I have a paper-back version of 'The Psalms' published in 1963 by Fontana Books, with the imprimatur of Cardinal William Godfrey, Archbishop of Westminster, dated 25th March 1962. On the flyleaf, are the words - 'The Psalms, a new translation. Translated from the Hebrew and arranged for singing to the psalmody of Joseph Gelineau. This translation is the work of a team of scholars in co-operation with The Grail, who acknowledge their gratitude to the Rev.R.Tourney OP, Raymond Schwab SJ, Rev J Gelineau SJ, and Rev GT Chifflot OP, who were responsible for the translation of the Bible de Jerusalem Psalms from Hebrew into French'
I find this version of 'The Psalms' easy to read, preferably in short bursts, perhaps two or three psalms in any one reading.
Today is the feast of the Holy Innocents, massacred over two thousand years ago by King Herod, who was intent on killing Jesus, the infant King. The barbarity and horror of this event is forever recorded, yet now in the UK every year we have some 200,000 unborn babies slaughtered in the womb, a massacre on an infinitely worse scale than that of Herod, a massacre that has become legitimised by the Abortion Act of 1967. The evil of legalised abortion is replicated throughout the world, with the backing of powerful political, scientific, medical and commercial interests, with the numbers of world wide abortions increasing each year, and running into over 40 million this year alone! (Guttmacher Institute)
Not content with promoting abortion, these same satanic influences are pushing for legalised euthanasia, legalised 'assisted suicide', same-sex marriage, and the destruction of the family. The practice of homosexuality, one of the sins we were taught at school, that 'cried out to heaven for vengeance', has been promoted by many governments worldwide as being on an equal par with heterosexuality, to the extent that it's proponents have become an extremely powerful political lobby wielding exaggerated and disproportionate influence in the corridors of State. Corruption is rife in the UK in the world of politics, the media, and commerce. The slippery slope of ethical and moral degeneracy over the past fifty years has seen an increasing contempt of religion and of all things God.
The Sabbath Day has become for most people, the same as any other day. In fact it has become the day for the family shop, for after all the big stores are all open for most of the day. All professional sport is now played on Sundays, squeezing God yet further into the cold.
Co-habitation out of wedlock is common, the use of contraception is 'normal', pornography is readily available.
Unsurprisingly, there is an increase in violent crime, drug and alcohol abuse, marital breakdown, homelessness, sexually transmitted disease, and unemployment.
Which leads me to Psalm 2 from the Book of Psalms:-
The Messianic Kingship: warning to rulers and nations
1 Why this tumult among nations, among peoples this useless murmuring?
2 they arise, the kings of the earth, princes plot against the Lord and his Anointed.
3 “Come, let us break their fetters, come, let us cast off their yoke.”
4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord is laughing them to scorn.
5 Then he will speak in his anger, his rage will strike them with terror.
6 “It is I who have set up my king on Sion, my holy mountain.”
7 (I will announce the decree of the Lord:)
The Lord said to me: “You are my Son. It is I who have begotten you this day.
8 Ask and I shall bequeath you the nations, put the ends of the earth in your possession.
9 With a rod of iron you will break them, shatter them like a potter’s jar.”
10 Now, O kings, understand, take warning, rulers of the earth;
11 serve the Lord with awe and trembling, pay him your homage
12 lest he be angry and you perish; for suddenly his anger will blaze.
Blessed are they who put their trust in God.
Now to Psalm 102, an expression of love, hope and gratitude.
Praise of God’s love (Psalm 102)
1 My soul, give thanks to the Lord, all my being, bless his holy name.
2 My soul, give thanks to the Lord and never forget all his blessings.
3 It is he who forgives all your guilt, who heals every one of your ills,
4 who redeems your life from the grave, who crowns you with love and compassion’
5 who fills your life with good things, renewing your youth like an eagle’s.
6 The Lord does deeds of justice, gives judgment for all who are oppressed.
7 He made known his ways to Moses and his deeds to Israel’s sons.
8 The Lord is compassion and love, slow to anger and rich in mercy.
9 His wrath will come to an end; he will not be angry for ever.
10 He does not treat us according to our sins nor repay us according to our faults.
11 For as the heavens are high above the earth so strong is his love for those who fear him.
12 As far as the east is from the west so far does he remove our sins.
13 As a father has compassion on his sons, the Lord has pity on those who fear him;
14 for he knows of what we are made, he remembers that we are dust.
15 As for man, his days are like grass; he flowers like the flower of the field; 16 the wind blows and he is gone and his place never sees him again.
17 But the love of the Lord is everlasting upon those who hold him in fear; his justice reaches out to children’s children 18 when they keep his covenant in truth, when they keep his will in their mind.
19 The Lord has set his sway in heaven and his kingdom is ruling overall. 20 Give thanks to the Lord, all his angels, mighty in power, fulfilling his word, who heed the voice of his word.
21 Give thanks to the Lord, all his hosts, his servants who do his will. 22 Give thanks to the Lord, all his works, in every place where he rules. My soul, give thanks to the Lord! ********************************** Thoughts from St Alphonsus
'Come, ye monarchs and emperors, come, all ye princes of the world, come and adore your highest King, who for love of you is now born, and born in such poverty in a cave. But who appears? No one. The Son of God has indeed come into the world; but the world will not acknowledge him.'
'God, who is unchangeable, would appear now as a child in a stable, now as a boy in a workshop, now as a criminal on a scaffold, and now as bread upon the altar. In these various guises Jesus chose to exhibit himself to us; but whatever character he assumed, it was always the character of a lover.'
God bless our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, and may our Blessed Lady guide and protect him. Amen.
Leonard Cheshire and his wife Sue Ryder at the opening of the
Raphael Hospital at Dehra Dun, India, early summer1959.
Some time ago I posted on Group Captain Leonard Cheshire VC, OM, and his wife Sue Ryder CMG, OBE., and briefly mentioned that prior to their wedding in April 1959, they had together composed a special prayer, which for reasons of space and time, I did not publish.
I have recently received a comment from Siobhan, who has asked for details of this particular prayer, which is reproduced below:-
Thou,O My God,
Who art infinite love,
Yet who hast called us to be perfect
Even as Thou art perfect,
Who so loved the world
That Thou hast given us Thine only begotten Son,
And hast thereby given us Thine all, Thine everything.
Who emptied Thyself of Thy Glory,
And was made obedient unto death,
Even the death of the Cross
We offer our all, our everything
To be consumed in the unquenchable fire of Thy love.
We desire to love Thee even as Thy own Mother loved Thee.
To be generous as Thou Thyself was generous,
To give our all to Thee even as Thou hast given Thine to us.
Thou hast called us, O Lord, and we have found Thee,
In the sick, the unwanted and the dying,
And there we will serve Thee,
It is interesting to record that Sue Ryder subsequently wrote of her initial uncertainty about the step she was taking:-
"My work had meant my life, and nothing I felt should or could change this. How in the future could one combine both marriage and work?..... Moreover even in normal circumstances, marriage inevitably brings great responsibilities - I had always felt that it was a gamble. Furthermore, the implications are so serious that it is wiser to remain single and work than to run the risk of an unhappy marriage. Comparatively few people prepare themselves for or are equal to sharing literally everything"
Happily the marriage went ahead on 5th April 1959 in a private chapel in Bombay's Catholic Cathedral, with Cardinal Valeria Gracias officiating, and just a handful of close friends in attendance.
How successful they were in combining marriage and work, can be gauged by the worldwide expansion of their charitable work to this very day. 'To love God above all things, and thy neighbour as thyself for God's sake' was their inspiration for everything they did.
Cheshire was no stranger to death, having faced it countless times during the war, and thereafter in his work for the homeless, sick and disabled. When asked for his views on death, he had this to say:-
"Death is the final and crucial consummation of that lifelong process of self-determination and struggle for perfection. It is the bringing to maturity of all that a man has made himself during his lifetime, the taking possession without possibility of self-deception or ambiguity of his own personality as it has been developed through the conduct of his life, and most particularly in the domain of his freely expressed moral acts. As such it is an act of the profoundest meaning and consequence, which gives an irrevocable direction to our life for all eternity"
"It's no use running the race brilliantly and then stopping one yard short. You have to cross that tape."
Leonard Cheshire, his wife Sue Ryder, and Fr Ted Burns in Melbourne, Australia.(1989)
Finally, a comment made shortly before his death on 31 July,1992:-
"I find that the beginning of the day as you wake up is important ..... Picture in your mind a whole world waking up to a new day. People are getting organized to go out to their work: some of them are leaders of government, others are going to sweep the streets, others ill or disabled and at home. But there in that moment you have the whole world waking up, we hope to put the day to the best advantage.
The morning light is brushing aside the night's darkness. That also symbolizes the fact that we are all in a state of becoming and evolving, so God is at work all the time, recreating the present earth and heaven into the new heaven and the new earth. So that process is also going on: identify with it. Don't try to be clever and think it out - just have that thought in your mind. Beauty is springing out of darkness ........Somebody once said: 'the things that we see help us understand the unseen things'. I like the linking of what we do and what we see, with a prayer aimed at the spiritual counterpart:
'The shining sun looks down on all things
and the work of the Lord is full of His glory.'
(Acknowledgement:- 'CHESHIRE' - The Biography of LeonardCheshire, VC,OM' byRichard Morris. Published by Penguin Books2001)
"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"
Thoughts from St Alphonsus for every day of the year. (28th November)
There is a vast amount of material on YouTube, ranging in quality and content from crass to excellent. In this post I have included six short videos which certainly have impressed me. Three of these videos run in sequence, and relate to the short but remarkable life of a young boy called Garvan Byrne.
These are not necessarily recent video recordings, and you may already have seen some of them; if this is the case then I recommend perhaps a second viewing. For these people and for those viewing for the first time, I hope that you find them as interesting and enjoyable as I do.
http://youtu.be/cZ5aYoSr3Hg I came across this link on the 'Diocese of Lancaster' blog site, and was impressed and humbled by this simple, courageous act of Catholic evangelism. Only God knows what graces were bestowed on those at the scene, and those subsequently watching the recorded video. After all, it is 'from such little acorns, that giant oak trees grow'.
http://youtu.be/vRIt8i0OwRo This link comes from the 'Orbis, Catholicus, Secundus' blog site, and is a damning indictment of the effects of 'same-sex marriage' legislation in Canada which has been on the statute book since 2005. Clearly this misguided and evil legislation has developed ever-lengthening tentacles with which it is choking and strangling our Christian heritage, corrupting our society, and above all destroying the innocence of our children and young people.
I can honestly say that these are some of the most moving videos that I have ever seen. The short life of Garvan Byrne who died of a rare bone-marrow disease on 16th April 1985, aged 12 years, at Brompton Childrens Hospital, is humbling and inspiring. Garvan radiates a holy simplicity and loving relationship with Jesus which is truly extraordinary - 'of such is the Kingdom of Heaven'.
Finally a rousing version of the 'Torreador Song' from Bizet's 'Carmen', sung by members of the Philadelphia Opera Company at the city's famed Reading Terminal Market in January 2011. Guaranteed to bring a smile to your face and cheer to your heart!
P.S. did you know that ....................
.....just work that one out! (Ack.'Creative Review' blog)
************************* 'Year of Faith' - October 2012 to November 2013
Pope Benedict XVI, has declared the above 'Year of Faith' for the Roman Catholic Church worldwide:-
"The mission of the Church, like that of Christ, is essentiallyto speak of God, to remember his sovereignty, to remind all, especially Christians who have lost their own identity, of the right of God to what belongs to him, that is, our life. "Precisely in order to give a fresh impetus to the mission of the whole Church to lead human beings out of the wilderness in which they often find themselves, to the place of life, friendship with Christ that gives us life in fullness, I have decided to proclaim a “Year of Faith".........It will be a moment of grace and commitment for an ever fuller conversion to God, to strengthen our faith in him and to proclaim him with joy to the people of our time. "Dear brothers and sisters, you are among the protagonists of the New Evangelization that the Church has undertaken and carries forth, not without difficulties, but with the same enthusiasm as the first Christians. "To conclude, I make my own the words of the Apostle Paul that we have heard: 'I give thanks to God always for you all, constantly mentioning you in my prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.' "May the Virgin Mary, who was not afraid to answer “yes” to the Word of the Lord, and, after conceiving in her womb, set out full of joy and hope, always be your model and your guide. Learn from the Mother of the Lord and our Mother to be humble and at the same time courageous, simple and prudent; meek and strong, not with the strength of the world but with the strength of the truth. Amen." (Extracts from Pope Benedict's address in Rome on 16 October 2011 announcing plans for the 'Year of Faith' starting in October 2012.)
'Have you begun a good life? Thank the Lord for it; but St Bernard warns you that to him who begins, a reward is only promised, but it is given to him alone who perseveres. It is not enough to run for the prize: you must run till you win it.' (Thoughts from St Alphonsus de Liguori)
In the world the forces of good and evil are locked in mortal combat. There is no doubt that powerful and evil forces worldwide, in the service of Satan, are destroying and disfiguring so much that is good, and replacing it with so much that is evil. We know from Christ's own words, that good will ultimately prevail over evil, and that our strength, solace and hope is in knowing Him, loving Him, and serving Him in this world, so that we may be eternally happy with Him in the next. To enable us to attain this, Christ founded His Church, appointed St Peter as its head, and promised to be with His Church all days even unto the end of the world. Occasionally I feel the need to escape, metaphorically speaking, from our confused, and often sad, real world, and I immerse myself in a book of poetry. After an hour or so reading my favourite poems, I feel mentally and spiritually refreshed, in rather the same way that beautiful, classical music, uplifts the soul.
I am not a fan of poetry 'per se', I think appreciation demands an empathy between the reader and the poet, based on subject matter, the 'ethos' or psychology of the poem, and the manner in which the poetry is written. Again the same principles apply to the appreciation of certain types of classical music, substituting musical form and pattern for the written word.
I am posting a few short poems by a little known writer working in the late 1920s early 1930s, under the name of Betty L Robertson. I have endeavoured, so far unsuccessfully, to trace this lady, and if any reader can throw any light on her life, it would be much appreciated. These poems are taken from a slim paper-backed book entitled 'Poems' by Betty L Robertson, and published/printed by Whitby, Light & Lane Ltd, Bridgwater, probably in the 1930s.
The stars, dear Lord, are gleaming on the sea, The moon is there, and Thou art watching me. Yet as beneath the sky I kneel to pray, No words will come, no prayers have I to say.
Cold is the darkness, and the night is still, But there has come a wind across the hill Fragrantly blowing to me, as though Thy breath Whispered of life, dear Lord, and not of death.
Yet can I ask Thee for my happiness, When Thou hast all this mighty world to bless? Ah God, Thy love is great, Thy ways are just, But I am smaller than one grain of dust,
More insignificant, yet Thou hast said Each hair is numbered on Thy children’s head. The stars, dear Lord, are gleaming on the sea, The moon is there, and Thou art watching me. c. Betty L Robertson (April 1930)
What should they know of life, these little ones? Who weep, and then forget why they were sad, Who crown their lives with golden dreams, ambitions, And never doubt that they will come to pass. What should they know of life? Its sordidness To children is a thing of nothingness. The earth to them was made for work and play, With new found joys in every endless day. What should they fear from life, these little ones? What should they know of love, these little ones? Who worship from the depths of heart and soul More faithfully than older ones can tell, A simple toy, battered or torn, or broken. And from the angels comes the love for mother, Kept sacredly aloof from any other, A love, deep rooted in the little heart, That nought, not even death, could wrench apart. What should they fear from love, these little ones? What should they know of death, these little ones? Death, fearful in its great uncertainty, A promised peaceful sleep, yet how we tremble To leave this world of ours, and walk with God. But children do not doubt, Heaven must lie Beyond the twinkling stars, the tranquil sky, For mother said that dark was safe as light, And Jesus watches thro’ the longest night. What should they fear from death, these little ones? c. Betty L Robertson (1930)
The Little Things
Because I could not face the world today, But wept alone where there were none to see, The pleasant smell of new-mown clover hay, Caused me to pause a while, and calm to be.
