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

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”

Veteran’s Day

I sat down last night to write a post for Veteran’s Day, and I couldn’t think of a single new thing to say. So this is from a couple of years ago, with a few additions, nothing has really changed, has it? That’s mostly because, I suppose, that nothing is really new. Our guys and girls are out there taking care of business, as usual. Our veterans are here amongst us, being taken lousy care of by the VA, just as it has been for a century, and above all, we are very, very proud of them, as we always have been. Simply the best of America. Thank you!! George Orwell reminds us:

We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.

Now, as we observe Veteran’s Day, there is no one to take our salute. Florence Green, a member of the Women’s Royal Air Force, died on 4 February 2012 two weeks short of her 111th birthday, at King’s Lynne. She was the very last veteran of World War I.

And now they’re all gone, the doughboys, Tommies, the Diggers, the Canucks, and the Kiwis. And the men of the Second World War are following swiftly.

These are the men that have kept us free. For this holiday is about brave men, yesterday we talked about how the Unknown British Warrior was awarded the American Medal of Honor. Today I’ll note that five Americans, ranging from Ordinary Seaman to Lieutenant Colonel have won the Victoria Cross, plus the Unknown Soldier buried at Arlington, by order of the King.

The Great War, of course, is when the United States made its debut as the great world power. From our entry in 1917 until today is fairly termed “The American Century” for as the Pax Britannica ended in 1914 and chaos ensued between the wars as we hid in our continent and from 1945 the Pax Americana has been in place.

It could be fairly said that the wars of the 20th Century were the “Wars of Freedom”, for more people have been freed from tyranny by the United States and our allies than at any other time in history.

The legend of American bravery is known worldwide, from the Marine sergeant, who lead the charge at the battle of Belleau Wood, who led the charge with the command, “Come on you sons-of-bitches, do you want to live forever.”( Noting that it is now “Bois de la Brigade de Marine“, in their honor) to General McAuliffe’s response to the German demand to surrender at Bastogne, “Nuts” to the Admiral Nimitz’s comment on Iwo Jima, “Uncommon valor was a common virtue.” Thus has been remarked the common bravery of American troops in every case in all the wars of these Planetary soldiers.

As probably every one reading this knows, the average American idolizes American soldiers, they have gone from being the unwanted stepchildren of the revolution, because of the mistrust engendered by the occupying British regulars, to by far the most trusted of American institutions, trusted by over  80% of Americans. They have earned it, and earned it the hard way by blood, toil, tears, honor, integrity, and sweat from Lexington Green to Afghanistan they have become legend, at one and the same time, “America’s Army” and the “Army of the Free”. The Armed Forces are the best of America. If you were to ask the common people of anyplace they have been, you will find their fans, maybe not the government, but the people remember.

If you don’t happen to know, those streamers on the service flags are called battle streamers, each of them remembers a battle going back to Lexington Green. It has been a contentious life we have lived, and freedom always has enemies.

But they have done other things, they are often the first humanitarian aid anywhere in the world after a natural disaster, the mapping of the United States was done by the Army, your GPS system is courtesy of the Air Force and the Internet you’re reading this on was started by the US Department of Defense.

But let us not make the mistake many do, it’s not technology that wins wars, it’s men, and now women as well, women like these:

What do you think goes through the minds of women in the parts of the world that don’t offer women equal rights when these women show up in their midst as American officers and warriors? Think maybe some get the idea that women are equal to men.

I’d say things like this have done more to advance women’s rights than all the feminists yelling in the last fifty years. It was the same when the military integrated in 1948, that’s where it was all proved, although we already knew it, really, blacks have served bravely and well ever since Crispus Attucks was killed at the Boston Massacre.

But you know, it’s always had a cost, often a very high cost, and a wise people don’t forget that, no matter the technology, it has to be operated by people and by brave people, from the rifleman to the man who may have to turn the key to unleash Armageddon itself. And in American history, the military has never failed us, even when we and our political leadership has not been worthy of them. Many of us use as a catchphrase a rewording of the last line of our national anthem, instead of  “the Land of the Free and The Home of the Brave“, we are wont to say “The Land of the Free because of the Brave.”

We are also quite content, while not resting in our quest, to be known by the friends we keep.

But sometimes the brave are lost and then we honor our fallen countrymen, as they deserve. Bill Whittle a few years ago had something to say about American Honor, and I’d like you to read it.

On October 7th, 2002, I returned to Los Angeles from Arlington National Cemetery where we’d interred my father, 2nd Lt. William Joseph Whittle, who died from what may have been sheer joy during a fishing trip in Canada.

My dad served in the US Army in Germany, from 1944 through 1946. He was an intelligence officer, and was responsible for recording the time of death of the convicted War Criminals at Nuremburg after the war. He saw them hanged — he stood there with a stopwatch. He was 21 years old.

My father spent two years in the U.S. Military. He spent a lifetime in the corporate world. After twenty years as a world-class hotel manager, turning entire properties from liabilities into assets, he was let go without so much as a thank-you dinner or a handshake. Twenty years of service. He was a four-star general in the corporate world for two decades, and that was his reward.

Monday afternoon, at 1 pm, I stood underneath the McClellan arch at ANC. There were 13 family members there. There were also 40 men in uniform. I was stunned.

They took my dad’s ashes, in what looked like a really nice cigar box (what a little box for such a big man, I thought at that moment), and placed it in what looked like a metallic coffin on the back of a horse-drawn caisson. His ashes were handled by other twenty-one year old men, men as young as he had been, men whose fathers were children when my dad was in uniform. Everything was inspected, checked, and handled with awesome, palpable, radiating reverence and respect.

As we walked behind the caisson, the band played not a dirge, but a march… a tune that left me searching for the right adjective, which I didn’t find until the flight home. It was triumphal. It was the sound of Caesar entering Rome; the sound of a hero coming home. It was the only time during the service that I really began to cry.

Continue reading Honor

This is part of that Honor

But make no mistake when we live out Kipling’s poem we dishonor ourselves, nor them:

Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap;
An’ hustlin’ drunken soldiers when they’re goin’ large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin’ in full kit.
Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy how’s yer soul?”
But it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll.

Remembrance Sunday

poppy2_3001030b

Tower of London

[Many of you who read here, have become friends of ours, and so we like to tell you a bit when things happen our lives. This is one of those notes, Neo.]

This is my partner Jessica’s birthday, although we will unable to wish it to her today, let us remember the good times we have shared with her, and wish her a happy one and many more, better ones.

I have heard from her. She is recovering although it is a slow process, and she is both weak and weary. We will not see her here until at least Eastertide, I think, and perhaps not then. If you missed the story she went to the doctor for what she thought was sinusitis on 8 September and emailed me from the hospital parking lot that the doctor thought he saw another problem. Her last words to me were, “wish me luck-I need it.” Let that be a lesson to you, don’t ask me for luck. That problem turned out to be cancer, and very aggressive one at that. After two surgeries, on the first Friday in October, she received the received the last rites of her church. Those of us who love her were very close to despair, although we all put our trust in God. Nor were we disappointed, that Sunday she awoke from her coma without pain and without cancer.

But one doesn’t go through such an ordeal without re-evaluating your life, and that is part of what she is doing now. And I freely admit that I am praying (perhaps selfishly) that she will choose to return to us. That is in her hands, and God’s. Judging by how many of you are still reading her articles here, every day, many of you join with me in that prayer.

One doesn’t go through watching a dear friend, whom one loves, go though such an ordeal without effect either. I have spent most of the last two months worrying about and praying for her, and have rather shamefully neglected you. I won’t say I’m sorry, because I’m not. Jessica is the most wonderful and caring friend I’ve ever had, and the thought of losing her devastated me, and more than a few times 2 Samuel 18:33 was in my heart and prayers.

I’m going to begin trying to post again, although I’ll make no promises, it will be a day-to-day thing. And I’m going to do something that 3 months ago, I would never had considered. I am going to ask you to pray for Jessica, and for those who love her as well.

MERCIFUL God, and heavenly Father, who hast taught us in thy holy Word that thou dost not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men; Look with pity, we beseech thee, upon the sorrows of thy servant for whom our prayers are offered. Remember her, O Lord, in mercy; endue her soul with patience; comfort her with a sense of thy goodness; lift up thy countenance upon her, and give her peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

ALMIGHTY God, who hast promised to hear the petitions of those who ask in thy Son’s Name; We beseech thee mercifully to incline thine ears to us who have now made our prayers and supplications unto thee; and grant that those things which we have faithfully asked according to thy will, may effectually be obtained, to the relief of our necessity, and to the setting forth of thy glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer


In all the English speaking world, except the United States, today is Remembrance Sunday, which is more connected than you might think to the first part of this post. Jessica’s ex-husband was a serving army officer, in fact, he was in Afghanistan when I met her. And while we will celebrate those of ours on Tuesday who survived to return to us, they will commemorate those who did not.

In her post The Thin Red Line she reminded us of the other victim’s of war, saying this:

But there’s bound to be a divide between civilians and the military in times of peace when you have a professional army. Although the analogy with Monks might raise an eyebrow or two, there is a parallel (no, not that one).  Soldiers live a life apart. They are trained to do things which ordinary people don’t do, and probably don’t want to do. There has to be a high level of commitment, and at times the dedication to duty means that a soldier puts everything else to one side. Although no soldier’s wife worth her salt would dream of saying so, we all wait in terror for the knock on the door or the telephone call from the CO. Every time we kiss and wave good-bye, we know that for at least one of us, it is the final good-bye. And if your marriage doesn’t come to that honorable end, well the stress and strains on your man and marriage may make it come to another sort of end. The price soldiers pay to serve us all is huge.  But they also serve, who only stand and wait – and love.

Like Memorial Day it was instituted to remember those brave men who died in the service of their country, and like Veteran’s Day it is on 11 November, because it was instituted to commemorate the end of the Great War, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, in 1918. It’s also Feast day of St. Martin of Tours, the patron saint of soldiers. Like a distinguished British historian told me once, “It’s always the war to end all wars, until the next one.” I’m very afraid he was right.

But it is very proper for us as Americans to remember our cousins who died in the wars of the twentieth century, they fought at our side for the same ideals. Please join me in remembering their sacrifice.

It should also be remembered that on 17 October 1921, General Pershing presented, pursuant to a special act of Congress, the US Medal of Honor, in the name of the people of the United States, to the Unknown British Warrior in Westminster Abbey, the only time it has been awarded to a non-American in a foreign service.

Remember them

%d bloggers like this: