Friday, July 29, 2011

Some Advice for the U.S. President and Congress

Now, be it said that I wouldn't mind if the U.S. Federal Government defaults (as it may well in a few days), since the greenback, if the threatened catastrophe occur and persist, could drop as much as 25% in value, and the Australian dollar – already worth US$1.10 – could rise and rise to US$1.40 even.  I wouldn't mind this, because then I could buy more books.  (Of course, I don't wish economic turmoil and misery on anyone, let alone North Americans, I merely comment on an advantage to me of such a turn of events.)

That said, it is evident that neither side in the debate in the U.S.A. about their vast and burgeoning government deficit are tackling the underlying issues: it is obviously unsustainable for the government to spend more than it raises through taxation, especially as, by nonetheless persisting in doing so, it builds up debt whose servicing becomes itself a greater and greater burden, to the extent that it eats up revenue.  Look at Greece, to see where this leads.  Look at the U.K., to see how swingeing cuts – yes, and tax increases – are needed in order to balance the books and repay the debt.  I believe Canada, too, had to scale back its government spending some years ago, in order to help balance its books.

But far be it from me, a foreigner, to tell American citizens what their first President, the immortal Washington, advised them so wisely for all time to come in the stately rolling periods of his Farewell Address:

As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it, is to use it as sparingly as possible, avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but remembering, also, that timely disbursements to prepare for danger, frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it; avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertions in time of peace to discharge the debts which unavoidable wars have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear. The execution of these maxims belongs to your representatives; but it is necessary that public opinion should co-operate. To facilitate to them the performance of their duty, it is essential that you should particularly bear in mind, that towards the payment of debts there must be revenue; that to have revenue there must be taxes; that no taxes can be devised which are not more or less inconvenient and unpleasant; that the intrinsic embarrassment, inseparable from the selection of the proper objects, (which is always a choice of difficulties,) ought to be a decisive motive for a candid construction of the conduct of the government in making it, and for a spirit of acquiescence in the measures for obtaining revenue which the public exigencies may at any time dictate.

Taxes must be paid, though of course no one wants to pay them; so, therefore, great prudence is required in choosing the ends on which they are spent, so that only for weighty reasons are both taxes levied and revenues disbursed, by the considered vote of those in Congress assembled, in line with public opinion, itself reasoned and prudent.  Likewise, if, in opposition to the warnings of Washington, government debt accumulate, great efforts must be made to repay it, lest, as he so rightly says, "posterity [bear] the burden which we ourselves ought to bear".

The good President also warned his fellow citizens against the evils and dangers of political parties and factions, and pointed out how religion underpins morality and thus, the virtues necessary to the citizenry of a free republic.

Would that such advice had been better heeded, and would that it be heeded now.

At least I may see the Aussie dollar go sky-high, the better for me to shop online, if default eventuates – assuming that the Chinese economy, on which Australia's present unequalled prosperity depends, doesn't itself undergo an alarming plunge.  It is a particularly Australian vice to live in a fool's paradise, prating about this being the "Lucky Country" without realizing how extremely lucky we are, how through sheer dumb luck we live happy lives and free.  

How lucky we were back in 1942, when our new North American friends came to our aid, when we were in a panic over Japanese invasion; if that had eventuated, without assistance, our own Federal Government's plan had been to abandon most of the continent, and attempt to defend only the south-eastern corner between Melbourne and Sydney.  How lucky we've been to avoid suffering a recession during the Global Financial Crisis these last three years, thanks to our selling iron ore and so forth to China.  (How ironic, given that similar sales to Japan were a controversial issue in the 1930's.)

A future predicated upon a greater dependence on a rising China, and less security provided gratis by a declining America, is not at all a happy vision.  Isn't there a poem about someone going for a ride on a tiger?

Monday, July 25, 2011

R.I.P. Sr Paul Joseph, O.C.D.

Died, in the 48th year of her Carmelite profession and the 95th of her age, Sister Paul Joseph of Mary the Mother of God, on Sunday the 24th of July 2011: on whose soul may the Lord have mercy.

Well done, thou good and faithful servant!

Sister's Requiem Mass will be held on Thursday at the Chapel of the Immaculate Heart of Mary at the Carmel of Launceston, followed by interment in the crypt of the monastery.

Sr Paul Joseph was the last of the dedicated extern sisters of the Carmel here in Tasmania.  Because of her status as "mediatrix between nuns and men" as I liked to joke, my family were privileged to often talk with her over the years.  She had a wry sense of humour and a shrewd grasp of all matters.  I recall once asking her when the nuns prayed: she ran through all the times of divine service at Carmel, then paused, and questioned me, "Do you plan to come to all of them?"

I recall her telling me of how she first tried her vocation as a Carmelite in Melbourne, but such were the rigors of that Carmel back then that she was taken from there in an ambulance!  She re-entered Carmel in Adelaide, and from there came to Tasmania, so far as I understand.

As her health failed, she moved from her extern quarters into the enclosure, and latterly was in medical care; she died a holy death early on Sunday.

Of your charity, pray for her eternal repose, and ask her to intercede that more vocations come to Carmel.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Long Weekend in Sydney

A very pleasant trip up to Sydney and back I've had.

This morning, before flying home, I was glad to visit my friend Fr Paul, ordained in December last year, and was privileged to serve his Mass (a Votive of the Holy Angels), which he offered for the repose of my late father; while in his parish they haven't begun using the new translation (so I had to quickly recall the old responses), he chose to offer Mass ad orientem, which greatly accentuates the solemnity and better accentuates the sacrificial essence of the Mass – how potent a manifestation of the truth of the Holy Sacrifice it was, to look past the altar to the stained glass window of the Crucifixion, while the priest read with devotion the Roman Canon, arms outstretched in modo crucis, and upon the corporal rested the Body and the Blood of the Divine Victim.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Missa Cantata in Snowy Hobart

The weather forecast made me drive down to Hobart on Saturday; the snow flurry near sea level at my friends' home (though the flakes didn't settle) the next morning convinced me I'd made the right decision.  Our monthly Missa cantata was held this month on the second Sunday, Fr Quinn having been away last Sunday; and I'd estimate about fifty souls braved the chill weather (some we know didn't come because of it) for to attend the Holy Sacrifice (as usual now, I acted as M.C.).

Congratulations to Monica, one of the many children who attend this Mass with their respective families – for this was her First Communion day.  Father preached on how one's First Communion ought be the first in a great sequence, whereby we grow in holiness, blessed by so many graces, till we are formed into saints fit for heaven.

Driving back in the afternoon, I saw thick snowdrifts on Mount Wellington high above Hobart, which came closer and closer as I drove north – at Constitution Hill (highest point on the highway), the snow lay upon the paddocks only a few tens of metres from the road on the left-hand side.  Flurries of snow were blowing down, though not settling, on and off from perhaps Kempton until just before Antill Ponds: while I know the Midlands Highway is usually closed a few times each winter with snowfalls, this is as close as I've ever come to witnessing it.

Stopping at Campbell Town for a well-earned coffee and break in the late afternoon, I walked around to the little church there to pay a visit, and found the locals readying for Mass.  Myself, I continued back to my car, and headed home, which I reached just before six.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Tarpeian Rock

Wicked Tarpeia thought to betray Rome for filthy lucre... but the very Sabines attacking the City thought this treachery unsupportable, and threw her to her death down a handy cliff instead: hence its later name of the Tarpeian Rock, and its status as the place of ignominious execution par excellence for all traitors.  

Now Tarpeia was a Roman maiden, some even referring to her a Vestal virgin; and it has been decided that sundry features on the asteroid 4 Vesta – about for the first time to be visited by a spaceprobe, America's Dawn mission – shall, aptly enough, be named after Vestals and notable Roman women (see the entry for Vesta amongst those for the naming of features on sundry worlds); and Vesta is marked with a great impact feature at its south pole, complete with towering central peak; so, ought this not be named the Tarpeian Rock, Saxum Tarpeium?

Behold Vesta from 100,000 km away; the great peak at the south pole, marking the site of the giant impact from which it rebounded, is higher than Everest.  (Image obtained 1st July 2011.)

Less than a billion years ago, Vesta, the second-largest of the asteroids (perhaps worthy to be accounted a dwarf planet), about 500 km across, was struck a mighty hammer-blow by an impacting asteroid perhaps 50 km across, which blasted great volumes of rock across its surface and out into space.  Given how infamous Tarpeia dealt ancient Roman a swingeing blow by her attempted betrayal, it seems to me quite apt to name this striking feature of the Vestian surface after her notorious act.


Perhaps the surrounding area constituting the "floor" of the impact basin could be termed the Campus Sceleratus – after that accursed field in which Vestals who broke their vows were buried alive?

Nunc pro Tunc

Archbishop Doyle having submitted his resignation in the usual manner in anticipation of his 75th birthday, he has since then received acknowledgement of the same, and in an open letter to the Archdiocese (dated 5th July) he informs us that it has been accepted nunc pro tunc - that is, it has been accepted, but he will remain in charge until a new Archbishop is appointed and takes possession.  He anticipates that a new appointment will not occur until the new year at the earliest; time will tell.

The fact that Rome accepted his resignation letter (sent on the 18th of May) with such un-Roman alacrity is a signal, to those cognizant of romanità, that his administration of the archdiocese has not been regarded entirely favourably – though it remains to be seen how long it takes for a successor to be appointed.  Again, the relative swiftness or slowness of the process is usually held to be a subtle indication of whether or not +Adrian is esteemed at the Vatican or not; but, given the paucity of suitable candidates for the episcopacy Australia-wide, it may well take a long time in any case, as is indicated by the way Australian sees have lain vacant for upwards of a year in recent times.

In any case, I and many of my co-religionists wish His Grace God's grace upon his retirement, and pray for a Catholic successor to the See of Hobart.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Ad Horam Orationis Nonam

The Athanasian Creed, and indeed all abstruse theology, is beloved of the Dormitionists.  For does not all serious study fatigue?  If there be no sermon to lull one, a strong dose of Trinitarian contemplation will lead either to ecstasy or holy slumber.  (I certainly recall one sermon, delivered years ago at the Church of Apostles for Trinity Sunday, at which I am convinced I and the preacher were the only ones not yet asleep.)

It is of course no wonder that a wholly contemplative Order, entirely focussed on the Eschaton, should be intent upon study of Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and subtle questions in theology, philosophy, and related sciences, let alone that old stand-by, lectio divina.  Indeed, what would be blamable curiosity in others is no vice in the elect unworldly state of these religious.  Not for nothing did one of the first Popes after Innocent III (who approved ad experimentum, as it were, the novus Ordo of the Dormition) compare it to the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II: if he was the stupor mundi, the Dormitionists were the stupor Ecclesiæ, he considered, or at least a good imitation of the stupor Curiæ.

As well as treasuring the many intricate treatises of their friends in the Dominican Order down the ages, the Dormitionists are considered the traditional custodians of the Summa Triviæ, that compilation of every last point disputed among the Scholastics and their heirs (such as "Whether Cats may be Ordained?").

It is unsurprising therefore, that at None (or later still in the afternoon), which is pre-eminently "the hour of prayer" (Acts iii, 1), the thoughts of earnest Dormitionist Canons turns to what, in other liturgical rites, is especially associated with Prime: that is, the Athanasian Creed.  For this reason, as also because the Breviarium O.Dorm., if said at all, is read in the cell, and usually recited by aggregation all at once at a late hour (excepting only Compline, sung still later in the church), the so-called Chapter Office or Pretiosa in other rites attached to Prime (or to Lauds, as in the Breviarium S.O.P.) is instead postponed till after None, "the hour of prayer", and prefixed by the Quicumque vult – which is daily used by these zealous Canons; indeed, their spiritual practice earnestly recommends its repeated use when attempting to fall asleep.

Previously, extracts from the Regula Patrum Soporificum were given as an aid to devotion; now, let it be noted that their reading takes place during what the Dormitionists term the Quicumque devotions, as follows:

  1. Athanasian Creed, with versicle Benedicamus Patrem and an Ambrosian Collect (Concede, quæsumus, omnipotens Deus: ut sicut te Unum ac Trinum confitemur, ita divinitatis tuæ perpetuo fruamur aspectu. Per Christum...);
  2. Reading from the Martyrology (the brief listing of the succeeding day's saints, since the next day's Office begins with the immediately following Vespers), with the usual versicle and prayer;
  3. Prayers for the Lord Pope (see below);
  4. Reading from the Rule;
  5. Prayer for Deceased Brethren, Sisters, Familiars and Benefactors: De profundis &c., with the collect Deus veniæ largitor.

It will be noted that this arrangement is somewhat of a compromise between the Roman, the Monastic and other forms of the Chapter Office that in all other churches is read after Prime – unsurprisingly so, since the three Founders of the Dormitionists were alert to select carefully the most suitable elements for the restful and relaxing observances of their nascent Order.  Furthermore, the five parts thereof correspond mystically to the Five Wounds.

No one can become a Saint (as enumerated in 2.) if he scoff at belief in the Trinity (as stated in 1.), nor if he refuse due obedience to Christ's Vicar (3.), even if, as a religious, he keep the Rule (4.); and may those who have gone before us in the Faith, now rest without end in peace (5.).  I leave it to the reader's ingenuity to relate each of these parts of the fivefold Quicumque devotions to each respective Wound – another favourite suggested topic for thought if dreaded insomnia strike.  (It ill-behooves Christians to count sheep, as if in mockery of Christ's careful shepherding of His flock within the One Fold.  We know from Holy Writ, too, that God hates the taking of a census – see II Kings xxiv.)

Liturgiologists will be no doubt interested to learn that the Dormitionists do not maintain a separate Martyrology, but have long combined its daily entries with the rest of their Breviary, for the more convenience of the Canons in their cells.  Similarly, those interested in Papal history will also remark with liturgical persons on the chance occurrence that led to the Dormitionists inserting prayers for the Lord Pope in place of the expected prayers for the day's work: according to the account general in the Order, Innocent III, after approving, in his Bull O res mirabilis, this experiment of a novus Ordo dedicated to emulating the eternal rest of the blessed, remarked that "If they ever wake up, let them at least pray for the poor Pope kept awake by many cares" – words taken as a command by these obedient sons of Peter.  

Thus it is that they pray for Christ's Vicar, and not for any blessing on their own work, since, they reasoned, it would be strange indeed for holy religious, bound even more strictly than the secular clergy to abstain from all servile labours, to presume to ask a blessing for such unholy actions!

(Such is their devotion to Innocent III, whom they style "the Great", that these Canons would long ago have pushed for his canonization, were it not for the inconvenient truth that he appeared to St Lutgardis at his death, confessing to her that he would be in Purgatory for centuries due to three faults – I wonder what they were? – he had committed.  To intercede for this beloved foster-father or Papal midwife, as it were, each Dormitionist Dorter or Dormitory celebrates a Requiem on the day of his decease, the 16th of July, each passing year.)

The prayers for the Pope of the day consist, first of a responsory in honour of St Peter – with an added versicle commemorative of the permission granted by the Pope, who alone may bind and loose, that their Order be established to seek for rest – and then follows the expected Kyrie, Lord's Prayer, versicle and collect:

R/. Quodcumque ligaveris ſuper terram, erit ligatum et in cælis: * Et quodcumque ſolveris ſuper terram, erit ſolutum etIn cælis
V/. Et ego dico tibi quia tu es Petrus, et ſuper hanc petram ædificabo Eccleſiam meam. * Et quodcumque ſolveris ſuper terram, erit ſolutum etIn cælis
V/. Dormite jam et requieſcite.In cælis. 
Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto. 
R/. Quodcumque ligaveris ſuper terram, erit ligatum et in cælis: * Et quodcumque ſolveris ſuper terram, erit ſolutum etIn cælis.
Kyrie, eleiſon. Chriſte, eleiſon. Kyrie, eleiſon. 
Pater noſter (ſecreto uſque ad)
V/. Et ne nos inducas in tentationem.
R/. Sed libera nos a malo.
V/. Oremus pro Domino Papa
R/. Dominus conſervet eum, et vivificet eum, et beatum faciat eum in terra, et non tradat eum in animam inimicorum ejus.
Or. Omnipotens ſempiterne Deus, qui facis mirabilia magna ſolus, prætende ſuper famulum tuum N. Papam noſtrum, et ſuper cunctas congregationes illi commiſſas ſpiritum gratiæ ſalutaris: et ut in veritate tibi complaceant, perpetuum eis rorem tuæ benedictionis infunde. Per Chriſtum Dominum noſtrum. R/. Amen.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Quis non amantem redamet?

"Behold the Heart that has so loved man" – said Our Lord to St Margaret Mary: but, O reproach! how little has Jesus been loved in return.  At Mass this morning Fr Kene reminded us of the duty of reparation to the Sacred Heart, so loving, so outraged and offended, still despised and rejected, the Victim Who offers us salvation, and yet is met with such scoffing and ingratitude, even on the part of those who profess to love Him.  I tremble to reflect on how little I really love God.

Let us praise and worship the Lord, mindful that "The dead shall not praise thee, O Lord: nor any of them that go down to hell" – that is, those who are dead in sin and, it is feared, if they not be converted and made truly alive, they shall die the second death, never to see the light any more – "But we that live" (that is, are in grace) "bless the Lord: from this time now and for ever".  As Tertullian (himself later lost!) wrote, Let us begin that office of thanksgiving now that we hope may be our occupation for all eternity.  At least I am moved to praise God in His psalms, which I beg may be some token of efficacious grace at work:

R/. br. Septies in die laudem dixi tibi. * Alleluja, alleluja. R/. Septies.
V/. Vivet anima mea, et laudabit te. * Alleluja, alleluja.
Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto. R/. Septies.
—Ps 118:164a, 175a
(Seven times a day I have given praise to Thee. * Alleluia, alleluia.
(Seven times a day I have given praise to Thee. * Alleluia, alleluia.
(My soul shall live and shall praise Thee. * Alleluia, alleluia.
(Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
(Seven times a day I have given praise to Thee. * Alleluia, alleluia.)

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I implore, that I may ever love Thee more and more.