9 October 2017

Thankful in all things.

Today is the Canadian Thanksgiving.  Last year's thanksgiving was the last time I saw my mother before her fall. I am grateful I did see her that last time.

For other instances of gratitude, here's Matthew Henry reflecting on being robbed:

"Let me be thankful, first, because he never robbed me before; second, because although he took my purse, he did not take my life; third, because although he took all I possessed, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed."

And here's a reprint of a story my mother told me:

Sometime in the 1940's, my grandfather, who was a groundskeeper and undertaker for our old church, ran into the Monsignor in the churchyard. Monsignor was looking at his hand with a puzzled look on his face. "What is the matter?" asked my grandfather.

"I was just given two dollars by Mrs Donnelly to say a Mass of Thanksgiving..." he began.

Mrs. Donnelly was a cheerful woman who had made a foolish mistake when she chose her husband. Mr Donnelly was one of the town's chief drunks. He was well known for getting on the bus and yelling "Charge!" as he staggered towards the seat at the rear of the bus. He was unemployed and, due to his drinking, unemployable. One of the few jobs he ever did hold was as a dance caller at the old dances that used to be held in town. It was neither regular nor lucrative.

The two had only one child, who learned drinking and irresponsibility from his father. They lived in poverty in their house, such as it was, and in the winter the three of them slept together in the same bed to keep each other warm, so they could save on wood or coal.

With the war, things got a little better for Mrs Donnelly. Like most women of her time, she could not find work that would allow her to support her familyunder normal circumstances, but with the demand for war labour she did find employment at a local rifle range. With her money she even managed to save enough to buy herself a few luxuries- a radio and a washing machine. Things were looking up.

And then Mrs Donnelly was diagnosed with cancer. She went to the hospital to have it removed, and when she returned to her home, she found that her husband and son had taken her radio and washing machine and had sold them to a pawn shop to pay for more drink. Not long after, the son murdered a man in a botched attempted robbery, and was sent to prison. He later gained notoriety as one of the first men to escape Kingston Penitentiary. (He escaped by sewing himself into a mail bag.)

Monsignor looked at the money in his hand. "I was just given two dollars by Mrs Donnelly to say a Mass in Thanksgiving," he said. "But for the life of me, I can't think of what she has to be thankful for."

7 October 2017


     White founts falling in the Courts of the sun,
     And the Soldan of Byzantium is smiling as they run;
     There is laughter like the fountains in that face of all men feared,
     It stirs the forest darkness, the darkness of his beard;
     It curls the blood-red crescent, the crescent of his lips;
     For the inmost sea of all the earth is shaken with his ships.
     They have dared the white republics up the capes of Italy,
     They have dashed the Adriatic round the Lion of the Sea,
     And the Pope has cast his arms abroad for agony and loss,
     And called the kings of Christendom for swords about the Cross.
     The cold queen of England is looking in the glass;
     The shadow of the Valois is yawning at the Mass;
     From evening isles fantastical rings faint the Spanish gun,
     And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun.

     Dim drums throbbing, in the hills half heard,
     Where only on a nameless throne a crownless prince has stirred,
     Where, risen from a doubtful seat and half attainted stall,
     The last knight of Europe takes weapons from the wall,
     The last and lingering troubadour to whom the bird has sung,
     That once went singing southward when all the world was young.
     In that enormous silence, tiny and unafraid,
     Comes up along a winding road the noise of the Crusade.
     Strong gongs groaning as the guns boom far,
     Don John of Austria is going to the war,
     Stiff flags straining in the night-blasts cold
     In the gloom black-purple, in the glint old-gold,
     Torchlight crimson on the copper kettle-drums,
     Then the tuckets, then the trumpets, then the cannon, and he comes.
     Don John laughing in the brave beard curled,
     Spurning of his stirrups like the thrones of all the world,
     Holding his head up for a flag of all the free.
     Love-light of Spain--hurrah!
     Death-light of Africa!
     Don John of Austria
     Is riding to the sea.

     Mahound is in his paradise above the evening star,
     (Don John of Austria is going to the war.)
     He moves a mighty turban on the timeless houri's knees,
     His turban that is woven of the sunsets and the seas.
     He shakes the peacock gardens as he rises from his ease,
     And he strides among the tree-tops and is taller than the trees;
     And his voice through all the garden is a thunder sent to bring
     Black Azrael and Ariel and Ammon on the wing.
     Giants and the Genii,
     Multiplex of wing and eye,
     Whose strong obedience broke the sky
     When Solomon was king.

     They rush in red and purple from the red clouds of the morn,
     From the temples where the yellow gods shut up their eyes in scorn;
     They rise in green robes roaring from the green hells of the sea
     Where fallen skies and evil hues and eyeless creatures be,
     On them the sea-valves cluster and the grey sea-forests curl,
     Splashed with a splendid sickness, the sickness of the pearl;
     They swell in sapphire smoke out of the blue cracks of the ground,--
     They gather and they wonder and give worship to Mahound.
     And he saith, "Break up the mountains where the hermit-folk can hide,
     And sift the red and silver sands lest bone of saint abide,
     And chase the Giaours flying night and day, not giving rest,
     For that which was our trouble comes again out of the west.
     We have set the seal of Solomon on all things under sun,
     Of knowledge and of sorrow and endurance of things done.
     But a noise is in the mountains, in the mountains, and I know
     The voice that shook our palaces--four hundred years ago:
     It is he that saith not 'Kismet'; it is he that knows not Fate;
     It is Richard, it is Raymond, it is Godfrey at the gate!
     It is he whose loss is laughter when he counts the wager worth,
     Put down your feet upon him, that our peace be on the earth."
     For he heard drums groaning and he heard guns jar,
     (Don John of Austria is going to the war.)
     Sudden and still--hurrah!
     Bolt from Iberia!
     Don John of Austria
     Is gone by Alcalar.

     St. Michaels on his Mountain in the sea-roads of the north
     (Don John of Austria is girt and going forth.)
     Where the grey seas glitter and the sharp tides shift
     And the sea-folk labour and the red sails lift.
     He shakes his lance of iron and he claps his wings of stone;
     The noise is gone through Normandy; the noise is gone alone;
     The North is full of tangled things and texts and aching eyes,
     And dead is all the innocence of anger and surprise,
     And Christian killeth Christian in a narrow dusty room,
     And Christian dreadeth Christ that hath a newer face of doom,
     And Christian hateth Mary that God kissed in Galilee,--
     But Don John of Austria is riding to the sea.
     Don John calling through the blast and the eclipse
     Crying with the trumpet, with the trumpet of his lips,
     Trumpet that sayeth ha!
         Domino gloria!
     Don John of Austria
     Is shouting to the ships.

     King Philip's in his closet with the Fleece about his neck
     (Don John of Austria is armed upon the deck.)
     The walls are hung with velvet that is black and soft as sin,
     And little dwarfs creep out of it and little dwarfs creep in.
     He holds a crystal phial that has colours like the moon,
     He touches, and it tingles, and he trembles very soon,
     And his face is as a fungus of a leprous white and grey
     Like plants in the high houses that are shuttered from the day,
     And death is in the phial and the end of noble work,
     But Don John of Austria has fired upon the Turk.
     Don John's hunting, and his hounds have bayed--
     Booms away past Italy the rumour of his raid.
     Gun upon gun, ha! ha!
     Gun upon gun, hurrah!
     Don John of Austria
     Has loosed the cannonade.

     The Pope was in his chapel before day or battle broke,
     (Don John of Austria is hidden in the smoke.)
     The hidden room in man's house where God sits all the year,
     The secret window whence the world looks small and very dear.
     He sees as in a mirror on the monstrous twilight sea
     The crescent of his cruel ships whose name is mystery;
     They fling great shadows foe-wards, making Cross and Castle dark,
     They veil the plum├Ęd lions on the galleys of St. Mark;
     And above the ships are palaces of brown, black-bearded chiefs,
     And below the ships are prisons, where with multitudinous griefs,
     Christian captives sick and sunless, all a labouring race repines
     Like a race in sunken cities, like a nation in the mines.
     They are lost like slaves that sweat, and in the skies of morning hung
     The stair-ways of the tallest gods when tyranny was young.
     They are countless, voiceless, hopeless as those fallen or fleeing on
     Before the high Kings' horses in the granite of Babylon.
     And many a one grows witless in his quiet room in hell
     Where a yellow face looks inward through the lattice of his cell,
     And he finds his God forgotten, and he seeks no more a sign--
     (But Don John of Austria has burst the battle-line!)
     Don John pounding from the slaughter-painted poop,
     Purpling all the ocean like a bloody pirate's sloop,
     Scarlet running over on the silvers and the golds,
     Breaking of the hatches up and bursting of the holds,
     Thronging of the thousands up that labour under sea
     White for bliss and blind for sun and stunned for liberty.

     Vivat Hispania!
     Domino Gloria!
     Don John of Austria
     Has set his people free!

     Cervantes on his galley sets the sword back in the sheath
     (Don John of Austria rides homeward with a wreath.)
     And he sees across a weary land a straggling road in Spain,
     Up which a lean and foolish knight for ever rides in vain,
     And he smiles, but not as Sultans smile, and settles back the blade....
     (But Don John of Austria rides home from the Crusade.)

27 September 2017


This week is the 142nd anniversary of the events known as the 'Jubilee Riots' which tested and reinforced the changes to the police and fire departments in Toronto.  It was the largest clash between the Green and the Orange, and also the last time they clashed in force.  So, in honour of that, here's a repost of the part of my Brief History that detailed the riots.


On September 24, 1875, a strange petition was presented to Toronto Mayor Francis H. Medcalf. A group of concerned citizens had seen an ad in a local newspaper, the Irish Canadian, describing an intended Catholic procession through the city that was set to occur on Sunday, September 26. Catholic processions had long been an object of scorn among Toronto’s Protestants. There is, for example, George Brown’s description of a “romish” procession he witnessed in Montreal in 1852, where he saw “the melancholy spectacle of crowds kneeling down on the street and worshipping an eye carried on the end of a stick, to represent the Almighty, and the host, or the alleged living reality of Our Savior, carried in a box.”[1] The signers of this petition expressed dismay over some of the terms they saw in the ad’s description of the procession: there was to be “Music”, “Bands”, ”Singing”, “Bishops”, “Thurifers”, “Acolytes”, “Priests”, “Deacons”, “Copes”, “Dalmatics” and more- and on a Sunday, to boot. Clearly, this event had to be stopped, or at least limited. The petition asked the mayor to put a stop to the procession, music and banners, but not to interfere with the orderly and quiet attendance of religious duties.

Mayor Medcalf sent the petition to Archbishop Lynch, along with some advice: “I would respectfully suggest for your consideration the advisability of well considering the consequences that are likely to arise from the same.” Archbbishop Lynch responded through the rector of the Cathedral: “We intend to proceed to our cathedral and attend the religious ordinances of our Church tomorrow in the manner expressed in the petition, viz: “Quiet, peaceful and Christian.”"

The procession that aroused the fear of the mayor and the petitioners was in celebration of the Opening of the First Roman Catholic Provincial Council in Toronto. The events themselves became connected to the Jubilee Year of 1875. That year had been declared a Jubilee Year by Pope Pius IX, and as such was to be marked by special celebrations and also special Jubilee indulgences. As Archbishop Lynch explained in a letter to the faithful: they could gain “full remission of all temporal punishments due to your sins after you will have obtained forgiveness for them in the sacrament of penance.” One of the conditions was fifteen visits or pilgrimages to parish churches or the Cathedral to pray for special intentions. The Archbishop asked the faithful of Toronto to visit four churches (their parish, the cathedral and two others) fifteen times. The pilgrimages began in July and continued into September. One pilgrimage, the pilgrimage of St. Paul’s, St. Basil’s and St. Mary’s were also scheduled for the same day as the procession marking the opening of the council. The procession for the council - the one the petitioners wanted stopped and the Mayor feared the outcome- began at about 10 c’clock in the morning and proceeded quietly from St Vincent’s chapel to the Cathedral via Church and Shuter streets. No problems were reported, there were no banners and music, as the Bishop had promised. There were few witnesses to the procession, because the protesters made a mistake and went to the second procession. For this reason the events that were about to unfold became known in Toronto’s history as The Jubilee Riots.

