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Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Time for a Smile - Courtesy of W.S.Gilbert

Time, I think, for a smile, and what better than a look at 'Bab Ballads', a collection of light verse, written by W.S.Gilbert, and illustrated with his own comic drawings, prior to his professional association with Arthur Sullivan.  In writing these, Gilbert developed his unique "topsy-turvy" style, where the humour was derived by setting up a ridiculous premise and working out its logical consequences, however absurd. The Ballads also reveal Gilbert's cynical and satirical approach to humour. They became famous in their own right, as well as being a source for plot elements, characters and songs often recycled later in the Gilbert and Sullivan operas.  The Ballads were read aloud at private dinner-parties, public banquets and even in the House of Lords.  (Wikipedia)
From 'Fifty Bab Ballads' published in 1884 by George Routledge & Sons, I have taken two which I hope you will enjoy, namely 'Annie Protheroe - a legend of Stratford-le-Bow';  and 'My Dream', both of which were performed as short operettas. 

Annie Protheroe    -   a legend of Stratford-le-Bow  (1868)

Oh! Listen to the tale of little Annie Protheroe.
She kept a small post-office in the neighbourhood of Bow;
She loved a skilled mechanic, who was famous in his day –
A gentle executioner whose name was Gilbert Clay.

I think I hear you say, “A dreadful subject for your rhymes!”
O reader, do not shrink – he didn’t live in modern times!
He lived so long ago (the sketch will show it at a glance)
That all his actions glitter with the lime-light of Romance.

In busy times he laboured at his gentle craft all day –
“No doubt you mean his Cal-craft,” you amusingly will say –
But, no – he didn’t operate with common bits of string,
He was a Public Headsman, which is quite another thing.

And when his work was over, they would ramble o’er the lea,
And sit beneath the frondage of an elderberry tree,
And Annie’s simple prattle entertained him on his walk,
For public executions formed the subject of her talk.

And sometimes he’d explain to her, which charmed her very much,
How famous operators vary very much in touch,
And then, perhaps, he’d show how he himself performed the trick,
And illustrate his meaning with a poppy and a stick.

Or, if it rained, the little maid would stop at home, and look
At his favourable notices, all posted in a book,
And then her cheek would flush – her swimming eyes would dance with joy
In a glow of admiration at the prowess of her boy.

One summer eve, at supper time, the gentle Gilbert said
(As he helped his pretty Annie to a slice of collared head),
“This reminds me I must settle on the next ensuing day
The hash of that unmitigated villain, Peter Gray.”

He saw his Annie tremble and he saw his Annie start,
Her changing colour trumpeted the flutter at her heart;
Young Gilbert’s manly bosom rose and sank with jealous fear,
And he said, “O gentle Annie, what’s the meaning of this here?”

And Annie answered, blushing in an interesting way,
“You think, no doubt, I’m sighing for that felon Peter Gray:
That I was his young woman is unquestionably true,
But not since I began a-keeping company with you.”

Then Gilbert, who was irritable, rose and loudly swore
He’d know the reason why, if she refused to tell him more;
And she answered (all the woman in her flashing from her eyes),
“You mustn’t ask no questions, and you won’t be told no lies!

“Few lovers have the privilege enjoyed, my dear, by you,
Of chopping off a rival’s head and quartering him too!
Of vengeance, dear, tomorrow you will surely take your fill!”
And Gilbert ground his molars as he answered her, “I will!”

Young Gilbert rose from table with a stern determined look,
And, frowning, took an inexpensive hatchet from its hook;
And Annie watched his movements with an interested air –
For the morrow – for the morrow he was going to prepare!

He chipped it with a hammer and he chopped it with a bill,
He poured sulphuric acid on the edge of it, until
This terrible Avenger of the Majesty of Law
Was far less like a hatchet than a dissipated saw.

And Annie said, “O Gilbert, dear, I do not understand
Why ever you are injuring that hatchet in your hand?”
He said, “It is intended for to lacerate and flay
The neck of that unmitigated villain, Peter Gray!”

“Now, Gilbert,” Annie answered, “wicked headsman, just beware –
I won’t have Peter tortured with that horrible affair;
If you appear with that, you may depend you’ll rue the day.”
But Gilbert said, “Oh, shall I?” which was just his nasty way.

He saw a look of anger from her eyes distinctly dart,
For Annie was a woman, and had pity in her heart!
She wished him a good evening – he answered with a glare;
She only said, “Remember, for your Annie will be there!”

                                                     * * * *

The morrow Gilbert boldly on the scaffold took his stand,
With a vizor on his face and with a hatchet in his hand,
And all the people noticed that the Engine of the Law
Was far less like a hatchet than a dissipated saw.

The felon very coolly loosed his collar and his stock,
And placed his wicked head upon the handy little block.
The hatchet was uplifted for to settle Peter Gray,
When Gilbert plainly heard a woman’s voice exclaiming, “Stay!”

