Thursday, 19 February 2015

Ash Wednesday - "Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return..."

On Ash Wednesday...

 Feria quarta cinerum in tempi
(The Wednesday of ashes in the time of the 40 days i.e. Lent...)

On this day Catholics the world over receive on their foreheads the sign of the cross in ash, administered by the priest, to symbolise the transience of life, the need for repentance (ash being a sign of repentence) and the hope of immortality in the life to come.
As he administers the ashes the priest says (in Latin in the traditional rites):

Meménto, homo, quia pulvis es, et in púlverem revertéris...

Remember, man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return...

 "What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?
One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh..." [Ecclesiasticus 1]
So may we well begin this Holy Season of Lent which so much reminds us of the transience of this life and, in contrast, the joys of heaven to come.

In a sense, there is both joy and sadness in Lent - sadness at death but joy at life, the life to come. Lent signifies the 40 days that our Lord spent in the desert fasting and doing penance for us and giving us an example of the way in which we can discipline ourselves to withstand the temptations of the world, grow in grace and virtue and become more truly ourselves, rather than our appetites.

This is our recollection behind the imposition of ashes on the forehead on Ash Wednesday. We are reminded of our mortality and that we shall return unto the dust from which man was originally made.

The words said by the priest come from Genesis 3:19 when Adam and Eve were made subject to the corruption of death and dying with the words of God ringing in their ears:

"for dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return"

 "Remember friends as you pass by,
as you are now so once was I.
As I am now so you must be.
Prepare for death and follow me."

From the Roman Office of the Dead, the Anglican divines took the words of Job and used them for the Anglican burial service. They have since thereby become famous, used in many a film setting. They are powerful words:

"MAN THAT IS BORN OF WOMAN hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery. He cometh up and is cut down like a flower; he flieth as it were a shadow, and never continueth in one stay. In the midst of life we be in death: of whom may we seek for succour but of thee, O Lord, which for our sins justly art displeased. Yet, O Lord God most holy, O Lord most mighty, O holy and most merciful saviour, deliver us not into the bitter pains of eternal death. Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts, shut not up thy merciful eyes to our prayers: but spare us Lord most holy, O God most mighty, O holy and merciful saviour, thou most worthy judge eternal, suffer us not at our last hour for any pains of death to fall from thee." [Job 11]

On Ash Wednesday, the ashes are made by the burning of the palms from the previous year's Easter.

The imposition of ashes signifies sorrow for sin, contrition, spiritual aid and the receiving of grace thereby.

The head, being the seat of pride, is then imposed with ashes in the form of a cross as the priest utters the words reminding us of our mortality.

We should wear this sign of penance as a memento mori (remembrance of death) and as a sign of witness against the concupiscence of the world.

This painting shows the return of the Blessed Virgin after the Crucifixion on Calvary.

In the distance can be seen the 3 crosses upon Calvary mount. It is a fitting theme for the penitential season of Lent - or Great Lent as the Greeks call it. Lent is a time of very moving and indeed hauntingly beautiful liturgy and chant.

Ash Wednesday begins with the reading from Joel the Prophet, Chapter 2:

“Now therefore saith the Lord: Be converted to me with all your heart, in fasting, and in weeping, and in mourning. 13 And rend your hearts, and not your garments, and turn to the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, patient and rich in mercy, and ready to repent of the evil. 14 Who knoweth but he will return, and forgive, and leave a blessing behind him, sacrifice and libation to the Lord your God? 15 Blow the trumpet in Sion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly, 16 Gather together the people, sanctify the church, assemble the ancients, gather together the little ones, and them that suck at the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth from his bed, and the bride out of her bride chamber. 17 Between the porch and the altar the priests the Lord's ministers shall weep, and shall say: Spare, O Lord, spare thy people: and give not thy inheritance to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them. Why should they say among the nations: Where is their God? 18 The Lord hath been zealous for his land, and hath spared his people. 19 And the Lord answered and said to his people: Behold I will send you corn, and wine, and oil, and you shall be filled with them: and I will no more make you a reproach among the nations.”

On the First Sunday of Lent the Gospel reminds us of the precedent for Lent: our Lord's 40 days in the desert fasting.

On the Saturday in Ember week of Lent, when it was customary to have Ordinations to the clerical state, there are 6 readings including the Gospel and many beautiful chants.
Ivan Kramskoy. Christ in the Desert. 1872.

It is customary to sing the Lenten chant Attende, Domine, et miserere - "Listen, O Lord, and have mercy".

Here it is in chant:

To Thee, highest King,
Redeemer of all,
do we lift up our eyes
in weeping:
Hear, O Christ, the prayers
of your servants.

Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy, because we have sinned against Thee!

Innocent, He was seized,
not refusing to be led;
condemned by false witnesses
because of impious men;
O Christ, keep safe those
whom Thou hast redeemed!

Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy, because we have sinned against Thee!

In many communities, both religious and secular, it was also customary to have numerous additional pious devotions including chants, hymns and canticles dedicated to the instruments of the Passion, for instance the Holy Lance and the Holy Nails.

Love never dies...


Saturday, 14 February 2015

St Valentine - 14 February

St Valentine's Day

Who was St Valentine?

There are two and they are both honoured on 14 February: St Valentine, martyred priest of Rome and St Valentine of Terni, martyred Bishop of Interamna (now Terni in Umbria).

The flower-crowned skull of Saint Valentine of Rome is on display in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome. 

St Valentine of Terni was martyred in the persecution under Emperor Aurelian and is buried on the Via Flaminia, Rome but his relics are at the Basilica of Saint Valentine in Terni.
There is a third St Valentine whose head was once preserved in the abbey of New Minster, Winchester, England.
The Novus Ordo Missae Calendar of Blessed Paul VI no longer remembers him but the traditional Roman rite Calendar of course still does because traditionalists are romantic and the new rite is dull.

The Eastern Orthodox Church observes the feast of both saints.
David Teniers III (Flemish School). St Valentine receives a chaplet from the Blessed Virgin. 17th century.
St Valentine of Rome was a priest of Rome who was imprisoned for succouring persecuted Christians. It is said by St Bede that he was interrogated by Roman Emperor Claudius II in person.

Claudius was impressed by St Valentine and had a discussion with him, attempting to get him to convert to Roman paganism in order to save his life.

St Valentine refused and tried to convert Claudius to Christianity instead. Because of this, he was executed.

Before his execution, he is reported to have performed a miracle by healing Julia, the blind daughter of his jailer Asterius. The jailer's daughter and his forty-four member household (family members and servants) converted and were received into the Church. 

It is also said that, on the evening before Valentine was to be executed, he wrote the first "valentine" card himself, addressed to the daughter of his jailer Asterius, who was no longer blind, signing the note as "Your Valentine".
St Valentine of Terni
St Valentine of Terni is said to have performed clandestine Christian weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry.
The Roman Emperor Claudius II is said to have forbidden this practice preferring his soldiers to be unmarried believing that married men were not the best as soldiers. 

According to legend, in order to remind the soldiers of their vows, Saint Valentine is said to have cut hearts from parchment, giving them to the soldiers and others.
It is also said that St Valentine was imprisoned for presiding at the weddings of soldiers and for ministering to Christians, then under imperial ban.
Ever after, St Valentine has become associated with romantic love.
Geoffrey Chaucer, medieval English poet, praised him as a symbol of the tradition of courtly love.
Happy St Valentine's Day.
St Valentine, pray for us!
Eastern icon of St Valentine


Thursday, 5 February 2015

True portrait of a Catholic monarchy or "overly roseate picture"?

Kaiser (Caesar and Emperor) Francis Joseph I of Austria-Hungary

On the Catholicism Pure and Simple Blog my Catholic Monarchy post was re-posted and comments came in.
Many misunderstood that:
(1)   The film Sissi was, as I said, a stylised and idealised view of the period (albeit fundamentally historically accurate). No-one pretends that it is anything other. It is surprising that apparently intelligent adults have to be told this.
(2)   I was not suggesting that this – or any – Catholic monarchy was flawless or perfect. How could it be? No merely human society ever is. I am surprised that anyone has to re-make this obvious point but seemingly it does need to be made.
(3)   On the other hand, the Austrian and Holy Roman Empires, no matter how humanly flawed they were, also were uniquely blessed and approved by the Church as the true successors of the first Christian Roman Empire and as having a special place in Christendom and among Christian nations. The Emperor was, in the Church’s teaching and understanding, the supreme temporal equivalent of the supreme spiritual authority, the Pope.

One academic (nom de plume “The Raven”) decided to weigh in on the contrary side and I responded.
I reproduce the correspondence below.
Blessed Kaiser (Caesar and Emperor) Charles I of Austria,
the last ruler of the Empire of Austria-Hungary

As can be seen, "The Raven", in saying that he yearns only for one King, namely Christ, rather misses the point that no-one is "yearning" for a Catholic monarchy as if it were a substitute for Christ but precisely because we, as Catholics, have a duty to try to build a just, peaceful, charitable, sustainable Christian society. That, after all, is precisely the role of the laity.
What he also fails entirely to understand is that one cannot "yearn" for Christ if one does not also desire what Christ desires and Christ shows us this through His Church. And there is no doubt but that His Church desired and favoured, in very signal and repeated ways, that the Christian Roman Empire be at the centre and heart of Roman Catholic Christendom.
How one can simply ignore or reject that and yet still claim to "yearn" for Christ, is pehaps not a question that admits a ready answer.
It seems somewhat to be saying "I know Thou, O Christ, art all powerful and all wise but I think I know better than Thee what constitutes Christian government".

What Christian can ever say that?

Saturday, 31 January 2015

31 January - memorial day of Prince Charles Edward, "Bonnie Prince Charlie" and the cause of the Royal Stuarts

Remembering the Bonnie Prince...

Prince Charles Edward, the "Bonnie Prince"
d. 31 January 1788
with Cameron of Locheil and either MacDonald of Clanranald or Lord Forbes of Pitsligo


31 January is the anniversary of the death of Bonnie Prince Charlie, the noble prince who was true king of these islands but was only prevented by reason of his being a Roman Catholic. 30 January is also the anniversary of the death of his great-grandfather, King Charles I, the martyr king who was illegally tried and brutally put to death by the murderous and rebellious Puritans under the odious Oliver Cromwell. The death of the King was a most shocking act of rebellion against God and man and rightful authority and se the tone for subsequent bloody rebellions to come thereafter, not least the bloody and accursed French Revolution of ill fame.

There was not the slightest pinch of justice in the treachery of Cromwell and his rebellious storm-troopers who were traitors to a man, looking to line their own pockets and seize power by their treacherous deeds. King Charles, by contrast, behaved with great dignity, noble serenity and most king-like demeanour, so that it was said of him ever after:

"He nothing common did or mean
Upon that memorable scene..."
The martyr King, Charles I of England and Ireland,
murdered by the treacherous Puritans under Oliver Cromwell

Let us also pray for the soul of his great-grandson, the Bonnie Prince, Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Sylvester Severino Maria Stuart, who died this day in 1788. Interestingly, this means that he was de jure King over the newly found Australian colony, the First Fleet having landed 6 days before.

The Bonnie Prince, Charles Edward, in armour and ermine,
wearing the decorations of the Orders of the Garter and the Thistle

Of him it was sung all over the Highlands, Islands and Lowlands of Scotland, and much further afield, these words in song:

"Will he no come back again…
better lo’ed he canna be..."

Here are extracts from the 1948 film version made on the story of the Bonnie Prince, starring David Niven as the Prince and Margaret Leighton as Flora MacDonald. It is the best film version ever made, the remainder being largely mocking and offensive portrayals of the Prince. This extract has Loreena McKennit singing Bonny Portmore, in the background.

It is perhaps also a good day to remember the Most Honourable Sir John Paulet, 5th Marquess of Winchester, the defender-chatelain of the ever-loyal Basing House, for whom his fellow Roman Catholic, the poet, John Dryden, wrote him a stirring epitaph (see below). 

Lord Winchester was remarkable for his steady loyalty to King Charles I the blessed royal martyr. It was perhaps with Winchester in mind that the King himself so memorably wrote:

"I am and ever shall be of such moderation as to keep aloof...from every undertaking which may testify any hatred to the Roman Catholic Religion; nay rather will I seize all remove all suspicions entirely; so that, as well as all confess one undivided Trinity and one Christ Crucified, we may be banded together unanimously in one Faith. That I may accomplish this, I will reckon as trifiling al my labours and vigilance, and even the hazards of Kingdoms and life itself."

In this, the learned and generous-minded king, perhaps unwittingly, echoed the teaching of the great Roman Catholic Doctor, St Thomas Aquinas, who held heaven open for any and all who be sorry for their sins and confess the Triune God and His Incarnation and Resurrection.

Lord Winchester garrisoned for the King his fine castle at Basing, and underwent a siege of two years, from August 1643 to 16 October 1645 on which day it was taken by the odious Cromwell, by storm, after having been defended with great gallantry to the very last extremity, no quarter being given by the savage and brutal Puritan revolutionaries.

The Marquess had written, in every window of Basing House, with a diamond, the motto “Aymez Loyaulté”, which became his motto and which has remained the motto of Stuart loyalists ever since.

The Puritan devils, incensed at this device, burned down his noble seat, (a conflagration which the false Cromwell imputed to accident) and destroyed and plundered property to the amount of 200,000l.

The defence of Basing House,
one of several tableaux in the lobby of the House of Lords, Palace of Westminster, London

The Marquess himself was made prisoner. Later the devilish Cromwell ordered that Basing House be reduced two bricks in height and so it remains to this day, all that was once a mansion and castle as large as Hampton Court Palace.

The Marquess of Winchester survived until the Restoration of King Charles II and, having died premier marquess of England in 1674, was buried at Englefield Church, Englefield House, Royal Berkshire, a property he had owned but which is now owned, together with the church and the village, by the Benyon family, also of the old gentry.

Within the church is the monument, upon which Dryden’s verse is engraved, and it is made of black and white marble and a copartment underneath the lines bears this inscription:

"The Lady Marchioness Dowager, in testimony of her love and sorrow, gave this monument to the memory of a most affectionate, tender husband."

