Saturday, February 10, 2018

Happy Feast of St. Scholastica!

St. Scholastica and her twin brother, St. Benedict. Looks rather mischievous, doesn't she? Then again, she did pray for a storm to get him to bend the monastic rule so they could converse together a bit longer. 

 O Lord, by the example and
intercession of St. Scholastica,
who was filled with innocent faith,
hoped in the goods of heaven,
and ever burned with love for her Spouse,
may the dryness of our hearts
be moistened with the dew of divine grace
and may we enter into Your eternal joys,
through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

"The Glory," a Poem by Edward Thomas

I first came across Derek Walcott's work when I was a freshman in college and we read his Omeros as the final installment of a two-semester sequence on the epic. I was intrigued by Walcott's use of classical elements and by the Saint Lucian world he evokes. But my younger self was grumpy about his anti-colonialism and some perceived slights of organized religion. Moreover, I was sufficiently anti-establishment at the time to look askance at his Nobel Prize for Literature.

Nevertheless, the urge to pick up Omeros and re-read it never quite left me and so, when I saw that First Things published a kind of obituary last year, I took a look.

What surprised me was not so much that Walcott was a devotee of the poetic tradition - I had long suspected as much, even as my younger self tried to believe he was a bomb thrower - but that among American students, even those taking his class at Boston University, Walcott was largely seen as an irrelevant throwback. As Garrick Davis painfully recounts, contemporary students of poetry seem to have no ear for it, nor real interest in it.

But before I could begin silently castigating the ignoramuses pretending to study poetry in America's most prestigious schools, it occurred to me that, although I affirm the value of poetry, particularly in its more traditional forms, I actually read or recite rather little of it.

To rectify that, I'll be sharing a few poems here, beginning with one Walcott himself thought quite extraordinary, Edward Thomas's "The Glory," a meditation on the beauty of a morning and the struggle to respond to it aright:
The glory of the beauty of the morning, -
The cuckoo crying over the untouched dew;
The blackbird that has found it, and the dove
That tempts me on to something sweeter than love;
White clouds ranged even and fair as new-mown hay;
The heat, the stir, the sublime vacancy
Of sky and meadow and forest and my own heart: -
The glory invites me, yet it leaves me scorning
All I can ever do, all I can be,
Beside the lovely of motion, shape, and hue,
The happiness I fancy fit to dwell
In beauty's presence. Shall I now this day
Begin to seek as far as heaven, as hell,
Wisdom or strength to match this beauty, start
And tread the pale dust pitted with small dark drops,
In hope to find whatever it is I seek,
Hearkening to short-lived happy-seeming things
That we know naught of, in the hazel copse?
Or must I be content with discontent
As larks and swallows are perhaps with wings?
And shall I ask at the day's end once more
What beauty is, and what I can have meant
By happiness? And shall I let all go,
Glad, weary, or both? Or shall I perhaps know
That I was happy oft and oft before,
Awhile forgetting how I am fast pent,
How dreary-swift, with naught to travel to,
Is Time? I cannot bite the day to the core.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Why the Liturgical Turn?

Observant readers will notice that there have been a lot of liturgical commemorations here at the Guild Review, from the season of Advent to the particular holidays of the Annunciation (aka Lady Day) and Christmas to the feasts of Ambrose, Cecilia, Clare (and Clare again), Francis, Louis and Zelie, Michael (aka Michaelmas), Patrick, and Thomas More. Why is that, you ask?

The simple answer is that my life has been busy and it is much easier to post a prayer and a picture than to write a semi-coherent argument about a topic.

But the increased focus on the liturgical calendar also reflects developments in my life outside the blog. This may be a function of age. When I was younger I had considerable time to devote toward the pursuit of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. I read, widely; I discussed ideas with friends; I turned over arguments in my head and wrote many of them down, some published here. But with the advent of middle age - a family, a mortgage, a 9-to-5 job - I find that much more of my time and energy is spoken for.

But it is here that the liturgical calendar reveals its genius. Built into the very rhythms of the liturgical year are all the great modes of the spiritual life: expectation, adoration, prayer, fasting, alms-giving, sorrow, triumph, and teaching. Below, so to speak, the great movements of the seasons there are the individual feast days, celebrating key moments in the earthly life of Jesus as well as the lives of disciples who sought to imitate him. These saints are as diverse a collection as one could imagine: men and women, rich and poor, priests, religious, spouses, scholars, evangelists, hermits, writers and artists, farmers and craftsmen, from every continent and every century from the Resurrection to the present. Even a passing mention of a handful of them becomes, over the course of a year, a veritable education in Christian living.

Thus, our family has been trying to notice more of the liturgical celebrations, as well as the Quarter and Cross-Quarter Days, great medieval markers of the year. We have done so with small observations: special desserts or crafts with the kids, a prayer for a saint's feast stuck to the bathroom mirror, a special song or story after supper. If your family is interested in doing likewise, resources abound; you might start with Carrots for Michaelmas, one of the many blogs dedicated to living the liturgical year.

In an increasingly secular age which so rarely has the time to pause and think about much of anything, the liturgical calendar invites us to align the rhythms of our daily lives with the heavenly choirs.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Happy Feast of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor!

Gracious God of majesty and awe,
Who made the bishop Ambrose
a exemplary teacher of the Catholic faith
and a model of apostolic courage:
We seek Your protection,
look for Your healing,
and hope for Your mercies,
for they cannot be numbered.
Raise up in Your Church men
after Your own heart to govern
with courage and wisdom,
and make us worthy to taste
the Holy of Holies,
through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Today's image is by Anthonis van Dyck. If it had a caption, it might well be, "In matters of faith, bishops judge Christian emperors, not emperors bishops."

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Happy Feast of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr!

O God,
Who crowned the innocence and holiness
of the virgin Cecilia
with the wreath of heroic martyrdom
and consoled her with the songs of angels:
set us aflame with divine love,
give us perseverance amidst persecution,
and grant that we may send our prayers
heavenward on winged notes of praise.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Today's image comes from the Polet Chapel in Rome.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Happy Feast of St. Francis!

Regular readers know Francis and Clare are popular around here. Happy Feast of St. Francis, who so earnestly strove to be like Christ in all things, and in so doing set a noble example for all of us. Saint Francis, pray for us!

You are holy, Lord, the only God, and Your deeds are wonderful.
You are strong.
You are great.
You are the Most High.
You are Almighty.
You, Holy Father are King of heaven and earth.
You are Three and One, Lord God, all Good.
You are Good, all Good, supreme Good, Lord God, living and true.
You are love.
You are wisdom.
You are humility.
You are endurance.
You are rest.
You are peace.
You are joy and gladness.
You are justice and moderation.
You are all our riches, and You suffice for us.
You are beauty.
You are gentleness.
You are our protector.
You are our guardian and defender.
You are our courage.
You are our haven and our hope.
You are our faith, our great consolation.
You are our eternal life, Great and Wonderful Lord, God Almighty, Merciful Savior.

- A prayer in praise of God, as given by St. Francis to Brother Leo

Friday, September 29, 2017

Happy Michaelmas!

Everlasting God,
You wonderfully ordered
the ministries of angels and mortals,
and sent the archangel Michael,
bearer of the banner of heaven,
to defend us against
the malice of Satan’s pride.
Do not forsake us in the last struggle with evil,
but by the aid of Your holy angels
bring us to eternal life,
through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

How is your family planning to celebrate? There are a wealth of traditional foods for the celebration of the Archangel Michael. As this post explains, carrots, goose, special bread (St. Michael's Bannock) and blackberries are all on the traditional menu, for various reasons. Or waffles are, apparently, traditional in France; this website has a recipe and additional info. Other edible ideas I've seen include angel-shaped sugar cookies or really anything autumnal, since Michaelmas - almost exactly midway between Midsummer (St. John's Day) and Christmas - is the traditional approximation of the equinox and thus the beginning of autumn. If you're looking for decoration, aster flowers are also known as Michaelmas Daisies, because in many places they bloom around the feast.