samedi, février 19, 2011

Nova et Vetera

"When they are arranged under these spiritual values – Nova et Vetera – , the attempts, works and institutions of men, even when they just meet a current usefulness, and satisfy a transitory need, seem to be filled with divine peace. Then, they cause an impression of order, of continuity and of stability. They are at once known and unforeseen, familiar and surprising, new and old. In their clearness, the ancient and young Beauty that made Saint Augustine so amazed – tam antiqua et tam nova – glows. And the scribe who explains them resembles a father, who brings forth out of his treasure, for the greatest joy of his family, expected but still always beautiful fineries, old but always new – Nova et Vetera (Matthew 13:52)"

Editorial of the first issue of Nova et Vetera, 1926

We have the regrettable habit to lower, to depreciate, and to reduce everything that God has made. You would tell me that it is in our nature, so what can we do? After all, it can only be this way when our finite and created human nature touches the infinite and uncreated divine essence. There is such heaviness in us that we are inevitably inclined to lowness; the law of gravity is universal. It seems that it does not concern only the matter but also the spirit and morals. We do need to rise up into the heights, so that instead of depreciating the divine realities we can be dilated by them.

Spiritual life puts us in state of weightlessness. It is the realization of the words of Saint John the Baptist: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” It allows us to be seized by Christ and to be introduced into His mansion, and not to seclude Him within our dimension as we are so inclined to do. Spiritual life is the life of Christ in men, and Christ elates those who cultivate it.

So does the Church unsurprisingly, for the very simple reason that “Our Lord and the Church are one,” according to the Maid of Orléans. What an act of faith it requires in order to understand this! What an act of charity and of humility it takes in order to accept this! The Saints show us how to understand and how to love the Church, even when the Church, or rather churchmen, make them suffer. The sentire cum Ecclesia of Saint Ignatius of Loyola truly is the practical application of the call of Jesus Christ: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) It offers us the grace of living the Beatitudes.

But again, we have the tendency to enclose the Church in our own little dimension. The Church is this subtle and harmonious combination of new and old things, Nova et Vetera. This is precisely the principle of Tradition: bringing forth out the treasure of the Revelation old and new things. On one hand, there are those who take only the Nova part. They are the innovators – but innovating is not renovating – who believe that the Church began with the Second Vatican Council. They want to make all things new, as if Jesus Christ did not do it two millennia ago before them. They have a constant and obsessive thirst for novelties that Pope Saint Pius X has well described in his Encyclical letter, Pascendi Dominici Gregis, condemning the Modernist error. Everything must be new: a new liturgy with a new Ordo of Mass, a new calendar, a new Ritual, and so forth. Even the Dogmas are not spared. “Thus the way is open to the intrinsic evolution of dogma. Here we have an immense structure of sophisms which ruin and wreck all religion,” Saint Pius X said. Ruin and wreck; this is what is usually left over after a revolution. And a revolution is usually made by revolutionaries – this is evident – whose marks are hatred and tyranny: hatred for any vestiges of the previous order that they try desperately to destroy, and tyranny toward those who are attached to this previous order. This is certainly what the future generations of Christians will remember when they look at the history of the Church in the last decades of the twentieth century. In the best case, we find among the innovators, who are not all monsters, a certain commiseration for those poor traditionalist Catholics attached to an older fashion of worshiping God that no longer adapts to the needs of our time, provided that they accept the Council. But have they read it well, those who make the Council their new Bible, and yet who have banished from the Liturgy Latin and Gregorian chant? Let us turn the page before my itching envy for sarcasm takes over!

On the other hand, we can find those who take only the Vetera part. They claim to be traditionalists, but I see them as conservators, as they desperately try to conserve identically things as they were fifty years or so ago. For them the Church stops at the Second Vatican Council or even before. Since Pius X said that novelty is a mark of Modernism, they reject all novelties without discernment. If they had a little bit of logic they would know that it is not because novelty is a mark of Modernism that every novelty is necessarily marked with the seal of Modernism. If they had a little bit of understanding of the History of the Church, they would see that many things had been new one day. They would also notice that every time new things came, there have been some narrow-minded persons who opposed them. If novelties were always evil, we ought to get rid of the Mendicant Orders, just to give an example, a novelty from the twelfth century, which had at its time its detractors. If these traditionalists are afraid of losing their faith by praying the luminous mysteries of the Rosary, I advise them to not pray the Rosary at all, which is a novelty from the twelfth century, too, that has known different developments, additions, and modifications throughout the centuries.

They often enjoy themselves with a certain apocalyptic literature based on some revelations to prove themselves right, and all others are condemned. I do not mean that we do not have to take seriously the last messages from heaven that have been approved by the Church – Fatima, for instance – but it is not a reason to set aside the reading of the Fathers and of the great Doctors of the Middle Ages, which are still so accurate for our modern time. They would certainly enlarge their vision of the Church that is without question, wherever we stand, bigger than any idea of her we may have. The Church is a mystery and a great one. It is only with humility that we can appreciate and love her. Then we can peacefully rejoice with her while contemplating her ancient and young Beauty. The acceptance of the new things that are given to us today supposes the understanding of the old things that have been given to the previous generations.

May Our Lady, seat of Wisdom, help us to see clearly with prudence and discernment. May she open our minds and hearts to the comprehension and the love of God’s mysteries.

jeudi, février 17, 2011

The Papal Zouaves

Fourth part: Toward the Battle

By June 1860, the training of the new recruits could begin. The battalion went out for a first exercise. The Holy Father himself reviewed the troop in the evening and exhorted the men. Enthusiasm and cheerfulness were not lacking, and Monsignor Talbot, a camerier of the Pope, would tell that Pius IX appreciated the spirit of the men. Then, the battalion left the Eternal City for a few weeks of training that gave full satisfaction to Becdelièvre. The people from the country displayed cordiality when the troop went through their villages. It was quite comforting to see that many Italian people loved and supported the Pope. Meanwhile the organization of the corps was set up: supplies, equipment, weapons and ammunition were distributed. The fusion between the French and the Belgian was well carried out, and new recruits continued to arrive. Other units composed with volunteers of different countries were organized at the request of General de La Moricière, such as a corps of cavalry. In less than a month, La Moricière muffled all the critics that had said it was impossible to create an international corps. The General, who had served in North Africa, certainly remembered the example of the Foreign Legion created in 1831, and he knew that with discipline, everything was possible. The cohabitation of men from different countries even fostered a sound competitiveness that pushed the whole group toward a greater perfection. Yet, it was a difficult task that required many efforts and attention from the officers.

A new uniform was finally presented to Monsignor de Mérode who approved it. It was a combination of the uniform of the Zouaves of Africa and the one of the French infantry: the dress was blue with red trimmings. This uniform would change the title of “bataillon de tirailleurs” into the famous “zouaves pontificaux.”

During the summer, the situation became more tense as the revolutionary troops intensified their pressure. With an impulse of greatness, La Moricière exclaimed: “If France abandons Rome, and if Austria permits the violation of the treaty of Villafranca and the invasion of the Papal States, we shall go to the sanctuary of Loreto and pick the standard given by His Holiness Pius V to Juan of Austria, the hero of Lepanto. We shall lead the Pope to Ancona. Then we shall see if Christian Europe would contemplate without stirring Pius IX besieged and bombarded by the barbarians of the XIX century.

The strength of the Papal Army was now 18,000 men. La Moricière organized the Army in three columns positioned on the line that goes from Rome to Ancona. General de Pimodan received the order to deploy his brigade around the city of Terni. This little corps was composed, in addition to the Zouaves, of two battalions of Italian volunteers, one battalion of Swiss Carabineers, one battalion of Austrian Bersaglieri, a squadron of cavalry, and six pieces of artillery. The two others corps were deployed around Foligno and Macerata. La Moricière remained with a reserve in the middle of his deployment in Spoleto. He could join one of his corps and reinforce it wherever a serious menace would appear. He knew that something would happen in the very near future. Garibaldi had to attack before the Army of the Pope became too strong. But its General–in–Chief had no idea about the huge wave that would break soon.

In fact, it was not the little troop of Garibaldi, considered as a gang of bandits, that would frighten the Papal Army led by well experienced officers who have fought on many battlefields. Colonel de Becdelièvre explained that the morale was excellent in the camp. French and Austrian officers met every evening and the “gatherings were joyful as long as it was just about fighting against Garibaldi.” But in the beginning of September, an event changed the situation. Piedmont had officially declared the war on the Papal States, with the passive approbation of Napoléon III. La Moricière took this as a betrayal and an act of hypocrisy. As a result, some Italian troop of the Papal Army refused to fire on other Italian fellows.

