Monday, December 1, 2008

A Royal Revolution?

Ever since I started putting my my poetry on the blog, I have known it would only be a matter of time until I hoisted up some verses from other writers I have known. Marianne has a number of poems; one of them in particular, "Easter Vigil", is certain to appear, and possibly before Easter. Another writing friend penned some wonderful lines about Terry Fox I intend to use when the time is right. And Shawn wrote some good poetry in her student days and has occasionally jotted song lyrics since. A verse she wrote early in 1965 is appropriate now.

Walk right in, sit right down,
Gerry takes your fine from you.
An evening at the Nelson, or the Royal bar,
You went for just a couple but you went too far,
Walk right in, sit right down,
Gerry takes your fine from you.

This was a take-off from a chart song of the day, written and performed by the Rooftop Singers, lead out on a 12-string, "Walk Right In". At the first hootenanny at Notre Dame Shawn and I were just a couple, singing traditional folk songs, but we were joined by 12-string player Tim Yates, a bush pilot hopeful, for later concerts, and with a 12-string on hand Shawn wrote an entire parody about the methods the college had for getting money out of the students. Gerry was the NDU registrar. The song was hugely appreciated.
The Nelson Hotel, along with the Civic, got the between-period trade in the days of the Western International Hockey League. Both bars were just a long slap shot away from the old Civic Centre. The Royal was too far west even for a good sprinter. The Nelson has changed its name to the Grand. (Where I found the Glenmorangie of Valley Voice fame.) But the Royal kept its moniker, and today I dropped in for a couple of the local brewery's concoctions and chatted with customers and bar keep. A bar in the afternoon can be one of the deadliest places on earth, but we all managed to make it pretty lively this afternoon, because we were discussing music in general and the great show on Tuesday night in particular. (Also, the barkeep, from Winnipeg but too young to remember Bachman Turner Overdrive, writes poetry and was intrigued to hear about RockSalt.) It's been many, many, moons since I could honestly feel there was any profit in such an hour or two at that time of the day, but I'm getting the old feeling that a bar can be a school room of sorts if you work it right. Especially a bar with a stage, a certain amount of sound equipment, a drum kit, and a town full of young musicians all eager to upgrade their skills, and an open mike night.
This is not a new idea for me, by any means, but it's the first time it's been surrounded by even a hope of sufficient working elements, including sufficient skills in the presenter, and perhaps a new docility in the new generation. The middle generation, as I think of it from the other side of three score and ten, is more likely than not to be pretty much disabled by authority problems, unless it's drastically changed from the last time I ran a check. But of course this middle generation has a big age span. Some of it is actually as old as I am, some of it is as young as my grandchildren. But it's still stuck in the middle.


I did get to ask about the Latin version of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, but not from the bishop or even the pastor, at last night's "town-hall" meeting. My answer came this morning from one of the town's most learned musicians, like myself disengaged much of the time from the music of the liturgy because of the parish dedication to the lowest possible standards. (A note on more the the same in Vancouver coming up. It's not just us.) He informed me that the Latin was there because this particular collection of music for the mass is thought of as coming from Taize and not from the Church as such. I am probably safe in assuming therefore that it will not be there next Sunday when the usual choir returns. It would seem this is not quite the Advent God had in mind, at least in terms of the liturgy.
But we are plainly experiencing an aspect of Advent in our Capuchin shepherd. Bishop John obviously has a genuine prayer life, and has taken well to the Franciscan emphasis on preaching the whole Christ. He is very kind, but not the least bit interested in being cool. Generally speaking, my habitually optimistic self has experienced a steady diet of spiritual infusions since the announcement of his appointment, but his sermon at the Tuesday evening mass simply created a light show, throughout the entire fifteen minutes or so that he was preaching. He is to say a word or two at a prayer breakfast tomorrow and that too, I'm sure, will be an occasion for the Holy Spirit to brag about our new man.
Thomas Aquinas says a lot of things about bishops - I once had to remind John Paul about some of them - but it all boils down, as Thomas says, to only a pair of simple priorities. A bishop must be able to rule his diocese and to lead his people in prayer. He was certainly running the show on Tuesday night, not only at the mass but at the following meeting, and I suspect that tomorrow morning he will show even more elements of his ability in prayer, subject, of course, to a few observations from an older and more Carmelite codger like myself.
Ah. One more point. Both Saint Francis and Padre Pio made brief but satisfying appearances in this study on Monday morning as MT and I were talking about the week ahead. This also augurs well for the weeks after that. It was Francis, of course, who put the manger scene into Christmas celebrations, and it was Pio who, when he wasn't redirecting American bomber squadrons, heard confessions so that people could actually enjoy celebrations with a clear conscience. There are few experiences more joyful than being hauled out of mortal sin by a priest who knows his business.

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