Category Archives: Formerly Catholic Places


One of my enduring movie memories is of the last scene of White Heat, a Cagney crime epic about an evil little monster; a guy who doesn’t care about anything except getting his, whatever he may think his is, or ought to be his, no matter how he gets it.  I grew up with, went to school with, worked with and arrested guys like the Cagney character.  Is Trua Mor!  The world is full of them.  They come in all sizes and shapes, appearing in the oddest of places, at the strangest of times; and professing, quite often, their friendship and good will.

The Cagney character was not like that.  You knew him for what he was, a bad fellow through and through.  But, it was a piece of fiction, that thing, and Cagney was playing the villain.

I haven’t much more memory of the film than the scene of Cagney atop a huge gas tank screaming out, “Look, Ma, I’m on top of the world!”  He empties his gun into it, and then the thing goes off.  The film ends.  And, I suppose, the world is a much better place.  At least, that’s what we are supposed to conclude.

If my memory is correct, his mother was a foul thing, too, who supported the beast she had borne in all he did. Yes, some mothers are like that, in so many different ways.

This was what I was thinking of while reading an article that appeared today, yesterday, last month, it doesn’t matter, really, in the New York Times.  That rag’s like Poor Johnny One-Note; and Cagney’s character type, an obviously sick and twisted man, rarely appears in it’s many pages; at least not so crudely displayed.  Nevertheless, it appeared to me as I read what I read.  How odd, I remember thinking, I should be thinking of an evil thing destroying himself and the world he was atop.

How odd.

The “gala” in question, which occasions what follows, was something at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City called Heavenly Bodies – Fashion and The Catholic Imagination

Anyway, Ross Douthat wrote the article that The Times printed. He’s a Catholic, and a kind of conservative fellow, if you have never heard of him before; so you would be right in thinking that the article I read was about some bad things being done by good people, and them finally getting a clue that what they were doing was, well, as my Aunt Violet, may she rest in peace, would say, not in good taste.

You would be wrong.  Dreher doesn’t hit them with a forty gun broadside, as he might have. Maybe it’s because he’s writing a piece for the New York Times.  You know the folks who run that thing, and the kind of folks who read it.  They’re like the thing itself, paper, fragile, thin, good mannered and delicate. But, very good for wrapping gifts, or fish; both paper and people.

He does throw a tomato…sort of.  Here, you read it, and tell me what you think.

Cardinal Dolan (Big Tim) was at the “Gala” Dreher writes about, along with a bunch of other swells and usual suspects fiddling while Rome burned right before their eyes.  You can bet Timmy was as hearty and ebullient as ever.  So too was the famous Jesuit James Martin, the twitterer of note, there, mixing with the swells at the orgy.  I imagine him as a butterfly before the flame.  I’ll bet he’s a good dancer, and a “safe” one, too.  He’d probably make a bundle on a cruise ship in the Carib; Mass in the morning and a fox trot with the old babes at night; all good clean fun, ad majoram Dei gloriam, don’t you know.

One other guy had a few words about the whole bloody thing, this Ross Douthat guy who does not write for the NYT.  His reaction to the whole matter is here.

He’s not as sweet on Catholic chic as his colleague, and definitely not as sweet as  the Jesuit journal America, whose reporter gave the event a Vogue treatment.  Of course, what would you want?  It was fashion, really, and culture!  And, fashion and culture in this instance and many another of similar meaning and purpose resemble, for me at least, and a lot of guys I grew up with, nothing so much as Necrotizing Fasciitis.  Faith? Religion? Prayer?

Well, not here.  Not now. Well, possibly with the possible exception of and exclamation about the color of the fabric, the silhouette of the gown, the eyes of the model and how such things got started way long ago; and, well, were really from another more simple age.  So, maybe never.

Many years ago I attended an exhibit at the National Gallery of Art in DC.  There was a rare appearance of some painting or other by a Dutch Master, the real painter not the cigar.  Thousands of people lined up to see the thing.  And after a long wait, they did.  So did I, from a distance like the song says.  It was in a big room, and far away; a little thing surrounded by the true believers in beauty, and art and stuff.

I looked, but mostly at the “swells”, and left.  There was a low, almost prayerful murmur from them, and some ever so reverent pushing to get near the “icon”.  But, it was near noon, and I was hungry, and I knew this crowd wasn’t breaking for lunch soon, or possibly anytime when they could huddle, massively, reverently, before a little painting of a young girl, and whisper prayerfully about beauty, talent and genius.

Back in the corridor I struck out for the cafeteria, walking almost alone in that general direction, following my nose, a few other folks, and wondering about what I had just seen, and why I let things like this make me want to throw rotten eggs.  Along the way something caught my eye.  It was behind glass, a small piece just to my left.  I stopped because it was unusual, a cup, a chalice to be exact; a gold chalice covered with jewels.  It was beautiful..  According to the sign it was the chalice of the Abbot Suger, he of the Abbey of Sant Denis over in France.  You’re not sure you recognize the name?  Here, let me help.

Abbot Suger comes to us via 12th century France.  He is responsible for the beginning of Gothic architecture, was Regent of France for a few years when the king, a guy he went to school with at the Abbe of St. Denis, just outside Paris, where he was named the abbot and started the Gothic style while remodling the crumbled old abbey church.  Along with that, he instituted a number of clerical and monastic reforms, bringing them back to a better observance and understanding of what their work as clerics was all about, and why it mattered.  Stuff I have no doubt the Cardinal and the dancing Jesuit I mention above are, no doubt, much better able to discuss than I will ever be.

I thought about Suger, his chalice imprisoned now in a little niche in a museum filled with trinkets, baubles, stuff and well dressed gawkers.  I felt sorry, really, for that lovely chalice behind the glass then, somewhat in the same way that sorrow came over me when reading about the “dress up” at the other museum in New York.  And, I wondered most recently if that fellow whose sacramental blood that imprisoned chalice once held would have schmoozed with all the “big players”, or would he have done something like he did in His “Father’s House” long ago.

