Saint Tisquantum, Save The Calvinists One More Time!

   The holiday of Thanksgiving began, as we all know, when the Pilgrims at their colony of Plymouth were saved from a death-by-starvation. They were saved by the heroic virtue of a native man whom they called "Squanto".  I motion that this man, whose real name is Tisquantum, be put up for canonization!

   Here is Tisquantum's hagiography:
Born providentially on the feast of The Circumcision of Our Lord, in 1592, Tisquantum was still a young man when he was brutally abducted and sold into slavery by English speculators.  These shrewd laissez-faireans took him to Spain, where miraculously he was rescued, bought out of bondage, by Catholic priests.

Tisquantum must have been deeply moved by the Spanish priests-- either his prudence or his affections, or both, illuminated by grace-- because he asked for baptism into their faith. He was baptised into the Catholic Church in anno Domini 1614.

Tisquantum longed to return to his home and his Patuxet people. His fidelity to them held strong through long years of journeying. He eventually took work on an English trading ship in order to return home across the ocean.

When he returned home he found that his family, his village, and many of his people were dead. His home had been destroyed by a plague-- smallpox-- brought by the English who had already handed him so much suffering. Tisquantum must have known what it meant to hate.

To forgive his abductors, those who had wronged him personally, must have been hard enough. However, we can speculate that his baptism must have greatly aided in the strengthening of his heart and his ability to make peace.
To forgive wrongs done to one's self is far easier than to forgive the evils and hurts done to those we love. To have fought his hate so well, and to have overcome his wrath at his enemies, only to arrive home at long last and to find his mother, father, brothers, sisters, and perhaps wife and children, friends, neighbors all dead from the filth visited upon them by the same enemies must have brought Tisquantum near to despair.

Tisquantum was forced to see his home, where surely he had memories of boisterous lively Patuxet children singing, of hunting with his father and brothers, of walking with his wife, now emptied. Emptied to be filled by English colonists.

However, in 1621 when Tisquantum found the English colonists bereft, dying, filthy, and sick, he befriended them. He took them under his wing. He softened his heart to them in their folly, their stupid, prudenceless folly, and rescued them. He taught them how to build a sustainable village, to work the land.

Did the Calvinists think to thank their Catholic friend? Did the heralds of the Industrial Revolution record any sense of irony that their salvation came at the hands of a native agrarian Roman Catholic of a foreign race? It is to their credit that the Calvinists thought to thank God, and instituted a holiday in this memory, but perhaps American history would have been better had they also thanked the blessedness of Tisquantum. Had they emulated his faith and his way of life.

Tisquantum died alone, betrayed by his own people and by the Calvinists, murdered by one side and ignored by the other, while acting as an interpreter for peace talks.

We should pray, perhaps, to our brother Tisquantum, that God will help the Catholic Church today to again teach Calvinists how to live sustainably and to live at peace; the former only possible by loving one's home, one's land, and the latter only possible by heroic charity, love, and forgiveness. Even in the face of rape, murder, pillage, and horror.

When the Calvinist beast is unleashed again in this generation, may we meet it with such fortitude, peace, and charity as did Tisquantum.


"The Restoration of Christian Culture" by John Senior

If you have been slothful in getting around to reading John Senior's books, you can take the lazy way out and click here: John Senior, Ch 2 to listen to an excerpt of his book read, in dignified and melliflous voice, by our celebrity guest reader.

The Restoration of Christian Culture is one of the best books I have ever read. The first chapter, about devotion to our parish church and love for our Blessed Mother, and the chapter on the Benedictine charism, could make one weep.

In this chapter Dr. Senior is honest, but if you can come to share in this examination of conscience, the rest of his book will lift your heart. He does not lay heavy burdens without helping to lighten them.

I hope this chapter motivates you to read this book, rather than discourages you!  This excerpt, actually, is not representative of the book. Not sure why I chose this one; it's quite depressing. The rest of the book is beautiful. Sursum corda.


