St. Angela Merici

It’s her day today.

You can find any number of vintage treatments of St. Angela Merici at the Internet Archive, including this mod repackaging, if you like.

Gee, if only she’d used a vision board or a dream life journal, she could have actually accomplished something with her life!

My point? Saints are made not through endlessly focusing on themselves, on how they envision their lives for their own sake, but by living deeply in the moment and in that same moment listening to God and being led by him.

St. Francis of Assisi didn’t set out to found a religious order with a certain charism. He heard Rebuild my church and so he literally….started to rebuild a church. And his brothers came, and a mission slowly developed in tension, in response.

So with St. Angela. She didn’t set out envisioning a teaching order. She simply listened to God, saw the great needs in the world around her – poverty, corruption, confusion – and set out to help in a way both completely ordinary but also quite new.

The age in which Angela lived and worked (the 16th Century), was a time which saw great suffering on the part of the poor in society. Injustices were carried on in the name of the government and the Church, which left many people both spiritually and materially powerless and hungry. The corruption of moral values left families split and hurting. Wars among nations and the Italian city-states left towns in ruins.

In 1516, Angela came to live in the town of Brescia, Italy. Here she became a friend of the wealthy nobles of the day and a servant of the poor and suffering. Angela spent her days in prayer and fasting and service. Her reputation spread and her advice was sought by both young and old, rich and poor, religious and secular, male and female. But still, Angela had not yet brought her vision to fruition.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is angela-merici.jpg

After visiting the Holy Land, where she reportedly lost her sight, Angela returned to Brescia, which had become a haven for refugees from the many wars then wracking Italy. There she gathered around her a group of women who looked toward Angela as an inspirational leader and as a model of apostolic charity. It was these women, many of them daughters of the wealthy, some orphans themselves, who formed the nucleus of Angela’s Company of St. Ursula. Angela named her company after St. Ursula because she regarded her as a model of consecrated virginity.

Angela and her original company worked out details of the rule of prayer, and promises, and practices by which they were to live. The Ursulines opened orphanages and schools. In 1535, the Institute of St. Ursula was formally recognized by the Pope and Angela was accorded the title of foundress.

During the five remaining years of her life, Angela devoted herself to composing a number of Counsels by which her daughters could happily live. She encouraged them to “live in harmony, united together in one heart and one will. Be bound to one another by the bond of charity, treating each other with respect, helping one another, bearing with one another in Christ Jesus; if you really try to live like this, there is no doubt that the Lord our God will be in your midst.”

In 1580, Charles Borromeo, Bishop of Milan, inspired by the work of the Ursulines in Brescia, encouraged the foundation of Ursuline houses in all the dioceses of Northern Italy. Charles also encouraged the Ursulines to live together in community rather than in their own homes. He also exhorted them to publicly profess vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. These actions formalized Angela’s original “company” into a religious order of women.

You can find St. Angela Merici’s writings all over the place – there aren’t that many, only three: the Counsels, the Rule and the Testament.

Here’s an excerpt from the Counsels, good advice for all of us, whether we are Ursulines or not:

Love your dear daughters equally; and do not prefer one more than another, because they are all creatures of God. And you do not know what he wants to make of them.

For how do you know, you, that those who seem to you to be the least and lowest are not to become the most generous and most pleasing to his Majesty? And then, who can judge the heart and the innermost secret thoughts of any creature?

And so, hold them all in your love and bear with them all equally, for it is not up to you to judge the handmaids of God; he well knows what he wants to make of them, Who (as Scripture says) can turn stones into children of heaven.

As for you, do your duty, correcting them with love and charity if you see ~ them fall into some fault through human frailty, and thus you will not cease to prune this vine which has been entrusted to you.

And after that, leave it to God; he will do marvellous things in his own time, and when it pleases him.

How to Catechize

I honor of Catholic Schools Week, which I guess is next week? Or was it this week? This is, joyfully, not my problem anymore, so I don’t keep track.

Anyway, in honor of it, whenever it is, some thoughts from St. Augustine, specifically his First Catechetical Instruction.

I have a couple of print editions of the work, but of course it’s easily available on line. 

(Although that translation is older and less understandable than newer versions.)

The genesis of the work is simple and pastoral.  A deacon wrote to Augustine seeking help on catechesis – specifically, the stage of catechesis offered to potential catechumens. That is, if you assented to everything you were taught in this stage, you would then be admitted to the catechumenate. The deacon has apparently confessed that he needs  little shot in the arm. He wants to make sure that he’s teaching the right material and, frankly, he’s getting a little bored.

At the same time, you have made the confession and complaint that it has often befallen you that in the course of a lengthened and languid address you have become profitless and distasteful even to yourself, not to speak of the learner whom you have been endeavoring to instruct by your utterance, and the other parties who have been present as hearers…..

As per usual, I’m most interested in the framework here.  I’m interested in what the work reveals about church life in 4th century North Africa, about expectations and assumptions and complexity.  What interested me the most:

  • The work is divided into two parts: theory and practice.  Augustine answers questions about the pedagogical issues the deacon has raised, and then he gives him a sample catechesis.
  • Augustine recognizes that people bring varying levels of learning to the moment and reminds the deacon to constantly tailor his words to the listener’s capabilities.
  • He constantly reminds the deacon to be sensitive to his listeners’ situations – if they’re tired, let them sit! Don’t make them stand!
  • There is nothing elaborate about this stage of formation: the catechist straight-up teaches the material – which is basically the story of salvation history pointing to and culminating in Christ – and the listeners say, “Yup. I believe it.” And then they move on.
  • Augustine takes time to describe the mixed bag the potential Christian will encounter when he observes the Church.  He will see saints, but he will also see a lot of sinners and even heretics.  He speaks of the challenge the catechist has to keep pointing to Christ from the midst of this mixture of grain and chaff. That’s in 25, and it’s worth quoting because, again, it still applies. Dealing with the existence of sin in the Church, among its members (us) and leaders is one of the most challenging aspects of this whole business. Here’s what Augustine says:

At the same time, not even on those same good men, who either anticipate you or accompany you on the way to God, ought you to set your hope, seeing that no more ought you to place it on yourself, however great may be the progress you have made, but on Him who justifies both them and you, and thus makes you what you are. For you are secure in God, because He changes not; but in man no one prudently counts himself secure. But if we ought to love those who are not righteous as yet, with the view that they may be so, how much more warmly ought those to be loved who already are righteous? At the same time, it is one thing to love man, and another thing to set one’s hope in man; and the difference is so great, that God enjoins the one and forbids the other.

