Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Marie-Antoinette as "Goodness" with Pelican

According to my friend Hyacinthe Desjdek: Robert-Guillaume Dardel (1749-1821) Marie-Antoinette in the guise of kindness, 1785 Terra cotta, white marble adorned with gilded bronze - 49 x 22 x 13.5 cm, Montréal, Musée des Beaux-Arts
This is an extraordinary statue which shows the Queen dressed almost as the Virgin Mary. Beside her is a pelican, which according to legend fed its young from its own bosom. The pelican is a symbol of the Eucharist. Via Vive la Reine. Share

Less Happy

From Aleteia:
In 2009, economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers published an intriguing article called The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness in which they document a pervasive, downward shift in female self-reports of happiness since the early 1970s. This shift has occurred "absolutely" – meaning, women report being less happy today than they did in the early 70s. It has also occurred "relative" to men – as in, women today report being less happy than men do, whereas in the early 70s men reported being relatively unhappier than women. These are major population-based findings – results that summarize statistics from large random samples of people. Further, these findings appear to be consistent across all of the available survey data that can measure changes over time in how people report that they are doing. Which means these aren’t accidental findings. They are probably measuring something real.

Women really are – or at least they really feel that they are – doing worse today than they were in the early 70s.

If this is true, the "Allure" cover headline “Life is one big party, and you’re all invited” seems either insensitive or ignorant. Or else, as I suspect, the editors at "Allure" don’t want to tell the truth about reality, because the truth about reality doesn’t sell magazines. This is why they persist with the Photoshop madness and the airbrush fantasyland –because we have a stubborn attachment to mythological narratives, both sacred and profane. "Glamour" and "Allure" peddle in the profane.

But this is profoundly unhelpful to ordinary women, for at least two reasons. First, because profane mythologies – about becoming like Cara Delevingne – do little more than highlight and reinforce our fallen human nature: pride, vanity, narcissism, jealousy, sensuality – the quest for perfectibility in the material realm. Ultimately this leads to despair because we really can’t have any of it. And as we flip through the pages we risk becoming sadder than when we started. We looked for hope and inspiration but we found instead that we were becoming a statistic: far less likely than before to say that we were happy. (Read more.)
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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Art, Talent, and Beauty

An engraving from the early 1780's showing Marie-Antoinette honored by the muses of art, talent and beauty. It is sad to think that at the same time hideous pornographic pamphlets were also being circulated.

The Getty Museum has an article about Marie-Antoinette's artistic eye and her contributions to the world of  furniture design, HERE.

One of four such pieces now at the Getty, this giltwood side chair formed a suite of eight side chairs and eight armchairs delivered to the Petit Trianon by master craftsman François II Foliot in 1781. Designed by Jacques Gondoin, they were used to furnish the salon du rocher, or rock salon, of an octagonal garden pavilion known as the Belvédère.
Marie-Antoinette invited her inner circle to take a seat on these chairs while enjoying music and tea in the salon du rocher, which looked out onto an ornamental lake and grotto. Carved torches emerging from ivy-bound sticks form the chair’s stiles, or vertical sides, and are reminiscent of those used to illuminate the Belvédère and other garden features for evening receptions. Marie-Antoinette’s brother, Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II, and the future Czar Paul I of Russia and his wife were received at Trianon in this manner.
- See more at: http://blogs.getty.edu/iris/three-reasons-to-love-marie-antoinette/#sthash.wpT9g9qP.dpuf

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"Living and Breathing"

Brigit's Lorica
A review of The Paradise Tree from The Book Drunkard. To quote:
I also had Irish ancestors who came to Canada (and French ones, also), so that made the story  all the more meaningful to me.  It gives great insight into what immigrants went through once they came here.  It was not easy!  Those that survived had to have come from strong stock and Daniel O’Connor was tough.  I feel luckier after reading this book, knowing what they went through, in order for us to have what we have today.

