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Monday, April 30, 2012

A Valiant Lady and a Bold Knight....

make their appearence this month on the calendar of saints. One is a daughter of England, and the other is and adopted son of the same!

St. Margaret Clitherow

   
Margaret Middleton was born in 1555, the daughter of the Sheriff of York. In her late teens, she married John Clitherow, a successful butcher and pillar of the community. Three years later, the Anglican Margaret was converted to the Catholic Faith and became a fervent supporter of the underground Catholic missions in England. She helped to hide priests in her home and secretly taught her children and neighbor children the doctrines of Catholicism. Her Anglican husband was easy-going by nature and had a brother who was a Catholic priest, so he decided to look the other way as his wife carried out these illegal activities.

    Margaret was thrown into prison several times for refusing to attend Anglican services. John paid her bale repeatedly, and nothing serious came of the incidents. When her husband was away, she would make barefoot pilgrimages with other women in the dead of night to pray at the place of execution outside the city where Catholic priests had been martyred. Ironically, she would soon be among their executed number.

    Margaret was known for being a good business woman and a general delight to be around. She was physically attractive with a keen sense of humor that never left her. She was always doing charitable works for others, and she acquired many friends. Unfortunately, these attachments would not be capable of saving her from the punishment of the law.

    Eventually, Margaret was betrayed by an 11-year-old boy who told the authorities that Mass was being celebrated in her home. Her house was searched and incriminating evidence was discovered. Margaret and a dear friend, Anne Tish, who the boy also accused thrown into prison, and Margaret's 12-year-old daughter Anne was whipped.  Margaret refused to plead for a trial by jury for fear of placing her family at risk. For refusing to plead, she was sentenced to be crushed to death beneath a heavy door with a spike placed at her back.

    To the end, Margaret showed her strength of spirit and sheer bravery. On Good Friday, the morning of her execution, she put on a white dress and put ribbons her hair to acknowledge that she was Christ's Bride and going to His wedding feast in Heaven. She sent back her hat to her husband to show that he was her "head", and she sent her shoes and stockings to her daughter, Anne, to encourage her to have the courage to follow in her footsteps and keep the Faith. Margaret was laid upon the spike and laid beneath the door and crushed to death. In is believed she may even have been pregnant. Her husband, utterly distraught, wept until his nose bled.

    Queen Elizabeth I did later wrote distraught citizens of York saying how horrified she was that a fellow-woman should have been so cruelly treated. She further stated that because of her sex, she should not have been executed at all. Sadly however, Margaret Clitherow would not be the last female Catholic to die for her faith in Elizabethan England. But that's another story.
   
     The Feast of St. Margaret Clitherow, the Pearl of York, is celebrated on April 2nd.

St. George

    George is said to have been a high-ranking Roman army officer during the reign of Emperor Diocletian. Despite the wave of persecution against the Christians, George, who was a Christian himself, spoke out against their ill-treatment to the Emperor, even throwing down his Imperial Eagle standard in protest. Of course, this didn't go over well with Diocletian, who had the spirited officer seized, stripped, and tortured in hopes of making him renounce the Christian Faith. George held strong against torture and was eventually beheaded.
   
    The cult of St. George took shape in England as early as the 8th century. The image of George as a medieval knight became prevalent during the Crusades, and it became deeply rooted in the English national psyche. King Richard I put his crusaders under the patronage of St. George when they set off for the Holy Land to battle with the Saracens. Therefore, the crusading flag with a red cross on a white field came to be known as “St. George’s Cross”. Its design was incorporated into the Union Flag of the United Kingdom and still serves as England’s individual national flag.

    King Edward III later named George the patron saint of England when he formed the Order of the Garter in his honor, and St. George's Feast was kept as a Holy Day of Obligation for Catholics in England until 1778. Shakespeare further popularized the saint in his plays by having his literary hero, King Henry V, bellow to his troops arrayed before the battle of Agincourt: "Cry God for Harry, England, and St George!" Likewise, he had King Richard III evoke the saint's name on the eve of the Battle of Bosworth Field: "Advance our standards, set upon our foes our ancient word of courage! Fair St. George, inspire us with the spleen of fiery dragons."

