Wishing all a happy, holy, and blessed Rogation Sunday, and Rogationtide!

Rogation-Sunday
Circa 1950: The vicar and Sunday school children go out into the fields to bless the crops. The little boy is carrying a symbolic tree of plenty.

So, what are Rogation Days, and what is Rogation Sunday?

Here’s one account:

Traditionally, these are the three days before Ascension Day on which the litany is sung (or recited) in procession as an act of intercession. They originated in Vienne, France, in the fifth century when Bishop Mamertus introduced days of fasting and prayer to ward off a threatened disaster. In England they were associated with the blessing of the fields at planting. The vicar “beat the bounds” of the parish, processing around the fields reciting psalms and the litany. In the United States they have been associated with rural life and with agriculture and fishing.”

The 1979 Prayer Book “widened their scope to include commerce and industry and the stewardship of creation,” which I personally believe is an appropriate and salutary expansion of the tradition.

And here’s another:

“Rogation” means “asking,” which is a theme particularly prominent in the Gospel text for this Sunday (St. John 16:23-33). We call this Sunday “Rogation Sunday” because the 3 days which follow it are ancient Rogation Days, these being the 3 days leading up to the great Feast of the Ascension of our Lord (a much neglected holy day!)… Rogation Days are days of prayerful supplication before God. In the agrarian culture of yesterday, it was common for the church to gather on the Rogation Days to ask God to bless the crops being sown. We would have asked Him to send rain and to bless us with a good harvest later in the year. Often the prayers would have been said (or sung) as the church processed around the boundary lines of the parish. It is from the Rogation Day prayers (as found in the Sarum Sacramentary) that Archbishop Cranmer formulated the Litany (1545), which was his first work of liturgical reform.

So to sum up: Rogation Sunday, and the three traditional Rogation Days which follow, leading up to the Ascension, are days of supplication and prayer for God’s blessing and protection upon us in the year ahead, with a special focus on the fruits of agriculture, on which we all rely for our survival. To my mind, it has always provided a suitable opportunity, within the Calendar of the Church, to turn our grateful attention to God’s tremendous gift to us of this good Earth, our physical home and the material source and sustainer of our continued existence, to express our thanks to God for this great gift, and to pray for its continued well-being, and ours.

May God grant us a blessed Rogationtide!

Joan of Arc – Maid of Heaven – Joan of Arc & Robert E. Lee

Joan of Arc – you have heard her name, do you really know her story? The famous sword of Robert E. Lee contains one of St. Joan of Arc’s famous quotes: “Aide toi, Dieu t’aidera” – which means “aid yourself and God will aid you.”

Source: Joan of Arc – Maid of Heaven – Joan of Arc & Robert E. Lee

At last! Provenance for this. Sometimes rendered – and often quoted to me by my mother – as “the Lord [or God] helps those who help themselves,” it does not appear in the Scriptures, but is (or used to be) a fairly common axiom. I had not realized that it was from St. Jean d’Arc (Joan of Arc). Nor did I realize the Robert E. Lee connection! As the linked essay recounts:

There are many similarities between St. Joan of Arc and Robert E. Lee, the two most obvious being that they were both great generals and they both possessed incredible faith in God. How appropriate, then, that Robert E. Lee’s famous presentation sword, the one that he wore during his meeting with Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, is engraved on one side with one of Saint Joan’s most famous quotes and spiritual truths:

“Aide toi et Dieu t’aidera”

(“Aid yourself and God will aid you”)

But there is more, which makes this especially meaningful to me, personally: this account confirms what I thought I understood: that the sword General Lee was wearing when he surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse – a moment which must have been among the most, if not the very most, painful moments of his life – was the “Maryland Sword”:

This particular sword was a gift from an admirer who lived in Maryland. It was presented to him in 1863. It is said to have been commissioned in Paris by Louis-Francois Devisme. The giver of the gift has been lost over the years but the sword has been preserved and refurbished to its original state. The sword is forty and one-half inches in length, possessing a lion’s head on the pommel and has an ivory grip. The blade is inscribed, “Gen. Robert E. Lee CSA from a Marylander 1863.” The scabbard is of blued steel. Both pieces are flawless and priceless. Its beauty is something to be seen to be appreciated.

That the Sword of General Lee, the Maryland Sword, is also in a sense a Sword of St. Joan of Arc raises the hair on the back of my neck – but in a good way, a very good way! The essay’s author continues:

My thoughts are how many times Lee as a Christian in gazing upon the words [“Aide toi Dieu t’aidera”] did he think about the saying and use it as motivation to continue? During adversity, surrender and even death, those words inscribed upon that sword must have been recalled and shared with others.

I doubt it not. Amen, and amen!

Sadly, according to reports, some within “Take ’em down NOLA” – the main group behind the removal of four Confederate monuments from the city, which is dedicated to the removal or renaming of all “symbols of white supremacy,” so-called – are targeting not only Andrew Jackson, the hero of the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812, but the “Maid of Orleans”: Joan of Arc herself (*). Will idiocy never end? The lunatics, it seems, are running the asylum!

(* Jean d’Arc does not appear on this, supposedly “official,” list, but reports suggest that she may be on an unofficial list of “Take ’em down NOLA” targets. Sadly, I would not be a bit surprised!)

In defence of blood sports – Epigram

Blood sports. An unethical, unsustainable stain on the landscape. Blasting defenceless animals out of the sky. Sounds harsh right…?

Source: In defence of blood sports -Epigram

More on field or so-called “blood”-sports, from a British perspective:

It is not a question of human rule and dominion but a case of stewardship. I am deeply concerned about the environment – I wouldn’t splash out on free range eggs or endure the seven hour train journey instead of a flight home if I didn’t – but providing species as a whole are conserved I won’t lose sleep over the death of an individual animal.

And if anything, shooting offers a more honest relationship between man and beast than the average consumer could ever hope to have with their beef lasagne (or was it horse?)… When you eat game meat you know where the animal has come from, how it was killed and that it enjoyed a free and wild life – something that cannot be said for much of the meat coming through our industrial abattoirs and supermarkets.

Indeed!

I am reminded of one of the great Aldo Leopold’s essays in his seminal A Sand County Almanac, “Wildlife in American Culture,” where he notes the value of hunting, as inculcating both knowledge and respect for the food chain – much diminished if the only thing we are “hunting” for is the best price on styrofoam-and-plastic-wrapped supermarket meats – and what he calls “split-rail value,” or anything that reminds of of our national (or more broadly, cultural) origins and evolution.

Hunting, and related disciplines like fishing, trapping, etc., are not the only ways to inculcate these values, of course, but they are particularly poignant and visceral means of doing so. They allow the practitioner to be a participant in what is sometimes called “the circle of life,” rather than a mere observer of it, in a way which no other activity save agriculture can do. And of course, farming (or gardening) and hunting are two activities which have always been very closely linked, in human history.

The whole question of field sports is made out to be a class issue. It isn’t. It is a city vs countryside issue.

I am sure the majority of those 80% who condoned the fox hunting ban were city dwellers with little appreciation of the tradition hunting carried for hundreds of years. ‘Just because it’s a tradition doesn’t mean it’s right’ I hear you say, so let’s look at it another way.

To people in the city, who have never come close to anything wilder than a cat, the concept of an aggressive fox seems alien, but in the countryside, foxes are vermin. Straight up. They terrorise lambs causing real damage to farmers. Growing up in the countryside, foxes were not some fluffy creature. They were the stuff of nightmares, crawling into the chicken run and butchering the lot for fun.

Unfortunately many people, both here and abroad, have grown up with a more-than-a-little “Disney-fied” version of how the natural world works. I have spent years working and teaching in environmental, outdoor, and conservation education, and I can assert with 100% confidence that predator (including foxes, coyotes, and even those adorable “masked bandits,” raccoons – ever seen one ticked off? they’re not adorable then!) numbers need to be controlled, to limit the spread of disease and protect domestic animal populations.

And prey animals (“game animals,” to us) need to have their numbers controlled, also – especially in the absence of “top predators” like wolves, bear, and mountain lions – to avoid overpopulation, resulting in starvation, disease, etc. In a totally natural environment, absent the influence of human beings, of course, that would not be necessary; nature would maintain the balance – but the means it would use, namely the aforementioned tools of predation, starvation, and disease, are hardly cute and cuddly. Again, this is not “Bambi,” this is the real world.

Again, those who are opposed to field sports like hunting (“shooting” and “stalking,” in British parlance), trapping (more of an economic activity than a sport, per se), and mounted foxhunting tend to have an excessively romanticized, fictionalized view of the world. It is particularly ironic when those opposed to field sports are willing to eat packaged meat! Such animals frequently live much worse lives, and suffer less humane deaths, than those hunted ethically (poaching, of course, cannot be defended under any circumstances).

Finally, from a philosophical viewpoint, the reality is that we are not separate from Nature, either above or below it; we are part of Nature. We may have abilities of self-reflection, cognition, and communication that are greater than our fellow-creatures, but we are still what Leopold called “plain members and citizens of the land community.” And we are, biologically and evolutionarily, predatory omnivores, like raccoons, opossums, and bears. Pretending otherwise is dishonest, and does both us and our fellow-citizens of the land community a disservice.

Unless we evolve the capacity to photosynthesize, we will be dependent upon killing something – whether animal or plant – to survive. And what many people do not realize is that vegetable production, even organic vegetable production, is not benign. Many animals are displaced or killed to plant, cultivate, harvest, and protect those fields of greens, roots, and other veggies. If you are a vegetarian or a vegan, please be clear-eyed enough to realize that this choices does not remove or immunize you from the deaths of animals, it merely makes those deaths less visible.

(Just as “Leave No Trace” camping relies heavily on extractive industries to produce the synthetic materials, stove fuels, etc., that replace more traditional camping techniques… but I digress.)

We cannot escape from our mutual interdependence on the rest of the natural world, and we cannot escape from the fact that a portion of that interdependence requires us to kill in order to survive. We may as well – in my view – do so in a way which is ethical, and which teaches us other lessons about the proper way to interact with the rest of the rest of the natural world, and with each other.

“Outrage” as Theresa May confirms a fox hunting vote

The League Against Cruel Sports said there was ‘no justification’ for scrapping the law against hunting with dogs. Theresa May announced her plans for a vote at the Tory manifesto launch.

Source: Outrage as Theresa May confirms a fox hunting vote

As a former car-follower with the Carrollton Hounds, you will find no “outrage” from me at this news! Indeed, I find it outrageous that it was banned in the first place. I deeply appreciate the history and heritage of foxhunting in the UK and America – where the sport got its start in my home state of Maryland:

“The earliest record of the importation of hounds to this country was on June 30, 1650, when Robert Brooke arrived in Maryland with his family, 28 servants and his hounds. By the early 1700’s, mounted foxhunting was spreading rapidly in Maryland, Virginia and probably other colonies. Hounds were also used for other forms of hunting. Early planters with sporting English blood imported red foxes from England in 1730 and celebrated the event at Chestertown, Maryland” (Masters of Foxhounds Association & Foundation – “History of American Foxhunting“).

Lest anyone get all up-in-arms over the alleged “cruelty” of the sport, let me note that here in the U.S., the fox (in the case of red foxes, an “import,” anyway) is rarely killed, while in Britain, mounted hunts have historically served a useful purpose in limiting the numbers of foxes, which otherwise can become quite a pest.

To my mind, the ban on mounted foxhunting with dogs in Britain is part and parcel of the “politically correct” agenda to suppress history, heritage, and traditional activities, as well as attitudes, that seems currently to be on the ascendant throughout the West, and which it is part of this blog’s intention to help counteract.

Immigration policy, then and now

Immigrant policy - meme

The radical (and even some of the less-radical) Left is great on sound-bites, memes, etc., that support (or seem to) their position, but not so good on the facts and logic behind the situation portrayed – ironic, since they often also claim to be on the side of “reasons” and “science,” but I digress!

In any case, they seem to have a great deal of difficulty with the distinction between legal and illegal immigration (and sometimes with legality in general, but again, that’s a digression). I especially liked two of the comments on the original post:

“The left can keep track of 47 genders but the difference between legal immigrant and illegal immigrant escapes them quicker than a greased soap bubble.”

And this:

“Actually those are immigrants that are being herded through Ellis island to be questioned and medically examined to determine if they should be allowed to enter the United States based on whether they would be a benefit or detriment to American society. Those that fail will not be allowed to enter. So, yes let’s look at the past, and see how a real immigration policy works.”

That’s not even to mention the restrictions on who was allowed to immigrate to the United States in the first place, pre-1965: “The Hart–Celler Act of 1965 marked a radical break from the immigration policies of the past. Previous laws restricted immigration from Asia and Africa, and gave preference to northern and western Europeans over southern and eastern Europeans.”

One can agree with those policies or disagree with them, but one thing is clear: it wasn’t just any old “Tom, Dick, or Harry” who wanted in, that got in.

Note also: “The first significant federal legislation restricting immigration was the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act.” Remember that the Chinese were brought in to serve as cheap labour for the railroads; in fact, many of those imported or encouraged to immigrate – from the Irish and Eastern Europeans of the 19th and early 20th centuries to people from Central and South America today – are being brought in by or on behalf of corporations who want, once again, cheap labour.

Ironically, those who support “open” immigration policies are also, whether they know it or not, supporting crony capitalism / corporate plutocracy. To continue:

“Individual states regulated immigration prior to the 1892 opening of Ellis Island, the country’s first federal immigration station.” So it wasn’t just a free-for-all, as some try to claim. “New laws in 1965 ended the quota system that favored European immigrants, and today, the majority of the country’s immigrants hail from Asia and Latin America.” A fact which is altering not only the ethnic makeup of this country, but our culture and society as well – whether for better or for worse being debatable.

Again, the situation is more complex than a simple “immigrants made America great.” Much more!

Happy Mother’s Day (U.S.)!

Happy Mothers Day - Facebook profile pic.png

Wishing any and all mothers who may be reading this a truly happy and blessed Mother’s Day!

And at the same time, remembering with deep love and appreciation my own dear mother, who went to be with her Lord and ours in February of 2007 – ten years ago this year. I still think of her and miss her, every single day.

Ma 1975
   Jean Elizabeth “Betty” (Reamer) Harbold, c. 1975 – my beloved “Ma” (1927-2007)

If your mother is still alive, tell her how much you love her, how much she means to you! Because you never know how much longer, or shorter, will be the time you can spend together. And if your relationship with your mother is not all it could or should be, then please, if it is possible, do what you can to repair it.

Again, we don’t know how much time we have, and – unless she is a truly vile person, which is blessedly rare – I know of no one who thinks, looking back on their life, “Gee, I wish I hadn’t spent so much time with my mother…”

Again, Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers! And thank you for the work you put in to your families. May God bless and keep you!

Wisdom from our Roman Catholic brethren

vitruvian_man - Da Vinci

“The human body shares in the dignity of ‘the image of God’: it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit: Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity. Through his very bodily condition he sums up in himself the elements of the material world. Through him they are thus brought to their highest perfection and can raise their voice in praise freely given to the Creator. For this reason man may not despise his bodily life. Rather he is obliged to regard his body as good and to hold it in honour since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day.”

— Catechism of the Catholic Church, ❡❡ 364

Far too many Christians fall into the Gnostic heresy of devaluing the material world, including the human body, and believing that only “things spiritual” have ultimate worth. Do not be like them!