Saturday, 30 April 2016

Welborn Barton Griffith and Chartres

Col. Welborn Griffith
This is a name that should be known by every lover of Christian art, for this American saved Chartres Cathedral. Sadly, the abbey of Monte Cassino (since repaired) was shelled to smithereens. The cost of the war against Hitler and his ideologies was very high, not only in terms of human lives, but in terms of art and architecture. I am not thinking so much of what the Axis Powers did but of what the Allies did (and so don't care to discuss). Occasionally there are stories, on both sides, of this officer or that saving sacred spaces. Valentine Mueller of the Wehrmacht saved Assisi.

My preparations for the Chartres Pilgrimage continue apace. There is still a big blister on my left heel thanks to this week's canal walk. Nevertheless, I will be hiking around Edinburgh's Holyrood Park and up and down Arthur's Seat with B.A. this afternoon.

This morning I made a bowl of muesli according the recipe I think will be useful on the Pilgrimage. Generally I have a bowl of hot oatmeal porridge in the morning, but there will be no fires, no private cooking, and no refridgeration on this journey. Pilgrims are fed delicious French bread with jam, which is what the French generally eat for breakfast, but alas I am off wheat bread until late June. I have also found tiny boxes of almond milk that don't need refrigeration until they are opened; unfortunately they are sweetened with agave. Still a little bit of agave over 3 or 4 days shouldn't undo my efforts.

Apparently some pilgrims eat sugar in massive quantities along the route, which I thought very funny. So far I've been regaled of stories of who fainted when reaching the first camp, and who came down with scarlet fever, etc., and I wonder how much sugar contributes to the sufferings of the pilgrims. In the late Nineties, when I was on a permanent low-fat diet, I came up with opprobrious names for anything full of fat. Ice-cream, for example, was "Frozen Death." Now I think of refined sugar as "Death Powder." I am convinced that I can march down Northern France without consuming the stuff. As a treat in Chartres on the morning after the Pilgrimage is completed, I shall have a croissant.

Another preparation for the journey will be getting my spoken French in order. Wah. I have a mental block against French, possibly because at least one of my younger brothers and one of my younger sisters speaks it much better than me. In fact, Nulli Secundus and Tertia have a high degree of fluency. Also, it is impossible for someone like me to speak French to a francophone in French Canada without the francophone switching to English. No matter what their true intentions, it always feels like a put-down. Yes, I have cultural baggage.  However, contemporary French Catholics in France are innocent of late-twentieth century Canadian politics, and some are going to walk with the Scots, so I shall do some serious revision. (When I graduated from high school, I was capable of expressing my opinions on Anhouil's Antigone.) I am cheered by the memory that my hearing is so much better now, thanks to four years of listening intently to Polish, and by the fact that continental Europeans speak so much more clearly than North Americans. I'll never forget the moment I first heard Florentines speaking Italian. So beautiful, so clear. I think tears of joy actually sprang to my eyes.

Naturally I must work on some spiritual preparation, too. However, I grew up in a  moderately spirit-of-Vatican II community, so I am not really sure how to go about that. Thus, if anyone has "how to prepare yourself spiritually for a 100 km traditional pilgrimage across northern France" advice, I would be happy to read it. I suppose I should go to confession beforehand, and be particularly careful about saying the rosary in the month of May. Maybe going to Daily Mass every day from now until then would be a good move, too, and much more feasible now that the dawn light comes so much earlier.

Advice, please!

Friday, 29 April 2016

Z Aberdeen

It's Polski Piątek! If you think that is boring, click away now.

Last night's class was eclectic. We asked each other questions about the homework reading, and we listened to a passage about doves. We reported what we thought was said in this passage; I was not very good at this. The young woman married to a Pole and one of the half-Poles were the best. We watched an online Polish lesson about ways in which to express your opinion, from the strongest version of "I am convinced that" to the helpless "Nie wiem" (i.e. I don't know.) We also watched another Big Cyc video. This one is called "Aberdeen", and naturally we dwellers in Scotland found it highly amusing.

The relationship between Poland and Scotland--and the rest of the UK--is an interesting and not always happy one. Horrible Lloyd George didn't like the new independent Poland of 1919 because thought it simply shocking that Catholic Poles were ruling over Poland's Protestant German minority. Wah, sniff. I'm sure an argument can be made that anti-Catholicism played a role in the debacle of 1939 although personally I blame the French generals and I think the Poles should, too. Quite a few Poles blame the British, which I think is unfair, except re: the Treaty of Yalta, and even then Roosevelt was more to blame. Should you ever wish to pick a fight with a Pole, this is a good theme.

Anyway, after 1939 and after the fall of France, the Free Polish government and a gazillion Polish troops (for the Poles never stopped fighting) fled to the UK, and 30,000 Polish troops ended up in Scotland  to guard the coasts from Jerry. More famously, Polish flying aces helped win the Battle of Britain. However, the Treaty of Yalta and the communist takeover of Poland meant that many Poles couldn't go home. Emergency immigration provisions were made for Polish servicemen so that they could stay safely in the UK. Speaking generally, they were not very happy about this. However, they hunkered down and often married local women and fathered little half-Poles, including the half-Poles in my Polish class who were not taught Polish as children and are sad about it.

That was the first wave of Polish migration to the UK. The second wave followed Poland's entry into the EU in 2004. A million Poles turned up, much to the surprise and dismay of native Britons. Many Poles discovered that the roads, although in better shape than their own, were paved only with tarmac and went home. They were replaced by other young Poles attracted by adventure and higher pay than they would get at home.

 In Scotland, most of the jobs available--as I found out when I went to the career centre--are in retail, the restaurant industry, fruit-picking and domestic service, i.e. "care-giving." Therefore, you can come from a reasonably comfortable (and usually intact) home in Poland with a university diploma and find yourself, like the hero of the song, washing dishes in a "horrible pub."  Of course, this is really no different from the Canadian uni grad who takes up domestic service, i.e. "au pair work", in France except, of course, for the weather.

In this song, the Expat Pole is addressing his girlfriend. (It's unclear if she is in Poland or in some sunnier and more southern part of the UK.) My translation is a tad rough-and-ready. The music is at the bottom.

 Aberdeen (Big Cyc)

Tam gdzie dyplom był w szufladzie    When the diploma was in the drawer
leży bilet Ryanair                                 [I got] a Ryanair ticket 
Wolne miejsce na zmywaku                 and [found] a job at the kitchen sink
w podłym pubie Crazy Bear                 in a horrible pub called Crazy Bear.
choć pisałaś romantycznie                    Although you wrote romantic things,
poczuj móż północnej łzy                     feel my northern tears.
możesz całkiem bezboleśnie                 You can entirely painlessly
znać Sherlocka Holmesa sny                 dream dreams of Sherlock Holmes.

Deszczyk kapie trzeci tydzień           It's been raining for three weeks,
rośnie szklanek brudnych stos          there's a growing pile of dirty glasses.
a Ty nadal tu na wyspie                    and you're still here on the Isle
z chudych kur gotujesz sos                cooking sauce from a skinny chicken.
komp już warczy całą dobę               The computer growls around the clock.
moje maile topią sieć                         My emails are melting the internet
i samotność wali w głowę                 and loneliness beats my brain.
smak Twych ust oddala się                The taste of your lips is deserting me.


Twój słodki pocałunek ma smak londyńskiej mgły

Your sweet kiss tastes of London fog.
jest jak irlandzki Guinness                 It's like Irish Guinness.
jest jak szkockie Aberdeen                It's like Scottish Aberdeen.

Twój słodki pocałunek ma smak irlandzkich pół 

Your sweet kiss tastes like an Irish field.
jest jak londyńskie Soho     It's like London's Soho. 
jak niebo w Liverpool         It's like a Liverpool sky.

na na na na
na na na na
na na na na na na na na

Gęsta mżawka nad Hyde Parkie  [There's] thick drizzle over Hyde Park. 
spada, niczym siwy dym              It rains like you've never seen.
nasze serca tak daleko                 Our hearts are so far from each other.
czuje, że ty byłaś z nim               I feel that you were with HIM.
komp już warczy całą dobę        The computer is growling 24/7.
moje maile topią sieć                  My emails are melting the internet
i samotność wali w głowę          and loneliness is beating my brain.
smak Twych ust oddala się        The taste of your kiss is departing. 

Oh dear, poor chap. The tune is rocking, however.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

"More Capable of Evil Than Anyone"

Who? Us. Find out more at Quadrapheme.

