Saturday, December 23, 2006

Old Woolen Cap (Old City Bar, Paul O'Neill)

Well, it's been quite a year. Quite a month, too, in which I felt far more frazzled than I would like and have often found myself questioning my purpose in this world. I took a M*A*S*H personality survey a while back that determined the character I most resembled was Father Mulcahy. At the time, I was a bit disappointed I didn't get Radar, who's always been my favorite character on that show, which is one of the dearest to my heart. But the more I think about it, the more I think I am like Father Mulcahy, timid, mousy, well-intentioned but with a task far more nebulous than that of a surgeon or a company clerk. His job is ministry, but it's hard to measure the impact he has, hard to know if he's making any difference at all.

This filksong is in essence a retelling of the episode Dear Sis, which is creeping up to become possibly my all-time favorite episode of M*A*S*H. It's a tribute to Father Mulcahy and all those like him - and who hasn't questioned his or her usefulness now and again? But the important thing is that we persevere, doing whatever we feel is right and good for us to do as best we can. It's to the tune of Trans-Siberian Orchestra's Old City Bar, a gorgeous song that makes epic a small moment of human kindness.

May the end of the year be a blessed one for all of you, and here's to renewed inspiration and purpose in the coming year and all those that follow.

Old Woolen Cap

In the midst of a war
The doctors deplored
For the lives that were shattered
As boys became men,
Sat a chaplain, contrite,
Huddled sadly to write
A note to his sister,
Confessing his sin.

This war's toll was appalling.
The Father was falling
A victim to thoughts of inadequacy.
Surrounded by pain, he
Implored to see plainly
That he had brought light to someone in misery.

He was seething inside
When he fruitlessly tried
To subdue a young man
Enraged to the core.
When the boy dealt a blow,
The priest punched him, and so
Was filled with remorse,
And he loathed himself more

Agony stained his face
As he begged God for grace,
So he was a sad sight
At the party that night
Till the new guy in town,
Who'd been wearing a frown,
Got the gift the priest said
The clerk ought to send 'round.

Standing by, so beguiling,
Young Radar was smiling,
And Charles, who had spurned his superior air,
Said, eyes spilling over,
"You saved me. You lowered
A bucket into the well of my despair.
And you raised me up, Father, to the light of day."
Father John was so touched, didn't know what to say.
So he mused to himself, wholly humbled and awed,
How this old woolen cap brought his message from God.

And in this distant place, though he'd felt grim defeat,
Christmas never had tasted so filling and sweet.
Father John felt the light of that first Christmas star,
Unencumbered by doubts that had plagued him thus far.
He was only a man,
And he sometimes did wrong,
But at last he knew that he belonged.

Gentle Father Mulcahy,
On that winter's day,
Realized his importance and pledged to hold fast.
He silently savored
The fruits of his labor,
Having found in himself a good shepherd at last.

As the grateful priest smiled,
He remained unaware
That the Lord wasn't done
With His answer to prayer.
Then he heard as Hawkeye
Raised his voice and his drink
In a toast to a guy
Who helped souls not to sink.

And he lauded the way
Father John Patrick spread
Decency, how his strength
Helped disperse gloom and dread.
He called for a prayer
They sang earnestly:
"Dona nobis pachem."
Give us peace, give us peace.

As the snow began falling,
The wounded came calling.
While "give us peace" lingered like frost in the air,
The priest carried on. God had shown John
How a meek chaplain might lift a soul from despair.

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