Thursday, May 31, 2018

'Jednego Serca Jednego Ducha': tonight

At the page below ( this year's 'Jednego Serca Jednego Ducha' concert of open-air hymn-singing in Rzeszów, Poland, will be streamed live over the Internet this evening, Corpus Christi. The broadcast will start at 1730 CEST (1630 BST) and the concert will start at 1900 CEST (1800 BST).

For anyone in need of simple, wholesome, spirit-uplifting music.  It may not all be to your taste, but at least some of it will be!

More about these concerts here.

The Marian hymn Matko, która nas znasz ('Mother who knows us, be with your children'), sung at the 2018 concert.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

'Jednego Serca Jednego Ducha': this Thursday

There is good news for any readers who liked the sound of the Polish 'Jednego Serca Jednego Ducha' hymn-singing concerts described in this earlier post.  Every year at Corpus Christi these open-air musical gatherings — whose name translates as 'One Heart, One Spirit' —  draw thousands of people to the Sybarików park in the city of Rzeszów to sing and pray into the evening.  This year's will take place this coming Thursday, 31 May, the feast of Corpus Christi itself, at 7 p.m., Central European Summer Time.  It will be broadcast online via several channels, including the official page on YouTube at  There will be a full orchestra and a large choir, old hymns and new, and, if in keeping with previous years, an atmosphere of consolation, beauty, togetherness and truth.

More on these concerts here.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Ireland's Verdict

History will coolly record the facts as these: the final result of the referendum in the Republic of Ireland last Friday, 25 May, was that the electorate voted by 66.4% to 33.6% to repeal their Constitution's Eighth Amendment, the clause which since 1983 has established in law the equal right to life of a mother and her unborn child.  This result will, it seems, leave the way clear for Irish law to permit abortion for any reason during the first twelve weeks of pregnancy.

Some shocks, however well anticipated, can never quite be braced for.  I knew that Ireland has hastened into secularism in recent decades; I knew that the mainstream media and popular feeling there was opposed to the crisis-stricken Catholic Church as an institution; I knew that Ireland's Eighth Amendment was an obvious target for the international pro-choice movement.  Even so, for Ireland — Ireland! — to vote so decisively in favour of an idea so directly contrary to its past and character, to move so freely and willingly against the moral universe that made her what she is, takes some moments to sink in.  Behind Friday's result is also a second slower, deeper horror in the emergence of a new Ireland, an Ireland willing to conform to its neighbours in a way that is wholly unprecedented and utterly out of character.  When before has Ireland ever jettisoned the values of its ancestors for the sake of popular opinion, for the sake of membership of a gang of more fashionably-minded nations?  (Precisely because Britain is a ring-leader of this gang, there are no grounds for self-satisfaction this side of the Irish Sea, either).  At Mass in my South London parish yesterday, listening to all the Irish names among the anniversary prayers for the deceased — the Murphys, the Collinses, the Kavanaghs — I wondered what they might have made of it, and sensed a great void, a great sliding into the sea of a cliff that, not long ago, had seemed unassailable crystalline granite.  The writer Maolsheachlann Ó Ceallaigh says simply that 'It is the most shameful day in Irish history'.  Indeed it is a defeat for the pro-life movement, a defeat for the Catholic Church, and a defeat for humanity.  I believe the referendum will come to be greatly regretted, and possibly sooner than many think.

We who have an eternal hope can look squarely at this defeat, however.  Yes, it is a very hard defeat.  We may see, as we look, the media's slick tango to success, the bowed, wounded Church, many of its wounds its own work, and, in every Irish county but one, the triumph of individualism.  And yet the clearer and less flinching our eye, the better we see the vindication of the pro-life position, even in its defeat.  We see the fakeness and the joylessness in the very climax of the Repealers' celebrations, the hollowness of the triumph even in the victory's freshness.  What next?  Where next?  they seem to be asking.  We perceive in the shallowness of the slogans the barrenness that lurks behind the worship of the self and the will.  And in the flimsiness of much of the very argumentation, even as it carries the day, there comes to mind the one thing that fakeness and shallowness cannot resist, defy it as it might: the attrition of truth's alliance with time.

Now, that has described a certain kind of pro-choice position, that of those most politically engaged.  I do not know how reluctantly or under what pressure some 'Yes' ('Repeal') voters will have cast their vote, and I am also observing from a different country.  There are in Ireland, as in Britain, a great many people of ordinary good will who are simply not sure what they think about this issue, knowing only that it is very sensitive, and whose 'Yes, Repeal' votes will not have been born of firm principle.  Although the fundamental question is whether the life of the child in the womb is a human life, I think many people are reluctant to entertain it, out of fear, or guilt, perhaps.  They may, however, have been moved by the hard cases that must necessarily be examined when discussing abortion, and done what they believed to be compassionate.  They may have remained impervious to the alternative vision of humanity offered by the 'No' side because it was nearly drowned out, or simply lost faith in the old Ireland and felt willing to throw in their lot with the new.  The temptation to treat this vote as another referendum on the Catholic Church will have been more or less irresistible, I should think.  The question might as well have been phrased 'Do you want to give the Church another kicking?'.  Of course many people will have answered 'Yes'.  Yet it is to that first question, of the humanity of the child in the womb, that we will eventually return and be able to avoid no longer.

I think, also, that this victory seems a little too obvious, a little too complete, much as the Crucifixion was a little too obvious and complete.  This bull's-eye victory must mark nearly the zenith of the pro-choice movement, I think.  Having reached the zenith, the movement will then have to hold onto its position, and this is where all destructive revolutions begin to founder.  When secular paganescent progressivism has had its day, which it will sooner or later, what then?  Well, this is uncertain.  If referendums could produce pro-life results in 1983 and 1992, then this result is not least a sign not simply that people are for abortion, but that their moral positions are fickle and easily changed, perhaps because the idea of absolute moral principles has been so weakened.  At the moment Ireland, like a teenager in a tantrum, cannot throw off its Catholic heritage quickly enough, ashamed that it lasted so long.  Yet when this is over and all we are left with are the crises that readily-available abortion will produce — inconsolable unhappiness, spiritual and mental anguish, emptinesses and silences that children and the young should have filled — people of good will shall begin to ask questions.  They will need, instead of adolescent revolution, more solid fare: a serious discussion of the nature of humanity, the dignity of human life and our proper response to crisis pregnancies.  Whatever their religious position, they will return to the natural law.  They will hunger for a new vision that transcends the tired, inward-looking individualism of the 2010s.  Even at this moment, when the spirit of our time lent such a fair wind to the 'Yes' side, still a third of voters remained unconvinced.  If the New Evangelisation keeps lit the lights it should, it will be able to step into the breach and speak, as once St. Patrick did, of the radical and irreducible nature of human dignity. 

In the meantime, though, Irish or not, we must bear the consequences of Friday's decision and do what we can on the ground to ease the profound damage and pain that it will cause.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Ireland Decides

A brief note on this matter which, though sensitive, is of such tremendous importance that silence is impossible.  Writing from Britain, I hope that the Irish people make the decision to keep the Eighth Amendment to their Constitution and, in any case, that we shall all strive for an alternative to abortion, because:
    a) the idea of abortion suits all the wrong people and lends leverage to the pressure they apply: men unwilling to shoulder their responsibilities, hard-hearted families, apostles of population control, and profit-hungry businesses, including the abortion industry itself;
    b) abortion includes among its victims the women who undergo them, for whom 'choice' is often precisely what they feel they do not have, and who are at grave risk of mental, psychological and spiritual suffering (will the abortionist help them then?); 

    and, above all, 
    c) if it is a child that is at the heart of the question, then it is a child, and although we may and must move mountains to help mothers in crisis pregnancies, do we not all have within ourselves this instinct, that we may not deliberately extinguish life, within or without the womb?
The referendum, and indeed the general debate about abortion in the Western world, does not really seem to be about the 'hard cases' such as life-threatening pregnancies, but about the general question of personal choice and autonomy.  But surely our humanity does not depend merely upon our plannedness at our beginnings?

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Rosary on the Coast

It was in Poland that the idea of the 'border rosary' first appeared.  Out  to the edges of their country went the faithful in groups on a chosen day, surrounding it and protecting it in onanimous prayer.  A month later the Irish did the same, and a few weeks ago it was the turn of the faithful of Britain to ring England and Scotland and Wales.  The Rosary on the Coast was prayed in more than four hundred places.  It seems a very simple, almost child-like idea, but I think it is precisely this that makes the gesture so poetic and moving.  Here is a little meditation in verse, composed perhaps as if one of those fifteenth-century writers of Marian hymns had been seized by a premonition of Hopkins...

Turn to us, Lady of grace,
Heavenly Queen and Mother of Heaven’s King,
Look on our island home
That, all along shifting shingle and
Out by the waves and the flinging of spray and foam,
The faithful of England,
Of Wales and of Scotland embrace –
Embrace in a rosary-ring.

Land at our backs (the land
We were given to live in,
Blessed, beloved, but riven
With sorrow and sin and a bland
Indifference to sorrow and sin);
Only the water before us.
The Church is at home and at ease
Out at peripheries,
And to these we have come, to begin
The pattern of mysteries:
A murmuring Marian chorus
Whose music matches the sea’s.

Out at the limits of Britain we tell our beads;
All round the length of the coast.
Lady, you see what ails us most;
Mary, you know our needs.
Evil looks lively, and preys
In brazen campaigns, or in ways
More cunning, designs and arts,
All to sour well-meant intentions
Into angers, suspicions or greeds:
Weaving and tightening tensions,
Hardening hardship and hearts –
Yet whether sin roars or recedes,
The Church is alive, and prays.

Down by the tides and the sands
The prayer that you gave us is said;
Decades we pray for our lands
In the decades that lie ahead.
O Mother of God, whose Son
Hung on the Cross and won
Heaven’s eternal day for us;
Over the water, O bright
Star of the Sea whose light
Whose shimmering star-light never fails;
The Church’s mother indeed,
All down these wave-washed miles
O hear our petition; O cease
Never to keep in your sight
All England, all Scotland, all Wales;
Cease never to intercede
For faith and for life and for peace
In every last inch of the British Isles.
Lady who waits down the Walsingham Way for us –
O Blessed Mary, pray for us.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Revision Music

The sun is shining, the weather is warm, the leaves are springing on the bough... it must be exam season!  Here is a small compilation of music for those who are studying for exams at the moment... knowing how much music always helped me through mine.  To be listened to while working or while resting.  Hopefully these are all either relaxing or cheering or both!  And that they put the exams in perspective.  One of the things that music proves is that, in spite of how it seems in the thick of it, exams are a considerable way down the list of the most important things in the world...

Rachel Laurin: Concerto for vibraphone, marimba and strings, particularly the second movement:

Jacques Ibert: the first movement of his suite Escales ('Ports of Call'): Rome - Palermo:

Ernest Tomlinson: 'Serenade to a Wayward Miss'

Eric Coates: his 'Four Centuries' suite.  Have taken the liberty of linking straight to 'Rhythm'... the twentieth century of course!

Can't resist linking to the second movement of the 'Three Elizabeths' suite, 'Springtime in Angus', a musical portrait of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.  (Anything by Eric Coates will work wonders, really).

Gerald Finzi - Introit for Solo Violin & Small Orchestra - Op. 6 (Molto Sereno), which also forms the second movement of his Violin Concerto:

For something more contemporary, how about some music from the 'Jednego Serca Jednego Ducha' hymn-singing concerts in Rzeszów, Poland (which will take place this year on the 31 May)?  At the foot of this post I have compiled a list of the concerts that can be listened to on YouTube.

Here's something up-to-the-minute, eight minutes long and quite peaceful...

Twoja miłość jak ciepły deszcz — Mietek Szcześniak

And here is a tune that may sound familiar:

Głoś imię Pana (Lobe den Herrn; Praise to the Lord, the Almighty)

Plenty more where they came from!

For more music see this post from last year.  Otherwise... GOOD LUCK in all exams!

Happy Ascension Day

Wishing a very happy feast of the Ascension to all readers!

O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph.
For the LORD most high is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth.
God is gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet.
Sing praises to God, sing praises: sing praises unto our King, sing praises.
For God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding.
God reigneth over the heathen: God sitteth upon the throne of his holiness.

Psalm 46 (47): 1-2, 5-8, set to music by the inimitable Ralph Vaughan Williams.