Thursday, 8 November 2007

I Am Pilgrim

...or will be as of tomorrow. This morning I spent several hours packing my rucksack and about the same amount of time sewing a red cross- the symbol and sign of a pilgrim- onto the shoulder of my coat (and if ever I had any doubts, I am now firm in my resolution to never seek a career as a tailor).
Here you can see my final destination.

Its going to take me a while to reach Canterbury Cathedral though. Over two weeks in fact. And what happens between now and then is anybody's guess. All is in God's hands though, and I'm pretty content to leave it there.

Libera me, Domine, ab vitiis meis, ut solius voluntatis tuae cupidus mihi sim.

The Mystery Worshipper

Funny the things you find when you are randomly browsing. I discovered this when doing a search for St Peters Catholic Church, Winchester, where I will be offering the Sacrifice this Sunday. I haven't looked through the site exhaustively, but I like the concept. And, moreover, St Peters in Winchester got a pretty decent review. Which is a bonus.

Monday, 5 November 2007

A Book That Needs to Be Written

Found this on the Curt Jester's blog. Funny and pertinent. Sounds like something G. K. Chesterton would suggest.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Mala nostra Pelle

This morning I went to the Solemn Pontifical Mass at St Mary's Cathedral to give thanks to God for the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum. During the offertory, the Ave Maris Stella was sung and this line caught my eye: Mala nostra pelle.

For some reason, the phrase conjures up in my mind images of our good Cardinal laying into various representations of evil (rainbow sashes and poker machines leap to mind) with a mighty swing of his crozier. If I were more artistically inclined I would try to draw it. Of course the question does arise, if Pell were made into a Latin verb, which declension would it be?

Friday, 2 November 2007

St George poem- Chapter 1- Final Part

Caesar took my vows of duty,
Gave to me this sword,
But one day when my strencth is slack
I shall give the wer-blade back
And cease to call men to attack
Or surrender at his word.

Thus do earthly duties end,
Finite, short in time;
I would not trade my life for such
A transit'ry pantomime.

Other duties do I have
More ancient of degree;
I serve an older emperor
Whose reign predates the sea.

His subject is the mighty oak,
His throne the Alpine height,
He raises waters to the sky,
Makes the ocean depths to fly
Then makes them fall when fields are dry,
Of such moment His might.

Great Caesar, when his days grow long
And Pluto comes to take
Across the Styx his soul, the Senate
Of him a god will make.

But my liege lord, the one I serve,
Will never know such fame;
He, being God, became a man:
From world's beginning was His plan
Ere ever endless ages ran,
And thus He has remained.

His pow'r pervades every realm,
Pierces princes, pummels vice,
Guides the shipman at the helm,
Rules over both men and mice.
Sov'reignty o'er men is His gift
Which He imparts, which He can lift,
As He each person's life does sift
And judges justly every life.

His justice rules both men and beast;
He's canny- Him no creature 'scapes;
He knows the greatest and the least,
He knows their mind, their moods, their shapes.
I tell you truly, man of Silene,
If what you say is what has been,
And this thing your virgin people rapes,
My King can give to you a peace-
It lies nigh at the door-
A peace whose friends are hope and life
And solace for the poor.
A peace that brings an end to strife
And does not come with war.

His title is the Prince of Peace,
And puissant yet is He;
His lowly, loyal liegeman,
His servant-soldier do I be;
His will will I enact
Your people so to free;
While He is on my side,
Whatever may betide,
No fire-belching beast
Or baleful monster will I flee.

So I swear to you on my own soul
And by my own baptismal vows
That I shall make your people whole
And once again hoist spirits high,
For I shall make the beast to die.
Man, show the way. I will hence now.'

The End of the Internet

Funny stuff. Check it out.

St George poem- Chapter 1- Part 8

With douleur and with gay despair
The elder turned his back to go.
The soldier leapt and held his arm,
Without intending any harm,
But serious as an intoned psalm,
He spoke in tone sombre and low.

'My name is George,' the soldier said,
'A Roman soldier, I;
I do not fear a fearsome beast
Nor tremble when to die.
My soul is made of sterner stuff,
My heart beats bold and high.

