Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Duke Paul of Oldenburg to Speak in St. Louis

Please mark your calendars! On Saturday, October 31, Duke Paul of Oldenburg. Paul, Duke of Oldenburg will speak at St. Francis De Sales parish hall at 2:00 pm: on "The Importance of Tradition.” Duke Paul, a descendant of Queen Victoria, is a member of the German TFP and is active in many of its campaigns. He is also a good friend of the Institute of Christ the King. He is also one of the first members of his family to convert to Catholicism in over 400 years of Protestantism! He is in the United States on the occasion of the TFP National Conference on October 24-25 in Spring Grove, Penn., and will also be speaking at the TFP Washington Bureau. Please don't miss this opportunity to hear Duke Paul!

4,000 Rosary Rally Captains now Enrolled!

by Robert Ritchie

On Monday, September 28th on the Feast Day of St. Wenceslaus we enlisted our 4,000th rally captain for the public square rosary!

All day the volunteer office has been busy with the phones ringing. The total quickly rose until the evening when 4,000 was reached. (You can still enroll by clicking here)

The 4,000th rally captain was entered by assistant manager Mr. Chris Pierce. The rally captain was enlisted by longtime TFP supporter and member of America Needs Fatima, Mr. Sergio DePaz of Miami, FL. Mr. DePaz among other dedicated volunteers throughout the country, has, with great dedication, signed up numerous rally captains in his area. We just received them in the mail today.

The 4,000th rally captain is Mrs. Isabel Ruiz of Miami, Florida.

Let us thank Our Lady for granting this. It is no small feat to enlist 4,000 public square rosary rally captains. It would not have been possible without the volunteers who have traveled to a place where they have never been to before, to place themselves in the care of people whom they have never met before. This testimony of their love for Our Lady has transmitted into ardent action on Her behalf.

We also have to be thankful to those who designed and who maintain the web, the computer system, the phone system, the shipping department and the correspondence department.

Of course without Our Lady's grace none of this would be possible. In prayer, let us continue to thank Her, but also thank Her by our deeds in either signing up to become a rally captain, or thank Her by persevering despite obstacles, and having the best public square rosary that we can.

If you wish to offer Our Lady thanks by becoming a rally captain it is not too late. You can do so by calling (866) 584 - 6012. You can still enroll by clicking here

Monday, September 28, 2009

Missouri Planned Parenthood Facility to Close

by Patrick B. Craine

KIRKSVILLE, Missouri, September 23, 2009 ( - American Life League's Stop Planned Parenthood Project (STOPP) is celebrating the closure of another Planned Parenthood (PP) facility, this time in Kirksville, Missouri.

Tri-Rivers Planned Parenthood has announced that it will be closing its facility, which has stood for 38 years, as of November 14, 2009. They cite fewer clients and a lack of donations as reasons for the closure.

"According to our records this marks the 14th Planned Parenthood clinic to either close or announce its closing in 2009," stated STOPP national director Rita Diller in a press release Wednesday. Pointing to the lack of donations and clients, she said, "It just goes to prove that when people find out the truth about Planned Parenthood, they stop contributing and quit going."

American Life League reported in March that the number of PP facilities in the United States had dropped from 855 in 2007 to 844 in 2008. The number of local affiliates had dropped from 108 to 99. At the same time, PP is increasing its facilities that offer medical abortions, through the use of drugs such as Mifepristone (RU-486) and Methotrexate. These were up to 121 in 2008 from 108 in 2007.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Support Lithuania in its Fight for the Family Now!

Nearly twenty years ago, a tiny Catholic nation was threatened by a huge confederation of “republics” which tried to take away its sovereignty and freedom. The nation was Lithuania and the confederation was the Soviet Union. Soviet tanks entered the defenseless nation and tried to suppress it. With the moral support of millions in the West, the brave nation resisted.

Today, that same nation faces a similar threat. It is not the Soviet Union but the European Union that is trying to take away its sovereignty. The reason for the attack is its defense of Catholic morals. Today, this nation needs moral support and the American TFP is joining efforts to show support for the tiny Baltic nation.

Please click here to send your message of support to the Lithuanian Parliament Speaker.

On September 17, the European Parliament voted 349 to 218 to condemn Lithuania for its "law on the protection of minors," a measure which prohibits the promotion of "homosexual, bisexual or polygamous relations" among children under 18. The domestic legislation of a sovereign member state of the Union is being called to task.

Lithuania's Parliament passed the child protection legislation in June. Fearing criticism from the Western European politicians and the homosexual lobby, the president vetoed it. In July, Lithuania's parliament overrode the veto and the law will take effect in March 2010.

In 1990, the TFPs around the world collected over five million signatures in support of Lithuanian freedom. Now the American TFP is asking its supporters to send a message of moral support to Speaker of the Lithuanian Parliament, The Honorable Irena Degutiene congratulating the Parliament for its moral courage.

The original proposal of condemnation would have initiated proceedings to suspend Lithuania pursuant to article 7 of the Treaty on European Union. However, more “moderate” members, including fellow Catholic members, voted for a slightly milder censure. The condemnation ramps up the pressure on all Catholic states to bend to the pressure of pro-homosexual political groups that are pushing for ever more radical reforms.

Many have taken the Lithuanian move as a sign of what is in store for Ireland if it votes to ratify the Lisbon Treaty. Irish conservatives have listened with great skepticism to assurances that Catholic morals would not be challenged in the new European Union after the treaty is signed. This example, so close to the referendum, is a chilling sign of the pressure all Catholics will face.

That is why it is important to send your message of support to Lithuania. Click here to do this right away!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Socialist Intervention in the Private Sector is Not True Health Care Reform

The State is assuming the functions of
the private sphere.

The great controversy over health care reform is centered on concerns of countless Americans that proposed legislative changes will move the country yet one more step down the road toward State intervention and socialism.

This concern is well founded. For decades, the State at all levels and branches has increasingly absorbed the functions of the private sphere. It has weakened the social fabric of the nation by usurping many rights and privileges of individuals, families and businesses with excessive regulation and bureaucratic red tape.

It has imposed similar burdens on those private associations which are the natural intermediate bodies between the individual and the State, such as institutions of the Catholic Church1 and other religious bodies; health and educational institutions; trade and labor associations; and countless charitable groups.

Many Americans are now concerned that direct State intervention in health care will go yet farther and lead to the socialization of our economy.

Respecting the Principles of a Christian Social Order
There is no doubt that the State can act within the principle of authority which affirms the need for a moral force in society capable of efficaciously directing and encouraging the actions of all towards the common good of the social body.

However, there are two other pillars of a Christian social order that must be considered. First, the principle of solidarity, derived from the common nature of men, which leads them to show mutual concern and support for others. There is also the principle of subsidiarity— whereby what can be done by an individual or smaller group is not assigned to a larger group. This principle stems from the fact that man is not only a social being but also a rational, essentially free and responsible being. Thus, he is guaranteed the right to resolve his problems either by himself, through his family or other intermediate social bodies without being obliged to wait for solutions from public authority.

When the State intervenes unnecessarily in the life of its citizens, it invokes the principle of authority to suppress the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity. However, while the principle of authority is fundamental for the promotion of the common good, its role is to support and complement the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity, not to destroy them. Without balance and harmony among these three fundamental principles, society falls into disarray and easily slides towards totalitarianism, a regime that respects neither individual rights nor freedom.2

Undue State intervention in the private sphere (that is, individuals, families, businesses, religious and other associations) inexorably leads to socialism.

Socialism: A Utopian Ideology
Socialism is a utopian ideology that seeks to eliminate human selfishness by destroying individual freedom, private property and free enterprise. Socialists believe they can eliminate injustice by transferring responsibilities from individuals and families to the State. However, their efforts are tantamount to killing the patient to cure his illness.

By suppressing individual responsibility, socialism actually creates the greatest possible injustice because it destroys true liberty, which is every man’s freedom to decide for himself all matters that lie within his competence, to follow the course shown by his own reason, and to keep within the laws of morality and the dictates of justice and charity.

Socialism is anti-natural because it destroys man’s initiative — a fruit of his intellect and free will — which tends to manifest itself in everything he does. When the State replaces individual initiative, socialism’s totalitarian aspect enters with the inherent appearance of government and police repression that has been abundantly seen wherever it is implemented.

The state does not have the
obligation to provide health

Is There a Right to Health Care?
According to natural law, man has the right to take care of his own health and physical integrity. However, this individual freedom does not mean that the State must provide for one’s health care at others’ expense.

Take property rights, for example. Every man has the right to acquire property. However, this natural freedom does not oblige the State to give him property. Likewise, the fact that every man has a right to take care of his health needs does not oblige the State to give him direct medical assistance at taxpayers’ expense. Under natural law, the State’s obligation is to further the common good and guarantee the rule of law so that no one is prevented from seeking the means to obtain treatment, just as no one is prevented from acquiring property.

