Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Simple Poems for the Christmas Season





A Christmas Gift


A mother was watching, one Christmas night
Nursing her babe by the candle-light
And she lifted her eyes in the gathering gloom
For the Christ-child stood in the lowly room.
"What shall I give to thy child?", He said,
Softly caressing the sleeper's head.
"Nay",said the mother, "O Angel-guest
Give her whatever Thou deemest best.


"But what shall I give her?", He spoke again,
"Ask and thou shalt not ask in vain.
Shall I touch her brow that her eyes may shine
With beauty that men will call divine?
Shall I touch her lips that they may flow
With songs of the best that the world may know?"
"Nay", said the mother, "these will not stay,
Songs are forgotten, and hair turns grey".


"Then what shall I give her,O mother mild?
Ask what thou wilt for thy little child",
And the mother lifted her eyes above,
"Give her purity, truth and love".
And the Christ-Child turned to her,soft and mild
"Thou has chosen the best for thy little child.
Be not afraid, though life be sore,
I will be with her for evermore".


                                   Anon - from 'Parlour Poetry'-(This England).


         ***************************




Hide and Seek


Hide and seek, Hide and seek,
Seek, seek, children, seek!
    Jesus is hidden away:
He's hidden somewhere in Bethlehem,
But no-one knows where in Jerusalem.
    Look, look in every nook,
Ask that old Scribe who is reading his book,
Ask that old shepherd who leans on his crook,
    Search in the stable hay.


Hide and seek, peep, peep!
Little white lamb and old mother sheep,
    Have you seen Jesus, say?
He's hidden somewhere in Bethlehem,
But they can't tell where in Jerusalem.
    Where can He be-He's ever so wee?
They say He is born in David's town,
And we have come trooping over the down:
    Have Angels been this way?


Hide and seek, peer and poke,
He might be under St Joseph's cloak
    Or Mary's robe of blue,
Could we see Angels or could we find them,
We'd know we were near Him in Bethlehem.
    Where can He be, He's ever so wee?
Oh look, look, look, come this way'
There in a nook in a nest in the hay,
    I can see Him - can you?


                                 Sr.Andrew S.D.C.


    *********************************




This is not a Christmas poem, but it is about a child's love for her father, originally composed perhaps for the music-hall.   I cannot resist including it!
 

Give Me a Ticket to Heaven


Into a railway station crept a little child one night;
The last train was just leaving, and the bustle at its height.
The station-master standing there, looked down with wondering eyes
Upon this little maid - so frail in form, so small in size.
"Where is your father, little one? Are you alone? he cried.
With tearful eyes she look'd up in his and thus replied:


        CHORUS
        "Give me a ticket to heaven,
         That's where Dad's gone, they say,
         He'll be so lonely without me,
         Travelling all that way.
         Mother died when I was born, sir,
         And left Dad and me alone,
         So give me a ticket to heaven, please,
         Before the last train is gone."




"My Daddy worked upon the line, but when I went tonight
To take his tea, he lay there on a shutter - oh! so white.
Then to a great big building his mates carried him away;
'He's booked for Heaven, poor old Dick!" I heard one of them say.
A station this must be - I thought to find the train I'd wait;
But finding none I ran on here - I hope I'm not too late."


        
 CHORUS
        "Give me a ticket to heaven,
         That's where Dad's gone, they say,
         He'll be so lonely without me,
         Travelling all that way.
         Mother died when I was born ,sir,
         And left Dad and me alone,
         So give me a ticket to heaven, please,
         Before the last train is gone."




The station-master said, "Come, little one I'll see you right.
A ticket to your father you shall have this very night."
He took her to the hospital; they let her see her Dad.
Though injured, he had not been killed, and oh! her heart was glad.
Then turning to that kind friend who had brought her all the way,
She said, "If I lose Dad again, I'll come to you and say -


        
 CHORUS
        "Give me a ticket to heaven,
         That's where Dad's gone, they say,
         He'll be so lonely without me,
         Travelling all that way.
         Mother died when I was born ,sir,
         And left Dad and me alone,
         So give me a ticket to heaven, please,
         Before the last train is gone."


                                           Anon - from 'Parlour Poetry'-(This England).


        ***********************************




Finally thoughts for a New Year resolution!


God's Minute


I have only just a minute,
Only sixty seconds in it,
Forced upon me, can't refuse it,
Didn't seek it, didn't choose it,
But it's up to me to use it,
I must suffer if I lose it,
Give account if I abuse it,
Just a tiny little minute -
But eternity is in it.


                                From 'The Ransomer'1975.


    **********************************


St Alphonsus has something to say on the subject of time ........'Time is a treasure which is found only in this life; it is not found in the next, either in hell or in heaven.  My brother, how do you spend your time? Why do you always defer till tomorrow what you can do today? Remember that the time which is past is not yours; the future is not under your control; you have only the present for the performance of good works.'


Wishing you all a happy and peaceful Christmas and New Year. May God bless, and Our Lady guide and protect, our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.





                                  

Sunday, 29 November 2009

ALFRED NOYES - English Catholic Poet, 1880 - 1958.





The older I get the more I realise how very little I know, and how very, very much I don't know! Hence this Post.



It was only very recently that I was introduced to the poetry of Alfred Noyes. I feel obliged to confess shamefully that his work was quite unknown to me, but having now read some of his poetry I feel duty bound to make satisfaction for this dereliction on my part. What made matters  worse was that after casually mentioning to my wife the name of the poet and how enjoyable I had found this particular poem, she then treated me to a rendition of one of his poems which she had learnt at school more years ago than I dare mention, as though she had learnt it last week!  I hope that you enjoy the two very different poems below  - 'The Answer' and  'Daddy Fell into the Pond' - as much as I do.


The Answer
DO YE BELIEVE?  We never wrote
    For fools at ease to know
The doubt that grips us by the throat,
    The faith that lurks below;
But we have stood beside our dead,
    And in that hour of need,
One tear the Man of Sorrows shed
    Was more than any creed.


DO YE BELIEVE? - from age to age
    The little thinkers cry;
And rhymesters ape the puling sage
    In pride of artistry.
Did Joshua stay a sun that rolls
    Around a central earth? -
Our modern men have modern souls
    And formulate their mirth.


