Friday, November 10, 2006
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918),Canadian Army
In Flanders Field
the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place;
and in the sky
still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead.
Short days ago We lived,
felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved,
and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
McCrae's "In Flanders Fields" remains to this day one of the most memorable war poems ever written. It is a lasting legacy of the terrible battle in the Ypres salient in the spring of 1915. Here is the story of the making of that poem:
Although he had been a doctor for years and had served in the South African War, it was impossible to get used to the suffering, the screams, and the blood here, and Major John McCrae had seen and heard enough in his dressing station to last him a lifetime.
As a surgeon attached to the 1st Field Artillery Brigade, Major McCrae, who had joined the McGill faculty in 1900 after graduating from the University of Toronto, had spent seventeen days treating injured men -- Canadians, British, Indians, French, and Germans -- in the Ypres salient.
It had been an ordeal that he had hardly thought possible. McCrae later wrote of it:
"I wish I could embody on paper some of the varied sensations of that seventeen days... Seventeen days of Hades! At the end of the first day if anyone had told us we had to spend seventeen days there, we would have folded our hands and said it could not have been done."
One death particularly affected McCrae. A young friend and former student, Lieut. Alexis Helmer of Ottawa, had been killed by a shell burst on 2 May 1915. Lieutenant Helmer was buried later that day in the little cemetery outside McCrae's dressing station, and McCrae had performed the funeral ceremony in the absence of the chaplain.
The next day, sitting on the back of an ambulance parked near the dressing station beside the Canal de l'Yser, just a few hundred yards north of Ypres, McCrae vented his anguish by composing a poem. The major was no stranger to writing, having authored several medical texts besides dabbling in poetry.
In the nearby cemetery, McCrae could see the wild poppies that sprang up in the ditches in that part of Europe, and he spent twenty minutes of precious rest time scribbling fifteen lines of verse in a notebook.
A young soldier watched him write it. Cyril Allinson, a twenty-two year old sergeant-major, was delivering mail that day when he spotted McCrae. The major looked up as Allinson approached, then went on writing while the sergeant-major stood there quietly. "His face was very tired but calm as we wrote," Allinson recalled. "He looked around from time to time, his eyes straying to Helmer's grave."
When McCrae finished five minutes later, he took his mail from Allinson and, without saying a word, handed his pad to the young NCO. Allinson was moved by what he read:
"The poem was exactly an exact description of the scene in front of us both. He used the word blow in that line because the poppies actually were being blown that morning by a gentle east wind. It never occurred to me at that time that it would ever be published. It seemed to me just an exact description of the scene."
In fact, it was very nearly not published. Dissatisfied with it, McCrae tossed the poem away, but a fellow officer retrieved it and sent it to newspapers in England. The Spectator, in London, rejected it, but Punch published it on 8 December 1915.
There was a woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. So, as she was getting her things "in order", she contacted her pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes.
She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in. The woman also requested to be buried with her favourite Bible.
Everything was in order and the pastor was preparing to leave when the woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.
"There's one more thing," she said excitedly.
"What's that?" the pastor replied.
"This is very important," the woman continued. "I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand."
The pastor stood looking at the woman, not knowing quite what to say.
"That surprises you, doesn't it?" the woman asked.
"Well, to be honest, I'm puzzled by the request," said the pastor.
The woman explained. "In all my years of attending fund raisers and potluck dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, 'Keep your fork.' It was my favourite part because I knew that something better was coming like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie.
"Something wonderful, and with substance! So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder, 'What's with the fork?' Then I want you to tell them: 'Keep your fork the best is yet to come.' "
The pastor's eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the woman good-bye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. However, he also knew that the woman had a better grasp of Heaven than he did. She KNEW that something better was coming.
At the funeral people were walking by the woman's casket and they saw the pretty dress she was wearing and her favourite Bible and the fork placed in her right hand. Over and over, the pastor heard the question "What's with the fork?" And over and over, he smiled.
Therefore, the next time you reach down for your fork let it remind you, oh, so gently, that the best is yet to come.
Friends are a very rare jewel, indeed.
Remember...keep your fork,
Sunday, September 24, 2006
There is one Christmas Carol that has always baffled me.
Have you ever wondered about THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS? What in the world do Leaping Lords, French Hens, Swimming Swans, andespecially the Partridge who won't come out of the pear tree have to dowith Christmas?
Today, I found out.
From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics. It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members oftheir church. Each element in the carol has a codeword for a religious reality, which the children could remember...
The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.
Two turtledoves were the Old and New Testaments.
Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.
The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke &John.
The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books ofthe Old Testament.
The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.
Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of theHoly Spirit: Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution,Leadership, and Mercy.
The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.
Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit: Love, Joy,Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and SelfControl.
The ten Lords a-leaping were the Ten Commandments.
The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.
The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed.
Interesting, n'est-ce pas?
Sunday, August 20, 2006
ROMA, May 29, 2006 – The most extensively analyzed and criticized portion of Benedict XVI’s trip to the homeland of his predecessor, Poland, was when he visited Auschwitz and Birkenau, sites of the Holocaust.
