20 May 2017

Across the Centuries

Sub Tuum.

Some of us know the feeling depicted in this impressive and well-portrayed scene in The Gathering Storm, a movie about Churchill. We feel our ancestors looking at us from across the centuries, saying, "This is what we have done. What will you do? We stood firm, immovable, never yielding in tame submission. Will you? We never die, for you are our voice in the realm of the living."

For context of this video clip, Churchill reflects on his ancestor, John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, commander of the British forces in the War of Spanish Succession, at the Battle of Blenheim, 1704, a decisive victory of the Grand Alliance over the French under Louis XIV.



13 May 2017

The More Society Changes, the More It Stays the Same

Sub Tuum.

One of the traits of modern society, and indeed no doubt of many generations in the past, is one of hubris -- that we are so much more advanced and vastly superior than the "unenlightened" people of prior generations. The cries of "this is 2017" echo the self-same complaints I heard decades ago and those I heard when I was young. "We are born into a brave new age," we're told, "free of the chains of the past, brimming with freedom and opportunities that those poor people of the past never enjoyed." Like a broken record, it is the mantra of every new generation. 

To back up their belief comes in that old crutch, confirmation bias. If we're so superior and the past was so bad, then we must tell all that which supports that notion and suppress all that which might challenge our viewpoint. Indeed, our post-modern viewpoint cannot be challenged, because that would mean that we are not in fact special compared to the humans who went before. And, if real information to support our claims of modern superiority cannot be found, things can be made up. If a total myth is repeated enough, especially if by celebrities and teachers, then it becomes an accepted myth. Experience has shown that people cling to accepted myths like a drowning man to a life-preserver, even when the rescue line of simple truth is proffered. 

One common mantra is that medieval society was oppressive, particularly to women. There is freedom today, people say, because we live in modern, democratic societies in which we get to choose our leaders. Do we, though? Would it shatter the dream too much if it is pointed out that, to use the U.S.A. system as an example, people don't really choose their leaders so much as they vote for the people placed in front of them? The theoretical promise that anyone can be President does not in fact match reality.  And how is a system in which two political parties determine the pool from which the President shall be chosen really that much different than an hereditary monarchy? (And monarchs can and did change -- even from different families. Some were even elected.)  I could point out that the concept of democracy in its modern incarnation was born out of the Enlightenment and a direct challenge to the authority not so much of Kings, but of the Church (the Bible is replete with monarchies, but there is not one single democracy). But, that might challenge the idea (primarily promoted by Protestants) that Christianity and democracy actually go together. 

Returning to medieval society, there were probably more female rulers (and warriors) than there have been under democracy. That is not a scientific statement based on numerical analysis (which would be an interesting study itself), but simply based on my study of the middle ages. There were plenty of great female rulers and military leaders. Countess Caterina Sforza, the Lioness of Forli comes to mind. Quite deserving of her style of lioness, she held Pope Alexander VI and his son the mercenary and Cardinal Cesare Borgia at bay for quite some time.  Matilda, Margravine of Tuscany is another example. She ruled a vast swath of central Italy and personally led troops in defense of the Papacy. She was never conquered. In recognition of her service to the Church, there is a statue of her at Saint Peter's Basilica in the Vatican in which she is holding a marshal's baton in one hand and cradling the Papal tiara and keys in the other arm. Isabella, Queen of Spain. Sybilla, Queen of Jerusalem. Matilda, Holy Roman Empress and Queen of England. Constance of Antioch. Sichelgaita, Princess of Salerno and Duchess of Calabria. Melisdende de Rethel, Queen of Jerusalem. Isabella I, Queen of Jerusalem. Anne Stafford, Countess of Huntingdon. Margaret I, Countess of Flanders.

It is difficult to imagine a woman in such roles in modern society, yet it is the medieval period that we call backwards and oppressive. 

