Catholic Scot: Mary & the Birthdays of Jesus

Yes, dear reader, I’m coasting a bit, calling your attention to some great work being done by others. Like this post, which I love.

Part of what I like here is that the author talks some about St. Joseph, Jesus’ foster father, and I think the most shortchanged of the saints. it takes quite a man, especially in their culture to go ahead and marry a pregnant girl, on the word of an angel, no less, and knowing that he would never be with his betrothed. But he did, and then proceeded to carry on, and care for and protect his little family, as long as he lived.

A model many of us guys would be well advised to emulate.

Christ Appearing to the Virgin by Follower of Rogier van der Weyden 1475


It is easy for Christians and sometimes even the Church to overlook St Joseph and his part in the Nativity seeing him as some kind of bit part player, an extra in the scene. We can be sure that this is a fault of which our Lady was never guilty. To her Joseph was a tower of strength, a friend, a faithful loving companion, the first man to hold her Jesus in his arms, to look tenderly at Him, to love Him wholeheartedly. To recall the first Christmas for Mary would also be to recall Joseph’s steadfastness in marrying her despite her pregnancy, his support and care for her and the unborn child on the journey to Bethlehem and for mother and newborn during the flight into Egypt. They shared the agony of the hunt for the lost boy Jesus through the streets and Temple courts of Jerusalem. Most of all, perhaps, they shared year after year the hidden life of working, living in a community, raising a child to manhood being lovers of God and lovers of neighbour in that greatest of all trials the seeming triviality and mediocrity of the everyday. No doubt also his presence at this intense moment of life would bring to mind the time when this just man departed from it going to his eternal rest enfolded in the love of the Virgin and the Saviour the two most important people in his life. And this points us to an essential truth about Christmas. It is a family celebration, Mary would not recall the child without recalling too the foster-father. We who are adults seldom pass a Christmas season without revisiting our childhood feasts, the parents, siblings, cousins, grandparents, uncles, aunts and others who welcome or not trailed through our seasonal rejoicing and accompany us still in our fondest memories. Welcoming a child into the world is a time for bringing families together and in Jesus we welcome the universal child, our destinies and the destinies of all who are dear to us are bound up in His. If our adult selves have dispensed with the large family gatherings of the not-so-distant past we should at least bring together in our prayers those we will not or cannot bring together in the flesh.

If St Joseph is backgrounded in our Nativity scenes and cribs the shepherds and Magi are not. Whilst our Lady may have held these things in reverse order in her heart her Christmas memories would certainly not have neglected them. Most of all, I think, it would have been the shepherds whose memory she treasured. Partly because they were present on that wonderful world transforming night as the Magi were not. Partly also because the Mary who sang-
He has shown might with his arm,
dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones
but lifted up the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things;
the rich he has sent away empty.

Read more at: Catholic Scot: Mary & the Birthdays of Jesus.

The Man Comes Around

A friend of mine tweeted this yesterday, it is incredibly powerful.

Thanks, Siobhan

Will and Obedience — NEWMAN LECTURES

PORTRAIT OF ENGLISH CARDINAL JOHN HENRY NEWMANA reminder to us all which we should heed.

“If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.”John xiii. 17

THERE never was a people or an age to which these words could be more suitably addressed than to this country at this time; because we know more of the way to serve God, of our duties, our privileges, and our reward, than any other people hitherto, as far as we have the means of judging. To us then especially our Saviour says, “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.”

Now, doubtless, many of us think we know this very well. It seems a very trite thing to say, that it is nothing to know what is right, unless we do it; an old subject about which nothing new can be said. When we read such passages in Scripture, we pass over them as admitting them without dispute; and thus we contrive practically to forget them. Knowledge is nothing compared with doing; but the knowing that knowledge is nothing, we make to be something, we make it count, and thus we cheat ourselves.

Continue with Will and Obedience — NEWMAN LECTURES.

The Ethical Historian

Dr. Suzannah Lipscholbm

Dr. Suzannah Lipscholmb

As many of you know, I am a history buff, I am not a historian. When you read here, you know that you are getting my opinions and analysis, not documented history, although I do take reasonable care to try to be accurate. I do read a lot of history. Much of what I read troubles me greatly, it reeks of personal prejudice much more than it shows an honest deployment of the facts.

If we look, for example, at the execrable output of Howard Zinn, we see an outlook wherein the English-speaking people, especially the Americans, never did a good thing in the last four hundred years. This in a world that owes almost all of its freedom, including the freedom to publish this tripe, to those same people.

Seems sort of trivial doesn’t it? But the thing is, if we don’t use the past, and its lessons, to guide us in the future, what do we use? Politics? Prejudice? The short-term good of the party, or our buddies? Pretty much the only long-term guide to the way forward that we have is the past, and if that is distorted, it will distort our view of the future.

I’ve long since outgrown being a fan of many public personages, but there some people who you may have heard of, because of their work, that I have found to be a reliable guide, especially in their specialties.