I have been thinking about that chalice imprisoned behind glass in a cell along a corridor in Washington; thinking about it and crowds swirling around a tiny painting only yards away, and the other crowds, the ones playing “dress up”, and smiling, glad handing Cardinals, and slithering priests in a well organized and very, very expensive mockery of the good, true and beautiful; all of it in the name of that most frivolous and ephemeral and essentially useless thing: Fashion.

Back to Cagney and gas tanks, and suicidal explosions…  I can’t get over the fact that there is a connection in my mind among the White Heat scene, the violent, spectacular suicide…the anti-hero’s chosen reward, the pinnacle of his career…the humbling imprisonment in what is literally a hole in the wall of a sacred work of art from the age which gave birth to the beauty of Catholic worship, and the beauty of gothic art and architecture….and the parody of faith, art, and worship at that “thing” in the museum.  

One museum reduces a beautiful instrument of faith to an afterthought, a comma in its story of civilization, when it is actually the vessel of salvation, more precious for its use, and beauty, more sacred to memory than every museum in every place.  

The other fills itself with fools, and their foolish pastimes.

Well, there are museums, and there are museums.  In one sense they might be thought of as very classy garbage dumps, or attics where are stored things like the cup Grandma Squonk kept her uppers in every night.  That’s right alongside Uncle George’s old Victrola, and the bell clapper from Berry Lane Methodist; all that was left after the fire.

And, then there is the other kind: daring, edgy, popular, filled with all of the things that have altered and illuminated, or will, the tired, the bored and the blind; things like a jeroboam of urine containing a Crucifix, or “The Holy Virgin Mary” , the real title of an ugly eight fool tall horror covered in elephant dung worth somewhere in the millions.  

Of things like this are such evenings made which capture the presence and approval of our high and popular clergy, all the right people and the madding crowd ever in search of something new, something fascinating.

No wonder, then, the churches are empty, while the dance floor is filled, while the cocktails never run dry; nor does the wine steward need ever worry.

Perhaps the only true thing is found in the fiction of the film, the only honest thing. There we learn again the rewards of frivolity, of “chic” and eventually of sin and evil; in the end death, always.

Memento mori. Vita brevis breviter in brevi finietur.

ps: By the way, one can get a pretty good knockoff of the chalice for $62.73 from Walmart.  I might just send one to His Eminence Timmy, The Cardinal Archbishop of The Big Apple. He could use it while doing that thing Catholics do.

Dead and Dying: Something for Lent

This is about two things; what used to happen and what I think is happening.

I was very young when I attended my first wake; young enough so that all I remember of it is that I was in a forest of legs, legs with faces somewhere up there in the distance, and voices flying overhead.  They were making words, I knew, but I couldn’t make sense of them.  It seemed as if everyone was simply saying, “Noise!”  Everyone, that is except old ladies on chairs with sad and tired faces who were saying soft things in whispers as they moved the beads through their hands.  I looked at them with the open and intense stare of the young child, the child who hasn’t yet learned discretion and dissembling.  They looked at me in the same way; their eyes unshielded by age.

Perhaps my most specific memory of that evening is of seeing a massive pair of shoes at the bottom of a staircase.  They were the shoes of my Grand Uncle Bill Fanning, brother of my grandmother, my father’s mother Catherine Fanning Gallaher from Leighlin Bridge, Carlow, Ireland.

At some point during that evening of legs and loud talk, everything grew quiet, and all over the place people got shorter in the legs.  They were on their knees, and saying words I knew were prayers because I had heard them from all the other people, the older ones I lived with.  We prayed for an eternity, following the lead of the man in front, Father Someone.  And, when the prayers were over, we left and went home on the subway.  I slept. It was quieter.

I do not know whose wake I was at.  I only remember legs, big shoes and noise.  It may have been Uncle Bill’s, since I never saw him after that, and Grandma, who was given to prayer several times a day, became more involved in her “office”.  She wanted her brother in heaven, and it was the best of things to do; to pray him all the help she thought he needed.  Never giving up

She never did.  Besides her brother,  she had a big family back across the water, and a sister here, too with five sons, and they all needed praying for.

Several years after that incident I attended my first Funeral Mass.  My mother’s mother, whom I loved, had died.  I knew she was sick because I’d overheard conversations at night in the kitchen, and my mother on the phone to her sister.  Then I was told to dress one cold gray morning for Mass. Nanny was being buried.  I rode in the back of the long black car between my mother and my aunt.  My sister may have been in the car with me, or she may have been staying at home with our neighbors.  I cannot remember.  My brother was there.

I cried.

The only thing I remember about the Mass beyond my first feelings of loss and sadness was the silence, broken occasionally by mournful music, as if the organ was weeping too; and the people singing sad songs for me and my family and my grandmother in the coffin in the front.  Everyone was in black, and everyone was sad, too.  Everyone prayed.  I even saw rosary beads in the hands of the men who moved then one at a time as they slowly went through the silent mysteries, silently.  What I remember most is the deep echoing silence in the church.  I used to think that church was huge, and that when silent the whole world was silent, too. Like that day.  My mother told me to pray for my grandmother, and always to remember her when I prayed.

I have no memories beyond the silence and sadness, being urged to pray for Nanny to help her to heaven, and my tears.

Georgie Masters mother hung herself one afternoon and died tied to the curtain rod in their bathroom.  Georgie and his sister Eileen stayed with us for three days.  Then on the third day, their father came to get them to take them to St. John’s, the big church, for the funeral.  We rode along with them behind the hearse carrying a lady I didn’t know much about. Because it was the way of it, I prayed for her silently in the silent car, and in the silent church where a pin drop would sound like a cannon’s roar, I thought.  Silent except for the quiet whispers of prayers being said for Mrs. Masters, that her Purgatory not be long, and that God be good to her.