It is criticized because of what pope Joseph Ratinger did not say there.
But it didn’t happen. Benedict XVI didn’t talk speak of these two matters.
Nor did he repeat the usual interpretations of the Holocaust.
On the contrary, he made an interpretation of the slaughter of the Jewish people that no pope had ever made before him.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
Saturday, August 05, 2006
Message of His Eminence Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
To the Communion and Liberation (CL) Meeting At Rimini
(August 24-30, 2002)
"The Feeling of Things, the Contemplation of Beauty"
Every year, in the Liturgy of the Hours for the Season of Lent, I am struck anew by a paradox in Vespers for Monday of the Second Week of the Psalter. Here, side by side, are two antiphons, one for the Season of Lent, the other for Holy Week. Both introduce Psalm 44 , but they present strikingly contradictory interpretations. The Psalm describes the wedding of the King, his beauty, his virtues, his mission, and then becomes an exaltation of his bride. In the Season of Lent, Psalm 44 is framed by the same antiphon used for the rest of the year. The third verse of the Psalm says: "You are the fairest of the children of men and grace is poured upon your lips".
Naturally, the Church reads this psalm as a poetic-prophetic representation of Christ's spousal relationship with his Church. She recognizes Christ as the fairest of men, the grace poured upon his lips points to the inner beauty of his words, the glory of his proclamation. So it is not merely the external beauty of the Redeemer's appearance that is glorified: rather, the beauty of Truth appears in him, the beauty of God himself who draws us to himself and, at the same time captures us with the wound of Love, the holy passion (eros), that enables us to go forth together, with and in the Church his Bride, to meet the Love who calls us.
On Monday of Holy Week, however, the Church changes the antiphon and invites us to interpret the Psalm in the light of Is 53,2: "He had neither beauty, no majesty, nothing to attract our eyes, no grace to make us delight in him". How can we reconcile this? The appearance of the "fairest of the children of men" is so wretched that no one desires to look at him. Pilate presented him to the crowd saying: "Behold the man!", to rouse sympathy for the crushed and battered Man, in whom no external beauty remained.
Augustine, who in his youth wrote a book on the Beautiful and the Harmonious [De pulchro et apto] and who appreciated beauty in words, in music, in the figurative arts, had a keen appreciation of this paradox and realized that in this regard, the great Greek philosophy of the beautiful was not simply rejected but rather, dramatically called into question and what the beautiful might be, what beauty might mean, would have to be debated anew and suffered. Referring to the paradox contained in these texts, he spoke of the contrasting blasts of "two trumpets", produced by the same breath, the same Spirit. He knew that a paradox is contrast and not contradiction. Both quotes come from the same Spirit who inspires all Scripture, but sounds different notes in it. It is in this way that he sets us before the totality of true Beauty, of Truth itself.
In the first place, the text of Isaiah supplies the question that interested the Fathers of the Church, whether or not Christ was beautiful. Implicit here is the more radical question of whether beauty is true or whether it is not ugliness that leads us to the deepest truth of reality. Whoever believes in God, in the God who manifested himself, precisely in the altered appearance of Christ crucified as love "to the end" (Jn 13,1), knows that beauty is truth and truth beauty; but in the suffering Christ he also learns that the beauty of truth also embraces offence, pain, and even the dark mystery of death, and that this can only be found in accepting suffering, not in ignoring it.
Certainly, the consciousness that beauty has something to do with pain was also present in the Greek world. For example, let us take Plato's Phaedrus. Plato contemplates the encounter with beauty as the salutary emotional shock that makes man leave his shell and sparks his "enthusiasm" by attracting him to what is other than himself. Man, says Plato, has lost the original perfection that was conceived for him. He is now perennially searching for the healing primitive form. Nostalgia and longing impel him to pursue the quest; beauty prevents him from being content with just daily life. It causes him to suffer. In a Platonic sense, we could say that the arrow of nostalgia pierces man, wounds him and in this way gives him wings, lifts him upwards towards the transcendent. In his discourse in the Symposium, Aristophanes says that lovers do not know what they really want from each other. From the search for what is more than their pleasure, it is obvious that the souls of both are thirsting for something other than amorous pleasure. But the heart cannot express this "other" thing, "it has only a vague perception of what it truly wants and wonders about it as an enigma".
In the 14th century, in the book, "The Life in Christ" by the Byzantine theologian, Nicholas Cabasilas, we rediscover Plato's experience in which the ultimate object of nostalgia, transformed by the new Christian experience, continues to be nameless. Cabasilas says: "When men have a longing so great that it surpasses human nature and eagerly desire and are able to accomplish things beyond human thought, it is the Bridegroom who has smitten them with this longing. It is he who has sent a ray of his beauty into their eyes. The greatness of the wound already shows the arrow which has struck home, the longing indicates who has inflicted the wound." (cf. The Life in Christ, the Second Book, 15).
