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Aquinas College Writers’ Night Symposium Proceedings

April 19th, 2013

Cover image: Early modern painting depicting a lecture in a knight’s academy. The painting is located in Rosenborg Castle, Denmark, and is part of a series of seven paintings depicting the seven liberal arts. This painting illustrates Rhetoric, and is attributed to either Pieter Isaacsz or Reinhold Timm.

The Writers’ Night Symposium is the culmination of the Writer’s Night Essay Contest, a campus wide event sponsored by the Write Reason Plan.

The Write Reason Plan at Aquinas College aims to strengthen writing and logical thinking habits among the student population. Write Reason is the effective expression of clear, organized, and accurate ideas that are stated convincingly according to the objective standards of truth and reality, as established in the Trivium of grammar, logic, and rhetoric, which is the foundation of a liberal arts education. Habits of mind (logic) and habits of expression through language (grammar and rhetoric) are the foundation of a college level education. Through these habits we come to know the truth and express ourselves responsibly according to what we know of reality. The Write Reason Plan aims not only at improving writing and critical thinking skills, it considers the whole person as an individual, a member of society, a citizen, a future professional, and made in the image of God. To think according to the standards of logic and objective truth and to express ourselves clearly is the end of all education and the vocation of every human person.

Table of Contents

“The Horror Endures, the Darkness Swallows: Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and the Vulnerability of Modern Western Culture” by Stephen Lanham

“Free Will and White Smoke: The logical compatibility of divine foreknowledge and human freedom” by Sr. Susanna Edmunds, O.P.



“St. Robert Southwell’s “A Vale of Teares”: Afflictio dat intellectum” by Sr. Rose Miriam Collins, O.P.


“Dressed to Kill” by Michael McLean


“Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan: The Best of Vietnamese Culture” by Sr. Maria Thuan Nguyen, O.P.


“The Horror Endures, the Darkness Swallows: Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and the Vulnerability of Modern Western Culture” Stephen Lanham ENG 214: English Literature Instructor: Dr. Katherine Haynes Since its publication in 1902, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness has been widely recognized as one of the most deeply complex stories regarding psychology, sociology, and the human condition. Specifically, Conrad explores the realities of western imperialism, providing his reader with a disturbing account of Central Africa under Belgian colonial rule. Charlie Marlow, the narrator of this haunting and shadowy tale of European domination, and his relationship to antihero Mr. Kurtz, continue to evoke both praise and condemnation for Heart of Darkness to this day. Many readers and critics hail Heart of Darkness as an excellent expository work regarding the atrocities of Belgian King Leopold II’s chokehold on the Congo Free State; while other critics denounce Conrad as a racist, sexist, and supporter of imperial rule. Though these common interpretations are important for an analytical reader to keep in mind, they often overlook or shadow a crucial theme within Heart of Darkness. Marlow and Kurtz’s characters, their relationship, and the far-reaching cultural vulnerability that the story indicates are often darkened by a potential misinterpretation and inattentiveness to the narrator as such. First, it may be helpful to examine Marlow and Kurtz as individuals in order to better identify the intricacies that pervade their respective characters. Charlie Marlow is introduced at the very beginning of Heart of Darkness as the story’s peculiar narrator. Aboard ship, anchored in the Thames at sundown, Marlow proceeds to tell his fellow shipmates the tale of his time as a riverboat captain in Africa. He recounts his beginnings; applying for the job, making the 1

journey, and bringing his African steamship to an operable level after many weeks of waiting for repair parts. Throughout Marlow’s reminiscence, Mr. Kurtz is sporadically mentioned by the people Marlow comes in contact with, and Kurtz slowly evolves into a central point of Marlow’s story. Marlow’s story is wrought with inconsistencies of conscience; he is often depicted as indifferent to scenarios that would likely shake the average man to his core, yet he also seems to intermittently recount certain situations as deeply troubling. Marlow’s character aptly represents a disconnected narrator; he has a story to tell that has affected him intensely, though his resulting disordered state has left him weak and unable to recount the events accurately. Mr. Kurtz, the abysmal antihero of Heart of Darkness, is a person of minor authority in the realm of African colonization. Though he is held in high regard by his coworkers, subordinates, and friends, he has become a vehemently horrifying leader. He runs a remote ivory trade outpost along the Congo River, and the working conditions have seeped into his mind, corrupting him his core. His perception of reality has become wildly perverted. Kurtz has managed to convince the native population around his post that he is some sort of deity. Yet, even witnesses to his atrocious behavior continue to admire Kurtz as a bright, intelligent, and wildly persuasive man of high regard. A distinct connection to Marlow lies within these paradoxes of Kurtz’s character; Kurtz’s enigmatic qualities are reflected by Marlow’s inconsistent opinion and portrayal of Kurtz. The narrator’s overall outlook may become clearer upon further investigating the odd relationship that Kurtz and Marlow share. Marlow first describes Kurtz as “withered; [the wilderness] had taken him, loved him, embraced him, got into his veins, consumed his flesh, and sealed his soul to its own by . . . some devilish initiation (Heart 72)”. He is emaciated, sickly, and nearly lifeless. Marlow further explains Kurtz’s debilitating materialism. Kurtz speaks of, “My Intended, my ivory, my station,


my river . . . (Heart 73)”, and maintains that everything is in his possession, when in fact he has been reduced to a vile, bestial man. Kurtz has an unreasonably large stockpile of ivory, his hut is surrounded by the severed heads of natives, and the natives perceive Kurtz as an object of adoration (Heart 86). The ivory may be in his custody, the station may be in his charge, and the natives may be in his service, but nothing truly belongs to him. Kurtz belongs to the material he so desires. Though Marlow is charged with saving Kurtz’s life, there seems to be a peculiar desire for Marlow to dominate and destroy Kurtz. While Kurtz secretively writhes through tall, wet grass toward a wild, eerie native ceremony on the banks of the Congo, Marlow follows him closely proclaiming, “[I will] deal with this shadow by myself”, an unnerving lust for power saturating his words (Heart 97-100). Marlow overtakes Kurtz and, after Marlow rationalizes about how Kurtz should be “dealt with”, Kurtz’s life is spared (Heart 99). Marlow merely states, “You will be lost . . . utterly lost (Heart 99)”. Marlow then speaks with Kurtz about his lofty idea of conquest, and though it is clear to both men that Kurtz has failed miserably, Marlow pledges that “[Kurtz’s] success in Europe is assured in any case (Heart 99)”. From this peculiar discourse, Marlow says that “the foundations of [my intimate relationship with Kurtz] were being laid—to endure—to endure—even to the end—even beyond (Heart 99)”. Marlow’s dreadful, puzzling account of Kurtz is perhaps embellished as a result of Marlow’s traumatic experience in Africa thus far. To that end, it seems prudent to explain some potential causes of Marlow’s deep internal struggle. From the moment Marlow reached Central Africa, he was confronted with his fellow westerners’ inhumane practices. One of his first recollections is of six African men, shackled together, clothed only in tattered black rags wrapped around their waists (Heart 22). Marlow watches closely as the stony eyed prisoners are forced to march in despair by a uniformed man