Friendship School: To Have Harmony You Must First Know The Key (it's B sharp, by the way)

     Joseph Pieper has a good book called, Leisure: The Basis of Culture. I am not going to try to explain his beautiful, well-written, simply laid out work because I started out doing so on this post and realized I was needlessly multiplying entities. For now I just want to say a little about one of the parts of his book; the origin of leisure and work in our language and understanding.

     The ancient Greek word for leisure is schole, which word and idea the Romans made schola. Now most moderns are too reductionistic in their take on this idea, saying that the ancient philosophers thought leisure was merely the freedom from necessity, and that the best life was one of toga wearing wine tastings and pompous academic debating.

     Schole was indeed a matter of freedom from necessity, but it was a conversion born of reflection. It was not freedom from work, but freedom from the necessity that characterizes brutes. Animals are predetermined  without awareness. They follow nature merely. Men are capable of entering freely into their nature, and being not predetermined, but determined, so to speak. They are able to be determined. That determination starts with reflection-- turning again in thinking, in this case looking at my nature and becoming aware-- and bears fruit in conversion-- turning with my nature and joining it.

     The schole, leisure, is opposed to modernity in this. The schole is the place of discipline, which comes from the Indo-European word dek, meaning acceptance.  The schole is the home for training in acceptance of your self, your nature, that which is given to you, where you through training love the things entrusted to. Learning to know what and who you are, you can learn the way to respond to it, the way of being what you and who you are best. Schole is not obsessed with 'choice', but dedicated to learning love. And this learning takes discipline.

    Moderns vainly wish for infinite fundamental choices, as though men could be worms or rocks or unicorns or angels or gods. There are many practical choices, but only two fundamental choices: a man can be a man, himself, or he can be nothing, an innovation.

    The choice is to freely join in your nature, and "garden up the best thing in you", as Aristotle says, or to be at war with yourself and attempt all options, anything, which is indistinguishable from  nothing. Man can freely enter into himself and pursue it, and find stasis, a dynamic living peace, or he can become static-- white noise, all things, chaos, which is nothing.

    Man must recreate, not create, because recreation is to love the thing recreated, made anew. Creation is to focus on that which isn't. Man isn't capable of it, and in longing for the ability, devotes his life to nothing. Man must love what exists and renew it. He must love his self and let himself be renewed. After the initial moment of wonder, when he realizes that these are given, he loves the giver, and cherishes, husbands, preserves that given.

    Real change in this world is always death and decay. Living things do not change, they renew. There is nothing new under the sun, but things can be renewed, become themselves again.

    So reflection, perhaps sparked by a sudden gratuitous wonder, can convert a man, lead him to turn along with his nature, not against it. He is no longer natural by mere necessity, but freely. Being himself becomes his work, too, not just the work of nature. He begins to be supernatural, which is not against nature, but redeeming it, renewing, raising it up to become what it is, but cannot be without this act.

     The livelihood of the man of leisure and the brute might be for both agriculture or computer programming. However, the man of leisure is trained in freedom and is spiritual, and can thus redeem, raise up his work, to order it towards his spirit.

    Mere work, the necessities of nature, are transformed by the free undertaking of them by men. Man transforms what was brute work into a spiritual work.  What was before the drudgery of his cubicle can be redeemed by his spiritual office.

Is that all there is to it? A eureka moment and boom, it's all good? Sadly, no.  

     Leisure isn't simply a gnostic 'freeing' of labor, making work 'spirited'. Just as the labor of necessity requires training, discipline, and apprenticeship, so does leisure.  Natural work obviously always has it's matter at hand, e.g. the wood of the carpenter, or the program of the engineer. Likewise, supernatural work, spiritual work always has its matter at hand, but in leisure the man is the wood, he is the program. He is recreated. Is this a passive matter? No, just as man becomes free by entering back into his nature, and cooperating in it, so must he cooperate in his own recreation. He is not the creator of himself, but he enters into it, trains in it, disciplines in it, apprentices for it.

     In the work of the schole, the discipline of leisure, a man is trained in the redemption of work. The training makes him capable of this, but the capability is itself leisure, just one of its fruits. Leisure is born when man reflects, converts and learns to love. Leisure pursues love as man's discipline. To redeem his work, a man must allow himself to be redeemed, to be raised up. To restore, for things--wood, programs, soil, words, etc.-- to be restored by him, he must be restored-by, recreated-by, redeemed-by, raised-by.

