Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A little medieval English Christmas

This'll do y'all good.

Maddy Pryor will forever remind me of my Anglican friends in Halifax, some of the best Christians and most fun humans I've ever come across. Wacky, sherry-sipping, Ancient Greek-speaking, Boethius-reading, hymn-singin Christian loons, to a man.


I appear to be losing my mind... had it here a second ago...

I think it's in the sofa cushions, which is probably where my sensus fidelium got to.

Was just reading Chris's new thing at the Remnant on ... that document... and suddenly a song started playing in my head with a voice...

The JOY of the NEW Church reaches out in JOY! to the glorious newness of the NEW and JOYful world!

No more sourpuss "doctrine" or "discipline". Frownyface! Eh?

No no no! We must attract the world! Embrace the world as brothers in JOY!


Monday, December 23, 2013

When is a parable not a parable?

When it's a historical documentation of something that really happened. Something we usually call "the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes" or sometimes the "feeding of the 5000". Something that didn't have anything to do with "sharing". [Hint: it was a prefigurement of something... something important...]

(1:56) "The parable of the loaves and fishes teaches us exactly this; that if there is a will, what we have never ends."

Err... what?

Slip of the tongue, perhaps?

No, it's a reading from a prepared text that someone, presumably someone Catholic, has written and proofed.

This "loaves n'fishes = sharing n'caring" business is one old, wrinkly dried up chestnut from the apostates...err... I mean "liberal Catholics", intended to desacralise the Faith, deny the existence of miracles and possibly even reduce Christ Himself to a kind of humanistic mind-reader. This notion was first invented by a German Protestant named Rudolph Bultmann (1884-1976) who popularized it in order to deny the reality of miracles as supernatural events and ultimately the Divine nature of Christ.

Here it is described by someone on Catholic Answers, not exactly a bastion of "crypto-lefabvrianism".

One Sunday I visited a parish in another city and learned something new. The multiplication of loaves didn’t really happen. The greedy people following Jesus in the wilderness had loaves and fishes stuffed up under their robes. The disciples didn’t know about this surplus of hidden food, but this parish priest did!

Although the priest said he was taught in seminary that Jesus kept pulling bread and fish out of the basket, he learned the real truth from the natives in Mexico. They taught him that the Gospel writers misunderstood what really happened. What really happened is that Jesus preached to the crowd about caring and sharing and they responded by bringing out food from under their robes that they had been hiding from each other. Once everyone learned how to share, there was plenty for everyone with twelve basketfuls left over.

Sound familiar?

"Psst... Holy Father, real Catholics believe that was a real miracle, and always have."


The Credo of Uncertainty

Let's do a little compare and contrast, shall we? (HT and thanks for hints, tips and links to Elliot)

“In me there was no harbor for doubt. Jesus came, and my trust in God has grown by the doubts of men.”
St. Ignatius Loyola.

“[In the] quest to seek and find God in all things there is still an area of uncertainty. There must be. If a person says that he met God with total certainty and is not touched by a margin of uncertainty, then this is not good. For me, this is an important key. If one has the answers to all the questions — that is the proof that God is not with him. It means that he is a false prophet using religion for himself. The great leaders of the people of God, like Moses, have always left room for doubt. You must leave room for the Lord, not for our certainties; we must be humble. Uncertainty is in every true discernment that is open to finding confirmation in spiritual consolation"
Jorge Mario Bergoglio SJ, Bishop of Rome.

~ * ~

The Catechism of the Catholic Church places willful or "voluntary doubt" under the category of human actions that are opposed to the First Commandment and opposed to the virtue of Faith.

2087 Our moral life has its source in faith in God who reveals his love to us. St. Paul speaks of the "obedience of faith" as our first obligation. He shows that "ignorance of God" is the principle and explanation of all moral deviations. Our duty toward God is to believe in him and to bear witness to him.

2088 The first commandment requires us to nourish and protect our faith with prudence and vigilance, and to reject everything that is opposed to it. There are various ways of sinning against faith:

Voluntary doubt about the faith disregards or refuses to hold as true what God has revealed and the Church proposes for belief. Involuntary doubt refers to hesitation in believing, difficulty in overcoming objections connected with the faith, or also anxiety aroused by its obscurity.

If deliberately cultivated doubt can lead to spiritual blindness.


The Catechism of the Council of Trent, (called the Roman Catechism), Article 1:

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth..."

– The meaning of the above words is this: I believe with certainty, and without a shadow of doubt profess my belief in God the Father… with the greatest ardour and piety I tend towards Him, as the supreme and most perfect good. …

The word believe does not here mean to think, to suppose, lo be of opinion; but… it expresses the deepest conviction, by which the mind gives a firm and unhesitating assent to God revealing His mysterious truths. …

The knowledge derived through faith must not be considered less certain because its objects are not seen; for the divine light by which we know them, although it does not render them evident, yet suffers us not to doubt them. …

[W]hen God commands us to believe He does not propose to us to search into His divine judgments, or inquire into their reason and cause, but demands an unchangeable faith, by which the mind rests content in the knowledge of eternal truth. And … since it would argue arrogance and presumption to disbelieve the word of a grave and sensible man affirming anything as true, … how rash and foolish are those, who, hearing the words of God Himself, demand reasons for His heavenly and saving doctrines? Faith, therefore, must exclude not only all doubt, but all desire for demonstration. …

We should be satisfied with the assurance and certitude which faith gives us that we have been taught these truths by God Himself, to doubt whose word is the extreme of folly and misery.

"Spiritual blindness"... Could it not be said that a succinct description of the entire Post Conciliar Church would be that its leadership, with rare exceptions, has willfully cultivated this voluntary doubt? And the new regime, Novusordoism (for short) is the religion of doubt?

If we are to take the warning in the last sentence from the CCC above literally, how can we come to any other conclusion than that a man has come to the throne of Peter, formed from the start of his priesthood in this new religion of doubt, who is now evangelising it from the bulliest pulpit in the world?

And I think it is significant beyond all measure that the catechism (and the Fathers and Doctors given as support of the assertion) have identified this cultivation of willful doubt as an offence against the first, the real "greatest commandment". Novusordoism is a religion in which the only certainty allowed about God and divine Will is doubt.

About the supremacy and rights of Man it allows not the slightest doubt... leaving the situation we have now; the Church as a social service agency at the disposal of and for the promotion of humanistic and naturalistic goals.

I do see why this kind of nonsense from the pope and others who preach it is appealing to modern people. They have all been thoroughly trained by the certainty that there can be no certainty that they don't even see the contradiction any more, and more importantly, don't see how such internally contradictory nonsense harms them.

The other day, in response to something I'd posted, I got the following comment from a man whom I know to be intelligent and sincere in his Catholicism, into which he has recently been received: "Some things cannot be made clear in the binary way you suggest, Hilary. The Truth is infinitely more than a set of black and white propositions on a piece of paper." ... and he thought that this was perfectly acceptable and sensible. He is a product of our times and as such has been cultivated in this nonsense all his life by schools, the media and other muddled people.

More importantly, he went through his entire RCIA programme with it all intact and unchallenged. It simply never occurs to anyone that an assertion like, "we can't know what's true" is not only complete bosh, but self-refuting, logically contradictory bosh. As well as bosh that will damage your ability to think clearly about anything and ultimately to hold to the Faith that will save your soul.

It is, in short, demonic, Satanic bosh.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Feel my pain

Occasionally we have to deal with complaints that it's all "negativity" and bad news. "Can't you write about happy things? Pope Francis just wants everyone to cheer up."

Aristotle said that there isn't any drama without conflict. Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch said, "Murder your darlings". Frankly, bad news is the only good news. I really only like bad news. For the same reason I like spicy food and gummy sours and whiskey.

Every year, I'm asked to write something warm and cuddly for Christmas, and it's always a huge struggle. How do you make it not boring if it's all happy n' nice n' sweet n' stuff? Blech.

I'm off sweets and if you want to cheer up, go watch cat videos.


Friday, December 20, 2013

"A clever theologian, a good theologian."

With so many items to choose from on the ongoing freak-out smorgasbord that is our new pope, it can be hard to remember which appetisers were the first to catch one's attention.

I don't know if I'm the only cranky Catholic left in the world who remembers what kind of man Walter Kasper is. When I was going through the painful Traddification process he was my first Curial Hate. Him and Roger "the Church has two faces" Etchegaray. Shows I was destined to Trad. It never was about the smells and bells for me. It was always about the prerogatives of God and the Church's rights in the public sphere.

After what must have been a vexing exile, gnashing his gap-teeth and plotting his revenge on all things Ratzingerian - the Dol Guldur years, one might say - Kasper the Friendly Ecumenist is back, and in style these days. One of the "signal-men" on the loggia that unforgettable evening, Kasper has been maintaining a pretty high profile in the old town ever since. It seems he's back and revving up the Black Tower's engines...

Oh Lord, do not I hate them that hate thee? I count them mine enemies...


The letter gave official stature to the thesis upheld by Ratzinger in the dispute that opposed him to his fellow German theologian, later a cardinal, Walter Kasper.

Kasper was defending the simultaneous origin of the universal Church and the particular Churches, and saw at work in Ratzinger "an attempt at the theological restoration of Roman centralism." While Ratzinger criticized Kasper for reducing the Church to a sociological construction, endangering the unity of the Church and the ministry of the pope in particular.

The dispute between the two cardinal theologians continued until 2001, with a last exchange of jabs in the magazine of the New York Jesuits, "America."

But after he became pope, Ratzinger reiterated his thesis in the post-synodal apostolic exhortation "Ecclesia in Medio Oriente" of 2012:

"The universal Church is a reality which precedes the particular Churches, which are born in and through the universal Church. This truth is faithfully reflected in Catholic teaching, especially that of the Second Vatican Council. It leads to an understanding of the hierarchical dimension of ecclesial communion and allows the rich and legitimate diversity of the particular Churches constantly to develop within that unity in which particular gifts can become an authentic source of enrichment for the universality of the Church."

And Bergoglio? Once he was elected to the chair of Peter, he immediately gave the impression of wanting a more collegial governance of the Church.

And at his first Angelus in Saint Peter's Square, on March 17, he told the crowd that he had read with profit a book by Cardinal Kasper, "a clever theologian, a good theologian."

~ * ~

Now, here's some Led Zeppelin, apropos of nothing whatever...

Ah, the comparative innocence... Never thought we'd all long for the halcyon and care-free 1970s, didja?


They'd have a job of work ahead of them in Rome, I can tell you!

But wait a second...

Isn't it the feminists who are busy flying all over Europe and taking their boobs out and swinging them around for all the world to see?

To make some kind of... ummm... point, I guess... about, err... the patriarchy ...

or something...

It's so hard to keep score these days. My lefty decoder ring must be in the sofa cushions...

~ * ~

Oh wait, it's Sweden. 'Nuff said.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Shush!! Stop for a second...!


Do you hear that?

That faint popping sound...

Ahhh, yes, I recognise it...

It's the sound of feminists' heads exploding in Spain.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Sweeter than honey

In an effort to encourage myself to read more books (and less Buzzfeed) here's some good bits from something I've been reading lately.

Do you ever read the Psalms? Ever come across those bits where the writer says things like "Your law, O Lord, is sweeter than honeycomb," and think it's a little weird? Well, I didn't. Those are among my favourite bits because I knew exactly what it meant instinctively. I've spent the last 15 years or so looking closely at what the world looks like when it abandons the Law of God, (that I like to call "The Real" at this 'blog) and it has been getting more and more obvious that the Pslamist wasn't just kissing up to God, he was just saying that the world without God's law is a cesspit of cruelty and horror.

The other day, I read C.S. Lewis more or less describing that same thing in Reflections on the Psalms.

"Sweeter than honey" Ps. 119:

One can well understand this being said of God's mercies, God's visitations, His attributes. But what the poet is actually talking about is God's law, His commands; His "rulings". What is being compared to gold and honey is those "statutes" which we are told "rejoice the heart"...

This was to me at first very mysterious. "Thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not commit adultery" I can understand that a man can , and must, respect these "statutes" and try to obey them, and assent to them in his heart. But it is very hard to find how they can be, so to speak, delicious, how they exhilarate"...

But the Divine Law is really an expression of the Divine Mind, and a world ordered according to it is a thing greatly to be desired:
What should a man do but try to reproduce it, so far as possible, in his daily life? His "delight" is in those statutes; to study them is like finding treasure, they affect him like music, are his "songs" they taste like honey, they are better than silver and gold. As one's eyes are more and more opened, one sees more and more in them, and it excites wonder. This is not priggery nor even scrupulosity; it is the language of a man ravished by moral beauty. If we cannot at all share in his experience, we shall be the losers....

For there were other roads which lacked "truth". The Jews had as their immediate neighbours close to them in race as well as in position, Pagans of the worst kind. Pagans whose religion was marked by none of that beauty or (sometimes) wisdom which we can find among the Greeks. That background made the "beauty" or "sweetness" of the Law more visible...When a Jew... looked upon those worships - when he thought of sacred prostitution, sacred sodomy, and the babies thrown into the fire for Moloch - his own Law, as he turned back to it, must have shone with an extraordinary radiance. Sweeter than honey; or if that metaphor does not suit us who have not such a sweet tooth, let us say like mountain water, or like fresh air after a dungeon, like sanity after a nightmare.

And here is something interesting, Lewis issuing a clear warning, that should be even more pertinent to us today:

In so far as this idea of the Law's beauty, sweetness or preciousness, arose from the contrast of the surrounding Paganisms, we may soon find occasion to recover it. Christians increasingly live on a spiritual island; new and rival ways of life surround it in all directions and their tides come further up the beach every time. None of these new ways is yet so filthy or cruel as some Semitic Paganism. But many of them ignore all individual rights and are already cruel enough. Some give morality a wholly new meaning which we cannot accept, some deny its possibility. Perhaps we shall all learn, sharply enough, to value the clean air and "sweet reasonableness" of the Christian ethics which in a more Christian age we might have taken for granted.
Reflections on the Psalms, 1961


Monday, December 16, 2013

Fun with St. Thomas

This from a Thomistic scholar acquaintance:
Anticipating her fiery demise at the stake, [N] has offered objections to the idea of roasting marshmallows at the immolation of heretics (and enemies of the state).


A "Question"

"Whether it is fitting to roast marshmallows at the pyre of a burning heretic."

Objection 1. It seems that it is not fitting to roast marshmallows at the pyre of a burning heretic. For the "stench" of heresy, being repugnant to the taste of faithful Christians, might ruin the delicate savour of the marshmallows. Therefore...

Objection 2. Further, the "savour" of heresy, adding a delicate nuance to the flavour of the s'mores, would seem to approach to cannibalism. But cannibalism is contrary not only to natural law, but also to Divine Law. Therefore...

Objection 3. Further, the Lord rejoiceth not in the death of a sinner. Neither, therefore, should Christians rejoice in the death of a sinner. But s'mores being a delight to the senses, are proper to rejoicing. Therefore...

Theology nerds...


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Rejoice in the Lord, Alway!

Today is Gaudete Sunday. 11 years ago today (liturgical time) I received the Sacrament of Confirmation at the private chapel of the Oratory in Toronto.

And today's Introit and Epistle are the text for one of my favourite pieces by one of my favourite composers, Henry Purcell.

Rejoice in the Lord Alway!


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Quick, "what is the greatest commandment"?

Jeff has spotted a good one.

"A very common error in contemporary Catholic preaching – and indeed in what passes for catechesis throughout much of the Church today – is the reduction of the Gospel to “love one another” as though this were the highest commandment of God, or even more strangely, the 'Good News' itself. It’s a perfectly understandable mistake in light of the stark anthropocentric direction of the Second Vatican Council. If you regularly attend the Novus Ordo Mass, chances are you have heard this error in one form or another hundreds of times."

“Evangelii Gaudium” (par 161):
“Along with the virtues, this means above all the new commandment, the first and the greatest of the commandments, and the one that best identifies us as Christ’s disciples: ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.’ (John 15:12).”

Let's just take a quick peek at the ol' cheat sheet, shall we?

Google search: "what is the greatest commandment"


Matthew 22:36-40

Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA)

36 Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law?

37 Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind.

38 This is the greatest and the first commandment.

39 And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

40 On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets.

Now, Google: "John 15:12"

Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA)

12 This is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you.

These two passages are obviously related, but the expression "greatest commandment" is actually in scripture and was not applied to the verse Francis quoted above. And the verse it is applied to, again in scripture, was quite clear. The "greatest commandment" is about God, about loving Him, which we know means obeying Him ("If you love me, keep my commandments...").

Now, I'm no theology or exegesis expert, but as I understand it, the charism of the papacy does not include the power of correcting the Son of God or of re-writing Scripture.


But fools despise wisdom and instruction

Back when I taught catechism to 14 year-olds, we used to work very hard to counter the popular "liberal" (apostate) Catholic idea that "fear of the Lord" is somehow a mean, nasty bad idea that ought to be softened and smoothed and soothed away. Of course, it was impossible for them to get rid of it entirely since it is so bluntly and forthrightly described in Scripture. An interesting footnote has caught my attention at the website Biblegateway.com.

Proverbs 1:7 (NIV)

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and instruction."

The Hebrew words rendered "fool" in Proverbs, and often elsewhere in the Old Testament, denote a person who is morally deficient.

How often do we hear quoted the second half of that verse?

But it is not difficult to understand the concept as it is intended.

I explained it this way:

"Close your eyes and imagine the person you loved most in the world. The person who was always on your side and who you knew without a doubt loved you and would always be there for you. For me, this was my Grandma. I'll never forget what it was like when I was small to wake up scared at night and have her come into my room and sit with me until I went back to sleep. Or all the times she took me to the beach or taught me drawing or played games with me or listened to me...

"To this day, my idea of heaven is to spend eternity with her in her house, taking tea on the veranda, weeding the garden, painting in the kitchen, helping her put the dinner on, watching her work in the potting studio...

"Got it? The person you love the most is probably the person who loved you the most, right?

"OK, now imagine yelling at that person. Screaming at her how you hate her and don't ever want to see her again. Imagine swearing and cursing at her and doing everything you can to hurt her."

