Sunday, March 28, 2010

And the Lord said: Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren. (Luke 22: 31-32)

There are very few places of privacy when one does not live alone. Sharing my flat with two other co-workers, amicable people though they are, I find it necessary to keep myself guarded for fear of either disturbing them or embarrassing myself. The refuge of the cemetery then serves not only as an ever available place to work an act of charity—prayer for the dead—but also an acceptable location for emotional catharses.

So I wound my way to Cmentarz Powązkowski. The sky was as startlingly blue as a robin’s egg, puffed with velvet clouds of pearl, grey, and white, and the samite sun shone warm against the cool breeze of early spring. I hastily padded through paths of poured asphalt, rippled with the triumphant impression of cypress roots. Finally, I came to the humble grave of the soul dearest to me in that consecrated earth and lit my votive. Lost amidst the trees, the wind, and the lofty, ornate monuments of this necropolis, I began my rosary, and at least I could weep undisturbed.

I returned home without the pain clenching in my bosom, feeling the deadened sense that comes after a storm of tears. But I had been familiar with this ache since the feeling of thirteen and knew that it would not necessarily prefigure relief. This morning held the promise that it might have.

The air was chill, but the sun was working heatedly through my jacket with his intense light. I felt myself actually dew with sweat as I panted towards church, balancing the safety of my cakes baked for the post-Mass reception with the necessity of arriving on time for my catechism class. Though five minutes late, my students were later, and after class, I snatched my palm and went outside in a state of giddy expectation.

Waiting without the church for the procession to begin, I tilted my ornate palm to breathe its fragrance. Whereas in the United States, I had only carried one blade of a palm branch on this day, and in South Korea, a sprig of juniper, the Poles craft magnificent works of dried flowers twisted with palms and bound about with dyed sprays of tall grasses.

Wiesław emerged from the church in his crimson vestments, and proceeded to heartily bless the garlands. Then came the Gospel reading of Christ’s triumphant procession into Jerusalem, the only scene in His narrative where His glory was acknowledged after the fashion of this Earth. With jubilation we sang:

All glory, laud, and honour,
To Thee Redeemer King!
To Whom the lips of children
Made sweet hosannas ring!

Inside we went, and as we entered the church, I felt my euphoria evaporate and the clench in my bosom returned. It intensified throughout the second Gospel reading, and finally erupted with Peter’s thrice repeated denial of his Messiah. A very different verse then sprang to mind: ‘Put not your trust in princes: In the children of men, in whom there is no salvation.’ (Psalm 145: 3)

This includes princes of the Church, who can disenchant far more ruinously than earthly princes. And if it was true of the first Pope, human reason must accept that later popes can generate the same disappointment. Yet, even as the personal acts of a system’s proponent have nothing to do with the system’s goodness, it always gives rise to the most ruthless cut of all: scandal.

Yes, Holy Mother Church has been smeared with filth, though she herself is clean from within. Members of her body, worse still the priests charged with the care of ‘least of these,’ have abused their position, exploited the trust of those around them, and made a blasphemous mockery of the paternity they ought to feel towards every body possessed of a soul on this Earth. It is vile enough that such men should exist, that they should perpetrate such heinous acts, but that is not the only cause of indignation from those of the world or of sorrow amongst the faithful.

A woman would experience shock and dismay at the maltreatment of perverse men, but surely the thing that would drive her soul to desperate, outraged, frenzy would be the indifference of a man who has professed to love her in such a situation. To be the target of a lewd comment is one thing; to receive such a comment and observe nonchalance in the aspect of one’s protector is another.

Doctors are pledged to heal the sick. However, when one of their own commits malpractice, what is most often the protocol of the medical community? I don’t think I can personally imagine the fortitude of a doctor who would expose the wrongdoing of a colleague. More often than not, doctors close ranks one with another, regardless of the innocence of the accused. Churchmen, however, ought not to behave like doctors, nor should they put up paltry defences at such a time as this.

That most of the charges concern euphebophilia and not pedophilia is but a bitter relief. That the facts have been misconstrued by an anti-Catholic media is hardly soothing and to some is even debatable. I do not care to hear arguments concerning the small percentage of pedophile clergy to normal priests. I do not wish to hear that other religious ministers or officials of the secular order are guilty of the same crimes, or even that most abuses of children take place within the home.

And, good GOD! Do not bring up the argument that the secular authorities were available to report to, and the exposure of these crimes need not have rested entirely on the Church’s hierarchy. Since when has the Church been more tolerant of evil and less compassionate to the victim than the secular order? Where is the institution that would unfrock a priest who dared to proposition a woman in the confessional? What happened to the severe consequences the Church held out to her sons that dared to violate the trust of the innocent?

Why, why, why did not the ears of bishops, cardinals, and popes prick up at the merest hint of such accusations and then dispatch their inquisitor?