    By Whom? Not by the schole, but in the schole.  The schole works together, and their work is contemplation, gazing with each other at That Which they love, and Who gazes, too, in wonder with them (Matt. 8:10)

    This discipline is the schole. In the schole, the work of leisure is done. Reflection leads to conversion, and conversion is preserved, renewed, in contemplation. Contemplation is a richly explanatory word, containing the ideas 'gazing with', and also that of the 'temple', 'stretching out time', and 'preserving the sacred, the sanctuary.'  I can't and needn't break this all down because Pieper has written his book! But in examining that contemplation is at the heart of leisure, we see that the schole is the home for the man and the thing he has come to love in his conversion, where he is more himself because he is with that which he loves and which recreates him. Moderns think this sounds easy, like a lazy-boy chair and an NFL game, but it is discipline, with co-workers. There are others in the schole who train you, challenge you, with whom you must harmonize. There are those with whom you have come to gaze-with. Indispensably, obviously, above all there is that which you gaze upon, which works upon you, for whom you are the matter at hand, Who is recreating you in this spiritual work with which you cooperate.

    Moderns talk plenty about harmony, humane-ity, and peace. But where do they actually learn how to do it!? It's always pretty concepts. Harmony when no one knows the key? Humane-ness while any particular human life is always negotiable? Peace where there is no place to rest, not even a church or a heaven in which to rest the mind and will. To have harmony,  you must actually have it someplace. To be humane, you must know what human life is, and when you find it, kicking inside you, you must revere it. To have peace, there must be a piece of land, a home, where the given is accepted, not despaired of. Where you can be your self, and garden up the best thing, not warring against nature, knowing nothing for certain, but at peace because there are the things for certain: nature and her supernature. Where you can rest from the wars over epistemology that start so innocuously but lead inexorably to the wars over property-- what is proper, what is harmony-- and the wars against humanity, against particular human lives.

    Leisure is the study of and the work of harmony, which is done above the work of necessity, of natural work. You could say that in labor, a man stays alive, and that the work of leisure makes that living a human life. The schole is the study of and the work of discipline in harmony. If modernity were not antithetical to the possibility of schole, we would not see so much of the economic war that characterizes modern life. Modernity denies that there is any common ground upon which a schole can work, thus reducing human work to brute necessity and competition.

    The German word for leisure, logically, is musse, from the Greek word Muse. Music is fundamental training in harmony. To renew the world of toil, begin with musical work. Music is the spiritual discipline that trains men to recreate their work, and which recreates men. It is actual harmony, unlike the chant of demagogues (there is an essential difference between monotone and recto tono).

    If only today there were sanctuaries where we in habit came together to sing, where we sang a common work, a given, handed on to us so that we could all enter in together, and in doing so, learn harmony.  If only there were sanctuaries where we joined in our chores together, where our alarm clocks reminded us not just of the necessary toil but also to turn again and again our gaze to the ever present one we love, and the things we do as love of Him. There we could apprentice in leisure, learn the discipline of freedom. If only there were sanctuaries where we could apply this freedom, love what we are given, and be at peace. There we could work in concert, not at odds, there we could really save lives, and there we could begin to have peace, because the only real peace is hospitality.

    If moderns want harmony, humane-ness, and peace, then they must cease their war on the home and the church and our traditional communities. They need to stop preaching concepts, and go to work, and not the 'go to work' of the demagogue and community organizer, but the only real practical work of freedom; discipline and the sanctuary, fidelity and the home.

    We must stop being at war with nature in our endless pursuit of novelty and creation, and learn to love our nature as a gift. Love of nature is the only way to peace, and the work of the supernatural is the discipline through which we learn to love the natural.

See God suddenly. Love Him. Accept His creation, including yourself. Join in His work, and in doing so, collaborate in your salvation, in fear and trembling, joining in the patience, the suffering redemptive toil of Christ. In patience possess your soul. Preserve your home, save the lives in it, by making it a sanctuary for God.