Tag Archives: teenager

4 January: the Christmas Truce

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More than once I had heard the story of a Christmas Truce along the Western Front in 1914, and often as not someone would dismiss the idea. I was glad to find a book, written with the co-operation of the Imperial War Museum that makes clear that the Christmas Truce did occur*

The writers do not see the Truce as an irrelevance, rather a

‘precursor, a portent indeed, of the spirit of reconciliation now powerfully abroad as one century ends and a new age begins. From South Africa to Ireland, and perhaps most noticeably of all in the benevolent arm-in-arm relationship between France and Germany (whose deep-rooted antipathy … made the First World War virtually inevitable.’                          p vii.

They tell many stories, using diaries and other records of the time. This was reported in the Daily Telegraph as the account of a wounded French soldier:

‘he said that on the night of December 24th, the French and the Germans came out of their respective trenches and met halfway between them. They not only talked, exchanged cigarettes &c.,  but also danced together in rings.’        p 79.

There are many other accounts of how ‘we achieved what the pope (Benedict XV) could not do and in the middle of the war we had a merry Christmas.’ p 94.

Which was irrelevant: the Christmas Truce or the Great War?

Let us pray for Peace in this New Year.

*Christmas Truce by Malcolm Brown and Shirley Seaton, Pan, 2001. There are plenty of copies of this and other editions at Abe Books for less than £3.

Here is a link to the European Christmas Truce Tournament . Teenage boys from football clubs across Europe meet to play football, socialise, and visit the trenches, cemeteries and monuments of the Great War.

Photo Q 50719 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums.

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26 October: Lest ye be judged II

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I was starting a new job in a tough secondary school. My immediate superior was going through the register for my form. ‘Watch Liam,’ she said, stabbing the page with her finger, he’s a nasty piece of work.’

A few months later I returned to work after an illness. Liam it was who stood up and said, ‘Sir, you should not be here. Go home.’ He was right. He cared enough to stand up and say so. A nice lad, if he let you near enough to find out.

 

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12 May, Thursday:Young Witnesses

It is Saint Pancras’ feast today. This was the starting point for this group of blogs. His station now is a place of great beauty, cleaned, restored; endowed with new responsibilities in the shape of European, Kentish and cross-London trains.

Before this great labour of love, inspired by Sir John Betjeman whose statue forever admires the station roof, there was a Greek-owned fish and chip shop in one of the arches on the Euston Road. One day I noticed an ikon of Agios Pankras behind the counter, and pleased the server by reading the title aloud.

As exiles they must have felt close to Pancras, a Greek immigrant to Rome, a teenager caught up in the persecutions, like next month’s martyrs of Uganda. Without wishing martyrdom on any of them, we underestimate our young people and what they could do when challenged. We should recognise that they are fully alive already, and indeed prepared for life’s challenges, so they should be endowed with new responsibilities. Pancras was a martyr at 14, my parents were earning their living at 14. I taught catechism at that age, I took my turn as MC at Mass.

We risk prolonging immaturity and alienation when we extend compulsory education to what must seem like infinity to non-academically minded young people.

At least the Church could offer them a few responsible voluntary ministries, couldn’t it; couldn’t we? And who knows where will they go on to, after helping at our station for a while?

 

MMB.

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