St. Teresa of Calcutta

And so the Catholic Church last Sunday recognized St. Teresa of Calcutta as a saint. It was pretty obvious even during her lifetime here on earth, but even in the church bureaucrats gotta bureaucrat. It’s always been so, in fact, that how organizations stay on track, so I’m mostly kidding here.

But she wasn’t. Working with and for the poorest of one the world’s poorest cities, she accomplished miracles, showing their plight to the rich and the powerful.

But her work for the powerless went well beyond the precincts of Calcutta. Her most powerless client was always the unborn, who she worked incessantly to save.

How remarkable it was to hear this small woman at the National Prayer Breakfast in 1994

By abortion, the mother does not learn to love, but kills even her own child to solve her problems. And, by abortion, that father is told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all for the child he has brought into the world. The father is likely to put other women into the same trouble. So abortion just leads to more abortion. Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion.

The entire address can be read here. It is interesting to note that then-President Clinton and his wife, Hillary, sat stunned through the five-minute standing ovation that answered her address. You, like me, know what side of that controversy we want to be on.

And controversy it has been and continues to be. Here’s a bit from Breitbart about why the left hates her so.

So the questions again present themselves: Why so much hatred? Why so much deep-seated anger against this woman?

Sifting through the literature dedicated to smearing the legacy of Mother Teresa, one discovers that all the arguments against her really boil down to two, which the Left can never forgive: her vocal and intransigent opposition to abortion and her overtly Christian spirituality that moved her to pour herself out for her fellow man.

All the other reasons given—that she provided inferior health care, that she was occasionally irritable with coworkers, that she accepted donations from morally ambiguous characters—are really just a cover for the two that irked the Left to the point of hysteria.

And hysteria it has been.

In a noteworthy 1986 essay published by the international abortion giant Planned Parenthood, titled “Mother Teresa, the Woman of My Nightmares,” one gets a taste of the profound odium stirred up by this simple religious sister.

“This very successful old and withered person, who doesn’t look in the least like a woman, especially when she raises her clenched fists in prayer, and who, for us, is a very suspect holder of the Nobel Prize,” Planned Parenthood wrote in its official publication Sexualpedagogik, “has become for us the symbol of all that is bad in motherhood and womanhood, an image with which we do not wish to be associated.”

“You, you nightmare of women! You unliberated, enslaved wives, mothers, nuns and aunts, what do you want from us, who have finally decided that we are going to take control of our bodies, our children, and our destiny into our own hands?” it ran.

Abortion, in fact, formed the centerpiece of Mother Teresa’s definition of poverty and all that is wrong with the world. The three most public speeches of her career—her acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize, her Harvard Commencement address, and her words at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C.—all focused on abortion as the greatest social injustice in the world today.

via Why the Left Hates Mother Teresa of Calcutta

I have no trouble at all telling between them “Who is on the Lord’s side”. Nor do I have any trouble knowing where I should (and do) stand.

 

Let it Burn!

By Davide Roveri  @DavideRoveri‏ via Twitter

And so 350 years ago, yesterday, the King’s baker in London, did not properly attend to putting his oven out, and London burned. Thus the Great Fire of London. Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary…

Some of our maids sitting up late last night to get things ready against our feast today, Jane called up about three in the morning, to tell us of a great fire they saw in the City. So I rose, and slipped on my night-gown and went to her window, and thought it to be on the back side of Mark Lane at the farthest; but, being unused to such fires as followed, I thought it far enough off, and so went to bed again, and to sleep. . . . By and by Jane comes and tells me that she hears that above 300 houses have been burned down tonight by the fire we saw, and that it is now burning down all Fish Street, by London Bridge. So I made myself ready presently, and walked to the Tower; and there got up upon one of the high places, . . .and there I did see the houses at the end of the bridge all on fire, and an infinite great fire on this and the other side . . . of the bridge. . . .

