The Opprobrium of Their Origin

A woodcut depicting Saracens in Erhard Reuwich's Peregrinatio in Terram Sanctam, 1486.

A woodcut depicting Saracens in Erhard Reuwich’s Peregrinatio in Terram Sanctam, 1486.

This is the tribe which took its origin and had its name from Ishmael, the son of Abraham; and the ancients called them Ishmaelites after their progenitor. As their mother Hagar was a slave, they afterwards, to conceal the opprobrium of their origin, assumed the name of Saracens, as if they were descended from Sara, the wife of Abraham. Such being their origin, they practice circumcision like the Jews, refrain from the use of pork, and observe many other Jewish rites and customs. If, indeed, they deviate in any respect from the observances of that nation, it must be ascribed to the lapse of time, and to their intercourse with the neighbouring nations. Moses, who lived many centuries after Abraham, only legislated for those whom he led out of Egypt. The inhabitants of the neighboring countries, being strongly addicted to superstition, probably soon corrupted the laws imposed upon them by their forefather Ishmael. The ancient Hebrews had their community life under this law only, using therefore unwritten customs, before the Mosaic legislation. These people certainly served the same gods as the neighbouring nations, honouring and naming them similarly, so that by this likeness with their forefathers in religion, there is evidenced their departure from the laws of their forefathers. As is usual, in the lapse of time, their ancient customs fell into oblivion, and other practices gradually got the precedence among them. Salminius Hermias Sozomenus, Ecclesiastical History, Book VI.

An Hardy and Intrepid Race of Men

John Slezer's engraving of Edinburgh Castle, c.1693 showing the Scottish Union Flag being flown above the Royal apartments.

John Slezer’s engraving of Edinburgh Castle c.1693, showing the Scottish Union Flag being flown above the Royal apartments.

SCOTLAND, considering its limited population and extent, has made a distinguished figure in History. No country, in modern times, has produced Characters more remarkable for learning, valour, or ability, or for knowledge in the most important arts both of peace and of War; and though the Natives of that formerly independent, and hitherto unconquered, kingdom have every reason to be proud of the name of Britons, which they have acquired since the Union in 1707, yet still they ought not to relinquish, on that account, all remembrance of the Martial Atchievements, the Characteristic Dress, or the Language, the Music, or the Customs of their Ancestors. If in all these respects they were to be completely assimilated to the English, Scotland would become in a manner blended with England, whilst its inhabitants at the same time could claim no peculiar merit, from old English valour, virtue, literature, or fame; whereas if they consider themselves not only as Britons, but as Scotchmen, there are many circumstances, connected with the more remote, and even the modern periods of their history, which they can recollect with enthusiasm, as the Songs of their Ancient Bards;– the Tales of their former times, when FINGAL conquered, and OSSIAN sung his praises,– their determined resistance to the Roman arms;– their reiterated victories over the Danes, who were formerly the terror of the North;– the renowned atchievements of a WALLACE, a DOUGLAS, and a BRUCE, and other heroes, in their contests with the English, the most warlike nation then existing;– their valour in the service of France, of Holland, and of other Powers;– the share they had in the immortal Victories of the great Gustavus;– the manner in which they have distinguished themselves in more recent times, as at Fontenoy, at Quebec, on the banks of the Ganges and of the Nile, and on so many other important occasions;– their contributing in so material a degree to the revival of Learning in Europe;– their having been the means of establishing some of the most famous Universities on the Continent;– the many celebrated Authors and Artists which Scotland has successively produced;– in short, in the words of a distinguished modern poet, the Scots may be accounted

… a manly race,
Of unsubmitting spirit, wise, and brave;
… thence of unequal bounds
Impatient, and by tempting glory borne
O’er every land,– for every land, their life
Has flow’d profuse, their piercing genius plann’d,
And swell’d the pomp of peace, their faithful toil.

Or if less partial authority be required, than the testimony of a Scottish Poet, let us recollect, that the celebrated Earl of Chatham, on the 11th of January, 1766, expressed himself in the British Senate, when the Military Services of the Scots were under discussion, in the following terms:

I sought for Merit wherever it was to be found. It is my boast that I was the first Minister who looked for it, and found it in the Mountains of the North! I called it forth, and drew into your service, an hardy and intrepid race of men! men who, when left by your jealousy, became a prey to the artifices of your enemies, and had gone nigh to have overturned the State in the war before the last. These men, in the last war, were brought to combat on your side; they served with fidelity, as they fought with valour, and conquered for you in every part of the world.