At this point, I could see the kids making a pained face. Ouch!

"It's awful, right? Even thinking of it is horrible and makes you cringe. Well, the Fear of the Lord is like that holy and correct fear of deliberately hurting and rejecting that person, and then separating yourself from her and never coming back into her presence or ever feeling her love again.

"Times a million."

Now, what's so hard to understand about that?

I will never forget the fury I felt when the bishop who came to the parish to confirm the kids in my class explicitly denied this simple doctrine, that I had been at some pains to instill and clarify, by calling the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, "wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety, and 'awe and wonder'". This replacement expression has, I am given to understand, become so popular with those who are more afraid of the opinion of the world than of the Wrath of God, that it is now the standard weasel-word. Such a common dodge has it become that it is even given in the Wikipedia page on the Seven Gifts: "Wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord (wonder and awe)."

At the end of the Confirmation Mass, this prancing idiot bishop magnanimously stuck around for a few minutes in the parish hall to meet the kids and their families... and the teachers. I had sat through his performance - telling hockey jokes and walking up and down in front of the first pew with his microphone in his hand like a mitered game show host - growing increasingly furious. By the end of the Mass, I had not only removed my glasses so I didn't have to watch, I had pulled my mantilla so far down over my eyes that all I could see was the ends of my sharply tapping toes.

At the tea n' snacks afterwards I had intended to discuss some doctrinal matters with the bishop, but by some unfortunate coincidence suddenly found the smiling parish priest with a group of parents in tow standing right in front of me, blocking my path to his Excellency. Which group of worthies inexplicably detained me with polite chit-chat until the target of my wrath had left the hall for his next engagement.

Such bad luck!

Anyway, what prompted the sharing of this anecdote? Why nothing.

Nothing at all...


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Pope of the Year

Already there has been a lot of backlash from traditionalist groups, conservative groups, people who feel he is moving too quickly away from the traditional style of Benedict on liturgy, on clerical appointments,” says Brian Daley, a professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame. “But that’s probably a relatively small group of people.”

Actually, I feel pretty un-stressed about this assessment.

"Lord, are they few that are saved? But he said to them: Strive to enter by the narrow gate; for many, I say to you, shall seek to enter, and shall not be able."
Luke 13:23-24

'The saved are few, but we must live with the few if we would be saved with the few. O God, too few indeed they are: yet amongst those few I wish to be!'
St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, Doctor of the Church

'The more the wicked abound, so much the more must we suffer with them in patience; for on the threshing floor few are the grains carried into the barns, but high are the piles of chaff burned with fire.'
Pope St. Gregory the Great, Doctor and Father of the Church

'If you would be quite sure of your salvation, strive to be among the fewest of the few. Do not follow the majority of mankind, but follow those who renounce the world and never relax their efforts day or night so that they may attain everlasting blessedness.'
St. Anselm, Doctor of the Church

'A multitude of souls fall into the depths of Hell, and it is of the faith that all who die in mortal sin are condemned for ever and ever. According to statistics, approximately 80,000 persons die every day. How many of these will die in mortal sin, and how many will be condemned! For, as their lives have been, so also will be their end.'
St. Anthony Mary Claret


Lessons learned

A while ago, I was asked to describe the problem with Modernism... I mean Novusordoism in the Catholic Church.

"Here's a lovely glass of orange juice for you. It's 99.999% delicious and healthy juice of fresh oranges.

"It's only got one teeny, weeny little teaspoon of arsenic in it.

"Just drink around the arsenic parts if you don't like them."

The battle between the Faith and Novusordoism is often small to the point of invisibility. But there are places and situations in the Church where it is being made nearly inescapable, and the religious orders are one of those places.

Some years ago, I compiled a great deal of information on what was being touted at the time as a "revival" in the religious life in the more "conservative" corners of the Church. In the course of this research, during which I accumulated about 90,000 words worth of notes, I came to an uncomfortable conclusion: that it is impossible to revive the religious life in the Church in its current condition. The Church as a whole had to choose between the World and the Faith.

All of the communities that I was using as examples were attempting the same thing: they wanted to strike a "balance" between what we have come to call the Traditionalist position and the new moral and doctrinal dispensation that has been adopted throughout the Church that I have since nicknamed "Novusordoism". They, to a man, have tried to create a detente between what are clearly two radically opposed proposals for the Church.

This Mexican standoff, which was always extremely difficult to maintain but which was made possible by supportive papacies, is now crumbling. In every case, the groups have been forced to choose a side and, unsurprisingly, nearly all are choosing Novusordoism.

Perhaps one of the reasons for this choice is the example being made of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate who are being shown now what happens to a community that strays too far over to the "Traditionalist" side of the hair-thin line known as "conservatism". (It is to be remembered, of course, that this line is not only too thin to walk, it moves further and further to one side all the time.)

They were founded in a time when it was simply impossible to adopt the Traditional rites (and religion) of the Catholic Church. To exist as a new community in the early 80s, one had to at least pay minimal lip service to the new dispensation. Over the years, they tried to find a "middle path," allowing both within the community. When Benedict released the Old Mass, they thought their prayers were answered. Here was the pope endorsing their proposal of detente. It was an attempt to nail down "conservatism" in the Church as a "reasonable" option between the grey pony-tailed Marxist hippies and the Mad Trads.

But Benedict, as much as we loved him, was making the same mistake as the rest of the Church, (and I think in the end he understood this). The new papacy is teaching us the same old rule of Christianity: you have t pick a side eventually.

"Conservatism" is not a position in the Church. It is only a waiting room, (in the same way Newman called Anglicanism a way-station on the path to atheism) a place that until recently had been kitted out by the popes as a kind of Catholic VIP lounge where you could have a few drinks with your well-heeled Beltway friends while making up your mind about which side you might choose in the unlikely event that you had to.

The trouble that the secular world has and always had with Christianity is that it does not allow for a comfortable middle ground. And I have said it before: the last two papacies have done one bad thing to the Church: they have promoted the idea of compromise, of "mutual enrichment" between the good and the bad. They have created an illusion of a "safe," easy Catholicism where we can fit in, more or less, with the world and still be "good Catholics". And the outside world is really putting the pressure on these days. Pinch but one grain of incense to the state gods and you may believe privately whatever you like.

Gentles, "conservatism" is the incense. Do not pinch it, for the sake of your souls.

Given what is happening to the Franciscans of the Immaculate right now, I don't think we will have long to wait for a new Oath to be created that will be required of everyone who proposes to take a public position in the Church, an "Oath of Modernism". They tried to make the SSPX adhere to this new dispensation and (I'm increasingly grateful) they refused. It seems now that the FFIs are being shown the instruments of torture and offered the usual deal: conform and you will hold a high place, be honoured and lauded, coins put in your purse for all your good works.

But I think the Franciscans of the Immaculate are doing martyrs work, showing us the limits of this proposal. The time has come to choose a side.


Monday, December 09, 2013

The next asteroid

I think that with the publication of this new document, a lot of the things we've been worried about with this new papacy are made explicit. With the whole world hopping up and down over Francis's (frankly meaningless) economic witterings, and with most of the world's media having no knowledge of the real issues facing the Catholic Church, it seems to have been missed that the pope is talking about a "devolved" Church in which the papacy is no longer a doctrinal bastion against the insanity of the local bishops and national conferences.

But now that we have seen it, we know without a doubt that this pope's plans will destroy the governing structure of the Church as we have known it since the Council of Trent: give the national conferences the authority (that they have always lusted after) of deciding matters of faith and morals.

It is one of the earmarks of the Traditionalist position that we pay attention to the structures of Church governance and think them important. It worries us, for instance, that the pope is no longer crowned but instead only "inaugurated". We cringe when he behaves like a politician because we know what the papacy is and is not (is the sole defender of the Truth of the gospel; is not a political appointment). We have seen the slide over the last fifty years from a papacy that knew what it was: one man with supreme temporal, doctrinal and moral authority, granted by God and supported by the Petrine Charism, the Vicar of Christ, to a politicised office on the corporate model, a first-among-equals CEO of a multinational company.

One of the foremost criticisms of this papacy from the Traditionalist front, is one that has been largely misunderstood as a matter of a preference for a particular style, a hankering after lace and glitter. But in truth, what we dread is the downgrading of the papacy from its historic position in global affairs. And it is precisely this downgrading that this pope has indulged in from his first five minutes. When he refused to wear choir dress on the loggia, only reluctantly donning the Apostolic Stole for the few moments it took to bless the crowd, we have all been filled with a sense of dread and foreboding. We had a sense of what was coming because we were able to read the horrid signs of the egalitarian spirit in the first few gestures of this gesture-heavy papacy. (And it is not to be brushed aside that Benedict himself did a great deal to hasten this when he announced that the papacy was just another job that one could quit if it seemed too burdensome.)

It seems that a few others, now that Francis has made his plans for the democratizing of the Church more explicit, are starting to be more vocal.

