by John Horvat II

I recently received an email from someone who questioned me on a comment I made about manners. I had said that manners presuppose distinctions. They call upon us to honor those who are excellent with special treatment. At the same time, they allow us to show compassion and consideration toward those who are lesser or weaker. I claimed crass egalitarianism leads to today’s uncivil society.

The reader took issue with these affirmations saying that all people are children of God and therefore everyone should have the right to be treated equally regardless of who they are or what they have achieved. Hierarchical distinctions are mere fabrications that create resentments and must be avoided.

The email surprised me since I had never really thought about such an objection. Treating others differently seemed very natural to me. However, it now occurs to me that others might share the objection and so out of special (and unequal) consideration to them, I thought it would be good to provide an answer.

Two main problems need to be resolved.

Equal in Essence and Nature

The first is to clarify the confusion between essence and accidents in dealing with human nature.

I am the first to admit that all men are equal in their essence as humans. As such, we are all entitled to some fundamental rights, among them the right to life, honor, property, family and Faith. These rights generate in turn certain universal manners of treatment that we deem humane since they are proper to our nature.

From the perspective of the essence of our human nature, all should be treated equally. There should be basic manners that are universally applicable and expected. Everyone knows, for example, that we must not treat others rudely or brutally. We must respect their fundamental dignity.

Up to this point, I can well agree with my reader about this basic level of manners.

Accidents Change Everything

That leads to the second problem—dealing with our accidents. Things get complicated when you start to consider that humans are unequal in their accidents. People are vastly different when we look at their virtue, talent, beauty, strength, family, tradition, and so many other defining characteristics.

These inequalities of talents, abilities, and circumstances result in an ordered hierarchical society where individuals or groups have specific leadership roles and functions, just as members in a body play key roles. This naturally tends to distill different manners of treatment and consideration.

That is to say, hierarchy is not fabricated but part of the natural order of society. Pope Saint Pius X in his motu proprio Fin Dalla Prima states: “Human society, as established by God, is composed of unequal elements, just as the different parts of the human body are unequal; to make them all equal is impossible, and would mean the destruction of human society.”

Thus, an array of different manners helps us exteriorize these distinctions that come from inequality in society. Manners help us make these distinctions known to others.

Honoring of Authority

The need to make distinctions is particularly clear in the case of offices and authority. We are commanded by God to honor our father and mother and all legitimate authority since all authority comes from God. This implies a different treatment because there are others that are not so honored since they do not share this authority.

Honor is the esteem shown someone. One key way it is publicly manifested is by manners and etiquette. Thus, the loving manners by which we honor our mothers, for example, are vastly different from the simpler manners shown to other ladies. When we address a judge as “Your Honor” and show him great respect, we recognize the high purpose of justice in society. The priest is called “Father” and treated with reverence because of our high regard for his sacred office.

Failure to recognize this authority through exterior signs weakens the office and the good order of society. That is why the classroom where distinctions between teacher and students are minimized and egalitarianism informs speech and behavior is a recipe for disaster.

Honoring Achievement

There is another way in which manners are applied unequally. This consists in giving public honor in recognition of deeds or achievements.

If these deeds are done for the benefit of the nation, then society owes them a debt of gratitude and such persons should in all justice be publicly recognized. If a personal achievement represents a milestone of excellence that enriches all society, then it is just that the person be acknowledged since it benefits the common good.

This is what we do when we recognize and thank soldiers for their service and sacrifice. That is also why we honor the hard work and erudition of someone with a doctorate degree by addressing the individual with the just title of doctor (which I found before the email signature of my objecting reader).

We naturally treat with special deference a Medal of Honor winner, a Nobel Prize winner or anyone who makes the nation proud of their achievements.

Photo Illustration commemorating the Medal of Honor presented posthumously to Master at Arms 2nd Class (Sea, Air, Land) Michael A. Monsoor.

Such manners and public treatment are good for society since it teaches the virtue of gratitude to others. It provides an opportunity for justice whereby we give to others that which is their due. Those honored benefit society immensely since they are models that serve to motivate others to strive for excellence.

Misguided Compassion

Such arguments should make sense even in our egalitarian world. However, I suspect that the cases mentioned above did not get to the core of why many people wish equal manners for everyone.

Many have an aversion to treating people unequally because they have a misguided notion of compassion. They think that by honoring someone greater, we make someone lesser suffer. They associate inequality with pride and brutality. They believe that the only way to avoid this false dilemma is to disguise excellence and treat everyone the same. In this way, we supposedly practice compassion and Christian charity.

The opposite is true. Society is enriched by the enormous inequality of offices, conditions and circumstances. Manners are the habit of thinking about others and acknowledging these social differences. A book of manners is a collection of established formulas that harmonize different sectors of society. Manners need not only be rules, but they can also be touching expressions of tenderness, consideration and affection that express true compassion.

By putting excellence and vulgar behavior on equal footing, we do no favor to anyone. People practice true Christian charity when they do their duty to shine in virtue and excellence. It is wrong to deprive people of their right to have models before their eyes that they might imitate and admire. Manners help bring out the best in us. Everyone, and society itself, is elevated by them.

