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Monday, April 21, 2014

Vision Forum.....

was a name of a well-known Evangelical Christian ministry and adjoining store founded by Doug Philips and based in San Antonio, Texas. The Homeschool Legal Defense Association publicized it, as did quite a few other popular homeschooling resource centers. As a Catholic homeschooling student, I have received catalogs from them through the HLDA and always had mixed emotions about their philosophy on life and the merchandise they sold for a variety of reasons.

      Now, just recently, the brand name has been completely liquidated as the result of an “emotional” extramarital affair on the part of Doug Philips. Having a wife and eight children and projecting the “perfect” family image just made this revelation more of a blow to Philips’ followers and employees, who were actually the ones who made the final decision to shut down shop before things could get any worse. Needless to say, reactions on the whole have been diverse, and often quite nasty as opposed to an appropriate attitude of Christian forgiveness. Sadly, homeschooling, religion, and stay-at-home moms in general are going to be getting the worst of the flack. But here, for what they’re worth, are a few of my thoughts on the subject.

    Some of the themes put forward by Vision Forum I agreed with, such as the importance of faith and family, remembering Christian history and heritage, and making homeschooling a feasible opportunity for more people. However, I disagree with some of their most strongly-held views, especially the belief in a patriarchal society and the submissiveness of women. This goes so far as to discourage girls from going to college and pursuing a career,  insisting that true “Biblical womanhood” is fulfilled through the roles of wife and mother alone.

    I am a great believer in the importance of sanctity of marriage and family, for both men and women. I also believe that men should, if possible, be the main bread-winners for their families so that women can focus more on raising any children they might have. But circumstances often prevent this from being practical in today’s economy, and it is often necessary for both adults in a household to pursue jobs. Also, many girls would feel totally unfulfilled if they did not exercise their academic gifts in a college setting and pursue the career of their interest. It would be not only ridiculous but selfish for their parents to hinder them.

    On the other hand, I don’t think girls should be forced out of the home or made to feel stupid or lazy should they decide to pass on college and focus more exclusively on home economics. Their homes can be centers of learning, culture, virtue, and a practical and artistic intelligence that equals the benefits of scholastic pursuits. The demeaning of women as sexy objects or ambitious money-makers will always pale in comparison with an honest appreciation of them as soul mates and gifted individuals, whether they find their calling as stay-at-home moms or teachers educating students or doctors caring for their patients or military administrators helping defend their nation or an artist bringing beauty to the world, or what have you.

    Young men should be taught to be gentlemen, but never silky cads. In other words, by all means open a door and pull up a chair for a lady, but do it to honor her place in the fairer sex, not to demean her as somehow inferior or obtuse. Treat her as an equal, not as an alien! A friendship has got to be on equal footing in order to work out right. A marriage all the more so. Vision Forum’s insinuation that a wife is pretty much there only to “bless her husband’s vision” instead of it being a two-way street is just plain wrong. This doesn’t mean we have the exact same roles. He may be considered more of the “head” of the household, while she would fill in the “heart”. But I’d like to see one of those body parts dare to order the other to be “submissive”.

     In the Vision Forum catalog, the girls’ section was always a lot smaller than the boys’ and included only the frilliest of items. Personally, I am a blouse-and-skirt girl who is dedicated to the concept of modesty in dress. I love dressing up in old-fashioned outfits. But even in my youth, while I was certainly not a tom-boy, I wasn’t particularly prissy in a baby-doll fashion either. I’d much rather play with my stuffed animals and send them on epic adventures or reenact some battle involving Robin Hood. So the point is girls should not be treated as stereotypically tame and frowned upon if they have any sense of adventure in their blood.

     By contrast, the boys’ section of the catalog is loaded with guts and gusto. Too much, as a matter of fact. Exactly what mother in her right mind would entrust her 7 or 8 year old son with a real tomahawk? What about knives or air pistols? It’s beyond me why the boy-themed pages are almost exclusively stocked with killer weapons learning to hunt as a family. I am not against owning firearms, per se, as a legitimate means of self-defense. But young children need not identify with them as play toys. Furthermore, boys should not be expected to have some sort of “killer instinct” by birth. I would not want my family to learn the “thrill of the hunt” nor to take pleasure it taking the life of another living creature.