On a flat marble stone, beneath the monument, is the following further epitaph:
“Here lieth interred the body of the most noble and mighty prince, John Powlet, Marquis of Winchester, Earl of Wiltshire, Baron of St John of Basing, first Marquis of England : A man of exemplary piety towards God, and of inviolable fidelity towards his sovereign; in whose cause he fortified his house of Basing, and defended it against the rebels to the last extremity. He married three wives: the first was Jane, daughter of Thomas, Viscount Savage, and of Elizabeth his wife, daughter and co-heir of Thomas Darcey, Earl of Rivers; by whom he had issue Charles, now Marquis of Winchester. His second wife was Honora, daughter of Richard Burgh, Earl of St Alban's and Clanricarde, and of Frances, his wife, daughter and heir of Sir Francis Walsingham, knight, and principal secretary of state to Queen Elizabeth; by whom he had issue four sons and three daughters. His last wife, who survived him, was Isabella, daughter of William, Viscount Stafford, secund son of Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel and Surrey, Earl Marshal of England, and of Mary his wife, sister and sole heir of Henry, Lord Stafford, who was the heir-male of the most high, mighty, and most noble Prince Edward, last Duke of Buckingham of that most illustrious name and family, by whom he had no issue. He died in the 77th year of his age, on the 5th of March, in the year of our Lord 167 4.—By Edward Walker, Garter King of Arms."
The Most Honourable Sir John Paulet, 5th Marquess of Winchester, one of the most loyal supporters of King Charles I and the defender and owner of Basing House, the last Royalist stronghold to fall in the Civil War

Englefield House is now owned by the Benyon family. The late proprietor, Sir William Benyon, was a former officer in her Majesty’s Royal Navy and a former member of Parliament in the Conservative interest for the Constituency of Buckingham, himself a fine and noble example of the best of the old Anglican gentry and ever a champion of just causes against the impious temper of our times.
His son, Richard, was commissioned into the Royal Green Jackets and is now a government minister.
The family took the name Benyon in order to inherit Englefield House.
The family name is Shelley, and they descend from the poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, themselves, despite the poet’s apostasy into atheism, descended from the once Roman Catholic family of Shelley of Field Place, Sussex, among whom is numbered a former Turcopolier of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Sir Richard Shelley (the Turcopolier of the Sovereign Order was an office reserved exclusively for an Englishman).
When Queen Mary I (Tudor) had resolved to restore the Order of St John in England, Shelley was actively employed in making the necessary arrangements.
On the re-establishment of the Order in April 1557 Shelley was made Turcopolier, an office second in dignity to that of a grand prior, which latter honour was conferred on Sir Thomas Tresham (d. 1559).
In 1559, Shelley was sent on an embassy to the King of the Romans (heir to the Holy Roman Empire), and then made his way to Spain, where King Philip I of England and Ireland, and II of Spain, gave him a pension.
In October 1562 he was sent by King Philip to congratulate the new King of the Romans on his election.
In July 1565 Shelley set out for Malta, which was then closely besieged by the Turks, but got no further than Naples, and did not reach Malta until the Turks had retired. On Tresham's death in 1566 Shelley became Grand Prior of the Knights of St John of England, but did not assume the title out of deference to the wishes of Queen Elizabeth I.
The office of Turcopolier, hitherto confined exclusively to Englishmen, was thereafter annexed to the Grand-Mastership.
The connections, therefore, with Englefield House and Lord Winchester, are thus propitious.
And here is Dryden’s most powerful epitaph for the loyal, virtuous and noble Marquess. What better epitaph could a man have?
He who, in impious times, undaunted stood,
And 'midst rebellion durst be just and good;
 Whose arms asserted, and whose sufferings more
 Confirmed the cause for which he fought before,
 Rests here, rewarded by an heavenly prince,
 For what his earthly could not recompence.
 Pray, reader, that such times no more appear;
 Or, if they happen, learn true honour here.
 Ask of this age's faith and loyalty,
 Which, to preserve them, heaven confined in thee.
 Few subjects could a king like thine deserve;
 And fewer, such a king so well could serve.
 Blest king, blest subject, whose exalted state
 By sufferings rose, and gave the law to fate !
Such souls are rare, but mighty patterns given
To earth, and meant for ornaments to heaven.
~~ +++ ~~

Monday, 19 January 2015

What was Catholic monarchy like? Here is a charming example...

The Catholic imperial monarchy of Austria and the Holy Roman Empire...

Kaiser (Caesar and Emperor) Francis Joseph I of Austria-Hungary,
the central Catholic Empire of Europe and successor of the Holy Roman Empire

Who does not recognise the face and picture of the distinguished, charming and saintly old gentleman who was the Kaiser (Caesar and Emperor) Francis Joseph of Austria-Hungary from 1848 to 1916?

He led a saintly, rigorously military and piously disciplined life right up to the day of his pious and holy death.

His successor was his great-nephew, the Blessed Emperor Charles I, beatified in 2004 by Blessed Pope John Paul II, himself named Charles (Karol in Polish) after the Blessed Emperor Charles since the Pope's father had served in the Austro-Hungarian army.

Blessed Kaiser (Caesar and Emperor) Charles I of Austria-Hungary,
who succeeded to the imperial throne upon the death in 1916 of his great uncle, Kaiser Francis Joseph I

Both men, in fact, led difficult and, indeed, crucified lives. Francis Joseph lost his son, his wife and his nephew successor to assassins. Charles, who worked tirelessly for peace and an end to war, but was betrayed, forced off the throne, exiled into poverty with his wife, Empress Zita, and 8 children, to Madeira Island, and died there aged only 34 years old.

But what was life like under the old Catholic empire?

In fact, it was a glorious kaleidoscope of colour, tradition, beauty, piety and plenty that ought to be the envy of a less fortunate age.

Unfortunately, too few know about those times and many have been seduced by secularist and anti-Catholic propagandists into believing that, in  those times, life was nasty, brutish and short.

In fact, the reverse is, and was, true.

Blessed Kaiser (Caesar and Emperor) Charles I of Austria
greets an old person, one of his many millions of subjects under the old Catholic Empire

The 1955 film Sissi starring Romy Schneider as the Kaiserin (Empress and Caesar's wife) Elizabeth ("Sissi") and Karl-Heinz Boehm as Kaiser Francis Joseph, although stylised, gives a surprisingly accurate picture of life in those times.

The theme is the early life of the Kaiser and his new wife, Princess Elizabeth in Bavaria, "Sissi", which was personally happy and only marred by the increasingly revolutionary politics of the day, tragically and persistently threatening the peace of Europe and the lives of Europeans.

The Italian secularist "irredentists", seeking a secular and separate Italy, snub and repudiate their Emperor but, at least in the film, are won over by the charm of the Empress Elizabeth when she and the Kaiser arrive at St Mark's, Venice, in the imperial barge, accompanied by the imperial flotilla.

The Italian nobility shut the doors of their Canal-side villas to their true and rightful Kaiser or Caesar and, instead of attending upon the Kaiser, both at St Mark's and at the Opera, rudely send their most dull-witted servants to embarrass the Kaiser and Kaiserin (and, at the opera, they rudely drown out the imperial anthem by singing the Italian nationalist anthem, Va Pensiero, famously composed by Guiseppe Verdi whose name was used as an anagram of the king proposed by the irredentist nationalists, the unpleasant Victor Emmanuel, King of Italy - Vittorio Emmanuele Re d'Italia - VERDI).

Sissi foils the plot by charming even the dull-witted servants sent to embarrass the imperial couple.

The whole story is, at base, historically true to life.

Likewise, and even more accurately, the equally nationalist (albeit not revolutionary) Hungarians are, at least partially, won over by Sissi's charm and Prince Laslo Andrassy even falls in love with her, although both, in proper Catholic manner, do not offend morality and Sissi, whilst remaining friendly to him, rebukes Prince Andrassy for his declaration.

This, too, is historically true to life.

The third, and last, part of the film ends with a glorious re-presentation of the dramatically colourful Hungarian Coronation which, in fact, took place, for the last time, in 1919, with the Emperor (and King) Blessed Charles I (pictured below swearing the Coronation oath in the crown and mantle of St Stephen, the first Christian and Catholic King of the Magyars, as the Hungarian race is called).

Blessed Kaiser (Caesar and Emperor) Charles I, as King Charles IV of Hungary,
in the Coronation crown and mantle of St Stephen, swearing the Coronation oath in 1919
before the Prince-Archbishop of Ezstergom, the Primate of Hungary

Sadly, in later life, the Kaiserin Elizabeth became distracted form her imperial duties and left off supporting her imperial husband in the manner that she should. This impetuosity and self-interest is also played out a little in the film as the headstrong nature of Sissi is seen.

Most tragically of all, this most beautiful, if somewhat headstrong, empress came to a most unjust end when she was murdered by an Italian irredentist terrorist as she was walking with her ladies-in-waiting by Lake Geneva in Switzerland. The murderer, a fanatical nationalist, stabbed her to the heart with a narrow stiletto so that, at first, she appeared entirely unharmed and shed no blood. But the truth quickly became clear and the Empress of Austria-Hungary died soon after, leaving her heartbroken husband, Kaiser Francis Joseph, with yet another blow to suffer in his long-suffering, crucified life.

However, the film dwells upon the happier beginning of their married life and gives a most charming and delightful picture of life in the Catholic empire which was, until the First World War put an end to it, the central state in all of Europe and the successor to the Holy Roman Empire that had lasted for 1,000 years until Bonaparte and the godless French Revolution.

