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Friday, September 28, 2012

Continued seasonal musings......

on the issues and aspects that have cascaded over us this Autumn......

    The issues of homosexual "rights" and reproductive "rights" also played a major part at the Democratic Convention. Sandra Fluke, famous for having been "insulted" on Rush Limbaugh's radio show, made her case that Barack Obama called her to apologize for the remark, and that he was the candidate who really cared about women. Of course, he didn't do the same for Sarah Palin, former Republican vice-presidential nominee, when she and her family were insulted repeatedly on radio and TV, but apparently this disconnect has not hit home for the liberals. Liberals thrive on disconnect and making their own rules. It gives them power to shut up opposition by defending the "choice" of an individual if it suits them, and revoking "choice" of another person if it hinders their designs. "Truth" is seen as relevant for them, and human dignity and God-given rights and talents are conditional according to the rule of the state.

    How anyone could seriously support abortion in name of "a woman's right to choose" boggles my brain. This has nothing to do with the woman and everything to do with the little baby in her womb. Does she really have "the right" to snuff out that life she helped bring into existence? Does she really have "the right" to have sex with anyone she pleases at any time? The human body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, not some play-thing for physical sensuality. In the same way, the womb is meant to a vessel for nurturing life, not for bloody butchery. I would further state that homosexual "marriage" is a base distortion of the order of life. Anyone who has studied the least bit about anatomy could tell you the process is simply disordered, like trying to connect two magnets of the same poles. I think all this boils down to a lack of belief in the human strength to overcome physical desires and sensations. If we desire something, the modern world says we should take it and go the extra mile to "avoid" any unpleasant consequences that would naturally follow. But isn't the human will our greatest glory? Isn't that what makes us different from plants, animals, and other life forms?

    The Mother of God is the Patroness of America, our representative at the Heavenly Court. So we must bring our petitions for our country before her. Now that so many of our national founding principles are gradually disintegrating, we must appeal to her to appeal to her Son on our behalf. “The Novena to the Mother of God for the Nation” is just such an appeal, launching tomorrow and lasting for nine consecutive days. Only God can save us from ourselves, and through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we can only hope and pray that he will by changing the hearts of the American people. To download this novena, go to:

    Autumn also brings a whiff on holiday fragrance and zest to craft supply stores and shopping malls alike. All Hollow's Even is on the rise, and unfortunately it is used as an excuse to celebrate to gruesome and perverse. I can understand a little light-hearted fun involving children dressing up in costumes and going door to door for candy. I can even understand the fun of a little bit of spookiness here and there, automatic flying bats, cotton spider webs, grinning pumpkins, glittery witches, goofy ghost pennants, etc. But there is definitely a limit, and our culture has crossed over it long ago. We seem to have an attraction to the hideous, the gory, and the evil that is in our midst. In the religion of the Celts, the origin of the festivity was a feast of the dead, a day when evil was unleashed, and wicked spirits were warded off by wild disguises. When the Christian missionaries came, they sanctified the day by declaring it a day when the souls of the dead should be prayed for.....and when evil should be faced and conquered. That's why when I was little, I dressed up as a different saint each year, said the rosary, and collected candy at a local Catholic Shrine.

    After Halloween, there is the coming of Thanksgiving and then Christmas. I find myself thinking of the Pilgrims and other early English settlers as I trek across my backyard and survey the rolling hills and woodland. Did this resemble there own home at all, or was it totally different? What they loved the most they brought with them and kept with them through thick and thin. They prayed English prayers and sang English ballads. They had English foods like apples brought over in great ships and they had English harvest festivals in America. So does this go some in explaining my love of the "mother country"? Perhaps. Christmas too brings me reflections of the old ways and the old lands. The medieval carols are so fresh, as if the wonder of Christ's birth was still sinking into the consciousness of Christendom. It was accepted and embraced. Life was given new meaning, the only true meaning it could be given. I yearn to follow in their footsteps, serenading the Holy Infant. A family at church has been talking about caroling this Christmas. I'm hoping I can join them.

    A final emotion that dances in my mind is a yearning for stability, a permanence that will only be reached in the hereafter. Of course, I still yearn for other things in this world. I still deeply desire to find my soul mate, someone I can share by whole person with, and someone who loves the things I love (i.e. my religion, my family, American and British history and culture, etc.) and would be willing to join with me on a joint quest to spread the faith and uphold traditional life. I also yearn to quench my thirst for travel, to see London and Edinburgh and Cardiff and Belfast and all the little places in between. To see Rome, the center of the Church, and Florence, the city of my ancestors. To tour the great nations of the Commonwealth like Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. And to see my friends in far-flung places in the U.S. like Virginia, Texas, Kansas, Alabama, Missouri, and Ohio. But above all, I yearn to see the United States and the United Kingdom return to their traditional and religious roots. I want to see them hold fast and hold firm, united, strong, and free.

    But this world is such a turbulent place where nothing is guaranteed. I consider the great battles of Quebec, Saratoga, and Trafalgar, set against the searing brilliance of brisk autumns of the past. I think of the souls who loved and lost and fought and fell for their honor, and I wonder where they are now. I think of the dream I had on an All Soul's Night about Gen. Simon Frazer, killed at Saratoga. I prayed for his soul, and he appeared to me, giving me a smile and wave. Could my prayer have done some good after all? I believe in the bridge between the souls of the living and the souls of the dead, connected by prayer to the Creator of all. I long for a dimension where time is no longer a life altering force, but where all things are at peace and time holds no power over us. All uncertainties and earthly hindrances will be done away. Love for the Triune God and for each other will be pure and unadulterated by petty selfishness and foolhardy actions. It will be the only thing that matters, the truth that dies, and the beauty that never withers. And so I see the changing of the seasons as a reflection of our souls and a contrast of the world to come.

The Bridge between Souls.....

Moods of Autumn.....

for me are a blend of anxiety and serenity, annoyance and contemplation, bewilderment and vulnerability. This is the season when they semester of study begins again, and the books are cracked open again, for better or worse. The pencil sharpener starts buzzing. The pencils start scratching. Scrap paper with scribbled equations and historical tid-bits pile up in the trash. Students like me are always in a race or a steady plod to reach an invisible finish line. Some of what we learn will remain with us for the rest of our lives, while some will leave with nothing but memories of a bad headache. But we all hope that scholarly pursuits will help us get somewhere in life, and better ourselves and our world. I think of St. Edmund Campion, and how insistent he was about the value of study. "Bury yourself in your books", he told his students at Oxford. "Finish the course. Do not degenerate from who you are."

    This is the season when the temperature drops to a chilly level and an unseen icy veneer settles in the air. Short-sleeves and shorts are replaced by turtlenecks, leggings, and denim skirts. Mittens and scarves come out of their summer hibernation in the closet. Big burly coats must me slung on before heading out of doors. I am an official summer baby who loves warm weather, and cold temperatures make me feel like curling up in a ball and hiding from the world. Perhaps this is compounded by the fact that my hands get red and chapped and my ears start to burn up when it's too chilly. Also, my allergies kick in mercilessly during this season. My eyes water, my throat gets scratchy, and my nose gets clogged. However, I will admit that I fancy myself in fall clothing and enjoy wearing longer skirts and higher collars. Also, I enjoy the comfort foods like chicken noodle soups, grilled cheese sandwiches, and raspberry zinger tea that we eat when we want to warm up. It's wonderful to munch and sip whilst viewing a nice long BBC drama or something of the like.

    Some people would say that football is the supreme happening in the fall, and fans of The Ravens (a team hailing from Baltimore) have been tromping around our locality decked out in the team color: PURPLE! Some people even have their houses, garages, and mailboxes draped in purple. I'm sorry to say, but I really think there a fine line between having some athletically-charged fun and going over the top. This is an age of hero-worship to the max, and it seems as if some people have replaced God with football. I personally am not a sports fan, and I particularly dislike football. I see clips of it on Wal-Mart big-screen TVs occasionally, and I am repulsed each time. I know, I know, some people appreciate the skill and sportsmanship of it, but I just dislike watching people engage in bodily collisions in which they can seriously hurt themselves and others. Whatever your opinion on the sport, we must all be careful to keep our priorities in order. God, family, country.....and football....somewhere way down on the list!

