For Letters to Sons Like These by St. Stephen, King of Hungary

“My boy, at present you have the fun and I do the work; but your labors are on the way.”

Now, that sounds like something I would say. Today is the Feast of St. Stephen of Hungary, who wrote the words you see above. What follows are a few excerpts from letters he wrote to his son Emeric (who also was canonized on the same day in 1083). St. Stephen is known as the first Christian king of Hungary, and his life is celebrated there with due pomp and pageantry yearly on August 20th.

After learning of him from the good folks at Universalis this morning, I found excepts of his “Admonitions” in an unpublished thesis titled Notes On Parental Advice in the Middle Ages  by George Valentine Kendall. I promptly added them to the YIMCatholic Bookshelf. First, take a look at this long sentence in the foreword to the ten letters to Emeric,

from the Forward,

Since I perceive that all things, founded at the nod of God and disposed by his most manifest preordination, both in the spaciousness of the sky and in those most spacious climes of earth, do subsist and thrive wholly in accordance with the rationality of intelligence; and since I am sufficiently aware that all things granted by the grace of God for the use and dignity of this life – to wit: kingdoms, consulates, dukedoms, counties, pontificates and all other authorities, are ruled, defended, divided and joined together, partly by divine precepts and regulations, partly by legal, partly by juridical, partly by civil, and by the counsels and advices also of nobles and of those advanced in age; and since I know for a certainty that all classes of the world, everywhere, of whatever authority they be, do instruct, counsel and advise not only their retainers, their friends and their servants but also their sons; therefore, most amiable son, companion in this life, it irks me not to prepare for you lessons, precepts, counsels and advices whereby you may embellish the character of your own life and of that of your subjects, in such time as, most high God willing, you shall reign after me.

Maybe Blaise Pascal was taking lessons on long sentence structure from this guy! You don’t have to be a royal though to see the worth of writings such as these being left to our children, not to mention to posterity. “Ich bin ein Ungar!” or is that “Magyar vagyok!?” 


And now for the excerpts, which are really timely given our coming election cycle in the United States.

Excerpts from the Admonitions of St. Stephen, King of Hungary, to his son Emeric.

On the Nobility

The coronation of Stephen I

“They (the various nobles) are the champions of the kingdom, the defenders of the weak, the conquerors of enemies, the enlargers of monarchies. They, my son, are your fathers and brothers. Of these, truly, you should reduce none to servitude, nor call any slave; they should serve you as soldiers not as slaves, rule all of them without anger and pride and envy, peacefully, with humility, gently, holding ever in your memory that all men are of one condition; and that naught elevates, save humility; and nothing casts down, save pride and envy.

If you are peaceable then you will be called a king and a king’s son, and you will be loved by all the knights. If you are choleric, proud, envious, disinclined to peace, and if you stick up your neck above counts and princes, without doubt the strength of the military will be the weakness of the regal authorities, and they will betray your kingdom to the aliens.

Fearful of this, direct the life of your companions with the rule of virtue, that captured by your love, they may inoffensively adhere to the kingly authority, and that your realm may be wholly at peace.Than these doctrines no noble could ask more liberal, no king more efficacious.

On Justice

Hearken to this, my son; if you wish to possess the honor of kingship, love justice: if you wish to be master over your own soul, be patient. Whenever, my very dear son, a cause deserving condemnation comes before you, or some one accused on a capital charge, be unwilling to deal with it impatiently or to resolve with an oath to punish him – which course of action must be weak and unstable, inasmuch as foolish vows ought to be broken – or to decide the question yourself, lest your regal dignity be dishonored by the usurpation of inferior business, but rather send business of this sort to the judges, to whom it has been committed because they decide the case according to its own law.

Fear to be judge, but rejoice to be and to be called king. Patient
kings rule, but impatient ones tyrannize. When, however, something comes before you which it befits your dignity to judge, with patience and mercy or pity judge it, that your crown may be laudable and seemly.

Concerning the Reception of Foreigners, and the Support of Strangers.

In strangers and men from abroad there is such great utility that it can be held worthy the sixth place in regal dignity. Why did the Roman Empire first grow, and why were the Roman kings exalted and glorious, except because many noble and wise men congregated there from diverse regions? Rome, in truth, would be a hand-maiden to this day, if Eneades had not made her free.

His incorruptible right hand

For as strangers come from diverse regions of the provinces, they bring with them diverse languages and usages, and diverse learning and arms, all of which not only adorn the royal palace and render magnificent the court, but also abash the arrogance of aliens. For a kingdom of one tongue, or of one custom, is weak and fragile.

Wherefore I bid you, my son, support those persons with a good will, and treat them fairly, that they may prefer to continue with you rather than to live elsewhere. For if you destroy what I have built up or strive to disperse what I have gathered together, without doubt your kingdom will suffer the greatest damage. Lest that be, augment your kingdom daily, that your crown may be held august by all.

