The Benedict Option and the Barbarian Challenge

Ceasing to Fight for Our Christian Culture Only Prepares Us for Defeat

“Ceasing to Fight for Our Christian Culture Only Prepares Us for Defeat”

Scratch the soul of many a conservative and beneath you will find a villager. Something is there that attracts these Americans to more natural and simpler lifestyles. Perhaps it is because organic and authentic things appear restful and reassuring in a world of uncertainties and anxieties.

However, what makes the organic option particularly attractive to conservatives is that it seems to be a solution to a neo-pagan world that corrupts and attacks family life. These conservatives believe, not unreasonably, that families fare better when surrounded by organic produce, home remedies and whole grain granola. Journalist Rod Dreher wittingly dubbed these rustic conservatives as “crunchy cons.” He described the phenomenon of those who desire to find a “village” of like-minded people to get away from the maddening liberal crowd.

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Such attractive dreams of an organic Christian society have circulated for decades. The idealized community generally involves a fair amount of acreage far enough away from the city. Community members might build a homestead on some ten or twenty acres. There would be huge gardens full of organic vegetables and produce. Livestock, free-range chickens, or goats would supplement diets. Add an orchard and maybe a vineyard. One could make one’s own beer, cider or wine. Self-sufficiency would reign as people would get off all the grids. There would be children aplenty to make things merry. One would simply walk away from secular society. There would be no time for sin and war, since all would be busy on their farms with wholesome work.

Of course, at the center of the village there would be a church, ideally a monastery, a Benedictine monastery, where holy priests would celebrate the Divine Liturgy and bells would call people to prayer. Monks would intercede before God for our sinful world. A sacredness would be conferred upon all society where a love of beauty in a God-centered life would propel men toward their final end. Eventually, a school or university would form around this community and a new culture would be born.

Indeed, such a community would be full of culture. Like-minded people would be gathering, singing, eating and praying together. People would rediscover poetry and wonder. Let the neo-pagan world party to its destruction, but let it leave us alone in our “backward” and godly bliss!

The idea of the Christian village has recently gained more traction with the defeat of Indiana’s religious liberty law, which is seen as a foretaste of a coming persecution. Writers like Rod Dreher are urging people to make a strategic withdrawal from modern society that would allow Christians to reassess their situation and explore their identity in a liturgy-rich context. It need not be the full village version, but it does entail something of a withdrawal. He calls it the Benedict or “B-option” and proposes that people find their strategic retreat parishes/communities to weather the liberal storm.

It must be said that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the idea of a Christian village centered on family and faith. It is entirely according to our social nature to desire to live in a community committed to virtuous life in common. Such communities help individuals put their lives in order and control their disordered passions. They satisfy the longings of the postmodern heart that crave community and wholeness. Such villages would return God back to the center of things where He belongs. It is where we need to go but …

Such communities are not enough. Benedict alone does not suffice.

There is one major problem with the B-option and that is what might be called the “B-challenge.” Benedictine communities may have flourished, but they also seemed to attract barbarians who ravaged and plundered them. Those who adopt the B-option of Benedict must find a way to deal with the B-challenge of barbarians.

Such a task consists of understanding the nature of the barbarian. Historically, barbarians were those who gave in to their whims and destroyed indiscriminately. They devastated ordered society and redistributed its wealth. They did not leave Christians alone, but rather sought them out, often coming from afar, to loot and plunder their communities wherever they might be found.

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Occupy Wall Street participants

There can be no doubt that we live in a neo-barbarian world inside a culture of death. Today’s tattooed and wired neo-barbarians are likewise aggressive.  They also redistribute the wealth, albeit through taxes and entitlements. They do not live and let live, but insist that all approve their disordered lifestyles. Indeed, it is the very brutality of the neo-barbarian mandate that impels those considering the Benedictine option to flee.

The lessons of history are particularly expressive regarding the triumph of barbarians. Vikings, Huns, Goths, Moors and communists all devastated the tranquility of even the most isolated of organic societies. There is no escaping. There is a kind of impossible co-existence between barbarian and villager. Thus, in our case, the B-challenge can only consist in confronting the brutal neo-barbarians at the gates.

That is not to say that Benedict loses his validity as an option. After all, the core of what is to be defended and gives meaning to life is found inside his liturgical framework turned toward the worship of God.

But Benedict must be defended against the ravages of the barbarian. The barbarian must be fearlessly confronted, contested, fought against, defeated…and converted.

To the efficacious prayer of Benedict must be added the zealous action of a Boniface, apostle of Germany. He did not dialogue with the barbarians, but chopped down the great oak tree which they worshiped as their god, and brought them to the knowledge of the true Faith. To Boniface can be added legions of saints like Patrick in Ireland or Remigius in France, all of who overcame the barbarian and secured Benedict’s peace.

