Continuing with our Celtic theme for this week, today I would like to share one of my favorite songs, “There Were Roses” by the Irish activist and balladeer Tommy Sands.
The song is a true story based on events in Tommy’s own life. He grew up during a time of civil war in Ireland between Protestants and Catholics. But one of his best friends (Allen Bell) was a Protestant, and another (Sean O’Malley) was a Catholic. The three friends vowed that the conflict would never get in the way of their friendship.
But then one night Allen was murdered. Enraged, the Protestant loyalists went looking for a Catholic to murder in retaliation. They ended up killing Sean, and Tommy was left friendless and devastated.
But in the midst of his grief, he wrote this song. This is the more famous version by Moloney, O’Connell, and Keane. It will break your heart.
I knew some of my favorite Celtic fairy tales came from the Isle of Man, but I didn’t know where the Isle of Man was. Apparently Ellan Vannin is a small island located in the Irish Sea between the islands of Great Britain and Ireland.
The Ben-Varrey (The Mermaid)
When a distinctive Manx literature began to emerge in around the sixteenth century AD, scholars noted its similarities to the mythology of Ireland. The legendary exploits of Finn Mac Cumhaill (“Fin McCool”) and Ossian, the great Irish heroes, were told and retold here.
“The Ben-Varrey” is a Manx version of a tale which also appears in the Western Isles of Scotland and in Ireland and Brittany. Celtic storytellers are especially fond of this story because it evokes the enchanted menace of the rocky and tempestuous Manx coastline where so many have perished. Continue reading
This week I’m beginning a series on Celtic mythology. We’ll be looking at some of my favorite stories from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, Brittany, and the Isle of Man.
The Celts lived in England and northern Europe from pre-Christian times. Some scholars believe they migrated from India because of similarities between the ancient Celtic and Vedic languages. Their culture has always been characterized by a fascination with mystery, mysticism, and enchantment, and what I love about Celtic myth is the amount of imagination they put into it, how it seems to expand forever in all directions, constantly revealing new secrets to scare and surprise us. Continue reading
Growing up I was always the odd one in my school and family. While everyone else was watching TV, playing video games, and tossing the football around in the yard, I was in my room reading. Continue reading
Ran across this GREAT article by Catholic professor and writer Peter Kreeft answering fourteen of the most commonly asked questions about life in heaven, including:
Can the dead see us?
Is there music in heaven?
Are there animals?
How are we never bored?
I had to restrain myself from tweeting the whole essay, but here’s an excerpt. He’s answering the question of whether we’ll know everything in heaven, and comes to the conclusion that though we’ll know much more than we know on earth, it will be our joy to be as children as forever in the glory of our own smallness:
Even if there is no curtain in Heaven, even if our consciousness there dashes against no wall or limit, still we remain like the tiny figures in a Chinese landscape: small subjects in an enormously larger objective world. Even if we then escape from the tiny hut in which we are now imprisoned and through whose smudged windows or chinks in whose walls we now must look – even if we wander freely in the country of light – we are in the light, not the light in us. Our first and last wisdom in Heaven is Socratic, just as it is on earth: to know how little we know. If there is no end of the need for humility in the moral order (the saint is the one humble enough not to think he is a saint), the same is true of the intellectual order (the wise man is the one humble enough to know he has no wisdom). It all depends on the standard of judgment: by earthly standards most of us are moderately saintly and moderately wise; by Heavenly standards all of us, even in Heaven, are children. And by the standard of the infinite, inexhaustible perfection of God, we remain children forever. Happy children, fulfilled children, but children.
Read the whole thing here.
I’m overjoyed to announce that today I have a guest post up at one of my all-time favorite blogs, Defeating the Dragons. It’s on the nature of beauty and how I learned to embrace the goodness of God in all created things. Here’s an excerpt:
I can never fully convey the freedom I felt the first time it occurred to me that a song didn’t have to mention Jesus a certain number of times in order to honor him. The elegant lament of a French horn, the spirited clamor of castanets, the saxophone’s hopeless wail are all good in themselves because they reflect something in God’s heart, because Jesus is the incarnation of the reason by which the universe is woven and ordered, and music, good music, is inherently rational, and beautiful, and good.
You can read the whole thing here.
This morning I go to mass to receive the body and blood of our Lord.
To drink from the same cup of communion that was shared by Augustine and all the saints.
To be reminded that I don’t worship in isolation, but as part of a community extending through time and eternity.
And that God doesn’t just nourish us through the Bible, but through the ordinary things of this world.
I can’t wait.