T’was Annie, gentle Annie, as you’ll easily believe.
“O Gilbert, you must spare him, for I bring him a reprieve,
It came from our Home Secretary many weeks ago,
And passed through that post-office which I used to keep at Bow.

“I loved you, loved you madly, and you know it, Gilbert Clay,
And as I’d quite surrendered all idea of Peter Gray,
I quietly suppressed it, as you’ll clearly understand,
For I thought it might be awkward if he came and claimed my hand.

“In anger at my secret (which I could not tell before),
To lacerate poor Peter Gray vindictively you swore;
I told you if you used that blunted axe you’d rue the day,
And so you will, young Gilbert, for I’ll marry Peter Gray!”
                                                                                 [ And so she did. 

NB. Cal-craft (v3) --- William Calcraft (1800 - 1879), English Hangman  for 45 years, performing 450 executions. Of dubious fame.                                                                


My Dream  (1870)

The other night, from Care exempt,
I slept – and what d’you think I dreamt?
I dreamt that somehow I had come
To dwell in Topsy-Turveydom –

Where vice is virtue – virtue, vice;
Where nice is nasty – nasty, nice;
Where right is wrong and wrong is right –
Where white is black and black is white.

Where babies, much to their surprise,
Are born astonishingly wise;
With every Science on their lips,
And Art at all their finger-tips.

For, as their nurses dandle them
They crow binomial theorem,
With views (it seems absurd to us)
On differential calculus.

But though a babe, as I have said,
Is born with learning in his head,
He must forget it, if he can,
Before he calls himself a man.

For that which we call folly here,
Is wisdom in that favoured sphere;
The wisdom we so highly prize
Is blatant folly in their eyes.

A boy, if he would push his way,
Must learn some nonsense every day;
And cut, to carry out this view,
His wisdom teeth and wisdom too.

Historians burn their midnight oils,
Intent on giant-killer’s toils;
And sages close their aged eyes
To other sages’ lullabies.

Our magistrates, in duty bound,
Commit all robbers who are found;
But there the Beaks (so people said)
Commit all robberies instead.

Our Judges, pure and wise in tone,
Know crime from theory alone,
And glean the motives of a thief
From books and popular belief.

But there, a Judge who wants to prime
His mind with true ideas of crime,
Derives them from the common sense
Of practical experience.

Policemen march all folks away
Who practise virtue every day –
Of course, I mean to say, you know,
What we call virtue here below.

For only scoundrels dare to do
What we consider just and true,
And only good men do, in fact,
What we should think a dirty act.

But strangest of these social twirls,
The girls are boys – the boys are girls!
The men are women, too – but then,
Per contra, women are all men.

To one who to tradition clings
This seems an awkward state of things,
But if to think it out you try,
It doesn’t really signify.

With them, as surely as can be,
A sailor should be sick at sea,
And not a passenger may sail
Who cannot smoke right through a gale.

A soldier (save by rarest luck)
Is always shot for showing pluck
(That is, if others can be found
With pluck enough to fire a round).

“How strange!” I said to one I saw;
“You quite upset our every law.
However can you get along
So systematically wrong?”

“Dear me!” my mad informant said,
“Have you no eyes within your head?
You sneer when you your hat should doff:
Why, we begin where you leave off!

Your wisest men are very far
Less learned than our babies are!”
I mused awhile – and then, oh me!
I framed this brilliant repartee:

“Although your babes are wiser far
Than our most valued sages are,
Your sages, with their toys and cots,
Are duller than our idiots!”

But this remark, I grieve to state,
Came just a little bit too late;
For as I framed it in my head,
I woke and found myself in bed.

Still I could wish that, ‘stead of here,
My lot were in that favoured sphere! –
Where greatest fools bear off the bell
I ought to do extremely well.      


To wisdom belongs the intellectual apprehension of things eternal; to knowledge, the rational apprehension of things temporal. (St. Augustine of Hippo)

Saturday, 1 August 2015

IPPF - harvester and trafficker in baby body parts

                             Unborn 16 week old baby in the womb

The current  scandal involving the International Planned Parenthood federation, whereby they have been exposed as  harvesting and selling body parts obtained from aborted babies, does not seem to me, to have received the media publicity in this country that you would expect, and certainly not as much  as it appears to have had in the USA .

I read only one national newspaper, the Daily Telegraph, not always comprehensively, and rely largely on the BBC news on the internet to keep me reasonably up-to-date with world events, but I do not remember seeing anything about this scandal. I may have missed it in the Telegraph, but I don’t think this was the case with the BBC.

The fact is that there is no reason to doubt that this same evil trade exists in the UK, for the International Planned Parenthood federation have their UK headquarters in London, and are the recipients of huge grants running into millions of pounds sterling, from the UK government, through the auspices of the DFID (Department for International Development).

