The simple song that spread around the world

Church at Mariapfarr

There are some times, they are rare and they are brief but they happen, when the horizon between heaven and earth melts away and the future is changed forever. It is often those who have suffered the most who experience such revelations.   Their gifts are a profound peace, the knowledge that all will be well, and total clarity about the course they must follow.

I am sure that it was just such an experience that led a young man from a desperately poor background to create the world’s most popular Christmas carol. A carol which caused soldiers to come out of their trenches one Christmas Eve during World War One to share rations and gifts with the ‘enemy’ and even play a game of football together!

It was Joseph Mohr who wrote the words to Stille Nacht, (Silent Night).  He had a very inauspicious start to his life.  Born in Salzburg in 1792, he grew up poor and fatherless.  His godfather was the local executioner and his mother knitted to make a living.  But Joseph was a special boy.  He sang in the church choir and had a gift for music and poetry.  These talents were recognised and encouraged by the local priest who helped Joseph through school, on to university, then to work as a curate, and ultimately to train as a priest.

But times were hard in Europe during his early years.  As well as natural disasters such as flooding, which destroyed livelihoods and infrastructure; the Napoleonic Wars had seen Salzburg and the surrounding towns and villages devastated, occupied, bombarded, defeated and heavily taxed.  The ordinary people were suffering in 1816 when Joseph Mohr found consolation in the church at Mariapfarr.  There he was inspired to write the words to his carol.

It would be two more years before the carol was set to music by Joseph’s friend, the organist and choir director, Franz Gruber in Oberndorf.   They sang the carol together in German at midnight mass with guitars for accompaniment.  The aim was to bring the Christmas spirit of love, peace, comfort and joy to their community in these difficult times.  They surely succeeded then and ever since.

Joseph Mohr died penniless in 1848, having used all his earnings to provide education for the young and care for the elderly in his parish.  He would never know that his little carol would travel the world being performed over and over again.  It would be translated into over 300 languages and become the people’s favourite Christmas carol nearly 200 years after it was written.

Now that is a legacy to be proud of!

Silent Night Memorial Chapel in Oberndorf

Carpe Diem ~ Corn

LOGO SEPT 14

I went to Taize one summer when it was so hot and dry that the magnificent River Loire had almost dried up in places.  Too hot to stay in the car I decided to walk for a while across the fields and I had an amazing experience.    At the foot of the hill were fields of sunflowers, corn and poppies.  I stood alone in a field full of sunflowers, looking up towards the church, as a gentle breeze blew.  The wind caused the flowers to bend and the sound they made was so strange.   I experienced what I can only describe as the spirit moving.

Today’s Haiku prompt at Carpe Diem reminded me of that moment.

Soft wind whispering

Spirit moving through the corn

Speaking to my soul

It reminded me strongly of the beautiful words of one of my favourite hymns:
 Be still for the presence of the Lord
Be still for the presence of the Lord  The holy one is here
Come bow before him now  With reverence and fear
In him no sin is found  We stand on holy ground
Be still for the presence of the Lord  The holy one is here
Be still for the power of the Lord  Is moving in this place
He comes to cleanse and heal  To minister his grace
No work too hard for him  In faith receive from him
Be still for the power of the Lord  Is moving in this place
Icon at Taize

Icon at Taize

Grandma’s Angels

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She’s 5 going on 25 with long red hair that gets tangled in the shower. She has a smiley face and the loveliest nature. She lives with her brother who’s 8. He has the same red hair but short. He’s cool with a cheeky grin and a mischievous nature. They live in a small market town in Wiltshire with mum, dad, 2 guinea pigs and a whippet-cross dog from the rescue centre.
She loves to copy her mum; her hair, her makeup, her clothes, and especially her jewellery!
She would love to go horse riding, but it costs too much, so she goes trampolining instead. I watch open mouthed as she bounces; doing front drops, swivel hips, back somersaults, straddles and turns. She is fearless.
He loves to copy his dad; playing football, tennis and golf; soaking up anything sporty. 2012 will be his best year yet, Olympics in Great Britain, what a dream! He is already collecting commemorative 50 pence pieces. He knows every design and every sport. He has collected 15 so far with 14 to go. I could order him a complete set but there’s no fun in that. It is far better to search in pockets, purses and change.
I love it when they come to stay for the weekend to give mum and dad a break. All thoughts of housework fly out of the window as our home is transformed into a tiny version of Disneyland. We do beading and baking, chalk patterns on the patio, create fairyland in the shed, tie imaginary horses to the gazebo and sail pirate ships on a gravel ocean.
He wanders off to find grandad. She sits on my knee and we chat. Tugging at my gold cross and chain she asks,
“Grandma, why do you always wear that?”
“My mummy wears pretty necklaces. She changes them all of the time. She has lots.”
I’ve heard this question before and I usually say,
“I wear it to remind me of my dad because he bought it for me a long time ago.” And that’s true, but today I will tell her the whole story.
A long time ago before your mummy and daddy met, your daddy lived by the seaside in Somerset in a fisherman’s cottage. The cottage was 200 years old and it was a wreck when he bought it. It had pine panelling all over the kitchen and lounge. When he took the panelling down he found 57 types of mould growing on the inside walls. It was very colourful mould, some of it quite pretty, but not healthy to live with, so he had to pay someone to come and treat it. The cottage roof leaked, the windows didn’t open, and the walls were damp. But bit by bit he repaired it and made it beautiful. He put on a new roof, damp-proofed the walls, sealed the floors, replaced the windows and doors, and put in a new white bathroom. He did all this quite cheaply because he searched through scrap yards for things he could use. One day he found an old church window in a scrap yard and he bought it for his bathroom. He knocked down part of the wall and put in the beautiful stained glass window. It was full of colour, rich red and blue, and it had angels on it. When the sun shone into the bathroom it glowed with a heavenly light.
Now he was happy with his cottage and he decided to invite the whole family down for the weekend to celebrate the end of the work. Grandma and Grandad went of course, and your daddy’s three sisters. They were teenagers then and they had a little mini car which they shared.
It was a perfect weekend, sunny and warm. We scrambled on the beach and hunted for bits of pink quartz washed out of the rocks by the tide. I still have them in the garden.
I had my cross and chain on then too, it wasn’t long after my dad died. I felt that when I wore it he was close to me and he would watch over me and keep me safe.
It was a long and tiring day so we all went to bed early. I took my cross and chain off and put it on the cabinet beside the bed. We slept really well then got up early to go home. I had a shower in the bathroom and I was fascinated by the coloured lights shining through the stained glass window. It was so beautiful that I said a little prayer before we left. I said thank you for my beautiful family and thank you for a lovely weekend. Then off we set for home.
On the way back home I realised that I had forgotten to pick up my cross and chain. I was a bit cross with myself for forgetting it, but I wasn’t worried because I knew it would be safe. The girls were staying for another day so I guessed they would bring it home for me when they came. There were no mobile phones in those days so I couldn’t call them!
The next day was Sunday and the girls were sharing the driving home after a lovely weekend. They had found my cross and chain and remembered to pop it on the dashboard before they set off. They were very happy driving along, listening to their music and singing. They reached a sharp bend in the road just as another driver was speeding along. He misjudged the corner and crashed right into the little mini. The car was dreadfully smashed up and my 3 precious girls were taken off to hospital in ambulances.
The policeman who came to the crash shook his head sadly thinking the girls would be badly hurt. But at the hospital they were absolutely fine, just a few bruises and a bit shocked. The girls did not want to tell me about the crash as they knew I would be really worried and upset, so they phoned their brother to come and collect them. He got into his car and drove along the same country roads that his sisters had travelled. When he reached the bend in the road he saw the mini being towed onto a breakdown lorry. He got out to watch and was shocked to see the damage to the car. Just then he noticed something glinting in the road. It was my cross and chain. He picked it up and put it in his pocket, then drove on to the hospital to pick up his sisters and bring them home.
When I saw them and heard the whole story I knew that my dad and the angels had been watching over my girls as they travelled in their car that day. They protected them from harm. That is why I always wear my cross and chain. It reminds me how blessed I am.
One day I will give my cross and chain to her, my angel.

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