In an utterly amazing piece in the National Catholic Register Cardinal Willem Jacobus Eijk denounces Pope Francis’s response to the German Bishops’ intercommunion proposals and ends by observing that “the bishops and, above all, the Successor of Peter fail to maintain and transmit faithfully and in unity the deposit of faith contained in Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture” and quoting the passage from the Catechism that describes the deception of the Antichrist at the end of time.

Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the ‘mystery of iniquity’ in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth.

I don’t know if the pope can be the Antichrist (or the false prophet). It might to be simpler just to accuse him of teaching heresy and get rid of him! If he is the Antichrist or the false prophet I don’t suppose he will be going anywhere soon. Saint Willibrord pray for him!

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(Translated by Richmond Lattimore)

Why are we all assembled and waiting in the market place?

It is the barbarians; they will be here today.

Why is there nothing being done in the senate house?

Why are the senators in session but are not passing laws?

Because the barbarians are coming today.

Why should the senators make laws any more?

The barbarians will make the laws when they get here.

Why has our emperor got up so early

and sits there at the biggest gate of the city

high on his throne, in state, and with his crown on?

Because the barbarians are coming today

and the emperor is waiting to receive them

and their general. And he has even made ready

a parchment to present them, and thereon

he has written many names and many titles.

Why have our two consuls and our praetors

Come out today in their red embroidered togas?

Why have they put on their bracelets with all those amethysts

and rings shining with the glitter of emeralds?

Why will they carry their precious staves today

which are decorated with figures of gold and silver?

Because the barbarians are coming today

And things like that impress the barbarians.

Why do our good orators not put in any appearance

and make public speeches, and do what they generally do?

Because the barbarians are coming today

and they get bored with eloquent public speeches.

Why is everybody beginning to be so uneasy?

Why so disordered? (See how grave all the faces have

become!) Why do the streets and the squares empty so quickly,

and they are all anxiously going home to their houses?

Because it is night, and the barbarians have not got here,

and some people have come in from the frontier

and say that there aren’t any more barbarians.

What are we going to do now without the barbarians?

In a way, those people were a solution.

Perhaps the greatest trauma of my school-days were the art classes. They would sit us down with some rather stiff paint brushes and a few pots of paints, and tell us to paint something. I don’t think that there was any other subject where so little instruction was given. When we began Latin, our teacher didn’t just throw us a copy of the Aeneid and tell us to get on with it.

However, I suspect that I could have sat at the feet of Michelangelo for a dozen years and been no better off. My lack of talent in the visual arts was innate, complete. While other boys would come up with a passable imitation of a cloud or a horse, or whatever it was, my efforts would prompt the derision of my peers and the kindly silence of the master. How I used to dread those classes, as others must have dreaded P.E. or double maths.

Yet having no skill in painting needn’t stop one talking about it. Who would not, asked Plutarch, rather contemplate a sculpture of Phidias than sculpt it? And even if he was only being (as Maritain says) a snobby pagan, I suppose that someone who doesn’t know a hammer from a chisel may still commission a marble.

So, here are four paintings that I should like someone to paint. All involve meetings that have really happened, but which, as far as I know, have not yet been represented in this way.

The first is a meeting between Newman, Pusey and Keble. It didn’t happen in the hey-day of the Oxford Movement, but long after Newman had converted. An elderly man now, and finding himself once more in Oxford, he made an unannounced call on his dear Keble, whom he hadn’t seen since 1845. He didn’t know that Pusey, whom he also hadn’t seen since then, and with whom his relations were particularly strained, was visiting at the same time. When the front door was opened, Newman and Keble were so uncertain of who the other one was that they had to show each other their cards; and Pusey, siting inside, spontaneously shrank back from Newman’s gaze.

What a painter could do with that scene: doubt, dawning recognition, painful affection, and unbridgeable separation, would be portrayed on all their faces.

The next two meetings happened a bit later, both in the late 1880’s. One of them also involved Newman. A very old man now, and a cardinal, he was giving out the prizes at the Oratory school. One of the successful school-boys was Hilaire Belloc. What a meeting: the old man, with his frail body and penetrating gaze, the young man, with a certain fine unconscious arrogance, each admiring and pitying the other, while unbeknownst to either the torch of Catholic England was passed on!

The other is quite famous. It occurred when Therese of Lisieux, I think at the age of 14, visited Rome with a group from her parish, and got to see Pope Leo. Instead of just kneeling to kiss his ring and moving away like the other pilgrims, she placed her hands on the old man’s knees and looked up imploringly into his face, asking him to let her enter Carmel, until finally she had to be dragged off by the Swiss guards.