Of peace to thee I lately spoke,
A peace that comes with war,
A peace with gifts attached to it
Of roads and Roman law;
But ill I spoke perhaps, for there's
A peace that counts for more.

You see this helm, this red-dyed cloak,
These boots, this gladius:
The symbols of my rank are they,
Esteemed and glorious.

And truly I'm great Caesar's man
And serve him with my life,
But there's agreater one than he,
Than whom a greater cannot be-
He makes the wretched blind to see
And brings an end to strife.

I am a Roman, goodly chief,
Its proudest citizen;
But greater is a kingdom
That transcends human ken;
And I too am its citizen
And member of that race;
My liege lord is the God of men
And arbiter of grace.

A dual citizen you see,
And Rome's the lesser part;
Rome and Caesar hold my flesh
But God does hold my heart.'

The Ever-Broadening Influence of Ebenezer Scrooge

In the Daily Telegraph this morning, buried in an out of the way corner where few but the most perceptive might find it, I discovered a somewhat unnerving article. Repairing to the website of the Daily Telegraph this evening to find the same article online, I was unable to locate it. However I did find its counterpart in the UK Daily Telegraph (since the article was about events in the UK anyway), in addition to a refreshing editorial by some chap I've never heard of before.

It seems we're stuck between the extremes of putting up Christmas decorations in mid-October (what the shopping centre where I work has done) or not putting them up at all. Me, I'm of two minds about the whole thing. A part of me loves the idea of Christmas as a public holiday (by which I mean one celebrated publicly)- one of the more enjoyable experiences of my life was strolling through the streets of London on Christmas 1999 and receiving several cheerful "Merry Christmas!"es from the few other folk who were also out and about that day. On the other hand, another part of me thinks it would not be such a bad thing for the Powers That Be to ban Christmas, because then the Christians might actually be free to celebrate it without the distractions of the Rush, endless nauseating advertising, and all the abominations of tackiness and kitsch that inevitably accompany it these days. More importantly, we might even be freed to observe Advent rather than have the feast forced on us while we should be preparing spiritually for it, then be prodded back to work the moment the real celebrations should just be beginning.

St George poem- Chapter 1- Part 7

'Six months ago we took a vow
That never in a thousand years
Would we allow Silene to burn
Again, nor let our eyes discern
That beast, the object of our fears.

That oath we took we've also kept
And grimly have maintained our vow;
And, sickly as our hearts have stood,
Not all our hands with blood stained could
Persuade us to repeal it now.

Dearly, dearly have we paid;
Our hands are bloody, cheeks tear-stained,
And something stalks us like a shade,
For now within our spirits gaunt
Not only does the creature haunt
But grossest guilt exacts its reign.

I thee adjure, Roman man,
To speak if my words ring not true.
Methinks it far the better plan
To make one die instead of all,
If any man should die at all;
The loss of one to save the few.

The blood of children rests on us;
We've chosen- chosen!- crimson hands;
Now every man that draws the straw
Must go and face that gaping maw
And let his blood soak in the sands.

Yes, every man that draws the short,
Whether he be chief or serf,
Must hence to that cave grimly go
With falt'ring steps of fear, and slow,
Knowing full well what we know-
That soon his bones will bleach the earth.

And whittled down has been our folk
In number, and in spirit too.
A pall hangs over old Silene;
Our womenfolk no longer preen;
No child should see what ours have seen,
Nor wake each morn to dread and rue.

Each week anew we play the game,
Take part in the unseemly draw,
To feed to that which hath no name
The one who draws the shortest straw
And send him hence alone to face
The baleful foe-thing of our race.
Who feeds on our flesh, alive and raw.

Like hallowed Hellas in years past,
We live a cruel democracy;
Here all are equals, all the same,
Not one exempt from this dread game
That we continue to our shame,
Not of honour but necessity.

The lowliest in this lost town
May draw the short and go to die,
Or yet the chief- that is, I-
May be found by th'identical fate
And march off to instatiate
The lusty creature's stomach sly.

And herein lies my greatest woe;
Of woes the worst, well nigh too great
For me. I lay yon on the ground
Starkly stricken, for fate had found
For me- that wretched, wily Fate!-
Apportioned for me, closed me round;
From me has torn like Hades' hound
What of all things on earth I know
And love the best- my daughter-
And grimly thence has made her go.

And so, O man, to thee I say-
For none may conquer me today!-
That Rome will from Silene withdraw
Until you draw the shortest straw
And go yourself down that grim way!'

Thursday, 1 November 2007

All Saints

Today is All Saints. This feast in particular makes me think of all the nameless blessed ones who lived and died in faithful obscurity, whose causes were never taken up by those who knew them. It puts me in mind of this passage from Lewis's The Great Divorce:

'All down one long aisle of the forest the undersides of the leafy branches had begun to tremble with dancing light: and on Earth I knew nothing so likely to produce this appearance as the reflected lights cast upward by moving water. A few moments later I realised my mistake. Some kind of procession was approaching us, and the light came from the persons who composed it.

First came bright Spirits, not the Spirits of men, who danced and scattered flowers- soundlessly falling, lightly drifting flowers, though by the standards of the ghost-world each petal would have weighed a hundred-weight and their fall would have been like the crashing of boulders. Then, on the left and right, at each side of the forest avenue, came youthful shapes, boys upon one hand and girls upon the other. If I could remember their singing and write down the notes, no man who read that score would ever grow sick or old. Between them went musicians, and after these a lady in whose honour all this was being done.

I cannot now remember whether she was naked or clothed. If she were naked, then it must have been the almost invisible penumbra of her courtesy and joy which produces in my memory the illusion of a great and shining train that followed her across the happy grass. If she were clothed, then the illusion of nakedness is doubtless due to the clarity with which her innermost spirit shone through the clothes. For clothes in that country are not a disguise: the spiritual body lives along each thread and turns them into living organs. A robe or a crown is there as much one of the wearer's features as a lip or an eye.

But I have forgotten. And only partly do I remember the unbearable beauty of her face.
"Is it?...Is it?" I whispered to my guide.
"Not at all," said he. "It's someone ye'll never have heard of. Her name on Earth was Sarah Smith and she lived at Golders Green."
"She seems to be...well, a person of particular importance?"
"Aye. She is one of the great ones. Ye have heard that fame in this country and fame on Earth are two different things."
"And who are these gigantic people...look! They're like emeralds...who are dancing and throwing flowers before her?"
"Haven't ye read your Milton? A thousand liveried angels lackey her."...

I looked at my Teacher in amazement.
"Yes," he said. "It is like when you throw a stone into a pool, and the concentric waves spread out further and further. Who knows where it will end? Redeemed humanity is still young, it has hardly come to its full strength. But already there is joy enough in the little finger of a great saint such as yonder lady to waken all the dead things of the universe into life."'

St George poem- Chapter 1- Part 6

"There is a cave not far from here,
A great wound in the ground,
Whose entrance opens into black-
If one goes down, he comes not back,
Nor is he ever found.

As one draws near a stench exudes
Of rotting flesh and bone;
The darkness there is palpable,
Of courage none is capable
When passing by alone.

From thence there came, not six months gone,
Out of the depths of earth
A beast, a monster, Silene's bane,
A living fear that hath no name
A creature from the deepest pit-
Some demon had begotten it-
A wyrm of woe-inducing lust
That crawls along and eats the dust,
The murderer of our mirth.

It fell upon our little town,
It terrorised our homes and streets,
It spewed forth flames and baleful fire,
More destructive than desire,
More enduring than love's heat.

The furnace in its belly flowed,
Its hot breath burned our huts to ash,
Cruel claws closed on our little ones
With hatred like the desert sun's,
As shameless as the slaveman's lash.

With teeth sharp as Egyptian scythes
On which our men were cruelly gored,
And eyes that pierce a soul with fear,
Like a snake's, a sickly gold they were,
More fearful than the deplorable word.

Their gaze was terror concentrate;
No man could stand before that stare.
So few could find the will to fight;
Cowards we were that grisly night,
Yet, spite of shame, we cowered there.

Like virgins in a city sacked,
Silene was ravished that bleak day;
All smoke and ash and blood of men
Did stain the ground of Silene when
At last the creature went away.