Friday, June 22, 2012

For Greater Glory

As I have mentioned before, I have been very excited about this movie, ever since I first hear rumours of it being made. However, I live in a place that rarely shows limited release, independent films, so I did not figure on getting to see it until it came out on DVD. It must be doing much better than expected, because it appeared in the local theater late last week, and my sisters and I, astonished, but terribly glad, took ourselves off to see it on Monday.

I must say I was very impressed by it. I am not going to do a review on it, since there are a great number of them about at present, written either by folk - mostly professional critics - who hated it; or by those who were deeply moved and inspired by it. I do not think I have read a single indifferent review. No, I intend to highlight a few of the things that particularly impressed my with For Greater Glory, which I do not recall seeing mentioned anywhere else.

 - Obviously, this is a very Catholic movie, which is unusual enough in our day and age, and it is Catholic on various levels. There is the usual Catholic imagery, which is reasonably common in both movies and TV programs. Most of the main characters are Catholics, and their faith is portrayed in a straightforward and respectful manner. This is not so common, particularly in movies that are considered "intelligent". Still, it is not so uncommon as to deserve more than a mention of it. What is particularly striking about For Greater Glory, at least to my way of thinking, is that it portrays commitment to the Faith, not as a cause, or an idea, but as a fundamental way of life. These people are not just practicing Catholics. They are Catholics. It defines them. Furthermore, all the main characters who are not Catholics, are gradually drawn towards the Faith, so that in the end, regardless of what sort of lives they might have lived before, or what sort of doubts they have been struggling with, at the vital moment that matters, they come down firmly on the side of Cristo Rey. And this is done, for the most part, without much discussion. One merely sees the Cristeros attending Mass, receiving the Sacraments, and fighting to the death for what they believe. It is attractive, and inspiring.

 - I like the fact that the movie portrays various aspects of the Catholic resistance movements. At the beginning of the movie, after President Calles has vowed to enforce the viciously anti-Catholic laws in the 1917 Mexican Constitution, we see numerous scenes of peaceful resistance. There marches, petitions and boycotts. There is honest discussion amongst the various characters, about the wisdom of taking up arms against the government. At one point, a character says, in support of the boycotts, that we can do without. It will be our Lent. I liked that. The film ultimately follows the fighters more closely than the supporting non-combatant, and the armed conflict is portrayed as a laudable thing. However, those who chose to resist, but not to fight in the battlefields, are portrayed as brave and honourable as well. I thought that was a nice balance.

 - I like the way they handled Fr. Vega's character. Priests are not supposed to fight. They may be attached to armies, so that they may minister to the spiritual needs of the fighting men, but they are not to take up arms themselves. Fr. Vega does, and is an officer as well. It would have been easy to slip here, and portray him as a hero for making the choice to fight, especially since there is a tendency these days to emphasise action. The mission of the Catholic Church is primarily the salvation of souls, and therefore must be concerned more with the spiritual side of things. As it is, Fr. Vega is portrayed sympathetically. He is conflicted, and struggles with his decision, but he is, as he says himself, a priest first. Furthermore, he is the only priest in the film who takes up arms. The others continue to serve their people as well as they can under the circumstances, and a couple of them suffer martyrdom for their brave dedication.

 - This movie has an R rating that I do not think it deserves... and this is from a girl who watches most of the grittier scenes in action/adventure movies out of my bad eye only, that way I can see what is going on, but miss the gory details. For Greater Glory is violent, there is not doubt about that, it can hardly help it with the subject matter. There are scenes of war, recrimination and martyrdom - including the martyrdom of a young boy. People are beaten, shot, tortured and hanged, and the movie certainly does not pull any punches. Neither does it, however, hit you senseless with it. There is a good deal of restraint and very little gore, even in the most brutal scenes. The point of this film is not, after all, to horrify the audience with the cruelty of the Mexican government, but to edify them with the courage of the Cristeros: men, women, and even children, who were braved all these things in order to stand up for the Truth. And in that, it eminently succeeds. It is an unabashedly heroic movie; a movie that comes down squarely on the side of courage, honour and the Catholic faith. It glorifies virtue even to the point of martyrdom, and it challenges the viewer. You say you believe this - how far are you willing to go to stand up for it?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

White Rose Day

As some of you might remember, I did a post on this holiday last year. I will, of course, be wearing plaid again - it is not quite tartan, but it is very similar to Dress Stewart, though with a bit more black to it, rather than green. I am wearing white roses in my hair, and I bought a little bush of miniature white roses, which are temporarily in a little pot inside, but which I will plant as soon as the Sierra summer arrives properly, and we stop having the occasion freeze at night. There is actually a strain of white roses - quite an old strain too - whose proper Latin title is Alba Maxima, but is also known as the Bonnie Prince Charlie Rose, and the Jacobite rose. If I ever get to be a reliable gardener, I would love to have an Alba Maxima in my garden.

Alba Maxima; Jacobite Rose;
Bonnie Prince Charlie Rose
This year, for celebration, I am going to partake of a bottle of Traquair Jacobite Ale, which I have been saving for today. I bought it at Traquair House in Scotland, where it is brewed. Traquair House is the oldest inhabited house in Scotland, according to their website, but more to the point, for the purpose of this post, it is as staunchly Catholic and Jacobite house. There is a little semi-hidden room in the attic, that was where the priest lived, and a secret stair case, that descends from it, and empties one out the back of the building, where one can scarper off to the woods for cover. There is a lovely little family chapel there - with the original altar, no less, and no sign of any modernisation. Traquair House is particularly interesting because it is still owned by the family, and receives no funds from Historic Scotland for its maintenance. Therefore, there has not been any restoration per se done on it. It is simply kept up, so when you tour it, you get a much better idea of what a historical house was like, than you do at other places.

 Furthermore, I have made a wee small cockade to wear upon my lapel. It was quite easy: two loops of white ribbon, stitched into a cross shape. In the center is a wee pin featuring the rampant lion. The lion is an old symbol for Scotland, and the red lion on a golden field was long used in the Royal Standard, so it seemed particularly suitable to wear today.

I shall finish by posting quite an old video of the Corries singing The White Cockade. It is charming:


Friday, June 8, 2012

Corpus Christi

... Was actually yesterday, so I am a day late on this post. However, I meant to do a post, and was excited about the post I meant to do, so you are getting it today instead. I present to you, The Corpus Christi Carol. Hayley Westenra sings this on her Christmas album, and that is where first I heard it. Obviously, it is not really a Christmas carol, even though the word carol is almost exclusively associated with Christmas these days.

Lulley, lully, lulley, lully,

The faucon hath born my mak away.

He bare hym up, he bare hym down,
He bare hym into an orchard brown.

In that orchard ther was an hall,
That was hanged with purpill and pall.

And in that hall ther was a bede,
Hit was hangid with gold so rede.

And yn that bede ther lythe a knyght,
His wowndes bledyng day and nyght.

By that bedes side ther kneleth a may,
And she wepeth both nyght and day.

And by that bedes side ther stondith a ston,
"Corpus Christi" wretyn theron.

The medieval imagery is intensely allegorical. Most obviously are the symbols of the Wounded Knight, Who is a figure of Christ Crucified, and the weeping may (maiden) who is a figure of His most holy Mother. The barren, brown orchard is open to numerous interpretations: the desolation of the world after the fall of Adam; the emptiness of a soul in sin; death itself, perhaps. The colours too suggest meanings. Purple is the liturgical colour for Lent, and days of penance. Red is used for feasts of martyrs and symbolises blood. Gold is used for high feasts, such as Easter. The word mak here, is an old word for mate, or more specifically, love. The phrase itself is ambiguous, and lends itself to numerous interpretations, but it reminiscent of Mary Magdalene's cry, "They have taken away my Lord; and I do not know where they have laid Him".

The figure of Christ as a knight, or a warrior was very common in medieval allegory. So does he appear in the Old English poem, The Dream of the Rood. In The Vision of Piers Plowman, He appears as a knight, jousting for men's souls. There is a very old poem by William Herbert, Quis est iste qui uenit de Edom contains the line 'what is he, this lordling, that cometh in from the fight?' The imagery is particularly vivid - the Young Hero who dies love - and ties in very beautifully with the Sleeping King/Sleeping Hero myths that abound in mythology.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Today is the anniversary of the largest amphibious assault in history - to whit, the D-Day invasions of Normandy during WWII. Here are some facts about the assault you might not have know:

 - Although months of rigorous planning proceeded the invasion, the actual date of June 6th was selected at the last minute.Logistically, the action needed to take place at the beginning of June, the 5th being the preferred date. However, there were a number of variables that had to be taken into account during the planning. The bombers required a full moon, and a (cloud) ceiling of at least 5000 feet. The sea could not be too rough, otherwise the heavy transport boats would not be able to make the crossing. If the winds exceeded 20 mph, the paratroopers would be unable to land safely. June came in with one of the worst summer storms in twenty years. The decision to attack on June 6th was due to the weather report given by James Martin Scagg, predicting a 24 hour period or relatively decent weather in the midst of the storm.  You can read about it here and here.

 - The Scottish Highlands were used for a lot of training during WWII, including practice for the Normandy invasion. The British Commandos took intensive training courses there.

 - The actor, Richard Todd took part in the invasion. Nearly twenty years later, he appeared in the movie, The Longest Day in the role of Major John Howard, who was his commanding officer. Another actor, in a bit role, plays Richard Todd himself.

 - Tiny submarines, manned by Commandos, were sent to Normandy in advance of the invasion to conduct reconnaissance, and to lead the landing craft safely to the beach. They hid within range of the German guns for five days before the assault took place.

 - Bagpipes were used in the attack. Piper Bill Millin, under orders from his commanding officer, Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat, piped his men off the boats and up to the beach, while enduring heavy fire from the Germans. You can read his account of the attack here.

Billy Millin

Friday, June 1, 2012


Today the movie Cristiada is being released in the United States under the title, For the Greater Glory. I have been looking forward to this movie ever since I saw the trailer last year. Check it out, it looks pretty good: