Sunday, October 7, AD 2012

White founts falling in the Courts of the sun,

 And the Soldan of Byzantium is smiling as they run;

 There is laughter like the fountains in that face of all men feared,

 It stirs the forest darkness, the darkness of his beard;

 It curls the blood-red crescent, the crescent of his lips;

 For the inmost sea of all the earth is shaken with his ships.

 They have dared the white republics up the capes of Italy,

 They have dashed the Adriatic round the Lion of the Sea,

 And the Pope has cast his arms abroad for agony and loss,

 And called the kings of Christendom for swords about the Cross.

 The cold queen of England is looking in the glass;

 The shadow of the Valois is yawning at the Mass;

 From evening isles fantastical rings faint the Spanish gun,

 And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun.

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One Response to Lepanto

  • The cold queen of England is looking in the glass;
    The shadow of the Valois is yawning at the Mass;

    Lovely way to send up the two malcontents, especially powdered Bess as the Witch Queen.

    Chesterton, worthy emulator of Homer scores another one in damning Mohamed as a pagan on his Olympus. The poem works on so many levels that it must stand as one of the greatest English poems.

Torches From God

Tuesday, November 1, AD 2011

“We are always ready to make a saint or prophet of the educated man who goes into cottages to give a little kindly advice to the uneducated. The mediaeval saint or prophet was an uneducated man who walked into grand houses to give a little kindly advice to the educated.”

G. K. Chesterton


All Saints Day reminds us of all those holy men and women whom God, in His infinite mercy, sends us as torches to light our path in a dark world.  Filled with God’s love and grace, they make golden the pages of our histories with their lives and witness.  Feeling the lure of sin just as much as any of us, they turned to God and reflected His love to us.  They come in all sorts of humanity:  men and women, all nationalities, wise, simple, warriors, pacifists, miracle workers, saints whose only miracle was their life, humorous, humorless, clergy, laity, old, young, united only in their Faith and their love for the Highest Love.

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3 Responses to Torches From God

Dedicated to the Fighting Patriots of Goshen College

Sunday, August 28, AD 2011

“Pacifists are the last and least excusable on the list of the  enemies of society. They preach that if you see a man flogging a woman  to death you must not hit him. I would much sooner let a leper come near  a little boy than a man who preached such a thing.”

                                                     G.K. Chesterton

I just hope the version with lyrics below will not be deemed too militaristic:

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21 Responses to Dedicated to the Fighting Patriots of Goshen College

  • I will not defend the Goshenites on moral or political grounds but they are right that “The Star Spangled Banner” is a horrible song and “America the Beautiful” is far superior. It is unsingable and if you put a gun to the average American’s head I doubt he could explain what the lyrics refer to.

    If we had no anthem and we taking nominations I doubt the “Star Spangled Banner” would even occur to anyone. I would go for “God Bless America” (shot down by the deophobes), “Battle Hymn of the Republic” (unacceptable to Southerners) or “America the Beautiful”.
    I hadn’t thought of “Ain’t that America” — it does seem a bit informal but it would be cool to her it sung at the Olympics!

  • The unofficial anthem of the country was the forgettable tune Hail Columbia until 1931, and is now used when the Vice President stumbles into view.

    If the Star Spangle Banner could not be our national anthem, I would stump for some variant of the moving hymn Eternal Father:


    In regard to the Star Spangled Banner your critque Thomas is not an uncommon one. For myself, when I hear it I get goose bumps and when I attempt to sing it, and it is a difficult song to sing, I have a grand time. Time for an encore of the Cactus Cuties:

  • “America the Beautiful” is far superior.

    Often there is no accounting for taste.

    The best:

  • Don:

    With all do due respect have you examined the Mennonite’s rational for this refusal to play the national anthem beyond what the talking heads on Fox News may have said.
    I found the following article from a Mennonite minister and found it very compelling:


    The minister states:

    “Because they understood the exercise of state power to be inconsistent with the church’s identity and mission, Anabaptists also advocated for the strict separation of church and state. This then-radical stance was prompted by both theology and necessity: Anabaptists had the distinct notoriety of being tortured and killed by both Catholics and Protestants wielding the power of the state against them.

    “Instead of compromising their core convictions about what it means to follow Jesus, thousands of Anabaptist men and women adhered to their freedom of conscience even as they were mocked by neighbors, burned at stakes and drowned in rivers.
    “Although there certainly are diverse viewpoints among individual Mennonites today, we continue to advocate for the strict separation of church and state. Most Mennonite churches do not have flags inside them, and many Mennonites are uncomfortable with the ritual embedded in the singing of the national anthem.

    “That’s because we recognize only one Christian nation, the church, the holy nation that is bound together by a living faith in Jesus rather than by man-made, blood-soaked borders.

    “To Mennonites, a living faith in Jesus means faithfully living the way of Jesus. Jesus called his disciples to love their enemies and he loved his enemies all the way to the cross and beyond. Following Jesus and the martyrs before us, we testify with our lives that freedom is not a right that is granted or defended with rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air. True freedom is given by God, and it is indeed not free. It comes with a cost, and it looks like a cross.”

    There is nothing in their rational that contradicts Catholic teaching or is not consistent with Catholic teachings. It is not inconsistent with the Church where there are not U.S. flags in the sanctuary or where secular patriotic songs are not sung during a Mass. It is not inconsistent with the Church which made Saint Maria Goretti, the patron saint of forgiveness, one of the most important saints after WWII. It is not inconsistent with the Church in which Pope Pius XI when proclaiming the Feast of Christ the King said:

    “ The empire of Christ over all nations was rejected. The right which the Church has from Christ himself, to teach mankind, to make laws, to govern peoples in all that pertains to their eternal salvation, that right was denied. Then gradually the religion of Christ came to be likened to false religions and to be placed ignominiously on the same level with them. It was then put under the power of the state and tolerated more or less at the whim of princes and rulers. Some men went even further, and wished to set up in the place of God’s religion a natural religion consisting in some instinctive affection of the heart. There were even some nations who thought they could dispense with God, and that their religion should consist in impiety and the neglect of God. The rebellion of individuals and states against the authority of Christ has produced deplorable consequences. We lamented these in the Encyclical Ubi arcano; we lament them today: the seeds of discord sown far and wide; those bitter enmities and rivalries between nations, which still hinder so much the cause of peace; that insatiable greed which is so often hidden under a pretense of public spirit and patriotism, and gives rise to so many private quarrels; a blind and immoderate selfishness, making men seek nothing but their own comfort and advantage, and measure everything by these; no peace in the home, because men have forgotten or neglect their duty; the unity and stability of the family undermined; society in a word, shaken to its foundations and on the way to ruin. We firmly hope, however, that the feast of the Kingship of Christ, which in future will be yearly observed, may hasten the return of society to our loving Savior. It would be the duty of Catholics to do all they can to bring about this happy result.”

  • I vote for the Star Spangled Banner, girls.

  • Oh, I am quite familiar with the pacificism of the Mennonites and other minor Protestant sects Eva. They enjoy freedom and peace here in the United States due to others throughout our history paying with their blood. Other than those who are willing to risk their lives as medics in a non-combatant role, Seventh Day Adventist Desmond T. Doss, awarded the medal of honor, is a shining example, I share Chesterton’s contempt for their doctrine.

    I believe that the Catechism amply demonstrates that pacificism is a doctrine foreign to Catholicism:

    “2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for someone responsible for another’s life. Preserving the common good requires rendering the unjust aggressor unable to inflict harm. To this end, those holding legitimate authority have the right to repel by armed force aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their charge.”

  • “It is not inconsistent with the Church where there are not U.S. flags in the sanctuary or where secular patriotic songs are not sung during a Mass.”

    Actually I have never lived in a parish where patriotic songs such as America the Beautiful, the Battle Hymn of the Republic and others were not sung on occasion during Mass. When I was a boy it was the custom in most parishes to have the US flag and the Vatican flag in the sanctuary, and some still do this.

  • The practice is very common hereabouts. There is a variation of it in Anglican parishes as well. I have never cared for it.

    And I think your ‘contempt’ is overdone. Mennonites and Amish make a point of living very much apart from the larger society and partake of it as little as they can manage to earn a living. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not abstain to that degree, but they very seldom manifest much in the way of personal ambition. I think the question you have to ask is the degree to which they are truly detached from their lives when push comes to shove. It is difficult to know that in advance. (I think with politically-engaged Quakers, you are on firmer ground).

  • “Mennonites and Amish make a point of living very much apart from the larger society and partake of it as little as they can manage to earn a living. ”

    The Amish I grant you Art, but much less so the Mennonites. My point still stands however that their lives here would be impossible but for others shouldering the burden they are unwilling to shoulder.

  • I like “Hail Columbia”. I, for one, am sorry to see it relegated to such a state in which it currently suffers.

    That said, my preference for the National Anthem would definitely be “America the Beautiful” …

    … but only if they always played THIS version of it:

    “…and y’all? ought to love Him for it…”

    (While I do appreciate the “Star-Spangled Banner” for what it is, the melody is a too-difficult-to-sing drinking song titled “To Anachreon in Heaven”, and the subject matter is rather limited to the flag as opposed to the Nation the flag represents. “America the Beautiful” – listen to ALL the verses – captures the essence of this Nation.)

  • I would have to vote for “America the Beautiful” also, not only for the elegant simplicity of its melody but also its better lyrics — for example, contrast Verse 3 of Star Spangled Banner:

    And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
    That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
    A home and a country should leave us no more?
    Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
    No refuge could save the hireling and slave
    From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:
    And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
    O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

    with Verse 3 of America the Beautiful:

    O beautiful for heroes proved
    In liberating strife.
    Who more than self their country loved
    And mercy more than life!
    America! America!
    May God thy gold refine
    Till all success be nobleness
    And every gain divine!

  • Aw, how can you not love “Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution”? When else do you get to sing that?

  • The fourth stanza Elaine of the Star Spangled Banner I have always found very moving:

    O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
    Between their loved home and the war’s desolation.
    Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n rescued land
    Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
    Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
    And this be our motto: “In God is our trust;”
    And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
    O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

  • I might add that the third stanza has always warmed the cockles of my Irish heart!

  • Then again, after 9-11 Queen Elizabeth order the Coldstream Guards to play the Star-Spangled Banner at Buckingham Palace, something which had never occurred before:

  • My favorite verse of America the Beautiful, until Dan Rather ruined it for me, was always this one:

    O beautiful for patriot dream
    That sees beyond the years
    Thine alabaster cities gleam
    Undimmed by human tears.
    America! America!
    God shed His grace on thee,
    And crown thy good with brotherhood
    From sea to shining sea.

  • Love this verse, too (in fact, the entire song is just a wonderful reflection on the Nation and really should be our National Anthem):

    O beautiful for pilgrim feet
    Whose stern impassion’d stress
    A thoroughfare for freedom beat
    Across the wilderness.
    America! America!
    God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
    Confirm thy soul in self-control,
    Thy liberty in law.

  • Agree with Chesterton – he certainly knew how to put things.
    Pacifism – the last retreat for the coward. Afraid they don’t get any sympathy from me. I get annoyed by people who try to say , “Jesus was a pacifist.” (gag) One does not need to be a pacifist to promote and love peace, but one has to have a sacrificial heart to live Peace.

    I think “The Star Spangled Banner” is a tremendously stirring song. That is what national anthems should do – inspire patriotism and pride in one’s country – prepared to defend the country and all its people from agressors etc. etc.