Because I sobbed as tho’ my heart would break, And felt that only death could heal this pain, The stolid firmness of a stable rake Begged me to wait, to reason, to be sane.
Because in spite of bitter tears, and strife, The world goes on, and duties still are there, We find it is the little things of life Which keep us sane, in moments of despair. c. Betty L Robertson
We must not ask of life not to be sad, Never to know of grief, or suffer pain. For as the sunshine followeth the rain, So thro’ our tears, do we learn to be glad.
We must not ask to reach ambition’s height Without the struggle of uncertainty, Without the climb where would the beauty be Of groping thro’ the darkness, to the light?
We must not ask, when strength is at an end That earthly help will still be waiting there. It is when left alone to fight despair, We turn to Him, Who is indeed our Friend. c. Betty L Robertson.
" Little children are loved at once; to see them and to love them is the same thing. For this reason the Eternal Word chose first to be seen among men as an infant, to conciliate to Himself the love of all mankind." (Thoughts from St Alphonsus) ++++++ 'God bless our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI'
It has recently been announced by Messrs D.C.Thomson & Co. that publication of the Dandy comic in its existing format, is to end in December 2012. Happily it is to be re-incarnated, apparently in a format more in tune with the minds of children of the 21st century. Some may question whether this is necessarily a good thing, and some may suggest that children’s minds do not really change from one generation to the next. No doubt the reality is that whilst children’s minds do not change, the world certainly does. Let us hope that the new Dandy continues to provide innocent delight and pleasure to children everywhere.
One of the great pleasures in life is reading. When aged about ten years, my idea of heaven was reading a ‘William’ book by Richmal Crompton, with a selection of sweets to hand, preferably fruit or acid drops which lasted a long time. Other favourites authors included Arthur Ransome - ‘Swallows and Amazons’, ‘We didn’t mean to go to Sea’, etc.; Enid Blyton - ‘Valley of Adventure’, ‘Secret Five’, etc.; W.F.Johns - the 'Biggles' stories of heroism by fighter pilots of the Royal Air Force; Percy F Westerman - similar stories of heroism at sea involving the Royal Navy. There were many other authors of course, but those mentioned were particular favourites of mine.
As a teenager, mystery and detective stories were my favourites. Edgar Wallace, Dorothy Sayers, Arthur Coynan Doyle, Peter Cheyney , Earle Stanley Gardner, Agatha Christie, were all authors whose books I looked for. I have to admit that my literary taste was simple and low-brow i.e.popular, rather than intellectual and high-brow, and to be perfectly honest I think this is still the case.
As a young man, serious reading took a back seat, in fact virtually disappeared into the boot! There were so many other things to be done, leaving little time to read anything other than newspapers or magazines. Marriage, family, and my job, also sporting activities and involvement when possible in Church events, filled my life, and over time it became extremely difficult for me to discipline myself to read a book of any real substance. An Open University degree course, which necessitated reading books on a variety of subjects, and also my job which involved reading official documents and reports, certainly helped to exercise my brain, and it was enjoyable, but it could not be described as reading for pleasure.
It was only in later life that I found the time and inclination to read those books that I had postponed reading for so many years. Much of the fun was actually searching the second-hand market place for the books I wanted. Finding those books at an affordable price often entailed spending many enjoyable hours browsing in bookshops specialising in second-hand books , of which there were many in Devon where we lived at the time.
Books I read now and which take pride of place on my bookshelf, include religious biographies of Saints and martyrs of the Catholic Church, lives of different Popes and eminent Catholic hierarchal figures, particularly those of the 19th and 20th centuries, and lives of outstanding English men and women eg. Winston Churchill, Leonard Cheshire VC, and his wife Sue Ryder ; various war history books, e.g.‘A Bridge Too Far’ by Cornelius Ryan; travel books, e.g. ‘In the Steps of the Master’ by HV Morton; short story collections by selected authors; and an eclectic assortment of books including novels by R.F.Delderfield, Norman Collins, and others; poetry by John Betjeman and others; numerous historical biographies and books of religious interest e.g. 'Lives of the Desert Fathers', and others; also certain fine art reference books.
If you ever find yourself in Kirkwall, Orkney, with time on your hands, I recommend a visit to the only second-hand bookshop in town, situated next to the Library. I think the shop is called ‘McCarthy’s Bookshop’. At first sight the shop is not particularly prepossessing, but don’t judge it by external appearances. Inside is a large selection of books to suit all tastes, and at extremely reasonable prices. There is a certain order within the shop, but not too much! The element of surprise and possible delight has not been eliminated by an over-scrupulously organised shop proprietor, thus when browsing, one retains a sense of hopeful anticipation! It is not a big shop, but it is full of books , on shelves and in boxes, high and low. The proprietor/ manager of the shop is a Scotsman with a pointed ‘Van Dyck’ beard, a droll but sharp sense of humour, and a never-ending fund of stories. He appears decidedly knowledgeable on most matters literary, and is genuinely helpful, always remembering his customer’s interests and needs even if he hasn’t seen the customer for several weeks. I have bought several books from him, including one which according to various websites, was only available in Australia, the British Museum, and in south-west Scotland, at a shop which, coincidentally, shared the same owner as the Kirkwall shop. This was a book dealing with the sinking of the SS Athenia by a German submarine, on the first day of the 2nd World War, with an account of the incident by various survivors. I particularly needed this book for a project here on Stronsay in Orkney, where we actually have one of the lifeboats from the stricken ship , converted to an out-house and used as such for many decades , and which we still entertain faint hopes of restoring if sufficient funds can be raised.
Lifeboat from SS Athenia on Stronsay foreshore.
My most recent purchase from this shop, is a trilogy of novels in one volume, translated from the French, entitled ‘Cecile among the Pasquiers’ written by Georges Duhamel, and published by Dent & Sons in 1940. The original retail price was 9s.6d., a not inconsiderable amount of money at the time. I don’t read many novels, but I was tempted by some excellent reviews on the cover , and have not been disappointed. I think it a beautifully written book and one which held my attention from the beginning, which with many books is not always the case, and I find it difficult to put down. The author, a qualified doctor who served with the French army in the Great War, and thereafter strongly anti-war in his views, was a prolific writer and author of many books. I am enjoying it to the extent that I have already purchased through Amazon, another book by the same author, entitled ‘The Pasquier Chronicles’, being five further stories in one volume, relating to the lives and fortunes of the same family .
We have an elderly lady friend on Stronsay, in her nineties, who is unable to read owing to poor eyesight. This causes her great frustration and distress as reading was her favourite pastime. Her unfortunate situation has made me especially appreciative of the unique gift of sight, reminding me that as the eyes are our 'windows to the world' , even more importantly they are the ‘windows of our soul’.
Which brings me to the final toast - 'To the Dandy. Long may it continue to flourish, for the innocent pleasure and delight of children everywhere.’
A unique and joyous occasion:-
Today, Wednesday, 22nd August 2012 is a very special day for the Religious Community, the 'Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer' (F.SS.R) also known as the 'Transalpine Redemptorists', based at Golgotha Monastery, Papa Stronsay, Orkney.