Perhaps the best mode by which the Scots may be enabled to keep up that National Spirit, which was formerly so conspicuous, that “fier comme un Ecossais,” became proverbial on the Continent, is occasionally to meet in that Garb, so celebrated as having been the dress of their Celtic Ancestors, and on such occasions, at least, to speak the emphatic Language, to listen to the delightful Music, to recite the Ancient Poetry, and to observe the peculiar customs of their country.

– An Account of the Highland Society of London, 1813.

Our Royall Prerogative

William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury.

William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury.


That you advert that the Proclamation authorizing their Service Book derogate nothing from our Royall prerogative. That in the Kalendar you keep such Catholick Saints as are in the English; that you pester it not with too many; but such as you insert of the peculiar Saints of that our Kingdom, that they be of the most approved; and here to have regard to those of the Blood Royall and such Holy Bishops in every See most renouned. But in no case ommitt Saint George and Patrick. That in your Book of Orders, in giving Orders to Presbiters, you keep the words of the English Book, without change, “Receive the Holy Ghost,” &c. That you insert in the Lessons ordinarly to be Read in the Service, out of ye Book of Wisdome, the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 Chapters; and out of the Book of Ecclesiasticus, the 1, 2, 5, 8, 35, and 49 Chapters. That every Bishop in his own family, twice a day, cause the Service to be done. That all A.Bishops and Bishops make all Universitys and Colledges within their Diocesses to use twice a day the Service. That the Preface to the Common Prayer, Signed by our hand, and the Proclamation authorizing the same, be Printed and inserted in the Book of Common Prayer.– Given at Newmarket, Oct. 8th, 1636, and of our Reigne the 11.

To Dress Out the Corse of the Anglican Religion

This very circumstance of the daily-increasing interest in Christian archaeology is abundantly significant, and full of happy augury. It reveals an improved state of the public mind, and leads to the hope of the dawn of better days. It is not only by word, but by fact, that our fellowmen in England, and in Scotland too, have begun to study some thing more than mere Christian antiquities, that they have begun to test the character of Christian aesthetics, that they are no longer content to view the outside of religion, but that they must penetrate within — that they are no longer satisfied with contemplating the old walls of our venerable cathedrals and ivy-covered abbeys, but that they are pushing their inquiries after the doctrines that were preached, and the sacraments that were administered, and the sacrifice that was immolated in the parish church, and the village chapel, during the glorious ages of the faith of our fathers.

But this is not all, for many of the clergy are taking another step decidedly in advance. They are endeavouring to model their religious services according to the full-blown Roman type. Urged on by the high tide of religious sentiment which has now set in, as well as by their own better feelings, they are cultivating religious art, to a marvellous extent. No longer can they endure the cold and vapid worship as by law established, which has completely lost its hold of pious minds; they must have something which is warm and animated, something which is imposing and attractive, some thing that shall touch the heart and impress the soul. No longer can they themselves endure to be regarded as mere state functionaries, as sheer stipendiaries of an institution founded not by the law of heaven, but by the law of the land. They must need rise up to a higher level, and stand upon a nobler platform; they must assert, but in vain, the prerogatives of Christian churchmen; they must declare, but to no purpose, that they are the “messengers of Christ, and the dispensers of the mysteries of God!” No longer can they endure to be the butt of lay dictation, to be under the supervision of every Low-Church, Broad-Church, or rather, no-Church warden — to be controlled by the Court of Arches, and concussed by her Majesty’s Privy Council. They must proclaim — but it is all moonshine — the freedom of the gospel, and that they, forsooth, are the lineal successors of the apostles! Hence they must retrace their steps, but at imminent peril of being silenced, Romewards, and they must assimilate their services in accordance with the Roman model! They must adopt the rites of the Roman Ritual, introduce the feasts and fasts of the Roman Calendar, propound the doctrines of the Apostolic and Roman Church. They must describe all this religious acting and teaching, as primitive and Catholic, but not Roman — and they must protest against Romanism as well as against Protestantism! Hence they no longer can tolerate the negative designation, “Protestant;” they must, “per fas aut nefas,” be affirmative — they must be out-and-out Catholic. Catholics must be Romanists, or by courtesy, “Roman” Catholics! They must, therefore, in their lately-fledged zeal, be more Catholic than the Catholics themselves. They must outstrip the quiet old religionists of eighteen hundred years’ standing, and in this sensational age, they must create by their recently adopted rites, the most extra-ordinary sensation!