Update: While there, have a look at C. Akers on the alarming Scottish Named Person scheme.

What is Drama?

Yesterday I went on a splendid 9 to 10 mile walk along the Union Canal from Ratho to central Edinburgh. My travelling companions were three other female pilgrims-to-be and a dog. The weather was mild--not too hot, not too cold, not too sunny, but not too cloudy, either. We seemed to be moving along at about 3 miles per hour, and we had one half hour or forty-five minute break.

As we went along we chatted, and so the time and the miles sped by. While I was talking about the letters I received in my "Seraphic Singles" days, one of the girls asked "What is Drama?"

I took a big breath to opine on one of my favourite subjects.

Drama is the state of making a socially awkward situation more exciting and awkward than it needs to be.  My example was two fictional girls (here we'll call them Mary and Martha) and a fictional George. I shall now embroider the original story, as I have more time for juicy detail. (Drama thrives on juicy detail.) Goodness gracious, I made up a story while practicing for a pilgrimage!  How very Canterbury Tales.

Mary, Martha and George are all  slim young pillars of their local Extraordinary Form of the Mass. George, feeling that it is high time he married a nice Traddy girl and produced a lot of little Traddies, asks Mary out for a cup of coffee, so as to see if he likes her conversation as much as he likes her white lace mantilla and rockin' 1950s dresses.

Mary has never given George much of a thought before, but there aren't a lot of young bachelors in the parish and George seems like a nice guy. Therefore, Mary says yes to coffee and has coffee with George. They have a long conversation--well, actually George does--and Mary concludes afterwards that she isn't attracted to George and they are just going to be friends.

Unbeknownst to Mary, George privately decides the same about her. Therefore, after mulling it over and presumably praying about his future, he bumps into Martha in the street and asks her out for coffee on the spot. They have a lovely coffee, and laugh a lot, and afterwards George asks Martha on a Real Date.  Martha is very pleased and emails Mary to tell her her splendid social news.

Mary, needless to say if you're female, is seriously hurt. Although she wasn't that taken with George, it hurts that George obviously wasn't that taken with her and within a few days had transferred his attentions to Martha. Naturally, the easiest way to stop hurting so much is to tell a friend in the same set (perhaps even Martha) what a womanizing louse George is.

Now, there is no evidence that George is a womanizing louse, but how much more exciting it would be if he were, eh? And perhaps Mary would feel better that she had escaped the attentions of such a jerk, etc., etc. And if someone tells Martha, Martha's eyes will be opened to George's villainy before it is too late, etc., etc. The permutations of Drama are endless.

However, Mary has another option. Mary can swallow the hurt and not say anything to anyone, for she is schooled in graciousness and has a vague sense that such a prudential silence is what a Catholic Christian lady is supposed to practice. She tells Martha that this news is exciting and that George seems to be a nice guy. And if Martha, or some Drama addict smelling a whiff of Drama in the air, says to Mary, "I thought you were having coffee with George," she can smile and say, "Oh, that was just a friend thing."

The Recording Angel nods approvingly and writes this down in the Book of Life.

When I think about it, the dangers of Drama are worst when you are in a relatively small (but not too small) set during your undergraduate university or college years. Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is when a goodly percentage of Catholics-who-are-Catholics pair off, to say nothing of making friends and business contacts for life. As long as you keep your grades up, long gab sessions of "he said" and "she said" and "can you believe it?" are probably not as damaging in high school. However, college and university, i.e. the beginning of adult life, are a different story. It's too bad then, that this is at the age when so many others (perhaps late bloomers like my formerly Drama-loving self) still live and breathe Drama. However, the best way to cope is to understand that this is their problem and to resist being sucked in, including with the help of prayer and, if necessary, conversations with sympathetic older ladies, like me.

In other news I had rollmops (herring) for lunch yesterday and to my chagrin they were cured not only in salt but in sugar. I adore herring, but my goodness. If you don't have a grain of refined sugar for three and a half days, you sure taste it when you get it.

Update: My super-smart Guiding/pilgrimage hat has just arrived from France. It is ever so smart. It is hard like a top hat,100% pur laine and hits my huge head perfectly. I may never take it off.
Carrick, c'est chic!

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

A Bony Deformity

My favourite photograph of the young/old divide.
Everybody stand up, put a hand on the wall or a piece of furniture, if necessary, and rise to your toes. Flex those toes. Stand tall. Enjoy it because I can't. Alas, I have a  bunion, which turns out to be a toe joint that doesn't want to work properly anymore and isn't going to. Apparently this was always in the cards; it just took a long time to become noticeable. "It's in your DNA," said the pod, lest I blame myself.

The podiatrist was very nice and very funny. She referred more than once to "naughty shoes", her expression for high heels. Like a G.P. suggesting to his heavy-drinking patient that he cut down, the pod suggested that I wear high heeled shoes only once a week. As it happens, I haven't worn high heeled shoes in months. What really bothers me is I no longer have a full range of motion. For example, I will never do Pilates planks again.

"I wish someone would tell me I could never do Pilates planks again," joked the pod, which I thought was taking the bedside manner just a bit too far.

It seems to me that aging brings a trade-off. When you are young, you usually have an enormous capacity for physical prowess, but you may feel terribly conflicted, thwarted, frightened and self-doubting. When you are older, your body starts breaking down, but you feel more certain, wily, courageous and confident. Sometimes you are richer, too, but not necessarily. I dreamed as a teen that at forty I'd be swanning about in designer clothes. No, alas. I picked the wrong career for that.

When I am confronted with a problem associated with aging (or, in the case of the bunion, the simple passage of sufficient time for the ailment to become an issue), I am deeply grateful to my younger self for having taken up athleticism at the relatively late age of 25. Should I get Parkinson's I will no doubt regret my boxing days, but right now I am delighted that I worked my body so hard in my late twenties and early thirties. I was so full of energy, I could run from the boxing club uphill to my apartment about five kilometres away after the two hour boxing workout that had followed my 9-5 job. I was not a happy young woman, but I was using what I had.  I am grateful, too, that at 27 I paid a professional photographer friend-of-a-friend to take photos of me. At the time, I thought I would be able to figure out who I was better through the eyes of an artist. Now I'm happy I have reminders of what I was once like: fit, young, furious.

Naturally I think younger readers should do this too. I do not mean glamour shots! The point is not to make yourself look like someone else but to meditate upon who you are (and then later on who you were). In most of my photos I am wearing an oatmeal-coloured jumper. The only ones I still have are in black-and-white. Occasionally I look at my scowling, comparatively beautiful, black-and-white 27 year old face and feel great compassion for that young woman, who found scowling a tremendous relief after years of well-bred social smiles. Sometimes smiling gets you into more trouble than it gets you out of.

I also think younger readers should get out more. Get up at 6. Go for a run. Take up the heavy weights. Take up dancing. Go backpacking across Europe during your two week vacation from work. Go train at a boxing gym. Go to a late-night club with friends, dance until dawn, have an early-bird brunch, go to bed at 9 AM. Go, go, go. Push yourself because one day you may want to and then find out that you can't. If you have never discovered your physical limits before, that will be a sad day.

Age does not put an end to physicality, of course. Indeed, it is more important to be active as you get older, even if you cannot match the committed young in ability. I'm very curious as to how my body will react to this temporary low-calorie, low-GI diet and to how it will cope with a 70 mile pilgrimage. (Yesterday I was in a raging temper, so I know how my mind likes the diet.) I'm quite excited, really, and going for a long hike is a lot more fun than Pilates planks anyway.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

What Earlier Generations Held as Sacred

It's Traddy Tuesday, and I have traddy news. The podiatrist says a 70 mile walk won't exacerbate the condition of my faulty toe, and so I'm officially going on the Chartres pilgrimage in May. Benedict Ambrose will stay at home, lounging in comfort as I slog... Well, actually he has to work.

I'm very excited as I have never been on such a long or hard pilgrimage before. Also, I haven't been to Paris in sixteen years, and I've never been to Chartres. It will certainly be an adventure.

But today I thought I'd write about the Apostolic Letter "Motu Proprio Data" Summorum Pontificum (July 7, 2007), a document so important to the lives of liturgical traditionalists. I had fled theology school two or so months earlier, and so all the news and drama passed me by.

However, this short document--the English translation is fewer than 1,900 words--had an enormous effect on the liturgical life of Catholics whose hearts cried out against what the Pope Emeritus (then Benedict XVI) called "arbitrary deformations of the liturgy." I wish now that I had been around for the parties.