    “Manliness” is fine and dandy in and of itself, but it should not be put on steroids. There’s nothing more annoying than a young man trying to be super-macho in a cheesy manner. Frankly, if he can’t be sensitive and compassionate in addition to manifesting his inner warrior instinct, he’s lost me completely. True manhood (or womanhood, for that matter) is not something to be worn on our sleeves or flaunted about. It is a quiet strength and gentle nurturing, a humble courage and hearty sense of humor that I find the most appealing. It is doing our daily task to the fullest and loving one another as Children of God. Gender distinction should serve to draw us together, not blind us to one another’s needs or make us cardboard cut-outs of some pre-designed model we are all supposed to fit.

     The idea of raising sons with heroic ideals is great, but the turn-out will no doubt be quite an overview of the realities of human nature. I don’t mean to sound like a cynic, but somehow I have a hard time picturing any of my lads rescuing me from anything! Like, if I was kidnapped and tied to a stake, about to be turned into a hot lunch by a hoard of cannibals, I could picture several methods they may try to use to extricate me from the sticky situation. For example, one might approach a hungry tribesman and say, “Yo, dude, this is like so…not nice! Why don’t you just, like, turn the little lady lose?”

    Another might begin rattling off demographic stats about international cannibals and the varied designs of their primitive cooking utensils. Another might try to distract them with sitcom impersonations. Another might read The Riot Act and tell them to disperse under penalty of indefinite period of incarceration. Some of the others might simply refrain from involving themselves, for fear of getting into a scramble with indigenous peoples and either dirtying their potential political careers or tailored suits. The best of the bunch might throw a wild punch or strike an impressive Judo pose before being pulverized. Hey, it’s the thought that counts.

    Okay, okay, maybe I'd come up with a few better results from them than all that, as I’m sure they'll insist if any of them read this post! But my main point is to burst the bubble of some girls who cannot see past their own vision of practically-perfect-in-every-way “White Knights”. While such paragons may be in short supply, basically decent young guys with quirks and imperfections and a lot of maturing to do are not. They are the ones with whom lasting friendships can be built, who we can share things with, and knock around with, and trust to watch our back (as best they can!), and even argue with before bouncing back and making up. It is through these types of lasting friendships that deep romances are more likely to naturally blossom.

Too be continued......

It's the thought that counts.....sometimes!


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Holy Week Reflections......

quotes, homilies, and poems to put us all in the solemn yet hopeful spirit of the coming days.

Christ Hes my Hairt, Aye

For us that blissed bairn was born,
For us He was baith rent and torn,
For us He was crownit wi' the thorn,
Christ hes my hairt, aye

For us He shed His precious bluid,
For us He was nailit tae the rood,
For us in mony a battle stood,
Christ hes my hairt, aye

Nixt Him, tae lufe, His mother fair,
With steadfast hairt forevermair,
Scho Byre and birth freed us frae care,
Christ hes my hairt, aye

-- anonymous Scots-English poem

The Convert

After one moment when I bowed my head
And the whole world turned over and came upright,
And I came out where the old road shone white.
I walked the ways and heard what all men said,
Forests of tongues, like autumn leaves unshed,
Being not unlovable but strange and light;
Old riddles and new creeds, not in despite
But softly, as men smile about the dead.

The sages have a hundred maps to give
That trace their crawling cosmos like a tree,
They rattle reason out through many a sieve
That stores the sand and lets the gold go free:
And all these things are less than dust to me
Because my name is Lazarus and I live.

-- G.K. Chesterton

Victimae Paschali

To the paschal Victim let Christians offer
sacrifice and praise.

The Lamb has redeemed the sheep: Christ,
the undefiled, has to the Father sinners

Life and death contended in an astonishing
battle: Life's captain is slain,
yet lives to reign.

Tell us, Mary, what did you see on the way?
"I saw the tomb of the living Christ and
the glory of the risen one.

"I saw the angels who bore witness, the
winding cloths and linen: Christ my hope
has risen: His brethren he will precede
to Galilee."

We know that Christ has truly risen from the
dead: O victorious King, have mercy
on us.

Amen. Alleluia.