    Ironically, William Shakespeare is to have been both been born to have died on St. George's Feast, forever linking with him with the saint he loved so well. Another interesting interesting happening on the auspicious occasion has to do with Gen. James Wolfe and his army landing in Canada on St. George's Day in 1759. His men took it as a good omen that the British would be successful in their conquest of the territory, while Wolfe was really too sea-sick to get philosophical about the whole thing!

    In 1940 during the Second World War, King George VI inaugurated the George Cross, to be awarded to those who showed great heroism and conspicuous courage in situations of extreme danger. The award, depicting St. George slaying the dragon on the silver cross, is usually given out to civilians. This goes to show that the inspirational quality of the “soldier saint” really does transcend military rank. St. George, in many ways, has come to represent the best aspects of the English identity, including courage, faithfulness, tenacity, and fair amount of pluck. The fact that he was not English himself is just one of those little ironies that makes the whole story so deliciously British.

    The Feast of St. George is celebrated on April 23rd, and different parts of England and the world continue to celebrate his heroism with festivals and reenactments. Blessed be God, St. George, and St. Margaret Clitherow!


St. Magaret Clitherow




St. George


   

    

   

Friday, April 27, 2012

"Ye Jacobites by Name...."

is a folk ballad adapted by Scotland’s Bard, Bobby Burns, to commemorate the mixed emotions felt by the Scottish people during the Jacobite Rebellions that took place during the British Isles during the 17th-18th centuries. Whether singing popular rebel songs or purchasing a Scottish shortbread tin with a portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie on it, most of us today have also been touched in some way by the heritage these struggles for the British throne. They continue to capture the public imagination through the colorful cast of characters that took part in them, and embellished as they have been by years of yarn-weaving, rival the creations of the best fiction writers.

     James II, Bonnie Dundee, James Francis Stuart, Lady Nithsdale, Lord Derwenwater, Charles Edward Stuart, Gentle Lochiel, Lord George Murray, Lady Anne Farquharson McKintosh, Flora McDonald, and many more stand out as striking examples of courage, devotion, self-sacrifice, and patriotism. For this, we are naturally drawn to them and often become their secret confederates. This is innocent and understandable, in and of itself. However, there is a tendency among some sentimental historians and crafty politicians to twist the complex causes of the Jacobite Rebellions to suit their own agendas, even if the reality gets lost in the translation. Some seek to touch an emotional chord with their listeners, while others wallow in the chasm of never-ending historical "what-ifs".

    The following summaries highlight a number of the more popular two-dimensional interpretations:

----

    1. The Jacobites who supported the Catholic House of Stewart in their ongoing contest against the Protestant House of Hanover where Catholics who wanted to regain their religious freedom by restoring a Catholic to the throne of Britain. If the Stuart claimants, particularly Charles Edward "Bonnie Prince Charlie" Stuart, had succeeded in regaining the throne, it is probable that the British Isles would have been restored to Catholicism and that Britain and France, the country supporting the Stuart claim, would not have gone to war in the following years. If they had not gone to war, then the American Colonies would not have been directly taxed and probably would not have rebelled against British rule. If the Americans had not launched their Revolution, then it is probable that the French Revolution would never have occurred, nor even perhaps the Bolshevik Revolution, etc., etc.

    2. The Jacobites who supported the Scottish House of Stuart in their ongoing contest with the English House of Hanover were Scottish patriots seeking to rid themselves of English oppression. With this logic in mind, the Jacobite Rebellions can be summarized as Anglo-Scottish Wars, successors of the battle fought by Wallace and Bruce against the two Edwards for control of the land. Therefore, the English can be held solely responsible for the destruction and slaughter unleashed on the Scottish people in the aftermath of their failed rebellion against the English tyrant, George II. If the Stuart claimants, particularly Charles Edward Stuart, had regained the throne, it is certain that Scotland would be "free" and "independent" today rather than "under the control" of the UK. She would be a powerful force standing on her own two feet. She would "be a nation".

    3. The Jacobites who supported the organic House of Stewart in their ongoing contest with the organized House of Hanover were Celtic warriors who sought to preserve the simple liberty and democracy of their traditional way of life. They were being threatened by an imperialistic enemy with a land-hungry government and a racist army who wanted to crush every aspect of their indigenous existence and swallow them up into their heavy-handed civilization. If the Stuart claimants, particularly Charles Edward Stuart, had regained the throne, it is probable that the pure democracy that flourished in Celtic society and the customs of the people would have continued to thrive to this day. The world we live in would be a different place, inhabited by people who take delight in the joys of nature and folk culture and who settle all their conflicts through the medium of rustic democratic means.    

----

    The truth, in fact, is a combination of all three of these assessments, minus some misguided emotional implications. While some of the Jacobites were indeed Catholics who sought to regain their freedom of religion by restoring a Catholic monarchy, a large portion of them were Protestants seeking to restore the Stuarts for political or social motives. Furthermore, even if Charles Edward Stuart had regained the throne for his father and come to the throne in his own right, there is no reason to believe that he would have been able to alter the religion of his kingdom(s) by merely snapping his fingers.

    Protestantism had gained a strong hold on the people of the British Isles (Ireland being the notable exception), and by 1745, the year of the Second Jacobite Rebellion, the British Parliament was completely Protestant and in a definite position of power over the reigning monarch. If Charles Edward had tried to meddle in the affairs of Parliament or alter the highly anti-Catholic laws, it would have probably unleashed a massive civil war. Considering the ill-fate of his overthrown predecessors, there is no strong reason to believe that the throne was any more tenable for the Stewarts at this late date.

    Also, to suppose that France and England would have remained in a perpetual state of peace because of the Franco-Stuart alliance is naive at best. Due to colonial expansion and various other components, alliances were prone to change in the fast-paced European political stage. Besides that, the issue of whether or not the American Colonies could be directly taxed by Parliament would to come up sooner or later, with the French or without them. In fact, it was James II, who was ousted during The Glorious Revolution, who almost caused an early revolution in the colonies thanks to his high-handed administration.

    Moving along, the Jacobite Rebellions were far from "Anglo-Scottish" wars. In fact, more Scots fought for the Government than for the Jacobites. It is true that many Scottish Jacobites were seeking to sever the union of Scotland and England which they saw as a loss of their independence and the cause of a new flow of taxes from Westminster. However, many Scottish Hanoverians saw the benefits of being unified with England involving trade and power on the world stage, and they were determined to preserve it. So the conflict was clearly a nation-wide Civil War, not another Robert de Bruce type war for Scottish Independence. Furthermore, Jacobitism was far from a local phenomenon in Scotland. There were pockets of Jacobites all over the British Isles, including England, Wales, and Ireland, as well as supporters in Continental Europe.

    Touching back on the British Union, would the results of splitting it really have been as merry as modern-day Scottish Nationalists would like to believe? Strong evidence indicates the contrary. An independent Scotland would probably have stayed a backwater country on the fringes of Europe, susceptible to continued quarreling and skirmishing with the more powerful England and, even worse, to foreign invasion. The Union not only bolstered the defensive and offensive military power of England and Scotland as a joint force, but it also provided a jettison for Scottish economists, scientists, soldiers, politicians, and businessmen of every type to have an effect on the course of world history. 

    Finally, we come to the final assumption that the Jacobites were heroes of democracy and the simple joys of a nature-based existence, free from the chains of tyrannical organization. This theory holds a special place in the hearts of modern Celtic enthusiasts who have gone "back-to-nature", sitting cross-legged in the center of a moss-covered stone ring that “the race that no one knows” erected thousands of years ago for reasons beyond our ken. Getting back to reality, the Highland way of life was far from a paradise of egalitarian ponderance. Highland Clans battled each other constantly for dominance and survival, raiding cattle, pillaging homes, and murdering their fellow Scots. The Lowland "homestead Scots" were terrified of the lawless ways of the Highland "wild Scots", and each side had no qualms about helping the English to fight the other during numerous conflicts.