Nothing More Brutal

The final problem with treating everyone equally is that the logic of this false compassion inevitably leads to adopting the lowest common denominator of manners to prevent the suffering of the lowliest. Worse, it leads to turning each person into the supreme judge of what constitutes these manners since each subjectively assesses what causes one the least suffering.

Thus, some turn manners into only that which pleases them and takes the least effort. Others retreat into an individualistic world in which they see no real need for manners beyond those serving their self-interest. In the frenetic intemperance of the world of instant gratification, so many discard manners and glorify vulgarity. This attitude embeds a universal code of rudeness that well characterizes our egalitarian society.

Indeed, I fear the day when all manners will be declared equal. There is nothing more brutal than a false compassion that suppresses all excellence. There is no greater tyrant than the self-centered individualist who does not take others into consideration. There is no worse intolerance than those claim to tolerate everything in the name of Christian charity.

All this leads to a politically correct world that refuses to recognize any superiority or inferiority—even the most obvious ones for fear of offending others with the truth. In short, it leads to the uncivil society that has so polarized and fragmented our nation.

And so I rest my case. I have tried to argue it calmly but passionately, logically but with all due respect to those who might object. If we are to return to order in civil society, I politely suggest that we must not treat all manners equally.

[First published in Crisis Magazine]

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According to the Royal Forums:

While on a visit to Yorkshire, the Princess Royal has helped to mark the 250th anniversary of Joshua Ellis & Co, one of the leading companies in Britain that produces handcrafted cashmere.

Princess Anne met with staff who work in the company’s factory, learning about their processes and what products they make from cashmere and woollen cloth. The business first began production in 1767.

The Princess is President of the UK Fashion and Textile Association.

… pic.twitter.com/yMQGHdXrgS

To read the entire article in the Royal Forums, please click here.

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According to Norway Today:

A survey conducted by Norstat for NRK shows that support for the royal family is on the rise. In 2005, seven out of ten stated that they were in favour of the monarchy, while the current survey discloses that more than eight out of ten Norwegians support the Royals.

The survey shows…that support is highest in the 30-39 age group (85 percent), while the proportion is the second highest among those under 30 (82 percent).

Overall, 81 per cent responded that they support the monarchy, 15 percent want a different form of government, while 4 percent where undecided.

To read the entire article in Norway Today, please click here.

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Count Lucanor conversed one day with his counsellor, Patronio, in the manner following: —

“Patronio,” said he, “it has happened lately to me to have contentions with many men, and no sooner is one quarrel ended than I am by some one instigated to commence another; others again recommend me to rest and be at peace, while again, others wish me to renew the war with the Moors. Now, knowing that no one is better able than yourself to advise me, I pray that you will counsel me how best to act under these circumstances.”

A falcon painted by by Sir Edwin Henry Landseer.

“My lord,” said Patronio, “in order that you may the better act with judgment, it would be well that you should know what happened to a cunning falcon, belonging to the Infant Don Manuel.”

The Count begged that he would relate the circumstance.

“Count Lucanor,” said Patronio, “the Infant Don Manuel being one day at the chase in the country near Escalona let fly a cunning falcon at a heron. Scarcely had he mounted above the heron, than he perceived an eagle approaching, when the falcon, being in great fear of him, left the heron and took to flight. The eagle, finding that he could not overtake the falcon, gave up the chase. As soon as the falcon saw that the eagle had departed he renewed his pursuit of the heron; which the eagle perceiving, turned again upon the falcon, when the falcon again took flight as before, pursued by the eagle, which soon gave up the chase, when immediately the falcon returned to chase the heron. This occurred three or four times, the eagle departing each time, as before, and each time returning to kill the falcon.

“The falcon, perceiving that the eagle rendered his killing the heron impossible, he mounted above the eagle and descended upon him with great fierceness, wounding him several times, until he drove him away. No sooner was he gone than he flew in pursuit of the heron and was engaged with it very high in air, which the eagle perceiving, again returned to attack him. The falcon, seeing that all his attempts were frustrated, left the heron, and mounted again above the eagle, descending upon him with such violence that he broke his wing. Seeing the eagle fall to the ground with the wing broken, the falcon then went in pursuit of the heron, and killed it this time, having freed himself from the hindrance of the eagle.

A heron

“And you, Count Lucanor, since you desire to know how best to act as regards your estate, your honour, and your soul, and how best to devote yourself to the service of God, can anything in the world be more proper, considering your position, than going to war with the Moors, for the glory of the holy and true catholic faith? Therefore, as soon as you can liberate yourself from other parties, commence a war with the Moors, as much good must arise from it. Firstly, you are devoting yourself to the service of God in an honorable engagement, gaining renown, and not eating the bread of idleness, which should never be said of a powerful noble. And, moreover, those holding your position, and without occupation, are unable to appreciate the worth of those who surround them, who lose the reward which, if engaged, they might otherwise deserve. Idleness may also incline you to do that which might be better left alone. Since, therefore, it is good and profitable that you, holding the position you do, should be well employed, certain it is that nothing can be better, more honorable, and more to your advantage here and hereafter than a war with the Moors.