-- attributed to Wipo of Burgandy, 11th century Sequence for Easter Sunday

"Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament... There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth, and more than that: Death. By the divine paradox, that which ends life, and demands the surrender of all, and yet by the taste - or foretaste - of which alone can what you seek in your earthly relationships (love, faithfulness, joy) be maintained, or take on that complexion of reality, of eternal endurance, which every man's heart desires." 
-J.R.R. Tolkien

"Listen, my dear Cors, why don't you forgive God for allowing pain? If He didn't allow it, human courage, bravery, nobility, and self-sacrifice would all be meaningless things.”

-Abbot Zerchi, "A Canticle for Leibowitz" by Walter Miller Jr.   

From an Ancient Homily for Holy Saturday

What is happening? Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the king sleeps; the earth was in terror and was still, because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages. God has died in the flesh, and the underworld has trembled. 

Truly He goes to seek out our first parent; He wishes to visit those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. He goes to free the prisoner Adam and his fellow prisoner Eve from their pains, He who is God, and Adam's Son.

The Lord goes into them, holding His victorious weapon, His cross. When Adam, the first created man, sees Him, he strikes his breast in terror and calls out to all: "My Lord be with you all." And Christ in reply says to Adam: "And with your spirit." And grasping his hand He raises him up, saying: "Awake, O Sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light. 

"I AM your God who for your sake became your son, who for you and your descendants now speak and command with authority those in prison: Come forth, and those in darkness: Have light, and those who sleep: Rise.

"I command you: Awake, sleeper, I have not made you to be  held a prisoner in the underworld. Arise from the dead; I AM the life of the dead. Arise, O Man, work of my hands, arise, you who were fashioned in my image. Rise, let us go hence; for you in me and I in you, together we are one undivided person.

"For you, I your God became your son; for you, I the Master took on your form; that of slave; for you, I who AM above the heavens came on earth and under the earth; for you, Man, I became as man without help, free among the dead; for you, who left a garden, I was handed over to the Jews from a garden and crucified in a garden.

"Look at the spittle on my face, which I received because of you, and in order to restore you to that first divine inbreathing at creation. See the blows on my cheeks which I accepted in order to refashion your distorted form to my image. 

"See the scourging on my back which I accepted in order to disperse the load of your sins which was laid upon your back. See my hands nailed to the tree for a good purpose, for you who stretched out your hand to the tree for an evil one. 

"I sleep on the cross and a sword pierced my side, for you, who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from you side. My side healed the pain of your side; my sleep will release you from your sleep in Hades; my sword has checked the sword which was turned against you. 

"But arise, let us go hence. The enemy brought you out of the land of paradise; I will reinstate you, no longer in paradise, but on the throne of heaven. I denied you the tree of life, which was a figure, but now I myself am united to you, I who AM life. I posted the cherubim to guard you as they would slaves; now I make the cherubim worship you as they would God.

"The cherubim throne has been prepared, the bearers are ready and waiting, the bridal chamber is in order, the food is provided, the everlasting houses and rooms are in readiness; the treasures of good things have been opened; the kingdom of heaven has been prepared before ages." 

-- anonymous early Christian

"For us He was nailit tae the rood....."

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Mack, in his capacity as book-reviewer........

has sent me this this witty and amusing review of what sounds like an equally witty and amusing book, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson. I don't know about the rest of you folks, but I'm to see if my library has a copy a.s.a.p.!