No longer are they therefore content with weekly, they must have daily services; they must have so many fast days and feast days, so many, and so varied, Ritualistic observances. They must have so multiform religious emblems at the Church door, and so diversified decorations on the church walls. They must have so many lamps burning in the sanctuary; so many candles lighted at the altar; so many celebrations during the morning; so imposing vesper services in the afternoon. They must have divers confessionals, with the names of the confessors emblazoned, due notice being given that confessions shall be heard on Fridays and Saturdays, as well as on the vigils of all Feasts. They must still have so many genuflections, despite the Court of Arches, and such profound prostrations, in defiance of the Privy Council. They must have fuming of the sweetest incense, and such ringing of the altar bell, and the vesper bell, and the angelus bell, and, doubtless, by-and-bye, of the curfew bell! They must have beautifully organized processions, headed by the cross-bearers, composed of guilds, and societies, and confraternities, and sisterhoods and brotherhoods, with banners aloft, and vocal and instrumental music, all which have utterly astounded “our own correspondents,” and taken the city of London by surprise, if not by a holy kind of violence!

Now it must in very truth be said, that those rites, however admirable — those religious demonstrations, however beautiful in themselves — nay desirable in public worship, when legitimately employed, are by no means congenial to the nature of the Anglican Establishment which repels them, moreover condemns them, by the law officials, and which declares that they who use them do so at their peril; and that they are guilty of a high crime and misdemeanour against the Church of England. For these Ritualistic ceremonials are altogether alien to the National Church, as they are unmeaning in that Church’s service; they are counterfeit imitations of the Catholic and Roman Ritual. They are not the current coin of the Anglican religious realm; they are not in “use and wont” in the various temples of their fellow religionists. They are no doubt so far successful endeavours in the aesthetic order, but they are transparent fallacies; they are nugatory efforts in the supernatural order, to dress out the corse of the Anglican religion, and to try to resuscitate the body, when the soul has fled; they are disingenuous devices in the mystical order, to employ those spasmodic influences by way of inducing the simple-minded to believe that there is after all some spark of life in that religious system, by law established, when in reality there is nothing but death and decomposition!

– J. Stewart M’Corry, D.D., The Monks of Iona; in Reply to “Iona, by the Duke of Argyll”; London (1871).

The Priceless Charms of Iona

Iona Abbey.

Iona Abbey.

Surely his Grace of Argyll ought to know, that the fascinations of Iona are by no manner of means attributable to the present ducal proprietor. They are by no means attributable to the climate, nor to the soil, nor to the rocks, nor to the neighbouring mountains; they are not attributable to modern architecture; they are not, therefore, attributable to any natural or artificial, but rather to a supernatural, nay, to a celestial agency! The priceless charms of Iona are to be ascribed to the incomparable genius of the Catholic religion, which his Grace of Argyll sets down as “mediæval superstition;” and the matchless treasures of Iona are to be ascribed to those devoted men, whose hearts throbbed with that heaven-born religion, and whose hands erected to God those beauteous structures which are, forsooth, “the monuments of the dull and often corrupt monotony of mediæval Romanism!” J. Stewart M’Corry, D.D., The Monks of Iona; in Reply to “Iona, by the Duke of Argyll”; London (1871).

A Measure of Retaliation

The United States Capitol following the burning of Washington City on 24 August 1814, during the War of 1812, watercolour (restored) by George Munger (1781-1825), Library of Congress.

The United States Capitol following the burning of Washington City on 24 August 1814, during the War of 1812, watercolour (restored) by George Munger (1781-1825), Library of Congress.

