Christ in St Gregory Palamas

We were disappointed that Rod Dreher could not come and that he was ill. Nonetheless, I though it was a very successful gathering--in part, just because we gathered--in which we confronted issues Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox Christians face in our families, workplaces, churches, and friendships and were reminded and consoled by the victory of Jesus Christ over sin and death through His Incarnation and Paschal Sacrifice.

I think the Symposium, of all the events we present at Eighth Day Institute, is the most accessible and important. Ad Fontes--the summer theological week--purposefully emphasizes the differences between and among Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox Christians (our different views of Baptism, Salvation and sin (this summer's topic) and is the more scholarly gathering. The Inklings Festival is a family Oktoberfest event, celebrating Tolkien, Lewis, Chesterton, Sayers, et al. It's fun and literary at the same time, which as an English major I appreciate.

The Symposium, though, gives us all a chance to gather and think about our lives as Christians, the challenges we face inside and out, and thus offers renewal so we may do as St. Peter the Apostle advises:

But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an account of the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. (1 Peter 3:14-16)

I certainly hope that anyone reading this could come to an Eighth Day Symposium some day: perhaps next January?!?

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Happy New Year, 2022: Book Review in the NC Register

Happy New Year! Best wishes for a happy, holy, and healthy 2022! 

I ended the year 2021 and have begun the year 2022 with a head cold, but also with the publication of my review of a new book about Saints John Fisher and Thomas More in the National Catholic Register:

St. Thomas More shares a feast with St. John Fisher on the date of the cardinal-bishop’s death on June 22 (in 1535). Yet, probably because, as author Robert Conrad Jr. says, Fisher’s virtues aren’t celebrated in an award-winning movie like A Man for All Seasons, he has been somewhat eclipsed by More. In John Fisher and Thomas More: Keeping Their Souls While Losing Their Heads, Conrad attempts to redress this injustice in a very personal way, exploring both Fisher’s and More’s responses to Henry VIII’s usurpation of ecclesial authority in England. Throughout the book, Gardner holds both men up as models for us to follow in courage, fidelity, integrity, piety, Christian joy, perseverance and other virtues. Instead of offering a chronological dual biography, he presents a series of 12 vignettes in both men’s lives to demonstrate their practice of these virtues, culminating in their martyrdoms.

In keeping with his effort to highlight St. John Fisher as well St. Thomas More, Conrad begins his series of anecdotes in Chapter 1 on “Conscience” with Bishop John Fisher’s forthright refusal to be coerced into agreeing with the rest of the English bishops in support of Henry VIII’s actions. Conrad highlights the courage of Fisher, not taking the easy way out when the archbishop of Canterbury, William Warham, declared the unanimous agreement of the bishops with Henry VIII at the Legatine Court in 1529: Bishop Fisher denies he signed the document, he denies his signature on the document is authentic, and he denies that he agrees with the document. Neither Warham’s embarrassment nor Henry VIII’s impatience dissuade him. As Conrad concludes, Fisher “spoke with strength to power nonetheless” (p. 16). . . .

Please read the rest there.

Judge Conrad's book demonstrates once again the impact of these saints' lives upon us today. The example of their lives, not just their deaths, inspire us every day. 

Pause to consider that on this day, January 1, 1535 (although they weren't really celebrating the New Year as we are today), 487 years ago, they were imprisoned in the Tower of London, with cold stone walls about them, and yet we know that their thoughts were still about Jesus and the salvation He won for us! Their faith, though tested, was true and they were strong in hope and love.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
(Our outdoor Creche for Christmas 2017/2018)

Friday, December 24, 2021

Book Review: Proust's Defense of Gothic Cathedrals

From Wiseblood Books:

"Suppose for a moment that Catholicism had been dead for centuries, that the traditions of its worship had been lost. Only the unspeaking and forlorn cathedrals remain; they have become unintelligible yet remain admirable."

So begins Marcel Proust's Death Comes for the Cathedrals (La mort des cathédrales), originally published in Le Figaro (1904). Proust addresses the political and religious debate concerning the "the Briand bill," a parliamentary proposal which imperiled the fate of French Cathedrals-"the first and most perfect masterpieces" of Gothic architecture. The great author of In Search of Lost Time gives prophetic voice to his own fear that "France would be transformed into a shore where giant chiseled conches seemed to have run aground, emptied of the life that inhabited them and no longer bringing an attentive ear to the distant murmur of the past, simply museum objects, themselves frozen." As Proust makes plain, though the cathedrals of France and the traditional liturgy of the Roman rite are the spiritual inheritance of the Church, they are part of the patrimony of all humanity and, pending preservation, their loss would leave all the world impoverished.