This procession was made up of about 1000 members, many of them women. They had a small banner of the Immaculate Conception and a crucifix at the head. They proceeded from the Cathedral along Queen St. to Dummer St. to St Patrick’s chapel. A throng of people accompanied the procession and hurled insults at the pilgrims. The situation became more tense, and the scheduled route of the procession- along Queen St. to St Mary’s at Bathurst St. was altered to Spadina Ave. The situation was a powder keg waiting for a spark, and sparks came. Police broke up a small altercation at Dummer, where insults lead to rocks being thrown. The police took up positions at Spadina, where another large crowd had gathered. The priest leading the procession asked the police to intervene. The police formed a line to separate the two parties, and became targets for stones thrown from both sides. They pushed the mob back down one of the streets, allowing the women pilgrims a chance to escape along Queen to Bathurst.. Rocks and other missiles were thrown by both sides. At St. Mary’s, things got worse, and the police called for reinforcements. More fights, more rock throwing occurred. The pilgrimage broke up. The women ran for cover, while the men continued to riot. The police drew batons, and charged, and eventually the riot was dispersed. Here would be the end of the story, except for one small detail: another Jubilee procession was scheduled for the following Sunday.

The week in between lead to furious public debate, at the level of city council and down to the pubs. The Orange Lodge, predictably, condemned processions on the Lord’s Day. The Newspapers generally condemned the rioters, and admitted that the procession itself was peaceful, yet the Catholics could not be held blameless, and in the words of the newspaper The Leader, the leaders of the Church “could not have adopted a more effective mode of bringing on a row.”[2] The newspapers fanned the flames by printing rumours that Fenians were coming to the new procession for the purpose of causing trouble. Meetings were held at St Lawrence Hall on Oct 1. Speakers feared bloodshed, or a Popish plot for world domination, and everything in between. Many suggested a compromise, by which the Catholics would give up all processions, and in return they would not get beaten up for having processions. Ideas were bounced around, trying to find a way to stop the procession, but in the end, there was no way to stop anyone from walking the street any time they so desired. The procession would occur. Some speakers expressed the fear that this would be like waving a red flag in front of a bull, and more than that, they feared that this time the rioters- both the Catholics and the Protesters- would come armed. They were right on both counts.

The Archibishop, for his part, wrote to the pilgrimage parishes, and ordered the pilgrims not to carry arms, or throw stones, or otherwise fight on the procession, under the penalty of losing all indulgences and benefits to be gained from the Jubilee. In a move unthinkable just fifteen years earlier, he ordered the pilgrims to put themselves under the protection of the civil authorities. He consulted with the Chief of Police, altered the route, dropped St Patrick’s from the itinerary, and six companies of the Queen’s Own Rifles, six companies of the 10th Royals and a detachment of cavalry were made ready for action by 1 o’clock Sunday afternoon. The forces of the city were mobilized, for the first time, to protect Catholics.

The procession began Sunday, October 3rd at about 2 o’clock. The procession was of 1,500 to 2,000 men, with women and girls following along the sidewalk. It quietly went from St Paul’s to St Michael’s. A crowd of 6,000 to 8,000 waiting for the procession at the Cathedral groaned as the procession came into view. They also hissed the arrival of a police detachment. The procession filed into the Cathedral. Archbishop Lynch appeared on the scene, and told the crowd present that all the Catholics were now inside the Cathedral, and suggested the crowd should disperse and go home. They didn’t.

The procession emerged from the Cathedral about ten minutes later, and proceeded to Church St. and down Church, lead by twelve policemen. It was there that the first stones were thrown. At first the Catholics did nothing. As the procession neared Queen St., a new hail of stones fell upon the procession. Then a shot rang out. The fight was on. The pilgrims threw stones in return, and several drew guns and began firing.

Chaos now reigned. Repeated collisions occurred as the pilgrimage inched forward. As a week earlier, the women fled under police cover. The men fought and clashed, were split, clashed again. The procession reached St Mary’s, and the police then helped them escape down a side street. The anti-processionists were unaware of this, and the rioting continued. At one point a rioter suggested the crowd move to St Mary’s and burn the Church down, but were prevented by the police. The rioting continued until the army intervened, and eventually all went home.

The newspapers again had a field day. Once again the rioters were held in contempt. But again, the papers would not hold the Catholics to be blameless. Simply by marching they had been a cause of the riots. The Catholics must have known that, the papers said. Perhaps they even intended it to happen. Aside from the actions of the rioters, all the papers heaped praise upon the police for their impartial interventions in the affair.

