Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Battle of the Boyne

On this day, in 1690, I am sorry to report, the forces of William of Orange defeated the forces of King James II of Ireland and VII of Scotland, at the Battle of the Boyne in Ireland. It severe blow to the Catholics in the countries of Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales; and to the young Jacobite movement, that had grown up with King James. Usually, about this time each year, it will be in the news that sectarian violence is breaking out in Northern Ireland.... again, and there will be some rueful remarks about the Irish Catholics and Protestants being unable to get along. Most of the violence is a result of Orange Parades, i.e. parades of Protestant Orangemen marching along through Catholic neighborhoods, celebrating the victory of William at the Battle of the Boyne. The Catholics, not unreasonably, find this incredibly offensive, and the Irish being the Irish, rioting ensues until the marching season is safely over.

Being both a Catholic, and a Jacobite sympathiser, I am posting the following clip, from the Clancy Brother's Carnegie Hall performance, just so there is not doubt whatsoever what my opinion of the matter is!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Happy Independence Day!

"Yankee Doodle" is probably the most well known of all tunes to come out of the Revolutionary War. It was originally a British song, mocking the Continentals, but it had a catchy melody, and was quickly taken over by the Americans as a rallying tune. Here is a video of the Towpath Fife and Drum Corps performing "Yankee Doodle" on parade.

I also came across this clip of "Yankee Doodle" sung by folksinger Charlie Zahm, which I thought was rather good as well. It is, perhaps, not entirely historically accurate, what with the bodhran and all, but it makes for a stirring arrangement.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Sign of the Cross

I remember someone telling me when I was quite young, that the Sign of the Cross is the perfect expression of all the major truths of the Catholic Faith. At the time, this remark did not make a very great impression on me. I took it at face value, and accepted it, but then, I merely filed it away in my mind without actually thinking about it. Lately, though, I find that I am thinking about it quite a lot. It began, primarily, as a way of recalling myself to my prayers, when I noticed that my mind had wandered off, as it tends to do at the slightest opportunity. However, the more often I practice thinking about what exactly I am doing when I make the Sign of the Cross, the more I appreciate the powerful expression of faith it is.

For it really does express the major truths of the Faith. When I sign myself "In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost" I am expressing my belief in the Blessed Trinity. By using the singular noun 'name' rather than the plural 'names' I am proclaiming by unity of the Three Persons. By making the cross as I say the prayer, I am also directly showing my belief in the Incarnation of the Son of God, and in His death upon the cross; indirectly, my belief in Original Sin, the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady, and that the death of Our Lord was the cause of our redemption. I am admitting my own sinful weakness, and that, by the cross, I am now under the mercy of God, and therefore, it is an act of trust. Furthermore, I am symbolically taking the cross upon myself, and am therefore, acknowledging must follow in the footsteps of God Himself, and bear my sufferings as He did, so it is an act of immolation.

If I make the Sign of the Cross, and pray instead, "Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end" I am now expressing my belief in the omnipotence of God, in the reality of Heaven, in eternity. In addition, I am offering to God a simple act of adoration, placing myself, for that little moment, before His throne and adding my own voice to the unceasing praise of the angels and saints.

When I make the Sign of the Cross, I am also blessing myself, a truly remarkable thing, if you think about it. The Sign of the Cross is universally understood to be a sign of blessing. The priest makes the sign over the host, to bless it for the Consecration, over sacramentals, to bless them for our use, over his congregation, to call blessings down upon us. Traditionally, Catholic parents would bless their children by making the Sign of the Cross upon their foreheads with holy water. But when I make that simple movement over my own person, I am able bless myself as well. I am able to beg blessings on my own behalf, and that is a powerful act indeed. No wonder it is recommended that we use the Sign of the Cross in times of temptation.