One of these is Dr. Suzannah Lipscomb. I first ran across her work through British friends, she’s a Tudor specialist, and an outstanding one I think. She also thinks quite deeply about her profession. Do I always agree with her? No, but I always respect her opinion.

And in this article, I agree with her completely, for the reasons I spoke of above, and for many others, including personal integrity. Here (excerpted) is what she has to say about professional ethics in historians.

Historians should adhere to a rigorous code of professional practice if they are to avoid the kinds of careless mistakes that bring their professional integrity into question


Some were errors that historians had picked up from each other without checking the primary evidence. For example, a crop of Tudor historians from Elton onwards have noted that in the month of December 1546 Henry VIII’s Privy Council met at the London home of Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, sometimes given as ‘Somerset House’ (though Hertford wasn’t yet Duke of Somerset). The reason this is important is because it is claimed that this indicates that Hertford, as the leader of a reformist faction at court, was consolidating his power. This misinformation derives from the Holy Roman ambassador, François Van der Delft, but a quick look at the minutes of the Privy Council shows that between December 8th, 1546 and January 2nd, 1547 the Privy Council met at Ely Place in Holborn, the town house of Thomas Wriothesley, Lord Chancellor and not one of the leaders of the supposed reformist faction. Such an unchecked error makes a crucial difference to a reading of the last months of Henry VIII.


Even more invidious than simple error was the way that evidence was, at times, misused: cited out of context in a way that distorted the reading; used to confirm pre-existing biases; or treated with increasing certainty without additional corroboration. ]…]

Historians are humans; we make mistakes. But some of these instances are just bad history and we need practices that safeguard against human error. I thought I would presumptuously suggest a Code of Conduct for how historians should use evidence:

  • Use evidence to support your interpretation and seek to understand that evidence correctly.
  • Do not wilfully present evidence out of context, especially not in such a way that the lack of context will render the meaning of the evidence different, unclear or manipulable.
  • Do not cite evidence from sources that you elsewhere discount.
    At best, do not waste a reader’s time on unsubstantiated sources.
    At least flag up evidence that is drawn from such sources; do not use it silently.
  • Triangulate; search ardently for evidence that might undermine, as well as corroborate, your hypothesis.
  • Avoid assumption creep: do not allow assertions to move from ‘possibly’ to ‘probably’ to ‘definitely’; do not build more elaborate layers of interpretation on a foundation that is rocky.
  • Do not rely on the secondary assertions of other historians; ad fontes! Go back to the original sources.
  • Guard against confirmation bias; interrogate the ‘facts’ anew and bring a fresh analysis to them; do not mould the facts to your interpretation.
  • Root out and resolve any internal inconsistencies in your argument.
    Cite sources so that they can be traced, with page numbers, archival call numbers and publication details.
  • Our professional integrity as historians relies on our adherence to standards such as these.

Suzannah Lipscomb is Convenor for History and Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History at the New College of the Humanities.

As is usually the case, in excerpting this, much of the supporting evidence disappeared, so I highly recommend reading the entire article at A Code of Conduct for Historians | History Today.

The article also lists some her recent work, I liked them all, you may as well.

A Lesson in the Common Law

4532829274_324ec3f1e1_z[I am pleased to tell you that All Along the Watchtower is again a public blog, and if you have not been reading there please do come on our journey with us. I have a post up there (either now or soon, depending on the schedule) today which touches on some of the same themes (The Common Law) as this post does, so enjoy it.]

One again in the last few weeks, America has given the world a lesson in why the English Common Law is the only fit system of governance for free men. And yes, I am referring to Ferguson, Missouri. And specifically the use made of the Grand Jury, by Prosecuting Attorney Robert P. McCullough, who has been elected by very wide margins (if he was opposed at all) in 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014. He is a Democrat, and yet I have friends who are consider some Tea Party Republicans liberal, who say, he may be the best prosecutor in the country. Think about that for a while.

It struck me that like so much of The Common Law, the Grand Jury exists only in the United States anymore, not only in the Federal Courts, but in all 50 States. England itself abolished it in 1936. So maybe a primer is in order, it seems to be here as well.

I’m going to base much of this on Wikipedia, I, like you, am fully cognizant of all the veracity problems with the source, and yet this seems reasonably accurate, and is at least readable. And so, a bit of history:

The first instance of a grand jury can be traced back to the Assize of Clarendon, an 1166 act of Henry II of England. In fact, Henry’s chief effect on the development of the English monarchy was to increase the jurisdiction of the royal courts at the expense of the feudal courts. Itinerant justices on regular circuits were sent out once each year to enforce the “King’s Peace”. To make this system of royal criminal justice more effective, Henry employed the method of inquest used by William the Conqueror in the Domesday Book. In each shire, a body of important men was sworn (juré) to report to the sheriff all crimes committed since the last session of the circuit court. Thus originated the modern grand jury that presents information for an indictment. The grand jury was later recognized by King John in Magna Carta in 1215 on demand of the nobility.