The actions of the police constitute a minor miracle. Finally, fifty years after the building of the first church in Toronto, Catholics in Toronto could begin to count on the protection of the Police. Related to this minor miracle was a second one: no one was killed in the rioting. The city was a vastly different place than it was less than thirty years earlier, when thousands of Catholics washed ashore and the only concern of the citizenry was how to be rid of them. There were still strong anti-Catholic feelings within the city, but now, there was also a sense that they too were citizens of the city. They had fought for a place in the life of the city and won.

Update:  The riots as they appeared in the newspaper.

17 September 2017

A simple image

I have been going through some of the things that have come into my possession following my mother's death.  Among them was a couple of her old missals from fifties and sixties.  (Mother held on to almost everything.  She was practically a hoarder before hoarding was cool.)  In one of the old missals was a simple line drawing explaining the structure of the Mass for the reader.

Simple, elegant and clear.  I know of nothing in the modern missals like it.

I have some other books as well.  Among my favourites is a tiny little book- maybe two inches wide by an inch and a half- now falling apart printed in the 1910's and called The Little Key to Heaven.  it was given to my father for his first communion. It is filled with prayers and the ordinary of the Mass as well as the proper prayers for a few of the more important masses including the Requiem Mass.  It also instructs the reader- in this case, a child- in what at that time were the most basic elements of the Faith.  Nowadays, we are even more basic.  I was once with a group of grown Catholic men and we are given a quick quiz on our faith.  One of the questions was: what are the commands of the Church?  The other men looked at each other blankly.  They had never heard of such a thing.  I knew it not from my eleven years in Catholic school, nor from my decades of attending Mass, but because the commands of the church were on one of the first pages of The Little Key to Heaven.  What children were once expected to know is now deemed to hard to teach children and hence adults never know them either.  When will we learn the simple lesson:  When we ask for much, we get much, but when we ask for less we get even less.

13 September 2017

The Plains of Abraham

Today is the 258th anniversary of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. The battle itself was brief, lasting perhaps fifteen minutes. The place of the battle, while it was a grand sounding name, was actually a cow pasture owned by a farmer of the name of Abraham. The deaths in the battle were unusual, in that both Generals died in the battle, during an era when generals usually watched their armies battle from a safe distance.

It brought about the end of the French absolutist government in North America, and brought in British rule of law, and eventually parliamentary democracy. The nightmare of the French Revolution and its attendant Reign of Terror and the genocide of the Vendee never spread to North America because of the outcome of this brief battle. A stagnant government and economy was replaced by a more dynamic one, allowing for rapid economic growth. Despite being defeated, the French were offered generous terms of surrender, and were permitted to keep their language and religion, and to even vote, becoming the first place in the British Empire that allowed Catholics to vote. The Quebecois have been complaining about it ever since.

Wolfe, on the eve before his victory, as he dressed for battle, recited from memory lines from Thomas Grey's Elegy in a Country Churchyard.

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave
Awaits alike the inevitable hour.
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

Wolfe declared he would rather have been the one to have composed those lines than win Quebec on the morrow.

His path of glory did lead but to the grave. A monument once marked the spot on the battlefield where he fell, with the legend "Here died Wolfe victorious" carved into the stone. it was blown up by Quebec separatists. A new monument stands in its place with the words "Here died Wolfe". The burial place of the British soldiers who fell in the battle was long ago paved over. Cars pass over their forgotten bones.

12 September 2017

The Battle before the Gates of Vienna

Three hundred and thirty four years ago today, the city of Vienna teetered on the brink of capture and destruction, surrounded by its enemies, the few people remaining tired, hungry, and sick with dysentery and plague.  Still they refused to surrender.

They had been under siege by an army of approximately 160,000 Turks and their allies for months. Vienna was a great prize they had failed to capture in earlier wars. With it they could control the waters of the Danube and its trade routes, and effectively split Europe in two. The Austrians had known the enemy was coming and had sought allies of their own. The Pope himself called for aid for the Austrians. But France's Sun King Louis XIV had his eyes on Austrian territory for himself. Few seemed interested in helping. In desperation the Austrians turned to an old rival, the Poles, and sought their aid. To what must have been their amazement, the Polish King, John III Sobieski, better known as Jan Sobieski, agreed.

But the Poles were nowhere to be found when the Turks crossed into Austria and marched on the city. The Austrian Emperor declined the Turkish invitation to stay in his bedroom and wait for them to behead him, and had fled Vienna, as did most of the population. The commander of the garrison in Vienna had between 10-15,000 men at his command. Knowing the Turks were coming, they razed all the buildings around Vienna's walls to deny the Turks cover, brought in as much grain and farm animals into the city as they could, and prepared to muster what defense they could.

Meanwhile, in Poland Jan Sobieski had a problem. While he was King of Poland, he could not order the mustering of the army on his own. That order could only be given by the unanimous vote of the Polish Diet. King Louis of France, wishing no aid to be given to the Austrians, had his embassy in Warsaw offer bribes to the members of the Diet. Hearing of this, the Pope in Rome gave his ambassador free rein on the wealth of Rome, and ordered him to bribe the council in favour of coming to Vienna's aid. Sobieski himself seemed to be motivated solely by his own sense of honour.

Sobieski had been a general before his election as king. He had waged many campaigns against Turkish invaders to his own land and had turned them all back. He had won many victories when he had been outnumbered greatly, and had won the respect of the Turks themselves, who called him the "Unvanquished Lion." He had travelled widely in Europe and had even spent some time in Constantinople. His travels had given him a sense of the importance of Christendom, and while the Austrians were his rivals, yet they too were part of Christendom, and he knew that if Vienna fell, Christendom itself was not far behind. He would not let that happen. At least, not without a fight.

In the end, the council had its unanimous vote. They were either bribed incredibly by the Papal envoy, or they had been swept up in Jan Sobieski's fervour to defend all of Christendom. There is a story that on the day of the vote Louis XIV's ambassador stood outside the council chambers, offering 100,000 ducats to anyone who would cast a veto. There were no takers. Jan Sobieski would take Poland to war.

Which is almost literally what he did. He mustered the entire Polish army and began the march. He left Poland almost completely defenceless. And yet, his own army was a few more than 40,000. He expected to meet with some allies on the way to Vienna, but he would still be severely outnumbered- but he had been outnumbered before, and he had been victorious before. He began the long march, turning aside briefly to take the army to a shrine to Mary, where he put all his men, and all of Europe, under her care. Then he resumed the march to Vienna. Before him lay either victory, or annihilation.

Meanwhile, in Vienna the situation had been deteriorating for the defenders. Unable to approach the walls openly, the Turks had taken to digging trenches to protect their men as they approached the walls. The defenders held slowed them down, but still they crept closer and closer. Below the ground, the Turks took to digging mines to try and bring the walls down from below. The Austrians dug counter mines, and stopped most of them, but the Turks kept coming.

The horrors of siege war began to take its toll on the defenders. Rations grew short as the siege stretched on. The men were tired from the constant fighting and bombardments. Dysentery and other diseases set in, leaving the men in no shape to fight. By the beginning of September, perhaps 4,000 men were in any shape to continue the fight.

And they were losing. The Turks had captured the outer defensive works, driving the Austrians back to their wall. Some Turkish mines began to reach the walls, and a hole had been blown open. The city stood ready to fall.

And then, something strange happened. The Turkish commander halted the assault. He sent word to the Austrian commander ordering him to surrender. The Turkish commander hoped to have Vienna surrender to him, so he could take the city intact and he could therefore claim all its wealth as his own. But if his troops sacked the city, they would be allowed to keep whatever they took for themselves. He felt certain the Austrian,his garrison dwindling, his walls breached, would capitulate. But the Austrian did not, and sent back defiance. The Turks prepared to continue the fight the next day, the twelfth of September. So fixed were their eyes on the city, none seemed to pay any attention to the campfires that began to burn that night on the hills outside Vienna. They did not know what those fires meant: Jan Sobieski had arrived.

It was said he and his allied commanders looked upon the Turkish encampment from their vantage point. The others were dismayed by the size of the Turkish forces: they outnumbered their own by at least two to one. But Sobieski, who had fought at a disadvantage many times before, laughed. "Look at how he has arranged his camp!" he exclaimed. "The man knows nothing of war!" The other generals wanted to wait and survey the situation before they began their attack, but Sobieski, perhaps believing in the advantage of surprise, insisted they attack at the first light.