A falcon, after striking the eagle on the back of the head, quickly becomes the victor after the eagle flipped upside down. Photo by Steve Garvie.

“Reflect, at least, on the example I gave you of the leap made by Richard, King of England, and how much he gained by it. And remember in your heart that you must die, and that God is all-seeing and of great justice, and that you cannot escape the great punishment due to you for those sins which you have committed unless indeed you should be fortunate enough to have an opportunity to do penance 118for your sins. So if, being at war with the Moors, you were slain, being at the time truly penitent, you would have the good fortune of being a martyr; and if you were not killed in battle, your good works and your good intentions would save you.”

 

The Count considered this a good example, and determined in his heart to follow it. He prayed to God to direct him how best to carry out his wishes.

And Don Juan, understanding that this example was very good, ordered it to be written in this book, and made these lines, which say as follows: —

God’s guidance making thee secure,

Fight on to the end, of victory sure.

 

NOTE.

This original and amusing tale of Don Manuel appears to be written by the hand of an old hunter, and has not only a war-like but a political signification, illustrating the necessity of exercising our ingenuity, judgment, and steady resolution to overcome opposition, losing not the opportunity, if presented, to soar above, and, like the falcon, overwhelm by the force of well-directed determination what appeared invincible.

Prince Don Juan Manuel, Count Lucanor: of the Fifty Pleasant Stories of Patronio, trans. James York (London: Gibbings & Company, Limited, 1899).

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 565

 

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Continued from Part I

Second meaning: that which suggests progress

Analyzing the meaning of the word “modern” more profoundly, we see that it is sometimes used to signify something else, so that by “modern” is understood that which is contrary to what existed in the past. So, whatever begins now is modern. In this sense, all things, at every moment, are ceasing to be modern, and other modern things are appearing. Yesterday, the day before yesterday, a year ago, the “modern” treatment for child paralysis was one; today, that treatment is archaic, since we have discovered another, better, more efficacious treatment, so that what was done before is consigned to the history of medicine. That old form of treatment is part of a dead past, for a new fact has now appeared.

It was a great event in the history of medicine when one day the famous Laennec, a man of genius and faith, anxiously bending over the chests of the sick and armed with the stethoscope he had invented, performed auscultation, distinguishing and interpreting the slightest breaths, the barely audible acoustic phenomena of the lungs and heart.

In this sense, our era, which is so enthralled with novelty, boasts that it is modern. It boasts of a large number of things that did not exist in the past, and which confer to our era a mark of superiority over the past.

We can say, therefore, that the word “modern” is imbibed with a certain concept of progress; and we understand by progress, in this case, an improvement towards a specific, ideal condition for mankind. By “modern” is meant a march forward, an improvement, progress.

Progress and calamities – At the same time, however, our vocabulary has been humbled. While recognizing that all new technological improvements are modern, we are also obliged to speak of the modern scourges, the modern panics, to recognize that all this technology, which is the glory of modernity, brings with it terrifying dreads, even the perspective of annihilation of the modern world with the hydrogen bomb.

U.S. nuclear test “George” of Operation Greenhouse test series, 9 May 1951. The “George” shot was a “science experiment” showing the feasibility of the Teller-Ulam design concept (hydrogen bomb).

It is said that when Einstein was asked if he knew with what weapons the World War III would be waged, he quipped: “I don’t know how the Third World War will be fought, but the Fourth will be with bow and arrow.” Mankind would regress so much during the Third World War, that the Fourth World War would be fought with bow and arrow. These are the perspectives for this dubious modernity, in the age of technology.

If on the one hand technology brings many worries — and Pope Pius XII emphasized in one speech how much technology, which in itself is good and praiseworthy, unfortunately has contributed to brutalize men, to form a materialistic society, to deform social life, since man, not knowing how to direct and govern technology, became enslaved to it — if it is true that technology has brutalized mankind so much, on the other hand, it has improved man’s lot in the material sense of the word.

Third meaning: that which agrees with the Revolution

The word “modern” has yet another subtler meaning, much more profound, and this is the meaning that I will analyze now.

Nobody today will say that a country that had separation of Church and State modernized itself by returning to the union of both; but many people will say that a country that had union of Church and State and separates the two has become modern.

Nobody will say that to go from legalized divorce to the legal recognition of the indissolubility of marriage is modernization; but many people believe that to go from the legal recognition of the indissolubility of marriage to a regime of legalized divorce is modern.

Nobody will say that to preserve the elites, to concern oneself with maintaining the social hierarchy, to labor at preserving the habits, customs, and institutions that establish the indispensable hierarchy, which should exist in every society, is a typically modern concern. On the contrary, it will be said that this is outdated, and that the modern spirit is more inclined to dismantle all social and political barriers, towards a complete equality that finds its full realization in communism, the regime of economic equality.

Secularism, egalitarianism, sensuality – We have then a definition of modernity that is different from the previous ones, but which dwells, so to speak, within them. This definition suggests a modernity in light of which people understand that everything secularist, everything egalitarian, everything that allows man’s instincts free reign is truly modern.

