Wednesday, 5 November 2008

"Let not your heart be sad....."

A few thoughts on what has been a rather memorable week, particularly with the two great Feast days of 'All Saints' and 'All Souls', and on a more worldly level, the Presidential election in the USA. On 'All Souls' day, priests enjoy the special privilege of celebrating three Masses, and the faithful have many extra and special opportunities to gain indulgences for the benefit of those holy souls suffering in Purgatory, paying the debt for sins already forgiven in this life, but for which 'just' satisfaction has to be made.
I have been very fortunate in my life to have had the opportunity of singing in various choirs large and small, and to have taken part in concert performances of different memorable Requiem Masses. These include Mozart's 'Requiem', a truly magnificent and moving choral and orchestral work; Brahm's 'German Requiem', another grand work of great intensity and emotion; Verdi's 'Requiem' - which I didn't particularly enjoy, too 'loud' and operatic for me; Faure's 'Requiem', a gentle and beautiful composition; also on a similar theme but in slightly different vein, Elgar's 'Dream of Gerontius', based on a poem by Cardinal John Newman, in which he portrays the journey of a soul from the moment of death, through the fearful labyrinth of the underworld, arriving eventually at the Seat of Judgement; a work encompassing the full range of human emotions in both words and musical form; helplessness, terror, confusion, guilt, grief, sorrow, hope, and finally mercy, forgiveness and peace. The one prayer that is forever associated with the Mass for the Dead, has to be the 'Dies Irae' - 'Day of Wrath, Day of Mourning' - a most solemn plea for God's mercy and forgiveness, particularly expressive and moving when sung in Gregorian chant. It is appropriate to end these few brief thoughts, with a reminder of the poignancy of the 'Last Post', always played at 'Remembrance Day' services. I can 'physically' hear this in my mind as I type these words. Many would say that this is not a prayer, merely a piece of music made more dramatic by the occasion and emotions. But for me the very notes - clear and clarion, are as a trumpet blast straight to the throne of God!


We have all heard of the 'ships cat' but what about the 'ships dog'? Whether or not dogs of this ilk have existed in the past, I really do not know. However as Captain of 'SS Whitesmokeahoy', and a prayerful fighting member and supporter of the Pro Papa League and armada, I have decided to write a few words about our ship's dog. Yes we definitely have one, so let me introduce you to ... Hector! You may think that Hector is rather an unsuitable topic for this blog, which after all, concerns itself normally with rather more serious matters. However it does us good to smile, the more the better, after all the Saints were lighthearted and joyful even in the midst of extreme trials, and surely we too should try to emulate them. Now Hector has already been introduced to the internet world, through the 'Umblepie' blog in February this year. Should you wish to learn rather more about him, you will find a link to 'Umblepie' on this side-bar. Anyway Hector recently celebrated his 7th birthday, and it seemed to me that this is a good time to reveal and share in his - dare I say it, rather upmarket, desirable, and comfortable life-style.

Hector has his own elegant 2-seater settee, Victorian, re-upholstered at great expense 6 years ago - not with Hector in mind I hasten to add, and it fits him to a tee! He even has his own 'throw', with his name thereon. We are rather short on chairs so that when we have visitors Hector has to share his settee with one other! He is very clean so there is no problem, except that he does tend to collect sand from the beach in his coat, which naturally ends up on his settee. So it can be rather a sandy seat on occasion! His favourite visitors include Fr Michael Mary F.SS.R and Brother Nicodemus F.SS.R from Golgotha Monastery, Papa Stronsay, regular and very welcome visitors who make a great fuss of Hector and are especially generous at coffee and cake time.

As you will have seen from the February post in 'Umblepie', Hector particularly enjoys his daily run on the clean, sandy beaches of Stronsay. Here is a photo of Hector on the beach, on this occasion not on Stronsay but on Mainland, Orkney, with a red rubber ball in his mouth. As can be seen he is a medium/large dog with a thick woolly coat, and he weighs about 25 kilos. On Stronsay we have a choice of four sandy beaches, with the final destination dependent on the direction of the wind and the state of the tide. If it is high tide and the tide is fully in, two of the locations lose their sandy beach, so we have to go elsewhere. It is rare indeed that we are unable to use any of the beaches, perhaps due to 'hurricane' force winds or other extreme weather conditions,then Hector has to make do with a run in the field adjoining our house, when I suspect that he feels rather cheated!

