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Saturday, March 31, 2012

A few more haloed "March"-ers.....

worthy of veneration. This set includes the Foster Father of Jesus Christ and the Wonder-worker of Britain. Check it out:


St. Joseph

     According to the Gospels, Joseph was a member of the House of David and was born in Bethlehem. For some reason, probably work-related, he moved to Nazareth and labored as a carpenter, although this type of job probably included working with stone as well as wood. He was betrothed to be married to Mary, the daughter of Joachim and Anne, and it is believed in Catholic tradition that both would-be spouses intended to remain virgins and offer their lives to God. As odd as this may sound today, such practices were not unheard of in Biblical times. Indeed, the marital union is much more than physical at any rate.

     The situation was about to take an unlikely turn, however, when Mary was found to be pregnant. Joseph, disillusioned by what seemed to be betrayal, decided to break off the marriage quietly. A public denouncement of Mary would have resulted in her stoning, and Joseph was too much a man to resort to that kind of vengeance. But before he had the chance to divorce her, an Angle of the Lord visited Joseph in a dream and informed him that the child his betrothed had conceived was of God, the promised savior of the Israel. He was instructed to go ahead with the marriage to Mary and become the guardian of the Holy Mother and Child.

     Joseph acted upon what had been revealed to him and married Mary. We can easily picture the Blessed Virgin being overjoyed at having her husband by her side, trusting in God and in her word, ready to protect and defend her and her child. But hard times were ahead. A census was called by Caesar Augustus and the heavily-pregnant Mary and her husband were forced to make the long overland trek to Bethlehem, the town of Joseph's birth. As everyone knows from Christmas pageants and pop-up books, there was no room in any of the inns and the couple was forced to take refuge in a cave used for animals.

     The Baby Jesus was born of the Virgin and laid in a feeding troth for cows. Israelite Shepherds would come to pay him homage, and many months later, astrologers from the East would do the same. When Jesus was ready to be circumcises according to the Jewish Law, Joseph and Mary traveled to the Temple of Jerusalem. There, they were greeted by the holy man, Simeon, and the prophetess, Anna. Simeon informed the couple that Jesus would come to be the rising and falling of many nations. Then he turned to Mary and told her that a sword would pierce her own soul. We can imagine Joseph cringing at the idea of his wife's future suffering.

     Not long after, the mad king Herod slaughtered the male children of Bethlehem in hopes of killing Jesus, and the Holy Family fled to Egypt. After Herod’s death, they went home to Nazareth where Jesus grew up, probably learning the trade of his foster-father, and becoming accustomed to the feel of stone and wood.

     When Jesus was 12 years old, the Holy Family went to Jerusalem for the Passover. But when they prepared to return home, Jesus was no where to be found. For three days Joseph and Mary searched. Finally, they found Him in the temple, speaking with the elders and scribes who marveled at the young man's wisdom. When Mary asked Jesus why he had caused his parents so much sorrow, He asked her why they had looked for Him and why they had not known He had to be about His Father's business. Perplexed, Joseph and Mary took their son home, and He was obedient to them.

    The Bible does not record when Joseph died, but tradition holds it was just before Jesus set off on His public ministry. Since he has no direct dialogue in the Gospels, Joseph is called a man of few words. However, since his actions of defending and nurturing the Blessed Virgin and the Son of God speak louder than any words, he has been given the title, The Just Man. The Feast of St. Joseph, Foster Father of Jesus Christ, is celebrated on March 19th.


St. Cuthbert

     Cuthbert was born in the 7th century of well-to-do parents in Northern England. Like many people of their class, Cuthbert's parents let him be raised by foster-parents who trained him in the arts of war. In his late teens, Cuthbert saw a strange vision in the fields of Northumbria. A flash of light in the night sky allowed him to see angels carrying a ball of fire upwards to heaven through. He knew in his heart that this signified the death of the Bishop of Lindisfarne, St. Aidan. He also understood the vision to be a sign telling him to enter the service of God and become a monk.

     In spite of this, Cuthbert initially resisted the prompting and became a soldier for the king of Northumbria who was engaged in a struggle with the king of Mercia. It is more than likely that Cuthbert took part in the Battle of Winwidfield which finally ended the war and restored peace to countryside. After this, the young warrior finally obeyed the voice of God and rode off, still armed for battle and mounted on a war horse, to Melrose Abbey where he soon became a priest. There, he gained renown for his great learning and holiness. He had a great devotion to the mass, and he could not bring himself to say it without being reduced to tears.

