Friday, February 25, 2011
The group and I were silently watching the TV screen as new footage of the Smoleńsk crash (filmed right after the catastrophe) splayed across the screen. The Polish anchorman's words splintered in my ears with as much cogency as the image of a shattered mirror. The report ended and the TV was muted as commercials began.

'What was the significance of that film footage? I know it was of the catastrophe, but I didn't understand what I was looking at.' I asked one whom I knew spoke English.

He responded: 'Well, there was no furrow. A plane crash should have plowed into the ground, leaving a huge ditch in its wake, as well as felling trees.' I felt a chill at this obvious fact, the momentum of a body that strikes the ground at a wrong angle--the abrasion such a thing ought to make against the earth and the long gash it ought to leave behind.

'There was also the lack of burning,' someone noted.

'You mean the fact that only the edges of the plane's pieces were charred?'

'Yes, and the lack of burnt soil and trees. They mentioned that the fuel in a plane ought to keep burning long after a crash.' He paused and squared his shoulders. 'They say it looks more like it exploded in the air, burning up the fuel, and then the pieces fell to earth.'

My stomach turned, and anger churned within it. So, the only media in Poland that would release this information was Ave Maria's channel? Did the secular media not even have secular interests at heart? I wondered what the great non-entities, Komorowski and Tusk, would have to say to about it. Leftist politicians before now had actually accused their fellow Poles of treason merely for wanting a Polish investigation into the death of the nation's president and the heads of the patriotic party of Poland. Marek Jurek, the pro-life politican who resigned from his position as Sejm marshall (the head speaker of parliament) in protest against his party's lukewarm committment to protecting the unborn, is one of the few such men surviving. Whenever I see him at Mass, I cannot but recollect that he is a man who would have been on that doomed plane, but for the convictions urging him to part ways with Kaczynski's twin brother.

Lech Kaczynski, the imperfect champion of Poland and the man whom the Leftist media most eagerly blamed for the catastrophe (citing his impatience to be at Katyń on time as the cause of the tragedy), may well be having the day of his legacy's exculpation soon. As I have written here before, I am less suspicious of Russia than I am of the EU, but the lack of transparency in the investigation's aftermath on Russia's part is troubling. Then again, what should one expect given Tusk's pathetic obsequiousness? In truth, I could as easily believe Tusk himself is responsible and was thus happy to let Russians investigate, obscuring whatever evidence that might bring Polish retribution on his empty head.

However, the above musing is mere conjecture. All that can be said in truth is that too little is known about the crash, that Poland's leaders behaved in a way no other nation's government would have had its president and elite had died, that Kaczynski was the thorn in the side of the EU and Russia alike, and that the new evidence obscures the calumnious explanation that fog and a fussy president brought about the second tragedy of
Friday, February 18, 2011
Episode IV

Horatius reclined on the fur of a slain bear in his troubled brooding. He had hoped to be rid of Ráichéal, but instead had attached himself to her again and now had to divide his time ‘twixt herself, Katrina, and more vigorous, sporting interests. He had never much liking for sleep, but his growing interests in the sophistry of diplomacy were like to deprive him of all hours of retreat.

A wave of his valiant hand, and he left off contriving his new rota, and took up the papers of his concerning his woodland properties. Thereupon the manservant entered breathless.

‘Master, thy presence is wanted at court.’
‘The castle’s or the province’s court?’
‘The province’s.’
‘Ready my carriage.’

The valet startled and clutched at his heart, ‘The carriage sir? Thou wilt not go on horseback?’

‘Nay, shall I arrive dishevelled before my fellow statesmen? I must finish perusing these papers anyhow. There will be no time on the morrow. See to the carriage then.’

‘Very good, Master.’
* * *
Following the jostling of the darkened carriage, Horatius alighted with the gayest freedom from his seldom employed hansom, leaving his property’s papers bound handsomely in twine, all business of self concluded. He was greeted with raised right hands by all his colleagues—so firmly possessed as they were of his infallibility and thus indispensable presence.

‘An irksome matter faces us tonight, Horatius,’ said one of the Ministers, ‘A lady of rank wishes to settle on a small vacant estate toward the southern boundary on the sea. She demands our decision forthwith.’

‘And why should it not be aye?’ Horatius asked, a line as thin as gossamer creasing in his great brow, ‘Have not the poor of that region suffered long enough from that land lying fallow?’

