Future Priests of the Third Millennium

A little insight into the life of seminarians from various dioceses preparing for ministry as Roman Catholic priests, including daily activities, personal interests, special events, the spiritual life, news from the seminary, and almost whatever comes to our minds!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Irons in the Fire

As a person constantly interested in the origin of words and phrases, I can remember musing on certain expressions thematically linked by similar vocabulary. Consider the traditional exhortation, which I realize some may never have heard or used, "strike while the iron is hot." My grandmother is fond of saying, "I have too many irons in the fire." I presume these both have something to do with blacksmithing but for years I was picturing an iron one would use to press clothes.

I used the phrases anyway. Chesterton observed that we have this tendency to use phrases, even words, that recall metaphors and allusions entirely lost. I've said to several people here since the year started that I have "too many irons in the fire" and they all seem to understand though I know of none who actually have entered a blacksmith's shop.

Speaking of Chesterton, another tradition of mine for the autumn which is nearly upon us (it has gotten rather brisk outside over the last few days) is the reading of Chesterton's Ballad of the White Horse, a piece of poetry I would recommend to anyone for multiple reads. This book-length poem tells the story of Alfred holding England against a Danish (think vikings) invasion and contains the less than perfectly consoling exhortation of The Virgin Mary to Alfred through a vision:

"The wise men know all evil things
Under the Twisted Trees,
Where the perverse in pleasure pine
And men are weary of green wine
And sick of crimson seas.

"But and all the kind of Christ
are ignorant and brave,
And you have wars you hardly win
And souls you hardly save.

"I tell you naught for your comfort,
Yea, naught for your desire,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher.

"Night shall be thrice night over you,
And heaven an iron cope.
Do you have joy without a cause,
Yea, faith without a hope?"