But, while they laugh, from shore to shore,
    From sea to moaning sea,
Eloi, Eloi, goes up once more
    Lama sabacthani!
The heavens are like a scroll unfurled,
    The writing flames above -
This is the King of all the world
    Upon His Cross of Love!


His members marred with wounds are we
    In whom the Spirit strives,
One Body of one Mystery,
    One Life in many lives:
Darkly as in a glass we see
    The mystic glories glow,
Nor shrink from God's Infinity
    Incarnate here below;


In flower and dust, in chaff and grain,
    He binds Himself and dies,
We live by His eternal pain,
    His hourly sacrifice:
The limits of our mortal life
    Are His: the whisper thrills
Under the sea's perpetual strife
    And through the sunburnt hills.


Seek; ye shall find each flower on earth
    A gateway to My heart,
Whose Life has brought each leaf to birth:
    The whole is in the part!
So to My sufferers have ye given
    What help or hope may be,
Oh then, through earth, through hell, through heaven,
    Ye did it unto Me!


Darkly, as in a glass, our sight
    Still gropes through Time and Space:
We cannot see the Light of Light
    With angels, face to face;
Only the tale His martyrs tell
    Around the dark earth rings -
He died and He went down to hell
    And lives - the King of Kings!


DO YE BELIEVE? On every side
    Great hints of Him go by:
Souls that are hourly crucified
    On some new Calvary!
Oh, tortured faces, white and meek,
    Half seen amidst the crowd,
Grey suffering lips that never speak,
    The Glory in the Cloud!


DO YE BELIEVE? The straws that dance
    Far down the dusty road
Mean little to the careless glance
    By careless eyes bestowed,
Till full into your face the wind
    Smites, and the laugh is dumb;
And, from the rending heavens behind
    Christ answers - Lo, I come. 
                                                     Alfred Noyes
        
Daddy Fell into the Pond
    Everyone grumbled. The sky was grey.
We had nothing to do and nothing to say.
We were nearing the end of a dismal day,
And then there seemed to be nothing beyond,
Then
Daddy fell into the pond!


And everyone's face grew merry and bright,
And Timothy danced for sheer delight.
"Give me the camera, quick, oh quick!
He's crawling out of the duckweed!" Click!


Then the gardener suddenly slapped his knee,
And doubled up, shaking silently,
And the ducks all quacked as if they were daft,
And it sounded as if the old drake laughed.
Oh, there wasn't a thing that didn't respond
When
Daddy Fell into the pond!
                                           Alfred Noyes




•    Alfred Noyes was an English poet born in Wolverhampton in 1880, died Isle of Wight 1958.. He taught English Literature at Princeton University, USA, from 1914 to 1923. His first wife died in 1926 and he subsequently married a widow, Mary Angela Mayne Weld-Blundell, originally married into the recusant Catholic Weld-Blundell family, settling at Lisle Combe, nr Ventnor, Isle of Wight.  Alfred Noyes was a prolific poet and writer, publishing his first collection of poems, The Loom Years, at aged 21. From 1903 to 1908 he published five additional volumes of poetry including The Forest of Wild Thyme and The Flower of Old Japan and Other Poems. In 1918 he followed with a short story collection Walking Shadows, SeaTales and Others which included the tale The Lusitania Waits, a ghost revenge tale based on the sinking of the Lusitania by a German submarine in 1915 – although the story hinges on a misconception that the submarine crew had been awarded the Goetz medal for sinking the ship. In 1924 Noyes published another collection, The Hidden Player, and at the British Empire Exhibition, the same year, he wrote a series of poems set to music by Edward Elgar and known as Pageant of Empire.  Alfred Noyes converted to Roman Catholicism in/about the late 1920s, and wrote about his conversion in The Unknown God (1934). In  his later years he suffered from increasing blindness, and in 1953 he published his autobiography Two Worlds for Memory. In all he wrote about sixty books including poetry, novels, and short story collections. He died aged 77 years and is buried at Freshwater, Isle of Wight.  (Wikipedia)




       

Sunday, 8 November 2009

War and Peace...and 'Our Lady of Fatima'

Today is Remembrance Sunday when we remember in our prayers all those who gave their lives for our Country, not only in the two World Wars of the 20th century, but also in the unending sequence of wars throughout the world continuing even to the present day. The images of war conjure up visions of death and suffering often too terrible to contemplate.


"The dug-outs have been nearly all blown in, the wire entanglements are a wreck, and in among the chaos of twisted iron and splintered timber and shapeless earth are the fleshless, blackened bones of simple men who poured out their red, sweet wine of youth unknowing, for nothing more tangible than Honour or their Country's Glory or another's Lust of Power. Let him who thinks War is a glorious, golden thing, who loves to roll forth stirring words of exhortation, invoking Honour and Praise and Valour and Love of Country with as thoughtless and fervid a faith as inspired the priests of Baal to call on their own slumbering deity, let him but look at a little pile of sodden grey rags that cover half a skull and a shin-bone and what might have been Its ribs, or at this skeleton lying on its side, resting half crouching as it fell, perfect but that it is headless, and with the tattered clothing still draped round it; and let him realise how grand and glorious a thing it is to have distilled all Youth and Joy and Life into a foetid heap of hideous putrescence! Who is there who has known and seen who can say that Victory is worth the death of even one of these?"   -   written in a letter from Roland Leighton serving on the Western Front, to his Sweetheart -Vera Brittain. (Roland Leighton was killed in action in December 1915). Whilst serving in France, he became a  Roman Catholic, and having been gravely wounded and immediately prior to his death, he received the Sacrament of  Extreme Unction (the Sacrament for the Dying) from the Jesuit Catholic Chaplain. Although Vera Brittain was not a Catholic, in her autobiography  'Testament of Youth'  (Victor Gollanz 1933 and Virago Press 1978), she refers to Robert Hugh Benson's Prayer Book 'Vexilla Regis', and the beautiful  'Prayer after a Crushing Bereavement',  to which she frequently had recourse:-
           " And lastly to me who am left to mourn his departure, grant that I may not sorrow as one without hope for my beloved who sleeps in Thee;  but that, always remembering his courage, and the love that united us on earth, I may begin again with new courage to serve Thee more fervently who art the only source of true love and true fortitude;  that, when I have passed a few more days in this valley of tears and in this shadow of death, supported by Thy rod and staff, I may see him again, face to face, in those pastures and amongst those waters of comfort where, I trust, he already walks with Thee. Oh Shepherd of the Sheep, have pity upon this darkened soul of mine."
       Roland Leighton was a poet, although his poems were few. He was the brother of Clare Leighton who became famous in later years as an artist and wood engraver. It would seem from Vera Brittain's book, that although publicly  expressing a totally positive attitude towards his own survival, privately he had a prescience of  death. This may have prompted him to write the following poem  found among his papers after his death. This is truly a love poem to his sweetheart;  generous, unselfish and kind in sentiment, but permeated by  an unspoken acceptance of the inevitability of his own early death:-

'HEDAUVILLE' -  November 1915.
        