     Eventually, Cuthbert became the prior at Melrose. During this period a controversy developed when certain groups of Celtic monks refused to abide by the decision of the Synod of Whitby and adopt Roman liturgical practices. Knowing Cuthbert's keen sense of diplomacy, he was sent to the Isle of Lindisfarne to make sure that the Roman liturgical practices were adopted by the community of monks there. Although it was a difficult task, Cuthbert won over the monks with his charity and holiness.

     He worked tirelessly to evangelize the people of Lindisfarne and became famous for performing many miracles in their midst. He was an outgoing, cheerful, and compassionate man, and he used his God-given powers to heal the infirmed of body and soul. So great was his fame that he became known as the "Wonder-worker of Britain." The constant attention of the pilgrims made Cuthbert uneasy, and he yearned for solitude. Thus, for a time, he lived as a hermit on another nearby island, living at peace with God and his natural surroundings.

     According to the Celtic custom, he often prayed nearby water, which was traditionally believed to be a place where the natural and the supernatural could meet. The Celtic belief in the timelessness of events and the innate presence of the spirit world in the world of man influenced him greatly, and his meditations were long and deep. During one of his prayer sessions, when he waded into the ocean to better feel the presence of God, he got his feet terribly wet and cold. Miraculously, otters came out of water and warmed his feet with their breath and their fur.

     Unfortunately for him, Cuthbert's fame lured visitors to his isolated island, and soon he had to build a guest house for them. To make a bad situation worse, Cuthbert was chosen to become bishop of a distant diocese. He loved his peaceful islands and wished to stay there if at all possible. Therefore, using the diplomacy that he was so well-known for, he swapped dioceses with another bishop so that he could become Bishop of Lindisfarne and stay in the places he loved best. In this way, Cuthbert came to become St. Aidan's successor, and the prophetic vision Cuthbert had experienced as a teenager came to pass.

     Only two years after his consecration as bishop, however, Cuthbert contracted a deadly fever. Surrounded by his faithful monks on Lindisfarne, Cuthbert exhorted them to be true to the faith and traditions of their fathers. Then he passed from this life into the next. The Feast of St. Cuthbert, Wonder-worker of Britain, is March 20th.


St. Joseph of Nazareth



St. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne





When the Saints come "March"-ing in.....

we know what month it must be: March! All punning aside, this time of year is replete with some real heavies on the calendar of holy-rollers, including the Patron Saint of Wales and the Patron Saint of Ireland. Take a look:


St. David 
   
    According to legend, St. David came into being when a 6th century Irish missionary nun named Non was raped by a local chieftain in the Welsh fields. In spite of the violence of the act, two white stone were said to appear in the earth, one at Non's head, and the other at her feet, indicating the unalienable worth and future holiness of the child she had just conceived. Nine months later, Non went out to the top of a cliff to deliver her baby.

     Unfortunately, another local ruler had been informed by his soothsayers that a nun would bare a child who would one day have power over the entire region. This did not please the chieftain in the least, and he sent out an armed man to slay the infant. When the man arrived at the spot where Non lay in labor, a tremendous storm blew up, and he was forced to run for cover. However, the spot where Non lay remained bathed in sunlight. The stones she grasped in her pain were said to have been imprinted with the marks of her hands and split open.

     Non delivered her child successfully and named him David (or Dewi, in Welsh). When he was old enough, she sent him to an island to study with St. Paulinus, where the young David is credited with restoring his teacher's sight. In time, the studious young man became a priest and founded a great monastery at Mynyw in southwestern Wales. David's rule for his monks was strict and laborious. He required them to do hard manual work, including tilling the soil without the use of a plow, and declared that they should eat only vegetarian fare. He also forbade idle speech and alcohol, earning him the nickname "the waterman".