Perhaps because this is based on a true story of her ancestors, but I felt a lot of emotion reading Daniel’s story.  The author has a knack of bringing out these feelings in the characters and in the reader.  The people in the story felt so real to me and almost like they could have also been my ancestors.  She brought them to living and breathing life on the pages and I laughed and cried along with them.  On top of that, the historical details add so much to the story and it appears that a lot of research went into the book.  I found it completely fascinating from beginning to end.

If I wasn’t a fan of Elena Maria Vidal before(I was), I definitely am now.  She knows how to evoke strong feelings from the readers of her books.  She makes them feel and think and live other lives through the people she writes about.  When I keep thinking about a book after I’ve finished it, that’s a win. (Read more.)
The Paradise Tree is available internationally from Amazon.

In order to win a free copy, visit Passages to the Past!


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England Adopts the Gregorian Calendar

From History Today:
In 1750 England and her empire, including the American colonies, still adhered to the old Julian calendar, which was now eleven days ahead of the Gregorian calendar, introduced in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII and in use in most of Europe.

Attempts in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to adopt the new calendar had broken on the rock of the Church of England, which denounced it as popish. The prime mover in changing the situation was George Parker, second Earl of Macclesfield, a keen astronomer and a Fellow of the Royal Society. He was assisted in his calculations by his friend James Bradley, the astronomer royal, and he gained the influential support of Philip Dormer Stanhope, the sophisticated fourth Earl of Chesterfield (of letters to his son fame), who squared it with Henry Pelham’s initially reluctant government.

In 1751 Chesterfield introduced in the House of Lords ‘an Act for Regulating the Commencement of the Year and for Correcting the Calendar now in Use’, gracefully commending it, with Macclesfield in support. According to Chesterfield, Macclesfield spoke ‘with infinite knowledge and all the clearness that so intricate a matter could admit of; but as his words, his periods, and his utterance were not near so good as mine, the preference was most unanimously, though most unjustly, given to me.’

The bill passed through Parliament easily enough and George II signed it in May. It provided for Wednesday, September 2nd, 1752, to be followed by Thursday the 14th and for New Year’s Day to move from March 25th to January 1st, as already was the case in Scotland. The City of London flatly refused to pay taxes early, so the financial year was altered to start on April 6th, as it still irritatingly does. The changes affected festivals, saint’s days and birthdays, including that of Dr Johnson, as well as the dates of payments of wages, rents and interest, contracts for delivery of goods, military discharges and prison releases. It was all carefully explained in the media of the day under the slogan ‘The New Style the True Style’.

The change was thoroughly unpopular with people who deplored it as popery, disapproved of John Bull’s ways being altered to conform with those of foreigners or who simple-mindedly thought that eleven days had been taken out of their lives. Some claim that mobs gathered to bawl ‘Give us back our eleven days’, there were riots in Bristol and quite a few country people insisted on observing Old Christmas Day on January 5th. (Read more.)
Via Stephanie Mann. Share

Monday, October 20, 2014

Giveaway

Here is a review from the San Francisco Book Review that will soon be live on their site:
The Paradise Tree
By Elena Maria Vidal
Mayapple Books, $9.99, 246 pages, Format: eBook
Star Rating: 5 out of 5

"This is a beautiful book. It follows Daniel O’Connor as he grows up in Ireland, moves to Canada to pursue fortune and freedom, starts a family, and grows old surrounded by those who love him.

Taking place in the nineteenth century, the story covers a period of political and religious unrest in Ireland, creating very exciting early chapters. There is a lot of tension, as the main characters must hide their traditions while still facing systemic prejudice for their beliefs. Vidal firmly establishes Daniel’s love for his family and makes his family feel warm and welcoming. This makes the scene where Daniel decides to leave extremely painful, even as the political history justifies his decision. The entire book is full of these moments, where you sympathize with the characters while wishing they could act differently. It makes for a very human story.

