Saint Patrick and the Nations Plunging in the Night

(I posted this on Saint Patrick’s Day at The American Catholic and I thought the history mavens of Almost Chosen People might enjoy it.)

When Caesar’s sun fell out of the sky
And whoso hearkened right
Could only hear the plunging
Of the nations in the night.

GK Chesterton, Ballad of the White Horse

It is easy to lose sight of the historical Saint Patrick in all the fun and frolic of Saint Patrick’s Day.  He was a man of the fifth century and what a disastrous century it was for Patrick’s time and place.  The Western Empire was going down under wave after wave of barbarian invasion, pagan when they were not loosely converted Arian heretics.  Civilization was manifestly dying and Catholicism seemed to be faced with extinction, as it would almost entirely be extinguished in Patrick’s homeland of Britain in the terrible decades to come.  Patrick’s capture by Irish pirates and being held as a slave was typical of the fate of many Christians as the law and order of the old Empire became a fading utopian dream.  In these circumstances Patrick could have been forgiven for running and hiding in a cave as a Christian hermit, convinced that it was his fate and the fate of his generation to see the End Times predicted in Revelations.

Instead Patrick, after his escape from servitude, was filled with a burning zeal to convert the Irish, fired by a dream:

I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. His name was Victoricus, and he carried many letters, and he gave me one of them. I read the heading: “The Voice of the Irish”. As I began the letter, I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice of those very people who were near the wood of Foclut, which is beside the western sea—and they cried out, as with one voice: “We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.”

Obtaining such education as could be had on the Continent, he was ordained, given the powers of a bishop, and sent back to the land of his slavery and labored night and day to bring the Irish into the light of Christ.  By the end of his life he could truly say that he had found Ireland entirely pagan and now it was mostly Christian.  His mission was one of pure Christian optimism in the face of disaster when most rational men would have told him that what he was doing was all for naught.  Instead, in the ages to come, Ireland became the fabled land of saints and scholars, where western civilization was maintained in the darkest of centuries and where the true sons and daughters of Saint Patrick, Catholic missionaries, brought the light of Christ back to lands which had forgotten Him.  It was a grand story, and no miracle attributed to Saint Patrick can surpass what he accomplished in cold historical fact.

To understand what Saint Patrick was up against, and the true miracle of what he accomplished, read below a letter of his in which he discussed the massacre of Catholic converts: (more…)

Published in: on March 19, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
Tags:

Hail Glorious Saint Patrick

 

Something for the weekend.  Hail Glorious Saint Patrick.

Published in: on March 18, 2017 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

George Washington Celebrates Saint Patrick’s Day

 

Throughout his life George Washington had a great deal of sympathy for the struggles of the Irish against their English rulers, seeing in those struggles a mirror for the American fight for independence.  Irish immigrants to America, Protestant and Catholic, were enthusiastic in their embrace of the American cause, and during the Revolutionary War many of the soldiers who served in the Continental Army were Irish or of Irish descent.  Therefore when General Washington heard in March 1780 that the Irish Parliament had passed free trade legislation, he issued the following general order to the Army on March 16, 1780:

The general congratulates the army on the very interesting proceedings of the parliament of Ireland and the inhabitants of that country which have been lately communicated;  not only as they appear calculated to remove those heavy and tyrannical oppressions on their trade but to restore to a brave and generous people their ancient rights and freedom and by their operations to promote the cause of America. (more…)

Published in: on March 17, 2017 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

March 16, 1926: Robert Goddard Launches First Liquid Fueled Rocket

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jSIq1XsdUqA

 

 

 

How many more years I shall be able to work on the problem, I do not know; I hope, as long as I live. There can be no thought of finishing, for “aiming at the stars”, both literally and figuratively, is a problem to occupy generations, so that no matter how much progress one makes, there is always the thrill of just beginning.

Robert Goddard to H.G. Wells, 1932

 

 

 

A very humble beginning to the Space Age 91 years ago, courtesy of Doctor Robert Goddard:

March 17, 1926. The first flight with a rocket using liquid propellants was made yesterday at Aunt Effie’s farm in Auburn…. Even though the release was pulled, the rocket did not rise at first, but the flame came out, and there was a steady roar. After a number of seconds it rose, slowly until it cleared the frame, and then at express train speed, curving over to the left, and striking the ice and snow, still going at a rapid rate. (more…)

Published in: on March 16, 2017 at 4:58 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Ides of March: Cato the Younger

And, in general, Cato thought he ought to take a course directly opposed to the life and practices of the time, feeling that these were bad and in need of great change.

Plutarch, Life of Cato the Younger

 

 

 

I think it would have amused the Romans of Caesar’s generation if they could have learned that the assassination of Julius Caesar would eventually receive immortality through a play written more than 16 centuries after the event by a barbarian playwright in the Tin Islands that Caesar had briefly invaded.  It would have tickled their well developed concept of the ludicrous, judging from Roman comedy.

Caesar was assassinated because he had established himself as absolute ruler of Rome as Marius and Sulla had done before him.  Once again the Senate was to be reduced to a rubber stamp.  However unlike the brief periods of one man rule engaged in by Marius and Sulla, Caesar, a much abler man, was clearly aiming to turn Rome into a monarchy to be ruled by him alone, and his successors after him.  The Republic, clearly dying for the last half century, was now dead and Caesar was the undertaker.  However, some Romans refused to accept this fact.  Foremost among them was Cato the Younger.  A living anachronism, Cato longed for the Republic that his ancestor Cato the Elder had helped to create and stood against those who sought to hurry on the death of the Republic.  Fate has allowed only one speech of Cato to survive, his powerful brief oration that convinced the Senators to impose the death penalty on the Cataline conspirators.  In this speech we see Cato’s love of the Republic and his clear eyed awareness that it was unlikely to survive the corrupt generation among whom he lived.  Cato understood that the Republic was a lost cause, but he viewed this lost cause as worth fighting for and dying for.  Here is the text of his speech:

MY feelings, conscript fathers, are extremely different when I contemplate our circumstances and dangers, and when I revolve in my mind the sentiments of some who have spoken before me. Those speakers, as it seems to me, have considered only how to punish the traitors who have raised war against their country, their parents, their altars, and their homes; but the state of affairs warns us rather to secure ourselves against them, than to take counsel as to what sentence we should pass upon them. Other crimes you may punish after they have been committed; but as to this, unless you prevent its commission, you will, when it has once taken effect, in vain appeal to justice. When the city is taken, no power is left to the vanquished.

But, in the name of the immortal gods, I call upon you, who have always valued your mansions and villas, your statues and pictures, at a higher price than the welfare of your country, if you wish to preserve those possessions, of whatever kind they are, to which you are attached; if you wish to secure quiet for the enjoyment of your pleasures, arouse yourselves and act in defense of your country. We are not now debating on the revenues, or on injuries done to our allies, but our liberty and our life is at stake.

Often, conscript fathers, have I spoken at great length in this assembly; often have I complained of the luxury and avarice of our citizens, and, by that very means, have incurred the displeasure of many. I, who never excused to myself, or to my own conscience, the commission of any fault, could not easily pardon the misconduct, or indulge the licentiousness, of others. But tho you little regarded my remonstrances, yet the republic remained secure; its own strength was proof against your remissness. The question, however, at present under discussion, is not whether we live in a good or bad state of morals: nor how great, nor how splendid, the empire of the Roman people is; but whether these things around us, of whatever value they are, are to continue our own, or to fall, with ourselves, into the hands of the enemy.

In such a case, does any one talk to me of gentleness and compassion? For some time past, it is true, we have lost the real names of things; for to lavish the property of others is called generosity, and audacity in wickedness is called heroism; and hence the State is reduced to the brink of ruin. But let those who thus misname things be liberal, since such is the practise, out of the property of our allies; let them be merciful to the robbers of the treasury; but let them not lavish our blood, and, while they spare a few criminals, bring destruction on all the guiltless.

