Monthly Archives: May 2016

St. Rogue?!

Okay, it’s still Blessed Rogue… but yep!

Blessed Pierre-Rene Rogue was a short guy (4’11), shortsighted, and sickly. He did have a good singing voice, though. He was from a merchant family in Brittany; his deceased father was a furrier, and his mom carried on the business. He became a priest in 1782, and joined the Vincentians as a priest after four years. After his training in his new order, he spent two and a half years teaching dogma at his old seminary, and then became a curate (associate pastor, we’d say today) on the side.

In 1791, Revolutionary officials persuaded or tricked the head of the seminary and some of the other priests to sign an oath that they would obey whatever the government ordered. Blessed Pierre-Rene heard about this (he hadn’t been at the meeting) and hurried to see the seminary head. He persuaded his boss to write out a letter taking back his oath, or rather, saying that he had never meant to swear to obey them in spiritual matters and wanted to clarify the language of the oath. Pierre-Rene then delivered the new letter to the officials. When the other priests heard about this, all but one of them also took back their oaths to the same extent. The seminarians were sent home to get them out of danger.

In retaliation, the Revolutionary government immediately put up the seminary for sale, along with all its contents. The seminary fought back by pointing out that they had also provided classes on theology to the general public, which meant they were exempted from the law about confiscating Church property, under the public education clause. They also pointed out that the seminary actually belonged by deed to a secular group called “the Congregation of the Mission,” (ie, the Vincentian Order) and thus was not Church property.

While this was being decided, the priests at the seminary pointed out that their stipends from various sources had been stopped, and that they were owed their money. The municipal government actually helped them get their money, so obviously somebody had a little shame. But matters worsened again when the Revolutionary government appointed their own bishop (illegitimately consecrated), the Congregation of the Mission was suppressed as a group, and the priests thrown out of the seminary. He was able to stay in town at his mom’s house, and he said Mass privately at faithful people’s houses.

More laws were passed and more oaths required. Priests were ordered to be deported. By September 8, 1792, Blessed Pierre-Rene was living underground, along with four other priests. Besides saying Mass and providing Sacraments, he also continued secretly to prepare seminarians for ordination. Those who had already been ordained as subdeacons were eventually to make their way to Paris and be ordained by a bishop there. Other priests were living underground in the Vannes area. But the Revolutionary government passed a new law in October of 1793: the penalty for being a non-government priest was now death. Fourteen Vannes-area priests were caught and guillotined from December 1793 through 1794.

On Christmas Eve, 1795, Blessed Pierre-Rene Rogue was bringing Communion to a sick parishioner. Two men recognized and captured him. One of them was a cobbler named Le Meut who had gotten his job through Father’s recommendation, and who was receiving financial help from Father’s mom. They brought him to the town hall, where the municipal authorities refused to take charge of him and tried to get him to escape. He refused their help, saying that he didn’t want them to get in trouble with the national Revolutionaries. (And get killed. They were guillotining a lot of government bureaucrats, too.) He refused the same offer from a jailer, and spent his time in prison ministering to the other prisoners. As was the custom at the time, his mom sent in meals. When she learned he was sharing them, she increased the servings. He also wrote poetry, including the song he sang on his way to the guillotine.

The public prosecutor recused himself from trying the case, because he was an old friend. The replacement prosecutor tried him quickly. Blessed Pierre-Rene readily admitted having refused to take any of the oaths and having broken all the Revolutionary laws against priests. He was sentenced to death the next day. He wrote a last letter to his mother, in which he asked her to be sure to continue giving money to Le Meut. His friends tried to set up an escape, but for the third time he refused their offer. His calmness in the face of death helped another priest, Fr. Alan Robin, who had also been condemned to die with him; and converted a young sergeant who had previously been known for his cruelty to prisoners. He gave his watch to Le Meut, sang his new song praising God, and comforted his executioner, who was one of his old lay pupils. He died on March 3, 1796.

The Revolution buried him and Fr. Robin in unmarked graves, but everyone in town knew the place. It became the object of pilgrimage. After the Revolution, his grave was marked, and his mother was eventually buried next to him. In 1934 at his beatification, his body was exhumed and translated to the cathedral. Healings and cures were soon reported there.

So that is the story of Blessed Pierre-Rene Rogue! His feastday is March 3. At Vannes’ cathedral (St. Pierre de Vannes), they also celebrate the approximate anniversary of his ordination, on the fourth Sunday in September. (You can have an outdoor parish festival in September. Not so much, in March.)

The French Wikipedia entry includes the new hymn he wrote for his day of martyrdom. The rhyme scheme is ABAB BCBC. It’s actually a bit of a last joke, because condemned criminals in Europe at the time often composed songs about their mistakes (or had them ghost-written) and publshed them on broadsides, for the moral benefit of the crowd or the posthumous benefit of their family’s coffers. This wasn’t permitted by the Revolutionary government, as far as I know. But yup, Father sang his song with a different moral, but did it just like he was a highwayman. (Comparable songs in the Anglosphere are “Sam Hill,” “Tom Dooley” [really Dula], etc.)

The 1824 book Recueil de Cantiques Spirituels includes a different version of this song, which is written from the viewpoint of a bad sinner returned to God. (Unfortunately, Air #294 doesn’t appear to be in the book, unless it’s printed as the first Air #295.) A different version of the same song appears in a songbook from Besancon from 1777, set to this Air #47.

So yes, Blessed Pierre-Rene Rogue was also a filker, and in the best Celtic folk tradition! Blessed Rogue, pray for us!

I’ve put in quotes the bit he took and adapted from the original version of the song.

“How charming is my lot!
My soul is thrilled.
At this moment I taste
An infinite” joy.
“For in me is made public
The Lord’s goodness!
My misery is done;
I feel my” happiness.

I have served God, my King,
By imitating His zeal.
I have kept the faith;
I am going to die for it.
How beautiful is this death,
And how worthy of a great heart!
Pray, faithful people,
That I am the victor.

O you whom my lot
Affects and interests —
Far from crying for my death,
Jump for gladness!
Turn your tenderness
On my persecutors.
Pray without cease
For the end of their errors.

Alas! They are no more
The children of light,
Because they do not listen anymore
To Peter’s successor.
But because they are our brothers,
Cherish them always,
Nor resist their war
Unless with meekness and love.

O Monarch of the heavens,
O God, full of clemency,
Deign to fix Your eyes
On the wrongs of France!
May my penance have power
Equal to these crimes
To disarm Your vengeance.
May You hold it back forever!

So at the end, he was a penitent Rogue who suffered a Rogue’s death. Heh!


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A Man and His Horse

Interesting news story about a VA hospital in Texas letting a disabled horse trainer, Roberto Gonzales, see his horses one last time.

Horses like to breathe on each other and smell each other’s breath, as a sort of bonding or checkup. Horses like it if you breathe on them, too. So what you see here is the horse seeing what’s been happening with his trainer, and probably trying to encourage him by staying close to him.

Features an unexplained closeup of Mr. Gonzales’ Brown Scapular. (News cameramen seem to love to pan around and find pictures of interesting stuff that is in the background, but never explained by the voiceover. I don’t know if it’s supposed to be additional info, or if news story editors just like pictures so much that they don’t care if they ever get explained.)

Anyway, please pray for him and for his family.

Also, the VA wants people to know that they do try to accommodate dying wishes. (Or at least this particular hospital does.)

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Whatever Happened to Katherine Kurtz?

In the 1970’s and 1980’s, she was an important fantasy/sf author. Her classic Deryni trilogy (Deryni Rising, Deryni Checkmate, and High Deryni) were extremely popular fantasies set in an alternate medieval world where psychics strove to live good Christian lives, and to prove that they did nothing against God’s law while doing magic. It was heavily SCA-influenced, but in a good way. Her second trilogy attempted to portray the history of the world, with a saintly wizard/psychic founding a religious order. The problem was that the book’s strength was in having a church with rules, while she increasingly messed with that in her books. But it is still one of the few fantasy series that deals with religion in a serious way.

She kept doing prequels and sequels that weren’t all that interesting, and then she pulled a Red Wedding decades before George R.R. Martin. (Bleh.) After a while, she switched to writing contemporary fantasy about Templars doing magic and such. Like a lot of her older fans, I couldn’t actually bring myself to read them, beyond the first few pages. I did read Lammas Night, but I didn’t like it. There was also a cute book called St. Patrick’s Gargoyle. My dad recommends it, but I couldn’t get into it.

Well, apparently she is still writing some fantasy/sf. A book called The King’s Deryni came out in 2014. Most of her Deryni books are available reprinted on Kindle from Open Road, but Ace apparently still has the ebook rights to the original trilogy. Ain’t none of her ebooks cheap. (Which is why there’s still a place for used paperbacks.)

At some point, she did that “weird sf author fascination with getting ordained in a religion” thing. From what I understand, she was once a “bishop” in the “Antioch Rite” of the Apostolic Catholic Orthodox Church, which is an offshoot of the Old Catholics. (Schismatic group that broke off after Vatican I, and just got more liberal after that. The Old Catholics were the ones who “ordained” poor Sinead O’Connor.)