    Granted, the Celtic language and traditional customs were held in contempt by the English and Lowlanders and many used the Jacobite Rebellions as an excuse to carry something of an “ethnic cleansing”. However, the active contributions of Lowland Scots precludes a neat narrative of English devilry, and the Highland "way of life" as it was in 1745 could not have continued unchecked and dreaded organization with its hard, cold laws was desperately needed to keep order. While the British government was often riddled with corruption and its laws were often manipulated by self-serving agents, it provided some semblance of the supremacy of law and overriding national authority as opposed to the local, scattered authority of the clan chiefs.

    I am not trying to disregard the great sufferings Jacobites endured, nor am I trying to condone the monstrous atrocities committed by the Hanoverian troops in the aftermath of the failed rebellions. As a Catholic, I naturally sympathize with the cause of trying to restore religious freedom to the suppressed Catholics in Georgian Britain and greatly admire the loyal of men and women who were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the cause in which they believed. However, history has many facets, and in the case of the Jacobite Rebellions, it paints a more three-dimensional picture then the average spin-doctor can produce. Balance should be a key player in all historical studies, but unfortunately, both in the past and in our modern world, it is often in short supply.

Ye Jacobites by name, give an ear, give an ear
Ye Jacobites by name, give an ear!
Ye Jacobites by name, your faults I will proclaim
Your doctrines I must blame, ye shall hear!

What is right and what is wrong by the law, by the law
What is right and what is wrong by the law?
What is right and what is wrong, a short sword and a long
A weak arm and a strong for to draw?

What makes heroic strife famed afar, famed afar,
What makes heroic strife famed afar?
What makes heroic strife, to whet the assassin's knife
Or hunt a parent's life with bloody war?

Then leave your cares alone in the state, in the state
Then leave your cares alone in the state
Then leave your cares alone, adore the rising sun
And leave a man alone to his fate


(A variation of this article later appeared on "Open Unionism": http://www.openunionism.com/ye-jacobites-by-name-misinterpreting-the-rebellions/)

  

The Battle of Culloden, 1746



   

Sunday, April 22, 2012

"Hallelujah!"

That glorious word could sum up our whole Easter Vigil experience. We did not originally intend to go to Mass on Holy Saturday, since we usually attended on Easter Sunday. But then sickness hit the family, my mom decided it was prudent to stay at home, and my dad and I had to change our plans at the last minute. It turned out to be an extremely moving experience I wouldn't have missed for the world.

    As I’ve mentioned in the past, The Annunciation Catholic Church is one of the most beautiful churches in our area, with high ceilings, brilliant stained glass windows, and an ornate altar. It gives one the feeling of medieval worship, which a welcome relief when compared with some modern bingo-hall church designs. That fact, accompanied by the fact that we are good friends with the choir director, convinced us to go there for Easter Vigil Mass.

    My father and I took our seats in a pew on the left side of the aisle just as the altar servers started to light all the candles in the church which hitherto had been darkened for Good Friday. The sight of the brightness entering the dark corners of the building filled me with a sense of wonder, as did the thick and powerful aroma of incense, so strong in fact that it almost caused me to cough! But to me, it was truly a beautiful scent that always makes me think on the power of prayer rushing up to heaven, and the unimaginable power of heaven itself.

    We were soon given small candles to hold, and had them lighted by a server in due course. It was a striking sight to look across the church and all the people in the pews, their faces aglow with the Easter lights. I am not a major lover of fire, however I found myself fascinated by the way my flame flickered and dodged, as well as the way the drops of liquefied wax slowly slid down my candle and left marks on the paper holder. When the priest made his rounds of the pews, he blessed everyone with holy water which occasionally landed with a sizzle on the candle wicks. Several droplets splashed in my face but missed my candle, which shone as brightly as ever.

    After the succession of Easter prayers and ceremonies (bringing the Mass into the two hour time range), we readied ourselves for the reception of the Eucharist. Of course, this was really the most appropriate time in the whole year to do so, the time when Christ proved His nearness to us and His willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice for our sakes. His triumph over the thing all mortals fear, death and eternal darkness, gave us a clean slate and formed a new covenant between God and man. This heavenly contract is reaffirmed through the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist.

    The musical choices for the mass were all truly beautiful, but the finale was the icing on the cake. It really surprised me to hear the intro of Handel's "Hallelujah" being played on an organ-keyboard in the choir loft. I thought to myself, "Are they going to go for it?" Sure enough, they went for it, and the choir belted out the Easter anthem with enthusiasm. As the music rose to its climax, the different vocal parts blended together deftly and culminated perfectly. The unexpected beauty of it so moved the congregation below, that they broke into applause, a very rare thing for this comparatively conservative parish to do.

    I couldn't help but be reminded of another famous instance when the glorious piece brought about an unexpected reaction. When George Frederick Handel's Messiah was performed in London for the second time, the royal guest, King George II, is said to have stood up unexpectedly when the "Hallelujah" was played. And when the king stands, you know what's bound to happen: everyone is going to stand!

    No one is actually positive why the king stood up to begin with. Most people like to think he was moved with emotion, but others insist he was roused from mid-concert snoozing or had a cramp in his leg or misidentified the music as the National Anthem! At this point, it really doesn't matter. A great tradition was born, and Handel's religious masterpiece has been moving the bodies to stand and souls to sing for joy from that time to this.

    One final fact on the subject worthy of note is that George II's grandson and successor, King George III, was a major Handel fan. He joined the Handel society, proudly wore his membership button out and about, and always asked for the late composer's works to be played at royal music festivals. Furthermore, the king acquired Handel's prized harpsichord and kept it as a prize among his vast collection of expensive odds and ends. When he tragically slipped into a delusionary state because of his famous illness (of body, mind, or both, we’ll probably never be sure), it was said he could be heard playing and singing Handel compositions by his distraught servants, who were terrified to go too near to him for fear of altering his musical mood and risking nasty repercussions!

    Anyway, getting back to The Annunciation Parish, my dad and I went up to the choir loft after the mass was over to congratulate Pat the choir director, who was in a state of electronic ecstasy at the boundless sound of the most glorious "Hallelujah" ever produced in the parish, the state, the country......we were happy to humor him, and even sincerely concur! To celebrate, the three of us tromped out to our car and devoured a few chocolate peanut butter Easter Eggs we had stashed away in the glove compartment, happily chatting about our Easter experience and future plans for launching a Bible Study at the Parish.

    I hope that all my readers had a wonderful Holy Week and continue to have a blessed Easter Season. If you'd like, please share your experiences in the comment box; I’d love to hear them! To one and all, in the spirit of our Byzantine Brethren, Christ is risen from the dead! By death He trampled death, and to those in the tombs He granted life! Amen. Hallelujah!


The Resurection

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Living Stations.....

is a dramatic production akin to medieval Mystery and Morality Plays meant to both teach and entertain the spectators. People act out the different scenes from the Stations of the Cross and read meditations in the voice of the characters they are portraying to bring to life the Biblical narrative of Christ’s Passion and Death. At my own dear St. Joseph’s Parish, all those who had volunteered to participate in The Living Stations 2012 congregated at the church on the Friday preceding Good Friday. After weeks of preparation, prayer, and plain hard work, it was finally show time and all of us were very excited. I was going to be playing the part of St. Veronica, the woman attributed with wiping the grimy sweat and blood of Jesus’ face as He carried His cross through Jerusalem. According to pious legend, a miraculous image of Our Lord's face appeared on her veil.
   
