Sunday, 31 July 2016

Too Sweet

An awful thing happened at my last dinner party. I tasted a forkful of my homemade raspberry bakewell tart, and it was too sweet. It was terribly sweet. I didn't enjoy it at all, and to my horror I realized what it has tasted like all these years to guests who don't eat much sugar. Okay, that's three people max, but still.

I have discovered the negative side effects of giving up sugar. When you give up eating sugar, you lose your tolerance for sugar. As sugary puddings (desserts) are an important part of British and Canadian food culture, this can be a problem. As for my raspberry bakewell tart, it was like being spurned forever by an old, trusted, highly amusing and lavishly generous friend. Boo.

Meanwhile, one of the negative side effects of giving up wheat is that you don't much enjoy eating bread. The last time I ate a piece of bread, I thought I could feel it biting holes in the lining of my stomach. This was probably a result of hypochondria more than of wheat; yesterday I ate half a Co-op " Stonebaked Roast Vegetable" pizza and I was fine. Possibly the solution--for a person not suffering from real life gluten intolerance (or full blown celiac disease)--is to eat small amounts of food containing wheat from time to time, so as to keep one's stomach in, as it were.

The upside to all this, besides fitting into my favourite blue Hobbs dress with a little room to spare, is that many other foods taste sweet. Carrots taste sweet.  85% dark chocolate tastes sweet. Blueberries taste sweet. Strawberries taste very sweet. Apples taste just a shade too sweet. I suppose all this is okay if you like your sweet eggless. It's not okay if you like a nice eggy, almondy, custardy pie filling, such as one finds atop my raspberry bakewell tart.

Presumably the solution is to cut the amount of sugar in my raspberry bakewell.  I wonder how little I can get away with, and if I can substitute Hemsley + Hemsley's beloved standby maple syrup for the sugar. H+H seem to sweeten all possible puddings with 2-3 Tbsp of maple syrup, on the grounds that (unlike cane sugar) it possesses some actual nutrients. However, I am unlikely to make a whole raspberry bakewell just for myself, so I will have to enlist family members to taste-test.

One great consolation is that it is strawberry season. I can eat vast bowls of strawberries (£2 a punnet) with yogurt while my husband and mother eat pineapple tarts from Marks & Spenser, and nobody envies anyone else.

Update: The family members I was thinking of say that my raspberry bakewell tart is perfect and that I am not allowed to subject them to my sugar-free diet. Actually, it's a low-sugar diet, but they know I know what they mean.

Friday, 29 July 2016

The Adventure of Poland

It's not about us unless--in a perhaps tiny but truthful way--it is.
It's Polski Piątek, and I am thinking a lot these days about the astonishing new need to argue that Western, European, Christian Civilization is a Good Thing, so I shall make some general, but highly subjective, remarks about Poland.

This is, incidentally, the morning after my Polish club meeting, at which anglophone learners of Polish gather to read a Polish book aloud and discuss it afterwards in Polish. I am the moderator of the group, and I spend hours in preparation, which I very much enjoy because I am insane it helps trap the wriggly Polish vocabulary in my brain.

I am learning Polish for the same reason that I took all the Lonergan courses during my M.Div. training--somebody told me it was too difficult. However, it is also because understanding, and being understood in, another language is fun. It is also psychologically rewarding. After last night's meeting I had the same endorphin rush I used to get after teaching a successful and even fun class in English writing skills.

The Polish language is, and always has been, Poland's most easily defended border. As throughout its history the Polish borders have expanded and shrunk or even been effectively erased, Poland is defined as much by Polish-people-who-speak-Polish as by Polish territory. There is even a collective, semi-political word for Poles and their descendants who live abroad, either as exiles or voluntarily: Polonia.

Poland-the-Territory currently includes a large chunk of what some might think of as Prussia and, from a Polish nationalist point of view, keenly lacks what are now chunks of Ukraine and Lithuania. The Polish national epic, Pan Tadeusz, begins with the words "Lithuania! My fatherland!"--another cruel irony for a country beset with them. The great Polish city of Lwów, famous for its mathematicians and codebreakers, poets and singers, is now Ukraine's Lviv. Tiny Polish-speaking populations still remain in Vilnius (Wolno) and Lwów... But why am I beginning my reflections on territorial Poland with the now invisible?

Let's focus on the territories I have actually seen with my own eyes. I have stayed in Gdańsk, Kraków, Kielce, Warsaw, a horse farm slightly south-west of Warsaw, and a hotel north-west of Wrocław. I have visited various towns in southern Silesia, going as close to Czech as Karpacz. I have attended a poetry reading in Sopot and evening Mass in Częstochowa. I have swum in the Baltic Sea.

I have bragged about all these things to my husband Benedict Ambrose, who is unimpressed because he toured Poland when he was a teenager. He observes that Kraków is a lot cleaner and a lot more visited by tourists than it was in 1990. His host parents told him not to bother learning Polish, so he didn't and probably never will.

He found their attitude difficult, and Poland is indeed a difficult country for a foreigner. Their kings were not our kings, or any kings we might have heard of, with the possible exception of Jan Sobieski II, who defeated the Turks at the Gates of Vienna. Poland's history began, conveniently, only shortly before her baptism to Christianity, and with the exception of a few resurrected Jewish neighbourhoods, the small but ancient Tatar community, and a goodly number of post-communist leftist semi-pagans, post-communist Poland is unashamedly Christian.

