Saturday, 29 December 2012

End of year musings

1. Yesterday (Dec 28th 2012) I was a guest at an “end of the year” party, hosted by my neighbours Pat Cosgrove and Bill Byers.

Pat and Bill host this party every year, and they do it so well. They provide good food and they invite thirty or more guests.

It is always such a relaxed event.

So I “kicked back”, and enjoyed being with some of my dear Florida friends (Bob Lewis, Ben Morse, Kay Dohoney and Barbara Dunne) and with other good folks (Tom, Tony, Alice, Irene) who I see just about three times each year, and also with another Tom (a friend from Pittsfield days who visits SRQ about three times each year).

2. Penne was looking very sad this morning.

3. My trip to Vietnam (at the end of January 2013) will include a modest amount of trekking.  I did not want to purchase expensive heavy trekking boots, so I bought these “Sonoma” walking shoes at “Kohls”..

They were reduced in price from $78 to $38.  I think that they will be more than adequate for my treks, and I am already using them in order to “break them in”.

4. When I mention my impending trip to my friends I get varying reactions:

(a) There are those who roll their eyes as if I were crazy.
(b) There are others who ask “why Vietnam?” My response is “because it is there”.
(c) My very best friends say “this will be a great adventure and I/we are so happy for you”.

5. In truth I want to have a few more adventures whilst my spirit and flesh are willing and able.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

My travelling life - to each of the major continents.

I was born in Bristol, U.K in 1944.

The U.K. is geographically a part of Europe, but you’d never know it!  

For instance:

Do you remember the alleged London Times headline  from  the 1930’s Fog in the English Channel – Continent Isolated”?  That was the British spirit. .

My first visit to Continental Europe was in about 1970. It was to the lovely little town of Oberstdorf in the Bavarian Alps.

That was the prelude to many more European trips:-  to France, Austria, Italy, Germany , Belgium. Holland, Greece, European Turkey etc.

In 1973 I spent two good weeks on the Continent of Africa, in Kenya and Tanzania, (with a 24 stay in Egypt).

In 1975 I visited the North American Continent, and made it my home (in the USA) in 1976. My North American visits have also included Canada and Mexico.

Later on I visited  the Caribbean (Aruba, and the Bahamas), and Central America (Honduras).

I took a trip to Lebanon – geographically in Asia, but emotionally in the Near East.

In 2010 I was in the South American Continent- in Ecuador.

2011 saw me in the continent of Australia.
What a life!—Europe, the Near East, North America, Central America, the Caribbean, South America, Australia.
But Lebanon hardly felt Asian.

So in 2013 I will take a trip to Vietnam – as Asian as it gets.
Thus I will have been privileged to visit each of the major continents: Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa, North America, South America.

Antarctic must wait for its turn!

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Christmas Day 2012

And lo I went to St. Boniface Church on Christmas Day for the 10:00 a.m. service.

I drove there with my SRQ friend Bob Lewis (a retired Episcopal Priest from Hudson, N.Y).

Behold we encountered Tom Dillon.  Tom was a school teacher in Pittsfield, M A.  His heritage is Roman Catholic, but he frequently attended St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Pittsfield during my duration there.

 Tom inherited a condo in Bradenton FL. It is always a pleasure to see him when he comes south from Massachusetts.

It came to pass that another Tom was at Church. He is a splendid semi-retired Roman Catholic Priest who in these days mostly worships in the Episcopal Church.

Tom, Tom, Bob and JMP sat in church  together for the Christmas Day Eucharist.

Two Episcopal Priests – a Roman Catholic Priest – a Roman Catholic educator.  Damn – that’s queer ecumenicism!

The St. Boniface organists being exhausted after three services on Sunday 23rd Dec 2012, and three more on Christmas Eve wisely stayed at home.

The parish found some dollars to employ a guest organist – one Roger Roszell. “By heavens” he was good.

Retired “Priest Associate” Charles Kiblinger presided and preached.  His sermon was excellent even (though his rapid fire delivery is taxing on the ears).

St. Boniface, SRQ "Altar" Dec 2012


In due time on Christmas Day I made my way to the

There I enjoyed a “Christmas Dinner”.

1. Salad

2. Turkey:-  with gravy, green beans, mashed sweet potato, mashed spuds, cranberry etc

3. Key Lime Pie

The food was good, though not great.

The company was excellent.

I enjoyed this dinner with:

 (a) Fred Emrich (a priest now retired) who was my colleague when we served in the Diocese of Western Mass.  Fred was in Greenfield MA.  when I was in Pittsfield MA.

(b)  Diana Clee (Fred’s second wife).  Diana was born of British parents in India. When she was 7 years old they sent her off to England to be educated in a miserable Boarding School for girls.

After school she  married an American man - but was widowed at an early age.

Diana then carved out two careers.  First as a “stewardess” on the late lamented “Pan-Am Airlines”:  then as a very successful Realtor in Greenwich CT.

(c) Joining us was Lee Ysidro.  She was born in Trinidad of Venezuelan parents.

She (1) segued into a career on the stage in NYC. (2) became a stewardess with Pan-Am where she met Diana (3) Married  an Egyptian man who she met in Tunisia (and he died young) (4) retired to SRQ where she reconnected with Diana.

 I live in a small world. It is a world which includes friends from far and near.  

That small world is open to us all.  

I love it!
Lee and jmp

Diana and Lee

Fred and Diana


It was a quiet and lovely 2012 Christmas Day, except that my pooch Penne got no more than a lump of coal from Father Christmas.

For on Christmas Eve when my back was turned she seized a hunk of Morbier cheese from a coffee table at Ben's home.

This was exceptional.  Penne has never before stolen "people food". 

Upon being chastised Penne dropped the cheese.

But the damage was done!

1. The remnant of that bit of cheese had to be "binned" ( as they say in the U.K).

2. Penne's tummy was all upset on Christmas Day on account of the wee bit of cheese she had eaten.

3. By now she is  "ransomed, healed, restored and forgiven"!

Monday, 24 December 2012

The "history of "O Holy Night" , and Merry Christmas everyone.

(If you go to You Tube  and  search for  "O Holy Night/Nat King Cole"  you will encounter  a wondrous version  of the song, and rejoice in Nat King Cole's  and in  his fabulous diction).

There is a story behind this song. I reproduce it here.

N.B Thie follwoing is not my writing.  I "lifted it" from the WWW

Stories Behind the Music: "O Holy Night"

"O Holy Night" remains one of the world's most beloved Christmas carols, with uplifting lyrics and melody.

The lyrics were written by Placide Cappeau (1808-1877), a resident of Roquemaure, France (located a few miles north of the historic city of Avignon). Cappeau was a wine merchant and mayor of the town, as well as an occasional writer of poetry.

 Known more for his poetry than his church attendance, it probably shocked Cappeau when his parish priest, shortly before Cappeau embarked on a business trip, asked him to pen a poem for Christmas mass.

In a dusty coach traveling down a bumpy road to France's capital city, Cappeau considered the priest's request. Using the gospel of Luke as his guide, Cappeau imagined witnessing the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. Thoughts of being present on the blessed night inspired him. By the time he arrived in Paris, "Cantique de Noel" had been completed.

Moved by his own work, Cappeau decided that his "Cantique de Noel" was not just a poem, but a song in need of a master musician's hand. Not musically inclined himself, the poet turned to one of his friends, Adolphe Charles Adams, for help, when he arrived in Paris.

Adams was an acquaintance of Monsieur and Madame Laurey, who were friends of Cappeau. The son of a well-known classical musician, Adams had studied in the Paris conservatoire. Adams was at the peak of his career, having written his masterpiece, Giselle, only a few years before, in 1841. He was also the composer of over eighty operatic stage works. His talent and fame brought requests to write works for orchestras and ballets all over the world.

Yet the lyrics that his friend Cappeau gave him must have challenged the composer in a fashion unlike anything he received from London, Berlin, or St. Petersburg.

As a man of Jewish ancestry, for Adams, the words of "Cantique de Noel" represented a day he didn't celebrate and a man he did not view as the son of God. Nevertheless, Adams quickly went to work, attempting to marry an original score to Cappeau's beautiful words. Adams' finished work pleased both poet and priest. The song was performed just three weeks later at a Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, 1847, in Roquemaure.

Initially, "Cantique de Noel" was wholeheartedly accepted by the church in France and the song quickly found its way into various Catholic Christmas services. However, the song's popularity declined after its initial acceptance, based on the reputations of the lyricist and composer. Late in his life, Cappeau left the church and became an active part of the socialist movement. He was described as a social radical, a freethinker, a socialist, and a non-Christian.

Church leaders also discovered that Adams was a Jew, and the song--which had quickly grown to be one of the most beloved Christmas songs in France--was suddenly and uniformly denounced by the Church. The heads of the French Catholic church of the time deemed "Cantique de Noel" as unfit for church services because of its lack of musical taste and "total absence of the spirit of religion." Yet even as the church tried to bury the Christmas song, the French people continued to sing it.

Fortunately, more rational perspectives have prevailed. By 1855, the carol had been published in London, and has been translated into many languages. The best known English translation is " O Holy Night" authored by John Sullivan Dwight (1813-1893), a Unitarian minister, an American music critic and journalist who made his home at the Transcendentalist community of Brook Farm, Massachusetts

. Dwight felt that this wonderful Christmas song needed to be introduced to America, and he saw something else in the song that moved him beyond the story of the birth of Christ. An ardent abolitionist, Dwight strongly identified with the lines of the third verse: "Truly he taught us to love one another; his law is love and his gospel is peace. Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother; and in his name all oppression shall cease." The text supported Dwight's own view of slavery in the South.

Published in his magazine, Journal of Music, Dwight's English translation of "O Holy Night" quickly found favor in America, especially in the North during the Civil War. By coincidence, Christmas became a legal holiday in Massachusetts the same year as Dwight published his translation.

There is an unsubstantiated (but frequently repeated) story that this carol figured prominently on Christmas Eve, 1870, during the Franco-Prussian War. The story goes that, in the midst of fierce fighting between the armies of Germany and France, during the Franco-Prussian War, a French soldier suddenly jumped out of his muddy trench. Both sides stared at the seemingly crazed man. Boldly standing with no weapon in his hand or at his side, he lifted his eyes to the heavens and sang, "Minuit, Chretiens, c'est l'heure solennelle ou L'Homme Dieu descendit jusqu'a nous," the beginning of "Cantique de Noel." After completing all three verses, a German infantryman climbed out his hiding place and answered with, "Vom Himmel noch, da komm' ich her. Ich bring' euch gute neue Mar, Der guten Mar bring' ich so viel, Davon ich sing'n und sagen will," the beginning of Martin Luther's robust Christmas hymn, "From Heaven Above to Earth I Come." The story goes that the fighting stopped for the next twenty-four hours while the men on both sides observed a temporary peace in honor of Christmas day. Perhaps this story had a part in the French church once again embracing "Cantique de Noel" in holiday services.

Adams had been dead for many years and Cappeau and Dwight were old men when on Christmas Eve 1906, Reginald Fessenden, a 33-year-old university professor and former chief chemist for Thomas Edison, did something long thought impossible.

 Using a new type of generator, Fessenden spoke into a microphone and, for the first time in history, a man's voice was broadcast over the airwaves: "And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed," he began in a clear, strong voice, hoping he was reaching across the distances he supposed he would.

Shocked radio operators on ships and astonished wireless owners at newspapers sat slack-jawed as their normal, coded impulses, heard over tiny speakers, were interrupted by a professor reading from the gospel of Luke. To the few who caught this broadcast, it must have seemed like a miracle, hearing a voice somehow transmitted to those far away. Some might have believed they were hearing the voice of an angel.

 Fessenden was probably unaware of the sensation he was causing on ships and in offices; he couldn't have known that men and women were rushing to their wireless units to catch this Christmas Eve miracle.

After finishing his recitation of the birth of Christ, Fessenden picked up his violin and played "O Holy Night," the first song ever sent through the air via radio waves. When the carol ended, Fessenden read another selection from the book of Luke: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will." The Christmas program was picked up as far south as Norfolk, Virginia; when the program was repeated on New Year's Eve, it was heard as far away as the West Indies.

Since that first rendition at a small Christmas mass in 1847, "O Holy Night" has been sung millions of times in churches in every corner of the world. And since the moment a handful of people first heard it played over the radio, the carol has gone on to become one of the entertainment industry's most recorded and played spiritual songs. This incredible work--requested by a forgotten parish priest, written by a poet who would later split from the church, given soaring music by a Jewish composer, and brought to Americans to serve as much as a tool to spotlight the sinful nature of slavery as tell the story of the birth of a Savior--has become one of the most beautiful, inspired pieces of music ever created. The lyrics are reprinted below.

O Holy night, the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till He appeared and the soul felt His worth
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder beams a new and glorious morn
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine! O night when Christ was born!
O night divine! O night, O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming
Here came the wise men from the Orient land

The King of Kings lay in lowly manger
In all our trials born to be our friend
He knows our need
To our weakness no stranger
Behold your King! before the lowly bend!
Behold your King! before Him bend!

Truly he taught us to love one another 
His law is love and His gospel is peace 
Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother 
And in His name all oppression shall cease

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus rise we
Let all within us praise His holy name
Christ is the Lord
Then ever, ever praise we
His pow'r and glory ever more proclaim
His pow'r and glory ever more proclaim

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Routine and Habit

 As is the case for many folks I am a creature of routine and habit.


My morning routine is almost unchangeable.

Out of bed by 5:00


Boot up computer.
Greet Penne and the cats – Penne gets half a biscuit and the cats each get a couple of small treats.

Make coffee.

Have first cigarette.

Pour coffee.

Check e-mail and Facebook
Except that this morning my computer would not connect with the internet. Woe was me.

I tried all the tricks of the trade without success.

I called Comcast.  Getting through to a real live person is a feat requiring enormous patience.  I was patient.

The real live person told me that there were no reported outages in my area.  She asked me to “hold on”.  I did so for twenty minutes, and then my store of patience “went down”.

So I hoved off to MacD's : “Tablet” in hand. $1.08 bought a medium sized coffee.  Within three minutes I was on line using the free wi-fi.  (Later I discovered that I could have saved $1.08 but connecting with Mickey D’s wi-fi from the parking lot, but the coffee was good!)

45 minutes later and back at home, my desk top had connected itself to the internet.  Go figure!  Was the cold weather to blame -  nah!

Here’s the rub.  My morning routine was disturbed, and I got to be so very grumpy.  Very grumpy indeed.  I was even a bit snarky with the pets. ‘Twas so silly of me.

Yet, with you, I have come to expect internet connection as a normal part of life.

And, with many of you, I do not do so well when my routine is upset.



I have been a habitual church attender for as many years as I can remember.  Of course it was all fairly easy during the thirty years when I was paid to be there!

But I haven’t “done” much Church since August. There were two Sundays in September when I was paid to be a supply priest in Englewood (before my second retirement), and one Sunday in December when I was with my friend in Scottsdale AZ.

It’s probably been good to get out of the unthinking “habit” of attending Church.

But these days I struggle to find a reason why I should attend.

Nothing seems to “draw” me there, and I do not miss it.

I have remembered all the sermons I delivered which gave various reasons why one should be part of a worshiping congregation, but these days I have become deaf to my own preaching.

The longer I have stayed away the harder it has become to return.

There is no over-riding reason or reasons why I have dropped out.  It’s just that it all seems a bit pointless, or maybe unsatisfying, or even un-challenging..

Maybe I’ll drop back in one of these days, but for now I have a greater sense of understanding about those parishioners in four congregations who simply “dropped out”