We should do well to take warning from the madness of the French patristic scholar Père Hardouin, who became so intoxicated with the discoveries of textual criticism that he ended up believing that, with the exception of his six favourite authors, the entire corpus of the Greek and Latin Fathers was the work of an anonymous group of medieval forgers.
C. H. Lawrence, “St. Benedict and His Rule,” History 67, no. 220 (January 1982): 186
Angels in the Middle Ages had little tolerance for human frailties. Take this anecdote told by an eleventh century chronicler. According to Ralph Glaber, a certain monk at the church of St. Germain in Auxerre habitually spat and dribbled while praying at the altar of Mary. His unseemly conduct in such a holy place prompted a terrifying rebuke from an angel, who appeared to him in a vision as a man dressed in white garments. “Why do you shower me with spittle?” the angel asked in annoyance. “As you see, it is I who receive your prayers and bear them to the sight of the most merciful judge!” Upon waking, the monk was beside himself with fear and vowed to exercise more rigorous control over his comportment when he prayed. He strongly encouraged his brethren to do likewise.
[From From Scott G. Bruce, Silence and Sign Language in Medieval Monasticism: The Cluniac Tradition, c.900–1200 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), pp.1-2; original source: Rodulphus Glaber, Historiarum libri quinque 5.1.7: ed. and trans. John France, in Rodulphus Glaber: The Five Books of Histories and the Life of St. William (Oxford, 1989), p. 224.]
David, off-duty in Bergen-Belsen, 1949
Tomorrow is my father’s funeral. David Anthony will be carried into St Michael’s Church, Ledbury, wearing his Royal Tank Regiment tie. Dad served as a tankie during his National Service, single-handedly saving western Germany from the Russian invaders. He profoundly resented the time he had to waste, serving King and Country, and the bloody politicians – indeed he spent much of his retirement reading, with relish, various accounts of high-ranking military incompetence.
Even so, he is wearing his Royal Tank Regiment tie, because he was immensely proud of his time as a Tankie. He would never have expressed it as “service”, but that’s what it was.
Twenty years ago I heard Bill Bragg’s song, Tank Park Salute. Bragg was also, briefly, a tankie, and his father was a tankie during World War Two. Following the death of his father Bragg wrote this song which expresses the eternal wonder of the relationship between son and father: the questions the father can answer, the safety he provides, the hero he becomes. It is an eternal wonder because, even though death leaves us bewildered that the permanent presence of our father is gone, the connection between father and son remains.
Tomorrow I will give the address at my father’s funeral. It won’t be a tank park salute; it won’t be nearly as worthy of him as that. But in the back of my mind will be Bragg’s words, “to remind me that I’m but my father’s son”.
My father, David Anthony, died today. He had been living with dementia, diabetes, parkinsonism, and a whole host of debilitating conditions and symptoms. He died peacefully, with my mother Sheila by his side. I had given him Last Rites 36 hours before he died.
This morning, I said morning prayer by his bedside, and realised that today was the feast day of John Donne. I was reminded of Donne’s poem The Good-Morrow: I read the poem to him:
THE GOOD-MORROW by John Donne
I wonder by my troth, what thou and I
Did, till we loved ? were we not wean’d till then ?
But suck’d on country pleasures, childishly ?
Or snorted we in the Seven Sleepers’ den ?
‘Twas so ; but this, all pleasures fancies be ;
If ever any beauty I did see,
Which I desired, and got, ’twas but a dream of thee.
And now good-morrow to our waking souls,
Which watch not one another out of fear ;
For love all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room an everywhere.
Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone ;
Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown ;
Let us possess one world ; each hath one, and is one.
My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest ;
Where can we find two better hemispheres
Without sharp north, without declining west ?
Whatever dies, was not mix’d equally ;
If our two loves be one, or thou and I
Love so alike that none can slacken, none can die.
My mother said “that says it all”. My father died three days before the 60th Anniversary of their wedding.
Of your charity,
pray for the repose of the soul of
26 October 1928 – 31 March 2014
David, serving King and Country, aged 19
O Clavis David
the prisoners’ eyes see light—
open and shut case.
O Radix Jesse
hear prayers in shopping malls—
green shoots grow a canopy.
Nothing so useless
as wood that is burnt– unless
the Lord is in the burning.
I have always been grateful every time the press (broadly defined) in Britain write about a subject in which I am expert or even familiar. The mistakes, mistruths, mis-speaks and down right lies (errors of omission and commission) which accompany every article about the Church of England, English history or theology remind me to mistrust every expert opinion which pronounces on international relations, politics, economics and so on. If they can get the workings of General Synod, or the process of the Henrician Reformation so wrong, why should I trust them on post-Qaddafi Libya, the politics of Quantitative Easing, or the general election in Mexico?
Which is way the British press’s reaction to the Leveson inquiry is so interesting, because now there is prima facie evidence that I shouldn’t trust newspapers when they write about newspapers. The mistakes, mistruths, mis-speaks and down right lies being presented as impartial, ex cathedra judgements on Leveson’s suggestions, combined with an overweening sense of their importance to the body politic (the only entity within British society which should be exempted from statutory oversight for fear of us all turning into Stalin’s Zimbabwe, or some such rubbish) shows that the principle which the press promulgates is their own power and prestige.
Mehdi Hasan, writing for Huffington (an organization which does not favour Leveson’s recommendations for statute-based regulation) pins some of the more egregious little-lies being peddled. In the meantime, excepting individual examples of individual journalists’ individual work, what is the point of the British newspaper industry? It can’t be simply protecting the power and privileges of itself, can it?