Poland is a particularly difficult country for an anglophone foreigner if the subject of the Second World War comes up, particularly anything touching upon the Holocaust. As I discover again and again, both in myself and in Canadian tourists, Canadians are abject self-police and when people do not follow the established Canadian codes for talking about the Holocaust, Jews, Israel, Roma or the Canadian Forces during the Second World War, we feel the most excruciating mental anguish that can only be relieved by a schoolmarmish lecture or staggeringly rude remark.

The rudeness of Canadians being PC abroad is really very embarrassing. It's not that we are that self-righteous; it's that we will wallow in corrosive self-hatred if we say nothing. Paradoxically, we will make fun of Yanks to their very faces. But now I am off the topic. My biggest advice about Poland and the Second World War is you have no idea how bad it was for the Poles--I keep discovering horrors I could never have even dreamed--so don't argue. Just say "How terrible." Unless it is your paid job to report them, stay out of current internecine disputes.

Poland is also a difficult country because of the following:

- most Poles do not speak English; everyone my age and older was encouraged to study Russian instead
- these non-English speaking Poles include many ticket-sellers at bus and train stations, especially in smaller towns like Częstochowa
- the post-communist infrastructure cannot cope with current levels of car ownership
- trains are complicated and if you take one that democratically stops at every little town between Big City A and Big City B, it will take forever and you risk death from boredom
- most Poles do not fake interest or friendliness or tolerance or any polite lie that comes so quickly to the faces or lips of native English speakers, which can be unsettling to us, habitual liars that we are
- Poles will openly stare at you if they think you look weird, and they will yell at you if they think you are doing wrong
- though beautiful, the historical architecture can be so different, you may have difficult making sense of what you are looking at
- the signs contain so many Zs, reading them almost hurts and remembering them almost impossible
- Polish drivers

However what all these difficulties add up to is a bracing adventure and a refreshing change from our increasingly homogenized-yet-paradoxically-multicultural western way of life. In Poland, we are cast out of our comfort zones of polite lies and political pieties and forced to face, and perhaps utter, rude-sounding truths. One is that we know very little about Polish history, and most of what little we know was mediated to us by English-speaking non-Poles or The Pianist. Really, how much do we know about any European country east of Germany?

Another is that we are not as cosmopolitan as we think we are because it would never occur to us to stir a spoonful of jam in our tea, let alone habitually remember to serve it with a slice of lemon.

Another is that we have to face that the Second World War wasn't "over there" but "right here", and whereas our grandmothers may have spent the war in a munitions factory, or guarding a coast, or selling hats in Simpson's department store (my gran), Poles' grandmothers were in constant danger of rape (and often were raped) by German or Russian soldiers, not to mention in constant danger of execution, forced labour, deportation, having to watch their children die, you name it. Something to think about when a bad-tempered old Polish lady stabs you with her elbow and pushes past you to the communion line.

Another is that the Second World War didn't really end for Poland until 1990, which is a staggering thought. This is a strange statement, so I will explain that under Soviet and Communist domination the Poles weren't allowed to find out, or openly discuss, many aspects of what had actually happened to them. Then there is the Soviet and Communist domination itself, which Poland has still not entirely come to grips with, in part because a lot of the Commie old guard reinvented themselves and still play roles in Polish public life.

Poland can be an emotional roller-coaster in the way Italy and France just aren't. In France I might think "Oh how beautiful" and "Oh how delicious" and "Oh Hemingway wrote there!" In Italy I think "Sunshine! Mediterranean Sea! Time for lunch!" In Poland I find myself trying to read a Polish poem written on a memorial to workers killed during a strike in Gdańsk, just outside a shipyard I saw on TV when I was about 10. On the one hand, it is not my tragedy, and I have no right to wallow in virtuous emotions. On the other hand, Solidarność is the first (and only) Polish word most Canadian kids of my generation ever learned, and like Polish kids we were scared the Bomb would drop. It may have been through the CBC news, National Geographic, Maclean's magazine, the Toronto Star and Time magazine, but I remember something of Poland in the 80s.

Oh dear. I am afraid I haven't time to talk about how beautiful the Polish countryside is--the vast apple orchards south-west of Warsaw, the mountains, the sandy beaches of Sopot and its grand pre-war hotels. I'm sorry about that. I'll just say that whereas I love to go to Italy to relax, I go to Poland to become a better, braver, cleverer, more compassionate and much more humble person.

Fasting Against ISIS

I think there is more we can do to fight the scourge of Islamist terrorism than pray and fast, but
praying and fasting may certainly be the necessary conditions, just as keeping fit, hydrated and fed are the necessary conditions for going on a walking pilgrimage.  The French bishops have asked French Catholics to fast today--presumably as a sign of mourning. It would be brotherly if all Catholics who can fasted, too.

A Catholic, Homeschooling Police Family

Just read it. God protect this woman's husband.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Europe at War--But Who is Fighting?

I have been wondering about what I personally can do to stop the ISIS-inspired attacks in Europe. The recent atrocities in France and Germany have shaken and reminded me that B.A. and I and our friends in Europe are all potential victims. However, the murder of Father Jacques Hamel, a small town priest in his eighties, has enraged me against helplessness.