Holy Roman Emperor (Caesar Augustus) Charles the Great (Charlemagne)
re-founder of the Roman Empire in the West in 800 AD

It reminds us that the fundamental basis of Catholic society and Catholic government was the family, whether at the highest, in the imperial family, or the humblest, the peasant farmer on the land, or humble worker in a city trade - not the soulless, inhuman, and rapacious corporations, insurance companies, banks and bloated government bureaucracies of modern times who serve only themselves and not the common good of society.

The Emperor and the imperial family were trained from infancy to put the needs of the people and the common good before themselves and their own contents.

Roman Emperor (Caesar Augustus) Francis I
wearing the crown of Charlemagne and in full coronation vestments (imperial cope, stole, alb, slippers and gloves),
holding the imperial sceptre (from the Giants' Hall of the Innsbruck Hofburg)
Modern corporations, private or public, are designed to maximise only their own profit and benefit, to the detriment of the common good, as so many recent revelations repeatedly demonstrate. Indeed, if one were to use the spectrum used by the American Psychiatric Association, the spirit of most modern corporations would qualify as exhibiting clear symptoms of psychosis and anti-social behaviour, in stark contrast to the Catholic monarchies of times past.

In the Catholic monarchies of times past the family was the central basis of government and community, not rapacious corporations. This film gives something of a flavour of that familial basis.

The film, started in 1953 and concluded in 1957, comes in 3 long parts, is in German and in old-fashioned Technicolor.

Some say that it was powerful enough to influence the Hungarian uprising against Communism in that same fateful year, 1956. The contrast between the colourful Catholic times and the dreary, grey times under Communism was all too powerful for the distressed and oppressed Hungarian people.

Here is a BBC production recalling the terrible events of  the 1956 uprising in Hungary just to remind us all what tyranny, horror and oppression took over in Hungary after the fall of the Habsburg Empire - first the pro-Nazi regency of Admiral Horthy (supposedfly standing in for the King, Blessed Emperor Charles I) and then, when he fell, Soviet invasion and atheistic Marxian Communism.

Here, in the greatest possible contrast, is the Sissi film series, in 3 parts, which, recalls days of peace, prosperity and civilisation under Catholic imperial rule by the Habsburgs.

Although in German, this charming film can be readily enjoyed by anyone. It is also available on Youtube in French. The first German clip has English sub-titles but not, unfortuntely, the later two.

I offer it here for all to enjoy!

Sissi (1953) - 1st part
This tells the sotry of the young Princess Elizabeth - "Sissi" - and her delightful family life in Bavaria with her jovial and widely-beloved father, Duke Maximilian in Bavaria ("Duke Max"), and her meeting with the young Kaiser (Caesar and Emperor) Francis Joseph, their betrothal and marriage...

Sissi (1956) - 2nd part
This part tells of the difficulties of imperial life in an age of dangerous and calamitous nationalism and how Sissi wins over the proud Hungarians, then threatening secession, and ending with the glorious Hungarian coronation of the King-Emperor in Budapest with the crown, mantle and sceptre of St Stephen, first Christian king of the Magyar Hungarians.
How must so many Hungarian hearts have been greatly moved and stirred to hear, once again, their royal anthem, the Himunsz, sung in a magnificent coronation setting, and how it must have contrasted with their drab, dreary and dangerous lives under the heel of Soviet Communism in 1956...

Sissi (1957) - 3rd part

 This part tells of the further difficulties of imperial life threatened by Italian Freemasonic nationalist "irredentism" bent upon wresting control of the northern lands of the Italian peninsula which had been part of the Empire for over a thousand years.
The Italian rebel nobility insult their lawful emperor by refusing to attend upon him at the Opera, in Milan, and for the arrival of the imperial barge and flotilla at St Mark's Square, Venice, sending instead their servants who do not know how to behave at court and offensively sing the nationalist anthem, Va Pensiero instead of the imperial anthem.
In St Mark's Square the imperial couple are greeted by a sullen, hostile silence but this is broken by the tenderness of the meeting between the Empress, Sissi, and her little daughter, which melts the soft hearts of the Italians who shout "Long live the mother!", just before the Cardinal-Patriarch of Venice comes out, with entourage, to greet his Emperor. The scene ends with the stirring sounds of the Imperial anthem, Gott erhalte.
Today, now that the Italian revolutionaries have long since successfully overthrown their lawful emperors, and after incompetent governments, Fascism, and then a succession of short-lived, corrupt governments since 1945, ending with a choice between the anti-Catholic Left, or dubious leaders like Silvio Berlusconi and his playboy antics, many Italians are finally realising the sheer pig-headed stupidity of their irredentist forebears and, once again, look back with some regret to the days when they lived under the gentle yoke of the vice-gerent of Christ, the Austrian and Holy Roman Emperor.

Here is a charming film clip from the wedding of the Blessed Kaiser (Caesar and Emperor) Charles I of Austria to Princess Zita of Bourbon-Parma which has survived from that time:

The words of the Imperial hymn were sung, most movingly, amidst tears, in the Cathedral of St Stephen for the last imperial event, for the last Empress, Zita, at her funeral and burial on 1 April 1989, she having died just in time to have seen not only the fall of Nazism but also of Soviet Communism, both of which diseased ideologies had ravaged the lands of her husband, the last Habsburg Kaiser (Caesar and Emperor) Blessed Emperor Charles I. See below:
...and the ceremony of the burial of an emperor or empress was performed at the Imperial Capuchin Church of Vienna for both Empress Zita - and again for her eldest son, Archduke Otto (Dr Otto von Habsburg) in 2011 - in the anklopfzeremonie (door knock ceremony) in which a chamberlain knocks at the church door and announces all the solemn titles of the imperial personage but is only allowed entry when the titles are reduced to one small sentence - Zita, ein sterbliche, sündliche mensch - "Zita, a mortal, sinful human", seen below...
Here is a later interview with Archduke Otto of Austria, the eldest son of the Blessed Kaiser (Caesar and Emperor) Charles I of Austria and Empress Zita, speaking about the spiritual roots of Europe in perfect English. He was a professor, scholar, writer, lecturer, Member of the European Parliament and spoke 9 languages fluently, including Hungarian and Lithuanian. Think and judge how much good this excellent man could have done if he had been Austrian Emperor instead of but one Member of the European Parliament. H would have been an ideal leader for modern Europe.

Here are some film clips from the funeral of the Archduke Otto of Austria at which some one million people attended in the city of Vienna and the funeral procession followed the whole traditional route around the Vienna Hofburg to the Imperial Capuchin Church for the full Habsburgerbegräbnisritual - Habsburg burial ritual.
Following 13 days of mourning, the heir to the thrones of the great Austro-Hungarian Empire, His Imperial and Royal Highness Archduke Otto of Austria, Crown Prince of Hungary,  was laid to rest in Vienna on 16 July 2011.

Finally, the traditional anklopfzeremonie (door knock ceremony) itself, for the last Habsburg to have lived as a crown prince of the Empire. The ceremony is slightly stilted by having, second time round, the titles of Archduke Otto as a modern politician, and president of various rather dull modern European institutions, read out, but the effect is still dramatic and impressive.
Notice that the Capuchin friar refusing entry and finally allowing it, is the self-same friar-curator of the Imperial Crypt as refused and allowed entry to the mother of Archduke Otto, Empress Zita, in 1989, Friar Gottfried (which, in English, means "God's peace" and from which we, in English, get the name Godfrey).
Once again the coffin is carried and escorted by a guard from the ever-loyal Tyrolean schutzenkompanien - volunteer musket companies.


This was followed by the singing of the Imperial Anthem in the square outside the Imperial Capuchin Church.
Here are the stirring words and music (based upon the Kaisersgeburtstaglied - Imperial birthday tune - composed by Josef Haydn) of the first verse:
Gott erhalte, Gott beshuetze, unser Kaiser, unsern Land;
Mächtig durch des Glaubens Stütze
Führ' er uns mit weiser Hand!
Laßt uns seiner Väter Krone
Schirmen wider jeden Feind:
Innig bleibt mit Habsburgs Throne
Österreichs Geschick vereint.
God defending, God protecting, this our Caesar and our land;
Mighty through the Faith's supporting,
 Leads he us with wiser hand!
Left to us his father's Crown shall
shield us now from every foe!
 Closely bound with Habsburg throne shall

Austria's destiny forever grow!
 (c) English translation Roman Christendom

Austriae est imperare orbi universo
("It is Austria's destiny to rule the known world")
(This was a symbolic device personally used by the Habsburg Caesar and Emperor Frederick III, 1415–93, and his successors, to signify the unique position of the Empire in the Catholic world)

 Amen. May God grant it!
 Imperial Habsburg coat of arms after 1869

Friday, 9 January 2015

The Epiphany or Theophany of the Lord, manifested to the Gentile kings and wise men

The Feast of the Three Kings or Magi
as it was called in the Holy Roman Empire and in German-speaking lands
the Theophany
or Manifestation of the Lord to the Gentiles

on the same day as later occurred

the Baptism of the Lord


the miracle of wine at the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee

Whom Kings adore...
"When Jesus therefore was born in Bethlehem of Juda, in the days of king Herod, behold, there came wise men from the East to Jerusalem, saying: where is he that is born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and are come to adore him. And king Herod hearing this, was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And assembling together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where Christ should be born. But they said to him: In Bethlehem of Juda. For so it is written by the prophet: and thou Bethlehem the land of Juda art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come forth the captain that shall rule my people Israel.

Then Herod, privately calling the wise men learned diligently of them the time of the star which appeared to them; and sending them into Bethlehem, said: go and diligently inquire after the child, and when you have found him, bring me word again, that I also may come and adore him. Who having heard the king, went their way; and behold the star which they had seen in the East, went before them, until it came and stood over where the child was. And seeing the star they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And entering into the house, they found the child with Mary his mother, and falling down they adored him: and opening their treasures, they offered him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having received an answer in sleep that they should not return to Herod, they went back another way into their country."
[Matt 2:12 - Gospel for the Mass of the Epiphany]

The shrine of the Three Kings at Cologne Cathedral

The Shrine of the Three Kings in Cologne Cathedral contains their relics brought from Milan by ship to the City of Cologne on the order of the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa, in 1164 as a gift to the Prince-Elector Archbishop, Rainald of Dassel.
This gave rise to the English Carol "I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing in".
The relics had first been taken from Constantinople to Milan in 344 by Bishop Eustorgius of Milan.
Around 1199, the Roman Emperor Otto IV gave three golden crowns made for the three wise men as a present to the church of Cologne, the city where, the previous year, he had been elected King of the Romans and Emperor-elect by the Prince-Electors of the Empire (he later gained the support of all the imperial princes at Frankfurt in 1208).

An inscription reads:

Otto rex coloniensis curiam celebrans tres coronas de auro capitibus trium magorum imposuit.
Otto the King, the court of Cologne celebrating, gave three golden crowns for the heads of the three Magi.
Emperor Otto IV was the only member of the Welf dynasty to be elected Holy Roman Emperor and, being the son of Matilda Plantagenet (married to Henry the Lion, Duke of Bavaria), he was allied to England in the Franco-English wars. He was also the personal preference of Pope Innocent III, who crowned him Roman Emperor at Rome in 1209, although they later fell out over the issue of the imperial rights in Italy.

Because of the importance of the shrine and the cathedral for the later development of the city, the Coat of Arms of Cologne still shows these three crowns symbolizing the Three Kings.

Construction of the present Cologne Cathedral was begun in 1248 to house these important relics. The cathedral took 632 years to complete and is now the largest Gothic church in northern Europe.

On July 20th, 1864, the shrine was opened, and the remains of the three Kings and the coins of Philipp von Heinsberg, Archbishop of Cologne, were discovered.

An eyewitness report reads:

“In a special compartment of the shrine now there showed - along with remains of ancient old rotten or moulded bandages, most likely byssus, besides pieces of aromatic resins and similar substances - numerous bones of three persons, which under the guidance of several present experts could be assembled into nearly complete bodies: the one in his early youth, the second in his early manhood, the third was rather aged. Two coins, bracteates made of silver and only one side striken, were adjoined; one, provably from the days of Philipp von Heinsberg, displayed a church, the other showed a cross, accompanied by the sword of jurisdiction, and the crozier on either side.”
The bones were wrapped in white silk and returned to the shrine where they remain to this day to be venerated by all the Faithful.

By long tradition, on the Feast of the Epiphany – called Dreikoenigsfest (the Feast of the Three Kings) in the lands of the old Holy Roman Empire – the Rector of the Parish (or in his absence, the father of each family) visits each house with a cross-bearer, 2 acolytes and 3 children dressed as the kings, one bearing a censer with lighted incense. At each house a little ceremony takes place, the house is blessed with Epiphany water, and over the door lintel of the house the following is inscribed with blessed chalk:
20 + C + M + B + 15

In my house we always perform this traditional ceremony.

This symbolises the present year and the blessing of the three Magi, Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar, upon each home.

The symbols remain all year or until the weather has washed them away.
Blessed Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar, wise men and kings from the East, pray for us!


The Journey of the Magi

by T S Eliot

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times when we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities dirty and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wineskins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

+ + +

"three trees on the low sky... I should be glad of another death."

Friday, 2 January 2015



pope francis 14
For the most intolerant and extreme religion in the world, this is a rather embarrassing statistic.
It appears that the Catholic Church, widely recognized as the most uncompromising and dogmatic among the world’s major religions, is about to close out the year without executing a single person.
As everyone knows, the Catholic Church is a religion of strict doctrine, ruling every aspect of each individual Catholic’s life from the Vatican with an iron fist, while at the same time relentlessly imposing its beliefs on the rest of society.
Yet for some reason the Catholic Church has had an abysmal year at the chopping block, failing to kill a single one of its billion-plus members for failing to live in strict adherence to her teachings.  On top of that, the Vatican has put to death exactly zero people from other religions for refusing to convert to Catholicism.
Even some followers of Islam, universally known as a religion of peace and tolerance, have found time on the weekends to behead a few non-believers.  And yet the Catholic Church, far from resembling anything having to do with peace or tolerance, has taken incompetence to a whole new level when it comes to imposing its beliefs.
Sure, 2015 is a new year and all, but let’s face it.  When it comes to intolerance, we’re pathetic.
(With thanks to John White of