Thus, in ordinary circumstances, the State is under no strict obligation to provide health care for citizens, though it must foster general conditions that are favorable to the health of all. The State has no right to intervene directly in health care except in a subsidiary way, as it has done for years, when private initiative (including the efforts of religious and charitable organizations) is unable to provide health care. However, it must do this in a way that never weakens, much less destroys, private initiative.

One might ask how the poor who cannot afford heath care should obtain it. In virtue of the principle of solidarity and above all of Christian charity, it behooves primarily society, through its members, particularly the most wealthy, be it individually, be it through charitable organizations, to come to the aid of those who are unable to provide by themselves for their health needs, as is amply done already through America’s own extensive charitable networks.3

Right to Health Care or to Procure it?
Most Rev. Joseph F. Naumann, Archbishop of Kansas City, Kansas, and Most Rev. Robert W. Finn, Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph (Missouri), have made some important distinctions that help clarify the debate.

Quoting from a document of the Catholic Medical Association, the two bishops remind the faithful that instead of speaking of the “Right to Health Care,” it is more appropriate to speak of the “Right to Acquire the Means of Procuring for One’s Self and One’s Family these goods and concomitantly, a duty to exercise virtue (diligence, thrift, charity) in every aspect of their acquisition and discharge.”4

The bishops go on to say that “the right of every individual to access health care does not necessarily suppose an obligation on the part of the government to provide it.…The teaching of the Universal Church has never been to suggest a government socialization of medical services. Rather, the Church has asserted the rights of every individual to have access to those things most necessary for sustaining and caring for human life, while at the same time insisting on the personal responsibility of each individual to care properly for his or her own health.” Existing safety nets “are not intended to create permanent dependency for individuals or families upon the State, but rather to provide them with the opportunity to regain control over their own lives and their own destiny.”5

State Centralization Obstructs Health Care
To centralize health care in the hands of the State also harms the speed and efficiency of the medical assistance being provided. It further destroys the natural and trusting relationships between physicians and other health providers with their patients. Everything tends to become impersonal and remote.

Centralization is not possible without creating a huge bureaucratic machine which will absorb hard-earned taxpayer dollars which should be applied to those purposes the State is directly responsible for.

Bishops Warn of Dangers
Several other Catholic bishops have emphasized this centralizing aspect of the health care debate. In this sense, Most Rev. R. Walker Nickless, Bishop of Sioux City, Iowa warns that health care should not be subject to "federal monopolization" and that "the proper role of government is to regulate the private sector in order to foster healthy competition and curtail abuses. Therefore any legislation that undermines the viability of the private sector is suspect."6

In the same line, Most Rev. Thomas G. Doran, Bishop of Rockford, Illinois, writes: "Our federal bureaucracy is a vast wasteland strewn with the carcasses of absurd federal programs which proved infinitely worse than the problems they were established to correct.” He continues: “Modern socialist governments like to…the means to protect and extend life. Some have called the current efforts of our federal government ‘senioricide’ or ‘infanticide.’ That perhaps is too severe, but we as Catholics should take care that health care does not morph into life control."7

Most Rev. James V. Johnston, Bishop of Cape-Girardeau and Springfield, Missouri, writes: “One might legitimately ask if giving a large, inefficient, but powerful bureaucracy like the federal government control of health care is a wise move. For one, this runs counter to the well-known principle of subsidiarity, so prominent in Catholic social teaching.… Certainly, [the government] has a role to play, but that does not necessarily mean that it should be the sole provider of health care.…The essential element of the principle of subsidiarity is the protection of individual freedoms from unjust micromanagement and manipulation by the state.”8

Likewise, Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Denver, writes: "[A] proper government role in solving the health-care crisis does not necessarily demand a national public plan, run or supervised by government authorities. Real health-care reform need not automatically translate into federal programming."9

In a letter to the clergy and faithful of his diocese, Most Rev. Samuel J. Aquila, Bishop of Fargo, North Dakota, cites the danger of thinking "the national government is the sole instrument of the common good."10

Abortion and Health Care Reform
Finally, the issue of abortion must be addressed since the nefarious practice is not health care but its contrary. Although proponents have insisted that the various Majority-supported bills will not favor abortion, this assertion does not withstand serious scrutiny. Amendments that would have clearly excluded abortion were rejected in committee. Further, there is every reason to believe that, in the future, the courts could rule that, constitutionally, abortion cannot be excluded from coverage.

The risk that abortion and euthanasia will somehow be included in the health care reform legislation is in itself grounds to oppose it. Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia, and numerous other prelates have gone on record to reiterate that this is a line the Church cannot cross.11

In light of the considerations above, the American TFP calls on the nation to redouble its vigilance and its peaceful and legal opposition to any health care reform that favors an increase in State interventionism in the private sector, abortion or other anti-natural initiative.

Socialism will not resolve the problems inside the American health care system. Indeed, it will destroy the present system at its very core and thus irreversibly ruin that which, despite its shortcomings, is universally recognized as one of the best systems in the world.

May Our Lady, Consoler of the Afflicted, help the nation’s elected officials to resist the temptation to implement any kind of socialism. Rather, let them be faithful to the mores and principles underpinning a truly Christian and just social order.

September 21, 2009
The American TFP

The above statement appeared in The Washington Times of September 21, 2009.


Related Texts

The Principle of Subsidiarity in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church
Subsidiarity is among the most constant and characteristic directives of the Church's social doctrine and has been present since the first great social encyclical. It is impossible to promote the dignity of the person without showing concern for the family, groups, associations, local territorial realities; in short, for that aggregate of economic, social, cultural, sports-oriented, recreational, professional and political expressions to which people spontaneously give life and which make it possible for them to achieve effective social growth. This is the realm of civil society, understood as the sum of the relationships between individuals and intermediate social groupings, which are the first relationships to arise and which come about thanks to “the creative subjectivity of the citizen”. This network of relationships strengthens the social fabric and constitutes the basis of a true community of persons, making possible the recognition of higher forms of social activity.

The necessity of defending and promoting the original expressions of social life is emphasized by the Church in the Encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, in which the principle of subsidiarity is indicated as a most important principle of “social philosophy”. “Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the community, so also it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do. For every social activity ought of its very nature to furnish help to the members of the body social, and never destroy and absorb them.” (Internal notes omitted)

(Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, nn. 185-186)

Pope Benedict XVI:
“We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything”

“The State which would provide everything, absorbing everything into itself, would ultimately become a mere bureaucracy incapable of guaranteeing the very thing which the suffering person − every person − needs: namely, loving personal concern. We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need. … In the end, the claim that just social structures would make works of charity superfluous masks a materialist conception of man: the mistaken notion thatman can live ‘by bread alone’ (Mt 4:4; cf. Dt 8:3) − a conviction that demeans man and ultimately disregards all that is specifically human.”

(Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, Dec. 25, 2005, n. 28)

Pope Pius XI:
“No one can be at the same time a good Catholic and a true socialist”

“Society, therefore, as Socialism conceives it, can on the one hand neither exist nor be thought of without an obviously excessive use of force; on the other hand, it fosters a liberty no less false, since there is no place in it for true social authority, which rests not on temporal and material advantages but descends from God alone, the Creator and last end of all things.

“If Socialism, like all errors, contains some truth (which, moreover, the Supreme Pontiffs have never denied), it is based nevertheless on a theory of human society peculiar to itself and irreconcilable with true Christianity. Religious socialism, Christian socialism, are contradictory terms; no one can be at the same time a good Catholic and a true socialist.

(Pius XI, Encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, May 15, 1931, nn. 119-120)


1 An estimated 25% of America’s hospitals are associated with the Catholic Church. One should also consider the thousands of Catholic schools and colleges, cemeteries, and untold charitable projects to help the poor.

2 Cf. Baltasar Péres Argos, S.J., “Los Cuatro Pilares fundamentales del Ordem Social y Economico, Segun la Doctrina de la Iglesia,” Verbo, Mar.-Apr. 1991.

3 The right to health care by those who cannot afford it is a right based in charity, not in strict justice. Now then, the rights based in charity “are rights latu sensu as they do not oblige with precision and are not enforceable (legally).” (Régis Jolivet, Traité de Philosophie [Paris: Emmanuel Vitte, 1949], Vol. 4, p. 153 – Our translation). Cf. Joseph Rickaby, S.J., Moral Philosophy: Ethics, Deontology and Natural Law (London: Longmans, Green & Co., Ltd., 1929), pp. 246-247; Michael D. Greaney, “Universal Health Care—Justice or Charity?” Social Justice Review, Sept.-Oct. 2003, p. 132.

4 Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann and Bishop Robert W. Finn, Joint Pastoral Statement on Principles of Catholic Social Teaching and Health Care Reform, Aug. 22, 2009, (The bishops’ emphasis.)