I find it fascinating how many of the rights that I treasure in 2014 go back so far in our history, in this case to Henry II, in 1166, only a century after The Conquest, and that it was part of an effort to break the legal autonomy of the Barons, who my reading indicates were quite corrupt. I also note that King John was forced in Magna Charta to recognize the existing right, it was already, 800 years ago, customary. It is also the origin of the term circuit court. In a note that saddens me greatly, Dan Hannan, MEP has noted that when there was a search on for a term to apply to a local elected law enforcement official, Sheriff ( deriving from Shire-Reeve) was disallowed as too American. Perhaps we are not the only people who could stand to study our history a bit more.

There is quite a lot more at the linked article.

I doubt there has ever been a more politically conscious society than America from the beginning, likely it has also been one of the most literate societies. Yes, this led to trouble with the Stamp Act. But the two best-selling books in colonial America tell much about us, I think. The number one best seller was The Holy Bible (as it still is), likely the King James Version. That I expect you could have easily guessed, but I doubt you will the second. That was Black’s Law Commentary. To borrow a phrase from my Lutheran heritage that seems appropriate: The Two Kingdoms, incarnate.

For us, the Grand Jury comes into our jurisprudence through the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, to wit.

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

And thus here, like in Magna Charta, it is enshrined, not as a tool of the prosecutor, but as a fundamental right of an innocent man accused of a crime. Further it is officially, a secret proceeding, under the control of the foreman, elected by the members of the jury. It’s deliberations are recorded, usually by court reporters, and are sealed. The only other outsider allowed, is the prosecutor, who presents the evidence, and provides the jurors with the possible bills of indictment. [In this case they ran from premeditated murder to manslaughter.] This is as close as it can get to being by the people, no lawyers, no press, no pressure, testimony is subject to the laws of perjury, and so forth.

What results from this is the same level of proof required for an American police officer to legally search your car, it’s called probable cause, and if found, will result in an indictment. As you listen to the uproar, do remember that many of the commenters on American TV are lawyers, and they too have a corporate viewpoint.

George Will once wrote that:

The business of America is not business. Neither is it war. The business of America is justice and securing the blessings of liberty.

That is exactly correct, and in an American context that means for every downtrodden, broken, man or woman, of any race at all.

You see American justice, is not efficient. It is noisy, contentious, subject to influence, corruption and all the rest of the things you have heard and said. It is also the most just in the world. Why? Not least because it is not efficient, if you want efficient government, you’ll end up with a fascist country, they are far more efficient, they are also very hard on individual liberty, except for the elite (maybe). It is also conservative, actually that is not the word, the word is orthodox.

As always though, “Hard cases make bad law”

Men of Honor: Forces of Disorder

3rd Infantry Division (United States)

[Am I back? I don’t know,  we’ll find out together. But I happened to glance up at my TV last week, and something struck me, and I want to share it with you]

Last week many of us were semi watching the far overblown coverage of the confrontations/riots/ whatever in Ferguson, Missouri. One of the things we saw was an attempted (judicial) lynching of a law enforcement officer, who was simply doing, according to his beliefs, his job. As always, I’m sure there are some legitimate grievances-on both sides. That’s not my point here.

What I happened to see was the stand-off at the Ferguson Police station, if memory serves, although in truth it hardly matters.

In the street was the usual rabble,many of them concealing their identity, like the cowards they are, behind those contemptible Guy Fawkes masks. They recall the man who set off anti-Catholic feelings in England that were so strong that they are still remembered today.

Now do understand that much of English anti-Catholicism was more political than religious, there was a widespread fear that the Catholics would obey the Pope instead of the King. Likely it was untrue, that is also irrelevant. The closest modern equivalent is likely the way some of us feel about the Moslems (especially the militants) in our midst.

In short, an obvious reference to those who would destroy our civilization.

And there also was the Missouri National Guard, standing at port arms under arms, in good order and discipline, as always. Disciplined defenders of civilization and America. Most of us would say, “The Best in the World”, with justifiable pride in those who represent us.

But something else I noticed, on the right sleeve of an army uniform a soldier is entitled to wear the patch of a unit he served honorably in, in combat. And so it was here, on the right sleeve of one of those young men, who has pledged his very life to us, if necessary, was the patch of the 3ID

3d Infantry Division


The third infantry division is one of the army’s most famous units. It earned its nickname in the Great War as ‘The Rock of The Marne” for its valor. The rest of its record is comparable. It is also the unit that performed the run up “Thunder Road” in Iraqi Freedom in 2003, and have no doubt served in both Iraq and Afghanistan since. One of our best.

And there was that patch on the shoulder of that young soldier, once again defending civilization, this time at home in Missouri from a rabble that would destroy it.

But there’s something else here as well, that goes to the very root of who we are. That insignia, if you look at it in the mirror, it is no longer the US 3ID, it is something else.

It is the coat of arms of Lancelot du Lac himself, legendary Knight of King Arthur.

The motto of the US Army is:

This We’ll Defend

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