Like the meeting of Newman and Belloc, this would be a study in contrasts. Only here there would be a note of humour: armed guards having to deliver the pontiff from the importunity of a school-girl, and in the background her parish priest fretting. ‘I told them all quite clearly that no one was to speak to the Holy Father. That Martin girl is simply impossible. She’ll come to a bad end, that’s only too plain.”

The final one was photographed, but I do not know that it has been painted. It is the meeting of Archbishop Lefebvre and Padre Pio, not long before the latter’s death. The archbishop had made the pilgrimage to San Giovanni to ask St Pio’s prayers for the seminary he was intending to found. He asked the Capuchin for a blessing, but St Pio naturally said, in effect: ‘Me bless an archbishop? Of course not; it is you who must bless me’, and he knelt to receive it.

If an artist painted that right, I think we should have the impression of two prophets, each with an incommunicable burden, brought together by divine providence for a brief moment to their mutual solace, as the chaos and darkness grew around them.

So, I have had the ideas: and is that not the principal part of every work of art? As for the bit with the camel hair and the wet stuff, well, I leave that to others.

chi-rho

“The land also shall not be sold for ever: because it is mine, and you are strangers and sojourners with me. For which cause all the country of your possession shall be under the condition of redemption. If thy brother being impoverished sell his little possession, and his kinsman will, he may redeem what he had sold. But if he have no kinsman, and he himself can find the price to redeem it: The value of the fruits shall be counted from that time when he sold it: and the overplus he shall restore to the buyer, and so shall receive his possession again. But if his hands find not the means to repay the price, the buyer shall have what he bought, until the year of the jubilee. For in that year all that is sold shall return to the owner, and to the ancient possessor.He that selleth a house within the walls of a city, shall have the liberty to redeem it, until one year be expired: If he redeem it not, and the whole year be fully out, the buyer shall possess it, and his posterity for ever, and it cannot be redeemed, not even in the jubilee.But if the house be in a village, that hath no walls, it shall be sold according to the same law as the fields: if it be not redeemed before, in the jubilee it shall return to the owner. The houses of Levites, which are in cities, may always be redeemed.”

Leviticus 25:23-32

“I alone am not able to bear your business, and the charge of you and your differences. Let me have from among you wise and understanding men, and such whose conversation is approved among your tribes, that I may appoint them your rulers. Then you answered me: The thing is good which thou meanest to do. And I took out of your tribes men wise and honourable, and appointed them rulers, tribunes, and centurions, and officers over fifties, and over tens, who might teach you all things. And I commanded them, saying: Hear them, and judge that which is just: whether he be one of your country, or a stranger. There shall be no difference of persons, you shall hear the little as well as the great: neither shall you respect any man’s person, because it is the judgment of God. And if any thing seem hard to you, refer it to me, and I will hear it.”

Deuteronomy 1:12-17

“And all the men of Israel said to Gedeon: Rule thou over us and thy son, and thy son’s son: because thou hast delivered us from the hand of Madian. And he said to them: I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you, but the Lord shall rule over you.”

Judges 8:22-23

“Then all the ancients of Israel being assembled, came to Samuel to Ramatha. And they said to him: Behold thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: make us a king, to judge us, as all nations have. And the word was displeasing in the eyes of Samuel, that they should say: Give us a king, to judge us. And Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel: Hearken to the voice of the people in all that they say to thee. For they have not rejected thee, but me, that I should not reign over them. According to all their works, they have done from the day that I brought them out of Egypt until this day: as they have forsaken me, and served strange gods, so do they also unto thee. Now therefore hearken to their voice: but yet testify to them, and foretell them the right of the king, that shall reign over them. Then Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people that had desired a king of him, And said: This will be the right of the king, that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and put them in his chariots, and will make them his horsemen, and his running footmen to run before his chariots, And he will appoint of them to be his tribunes, and centurions, and to plough his fields, and to reap his corn, and to make him arms and chariots. Your daughters also he will take to make him ointments, and to be his cooks, and bakers. And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your best oliveyards, and give them to his servants. Moreover he will take the tenth of your corn, and of the revenues of your vineyards, to give his eunuchs and servants. Your servants also and handmaids, and your goodliest young men, and your asses he will take away, and put them to his work. Your flocks also he will tithe, and you shall be his servants. And you shall cry out in that day from the face of the king, whom you have chosen to yourselves. and the Lord will not hear you in that day, because you desired unto yourselves a king. But the people would not hear the voice of Samuel, and they said: Nay: but there shall be a king over us. And we also will be like all nations: and our king shall judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles for us. And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and rehearsed them in the ears of the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel: Hearken to their voice, and make them a king. And Samuel said to the men of Israel: Let every man go to his city.”