In such a case, does any one talk to me of gentleness and compassion? For some time past, it is true, we have lost the real names of things; for to lavish the property of others is called generosity, and audacity in wickedness is called heroism; and hence the State is reduced to the brink of ruin. But let those who thus misname things be liberal, since such is the practise, out of the property of our allies; let them be merciful to the robbers of the treasury; but let them not lavish our blood, and, while they spare a few criminals, bring destruction on all the guiltless.
Caius Cæsar, a short time ago, spoke in fair and elegant language, before this assembly, on the subject of life and death; considering as false, I suppose, what is told of the dead—that the bad, going a different way from the good, inhabit places gloomy, desolate, dreary and full of horror. He accordingly proposed that the property of the conspirators should be confiscated, and themselves kept in custody in the municipal towns; fearing, it seems, that, if they remained at Rome, they might be rescued either by their accomplices in the conspiracy, or by a hired mob; as if, forsooth, the mischievous and profligate were to be found only in the city, and not through the whole of Italy, or as if desperate attempts would not be more likely to succeed where there is less power to resist them. His proposal, therefore, if he fears any danger from them, is absurd; but if, amid such universal terror, he alone is free from alarm, it the more concerns me to fear for you and myself.
Be assured, then, that when you decide on the fate of Lentulus and the other prisoners, you at the same time determine that of the army of Catiline, and of all the conspirators. The more spirit you display in your decision, the more will their confidence be diminished; but if they shall perceive you in the smallest degree irresolute, they will advance upon you with fury.
Do not suppose that our ancestors, from so small a commencement, raised the republic to greatness merely by force of arms. If such had been the case, we should enjoy it in a most excellent condition; for of allies and citizens, as well as arms and horses, we have a much greater abundance that they had. But there were other things which made them great, but which among us have no existence—such as industry at home, equitable government abroad, and minds impartial in council, uninfluenced by any immoral or improper feeling. Instead of such virtues, we have luxury and avarice, public distress and private superfluity: we extol wealth, and yield to indolence; no distinction is made between good men and bad; and ambition usurps the honors due to virtue. Nor is this wonderful; since you study each his individual interest, and since at home you are slaves to pleasure, and here to money or favor; and hence it happens that an attack is made on the defenseless State. (more…)

Published in: on March 15, 2017 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Quotes Suitable for Framing: Philander Knox

“I think, it would be better to keep your action free from any taint of legality.”

 

 

 

Attorney General Philander Knox’ response when President Theodore Roosevelt asked him to craft a legal defense for American actions which led to the independence of Panama and the treaty between Panama and the United States for the construction of the Panama Canal.  Hurrah for Theodore Roosevelt, the father of Panamanian independence and the Panama Canal!

 

Benjamin Franklin and Daylight Savings Time

Time 06

 

Throughout his illustrious, and hectic, career, Benjamin Franklin found time to write anonymous satirical pieces which he wrote as a form of relaxation.  Here is one written in 1784 in which he suggests the adoption of a rudimentary form of Daylight Savings Time

 

 

To THE AUTHORS of
The Journal of Paris

 

MESSIEURS,

You often entertain us with accounts of new discoveries. Permit me to communicate to the public, through your paper, one that has lately been made by myself, and which I conceive may be of great utility.

I was the other evening in a grand company, where the new lamp of Messrs. Quinquet and Lange was introduced, and much admired for its splendour; but a general inquiry was made, whether the oil it consumed was not in proportion to the light it afforded, in which case there would be no saving in the use of it. No one present could satisfy us in that point, which all agreed ought to be known, it being a very desirable thing to lessen, if possible, the expense of lighting our apartments, when every other article of family expense was so much augmented.

I was pleased to see this general concern for economy, for I love economy exceedingly.

I went home, and to bed, three or four hours after midnight, with my head full of the subject. An accidental sudden noise waked me about six in the morning, when I was surprised to find my room filled with light; and I imagined at first, that a number of those lamps had been brought into it; but, rubbing my eyes, I perceived the light came in at the windows. I got up and looked out to see what might be the occasion of it, when I saw the sun just rising above the horizon, from whence he poured his rays plentifully into my chamber, my domestic having negligently omitted, the preceding evening, to close the shutters.

(more…)

Published in: on March 13, 2017 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

March 12, 1917: Sinking of the Algonquin

 

The first American vessel sunk after the German government announced a return to unrestricted submarine warfare, the Algonquin, an unarmed merchant vessel, was sunk by the U-62 off the Scilly Islands on March 12, 1917.   The U-62 surfaced and fired four shots at the Algonquin, none of which hit.  The Captain of the Algonquin ordered his crew to take to lifeboats.  The U-62 skipper, U-boat Ace Kapitanleutnant Ernst Hashagen, sent a boarding crew to set bombs  on the Algonquin and sank her in that manner.  The crew of the Algonquin were unharmed, and after twenty-seven hours of arduous rowing reached Penzance in Cornwall.  On the same date, President Wilson ordered the arming of American merchant ships.

Published in: on March 12, 2017 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , ,

Livery Stable Blues

 

Something for the weekend:  Livery Stable Blues.  Recorded by the Original Dixieland Jass Band on February 26, 1917, it was released in March 1917 by Victor and became a huge hit.  It was the first jazz song released on record.  The band prior to the end of the year would change their name to the Original Dixieland Jazz Band.

Published in: on March 11, 2017 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

World War I Day by Day

 

A century ago the US was on the cusp of declaring war on Imperial Germany.  A good time to take a look at this War courtesy of a map tracing areas of control by the Allied and Central powers day by day.

Published in: on March 10, 2017 at 3:30 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: