Just before the recent presumed coup safest election in American presidential history, Archbishop Vigano expressed his opinion that President Trump was (however improbably) the last remaining katechon. If he was correct, then we can expect to see things deteriorate rather rapidly. For myself I can’t help feeling that both Queen Elizabeth II and ex-Pope Benedict XVI exercise some katechontic influence, however weak. But at 94 and 93 respectively, how much longer can they last? When they’re gone, they’re gone.

What should we make of this Covid business?  I would not belittle the grief of those who have lost elderly parents or other friends or relations to an untimely death.  Yet from my vantage point it has seemed to me from the start like playing at the plague.  No doubt the fact that it came from China helped; people have a vague memory of having learned in school that the Black Death did the same.  If it had come from Brazil or Nigeria, I doubt it would have so impressed our minds. 

I have been living, by chance, rather off the beaten track since it all began, so perhaps my information is inadequate, but I know of no one personally of whom I can say with confidence that he died from it.  The only person whom I know who might have done so is an octogenarian who was also receiving chemotherapy.  And they tell us that life can never be the same again?  This is not a plague: that is when people wake up in the morning feeling fine and are dead by night-fall.

Some of St Paul’s words have been coming to mind recently: Because they receive not the love of the truth, that they might be saved, therefore God shall send them the operation of error, to believe lying.  Widespread acceptance of lying words of men about what is needful for the salvation of the body would at any rate be a just punishment for widespread rejection of the truthful words of God about what is needful for the salvation of the soul.

I was disappointed, when listening to a recent podcast by Scott Hahn, to hear him say that “Pope Francis practically embodies the new evangelisation”, adding: “I call him ‘the new evangelisation in high definition’” (this was all meant to be praise, in case you’re wondering.)  Come on, Dr Hahn, you can do better than this.  Tell the truth and shame the devil.

Update: In fairness, I should add, now that I have listened to more of the talk, that it was given at the end of 2015 or the start of 2016.

Josef de Acosta (1540-1600) was a Spanish Jesuit who became a missionary in South America, and was elected as provincial of a vast part of that continent. From what we read in Cornelius a Lapide, he seems to have been the first person to propose that the ‘beast from the land’ in Apocalypse 13 would be an apostate bishop. I just thought I’d mention it.

“We say nothing of those more heavenly virtues, which no one can exercise or even acquire without a special gift and grace of God; of which necessarily no trace can be found in those who reject as unknown the redemption of mankind, the grace of God, the sacraments, and the happiness to be obtained in heaven.” 

– Leo XIII, Humanum Genus (1884)

It was misty this morning in my part of the world (that is quite usual for Scotland.)  Perhaps partly for this reason I got to thinking of Sherlock Holmes; that modern magician, as Chesterton calls him –  a late 19th century Merlin. 

The appeal of the Sherlock Holmes stories, as someone else once said, does not lie principally in the mysteries and their resolution.  We do not care all that much what the speckled band was, or why the orange-pips were in the letters (or was it orange peel?)  The plots are mildly interesting, but rarely more (I make an exception for The Hound of the Baskervilles, where the dénouement is terrifically exciting, if you hear it well read.)

No, what attracts us to the Holmes’ stories and confers upon them their immortality is the atmosphere; and more particularly, the atmosphere of ease which Holmes and Watson enjoy in their flat in Baker Street.  Outside, the streets of London are one ceaseless stirring ocean of activity, a throng made more obscure but no less hectic by the fog which forever overhangs it; all the ends of the earth and of the greatest empire ever seen have gathered to the metropolis and have made of it a restless human surge; but inside, ah!  It is a bachelor Valhalla.   It is forever breakfast-time, and Holmes and Watson linger like gods over their coffee and toast and marmalade, while Mrs What’s-her-name brings in buttered muffins and devilled kidneys from some kitchen about which our heroes know and care nothing. 

Is it a prosaic meal, breakfast?  I do not think so.  It is true that St Benedict finds no place for it in his Rule, and so your good Benedictine will often to this day stand up to eat it, if he does eat it, as if to show that it doesn’t really count.  Yet is breakfast not more than all others the meal of resurrection, by which the weakness and passivity of the night are transformed into the joyous strength of day?

Breakfast has also this of the divine about it, that in this meal more than any other, the soul is alone with God.  We may have others present, and be glad of it; but no wise man seeks for conversation at that hour.  We commune in silence.  Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast, said Oscar Wilde.  We do not invite our friends round to share it.  True, some moderns have attempted that chimaera called the working breakfast; but they have done so, it seems to me, with a sense that they are defying the natural order of things, and hence with the secret certainty that they cannot long succeed.  Nothing odd will do well, Sam Johnson said.

You may object that the gospel does not use this meal as a metaphor for heaven.  The parables, you may say, speak to us sometimes of coena, that is, supper, and sometimes of prandium, the midday-meal; but where do they ever mention ientaculum?  It is true; in fact, I do not remember to have come across the word, anywhere in the Vulgate. 

And yet, are you so sure that breakfast is a trivial thing?  There was once a night of hard and fruitless labour, of comrades worn out to no purpose upon the waters; and there was a dawn that broke, and a distant figure, and firm ground once more; suppressed excitement and the stirrings of a happiness too great to be accepted lest it prove illusion.  And there was a charcoal fire, and fish that lay upon it.  Δεῦτε ἀριστήσατε, they heard.  Come, and have breakfast.

Have you ever wondered what the Holy Family did with the gifts which the magi brought? I seem to remember that St Gertrude asked this question of our Lord or the Blessed Virgin in one of her visions, but I never read what answer she received. But Ven. Mary of Agreda has an account of it in The Mystical City of God:

After the departure of the three Kings and after the due celebration of the great mystery of the adoration of the Infant Jesus, there was really nothing to wait for in that poor yet sacred place, and they were free to leave it. The most prudent Mother then said to saint Joseph: “My master and spouse, the offerings which the Kings have made to our God and Child must not remain here idle; but they must be applied in the service of his Majesty and should be used according to his will and pleasure. I deserve nothing, even of temporal goods; dispose of all these gifts as belonging to my Son and to thee.”

The most faithful of husbands answered, with his accustomed humility and courtesy, that he would leave all to Her and would be pleased to see Her dispose of them. But her Majesty insisted anew and said: “Since thou makest an excuse of humility, my master, do it then for love of the poor, who are waiting for their share; they have a right to the things which their heavenly Father has created for their sustenance.”

They therefore immediately concluded to divide the gifts into three parts: one destined for the temple of Jerusalem, namely the incense and myrrh, as well as part of the gold; another part as offering to the priest, who had circumcised the Child, in order that he might use it for him self and for the synagogue or oratory in Bethlehem, and the third part for distribution among the poor. This resolve they executed with generous and fervent affection.

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Pope Gelasius in his ninth letter (chap. 26) to the bishops of Lucania condemned the evil practice which had been introduced of women serving the priest at the celebration of Mass. Since this abuse had spread to the Greeks, Innocent IV strictly forbade it in his letter to the bishop of Tusculum: ‘Women should not dare to serve at the altar; they should be altogether refused this ministry.’ We too have forbidden this practice in the same words in Our oft-repeated constitution Etsi Pastoralis, sect. 6, no. 21. ” – Benedict XIV, enc. Allatae sunt, 1755