“Be Not Afraid! Open up, no; swing wide the gates to Christ. Open up to his saving power the confines of the State, open up economic and political systems, the vast empires of culture, civilization and development… Be not afraid!”
Pope John Paul II / taken from his address to the world following his election as pope 1978)
“They themselves do not see the world of light as we do, but our shapes cast shadows in their minds, which only the noon sun destroys.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien
(detail of the Martyrdom of Crispin and Crispinian /Aert van den Bossche / 1494
“Oh no, don’t come up. . .there’s danger out there. . .”
This always being the response from my Dad when I tell him I’m coming up for a visit.
I live an hour away from Atlanta, from where I grew up, but one would think after hearing Dad, I was traversing a long harrowing journey over enemy territory and dangerous minefields.
“There’s danger on the roads and Atlanta is a war zone. . .”
“Dad,I don’t think I’d call Atlanta a war zone. Not to worry, I’ll be careful and I’ll be fine.”
Now granted I’m no fan of driving along the Atlanta interstates, as not a day passes without some sort of catastrophic accident or wreck, but I’ve yet to notice that the moment I pass into the jurisdiction of the city I come under the hail of gunfire–thank goodness. . .
My 86 year old dad stays glued to the news and the news does have a way of painting life in Atlanta, or any large global city for that matter, as violent, dangerous and grim.
Locally there are robberies, shootings, killings, rapes, drug dealings, kidnappings and globally there is the grim visions of terrorism, all of which seems to greet any and all tuning in for the latest local and world update. You should have heard his response to my throwing out there the possibility of an adventure across the proverbial pond later in the year. . .there was great wailing and gnashing of teeth.
“Oh my gosh, noooo. . .can’t you just stay at home?!
Why do you have to insist on traveling.
It’s simply too dangerous to fly.
Don’t you know that terrorists are out there waiting!!???
It’s all so dangerous. . .just stay home. . .watch things on television . . .keep your head down”
This litany of the warnings of safety is usually said as he tucks his own head down between his shoulders as if we were hunkered down in a bunker in some long forgotten war zone as the enemy begun a round of shelling overhead.
So perhaps it shouldn’t come as any surprise that I have my own deeply rooted, irrational sense of fear, dread and foreboding, all of which raise their ugly heads from time to time–as all of this is come by rather honestly having been raised by a “henny penny the sky is falling” doomsday’s calling, overtly cautious, dread filled dad whose own sense of irrationality sadly has had a tendency of rubbing off.
I can remember when my son was born 26 years ago, of which sometimes feels like only yesterday. He came in to this world with an ulcerated esophagus. How and why he had this issue, I never gleaned— It wasn’t until he was 5 weeks old that we knew something terribly wrong was unfolding. He was prone to throwing up any and all sustenance that would go in and hopefully down. So much so that when he’d throw up, there would often times be blood. And any baby who throws up everything that goes in, does not tend to thrive, let alone gain weight, as he hung around the lower end of the growth charts.
In those early worried filled and sleep deprived days, I would wander back to bed in the wee hours after having unsuccessfully attempted to feed only to then spend forever cleaning up redelivered formula— exhausted, worried and delusional. In the place in between waking and sleep I would find my mind racing to dread filled visions of our new son and his precarious health. . .Of which in turn caused me great worry, dread and angst over a possible prognosis as my subconscious played out dire dreams.
Three months in, a litany of meds and finally one revealing endoscopy later, it was determined that he would need a specially formulated, and none too easily procured formula, thickened with powdered oatmeal. I often wonder if this was not the begining of his often eclectic and expensive tastes. . .
I was a wreck early on in motherhood as I constantly feared the worst. I think this was in part due to the fact that my dad and I had, 3 years earlier, watched my mom wage a fatal, albeit brief, battle with lung cancer. An incident that seemed to cement in him, as it also sucked me in, to if bad or worse can happen—then so it shall. . .
Any ache or ailment and my dad will have you good and ready for the undertaker. A cold will be Typhoid and God forbid you have a fever or cough–Consumption for sure. Your time drawing nigh.
This Eeyoreesque, the glass is always half empty approach to life of my dad has always driven me nuts. I, from all outward appearances, possess the demeanor of the perpetual positive.
No Pollyanna mind you, but positive nonetheless. As all the while the negative beats of the gloom and doom drums reverberate within my own head- —this as I cheer on any and all in need of predicted success and glorious hopeful outcomes.
All of this thought of fearfulness comes to mind as I find myself sadly being taken in by the frighteningly real warnings and calls for vigilance in light of the latest terror warnings regarding attacks on shopping centers in the US, the UK as well as Canada. Only as the world slowly regains some semblance of composure following the Charlie Hebdo attack as well as the attacks to Jewish sites of interests in Paris and throughout France as well as sadly in Denmark.
If it’s not due to the prospect that we will all eventually come down with some form of dreaded cancer, ebola, superbug or disease, we then will in turn fall victim no doubt to some crazed group of Islamic terrorists vowing to destroy any and all who stand in their way toward perceived world domination. Certainly not the most positive prospects greeting anyone turning into the nightly news or staring mindlessly into a daily newspaper.
I am, however, happily reminded and bolstered by the thoughts of those individuals who have gone before us in their own time of bleak outlooks, warnings and turmoil who, although they may have been afraid, as they stood before a massively numbered and heavily armed foe, as they set their jaw while squaring their shoulders, marching forward just the same.
And on those days I find myself feeling fearful and downtrodden, as I look out across the world’s perilous horizon, I recall the moving speech and rallying cry offered by King Henry V at the onset of the Battle of Agincourt, also known as the speech of the Battle of St Crispin’s Day.
Saints Crispin and Crispinian were 3rd century twin Roman brothers who were cobblers by trade and followers of Christ by devoted choice. Fleeing persecution in Rome, traveling northward, repairing shoes and preaching their faith, they were eventually martyred for their faith by the Gauls. Their feast day falls on October 25th. It was on this fateful feast day in 1451 that Henry V led his poorly outnumbered rag tag troops into battle against a heavily fortified French Army.
Miraculously Henry V and his men were the victors on this particular St Crispin’s day. . .
Now I’m not saying that I advocate fighting, taking to arms, wars or marching off willy nilly into any sort of battle, but I do find that at times I need a rallying cry.
I need to be reminded that, as some days it is indeed a life of battles and the enemy does most often appear so much larger than I. . .that I need to be reminded and prodded that I have been given my marching orders. . .
That I am to, as Pope John Paul II so boldly proclaimed. . .BE NOT AFRAID!!
The LORD is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid?
WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!
KING. What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian.’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.’
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.
Henry V St Crispin Speech, William Shakespeare