July 14, 2018

Preserving the Light in a Dark Age

The execution of Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, on October 16, 1793
The tricolor! Tricolor indeed! They fill their mouths with these words, the rascals. What does that ugly geometric sign, that aping of the French mean, compared to our white banner with its golden lily in the middle? What hope can those clashing colors bring them? ~ Giuseppe Di Lampedusa, The Leopard [1]
As revelers gear up for the upcoming Bastille Day celebration in “Little France,” a micro neighborhood in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, I’m reminded of the Solemn High Latin Mass offered at beautiful St. Agnes Church (433 Sackett Street) not too long ago for the Feast of Saint Joan of Arc. Sponsored by our friends at the Society of St. Hugh of Cluny, it was the first Tridentine Mass celebrated at the historic church since the disastrous Second Vatican Council. Though a magnificent effort “to repair this neglect and rekindle devotion to this remarkable saint,” [2] the sixty-some-odd congregants were a mere drop in the bucket in comparison to the estimated tens of thousands who will partake in the secular soirée this Sunday on nearby Smith Street. 
Clearly a sign of the times, it’s no longer surprising that people will come out in droves to celebrate a watershed moment in the history of the West known in sane circles as “The Terror,” while the day devoted to a true heroine of the French people went by practically unnoticed except for a handful of traditional Catholics. 
Far from being some overzealous killjoy who would deny people a good time, I’m actually a huge fan of feasts and folk revelry. In fact, our very own Battle of Bitonto Commemoration, which was held—due to some unforeseen circumstances—after St. Joan’s feast this year, was partly inspired by the popular street fair. I remember thinking how much fun it would be to have our own fête (sans the replica guillotine) based on our Duosiciliano heritage rather than some pseudo Italian identity steeped in the deleterious notions of the Risorgimento, Italy’s take on the Reign of Terror. Instead of glorifying Mazzini, Garibaldi or some other revolutionary riffraff, the focus would be on our Catholic faith, cultural traditions, and monarchical legitimism (In case it wasn’t already clear, my sympathies lie with the ancien régime). 
To be honest, I don’t think many of the people who take part in Brooklyn’s Bastille Day festival are actually there in solidarity with Hébert, Robespierre or the soi-disant “immortal principals” of the French Révolution: Liberté, égalité, fraternité. [3] Most likely they’re there for the same reasons I attended back in the heady days of my youth: for the cuisine, socializing, and playing pétanque, the French version of bocce. Having said that, in view of today’s extreme partisan social climate and the disturbing rise of incivility and intimidation among the unwashed masses, that just may be wishful thinking on my part.
Yours truly back in the day sporting a do-rag and playing pétanque
Either way, it’s clear that society, with its debased priorities, is still a long way off from restoring any kind of traditional order. In the meantime, we have taken to heart Joseph de Maistre’s maxim, “What is needed is not a revolution in the opposite direction, but the opposite of a revolution.” [4] We strive to do everything in our power to weather the crises and steel ourselves—mentally, physically and spiritually—from the corrupting forces of modernity. Our attempts to forge bonds and create community with fellow travelers have led to small, but enjoyable social gatherings, acts of charity, and new friendships. More importantly, we dutifully look to shepherding our own souls through daily prayer, self-discipline and spiritual combat. While I can’t imagine seeing the restoration in my lifetime, one never knows what the future holds and we may yet emerge from this Dark Age and witness the return of spiritual authority and temporal power to their proper circles.
~ Giovanni di Napoli, Friday, July 13th, Feast of Santa Trofimena
[1] Giuseppe Di Lampedusa, The Leopard, Pantheon Books, 2007, p.29
[2] Mass for the Feast of St. Joan of Arc by the Society of St. Hugh of Cluny, May 31, 2018
[3] French for “Liberty, equality, fraternity.”
[4] Joseph de Maistre (April 1, 1753 — February 26, 1821) was a Savoyard Counter-Enlightenment philosopher, lawyer and diplomat.