Take that notion, put it in your pocket, and keep it safe. Love people but don’t set your hope on them.

  • I want to quote at length from the passage in which Augustine advises the deacon on what to do to keep his own spirits and interest up.  I just find the consistency of human experience fascinating – here we have a man writing ONE THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED YEARS AGO to another fellow who’s getting a little bored repeating the same lessons over and over and who’s unsure whether or not he’s being heard and really understood.

I’ve also always thought that when it comes to messing about with Church teaching and practice – including music and liturgy – boredom plays a generally unseen role.

Is there a teacher out there who doesn’t share that concern?  A teacher of any sort?  Anyone who has to work with other people, period? Augustine breaks these problems down into several components:

  • Our words are inadequate to the truths we’re trying to express.  When it’s in our head, it’s wonderful and luminous, but the minute we try to speak, we become keenly aware of the limitations of language, and it’s discouraging.
  • We get bored.
  • Our listeners seem apathetic.
  • We’re irritated that we’ve been called to go catechize while we’re doing something else.

Once more, however, we often feel it very wearisome to go over repeatedly matters which are thoroughly familiar, and adapted (rather) to children. If this is the case with us, then we should endeavor to meet them with a brother’s, a father’s, and a mother’s love; and, if we are once united with them thus in heart, to us no less than to them will these things seem new. … Is it not a common occurrence with us, that when we show to persons, who have never seen them, certain spacious and beautiful tracts, either in cities or in fields, which we have been in the habit of passing by without any sense of pleasure, simply because we have become so accustomed to the sight of them, we find our own enjoyment renewed in their enjoyment of the novelty of the scene? And this is so much the more our experience in proportion to the intimacy of our friendship with them; because, just as we are in them in virtue of the bond of love, in the same degree do things become new to us which previously were old.

[That is – be open to the possibility that sharing what you’ve heard and taught a million times before with someone to whom it is all new – might just renew your spirit.]

…. And how ought we to feel ourselves renewed in their newness (of experience), so that if our ordinary preaching is somewhat frigid, it may rise to fresh warmth under (the stimulus of) their extraordinary hearing! There is also this additional consideration to help us in the attainment of gladness, namely, that we ponder and bear in mind out of what death of error the man is passing over into the life of faith. And if we walk through streets which are most familiar to us, with a beneficent cheerfulness, when we happen to be pointing out the way to some individual who had been in distress in consequence of missing his direction, how much more should be the alacrity of spirit, and how much greater the joy with which, in the matter of saving doctrine, we ought to traverse again and again even those tracks which, so far as we are ourselves concerned, there is no need to open up any more; seeing that we are leading a miserable soul, and one worn out with the devious courses of this world, through the paths of peace, at the command of Him who made that peace good to us!

****Nevertheless, supposing that we have once begun in that manner, we ought at least, whenever we observe signs of weariness on the part of the hearer, to offer him the liberty of being seated; nay more, we should urge him by all means to sit down, and we ought to drop some remark calculated at once to refresh him and to banish from his mind any anxiety which may have chanced to break in upon him and draw off his attention. For inasmuch as the reasons why he remains silent and declines to listen cannot be certainly known to us, now that he is seated we may speak to some extent against the incidence of thoughts about worldly affairs, delivering ourselves either in the cheerful spirit to which I have already adverted, or in a serious vein; so that, if these are the particular anxieties which have occupied his mind, they may be made to give way as if indicted by name: while, on the other hand, supposing them not to be the special causes (of the loss of interest), and supposing him to be simply worn out with listening, his attention will be relieved of the pressure of weariness when we address to him some unexpected and extraordinary strain of remark on these subjects, in the mode of which I have spoken, as if they were the particular anxieties,— for indeed we are simply ignorant (of the true causes). But let the remark thus made be short, especially considering that it is thrown in out of order, lest the very medicine even increase the malady of weariness which we desire to relieve; and, at the same time, we should go on rapidly with what remains, and promise and present the prospect of a conclusion nearer than was looked for.  

What I appreciate is the typical Augustine frankness and compassion.  He is honest about human beings – about the catechist, about the listeners. But he never fails to remind the deacon that love is at the center of all that he does. The medicine may be different, he says, but the love is the same.  There is no condemnation, no finger-pointing, no easy categorization, not even any sense of “them” – simply a call to let God work through us, to share the Good News despite ourselves and our weakness, in love.

Thursday random

I am currently struggling with a post on Cormac McCarthy’s The Passenger and Stella Maris. I’ve read them both, have heavily tagged books in front of me and therefore should be ready to go. But, as I told someone earlier this week, these are books that I can either write 3000 words on…or two paragraphs. Either could do justice, but nothing in between could, it seems. And I really don’t want to write 3000 words. On this, at least.

So, so random while I puzzle that out and write other things as well:

Thanks to multiple surgeries, Diaz is now tumor-free and making good on his promise to St. Maria Soledad and the religious order she founded, the Servants of Mary, Ministers to the Sick. 

Two years ago, he asked the LA convent if it was willing to create a companion lay fraternity. Mother Provincial Alicia Hermosillo agreed, with one caveat: that Diaz help with the recruiting effort. 

That led to the establishment of the Fraternity of Lay Sons and Daughters of St. Maria Soledad last October, making it only the third such chapter in the United States. After a yearlong formation process, members, just like the sisters, will visit the sick in their homes to provide care and comfort.

Some wrote hundreds of volumes; some wrote nothing. Some faced criminal charges, some are on the path to sainthood, some left the Church. One became pope!