…in consequence of the late disgraceful conduct of the American troops in the wanton destruction of private property on the north shores of Lake Erie, in order that if the war with the United States continues you may, should you judge it advisable, assist in inflicting that measure of retaliation which shall deter the enemy from a repetition of similar outrages. Sir George Prévost, Governor General of The Canadas in a letter to Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane, 2 June 1814.

I am most decidedly of opinion that the readiest way to attain this object is to bring home to the supporters of the Government which authorizes this unnatural system of warfare a full share of its dreadful calamities and to this end, I have issued to the commanding officer of H.M. blockading squadron an order, accompanied by a secret memorandum…

No. 1
By the Honorable Alexander Cochrane, K.B. &c, &c, &c.

Whereas… it appears that the American troops in Upper Canada have committed the most wanton and unjustifiable outrages on the unoffending inhabitants by burning their mills and houses, and by a general devastation of private property…

You are hereby required and directed to destroy and lay waste such towns and districts as you may find assailable. You will hold strictly in view the conduct of the American army towards His Majesty’s unoffending Canadian subjects and you will spare merely the lives of the unarmed inhabitants of the United States. Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane to John Wilson Croker, the Secretary to the Admiralty, 14 June 1814.

Two hundred years ago today, on 24 August 1814, after defeating the Americans at the Battle of Bladensburg, a British force led by Major General Robert Ross occupied Washington City and set fire to many public buildings, including the Executive Mansion and the Capitol, as well as other facilities of the United States government. The attack was in part a retaliation to American actions in the Raid on Port Dover.

The Head of the Table

Ruins of Finlaggan Castle, former stronghold of the MacDonald Lords of the Isles, on Eilean Mór on Loch Finlaggan, Islay.

Ruins of Finlaggan Castle, former stronghold of the MacDonald Lords of the Isles, on Eilean Mór on Loch Finlaggan, Islay.

The Chief of the Macdonalds happening to be in Ireland, was invited to an entertainment given by the Lord-Lieutenant. He chanced to be among the last that came in, and set himself at the foot of the table near the door. The Lord-Lieutenant asked him to come and sit beside him, and Macdonald, who had no English, inquired “What the Carle said?” He bids you move towards the head of the table, was the answer. “Tell the Carle,” (replied the Chief indignant that the dinner had not been kept back till his arrival), “that wherever Macdonald sits, that is the ‘head of the table’.” An Account of the Highland Society of London, 1813.

Sir Colin and Lady Juliana Campbell

Sir Colin Campbell, 8th Laird of Glenorchy (d. 1640); engraved (1798) and published in <em>Gallery of Eminent Persons of Scotland</em> by John Pinkerton, 1799.

Sir Colin Campbell, 8th Laird of Glenorchy (d. 1640); engraved (1798) and published in Gallery of Eminent Persons of Scotland by John Pinkerton, 1799.

Sir Colin Campbell, 2nd Baronet (c. 1577–1640), 8th Laird of Glenorchy, was the son of Sir Duncan Campbell, 1st Baronet and Lady Jane Stewart, a daughter of John Stewart, 4th Earl of Atholl. Sir Duncan was the 7th Laird of the Glenorchy branch of Clan Campbell, and his shrewd, ruthless dealings as “Black Duncan” had capped a spectacular rise in the family fortunes to national prominence in Scotland, with a baronetcy in the Baronetage of Nova Scotia. Sir Colin was a man of general culture, a patron of the arts, and devoted much effort to the family seat of Balloch Castle. He also improved Barcaldine Castle.

Lady Juliana Campbell, wife of 8th Laird of Glenorchy (b. 1581); engraved (1798) and published in <em>Gallery of Eminent Persons of Scotland</em> by John Pinkerton, 1799.

Lady Juliana Campbell, wife of 8th Laird of Glenorchy (b. 1581); engraved (1798) and published in Gallery of Eminent Persons of Scotland by John Pinkerton, 1799.

He married Juliana Campbell, daughter of Sir Hugh Campbell, 1st Lord Campbell of Loudoun and Margaret Gordon. Childless, they fostered Archibald Campbell (later 9th Earl of Argyll). This fostering repeated in the next generation that of Archibald’s father Archibald Campbell, 1st Marquess of Argyll, who became chief of Clan Campbell, and had been happily fostered (a custom of the period, but also with political ramifications within the clan) by Sir Duncan.

In 1633, Sir Colin Campbell commissioned an artist to supply him with a series of portraits of Scottish kings and queens, as well as portraits of eight of his own male predecessors. These, totalling forty-one, were for the decoration of his tower house of Balloch (later Taymouth Castle); in the records of the house, the painter, who stayed for eight months, is simply referred to as “the German painter.”

Item, the said Sir Coline bestowit and gave to ane Germane painter quhom he entertanit in his house aucht moneth, and that for painting of threttie broads of the Kingis of Scotland, and of Great Britannie, France and Ireland, and tua of thair Majesteis Queins of gude memorie, and of the said Sir Coline his awin and his predicessors portraitis, quhilkis portraitis ar sett up in the hall and chalmer of Daes of the house of Balloch, the soume of ane thousand pundis. Black Book of Taymouth.

Sir Colin was also the foremost patron of George Jamesone, who in 1634 painted a series of the Ladies of Glenorchy (e.g. Invereil House, Lothian; remainder dispersed at sale, Invereil House, 3 March 1969), a set of eight head-and-shoulders portraits, each in a feigned oval surround, of the wives of former Glenorchy lairds: these were intended as companion pieces to the genealogical set of Campbell’s male predecessors that had been painted at his Taymouth home during the previous year by the unknown German artist.

The Nard of Bernard’s Sanctity

The Lactation of Saint Bernard, c. 1480, oil on panel, 15.4 × 10.2 inches, Curtius Museum, Liège, Belgium.

The Lactation of Saint Bernard, c. 1480, oil on panel, 15.4 × 10.2 inches, Curtius Museum, Liège, Belgium.


Iam Regína discúbuit,
Sedens post Unigénitum:
Nardus odórem tríbuit,
Bernárdus, tradens spíritum.
The Queen of Heaven reclines,
Seated after the Only-Begotten Son.
Bernard, yielding up his spirit,
Proffers her the perfume of spikenard.
Dulcis Regínæ gústui
Fructus sui suávitas:
Dulcis eius olfáctui
Nardi Bernárdi sánctitas.
Sweet to the Queen’s taste
Is the fruit of her delight.
Sweet to her nostrils
Is the nard of Bernard’s sanctity.
Venit Sponsa de Líbano
Coronánda divínitus,
Ut Bernárdus de clíbano
Veníret Sancti Spíritus.
She, the spouse, comes from Lebanon
to be divinely crowned,
So that Bernard may come forth
From the furnace of the Holy Spirit.
Quæ est ista progrédiens
Velut auróra rútilans?
Quis est iste transíliens
Colles, sanctis coniúbilans?
Who is she who goes forth,
Dazzling as the dawn?
Who is he who comes leaping upon the hills,
Exulting with the saints?
Hæc glória terríbilis
Sicut castrórum ácies:
Hic grátia mirábilis
Ut Assuéri fácies.
Terrible is her glory
As an army in battle array.
Wonderful is his grace
As the face of Assuerus.
Ora pro nobis Dóminum,
Prædúlcis fumi vírgula:
Inclína Patrem lúminum,
Pastor ardens ut fácula.
Pray for us to the Lord,
Thou pillar of aromatic smoke.
Incline to us the Father of Lights,
Thou shepherd, glowing like a flaming torch.
Sit Trinitáti glória,
Per quam triúmphus Vírginis
Et Bernárdi felícitas
Manent in cæli cúria.  Amen.
Glory be to the Trinity,
Through Whom the triumph of the Virgin
And the joy of Bernard remain forever
in the sacred courts of Heaven.  Amen.

– Vespers Hymn in Alternative Office of St. Bernard as given in the Monastic Diurnal (1963);
evidently from the Cistercian Breviary.



Pope Benedict XVI.

Pope Benedict XVI.

Those who expected that with this fundamental “yes” to the modern era all tensions would be dispelled and that the “openness towards the world” accordingly achieved would transform everything into pure harmony, had underestimated the inner tensions as well as the contradictions inherent in the modern epoch.

They had underestimated the perilous frailty of human nature which has been a threat to human progress in all the periods of history and in every historical constellation. These dangers, with the new possibilities and new power of man over matter and over himself, did not disappear but instead acquired new dimensions: a look at the history of the present day shows this clearly. Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI on the Occasion of Christmas Greetings to the Roman Curia, 22 December 2005.

