I’m struggling with Sunday at present.  I get very emotional about the remembering thing – maybe because I’ve lived most of my life with strutting and posturing nationalisms and I detest them.  Done the war poets – I think I’ll go back to Sebastian Faulks’ Birdsong which remains the very best for me – the passage where the young soldiers write letters home on the eve of battle …


  1. Thanks again – I read two extracts from Birdsong, woven into my address about honouring sacrifice, remembering our history, but not glorifying the victories or the circumstances. A humble sermon really, but greatly improved by Faulks’ lovely writing.

  2. Over here we call it Veteran’s Day and use it to honor the living who have served, we do the remembering (or at least we *should*) of those who gave all on Memorial Day (30 May observed on the last Monday in May).

  3. As for the monastery .. I don’t know about Benedict but ‘learning to live with yourself so that you can live with others’ seems pretty well to cover it.

  4. The Birdsong piece is on page 177-8: ‘Tomorrow we will know if we will be seeing each other again one day’ I had forgotten the roll call on page 190 when only 155 of 800 answer to their names – and he launches into a wonderful, angry and very poetic passage: ‘the children who would have been born …left ungenerated in their fathers’ shattered flesh that lay in stinking shell holes …’

  5. As you’re nearly freshly back from the monastery,you might consider what Benedict’s view of the whole thing might have been? Just a thought… I’d be interested…

  6. I too find it a difficult day all right – especially now when faced with the massed ranks of those whose grandfathers were not all on the same side.

  7. Having recently read ‘Birdsong’ for the first time, I am most definitely going to use it this Sunday. Although I did toy with using the passage you mention I finally decided on the role call after they had gone over the top.

  8. What page is that on? A couple of years back I used Pat Barker’s Regeneration (Volume 3) the bit at the end where the soldier is dying and keeps repeating a word no-one understands, until at last his father realises he’s saying “It’s not worth it..”. It had the effect of honouring the sacrifices made while not glorifying the setting.

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