Photo by Oscar Guzman Schlaboong

This concept of modern really exists and we can see it work. It can be observed in contemporary life. It constantly transforms itself. We see customs changing all the time. We see an institution that takes on a new aspect. We see another institution that dies in order to give place to something new. Observing these changes, one perceives that in their totality —maybe to be generous and prudent, it is better to say in their near totality— the transformations that occurred represented a progress of either the notion of equality, or the principle of secularism, or of sensuality.

In domestic life, for example, we see the boundaries which set apart and should set apart parents from children weaken at every moment; the authority of the husband is weakened at every moment; the liberty of the children increases at every moment. And why does it increase? Is it so that the children will fulfill their duties better? Is it so that they can be more chaste? More diligent? Or, on the contrary, does their liberty increase so that they are freer to do what they please, to sink into unchaste and dishonest diversions, to satisfy their thirst for pleasure, to break the “fetters” of the indispensable obedience which should link children to their parents in a family?

Painting by Albert Roosenboom of children misbehaving.

Look at the relations between social classes. Fashions change constantly and tend to level and make equal the classes. At every moment manners change, so as to lower the respect of younger for older, men for women, women for men, children for their parents, and students for their teachers.

Everywhere we see a diminishing of the forces of authority, hierarchy, order, eroded by a gradual but profound and incessant movement, eroded by this overwhelming tendency to level all things, which ultimately finds its most complete expression in secularism. For man, having rejected every superiority on earth, ends up not wanting to accept one in Heaven. He does not want to know about God, and he organizes his life as if he did not believe in God.

To be continued

Part I

 

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St. Ethelbert, King of Kent

Born, 552; died, 24 February, 616; son of Eormenric, through whom he was descended from Hengest.

King St Ethelbert

He succeeded his father, in 560, as King of Kent and made an unsuccessful attempt to win from Ceawlin of Wessex the overlordship of Britain. His political importance was doubtless advanced by his marriage with Bertha, daughter of Charibert, King of the Franks. A noble disposition to fair dealing is argued by his giving her the old Roman church of St. Martin in his capital of Cantwaraburh (Canterbury) and affording her every opportunity for the exercise of her religion, although he himself had been reared, and remained, a worshiper of Odin. The same natural virtue, combined with a quaint spiritual caution and, on the other hand, a large instinct of hospitality, appears in his message…

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Blessed Thomas Mary Fusco

The seventh of eight children, he was born on 1 December 1831 in Pagani, Salerno, in the Diocese of Nocera-Sarno, Italy, to Dr. Antonio, a pharmacist, and Stella Giordano, of noble descent. They were known for their upright moral and religious conduct, and taught their son Christian piety and charity to the poor.

He was baptized on the day he was born in the parish of S. Felice e Corpo di Cristo. In 1837, when he was only six years old, his mother died of cholera and a few years later, in 1841, he also lost his father. Fr. Giuseppe, an uncle on his father’s side and a primary school teacher, then took charge of his education…

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St. Walburga

Born in Devonshire, about 710; died at Heidenheim, 25 Feb., 777. She is the patroness of Eichstadt, Oudenarde, Furnes, Antwerp, Gronigen, Weilburg, and Zutphen, and is invoked as special patroness against hydrophobia, and in storms, and also by sailors. She was the daughter of St. Richard, one of the under-kings of the West Saxons, and of Winna, sister of St. Boniface, Apostle of Germany, and had two brothers, St. Willibald and St. Winibald.

St. Richard, when starting with his two sons on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, entrusted Walburga, then eleven years old, to the abbess of Wimborne. In the claustral school and as a member of the community, she spent twenty-six years preparing for the great work she was to accomplish in Germany. The monastery was famous for holiness and austere discipline. There was a high standard at Wimborne, and the child was trained in solid learning, and in accomplishments suitable to her rank. Thanks to this she was later able to write St. Winibald’s Life and an account in Latin of St. Willibald’s travels in Palestine. She is thus looked upon by many as the first female author of England and Germany…

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St. Isabel of France

St. Isabel of France

Daughter of Louis VIII and of his wife, Blanche of Castille, born in March, 1225; died at Longchamp, 23 February, 1270. St. Louis IX, King of France (1226-70), was her brother. When still a child at court, Isabel, or Elizabeth, showed an extraordinary devotion to exercises of piety, modesty, and other virtues. By Bull of 26 May, 1254, Innocent IV allowed her to retain some Franciscan fathers as her special confessors. She was even more devoted to the Franciscan Order than her royal brother. She not only broke off her engagement with a count, but moreover refused the hand of Conrad, son of the German Emperor Frederick II, although pressed to accept him by everyone, even by…

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Blessed Robert Drury

Portrait of James VI and I by Nicholas Hilliard

Portrait of James VI and I by Nicholas Hilliard

Martyr (1567-1607), was born of a good Buckinghamshire family and was received into the English College at Reims, 1 April, 1588. On 17 September, 1590, he was sent to the new College at Valladolid; here he finished his studies, was ordained priest and returned to England in 1593. He laboured chiefly in London, where his learning and virtue made him much respected among his brethren.

He was one of the appellants against the archpriest Blackwell, and his name is affixed to the appeal of 17 November, 1600, dated from the prison at Wisbech. An invitation from the Government to these priests to acknowledge their allegiance and duty to the queen (dated 5 November, 1602) led to the famous loyal address of 31 January, 1603, drawn up by Dr. William Bishop, and signed by thirteen of the leading priests, including the two martyrs, Drury and Cadwallader. In this address they acknowledged the queen as their lawful sovereign, repudiated the claim of the pope to release them from their duty of allegiance to her, and expressed their abhorrence of the forcible attempts already made to restore…

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St. Anne Line

English martyr, died 27 Feb., 1601.

She was the daughter of William Heigham of Dunmow, Essex, a gentleman of means and an ardent Calvinist, and when she and her brother announced their intention of becoming Catholics both were disowned and disinherited. Anne married Roger Line, a convert like herself, and shortly after their marriage he was apprehended for attending Mass. After a brief confinement he was released and permitted to go into exile in Flanders, where he died in 1594.

When Father John Gerard established a house of…

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Saint Robert Southwell

Poet, Jesuit, martyr; born at Horsham St. Faith’s, Norfolk, England, in 1561; hanged and quartered at Tyburn, 21 February, 1595.

His grandfather, Sir Richard Southwell, had been a wealthy man and a prominent courtier in the reign of Henry VIII. It was Richard Southwell who in 1547 had brought the poet Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, to the block, and Surrey had vainly begged to be allowed to “fight him in his shirt”. Curiously enough their respective grandsons, Father Southwell and Philip, Earl of Arundel, were to be the most devoted of friends and fellow-prisoners for the Faith. On his mother’s side the Jesuit was descended from the Copley and Shelley families, whence a remote connection may be established between him and the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Robert Southwell was brought up a Catholic, and at a very early age was sent to be educated at Douai, where he was the pupil in philosophy of a Jesuit of extraordinary austerity of life, the famous Leonard Lessius. After spending a short time in Paris he begged for admission into the Society of Jesus—a boon at first denied. This disappointment elicited from the boy of seventeen some passionate laments, the first of his verses of which we have record…

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Blessed Pepin of Landen

Blessed Pepin of Landen

Mayor of the Palace to the Kings Clotaire II, Dagobert, and Sigebert. He was son of Carloman, the most powerful nobleman of Austrasia, who had been mayor to Clotaire I, son of Clovis I. He was grandfather to Pepin of Herstal, the most powerful mayor, whose son was Charles Martel, and grandson Pepin the Short, king of France, in whom begun the Carlovingian race.

Pepin of Landen, upon the river Geete, in Brabant, was a lover of peace, the constant defender of truth and justice, a true friend to all servants of God, the terror of the wicked, the support of the weak, the father of his country, the zealous and humble defender of religion. He was lord of a great part of Brabant, and governor of Austrasia, when Theodebert II, king of that…

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St. Peter Damian

Doctor of the Church, Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia, born at Ravenna “five years after the death of the Emperor Otto III,” 1007; died at Faenza, 21 Feb., 1072.

He was the youngest of a large family. His parents were noble, but poor. At his birth an elder brother protested against this new charge on the resources of the family with such effect that his mother refused to suckle him and the babe nearly died. A family retainer, however, fed the starving child and by example and reproaches recalled his mother to her duty.

Left an orphan in early years, he was at first adopted by an elder brother, who ill-treated and under-fed him while employing him as a swineherd. The child showed signs of great piety and of remarkable intellectual gifts, and after some years of this servitude another brother, who was archpriest at Ravenna, had pity on him and took him away to be educated. This brother was called Damian and it was generally accepted that St. Peter added this name to his own in grateful recognition of his brother’s kindness. He made rapid progress in his studies, first at Ravenna, then at Faenza, finally at the University…

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(October 11, 1818 – February 22, 1878)

Belgian nun. She founded the Sisters of Mary Reparatrix. She took the name Mary of Jesus.

The daughter of Émile d’Oultremont (fr) and Marie-Charlotte de Lierneux de Presles, she was born at Wégimont Castle. Her father served as Belgian ambassador to the Holy See in Rome. In 1837, she married Victor van der Linden d’Hooghvorst; the couple had four children. Her husband died in 1847.

Portrait of Bl. Émilie d’Oultremont, Mother Marie of Jesus.

In 1854, while praying at a chapel in Bauffe, she experienced a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Feeling that she had been called to religious life, she moved to Paris and set up a small religious community in her home. In 1857, she established a convent at Strasbourg; she founded the Sisters of Mary Reparatrix later that year.

She died in Florence, Italy at the age of 59.

Mother Mary of Jesus was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1997.

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St. Margaret of Cortona

St. Margaret of Cortona

A penitent of the Third Order of St. Francis, born at Laviano in Tuscany in 1247; died at Cortona, 22 February, 1297. At the age of seven years Margaret lost her mother and two years later her father married a second time. Between the daughter and her step-mother there seems to have been but little sympathy or affection, and Margaret was one of those natures who crave affection. When about seventeen years of age she made the acquaintance of a young cavalier, who, some say, was a son of Gugliemo di Pecora, lord of Valiano, with whom she one night fled from her father’s house. Margaret in her confessions does not mention her lover’s name. For nine years she lived with him in his castle near Montepulciano, and a son was born to them. Frequently she besought her lover to marry her; he as often promised to do so, but never did. In her confessions she expressly says that she consented to her lover’s importunities unwillingly. Wadding and others who have described her in these early years as…

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Pope Benedict XIII

(PIETRO FRANCESCO ORSINI)

Born 2 February, 1649; died 23 February, 1730. Being a son of Ferdinando Orsini and Giovanna Frangipani of Tolpha, he belonged to the archducal family of Orsini-Gravina. From early youth he exhibited a decided liking for the Order of St. Dominic, and at the age of sixteen during a visit to Venice he entered the Dominican novitiate against the will of his parents, though he was the eldest son and heir to the title and estates of his childless uncle the Duke of Bracciano. Their appeal to Clement IX was fruitless; the pope not only approved the purpose of the young novice, but even shortened his novitiate by half in order to free him from the importunities of his relatives. As student…

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St. Polycarp’s martyrdom

Polycarp’s martyrdom is described in a letter from the Church of Smyrna, to the Church of Philomelium “and to all the brotherhoods of the holy and universal Church”, etc. The letter begins with an account of the persecution and the heroism of the martyrs. Conspicuous among them was one Germanicus, who encouraged the rest, and when exposed to the wild beasts, incited them to slay him. His death stirred the fury of the multitude, and the cry was raised “Away with the atheists; let search be made for Polycarp”. But there was one Quintus, who of his own accord had given himself up to the persecutors. When he saw the wild beasts he lost heart and apostatized. “Wherefore”, comment the writers of the epistle, “we praise not those who deliver themselves up, since the…

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By Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

Conference on April 23th 1955 (*)

A monstrance which was at the National Eucharistic Congress of 1942 in São Paulo, Brazil. On display at the Museum of Sacred Art of São Paulo.

Defining concepts:  “world” and “modern”

The theme I was asked to speak about —“The Blessed Sacrament and the Apostolate in the Modern World”— is rich in ideas. It contains four concepts, each of them important, but very unequal in precision and clarity.

For if it is true that the concept of the “Blessed Sacrament” is precise, if it is true that the concept of “apostolate” is precise, the concept of “world” is already less so, and the most problematic, the trickiest of all, is the concept of “modern.” What do we understand by world? And what should we understand by “modern” world?

The Gospel speaks of the “world.” Our Lord refused to pray for it, but the Apostles received the mission to preach the Gospel to all peoples, and this means to evangelize the whole world. What then does “world” mean?

In common usage, “world” means earth, the planet we live on; it means mankind; and it means a specific society of men in temporal society, which is distinguished, in this sense, from the Church. In another sense, it is a kind of “kingdom of darkness” of the devil. It is not temporal society per se, but evil, the evil of which Satan is the prince. In this sense, Satan is the prince of this world.

The modern world: What does the word “modern” mean? Historians and sociologists are giving a growing importance today to the study of words, even words of everyday usage which express states of soul, thoughts, and ideas. When the complete history of our stormy 20th century is written, a special chapter will have to be dedicated to the study of this seducing, viscous word “modern,” which has various and almost contradictory meanings.

 

First meaning: everything which pertains to today, both the “advanced” and the traditional

In one sense, “modern world” is the world of today, as distinguished from the world of yesterday. Thus, we can say that the modern world does not consist solely of modern things. For the entire past of mankind, to the degree in which it lives on today—and every era lives in part, from its past—forms part of the modern world. And at the same time we see some rays of the super-new and super-atomic era that loom on the horizon, we can contemplate faraway glimmers of the beginnings of civilization, which still shine, still exist, and still live.

The present instant, the modern instant, this instant in which I am speaking to you, is made up of heterogeneous elements, from reviviscences and permanencies to the most remote future —of course the remote future, since the future also makes up somehow the modern world. A man’s outlook on life is not only the panorama before immediately before him, but also the set of perspectives, projects, and possibilities he carries in his soul.

Coat of arms of Vatican City

And so we see the modern world with its many contradictory aspects. How many glorious things remain from this our past — which many consider as the opposite of the word “modern.” We retain, above all, something which is more than the past, more than the present, and more than the future, for it is divine: the Holy, Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

Modernity of the Church – Nearly 2,000 years old, the Church is an old institution. Yet it is the youthful and most promising of the institutions of the modern world. In this civilization, which appears to totter and to be headed to destruction, in this civilization where so much is dying and which nevertheless promises unending youth, stands the Catholic Church, modern in all times. The Church was modern when She was born from the Divine side of Our Lord Jesus Christ; She will be modern again when, in the last moments of history the powers of heaven are disturbed, and terrified man awaits looking up at the heavens for the coming of the Son of Man to judge them in power and majesty. Even then, the Holy, Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic Church will still be the most perennial of institutions.