Anyway, Kurtz is currently a “bishop” of the Celtic Christian Church, which is a schismatic group founded by one of those Catholic priests who ran off to get married but still wanted to be a priest. When none of the popes or Orthodox patriarchs acquiesced to the idea, and after tons of exposure to Matthew Fox’s crappy books, they started their own group. (Though to be fair, it would seem that the situation was exacerbated by a lot of their pals being women who were abused or betrayed by priests who claimed they wanted to marry them.) The (recently deceased) founder of the group actually got three valid-but-illicit schismatic bishops to consecrate him; so you have one of those unhappy situations where there’s at least one or two valid-but-illicit priests, and then a bunch of pretend-priests, all setting up shop together. Anyway, “All Angels Jurisdiction” consists of Kurtz and five clergypeople.

At some point Kurtz started an “Order of St. Michael,” which was basically some kind of Third Order religious group/club/interfaith group. (Which was how come there were open neopagans in it.)

So yeah, that’s what she’s been up to.

She has a website called Rhemuth Castle, which is all about book stuff. (And yeah, most people really don’t have much interest in a writer’s personal life or work drama, so that’s well done.)

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Elizabeth Tanfield Cary, Viscountess Falkland

She was the first Englishwoman known to have written a full length play. And reading John Calvin converted her from being an Anglican into being a Catholic.

The first generation of English Protestant women came from a late medieval atmosphere of many highly educated women, even among farming families. Elizabeth Tanfield grew up a generation later, when very few women were being educated. Fortunately for her, her father and mother liked books and wanted her educated. She became a polymath (mostly teaching herself to read several languages), and had to be forbidden the use of candles at night, because she would just keep reading.

At the age of 15, her parents made an advantageous marriage for her with Sir Henry Cary (later Viscount Falkland). However, it would seem that they were either geeky themselves or not very careful. Her mother-in-law announced after the wedding that she would not be allowed to read books.

So she wrote poetry instead. A lot of it.

At age twenty, her brother-in-law started talking to her about his travels in Catholic countries, recommending books, and then lending them to her. She read secretly and critically, and then converted. Her conversion led to a bitter dispute with her husband, who threw her out and left her to starve, with no access to the kids. (Totally legal, once she became a Catholic.) She eventually managed to get custody of all her daughters and two of her sons. Six out of ten of the kids converted to Catholicism.

Her play is called The Tragedy of Mariam, the Fair Queen of Jewry, and it’s based on the story of Herod’s second wife. It came out in 1613, and is dedicated to her sister-in-law, also named Elizabeth.

You can read the play here.

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The Good Old Days?

From “Stopping the Leaks,” America, September 2, 1916:

“Among other matters, dangers to young girls were investigated. From reliable sources of information, it was discovered that about 8,000 young girls disappeared each year from the railroad trains running between New York and Chicago.”

8000 girls a year, on just one railroad line. Think about that.

Here’s an article from a Jewish magazine (The Reform Advocate, Vol. 52, August 2, 1916), noting various travelers’ aid groups that worked to protect young women riding the trains, or arriving in cities for the first time. (Nobody mentions “pimps” or “psycho killers” or “lying sweatshop recruiters,” but I think we can assume that.) So if you’ve ever wondered what “Traveler’s Aid” was about, now you know.

In the America article, there’s also some stuff about the founding of CCD (the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) classes, and how many had to be taught outside for lack of any place to meet and teach kids.

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The True Seriousness of Modesty in Dress

I found this quote earlier this week, in The Casuist, Volume IV (1912). The article is “V: Scandal by Immodesty in Dress.” It exposes pretty starkly the difference between Catholicism and Islam, and I wish I’d had it to hand during all the pants and headgear controversies of the early 2000’s.

Immodesty in dress, at least off the stage or outside of masked balls,* will hardly ever amount to more than a venial sin. The custom of the country must be considered. Physical charm is more alluring than dress, and yet no one is obliged to destroy their beauty because others take scandal at it.”

There you go. Venial sin.

Now, of course it’s good to avoid venial sins too!

But yes, while other Catholic manuals of the time spend a great deal of time preaching against “immodesty of looks” (ie, staring or leering), they don’t spend nearly as much time and energy on immodesty of dress. (Given the loquacity of the time, I was amused to find one 1890’s French Catholic homily book keeping it down to a couple of strong sentences. It was almost like the priest was saying, “Ladies, let’s not send any men to hell. Next subject!”)

* “on stage”: Immodest costumes were well-lit and provided a bad example for hundreds at once. It may also be a reference to burlesque shows, fan-dancing strippers, etc., which were more widely available than porn under the laws of 1912.

“masked balls”: They could be totally okay, but were often used as an excuse for groping and sexual invitations in pre-modern times. See, costumes meant there was a lack of easy identification and accountability. So a man or woman who wore an immodest outfit to a masked ball back then was pretty much advertising himself/herself as interested in sexual hookups.

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The Pope’s Interview with La Croix

A Catholic French periodical named La Croix published an interview with Pope Francis yesterday.

