Saturday, November 01, 2014

All Saints

2010 All Saints Post
Moses the Black of Ethiopia, Micae Hồ Đình Hy, Katherine Mary Drexel, Robert Southwell, Lojze Grozde, Andrew Kim Tae Gon

2011 All Saints Post
Bonifacia Rodríguez de Castro, Celestine V, Olga of Kiev, Cyril of Jerusalem, Joseph Mukasa and Charles Lwanga

2012 All Saints Post
Jadwiga of Poland, Kateri Tekakwitha, André Bessette, Rafqa Pietra Choboq Ar-Rayès, Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga

2013 All Saints Post

María Guadalupe García Zavala, Antonio Primaldi, Nimatullah Kassab Al-Hardini, Gabriel-Taurin Dufresse and Augustine Zhao Rong, Josephine Margaret Bakhita, John Chrysostom

Marie Guyart

Marie Guyart was a French woman who joined the Ursulines as Marie of the Incarnation; she then went on mission to the very earliest colonies in New France, where she and a number of others founded a convent in Quebec City in 1639. They founded the first school for women in North America. Marie was active in missions to the local natives, compiling dictionaries for Algonquin and Iroquois, a history of the Algonquin, and a Catechism in Iroquois. She died in 1672 of a liver disease from which she had suffered for years. She was canonized in 2014 and her feast day is April 30.

Alphonsa Muttathupadathu

Anna Muttathupadathu, from Kerala, India, fell into a pit of burning chaff at the age of 13, severely burning her feet, an injury from which she never fully recovered. She joined the Franciscan Clarist Convent in 1927, taking the name of Alphonsa after St. Alphonsus Liguori. She was assigned to teach at a girls' high school, where she was very popular, but fell terribly ill, and often could not teach. She would regularly suffer bouts of ill health throughout her life. She became known in the local community, however, for giving good advice on how to handle life's problems. She died in 1946 at the age of 36, and was canonized in 2008. Her feast day is July 28.

John Neumann

John Neumann was born in Bohemia (in the modern-day Czech Republic). He had a profound desire to become a priest, and was a promising seminary student, being a solid student and naturally good at languages. However, before he could take that road, the bishop of Bohemia declared a moratorium on new priests -- there was at that time such a glut of Bohemian students going into the priesthood that the bishop was running out of things to do with them. John was not to be put off so easily, however, and in 1836 he emigrated to the United States in the hope of having better luck there. And he did. New York had a dearth of priests, and since he already had the background, he was ordained almost immediately. He was assigned to minister to the very large German community in New York, which often lived in places where there was no easily accessible parish church. Because of this he was in practice an itinerant priest -- he had a church in Williamsville, but as a significant number of his parishioners lived in out-of-the-way places, he spent much of his time on the road. He did excellent work under these conditions, but he found the isolation almost unbearable. He therefore applied to join the Redemptorists and with the Redemptorists ended up transferring to Maryland. In 1852 he was appointed the bishop of Philadelphia. In that capacity he built parish churches for the diverse and burgeoning Catholic immigrant community, designed and implemented a diocesan school system, and sponsored religious institutes and the work of religious orders. He was very popular among his flock, and good at doing a great deal with the very slim budgets he had available, but he found the position extremely stressful. Philadelphia in that period was a hotbed of anti-Catholic sentiment (it was one of the major strongholds of the Know Nothing Party) and resentment against immigrants. Not a very combative person, John had difficulty handling the hostility, and he asked Rome to replace him. (Rome denied his request.) He died of stroke in 1860 at the age of 48. He was canonized in 1977 by Paul VI; his feast day is January 5.

Hildegard von Bingen

Hildegard lived in the twelfth century. She became teacher of the community of nuns at Disibodenberg. (Contrary to what is sometimes claimed, she was never officially an abbess.) She eventually pushed to have another convent established at Rupertsberg, against the preferences of the Abbot in charge of the community. A great deal of her work at Rupertsberg involved caring for the sick, and the experience is likely the foundation for her medical texts. Hildegard also composed liturgical chants and music and a hagiography of St. Rupert for the sisters in her community. She is most famous, however, for her visions, and for her insightful theological discussion of them in a number of works, the best known of which is the Scivias. Since she was self-taught in Latin, she preferred to have her works proofread by a more latinate secretary, but she generally refused to let them do more than make the sentences read more naturally -- she would not let them change the main words themselves. She corresponded with Popes, Emperors, and other people of importance. She became famous for her predictions, and we have several letters from important people remarking on their accuracy. There is no particular point at which she was canonized; she was beatified very early on, and then listed as a saint in the Roman Martyrology in the sixteenth century or so. She was placed on the universal calendar in 2012. She is a Doctor of the Church and her feast day is September 17.