"If we can't do anything, don't tell us," I am wont to rage unfairly at journalists. My own journalism is about doing and finding out more. This is why I stay away from "Kasper said this" and "Marx said that" stories. A much more interesting churchman is young Ks. Jacek Międlar, who believes Catholicism is the very foundation of his country (for which, incidentally, there are incredibly strong arguments) and harangues enormous crowds of Polish nationalists. Ks. Międlar obviously believes Poles can do something against Islamist violence, and part of it is physically to keep Islamists out.

This, however, is a less obvious solution for western Europe, which has unwittingly let Islamists in and somehow incubates new ones, usually the European children and grandchildren of Asian or African or Caribbean immigrants. There is a mentality among some young men that delights in, and is inspired by, ISIS snuff films. I read somewhere or other (no link, sorry) of a young man in a London university classroom horrified because fellow students were sniggering over a beheading playing out over a smartphone. (Did he have the guts to shout at them? To denounce them before their professor? To call the police?) Meanwhile, it is coming out only now that the Bataclan terrorists actually mutilated their wounded victims. These terrorists were born, raised and "radicalized" in France and Belgium. Belgium--land of Tintin and Snowy, Captain Haddock and Professor Calculus. 

Such young men and women are already here in Europe, and their recruiters and hate preachers are already here too. Who knows who they are? It's not like they wear uniforms, or when they do wear uniforms, we are told not to assume that they belong to the army. 

"If you see something, say something" is rather meaningless when, if I were to say, "When in Scotland, dress as Scots do" to the brace of women covered in black cloth pushing prams up Nicholson Avenue, I could be arrested. Worse yet, some self-pitying Edinburgh teenager could hear the women's version of the story and swear to avenge affronted Islamic womanhood upon the Scottish infidels. Meanwhile, the kneejerk British (and British-Canadian response) to women dressed in embarrassing and offensive clothing (like a burkha or a shirt reading F*** off,  Europe) is to silently judge them and otherwise ignore it. (I think, however, I would scream like a banshee if I came across young men having a chuckle over another human being having his or her head lopped off.)

So what can we do? This morning a friend sent me an email suggesting I sign up to the Pray the Rosary again ISIS. Yes, that would be something. But the Ottoman Turks were not turned back at the Battle of Vienna by prayer alone. Fifteen thousand Europeans (1.3- 5 thousand of them Poles) lost their lives and, more importantly, deprived twenty thousand Turks of theirs. Still, there was a religious aspect to this--according to our old friend Wiki:

Because Sobieski had entrusted his kingdom to the protection of the Blessed Virgin (Our Lady of Częstochowa) before the battle, Pope Innocent XI commemorated his victory by extending the feast of the Holy Name of Mary, which until then had been celebrated solely in Spain and the Kingdom of Naples, to the entire Church; it used to be celebrated on the Sunday within the Octave of the Nativity of Mary and was, when Pope St. Pius X intended to make room for the celebration of the actual Sundays, transferred to 12 September, the day of the victory.

Still, that was in 1683, and we (in Europe) are not looking at a struggle involving large armies of soldiers engaged in hand-to-hand combat (or are we?), but emergency services coping with sneaks who walk into places where they have been welcomed, where they grew up. One imagines politicians coldly pondering how to calm their restive, frightened, angry  countrymen and get them to accept the fact that their fellow countrymen are being murdered and to carry on regardless. "At least it wasn't you, right?" 

I really, honestly, want something to do to stop wicked people from killing babies, children, men, women, lay, priests and religious out of their own sense of self-righteousness. I want to do something to stop their teachers from whipping them up to such disgusting evil. 

I have always wondered at Christians who somehow think we ourselves share in Islamist violence. One of my Catholic theology professors told me and my classmates that he almost quit teaching his field on 9/11. This made absolutely no sense to me then and  it makes no sense to me now--unless  it is a way of coping, of feeling that one is somehow responsible for the violence, and so one has power over it. Imaginary guilt is apparently easier to bear than abject helplessness. 

Well, I am not helpless. I am just out of ideas. If I were gifted at languages--not a tone-deaf dummy who has to pound them into my greying brain and clumsy tongue--I would learn one of the enemies' languages and get a job in intelligence. If I were a young man, I would join one of Europe's armies. If I were a young woman, I would have as many children as I physically could and bring them up to love, cherish and defend Christendom. 

When I was a theology student, I wrote frankly about the Muhammad Cartoon Crisis, which no doubt impressed or embarrassed my fellow students, but that's about the extent of my influence . Horrified by the failed Cologne train bombing--and left-wing coddling of Islamist terrorism--I eventually wrote Ceremony of Innocence. That has given a few thousand (I hope) people a day or two's entertainment, but I can't imagine it has done much to save lives or turn teenagers from the path of bloody, self-righteous violence. Amazed by the passionate speech of Ks. Międlar, I told the majority-American readers of Catholic World Report about it. But other than praying and demanding that Catholic bishops in Europe ensure the safety of their priests, nuns and elderly parishioners who go to morning mass, I don't know what to do next.

Update: Here is David Warren on the subject of the murder and our leaders' pussyfooting.

