Every gravestone tells a story: from Drangan, Co Tipperary

Every gravestone tells a story: from Drangan, Co Tipperary

Graveyards are full of stories. Thomas Grey’s Elegy in a Country Churchyard captured this decisively in poetic form – so much so that any subsequent poem seems a pale shadow.

In Drangan, Co Tipperary, in the Slieveardagh area -a village which like Cloneen has no Wikipedia presence –  I came across this:

It is irresistably poignant to read of this man whose parents died within days of each other in 1919 (?of the Influenza Pandemic) when he was one or less. And he himself died on the 71st anniversary of his mother.

There are other stones with stories there. I am wary of intruding on grief … but here is one with a rather jollier story to tell:

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from “Small, Silent, Still” – Fr Paul D Scalia

Full piece here. An interesting interview with Fr Scalia – son of late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia – here

 We require that God be as we want Him: big, loud, efficient. Big and obvious, so that we can see Him and not have to walk by faith. Loud, so that we can hear Him and not be taxed by silence.  Efficient, lest we have to endure any waiting.  Our worship and culture follow suit.  Indeed, few things are more obvious than our culture’s addiction to spectacles, noise, and instant gratification.

In contrast, our Lord gives us two parables about the Kingdom of God: the seed sown in the ground and the mustard seed. (Mk 4:26-34)  These hit us where we live.  They require us to detach from the big, loud, and efficient and to accustom ourselves to the hidden, silent, and slow.

The Kingdom has, first, a silent and hidden growth.  It is like that seed scattered on the land that sprouts and grows of its own accord, and the sower knows not how.  The growth is unheard and unseen, beyond our reach and control.  It requires faith that He is indeed at work and trust that, in Romano Guardini’s words, “The silent forces are the strong forces.”

This Kingdom grows at its own pace, not the sower’s.  It calls for patience.  We cannot command it or set its schedule.  Indeed, our schedule must yield to its pace.  Further, the Kingdom is small – like that smallest of seeds that when sown, “springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”  We prefer something more certain, something big and clearly powerful.  But here we must trust in the fruitfulness of what appears entirely insufficient.

 

Learning How To See Again, Josef Pieper

Learning How To See Again, Josef Pieper

LEARNING HOW TO SEE AGAIN
By Josef Pieper (translated by Lothar Krauk)

from Only The Lover Sings: Art and Contemplation 

 

Man’s ability to see is in decline. Those who nowadays concern

themselves with culture and education will experience this fact again and
again. We do not mean here, of course, the physiological
sensitivity of the human eye. We mean
the spiritual capacity to perceive the visible reality
as it truly is.
To be sure, no human being has ever really seen
everything that lies visibly in front of his eyes.
The world, including its tangible side, is unfathomable.
Who. would ever have perfectly perceived
the countless shapes and shades of just one

wave swelling and ebbing in the ocean! And yet,
there are degrees of perception. Going below a
certain bottom line quite obviously will endanger
the integrity of man as a spiritual being. It seems
that nowadays we have arrived at this bottom
line.
I am writing this on my return from Canada,
aboard a ship sailing from New York to Rotterdam.
Most of the other passengers have spent
quite some time in the United States, many for
one reason only: to visit and see the New World
with their own eyes. With their own eyes: in this lies
the difficulty.

During the various conversations on deck and
at the dinner table I am always amazed at hearing
almost without exception rather generalized statements
and pronouncements that are plainly the
common fare of travel guides. It turns out that
hardly anybody has noticed those frequent small
signs in the streets of New York that indicate
public fallout shelters. And visiting New York
University, who would have noticed those stonehewn
chess tables in front of it, placed in Washington
Square by a caring city administration for
the Italian chess enthusiasts of that area?!
Or again, at table I had mentioned those magnificent
fluorescent sea creatures whirled up to the
surface by the hundreds in our ship’s bow wake.
The next day it was casually mentioned that “last
night there was nothing to be seen”. Indeed, for
nobody had the patience to let the eyes adapt to
the darkness. To repeat, then: man’s ability to see
is in decline.
Searching for the reasons, we could point to
various things: modern man’s restlessness and
stress, quite sufficiently denounced by now, or his
total absorption and enslavement by practical
goals and purposes. Yet one reason must not be
overlooked either: the average person of our time
loses the ability to see because there is too much to
see!

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There does exist something like “visual noise”,
which just like the acoustical counterpart, makes
clear perception impossible. One might perhaps
presume that TV watchers, tabloid readers, and
movie goers exercise and sharpen their eyes. But
the opposite is true. The ancient sages knew exactly
why they called the “concupiscence of the
eyes” a “destroyer”. The restoration of man’s inner
eyes can hardly be expected in this day and
age-unless, first of all, one were willing and determined
simply to exclude from one’s realm of
life all those inane and contrived but titillating illusions
incessantly generated by the entertainment
industry.

You may argue, perhaps: true, our capacity to
see has diminished, but such loss is merely the
price all higher cultures have to pay. We have lost,
no doubt, the American Indian’s keen sense of
smell, but we also no longer need it since we have
binoculars, compass, and radar. Let me repeat: in
this obviously continuing process there exists a
limit below which human nature itself is threatened,
and the very integrity of human existence is
directly endangered. Therefore, such ultimate
danger can no longer be averted with technology
alone. At stake here is this: How can man be saved
from becoming a totally passive consumer of
mass-produced goods and a subservient follower
beholden to every slogan the managers may proclaim?
The question really is: How can man preserve
and safeguard the foundation of his spiritual
dimension and an uncorrupted relationship to reality?

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The capacity to perceive the visible world
“with our own eyes” is indeed an essential constituent
of human nature. We are talking here about
man’s essential inner richness-or, should the
threat prevail, man’s most abject inner poverty.
And why so? To see things is the first step toward
that primordial and basic mental grasping of reality,
which constitutes the essence of man as a spiritual
being.
I am well aware that there are realities we can
come to know through “hearing” alone. All the
same, it remains a fact that only through seeing,
indeed through seeing with our own eyes, is our
inner autonomy established. Those no longer able
to see reality with their own eyes are equally unable
to hear correctly. It is specifically the man
thus impoverished who inevitably falls prey to the
demagogical spells of any powers that be. “Inevitably”,
because such a person is utterly deprived
even of the potential to keep a critical distance
(and here we recognize the direct political relevance
of our topic).

The diagnosis is indispensable yet only a first
step. What, then, may be proposed; what can be
done?
We already mentioned simple abstention, a regimen
of fasting and abstinence, by which we
would try to keep the visual noise of daily inanities
at a distance. Such an approach seems to me
indeed an indispensable first step but, all the same,
no more than the removal, say, of a roadblock.
A better and more immediately effective remedy
is this: to be active oneself in artistic creation, producing
shapes and forms for the eye to see.
Nobody has to observe and study the visible
mystery of a human face more than the one who
sets out to sculpt it in a tangible medium. And this
holds true not only for a manually formed image.
The verbal “image” as well can thrive only when
it springs from a higher level of visual perception.
We sense the intensity of observation required
simply to say, “The girl’s eyes were gleaming like
wet currants” (Tolstoy).
Before you can express anything in tangible
form, you first need eyes to see. The mere attempt,
therefore, to create an artistic form compels
the artist to take a fresh look at the visible
reality; it requires authentic and personal observation.
Long before a creation is completed, the artO
ist has gained for himself another and more intimate
achievement: a deeper and more receptive
vision, a more intense awareness, a sharper and
more discerning understanding, a more patient
openness for all things quiet and inconspicuous,
an eye for things previously overlooked. In short:
the artist will be able to perceive with new eyes the
abundant wealth of all visible reality, and, thus
challenged, additionally acquires the inner capacity
to absorb into his mind such an exceedingly
rich harvest. The capacity to see increases.

Cahir’s memorial to Crimean Bob, “a veteran troophorse”

This plaque is on display in the main square of Cahir, Co Tipperary:

This article outlines the story of Crimean Bob and other Irish animals of the Crimean War. A little disappointingly , the Cahir plaque is a replica and the original is in the museum of the Royal Hussars.

On RTE Radio, Mooney Goes Wild did a segment on Crimean Bob a few years back

 

First Conversation, “The Practice of the Presence of God”, Brother Lawrence

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More on this book.

The first time I saw Brother Lawrence was upon the third of August, in the year 1666. He told me God had done him a great favour in his conversion at the age of eighteen. That winter, he saw a tree stripped of its leaves and that within a little time the leaves would be renewed, and soon the flowers and fruit would appear again. Brother Lawrence received such an impression of the providence of God from this image, that his soul never forgot. This vision set him loose from the world so perfectly, and kindled in him such a love for God, that he could not tell whether it had increased at all in the forty years since.

Previously Brother Lawrence had been footman to Mr. Fieubert, the treasurer. While working for Mr. Fieubert, Brother Lawrence considered himself a great awkward fellow who broke everything. So Brother Lawrence desired to be received into a monastery, thinking that there he would be made to suffer for his awkwardness and the faults he should commit.

He concluded he should sacrifice his life to God, along with its pleasures. But God disappointed this wish to give up pleasure, for Brother Lawrence soon found nothing but satisfaction in this state. According to Brother Lawrence, we should establish ourselves in a sense of God’s Presence by continually speaking with Him. It was a shameful thing to quit His conversation, and to think of trifles and fooleries. Instead, we should feed and nourish our souls with high notions of God, which yield us great joy.

We ought to quicken and enliven our faith. It is sad that we have so little faith. Instead of taking faith for the rule of conduct, we amuse ourselves with trivial devotions which change daily. The way of faith is the spirit of the Church, and it is sufficient to bring us to a high degree of perfection. We ought to give ourselves up to God, with regard both to things temporal and spiritual. We ought to seek our satisfaction only in the fulfilling of His will, whether He leads us by suffering or by peace, for these are no different to a soul truly following Him.

We must be faithful in times of dryness or insensibility or irksomenesses in prayer, by which God tries our love of Him. Then is the time for us to make good acts of our trust in Him, whereby often a single one alone would promote our spiritual advancement.

As for the miseries and sins heard of in the world, Brother Lawrence was so far from being surprised at them, that on the contrary, he wondered why there were not more, considering the darkness sinners were capable of. For his part, he prayed for them. And knowing that God could remedy the sins committed when He pleased, he gave himself no further trouble.

To arrive at the abandon that God requires, we should watch attentively over all the passions which mingle in spiritual things. God will give light concerning those passions to those who truly desire to serve Him.

Brother Lawrence welcomed me saying that if it was my sincere intention to serve God, I might come to visit with him as often as I pleased, without any fear of troubling him. But if not, I ought to visit him no more.

from Riven Press edition, translated Ryan Moore and Josh Jeter.

Robert Louis Stevenson bequeaths his birthday to Annie Ide

I had read somewhere that Robert Louis Stevenson had bequeathed his birthday (13th November) to a girl who was born on Christmas Day. Lately I came across Katherine Miller’s poem “Stevenson’s Birthday”, reproduced below. Oddly, this poem seemed (to me) to imply the girl’s birthday was on February 29th rather than Christmas.

 

I had wondered if this was an urban myth, but it is anything but.  Here is the formal (-ish, OK, very -ish) legal document  wherein Stevenson passed his birthday onto Annie Ide, daughter of a U.S. Senator 

I, Robert Louis Stevenson, Advocate of the Scots Bar, author of The Master of Ballantrae and Moral Emblems, stuck civil engineer, sole owner and patentee of the Palace and Plantation known as Vailima in the island of Upolu, Samoa, a British Subject, being in sound mind and pretty well I thank you in body:

In consideration that Miss A. H. Ide, daughter of H. C. Ide, in the town of St Johnsbury, in the County of Caledonia, in the State of Vermont, United States of America, was born, out of all reason, upon Christmas Day, and is therefore, out of all justice, denied the consolation and profit of a Proper Birthday;

And considering that I, the said Robert Louis Stevenson, have attained an age when O, we never mention it, and that I have now no further use for a birthday of any description;

And in consideration that I have met H. C. Ide, the father of the said A. H. Ide, and found him about as white a Land Commissioner as I require;

Have transferred, and do hereby transfer to the said A. H. Ide, All and Whole of my rights and privileges in the 13th day of November, formerly my birthday, now, hereby, and henceforth, the birthday of the said A. H. Ide, to have, hold, exercise and enjoy the same in the customary manner, by the sporting of fine raiment, eating of rich meats and receipt of gifts, compliments and copies of verse, according to the manner of our ancestors;

And I direct the said A. H. Ide to add to her said name of A. H. Ide the name Louisa – at least in private; and I charge her to use my said birthday with moderation and humanity, et tamquam bona filia familiae, the said birthday not being so young as it once was and having carried me in a very satisfactory manner since I can remember;

And in case the said A. H. Ide shall neglect or contravene either of the above conditions, I hereby revoke the donation and transfer my rights in the said birthday to the President of the United States of America for the time being.

In witness whereof I have hereto set my hand and seal this 19th day of June in the year of grace eighteen hundred and ninety-one.

[Seal]

Robert Louis Stevenson
I.P.D.

Witness: Lloyd Osbourne

Witness: Harold Watts

I can’t find much about Katherine Miller online (possibly confounded by other Katherine Millers) but this poem is from only a few years after this occured:

 

STEVENSON’S BIRTHDAY

 

“How I should like a birthday!” said the child,

“I have so few, and they so far apart.”

She spoke to Stevenson—the Master smiled—

“Mine is to-day; I would with all my heart

That it were yours; too many years have I!

Too swift they come, and all too swiftly fly”

So by a formal deed he there conveyed

All right and title in his natal day,

To have and hold, to sell or give away,—

Then signed, and gave it to the little maid. J

oyful, yet fearing to believe too much,

She took the deed, but scarcely dared unfold.

Ah, liberal Genius! at whose potent touch

All common things shine with transmuted gold!

A day of Stevenson’s will prove to be

Not part of Time, but Immortality.

What Does it Take? – from “Dispatches from the Undergrowth” blog, on saving a species

From the blog “Dispatches from the Undergrowth”, here is a fascinating post about conservation, and the ingenuity, hard work, and patience required to keep a threatened species going. As the author writes, “not many people would miss the marsh fritillary … for me it would mean one more spark going out in the firmament and another small step towards the darkness”T/%

I have posted a wee comment, also….

dispatches from the undergrowth

 Conservationists constantly worry about how to ‘keep things going’ – be it a bird, butterfly, or some other organism teetering on the brink. It is a pretty sad state of affairs, but that’s the deal by now. It takes a lot of dedication by a few, in the face of indifference by the many, to stand against the flow of wildlife disappearing down the plughole. Last summer I came across a vivid example of what it takes to keep things going.

Wikimedia.commons.org. Charlesjsharp – Own work from Sharp Photography

Not far from where I live is a scruffy looking, overgrown meadow in a nowhere-in-particular sort of place. The rushes and grasses are knee high and tussocky, birch saplings and sallow bushes threaten to overrun it. Although it doesn’t look much it is in fact carefully cared for. On a sunny day in June I went there with my friends…

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