It would be wrong to assume that Boniface plays only a temporary role inside a B-option. Successive waves of barbarians followed after Boniface’s triumph. Saintly kings, knights and crusaders rose to the occasion to engage and defeat them. Even our modern times saw the need to defend the West from yesterday’s Nazi and communist brutes and today’s Islamic beheading savages.

Castillo_de_Almansa_sobre_el_cerro_del_Aguila-attributed

“In this vale of tears, we must be continually engaged in the fight for order”

In this vale of tears, we must be continually engaged in the fight for order since there will always be those who oppose God’s law and undermine the family, marriage, and all those other institutions that make up the heart and soul of an economy, a culture and the Christian village. There will always be those who never live and let live and will seek us out.

Like it or not, when we cease to fight for our Christian culture, we prepare ourselves for defeat. Unless there be Bonifaces with the fortitude needed to confront this great struggle, all our efforts will come to nothing.

Indeed, an organic order only becomes possible when there are those who, by their spirit of self-sacrifice and dedication, practice fortitude to the highest degree. This can be seen in the dedicated spirit of the soldier who leaves everything to face suffering, separation from family, and even imprisonment or death to defend the West against the barbarian. It can be found in today’s cultural warrior who endures so much scorn and risks everything to defend life, marriage and ordered liberty. It needs to be seen in those representative figures in society who make the great sacrifice of setting the tone and being role models for all society. When such key figures practice fortitude to a high degree, all society becomes permeated by this virtue, thus fortifying the whole social order.

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When Benedict and Boniface are fused together in grace and fortitude, it sets the stage for a Christian society that is practically indestructible. The barbarian can then be subdued by the arm of Christian fortitude and converted by the sublime call of Christ. Because of their intense dynamism, the converted barbarians often become vibrant Christians.  We might even say that it is in the crucible of combating the neo-barbarian at the gates and restraining our own disordered passions (the barbarian within) that we will find the elements of a true culture that will meld people together into communities.

If we truly desire the B-option, then let us not withdraw from modernity, for strategic retreats easily turn into routs. Let us rather engage our neo-barbarian culture by both cultivating our Benedictine identity when projecting Boniface’s strength. It is the only option.

Winning the War on the Cross: Americans React to Secular Offensive

“The Port Neches attack against the Cross is one of many recent cases in America.”

A little while ago, I was traveling with a colleague in the small town of Port Neches, Texas. While driving, we kept seeing white crosses in people’s yards and in storefronts. Even the fast-food eatery Sonic had a big one. So, we asked the lady we were visiting why there were so many little white crosses all over the city. Her explanation was an encouraging example of the fighting spirit and conservatism in America.

Our friend explained that in the city’s Riverfront Park, there is a 45-year-old monument of a large white Cross. In November 2015, this Cross became the object of a great battle between right and wrong when the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation threatened the city with a court case if it did not remove the Cross. The locals reacted immediately. A church bought a twenty-by-twenty-foot plot of land containing the monument from the city for $100, thereby protecting it.

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In support of the Cross and as a reaction against the atheist organization, a group of locals made little white crosses for people to put in their yards or wherever they wanted. Literally, thousands were distributed. Even the local Chick-fil-A was giving them out for free.

The reaction of the locals was amazing. What the locals were saying to the outside atheist group was something like, “Bring it on! No matter what you do, we will stand up for what is right. Look at the cross in my front yard as proof.”

Not the First Nor Last Time

The Port Neches attack against the Cross is one of many recent cases in America. Such cases do not get major media coverage. However, there is definitely a pattern as can be seen by these examples.

The most shocking case of Cross removal attempts was the famed cross-shaped steel beams from 9/11. Despite its consoling symbolism for traumatized citizens, American Atheists Inc. tried to have it removed from the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. Fortunately, the atheists failed to take away this beautiful reminder from God that He is with those fighting against evil.



Another example did not turn out so well. A Cross, outside one of the Longview Texas fire department stations was challenged. The Cross was part of a Christmas display. In spite of protests from the locals, the Cross was removed because of complaints from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Belle Plaine Threatened

In the Veterans Memorial Park of Belle Plaine, Minnesota, stands a very beautiful monument to American soldiers. It is a steel image of an infantryman from World War II, helmet doffed, rifle unslung, kneeling before the grave of a fallen comrade marked with a Cross. The Cross headstone was created by a local veteran.

Why the Cross in such a scene should concern the Freedom From Religion Foundation is unclear. But the outside group challenged just the Cross part of the scene. In January 2017, their protest and pressure convinced the city to remove the Cross from the monument.