This Wiseblood Books edition of Death Comes for the Cathedrals includes an introduction by its translator, Dr. John Pepino, and an afterword by Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, who wonders whether life may yet return to the cathedrals. Throughout, beautiful color images of Chartres and its architectural features grace the pages.

With impeccable--or providential--timing, Wiseblood Books released this translation of Marcel Proust's pamphlet urging the Third French Republic not to close the great Gothic Cathedrals of France and turn them into museums or other cultural sites as news came of the proposed, controversial changes to the interior of Notre Dame de Paris, which have been approved to some extent by the French National Heritage and Architecture Commission. 

The one comment I'd make about these changes at Notre Dame de Paris is that they seem to be aimed more at the tourist, who knows she simply has to visit the Cathedral as the guidebook tells her, and less at the worshipper, who comes to pray, to go to Confession, and to attend Mass. Note these lines from the Smithsonian Magazine story linked above:
Advocates argue that the approved plan will make Notre-Dame “even more beautiful and welcoming” for the millions of people who visit the site each year, according to a diocese press release. Critics, however, say that the renovations will reduce the standing of the historical building into a theme park. . . .

Visitors will now be able to enter the cathedral through its grand central doors rather than the side entrance as previously directed. The diocese also plans to rearrange altars and other items to free up space for people to move around, per the Times. . . .

The commission rejected some details of the diocese’s plan, including a proposal to remove statues from some chapels, per the Times. Experts have also asked to review a prototype of newly proposed benches, which would replace the traditional straw chairs. In theory, the benches might be designed to descend into the floor when not in use—freeing up more space for tourists, reports the AFP. . . .
What about the people of Paris who attend Mass, Evening Prayer, the devotions to the Crown of Thorns, or other services? Or Catholics from around the world visiting Paris and attending Sunday Mass? How are they served by these renovations? 

Back to the book:

Proust's argument is that these Gothic cathedrals, great monuments of French art, were built for the  celebration of the great and Holy Sacrifice of the Catholic Mass. They were built to facilitate the celebration of what we now call the Traditional Latin Mass, the Mass of the Ages. Their art and architecture, their acoustics were meant to resound with Gregorian and Polyphonic prayers, antiphons, and sequences. He does not want them destroyed by taking away their reason for being built, maintained, and used through the centuries, in spite of war, revolution, desecration, and other fashionable changes (clear glass replacing stained glass in Notre Dame de Paris during the reign of Louis XIV, for example).

Mark and I visited the Sainte Chapelle a couple of times during our 10 visits to Paris, which is a beautiful example of Gothic Art, but it is a hollow shell, exactly what Proust envisioned could happen to Chartres or other Gothic Cathedrals (Amiens, Reims, Paris, etc, etc.) There aren't any Altars in Saint Louis' reliquary for the Crown of Thorns, no Tabernacles, no Real Presence--the lower level sanctuary contained the tourist shop when we visited and of course, one must pay to enter this tourist attraction.

Proust is an unlikely source one might think for such a defense of the practice of the Catholic Faith in Notre Dame de Chartres and other great cathedrals, but he recognized the truths of French history, of her culture and the legacy of the high Middle Ages. As an artist he recognizes the integrity and continuity of that past and warned the people and the government of its loss. He also advised the Church in France to find in artists like him allies for defending that legacy. Proust knew that a nation, a people, the Church, an individual cannot be cut off from the past without great loss of identity and meaning. Fortunately for us--although some churches throughout France like Sainte Chapelle have been repurposed and lost--he persuaded the government and the public against what Aristide Briand had proposed. Proust, like Renan, and Flaubert, both of whom he quotes, may not have been a believing, practicing Catholic, but he was honest.

The book is well designed with several images of Chartres, but because the photos are not on glossy stock, the bright colors of the stained glass do not "pop" off the page as they could. The introduction provides good historical context and the afterword offers a personal view after the author's visit to Chartres.

When the fire devastated Notre Dame de Paris in 2019, I looked at our photo albums and re-read our travel journals from those visits. In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI prayed Vespers in Notre Dame de Paris including the veneration of the Crown of Thorns and his comments resonate still with my memories of the Gregorian Masses (Novus Ordo with Gregorian Chant) we attended in Notre-Dame de Paris:

We are gathered in the Mother Church of the Diocese of Paris, Notre-Dame Cathedral, which rises in the heart of the city as a living sign of God’s presence in our midst. My predecessor, Pope Alexander III, laid its first stone, and Popes Pius VII and John Paul II honoured it by their presence. I am happy to follow in their footsteps, a quarter of a century after coming here to offer a conference on catechesis. It is hard not to give thanks to the Creator of both matter and spirit for the beauty of this edifice. The Christians of Lutetia had originally built a cathedral dedicated to Saint Stephen, the first martyr; as time went on it became too small, and was gradually replaced, between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries, by the great building we admire today. The faith of the Middle Ages built the cathedrals, and here your ancestors came to praise God, to entrust to him their hopes and to express their love for him. Great religious and civil events took place in this shrine, where architects, painters, sculptors and musicians have given the best of themselves. We need but recall, among so many others, the architect Jean de Chelles, the painter Charles Le Brun, the sculptor Nicolas Coustou and the organists Louis Vierne and Pierre Cochereau. Art, as a pathway to God, and choral prayer, the Church’s praise of the Creator, helped Paul Claudel, who attended Vespers here on Christmas Day 1886, to find the way to a personal experience of God. It is significant that God filled his soul with light during the chanting of the Magnificat, in which the Church listens to the song of the Virgin Mary, the Patroness of this church, who reminds the world that the Almighty has lifted up the lowly (cf. Lk 1:52). As the scene of other conversions, less celebrated but no less real, and as the pulpit from which preachers of the Gospel like Fathers Lacordaire, Monsabré and Samson transmitted the flame of their passion to the most varied congregations, Notre-Dame Cathedral rightly remains one of the most celebrated monuments of your country’s heritage. Following a tradition dating back to the time of Saint Louis, I have just venerated the relics of the True Cross and the Crown of Thorns, which have now found a worthy home here, a true offering of the human spirit to the power of creative Love.

Since I doubt that I'll ever return to Paris or Chartres or Amiens or Reims, I'm glad I have those memories and the feeling we often had while praying and worshipping in those Cathedrals, so well expressed by Pope Benedict in 2008:

Dear friends, during Vespers this evening, we are united in thought and prayer with the voices of the countless men and women who have chanted this psalm in this very place down the centuries. We are united with the pilgrims who went up to Jerusalem and to the steps of its Temple, and with the thousands of men and women who understood that their earthly pilgrimage was to end in heaven, in the eternal Jerusalem, trusting Christ to guide them there. What joy indeed, to know that we are invisibly surrounded by so great a crowd of witnesses!

Merry Christmas! 
Our Lady, pray for us!

Friday, December 17, 2021

"Rorate Caeli Desuper" and "Ne irascaris, Domine"

On the First Saturday of December (12/4), the Saturday of the First Week of Advent, I attended an early morning Mass, a "Rorate Caeli" Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite. It was celebrated by candlelight, with candles only illuminating the darkness of the church. Candles on the Altar and the side altars, candles on window ledges beneath each stained glass window, candles--lit just before Mass began--held by the members of the congregation. It was a Votive Mass of Our Lady in Advent and is called the "Rorate Caeli Mass" because of the first words of the Introit of the Mass:

Roráte caéli désuper, et núbes plúant jústum. (Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness.) (Isaiah 45:8)

During this Ember Week in the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite according to the Roman Missal of 1962, this Wednesday was the Ember Wednesday of the Advent Season, and was also a "Rorate Caeli" Mass, celebrating the Incarnation of Christ Our Lord by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary, the Blessed Virgin: the Annunciation.

The "Rorate Caeli" antiphon is also used in Advent Prose, as the Cantica Sacra website explains:

The complete text is assembled with passages from different chapters by the prophet Isaiah. When sung in a liturgical setting, the first two lines of the text are often treated as an antiphon: the passage is chanted at the beginning and end of the entire text and at the end of each stanza by the entire choir and congregation.

The first verse of the Advent Prose is also from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah:

Ne irascaris, Domine, satis
et ne ultra memineris iniquitatis nostrae.
Ecce, respice, populus tuus omnes nos.

Civitas sancti tui facta est deserta.
Sion deserta facta est,
Jerusalem desolata est.

(Be not angry, O Lord,nor remember our iniquity forever.
Behold, look upon us, we are all thy people.

Thy holy cities are deserted.
Zion has become a wasteland,
Jerusalem a desolation.) (Isaiah 64:9-10)

This is the text of one of William Byrd's famous motets, which is often seen as reflection of the status of Catholics in Elizabethan England and was published in his 1589 Cantiones Sacrae.

As this article by Richard Evidon on the Schubert Club website analyses Byrd's setting of this text:

This is a double motet, composed of two symmetrical parts. Part I, the exiles’ plea for divine mercy, begins with the lower voices darkly intoning “Ne irascaris, Domine, satis” (“Be not angry, O Lord”), a calming phrase that moves into the upper voices and then is taken up by all five vocal parts. After another set of supplicating entries on the words “Et ne ultra memineris iniquitatis nostrae” (“Nor remember our iniquity forever”), the musical flow comes to a stop. What follows is a chordal appeal to the Lord – “Ecce, respice” (“Behold, look upon us”) – with a change in tone and texture that quietly yet dramatically conveys the captives’ sense of being abandoned. But the real center of gravity – in both parts of the motet – comes in a concluding, greatly extended contrapuntal phrase. Here it’s a long set of imitative entries on the text “Populus tuus omnes nos” (“We are all thy people”) that builds up in pitch, texture and intensity to depict the anguishing multitudes. . . .