Now, those were powerful female rulers. What of other women in society? The following is an excerpt that discusses activity and equality in the medieval period: 

"The role of women in Medieval life and literature is a complicated one. Historical documents reflect little activity on the part of women unless they were somehow involved in religion, but literature is full of well-rounded female characters. Cook and Herzman argue, 'the frequency with which women appear in such legal documents [charters and wills] suggests that women’s activities in feudal society were more complex and public than often imagined.' In the stories of King Arthur, Lancelot and other notable romances of the time there is a shift in the roles of women; some of them are moving out of the shadows and becoming important parts of the story. In the early part of the Medieval period women’s roles were that of a supporting cast, as the Middle Ages reached its high point women began expressing their opinions and a more active and equal role in society. Some literature presented the women who were becoming more active in a less than positive light seeing them as troublesome and not knowing their place; but over all there is a positive reaction in the romance of the period." 

Anita Kay O’Pry-Reynolds. "Men and Women as Represented in Medieval Literature and Society." Saber and Scroll. Vol. 2. Iss. 2. Art. 6. Spring 2013.

Simple historical fact and open-minded, scientific analysis often forces people to step out of their comfort zone and challenge things that they have long held to be true. Understandably, confronting the historical and social myths held as fundamental truth with actual truth is almost always met with great resistance. Actual, verifiable historical fact is attacked as bogus. Logic is replaced with emotion. And it is all done in the name of defending against the cognitive dissonance that results when fiction-held-as-fact is confronted with fact.

People were oppressed during the middle ages -- but people are oppressed now in our so-called post-modern enlightened society. People have not changed as much as they think. Weapons have changed, but the heart of man is as dark as it ever was. Those who want to make an authentic positive difference on modern society would do well to abandon the idea that our modern society is inherently better than all that went before it. That is liberating and opens the mind to great possibilities to which it was previously closed through insular, small-minded hubris. 

16 April 2017

Patriarchal Address at Easter 2017 - Allocuzione Patriarcale della Santa Pasqua 2017

Sub Tuum.


The Italian version is first, followed by the English version. 


*****************************************************

Ai membri della Corte di S. Maria di Walsingham, grazia e pace, e la mia Benedizione Apostolica in questa Domenica della Santa Pasqua, anno Domini 2017. Christus resurgens est! Oggi, celebriamo la vittoria di Cristo sul sepolcro. Celebriamo la gloriosa resurrezione di nostro Signore Jesu Christo. Il Sanctum Triduum è un tempo di morte ed un tempo della vita. È un tempo delle tenebre ed un tempo della luce. Il magno mistero è che per vivere è necessa-rio morire. Dobbiamo morire al mondo e vivere solo in Cristo. Cristo fu l’agnello perfetto per pagare il grandissimo debito del mondo. Ma, non possiamo credere solamente, senza opera, senza sofferenza. In verità dobbiamo appenderci alla croce come Cristo, poichè Cristo ci ha detto che dobbiamo prendere la nostra croce e seguirlo.
Oggi il mondo cammina nelle tenebre. Nonostante, in Cristo abbi-amo la speranza della vita aeterna per tutti chi credono veramente in Lui. Chi crede veramente in Cristo è ligato altamente alla vera Chiesa di Cristo, l’unica, santa, cattolica, ed apostolica Chiesa di Cris-to. Anche chi crede veramente in Cristo vive in accordo colla veris-sima dottrina cristiana. Il cuore della dottrina viene del Santo Cuore di Cristo.
Come sempre, esiste una forza grandissima contro la Chiesa e contro il popolo cristiano. Quella forza è una forza dell'anticristo. Questa è una grandissima guerra, la guerra aeterna tra bene e male. Amici in Cristo, dobbiamo combattere come soldati della Santa Cro-ce! Ma la nostra arma la più forte non è la pistola, non è la fucile, ma è la Santa Messa. Un sacerdote celebrando la Santa Messa fa più con-tro i nemici della Chiesa e della pace di tutti gli eserciti fortissimi del mondo.

Anche, come vi ho detto l’ultima Pasqua, sempre comportarvi, in abito appropriato, con parole appropriate, come ecclesiastici e come nobili di questa corte patriarcale antica. Sacerdoti, celebrate la Santa Messa per la pace e per la vittoria. Tutti di voi, orate il sacratissimo rosario. Sempre avete corragio di dire la verità dei Santi Vangeli, an-che se significa la vostra morte o un danno a voi. Prego, nonostante, che Dio ci preserva da ogni caduta!

Per proclamare il santo Vangelo non è l’odio. La verità è l’amore. Tutto l’amore nel mondo è trovato nel santo Vangelo di Cristo. Lo proclamiamo precisamente perchè amiamo tutti!
Oggi anche sono molto contento informarvi che abbiamo adesso una missione in Africa, ed i seminaristi stano avanzandi all’ordine dei Sacerdoti. Anche l’apostolato della Guardia di Walsingham, una con-tinuazione moderna del Gran Balivato e delle due Grandi Priorie dell’Ordine Teutonico Inperiale conferite al nostro Patriarcato e liga-ta alle diversi unità del patrimonio del patriarcato, continua di pros-perare e crescere. La Dichiarazione d’Intenti della Guardia è “Ispir-ando le vite di forza, compassione, e pace.” La Guardia è veramente un ministero religioso ed una vocazione religiosa.

Allora, torniamo alla Santa Pasqua, questo tempo gioioso. Ringranziamo per nostro Signore che ha appeso sulla Croce, quello legno benedetto, e che ha vinto il sepolcro e l’inferno stesso. Allora, preparatevi ricevere la benedizione di Dio.

Et benedictio Dei omnipotentis, Patris +, et Filii+, et Spiritus + Sancti, descendat super vos et maneat semper. R. Amen.


ENGLISH TRANSLATION:

To the members of the Court of Saint Maria of Walsingham, grace and peace, and my Apostolic blessing on this Easter Sunday A.D. 2017. Christus resurgens est! Today, we celebrate Christ's victo-ry over the tomb. We celebrate the glorious Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Sacred Triduum is a time of death and of life. It is a time of darkness and of light. The great mystery is that in order to live you must die. We must die to the world and live only in Christ. Christ was the perfect lamb to pay the enormous debt of the world. But, we can't merely believe and stop there, without work, without suffering. Truly we must hang on the cross like Christ, because Christ told us that we must take up our cross and follow him.

Today the world walks in darkness. Despite that fact, in Christ we have the hope of everlasting life for all who truly believe in Him. Those who truly believe in Christ's will strongly align themselves with the true Church of Christ, the one, Holy, Catholic, and Apostol-ic Church of Christ. Those who believe in Christ live according to the true and authentic Christian doctrine. The heart of the doctrine is derived from and of the very essence of the Sacred Heart of Christ.
As always, there is a great force aligned against the Church and against the Christian people. That force is a force of the Antichrist. This is a great war, the eternal war between good and evil. Dear friends in Christ, we must fight as soldiers of the Cross! But our strongest weapon is not the pistol and not the rifle, but rather the Holy Mass. A priest celebrating mass does more than all strongest armies in the world put together.

Also, as I told you all last Easter, always conduct yourselves properly, in appropriate dress, with appropriate words, as clerics and nobles of the ancient and Patriarchal Court. Priests, celebrate the mass for peace and for victory. All of you, pray the Holy Rosary. Always be brave and preach the truth of the Holy Gospels, even if it means your death or harm comes to you. I pray, however, the God will preserve us from all harm!

To proclaim the holy Gospel is not hatred. The truth contained therein is love. All the love in the world is found in the Holy Gospel of Christ. We proclaim the Gospel precisely because we love all the people of the world!

Today also I am very pleased that we have now a mission in Af-rica, and seminarians are diligently progressing towards the Order of Priests. Even the apostolate of the Walsingham Guard, a modern continuation of the Grand Bailiwick and the two Grand Priories if the Imperial Teutonic Order vested in our Patriarchate, joined with the various other units that comprise part of the patrimony of the Patriarchate, continues to thrive and grow. The Mission Statement of the Guard is "Inspiring lives of strength, compassion, and peace." The Guard is truly a religious ministry and vocation.

So, returning specifically to Easter, this time of great joy, we give thanks unto the Lord that He hung on the Cross, that blessed wood, and who conquered both the grave and hell itself. Therefore, prepare yourselves to receive God's blessing.

