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Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry ("Happy") Christmas......

to all my readers, hither and yon! Here are a few Christmas poems to brighten up your holiday festivities. The first is anonymous, used as the text for a beatiful choral arrangement by British composer, Bob Chilcott. The second was written by John Rutter, another famed British composer who also paired these words with music of his own creation. I plan on putting up some more Christmas-related posts throughout this liturgical season....which is actually just getting kicked-off tomorrow! Stay tuned! ;-)

The Shepherd's Carol

We stood on the hills, Lady,
Our days work done,
Watching the frosted meadows
That winter had won.

The evening was calm, Lady,
The air so still,
Silence more lovely than music
Folded the hill.

There was a star, Lady,
Shone in the night,
Larger than Venus it was
And bright, so bright.

Oh, a voice from the sky, Lady,
It seemed to us then
Telling of God being born
In the world of men.

And so we have come, Lady,
Our days done,
Our love, our hopes, ourselves,
We give to your son.

We stood on the hills, Lady,

Our day’s work done,
Watching the frosted meadows
That winter had won.
The evening was calm, Lady,

The air so still,
Silence more lovely than music
Folded the hill.
There was a star, Lady,

Shone in the night,
Larger than Venus it was
And bright, so bright.
Oh, a voice from the sky, Lady,

It seemed to us then
Telling of God being born
In the world of men.
And so we have come, Lady,

Our day’s work done,
Our love, our hopes, ourselves,
We give to your son.
We stood on the hills, Lady,

Our day’s work done,
Watching the frosted meadows
That winter had won.
The evening was calm, Lady,

The air so still,
Silence more lovely than music
Folded the hill.
There was a star, Lady,

Shone in the night,
Larger than Venus it was
And bright, so bright.
Oh, a voice from the sky, Lady,

It seemed to us then
Telling of God being born
In the world of men.
And so we have come, Lady,

Our day’s work done,
Our love, our hopes, ourselves

The Wild Wood Carol

Sing o the wild wood, the green holly
The silent river and barren tree
The humble creatures that no man sees
Sing O the wild wood

A weary journey one winter's night
No hope of shelter, no rest in sight
Who was the creature that bore Mary?
A simple donkey

And when they came into Bethl'hem town
They found a stable to lay them down
For their companions that Christmas night
An ox and an ass

And then an angel came down to earth
To bear the news of the Saviour's birth
The first to marvel were shepherds poor
And sheep with their lambs

Sing o the Wild Wood, the green holly
The silent river and barren tree
The humble creatures that no man sees
Sing O the wild wood

"They found a stable to lay them down...."

Friday, December 21, 2012

"Strong John of Waterloo...."

is a tragic romance in the tradition of a British folk song. It is broken up into three parts, plus an epilogue stanza at the end. The first part takes place at a Christmas dance; the second, at the Battle of Waterloo; and the third, both in an ailing girl's room and on the battlefield again. As a final note, "their leader" and "the Iron Duke" refers to Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington.

Strong John of Waterloo

Old tunes, joyful tunes, weaving through the night
The rosy glow of faces beneath the candle light
North winds, cruel winds, howling at the door
The whirl of Yuletide dances across the wooden floor

And sitting by the fireside, amidst the revelry
Strong John takes poor weak Mary upon his bended knee
He’s young, bold, and handsome, a farmer’s strapping son
She’s young, frail, and sickly, with both her parents gone

His blue eyes flash like star-light, his red hair shimmers gold;
Her gray eyes mirror storm-clouds, her skin is pale and cold
But he finds her lips like honey, her hair like rich brown earth
And he whispers that he loves her beside the blazing hearth

Then “crash!” the door is broken in and cheer is turned to gloom
For soldiers in scarlet coats are standing in the room
They’re here to press bold young men to fight bold Bonaparte
And Mary cries, “Don’t take him, for it will break my heart!”

“If we put off our duty now to spare each lass’s heart
Then none would cross the raging sea to fight bold Bonaparte.”
They’ve taken hold of Strong John’s arms and dragged him to the door
And left his pale young lover sobbing on the floor


Brave tunes, haunting tunes, piping ‘cross the field
The stern and smoke-stained faces of men who will not yield
And John is the frontlines with other farmers’ sons
He hears the war drums beating, and the clatter of the guns

Their leader is a cold man, or so they all assume
He has a look of iron that penetrates the gloom
The air is damp and heavy; his eyes are quick and keen
He sees Old Boney’s horsemen advancing on the scene

The order then is passed around to form a British Square
John thinks of summer sunsets and Mary’s dark brown hair
He thinks of ale and cornbread, of Paradise and God --
Is there a place in Heaven for those who till the sod?

The officers are shouting; the noise drowns out their words
Old Boney’s men are coming; they draw their shining swords
The piper in the square is playing “Auld Lang Syne”
The redcoats prime their muskets, waiting for a sign

They see a sword flash downward; they fire in accord
The screams of men and horses across the field are heard
They keep the bullets flying, but they are out of time
A French sword flashes downward; John’s blood runs red as wine


Faint breath, gasping breath, Mary’s breath is gone
Her dying breath spent asking about the farmer’s son
Like Strong John’s scarlet coat, red blood has stained her dress
She coughed it up while clutching his letter to her breast

Her skin is white and ghostly; her figure worn and thin
Her lunges are drowned with fluid; her heart has burst within
Her lips are cracked and blood-stained, her eyes are sightless now
And tiny crystal droplets lay on her furrowed brow

This body would have borne him a daughter or a son
If he had but returned to her and they were joined as one
She sees the shadows parting, and views a gory field
Where gallant men in British Squares still refuse to yield

She sees the steel pierce through him, tearing flesh and bone
She sees the blood run freely; she hears his final groan
She flies across the distance, upon the field she stands
She kisses his pale lips, and squeezes his limp hand

His blue eyes flicker open; he sees her spirit there
He makes a final movement, and strokes her dark-brown hair
Her countenance is brightness, though all else fades away
They wake to find a Shining World, and greet a Glorious Day


The battle ends in victory; they find that John is dead
With lifeless Mary at his side, as in a marriage bed
None know where she came from, but together they are laid
And the Iron Duke sheds iron tears for the price that has been paid

"....gallant men in British Squares still refuse to yield....."

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A hopeful message.....

is contained in this beautiful poem that I received via forwarded message on my email. It was written to commemorate the victums of the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that took place last week. At this time of national mourning, please keep the victims and their families in your prayers. That goes for the soul of the guilty party, as well, for he is in most need of God's mercy.

Twas' 11 Day Before Chrismtas

Twas' 11 days before Christmas, around 9:38 a.m. when 20 beautiful children stormed through heaven's gate.
Their smiles were contagious, their laughter filled the air.
They could hardly believe all the beauty they saw there.  They were filled with such joy, they didn't know what to say.
They remembered nothing of what had happened earlier that day.
"Where are we?" asked a little girl, as quiet as a mouse."  "This is heaven." declared a small boy. "We're spending Christmas at God's house."
When what to their wondering eyes did appear, but Jesus, their Savior, the children gathered near.
He looked at them and smiled, and they smiled just the same.
Then He opened His arms and He called them by name.  And in that moment was joy, that only heaven can bring. 
Those children all flew into the arms of their King and as they lingered in the warmth of His embrace, one small girl turned and looked at Jesus' face.
And as if He could read all the questions she had, He gently whispered to her, "I'll take care of mom and dad."
Then He looked down on earth, the world far below.  He saw all of the hurt, the sorrow, and woe.
Then He closed His eyes and He outstretched His hand,  "Let My power and presence re-enter this land!"
"May this country be delivered from the hands of fools."    "I'm taking back my nation. I'm taking back my schools!"
Then He and the children stood up without a sound.  "Come now, my children, let me show you around."
Excitement filled the space, some skipped and some ran.  All displaying enthusiasm that only a small child can.
And I heard Him proclaim as He walked out of sight, "In the midst of this darkness, I AM STILL THE LIGHT."
Written by Cameo Smith, Mt. Wolf, PA

twas' 11 days before Christmas, around 9:38  when 20 beautiful children stormed through heaven's gate.  their smiles were contagious, their laughter filled the air.  they could hardly believe all the beauty they saw there.  they were filled with such joy, they didn't know what to say.  they remembered nothing of what had happened earlier that day.
"I'm taking back My Schools!"

Saturday, December 1, 2012

"Campion the Champion".....

 first became a major part of my life when I was assigned to read Edmund Campion: Hero of God's Underground by Harold C. Gardiner, S.J. I was in 4th Grade at the time and already fascinated by England thanks to my earlier love-affair with Robin Hood. But the story of Fr. Campion opened up a whole new dimension of interest for me. The Forty Martyrs of England and Wales became my ultimate inspirations, and Campion especially captured my imagination. This was a saint with sparkle; this was a man with know-how; this was the cream of Catholic England.

    Campion started out life as a London book-seller's son, won a scholarship to Oxford University, and charmed everyone with his brilliant intellect and vivacious delivery, including Queen Elizabeth I and the Earl of Leicester. He became a professor, gaining the admiration and idolization of his students, and he even inspired a college clique who called themselves "Campionists" and mimicked his hand gestures and figures of speech. He could have gone on to enjoy the comfortable life of an Anglican clergyman, but his forays into the works of the Early Church Fathers stopped him dead in his tracks. He found himself drawn more and more to the teachings Catholic Church. But he knew only too well the penalty that awaited "seditious papists" and was unwilling to abandon all his worldly gains.

    Determined to silence his conscience, Campion dodged several attempts to get him to debate in favor of Anglican doctrines and travelled to Ireland to stay with conservative friends. While he was there, he wrote a heavily biased book on the history of Ireland (proving just how much of an Englishman he really was!) and dedicated it to his patron, the Earl of Leicester. But then the radical Protestants cracked down on the Emerald Isle, and he was forced to return to England or else be censured as a Papist sympathizer. After witnessing the merciless condemnation of an elderly Catholic priest in London, Campion decided go to mainland Europe to avoid a similar fate and determine his future. Finally, he was forced to face up to himself and His God.

    Campion eventually converted to Catholicism and became a Catholic priest of the Society of Jesus. Ten years after he had left his homeland, Campion was ordered to return to England as a missionary to the persecuted Catholics there. He was now an outlaw of sorts, disguising himself as a jewel merchant in order to hide his true identity. A lay brother who accompanied him named Ralph Emerson acted as his man-servant. Campion traveled across the country, administering the sacraments and keeping the faith alive. Ironically enough, his headquarters in London was a building rented from the sheriff of London, who was frantically searching for Campion to arrest him!

    Campion wrote a letter to the Queen's Council to be opened in case of his capture, explaining his reason for returning to England and his desire to engage the Protestants in debate. He claimed that any well-formed Catholic would be able to take them on, no matter how many there were or how well-prepared they came. Thus, the letter (which was opened and circulated by the custodian prior to Campion's capture) came to be known as "Campion's Brag". He also went on to write an apologetics pamphlet called "Decem Rationes" ("Ten Reasons"), using logic to uphold the teachings of the Catholic faith. While some of his analogies and wording appears excessively harsh today, it must be remembered that it was written in a time period when Catholics and Protestants were engaged in a life-or-death struggle in which neither side could afford to tread lightly.

