Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Last of the Christmas Bird

The best part of the turkey left-overs: the soup. Turkey soup on a cold, windy, rainy night like tonight is the quintessence of comfort food and the perfect analogue for the grace of God come to a wicked world.

And it's delicious, if I do say so myself.

The Wormy Apple

Apple finds Christian morality "offensive".

St Thomas of Canterbury

St Thomas of Canterbury, Bishop & Martyr

(Thomas à Becket, 1118 - 1170)

Feast Day 29 December

Thomas à Becket, was born on December 21, 1118, the son of Gilbert à Becket, an English merchant and at one time Sheriff of London, and a French Mother, Matilda of Caen in Normandy. He was educated at Merton Priory in Surrey and was later sent to Paris to study. After five years in Paris, Thomas returned to England where he joined the staff of the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Theobald. However, he did not remain in England for long and the Archbishop sent him abroad again to study law.

Following his return to England, Thomas was made Archdeacon of Canterbury because of his skills at administration. After the death of King Stephen in 1154, Archbishop Theobald recommended Thomas to the new King, Henry II (formerly Henry of Anjou) as Chancellor. Apparently, the two men, Henry and Thomas, took an instant liking to each other, maybe because they were both forthright and hot-tempered.

Archbishop Theobald died in 1161 and at that time, the King was the person to choose the successor. The decision took some time but Henry made up is mind that his friend, Thomas, would become the new Archbishop. As Thomas had been acting as Chancellor he had not risen in the Church as he might have and did not hold a particularly high 'rank'. Because of this, in 1162 he first had to be ordained priest and consecrated bishop on the next morning. He was then made Archbishop later on the same day.

No doubt King Henry believed that with his friend in the highest office in the Church in England there would be an easy alliance between Church and State. However, when Henry amended laws to place the State in a position to take charge of cases involving the clergy, the trouble started. Thomas originally agreed to the changes but subsequently changed his mind and did penance to show that he had been wrong in his original decision. This act, in those days, was taken as an insult to the King. As a result, Henry called Becket to Northampton and asked him to account for certain disputed sums of money that had passed through his hands while he was chancellor and later Archbishop of Canterbury. The conflict caused by these accusations was extreme and Thomas already well-liked by the general populace, was helped in October 1164, to flee England for France.

Thomas remained in exile in France for six years, with the support of the King of France, first at Pontigny and then at Sens. In 1169, while still in France, he excommunicated the Bishops of London and Salisbury who had stood against him and supported the King. In 1170, while Henry was in France himself, Thomas returned to England and landed at the Port of Sandwich. He was cheered by the local people from the time he landed to his arrival back in Canterbury.

Meanwhile, back in France, the most ardent opponent of Thomas, who was Archbishop Roger of York had the ear of the King. Archbishop Roger, who, as Archbishop of York, would have been number two in the hierarchy of the Church in England, suggested to Henry that, 'while Thomas lives, you will have neither quiet times nor a tranquil kingdom.' This threw Henry into one of his rages and he is supposed to have exclaimed, “Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?” He was overheard by four of his knights who decided that they could gain great favour by dealing with the problem and left immediately for England. The knights were: Richard Brito, Hugh de Moreville, Reginald FitzUrse, and William de Tracy. They made for Canterbury and arrived there in the late afternoon of December 29th, 1170.

The knights' arrival and their cries so frightened the monks that they persuaded Thomas to flee from his residence towards the Cathedral where they felt he would be safe. Giving chase, the knights burst into the Cathedral as Vespers was being sung. Now flying into a rage himself, Archbishop Thomas shook off the Monks, and went into the transept the face the four knights.

The knights tried to seize him, but he fought back, actually knocking FitzUrse to the floor. At this point FitrzUrse, who had been called 'a pimp' by Thomas in this shoving match drew his sword and threatened the Archbishop. De Tracey also drew his sword and called out, “strike! Strike!” to the others and delivered the first blow. It took three more wounds before Thomas went down. It was Brito who delivered the death blow, slashing at this head, actually severing the top of the cranium, spilling the brains of the Martyr on the floor. The tip of the sword came off with the strength of the impact. It is said that there was a great storm within an hour of the death of the Archbishop and people flocked to the Cathedral to mourn for him. Three days after his there began a series of miracles which are depicted in 'the miracle windows' of the Cathedral and were attributed to Thomas. In 1173, the Archbishop was canonized by Pope Alexander III.

On July 12, 1174 Henry II came to Canterbury to perform penance at the tomb of the Saint, probably more as a result of public pressure than anything else but it would be nice to think that he was saddened by his part in the tragedy. It is said that he put on sackcloth and ashes at Harbledown and walked barefoot into the City where he was beaten with birch twigs by eighty monks. He then did penance at the tomb of the martyr in the crypt, remaining there for the night.

-The text is from the December 2000 number of Contra Mundum, the parish magazine of the Congregation of St Athanasius in Boston.

The picture is turning into something of a mystery. The notes in my file say it's from Wymondham Abbey. I googled their website - it's here - but found it not. I like it a lot; but where it came from, I couldn't say.

A collect for St Thomas:

O God, for whose Church the glorious Bishop Thomas fell by the swords of wicked men: grant, we beseech thee; that all who call upon him for succour may be profited by the obtaining of that which they desire. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

But they're not "Death Panels"!

Oh, my gracious no.

The Holy Innocents

The hymn at Lauds

From Butler's "Lives of the Saints" via Fountain of Elias

The other innocents

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Vatican Library

The New Yorker has an extensive article on the Vatican Library in this week's number. Alas, it seems to be one of those behind the subscription wall. You might try here. If that doesn't work, it would be worth your while to dig up a copy of the January 3, 2011 issue, provided old books, Renaissance history, and ecclesiastical arcana make your eyes light up and say "Howdy!" Most libraries take The New Yorker. (So do most newsstands. But here we're talkin' six bucks a throw. I dunno. That's a bit steep when you consider the author tantalizes us with the existence of dreadful revelations about the Empress Theodosia that Procopius makes in his Historia Arcana and never tells us what they are.)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Some Piping for THIS Weekend in Particular

The Irish Air Corps Pipe Band gets in the spirit of the season.

The 16th Irish Division at Christmas

Lifted from the blog "Remembering Fr William Doyle, S.J." This excerpt can be found here. Fr Doyle was an Irish Jesuit who was chaplain to various units of the 16th Irish Division in the first world war. This blog, which promotes Fr Doyle's robust spirituality (and I suspect his cause for canonization) is a beautiful combination of history and spiritual reading. Highly recommended.

The following excerpt from O’Rahilly’s biography of Fr Doyle recalls Christmas Eve and Midnight Mass in 1916…

Christmas itself Fr. Doyle had the good luck of spending in billets. He got permission from General Hickie to have Midnight Mass for his men in the Convent. The chapel was a fine large one, as in pre-war times over three hundredboarders and orphans were resident in the Convent; and by opening folding-doors the refectory was added to the chapel and thus doubled the available room. An hour before Mass every inch of space was filled, even inside the altar rails and in the corridor, while numbers had to remain in the open. Word had in fact gone round about the Mass, and men from other battalions came to hear it, some having walked several miles from another village. Before the Mass there was strenuous Confession-work. “We were kept hard at work hearing confessions all the evening till nine o’clock” writes Fr. Doyle, “the sort of Confessions you would like, the real serious business, no nonsense and no trimmings. As I was leaving the village church, a big soldier stopped me to know, like our Gardiner Street friend, ‘if the Fathers would be sittin’ any more that night.’ He was soon polished off, poor chap, and then insisted on escorting me home. He was one of my old boys, and having had a couple of glasses of beer — ‘It wouldn’t scratch the back of your throat, Father, that French stuff’ — was in the mood to be complimentary. ‘We miss you sorely, Father, in the battalion’, he said, ‘we do be always talking about you’. Then in a tone of great confidence: ‘Look, Father, there isn’t a man who wouldn’t give the whole of the world, if he had it, for your little toe! That’s the truth’. The poor fellow meant well, but ‘the stuff that would not scratch his throat’ certainly helped his imagination and eloquence. I reached the Convent a bit tired, intending to have a rest before Mass, but found a string of the boys awaiting my arrival, determined that they at least would not be left out in the cold. I was kept hard at it hearing Confessions till the stroke of twelve and seldom had a more fruitful or consoling couple of hours’ work, the love of the little Babe of Bethlehem softening hearts which all the terrors of war had failed to touch.”

The Mass itself was a great success and brought consolation and spiritual peace to many a war- weary exile. This is what Fr. Doyle says:

“I sang the Mass, the girls’ choir doing the needful. One of the Tommies, from Dolphin’s Barn, sang the Adeste beautifully with just a touch of the sweet Dublin accent to remind us of home, sweet home, the whole congregation joining in the chorus. It was a curious contrast: the chapel packed with men and officers, almost strangely quiet and reverent (the nuns were particularly struck by this), praying .and singing most devoutly, while the big tears ran down many a rough cheek: outside the cannon boomed and the machine-guns spat out a hail of lead: peace and good will — hatred and bloodshed!

“It was a Midnight Mass none of us will ever forget. A good 500 men came to Holy Communion, so that I was more than rewarded for my work.”

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve

Still adding the finishing touches to Christmas here. The essentials for tomorrow are in place - the turkey is in the fridge, there is plenty of soda bread, there are two kinds of mince pie, the tea canister has been replenished, there are two kinds of ice cream, there's a decent bottle of port, and I've been to confession.

Tonight we'll have Christmas Eve dinner with some friends down the road. The highland pipes and the smallpipes with the D chanter will be in the trunk of the car in case of emergencies. You never know when there'll be a call for the pipes.

In between now and then I've got to finish up with the manger scene. So if I don't drop by The Inn before then, have a very merry and blessed Christmas.

Beannachtaí Nollaig a dhuit!

Midnight Mass begins in Westminster Cathedral

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Oxford in Winter

Some beautiful scenes - particularly if you don't have to be out in it.

More here from Anglican Patrimony.

Get Thee Out of a Nunnery

There are always some sacrifices to be made for Christ. Some have already been made by those planning to join the Ordinariate. The sacrifice these nuns have made has been more dramatic than most.

Another source.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Surge amica mea, et veni. . . .

. . . .imber abiit et recessit!

In the ordinary course of things, iam hiems transiit fits in there, too. But as it is only December, we realize that hiems isn't actually transiit; in fact, it only just started.

Nevertheless, after a solid week the rain has finally stopped. At least for a couple of days. The sun is absolutely radiating through the kitchen window, illuminating the morning papers and warming my breakfast.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Christian Art of Christmas Spending

Do have a look at the article of that name in the current number of The New Oxford Review. You can find it here. I just finished it in the print edition and was delighted that NOR decided to put it on the public side of the subscription wall. It's a beautiful piece. It really doesn't lend itself to excerpting or I'd quote a bit of it here.

It's well-worth a click of the mouse.

Furtwangler Redivivus

Monday, December 20, 2010

Fr Kit Cunningham, R.I.P.

There's nothing quite so fascinating as the biography/obituary of an eccentric priest.

And when it's an eccentric English priest. . . .well.

God rest his soul.

Raindrops Kept Falling on My Glen. . . .

A taste of the weather for last Saturday's wedding. I don't usually have pictures because Mary doesn't usually come with me to gigs. This time we both knew the bride and her family. The rain had let up for a bit in this shot and given way to the fog, were it not for which, you would see some crashing surf behind me.

The rain hasn't let up since this was taken. There's some flooding in some of the local beach cities. One of agricultural towns in the high desert has been evacuated. (I could look up which one, but you're really not interested are you. In fact, I'm amazed you've read this far.} The weather lady on our lebbendy-leben inch TV screen, which we have because no one sells ordinary television sets any more, says it's going to continue at least until Christmas Eve. And then, who knows?

The garden's looking very fresh and lively at any rate.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Some Piping for the Tail End of the Weekend

John McSherry and Francis MacIlduff on the uilleann pipes playing "a slow air 'Roys Hands' into two Irish Jigs: "Peter Byrne's Fancy" and 'The Maid at the Spinning Wheel'."

The Weekend So Far

Da nobis, quæsumus, Domine, pluviam salutarum – grant us healthful rain, O Lord - says the post communion collect “For Rain”. This being California inaquosa and all, I add that collect to my daily prayers most days.

Not lately, though. It's been bucketing for almost a week. Maybe I should have emphasized the salutarem bit to the Lord? In any event, I played for a wedding last evening and a real Scottish wedding it turned out to be: cold, damp, foggy, and lashing with rain. I'm not altogether complaining. I was sheltered from the rain and I rather enjoy playing in the weather. I had some of these things to keep my hands warm so I could feel the chanter and it all went pretty well.

Nevertheless. It's now Sunday night, the rain is still coming down with no sign of a let-up until Thursday. And after being out all afternoon again today, I am finally back indoors with pot of tea and slice of soda bread, and no place that I have to be until Friday. Laus sit Deo.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Checking in. . . .

This has been another one of those weeks -- no, "two" weeks -- that seems busy from the inside and uneventful from the outside. The time has been nibbled to death by gnats. Some end-of-the-year stuff, some extra pipe practice for a wedding coming up on Saturday and assorted Christmas parties, one of which is tonight. This one includes a duet (using my D chanter on the smallpipes) with a fiddler I haven't practiced with since last year. Should be interesting.