The beautiful wounds, but this is exactly how it summons man to his final destiny. What Plato said, and, more than 1,500 years later, Cabasilas, has nothing to do with superficial aestheticism and irrationalism or with the flight from clarity and the importance of reason. The beautiful is knowledge certainly, but, in a superior form, since it arouses man to the real greatness of the truth. Here Cabasilas has remained entirely Greek, since he puts knowledge first when he says, "In fact it is knowing that causes love and gives birth to it.... Since this knowledge is sometimes very ample and complete and at other times imperfect, it follows that the love potion has the same effect" (cf. ibid.).
He is not content to leave this assertion in general terms. In his characteristically rigorous thought, he distinguishes between two kinds of knowledge: knowledge through instruction which remains, so to speak, "second hand" and does not imply any direct contact with reality itself. The second type of knowledge, on the other hand, is knowledge through personal experience, through a direct relationship with the reality. "Therefore we do not love it to the extent that it is a worthy object of love, and since we have not perceived the very form itself we do not experience its proper effect".
True knowledge is being struck by the arrow of Beauty that wounds man, moved by reality, "how it is Christ himself who is present and in an ineffable way disposes and forms the souls of men" (cf. ibid.).
Being struck and overcome by the beauty of Christ is a more real, more profound knowledge than mere rational deduction. Of course we must not underrate the importance of theological reflection, of exact and precise theological thought; it remains absolutely necessary. But to move from here to disdain or to reject the impact produced by the response of the heart in the encounter with beauty as a true form of knowledge would impoverish us and dry up our faith and our theology. We must rediscover this form of knowledge; it is a pressing need of our time.
Starting with this concept, Hans Urs von Balthasar built his Opus magnum of Theological Aesthetics. Many of its details have passed into theological work, while his fundamental approach, in truth the essential element of the whole work, has not been so readily accepted. Of course, this is not just, or principally, a theological problem, but a problem of pastoral life, that has to foster the human person's encounter with the beauty of faith. All too often arguments fall on deaf ears because in our world too many contradictory arguments compete with one another, so much so that we are spontaneously reminded of the medieval theologians' description of reason, that it "has a wax nose': in other words, it can be pointed in any direction, if one is clever enough. Everything makes sense, is so convincing, whom should we trust?
The encounter with the beautiful can become the wound of the arrow that strikes the heart and in this way opens our eyes, so that later, from this experience, we take the criteria for judgement and can correctly evaluate the arguments. For me an unforgettable experience was the Bach concert that Leonard Bernstein conducted in Munich after the sudden death of Karl Richter. I was sitting next to the Lutheran Bishop Hanselmann. When the last note of one of the great Thomas-Kantor-Cantatas triumphantly faded away, we looked at each other spontaneously and right then we said: "Anyone who has heard this, knows that the faith is true". The music had such an extraordinary force of reality that we realized, no longer by deduction, but by the impact on our hearts, that it could not have originated from nothingness, but could only have come to be through the power of the Truth that became real in the composer's inspiration. Isn't the same thing evident when we allow ourselves to be moved by the icon of the Trinity of Rublëv? In the art of the icons, as in the great Western paintings of the Romanesque and Gothic period, the experience described by Cabasilas, starting with interiority, is visibly portrayed and can be shared.
In a rich way Pavel Evdokimov has brought to light the interior pathway that an icon establishes. An icon does not simply reproduce what can be perceived by the senses, but rather it presupposes, as he says, "a fasting of sight". Inner perception must free itself from the impression of the merely sensible, and in prayer and ascetical effort acquire a new and deeper capacity to see, to perform the passage from what is merely external to the profundity of reality, in such a way that the artist can see what the senses as such do not see, and what actually appears in what can be perceived: the splendour of the glory of God, the "glory of God shining on the face of Christ "(II Cor 4,6).
To admire the icons and the great masterpieces of Christian art in general, leads us on an inner way, a way of overcoming ourselves; thus in this purification of vision that is a purification of the heart, it reveals the beautiful to us, or at least a ray of it. In this way we are brought into contact with the power of the truth. I have often affirmed my conviction that the true apology of Christian faith, the most convincing demonstration of its truth against every denial, are the saints, and the beauty that the faith has generated. Today, for faith to grow, we must lead ourselves and the persons we meet to encounter the saints and to enter into contact with the Beautiful.
Now however, we still have to respond to an objection. We have already rejected the assumption which claims that what has just been said is a flight into the irrational, into mere aestheticism. Rather, it is the opposite that is true: this is the very way in which reason is freed from dullness and made ready to act.
Today another objection has even greater weight: the message of beauty is thrown into complete doubt by the power of falsehood, seduction, violence and evil. Can the beautiful be genuine, or, in the end, is it only an illusion? Isn't reality perhaps basically evil? The fear that in the end it is not the arrow of the beautiful that leads us to the truth, but that falsehood, all that is ugly and vulgar, may constitute the true "reality" has at all times caused people anguish. At present this has been expressed in the assertion that after Auschwitz it was no longer possible to write poetry; after Auschwitz it is no longer possible to speak of a God who is good. People wondered: where was God when the gas chambers were operating? This objection, which seemed reasonable enough before Auschwitz when one realized all the atrocities of history, shows that in any case a purely harmonious concept of beauty is not enough. It cannot stand up to the confrontation with the gravity of the questioning about God, truth and beauty. Apollo, who for Plato's Socrates was "the God" and the guarantor of unruffled beauty as "the truly divine" is absolutely no longer sufficient.