Update 2: For those who can read French, here's a snapshot of modern life in a small French town via Le Figaro.
"Europe, wake up!"

Monday, 25 July 2016

Fishwrap Names Pal

The names of the theologians who allegedly asked the Cardinals to bring to Pope Francis their concerns regarding false understandings of doctrine that might arise from Amoris Laetitia have been published in an American newspaper of dubious orthodoxy.  One of the theologians named is a close personal friend of B.A.'s and mine, and if it turns out he really did sign, then we will be as proud as punch.

Here are the names of the alleged signers. You may recognize some of them:

 Dr. Jose Tomas Alvarado; Rev. Fr. Scott Anthony Armstrong PhD; Rev. Claude Barthe; Rev. Ray Blake; Fr. Louis-Marie de Blignieres FSVF; Dr. Philip Blosser; Msgr. Ignacio Barreiro Carambula, STD, JD; Rev. Fr. Thomas Crean OP, STD; Fr. Albert-Marie Crignion FSVF; Robert de Mattei; Cyrille Dounot JCL; Fr. Neil Ferguson OP, MA, BD; Dr. Alan Fimister STL, PhD; Luke Gormally; Carlos A. Casanova Guerra; Rev. Brian W. Harrison OS, MA, STD; Rev. Simon Henry BA (Hons), MA; Rev. John Hunwicke; Peter A. Kwasniewski PhD, Philosophy; Dr. John R.T. Lamont STL, D.Phil; Fr. Serafino M. Lanzetta, PhD; Dr. Anthony McCarthy; Rev. Stephen Morgan D.Phil (Oxon); Don Alfredo Morselli STL; Rev. Richard A. Munkelt PhD; Fr. Aidan Nichols OP, PhD; Fr. Robert Nortz MMA, STL; Rev. John Osman MA, STL; Christopher D. Owens STL (Cand.); Dr. Paolo Pasqualucci; Dr. Claudio Pierantoni; Fr. Anthony Pillari JCL (Cand.); Prof. Enrico Maria Radaell; Dr. John C. Rao D.Phil (Oxford); Fr. Reginald-Marie Rivoire FSVF; Rt. Rev. Giovanni Scalese CRSP, SThL, DPhil; Dr. Joseph Shaw; Dr. Anna M. Silvas FAHA; Michael G. Sirilla, PhD; Professor Dr. Thomas Stark; Rev. Glen Tattersall; Giovanni Turco; Fr. Edmund Waldstein OCist.; Nicholas Warembourg.
 Here is my own comparatively unimportant opinion of AL, written to deadline after one very long, hurried read. 

UPDATE: No need to go to Fishwrap; the Catholic Herald has weighed in. And our buddy has indeed signed, so we are proud of him. 

UPDATE 2  (July 28): And Dr Shaw has released a new statement on the matter.

The Sublime and the Ridiculous

I have been suffering from a persistent toothache, and to comfort myself for this morning's agonized dash to the dentist's chair, I breakfasted at the café where B.A. and I sometimes have brunch.  I brought with me Edmund de Waal's The Hare with Amber Eyes, my companion when I woke up, in pain, at 3:05 AM.

De Waal is a famous British artist; his trade is in beautiful things. It seems a little unfair that he can write as beautifully as he can cast pots, but as The Hare with Amber Eyes captivated the world of letters in 2010, I was not surprised. Moreover I was shaken, at 3:15 AM, by Yagani Soetsu's suggestion, paraphrased by de Waal, that some objects "express unconscious beauty because they [have] been made in such numbers that the craftsman had been liberated from his ego" (Preface, 3). Could this be applied to writing? Is the secret of de Waal's literary masterpiece a liberation from ego?

When I walked into our brunch café, however, I was thinking only about my toothache--now eased by ibuprofen--and my breakfast. B.A. usually has a "full Scottish", and as I have become a meat-and-eggs devotee, I was looking forward to ordering one myself. I made straight for a table near a window--but not the one in the window, as it could seat six--and was surprised by an obese Englishwoman who greeted me loudly and as if she owned the place. (It turned out that she did .) Startled, I returned the greeting, sat down and examined the menu. When I had ordered my breakfast from the Scottish waiter, I reopened my book.

"One sunny April day I set out to find Charles," writes de Waal.

What beautiful simplicity to that sentence. It frees the author to write a longer second sentence, which he does: "Rue de Monceau is a long Parisian street bisected by the grand boulevard Malesherbes that charges off toward the Boulevard Pereire."

Two verbs make the sentence dynamic, and the conceit that a boulevard "charges off" to another gives the sentence extra force. It itself charges off to the splendidly descriptive third sentence: "It is a hill of golden-stone houses, a series of hotels playing discreetly on neoclassical themes, each a minor Florentine palace with heavily rusticated ground floors and an array of heads, caryatids and cartouches." 

Having set the scene in April, then in a section of Paris, and then on one sloping street, he focuses on a single house: "Number 81 rue de Monceau, the Hotel Ephrussi, where my netsuke start their journey, is near the top of the hill." 

The Hotel Ephrussi has a thrilling neighbour: "I pass the headquarters of Christian Lacroix and then, next door, there it is." Beat. "It is now, rather crushingly, an office for medical insurance."