We walked back from that Mass to our house.  Mr. Masters held my hand when we crossed Broadway underneath the El.  His hand was warm, and bigger than my father’s.  He had a long black overcoat one and wore a black hat.  We got back home and George and Eileen left with their father.  I could take you today, with my eyes closed, to the spot where I stood in the hallway of our apartment as they left the house.  I still pray for Mrs. Masters, but I suspect the prayers are put in someone else’s account.  She was a woman in pain.

I have been to perhaps a dozen funerals of men, police officers and federal agents, who have died in the line of duty, and one or two priests, too, called home after long years of work in the vineyard.  In the former cases, hundreds, at times thousands of their brothers lined the streets outside, and stood silently until the funeral ended.  In the latter, the loudest noise at the beginning and end was the tolling of a single bell.  A single bell.  A reminder to pray, to remember, to pray.

Their names, now, I can’t remember. What is with me still, though, are the days and places, the long blue lines outside, the robed priests about the altar inside and the silence, reverent, respectful silence.  These, like works in a gallery, frame my prayers, some of whom I knew well, some not at all.  But all I keep in my prayers, years on, like my grandmother at her beads.

We provide the music at funerals in one of the parishes here in town.  Some of the people, not a few in fact, who find out what we do recoil at knowing that’s how we spend some of our time.  “Eeewww!  Funerals!”  “How does that make you feel?”  “It must be dreadful.”   These are the kind of things we often hear from folks we tell about our work.

Well, sometimes…  But, then, there are other things.

Not too long ago we worked at the funeral of a person, a woman who I am told was a nice lady.  Well, no one wants to speak ill..  And I will not, myself.

As with most funerals we attend and provide music for, so was this one peopled with a number of people who appeared to me as if they had just wandered in off the street, or had indeed come to a funeral, but had no idea at all what exactly that meant, or why it was taking place.

I mean, in the latter case those folks might have been thinking  something like this about that: “Duh, Jimmy, she’s dead isn’t she; a bunch of ash in the little gray pot Uncle Bilge just brought in?  What’s the point?”  And indeed it may have been,and probably is,the prevailing frame of mind for some who “happen by” these things; little more than a quiet place to check for messages; or to catch up with someone not seen since the last party.

“Yeah, I feel sad Uncle Bob is dead.  But, look, I ain’t worked since I got the news he was dying last week.  I was gonna visit but, like, I was too busy.  Besides, we were comped at the new casino in Revere for two days.  Yeah, outta sight!.  Don’t matter, really.  He’s dead now.  Just a minute, I gotta check this message.  By the way, you going out with me and Davey on Friday, The Rotten Tomatoes are playing at The Scalded Duck.  They got this new beer they’re promoting that tastes like sour apples with a pickle nose and burnt shirt finish.”

Most of them, the bereaved we used to call them, on this morning stood at the front, at the foot of the altar in a sloppy group talking loudly while we sang some prologues before Mass. (Yes it is still a Mass, folks, though it is more often referred to as a service, as if what was inside the box or the coffin was a device to be worked on by the Gook Squad or a car needing a tune up.)

They chattered the things one chatters before a funeral these days: About how long it has been since they’ve seen each other.  About, whether or not Auntie May is as crazy as she dresses these days.  “Did you see that thing she’s wearing?”  About how the Red Sox or the Bruins or the Patriots are doing.  New cars.  Old cars.  Vacations and, recently, tattoos, or “ink” or “tats” as they seem now to be called.  There were some in evidence on the legs and bare arms of the younger women who attended; though none were on their faces…yet.

Not long after that, we were called to provide music for a young man who had died suddenly.  He left two or three young children behind, I do not remember the total number, along with his girlfriend, as she was styled in the obituary.  He was lauded as a wonderful father to the children, who played with them, and was always good for a laugh, leaving them happy they had seen him.

His mourners included a number of fellows who appeared in their “colors”, filling two rows at the back of the church, and reminding me of bears in a cage.

A few weeks before this, maybe a month, I heard, his brother had died.  Suddenly, as the saying goes.

Yesterday we were present for the final rites of an old woman, mother, grandmother and, I think great-grandmother, and several days ago it was another old man.  Dark clothes filled the pews, and quiet.  Only one or two children were among each congregation of mourners gathered to say farewell.

This morning another old man who died quietly at home, followed by a bundle of relatives, dark and quiet, was wheeled in his casket to the altar for the final rites.

I find myself wondering about the things I see from my post up in the choir loft, and what is happening, and I cannot really think that what is happening is good.

Myself?  I am I know no better than anyone below me, probably worse off than most.  But, being present at twenty or thirty of these “celebrations” each year has not convinced me that I am.

And, is that a bad thing? At least, I find it “wonderfully focuses the mind.”   We of course have life.  We forget the other three things.

In Paradisum

John 11: 50


Here is a letter I have written to Fr. Robert Shanley, President of Providence College, and who is currently presidentially presiding over the very dignified and collegial lynching of a great scholar, a devout Catholic defender of the Truth, and a good and decent man.  I imagine him in his robes of office: aloof, yes, compassionate, of course, aware of all the necessary facts, without question, and deeply concerned for the lives, and souls and the, well, the reputations about to be supported or sacrificed for the greater good of the school and benefit of all mankind.  It is what presidents do…when not playing golf or hosting benefactors, delivering speeches and looking magisterial and compassionate, wise and consoling, boundlessly merciful and intuitively practical; when being, in a word, godly:


Rev Robert Shanley, O.P.


Providence College

1 Cunningham Square

Providence, RI 02918 USA


Dear Father Shanley,

You have been described to me by people better informed than I am as a philosopher, an art of which I have only a passing knowledge.  And as a priest, and a Dominican at that, I am reasonably sure that you are more than well versed in Catholic theology. Indulge me in a little bit of my own background, stories from my youth about philosophy and theology.