On the role of the pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio credits John Paul II with having paved the way to a new form of the exercise of primacy. But he laments that “we have made little progress in this regard” and promises that he intends to proceed with greater vigor toward a form of papacy “more faithful to the meaning which Jesus Christ wished to give it and to the present needs of evangelization.” (This statement by Pope Francis is a strong - one might even say searing - indictment of his hundreds of predecessors. He is claiming they did not act with the Will of Christ in creating the papal-centric mode of governing the Church, something many early Church Fathers I think would find rather surprising.)

But more than on the role of the pope – where Francis remains vague and has so far operated by making most decisions himself – it is on the powers of the episcopal conferences that “Evangelii Gaudium” heralds a major transition.

The pope writes in paragraph 32 of the document:

“The Second Vatican Council stated that, like the ancient patriarchal Churches, episcopal conferences are in a position ‘to contribute in many and fruitful ways to the concrete realization of the collegial spirit. Yet this desire has not been fully realized, since a juridical status of episcopal conferences which would see them as subjects of specific attributions, including genuine doctrinal authority, has not yet been sufficiently elaborated. Excessive centralization, rather than proving helpful, complicates the Church’s life and her missionary outreach.”

In the 1985 Ratzinger Report, the Cardinal warned that the national conferences - a whole-cloth invention of the Post-Vatican II Church - routinely abused their powers, and if given more authority were likely to turn the entire Catholic Church into a "federation of national Churches". With a few exceptions to the rule, all the bishops have effectively surrendered their authority to these national conferences and this has been mirrored in Rome by dicasteries who will frequently freeze out individual bishops and give preference to declarations of national conferences, even on doctrinal matters, over individual bishops (cf: the Winnipeg Statement about which nothing has been done by Rome since 1968).

Gian Maria Vian, the unfortunate editor of L'Osservatore Romano made this explicit a few years ago when the paper was in the midst of a frenzy of praise of US President Obama.

Now, Francis is determined to create a "devolved" papacy that bows to the national conferences to create "decentralised" governance and doctrinal authority.

Until now, the strength of the papacy was the last thing holding the Church together and our last bastion against the doctrinal degradation of the national conferences and wacky individual bishops. We could say, "We know the Church teaches this, and not this."

Much, much bigger trouble is coming if Francis destroys this last line of defence.


Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Brains are weird

Well, this is an interesting technology experience.

I have reconfigured my workstation to lift the screen up high and added a plug-in keyboard to use at waist height. This raises my Mac up to eye level when I'm sitting straight up in the chair, forcing me to sit up straight. No more hunching over and destroying my back and neck while I'm sitting. No more peering down and squinting at the screen while standing. It's working wonderfully, but the new keyboard experience is ... interesting.

Apparently, in case you ever wondered, you can use a foreign language PC keyboard exactly the same way as a British Mac keyboard, but everything is slightly out of whack and your brain will try to keep doing things without thinking about it, with interesting and somewhat confusing results.

I had not realised before, but you can buy an Italian keyboard and just change the settings on it to match your usual keyboarding. This will mean that all the stuff you're used to will be in the same place, and there won't be any hunting around and figuring out which things to press to make one of these @. But it means that you really have to be really good with the keyboarding and typing skills and be able to type without looking at the keys at all. As soon as you do look down, you'll be lost because nothing on an Italian keyboard is in the same place except the letters.

But in this case, it is not only being translated automatically from Italian to British, but from PC to Mac. When I went out to buy the stuff this evening, the little computer/electronics store in S. Mar was closed, so I had to go just get whatever was available at the Chinese store. And what they had was a standard PC keyboard. It does most of the things my Mac keyboard does, but you have to hunt around a lot and it is like feeling your way through a dark room where someone has gone through ahead of you and shifted all the furniture a little to the left.

It's kind of trippy.

My normal typing speed is about 60-80 wpm and I have got used to having a trackpad that doesn't work very well, so learned how to do a lot of the Mac trackpad things on the keys. In fact, I seem to have learned them so well that my fingers just keep trying to do them without my brain really noticing much. Then when it doesn't work, my brain gets all mad at my fingers for doing it wrong.

Brains are weird. So's technology. But I'm glad my back is now going to be getting better.


Monday, December 02, 2013

Quick, what's the capital of Latvia?

One of the effects of my job is to have enormously improved my geographical knowledge. In school I was hopeless at geography. Sister Norah, the principal of my school and our part-time geography and social studies teacher, despaired. I just didn't care.

I thought the entire world was made up, basically, of "the Island" and "the Mainland," and everything that was not on the Island was just not very important.

Except England, which is where we all came from, so it mattered.

And except the Chinese families who, obviously, came from China, but not for several generations. China existed in my interior geography, and I knew that it was more or less the opposite direction from England, and the families of a lot of the kids in my neighbourhood were from there, so it mattered too.

Oh, and there was America of course, but it wasn't very important, since none of them lived on the Island. (Obviously, if you lived on the Island, you'd be an Islander and not an American, even if you'd started out as one.) Mostly Americans were just the large and annoying people who came to Victoria every summer on the boat from Seattle and asked stupid questions like, "Is that where the queen lives?" Yeah. That's where the Queen of England lives. On the west coast of Canada.

I knew there was also a Rome - where the pope lived - because we were Catholic, and Africa, where they had lions, giraffes and stamps. And Pyramids, but I was a little hazy on how they worked in with the lions and giraffes and stamps.

Later I learned about the Second World War and that this had been started by Germany, and that it mostly involved Europe, and Germany was in the middle of that. I also instinctively figured out that England was not really "in Europe". Just sort of next to it. Watchfully.

In Victoria in the 70s there were, mostly, two kinds of people: English people and Chinese people. I knew theoretically about the existence of, oh, Greeks and Italians and Japanese and Scots and whatnot, but I don't think they made much inroads in my child-brain.

As soon as I started at St. Patrick's, I became much more conscious of French people, because they tried to make me learn their stupid, nonsensical language (tables have gender? Whut?). But I mostly dealt with that the most passive-aggressive way I could, by looking out the window and pretending not to hear anything the French teacher said. It didn't matter much, though, because we were on the West Coast and the nearest French-Canadians were nearly 3000 miles away, along with Pierre Trudeau whose idea it was to inflict it on us. As with most subjects in school I didn't like, I figured if I ignored it long enough it would go away by itself.

I knew about Japan, and even knew a little Japanese and could write a few words in it, but this was because my mother was studying it in university, in between her differential calculus and invertebrate zoology classes, which I think annoyed me even then.

But I still didn't know where France was, or care. It was the Mainland, and therefore irrelevant.

From this solid bedrock of geographical knowledge I understood that the world was a dangerous and hostile and uncivilised place and that sensible Islanders never went there.

For nearly 15 years now, I've been writing articles and briefs and all sorts of things about people around the world. The very first newsy writing I ever did for money was about East Timor. One of the best things about doing this for a living has been to make the rest of the world interesting and worth looking into. I have, believe it or not, actually found myself looking up the major imports and exports of small African countries. (South America remains a mist-shrouded enigma.)

Some time ago, in the course of conversation with my other worldly and cosmopolitan friends here, someone asked, "What's the capital of Latvia?" Without thinking I said, "Riga".

Bloody hell! When did I learn that? I had no idea.

It happened again today. I'm writing about Croatia and without having to look it up, I knew it was Zagreb.

If only Sister Norah had known.


Friday, November 29, 2013

Free drugs!

Haha, no. Just advice. Sorry.

This is a note I just sent round to all my colleagues that I thought would be of benefit to the general public.

But first, I would like to tell the general reading public that the MRI scan showed no sign of cancer. C-free.

I still have to take it to the other doc and she will sit me down and tell me what's wrong with my nodes, but I'm going to bet that lack of exercise and too much sitting is a big part of it. Your lymph system doesn't have a heart to pump the stuff around, but uses your muscle movements. Well, the inguinal lymph nodes, the ones in your hippal region, respond well to lots of walking and moving, so it stands to reason that a lot of sitting and not moving is going to make them clog up. Especially after having a bunch of them removed from that area followed by a lot of down-sitting. So. There. That's good.

Here's the advice I got from the doc today who fixed my back.

Remember my sore back at the meeting in August? Well, it has been a chronic thing, happening with greater severity more times a year in the last few years and I've been getting treated for it with acupuncture. Today I hobbled back to the doc and he gave me a little lecture (in the nicest possible way) saying that it's the result of the way I work and it will only get worse if I don't fix that.

He asked, Do you work at a laptop on a desk or table? Yep. How long do you spend at the computer every day? About 6-10 hours. How long have you been doing it? About ten years. He said, yep, you're right on schedule. He told me that the laptop is the one invention that is destroying health more than any other thing except smoking.

He said that if I didn't change the way I work, I would eventually get to the point where the injury is permanent, and had to be treated with drugs and I'd be in pain all the time.

He told me what to do, and I thought I'd pass on the advice before LifeSite staff all turn in to hunchbacks. Cranky hunchbacks.

Ideally, standing to work is better than sitting. But if sitting, it should be either in one of those insanely expensive ergonomic chairs or on a stool that has no back rest which will force you to sit up with your spine straight.