In this way, we return to the "two trumpets" of the Bible with which we started, to the paradox of being able to say of Christ: "You are the fairest of the children of men", and: "He had no beauty, no majesty to draw our eyes, no grace to make us delight in him". In the Passion of Christ the Greek aesthetic that deserves admiration for its perceived contact with the Divine but which remained inexpressible for it, in Christ's passion is not removed but overcome. The experience of the beautiful has received new depth and new realism. The One who is the Beauty itself let himself be slapped in the face, spat upon, crowned with thorns; the Shroud of Turin can help us imagine this in a realistic way. However, in his Face that is so disfigured, there appears the genuine, extreme beauty: the beauty of love that goes "to the very end"; for this reason it is revealed as greater than falsehood and violence. Whoever has perceived this beauty knows that truth, and not falsehood, is the real aspiration of the world. It is not the false that is "true", but indeed, the Truth. It is, as it were, a new trick of what is false to present itself as "truth" and to say to us: over and above me there is basically nothing, stop seeking or even loving the truth; in doing so you are on the wrong track. The icon of the crucified Christ sets us free from this deception that is so widespread today. However it imposes a condition: that we let ourselves be wounded by him, and that we believe in the Love who can risk setting aside his external beauty to proclaim, in this way, the truth of the beautiful.
Falsehood however has another strategem. A beauty that is deceptive and false, a dazzling beauty that does not bring human beings out of themselves to open them to the ecstasy of rising to the heights, but indeed locks them entirely into themselves. Such beauty does not reawaken a longing for the Ineffable, readiness for sacrifice, the abandonment of self, but instead stirs up the desire, the will for power, possession and pleasure. It is that type of experience of beauty of which Genesis speaks in the account of the Original Sin. Eve saw that the fruit of the tree was "beautiful" to eat and was "delightful to the eyes". The beautiful, as she experienced it, aroused in her a desire for possession, making her, as it were, turn in upon herself. Who would not recognize, for example, in advertising, the images made with supreme skill that are created to tempt the human being irresistibly, to make him want to grab everything and seek the passing satisfaction rather than be open to others.
So it is that Christian art today is caught between two fires (as perhaps it always has been): it must oppose the cult of the ugly, which says that everything beautiful is a deception and only the representation of what is crude, low and vulgar is the truth, the true illumination of knowledge. Or it has to counter the deceptive beauty that makes the human being seem diminished instead of making him great, and for this reason is false.
Is there anyone who does not know Dostoyevsky's often quoted sentence: "The Beautiful will save us"? However, people usually forget that Dostoyevsky is referring here to the redeeming Beauty of Christ. We must learn to see Him. If we know Him, not only in words, but if we are struck by the arrow of his paradoxical beauty, then we will truly know him, and know him not only because we have heard others speak about him. Then we will have found the beauty of Truth, of the Truth that redeems. Nothing can bring us into close contact with the beauty of Christ himself other than the world of beauty created by faith and light that shines out from the faces of the saints, through whom his own light becomes visible.
Sunday, July 30, 2006
© 1992 by Nigel Rees
From Volume 1, Number 2, April 1992 issue of The "Quote... Unquote"® Newsletter
On a bleak winter's day we drove up to a service station in the tiny Lincolnshire village of Scopwick. If there had ever been any poetry about the place it was probably a distant echo of some line of Tennyson's about the utterly flat wolds, but the pump attendant sized us up instantly. `It's Magee you've come to see?' he said, and directed us to a small burial ground (not the church graveyard) a few hundred yards away.
There, amid the score or so military graves from the Second World War--Allied and German--was the gravestone we had indeed come to find. We wanted to see whether it bore Magee's most quoted lines.
"Oh I Have SlippedThe Surly Bonds of Earth... Put Out My HandAnd Touched the Face of God"
How did these lines become so famous? Because they are a classic case of a speechwriter having the appropriate quotation to hand at the right moment. On 28 January 1986, in his TV broadcast to the nation on the day of the space shuttle Challenger disaster, President Reagan concluded: `We will never forget them this morning as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God.'
This immediately sent people the world over on fruitless journeys to their quotation books. Reagan was quoting `High Flight,' a sonnet written by John Gillespie Magee, a pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force in the Second World War. He came to Britain, flew in a Spitfire squadron, and was killed at the age of nineteen on 11 December 1941 during a training flight from the airfield near Scopwick.
Magee had been born in Shanghai of an American father and an English mother who were missionaries. He was educated at Rugby and at school in Connecticut. The sonnet was written on the back of a letter to his parents which stated, `I am enclosing a verse I wrote the other day. It started at 30,000 feet, and was finished soon after I landed.' The parents were living in Washington, DC, at the time of his death and, according to the Library of Congress book Respectfully Quoted, the poem came to the attention of the Librarian of Congress, Archibald MacLeish, who acclaimed Magee as the first poet of the war.