This, by the way, reminds me of a very funny story about a college pal of B.A.'s who literally wept when Benedict XVI was elected. The story goes that a Catholic of a more "progressive" disposition was furious when he heard the news and went ranting and raving about. He came across our pal, infamous for his scoldings of the heterodox, who was visibly moved. In fact, Mr Orthodoxy was weeping.

"So even you are upset by this terrible news," snarled the 'progressive.'

Mr Orthodoxy lifted his tear-stained face.

"This is the happiest day of my life," he said.

Anyway, looking at this letter now,  I see that it is addressed to the bishops. I learned in theology school that when reading papal documents, you must always note to whom it is written. Anything written to the bishops is to the bishops and the bishops are supposed to write their own letters to their priests and laypeople to explain the document. However, Summorum Pontificum is so simple and concise, I don't imagine the bishops would have needed to explain much, if they did. The Archbishops of Toronto and Ottawa talked to Michael Swan at the Toronto Catholic Register here. (The information given in the yellow panel to the left suggests that its compiler had very jaundiced view.)

These Canadian bishops seem upbeat and relatively open to the 1962 liturgy. Certainly it seems that Archbishop Collins (now Cardinal Collins) would not have had a problem with priest saying their own private EF Masses or for small groups that request it. The tricky thing would be the EF used in a parish in place of the regularly scheduled OF Mass.  This is no doubt because of the potential of strife between people who prefer the OF and those who prefer the EF. I remember being shocked by young trads myself in the early 1990s. "This Mass is all wrong" does not go down well with rank-and-file Catholics brought up to venerate Mass (ANY Mass) as sacred.

So I did come across the "we few, we happy few, simply know better than anyone else" style of traditionalism before Summorum Pontificum, and I suspect Summorum Pontificum largely squelched it by returning the "Old Mass" to the mainstream. Well...if it didn't squelch it, it certainly attracted large numbers of Benedict-loving, mainstream Catholics, who were--and perhaps still are--less, er, eccentric and more, er, conventional. By definition, most people are conventional, and perhaps because it is easier to be a conventional person, conventional people tend to be more easy-going.

Really, it is neither clever nor funny to slag off the Novus Ordo, and doing so is no advertisement for traditionalism, just as slagging off the "Bad Old Days" (e.g. the Church between Pentecost and the alleged "New Pentecost" of Vatican II) was no advertisement for Catholicism in general.  Shockingly, there are priests to this day who tell their congregations how awful the Extraordinary Mass is, how disrespectful to women, to laypeople in general, yadda yadda. What are they saying, that the Catholic Church was All Wrong until 1970? Frankly, it looks like worry that their dwindling congregations will dwindle further thanks to rumours of the liturgical majesty to be found across town.

However, the number one threat to the continuation of the Catholic faith in Scotland, for example, is certainly not the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. If I had to guess, I'd have to say it was being converted to the worship of Feeling Good by hours and hours of watching television, watching films. listening to pop music and reading newspapers online. If you feel a new sense of holy revelation having watched Milk, you're not going to be thrilled when your boring old priest reads out your boring old bishop's embarrassing letter against "g*y m*rriage."  Milk had a budget of $20 million. Imagine a £10 million campaign to preserve the faith of Catholics in Catholicism.

Dear me, I meant to do a close reading of Summorum Pontificum, not ponder why Catholics stop going to Mass. Catholics stop going to Mass because Catholics stop being Catholics. Seriously, though, both Communist and Protestant regimes tried extremely hard to make Catholics stop being Catholics, and it never worked without extreme violence until now. Why is it that media has succeeded in doing what the Commies and Protestants couldn't do?

It's a question. And the answer may be linked to SP because if there's anything we 21st century people get, it's good spectacle versus bad spectacle, and the more people fiddle with the Mass, the less Mass-like it's going to be. The Mass supported the people spiritually for hundreds and hundreds of years---and that was back in the "Bad Old Days." Here's a once-famous post on the topic.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Good-bye to Simple Sugars, Gluten, Potatoes, Cake

Fatal. Just fatal. B.A. and I stopped in at a railway station W.H.Smith and I thumbed through The Blood Sugar Diet.  This was written by the same chap who wrote The Fast Diet, which worked like a charm until I gave it up. (I forget why I gave it up.)

"Women have a strange relationship with food," quoth I to B.A. the next day as we were sitting outside an art gallery, taking a rest before going to Mass. "This is a feminist cliché, of course. It's probably because women used to be in charge of cooking the stuff."

Actually, it's probably because women are worried about becoming fat, and actually once we are over a certain age and weight, we probably ought to be. This is particularly true if you are a freelance writer because (A) you spend long hours in front of a computer getting squodgy and (B) you can't afford new clothes when you grow out of your old ones. Apparently belly squodge is the worse squodge, too, leading to DISEASE, and I have more of it than I used to. Oh dear, I used to be so fit. 

The Blood Sugar Diet  is actually meant for people with Type II Diabetes, but claims it can rid any dieter of great slabs of belly fat in eight weeks. The basic idea is that you eat only 800 calories a day, and none of them must come from sugar or easily digested carbs like flour, bread, cookies and potatoes. 

"What about booze?" demanded B.A., and lo, the good doctor-turned-diet-superstar concedes small amounts of wine, preferably red and probably because he knows his British readership. I think the supermarkets do, too, for suddenly there are plastic pots and bags of "courgette spaghetti" and "butternut squash noodles" for sale in local supermarkets. Naturally they cost more than uncut courgettes (that's British for zucchini) and butternut squashes. However, they do really fill you up like spaghetti. 

Eight weeks does not sound like a long time for a middle-aged woman free from eating disorders to participate in the latest dieting craze, and indeed it seems tailor-made for people who give up diets out of sheer boredom. It also encourages you to eat a lot of foods I happen to like--blueberries, lentils, avocados, aubergines (British for eggplants), salmon, nuts (well, not too many nuts) and eggs. Really, it's more about what you don't eat, which I find much more relaxing than a charge sheet of what you must eat. When you get hungry between meals, you just drink a lot of water, coffee and tea, especially green tea, which I also like. 

That said, I spent yesterday (Day 1) thinking about cake. I went through a gluten-free baking book to see if it had any sugar-free recipes for cake, but it didn't. If this seems like a fool's errand, you must understand that the cake is the British national dish. British women get fat because of cake. Slender American girls, be they foreign students or starry-eyed brides, arrive in the UK, and British women stuff them full of cake until they are fat. We are a cake-eating people, and Victoria Sponge is our song. 

(Here, by the way, is how you make a Victoria Sponge. Having been here 7 years, I know this by heart: 1:1:1 butter, sugar, flour. 1 tsp baking powder, 2 eggs and 1/2 tsp vanilla per 100 g flour. Cream butter and sugar. Sift flour with baking powder. Add eggs, putting in 1 Tbsp of the flour per egg. Beat. Add vanilla. Add sifted flour/b.p. Do not beat too much. Put buttered, floured tin. [For best results put a square of baking paper on the bottom.] Put in oven at 180  C (350 F). Done between half an hour and forty-five minutes depending on size. [Check with fork.] It will be flatter than an American/Canadian cake. Cool. Cover with jam, cream, butter icing. Eat. Repeat. 

Normally you make two at once and stick them together with whipped cream and/or jam in the middle, but if as slim American guest drops in without warning and you have only two eggs, you just make one and cover it with buttercream icing [soft butter, half box of icing sugar, smidge flavouring].)

So far seems to be impossible to make a cake without (A) sugar and (B) flour. I have made gluten-free cakes with great success, but a cake innocent of sugar, honey and all those frightening substitutes from Argentinan bark, etc. is hard to imagine. The only hope are the fruits The Blood Sugar Diet seems to like, i.e. blueberries, strawberries, apples and pears. Can you powder apples? I bet Heston Blumenthal knows how.

Meanwhile, I can think about this all day, which no doubt is an indictment of myself and my food-obsessed culture. When I announced on Facebook that I was going on a sugar-free, gluten-free, anti-simple carb diet, there were a flurry of comments from a wide assortment of Facebook friends, including one I was sure would drop me when I linked to the Eucharistic miracle in Legnica. He immediately gave me a recipe for cauliflower rice. 