Next, set up a work station where your computer screen is up at your eye level:

Sit facing forward with your bum on the edge of the seat and your back straight, feet flat on the floor. Lift your computer up on a box or a shelf so you are looking at your screen straight ahead without tilting your neck down. Even lift it up a little higher so your chin is tilting slightly upwards. This will force your whole posture to stop curling forward. Get a plug-in USB keyboard and mouse and work with them lower down so your elbows aren't bent more than 90 degrees. Ideally, get something to lift the back edge of the keyboard so it's not flat, like a book stand.

Also, he said to set a timer for 20 minutes and work in intervals and when the timer goes off, to get up and exercise. Touch your toes, then stand with your feet shoulder width apart and twist slowly to the right then back to the front then to the left, twice, then a lateral stretch with your right arm in a curve over your head then the other way. Do all these slowly, and only to the point where it starts to hurt a wee bit. No further. Stretching the hamstrings is also important, as is getting better muscle tone in your front, so curls and crunches and leg lifts. He said to do all this just a few repetitions at a time, several times a day.

Right now, I'm sitting at the table in a dining chair, and spending several hours a day curled up with my back and pelvis tilted to form a C shape and my legs curled up under me. He told me that this posture is going to wreck my back and if I kept it up, it would get to the point where it is impossible to fix and would be facing an uncomfortable old age of chronic pain.

The internet is mezmerising, literally. It's like a form of hypnosis, and I've been reading a lot of the studies of the various physical and other damage people do who use it a lot. I think all LSN employees qualify as people who use the internet "a lot". Everything I've read says that if you have to use the internet a great deal for work, a way to do it without ruining your brain is to do it in short intervals.

Setting a timer for 20 or 30 minutes and walking away from it for five, apparently does much to help the problem that everyone has of attention span and compulsive surfing. You know, I'm sure, what I mean; that thing where you get to the point where you can't read a whole article without flicking back and forth between tabs and YT videos and email. Far from slowing you down, it is being shown to improve productivity and concentration.

So, there you go. A bit of medical advice for free.

Here's the thing I subscribe to on YT with some of the back-strengthening exercises that Francesco the Friendly Pilates Guy recommended.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

What is the message of this medium, do you think?

We're just coming up on 10 years for this 'blog, and about the same amount of time me working for LifeSite. Before that, I did a lot of work for a political lobby that mostly involved looking things up on the internet. I've been a professional Googler for ten years of my working life, nearly half of it.

I got onto Facebook seven years ago and use it a lot. Nearly all my "friends" on FB are professional contacts, people who feed me information to write about for money, so I don't really feel any guilt about the volume of FB time. Of course, I also keep in touch with people I know who aren't work-related and am hugely grateful for it because these are some pretty important people to me whom I would not otherwise have been able to remain close to. I have fewer than 150 "friends" on FB and I turn down nearly all friend requests, esp. the ones from people I don't actually know. (This is something that greatly puzzles me; why would you imagine I want to let you onto my contacts list if you are a total stranger? And what is the point of just collecting random people? My gut reaction to friend requests from strangers is, "Buzz off, weirdo. Don't you have any real friends?")

Anyway, being someone who makes my living, basically, by farting about on the internet I have become acutely aware of the effects to my physical, mental and emotional well-being of a LOT of web-time: attention span, back aches, ability to focus on real actual books, neglect of real-life things like ... oh, you know, dressing, leaving the house... my life getting sucked more and more into the little square Palantir.

I have never read him, and until recently had always kind of sneered at the adoring fan-girls that crowded around Marshall McLuhan. A lot of Canadian undergrads used to like to use his famous expression in their ordinary conversations the way the rest of us normal people like to quote Firefly and Star Wars. But perhaps for the first time, I'm starting to think that from personal experience I know what he means.

People used to say it a lot about TV, and it was fashionable some years ago to deride TV use, especially for kids, on the grounds that the message of its medium was passivity and mindless consumption, immobility and social isolation.

To that I'm tempted to say to those people in the 80s, "you ain't seen nothin yet, baby!"

In the video above, I think it's very interesting that the narrator uses the term "fantasy" in the same way that I do; to describe a pretend world that people create for themselves in their minds when they think The Real is more real than they want to deal with. He uses it several times.

So I guess I'm not the only one to have noticed.


The Lowly Sprout

OK, Muricans, let's deal with your fear of Brussels sprouts.

Personally, I've never understood the problem. I've always loved sprouts. But for some reason, they've got a bad rep. Well, here's a way of doing them that will make everyone ask for more.

1lb sprouts, cut in half
1 carrot, diced
1 medium slice of bacon
1/2 and onion, a couple of shallots or a leek, chopped
1 cup chicken stock
handful raisins
handful pine nuts or walnuts

On a low heat, cook the bacon and onion together in a skillet until the onion is transparent. Throw in the sprouts and carrots and continue to saute until the sprouts turn a bright green. Pour in the stock and raisins and cook until the veg is tender. Toss in a handful of nuts at the end when the raisins have plumped up and the sprouts are nice and eat-able.

Mmm... baby!

And now, here's some Shatner.

Happy Turkey Day all youse down there below the 49th...


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

…to the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee.

Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, O God: depart from me therefore, ye bloody men.

For they speake against thee wickedly: and thine enemies take thy name in vaine.

Doe not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee?

I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.

Just writing about the German Bishops...


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Many thanks

I would like to just send a quick update, and a note of thanks. I got a great response to my donation drive, and now have more than enough to cover all the immediate upcoming expenses plus have some in reserve should anything further unfold. Meantime, we still haven't moved any further forward.

Between wasting most of the week waiting to get the computer back, catching up on work time lost, and waiting for the $$s to clear from PayPal into the bank, (remembering of course that because of bank machine withdrawal limits, one can't take out the whole required amount in one day, but have to do it in batches over a few days...) there's been no way so far to make the trek into the City and across town to get the MRI results.

If the odyssey of the Apple Store was anything to go by, it's going to be a bit of a palaver (which is British Understatement for a "damned nightmare"). Meanwhile, the stress and worry seems to be catching up with me and my back, has remembered that I am Officially Old and has reacted by totally seizing up as of yesterday morning. I can hardly walk across the flat and have been hobbling around using an umbrella as a walking stick. Pathetic, I know, but amusing enough in its own way.

Fortunately, my doctor is also an accupuncturist and knows how to fix me, AND I now have enough dough to pay him for it. So, win! I'm also almost ready, after a week of taking some medication that I couldn't be bothered to identify, to go re-take the cellular test, which is scheduled for Friday. So, one way or another, all will be clarified by the end of the week.

Today I also found some drugs in the bottom of the pharmaceutical shoe box left over from the last time I buggered up my back in August and it worked well enough in clinical trials to get me to the supermercato and back today (with help from a friend) so I'm gonna give it a go tomorrow. I hate having to go into the City at the best of times, (gypsies, traffic, noise, morlocks, other people,) but it has to be done.

Life is just damn complicated and bloody inconvenient at times. I wish there were somewhere we could register formal complaints about it.

For some reason that I can't really figure out, however, I've stopped worrying about recurrence for the moment. Maybe all the other stuff, none of which really rose above the level of irritation and huge inconvenience, was sent by God to take my mind off things and give me stuff that I could actually deal with fairly competently.

Or maybe I've come to some kind of peace with things and just figure we'll burn that bridge when we get to it.

Who knows?

I've learned in the last few years that there is never any point in this country in hurrying. It doesn't accomplish anything except a peculiarly Anglo type of sputtering aggravation. Things happen here at their own pace. Fussing over it is like trying to shoo the tide back.


Monday, November 25, 2013

Oh, give us your deathless wisdom, do!

The thing that seems most clear about this papal questionnaire is that the idea of sending it out to the laity in parishes was a silly afterthought, possibly dreamed up by some low-to-mid level Vatican official who somehow heard a vague rumour (possibly from this mysterious "interwebs" thing everyone seems to talk about these days) that the laity needed to be made "more involved" in the Church's inner workings.

This is how the Church does things. The relevant dicasteries send out this kind of document to bishops for their feedback in preparation for any big event like a Synod. Then the bishops speak to their own relevant departments. Those convene committees to do the research and prepare fact-based responses for the bishop and his advisors. Then he tells them what he thinks and they prepare his formal response in consultation, with all relevant documentation (those "fact" thingies) attached, and he signs it and sends it back to Rome.

So, what has happened here is that someone has done the Normal Thing, and, possibly in response to being ordered to "involve the laity," has tacked the extra phrase "and to parishes" at the end of the usual introductory paragraph.

People, I guarantee you that there was no more thought to it than this. Really. That is how they do things here. If it deviates one iota from The Way We've Always Done Things, it's going to be a total botch.

The relative incomprehensibility of the questions to anyone who is not deeply involved and informed about the teachings and practices of the Church - and possessed of at least a passing familiarity with canon law, the bureaucratic processes of the Church and the relevant issues - is the best sign that this document was drafted by people who had no clew at. all. that it was ever even going to be read by laymen.

Anyone who does not know, at first glance, what the following means has no business offering any opinion:

"Could a simplification of canonical practice in recognizing a declaration of nullity of the marriage bond provide a positive contribution to solving the problems of the persons involved? If yes, what form would it take?"

No? Really? You sure?

'Cause this is just the short form, with the questions thought suitable by the UK bishops for lay beginners.

Ready for the big leagues, are we? Well, here's the full text. Knock yourself out.


Maybe something useful could come of it. We will now at least be able to say to those who scream and howl about more "involvement" by the laity, "Sure. Here ya go. Give us your timeless thoughts..."

These are the people who have been trained by their New York Times/Guardian/BBC masters to assume that the Church's teaching begins and ends with "Contraception bad!"

Oh dear, did we just receive an unpleasant lesson in what a pack of puffed-up, pig-ignorant little twits we really are?

There, there.

Here's some cat videos.


I wish I weren't such a damned idiot! I knew perfectly well that sitting too much was messing up my back, and sitting on the sofa instead of at the desk or the dining table to work was certainly making it worse. And now I'm totally seized up, can't move, and have to spend a week taking those stupid meds and doing all the exercises to fix it and I've only myself to blame.

I think one of the worst things about becoming a grown-up was the realisation that nearly all our pain and suffering is either directly or indirectly caused by our own stupid, lazy, selfish and pleasure-loving selves.

I have to admit that I rather miss the feeling of pleasure it gave me in my teens to blame someone else for all my woes.

I can certainly understand why so many people, when the culture presents them so abundantly with the opportunity, never give it up.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Of herbs and stewed rabbit

My freezer chest needs defrosting. When I moved into this apartment, it had something I'd never seen before: a fridge with no freezer compartment on top. I told them that this was one of the weirdest things I'd ever seen in a kitchen and insisted that the place had to have a proper fridge. I was, of course, roundly ignored. Nonetheless, the agency lady, who seemed to take rather a shine to me, called me a few weeks after I moved in offering to give me one she had in her garage. Arranged a man with a van to come over and deliver it even. And it's huge. If any of our local friends need a place to hide the body, give me a ring.

But it's also old, and though it certainly freezes things, it also manufactures an indoor wintery wonderland. The ice shelf is now so huge I'm thinking of calling it "Ross" and offering guided expeditions across it. So I've decided to start the project of eating up everything in there that needs to remain frozen so I can unplug it and spend a day mopping.

One of the things in there, right down near the bottom, is a package of skinned rabbit I bought on a whim a few months ago. I started looking up recipes online, having only had one rather unsuccessful experience with rabbit in the past. (I discovered that while it really does more or less taste like chicken, and you do similar things to it, it takes a LOT longer to cook.)

But then I realised, wait, what am I thinking? I know how to stew meat.


1 rabbit, cut into big pieces (actually, it was half a rabbit, including the head! gross!)
3 or 4 carrots, chopped into big bits
two leeks, also chopped into big bits
a few cloves of garlic, also as above, chopped into...
1 apple, not peeled, sliced into thin wedges

a few handfuls of dried shitaake mushrooms
two cups of water
two tablespoons chicken stock powder
splash of red wine
dash of Lea and Perrin's

Sprigs of fresh thyme, marjoram and sage from the balcony pots, all chopped up fine together.

Put all the chopped veg and the apple into the nice cast iron dutch oven you bought in Cheshire at the 50p shop. Cut up the little bits of meat on the head (including the tongue! gross!) and give it to the cat. Sprinkle the herbs on top of the veg.

Bring the water, chicken stock wine and wooster to a simmer. Break the mushrooms while still dried into big pieces and put them in the juice to simmer, covered for ten minutes or until they're nice and squishy. Pour the whole business, stock, mushrooms and all, into the dutch oven. Place the rest of the pieces of coniglio on top. Cover and put in a hot oven for 45 minutes to an hour. About half way, turn the pieces over and squish them down into the broth.

I went with very mild, herby sort of flavours, ones that might be found on the road by travellers, say. And that reflect an autumnal mood. But it would do just as well as a wine-tomato sort of thing too, and would lend itself pretty well to stronger, spicier stock.

I added the apples, in case you're wondering, to add a little natural sugar to offset the saltyness of the chicken stock, and as we all know, meat is great with fruity stuff. Don't peel the apples because they tend to disintegrate in stews, so if you want to keep them as nice apply blobs, you need the peel to hold them together.

You won't believe how wonderful...


Friday, November 22, 2013

A nice place to visit...

So, here's what it's like to "run an errand" in Rome:

Still in your jammies and having your tea, you get a text message in the morning from the Apple Store in Rome saying your computer's fixed and ready to be picked up.

(Apple Store is in a neighbourhood in Rome that is a transit dead-zone, but you've been cut off from the outside world for three days and are desperate.)

You get on the 11:50 train into town, arrive Ostiense station 1 pm.

Get on Metro Linea B.

Switch to Linea A.

Switch to tram at the Flaminian Gate tram stop.

Realising you will not make it before riposo, you call the Apple Store from the tram and beg them to wait for you. A gypsy gets on and starts playing his accordion. You sit for the rest of the trip alternately considering offering him 20 Euros to shut up or simply gripping him by the collar and pitching him and his horrible noise-box bodily off the tram. Finally, you get up and move to another seat further away from the grating racket. (Is it actually a rule that you're only allowed to play O Sole Mio and the Godfather Theme on the accordion? I'd like to see the regulation.)

You are now in a neighbourhood in Rome outside the Aurelian walls where everything looks exactly the same as everything else. You get off the tram at the wrong stop, get lost and waste 20 minutes walking in the wrong direction.

You arrive at the Apple Store 1:45. They have waited for you (a miracle). You are at last re-united with your True Love, and take a moment to test it. Ooops! the new trackpad hasn't been connected properly. You are told the technico has gone for lunch. The nice Apple Store Lady who gave you directions on the phone, suggests a restaurant to have lunch in.

You have lunch at an over-priced Sicilian place. The nice Apple Store Lady calls you and says that the computer really is ready this time.

You retrieve it, pay the 400E, and leave, feeling for the first time in a week that your personal world perhaps isn't falling apart after all.

You get back to the tram line by 3 pm only to realise that the one you came here on is one-way and there is no sign telling you where to find the tram going back where you started (or to any part of the City you recognise). You twirl around helplessly for a full minute before accepting your fate and wandering off to try to find a bus... or something.

You find another tram line and get on tram. It takes you to a bus loop you've never heard of, where there is a bus labelled (thank God!) "910 Termini". Brimming with hope, you get on and bask in the glow of the knowledge that you can wing it when you really need to. You are a fearless explorer who can Handle Things.

The bus trundles uncertainly through the parts of Rome no one cares about, mostly inching along, wedged into the City's perpetual traffic jam, at less than a walking pace. You briefly consider getting out and running alongside for the exercise.

You arrive at Termini train station at 4:02 and find the departures board. You see that there is a Pisa train (fast) leaving in precisely 8 minutes. From the front entrance of Termini to Binario 28 takes exactly 12 minutes to walk. You sigh, and, seeing that there is a slow train to Civi leaving at 4:45, you hit the book store to kill the time.

You buy a new book, and make the 4:45 train, plug the Beloved into the power outlet by your seat and settle in with your internet stick.

Train (which is not late!) gets you home by 6:20.

It has taken you 6.5 hours to pick up your computer from the shop.

You now get to start the work for the day.


Monday, November 18, 2013

I won't say 'here we go again'...

Well, well, well... it's amazing the power a single email can have over one. The results from my latest every-three-months cellular test are ....

drumroll please...


I got what I thought was the usual 'everything's fine, see you in three months' email this morning, but it said instead could I please come back next week. I have to admit that my calm is starting to be a little strained.

And the MRI scan results continue to sit patiently in the doctor's office for me to cobble the cash together to retrieve them.

I continue to receive smiling assurances from every doctor I talk to that it's "probably nothing serious" and each time it's sounding less and less convincing. I remember only too well how many times I was told two years ago that I would only need a little, bitty surgery and no chemo...

I can usually happily afford one or two doctor's appointments per month, but am now wildly exceeding my quota. And I could use a little help.

As you can see I've put the Paypal button back on the sidebar. I would be very grateful for any assistance. At the moment, I'm using the private system because...well, it works and is fast and efficient. And I've got to wait until January to renew my public insurance.

I'm not panicking yet. So don't any of you all neither.

* - *


Aaaaand, of course, what would put the cap on the worst day of the year so far?

My computer deciding that perhaps today IS a good day to die, and doing the kamikaze off the wall at the train station to. the. ground.


I will now go home and pull the covers over my head instead of waiting for the piano to fall out of that cargo plane onto it.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

I'd gladly pay you Tuesday, for a Magnetic Resonance Imaging scan today...

OK, so lesson number 6 gazillion and 12 why I live in Italy instead of ... well ... anywhere else.

Got an appuntamento for an MRI and was told it would cost 680 Euros. A kind reader and friend donated the bulk of this amount into my Paypal acct last week, and I immediately transferred the amount into my bank. 3 business days are usually ample to take care of the transaction and they had 6 days this time. Also, I'd been paid a day or two before, so my acct. should have been bursting with dough.

So last night, off I went with a friend to the MRI place. Before getting there, I said, "Wait: bancomat." But after one false "Servizio non disponibile" the machine grudgingly agreed to give me 250 Euros. All together this left me 280 E short.