                    The sunshine on the long white road
                    That ribboned down the hill,
                    The velvet clematis that clung
                    Around your window-sill,
                    Are waiting for you still.


                    Again the shadowed pool shall break
                    In dimples round your feet,
                    And when the thrush sings in your wood,
                    Unknowingly you may meet
                    Another stranger, Sweet.


                    And if he is not quite so old
                    As the boy you used to know,
                    And less proud, too, and worthier,
                    You may not let him go -----
                    (And daisies are truer than passion-flowers)
                    It will be better so.
                                                                  Roland Leighton.
                   

                                      ***********************************

 Christians believe that true peace can only come to the world through practical obedience to God's laws and His Commandments, and the acknowledgement by all nations,  governments and powers, of the universal  Kingship of Christ.. The following is a brief account of the apparition of Our Lady at Fatima, Portugal, in the year 1917, with Her instructions to three young peasant children as to the  means whereby peace in the world could be attained, and the validation of her appearance and words by an inexplicable and terrifying 'spinning and dancing' of the sun witnessed by more than 70,000 people, some many miles away.


~ The Miracle Of Fatima ~
On May 13, 1917,  near the tiny village of Fatima, Portugal, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, appeared to three young peasant children: Francisco, Jacinta, and Lucia; ages 10, 9 and 7. As was the custom, these youngsters were tending their family’s sheep when “a Lady all in white, more brilliant than the sun… indescribably beautiful,” standing above a bush, appeared to the youngsters. From May through to October 1917, the Lady appeared and spoke to the children on the 13th day of each month.


News of these apparitions began to spread throughout the region. The children recounted that the Virgin told them that God had sent her with a message for every man, woman, and child living in the century. She promised that God would grant peace to the entire world if Her requests for prayer, reparation and consecration were heard and obeyed. While many people believed the children had actually seen the Virgin, many others discounted the children’s story, subjecting them to much derision and ridicule. When it became known the Lady would visit the children for the last time on October 13, 1917, and had promised a sign that would convince the world she had appeared, many pilgrims made plans to attend.


Though the region had been subjected to three days of torrential downpour, nearly 70,000 people journeyed through the heavy rain and mud to the place of the previous apparitions to witness the predicted miracle. Many were scornful unbelievers whose sole intent was to discredit the children’s stories.


Suddenly the “clouds separated…and the sun appeared between them in the clear blue, like a disk of white fire.” The people could look at the sun without blinking and while they gazed upward, the huge ball began to “dance”. The huge fireball whirled rapidly with dizzy and sickening speed, flinging out all sorts of brilliant colors that reflected on the faces of the crowds. The fiery ball continued to gyrate in this manner three times, then seemed to tremble and shudder, and plunge in a mighty zigzag course toward the earth. The crowd was terrified, fearing this was the end of the world.


However, the sun reversed course and, retracing its zigzagging course, returned to its normal place in the heavens. All of this transpired in approximately ten minutes. After realizing they were not doomed, the crowd began ecstatically laughing, crying, shouting and weeping. Many discovered their previously drenched clothing to be perfectly dry.


After this “miracle,” the children were grilled many, many times, about what they had seen and been told. Their story never changed. The heart of Our Lady’s message to the world is contained in what has become known as the “Secret,” which she confided to the children in July 1917. The “Secret” actually consists of three parts. The first part of the “Secret” was a frightening vision of hell, “where the souls of poor sinners go,” and contained an urgent plea from Our Lady for acts of prayer and sacrifice to save souls, with particular emphasis on praying of the rosary and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.


The second part of the “Secret” specifically prophesied the outbreak of World War II and contained the prediction of the immense damage that Russia would do to humanity by abandoning the Christian faith and embracing Communists’ totalitarianism.


The third part was not revealed until 2000, and in fact there are grounds for suspecting that only a section of the third secret was revealed with part still remaining secret. That section revealed coincided with the beatification of Francisco and Jacinta, and suggested that the vision supported and affirmed the immense suffering endured by witnesses of the faith in the last century of the second millennium. Sister Lucia, the surviving member of the Fatima trio, confirmed that in the vision, “the Bishop clothed in white,” who prays for all the faithful, is the Pope. As he makes his way with great difficulty towards the Cross amid the corpses of those who were martyred (bishops, priests, men and women religious and many lay people), he too falls to the ground, apparently dead, under a hail of gunfire. It is possible that the vision predicted the 1981 attack on Pope John Paul II’s life. The Pope has always credited the Virgin for his survival. Or it may be a portrayal of the Church’s continued struggle against secularism and anti-Christian movements and a continuing call to prayer, sacrifice and devotion to Our Lady of Fatima.


(With thanks to http://www.freewebs.com/angel19_45/fatima.htm) - (phrase emphasised in italics not in original article)


Our Lady, Queen of Peace, pray for us and guide and protect our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.

St Alphonsus, pray for us.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Things are not always what they seem ....

