“I die in the Catholic Apostolic and Roman religion, that of my fathers, that in which I was brought up, and which I have always professed” wrote Queen Marie Antoinette in the early morning hours before her execution on October 16, 1793. She penned these words in her final letter, written to her sister-in-law Princess Elisabeth, the youngest sister of her husband, King Louis XVI, who had been brought to the guillotine less than nine months earlier in January. In her letter to her sister-in-law, she decried the lack of priests in France who could supply the sacraments and therefore entrusted herself to the mercy of God: “Having no spiritual consolation to look for, not even knowing whether there are still in this place any priests of that religion (and indeed the place where I am would expose them to too much danger if they were to enter it but once), I sincerely implore pardon of God for all the faults which I may have committed during my life. I trust that, in His goodness, He will mercifully accept my last prayers, as well as those which I have for a long time addressed to Him, to receive my soul into His mercy.”Share
In the final lines dedicated to her sister-in-law (who herself faced the guillotine less than seven months later, comforting her companions with words of pious encouragement as they approached the scaffold), the Queen stated: “Perhaps they will bring me a priest; but I here protest that I will not say a word to him, but that I will treat him as a total stranger.” At first glance, these last words of the Queen to her sister-in-law would appear shocking, especially since she had just offered her valediction as one dying “in the Catholic Apostolic and Roman religion.” However, a knowledge of the development of the French Revolution will help us to realize that by the time of the Queen’s execution in 1793, there were two very different types of Catholic priests (and by extension two different types of Catholics) in France.
In the midst of the French Revolution, France’s Constituent Assembly was no longer satisfied with manipulating the minds and hearts of the French people. Its design on the souls of all Frenchmen was manifested in July of 1790 with the passage of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. The Civil Constitution directed the French government’s authority over Church property, dissolved remaining monastic orders, and called for the popular election of bishops and priests. The Constitution essentially made the Church an agent of the state. The Constitution seriously affected the conscience of the deeply-Catholic King Louis XVI who was induced to accept its passage. His reticence was only exacerbated when he received warnings from Pope Pius VI to reject the Constitution.
Soon after, the passage of the Constitution was not enough. The Constituent Assembly eventually decreed that all clergy must swear an oath accepting the Civil Constitution. The King wavered until finally granting his sanction to the oath in December. Perhaps more than any other, this decision would weigh on his soul for the last two years of his life; and, recognizing the gravity of his decision, he agonized over whether he could make his Easter duty and receive Holy Communion because of it the following year. He even went so far as to write to the Bishop of Clermont for guidance. (Read more.)
Wednesday, November 2, 2016
Saturday, October 22, 2016
What else could, in Emma’s opinion, lure the labouring classes away from the straight and narrow? The prospect of a mug of ale at the Crown, after an exhausting day? The appeal of idleness? Lust? They must be aware that they can’t afford so many children – but then again, without ‘separate rooms’ … The situation must surely be more complex than that. On her way to the humble cottage, for instance, she explains:
A very narrow income has a tendency to contract the mind, and sour the temper. Those who can barely live, and who live perforce in a very small, and generally very inferior, society, may well be illiberal and cross. This does not apply, however, to Miss Bates.By her own admission, then, things may not be as simple as they look. Later on she acknowledges that ‘with insufferable vanity had she believed herself in the secret of every body’s feelings; with unpardonable arrogance proposed to arrange every body’s destiny.’
Underpinning the class system was a shared belief that inequality had been ordained by God. Charity mitigated injustice and eased the conscience of the privileged. However condescending, it was much better than being upbraided for your lack of means. As Emma puts it,
I hope it may be allowed that if compassion has produced exertion and relief to the sufferers, it has done all that is truly important. If we feel for the wretched, enough to do all we can for them, the rest is empty sympathy, only distressing to ourselves.I get the impression that rich and clever Miss Woodhouse might have done better than utter comforting platitudes, give them a coin and a few medicinal or household management tips, or offer a jug of soup. But she’s satisfied with what she reckons she’s achieved. From the very beginning we are warned that she has ‘a disposition to think a little too well of herself.’ On the other hand, she’s young, and caring in her own way. Experience and critical reflection may still broaden her mind.
In 1800, Jane Austen’s friend Mrs Lefroy, the Ashe rector’s wife, set up a straw manufactory, so that women and children could earn a few pence by making mats. And Eliza Chute, whose husband owned The Vyne and represented Hampshire in Parliament, made broth for her villagers and handed out blankets. In September of that year she writes:Share
The poor are dissatisfied & with reason. I much fear that wheat will not be cheap this year: & every other necessary of life enormously dear: the poor man cannot purchase those comforts he ought to have: beer, bacon, cheese. Can one wonder that discontents lurk in their bosoms: I cannot think their wages sufficient, & the pride of a poor man ( & why should we [not] allow him some pride) is hurt, when he is obliged to apply to the parish for relief & too often receives harsh answers from the overseers.(Read more.)