1 Samuel 8:4-22

“Lord, who shall dwell in thy tabernacle? or who shall rest in thy holy hill? He that walketh without blemish, and worketh justice: He that speaketh truth in his heart, who hath not used deceit in his tongue: Nor hath done evil to his neighbour: nor taken up a reproach against his neighbours. In his sight the malignant is brought to nothing: but he glorifieth them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth to his neighbour, and deceiveth not; he that hath not put out his money to usury, nor taken bribes against the innocent: He that doth these things shall not be moved for ever.”

Psalm 15

“The saints shall rejoice in glory: they shall be joyful in their beds. The high praise of God shall be in their mouth: and two-edged swords in their hands: To execute vengeance upon the nations, chastisements among the people: To bind their kings with fetters, and their nobles with manacles of iron.To execute upon them the judgment that is written: this glory is to all his saints. Alleluia.”

Psalm 149: 5-9

“For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king: he will save us.”

Isaiah 33:22

“I beheld therefore in the vision of the night, and lo, one like the son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and he came even to the Ancient of days: and they presented him before him. And he gave him power, and glory, and a kingdom: and all peoples, tribes and tongues shall serve him: his power is an everlasting power that shall not be taken away: and his kingdom that shall not be destroyed. My spirit trembled, I Daniel was affrighted at these things, and the visions of my head troubled me. I went near to one of them that stood by, and asked the truth of him concerning all these things, and he told me the interpretation of the words, and instructed me: These four great beasts are four kingdoms, which shall arise out of the earth. But the saints of the most high God shall take the kingdom: and they shall possess the kingdom for ever and ever.”

Daniel 7:13-18

“But Jesus called them to him, and said: You know that the princes of the Gentiles lord it over them; and they that are the greater, exercise power upon them. It shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be the greater among you, let him be your minister: And he that will be first among you, shall be your servant. Even as the Son of man is not come to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a redemption for many.”

Matthew 20:25-28

“And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called faithful and true, and with justice doth he judge and fight. And his eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many diadems, and he had a name written, which no man knoweth but himself. And he was clothed with a garment sprinkled with blood; and his name is called, THE WORD OF GOD. And the armies that are in heaven followed him on white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth proceedeth a sharp two edged sword; that with it he may strike the nations. And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of God the Almighty. And he hath on his garment, and on his thigh written: KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. And I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that did fly through the midst of heaven: Come, gather yourselves together to the great supper of God: That you may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of tribunes, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all freemen and bondmen, and of little and of great. And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies gathered together to make war with him that sat upon the horse, and with his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet, who wrought signs before him, wherewith he seduced them who received the character of the beast, and who adored his image. These two were cast alive into the pool of fire, burning with brimstone. And the rest were slain by the sword of him that sitteth upon the horse, which proceedeth out of his mouth; and all the birds were filled with their flesh.”

Revelation 19:11-21

 

The habitual austerity of the Cordatian regime is always softened a bit in Easter Week, and so in recent days I have watched two Alfred Hitchcock films from the 1940’s, Spellbound and Notorious. In each, the heroine was played by Mrs Petter Lindström, better known by her maiden name, Ingrid Bergman.

One can see why this actress stood out in her generation: the particular cast of her beauty, at once wholesome and vulnerable, and the intelligence of her acting. She was ‘not like’ the other Hollywood stars, so the papers said, implying that these others were no better than they ought to be. She had a happy home life wholly separate from her career, and was glad to regard her Swedish husband, a neurosurgeon, as the head of their household.

Then in 1950 she revealed that she was leaving him for an Italian film director whose child she was carrying, and a nation mourned. Perhaps in America the 1960’s began in 1950.

The habit grew on her. The Italian was divorced after a few years, and then she ‘married’ another Swede. They divorced as well. She died officially unmarried in 1982, although her real husband, who had also married again invalidly, lived till the year 2000. They burned her body and threw the ashes into the sea.

Reading all this made me wonder about the dangers of acting. It’s not just that some of the scenes, even in films from 75 years ago, could not be performed without violating the virtue of modesty. But the very practice of mimicking romantic love, attentively and at length, is bound to make the reality of it sometimes spring up. Then what happens to the domestic life, especially if that has grown monotonous? ‘There are some occupations’, says St Gregory the Great, ‘which either hardly or never can be followed without sinning’.

Her husband revealed later that the Italian had not been the first man. It seems that Ingrid too had all along been no better than she ought to have been. But then who is, I wonder? In later life she came out with some sad stuff about having been true to herself. Rousseau is probably at the bottom of it all. I suppose she was simply trying to be happy.

One great idea on which all tragedy builds is the idea of the continuity of human life. The one thing a man cannot do is exactly what all modern artists and free lovers are always trying to do. He cannot cut his life up into separate sections. The case of the modern claim for freedom in love is the first and most obvious that occurs to the mind; therefore I use it for this purpose of illustration. You cannot have an idyll with Maria and an episode with Jane; there is no such thing as an episode. There is no such thing as an idyll. It is idle to talk about abolishing the tragedy of marriage when you cannot abolish the tragedy of sex. Every flirtation is a marriage; it is a marriage in this frightful sense; that it is irrevocable.

I have taken this case of sexual relations as one out of a hundred; but of any case in human life the thing is true. The basis of all tragedy is that man lives a coherent and continuous life. It is only a worm that you can cut in two and leave the severed parts still alive. You can cut a worm up into episodes and they are still living episodes. You can cut a worm up into idylls and they are quite brisk and lively idylls. You can do all this to him precisely because he is a worm. You cannot cut a man up and leave him kicking, precisely because he is a man. We know this because man even in his lowest and darkest manifestation has always this characteristic of physical and psychological unity. His identity continues long enough to see the end of many of his own acts; he cannot be cut off from his past with a hatchet; as he sows so shall he reap.

This then is the basis of all tragedy, this living and perilous continuity which does not exist in the lower creatures. This is the basis of all tragedy, and this is certainly the basis of Macbeth. The great ideas of Macbeth, uttered in the first few scenes with a tragic energy which has never been equalled perhaps in Shakespeare or out of him, is the idea of the enormous mistake a man makes if he supposes that one decisive act will clear his way. Macbeth’s ambition, though selfish and someway sullen, is not in itself criminal or morbid. He wins the title of Glamis in honourable war; he deserves and gets the title of Cawdor; he is rising in the world and has a not ignoble exhilaration in doing so. Suddenly a new ambition is presented to him (of the agency and atmosphere which presents it I shall speak in a moment) and he realizes that nothing lies across his path to the Crown of Scotland except the sleeping body of Duncan. If he does that one cruel thing, he can be infinitely kind and happy.

Here, I say, is the first and most formidable of the great actualities of Macbeth. You cannot do a mad thing in order to reach sanity. Macbeth’s mad resolve is not a cure even for his own irresolution. He was indecisive before his decision. He is, if possible, more indecisive after he has decided. The crime does not get rid of the problem. Its effect is so bewildering that one may say that the crime does not get rid of the temptation. Make a morbid decision and you will only become more morbid; do a lawless thing and you will only get into an atmosphere much more suffocating than that of law. Indeed, it is a mistake to speak of a man as `breaking out.’ The lawless man never breaks out; he breaks in. He smashes a door and finds himself in another room, he smashes a wall and finds himself in a yet smaller one. The more he shatters the more his habitation shrinks. Where he ends you may read in the end of Macbeth (G.K. Chesterton, ‘The Macbeths’)

May the divine mercy have released her from it before the end.

The Holy and Ecumenical Council of Florence

(seventeenth ecumenical)

“The holy Roman church, founded on the words of our Lord and Saviour … firmly believes, professes and teaches that the legal prescriptions of the old Testament or the Mosaic law, which are divided into ceremonies, holy sacrifices and sacraments, because they were instituted to signify something in the future, although they were adequate for the divine cult of that age, once our lord Jesus Christ who was signified by them had come, came to an end and the sacraments of the new Testament had their beginning. Whoever, after the passion, places his hope in the legal prescriptions and submits himself to them as necessary for salvation and as if faith in Christ without them could not save, sins mortally. It does not deny that from Christ’s passion until the promulgation of the gospel they could have been retained, provided they were in no way believed to be necessary for salvation. But it asserts that after the promulgation of the gospel they cannot be observed without loss of eternal salvation. Therefore it denounces all who after that time observe circumcision, the sabbath and other legal prescriptions as strangers to the faith of Christ and unable to share in eternal salvation, unless they recoil at some time from these errors. Therefore it strictly orders all who glory in the name of Christian, not to practise circumcision either before or after baptism, since whether or not they place their hope in it, it cannot possibly be observed without loss of eternal salvation.”

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