Altus Prosator “C”

The Fall of the Rebel Angels by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1562, Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium.

The Fall of the Rebel Angels by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1562, Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium.


TITLE: De transmigratione novem graduum principis.
ARGUMENT: ‘Vidi stellam de celo cecidisse in terram’; et in Esaiâ, ‘Quomodo cecidisti Lucifer, qui mane oriebaris.’

CELI de regni apice
stationis angelicae
claritate prefulgoris
venustate speciminis
superbiendo ruerat
lucifer quem formaverat
apostataeque angeli
eodem lapsu lugubri
auctoris ceno-doxiae
pervicacis invidiae
ceteris remanentibus
in suis principatibus.

PRONE, from splendour of that kingdom
Where GOD’S angels crown the height,
From all loveliness of beauty
All transcendency of light,
Lucifer, by GOD created,
Fell by his vainglorious pride—
Fell by envy still persisting,
Fell with all his host allied,
From the same high place apostate
In the same sad ruin prone,—
While the faithful angel princes
Kept their state before the Throne.

– The Hiberno-Latin abecedarian hymn, Altus prosator, a sequence attributed to St. Columba, from Lays of Iona and Other Poems; English translation by Samuel John Stone.

It Is in the Bible Not to Wrestle Your Neighbour


Nacho: Ok. Orphans! Listen to Ignacio. I know it is fun to wrestle. A nice piledrive to the face… or a punch to the face… but you cannot do it. Because, it is in the Bible not to wrestle your neighbour.

Chancho: So you’ve never wrestled?

Nacho: Me? No. Come on. Don’t be crazy. I know the wrestlers get all the fancy ladies, and the clothes, and the fancy creams and lotions. But my life is good! Really good! I get to wake up every morning, at 5AM, and make some soup! It’s the best. I love it. I get to lay in a bed, all by myself, all of my life! That’s fantastic! Go. Go away! Read some books!

With the Resolution of Freemen

Robert Lewis Dabney.

Robert Lewis Dabney.

For the Vindicator: The Spectator and the Clergy

Mr. Editor: The Spectator publishes the concluding paragraphs of an address to the Clergy and Laity of the Christian Churches of the country, recently issued by the Revs. Wilson, Atkinson, Smith, Dabney and others of Virginia, “touching the duties appropriate to the people of God,” in the present distracted condition of public affairs.

In order that the people may not be misled by these extracts, as to the true position of the Reverend gentlemen, I must ask you to publish the following emphatic declaration from the same address:

“Do these causes then exist? We would distinctly say, to avoid creating a mischievous mistake, that if the Southern States of the Union are persistently refused their just rights in the Confederacy and its common territories, and the peculiar property, then, in our opinion, the Southern people must conclude that these causes do exist, and that the catastrophe, however lamentable, must be met, sorrowfully indeed, and yet with the resolution of Freemen.”

Thus you will see the Reverend gentlemen are far from being the tame submissionists the Spectator would make them by its isolated extracts. They are peace-loving and God-fearing men; but at the same time patriots. Common justice, therefore, requires that they should have the benefit of the foregoing declaration, made, as they distinctly say, “to avoid creating a mischievous mistake.”


– Republican Vindicator (Staunton, Virginia), 15 February 1861.

There Must Be a Woman in the Life of a Priest

Arms of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.

Arms of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.

Though Mary is the ideal Woman in every truly Christian life, I cannot express how real she has been in my life. As a mother carrying a child often feels the kicks of the young, so Mary has felt my rebellion, but still sought to form Christ in my soul as she formed Him in her womb. “It is not good for man to be alone.” That verse of Genesis applies just as much to a priest as to the laity. There must be a Woman in the life of a priest. That Woman came into my life at birth. When I was baptized as an infant, my mother laid me on the altar of the Blessed Mother in St. Mary’s Church, El Paso, Illinois, and consecrated me to her. As an infant may be unconscious of a birthmark, so I was unconscious of the dedication — but the mark was always there. Like a piece of iron to the magnet, I was drawn to her before I knew her, but never drawn to her without Christ. When I received my first Holy Communion at the age of twelve, I made the conscious dedication of myself to Mary. Though I cannot recall the exact words of my prayer, it was certainly similar to the motto which I chose for my coat of arms as bishop: Da per matrem me venire (Grant that I may come to Thee through Mary). My First Communion book with its mother-of-pearl cover contained the Litany of the Blessed Virgin, which I began reciting every night as a boy and have continued to this hour. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.