Et benedictio Dei omnipotentis, Patris +, et Filii+, et Spiritus + Sancti, descendat super vos et maneat semper. R. Amen.

14 April 2017

Who is Responsible for the Death of Christ?

Sub Tuum. 

Who is responsible for the murder of Christ? It cannot simply be blamed on the Jews, though it was the Jewish authorities who, out of jealousy, sought the destruction of Jesus and delivered Him to the Romans. Neither can it simply be blamed on the Romans, as they were faced with a riot that they had to put down - their main concern rather than with Christ Himself. Even Pilate washed his hands of the matter. So on whom do we place the blame? All you need to do is look in the mirror. It is something for which each and every one of us is responsible. We cannot merely relegate the Passion to a time in the past, for our Lord knows neither time nor space. Was humanity fallen and in need of salvation then, but not thereafter? Certainly not. Are we all saved now because of an historical event 2000 years ago without any responsibility on our part now? Not at all. Christ came at a specific time to this world, yes - but He came to save all people across all time. Just as we have the same opportunity at salvation, we also bear the same responsibility as those who were alive at the time of Christ.

07 April 2017

American Attacks on Syria

Sub Tuum.

Statement of the Patriarch of St. Stephen:

The U.S. President's military action of today can be called nothing short of reckless, irresponsible, inappropriate, and illegitimate. The sabre-rattling of yesterday was a clear pretext to war. That military action happened so soon thereafter clearly suggests that commentary was nothing but an excuse used to justify something already planned.

One must ask that, other than cleaning up the mess of ISIS that the Americans created, what right does the United States have to conduct an act of war against a foreign power? In addition to the simple fact that military intervention of this nature in Syria is complex at best on its own, the proximity of Russian troops makes this a potential powder-keg. Hopefully this will not be the site where the fools of the twenty-first century destroy lands and people in a proxy war between two superpowers.

It is time for the United States military to cease obeying foolish and likely illegal orders. One cannot be absolved simply because one was following orders.

23 March 2017

London Terrorist Attack

Sub Tuum.

Another terrorist attack has happened - this time in London at Parliament. Apparently a single attacker wrought a considerable amount of destruction and mayhem. Since we are at an unprecedented time of peace in the western world, such an attack is all the more visible. 

Amidst all the cowardly violence, however, the light of valor managed to show through. Tobias Ellwood, a former soldier who is currently the Minister for Counter-Terrorism, rushed to the aid of a fatally-wounded police officer. 

Less nobly, the broken record continues of weak and trite responses declaring one or another emotional yet vapid comments in response to terrorist attacks. That stands in stark contrast to the bold and strong words of Sir Winston Churchill and others like him (though there truly is no one quite like Churchill). What is painfully absent is a strong sense of resolve that good and decent people of the world will fight to stop those who wish them harm and will resolve to die rather than live as slaves or live in fear. That and that alone is the only rhetoric for a free people. That is the legacy of our ancestors in the armies of the Holy Cross. That is the legacy of the pilots in the Battle of Britain and of those who crossed the Channel to Normandy and who landed on the shores of Italy to lift the shadow of bigoted oppression. 

In the past, the United Kingdom knew how to deal with terrorists when faced with regular, cowardly attacks by the IRA. Now, however, we can only hope that the British people have not forgotten that the nose of the British bulldog slopes backward so that it may breathe without letting go. The tenacity so associated with the spirit of the British Isles is the legacy brought by the Romans and by the Normans. It is their historic nature - unless they themselves choose to abdicate and abandon their birthright, and knuckle under and crawl in the face of the enemy. 

The unique and special patrimony of the Patriarchate of St. Stephen includes both Anglican and Roman - both English and Italian. The Patriarchal household of the See of St. Stephen is centered in Florence, but called the Court of Saint Mary of Walsingham. The ties between Italy and England, however, are neither new nor unusual. It is an old relationship. Saint Augustine of Canterbury, founder of the Catholic Anglican Church, was himself an Italian. Saint Anselmo, an important Archbishop of Canterbury, was born in the Italian lands of Aosta, then in the Kingdom of Arles, which at one time ruled both Tuscany and the entire Kingdom of Italy in the Holy Roman Empire. The list continues. Our Patriarchate is forever linked not only to the holy land of Italy, but to the British Isles. We therefore feel this attack no differently than if it were done to us directly. Let us pray that the people of Britain will remember their true heritage of faith and strength and that the government will act appropriately. Those who refuse to fight when the battle is easy to win and victory may even be possible without bloodshed will so often find themselves in a bloody conflict of great difficulty and uncertainty. It is a lesson that history teaches, but one that many refuse to learn.

05 February 2017

Unity and Polarization

Sub Tuum.

Amidst the transition to the new President of the United States, calls for unity as Americans are contrasted with diametrically-opposed criticisms of and apologetics for Trump. This is not a situation unique to the United States, but ongoing evens there make it a timely example. Those who say that the elected President is the President, some will like him and some will not, and all people should come together in unity as Americans for the common good are indeed perplexed by the polarization. Those who support Trump cannot understand why some are opposed to Trump. Those who oppose Trump cannot understand why some support him. Neither side wants to budge. 

President Ronald Reagan (left) greets future President
Donald Trump (right) at a White House function.
Reagan was President during a time of greater national
unity, while Trump leads the U.S. government
during a highly polarized time.
In standing back and watching the unfolding situation, it occurs to me that there can be no true unity in anything when there is such polarization. It is a fundamental impossibility. There will always be some degree of disagreement - even some who strongly disagree. But, when it is widespread and strong, it is difficult to ignore. 

Those who support Mr. Trump have their set of reasons. Those who oppose Mr. Trump have their set of reasons as well. The President's opponents do not feel they should ignore issues about which they are passionate simply for unity. If they believe something is wrong, then they will continue to stand up to it. Whether one agrees with their logic or not, one cannot dispute that they truly believe what they believe, provided that they are being honest. I use simply the title of President here intentionally. Consider that if Mrs. Clinton had been elected, those of us who oppose the wholesale murder of millions of children each year, most of them from minority backgrounds, would surely right now continue to oppose the Presidents support thereof and would not back down simply in the name of national unity. Note however, despite my use of the abortion example, I am otherwise not making any comparisons or judgments in this writing on any specific aspect of the Trump Administration's policy or what would likely have been the Clinton Administration's policy. 

So, there it is. Two sides with vastly opposing views that simply cannot be reconciled. If we give the benefit of the doubt to at least the majority of citizens on either side, then we have two groups standing up for what they believe. That is not likely to change - at least not any time soon. And so perhaps the United States is in a period of divergence within the population. I could make arguments for that being a positive thing. For example, to use abortion once again, if we have "two Americas," one that supports abortion and one that does not, then I cannot say that such deviance within the population is at all bad, for the defense of life cannot yield. Similarly, if we have "two Americas," one that is of the Catholic faith and one that is decidedly anti-Catholic, as much of the United States has historically been and is to this day, I cannot say that such divergence is bad, for we must stand for the faith of Christ. On the other hand, I can argue for national unity, provided it does not reach the point of nationalism. It is not a good thing to have people tearing themselves apart and doing harm of any kind to others simply because they have differing political views or disagree regarding something that is going on in Washington. How does that benefit anyone? How does it solve any problem? 

I do not have a solution for this problem. Sometimes situations in human dynamics possess a certain momentum and will run their course on their own unless they are acted upon by some greater force. (Wars have done just that on more than one occasion.) What I can advise, as trite as it may sound, is to have respect for others of differing viewpoints. The more divergent their viewpoint is from yours, the more difficult that will be. The more divergent their viewpoint is from yours, the more you must listen. You don't have to agree with them. You can certainly stand up for your own principles, even if that means standing against them. I absolutely advocate standing up for right. However, we ought not let a disagreement of ideas between us and our neighbor end in doing harm to each other. 

History is full of scenarios like this. While national brotherhood in its authentic and beneficial form may be a laudable ideal, it is presently elusive. Rather than becoming frustrated, why not do something to put your principles into positive action and help others?