Patriotic Americans of Belle Plaine pushed back on the city’s secularist decision. An article by a local newspaper The Star Tribune reported: “Almost overnight, dozens of wooden crosses popped up in private business windows, on mailboxes and in front yards. More than 1,200 people have signed an online petition in support of restoring the cross.”

The Star Tribune story quoted a local resident as saying, “A lot of people are turning in their graves. People are mad at that group. It’s not just us (the veterans club) but the whole city of Belle Plaine.”

Along with distributing crosses, the patriots of Belle Plaine arranged for a security detail composed of members of the veterans club and a motorcyclists club called the Second Brigade to stand guard day and night to protect what was left of the monument.

“Sometimes You Have to Fight”

On Feb. 6, 2017, the Belle Plaine City Hall was packed with people. All of them were there for a hearing on whether to return the Cross or not. Andy Parish, a strong advocate for returning the Cross, spoke his mind to the City Council members.

According to the Belle Plaine Herald Andy Parish delivered these fiery words: “We’re here tonight because of an out-of-state group, driven by extremism, has attacked our Veterans Park. We’re here tonight not by choice, but because the residents of this city feel a sense of duty. …[N]ot all fights involve money. Sometimes you have to fight for what’s right.”

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The remark drew loud applause from the audience. After long deliberation, the City Council voted 3-2 to pursue a limited public forum at Veterans Memorial Park. This allowed the Cross to be placed back on the monument. Just like in Port Neches, and so many other cases, the truly patriotic Americans of Belle Plaine proudly stood up for what is right and won!

The Need to Be Vigilant

The white-cross-episode in Port Neches is not the first nor the last time the symbol of Christianity will be attacked. Nationwide, Americans should be vigilant and look for similar occurrences and be ready to react because, as it is said, the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for the good to do nothing.

What lessons can be learned from the struggle over the Cross? The first lesson is one of hope. It shows that when good Americans stand up and do not give in on their principles, they can win. The second lesson is that it is a difficult fight in which they can also lose. Citizens must be prepared to go to the end as the people of Belle Plaine did to obtain final victory after losing the first round.

Finally, a small group of loud radicals are trying to destroy the symbol of the Cross in America. All it takes is a small group of dedicated Americans to counter their efforts. People need to stand up for the Cross of Christ because it is a symbol of victory. The feisty people of Port Neches, Belle Plaine, and so many others are beautiful examples of what can be done when good people do something.

As seen on TFP.org

How a Good Lent Can Help Fix a Bad Economy

good_lentTo those who see no link between Lent and our failing economy, it might be the case to look again.

Economics is about people. It cannot be reduced to numbers, formulae and analyses. “The subject matter of economics,” observes economic historian Odd Langholm, “is properly the habits, customs, and ways of thinking of producers, consumers, buyers, sellers, borrowers, lenders, and all who engage in economic transactions.”

That means our moral habits can have a definite effect on determining if our economy grows—or fails.

In my book, Return to Order, I show how our present economic crisis is being caused by what I call “frenetic intemperance.”

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Frenetic intemperance can be defined as a restless spirit inside certain sectors of modern economy that foments a drive inside men to throw off legitimate restraints and gratify disordered passions. It is not a specifically economic problem but a moral and psychological vice that throws everything out of balance. When frenetic intemperance dominates, it often sends the whole system into convulsions—as we saw during the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis. And, unless addressed, it is virulent enough to crash the entire financial system.

In our daily lives, we see frenetic intemperance in the tendency to desire everything, right away, regardless of the consequences. Everyone must have the latest gadget even though they do not need it and really cannot afford it. The mad lack of restraint leads to an unstable economy laden with boom and bust, debt and stress. It creates a cold mechanistic economy where money rules. It gives rise to a materialistic culture which values quantity and utility over quality and beauty. The long and short of it is that a frenzied economy comes from frenzied lifestyles.

And that brings us to Lent. Fighting bad moral habits and practicing restraint is what Lent is all about. More than giving up a box of chocolates, how about giving up habits that foster frenetic intemperance, which is the real root cause of our economic decline? Besides the personal benefits of interior peace, detachment, and greater spiritual freedom, a good Lent can also help save our economy.

Here are some suggestions on how this might be done.

1. Avoid speculative investments that promise huge returns on investment in little time. Such offers usually do not deliver what they promise and always feed frenetic desires that create anxiety and stress.

2. Stay away from business relationships that are cold and mechanical. Treat workers like family. Respect those for whom you work.

3. Avoid trendy business gurus and books that call for radical changes that will “revolutionize” a company or keep people in a constant state of change.

