Monday, June 27, 2016

A Plea to My Country

Well! I totally dropped the ball on this past Sunday's Catholicism Explained; my apologies for that. I played around with the idea of posting one today, but I decided to just save it for next Sunday.

However. I am going to post something - vaguely religious? - today. In reparation for my sin of sloth. So! Here goes. I don't...think...I have posted this before...

Oh. One other thing. This essay is written specifically as a plea to America, but most of it can be taken as a plea to mankind in general.

America! Oh, America! My country, my country, what has happened to you? Do you not see the sword buried deep in your heart, do you not feel your lifeblood gushing from this wound - do you not understand that unless this fatal flow is staunched it will soon be too late?

Ah, my country. You never do see the greatest perils which threaten your safety, not until they have come far too close, not until much irreparable damage has been done. Shall the groaning of the slave ever be avenged? No; though the blood of thousands, North and South, has been poured forth in expiation for that sin, even still you blush when that injustice is mentioned. The wrong was remedied, the cruelty was redressed - but not before too many innocent people, born to be free, wilted in the red dirt of the South and died beneath the sun that had beat down on their labor until it was too much to bear. You see now, America; you see how wrong you were now. Tell me, what good does it do now? Better to have seen the injustice then, and put a sooner end to it!

SLAVES, EX-SLAVES, and CHILDREN OF SLAVES IN THE AMERICAN SOUTH, 1860 -1900 (11)    Pickin' cotton in Georgia.:

It is ever the same, America; you turn your eyes away from your gaping wounds, your festering sores, because they are too hideous to look at, and you would fancy yourself the Beauteous Queen of the Nations. But the day is coming, my country, when this pretending game of yours shall be your undoing. Open your eyes, face the uncomfortable truth, and see that you are wounded - bleeding - yes, dying! Only then may you work to heal yourself - and, after this, to make yourself beautiful once more. I speak not to shame you, but to save you. Heinous acts of injustice are happening beneath your very eyes, and you do nothing!

Have you guessed, America, the injustice of which I speak? (Injustice! "Atrocity" is too weak a word!) Has your guilty conscience whispered to you the name of your own modern Holocaust? Yes, dear America, whisper it to yourself. You have made war against the weakest among have slaughtered your own children in the have torn preborn babies to pieces, and sold their mutilated bodies for profit!

Love simple black and white photos! newborn photography...kind of annoying when people go over board to dress their babies up...simple is better....just my opinion:):

You know I speak the truth, America. You know of what I speak. You know abortion is the worst affront under Heaven - worse than prejudice, worse than betrayal, worse than murder, for it is all these things in one. Dare you let this go on any longer, America? - I speak not because I despise you, but because I love you, my motherland! I want to see you beautiful and shining and innocent, as so many poets and patriots have seen you before; I want to say, "This is my country, my glorious country," with a thrill of joy, and not of bitter horror. But I cannot praise your beauty until beautiful you are.

Friends of America, where are you? My brothers and sisters, my fellow patriots, why are you not crying out? Come, join me, assist me in this fight! Storm Heaven with prayers, storm Washington with complaints, storm human hearts with fiery love and passion for justice, that someday this crime be abolished. There is time yet, my friends; we might still see this travesty defeated, witness this banner of death go down. But first we must take action, for without action there can be no victory. Sound the alarum, my friends, sound the alarum! As Paul Revere shouted a warning in the night, as the brave abolitionists took a stand for the truth, so must we follow in their footsteps.

Marquis de Lafayette - He was a French noblemen who came to fight for the Americans during the Revolutionary War. He came to fight for the Americans because he wanted them to beat the British. He was a major general and was influential in defeating the British during the war.:

Give me aid, my friends, be strong and give me aid! Together, God willing, we shall restore this great nation to her former glory.

One Nation under God!:

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Catholicism Explained - Sacred Tradition

Time for the next Catholicism Explained post! (I really ought to work on getting these up earlier in the day. Oh well.) If you're interested in reading older posts, we discussed the Real Presence here and here.

Today we're going to talk about Sacred Tradition.

(Does anyone else think of The Fiddler on the Roof  when you hear the word "tradition"?)

