Today we welcome le Gros Louis to the salon, a man as illustrious as he was plump. Louis lived a life of wealth and privilege, but his personal life was somewhat less than perfection.Share
Louis d'Orléans was born in the glittering surroundings of the Palace of Versailles, the son of Louis, Duke of Orléans and his wife, Johanna of Baden-Baden. Immediately upon his birth the infant was given the title Duke of Chartres and he grew up at a somewhat precocious rate, mixing with the royal children of the ruling house of Bourbon.
When Louis Philippe was just fifteen his friendship with his cousin, Princess Henriette, blossomed into something more than playmates and the youngsters declared themselves in love. Representatives of the houses of Bourbon and Orléans met to discuss this proposed match and though the idea was given careful consideration, it was not to be. Cardinal Fleury, the influential and powerful minister employed to advise Louis XV, counselled the king against giving consent for his daughter to wed the young duke. After all, he pointed out, would this not bring the already powerful Orléans dynasty within a whisper of the throne itself? At this, Louis XV's initially positive take on the match soured somewhat; he refused his permission and young Princess never married anyone. (Read more.)
Tuesday, December 1, 2015
Western scholars have often characterized this clash of cultures as an Islamic Golden Age versus a European Dark Age, but Stark demolishes this as a myth. He says the best of the Islamic culture was appropriated from the people Muslims conquered—the Greeks, Jews, Persians, Hindus, and even from heretical Christian sects such as the Copts and Nestorians. He quotes E.D. Hunt as writing, “the earliest scientific book in the language of Islam [was a] treatise on medicine by a Syrian Christian priest in Alexandria translated into Arabic by a Persian Jewish physician.” Stark writes that Muslim naval fleets were built by Egyptian shipwrights, manned by Christian crews, and often captained by Italians. When Baghdad was built, the caliph “entrusted the design of the city to a Zoroastrian and a Jew.” Even the “Arabic” numbering system was Hindu in origin.
And, while it is true that the Arabs embraced the writings of Plato and Aristotle, Stark comments,However, rather than treat these works as attempts by Greek scholars to answer various questions, Muslin intellectuals quickly read them in the same way they read the Qur’an – as settled truths to be understood without question or contradiction…. Attitudes such as these prevented Islam from taking up where the Greeks had left off in their pursuit of knowledge.Meanwhile, back in Europe was an explosion of technology that made ordinary people far richer than any people had ever been. It began with the development of collars and harnesses that allowed horses to pull plows and wagons rather than oxen, doubling the speed at which people could till fields. Plows were improved, iron horseshoes invented, wagons given brakes and swivel axels, and larger draft horses were bred. All this along with the new idea of crop rotation led to a massive improvement in agricultural productivity that in turn led to a much healthier, larger, and stronger population.
ShareTechnology was also improving warfare with the invention of the crossbow and chain mail. Crossbows were far more accurate and deadly than conventional archery, and could be fired with very little training. Chain mail was almost impervious to the kind of arrows in use throughout the world. Mounted knights were fitted with high-back saddles and stirrups that enabled them to use more force in charging an opponent, and much larger horses were bred as chargers, giving the knights a height advantage over enemies. Better military tactics made European armies much more lethal. Stark writes:(Read more.)It is axiomatic in military science that cavalry cannot succeed against well-armed and well-disciplined infantry formations unless they greatly outnumber them…. When determined infantry hold their ranks, standing shoulder to shoulder to present a wall of shields from which they project a thicket of long spears butted in the ground, cavalry charges are easily turned away; the horses often rear out of control and refuse to meet the spears.
We fast as an eschatological sign. This is a fancy term that means that we fast as reminder that there is something greater than this world. There are great things in this world, food being one of them. But of all the created things in this world, there is something greater awaiting us- heaven. Thus we must be willing to give up even the good things of this world for heaven. This is why a priest or religious sister gives up the greatest created good- marriage- for heaven. Their sacrifice is a larger sacrifice that we are also called to take part in; a sacrifice of something good and real for something even better and even more real.Share
This is what separates Christian fasting from fasting done in other religions around the world. The recognition that this world is created good, contains good things, and that creation can point us towards God is something unique to the Jewish-Christian tradition. Other religions have varying views of this world, of creation. Fasting, for many other religions, involves realizing that the created world is, in fact, not good. However, for the Christian we realize that the created world is good, in fact is very good in the words from Genesis. But as good as it is, there is something better. Heaven is better and in order to realize this, we fast from the goods of this world for something better. (Read more.)
Monday, November 30, 2015
|The Bataclan Theater a Century Ago|
ShareAlthough the top of its Chinese-style pagoda no longer remains — it was destroyed in a fire in the 1930s — the building still functions more or less as it once did. From vaudeville shows to films, punk-rock shows, tango dancing and comedy acts, the Bataclan has evolved again and again to adapt to contemporary Parisian tastes.These images attest to the fact that there is something essential to the experience of living in Paris that involves spending time outside on its streets, whether to shop, observe, drink, eat, dance, talk or listen. Despite all of the technological innovations since the end of the nineteenth century that give Parisians incentives to stay at home — televisions, computers, refrigerators, washing machines and even toilets — people still go out because going out is something that Paris invites us to do. And when people go out, it is to the same places — quite literally inside the same walls — as generations of Parisians before them.As I walked along the canal on the way to work this morning, three days after the attacks, the cafe terraces were busy as usual, despite the sadness permeating the air. Paris is lucky to have a built environment that is resilient against change, as it only makes the rhythms and practices of urban life harder to change. You are almost obliged, by going out into the city, to perform your daily rituals: grabbing a coffee at the bar, buying a newspaper. Its architecture invites people to continue to explore, to take wrong turns, to fall in love, to protest and simply to have a drink in the same places, streets and buildings that countless others have in the past. Life within them has survived ill-fated laws prohibiting public drinking, years of German occupation and terrorist attacks from anarchists, anti-colonialists and others. After all these years, people continue to roll up their sleeves, eat and drink on the same corners. In the long shadow of the horse-drawn carriage, it is unlikely that will change. (Read more.)
Walking through the narrow, winding streets of Jerusalem’s Old City on my first visit here in fifteen years, I was powerfully struck once again by the grittiness of Christianity, the palpable connection between the faith and the quotidian realities of life. For here, as in no other place, the believer, the skeptic, and the “searcher” are confronted with a fact: Christianity began, not with a pious story or “narrative,” but with the reality of transformed lives. Real things happened to real people at real places in real time—and the transformation wrought in those real people by those “real things” transformed the world. (Read more.)Share
It’s common knowledge that getting a PhD is hard. It’s meant to be. Some even say that if you’re not up all night working or skipping meals, you’re doing it wrong. But while PhD students are not so naive as to enter the program expecting an easy ride, there is a cost to the endeavor that no one talks about: a psychological one.Share
The days I spent pursuing my PhD in physics were some of my darkest. It wasn’t the intellectual challenges or the workload that brought me down; it was my deteriorating mental health. I felt unsupported, isolated and adrift in uncertainty. Anxiety attacks became a part of my daily life. I drank and cut myself. I sometimes thought I wanted to die.(Read more.)
Sunday, November 29, 2015
After listening to Palestrina, Peter Kreeft realized the power of sacred music and it propelled him further into the arms of the Catholic Church. This little episode reveals to us that there is something about sacred music that speaks to the soul and stirs within us a deeper longing for Heaven. Sacred music is very powerful and speaks to anyone who has ears to hear.
Suffice to say, there is no sacred music in Hell.
Music has been a vital part of society for thousands of years. For example, “Plato based his whole ‘ideal’ society, in The Republic, on its educational system, and he based the whole educational system on music as its first step” (The Snakebite Letters, 61, emphasis added). Plato esteemed music so much that he said a society would erode “first through a decay in music” (Ibid.).Share
The reason why music is able influence society so much is on account of its ability to bypass reason. As humans, we “don’t think about it, [we] just feel it” (Ibid, 62). The most powerful music goes even further, through our feelings and into the “deep center of the soul.” (Ibid).
Many throughout the centuries have converted to Christianity through music; more specifically “sacred music,” the music of the Church. There is even a tradition that God created the world through music, which Tolkien eloquently portrayed in his fictional tale The Silmarillion. Similarly, music is thought to be the “language of Heaven” (Ibid).
This is why the devil hates sacred music so much. It reaches the depths of our soul and raises us up to the Heaven. It should be no surprise to us when a parish’s sacred music program is single-handedly dismantled. He will do all he can to prevent us from hearing the Divine Voice of God. (Read more.)