La Moricière received an ultimatum from General Franti, who led the Army of Piedmont, which was composed of 35,000 men. Franti’s Army had already taken possession of Perugia and Spoleto. La Moricière found his communication cut off and decided to reach the last fortress in the power of the Papal troops: Ancona. He urged General de Pimodan to redeploy his brigade as fast as possible around the city. It was necessary to arrive before the Piedmont Army. By the 12th of September, a column of 4,000 men were en route toward Ancona. The weather was extremely hot and it took four days to arrive. La Moricière was already there. He ordered a day of rest and of preparation for the battle that would be on the 18th.

His men passed the day of the 17th in religious exercises and in going to confession, Countess Cesaresco wrote in The Liberation of Italy. The vicinity of the Holy House of Loreto, brought hither by angels from Bethlehem, filled the young Breton soldiers with transport of religious fervor. La Moricière had taken from the Santa Casa some of the flags of the victors of Lepanto to wave over his columns. In the battle of the next day the French fought with the gallantry of the Vendéens, whose descendants they were, and the Irish behaved as Irishmen generally behave under fire.”

Colonel de Becdelièvre gathered his Zouaves on the eve of the battle. “The hour that you were longing for since you joined the army of the Holy See is now near. Tomorrow you will see the enemy, and we know that this day will be hot. You will do your duties as valiant soldiers, and you will not forget that we fight for the cause of God. For that reason you must prepare yourselves to appear in front of Him. Tomorrow, many of us will be gone. Therefore I urge you to do what many military chiefs would not dare to tell. Go to our chaplain, as I am going to do now. Let everybody be prepared for tomorrow.”

The sun rose on the morning of this bloody day of September 18th, 1860. It was to be a fatal day.

lundi, février 14, 2011

The Papal Zouaves

Third part: creating a new army

General de la Moricière was now officially appointed Commander in Chief of the Papal army, but this would create some tensions with the French Government. La Moricière had been an opponent to the regime of Napoleon III from the beginning. He had promised to never take arms against France, but this did not mean he would accept the politic of her Government. “I gave my sword to the Pope, I recommend my soul to God, but I do not want to take anything from the Emperor, to keep my honor safe,” he wrote. General Goyon, who was the head of the French troops in Rome, had a great admiration for La Moricière, and he did everything he could to make the situation better for everyone, but Napoleon displayed more and more impatience. In fact, the attitude of the Emperor and his politics regarding the Roman Question were quite ambiguous. On one hand he was in favor of the Italian unity, and on the other he claimed to be a defender of the Papal State.

By April 9th, 1860, General de la Moricière issued his first Order of the Day, by which he took possession of his commandment:

Soldiers, our Holy Father, Pope Pius VII, having deigned to call me to defend His rights, which are unrecognized and threatened, I did not hesitate to take again my sword. To the echo of that venerable voice which, not long ago, from the high of the Vatican, made the world know the perils that threaten the patrimony of Saint Peter, the Catholics have been moved. Their emotion quickly expands across the earth. Indeed, Christianity is not only the religion of the civilized world, but it is even the principle and the life of civilization, since the Papacy has been the center of Christianity. All Christian nations show in this time that they are aware of these great truths that constitute our faith. The Revolution, as in former times Islam, threatens today Europe, and today, as it was the case then, the cause of the Papacy is the cause of civilization and the liberty of the world.
Soldiers, have courage, and be assured that God will keep up our courage and raise it for the cause He entrusted to our arms

General in Chief de La Moricière.

Now, there was an urgent task to begin, which was to organize an army. Uprisings had begun in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, and by May 6th, Garibaldi boarded with a troop of one thousand volunteers. King Francis II would not hold too long his defense. Cavour had managed to have Napoléon III on his side with the condition that Rome remained with the Pope and that Nice and Savoy are given to France. In 1859, the French-Piedmontese army had defeated Austria, which was no longer in position to help the Holy Father. At the end of the year 1859, Tuscany, Parma, Modena and the Legations became the United Province of Central Italy. Austria was powerless and the Pope could not rely upon Napoléon. It was necessary to act quickly.

In April 1860, the Papal troop was composed only of eleven battalions, for a total of 600 men, very poorly equipped. Cavalry and artillery were almost inexistent. La Moricière would need first some fine officers that he could trust entirely. Messieurs de Pimodan, de Chevigné, de Lorgeril, and de Bourbon-Chalus accepted to organize the Headquarter and the new army. Officers of the former Papal Army joined them. Then it was necessary to recruit at least 20,000 soldiers. The call of the Holy Father had been heard. Soon, 5,000 Austrians, 3,000 Swiss, 3,000 Irish, and hundreds of French and Belgians, and even a little contingent from Quebec, would arrive. Organizing an army with volunteers of different countries, speaking different languages, and having different habits and traditions was not an easy task, but La Moricière, who had gained a great experience in North Africa, could manage this situation.

The French and the Belgians were joined together in a battalion of “tirailleurs pontificaux,” which would soon become the famous “Zouaves Pontificaux.” It was a valiant former officer of the French Army who took command of this unit, Lieutenant Colonel de Becdelièvre, who did not remain in charge for a long time (as we will see later), but whose testimony is precious, as evidenced in his writing, “Memories of the Papal Zouaves.”

De Becdelièvre had served eight years in the French Army and was no longer in active duty when he heard the news that General de La Moricière needed men. He went to Rome and met with the General and Monsignor de Mérode. By June 1st, he was officially appointed as “Chef de Bataillon des tirailleurs pontificaux.” La Moricière instructed him to begin his duties immediately. The newly appointed “Chef de Bataillon,” who did not even have a uniform, obeyed and went right away to his new quarters. He had to begin the organization of the battalion with only 70 men. Captain de Charette gathered the troops and Becdelièvre delivered his first message:

Messieurs, this is the first and last time I call you this way. I have received from the General in Chief, who himself has his power from the Pope, the honor to command you. I do not yet have a military uniform, but this is my patent, and from now I take command of this corps. We have been called to defend the cause of God, and we must keep in our minds that, in a Pontifical army, distinctions of nationalities and of races have no place, especially in such a critical time when union is our strength. You would give a sad representation of your dedication, and we could suspect your intentions, if you would not immediately understand that, belonging to the French nation, you cannot shrink from privations and fatigue. On this day, the first company will be constituted. The Belgians will be mixed with the French, and it will always be like this. You will submit to this order; such is the will of your General in Chief, and I have been appointed by him in order to execute his orders. "

Lieutenant-Colonel de Becdelièvre would tell later that the orders were quickly understood. “As I appealed to their Catholic hearts, I was understood. One has to acknowledge that never I have met in the French army more submissive or braver soldiers.” The story of the Papal Zouaves was about to begin.

vendredi, février 11, 2011

The Papal Zouaves

Articles published in Upon This Rock, April and June 2009

First part: historical background

The French Revolution had initiated a process that has totally changed the face of Europe. In the XIX century, the borders and the sovereignties had become the pieces of an international chessboard that constantly moved according to the result of the military actions and the revolutions within the states. Italy had not escaped from the wind of the great changes of this time. After the proclamation of the French Republic, several republican insurrections broke out here and there in the kingdoms and duchies of Italy. Many Sovereigns of Italy were allied or relatives of the House of France, such as Charles Emmanuel of Sardinia and Savoy, who was the brother-in-law of the future Louis XVIII, or Mary-Caroline of Austria, Queen of Naples and of Sicily, who was the sister of the Queen of France, Marie-Antoinette.

In 1796, the new French Republic sent its armies into Italy to help the revolutionaries overthrow the Monarchs and to create Republics. It is during this campaign that a young general distinguished himself at the Bridge of Arcole. His name would be soon known in the whole world: Bonaparte. Italy became a kind of annex of France when Napoleon, then Emperor of the French, proclaimed himself King of Italy, while he gave the Kingdom of Naples first to his brother Joseph, and then to Murat.

The Italian Campaigns of 1796-1797 brought to an end a long alliance between the Church and her eldest Daughter. In 754, King Pepin the Short promised to give the Pope the land of the Lombards in a document known as the Donation of Pepin. His son, Charlemagne, would confirm this act 20 years later. The Donation of Pepin provided a legal basis for the erection of the Pontifical States. The Kingdom of France had been predestined by God for the defense of the Roman Church (Testament of Saint Remy). Now, the French Republic would become the persecutor of the Church. The pact that has been sealed in Reims would be rejected.

By February 11th, 1798, Rome was occupied by the armies of General Berthier. The Roman Republic is proclaimed. Pius VI left Rome during the night of the 20th of February, 1798. He found a refuge in the Carthusian monastery of Florence, but he was finally caught by the troops of General Berthier and brought to France. He died, prisoner in Valence, on August 29th, 1799.

His successor, Pope Pius VII, restored the Pontifical States after the Congress of Vienna in 1815, and that had reestablished the borders of the countries as they were before the Revolution of 1789. The former Monarchs returned on their thrones: Francis IV, Duke of Modena, Reggio and Mirandola; Ferdinand III, as Grand Duke of Tuscany for the House of Habsburg; Ferdinand IV, as King of the Two Sicilies; and Maria Luisa, Infanta of Spain, as Duchess of Lucca for the House of Bourbon.

But the liberal ideas inspired by the Enlightenment and the French Revolution contributed to the blooming of a national romantic ideal. The Carbonari spread throughout Italy, and in spite of their condemnation by Pius VII (Papal Constitution Ecclesiam a Jesu Christo, 1821) , realized an increasing success. Many uprisings instigated by the Carbonari broke out in the 1820’s and 1830’s throughout the peninsula. Pope Leo XII, who had been elected in 1823, renewed the condemnation of the Carbonari in the Apostolic Constitution Quo Graviora in 1826:

Would that those who were in charge of matters then had assumed these Decrees to be of such value as the salvation of both the Church and the State was demanding! Would that they had convinced themselves that they ought to respect in the Roman Pontiffs, Successors of Blessed Peter, not only the Universal Pastors and Teachers of the Church, but also the Vigorous Defenders of their Dignity, and the most diligent heralds of the dangers which threaten! Would that they had used that power of theirs for dismembering the sects whose pernicious devices had been exposed to them by the Apostolic See! Already from that time they had plainly put into effect their cause. And because they judged that this cause was needing to be treated with indifference or at least treated very trivially, whether by the deceit of the sectarians cunningly hiding their affairs, whether by the imprudent counsels of some, from those old Masonic sects which have never languished, very many others have arisen much more dangerous and more audacious than the former. The sect of the Carbonari, which was considered the leader of all the others in Italy and in some other regions, was considered to embrace as if in its bosom all these, and having divided into, as it were, various branches diverse in name only, undertook to fight most vehemently against the Catholic Religion and every topmost legitimate civil power. Which being a disaster, so that he might free Italy and other regions, indeed even the very Pontifical Domain – into which, because the Pontifical Government had been obstructed for so long a time, the sect had insinuated itself. Pius VII of happy memory, in whose place We have been chosen, condemned with the gravest penalties the sect of the Carbonari, or with the passage of time by whatever other name it might be called according to the diversity of places, of idioms and of men, by a Constitution published on the 13th of September in the year 1821 whose beginning is: Ecclesiam a Jesu Christo.

In spite of the condemnations, the movement continued to develop, led by Mazzini, Cavour, and Garibaldi. Then began Il Risorgimento - The Resurgence - with the first Italian War of Independence in 1848. After the assassination of Pellegrino Rossi, Minister of Justice of the Papal States in November, 1848, Pius IX fled from Rome to Gaeta. The Roman Republic was proclaimed in 1849. France, who was then under the Presidency of Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, the future Emperor Napoléon III, sent an army to support the Pope. General Oudinot took Rome and reestablished the Pontifical power.

But the Papal States had been weakened and the Pontifical armies were just a shadow of an army. It is at this time that Monsignor François Xavier de Mérode, of the illustrious Belgian House of Mérode and Minister of the Armies of Pius IX, decided to create a new army for the honor and the defense of the Papacy. The adventure of the Papal Zouaves would begin.