Here it is in French. The interview was published in several parts (possibly to increase clicks): Migrants, Laicity (which in French means a deliberate secularization maintained by the French state, in order to separate church and state), His Idea of France, and the Synod on the Family.

Here is the magazine’s English translation, appearing in their English-language edition. This seems to be the entire interview as a whole, or at least all the published parts.

Here’s a video, but it’s just some kind of video press release.

The interview pages in French get cut off after a certain amount of time, and a popup ad appears that demands you subscribe to La Croix, so cut and paste in order to keep reading. Alternately, use a privacy browser

So here’s the bad news. Most of the English translation is not inaccurate when compared to the French one, although occasionally it covers up the Holy Father’s details. Of course, it is also possible that the French and English translations were both separate bad translations from the original Italian or Spanish, or that the French magazine just made stuff up or picked out bad stuff… but I wouldn’t rely on that.

So here’s some lowlights and highlights of the interview. I’ve tweaked the published English translation to make it line up more exactly with the French wording.

(Pope talks about wars in the Mideast and Africa, and underdevelopment in Africa, causing huge emigration. He elaborates about wars:)

“If there are wars, it is because there are manufacturers of arms (which arms can be justified for defensive purposes) and above all, arms traffickers.”

Sigh. Holy Father, I’m pretty sure that Cain didn’t kill Abel because he got a good arms deal on automatic rocks. Also, you need to read those Acton Institute books on Catholic economic theory as developed by the Salamancans and others.

“More than 80% of the world’s wealth is in the hands of about 16% of the population.”


And if you mean that “Most of the world’s economy is in first world countries, and yet most of the world doesn’t live there,” you’re not talking about Bill Gates bathing in a pile of money. You’re talking about a lot of ordinary people working hard over generations, and thus turning their countries into first world countries. If every country just had its own share of what its own people do and make economically, there wouldn’t be anything unfair about it.

“A completely free market does not work. Markets in themselves are good but they also require a third party, the State, to monitor and balance them. In other words, what is called a social market economy.”

Er… what? The friars and Jesuits from Salamanca would beg to differ.

“I don’t believe that today there is a fear of Islam, as such; but there is of Daesh and its war of conquest, drawn in part from Islam. The idea of conquest is inherent to the soul of Islam; that is true. However, one could interpret, with the same idea of conquest, the end of Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus sends forth His disciples to all the nations.

“Before [asking about] the current Islamist terrorism, one should ask oneself about the way a too-Western model of democracy was exported into countries where a strong power was, as in Iraq. Or in Libya with a tribal structure – one cannot progress much without taking account of this culture.”


Interestingly, the French interview says that the Pope referred to “Daech” (the French spelling of Daesh, the insulting version of the terror nation’s name), whereas the English translation says “ISIS.” Which one did the Pope really say?

Also, “un pouvoir fort” seems to refer to the US as a world power occupying Iraq, not to the former government of Iraq under Saddam Hussein. I don’t know where the published English translation got “former government” out of the French.

“A state must be secular. Confessional states end badly. It goes against history. I believe that a secularism accompanied by a solid law – they guarantee religious
liberty – offers a framework for going forward. We are all equal, as sons of God or with our dignity of personhood.”

Also a bit boggle-worthy in its version of separation of Church and state. Catholic teaching supports this in some ways but not in others, as you can see in the Salamanca School and Bellarmine.

There were towns in Italy in the Middle Ages that were successfully run for centuries as voluntary religious communities, basically all one big sodality. On the other hand, the Church has always taught that is plenty of room for secular forms of government to run things on an earthly plane, not trying for theocracy while maintaining her own rights to teach morality and religion, and to call the clergy she chooses. (The lay sodality members ran the towns, not their priests.)

The Pope does urge France to ease up on those parts of “laicite” which go against individual rights of conscience, especially in the case of government bureaucrats.

– “What does France mean to you?”

– “‘The eldest daughter of the Church,’ but not the most faithful!” (laughs)

The Pope floats the idea of visiting Paris “and its banlieues”, which is to say the all-Muslim suburban neighborhoods with their half-jihadi gangs. This little bombshell seems to have gone unnoticed by the media.

Other stuff he talks about:

His favorite French saint (St. Therese of Lisieux)

Clericalization (which he illustrates with the idea that some Argentinian priests wanted to get every pious layman they met made into a deacon, as well as talking about how laypeople demand to be clericalized, thinking it will make things easier). Part of this is probably directed at the deaconess-with-clergy-powers idea, although it also explains a lot about the Holy Father’s odd comments in the past about the diaconate.

The SSPX (he says Fellay is someone you can talk with, and that talks are advancing slowly and with patience). Good!

I’m sure there’s a great deal more to say about this interview; but at least this gives us some idea of what the Pope actually said, before we all start going “Argh Argh Aaaargh.”

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