This photograph shows Hector surveying the cows grazing in the field next door. He is a bit of a rascal and enjoys nothing more than to 'bounce' these innocent and friendly neighbours, causing minor confusion for about 5 seconds, after which they return in rather determined fashion to out-stare this cheeky little dog who has disturbed their peace and quiet. I have to admit that much as I love him, I think that Hector is a bit of a wimp, not that I blame him for a moment, for I'm sure that he only does this knowing that he is quite safe in his own garden, behind the fence! He has been known to try the same trick on a group of 4 bulls who share a field during some of the winter months. Fortunately the bulls are fairly docile at this time of the year, and apart from focusing four pairs of baleful eyes on Hector, virtually ignored him! Which made the whole exercise from Hector's point of view, rather a waste of time!
The next photograph shows Hector with his favourite squeaky toy - a soft furry duck! He really likes squeaky toys and has a collection of between 6 and 8 in various states of disrepair, permanently spread around the lounge carpet. He is really possessive of his toys, rather like a young child. To sum up, he is a lovely dog, gentle and good-natured, but with a streak of mischief. Thank you Hector for the fun you bring us, and of course for helping to keep us fit! You are hereby officially confirmed as 'ships dog' to SS Whitesmokeahoy! One final prayer, - 'thank you God, for giving us Hector'.

Continuing 'Thoughts from St Alphonsus' by Rev C McNeiry C.SS.R
'The maxims of the world are diametrically opposed to the maxims of Jesus Christ. What the world esteems, Jesus Christ has called folly. And what the world regards as folly, Jesus Christ has strongly recommended, such as crosses, pains and contempt.' (November 28th)


'Whoever would become a saint, must during this life resemble the lily among the thorns, which, however much it may be pricked by them, never ceases to be a lily; that is, it is always equally sweet and serene. The soul that loves God maintains an imperturble peace of heart.' (November 18th)

'Our Blessed Lady, Queen of Heaven and Earth, guide and protect our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVIth'


Confiteor said...


I have never read "Dream of Gerontius", although I am familiar with it; your post has inspired me to read it. Also "Dies Irae" -- must reading for the month of the Holy Souls.

Hector is a sweet ship's dog. Thank you for sharing the stories and photos. Happy Birthday, Hector!

If Fr. Michael Mary pays a visit soon, please tell him that Confiteor says hello.

God bless!

umblepie said...

Confiteor, Thanks for your comment. I will certainly give Fr Michael Mary your regards when he next visits. BC

Jane said...


Thanks for the pictures of Hector. There are actually 4 ship's cats on board PPB16 but they're very shy. I'll try to catch them on camera soon. Their names are Magie (Magic), Lily, Bruno and Bess.

In the meantime as a matter of URGENCY, please visit the Flagship. Confiteor is threatening to resign his commission. Please pray for him and leave your comment. Have alerted Prima, Brother David, Fiona and Mark and left a post on the Oasis in words and music, which I hope will encourage him to reconsider.

Thanks for your posts on St Alphonsus and for your encouraging words to me about the Oasis.

God bless,

In Christo pro Papa in saecula saeculorum AMEN

1RomanCatholic said...

I'm only new, are you living on a house boat? If so, how interesting. The beach Hector runs on and the grasslands with cows also are lovely and all seems a little 'heaven on earth' in terms of sight :)))

Enjoyed your ending quotes. How true. Funny how human nature runs from the pricks (no pun intended) instead of knowing they're going to be there if you are determined to be a lily. ;)

God bless you!

umblepie said...

Hello IRomanCatholic, Thanks for your comment. We live on Stronsay which is one of the North Isles in Orkney, UK. Orkney is situated north of Scotland, and consists of many islands bordered by the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. We have cool summers and mild winters, thanks to the influence of the Gulf Stream - which keeps us warmer than expected considering that we are approximately on the same latitude as Leningrad,USSR. Stronsay quite small about 8 miles long x 5 miles wide(max), with about 370 inhabitants including 60/70 children. Farming and some fishing main occupations, but there is daily ferry (sea) and plane, to Kirkwall, Mainland Orkney. We are very fortunate to have the Transalpine Redemptorists (F.SS.R) serving the Catholic community of Stronsay. Lots more information on various websites. Kind regards. BC & Hector.

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