The clip above is one-time through the Kandahar Reel. Why? Well, I like it. And tonight's party will be full of dancers and I've got it on my mind. I posted a clip of the full version some time ago but this one is not only shorter but a bit different. Skip-change on the two-hand turns rather that pas de basque for a start; an improvement IMHO.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


"We do not get good laws to restrain bad people. We get good people to restrain bad laws." - G. K. Chesterton

Nice one. Except we keep getting both bad laws and bad people.

Monday, December 06, 2010

December 6 -- St Nicholas

A 2007 post from Vultus Christi on St Nicholas. A necessary patron.

A new post from Mrs Vidal on St Nicholas
. I love the illustration she uses. The desperate hope on the faces of the soon-to-be-executed can be felt. (I find myself visiting The Fountain of Elias more and more often lately. And Tea at Trianon, too. The Fountain is deeper but Tea is always of interest.)

Some propers for St Nicholas from the Melkite Byzantine tradition:

The Troparion and Kontakion for our Father among the Saints Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia, The Wonderworker

O Father and Pontiff Nicholas, the holiness of your life was set before your flock as rule of faith, an example of meekness and a teaching of temperance; wherefore you acquired greatness through humility and spiritual wealth through poverty. Pray to Christ God that He may save our souls.

In Myra, you proved yourself to be a priest, a servant of divine things, O Saint, for you fulfilled the gospel of Christ, O Holy One: you gave up your life for your people and saved the innocent from death. You have been sanctified, for you were a great guide towards the things of God.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

The Second Sunday of Advent

Drop down dew, ye heavens from above says the old antiphon for Advent. At the moment it's not dew-fall but a full-fledged downpour going on. So no evening walk this evening.

In the spirit of the season, here's the Introitus for the second Sunday of Advent:

The text: Populus Sion, ecce Dominus veniet ad salvandas gentes: et auditam faciet Dominus gloriam vocis suæ in lætitia cordis vestri. Qui regis Israel, intende: qui deducis, velut ovem, Ioseph. Note: no Gloria Patri. So the context is the Pauline Rite. But the text and the melody are the same as in the traditional Roman Rite.

And here's a little something seasonable from The Fountain of Elias with a link to a little more.

And Fr Z explains the Pauline rite collect for the 2d Sunday of Advent.
Not what's in your 1962 Missal, true, but it is from the 8th century Gelasian Sacramentary.

Fr John Hardon, S.J.

Found this morning while paging through a recent number of The Wanderer: the website for Fr Hardon's cause for canonization. There's a biography, a bibliography, some pictures and some good links.

And a prayer for his canonization:

Almighty God, You gave Your servant,
Father John Anthony Hardon of the Society of Jesus,
the grace of consecration as a religious dedicated to the
apostolate and the grace of consecration as an ordained priest,
after the Heart of Your Divine Son, our Good Shepherd.

Through Father Hardon,
You provided for your Flock an extraordinary teacher of the faith.

You entrusted Father Hardon into the loving
care of the Blessed Virgin Mary
whose counsel, "Do whatever he tells you" (Jn 2:5)
he faithfully followed and whose intercession he unceasingly invoked.

If it be Your holy will, please grant the request I now make,
calling upon the help of Father Hardon,
so that his heroic sanctity may be recognized in the whole Church.

I ask this through Your Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who
with You and the Holy Spirit, is one God forever and ever.

Some Piping for (what's left of) the Weekend

Ignorance is Bliss Dept.

Judging from their comments at the end, they didn't like this rendition of "Lads and Lasses". Fortunately, I don't know enough about the tune or Northumbrian piping to dislike it; I enjoyed it immensely. The pipers are members of the Windy Gyle band.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The First Week of Advent

Ad te levavi animam meam. . . .

That's the introit anitphon for the First Sunday of Advent.

We went for our evening walk yesterday after dark to take in the neighborhood Christmas lights and had our annual Christmas decoration debate concerning whether Christmas decorations should be up during Advent.

Herself: Affirmative. As early as possible. As many lights as possible. Christmas is wonderful.

Me: Negative. It's not Christmas yet; it's Advent. Harumph. Christmas decorations should go up for Christmas not Advent.

We continue with variations on the theme, or themes as we are, as we often are, at somewhat cross purposes, until I agree that she's right. Anyone with dimples that cute can't be wrong.

But I'm right, also. (I am vast; I contain contradictions.) Hence the introit antiphon for the first Sunday of Advent.