The annual shoot at the local estate is by itself worth the price of a copy of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, by Helen Simonson. 
Lord Dagenham, a worthy variation on P.G. Wodehouse’s eh-wot-oh-rather-don’cha-know Lord Emsworth, is a somewhat down-at-the-Rolls Royce noble who rents out much of his ancestral home to a private school and who is selling some of his lands to an American real estate developer.
The last annual duck hunt in the doomed countryside ends as a menace to the humans more than to the ducks.  The hunters, mostly English and American bankers playing at being squires for a day, are on the firing line when suddenly the field of fire is occupied by: (1) ducks, lots of ducks, (2) the schoolchildren, who raised the ducks as a science project and who rush in to defend them, (3) the gamekeeper and the farm hands, trying to round up both the children and the ducks, (4) environmentalists, and (5) the local Save Our Village protestors.  And, yes, someone gets bashed with a sign proclaiming “Peace.”  The reader sees that coming, and is delighted when it does.
A safe modern writer would have fitted all this into a scripted screed against guns and hunting, all kitted out with global-warming environmentalism and cuddly Disney children and animals.  Miss Simonson will have none of that; she makes fun of everyone involved, sparing not even the children: “’They killed our duckies,’ came a wail from a child holding up a bloody carcass.” 
As Lord Dagenham says, “I had no idea that fee-paying pupils would smell bad.”
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand is framed as boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girl-back, only geriatric, but is saved from Famous Greeting Card Company sugar-free syrup by Miss Simonson’s lemony (seldom acidic) observations on socialists, yuppies, environmentalists, the upper classes, the lower classes, country clubs, the sort of people who resent country clubs, the Church of England, Moslems, Americans, Englishmen, artificial Christmas trees, hunters, anti-hunters, parties with themes, “the glass-squashed faces of small, angry children” on school busses, and flavored teas.
Through all this Miss Simonson develops a delightful love story.  The protagonist is Major Pettigrew, retired from the British Army, and his friend, Mrs. Ali, owner of the local shop.  Both are widowed, and they “meet cute,” as the film cliché goes, but their relationship must voyage from acquaintance through friendship and finally to love through 355 delightful pages of misunderstandings, cultural differences, disapproving relatives, disapproving neighbors, a retired banker “with an almost medical allergy to children,” organic turkeys, neighbor Alice’s organic vegetarian lasagna that smells like plankton, neighbor Marjory, whose sole topic of conversation is her gifted and talented grandson, a dotty vicar, the vicar’s even dottier wife, the aforementioned hunt, an annual club dance that deteriorates into a food-throwing, stage-collapsing, drink-sloshing brawl, a continuing sub-theme about a matched pair of Churchill shotguns, and a knightly rescue of an imprisoned lady.  And ducks.
The setting is a Wodehouse England that never really existed, flavored by Jane Austen, Kipling, Agatha Christie, the Romantic poets, Alexander McCall Smith, declasse’ climbers, and the occasional cup of real tea (no rose hips or other debris for our hero). 
Some of the social assumptions are a bit naïf, and in this the novel sails dangerously close to being approved of by famous television ladies, but this is a love story, after all, and one with a happy ending. 
Even so, with lines such as “The major wished young men wouldn’t think so much,” “a group of faded hippies, with ripped jeans and balding heads,” “Old Mr. Percy became so drunk that he threw away his cane and subsequently fell through a glass door while chasing a shrieking woman across the terrace,” and mention of an assistant imam named Rodney, this is a book that even manly men can read without fear of their boots magically dissolving into designer cross-trainers.
And there are ducks.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, by Helen Simonson, is published by Random House.

Helen Simonson, author of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A student from Thomas More Liberal Arts College......

and friend of mine, Ian K., has sent me the following essay about the British author, Patrick O'Brian, and his famous Aubrey-Maturin historical fiction novels set in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars. I hope you all enjoy his reflections on the subject as much as I did!


    “The historical novel, as I learnt with some concern after I had written two or three, belongs to a despised genre,”[1]  wrote Patrick O’Brian.   At the heart of his Aubrey-Maturin novels, however, is not adventure for its own sake.  Two characteristics about these books give them permanent value.  The first is that O’Brian believes that this period of history about which he writes holds its own significance for the present time.  The second is that, in O’Brian’s own words, the essence of his books, “is about human relationships and how people treat one another.”  He writes about men, and his novels illustrate two virtues in particular that are at the heart of man and his society with others.  These virtues are duty, and friendship.  Through the particular characters, stories, and settings of his Aubrey-Maturin novels, O’Brian explores what is universal in Man and in society.

    O’Brian believed that for an author to be creditable, he had to understand the period about which he wrote inside and out.  If he lacks the knowledge, his characters and story suffer, and this distracts the reader.  Reading the Aubrey-Maturin novels, however, is an education in itself of the era of the Napoleonic Wars.  One learns not only what a t’gallants’l is, but how to pronounce it correctly.  Yet O’Brian is not a heavy-handed instructor; he teaches his readers subtly, often through dialogue or a character’s reflections, in the music, politics, and even the philosophy of the time.  Sophie, Jack Aubrey’s sweetheart once says in bewilderment,
Of course, I do know it is the French who are so wicked; but there are all these people who keep coming and going – the Austrians, the Spaniards, the Russians… and not only the very day before he left, Jack mentioned Pappenburg…  I was despicably false, and only nodded, looking as wise as I could, and said, ‘Ah, Pappenburg’…”[2]
Stephen Maturin then briefs her on the current alliances, intrigues, and happenings, from all of which the reader gains just as much as Sophie.

    O’Brian’s books are not histories of the times as a whole, however, but are histories told from the point of view of sailors.  O’Brian wrote that, “When one is writing about the Royal Navy of the eighteenth and early 19th centuries it is difficult to avoid understatement; it is difficult to do full justice to one’s subject; for so very often the improbable reality outruns fiction.”[3]  In his interviews and essays, O’Brian highlighted many reasons why he felt the period one worthy about which to be written.  One reason is that this culture is permeated with civility.  Even the most brutal officer gives the majority of his orders with an, “if you please,” and people take greatest pains to prevent discomfort in even small talk.  At the same time, O’Brian notes that it was also a time of high ideals, of strong passions, and of great deeds. “Even an uncommonly warm imagination,” O’Brian writes, “could scarcely produce the frail shape of Commodore Nelson leaping from his battered seventy-four gun Captain through the quarter gallery window of the eighty-gun San Nicolas, taking her, and hurrying across her deck to board the towering San Josef of a hundred and twelve guns.”[4]

    The ideals of the Royal Navy, in fact, and of the British people at this time, can be summed up best in what the same Lord Nelson famously signaled to his fleet before the Battle of Trafalgar:  ‘England expects every man to do his duty.’  Duty is a theme that arises again and again in the Aubrey-Maturin novels, but it is most prominent in the first of them, Master and Commander, and in two characters in particular.  After inspecting his first command, Captain Jack Aubrey reflects, “He was no longer one of ‘us’: he was ‘they’.  Indeed, he was the immediately present incarnation of ‘them’...”[5]  The men in this time naturally respected one such as Capt. Aubrey, because they respected an office of authority.  Those in authority were also aware of the duty owed to those under them.  For the captain of a ship on which conditions were hard and the work was difficult, this duty consisted largely in knowing how to reward and how to punish, according to the merit.  Captain Aubrey, training his men in gunnery, explains to his lieutenant, “Every forem’st jack is richer by a year’s pay, all won in a sunny morning.  They must be made to understand that by teaching them their duty, we are putting them in the way of getting more.”[6]

    James Dillon, Aubrey’s 1st lieutenant, is a foil to his gregarious captain.  Whereas Aubrey is a man undivided, entirely devoted to his country and wholly suited to his profession, James Dillon, a serious and passionate man, is a highly competent sailor as well, but one with conflicting loyalties.  He is both Catholic and a former Irish rebel, and over the course of the novel, Dillon becomes more and more sullen and violent.  Stephen Maturin diagnoses Dillon’s disease: “So much pain, and the more honest the man the worse the pain… the moral law, the civil, military, common laws, the code of honour… to say nothing of Christianity for those that practice it.  All sometimes, indeed generally, at variance… and a man is perpetually required to choose one rather than another.”[7]  Duty, though necessary for society, and for organizing men to meet threats such as that of Napoleon’s power, must nevertheless be founded on true convictions, or else it tears a man, and a society, apart.

    Inasmuch as O’Brian’s novels are, in essence, about relationships, it is the friendship between Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin, which lasts through all of the novels and gives them unity and coherence, that is the measure of all the others.  It is through this unlikely pair who meet when Maturin elbows Aubrey in the ribs for beating the time at a concert in Minorca that O’Brian chooses to illustrate what is important in a friendship.

    Equality is the most fundamental quality.  While Aubrey and Maturin’s differences are obvious, the two being, as O’Brian wrote “as unlike as men could be, unlike in nationality, religion, education, size, shape, profession, habit of mind,” nevertheless they share similarities; they share love for music, enmity of Napoleon and of oppression, and most importantly respect for one another.  O’Brian writes, “Stephen’s confidence in Captain Aubrey’s seamanship was as entire, as blind, as Jack’s in the medical omniscience of Dr. Maturin.”[8]  Maturin and Aubrey come each to the other’s aid innumerable times over the course of the novels, and they each delight in the other’s conversation and musical ability, but their friendship is founded neither on utility nor on pleasure, but in mutual respect of the other’s great qualities.

    This same respect and love that binds Aubrey and Maturin together is the same love that, from time to time, drives them apart.  Dean King writes, “The two are best friends, but O’Brian never lets the friendship grow flabby.  Instead, it feeds on its own tension, the pair sometimes struggling to abide each other, to communicate, to convince.”[9]  Even when the two are not particularly pleased with each other, yet they understand that each is better, indeed whole, with the other.  For both men, the world in which they live often tempts them to become something less than human, whether it be, as in Aubrey’s case, by the abuse of authority, or as in Maturin’s by the despair and cynicism that afflict him.  The ‘particular friendship’ that the two share proves over and over to be the preserver of their integrity and humanity in the face of perils both outward and inward.

    Dean King wrote that in the years during which Patrick O’Brian first began to publish his books, the early 1970s, his novels seemed, “antediluvian,” for writing novels about a world, and about characters, so traditionally moral.  Yet, while he did not shy away from either the noble or the ugly side of human nature, O’Brian was not writing, as he said, “to encourage virtue and lash vice.”[10]  He wrote for the delight of telling the stories of a time that he believed held, “its particular, time-free value,”[11] and also to explore, “the condition humaine,” about which he had, “some comments, some observations… that may be sound, or at least of some interest.”[12]  The stories by which he made his ‘observations’ explored much more than the workings of a ship or the navigation of the seas.  They illustrate what is most important for a man, and for a society, when faced with the dangers and challenges that will surely come.


[1] Patrick O’Brian, Black, Choleric, & Married?, pg.21
[2] Patrick O’Brian, H.M.S. Surprise, pg.20
[3] Patrick O’Brian, Master & Commander, pg.5
[4] Ibid. pg.5
[5] Ibid. pg.33
[6] Patrick O’Brian, The Mauritius Command, pg.63
[7] Patrick O’Brian, Master & Commander, pg. 319
[8] Patrick O’Brian, H.M.S. Surprise, pg. 187
[9] Dean King, Patrick O’Brian: A Life Revealed, pg. 309
[10] Stephen Becker, ‘Interview w/ Patrick O’Brian
[11] Patrick O’Brian, Black, Choleric, & Married?, pg.21

[12] Ibid., pg.21

Patrick O'Brian, author of Master and Commander

Monday, March 17, 2014

St. Patrick's Day......

is here, and may shamrocks of tenacity and the roses of grace spring up plentifully in your heart! Below I'll be posting "St. Patrick's Breastplate" and the lyrics to the song "Golden Rose", written by Dana and sung by Frank Patterson in honor of Our Lady of Knock. All ye Irish saints, ora pro nobis!

The Breastplate of St. Patrick

I arise today 
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth with His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In the predictions of prophets,
In the preaching of apostles,
In the faith of confessors,
In the innocence of holy virgins,
In the deeds of righteous men.

I arise today, through
The strength of heaven,
The light of the sun,
The radiance of the moon,
The splendor of fire,
The speed of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of the sea,
The stability of the earth,
The firmness of rock.

I arise today, through
God's strength to pilot me,
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptation of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
afar and near.

I summon today

All these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel and merciless power
that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul;

Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me an abundance of reward.

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

Golden Rose (English version):

There were people of all ages
gathered ‘round the gable wall
poor and humble men and women,
little children that you called

We are gathered here before you,
and our hearts are just the same
filled with joy at such a vision,
as we praise your name

Golden Rose, Queen of Ireland,
all my cares and troubles cease
as we kneel with love before you,
Lady of Knock, my Queen of Peace

Though your message was unspoken,
still the truth in silence lies
as we gaze upon your vision,
and the truth I try to find

Here I stand with John the teacher,
and with Joseph at your side
and I see the Lamb of God,
on the Altar glorified

And the Lamb will conquer
and the woman clothed in the sun
will shine Her light on everyone

and the lamb will conquer
and the woman clothed in the sun,
will shine Her light on everyone

(Gaelic version)

Bhí seandaoine is óige ann
Balaithe timpeall balla na binne bhí
Fír's mna umhail, leanaí óige
ar chuir tú ghlaoch,

Táimid balaithe anseo romhat
agus ár gcroíthe mar an gcéanna,
lán d'áthas ar a leithéid d'aisling
Feadh molaimíd t'ainm.