     Despite his rigorous lifestyle, David was physically fit and proved to be an inspiring preacher. One legend says that he raised the level of a hill in order to be better heard by the crowds who had flocked to hear him preach. Soon after this miracle, David was made an Archbishop. Another legend depicts David on a battlefield, instructing the Christian Celts to put leeks in their bonnets so that they would be identified amidst the hoards of Pagan Saxons they were fighting. From that time to this, the leek has been considered the national symbol of Wales. Other famous legends involving the saint include that he blessed the waters in Bath, England, giving them healing powers, and that he was the nephew of the famous Celtic warrior, Arthur.

     It is claimed that David lived to be 100 years old. He died surrounded by his followers, who he taught a final lesson before he gave up his spirit: "Be joyful, and keep your faith and your creed. Do the little things that you have seen me do and heard about. I will walk the path that our fathers have trod before us." The Feast of St. David, Patron Saint of Wales, is celebrated on March 1st and serves as a day of national pride for the Welsh.


St. Patrick

     Although it is difficult to separate fact from fiction, it seems likely that Patrick was born of a Roman family somewhere in Britain in the 5th century. His father was a wealthy tax collector, and Patrick lived a privileged life, spurning religion and getting caught up in the pleasures of the world. All that changed when the 16 year old boy was captured by Irish raiders and sold as a slave in Ireland. He was purchased by a petty chieftain in Antrim and forced to tend sheep and swine on Slemish Mountain in Co. Antrim for six years.

     It was during this period that Patrick experienced a spiritual awakening and became intimate in his prayers to God. He was told in a dream to escape his captivity and assured that a boat would be waiting for him at a designated place. He obeyed the heavenly prompting and returned safely to his family in Britain. However, the comfortable life he had been used to as a boy held little appeal for him now. He was haunted by dreams of the Irish people, pleading with his to return to Ireland and spread the Christian Gospel. Spurred on by what he now believed to be his calling, Patrick studied to become a priest in France. Several years after his ordination, he was made a bishop.

     Patrick chose to return to land of his captivity in Ireland. After sailing up Strangford Lough and landing at the River Slaney, he made his first Christian convert in Saul, Co. Down, who gave him a barn to use for his first church. Patrick traveled the length and breadth of Ireland, through Armagh, Tipperary, Mayo, Meath, and Dublin. His superiors in Britain were often skeptical of his methods of blending Pagan tradition with Christian doctrine, and they threatened to undermine his mission. He also had many clashes with the local Irish chieftains and their Druid advisors who tried to thwart his best efforts. Nevertheless, his evangelizing endeavors made many converts and bore limitless fruit.

     The most famous incident that has passed into the Patrician Legend occurred on Easter Eve, when Patrick lit a paschal fire on the Hill of Slane, in direct defiance of the orders of the High King who commanded no other fire to be lit until the Druids enkindled one the Hill of Tara for a ceremonial ritual. The pagan priests in the King's court panicked, saying that if the Christian fire was not put out immediately, it would burn forever in the hearts of the Irish people. The King sent his men to arrest Patrick and his companions, but when the guards arrived at Slane, they miraculously saw nothing but a herd of grazing deer. Ironically, the High King's son would later convert to Christianity and serve as Patrick's protector during his journeys through Ireland.
    
    Other famous legends about Patrick include that he taught the Celts the concept of the Trinity by using a three-leaved-clover, a plant traditionally used in Druidic ceremonies. Whether or not this is accurate, it is true that Patrick was adept at using Druid symbolism to help his listeners understand Christian concepts. Also, he has been credited in folklore with driving the snakes from the Emerald Isle. Although this is clearly a fictional embellishment (Ireland was snake-free to begin with!), it can be properly seen as an allegory for his driving away the darkness of paganism.
    
    Patrick established the Seat of Armagh as the center of Christianity in Ireland, defying the Druid authorities at Navan Fort, the ancient capital of Ulster. Armagh became one of the most important towns in Ireland, and there was a time when only clergymen who had been taught in the abbey in Armagh were allowed to spread the Christian faith in the land.

    One interesting legend involving Armagh tells us that Patrick and one of his companions were walking through the woods when they came upon a fawn in a thicket. The companion, being rather impulsive and hungry, suggested cooking the little creature for a hot supper. But Patrick wouldn't hear of it. He picked up the fawn, put him over his shoulders, and carried him to safety. The place where Patrick found the fawn is said to be the location of the Protestant Cathedral in Armagh, while the place where he took the fawn is said to be the location of the Catholic Cathedral in Armagh.