Father Anthony Rubsys, who went to Heaven, I am sure, in August, 2002, was a refugee from Communism who came to America during the Hungarian uprising.  He was a biblical scholar fluent in seven languages, a good and gentle, a loving, man.  He taught me in class and counseled me out of it.  He was extremely intelligent, extremely gentle and deeply concerned for The Good.  Why else not, I have often wondered while thinking about and praying for him; a man who saw and suffered much, all of it the result of when and where he lived before coming to this country, through the horrors of Nazism and the Second World War and the soul sickening weight of post-war Communist rule.

As an assignment in one of his classes, I wrote a paper on Thus Spake Zarathustra.  I was taken then with the Strauss tone poem, and stupid student stuff.  So I wrote the paper and handed it in.  Several days later Father Rubsys returned it with this note in his handwriting above my title, which was something like Superman, “Why do you waste your time on this when the faith has so much more to offer, to study?”  I cannot remember much beyond the title of the thing I wrote about. Nor can I remember much about the music, except what bit of it opens that film by Stanley Kubrick.  Few, I suspect, will remember much about it, if anything at all in another hundred or so years.  Almost no one knows the film’s music’s title.

Harry Blair was a much decorated World War II veteran, a tank commander in Gen. Patton’s Third Army, a tragic man, and a Shakespeare and Renaissance scholar.  I took every class of his that I could and got to know him very well.  He drank too much; but, I suppose, he had every reason to do that.  When he taught King Lear his classroom was filled beyond capacity. His rendering of the King’s speech in the storm on the moor brought more than one student to tears, myself included, as we listened to an old man pour out his grief at having given his life to his children and been misunderstood, spurned, betrayed, cast away.

I once had a letter published in the school’s newspaper…the editor was a friend of mine…and Harry read it, of course.  The letter called for the “aggiornamento” underway in Rome to be extended and applied at the school, for there to be a radical change in, well, just about everything.  I remember I called not only for windows to be opened but walls to be demolished and ended with “I would have no church at all!”  Brave words, I have thought more than once since.  Brave words for the inferno we face, now.  We sat together, Harry and I at the bar in the Pinewood drinking an afternoon beer and he showed me the issue of the paper with my letter, quietly asking me what had possessed me to write it.  Seriously I answered at length about all of the things I saw that were wrong and needed changing.  “You are very young,” he answered, and then we went on to talk of other things, though I do recall him wondering aloud about the lady I was soon to marry and asking how she felt, how I might feel when I was a father.  But, there he left it.

Bear with me, please, Father.  I do have a point.

There is no doubt that Alexander Solzhenitsyn was a philosopher like yourself, and a great and good man.  Were he a Catholic, I suppose his cause would already have been introduced.  In many ways he was a martyr for the truth, and a lover of the beautiful in people, in society and in all of creation; even when found in the Gulag, anterooms to hell built and maintained by hell’s servants here on earth.  Maybe that’s overly dramatic, but, nevertheless…  Joseph Pearce, who wrote an excellent biography of Solzhenitsyn, has written his own story, and a fascinating one it is.  He calls it Race With the Devil, and discusses his descent into violent racism and hate, and ascent from it through the grace of God.  Indulge me in a quote from Pearce’s book:

“My descent into delinquency was aided and abetted by the progressive philosophy adopted by the school. No effort was made to impose discipline, which resulted in the triumph of anarchy in the classroom… (The) disruptive elements made it difficult, if not impossible, for teachers to teach and for students to learn.”

I apologize for the size of the quote.  I cannot figure out how to change the font. Nevertheless, it’s the sad truth and the tragic cause of the matter at hand, and the inevitable result of the choice in this matter (and in how many others?) you and the faculty quislings who brought this complaint against Professor Esolen to you seem, for all of your wisdom, training, education and Catholicity, to have made.  That the “death” of one man is necessary.

And, I cannot understand why you did what you did; a great disservice to the students , confirming them in their stupid and uncharitable,  selfish and infantile behavior…at the same time causing pain, anxiety and worry to not only this good man and his family, but thousands of other people who have never yet met the man face to face but know and treasure him through his prolific good works, his brilliantly clear and consistently charitable mind, and his reliably masterful scholarship.

You are a priest and pastor, too, finally much more important callings than mere president.  Have you acted in this instance as either one?

I expect that  Caiaphas was thought a wise and good man, a president, so to speak, who gave no help when help was needed.  And, of course, we all know what to think of Pontius Pilate, who simply gave up before the angry mob.

Which of the two should one say best describes you in this matter?

Yours truly,

Peter Gallaher

PS:  I only know of one other person named Shanley, a fellow I came across many years ago when I was working.  He was a Wormtongue, covert slave to Saruman.  In other words a coward and a traitor.



Today, April 24, 2016


A Ruined Augustinian Monastery in Cashel, Ireland Destroyed by Cromwell


It is a cool afternoon here by the river; a steady wind from the north has been blowing downstream since mid-afternoon yesterday, and I wonder why everything here isn’t somewhere on Cape Cod.  It’s a bit late in the day to be doing this, but when one has to be at Mass long before Mass begins because you need practice, well, things get put aside.  Now, the time seems to be good for this little exercise.  I’ve finished lunch, folded the wash, actually two washes, and conducted a fruitless search (again) for something I’ll need for a trip we are taking in June.

There’s only this, and, maybe, a nap.

Spring has made itself seen and felt around here with usual brightness of day, softness of showers and sound of courting birds for the past week or so.  We await the first tulips blooming in our little plot out back.  Yesterday afternoon I listened to a lonesome cardinal  in a nearby tree calling someone, anyone, in his cardinal world to come and make his life complete.  There were at least a dozen other cardinals in trees on both sides of the river with the same idea.  Poor guy, he sang his heart out, and got nothing for the effort.  He won’t give up, though.  I admired his persistence and his pluck, and hoped the best for him and his bachelor buddies.  There are no cardinal monasteries they can enter.  There’s no vocations to celibacy for them to follow.  Nature bound, they must find a mate and obey.  Nor can they will to do anything else, like deciding they identify as something, anything other than a lonesome male cardinal, or running away with the fellow one tree over.