After a few well-placed kicks and a few choice words about modernity and machines, we decided to cross our collective fingers and forge ahead anyway, having already come a long way on transit-o across town in the rain-o. After an hour of literally rubbing shoulders with the masses on the Metro, one isn't put in a giving-upping kind of mood.

After a little more marching, we found the place (and the differences between the public and the private health care system were immediately obvious, "Hey, nice place! No holes in the walls!").

In the waiting room of the Risonanza magnetica I explained that my good-for-nothing Canadian bank had refused to give me my money.

"Oh, it's no problem," the lady said, "You pay on Monday, yes?"

(Then, after it was all finished, the nice lady gave me a bill for E775!! So even if the machine had behaved I'd have been left in embarrassments... Oh well. Best laid plans and all that...)

What, do you imagine, the MRI centre in your town would have told you?


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

An airborne adventure story

Had a great idea for a sci-fi adventure story about a group of oddball friends living on board a giant converted cargo airship, buzzing around the world, living on various cargo-transport jobs, some legal and some not so much, often falling by accident into helping the Little Guy against The Man... all in the context of a near-future totalitarian, One World Government type scenario...

then I realised, "Wait, that's Firefly."


So, this is for Ann,

I heard the clacking of the machine in the radio room while I was still making the coffee and feeding the cat that morning. If I'd known what was coming, and how close we were all going to get by the end of the week to a Union Reorientation Centre, I'd have pretended it was out of order. A telex from the Ceremoniere to all three ships in the fleet: "Req. gantry party at Location 12 in three days. Airborne refuelling and supply exchange and passenger pickup."

The engine's low idling rumble blended reassuringly with the smell of coffee as I padded back, still in slippers, to the galley with the sheet torn from the machine. Mostly I no longer noticed the sound or the vibration, that could usually only be felt through the floor plates in the galley thanks to the insulation installed at last season's refit. Wind was up, I thought for a moment. Far below, I could just make out through the galley's lower ports that the sea was getting choppy. Those must be some pretty big waves if I could see the white crests from up here, maybe even thirty-footers.

Wait, passengers? What passengers? Weren't we scheduled for a cargo drop in Thimphu? And I was getting desperately low on tea. And passengers are a pain. Always asking questions, sticking their noses...and they never paid up front.

Then the bed-fog cleared and the sea chop reminded me why we needed to get to Thimphu now rather than later. Another week, ten days at most, and the weather in the Himalayan airspace would be too iffy for a high-altitude crossing. It was three days to 12 and another four days back depending on the windspeeds, and I didn't want to risk another run-in with the Eastern Union patrols to cross lower down.

"Quid dat?" I typed back. "You're lucky the telex is on. I thought we were silent running until the ground party at Loc. 33." We had to get moving. They loved us in Bhutan and we shouldn't be late. We hadn't even met the new Druk Gyaltsuen, having entirely missed the royal wedding in the spring. It was hard enough to find places to set down three 600-foot long airships without attracting attention. Bhutan was one of the few places in the world that even satellites didn't pay much attention to, and we couldn't afford to annoy such helpful and friendly hosts. "We can pick up fuel at the beach wreck site on the way," and never mind the damn passenger, I didn't say.

"It's the bishop," Ceremoniere typed back a minute later.

Bloody hell, I thought. Another damn political meeting. More security risks with most likely another request for a "favour" that we would have to do for free. And the weather getting more howly over northern India by the minute.

"You can tell His Grace he's welcome aboard Frobisher when he's paid me back for our little 'emergency pick-up' in Bonn last year. Diesel isn't free, and it's getting harder to steal these days. If he wants to minister to the Euros he can plan his exit strategies a little better..."

Clergy made me cranky. They always figure they're doing you a favour by giving you a chance to do them favours.

"You just did," Ceremoniere typed back. "He's standing right behind me."

With a gun, no doubt, I thought.

"Fine," I typed back. "But if I have to store this cargo for the winter, he's paying the deposit. And he better have a crate of decent Darjeeling with him."


Monday, November 11, 2013

Lest we forget

As ever, on this the eleventh day of the eleventh month, I humbly ask friends and readers for prayers for the repose of the souls of my ancestors who served their countries faithfully in the two Great Wars of the last century:

My great grandfather, William Doloughan; my maternal grandfather, Herbert Edward Burkett; and my paternal grandfather, Norman Hucknell White.

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine; et lux perpetua luceat eis.


My nodes hurt

I've got hurty, lumpy nodes.

Going to the doctor this afternoon to get an appointment made for an MRI. I told the nice lady doctor, "My nodes hurt". She ultrasounded them and said they're "inflamed" and that it's "probably not malignant" which really did nothing to reassure. Then she said that if it gets worse to email her.

Well, it got worse, it turns out you've got nodes in all sorts of interesting places, all of which hurt when they get "inflamed". It hurts to walk and swallow and all sorts of things.

Anyway she said, "Get an MRI". Which sounds to me like a Bad Thing. She said again on the phone later that she still didn't think it was THE Bad Thing, but I still needed an MRI.

We'll see. But I think I'm going to buy a packet of post-it notes to stick on all my stuff with my friends' names on them, just in case.

Anyway, going to see the other nice doctor today who said he can fix me up with an MRI in a private clinic.

We'll see.

I'm also broke, need a hair cut and have realised that I am living beyond my means, in practical terms. I'm simply paying too much rent and that's that. I can cover my monthly expenses, but never have a penny left every month, and I never "go shopping" or spend money frivolously, (except for the weekly Sunday lunch).

All of that last part is neither here nor there, except that it's making me cranky and out of sorts.

On the up-side, the nice Telecom Italia guy came round this morning and jiggled the cords on the modem, and announced that there's nothing wrong with either it or my computer. It's the cable, we figured out by process of illumination. So that's a relief. A cheap, easy fix.


Friday, November 08, 2013

Holy Silence

Lawks-a-Mercy! Why is tea in this country so BAD!?! It's got to be the water. Or maybe that they take the hot water out of a machine that makes coffee all day.

My home internet connection has been futzy for two weeks, and died all together this week, and due to not the best health I'm reduced to working out of an internet cafe today instead of dragging my sorry sniffly self into the City. Which is fine in many ways. The WiFi works and I'm happy to give some business to the nice fellow who runs the place. And my noise cancellation headphones make it possible to drown out the screechy women on the TV with Johann Sebastian, and the coffee is just fine (being an understatement of course ...compared to anything in N. America) but the tea... Dear HEAVens!

But what a difference it makes to have no internet at home! This morning, I read most of a new novel by a friend and the peace and tranquility in the sitting room as I read was almost like music. The silence was broken only by the sound of pages turning, and the little chink of the tea cup. The sun shone down through the umbrella pines in the garden into my bay windows and became dappled in shade of my pink flowering hibiscus. The cat even had a fit of friendliness and came and actually sat on my lap; astonishing behaviour for Winnie-the-famously-cranky.

And I managed to read the whole book without experiencing the least urge to look anything up on the internet, with an unbroken concentration that I don't think I've experienced in years.

On Monday morning the Telecom Italia guy is coming back to fix and/or replace the modem and the net will go back to being the dominant feature of my home life. It means that I can work without having to fight with either Trenitalia or the noisy TV racket at the WiFi cafe, and will save all kinds of money on lunches and trainfares and whatnot.

But what is the price of silence and domestic peace?

Not sure.


Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Through the Wardrobe Door

So, this afternoon, I took a step.

At about three pm, I stood in the bay window of my sitting room, with the late afternoon sunshine breaking out from under the clouds and pouring in, and sang the Office of None, partly in English (psalmody + Ants) and partly in Latin (everything else). And it was wonderful. A pause during which time stood still and the heavens opened and everything else in the universe (most particularly my little struggles) was rendered trivial. It lasted 20 minutes.

At about 6pm I intend to do it again with Vespers, though, since I hear the birds already singing good night, it will be dark by then.

The notation inside the front cover of my Anglican Breviary (not what it sounds like) reminded me that I had bought it and started using it in 2004. That was the same year I stopped working in the Campaign Life Coalition office in Toronto, and started working from home for LifeSite, while continuing to look after John Muggeridge in what was to be his last year of life in this world.

That was also the year I decided that there was no place to go to fulfill a religious vocation.

I was mistaken about that, but didn't know it at the time, and probably would have failed to hear or understand it had someone told me. After that, I settled for thinking that it was too late and I was too old, and too cranky and that the Church was too corrupt to make it worth the search.

After that my mother died, and I lost all interest, for a time, in the Faith and left Canada for England vowing (no, not really Vowing) to let the window close and all of that old desire to fall into the past like things left behind on the shore of a fast-moving river.

Then some other things happened, and some more things, and I had thought that it was all gone. Then cancer happened, and I spent two years wondering if this was Time's-Up. It turned out not to be, but All That grated away a good deal of the crust that had accumulated on me and was threatening to harden into an impenetrable shell. And the upshot now is that I learned that it is impossible to walk away.

How can one "walk away" from The Real? It is ever ready to barge in again. Like a Lion into a tiny house, at the least hint of an invitation, He will get His nose into any crack or window, and will shove until His shoulders are through, and then will pick the whole thing up and shake it apart until it is nothing but matchwood.

So, being now 47 and a recovering cancer patient with that sword of Damocles hanging over me (maybe it will fall, maybe it won't... who knows?) I began to ask again, How can I draw closer to You?

On Saturday afternoon, I composed a letter of inquiry to the Oblate Master at the monastery at Norcia. I have been assured, several times and by several different people, that they are not just tres, tres PLU, they are, in fact, us. And they have oblates. So... So today I sent the letter.

"I believe firmly in what I have come to call the ‘rat-in-a-maze’ school of vocational discernment: you can smell the cheese and you know it’s in here somewhere, so you just keep trying doors until you find one that opens. I have described my whole life as a long search. When I was a young child, raised on the Narnia stories, I remember quite consciously searching tirelessly for a door to a magical world.

The desire to find that Door has never left me, and I think I may now understand better what its real form is, and how not only to find it but to go through. As it has been pointed out to me, God does not want me to have “options”; He wants me to find the one thing I need to do and do it steadfastly."

I dunno. Maybe something new will happen now.


Monday, November 04, 2013

Almost missed one...

Alpha Male, baby!

And this one, of course...


All Shatner, all the time...

You forgot to mention, "hottie!"



Time for a change

Clearly the time for division is over and we all need to take a step back from these arguments over the details. We really need to learn to find common ground, and reach out to each other.

The time for picking doctrine apart and obsessing over the minutiae of this or that teaching has run aground. We can't always be taking such an adversarial position against the world. We need to show the world a more open, forgiving and loving face. Learn from each other, and create a space where we can meet in peace and encounter Christ in each other and in the world.

Learn to sing together...


Sunday, November 03, 2013

It concentrates the mind wonderfully

[Yes, yes, I know, sorry. My excuse is that my home internet went kaput this week and I spent the whole time lurching from wi fi point to wi fi point, the office in the City, other people's sofas, cafes, to try to find a place to get my work done. Also, Church; it was All Saints this week, which is a Holy Day of O. in Italy...plus there were friends here all week from Yoosah, so there was a lot of running about in Rome, backing and forthing and camping on sofas in town, and not a lot of lesiured fooling-about-on-the-internet time that normally fuels blogging. But the Telecom Italia guy came over yesterday (at nine in the morning on a Saturday! I was so shocked at the appearance of a fix-it guy on a weekend, that I let him in to look at the modem, despite being dressed only in PJs and cardie.)... anyway. Here we are, back again. And with probably a few lurkers and freeloaders shaken off, so that's good.]
This from our friend John Zmirak reminds me of the note in a Christmas card (yes, I have friends who still do that) from a dear friend in Vancouver, just before Christmas 1999: "Merry Christmas, and remember, when the clock strikes midnight on December 31st, it won't be the end of the world. Just Saturday."

Those of you in your 20s and up might remember Y2K. I know a Catholic author who is still trying to finish all the canned food he stockpiled, and unload the rural compound he bought “to be prepared.” A part of me was afraid straight through Jan. 1, 2000, that all the Russian missiles would accidentally fire at once. When it didn’t happen, as all the folks around me at the New Year’s eve party in Greenwich Village (I too wanted to be prepared) chanted “We’re still alive!” they seemed a tad … disappointed at the dawn of just one more frog-flippin’ day.

There have been a number of apocalyptic predictions since then. I have another friend who was absolutely convinced that history was going to conclude (with appropriate celestial fanfare) some time in the winter of 2012. I responded, "But we've been told we don't know the day or the hour." He said, "Yes, but He never said anything about the month or the year, did He?"

For what it's worth, I don't think Millennial Fever is a strictly religious urge. I think it has more to to with psychology. I think the modern industrialised world has become a very alienating place. People don't know their role, they don't know what they're supposed to do, what their obligations are. Since the Cultural Revolutions of the last 50 years, they don't know how to organise their lives towards happiness, or even what happiness is. And they are utterly overwhelmed by the scale of the world's problems. They feel small and crowded out, their real lives insignificant and sometimes morally and psychologically chaotic.

The apocalypse, whether it's environmental cataclysm, zombies or the Final Trump and Shout and the descent of the Celestial Judge, is at least a definitive answer to the horrible and unanswerable question, "What are we supposed to do?"

In an apocalypse, the confusion is over: if there are zombies to kill, we know how to do that, and if there are sins to repent of, we know how to do that too. It represents clarity in a world where all is fog and ambiguity. The apocalypse, as the saying goes, concentrates the mind wonderfully.

What seems to be inarguable, however, is that culturally we are sinking to a rather low point.

It's a funny paradox, isn't it, because of course in material terms, more of us are what previous generations wold have thought of as fabulously wealthy than there have been human beings in all the history of the world. And we're this fantastically wealthy without really having had to do anything to acquire it. We just happen to be alive in the right countries, right now, where fantastically wealthy is "normal". For the great majority of human beings who have ever lived, the act of flicking a switch to turn on a light, or turning on a tap and having hot water come out, would be utterly astonishing.

My grandmother, born in 1903, had a high-tech job, at the age of 17, as an operator for the telephone company. When she was in her 80s, we had a very hard time explaining to her the function of an answering machine, a device that is now so obsolete that young people would also not have any idea how to operate it. Things in the material world, are moving along.

(The Telecom Italia guy chided me for plugging my antique rotary-dial phone into the phone jack in the wall. He said it was interrupting the internet signal. I argued that it worked, and was useful when I lost my cell phone in the sofa cushions. We compromised and he gave me a splitter that allowed me to plug the phone in when I wanted to dial out. He took a look at my non-smart flip-phone that didn't get Facebook, and shook his head sadly that one so young could be such a hopeless luddite.)

I grew up in the 60s and 70s, and we were poor. My mother rarely had a job, my father had flown the coop and government handouts were not then what they are now. We mostly lived in little apartments built into the tops of old houses that had not yet seen the gentling hand of posh renovations. We had a television, and I think it was colour, but often no central heating. I remember the wood stove in the sitting room and the friend who faithfully brought over a weekly box of Pres-to Logs which I would cut into big sawdust cookies for easier burning. The gas heater in the kitchen was grubby and gave my mother chronic bronchitis and the heat in my bedroom came from either the hot water bottle or the electric blanket. (To this day, I cannot sleep in a warm room, and keep the windows open all year round.)

In those days, and in that remote part of the world, it was very rare to travel, and no one we knew other than my relatively wealthy grandparents, ever visited Europe. Trips to the US and Mexico were not unheard of, but expensive and rare. I remember when my mother went to a great deal of trouble and expense to take me to Seattle to see the Treasures of King Tut traveling exhibit in 1978. She said it was unlikely that I would ever get to Egypt to see them again, and this was a chance not to be missed. I have never forgotten it.

But in those days, such "poverty" was relatively normal. A lot of people didn't have cars. A lot of people had party lines on their phones because it was cheaper than getting a private line. Lots of people in Victoria, as in the Old Country, had apartments without central heat. We didn't think of TV as any kind of necessity. We knew the difference between necessities and luxuries. Most people, to be sure, were better off than we were, but only because at that time and for a very brief window, divorce and "family breakdown" were also relatively rare.

And the majority of people who were better off than us, weren't really that much better off. My mother's best friend, another single mother, never had a TV, and her two children, my earliest childhood friends, would come over eagerly after school with me to watch cartoons. Being "poor" was more or less normal, and even my comparatively wealthy friends had parents who grew up after the Wars in England, so there was no snobbery at play. Life wasn't about stuff.

My mother struggled, to be sure, but she felt it a great deal more than I did. Apart from some envy of the material security of some of my school friends, I was very happy as a child. I liked music and we had records and a record player. I wanted books, and there were books. I wanted to go explore the beach, and the beach was there. I liked to collect Nature Things, and it was all out there for the looking.

I had read a lot about life in the middle ages and in the ancient world. I went through a long Greece and Egypt phase, and I was pretty keen on the Bible stories my mother read to me. I read 19th century novels and knew that electric light and hot water out of the tap were new and wondrous things. My mother was involved in the hippie movement and was majoring in marine biology in Uni, so we knew that the "ecology" was being endangered by all the cars and industrial effluent, and it was not really a good thing to have too much stuff.

Maybe this is part of why I was finally able, faster than some, to figure out on my own that the Pursuit of Stuff and the Pursuit of Happiness were not the same thing.

Maybe we want the end of the world, maybe the apocalypse is all the rage on TV lately, because we all get it, to some degree. We are all starting to feel suffocated by The Stuff. Mentally clogged up by all the pointless information. Maybe there's something appealing about a Great Cleansing that we can't avoid, and that will throw us back into having to deal with The Real and the Here and the Now. Our stuff, our distractions, have insulated us, isolated us from The Real. But whether consciously or no, we all know that Only The Real Counts.

Perhaps we all just wish that one morning, we will wake up to find that God has snuck in, in the middle of the night, cleaned up our rooms for us, got the breakfast on and is calling us to get up and come live in the Real for a change. Maybe we all subconsciously want for the time of dreaming our opiate-dreams in front of the TV or the internet to be over and gone forever.