    Fr. Campion was trailed by George Eliot, a government spy who pretended to be a Catholic recusant, and apprehended while staying in a Catholic home in Berkshire. He was in the midst of saying mass when the authorities arrived. After failing to evade capture by hiding in a "priest hole" (a secret compartment in the house), his captors arrested him....and then took him to dinner! They all were impressed by their famous prisoner's good conversational skills, joyful countenance, and forgiveness towards the traitor, Eliot. Campion was brought to the Tower of London and tortured to reveal the names of the members of the Catholic underground. Through it all, he never revealed any convicting evidence, sparing many lives. Nearly crippled, he was brought before the Queen and offered a pardon and a prominent position in the Church of England if he would apostatize. He expressed his loyalty to the Queen, but flatly refused her offer.  

   Campion and several other Catholic priests was tried and condemned for being involved in a plot against the Queen's life, although there was never any real evidence to support the charge. In truth, as he asserted in his final speech, they were condemned as Catholic priests, and for that they were sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered as traitors to the state. As Campion was being dragged on a hurdle to the place of execution at Tyburn, he raised his hand in a salute to the statue of Our Lady located in Newgate Arch. This was in recognition of the vision Campion had before setting sail for England. The Mother of God had appeared to him and told him that he would die a martyr for the faith. And so it was.

    St. Edmund Campion and his companions were martyred on December 1st, 1581. His last words were a prayer for Queen Elizabeth I. He truly was "a man for all seasons" in his own right. He was a student, a teacher, a scholar, an author, a missionary, and so much more. He was a man of both words and deeds. His vibrant style and incandescent zeal made him a source of great light for the Church under the shadow of persecution. His patriotism and loyalty make him an excellent source of succor for the Catholic Brits of today who struggle to keep the faith in times of turmoil. Of course, his influence "transcends nationality"; he belongs to the Universal Church in ever corner of the world. His feast is December 1st.

Edmundus Campianus, Matyr, Ora Pro Nobis!

"Campion the Champion"

Friday, November 30, 2012

Saints of Scotland.....

make a major debut in this month of November. First, we meet a pious queen from an exiled royal family who managed to tame her brutish husband and his rowdy court. Second, we learn about the origin of the Scottish saltire and how it is connected to a Jewish fisherman who died on an X-shaped cross. Take a look:

St. Margaret of Scotland

     St. Margaret was an Anglo-Saxon princess who was raised in the court of St. Edward the Confessor in England. When William the Conqueror invaded in 1066, she and her family intended to sail to mainland Europe and take refuge there. But a storm blew their ship off course, and they landed in Scotland instead. They were rescued by King Malcolm III, who fell madly in love with the beautiful young Margaret and subsequently married her.

    Although the king could be rough and violent, Margaret's pious and refined nature softened his attitude towards life. She had a positive effect on the Scottish court, cultivating holiness and gentility among the courtiers. She also inspired her husband to show clemency to captured Englishmen who became prisoners during various Anglo-Scottish conflicts. Her private life was replete with acts of charity and constant prayer. 
   Margaret founded several churches, including the Abbey of Dunfermline which was built to enshrine her greatest treasure, a relic of the true cross. She also was known to sew beautiful priest's vestments with her own hands. A synod was held with her support, and various matters were settled including a regulation of Lenten fasting and reception of Easter Communion.

    She and her husband had six sons and two daughters. Her youngest son became King David I of Scotland, and her daughter, Edith, became queen of England when she married King Henry I of England. Both were renowned for their piety and saintly conduct.

    As Margaret lay on her death-bed, she learned that her husband and son, Edward, had been killed in yet another war with England. In response, she murmured:  "I thank You, Almighty God, for sending me so great a sorrow to purify me from my sins." She was buried at the high altar at Dunfermline, and her feast is celebrated on November 16th. She is a beneficial advocate for Anglo-Scottish relations.

St. Andrew the Apostle

     According to the New Testament, St. Andrew was the brother of St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles. Both were fishermen in the region of Galilee in Judea. Andrew was originally a disciple of St. John the Baptist, but when John pointed out Jesus of Nazareth as "the Lamb of God", Andrew became the first follower of Our Lord. He promptly inducted his brother, Simon Peter, into the ranks of the faithful ("We Have A Pope!" ;-). He is also depicted as the one who lead the boy with the loaves and fishes to Jesus, providing the means for the miracle of multiplication.

    Tradition states that after the death and resurrection of Christ, Andrew traveled to Asia Minor and Greece as a missionary. He was arrested by the Roman authorities and condemned to death, making him one of the earliest martyrs of the Christian Church. He was crucified on an X-shaped cross to which he was tied instead of being nailed. Hence, he became famous not so much for his role as a fisher of fish, but rather as a fisher of men.

    Some time in the 4th century, St. Rule is said to have taken some bodily relics of St. Andrew from Constantinople to a Pictish settlement on the east coast of Scotland ("the ends of the earth", as far as Rule was concerned!) Like the relics of Margaret of Scotland, Andrew's remains in Scotland were presumably destroyed during the Protestant Reformation. However, other relics from mainland Europe which supposedly belonged to St. Andrew were sent to the Catholic Scottish community during the 19th and 20th centuries to make up for loss. 

    The origin of the St. Andrew's Cross design, which graces both the Scottish Saltire flag and the Union Jack, dates back to a legend told about the Battle of Athelstanford between the Picts/Scots and the Northumbrians in 832, A.D. The Pictish leader, Angus McFergus, had a dream of the saint before the encounter, and during the battle, an X-shaped cross appeared in the sky, encouraging the Picts/Scots to drive the Northumbrians from the field. From that time on, the image of a white X on a blue background became the banner of the Scottish nation. The feast of St. Andrew is celebrated on November 30th. He is patron saint of Scotland, Russia, and Greece.

St. Margaret of Scotland and St. Andrew the Apostle, Ora Pro Nobis!!!

St. Margaret of Scotland

St. Andrew the Apostle


Friday, November 23, 2012

Here are a few announcements.....

that have accumulated over the past few weeks and that I've been meaning to post.

