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Monday, December 24, 2012

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

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



The Shepherd's Carol

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

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

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

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

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


We stood on the hills, Lady,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Wild Wood Carol

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

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

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

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

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


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


Friday, December 21, 2012

"Strong John of Waterloo...."

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



Strong John of Waterloo


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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

***

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


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

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A hopeful message.....


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


Twas' 11 Day Before Chrismtas

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

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


Saturday, December 1, 2012

"Campion the Champion".....

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edmundus Campianus, Matyr, Ora Pro Nobis!



"Campion the Champion"