Pedro de San José Betancurt

Pedro of Betancourt was from Tenerife in the Canary Islands. He spent some time as a shepherd there, but eventually decided to go to Guatemala, where he had some connections, in the hope of finding a government job. Passage was more expensive than he thought, however, and he found once he got to Cuba that all the money he had saved for the trip had run out. He managed to get to Honduras by working aboard a ship, and then walked all the way to Guatemala City. Having no money left at all, he had to get bread from the Franciscans there, who ran a sort of soup kitchen, and they helped him get a factory job. Because of the help he had received from the Franciscans, he considered becoming a priest, and began attending seminary for it. He discovered that he was not suited for it, being unable to keep the material straight, and dropped out after three years of intensive and stressful effort. He did join the Franciscans as a tertiary, however, and as a layman devoted himself to helping the sick, poor, and unfortunate, as well as to teaching children their catechisms. As part of his work for the poor and sick, he was eventually given a hut for a makeshift hospital, and by going around and asking for donations managed to collect enough a few years later to build a better building for it, dedicated to Our Lady of Bethlehem. The hospital began to collect other buildings: a homeless shelter, a school, and more. Other people started joining them. He hadn't ever thought of founding a religious community, but it soon became necessary to organize all the volunteers a bit more formally, and thus was born the Order of the Bethlehemites, the first religious order of the New World, devoted to the sick. He died in 1667 at the age of forty-one. His feast day is April 24.

Benedict the Moor

Benedict's parents were African slaves who were taken to Italy and eventually freed. Life was hard, though, and he spent much of his early years working, not under the best conditions. He also faced the burden of racial prejudice. ('The Moor' is transliteration of a false cognate, from Il Moro, meaning 'the Black'.) One day a member of a local group of religious hermits noticed how well he bore up under a racial insult, and invited him to consider joining their community. Benedict eventually did. In 1564 Pope Pius IV required all independent groups of hermits to attach themselves to some approved religious order, and thus Benedict ended up with the Franciscans, where he started out as a cook but eventually became the supervisor for the Franciscan community at Palermo, then afterward became the teacher of the novices While he was illiterate, he was respected for his teaching ability. He did not, however, like the position, which he had not wanted in the first place, and eventually got permission to become a cook again. He had become known for being a good confessor and spiritual director, however, and people regularly visited his kitchen. His feast day is April 4.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Horror Poetry VI: H. P. Lovecraft, "Hallowe'en in a Suburb"

Hallowe'en in a Suburb
by H. P. Lovecraft


The steeples are white in the wild moonlight,
And the trees have a silver glare;
Past the chimneys high see the vampires fly,
And the harpies of upper air,
That flutter and laugh and stare.

For the village dead to the moon outspread
Never shone in the sunset's gleam,
But grew out of the deep that the dead years keep
Where the rivers of madness stream
Down the gulfs to a pit of dream.

A chill wind blows through the rows of sheaves
In the meadows that shimmer pale,
And comes to twine where the headstones shine
And the ghouls of the churchyard wail
For harvests that fly and fail.

Not a breath of the strange grey gods of change
That tore from the past its own
Can quicken this hour, when a spectral power
Spreads sleep o'er the cosmic throne,
And looses the vast unknown.

So here again stretch the vale and plain
That moons long-forgotten saw,
And the dead leap gay in the pallid ray,
Sprung out of the tomb's black maw
To shake all the world with awe.

And all that the morn shall greet forlorn,
The ugliness and the pest
Of rows where thick rise the stones and brick,
Shall some day be with the rest,
And brood with the shades unblest.

Then wild in the dark let the lemurs bark,
And the leprous spires ascend;
For new and old alike in the fold
Of horror and death are penned,
For the hounds of Time to rend.

Horror Poetry V: Henry Thomas Liddell, "The Vampire Bride"

The Vampire Bride
by Henry Thomas Liddell


“I am come—I am come! once again from the tomb,
In return for the ring which you gave;
That I am thine, and that thou art mine,
This nuptial pledge receive.”