R.C.Diocese of Aberdeen - Coat of Arms
'Invitation to the Public Profession of
Vows of the Fathers and Brothers of
the Congregation of the Sons of the Most Holy
Redeemer. We have the joy of
announcing to you that our communities in
Papa Stronsay and Christchurch have been canonically
recognised as a Clerical Institute of Diocesan Right and now form an
officially recognised Religious Order. After consultation with
the Holy See in Rome, the Decree of our
Canonical Erection was issued on 15 August, 2012 by Dom Hugh Gilbert,
O.S.B., the Bishop of Aberdeen. In consequence of this
recognition, as a new Religious Order we invite you to our
public profession of religious vows to be made before the
Bishop of Aberdeen. The Profession Ceremony
of the above will be held at 6.15 p.m. on
Wednesday 22nd August, 2012, in Our Lady’s Chapel,
Fr. Michael Mary,
F.SS.R. Fr. Anthony Mary,
Br. Yousef Marie,
F.SS.R. Br. Jean Marie,
Br. Magdala Maria,
F.SS.R. Br. Martin Mary,
The following sketch was one of many written by G.K. Chesterton in the early 1900’s, and published in the ‘Daily News’ national newspaper. They were subsequently printed in book form by Sheed and Ward, New York, in 1955, under the title ‘Tremendous Trifles’. In today’s world, the suggestion that juries are inadequate and counter-productive for the efficient administration of justice, and should be done away with, is regularly put forward by those of a certain mind-set. It is interesting to read Chesterton’s view on this, remembering that he wrote this article more than 100 years ago. The world has changed since then, but not people.
Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936)
‘The Twelve Men’ by G.K.Chesterton
'The other day, while I was meditating on morality and Mr H.Pitt, I was, so to speak, snatched up and put into a jury box to try people. The snatching took some weeks, but to me it seemed something sudden and arbitrary. I was put into this box because I lived in Battersea, and my name began with a ‘C’. Looking round me, I saw that there were also summoned and in attendance in the court whole crowds and processions of men, all of whom lived in Battersea, and all of whose names began with a ‘C’.
It seems that they always summon jurymen in this sweeping alphabetical way. At one official blow, so to speak, Battersea is denuded of all its ‘C’s, and left to get on with it as best it can with the rest of the alphabet. A Cumberpatchis missing from one street – a Chizzolpop from another- three Chucksterfields from Chucksterfield House; the children are crying out for an absent Cadgerboy; the woman at the corner is weeping for her Coffintop, and will not be comforted.
We settle down with a rollicking ease into our seats (for we are a bold, devil-may-care race, the 'C’s of Battersea), and an oath is administered to us in a totally inaudible manner by an individual resembling an army surgeon in his second childhood. We understand, however, that we are to well and truly try the case between our sovereign lord the King and the prisoner at the bar, neither of whom has put in appearance as yet.
Just when I was wondering whether the King and the prisoner were, perhaps, coming to an amicable understanding in some adjoining public-house, the prisoner’s head appears above the barrier of the dock; he is accused of stealing bicycles, and he is the living image of a great friend of mine. We go into the matter of the stealing of the bicycles. We do well and truly try the case between the King and the prisoner in the affair of the bicycles. And we come to the conclusion, after a brief but reasonable discussion, that the King is not in any way implicated.
Then we pass on to a woman who neglected her children, and who looks as if somebody or something had neglected her. And I am one of those who fancy that something had.
All the time that the eye took in these light appearances and the brain passed these light criticisms, there was in the heart a barbaric pity and fear which men have never been able to utter from the beginning, but which is the power behind half the poems of the world. The mood cannot even inadequately be suggested, except faintly by this statement that tragedy is the highest expression of the infinite value of human life. Never had I stood so close to pain; and never so far away from pessimism. Ordinarily, I should not have spoken of these dark emotions at all, for speech about them is too difficult, but I mention them now for a specific and particular reason to the statement of which I will proceed at once.
I speak of these feelings because out of the furnace of them there came a curious realisation of a political or social truth. I saw with a queer and indescribable kind of clearness what a jury really is, and why we must never let it go.
The trend of our epoch up to this time has been consistently towards socialism and professionalism. We tend to have trained soldiers because they fight better, trained singers because they sing better, trained dancers because they dance better, specially instructed laughers because they laugh better, and so on and so on. The principle has been applied to law and politics by innumerable modern writers. Many Fabians have insisted that a greater part of our political work should be performed by experts. Many legalists have declared that the untrained jury should be altogether supplanted by the trained Judge.
'The Jury' (1861) by John Morgan
Now if this world of ours were really what is called reasonable, I do not know that there would be any fault to find with this. But the true result of all experience and the true foundation of all religion is this. That the four or five things that it is most practically essential that a man should know, are all of them what people call paradoxes. That is to say, that though we all find them in life to be mere plain truths, yet we cannot easily state them in words without being guilty of seeming verbal contradictions. One of them, for instance, is the un-impeachable platitude that the man who finds most pleasure for himself is often the man who least hunts for it. Another is a paradox of courage; the fact that the way to avoid death is not to have too much aversion to it.
Now, one of these four or five paradoxes which should be taught to every infant prattling at his mother’s knee, is the following: ‘That the more a man looks at a thing, the less he can see it, and the more a man learns a thing, the less he knows it.' The Fabian argument of the expert, that the man who is trained should be the man who is trusted, would be absolutely unanswerable if it were really true that a man who studied a thing and practiced it every day went on seeing more and more of its significance. But he does not. He goes on seeing less and less of its significance. In the same way, alas, we all go on every day, unless we are continually goading ourselves into gratitude and humility, seeing less and less of the significance of the sky or the stones.
Now, it is a terrible business to mark a man out for the vengeance of men. But it is a thing to which a man can grow accustomed, as he can to other terrible things; he can even grow accustomed to the sun. And the horrible thing about all legal officials, even the best, about all judges, magistrates, barristers, detectives, and policemen, is not that they are wicked (some of them are good), not that they are stupid (several of them are quite intelligent), it is simply that they have got used to it.
Strictly they do not see the prisoner in the dock; all they see is the usual man in the usual place. They do not see the awful court of judgement; they only see their own workshop. Therefore, the instinct of Christian civilisation has most wisely declared that into their judgments there shall upon every occasion be infused fresh blood and fresh thoughts from the streets. Men shall come in who can see the court and the crowd, and coarse faces of the policemen and the professional criminals, the wasted faces of the wastrels, the unreal faces of the gesticulating counsel, and see it all as one sees a new picture or a ballet hitherto unvisited.
Our civilisation has decided, and very justly decided, that determining the guilt or innocence of men is a thing too important to be trusted to trained men. It wishes for light upon that awful matter, it asks men who know no more law than I know, but who can feel the things I felt in the jury box. When it wants a library catalogued, or the solar system discovered, or any trifle of that kind, it uses up its specialists. But when it wishes anything done which is really serious, it collects twelve of the ordinary men standing round. The same thing was done, if I remember right, by the Founder of Christianity.'
‘Tremendous Trifles' by GK Chesterton.
'Christ addressing the eleven remaining Apostles, after His Resurrection' by Duccio di Buoninsegna (1255-1318)
'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God' - Sermon on the Mount
'May Our Blessed Lady guide and protect our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI'
Prayer for the beatification of Bishop Richard Challoner, Bishop of Debra, Vicar Apostolic of the London District 1758-1781. O God, who didst make thy servant Richard a true and faithful pastor of thy little flock in England, deign to place him among the Blessed in Thy Church, so that we who profit by his word and example, may beg his help in heaven for the return of this land to the ancient faith, and to the fold of the one true Shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Slightly frayed around the edges and still trying to pretend that I'm not really as old as that! I thank God for all my blessings, particularly my Catholic faith; my wife a 'pearl of great price'; my children and grandchildren; my friends; our dog Dartmoor; and our good neighbours and spiritual mentors, the F.SS.R community from Papa Stronsay.