Classical Sunday: de Victoria’s Last Works

Come with us on a journey to the time of St. Teresa of Ávila and St. John of the Cross.

The Tallis Scholars: Requiem Officium Defunctorum

Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611)

Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611) should undoubtedly be considered the most significant Spanish composer of his time.  He exclusively devoted his life and creative energies to the Catholic Church, and became one of the leading musical figures of the Counter-Reformation.’

In all of his music, the texts are in Latin and drawn from the Roman Catholic Liturgy.

Read more in the description of the above video on YouTube.

Our Own Dear John Ronald: Niggle’s Parish

The Tree, the Mountains, and beyond.

Niggle and Parish, who shows up in this beautiful landscape just after Niggle realizes that he needs him, set about developing the country around Niggle’s Tree together.

One day Niggle was busy planting a quickset hedge, and Parish was lying on the grass near by, looking attentively at a beautiful and shapely little yellow flower growing in the green turf.  Niggle had put a lot of them among the roots of his Tree long ago.  Suddenly Parish looked up: his face was glistening in the sun, and he was smiling.
‘This is grand!’ he said.  ‘I oughtn’t to be here, really.  Thank you for putting in a word for me,’
‘Nonsense,’ said Niggle.  ‘I don’t remember what I said, but anyway it was not nearly enough.’
‘Oh yes, it was,’ said Parish.  ‘It got me out a lot sooner.  That Second Voice, you know: he had me sent here; he said you had asked to see me.  I owe it to you.’
‘No.  You owe it to the Second Voice,’ said Niggle.  We both do.’


The time came when the house in the hollow, the garden, the grass, the forest, the lake, and all the country was nearly complete, in its own proper fashion.  The Great Tree was in full blossom.
‘We shall finish this evening,’ said Parish one day.  ‘After that we will go for a really long walk.’
They set out the next day, and they walked until they came right through the distances to the Edge.  (…)  They saw a man, he looked like a shepherd; he was walking towards them, down the grass slopes that led up the Mountains.
(…)  ‘Are you a guide,’ Parish asked.  ‘Could you tell me the name of this country?’
‘Don’t you know?’ said the man.  ‘It is Niggle Country.  It is Niggle’s picture, or most of it: a little of it is now Parish’s Garden.’
‘Niggle’s Picture!’ said Parish in astonishment.  Did YOU think of all this, Niggle?  I never knew you were so clever.’


‘It is proving very useful indeed,’ said the Second Voice.  ‘As a holiday, and a refreshment.  It is splendid for convalescence; and not only for that, for many it is the best introduction to the Mountains.  It works wonders in some cases.  I am sending more and more there.  They seldom have to come back.’
‘No, that is so,’ said the First Voice.  ‘I think we shall have to give the region a name.  What do you propose?’
‘The Porter settled that some time ago,’ said the Second Voice.  ‘TRAIN FOR NIGGLE’S PARISH IN THE BAY: He has shouted that for a long while now.  Niggle’s Parish.  I sent a message to both of them to tell them.’
‘What did they say?’
‘They both laughed.  Laughed – the Mountains rang with it!’

Happy Easter, one and all.  All’s well that ends well.

leaf tree


Illustrations by Alan Lee


Classical Sunday: Bach’s Easter Oratorio

Christus Resurrexit!

Johann Sebastian Bach: Easter Oratorio, BWV 249 – John Eliot Gardiner

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Easter Oratorio, BWV 249 (1725, 1735, 1740)

i. Sinfonia
ii. Adagio
iii. Aria. Kommt, eilet und laufet
iv. Recitativo. O kalter Männer Sinn
v. Aria. Seele, deine Spezereien
vi. Recitativo. Hier ist die Gruft
vii. Aria. Sanfte soll mein Todeskummer
viii. Recitativo. Indessen seufzen wir
ix. Aria. Saget, saget mir geschwinde
x. Recitativo. Wir sind erfreut
xi. Chorus. Preis und Dank

Hannah Morrison, soprano
Meg Bragle, mezzo-soprano
Nicholas Mulroy, tenor
Peter Harvey, bass

Monteverdi Choir
English Baroque Soloists

Conductor: John Eliot Gardiner

London, Proms 2013

Our Own Dear John Ronald: It’s a Gift

On to the next stage…

Niggle pushed open the gate, jumped on the bicycle, and went bowling downhill in the spring sunshine.  Before long he found that the path on which he had started had disappeared, and the bicycle was rolling along over a marvellous turf.  It was green and close; and yet he could see every blade distinctly.  He seemed to remember having seen or dreamed of that sweep of grass somewhere or other.  The curves of the land were familiar somehow.  Yes: the ground was becoming level. as it should, and now, of course, it was beginning to rise again.  A great green shadow came between him and the sun.  Niggle looked up, and fell off his bicycle.
Before him stood the Tree, his Tree, finished.  If you could say that of a Tree that was alive, its leaves opening, its branches growing and bending in the wind that Niggle so often felt or guessed, and had so often failed to catch.  He gazed at the Tree, and slowly he lifted his arms and opened them wide.
‘It’s a gift!’ he said.  He was referring to his art, and also to the result; but he was using the word quite literally. (…)
Niggle walked about, but he was not merely pottering.  He was looking round carefully.  The Tree was finished, though not finished with – ‘Just the other way about to what it used to be,’ he thought.

J.R.R. Tolkien: Leaf by Niggle

leaf tree

Illustrations by Alan Lee

Our Own Dear John Ronald: Voices

How will you measure up?

‘Now the Niggle case,’ said a Voice, a severe voice, more severe than the doctor’s.
‘What was the matter with him?’ said a Second Voice, a voice that you might have called gentle, though it was not soft – it was a voice of authority, and sounded at once hopeful and sad. ‘What was the matter with Niggle?  His heart was in the right place.’
‘Yes, but it did not function properly,’ said the First Voice.  ‘And his head was no screwed on tight enough: he hardly ever thought at all.  Look at the time he wasted, not even amusing himself!  He never got ready for his journey.  He was moderately well off, and yet he arrived here almost destitute, and had to be put in the paupers’ wing.  A bad case, I’m afraid.  I think he should stay some time yet.’
‘It would not do him any harm, perhaps,’ said the Second Voice.  ‘But, of course, he is only a little man.  He was never meant to be anything very much; and he was never very strong.  Let us look at the Records.  Yes.  There are some favorable points, you know.’
‘Perhaps,’ said the First Voice; ‘but very few that will really bear examination. (…)  It is your task, of course, to put the best interpretation on the facts.  Sometimes they will bear it.  What do you propose?’
‘I think it is a case for a little gentle treatment now,’ said the Second Voice.
Niggle thought that he had never heard anything so generous as that Voice.  It made Gentle Treatment sound like a load of rich gifts, and a summons to a King’s feast.  Then suddenly Niggle felt ashamed.  To hear that he was considered a case for Gentle Treatment overwhelmed him, and made him blush in the dark. (…)  Niggle hid his blushes in the rough blanket.
There was a silence.  (…)
‘Well, I agree,’ Niggle heard the First Voice say in the distance.  ‘Let him go on to the next stage.  Tomorrow, if you like.’

~ J.R.R. Tolkien: Leaf by Niggle


leaf tree

Illustrations by Alan Lee

Our Own Dear John Ronald: Undone

‘There is plenty of material here: canvas, wood, waterproof paint.’ – ‘My picture!’ exclaimed Niggle.

‘There now!’ said the Inspector.  ‘You’ll have to go; but it’s a bad way to start on your journey, leaving your jobs undone.  Still, we can at least make some use of this canvas now.’

‘Oh dear!’ said poor Niggle, beginning to weep.

~ J.R.R. Tolkien

When you go, how will the jobs be taken care of that you did not finish?  For Niggle, his beloved tree ends up in bits and pieces as shingles for his neighbor’s leaky roof.

Although for Tolkien unfinished jobs were also quite a literal problem, learning from Niggle’s experience is useful for spiritual jobs, if you will, as well.  Focus helps.  There are things to tackle.  It’s a bad way to start on your journey, leaving your jobs undone.

leaf tree

Our Own Dear John Ronald: Finished With

Are you all packed and ready?

‘But I can’t…’ Niggle said no more, for at that moment another man came in.  Very much like the Inspector he was, almost his double: tall, dressed all in black.
‘Come along!’ he said.  ‘I am the Driver.’
Niggle stumbled down from the ladder.  His fever seemed to have come on again, and his head was swimming; he felt cold all over.
‘Driver?  Driver?’ he chattered.  ‘Driver of what?’
‘You, and your carriage,’ said the man.  ‘The carriage was ordered long ago.  It has come at last.  It’s waiting.  You start today on your journey, you know.’
‘Oh dear!’ said poor Niggle, beginning to weep.  ‘And [my tree is] not even finished!’
‘Not finished!’ said the Driver.  ‘Well, it’s finished with, as far as you’re concerned, at any rate.  Come along!’
Niggle went, quite quietly.  The Driver gave him no time to pack, saying that he ought to have done that before, and they would miss the train; so all Niggle could do was grab a little bag in the hall.  He found that it contained only a paint box and a small book of his own sketches; neither food nor clothes.  They caught the train all right.  Niggle was feeling very tired and sleepy; he was hardly aware of what was going on when they bundled him into his compartment.  He did not care much: he had forgotten where he was supposed to be going, or what he was going for.  The train ran almost at once into a dark tunnel.

~ J.R.R. Tolkien: Leaf by Niggle.

leaf tree

Death might be a scary thought, or at least uncomfortable, or maybe distasteful for you, like it is for Niggle, but think or feel what you may, there it is:  We all will go one day, sooner or later, and preparation is required.  It is hard to die well if you die unprepared.

In Tolkien’s Silmarillion, he describes death as having been a gift to man, but with time it became ever harder for man to appreciate it.  An everlasting What-We-Know-Already appears preferable to the New-We-Know-Nothing-About.  Maybe a change of attitude towards life and death is in order.  It seems such a pity to reject a gift that offers a way out of the ever-spinning Wheel of Fortune.  But it is not to be had without effort, without preparation.


Illustrations by Alan Lee


Herbal Household Remedies: Do Yourself a Favor

Less is more, did you know?

Did you know that among the good things you can do for yourself is achieving something?  If you do something with your own hands, or achieve something by your own strength of will, that’s a very healthy thing for you.

Right now is the time when some religiously inclined people do the annual Lenten fast, that is, they do something, or refrain from doing something for forty days (and a week), between Ash Wednesday and Easter Saturday night.  Some do not watch TV during this time.  Some stop eating chocolate.  Some pray the Rosary or the Chaplet of Saint Michael every day.  Some work on a particular flaw they feel they have, like their volatile temper or their laziness.  Some stay away from coffee.  Some fast.  Some read a chapter of the Bible every day.  Some start visiting lonely community members.  Some do not use social media.  Some do not buy their usual morning drink at a local fast-food chain every day but save the money and donate it to a charity at the end of their fast.  The list, in fact, is endless.

What all these seemingly unrelated things have in common is this:  If you do any of them, you are doing yourself a favor.  In all of us, there is always room for improvement.  If we pick one of the constructions sites of the Self to work on for 40 days, the good we learn during this time will have become a habit.  After all, it takes only 21 days to form a habit, or so they say.  If you take your spring fast seriously, no matter which form it takes, you will come away with a definite sense of achievement that adds to your quality of life more than a cup of coffee or a piece of chocolate ever will.

Try it out!  And I sure hope you are not wondering what all this has to do with Herbal Household Remedies.

three trees header

Herbal Household Remedies: Kneipp 1.01

Humans should live in accord with nature.

There is a lot to say for and about the Bavarian priest Sebastian Kneipp (1821 – 1897), his water therapy and his five pillars of health.  If you have not heard of him yet, have a look at his Wikipedia entry just for a general introduction.  Growing up hiking in the German hill country and mountains, coming upon a Kneipp-inspired wading-pool was so common that I knew his name and what to associate with him long before I even knew that Kneipp was a name to begin with.  Kneipp was just a synonym for very refreshing breaks on hot summer days:  To do a Kneipp exercise, all you had to do was take off your hiking boots and socks, roll up your pant legs, step into a pool of sorts and walk around in cold, knee-deep water a bit.  Wonderful!

But since it is not the kind of weather outside at the moment to fill the wash tub and wade around in it (unless you live a good bit further south than we do), I would like to share a rule I learned from Pfarrer Kneipp much later, although I have been following it unknowingly for most of my life:

Cold for the outside
Warm for the inside

Cold for the outside: The idea is that when you shower or wash, it is more beneficial to your health to shower cool rather than hot, and to finish every shower with a cold splash, so to speak: Stick your legs under the cold shower, left foot first and then up, then your arms, left hand first and then up, then your front, then your back, lastly your face, all just for a moment.  If you try it, you’ll find how much nicer it is to step out of the shower and not shiver in the cold air because the air won’t actually feel cold.  The same counts for washing your face and hands: Use cold water.  To clean your hands (so very important at this time of year), it is more efficient to wash with cold water and rub your hands real good than to use warm water.

Warm for the inside: No beverage you drink should be colder than room-temperature.  It is a shock to your system to drink very cold beverages, causing stress and supporting inflammation.

By and large, this little rule is just one expression of Kneipp’s general belief that humans should live in accord with nature.  I quite agree.  Living the way we were designed to live makes it easy to stay happy and healthy.  Give it a try.

cup of tea

The featured image shows a drawing of Pfarrer Kneipp giving a lecture in Bad Wörishofen in 1895.


Disclaimer: The author is not an medical professional, nutritionist, or dietitian. Content on this website is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for legal or medical advice, or medical treatment or diagnosis. Consult your health care provider if you are experiencing any symptoms and before using any herbal product or beginning a new health regimen. When wildcrafting or foraging for plants, do so ethically; be accompanied by an expert; and always have absolute certainty of plant identification before using or consuming any herbs. By using any or all of this information, you do so at your own risk. Any application of the material provided is at the reader’s discretion and is his or her sole responsibility.

Poesie: Tolkien’s Noel

One last Christmas poem…

I had already written a post for today when a dear friend sent me a link to this blog post.  It appears two of J.R.R. Tolkien’s poems that were printed in the annual magazine of an Oxfordshire Catholic high school in 1936 came to the attention of the press, one called The Shadow Man, the other NoelThe Shadow Man was published later in a different form as we pointed out recently, but I had not heard of “Noel”, or at least, I do not remember reading it.  Since Christmastide ended only yesterday with Epiphany, let’s have one last Christmas poem for this season, and maybe not the most commonplace one.  Enjoy!


Grim was the world and grey last night:
The moon and stars were fled,
The hall was dark without song or light,
The fires were fallen dead.
The wind in the trees was like to the sea,
And over the mountains’ teeth
It whistled bitter-cold and free,
As a sword leapt from its sheath.

The lord of snows upreared his head;
His mantle long and pale
Upon the bitter blast was spread
And hung o’er hill and dale.
The world was blind, the boughs were bent,
All ways and paths were wild:
Then the veil of cloud apart was rent,
And here was born a Child.

The ancient dome of heaven sheer
Was pricked with distant light;
A star came shining white and clear
Alone above the night.
In the dale of dark in that hour of birth
One voice on a sudden sang:
Then all the bells in Heaven and Earth
Together at midnight rang.

Mary sang in this world below:
They heard her song arise
O’er mist and over mountain snow
To the walls of Paradise,
And the tongue of many bells was stirred
in Heaven’s towers to ring
When the voice of mortal maid was heard,
That was mother of Heaven’s King.

Glad is the world and fair this night
With stars about its head,
And the hall is filled with laughter and light,
And fires are burning red.
The bells of Paradise now ring
With bells of Christendom,
And Gloria, Gloria we will sing
That God on earth is come.

~ J.R.R. Tolkien, 1936

mother of god.jpeg

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