‘But he that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in Me, it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea.’ (Matthew 18: 6)

I would like to see anyone find a verse in the Bible that speaks so explicitly concerning the protection of man’s privacy, to which a priest has a lesser right than any other soul on Earth. Almost in vain, have I looked amongst the priests of my acquaintance for the outrage and indignation I feel myself. There is often more of that self-conscious dumbness of professional loyalty than the righteous anger of an incensed father.

It is impossible to say how strong or weak my faith is, until my childish punt has weathered greater storms. The wave of this scandal may not have submerged my vessel, but without the assistance of one man I would still be cringing and fetal on the floor of the deck, prey to the prevailing tempest about me.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
...that Our Lord saw this in the Garden of Gethsemane, and He still died for us.

'Then Jesus answered and said: "O unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you?"' (Matthew 17: 16)
Thursday, March 25, 2010
It is finished. I dropped the form into the plain white box on the card table in the vestibule. My fingers are stained green from the leak in my fountain pen. I had wanted the writing on the form to be beautiful, even though the paper itself was a sheet of recycled paper, lined with a plain graph and stamped with simple, black print. My letters were fine and delicate though, and the '25' I had traced satisfied me. I hope the spiritual bouquet will be more comely in its final presentation to the Pope. For today ends the rosary crusade for which Bishop Fellay called in an effort to persuade Pope Benedict XVI to consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

I am not bound to the chapel of the Society of St. Pius X. My nature is such that it dare not oppose so strongly the established patriarchs, past or present; however logic may try to justify it. While I do not know if this is a craven mistrust of my reason, or rightful submission to the Vicar anointed by the Holy Spirit, I shall not submit to this movement until they have unambiguously submitted to Peter’s Successor. In the meanwhile, I do not scruple at visiting their chapel to say the rosary in Latin with their community.

His Excellency, Fellay, has twice presented a spiritual bouquet to the Holy Father. With each, a flurry of grace showered on the Earth, whiter than cherry blossoms and more numerous than rain drops. Another spray of prayers is to be given the Pontiff now. This one begs that Gloria Olivae honour a request that has yet to be fulfilled.

Pastor et Nauta said: ‘It is not for our times.’ Flos Florum also did not address it, nor was this done by De Labore Solis, unless one finds satisfaction with the 13th of May, 1982. Perhaps it is true that Pope John Paul II fulfilled the wishes of Our Lady expressed at Fatima adequately. Yet, when has adequate been enough for a queen?

Sister Lucia was understandably bound hand and foot as to what she could say concerning Fatima, and her official commentary concerning the Pope's consecration of the entire world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is ambiguous enough to cast doubt on whether the request has been fulfilled. If one can trust the three men who interviewed her later (the Lisbon Nuncia, Dr. Lacerda, and Father Messias), then her final pronouncement is thus:
The consecration of Russia has not been made as Our Lady has demanded. I could not say so because I did not have the permission of the Holy See. (

In the misty realm of private revelation (which constitutes any supernatural message given after the death of the last apostle), no Catholic is held to believe anything. Once visions have been examined and acquitted by Holy Mother Church, a soul is free to embrace them, though it is still not required. But one should give pause before dismissing these post-Patmos visitations. Remember that we are also not ‘required’ to say a daily rosary, read the Scripture daily, attend Mass more often than Sundays and Holy Days of Obligations, or go to Confession more than once a year. Yet, how greatly it would promote the health of our souls to do more than the bare minimum!

If a patient were to ask his doctor: ‘Will I die if I don’t eat spinach?’ the medic would likely be flustered. ‘Well, it won’t kill you not to each spinach, but it’s very healthy and an excellent source of iron. Seeing as how you’re anaemic…’

‘Thank you, doctor. And are three cups of coffee a day likely to be lethal?’

‘Er, no, but it leeches calcium, depletes your iron, and may aggravate anxiety…’

‘Thank you, doctor! I now see no need to change my habits, and as I dislike spinach and love coffee, I'm greatly relieved.’

Ignoring the munificence of divine visitation is no sin, but it is also no wiser than living as dangerously as one can without actually risking death. Our Lady of Fatima came. She came in a time of great trial with messages of hope, words of warning, and prophecies—all of which have been vindicated by history (

If the king’s mother visited an impoverished village and showed it the way to a salt mine to revive its fortunes and prepare for coming depravation, and the villagers ignored her guidance—content to remain subject to their misfortune—what would the lord of this realm think of that hamlet? In times of famine, would they have any right to the stores of food prepared by more diligent hands? This is not to mention the anger he may feel that his mother was slighted in her efforts to help. Be he tyrant or no, why tempt the wrath of a king?

