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Friday, December 12, 2014


This Christmas Season Night as I sit alone with ghosts from my past

it occurs to me that each of us is a Silent Knight ...

A Silent Knight for whatever creed shapes our thoughts and steps.

No matter our words, it is our actions that speak for us.

Have we spoken love and forgiveness to only retort sharply at the harried store clerk who did not respond fast enough for us?

Have we scoured the stores for just the right present, the perfect gift wrap only to snap at the very ones for whom we bought it out of irritation and weariness?

Have we slaved over a king's spread of assorted recipes, only to have no appetite or warmth or patience for those for whom we prepared the delicious dishes?

If we were to glance up and see the flag of the True Creed which our actions proclaim we live by, would we cringe in disbelief?


Today books, films and Internet sites are filled with fanciful tales purporting to tell the history of "Silent Night."

Some tell of mice eating the bellows of the organ creating the necessity for a hymn to be accompanied by a guitar.

 Others claim that Joseph Mohr was forced to write the words to a new carol in haste since the organ would not play.

The German words for the original six stanzas of the carol we know as "Silent Night" were written by Joseph Mohr in 1816, 

when he was a young priest assigned to a pilgrimage church in Mariapfarr, Austria.

The fact is, we have no idea if any particular event inspired Joseph Mohr to pen his poetic version of the birth of the Christchild. 

The world is fortunate, however, that he didn't leave it behind when he was transferred to Oberndorf the following year (1817).
On December 24, 1818 Joseph Mohr journeyed to the home of musician-schoolteacher Franz Gruber 

who lived in an apartment over the schoolhouse in nearby Arnsdorf. 

He showed his friend the poem and asked him to add a melody and guitar accompaniment so that it could be sung at Midnight Mass.

His reason for wanting the new carol is unknown.

Later that evening, as the two men, backed by the choir, stood in front of the main altar in St. Nicholas Church and sang "Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!" 

for the first time, they could hardly imagine the impact their composition would have on the world.

And so,

they were Silent Knights for their God. 

As we, too, are Silent Knights for our gods: 

Esteem in the eyes of others, 


Social Status,  

World Acclaim,  

Control over Others, 

Control over Ourselves,


He who sang the universe into being.

We can hardly imagine the impact our actions, positive or caustic, 
will have on the network of fragile souls 
in our world.  

That fact should make us careful and compassionate in the days to come.

May your Christmas Season be magical and healing. 

Me and my Christmas ghosts tip our egg nog to you, 

while we listen to Enya singing "Silent Night." 

(Picture courtesy of S. Ward)


  1. Silent Night is one of my favorites. I'm toning down the Christmas festivities this year for reason you know. It feels good not to be as stressed as I usually am. (Although I am a bit stressed for other reasons.) Hope you enjoy your eggnog!

  2. D.G.:
    I sometimes think we punish ourselves by heaping too many Christmas festivities and duties upon ourselves year after year.

    Silent Night is my favorite for very personal reasons.

    Pace yourself this season and relax as much as you can. You and your husband are always in my prayers!

  3. Christmas is such a mixed occasion. For some of us it is 'the happiest season of all'. For the bereaved, the estranged, the unwell, the lonely and the poor it can be a dreadful time. With that in mind I am delaying my celebration and will spend some time on Christmas morning on the crisis line.
    Egg nog (or in my case a glass of bubbles) will not spoil for the wait.
    I hope you find peace and contentment however and whenever you celebrate.

  4. Bummer - did my comment not go through? :( Well, I did enjoy (and agree w/) your post! Have a healing Holiday season, too!

  5. Fragile souls, indeed. You write so beautifully about our human condition. Thank you for the background to Silent Night. Imagining the two men singing it for the first time brought tears to my eyes. For some reason, don't know why. Touched my heart, I guess.

  6. Elephant's Child:
    I worked at a crisis line for a time then the demands on my life increased.

    As a rare blood courier there can be no bubbles for me! Besides, I get into enough trouble totally sober!!

    Thanks for the well wishes. May peace and contentment be your Christmas companions, too. :-)

    Now, I'll always wonder what your lost comment was! May your Holiday Season be a fun one. Did you enjoy the Guardians of the Galaxy? We Are Groot!

    Perhaps it was the image of two men singing their Christmas gift to the world, believing it was such a meager thing when it was a precious gift to the whole world.

    I am sure their spirits in Heaven are touched by your tears. I am. Happy Christmas, Roland

  7. Point well taken. Our actions and words need to line up.
    Thanks for the history on the song.

  8. Alex:
    I have always loved the song, so I thought others might enjoy knowing more about it. Yes, we must walk our talk, right?

  9. An inspirational post, Roland. Thank you. This is my second Yule alone in Salem and I had a plan: community tree lighting, historic house tour, Santa's arrival on the Hawthorne Hotel, local handmade gift show, and the Boys Scout benefit wreath sale. Then my pup got sick in a hospital a thousand miles away, and I was desperate with worry. Then suddenly I was sick, too, and unable to do any of the things I'd planned. My pup stabilized. I'm getting better and hope to be 100% by December 25. There is much to be grateful for, much to appreciate, much to share. For a moment there, I forgot.

    My favorite stanza of Silent Night is the sixth. I'm sorry it's so seldom heard.

    Silent Night, Holy Night
    Mindful of mankind's plight
    The Lord in Heav'n on high decreed
    From earthly woes we would be freed

    VR Barkowski

  10. I've been very friendly to clerks everywhere I've gone. I've noticed the clerks aren't really in good spirits. That is sad. I know it's stressful working in retail this time of year, but everywhere I go, workers seem to be in a bad mood!

  11. VR:
    I am so sorry that your beloved dog and you were so ill. Being ill on Christmas is the worst. Everyone seems to bustling with good things to do and enjoy, and you are lying miserable in bed. Bah, Humbug!

    I am so glad both you and your beloved furry friend are better.

    The sixth is, indeed, often forgotten but well remembered by those who care. :-)

    You are not alone at Christmas. My thoughts and concern are hovering nearby! :-)

    Bearing the brunt of bummed-out customers all day has to really be foul. Standing on your feet at the same time for hours must really sting. I know it did when I was a teacher and then a store owner!!

    Have a healing Christmas!

  12. Hi Roland. Very moving yet deep thoughts as Christmas approaches with the beautiful carols heard and participated in at community gatherings. Loved the little history on Silent Night, one of the most beloved of Christmas hymns.

    I wish you a wonderful holiday season Roland,although I imagine it will be a very busy time for a rare blood courier.

    Greetings from across the water,

    Denise :)

  13. Season Greetings, Denise:
    Thanks for the kind words. Christmas can be very lonely or a time of quiet reflection or healing encounters.

    I wish you a wonderful holiday season, too! And you're right: no rest for rare blood couriers during the Christmas Season!! :-)