Please read the rest there, including his analysis of the second part of the motet. Evidon recommends this performance by VOCES8, licensed by the group for publication.

The Catholic Encyclopedia includes this comment at the end of its article by Joseph Otten on William Byrd:

Two of his motets, "Domine, ne irascaris" and "Civitas sancti tui", with English texts, are in the repertoire of most Anglican cathedrals. In spite of the harrowing religious conditions under which he lived, in the reigns of Queen Elizabeth and James I, Byrd remained faithful to his principles and duties as a Catholic, as is shown in his life and by his works. In his last will and testament he prays "that he may live and dye a true and perfect member of the Holy Catholike Churche withoute which I beleeve there is noe salvacon for me".

Monday, December 13, 2021

Blog Tour for "My Queen, My Love" by Elena Maria Vidal

My friend Elena Maria Vidal asked me to "blurb" her latest historical novel, the first in a trilogy on the life of Henrietta Maria, King Charles I's Catholic consort. And she asked me to join the blog tour organized to promote her novel! Here is my blurb:

"Dreams of princesses, fairy tale palaces, and living happily ever after collide with the realities of favorites, mistresses, courtiers, and intrigues in the lives of Marie de Medici and her daughter Henrietta Maria in this first volume of Elena Maria Vidal's Henrietta of France trilogy. Vidal depicts the religious conflicts of the seventeenth century vividly in this historical novel, as the marriage of King Charles I of England and Queen Henrietta Maria overcomes many obstacles of language, faith, and even different calendars. Even knowing how their story ends, the reader looks forward to Vidal's delicate and dramatic retelling."—Stephanie A. Mann, author of Supremacy and Survival: How Catholics Endured the English Reformation

This is the copy provided by the organizer of the blog tour:

Welcome to the mini tour for My Queen, My Love by Elena Maria Vidal. Read on for details and a chance to win a paperback copy of the book!

My Queen, My Love: A Novel of Henrietta Maria (The Henrietta of France Trilogy Book 1)

Publication Date: November 25th, 2021

Genre: Historical Fiction/ Henrietta Maria

Publisher: Mayapple Books

The youngest daughter of Henri IV, the first Bourbon King of France, Henriette-Marie always knew she would have to marry a prince. When the Prince of Wales, Charles Stuart, travels through Paris he sees her dancing at the Louvre and within two years a marriage is arranged. However, Henriette is Catholic and Catholicism is banned in England. In preparing to become Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland, Henriette has no idea of the obstacles that must be overcome before she can find happiness with Charles. The main hindrance, she soon realizes, is not the difference in religion but Charles’ best friend, George Villiers, the handsome Duke of Buckingham, who is determined to subdue Henriette to his will. Buckingham forgets that Henriette is also half Medici and underestimates her determination to succeed as well as the depth of her love for Charles. My Queen, My Love is the first novel in the Henrietta of France Trilogy by acclaimed author Elena Maria Vidal. It describes the early years of the tumultuous marriage of Charles I and Henrietta Maria which preceded the English Civil Wars of the Seventeenth Century.

Add to Goodreads


11 May, 1625 dawned dark and dreary, as the heavens opened and drenched Paris in a driving rain. Henriette had a quiet morning at the Louvre, with Madame Garnier and Mamangat insisting that she eat. Then she bathed, and around two o’clock in the afternoon was enveloped in a wrapper to be driven in a coach with an armed escort through the torrential downpour to the Archbishop’s palace. The streets of Paris were crowded in spite of the deluge, and she was cheered through the streets, which in the showers were like streams. When they reached the Archbishop’s palace next to Notre Dame she was bundled up to the room where her gown and jewels were awaiting her. Several of the highest ranking ladies in the kingdom were there to dress her. Her gown had been brushed and cleaned, having been spotted with wax from dripping candles and a few stains of red wine. It now sparkled more gloriously than ever. And this time, she was wearing a crown! Her mother Queen Marie supervised the adjusting of the diamond crown with a single large pearl in the front on Henriette’s curls, which the dampness of the air had made more tight and abundant. Around her shoulders was placed an ermine-lined blue velvet mantle, embroidered with gold fleur de lys. The Princesse de Condé, the Princesse de Conti and the Comtesse de Soissons, mother of Henriette’s rejected suitor, were to carry the mantle and the cloth of gold train but found them too heavy. It was feared that Henriette would be pulled backwards so it was decided that an officer would walk under it, supporting the mantle and train with his head and hands.

    At five o’clock in the evening, she was finally ready, and her brothers Louis and Gaston arrived to escort her to the Cathedral. Louis XIII was crowned and arrayed in a tunic of scarlet velvet, covered with cloth of gold. He was to walk on her right and her brother Gaston on her left. Gaston was debonair in a suit of silver lamé. Anne had come with Louis; she was also crowned and completely resplendent in a gown and mantle of cloth of gold and silver. Maman wore black silk embroidered in gold with a pearl and ruby coronet.

    In the hall of the Archbishop’s palace the procession was arranged. Henriette could see the doors open as they set forth. Remarkably, the rain had ceased and the sun was shining! Leading the way was an officer known as the Captain of the Gate, behind whom walked a hundred of the King's Swiss Guard, drums beating and banners flying. They were followed by a band of musicians, then the heralds with trumpets, whose blaring made Henriette’s heart leap with exultation. After them marched the Marshals of France, then the peers of the realm. They were followed by the proxy bridegroom the Duc de Chevreuse and the English ambassadors, the Earls of Carlisle and Holland, all three of whom were in cloth of gold like King Louis. Behind those three gentlemen, Henriette walked with her two brothers, trailed by the ladies and gentleman carrying the train. Finally there came Queen Marie and Queen Anne.

    A long wooden gallery lined in colorful carpets and tapestries led from the Archbishop’s palace to the west portals of the Cathedral, where a platform under a canopy of cloth of gold had been erected. The vows would be exchanged at the doors of the church, according to the ancient tradition. Within and without the Cathedral wooden stands had been built for people to sit and see what they could see. Citizens were also gathered on roofs of houses, on balconies, and leaning out of windows. On the platform, under a canopy of cloth of gold, Cardinal de Rochefoucault awaited the bridal party. As Henriette and her brothers appeared, the crowds cheered deliriously. The entire bridal party ascended the platform. Henriette wished she had been able to practice climbing the steps in all her regalia; mercifully the steps had been carpeted or else she would surely have slipped off. Henriette and the Duc de Chevreuse knelt on prie-dieus before the Cardinal, who received their marital vows. After being married, Henriette arose and turned; she saw the English ambassadors kneeling before her.

    “Your Majesty,” said the Earl of Carlisle in English, kissing the hem of her skirt.

    “God save the Queen!” The Earl of Holland proclaimed, using English as well.

    “I am Queen of England,” she thought, wishing Charles was with her. And she descended the platform and entered the great cathedral with her brothers, as the organ and chanting of the choir lifted her heart to heaven.

Available on Amazon 

About the Author

Elena Maria Vidal grew up in the countryside outside of Frederick, Maryland, “fair as the garden of the Lord” as the poet Whittier said of it. As a child she read so many books that her mother had to put restrictions on her hours of reading. During her teenage years, she spent a great deal of her free time writing stories and short novels.

Elena graduated in 1984 from Hood College in Frederick with a BA in Psychology, and in 1985 from the State University of New York at Albany with an MA in Modern European History. In 1986, she joined the Secular Order of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Elena taught at the Frederick Visitation Academy and worked as a private tutor as well as teaching children’s etiquette classes. During a trip to Austria in 1995 she visited the tomb of Empress Maria Theresa in the Capuchin crypt in Vienna. Afterwards she decided to finish a novel about Marie-Antoinette she had started writing ten years before but had put aside. In 1997 her first historical novel TRIANON was published by St. Michaels Press. In 2000, the sequel MADAME ROYALE was published, as well as the second edition of TRIANON, by The Neumann Press. Both books quickly found an international following which continues to this day. In 2010, the third edition of TRIANON and the second edition of MADAME ROYALE were released.

In November 2009, THE NIGHT’S DARK SHADE: A NOVEL OF THE CATHARS was published by Mayapple Books. The new historical novel deals with the controversial Albigensian Crusade in thirteenth century France. She is a member of the Eastern Shore Writers Association. She currently lives in Maryland with her family. Her fourth novel, THE PARADISE TREE, about her Irish ancestors, was published in Fall 2014. Her first biography, MARIE-ANTOINETTE, DAUGHTER OF THE CAESARS, was published in Spring 2016.

In November 2021, My Queen, My Love: A Novel of Henrietta Maria, was published as the first installment of the Henrietta of France Trilogy.

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Click the link below for a chance to win a copy of the book!


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R&R Book Tours

Friday, December 3, 2021

Father Kapaun Coming Home: Where is Home?

Visiting one of our local bookstores, I glimpsed the cover of The Journal, a quarterly publication of the Kansas Leadership Center. The cover story for the Fall 2021 issue is "Making a Home for Father Kapaun" featuring a picture from the pilgrimage to Pilsen, Kansas, Servant of God Emil Kapaun's home town.

In March of this year, the U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, (the DPAA) announced that Father Kapaun's remains had been identified in the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii. This meant that his remains could be returned home, that a Funeral Mass could be offered for him, and that he could be buried at home after his death 70 years ago.

But the question was, where at home? In Pilsen, Kansas, a small community in Marion County, where his memory has been celebrated through the decades? The family, led by his nephew Ray Kapaun, decided with Bishop Carl Kemme of the Diocese of Wichita, that he would be at least temporarily interred in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita. His cause for canonization is still in process in Rome--in 2020, just before COVID struck, there was a meeting scheduled at the Congregation of Saints to perhaps declare him Venerable and it has not been rescheduled.

The article points out many of the challenges the Pilsen and Marion County community and officials face if his cause does proceed and the required miracles for his beatification and canonization are accepted. The main issues are transportation, accommodations, and other services for pilgrims if his shrine is to be located in Pilsen:
The Marion County Commission has hired a consultant to explore how to best prepare for the increase in tourists. That includes working with state officials and recruiting hotel developers, commissioner David Mueller says.

Because Pilsen Road is a county road, it is not the responsibility of the Kansas Department of Transportation, says agency spokesman Tom Hein. Mueller and others wonder if surging traffic volumes may prompt a change to state maintenance.

State officials say they’re monitoring the situation in Marion County, but Mueller acknowledges local authorities are frustrated by what feels like a lack of support.

“I wouldn’t say we’re in over our head” in Marion County, he says. “We’re doing everything we can to prepare. It’s just hard to know how much to do, and what route is best.”
At the same, the residents of Pilsen want their little town to remain their community. And some are disappointed that his remains aren't there already, although that was a decision of the family:
“They’re not ready,” says Ray Kapaun, Emil’s nephew, who lives on Whidbey Island in the state of Washington. “They’re not even going to be ready for what’s going to hit them to start with, even with his remains not being out there.”

The decision to place the potential saint’s remains in Wichita, an hour away, rankles residents of Pilsen.

“They said security wasn’t so good out here,” says Kathy Svitak, whose farmstead carries traffic for those who depart Pilsen’s little cemetery via the rear exit. “Well, I guarantee there’s a lot more crime around the Wichita church than there is out here. And we can put the same safe codes they could do. We just have not been given the choice of the chance.”
Reading the article reminded me that like so many things in the history of the Catholic Church, the Divine and the human mix in such mysterious ways. There's God's timing, providence, and wisdom, and there's our efforts to plan, control, and prepare. God's providence is more powerful than our efforts, we should know by now. The people of Pilsen may not be able to guarantee that their community will stay the same if Servant of God Emil Kapaun is raised to the honors of the Altar: he would be just the fourth saint from the USA and only the second saint to have lived in Kansas (Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne lived among the Potawatomi at Sugar Creek near Mound City, Kansas in 1842).

As I attend daily Mass a few times a week at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita, which has always been well-attended by a group of a familiar faithful, I've seen the pilgrims coming to pray at his tomb. Volunteers staff an information desk, and tours (not during Mass) may be arranged. The official website for Father Kapaun includes guidance for arranging tours at the museum and church in Pilsen (the museum is not handicap accessible). The Cathedral website for visits and tours also highlights the other Wichita location connected to Father Kapaun, my high school alma mater Kapaun-Mount Carmel as well as the Pilsen destination, so it seems like we're doing the best we can now to maintain this delicate balance of God's Will and our efforts to submit to it. History shows us that the process of Canonization can take centuries; we're still dealing with decades!!

Chaplain Kapaun, pray for us!

Image Credit (public domain): Unknown author - U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Father Nathaniel Bacon, Alias Southwell

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Father Nathaniel Bacon adopted the alias of Southwell, I would presume in homage to the great Jesuit poet and martyr, Saint Robert Southwell (thus the portrait). Father Bacon, alias Southwell, died in Rome on December 2, 1676:

Better known under the assumed name of Southwell, a Jesuit priest and bibliographer, b. in the county of Norfolk, England, in 1598; d. at Rome, 2 Dec., 1676. He received his early training at St. Omers, entered the English College at Rome in 1617, and after his ordination to the priesthood in 1622 was sent to labor on the English missions. Two years later he entered the Jesuit novitiate, but shortly after was transferred to the Roman province, where he discharged the duties of procurator and minister of the English College. Appointed in 1647 Secretary to the General of the Society of Jesus, Father Vincent Caraffa, he displayed such talent for business that he was retained as Secretary by the four succeeding Generals of the Order. Upon his retirement from this office in 1668, he began the well-known "Bibliotheca Scriptorum Societatis Jesu" in folio, published in Rome in 1676. This compilation was based on an earlier work of Father Ribadineira, issued in 1602 and brought down to 1641 by Father Alegambe. Father Southwell revised the original works, adding copious notes of his own. Dr. Oliver praises this volume as "a compilation truly admirable for research, accuracy, elegance of language, piety, and charity of sentiment." Father Southwell was also the author of "A Journal of Meditations for Every Day of the Year" published in London in 1669. On the same authority we learn that he was accounted by his religious brethren a model of virtue and sanctity. He died in the professed house of the Gesu, at Rome.

The Benedictus monthly prayer book, offering the very convenient feature of each Sunday Mass in Latin and English according to the 1962 Roman Missal without having to flip from one part of a hand Missal to another (from the Propers to the Ordinary of the Mass), has been featuring daily meditations from Father Bacon, alias Southwell. 

By the way, another Nathaniel Bacon died in 1676: He was the leader of Bacon's Rebellion against the English governor, Sir William Berkeley. He died of dysentery on October 26 that year.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Book Review: "Dog Songs", Poems by Mary Oliver

On the last Saturday of November, I went to Eighth Day Books to buy a certain book (Thoughts Matter by Mary Margaret Funk) and find some Christmas gifts or buy some gift certificates. I ended up buying another book for myself (how shocking!): Dog Songs: Poems by Mary Oliver.

The book had been placed on one of the benches in the poetry section: it was there waiting for me because I guess I needed it.

For the first time in 30 (thirty) years, I am without a dog. Our Norwich Terrier, Brandy (Mark bought her for me 2010) died early Wednesday morning (11/24) at the Emergency Veterinary Hospital: she had held out against a cancerous growth in her right nostril for 17 months. Late Tuesday night, however, she began to hemorrhage from that nostril. It was a bloody mess and I was a mess as I had to drive her across town to that hospital.

Mary Oliver obviously loved dogs, took care of many of them, and recognized how unique each one was, and in these poems, she recalls their idiosyncrasies, their similarities, and how they became part of her life as companions. 

I read through the poems over the weekend and recognized the dogs my late husband Mark and I (and then just me since January 2019) lived with from 1991 to 2021: Ruffis, Pallie, Amanda, Joey, and Brandy: how we talked to them and pretended they talked back, how we played with them and were silly with them, how we took care of them when they got sick or injured, how we got frustrated with them when they didn't behave, and how we praised them when they were good, and how we were with them at the end of their lives, and how we remembered and yes, mourned them.

As the publisher, Penguin, describes the book:

Mary Oliver's Dog Songs is a celebration of the special bond between human and dog, as understood through the poet's relationships to the canines that have accompanied her daily walks, warmed her home, and inspired her work. Oliver's poems begin in the small everyday moments familiar to all dog lovers, but through her extraordinary vision, these observations become higher meditations on the world and our place in it.

Dog Songs includes visits with old friends, like Oliver's beloved Percy, and introduces still others in poems of love and laughter, heartbreak and grief. Throughout, the many dogs of Oliver's life merge as fellow travelers and as guides, uniquely able to open our eyes to the lessons of the moment and the joys of nature and connection.

Here's a sequence of Brandy in the leaves in November of 2015:

I'm going to wait until spring time of 2022 to get a new (rescue) dog.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Preview: Venerable Edward Mico, SJ on the Son Rise Morning Show

On Monday, November 22, I'll talk with Matt Swaim or Anna Mitchell about another of the Venerable English Catholic martyrs on the Son Rise Morning Show (at my usual time, 7:50 am. Eastern/6:50 a.m. Central). Please listen live on EWTN Radio or on your local EWTN affiliate at my usual time, 7:50 a.m. Eastern/6:50 a.m. Central. 

In 1886 Pope Leo XIII declared 29 Martyrs of England and Wales to be Venerable. As Father John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary defines the term, Venerable is the:

Title given to the Servants of God after the state of their heroic virtue or martyrdom has been proved and a solemn decree to that effect has been signed by the Pope. (Etym. Latin venerabilis, from venerari, to regard with religious awe.)