Fiddler on the Roof....another childhood staple. Love, love, love this musical...:

Basic Church Teaching

Sacred Tradition, basically, is the teaching of Jesus Christ handed down from generation to generation through the Apostles and their successors. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say:

"In keeping with the Lord's command, the Gospel was handed on in two ways:

- orally 'by the apostles who handed on, by the spoken word of their preaching, by the example they gave, by the institutions they established, what they themselves had received - whether from the lips of Christ, from his way of life and his works, or whether they had learned it at the prompting of the Holy Spirit';

- in writing 'by those apostles and other men associated with the apostles who, under the inspiration of the same Holy Spirit, committed the message of salvation to writing.'" (CCC 76)

So Oral Tradition is just as big a part of passing on the Gospel as Written Tradition (Scripture) is. It doesn't replace Scripture or anything like that; rather, the two go hand in hand.

Oral Tradition and the Bible

I find it interesting that Scripture itself is considered part of Sacred Tradition. Indeed, without Oral Tradition we wouldn't have Written Tradition. The books of the Bible have been around for - well, a really long time; but it wasn't until the Council of Carthage in 419 that they were officially compiled in a definitive list. At this point the Church said, "Here, these are the books that are divinely inspired; this is what you can read as absolute truth." How did they know which books were divinely inspired? Through Oral Tradition.

Oral Tradition, then, has always been a part of the Christian faith. This is Biblically supported, as explained in this article, which points out several relevant Bible verses:

"...stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter" (2 Thess. 2:15)

"So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ" (Rom. 10:17)

"[W]hat you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (2 Tim. 2:2)

Tradition vs. tradition

It's important to note the different kinds of tradition. There's Tradition with a big T - the really serious infallible kind - and tradition with a small t.

Tradition means the basic truths of Christianity which have been handed down from age to age - things that are indispensable to the Catholic faith. So, things like the Trinity. The word "Trinity" is never mentioned in the Bible (though it is Biblically supported), but it is a basic tenant of the faith. You can't be a Christian and not believe in the Trinity. That's Tradition with a big T.

Other examples of Tradition with a big T include the divinity of Christ, Purgatory, the Immaculate Conception, and other such doctrines. (Not all of these are indispensable to Christianity - there are lots of good Christians who don't believe in the Assumption of Mary, for instance - but they are indispensable to Catholicism.)

The tradition with a small t means pretty much anything which is a part of the faith, and sometimes a big part, but not an indispensable part. These traditions can be done without. They may change through time.

Examples of tradition with a small t include women veiling themselves at Mass, setting up Nativity scenes at Christmas time, having Mass in Latin, devotions such as the rosary, and even having unmarried priests. All these things are changeable and unnecessary. We don't veil at Mass anymore; there was a time Nativity scenes hadn't been invented; Mass can now be said in English; devotions come and go; and at certain times in Church history priests have been allowed to marry. Small t traditions are nice touches to the faith, and people often feel they are integral parts of their lives; but they aren't basic tenants of the faith the way big T Traditions are.

This is all explained very well in this article.

In Conclusion!

I don't know if I can think of anything else to say about Sacred Tradition at the moment. So let's talk! Comments? Questions? Concerns? Arguments?

 Is there any way this feature could be better? Have you any ideas for future Catholicism Explained posts? Does anyone else feel like watching Fiddler on the Roof right now? :)

Friday, June 17, 2016

Beautiful People - June (Also Tristan's Bio)

Say! 'Tis time for the June Beautiful People post already! (I say "already" because I've been ridiculously busy and time has flown ridiculously fast. Usually time drags between BP posts.)


This month I have decided to cheat a little. You remember that character bio I promised would go up soon? The one dedicated to Rosalie's brother, Tristan? Well! Here it is. Instead of posting a boring old bio to introduce you to Tristan, I'm going to answer these questions about his childhood and use that as his background information.

(That doesn't mean we're skipping the interview, though! Do please ask Tristan any questions you can think of in the comments. Unlike his sister, Tristan does not talk much. Therefore we will need a lot of questions to make the interview sufficiently long.)


A bit of background: Tristan is the (extremely young) general of the Bonadorian army. His father was made king when he was one or two years old, and from then until the time he was twelve he lived in the palace with his family. During these years, the barbarians who had been driven away in his infancy began to trouble Bonador once again, and his father was kept busy fighting them. Tristan's mother died when he was eight. At the age of twelve, he went to join his father at the front lines.

What is his first childhood memory?

Oh, first memories are always so muddled and confused and impossible to pinpoint! The earliest thing he can remember is a fuzzy conglomeration of various people and places - his mother's face, his father's lap, the fort where he was born.

Out of all these hazy images raise at last the clear towers of a castle and the stony walls of a courtyard. In this courtyard he walks with his mother and father - and, later, with a little sister. Perhaps his earliest clear-cut memory is his father lifting him up in his arms and pointing out a raven which had perched on one of the castle parapets.

