To Become Deep In History Is To Become Catholic: My Family Were Welsh Catholic Farmers And My Great Great Grandfather Was A Crusader With Richard The Lionheart

     "To become deep in history is to become Catholic." This is not just true of studying wider history, but is very true of studying our family history, and even, in a psychological sense, our own personal history.
     The following is an excerpt from the history book written by my brother, Michael Mincher. I asked to post an excerpt from the section about the origin of the Mincher family.  It's important to know that everything and everyone is historic. This makes me realize how at home we are in the Catholic Church.
     I also just really like reading about how my people lived, which was in so many ways the same. And the ways in which it is different, I would like to remedy, essentially.
     It's also easier, for me, to understand realities like, "the People of God," if I think about my people, and in terms of having, "my people." For some reason I can feel the proximity to our Catholic heritage when I read what the Minchers were doing when, for example, St. Thomas Becket was at odds with King Henry II.
     The first excerpt is about the people in the valley of the Severn River. The second excerpt tells how these people begat the Minchers.


"Whatever else may come to pass,
 I do not think that on the Day of Direst Judgement
 any race other than the Welsh,
or any other language,
will give answer to the Supreme Judge of all
 for this small corner of the earth."

-- An Unnamed Welshman, quoted by Gerald of Wales

     The Severn River valley stretches from the southern reaches of Cumbria to the northern borders of the Cornwall peninsula, where the river empties into the bay separating South Wales from Cornwall, Bath, and Somerset. It lies on the western edge of the Midland Plains, which stretch eastward to London and Kent; the rolling hills of the valley mark the beginning of the craggy and mountainous peaks charateristic of Wales, into which the Welsh found themselves increasingly pressed. The natives of the valley were descendants of families who had hardly left the region, except perhaps to go on trading voyages or fight in wars, for centuries. Britain today is known for its pastoral countryside, spotted with woods and wide-open pastures. In the sixth century, however, much of the land that was not bog was covered in deep, primeval forests. The people lived in small villages, pasturing cattle and sheep in the glens and open field, and tending half-wild pigs in the woods. No one lived alone on a distant farm away from a town; the hermits of legend, and the more isolated monasteries, were the exception. Though the villages were usually never more than a few miles from another, people did not travel often- unless mustering for war (or fleeing from it), there was never a need, and a few miles then was a considerable, and dangerous, distance. For the most part, people where born, lived, and died in the same place.
Mary's Festival of Candles
     Life was not easy for the poorer folk, who farmed much the same as their ancesters did centuries before. Work was not constant, though, especially during the colder months. Communal festivities were common, not only because they were one of the few means of leisure. Christian holidays such as Christmas, Gwyl Fair y Canhwyllau (Mary’s Festival of the Candles), and St. David’s Day, as well as local occasions (marriages and such), were celebrated with a noson lawen, a party with music similar to the Irish ceili. Most of the surviving music of the time, unfortunately, is limited to hymns and the Gregorian chant of the monastic choirs, since few others could write. The traditional music of the people was (and still is) similar to the other Celtic peoples of Ireland and Scotland. The most important instrument was the fiddle; the Welsh triple harp, bagpipes, whistles, and other instruments often accompanied a sung poem or dance, called penillion. 

     Generally, they dined on whatever was readily available, but on important occasions nationally popular foods including lamb, trout, cockles, and leeks were served. They also had a long history of alcohol consumption. Records show that whiskey has been consumed in Wales since the fourth century. Beers came along somewhat later, in the sixth century. Legends tell of a certain Druid named Ceridwen who brewed a beer, Gwin a Bragawd, said to have brought “science, inspiration, and immortality” to its drinkers. Welsh beer was strong and flavorful, often including cloves and other spices.
     Despite this generally peaceful existence, the Severn natives lived with the constant threat of Saxon invasion hanging over their heads, a very real and present danger that could strike at any time, destroying homes and loved ones without warning. Ever since the coming of the Anglo-Saxons, the Celts had managed to maintain control over the Midland Plains and London, despite losing ground elsewhere, and the people of the Severn valley were protected. This all changed in 577, when Cuthwine and Caewlin, kings of the West Saxons, smashed through the Celtic defenses at Dyrham, capturing Cirencester, Bath, and Gloucester. These were all large, strongly garrisoned towns that governed a wealthy and sophisticated region, and the loss for that reason alone was a severe blow to the Romano-British. Perhaps more importantly, three leading nobles of the Britons were slain, and the Celts of Wales were cut off from their kinfolk in Cornwall permanently, except for the occasional passage by boat over the Bay of Severn. London was lost to the Britons forever. Subsequent Celtic uprisings in the London area were brutally crushed and the countryside “pacified”. Welsh armies and nobles were destroyed or expelled to the west bank of the Severn, and the Celtic peoples of the valley fell under the dominion of the Saxons, for a time. In the east, the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia rose to dominate the Midlands, and the Anglian kingdoms of the north merged to become the kingdom of Northumbria.
     Eslewhere, Pope Gregory I codified what became known as Gregorian Chant. St. Augustine of Canterbury, sent to evangelize the Germanic invaders of Britain, converted King Ethelbert of Kent to Christianity, while Irish missonaries traveled to Germany.  Saint David, the patron of Wales, died in 601. The game of chess was developed in Persia, as well as the technique of using windmills for irrigation.

Hwicce's chapel
     The Severn river valley was a hotly contested region in the seventh and eighth centuries. Its inhabitants remained Welsh, but their rulers changed fairly often; sometimes Powys or Gwent pressed forward into the area, only to be driven back by the Mercians or the West Saxons. This led to an interesting situation in the mid seventh century, in which the kingdom of Hwicce arose to fill the vacuum. Its territory continually fluctuated, but consistently included the cities of Gloucester, Cirencester, Bath, and Worcester- the present day West Midlands. In the east and north, there were some Anglo-Saxon settlements, but the primary population remained Welsh, especially in the old Roman cities of the south. However, the ruling family was a mysterious and confusing combination of Celtic and Saxon; they were probably older Brythonic families that intermarried with Saxon princes to create the kingdom. It was a small kingdom, but wealthy, controlling as it did many important urban centers. In the eighth century, Hwicce’s king Osric helped set up a stronger religious presence in the valley by demanding that Hwicce have its own bishop. This led to the establishment of the See of Worchester, and during this time also chapels were built in Stroud, Avening, and Hampton, three ancient settlements within four miles of each other.

     These three towns had been the sites of human settlement since the Iron Age, and evidence of this fact still remains. Stroud was the site of an important hill fort in pre-Roman times, and remained a significant town well into the modern day. Hampton and Avening, about two miles from each other, sit on a plateau overlooking the Severn Estuary, about eight miles to the west, and onwards into the hills of Gwent. In terms of size, they have not changed considerably since the seventh century; in fact they may have decreased slightly. The cottages there today are built of stones scavenged from former abodes over the centuries.
     Whatever name the towns had under Romano-British rule, if any, has been long since forgotten. Hwicce was, strictly speaking, an Anglo-Saxon kingdom, and many of the place-names in the region are Anglo-Saxon in origin. However, there is no evidence that Hwicce was an Anglo-Saxon kingdom in anything but name. The nobility was a mixture of Celtic and Saxon, and this is reflected also in the appearance of Saxon-style tombs for nobles from the time of the kingdom’s founding. The Church in Hwicce was Celtic, distinctive from the parishes formed by missionaries to the Saxons such as Augustine of Canterbury. Hwicce’s common people were also Welsh of the Celtic Church; this is confirmed by Bede’s report of a conference between the visiting St. Augustine and the Welsh bishops in Hwicce.

                                                                         * * *
     That's the end of the first excerpt. The next excerpt begins with the conquest of the region by William The Conqueror. During his reign, William had a census made of his kingdom which was codified in 'The Domesday Book'. In this book is the first reference to the Minchers.

     William and his queen, Matilda, married outside certain bounds that had been declared by the Pope. In 1066, they founded the L’Abbaye aux Dames in Hampton, near Gloucester, as a means of doing penance. The abbey was for ladies of noble birth, and the first abbess was Cecily, the king’s own daughter. At this time Hampton became known as Mynchonhampton, deriving from the Anglo-Saxon word for "nun," mynece.
     The people of the Severn valley had been relatively uninvolved in the Norman Invasion, until after the fact. King Harold had not raised men for his army from the region. They were untouched by the war until the Welsh-Mercian alliance that led several rebellions out of the Forest of Dean nearby and out of Gwent to the Southwest, and all of these rebellions were quelled. Like elsewhere in England, Norman lords replace the long-standing ruling nobles of the Cotswolds and the Severn. Nevertheless, the ancient families remained, holding on to their land through legal wrangling and securing unshakable rights of succession among their sons, ensuring the Normans could find no legal loophole through which to seize their holdings. The Normans found it difficult to remove the Welsh influence within the Cotswolds and never succeeded in stamping out the ancient Celtic spirit of independence and love of country that had lasted there since Roman times. Ultimately, many English and Welsh found Norman rule so unbearable that they simply packed up and left. Tens of thousands, over a period of one-hundred and fifty years or so, moved to the Scottish lowlands, or deep into the mountainous heart of Wales, or to the Byzantine Empire (refugees from Britain made up a noteworthy portion of Crusaders).
William's census, "The Domesday Book"
     The family that came to take the name of Mynchon was small, first described as yeomen and minor landowners in William’s great census of England. Gradually they put out branches into the valleys and villages of the hill-country, gaining land and starting families in Avening, Stroud, Wyck Rissington and elsewhere. They tilled the soil but their primary livelihood was in shepherding, tending to large flocks of sheep that grazed and played on the rolling hills and glens of the Severn valley. Their communities were close-knit, as they still are, meeting around the church, discussing politics, bow-hunting in the Forest of Dean and holding games when they had the time. Some of them became farm managers, overseers and officials that managed the affairs and holdings of higher nobility. For the most part, they lived on their own land in comfortable stone houses that were neither low nor opulent. Given their status and their proximity to a major religious center, it is likely that they were at least partially literate. What they read and what songs they knew and sang with one another is not well known, but some survive. Here is an ancient Welsh song, called “Pais Dinogad”, that would have been known among these people:

Dinogad's shift is speckled, speckled,
It was made from the pelts of martens.
`Wee! Wee!' Whistling.
We call, they call, the eight in chains.
When your father went out to hunt -
A spear on his shoulder, a club in his hand -
He called on his lively dogs,
`Giff! Gaff! Take, take! Fetch, fetch!'
He killed fish from his coracle
Like the lion killing small animals.
When your father went to the mountains
He would bring back a roebuck, a boar, a stag,
A speckled grouse from the mountain,
And a fish from the Derwennydd falls.
At whatever your father aimed his spear -
Be it a boar, a wild cat, or a fox -
None would escape but that had strong wings.

Which is somewhat clumsily rendered in modern English. Another of the few surviving songs and poems of the time is “Suo-Gan”, a lullaby presumed to be from the tenth century, or thereabouts, and has been more deftly translated:

To my lullaby surrender
Warm and tender is my breast
Mother's arms with love caressing
Lay their blessing on your rest
Nothing shall tonight alarm you
None shall harm you, have no fear
Lie contented, calmly slumber
On your mother's breast, my dear

Here tonight I tightly hold you
And enfold you while you sleep
Why, I wonder, are you smiling
Smiling in your slumber deep?
Are the angels on you smiling
And beguiling you with charm
While you also smile, my blossom
In my bosom soft and warm?

Have no fear now, leaves are knocking
Gently knocking at our door
Have no fear now, waves are beating
Gently beating on the shore
Sleep, my darling, none shall harm you
Nor alarm you, never cry
In my bosom sweetly smiling
And beguiling those on high

     As landowners, the political matters of the day weighed heavily on their minds. Much was at stake for them whenever the Welsh and the Normans met in battle; most likely they secretly cheered for the defeat of their French overlords, having familial and cultural ties to their Western cousins and none whatsoever with the Normans. Indeed, in 1136 combined Welsh forces from the various kingdoms forced back the Marcher Lords, humiliating the Normans at the Battle of Crug Mawr at Cardigan Castle. For a long time afterwards was the period known as The Anarchy, when Stephen de Blois and the Empress Matilda both claimed the throne of England, and all were forced to choose a side. Gloucester and its people eventually chose the side of the Empress, who ascended to the throne for a while but was ultimately defeated. Luckily in the confusion of the aftermath it was not certain who had stood for whom, and the Mynchons avoided the purge.

     In 1157 King Henry II of England decided to teach the Welsh a lesson, and invaded the country, but was made to look a fool in several defeats and was nearly slain himself. During this conflict, the southern Welsh of Gwent rose up and attacked the Marchers of the Midlands and, for a time, it seemed they would regain rule of the Severn after a centuries-long hiatus. However, the attack petered out before this was accomplished. These were dangerous times for the Mynchons and their neighbors, as any indication that they favored Welsh victories could put their necks on a chopping-block.
     In 1163 an even greater war between the Welsh and Normans took place. Henry II, this time aggravated by his widening quarrel with Archbishop Thomas Becket, again decided to attack Wales, assembling the largest force ever gathered for that purpose. Owain I of Gwynedd, victor in previous wars, forged a strong alliance of all the Welsh kingdoms and raised an equally strong army. However, he did not engage Henry, but merely let him march his host deep into the Welsh mountains and bog-valleys, until his army was so stretched and dispersed along the winding supply line as to be worthless. Owain then harassed them with raids and skirmishes, while hurricane-force winds and rain pelted the freezing, hungry Normans. Eventually, Henry gave up and withdrew, utterly humiliated and beaten, resolving never to bother with Wales; in fact, he spent most of the remainder of his reign in France.
     During these years, quite apart from being subdued, displaced, executed or exiled by the Normans, which was the fate of many old families, the Mynchons rose to a very respectable and wealthy status, for non-Normans that is, enough so that contemporary historians could be bothered to mention the head of the family.

     The prevailing system of government in the Isles at the time was feudalism. The king, under only the authority of the Pope, expected loyalty and service from his vassals, a hierarchy of nobles and peasantry, and in return he gave them land and protection, in theory. A rough summary of this system can be described thus: the King was head, followed by a number of barons, dukes, and other high nobility, who were served in turn by lesser nobles and minor lords who had seats in smaller cities. These high and middle aristocracies were entirely Norman (or ardently pretended to be Norman), and their primary subjects were knights. The word, “knight” has come to signify many different things, but at the time in the Isles it referred to a minor landowner of some social elevation and wealth who pledged fealty to the regional lord or baron to fight when called upon. Simply put, they were members of the warrior class who were wealthy enough to purchase the high-quality horses, armor, and weapons needed to go to war, where they were typically put in command of contingents of peasant infantry or other soldiers from their own area. By the twelfth century, the concept of “chivalry” and a common code of conduct was already widely applied and required of knights, although perhaps not in the romanticized sense that is thought of today. Unlike higher nobles, knights could afford to be openly non-Norman, and some were, but most were not, except in frontier areas in which older customs still prevailed.
     In the decades prior to the Third Crusade, which was launched in the late twelfth century, the Mynchons of the Cotswolds produced a son that they named Stephen. He was a relation, possibly the son, of Alderedus Mynchon, who currently is listed as the first-recorded bearer of that surname. Alderedus was described as a minor landowner in the pipe rolls (census and property records) of the Cotswolds in 1190; unfortunately little else about the man has been kept for his descendants to learn. Stephen, however, matured to become the head of the family, and earned a place in history apart from his blood-line.