Above them all yesterday, high against the clouds two hawks slid effortlessly down the wind and back again for at least twenty minutes.  Cloud coasters, sky surfers, catching the invisible air waves; I watched them and thought of angels and Icarus.

It’s too wind washed today though, both sky and nearby trees, for a lonely gang of cardinals or a lazy pair of hawks.

It’s quiet in this room.  All I hear is the clock on the wall, and all I see in the afternoon sunlight are the crab-apple branches shying from the wind and a chickadee or two  darting into the azalea bush before dashing to the feeder just outside the front door.

It was a century ago this day in Dublin when the Easter Rising against British Rule took place.  The “lads” all met a swift end in the Post Office, or a few days later against a wall.  I saw the marks the British bullets made and put my fingers into the holes.  It was Easter Sunday, a century ago.  My father was just “gone” three, with his mother and father in New York City, and I wonder what those two thought might be coming for their families home  if the British got their blood up over it all.  There was Dick Fanning, my grand-uncle who fled his mother’s house, and up and over hills to hide in Kilkenny.  And all I knew of him I first learned watching his sister pray for him when I was little.

But, then, perhaps the Sassenach invader couldn’t devote too much thought to it all, caught up as they were in the slaughterhouse across the channel in France, and a crumbling empire.

The only things I know about that day a century ago I learned in the songs we all sang when I was younger; songs of the long years of trying in the sad and often desperate tunes of wild colonial boys, rattling Thompson guns, orders from the captain to get ready quick and soon, the sad fields of Athenry and the hope behind it all; that Ireland once again a nation be.

It isn’t, yet, after eight hundred years.  They got most of it, to be sure, to call their own again.  And the rest?  Someday, God willing, the four green fields will together bloom.

What took place in Ireland then was preceded by a greater horror only a year before, the great murder of Christian Armenia by the Muslim Turks, the the decaying remains of the Ottoman Empire built on the corpse of Byzantium.  Until today I hadn’t known the two events were only a year separated, and I’m walking around wondering at the woe both people suffered; only for the Armenians much more horrible for its scope and swift brutality, I suppose, at the hands of the Turks than the long woe of Ireland under the British yoke.  It was thousands, perhaps a hundred or two thousand transported away from home by the British over a few centuries, and four million starved to death in the Great Hunger, while beef and pork and poultry and corn and all the great produce of the small green land went across the Irish Sea to feed the landlords, and the farmers ate grass and watched their wives and children die..

But for centuries the Armenian people, the first Christian nation, suffered slavery and worse at the hands of their Muslim overlords until the effort to do away with them completely began with the arrest and imprisonment of several hundred scholars, and spread with enslavement, rape, crucifixions, death marches and slaughter.  Spread in a word with all of the honored cruel methods of population control used for so long in the Middle East.

Not much has changed.  It happens today.

Today is the feast of St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, a town in Germany.  He became a martyr in Switzerland where he had gone to preach.  He once wrote: “What is it that today makes true followers of Christ cast luxuries aside, leave pleasures behind, and endure difficulties and pain? It is living faith that expresses itself through love.”

Think of him when next you hear of some Christian being castigated for telling the truth about their faith, for “casting aside” the luxury of silence before error, or worse being martyred for being a Christian.

The Fields of Athenry is a song about a young man sent away from his family because he tried to feed them: The Fields of Athenry 

This is a song from Armenia.  I don’t know the words, but you can guess, and I do not think you’ll be wrong:  Armenian Song


The New Dhimmitude

A Reflection on an Article by R.R. Reno

“When people talk about religion in America they almost always mean
Christianity. The desire of many on the left to restrict religious freedom
reflects their commitment to limiting the influence of Christianity over
American society, especially in the area of sexual morality, which has
become a preoccupation of contemporary liberalism.

Today elite institutions can be relied upon to provide anto-christian
propaganda. Steven Pinker and Stephen Greenblatt at Harvard publish books
that show how Christianity pretty much ruined, and ruins, everything, as
Christopher Hitchens put it so bluntly. The major presses put out books by
scholars like Elaine Pagels at Princeton that argue that Christianity is for
the most part an invention of power hungry bishops who suppressed the
genuine diversity and spiritual richness of early followers of Jesus.
Journalists like Garry Wills reprocess and reassemble this sort of
scholarship to show that Christianity is a tissue of lies. They can count
on the New York Times to praise their books.

We can dispute the accuracy of these works, and generally there’s a great
deal to be criticized on scholarly grounds. This is necessary, but unlikely
to be effective in altering the influence of someone like Greenblatt, whose
recent book The Swerve was panned by scholars but nevertheless received the
National Book Award for nonfiction. That’s not surprising, because he and
others serve an important ideological purpose. Many liberals today want
Christianity to be discredited, because Christianity and Christians are in
the way. This is clearest in fights over abortion and gay marriage, but we
can see it elsewhere.

We’re in the way of medical research unrestricted by moral concerns about
the use of fetal tissue. We’re in the way of new reproductive technologies
and genetic experimentation. We’re in the way of doctor-assisted suicide.
In other words, we’re in the way of liquifying traditional moral limits so
that they can be reconstructed to accord with the desires and needs of the
powerful people who don’t like being hindered.”
R.R. Reno, “The New Dhimmitude”, First Things, April, 2013, p.5

How come I took the time to type this and then send it to you? Well, I was
struck by Reno’s mention of this guy Garry Wills, who has only recently
risen above the horizon for me. He was once in a Jesuit seminary. When I
was a kid he would have been called a “failed priest”. He was recently
praised, and his ideas and writing applauded in all the right places, and
among all the “smart” people; the ones for whom the inside of a church is
most likely only viewed when it has become the venue for a nice evening of
music, and then praised for its acoustics. But others too have been
generous in their praise of the man, and see merit in his ideas, and hope
for a better day which they are sure will come if things were just a little
bit easier; only just a little bit, after all.