The financial accounts of the IPP are available on their website, ‘ ‘

yet I cannot see listed the income from this lucrative trade in body parts. From a PR point of view, hardly surprising, nevertheless huge sums of money are involved, particularly bearing in mind the numbers of aborted babies in the USA and the UK.  Whilst trying to decipher these accounts, admittedly a daunting exercise, I see that in 2011 the gross salaries of individuals on the IPPF payroll amounted to $17,994,000, with the gross salaries of all persons paid by IPPF amounting to $24,193,000. The numbers of staff on full-time employment amounted to 286, with on a sliding scale, 40 shown as earning between $100,000   and $340,000.  Bearing in mind that in 2011 the organisation received a total of $89 million in world-wide government grants, plus $32 million from multilaterals and other income sources, IPPF is certainly big business and highly remunerative. There is a saying that ‘money is the root of all evil’, perhaps we need look no further than IPPF to bear this out.

 Several blog-sites, mainly Catholic, have had good posts condemning this evil, and one of the most damning indictments is that by Mary Anne  Kreitzer on the excellent website ‘Les Femmes the Truth’,  which with her permission I reproduce below.



You Think Selling Baby Body Parts is Something New? Think Again!

People have been absolutely shocked and horrified about Planned Parenthood's evil participation in "harvesting" and selling baby body parts.

It's nothing new, folks! Note the date on this article -- 1999. 

The killing and profiting is decades old -- which just goes to show that people need to SEE and HEAR the evil before they will wake up and react to the horror. And that is why General Dwight Eisenhower insisted that the German people go through the concentration camps and SEE what their silence and cooperation helped cause.
Read the article below and resolve NEVER to cooperate with evil by your silence and inaction. My comments are in red.

 See more at:

Body Parts for Sale - Fetal Harvesting

By Mona Charen - Nationally Syndicated Columnist

November 9, 1999
"Kelly" (a pseudonym) was a medical technician working for a firm that trafficked in baby body parts. This is not a bad joke. Nor is it the hysterical propaganda of an interest group. It was reported in The American Enterprise magazine -- the intelligent, thought-provoking and utterly trustworthy publication of the American Enterprise Institute.
The firm Kelly worked for collected fetuses from clinics that performed late-term abortions. The recently released Planned Parenthood videos are simply deja vu for what's been going on for decades!  
She would dissect the aborted fetuses in order to obtain "high-quality" parts for sale. They were interested in blood, eyes, livers, brains and thymuses, among other things. Exactly the same parts discussed by Dr.Deborah Nucatola. (Senior Director of Medical Services IPPF)
"What we did was to have a contract with an abortion clinic that would allow us to go there on certain days. We would get a generated list each day to tell us what tissue researchers, pharmaceutical companies and universities were looking for. Then we would examine the patient charts.
We only wanted the most perfect specimens."  

See more at:

That didn't turn out to be difficult. Of the hundreds of late-term fetuses Kelly saw on a weekly basis, only about 2 percent had abnormalities. About 30 to 40 babies per week were around 30 weeks old -- well past the point of viability.

Is this legal? Federal law makes it illegal to buy and sell human body parts. But there are loopholes in the law. Here's how one body parts company -- Opening Lines Inc founded in 1989. -- disguised the trade in a brochure for abortionists: "Turn your patient's decision into something wonderful."
For its buyers, Opening Lines offers "the highest quality, most affordable, freshest tissue prepared to your specifications and delivered in the quantities you need, when you need it." Does this all sound familiar?

Eyes and ears go for $75, and brains for $999. An "intact trunk" fetches $500, a whole liver $150. To evade the law's prohibition, body-parts dealers like Opening Lines offer to lease space in the abortion clinic to "perform the harvesting," as well as to "offset [the] clinic's overhead."

Opening Lines further boasted, "Our daily average case volume exceeds 1500 and we serve clinics across the United States."

Kelly kept at her grisly task until something made her reconsider. "One day, a set of twins at 24 weeks gestation was brought to us in a pan. They were both alive. The doctor came back and said, 'Got you some good specimens -- twins.'"

See more at:

I looked at him and said: "There's something wrong here. They are moving. I can't do this. This is not in my contract." I told him I would not be part of taking their lives. So he took a bottle of sterile water and poured it in the pan until the fluid came up over their mouths and noses, letting them drown. I left the room because I could not watch this."


But she did go back and dissect them later. The twins were only the beginning. "It happened again and again. At 16 weeks, all the way up to sometimes even 30 weeks, we had live births come back to us. Then the doctor would either break the neck or take a pair of tongs and beat the fetus until it was dead."
American Enterprise asked Kelly if abortion procedures were ever altered to provide specific body parts. "Yes. Before the procedures they would want to see the list of what we wanted to procure."  Remember how the doctor said they never did anything different with the women whose babies were going to end up being sold? Do you believe her?
The (abortionist) would get us the most complete, intact specimens that he could. They would be delivered to us completely intact. Sometimes the fetus appeared to be dead, but when we opened up the chest cavity, the heart was still beating."Read it and weep!
The magazine pressed Kelly again: Was the type of abortion ever altered to provide an intact specimen, even if it meant producing a live baby? "Yes, that was so we could sell better tissue. At the end of the year, they would give the clinic back more money because we got good specimens."  

See more at:

Some practical souls will probably swallow hard and insist that, well, if these babies are going to be aborted anyway, isn't it better that medical research should benefit? No. This isn't like voluntary organ donation.
This reduces human beings to the level of commodities. Just like Dr. Mengele did at Auschwitz. And it creates of doctors who swore an oath never to kill, the kind of people who can beat a breathing child to death with tongs.
More on this story . . .


U.S. House Votes to Hold Hearings on Trafficking of Baby Bodies and Organs:
On Tuesday, November 12, 1999, the U.S. House passed HR 350 on a voice vote. The resolution, offered by Representatives Tom Tancredo (R-CO), Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Joe Pitts, expresses a sense of the House of Representatives with respect to private companies involved in the trafficking of baby body parts for profit. It directs the Congress to exercise oversight responsibilities and conduct hearings and take appropriate steps if necessary, concerning private companies that are involved in the trafficking of baby body parts for profit.  

See more at:

When Bill Clinton took office in 1993, he overturned, by executive order, the ban on taxpayer funding of research involving the transplantation of organs and tissues obtained from aborted babies (fetal tissue) that had been instituted by the Bush administration. 

 On March 11, 1993, Congress codified Clinton’s executive order by passing HR-4, The National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act, by a vote of 283-121. 57 Republicans voted with 225 Democrats and 1 Independent for this law that allows for federal funding of research on the transplantation of human fetal tissue for therapeutic purposes.
The law prohibits any person to knowingly acquire, receive, or otherwise transfer any human fetal tissue for valuable consideration if the transfer affects interstate commerce, but does not exclude reasonable payments associated with the transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control or storage of human fetal tissue.

Information acquired by Life Dynamics of Denton, Texas reveals that at least 5 companies are in the business of procuring babies’ in-tact bodies, bones, blood, organs and tissues for profit. 
One company, Opening Lines of West Frankfurt, Ill, published a brochure in which they listed charges for various body parts including $999 for a brain, $500 for a trunk, and $325 for spinal cords. They claim they are within the letter of the 1993 law which allows for the above-mentioned reasonable payments.  

The hearings, which are to be scheduled by Congressman Tom Bliley (R-VA), chairman of the Commerce Committee, are expected in January when Congress returns from its recess. They will look into whether these tissue retrieval companies are violating the law.

What Life Dynamics has brought to light is the fact that there is an enormous and growing business of filling orders from researchers for intact, non-fragmented organs and tissues obtained from induced abortions. Evidence is mounting that some babies are aborted alive .

See more at:

Evidence is mounting that some babies are aborted alive and then dissected and killed so that researchers may receive the perfect specimens they desire. The research is being conducted in taxpayer-funded facilities such as the National Institutes of Health, public universities and medical schools and by private pharmaceutical companies. Many have long believed that this has become a major reason for the use of the partial-birth abortion technique.

While it is important to hold hearings on whether or not these companies are guilty of 'selling babies organs for profit', we urge our friends in the pro-life community to begin legislative action to prohibit the use of fetal tissue derived from induced abortions for research purposes. If a mother suffers a spontaneous abortion, or her baby is still-born and she wishes to donate her child’s body to science, that is a different matter and would be consistent with current practice in adult organ donation.

People are going to continue to find ways to make money from the sale of aborted babies’ body parts as long as it is legal to conduct research experiments on them. Whether funded privately or by the taxpayers, this practice must be stopped.

Will Members of Congress attempt to ban fetal tissue research on aborted babies? It's hard to tell because of the pressures that will be brought by high-powered lobbyists from the pharmaceutical industry and others. Some claim it would be a futile battle because Bill Clinton would veto a ban. 

See more at:

Who knows what will happen? As word gets out about these horrible practices, the public will become increasingly outraged. Congress has an obligation to try, win or lose, to do the right thing. Sometimes progress comes as much from the battle as the victory. We all know now what happens. NOTHING! Until people SEE and HEAR the evil first hand, they do nothing. Which is why Planned Parenthood is trying so hard to suppress the videos. People will not fight to stop abortion until they see it in all its grisly reality and realize this has NEVER been about women's rights. It's ALWAYS been about the bottom line. 

If your Congressman/Congresswoman holds a town hall meeting, please take that opportunity to present this information to the gathering, Ask him/her publicly to support the hearings and to demand an end to research on tissue obtained from induced abortions.
For a 15 minute videotape of the testimony of a woman who has been engaged in the fetal tissue retrieval business, and for other information and literature, contact:

Life Dynamics - P.O. Box 2226 - Denton, Texas 76202
Life Dynamics' Phone: 940/380-8800, Fax: 940/380-8700, E-mail:

Click on Life Dynamics to visit their new web site.

Read another 1999 article here. 

See more at:


 Our Lady with the Infant Jesus riding on a lamb, with St John.
(William Blake 1800. V & A Museum)

Whilst the above post deals specifically with the law and the role of the IPPF in the USA, I think that in general terms many things in it

can be applied to the UK. The IPPF have a real presence in this country and is the recipient of a substantial grant running into millions of pounds from the UK government; this money effectively is tax-payer’s money, your money and my money, which could and should be used to support our own grossly under-supported services, particularly our Health Services. There is no reason to believe that the ethos of the IPPF in the UK is any different to that in the USA, and the UK government should immediately abrogate any  promises relating to present and future grants to this organisation. A short but firm letter to our respective MPs on these lines, could perhaps set wheels in motion, particularly if condemnation of this organisation is strong and widespread.
See also:
( NB. 'blue-out' above address, and click 'open link')


‘Venerable Richard Challoner,  pray for us all, and for our Country.’ (see prayer for beatification of Venerable Bishop Richard Challoner, at top of sidebar).

Monday, 6 July 2015

The 'Good Shepherd' protects his sheep.

   'What God has revealed  and what the Church therefore holds to be true about marriage, has not changed and is unchangeable.'  Bishop Joseph Strickland, Bishop of Tyler, Texas, USA.

                                                    Bishop Joseph Edward Strickland

In July 2013,  legislation to allow same-sex ‘marriage’ was passed by the UK Parliament, the law becoming effective from March 2014.
On June 26, 2015, by a 5 to 4 majority decision, the Supreme Court of the United States established the legal rights of two individuals of the same sex to marry, in all of the fifty States.

On the same day, the following Pastoral letter was written by Bishop Joseph Strickland, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Tyler, Texas. Although addressed to the people of Tyler, the letter reminds us all of the 'sacredness and immutability of marriage as between man and woman'. This is a truth to be continually proclaimed world-wide, and this letter exemplifies the concern of the ‘Good Shepherd’ who does not abandon his sheep. 


Joseph Edward Strickland
By the Grace of God and the Apostolic See
Bishop of Tyler

On the morning of June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down a 5-4 decision establishing the legal right of two individuals of the same sex to legally marry in all 50 states. By doing so, the Court has acted in contradiction to their duty to promote the common good, especially what is good for families. I join with the Bishops of the United States in calling this decision a “tragic error.”

Let me unambiguously state at the outset that this extremely unfortunate decision by our government is unjust and immoral, and it is our duty to clearly and emphatically oppose it.  In spite of the decision by the Supreme Court, there are absolutely no grounds for considering unions between two persons of the same sex to be in any way similar to God’s plan for marriage and the family.
Regardless of this decision, what God has revealed and what the Church therefore holds to be true about marriage has not changed and is unchangeable.

Marriage is not just a relationship between human beings that is based on emotions and feelings. Rather, our Sacred Scriptures and Sacred Traditions tell us that God established true marriage with its own special nature and purpose, namely the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children.

               'Marriage Feast at Cana'  by Bartolome Murillo (c1665)
While taking a strong stand for marriage is the duty of all who call themselves Christian, every type of unjust discrimination against those with homosexual tendencies should be avoided. We must treat these individuals with loving kindness and respect based on their dignity as human persons. Christ rejects no one, but he calls all of us to be converted from our sinful inclinations and follow the truth He has revealed to us. Nevertheless, our continued commitment to the pastoral care of homosexual persons cannot and will not lead in any way to the condoning of homosexual behavior or our acceptance of the legal recognition of same-sex unions.

While some of us may have family members who have same-sex attraction, and there are even some who are members of our local churches, this decision to require the legal recognition of so-called marriage between homosexual persons should in no way lead us to believe that the living out of this orientation or the solemnizing of relationships between two persons of the same sex is a morally acceptable option.

We know that unjust laws and other measures contrary to the moral order are not binding in conscience, thus we must now exercise our right to conscientious objection against this interpretation of our law which is contrary to the common good and the true understanding of marriage.

Given this and recognizing my responsibility and moral authority as the shepherd of this Church of Tyler, I will shortly issue a decree in this Diocese establishing, as particular law, that no member of the clergy or any person acting as employee of the Church may in any way participate in the solemnization or consecration of same-sex marriages, and that no Catholic facilities or properties, including churches, chapels, meeting halls, Catholic educational, health or charitable institutions, or any places dedicated or consecrated, or use for Catholic worship, may be used for the solemnization or consecration of same-sex marriages

      'Holy Family with St Anne and St John the Baptist' by Titian

 Finally, I call on the Catholic faithful of the Diocese to turn in prayer to the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, asking their intercession for our nation that all of us may come to a greater understanding of the beauty, truth and goodness that is found in marriage as revealed to us by our Savior.

I instruct that this letter is to be publically read by the priest-celebrant following the proclamation of the Gospel at all Masses of obligation in the parishes, missions and chapels of  Diocese of Tyler on the weekend of July 3-4, 2015.

Given at the Diocesan Chancery
On the 26th day of June
Friday of the 12th Week in Ordinary Time
In the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Fifteen
Most Reverend Joseph E. Strickland
Bishop of Tyler

Thursday, 4 June 2015

'Songs of Praise' - King David version.

                  King David and musicians, with zither, celesti, andreal.

 "A psalm is a religious song, and the one hundred and fifty poems which make up the book of Psalms sing to us the human and divine history of Israel. Tradition attributes them to King David or to the musicians' guilds connected with the names of Asaph or Korah, although it is not possible to attach a date or author to each psalm. Israel has preserved these poems because it has recognised in them the expression of its unique religious destiny. The psalms repeat in lyrical form the teaching of the prophets; they recall the great events of a history that was itself a divine revelation; they meditate on the covenant. Everything that the psalms had sung about the God of Israel, as the one who judges and saves his people, who comes to dwell among them, who reveals his Law to them, gathers them together, leads and sanctifies them, all that finds its expression and accomplishment in the Incarnate Word, Jesus, the Son of David and the son of God, who judges the world in his death and who saves it in his resurrection. He is the Truth, the Way and the Life of which the psalms speak. Christ's Church has found in the Psalms, her favourite prayer, with verses resounding in the liturgy of the Word, in the celebration of the Mass, in the Divine Office, and in the most varied ceremonies of every rite. The Church is the new Israel, and through the images of the old covenant she gives voice to the realities of the new covenant. No one who takes the words of the psalms on his lips and their meaning in his heart, can possibly remain indifferent to them.They may overwhelm or shock, bring peace or exhaltation, but inevitably they draw us beyond ourselves; they force us to that meeting with the God without whom we cannot live and who transforms our whole life.
Some may object that certain passages contradict the command of love taught us by Christ. But we only have to follow the images through to their Easter fulfillment to realise that the psalmist is expressing love and hatred not between friends and enemies, but between the reign of evil which holds sway in us and the reign of grace which lays claim to us. The psalms compel us to voice all the prayers of the people of God and of their Head; they force us to widen our hearts  to the full dimensions of the redemption. They make us say what remains hidden except to the eyes of faith, and what we know we must one day become."  
(ack. Introduction - 'The Psalms, a New Translation'



The problem of justice, pain and death. (Ps 48)

Hear this, all you peoples,
give heed, all who dwell in the world,
men both low and high,
rich and poor alike.

My lips will speak words of wisdom,
My heart is full of insight.
I will turn my mind to a parable,
with the harp I will solve my problem.

*  *  *

Why should I fear in evil days
the malice of the foes around me,
men who trust in their wealth,
and boast of the vastness of their riches?

For no man can buy his own ransom,
or pay a price to God for his life.
The ransom of his soul is beyond him.
He cannot buy life without end,
nor avoid coming to the grave.

He knows that wise men and fools must both perish
and leave their wealth to others.
Their graves are their homes for ever,
their dwelling place from age to age,
though their names spread wide through the land.

In his riches, man lacks wisdom:
he is like the beasts that are destroyed.

                         *  *  *

This is the lot of the self-confident,
who have others at their beck and call.
Like sheep they are driven to the grave,
where death shall be their shepherd 
and the just shall become their rulers.

With the morning their outward show vanishes
and the grave becomes their home.
But God will ransom me from death
and take my soul to himself.

Then do not fear when a man grows rich,
when the glory of his house increases.
He takes nothing with him when he dies,
his glory does not follow him below.

Though he flattered himself while he lived:
“Men will praise me for doing well for myself,”
yet he will go to join his fathers,
who will never see the light any more.

In his riches, man lacks wisdom:
He is like the beasts that are destroyed.                 


         Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21) - Rembrandt 1627


The Messianic kingship: warning to rulers and nations  (Ps 2)

Why this tumult among nations,
among peoples this useless murmurings?
They arise, the kings of the earth,
princes plot against the Lord and his Anointed.
“Come, let us break their fetters,
come, let us cast off their yoke.”

He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord is laughing them to scorn.
Then He will speak in his anger,
his rage will strike them with terror.
“It is I who have set up my king
on Sion, my holy mountain.”

(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.
Ask and I shall bequeath you the nations,
put the ends of the earth in your possession.
With a rod of iron you will break them,
shatter them like a potter’s jar.”

Now, O kings, understand,
Take warning, rulers of the earth;
Serve the Lord with awe
And trembling, pay him your homage
Lest he be angry and you perish;
For suddenly his anger will blaze.

Blessed are they who put their trust in God.


Cosmic Praise (Ps 148)


Praise the Lord from the heavens,
praise him in the heights.
Praise him, all his angels,
praise him all his host.

Praise him, sun and moon,
praise him, shining stars.
Praise him, highest heavens
and the waters above the heavens.

Let them praise the name of the Lord.
He commanded; they were made.
He fixed them for ever,
gave a law which shall not pass away.

Praise the Lord from the earth,
sea creatures and all oceans,
fire and hail, snow and mist,
stormy winds that obey his word;

all mountains and hills,
all fruit trees and cedars,
beasts, wild and tame,
reptiles and birds on the wing;

all earth’s kings and peoples,
earth’s princes and rulers;
young men and maidens,
old men together with children.

Let them praise the name of the Lord
for he alone is exalted.
The splendour of his name
reaches beyond heaven and earth.

He exalts the strength of his people.
He is the praise of all his saints,
of the sons of Israel,
of the people to whom he comes close.



Two ways of living (Ps 1)

Happy indeed is the man
who follows not the counsel of the wicked;
nor lingers in the way of sinners
nor sits in the company of scorners,
but whose delight is the law of the Lord
and who ponders his law day and night.

He is like a tree that is planted
beside the flowing waters,
that yields its fruit in due season
and whose leaves shall never fade;
and all that he does shall prosper.
Not so are the wicked, not so!

For they like winnowed chaff
shall be driven away by the wind.
When the wicked are judged they shall not stand,
nor find room among those who are just;
for the Lord guards the way of the just
but the way of the wicked leads to doom.

Entry of the Blessed into Paradise - The Last Judgement (detail) (1431) - Fra Angelico

Ack. The Psalms – a New Translation.   Collins Fontana books.
         Imprimatur  ‘William, Cardinal Godfrey, Archbishop of    Westminster, 1962.’

Monday, 4 May 2015

'In Topsy-Turvy Land' - 'Should Shop Assistants Marry?'

I found this interesting short story by G K Chesterton, which although written more than 100 years ago is peculiarly  pertinent in today’s world of ‘same-sex marriage’, where people’s reactions are reminiscent of those displayed in that well-known tale of  ‘the Emperor’s new clothes’. This story is one of many short stories incorporated in one volume entitled ‘Tremendous Trifles’, which were all published at different times in the Daily News, an English  newspaper, in the early 1900's. The author states in the preface to his book, that although the subjects of the stories could be regarded as trivial, there is a connecting ‘thread of motive’ running through them all. He invites his readers to be ‘ocular’ athletes, suggesting that we could learn to write essays on any of our daily thoughts and experiences, as he has done, and that if we would but only try, the results might be better than his!

                                                             G.K.Chesterton at work

In Topsy-Turvy Land

Last week, in an idle metaphor, I took the tumbling of trees and the secret energy of the wind as typical of the visible world moving under the violence of the invisible. I took this metaphor merely because I happened to be writing the article in a wood.  Nevertheless, now that I return to Fleet Street (which seems to me I confess, much better and more poetical than all the wild woods in the world), I am strangely haunted by this accidental comparison. The people’s figures seem a forest and their soul a wind. All the human personalities which speak or signal to me seem to have this fantastic character of the fringe of the forest against the sky.  That man that talks to me, what is he but an articulate tree?  That driver of a van who waves his hands wildly at me to tell me to get out of his way, what is he but a bunch of branches stirred and swayed by a spiritual wind, a sylvan object that I can continue to contemplate with calm?  That policeman who lifts his hand to warn three omnibuses of the peril that they run in encountering my person, what is he but a shrub shaken for a moment with that blast of human law which is a thing stronger than anarchy?  
Gradually this impression of the woods wears off.  But this black and white contrast between the visible and invisible, this deep sense that the one essential belief is belief in the invisible as against the visible, is suddenly and sensationally brought back to my mind. Exactly at the moment when Fleet Street has grown most familiar (that is most bewildering and bright), my eye catches a poster of vivid violet, on which I see written in large black letters, these remarkable words: “Should Shop Assistants Marry?”
                                                                    *                                                                                                                     When I saw those words everything might just as well have turned upside down. The men in Fleet Street might have been walking about on their hands. The cross of St Paul’s might have been hanging in the air upside down. For I realise that I have really come into a topsy-turvy country; I have come into the country where men do definitely believe that the waving of the trees makes the wind. That is to say, they believe that the material circumstances, however black and twisted, are more important than the spiritual realities, however powerful and pure. “Should Shop Assistants Marry?” -  I am puzzled to think what some periods and schools of human history would have made of such a question. The ascetics of the East or of some periods of the Early Church would have thought that the question meant, “Are not shop assistants too saintly, too much of another world, even to feel the emotions of the sexes?” But I suppose that is not what the purple poster means. In some pagan cities it might have meant, “Shall slaves so vile as shop assistants, even be allowed to propagate their abject race?” But I suppose that is not what the purple poster meant.  We must face, I fear, the full insanity of what it does mean. It does really mean that a section of the human race is asking whether the primary relations of the two human sexes are particularly good for modern shops. The human race is asking whether Adam and Eve are entirely suitable for Marshall and Snelgrove. If this is not topsy-turvy I cannot imagine what would be.  We ask whether the universal institution will improve our (please God) temporary institution. Yet I have known many such questions.  For instance, I have known a man ask seriously, “Does Democracy help the Empire?” which is like saying, “Is art favourable to frescoes?”
I say that there are many such questions asked. But if the world ever runs short of them, I can suggest a large number of questions of precisely the same kind, based on precisely the same principle:-
 “Do feet improve boots?” – “Is bread better when eaten?”- “Should hats have heads in them?”-  " Do people spoil a town?” – “Do walls ruin wallpapers?”- “Should neck-ties enclose necks?” –
 “Do hands hurt walking-sticks?” – “Does burning destroy fire-wood?”- “Is cleanliness good for soap?”- “Can cricket really improve cricket bats?” – “Shall we take brides with our wedding rings?” and a hundred others.
Not one of these questions differs at all in intellectual purport or in intellectual value from the question which I have quoted from the purple poster, or from any of the typical questions asked by half of the earnest economists of our time. All the questions they ask are of this character; they are all tinged with this same initial absurdity.  They do not ask if the means is suited to the end; they all ask (with profound and penetrating scepticism) if the end is suited to the means. They do not ask if the tail is suited to the dog.  They all ask whether a dog is (by the highest artistic canons) the most ornamental appendage that can be put at the end of a tail. In short, instead of asking whether our modern arrangements, our streets, trades, bargains, laws, and concrete institutions are suited to the primal and permanent ideal of a healthy human life, they never admit that healthy human life into the discussion at all, except suddenly and accidentally at odd moments; and then they only ask whether that healthy, human life is suited to our streets and trades.  Perfection may be attainable or unattainable as an end. It may or may not be possible to talk of imperfection as a means to perfection. But surely it passes toleration to talk of perfection as a means to imperfection. The New Jerusalem may be a reality, it may be a dream. But surely it is too outrageous to say that the New Jerusalem is a reality on the road to Birmingham.

This is the most enormous and at the same time the most secret of the modern tyrannies of materialism. In theory the thing ought to be simple enough.  A really human human-being would always put the spiritual thing first.  A walking and speaking statue of God finds himself at one particular moment employed as a shop assistant.  He has in himself a power of terrible love, a promise of paternity, a thirst for some loyalty that shall unify life, and in the ordinary course of things he asks himself, “How far do the existing conditions of those assisting in shops fit in with my evident and epic destiny in the matter of love and marriage?”  But here, as I have said, comes in the quiet and crushing power of modern materialism.  It prevents him rising in rebellion, as he would otherwise do.  By perpetually talking about environment and visible things, by perpetually talking about economics and physical necessity, by painting and keeping repainted a perpetual picture of iron machinery and merciless engines, of rails of steel, and of towers of stone, modern materialism at last produces this tremendous impression on the human imagination, this impression in which the truth is stated upside down. At last the result is achieved.  The man does not say as he ought to have said, “Should married men endure being modern shop assistants?” The man says, “Should shop assistants marry?” Triumph has completed the immense illusion of materialism.  The slave does not say, “Are these chains worthy of me?” The slave says scientifically and contentedly, “Am I even worthy of these chains?” 

                               Saint George and the dragon - (Raphael 1504)

With the patronal feast of St George just two weeks ago, a General Election for the Westminster parliament later this week, and to celebrate the arrival of a new daughter, Charlotte Elizabeth Diana, born on 2 May, and weighing in at  8lb 3oz, for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the following poem seems rather appropriate:-

The Englishman

St.George he was for  England
And before he killed the dragon
He drank a pint of English ale
Out of an English flagon.
For though he fast right readily
In hair-shirt or in mail,
It isn't safe to give him cakes
Unless you give him ale.

St.George he was for England,
And right gallantly set free
The lady left for dragon's meat
And tied up to a tree;
But since he stood for England
And knew what England means,
Unless you give him bacon
You musn't give him beans.

St. George he is for England,
And shall wear the shield he wore
When we go out in armour
With the battle-cross before.
But though he is jolly company
And very pleased to dine,
It isn't safe to give him nuts
Unless you give him wine.

                                 G K Chesterton


In the Catholic Church, the month of May is traditionally associated with honouring Mary, the Mother of Jesus. One of her many titles is 'Queen of Heaven', originating from the First Council of Ephesus in the fifth century, in which the Virgin Mary was proclaimed "theotokos", a title rendered in Latin as Mater Dei, in English "Mother of God"..
 "Mary deserves the title because she is Mother of God, because she is closely associated as the New Eve with Jesus’ redemptive work, because of her pre-eminent perfection and because of her intercessory power...... The main principle on which the royal dignity of Mary rests is her Divine Motherhood" (Ad Coeli Reginam -1954. P.Pius XII). 
So with complete justice St. John Damascene could write: "When she became Mother of the Creator, she truly became Queen of every creature".

 "Mary is a Queen; but, for our common consolation, be it known that she is a Queen so sweet, so clement, and so ready to help us in our miseries, that the Holy Church wills that we should salute her in this prayer - Hail, Holy Queen, under the title of Queen of Mercy."

Ack. 'Thoughts from St Alphonsus.'