Modernity of traditional things – We can also call “modern” in this sense so many ceremonies and rituals that come to us from the past. Is today’s England not a modern England? Did this modern England not celebrate recently, with magnificent medieval ceremonial, the pomp and pageantry of its traditional monarchy, giving to the world an example of the veneration it has for its past? Even though the British royalty seems to come straight out of the illuminations of a medieval book, is it not modern? And, side by side with so much glory, so much beauty from the past, how much rubbish which, sad to say, still marks, still influences the world today. It is one of the characteristics of the modern world.

For example, is there anything that comes from a more remote past, is there anything that is closer to man’s pre-history than voodoo? Even though voodoo’s roots sink down to our pre-history—searching for voodoo’s roots, our eyes look over the ocean to Africa—nevertheless, who would dare deny that voodoo and superstitions that date back to our old colonial Brazil are things that from a certain perspective are modern? Just yesterday, returning to São Paulo—perhaps the most modern city in all of South America, the fastest-growing city in the world, a city of cement and sky-scrapers—I was pained seeing a voodoo scene late at night on a busy street corner, with candles burning, and some people waiting around for the results of their presumably ill-intentioned witchcraft. Is this not an aspect of the modern world? Thus, as can be seen, the word “modern” takes on different connotations, which makes it difficult to define.

To be continued

(*) See the original text in Portuguese: “Anais da Semana Eucarística de Campos – 17 a 24 de abril de 1955”, pp. 101 a 113, A EUCARISTIA E O APOSTOLADO NO MUNDO MODERNO, na Sessão Solene da Semana Eucarística de Campos (Rio de Janeiro).

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It was about this time that God opened his eyes to an illusion into which he had fallen through simple ignorance. One day at Saumur he had been enrolled in the sect of the freemasons, believing that it was a purely philanthropic and charitable institution. He had never heard of any ecclesiastical censures being pronounced against it, nor had he ever set foot in a Lodge, when one day his commanding officer asked him to take the duty of an officer who was going to a great Masonic dinner. “I wonder,” replied de Sonis, “why they did not ask me too.” “But, surely,” exclaimed the Colonel, “you are not one of them?” “Yes,” answered de Sonis. “Is there any harm in it?” “Go and see, and judge for yourself,” was the Colonel’s reply. De Sonis went.

Except some mysterious and symbolical signs about the dinner-table, he saw and heard nothing at first; but then began the speeches. One spoke of the end of superstition, of the religion of the future, of the emancipation of the conscience, and so on. Then another attacked Catholicism, its mysteries, and its priests. De Sonis could stand it no longer. Starting up from the table, he exclaimed:

Général Louis-Gaston de Sonis

“Gentlemen!  Into whose trap have I fallen! They told me you respected religion, and you insult it! You have not kept your promise… I am freed from mine. You will never see me again; good night!” and with an emphatic gesture he threw down his napkin, and stalked out of the room, leaving the guests as surprised as they were furious.

 

General de Sonis by Msgr. Baunard translated by Lady Herbert, London: Art and Book Co. 1891, p. 19-20

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 564

 

 

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February 17 – He burned the pagan temple

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St. Theodore of Amasea Surnamed Tyro (Tiro), not because he was a young recruit, but because for a time he belonged to the Cohors Tyronum (Nilles, Kal. man., I, 105), called of Amasea from the place where he suffered martyrdom, and Euchaita from the place, Euchais, to which his body had been carried, and where […]

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February 20 – Pope Martin V

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February 20 – Leaders and future nobility appear in times of desperate distress

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February 20 – Repeatedly racked

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February 14 – Renounced Earthly Nobility To Obtain Heavenly Nobility

February 13, 2017

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February 15 – St. Claude de la Colombière

February 13, 2017

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February 16 – St. Juliana

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February 16 – Ven. Luis de Lapuente

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How to create a hat for a Grand Duchess, explained by miliner Sylvia Martinez

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Reliquary of Chivalry

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February 10 – The Lord God Gave Her What Her Brother Would Not

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February 11 – St. Benedict of Aniane

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February 12 – Tadeusz Kosciuszko

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February 12 – St. Frideswide

February 9, 2017

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February 12 – Saint Eulalia of Barcelona

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February 13 – Mystic and Counselor to Future Popes

February 9, 2017

St. Catherine de Ricci, Virgin (AD 1522 – 1589) The Ricci are an ancient family, which still subsists in a flourishing condition in Tuscany. Peter de Ricci, the father of our saint, was married to Catherine Bonza, a lady of suitable birth. The saint was born at Florence in 1522, and called at her baptism […]

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February 13 – St. Fulcran

February 9, 2017

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Queen Elizabeth II: first British monarch to reach Sapphire Jubilee

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According to ITV News: The Queen has made history as the first British monarch to reach their Sapphire Jubilee. February 6, the anniversary of the day she became Queen, marked 65 years of Elizabeth II’s reign. The Queen is not due to be out and about on official engagements on the landmark day. As is […]

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February 7 – Refused admission to the Pontifical Noble Guard, he became Pope instead

