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Thursday, May 31, 2012

"Our Lady of Britannia"......

is a poem written in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and it refers to the many incidences in which she manifested herself in the cultural history of The British Isles. This I post in Mary's month of May.

Our Lady of Britannia

Thou stood on Newgate Arch and graced Pendragon’s shield
Cardigan bore thy taper and Walsingham thy seal
Humbly we now beseech thee as at thy feet we kneel:
Our Lady of Britannia, ora pro nobis!

From Scotia’s misty moors, to Albion’s fertile plains,
From Cambria’s mountain climes, to Northern Erin's glens,
We offer thee this land to be thy own again
Our Lady of Britannia, ora pro nobis

When Alfred led his warriors to battle for the land
Within the White Horse Valley, thou gave him strength to stand
Seven Swords were pierced through thy heart, and one was in thy hand
Our Lady of Britannia, ora pro nobis!

Thy hands are in the Highlands to show us how to pray
Thy footprints are in Cornwall to guide us in Christ’s ways
Direct us, Holy Virgin, if God forbid we stray
Our Lady of Britannia, ora pro nobis!

Thy beads hung from the sword-belts of Locksley’s Merry Men
Thy hymns were sung by choirs, O Mother Free from Sin
This land was once thy Dowry; pray make it so again
Our Lady of Britannia, ora pro nobis!

Thy name was oft times chanted by peasants and bold knights
Preparing for the harvest, or arming for the fight
Though centuries have elapsed, thou’st kept us in thy sight
Our Lady of Britannia, ora pro nobis!

Thou art the Dove of Peace for Ulster’s troubled sons,
The Queen of Thorns and Blossoms, whose seat was Avalon
Look down on us from Heaven, Most Highly Favored One
Our Lady of Britannia, ora pro nobis!

Through persecution’s fury, thou still remained the same,
A constant source of succor to those who called thy name
Thou art the Gilded Lamp that held the Burning Flame
Our Lady of Britannia, ora pro nobis!

Recall the martyrs’ deaths in Christ’s own imitation
Come rack and then come rope, they braved the tribulation
The ruby blood they shed cries out in supplication:
Our Lady of Britannia, ora pro nobis!

Remember this, thy country, amidst the stormy sea
O may she stand united, a stronghold for the free
But foremost make her faithful to Jesus Christ and thee
Our Lady of Britannia, ora pro nobis!

Our Lady of Britannia

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

What America means to me.....

is even harder to put into words than what Britain means to me. Britain is distant enough to develop a clearer mental picture of it, as an outsider looking in. But America is different. It is inextricably part of me, like my blood and bones. It is the air I breathe. How can you analyze those things?

    I suppose the best way is to just blurt out what I am and how much it means to me. I am a mut with at least nine different national backgrounds, and I am American born and bread. My parents and grandparents were all American. Stretch back much farther, and we'll be sure to touch the sunny coast of Italy or France. A little bit farther than that, and we'll hit chilly Poland or misty Ireland. Keep going, and we'll reach foggy England and the flower-strewn Netherlands. Back further...and we're back where we are now, living off the land in a North American tribe before the first white man set foot here.

    We are a land of mix-breeds who dared to dream. Yankee grit and a refusal to quit shaped us, and our cultural spirit is one of pride and exuberance. We used the hand-me-downs from the never-say-die Brits to kick-start us, and then started sewing for ourselves. All those immigrants had an ax to grind and nothing to loose. So they turned their nose to the grind-stone and ground. What we have now is the result, thanks to the blessings of the Almighty.

     Of course, like Britain, there is always the element of quest involved in the American Experience. There was the quest to found us as sea-strewn colonies and the quest to make us independent. I must confess I am a Loyalist sympathizer when it comes to the American Revolution. However, I cannot help but admire the daring brilliance of those complex characters, those Adams and Jeffersons and Washingtons, that caused thousands of others to catch the flame and sacrifice everything for the cause in which they believed. One thing I can say with certainty: For better or for worse, we Yanks have always been determined to make our voices heard, and when that right is denied us, we fight to the bitter end for it. I wouldn't have it any other way.

    We won our independence from Great Britain and stood up to survey our successes. Then we struggled to build ourselves politically and economically and pushed west to inhabit the "wide open spaces". Unfortunately, the lust for land and the desire for material gain often hindered the idealogical quest of freedom and equality. There was slavery and mistreatment of the native population. Segregation and violence was part of our society, just as it is the world over. It took copious amounts of blood and brains to finally overcome the worst of it, and that was slow in happening. But the fact is, for the most part, it did happen. We can be rightly proud of that.

    This Monday was Memorial Day, on which we remember our fallen American heroes who gave their lives for our country. My father and I walked through the cemetary at Gettysburg on Sunday to put ourselves into perspective. It was amazing to think that thousands of brave men faced their deaths on battlefields not far from the sight, and that we were following in their path. I must admit, I am not a major American Civil War buff, but it was the sacrifice of the men of that age that helped shape our country into what it became: United, Strong, and Free. To be moved by the sheer weightiness of this fact is the only thing possible.

    The 20th century brought us into a variety of world conflicts, and we were proficient in aiding those who sought to free themselves from tyrannical regimes. In the end, our country took no land away at the end of these conflicts but the land in which our soldiers were buried in. We have a comparitively short yet proud military tradition, one which exemplifies America as a whole. Like most countries, our best and our worst, the epitome of ourselves, comes out in the display of our armed forces. They are ready to risk their lives daily under our flag, Old Glory, and I salute them for their service.

    But the "American ideal" is still a star that we are following without ever being able to completely possess it. Today we have the horrors of abortion, the killing of young lives inside their mother's womb. We have the redefinition of marriage springing up to alter our society in the name of a perverted sense of liberalism. We have become so open-minded, many of our brains seem to have fallen out. Now recently, we have the HSS Mandate, and the push to force religious institutions to bend to the will of the government and provide sterilization and contracptive services, even if it goes against their beliefs. So now we have a new fight on our hands.

    America has always been a land of religious people. From our Native American forebearers, to our Protestant founders, to our Catholic and Jewish immagrants, we are a nation that has sought the face of God. I am a Christian, and I believe firmly in the Judeo-Christian beliefs and principles of our ancestors. Our Christian national identity has been something much maligned this last half a century. Indeed, there were always ardent secularists, but we have been getting a concentrated dose of late. Religion is something they feel should have no place at all in public life. It should serve merely as "a private thing" or else come bow to the will of the government. Obviously, our forefathers didn't feel religion should be treated this way, but the modern liberals do, so they want us to submit to their whims. Sorry, Partners, but it just ain't happenin'.

    The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is preparing to launch the "Fortnight for Freedom" from June 21 to July 4. This 14 day period will be a time of prayer, education, and action to defend our religious liberties that are currently under assault. This is not just a Catholic issue; Protestants, Mormons, Jews and others are urged to join in the fight and let their voices be heard in protest against the direct interference of the government in religious institutions. For more information, go to: For ideas on how you can get involved, go to:

   The United Staes of America is our country, our motherland, and it is our duty to protect and defend her. It is also our duty to fight to make her a better place, to right the wrongs and settle the scores. We are a stubborn, wiry, deternmined  "Yankee Son-of-a-guns", after all.  We don't quit easily and never get discouraged in our star-chasing. So, with the help of God and Our Lady, Our Patroness Immaculate, let's fight to make that dream of peace with honor and liberty with sensability become a reality, and let's reach for the highest star with one hand and hold onto the Cross of Christ with the other.

God Bless America


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Longbows and Rosary Beads.....

does stand for something, in case you've been wondering. I had to rack my brain to come up with a good and meaningful blog title, and I prayed that I'd be inspired with the right one. So here's how it came to me.

    In the early years of my life, I fell in love with the legend of Robin Hood and his Merry Men. It started with the Walt Disney cartoon portraying all the characters as animals, and moved on to Errol Flynn and Richard Todd and Richard Greene. I started collecting Robin Hood memorabilia like dolls, comic books, lunchboxes, etc. and still do. Perhaps the attraction had something to do with the "rebel spirit" and daring of the nobleman-turned-robber who became a champion for the common people under an oppressive regime. Perhaps it was the lovely and clever Maid Marian with her charm and charisma that I wanted to emulate. Anyway, once it took hold of me, it stuck like glue.

     This attraction soon drew me to be interested in all things English, so this is the very earliest source of my love of Britain. Therefore, I owe a deep debt of gratitude to the Prince of Thieves who stole my heart at age six. Of course, we will never know if Robin Hood really existed, although it is likely that his legend took shape around a number of different men who defied the oppressive Norman poaching laws and lived as outlaws and outcasts in the great forests of the Northern counties of England. The spirit of resistance and that beautiful blend of history and romance built a legend which each passing generation has breathed new life into. Robin Hood can be called the quintessential British hero of the common man, just as King Arthur can be called the quintessential British hero of the gentry.

     But between the two, Robin Hood somehow always seems to come out on top. The sparkle in his eye as he draws his bow, the sheer defiance that symbolizes Britain to such a high degree, is often lost in the eloquent prose of the Arthurian cycles. Although Arthur in his raw essence was a symbol of resistance to the Celtic tribes, the embroidery of his legend took a different turn than that of Robin Hood's. Somehow, in the subconscious of many legend-lovers, Arthur tends to frown down on you and evade direct contact, while Robin tends to grin at you and look you straight in the eye. And in Robin there is something strikingly down-to-earth that Arthur lost by hanging around too much with nymphs and wizards. We can all relate to a tale about men struggling to maintain there freedom and enduring the harshness of being social outcasts. But, although Arthur's adventures do contain many allegories and demonstrations of the complexity of human nature, they step outside of our world and drift just beyond our reach.

     Despite their differences, one thing that King Arthur and Robin Hood held in common was that they were recognized as strong Catholic figures in British tradition. Arthur was recorded as bearing an image of Our Lady on his shield during his famous battles with the Saxons. In fact, during the Protestant Revolt in England, two graves at Glastonbury which certain monks claimed contained the remains of Arthur and Guinevere were desecrated by Protestants because they were seen as remnants of the old religion.

     Robin Hood was always portrayed in the old tales as being a pious Catholic, in spite of the fact that he was not above robbing and making fun of pompous clergymen. He is shown as risking capture in order to attend mass and recruiting Friar Tuck to be the outlaw band's chaplain. He also refused to be disturbed in prayer, even when danger was imminent. During the Reformation, the cult of Robin Hood also came under fire, and recusant Catholics were branded as "Robin Hoods". It was only the people's refusal to let the old legends die that kept the stories of King Arthur and Robin Hood alive.

     There is a nursery rhyme that depicts Robin praying the Rosary to Our Lady who, in the early ballads, was the only woman in his life:

"Robin Hood, Robin Hood,
Is in the mickle wood!
Little John, Little John,
He to town is gone.

Robin Hood, Robin Hood,
Telling his beads,
All in the greenwood
Among the green weeds.

Little John, Little John,
If he comes no more,
Robin Hood, Robin Hood,
We shall fret full soar!"

    This is little poem that gave me the idea for the name of the blog. Robin Hood fought with his longbow, the symbol of British pride and resistance, and prayed with his Rosary Beads, the symbol of the faith of the people and the refusal to let it die. Indeed, it was the sacrifice of the Catholic "Robin Hood" Recusants that kept the spark of Catholicism from being completely smothered by the turbulent winds of the times.  To this day, there are Catholic men and women from the Northern England who can trace back their lineage back in an unbroken line of faithful Catholics. It is their story that best exemplifies the spirit of Robin Hood, and it is to the Catholic Recusants that I have dedicated this blog.  

"Robin Hood, Robin Hood, Telling His Beads...."

Thursday, May 17, 2012

What Britain means to me......

and why I am attracted to her are questions that are often put to me. I suppose it takes a certain style/taste to be a Britophile, and I have been known to like things that other people hate, such as wearing cowgirl boots for long periods of time and shaking pepper on my food as if it were salt! Some things you either love or hate, but they demand some extreme reaction from you. It's almost as if you're a magnet from one pole or the other, and certain things must either attract or repel you. Britain tends to be one of those things.

     British history and culuture is replete with subtle complexities and glaring paradoxes. It is all too easy for some people to disregard it as something arhaic and autocratic, in which all the main players are people dominated by a strong conviction of their own worthiness and who conquered the world to get away from their own rainy skies and bad cooking. The stereotype is found everywhere in books, films, and musical interpretations. Some Americans, especially  those of strong Irish ancestry, tend to bask in it. It's a feel-good mechanism employed to justify our origins and glorify our short yet shimmering history and whipper-snapper cultural style.

     Apparently, Brits and Yanks have an uncanny knack for rubbing each other the wrong way sometimes, especially when they are tourists in each other's countries. Some Brits come off as being sanctimonious snobs who look down on Americans for being up-starts, while some Yanks come off as being nosy nut-cases who look down on the British for being so straight-laced. But perhaps this is more due to cultural differences than intentional nastiness. Americans tend to be more out-going in general, while Brits tend to be more reserved in their manners and reactions. But of course, generalizing a race of people is pretty futile in the end. Each person is his/her own person.

     I set out on a mission to meet people from the UK several years ago. In the course of this, I have made good friends and discovered that the stereotypical approach to understanding the British people is just as silly as the stereotypical approach to understanding the American people. I have met a varied array of ordinary folks from Britain, including an engineer, a book-keeper, a journalist, a butler, a political bloggist, historical society archivists, and Anglican vicars. They are anything but cookie-cutter images of each other. Some are extrovert, and some our introvert. But overall, I have come off with the impression that they are a hard-working, intelligent, funny, caring, and passionate lot, quite the opposite of stereotypical stiffs that the British are "supposed to be".

    Furthermore, they lend life to the historical and political concepts that I have emmersed myself in. All that can be dismissed as ink-on-paper, but these people are real and their sentiments are real. Talking with them about their history and heritage makes one begins to understand that Britain is not some abstract demension accesible only in ancient tomes, but a beloved "home" and national identity. When talking with my Scottish engineer friend about the Napoleonic wars, he interjected enthusiastically, "Now that was a time of glory!" You would have thought that Napoleon had only been haulted at Waterloo several years ago, for his pride in the event was as strong as ever. When talking to the butler about the military career of General Thomas Gage, the ancestor of his employer, he trumpeted, "He was in the same campaign with General Wolfe on the Plains of Abraham." Again, the way he said it made one think that Wolfe had just been buried and hype of the victory was still in the air.

    This sense of national pride, I have found, is not limited to historical nostalgia. There is a real determination among many to confront the problems in British society and change things for the better. Also, there is real sense of self-understanding that varies in its range of depth. My book-keeper friend gave me his philosophical summary: "I've always seen my heritage as one of a thoughtful, measured, civilized, yet firm approach to tolerance, fairness, liberty, and the rule of law. We don't submit to tyrants; but we don't have blood-in-the-streets revolutions either....although we do occasionally riot and decapitate our king!" My engineer friend stated, "Many people are proud of their British identities. We are not especially vocal about it - that would be quite un-British indeed - but that doesn't mean it's not there."

    And these people aren't just chattering - they mean it and many of them are working to better their society and serve they're country, in all ways, grand and small. The London book-keeper would like to become a barrister. The Glasgow engineer is involved in an outreach program to aid those who work at sea, especially those who come in and out of his native city. The London journalist is involved in all forms of public service operations, from Catholic evangelical ministries to protests against the redefinition of marriage and abortion. The historical society archivists are working to preserve their local history. The Vicars are working to spiritually serve their flock.

    This is merely a microchosm of a forever socially-changing, conflict-ridden Britain, but that doesn't make it any less authentic. These are some of the people that make up the fabric of British society, and they are the ones with whom the future rests. They have helped me clear up the thoughts in my own mind, and assess what Britain means to me and why I love her. Perhaps it is because she is much loved. Blood, sweat, and gold have gone into her, and a panoply of struggles have been fought over her soil, and her people know and appreciate that. There is an appealing rebel streak that emerges beneath the reserved exterior of this place and this state of mind called Britain. It is no paradise, but instead a constant battleground. And that it what causes it to draw in the casual student like a vacume. There is something here to sink one's teeth into. It is the treasure always being sought after; it is the ideal always being reached for. The journey is often just as important as the destination. This is Britain.

This is Britain