'The Verba Seniorum, the Sayings of the Fathers, are the kernel of the desert tradition. To come to them through Jerome, Rufinus, Palladius, Cassian, is like coming to the Gospels through the Epistles, to the oral as distinct from the literary tradition. ..... the source is one, the desert of Scete, to which one journeyed only by the signs and courses of the stars:  and the voices are for the most part, the voices of men who lived there between the middle of the fourth and the middle of the fifth century.....'    'The Desert Fathers' translated by Helen Waddell, published by Constable (London) 1936"



Book X  -   Of  Discretion
'At one time there came from the city of Rome a monk that had had a great place in the palace, and he dwelt in Scete near by the church and he had with him one servant that ministered unto him.  And the priest of the church, seeing his infirmity and knowing that he was a man delicately nurtured, used to send him such things as the Lord gave him or were brought into the church.  And when he had spent twenty-five years in Scete, he became a man of contemplation, of prophetic spirit and notable.  And one of the great Egyptian monks, hearing of his fame, came to see him, hoping to find a more austere discipline with him. And when he had come in he greeted him: and they prayed, and sat down.  But the Egyptian, seeing him softly clad, and a bed of reeds and a skin spread under him and a little head-rest under his head, and his feet clean with sandals on them, was inwardly scandalised, because in that place it was not the custom so to live, but rather in stern abstinence.  But the old Roman, having discernment and vision, perceived that the Egyptian was scandalised within himself, and said to his servant, "Make us good cheer today, for the sake of this Father who hath come."  And he cooked a few vegetables that he had, and they rose up at the fitting time and did eat:  he had also a little wine, by reason of his infirmity, and they drank it.  And when evening was come, they said the twelve psalms, and slept:  and in like fashion during the night.  And rising in the morning the Egyptian said, "Pray for me."  And he went away not edified.
           And when he had gone a little way, the old Roman, desiring to heal his mind, sent after him and called him back.  And when he had come, he again welcomed him joyfully, and questioned him, saying, "Of what province art thou?" And he answered, "I am an Egyptian." And he said to him, "Of what city?" And he answered, "I am of no city at all, nor have I ever dwelt in any city." And he said to him, "Before thou wert a monk, what didst thou do in the place where thou didst dwell?" And he answered, "I was a herd in the fields." And he said to him, "Where didst thou sleep?" And he answered, "In the field." And he said, "Hadst thou any coverlet?" And he answered, "What should I do with bedding,  sleeping in the fields?" And he said, "How didst thou sleep?" And he answered, "On the bare ground." And he said, "What didst thou eat in the field, and what kind of wine didst thou drink?" And he answered, "I ate dry bread, and any sort of salt fish if I could come by it, and I drank water." And the old man said, "It was hard toil." And he said, "Was there a bath on the estate where thou couldst wash thyself?" And he said, "Nay, but I used to wash in the river, when I wished to." And when the old man had drawn all this from his replies and understood the manner of his former life and his toil, being wishful to profit him he told him of his own past life when he was in the world, saying, "I, this poor man that you see, am of that great city, Rome, and held the highest place in the palace, beside the Emperor." And when the Egyptian heard him begin to speak, he was struck with compunction, and listened eagerly to hear what he would say.  And he went on: "So then, I left Rome and came into this solitude." And again he said, "I,  whom you see, had great houses and much wealth, and despising them I came to this small cell." And again he said, "I, whom you see, had beds decked with gold and coverlets most precious: and for these God hath given me this mattress of papyrus and this skin. And my garments were costly beyond price, and for them I use these poor rags." Again he said, "In the keeping of my table, much gold was expended: and for this He gives me these few herbs and a small cup of wine. Many were the slaves who served me, and for these lo! God had put compassion in this one man's heart, to tend me.  For a bath I pour a little water on my feet, and I wear sandals because of my infirmity.  And again for the pipe and lyre and other kinds of music wherein I delighted at my feasts, I say to myself  twelve psalms by day, and twelve by night.  But for those sins of mine that I then sinned, I offer now in quiet this poor and useless service unto God.  Wherefore consider, Father, and be not scandalised because of my infirmity."  And the Egyptian, hearing these things and turning upon himself, said, "Sorrow upon me, that I out of much tribulation and heavy toil, did rather come to rest and refreshing in the monastic life, and what I had not, I now have: but thou from great worldly delight art come of thine will into tribulation, and from high glory and riches art come into humility and poverty." And he went away mightily profited, and became his friend, and would often come to him to learn of him: for he was a man of discerning, and filled with the fragrance of the Holy Ghost.


From' The Desert Fathers' translated by Helen Waddell, published by Constable (London) 1936

          *****************************************************************


Thoughts from St Alphonsus for every day of the year' compiled by Rev C McNeiry C.SS.R


'When devotion towards Mary begins in a soul, it produces the same effect that the birth of this most holy Virgin produced in the world.  It puts an end to the night of sin, and leads the soul into the path of virtue.'    (October 17th)



May God bless, and Our Lady guide and protect, our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Swine Flu, the Conspiracy Theory

Since the beginning of the year there has been wide publicity about the apparent threat posed to the human race by the 'swine flu' virus. Sensational and lurid newspaper headlines inform us of the latest statistics of deaths from swine flu, reiterated 'ad nauseum' in the media generally. We have had countless statements from Government authorities and medical 'experts', hospitals have been virtually placed on full alert in anticipation of an expected 'pandemic', schools have been warned by the Health Authority of their responsibilities towards the children in their care, sufficient amounts of preventative drugs have been manufactured and purchased at presumably great cost by health agencies worldwide, not to mention the extravagant use of face-masks and the like. Recently there has been growing evidence that most of the deaths allegedly caused by swine-flu, were in fact due to other quite separate and distinct medical conditions. It now appears that the hype surrounding the effects of this virus, has been totally disproportionate to the reality, which is that apparently the effects are less severe than the common flu virus which most of us are subject to every year. Of course there will be some people who sadly will die as a result of developing flu of whatever strain, but statistically this will constitute a tiny percentage, which does not justify the national and international paranoia which we have witnessed, and which to my perhaps cynical mind, appears to have been a calculated exercise by persons unknown, in controlling the minds and actions of millions of people, with the added bonus of fat financial profits for certain pharmaceutical companies. In our modern world 'conspiracy theories' abound, and I have to admit that I am rapidly joining the club. The 'media' is the weapon controlled and utilised by the 'conspirators', for after all, everybody reads the newspapers, watches television, listens to the radio, has access to the internet, and it demands no more than clever 'marketing' techniques to influence people in the desired way. Such influence and 'control' is brought to bear on every aspect of the human condition. Health issues, eg. population control, contraception, promotion of abortion, euthanasia, disease, etc. Economic and environmental issues, eg. influencing/controlling/directing the financial markets on a worldwide basis, viz. the recent global monetary crisis; multi-national companies, climate control, energy resources, etc. Education and morality- based on a combination of humanist and pagan philosophy; the attempted dumbing-down and obliteration of Christianity in general and the Catholic Church in particular, dismissing all that the Church stands for and has taught since the time of Christ, preferring instead to promote a one-world humanist religion where there is no recognisable Christ, no true Church, just a cosy set of rules and code of behaviour selected by certain men and presided over by Satan. This brief analysis is undoubtedly open to criticism and almost certainly over-simplistic, however before shooting me down in flames please spare a very few minutes to read the following post in 'Les Femmes-the Truth' - "Tuesday, September 8, 2009.
What's Worse? Swine Flu or the Swine Flu Vaccine?"
I have only recently come across this site and strongly recommend it. You will find a direct link on my sidebar (thank you Mary Ann Kreitzer). This lady has numerous posts almost daily, so be prepared to turn the pages back to 8th September. This article is a revelation and confirms my worst suspicions.
(quote - "Debate continues over the possibility that swine flu is a genetically engineered virus....")

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'Pratum Spirituale' - by John Moschus - (translated from the Greek by Ambrose of Camaldoli)

There was a certain old man living in the monastery of the abbot Eustorgius, John by name, whom the holy Elias, archbishop of Jerusalem, would have set over the monastery. But he would not consent, saying, "It is my will to go to Mount Sinai to pray there." The archbishop would have urged him to be made abbot first and then to go where he willed. But when the old man would not agree, he was suffered to leave, promising that when he returned he would take on himself the task of ruling. So after taking leave of the archbishop, he hastened to take the road that he might come to Mount Sinai, and with him he took his disciple. He had forded the Jordan and gone hardly a stone's throw further, when he felt a stiffness coming upon him, and a little while after he was seized by fever. And when the heat of the fever so mounted in him that he could not walk, they found a little cave, and went into it to rest. But since the fever so weakened him that he could not move, in that cave they remained for three days. Then the old man in his sleep saw one standing by him and saying, "Tell me, old man, whither wouldst thou go?" He answered, "To Mount Sinai." he said, "Do not, pray thee, go hence." And when he could not persuade the old man, he went away. But the fever besieged the old man closer.
Again the night following, the same man in the same garment stood beside the old man, and said, "Why, old man, wilt thou be made to suffer? Hear me and go not hence." The old man said, "Who art thou?" And he that had appeared to him said, " I am John the Baptist and for this cause I bid thee go no further: for this low cave is greater than Mount Sinai. For here did our Lord Jesus Christ, when He came to visit us, many a time enter in. Promise me therefore that thou wilt make thy dwelling here and I shall speedily give thee back thy health."
And the old man, hearing this, gladly promised that he would abide in the same cave. And straightway he was made whole, and there did abide for the rest of his days. And he made the cave a church, and gathered brethren together. The place is called Sapsas. Beside it on the left is the brook Kerith, to which Elias was sent in the time of the drought, from the other side of the Jordan.'
(John Moschus was a monk from the monastery of Theodosius, in the solitude near Jerusalem. Around the year AD 602 he set out on a pilgrimage through Egypt, and finally to Rome, where he died. He was a 'romantic' and called his stories of the Fathers 'the water-meadow', or 'green pastures', dedicating it to his friend Sophronius the Scholar).

From 'The Desert Fathers' translated from the Latin by Helen Waddell
Published by Constable, London, 1936.

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'Thoughts from St Alphonsus for every day in the year' - compiled by Rev C McNeiry C.SS.R

'It is better and safer to act through a motive of doing the will of God, than with the intention of promoting His glory, because we shall thus escape all the delusions of self-love' (September 16th)

Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, pray for us, and guide and protect our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

'Thank You Lord, for all our Blessings'