The Ministers’ eyes darted to one another like marbles whirling on a child’s table in their distress, before they settled on Horatius again. ‘She is an infidel, Horatius. A devotee of Mahound!’ said the Minister of Defence, waving a handkerchief under his nose as if to dispel the sting of sulphur. But Horatius smiled broadly and inhaled through leonine nostrils, as though to rile the man.

‘And this troubles thee? Well, well, let us gauge the predicament. Can she pay taxes?’

‘Aye,’ said the Minister of the Treasury, ‘she comes with a small retinue and a great fortune.’

‘Then you may to thy bed,’ Horatio said, As your concern is clearly resolved, Minister.’ That august gentleman looked about the table with a wringing of his long, white hands, ‘We have not tallied our— ’

'All here stand to witness thy being in favour of the lady’s residing. Why keep thy wife awake? Away to thy sleep!’ an imperious sign of Horatio’s hand, and the minister sat like a chastened child, collecting his papers.

‘And now, Copius,’ he turned to the Minister of Agriculture, ‘dost thou not require that the estate be brought to full fruit? It has long been vacant at our expense.’

‘And the lady? Has she made good her case that she would use well this land?’
‘Then thou shouldst depart for home as well, for thy vote is taken in favour of agriculture.’
‘But the principle of piety—’
‘Is not thy ministry. Thou hast been charged with the care of foodstuffs for bodies, not souls. Tally in her favour and go.

‘And our venerable Minister of Defence,” Horatius spake, turning, ‘For sooth, a spy would not choose so remote a residence, and if danger is thy concern, we could but incur hostility in refusing her grant.’

‘Horatius,’ the lord evened his gaze with the taller man’s, ‘All acknowledge the worldly gain of her stay, but we hesitate to admit an infidel into our bosom.’

‘It meseems that the Archbishop should advise us on the best course for our souls. Is he present?’ An uncomfortable silence thickened with swallows and the clearing of throats followed this shaft of Horatius’s tongue.

‘Ah,’ he said triumphantly, ‘His Excellency has no objection to her stay? Then Heaven and Earth are as one, and you have waited on this troublesome instrument, myself, to utter that mere phrase. Away to your beds and homes, good men, and be sure to have your wives prepare some dainty reception for the lady, when her calling time chances on your own abodes.’ With a bow punctuating the argument, Horatius withdrew, his step light with the satisfaction of a conflict dispelled like mist before the summer sun.
* * *
The next morning found Horatius just finishing his cravat, when the grey dawn transmuted into an aurora of colour, much in the same fashion that Ráichéal converted base metals into gold. Their last eventide had been full of many such prodigies with dark wanderings through the tall groves in search of fae rings and nightly herbs. And Katrina had been so lovely the luncheon of the previous day, a feast she had executed herself and which ended with a hardy ride over the bald, green mounds in the north, one of the lady’s cherished haunts.

Horatius had slapped a spray of dust from his boot and pulled it over his doeskin breeches, when the valet slipped through his boudoir’s open door.

‘Master, a lady is here for thee.’

‘At this hour?’ Horatius exclaimed in perplexity. Katrina would be chanting the Morning Office, and Ráichéal, clipping her dewy plants.

‘Yes, she has stopped from the road toward her newly acquired state and hearing of thine hours, has begged admittance to thank thee for some favour.’

‘Ah, the Mussulwoman!’ Horatius laughed broadly, ‘Well, she must break her fast with me. I will receive her grandly; show her to the great room while I don my long jerkin.’ The valet cringed, either from the guest’s creed or his master’s eccentricity and beat a hasty retreat unto the asylum of solitary duty.
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
In my end is my beginning.

Centuries ago yesterday, an exhausted, wronged, and ill woman received the news that she was to be executed by foreigners who had no jurisdiction over her nor any God-given right to take her life. It was Mary Stuart, and I hold that the charges against her for conspiring against the queen were quite as feeble as those for the murder of Darnley, which even Elizabeth herself did not believe.

For those who do think that a woman under lock and key for nineteen years, of bad physical health, who had been implicated only by a man who had been brutally tortured for his confession, and whose letter had been discovered at the bottom of a beer bottle (naturally Francis Walsingham would have known where to find a letter he himself had likely written), then I can say nothing to you. As all acquainted with this matter know, the division is along the line of first principles and there can be no meeting halfway. For either side to give way, minds must be changed, not convinced.

