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Solomon Grundy & Sudden Death

Lyle J. Arnold, Jr.
A fact virtually unknown to Catholics of both the recent pre-Conciliar and post-Conciliar Church is a poem constructed to teach children the order of the days of the week, the shortness of life, the Seven Sacraments, and how God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh.

The name “Solomon Grundy” is derived from a popular dish from the 17th century. It consisted of a variety of ingredients, including cooked meats, anchovies and pickled herrings, salad leaves and dried fruits. The poem itself was penned by the English Shakespearean scholar James Orchard Halliwell-Phillips (died 1889), who attended The College of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. John the Evangelist and the Glorious Virgin St. Radegund. (1) Instead of addressing cooking matters, as it might be expected, the poem supposes Solomon Grundy as a man and depicts his entire life as if it were passed in just one week.

James Orchard Halliwell-Phillips

English scholar James Orchard Halliwell-Phillips

Solomon Grundy.
Born on a Monday.
Christened on Tuesday.
Married on Wednesday.
Took ill on Thursday.
Grew worse on Friday.
Died on Saturday.
Buried on Sunday.
That was the end
of Solomon Grundy.

After being “Christened on Tuesday,” Our Lady and our Guardian Angels assiduously guard and protect us. But a collaboration is preordained by Divine Providence: With the cooperation of the parents and the Church, the child will be nurtured in the Faith, until he “Dies on Saturday,” hopefully in the state of grace.

Perhaps the most trenchant lesson of the poem is the shortness of life. We are born, we marry or follow our various vocations and, suddenly, death overtakes us. Looking back, it can seem like a week, not years. Death catches us, whether we like it or not, whether we are ready or not.

As Ecclesiastics tells us, “Man knoweth not his own end: but as fishes are taken with the hook, and as birds are caught with the snare, so men are taken in the evil time, when it shall suddenly come upon them.” (9: 12)

Progressivism's omission

The Poem has a fault. After Solomon Grundy is buried on Sunday, we read “And that was the end of Solomon Grundy.” In fact, it was not the end, but the beginning of eternity for Solomon Grundy, either an eternity of happiness in Heaven or punishment in Hell.

The “four last things” (death, judgment, heaven, hell) used to be taught to all Catholics, young and old, until the post-conciliar Church dispensed with this vital teaching.

Death can come in an instant, from one strike of the clock's dial to the next. Hence this omission is a calamity of the first rank, causing souls to be unprepared for death, which is the most crucial event in the life cycle.

Below, I list six incidents that dramatize how death can surprise a man. Three of these unexpected deaths were internationally known, the other three were local, but all six of them illustrate death coming unexpectedly with lightening-like suddenness.

an explosion of a spacecraft

The Challenger explodes before the eyes of an astonished world

2-21-1967: Apollo I, the first manned lunar landing program. Cabin fire during a launch rehearsal killed all three pilots. Seventeen seconds after the first report of the fire, senior pilot Roger Chaffee's voice was heard screaming “I'm burning up!”

1-28-1986: Challenger Space Shuttle. The shuttle broke apart 73 seconds into its flight and all seven astronauts aboard were killed.

2-1-2003: Columbia Space Shuttle, which launched on January 16. When the shuttle re-entered earth's atmosphere on February 1, damage caused by the breaking off of a piece of fuel tank foam insulation caused the shuttle to disintegrate, leaving all seven aboard dead.

9-6-2008: Police officer Sgt. Paul Starzyk of Martinez, California was killed by bullet that entered above the front plating of his bullet-proof vest, a “one in a million shot” that pierced his neck.

1-21-2014: A BART officer (California transit police) was killed by a single round that passed through a small gap in his bullet-proof vest.

8-26-2014: Bryce Dion, from the TV series “Cops,” was killed by a single bullet that “slipped into a gap” in his bullet-proof vest.

All are examples of unexpected deaths. It was not, however, the end for these persons. Each one then faced that decisive moment of Judgment, when he stands before God to know his eternal destiny. The real meaning of life is found here.

It is written that in life, every man or woman must face problems “awful with finality.” (Farell and Healy, My Way of Life). To face these “awful” problems, God gave us His Church to teach us lovingly the way of life, that we may attain the end for which He made us.

Woe, then, to a progressivist Church that has abandoned its responsibility because of its willful neglect on the crucial teaching on the Last Things. For it, life is no more than the Solomon Grundy nursery tale, only it adds a few optimistic words: Buried on Sunday and then to Heaven…

  1. Albert Jack, Pop Goes the Weasel — The Secret Meanings of Nursery Rhymes,” NY: Perigee Books, 2008, pp. 176-178.

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Posted September 24, 2014

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