Róisin Oir, Banríon na hÉireann
Mo chúraim 's trioblóidí uile gan staonadh,
Is muid ar ár nglúine romhat le ghrá.
Bantíarna a' Chnoic, mo Bhanríon na hÉireann

Mar a raibh bhur scéal gan lua 
Fós, ta an fhírinne faoi thost
Is muid ag breathnú ar bhur radharc
Is iarraim an fhírinne anseo

Táim im sheasamh le múinteoir Sheán
agus le Seosamh ar taobh
Cím Uan Dé
ar an altóir dhlóirithe bhinn

Is beidh an bua ag an Uan
Is an bhean atá feistithe le'n ghrian
Is loinneoidh sí chách len a solas

Is beidh an bua ag an Uan
Is an bhean atá feistithe le'n ghrian
Is loinneoidh sí chách len a solas 

"Christ to shield me today......"

Thursday, March 13, 2014

“Regnum Defensores”......

is a title meaning “Defenders of the Realm”, and it could well be applied to Bishop Alexander MacDonell and his Catholics for King and Country. But before elaborating on their courageous story, here’s a little background on the subject of Catholica Britannia in general.

    Some would be inclined to believe that Catholics are natural enemies of the Union. After all, from the time of the Protestant Revolt, those who lived in the territories now making up The United Kingdom found themselves persecuted and marginalized for clinging to their faith. The Act of Settlement and The Act of Union included all sorts of anti-“Papist” clauses, and many Catholics felt rightly threatened by this new “British” identity and sided with the Catholic Stuarts in their repeated attempts to reclaim the throne and restore the independence of the individual kingdoms.

    That having been said, as time progressed, many Catholics began to realize that there were benefits of being a part of the new Union and sought to find their place within it. One larger-than-life example of this was an extraordinary man from the Scottish Highlands who set out to prove that Catholicism and Britishness really could intertwine to change the world for the better and create a unique sub-culture that is alive and well in Britain today. His story should also have particular interest for Catholic Unionists when confronted with Nationalist historical spin.

    Fr. Alexander MacDonell, later Bishop of Kingston, Ontario, was born to a lower-to-middle class Catholic family near Inverness in 1762. As a young man, he studied to become a priest in Europe and was ordained in 1787. One interesting occurrence in this period of his life took place when a group of French Revolutionaries stormed the seminary he was attending and tried to force MacDonell to dance around a liberty pole. Being a staunch royalist by nature, he feigned lameness so he could escape the indignity.

    He returned to his native land as an outlaw "priest of the heather", enduring the harsh climate of living outdoors in the Scottish Highlands and subsisting off meager rations in order to minister to his flock. During the Highland Clearances, he boldly tempted fate by leading his clan into Glasgow in search of work and refusing to leave them after they had found it. He even said mass in a building with no guards posted, allowing Protestants to come and watch at will. Considering that this was only a few years after the anti-Catholic Gordon Riots and other fanatical mob attacks throughout British cities, the man obviously had guts.

    Eventually, he petitioned King George III to allow him to raise a regiment comprised of Catholic Highlanders to serve in the British army. The king and the priest probably would have found that they had a lot in common if they ever met. Both were very religious; both were fiercely against revolutions; both saw duty as one of the foremost principles that guided their lives; both loved the military.