The Easier Path

Battered religious figures stand watch on a hill above a tattered valley. Nagasaki, Japan. September 24, 1945, 6 weeks after the city was destroyed by the world's second atomic bomb attack. Photo by Cpl. Lynn P. Walker, Jr. (Marine Corps) NARA FILE #: 127-N-136176.

Battered religious figures stand watch on a hill above a tattered valley. Nagasaki, Japan. September 24, 1945, 6 weeks after the city was destroyed by the world’s second atomic bomb attack. Photo by Cpl. Lynn P. Walker, Jr. (Marine Corps) NARA FILE #: 127-N-136176.

Peace in Europe and the Socialist regime in England brought [Knox] little comfort. The destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki appalled him. The event, which others were greeting with jubilation constituted for Ronald a triple outrage on Faith, Hope, and Charity; on Faith in that the actual mechanics of the device, the discovery, as he phrased it, of ‘an indeterminate element in the heart of things’ seemed at first flush to cast a doubt on the hypothesis of causality and so on the five classical proofs of the existence of God; on Hope by ‘the prospect of an age in which the possibilities of evil are increased by an increase in the possibilities of destruction’; on Charity by ‘the news that men fighting for a good cause have taken, at one particular moment of decision, the easier, not the nobler path. At the moment of victory a sign appeared in heaven; not the comforting Labarum of the Milvian Bridge, but the bright, evil cloud which hung over Hiroshima. In this sign we were to conquer’. Evelyn Waugh, Monsignor Ronald Knox, Chapman & Hall, 1959.

Altus Prosator “B”


Title: De formatione novem graduum, tribus praetermissis, non per ignorantiam, sed pro augustia capituli praetermisit.
Argument: ‘Fiat lux, et facto, est.’

BONOS creavit angelos
ordines et archangelos
principatuum ac sedium
potestatum virtutium
uti non esset bonitas
otiosa ac maiestas
trinitatis in omnibus
largitatis muneribus
sed haberet celestia
in quibus previgilia
ostenderet magnopere
possibili fatimine.

ALL good angels and archangels,
Powers and Principalities,
Virtues, Thrones, His will created—
Grades and orders of the skies,
That the majesty and goodness
Of the Blessed TRINITY
In its ever bounteous largesse
Never might inactive be;
Having thus wherewith to glory,
All the wide world might adore
The high Godhead’s sole-possession
Everywhere and evermore.

– The Hiberno-Latin abecedarian hymn, Altus prosator, a sequence attributed to St. Columba, from Lays of Iona and Other Poems; English translation by Samuel John Stone.

As an Army Set in Array

Fra Angelico. Reliquary Tabernacle [with Dormition in the bottom register and the Assumption above]. c. 1430. Tempera and gold on panel, 62 x 39 cm. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston.

Fra Angelico. Reliquary Tabernacle [with Dormition in the bottom register and the Assumption above]. c. 1430. Tempera and gold on panel, 62 x 39 cm. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston.

Quae est ista, quae ascendit sicut aurora consurgens, pulchra ut luna, electa ut sol, terribilis ut castrorum acies ordinata? Ant. ad Ben. from the Office of the Assumption of the BVM (Cant. vi. 9.).

Consecrated Phrases

Ronald Arbuthnott Knox.

Ronald Arbuthnott Knox.