     As a young man, perhaps eight or nine, he was sent by the family to the nearby castle of the lord to whom they pledged service; it was probably Sudeley Castle in modern-day Winchcombe. The name of its lord has been lost. While residing there, Stephen studied the finer arts, history, what literature there was to read, and especially theological histories and probably more than one language, certainly medieval Latin at least. Such an education he had in common with all “pages”, young men aspiring to knighthood and entitled to it by birth. He cleaned, carried messages, and generally attended the residents of the castle, and in addition to his formal education he was trained in combat and military arts, an education which continued for many years.  At age fourteen, Stephen followed custom in progressing to the rank of squire, taking on more formal and mature responsibilities, closely attending and serving a particular knight as shield-bearer and loyal companion. At age twenty-one a squire became eligible for knighthood; the age at which Stephen attained knighthood is unknown, but he was certainly a young man when dubbed, probably no older than twenty-one or two, and he inherited all responsibility for the actions and welfare of a large number of tenants, at least one-hundred or so, as well as the maintenance of his family’s holdings and position.

     It was not long after Stephen rose to knighthood that news came to Britain of the recapture of Jerusalem in the Holy Land by the Saracens. This news was a grievous blow to the Christian West, and the Pope put out the call far and wide for a Third Crusade to be launched in Palestine. Perhaps it was even due to this event that Stephen was made a knight. However it occurred, in 1188 Stephen was visited by Baldwin of Exeter, Archbishop of Canterbury, and the scribe Gerald of Wales, who were touring the Welsh country recruiting men for the Crusade. Stephen joined many others from the Cotswolds, mustering his men and pledging his service to the army of King Richard I (Lionhearted), and set out on crowded, small, barely seaworthy vessels for the voyage to the Holy Land. As was the case with many of the knights and nobility of the Crusading armies, his young wife accompanied him.
     The fleet departed in 1190, and it consisted of about eight-thousand soldiers and knights, and sailed on one-hundred ships. The journey was difficult, long, and stormy, as well as indirect. The king chose to stop at Sicily, resolving a royal family issue and fighting a number of skirmishes, and even captured Cyprus as part of another squabble; so it happened that Stephen and his men fought many battles for varied reasons before ever reaching Palestine. Nevertheless they did reach the Holy Land in June of 1191, landing at Acre and joining the siege of that city. They were also joined by the Knights of St. John, and forces from the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the Holy Roman Empire, and the Frankish Kingdom. In July, Acre was captured by the Crusaders, who went on to win other battles but failed to win the ultimate prize, Jerusalem. Richard I departed from Palestine in 1192 with most of his army, although he was soon taken captive and held for ransom by the Holy Roman Empire for one of his many personal intrigues. Many Crusaders remained to guard the Kingdom of Jerusalem; before he departed, King Richard appointed Stephen to the governorship of Acre. The office was held simultaneously by two or three men at a time. The reasons for Richard granting Stephen this honor can only be guessed at, but Stephen remained in Acre for a time as governor, eventually returning to Britain. How long he stayed in Palestine is unknown, as is the date of his death.

     In the Cotswolds at that time, the Mynchons continued to live and prosper in relative peace and security. Perhaps the only remarkable historical event that occurred within their neighborhood was the coming of Eleanor, Fair Maid of Brittany, the cousin of Henry III. She had been under “house arrest” for years due to fear over her claim to the throne, and was reputed to be one the most beautiful women ever witnessed. In the 1230s, she spent her time in Gloucester, living comfortably under the authority of the sheriff and the local nobles. The estates of the Mynchons were close by her home, and they shared some of the responsibility for her. Doubtless the princess’s doings were a common subject of conversation at the dinner table.

     At some point during the 13th century, a significant portion of the Mynchon clan moved away from the region of Gloucester, Minchinhampton, and Stroud further into Wales proper. The exact method, number, and time are unclear and sadly lost to history. The family of Sir Stephen and his descendants are not noted as being among those who remained in the Severn River valley, but rather histories go on to describe other, different branches of the Mynchons who went on to pursue other ventures, either remaining in the Cotswolds or traveling to diverse regions of Britain. Some facts do bear mentioning. In the 13th and 14th centuries, variations of the Mynchon surname began to appear. The variation “Minchin” or “Minchon” were common in the Cotswolds and the Severn regions, and spread as far as England proper. However, variations such as “Mynchir”, “Minchir” and “Mincher” began to appear to the west of the Cotswolds, deeper and deeper into Wales; the name proliferates and moves west, in historical records, as the years progress.

     The most likely explanation for this split is explained by the development of the Welsh Marches, which coincided to a large degree with the movement of the name “Mincher”. Sir Stephen’s branch of the family, being the wealthiest and most prominent of the name, sporting the name of a former Crusader commander and governor of Acre, and being close by to Wales, would have been prime candidates for Henry III’s, and later Edward I’s, colonization of eastern Wales. Both kings, and others after them, desired to “settle” the Welsh frontier by such methods, seating veteran families and nobles to improve the cultural stability of the frontier, and giving them authority over their marches to improve military stability as well—in effect, killing two birds with one stone. History records typical candidates for such settlement as being nobles from Chester, Shrewsbury, Gloucester, and Cirencester, all close by the Welsh border. Further, the fact that Sir Stephen’s line is no longer mentioned at all alongside other contemporary family members in the Cotswolds strongly suggests that neither he nor his descendants stayed there after the early 13th century. Sir Stephen’s motto, that had been instituted along with his own coat of arms, remained in proud traditional use among all branches of the clan at that time, which indicates he had not fallen out of favor or his family become destitute and shunned. Thus it seems reasonable to presume that Sir Stephen’s branch of the clan was sent into Wales as part of the effort to colonize the region.
     It is most likely that, due to the family’s origin, they were sent to Glamorgan in South Wales, Brecon in the Cambrian Mountains, or Elfael southeast of Snowdonia. The people of the Marches interacted frequently, even daily—this was not the pseudo-apartheid of the Saxon past, at least for the lesser nobles. The Norman lords ruled with an iron fist over their stretches of Wales, and remained within “Anglified” safe zones and city centers. But the lesser colonists, the Minchers among them, gradually integrated with the local population. This is unsurprising, given the long-standing blood-ties between the two groups. To call them a meeting of two nations or peoples would be incorrect; rather, it was the intermingling of two distinct but related groups.
     Life in Wales in the High Middle Ages was, as in ages past, one fraught with the worry of war and death. However, much else, concerning peace and happiness, is also known of the period, thanks to historians such as Geraldus Cambrensis (Gerald of Wales).  Gradually, during the following centuries, the Mincher clan simply melted into Wales. No family member is mentioned in prominence again in the historical annals until centuries, and continents, later, in entirely different contexts.



My Journey to The TLM

To be completely honest, I am a 'newbie' to the traditional Catholic movement. I've spent 5 long post-collegiate years searching for a quality of worship that was authentically & unequivocally Catholic. I've played the musical parishes game in pursuit of an orthodox community of people focusing on eternal salvation through a sacramentally based ethos.