    But George believed, with woeful narrow-mindedness, that Catholicism was fundamentally opposed to the interests of the Crown and the British state, and continually opposed movements to put his Catholic subjects on equal footing with his Protestant ones. Nevertheless, George was capable of showing favor to individual Catholics, and by hook or crook, Fr. MacDonell’s request to raise a Catholic regiment for the British army was granted. The determined priest even got the go ahead to serve as the chaplain for the regiment, officially called “The Glengarry Fencibles”.  
    During their service in Ireland during the Rising of 1798, they were one of the few regiments to come out of the war with no war crime charges, thanks in great part to Fr. MacDonell’s insistence on accompanying them on the battlefield. He would encourage the terrified Irish civilians to come out of hiding so he could say mass for them, and he made sure that the wounded rebels were cared for by British surgeons. He was very much a Unionist, and saw the great potential that a united Britain and Ireland could achieve, providing that the deep-seated anti-Catholicism ingrained in the British Isles could be overcome.
    When the regiment was later disbanded, MacDonell approached the government and sought compensations for his clansmen in the form of a land grant in one of the British colonies overseas. Ungratefully, the officials tried to pawn off some poor property in the mosquito-infested West Indies. MacDonell was not impressed, and continued to petition for land elsewhere. Finally, they were given land in the territory of Upper Canada and made their homes in what is now Ontario. The chaplain continued to serve as a tireless spiritual shepherd, traveling long distances by horse and canoe to visit the scattered settlements and Indian villages. Since he spoke their native Gaelic and English, he was often used as the collective voice for his people.

    When the War of 1812 broke out and Canada was threatened by an America invasion, the Glengarries were reformed to combat the assault. Once again, MacDonell was always in the heat of the action, proudly proclaiming that all the men of his clan were either “priests or soldiers.” A strapping, tall man with a booming voice, he seemed every bit a man-of-the-cloth and a man-of-the-sword. He made great strides in ecumenism in the region, working alongside Anglicans and Presbyterians as comrades-in-arms and making lasting friendship with Protestant clergymen. Some of his connections were even members of the Orange Order who learned to overcome their prejudices through interaction with the soldier-priest.

    After the war, MacDonell was eventually raised to the position of Bishop of Kingston and enjoyed his years of retirement by participating in the creation of a local Tartan Society to preserve traditional Gaelic culture. Again showing his Unionist sentiment, the society changed its meeting date from the anniversary of Bannockburn to the anniversary of Waterloo to promote unity and own up to the realization that Napoleon had been more of a threat to the free world then Edward II ever had been. In commemoration of his countless services to British and Canada alike, King George IV sent Bishop MacDonell a ring which he proudly wore as a badge of honor. It was a symbol that Catholicism in Britain and her Empire had come a long way.

    In conclusion, Catholicism and Britishness have often had a tense relationship, but also a dynamic one that brought out the best in both. Catholics have provided some of the most loyal citizens Britain has had, and it certainly would not be incongruent for us to continue to have attachments to her now, on the eve of a referendum that will decide her future as a nation. Of course, whatever political changes happen in the British Isles, the Catholic Church will continue to minister to the souls of the inhabitants. That is our strength; we are adaptable. Like Bishop MacDonell, I can say, first and foremost, that my mission is evangelism. Also like him, I can see very clearly the worthy aspects of the British identity and the connectivity between faith and patriotism.

    So to my fellow Catholics in the UK: be patriots and flourish where you are planted. Love your country, who you have given so much to and gained so much from. You have come to far too turn back now. Help hold her together, not tear her apart. Pray for wisdom before you cast your vote.

(A version of this article appeared in “Open Unionism”:

Bishop Alexander MacDonell, "Regnum Defensor"


"An Island's Daughter".....

is a poem I've written for my friend Rae-Rae's 18th birthday, which is today! May you have all the best wishes and blessings on your special day!!! :-)

An Island’s Daughter

The old stories have a rhythm
Like the waves of the sea,
Washing up on the dark sands of time
With the pungent scent of natural elements
And the taste of salt

They sting and refresh,
Bringing back the ghosts of hearty souls
Who lived it, and worked it,
And felt the tides in their blood
Like their own pulse

Vague things, undefined
Like the stars that drown in the wine-dark water
Or that melt into a pale October dawn
Or that grace an Admiral’s jacket
Shine out in memory

The blood in the tides is now unseen,
But it trickled down planks of British oak and tar,
And swords now left to rust in indifference
Once gleamed like shark’s teeth
For the defense of a realm

Who will remember an island’s son
Better than an island’s daughter?
The sea is mute if no one hears it
And the stories fade if no one tells them
But you give them new life

You are a bard of today,
One who treads the line between past and present
To keep the heroes alive who might be dead to us
And to give shape to the consciousness of the future
Through that which is timeless

You have a gift, and are a gift

"....stars.....that grace an admiral's jacket....."