with a rifle (Heart 22). Marlow then recalls that the prisoners’ escort is alarmed at seeing a white man on his path, and only after realizing that Marlow was no one of authority, “[he gave me] a large, white, rascally grin, and . . . seemed to take me into partnership in his exalted trust. . . . After all, I also was a part of the great cause of these high and just proceedings (Heart 22)”. Marlow’s retelling of this specific scenario is dripping with cynicism. He knows that the men in custody are being treated like beasts and perhaps this realized relationship to such abhorrence sparks a profound inner conflict. It digs a deep chasm in his soul, void of all the human decency he once knew, and permanently separates his goodness from his immediate existence. His internal struggle is compounded by memories of innocent wonder. Marlow reminisces on his curious nature as a child, gazing at a world map and marveling at the “blank space on earth” (Heart 10). He recalls promising himself, “When I grow up I will go there” (Heart 10). With recommendation from his Aunt, Marlow goes to work for a Belgian company that puts him in charge of his own African riverboat; a job that would not only satiate Marlow’s desire to set sail, but also allow him an opportunity to explore a land that had fascinated him since the earliest days of his youth. The debilitating disappointment and horror of the harsh reality that awaited Marlow in Africa affects him deeply, and this is perhaps why Marlow’s story is so ambiguous. Marlow is unable to tell a coherent, purposeful story given the intense ethical conflict that divides his mind and torments his soul. At the beginning of his tale, his current shipmates say that, though he seemed of a higher class than most lowly seamen, “[they] knew [they] were fated . . . to hear about one of Marlow’s inconclusive experiences (Heart 8-9)”. In the Conradiana article entitled “The Horror of Mimesis”, author Nidesh Lawtoo explores the manifold results of affective mimesis, the psychological confusion between self and


others, in Conrad’s work (‘Mimesis’ 46-47). When a reader applies this concept to Marlow and Kurtz, one may form a surprising interpretation of the characters’ relationship. A reader must keep in mind that Heart of Darkness is being told by a narrator with a horrifying past; a past that has a very real potential to distort a person’s internal perceptions. In his essay for The Cambridge Companion to Joseph Conrad, Cedric Watts declares that “Marlow can probably be trusted most of the time, but . . . he isn’t fully reliable (Cambridge 55)”. Considering Marlow’s frightful description of Kurtz, perhaps Marlow is projecting some of his own struggles with morality onto a man who has been defeated by their common foe. Perhaps Kurtz represents the potential for a dark and horrific future for Marlow, should his own good nature fail entirely. There is no reason to think that Kurtz is entirely a figment of Marlow’s imagination, but the idea that Marlow may have embellished Kurtz’s appalling condition as a result of some sort of affective mimesis can be easily proposed. On a larger scale, the psychological toll taken on Marlow may represent a vulnerability that is alarmingly prominent in the west to this day. In today’s western world, wrought with international conflict and domestic violence of all kinds, the poor souls who bear witness to such atrocities are most often deeply affected and turned to psychological care as a result. The diagnosis is almost always the same: post-traumatic stress disorder. With that in mind, one may be able to link Marlow’s perplexing character to post-traumatic stress disorder. U. S. Army First Sergeant C. J. Grisham hauntingly describes the internal struggle he feels as a result of his experiences in Afghanistan as “a million voices in my head telling me that I'm not good enough to be alive (‘Veterans’ par. 3)”. In the article “Military Deployment, Masculinity, and Trauma: Reviewing the Connections”, post-traumatic stress disorder is explained more thoroughly, stating that it “involves more than disruption of one’s identity, but extends to the experience of, and


assumptions about, the world in which the person lives (‘Military’ 18)”. Marlow explains his internal perception of western life upon return to Europe with an eerie monologue that nearly defines post-traumatic stress: I found myself back in the sepulchral city resenting the sight of people hurrying through the streets to filch a little money from each other, to devour their infamous cookery, to gulp their unwholesome beer, to dream their insignificant silly dreams. They trespassed upon my thoughts. They were intruders whose knowledge of life was to me an irritating pretence [sic], because I felt so sure they could not possibly know the things I knew. Their bearing, which was simply the bearing of commonplace individuals going about their business in the assurance of perfect safety, was offensive to me like the outrageous flauntings [sic] of folly in the face of a danger it is unable to comprehend. (Heart 107) It seems that Marlow’s perception of reality has become wildly askew, his interpretation of everyday life has become horribly misaligned, and his sensitivity has been severely damaged. Every second of his time in Africa is summarized for him in Kurtz’s last words: “The horror! The horror! (Heart 105)”. Combined with the notion of affective mimesis, examining a modern account of the psychological torment one potentially endures as a result of extremely horrific circumstances may help clarify a key aspect of the social vulnerability represented in Heart of Darkness. Though seemingly disgusted by Kurtz, Marlow maintains a strange loyalty to him from the very beginning of their relationship. Kurtz has been defeated in Africa, his soul has been corrupted, yet Marlow will see to it that Kurtz’s character will not be defamed. Upon Marlow’s return to London, he speaks with Kurtz’s former friends and loved ones, the most prominent being Kurtz’s “Intended” (Heart 108-117). Marlow seems to carry out Kurtz’s final affairs as if it was meant


to be, though Marlow does all of this freely and under no direction. It is this perceived empathy that Marlow holds for Kurtz that has become a source of intense debate for the critics of Heart of Darkness. Jorge Sacido Romero of Spain’s University of Santiago de Compostela claims that “Marlow’s persistent expression of loyalty [to Kurtz]” and Kurtz’s representation as a lingering “spectral” character is proof that Conrad “[failed in indicting] imperialist ideology [with Heart of Darkness] . . . which, in the last instance, amounts to an endorsement (‘Failed Exorcism’ 43)”. Yet, for all of Romero’s implications of Kurtz’s “ideological function” as a lingering character, it seems that Romero’s article fails to take into account a vital feature of Heart of Darkness. Perhaps Kurtz’s puzzling character is preserved throughout the story as a representation of Marlow’s deep psychological afflictions. Romero seems to take Marlow at his word when describing Kurtz as disgusting, detestable, and morally destitute. It can be claimed, however, that no single facet of Heart of Darkness should be taken at face value. In this respect, Cedric Watts illuminates the notion that Heart of Darkness creates a “critical distance between the reader and the narrator (Cambridge 55)” that one should always bear in mind. Many of Kurtz’s atrocious characteristics may have been fabricated or embellished by Marlow as a horrendous result of Marlow’s post-traumatic mental instability. In contrast to Romero’s scathing criticism, the Australian Journal of Politics & History’s article, “The Past in the Present”, acknowledges the narrator’s importance in analyzing Heart of Darkness. Authors Christine Helliwell and Barry Hindess indicate that westerners have historically perceived non-westerners as “living in the European past (‘Past’ 377)”; thus, Marlow’s account of Central Africa as a “prehistoric earth (Heart 52)” and other misguided statements made by the narrator about Africa and its native peoples may result from a cultural


disposition. Yet, it seems that Marlow’s account of Africa as arcane and primitive should not be reduced to European elitism. To support this point, one may consider Marlow’s contemplations while staring out at the shores of Africa: “For a time I would feel I belonged still to a world of straightforward facts; but the feeling would not last long (Heart 19)”. He further laments the goings-on of the transport ship that takes him to Africa, but while gazing from the bow, Marlow spots a group of natives in a small rowboat (Heart 19). In “a momentary contact with reality”, Marlow describes the men as having “faces like grotesque masks”, though they acted “as natural and true as the surf along their coast” and were “a great comfort to look at” (Heart 19). These statements can be interpreted as Marlow’s recognition that his long-time belief in Africa as a culturally distant and inhuman place was inaccurate. In fact, it seems that Marlow begins to identify his own culture as distant and inhuman as he witnesses the humanity of the African peoples. The illogical nature of Marlow’s narration also caused some critics to deem Conrad’s work racist, which also hampers the notion of an affected narrator. Paik Nak-chung, Professor Emeritus of English at Seoul National University, attempts to expand upon the denigration from such notable Conrad critics as Chinua Achebe, who famously attacked Conrad as a bigot with his article “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness” (‘Planetary’ 499). Some of Achebe’s contemporaries cite that Marlow refers to Africa as “a blank space (Heart 10)” and seems to describe the native actions, rituals, and environment as an evil presence that saturates his experience in Africa (Heart 49-82). Nak-chung responds, “if we ask: ‘was Conrad a racist?’, I would say, by the standards of the late 20th or early 21st century, yes, he was a racist, but probably not as racist as were Marlow and other English seamen that he was writing about (‘Planetary’ 500)”. Other critics attack Heart of Darkness as sexist. Nak-chung further states,


“if we ask: ‘was Conrad a sexist?’, I would again say yes, he was a sexist by the standards of the late 20th or early 21st century, but probably not as sexist as those fellows that he is describing or creating (‘Planetary’ 500)”. Though Nak-chung goes on to state, “I think there is much to learn from these critics, but they also tend to end up dismissing or minimizing the critical and emancipatory potential in Heart of Darkness (‘Planetary’ 499)”, his acknowledgement and subjective position on racism and sexism in Heart of Darkness is an oblique approach to an objective ethical matter. Though there is no justification for the real existence of racism and sexism, its potential presence in Heart of Darkness seems to be indeterminate of the story’s true intent. In the final analysis, the syndrome commonly referred to as post-traumatic stress disorder may account for many of the controversial and ambiguous issues presented in Heart of Darkness, for both the fictional narrator and the late author. Cedric Watts reminds the reader that “[during] Conrad’s own journey into the Congo in 1890 . . . he noted evidence of atrocities, exploitation, inefficiency, and hypocrisy, [which] fully convinced him of the disparity between imperialism’s rhetoric and . . . harsh reality (Cambridge 48)”. Conrad himself alludes to the semi-biographical nature of Heart of Darkness, as he is quoted in the novel’s introduction, “[Heart of Darkness was] experience pushed a little (and very little) beyond the facts of the case (Heart xi)”. It seems that the psychologically unsound aspect of Heart of Darkness is the catalyst for both praise and condemnation for Conrad and his work. Some sentimentalists laud Heart of Darkness as a much needed exposure to the ghastly realities of western imperialism. Others attack Conrad’s morals, via Marlow and Kurtz, with a viciousness that teeters on the edge of ad hominem. Perhaps many critics have ignored the crucial fact that Conrad wrote Heart of Darkness from experience; an experience that could darken the heart of the most stout-hearted man. The vulnerability that


post-traumatic stress disorder exposes in western society is a horror that has destroyed many men and women throughout history, and it continues to devour our people in a darkness that is not easily lifted. Though it may seem far-fetched to some readers, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness may be one of the earliest literary accounts of post-traumatic stress disorder and the devastating effects it wreaks on our culture.


Works Cited Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. 1902. Introduction Franklin Walker. New York: Bantam Dell, 2004. Print. Fox, John, and Bob Pease. "Military Deployment, Masculinity and Trauma: Reviewing the Connections." Journal of Men's Studies 20.1 (2012): 16-31. Academic Search Premier. Web. 15 Apr. 2012. Helliwell, Christine, and Barry Hindess. "The Past in the Present." Australian Journal of Politics & History 57.3 (2011): 377-388. Academic Search Premier. Web. 17 Mar. 2012. Lawtoo, Nidesh. "The Horror of Mimesis: Enthusiastic Outbreak[s] in Heart of Darkness." Conradiana 42.1/2 (2010): 46-74. Academic Search Premier. Web. 17 Mar. 2012. Paik, Nak-chung. "Towards a Planetary Approach to Western Literary Canons." Inter-Asia Cultural Studies 11.4 (2010): 496-501. Academic Search Premier. Web. 13 Apr. 2012. Romero, Jorge Sacido. "Failed Exorcism: Kurtz's Spectral Status and its Ideological Function in Conrad's Heart of Darkness." Atlantis (0210-6124) 33.2 (2011): 43-60. Humanities International Complete. Web. 17 Mar. 2012. Tucker, Charlotte. "U.S. Veterans Struggle with Pain, Stigma of Post-Traumatic Stress." Nation's Health 42.3 (2012): 1-12. Health Source: Nursing/Academic Edition. Web. 12 Apr. 2012. Watts, Cedric. “Heart of Darkness.� The Cambridge Companion to Joseph Conrad. Ed. J. H. Stape. New York: Cambridge UP, 1996. 45-62. Print.


“Free Will and White Smoke The logical compatibility of divine foreknowledge and human freedom” Sr. Susanna Edmunds, O.P. PHI 465: Philosophy of God Instructor: Dr. Peter Pagan “We are living through very momentous times in the life of the Church, so I ask now for your prayers that the Holy Spirit will inspire us as we will gather soon in conclave to elect our new Holy Father.” Cardinal Seán O’Malley, O.F.M. Cap. Archbishop of Boston, Massachusetts. 1

During the recent papal election, many Catholics confidently expressed their faith in the Holy Spirit. “The Holy Spirit will guide the cardinals.” “The Holy Spirit won’t let them elect the wrong Pope.” While theologically sound, these statements raise important philosophical questions. Who was in control of the election, the cardinals or the Holy Spirit? Did God already know who would be elected, and if so, were the cardinals able to vote freely? Divine foreknowledge and human freedom can appear to be logically incompatible. However, in the light of God’s eternity and transcendence, it is possible to understand human actions as being caused by God while remaining fully human acts, known by God from eternity and yet truly free. The divine eternity is an essential foundation for any discussion of God’s knowledge, which is radically unlike temporal knowledge. God is not so much everlasting, without beginning or end, as radically outside time 2. This is a negative doctrine, for we have no positive knowledge of what this is like. By first demonstrating that God is immutable (unable to change), 1

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, “Saying farewell to the Holy Father”, Cardinal Sean’s Blog, March 1, 2013,


Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Provence ( New York, NY: Benzinger Bros., 1948), Prima Pars q. 10 a.2. 12

it is possible to show that he is outside of time, for philosophically, time is the measure of change. Change is readily apparent in our daily experience. All material substances undergo generation and corruption. Even immaterial substances, such as the human intellect, are subject to change. On a fundamental level, change can be understood in terms of potency and act. To change is to move from being potential (with respect to some state of being) to having that potency actualized. Cold water has potency: the potential to be hot. Once heated, it no longer has this potency. It has undergone a change, and the potency of being hot has been actualized. Nothing can actualize itself. It must be actualized by something that is already in act. A fire must be hot (actual in respect to heat) in order to heat cold water (actualize its potential to be hot). Furthermore, a different “active agent� (in act with respect to heat) must have in turn actualized the potential of the wood, bringing about the heat of the fire in the wood. Let us consider the highest act, existence itself. Each finite thing that actualizes the existence of another must have itself been brought into existence by a prior agent. However, this chain of active agents cannot go on infinitely. There must be a first agent by which all things are actualized. This agent (God) is the ultimate cause of all act. 3 Remember that only that which is in act can actualize another. If God is the transcendent source of act, then there can be nothing that is in act in a respect in which God is not in act. Hence, there is nothing that can actualize God. Also, nothing can actualize itself. Therefore, by definition, God cannot be actualized. He is pure act. 4 He has no potency, and cannot move from potency to act in any respect. Hence, God is unable to change 5. Remembering that time is the measure of change, this allows us to say God is


Summa Theologiae Ia q. 1 a.3. Summa Theologiae Ia q. 3 a.4. 5 Summa Theologiae Ia q. 9 a.1. 4


outside of time. He exists not in time, the measure of change, but in eternity, the measure of abiding existence, pure act. From this eternal perspective, it is possible to consider the implications of omniscience. If God is outside of time, then statements such as, “God knew whom the cardinals would elect before they did so,” are meaningless. God cannot be placed on a timeline, knowing an outcome “before” the event occurred. He knows all things, all at once, from the perspective of eternity. He knows how events relate to each other chronologically, but his knowing is radically removed from any sort of chronology. This would seem to ease the tension between God’s knowledge and human freedom. Indeed, it would suggest that God does not have foreknowledge, because “fore-” would place his knowing in time. Yet in the Acts of the Apostles, we have it from Peter himself that “[Jesus] was handed over to [the Jews] by God's deliberate plan and foreknowledge.” 6 Perhaps he is speaking analogically about God’s knowledge. But what can be made of the prophets, who were in time, and yet experienced a participation in the divine omniscience, enabling them to predict with certainty? Further questions arise when we consider the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity. Jesus did not lose the divine nature when he took on human nature. While debate remains over the relationship between his human and divine intellects, evidence from Scripture demonstrates that he retained at least some of the divine omniscience. Did he not predict Peter’s denial and Judas’ betrayal? In this sense, Jesus really does have foreknowledge. He knew, in time, the outcome of future events. Did this in any way lessen the freedom of those around him? These interactions between God and creation point to the need to consider the nature of God’s knowledge, which is not only outside of time, but is radically different from ours.


Acts 2:23, New International Version 14

The Platonic-Aristotelian tradition has long held that the human intellect is man’s highest faculty. This can allow us to infer that God, source of all perfections, has an intellect 7. However, comparing the divine intellect to the human intellect can be misleading. An analogous approach is necessary in order to make inferences about God’s knowledge from our experience of human knowledge, without losing sight of the infinite distance between the two. Man’s knowledge generally arises from his experience of material reality. His knowledge is true if what he knows in his intellect corresponds correctly to objective, extramental (outside of the mind) reality. Reality is a cause of man’s knowing. This cannot be so for God, who is pure act, unable to be changed or caused. It is indeed the reverse situation. God’s knowledge is the cause of reality. Reality is as it is because it is known to be such by God. Truth begins in the mind of God; extramental reality is true in so far as it conforms to the divine intellect. His knowledge is the cause of the existence of that which he knows. If we stop here, serious concerns arise regarding the relationship between omniscience and human freedom. God cannot learn, for that would imply a change in him. Thus, he knows all that can be known. Even if an event is in our future, God is outside of time, and he knows it eternally. Furthermore, its existence is caused by him 8. How, then, can we say that humans are able to freely choose? God knew from all eternity whom the 266th successor of St. Peter would be, and indeed, the outcome of the election was so because of God’s knowledge of it. Did the cardinals follow a predetermined course, like actors in a play? Was the Pope freely chosen? Further distinctions will help to resolve this tension. God not only knows all things; he knows the manner in which they are and the manner in which they will come to be. If God knows something as actual, then it is actualized (real); if he knows something as potential, then it 7

Summa Theologiae Ia q. 14 a.1. Summa Theologiae Ia q. 14 a.8.



is potential, existing only in the mind of God. This can be applied to the outcome of the conclave. God knew the outcome, but he knew it precisely as the free decision of the cardinal electors. He knew each of their votes, but his knowledge of these votes is of them as free decisions 9. It is because God knows human action as truly free actions that they are free. This is ultimately a divine mystery. God’s knowing is infinitely different to human knowing. The likeness between them is not the likeness of something limited to that which is perfect, or of a lesser degree to a greater degree. It is the likeness of cause to effect, of a fire to a pot of hot water. Once we accept God as the first act, the source of all being, then it is necessary to infer that he is the primary cause of all human actions. Yet he does not act as a cause in the same way that we act as causes. God, the first cause, by his infinite power, is able to cause outcomes that are also dependent on free secondary causes. In a loose analogy, we can think of rolling dice – an action that is caused by man, yet with an outcome that is not caused only by him. It is as secondary causes that we act as free agents. God knew the outcome of the papal election, but the cardinals cast their votes freely, because God knew and willed it to be so. It was 100% God’s act, and, at the same time, a 100% free human act. Divine omniscience and human freedom are not logically incompatible. This can be seen in the example of Peter’s denial. Jesus is God, and remembering that things are true in so far as they conform to God’s knowledge, then we can say that God cannot be mistaken. Once Jesus declared that Peter was going to deny him thrice before the cock crew, the outcome of Peter’s evening was, in a sense, determined. Could Peter have chosen to remain faithful? Was he free? We must say yes. Otherwise, his action was directly willed by God, and to hold that God would will a sinful act raises serious problems for Christian philosophy. How, then, were Peter’s three choices free? They were free to the degree that God knew them as free, 9

Summa Theologiae Ia q. 11 a.13.


as he knows all human choices from all eternity. Peter acted, just as the cardinals did, as a free secondary cause. At the Last Supper, Jesus already knew how Peter would use his free choice, and thus was able to predict his triple denial. This did not mean that Peter could not have acted otherwise, but rather that Jesus, by his divine foreknowledge, knew that he would not. It is also helpful to consider briefly the nature of human choices. Choice is experienced by us as a real thing, and all reality is ultimately caused by God. If a choice is caused by God, is it still free? Yes. We act as “caused causes”, but as true causes all the same. It is important to note that freedom is not the state of being able to will whatever one wants. No individual is free in the sense of being able to choose any conceivable option. Many things are already determined - I cannot grow wings, for example. Furthermore, the will is directed towards the perceived good, and while we sometimes perceive falsely and pursue false goods, we cannot will that which we know to be evil for its own sake 10. Our freedom is not freedom from restraints or limits or causes; it is freedom to will the true good, in all situations where God has given us the opportunity to act as a secondary cause. This philosophical foundation is a helpful starting point for a proper theological discussion about the nature and purpose of prayer. Nothing can change God, so prayer is in no sense an attempt to change God’s mind, and although we do sometimes ask God to change someone’s mind or to force their hand, God will not violate the free will which he has given to each. It remains for theology to explain the mysterious ways in which God guides creation, and desires humanity to act as true causes and “co-creators” with him through prayer and action. Human freedom and divine omniscience are not logically opposed. Just as the first Bishop of Rome freely chose to deny Christ and then later to repent, so too did the College of 10

Summa Theologiae Ia q. 19 a.1.


Cardinals freely choose Pope Francis to be his successor. Did they listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit? We hope so. Yet even if they did not, we know that their choice is in accord with God’s will, for God wills the Pope to be the one freely chosen by the cardinals, and we can be confident, for as history attests, he can bring great good even out of our worst decisions.


Works Cited Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Theologiae. Translated by the Fathers of the English Dominican Province. Vol. I. New York, NY: Benzinger Bros., 1948. O’Malley, Sean. “Cardinal Sean’s Blog.”


“St. Robert Southwell’s ‘A Vale of Teares’: Afflictio dat intellectum” Sr. Rose Miriam Collins ENG 312: World Literature – Lyric Instructor: Father Albert Trudel, O.P. On May 8, 1586, Robert Southwell left the English College in Rome to begin his mission among the recusant Catholics of England (The Reckoned Expense, 196). Jesuit superiors instructed priests on the English mission, “to confirm Catholics in their faith, absolve the lapsed, [and] not to battle with heretics” (Discovering and (Re)covering, 7). Edmund Campion’s year of preaching and dramatic martyrdom inaugurated the mission in 1581. Following Campion’s lead, most priests spent a short time travelling in disguise, ministering to Catholic households or to Catholics secretly living in large Anglican households. None expected to evade eventual capture and death. As their instructions indicate, Jesuit priests understood their mission as a ministry of reconciliation and encouragement. The priests often heard confessions all night, preached and offered Mass in the morning, and left immediately afterward. A stanza of Southwell’s poetry illustrates the priests’ situation: Here Christall springs crept out of secrete veyne Strait finde some envious hole that hides their grace Here seared tuftes lament the wante of rayne There Thunder wracke gives terror to the place (“A Vale of Teares,” 49-52) “Christall springs” are a fitting image for the priests themselves, who in their sacramental ministry act as alter Christus, “another Christ,” channeling the grace of redemption in the Church’s liturgical worship. As such, they depended entirely on the good will of those to whom they ministered. Rewards for informing the authorities on the whereabouts of a priest were high.


If the authorities arrived unexpectedly, priests scrambled into secret cupboards or rooms, known as “priest-holes.” With all Catholic liturgy and devotion banned, the faithful were as “seared tuftes lament[ing] the wante of rayne.” The “thunder wracke” heralded, not life-giving rain, but the terror of torture and execution which awaited those bold enough to flaunt the laws prohibiting Catholic worship. In his poem, “A Vale of Teares,” Southwell depicts three landscapes: the first is a physical alpine valley; this opens into a figurative representation of sixteenth-century England; finally, the interior space of the individual’s mind and soul appears. Southwell’s poem of contrition and repentance serves a definite purpose in his missionary activity. He invites the reader into “A Vale of Teares,” as a means of transcending the personal and social trials of recusant Catholics in late sixteenth-century England. A Literary History Robert Southwell accomplished his personal mission among English Catholics in large part through writing. As Campion’s “Brag,” (“To the Lords of Her Majesty’s Privy Council,” 1580) aptly demonstrated, the written word travelled more quickly and widely than even the ablest of disguised priests. Although several of Southwell’s works were published during his lifetime, manuscripts, or hand-copied collections, were more frequently circulated among Catholics. Among these poems, “A Vale of Teares,” is preserved. In his critical history of English Catholic poets, Anthony Cousins discusses several of Southwell’s poems in thematic groupings. Cousins’ examines “A Vale of Teares” only briefly, appreciating it as a descriptive exploration of a physical landscape which also possesses figurative meaning as a landscape of the mind. In the vast and violent aesthetics of Southwell’s “Vale,” the “emotional states of contrition” play an integral role in God’s design for human


nature (The Catholic Religious Poets, 60-61). But for Cousins, “A Vale of Teares” bears remembrance primarily as an introduction to the better known poem of repentance, “Saint Peter’s Complaint.” The missionary context of Southwell’s poetry urges closer study of “A Vale of Teares.” The martyr’s zeal, which inspired Catholic priests to return to England, likewise inspired each of Southwell’s English lyrics. The poems of repentance, therefore, are not distant psychological studies, but rather the art of a man who devoted his life to the good of souls. The recusant Catholic in the last decades of the sixteenth-century copied and disseminated Southwell’s lyrics, not as an academic study in the aesthetics of contrition, but as real aids in bearing the hardships of persecution. It is in this sense that the critical recognition of “A Vale of Tears,” is wanting. How did Southwell’s art help him accomplish his pastoral ministry to the recusant Catholic community of England? “A Vale of Teares” presents the personal and societal experience of recusant Catholics as a landscape of bleak horror, “where every thing doth soothe a dumpish moode” (34). Through the speaker of the poem, Southwell does not counsel rash action or escapism, but invites faithful Catholics to respond by embracing reality, learning contrition, and receiving mercy; therein becoming capable of transcending darkness by the Christian paradox of redemption. The Place “A Vale of Tears” is comprised of nineteen rhyming quatrains of iambic pentameter verse. At the literal level the first thirteen stanzas of the poem describe a valley, probably modeled on the dramatic alpine passes through which Southwell travelled while studying on the continent (Collected Poems., xvi). Southwell’s “Vale” retains the scale and natural wonder of a real landscape, but is also designed to evoke sorrow, dread and gloom. The steady meter and


unvarying rhyme, draw the reader into the vale. Sweeney remarks that the “strong patterning tends to force its own sense on the reader” (Collected Poems, 124). “A Vale of Teares,” is dark and fearful. With grim detail, the speaker deliberately addresses every physical sense in the mournful landscape. He begins: A Vale there is, enwrapt with dreadfull shades Which thicke of mourning pines shrouds from the Sunne Where hanging clyftes yelde shorte and dumpish glades And snowye fludd with broken streames doth runne (1-4) Most of the visual elements appear in this first stanza. The valley is enclosed by sheer cliffs, topped by looming pines. An icy river tumbles down from the heights. Later in the poem, Southwell returns to each element, highlighting significant details to evoke figurative meaning. The vast proportions of the landscape magnify the emotional impact on the reader. The intensity and anthropomorphism of the natural elements stretch literal meaning to its limit. For example, the natural course of a mountain stream becomes a violent gauntlet as, “waters wrestle with encountringe Stones / that breake their streames and turne them into fome” (13-14). The scale of the scene creates a sense of smallness in the reader, who has unwittingly become the subject of the poem. When, in the sixth stanza, “pilgrimm Wightes” appear, the reader watches with dismay as they “pass with trembling foot and panting heart / They judge the place to terror framed by art” (21-24). This is no place for resting, no place for repose. The effect created by the isolation of the subject in such magnitude is compounded by the fact that each sense is strictly obligated to receive what the vale presents. Only what is dark, dreary and violent may be seen, only the howling and roaring heard. The pilgrim exiled in the vale stands helplessly amid hostile elements, so much more powerful than himself.


While some find the elaborate composition of place obscure, the reader attuned to Southwell’s historical and spiritual contexts, will appreciate the personal and social spaces which he figuratively describes. Every element in the poem is a portal to a figurative place of meaning. What did the recusant Catholics of Elizabethan England see, hear, and feel in Southwell’s “Vale of Teares”? In stanza three, the speaker introduces the wind, which whips through the landscape; invasive, insistent and interminable. In fact “eares of other sounde can have no choise / But various blustering of the stubborne Wynde” (9-10). The violating force of the wind recalls the censorship and persecution of the realm, which steadily increased throughout Elizabeth’s reign. As the wind wails “in trees in Caves in strayts with divers noyse,” so also, the realm’s persecution of each class “now doth hisse now howle now roare by kinde” (12). Elizabeth outlawed the celebration of Mass, the Divine Liturgy and other Catholic devotions. Outlawed or out of favor with the court, “all pleasant birdes their tunes from thence retyre / Where none but heavy notes have any grace” (17-18). From the lowest churl to the highest courtier, English Catholics were subject to debilitating fines, imprisonment, and even death for fidelity to the Catholic faith. Beneath the screaming wind, an ominous rumbling echoes through the vale. In lines fifteen and sixteen, “The hollowe cloudes, full fraught with thundering grones / With hideous thumps discharge their pregnant woome” (15-16). With these lines, the speaker conjures the most terrifying of scenes for Catholics of the sixteenth century. The sentence pronounced by the Lord Chief Justice at Edmund Campion’s trial provides a key for the modern reader: Ye shall be drawn through the open City of London upon hurdles to the place of execution, and there be hanged and let down alive, and your privy parts cut off, and your


entrails taken out and burnt in your sight; then your heads to be cut off and your bodies divided into four parts, to be disposed of at Her Majesty’s pleasure. And God have mercy on your soul. (Saint Edmund Campion: Priest and Martyr, 205) The martyrdom of English Catholics was a ghastly affair. Once dragged to Tyburn Hill, the convicted men stood beneath the gallows on wagons, as in “hollow cloudes.” Neck-in-noose, the condemned gave their last testimony on moveable platforms. Then the wheels groaned forward and with “hideous thumps,” the final crucible began. As from a “pregnant woome,” men were born to eternal life. A far cry from the beauty of Divine Liturgy or sacred music, “the horror of this fearefull Quire” is the only music in Southwell’s vale (16). Along with gruesome scenes of execution, the “pilgrimm Wighte” in Southwell’s vale might also glimpse the interior struggles of recusant Catholics wavering in fear and doubt, measuring the costs of compromise and fidelity. Their circumstances, as Southwell’s family history attests, were often ambiguous and confusing. In the eleventh stanza, the speaker elaborates upon the pine trees, which, “sett highe growen and ever greene / Still cloath the place with sad and mourning vayle” (41-43). Naturally, those who remain “greene,” that is, enlivened by faith, cover the whole place with a veil of sadness. In the poem’s first reference to a spiritual reality, “hope doth springe and there agayne doth quaile” (44). The introduction of hope in the eleventh stanza is significant, as in the twelfth the speaker enters into the personal turmoil of the faithful and fallen among recusant Catholics. The fall of faithful Catholics beneath the weight of persecution, finds apt expression in the reckless destruction of a mountain avalanche. The speaker describes, “Huge Massy stones that hange by ticle staye /Still threaten fall and seeme to hange in feare” (45-48). Significantly, fear is attributed to the stones. On the literal level, the image is counter-intuitive: surely those


beneath the impending avalanche have more to fear that the rocks do themselves. But Southwell alludes to the strain and fear experienced by those who desired fidelity, but feared their own weakness. Counting himself in their number, Southwell attempted to recall Catholics to an eternal perspective. In the light of eternity, the sacrifices demanded by fidelity are but passing shadows. The next two lines describe a curious array of trees. Those who blithely cast aside faith have no cause to cover the place with “mourning vayle”; but then again, there are “some withered trees, asham’d of their decay” (47). These represent persons who reluctantly compromised faith, simultaneously grieving their loss. Tragically, some “besett with greene are forcd gray coates to weare” (48). The state’s usurpation of religious authority creates a dreadful irony: to remain faithful to religious conviction, citizens must choose civil “treason.” Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel, exemplifies these circumstances. Philip spent his profligate youth as a favorite in Elizabeth’s court. Converted to the Catholic faith by Campion’s heroic testimony, Philip reconciled with his young wife, Anne, subsequently falling out of favor with the Queen. He then endured over ten years in the Tower of London. On the condition of renouncing the Catholic faith, he was promised release. Southwell, then serving as Anne’s spiritual director, corresponded secretly with Philip, encouraging him in fidelity. In response, Philip wrote: It is my daily prayer that I may continue constant in the profession of [God’s] Catholic faith . . . and He knows, who knows the secrets of all hearts, that I am fully resolved to endure any death, rather than willingly yield to anything offensive to His Divine Majesty in the least respect, or to give just cause of scandal to the meanest Catholic. (Robert Southwell and the Mission of Literature, 55)


Philip was undoubtedly the “weightiest” noble victim of the anti-Catholic persecution of Elizabeth’s reign. Choosing the narrow road of fidelity, his suffering yielded the fruit of wisdom. Philip left the reckoning to God and reconciled his past, his future, and all his grief in the simple phrase: Afflictio dat intellectum, “Affliction gives understanding.” In the figurative “Vale of Teares,” a choice is implicated in both stones’ fall and trees’ decay. Philip’s choice was clear. At the age of thirty-nine, he died in the Tower of London. The Response In “A Vale of Teares,” Southwell accompanies his readers into the dark reality of late sixteenth-century England. He desires that they become fully aware of their circumstances, so that they may respond in a manner that will benefit their souls. Afflictio dat intellectum could have been the rallying cry of the entire Jesuit mission to England. “A Vale of Teares,” is a place ideally suited to those bearing grief. After all, an idyllic meadow would only mock their pain. But to those with sorrowful hearts and heavy thoughts “this vale a rest may bee / To which from worldly joyes they may retire” (57-58). The pathetic fallacy invites recusant Catholics to “rest” in the reality of their plight. The speaker gently presses his point: in the midst of persecution, men and women ought to recognize the uselessness of “Dame pleasures vayne reliefes” (56). Rather, let them be still in this vale, “where sorowe springs from water stone and tree / Where everie thing with mourners doth conspire” (59-60). In a brilliant rhetorical turn, the speaker changes to the first person in the sixteenth stanza. After reviewing the horror of the place, he advises: “Sett here my soule mayn streames of teares aflote / Here all thy synnfull foyles alone recounte” (61-62). By counseling himself, the speaker acknowledges that he too is in the vale, struggling with other recusant Catholics. It is an astute strategy for both the poet and the priest. A humble man, capable of empathy, gains a


receptive audience. Southwell’s rhetorical skill provides a gentle invitation to the reader, who hears his own voice speak: “Sett here my soule mayn streames of teares aflote.” Grief is altogether appropriate in such a place. Yet self pity will not be the end of the tears which fill this vale. If one sees “A Vale of Teares” aright, “mayn streames of teares aflote,” carrying the mourner, not drowning him. Southwell does not recall the nightmares of persecution to foster resentment, but rather to help his Catholic countrymen grasp the depth of their misery. In that figurative “place,” if the soul can be brought to recall, “all thy synnfull foyles,” the whole mass of grief becomes the counterweight of a pulley, raising the person out of the narrow logic of earthly justice and retribution; “affliction gives understanding.” The speaker thus counsels: When Eccho doth repeat thy playnefull cryes Thinck that the very stones thy synnes bewray And nowe accuse the[e] with their sad replyes As heaven and earth shall in the later day (65-68) Awareness of personal weakness and sinfulness allows one to receive mercy, and injustice becomes an opportunity to extend mercy. The persecuted Christian is called to a profound participation in God’s manner of loving. This is the manner in which Southwell attempts “to help souls” (Rediscovering and (Re)covering, “To Help Souls,” 55). His poems of contrition and repentance counsel recusant Catholics to seek mercy. Scott Pilarz further explains: Faithful to his Jesuit superiors’ instructions [Southwell] does not himself nor does he encourage his readers . . . to ‘do battle with heretics.’ Instead, he wants them to engage in a process of transformation or, in his word, ‘transfiguration.’ The battle is within.” (The Mission of Literature, 66-67; cf. “Epistle of Comfort,” 157)


Humble contrition and the reception of mercy free the soul of rancor and bitterness toward others. By the end of his combat, Southwell was such a one. To Richard Topcliffe, the man who hunted and tortured him with sadistic intensity, Southwell mildly stated, “Thou art a bad man” (“The Roman Steps to the Temple,” 2). Liberation is the gift of the forgiven and forgiving person. Southwell attempts to illuminate the woes of recusant Catholics with eternal truth. He directs his poetry toward their “transfiguration,” hoping that despite external suffering, Catholics might discover freedom beyond the reach of those who sought their woe.

Contrition and repentance distill sorrows into rightly ordered tears (69-72), tears which do not swamp, but carry one through the darkened valley. The speaker concludes with a final invitation, still addressed to his own soul: Let teares to tunes and paynes to playnts be prest And let this be the burdon of thy songe Come deepe remorse possesse my synfull brest Delightes adiew I harboured yowe to longe (73-76) Robert Southwell’s little known poem of repentance is an invitation to spiritual freedom. Insofar as every person traverses life in “A Vale of Teares,” Southwell’s poem retains its power and relevance. A poet and priest to the end, his last words on Tyburn Hill echo down to the valley still: In manus tuus, Domine; indeed, “in your hands, Lord,” “affliction gives understanding.”


Works Cited Bouchard, Gary M. “The Roman steps to the temple: an examination of the influence of Robert Southwell, SJ, upon George Herbert.” Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture 10.3 (2007): 131+. Academic OneFile. Web. 10 Sep. 2012. Cousins, Anthony D. The Catholic Religious Poets from Southwell to Crashaw: A Critical History. London: Sheed and Ward, 1991. Print. Cunnar, Eugene, and Johnson, Jeffrey, eds. Discovering and (Re)covering the Seventeenth Century Religious Lyric. Pittsburgh: Duquesne UP, 2001. Print. Davidson, Peter, and Sweeney, Anne, eds. St. Robert Southwell: Collected Poems, S.J. Manchester: Carcanet, 2007. Print. McGoog, Thomas S.J, ed. The Reckoned Expense: Edmund Campion and the Early English Jesuits; Essays in celebration of the first centenary of Campion Hall, Oxford (18961996). Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 1996. Print. “Robert Southwell: The Mission of the Written Word,” Nancy Pollard Brown, 193-213. Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford UP, 2012. Accessed 16 Nov. – 3 Dec. 2012. Pilarz, S.J., Scott R. Robert Southwell and the Mission of Literature, 1561 – 1595: Writing Reconciliation. Burlington: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2004. Print. Undset, Sigrid. Stages on the Road. Ave Maria: Aver Maria Press, 2012. Print. Waugh, Evelyn. Saint Edmund Campion: Priest and Martyr. London: Hollis and Carter, 1935. Print


“Dressed to Kill” Michael McLean HIS 112: Western Civilization II Instructor: Dr. Vincent Ryan Becoming queen at a young age in a troubled kingdom, Marie Antoinette was in a tenuous situation at best. Furthermore, France had weak-willed King Louis XVI at the helm, which served to make things all the worse. Marie Antoinette, however, was not one to shy away from a challenge or run the risk of fading into obscurity. From the time she arrived in France, Marie Antoinette set about changing social conventions which, as time went by, conveniently made her a target from which the revolution could hang its banner. This young trendsetter would forever leave her mark, not only on the fashion world, but also the political landscape of Europe. Early in her reign, Marie Antoinette discovered that her looks and fashion could be a catalyst to assert herself at the forefront of public opinion. She would not be content to be relegated to the background. She used fashion to find her voice. As Caroline Weber explains, “From her earliest days at Versailles, Marie Antoinette staged a revolt against entrenched court etiquette by turning her clothes and other accoutrements into defiant expressions of autonomy and prestige” (3). While there was early backlash to her approach from some at the court, it appeared that the majority of the public loved her, and she was seemingly very close to the king, who did not have mistresses (in spite of the way his ancestors had done things). As she discovered the effect that her royal visage and raiment had on the average citizen, the queen was stunned to learn that even the most taxed commoner seemed to love her, and at such a (ironically) small cost to the kingdom: “Poor people... were ecstatic at the sight of us, even though they are burdened by 31

taxation... How fortunate we are that we can have such widespread popularity at so small a cost... That fact was impressed upon me, and I shall never forget it” (Weber 9). A light came on; this beautiful young monarch was one of the first to discover the marketing power that a beautiful woman can wield in a male dominated society. Setting the course for many beer commercials to come, she embraced the role of trendsetter, brilliantly using this medium to garner more influence. As Weber says, “Inclined in this direction, public opinion – and a savvy manipulation of 'her dazzling features' – could serve as a most effective weapon in the Dauphine's political arsenal” (93). This early popularity served to develop what can only be described as an addiction fueled by the national pocketbook. The queen redefined opulence in her dress and her hairstyles, spending fortune after fortune to remain the cutting edge in fashion. This approach continued to keep her in the forefront of the public eye. It was inconceivable! The queen was meant to be nothing more than a figurehead who eventually merely blended into the background and made babies; Weber says, “This was a radical notion to say the least. At Versailles, queens were traditionally expected to lead quiet, retiring lives, busying themselves with childbearing and prayer while pampered maitresses en titre dipped freely into the kingly coffers” (99). Feeding her fashion habit more and more, and in more grandiose ways, she even supported the American Revolution, by doing her hair to mirror a ship from one of the key victories against the British. Meanwhile, in the real world outside of Versailles, things were not great. As Marie Antoinette invested more and more into her extensive wardrobe, people were beginning to turn against her. Her style no longer made the people cheer. In the midst of more and more suffering amongst the masses, the public eye was beginning to look less and less favorably upon the queen: “Marie Antoinette's status as a style icon soon turned from enchanting to suspect, and


her use of fashion to command her subjects' respect started to work against her” (Weber 113). As Weber describes her decline from the graces of the people (6), the queen's wardrobe became symbolic of everything that was wrong with the monarchs and nobility. It epitomized the vast differences between the rich, who were dumping money by the cart full into frivolous things, and the poor, who could barely even feed themselves and their families. During what one contemporary described as a “veritable revolution in dress” (Weber 4), an actual revolution was forming its foundations and clinging to the queen as one of the cornerstones upon which to build. While the people were learning the meaning of vive la revolution, “This queen of poufs and feathers came to emblematize the worst aspects of royal privilege – and the best reasons for revolution” (Weber 6). Once the seeds of revolution began to grow, it seemed as if nothing she did could get positive press. Her cherished status as a fashion icon now developed into a catalyst stirring the rebellion to a crescendo. The queen crossed a line at some point and she could no longer retreat. She was demonized in all aspects of her life, and as Winston Churchill once observed, a lie has traveled around the world before truth puts its pants on. Like wildfire the lies about Antoinette took hold: Now known and decried among a broader public than ever before, Marie Antoinette's iconoclastic indulgences of style again figured forth a host of damning connotations – from sexual depravity to financial rapacity to treasonous, anti-French political loyalties – that managed her already tarnished reputation beyond repair and drastically compromised the stature of the monarchy as a whole (Weber 164)


The damage had been done and events were set in motion that would prove to be the undoing of the French monarchy. There are many things that can be blamed for the French revolution, such as poor economic policy, famine, and the privileges of the elite. Marie Antoinette's indulgences, though, became a very public symbol for the revolution to use to incite the people. Her decisions were not well thought out in many areas; nonetheless, the queen became the very figurehead she worked so hard to avoid becoming during the ancien regime. Marie Antoinette was of a revolution that had planted itself firmly at her doorstep, and against which no costume in the world would protect her. Whether she dressed like a princess or a peasant girl, 'Madame Deficit' had been singled out as the people's most heinous foe. As such, she was indeed doomed to bring bad luck – to the ancien regime, to her family, and most of all, to herself� (Weber 192).


Work Cited Weber, Caroline. Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution. New York: H. Holt, 2006. Print.


“Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan: The Best of Vietnamese Culture” Sr. Maria Thuan Nguyen, O.P. English 344: Advanced Grammar Instructor: Sr. Mary Dominic Pitts, O.P. Vietnamese people are said to be nosy. They do not wait upon an invitation to enter the house of your life. No, they worm themselves in, and next thing you know, they are relaxing in your living room, soaking in all the details of your life. They also, however, take it upon themselves to use any meager resources they have to help you. Vietnamese people, then, are not necessarily nosy but attentive to the other. They do not wait upon an invitation to enter the house of your life because they anticipate your needs. That’s how Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan entered my life. I was not acquainted with Cardinal Thuan’s story until after I entered a religious community as a postulant. I was not planning on getting to know him, but he did not wait for an invitation. He was simply there, guiding me through my spiritual journey. In thanksgiving for Cardinal Thuan’s presence in my life, I now take every opportunity possible to introduce him to all people. Faithful, innovative, and people-oriented, Cardinal Thuan manifests the best of the Vietnamese culture. Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan was born on April 17, 1928. From a young age, his character was shaped by the ideals of his heritage. Thuan knew that he was called to communicate the very best of Vietnamese culture. In 1941, Thuan joined the Catholic seminary and was ordained a priest in 1953. Shortly after Thuan was made Coadjutor Archbishop of Saigon in 1975, he was arrested and imprisoned by the Communists on account of his Catholic faith. During Thuan’s time in prison, he lived the virtues cherished by the Vietnamese culture.


One of the prized virtues of the Vietnamese culture is fidelity to those whom they love, even in the midst of profound hardship. This fidelity permeated Thuan’s actions during his imprisonment. The stench of urine flooded his senses. The brutality of isolation assaulted his mind. The cruelty of constant darkness haunted his heart. Despite this, Thuan remained faithful to Christ. When officials attempted to force Thuan to admit there was collaboration between the FBI and the Vatican, Thuan proclaimed Christ’s message of unity and reconciliation. He treated each of his tormentors with dignity. When the prison guards taunted Thuan because of his Catholic faith, Thuan simply smiled and thanked them. He did not allow bitterness to consume him, but remained faithful to Christ-Crucified by trusting in Divine Providence. Like previous generations of Vietnamese people who clung to their family values despite hardship, Thuan remained faithful to His Christian values. Imitating the Vietnamese who came before him, Thuan used his limited resources creatively in order to fulfill his duties as shepherd to the faithful when he was in prison. When Thuan could not physically be present to his people, Thuan solicited the help of a young boy to bring him old calendars. Thuan wrote simple, sincere messages of hope on the calendars and had the young boy copy and distribute them among the faithful. Thuan’s profound letters to the Catholic community strengthened them in their faith and helped them to persevere. The words, which resonated in the people’s hearts, reminded them that Thuan, though not physically present, was present with them through prayer. Thuan also innovatively used his scanty means to celebrate Mass in prison. Thuan knew that celebrating Mass was his most important duty, but he had no church, no altar, and no tabernacle. How, then, could he fulfill his duty as bishop? Thuan turned the concentration camp into a cathedral and the palm of his hand into an altar. He turned his shirt pocket into a tabernacle


and turned the darkness of the sleeping quarters into a dwelling place for Light Himself. Because of his ingenuity, many prisoners regained the fervor of their faith. The prisoners were reminded to embrace suffering and to use their current circumstance to their advantage. Thuan’s ability to make the most of what he had reflects the example of his ancestors, who creatively used their poverty as means to provide for their family. Exemplifying the Vietnamese tendency to be attentive to others, otherwise known as charitable nosiness, Thuan was conscientious of his prison guards’ needs. Thuan, formed in all the goodness of Vietnam’s communal culture, could not help but intrude on other people’s lives. Thuan saw them as part of the village in which he lived—he saw them as family. Eventually, Thuan’s kind demeanor and genuine interest pierced through their anxiety and resentment. He taught them English, French, Latin, and other foreign languages. Starving for a sense of meaning in their lives, the prison guards would ask Thuan numerous questions about the Church. Thuan catechized his eager prison guards, explaining Catholic doctrine with kindness and patience. When the prison guards asked if Thuan felt resentment towards them for his imprisonment, Thuan only assured them of his concern and love for them. His love was both bewildering and contagious. Government officials soon discovered prison guards arguing for the Church and singing the Veni Sancte Spiritus while working. As a result, government officials were constantly moving Thuan to different prisons because Christian ideals were contaminating die-hard Communists, but by the time the guards were moved away, Thuan had already imprinted his ideals in their hearts. Cardinal Thuan carried the Vietnamese ideals with him wherever he went. The best of the Vietnamese culture is marked by the people’s constancy, creativity, and charity. Thuan’s witness teaches and reminds the Vietnamese people to live their Vietnamese culture in all circumstances.


Writers' Night Proceedings 2013  

Every spring Aquinas College sponsors a contest to honor excellence in student academic writing. The Writers’ Night contest is open to stude...

Writers' Night Proceedings 2013  

Every spring Aquinas College sponsors a contest to honor excellence in student academic writing. The Writers’ Night contest is open to stude...