Just Us?

Wednesday, April 13, AD 2016



Because we’re here lad.  Nobody else.  Just us.

Colour Sergeant Frank Bourne, Zulu (1964)

At the battle of Rorke’s Drift on January 22-23, 1879, some 141 men of B Company, 2 Warwickshire (24th Regiment of Foot) beat off an attack by a Zulu impi, around 4,000 men.  At the time it was considered a military miracle.  The officers in command had nothing in their careers before or after the battle to mark them out as in any way superior.  They were typical run of the mill officers and almost all the men under their command were typical troops.  The most unusual was Colour Sergeant Frank Bourne who at the battle was twenty-four years old.  Two years previously he had attained the rank of Colour Sergeant, making him the youngest Colour Sergeant, the highest NCO rank in the British Army.  He would rise to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel during World War I, and die at 91, last survivor among the defenders of Rorke’s Drift, on V-E Day, appropriately enough, May 8, 1945.  For a secular purpose the defenders of Rorke’s Drift were willing to fight with all their being, and they won against apparently overwhelming odds.

This little excursion into military history is caused by this quotation from Father Z:

I’ve had a tough few days.  How ’bout you?

Conversations with friends and priests suggest that the Devil is working really hard right now to demoralize the Team.

And there is Amoris laetitia with its Infamous Footnote 351 (et al.) and the fallout which is on going.   So many people are frustrated, confused, beaten down.

This morning for Mass I read again the prayer for the 2nd Sunday after Easter in the traditional Roman Rite, a very ancient prayer:

Deus, qui Filii tui humilitate iacentem mundum erexisti: fidelibus tuis sanctam concede laetitiam; ut, quos perpetuae mortis eripuisti casibus, gaudiis facias perfrui sempiternis.


O God, who raised up a fallen world by the abasement of Your Son, grant holy joy to Your faithful; so that You may cause those whom You snatched from the misfortunes of perpetual death, to enjoy delights unending.

The great L&S indicates that erigo, giving us erexisti, means “to raise up, set up, erect” and, analogously, “to arouse, excite” and “cheer up, encourage.” The verb iaceo (in the L&S find this under jaceo) has many meanings, such as “to lie” as in “lie sick or dead, fallen” and also “to be cast down, fixed on the ground” and “to be overcome, despised, idle, neglected, unemployed.” Humilitas is “lowness”. In Blaise/Dumas, humilitas has a more theological meaning in the “abasement” of the God Incarnate who took the form of a “slave” (cf. Philippians 2:7). Blaise/Dumas cites this Collect in the entry for humilitas.

Our Collect views us, views material creation, as an enervated body, wounded, weakened by sin, lying near death in the dust whence it came.

Beaten down.  Demoralized.  Confused.  Frustrated.

Because of the Fall, the whole cosmos was put under the bondage of the Enemy, the “prince of this world” (cf. John 10:31 and 14:30). This is why when we bless certain things, and baptize people, there was an exorcism first, to rip the object or person from the grip of the world’s “prince” and give it to the King. God is liberator. He rouses us up from being prone upon the ground. He grasps us, pulling us upward out of sin and death. He directs us again toward the joys possible in this world, first, and then definitively in the next.

We must get back to our feet: rise again.

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9 Responses to Just Us?

  • Sinn Féin Amháin (Gaelic) – Ourselves Alone. They cannot take your Faith, Hope and Love; nor your fortitude, justice, prudence, and temperance. .

  • This is precisely how I feel, Don. Our shepherds may be cowering under the desks in their chancelries (sorry, “pastoral centers”), but the laity are beginning to roar. I’m seeing more than ever a determination to call out the strategic ambiguities written into modern Church documents, and to tie it all back to the Council, where this orthodox-but-with-qualifications strategy first took hold. True, we’re still a small minority among Catholics, but we make up for it with fervor and plain speaking. Thanks be to God, the battle lines are now drawn up clearly for anyone with eyes to see.

  • The periodical, “Military History”, has had a well-documented analysis of Rorke’s Drift and the prior-day’s disaster, the Battle of Isandlwana, in the course of which about 1300 brave British regimental soldiers and their colonial allies were annihilated (22 Jan 1879).

    Rorke’s Drift is a lesson of course in which a few, focused, disciplined soldiers successfully repelled an assault, the likes of which liquidated a much larger, better equipped, but disastrously-led, force the prior day. Some of the errors are instructive today: Lord Chelmsford, the over-all leader, divided his forces and went on, leaving behind a force with a poorly-situated, really indefensible site, but especially leaving behind a man who was an administrator with little or no battle-knowledge, let alone experience. The forces, though ordered to entrench, for some unfathomable reason, did not do so. “Military History” states that Pulleine (the administrator-commander at the Battle of Isandlwana site, refused to have opened and distributed to the troops ample wood cases of over 400,000 rounds of state-of-the-art Martini-Henry easily-reloadable breech-loading rifles, even by that morning when it was obvious that large Zulu groups were moving about in surrounding distance. It was inevitable, the outcome, say the historian-experts.

    Analogy to today? Our Undefense-Department, being self-dismantled (but oh-so-politically correct). Civilian or entirely untested administrator leaders. Large forces moving about the camp in the distance, accurately reported by the scouts. And the outcome?

    By the way, even for its “era”, this is a great fillm. Thank you, DMcC.

  • Good post. Heartening.

  • Don

    In real life that company was left behind as a bridge guard because the lieutenant in command was medically deaf.

    God is not looking for super heroes just faithful ones,

    “If God is with us who can be against us?”

  • Yes, Hank, I understand “Rorke’s Drift” — a “drift” being the Brit equivalent at that time of a ford in the river– was a year-round river and therefore water source, as well as marking the boundary between British Natal and Zululand.

    My understanding, derived only from “Military History” and a few other periodicals that have studied this famous “last stand”, is that the “Buffalo River”, the river of the “drift”, is a fairly major watercourse—British engineers had set up a makeshift “pont” ferry which could accommodate supply train wagons— and Chelmsford’s main force could otherwise be trapped if the trading post site and the ford were not controlled.

    Another fact worth noting: according to a native Natal driver who had fled and hid in one of the caves of the bluff overlooking the trading post, the Brit fire, amply supplied with ammunition deployed freely to the soldiers, was “devastating”.

    One looks by contrast at Islandwana the prior day, where the incompetent officer in charge refused well prior to the battle, when there was time to do so, to distribute and immediately smash open (it took an axe) the wood boxes of thousands and thousands of rounds of Martini-Henry ammunition and distribute them amply to the perimeters of the encampment—hard to do, even if you have an axe first of all, but especially when you need the rounds and you are under threat of being overwhelmed by sheer numbers of Zulu. Martini-Henry rifles were single-shot breech-loaders: very efficient, but you have to literally have rounds at hand NOW. A true nightmare. Over 400,000 rounds of rifle ammunition was said to have fallen into the hands of the Zulu.

  • Murray saida
    “the laity are beginning to roar. I’m seeing more than ever a determination to call out the strategic ambiguities written into modern Church documents, and to tie it all back to the Council, where this orthodox-but-with-qualifications strategy first took hold. … Thanks be to God, the battle lines are now drawn up clearly for anyone with eyes to see.”
    What a tumult is going on! What can we expect to happen now I wonder

  • Steve

    Thank you.

    At Roark’s drift the British infantry had a situation where did what it does best – stand and fire volleys.

    As I remember there are several plausible scenarios as to what happened at Islandawana which put the British in more favorable light, or it might have been as bad as you say or worse. Unfortunately there was no one left to explain. But I forget where my source books are.

  • Here is another sidelight to “Zulu”: Lord Chelmsford, Frederic Thesiger, played by Peter O’Toole in the film “Zulu”, captures the arrogance that precipitated the disaster at Islandawana and the near-annihilation of the contingent at Rorke’s Drift.

    I guess because I have a late family member who commented on the problem of “insider-ism” in established military units, whether British or US, the “Pointers” (West Point) types vs the ROTC or battle-promoted general-ship—anyway, Lord Chelmsford, who had a previously successful career in suppressing the Xhosa revolt in S Africa, had a low opinion of Africans as fighters, and brought that fatal baggage to the Zulu conflict. No matter, he was well rewarded after his Islandawana defeat with a series of higher and higher offices—while Bourne and Chard and others who saved 140 plus souls drifted into virtual non-history.

    Not new. The lead commander at Chosin Reservoir (Korean War), Maj. Gen Edward Almond (actually a VMI grad, but he obtained early acquaintance with Army bigwigs by working at GHQ’s for many years) had a history of incompetent leadership and disdain for forces who were not “white” (he called the PROC forces in N Korea facing a real hero and battle-commander, Maj Gen Oliver Smith, “Chinese laundrymen”, and castigated Smith for not swiftly dispatching the enemy), even blaming his own inept leadership in the Italian Campaign of WW2 on the alleged poor quality of African American troops, the 92nd Infantry Division, the famed “Buffalo Soldiers”, in 1944-1945 (He even recommended that black troops never be allowed to be in combat forces). Perhaps in part because of people like Almond, at least 2 Medal of Honor recipients were not awarded their honor until 1997, 50 plus years after.

    But, as with Chelmsford, Almond was a favorite of MacArthur’s and went on and was eventually promoted to Lt. Generalship—if ever a man was not deserving of it—and is buried now in Arlington Natl Cemetery, along with Ted Kennedy. Well, I guess that is a demotion, in the end.

Theme From El Cid

Saturday, January 26, AD 2013

Something for the weekend.  The forgiveness song from El Cid (1961).  I have always loved this retelling of the legend of El Campeador, starring Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren, who purportedly despised each other during the filming.  I think the etchings of the intro capture something of the spirit of believing Spain, always waiting for the next great Crusade.

Here is my favorite sequence from the film:

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5 Responses to Theme From El Cid

  • Thank you so much Donald. That is one of my favorite scores and movies, and I have been around since talkies began.

  • Pure souls and majestic sounds of the pipe organ and hooves versus lost souls and contrived electronic sounds and motors seems like a way to describe the difference between cultures of life and death.

  • Thank you so much for posting this. I completely agree with PM’s comment above. Well said.

  • O, for another El Cid!

  • I made a long post about this two years ago – thanx for the link, Mr. McClarey, so I won’t repeat myself.

    My wife’s ancestors are from Spain, and mine are from Poland – countries on the opposite sides of Europe, yet both Catholic (at least Spain was) and both fought off Muslim invaders.

    I have to watch El Cid sometime. I wish there was a movie about the Battle of Vienna.

History and Legend

Wednesday, July 18, AD 2012

Ransom Stoddard: You’re not going to use the story, Mr. Scott?

Maxwell Scott: No, sir. This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

History tells us that George Washington as a boy did not cut down a cherry tree and, while telling his father about it, assure him that he could not tell a lie.  Saint Francis of Assisi almost certainly did not convert a wolf from his thieving ways and teach him to beg humbly for his  food like a good Franciscan.  Robin Hood did not help King Richard the Lionheart regain his throne from his brother John Lackland.  We know almost nothing about King Arthur and what we think we know about him is certainly almost entirely legend.

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6 Responses to History and Legend

  • A very salutary caution, but we should not neglect the value of folk-memory.

    To give an example, within my own knowledge, I am proprietor of a small piece of ground, about 18 acres of winter pasture, known locally as the Ten Shilling Land of Boyd (the shilling is an old British coin, 20 to the pound sterling, abolished in 1971)

    The titles show it as being “a mailing or tenandry, being a Ten Shilling Land of Old Extent.” Now, the Old Extent was a survey of rental values, carried out for tax purposes by King Alexander III in 1280, whose daughter was marrying the King of Norway and he needed help to pay her tocher. It may have been based on an earlier assessment by William the Lion, a century earlier, but the evidence is not conclusive. There is a similar piece of ground, known as the Merkland, obviously of the same origin (the Merk or Mark is another old coin, worth 2/3rds of a pound sterling). So, here we have oral testimony of the assessment of this land, continuing over eight centuries.

  • This is something for which no atheist adherent of the religion of scientism has any respect.

  • I enjoyed seeing the classic scene from one of my favorite movies “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” It brought me back to my medical internship at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1962 when the title song (which never mede it into the movie) was popular. I also enjoyed seeing the clip from “El Cid” which I discussed in my book Christians in the Movies: A Century of Saints and Sinners. It looks at the arc of the treatment of Christians especially Catholics in about 200 films from 1905-2008. You seem very knowledgeable about film. Are you familiar with it or my other book “Doctors in the Movies: Boil the Water and Just Say Aah!?” I also liked seeing the clip from my all-time favorite film “Casablanca” in one of your recent posts.
    Speaking about film, your story about Father Galveston would make a wonderful film as would the story of Edmund Campion and his brother priests.
    Keep up the good work.
    Peter E./ Dans

  • I hold to the argument that there is a real figure beneath the Arthurian legend, however conflated or otherwise lost to time he may be. Something knocked the Saxons back on their heels around 500 AD, confining them to the southern and eastern parts of what is now England. The result was something unique in the barbarian-occupied Western Empire: the survival of the invading barbarians as a distinct group, with little intermarriage (or even linguistic borrowing).

    Whether that figure was named “Arthur,” or is the conflation of a later legend with a confirmable, if shadowy, historical figure (Ambrosius Aurelianus), I can’t say. But the Saxons suffered a severe reverse ca. 500 that took a couple of generations to shake off.

  • Thank you Pete! I was not familiar with your work, but I will put your books on my list to read!

  • It’s kind of like a shadow version of comparing science with religion; they’re for totally different purposes, and if you try to force one into the format of the other, it fails.

    People need stories. People need facts. A balanced person is going to need both, though the proportions are different for different folks.