    The idea of priorities also brings to mind the constant swirl of politics that is inundating the news in this presidential election year of 2012. I listened to the Republican and Democratic Conventions on the radio and am shocked the intense nature of this race. A line has been drawn in the sand between two totally different mindsets. The Republicans are leaning more towards Traditional Conservatism, while the Democrats have flown into the arms of Progressive Liberalism. The economy has sunk under the presidential term of Barack Obama, even though he promised to rescue it during his "stump speeches" in 2008. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan of the Republican ticket say that cutting programs and balancing a budget will be the only way to save the nation from going the way of Greece. They've asked America to give them the chance to implement their plans in Washington at election time this November.

    The issue of government assistance programs is also on the agenda. I know from experience that there are those who truly are in need of monetary assistance from the government, who worked hard and paid their taxes all their lives, but who endured hear-breaking set-backs, illness, and loss of income. They are law-abiding citizens of this nation, and should not be looked down on for the small benefits they receive when other options are closed to them. However, I also agree the perspective that realizes the need to cut spending in reasonable ways or else sink beneath the waves of economic degeneration. I also realize that are those who abuse the governmental assistance programs, who are able-bodied and capable of working, but instead refuse to pull their weight, cultivating a generation of entitlement and "lost" sense of purpose. Furthermore, I utterly reject the Communistic concepts of "redistribution", taking money from those who worked their way to the top to even off the score. This is a free nation, and we should never limit put on individual success by an all-consuming government. "You didn't build that", said Mr. Obama of private businesses. Oh? And the government did? That's scary.

    National security and international relations were brought to the fore in a number of ways. First, the Democratic Convention cut references to "God" and "Jerusalem" as the capital of Israel. After receiving numerous complaints, the words were reinserted - but against the tide of a chorus of "boos" from the Democratic delegates, who most certainly did not vote two-thirds in favor of the motion! Then the attacks on the American embassies in Benghazi and across the Middle East by irate Muslim activists stirred up controversy. Casualties were sustained and our ambassador to Libya was killed. Some say all this started because of a YouTube video depicting the Prophet Mohammad in a hideous fashion. But others believe that the real reason was to deal the U.S. a blow on the anniversary of 9/11 and the attack on the Twin Towers. Either way, Mr. Obama's decision to handling the situation by apologizing to the attackers rather than standing up to them will no doubt effect the rest of the campaign.

    To be continued……

Autumn in Scotland

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Love and War......

are the prominent themes of these two poems set against the backdrop of two September battles: the Battle of Quebec, September 13, 1759; the First Battle of Saratoga, September 19, 1777. The first one deals with British Gen. James Wolfe's parting from his fiancee, Katherine Lowther, and his subsequent victory against the French and death at the Plains of Abraham outside Quebec. The last verse is an eery lament from the grave on his part. The second poem relates the tragic tale of Captain Donald Stewart, a Highland Captain in the British Army who was killed at Saratoga during the American Revolution, leaving behind his devoted fiance, Flora, whose parents disapproved of the match. They are two of my favorite sets of folk song lyrics.

Brave Wolfe

"Come all you young men, all, let nothing fright you
Nor your objection make, nor let it delight you
Let not your courage fail til after the trial,
Nor let your fancy move at the first denial

I sat down by my love, thinking to enjoy her
I took her by the hand, not to delude her
When I attempt to speak, my tongue doth quiver
I dare not speak my mind whilst I am with her!

Here is a chain of gold, long time I've kept it;
Here is a ring of gold, madam, if you'll accept it
When you this posy read, think on the giver:
'Madam, rember me or I'm undone forever!'"

So then this gallant youth did cross the ocean
To free Americay from her invasions;
He landed at Quebec with all his party
That city to attack, being brave and hearty

He drew up his men in a line so pretty
On the Plains of Abraham before the city
A distance from the town, the French did meet him;
With a double number they resolved to beat him

The French drew up their men, for death prepared
In one another's face, the armies stared;
Whilst Wolfe and Montcalm together walked,
Betwixt their armies they like brothers talked

Then each man took his place at their retire,
And then these numerous hosts began to fire
The cannon on each side did roar like thunder,
And youths in all their pride were torn assunder

The drums did loudly beat, colours were flying,
The purple gore did stream, and man lay a-dying,
When shot from his horse fell this brave hero
You may lament his loss in the wields of sorrow!

The French began to break, their lines were flying,
Wolfe seemed to revive whilst he lay a-dying;
He lifted up his head where cannons rattle,
And to his army said, "How goeth the battle?"

His aid-de-camp replied: "'Tis in our favour!
Quebec and all her pride, nothing can save her!
She falls into our hands will all her treasure!"
"Oh, then," replied Brave Wolfe, "I die with pleasure."

"Sad news is come to town, sad news is carried,
Some say my love is dead, some say she is married
Strange news has come to town, I took to weeping;
They stole away my love whilst I was sleeping."

Donald and Flora

When merry hearts were gay,
Careless of aught but play,
Poor Flora slipt away,
Saddening to Mora.
Loose flowed her yellow hair,
Quick heaved her bosom bare,
As to the troubled air
She vented her sorrow.

"Loud howls the stormy West,
Cold, cold is winter's blast,
Haste, then, O Donald, haste!
Haste to thy Flora!
Twice twelve long months are o'er
Since on a foriegn shore
You promised to fight no more
But meet me in Mora.

'Where now is Donald, clear?'
Maids cry with taunting sneer,
Say, 'Is lie still sincere
To his loved Flora?'
Parents upbraid my moan,
Each heart is turned to stone,
Flora! Thou'rt now alone,
Friendless in Mora.

Come then, oh, come away!
Donald, no longer stay!
Where can my rover stray
From his loved Flora?
Ah, sure, he ne'er can be
False to his vows and me!
O, Heaven! Is not yonder he
Bounding over Mora?"

"Never, ah, wretched fair!"
Sighed the sad messenger,
"Never shall Donald mair
Meet his loved Flora.
Cold as yon mountain snow,
Donald, thy love, lies low;
He sent me to soothe they woe
Weeping in Mora.

Well fought our gallant men
On Saratoga's Plain
Thrice fled the hostile train
From British glory!
But though our foes did flee,
Sad was each victory;
Youth, love, and loyalty
Fell far from Mora.

'Here, take this love-wrought plaid,'
Donald, expiring, said,
'Give it to you, dear maid,
Weeping in Mora.
Tell her, O Alan, tell!
Donald thus bravely fell,
And in his last farewell,
He thought on his Flora....'"

Mute stood the tembling fair,
Speechless with wild despair,
Then, striking her bosom bare,
She sighed out, poor Flora:
"O Donald, well-a-day!"
Was all the fond heart could say;
At length the sound died away.....
Feebly in Mora.

"I die with pleasure....."

"Well fought our gallant men...."

The Shipwreck at Bay City.....

was one of those events in my personal musical history that is almost painful to relate. However, in the spirit of Christian humility and to make a clean slate of it, the task must be done! You, my loyal readers, are the ones who must judge the results….. ;-)

    It all started out well enough. I was invited to perform at a restaurant along with Pat, our church maestro friend, as a birthday present. Bay City Restaurant had a maritime theme, so I planned on singing two English folk songs that had an oceanic feel to them. The selections were "Scarborough Fair", named after an English seaside town where markets were held in medieval days, and "Spanish Ladies" telling the story of the sad plight of British sailors who had to leave their Spanish lovers behind after being ordered back to England during the Napoleonic Wars. Both of these songs are old favorites of mine, and "Scarborough Fair" was the first song I ever learned to play on the penny whistle. So, I figured, the whole job should be a synch. Oh, the plans of (wo)man are in vain!

    Several days of practice were in store, as well as some hard-hitting consultation over a birthday feast at a local Chinese buffet with my dad and Pat. Whilst dining on egg rolls, wok chicken, egg-drop soup, and sugar dumplings, the maestro reiterated his plan to finger-pick acoustic guitar while I sang and played the whistle. Then the two main men in my life both reassured me that since everyone knew their stuff like the back of their respective hands and all was bound to go well. Nevertheless, when the big day arrived, I began to feel slightly apprehensive as we headed towards our destination. I had never played in front of a bunch of people at a restaurant before. What if things didn't go as planned? What if I got nervous and goofed up on my whistle? I honestly wasn't too worried about my voice yet, since I usually sing pretty well under pressure…..usually, anyway!