The average 'summer' in Orkney tends to be rather short, perhaps three or four months at best. This contrasts with Devon where we lived previously, where we could expect four to five months of 'summer' weather. When you consider that Stronsay is some 800 miles further north, perhaps this difference is not so surprising. This year has been one of the best summers since our arrival six years ago. From May onwards the weather has been generally sunny, initially rather cool but warming-up considerably in June, and lasting well into August with long, calm spells of warm, dry weather. As ‘parishioners’ of Our Lady’s chapel, Stronsay, served by the F.SS.R priests and brothers from Golgotha monastery, Papa Stronsay, it has been quite an eventful few months, for like it or not, and I must emphasise that we do like it, we become involved in one way or another, with various activities and events of the monastery. This summer, Bishop Peter Moran, Bishop of Aberdeen, stayed for a second time at Golgotha monastery where he met the five F.SS.R seminarians home on summer sabbatical from the F.SS.P seminary in Nebraska, USA. More recently Mgr McDonald and Fr Livingstone, from Buchie, Scotland, also stayed at the monastery for two or three days. This included the feast-day of the ‘Assumption of Our Lady’ on 15th August, when we had a sung traditional High Mass in Our Lady’s chapel, Stronsay, attended by the F.SS.R community and by Mgr McDonald and Fr.Livingstone. In the evening the monks had their annual bonfire celebrations on Papa Stronsay to which the people of Stronsay were invited. Something like fifty people attended, including the monks, which necessitated conveyance on the large boat ‘St Alphonsus’ to accommodate the numbers. The weather was cool and showery, but the huge bonfire, generous buffet, and warm hospitality more than compensated – definitely an evening to be remembered! During the summer we have been privileged to take part in a public procession of the Blessed Sacrament led by Fr’s Michael and Anthony F.SS.R, and the brothers, starting from Our Lady’s chapel and finishing at the old lifeboat station, a distance of about three-quarters of a mile. This may not seem far, but on that particular day the weather turned nasty, and it was a constant battle against the elements, particularly for Fr Michael who was carrying the monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament therein, and for the brothers carrying the associated canopy, which continually threatened to take-off in the strong wind. The same group held another ‘devotional’ walk earlier in the summer, in honour of Our Lady and equipped with a large ‘Marian’ banner. The walk started at the southern end of Stronsay and finished at the old lifeboat station, a distance of about five miles. The weather was clement, in fact it was too clement for it must have been one of the hottest days this summer! I feel that many blessings were obtained and many pounds (in weight) were lost, and I am bound to confess that I could not have done it! There have been various visitors to Stronsay, including Fr Michael’s parents, whom it was a great pleasure to meet. Most visitors stay at St Cormac’s, the monastic guest-house on Stronsay, with very comfortable accommodation and self-catering arrangements, and about 8 minutes walk from Our Lady’s chapel. We have daily Mass in the chapel, always the traditional Latin Mass, as is the case at Golgotha monastery. Both Bishop Moran and Mgr McDonald celebrated Mass in this rite during their stay. We regularly meet the brothers on Stronsay, either at Mass or on their travels, or when they are working on the ‘Catholic’ or other of their many tasks. It is always very rewarding to meet and talk with the seminarians during their holiday, and please God, two of them look forward to their ordination to the priesthood in a year or so. One of the seminarians met with an unfortunate accident a week or two ago, when whilst working with one of the two horses kept on Papa Stronsay, he slipped and fell to the ground, the horse stepped back and trod on his ankle breaking it in two places. He was airlifted by helicopter (air-ambulance) to Kirkwall where he received treatment at the Balfour hospital, and his leg was set in plaster. He was allowed home after only two days, and this week the plaster was removed. I think the process was expedited as brother is due to return to seminary next week. Anyway he seems cheerful – as always I have to say, and all seems to be on the mend. For the monks, continually travelling between Papa Stronsay and Stronsay, must sometimes surely be, in common parlance, a ‘pain in the neck’. Certainly they would never admit this, but particularly when the weather is unsettled, with strong winds and fast currents, the crossing can be quite challenging - (admittedly I say this as a mere land-lubber!). Undoubtedly they have the special protection of Our Blessed Lady, the Saints, and their Guardian Angel, but they also have great fortitude and trust in God. Quite recently the engine died on one of the smaller boats, it was about quarter mile from the Stronsay quay, and the current was carrying it away towards some nearby rocks. The anchor would not hold the boat, so the four or five monks on board plus a civilian worker, had a few anxious and, no doubt, prayerful minutes before managing to re-start the engine and happily reach dry land! Such incidents are probably commonplace and no doubt taken in their stride by the monks, God bless them. We have recently had, new (to us) altar- rails fitted in Our Lady’s chapel. Apparently these came from a convent or similar establishment in Belgium or Holland, and comprise large dark, solid oak panels, carved with different devotional symbols i.e, Lamb of God, Divine Pelican, Wheat and Grapes, etc, etc. joined side-by-side and surmounted by a dark oak Communion ‘rail’, with gates of similar design joining the Epistle and Gospel side altar- rails. I think it probably dates to late 19th early 20th century, and it certainly is very beautiful. We have so much to thank God for, and indeed to thank Fr Michael and the F.SS.R community for. I have only touched on a few things that come to mind, and I have no doubt that there are countless other events and incidents that are not included here. Most of the events mentioned have been discussed in various posts of the ‘Transalpine Redemptorists’ for which a link can be found in my sidebar. These include many excellent photographs.

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‘The Sayings of the Fathers’
‘A certain brother while he was in the community was restless and frequently moved to wrath. And he said within himself, “I shall go and live in some place in solitude: and when I have no one to speak to or to hear, I shall be at peace and this passion of anger will be stilled.” So he went forth and lived by himself in a cave. One day he filled a jug for himself with water and set it on the ground, but it happened that it suddenly overturned. He filled it a second time, and again it overturned: and he filled it a third time and set it down, and it overturned again. And in a rage he caught up the jug and broke it. Then when he had come to himself, he thought how he had been tricked by the spirit of anger and said, “Behold, here am I alone, and nevertheless he hath conquered me. I shall return to the community, for in all places there is need for struggle and for patience and above all for the help of God.” And he arose and returned to his place.’
‘The Desert Fathers’ by Helen Waddell’
Published by Constable & Co.London. 1936



'Thoughts from St Alphonsus for every day in the Year' by Rev C McNeiry C.SS.R

'God wills us to be saved, but for our greater good, He wills us to be saved as conquerers. We have to live in continual warfare; we must fight and conquer. "The powers of hell are mighty," says St Bernard, "but prayer is stronger than all the devils." (August 22nd)

'Our Lady of Walsingham, convert our country. Guide and protect our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI'

Monday, 20 July 2009

'The Solemnity of The Most Holy Redeemer', and 'Westminster Abbey' by John Betjeman

Yesterday (Sunday) was the feast of ‘The Solemnity of The Most Holy Redeemer’, the Titular feast day of the ‘Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer’ (F.SS.R).

As Fr Anthony F.SS.R is away at present with several of the Brothers, daily Mass for the Community is celebrated by Fr Michael Mary F.SS.R at 'Our Lady’s Chapel', Stronsay. We had a sung Mass yesterday morning, beautifully rendered by the Brothers, in which Fr Michael preached an excellent sermon emphasising that special role of the Redemptorists to bring to souls a real awareness of eternity, with the realisation that each and every one must make a choice for good or evil, for eternal salvation or damnation.
His sermon reminded me of Christ’s words concerning the way to heaven, ‘Enter ye by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad the way that leadeth to destruction, and many are they that enter thereby. But narrow is the gate and close the way that leadeth to life, and few are they that find it.’(Mathew 7:13)
In his sermon Fr Michael used the analogy of the famous French tight-rope walker, Charles Blondin, who in 1859 crossed the Niagara Falls on a tight-rope, the first of seventeen crossings in all, on one occasion even stopping at one point to cook and eat a meal. Such achievements required a total focus of mind and body on the job in hand, which if found wanting would have resulted in certain death. Fr Michael also mentioned the experience of St Francis of Assissi, who as a young man and before consecrating his life to God, went into the mountains to pray and had a vision of his soul as a tiny bird, fluttering between the light of Heaven above and the fires of Hell below, the way of God or the way of the world. Fr Michael also reminded us of the words of St Thomas More to his wife Alice, when she visited him in prison shortly before his execution. Alice begged her husband to agree to the King’s demands, suggesting among other enticements, 'another possible twenty years of life', to which he replied ‘Dear Alice, what is twenty years compared with eternity? Indeed what is twenty thousand years?’
Fr Michael’s sermon, with its emphasis on the Redemptorist mission, was particularly directed to the F.SS.R Brothers, especially the seminarians currently on summer vacation, but it also had a certain resonance for me.
As I get older it has become ever more clear to me that no-one can enter Heaven by chance, it is only possible by the Grace of God and by living our life in accordance with God's Laws and those of His Church. It is not possible to be half-hearted or luke-warm in our choice, and to stay the course. We cannot resist the temptations of the devil, the world, and the flesh, without God’s help. For this we must pray and avail ourselves of the grace available through attendance at Holy Mass, receiving Holy Communion, and regular Confession. Of course we will fall far short of holiness, but we must keep trying and not allow ourselves to be deluded by the illusory delights of the ‘wide gates’ and the ‘broad path’ which lead to eternal misery.
You may think it rather late in the day for me to be thinking like this, that I should have been aware of this reality years ago, and you are surely right. My excuse if it can so be called, is that with advancing years my thoughts turn increasingly to eternity. It is true that as a younger man, with a family and a job, time is at a premium, and I believe that Our Lord makes allowance for human frailty when we spend less time on our spiritual life than perhaps we could. In later life with reduced demands on our time, we have a real opportunity to put our priorities into perspective. We only have one life, there is no second chance, and after this the Judgement, with Heaven or Hell for ever. ‘God made us for Himself, and we will never be truly happy until we are with Him.’ From Christ's words it is clear that we will never find the narrow gate leading to Heaven, unless we deliberately seek it. If we do not focus our minds on this objective and actively aspire to it, and I address this to myself, we will not find it, and inevitably we will find that our comfortable stroll along that 'broad path' will lead us to Hell.


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I am rather fond of the poetry of John Betjeman, and quite by chance I have very recently been reading a poem of his entitled 'Westminster Abbey'. Much of Betjeman's work incorporates a gentle, tongue-in-cheek humour, often satirical but rarely cruel. Betjeman himself was of 'High Church' Anglo-Catholic disposition, and this poem reflects his opinion of the shallow spirituality of so many, even those who 'pray' in the grandeur of Westminster Abbey. Please remember that this poem was written nearly 70 years ago at the beginning of World War Two, the horrors of which undoubtedly coloured Betjeman's views at that time, as it did all those who lived through those years. In 'Westminster Abbey' is there not some affinity between the self-centred 'spirituality' suggested therein, and that all too evident on the 'broad path' to perdition?

In Westminster Abbey

Let me take this other glove off
As the
vox humana swells
And the beauteous fields of Eden
Bask beneath the Abbey bells
Here, where England's statesmen lie,
Listen to a lady's cry.

Gracious Lord, oh bomb the Germans,
Spare their women for Thy sake,
And if that is not too easy
We will pardon Thy mistake
But gracious Lord, whate'er shall be,
Don't let anyone bomb me.

Keep our Empire undismembered
Guide our Forces by Thy Hand,
Gallant blacks from far Jamaica,
Honduras and Togoland;
Protect them Lord in all their fights,
And even more, protect the whites.

Think of what our Nation stands for,
Books from Boots' and country lanes,
Free speech, free passes, class distinction,
Democracy and proper drains.
Lord, put beneath Thy special care
One-eighty-nine Cadogan Square.

Although dear Lord, I am a sinner,
I have done no major crime;
Now I'll come to Evening Service
Whensoever I have the time.
So, Lord, reserve for me a crown,
And do not let my shares go down.

I will labour for Thy kingdom,
Help our lads to win the war,
Send white feathers to the cowards
Join the Women's Army Corps.
Then wash the Steps around Thy Throne
In the Eternal Safety Zone.

Now I feel a little better,
What a treat to hear Thy Word,
Where the bones of leading statesmen,
Have so often been interr'd.
And now, dear Lord, I cannot wait
Because I have a luncheon date.

From 'Old lights for new Chancels' (1940) by John Betjeman.
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From 'Thoughts from St Alphonsus' edited by Rev C McNeiry C.SS.R


'The judgement sat and the books were opened.

There will be two books, the Gospel and the conscience. In the Gospel will be read what the accused should have done, and in his conscience what he has done. In the balance of Divine Justice, not riches, nor dignities, nor nobility, but works alone will have weight" (July 19th)

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Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, pray for our Church, and guide and protect our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI

enry VIIIH Of courseO

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

The Desert Fathers - the Meeting of Blessed Antony with Blessed Paul

(With acknowledgement to 'The Desert Fathers' translated by Helen Waddell. Published 1936 by Constable, London.)

‘For a hundred and thirteen years the Blessed Paul lived the life of heaven upon earth, while in another part of the desert Anthony abode, an old man of ninety years. And as Anthony himself would tell, there came suddenly into his mind the thought that no better monk than he had his dwelling in the desert. But as he lay quiet that night it was revealed to him that there was, deep in the desert, another better by far than he, and that he must make haste to visit him. And straightaway as day was breaking, the venerable old man set out, supporting his feeble limbs on his staff, to go he knew not whither. And now came burning noon, the scorching sun overhead, yet would he not flinch from the journey begun, saying, “I believe in my God that He will shew me His servant as He said.”
On the third day of his journey, after seeking directions from an hippocentaur (part man, part horse) and a Faun (dwarfish figure, with joined nostrils and horns, with the lower end of its body ending in goat’s feet), and led by a wolf into the recesses of a deep cave, he arrived at the cell of Blessed Paul. At first Paul refused to allow Antony into his cell, but eventually after much prayer he did so.


BLESSED ANTONY WITH FAUN

The two embraced each other and greeted one another by their names, and together returned thanks to God. And after the holy kiss, Paul sat down beside Anthony and began to speak. “Behold him whom thou hast sought with so much labour, a shaggy white head and limbs worn out with age. Behold thou lookest on a man that is soon to be dust. Yet because love endureth all things, tell me, I pray thee, how fares the human race: if new roofs be risen in the ancient cities, whose empire is it that now sways the world; and if any still survive, snared in the error of the demons?"
‘And as they talked they perceived that a crow had settled on a branch of the tree, and softly flying down, deposited a whole loaf before their wondering eyes. And when he had withdrawn, “Behold” said Paul, “God hath sent us our dinner, God the merciful, God the compassionate. It is now sixty years since I have had each day a half-loaf of bread: but at thy coming, Christ hath doubled His soldier’s rations.” And when they had given thanks to God, they sat down beside the margin of the crystal spring. But now sprang up a contention between them as to who should break the bread, that brought the day well-nigh to evening, Paul insisting on the right of the guest, Antony countering by right of seniority. At length they agreed that each should take hold of the loaf and pull toward himself, and let each take what remained in their hands. Then they drank a little water, holding their mouths to the spring: and offering to God the sacrifice of praise, they passed the night in vigil.
But as day returned to the earth, the Blessed Paul spoke to Anthony, “From old time, my brother, I have known that thou wert a dweller in these parts: from old time God had promised that thou, my fellow-servant, wouldst come to me. But since the time has come for sleeping, and (for I have ever desired to be dissolved and to be with Christ) the race is run, there remaineth for me a crown of righteousness; thou hast been sent by God to shelter this poor body in the ground, returning earth to earth.”
At this, Antony, weeping and groaning, began pleading with him not to leave him, but take him with him as a fellow-traveller on that journey.
“Thou must not” said the other, ”seek thine own, but another’s good. It were good for thee, the burden of the flesh flung down, to follow the Lamb: but it is good for the other brethren that they should have thine example for their grounding. Wherefore I pray thee, unless it be too great a trouble, go and bring the cloak which Athanasius the Bishop gave thee, to wrap around my body.” This indeed, the Blessed Paul asked, not because he much cared whether his dead body should rot covered or naked, for indeed he had been clothed for so long time in woven palm leaves: but he would have Antony far from him, that he might spare him the pain of his dying.


BLESSED PAUL OF THE DESERT

Then Antony, amazed that Paul should have known of Athanasius and the cloak, dared make no answer: it seemed to him that he saw Christ in Paul, and he worshipped God in Paul’s heart: silently weeping, he kissed his eyes and his hands, and set out on the return journey to the monastery, the same which in aftertime was captured by the Saracens. His steps indeed could not keep pace with his spirit: yet though length of days had broken a body worn out with fasting, his mind triumphed over his years. Exhausted and panting, he reached his dwelling, the journey ended. Two disciples who of long time had ministered to him, ran to meet him, saying, “Where hast thou so long tarried, Master?” “Woe is me,” he made answer, “that do falsely bear the name of monk. I have seen Elias, I have seen John in the desert, yea, I have seen Paul in paradise.” And so, with tight-pressed lips and his hand beating his breast, he carried the cloak from the cell. To his disciples, eager to know more of what was toward, he answered, “There is a time to speak, and there is a time to be silent.” And leaving the house, and not even taking some small provision for the journey, he again took the road by which he had come: athirst for him, longing for the sight of him, eyes and mind intent. For he feared, as indeed befell, that in his absence, Paul might have rendered back to Christ the spirit that he owed Him
And now the second day dawned upon him, and for three hours he had been on the way, when he saw amidst a host of angels and amid the companies of prophets and apostles, Paul climbing the steeps of heaven, and shining white as snow. And straightway falling on his face he threw sand upon his head and wept saying, “Paul, why didst thou send me away? Why dost thou go with no leavetaking? So tardy to be known, art thou so swift to go?”
In aftertime the Blessed Antony would tell how speedily he covered the rest of the road, as it might be a bird flying. Nor was it without cause. Entering the cave, he saw on its bent knees, the head erect and the hands stretched out to heaven, the lifeless body: yet first, thinking he yet lived, he knelt and prayed beside him. Yet no accustomed sigh of prayer came to him: he kissed him, weeping, and then knew that the dead body of the holy man still knelt and prayed to God, to whom all things live.
So then he wrapped the body round and carried it outside, chanting the hymns and psalms of Christian tradition. But sadness came on Antony, because he had no spade to dig the ground. His mind was shaken, turning this way and that. For if I should go back to the monastery, he said, it is a three days journey: if I stay here, there is no more that I can do. Let me die, therefore, as is meet: and falling beside thy soldier, Christ, let me draw my last breath.

BLESSED ANTHONY and BLESSED PAUL
But even as he pondered, behold two lions came coursing, their manes flying, from the inner desert, and made towards him. At sight of them, he was at first in dread: then, turning his mind to God, he waited undismayed as though he looked on doves. They came straight to the body of the holy dead, and halted by it wagging their tails, then couched themselves at his feet, roaring mightily; and Antony well knew they were lamenting him, as best they could. Then, going a little way off, they began to scratch up the ground with their paws, vying with one another in throwing up the sand, till they had dug a grave roomy enough for a man: and thereupon, as though to ask the reward of their work, they came up to Antony, with drooping ears and downbent heads, licking his hands and his feet. He saw that they were begging for his blessing; and pouring out his soul in praise to Christ for that even the dumb beasts feel that there is a God, “Lord” he said, “without whom no leaf lights from the tree, nor a single sparrow falls upon the ground, give unto these even as Thou knowest.”
Then motioning with his hand, he signed to them to depart. And when they had gone away, he bowed his aged shoulders under the weight of the holy body: and laying it in the grave, he gathered the earth above it, and made the wonted mound. Another day broke: and then, lest the pious heirs should receive none of the goods of the intestate, he claimed for himself the tunic which the saint had woven out of palm-leaves as one weaves baskets. And so returning to the monastery, he told the whole story to his disciples in order as it befell: and on the solemn feasts of Easter and Pentecost, he wore the tunic of Paul.
………… I pray you, whoever ye be who read this, that ye be mindful of Jerome the sinner: who, if the Lord gave him his choice, would rather have the tunic of Paul with his merits, than the purple of Kings with their thrones.’


BLESSED ANTONY OF THE DESERT

'Thoughts from St Alphonsus, for every day of the year' - by Rev C McNeiry C.SS.R

"It is certainly better to practise small and frequent works of penance, than to perform rare and extraordinary fasts and afterwards lead an unmortified life." - June 29th.
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Our Lady, Cause of our Joy, guide and protect our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.

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