     Several years prior to his death, Patrick wrote his famous spiritual biography, now known as The Confession of St. Patrick. In it, he attributed all his successes to God: “It was not by my grace, but God who put this earnest care into my heart….” He died in 493, and it was said that for 12 days and nights during the mourning period, the sun refused to set. There are many places throughout Ireland that claim to have possession of his remains. One of the more likely candidates is Downpatrick, at the grounds of Down Cathedral. Feast of St. Patrick, Patron Saint of Ireland, is celebrated on March 17th. The famous poem attributed to him called St. Patrick’s Breastplate, runs as follows:

Christ beside me, Christ before me
Christ behind me, Christ within me
Christ under me, Christ over me
Christ to the right of me, Christ to the left of me
Christ in lying down, Christ in sitting, Christ in rising up
Christ in the heart of every person who may think of me
Christ in the mouth of every person who may speak of me
Christ in every eye that may look on me
Christ in every ear that may hear me

     More Saints of March to come.....

St. David of Wales



St. Patrick of Ireland




Monday, March 26, 2012

The Spirit of Romance.....

has as much to do with a personal state of mind as it does with an emotional attraction between a man and a woman. According to one of the definition, a "romantic" person is someone who is passionate, adventurous, and idealistic, possessing the right temperment to enter into deep personal relationships and to relish the arts. Realists are the opposite of Romanticists. The former group tends to view the world as a glass half empty while the latter tends to views the same world as a glass half full. The former suspects while the latter merely accepts. The former are more concrete in their thinking while the latter often escape into the spirit world to regain their perspective and strenghth.
   
     As both friends and un-friends have acurately assessed, I am romantically right-brained by nature. I grow more so as time passes, although I work hard to avoid the pit-fall of being naive and one-sided in my view of events. Life must not be viewed through a rose-tinted glass if we are to rise to the challenges that it presents. History and current events are replete with painful and disgraceful circumstances, as I have brought up many times on this blog, and overlooking them doesn't succeed in making them go away. Furthermore, life is not always as black-and-white as many Romanticists like to think. There is always a gray area in life, a shadowlands that make human nature and human actions far more complicated than they seem taken on face value.

     However, if kept in check, romantic tendencies can be used to promote great good. Having a keen appreciation for the beauty and truth around us makes sorry circumstances just a little bit easier to stomach. It can inspire us to fight harder to preserve the things we hold most dear and to champion the causes that are too often abandoned by hard-headed sceptics. Not to say that having realist personality traits is a bad thing, either. Having a tendency to be incredulous and cautious can help one weigh the pros and cons of an action before making impulsive mistakes. Concrete calculations are necessary for running of the world, and if the whole human race was made up of romanticists, most important things involving mathamatics and science would probably never get done. I know that would be the case if everyone was like me, at least! How horrifying!

     The point is that both romanticists and realists have important roles to play in the world, and the world could not do without either group. If they work together to achieve a common goal, they are a power house of dare-devil dreams and well-laid plans. A marevlous combination to have on one's side, really, although it is often extremely difficult to get the two factions to join forces. They tend to criticize each other for having frustratingly different perspectives, and joint operations tend to fall apart before they even gets off the ground. However, there is hope for better relations between the two parties. Indeed, I hope to cultivate them as best I can so that our mutually held beliefs and aspirations can be carried out into the future.

     As far as romance in the "lads and lasses" sense applies, I am in favor of it, as long as morality and sanity remain as major players in the scenes. I enjoy watching clean historical romances on TV and singing old folk songs about soldiers leaving their true loves to fight in a far-away land. I appreciate hearing about other people's marriage plans and am happy to hear about their happiness. (By the way, I want to take the opportunity to say congratulations to a friend in Glasgow who plans on getting married to his fiancee shortly. They went to Cologne, Germany for the Christmas Markets, and he was kind enough to send me pictures of the Cathedral they visited and the bridge where they hung a love-lock with their names enscribed on it. Cheers to ye both!)   