Siding with Elizabeth are feminists who abominate the fact that Mary had affections, those who believe that because Elizabeth stayed on the throne she was a better ruler, and of course Anti-Catholics. Siding with Mary are the romantics, the advocates of natural law (overthrowing a just monarch is not natural), and of course, the Catholics.

I fall into the latter camp for all three reasons above. However, I also find the evidence against the rightful Queen of England and Scotland absurd, and even if it were not, the memory of Elizabethan martyrs and the
current state of England gives me cause to think that had Mary Stuart attempted such a bid for her own freedom and for natural justice, I--among many--would not fault her. Both Esther and Judith were virtuous, but I do believe that she had chosen the lot of the former:

I do not desire vengeance. I leave it to Him who is the just Avenger of the innocent and of those who suffer for His Name under whose power I will take shelter. I would rather pray with Esther than take the sword with Judith. _Mari R.

The reason I dubbed a portion of Elizabeth's advocates as Anti-Catholic was not lack of generosity on my part. How could I write 'Protestant' when Elizabethan Protestants only exist in pockets of the Bible Belt of the United States? Even they are a vanishing breed. How could I write 'atheists' when I have known romantic and/or rational atheists who do not side with Elizabeth? How could I write that her advocates are 'free-thinking' when under Elizabeth so many more died for the Catholic Faith than under Mary Tudor for the Protestant one? Granted Elizabeth had much more time than her half-sister, but that time also rendered her far bloodier. The death of those such as Margaret Middleton belie the notion of any 'tolerance' in Elizabeth's regime:

You must return from whence you came, and there, in the lowest part of the prison, be stripped naked, laid down, your back on the ground, and as much weight laid upon you as you are able to bear, and so to continue for three days without meat or drink, and on the third day to be pressed to death, your hands and feet tied to posts, and a sharp stone under your back.

These were the words of Judge George Clinch to Margaret Middleton, a pregnant housewife, who had committed the iniquitous crime of housing a priest. Popular in Yorkshire, many refused to give evidence against her. Those in court pleaded for her to stand trial that she might have a less gruesome death. She heroically refused to subject her children to such a trial where they would be forced to betray their mother, as well as holding to this principle: 'I know of no offense whereof I should confess myself guilty. Having made no offense, I need no trial.' With that staunch resolve, Elizabeth's tolerant system extinguished her life and that of her unborn child's.

Given this division of principles at the very outset of the argument, to what might one appeal? I would look at the impact that the lives these women led had on their own hearts, minds, and souls.

Tribulation has been to them as a furnace to fine gold - a means of proving their virtue, of opening their so-long blinded eyes, and of teaching them to know themselves and their own failings. _Mari R.

One way to judge the rightness of a soul's journey on this earth is how
this soul greets her end. Elizabeth killed Mary, but whose was the truly disturbing death?

When Mary heard that she was to be executed on February the 7th, she accepted it with Stoic grace and only asked that she be given time to put her affairs in order. The Count of Shrewsbury spoke to her as a modern jail warden would not dare to speak to a murderer or a rapist: 'No, no, Madam you must die, you must die! Be ready between seven and eight in the morning. It cannot be delayed a moment beyond that time.'

She must die. They are indeed her enemies, and not merely enemies of the enemies of the queen.

Well, Jane Kennedy, did I not tell you this would happen? I knew they would never allow me to live, I was too great an obstacle to their religion. _Mari R.

When she approached the scaffold--regal, calm and clad in black--her serenity must have incensed her enemies who knew that an evildoer does not meet death peaceably. When she asked that her chaplain be allowed to accompany her, her executioners refused. Was she not allowed to worship as she wished even on the last day of her life? The Count of Kent sneered at her for carrying the cross (as the Emperor Constantine had been told by Heaven to do so centuries earlier). Mary made a reply worthy of St. Teresa of Avila that:

' would be difficult to hold a thing so lovely in my hand and not feel it thrill the heart, and that what became every Christian in the hour of
death was to bear with him the true Symbol of Redemption.'

She refused the mockery of a minister whose religion she did not recognize, and as she removed her ornaments, she attempted to prevent her royal person being touched by a vulgar (some believe drunken) executioner. He did roughly seize her, ripping off the doublet and revealing the red gown of the martyr beneath her sombre black.