Copies of `High Flight'--sometimes referred to as `the pilot's creed'--were widely distributed and plaques bearing it were sent to all R.C.A.F. air fields and training stations. The poem was published in 1943 in a volume called More Poems from the Forces (which was `dedicated to the USSR'). This is a transcription of the original manuscript in the Library of Congress:
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds,
-- and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence.
Hov'ring there,I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless falls of air...
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, nor eer eagle flew--
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high, untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.
How did the poem come to be quoted by President Reagan in 1986? As it happens, he knew of the poem: `I hadn't heard it in years, but of course I knew it from years back, the war. And I think it was written on a sort of tablet or plaque outside Patti's school that I took her to when she was a young girl.' It transpires that Reagan had also been present the night fellow actor Tyrone Power returned from fighting in the Second World War--a party at which Power recited `High Flight' from memory. (When Power died, the poem was read over his grave by Laurence Olivier.)
It was also used for years as the close-down reading of a local Washington TV station. It was generally well-known in the United States (and much more so than in Britain). One person who learned it at school was Peggy Noonan who wrote the speech for Reagan, as she describes in her book What I Saw at the Revolution (1990). This is not the occasion to discuss the rights and wrongs of speechwriters `going public' and revealing the extent to which they pull strings. Suffice to say, it was a brilliant stroke on Noonan's part to select such an apposite quotation and one it was not too far-fetched to put in Reagan's mouth.
Two footnotes: in his lyrics for the English version of the musical Les Miserables (1985). Herbert Kretzmer blended Magee's words with something from Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited (`to know and love another human being is the root of all wisdom') to produce the line: `To love another person is to see the face of God.'
Magee's original words are curiously reminiscent of Oscar Wilde's lines prefixed to his Poems (Paris edition, 1903):
Surely there was a time I might have trod
The sunlit heights, and from life's dissonance
Struck one clear chord to reach the ears of God.
But I had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation. Unless a situation smelled of danger, I always went to the door. This passenger might be someone who needs my assistance, I reasoned to myself.
So I walked to the door and knocked. "Just a minute", answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.
After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 80's stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940s movie.
By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no nickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.
"Would you carry my bag out to the car?" she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman.
She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness. "It's nothing", I told her. "I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated".
"Oh, you're such a good boy", she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, and then asked, "Could you drive through downtown?"
"It's not the shortest way," I answered quickly.
"Oh, I don't mind," she said. "I'm in no hurry. I'm on my way to a hospice".
I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. "I don't have any family left," she continued. "The doctor says I don't have very long." I quietly reached over and shut off the meter.
"What route would you like me to take?" I asked.
For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator.
We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl. Sometimes she'd ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.
As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, "I'm tired. Let's go now."
We drove in silence to the address she had given me.It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico.
Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her.
I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.
"How much do I owe you?" she asked, reaching into her purse."Nothing," I said.
"You have to make a living," she answered. "There are other passengers," I responded. Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.
"You gave an old woman a little moment of joy," she said. "Thank you."
I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.
I didn't pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift?
What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?
On a quick review, I don't think that I have done anything more important in my life.
We're conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments.
But great moments often catch us unaware-beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.
People may not rememver exactly what you did, or what you said
~But~They will always remember how you made them feel.
You won't get any big surprise in 10 days if you send this to ten people.
But, you might help make the world a little kinder and more compassionate by sending it on.
Thank you, my friend... Thank you Jane.
Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we are here we might as well dance.
1-2 Peuple, mets-toi à genoux, baisse la tête, et que l'ombre de Dieu avance sur toi, le nom du Dieu de Jacob ainsi qu'une main étendue.
3 Dis-Lui qu'Il t'envoie de tous côtés à travers toi Ses anges pour te parcourir: comme les quêteuses à l'église.
4 Préfère-Le dans ton coeur: immole-Lui une bonne fois dans ton coeur cet ennemi que tu connais bien,
5 Qu'il y ait échange entre vous de connaissance et de force.
6 Et maintenant, relève-toi, la sens-tu, cette aile qui t'a poussé?
7 Tu n'as qu'à demander, demande! il y a quelqu'un qui est prêt à ne faire qu'un en toi avec Son Christ.
Il y a quelqu'un au ciel, l'oreille tendue, qui ne demande qu'à déchaîner sur toi les omnipotences de Sa droite.
8 Les uns ont des chevaux et les autres des machines, et nous, le nom de Dieu à notre disposition.
9 Pauvres diables! leurs pieds se sont embarrassés, ils bafouillent des deux jambes! Et nous autres, on s'est levé!
Debout! On marche, on est debout sur ses pieds!