I attended my first traditional Latin mass in January of 2011. A priest friend of mine was learning to say the TLM, and was diaconating the solemn high mass for the feast of the Epiphany. At the time, I had no knowledge of what I was about to experience, and minimal interest other than the novelty of a mass outside my native tongue. As I fumbled through the missal, I routinely found frustration in the lack of 'availability' of the mass to my cognitive abilities.

Suddenly, during the consecration, my focus was abruptly shifted to what was happening on the altar. Prior to that evening, I had never attended a mass ad orientem, and I was struck with this sense of awe and reverence for the sacrificial quality of the transubstantiation. That night, I walked away with a newfound respect for the priesthood, a realization of the masculinity required to offer the eucharistic sacrifice of the mass.

I continued to parish-hop until October when I found my way back to the TLM offered here in Cincinnati, and this time, I couldn't stay away. I began talking to everyone I could find about it, reading all I could, and learning about what I was missing all these years. In the year since, the TLM has become more than a vehicle for fulfilling my Sunday obligation as a Catholic, but the center of my relationship to Christ & His Church. I often wonder why in the post-conciliar state of confusion in the Church that more people have not found their way to this gem of our Catholic faith. That question of why has caused me to dive even deeper to find the root of our current state. 

This is why I'm here. I thank God every day for his Mercy in leading me on this journey, and I am eternally grateful to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI for the most significant step to date in shepherding the Church back toward its roots in Sacred Tradition through the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum. I look forward to the continuation of my journey in the same direction of true unity with Christ & His Church. 


To Whom Is The Priest Showing The Blessed Host?
     I grew up in parishes where Mass was said facing the congregation, or versus populum.  For the last three years-- thanks to God, and my pastor-- I've been able to pray Mass ad orientem. This is the traditional way for Holy Mass to be prayed; with priest and people praying eastward, in the same direction. Christians never prayed the Mass any other way until recently. Many priests I know have said that their prayer is much more fruitful when they pray Mass traditionally this way, and it certainly is for me.

     It is a bit crazy, but something that I've read about all my life only recently struck me while praying Mass. We all know that the Mass is a prayer said in The Holy Spirit, through The Son, to the Father, right? I'm so obtuse.
     To Whom is the priest showing the host when he elevates Him at consecration? I've always known that the Canon of the Mass is specifically addressed to the Father, but this question never occurred to me before. I guess I always just sub-consciously experienced the elevation at consecration as the priest showing us the host, so that we might adore The Real Presence of Jesus. Growing up, I was put in the habit of making a silent prayer of adoration. And being the militant that I am, as a teenager I always felt it an occasion to affirm our Catholic faith contra Luther's revolutions. I've read traditional latin Mass missalettes that said so in the margins.

     But a few weeks ago, praying Mass with the priest ad orientem, it struck me that that isn't what's happening. The Host wasn't being shown to me; The Son was being shown to The Father!
     I can't believe: reading about the Mass year after year, and it only just now 'clicked'.

     And my Father had never felt so present during Mass. This force unseen among the dome, brooding in the shadows of the raredo.

     Of course, we should always adore The Blessed Sacrament, and no less when He is elevated at consecration. It was just that for the first time so fully I felt The Someone to Whom the moment was given.

     It's later, at the Ecce Agnus Dei, that Jesus is shown specifically to us.

     Not in the moment of elevation at consecration, though.

     Then it was my pastor, chasuble lifted like a royal train, like an Apostle blown in the wind of Pentecost, showing The Father the white Host. It was witnessing the reunion of a father and his son. The Father was so proud, and there was a comraderie. The Father's recognition of His son, as though spied at a distance, and His pride, was sensible.

     It was not that I felt inconsequential, but I knew that I had to let them, The Father and Son, have this moment. It was for us to quietly hold Him up, and let them see each other.

Ecce Sacerdos Magnus: Thank you, Bishop Bruskewitz

      Last week, Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz retired from the see of Lincoln, Nebraska. The new bishop there will be Bishop James Conley. His Excellency Bishop Conley sounds like he will be an epicly fantastic Episcopus and Pontifex. He was a student of the great John Senior, who was an humanities professor at the University of Kansas, and a colossus of Catholic culture.

     I would just like to put down my two cents about His Excellency Bishop Bruskewitz.

Ecce Sacerdos Magnus

     When I was fourteen, my family moved from South Carolina to Omaha, Nebraska. I started my freshman year at the Jesuit High School, Creighton Preparatory. I had home-schooled with the Seton program for eighth grade, and had been in Department of Defense schools all my life before that. My family had always been ardently Catholic, very involved in parish life, and devout at home, but this was my first real experience of 'Catholic Schools'.

     My intro-to-Catholic-theology teacher was a woman who claimed to have an interdenominational ministerial license obtained on the internet. She was a member of Call to Action, and used their materials in her course. She showed us the film, In The Name of The Rose to teach us about Church history. She once, in class, discussing the diversity of 'styles' in the Church, used me publicly as an example of 'the orthodox' style, which, 'focused on dogma and law', and contrasted that to her own style, which was more free-thinking. Unfortunately she was also our "sex-ed" teacher; a course in which she collaborated with a lay teacher who later "came out" while being allowed to give a homily at an all-school Mass. Around this time, I first heard of Bishop of Bruskewitz when he excommunicated anyone in his diocese who was affiliated with Call to Action.

     Bishop Bruskewitz EXCOMMUNICATED someone! This was beyond imagining to liberals who were still more than willing to ostracize a teenage boy in a religion class.
     My teacher did not like Bishop Bruskewitz. Some of the waves from his indictment of Call to Action, which rippled into surrounding dioceses like ours, was that Creighton Prep asked my teacher to no longer use Call to Action materiel in her courses. This bold, almost Inquisitional stroke didn't stop her from using charts and graphs in slide-shows in which you could clearly read, "copyright Call to Action" at the bottom. Not "teaching" the content of these papers, she would silently make them available, in case we wanted statistics to support our desires for married priests, a 'grass-roots' church with a pie-chart, rather than pyramidal, style, or license for any carnal experiment a high schooler could conjure.

    I had grown up on military bases, in DOD schools. I was friends with protestants and Catholics of any race and background. Our base chapel had very active Catholic and protestant communities, and since it was the eighties and nineties, I'm sure it was theologically 'diverse'. All of us, it seemed, lacked any awkward self-consciousness about any of this. It was in this Jesuit school that I can first remember being put on the defensive over my Catholic faith. I had never really been alienated from others because of my religion before. I had been far more at home with the protestants and Catholics of my childhood than I ever was at Creighton Prep, because at Prep, while for the most part they did not hate the Faith, they did not love it.

     Contrary to popular propaganda, it is not 'orthodoxy' that forms young men and women into antagonism, militancy, and polemic. It's not really 'liberalism' that does this either.
     It is lack of fatherhood and motherhood that forms young men and women into antagonism. That alienates them. Love is awakened in a child not when truths are presented to him, but when the vicars of truth are present with him. A prideful mind might love truth, but a soul being made whole loves its vicars.

    The problem with Creighton Prep was, yes, it's heresies. But fundamentally it was its lack of fatherhood. We had no leader in Charity. There were teachers and clergy, yes, who were good teachers and priests, but no one confronted the culture in our school that was directionless, divisive, scattering, that is, diabolical.

     Pope John Paul II was, to me, an unquestionably steadfast fighter for tradition and orthodoxy, but as for the immediate Church, here in the U.S., things were bleak. Isolated priests had to work in the catacombs-- hunted and martyred by the USCCB. The old monsignor who married my parents, and adhered to the traditional Mass after Vatican II, was exiled to the desert of New Mexico, and died, alone and exhausted in his vegetable garden. Priests who preached the Faith were shuffled from parish to parish to mitigate any offense the affluent urbanites might take.