It is presumptuous to ask for a sign, yes, as St. Matthew has well related to us:

And there came to Him the Pharisees and Sadducees tempting: and they asked Him to shew them a sign from heaven. But He answered and said to them: When it is evening, you say, It will be fair weather, for the sky is red. And in the morning: Today there will be a storm, for the sky is red and lowering. You know then how to discern the face of the sky: and can you not know the signs of the times? A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign (Matthew 16: 1-4)

Reading carefully though, one will see that the Pharisees and Sadducees were not only reproached in asking for a sign, but in not seeing the signs already given them. ‘Can you not know the signs of the times?’

Well, one may say that as Our Lady of Fatima’s requests were not fulfilled, their time is past. It is now fitting to let them rest. However, the sins over which Our Lady admonished us have multiplied and worsened. Nations have grown more bellicose and capable of inflicting even more ruin on each other. Is not another World War imminent? Or if not war, are we not on the verge of economic ruin?

‘But Our Lady of Fatima’s particular request concerning Russia is no longer pertinent. Communism has fallen, and while it is a superpower, it is not the only nation with that title.’

This is true, but it may be that Russia’s consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary may benefit the world now more than ever before. Pious as the hagiography of the Orthodox Churches is, they dare to say that the Madonna was not immaculately conceived. That the Womb, the Tabernacle of the Most High, was rotten with Adam's sin! Were they to make the concession of her purity, would that not magnificently propel reconciliation between the Roman Catholic Church and the East?

There is also an argument politically. Throughout history there have occasionally arisen men of destiny. Like the Judges of Israel, they were not always virtuous, but they were the men chosen by God to dominate the affairs of this world. They were called messiahs—the anointed ones—and even in the Old Testament, they weren’t always Jews:

Thus saith the Lord to My anointed Cyrus, whose right hand I have taken hold of, to subdue nations before his face, and to turn the backs of kings, and to open the doors before him, and the gates shall not be shut. (Isaias 45: 1)

As a daughter of the Church, I believe the Messiah has come, and that He dwells in every licitly established tabernacle on this Earth. Yet, it is not the wont of a Catholic to tear at the veil of mystery, or to engrave in stone what God has not written. He is not limited by what He decrees, and if He chooses to decree again, outside the realm of prophecy, He may.

There may yet be men He anoints for a mighty destiny on this Earth; there may yet be messiahs to come in the realm of temporal affairs. And of all the world leaders today, who is the only one that calls on the name of God? who has wrested power from the oligarchs of his nation? whom his people follow with adulation and confidence? I can name but one man: Władimir Władimirowicz Putin. Whether a messiah or not, he is a man I would wish to see displaying the standard of Our Lady.

On the 13th of October 1917 at 1:30 p.m., the sun whirled wildly about in the sky above those at Fatima, imbuing the area with every colourful shade that is found in light, healing them of their infirmities, and so converting many. Signs from Heaven are not to be sought, but God is generous and dotes on us with divine munificence. What might we see if Our Lady’s requests are to be fulfilled? I have given a mere 275 rosaries towards that end, but in union with a much greater crowd of intensely faithful souls. Will we number the twelve million, Marian psalters that Bishop Fellay wishes to present to His Holiness? Pray God that we do!
Monday, March 22, 2010
What Have Women Done?

Does it follow then that feminine genius of the secular order is also traced back to this source, i.e. the drive of passion, rather than action? What of Diotima, Sappho, Scheherazade, Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell, Marie Curie, Isabella of Castile, Maria Theresa of Austria, Maria Spartali Stillman, Lucy Maud Montgomery, and Annie Oakley? Are these women simply freaks of nature, and were their aspirations nearly crushed in the face of omnipresent, masculine chauvinism?

It may not establish a universal to analyze such a small field of particulars, but the pool of feminine genius does not afford many examples, and even less of the earth-shattering sort. There is no female equivalent to Beethoven in the musical order, nor to Dante in the poetic, nor to Plato in the philosophical. The ancient pedant may argue that Diotima, even though she instilled the heart of Socrates’s metaphysics in his soul, was still the inferior in reason to the Gadfly of Athens.

The poetess, Sappho, is not likely to be confessed the equal of Homer. The other authors—Miss Jane Austen, Mrs. Gaskell, and Maud (listed as they would have preferred to be addressed)—have been counted amongst the greatest prose writers in English history, yet it is often joked that a character from Dostoevsky’s novels, if placed in a work of Jane Austen, would cause the book to explode. Female critics have occasionally complained that many novels by Mrs. Gaskell tend to be sparse, as she wrote on a productive time table (though I still consider her threadbare works superior to many of Dickens’s fully worked tapestries), and Lucy Maud Montgomery herself said through her heroine Anne (to whom it had been suggested by the character’s husband to undertake the biography of a sea captain):

…I only wish I could. But it's not in the power of my gift. You know what my forte is, Gilbert--the fanciful, the fairylike, the pretty. To write Captain Jim's life-book as it should be written one should be a master of vigorous yet subtle style, a keen psychologist, a born humorist and a born tragedian. A rare combination of gifts is needed. Paul might do it if he were older…. (Anne’s House of Dreams, Chapter XVII- A Four Winds Winter)

Many might argue that the above quotation is far from a denunciation of what Maud saw as a woman’s ability to write. After all, she is talking about Anne, not herself. Everyone who knows L. M. Montgomery also knows that it is Emily of New Moon that serves as her twin in the fictional realm and chief representative. In the realm of the psychological, the sweet, impulsive Anne is a blossom of spring. Emily is the ripened pomegranate, and merits the most intense scrutiny to decipher the psychology behind Maud’s inspiration.

Emily was not called to write any particular story. She continued to write even after the devastating loss of her first great tale. There was no incident in history, no archetype in the back of her mind, and no hero or heroine whom she sought to memorialize in her works. Her sagely tutor, Mr. Carpenter, saw in her one who would give voice to the Canadian spirit. Emily herself saw her works as an attempt to describe her personal relationship with Beauty. I again, present, as I have in the past, this quotation penned directly from the author:

It has always seemed to me, ever since early childhood, that, amid all the commonplaces of life, I was very near to a kingdom of ideal beauty. Between it and me hung only a thin veil. I could never draw it quite aside, but sometimes a wind fluttered it, and I caught a glimpse of the enchanting realm beyond—only a glimpse, but those glimpses have always made life worthwhile. (The Alpine Path)

Just as Diotima spoke to Socrates of love, so have the female champions of literature focused on the desires of the heart. Whether romantic, filial, religious, political, or even philosophical, has there yet been a female writer whose strength was not in the intimate interchanges between the characters? One thrills in Austen’s novels at the news of a coming ball; this scene of intense social intercourse is bound to ignite something incredible! When calling hours have commenced in the works of Gaskell, the anticipated arrival of a visitor lends ineffable romance to the chiming of the clock. The wild elfin Montgomery refuses to be pinned down; her exciting collisions with kindred spirits can happen anywhere at anytime, provided that the surroundings are beautiful. An enchanting, broken down graveyard, a pristine beach, a secretive grove, and one may very well encounter another member of the ‘race of Joseph.’

What these women did in words, so have female painters done with pictures. The lush portraits of Maria Spartali Stillman, and the other Pre-Raphaelite Sisters, were all keenly intimate, as were the illuminated manuscripts of medieval nuns and aristocratic women. The works that stand out from the Renaissance and the Baroque are those of enclosed portraits and still lifes. Even Elizabeth Butler’s dynamic paintings of war do not extend beyond the width of fifteen men abreast. And in Scotland Forever, I think one remembers more than anything the expressions of the charging horses, the turned of the head in the lead rider, calling or singing out to his men to follow, and the two cavalrymen to his right—one with his mouth howling the war cry and the other with his teeth set to the task forthcoming.

As to Isabella of Castile, Maria Theresa of Austria, and others—well, why are they not praised as highly by women of the Left as Elizabeth I and others? Is it due to the moral accusations raised against them? Hardly. Those issues are hardly resolved, and if Maria Theresa was a conqueror of Poland, then Elizabeth was the murderess of Ireland.

It is more likely that the ‘progressive’ minded thinkers resent the way these women came into power. Not grasping, conniving, or scheming, but by accepting. As G. K. Chesterton observed, there is a world of difference between the ‘public’ woman and the ‘political’ woman. Isabella would not have chained herself to a fence post for the sake of a vote. She refused the Archbishop Carillo’s urges to revolt against her imbecile half-brother, but said that she must respect the position of her brother’s crown, if her own monarchical rights were to be honoured.

Maria Theresa did not win over her noblemen with a rousing Crispin’s Day Speech or with the adamant logic of a Roman statesman. It must raise the blush and ire of many a third wave feminist to read how she secured her power:

Making her way to her old capital, she summoned the Hungarians to a great meeting in the castle. It was September 11, 1741, a day ever remembered in the annals of Hungary. The great hall was already full when the young queen entered. She was in deep mourning, for it was not yet a year since her father had died. Her dress was Hungarian, the iron crown was on her head, the sword of state in her hand. Though her step was firm, her tears were falling fast, and for some time after she had ascended the throne she was unable to speak…

…Maria Theresa had now recovered herself. On a cushion before her lay her baby son Joseph, afterwards Emperor of Austria. The queen now took him in her arms. She held him up to the assembly before her. Her face, still wet with tears, was "beautiful as the moon riding among wet, stormy clouds." She spoke in Latin, the official language of Hungary to this day.

"The kingdom of Hungary, our person, our children, our crowns, are at stake," she cried to them amidst her sobs.

"Forsaken by all, we seek shelter only in the tried fidelity, the arms, the well-known valour of the Hungarians."