    First, I wish to announce that Rae-Rae and Rosie, the team of clever British teenagers who ran the blog HMS Hitchenbrook, have each started a new blog of their own. Rae-Rae continues to explore important aspects and fascinating incidences that took place in the Royal Navy during the Age of Sail on "The Great Cabin". Of couse, Lord Nelson still looms large as the guiding star for the project. Here's the link for it:

    Rosie has branched off into the broad scope of the Long 18th Century in Britain, France, and beyond. Full of colorful characters from monarchs to musicians, she calls it "The Macaroni Club" in honor of 18th century ladies and gents who really knew how to dress! Here's the link to that:

    Next, I wanted to extend an exuberant congratulations to GWright, my friend from Glasgow, Scotland, and his new bride upon their wedding! They recently returned from their honeymoon in Italy, and I'm still looking forward to oppurtunity of seeing some of their pics from there. Cheers, to ye both, and may you be blessed abundantly in your new married life :-)

    Also, I wanted to ask you all to please pray for the soul a dear friend of our family, Steve B., who passed away this week, the day before Thanksgiving. He suffered from kidney failure some 30 years ago and endured many operations and painful procedures, including having a kidney transplant and a finger amputated. He was being kept alive through dialisis and recently decided to go off of it. He was a truly courageous and Christ-like man who showed love to all those who he met. He used to be both a teacher and a musician, playing Country Music and Gosepl hymns in a band. He was like an uncle to me. Many people will mourn his loss.

     On another note, I would like to say that a certain commenter chose to rudely bash my post about the qualities of a soul-mate and remain anonymous. As I have said in the past, my readers have every right to disagree with me and I welcome respectful dialogue about our differences. However, crude and insulting comments will not be approved. Further, anonymous comments will not be approved unless a name/username is given below letting me know who you are.

    Thanks for reading the announcements! God Bless!

"Hear Ye, Hear Ye...."

The Musical Moods from Middle Earth.....

behind Sir Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings film trilogy is intricately multifaceted to match the proportions of the epic tale. The plot, based on the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien, is full of depth, complexity, wondrous romance, and striking realism. What starts out with a romp through a peaceful hobbit shire quickly progresses into a life or death struggle to destroy the One Ring, symbolizing all that is attractive and desirable about sin. The characters go through personal transformations and gain experience while at the same time loosing their innocence. Mythic cultures of elves and men are well-developed, and ancient nations hold their own with individual identities and histories. Love, loyalty, courage, hatred, insanity, betrayal, magic, mysticism, and the unseen force that is Providence all come to the fore, and the symbolic nuances conveying Tolkien's strong moral orthodoxy are endless. 

     To create a musical score for this production would be daunting to say the least. Nevertheless, the creative genius of composer, orchestrator, and conductor, Howard Shore, ensured that a lush instrumental tapestry would be woven to capture the essence of the main characters and concepts. This would be top-rate material, complete with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the haunting vocals of Enya, Sheila Chandra, Isabel Bayrakdarian, Emiliana Torrini, Renee Fleming, Annie Lennox, and many others. Working as a team, they successfully capture the spiritual undergirding of the story and transport the viewer into a mythic realm of serene beauty and shocking brutality.

    Among my favorite musical clips from the score is “The Shire Theme” which is introduced in the beginning of the first film, The Fellowship of the Ring, when we first meet young Frodo in the peaceful countryside, reading a book under the shade of a tree. The theme reappears many times over the course of the trilogy, indicating feelings of nostalgia for the simple way of life the hobbits left behind on their quest to destroy the Ring and the cause for which the hobbits are willing to sacrifice everything: to preserve the true, the good, and the beautiful in the world. The theme also represents the solidarity and deep loyalty of the hobbits, especially in the case of Sam and Frodo. At the end of the first film, when the Fellowship is broken and Frodo decides to continue his quest alone, Sam insists on following him to the bitter end, and threads of the Shire theme are weaved through the larger piece called "The Breaking of the Fellowship".

     The romance between Aragorn, the exiled king of Gondor, and Arwen, the elf maiden, is also a major source of musical inspiration. This proves to be one of the softer aspects of the story, but it is also interlaced with a sense of peril and otherworldliness that make the romantic scenes surreal and haunting. In the movie number one, Aragorn and Arwen are shown meeting on a vine-draped bridge in the Elvish city of Rivendell. As a pristine waterfall cascades behind them, Arwen gives Aragorn her star-shaped necklace as a token of undying devotion, and the two kiss for the first time in the trilogy. The Elvish lyrics of "Aniron (I Desire)" is sung by the Celtic/New Age music sensation Enya, whose familiarity with the Irish language no doubt made Tolkien’s mythical, Celtic-influenced language more accessible for her.

    Isabel Bayrakdarian picks up where Enya left off in the second movie, The Two Towers, with another Elvish song, "Evenstar", which correlates with a dream Aragorn of has of Arwen while he is on his way to Helm's Deep with the people of Rohan. After being wounded in battle, Aragorn experiences another vision of Arwen giving him the strength to live, accompanied by the song, "Breath of Life", sung by Sheila Chandra. In the third film, The Return of the King, Aragorn and Arwen are joyously reunited after the war, and auspicious occasion which is hailed with another set of haunting Elvish vocals sung by Renee Fleming within the larger musical piece appropriately dubbed "The Return of the King." As could be expected, there’s a lot of kissing for the finale.

    The Kingdom of Rohan and its heroic warriors on horseback, the Rohirrim, play a major part in turning the tide of battles. Their culture is similar to that of the Anglo-Saxon and Viking kingdoms from the Dark Ages, and their deeds equal that of the great sagas from Northern Europe. The musical themes for Rohan are stirring and rhythmic, emulating the thunder of galloping hooves. When the kingdom is first introduced in The Two Towers, a simple Norwegian fiddle tune is played. Later, when the Rohirrim ride to aid the kingdom of Gondor in The Return of the King, knowing that death may be their only prize, the simple tune is woven into an elaborate arrangement of strings and horns called "Ride of the Rohirrim", making their do-or-die mission come of pulse-pounding life. It is my personal favorite piece of instrumentals from the trilogy.

    The forces of evil have their own musical themes as well. Dark and foreboding French horns accompanied by strange pounding noises introduce the race of orks, bred by the traitorous wizard, Saruman, in the fortress of Isengard. This theme is first played in The Fellowship of the Ring when the hideous mutated elves slither out of mud holes beneath the earth, slaves to their masters and slaves to themselves, motivated only to cause pain out of hatred for all that is beautiful in the world. The theme is repeated throughout the trilogy to hail the approach of orks. The Black Riders, corrupted men who have lost their faces and are neither dead nor alive, are also major forces, especially in movie one. They are usually announced by eerie choral chanting in Elvish and the sound of screeching horses. To some extent, they are the opposite of the gallant Rohirrim and examples of the fate which will befall all men if they are possessed by the One Ring.

    And finally, the Ring itself has many voices, as does Gollum, formerly Sméagol, a slave of the Ring's life-sucking power. An eerie violin tune indicates the combination of appeal and peril that the Ring embodies. In The Two Towers, it is played as Frodo finds himself drawn to the power of evil and massages the Ring with his finger. In The Return of the King, the contrast between the innocent life that Sméagol enjoyed and the life of slavery that he would soon come to know is brought to life by the care-free music that precedes his cousin Deagol's plunge into the lake and discovery of the Ring. Then the eerie violin tune crawls across the score as Sméagol kills his cousin for possession of the Ring and begins his transformation into the hideous Gollum. His loss of identity makes him nothing more than a shriveled shell and a symbol of what Frodo might become should he succumb to the power of the Ring.

    As the plot reaches its climax at the end of movie three, an intense choral piece called “The End of All Things” electrifies Frodo's climb up Mt. Doom with a sense of intensity and foreboding should his mission to destroy the Ring fail. Again, the violin theme of the Ring is played, Frodo's resolve suddenly falters, and he claims the source of power for himself. But there's one more act to the drama. Gollum, reluctantly spared from death by the hobbits had has harassed and betrayed, leaps out of the shadows and tackles Frodo to the ground. In the ensuing struggle, Gollum and the Ring fall into the fires of Mt. Doom, and the ever-faithful Sam yanks Frodo from the brink of falling in himself. The haunting vocals of Renee Fleming hail the arrival of the eagles who rescue the two hobbits from the lava-soaked mountainside

    Lest we forget a few other iconic songs from the films, Enya’s “May It Be” from The Fellowship of the Ring serves as the ultimate LotR theme, arranged as a type of prayer for grace and courage in the midst of loneliness and despair, assuring that “a promise lives” within each of us, and that no matter how insignificant we feel, we can stand up to evil and assure that “the shadow’s call will fly away.” In the extended version of The Two Towers, we get a special treat when Eowyn sings a lament in Old English at her cousin’s funeral. Her emotionally taught voice seems to reach out from ages past, especially since words are adapted from the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf, a work of literature near and dear to Tolkien’s heart. At the end of the movie, “Gollum’s Song” by Emiliana Torrini tells of Sméagol’s sorry plight as he struggles in vain to break free from the bondage and darkness. His pathetic refrain cannot help but draw sympathy: “Don’t say I didn’t try.”

    The Return of the King contains two memorable songs. The first one is “The Edge of Night”, a simple yet deeply haunting lament which the hobbit Pippin sings at the court of Gondor for the steward, Denethor. The camera flashes back and forth from the court to a suicidal charge that is being launched against an ork-held stronghold, with Denethor’s son Faramir at the head. The lyrics make it clear that “there are many paths to tread” away from home, and that the mission to conquer darkness with take them all through “mist and shadow, cloud and shade.” The second song of note from final film is “Into the West”, sung by Annie Lennox at the finale. It is a beautiful testimony to all those who have fought the good fight and have won the race, and a belief in a Brighter World to come: “Don’t say we have come now to the end/White shores are calling; you and I will meet again.” 

    In an age when pop music and fan flicks are pathetically simplistic and lacking in taste, it is satisfying to be able to listen to a movie score that takes the essential themes of human existence and brings them to our consciousness with emotionally-charged music and haunting vocals. The frailty of man, the quality of mercy, and power of Providence all play their part to demonstrate the core of courage and the mystery of love at the heart of Tolkien’s epic. With a classical flavor yet a very original approach, the musical moods and penetrating plot of The Lord of the Rings trilogy will no doubt serve as a source of inspiration and enjoyment for generations to come. 


"The End of All Things"


Saturday, November 17, 2012

The qualities of a soul-mate.....

are often hard for young ladies to find in the opposite gender these days. Frumpy, sullen, and totally self-absorbed, many YAMs (Young Adolescent Men) strut about shopping malls and supermarkets decked out in ratty tee-shirts, dingy jeans, and cheap earrings stuck through their nostrils and ear lobes. Some of them parade around hand-in-hand with their “girl-friends”, massaging them in inappropriate places in full public view. Sometimes these “couples” even stop off at the Family Planning shelf and chat about which Birth Control methods will work the best for them. It’s thoroughly disgusting and distressing.

    That’s the worst case scenario. Next on the list are your random home-grown YAMs who seem to enjoy tormenting girls by refusing to enter into intelligent conversation with them. Instead, they’ll mutter such marvels of thought as “Yah,” “Nah”, “I guess”, “Sure”, “Bye”, and then pull out their game-loaded, gizmo-gadget cell phone and start plugging away at it! When there is more than one of them in the same room, they are even more intolerable. They start making imbecilic jokes, jumping on each other’s heads like Billy-goats, swinging around blunt objects, and behaving like juvenile delinquents fresh out of kindergarten. All logic and yearning to pursue the finer things in life seem to vanish in a twinkling. In short, they become neanderthals.

    Moving on, we come to the intellect YAMs who have an encyclopedic attitude towards life in general and girls especially. They seek to “analyze” the female species from a distance, and yet show a serious lack in social graces when they actually interact with them. Their perspective on romance is a black-and-white textbook diagram strictly designed to avoid unpleasant encounters. Sometimes they get so caught up in their own contemplations, that polite conversation gets bogged down in the morass of their minds and it takes great determination on the part of the other party to stick with it and stay on even footing. 

    Next, we come to the talky-talky YAMs who think they are king of the hill. They suffer from the “Big Man Syndrome” and want to prove their manliness by showing off and exagerating their circumstances. They say they want to emmerse themselves in guts and glory, watching violent films and wrestling around because they claim it's “a guy thing.” This attitude often comes off as rather annoying and lacking in sensitivity. I will grant that boys have a different make-up than girls and are naturally more aggressive. But I don’t think that being highly combative is necessarily “a guy thing”; it’s all in the personality type. Furthermore, I think they misread the female mind many times by trying to be excessively “macho” as opposed to more genteel and understanding.

    Then, finally, we meet the friendly, intellectual, polite, and thoroughly delightful YAM….who is sadly undependable. It’s a hit-and-miss operation; first you see them, then you don’t. They mean well, but they have so much on their plate they can’t keep with it all. Hence, instead of merely communicating less, they often drop off contact all together and it becomes a pleasant rarity when you finally relocate them for a brief spat. Trying to get them involved in long-term projects is usually a futile effort. They are a bit like puppies to which you throw a stick, but something along the route catches their attention and they bound after it instead of bringing back the stick.

    Now I’m not saying that the young men who fit into the categories above are “bad kids”. Even the first category often consists of those who simply lack love in their lives and are seeking it in all the wrong places as our modern society dictates. I remember once encountered a black-clad, earring-wearing youth in an antique mall when we both started studying an old guitar standing up in a booth. I was intimidated by him at first, but then we casually struck up a conversation, and he surprised me by being much friendlier than his appearance would have had me believe. It made me feel sad, because I could tell he was something of a lost soul. There are many others like him.

    The bad-attitude Billy-goats, the black-and-white intellectuals, the guts-and-glory warriors, and the puppies-after-a-stick usually have good hearts, too. They just get caught up in either themselves or their surroundings and forget that other people are observing them....especially the ladies! Okay, so maybe I expect too much. Maybe I'm thinking too far ahead. Supposedly, girls mature faster than boys. But somehow I just can't picture these guys "maturing" in less than a decade, which is when most of them will be off and married. I can't help but wonder about my prospects for finding a soul-mate.

    All girls, no matter who they are, day-dream about Mr. Right. It makes sense; after all, unless we plan on joining a convent or something, we are going to have to tie the knot with someone and hunker down for better or worse. We might as well try to figure the type with whom we can be most compatible as a spouse. The results of these contemplations for many girls often turn into a composite character of Robin Hood, Aragorn, King Aruthur, and few hundred others that randomly come to mind. For me, there is something a definite shape coming to mind about the type of man I would like to share my life with someday.

   First and foremost, I want to marry a practicing Catholic, orthodox in his beliefs, but not too far to the right or left. I want him to have a devotion to Our Lady and the Saints as well the Sacraments. I would also like him to be a political conservative, but also with a true sympathy for the plight of the poor. I would like him to be passionate in his love of country and devotion to good causes. I would want him to love history and view it with a balanced perspective. His love of all things British, I hope, would match my own. I also hope he would like animals and nature, as I do, but also be understanding about my allergies!

    I would want him to be on good terms with my parents since I am an only child and we have a very close-knit relationship. I would also hope he would be open to starting a small family of our own, but be understanding about my own health conditions and my inability to cope with a large family. I would also hope he would be understanding my own modest sensibilities and respect them. Personality wise, I would like him to be kind-hearted, humble, considerate, balanced, and intellectually-minded. On the flip side of the coin, I would like him to be passionate about the fight against evil in this world and courageous when called to stand up for the truth. Also, I would like him to be a responsible worker, but also know how to enjoy light-hearted fun. As a wife, I would have to learn to give back the fullness of my love and be considerate to the needs of my husband. That's not even counting all the effort that goes into running a house and raising a family! It comes down to giving all I can, as best I can.    

    So these are dreams that dance in my brain every now and again. I know full well that no man in the world will ever be perfect nor fill every desire in my heart. That place is rightly set aside for Our Lord Jesus Christ alone. However, I do believe that having a soul-mate, joined in purpose and love with you, is one of the most beautiful things on earth. So pray for me in my journey to seek out my vocation, and I will do the same for all of you on the same path.

Someday, perhaps.....;-)


Sunday, November 11, 2012

"Aragorn's Victory Song".....

is a foray into Aragorn's thoughts as he leads his troops against the forces of Sauron before the Black Gates of Mordor so that Frodo can have a chance to destroy The One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom. If you are an LotR fan, no further explanation is necessary. If not, suffice to say, the gentleman in question is really up against it, outnumbered by a hoard of hideous beasts and risking total destruction. He's sticking his neck out in hopes of saving the world, even though he deeply longs for his girlfriend and is having a hard time coming to grips with the possibility of never seeing her again.

Aragorn’s Victory Song

I see a fire behind your eyes
That darkness cannot quell;
As ashes from the mountain rise,
You’ll storm the gates of Hell
Mornie Utulie, Horo!

The ancient lava from the earth
Is cool beside the flame
That burns within a faithful breast
And earns a man his fame
Mornie Utulie, Horo!

The Evening Star shines on my path,
Her voice rings in my ears,
Her kisses, gold, rest on my lips,
Her eyes are free from fear
Mornie Utulie, Horo!

These visions are my only guide
Through haunted, sleepless nights
When cold and hunger choke the soul
And swallow heaven’s light
Mornie Utulie, Horo!

I see the doors of Sauron’s hall
Open wide, like jaws;
They seek to grind the worth of man
And banish all our laws
Mornie Utulie, Horo!

The silver stroke of death is near,
And it may well claim me,
But He who calls the sun to rise
Will shape my destiny
Mornie Utulie, Horo!

The hall beyond these mortal bounds
Will open wide to me,
And there where light is never dimmed
I’ll spend eternity
Mornie Utulie, Horo!

To fight for love of all that lives
And challenge fickle fate
May prove to be our secret power
And triumph over hate
Mornie Utulie, Horo!

Let the howl of wolves be heard
And the clash of shattered shields;
We’ll show the world how gallant men
Can die but never yield!
Mornie Alantie, Horo!

 * "Mornie Utulie" means "darkness has come" in Elvish; "Mornie Alantie" means "darkness has fallen" in Elvish; "Horo" is a Gaelic word without any definite translation used as a refrain in many Irish and Scottish songs; here, it is used as a battle-cry, similar to "onward!"

Aragorn from Lord of the Rings

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Stormy Weather......

has been a hot topic on this side of the Atlantic spread. Personally and politically, storms of different sorts are raging as well.

       Yesterday, the dreadful "Frankenstorm", Hurricane Sandy, hit the East Coast with all her feared ferocity. New York and New Jersey were hit the hardest, with entire neighborhoods being destroyed by flooding and wind damage. Millions of power outages and fifty storm-related deaths have been reported overall. May their souls rest in peace. My own native state was also hit by the tempest, wreaking havoc along the coastline and Ocen City. Thankfully, my family lives inland, so we were spared any serious damage. The wind did whip up a fury and our yard is a wreck, but our power stayed on. Our lights did flicker twice, but never went out completely, even though we were almost certain they would. Our attic sprung at least seven leaks and we took on some water in the basement, but all that is sustainable. Thank you, St. Barbara, patroness of storms, for protecting us! Also, thank you to my friends on both sides of the pond who emailed me to make sure my family and I made it through the storm unscathed.

     On a personal note, I recently came down with a miserable cold which started with an intensely painful sore throat and progressed with a suffocating stuffiness that has had me blowing my nose none-stop both day and night, making it very difficult for me to sleep. This, accompanied by the usual cough, is my present state. Thankfully, I am at home with my loving family, reasonably good heating, and a well-stocked kitchen. Plus, my dad recently picked up some library material waiting for me behind the counter, and I have been nursing my misery by watching an odd variety of films (The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Horatio Hornblower, Bertie and Elizabeth, etc.) and listening to the soundtrack of LotR. Yes, even though I am not a Ringer, I can appreciate good music, and the Peter Jackson films did dish out some truly lovely pieces. I especially like “May It Be” and “Aniron (Theme for Aragorn and Arwen)”, both of which are sung by Enya. I did find Aragorn and Arwen's romance to be one of the gentle refrains in the films from hideous beasts and similar savagery, and the musical score attests to this.

     Election Day is closing in with unbelievable speed, and it's all hand-to-hand combat from now til then. The First Presidential Debate showed the Republican Candidate Mitt Romeny to be a cool, confident, and keen challenger, and made the Democratic President Barack Obama to appear like a lethargic, lackadaisical, and lackluster incumbent. The polls showed popular opinion shoot up for Romney in the following days. Next, the Vice-Presidential Debate took an almost laughable twist as the Democratic Vice-President Joe Biden snickered, sneered, and derided his opponent, Republican Vice-Presidential Canditate Paul Ryan. Some say that Ryan should have been more assertive and prevented Biden from interrupting him and making rude insinuations. However, the polite and laid-back visage displayed by Ryan just served to make Biden's antics seem more repulsive and childish to many viewers.

     The Second Presidential Debate saw a much more lively President Obama and a much more aggressive display of  "in your face" arguing on both men's parts. The Town Hall format allowed selected members of the audience to ask questions to the candidates, and one question seems to have summarized the general thoughts of many Americans: a man who voted for Obama in 2008 asked why he should vote for him again. Romney was quick to nail Obama on his atrocious record of debt and the deplorable financial situation in general. Then the question about the Benghazi attack came to the fore, causing a stramash over when Obama had acknowleged it as an "Act of Terror" as opposed to a spontaneous demonstration sparked by an anti-Islamic vido on YouTube. The debate ended as a tie, with Romney still holding his edge in the polls.

    In a "break-time" function, both Obama and Romney attended the Al Smith Dinner in New York at the invitation of Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan. Both candidates took some smart but good-humored jabs at one another, and Romney proved he was not the stiff he has so often been portrayed as. Although there was much consternation in the Catholic world when it was first announced that both candidates would be invited to the dinner (considering the fact that Obama has crossed swords with the Catholic Church in general and Cardinal Dolan in particular over the HHS Mandate), the event demonstrated a refreshing sense of fair play and decensy that in intergral to the American Spirit. 

    The Third Debate saw Romney adopt a new strategy: the "hugging" method. Instead of obliging the President's attempts to paint him as an unreasonable radical, Romney agreed with numerous Obama policies and refused to be drawn into the Benghazi subject again. The result was that once again the result was a tie, with no definate winner and Romeny still holding the edge in the polls. Now the determining factor will be the states that can be won by the opposing parties. Ohio and Wisconsin play big on the swing-state stage.

    Personally I am a third generation Republican, and my grandfather was active in politics. But that is only a small part of why I support Mitt Romney in this election. I also believe that the present administration is taking great risks in the area of national security and crashing this nation into the rocks of debt and depression. But first and foremost, I am pro-life and pro-traditional marriage. I believe in the sanctity of the sexual act as a life-giving one, and that it should not be misused and debased. I believe that all life is sacred, from the moment of conception to natural death. These are not just my personal beliefs, but they are the official teachings of the Catholic Church. And these are the beliefs that the Obama administration has stridently opposed, to the point of infringing on religioius liberty. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, is running on basic Conservative principles and showing a much superior attitude towards life issues than Barack Obama

     Hence, I must address my fellow Catholics and Americans: You cannot vote for a fiercely pro-abortion, pro-homosexual "marriage" candidate when there is a better option and consider yourself a member of the Church in good standing. You automatically excommunicate yourself by abandoning the laws of God. I have Protestant and Mormon friends who are more in line with the teachings of our Church than some Catholics. For God's sake, don't disgrace us and make us endure another four years of this administration which will bring down a swell of anti-life choices. To those who are thinking of voting third-party or for a candidate who is not even running: I beg you to reconsider. It is our duty to do whatever we can to defeat evil, even if that means choosing "the lesser of two evils", as some people might consider it. This is a national emergency. We must stand up and be counted to make a difference.

    And so we Americans have many storms to weather. May Our Lady, Patroness of America, and St. Barbara, Patroness of Storms, be our guiding lights through it all.

Hurricane Sandy


Gov. Mitt Romney and Pres. Barack Obama

Monday, October 15, 2012

Deep in the Heart of Texas.....

our blog's poet laureate comes forth with some poems about the the greatness of humble ones and the indomitable spirit of sacrifice that never fades. Mack, thank you for posting your inspirational work in the comment boxes over the months ;-)

The Beggar at Canterbury Gate

The beggar sits at Canterbury Gate,
Thin, pale, unshaven, sad. His little dog
Sits patiently as a Benedictine
At Vespers, pondering eternity.
Not that rat terriers are permitted
To make solemn vows. Still, the pup appears
To take his own vocation seriously,
As so few humans do. For, after all,
Dogs demonstrate for us the duties of
Poverty, stability, obedience,
In choir, perhaps; among the garbage, yes,
So that perhaps we too might live aright.

The good dog’s human plays his tin whistle
Beneath usurper Henry’s offering-arch,
For Kings, as beggars do, must drag their sins
And lay them before the Altar of God:
The beggar drinks and drugs and smokes, and
His penance is to sit and suffer shame;
The King’s foul murders stain his honorable
His penance is a stone-carved famous name
Our beggar, then, is a happier man,
Begging for bread at Canterbury Gate;
Tho’ stones are scripted not with his poor fame,
His little dog will plead his cause to God.

Ever England

Brave Hurricanes and Spits still claw and climb
Far up into the English summer sky
At the lingering end of a golden time
As wild young lads and aging empires die

The Hood and Rodney still the Channel guard
Against the strident Men of Destiny
Then shellfire falls; the helm is over hard
But the brave old ships keep the Narrow Sea

Dear Grandpa and the boys sport thin tin hats
In Sunday afternoon's invasion drill
Gram says she's too darned old for all of that
But she too smells the smoke of Abbeyville

Faith does not pass with ephemeral time:
Brave Hurricanes and Spits still claw and climb

Begging for bread at Canterbury Gate....

Brave Hurricanes and Spits still claw and climb.....

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Tragic Romance.....

seemed to be a theme Sir Walter Scott miandered in quite often. He had a talent for blending both the hauntingly sad with the mysteriously unexplainable. In the end, he was even able to project the gallantry and love to such an extent that his works serve as a reminder of the good aspects of human nature against all odds. Here are two tragic poems he either wrote or adapted from earlier border ballads.

Fair Helen of Kirkconnel

I wish I was where Helen Lies.
For nicht and day on me she cries;
For nicgt and day on me she cries.
I wish I was where Helen lies
on fair Kirkconnell lea.
Oh Helen Fair, Oh Helen chaste!
Were I with thee, I would be blest,
Were I with thee I would be blest.
Where thou liest low and at they rest
On fair Kirkconnell lea.

Oh Helen fair, beyond compare
I'll make a garland of thy hair;
I'll make a garland of thy hair;
Wrapt roon' my heart for evermair
Until the day I dee.
But curst the heart that hatch'd the thought,
And curst the hand that fired the shot;
Aye, curst the hand that fired the shot,
When in my arms my Helen dropt,
And died for sake of me.

O think na ye my heart was sair,
My love dropt doun and spake nae mair;
I laid her down with muckle care,
O think na ye my heart was sair
On fair Kirkconnell lea.
For I found my foe behind a wa';
And lichted doun my sword to draw,
Stern was her strike on Kirtle Shaw,
As I hacked him in pieces sma,
For ta'en my love frae me.

I wish I was where Helen lies,
For night and day on me she cries;
I wish I was where Helen lies
On fair Kirkconnell lea.

It Was an English Ladye Bright

It was an English ladye bright,
(The sun shines fair on Carlisle wall,)
And she would marry a Scottish knight,
For Love will still be lord of all.

Blithely they saw the rising sun
When he shone fair on Carlisle wall;
But they were sad ere day was done,
Though Love was still the lord of all.

Her sire gave brooch and jewel fine,
Where the sun shines fair on Carlisle wall;
Her brother gave but a flask of wine,
For ire that Love was lord of all.

For she had lands both meadow and lea,
Where the sun shines fair on Carlisle wall,
And he swore her death, ere he would see
A Scottish knight the lord of all.

That wine she had not tasted well
(The sun shines fair on Carlisle wall,)
When dead, in her true love's arms, she fell,
For Love was still the lord of all!

He pierced her brother to the heart,
Where the sun shines fair on Carlisle wall:--
So perish all would true love part
That Love may still be lord of all!

And then he took the cross divine,
Where the sun shines fair on Carlisle wall,
And died for her sake in Palestine;
So Love was still the lord of all.

Now all ye lovers, that faithful prove,
(The sun shines fair on Carlisle wall,)
Pray for their souls who died for love,
For Love shall still be lord of all!

"My love dropt doun and spake nae mair....."

"For Love will still be Lord of All....."