What takes The Paradise Tree to another level, however, is the way that Vidal brings the settings to life. I can so vividly picture the O’Connor Christmas celebration in their small cabin in the Canadian forest that it feels like I was in the room with them. Vidal has a way of describing only the most important aspects of a scene but of describing them in such a way that the whole thing comes to life. It is fascinating.

This precision of focus works for the overarching story as well. Parts of Daniel’s life are glossed over entirely while others are narrated in rich detail. The parts that Vidal focuses on, however, are the exact parts that are most important. Learning how to be a doctor must have been interesting, but it isn’t nearly as important as meeting your wife. Vidal emphasizes the moments of connection, of family, and, in so doing, creates a very personal story. It feels like we know the characters as friends rather than acquaintances. This is a stunningly lovely book, the perfect thing to get lost in for an afternoon."
Win a free copy of The Paradise Tree from Passages to the Past.


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Credo

Fr. Mark on how he survived the summer of 1968. To quote:
Pope Paul VI promulgated The Credo of the People of God on 30 June 1968, less than one month before releasing his prophetic Encyclical Humanae Vitae. I lived through these events. I remember them well. It was a very hot summer; I was volunteering in a program for disadvantaged inner-city children. Robert F. Kennedy had been assassinated earlier that same summer on 5 June.

Confusion

Priests, religious, and seminarians were thrust into a whirlwind of liturgical, theological, and moral confusion. Many lost their footing in the faith. Even “enclosed” monasteries were affected. It was not uncommon to find that Zen Buddhism, so-called “Catholic” Pentecostalism, and a fascination with Garabandal, with Mamma Rosa at San Damiano, and other apparitions had all made inroads into the same monastery. The Trappists, it seems, were especially hard hit by the rage for pluralism. The idea was that there should be something for everyone: “I’m OK, You’re OK” (published in 1967) was the new Summa. Everything was subject to redefinition and reformulation. And, not to be forgotten: The National Association for Pastoral Renewal came out with the “Make Celibacy Optional” bumpersticker.

The Landing of the Soixante-huitards

In Paris, student protestors and strikers launched the now famous social revolution of mai 68, the matrix of a generation of soixante-huitards (sixty-eighters), who, alas, would carry their groovy ideologies forward into the new millennium in both the world and the Church.

Sexual Revolution

In the world of popular culture, the Broadway musical Hair opened in April 1968, offering young people a combination of music and lyrics that glorified every manner of sexual license and perversion. The pollution of the sexual revolution poured into the Church through the windows opened at the Second Vatican Council to let in fresh air. Young women religious, formerly so ladylike and prim, discovered the exhilarating buzz of theological dialogue with edgy John Lennon look–alike seminarians in jeans and sandals . . . and the rest is history.

The Undoing of the Lex Orandi

Among Catholics, there was a heady feeling in the air, enticing even the brightest and the best to believe that everything in the Church and in society had to be re-imagined and re-created, beginning with the liturgy. Tampering with the liturgy led to tampering with the doctrine of the faith; and tampering with the doctrine of the faith led to a skewed moral theological and ethical praxis.

The Mass Under Siege

Ad-libbing at Holy Mass was already becoming endemic . . . and this before the Novus Ordo Missae, which only made its début in 1970. Quantities of mimeographed wildcat “Canons” (Eucharistic Prayers) were in circulation. One summer evening, I came away from a Mass at the Jesuit House of Studies near Yale University feeling sick at heart. All remained seated throughout the celebration; the centre of attention was the priest, bright, articulate, and witty. The tone was one of wanton desacralisation. Then and there, even while engrossed in reading Jesuit Father Joseph Jungmann’s brilliant Mass of the Roman Rite, I resolved never again to trust the liturgical instincts of modernist Jesuits. There were Masses at which “Blowing in the Wind”, “The Times, They Are A-Changin'”, and Judy Collins’s “I’ve Looked at Love from Both Sides Now” were standard fare.
Tears and fears and feeling proud, to say, “I love you” right out loud,
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds, I’ve looked at life that way.
But now old friends are acting strange
they shake their heads, they say I’ve changed
But something’s lost but something’s gained in living every day.(Judy Collins)
Through it all, I knew that in Gregorian Chant I had found the native tongue of my soul. Singing Chant was life-giving for me. Even in monastic choirs, it had been cast aside. Guitar-strumming monks lulled themselves and others into the most astonishing liturgical amnesia in history.
[...]