She blessed her maids and asked them not to weep, but to rejoice for their mistress's coming freedom. Her eyes having been bound, she knelt
at the block making her last prayers, repeatedly interrupted by the surly executioner. At last, her arms held by another executioner, her head was severed, not with a sword as would have been legitimate for her status, but with an axe. It was 'obvious' to Pierre de Bourdeille, an observer, that the brute wished to exacerbate the pain of her death, as it took him three strokes to cut off the head of a woman. When her head was shorn of its wig, it was revealed that a lady too young to be grey, had hair of silvery white and shorn close to the head. The evidence of her long suffering at the treachery of her nobles and of Elizabeth.

When Elizabeth died, she was a frail old woman, likely poisoned in her blood by the white cosmetics fashionable at the time. She was a nervous, lonely, frightened creature. Crying in darkened rooms, afraid to sleep, and as from the beginning of her reign, irresponsibly reluctant to name the heir to the throne.

Being so fearful of death, she sat on the floor for four days towards the end before being carried to her bed. There were no last words as she could not speak. Some speculate that she assented to James's succession by a physical sign.
The death of this woman is indeed a pitiable thing to contemplate.

She had betrayed so many close to her and had been betrayed by those whom she loved as well. It had likely always hung over her head that the only
reason she was queen was by the intercession of her older sister's Spanish husband (who had feared an English-Scottish-French alliance), and that it had been sealed by virtue of the promise she had made to her sister to preserve the Catholic Faith against the Protestant nobility. She either lied then or later broke her word. It is ironic that it was often those most dear to her that conspired against her.

Had she been a good queen for her own people? Well, she chose to side with heretical noblemen rather than the common, Catholic people of
England, using her long reign to stamp it out via persecution both fiscal and physical. In court, she was hasty and hot-tempered (woe unto a lady-in-waiting who either caught Bess with a lover or a stole a lover from her). She was also easily flattered, being pitiably insecure about her looks following her disfigurement from small pox. This weakness in her pride is how many explain her indulgence of the flattering Earl of Essex. Such a failing is understandable in an ordinary woman, but hardly befitting a monarch.

It seems also that advisers such as Burghley, Cecil, Essex, Walsingham, etc. and even courtiers, were as much queen as she. When she was confronted with accumulated economic abuses
(supposedly perpetrated by these parties) in the 'second' part of her reign, her grand defense was 'ignorance.' This 'ignorance' would have been characteristic of her then, as her defenders protest again and again that where deeds of blood and violence were committed via religious persecution and piracy, Elizabeth cannot be held responsible.

Even modern statesmen, such as Ronald Reagan, know that one must take responsibility where one has authority, and when he reluctantly bought into a plan of Colin Powell's, which later failed, he took complete
responsibility for it; only Powell himself made the truth known later. A ruler cannot be great by virtue of a regime and simultaneously be innocent of its failings.

And Elizabeth's policies abroad? She persecuted Ireland, though not without blundering, sought to undermine the crown in France, succeeded in doing the same in Scotland, and aided any rebellion that was directed against Catholicism on the continent. Iniquitously, she also traded with the Ottoman Empire, selling them metals to use against other nations of her own continent. Anyone who has read of the atrocities
committed by the Ottomans ought to be aghast at such disgusting and heartless pragmatism. At home in England, her military campaigns of course meant very high taxes, yet even then she never financed her allies well enough to help them gain a victory that might erase the memory of the cost.

She had a Tudor's mind: 'sharp, but narrow,' and perhaps had she been in better hands, would have made a better queen. Mary's situation however had been impossible, as the defection of the oligarchy was due in great part to their apostasy. Possessing a greater sense of ethics than modern leaders who
rather idiotically claim that their personal beliefs do not influence their lives as statesmen, Mary knew that she could not sacrifice the Truth for political expedience, as Elizabeth had done under Mary Tudor's reign.

The tragedy of Mary was in so many ways the tragedy of the West. Though GKC was quite the romantic, I find his essay 'If Don John of Austria Had Married Mary, Queen of Scots' to be so realistically compelling that it was heartbreaking. A medieval warrior wed with an educated woman of the Renaissance? The merging of two worlds, rather than their bloody and tragic clash against one another? The speculation
is of course merely that, but every time I turn my eyes to the story of Juan and Mary, I can't but wish their paths had met as he had planned.

It was five hundred years before Joan of Arc was canonized. We may have to wait just as long for 'Mari R.'

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