Orlando Furioso Canto XIV: Subversive

One of the really funny, sneaky moves of Orlando Furioso comes here, at the onset of the siege of Paris, but to see it we have to talk context both literary and historical.  After delivering his opening exhortation, Ariosto rehearses a Catalog of Ships: a listing of all the Spanish and African forces that have rallied to the banner of Agramant in his war against Charlemagne.

Where have we heard this before…?

Level One: H/T Homer

The simplest allusion here is the classical one.   Continue reading Orlando Furioso Canto XIV: Subversive

Orlando Furioso Cast of Characters: Marphisa

Damascus XVIII, Laiazzo XIX, Gabrina and Pinabel XX, Four-way dispute XXVI, Tournament XXVII, Mentioned XXX, XXXI, Rejoins Agramant at Arles XXXII, Duel with Bradamante XXXVI, Ulania and Marganor XXXVII, Baptism XXXVIII, Battle at Broken Truce XXXIX, Hermit’s Prophecy XLI, Bradamante’s Comfort XLII, XLIV, Appeal to Unite Bradamante and Rogero XLV, Leo and Rodomonte XLVI

Rogero’s long-lost sister (spoiler!), Daughter of Elder Rogero and Galaciella

Coat of Arms:

Gold Phoenix on Green Field

Classical Type:

Penthesilea, Valkyrie, Achilles, Princess Leia Organa


Knight-Errant Teaches Men a Lesson, Discovers Her Noble Heritage, Helps Unite Brother With His True Love

Summary: Continue reading Orlando Furioso Cast of Characters: Marphisa

Teaching Badly: Middle School

My son (5th grade) has been challenging some of my core beliefs about teaching boys.

Because CCD is generally rubbish, we “homeschool” our kids in the Faith.  That turns out to be the only way to do it, but that’s a lesson for another day.  On Saturday and/or Sunday mornings my son and I sit down for about an hour to pray a little, do some Church history and saint biographies, and take notes on One Idea.

Lately he’s been screwing up my plans, because he keeps asking extremely important questions which A) need to be answered at length with interesting conversations and B) should be impossible for a child his age.

On the Standard Model By Me, 9th grade is the strike-while-the-iron-is-hot age for explaining the Faith at a really deep level.  You can consult my 9th grade (we call it Form III around here) reading list to see what I mean.  Middle school, by contrast, is a different animal.  Here’s The Theory. Continue reading Teaching Badly: Middle School

Reading Scripture: History and Wisdom

A recent post by Real Person Friend MrsDarwin reminded me of one way in which my Old Testament curriculum is “complicated.”

Not to contradict what I said here–my OT class really is pretty simple–there is one very powerful move to make when reading Scripture.  The framework of my class is historical: read the story of Israel from Abraham to the Persian restoration, spanning two years (Genesis to Joshua, Judges to II Kings+).

I strongly believe the Old Testament needs to be read this way rather than carved up lectionary-style, at least once you have students of a certain age.  It’s remarkable how unified the narrative is, and how much the interpretations depend on previous passages.  You just can’t see this without reading it as a historical whole.

However! Continue reading Reading Scripture: History and Wisdom


The Great Commonwealth of Virginia has apparently been struggling to register births for a few years now.  The solution my leaders have hit upon is delightfully Orwellian.

A brief explanation: the two or three days you spend in the hospital at the birth of a child are filled with visits from all manner of health care providers and paper-pushers.  Oh, the paper-pushers!  Paper, paper, everywhere, and not a drop of ink!  At the hospital you get paper telling you your baby is alive, paper telling you your baby can hear, paper telling you how to put your baby in a car seat, and on and on.  Oh, and you get a baby.  Two, if God is having a laugh. Continue reading Bureaucracy

Furioso Friday: Benedictine Edition

For this week of St. Anselm, God has so ordained things that two of my hobbies–Orlando Furioso and the Rule of St. Benedict–converge.  In his super-subversive Canto XIV, Ariosto lets us know what he thinks about the Benedictine monasteries of his day (XIV.75-95)

As the siege of Paris is about to go down, God tears a page out of Juno’s playbook and sends Alecto St. Michael the Archangel down to earth to make sure things play out according to divine plan.  “Michael!  Go find Silence and have him help the Christian reinforcements arrive undetected!  While you are at it, send Discord into the Muslim ranks to sow chaos.”

So–hmm?  Where’s an Archangel Defender of Paris to find Silence these days?  A moment’s thought by that pure intelligence reveals the answer: a place of prayer, naturally, where vows of silence prevail.  To a Benedictine monastery we go!   Continue reading Furioso Friday: Benedictine Edition

St. Bernard on Pride: Next Steps

I’ve hemmed and hawed for weeks on how to handle the next few chapters of St. Bernard’s ladder of humility and pride.  I’ve decided to try a larger, more structured post, something close to an article.  A bit outside my these-days comfort zone, but here goes.

First, for review, the two ladders:

Bernard’s Steps of Pride Benedict’s Ladder of Humility
1. Curiosity about what is not one’s concern Keep your head and eyes downcast
2. Light-minded chatter about trivialities If you do speak, do so quietly and soberly
3. Laughing about nothing Do not be quick to laugh
4. Boasting and talking too much Do not speak (unless spoken to)
5. Trying to be a special little snowflake Do nothing except what is commanded by the Rule and the example of the elders
6. Thinking oneself holier than others Consider oneself lower and of less account than everyone
7. Presumption to interfere in the affairs of others Be content with the poorest and worst of everything
8. Self-justification and excuse-making Hide nothing from the abbot
9.  Insincere Confession Patience in the face of accusation
10. Rebellion against superiors Submission of perfect obedience
11. Feeling Free to Sin Love doing the will of another
12. Habitual Sin Fear of the Lord

Here we began our initial descent down the ladder of pride with a consideration of curiosity (not the good kind!).  The next three steps all go together along with the first: levitas animi, foolish merriment, and boasting.  What they have in common is the wind: the person becomes less grounded, less substantial, less real.

These stages, like the corresponding claims in St. Benedict’s original ladder, pose a lot of challenges to us who view levity and merriment as goods.  As ever, to explain the Benedictine way always seems to involve backing up a bit and guarding against neurosis and scruple.  Let’s start by getting clear on levity and its true opposite, stability.


It may help to back up to look at a passage I skipped over in previous posts.  When St. Bernard talks about Satan, he does not consider him deep under the earth or burning with the fire of hell.  In an arresting passage, he has him trapped between earth and heaven, spinning in the wind: Continue reading St. Bernard on Pride: Next Steps

Loving Wisdom

King Alfred the Great said some truly mighty words about education and the pursuit of wisdom some 1100 years ago.  It’s from the preface he wrote to St. Gregory’s Pastoralis, and for many years I kept the choice quotations taped to my office door.

In a spate of cosmic irony the laws of our modern Land of Safety required that I take it down so as not to obscure the door’s Door-ness in the event of fire.  Great Alfred defend us!  I now preserve the immortal words here, with a link to the full preface here.

Consider what punishments would come upon us on account of this world, if we neither loved it (wisdom) ourselves nor suffered other men to obtain it: we should love the name only of Christian, and very few of the virtues.

When I considered all this I remembered also how I saw, before it had been all ravaged and burnt, how the churches throughout the whole of England stood filled with treasures and books, and there was also a great multitude of God’s servants, but they had very little knowledge of the books, for they could not understand anything of them, because they were not written in their own language. As if they had said: “Our forefathers, who formerly held these places, loved wisdom, and through it they obtained wealth and bequeathed it to us. In this we can still see their tracks, but we cannot follow them, and therefore we have lost both the wealth and the wisdom, because we would not incline our hearts after their example.”

When I remembered all this, I wondered extremely that the good and wise men who were formerly all over England, and had perfectly learnt all the books, did not wish to translate them into their own language. But again I soon answered myself and said: “They did not think that men would ever be so careless, and that learning would so decay; through that desire they abstained from it, and they wished that the wisdom in this land might increase with our knowledge of languages.”

What’s Wrong With The World, 1100 years later.  As another great king once said, “The days have gone down in the west, behind the hills, in shadow.”  How did it come to this?

These are words that make teaching exciting.

St. Anselm

Indeed, it is a matter of certain knowledge that, whatever a human being may say on this subject [the logic or necessity of the Incarnation], there remain deeper reasons, as yet hidden from us, for a reality of such supreme importance.

St. Anselm of Canterbury, Cur Deus Homo I.2