Despite being the most important religious event of the last century, the Council remains curiously under-documented in certain aspects. To date, there is no open access list of all known periti.

This project fills that gap, and hopes to shed light on a group of men whose influence can still be felt, inside and outside of the Catholic Church.

Forgotten English rituals –

This series (link is to the first part) on the history of and controversies about the use of microphones in Catholic liturgy. It seems minor, but when Marshall McLuhan questions their role and impact, maybe it’s worth thinking about.

Timothy and Titus

Today’s their feast. Here’s the GA address B16 gave on the pair, and below it are screenshots of the pertinent pages from the study guide I wrote to this set of talks. The entire guide is available for free here, as a pdf. You are welcome to download and print and use as a personal or parish study guide.

To conclude, if we consider together the two figures of Timothy and Titus, we are aware of certain very significant facts. The most important one is that in carrying out his missions, Paul availed himself of collaborators. He certainly remains the Apostle par excellence, founder and pastor of many Churches.

Yet it clearly appears that he did not do everything on his own but relied on trustworthy people who shared in his endeavours and responsibilities.

Another observation concerns the willingness of these collaborators. The sources concerning Timothy and Titus highlight their readiness to take on various offices that also often consisted in representing Paul in circumstances far from easy. In a word, they teach us to serve the Gospel with generosity, realizing that this also entails a service to the Church herself.

Lastly, let us follow the recommendation that the Apostle Paul makes to Titus in the Letter addressed to him: “I desire you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to apply themselves to good deeds; these are excellent and profitable to men” (Ti 3: 8).

Through our commitment in practice we can and must discover the truth of these words, and precisely in this Season of Advent, we too can be rich in good deeds and thus open the doors of the world to Christ, our Saviour.

Rebellious Nuns

This was an excellent bit of history – well-written, clear, and faithful to the sources.

I came upon it when I saw the author – UC Berkeley history professor Margaret Chowning’s most recent book (published this month) mentioned in list of forthcoming historical works. The new one is Catholic Women and Mexican Politics, 1750–1940 – “How women preserved the power of the Catholic Church in Mexican political life.”

I thought – well, that’s interesting. I’ll have to read that. It’s too early for it to be available via interlibrary loan, so I wondered what else she’d written and found this. Let’s go.

Before I present the summary (which I am going to crib from another website) – let me tell you what I appreciated about the book, what it illuminated and the context it helps establish for thinking about religious life today. The summary I’m going to post is pretty long, and some of you might drift away before the end of that, so I’ll make my points first.

I say to you again and again that reading history – and by that I mean accounts relating small corners of the past, not sweeping general works – can be very helpful in keeping your bearings in the present. Of course, it’s essential to have a basic understanding of the past, especially if we’re talking Church, which we are in this space, most of the time. But beyond that, to read a monograph like this – or to even a summary of it – highlights a lot of plain truths, mainly this one:

Life in the church is always lived by complicated human beings in complicated times. Church structures are always impacted by their cultural, social and political context. They shift, change and develop. People argue. People fight. People in spiritual positions act out of non-spiritual reasons all the time. In fact, in this life on earth, in this incarnational existence, is there any other way?

So in this case, I was prompted, for one, to think a lot about the role of religious orders and their sustenance. Very often today, we look at the struggles and the general decline (with some exceptions) of women’s religious life, and we compare it to the apparent flourishing of the same in the past, and we can see nothing but a reason for condemnation of the present. Faithless, we say. Look what previous generations were able to support!

Well, let’s look at how those Mexican enclosed convents existed. The choir nuns – fully professed – were at the center of convent life. These choir nuns had to be of certain racial stock (not indigenous, not even a drop), and they entered with a dowry. The dowry was then generally invested and used as a lending source. In short, most of these convents were banks and mortgage institutions – that’s how they financially survived, and for a time, flourished. It wasn’t because of incredibly faithful donors who sacrificially made it all possible. It was because of canny financial activities. There was a time in which the convent at the heart of this book suffered financially, for several reasons, including an excess of expenditures, but also because the majordomo hired to collect rents and interest wasn’t doing his job well.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that system. I don’t know enough to judge that. It’s just the way it was. All I’m saying is that knowing this gives essential context when we attempt to compare the apparent strength of religious life in respective eras.

Before the summary, I’ll skip to the end of the story. The Mexican government suppressed all convents in 1863. Many enclosed nuns tried to stay together after the suppression, taking up residence in private homes, attempting to maintain some sort of common prayer life. The Purisma nuns were apparently not able to do so – Chowning can’t find any evidence. However, in a rather moving coda, when Chowning visits San Miguel in the writing of the book, a sister at the church tells her the story of more recent history. Four sisters attempted to return in thee 1920’s, but were driven out, of course, by yet another revolution. But then:

So here you go – this is from a review of the book, found here:

Before you read, however – something this reviewer omits is that the foundress was a (very) young woman from San Miguel named María Josepha Lina. An orphaned heiress, she very much wanted to continue her father’s wish for establishing a convent in the town. She was influenced to support the Conceptionists, despite the fact that she had reformed (austere) tendencies – and that had been her father’s intention – probably because of a spiritual advisor’s ties to the Conceptionists. The Conceptionists were not reformed – they followed the more worldly model of female religious life. So you can see that there are potential problems from the beginning. So:

The rebellion revolved around the issue of reform. La Purísima was established as a reformed convent, where nuns strictly observed their vows of poverty and enclosure and lived the vida común (common life), sharing meals and sleeping in communal dormitories. Donadas (lay sisters) and nuns did convent work, in place of personal servants.

The first abbess interpreted the convent’s mission narrowly, insisting on a taxing devotional schedule even though nuns had multiple responsibilities beyond spiritual duties. A rebellious faction emerged, led by Phelipa de San Antonio.