What were his best and worst childhood experiences?

Best: realizing that his father was a hero; sitting at his mother's knee with Rosalie; getting to hold his father's sword; the day he got his warhorse, Vollapax.

Worst: realizing that some people considered his family usurpers; the death of his mother; his first battle; seeing some of his closest friends killed.

The battle between the Dragonites and the Twin Kingdoms:

What was his childhood home like?

It was tranquil and loving, but overshadowed with sorrow. Storm clouds of political troubles and war and sickness veiled the brightness of family life and made even the happiest days still and gray.

This spiritual strain extended itself to the castle where they lived. When Tristan thinks of his childhood home, he thinks of long quiet rooms streaked with sunlight, somber courtyards enlivened by the pattering of little feet, and the surrounding fields dancing with flowers. There is a hush over everything - a hush edged in the stillness of death.

What’s something that scared him as child?

As a small boy, he had a fear of large animals - especially griffins. His father laughed and said, "You'll have to get over that, son, if you're to be a soldier." So get over it he did.

Tristan's winged warhorse, Vollapax.

Who did he look up to most?

Definitely his father. No other man in the world could command such a degree of respect and admiration in that little boy's eyes. The fact that others disdained his father only intensified Tristan's filial loyalty.

Favorite and least favorite childhood foods?  

Favorite: freshly baked bread, any kind of sweets.

Least favorite: cheese, cabbage.

If he had his childhood again, would he change anything?

Oh yes. It'd be easier to list the things that he wouldn't change.

I don't know if Tristan realizes that, though. If you asked him the above question, he would probably glare at you and say, "Why would I waste time thinking about that when I can't change anything?"

He's deucedly practical, that Tristan.

What kind of child was he? Curious? Wild? Quiet? Devious?

He was pretty quiet - also responsible, affectionate, protective, and ambitious.

At one time he was also fun-loving almost to the point of being mischievous, but those days are so long gone no one thinks about them any more.

What was his relationship to his parents and siblings like?

In the early days, it was a dream. He cherished his mother, practically worshipped his father, and was seldom seen without his little sister in tow.

Tristan's little sister, Rosalie.

The war didn't lessen his love for his family - if anything, it intensified it. But the more intense the love, the more intense the pain. As Tristan grew from a boy into a man, his adoration of his mother and Rosalie became (very naturally) worry for their safety, and this worry became a conviction that he had a duty to keep them safe, and this conviction became overprotectiveness...and in the end there were no happy, tender moments anymore, but only constant and almost domineering paranoia. To put it quite simply, he became distanced from them.

The relationship between Tristan and his father actually grew closer and stronger through the war, although in a very grim way. The hero-worship of Tristan's younger days hardened into mature respect, and by the time the story begins the two of them work together as a perfect military team.

What did he want to be when he grew up, and what did he actually become?

When he was a teeny tiny wittle boy his only desire was to be just like his father, a military general. He probably stopped wanting to be a soldier when he saw his first battle at the age of 12, but by then the mere "wanting" had been replaced with a conviction that he must be at the battlefield.

So he got his childhood wish, found it very disagreeable, and plunged into it without ever looking back. The result? He rose through the ranks and became his father's chief general by the age of 20.

So that's Tristan! I hope you've enjoyed meeting him. Are any of you doing Beautiful People this month? If so, do please share your posts! And if you have any questions you'd like to ask Tristan, leave them in the comments. I'll try to post an interview in two or three weeks.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Catholicism Explained - Is the Eucharist Literal or Symbolic?

In our last Catholicism Explained post, we discussed the Catholic teaching on the Eucharist. We're continuing that conversation today and focusing on the question, "Why does the Church believe that Jesus' presence in the Eucharist is literal and not just symbolic?"

It's a very good question. In this post, we'll be investigating the whys behind the Real Presence through three main topics: Jesus' teaching as recorded in Scripture, Jesus' teaching as preserved through Sacred Tradition, and, as a plus, Jesus' teaching confirmed through Eucharistic miracles.

Jesus' Words

At the Last Supper, Jesus' words were very literal: "This is my body." He didn't say, "This is a symbol of my body;" He said "this is my body."

In Chapter Six of John's Gospel, Jesus teaches very clearly on the Real Presence: "I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." (John 6:48-51, NIV)

And while Jesus often speaks in metaphors and parables, the reaction of the crowd is not a reaction to a metaphor or parable, but to a literal fact: "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" (John 6:52)

If the crowd is misunderstanding Jesus, He should explain to them that they have the wrong idea. But He doesn't. Instead, He repeats His words with even more emphasis on their literal meaning: “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink." (John 6:53-55)

This teaching is too much for many of the disciples: "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?" (John 6:60) Indeed, many of them turn away entirely from Jesus and leave. "From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him." (John 6:66)

Jesus did not call back these disciples who left because of a lack of faith. He did not tell them, "Wait, you're misunderstanding me, you have it all wrong." Instead, He turned to His Apostles and said, "Will you, too, go away?"

Interestingly, a note on my Bible points out that the word John uses for "eat" is not the normal verb used to describe human consumption of food, but the verb describing animal eating - the equivalent of "chew" or "gnaw." This may be yet another indicator that Jesus is speaking literally in John 6.

Sacred Tradition

Early Christians revered and appreciated the Real Presence, as shown in these quotes from some of the Church Fathers:

"I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the pleasures of this life. I desire the Bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David; and for drink I desire His blood, which is love incorruptible." - St. Ignatius of Antioch, c. 110 A.D.

"For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by Him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nourished, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus."  - St. Justin the Martyr, c. 100-165 A.D.

"So long as the prayers of supplication and entreaties have not been made, there is only bread and wine. But after the great and wonderful prayers have been completed, then the bread is become the Body, and the wine the Blood, of our Lord Jesus Christ." - St. Athanasius, c. 295-373 A.D.

It is not only Church Fathers and more modern Catholics who take Jesus' words literally. Martin Luther believed in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist:

"Who, but the devil, has granted such license of wresting the words of the holy Scripture? Who ever read in the Scriptures, that my body is the same as the sign of my body? or, that is is the same as it signifies? What language in the world ever spoke so? It is only then the devil, that imposes upon us by these fanatical men. Not one of the Fathers of the Church, though so numerous, ever spoke as the Sacramentarians: not one of them ever said, It is only bread and wine; or, the body and blood of Christ is not there present.

Surely, it is not credible, nor possible, since they often speak, and repeat their sentiments, that they should never (if they thought so) not so much as once, say, or let slip these words: It is bread only; or the body of Christ is not there, especially it being of great importance, that men should not be deceived. Certainly, in so many Fathers, and in so many writings, the negative might at least be found in one of them, had they thought the body and blood of Christ were not really present: but they are all of them unanimous.”

Eucharistic Miracles

If Jesus' words and constant tradition are not enough, there have been many Eucharistic miracles throughout the centuries which point to the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

Countless times, consecrated hosts have bled when desecrated.

The Blessed Sacrament has transformed into visible flesh and blood before the eyes of the doubting.

Animals have bowed before the Eucharist.

Again and again, God has shown us, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." He has given us spectacular signs to help our wavering faith. He has revealed Himself to us poor doubting Thomases.

It's getting late and I'm getting lazy, so instead of going into detail on this topic, I'm going to cheat and give you a book recommendation. :)

In her book Eucharistic Miracles, Joan Carroll Cruz explores many of these amazing instances in great detail. The stories in this book are absolutely astounding. Not only are the events recorded remarkable - they're believable, backed up by documentation, eyewitness accounts, and even scientific experimentation. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Eucharistic miracles.

In Conclusion!

Catholics believe that Jesus' presence in the Eucharist is literal because that's what Jesus taught. This doctrine is as ancient as the Church itself, backed up not only by Scripture but by Church Fathers from the second century. On top of all this, the Real Presence has been manifested in many historical Eucharistic miracles.

Hopefully this post has been helpful in some way or another! Now, my dear brethren in Christ, shall we talk? Have you any questions? Comments? Concerns? Any suggestions for the betterment of this feature? Any suggestions for upcoming Catholicism Explained posts?

Friday, June 10, 2016

Rosalie's Interview

Yes, I'm actually posting Rosalie's interview - a month after the bio went up! I'm in "a tearing hurry," to quote Little Women, and therefore this is being posted without any pictures or colors or anything at all interesting. But at least it's being posted, right?

Thanks to all who provided the questions! They're quite interesting, as always.

Now! Without further ado, here's Rosalie's interview. (Hey that rhymed...)

Well, Rosalie, are you ready to be interviewed?

Of course. If you're ready to interview me.

I ought to be. These questions have been waiting for forever!
All right, let's get started. What is your favorite memory of your mother?