    It's amazing how time seems to wind down into slow-motion when one is nervous. The movements of my friends getting into their Biblical robes (former curtains and bedspreads, I assume) and family members gleefully taking snapshots of us seemed to enter into a state of suspended animation. My friends Lizzie and Jennifer (the latter being the youth director of the production) and I were in charge of the musical preludes and interludes, so after the group shot picture was taken in the church library, the three of us tromped off to the head of the church and took our positions behind the mic stand.

    It was then that I noticed my pocket book sitting in one of the pews in front of us. The situation would not have been urgent if not for the fact that my penny whistle was stashed within! I needed it for the interlude verses of "Stabat Mater" and was uncertain if I would be able to get it once the production was under way. I turned to Lizzie, who was going to sing harmony, and whispered, "My bag is out there." "Oh, well, you better go get it!" she insisted. Swiftly, I darted out from behind the stand just as the piano music for our first number began to be played. I nabbed my pocket book and dashed back to stand just in time to start singing my part along with the others.

    We sang "O Sacred Head Surrounded", a traditional favorite, "Via Dolorosa", a beautiful song about Christ carrying His cross, and "Let the Wind Blow", a haunting hymn set on Good Friday, for the introduction. And then the action began. The actors and actresses went out to the front of the church and played their solemn parts in succession. We saw friends and acquaintances become Jesus Christ, Pontius Pilate, Caiaphas, Barabbas, Herod, the Centurion, the Roman guards, Mother Mary, Veronica (yours truly), Mary Magdalene, and Salome, among others. Indeed, I believe that we entered into a deeper level of meditation through the recreation, and I think the audience joined us in it.

    Richard "Super Sound Man", the young gentleman in charge of the sound systems, helped us get rigged up in our mics which clipped onto our collars. This task initially sounded much simpler than it actually was, since our Biblical attire was long and rather clumsy, making it necessary to run the mic extension cords down through our costumes in order to stuff the remote controls into the pockets of our clothing underneath. The situation was complicated by the fact that we only had two clip-on mics to work with and had to keep switching them from one person to the next between scenes! Another "minor" detail was that we had to flip the control switch on six seconds before we read are meditation in order to give them the chance for the electrical juices to flow.

    When my cue came, I pushed through the "crowd", wiped "Jesus’" face with my veil, revealed the miraculous picture on it, and began to read my lines. It was only after I started that I realized I had forgotten to turn on my mic at all! Not wanting to make a scene, I fumbled with my robes, desperately hoping I would be able to locate the switch before my whole meditation was swallowed up by the very dead sound of the church building. Praise be, I found it, switched it on, and waited for what seemed like forever for the echo to enhance me. At long last, it did, and I finished off the meditation in a way that everyone could hear.

    At the end of the performance, as the actors and actress came out and took their final bows, my friends and I returned to the mic stand where I sang melody, Lizzie sang harmony, and Jennifer played the flute for a contemporary Lenten song called "Above All". It was a lovely way to end the production. Everyone put out a lot of time and effort, and I believe God helped us to smooth out the kinks and emerge with a renewed sense of the true meaning of Lent. To summarize, if our faith is based in truth, Christ is God, and God deigned to come to earth and die and excruciating death to redeem us from our sinfulness. It was the greatest gesture of friendship ever extended in history. Now the question is: Do we embrace it?

Above all powers, above all kings.
Above all nature and all created things.
Above all wisdom and all the ways of man
You were here before the world began.

Above all kingdoms, above all thrones.
Above all treasures the world has ever known.
Above all wealth and treasures of the earth
There's no way to measure what You're worth.

Crucified, laid behind a stone,
You lived to die, rejected and alone
Like a rose, trampled on the ground,
You took the fall and thought of me
Above All.
 

    
Porta Croce
The Carrying of the Cross

Thursday, April 12, 2012

As an American freelance student of British history...

I find it intriguing how the true meaning of patriotism has often been lost in the muck and mire of personal interpretation. Throughout history, the natural emotions that attach people to their native land have been twisted by advocates of various points of view to forward their own agendas. In the process, two extremes have sprung up, each equally dangerous if left unchecked: national jingoism and national defeatism.

