Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter

A clip of the Gloria from Easter Vigil, which is probably the most exciting moment in the whole liturgical year.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Good Friday*

The traditional Catholic Holy Week ceremonies are among the most beautiful of the whole liturgical year. During the Holy Tridiuum - which is Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday - the recitation of the Divine Office is replaced by the office of Tenebrae, a very solomn series of psalms and antiphones deeply lamenting the death of Christ and His betrayal at the hands of His friends, mitigated by exaultant passage, rejoicing in the triumph of Christ. Tenebrae for Good Friday is particularly dynamic. At the beginning of the service, there is a lighted candleabra before the altar, which is gradually extiguished between the chanting of the office, which focuses primarily on the Passion and Death of Christ. The last candle is extinguished to coincide with the reading of the Death, leaving the church in darkness.... then, in imitation of the earthquake that happened on the first Good Friday, the congregation knocks on the back of the pews, and stomping on the floor. It is incredibly stirring. Here is a video of it on youtube. It is bit on the long side, running to nine minutes or so, but if you skip forward to about 7:45 - 8:00 minutes, you can hear the earthquake.) I have only ever had the chance to attend all of the Holy Week services, including Tenebrae, one time in my life, but it made a tremendous impression on me, and gave me a life long devotion for the Catholic liturgy.

* with apoligies for being late.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Killing Two Birds With One Stone

A while back I mentioned that I intended to start posting some of my own poetry, and possibly, some of my doodles to the blog. I have finally managed to do both: to whit, a poem I worked on last week, and have written up in brown ink with an illustration I made to go along with it:

Before Battle

Laird, thwarld is unco fair
Sae deep th’ blue, uncloody sky.
Was it on sic a day as this
Ye went oot, sodger-like tae die?

“Piper, mak ready – then by yer mark!”
Up swing th’ pipes tae ma shoudder.
Did birds sing as Ye shoudderit Yer Cross
An’ marchit tae a captain’s order?

Yer Cross I sign upon masel
O! Gie the grace o’ bravery!
Bless th’ war-pipes tae thficht.
(Did poppies bloom on Calvary?)

Bless ma fingers tae the pipin’.
Gie a stout heirt an’ sturdy breath
Tae follaw an’ dae manfully,
Though I pipe in the shadaws o’ death

“Piper, tak them ower th’ top!”
I gae oot wi’ pipes a-blaw.
Was e’re Eard sae heirt-brackin’ sweet,
Or music sae rantin’-braw?

A bit of back-history, for those who are wondering: during WWI, Scottish regiments were frequently led over the top by their pipers, whose tunes (now known collectively as tunes of glory) were particular to the regiment, and to Scottish - as opposed to British -patriotism. Since there is a tradition of prayerful before-action poems, I thought it would be interesting to write one from the viewpoint of a piper, hence the borrowing of Scots words and spellings.

The picture, like most of my art, is not much more than a doodle. I seem to be completely unable to create a picture of any great size. This one is about the size of a postcard, and the idea in the back of my mind was to make something along the lines of the bits of art soldiers of the two world wars, seemed to produce in remarkable quantities. Incidentally, although I have played around with watercolours for years, this is the first time I have actually used a decent sheet of watercolour paper for the exercise… It was absolutely delightful, and made painting so much easier. I do believe that I have permanently spoiled with it.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

On This Day In History

... The Jacobites lost to the English in the battle of Culloden's Muir. Here is a good video about it:

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Take My Mother Home

I am not, generally speaking, a fan of Black Spirituals. They are too dramatic and emotional for me. This, however, is a particularly fine example of they style, and, I think, very fitting for Passion Sunday:

Friday, April 8, 2011

Signal Graces

I recently read the book "Flight of Faith" by Frederick Berretta, one of the survivors from Flight 1549, which was forced to make an emergency landing in the Hudson River, after being severely damaged by a bird strike. I was pleasantly surprised by it. It is not a long book - at 140 pages, it is easily read in an evening, if not in a single sitting. It details the author's growth and development in his Catholic Faith, culminating in that life-changing flight, and the impact it had on him spiritually. The writing, for the most part is crisp and to the point. There is not sentimentality here, just simplicity and sincerity. It is not deep, but it is thoughtful, and it encourages you to be the same. If Mr. Berretta takes a little bit too long to wrap up the book, it is because he does have a genuine point to make in his writing, and wants to be sure that he put that point across as well as he is able.

One of the things that made the biggest impression on me, however, was a paragraph mentioning the promises attached to the praying of the Rosary - particularly the first promise:"Whosoever shall serve me by faithful recitation of the Rosary, shall receive signal graces". Now, the Rosary is an important part of the day for my family. We were brought up with it, and we prayed it as a family. I also was, at least, passingly familiar with the 15 promises attached to it. I could not recite them for you, or anything like that, but I have read them before, and know that the Rosary is a well-spring of graces. I must confess, however, that I have never really thought about those promises, and it never occurred to me to wonder what, exactly, a signal grace is. I think, up until now, if I considered that particular wording at all, I interpreted it as singular graces. Rather shocked by my lack of understanding, I looked it up, and discovered that a signal grace is a very specific sort of grace. It is a special grace that allows you to know God's will for you, that gives you a sharp nudge, so to speak in the right direction. Sometimes they come in the forms of 'signs' after you have prayed for an intention. Sometimes, they are just a strong guiding feeling that serves almost like a sign-post for your life. They are special graces that help sanctify you in your duty of state.

It was almost like a revelation to me, because I know that I certainly have had some of those particular graces in my own life. There are several times, in particular, when a large and rather difficult decision was almost made for me, by a very strong sense of the Will of God for me at that particular moment, and I have, in fact, used that very phrase to describe it: it was like I had received a sign. Now, of course, the trick is to trust in God and Our Lady, who send those signal graces to me, and not go about second guessing myself all the time.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


For some reason (probably because of the variable weather) a rather unreasonable number of scary brown spiders have been coming out of the woodwork, and crawling creepily about the house. They are very spiderish spiders, with fat, squishy, somewhat bloated bodies, of an unhealthy brown shade, equally alarming legs, and a pair of hairy things bristling from where their mouths ought to be. They are large, at least by the standards of the spiders I am used to, and move in a disturbingly predatory fashion. They look like nothing quite so much as miniature Shelobs, in brown rather than grey. I am not much given to the customary yelling and leaping when I am startled by something. I tend to make a single extremely small noise, and draw abruptly back from the startling object. Sometimes I go so far as to place a hand over my mouth, but by and large, I am rather undemonstrative about it. However there is something about these creatures that seems to completely unnerve me, and I am beginging to do little half-leaps of alarm, and go on at a great rate, in a high pale mouse-voice: "Ooooh, oooh, spider! Oh, they're horrible! Just awful!"

The proper thing to do, of course, is the dispatch the things and be done with it. At the very least, I ought to catch them under a cup, and release them outside, where, with any luck, they will crawl into a lingering snowbank, and freeze to death. Unfortunately, I have a greater horror of the squish the spiders make when they are stepped on, than of the spiders themselves; and, dreadful as they are to look at, the idea of getting near enough to one to catch it fills my mind with terrifying and highly unlikely images of them leaping off the floor and getting on me. I might be able to sneak up and cover one up with a cup, but I cannot bring myself to slide a card beneath and remove him from my dwelling place. As a matter of fact, there is one trapped beneath a coffee cup at this very moment. Hopefully, it will die of something on its own, and soon too, because otherwise, I shall have to figure out what to do with it.... or just plan on doing without that cup for a very long time.