My mother, the annual post-Christmas dieter, remarked that it sounded worse than her tomato-open faced sandwich diet, which I can well imagine as the slice of bread under her tomato is most of her post-breakfast calorie intake. However, even at 800 calories a day I shall be eating more food than my mother does. For lunch I had half a cup of Umbrian lentils and a strip of streaky bacon. That was a wide strip, so I am guessing it was 90 calories whereas the lentils were 116 plus 119 max for the adhering olive oil (goodness), if a whole tablespoon adhered. So that's 325 calories. This morning I had 158 calories of oatmeal porridge and about 45 calories of blueberries, so that's 203. Goodness me, not a lot left for supper. Oh well. Time for a green tea. 

Saturday, 23 April 2016

In Training for Chartes!

It's a little crazy, as I will not know until Tuesday if it's a good idea for my left foot to go to Chartes, but B.A. and I went on another practice hike today. This time we walked along the Union Canal from Edinburgh Park (an industrial section outside Edinburgh) to Ratho and back. We think this was 8 miles. If it wasn't, we will count in the walk to our local railway station and back. That makes it 8 miles for sure.

Meanwhile I have ordered a splendid blue Scouting/Guiding hat from France, hoping against hope that the 60cm size will fit. After our walk, B.A. and I tried on much cheaper hats in a hiking shop in Edinburgh park, and 60 cm does, indeed, fit my massive cranium. (We are unsure as to how big my head would be without all the hair, but we hope we never find out.)

As B.A. was never, ever, ever going to take up swing-dancing, I am glad that there is one form of physical exercise that we both enjoy: hiking. Now that spring is here, I have been encouraging him to get the maps out and look up train timetables.

The hiking shop surprised me: apparently aluminum framed backpacks are no longer de riguer (or available). Sleeping bags and tents are thinner and lighter than ever! New outdoor ambitions are hatching in my brain, but I will have to convince B.A. that he doesn't just love hiking; he may love camping, too.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Baltic i Jego Kra

It is Polski Piątek, so I will give Poles and Polish fans an update. This week I went to the second class of the term and started reading another children's book. This one is called Baltic, pies który płynął na krze ("Baltic the dog who sailed on an ice floe"). It begins with New Year's Eve fireworks and the poor neglected dog running in terror through the streets, which is a satisfactorily heart-jerking beginning.

I was highly fed up before class yesterday, possibly because I hadn't eaten enough. If you are a morning person like me, it is necessary to get adequate sleep and to eat enough before evening language class. A cup of coffee an hour before class is also a good idea. I have also decided that it is a bad idea to spend the WHOLE day reading Polish before going to Polish class. It's just too exhausting. I think it may be like studying last minute for an exam. It's a much better idea to study every day EXCEPT the day of the exam. In the case of Polish class, there's probably nothing wrong with a little light review an hour ahead of time.

I was also fed up because after four and a half years I still cannot speak Polish on cue although this is not completelz true, as I spent fifteen minutes or so yesterday chatting with a classmate about jeans, mobile phones and hipster cafés. (The topic was moda, i.e. fashion.) Naturally the best thing to do now would be to rush away to Poland and do an intensive course, but there is no money in the jam jar  as yet for such an intellectual extravagance.

You may be wondering why I haven't continued with the Polish translations of Harry Potter, and it is because I wasn't absorbing enough from just reading through the books. They are relatively long, and I wasn't looking up the words, and if you don't look up the words, you don't learn.  Also, this is terrible to say, but I didn't like the voice of the actor who reads the books. Finally, Harry's stupidity in the matter of Tom Riddle made me very cross. I find reading children's books much more satisfactory, even though I probably look very odd in the train. They are short enough that I don't feel impatient writing down all the words I don't remember, looking them up and then writing down the English in coloured pens. I have a colour code to help me remember. A zaspa, for example, is a snowdrift and feminine. A miska is a bowl.  A podwiórko can be a backyard and is neuter. Masculine dźwiek is sound.

When I am feeling a bit smarter and more hopeful, I will come up with a new Five Year Plan. As the Communists always had Five Year Plans, Polish friends thought I was joking about my five year plan. However, I did not know the Communists actually had five year plans, being woefully ignorant about the history of Poland when I started on my linguistic journey. 

Voris Is a Decent Old Bean Really

If it is true that people at the Archdiocese of New York are actively recruiting others to destroy journalist Michael Voris' reputation, then that is truly wicked.

Yes, I know that Michael Voris is not most of my readers' cup of tea. I know. (Update: And I've just been reminded of his swipe at the Pope Emeritus, which I simply cannot condone.) However, that is all the more reason to mention again that I met Michael in Rome, he went to lunch with a gang of my Rome friends and me and he paid the whole bill. He didn't have to do that, but he did. 

To be honest, when I found out that Voris was going to be the top speaker at Hilary White's "Rebel Catholic Blognic", I cried. That seems very funny now, but I had publicly pledged to go to Hilary's event, and when I heard her controversial guest was going to be there, I thought I'd be fired from the CR. I emailed my editor, I emailed my mentor, I wept and carried on. This must have been before I started reading the blogs of other Catholics who criticize bishops from a position of tradition and/or orthodoxy. At any rate, my editor and my mentor were interested but not really concerned. It takes a lot to shock a newspaper editor, come to think of it. (Having spoken to a bunch of editors after Michael Coren [cousin of Giles and Victoria, dear British readers] was innocently outed by Anglicans as a crypto-Anglican, I can attest that pretending you are still a Catholic and taking Catholic dollars after ceasing to be a Catholic does indeed blow the mind of a Catholic editor.)

So I went to Rome, and I met Michael Voris, and I noted that at lunch he wore a Notre Dame (Indiana) T-shirt and a big old cross worn on a rather short cord or chain and also that the restaurant owner loved him. Michael was loud and friendly and pronounced the food the best in Rome, and I suspect he ate all his Roman meals there, which may explain the devotion of the ristoratore.  I cannot remember what he said at the blognic although I remember being impressed by it. 

I'm not a regular reader/listener of the Vortex, but I can see its usefulness for the Church, especially the Church from the grassroots up. I have been down in the pews among the laity for most of my life (as an M.Div. candidate I was often up among the priests and "ministers"), and the fact that crowds of good and trusting Catholic men and women are fleeced by cadres of smug secret sexual revolutionaries does not thrill me. Small children sometimes put their pocket money in the collection basket, too. Slightly bigger children go to confession on Saturday afternoons and shyly confess their venial sins to men who, sometimes, have done the devil knows what on Friday night. 

If it just stopped at dirty deeds done dirt cheap, okay, hate the sin, love the sinner, but some of these guys try to justify their sin by preaching a new Gospel on Sunday mornings. One chap I'm thinking of, a priest who refused to read his bishop's letter about gay marriage legislation and thundered at his congregation about its homophobia instead, was rumoured (A) to have a girlfriend and (B) to have his hand in the till. Did he really? I doubt I'll ever know, but I do wonder about the role of complicity when trying to shift Catholic attitudes on sexuality. 

So now Voris and his sinful youth. Well, it's sad, but it's over, and Voris never tried to make it look better by twisting moral law. Apparently his mother offered her life for his return to the faith and shortly thereafter died of stomach cancer. That's a pretty big cross to carry. 

Meanwhile, as far as I know, Voris has never gone after Catholic laymen for their past sins. If I have this right, he goes after bishops and priests for poor leadership, scandalous bad example, and manipulating, robbing or otherwise abusing the faithful. Well, since it took the secular press to get things moving when it came to some bishops' absolutely appalling betrayal of us the laypeople, it seems right that Catholics ourselves have taken over. Given the sacred nature of the episcopate, it's a crying shame that we have to do it, but it sure looks like we do. I'm just incredibly grateful that both my dioceses (St. Andrews-Edinburgh and Toronto) have good bishops. (We will not speak of Cardinal O'Brien although I will say that he put up a good fight for traditional marriage, and I believe it was his fight for traditional marriage that led his ex-boyfriends and/or disgruntled priests to out him to the press. It was not hypocritical for Cardinal O'Brien to defend marriage. That was his job. )

Anyway, just in case anyone was wondering what I have to say about THE Catholic Blogging story du jour, that's it.  Well, that and here's a fine opportunity to illustrate that Catholics do not dislike men with homosexual inclinations per se but merely the sins that get them into such terrible trouble.

UPDATE: I thought of something else to say. Although Catholics who experience same sex attractions and identify as gay must have challenges I know nothing about--for one thing they are usually men--I wouldn't go so far as to agree with one gay Voris critic I have read today (no link for prudential reasons) that "straight people" don't understand how difficult it is to fall in love with someone and not be able to do anything about it, to see the beloved as both a source of joy and pain.