    The source of the first ideology was the self-righteous, blow-hard conservatives who gained precedence during the Victorian Period in Britain and America. Their belief in the natural superiority of their countries led them to believe they were ordained to forward their culture through conquest, both materially and psychologically, even if it was at the expense of other persons/groups. Their ideology could be succinctly summed up by the famous toast, “My country: right or wrong!”

    The Imperialist project in Britain and “Manifest Destiny” in America were drenched in this way of thinking, and history books from that period often contain a nose-in-the-air snobbery towards other nations (including each other, since the mother country and her rebellious child seemed to have an equal sense of their own superiority!) makes most people today recoil. It’s hard to believe that such outrageous biases were ever taught to school children as a matter of course.

    This unhealthy form of nationalism spurred on both Brits and Americans to commit acts of injustice and cruelty in the name of “patriotism” while expanding their burgeoning empires. The British misused the peoples of Africa, Asia, and Ireland; the Americans misused the Native Tribes that were sprawled across a massive continent. Assuredly, they also brought civilizing benefits to indigenous cultures, but the stain of their past sins continues to haunt us today. Fortunately, this haughty attitude that caused so much pain has almost completely passed out of style, but another, equally bad distortion rose up to replace it.

    Enter onto the world stage the self-destructive, guilt-ridden liberals, who stepped into the vacuum created by post-imperial disillusionment and recession. They became self-proclaimed crusaders, determined to rid themselves of blame for past crimes by throwing out the baby with the bathwater and becoming social activists against all that has gone before. Their case in a nutshell could be phrased thusly: “My country: always wrong!”

    Revisionist history books became en vogue, myth-busting generational preconceptions about secular saints and defining events that had been glorified during the Victorian Era. Some of these works were well-written and long overdue to balance the score. But others went to the brink of character assassination  It became fashionable to point fingers at anyone who expressed pride in or admiration for their national heritage, accusing them of being “romantic” and “insular”. 

    More extreme variants of this group have burned flags and desecrate national monuments, made gestures of solidarity with enemy nations as in America during the Vietnam War or sowed of the seeds of disunity on the home-front as in Britain during the rise of Celtic Nationalism. They blinded themselves to all that was good through bitterness for past and present imperfections, and in the process sought to lure everyone else down the same path.

    Don't let either patriotic heresy draw you in; avoid them equally, as two sides of the same counterfeit coin. Remember who you are and hold fast to it; neither faction can take away what you do not give them. After all, true patriotism is so much deeper than either alternate option, and too precious to cast away. It is a healthy, genuine love of one’s country and its institutions. It is not marred by a pride of race, nor is it dissimilated by a self-gratifying grinding against the past that cannot be altered. It is an acceptance of both the good and bad, lamenting what should be lamented, celebrating what should be celebrated, and having the wisdom to know which is which.

    This quest to balance our passions and perceptions should be coupled by a determination to change our respective countries for the better, learning when to stand strong and when to be flexible. For example, Britain still stands, and yet she has learned and changed and grown through her empire experience which now has a direct descendent in The Commonwealth. This community of independent nations, many of which share a common heritage and head-of-state, is worthy of pride and admiration as visible proof of a willingness to ease up on heavy-handed policies of the past and bend without breaking.   

     America, in the same way, has made major strides in overcoming her own prejudices in an increasingly multicultural landscape and turning this “continental empire” into a union of mutual cooperation and affection for the benefit of all. Considering a bloody civil war between north and south, slavery, segregation, the dissolution of native cultures, and continued immigration influxes, unity and equality have always been difficult to grasp. And yet we have never stopped striving for it.

    In our present time, there are all sorts of injustices that still need to be overcome, for Brits and Americans and everyone else. Pompousness and bitterness has never solved anything but turning us in on ourselves and against each other. Love is the only way to penetrate the evils of our world. So we must love our native lands and transform them a little at a time through prayer and good works. To quote a German immigrant to America, who put it simply and very well: “My country: if she be right, God keep her there; if she be wrong, God bring her to the right!”

  
"My Country....."