Second Part :The General of the Pope

Louis Juchault de La Moricière came back from Africa in 1846 with a great prestige that allowed him to deal with princes, ministers, and all the political leaders as an equal. After brilliant military successes in Algeria and Morocco, where he gained the nickname of Bou Chechia, ‘the man who wears a chechia,’ General de La Moricière thought that there would be something good to do with these great territories, especially in the area of agriculture. North Africa needed “Christian arms to work the soil.” He pacified these territories as a soldier; now he would participate in their development as a politician.

At forty years, Louis de La Moricière began a new career in which he would be as successful as he was in his military career. Deputy in 1846, he was appointed Minister of the War two years later. But in 1851, he was arrested for being opposed to the coup d’état of Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte. He was sent in exile to Belgium and probably thought that his career was now over. This period gave him an occasion to nurture his faith.

It is at this time that Pius IX, advised by Monsignor de Mérode, decided to reorganize the Pontifical Army. In the political context of the middle of the XIX century, the Pope could not entrust the survival of His territories to any sovereign country. The intervention of the Army of Oudinot gave Pius IX a certain respite, but it would not last long. His last recourse was then to call the children of the Church from all over the world and to organize an army under the command of a General, as Saint Pius V did when he gave full power to Marc-Anthony Colona, who defeated the Turks.

“He chose for this mission General de La Moricière, Emile Keller writes. This man had the most brilliant military reputation of this time and was then disengaged of any obligations toward his Government. He was not involved with any political party and had given proofs of his love for order and liberty. He came back to God with a pure faith matured by the harshest adversities.”

But there was still a question: would he accept? Nothing was certain. La Moricière had fought for many years, but in a well organized army and for his country. In a certain way, he was asked now to be a kind of mercenary at the head of a troop that had poor means and was hardly organized. Moreover, though he was a man of principles and faith, he was nevertheless not so certain about the necessity of maintaining a form of political power that was a vestige of the old regime.

Pius IX sent Monsieur de Corcelles, ambassador of France to the Holy See and former Deputy, to General de La Moricière. The two men knew each other very well. La Moricière’s answer was direct: “I think that it is a cause for which I would be happy to die.” We have learned from his correspondence how great a sacrifice this was for him and his family, as it was for thousands of Catholics, known or unknown, who left their families and countries to serve the Pope. The sacrifice was even greater, as many relatives and friends of La Moricière tried to persuade him to renounce such a foolish project. The answer of the great General was always the same: “When a father calls his son in order to defend him, there is only one thing to do: you go.”

In March 1860, Monsignor de Mérode, who knew La Moricière when he visited the province of Oran as a Belgium officer, paid a visit to La Moricière in his chateau of Prouzel. In the name of Pius IX, Monsignor de Mérode officially asked him to take the command of the army. The day after, La Moricière and his devoted wife offered their resolution to God in their parish church. Nothing would make him change his mind.
This great General and organizer knew that the mission was almost impossible. It was certainly a difficult cause, yet not a desperate one, as there is always a chance of victory. La Moricière was very lucid. “My hope is only in God,” he wrote to friend the day before his departure. “For what I know, the strength of a man can not suffice for the work that I am about to begin.”

By March 19th the new Commander in Chief of the Papal Army began his trip with his dear saber of Africa that he did not want to leave. It would share the glory of this cause. La Moricière asked a dear friend, François Cattoir, to come with him and Monsignor de Mérode. The three men traveled to Italy, passing by Belgium and Germany. In Cologne, they stopped to pray in the Cathedral and venerate the relics of the Wise Men. In the old days, the Family of Mérode had hosted these relics in their chateau. For this reason, the knights of the family of Mérode were granted to enter the vault of the Cathedral of Cologne with their swords. On this day, Monsignor François Xavier de Mérode had the saber of General de La Moricière under his cassock.

The three travelers arrived in Rome by April 2nd, 1860. La Moricière immediately wrote to the Pope and expressed again his desire to serve him under the only condition of never fighting against France. Pius IX accepted his service with joy and gratitude and the two men met together. The General offered his person and his saber to the Pontiff who was charmed by his prestige and his candor. From this day, the Holy Father had never refused anything to the man who represented the last chance of protecting the Pontifical States. But much more was still to be done, and the difficulties would come soon enough.

Continuation of the story of the Papal Zouaves in Upon This Rock, February 2011, soon on line!