La Crosse, Wisconsin

Catholics looking for a decent place to settle and raise their families ought to consider La Crosse, Wisconsin. La Crosse is usually overlooked in online discussions about orthodox Catholic communities (overlooked by traditionalists, at any rate) but I think the area has much to recommend it. The single most important consideration, of course, is the Mass: the traditional  Roman Rite is offered weekly, on Sundays at 9:30am, at the incomparably beautiful Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe just a few minutes south of town. Also encouraging is the fact that the Shrine is staffed by the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, an order known and respected for its muscular orthodoxy. I would expect that the Shrine has plenty of opportunities for boys to serve at the altar, for older children and adults to sing in a choir, and for everyone to participate in extra-liturgical devotions. I would expect that these good Friars not only provide excellent spiritual direction but also inspire new vocations. Let it be noted, too, that living in close proximity to a friary opens up the possibility of establishing a Third Order community, though I don’t know whether one exists in La Crosse at present.

Unlike many diocesan Latin Mass locations, the Shrine is not an experiment. It has the feel of permanence and the Latin Mass is perfectly suited to it. It will always have the special solicitation of its founder, Cardinal Archbishop Raymond Burke, so long as he lives, and its charism will be secure for generations to come.

One consideration that young couples should be thinking about is whether they are living in a place where at least some of their children are likely to remain and thrive.  It is desirable to establish a home not only for oneself, but for one’s progeny. In fact, I would argue that the suitability of a place for future generations is much more important than one’s own preferences.  For some families, this consideration may rule out the smaller towns and rural areas that are often mentioned as traditionalist enclaves.  La Crosse, however, is fortunate to have one of these rural hamlets within its own orbit – the village of Cashton just 28 miles away. Cashton is home to St. Mary’s church, which offers weekly and daily mass in the old rite, and is staffed by the Institute of Christ the King.

Most people today are not called to life on a farm – or even life in a very small town – despite the attractiveness and romance of the idea.  Your grown children will need to live in or near a city with job opportunities and a diverse economy. They will want access to music and the arts. They will want some freedom to move about socially. They will need more intellectual stimulation than most small towns tend to offer.  If you want them close to you when you’re old, and close to each other when you’re gone, you may want to establish them in such a place now, even if it means tolerating some of the negatives of city life.

With a population of just 50,000 in the city limits – or 100,000 in the greater area – La Crosse is small enough to have character and to be friendly and familiar, but large enough to have an economic base and the social advantages one’s grown children may need. The city has two universities, one technical college, two hospitals, and a symphony orchestra. The city is predominantly Catholic, with six parishes including the diocesan cathedral, and boasts a high percentage (64%) of religious adherence generally. LaCrosse has one diocesan Catholic high school and a private, K-12 Catholic academy modeled on the classical Trivium.  Housing is surprisingly affordable and the crime rate is impressively low. La Crosse offers a busy calendar of festivals, concerts, performances, exhibits, and civic events all year ’round.

La Crosse does have a few negatives, to be sure. It’s in Wisconsin, a great state but cold in the winter. It has a reputation as a beer-saturated “party town” and its students are known to get rowdy. Its politics lean toward the liberal side – solidly Democratic since 1988 – but that’s typical of college towns, and of old-line mid-western Catholic cities, and LaCrosse is a little of both. There doesn’t seem to be a lot going on in terms of Catholic homeschooling (yet), which is only to say that I couldn’t find anything on the internet.  That’s about it.

Some helpful links and media:

La Crosse, Wisconsin City-Data Page

La Crosse, Wisconsin Wiki Page

La Crosse Tribune

Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate – La Crosse

La Crosse Symphony Orchestra

Providence Academy

St. Mary’s Church in Cashton (I.C.K.)

Viterbo University

University of Wisconsin – La Crosse

Against false apocryphal ravings

“Before she was in labour, she brought forth; before her time came to be delivered, she brought forth a man child.” – Isaiah 66:7

This pious belief should be non-controversial: that the immaculately conceived, ever-virgin Mother of God did not suffer the pangs of childbirth is the logical consequence of who she is. Conceived without original sin through the merits of her divine Son, it follows that Mary was not subject to the punishment imposed upon Eve and all women – “in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children” (Gen 3:16). Furthermore, Mary’s perpetual virginity, which is also a dogma of the Faith, strongly implies that she retained her physical integrity before, during, and after the miraculous birth of Our Lord. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:

“After bringing forth her Son, Mary “wrapped Him up in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger” (Luke 2:7), a sign that she did not suffer from the pain and weakness of childbirth. This inference agrees with the teaching of some of the principal Fathers and theologians: St. Ambrose, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. John Damascene, the author of Christus patiens, St. Thomas, etc. It was not becoming that the mother of God should be subject to the punishment pronounced in Genesis 3:16, against Eve and her sinful daughters.”

