"Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon." ~ G.K. Chesterton
Deo gratias! We enjoyed a successful and bountiful gathering for our St. George Festival at Fatima Farm this past weekend, with a great turnout of families and friends. There was an obstacle course set up with competitive games, including a running race along the wooded trail, scaling a wall, traversing the waters of a shallow creek, clambering up and through a steep and undergrowth-entangled ditch, crawling under a low bridge and also a log tunnel, throwing axes, shooting arrows, hauling a "battering ram" to throw over a fence, leaping over the gaga pit borders, racing through the pine woods and then up the drive carrying a pine pole lance while being pelted with pine cones to finish at the "dragon" (the huge mulch pile) in which to thrust a fatal blow while crying out "Christus Vincit!!" The top times for the course, two boys and two girls, one per age group, received a St. George or St. Joan of Arc blessed medal. It is good sport and enjoyable play, and yet we enjoy it all the more since we believe that dragons really are real, and Christ really is the Victor.
Importantly, we were given a chance to revel in the freedom of life that arises, apparently, from an engagement of the real order of things, sourced and graced by none other than heaven above. Last year our revelers actually dodged thunder and hailstorms to join us for this feast, and we ended up indoors for the play, but nonetheless we all agreed it was a blessed engagement and stood amazed at how the storms were interspersed with timely windows to allow us to do everything we had planned after all. This time, we were fortunate to have good, bright, sunny (but not too warm), clear-skied weather with a refreshing breeze blowing through the lush green and springy verdure, and it seemed the children (and adults) might run and sing all day. And, a favorite aspect, we welcomed souls of all ages who partook with good wills in the running, in the singing, in the praying and sharing of good food - a welcomed time of peace, the Easter Octave brimming over with Paschal happiness, in a retreat away from a troubled world. During the short play of the story of St. George, we were happy to have a talented young tenor take the role as minstrel and lead the featured Non Nobis Domine, definitely adding a more fully dramatic and inspiring effect to the production. Another highlight was the debut of a "Fatima Farm" themed song our daughter composed and performed, met with heart-warmed smiles and happy applause, which will be shared more broadly soon. May God grant us many more good times and aid us on our pilgrimage as we seek His will and strive to recognize the better portion during this earthly travail!
Recently, while the whole family was outdoors - most engaged in work preparing the garden beds and doing fence work, though some of the boys were using the back field as a golf course - the neighbor's young golden retriever got loose and bounded over and wrought havoc upon our chickens and our peaceful afternoon.
The dog, essentially a big puppy in the guise of a full grown canine, really only wanted to play, but for the fowl she was a terrible surprise and for the family she created an unexpected streak of chaos. Barking and racing around, she scattered the hens wildly and, pell-mell, they took off in every direction - over the field, to the woodshed and barn, behind the garage, at least one to the top of the coop, into the woods, flapping and squawking and seeking cover, though in the end the dog only had eyes for the rooster, which ultimately we found appropriate. Perhaps his size and color made him an easy target, but he also didn't flee. Instead, placing himself relatively between the perceived predator and his birds, he took the full force of the dog's attack. Several times the dog pounced and pinned him, jaws around his neck - and though he escaped the dog's clutches at least twice he was quickly nabbed again each time, to the yells and screams and loud exclamations of adults and children alike as they scrambled in attempts to stop the dog. It all happened very quickly and ended only when the neighbor raced in and threw himself on the dog in a crazy tackle, and our oldest daughter grabbed up the poor rooster, all of us fearing the worst. The rooster is normally not one to approach or try to pet - he is a shameless backstabber at times in fact if you appear to threaten his domain - but now he was tame, wide-eyed but still in his exhaustion, breathing hard and cooing like a mourning dove in our daughter's arms while we checked him over for injury. Miraculously, he was relatively unscathed but for the good portion of feathers left behind in the field. We spent the next hour searching the property for the scattered chickens, coaxing them back with calls, flushing them out of hiding, and chasing them down to catch and tote back to the coop. Ginger went missing completely but not forever - we searched deeper into the woods and prayed to St. Anthony and depended on our Holy Mother and hoped she would return before roosting time, and then she just appeared, having emerged from whatever hiding place, waiting in all patience and politeness by the pen gate for someone to let her in (apparently too tired to hop over).
When all was said and done, we were impressed by the rooster for simply doing his job. We wished he'd given the dog a good scratch, but nevertheless his crow rang out in the setting of the sun that day, all the chickens safely at home to roost around him. It was an experience you don't have every day, and at the risk of making too much of the episode, it was a glad moment of chivalry and a reminder of an older order of things, when the gallant knights of Chaucer's tales, Arthurian legend, or like Gilgamesh or Sir Gawain or St. George himself, inflict with full willingness upon themselves the risk of death for the sake of another, to vanquish a foe or slay the dragon who threatens all that is holy, good, pure, innocent, worthy, free - by the code of the highest ideal. Gallant - the word we use to describe the knight, evoking ideas of bravery, chivalry, heroism, courtesy - comes from the Latin gallus, for rooster. Our little experience was a welcome one in an age when heroes have been made of the most pathetic and self-centered of incapable characters - the warped and sorry, misguided notion of the unlikely hero of ages gone by. Somehow, sometimes, we see an innate sense of something like manly valor imprinted upon - and shown most readily by - the merest of creatures, who are not endowed with a rational soul but nevertheless serve to model, if they fulfill the goodness of their nature, God's ways. God grant us the insight and grace to fulfill our own good nature, and give us brave knights who will stand at all risk, unflinching in the face of possible demise, to protect those in their charge and care who depend upon such courage!
On this little homestead our family aspires to work the land and hand on the Catholic Tradition, walking in wonder and learning to live by the fruits of our labor, in honor of Our Lady of Fatima, who guides us to Him.