That is so not true. Not only do married Catholics "fall in love" outside their marriages, priests and nuns occasionally "fall in love" with members of the opposite sex, too. There's a whole lotta falling in love going on. Falling in and falling out, and if the vowed people are smart, they keep their mouths shut and suffer in silence.

Taking vows as a free adult person means honouring that vow more than falling in and out of love. Most men--and very possibly most women--are not monogamous by (fallen) nature. Faithful spouses set aside our natural inclinations to variety to honour God, each other and our families. We also, come to think of it, refuse to collude in the seduction of those weaker than us, e.g. unmarried people. When I hear or read the polyamorist's term "secondary partner", I shudder. And then there are the old, the crazy, and the Hunchback-of-Notre-Dame-style unattractive: they often fall in love, and they often find the beloved a source of joy and pain, and they are often terrified of making a sexual overture lest they lose something very precious.  So again, although I concede that I know almost squat about what it is to be homosexual, I refuse to concede that "straights" have no conception of eros being irrevocably tied to sin. Life sucks. It's a vale of tears for everyone. Count yourself lucky if you get three squares a day and have a roof over your head.

I don't think Voris' fans are going to turn on him, and in fact, I think his confession will excite a lot of sincere sympathy in people who previously didn't like him. (There are a few pseudonymous SSPX-supporters crowing, I see. Ugh.) However, if I were Michael, I think I'd  hate the "Oh, if only you were open to love, you are a victim" stuff. If the Church had said "No annulment for you", and I was alone and striving to live a life of dignity and chaste celibacy, I  know I would absolutely loathe the pity of the divorced-and-remarried. ("Listen, I know this priest, and he just says don't worry about it.")

Update 2: The Archdiocese of New York denies the allegations.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

The Queen's Birthday

It is the Queen's 90th birthday, and as this is a blog written by a Canadian in Scotland, the queen I mean is obviously Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, Queen of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papa New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, and Saint Kitts and Nevis.

As an amusing aside, as Canada is clearly still colonial, can the term "post-colonial" really be applied to her literature? The only way Canada has changed, really, is that instead of being a colony of the UK, she is clearly, albeit to a lesser extent, a colony of everywhere else. I suppose, however, no government outside Canada officially calls the shots--although one of our governor-generals is rumoured to have called the Queen in a panic, and a very good idea that would have been, too.

My mother is a monarchist, possibly because she began school in Coronation Year and so education and the Queen are linked in her mind. Because members of the Royal Family pop over to Canada to visits quite often, and because the popular press enjoys writing stories (and the public enjoys reading stories) about real-life princes and princesses, they are often presented to the Canadian mind.

However, this is nothing to the extent to which the Royal Family is presented to the British reading/ viewing public, i.e. every single day. Never mind the fact that the Queen is on all the coinage--she is in Canada, too--she is top news on the telly at least twice a year--Remembrance Sunday and the opening of Parliament, and then there are the various Royal weddings, births, visits to colourful lands, jubilees, etc., etc. Frankly I love it because it makes me feel right at home, here in the centre of hte Empire Commonwealth, sharing historically in all the Britishness, if not in the local accent.

Naturally there are various progressives who profess to hate all this and plot to bring about soviet socialist republics, but even they reportedly snuck away from ironic anti-royal wedding parties to watch Prince and Princess William on television. Ordinary Glaswegians, discovering that there was no official Royal Wedding party, spontaneously partied on their own. At the Scotmid supermarket in Edinburgh's Portobello, Scotswomen discussed with great disfavour the hats of Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice. ("Who told them they looked nice?" demanded one. "Their mother," said another with irony dipped in poison. Sadly Sarah, Duchess of York, has never been restored to public favour. Poor old Fergie. The divorce was a huge mistake, even if it did, er, save the marriage.) This was when the Scottish separatist movement was at its height and the Referendum loomed. 

But all the adventures of the younger Royals are mere spin-offs from the central drama of the Queen getting up every morning, having a cup of tea and reading her papers, which come in a special box, straight from Parliament. This is why, incidentally, a Canadian Governor-General telephoning the Queen when she or he is in a terrible fix re: parliamentary conundrums is such a good idea. Apparently, the Queen has spent her entire reign reading daily reports of what is going on in British parliament, and thus knows the British parliamentary system inside out and backwards, going back at least to 1953. Every week Parliament is in session she has a meeting with her Prime Minister to hear what is going on, which means that she has had the chance to pick the brains of all these chaps and the one Chapette

I don't think I knew this before I moved to the UK--or perhaps before I toured the Royal Yacht Britannia, the Queen's beloved ship which wicked Tony Blair took away from her, boo hiss. At any rate, my esteem for the Queen, which was mostly cultural to the point of instinctual, increased even more. At that point I thought all she did was sign what she was told to sign and visit what she was told to visit and be incredibly gracious to all and sundry, the prisoner of the modern, post-colonial age. 

Anyway, it is a terribly beautiful day for Scotland--sunny and warm, just like yesterday when B.A. and I went on a seven mile walk from South Queensferrry past Cramond, mostly along the clean white empty sandy beaches edging the Earl of Rosebery's  estate--so I think I shall stop blogging and go outside. I shall just say that like almost everybody else in the UK, I am quite happy that we have such a hard-working, respectable and personable Head of State. Apart from all the other considerations, the disappointments, etc., I was rather embarrassed when the Pope Emeritus abdicated because elements of the British Press were smug that despite her great age the QUEEN hasn't abdicated. Yes, yes, all right.

Update: On our walk from Cramond to the bus stop, the last leg of our hike, we passed a memorial stone dedicated to "Pet Marjorie", a rather startling literary heroine of the Georgian era, as she didn't live to see 9.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Eucharistic Miracle Pronounced in Poland

I'm a day or two (or more) late, but this is the official letter from the Bishop of Legnica in Poland, regarding an incident in the Sanktuarium św. Jacka in Legnica when a dropped Host that reddened during an attempt to dissolve it was examined.  

Saint Jacek, incidentally, is not "Saint Jack" but Saint Hyacinth of Poland. That took 2 seconds on Google to determine.  Less reliable is the Google Translate certain segments of the Catholic media have obviously been using to translate the letter.  To sum up the most interesting parts: heart tissue from a heart under duress and genetic tests say its human. (What else do they say?)

This may take a while to translate myself.  But, my goodness, scroll down to the photographs. Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!


w sprawie wydarzenia o znamionach cudu eucharystycznego w parafii św. Jacka w Legnicy

 Siostry i Bracia w Chrystusie Panu!

Jako Biskup Legnicki podaję niniejszym wiadomość o wydarzeniu, jakie zaszło w parafii św. Jacka w Legnicy i które ma znamiona cudu eucharystycznego. Na Hostii, która 25 grudnia 2013 roku przy udzielaniu Komunii świętej upadła na posadzkę i która została podniesiona, i złożona do naczynia z wodą, po pewnym czasie pojawiły się przebarwienia koloru czerwonego. Ówczesny Biskup Legnicki Biskup Stefan Cichy powołał Komisję, której zadaniem było obserwowanie zjawiska. W lutym 2014 roku został wyodrębniony fragment materii koloru czerwonego i złożony na korporale. W celu wyjaśnienia rodzaju tej materii Komisja zleciła pobranie próbek i przeprowadzenie stosownych badań przez różne kompetentne instytucje.

Ostatecznie w orzeczeniu Zakładu Medycyny Sądowej czytamy: „W obrazie histopatologicznym stwierdzono fragmenty tkankowe zawierające pofragmentowane części mięśnia poprzecznie prążkowanego. (…) Całość obrazu (…) jest najbardziej podobna do mięśnia sercowego” (…) ze zmianami, które „często towarzyszą agonii”. Badania genetyczne wskazują na ludzkie pochodzenie tkanki.

W styczniu br. przedstawiłem całą tę sprawę w Kongregacji Nauki Wiary. Dziś, zgodnie z zaleceniami Stolicy Apostolskiej, polecam Księdzu Proboszczowi Andrzejowi Ziombrze przygotowanie odpowiedniego miejsca dla wystawienia Relikwii tak, aby wierni mogli oddawać Jej cześć. Proszę też o udostępnienie przybywającym osobom stosownych informacji oraz o prowadzenie systematycznej katechezy, która pomagałaby właściwie kształtować świadomość wiernych w dziedzinie kultu eucharystycznego. Polecam nadto założenie księgi, w której byłyby rejestrowane ewentualne uzyskane łaski oraz inne wydarzenia mające charakter nadprzyrodzoności.

