Sunday, July 31, 2011

When the imperial eagles fell, it was from a pinnacle of heightened entanglement. War had been unthinkable to the royals at that time, because it would have literally been fratricide. Western humanity, in general, thought it had achieved a period of enlightenment that had outgrown the conflicts of the past. Modern man thought he had evolved, but he was about to be reminded that he was, first and foremost, fallen. Pelagius's most burning refutation was coming, and the dominoes began falling rapidly on 31 July, the date of the Russian general mobilization.

As we look back on history through our Epimethean eyes, we often sigh at our backward fathers and perhaps with a magnanimous gesture say, 'O, it was all inevitable!' flattering ourselves that we are enlightened as Tolstoy was; we understand that all things are predetermined. Like Aesop's scorpion, we must sting, even if it means our death. As Dawkins would say, we are all selfish, cocked guns, desiring naught but our own survival, and anything might set us off. The 'natural' Russian wrote that Moscow had burned, because it was made of wood. Europe had exploded, because it was a powder keg.

If reality is really such as this, despair is all that is left to us, and we truly shall 'live without hope.' How can the materialist intelligentsia dominating this world, Dawkins for one, propose whatever kind of morality they would advocate when they are not even 'interested in free will'? How can governments benefit people when their only interests are invested in parties? How can we fight for the good, when the only 'good' we have is the confused definition of a passing generation, and tradition's input is held nil? Whatever the spokesmen of our geopolitical system may say, man has in effect abandoned the humanist optimism of the Renaissance and Enlightenment and plunged into the postmodern gloom of predestination.

Is man right to do so? After all, was not Pelagianism a heresy even in the eyes of a Church devoted to hope? If there is wisdom in accumulation, should not the present generation, living while earth is at her oldest, be wiser than its forebearers? I remember pondering this question in elementary school. The image of a bearded man with the quill did seem impressive to a young girl, but so did the man in the white labcoat with the receding hairline. Which one was wiser?

I asked my father: 'Daddy? Who's smarter? The people from old times or the people right now?' Looking back, I bless God so much for the parents he gave me. They did not subscribe to the Freudian nonsense of not teaching one's children what was right, nor did they stuff my mind with their personal opinions. My father was and remains a liberal-minded man, and he took his time in answering my question. However young I was, he always took my queries seriously. His reply was fair and measured, neither yes nor no, i.e. Scholastic.

'They were smarter in some ways, and we are smarter in others. We may have more records of experience than they did, but I don't know that we make as good a use of them as men of the past did. We know more about the natural world and the sciences, but that does not mean we know more about what is right.' I was satisfied with that, but another question was later provoked.

Is it possible for one generation to be formed by the preceding one? Can remembering the past save us from repeating it? Frank Herbert's well nigh classic saga, Dune, of which at least the first three volumes were masterpieces, explores this notion in the most extreme terms through the descendants of the ancient House of Atreus as they attempt to purge humanity of all its ovine qualities. They do so first by igniting a jihad claiming billions of lives, then crushing mankind with a stiflingly oppressive reign which lasts 3,500 years. The idea is to force man to thirst for freedom and yearn for no more messiahs. This is the 'Golden Path' that would '
teach humanity a lesson that they will remember in their bones
.' Through pain, force human beings from man to the overman. Surely though, such a plan is rather optimistic about the influence of history over man's acts.

Though it would be naïve to disregard the influence the past wields over the present (especially as the mind of man is composed of moment and memory) it is impossible for a later generation to imbibe the lessons of life just as the previous one did simply by word of mouth. One's experience cannot be transmitted after the fashion of one's genes. Thus, tales of struggles and hardships may be sobering for one's children, but tedious to one's grandchildren.

There are trends; there are institutions, and there are necessities. These things mold, influence, and precipitate the actions of man, but ultimately a man's acts are his own. Even on the grand scale displayed in the video above, it was possible for individuals to stand against the deluge. They chose not to do so.

