Burying the Lead: Blessed Laura Vicuña

Laura Vicuña was a Peruvian-Argentinean girl who lived a saintly life and died in a heroically edifying way. The Salesian Brothers and Sisters in Argentina supported her cause for sainthood, and she was named a Venerable back in the early 1900’s, eventually being beatified by Pope John Paul II in the 1980’s.

Here’s the problem. Laura lived a difficult life because her desperately poor widowed mother became the live-in girlfriend of a ranch owner, who then started to go after Laura as she got older. (She died at the age of 13, though, and the guy had been going after her for over six years. So obviously he was a sick puppy, and it’s not clear if he went after her younger sister, Julia, also.)

The ranch owner was also a violent man, when he was drunk and when he wasn’t. He beat up the mother, and he beat up Laura when she refused him. Finally, Laura’s mom fled with her two kids to another town, but the abuser followed, demanding to rape Laura. Laura tried to draw him off or prevent her mom from letting him in, by leaving the place they were staying by another door. Instead she received a crazy beating from the man in the middle of the street, in the middle of town. He almost rode off with her unconscious body, but townspeople intervened before he could. He finished his work by throwing her down in the middle of the street. Laura recovered consciousness, but died of her injuries, after making her mom promise not to go back to him and then forgiving her killer.

All this was covered up in the normal outlines of her life. They said that she had tuberculosis (which she did), and that she had offered God her life to get her mom and sister out of the bad situation (which she did). But they said that it was the tuberculosis that killed her, as opposed to her internal bleeding and injuries. And they said that the bad situation was her mom living an immoral life, not the whole family being subject to a crazy abusive would-be rapist.

(It’s a little weird, because the normal story about St. Maria Goretti, from about the same time, is perfectly clear about the man having rape and murder as his intentions.)

A minor point is that the normal story still emphasizes that Laura was a friend to everybody in school, loved by the teachers, and a leader in sports. Apparently the real story is that Laura worked hard, was devout, helped everyone, was a favorite with the teachers for her good qualities — and was absolutely despised by every other girl in school, except for her one best friend. She was poor, she was stubborn, she had normal looks, and she was showing everybody else up.

Here’s another point. Laura’s mom, Mercedes Pino, was treated pretty poorly by life. Her husband Domenico Vicuña came from a rich family, while hers was poor or middle class. When they married against his family’s wishes and he was disowned by his family, her family also disowned her. She kept the family going for six years after her family died, living an honest life as a dressmaker and hatmaker. But in 1899, thieves broke into her store and cleared out the whole inventory, plus the store appliances. Seeking a new start, she took her girls into the frontier lands of Argentina, where there was supposed to be plenty of opportunity. She was willing to work hard as a maid and cook. So nobody knows why she agreed to become Manuel Mora’s mistress as well as his housekeeper.

Like Mercedes’ dead husband, Manuel Mora came from a good family. Unlike her husband, he had a long list of prior convictions, and wasn’t shy about shooting or stabbing people. Thanks to his family’s influence, he got a good grant of cattle land along the frontier. To give him credit, he was good at running estancias and raising cattle, and he dressed well. However, he was known to treat his hands like slaves, the local natives like worse than slaves, and was in the habit of whipping anyone who displeased him. He was then in need of a mistress, because he had branded his previous one like a cow and then driven her off the ranch.

Apparently he was very charming to Mercedes in the beginning, and implied that he was planning to marry her. But that was all just lies. He did initially pay the kids’ tuition for boarding school, but eventually he refused to pay more because he wanted easy access to Laura. (To their credit, the sisters then awarded Laura and Julia scholarships.)

One sad point is this: Laura didn’t understand what was going on with her mom and the abuser until she was ten, and one of the sisters taught about marriage as a Sacrament. The poor kid fainted dead away, right in the middle of class. (No doubt some of her classmates had been hinting stuff that she hadn’t understood.) It’s just as well, though, because the abuser made his first move on her after the end of that school year, in 1902.

That wasn’t the end of her troubles, either. She wanted to join an order, both for religious reasons and to get out of the bad home situation. (Which would also have lightened the financial load on her mom and sister, although obviously her sister would have been up next for unwanted attention from the abuser.) But she was refused admission to the order of Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, not just because of her age (the standard outline’s explanation), but because her mother was living an irregular life, and they feared giving scandal. Yes, crappy things happen to the holy.