Apropos of that, may I suggest some considerations about what are called “consecrated phrases” in the Bible, which, we are told, we must not alter in any way, because they have become so familiar? I quite admit that where a form of words has become stereotyped through passing into liturgical use, it is a pity and probably a waste of time to try and alter it. The words of the Our Father and of the Hail Mary have got to remain as they are. Again, there are certain formulas which are best left alone, or altered as little as possible, because alteration cannot hope to make them clearer, and they have already a supreme literary value of their own, depending on association; the words of Consecration, for example, or the seven words from the Cross. But it is, I submit, a grave error to sick to a form of words, in itself unnatural English, merely because a thousand repetitions have familiarized the public ear with the sound of it. Just because we are familiar with a form of words, we fail to be struck by its full meaning. For instance, I had a very interesting letter from an Irish Redemptorist, expressing the hope that I had found some better translation for arneito heauton (abneget semetipsum) than “let him deny himself.” This has become a consecrated phrase; and for years, now, nuns have been encouraging schoolgirls to give up toffee during Lent and write the fact down on a card as a record of “self-denial.” For years, Salvation Army lasses have picketed us with demands for a half-penny because it is “self- denial week.” The whole glorious content of the phrase, arneito heauton, let him obliterate himself, let him annihilate himself, let him rule Self out of his world-picture altogether, has become degraded and lost. That is what happens to “consecrated phrases.”

– Ronald Knox, On Englishing the Bible, Baronius Press (2012), pp. 5-6.


A Quality of the Imagination

Mary Flannery O'Connor (March 25, 1925 – August 3, 1964).

Mary Flannery O’Connor (March 25, 1925 – August 3, 1964).

We don’t know how the Assumption or the Immaculate Conception were brought about nor is this a matter for science in any way. Dogma is the guardian of mystery. The doctrines are spiritually significant in ways that we cannot fathom. According to St. Thomas, prophetic vision is not a matter of seeing clearly, but of seeing what is distant, hidden. The Church’s vision is a prophetic vision; it is always widening the view. The ordinary person does not have prophetic vision but he can accept it on faith. St. Thomas also says that prophetic vision is a quality of the imagination, that it does not have anything to do with the moral life of the prophet. It is the imaginative vision itself that endorses the morality. The Church stands for and preserves always what is larger than human understanding. Flannery O’Connor in a 1959 letter to Cecil Dawkins.

Finlay of Colonsay

Finlay, The Deerstalker, Hill and Adamson  (British, active 1843–1848), calotype print, c. 1845, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Finlay, The Deerstalker, Hill and Adamson (British, active 1843–1848), calotype print, c. 1845, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Robert Adamson (1821 – 1848) was a pioneer photographer whose subjects included Archibald McNeill (1803 – 1870), Sir John McNeill and “Finlay of Colonsay, a deerstalker in the employ of Campbell of Islay.” There are three images of this Finlay, taken on 17 April 1846. Adamson established his studio in Rock House, Calton Hill, Edinburgh, based upon the Fox Talbot calotype process. He worked closely with the painter David Octavius Hill and his brother Alexander Hill, a publisher of prints.

This image of Finlay of Colonsay is one of the first photographic images to depict a civilian in tartan attire.

Menkov Donyerth Ruw

King Doniert's Stone (Cornish: Menkov Donyerth Ruw), two pieces of a decorated 9th century high cross, located near St. Cleer, Bodmin Moor, Cornwall.

King Doniert’s Stone (Cornish: Menkov Donyerth Ruw), two pieces of a decorated 9th century high cross, located near St. Cleer, Bodmin Moor, Cornwall.

Dumgarth rex Cerniu [id est Cornubiæ] mersus est.

Dungarth king of Cernyw ‡that is of the Cornish‡ was drowned. Annales Cambriae, A.D. 875.

Description of King Doniert's Stone in John Norden's 1604 work, Speculi Britanniæ (published 1728).

Description of King Doniert’s Stone in John Norden’s 1604 work, Speculi Britanniæ (published 1728).

The site consists of the remains of two 9th-11th century granite cross-shaft fragments and an underground rock-cut passage that starts to the south-east of the crosses and terminates in a cross-shaped chamber beneath the two stones, thought to be either the remains of tin workings or a possible oratory.

King Doniert’s Stone stands about 4 feet 6 inches (1.37 metres) high, and is decorated on three of its faces with interlaced ornament of a style common throughout Britain. The upper end of the stone has a deep mortice in the top to take an upper shaft or cross head. The east face bears a weathered inscription which reads:


Doniert has asked [for this to be made] for [the sake of his] soul

The southern cross-shaft fragment is taller, about 7 feet (2.1 metres) high, and one face has a panel of interlaced decoration.