     Anyway, if it's God's will for me, I look forward to the day when I find my "soul mate" who I am able to share my passion and adventures and idealism with. However, I don't have any illusions that the state of married life is sheer bliss. Spits and spats are bound to occur involving empty wallets and broken appliances and whining babies and burnt toast, in addition to everything else life throws in the way. But I do believe that the love of a married couple is based on a love for God, He will give them the strength to overcome obstacles and grow closer in their union. That's the beauty of marriage for a Catholic. The vocation of marriage is not merely a thing of earth, but also a sacrament blessed by Our Lord. Now is that romantic, or what?


The Spirit of Romance

  

Monday, March 19, 2012

Wondrous Cross: Traditional Christianity Under Fire

   
     "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" is a Lenten hymn written by the 18th century English hymnist, Isaac Watts, known to history as “The Bard of Southampton”. It’s dignified simplicity and moving humility has made it beloved by Christians the world over and also stands out as an important part of the English religious heritage. Unfortunately, the cross which Watts wrote about has now come under fire as being “offensive” in the public sector of his native land.

    Just recently, a British airways employee, Nadia Eweida, was fired for wearing a small cross on a chain around her neck at work. Furthermore, the British government is now willing to defend the company’s decision in a European court, using British tax-payers’ money. The reasoning behind this rather extreme decision derives from a misguided desire to minimalize traditional Christianity in hopes of somehow making society more accepting towards those of different religious and cultural backgrounds.

    But some things are not so easily done away with, and a national shedding of identity does more harm than good in the end. The UK is a land indelibly marked by the sign of the cross. The Union Flag is emblazoned with three crosses, red, white, and blue. British men, no matter their religion, have given their lives fighting for their country under that flag, under the sign of the cross. The cross is the symbol that tops the British sovereign’s crown, and she was sealed with the sign of the cross when she took her coronation oath. She, too, surrounded with the trappings of the Christianity, represents Britain and the British people, whatever their individual religious or non-religious beliefs.

    Crosses can be used in a universal context because they traditionally symbolize good faith. That is why people would sign their names with an X if they could not write it out in letters. Crosses have historically been used as markers on major roads and highways, appropriate since they have always symbolized a journey. Crosses mark the intersection between life and death and the triumph of life over death on church steeples and grave stones alike. Viewing them as public taboos in any traditionally Christian nation as old as Britain is close to lunacy. And besides, tolerance towards one group cannot be validly brought about through intolerance towards another.

   One can be just as charitable and understanding towards people of a different religion or ethnic background without dissolving into an indistinguishable puddle of complete political correctness. I am a Catholic, but I have friends who are Protestant, Mormon, Muslim, Atheist, Agnostic, and even Neo-Pagan. We are friends because we share many commonalities, but there are some things we know we cannot agree on, and we don’t try to hide what we are to be more “tolerant” towards one another. Pretending all religious and spiritual beliefs are the same would be doing a disservice to all of them, and our friendships would only be weakened by the false pretense. We must acknowledge our differences and respect them.

    While on the subject of “tolerance” and its many manifestations, another piece of news coming out of the UK has to do with the efforts of the Prime Minister David Cameron and the Tory Party to pass the Planned Marriage Act, a governmental redefinition of marriage as a relationship between any two adults, included those of the same sex. This is totally unnecessary, and the practical needs of same-sex couples could easily be met in many other ways, including the creation of separate “civil unions”. But once again, it is more a matter of trying to champion equality by making everything equivalent. Needless to say, it defies logic.

   Aside from traditional morality, this is a matter of anatomy and practicality. The life-giving element of marriage can only be achieved through the union of a man and a woman, and society is moved forward through that new life. Society must view this as unique from and superior to same-sex unions from a pragmatic standpoint. Saying that marriage is merely based on mutual commitment or some sense of vague romantic sentiment or sexual desire leaves this point unspoken entirely. And, in the end, it overlooks the fact that, physically and emotionally, it is natural for men and women to be together, like two poles of the magnetic field attract. Anything otherwise is disordered.

    By saying “disordered”, I do not mean to infer that people who have homosexual tendencies are crazy or stupid or just “bad.” The fact is that we don’t know all the answers as to why these sorts of desires take root to begin with, but they certainly are very real and often painful for those who are experiencing them, and they can do little about that. From a Catholic perspective, we would say that they were called to chastity. This does not mean the Church is condemning them to a life without love or commitment, but sexuality is reserved for one man and one woman in the bonds of matrimony. That’s the score for those with homosexual and heterosexual inclinations.