Like the abbess, Phelipa had come from an unreformed Conceptionist convent in Mexico City to help found La Purísima. She was the first to suffer an illness that later moved among her followers. Described as the salto (jumping sickness) or the mal, it was characterized by sufferers’ trancelike state and jerky movements. Afflicted nuns stayed in their cells, received extra food, and were released from many obligations. Contemporaries suspected fakery, although Chowning considers the possibility of somatic causes, at least in Phelipa’s case. Yet Phelipa and others may also have manipulated the symptoms in order to resist the vida común and undermine the authority of the abbess and bishop. The abbess and her like-minded successor were forced out after the first period of rebellion and, after six peaceful years, Phelipa became abbess. Reform-minded nuns complained to the bishop about Phelipa’s administration. Under her tenure nuns wore secular clothes, received male visitors, and mounted plays.

It was during this period that the salto spread. Although an episcopal investigation failed to remove Phelipa, she was not reelected, probably due to factors including rigged elections and the untimely death of the esteemed pro-reform foundress, possibly seen as a martyr.

In 1792, however, Phelipa’s wishes came true (although posthumously); the bishop imposed the vida particular (individual life) on La Purísima, with nuns receiving stipends for their individual needs. This was touted as a solution to ongoing financial problems, partially caused by the remarkable, and endowment-depleting, practice of letting dowryless donadas profess as white veil nuns after a decade of service.

However, the adoption of the vida particular was as much an ideological as a financial decision; Chowning argues that it was inspired by the belief of the bishop and his advisers in free market ideals such as rationalism and individualism. The convent, like the region, suffered economically during the war of independence, but recovered afterwards, although recruitment, a longstanding problem, decreased precipitously. This was due partially to anticlerical characterizations of nuns as prisoners and non-service convents as useless, and to laws making church property taxable, which affected finances. Both factors made convents less attractive to potential novices and their families. In addition, the bishop forced La Purísima to radically limit admissions—because it was not attracting elite, dowried women, new entrants added nothing to the endowment. Finally, with the Liberal government’s closure of convents in 1863, the nuns were turned out.

As I said, this was well-written history. The only thing missing was a timeline of major events. That would have been helpful. I’m looking forward to reading her newest book:

What accounts for the enduring power of the Catholic Church, which withstood widespread and sustained anticlerical opposition in Mexico? Margaret Chowning locates an answer in the untold story of how the Mexican Catholic church in the nineteenth century excluded, then accepted, and then came to depend on women as leaders in church organizations.

But much more than a study of women and the church or the feminization of piety, the book links new female lay associations beginning in the 1840s to the surprisingly early politicization of Catholic women in Mexico. Drawing on a wealth of archival materials spanning more than a century of Mexican political life, Chowning boldly argues that Catholic women played a vital role in the church’s resurrection as a political force in Mexico after liberal policies left it for dead.

Gender Studies

Let’s do a sex/gender post. It’s been a few days.

First, remember that most of my posts on this topic are gathered here. One of my goals for this week is to reorganize and update that page, so if your distressed by the mess once you get over there, come back later and it should be a lot better.

Here’s my Gender Critical Twitter list.

Secondly: you can’t change your sex. You can’t.

Some links. There’s no rationale to the order here. I’m just going to pull them and post them in the order I’ve saved them over the past week or so.

Reminder: I offer these links as a way of reminding everyone that there is no inevitability about this matter, there are dark and complex truths that the manipulative narrative conceaal, and to…not be taken in or guilted into believing that Christian charity demands that you accept a guy’s assertion that he’s a woman or, even worse, address a young person’s mental distress by allowing them to destroy their healthy bodies.

Kara Dansky offers a free report on her visit to Athens, Ohio, where last weekend protesters gathered at a knick-knack shop owned by a proud TERF. Her report contains glimmers of hope:

Anyway, about 45 minutes after the protest started, it mostly disbanded, with several of the protesters walking up the street to the county courthouse in order to, I assume, continue making idiots of themselves and calling for a boycott of the store. Some of the protesters hung on, just sort of standing around chatting with one another.

Shortly after that, a couple (a man and a woman) entered the store to shop and to express support for Amy’s position. They were quite friendly and criticized the protesters for being “children” who “have no arguments.” So that was nice.

I decided to have lunch at the restaurant that’s located next door to the store. As I left the store, a woman protester came up to me and yelled to her friends, “LOOK! A REAL LIVE TERF IN THE WILD!” I’m not at all sure what point she was trying to make. It’s not at all unusual for me or other TERFs to, well, go outside. She put her camera up to me, and I assume she was filming me. She said, “Your name is Kara, right?” I confirmed that it is, and then she said, “I assume that I can’t listen to your arguments until I see your genitals, isn’t that right, according to TERF logic?” I said, “No, that makes no sense at all.” Then she ran away.

Today, Dansky has another post on a Massachusetts Congresswoman’s offspring being arrested at a protest. The news reports describe the person as the “non-binary daughter” – and the person is a biological male, to boot. The piece is subscriber-only, so of course I’ll respect that, but will simply quote one paragraph:

Jared Dowell is a man, plain and simple. If he weren’t, he would be female. The media is pretending that he is female when it refers to him as Clark’s “daughter.” Again, this is not surprising in today’s climate, where the media routinely refers to men as women if the man in question claims to have a woman identity (i.e., “is transgender”). But they are also saying that he (“she”) “is nonbinary.” This entire episode illustrates just how nonsensical all of the “gender identity” stuff is. 

There is no such thing as a male nonbinary daughter. 

First, if you haven’t already, check out Glinner’s weekly update on the War on Women. It’s the usual collection of reports of men attacking women for speaking up for women’s rights at public events, a period tracker app allowing men to enter the app’s discussion boards, and then defending the choice; men demanding access to women’s gyms and locker rooms, male criminals deciding they’re women, Scottish politicians (female handmaidens to the cause, of course) being photographed at a trans-rally in in front of signs that say things like “Decapitate TERFS!” You know, the usual. Guys…be kind.

50-year-old Albert Caballero is currently incarcerated in Edinburgh’s Saughton Prison. In 2019 he was convicted of abducting and raping his own care worker, a 25-year-old woman who was so traumatised by the attack that she has not been able to return to work.