Thanks to the advent of the birth control pill and contraception, sex has turned into a recreational activity. Men and women engage in it, while floating in and out of relationships. Both sexes use each other in the promiscuous lifestyle made possible by birth control. When the contraceptives fail or are not used, women can become pregnant when they did not plan to be. Having enjoyed sexual relations without the worry of fathering an unwanted child, some men lose their minds when they learn they got a woman pregnant. Such men may threaten to leave their pregnant women altogether, unless they procure an abortion. Women can be caught in this dilemma if they wish to keep their babies. The love these mothers want so badly to experience is conditional on there being no children in the picture. If the mothers resist the pressure to abort, then they could be left to raise their children alone. Deadbeat dads often try to wash their hands of any responsibility for their own flesh and blood. Rather than helping women to fulfill their creative potential, abortion allows men to manipulate women into squashing it. (Read more.)Share
Chesterton reminds us that true love by its nature desires to make vows. If you do not know yourself well enough to make this kind of appointment with the future, then you should not get married. If you are not certain that this is the person with whom you want to have children and grow old together, stay away from sex. Keeping your options open should not include destroying someone else’s future.
In today’s climate of hostility toward vows of any kind, it takes good friendships, healing, support, accompaniment, and growth in virtue to make these kinds of binding decisions. Now as a married couple, my husband and I try to provide help and guidance for those who are planning their future. You also can be someone young couples seek out for assistance. (Read more.)Share
Friday, October 21, 2016
Mere minutes from central Edinburgh, secreted away from the bustle and tourist traffic of the Royal Mile and nearby high streets, Prestonfield stands at the end of a quiet, tree-lined lane. The centuries-old Scottish estate was reborn in 2003 as an exclusive hotel decorated with sumptuous fabrics, fine art, and heirloom antiques.
Edinburgh, Scotland, is often counted among Europe’s most breathtaking destinations. Its grand stone castle is perched high upon a central promontory—a regal presence presiding over the city. Centuries of history unfold on streets that radiate from the majestic structure. Nearby, within secluded gardens on the fringe of the urban district, imposing gates frame a grand hotel. Built in 1687 as the manse of the Lord Provost, the baroque-style house was restored in 2003 under the vision and artistic eye of owner James Thomson as the exclusive Prestonfield. The renovation focused on reviving the character of the ancient property and reestablishing its distinctive appeal. (Read more.)
The Clinton Campaign and the Obama Administration are presenting the American people a cynical political charade regarding Russia and Vladimir Putin, with most of the media playing the Greek Chorus. What is so remarkable is that in order to accept what Clinton is now saying about Putin and Russia means having to ignore the previous seven years of Clinton’s and Obama’s accommodation of the man and country they now insist is a national security threat.Share
This list of national security compromising appeasements that Obama and Clinton handed Putin is very long, but here are some highlights:
In 2009, Obama and Clinton abandoned strategic U.S. allies Poland and the Czech Republic by withdrawing newly placed missile defense systems from their respective nations. The ostensible reason for the defenses was to protect our allies from Iranian missiles, but the Czechs and the Poles saw it as a relationship with the U.S. that would provide them with added security against a Russian invasion similar to what had just happened in the nation of Georgia, and what subsequently happened in Ukraine. (Read more.)
ShareThis summer, I had the delightful privilege of attending a performance of the lovely new musical, Austen’s Pride, at Nazareth College in Rochester, New York (the production was part of the Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival's summer season, and my mother and I made the journey from our home down South). It was well worth it; the duo behind the show, Lindsay Warren Baker and Amanda Jacobs, have skillfully woven together two riveting narratives, that of the novel itself, and the story of Jane Austen’s creation of it. They’ve been working on their masterpiece for roughly sixteen years now; stimulated by the profusion of Austen adaptations that came out in the late 1990’s, the ladies set about creating something of their own. As part of their research, they went to England and visited Chawton Cottage, Austen’s home, and were inspired to include the author in their show. Since its first performance in 2006, the musical has gone through many changes, and now, Austen has become more than a plot device; she’s a prominent character herself. She propels the play forward, both in her close bond with her sister Cassandra and in her associations with her characters. In the first scene, Jane rushes onstage to tell her beloved sibling that the publishers for Sense and Sensibility want to see more of her work, and together, the pair ponders the prospect of sending the manuscript for a certain First Impressions. Jane is uncertain at first, but with a little nudging from Cassandra, she decides to “give the story a second chance,” and is soon busy with editing her early draft. (Read more.)
The variety of available sports, lessons and clubs are so tempting that many families, like mine, must work hard to choose them with great discrimination in order to keep schoolwork as the top priority. Even when limiting the number of activities, it can sometimes seem overwhelming to try to fit it all in. Usually, that’s a red flag to start pulling back on the activities and just focus on academics. There are times when the disruption will be only temporary, such as when students are doing extra rehearsals for a play, or practicing more for a tournament. In such times, it can make sense to momentarily change the school routine and fit in the learning when and where you can. For several years, my older two children were involved in a wonderful homeschool acting troupe. With careful planning, we were able to fit in the regular weekly rehearsals. Twice a year would be the performances. (Read more.)