He lay like a corse ‘neath the Demon’s force,
And she wrapp’d him in a shround;
And she fixed her teeth his heart beneath,
And she drank of the warm life-blood!

And ever and anon murmur’d the lips of stone,
“Soft and warm is this couch of thine,
Thou’lt to-morrow be laid on a colder bed—
Albert! that bed will be mine!”

Error of Imagination

It can only be with an imagination that has exclusively given itself up to a scientific direction that we can have to do in discussing the question, What false system, and what error in science generally, or in physical science especially, can have proceeded from a perverted use of this faculty of fancy? This, it appears to me, can be no other than the well-known materialism—the atomistic view of nature, and, what is so closely connected with it, that atomistic thinking whose deadening character is far more dangerous and fatal to philosophy than that much-decried "system of nature," which, for the most part, has outlived its day, and, in its former shape, at least, is obsolete and out of fashion. This atomistic view of nature can not, for one moment, be regarded as or explained by an error of the reason. For the reason seeks every where for an absolute unity.

Schlegel, Philosophy of Life, Morrison, tr., p. 520. The "system of nature" to which he is referring is Naturphilosophie. Schlegel has identified four faculties of human life -- reason, imagination, understanding, and will. He argues that each faculty is potentially subject to a particular kind of error that can become the foundation of an entire defective system of thought. The kind of system the error of reason reaches is the general kind of idealist philosophy of the absolute for which the Germans were famous, Fichte, Hegel, and the like, in which everything is taken to unfold by pure necessary consequence, as rational idea is mistaken for reality. Materialism is the corresponding error for imagination, based on mistaking an imaginative picture for reality. He takes the two together, the error of reason and the error of imagination, to constitute the major philosophical deviations of his day.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Horror Poetry IV: Anne Bushby, "The Werewolf"

The Werewolf
by Anne S. Bushby


'Twas at the middle hour of night;
And though the moon gave her pale light,
O'er the haunted wood a thick mist hung
And the wind was howling its leaves among.
In a cart along that way so wild
A peasant was driving his wife and child.

"For the fairy folks thou need'st fear not,
They dance 'neath the moon on yon green spot.
Should the screech-owl cry from yonder marsh
Say a prayer, nor heed its voice so harsh.
Whate'er thou seest, be not afraid,
But clasp the child," the faither said.

"Forward, old horse! Behind yon tree
Our church's steeple I can see.
Get on! But hold, a moment stop--
The linch-pin is about to drop;
'Tis crack'd--I'll cut a stick, my dear;
Hold fast the child, and have no fear!"

An hour alone she might have sat,
When a noise she heard--"Oh, what is that?"
Lo! a coal-black hound! She sees and knows
The werewolf! while his teeth he shows,
And glares upon her child, she flings
Her apron o'er it as he springs.

His sharp teeth bite it; but she cries
To God for help, away he flies.
Her arms the helpless babe enfold,
She sits like a statue, pale and cold.
But soon her husband's by her side,
And onwards now they safely ride.

Arrived at home, a light is brought;
She starts, as with some horrid thought:
"What? Husband! husband! can these be
Threads hanging from thy teeth I see?
Thou art thyself a werewolf then!"
"Thy words," he said, "have set me free again!"

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Scouting Troubles

CBS has an interesting discussion of the Girl Scouts (GSUSA):

For the second straight year, youth and adult membership in the Girl Scouts has dropped sharply, intensifying pressure on the 102-year-old youth organization to find ways of reversing the trend.

According to figures provided to The Associated Press, the total of youth members and adult volunteers dropped by 6 percent over the past year -- from 2,994,844 to 2,813,997. Over two years, total membership is down 11.6 percent, and it has fallen 27 percent from a peak of more than 3.8 million in 2003.

Scouting in general is in some difficulty; every major Scouting organization has been subject to some kind of politically motivated attack recently. The Girl Scouts are facing some especially serious problems, however; there's a lot of internal criticism of how the organization has been run in recent years.