The paragraph thus ends with a beautifully comic touch that reminds me of Mordechai Richler, in part because de Waal's art-collecting ancestors were Jews, because Canadian Jewish humour is self-depreciatory, and because this is a story about a Jewish family. The Ephrussi family, which originated in Odessa, followed the Rothschilds in setting up branches of themselves in the great capitals of western Europe and becoming as rich as they could. Terrific displays of wealth were a way of asserting their intentions with the unfortunate side-effect of antagonizing their new less-wealthy, non-Jewish, neighbours.

"Well," shouted the owner of the café to her companion, "she's f******g JEW!"

She was talking about a friend who loves Turkey and is always running off to Turkey and managed to do quite well (socially and financially) in Turkey until the friend's son admitted to their Jewishness and then some deal or other, business or social, was doomed. The loud stream of gossip reached me in the rue de Monceau as I waited for my breakfast and became inescapable when my breakfast arrived. Surprisingly, the speaker's companion was male and, if I am not mistaken, a business contact of some kind. Even more surprisingly, for Edinburgh, the speaker spoke with a strong Liverpudlian accent.

My breakfast was a masterpiece of the short order cook's art: soft cooked mushrooms, two halves of a broiled tomato, two sausages, two rashers of back bacon with darkly golden crispy edges, a large spoonful of baked beans, a disk of black pudding, a circlet of haggis. There was no toast, as I had requested, and the dish was not at all greasy. The coffee was black and hot and strong and good.  I put down my book to give breakfast my full attention--or so I thought.

"I told her that if he disappeared, I would hunt her down and kill her," brayed the cook's employer.  As I ate,  I was in some discomfort lest my hostess, as I suppose she must have been, might accuse me of eavesdropping on her conversation with the salesman. Recently I read that the elderly, irascible Graham Greene once denounced a young man in a Capri restaurant for listening to his opinions on Henry James; Greene had apparently noticed the young man had stopped turning the pages of his newspaper and so embarrassed everyone very much by loudly remarking on it. This woman was so loud and so aggressively unselfconscious, she sounded more than capable of such behaviour. Thus, once the immediately danger of staining the book with egg, tomato sauce or bacon fat was past, I took it up again.

But despite de Waal's magic,  I witnessed the end of an altercation between the sitting owner and a standing youngish female employee. I had taken off my glasses to read and so I saw only a slim body and a round, tanned, featureless face. "And by the way you no longer have a job,"  the Liverpudlian was booming.

"I wouldn't work here if you paid me," snapped the girl's Scottish voice, and the slim artistically brown body slid out the door.

"Sorry about that," said the proprietress to the salesman, or whatever he was, and when he was gone, she loudly demanded a phone book so she could call up a locksmith and get the locks changed. "Hello, Local Locksmith," she shouted down the phone.

By the time of this phone call, I had finished my breakfast but had felt the need for a little more coffee. Despite the noisy and shocking manners of three yards from me, Edmund de Waal held me spellbound in Paris. His antecedent Charles, to the disgust of his arch-enemy Edmond de Goncourt, was now having an affair with a married lady named Louise Cahen d'Anvers. They were both passionate connoisseurs of Japanese art.

"Could I please have just a half a cup more of coffee?" I asked the waiter, and the proprietress  motioned him over after he assented.

"Could I please have [whatever it was]," she said in a put-on, mock-posh accent, which I daresay was, despite the cadences, nothing like my own.

"Right away, modom," said the waiter, playing her game.

Okay, class chippiness is something I have come to expect from loud British woman who drop the F-bomb, but this was a woman I could hear from 19th century Paris complaining about competition opening up and down the street! What kind of businesswoman mocks her customers?

Suddenly, I very much regretted my request for extra coffee, and I couldn't wait to leave. Unfortunately, once my coffee arrived, it was some time before I could catch the attention of the waiter again, and by the time I finally did, the owner had loudly engaged the locksmith, loudly informed her other employees how much she distrusted the woman she had just fired, and loudly declared "and I'm taking out a contract on her, and I don't care who knows it."

This, incidentally, was after she had surveyed the two occupied tables and loudly muttered, "Everybody leave now. I want a cigarette."

As soon as I could, I threw down a £10 note and acceded to her wishes. Floreant competitores!

Saturday, 23 July 2016

What to Say to an Armed Teenager Pacing on a Munich Roof

"Hey, pal! Can I help you? You seem distressed!" strikes me as a good option for a Christian--if he or she is a safe distance away (or can't get away).  Man on Balcony didn't yet know what the kid had done, so I think it was rather unkind of him to start off with insults.

At present it looks like the Munich horror was more of a self-pitying teenager revenge attack on society than another Islamist atrocity. I have kept up to date on Islamist attacks since 2006, and Islamist terrorists tend not to throw "I was born here" hissy fits.

What an irony for a kid who strove to be identified as a German to have his actions marked down as the work of a foreign Islamic extremist. Well, whatever else we find about him, I think "stupid" will be one adjective that applies.

Friday, 22 July 2016

This is Me Not Going to World Youth Day

You may be asking, "Do Catholics who prefer the Traditional Latin Mass go to World Youth Day?" In fact, I don't know. I think the angrier ones go with cameras so they can take photos of all the young ladies in bikini tops and shorts and post them on the internet. That sort of vigilante action does not appeal to me, and if it did, I would take photos of the girls in my town who have currently adopted the fashion of skin-tight leggings with waist-length shirts. No need to go to WYD to whip up rage over the clothes of the young.

Personally I object to World Youth Day being called "Catholic Woodstock" as it implies that the Woodstock Music Festival was at all something for Catholics to emulate. But I like the idea of the young Catholics of the world going to one place so they can all meet each other and maybe pick up a bit of catechesis on the way. I am sorry nobody asked me to help out in any way, even if just to give friendly warnings that happy selfies at Auschwitz are a very bad idea.

For, lo, World Youth Day (or Week, or Fortnight) is in Poland this year, and although I have never been to WYD before (first because I couldn't afford it and then because I felt too old), I would have gone this year if anyone had asked me to volunteer--and paid for my flight, naturally. As a matter of fact, a hard-nosed editor wrote to ask if I were going, and after I said no, I wrote back to say I would go, happily, if someone paid my expenses. Alas, there was no reply.

So now I am sulking that nobody asked me to volunteer to help out with WYD despite my M.Div., fluency in English, intermediate grasp of Polish, frequent travel to Poland, proximity to Continental Europe, great familiarity with the map of Krakow, helpful disposition, minor fame and general excellence. Maybe it was something I wrote.

Yes, I am in a snit.  However, I will cheer myself up by thinking that, if it should be very snowy in Poland in November, I will go on a sleigh ride. And if it isn't, for the next few years every time B.A. asks me what I want to do for my birthday (in January), I will say I want to go to Poland and have a sleigh ride. This will drive him around the bend, but I do not care because I am sulking.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

A Tea Party

Yesterday I saw my sister at the airport bus, baked two cakes and did a lightning tidy of the Historical Flat. At three I put on a dress and some lipstick and then leaned out the dining room's round window to look for my guests. They came in a throng, all but one in hats and all in pretty skirts or dresses. It was reminiscent of another age, too, as the one guest my age chaperoned the girls through the woods. I had sent pink invitations by post: it was all very girly.

When I was twelve or so, the book of books was Little Women, and of course I wanted my life to be like Jo's, only without the dying sister and the Unitarianism. Eventually I came to the sad conclusion that Life in Books was completely incompatible with Real Life, no matter how many ideas for games and plays I adopted from the great LW. For one thing, there were no girls around like those girls to be friends with.

My conclusions have been overturned by better acquaintance with homeschooling Catholic families. Parents who strive with might and main to give their children classical educations and protect their vivid imaginations from the stultification of pop culture perform a wonderful service for society by producing truly interesting and entertaining young people. The good influence of these children on other like-minded Catholic children is quite apparent, too.

Normally tea parties--wherever tea parties still happen--are conducted in the parlor, sitting-room or drawing-room, but it was an unusually hot and muggy day for Scotland, and I thought it would be too taxing on my young guests to have to practice the traditional balancing act with the cup and the cake plate. We had our tea and cake in the dining-room instead, with the round window wide open, and the seven of us around the table.

The table had two cloths--a thick pale gold washable damask and a paler gold lace hand-crocheted by my mother which I never, ever use for dinner parties, for fear of wine stains. It also held two cakes: a chocolate Victoria sponge, which is the standard British butter-sugar-flour cakes, with chocolate buttercream icing and a low-sugar nut-flour cake of my own invention covered in whipped cream. Both were decorated with fresh strawberry halves. There were also two pots of tea--English Breakfast (black) and liquorice (herbal)--and a carafe of cold water, as the day was so hot.

I would have liked to have had the party in a certain secluded corner of the garden, which is very green and surrounded by trees and hedges, but it was terribly wet from the morning's thunderstorms and more thunderstorms were promised. Perhaps I can have a party there another day.

The dining-room party, in which eldest sisters were addressed as Miss [Surname] and  younger sisters as Miss [Christian Name] [Surname] struck me as very Edwardian, although our eventual withdrawal to the sitting-room was incredibly Georgian. (It may have been the only party in my life in which everyone agreed to a precedence protocol, beginning with the Senior Married Woman Present and the Youngest Unmarried Woman following obligingly at the end.) Once in the sitting-room, the pianoforte was opened, and the musical young ladies played their best memorized pieces. Then songs were sung, poems were recited and a French fairy tale told (in French). It was easy to imagine that, had there been any men present, the furniture have all been pushed to the sides so that we could next dance a quadrille. (This assumes, of course, that any men of our acquaintance would have the foggiest clue what a quadrille is.)

At a quarter-past five I remembered that I had to buy ingredients for my husbands supper, so I accompanied my guests through the sun-dappled woods to the most convenient bus stop. The girls did not seem any the worse for having consumed the greater part of two cakes, and I had the agreeable sense that my party had been a great success. I had also been very well entertained by all the music, recitations and stories of Guide camp adventures.

Since then I have found a very large button which I believe belongs to Miss T's raincoat and a green ribbon, so I will keep them until I see their owners at church.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016


My sister Quinta came to Scotland for a short visit, and we spent an afternoon in Glasgow. After a visit to Hampden Park--she is a keen international football enthusiast--we went to the Catholic cathedral in Parkhead.

It was really amazing. Huge and white, picked out with green, it could seat tens of thousands of people. It had big bronze statues of holy figures out front and high-colour posters of giant icons of Glasgow saints hanging from the outer walls. On one wall was an enormous frieze of eleven good disciples under the banner headline "PARADISE." There was a big religious articles shop in its very own building, but sadly we were too late to buy anything and were told to come back "tomorrow."

This amazing sacred structure and its enormous car park was smack in the middle of a battered neighbourhood baking in the unaccustomed sun. On the way there, we passed children playing on the blistering pavement, and one of them had no shoes on. A few yards away a woman without shoes got into her car with a bag of take-away. The contrast between the cathedral and the dwellings of its people was stark. The cathedral glowed with money, whereas Parkhead seemed to belong to a different, poorer decade.

There were only a few pilgrims standing around looking at the statues and the placards cast in bronze on their plinths. Celtic wasn't playing, after all.

Saturday, 16 July 2016


When I gave up sugar, I immediately began looking for sugar-free dessert recipes, and after I read Wheat Belly yesterday, I started looking for einkorn. As a matter of fact, I have cut my wheat intake to almost zero (buckwheat pasta still counts as wheat), but reading something advising me not to eat wheat made me feel very nostalgic for bread. Besides, B.A. is still eating white flour this and white flour that, durham pasta here, shop-bought cake there, white powdery death everywhere. It occurs to me that I ought to bake him things made from einkorn.

Einkorn is one of the wheats our ancestors ate before scientists altered wheat in the 20th century for more yield and easier harvesting.  Having been quite awed by Wheat Belly, I am determined to see if I can make good bread, cookies, scones and waffles with einkorn.

Yes, I do jump on nutritional bandwagons. When the low-fat diet was the in-thing, you bet I was on a low-fat diet. It worked for years, but that may be because I was teetering on the edge of an exercise addiction. As I have grown very bored with gyms, I am happy that the current diet advice is less about long bouts of cardio and more about not eating too much and too often.  I enjoy eating and baking with nuts, so I am delighted  Wheat Belly  gives permission to eat as many raw nuts as we like, which is quite a departure from the cautious "only a small handful a day" strictures I have read for the past seven years or so.

Now that I think about it, I know a German grass expert, so I should write to her and ask about the kind of wheat we were eating in Canada (or in the UK) before the First World War. I thought it was einkorn, but Wikipedia says it isn't good for bread. Meanwhile, these people seem to know more about einkorn  than Wiki does. (Update: Oh, excitement!)

By the way, I bought a new dress (on sale) on glorious George Street to celebrate the success of my sugar-free diet. Here it is:

Friday, 15 July 2016

Horrified by "Your British World"

It's Polski Piątek, and I have finally finished reading the bilingual "Your British World--czyli jak sobie radzić w Wielkiej Brytanii" by Maria Kurek-Evans (2006). It is toe-curlingly awful if you love Britain, but it might provide good comfort and advice to a migrant Pole who has found himself on the bottom rungs of British society.

If you are British, I highly recommend that you do not read this book, or if you do read this book, recall that it is all merely the opinion of one Polish emigrée. (Seriously,  this book could have been responsible for  the "Leave" victory in the recent EU referendum.) When I read how sad and resentful the author feels when the audience sings "Rule Britannia" on the last night of the Proms, I wanted to throw her book at her. It's a soft-cover book, so it wouldn't hurt that much. I'd take off the plastic library cover first.

To tell you the truth, this book may be more about the author than about Great Britain, which for her is one vast, working-class London full of drunks and slovens. Of course, some of what she writes has a kernel of truth, and it is horrible to see Britain's cultural decline through a foreigner's eyes. Take, for example, the section "Maureen's Birthday."

"Maureen's Birthday" is simply ghastly. In short, Maureen and her husband are Irish (living presumably in London) and when Maureen has a birthday party, she doesn't provide food or drink, but accepts the bottles (and presents) her friends bring, and everyone gets sloppy drunk and then goes to a club where they behave like idiots.

Obviously Kurek-Evans has not been mixing with sophisticated people, but I have heard from Poles in Edinburgh that their British (student) hosts are stingy with food and drink. This  is not my experience of British hospitality, however. I cannot remember ever setting foot in a Scottish dwelling without being offered at least a cup of tea. There are usually cookies if there is not cake. As for parties, Scottish and English hosts are quick with drinks and nibbles, and in seven years I have never left a Scottish home hungry. That said, I don't know any women in the UK like Maureen, but from what I have heard, self-absorbed Maureen very likely exists.

Meanwhile, it is true that women across the British social spectrum get stumbling, glassy-eye, slurring drunk. It is not pretty. In fact, it is shameful, and it can not be stressed enough that Continental Europeans think a condition that is barely tolerable in a man is absolutely disgusting in a woman.

I think Kurek-Evans exaggerates the extent of British drinking a little when she dedicates two whole pages to hip flasks. She seriously seems to believe that women carry them around in our make-up bags and take refreshing snorts during cigarette breaks at work. The great irony of these pages is the one and only person I know who carries a hip flask everywhere and takes refreshing snorts (e.g. in the car park after Mass) is a Pole.  Here is one beautiful Polish sentence on the subject:

Po kilkych dyskretnych pociągnięciach ponury, zrzędny mężczyzna staje się towarzystim, gladko mówiącym, czarującym bawidamkiem.

