A Christmas Song for Three Guilds: An Analysis (Part 1)

Garrett begins an analysis of Chesterton’s poem, “A Christmas Song for Three Guilds”.

What does Advent mean to us, on a personal level? How does this brief season, where we prepare for the coming of Jesus, relate to how we live our lives for the rest of the year? Before the dawn of Advent proper, we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, where we recognize the sovereignty of Jesus in our lives, in preparation for his coming as the newborn king. But many find this idea of Jesus as ‘King’ problematic – in a democratic era, kingship can easily be seen as something oppressive and tyrannical. Therefore in this Advent season, I’d like to turn to G.K. Chesterton’s poem A Christmas Song for Three Guilds, which I believe suggests a much more egalitarian idea of the Kingdom of God than we are likely to picture.

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Placing the Inn Keeper in the Advent Narrative

Chris shares a bit more about the inn-keeper in the Advent narrative and wonders whether all of us are sometimes inn-keepers towards the Holy Family as well.

“While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”  – Luke 2:6-7

I often wonder how Joseph must have felt when he received the news that there was “no place” for him and his pregnant wife from the innkeeper. Having travelled so many hours, in probably harsh and treacherous conditions, Joseph must have experienced immense disappointment, frustration and anger. Joseph possibily even panicked. Did he have a backup plan? He and his wife could not possibily stay on the streets right? And how about pregnant Mary? Surely traveling in her physical state must have been awfully tiring and painful. I wonder whether she cried out in helplessness upon hearing that there was “no place” for her and her husband. I wonder whether Joseph and Mary felt hopelessness and despair. Is it not interesting, then, to briefly ponder about how the Advent story – the often overly-cherry, merry-making and consumerist-laden narrative – began as a tale of rejection? On hindsight, would the innkeeper have created space and made room for Jesus, Mary and Joseph, should he have realised that he was actually rejecting the Holy Family?

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Playing Herod: An Advent Reflection

Garrett reflects on what we can learn from Herod’s bad example as we move into the Advent season.

Last December, I went with a group of Catholic university friends on a mission trip to Cambodia, to an education centre run by the Marist brothers. I remember vividly one item on the agenda in particular: to put up a Nativity play to entertain the kids. It was at our lodging one night when the director of the play announced the roles, after discussing with the trip leader. And lo and behold, the director revealed, yours truly was to play Herod.

Now, I admit I’ve always been somewhat thin-skinned and sensitive, so my first instinct was hurt and shock at being asked to play the ‘villain’ of the Nativity story. But as I prepared for the role, and looking back on that time with the benefit of hindsight, I find myself having to accept an uncomfortable truth – that old Herod and I may have more than a little in common. As we draw nearer to Advent once again, I offer this short reflection in the hope that it may provide some insight into the common pitfalls that may occur as we prepare ourselves spiritually for the birth of Our Lord.

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Make a Holiness Check! Tabletop RPGs and the Faith

Garrett writes on Table-Top RPGs, Imagination, and Moral and Spiritual Development.

A while back I came across a Reddit post by a user with the wonderful online moniker ‘Stirfriar’. Introducing himself as a Franciscan Friar, he went on to describe the many amazing experiences he and his brothers in the friary had while playing tabletop role-playing games in their leisure time.

These aren’t the RPGs one might think of – videogames like Fallout or Skyrim. Rather, these are more like elaborate boardgames – though not necessarily requiring a board. Dungeons and Dragons is the most popular example of such games, but there are many other examples. The basic setup is that a group of players come together, each controlling a single character. One player is designated the ‘Game Master’, and they are in charge of coming up with a story that involves the players, controlling any other characters in the game. There is a game mechanic for deciding the outcomes of player actions, – usually rolling dice – but I’ve seen playing cards used as well, and these successes and failures move the story a long.

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Creating Space for God

Chris shares about the importance of carving out time to reconnect, recalibrate and recenter one’s life in God’s love.

Lately, I’m noticing an invitation to actively create space and make myself available for God in my life. The availability that I actively consent to, the willingness to sit with my inner restlessness and resist the constant (and inordinate) desire to do something (for God, for the church, for ministry-related activities etc. in a knee-jerk and sporadic manner), better allows me to cooperate with God’s divine grace and trust in His perfect timing. Continue reading “Creating Space for God”

Faith and Horror Stories

Garrett muses on the appeal of horror stories, and the corresponding spiritual implications.

One curious fact about myself is that whenever I feel lost, or not in control of my life, I suddenly become an avid reader of horror stories. Though I generally prefer more cheerful types of fiction, as soon as my life takes a turn downwards, I find myself turning to stories of fear and hopelessness, until the my day-to-day commitments start to look a little hopeless too. Without excusing my own laziness and apathy, I thought it would be worth examining why horror stories have such a wide appeal, and also how that relates to us humans as spiritual creatures.

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A Letter to St. Francis Xavier

Garrett shares his appreciation to St. Francis Xavier, a co-founder of the Society of Jesus, responsible for bringing Catholicism to Goa, India, Southeast Asia and Japan.

Dear Francis Xavier,

I’d like to start this letter with a bit of a confession. Although I selected ‘Francis’ as my confirmation name, I did not exactly have you in mind when I chose it. Back then, I was drawn to the radical simplicity of Saint Francis of Assisi – I still am, although I have found, as he did, that it doesn’t always suit everyone.

It’s been almost a decade since my confirmation, but in that time, I’ve learnt about a few other Saint Francises, and come to admire them all. There’s Francis de Sales – the patron saint of writers, who I obviously felt an immediate affinity to. Also, I learned about your fellow Jesuit, Francis Borgia, who was a Spanish noble and the white sheep of a family who used the Catholic Church as a means to satisfy their own lusts and greed.

And then of course, there is you.

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