26 September 2010

North American Martyrs

These are they who came out of great tribulation and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb...

O God, Who didst sanctify the first-fruits of the faith in the vast regions of North America by the preaching and blood of Thy blessed Martyrs, John, Isaac, and their companions: merci-fully grant through their intercession that the abundant harvest of Christian souls may increase everywhere day by day. Through our Lord...

22 September 2010

Michaelmas Embertide

The Ember Days are upon us again, and that means fasting and praying for priests and for a good harvest. Meanwhile, here are a couple more pictures of the boys.

17 September 2010

A Franciscan Feast Day

Commemoration of the Imprinting of the Holy Stigmata on the Body of St. Francis

But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ: by Whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world.

This, like the Seven Sorrows of Mary, is another feast day that very appropriately falls within the Octave of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. It's also one of my patronal feast days, and it's about time I got to choose what to have for a dessert instead of Maria (she gets most of the feast days around here), so we had cherry pie instead of yet another chocolate cake.

15 September 2010

Our Lady of Sorrows

The Feast of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary

O God, at Whose Passion, according to the prophecy of Simeon, a sword of sorrow pierced the most sweet soul of the glorious Virgin and Mother Mary: mercifully grant, that we who with devotion honor her Sorrows, may obtain the happy fruit of Thy Passion: Who livest and reignest...

The Seven Sorrows of Mary are (1) the prophecy of Simeon; (2) the flight into Egypt; (3) the loss of the child Jesus in the Temple; (4) her meeting with Jesus carrying His cross; (5) His crucifixion; (6) His deposition; (7) His entombment.

On a happier note entirely, it is also the birthday of one of our dear nephews: Alexander!

12 September 2010

Our Excursion to Kahlenberg

In honor of the feast of the Holy Name of Mary, and in memory of the great victory won by King Jan III Sobieski and the Christian forces of the Holy League over the Ottoman Turks, we drove out to spend the afternoon at Kahlenberg, the site of the King's encampment the night before the historic battle at the walls of Vienna.

First things first, we climbed up the slope before the Kahlenberg, which can be seen above running down toward the Danube, to one of our favorite heurigen for a few glasses of Sturm. September and October are Sturm-season in Austria and it is one of our favorite times of the year. Sturm is wine at the second stage of fermentation. Since much of the sugar from the grapes is still unfermented at this stage, the Sturm is lower in alcohol content than mature wine and quite a bit sweeter. It is also intensely fizzy. In fact, no matter where you buy a bottle, whether at a big grocery store or at a little stand at the edge of a vineyard, it will never be sealed, but only loosely capped, for fear of explosion. It's great stuff.

Anyways, walking through Kahlenbergerdorf up to the heuriger we passed a mural depicting the siege of Vienna. The banner reads: Wien 1683. II T├╝rkenbelagerung (Vienna 1683. Second Turkish Siege).

After a few drinks on the hillside, we continued on to the top of the Kahlenberg, where we had a modest picnic with some friends - a very pleasant time except for the few minutes of hysterical screaming following Maria's first bee-sting.

The Church on Kahlenberg.

The Most Holy Name of Mary

As the vine I have brought forth a pleasant odor, and my flowers are the fruit of honor and riches. I am the mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope. In me is all grace of the way and of the truth, in me is all hope of life and of virtue. Come over to me, all ye that desire me, and be filled with my fruits; for my spirit is sweet above honey, and mine inheritance above honey and the honeycomb. My memory is unto everlasting generations. They that eat me, shall yet hunger; and they that drink me shall yet thirst. He that hearkeneth to me shall not be confounded, and they that work by me shall not sin. They that explain me shall have life everlasting.

Today's Marian feast, like that of October 7 (Our Lady of Victory / Feast of the Most Holy Rosary), commemorates a great victory of the Christian forces of the Holy League (an alliance of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Habsburg Monarchy, Bavaria, Saxony, Franconia, Swabia, etc.) over the Turkish Islamic armies of the Ottoman Empire: the raising of the siege of Vienna in 1683. The Count von Starhemberg led 16,000 troops and civilians in the desperate defense of Vienna, which was besieged by the Turkish army of at least 150,000.

On September 11 the King of Poland Jan III Sobieski reached the Kahlenberg, a hill overlooking Vienna from the North, and there encamped for the night. In the early hours of September 12 the King heard Mass atop the hill, and then, just as the Turkish miners were preparing a last blast beneath the fortifications, which had already been breached in many places, and while the starving and exhausted Viennese prepared for hand to hand fighting within the city, the King moved his infantry forward to engage the besiegers.

The Battle of Vienna

The Holy League forces numbered only 80,000 men, but their great advantage lay in the strength of their cavalry - almost 40,000 all told, of which more than 20,000 were of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The most famous of these fearsome warriors were the Winged Hussars of Poland. The Hussars were the elite cavalry forces of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and were rarely ever defeated in battle during their heyday (16th and 17th centuries), despite frequent engagements against overwhelming odds.

A Winged Hussar

Late in the afternoon, after watching the infantry fight for twelve hours, King Jan III Sobieski ordered the Holy League cavalry to charge the field - the largest cavalry charge in military history. Four groups of cavalry charged downhill toward the field of battle, one comprised of Austro-Germanic forces, the other three of Polish-Lithuanian. At the head of the whole body of galloping horsemen rode the King himself with 3,000 Winged Hussars. They clove through the Turkish armies, riding straight for the camps and tent of the Grand Vizier. At the same time the last defenders of Vienna poured out of the city to engage the suddenly overwhelmed Turks on the other side.

King Jan III Sobieski at Vienna

The victory of the Christian forces was complete. Paraphrasing Julius Ceasar, the King sent a message to the Pope which read venimus, vidimus, Deus vincit - we came, we saw, God conquered. The Pope extended the feast day on which the battle was fought - the feast of the Holy Name of Mary - to the Universal Church, as a lasting memorial of thanksgiving for the deliverance of Christendom.

The 1683 battle of Vienna is perhaps the single most important historical reason why Europe is still - at least so far - Christian rather than Moslem. God willing, it will remain so, but those who would see Christian Europe survive would do well to call on the Most Holy Name of Mary.

02 September 2010

The Charismatic Experience

I just discovered that my old article on the so-called "Baptism of the Holy Spirit" is now available online at the website of the journal Antiphon, published by the Society for Catholic Liturgy. Although I hope that the quality of my academic writing has improved somewhat over the course of the intervening years, I still remain convinced of the conclusions which I reached five years ago. I know that some (or perhaps even many) of you have read this before, but in case anyone hasn't, here it is again, this time available for general consumption and public debate:

Antiphon 9.2 (2005): 141-165.