Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Most Natural Burden

“Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.”  Exodus 20:12

I lost my two remaining grandparents last year.  There was nothing particularly dramatic or unexpected about their deaths.  They departed this life after extended struggles with disease and debility, looking ahead in hope.  They died holding the hands of their children.  

My mother and her siblings were alongside them through so much of the dramatic change, and it’s been moving for me to watch this from the sidelines.  For them it was a year of sitting in dozens of doctor’s offices, heating up dinner, writing out notes to guide confused minds, sorting the bills, arranging a last family picnic on a sunny July day.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Where the White Light Flickers

From The Sounds of St. Francis, March 2018.

The twentieth century English poet John Betjeman (1906-1984) is one my very favorite modern writers.  Calling him modern, though, may be a bit of a misnomer, for his verses never ranked very highly among the literary establishment.  He was far too traditional in his political and religious opinions and loathe to take himself too seriously.  He also managed to write verses that ordinary people can understand (and often they even rhyme).  He was very popular in his lifetime, and was even England’s poet laureate for the last twelve years of his life.

Most of Betjeman’s verses are about the English countryside, old buildings, social satire, and the Christian faith.  He was a faithful Anglican, a warden of his parish church.  His faith was awakened, like my own, as a young man in the pews of Pusey House, Oxford.  He had a deep devotion to the church’s liturgy and sacramental life, shaped by his time in that enchanting place.   The transforming power of the Eucharist is an oft-repeated theme in his work.