     As far as I could tell, it was Bishop Bruskewitz, and later, Archbishop Elden Curtiss, my own bishop in Omaha, who were fathers among bureaucrats.

     It might be easy for us in two thousand and twelve to forget the nineties. Things today are hoppin! We've got the motu proprio and seminarians who are psychologically healthy! Seminary formators who are men, not inverts.

     In nineteen ninety five, Nebraska was to America what Ireland was to Europe in the Dark Ages. People all over the country knew who Bruskewitz and Curtiss were. They were hated by the editors of the newspapers in Prep's library-- all of which I read-- "U.S. Catholic," "Commonweal," "America", and, "The National Catholic Reporter." Lincoln and Omaha were growing in priestly vocations, young guys who looked up to Archbishop Curtiss and Bishop Bruskewitz, and not just because they taught what was becoming trendy under Pope John Paul II, that is, 'orthodoxy', but because they were fathers, leaders of men and leaders in Charity.

     Today it's too easy for us to act as though tradition and orthodoxy are a given. We're standing on the shoulders of giants like Bruskewitz. You might say, "oh so he founded a little seminary? his seminarians wore cassocks? What's the big deal?" But in nineteen ninety five this registered on the Richter scale! Their seminarians WORE CASSOCKS SOMETIMES. Do not forget, today, how disgusting this was to so many bishops! The Nebraska bishops believed in liturgy! That they thought there were objective standards to which priests should adhere in saying Mass was tantamount, to the teachers at my school, to burning a witch at a stake.

     Bruskewitz was a true bishop of the Vatican II reforms by spearheading the institution of men as acolytes for his diocese. While the reform of minor orders after the council wasn't very clear, in Lincoln Bruskewitz avoided the haphazard and ill considered way in which it was done in most places. Opening up minor orders to laymen was a good reform by Pope Paul, and I always admired Bishop Bruskewitz for being a defender and pastor of true organic tradition.

     The Church in the U.S. is pretty solidly pro-life today, and very vocal-- Thank God. Lest we get complacent, it pays sometimes to remember that even 15 years ago this was not so. Even that recently, the USCCB was maliciously weak in defending unborn life. Bishops Bruskewitz and Curtiss spoke out with passion in defense of unborn children. They prayed publicly at abortion clinics! This was epic for nineteen ninetyfive. It made young men revere them, and want the Faith they had. To serve the God of these men.

     Looking back now, it might seem to you: ho-hum. It seems insane today, that they were so remarkable, but Bruskewitz and Curtiss believed in something, and that was a paradigm shift. They loved the Faith! They weren't encouraging us with vacuities, like, "follow your dreams!". Even holier, they weren't demanding personal loyalty. In being courageous, they were demanding loyalty not to themselves,  but of themselves!
     They were demanding that those who make claims upon Christ, namely, Christians, be faithful to Him and His claims upon them. They made young men want to follow them to God. They were the Bravehearts of the American episcopacy.

     Bruskewitz became hated, the boogeyman of the heretics. They mocked and despised him, but it all seemed to bounce off his armor, or fly over his head. I can't remember him ever getting bogged down by countenancing the pettiness of envious liberals.

      Curtiss, too, was hated by the liberals of Omaha. The Omaha World Herald formed a lasting hostility to him, trying to dog his heels, and turn his people against him. They both were impervious to it. I think this was at the heart of what made them so inspiring to the faithful: they preached Christ, and Him crucified. They weren't about personal loyalty to themselves, although they were loyal to their seminarians. I really think this is what the liberals, to their loss, missed about these two bishops: to those who were loyal to God, they, mighty bishops that they were, were utterly loyal. They were loyal to each person entrusted to their care by their God. They didn't shirk their responsibilities by flattering us, but they never judged us, either. To judge is to seperate, and they never were anything but loyal to their people.

     They were inexorable, sometimes subtle, sometimes hard, but always with this inexorability.

     It wasn't until about ninety ninety-nine that The Holy Father seemed to be having an effect on seminary vocations, and the "JPII" generation of seminarians began. Some seminaries jumped on the bandwagon and marketed themselves as 'pretty conservative'. But in the early and mid nineties things, to me, looked pretty bad. Creighton Prep and the USCCB were the banal face of our persecutors.

     Most of these 'pretty conservative' seminaries were not. I went to one. But when bandwagon conservatives turned tail and played the bureaucrat, Archbishop Elden Curtiss was fiercely loyal. He purged the temple. I know personally of so many times in which he protected and fathered his seminarians and stood against worldly, even evil, men.

     Although I'm not one of his seminarians anymore, and I have a new home and a new diocese, I still love Archbishop Curtiss. I'm sure Bruskewitz's seminarians feel the same about him. Life is so contingent, who can say what would have happened? But I feel sure that I could have lost my faith, in a very dark time, without that Vicar of Christ, my bishop, Elden Curtiss. He wasn't a perfect bishop, but he was our bishop. He was on our side, and he wanted the Church safe, and us safe in heaven. Christ gives us each specific and therefore rare opportunities to stand up for Him, and for me, in my life, it was my chance to be a seminarian for Archbishop Curtiss.

     St. Catherine of Siena, in writing to the Pope, addressed him as, "Dad." I have always felt that way about Archbishop Curtiss, but of course he never would've let us call him that. Not even "The ABC" as we seminarians called him with honor, amongst ourselves.

    Bishops today, if they need us to follow them, would do well to learn from Bruskewitz. Protect our Church! Let the laity do politics, let us raise money! You must be Bravehearts like Bruskewitz.

     Thank God for these great men. Oh, thank God for Bruskewitz and Curtiss. Thank you, Bishops, for standing up for us when the graces given us were being squandered by bureaucrats. Thank you for letting the greatness of The Father be present in you, for being men, helping us to be men. Thank you for being our fathers.


Liturgy At Home: Revise Your Culture
     Many Christians today, particularly Catholics, are working to build healthy local economies.  This work must, of course, begin with an orthodox parish and with faith-filled families, but this work will also provide the foundation necessary to keep that orthodoxy, faith, and health sustainable.  Work towards a healthy local community and economy will rebuild and foster orthodoxy and faith, and it is that orthodoxy and faith that will make the economy sustainable.  They sustain each other!  Many Catholics are looking for an alternative to the mainstream political dualism of today’s American society (I say “society” rather than “culture” because while people in America still associate, I’m not sure we still cultivate).  Catholics longing and working for a more humane economy, for a stronger parish community identity; Catholics attempting a philosophical articulation of personal freedom and responsibility, and a politics founded on sound anthropology need to turn again to our history, our Scriptures, and our social doctrines.  We need, almost from scratch, to re-learn and re-live a “Catholic Culture”.  
     To revive a Catholic Culture, it is necessary to first understand what a “Catholic culture” is.  Let us look at what “Catholic Culture” means, and at its character.  To do so, we will first look at the meaning of the word culture, in general.  Then we will look at what the Scriptures reveal to us about a truly human culture. Finally we will look at what makes a Catholic Culture unique, namely, its centeredness on The Incarnation. In other words, we will see how a Catholic Culture is a culture of Sacraments, and of the sacramentality of all creatures, all work, and all worship. 
     To understand what “culture” is, we can begin by looking at history. Let’s take as our starting point the origin of the word itself. “Culture” is the activity of the “cult”.  Perhaps it would be better to put it: “Culture” is “cult-work”. Cult is a Latin word, and has a very rich meaning.[1]  To the Latin speakers,Cultus meant “devotion”, and culture would be “the work of devotion.”  But to really understand the depth of this word, you must look even further at its root. Cultus is part of the verb colere that means, “to till the soil.”  Its root was an Indo-European word, qwell, which meant, “to turn around,” or “to cycle.”  For those who spoke this language—from central Asia, through the Mediterranean, into Europe, qwell meant primarily the cycle of work upon the land.  For nomads, this was the cyclical movement upon a particular land, moving according to the seasons, and drawing a living from this land. For settled peoples, it meant the work of drawing a living from a more specific piece of land, namely their farms.  In either case, it came to mean even more: the accumulation of living that became a way of life, knowing how to live, and to live here specifically. Cultus in this fuller sense, beginning with the practical work of drawing a living from the land, came to mean “nurturing” or “serving/stewarding” this place.  The families that lived from the land did not simply live on it, but in it. To continue to live there, they had to care for it, so that it would continue to provide them with food and a home. 
      To understand this gradual flowering-- this increasing depth of colere beginning in “tilling” and becoming “nurturing”-- it helps to look at a related Latin word, Conserere, which also means, “to till.” Conserere, like colere grew into a more complex meaning that was not merely the practical activity of plowing and sowing seeds, but the entire activity of bringing a place into harmony.  Conserere came to mean “to entwine” and “to join”.  It is the origin of our word, “concert.”  The families in a place did not merely draw food from the land, they inhabited it, they were part of it, they joined it, just as in a concert, each sound joins, becomes enmeshed with, and is identified by the work of music. Just so, colere came to mean, “to inhabit”.[2]
     The families of this place became identified by their land—literally as they were named for this particular mountain, or river, etc., and eventually as they were named for the house from whence they came. The land, in turn, was identified, you might say, personified by them. From their long encounter with this particular place, with this particular, animal, plant, hill, tree, river, rock, etc., they drew a knowledge of its name, and, drawing out that name, gave it back to the thing. Their relationship with the things in the place, and the place as a whole, revealed the personality of the place, and the things.  The struggle to extract a living from the place revealed to the families that this place had a “mind of its own”, a personality.  For example, in ancient England began the tradition of wassailing, in which the family would process, carrying a bowl of hot cider, and singing, to the eldest tree in the orchard, and there make toasts to it, in gratitude for the harvest, and in hopes that it next year would be equally fruitful. 
     Now, psychologists of today are likely to say that humans, in a search for meaning, personified inanimate objects. Of course, many of these scientists also end up saying that we similarly personify ourselves, and at the end of the day, we’re all equally inanimate.  But that’s a discussion for another day. Sufficient for our purposes here is the fact that ancient peoples did see personalities in their land, in their trees, rivers, and animals.  The practical tilling and nurturing of the farm was of course the bulk of daily life.  However, it was the spiritual relationship with the farm as a personality, and the nurturing of that relationship that became the center and heighth of their life.  In ancient Rome, for example, each farm household had its household gods, the gods and goddesses of the hearth, of the center of the home.  Household religion began with these gods.  The gods, the personalities, the “souls” you might say, of this piece of land, took care of the farm.  The families, in turn, took care of them.  With their gods, who were the very souls of the land, farm, and home, the families colebant  and conserebant; the families worked with, nurtured, and joined with the gods. Thus colere came to mean “devotion,” and cultus was the “work of devotion.” This work of devotion began in the daily life of the family with the practical, particular tasks of the household and the farm and the town, with nurturing, devoted reinvestment in the soil, plants, livestock, and people. This work was joined with the gods throughout, and culminated in a specific devotion to them.
     Now in a moment we will take a deeper look at the meaning of “joining with” and “inhabiting” that can be found in cultus.  In doing so we will see what is unique about a Catholic culture.  But first, having taken this look at the ancient roots of “culture”, let’s take a look at what the Creation Story in the Book of Genesis tell us about culture.
     Now, there is so much to the Creation story that obviously I cannot mention every point. I have chosen some points on which to focus here, but don’t think I’m intending to reduce The Story to these points.  I’m not even maintaining that these points are the central points of The Story.  I do think these points are there in the Creation Story, and that by looking at God’s creation of Adam, we can see what made the Hebrew, and later the Christian culture unique.
     In the first creation account in Genesis, God gives the human person the name Adam.  This Hebrew word has three meanings; “bloody soil,” “the first of the blood,” and, “the face of the earth.” Adam is created out from, but also with, and therefore in earth.  The word Adam is composed of the lettersaleph and dam.  Aleph is the first letter of the alphabet, and means “the first,” or “the head”.  Dammeans blood.  So its clear that blood is central to being Adam.  He is animated soil.  God created man by making soil come alive.    Let me give you an analogy from nature that might help us understand just what God is doing here. Hopefully it helps, and isn’t just distracting!
     Healthy soil is already almost an organism with a balance of bacteria, fungi, minerals, and dead organic matter. However, it awaits the light of the sun to become grass.  As grass consumed by an animal, the soil becomes fully alive.  It is in animals, you might say, that soil becomes alive as blood.  It’s interesting that if you study soil biology you learn that the chemical balance of healthy soil is the same as that of healthy blood.  Blood, as you gardeners know, is the best soil amendment because of this balance.  So returning blood back to the soil makes it healthier.  Also, you gardeners know that in composting, it makes for a healthier soil if you turn it over periodically to inject air into it, to let it breath, so to speak.   Now this is not the same as God’s creation of Adam, but is, I think, related, and I hope as an analogy it sheds some light on God’s creation of Adam.
But back to the word Adam.  God then breathes life into this soil, and Adam now exists. As “bloody soil,” Adam is the heighth of the inanimate world. Being “the head of the bloody”, Adam is the heighth of the animate, i.e. animal world.  But it is in breathing into his mouth that God makes Adam, Adam.  He is not merely a soul, but is spiritual, for he can now speak, and is charged with speaking the proper names of things, i.e. the truth.  It is in his ability to name that Adam shows his nearness to divinity. As Psalm 8 says, God made man “little less than a god.”  Adam names the animals, but they do not reveal to him his own name, and he is lonely, without an identity. So God creates the woman, and it is only then that Adam is truly Adam, i.e. can fully exercise his ability to name, and to really be living in the place, to be at home.  The man and woman colebant and conserebant the Garden and the animals, i.e. they nurtured and joined-in with all of the creatures (even the soil). 
     It is in the meaning of Adam as “the face of the earth” that the word finds its full depth.  Adam, having drawn out the personalities of the animals and named them, and in concert with them in the garden, can turn to God as the speaker for Creation.  It is Adam alone who can speak to God on behalf of all creatures, and ask God to join (conserere) them, and ask that God allow all creatures to join with Him. In other words, Adam does not merely have a cultus of soil and a cultus of animals, mountains, rivers, and stars.  He does not merely pray to the personalities of the animals, hills, rivers, and trees, and sun.  He is not merely the head of the inanimate (the soil), and the animate (the animals).  Adam’s cultus is not merely to nurture his farm into life, and to keep it living, nor is it merely to relate to the gods of earthly life, of food, and land, and constellations.  Adam does not merely steward the lives of those in his care, but cultivates the truth.[3]
     Adam’s natural cultus, then, his “work of devotion,” inherently led the natural into the supernatural.  As St. Thomas Aquinas says, “grace perfects nature.”  Adam’s cultus was to nurture all creatures, joined with (conserere[4]) himself, into their supernature.  In naming the creatures, in speaking the truth of things, Adam continually kept present his creation by God, because the nature of his ability to speak presupposed the existence of God, whom you might say is the ultimate namer of names, the Truth.  Herein lies the singular grace that distinguishes the Hebrew culture from the common culture we see in the words colere and conserere.  Genesis reveals man at his very foundation equipped by God to lead all creatures into concert, through the harmony of truth, with God.  He was created fundamentally able to have a cultus that succeeded in joining with God, and inhabiting (colere) his land.  He would do so by nurturing the truth among creatures, by bringing them in cultus to God.  In other words-- and perhaps I have postponed saying this too long—Adam’s cultus, his work in the Garden, his home-life with Eve, his making a livelihood (which was pretty easy, since he just had to pick fruit!), was naturally supernatural. You might say he was not just religious on Sundays! His cultus was also inherently liturgical. That Adam’s work was conserere, i.e. to “join” God with His creatures, and that his work was liturgical shows Adam as inherently priestly. 