We do have, as just mentioned, the testimony of many fathers of the Church. Best of all, we have the sound teaching of the Angelic Doctor himself, the only teacher recognized as the “common doctor” of the Universal Church:

Article 6. Whether Christ was born without His Mother suffering?

Objection 1. It would seem that Christ was not born without His Mother suffering. For just as man’ death was a result of the sin of our first parents, according to Genesis 2:17: “In what day soever ye shall eat, ye shall [Vulgate: ‘thou shalt eat of it, thou shalt] die”; so were the pains of childbirth, according to Genesis 3:16: “In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children.” But Christ was willing to undergo death. Therefore for the same reason it seems that His birth should have been with pain.

Objection 2. Further, the end is proportionate to the beginning. But Christ ended His life in pain, according to Isaiah 53:4: “Surely . . . He hath carried our sorrows.” Therefore it seems that His nativitywas not without the pains of childbirth.

Objection 3. Further, in the book on the birth of our Saviour [Protevangelium Jacobi xix, xx] it is related that midwives were present at Christ’s birth; and they would be wanted by reason of the mother’s suffering pain. Therefore it seems that the Blessed Virgin suffered pain in giving birth to her Child.

On the contrary, Augustine says (Serm. de Nativ. Supposititious), addressing himself to the Virgin-Mother: “In conceiving thou wast all pure, in giving birth thou wast without pain.”

I answer that, The pains of childbirth are caused by the infant opening the passage from the womb. Now it has been said above, that Christ came forth from the closed womb of His Mother, and, consequently, without opening the passage. Consequently there was no pain in that birth, as neither was there any corruption; on the contrary, there was much joy therein for that God-Man “was born into the world,” according to Isaiah 35:1-2: “Like the lily, it shall bud forth and blossom, and shall rejoice with joy and praise.”

Reply to Objection 1. The pains of childbirth in the woman follow from the mingling of the sexes. Wherefore (Genesis 3:16) after the words, “in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children,” the following are added: “and thou shalt be under thy husband’s power.” But, as Augustine says (Serm. de Assumpt. B. Virg., [Supposititious), from this sentence we must exclude the Virgin-Mother of God; who, “because she conceived Christ without the defilement of sin, and without the stain of sexual mingling, therefore did she bring Him forth without pain, without violation of her virginal integrity, without detriment to the purity of her maidenhood.” Christ, indeed, suffered death, but through His own spontaneous desire, in order to atone for us, not as a necessary result of that sentence, for He was not a debtorunto death.

Reply to Objection 2. As “by His death” Christ “destroyed our death” [Preface of the Mass in Paschal-time], so by His pains He freed us from our pains; and so He wished to die a painful death. But the mother’s pains in childbirth did not concern Christ, who came to atone for our sins. And therefore there was no need for His Mothert to suffer in giving birth.

Reply to Objection 3. We are told (Luke 2:7) that the Blessed Virgin herself “wrapped up in swaddling clothes” the Child whom she had brought forth, “and laid Him in a manger.” Consequently the narrative of this book, which is apocryphal, is untrue. Wherefore Jerome says (Adv. Helvid. iv): “No midwife was there, no officious women interfered. She was both mother and midwife. ‘With swaddling clothes,’ says he, ‘she wrapped up the child, and laid Him in a manger.'” These words prove the falseness of the  apocryphal ravings.


“We love your childish estate, your powerlessness, but we suffer from the continuing presence of violence in the world, and so we also ask you: manifest your power, O God. In this time of ours, in this world of ours, cause the oppressors’ rods, the cloaks rolled in blood and the footgear of battle to be burned, so that your peace may triumph in this world of ours. ” 

Pope Benedict XVI’s Homily for Midnight Mass

Proclamation of the Birth of Christ

The twenty-fifth day of December.

In the five thousand one hundred and ninety-ninth year
of the creation of the world,
from the time when God in the beginning
created the heavens and the earth;

the two thousand nine hundred and fifty-seventh
year after the flood;

the two thousand and fifteenth year
from the birth of Abraham;

the one thousand five hundred and tenth year from Moses
and the going forth of the people of Israel from Egypt;

the one thousand and thirty-second year from
David’s being anointed king;

in the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel;

in the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad;

the seven hundred and fifty-second year from
the foundation of the city of Rome;

the forty second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus;
the whole world being at peace;

in the sixth age of the world;

Jesus Christ the eternal God and Son of the eternal Father,
desiring to sanctify the world by his most merciful coming,
being conceived by the Holy Spirit,
and nine months having passed since his conception,
was born in Bethlehem of Judea of the Virgin Mary,
being made flesh.

The Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ
according to the flesh!

California blues

According to what is perhaps only a half-serious website called “Californiality”, there are statistics somewhere showing that 75% of all marriages in California end in divorce:

The California divorce rate is now at a staggering 75 percent. Three out of four marriages in the Golden State end in divorce.

For many years, California has been known as the Divorce Capitol of the World, but today’s marriage dropout rate is shocking — even by California standards …

Divorces are skyrocketing in California among Christian, Jewish and Muslim couples. Senior citizens are divorcing after decades of marriage. Couples who have built successful businesses together are throwing in the towel.

A marital State of Emergency needs to be declared. Divorce is California’s most destructive epidemic.

Upon a brief Google search, I found the 75% stat for California on a few other sites but no references to an original source. The U.S. Census Bureau compiles a report on divorce by state, but recent California numbers are omitted due to a lack of reliable data.  In any case, I find 75% to be entirely plausible. Even in the most conservative parts of the state divorce is utterly commonplace, a source of bumper-sticker humor rather than sorrow or regret. And there is no remaining legal protection for marriage here: married couples are on their own.

In other depressing California news, a slate of tyrannical new laws forcing just about everyone to make accommodations for perversion will take effect on January 1. These include:

California Gay Bullying Law (Seth’s Law)

Combats bullying of gay and lesbian students in public schools by requiring school districts to have a uniform process for dealing with gay bullying complaints. Mandates that school personnel intervene if they witness gay bullying.  Law effective July 1, 2012.

LGBT Equality and Equal Access in Higher Education Law

State universities and colleges must create and enforce campus policies protecting LGBTs from harassment and appoint employee contact persons to address on-campus LGBT matters. The law includes community colleges statewide.  Law effective 2012.

Domestic Partnership Equality Law

Corrects inequalities between domestic partnerships and heterosexual marriages, including domestic partner health benefits sharing.  Law effective 2012.

Protection of Parent-Child Relationships Law

Allows courts to consider the relationship between a child and a non-biological parent when considering child rights cases involving birth parents, adoptive parents, and gay or lesbian guardians.  Law effective 2012.

Transgender Non-Discrimination Law

Provides public accommodation and protection in education, housing and employment for gender identity and expression.  Law effective 2012.

Transgender Vital Statistics Law

Makes it easier for transgender Californians to get a court petition to change their gender on official documents.  Law effective 2012.

LGBT Equal Benefits Law

Requires an employer with a state contract worth more than $100,000 to have non-discrimination policies in place for LGBT workers and their partners.  Law effective 2012.

Judicial Applicant and Appointment Demographics Inclusion Law

Includes gender identity and sexual orientation of potential judges into the state’s Judicial Applicant Data Report to ensure that state courts are diverse.  Law effective 2012.

Gay Divorce Law

Provides that if a gay couple got married in California but lives in a state that won’t grant them a divorce, the California court will have jurisdiction to grant them a legal divorce. The case will be filed in the county where the gay couple got married.  Law effective January 1, 2012.

California Gay History Law

Governor Jerry Brown signed the Gay History Law, which mandates that school textbooks and social studies include gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender accomplishments.  Law effective January 1, 2012.

Takes your breath away, doesn’t it?

There is a real crisis brewing here. We may be outnumbered, but California is home to literally millions of people who will find compliance with these laws extremely burdensome, if not morally unconscionable. Some of us may be able to escape the worst of it in our little enclaves here and there, but what kind of a home will this be for our children and grandchildren? Increasingly I wonder just how long we’re going to hold out …

Hidden lives

When I was in my teen years in the early 1980s, I had a lot of fun with amateur radio as General Class licensee N6KLV. One of my local radio friends was an 80+ year old hermit by the name of Ray. He lived alone in a remote mountain cabin, completely “off the grid”, on a homestead where he had a lively garden and a few farm animals. He was always up well before dawn – a habit he acquired in the military – and I tried to wake around 3:30am now and then to chat with him on the radio. That was the only time anyone could talk to Ray: once the sun was up and he finished his coffee, he was outdoors working. He had a raspy voice, was unfailingly cheerful, and despite very little education he was surprisingly articulate. And, yes, he was a little bit on the cranky and opinionated side, as you might expect a mountain man to be.