4. Eschew work schedules that are inhuman and stressful. Learn to appreciate leisure.

5. Avoid compulsive buying especially during those sales frenzies around the holidays.

6. Shun the abuse of credit cards and especially the temptation to pay only the minimal monthly amount. Avoid consumer debt as you would the plague (i.e. borrowing to buy things for your immediate consumption, e.g. that new laptop, games, cars, fashion clothing, etc. that you cannot afford, as opposed to investment debt , e.g. your home mortgage).

7. Learn not to have everything right now. The culture of instant gratification creates a frenzied lifestyle—and economy.

8. Do not take as role models those who have money as the central axis of their lives. Admire character not a person’s bottom line.

9. Resist the temptation of seeing only quantity and cheapness. Learn to appreciate the beauty of quality and good taste.

10. Avoid lavish display, especially of fancy gadgetry that leads to a desire to keep up with the e-Joneses with the latest version.

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As Lent progresses, we would do well to do something that has an impact beyond our own spiritual lives. It would be good to practice charity toward our neighbor by looking at the big picture. Giving up frenetic intemperance is a good start.

The Parol: A Filipino Catholic Tradition and Vocation

Decorations, lights and fanfare typify the festive celebration of Christmas in the Philippines, even as early as September. On the streets, one can see groups of children and adults alike going from house to house singing Filipino (and even English) Christmas Carols.

At each successive stop, it is not uncommon for carolers to receive gifts. Sometimes it is money or food; other times, wholesome advice to be a good example:

“Obey and honor your parents… and live the spirit of Christmas all 365 days of the year!”

Photo Credits: Maurice Joseph M. Almadrones

Christmas lights covering houses serve as more than decoration: they also illuminate the way in the dark, cold Philippine nights, guiding the pious churchgoers to the Simbang Gabi (“Night Mass” in Tagalog) or the “Misa de Aguinaldo.”

This is a set of nine day Novena Masses at dawn. The faithful resolutely wake up in the wee hours of the night to present small sacrifices and prayers to Our Lord. Usually celebrated before dawn, it is a Spanish tradition, originally honoring the Blessed Virgin’s Expectation of the Messiah. Food was customarily offered to the needy after the Masses; hence the word aguinaldo meaning “gift” in Spanish. i.

Perhaps the most memorable scene of all is the long procession of the parol, which floods the streets with bright colors, and reminds those present of the coming of the Savior to earth.

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A distinctly Filipino tradition

Star shaped Parol made of Capiz shells © Eugene Alvin Villar, 2007

The parol has a rich history that spans centuries of development and perfection.

Prior to the concept of the Christmas tree in the Philippines, the parol (“lantern” in
Spanish) announced the arrival of Our Lord’s Nativity.

Filipino Christmas would not be the same without this humble yet radiant display outside of houses and in the streets, presented from people from all walks of society.

Its roots come from the concept of the Mexican piñata which came to the Philippines when Spain gave the Catholic Faith to the country in the 16th century.ii.

The parol had a two-fold purpose.

It first served the practical purpose of giving light so that the faithful could make their way to the Simbang Gabi.

More importantly, it was a devotional offering to the Child Jesus, the Light of the world. After the Novena Mass, the parol was proudly hung outside the window of the faithful.iii.

Over time, the construction of the parols began to undergo a change. The first lanterns had a humble beginning, created from the local material available to the Filipinos: bamboo sticks, crepe or Japanese rice paper; these were lighted with simple candles or coconut oil lamps.

New variations started to appear with the incentive of the Spanish priests. Refined material, like transparent shells, slowly took the place of paper. This brought with it many advantages. The shells could be dyed into a variety of colors, and the shape of the lamp could be tailored to resemble the Star of the East. With each successive year, the size of the stars started to increase. Soon, friendly competitions were encouraged on a local basis to create the most beautiful parol to the Divine Child.

The result: churches began an annual display of new designs and better craftsmanship, distinct to the various localities. This can still be seen in regions like Pampanga, where the Lubenas Festival is held every year.iv The festival was originally created to showcase the parols in procession from different barrios, or neighborhoods, and were brought to the parish church on the Night of Christmas Eve led by the barrio patrons.

As the lanterns grew bigger and became more intricate, the local people contributed to the creation of the parols of their specific barrios.v.

Thus the harmonious cooperation between the local people and the patrons of the barrios can be seen in the humble parol, initiating a Catholic tradition that spans centuries in the Philippines.

Each parol was characteristic of its respective barrio. Each was unique. Yet all were united under the hearth of Christmas, whose traditions blossomed from the rich and vibrant garden of the Catholic Church.

The Parol: A living tradition

A Filipino parol  vendor’s stall © Keith Bacongco, 2007

A Christian tradition is of incomparable value; it sets a guideline for us to navigate through the present. Indeed, in the words of Prof. Plinîo Correa de Oliveira, the renowned Brazilian Catholic activist,vi true tradition should not be the denial of yesterday, but rather its harmonious continuation. For true progress is not to break, but rather continuity, reaching out to the heights of the past and present.vii

The parol is not some archaic, irrelevant artifact dug out from the coffers of time, offered as a remote antique. On the contrary, it continues as an animating and living custom to the Filipino, effectively preserving the spirit of the first Christmas.