Mam nadzieję, że wszystko to posłuży pogłębieniu kultu Eucharystii i będzie owocowało wpływem na życie osób zbliżających się do tej Relikwii. Odczytujemy ten przedziwny Znak, jako szczególny wyraz życzliwości i miłości Pana Boga, który tak bardzo zniża się do człowieka.

Polecam się Waszej modlitwie i Wam błogosławię
+ Zbigniew Kiernikowski

Wedding Hair

Normally I hate the Yahoo faux-news, but this was irresistable click-bait.

Both my friend Lil and I think our hairdressers messed up our wedding day hair. Lil thought she should have done her own. I thought I shouldn't have fallen out with my magical Caribbean stylist.

Frankly, I think Lily looked fine. In fact she is the only bride I know as a friend who looked as stunning as a "bride" in a perfume ad. Yes, yes, all brides are beautiful on their wedding day, beauty is only skin deep, yadda yadda. But unlike anyone else I know, she could have immediately done a photo shoot for Estée Lauder.

I, however, just looked like me--or would have looked like me had I not attempted to do a cut-price hot iron straighten. I highly regret this now--although perhaps this is a sign I really need to let certain memories go. I mean, who cares about my hair almost seven years ago? I made sure I looked better on my fifth anniversary than on the day itself, so I should let it rest.


What happened is that I made an appointment with my magical Caribbean stylist who was unfortunately not working at the same salon anymore. She was away and gone to some other part of town, where I was willing to go. Being on a shoestring budget, I was careful not to mention that I was going to get married the next day. Toronto hairdressers hear "wedding" and charge mega-bucks, no matter what you are having done to your hair. I can understand this when it is going to take hours, but my hair always takes hours anyway--as MCS may have remembered, as she called back to renegotiate the price. Bridezilla answered the phone and roared.

So instead of having perfectly smooth and shiny hair like Julianne Moore I had rather flat and limp mall hair and, honestly, I should have had the hairdresser just put it in a simple bun, telling her it was for "a big date" and slept propped up on pillows so as not to disturb the Friday night arrangement. Or--staggering thought--I could have got my mother and sisters to do it.

Less is more. Less is more. Less is more.

I will now cheer us all up with a photo from B.A.'s and my Fifth Wedding Anniversary:

P.S. Brides. Superfragile. Do not easily let go of what happens on wedding day. Must be treated even more gently than newborn baby skulls, let alone Singles.

Personal Top Ten hierarchy of fragility: Unborn babies, brides, newborn baby skulls, children, recently bereaved parents, recently bereaved widows and widowers, long-term Searching Singles, teenagers, childless-not-by-choice, seminary drop-outs. PhD dropouts are also very fragile, but I am not sure if they are more or less fragile than seminary drop-outs. The unemployed-not-by-choice should be in there, too, of course.

The Traddy Calendar

It's Traddy Tuesday, so I shall write about that most traditional of household organizers, the wall calendar.

I come from a family of seven, so for decades the calendar on the kitchen wall has been filled with my mother's notations of who has a dentist's appointment when, etc. There is still a calendar on the go, but there is now less ink and rather more non-Christian holidays on it. My mother's calendar has always come free in the (I believe) Toronto Star; presumably it's free because it is printed by the Milk Marketing Board. The "Milk Calendar", as we call it, features photographs of meals made with hearty amounts of milk, butter and/or cheese. If it is meant to encourage the consumption of gallons and gallons of milk, it sure works in my parents' house.

Now that I have married and moved to the other side of the Atlantic, I have quite a different kind of calendar on the hall wall. April has two notations--"Imien. B'a" and "Apt 4 FOOT 9:50"--representing an anniversary and a doctor's appointment. However, instead of being illustrated by super-luxury macaroni and cheese with lobster or Thai-style fettucini alfredo, April features a photo of Br. Alfonso Maria pollinating the apricots in the Papa Stronsay greenhouse. Apparently Papa Stronsay has no bees, so the monks have to be their own bees. It would be more fun if Br Alfonso Maria were wearing a black and yellow striped jumper to do his bee duties, but apparently he's not on a windy island in the North Atlantic to have fun.

Meanwhile, there are no non-Christian holidays on this calendar: it is wholly Christian in tone. It is also very judgmental, branding some days to be first class and others only second, third or even fourth class. On the other hand,  April 23 is recognized to be I Class in England, if IV Class everywhere else, because it is the Feast (or Comm.) of St. George, M., so the calendar clearly recognizes regional diversity. Goodness, it's even got Pope Emeritus Benedict's Birthday in 1927 written in red italics. Have they got Pope Francis' birthday marked down, I wonder. Hmm.

This calendar took on new importance when for the New Year B.A. and I decided we would drink alcohol (and I would drink coffee) only on first and second class feast days in 2016. This was suspended for Easter, and goodness, I never knew there were so few first and second class feast days. Occasionally I would feel that a special saint (like St. Dorothy) deserved to be upgraded to I Class at the Historical House. Anyway, before Lent there was a lot of checking of the calendar, as if we were engaged in a sort of alcoholic NFP.

Of course the one tragic thing about the Traddy calendar aka the Old Calendar is that it contradicts the New Calendar. I can just see the argument for having Year A, B, and C for the liturgy*,  but not at all with moving the ancient feast days around, if  any argument was ever made. For one thing, it disrupts our ties to the Anglican communion, which gaily keeps on celebrating saints' days the days they have for centuries been commemorated in Britain and its Empire. Moreover, it disrupts our ties to the Catholic Church of centuries past. As Chesterton so quotably pointed out: "Tradition means giving a vote to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead.... Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about."

One of the curious thing about Anglicanism is that it unwittingly preserved a lot of Catholic culture--Catholic art, Catholic architecture and Catholic liturgical timing (e.g. "Stir-up Sunday") and the Catholic Calendar---even after the Catholics began (c. 1960) to junk their heritage. (Ironically, the anglo-papalists thought they should follow Rome even in this, and there was a lot of fussing and wailing among them.) There are a hundred anecdotes of High Church Anglicans rushing into the streets to rescue copes and statues from bins behind the Catholic Churches in that iconoclaustic decade. No wonder Evelyn Waugh died of chagrin. Surely it would have been an ecumenical gesture to stick with the other western Christians in terms of celebrating our common calendar, but the 1960s were terribly triumphalist while pretending they weren't.

In the 1970s, most people didn't talk about this to Catholic children. The rupture between what was in old (and not-so-old) books about Catholicism and what was all around was never explained, which is no doubt why I later got so terribly interested in it. Occasionally there were references to "the bad old days" which was greeted by kindly filial chuckles from the pews. The laity who still go to church are, in the main, a docile, obedient and trusting lot, if rather given to birth control. (It's very odd. The post-1963 laity will put up with absolutely any liturgical shenanigans but all but a minority in Canada draw a line at Humanae Vitae. It is, however, a relief that they also draw the line at pastors with convictions for sexual offenses. "But he's sorry, matured and gotten so far on his journey" just does not cut it in Calgary.)

Anyway, my parents accidentally infected me with traddism by giving me Father Lovasik's Heroines of God and each story mentioned the feast day of the saint at the bottom. Saint Dorothy's Day is clearly February 6, so I was terribly disappointed when I discovered she was supplanted, after Vatican II, by Saint Paul Miki and Companions. Naturally Saint Paul Miki and Companions are very important saints, particularly in the Church in Japan, but surely there was no need to shove out little Saint Dorothy who has been loved by Catholics throughout Europe (and perhaps even her native Cappadocia) for 1800 years. But I think I wrote about this in February. If your name is Mary or Elizabeth, you can have no idea how thrilling it is to hear your patron saint actually named at Mass.

Back to the Calendar. When we were in Norcia over Christmas, B.A. suggested that we buy the Benedictines' lovely traddy calendar, but I put my foot down and insisted on the Papa Stronsay calendar because of "our shared Scottish context", as theology students I know would argue. The Papa Stronsay calendar lists quite a few Scottish saints that others may have forgotten about (e.g. St Egbert of Iona) and they list important civil holidays in the English-speaking world, including Martin Luther King Day in the USA and Australia Day in the Antipodes. I see that they do not mention Robbie Burns on January 25, but as all trads in Scotland know, he was a Mason and therefore shouldn't be in our sacred calendar.

Naturally another fun thing about the Papa Stronsay calendar is seeing it in other Scottish traddy homes. It is a cultural artifact of traddism, just as traybakes are an artifact of Free Scottish Presbyterianism. (Okay, other people make traybakes and eat them on Sunday but when I asked Calvinist Cath to name a Wee Wee Free cultural artifact, that was the only clear thing she came up with.**)

Today is a Feria and IV Class so even though it is  still Easter maybe I shall not have any wine today. However, according to the Papa Stronsay calendar, it is the 1300th anniversary of the first Easter celebrated by the monks of the Abbey of Iona, so maybe a drink is in order.

*Needless to say, Year A,B, and C also represent a rupture in the Catholic sense of times and seasons.

**She could have mentioned  strictly unadorned psalm-singing, which is really unique. But then of course Presbyterians don't think of that as "cultural" but as I suppose the Calendar is.... You know, culture and religion are not always so distinct. Incidentally as the FPC is so vociferously against Catholic worship, you can see how brilliant it is that Cath has devoutly and equally vociferous Catholic friends. Paradoxically, I have a lot of respect for the FPC, the traddiest trads of Protestantism.

Update: In case you miss them or want to read more posts about Catholic traditionalism, here is a whole collection of Traddy Tuesday posts.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Book Review

Why Does the Tortoise Have a Cracked Shell?  is a charming Kenyan folk tale rendered into Polish. If you buy your own book--instead of borrowing the Edinburgh Public Library's copy--you get the added fun of sticking the included stickers (naklejki) to the correct places on the pages when prompted. Some enterprising reader has already stuck the EPL's stickers albeit somewhat imperfectly.

This is a highly improving story, the moral of which is not to eat all the food of the creatures who teach you how to fly or you will REGRET it. Meanwhile, it has the names of some African animals and birds in Polish. Not all these names turn up in a dictionary. For some reason, Herr Langenscheidt does not think it worth your while to know that a guziec is a warthog.

Meanwhile. the beautifully named bąkojad (pronounced bonk-O-yad) bird has no satisfying English name. The Latin is "buphagus africanum", so we ought to call it an African Buffag, but do we? No. According to Wikipedia, we call it a yellow-billed oxpecker, which frankly left me none the wiser.

Although mildly entertaining and edifying, Why Does the Tortoise Have a Cracked Shell? lacks the pathos and genius of the Muminki stories. Apparently having emotional reactions while learning is extremely important to memory, so I shall be looking for more Polish Moomins the next time I go to the library. You will notice I cannot remember off-hand what "cracked shell" is in Polish, even though I have eaten and drunk memory boosting substances all day. * However, I still remember from yesterday that a mattress is a materac because Muminek pulled his off his łóżko to bed down next to his mummy's łóżko as he returned to the rodzina's long zimnowy hibernation sen and...and... Wah, sniff.

*Eggs, salmon, walnuts, coffee, lentils, milk, green tea, dark chocolate (in homemade gingerbread), pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, trout, baked potato, water.  Brain boosting slightly thwarted in the evening by a glass of fridge-cold Frascati.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

A Rare Prayer Request

Update (April 21): "George" is feeling much better, having spoken to his spiritual director. Another prayer for "George", please, as he talks to the next person with whom he needs to speak!

Dear Readers,

I have just found a very moving email from a sad seminarian. Would you please all pray for him right now? He signed with the name "George", which is not his real name, but the Almighty will understand who you mean.

Prayers from priests especially welcome!

Thank you very much.

Update: And could you add one for my married friend, a man we'll call J? He wrote the second email of note.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

How Mum Keeps Sharp

I have been reading Training Your Brain for Dummies. It is very interesting. I am struck by how many of the recommended activities my mother has been doing all her life. They include

* drinking orange juice
*eating blueberries
* not drinking alcohol (we'll get to that)
*doing handcrafts (she is always doing handcrafts)
*reading constantly (she reads while doing such 'easier' handcrafts as knitting cable sweaters)
*learning languages (she reads German novels and looks up the 15 words she doesn't know)
*putting together jigsaw puzzles
*and doing other puzzles, like crosswords
*getting enough sleep
*snacking on almonds

It would probably be better if my mother drank freshly squeezed orange juice from a blender instead of the from-frozen-concentrate she has been downing for as long as I've been alive. Meanwhile, when I say my mother doesn't drink alcohol, I mean that she has a glass of wine at Thanksgiving, a glass of wine at Christmas and then..... ahhhh....summer holidays in Europe happen. After summer holidays, life goes back to normal. My positively teetotalling grandmother also made exceptions for her summer holidays, too: when she went to a resort in the Muskokas, she would drink a Tom Collins cocktail in the afternoons. The women in my family are WILD, I tell you.

There are ways in which my mother could further improve her cognitional health, if she felt that the above was not enough.

First, she could eat more fish. Oily fish like salmon, mackerel and tuna are tremendously good for your brains.

Second, she could eat more walnuts Walnuts pack  as much omega-3 as you need in a day.

Third, she could drink green tea. (At this very moment, I am drinking green tea.)

Fourth, she could drink less coffee. Although initially caffeine improves your ability to memorize, this is only after 8 oz of coffee. More than 8 oz, and the benefits cease and the drawbacks kick in.

Fifth, she could cut out processed food, especially store-bought cookies. Processed food--BAD. Sugar--BAAAAAD!

Sixth, she could give herself a NEW mental challenge, like improving her Russian. Of course, it would be even newer, more challenging and nice company for me if she took up Polish instead.

That's as much as I have learned so far, but I hope to discover others. I really like these points because they don't seem all that much work--except for learning languages, that is, and perhaps the handicrafts, and the getting up and going out to exercise--which I will now do by walking through the woods to the bus stop to take a bus to Artisan Roast to buy some excellent coffee and read another Polish Muminki story.

Update: Here is a long list of brain-boosting foods.

Friday, 15 April 2016


It's Polski Piątek, so I will tell you about my Polish reading of the week. The current volume I am carting around is called Muminiki: Koniec świata i inne opowiadania" (i.e. The Mumins: The End of the World and Other Stories.)  Yes, this is a Polish translation of some Swedish "Mumintroll" stories by Tove Jansson, and very good it is, too.

There are five stories in this volume, and I have read three. Yesterday I read "Prezent urodzinowy (The Birthday present)" and burst into tears at the end. This may have been because I hadn't had enough sleep the night before. On the other hand, it was a very affecting story. The poor Muminpapa had tried and failed several times to make Muminmama a nice birthday present, but then it all turned out for the best. No doubt this mirrored my own striving to read as something as simple as a children's story in Polish after four and a half years of study.

I wrote down all the words and expressions I looked up; there were 78 of them. I also wrote down the amusing expression employed by Little My as she rushed past on a skateboard: "Z drogi, śledzie, bo się jedzie!" which I take to mean "Out the of road, toads (well, herrings), because I'm coming!"  This strikes me as rather more charming than the "Get outta the WAAAAAAY!!!!" of my childhood.

In the evening I had Polish class. My twelfth term of Polish class has begun. I brought a lot of coloured pens because I am reading books on memory improvement and apparently coloured pens are the way to go. Sadly, I was so exhausted by the last exercise of the class that I just packed up and went home. I was also saddened by the news that this term we will be talking a lot about contemporary Polish politics. As left-wing Polish friends and acquaintances are filling Facebook with clothes hangers--sometimes plastic and wooden ones, which rather shows they haven't the foggiest idea what they denote--I really do not want to talk about contemporary Polish politics.

While laboriously looking up Muminiki words in my now-battered Wroclaw dictionary, I thought again about the Polish girl who told me I shouldn't bother to try to learn Polish because it was too hard. Usually this thought inspires me to work harder. This time I just found it depressing.

When I went to the library to look at memory-improving books, I discovered that it is easier to remember series of one-syllable words much more easily than series of two or more syllable words. Well! No wonder it is easier for foreigners to learn good old Anglo-Saxon than it is for Anglo-Saxons to learn Foreign.  "We drove to the park with cats" has to be rendered "Pojechaliśmy do parku z kotami." Therefore, my thought that if X could learn English, I could certainly learn Polish is NOT backed up by science.

What my friend might have said, had she any experience of Anglophones learning Polish, is that studying Polish in Edinburgh classes will take you only so far. After a certain point, you must go at talk to Poles, which is most easily done in Poland, unless you work in a Pole-dominated field, e.g. in the restaurant trade in Leith. "If you want to learn Polish, you could work in any kitchen in Edinburgh" a chef told me, and B.A. whisked me away before I could think of asking if the chef knew of any openings.

This would be brilliant: I could make money at a job where absolutely nobody cares what I write online and learn kitchen Polish at the same time.  It would be a solution worthy of a Mumin story.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Three Dresses and a Pair of Shoes

Yesterday I gave away three dresses and a pair of shoes. They went to the costume box of two deserving girls to be shared (if possible) by their young neighbour. I loved two of the dresses and the shoes to distraction, which is why they have gone to friends, not the charity shop.

The blue-green half-lace evening dress.  This is a beautiful dress, but it's only meaning for me is that I bought it at Value Village in northernmost Toronto with my sister Tertia. At the time I had been on the 5-2 diet for months and so it almost fit. I was sure it would fit perfectly in another month.

It didn't.

The sky blue silk Indian Bollywood suit. It was made for me off Toronto's "Indian Bazaar" neighbourhood in 2003 and includes a silver-spangled top, an ankle-length skirt and a matching dupatta (scarf/shawl). It was for International Night at the theologate. I had asked an Asian friend to do a Bollywood dance because I was frankly bored with the annual line-up of Irish and Scottish deedle-deedle. My friend said she'd only dance if I danced with her. The effort she put into teaching me how to dance was truly heroic. When we danced it, we brought the house down. Imagine a table full of slightly homesick Asian Jesuits going nuts. You had to be there.

Here is the song we danced to:

I actually knew the words.

The amusing Part 2 to this story is that we danced it later at the Newman Center and afterwards everybody except one widely smiling South Asian guy stared at us with glassy eyes and shocked expressions. My friend was surprised and disappointed. Apparently 99% of the audience thought we had sinned against the chaste environment of the Newman Centre. We were, like, whaaa?

The copper lamé evening dress. Okay, so the lamé is a thin filmy layer on top of a dark layer and was frayed here and there from sheer time, the dress having been tailored to fit my then snake-like form in 1998, I think it was. This was at the height of my amateur boxing career, and I thought I would weight 117 lbs for the rest of my life. It had copper, high square heeled sandles to match, aye me. It cost an arm and a leg, but did I care? No. It is high necked and high backed but had no sleeves at all--it scooped towards the collar bones, if that makes any sense. It showed off my then arms--like twisted vines, y'all--to perfection. Sigh.

 I wore it to a wedding; the bride and groom later divorced. The divorce hit me like a betrayal. I thought her family life was perfect; she had always told me it was. No matter how awful my own personal life was, I always thought, "Well at least everything is great for X."  To put it in a nutshell, she left him for a sexier, more exciting guy. When she told me (over the phone), my brother and sister-in-law were just moving into the first house they bought and my days-old nephew was in a basket on a table, out of the way of the boxes. I am trying to think of a non-clichéd way to say my blood ran cold. Never, before or since, has someone else's love life/marriage disaster had such a powerful effect on me. Having been a guest at the wedding, I weakly attempted to "defend the bond", but it was too late: she was already with the new guy.

And then I did the absolutely socially unspeakable from the BFF  point of view: I wrote to her husband to say I was sorry for his loss.

You can see why I never, ever got rid of that dress.

The shoes.  Irregular Choice, the Scotty dog on one shoe, the leash continuing on the other, grass green, pink heels.  (See photo.) I hadn't been long married to B.A. On sale,  I think they were £45. I loved them, and then one of my feet shrank, apparently. Alas.

But now off they go to some deserving girls, who will dress up in them and imagine great imaginings. The shoes, I know, will be part of a 1950s murder game. (The blue-green dress would work, too.) The Bollywood outfit would work for a princess or a beggar maid or one becoming the other. The copper lamé--well, who knows? Cleopatra, perhaps. At any rate, they will be loved just as I loved them, and will be put to better use and by girls who will at least be able to get into them, however long or short the skirts. They have gone to a good home. I hope they will be worn to death.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Chartres Pilgrimage

Benedict Ambrose, who has to work that weekend, alas, says I may go on the Chartres Pilgrimage. Let us see what the podiatrist says, for I have a wonky toe. The pod and I are going to look at it together soon and discuss its future and its implications for the rest of my foot.

Meanwhile, I have permission to tell you all about this new trad order: the DAUGHTERS of the Most Holy Redeemer. Their monastery is in New Zealand.

Slammed by CELAM?

Saint Augustine of Hippo and Me. Jesus sent him.
Everybody go back to Catholic World Report and read the combox. I am given a sermon by a Top Mexican Scholar of Saint John Paul II who works or worked for the Latin American Bishops Conference, that hotbed of orthodoxy. (A quick Google search shows that he's a layman and therefore not actually a member of CELAM.)

At first I was annoyed, but then I found it funny. (Apparently some Canadians just don't understand what theology is, o ma foi! Quel dommage! Nous sommes tout simplement aveugles, bien-lá, t*bern*cle, c*l*x!)

As a matter of fact, I did pray before--or while---I read Amoris Laetitia and before I wrote my piece. I remembered very strongly being at a meeting of Catholic feminists who were plotting to have the Vatican removed from the UN: they didn't start with a prayer. Although by then I had drifted into a radical Catholic feminist stance, I found this lacuna disturbing. Surely if you're Catholic and trying to thwart the Pope, you ought to pray first? But they didn't, and they also spoke favourably of "Catholics for Choice"--ugh--and at the end of the meeting, they sadly reflected on how their children didn't go to church anymore, the final shockeroo. "Our children won't carry on our fight," one whined, and I was done. That meeting was a great blessing, for it stopped me in my descent down the ideological spiral staircase.

(For the curious: My Catholic radical feminist period was from c. 1996-2002. You can safely ignore anything I wrote during that period, if you can find it. Anything after August 2002 should be okay. I was (under God) salvaged by Saint Augustine of Hippo: it was a miracle. Picture a particularly woolly sheep stuck in the mud among rusty wire and brambles yelling Maaaaa! Maaaaaa! Maaaaa! Then picture Saint Augustine looking over a fence, seeing the state I'm in and sighing, "Oh, dear Lord." Then Saint Augustine picks up the muddy me-sheep, slings me around his neck and carts me back over the broken fence amid much bleating. That about sums it up.)

So as a matter of fact, I did pray before and while I wrote, and as you know I kept before me the fictional image of beloved Jesuit profs and classmates reading Amoris Laetitia and saying, "This is so consoling!" I was pretty sure I wouldn't agree with them, but that's not the point.

For the record, had I more time to read and absorb Amoris Laetitia, I would have been a lot harder on the minds that wrote it. I see that Mr Lopez assumes Francis wrote it and that I was talking about Francis. If Francis actually wrote that document, than I guess I was writing about Francis. But everything I said about the minds writing that document I gathered from the document itself. (Whoever wrote Work 2 gave a strong impression of being most comfortable with what Bernard Lonergan S.J. calls "commonsense thinking", i.e. pre-abstract.)

Meanwhile, I do feel guilty about one thing: if it isn't good dogmatic/systematic theology, it isn't really good pastoral theology. The harmless parts of "Work 2" (i.e. Chapters 1, 4-7, 9) could be read with enjoyment by ordinary families and simple-hearted parish priests looking for good ideas and themes for their homilies. However, the worst parts of "Work 1", "Work 3" (shudder) and even "Work 2" involved a terribly disdain for the perennial teaching of the Church. I was too easy on the author or authors of "Work 2."

In other news about Catholics of position online, I tried to console a man on Facebook that he had something in common with traddy hothead Steve Skojec. This idea the man vehemently rejected. He and the "rightwinger" had nothing in common! I found this refusal to see ol' Stevie as a fellow Catholic, layman, father, human being, et alia, a tad odd for a Catholic, so I looked up the chap. Head of a major Catholic organization dedicated to, er, peace.

Yeah, you know what? Every one of us who says something on social media, on blogs, on Disqus, or whatever is VISIBLE and potentially MEMORABLE. This is something always to remember.
Meanwhile, now that I am a traddy, I can say that I have learned TONS from progressives, either what NOT to do, or how to love, or learn from, someone whom you don't agree with. Meanwhile, I learned at  my mother's convert knee that the Head of the Church is not any given pope but Our Lord Jesus Christ. And that, dear readers, was when the brilliant and holy Saint John Paul II was the Vicar of Christ. For a long time I thought that was her residual Protestantism talking, but now I see that her instincts against papolatry were prophetic.