We both belonged to the “PDQ” radio club: I don’t remember his call number but I was PDQ 138. These radio clubs provided “call numbers” for those of us who operated on “illegal” (but largely unmonitored) frequencies.

Ray lived this way for many decades, but he wasn’t always alone. He had a wife, whom he loved dearly. She died tragically as a result of a violent robbery. Several young thugs invaded the cabin, tied both of them up, and abused them badly while demanding gold, for it was known that Ray had also mined for gold on the property. They survived the home invasion but his wife was traumatized somehow. She died in a hospital shortly thereafter. Ray would sometimes get choked up talking about her many years later.

After I left home and went off to college, I gave up ham radio and lost track of my radio friends. Once, while home visiting my parents, my dad told me about a news story he had just read. An octogenarian living on an isolated homestead above Yankee Hill set his cabin on fire, from the inside, and then shot himself to death before the flames consumed him. It was reported that the man was depressed about a newly diagnosed health condition that would have prevented him from living independently. He refused to leave his home. His name was Raymond Somebody, but all I heard was “Ray”, and I knew it was him.

I thought about Ray again when I read this story yesterday:

FOREST RANCH — The body of a man missing since Dec. 5 in the Forest Ranch area, but not reported missing until days later, was found about noon Thursday in a canyon off Doe Mill Road, not far from his isolated home.

Deputies with the Butte County Sheriff’s Office identified the man as Lowell Everett Sutton, 85. The cause of death is under investigation, but authorities suspect either a medical emergency or death from exposure. He was located by search and rescue crews using cadaver dogs.

Lowell’s wife, Martha Rowe, 60, said she and her husband had resided in a homestead in the canyon for 42 years. It includes multiple structures — basically tree houses — they built themselves, but have no electricity, running water or phones.

She said she didn’t see her husband on Dec. 6 or 7, but heard him calling to her from somewhere in the canyon on Dec. 8. She reportedly heard him calling again on Dec. 9. When he hadn’t returned by Sunday, Rowe said she hiked two miles to the nearest phone and called the Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies searched the area for hours Sunday and found nothing. They went up Monday in a helicopter equipped with a Forward Looking Infrared heat detection device, but had no success.

“We knew we’d have to get more people involved in this on the ground, and knew by this time we were likely conducting a recovery operation, not a rescue,” said sheriff’s Lt. Al Smith.

Rowe said her husband was wearing a windbreaker when he disappeared, but wasn’t dressed for repeated sub-freezing overnight temperatures in the canyon. He apparently survived at least five days on his own.

Smith said their were no signs of trauma to Sutton’s body, and foul play is not suspected. An autopsy will be conducted.

The couple moved to the canyon from Santa Clara County decades ago, and lived “completely off the grid,” Smith said.

He said it may not have been unusual for the couple to not see each other for days, and often left notes for one another along trails to communicate.

They reportedly walked up to two hours on a steep trail to get to Doe Mill Road, the nearest place they could park their vehicle. They walked another two hours to get back to their homestead.

Deputies participating in the search Thursday said there were spots on the trail where the couple had placed ropes to keep from slipping into the canyon.

Canyon view from Doe Mill Road.

Savage Model 24

 It’s true: if I weren’t the father of sons I would have little interest in firearms. Give me a garden, a dozen fruit trees, and a good library and I’m a happy man. But some boys ought to have guns in their lives, and my 13 year old is one such boy. We gave him an inherited Savage Model 24 for his birthday. It had been sitting in my mother’s garage for years, and probably belonged to my step-father.  This is a very unique firearm: a dual-barrel .22 rifle on the top and .410 shotgun on the bottom. These have been out of production since 1988.

We broke it in this afternoon, out in the pasture on a stunningly beautiful day. The gunsmith had it sighted perfectly. I had never shot a .410 before, but somehow I had this idea that it was probably a weak, toy-like teenager’s shotgun. Well, it turns out that the .410 has a powerful kick to it and can shoot clay pigeons for as far as I can throw them. And Christopher’s a good shot, too, once he gets warmed up!

The advantage of the Model 24 is that you can quickly shift from rifle to shotgun mode, or the reverse, without having to switch firearms or even load the ammunition. Perhaps you’re hunting for pheasants, but then you spot that coyote that’s been after your chickens: all you have to do is flip a switch and fire the .22 bullet. The disadvantage is that the Model 24 is loaded one bullet or cartridge at a time – no magazines accepted – so I suppose one needs to be adept at re-loading quickly when necessary.