It is at once a perfect gift to the Lord of lords and an innocent and tender reflection of the Wisdom of the Incarnate Word amid the corrosive moral decadence of the modern world. Being an authentic tradition, the parol links each new generation to the Catholic heritage of the Philippines.

The Star in The East: A Prophet Rejoiced


The Christmas parol is not merely a beautiful aspect of the holiday, but reflects the very important role the Philippines have as a Christian nation.

The Philippines is like the Star of the East that beckoned the Wise Men to the King of kings. The country shines as a guide to bring those in darkness out of the chains of the pagan world to the radiant light of the Faith brought by Our Lord Jesus Christ.

This was certainly the sentiment of Pope Pius XII, who praised the island as “the herald of the Gospel between two oceans.”viii.

This praise is not without merit, even in our own days. The inhabitants continue to oppose abortion, homosexual unions and euthanasia, and defend the rights of the Catholic Church in civil society. Most notably, the Philippines remain the only country to this day where divorce has not yet been legalized.ix

After more than 400 years of Roman Catholic tradition, the Filipinos unite to form the 3rd largest Roman Catholic nation in the world, and largest Roman Catholic Nation in Asia, effectively serving as a paladin of light and truth to the corrupt world surrounding them.

A Prophet Rejected…

However, we should not put down our guard.

Like all the prophets of old, the Star of the East was also neglected. Impious men unscrupulously rejected and pushed aside the sign as if it never existed. This is not unlike the modern “learned” men in our times, whose goal is to discredit the existence of God.

Not that the light of the Eastern Star was lacking in brilliance. Rather, the stubborn eyes of men refused to discern its importance. Thus was the condition of mankind at that time, and so is contemporary man.

And yet, such blindness need not only apply to outside nations. Could those in the Philippines be unaware of the influence they posses and the duties attached to it?

I turn now to my fellow inhabitants.

We Filipinos must ask ourselves: are we loyal to our vocation to guide the gentiles?

I cannot simply point to those neo-pagan atheists who swamp the earth with their indifference.

Regrettably, I must refer also to those of us who knew Christ, but have descended down to a depth much lower than that in which we found ourselves before the faith; those who have implicitly rejected Him and His Church by going about life as if He does not exist.

How could those that are the light be so immune to the brilliance they posses?

The surge of immorality cannot be ignored. We need only to look at the unthinkable promulgation of the Reproductive Health Bill a few years ago, and promoting “women’s rights.”

It is true that the ground we stand on is comparatively firm when we look at other countries. Nevertheless, there continues to be a greater diluting of family values and of Catholic doctrine in society.

This comes from an increase of impure and immoral practices, some of which have received “legal” sanction. With this, Filipinos must be reminded of the authentic spirit that should animate our traditions and our families.

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Implore Mary: The Star of the Sea

We should certainly not despair, nor hide our light under a bushel (Matt. 5 : 15) out of shame; at the same time, we need to correct our conduct if we are to steer others to the right harbor.

Like the rest of the world, we are surrounded on all sides by raging tempests and uncertainties. These impede our sight and landing on that safe destination, Our Lord Jesus Christ. In the midst of all of this, there is serious danger that we will lose sight of the light of the day that guided us.

It is in such dark circumstances that we must turn to the guiding Star of the Sea: the Blessed Virgin.

“As the splendor of the Sun exceeds that of all the stars united,” says St Basil Selecuia , so the Mother of God “eclipses all the stars in heaven, that is all the blessed, men and angels united.”

We should pray to our Mother to intercede for us. We should have confidence in her maternal concern for us.

Above all, we should honor her by imitating her life and virtues. In this way, we will remove the blinding log from our eyes, and be able to see and communicate the salutatory light to those around us.

Then, led by the Star of the Sea, we will continue to shine as the Star of the East. Like the parol, our light will beam brightly between the two oceans, bringing men to the fold of the unfathomable mystery of the Divine Infant’s Majesty. May the glory of His triumph over the enemies of Holy Mother Church hasten the arrival of His kingdom on Earth.

_____________________________________________________________

i. Where did Simbang Gabi come from?

ii. The History of Parol Christmas Lanterns

iii. IBID

iv. Giant Lantern Festival

v.IBID

vi.Plinîo Correa de Oliveira- His Early Years

vii.TFP- Tradition

viii.Radio Message  of His Holiness Pius XII to the Marian Congress of the Philippines, December 5, 1954

ix. The Last Country in the world where Divorce is Illegal

The First Christmas Crib

The beautiful custom of setting up mangers to commemorate the birth of the Infant Jesus was started by St. Francis of Assisi.

