Friday, February 19, 2010

Glorious Defeat, Scotland, and Spiritual Combat

Today we were learning about one of my favourite 'recusants' (he technically wasn't, but he was still a resister and came from a traditionally Catholic family... sort of): Bonnie Prince Charlie (Charles Edward Stuart / Charles III uncrowned king of England, Scotland, Ireland, and France as the traditional title goes...).

He was the last hope for Jacobitism in Britain and if he would've had a successful takeover of London, he might've gotten France's support and been the Catholic king of the UK, bringing back the faith, and sending the Hanoverian Usurpers back to Hell/Germany where they could proceed to not learn English... anyway. Why was I telling this story again? RIGHT!

ok. So Charlie had a glorious victory at the battle of Prestonpans but lost at Culloden. I was thinking about his defeat and exile. Things went so well with him for a while, and he was doing great, but then his arrogance coupled with fear of the returning Hanoverian armies made him act foolishly. In the end he lost, ran, and eventually even temporarily converted to Anglicanism in an attempt to claim he could rule since he was Protestant (he eventually reverted to Catholicism when back in France). One character flaw lead to the next, and if he'd only known his limits and listened to his friends things would've gone differently.

The whole history of Scotland is this sad tale of fiery ideals and passions of the Highland Scots, eventually dwindling and joining the lowlanders in the Anglo-fied subservience and cynical pragmatism of Adam Smith and David Hume.

In my life, I see the dangers of the history of Scotland. I have these lofty ideals, and these plans to immediately rush to completely perfect myself in one day or over a short period of time. If I would only recognize my weakness and commit myself to slow progress, then perhaps I could have some victory. But sadly I feel much more like Bonnie Prince Charlie, I am unready for battles I allow myself to be caught in, and during my retreats from the enemy I endure such heavy losses that I end up without anything. I'm exiled from my own homeland and have fallen from my vocation. So hopefully from this Catholic brother of Old, his majesty Charles III, I can learn some lessons about Spiritual Combat and perhaps Jacobitism and Sanctification are closer than one would think.


1. Don't go it alone. Without the Catholic and even the Protestant Lords and Clan Leaders, the Bonnie Prince wouldn't have been able to even begin. So always stick with your friends and take their advice when they tell you you're acting foolishly.

2. Be content with whatever victories you can have. When Charlie had taken Edinburgh he still hadn't even got the support of all of Scotland, and he spread himself too thin in search of greater glory. Mastering oneself is a slow business, and should always be done -as St. Thomas tells us- by submitting the passions to reason. If we get ahead of ourselves, that's when bad things happen.

3. Glorious defeat. When the Jacobites retreated, the Hanoverians & the Winter destroyed them and thinned their ranks incredibly. They fled and hid until their towns and homes were burned by the English. Many were imprisoned and nearly starved to death, it was a total shame. When tempted don't gradually give in to weakness, don't even consider surrender as an option, but valiantly stand your ground until you are so overcome by concupiscence or the enemy that your defeat was at least glorious.

4. Don't lose the dream. After losing at Culloden and going into hiding, Bonnie Prince Charlie began having affairs and drinking heavily. When it seemed like he had no chance at all he even temporarily gave up his Religion (which was the heritage of his family, he was born in Rome for God's sake! and supported by the Pope). Everyone around him lost hope and Jacobitism died slowly. If he would've kept up the dream, perhaps he could've made it when the French tried to invade later. Always hope that even in defeat and exile from God's grace while in mortal sin, you will return again, and maybe -just maybe- one day your flag will wave high in highland winds once more.

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