*claps hands together*
Oh, what a lovely question. It's a terribly hard one, though - I have so many memories of Mother.
*lays finger on her lips*
Hm. Well, I suppose the first thing that comes to mind is walking around in the flower fields with her. There are whole meadows of flowers around the castle in springtime. One time a butterfly - a beautiful thing with black wings edged in gold - came and landed on Mother's hand. She held it up and showed it to me and said, "Look, Rosalie - look how beautiful he is. You see what a wonderful world we live in? You see how fragile and intricate his wings are?"
*voice softens*
She was always fascinated by beautiful things, Mother was.

What talents do you have?

Oh, talents? Me?
That's a funny one. Well, I'm rather musical. I can sing, and play the harp rather well.

Describe a typical day at the castle.

Oh, it's a dream. I'm a frightfully spoiled princess. Every day I rise at seven or eight and have a bevy of maids help me dress. They're sweet girls, my maids, but rather foolish and almost obliging, you know - no personality. I have a few tutors coming in and out through the day - handwriting, music, embroidery, history - but for the most part I'm free to do as I like, whether it be wander around among the flowers or curl up in my room with a book. There are three meals a day, each one a formal event. We - my maids and I - generally retire at eight or nine, unless there's a banquet or a dance or something, in which case we sometimes stay up until midnight.

How did you learn to swim?


Yes, swim.

I can't swim.

You mean you have a ship of your own, but you can't swim?

Oh, dear! That ship. I've never thought of taking it out on the water. I suppose it could - yes, I suppose it could - but I really don't know. I never thought of it. There isn't an ocean for miles around; I've always flown it in the air.

Isn't there anywhere you could learn to swim?

Well, there's a pond - but it's ever so green and murky, and full of fish and bugs and snakes. We wade in the streams now and then, but they're all too shallow for swimming.

What do you think of Ellen? Do you become friends? How do you work together?

Oh, Ellen's a sweet girl. She's very good - and so real. A very refreshing change from my dear silly maids. We're very good friends. It was easy for us to bond because we were both so worried about our brothers. We're pretty different, but we get along well. Ellen's a girl of action - everything's urgent with her, and when she wants something done she does it, herself. She's not afraid of anything - well, almost anything. I wouldn't be able to go anywhere or do anything on my own, but with her to lead me I'm quite content. There's only one thing I'd change about Ellen, and that's how serious she always is. She needs to smile more.

What's something that reminds you of your father and your brother?

*in a troubled voice*
War. Anything that has to do with battles - blood and armor and weapons. Every time I see or hear about something hard, I think of them, so far away and in such danger and discomfort all the time.

What, in your entire life, do you feel has made the most difference?

Oh. What a hard one. Well, I suppose the war. It changed Mother and Father, and Tristan most of all. It made me spend so much of my time thinking; it took everyone away somehow or other. So it's shaped who I am, I guess.

What is your dream for your future romantic partner, provided you have one?

Oh, dear. Well...he has to be good and brave and gentle and loving. I want him to be a lot like my father - responsible and strong and tender, too, and selfless - and like the good blacksmith who helped Ellen and I even though he didn't know us. Oh, and one more thing: he has to smile a lot, and be cheerful even when things look black. I love Tristan dearly, but he's so gloomy. My husband's going to have to be happy.

Do you like to plan for your friends and family?

Well, I suppose it depends on what you mean by "plan." I would love to plan surprises for them - parties, and presents, and such. But I don't get much of a chance. Especially for Tristan and Father. They're away ever so much. Every time they come home I try to get up some kind of wonderful surprise for them - but no matter what I do, Tristan never seems to enjoy it very much.
If you mean "plan their lives," then the answer's no. I would love to tell Father and Tristan to come home and stay with me for forever - but they wouldn't listen, so I don't even try.

Of embroidery, house-making, and such other occupations, which one is your favorite?

*claps hands*
*face falls into perplexed expression*
I really don't know. Embroidery's quite fun - I love to work with all the colorful threads. And I also love nursing. Thank goodness I don't get a chance to do that very often, but it is so lovely to be able to help when someone's hurting.
Besides, oftentimes "nursing" means taking care of Father and Tristan when they've come home to recover from some wound. I hate to see them hurt, but - I do love to have them to myself!

All right, that's it. Thanks, Rosalie! *turns to audience* Speaking of Tristan, I do believe he's the last of the four main characters in this story who still needs interviewed. So we'll forego the voting this time, and I'll put up Tristan's bio...soon.

(Yes, soon! I really mean it! I promise! I promise!)