Procession of the
“Holy Right Hand”

On Filial Loyalty

Ancestors ought to be imitated, and sons ought to obey their parents. My customs, which you see to befit the kingly dignity, follow them without the fetter of any uncertainty. For it is a hard thing for you to maintain a kingdom of this geographical position, except you show yourself an imitator of the usage of kings who have reigned before. What Greek would rule Latins with Greek customs? Or what Latin would rule Greeks with Latin customs? None. On this account, follow my usages that you may he held eminent by your own people and praiseworthy among foreigners.

On the Importance of Your Catholic Faith

St. Stephen’s Basilica

My dearest son, if you desire to honor the royal crown, I advise, I counsel, I urge you above all things to maintain the Catholic and Apostolic faith with such diligence and care that you may be an example for all those placed under you by God, and that all the clergy may rightly call you a man of true Christian profession. Failing to do this, you may be sure that you will not be called a Christian or a son of the Church.

Indeed, in the royal palace, after the faith itself, the Church holds second place, first constituted and spread through the whole world by His members, the apostles and holy fathers, And though she always produced fresh offspring, nevertheless in certain places she is regarded as ancient. However, dearest son, even now in our kingdom the Church is proclaimed as young and newly planted; and for that reason she needs more prudent and trustworthy guardians less a benefit which the divine mercy bestowed on us undeservedly should be destroyed and annihilated through your idleness, indolence or neglect.

Inside the basilica…

My beloved son, delight of my heart, hope of your posterity, I pray, I command, that at very time and in everything, strengthened by your devotion to me, you may show favor not only to relations and kin, or to the most eminent, be they leaders or rich men or neighbors or fellow-countrymen, but also to foreigners and to all who come to you. By fulfilling your duty in this way you will reach the highest state of happiness. Be merciful to all who are suffering violence, keeping always in your heart the example of the Lord who said: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice”.

Be patient with everyone, not only with the powerful, but also with the weak. Finally be strong lest prosperity lift you up too much or adversity cast you down. Be humble in this life that God may raise you up in the next. Be truly moderate and do not punish or condemn anyone immoderately. Be gentle so that you may never oppose justice. Be honorable so that you never voluntarily bring disgrace upon anyone. Be chaste so that you may avoid all the foulness that so resembles the pangs of death.

All these virtues I have noted above make up the royal crown and without them no one is fit to rule here on earth or attain to the heavenly Kingdom.

****

Tragically, St. Stephen’s son Emeric died in a hunting accident, and predeceased his father. The infighting over who would succeed him troubled him for the rest of his days. Upon his own death, St. Stephen was buried alongside his son.

Ludwig von Beethoven composed an overture in honor of this saint and king. Here it is played beautifully by the Motif Orchestra conducted by Chun-Lung Hsu. I bet St. Stephen got a kick out of this performance.

St. Stephen of Hungary, pray for us!

More on St. Stephen can be found here and here on the YIMCatholic Bookshelf. 

The Suffering Church: Scandal

This is the final part of a three part series. Some folks thought I was skating on thin ice by mentioning heresy yesterday. What now? Surely, Frank, you didn’t join the Catholic Church because of scandal? No. But at the same time, it didn’t deter me much either. You know the old line, right? Hate the sin, but love the sinner. Well the Church is chock full of sinners, and it couldn’t be otherwise.

Let’s pretend for a moment that the whole world is Catholic. Everyone has professed belief in the Church and Christianity is the one faith shared by all. Would there be any murders still? Would cars still be stolen from time to time? Would banks still be robbed? Would rape still occur? Embezzlement? Wars of aggression? Would some folks still cheat on their taxes, and on their wives and husbands?

You know the answers to these questions reflexively. These signs of our fallenness, and many others, will continue until Christ comes again. The pain we endure from them leave scars on the directly violated, and on the faithful as a whole. And so yes, there will be scandal in our ranks. And scandal, whether on a small or a large scale, has an effect on the Body of Christ that ripples through all of her members.

Around the same time that Fr. O’Connell wrote the articles I’ve been sharing these last few days, the following was said by the Vicar Apostolic of Gibraltar,

“It is not to be expected that the Church should be free from all scandals. She has to do a difficult work with unpromising material. She has to deal, not with the perfect, but with very imperfect men, weak, beset with temptations, struggling painfully from the lower to the higher life. In that path there are many bitter experiences, many relapses, many total failures. Time brings no change: the Church’s work must always be imperfect, for it will not be finished till the Son of Man comes in judgment. Her life will always be a struggle against wickedness both inside as well as outside her fold, scandals will always dog her footsteps while she fulfills her mission of holiness, as the shadow follows him who walks in the sunlight.”—Bishop James Bellord.

