The Song: "Lullaby of London," The Pogues. Words & Music by Shane MacGowan. Track 11 of If I Should Fall From Grace With God, 1987.
How/when acquired: Illegally copied cassette tape, 1989. (Purchased import CD, 1997.)
We live in a world of marvels and wonders, if we let ourselves pay attention and believe it. The Catholic Church doesn't talk much about angels any more, but today is the feast of St. Michael the Archangel, who by tradition has primary responsibility for defending us from "the wickedness and snares of the devil."
"Angel," of course, is a feeble human attempt to explain the fact that sometimes forces we don't understand seem to be looking out for us. The Catholic Catechism quotes St. Augustine: "'Angel' is the name of their office, not of their nature. If you seek the name of their nature, it is 'spirit'; if you see the name of their office, it is 'angel': from what they are, 'spirit,' from what they do, 'angel.'"
Although I'm sure I heard this album earlier, it imprinted itself on me during a snowy weekend in Williamsburg in February 1989, during a visit to my friends Scott and Nancy. We played board games and hung out at the Green Leafe and watched college basketball and listened to this album more or less in a continuous loop. I was newly single, baffled and at sea; what I had were good friends and the unjustified but unshakable suspicion that I was going to be fine.
And I was. And I am. The angels probably get some credit for that; according to St. Basil (also quoted in the Catechism), "Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life."
On a related subject, the extraordinary Claire Bea will be making her national television debut on "Jeopardy!" tonight. Check your local listings for details, but in the meantime, you can see her "Hometown Howdy" here.