A senior source at the prison has revealed that Caballero recently changed his name to Claire, demands to be supplied with make-up and is claiming to be a woman. Furthermore, he has bragged to fellow inmates that he intends to move to a women’s prison prior to his release.

Having reached the halfway point in his eight year sentence, it is thought that Caballero intends to apply to the Parole Board for release.

Caballero is the second incarcerated Scottish sex offender to suddenly start ‘identifying as a woman’ in a week. How long before they all start catching on?

The second sex offender referred to up there is a man who was yesterday convicted of raping two women – while identifying as a man, of course – who now “identifies” as a woman, and for the moment is being housed in a women’s prison. (And will his crime be recorded as man or woman’s crime? Hmmm.)

I wish I could put spoilers on potentially offensive material, but I don’t know if it’ possible in WordPress. So sorry, not sorry for this, but you really just have to see it. Remember: most men who “identify” as women are biologically intact males. A percentage have surgery, but it’s horrible surgery (split open the penis, invert it, create an open wound, etc…) plus, of course, for many of these men the “gender euphoria” (aka sexual turn-on) from seeing themselves as a woman is precisely the point. If you chop off your bits, you can’t have that when you skirt-go-spinny or get yourself into a woman’s space with the girlz. Did you know that there’s a whole subgenre of videos of trans-identifying males filming themselves masturbating in women’s restrooms and such? Sorry to be so direct, and you probably don’t want to check my work, but it’s true. Be Kind.

I’ll make it small so it’s not so gross. You can see the original at (of course) the Daily Mail.

Bryson’s attorney used the gender business in his final argument:

‘If you accept that evidence, that she is transitioning, that she is aiming to continue on that path to becoming female gender, that goes a long way to acquitting her of these charges.’

Update (1/26) – the bloke will not be house in a woman’s prison, it’s been announced.

Update (1/26) – Kara Dansky has something to say (free to read)

Second, in his tweet, Sheridan seems to be making the case that the framing of the article is “disgusting” and states that “it’s awful that as a result trans people, in particular male to female, will get backlash from this and in harms [sic] way.” Please set aside any questions about what the phrase “trans people” might mean here and just note that Sheridan specifically refers to “male to female,” which means that he acknowledges that Graham/Bryson was, at least at one point, male. If Sheridan is saying that Graham/Bryson has always been a woman and also that Graham/Bryson was once male, then Sheridan is effectively saying that Graham/Bryson (a convicted rapist) was a “male woman” before “she came out as trans.”

This is the absurdity of “gender identity.” It never stops getting stupider.

City Journal has an excellent piece on mistakes to avoid in state legislation geared at youths and gender “affirming” procedures – noting several wrong turns in some currently proposed bills. It’s good.

Lawmakers can do much to protect children, restore parental authority, and mitigate the harms of ideological capture in the medical field. One of us, along with Manhattan Institute fellow John Ketcham, recently published an article outlining eight policy proposals states can adopt short of total bans. For states that do wish to pursue bans, the ideal is to limit those bans to minors, use civil rather than criminal penalties, include grandfather clauses for minors already on synthetic hormones, expand statutes of limitations for malpractice liability, and allow for private rights of action (against providers only). These proposals represent a more constructive way to regulate this issue.

You meet more perverts when you’re poor:

There is a whole universe out there that these women have never even conceived of. They’ve watched films about the poors, but no director has ever captured that desperate feeling of being compromised by having no money, no recourse, no authority, no protection.

“Women with money get harassed too!” I’m told, and I know. Because I am a woman with money now. You don’t have to tell me. And I’m not saying poor men are more likely to be perverts and paedos. I’m saying that any man, given the right set of circumstances, could be one. It’s a numbers game.

But the girls who make the rules now, they don’t see any reason why a couple of “bad apples” should prevent poor suffering homosexual men from being able to live their true authentic life in the body they deserve. They don’t believe you when you tell them that men are opportunists. Or worse, they think they know what you mean; they think about that one time at the museum.

Some Europe-centered news and commentary:

French gender-critical feminists…assemble!

We are angry. We can’t stand the all-pervading hypocrisy. We live in an absurd time where the answer to the question “What is a woman?” does not seem self-evident to everyone. According to some media, academics, activists, political figureheads, and institutions, being a woman is now a feeling, not a biological reality.

Thus, in France, since 2016, the law has stated that any man who demonstrates that he self-identifies as feminine-gendered can become a woman on official paperwork, and vice versa. WTF? In some activist circles, a strange uneasiness sets in if anyone dares to assert that “trans women” are males… while being a male is precisely the prerequisite for being qualified as such.

We have moved from a universal feminism to an Orwellian feminism that is subservient to the gender identity ideology, where women no longer seem to be at the central of feminism, where x-phobia trials become the norm, and identity claims take precedence over living together. In the same way that Orwell wrote that “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength”, men are now women.

Britain is becoming sick over the trans debate. Only facts can cure it

For in an age where identity is said to be everything, the identity and interests of women are under unprecedented attack. Just as surely as the failure of the police to root out widespread misogyny and abuses of power, and just as surely as the failure of wider society to confront and prevent violence against women and girls, so the political classes are failing women through this intellectually and legally confused progressive calamity.

To escape it, we need to go back to the beginning, and assert simple facts that many educated people claim not to know. A woman is an adult human female. The difference between women and men is biological. Men are bigger and stronger and can present a physical danger to women. They are more likely to be violent.

We should respect the few people who are genuinely diagnosed as gender dysphoric. We may choose to recognise them, through tightly defined laws, by their acquired gender. But we should ignore the radical activists pushing for more and instead listen to women. A society that tolerates misogyny, violence and threats is suffering a sickness – and only a heavy dose of reality will cure us.

With harsher language, the inimitable Brendan O’Neil at Spiked:

Sexist hate is a daily reality for women who question the idea that you can change sex. Witness those clips in which mobs of masked men yell ‘fucking scum’ and ‘fucking piece of shit’ at Kellie-Jay Keen and her gender-critical friends. See the rape and death threats visited upon JK Rowling every week. ‘You are next’, a lowlife said to her when she expressed sorrow over the stabbing of Salman Rushdie. Or just behold the low-level intimidation that attends virtually every gathering of ‘TERFs’. There will always be gangs of men outside gender-critical meetings; men horrified by the idea of women speaking among themselves about their rights; men who ridiculously believe that their feeling of ‘womanhood’ and badly applied lippy makes them women, too. Better women, in fact. As India Willoughby tweeted at the weekend, ‘I’m more of a woman than JK Rowling will ever be’. That’s misogyny, too. The idea that a man – yes, India’s a bloke – even does womanhood better than women is testament to the low view of womankind that’s been whipped up by the trans cult.

Any movement that attracts so many bigots really should have a word with itself. Any activist set that helps to make it fashionable again to call women witches really should engage in some self-reflection. For here’s the thing: while it might be the outliers of the trans cult who scream witch and issue death threats and say ‘suck my girldick’, their tirades only express with greater ferocity and spite the misogyny that is inherent to modern trans activism. The root idea of the contemporary trans movement – that ‘transwomen are women’ – is itself misogynistic. Its reduction of womanhood from a biological, social, relational phenomenon to a costume that anyone can pull on, even people with dicks, is profoundly sexist. It dehumanises women. It denies the specificity of their experiences. It turns womanhood into a feeling, something flimsy. So, yes, in saying that all it takes to become a woman is three months of wearing a dress, Sturgeon is contributing to the misogyny that motors 21st-century gender ideology.

The mantra ‘transwomen are women’ underpins the resurgence of misogynistic thinking. There is a traceable line from this mainstream chant to the fringe cries of ‘cunt’ aimed at any woman who says transwomen are not women; that there’s more to being a woman than feeling and image. The violent hatred for ‘TERFs’ might mostly come from unstable individuals online, but it expresses the sexism and intolerance that are absolutely key to trans activism more broadly, and in particular to its belief that a man can be a woman. We need a firmer fightback against the hatred for ‘TERFs’ and in defence of the things that are threatened by this new witch-hunt – women’s rights, freedom of speech and scientific truth.

Finally, another from City Journal. Abigail Shrier reports from California on the consequences of a slew of laws spearheaded by the vile Scott Wiener: a Predator’s Paradise.

Not Caravaggio. Source.

Two for you today, from different eras, written with different styles and sensibilities. Perhaps.

John Keble (d. 1866)

The mid-day sun, with fiercest glare,
Broods o’er the hazy twinkling air:
 Along the level sand
The palm-tree’s shade unwavering lies,
Just as thy towers, Damascus, rise
 To greet you wearied band.
The leader of that martial crew
Seems bent some mighty deed to do,
 So steadily he speeds,
With lips firm closed and fixed eye,
Like warrior when the fight is night,
 Nor talk nor landscape heeds.
What sudden blaze is round him poured,
As though all Heaven’s refulgent hoard
 In one rich glory shone?
One moment—and to earth he falls:
What voice his inmost heart appalls? -
 Voice heard by him alone.
For to the rest both words and form
Seem lost in lightning and in storm,
 While Saul, in wakeful trance,
Sees deep within that dazzling field
His persecuted Lord revealed,
 With keen yet pitying glance:
And hears time meek upbraiding call
As gently on his spirit fall,
 As if th’ Almighty Son
Were prisoner yet in this dark earth,
Nor had proclaimed His royal birth,
 Nor His great power begun.
“Ah! wherefore persecut’st thou Me?”
He heard and saw, and sought to free
 His strained eyes from the sight:
But Heaven’s high magic bound it there,
Still gazing, though untaught to bear
 Th’ insufferable light.
“Who art Thou, Lord?” he falters forth:-
So shall Sin ask of heaven and earth
 At the last awful day.
“When did we see Thee suffering nigh,
And passed Thee with unheeding eye?
 Great God of judgment, say!”
Ah! little dream our listless eyes
What glorious presence they despise,
 While, in our noon of life,
To power or fame we rudely press. -
Christ is at hand, to scorn or bless,
 Christ suffers in our strife.
And though heaven’s gate long since have closed,
And our dear Lord in bliss reposed,
 High above mortal ken,
To every ear in every land
(Thought meek ears only understand)
 He speaks as he did then.
“Ah! wherefore persecute ye Me?
’Tis hard, ye so in love should be
 With your own endless woe.
Know, though at God’s right hand I live,
I feel each wound ye reckless give
 To the least saint below.
”I in your care My brethren left,
Not willing ye should be bereft
 Of waiting on your Lord.
The meanest offering ye can make -
A drop of water—for love’s sake,
 In Heaven, be sure, is stored.”
O by those gentle tones and dear,
When thou hast stayed our wild career,
 Thou only hope of souls,
Ne’er let us cast one look behind,
But in the thought of Jesus find
 What every thought controls.
As to Thy last Apostle’s heart
Thy lightning glance did then impart
 Zeal’s never-dying fire,
So teach us on Thy shrine to lay
Our hearts, and let them day by day
 Intenser blaze and higher.
And as each mild and winning note
(Like pulses that round harp-strings float
 When the full strain is o’er)
Left lingering on his inward ear
Music, that taught, as death drew near,
 Love’s lesson more and more:
So, as we walk our earthly round,
Still may the echo of that sound
 Be in our memory stored
“Christians! behold your happy state:
Christ is in these, who round you wait;
 Make much of your dear Lord!”

John Betjeman (d. 1984)

What is conversion? Not at all
For me the experience of St Paul,
No blinding light, a fitful glow
Is all the light of faith I know
Which sometimes goes completely out
And leaves me plunging into doubt
Until I will myself to go
And worship in God’s house below —
My parish church — and even there
I find distractions everywhere.

What is Conversion? Turning round
To gaze upon a love profound.
For some of us see Jesus plain
And never once look back again,
And some of us have seen and known
And turned and gone away alone,
But most of us turn slow to see
The figure hanging on a tree
And stumble on and blindly grope
Upheld by intermittent hope.
God grant before we die we all
May see the light as did St Paul.

And then, a couple of my contributions, from three different books, all in the Loyola Kids series – go here, to the publisher’s site, for more information.

Last night, I was reading H.V. Morton’s A Traveller in Southern Italy, he mentioned this, and of course it was down the rabbit hole. Where there are no more rabbits because of the snakes.

In the village of Cocullo, in Abruzzo, every year, there’s a “Snake festival.”

It’s in honor of St. Dominic of Sora, whose memorial is May 1.

In the town’s main square, while waiting for the procession to arrive, many serpari, or snake handlers, proudly display the various types of snakes they have captured. This gives visitors an opportunity to conquer any deep-seated fears, groundless aversions or inexplicable dislikes they may harbour toward these creatures, and let themselves be persuaded to actually touch one, even if reluctantly. Perhaps such a gesture satisfies a need to establish a closer connection with the supernatural world that these animals represent.
The procession begins at noon. Four persons carry the statue of the saint out of the church and rest it in front of the entrance, where the eagerly waiting serpari begin to drape their snakes around the statue. As this ritual takes place, the saint seems to be reminding everyone that he alone is the true master of these animals.
Beside the statue walk two young women in traditional costume carrying on top of their heads large baskets containing five ciambellati, sweet round breads that have been blessed and that, in accordance with tradition and in commemoration of a miracle performed by the saint, will be offered to the persons who carry the statue of the saint and the banner of the town during the procession.
As the procession winds its way between the town’s ancient buildings, the ritual becomes a re-enactment of ancient practices once prevalent throughout Europe. For example, in Spain’s Santiago de Compostela, which became Europe’s main pilgrimage destination, snake handling was not uncommon; in Markopoulos, on the island of Cephalonia, snakes were brought inside the church on August 15, the day of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin; and in ancient Greece, virgins climbed the Acropolis in order to feed milk to the sacred snakes kept in the Erechtheum. Snakes have inspired a wealth of lore and traditions, some of which honour them as symbols of fertility and some of which revile them as enemies.

More about the festival here and here. And if you do an image search for “Cocullo snake festival” you will find loads of photos, of course. I like the vintage ones, myself.

Here’s a whole page of vintage photos of the event. It’s fantastic.

This. Is. Italia.

If I were not a bishop, knowing what I know, I should not wish to be one ; but being one, not only am I obliged to do what this trying vocation requires, but I must do it joyously, and must take pleasure in it and be contented.

More from Francis de Sales

Part 1, earlier.

Looking to Lent, one of the perennial posts about St. Francis de Sales and fasting.

Of course, there’s so much helpful and insightful writing from St. Francis de Sales out there. I’m focusing on these letters just because I don’t think they’re as well known as, say, Introduction to the Devout Life.

As you are doubtlessly tired of reading in this space, one of my deep interests is how contemporary western values have impacted popular Christian, especially Catholic, spirituality – most of all the values of choice, mobility, prosperity and personal fulfillment.

Simplistically put, it’s the difference between a spirituality oriented towards helping a person see the presence of God and meaning in their situation – which will probably never change and which they don’t have the freedom to change, and one oriented towards baptizing the values of making choices and changes that will help you find God’s purpose for your life, aka happiness.

Are the two at odds? Not necessarily. But, as I’ve written before, if your Gospel can’t be credibly preached to a woman cradling her malnourished son in the midst of a famine over which she has no control, then your Gospel deserved to be laughed off the planet.

Live your best life! Follow your dreams!

Anyway, take this last bit from St. Francis de Sales in that spirit.

We must consider that there is no vocation which has not its irksomenesses, its bitternesses, and disgusts : and what is more, except those who are fully resigned to the will of God, each one would willingly change his condition for that of others : those who are bishops would like not to be ; those who are married would like not to be, and those who are not would like to be.

Whence this general disquietude of souls, if not from a certain dislike of constraint and a perversity of spirit which makes us think that each one is better off than we ?

But all comes to the same: whoever is not fully resigned, let him turn himself here or there, he will never have rest. Those who have fever find no place comfortable ; they have not stayed a quarter of an hour in one bed when they want to be in another ; it is not the bed which is at fault, but the fever which everywhere torments them. A person who has not the fever of self-will is satisfied with everything, provided that God is served. He cares not in what quality God employs him, provided that he does the Divine will. It is all one to him.

But this is not all : we must not only will to do the will of God : but in order to be devout, we must do it gaily.

If I were not a bishop, knowing what I know, I should not wish to be one ; but being one, not only am I obliged to do what this trying vocation requires, but I must do it joyously, and must take pleasure in it and be contented. It is the saying of St. Paul : Let each one stay in his vocation before God. We have not to carry the cross of others, but our own; and that each may carry his own, our Lord wishes him to renounce himself, that is, his own will. I should like this or that, I should be better here or there : those are temptations. Our Lord knows well what he does, let us do what he wills, let us stay where he has placed us.

For this is the Christian life, isn’t it? That balance between acceptance, finding God in the present moment, but also being willing to follow him to where he calls.

Persevere in thoroughly conquering yourself in these small daily contradictions you receive ; make the bulk of your desires about this ; know that God wishes nothing from you at present but that. Busy not yourself then in doing anything else : do not sow your desires in another’s garden, but cultivate well your own. Do not desire not to be what you are, but desire to be very well what you are ; occupy your thoughts in making that perfect, and in bearing the crosses, little or great, which you will meet. And, believe me, this is the great truth, and the least understood in spiritual conduct.

Every one loves according to his taste ; few love according to their duty and the taste of our Lord. What is the use of building castles in Spain, when we have to live in France ? It is my old lesson, and you know it well ; tell me, my dear child, if you practice it well.

It’s his feastday. St. Francis de Sales, that is. All the writers will tell you that, have no doubt. They (we) will be quite boring about it, too.

But are we even listening to him?

Wish not to do all, but only something, and without doubt, you will do much. 

-St. Francis de Sales, letter, 7/20/1607.

sometimes we amuse ourselves in playing at being good Angels, till we forget to be good men and women.

-St. Francis de Sales, letter. Source here.

As you read those words,  try to catch, not simply the ways that he confirms your expectations, but perhaps the way he challenges them.

For the truth is, most of us reading St. Francis de Sales today have been formed to believe that belief and conversion is essentially coming to believe the Credo: I believe…in myself. I believe…that I’m doing my best. I believe…that God accepts me just as I am. I believe…that I’ve been put on earth to set the world on fire and Do Big Things.

As Francis and every other spiritual teacher tells us, that American-rooted obsession with success, even if it’s couched in spiritual terms, is a lie, and can even be destructive, as, as he mentions up above – our first duty is to what and who is right in front of us, this moment. Serve God in that moment and that person, and then widen the circle.

So when you read Francis de Sales – and, of course, other spiritual teachers of the past – you might pick up on some differences with contemporary pop spirituality. Yes (as we’ll see) Francis de Sales advises against scrupulosity all the time, and both he and Jane de Chantal warn against excessive interiority and obsession with one’s spiritual state. It’s one of the reasons I love them. They’re always saying…relax. Please. Just…relax.

But this moderation is advised, not because they’re communicating that where ever you are, you’re fine and embrace your imperfections and mess. It’s a little different than that.

It’s more: You’re a person, so yes you’re an imperfect mess. But God calls you to shed that mess and move towards perfection, and he gives you the tools and the grace to do so. 

And further, if you recognize this, you have an obligation to do so. A duty.

And this is why St. Francis de Sales is so wonderful. He bridges this gap, he is realistic on every score, reminding us that we are not perfect and that we should be striving for perfection, but warning us against unrealistic expectations as well:

My God ! dear daughter, do not examine whether what you do is little or much, good or ill, provided it is not sin, and that in good faith you will to do it for God. As much as you can, do perfectly what you do, but when it is done, think of it no more ; rather think of what is to be done quite simply in the way of God, and do not torment your spirit. We must hate our faults, but with a tranquil and quiet hate, not with an angry and restless hate ; and so we must have patience when we see them, and draw from them a profit of a holy- abasement of ourselves.

To be dissatisfied and fret about the world, when we must of necessity be in it, is a great temptation. The Providence of God is wiser than we. We fancy that by changing our ships, we shall get on better; yes, if we change ourselves. My God, I am sworn enemy of these useless, dangerous, and bad desires : for though what we desire is good, the desire is bad, because God does not will us this sort of good, but another, in which he wants us to exercise ourselves. God wishes to speak to us in the thorns and the bush, as he did to Moses; and we want him to speak in the small wind, gentle and fresh, as he did to Elias.

and then this, which I love:

One word which I would have you remember; sometimes we amuse ourselves in playing at being good Angels, till we forget to be good men and women. Our imperfection must cleave to us till we rest in our grave ; we cannot walk without touching the ground. We must not lie down or grovel upon it, but neither must we fancy that we can fly; we are yet but as unfledged birds. Physical death comes nearer day by day, and even so we must strive to destroy our imperfection day by day ; ‘‘ I die daily.” It will be a precious imperfection if it makes us acknowledge our weakness, and strengthens our humility, our self-depreciation, our patience, and diligence.

Through it all God looks upon “the preparation of the heart.” I do not know whether what I write will fit in with your needs, but it came into my heart to say all this because I think part of your late trouble has arisen from your making a great preparation, and then, finding the results very small, and your power insufficient to carry out your aspirations and plans, you have been seized by impatience, perturbation, restlessness, irritability; the result of which is mistrust, languor, depression, and disgust.

Now if this is true, be wiser in future. Let us be content to travel by land if the sea turns us sick.

That’s from his letters “to persons in the world,” collected here in this book found at the Internet Archive. (I’m sure they are in more contemporary bound versions but this is online…and free).

It is well worth downloading and keeping on hand. So much pertinent, valuable, wise advice and insight. Perhaps begin with his 10/14/1604 letter to Jane de Chantal. It’s long and rich and contains, among other bits, tremendous insight on true liberty in Christ.

The effects of this liberty are a great suavity of soul, a great gentleness and condescension in all that is not sin or danger of sin ; a temper sweetly pliable to the acts of every virtue and charity. For example : interrupt a soul which is attached to the exercise of meditation ; you will see it leave with annoyance, worried and surprised. A soul which has true liberty will leave its exercise with an equal countenance, and a heart gracious towards the importunate person who has inconvenienced her. For it is all one to her whether she serve God by meditating, or serve him by bearing with her neighbour : both are the will of God, but the bearing with her neighbour is necessary at that time.

The occasions of this liberty are all the things which happen against our inclination ; for whoever is not attached to his inclinations, is not impatient when they are contradicted.

This liberty has two opposite vices, instability and constraint, or dissolution and slavery.

Instability, or dissolution of spirit, is a certain excess of liberty, by which we change our exercises, our state of life, without proof or knowledge that such change is God’s will. On the smallest occasion practices, plan, rule are changed; for every little occurrence we leave our rule and laudable custom : and thus the heart is dissipated and ruined, and is like an orchard open on all sides, whose fruits are not for its owners, but for all passers by.

Constraint or slavery is a certain want of liberty by which the soul is overwhelmed with either disgust or anger, when it cannot do what it has planned, though still able to do better. For example : I design to make my meditation every day in the morning. If I have the spirit of instability, or dissolution, on the least occasion in the world I shall put it off till the evening for a dog which kept me from sleeping, for a letter I have to write, of no urgency whatever. On the other hand, if I have the spirit of constraint or servitude, I shall not leave my meditation at that hour, even if a sick person have great need of my help at the time, even if I have a dispatch which is of great importance, and which cannot well be put off, and so on.

More St. Francis de Sales posts

Against building castles in Spain

What St. Francis de Sales wants you to know about fasting

From the inheritance
%d bloggers like this: