"He instinctively can find the shining greatness of our American culture and does a good job of highlighting it (although he also does have those rare lapses when he writes about hockey, but that is something caused by impurities in the Eastern waters or something)." Erik Keilholtz
Under the patronage of St. Tammany
Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
Did an angel really appear in the sky over a Belgian battlefield in August 1914 to safeguard British troops? The tale was one of the earliest and most enduring pieces of folklore from the trenches of the Great War.
Alistair Cooke recalled the story on a visit to Ground Zero following 9.11.
When, last week, I first saw what so many firemen, doctors and nurses were moving about in - the huge, raw landscape of fog and rubble and twisted steel and what we now call, without a wince, body parts - my memory immediately matched the scene with the newsreel pictures we saw 80-odd years ago every week in what to me was known as the local picturedrome - a rotted landscape, no foliage, no leaves, trees shot down to broken matchsticks in a miles-wide tangle of barbed wire decorated with body parts.
In the midst of one thundering battle there appeared in the night sky a glowing figure in a frame of blinding light.
All the thousands of soldiers saw was the figure of an angel - it became known as the Angel of Mons - and in time the sensible wisdom was that it had been seen by either the very religious or the very naïve.
But hundreds of soldiers who were neither swore they had seen in it an angel of deliverance.
A legend? Likely. Yet one recalls the exchange in Brideshead Revisited in which the skeptic Charles queries Sebastian on his faith:
"But my dear Sebastian, you can't seriously believe it all."
"I mean about Christmas and the star and the three kings and the ox and the ass."
"Oh yes, I believe that. It's a lovely idea."
"But you can't believe things because they're a lovely idea."
"But I do. That's how I believe."