      Now, really quickly let’s look at the word “liturgy”.  It is the English form of the Greek word, leitourgeia which means a “work of devotion done on behalf of others.” Adam’s cultus was inherently liturgical because, as head of all creatures, and of his home, his work of devotion was done on behalf others.  As the “face of the earth”-- speaking for all creatures, and representing them to God-- he was being asked by God to be the world’s priest, joining them with God.[5]  The Scriptures show us, then, a cultus that is liturgical, with Adam a priest.  Its great distinction from the pagan cultus is that Adam’s priestly offering is his own obedience and patient shepherding.  In the pagan cultus, the head of the household, or the city priests, would sacrifice the lives of animals in order to restore justice and attempt to bring things back into concert with the gods.  Adam’s only sacrifice was that of a patient and obedient shepherd of creatures, who was asked to sacrifice his pride.  Through humbly identifying himself with his animals, with his piece of land, they could cultivate and inhabit (colere) each other, and he could bring them into a life (a concert) with God.  United by his flesh to the soil, by his blood to his animals, and by his ability to speak, to God, Adam is bonded to his world. That is to say, he is at home.  Bonded to his house, he is fundamentally a husband, or as the Old English origin has it, a husbondsman.  He is not just head of all creatures, but under a bond of debt not to “forget where he came from.”  The cultus revealed in Genesis is one in which the priest sacrifices himself, taking the form of a servant. 

     In his Fall, Adam abandoned this task.[6].  Adam’s usurpation of God’s authority and vocation introduced falsehood into a world that formerly had been united in truth.  God had entrusted the truth to Adam. Instead of finding his godlike status in the careful exercise of his divine trust, Adam saw divinity “something to be grasped at.” This central perversion of his most essential task—to nurture the truth and to nurture all things with the truth—put man at war with all creatures, and with himself.  Adam’s fundamental abandonment of his task to nurture the truth of things has given us all a constant tendency to see things not as they are. Adam no longer saw creatures in terms of living with them, incorporating himself into their lives.  He no longer could see himself as living with God, with whom he was now at odds regarding his basic role in the world. No longer living with God, he could no longer incorporate other creatures, the natural world, into his life with God, and so fulfill his priestly and redemptive task.  Rather, he tended to see himself as the measure of all things, and reduce all things to his own use, ordered around himself.  Tragically, in usurping God’s authority, Adam lost what divinity he already had.
     Jesus Christ, Our Lord, is the New Adam. However, while Adam was only the “first” (aleph), Our Lord is both the first, and the last (the omega).  Our Lord completes what was begun in Adam, He does not replace it—He is the last and the first.  He incorporates all that could be said about Adam as he was created, but rather than falling, Our Lord completes the cycle (the race, the circuit).  Remember the root of the verb colere is “to turn around,” and “to cycle”. He restores all creatures, all time, all seasons toward the truth.  The most beautiful thing about Him, is that because He humbled Himself to become man, in ordering all things back to the truth, He ordered all things back to man.[7]  He restored all things to Himself, but did not take them away from us.  We are once more, when in Christ, equipped to be Adam.  As Adam, we are the earth capable of praying.  The New Adam teaches us how to pray.  He explains His cultus, His work of devotion to His Father.

     We hallow God’s name—we do not usurp authority over our own nature, nor over God’s.  God has revealed His name, and it is Immanuel and Jesus, which means that in “inhabiting our land” and “joining with” us (conserere) God “sends salvation”, i.e. conseret ipse in nobis.  He brings all things back into harmony like a farmer.  As the Psalm says, God becomes our cultus, our “piece of tilled land” because He alone is our “portion and cup,” the “lot marked out for me.”   As He has put down roots in us, we must put down roots in God. 
     Immanuel, Our Lord, is His Kingdom come, and His Will done on earth as in heaven. He is Our Daily Bread, in which soil, wheat, fruit and water are brought to their fullness in Christ’s Sacramental Body, and with which we can choose to join.  The Blessed Sacrament is His Kingdom on earth because in it Jesus begins His work of cultivating the natural into the supernatural.  In it soil, wheat, fruit and water find their glory in becoming the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus.  God humbles himself to reveal that He and bread share the same accidents.
     While the work in the Kingdom is shared, the laborer’s hire, his place in the world, his personality, and the authority and responsibility proper to each person must not be trod upon. We pray, “and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  But Adam’s sin was to usurp what was proper to God.  It was God’s responsibility; it was proper-to Him to tell man who he is.  The truth is God’s property, and we must not trespass upon it, but may inhabit it, because we are invited. Adam’s responsibility was to take care of this property, to nurture and cherish it, and to bring all creatures to graze upon it. This is our proper dignity, but just as God forgave us for trespassing upon his dignity, we must forgive those who usurp what is proper-to us, and those who trample on our dignity as God’s heirs, and His brothers. 
     Finally, in asking to be shielded from “the test,” and from “evil,” we are not asking to be spared suffering!  Rather, we are asking that Christ protect what he has restored in us: the ability to do as He does, i.e. work with the world, and for its redemption, rather than return to usurping the truth as we did with Fallen Adam.
     Just as the pagans have their common culture, as seen in the words colere and conserere, and just as Adam had his even fuller culture, the New Adam, Our Lord, has His culture.  Christ’s culture is a culture of Sacraments.  He takes up the common culture, takes up what was neglected by Adam, and makes it bear fruit.  His culture should be our culture. It is the cultus of the New Adam, rooted incolere, growing more full in Adam, and restored and brought to flower in Immanuel, who as the Psalm says is our little piece of land to be at home in, and who is, as Jesus says in the Gospel of John, the son of a farmer.  God is both cultus and cultivator.  We share with him the work of nurturing the world, and protecting truth. We devoutly care for Him, and He devoutly cares for us.  He has been at home in the hills of Galilee, and is Sacramentally present in the hills of the Laughery Valley.  This presence equips us to live in His home in the “everlasting hills.”  Beginning in our homes here, in this particular place, raising our children, and growing our crops, we learn how to return to the House of God, raising the Christ Child, and growing the crop that The Body of Christ. 
     A Catholic cultus is centered on the Truth.  This nurturing of truth is taught us in Christ’s Sacramental Presence in the Blessed Sacrament, and in His primary work in the Sacrifice of The Mass.  However, it is present throughout the practical life of a Catholic culture.  Praying with Christ in the Mass, we return to the vocation of Adam to nurture the truth, to chase after it, to consume it with affection.