The beauty and distress of their unhappy queen roused every Hungarian to the wildest enthusiasm. Each man drew his sword, and all cried as with one voice, which re-echoed through the lofty hall, "Our lives, our blood for your Majesty! We will die for our king, Maria Theresa!"

The young queen burst into tears.

"We wept too," said one of the nobles present; "but they were tears of pity, admiration, and fury." (M. B. Synge, The Awakening of Europe)

Yes, that is right. One of the most dynamic queens in history saved her realm by appearing before her nobles with a babe in arms and weeping profusely. Feminine genius turns its head, and another aspect is now introduced: the greatness a woman can elicit in a man.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Patrick's Hymn Before Tarah
by James Clarence Mangan

At Tarah to-day, in this awful hour,
I call on the Holy Trinity:

Glory to Him who reigneth in power,
The God of the elements, Father and Son

And Paraclete Spirit, which Three are the One,

The ever-existing Divinity!

At Tarah to-day I call on the Lord,

On Christ, the omnipotent Word,

Who came to redeem us from death and sin
Our fallen race:

And I put and I place

The virtue that lieth and liveth in

His incarnation lowly,

His baptism pure and holy,

His life of toil and tears and affliction,

His dolorous death--His crucifixion,

His burial, sacred and sad and lone,

His resurrection to life again,

His glorious ascension to Heaven's high throne,

And lastly, His future dread
And terrible comign to judge all men--

Both the living and dead . . .

At Tarah to-day I put and I place
The virtue that dwells in the seraphim's love,

And the virtue and grace
That are in the obedience
And unshaken allegiance

Of all the archangels and angels above,
And in the hope of the resurrection
To everlasting reward and election.
And in the prayers of the fathers of old,

And in the truths the prophets foretold,
And in the Apostles' manifold preachings,

And in the confessors' faith and teachings;

And in the purity ever dwelling
Within the immaculate Virgin's breast,

And in the actions bright and excelling
Of all good men, the just and the blest.

At Tarah to-day, in this fateful hour,

I place all heaven within its power,

And the sun with its brightness,
And the moon with its whiteness,
And fire with all the strength it hath,

And lightning with its rapid wrath,
And the winds with their swiftness along their path,
And the sea with its deepness,
And the rocks with their steepness,
And the earth with its darkness,--

All these I place,
By God's almighty help and grace,
Between myself and the powers of darkness.

At Tarah to-day

May God be my stay!
May the strength of God now nerve me!
May the power of God preserve me!
May God the Almighty be near me!
May God the Almighty espy me!

May God the Almighty hear me!
May God give me eloquent speech!
May the arm of God protect me!
May the wisdom of God direct me!

May God give me power to teach and to preach!

May the shield of God defend me!
May the host of God attend me,
And ward me,

And guard me

Against the wiles of demons and devils,

Against the temptations of vices and evils,

Against the bad passions and wrathful will
Of the reckless mind and the wicked heart,--
Against every man who designs me ill,

Whether leagued with others or plotting apart!

In this hour of hours,
I place all those powers
Between myself and every foe

Who threaten my body and soul

With danger or dole,

To protect me against all evils that flow
From lying soothsayers' incantations,
From the gloomy laws of the Gentile nations,

From heresy's hateful innovations,
From idolatry's rites and invocations,

Be these my defenders,

My guards against every ban--
And spell of smiths, and Druids, and women;
In fine, against every knowledge that renders

The light Heaven sends us dim in
The spirit and soul of man!

May Christ, I pray,

Protect me to-day
Against poison and fire,

Against drowning and wounding;
That so, in His grace abounding,
I may earn the preacher's hire!

Christ as a light
Illumine and guide me!
Christ as a shield o'ershadow and cover me!
Christ be under me!--Christ be over me!
Christ be beside me,
On the left hand and right!
Christ be before me, behind me, about me;
Christ this day be within and without me!

Christ, the lowly and meek,
Christ the All-Powerful be
In the heart of each to whom I speak,
In the mouth of each who speaks to me!
In all who draw near me,
To see me or hear me!

At Tarah to-day, in this awful hour,
I call on the Holy Trinity!
Glory to Him who reigneth in power,
The God of the elements, Father and Son
And Paraclete Spirit, which Three are the One,
The ever-existing Divinity!

Salvation dwells with the Lord,
With Christ, the omnipotent Word.
From generation to generation
Grant us, O Lord, thy grace and salvation!
Sunday, March 14, 2010
What do Women Want?

Another one. Yet, another one. Jamie Paulin-Ramirez is the second woman-turned jihadist to disrupt the world wide web in the past week. A woman of the liberated West chose a religion advocating polygamy with a reputation for state sanctioned rape and honour killings. Whether or not these abominations apply to mainstream Islam, these abuses are linked to the particular forms of extremism to which these women allied themselves.

These incidents of Western female defection may be anomalies, but there remains a trend of normalized conversions to Islam—some Western women have claimed that this faith ‘makes sense’ to them and have happily donned the hijab. How ironic that they should do this so shortly after feminism 'liberated' us from the yoke of bonnets and kerchiefs.

Then there’s the other fad amongst modern women, from the willing subjugation to a patriarchal religion to becoming the willing pawn of anti-patriarchal hedonism. A young woman named Courtney A. (writing for a feminist website that advertises itself as ‘sweet, tasty, and tart’) unabashedly related a story about how she let a man use her in a way that would insult a prostitute’s dignity. At least a prostitute has a higher sense of worth than being appeased with twenty dollars for cab fare. The pop singer Rihanna’s masochistic musical album, Russian Roulette--released after the violent assault she suffered from her lover--do not even show signs of righteous indignation at male brutality, much less a testimony to empowerment—quite the contrary in fact.

I can only sit thoroughly agape. Nothing undermines an abstract argument like a concrete negation. For every occasion that a feminist loudly calls out for men to respect women, there are at least a hundred (very likely more) occasions where women do or
would content themselves with less.

From the early years of my childhood on, I bristled at males when patronized, and I stubbornly refused to be put down. To my dismay, I did not notice the same tendency in the majority of females surrounding me. Little girls my age at school seemed happy to let boys tease them, many teenage girls my age did not distress themselves at being mocked or leeringly yelled at, but were happy to provide fodder for the sport. I wondered at their lack of self-respect, and at the absence of their drive to succeed in school. Of course, that drive was absent in many students of both sexes. I was abnormal compared with many, and it would be a long time before my all too literal mind began to understand the forces at work around me and to know that these powers were not a matter of the times or the product of history; they were inflamed and fuelled by Nature herself, who will not be gainsaid.

As I began to study philosophy in earnest from my eighteenth year on, I entered an unsettling world that pronounced a very serious sentence upon me. I was an unnatural woman. Not wholly of course, perhaps not even altogether negatively, but there were aspects of my being that I had to understand were not characteristic of women in general. The demigods I so admired I found to be dead against me. Aside from the credibility my personal laud afforded them, their arguments against female philosophers were so articulate and borne out by literature and experience, that I was hollowed on hearing them.

Still, my intuition that pursuing my passions was right comforted me. I had no rebuttal except to refer to St. Katherine of Alexandria, St. Teresa of Avila, and others, thereby settling the frenzy of my concern. After my hurt and shock had subsided, curiosity found its voice. Why were female philosophers so abnormal? In truth, they are not born very often, nor are they very exceptional when compared to some of their male counterparts.

The ancients said this was a natural phenomenon, while the moderns hold that it is artificial. As reassuring as the latter opinion would be, I do not and shall not accepted the Left’s revisionist view of history—that female genius was crushed under a brutally oppressive male yoke, which has only been lifted in the past few decades.

Such a statement is a gross insult not only to our forefathers (to whom we owe in part the gratitude for our existence, dear sisters), but also to our ancestral mothers. Are we really to suppose that the only women fully functioning in history have lived in the twentieth or twenty-first centuries? Or are we still at the stage where women aren’t held equal to men? Or do we also refer to a hazy pre-history of a matriarchal society where everything was perfect until some misogynist became tired of Mother Earth and brought a ruthless aerial deity into the picture?

The last argument can hardly be credited by legitimate, scholarly history. As to the implications of anthropology, it is something I cannot recognise as a logician, except to say that it is sometimes very intriguing. Until anthropological evidence is linked with written testimony, it can prove nothing, and its propositions will not be addressed in this writing. The second argument ought to be laughable. If it is not, all one can do is shrug and say that if the battle is not already won, it must have been lost from the start. The first argument however is outrageous.

To say that the frequency of female genius is in truth proportionate to male genius amounts to an insult against feminine fortitude. Did society put obstacles before a woman who strove to exercise greatness? Undoubtedly! Did society do the same thing to men struggling for greatness? Yes! John Everett Millais’s parents may have adored their artistic son and played music for him as he painted, but William Holman Hunt’s parents were hardly so encouraging. The same was true for many male artists who received no support from their families and eviscerating criticism from the press. Elizabeth Siddal on the other hand was given a great deal of approbation from the leading Victorian art critic, John Ruskin, yet never attained to the greatness of her husband or that of other members of the Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood.

Tolkien’s brainchild was never published. Gerard Manley Hopkins died in obscurity. Mozart was given a pauper’s funeral. Galileo wrote his greatest works under house arrest. St. Thomas Aquinas was imprisoned by his family for his monastic ambitions, dubbed the ‘Dumb Ox’ by his contemporaries, and raised Augustinian eyebrows due to his affiliation with Aristotle. Countless are the cases where fathers were angrily frustrated by their son’s drive to achieve dreams that were either above their stations or unprofitable in any monetary sense. Why is it that men were able to conquer these impediments and achieve their dreams? If women have been gifted as often as men, then they have possessed much less courage and resolve to realize their talents. That cowardice would be a far worse thing than not possessing genius in the first place.

But I am not convinced that my feminine forebears or those of others were of any lesser stuff than the women of today. What women have and have always had in abundance is courage, dedication, passion, and perseverance. This much is evidenced in the realm where the feminine demographic equals, if it does not exceed, that of the masculine: sainthood.

Maligned as oppressive, patriarchal, and misogynistic, the Roman Catholic Church’s Tradition is one realm where feminine genius excels and even dominates. Whether these ladies are putting illustrious male personages to shame with their common sense, enduring the most gruelling of physical torments, or breaking the mould of history and society, their stories are memorised, honoured, and held up for emulation.

Strangely, feminists do not seize upon these examples in their argument that women are as dynamic as men. St. Joan of Arc does not adorn feminist banners; few of these women mention her. St. Helen is not given much credit for reshaping the Western world by secular women, and the Virgin Mary is to be shunned entirely (except by them that attempt to twist her story). Why is it that the supposed proponents of womanly worth ignore the greatest arguments in their favour?

It may be that this is not the worth the women of the Left wish to emulate, just as it is not the worth women of the far Right admire. The genius of the women described above is not a will to power or an imposition of her own person. What constitutes the honour of the ladies listed above is that they were vessels housing duty, not arms proclaiming rights.

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The Desires of a Woman's Heart: I by Rachel Rudd is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Now Razias, one of the ancients of Jerusalem, was accused to Nicanor, a man that was a lover of the city, and of good report, who for his affection was called the father of the Jews. This man, for a long time, had held fast his purpose of keeping himself pure in the Jews' religion, and was ready to expose his body and life, that he might persevere therein. So Nicanor being willing to declare the hatred that he bore the Jews, sent five hundred soldiers to take him. For he thought by insnaring him to hurt the Jews very much. Now as the multitude sought to rush into his house, and to break open the door, and to set fire to it, when he was ready to be taken, he struck himself with his sword: Choosing to die nobly rather than to fall into the hands of the wicked, and to suffer abuses unbecoming his noble birth. But whereas through haste he missed of giving himself a sure wound, and the crowd was breaking into the doors, he ran boldly to the wall, and manfully threw himself down to the crowd: But they quickly making room for his fall, he came upon the midst of the neck. And as he had yet breath in him, being inflamed in mind he arose: and while his blood ran down with a great stream, and he was grievously wounded, he ran through the crowd: And standing upon a steep rock, when he was now almost without blood, grasping his bowels with both hands, he cast them upon the throng, calling upon the Lord of life and spirit, to restore these to him again: and so he departed this life.(II Machabees xiv: 37-46)

Razias, a soul twin to Cato’s, chose the act of death rather thanslavery. Aristotle proposed that man’s virtue consists in a Golden Mean between two ignoble extremes. He also said that in some cases a man must strive towards the opposite extremity to overcome the vice that has crippled his soul. A profligate man may have to practice what he sees as stinginess, and a cowardly man, apparent rashness, to find his way in the middle. It has been said by many that Cato veered away entirely from his principles in taking his own life, but it could be that his extreme measure was simply an attempt to maintain his middle ground.

Cato of Utica was a man devoted to the traditions of Rome so much so that he protested the removal of a pillar from one official hall and refused to don a tunic under his toga. These acts were despised by some as petty displays of excessive sentimentality, but they were an attempt to restrain the wild upheavals of a Rome that had been lately ravaged by Sulla and Marius, and later conspired against by Cataline. Cato employed exterior signs, as well as actions, to try to preserve the way of his ancestors. Whether this attitude was nobility or denial is a question unrelated to the present issue.

It is fashionable amongst some modern thinkers to suppose traditionalists to be slaves to the past, ergo, they are of an unoriginal and sheep-like mentality. The image of Cato, inspecting the keen edge of his sword and uttering, ‘Now, I am my own master,’ must at least be unsettling to the anti-Stoics.

Cato was no slave. He did not believe in bending his volition to Fate, but in uniting it with the highest Will. It might raise an eyebrow to see a man utterly independent of his peers, yet completely yielding to the mos maiorum, but it is still clearly rational. Such was his life; his death is not so simple.

At the end of his military campaign against Caesar, Cato was assured of defeat and even more assured that he would not lose his freedom. He did not forget to pity his comrades and the people of his city-fortress, Utica. Though he would plead no mercy for himself, Cato consented that an embassy should go to Caesar: ‘For if, I were willing to be saved by grace of Caesar, I ought to go to him in person and see him alone; but I am unwilling to be under obligations to the tyrant for his illegal acts. And he acts illegally in saving, as if their master, those over whom he has no right at all to be the lord. However, if it is thy wish, let us consider jointly how thou mayest obtain mercy for the three hundred.’ (Plutarch: The Life of Cato the Younger: 66:2)

A magnanimous man often shows mercy for others and none for himself, but the thread in Cato’s life twists again.

The night before Cato died, a paradox of the Stoics was raised: ‘The good man alone is free, and the bad are all slaves.’ Cato defended the tenet earnestly. Days before, he clearly expressed his kinship with the free, ‘good’ man:

(64) In reply to this, after praising their good will, Cato said that to secure their own safety they ought to send to Caesar with all speed, but they must make no prayer for him; 5 prayer belonged to the conquered, and the craving of grace to those who had done wrong; but for his part he had not only been unvanquished all his life, but was actually a victor now as far as he chose to be, and a conqueror of Caesar in all that was honourable and just; Caesar was the one who was vanquished and taken; for the hostile acts against his country which he had long denied, were now detected and proven. (Plutarch, ibid.)

This was the final confirmation for his friends that Cato intended suicide.

Given this intention, one is completely astonished on the man’s choice of reading: Plato’s Phaedo. True, it is a dialogue that comfortingly and brilliantly argues the immortality of man’s soul, and firmly states the fact that good man must ever be ready to die and die fearlessly. Many a man on the verge of death would choose to read it, yet, the writing denies man the privilege of choosing when to leave this world.

Cato reads the work thoroughly, though he angrily interrupts his study to have his sword restored to his room. One cannot argue that a man of Cato’s learning and deliberation missed this point by Socrates:

I believe that the gods are our guardians, and that we are a possession of theirs…And if one of your own possessions…took the liberty of putting himself out of the way, when you had given him no intimation of your wish that he should die, would you not be angry with him, and would you not punish him if you could? (Plato: Phaedo).

One may say that Cato coughed up the part of the Phaedo that he did not like and swallow the sweetness of what he did. To do so, however, is to declare that Cato has abandoned reason in favour of personal preference. His reprimand to his son and friends contradicts this opinion:

(69)"I suppose," said he, "that ye also have decided to detain in life by force a man as old as I am, and to sit by him in silence and keep watch of him: or are ye come with the plea that it is neither shameful nor dreadful for Cato, when he has no other way of salvation, to await salvation at the hands of his enemy? 2 Why, then, do ye not speak persuasively and convert me to this doctrine, that we may cast away those good old opinions and arguments which have been part of our very lives (Plutarch: ibid.)

So Cato still believed in reason and argument. He believed in the righteousness of his course, not just enough to plunge a sword into his bowels with an injured hand, but to rip his bowels out again after a medical attempt was made to save him. Surely, this is not waiting ‘until the hour when God Himself is pleased to release us.’ (Plato: ibid.)

Did Cato reject this work in the whole then? What of his old doctrines did he maintain? Dante Alighieri, who clearly differs with Plutarch, (e.g. their divergent appraisals of Cato’s usurious half-nephew) actually concurs with the historian in giving Cato the highest honour a member of the Roman Catholic Church could give to a pagan. The poet sets him above even the Hell of the naturally virtuous, and illumines Cato’s brow with the stars of Socrates’s Cardinal Virtues: prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice.

‘Argument from authority is the weakest’, but one ought to pause a little at the opinion of great men. Dante’s and Plutarch’s praises are not infallible guides, yet they seemed untroubled by the paradox in Cato’s death. Plutarch does not mention Phaedo’s censure of suicide at all, though he does see fit to defend Cato’s decision in his Life of Marcus Brutus. Dante’s Church, however, unambiguously condemns it. Though allowances are to be made for those who never heard her warnings, it is odd that Dante should paint such a wretched end for suicides in general and not even see the need to vindicate his approbation of Cato.

One is forced back to the Phaedo to find the answer:

And if one of your own possessions…took the liberty of putting himself out of the way, when you had given him no intimation of your wish that he should die… (Plato: ibid.)

Is imminent slavery then such an intimation? Was it impossible to live the life of a virtuous man after being put under Caesar’s heel? Cato could not abide the injustice of Caesar’s victory and would not accept the forgiveness of one whom he saw in the wrong. Hanging on to the traditions he loved, he must have seen in them a dispensation for avoiding their orders.

And perhaps, like Razias, Cato thought his actions and his being, were insignificant next to the powers of Being beyond. He cast out his own bowels like the former and for the same reason—the shame he would have received at enemy hands. Perhaps, if Cato had also physically faced the foe and had not been too depleted to stand upright, he too would have called ‘upon the Lord of life and spirit, to restore these to him again.’

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Domine, spero quia mundum vicisti. Lord, I trust that Thou hast overcome the world. Panie, ufam, żeś pokonał świat.
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