Piecing together her story from different English sources is not only difficult, but pretty horrifying. Obviously you can’t teach everything to kids, but come on, people!

Blessed Laura Vicuña has been named a patron saint of abuse victims.

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Eve Tushnet Likes Horror Movie “The Nun”

Eve Tushnet’s review. Still cracks me up that an essentially conservative woman has a gig on America magazine.

This is one of those unintended “alternate universe” movies. It’s set in Romania in 1952, under a Communist government that favored Orthodoxy (and took it over), while persecuting Latin Rite Catholics, Byzantine Catholics, and Orthodox who didn’t go along. But although certain Orthodox monasteries were not bothered, this movie shows a Catholic convent that is essentially unbothered by the change in government, and a Vatican that can easily send in emissaries. (In real life, no representative of a Latin Rite Catholic order was allowed to visit Romania until 1965, and that visit was a big deal.)

Yeahhhh, pretty alternate universe.

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St. Eusebius of Emesa on Gospel Sources

St. Eusebius of Emesa was born about AD 300 and died around AD 360. He was a student of St. Eusebius of Caesarea, the church historian and Gospel commentary writer, but he also studied and taught in Antioch. His Homiliae in Evangelia was originally written in Greek, but we don’t have that original; we have the Latin. Some of his stuff also survives in Armenian. We have a few bits and pieces of him in Greek.

He seems to have been a very devout Christian, but his flock in Emesa (famed for its sun/mountain god, Heliogabalus, which was worshipped in the form of a black rock) distrusted his interest in astrology and threw him out of town for a while. He wrote many commentaries on Scripture, and was known to be pretty darned Trinitarian for a friend of so many Semi-Arians. An interesting character, all around.

Here’s a translation from the Latin version of Homiliae in Evangelia, “In Natale Domini, in Aurora” (Christmas at dawn):

And then it is added: “And Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart.” (Lk. 2:19)

O most wise mother, and most worthy alone of such a son! She who “kept all these words… in her heart” for that reason, and “kept” them for us, and committed them to memory, so that they could be written down according to her instruction, her narration, and her recital; and could be published and preached throughout the whole world and in all the nations! For the Apostles heard these things from her, and they wrote down what she dictated, and it was committed to us to read.

Why, therefore, would one not believe the Gospels?

Who would presume to contradict them, when they are fortified by the authority of both mother and Son?

For the Apostles and the Evangelists heard certain things from the Lord’s mother, just as they have written these things and the rest, about the childhood of Our Savior. Indeed, they had gotten to learn many things from seeing and hearing the Lord Himself.

We should also take an example from the Lord’s mother, and we should faithfully keep the things they have reported about Our Savior in our hearts, and be careful to commit them to memory.

For it is written about those who hear “the word” of God and do not commit it to memory, that the devil “comes and takes away” the word that was sown in their hearts, lest they be saved. (Mt. 13:19)

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Lack of Belief in Infallible Scripture Implies a Fallible, Limited God

There are different ways to define the infallibility of Holy Scripture, and there are different ways of defining what the Bible contains.

But the basic idea is the same for both Jews and Christians; the Bible is important because it is God’s trustworthy revelation to us.

Given this premise, one would think that people would be a bit more careful about what they infer from the Bible, or how careless they are about ignoring it.

For example….

“The pericope of the adultress” is obviously a story about the Jesus we know and love. A lot of people think it’s obviously by Luke, and there is some verbal evidence of this. All the same, a lot of modern people are willing to ditch this famous bit because it’s not in Luke; and some even claim that it isn’t and never was inspired Scripture, even though it was used in the Church as a reading from earliest times.

Well, obviously if Jesus is God, and if God is omnipotent and omniscient, Jesus Christ is quite capable of looking out for His own reputation, and protecting His Bible from unwanted, un-inspired incursions.

And yet, there’s the adulteress’ story, large as life and twice as famous.

So either Jesus Christ is God, and approves, and inspired that part too… or Jesus Christ is not God, and it doesn’t really matter except to manuscript scholars.

And in fact, there is no indication in OT or NT that only the original author of a book is capable of being inspired, and that scribes and editors cannot be inspired. The Psalms had multiple authors, and they’re inspired.

So yes, it is annoying when a Bible translation takes it upon itself to remove verses. God is a big God, and He is quite capable of handling His own books. It’s even more annoying when Christians actually swallow this idiocy.

Another example is Margaret Barker’s work. Her idea is that real Judaism involved Yahweh and a female god (yeah, “El” is not a female name, but let’s pass that over), and that it was cruelly destroyed by King Josiah when he cleaned all the idol-crud out of the Temple. The Bible was then corrupted and changed to remove all evidence of this divine spouse thing, except for little bits that only Barker has been smart enough to uncover and understand. Also there was a Jewish version of the “trail of blood” connecting these female El-worshippers to early Christianity, and yet the only trace of them is the stuff in the NT about Mary and Holy Church.

Well, if that’s true, then who cares if the Bible was “corrupted”? Obviously this female El must be the worst god ever at protecting her reputation and her worshippers. She is a pathetic weakling, and the only prophet she has dug up in the last 3000 years is an English academic. Sad.

But there are two other possibilities. 1) She was always an imaginary being that got globbed into real Judaism, and she obviously didn’t belong in a true book about the relationship between Israel and the true, omnipotent, omniscient God. 2) She is an imaginary being invented by an English academic, and globbed onto real historical Middle Eastern paganism and syncretism.

The last explanation seems the most likely.

Obviously, the infallibility of the Bible isn’t something perceived as relevant by non-Christians, and it shouldn’t be dragged into academic discussions. But any Jewish or Christian believer should keep this in mind, as an easy crap detector.

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Research Fail: Dave Duncan Edition

Everybody who writes historical fiction, or any other book that needs research, will have a failure somewhere.

In Dave Duncan’s otherwise excellent medieval alt-history fantasy, Ironfoot, his failure comes in his description of Old English grammar. It’s hard to write about the future in Old English, he says, because it has no future tense.

Um. Dave. Neither does Modern English. Not the conjugation-within-the-verb kind. We have “compound tenses,” which use a helper verb like “will” or “shall.”

It’s also possible to talk about the future in English by using time markers.

“Tomorrow, we go to the Moon!”

“As soon as the rocket finishes refueling and fires up, we go to the Moon!”

I blame elementary school grammar classes. They don’t actually teach people the rules of English grammar; instead, they focus on an idealized version based on Latin.

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Here’s an Interesting Historical Figure.

St. Joseph of Palestine.

No, not St. Joseph the Carpenter. No, this is a different guy.

Among the notable Christians of Emperor Constantine’s time was an ex-disciple of Rabbi Hillel II (?). He was named Joseph, and was left the guardianship of Hillel’s son, Judah, after the rabbi died. He was a member of the Sanhedrin and also worked as an envoy for them.

Joseph alleged that in his last days, Hillel sent for a “physician” who was actually the local bishop, and received a “bath for his health” that was actually Baptism. Joseph kept silent about this, but he did get interested in reading the Gospels. At one point, he had a vision of Jesus. So he decided to become a Christian, but hadn’t done anything about it when he was caught with his suspicious Christian books, all the way out in Cilicia, where he was being an envoy. He was saved from being drowned in the river by the public arrival of s Cilician bishop, who took Joseph off to safety.

Emperor Constantine got very interested in the story and made Joseph a high officia in AD 323. During his time in office, he dealt with opposition by both Jews and Arian Christians, as he tried to build a church in his headquarters city, Tiberias. He also built churches in several Galilean towns important to the Gospels, including Sepphoris, Nazareth, and Capernaum. (There’s a lot of question as to whether any Christians lived there, or if he was just trying to create pilgrimage centers, or what. Apparently these were big centers of unrest during the Jewish revolt against Constantius Gallus.)

The good life ended when Emperor Constantine started to favor Arian bishops and persecute orthodox ones. Joseph moved to a nice place in Scythopolis, which had the advantage of being away from both Jewish and Christian factions. He used his place as a safe house for orthodox folks in trouble, including St. Eusebius of Vercelli and St. Epiphanius (who recorded his story in his book on heresies, the Panarion, in Lib. 30, c. 4).

Joseph died in AD 356. His feastday is July 22, and it is on the calendars of both East and West. He’s also known as Joseph of Tiberias.

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Hey, My Brother Has the #1 Steampunk EBook on Amazon!

The Sculpted Ship is back up on the Amazon charts!

Kevin recently put out the paper edition of his book, and then was accepted by BookBub for a promotion. So right now, you can get the Kindle edition for a great discount price.

99 cents!

Buy, read, enjoy! It’s good fun space sf, where the suns never set on the Iris Empire!

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