These thoughts, then, lead us into the final part of this series by Fr. O’Connell, focusing on another aspect of the ever suffering Bride of Christ,

Part III: Scandal

I have mentioned a third affliction of our Church —the unworthy and scandalous lives of many of her own children. But this one I shall not dwell upon. It is a very painful chapter in her history, and in every age has been a perpetual harass to her life and energy, thwarting her efforts for good, and misleading simple souls to their ruin. This, however, I will say, that the true prototype of this class is no other than Judas Iscariot. This man was not a persecutor of Jesus as were the Scribes and Pharisees, nor an unbeliever like those who went back and walked no more with Him.

On the contrary, he stood in the company of His true followers when others abandoned Him, and was one of the twelve who, on that occasion, by the mouth of Peter, said: “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life, and we have believed and have known that thou art the Christ the Son of God.” To this noble utterance all that Jesus answered was: “Have I not chosen you twelve? And one of you is a devil.”

Here, side by side, with the most ample profession of faith in Christ, there lived and acted in Judas the supreme of treachery, both to His person and to His cause. Though possessing all divine truth, this unhappy man was ruled by it, neither in heart nor in conduct, and as his is the first instance in the Church of such double-dealing in things divine, having one face for God and another fully turned to every investigation of Satan against God, he may be very justly styled the parent of all those who, while belonging to the true faith of Christ, are nevertheless the remorseless adversaries of Christ.

Of this unhappy man our Savior said: It were better for him he had never been born,” and of such as have taken his act as their pattern, He has also said: “It were better for them that, with mill-stones about their necks they were drowned in the depths of the sea,” than that they should live on, lacerating His divine heart by their perfidy, and robbing Him of souls by their wickedness and more wicked tongues. Judas aimed his guilty deed at the head of the Church, whereas all who have given scandal since then, multiply similar deeds against His members, therefore equally against Christ, for Christ and His members are but one body.

Let us begin to think more seriously on all these things. Not alone “the earth is made desolate,” as the Scripture says, “because no one thinketh in his heart,” but the Church also has her desolation for lack of thought of her and of sympathy on the part of her own children. As her divine Master on earth, she, too, is a permanent sufferer both within and without.

She needs, therefore the patience and courage and fidelity of all her children against her persecutors; she invokes their tender sympathy and fervent prayer in behalf of those bereft of her true light and faith, and above all she will have none of them in any way associated with the most awful malediction Jesus ever pronounced; the one against Judas, who, while all along, professing to be His friend, basely betrayed Him, handing Him over to the mockery of His enemies.

To all these needs of your Church, you cannot but cordially respond if only you will not disdain the counsel the Apostle has given. You know how he exhorts you, “to walk worthy of God, in all things pleasing; to be fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God, giving thanks to God the Father, who hath made us worthy to be made partakers of the lot of the saints in light; who hath delivered us from the power of darkness and hath translated us into the kingdom of His love.”

This kingdom, as you well know, is none other than His Holy Church, in which having “redemption through His blood the remission of sins,” we are made fit to enter that higher and better kingdom, which is to have no end, and where all his redeemed are to enjoy the bliss of their God and Savior throughout an immeasurable eternity.

You can find more of Fr. O’Connell’s writing by searching the YIMCatholic Bookshelf.

UPDATE: An unwitting assist from Deacon Scott Dodge.

Because of the Protestant Reformers Beliefs On Mary

Another Marian post as we are ten days from the Feast of the Assumption. This one was first published back in December of last year.


Back when I first joined YIMCatholic, I was going to write posts about my conversion. I hammered out seven posts in pretty rapid succession and then, I stopped writing them until recently.

Many of my posts now are simply my observations of the world which are colored through the lens of a convert to Catholicism. It would be difficult for them not to be. Other posts I’ve written are of the “look what I just found!” variety, and the “I want to share this with you” type. Call them the discovery posts if you will. [Read more...]

What Figures Are On This Celtic Cross?

A reader writes,

Hi there my name is Mindy and I am trying to figure out the meaning of a particular Celtic Catholic cross that was my father-in-laws throughout his whole life. When he passed away it was handed down to my husband.

I now want my mom to do a portrait of this cross and my husbands father. But I cannot tell what the symbols are on the tips of the cross. I know there is an eagle on the north point and an angel on the south point, but on the west and east parts I cannot tell what they are. My husbands faith is a huge part of not only his life but his whole family’s lives and I feel I need to make sure we depict this cross as it is.

I know this is an odd request but if you can help me discover what these are I would be very thankful.

Sincerely, Mindy

Mindy? You came to the right place! The figures on that particular Celtic Cross are the likenesses of the four cherubim in St. John’s vision from the book of Revelation. Traditionally, they stand for the four authors of the Gospels. The Evangelists are depicted as follows: Matthew (a man), Mark (a lion), Luke (an ox), and John(an eagle).

Here is what John’s vision (Rev 4: 5-7) describes,

From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder. Seven flaming torches burned in front of the throne, which are the seven spirits of God. In front of the throne was something that resembled a sea of glass like crystal. In the center and around the throne, there were four living creatures covered with eyes in front and in back.

The first creature resembled a lion, the second was like a calf, the third had a face like that of a human being, and the fourth looked like an eagle in flight. The four living creatures, each of them with six wings, were covered with eyes inside and out. Day and night they do not stop exclaiming: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come.”

And now, here is a great account from a fantastic book (available on the YIMCatholic Bookshelf, of course!) entitled Sacred and Legendary Art by Anna Jameson. This is the kind of Church history that I love to share with folks. Prepare to be amazed.

III. THE FOUR EVANGELISTS

“Matthew wrote for the Hebrews ; Mark, for the Italians; Luke, for the Greeks ; for all, the great herald John.” — Gregory Nazianzen.

Since on the Four Evangelists, as the witnesses and interpreters of a revealed religion, the whole Christian Church may be said to rest as upon four majestic pillars, we cannot be surprised that representations of them should abound, and that their effigies should have been introduced into Christian places of worship from very early times. Generally, we find them represented together, grouped, or in a series ; sometimes in their collective character, as the Four Witnesses; sometimes in their individual character, each as an inspired teacher, or beneficent patron.

As no authentic resemblances of these sacred personages have ever been known or even supposed to exist, such representations have always been either symbolical or ideal. In the symbol, the aim was to embody, under some emblematical image, the spiritual mission; in the ideal portrait, the artist, left to his own conception, borrowed from Scripture some leading trait (when Scripture afforded any authority for such), and adding, with what success his skill could attain, all that his imagination could conceive, as expressive of dignity and persuasive eloquence, — the look “commercing with the skies,” the commanding form, the reverend face, the ample draperies, — he put the book or the pen into his hand, and thus the writer and the teacher of the truth was placed before us.

The earliest type under which the Four Evangelists are figured is an emblem of the simplest kind: four scrolls placed in the four angles of a Greek cross, or four books (the Gospels), representing allegorically those who wrote or promulgated them. The second type chosen was more poetical — the four rivers which had their source in Paradise: representations of this kind, in which the Savior, figured as a lamb holding the cross, or in His human form, with a lamb near Him, stands on an eminence, from which gush four rivers or fountains, are to be met with in the catacombs, on ancient sarcophagi preserved among the Christian relics in the Vatican, and in several old churches constructed between the second and the fifth century.

At what period the four mysterious creatures in the vision of Ezekiel (ch. i. 5) were first adopted as significant symbols of the Four Evangelists does not seem clear. The Jewish doctors interpreted them as figuring the four Archangels, — Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, Uriel ; and afterwards applied them as emblems of the Four Great Prophets, — Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. By the early Oriental Christians, who typified the whole of the Old Testament, the transfer of the emblem to the Four Evangelists seems obvious and easy; we find it alluded to as early as the second century.

The four “Beasts” of corresponding form in the Revelation (chap. iv. 7), which stood round the throne of the Lamb, were likewise thus interpreted; but it was not till the fifth century that we find these symbols assuming a visible form, and introduced into works of Art. In the seventh century they had become almost universal as distinctive attributes.

St. Matthew (Man)

The general application of the Four Creatures to the Four Evangelists is of much earlier date than the separate and individual application of each symbol, which has varied at different times; that propounded by St. Jerome, in his commentary on Ezekiel, has since his time prevailed universally. Thus, then, 1. To St. Matthew was given the Cherub, or human semblance, because he begins his Gospel with the human generation of Christ; or, according to others, because in his Gospel the human nature of the Savior is more insisted on than the divine. In the most ancient mosaics, the type is human, not angelic, for the head is that of a man with a beard.

St. Mark (Lion)

2. St. Mark has the Lion, because he has set forth the royal dignity of Christ; or, according to others, because he begins with the mission of the Baptist, — “the voice of one crying in the wilderness”—which is figured by the lion; or, according to a third interpretation, the lion was allotted to St. Mark because there was, in the middle ages, a popular belief that the young of the lion was born dead, and after three days was awakened to vitality by the breath of its sire; some authors, however, represent the lion as vivifying his young not by his breath, but by his roar. In either case the application is the same; the revival of the young lion was considered as symbolical of the resurrection, and Mark was commonly called the “Historian of the Resurrection.”

St. Luke (Ox)

Another commentator observes that Mark begins his Gospel with “roaring ” — ” the voice of one crying in the wilderness;” and ends it fearfully with a curse — “He that believeth not shall be damned;” and that, therefore, his appropriate attribute is the most terrible of beasts, the lion.

3. Luke has the Ox, because he has dwelt on the priesthood of Christ, the ox being the emblem of sacrifice. 4. John has the Eagle, which is the symbol of the highest inspiration, because he soared upwards to the contemplation of the divine nature of the Savior.

St. John (Eagle)

But the order in which, in theological Art, these symbols are placed, is not the same as the order of the Gospels according to the canon. Rupertus considers the Four Beasts as typical of the Incarnation, the Passion, the Resurrection, and the Ascension; an idea previously dwelt upon by Durandus, who adds that the man and the lion are placed on the right, because the incarnation and the resurrection are the joy of the whole earth; whilst the ox is on the left, because Christ’s sacrifice was a trouble to the apostles; and the eagle is above the ox, as suggestive of our Lord’s upward flight into heaven.

According to others, the proper order in the ascending scale is thus: at the lowest point on the left, the ox; to the right, the lion; above the ox, the eagle; and above all, the angel. So in Raphael’s Vision of Ezekiel [Pitti, Florence], the angel gazes into the face of the Holy One, the others form His throne.

I have dwelt on these fanciful interpretations and disquisitions, because the symbols of the Evangelists meet us at every turn; in the mosaics of the old Italian churches, in the decorative sculpture of our old cathedrals, in the Gothic stained glass, in the ancient pictures and miniatures, on the carved and chased covers of old books; everywhere, in short, where enters the idea of their divine mission — and where is it not? The profound thought, as well as the vivid imagination, exercised in some of these early works of Art, is beginning to be appreciated; and we should lose the half of what is poetical and significant and venerable in these apparently arbitrary and fanciful symbols, if we merely seized the general intention, and not the relative and appropriate meaning of each.

Peaked your interest? There is more in depth discussion of the symbolic representation of the Four Evangelists in the book. Go see! 

Photo Credit: Hawk Eyes (All sizes of these photographs are available for download under a Creative Commons license)

For Archishop Fulton Sheen’s Thoughts on Vatican II

The good folks over at Catholic Answers have the scoop:

Q: “Did Fulton Sheen support Vatican II? Sheen is a favorite of some who reject the Council, so a quote from him citing his support for Vatican II would be quite helpful for discussions with them.” [Read more...]

Because the Sexual Abuse Scandal is Like The Ribbon Creek Incident

All of you who have never heard of the Ribbon Creek Incident, say “aye!”

Now, all of you who remember those pesky SAT analogy questions that went like this,

apple is to tree, as fish is to _________. a) Christians; b) water; c) sharks; d) pole

say “aye!”

I hope when reading that expression, you went with “b” as your answer.

Otherwise, I’m going to have to take all of you out as a group to the sand pit behind the squad bay and p.t. the lot of you until you can see yourself in the reflection of your own pool of sweat. Black Flag conditions be damned!

If you haven’t guessed it by now, this post is being brought to you by my alter-ego,  Joe Six-Pack, USMC. Remember the first time he showed up? And as the poor, hapless, civilians that you are, I (he?) probably lost many of you by using the jargon that every Marine knows like a second language. And I’m not gonna give you the scuttlebutt on those terms either. That is what Google is for! Go look up the words you didn’t understand on your own.

So, where in the world is this post going? Well, Archbishop Dolan recently said something very wise regarding the sexual abuse scandals that have occurred aboard His Majesty’s Ship. To paraphrase His Excellency, he says we can never forget.

Never Forget!

So what is the Ribbon Creek Incident and what does it have to do with the Church? The Ribbon Creek Incident took place in 1956 at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in lovely Parris Island, South Carolina. P.I., see, is across the Port Royal Sound from it’s polar opposite, Hilton Head Island. The one is where Marines are made, and the other is where tourists forget their cares for a week or so. It’s analogy refresher time.

Hilton Head Island is to Heaven as Parris Island is to ___________ a)Fort Dix, b)Fantasy Island, c) the Emerald Isle, d)Hell.

You guys are getting better at this, but you’re still too slow. Yes, this time “d” is the correct answer.

On April 8, 1956 at approximately 20:00 (that’s 8:00 PM) a Drill Instructor named Staff Sergeant Matthew McKeon took his platoon of recruits on a little punitive march into the wetlands around Ribbon Creek. Six of his recruits didn’t make it out because they drowned. And that is when the Marine Corps started aggressively fixing the problem of overzealous Drill Instructors destroying the raw material for the finest fighting force the world has ever known.

Would the Mothers of America continue to allow their boys to become Marines if sadistic D.I’s killed them in the process before they had even earned the title? That is highly unlikely. Just a few short years before this incident, the First Marine Division destroyed 8 Chinese Red Army divisions during it’s fighting withdrawal from the Chosin Reservoir to the coast at Hungnam. And don’t forget the successful, though brutal, island hopping campaign in the Pacific during the recently concluded World War. Would you believe this storied history was sullied by the disaster at Ribbon Creek? The tabloids were having a field day, as were the mainline newspapers.

In reaction to the incident, did the leadership of the Corps cover it up? Not no, but hell no! Because it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that recruitment would be harmed by more incidents like this. And thus, national security would be put at risk.

Another institutional perspective that caused the leadership to act swiftly to correct abuse of recruits in training was the ever threatening prospect of the dissolution of the Marine Corps altogether. Lot’s of bright, well meaning folks continued to point out how redundant it was to even have a Marine Corps. These whiz kids could always break out ideas, and the budget numbers to support them, for folding the Corps into the Army, Navy, and that new-fangled branch called the Air Force.

Do you think I’m kidding? Check out this quote from an Amazon review of John C. Steven’s book Court-Marshal at Parris Island:The Ribbon Creek Incident,

An extremely informative & detailed read! Stevens iterates a tragic event in Marine Corps history with a direct, thought provoking style. As the current Commanding Officer of the Recruit Training Regiment at Parris Island, I am encouraging my officers & drill instructors to read this book in order to better understand how close we, the Marine Corps, as an organization, came to being disestablished because of the actions of just one man.

Another book of interest on the same subject matter is Keith Fleming’s, “The U.S. Marine Corps in Crisis: Ribbon Creek & Recruit Training.” That is another important book in helping to understand how the recruit training process has evolved.

So being entrepreneurial, and forward looking, and bent on survival, you see, the Marine Corps changed. You can read all about it in the two books mentioned above by the Colonel, as well as briefly over at Wikipedia. But suffice it to say, for the purposes of the simple analogy I have proposed here, that the Marine Corps decided to fix the problem ASAP. The Corps moved swiftly to address this issue. Now true, the actions taken would never bring these dead recruits back to life, and never restore them to their families. However, the Corps takes care of her own, and changes were made at every level to insure that these six young men did not die in vain.

Now, swiftly is a relative term. It took years, nay, decades for Headquarters Marine Corps to effect institutional changes to successfully prevent on-going abuse of recruits. Ribbon Creek was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and the immediate actions the Marine Corps took only began the long, slow, crawl away from the abyss of institutional extinction. I was at Parris Island in 1981, and by that time many training changes had been put in place. Ribbon Creek happened 25 years before I arrived on the Island, and yet the institution continued to tune and fine tune the process of how Marines are made for another 20 years after I graduated. I would argue that the transformation in recruit training from the time of the incident in 1956, and the amount of time that elapsed until its gruesome effects on the reputation of the Marine Corps subsided, is about 40 years.

So by no stretch of the imagination am I saying that the Church is in the 9th inning of the game here. If anything, She is in the second inning, and for all we know, she may be playing a double-header. But I can tell you this assuredly. The Marine Corps never forgot Ribbon Creek, just as surely as she never forgot Belleau Wood, Tarawa, or Iwo Jima. Nowadays, training recruits isn’t done by the seat of the pants, but it is done as 1/4 art and 3/4 science. To even become a Drill Instructor nowadays is one of the hardest schools to successfully complete as an enlisted Marine. The future of the Corps depends on high quality recruits being successfully transformed into high quality Marines, by impeccably qualified Drill Instructors and Officers. Mistakes still occur, but the organization is intent on discovery of personnel problems. Transparency is the rule.

And that’s it folks. Joe Six-Pack, USMC’s analogy is complete.

The Ribbon Creek Incident is to the Marine Corps, as the Sexual Abuse Crisis is to the Roman Catholic Church.

It isn’t pretty, and it won’t be quick, but the change that has to come about to identify the causes of the sexual abuse crisis, identify the parties involved in propagating it, rooting out and turning over to authorities those who engaged in this criminal behavior, has arrived.

With leaders like Archbishop Dolan, and Pope Benedict XVI at the helm, I have confidence that the changes and procedures needed to root out abusive priests, and keep them out going forward, are being developed and will be implemented, and they will continue to evolve. Like the Marine Corps and Ribbon Creek, the Church must never forget is right! And might I remind you that this means us lay Catholics especially. We must be ever vigilant going forward, much like the passengers on Flight 93 were back in 2001. It took everyone in the Marine Corps, from the Commandant to the lowliest Privates, and every rank in between, to change the culture of the Corps after Ribbon Creek. Similarly, this participation at every level will be required by Mother Church if indeed She is to avoid the lee-shore of scandal that she found herself heading towards. “All Hands, Prepare to Wear Ship!” is the command, and incidentally, you are one of the hands, savvy?