The temptation is always to compare the Girl Scouts to the Boy Scouts; but the GSUSA and the BSA are, and have always been, radically different kinds of organizations. As I've mentioned before, they are rival organizations, not sister organizations; the sister organization to the Boys Scouts is Camp Fire, the always-forgotten third member of the Big Three of American Scouting. The GSUSA was the only Scouting organization that the Boy Scouts weren't able to eliminate in the Scouting Wars, the period in which the Boy Scouts actively applied litigation and political pressure to make themselves and Camp Fire the American Scouting organizations. (They did so in a typical GSUSA move, by playing politics: they got First Ladies to be presidents, thus making it impossible for the BSA to attack them directly.) And while those hostilities are arguably long past, the visions of Scouting in the organization have always been considerably different. One of the changes the GSUSA has made over the past ten years or so is de-emphasizing the outdoor aspect of the organization; they have discovered in the intense aftermath that a significant number of Girl Scouts do, in fact, think that putting outdoor activities front and center is an important aspect of Girl Scouts, and that any changes should incorporate, rather than replace this aspect of the organization. But it is simply not possible to imagine the Boy Scouts of America ever doing anything similar -- not only is it counter to the ethos, the BSA doesn't have the strongly centralized structure of the GSUSA, so organization would not be able to do much in that direction.

It will be interesting to see how it all goes. The GSUSA (unlike the BSA) is an organization that moves very quickly. But being swift at adapting is useless unless you can find the solution that is actually adaptive.

Horror Poetry III: Edgar Allan Poe, "The Haunted Palace"

The Haunted Palace
by Edgar Allan Poe


In the greenest of our valleys
By good angels tenanted,
Once a fair and stately palace—
Radiant palace—reared its head.
In the monarch Thought's dominion—
It stood there!
Never seraph spread a pinion
Over fabric half so fair!

Banners yellow, glorious, golden,
On its roof did float and flow,
(This—all this—was in the olden
Time long ago),
And every gentle air that dallied,
In that sweet day,
Along the ramparts plumed and pallid,
A winged odor went away.

Wanderers in that happy valley,
Through two luminous windows, saw
Spirits moving musically,
To a lute's well-tunëd law,
Bound about a throne where, sitting
(Porphyrogene!)
In state his glory well befitting,
The ruler of the realm was seen.

And all with pearl and ruby glowing
Was the fair palace door,
Through which came flowing, flowing, flowing,
And sparkling evermore,
A troop of Echoes, whose sweet duty
Was but to sing,
In voices of surpassing beauty,
The wit and wisdom of their king.

But evil things, in robes of sorrow,
Assailed the monarch's high estate.
(Ah, let us mourn!—for never morrow
Shall dawn upon him desolate !)
And round about his home the glory
That blushed and bloomed,
Is but a dim-remembered story
Of the old time entombed.

And travellers, now, within that valley,
Through the red-litten windows see
Vast forms, that move fantastically
To a discordant melody,
While, like a ghastly rapid river,
Through the pale door
A hideous throng rush out forever
And laugh—but smile no more.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Horror Poetry II: John Donne, "The Apparition"

The Apparition
by John Donne


When by thy scorn, O murd’ress, I am dead
And that thou think’st thee free
From all solicitation from me,
Then shall my ghost come to thy bed,
And thee, feign’d vestal, in worse arms shall see;
Then thy sick taper will begin to wink,
And he, whose thou art then, being tir’d before,
Will, if thou stir, or pinch to wake him, think
Thou call’st for more,
And in false sleep will from thee shrink;
And then, poor aspen wretch, neglected thou
Bath’d in a cold quicksilver sweat wilt lie
A verier ghost than I.
What I will say, I will not tell thee now,
Lest that preserve thee; and since my love is spent,
I’had rather thou shouldst painfully repent,
Than by my threat’nings rest still innocent.

Travails of a New Author

This little work was finished in the year 1803, and intended for immediate publication. It was disposed of to a bookseller, it was even advertised, and why the business proceeded no farther, the author has never been able to learn. That any bookseller should think it worth-while to purchase what he did not think it worth-while to publish seems extraordinary. But with this, neither the author nor the public have any other concern than as some observation is necessary upon those parts of the work which thirteen years have made comparatively obsolete. The public are entreated to bear in mind that thirteen years have passed since it was finished, many more since it was begun, and that during that period, places, manners, books, and opinions have undergone considerable changes.