So down [I went], with my heart full of trouble, to the Lieutenant of the Tower, who tells me that it began this morning in the King’s baker’s house in Pudding Lane, and that it hath burned St. Magnus’s Church and most part of Fish Street already. So I rode down to the waterside, . . . and there saw a lamentable fire. . . . Everybody endeavouring to remove their goods, and flinging into the river or bringing them into lighters that lay off; poor people staying in their houses as long as till the very fire touched them, and then running into boats, or clambering from one pair of stairs by the waterside to another. And among other things, the poor pigeons, I perceive, were loth to leave their houses, but hovered about the windows and balconies, till they some of them burned their wings and fell down.

Having stayed, and in an hour’s time seen the fire rage every way, and nobody to my sight endeavouring to quench it, . . . I [went next] to Whitehall (with a gentleman with me, who desired to go off from the Tower to see the fire in my boat); and there up to the King’s closet in the Chapel, where people came about me, and I did give them an account [that]dismayed them all, and the word was carried into the King. so I was called for, and did tell the King and Duke of York what I saw; and that unless His Majesty did command houses to be pulled down, nothing could stop the fire. They seemed much troubled, and the King commanded me to go to my Lord Mayor from him, and command him to spare no houses. . . .

[I hurried] to [St.] Paul’s; and there walked along Watling Street, as well as I could, every creature coming away laden with goods to save and, here and there, sick people carried away in beds. Extraordinary goods carried in carts and on backs. At last [I] met my Lord Mayor in Cannon Street, like a man spent, with a [handkerchief] about his neck. To the King’s message he cried, like a fainting woman, ‘Lord, what can I do? I am spent: people will not obey me. I have been pulling down houses, but the fire overtakes us faster than we can do it.’ . . . So he left me, and I him, and walked home; seeing people all distracted, and no manner of means used to quench the fire. The houses, too, so very thick thereabouts, and full of matter for burning, as pitch and tar, in Thames Street; and warehouses of oil and wines and brandy and other things.

The city was, of course, a tinderbox, being built of half-timbered buildings, covered in pitch, and with thatch roofs. And in fact, fires had become common since the invention of the chimney in Tudor times. But I can’t think of one between London, in the 13th century, and Chicago in the 1870s that so caught the imagination or  was quite so fearsome.

Last night (local time) London commemorated it with the burning of a mock up on the Thames. It was quite the sight itself. One could pretty much imagine what it must have been like, and watching Old St. Paul’s collapse, was quite moving. I’m inclined to think, they talked too much on the live feed, but still, it was much better than merely hearing about it.

As Rebecca Rideal noted here, 1665 was not a great year for England. It started off with a naval defeat from France, continued with the last outbreak of The Plague, and then this. One of the things I do like about this video, and British TV in general, is that they have a group of actual historians (and good ones, as well) who do a fair amount of presenting, you saw several of them in this video.

A spectacular, and moving, commemoration of one of history’s magnificent, and terrible tragedies. Well done.

Still Naught For Our Comfort

One of the things that I love about my partner here, Jessica, is that she has rekindled my love for poetry, and you have seen each of us use it to reinforce our points. It is hardly a new method but, it is one used rarely these days. I suspect because most of us are so ill-educated that we are unaware of its richness, and ability to reinforce our point.

If you read much of Lincoln’s writings and speeches, for instance, you will see it used to great effect. For instance his famous, “of the people, for the people, and by the people’ was not original, nor did he claim it was, and his listeners knew it was not. The original is this: “This Bible is for the government of the people, for the people and by the people.” it is by John Wycliffe and it is from 1384.

She has greatly enriched my life, but more importantly, she has enabled me to make my points much more clearly. I wrote most of this post while she was just starting to recover from her illness, and it spoke deeply to me then, and in fact, looking at the world today, it still does.

A sea-folk blinder than the sea
Broke all about his land,
But Alfred up against them bare
And gripped the ground and grasped the air,
Staggered, and strove to stand.