    Obviously, most people who consider themselves as “Gay” or “Lesbian” probably are not going to live out this admittedly difficult but ultimately reasonable teaching. They will go off and start relationships with people of the same sex, and we must be respectful and understanding towards them nevertheless. In a world where homosexuality is made to sound as if it were perfectly normal, we will see many more people claiming the Gay or Lesbian identity in the coming years, and we must learn to deal with that gracefully. This does not mean we have to support the act itself, especially if it involves a ceremony branded with the title “marriage”.

    Just recently, my own state of Maryland legalized same-sex marriage. As more and more states in the USA are opening their doors to the redefinition of marriage, questions are being raised. Will wedding centers and flower shops be forced to provide supplies for same-sex marriages? Will clergymen be forced to perform the ceremonies? And, of course, there is the whole business of adoption agencies being forced to give children to homosexual couples, as has been seen in Britain. In a broader context, will we be expected to say there is nothing wrong with homosexuality or be branded as bigots?

     All of these things need special prayer. If you are a Christian, I encourage you to wear a cross/crucifix around your neck, especially in this Season of Lent. It need not be showy, but enough to make a point and be marked a follower of Christ. If you are British, this gesture holds special significance for you at this time. Also, there's a call for all citizens of The United Kingdom over the age of 16 who support traditional marriage to put their signature on this protest urging to British government to abandon the project to redefine marriage: http://c4m.org.uk/

May God grant us the gift of wisdom to navigate through these complicated times through the merits of Christ Crucified.


When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died,
My greatest gain I count my loss
And pour contempt on all my pride!

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

His dying crimson, like a robe,
Spreads o'er His body on the tree;
Then I am dead to all the globe,
And all the globe is dead to me.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an offering far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.




The Crucifixion of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

"The Law Is.....!!!"

Okay, so we're not in a 17th century English courtroom, but law enforcement is necessary for the successful running of any organization. Therefore, as blogger-in-chief, I find it my duty to put into place a new policy for commenters.

      Before getting into to the nitty-gritty, however, I first want to express my thanks to all those who contribute to my little blog with their interesting and insightful comments. I learn a lot from all of you, and I appreciate the time you expend on making this a more interesting place for folks to visit. To all those who read this blog, please do post your comments, questions, and opinions about the subjects I bring up. I will welcome them with open arms and do my best to respond to them in the order recieved. You all have a special place in my heart, and I keep you in my prayers. Please do the same for me.

     And now moving on to the "Rules of the Road".......

     This blog periodically deals with two subjects that are bound to cause conflict: Religion and Politics. My readers have every right in the world to disagree with what is said here and post their differences of opinon. In fact, I encourage such dialogue and respect those who are willing to engage in it. However, comments that turn a respectful discussion into an antagonistic war of words will not be tolerated. Inappropriate content, swearing, and vulgarity is strictly forbidden. Direct insults against myself and the other commenters will be immediately deleted, and those who have posted them will be blocked from further participation on this blog.

    I do hope this set of rules will be abided by so that we all can have happy, healthy interaction with one another and not run into road blocks of anger-issues or intemperate language along the way. Of course, if there are those who refuse to obey the rules, they may have to face up to a few of my friends........

 

The Judge 

 

The Enforcers

The Wolf Hounds









    


    



Saturday, March 3, 2012

The following emotionally-charged letter......

is said to have been written by a British soldier to his wife and children after he was mortally wounded at the Battle of Bunker, 1775. I am not absolutely certain as to its authenticity - the language actually strikes me as being a bit more flowery than it should be considering the circumstances in which it was supposed to have been composed!  However, this was the 18th century, an age in which the straight-laced poetic style was prevalent, and I did find it in a very old eye-witness account of the American Revolution first published in 1811 when documents from the Revolution were much easier to obtain. Just in case any of you are interested, the title of the book was Occurrences During the Late American War by Sgt. Roger Lamb. It was written by a British veteran of the Royal Welch Fusiliers who fought in the American Revolution. I found his narrative riveting, flowery language and all!