Jane Austen, in the Advertisement to Northanger Abbey. She was only able actually to publish the book because the publisher sold it back to her in 1816.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Horror Poetry I: Clark Ashton Smith, "The Eldritch Dark"

The Eldritch Dark
by Clark Ashton Smith


Now as the twilight's doubtful interval
Closes with night's accomplished certainty,
A wizard wind goes crying eerily,
And on the wold misshapen shadows crawl,
Miming the trees, whose voices climb and fall,
Imploring, in Sabbatic ecstacy,
The sky where vapor-mounted phantoms flee
From the scythed moon impendent over all.

Twin veils of covering cloud and silence, thrown
Across the movement and the sound of things,
Make blank the night, till in the broken west
The moon's ensanguined blade awhile is shown....
The night grows whole again....The shadows rest,
Gathered beneath a greater shadow's wings.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Fortnightly Book, October 26

The fortnightly book this time around is actually a double-billing, since I'll be reading two classics of dystopian science fiction, both of which are by Russian authors, and both of which are structured as prose poems attacking collectivism: Yevgeny Zamyatin's We and Ayn Rand's Anthem.

Yevgeny Zamyatin was born in 1884 in Lebedyan, a couple hundred miles south of Moscow. After studying naval engineering, he joined the Bolsheviks, and spent some time under arrest and in exile during this period of his life. He also spent some time in England building icebreaking ships -- in fact, he was a Bolshevik who missed the Bolshevik revolution entirely. Returning to Russia in 1917, he started publishing works, but quickly became disillusioned with the increasingly intrusive censorship exercised by the new regime. By 1921 he had written We, which was banned. He smuggled copies out and the first English edition was published in 1924. This sort of activity got him blacklisted, and in 1931, he actually wrote Stalin directly, asking to be given permission to emigrate; Stalin gave him permission. Zamyatin settled in Paris, where he died in poverty in 1937.

Ayn Rand was born Alisa Rosenbaum in 1905 in Saint Petersburg to a secular Jewish family. The Bolshevik revolution forced the family to flee to Crimea, although they eventually did return to the newly named Petrograd, where they struggled to get by. She was granted a visa in 1925 to visit American relatives, and arrived the next year, never going back. She eventually made her way to Hollywood, where she worked in various capacities in the film industry, met her husband, Frank O'Connor, and became an American citizen in 1931. Anthem was written while Rand was also writing The Fountainhead, and an English edition was published in 1938, but it was not published in an American edition, considerably revised from the English one, until 1946. (The edition I have has both the final edition as well as a copy of the original edition marked up with Rand's extensive revisions.) She died of heart failure in 1982 in New York City.

The two works have quite a few similarities, but also quite a few differences. It is possible that We was an influence on Anthem, but it is also possible that many of their similarities may actually be due to shared background and intent. (And it is worth noting that Aldous Huxley always insisted that his Brave New World, which also shares quite a few similarities with We, was entirely independent of it.)

A song based on Rand's novella:



Rush, "Anthem". Lyrics here.

A Poem Re-Draft

Abyss and Sea

The thunder shatters air and will, the rain is cold, the lightning fierce.
The world is battered, broken, upside-down; its heart is deeply pierced;
and all our hope beneath the wave is sinking now, beyond our reach.
Not wealth nor strength nor lore can move the lands to rise; they, shattered each,
are crushed beneath the heavy sea, and nevermore will they return.
Yet I recall the shining streets, the lamps that seemed like stars to burn,
and I remember meadows, fields, and mountains like a summer dream
surrounding cities bright with lights that like the snow in sunlight gleamed.

On sandy shores we once would walk and feel the salty, sea-sent breeze,
but nevermore shall footsteps grace that sand; the roaring, angry seas
have seized it all in chilling grasp and nothing free of flood remains
save fragments made of memories, their razor edges trimmed with pain.
And I recall the winter snows on little houses, trim and neat,
where children played with shouting voices, endless games, and nimble feet,
but where are they? They too are gone. The earth and sea will spare no soul.
They spared not me, for what they left to sigh and grieve is not the whole.

The storm is pounding; not a sound can break its roaring, rumbling wall,
but still inside I hear the songs that honeyed voices used to call
beneath the dewy apple trees in autumn days, cool, crisp, and clear.
The trees are driftwood-dead and lost; the songs are dim in yesteryear,
but I can feel the ache inside, and I can feel that they once grew,
and I can feel the loss of glories past that you and I once knew.
But harsher still the tearing pain, suspended doubting, cold as stone,
not knowing where you are: Are you alive? Or am I now alone?