For earthquake swallowing earthquake
Uprent the Wessex tree;
The whirlpool of the pagan sway
Had swirled his sires as sticks away
When a flood smites the sea.

Our towns were shaken of tall kings
With scarlet beards like blood:
The world turned empty where they trod,
They took the kindly cross of God
And cut it up for wood.

He bent them back with spear and spade,
With desperate dyke and wall,
With foemen leaning on his shield
And roaring on him when he reeled;
And no help came at all.

There was not English armor left,
Nor any English thing,
When Alfred came to Athelney
To be an English king.

It was a very bad time to be King Alfred of Wessex, and I think it holds parallels to where we are now, in America.

“Mother of God” the wanderer said
“I am but a common king,
Nor will I ask what saints may ask,
To see a secret thing.

“But for this earth most pitiful.
This little land I know,
If that which is forever is,
Or if our hearts shall break with bliss
Seeing the stranger go?”

And here we come to my introduction to this epic by Jess, when she quoted it to me when by deceit, Obamacare was ruled constitutional. That defeat continues to unfold to the detriment of the country, as do many others.

I tell you naught for your comfort,
Yea, naught for your desire,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher

“And this is the word of Mary,
The word of the world’s desire
`No more of comfort shall ye get,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher.’

Naught for your  comfort has become a catchphrase for us when things go awry, which has been often these last few years for us, personally, and for us as Americans, and for Britons as well.

We are living through a failed presidency (or at least trying to) and one of the reasons it has failed is that many of our countrymen have confused Obama with God, and I suspect he has as well. That never turns out well, and it is not here either. Nor does the next four years look exactly like ‘Morning in America’. But then neither did 1976.

I’m reminded that first class leaders hire the best men they can find to help them, and second class leaders hire third class helpers, and worst of all, third class leaders hire lackeys who will tell them what they want to hear. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Makes me wonder at who we are considering hiring to run ‘America, Inc.’

We will have to simply use our intelligence to try to select the best person. We have many things to fix. It’s going to be an epically hard battle, and we could do worse than to emulate King Alfred.

But remember, we remember King Alfred because he won. Let’s finish with the rest of the poem.

And this was the might of Alfred,
At the ending of the way;
That of such smiters, wise or wild,
He was least distant from the child,
Piling the stones all day.

The King looked up, and what he saw

Was a great light like death,
For Our Lady stood on the standards rent,
As lonely and as innocent
As when between white walls she went
And the lilies of Nazareth.

That may well happen again, but if we look around, the landscape does rather look as the poet describes here, doesn’t it?

They shall not come in warships,
They shall not waste with brands,
But books be all their eating,
And ink be on their hands.

Yea, this shall be the sign of them,
The sign of the dying fire;
And man made like a half-wit,
That knows not of his sire.

What though they come with
scroll and pen,
And grave as a shaven clerk,
By this sign you shall know them
That they ruin and make dark;

By all men bond to nothing
Being slaves without a lord,
By one blind idiot world obeyed
Too blind to be abhorred.

By thought a crawling ruin,
By life a leaping mire,
By a broken heart in the breast
of the world
And the end of the world’s desire.

By God and man dishonored
By death and life made vain
Know ye, the old barbarian,
The barbarian come again

Did that interest you enough to wonder about the poem and its author? I hope so. It was written by G.K. Chesterton (and its much longer than the excerpts here) it’s called The Ballad of the White Horse. You can find it at Project Gutenberg.

There is, of course, another lesson implicit in the poem. King Alfred succeeded because he was true to his vision and his faith. If we are not, we will fail.

By the way, Jess and I also often quote Mother Julian of Norwich to each other as well, especially as reported by T.S. Elliot in Little Gidding.

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

Too much zeal?

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“Surtout, pas de zele” is attributed to the French statesman, Talleyrand, who managed in turn to serve the French revolutionaries, Napoleon and the restored Bourbon monarchs; it is little wonder that when he died during a conference on the future of Belgium, the Austrian Chancellor, Metternich, is supposed to have commented: ‘I wonder what he meant by that?’ In many ways this has become the modern political style – and not without reason. If we look at the zealots of the last century we see Lenin, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, men who claimed to be inspired by the ‘rights of man’ and the ‘rights of the worker’ and who, in pursuit of their vision, thought nothing of slaughtering millions of their fellow men in order to achieve what they thoughts of as a worthy end. That, of course, is the mark of the zealot – a claim to be acting in a higher cause whilst being willing to ruin the lives of millions – in Lenin’s chilling formulation: ‘You can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs.”

In our own era, the worst examples of this sort of zealotry come from ISIS, rightly categorised as a death cult, which thinks nothing of killing people and mistreating them in the most vile ways – the name of their ‘Prophet’. I can understand why so many Muslims get upset when others identify them with these people – it’s more or less my reaction when people who know I am a Christian try to blame me for the churches burning each other in the past, or for priests who covered up sex abuse, or for some of the dubious characters who have occupied high positions in the various churches. I doubt not that all these people were filled with righteous zeal for their cause – but I should not care to be ruled by such people, nor will most of us vote for such people.

Judaism, Christianity and Islam all have their ascetic, zealous wings, occupied by people who think that if someone is enjoying themselves, they are on the road to hell. The Puritans in Britain abolished Christmas, insisting it was a penitential season and should be marked as such; the moment the soldiers stopped enforcing such a rule, it was abandoned. ISIS insist there should be no smoking, dancing, or brightly coloured clothes; the moment their power is broken, people go and do all of those things.

The urge to tell people to behave in a certain way runs strongly in most religions. Jesus had little time for the religious authorities of his day, who seemed to him to be so obsessed with the letter of the Law that they had forgotten its purpose. The same is true of the religious zealots of our time – they imagine that if everyone lives lives of severe penance then somehow all will be well with them; if they got the chance they would try to enforce such a dour regime; they would have to, because no one would be fool enough to vote for it.

The ancient Manichean heresy survives still in such zealots. They instinctively separate the world of the flesh from that of the spirit and imagine that only the last matters, when the mainline Christian churches have, sensibly, emphasized the complementarity of the two; the Word became flesh, and the 40 days in the wilderness apart, was not given to feats of ascetic austerity, We can follow suite.

There has always been a type of personality which wants to exercise control over itself and others by imposing forms of personal austerity. One of the advantages of democracy is that such people never get elected.

Individuals in Community

As she so often does, Jessica brings us back to our foundations. In her post yesterday, she brought forward something that we need to remember. When she says,

In Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male or female. Why? Because Christ loves each of us for the unique individual we are. He also calls us to follow him, and in doing that we are part of a community of ‘saints’, and we have a common duty to each other; we are called to love one another.

She is exactly on point. Christianity brought to us the concept of individuality. But, and this is important, it brought us the concept of individuality within a community. Often that is something we forget, that we owe a duty, we have an obligation to the others in our community, whether it is our family, our church, our town, our state, our nation, or even our world. Granted as it spreads out, it becomes rather diffuse, but it remains.

We have an obligation to those too young, or too old, to those not able to work for any reason. Frankly, I suspect we did harm to ourselves as individuals and as a community when we delegated that duty to the State. It was a better system, to my mind, anyway, when it was carried out by the family, the church, or a very local government, say the township. Almost automatically the shirkers would be told to get a job, and quit living off others, and it was a shameful thing not to carry one’s weight without reason.

But the duty remains, and it remains ours, however, we choose to carry it out. Nobody, least of all St. Paul, thought that we are all equal in abilities, interests, or anything else. We simply aren’t. Here in America, we stated long ago that we are born with equal rights and are equal before the law, that comes down from English law, of course. That doesn’t mean we are going to have equal outcomes for any of a multitude of reasons. When we try to force equal outcomes we always do injustice to someone.

Sometimes it might be the poor, other times the rich, sometimes both. And that is the perniciousness of identity politics. It comes from believing that the pie is stagnant and all we can do is change the relative portions. This is simply wrong. The pie is unmeasurably larger than it was even 70 years ago, let alone in the days when Christ walked the earth. In truth, the life that Thomas Jefferson lived had more similarity to life in Biblical times, than it does with ours. Think about that, most of human progress has happened in the last 250 years, as we built upon the shoulders of others. That also speaks to the great wisdom of our Founders that they were able to write things that were obviously true then, and are true now, and will always be true.

They (and their European, mostly British) contemporaries were able to discern mostly from their study of history, the best (or at least, least worst) ways to organize government to protect each and every one of us. Was it perfect? Of course not. To make it happen, they had to make compromises, slavery amongst them. But if you read Washington, or Jefferson, fairly, you will soon find that they detested slavery, but could not, in their day, find a solution. I’d  bet that both agreed with Lincoln, they would never choose to be either a slave or a master, but they ended up as one of those things, and others ended up as their slaves. But they also thought, and I’ll not contest their thinking, that in their day, the slaves were likely better off as it was, until they could be brought to being able to function effectively in society.

You all know that here, we often celebrate the individual, and I think we are right to do so. But the individual needs to be in a community, for himself, yes, but also to benefit the community. If one reads Adam Smith, one will find that the basis of free trade is exactly that: free. Anything which impairs two people from making a deal that they think is mutually beneficial hurts one, or both, of them. Keep that in mind as you read of the various regulatory schemes that devolve more and more power away from the people involved always in favor of government regulation.

 

We are all oppressed!

statue_of_dame_julian

I am oppressed. It is offensive to me that I am oppressed. If you are a political leader you must do something about it; if you are a fellow commentator you must not offend me further by querying my oppressed status. But I am white, you may say, I have ‘white privilege’. True, that means I am not at the hope of the tree here, but let’s face it, I am female, ginger-haired, skinny and single – and I am half-Welsh; whoever keeps the score-card here should surely give me enough victim points to secure me something by way of status. Neo’s post yesterday, and some of the responses to it had a lot of good sense about this sort of thing. If we dissolve the idea of the common good into a set of identity politics objectives, we reach a point where one might legitimately ask why those in power should pay any attention to the voters unless not doing so involves the chance of revolution? We pass, thereby, into a realm where what matters are our concerns and what does not matter are those of others. But if that is so, why should others listen to our concerns? Just because we are claiming victimhood status? Why should anyone care in a world where we are all claiming to be victims.

In Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male or female. Why? Because Christ loves each of us for the unique individual we are. He also calls us to follow him, and in doing that we are part of a community of ‘saints’, and we have a common duty to each other; we are called to love one another. That is not to pity each other, or to replace a hierarchy of class or race with one of victimhood, but to love each other because we are all uniquely valuable in God’s eyes. God loves me because I am his daughter, not because I am a good girl (though like all fathers, I know he wants what is best for me and that it is best for me to be a good girl); because he loves me, I love him, and because I think it will please him if I am a good girl, I try to be one; when I grieve him I am sorry. I am sorry not because he is going to do the celestial equivalent of paddling my butt, but because I have let him down; I have grieved him, him who sent his Son to die and rise again for me. How could I?

Here what matters is not my status. Being a woman, a ginger or a singleton are not important. What is important is I am loved for who I am. That makes me look at myself and think. ‘goodness gracious woman, get your act together and at least make a fist of being worth that sort of love. I know I can’t ever be worthy, but that’s not a reason for not, in love, trying to be the best child I can be. Yes, I want to win my father’s favour. I do that not by claiming I am oppressed and virtue-signalling, but by being repentant and contrite and doing my best to heed the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Oppressed? Moi? No, I am a child of the living God and what could be better?

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