10 Domine, salvam fac rempublicam - et fais bien attention, dimanche, à ce que nous te demanderons le dimanche d'après.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Allez voir Dieu sur la montagne
Un ami, de passage dans les Hautes-Alpes, séjournait dans un village depuis quelques jours et, bavardant avec un vieux sage, celui-ci lui désigne deux hommes et dit : «Vous voyez, ces deux là-bas, de vrais amis, mais il n'en a pas toujours été ainsi. Ils habitent des maisons voisines. Autrefois ils consacraient l’essentiel de leur temps à se chamailler. Toujours de bonnes raisons pour se quereller. La vie devenait insupportable pour l'un comme pour l'autre, mais aussi pour nous tous dans notre petite communauté.»
Un jour, quelques anciens disent à l'un deux: «Il reste encore une solution, maintenant que nous avons tout essayé pour que vous réconciliez, c'est que tu ailles voir Dieu. - Je veux bien, dit l'autre, mais où ? – Il suffit que tu montes très haut sur la montagne, et là, tout prêt du ciel et des nuages, tu le verras.» Et le voilà parti quelque peu hésitant, à la recherche de Dieu.
Après plusieurs jours d’ascension et d'efforts, le voici face à Dieu qui l'attendait. Mais surprise ! Il pouvait se frotter les yeux encore et encore, pas de doute, loin de tout ce qu’il avait pu imaginer, Dieu ressemblait étrangement à son voisin.
Ce que Dieu lui dit alors, personne ne le sut jamais.
En tout cas, un homme nouveau rentra au village. Malgré sa gentillesse, son désir de se réconcilier avec son voisin, tout allait toujours mal car l'autre redoublait d'imagination pour inventer des sujets de discorde.Les anciens se dirent entre eux: «Lui aussi doit aller voir Dieu.» Bien que réticent, ils réussirent à le persuader.
La suite, vous l'avez devinée: Dieu avait aussi les traits de son voisin. De ce jour-là, tout devint différent, et désormais, l'un et l'autre sont devenus les meilleurs amis du monde.»
Au cours de ces mois d’été vous serez très nombreux sur les routes, chemins et sentiers des Hautes-Alpes. Peut-être penserez vous à vos voisins, à ceux et celles que vous côtoyez tout au long de l’année, avec joie ou déplaisir, si c’est le cas, n'hésitez pas, profitez de votre séjour dans notre région et allez voir Dieu sur la montagne.
Je me souviens d’un livre de Samivel, Gaspard des montagnes, et tout particulièrement de l’une des illustrations où l’on voit un homme de dos, tout seul, assis au sommet de la montagne. L’ascension a été éprouvante, il refait ses forces en contemplant la vallée, le regard vers l’horizon, et il dit: «Ce serait encore plus beau si je pouvais le dire à quelqu’un.» Oui, le visage de Dieu sera encore plus beau si vous le dites à quelqu’un !
+ Jean-Michel di Falco Léandri
Evêque de Gap
Friday, July 21, 2006
GLORY be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Friday, July 14, 2006
Explaining the transcendent experience one undergoes when one is conquered by beauty - whether it be a a child, a woman, a man, a flower, a sunset, Dante's Divina Commedia, a Mozart symphony, Michelangelo's Pieta, or a rainbow...
Hans Urs von Balthasar on Beauty and Rapture
Balthasar argues that the encounter with beauty in the world is analogous to the encounter with the Triune God. What happens in the "aesthetic encounter"? He sees that beauty is an indissolvable union of two things: species and lumen. Beauty consists of a specific, tangible form (species) accessible to human senses with a splendor emanating from the form (lumen). Beauty has a particular form, is concretely situated in the coordinates of time and space, and thus has proportion so that it can be perceived. The splendor is the attractive charm of the Beautiful, the gravitational pull, the tractor beam pulling the beholder into it. When confronted with the Beautiful, one encounters "the real presence of the depths, of the whole reality, and . . . a real pointing beyond itself to those depths".
In the perception of beauty, two moments occur: first vision and then rapture, the result of which is the impression of the form on the beholder. The splendor moves out from within the form, enraptures the person and transports him into its depths. Thus the visible form 'not only 'points' to an invisible, unfathomable mystery; form is the apparition of this mystery, and reveals it while, naturally, at the same time "protecting and veiling it". In beauty, the beholder is drawn out of himself and pulled into the form by the attractive force of the beautiful thing, thereby encountering the beautiful thing in itself.
A simple example to illustrate the aesthetical encounter can be found in looking up into a clear night sky at the stars. One is struck by the immensity and order of the universe, by the arrangement of the constellations. On an especially clear night, one seems engulfed by the sheer number of stars. Presented with this beautiful form, a sensitive viewer is drawn in by light breaking forth from the form. This light is not simply the light emanating from each star, the result of burning gases. It is the light of Being. Transported into the depths of the form, the viewer ponders foundational questions such as: How did this happen? Where did these things come from? Why is this form so beautiful? Why am I so moved by it?
The result of the aesthetical encounter is an encounter with the mystery of Being-in-itself. One has been shown the form and through the form been brought into an encounter with the depth of Being. Wondering at the mystery of a particular being, one is drawn into that beautiful form, and touches the mystery of absolute Being. The form and the depths of its being are indissoluble. In beauty one doesn't "get behind" the form. Rather one touches the depths of Being in the form itself.
For Balthasar, things that exist don't just lay there in existence; they glow from their participation in absolute Being. In Beauty, one is taken in and grasped by Being. In order to perceive a particular being as it is, one must surrender, be receptive, and be willing to be taken in by the form. Control or manipulation on the part of the beholder derails the aesthetical encounter. To share in the beauty, the viewer must renounce himself. The result of the encounter with beauty is the impressing of the form on the person leaving him breathless, exhilarated, full of awe and infused with joy. He is "seduced" by the beautiful form whether it is a stunning landscape or one's beloved.
The excerpt is from "Love Alone is Believable: Hans Urs von Balthasar's Apologetics by Fr. John R. Cihak.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
I must send my thanks to whoever sent me the one about rat poop in the glue on envelopes because I now have to use a wet towel with every envelope that needs sealing.
Also, now I have to scrub the top of every can I open for the same reason.
I no longer have any savings because I gave it to a sick girl (Penny Brown) who is about to die in the hospital for the 1,387,258th time.
I no longer have any money at all, but that will change once I receive the $15,000 that Bill Gates Microsoft and AOL are sending me for participating in their special e-mail program.
I no longer worry about my soul because I have 363,214 angels looking out for me, and St.Theresa's novena has granted my every wish.
I no longer eat KFC because their chickens are actually horrible mutant freaks with no eyes or feathers.
I no longer use cancer-causing deodorants even though I smell like a water buffalo on a hot day.
Thanks to you, I have learned that my prayers only get answered if I forward an email to seven of my friends and make a wish within five minutes.
Because of your concern I no longer drink Coca Cola because it can remove toilet stains.
I no longer can buy gasoline without taking someone along to watch the car so a serial killer won't crawl in my back seat when I'm pumping gas.
I no longer drink Pepsi or Dr. Pepper since the people who make these products are atheists who refuse to put "Under God" on their cans.
I no longer use Saran wrap in the microwave because it causes cancer.
And thanks for letting me know I can't boil a cup water in the microwave anymore because it will blow up in my face...disfiguring me for life.
I no longer check the coin return on pay phones because I could be pricked with a needle infected with AIDS.
I no longer go to shopping malls because someone will drug me with a perfume sample and rob me.
I no longer receive packages from UPS or FedEx since they are actually Al Qaeda in disguise.
I no longer shop at Target since they are French and don't support our American troops or the Salvation Army.
I no longer answer the phone because someone will ask me to dial a number for which I will get a phone bill with calls to Jamaica, Uganda, Singapore, and Uzbekistan.
II no longer have any sneakers -- but that will change once I receive my free replacement pair from Nike.
I no longer buy expensive cookies from Neiman Marcus since I now have their recipe.
Thanks to you, I can't use anyone's toilet but mine because a big brown African spider is lurking under the seat to cause me instant death when it bites my butt.
Thank you too for all the endless advice Andy Rooney has given us. I can live a better life now because he's told us how to fix everything.
And thanks to your great advice, I can't ever pick up the $5.00 dropped in the parking lot because it probably was placed there by a sex molester waiting underneath my car to grab my leg.
Oh, and don't forget this one either! I can no longer drive my car because I can't buy gas from certain gas companies!
If you don't send this e-mail to at least 144,000 people in the next 70 minutes, a large dove with diarrhea will land on your head at 5:00 PM this afternoon and the fleas from 12 camels will infest your back, causing you to grow a hairy hump. I know this will occur because it actually happened to a friend of my next door neighbor's ex-mother-in-law's second husband's cousin's beautician...
Have a wonderful day...
Thursday, June 01, 2006
It seems like yesterday
But it was long ago
Janey was lovely she was the queen of my nights
There in the darkness with the radio playing low
And the secrets that we shared
The mountains that we moved
Caught like a wildfire out of control
'Til there was nothing left to burn and nothing left to prove
And I remember what she said to me
How she swore that it never would end
I remember how she held me oh so tight
Wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then
Against the wind
We were runnin' against the wind
We were young and strong, we were runnin'
Against the wind
The years rolled slowly past
And I found myself alone
Surrounded by strangers I thought were my friends
I found myself further and further from my home
And I guess I lost my way
There were oh so many roads
I was living to run and running to live
Never worryied about paying or even how much I owed
Moving eight miles a minute for months at a time
Breaking all of the rules that would bend
I began to find myself searching
Searching for shelter again and again
Against the wind
A little something against the wind
I found myself seeking shelter sgainst the wind
Well those drifter's days are past me now
I've got so much more to think about
Deadlines and commitments
What to leave in, what to leave out
Against the wind
I'm still runnin' against the wind
I'm older now but still runnin' against the wind
Well I'm older now and still runnin'
Against the wind
Against the wind
Against the wind
I'm still runnin' against the wind
I'm still runnin'
I'm still runnin' against the wind
Runnin' against the wind
Runnin' against the wind
See the young man run
Watch the young man run
Watch the young man runnin'
He'll be runnin' against the wind
Let the cowboys ride
Let the cowboys ride
They'll be ridin' against the wind
Against the wind ...
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Wednesday, 26 March 2003
Presenter: Peter Gooch
Researcher: Noel Whittaker
Where did that come from?
If you've ever wondered where we got our peculiar railway gauge and other transportation measurements, you're not alone. As revealed by financial expert Noel Whittaker, in America and England the following material has been provided to settle the curiosity pangs of those with measurment angst.
Does the statement, "We've always done it that way" ring any bells?
The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. Now that's an exceedingly odd number. Why was that gauge used? Because that's the way they built them in England, and English expatriates built the US Railroads.
Why did the English build them like that?
Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that's the gauge they used.
Why did "they" use that gauge then?
Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.
Okay! Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing?
Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some of the old, long distance roads in England, because that's the spacing of the wheel ruts.
So who built those old rutted roads?
Imperial Rome built the first longdistance roads in Europe (and England) for their legions. The roads have been used ever since. And the ruts in the roads? Roman war chariots formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels. Since the chariots were made for Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing. Therefore, the United States standard railroad specifications are the same as for an Imperial Roman war chariot.
And bureaucracies live forever.
So the next time you are handed a spec and told we have always done it that way and wonder which horse's arse came up with that, you may be exactly right, because the Imperial Roman war chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the back ends of two war horses.
Now the twist to the story...
When you see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. These SRBs are made by Thiokol at their factory in Utah. The engineers who designed the SRBs would have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory happens to run through atunnel in the mountains. The SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track, as you now know, is about as wide as two horses' behinds. So, a major Space Shuttle design feature of what is arguably the world'smost advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horse's arse.
And you thought being a horse's arse wasn't important?? ...
Je me souviens!The face, the colour and the language of Quebec City have changed considerably over the years since Marymount College closed its doors in 1969. It remains a beautiful city in a Province that is officially unilingual French in an officially bilingual Canada. Today, it is hard to imagine that there once was a very visible and vibrant English language population in Quebec City, be they Roman Catholic, Protestant or Jewish. The late sixties and seventies saw the English leave Quebec in droves. Quebec City was particularly hard hit as its high school graduates left the City to attend English universities in Montreal, Lennoxville (Bishop’s) or in any of the other Provinces of Canada. Very few returned and soon entire families were gone.
If one doesn’t read French, one won’t know who, what the monument or plate honours (that applies to all Provincially owned attraction) as there is no English translation. English and French descriptions appear together only in Federal office buildings or offices, in federally funded or federally owned sites such as the “Plains of Abraham”. Our politics are no longer “red” or “blue”, but either a pro-Canada or pro-independent French-only Quebec. It is hard to imagine that tourism is the main industry of this city, along with the city being a government town, the capital of the Province of Quebec.
In June of 2000 I was showing a friend around the City . We stopped to read the inscription and plates of a monument near the Ursuline Monastery in Old Quebec. The monument was commissioned by the City of Quebec to commemorate the 325th anniversary of the death of Marie de l’Incarnation, known as the Mother of the Canadian Church and founder, in 1639, of the first girls’ school in North America. The monument honours not just the Ursulines, but also all those women religious who dedicated their lives to educating Quebec’s youth. Two plates list the names of 56 religious orders of women, the year of establishment and in what city or town in the Province. It is hard to imagine that the Province of Quebec, by looking at the monument and those 56 names, had, has an English speaking population. As I read through the names with my friend, I noticed the Anglican Order of the Sisters of Saint John the Divine, first established in Quebec City, 1927. I had never heard of them and my research would later confirm that they indeed were in the City but were not, are not a teaching religious order. With that exception, no other English religious order was to be found listed. Neither the Sisters of Charity of Halifax, Quebec City, 1935, nor the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, Quebec City, 1943, was listed.
The “English Face of Quebec” was simply not there.
I did attend a Quebec City council meeting after contacting an opposition councillor that I know, knowing he would bring the subject up thereby opening the door for my two cents worth. I pointed out that within the next 25 years that monument would be more of a tombstone and wouldn’t they want their tombstones properly inscribed? Ironically, the City council meeting that I attended was a historical one in that it was the last of the City of Quebec as we had known it. January 1, 2002, by Government imposed legislation, Quebec City incorporated all the suburbs into one "mega" city. The City of Quebec City Hall is now home to this central municipal government and the new Quebec City.
The budget was approved to have new plates cast, both plates as a couple of French Religious orders had also been overlooked including the Augustinian nuns (AMJ) who arrived with Marie de l’Incarnation and founded the first hospital in North America. They had one of the first nursing schools! The Mayor gave me his word that “my English speaking nuns” would be remembered!
The new engraved plate was affixed to the monument in August 2002. In talking with one of the City’s councilmen I discovered that it isn’t clear if this monument is meant to honour the women religious who actually taught in Quebec City only or Province-wide. In either case, it is not accurate. The Augustinians who taught nursing are still not there and they arrived in 1639 with the Ursulines, the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Jesus never came to Quebec City...
Marymount College, Quebec City/Ste-Foy, 1953-1964
Mount Saint Vincent Academy, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1966
Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, BEd 1981
© Sheelagh Grenon 2002