February 6, 2017

Pope Blessed Pius IX (GIOVANNI MARIA MASTAI-FERRETTI). Pope from 1846-78; born at Sinigaglia, 13 May, 1792; died in Rome, 7 February, 1878. BEFORE HIS PAPACY His early years. After receiving his classical education at the Piarist College in Volterra from 1802-09 he went to Rome to study philosophy and theology, but left there in 1810 […]

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February 7 – Saintly King, and Father of Three More Saints

February 6, 2017

St. Richard, King and Confessor This saint was an English prince, in the kingdom of the West-Saxons, and was perhaps deprived of his inheritance by some revolution in the state: or he renounced it to be more at liberty to dedicate himself to the pursuit of Christian perfection. His three children, Winebald, Willibald, and Warburga, […]

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February 8 – Mary Queen of Scots

February 6, 2017

Mary Queen of Scots Mary Stuart, born at Linlithgow, 8 December, 1542; died at Fotheringay, 8 February, 1587. She was the only legitimate child of James V of Scotland. His death (14 December) followed immediately after her birth, and she became queen when only six days old. The Tudors endeavored by war to force on […]

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February 8 – A strong and mighty Angel – calm, terrible, and bright – the cross in blended red and blue, upon his mantle white

February 6, 2017

Saint John of Matha Founder of the Order of the Most Holy Trinity. He was born into Provencal nobility in 1154 at Faucon-de-Barcelonnette, France. As a youth, he was educated at Aix-en-Provence, and later studied theology at the University of Paris. While in Paris, he was urged by a vision during his first Mass to […]

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February 9 – Banished From the Court

February 6, 2017

St. Ansbert Archbishop of Rouen in 695, Confessor He had been chancelor to King Clotair III in which station he had united the mortification and recollection of a monk with the duties of wedlock, and of a statesman. Quitting the court, he put on the monastic habit at Fontenelle under St. Wandregisile, and when that […]

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Little Guy de Fontgalland brings God to the godless

February 2, 2017

One Thursday afternoon at the New Circus, his governess observed him gazing absentmindedly round the crowded audience, his attention evidently far removed from the thrills of the performing acrobats. “What were you dreaming about just now, dear?” she asked. “Oh,” he replied, “I was just trying to count the number of children and grown-up people […]

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Feudalism’s Saxon roots

February 2, 2017

Of the military character and predatory spirit of the Saxons an accurate notion may be formed from the Danish adventurers of the ninth and tenth centuries. Both were scions from the same Gothic stock; but the latter retained for a longer period the native properties of the original plant. Hengist and Cerdic, and their fellow-chieftains, […]

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February 3 – The Stuff of Which Saints Are Made

February 2, 2017

St. Anschar (Or Saint Ansgar, Anskar or Oscar.) Called the Apostle of the North, was born to the French nobility in Picardy, 8 September, 801; died 5 February, 865. He became a Benedictine of Corbie, whence he passed into Westphalia. With Harold, the newly baptized King of Denmark who had been expelled from his kingdom […]

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February 3 – Half Fierce Pagan Princess, Half Gentle Christian Princess

February 2, 2017

St. Werburgh of Chester (WEREBURGA, WEREBURG, VERBOURG). Benedictine, patroness of Chester, Abbess of Weedon, Trentham, Hanbury, Minster in Sheppy, and Ely, born in Staffordshire early in the seventh century; died at Trentham, 3 February, 699 or 700. Her mother was St. Ermenilda, daughter of Ercombert, King of Kent, and St. Sexburga, and her father, Wulfhere, […]

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February 4 – Daughter of one king and wife of another

February 2, 2017

St. Jeanne de Valois Queen and foundress of the Order of the Annonciades, b. 1464; d. at Bourges, 4 Feb., 1505. Daughter of one king and wife of another, there are perhaps few saints in the calendar who suffered greater or more bitter humiliations than did Madame Jeanne de France, the heroic woman usually known […]

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February 4 – Portuguese noble and favorite of the king, he strove to convert the nobility of India – and paid for it with his life

February 2, 2017

St. John de Brito Martyr, born in Lisbon, 1 March, 1647, and was brought up at Court, martyred in India 11 February, 1693. Entering the Society of Jesus at fifteen, he obtained as his mission-field Madura in southern India. In September, 1673, he reached Goa. Before taking up his work he spent thirty days in […]

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February 4 – Wild and dissolute, but then he heard this!

February 2, 2017

St. Andrew Corsini Of the illustrious Corsini family; born in Florence, in 1302; died 1373. Wild and dissolute in youth, he was startled by the words of his mother about what had happened to her before his birth, and, becoming a Carmelite monk in his native city, began a life of great mortification. He studied […]

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February 4 – Sent into Muslim lands, he sought to preach to the Sultan

February 2, 2017

St. Joseph of Leonessa In the world named Eufranio Desiderio, born in 1556 at Leonessa in Umbria; died 4 February, 1612. From his infancy he showed a remarkably religious bent of mind; he used to erect little altars and spend much time in prayer before them, and often he would gather his companions and induce […]

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