It was the year 1223. St. Francis went to Rome to obtain from Pope Honorius III authorisation to celebrate Christmas in a totally new way. St. Francis chose a forest in the vicinity of the village of Grecio, in the region of Umbria, not too far from Rome, where a good friend of his lived, the noble Giovanni Velita.

About 15 days before Christmas, St. Francis said to him: ‘If you want to celebrate the feast of the Divine birth in Grecio make haste to prepare what I indicate to you.

‘So that we can properly remember the circumstances in which the Divine Child was born and all the inconveniences he endured as he lay in the manger on straw between an ox and a ass, I would like to re-create this in a palpable way, as if I had seen it with my own eyes.’

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Many religious and the residents of Grecio and the surrounding area were all invited for this special commemoration. Just before midnight, the Franciscan friars went in procession to the spot chanting the antiphons of Advent. They were accompanied by the villagers who carried flaming torches.

The wind blew strongly and the light of the torches projected their flickering shadows on the dense forest. However, in the clearance where the crib had been setup, there reigned an ambience of sacrality and peace; Only the cold was a nuisance.

When the village bell of Grecio began to toll midnight, a priest began to celebrate Mass. The altar had been placed in front of the crib with the ox and ass on either side. A beautiful full-size statue of the Child Jesus rested on the straw.

As is well known, St. Francis never wanted to be ordained a priest out of humility. Because of this, as deacon, it was his duty to solemnly sing the Gospel of that Christmas mass.

After the reading of the Gospel, all waited attentively to hear the sermon that St. Francis himself gave on the grandeurs and mercies of the Saviour of the human race, who that night was made flesh and dwelt among us.

St. Francis spoke words with a supernatural sweetness about the poverty in which the God-man was born and about the insignificant city of Bethlehem. It is difficult to imagine the fiery love that the sweet, clear, and sonorous voice of St. Francis produced in the hearts of those privileged to hear him.

At the end of his sermon, St. Francis bent over to kiss the statue of the Divine Child. At this moment a miracle took place that only he and Giovanni Velita saw. The statue became alive. It was as if it had been woken from a profound sleep with St. Francis’s kiss, and then the Child Jesus smiled at St. Francis.

At the consecration, when the bread and wine truly become the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, St. Francis was able to contemplate the Messiah in two ways: in the form of the Holy Eucharist and laying in the manger.

At the end of the solemn midnight mass, and after having incensed the manger, the friars returned to Grecio and the villagers to their homes. Everyone was full of supernatural joy.

The veracity of this event can be certified by the sanctity of the one who experienced it, as well as by the miracles that happened afterwards. The straw from the manger was carefully kept by the people and was an efficacious remedy to miraculously cure sick animals and an antidote against many other diseases.

This devout and hitherto unknown institution of the manger was enthusiastically received by the faithful. St. Clare of Assisi, disciple of the saint, established it in her convents. Every year she setup the manger herself.

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The Franciscan friars also spread this custom far and wide. Whether composed of figurines artistically carved from clay, porcelain, or wood, the crib became the very symbol of Christmas.

From the majestic cathedral to the simplest rural chapel, from the palace or mansion to the humblest abode, the Catholics of the whole world, since that time, have had the pious custom of setting up a manger. In this way they repeat the custom that Providence inspired from the seraphic St. Francis of Assisi in the remote year of 1223.

END

The Story of the Christmas Tree

In the seventh century a monk from Crediton, Devonshire, went to Germany to teach the word of God. His name was St. Boniface. He did many good works there and spent much time in Thuringia, a region later to become the centre of the Christmas decoration industry.

Tradition has it that St. Boniface used the triangular shape of the fir tree to describe the Holy Trinity of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The converted people began to revere the fir tree as God’s tree, as they had previously revered the oak.

By the twelfth century it was being hung, upside-down, from ceilings at Christmas time in Central Europe, as a symbol of Christianity and was referred to as the ‘Tree of Christ’.

The first decorated tree was at Riga in Latvia in 1510, while the first Christmas tree came to England with the Georgian Kings from Germany.

At this time, also, German merchants living in England decorated their homes with a Christmas tree. The British public were not fond of the German Monarchy, so did not copy the fashions in vogue at Court, which is why the Christmas tree did not become established in Britain at that time.

In 1846, the popular Royals, Queen Victoria and her German Prince, Albert, were featured in the Illustrated London News. They were standing with their children around a Christmas tree. Unlike the previous Royal family, Victoria was very popular with her subjects, and what was done at Court immediately became fashionable. The English Christmas tree had arrived!

