Hallowed Halls, A Tidbit of Memoir

American Actor Ed Begley, Sr. (1901-1970)

Ed Begley was an American actor of theatre, radio, film, and television. He won an Academy Award for his performance in the film Sweet Bird of Youth in 1962 and appeared in such classics as 12 Angry Men and the Unsinkable Molly Brown. He was nominated for an Emmy Award for his portrayal of Matthew Harrison Brady in a television adaptation of Inherit the Wind. He is the father of actor and environmental activist Ed Begley Jr. MORE [Wikipedia]



In fact, it’s some fifty-six years ago now, around 1963, perhaps around the time that Mr. Begley won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as Boss Finley in Sweet Bird of Youth.  He showed up one Sunday afternoon to visit a relative at our convent-affiliated school in Brentwood, New York. In those days, male or female, you had to “dress” to come on the grounds. That meant men had to wear a suit, white shirt, and a tie.  It was spring and Mr. Begley came wearing a loud island-print shirt and a big mischievous smile. Sister Regina Celeste, C.S.J. who was Directress (school principal), and who we called (not to her face) “Rexy” for her bulldog tenacity, was not pleased or impressed. I stood outside the chapel and watched and listened as these two accomplished adults, influential in very different spheres, negotiated one another. Clearly neither was awed by the other’s credentials.

Sister was tight-lipped and firm. Mr. Begley laughed but was polite. She indicated a choice: leave and come back properly dressed . . . or just leave. He said something soothing, I think, but I don’t remember what. Then he reached into a pocket, pulled out a roll of bills, and handed off quite a few to her. She raised her eyebrows and pocketed the money. She walked away with a stiff back, prayer beads clacking, and a reminder that next time he needed to come dressed like a gentleman.

The lesson I learned from Mr. Begley: money talks. The lesson I learned from Sister: flex. Weigh the pragmatic against policy. I’m sure the school operated in the red, forever in need of books, supplies, and repairs.

It’s likely that neither Sister nor Mr. Begley realized that one young student was watching, listening, and taking it in, but I was . . .

School days

And then there’s the idealistic poetry of our school song (below). It’s been a lifetime, but it still brings tears to my eyes, as does the memory of the community itself. In the ’60s when the second wave of the women’s movement was in high-gear advocating for – among many other things – opportunities for women in the higher echelons of business, industry, government and social services, this was something that was easy for me to envision. The first C.E.O. I ever met wasn’t a man.  It was Reverend Mother Immaculata Maria, C.S.J. Superior General of the Sisters of St. Joseph, overseer of a community that included the mother house (the main convent), novitiate, a college, elementary and high schools around the U.S., a “chapel” (more like a small church), a convalescent hospital for older nuns, a dairy farm, an apple orchard, and stables.  She administered as broadly diverse an organization as any male C.E.O. I’ve met or worked with since. 

How sacred are thy hallowed halls, oh Brentwood,
A century of learning has combined
With culture, truth and beauty here to form us,
That we may mirror Christ, in heart and mind.

In struggle and defeat –
In joy and gladness –
In every hour of triumph or despair,
May all the lessons Brentwood’s love has taught us,
Bear fruit in holy living, everywhere.

May girlhood’s dreams, and all its dear ambitions,
Be every shrined within our grateful hearts.
To cast their glow on every path we travel,
‘Till age erases time and life departs.

In struggle and defeat –
In joy and gladness –
In every hour of triumph or despair,
May all the lessons Brentwood’s love has taught us,
Bear fruit in holy living, everywhere.

– Sr. Regina Celeste, C.S.P.
© The Sisters of St. Joseph, Brentwood, LI, NY

Two videos, should you be inclined to watch:  The first is a tribute to Ed Begley, Sr.  The second is an intro to the Sisters of St. Joseph. Sadly, the school I attended has gone the way of all things.

If you are reading this post from an email subscription, you will likely have to link through to the site to view the videos.

Note “Reconciliation” as used in the video below: The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (commonly called Confession) is one of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church (called sacred mysteries in the Eastern Catholic Churches), in which the faithful obtain absolution for the sins committed against God and neighbor and are reconciled with the community of the Church.


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Blind like us … Two by Charles Hamilton Sorely

CHARLES HAMILTON SORLEY (1895 - 1915)
Charles Hamilton Sorely (1895 – 1915)

A version of this post that I put together several years ago and published elsewhere keeps coming up in the stats for that site, a few people each week popping by to read it … and so I read the poems again myself.  Seems we have to learn the same lessons over and over. What Sorely writes still applies …

SUCH, SUCH IS DEATH (1915)

Such, such is Death: no triumph: no defeat:
Only an empty pail, a slate rubbed clean,
A merciful putting away of what has been.
And this we know: Death is not Life, effete,
Life crushed, the broken pail. We who have seen
So marvellous things know well the end not yet.
Victor and vanquished are a-one in death:
Coward and brave: friend, foe. Ghosts do not say,
“Come, what was your record when you drew breath?”
But a big blot has hid each yesterday
So poor, so manifestly incomplete.
And your bright Promise, withered long and sped,
Is touched, stirs, rises, opens and grows sweet
And blossoms and is you, when you are dead.

TO GERMANY (1914)

You are blind like us. Your hurt no man designed,
And no man claimed the conquest of your land.
But gropers both through fields of thought confined
We stumble and we do not understand.
You only saw your future bigly planned,
And we, the tapering paths of our own mind,
And in each other’s dearest ways we stand,
And hiss and hate. And the blind fight the blind.

When it is peace, then we may view again
With new-won eyes each other’s truer form
And wonder. Grown more loving-kind and warm
We’ll grasp firm hands and laugh at the old pain,
When it is peace. But until peace, the storm
The darkness and the thunder and the rain.

– Charles Hamilton Sorely

Charles Hamilton Sorley was born in Aberdeen in 1894. He was the son of a professor of moral philosophy at Aberdeen University.  When the First World War was declared in August 1914, Sorley enlisted in the British Army. He joined the Suffolk Regiment and after several months training he became Lieutenant Sorly was sent to the Western Front. Sorley arrived in France in May 1915 and after three months was promoted to captain. He was killed by a sniper at the Battle of Loos on October 13, 1915, leaving just thirty-seven poems completed. Sorley’s posthumously published book, Marlborough and Other Poems was as popular and critical success when it was published in 1916. [A more comprehensive bio is provided by the Poetry Foundation HERE.]

Photo credit ~ Charles Hamilton Sorely dated c. 1914/1915. The photo was first published in 1918. The poems came out in 1919 and are excerpts from Marlborough and Other Poems by Charles Hamilton SorelyYou can read the entire book on or download it from Internet Archives HERE.

You Left to Pirouette on the Moon

800px-Pointe_shoe_ribbonsyou left one winter day to balancé on sunbeams
and pirouette on the moon, artfully swirling
lunar dust and scattering it over our dreams,
sparking our lives with your memory, your love
a legacy of dance for tiny ballerinas

…………see us now . . . 
as well-worn as your old toe shoes

© 2015, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; Photo credit ~ pointe shoes by Lambtron via Wikipedia under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license