    “I vow to Thee my Country” was actually taken from the 1999 Rugy World Cup theme song in Wales, wasn’t it? 😉
    A local musician has used the tune to a beautiful hymn to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Its a great piece of music.
    Actually, our own “God Defend New Zealand” isn’t too sketchy either. Trouble is, nowadays, everyone has a version of it, and even though it was written in English back around 1860 by a Catholic migrant to NZ, our P C society has allowed it to be hi-jacked by a maori language version in the last 10 years, which is played in tandem with, but in front of the english lyrics, and which to 80% of the country becomes a bit trite.

  • As for pacifism as a Christian belief, I am more in agreement with C.S. Lewis’ view of pacifism as expressed in Mere Christianity: “War is a dreadful thing, and I can respect an honest pacifist, though I believe he is entirely mistaken. What I do not understand is this sort of semipacifism you see nowadays that says that while you have to fight, you must do it with a long face and as if you were ashamed of it.”

  • I have no beef with what the Mennonites are doing, but that probably stems from knowing a lot of them in central lower Michigan while growing up. Good folks, and scrupulously honest–a young Mennonite lady smacked into my car while it was parked while I was at work back in high school. She immediately sought me out and told me about it. Hardly a given, even back then. Let alone now.

    I prefer TSSB, but have to admit AtB has been growing on me over the years. “Battle Hymn” is perfect for the sword-sharpening moments we sometimes find ourselves in. Real or figurative.

Saving Civilization One Word at a Time

Saturday, August 13, AD 2011







For the end of the world was long ago,

And all we dwell today

As children of some second birth,

Like a strange people left on earth

After a judgment day.

For the end of the world was long ago,

When the ends of the world waxed free,

When Rome was sunk in a waste of slaves,

And the sun drowned in the sea.

When Caesar’s sun fell out of the sky

And whoso hearkened right

Could only hear the plunging

Of the nations in the night.

G.K. Chesterton


Something for the Weekend.  From the endlessly talented songsters at Music For History Lovers, Illuminated Manuscripts sung to the tune of Nowhere Man by the Beatles.  Monks toiling in Scriptoriums in monasteries throughout Europe during the Middle Ages and thereby rescuing some of the classic works of Antiquity is  a cliche, but a true cliche.  When the secular world of the Western Empire dissolved in chaos and ruin following the babarian invasions, it was the Church that rescued the lamp of knowledge.  Only an institution like the Church, a rock in the river of time, could century following century ensure the survival and copying of manuscripts that preserved a precious fraction of the writings of Greece and Rome.  Jerusalem rescued Athens.

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10 Responses to Saving Civilization One Word at a Time

  • Father John Jalopy (The Big Bad Wolf) has something to add to all of this. See his new videos exhorting us all to progress the Faith:

    THE NUCLEAR WASTE OF THE SOUL http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0MlsAY4fsmg



  • You’re touched, Donald! 😉 But I enjoyed the videos, nevertheless!

  • Perhaps the lines should be read as Anglo-Saxon four-beat lines. Cf. “Seafarer,” BEOWULF, and Coleridge’s “Christabel.”

  • And there is still more ancient works occasionally found saved in the monastic libraries of Europe. But ask anyone, the Catholic Church is against knowledge and learning.

  • There are people more touched than Donald R. McClarey!

    Father John Jalopy! By ye gods! Absolutely fantastic! I gotta stop laughing before I bust open my gut!

  • That comedy clip is brilliant 😆
    I wonder how many other situations could be dreamt up to apply the same thinking?

  • Don

    The second video is pitch perfect, I have loved it ever since I first saw it.

    At least Brother Tech Person did not have to explain that it works better if you jush push the button that says “Off/on” in a friendly and helpful tone of voice.

  • Or the ever popular, “Did you plug it in?” 🙂

  • Interesting….Christianity preserved knowledge and fostered learning. The world had grown old and weary (to paraphrase Chesterton), and Christianity breathed new life into it. Yes, this is marvellous.

  • And right about now we’re getting tired of programs, schemes and of planning. Tired of building and of projects. People can’t reason well anymore. People don’t know how to live life. And only Christianity can help. Only Christ can rescue the individual. More often than not, it’s that very brokenness that leads us to God, drawing us closer and closer to Him. Otherwise we’d be fine. We’d ignore Him, too wrapped up in ourselves and allthat we have and do. No, I would not lament decline. Of course it’s never enjoyable. But anything that brings people closer to God and further away from themselves is profitable beyond measure.

G.K. Chesterton on Lincoln

Wednesday, June 23, AD 2010

The patron saint of paradox, G. K. Chesterton, had a great gift for taking the familiar, twisting it to a new angle in his mind and producing insights that were often brilliant and always well written.  On 1921 he made a lecture tour of the US.  In 1922 he wrote a book, What I Saw In America, which is filled with interesting observations on the US by one of our more acute observers.  Here are his reflections on Lincoln.  I certainly do not endorse everything he writes, but I find all of it fascinating.

Lincoln and Lost Causes

It has already been remarked here that the English know a great deal about past American literature, but nothing about past American history. They do not know either, of course, as well as they know the present American advertising, which is the least important of the three. But it is worth noting once more how little they know of the history, and how illogically that little is chosen. They have heard, no doubt, of the fame and the greatness of Henry Clay. He is a cigar. But it would be unwise to cross-examine any Englishman, who may be consuming that luxury at the moment, about the Missouri Compromise or the controversies with Andrew Jackson. And just as the statesman of Kentucky is a cigar, so the state of Virginia is a cigarette. But there is perhaps one exception, or half-exception, to this simple plan. It would perhaps be an exaggeration to say that Plymouth Rock is a chicken. Any English person keeping chickens, and chiefly interested in Plymouth Rocks considered as chickens, would nevertheless have a hazy sensation of having seen the word somewhere before. He would feel subconsciously that the Plymouth Rock had not always been a chicken. Indeed, the name connotes something not only solid but antiquated; and is not therefore a very tactful name for a chicken. There would rise up before him something memorable in the haze that he calls his history; and he would see the history books of his boyhood and old engravings of men in steeple-crowned hats struggling with sea-waves or Red Indians. The whole thing would suddenly become clear to him if (by a simple reform) the chickens were called Pilgrim Fathers.

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11 Responses to G.K. Chesterton on Lincoln

  • I wouldn’t call that exerpt “interesting;” I’d call it asinine. I just occured to me that GKC enjoys the same underved awe among conservative Catholics as Heinlein did among old sf fans. GKC is so wedded to his binary contrasts and paradoxes that he blissfully ignores facts to draw his predetermined conclusions. I daresay he toured America to see exactly what he already expected to see.

    Can we possibly lay aside this cliche about the “industrial North”? The states of the Northwest territory were fully agrarian but their farms were owned and worked by free men. Moreover, by men with a higher rate of literacy and education than Southerners, thanks to public support for education and many local liberal arts colleges.

  • I certainly don’t agree with some of Chesterton’s points here (and I think it shows how his style of thought and prose can get old after a while) but it’s an interesting clip of historical thought, that’s for sure.

    I hadn’t been aware that some Brits had compared the Unionist cause in Ireland to the Federal cause in the American Civil War. It is indeed a very inapt comparison, and for roughly the reasons Chesterton outlines somewhere in his thicket of prose.

    However, this also shows up the British affection for the Confederacy which has always struck me as odd and unattractive. I can only think it springs from the fact that for Brits like GKC and Churchill, the South seemed to have a proper understanding of societal order. The ante bellum South was in some ways a feudal society not that far off from what persisted in England, though slavery and Jim Crow were certainly more vile than English peasantry and class prejudice.

    And I continue to simply not get GK’s “wage slavery” line of thinking. If he can’t see how much more attractive wage labor is than slavery, he should take a look at how much former slaves considered their dignity to be enhanced by working for wages rather than masters.

  • It’s funny, but just last night I led a book club discussion of Orthodoxy. I’ll repeat one thing I mentioned, and it is that though I do find Chesterton enjoyable and many of his observations quite unique and perceptive, he’s not quite my cup of tea. Frankly I think C.S. Lewis is the better writer, and mainly because I don’t have to read him three times in order to figure out what he’s saying.

    Other than that, I agree with pretty much everything Darwin said.

  • Now that a couple of commenters [commentators?] have had their fast draw on GKC’s essay and opinions about Lincoln and the South and the North, they might find it worthwhile to go back and reread what GKC actually said.

    If wage slavery is difficult to understand, you might try reading a little about the Company Town.

  • Who exactly in England was pro-Confederate? Not the millworkers of Lancashire who would rather be out of work than help the Southern cause.

    Chesterton seems to have often made historical observations that really just pegs to hang up comments about contemporary England. I see no evidence from the exerpt that he knew much about American history or society.

    And by the way, Rocks (the breed of chicken) come in Red and Barred versions, too. Heaven knows what he might have done with that datum.

  • “Who exactly in England was pro-Confederate?”

    Quite a few English aristocrats and most of the elites of the Tory and Whig parties, as well as a not inconsiderable portion of the remainder of the population. Lord Palmerston, the Prime Minister of England during the Civil War, who began his career as a Tory and ended as a Whig, is a perfect example of this sentiment. William Gladstone, Chancellor of the Exchequer, also a former Tory who was now a Whig, spoke for an influential portion of the British public when on October 7, 1862 he made a speech in which he remarked: “There is no doubt that Jefferson Davis and other leaders of the South have made an army; they are making, it appears, a navy; and they have made what is more than either-they have made a nation.” He added, “We may anticipate with certainty the success of the Southern States so far as regards their separation from the North.”

  • I just started reading What I Saw in America and am only on the third chapter I believe. I find the criticisms based on this excerpt to be rather unfair or misplaced. I don’t suppose it’s the various readers’ fault because they are reacting to the excerpt, but had they read the first chapters of the book they would understand that one of the purposes of the book was to discuss how different America was compared to his preconceived notions. He also addressed how uninformed or incorrect his take could be because he only visited a small number of places and only saw what he saw.

    Reading Chesterton is much like reading history; the context means a lot. The man had a Catholic sensibility long before his conversion. He saw the worst aspects of the industrial revolution and Capitalism. Things that we might find hard to relate to because that beast has been somewhat tamed and made right, and because the 20th Century taught us how bad the alternative can be. GKC was a man who loved people for their own sake and saw virtue in the life of the common man. He loved life and desired that simple love for all. He arrived in America during Prohibition – the idea of which rightfully struck him as backward. He despised Puritanical excesses, but was also fair enough to recognize virtue where it existed. All in all, based on what I’ve read of WISiA, he was quite appreciative of America.

    And Sandra, I’m sorry but I missed where the color of Rocks came into play because I don’t recall Chesterton making any reference to color. However, if he identified them as a particular color it could very well be because that’s all there were back then or that is what they were known for. Things as we know it now weren’t always the case.

    I don’t always agree with GKC, but often times I find that the reason I don’t agree is because I have the benefit of having access to what would have been the future to him.

  • “GKC was a man who loved people for their own sake and saw virtue in the life of the common man.”

    And isn’t this one of the qualities Lincoln is best known for as well? He said “God must love the common people for He made so many of them.” GKC and Lincoln both managed to be men of great intellect and ideas but without developing a contempt for the “rabble” or for those who disagreed with them, as so many intellectuals do.

    I find it interesting that GKC percieved Lincoln as being more “French” than British in his approach to ideas. RL says GKC “had a Catholic sensibility long before his conversion.” Maybe Lincoln had a touch of it as well? (He had cousins who were Catholic, by the way; they lived in western Illinois in a now-vanished settlement called Fountain Green.)

  • I don’t have to read him three times in order to figure out what he’s saying.

    Wheh…I thought I was the only one.

    without developing a contempt for the “rabble” or for those who disagreed with them

    well, for St. Abe, you don’t have to develop a contempt for those who disagree with you when you can just throw them in jail.

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