On the more profound meaning of the ‘Tree of Christ’, the late Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira explains:

‘Each feast of the liturgical calendar brings an effusion of special graces with it. Whether men want or not, grace knocks at the door of their souls in a more sublime, meeker, more insistent way during the Christmas season.’

The Christmas tree, with its beautiful decorations, lights, and star or angel on top, helps to elevate the soul above the materialistic aspects of modern day Christmas. The tip of the tree points to a marvellous world that is Heaven.

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To show how the introduction of the custom of the Christmas tree was a gradual process and how it favours the elevation of the ambience, we will tell the story of a Catholic family in Austria as written by P. Rosegger in his book Peasant Life in Styria.

‘It had long been a great desire of mine to put into practice something I had heard was done in other towns to celebrate Christmas. One should put a small fir tree on the table, affix candles to its branches and place presents for the children underneath, explaining that it had been the Child Jesus who had left them there.

‘So I had the idea to setup a “Tree of Christ” for my little brother, Nickerl. But I needed to do this secretly (part of the procedure) and before my mother entered the kitchen to prepare breakfast.

‘As soon as there was enough light, I went out into the cold. I hid my gaze from those working around the house and when I returned from the forest with a small fir top, I ran to the barn where the horse carts were kept to hide it there.

‘It was soon night. The servants were still busy with the stables and in the bedrooms, where, according to the custom of Christmas Eve, they washed their heads and put on festive clothes. My mother was in the kitchen preparing her typical Christmas sweets. And my Father was with little Nickerl going around the property blessing it with incense, praying all the while. It was necessary to expel the evil spirits and attract angelic blessings to the house.

‘Thus while everyone was busy with their tasks, I prepared the “Tree of Christ” in the main room. I took my tree from its hiding place and put it on the table. I then cut ten or twelve candles from the wax block and placed them on the branches. Underneath I put some sweetbread.

‘I heard some slow and gentle steps on the floor above. I knew it was my father and my little brother who were there blessing the loft. They would soon be coming to the main room. I lit the little candles and hid behind the stove. The door opened and they entered with the incensor and then stopped….

‘“What is this? My father asked in a low but prolonged voice.”

‘The little Nickerl looked on dumbfounded. In his big, round eyes were reflected the lights of the “Tree of Christ” like little stars.

‘My father advanced slowly to the kitchen door and called in a low voice:

‘“Wife, Wife, Come and see this.”

‘And when she came, he asked:

‘“Did you do this?”

‘“Mary and Joseph!” my mother exclaimed, “What did you put on the table?”

‘The servants soon arrived and were very impressed with the unexpected surprise. So one of them suggested:

‘“Maybe it is a ‘Tree of Christ’! Could it be that the angels brought this little tree from Heaven?”

‘They all contemplated and marvelled at the tree. And the smoke of the incense filled the whole room and formed a delicate veil that rested on the illuminated tree.

‘My mother looked around the room for me:

‘“Where is Peter?”

‘I thought it was the moment to come out of my hiding place. I took Nickerl’s cold hands, who was still dumbfounded and continued rooted to the spot, and took him close to the table. He almost resisted. But I told him in a very solemn tone:

‘“Do not fear my little brother! Look: the dear Child Jesus brought you a ‘Tree of Christ’. It is yours!”

‘And the young boy was overjoyed and folded his hands like he did when he went to church.’

As we mentioned earlier, the top of a Christmas tree points towards a marvellous world, the world of Heaven. In this light, let us consider an enchanting tale about a Christmas tree. The story elevates one’s spirit to a higher plane, thus satisfying our desire for that which is marvelous.

Pious legend recounts that when the shepherds went to adore the Divine Infant, they decided to take Him fruits and flowers from the area. After this harvest, the plants congratulated themselves on being able to offer something to their newly-born Creator: one had given its dates; another its nuts, and so on.

From the fir tree, however, the shepherds had taken nothing because its needle-like leaves and sharp cones were not presentable gifts.

The fir tree recognised its unworthiness, and not feeling worthy to participate in the conversation, prayed in silence: ‘My newly-born God, what can I offer You? I offer you my poor and unworthy existence. This I gladly give You in gratitude for You having created me in Your wisdom and goodness.’

What Does Saint Thomas Say About Immigration?

God was pleased with the humility of the fir tree, and, as a reward, ordered a multitude of little stars to come down from heaven to adorn it. The stars were of many colours: gold, silver, red, blue, etc. When a group of shepherds passed by, they not only took the fruits of the other plants, but they also took the whole fir tree, as such a marvel had never before been seen. Thus the fir tree ended up by decorating the grotto of Bethlehem, being placed very close to the Child Jesus, Our Lady, and St. Joseph!

END

Those Who Claim Christianity Harms Society Are Wrong!