And if the leadership needs an example for best practices in this department, please feel free to forward this post to Headquarters, er, I mean the Vatican. You might even recommend Dr. Zimbardo’s book too.

Semper Fidelis

UPDATE: I just saw, An Archbishop Burns While Rome Fiddles. Regarding that article, some clarity (and footnotes)from Elizabeth Scalia.

For the Seed Planted by a Chinese Confucian Diplomat

The Holy Father has asked us to pray for the Church in China today. News reports are saying that security is tight in Sheshan. Of course, we must not forget that Mainland China is still under the control of a form of government that is not altogether friendly to the Church. Militant xenophobia has run through China long before she fell to the Communists. [Read more...]

For Stuff Non-Catholics Say About the Church Like This

No, this isn’t  a photograph of Karl Marx. That’s Walter Bagehot, former editor of the Economist and a fellow who could write his fanny off. I stumbled upon what follows while tracking down a quote attributed to Blaise Pascal. I’ve become something of an unbeliever in the attributions for quotes that can so easily be found on the internet these days. I want to see the footnotes, or the original text nowadays.

So I was snooping around the electronic shelves of Google Books and found the quote, “All human evil comes from a single cause, man’s inability to sit still in a room,” buried in an article written by Bagehot that was published in an astonishing place.

Would you believe a literary journal of sorts published monthly by the Traveler’s Insurance Company of Hartford Connecticut, Circa 1887? I kid you not.

The piece where Blaise’s quote (from thought #139) was used by Bagehot (how do you pronounce that name!) in a selection entitled Thoughtless Activity, the Curse of Society. Some things never change, do they? The article was taken from a chapter in Bagehot’s book of essays Physics and Politics. And though it was a good article, I was mainly bowled over by the idea that a for-profit insurance company even bothered to publish poetry and essay’s alongside their annual financial and mortality tables. What would Sandy Weill have thought? Fire that guy and hire another actuary! Click on this title line and have a look.

Poking around for more on Bagehot, it seems that he may have been fond of the Catholic Church for a time, early in his career, you know, before more important things took up his time. In his Literary Studies, published several years after his death, his biographer Richard Holt Hutton had this to say about him,

I have no doubt that for seven or eight years of his life the Roman Catholic Church had a great fascination for his imagination, though I do not think that he was ever at all near conversion. He was intimate with all Dr. Newman’s writings. And of these the Oxford sermons, and the poems in the Lyra Apostolica afterwards separately published—partly, I believe, on account of the high estimate of them which Bagehot had himself expressed—were always his special favorites.

Perhaps Bagehot’s brush with Rome was a near-miss, but he certainly wrote favorably of her from France here,

Walter Bagehot on The Catholic Church, from his essay The Coup d’Etat of 1851

I do not know that I can exhibit the way these qualities of the French character operate on their opinions better than by telling you how the Roman Catholic Church deals with them. I have rather attended to it since I came here. It gives sermons almost an interest, their being in French, and to those curious in intellectual matters, it is worth observing. In other times, and even now in out-of-the-way Spain , I suppose it may be true that the Catholic Church has been opposed to inquiry and reasoning. But it is not so now and here.

Loudly from the pens of a hundred writers, from the tongues of a thousand pulpits, in every note of thrilling scorn and exulting derision, she proclaims the contrary. Be she Christ’s workman or Antichrist’s, she knows her work too well.

“Reason, reason, reason!” exclaims she to the philosophers of this world. “Put in practice what you teach if you would have others believe it. Be consistent. Do not prate to us of private judgment, when you are but yourselves repeating what you heard in the nursery, ill-mumbled remnants of a Catholic tradition. No; exemplify what you command; inquire and make search. Seek, and we warn you that ye will never find, yet do as ye will. Shut yourselves up in a room, make your mind a blank, go down (as you speak) into the depth of your consciousness, scrutinize the mental structure, inquire for the elements of belief,— spend years, your best years, in the occupation,—and at length, when your eyes are dim, and your brain hot, and your hands unsteady, then reckon what you have gained.”

“See if you cannot count on your fingers the certainties you have reached; reflect which of them you doubted yesterday, which you may disbelieve tomorrow; or rather, make haste—assume at random some essential credenda,—write down your inevitable postulates, enumerate your necessary axioms, toil on, toil on, spin your spider’s web, adore your own soul, or if ye prefer it, choose some German nostrum; try an intellectual intuition, or the pure reason, or the intelligible ideas, or the mesmeric clairvoyance, and when so, or somehow, you have attained your results, try them on mankind.”

“Don’t go out into the byways and hedges; it is unnecessary. Ring a bell, call in the servants, give them a course of lectures, cite Aristotle, review Descartes, panegyrize Plato, and see if the bonne will understand you. It is you that say Vox populi, vox Dei. You see the people reject you.”

“Or, suppose you succeed,—what you call succeeding. Your books are read; for three weeks or even a season you are the idol of the salons. Your hard words are on the lips of women; then a change comes—a new actress appears at the Theatre Francais or the Opera; her charms eclipse your theories; or a great catastrophe occurs; political liberty, it is said, is annihilated. Il fauti se faire mouchard, is the observation of scoffers. Anyhow you are forgotten. Fifty years may be the gestation of a philosophy, not three its life. Before long, before you go to your grave, your six disciples leave you for some newer master, or to set up for themselves.”

“The poorest priest in the remotest region of the Basses-Alpes has more power over men’s souls than human cultivation. His ill-mouthed Masses move women’s souls—can you? Ye scoff at Jupiter, yet he at least was believed in, you never have been. Idol for idol, the dethroned is better than the unthroned. No, if you would reason, if you would teach, if you would speculate,— come to us.”

“We have our premises ready; years upon years before you were born, intellects whom the best of you delight to magnify, toiled to systematize the creed of ages. Years upon years after you are dead, better heads than yours will find new matter there to define, to divide, to arrange. Consider the hundred volumes of Aquinas. Which of you desire a higher life than that;—to deduce, to subtilize, discriminate, systematize, and decide the highest truth, and to be believed? Yet such was his luck, his enjoyment. He was what you would be. No, no, eredite, credite. Ours is the life of speculation. The cloister is the home for the student. Philosophy is stationary, Catholicism progressive. You call. We are heard,”etc.

So speaks each preacher, according to his ability. And when the dust and noise of present controversies have passed away, and, in the interior of the night, some grave historian writes out the tale of half-forgotten times, let him not forget to observe that, profoundly as the mediaeval Church subdued the superstitious cravings of a painful and barbarous age, in after-years she dealt more discerningly still with the feverish excitement, the feeble vanities, and the dogmatic impatience of an overintellectual generation.

You’ll find Bagehot’s report from France on the electronic stacks of the YIMCatholic Bookshelf.

Because My Boys Needed to Know About Hildegard of Bingen

I received a note the other day in my e-mail inbox informing me of a movie that would soon be released on DVD. I noted the title of the film and realized that it was still playing in one of the theaters in our town.The movie I’m referring to is Visions: From the Life of Hildegard of Bingen.

Now, my plan was to take my wife with me to this film, but she and my daughter were engaged in another endeavor. [Read more...]

For Napoleon’s Answer to the Question “Who Is Jesus Christ?”

Back in January, I reviewed Eric Sammon’s book, Who Is Jesus Christ? It is a great book and I highly recommend it to you. Many have asked themselves the same question about the identity of the obscure Jewish carpenter from Galilee.

Last week I shared with you the knowledge that Napoleon Bonaparte died a good Catholic death. Today, as I was reading a selection available on the YIMCatholic Bookshelf, I stumbled across Napoleon’s answer to this very question.

I was happily just reading along in Cardinal James Gibbon’s book, Our Christian Heritage when the following thoughts of Napoleon’s leapt off the page in the concluding paragraphs to chapter XV,

From The Divinity of Christ Attested by Himself and His Disciples

Cardinal Gibbons writes,

The first Napoleon was not a theologian; but he was a great man, and a profound observer, whose vast experience had enabled him to judge what forces were necessary to produce a lasting effect on mankind. When chained to the rock of St. Helena, he had ample leisure to measure the greatness of men and to estimate them according to their true value.

One day in a conversation with Montholon, he put this question to him: “Who was Jesus Christ?” Montholon having declined to answer, Napoleon proceeded:

“I will tell you. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself have founded great empires. But our empires were founded on force. Jesus alone founded His empire on love, and to this day millions would die for Him. I think I understand something of human nature, and I tell you, all these were men, and I am a man. Jesus Christ was more than man.”

“I have inspired multitudes with a devotion so enthusiastic that they would have died for me. But to do this it was necessary that I should be visibly present with the electric influence of my looks, my words, my voice. Who cares for me now removed as I am from the active scenes of life, and from the presence of men? Who would now die for me?”

“Christ alone across the chasm of eighteen centuries makes a demand which is beyond all others difficult to satisfy. He asks more than a father can demand of his child, or a bride of her spouse, or a man of his brother. He asks for the human heart. He will have it entirely to Himself. He demands it unconditionally, and forthwith His demand is granted.”

“Wonderful! In defiance of time and space, the soul of man with all its powers and faculties becomes an annexation to the empire of Christ. This phenomenon is unaccountable; it is altogether beyond the scope of man’s creative powers.”

“Time, the great destroyer, is powerless to extinguish this sacred flame. This is what strikes me most. This is what proves to me quite convincingly that Jesus Christ is God.”

You may enjoy the entire chapter of Cardinal Gibbon’s book here.


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