All of this being said, when Pope Paul VI gave the Church his Credo of the People of God, I was ready and eager to receive it. What I couldn’t understand was why so few Catholics around me, including priests, seminarians, and religious, had little enthusiasm for it. Paul VI’s gift met with indifference. Was it a case of too little too late?
The actual text of the Credo of the People of God begins with article 8 of the Apostolic Letter, Solemni Hac Liturgia, 30 June 1968. Here it is, with gratitude to Blessed Paul VI from one who, with his help, survived those changing times of confusion, uncertainty, and iconoclasm. (Read more.)
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Fighting Isis for Us

From The New Yorker:
The Yazidi resistance, led by a politician in his sixties named Qasim Shasho, has received very little attention outside Iraq. One account, on Medium, describes the group as being made up of just a couple thousand fighters. Few of them have any military training—Karim has never fired a shot at another human being. They are outnumbered and outgunned, with AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, and a few fifty-calibre guns against ISIS’s artillery and armored vehicles. The Yazidis are capable of hit-and-run ambushes, but they haven’t been able to take and hold territory. Many of their relatives who are now refugees in Kurdistan have abandoned the idea of ever returning to their ancient home.

Around the beginning of this month, ISIS seized the road through Syria to Dohuk, cutting off Karim’s land route back to safety. His father was having heart trouble, and a few days ago the two of them travelled up Mt. Sinjar, a steep and rugged area, holy to Yazidis, that became their sanctuary and their grave when ISIS attacked the towns around it, two months ago. From the top of the mountain, Karim’s father was evacuated to Dohuk on one of the Iraqi Air Force helicopters that make regular flights back and forth, carrying fighters and weapons to the mountain and ailing and elderly refugees to Kurdistan.

Yesterday, I spoke on the phone with Karim. He’s still at the top of Mt. Sinjar, living in a military camp with around a hundred fighters, the majority of them Kurdish, the rest Yazidis. They sleep in United Nations tents and eat canned food brought in by humanitarian airdrops. There is no real way out except by airlift—in the past ten or twelve days, according to Karim, ISIS has pushed Yazidi fighters out of villages north and west of Mt. Sinjar, and they now surround the mountain. Karim told me that there are still about a thousand civilians around the mountain, also living in tents. The humanitarian airdrops are not enough, food is running low, and the past few nights have been cold with the approach of winter. The Yazidi resistance fighters want an international ground force to liberate Sinjar—something that they are unlikely to get.

A few hours before we spoke, Karim said, five Yazidi girls arrived at the mountaintop camp. The youngest was nine, the oldest twenty. They had walked several dozen miles from their town to the south of the mountain. They carried nothing with them and were barefoot. The girls said that they had been held prisoner for weeks by ISIS fighters, and were badly beaten, according to Karim. Other Yazidi girls and women have been distributed in slave markets to ISIS fighters, and when I asked Karim if the girls had also been raped, he told me, “I couldn’t bear to ask that question, to be honest.” The girls had been held in houses, not a prison, and they’d managed to escape through the back door and make contact by phone with people on the mountain. “They were quiet, not crying—even the little girls, they weren’t crying,” Karim said. “It looks like this was the first time they see a human being.”

After talking with the girls, Karim found himself unable to eat his lunch. “I don’t know. I think I’m helping people here,” he said. “I feel good sometimes—but those girls are making me heartbroken. Imagine—I don’t know their names, I don’t know where they’re from—imagine how their father or brother or someone in their family feels.”(Read more.)
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