Our Lady of Fatima told us that peace depends not only on individuals, but specifically on the sanctity of their personal lives. It is our willingness in our own souls to mortify our appetites and love our fellow man that makes the progress of mankind possible. Pope Benedict XVI writes of this in his magestic encyclical, Caritas in Veritate:

The second truth is that authentic human development concerns the whole of the person in every single dimension. Without the perspective of eternal life, human progress in this world is denied breathing-space. Enclosed within history, it runs the risk of being reduced to the mere accumulation of wealth; humanity thus loses the courage to the service of the great and disinterested initiatives called forth by universal charity.
(Chapter I, § 11)

Yet, the hanging blade has already swung towards the extreme determinism. Should one adopt the Pope's view, would it be in danger of swinging again into folly of man-worship? This is where philosophers part company, either to the camps of faith or the plains of agnosticism. For what can hope to guide man, who is remade in every newborn child, through infinitely varying epochs? The answer must be a vault made in trust:

Man does not develop through his own powers, nor can development simply be handed to him. In the course of history, it was often maintained that the creation of institutions was sufficient to guarantee the fulfilment of humanity's right to development. Unfortunately, too much confidence was placed in those institutions, as if they were able to deliver the desired objective automatically. In reality, institutions by themselves are not enough, because integral human development is primarily a vocation, and therefore it involves a free assumption of responsibility in solidarity on the part of everyone
. Moreover, such development requires a transcendent vision of the person, it needs God: without him, development is either denied, or entrusted exclusively to man, who falls into the trap of thinking he can bring about his own salvation, and ends up promoting a dehumanized form of development.(ibid.)

Until the day when the words above are greeted with shouts of joy and a blare of trumpets, we shall wander in the ruins of what has been and send up our sighs in this vale of tears. Paradise cannot be regained, but we still pray that the Kingdom come.

In gratitude for all the souls who protested the 'suicide of Europe', thanking them that gave their blood as martyrs--not conquerors--and in atonement for those that wrought such destruction, let us offer our Holy Communions, our prayers, our trials, and our sufferings today.

My shoulders ache beneath my pack
(Lie easier, Cross, upon His back).

I march with feet that burn and smart
(Tread, Holy Feet, upon my heart) .

Men shout at me who may not speak
(They scourged Thy back and smote Thy cheek).

I may not lift a hand to clear
My eyes of salty drops that sear.

(Then shall my fickle soul forget
Thy Agony of Bloody Sweat?)

My rifle hand is stiff and numb
(From Thy pierced palm red rivers come).

Lord, Thou didst suffer more for me
Than all the hosts of land and sea.

So let me render back again
This millionth of Thy gift. Amen.
Joyce Kilmer
Monday, July 25, 2011
'Why do you always have to go around in a skirt?'

'I like them. They're comfy, more aesthetic, and less revealing than jeans at the length I wear them.'

'It makes people think you are judgemental when you never wear shorts or jeans, you know.'

'Maggie, have you considered that maybe they're judgemental for pronouncing me a Pharisee without even knowing my motivations?'

Maggie's eyes narrowed, and she put on her most compelling 'oh, come on' face. 'Rachel,' she said, 'You know that you're the one who's acting weird.'

One of the greatest charges that can be made against a principle or plan is its impracticability or likelihood of failure. No matter how just the cause, a war itself cannot be just if there is no chance of success for the right side. So it is with the concrete and with the abstract. Philosophy may involve love and reason, yet all who engage in the affair must follow the principle that love is not blind, but bound. The attachment of a philosopher to ideals that are pretty rather than possible is like a man loving a brunette for her golden hair. Truth that involves being played out in human acts must be able to be actualized. If Communism has still not produced the Workers' Paradise after decades of nearly free reign, one should toss out the vague notion of that paradise and not (as Communist dictators have so often done) the workers.

So it must be with modesty. Whether one has strong faith or simply strong ethics, modesty must be something women can practice, if it is the ideal way for a lady to clothe herself. Obviously, a woman is physically capable of wearing concealing clothes, but she is also physically capable of whacking herself in the head with a frying pan. What one can do with one's hands is not necessarily possible psychologically.
So can a woman suppress the vanity urging her to flaunt her assets or her physical instinct to arouse a man's concupiscence? Those of faith answer yes. If she could not, scripture and tradition would not require it. However, proponents of rationalism or of faith seeking understanding cannot settle for the authoritative Sed Contra.

First, one must admit where promulgation of modesty seems to go wrong. Some women are very sensitive to the rebuke of people they respect, a fact which can be both a virtue and a vice. I was stung for a full week when, as a teenager, an elderly man rudely found fault with a skirt I wore at church which my parents had judged to be just fine. The fact that my family and his had no real acquaintance only made it worse. A lady standing nearby took up my defence, but I was left speechless. Some girls can indeed be cowed in this way and never think to question it, but when out of sight of the over-demanding puritan, most will resent his lack of kindness and dress in anyway they please. The minority of women still under his control will then shun the majority. Thus, modesty may become a scandal.

To avoid the typical confusion caused by equivocation, which so plagues modern disputation, these are the definitions of scandal as used in this article:

  • (theology) Religious discredit; an act or behaviour which brings a religion into discredit.
  • (theology) Something which hinders acceptance of religious ideas or behaviour; a stumbling-block or offense.


But does this discredit the insistence that one must dress to promote the dignity of one's own personhood and that of others? Is vigilance of dress necessarily a sign of obsession with sex? Does the wish to be modest constitute a wish to be better than other women? Are strict people necessarily strange or unkind?

Regarding the fourth question: a
very dear girl of mine was almost in tears on the phone with me the other day claiming that when she admonished her friends for wearing derrière-revealing shorts, they snapped back that she was getting to be, well, like me in her ideas. Ouch, though I must say that of the past sins which come to hang over my bed at night, one of the heaviest is that I was not charitable enough as a teenager. My words had always been too uncompromising and undiplomatic, and my appearance reinstated them forcefully.

For many of my peers, my Bohemian frumpiness must have made them conceive of modesty as something grotesquely out of fashion, and the 'sacks' I affected indicated a sort of perpetual penance for having a woman's body. Looking back through old photos, I now see those girls had as bad a sense of fashion as I had, but I still shiver a bit thinking that a little more open-mindedness on my part might have helped them to choose a different path from the bikini-clad one they have taken.

So extreme dogmatists, and clothing makers such as these, do occasionally scandalize a woman so much that she gives up the fight and takes sides with the world.

But was the scandal given or taken? One may be too hard on a person for any number of vices, from dishonesty to lack of hygiene. This would still not excuse the wearied soul from failure. Also, how often does one encounter prudes so truly brutal that they taint their cause by association? As Alice Von Hildebrand wrote to Christopher West, where are these rabid puritans that humanists must so staunchly oppose? How many people are actually blackening their bathwater with coal to obscure their bodies and how many women are strapping down their bosoms to make them less noticeable? A very neglible minority, if any at all. Such extremities are obsolete.

It might also be mentioned, hopefully without being ad hominem, that those who are less strict are hardly often more kind. I stumbled across an article with the intriguing title 'How to Be Immodest About Modesty' over at the National Catholic Register, but was quickly disappointed with the writer's lack of charity and as she attacked the lovely Colleen Hammond, referred to those who disagreed with her as 'cretins', and even said she would like to smack those whom she considers evil puritans upside the head. As she gave no indication of what she thinks is appropriate attire, I have no idea if I would fall into her camp or not. Rather not, I don't much care for people that write professionally and cannot be professional. So speaking as one who has been treated as a pariah for wearing a chapel veil, I can say non-traditionalists, leftists, and sceptics can be pretty darn, mean people, too.

Regarding the third query--the suspicion of self-righteousness which is so often attached to the woman purporting to dress with dignity. This case simply varies according to the individual, for a woman who adopts modesty hardly need be a Pharisee. There are few dictums more tedious from the 'tolerant' crowd than 'do not judge,' especially when it is used to promote abdication of one's judgement. Those that employ it are often either absent-mindedly or deliberately equivocating. Consider the definition of 'judge':

  • To form an opinion or estimation of after careful consideration: judge heights; judging character.
  • a. Law: To hear and decide on in a court of law; try: judge a case. b. Obsolete: To pass sentence on; condemn. c. To act as one appointed to decide the winners of: judge an essay contest.
  • To determine or declare after consideration or deliberation.
  • Informal To have as an opinion or assumption; suppose: I judge you're right.
  • Bible: To govern; rule. Used of an ancient Israelite leader.

One can carry out the first definition of judging without sinning. It is the sense which is ironically listed as 'obsolete' that is referred to in that favoured proverb of the sceptic. If one sees someone regularly steal, then one has seen a thief. Such a rational pronouncement is not only allowed, it is logically unavoidable. However, one does not have the further right to pronounce on the state of that person's soul and certainly no right to say that he is better than that soul.

So it is true that a modest woman may not have as much charitable love in her heart as a woman who happens to be revealing her cleavage in church. Perhaps the former has had a more thorough upbringing, which makes her aware of the harm immodesty does, whereas the other lady has not the slightest notion. We cannot then say which lady is the better person, but at least the woman with more clothes on is in no danger of injuring the priest's peace of mind at Holy Communion. That, too, is a form of charity that cannot be ignored.

Working back to the second question, which is often hurled at Catholics in particular, namely: doesn't stress on modesty and chastity only indicate that one is obsessed with sex? This question is more difficult than it would appear. People that express outrage over an obscene billboard sometimes need to be reminded not to describe it in detail. Those giving talks on chastity ought to not to go into things so explicitly that they create an occasion of sin.

As St. Ignatius observed, lust is the once vice which one cannot dissect, but one must flee. However, many souls, usually teenagers, think they can rationalize an inclination and push it away by discussing it. Such may be true of pride, envy, anger, covetousness, sloth, and gluttony, but it is not true of lust. Thus, the admixture of devotion to chastity and morbid fascination with sin cannot last long. One inclination will win out. Girls that talked too much of how alluring their bodies could be in certain garments are either wearing short shorts and bikinis now, or they have learned to dwell on higher things.

That said, teachers, parents, and independent women do have a duty to consider how to avoid occasions of sin and to help others do so. Men have a straightforward duty. As fathers, they shake their heads when their daughters want to buy or wear something that will compromise them. As priests, they may sermonize generally or simply tell the bridesmaid with the shoulderless gown that inside the church, a bolero is required. As men, they can just say, 'Please don't wear those jeans again.' There is no need for men to become hyperaware of women's clothing to promote dignity in dress.

Women however sometimes need to understand the reasons why certain things are not allowed, especially when in of themselves, they do not reveal much. This is where clothing history and understanding the motivation of fashion designers is important, and writers such as Colleen Hammond are very helpful in presenting a lucid account of how the modern age's standards came to be, which parts are not acceptable, why, and what to do about it. Such a rational approach hardly indicates an unhealthy fixation.

Coming back to the first question, have the failures of those promoting modesty discredited modesty? Hardly. The only times that people who love holiness fail is when they concentrate on hating evil instead. While it is necessary to hate evil in some particular cases, it is poisonous to absorb into one's general outlook. It will undoubtedly breed Manichaeism or other forms of injurious dualism.

Whichever virtue or virtuous act is promoted, it must be done for love of the thing. If this love is kept in mind, then no scandal shall arise. Let this then be the thought of those who would promote modesty:

Considering your chaste conversation with fear. Whose adorning let it not be the outward plaiting of the hair, or the wearing of gold, or the putting on of apparel: But the hidden man of the heart in the incorruptibility of a quiet and a meek spirit, which is rich in the sight of God. For after this manner heretofore the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves... (I Peter 3:2-5)

True beauty from within will bloom without.

Thursday, July 7, 2011
Children do not need to watch this, nor the very sensitive. Harsh language is used by the perpetrator. As a sidewalk activist from the days when I lived in a nation that allowed abortion, I can testify that this is not abormal behaviour for abortion supporters.

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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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