As the Turks were prepared to end the siege that morning, all their forces aimed for the breach int eh walls, when they found themselves under attack on their flanks. German and Austrian troops were attacking on one said, and on their rear Polish infantry were driving into their lines, wreaking havoc. The Turkish commander seemed to pay little attention to this. He responded to the attacks with less than half his forces. He kept the main body of his troops focused on the city. Yet the Christians were pushing them back and making more and more headway. And then, on their flanks, the Christian cavalry appeared. Over eighteenth thousand armed and mounted knights, the largest cavalry charge in history. pressed forward. At their head were three thousand Polish Winged Hussars, the finest troops of Poland, and at their head, leading the charge was the king himself. Jan Sobieski, the unvanquished lion, had come personally onto the battle field at last.

His appearance terrified the Turks. They ran and fled before his charge. The troops from the city, seeing the Turks falling into chaos, mounted a sortie from the city themselves, leaving their walls and fighting their foe on the field. And the Turks fled before them. They threw down their arms, and left their baggage and supplies behind as they fled the ferocity of Sobieski and his men.

In three hours the battle was over, the field was in the hands of the Christians and the Turks who had not fled lay dead on the ground. Sobieski sent word to the Pope: "I came, I saw, God conquered."

Sobieski was hailed the saviour of Christendom. The Pope named him Defender of the Faith. Accolades were rained down on him by the allies who had fought alongside him, and by his own men. The commander of the Austrian Garrison hugged and kissed him on the field, and called him his saviour.

That gratitude, unfortunately, did not last. Sobieski's defeat of the Turks at Vienna marked a turning point in history. For the next hundred years the Turks were retreating, not advancing, before the Christian forces. A little over a century after Vienna they had been driven back into Turkey. But if the Turks were gone from Europe, so, too were the Poles, or at least, their country. A little over a century after Vienna, Poland had been annexed by Russia and Austria, the very Empire her greatest hero had saved.

5 September 2017

One further note on the new uniforms for the Knights of Columbus.

I said in a previous post that I am not against changing the fourth degree honour guard uniform as such.  The uniform has been changed in the past and, truth be known, I have a whimsical attachment to the tophat that was worn in the 20's over the modern chapeau.   However, I said that the current change was a misfire.

Since then the Supreme Grand Knight of the order has stated the reasons for the change was to try and draw in younger men.  This, I think, is worse than the actual uniform. The uniform, I said, was a misfire- and attempt that failed to hit its target.  With this, I now believe they were shooting at the wrong target entirely, and for the wrong reasons.

I have seen so very many attempt to change the liturgy, change the mass, change everything about the Church to try and draw the young people in.  They have all failed, spectacularly so.  Why?  Not because they made the wrong change, but because it was the wrong thing to do for the wrong reason, and the motivation, I am sorry to say, betrays a lack of faith.

(Before I get to why this is shows a lack of faith, let me point out one other thing: does no one remember their own youth? Do they not remember how as a youth there was nothing more irritating or condescending than some adult who thought they could relate to us? Some 'old fogey', as we used to say, who was trying to show the kids that they were still 'with it'?)

Some years ago, Fr. Z. posted a letter from a teenager who had been turned off by a recent attempt to draw them into some kind of youth mass.  The priest had bent over backwards to try and speak to the kids at their level, meet them where they were at, and so on.  In so doing he changed the mass to suit his audience.  The teenager wrote to say that the priest had it exactly backwards: the mass isn't supposed to be changed for the people, people are to be changed by the mass.  By reversing the proper relationship between the mass and the people, the priest was, in the words of the teenager, showing a terrible lack of faith.  Had he no faith in the transformative powers of the Mass? 

And so it is here.  We should be arguing our power to change men and better them.   Remember the nuns who changed their habit and thought new vocations would come their way because they had torn down the barriers between themselves and the laity.  'Come join us,' they were saying.  'we're just like you!' And the nuns never questioned why the lay would want to join someone who was no different from themselves, and who had just changed everything to join the lay.  Join us and be like you already are is not a motto to inspire enrollment.