What the State Should Be—the Protector of the General Order

“the beneficent action of Christianity upon society”

So many liberals claim that Christianity is backward and harmful to the general welfare of society and the State. Such “modern” ideas are woeful wrong and outdated.

The Church has faced such accusations from the very beginning of Her existence. One of the best replies to this empty claim comes from Saint Augustine. He magnificently describes the beneficent action of Christianity upon society in the following way:

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“Let those who say that the teachings of Christ are harmful to the State find armies with soldiers who live up to the standards of the teachings of Jesus. Let them provide governors, husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants, kings, judges, taxpayers and tax collectors who can compare to those who take Christian teachings to heart. Then let them dare to say that such teaching is contrary to the welfare of the State! Indeed, under no circumstances can they fail to realize that this teaching is the greatest safeguard of the State when faithfully observed.” (“Epist. 138 ad Marcellinum,” [Chap. 2, no. 15]) in Opera Omnia, vol. 2, in J.P. Migne, Patrologia Latina, col. 532). (American TFP translation.)

What Does Saint Thomas Say About Immigration?


What the State Should Be—the Protector of the General Order

What the State Should Be—the Protector of the General Order

“The supreme authority of the State ought…to let subordinate groups handle matters and concerns of lesser importance, which would otherwise dissipate its efforts greatly,”

People are so used to the modern dysfunctional State that they do not have a proper idea of what a true State is. The following description describes what can be called an organic State that corresponds to what a State should be.

As the supreme power of last appeal, an organic State gives unity and a framework to all the social units in a society. Far from assuming the modern State’s monopoly of supreme power, the organic State does not smash or reduce these lesser groups to subservience. Rather, it is the preserver and protector of the overall order upon which they depend. Far from concentrating authority, this State encourages its wide distribution by recognizing authority as it exists in lesser groups so each might accomplish its proper functions more easily.

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“The supreme authority of the State ought, therefore, to let subordinate groups handle matters and concerns of lesser importance, which would otherwise dissipate its efforts greatly,” writes Pius XI of subsidiarity. “Thereby the State will more freely, powerfully, and effectively do all those things that belong to it alone because it alone can do them: directing, watching, urging, restraining, as occasion requires and necessity demands.” 1

As a result of this “parceling out of sovereignty,” there can be no modern masses since there is no single monolithic authority. Each individual conserves a unique character, subject to those overlapping levels of authority that both define and correspond to a special identity, function, and position in society.

What Does Saint Thomas Say About Immigration?

Notes:

  1. Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno, No. 80.

Defining Organic Society

Defining Organic SocietyOrganic society is a social order oriented toward the common good that naturally and spontaneously develops, allowing man to pursue the perfection of his essentially social nature. In this society, the family attains the plenitude of its action and influence as the social cell or fundamental unit of society. Professional, social, and other intermediary groups between the individual and the State freely exercise their activities according to their own forms and rights.

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In an organic society, the State respects the autonomy of regions and intermediary groups, giving each the right to organize according to its social and economic structure, character, and traditions. The State, acting within its own supreme orbit, exercises its sovereign power with honor, vigor, and efficiency. The Church exercises a hallowing influence upon society, by guiding, teaching, and sanctifying.

The Contradiction of Our Frenzied Lifestyles

contradicton of lifestylesIn a world where everything is so rationalistic and well-organized, it seems a contradiction that people would seek after things like drugs, alcohol abuse, promiscuity, violence, extreme sports, intense music, violent video games and other such pursuits that border on the irrational.

Yet, as sociologist Richard Strivers notes, such behavior is actually a consequence of overly rationalistic institutions. As bureaucratic and technical structures proliferate, he claims people sense that they have lost control over their lives. Their reaction is to escape into a realm of ecstasy that seems to rebel against this too orderly existence.

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The paradox is that technology becomes both a supreme organizing and disorganizing force. The more rational and technological that society becomes, the more it manifests irrational actions and attitude. People feel the need to escape into irrational pursuits if only to enjoy temporary amnesia or pleasure. Technology directly produces a kind of ecstasy by imposing a frenzied tempo upon society that works as a type of compensation for regimentation.

Humans cannot stand to have their lives fully rational, subject to timetables, lists and rules,” Stivers concludes. “Their instincts require an outlet that produces an altered state of consciousness – mysticism or ecstasy.”1

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What has been lost is the balance that once characterized an organic Christian society that was able to reconcile orderly development and progress with calm spiritual pursuits. The material and spiritual orders used to work together to favor the general well-being of society. Today, one works with the other to favor behavior that is self-destructive.

1 Richard Stivers, Shades of Loneliness: Pathologies of a Technological Society, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Lanham, Md., 2004, p. 70.