    We reached the deck of the restaurant and met the maestro, who was busy with a slew of prep activities. This would be one of his first solo acts, throwing in little ol'e me as a bit of spice for the soup. He usually performs on the deck as part of a trio with two other gentlemen from his band. Therefore, the equipment was arranged in a way that lent itself better to a one-man performance as opposed to multiple performers. Too late to second guess it, though. We did a practice run through at the side of the dock, and a passing listener said we sounded good. It wasn't my turn to make my entrance for about an hour into the gig, so my dad and I headed off to the antique mall to meander the time away.

    I stumbled across copies of the LotR movies in the DVD sale shelf, reminding me to order them from the library to appease my "Ringer" pals. But before I could discover any more substantial treasures, it was time head back to the deck, and I began to get a severe case of sea-song-sickness! After my dad took a few pictures of me in my nautical blouse and navy blue skirt outside the restaurant, we reemerged onto the deck. Spotted by Pat’s family, we were ushered to sit down with them and Kathy, my Youth Group leader who provided adult supervision for the Living Stations production.

    Half-time break came, and the maestro came to call me aside for a final practice run through. But then he did something unexpected. He went over to his other brother-in-law, Henry, and inquired whether or not he knew how to play "Spanish Ladies" on guitar. Apparently, Pat had forgotten to pull up the chords on his computer, and we were in a ticklish position. It just got worse. Brother-in-law did indeed know how to play and sing "Spanish Ladies", and he was more than willing to play the guitar for "Scarborough Fair" as well. We started our practice run-through, and it was then that I had a very unsteady feeling trying to hold my melody over Henry’s jarring pirate-like harmonies. "I think that's something different them I'm used to doing," I informed the maestro. "Well, you've got to just steer the ship," he replied nonchalantly, and we all trekked up to the altar of sacrifice, a.k.a. the stage.

    After a touching birthday intro by the maestro on my behalf, the music for "Scarborough Fair" started up. The trouble was that Henry was jamming on the guitar chords and not finger-picking as planned. The speakers were blaring right behind my head, and I couldn't hear for the life of me. I started to sing, but my mic was not up loud enough, and my high notes squeaked out in a high-pitched garble of agony. I tried to play my whistle in the interlude, but I couldn't hear myself at all and played it in wrong key. Worse was yet to come. It was time for "Spanish Ladies". Still dealing with a woefully bad sound situation, I stuck my face as close to the mic as possible and belted out the first line. Then brother-in-law started his harmonies on the chorus, and the brave front I was trying to present faltered. He was standing between me and keyboard-playing Pat, jamming away on his guitar like there was no tomorrow and singing his Blackbeard-like-harmonies right in my ear.

    Despite all, I staggered on, trying desperately to hold my melody and range over the din. The maestro must have been deafened or in a state of unwarranted euphoria, for he had a gummy grin plastered on his face through the whole event. When the nightmare was finally over, I plastered a false grin on my own face, thanked my harmonist and the man in charge, and then scuttled back to my chair at the table where my platter of coconut shrimp and mozzarella sticks awaited me. The other denizens of the table were having a hard time looking me in the face, and I knew the results of my belting must have been pretty traumatic for them. "You did good, honey," said my ever-loyal father. "Yeah, it's always tough when you can't hear yourself," consoled my understanding Youth Group leader. Oh, boy. I was getting the feeling that a more appropriate song for the performance would have been "Nearer My God to Thee" as we sunk beneath the waves like the ill-fated Titanic!

    Well, that's my whale of a tale. It has some cautionary aspects to it, such as beware of throwing in last minute, "I-never-heard-that-one-before" harmonies to a song you've previously rehearsed without them; make sure the sound systems and the mic are put to the right volume; and whatever you do, when you can't hear yourself, don't try to belt it out all the louder… just makes things worse! But all in all, I am thankful for having had the chance to perform and for the friendship and fellowship that brought me to Bay City in the first place. When we were about to leave, Pat and his wife presented me with a lovely birthday bracelet. I guess time will only tell whether it's a "good luck musician" bracelet or not! ;-)

Bay City Restaurant, the Site of the Shipwreck

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Here are some beautiful Marian verses......

in honor of the birthday month of the Blessed Virgin Mary on September 8th. The first poem was written by Sir Walter Scott as part of his epic work, "The Lady of the Lake." He grew to have very High Anglican sentiments and died reciting the "Stabat Mater." The second one was written by Rudyard Kipling, who found himself drawn to the legends of the Coptic Christians towards the end of his life. Both of these are religiously mystical and heart-felt.

Ave Maria

Ave Maria! Ave Maria! maiden mild!
Listen to a maiden's prayer!
Thou canst hear though from the wild,
Thou canst save amid despair.
Safe may we sleep beneath thy care,
Though banish 'd, outcast and reviled -
Maiden! hear a maiden's prayer;
Mother, hear a suppliant child!
Ave Maria!

Ave Maria! undefiled!
The flinty couch we now must share
Shall seem this down of eider piled,
If thy protection hover there.
The murky cavern's heavy air
Shall breathe of balm if thou hast smiled;
Then, Maiden! hear a maiden's prayer;
Mother, list a suppliant child!
Ave Maria!

Ave Maria! stainless styled!
Foul demons of the earth and air,
From this their wonted haunt exiled,
Shall flee before thy presence fair.
We bow us to our lot of care,
Beneath thy guidance reconciled;
Hear for a maid a maiden's prayer,
And for a father hear a child!
Ave Maria!

Our Lady of the Sackcloth

There was a Priest at Philae,
Tongue-tied, feeble, and old;
And the daily prayer to the Virgin
Was all the Office he could.

The others were ill-remembered,
Mumbled and hard to hear;
But to Mary, the two-fold Virgin,
Always his voice rang clear.

And the congregation mocked him,
And the weight of the years he bore,
And they sent word to the Bishop
That he should not serve them more.

(Never again at the Offering
When the Bread and the Body are one:
Oh, never the picture of Mary
Watching him serve her Son!)

Kindly and wise was the Bishop.
Unto the Priest said he: -
“Patience till thou art stronger,
And keep meantime with me.

“Patience a little; it may be
The Lord shall loosen thy tongue
And then thou shalt serve at the Offering
As it was when we were young.”

And the Priest obeyed and was silent,
And the Bishop gave him leave
To walk alone in the desert
Where none should see him grieve.

(Never again at the Offering
When the Wine and the Blood are one!
Oh, never the picture of Mary
Watching him honour her Son!)

Saintly and clean was the Bishop,
Ruling himself aright
With prayer and fast in the daytime
And scourge and vigil at night.

Out of his zeal he was minded
To add one penance the more –
A garment of harshest sackcloth
Under the robes he wore.

He gathered the cloth in secret
Lest any should know and praise –
The shears, the palm and the packthread –
And laboured it many ways.

But he had no skill in the making,
And failed and fretted the while;
Till the stood a Woman before him,
Smiling as Mothers smile.

Her feet were burned by the desert –
Like a desert-dweller she trod –
Even the two-fold Virgin,
Spouse and Bearer of God!

She took the shears and the sacking,
The needle and stubborn thread,
She cut, she shaped, and she sewed them,
And, “This shall be blessed,” she said.

She passed in the white hot noontide,
On a wave of the quivering air;
And the Bishop’s eyes were opened,
And he fell on his face in prayer.

But – far from the smouldering censers –
Far from the chanted praise –
Oh, far from the pictures of Mary
That had watched him all his days –

Far in the desert by Philae
The old Priest walked forlorn,
Till he saw in the head of her Riders
A Queen of the Desert-born.

High she swayed on her camel,
Beautiful to behold:
And her beast was belled with silver,
And her veils were spotted with gold!

Low she leaned from her litter –
Soft she spoke in his ear: -
“Nay, I have watched thy sorrow!
Nay, but the end is near!

“For again thou shalt serve at the Offering
And thy tongue shall be loosed in praise,
And again thou shalt sing unto Mary
Who has watched thee all thy days.

“Go in peace to the Bishop,
Carry him word from me –
That the Woman who sewed the sackcloth
Would have him set thee free!”

"Ave Maria....."