Venerable Edward Mico, SJ, is one of these martyrs to be regarded with religious awe. He is listed among the 44 martyrs celebrated at the Venerable English College every December 1 with Vespers and the chanting of the Te Deum in gratitude. He was arrested, not just because he was a priest in England, but a Jesuit priest in England during the Popish Plot hysteria during the reign of Charles II. According to the Jesuits in Singapore:

Edward Mico was born in Essex, England of Catholic parents. At the age of about fifteen, he enrolled at the English College in Saint-Omer, Flanders and about four years later, he went to the English College in Rome. There Edward became acquainted with the Jesuits and later managed to get the permission of the Jesuit Father General to enter the Society [of Jesus]. . . . He was ordained on March 31, 1657. . . .

[He] may have gone to the English mission as early as 1661. He carried out his priestly ministry in Hampshire, Wiltshire, Dorset and Sussex and served under three successive provincials during the last six years of his live. [sic]

Fr Mico accompanied Fr Thomas Whitbread, the English provincial when the latter visited the English Jesuit seminaries in Belgium in 1678.

Fathers Mico and Whitbread returned to England just as Titus Oates' Popish Plot was heating up. They were both ill in bed when Oates came to arrest them:

Before dawn of the morning of September 29, 1678, Oates and his armed soldiers forced their way into the Jesuit residence on Wild Street and found Frs Whitbread and Mico ill in bed and were told they were to sick to be moved. The Jesuit residence was next to that of the Spanish ambassador, Count Egmont and thus enjoyed the ambassador’s protection. Furthermore, Fr Mico was also the ambassador’s chaplain. When the soldiers insisted on taking the two priests to prison, the count appeared and forbade them to do so, threatening the intruders and reminded them that his property was immune from such searches. Oates, constrained by the ambassador’s demand, withdrew, leaving a dozen soldiers behind to guard against the two bedridden priests. As a departing gesture, some of the soldiers struck Fr Mico several times with their muskets and plundered his room looking for incriminating letters.

The exact date and location of Venerable Edward Mico's death is not clear; Joseph N. Tylenda, SJ, in his book Jesuit Saints and Martyrs: Short Biographies of the Saints, Blesseds, Venerables, and Servants of God of the Society of Jesus, Second Edition (Chicago: Loyola Press, 1998) notes that it might have been November 24, 1678 and that the name "Edward Micoe" is in the burial record for the church of St. Giles in the Fields on November 26, 1678, where other Popish Plot martyrs were buried, including the last victim, Saint Oliver Plunkett, the Archbishop of Armagh, Ireland.

Because Father Mico was bedridden, he never went to trial and may or may not have been moved to Newgate Prison. Father Thomas Whitbread was definitely tried and condemned, and executed at Tyburn on June 20, 1679--a most dramatic execution because he and the other four Jesuits were in the wagon with ropes around their necks when they were offered a pardon if they just admitted their guilt!

Venerable Edward Mico, pray for us!

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

The Scribe Eleazar and Another English Martyr!

So I was watching the EWTN Daily Mass yesterday as I do every morning. Father Joseph celebrated the Mass for the Weekday (not choosing either Saint Gertrude the Great or St. Margaret of Scotland) and offered his homily on the first reading from Second Maccabees, which I had posted on yesterday. He referred to a letter or note he had received from one of Mother Angelica's Poor Clares who is 90 years old: I think he said she's the last  of the nuns who had come to Alabama from Canton, Ohio, and she was reflecting on the Scribe Eleazar, who was 90 years old at the time of his martyrdom. (The Mass will be posted on EWTN's Daily Mass YouTube channel today so you may view his comments for more details.)

She used the phrase that she had not been told that she was to die (yet)--paraphrasing Blessed Richard Langhorne, the barrister and lay councillor to the Jesuits in England, a Popish Plot victim. Then Father Joseph read the poem Langhorne wrote when he'd been condemned to death:

O Blessed News!!

It is told me I must die.
O blessed news!
I must quit
Earth for Heaven.
My earthly prison for a liberty of joy,
My banishment for my true country.

I must pass
From time to eternity,
From misery to felicity,
From change to immutability.

I must go to fill
My spirit with a plenitude of light,
My will with a fullness of peace,
My memory with a collection of all goods,
My senses with a satiety of pleasures.

I go where I shall find
All things which I can desire,
Nothing which I can fear.
I shall no more want any good,
God shall be unto me all in all,
And my all for all eternity.

I shall see and I shall live,
I shall praise and I shall bless,
And this I shall forever do.

It is told me I must die,
Oh, what happiness!
I am going
To the place of my rest,
To the land of the living,
To the haven of security,
To the kingdom of peace,
To the palace of my God,
To the nuptials of the Lamb,
To sit at the table of my King,

To feed on His blessed sight,
To see what no eye hath seen,
To hear what no ear hath heard,
To enjoy what no mortal can conceive.

These English martyrs just follow me--or rather lead me--wherever I am!

Holy Maccabean martyrs, pray for us!
Blessed Richard Langhorne, pray for us!