5 Ibid.

6 Bishop R. Walker Nickless, Pastoral Message on the Assumption of Mary, Aug. 17, 2009,

7 Bishop Thomas G. Doran, “Concerns to take to heart in health care and proposed reforms,” The Observer, Aug. 7, 2009 at

8 Bishop James V. Johnston, “Skinning the ‘Health Care Cat,’” The Mirror, Sept. 4, 2009, at

9 Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., “Health care, justice, and the course of our national debate,” Denver Catholic Register, Sept. 2, 2009, at

10 Bishop Samuel Aquila, Letter of Aug. 28, 2009, at

11 Cf. Aug. 11, 2009 letter from Cardinal Justin Rigali as Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Issues to the U.S. House of Representatives, at

Monday, September 21, 2009

Our Lady of Las Lajas: A Continuous Miracle


The merciful predilection of the Mother of God for Latin America is the reward she has given for the heroic faith formed from the Iberian Peninsula during the 800 years’ struggle against the invading Moors and found in the Latin American peoples’ souls in which Divine Providence willed to deposit it.

From Mexico to Tierra del Fuego, no nation has failed to receive special favors from Our Lady. However, her interventions did not occur in just any manner. She presented herself with unheard of magnificence and splendor, making it clear that she came to preside over Latin America from on high.

The History of Predilection
As an example of this magnificence, consider how the Most Holy Virgin has stamped her image on the imposing cliffs of the Guaitara Canyon, Colombia, thereby becoming Queen of the souls in that region and in all surrounding lands.

In the year 1754, Maria Mueses de Quiñones, an Indian woman from Colombia, was going from her hometown of Potosi to the village of Ipiales when she was caught in a great storm. At a place called Las Lajas (the Rock Slabs), she sought refuge in a grotto.

However, she was anxious since there was a popular legend that said the devil lived in the grotto. With trepidation, she entered the darkness of the grotto, invoking the Virgin of the Rosary. Suddenly, she felt someone tapping at her back, as though calling her.

Frightened, she fled back into the storm.

A few days later, returning by the same route, she once again reached the cliffs of Las Lajas, carrying on her back her little daughter Rosa, who was a deaf-mute since birth. Being tired and wanting to rest, Maria Mueses de Quiñones sat down to rest timidly on a stone near the grotto.

Then the first miracle occurred. Her deaf-mute child suddenly spoke, “Mommy, look at the mestiza who has detached herself from the rock with a little boy in her arms and two little mestizos at her side!” With this exclamation, Rosa slid off her mother’s back to climb up the grotto’s stones. Struck with terror, Maria took her daughter and fled from the mysterious place.

There was general bewilderment among Maria’s friends and acquaintances in Potosi when she told them what had happened. Thirsting for the supernatural, the Indians listened to her, asked her many questions, and commented among themselves about the singular event, but took no further action.

In the meantime, Rosa disappeared, causing her mother great concern. Maria searched to no avail, until she remembered the episode at the grotto, and returned there to look for Rosa. She found her daughter kneeling before a splendid woman and playing affectionately with a child who had come down from his mother’s arms. Knowing she beheld the Blessed Virgin Mary and her Son Jesus, Maria fell to her knees before this beautiful spectacle, and she was no longer afraid.


Shortly thereafter, Our Lady performed a spectacular miracle that prompted the news of the marvelous presence to spread throughout lands near the rocky banks of the Guaitara River.

Unexpectedly, Rosa sickened and died. Her grieving mother carried her body in her arms to the grotto in order to beg the Virgin for help. Reminding the Virgin of Rosa’s solicitude in bringing her candles and flowers, she begged Our Lady to bring her back to life. In answer to her prayers, the Queen of Heaven and Earth performed the miracle of the child’s resurrection. Maria told her employers in Ipiales about the extraordinary event.

Moved by the news, they went with priests, distinguished persons and many local people to the apparition’s site.

It was then that all saw stamped on the rock face a magnificent image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, holding her Infant Son, with Saints Dominic and Francis kneeling at their feet. The Virgin extended a Rosary to Saint Dominic and the Infant a Franciscan cord to Saint Francis.

Today, an enormous quantity of mementos and tokens of thanksgiving attest to the devotion and gratitude of the Colombian people since the time of the apparition.

The basilica dedicated to Our Lady of Las Lajas.

Historical and Scientific Aspects of the Image of Las Lajas
An interesting aspect of the image is the presence of Saint Dominic de Guzmán and Saint Francis of Assisi, the founders of the two orders that first evangelized Colombia and to whom Colombians have always had a special devotion.

The image of Our Lady of Las Lajas, as that of Our Lady of Guadalupe, has spanned the centuries without losing its brilliance. In the case of Las Lajas, the Divine Painter used a fade-proof method. After German geologists bored core samples from several spots in the image, they determined there was no paint, no dye, or any other pigment on the surface of the rock; the colors are the colors of the rock itself, and they penetrate into the rock evenly for several feet!

In 1952, Pius XII granted a canonical crowning of Our Lady of Las Lajas, and in 1954, the Gothic church erected to house the image was dedicated as a minor basilica, with the presence of the entire Colombian Episcopate.

In the Eyes of the Queen, the True and Authentic Latin America
In the course of the two thousand years in which the Church has spread throughout the world, artists have frequently shaped Our Lady’s physical aspect according to the type of women of their time and region. This has happened in paintings, sculpture, stained-glass windows, and other media. The most ancient statues of her attest to this fact. In the remote days of the Church, statues of Mary Most Holy depicted her with a Mediterranean physical aspect. As the Faith spread among the Nordic people, blond and blue-eyed representations of Our Lady appeared.

The modeling of images according to the regional feminine physical aspect is agreeable to Our Lady. This is proved by the fact when she impresses her image on some object in order to perpetuate the memory of an apparition or when she appears to a seer who then later describes her to an artist who will interpret the seer’s description into a painting or sculpture.

In Mexico, for example, Our Lady of Guadalupe stamped her image with Mexican physiognomies on Juan Diego’s serape, where she can be seen standing on the moon and obscuring the sun that is behind her. The Aztecs worshiped the sun and the moon as gods, and the sight of this powerful lady overcoming their gods was the catalyst in the Mexican Indians’ conversion. In Colombia, God performed the prodigy of printing Our Lady of Las Lajas on a rock. In view of these two very short examples, who can deny the deeply religious atmosphere characteristic of images painted by the Angels?

As limited as one’s sense of observation may be, one cannot fail to exclaim upon seeing her, “Look how Latin American she is!” Something very essential, a reflection of the qualities and virtues of the Latin American people, is expressed in Our Lady of Las Lajas.

But what does her physical aspect tell us?

We find a great personality, the profound and intelligent gaze of a meditating and recollected person. She has an extraordinary stability and solidity, a continuity of will and temperament. Nothing shakes or agitates her. There is no arrogance or ostentation, but rather the dominion of one who is accustomed to having her will obeyed. She could not have a better veil than her long, abundant, beautiful hair. The color and richness of her dress are those of a Queen. She is extremely kind and motherly. How good and safe the Child Jesus feels in her arms! What throne could be more worthy of Him? He is almost at play, with the liberty of a child.

It is curious to note the relationship between Mother and Son. Frequently their images present them gazing at each other, but not in Las Lajas. They are so accustomed to being together that they have no need to look at each other in order to sustain their mutual attention.

She directs her eyes toward the Latin American people, heeding their supplications, orienting and commanding them. Meanwhile, the Child Jesus enters the intimacy of those who arrive at the Queen’s feet—a Queen who displays in her gaze a kindness so exalted that she moves us to trust her entirely.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

URGENT petition to Notre Dame: Please Drop the Charges

Alan Keyes being arrested at Notre Dame while peacefully praying the rosary. He now faces up to one year in jail.

The 88 outspoken pro-lifers peacefully walked onto Notre Dame’s campus in May to be the voice of the unborn – when pro-abortion president Obama was honored there – and were arrested for trespassing. Among those arrested were Fr. Norman Weslin, several Catholic nuns, Norma McCorvey, the “Jane Roe” of Roe v. Wade, and Ambassador Alan Keyes.

Sign the “Drop the Charges” petition reports:
“While witnesses say pro-Obama protesters were allowed to roam free, the arrested individuals were singled out for displaying any pro-life message -- including slogans on the sanctity of life, photographs of aborted children, a large wooden cross, and images of Mary.”
The double standard is rather shocking, isn’t it?

The University of Notre Dame, as the original complainant, has the choice to drop the charges pending against the 88 pro-lifers.

Therefore, your signature is very important right now because, according to reports, the president of Notre Dame “has repeatedly refused to seek such leniency or even answer the pro-lifers' requests for dialogue.” ( 09-04-09)

Join this urgent petition. Pass it along. Post it on Facebook, on blogs, and get the word out.

Kindly ask Fr. Jenkins to drop the charges

Respectfully contact Fr. John Jenkins, president of Notre Dame:

Office of the President
400 Main Building
Notre Dame, IN 46556
Phone: 574-631-3903
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Related articles:

Monday, September 14, 2009

Why Was Our Lady's Heart Pierced by a Sword of Sorrow?

Written by Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

The concept of Our Lady of Sorrows comes from the prophecy of Simeon who, thirty-three years in advance, foretold to Our Lady that a sword would pierce her heart. This prophecy proves that we can suffer spiritual reversals even when we live a glorious life.

Given the existence of sin, life is full of expiation and struggle.


The Presentation begins with the prophet Simeon taking the Child Jesus in his arms and prophesizing: “Now Thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to Thy word in peace; because my eyes have seen Thy salvation which Thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples: A light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel.” Hearing that prophecy, Our Lady became even more aware of the immense glory of the Divine Child.

After blessing Our Lady, Simeon then said: “Behold this Child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted.” Thus, after predicting a magnificent future, he announced a life of terrible struggle. Then, turning to her, he said: “And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.”

He thus announced to Our Lady not only the terrible struggle Our Lord would face but also that a sword would pierce her soul. In other words, she knew in advance that she would have to endure one of the most atrocious sufferings a person could bear.

Lessons for Modern Man

This sequence of events has valuable lessons for modern man. It is evident that God wanted the Christ Child to be the victorious king mentioned in Simeon’s prophecy, yet modern man finds it difficult to explain logically how a wise and consistent God would put Him through all those struggles that would end up in defeat.

Modern man reasons that it would be according to the natural order of things established by God’s wisdom not to allow this suffering and defeat. Why should there be the mystery of this terrible moment announcing this sword that would pierce Our Lady’s Heart? How can we understand God allowing such great suffering and apparent defeat?

The reason for this perplexity comes from a modern mentality that does not know how to deal with the setbacks of the spiritual life and apostolate. Many people simply do not understand why they should be tempted when they are doing well in their spiritual life. Why does Our Lady allow us to sin and displease her? It appears to be a contradiction. If the objective of sanctity is clear, then it would seem normal for everything to move orderly and consistently toward that end? How do we explain the setbacks?

“Happy End” Mindset

Here we see a reflection of the “happy end” mentality found in Hollywood films where things always end up right. According to this erroneous mindset, we must harbor the certainty that everything must have a happy ending, for man is called to be happy and victorious on this earth. When things do not end up well, then we have the sensation that life is a failure.

This “happy end” mentality intoxicates our minds so that we are unable to understand how God’s plans are accomplished. Given the existence of sin, the fall of the angels and the fall of man, human life has a character not only of trial, but also of expiation and struggle. Divine Providence acts with wisdom, when allowing the good to have setbacks, sicknesses, temptations, or fights with adversaries. Providence also allows all these things to befall us in situations in which we do not understand why they are happening to us. Suffering is normal in this life. It is normal that many things yield bad results and even turn out wrong or at least, different than intended.

However, for His greater glory, God draws from bad results, something better and more brilliant than we could imagine even if we had good results. These unexpected sufferings and trials are not only something that sinful man must suffer, they also correspond to a punishment for the sins we may have committed.

They are a proof of our love to God since we must lovingly render to Him, blind confidence, detachment and abnegation. This is highly formative for men. However it only has value to the degree that we accept these sufferings with a supernatural spirit rather than complaining about them. We must accept these trials as a soldier who moves forward in the fight.

The Mystery of Simeon’s Prophecy

Here one understands the mystery of Simeon’s prophecy. According to the modern mindset, it would have been better not to advise Our Lady of her sorrow thirty-three years in advance. It would have been better to circumvent the issue and keep quiet about it. Even at the hour Our Lord was to be crucified, she should be spared that terrible sorrow by avoiding it altogether.

However, Our Lady carried the knowledge of this sorrow her whole life. She saw it coming from afar. Thus, her immaculate soul, conceived without Original Sin, gradually grew in perfection and sanctity by the long consideration and acceptance of the sorrow that was to come.

Even for Our Lady’s immaculate soul, we can understand that a strong, courageous, reasonable and, we could even say, manly calculation of future sorrows would be an element of growing union with God. From the very first instant of her being, Our Lady’s very intense union with God was unfathomable. However, she was intentionally given to carry her sorrow for thirty three years with the understanding that we were born to suffer. It is normal for us to suffer and it is necessary to accept pain entirely before it comes. And when suffering does come, it should find us calm, faithful, dauntless and heroic, for this is how we must be in the face of pain and sorrow.

The Garden of Olives

Thus, we can find an analogy between the life of Our Lord and Our Lady. She spent thirty-three years of her life in the Garden of Olives. She foresaw all the sorrow amidst indescribable joys. She saw her Divine Son grow and prepare for His public life. She could see that piercing sword of sorrow awaiting her as she saw Him leave home, heard the rumors being spread about Him, and noticed the growing hatred against Him from all sides. The forces of evil were preparing the most atrocious coup against her Son, and she, who adored Him as her God and Son, sensing the horrible sin being prepared, accepted the trial of facing up to the coming events.

The end result of this preparation was that she was ready for the most magnificent hour of her life. While all men deserted Our Crucified Lord, Our Lady stood at the foot of the Cross. In spite of the terrible suffering, at no moment was she disoriented. She did not lose her self- control or wish to flee. All these vile passions would be unbefitting for her, filled as she was with the most excellent virtues elevated to the highest degree. No one had ever suffered so much while maintaining such complete self-control and understanding of the logic of what was happening. Our Lady did this with so much strength and poise, and hatred of evil. We can even sense her hatred for evil in that she knew that evil would be entirely crushed at the moment that her Divine Son expired.


While all men deserted
Our Crucified Lord,
Our Lady stood at the
foot of the Cross.

A Hatred of Evil
During the whole time of the Passion, she took the following attitude: I adore my Son, but if it be necessary to sacrifice Him to crush the devil, defeat the power of darkness and annihilate the Revolution, I consent to His death. I immolate Him for this end, so to speak. This sword I plunge into my own heart, so that the devil and his Revolution be crushed forever. I unite myself with the most holy intentions of the Father and Holy Ghost to make this frightful sacrifice. With this in mind, I want what is happening on the Cross and I want it at every instant with all the intensity of my being.

If this does not define a combative and fighting spirit and disposition to crush the enemy, then nothing can define it. This stance was a consequence of her preparation during those thirty-three years.

Analogy with Our Lord

What does this have in common with the life of Our Lord and the Garden of Olives? Our Lord meditated and saw everything that would befall Him in the Garden of Olives. He then began to feel horror and terror at what was going to happen and prayed: “Father, if thou wilt, remove this chalice from me, but yet not my will, but Thine be done.”

In saying this, He affirmed that He wanted all this suffering in order to attain a certain result. This shows supreme control, supreme calm, and supreme generosity. It indicates what the temperament of a Catholic must be when facing suffering and the love that we must have for suffering. To fulfill our vocation, we must understand this well and practice it.

Our Sword of Sorrow

This teaches us to be imbued with the following idea: It is normal in our tremendous fight that there will be many moments when a sword of sorrow will pierce our souls.

As has happened in the past, we may appear defeated, disoriented and abandoned by Providence. However we must recite the psalm Our Lord prayed on the Cross: My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me? We have to place ourselves before this perspective because these things will happen since our fight is not always a victory parade.

We should ask Our Lady to obtain for us the grace to love and desire this sword of sorrow and start preparing our life immediately for that hour. For just as the finest hour in Our Lady’s life was that of the sword and fidelity, together with the Incarnation, so we can also say that the great hour of our life was not the one when we were called to the struggles of life but when we persevered – the hour of the sword piercing our heart. What must characterize us should be our vision, resignation, and even more, our healthy and balanced desire for this hour.

It is said that when Our Lord received the Cross, he wept, embraced and kissed it with great tenderness, for He had always longed for it. Would that at the hour of our sword we might also weep in a manly fashion with emotion, kiss that sword with great tenderness and say we have always longed for it. On this feast of Sorrows, let us ask Our Lady to obtain for us the grace of loving that sword.
The above is an adaptation of a talk given on April 9, 1965

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Modesty of Dress and Love of God: An Effective Way to Defend the Family

By Luis Sergio Solimeo

“I love vulgarity. Good taste is death, vulgarity is life."1 These words by English fashion designer Mary Quant, who took credit for inventing the miniskirt and hot pants, reveal one of the most important, though rarely pointed out, aspects of the “fashion revolution” that started in the sixties: vulgarity.Indeed, fashions have increasingly tended toward vulgarity. It is a vulgarity that tramples upon not only good taste and decorum but which reflects a mentality opposed to all order and discipline and to every kind of restraint, be it esthetic, moral or social, and which ultimately suggests a completely “liberated” standard of behavior.

1. Are Comfort and Practicality Supreme Criteria?
The rationale for introducing ever shorter skirts was “to be practical and liberating, allowing women the ability to run for a bus.”2 The notion that comfort, practicality and freedom of movement must be the only criteria for dress has led to a breakdown in the general standard of sobriety and elegance, not to speak of the norms of modesty.Thus, casual dress, being more comfortable and practical, increasingly becomes the norm regardless of people’s sex, age and circumstances. Jeans and the T-shirt (formerly a piece of underwear) became part of common attire.Though one can wear less formal clothes at times of leisure, these clothes should not convey the impression that one is abandoning one’s dignity and seriousness. They should not give the idea that one is actually on vacation from one's principles.In the past, even leisure dress, though more comfortable, maintained the dignity that one should never abandon.It is curious to note that many companies require employees to wear business suits to convey an image of seriousness and responsibility. This is proof that clothes do transmit a message. They can express seriousness and responsibility or on the other hand, immaturity and a carelessness.

2. Unisex Garb
The premise that comfort and practicality must preside over the choice of clothes had yet another consequence: clothes no longer reflect one's identity. In other words, they no longer indicate a person’s social position, profession, or even more fundamental characteristics such as sex and age.Thus, unisex garb has become widespread: jeans and shorts have come to be worn by people of both sexes and all generations. Young men and women, the youth and the aged, single and married, teachers and students, children and adults, all mix together and wear one and the same clothing which no longer expresses that which they are, think or desire.

3. The Habit Does Not Make the Monk but Identifies Him
One could object that “the habit does not make the monk.” The fact that a person dresses with distinction and elegance does not mean, of itself, that he has good principles and good behavior. Likewise, the fact that a person always wears casual dress does not necessarily indicate that he has bad principles or a reprehensible conduct. At first sight, the argument appears logical and even obvious. However, analyzed in depth, it does not stand.True, the habit does not make the monk. Nevertheless, it is a strong element that identifies him. Furthermore, it influences not only the way people look at the monk but the way he looks at himself. No one will deny that the loss of identity by many nuns and monks that took place over the last forty years was largely due to their shedding the traditional habits, which adequately expressed the spirit of poverty, chastity and obedience, as well as an ascetic lifestyle proper to consecrated persons.3

4. The Need for Coherence Between Dress and Convictions
Given the unity that exists in our tendencies, principles, convictions and behavior, the way we dress cannot fail to influence our mentality.Wearing a certain type of clothing constitutes a form of behavior; and when clothing no longer adequately reflect our tendencies, principles and convictions, one’s mentality begins to undergo an imperceptible change to remain ‘in sync’ with the way one presents oneself. This is because human reason, by the force of logic inherent in it, naturally seeks to establish consistency between thought and behavior.This rule is magnificently summed up in the famous phrase of French writer Paul Bourget: "One must live as one thinks, under pain of sooner or later ending up thinking as one has lived."The process of transformation or erosion of principles can be slowed down or impeded by a person’s religious fervor, deeply rooted tendencies or ideas, and other factors. However, if inconsistency between behavior - reflected in the way one dresses - and one’s principles and convictions is not eliminated, the process of erosion, no matter how slow, becomes inexorable.
The beautiful, simple and modest dress of the Belle Epoque.

5. Living Faith, Inadequate Clothing
This subtle erosion is often manifested by a loss of sensitivity regarding the fundamental points of one’s mentality. One example would be the respect one must have for the sacred.In some way, concessions to the principle that comfort must be the only rule of dress have ended up by giving a casual note to more serious and holy activities. How can one explain, for example, that persons who have true faith in the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, and who make admirable sacrifices to frequent perpetual adoration, nevertheless see no contradiction in presenting themselves before the Blessed Sacrament wearing shorts as if they were on a picnic?The same person who shows up thus dressed for perpetual adoration would never don those clothes for an audience, say, with Queen Elizabeth II. This contradiction shows how, though the person has maintained his faith, to a certain degree the notion of the majesty of the Sacrament of the Altar -- the Real Presence -- has vanished from his soul.

6. Egalitarianism...
There is a general tendency in our times to establish a most radical egalitarianism at all levels of culture and social relations between the sexes, and even, in the tendency of egalitarianianism, between men and animals.4 In dress, this egalitarianism is manifested by the growing proletarianization, the establishment of unisex fashions and the abolition of differences between generations. The same garb can be worn by anybody no matter his position, age or circumstance (e.g. in a trip, a religious or civil ceremony).Chaos reigns in the domains of fashion today. It is often difficult to distinguish, by their clothes, men from women, parents from children, a religious ceremony from a picnic. Haircuts and hairstyles follow the same tendency to confound age and sex and to break down standards of elegance and good taste.

7. ...That Leads to Infantilization
One of the aspects that stand out the most in the modern dictates of fashion is the desire to create an illusion of eternal youth, even perpetual adolescence with no responsibility, a phenomenon that has been called the “Peter Pan Syndrome."5 Modern fashion shows a tendency to infantilize people. A Brazilian fashion critic thus expressed herself: “For a long time now, we have seen on catwalks, both international and domestic, fashions that should be displayed at the Children’s Expo, such is the level of infantilization they suggest. Stylists over 25 years old were designing (and wearing) clothes that could be worn by children in a day care center.”6

8. Modesty is Essential to Chastity
In addition to the extravagant, egalitarian and infantilizing tendency of modern fashion, one needs to consider the attack on virtue and the complete lack of modesty.The human body has its beauty, and this beauty attracts us. Due to the disorder which Original Sin left in man, the disorder of concupiscence, the delight in contemplating bodily beauty, and particularly of the feminine body can lead to temptation and sin.That is not to say that some parts of the body are good and can be shown and others are bad and must be covered. Such a statement is absurd and was never part of Church doctrine. All parts of the body are good, for the body is good as a whole, having been created by God. However, not all body parts are equal, and some excite the sexual appetite more than others. Thus, exposing those parts through semi-nudity or risqué low cut dresses or wearing clothes so tight as to accentuate one’s anatomy poses a grave risk of causing excitation, particularly in men in relation to women.Therefore, clothes must cover that which must be covered and make stand out that which can be emphasized. To cover a woman’s face, like Muslims do, shows well the lack of equilibrium of a religion that does not understand true human dignity. The face, the noblest part of the body because it more perfectly reflects the spiritual soul, is precisely the part that stands out the most in the traditional habits of nuns.Just as masculine clothes should emphasize the manly aspect proper to man, feminine fashion should manifest grace and delicacy. And in this sense, having longer hair is a natural adornment to frame a woman’s face.

9. Immorality in Fashions and Destruction of the Family
Garb that does not show a person’s self-respect as an intelligent and free being (and, through baptism, as a son or daughter of God and a temple of the Holy Ghost), contributes to a large extent to the present destruction of the family. It does this by favoring temptations against purity. It also does this by its vulgarity and childishness that corrodes the notion of the seriousness of life and the need for ascesis (self-discipline), all of which are fundamental elements that maintain family cohesion and stability.The struggle for the restoration of the family by opposing abortion, contraception, and homosexuality will be much more effective if done together with efforts to restore sobriety, modesty and elegance in dress.

10. Dress and the Love of God
The role of clothing is not only to protect the body from the elements but also to serve as adornment and symbolize someone’s functions, characteristics and mentality. Garb must be not only dignified and decent but also as beautiful and elegant as possible (which requires more good taste than money).If the “way of beauty” leads us to God by seeing Him as the exemplary cause of Creation, the “way of ugliness” turns us away from the Creator and places us on the slippery slope of sin. That is why ugliness is the very symbol of sin and is so well expressed by the expression “ugly as sin.”_____________________
Footnotes:1. Mary Quant talks to Alison Adburgham, Tuesday, October 10, 1967,,6051,106475,00.html.[back to article]2. Cf., [back to article]3. Fortunately, for some time now there has been a wholesome reaction against the abandonment of the traditional habit, a fact that has brought an increase in the number of vocations. According to a recently published book, “communities of sisters whose members wear an identifiable religious habit” are the most flourishing and attract young women the most. (Book says young women attracted to orders whose members wear habits, CNS, [back to article]4. Cf. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, Revolution and Counter-Revolution, [back to article]5. Cf. Dr. Dan Kiley, The Peter Pan Syndrome - Men Who Have Never Grown Up, Dodd, Mead & Company, New York, 1983. [back to article]6. Gloria Kalil, Os kidults e a moda Alô Chics!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Don Pelayo and the Reconquista of Spain

Written by Felipe Barandiaran

One fascinating aspect of the Old Testament is God’s interventions favoring those who do all they possibly can while facing overwhelming odds and counting on Him to do the impossible. As we read about David and Goliath, Gideon and the Battle of Jericho, the Maccabees and others, we have the impression that God actually dons armor and goes to battle on their side. New Testament history counts a number of such interventions. Among these is the marvelous story of the Reconquista, or recapture of Spain from Islamic domination.

Less than seventy years after the death of Mohammed in 632, his followers had already conquered most of the Middle East and North Africa. In the beginning of the eighth century, the leaders of the new religion turned their eyes to Christian Europe, dreaming of new Moorish conquests.

On the other side of the Strait of Gibraltar, Visigoth Catholic Spain was in a state of decadence, undermined by the Arian heresy, steeped in vice, its army and people lax, and its leaders divided.

In 711, because of internal divisions, traitors informed the Muslims about the weak points along the Spanish southern coast. Not waiting for a second invitation, the Islamic army landed. The poison of treachery added to the ruthlessness of the scimitar conquered all of Spain in a few years.

But the Lord of Hosts had long prepared the Spanish David who would face the new Islamic Goliath.

A Warrior, a Cave and a Queen
The Cantabrian Range in northern Spain forms a natural fortress of lofty peaks, deep gorges, narrow valleys, steep cliffs and evergreen forests. This region numbers among the “Peaks of Europe” and was once the paradise of hermits, and the home of bears, mountain goats and soaring eagles. It is also known as the cradle of Catholic Spain, and it is the starting point of our marvelous saga.

One day, around the year 718, a troublemaker clambered desperately up rocks and boulders fleeing from a young warrior intent on his capture. Suddenly, the pursued man dashed into a large cave and disappeared into its dark depth. Chasing after him, the warrior found the troublemaker clinging desperately to a venerable hermit. Beside the old man stood a small image of Mary Most Holy with the Infant in her arms. At the hermit’s request, the warrior granted the troublemaker sanctuary and gave up the chase. “God will bless you for this, my friend,” spoke the hermit.

The troublemaker’s and the hermit’s names perished with history, but the young warrior’s name was Pelayo, a nobleman of royal lineage and fearless disposition. The cave is known to this day as Covadonga, and the diminutive image of Mary venerated there as Our Lady of Covadonga.

Deliverer and Queen of Spain
In the beginning of the eighth century, Spain was ruled by the Visigoth King Vitiza, a man as insolent as he was corrupt. While still a prince, Vitiza murdered the Duke of Fáfila and exiled his son Pelayo.

After Vitiza died, his sons were unable to secure the throne because of their cruel father’s unpopularity. Taking advantage of the chaos, the worthy Rodrigo, Duke of Bética, seized power and proclaimed himself king. At this, the supporters of Vitiza and his sons swore revenge. They sent messengers to Mohammed’s followers across the Strait of Gibraltar in North Africa and revealed to them all the weak points along the Spanish southern coast.

Tariff bem Ziyad was the one chosen for the task by the shrewd Musa bem Nusayr, governor of Muslim Africa. Aided by yet another traitor, the Count of Olian, Lord of Gibraltar, then at odds with King Rodrigo, Ziyad won many successive battles in 711.

What began as a simple incursion became a full-blown war of conquest as many enemies of the Visigoth regime joined forces with Ziyad.

The Fateful Battle of Guadalete
Finally, King Rodrigo was able to gather an army of 100,000 ill-trained men and met the Muslims in Guadalete. In the heat of the battle, the supporters of Vitiza and his sons joined the invading Moors, and attacking from behind decided the day for Ziyad. King Rodrigo was killed and his body vanished. Centuries later his tomb was discovered in Portugal.

Pelayo Emerges
In that battle, Pelayo, whose father the Duke of Fáfila had been killed by Vitiza, also fought. After the defeat of Guadalete, Pelayo fled with family members to Asturias in northern Spain. Meanwhile Nusayr grew jealous of Ziyad and decided to share in the glory and the spoils of conquering Spain. He crossed the Strait of Gibraltar with a powerful army and, with it, conquered Granada, Malaga, Merida, Seville and Zaragoza.

Continuing to join infamy to treachery, Vitiza’s followers surrendered town after town to the invader. Like dominoes, region after region fell, leaving only a few towns free from Muslim domination in the Cantabrian region near the Pyrenees.

The Muslim Munuza was appointed governor of Gijón in this region and was to cross paths with Pelayo by falling in love with the Spaniard’s sister. Pelayo opposed the match and was sent prisoner to the south of Spain. Evading his captors, he returned to his family to find Munuza planning a wedding. His opposition enraged the governor, who ordered his imprisonment.

The Resistance Begins
Warned by friends, Pelayo sought refuge in the mountains of the Cantabrian region and swore to resist the new regime. His natural leadership, his fame as a fearless warrior and his rank as a prince of royal lineage attracted many Catholics who wished to combat the invader. Around him gathered a force of about a thousand strong. Unanimously, they proclaimed Pelayo king in 716 or 718.

Tradition says that since the crimson flag of the Goths had disappeared in the fateful battle of Guadalete, the hermit who inhabited the cave of Covadonga placed in Pelayo’s hand a wooden cross saying, “Behold the sign of victory.” Pelayo positioned this cross at the top of his standard to be carried in battle.1

Noticing that Islamic attention was now focused on trying to conquer France,2 Pelayo launched forays against Muslim strongholds obtaining successive victories.

Hearing of the insurrection, Munuza sent word to Alahor, the Emir of Córdoba, who in turn sent his lieutenant Alkama with a large force to crush the rebels. With him, Alkama brought Don Opas, the bishop of Seville, a relative of Pelayo and a Muslim collaborator, hoping that he might convince Pelayo to give up the impossible task.

Meanwhile, Pelayo had distributed his small force throughout strategic positions of the Cantabrian Range while he with a few men took their positions inside the cave of Covadonga where the image of Mary Most Holy was venerated.

Interview with Don Opas
Before the battle, Alkama sent Don Opas to try to persuade Pelayo to put down his sword by promising pardon and many benefits. Don Opas is quoted as saying, “Brother, I am sure that you work in vain. What possible resistance can you put up when all of Spain and its armies could not resist the Ismaelites? Listen to me. Settle down, and enjoy your many possessions in peace with the Arabs like everyone else is doing.”

To this, Pelayo answered:

"I want no friendship with the Islamites and will not be subject to their empire. Don’t you know that the Church of God is like the moon that once eclipsed returns to her fullness? We trust in God’s mercy and know that from this mountain will emerge the health of Spain. You with your brothers as well as Olian, minister of Satan, decided to give to these people the kingdom of the Goths. But we, having Our Lord Jesus Christ as our advocate before God the Father, despise this multitude of pagans in whose name you come. And by the intercession of the Mother of God, who is Mother of mercy, we believe that this small army of 105 Goths will multiply like seeds from a tiny grain of mustard."3

Realizing there was no compromise in Pelayo, Don Opas returned to the Muslim army and said, “Go on to the cave and fight because only the sword will obtain anything from him.”

The Battle
On that day, two different civilizations and religions faced each other. Islam, which had triumphed over the Middle East and North Africa, was now poised to crush the last stronghold of a ruined country, a destroyed civilization, an enslaved people and a profaned religion. There, at Covadonga, was to be decided whether Spain would be an extension of Islam or the spearhead of Christian civilization.

As Pelayo and his men looked down from the cave of Covadonga, they saw a massive Muslim horde. Alkama and his men jeered, sure of an easy victory. A chill of fear compounded the chill of the cave but the indomitable leader, pointing to the small image of Our Lady of Covadonga, reminded his brave men to place all their confidence in her protection. This little Lady “beautiful as the moon, brilliant as the sun, terrible as an army in battle array,”4 could not disappoint their trust. Thus began that terrible, unequal fight.

At a signal from Alkama, a multitude of stones and arrows were hurled against the men in the cave. It was then that a wonderful thing happened. The acclaimed sixteenth-century Spanish historian, Father Juan de Mariana, describes the battle:

"They fought at the entrance to the cave with all sorts of weapons, and a shower of stones. Then it was that God’s power was manifest, favorable to ours and contrary to the Muslims because the arrows and spears that the enemy launched returned to them causing great harm among them.

"The enemy was astounded at such a miracle. Heartened and on fire with the hope of victory, the Christians emerged from the hideout, few in number, soiled and ragged, and engaged in a melee. They fell fiercely upon the enemy who, thrown off balance, turned and ran."5

Meanwhile, the other warriors, placed in strategic positions throughout the mountains, pushed down huge boulders and tree trunks on the Muslim army now trapped in the deep valleys of the region. Others shot their arrows. At the same time, a frightful storm broke out, which added to the panic, and caused the Muslims to flee in disarray. Pursued by the Christians, they were killed in the Cangas Valley in a terrible battle.

The traitorous Don Opas was taken prisoner, and Alkama was slain along with thousands of Muslims. The remaining Moorish army took flight only to be buried by a mountain close to the Deva River that suddenly fell upon them and drowned them in the river. For centuries after that, whenever the river swelled in winter, bones and parts of armor floated to the top.

Back in Gijón, on hearing of the astounding defeat, Munuza fled with his troops, only to be pursued by the Spaniards who caught up with him near Oviedo, killing him and his men.

Growing Support For the Cause of Spain
Encouraged by such a victory and Pelayo’s example, an increasing number of Christians joined him. One of them was Alfonso, the son of the Duke of Viscaya, who left his father and his lands to join the fight at Pelayo’s side. Alfonso later married the hero’s daughter, Ormisinda, and at the premature death of Pelayo’s son Fávila, became King Alfonso I the Catholic.

Rather than establishing his court in Gijón, the most important city of Asturias, Don Pelayo chose Cangas de Onis, in the region of the “Peaks of Europe,” since it was a more defensible position.
Pelayo did not enjoy much peace. He neither sought it nor could he expect it from the Muslims.

He spent the rest of his life battling the Moorish invader. He died from natural causes in Cangas de Onis in 737 and was buried by his wife Gaudiosa near the altar of Our Lady in the Cave of Covadonga. The epitaph on his tomb reads:

Here lies the holy king Don Pelayo,elected in the year 716, who in this miraculous cave began the restoration of Spain.

Footnotes1. Later, Alfonso III had this cross covered in gold and precious stones. Today, it is kept in the Cathedral of Oviedo with the name of “Cross of Victory.” [back]2. Charles Martel, son of Pepin of Herstal and grandfather of Charlemagne, defeated Islam at the battle of Tours. See “Charles Martel,” a.htm. [back]3. [back]4. Canticle of Canticles 6:9. [back]5. From an article by José Maria dos Santos, published in Catolicismo (October, 2002), based on Father Juan de Mariana, Historia General de España, vol. I, enriched and completed by Eduardo Chao (Imprenta y Libreria de Gaspar Roig, Editores, Madrid, 1848), 308. [back]

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Our Lady's Birth and the Triumph of Her Reign

Written by Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

Everything the Church does is wise. In Her wisdom, She classifies the different levels of honor to be paid to God, Our Lady and the saints. The first level, called latria or adoration, is only for God and Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the Incarnate Word.

The cult of dulia is veneration or mediation, which the Church pays to the saints. However, there is a special category of honor that the Church only pays to Our Lady, called hyperdulia. Our Lady ranks so high above all other saints that the Church had to create a special cult to describe devotion to her. This demonstrates the unique position of Our Lady in all creation.

The Church teaches this in a number of ways. For example: Besides that of Our Lord and Saint John the Baptist, no other birthday is celebrated; no other saint has more than one feast day per year; and while the Church does not allow the same saint to be represented multiple times on the same altar, She permits any number of images of Our Lady to be placed anywhere in a church. Also, the Church celebrates dozens of calendar feasts, liturgical ceremonies and pious practices in Our Lady’s honor.

Among these, Our Lady’s Holy Nativity has a special significance, since it marked a new era in the history of the chosen people.

Since the Old Testament is no more than the account of the wait for the Messias, it can be divided into two phases: The first would be the 4,000-5,000 years before Our Lady’s birth. The second is after that blessed moment in which Providence resolved to bring forth she, whose prayer would bring the Messias.

Her birth was the arrival of that perfect creature who was full of grace before God. Without her, the prayers and sufferings of all humanity would have failed to bring the Incarnation. However with her, the trajectory of history was forever changed. All prayers became more effective and a new manner of blessings and graces began producing sanctity like never before.

Our Lady served as the “Doorway to Heaven” that the hope of the Messias’ coming passed through. Her presence on earth was the occasion for signal graces. The height of her contemplation gave her a force of presence. It made her a fountain of so many and such high graces, that her very existence was an annunciation of Our Lord’s coming.

Thus, the feast of Our Lady’s nativity is very dear. It is the beginning of the Redemption that would eventually defeat the evil powers of paganism and the Gentiles.

There is a profound relationship between Our Lady’s coming and what is occurring in modern society. Once again, Our Lady has taken a pivotal role in history, by raising up souls that burn with the desire for her reign amid the darkness of neo-paganism. They clamor for it and fight for its implantation on earth.

These souls are like Our Lady of the Old Testament. The light has not yet come; neither has the redemption, victory nor liberation from the devil. However, these souls spread graces of hope and determination, in such a way, that they herald the coming victory.

Thus, Our Lady’s nativity is symbolically repeated to prepare the coming of her reign, prophesied by Saint Louis de Montfort and the apparitions of Fatima.

For those who desire Our Lady’s victory, this feast day is especially important. These should pray fervently, for the immediate coming of her reign, when the long dark night of sin will be eclipsed by her triumph.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Catholic, Crusader, Leper and King: The Life of Baldwin IV and the Triumph of the Cross

By Michael Whitcraft

Modern society obsessively avoids suffering, risk and danger. It secures everything with seatbelts and safety rails, air conditions the summer heat, prints warnings on coffee cups and advises that that safety glasses should be used while working with hammers.
Certainly such precautions have prevented misfortune. However, since heroism and excellence are born from confronting rather than avoiding suffering and peril, the mania for safeguards has also diminished the notion of these qualities.
This is unfortunate since only those intrepid souls who confront danger, endure suffering and overcome obstacles merit mention in the annals of history. A shining example is the leper king, Baldwin IV of Jerusalem.
A Childhood Cut ShortBaldwin IV was born in Jerusalem of King Amalric and Queen Agnes of Courtney in 1161. Intellectually and physically gifted as a boy, he seemed well equipped to inherit the Crusader kingdom. This is how chronicler and royal tutor William of Tyre described his childhood:
He made good progress in his studies and as time passed he grew up full of hope and developed his natural abilities. He was a good-looking child for his age and more skilled than men who were older than himself in controlling horses and in riding them at a gallop. He had an excellent memory and he loved listening to stories.1
One day the tutor made a frightening discovery. While roughhousing with friends, Baldwin never cried out in pain, even when the other children dug their fingernails into his arm.
Knowing how tough the nine-year-old prince was, William of Tyre first assumed that Baldwin was restraining himself, but closer observation revealed that his arms were entirely numb – a telltale symptom of leprosy.
Four years later, King Amalric died suddenly. Despite his sickness, Baldwin was crowned king by the unanimous decision of the High Court of Jerusalem.2 Since he was only thirteen, his nearest relative, Miles of Plancy, became regent. Shortly thereafter, Miles was murdered and Raymond of Tripoli replaced him.
Raymond of Tripoli managed escalating tensions between the Crusader kingdom and its Muslim enemies through a policy of appeasement. He established full peace with Saladin in 1175.
The treaty greatly favored the Muslim leader. Jerusalem had agreed not to support the Sicilians who were attacking Saladin’s power base in Egypt and the latter had free reign to build up his forces through conquest in Syria, where his trajectory revealed plans to encircle the Crusader kingdom.
Saladin continued his quest with impunity, until governmental change in Jerusalem put a stop to his marauding joyride.
One of Baldwin's first actions as king was to reject the peace made with Saladin and raid the lands surrounding Damascus.
Baldwin Comes of AgeIn 1176, Baldwin came of age and took charge of the kingdom at the tender age of 15. During the two years since his coronation, his condition had worsened, and was now clearly discernable as leprosy.
Nevertheless, he possessed the strength and character necessary to rule. As historian Stephen Howarth aptly put it: “Baldwin assumed full power, and soon showed that he made up for any disability with sheer nerve…”3
One of Baldwin’s first actions as king was to reject the peace made with Saladin and raid the lands surrounding Damascus. This forced Saladin to quit his attack in Aleppo and adopt a defensive posture. Later that year, the young king led another raid in the Beka’a valley in Lebanon and Syria, and defeated an attack led by Saladin’s nephew.
In the first months of his reign, Baldwin proved his capacity to rule. By countering Saladin with an attack on Damascus rather than a frontal assault at Aleppo, Baldwin demonstrated maturity and wisdom beyond his years.
The Wisdom of a KingThis wisdom would guide Baldwin throughout his short life. His insistence on invading Egypt in autumn of 1176 was another example of it.
From the beginning of his reign, Baldwin planned to hit Saladin in his Egyptian power base. Lacking sufficient naval strength, he forged an alliance with the Byzantine Empire.
The stage was set for invasion. However, the king’s brother-in-law, William of Montferrat, a key element to the raid, fell sick and died. Then Baldwin fell ill and the entire operation was jeopardized.
Meanwhile, Baldwin’s kinsman, Philip of Flanders, arrived from Europe on crusade, supported by Saint Hildegard’s mandate: “if the time shall come when the infidels seek to destroy the fountain of faith, then fight them as hard as, with God’s help, you may be able to do.”4
Hoping that Philip would salvage the doomed mission, Baldwin offered him regency until he could recover. Philip did not like the terms of the deal and refused. Raymond of Tripoli opposed the attack and the new Grand Master of the Knights of Saint John, young and inexperienced, hesitated.
When Byzantine ambassadors became skeptical of the mission and withdrew their support, the assault the king so desired was cancelled.
Never again would the Crusaders have such an opportunity to wound Saladin in his power base. Only Baldwin had been wise enough to recognize the mission’s importance.
A Miraculous Victory at MontgisardMore than wisdom and courage, what made Baldwin IV a great king was his indomitable faith – a virtue he demonstrated at the famous battle of Montgisard.
After the attack on Egypt was cancelled, Philip of Flanders took his army to campaign in the northern territories of the kingdom, where Raymond of Tripoli joined him. The move left Jerusalem in a precarious situation. Very few troops had stayed behind to defend the capital and the king’s condition had worsened.
Saladin was quick to seize the opportunity and directed his main army of 26,000 elite troops toward Jerusalem.
From his sick bed, Baldwin summoned what little strength he had and rode out to meet his adversary with less than 600 knights and a few thousand infantrymen.5 By this point Baldwin’s strength was so deteriorated many thought he would die. Bernard Hamilton quotes a contemporary Christian writer who described the king’s condition as “already half dead.”6
Realizing the impotence of the king’s force, Saladin ignored him and continued his march to Jerusalem until Baldwin intercepted him near the hill of Montgisard, only 45 miles from Jerusalem.
Seeing the overwhelming Muslim army, the Christians became petrified. However, such desperate situations afford great men an opportunity to show their mettle, and Baldwin rose to the challenge.
Dismounting his horse, he called for the Bishop of Bethlehem, to raise up the relic of the True Cross he carried. The king then prostrated before the sacred relic, beseeching God for success. Rising from prayer, he exhorted his men to press the attack and charged.
Historian Stephen Howarth describes the battle that ensued:
There were twenty-six thousand Saracen horsemen, only a few hundred Christians; but the Saracen were routed. Most were killed; Saladin himself only escaped because he rode a racing camel. The young king with his hands bandaged, rode in the forefront of the Christian charge – with St. George beside him, people said, and the True Cross shining as brightly as the sun. Whether or not that was so, it was an almost incredible victory, an echo of the days of the First Crusade. But it was also the last time such a great Moslem army was beaten by such a small force.7
Deluged by heavy rains and suffering the loss of roughly ninety percent of his army, Saladin returned to Cairo in utter defeat. Years later, he would referred to the battle disdainfully as “so great a disaster.”8
Realizing that divine assistance was largely responsible for his triumph, Baldwin erected a Benedictine monastery on the site, dedicated to Saint Catherine of Alexandria, on whose feast day the victory had been won.
The one constant in Baldwin's life was an unflinshing acceptance of the cross Providence put before him.
The Sufferings of a KingThe glory of triumph did not relieve the increasing effects of Baldwin’s leprosy. As time wore on he would lose the use of his limbs and eyes. However, never once did he use his sickness as an excuse to shirk his duty.
Although he tried to abdicate several times, he immediately resumed his responsibilities when he realized there was no one suitable to replace him. Shortly after his victory at Montgisard, Baldwin wrote to King Louis VII of France:
It is not fitting that a hand so weak as mine should hold power when fear of Arab aggression daily presses upon the Holy City and when my sickness increases the enemy’s daring…I therefore beg you that, having called together the barons of the kingdom of France, you immediately choose one of them to take charge of this Holy Kingdom.9
When his request was ignored, the king began looking for a suitable husband for his sister Princess Sibyl. She was the oldest in the family and whoever she married would inherit the kingdom.
Baldwin hoped she would wed someone from Europe, thus securing western protection for the kingdom after his death. He made arrangements for a marriage between Sybil and Hugh of Burgundy, but the plans fell through.
To force Baldwin’s hand and control Jerusalem’s future, Raymond of Tripoli and Bohemond of Antioch then planned a côup. Their efforts failed because when they arrived at the capital, Sibyl was already married to Guy de Lusignan.
Although Baldwin had hoped to abdicate to Guy after the marriage, his brother-in-law was a great disappointment. Limp-wristed and disliked by many of the crusader barons, Guy was not suitable to reign and Baldwin was forced to remain on the throne.
Arguably, these internal struggles cost Baldwin more anguish than the leprosy that continued to devour his body.
A Warrior to the EndThe years after the marriage continued to be turbulent. Baldwin secured a two-year truce with Saladin that ended prematurely, when Prince Reynald of Antioch sacked a Moorish caravan en route to Damascus and refused to return the prisoners or spoils even when the king ordered him to do so. Saladin also violated the treaty by seizing the crew and cargo of a Christian vessel that shipwrecked on his shores.
Then anti-Western sentiment broke out in Byzantium with the ascension to the throne of Andronicus Comnenus. Realizing the Crusaders lacked Byzantine support, Saladin attacked the castle of Bethsan.
Baldwin immediately marched against the Moslem aggressors and repulsed them, though he had a much smaller army and was probably too weak to fight by this point.
In 1183, the king became blind and unable to use his hands and feet. He appointed Guy de Lusignan permanent regent.
However, when the heir proved unable to unify the Crusader barons and refused to engage Saladin, while commanding the largest Christian force ever assembled in the Holy Land, Baldwin removed his regency and once again shouldered the kingdom’s responsibilities.
Later in 1183, the king’s half-sister Isabel married Humphrey IV of Toron at the Castle of Kerak. Although Baldwin was too sick to attend the wedding, many other influential Christian leaders were present. The opportunity to capture them was too tempting for Saladin to resist.
He surrounded the castle and besieged it in the midst of the celebration. Though utterly incapacitated, Baldwin took it upon himself to rescue the entrapped nobles. Blind and lame, he ordered that he be carried into battle on a stretcher.
Realizing that the king had arrived to succor the fortress, Saladin signaled the retreat without engaging the Christians. The same scene was repeated when Saladin again tried to take the Castle of Kerak in 1184. Once again, Saladin retreated when Baldwin was brought into battle on a stretcher.
Deprived of all strength and power, Baldwin had triumphed over his lifelong enemy one last time.
Resolving Succession and Death Later in 1184, Baldwin contracted the illness that would eventually take his life.10 The problem of succession had been somewhat resolved in 1183, when Baldwin crowned his five-year-old nephew, Baldwin V, co-king in order to exclude Guy de Lusignan from the throne.
While modern readers may find this harsh, Guy had openly defied the king twice, once going so far as betraying his feudal vow. Such defiance could not go unanswered.
Starved for viable options, Baldwin appointed Raymond of Tripoli temporary regent. When it became clear that the king was in fact on his deathbed, Jerusalem needed a more permanent solution until King Baldwin V came of age.
The leper king deferred this all-important decision to the High Court, who chose Raymond of Tripoli. Having done his best to provide for his kingdom, Baldwin IV relinquished his soul to God on May 16, 1185 and was buried in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
Through the Cross to the LightSuffering was the one constant in Baldwin’s life. From his earliest years until his last moments, he endured a leprosy that rotted his body and represented the rottenness of his kingdom, which, owing to internal discord and corruption, fell to Saladin two years after Baldwin’s death.
Baldwin’s capacity to manage the precarious state of his kingdom resulted from his willingness to shoulder his cross in imitation of his Master. He never once used his sickness as an excuse to shirk his responsibilities, even when it reduced him to utter incapacitation.
In this state, he was a living representation of Christ, of whom the Psalmist states: “But I am a worm, and no man: the reproach of men, and the outcast of the people.” (Ps. 21:7)
Modern society, which flees suffering like the plague, needs models such as Baldwin IV, the leper king who drank until its very last drop the chalice of bitterness that Providence put before him. It needs archetypes that shatter the Revolutionary myth that suffering is an absolute evil, to be avoided at all cost.
The Church has a saying that reads: “Per Crucem ad Lucem” (Through the Cross to the Light). Baldwin IV not only understood these words, he lived them. Because he did, he will forever be esteemed by those who sacrifice their personal interests for the common good. He will be admired by those willing to confront danger and suffer for a higher cause.
In a word, he will be enshrined in those souls who shun mediocrity and aspire to greatness.
- This article relied heavily on Bernard Hamilton’s book, The Leper King and His Heirs for historic data and on three meetings given by Professor Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira for inspiration.

Footnotes1. Bernard Hamilton, The Leper King and His Heirs: Baldwin IV and the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem (New York, Cambridge University Press, 2005) p. 43. [back]2. At this time, Baldwin’s sickness was certainly known, but the diagnosis of leprosy had probably not yet been made with certainty. During that time, if a knight or sergeant were diagnosed with leprosy, he was made to join the Order of Saint Lazarus, a religious community formed to care for leprous nobles. Cf. Bernard Hamilton, The Leper King and His Heirs, p. 29. [back]3. Stephen Howarth, The Knights Templar (New York, Barnes and Noble Books, 1991) p. 132. [back]4. Bernard Hamilton, The Leper King, p. 119. [back]5. Cf. “Battle of Montgisard,” [back]6. Bernard Hamilton, The Leper King and His Heirs, p. 133. [back]7. Stephen Howarth, The Knights Templar, p. 133. [back]8. Bernard Hamilton, The Leper King and His Heirs, p. 136. [back]9. Ibid. p. 140. [back]10. Despite the horrible effects of the type of leprosy Baldwin had, it rarely provokes death. The king’s final illness was probably the result of infection from one of his many wounds. Cf. Piers D. Mitchell, “An evaluation of the leprosy of King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem in the context of the medieval world,” as reproduced as an appendix to The Leper King and His Heirs. [back]