Many of those who write books, folks like Pagels and Greenblatt, would have
been called what they are years ago too, heretics, and not scholars, they
and their works condemned. Certainly, what Reno mentions, here, as being
the reason for their ascendancy may strike some who read this as being just
a little paranoid. I mean who, really is in favor of creating human animal
chimerae? They would be the fools who rush in where angels fear to tread,
the “useful idiots” Vladimir Ilyich loved so much.

Who is in favor of such wild and dangerous science, such crazy
experimentation with the human race? Very crudely, Hitler’s Third Reich
was, and millions thought nothing of it. They were filthy Jews, Poles,
Russians, Gypsies, subhumans all whose sacrifice in the name of science was
merely the moral equivalent of mixing reagents for a chemical reaction; if
morality is a term that applies to anything the Nazis did except in the
negative. Today, I could probably produce a rather impressive list of
“scientists” who are embarked on the same Mengelean madness, and of their
supporters in the wide world from a short Google search. We know how many
millions just “love” reproductive rights. We have a president who probably
has a vigil light before a picture of Margaret Sanger on his bedroom wall.
Is he not powerful? And, has he not been more than ready to show in his
actions that Christianity, and particularly the Catholic Church, is “in the
way” ?

Reno’s is a piece of prophecy, a sort of warning of what is coming. And, it
doesn’t look good. He ends on a hopeful note, in a minor key, a paragraph
or two about a faithful remnant which he precedes by thise ominous words:
“…I think many powerful forces in America would like to impose a soft but
real dhimmitude upon religious people, especially Christians, that severely
limits the public influence of religion. To some degree, they want to do so
by legal means. But the larger project involves cultural intimidation.”

“Church? Oh, yes, ” she said,  “I went to church a couple of months ago, when Tony and Tina got married. It was a scream! You should really see it. Very campy.”

(This appeared in a slightly altered form on the Facebook page of The Christian Book Corner.  Visit them for great discounts on good books and other things.)

Do Ya Think?

Yesterday I read a short article in a British paper: The Telegraph.  The article was a report on a study conducted on the life, and the prospects for life, of Christianity in the Middle East.  Those few of you still familiar with the word, Christianity, comfortable in its presence, inclined to use it favorably and with some affection and loving attachment will know what I have reference to.  For the growing majority of people whose understanding of and connection with the word and its meaning is arguably much less than their knowledge of the leading actors in The Walking Dead or the line on next week’s NFL games let me try to place it for you; to contextualize it.

Tomorrow is Christmas Day.  You will immediately see there is a similarity between the words Christianity and Christmas.  I will not belabor the thing, but simply point out that the first syllable is, itself, a word: Christ.  And the word signifies a man.  Tomorrow is, despite the amazing amount of evidence to the contrary, the celebration of the birthday of that man, the annual observance of that event by the dwindling few who happen to believe in the man and the stories told about him; what he said and did.  Simply put that is the astounding fact that Christ is at one and the same time God incarnate and the savior of the World and a man “born in time, born of a virgin.”  No, I mean it, really.  (Actually His name is Jesus, and Christ is, more or less, a title.)  I happily count myself among the remnant who think this way about Jesus Christ; that He is truly God and truly Man.  And, that is just the beginning of the amazing facts about Him.  But, let us not get ourselves involved in that.

For those who know it is not necessary to do so; for the rest, they will be made aware sooner of later, here or there.

The prognosis is not good.  That is, the prognosis for Christianity, that system of beliefs and practice, that way of living that grew from the testimony of some few people who knew and lived with this man Jesus about what he did and said so many years ago in Palestine, in the Middle East.  It is dying, they say in The Telegraph; dying in the place where it was born and where it has lived longest.  The prognosis for the “rest” I have reference to above; that they will be made aware of certain “amazing facts” at some time is certain: they will.

The study reported on in The Telegraph did provide a cause for the imminent demise of Christianity in its homeland, may it rest in peace.  Militant Islam (MI) is infecting Christianity in the Middle East, and the disease, so says the article, is likely to cause its quick death.  “Sic transit gloria coeli et terra” to corrupt a phrase.

How is this being accomplished, and how, better yet, is it so being done right under the eagle eyes of our many media snoops?  Does no one have any idea except some old rag in Blighty? And, finally, why have not those in powerful places and positions, guardians of freedoms, protectors of widows and orphans, weak and underprivileged the world over raised even an eyebrow at this rather depressing (to say the least) bit of news?  Well, I have my ideas about who might have gathered a rumor here and there, and why they haven’t whispered a word, but then, I am a suspicious type.  I’ll leave it to more rational folks to explain why the imminent death of Christianity in the land of its birth means simply nothing here in the West which owes simply everything to it.

What interests me, just as much, is this little fact; call it a sidebar.  It, too, will never appear anywhere soon.  Maybe it is simply too boring?  That fact is this: 150,000 Christians a year are killed for being Christians.  What, some editor might reasonably ponder is newsworthy about that, or a burnt village in Africa when compared to Our Dear Leader bodysurfing in Hawaii?  Many, many more are imprisoned without trial, little girls raped, women raped, churches blown up or burned to the ground, homes burned, villages burned, neighborhoods attacked by armed fanatics and , well, sad to say, more schoolchildren, murdered in Muslim countries simply because they are Christian than are murdered by our own madmen.  Again, one wonders about the silence, the the lack of interest.

Tertullian was an early Christian Father, a theologian whose work helped form what was becoming Christianity.  He was from Carthage, part of the Middle Eastern world where Christianity is now dying of that disease called MI, also known to be fatal to Ambassadors and people in tall buildings in places like New York City.  Among other things he is famous for having said is this, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church.”  Now that might scare a good atheist or modern day secularist in a corner office somewhere.

And now, before I leave you to turn on your Santa Claus lights, your reindeer with their red noses, your Frosty the Snowmen in their hats, to fill your living rooms with wrapping paper and your bellies with rich foods and rare vintages, and to taste deeply all of the other signs of our winter holiday, may I ask you to wonder this.  Will there be more to mourn over the death of the last winged cardinal at your feeder or the death of the last Christian once from some place west of the Indus and east of Eden?  I do not think so, because you will not know.  Few are those in any position to let you know who hazard saying a word about it.  Fewer still are those who think anything should be done.  Many, I suspect rather hope that nothing will be done.  Ever.

We are being flooded with the blood and the bodies of the dying victims of militant Islam as the story in The Telegraph has it.  The dead are the seed.  The raped and beaten and dispossessed are the soil, the field and the planting where will grow anew the the fruit of their sacrifice.  It has suddenly occurred to me that “they” are afraid of what this way comes when , some day, the once and future Christianity appears.  I can think of no other reason for such a black curtain over this news, a holocaust across a third of the world.  As Special Agent Gibbs often says, “Do ya think?”

Merry Christmas!

The One Percenters

(or)  The Recent Bold Deeds of The Most Busy and Industrious Band of True Believers and Followers of the Religion Of Peace

Not too long ago someone sought to prove a point, that being that most followers of Islam are nice folks who just want to get along, that not every Muslim was an Islamist … a PC word used now in lieu of the word Terrorist, which is fast becoming a word not to be used in polite society…..  After all one cannot call a billion people terrorists.  I mean some of them are crazy, some of them dribbling idiots, some kings, some murderous dictators, some rabid preachers and even more rabid politicians, some oil billionaires, and someone needs to stay home and cook.

They mentioned the results of a years long poll, worldwide in scope, by the Gallup folks and sponsored by a bunch of pro-Muslim organizations here in the Untied States…if fast fading memory serves.  The poll concluded that only 1% of Muslims were interested in converting the world by any means, fair or foul, into a seamless garment of burka clad women and bearded men with four wives apiece and 70 virgins waiting them in paradise.

This conclusion was reached, one may speculate, from analysis of data gathered from the usual statistically accurate survey of 1,00o some odd folks…perhaps in every country where there are one thousand Muslims, but who knows.

Only 1%?

It is  only too easy to adopt the term One Percenters from the Occupy Everything crowd of anarchists and use it to denote this extremely busy band of murderers, bombers, arsonists, rapists, enslavers, “occupiers”, whiners, thugs and criminals who do not worship any god I can recognize…and the governments and vast numbers of angry maniacs who support them anywhere one or two of them are gathered, it seems, in their prophet’s name, peace be upon him.

You doubt??

Read on then, here.

This thing comes out every month.  One would think, from the way our Main Stream media is addicted to feeding its slobbering audience with stories of gore and guts, that they would jump at the chance to cover things like these assorted acts of horror, mayhem, intimidation and crime all committed by a mere, but extremely busy, one percent of the worshipers of something or other.  But, no.  The fact is they hate Christianity more.  And they hate anyone who is a believing Christian.  Did you ever wonder why?

The battle is not between Islam and the rest of the world.

The battle is the same one it has always been; the one between Good and Evil.

The Passion of Phill Kline

Yeah, I know, and I hope you do to, this guy Kline in Kansas is just another mad dog runaway prosecutor. ‘Cause of him George Tiller was martyred by some killer while he was at church “wushipin’ Gawd Awmitey”, a crime that will live in infamy.  And, yeah I know, that Kathy Sebelius the former poster cute guvnur of that place and now the 21st Secretary of the whole Department of Health of these Untied States and in charge of the Death Panels, to help us get rid of folks who don’t need no help no more; which is only right, and her bein’ a good Cathlick to boot.  And I’m all for the one and agin’ t’other with all my strength, “Puh-raise and Amen.”

I read some of them stories about this bloodthirsty no good prosecutor goin’ after that poor dead angel Dr. George,who Kathy loved like a brother, so close you couldn’t tell ’em apart, almost.  Him askin’ all sorts of questions and demandin’, DE, damn, MANDIN’ records and stuff which was promised we would never have to see see the light of day, an’ he ain’t got no damn right to in the first place since they is all medical records and private.

This Kline, a German, a kraut ain’t he, like that there pope in Rome, thinks since he was the law, he’s above the law.  But now they’re going to get him, and get him good.  And me and my wife and kids can sleep peaceful.  I can’t wait.  Ain’t no safer place for a kid than in their own home, like Gawd made it for.

Listen to Kline whine.  Makes me laugh.

UPDATE/NOTE:  I’m still learning my way around the blogosphere even 2 years into the exercise.  It occurs to me that I should have credited Life-Site News as a source for this story.  My apologies to the good folks over there. folks who are a heckuva lot better at getting to the truth of things than anyone I can think of at, oh say, The New York Times.

Pogo’s Equation Proved Once Again, With Reference to Scripture

A fellow named Mark Shea has a blog called Catholic and Enjoying It.  The title sums up something I’ve known for a long time about being a Catholic.  It’s a lot of fun!  It’s a lot of work, too, sometimes, and sometimes it could get you killed.  But most of all it’s a lot of fun.
The secret is locked up in what I’ve come to call Pogo’s Equation, the solution to which is given us every year on Easter morning.  I guess that’s what’s behind Pope Benedict’s new deal about evangelization and re-taking the ground lost in Europe and other places.  As the song asks, “How can you keep from singing?”
Mark Shea also writes the occasional article for the National Catholic Register, and probably a dozen other things.  I like reading what he writes because even when he’s  stalking the bad guys he’s doing it with good spirit and a jolly smile.  Well, on his blog this morning he merely gives one a copy of a You Tube video by a Fr. Robert Barron who is, I think, a professor at Mundelein Seminary.  The video is worth watching.  I get the feeling that Father Barron does what he does with the same kind of spirit as does Mark Shea.  It’s about that “Singing” thing.  Father Barron is talking about why he’s doing what he’s doing and how he does it.  We could learn something about doing the same thing; explaining the equation, sort of.

At the National Catholic Register Shea has an article called It’s a Good Thing We Won World War II.  The article is worth the few minutes it’ll take you to read it, especially the quote from the journal (magazine?) Psychology Today, for letting us know what is happening while we sleep (to allude to a book about another time and place), and why we need to go around making our point; with a song in our hearts.

The comments, too, are very interesting.  Some folks don’t seem to get the point, or listen to the music.  They’re still working on the left side of that equation

Do yourself a favor, read and then understand why we ought to be praying, fervently, for help; because we are certainly incapable of getting ourselves out of this mess we have placed ourselves in without it.  Of course, if you are a HC (Happy Catholic) you’ve already been praying, and singing and smiling.  You know the answer.

I now expect the usual comments from the usual sources that what is wrong is either the fault of the vicious people in the Vatican, the Tea Partiers or the Democrats, or the Market, or the unions, or a thousand other things, including bad genes and un-planned parenthood.  To which I reply, “Go read Pogo if you really want to know.”

Better yet, read, if you must, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; and everything that goes before it and comes after it in that Book.

The Grandchildren

The only ever time I was in France was a few years ago while on my way to Poland with my wife.  We changed planes at De Gaulle airport and sped away within an hour or so.  Poland, I thought after a few days there, had taken the title away from France for me.  Which title, you ask?  The title France owned outright once; the Eldest Daughter of the Church.

She had dropped out of the contest long ago, relinquishing her champion’s belt, her crown and title to any passer by;  it seemed for simple lack of interest in the matter.  Follow France in the media and you’ll read about Muslim slum kids rioting, naked movie stars, near naked models, haute couture that is a parody of itself, gray salt, cheese and churches becoming night clubs.

You don’t think of religion and churches when you think about France and the French; unless you think of them scoffing at any thought of the former and avoiding the latter in favor of riots, movie stars, clothes, salt and cheese in no particular order. Oops, I forgot wine.

Oh, you’ll probably also read about “Kiss Ins”.  This is an event staged in public by homosexual activists, now called “homosexualists”.  (Well, why not?  We have Islamism and Islamists.)  Often the “Kiss In” will be staged in front of a Catholic Church.  Groups of homosexualists, male and female, will assemble and kiss each other; confining that activity of course to members of the same sex kissing each other, because, well, that’s what homosexuals do; their raison d’etre, if you will.

Now, the French, you might say, are always kissing each other; men and men, women and women.  What is the problem with that?  Well, I suppose none if you happen to like doing it.  Folks do all kinds of things because they like doing it.  Even if, “It’s illegal, it’s immoral or it makes you fat.” as the song has it.  They like doing it, and so they’re gonna do it.  What’s more, they don’t like being told they can’t, shouldn’t or ought not do it.

Personally, I find it yucky.  But as someone might say, “There’s no accounting for taste.”  I like sardines and anchovies, but my wife doesn’t.  I could never bring myself to kiss a guy…or gal, for that matter…who had just finished smoking a gauloises; something the Frenchies like to do as much as eating stinky cheeses.

Another thing I wouldn’t do is demand that my wife or everyone else in the whole wide world endorse my taste for anchovies and other “tin fishies”, as my wife calls them; or else.  Or else, what?  Well, or else I’ll show up in their home, office or, say, church and cram loads of anchovies down my throat in front of them until they turn green and say, “Please.  We’re sorry.”

So, over in France a bunch of “homosexualists” decided to get together in front of Notre Dame Cathedral, and stage this “Kiss In”, where they would get sloppy in public.  They don’t like the Catholic Church because the Catholic Church disapproves of their behavior and calls what they do disordered and sinful.  These are words which can upset people who like doing what they are doing.  I don’t suppose anyone likes to hear they are doing something they shouldn’t ought to do.  As my grand daughter once said to me, “You’re not the boss of me.”

The “Kiss In” was supposed to be a kind of nose-thumbing exercise at the Catholic Church in France, a kind of public shaming of their intolerance toward people who like doing what they do; people who in fact can’t help doing it, so they say.  To “homosexualists” it is as if the Catholic Church had pronounced blue eyes and red hair disordered and sinful.  Their demonstration then would be nothing different from a group of “Blue-eyed-ists” gathering to stare at Catholics.

But then, some Catholics objected to this, and decided to counter demonstrate, to let them “Kissers” know they were not welcome to do what they were planning to do in front of Notre Dame Cathedral . And, they were forced to move away.  If you follow the link to the video of the incident you may be struck by the same thing which astonished me, frankly.  Can you guess what that was?

They were all young!  There wasn’t a gray head in the crowd, not one.  Here’s another thing you’ll see in the clip, and hear.  You’ll see and hear the kids chanting in Latin, “Habemus Papam!”  That means “We have a Pope!”  One website which is, err, on the other side of this issue reported that the “kissers” were attacked and beaten with motorcycle helmets by “Christian fundamentalists.  See for yourself.

Over here there’s a word entering the language for what happened in front of the cathedral in Paris.  The word is “pushback.”

The French have phrase, “L’Amour, Toujours L’Amour.”  It means “Love, Always Love.”  It’s supposed to capture the French spirit of romance, and stuff like that; as opposed to the English spirit of, umm, bully beef?  Anyway, sometimes love gets a bum rap because you have to do a hard thing to the folks you love and tell them what they like doing is not good for you, them or anyone.  I was doing something like that with my granddaughter when she told me that I was “not the boss” of her.

Listen to the grandkids here, though.  Don’t you just love ’em?