An Alternative “Toast tae the Lassies”

My more traditional option here.

Robert Burns, the Scots Bard, is well-known for his love of women, a love that got him into trouble at Ayr’s local kirk and produced at least one bastard child.  As a result, it is a tradition common to the dinners held in his honour at the commemoration of his birthday across the world to provide a toast to the “fairer” sex.

Yet might I take a moment to toast not just lassies in general, who are certainly a species of creature worth toasting, but to those lassies most worthy of a toast?  Might I turn our attention from the more carnal taste of Burns to the more spiritual taste of the saints?

Indeed, throughout the history of Christianity, strong women have been a force to be reckoned with.  They have been on the front lines of evangelisation, of work amongst the poor, of medicine and hospitals, of hospitality, of generosity, of pilgrimage, of mysticism.  Yet too often they are forgotten — indeed, even I have failed in over a year of “Weekly Saints” to make a female saint the topic for the week.  Nevertheless, the power of women in Christianity is something not to be forgotten, from the Blessed Virgin our “Champion Leader” to Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Let us toast first, then, the Mother of Our Lord, St. Mary of Nazareth.  She stands out not only as the only person to carry God in her womb, but also as the first person in a series of biblical calls to avoid making excuses and say in response to God’s call, “Let it be unto me according to your will.”  Faith and obedience to God’s call are our lessons from the Supersaint Godbearer.  To Mary!

A toast is also in order to Perpetua, the second-century martyress who stood firm in her faith and faced execution at the hands of Rome boldly, even wrestling with demons while she awaited her death.  Endurance and fortitude in the face of extreme unpleasantness are our lessons from St. Perpetua.  To Perpetua!

Third, I propose a toast to Amma Syncletica the fourth-century Desert Mother of Egypt, if for no other reason than this quotation: “Just as the most bitter medicine drives out poisonous creatures so prayer joined to fasting drives evil thoughts away.”  For encouraging us to pray and to fast in the bitter struggle against our own evil desires, a toast to Syncletica!

Slàinte mhath to St. Hilda of Whitby (my post here), who founded an abbey and used discernment to seek out the talents the Lord hid away in people like Caedmon.  May we all have true insight into the world around us.  To Hilda!

A toast to St. Clare of Assisi (my post here).  This intrepid mystic followed the call of God against the pressures of family and hearth — a difficult task for anyone whose family is Christian (to reject pagans is one thing, but to turn your back on your Christian parents another).  Would that more Christians had the boldness to follow the call of God to difficult places and a life of prayer regardless of what others think of them.  To Clare!

I propose a toast to Lady Julian of Norwich (my page here), the mystic anchorite who has shown so many of us something of the depths of the riches of the love of God Almighty for us.  May we, too, seek God’s face in prayer and spread his message of love to the world around us.  To Julian!

A toast is definitely in order to Susannah Wesley, mother of John and Charles, who, in a household full of loud children, sought the Lord at all times — even if it was just under the kitchen table.  She also has the distinction of having raised two of the eighteenth centuries great men of faith.  To Susannah!

Given the limits of time, let us remember Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who demonstrated heroic virtue in seeking Christ in the lowest of the low and the poorest of the poor in Calcutta, who moved beyond the confines of her nunnery to bring Christ where he was needed.  May we all be willing to go out of our comfort zones as we live for Christ.  To Teresa!

These few women and the many more who have populated Christianity from its earliest days as (allegedly) a faith of women and slaves are worthy of a toast.  May we live up to their examples of obedience to God, of faithfulness, of perseverance in prayer, of discernment, of willingness to go beyond the usual, of visions of God’s love, of the pursuit of God in everyday life, of heroic virtue seeking Christ in all places!

To the lassies of Christ!  Lang may their lum reek!


Toast to the Lassies

Yesterday was Robbie Burns’ 250th birthday.  On Saturday, at the best Burns dinner I’ve ever attended, I delivered the following toast to the lassies:

The toast to the lassies is an ancient and venerable tradition. So is beginning a speech with a joke.  Sae afore the actual toastin, here’s a joke:

A woman is looking to re-enter the work force, now that her kids are all grown up. But before applying anywhere she goes tae the doctors’ fae a wee physical before takin’ oan a new joab. When she returns her hubby notices she’s just bustin’ wi’ pride and all chuffed.

So he says, “What’s all this about?”

She says, “I’ve just been tae the doctors’ and  he said I’ve got the body of a twenty year old, and the heart of a 16 year old”.

To which her hubby fires back…”What about your 50 year old ass?”

“Your name never came up.” She replies.  (Joke from Scottish Jokes.)

The first lassie to toast is none other than our hostess, Jessica, who shares her birthday with the bard himself.  Many thanks to you for planning and preparing this event for us to come and celebrate bonnie Scotland’s national poet!  The warmth of the hospitality as well as the pleasures to be had amongst good friends and pleasant conversation have made this a night to please Robbie, I’m sure, unlike some of the stuffier Burns events that don’t resemble the sort of rollicking good time he was known to enjoy.

Well, first of all, allow me to extend my thanks to ye for preparing the tonight’s bounty.  We have dined well, and I believe that Burns himself would have been proud of the evening’s repast—though perhaps with a bit more scotch. Now, Burns was fond of the lassies, oft-captured by the enchantments of Clarinda, Jean, Anna, Kate, and the numerous unnamed “Bonnie Lasses” of his poetry.  No doubt their enchantment arose from more than their cooking and baking skills, be they ever so delightful!  Indeed, I myself am glad to live in an age wherein the lassies are regarded for more than their domestic skills and beauty—not that I have anything against domestic skills or beauty, either, judging from my choice of wife.  For the enchantment of lassies comes from minds that think and imaginations that dream.  I have had the enormous pleasure of befriending many a lass, from Highland dancers to the literary to the literary Highland dancers (one of whom is working on a PhD in English) to the dancing literary ones to those versed in ancient languages and those who are able not only be strong intellectually but unafraid emotionally.  Nae dout, ye lassies, here forgaithered this forenicht and those oot and aboot in the warld, are an enchantin breed. To quote Rabbie Burns:

“What signifies the life o’ man,
An’ ’twere na for the lasses O”

And so I give the toast to the lassies!   To the lassies!