Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas prayer

It has been Christmas Day in Ireland for more than an hour, and following my recent tradition (because-- although I rarely mention it-- I am rather keen on tradition), here are my Christmas prayers.

First for lovely and long-suffering Michelle, to whom all my writings are dedicated.

Next (but just as importantly) for our lost children, Ruadhán Padraig and Sadbh Treasa, precious souls who were lost before birth, and mourned every single day. So often I wonder what they would have looked like, whether they would have loved poetry, whether they would have loved or hated mathematics, all the million and one ways their own uniqueness would have unfolded. But they are with God; their lives, short as they were, had as much significance and dignity as any others.

I pray for, and want to give thanks to, all the readers and commenters-- let me just say, friends-- on my blog (NOT in order of importance); Dominic, Sinéad, Fr. Levi, Molly, TMR, Antaine, Mick, Paul, Tomas, Roger, Michele, GoldRush Apple, Winnie, Fr. Sean, Jackie, Rusty Shackleford, Angelo, Robert, and anyone I have left out! And I also wonder about Johnny Stephens, and pray for you, if you're still out there! Not to forget my friend Stephen, my friend Marcia, my friend Ryan, and my friend Anthony H. And for Hilary, who sent me such a nice email some months ago. I appreciate your comments and encouragement and prayers SO much. I pray especially for TMR's new married life, and for Roger Buck's book The Gentle Traditionalist (buy it!).

I pray a special prayer for my friend Sonya, whose loss during the year is still a shock I haven't really absorbed. She was far too young. May perpetual light shine upon her.

I pray for the Church in Ireland, for all the brave seminarians preparing to be labourers in a daunting vineyard, for all the directors of vocations seeking young men and young women who will give their lives to God in a special way, and for all the priests and religious who are themselves labouring in the vineyard at such a difficult time. Your exertions and your labours are VERY much appreciated. We are sheep with so few shepherds; send us shepherds, Lord! May our guardian angels remind us to pray for vocations every day!

I pray for our dear Pope, Francis, the 'sweet Christ on earth', in the unimaginable pressures he faces, seeking to combine mercy to lost sheep with fidelity to orthodoxy. May all Catholics and Christians show the Holy Father the love and respect he deserves, and may any criticism they direct towards him be filial and measured!

I pray for all cardinals, bishops and theologians-- may God protect them from the guile and traps of the Evil One. In their necessary efforts to meet the spiritual challenges of the modern world, may they never overlook St. Paul's warning: "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel other than the one that we preached to you, let that one be accursed! (Galatians 1:8). I give God thanks for Cardinal Raymond Burke, Cardinal Robert Sarah, Cardinal George Pell, and all the modern-day successors of Saint Athanasius, who so dauntlessly defend the truths of the Catholic faith.

As always, I pray for all artists, poets, filmmakers, and other creators, that their work will reflect the beautiful and holy and noble, rather than the ugly and unholy and base. And I pray that those creators seeking to celebrate noble things will meet with success.

I give thanks for my father's recovery this year, and for the prayers offered him. I give thanks for all my family and friends who are healthy and alive this Christmas, and prayers for all those who have gone to their rest-- special mention for my cousin Billy, who died all too soon not so long ago. I pray especially for my dear mother Patricia.

I pray for peace and understanding amongst all religions, especially Islam and Christianity. I pray for peace in the Middle East, in the Ukraine, and all over the world.

I pray for Ireland, for England, for America, and all nations. Scripture suggests that nations have guardian angels (Daniel 10:3). May these angels foster a healthy patriotism, and a tenderness for national traditions, in every nation. May the 1916 centenary in Ireland lead the Irish people to a sober and mature assessment of this difficult but important moment in Irish history.

I pray for the Church of England, for which I have great hope under the stewardship of Archbishop Justin Welby, much as I disagree with him on some issues. I pray for greater closeness between all Christians, and progress towards ultimate unification.

I pray for all the unborn and yet-to-conceived children in danger of abortion, and especially that the life of the unborn is protected in ireland, where forces who seek to undermine it are preparing for a great push this year.

I pray for everyone in danger of suicide, in all the forms it comes. Let them know they are loved and precious.

I offer prayers of thanksgiving for my overworked guardian angel, for my patron saint St. Seachnaill, for the great G.K. Chesterton-- may his cause for sainthood progress!-- for St. Josemaria Escriva, for St. Maximilian Kolbe, for my confirmation saint St. Finbarr, and for all the saints in heaven-- most especially, for our Blessed Mother ("Mother of God and our mother", as St. Josemaria so often called her).

I pray for my editor at The Catholic Voice, Anthony Murphy, who has now been publishing my 'View from the Pew' column for two years, as well as his family. I pray The Catholic Voice, which does very valuable work, thrives. I pray for the editors at The Open Door magazine, Annals Australasia magazine, and the producers at Radio Maria Ireland which have kindly let me talk about Chesterton on the airwaves.

Finally, I pray to God that nothing I write here or elsewhere ever goes against the truth of the Catholic faith, and-- if it were possible-- that it might attract souls to Christ, and edify my fellow believers.

Happy Christmas everybody! Nollaig Shona Daoibh!

Advent Calendar #27

Light of the gentiles, light of the world,
The Name all martyrs have confessed;
Tonight you are a baby curled
Upon your Holy Mother's breast.

Advent Calendar #26

To the Baby Jesus

The world is old, but you are new
And that is why I worship you.
Down generations, this is true;
The world is old, but you are new.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas Gifts from the Irish Papist

As my effort to make some money from advertising has been a complete failure, I am now turning to other money-making schemes. I would like to announce my range of Christmas gifts:

1) A vinyl record of me reading out my complete 'Why I am a Traditionalist" series. Very enthusiastically reviewed by the International Sleep Disorder Association.
2) An action figure of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Comes with miniature chasuble with real incense, and swinging action. Also comes with full range of Papal robes and headdresses, for those finding it difficult to adjust to Pope Francis's more informal style.
3) A genuine Purple Notebook, with instructions on how to use. This gift will only be delivered to customers who send me a written promise to abide by the rules of purple notebooking, and who promise not to simply fill it up with 'happy thoughts', inspiring quotations, pleasant memories, etc.
4) Dinner Party Delight De Luxe. A game board and set of cards which will help you have the perfect dinner party or other social get-together. Topics for discussion include The Nature of National Culture, The Creative Element in Memory, The Dream as Metaphor for Reality, Story-Telling and Identity, etc. If  your guests don't come back after playing this game, they weren't worth inviting in the first place.
5) G.K. Chesterton Fitness Work-Out Video.
6) Irish Papist baseball cap. Guaranteed to make men look folksy and salt-of-the-earth, and women sassy and girl-next-door.

And more! Send for a leaflet for further details. How can you say no?

A Christmas Poem to Michelle

All the words I ever write
I dedicate to you.
And all the beauty that I see
I want to show to you.
And all the thoughts that come my way
Are thoughts that lead to you.
And all the praise of all the world
Is less than a smile from you.

And when I pray to holy God
I pray for me and you.
And when I hear a happy tale
It makes me think of you.
And when I hear a story sad
It makes me think of you.
And memories from long ago
Are somehow about you.

And thinking of the wide wide world
Just leads me back to you.
And looking deep into my soul
I see a home for you.
And every sweet sight in the world
Just makes me think of you.
And any triumph I could win
Is a flower to give to you.

Advent Calendar #25

Little baby Jesus, what can I offer?
My other cheek to the cynic and scoffer.
I offer you all of my sorrow and shame
For the idle way I have spoken your Name.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Advent Calendar #24

You cannot stay in Bethlehem.
The sights you see; remember them.
Little and precious, like a gem;
You cannot stay in Bethlehem.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Advent Calendar #23

We can't conceive the Trinity
And God's perfections tease us;
But we can bow our heads and see
The little baby Jesus.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Advent Calendar #22

Before you, Lord, the Baptist leapt
While he was yet unborn.
Before you, Lord, my soul has slept;
Oh save me, all forlorn.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Advent Calendar #21

Blessed are the poor in spirit;
Can we such a creed confess?
At Christmas we half sense the merit
Of little and of littleness.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Advent Calendar #20

Everybody understands this season--
The Christian, the atheist, the child.
It speaks to something deeper far than reason,
Some innocence our sins have not defiled.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Advent Calendar #19

He comes from aloft
Like a soft word spoken.
No wick shall be snuffed,
Nor reed broken.

Advent Calendar #18

The light you see
On the Christmas tree
Is the same light
On Mount Tabor's height.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Advent Calender #17

His was the only Revolution that endures;
A never-ending Revolution, always new
And always needed, striking at the ancient curse
That kills the soul of me and you.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Advent Calendar #16

Even without you, Christ, the crib is pretty--
But it's only there so you can be put there.
And the world is wonderful, this mortal city--
But without you, it slides into despair.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Advent Calendar #15

Gaudete....gauedete...I say it like a chant.
It seems to conjure up a world, another world than ours.
One tall pink candle summons them, the Godly ghosts who haunt
Our world of tame and tawdry joys, our days of wasted hours.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Advent Calendar #14

The purple hangings make me think
Of strong red wine, the finest red.
The wine God gave the world to drink
The day his only Son was wed.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Advent Calendar #13

Advent is a time for letting go.
Forget the manufactured magic and the postcard snow.
Shrug off the pressure to be happy. Be at peace.
In Bethlehem's true silence, all our frenzies cease.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Advent Calendar #12

Who will hear the good news from me?
Who will believe the gospel from my lips?
Can one like me, so utterly unworthy,
Speak Truth that puts the world into eclipse?

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Advent Calendar #11

The world has always seemed to me
Like something waiting breathlessly;
And in this season, most of all,
It seems to wait its Master's call.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Give me a Boost

If you like my Advent Calendar poems, please consider sharing them on Facebook, Twitter, and all the other social networking platforms I can't keep up with. And if you're not on any of these....what the heck? It's, like, the twenty-first century! What are you, old or something?

I'm thinking of taking this blog more in the direction of poems and prayers to mark the liturgical calendar. That's the territory I'm drifting into myself. I find myself thinking: instead of talking to each other (or to the outside world) about God, let us raise our hearts and minds together to God. Peter Hitchens says somewhere that the case for faith is better made poetry than through prose. He was using the term 'poetry' in a broad sense, of course, but literal poetry is surely a part of that.

I hope nobody thinks, from me writing this, that I'm saying that believers have to resort to the power of suggestion because they have no rational arguments. Anyone who browses the extensive archives of this blog will see I have typed thousands upon thousands of words defending the Catholic faith from all angles of criticism, in the prosiest manner possible. I'm not quite saying that everything I have written seems like straw to me now. But I increasingly think that faith is a gift-- and that, unlike most gifts, the Giver of this one wants you to re-gift it. (I am of course speaking figuratively. It is always a gift from God.)

And gifts come with wrapping paper and a bow. They don't usually come with a label saying, "Gotcha!".

Advent Calendar #10: To Our Lady, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception

We are unnatural, twisted, disfigured, contorted into unspeakable shapes;
You are the utterly human, oh Lady, exemplar of all that God's children should be.
Ask God that He purge us of all our perverseness, our passionate quest to be lower than apes;
Oh Mary, oh Mary, conceived without sin, pray for your children who cry unto thee.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Advent Calendar #9

St. Joseph and Our Lady, on their knees,
A mountain of strength, a boundless sea of love,
Awaiting the child, the coming Prince of Peace,
That all the sleeping world is dreaming of.

Advent Calendar #8

From aisle to aisle, a voice cries out:
"Hark now hear the angels sing".
Oh baby Jesus, who can doubt
Your birth changed everything?

Sunday, December 6, 2015

More Seasonal Poetry


But not by me. I imagine that many of my readers will already know Robert Southwell's 'Burning Babe' poem, but for those who haven't (and even for those who have), here it is. Robert Southwell was an English Jesuit who died a martyr in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

This is probably my favourite Christmas poem. I don't have anything at all against all the cosy imagery that has gathered around Christmas in the last couple of centuries, but I do like the fact that this poem has a completely different atmosphere. I love the fiery imagery, too. I always love the evocation of fire in Christian symbolism and spirituality, because it's such a corrective to the insipidness which our culture tends to associate with the very word 'spiritual' or 'religious'.
As I in hoary winter’s night stood shivering in the snow,
Surpris’d I was with sudden heat which made my heart to glow;
And lifting up a fearful eye to view what fire was near,
A pretty Babe all burning bright did in the air appear;
Who, scorched with excessive heat, such floods of tears did shed
As though his floods should quench his flames which with his tears were fed.
“Alas!” quoth he, “but newly born, in fiery heats I fry,
Yet none approach to warm their hearts or feel my fire but I!
My faultless breast the furnace is, the fuel wounding thorns,
Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke, the ashes shame and scorns;
The fuel Justice layeth on, and Mercy blows the coals,
The metal in this furnace wrought are men’s defiled souls,
For which, as now on fire I am to work them to their good,
So will I melt into a bath to wash them in my blood.”
With this he vanish’d out of sight and swiftly shrunk away,
And straight I called unto mind that it was Christmas day.

Advent Calendar #7

Like all my poetry, these Advent Calendar poems are dedicated to my wife Michelle.

The winter solstice? Pagan rites?
They know, for all such scorn,
The world has robed itself in lights
To see the Christ Child born.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Advent Calendar #6

To love the world that murdered you--
Oh Lord, is it a sin?
And am I truly looking to
The kingdom breaking in?

Friday, December 4, 2015

Advent Calendar

As I appear to be a day ahead of the rest of Christendom in my poetic Advent calendar, today is a 'day off'!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Advent Calendar #5

All good things whatsoever
You, Lord, have made to be.
And I could look forever
At the happy Christmas tree.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Advent Calendar #4

The low roof hanging over me
Is bigger than the heavens' dome.
I kneel before you silently;
I am home. I am home.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Advent Calendar #3

The world is old, is old, is old,
But this news keeps it fresh;
The story that they angels told
That God had taken flesh.