Father Gregor Mendel
Dr. Louis Pasteur
     Catholic culture has always first loved learning, learning about the natural world so as to more fully love the supernatural.  In a Catholic culture we will always passionately encourage and pursue learning.  The greatest universities in Europe were the products of the Catholic culture and its passion for study.
     This love of truth will always strengthen justice, because to know the truth about something enables us to give it its due.  To know the truth about our neighbor, for example—that he too has an immortal soul—fills us with compassion for him.  Knowing that he works alongside us in a common endeavor, and is a fellow sacrificer for Christ—will help motivate us to ensure that what is proper to him is respected.  His responsibilities will be protected and encouraged, and the payment due him for his work will be sacred.  This is the foundation for a Catholic economics.
     We are motivated to learn the truth about everything, about our neighbors—although not in nosy-ness, and never in gossip, but rather by living, working, and worshipping with them.
Flannery O'Connor
     The love of truth will inspire some to express it in art.  Art is a way of taking a natural thing and showing its truth, which for fallen man can be hard to see.  It can show that the mind does sense truth, even if it cannot be expressed in words. You might say that Art is proof that truth is not reducible to the five senses, and that the mind is as much a faculty for reality as any of the senses.  Art draws out the goodness of things, which helps overcome our fallen temptation to doubt.  Art inspires us to reverence the beauty of something, which helps heal our fallen tendency to order all things towards ourselves.
     In a Catholic culture music is paramount. Our look at the word conserere should have helped us guess that!  Music is part of the work of nurturing, of farming, which is the foundation of all the work men do, even if once removed.  Farming, husbanding, i.e. nourishing a household in the natural and supernatural world in which it is at home, is to live in concert.  To harmonize all things.  In the home, far from limiting individuality and creativity, this concert creates a world in each singer, each member can excel.  While this imagery has many wider applications, it is important that music be understood as central to the human being, and to the human way of life.  People ought to make music!  Speaking the truth in song is the highest manner in which man can use the breath given to him by God because it speaks the truth in words, but in a medium that does not diminish the wilderness that is the untamed mystery of his spiritual soul.
    The purpose, the harvest, of a culture defines it. For the Catholic, it is the inviolability of each person, in other words, truth, and specifically the truth Incarnate, the Person of Jesus Christ, that defines his culture.  The best of pagan cultures had as their purpose the perpetuation of the family, the farm, and the city.  This they have in common with the Catholic. The modern pagan cultures have as their purpose the protection of rights, property, wealth, or people[8].  This they have in common, too, with Catholics.  However, Catholic culture does not center on these abstractions. As noble as they are, they remain abstractions.  Catholic culture focuses on a person.  It is the only truly person-centered culture because it is actually centered on a person, not on a concept of person, or of “human rights”, etc.  To have a truly person-centered culture, you must actually center on specific persons today. You cannot do that by establishing systems that protect property rights, or common welfare and security, though these things may or may not be practical things to do.  The defining focus of the Catholic culture is on the Person Jesus Christ, living with Him, and working next to Him. 
     As the farmer of a soul, Christ, like the household gods of the pagans, will imbue a body and soul with his personality. He will name it, as the pagan farmers named their land, their hills, their household gods. The person will become, as the Psalm says, “little less than a god,” which is to say, a saint.  By making Jesus Christ the head of our work as a family and as a community, we will let Him cultivate his personality in that work.  Along with him we will nurture the others in the household.
     To do this, we must return to a sacramental understanding of creation.  We must nourish the soil with blood, Adam with Immanuel.   We must begin and end our work with the sacraments of Christ.  We must cycle back and forth to them, cultivating the rest of the field, our daily life, as we go.  Monastic reformers such as St. Benedict succeeded in building a humane economy because their love for the natural world was imbued with a recognition of its supernatural dignity, i.e. a recognition of its sacramentality.  Modern reformers who seek a return to a culture of respect for the natural dignity of soil, water, animals, and human beings, will succeed if they remain centered on the Sacraments that are the greatest elevation of these creatures.[9] 

     Sensing the sacramental character of things is to sense the supernatural life within them right now, breathed into them by their creation by God, and their redemption by Christ.  This dignity is not projected by the minds of men, but is the property of the thing, rooted in the Will of God.  All this is to say: truth is not the property of men, but is their responsibility.  We are its stewards, not its creators.  We must love truth, which in today’s world will primarily be challenged by a moral relativism that denies the very ability to speak coherently.  We must always see things as Christ sees them; our fellow creatures as living beings, not machines to be manipulated; our fellow men as immortal souls, not machines or “the majority” to be manipulated; our selves as immortal souls, little gods, not machines to be manipulated; Christ as a living person, and our liturgy with him as a living relationship, not something to be manipulated.
     Practically speaking, we must start living in the land, where our house is.  We must, economically speaking, work as much as we can with our neighbors, rather than with indifference to them, or even against them.  We must encourage these central parts of life that history and Scripture show to be essential to a healthy human life: wholesome work, learning, art, and music.  But we must never kid ourselves that these humane activities are sufficient themselves to preserve and nurture culture. Without the animating Presence of Jesus Christ in our midst, our communities and culture will follow the rise-and-fall cycle of the pagan cultures before it.  As the Psalm says, “If The Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders labor.” 

[1]One of the most important things to consider in coming to understand Catholic Culture is the profound depth of her language. Cultures accumulate great richness of words over history. The Catholic Church literally thinks and speaks in a language that is rooted in the origins of the human race that continues in the Indo-European family that spans Asia, Arabia, the Mediterranean basin, and Europe. To really think, and thus live as a Christian, is to form your mind in the atmosphere of this history. This is why the Church preserves, among other things, the Latin language.
[2] For example, the English word, “colony” is derived from colere
[3] It is clear that the pagan gods preserved man only in his physical life, by continuing to make the land produce and the sky to rain.  But they were just as violent and deceitful as man himself, and did not preserve the truth for man. All the above the Hebrew revelation has in common with the pagan culture we saw in the words colere and conserere.  However, it is in the meaning of Adam as the face of the earth, higher than the personas (the gods) of creation, with the ability to speak the truth, that Hebrew culture was singularly graced.  The ancient Greeks knew that Truth was higher than all the gods, but did not believe that man was able to join with and be inhabited by it. 

[4] Keep in mind that conserere, like colere initially means “to plant” or “to till”, and incorporating this, most fully means “to join with”
[5] the work of “joining with” is part of being a pontifex as well as a cultivator
[6] God had entrusted him with making a household within this land, with his animals, and his wife. God even, as Genesis says, graced the farm by visiting it every afternoon. But Adam and Eve, following Satan, judged the name God had given them, and judged the proper relations, the harmonious concert of the place.  God had given them the authority over all creatures. Perhaps you could even argue that he allowed man to assist in determining the truth of the natural world (I do not, but scientists do). However, man was never capable of determining the truth about himself, and he presumed to do so, usurping an authority—nay a talent cherished by The Father—to name himself.  When God asked him to tell him what the situation was, Adam did not name it as it really was. In other words, he lied. This ruptured creation in two, by placing the entire cosmos between Adam and God. Adam now lived in the shadow cast by all of creation, and a world of easy confusion and crime.  This might be why veiling and unveiling were central symbols afterwards, with the first veil being over their nakedness, and circumcision being a first move towards radical unveiling, among other things.
[7] Contemporary pagans, at best, do not order all things towards the human person. Rather they, particularly Socialists, orient the individual towards all things.  The individual finds solace in knowing that though he is fodder, it is fodder for progress. He is never justified in himself, but in the Whole, which is small consolation to a creature with a potency for eternal life that cannot be ignored.
[8] As in Capitalism and Socialism
[9] Remember that The Church in her prayers speaks of “Creature Oil”, “Creature Salt”, etc.  She preserves a recognition of the humble quasi-personality of all things, a “personality” rooted in the care-taking of their “husband” Adam.