     So here's said letter. For its moving poetic quality alone, I think it merits posting. The things the author says about his religious experience (shades of the "Great Awakening" and Mr. Wesley, it seems) are quite touching and not out of place for this Lenten Season:

    "Yesterday we had a bloody and obstinate fight, in which many were killed and numbers wounded. I have received two balls, one in my groin and the other near the breast. I am now so weak with the loss of blood that I can hardly dictate these few lines, as the last tribute of my unchangeable love to you. The surgeons inform me that three hours will be the utmost I can survive. Alas, too true was the dire presage that brooded in my mind, that we should never meet again on this side of an awful eternity.

    During our passage from England 
to America, I gave myself up to read the Bible, as it was the only book I was possessed of. The Almighty Parent of mankind was pleased to draw my heart to him, by the sweet attraction of his grace; and at the same time to enlighten my mind. There was in our regiment a corporal whose name was Pierce, a pious man; I inquired after him, and we soon contracted a strong friendship. He was pleased to explain to me the amazing love of God, in giving His son Jesus Christ to bleed and die for mankind. He condescended to untold to me the mystery of salvation by faith, the nature of the new birth, and the great necessity of holiness of heart and life. In short, he became my spiritual father; and, under God, to him I owe all the good I am acquainted with.

    Soon after we landed, God was pleased to speak peace to my soul. Oh the bliss, the unutterable joy that I then felt through the blood of the Lamb! How did I long to tell all the world what Jesus had done for me! But how did I long, yea, burn, to have you to taste and know the love of God in Christ Jesus! I would have given all the world to have been with you, to have informed you of the pearl of great price. As we shall never meet more in this vale of tears, let me impose this last, this dying obligation upon you; and if ever I was dear to you, let me beg of you not to neglect the last advice of your departing husband. 

    It is that you give yourself up to God, read the Bible and other good books, and be often found among them who inquire after salvation. And the Lord shall guide you in His ways. O endeavour to bring up the dear little ones in the fear of God. Never fix your heart upon the vain and unsubstantial things of the world. Heaven and the love of God are the only things that demand our hearts, or at least are worthy of engrossing them.

    And you, my dear infants, though you have not the perfect knowledge of your worthless father, I beg of you to meet me in the realms of bliss. The God that blessed Jacob and Joseph shall bless you. Seek Him and He will be found of you; call upon Him, and He will hear and bless you. What has the world but sin and sorrow? The rich are oppressed with wealth; and the poor are groaning for the want of that which others are burdened with. The men in power are afflicted with holding the reins and guiding the helm, and the governed are oppressed with imaginary evils. 

    The life of a soldier is blood and cruelty, and that of a sailor is filled with dangers and deaths. A city life is full of confusion and strife; and that of the country is loaded with toil and labour. But the evil of all evils flows from our own sinful nature. Wherever we are, we may be happy; we have the key to bliss in our own breasts. The world itself never yet made anyone happy. God is the bliss and solace of a reasonable soul; and God is everywhere, and we have everywhere access to Him. Learn then, my dear children, when you grow up, to seek your permanent happiness in God, through a crucified redeemer.

    My dear wife, should the spirits of the departed have any knowledge of things here below, and at the same time any intercourse with them, (though unseen,) how shall I rejoice to be thy guardian angel, to attend you, and smile to see you combat sin, conquer the world, and subdue the flesh. How shall I smile to meet you on the bright frontiers of heaven. These hands shall weave for you the wreath triumphant! I first shall hail you welcome to your native mansions! I first shall guide you to the celestial city, and introduce you among the jubilant throng, who tread the streets of the New Jerusalem. I first will lead you to the sacred throne of our God, where we will together bow, transported at the feet of the ever adorable Jesus. Then, then, will we strike our melodious harps of gold, in the most exalted strains of harmony and love. Then shall our love be consummated, refined, and eternalized!

"The world recedes, it disappears
Heaven opens on my eyes, my ears
With sounds seraphic ring:
Lend, lend your wings, I mount, I fly!
Oh! Grave where is thy victory?
Oh! Death where is thy sting?"

   More would I say, but life ebbs out apace, my tongue ceases to perform its office; bright angels stand round the gory turf on which I lie, ready to escort me to the arms of my Jesus; bending saints reveal my shining crown, and beckon me away: yea, methinks, my Jesus bids me come.

Adieu! Adieu! Dear Love.

John Randon"

 


The Battle of Bunker Hill, 1775