The accompanying translation renders this "After these secret swigs, a gloomy, grumpy man is transformed into a sociable, well spoken, charming ladykiller."

In the case of my Polish friend, he is turned into a friendly chap who offers his flask to the Brits around, much to their bemusement.

Kurek-Evans obviously approaches her subject with humour if with very limited understanding. Incidentally, this book may be helpful for Britons going to Poland to understand how conservative Poland may be in terms of physical appearance and public behaviour. Kurek-Evans marvels at how in London people dress shabbily, as if in wartime, or in any odd manner they like (e.g. a hat with big feathers), and nobody shouts at them. She approves of this tolerance, which is what she deems the utter indifference of Londoners to other Londoners.* In fact, British "tolerance" and anti-racism is what she likes most about Britain, as well she might, being a foreigner living in Britain. For examples of British tolerance, she provides some highly embarrassing "Agony Aunt" letters that any Pole in 1980 would have thought fabricated by Soviet authorities to discredit the West.

This section makes me think rather uneasily about my November trip to Poland and how much I ought to spend on a new winter coat.

I would not recommend this book to any Pole who has come to the UK as a university student or who is taking a white collar job or belongs to any  profession that is likely to include people from across the social spectrum. Such preconceptions as Kurek-Evans offers are extremely socially limiting and may tempt the emigré to despise his new neighbours, sight unseen. (The section on British housekeeping--"An Englishman's Home is His Castle"--is particularly offensive when one rich seam of employment for migrants is housework. Most women are touchy about strangers' opinions of their housekeeping. Don't go there. Just don't.)

However, Kurek-Evans paints a sad and sympathetic picture of the plight of the Pole who comes to the UK to work at his trade, or to take a factory job, or merely to get by. Here the book is actually helpful. She provides good advice here for the poor Polish migrant, and this is the one part of the book that could help Britons see what the poor Poles go through when they are trying to find work in the UK (or London, anyway).

In conclusion, if you are British and you find this book in the local library and are feeling daring, you may enjoy (or not) seeing Britain (or London) through one Polish woman's eyes. However, if you are Polish and reading this post, you obviously have had an excellent liberal arts education and speak English fluently, and therefore will not find anything in Your British World  to help you navigate life in the UK. Instead, I direct your attention to acclaimed books by the English about the English. Watching the English  by Kate Fox was recommended to me by a Scot the other day.

Update: By the way, although the whole world honours Chopin, nobody gives a damn that the kerosene lamp was invented by a Pole. (Kurek-Evans is distressed that Ignacy Łukasiewicz is not mentioned under "kerosene lamp" in the Concise Oxford Dictionary.) Seriously. If you think it a crying shame that nobody knows about this accomplishment or that of your countrymen, you have a problem. Canadians can be seriously annoying when we seethe at being mistaken for Americans or when we need to inform you that Ryan Reynolds (or whatever movie star) is "a Canadian you know", but at least we don't expect anyone outside of Canada to know that a Canadian invented basketball. Meanwhile,  Canada has never produced a composer who can compare with Chopin. Try to be happy that any foreigner who has heard of him knows Chopin was Polish. (We all think Marie Curie was French.)

*As my daily experience attests, dressing in certain ways may certainly bring ire upon your head in poorer districts in Scotland.

Poor France

Horrible news from Nice this morning.

The next time a Catholic cleric tries to implicate Catholics or Catholicism in Islam-inspired violence (as at Orlando, as in the expression "Catholic Taliban"), I will be really furious.

Meanwhile, my heart aches for the French, especially my friends and acquaintances in the French traditionalist movements.

I noticed from Facebook that (now) majority-Muslim countries that suffer from Islam-inspired violence  (like Turkey) are disappointed when the western world does not express the same grief for them as it does for France. Perhaps they do not understand the role France has played in western history and the western imagination. For one thing, France is the mother of Canada (Britain the father) and of parts of the USA. France is England's closest friend when she is not England's worst enemy and shares a strong bond with Scotland. Western civilization without the contributions of France is hardly to be imagined.

An attack on France is an attack on western civilization, which is no doubt why the jihadi bastards keep attacking France.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Bikinis and Badness

From the serious to the ridiculous. Yahoo News, which seems determined to lower the human IQ, today features a woman who did not feel "good enough" to wear a bikini but in a great act of self-esteem has decided to wear one anyway.

This interests me for three reasons. The first is that I tried on a bikini when I was 27 or so, as athletic as I am ever likely to be, and about 117 lbs.  I looked in the mirror and took off the bikini because, slim as I was, I looked all wrong for a bikini. Women in bikinis in photographs are all one colour, whereas some parts of me were white,  other parts were pink, and still others slightly freckled. Moreover, despite trying to feel all sophisticated about it, I was just not comfortable wearing what was really just glorified and expensive underwear in public.

The second reason is that goodness had been conflated in this woman's mind with looking a certain way when wearing the glorified and expensive underwear in public. I can understand doubting one's ability to please the human eye, but I simply cannot understand what  virtue has to do with voluntary near-nudity.

The third reason is that in our benighted culture, this is now held out as a human interest story and a woman overcoming great odds to-----have a great day out on the beach.

Here is a link to the article and the photo of the probably overweight heroine, with the advice that this is not suitable viewing for clerics and little brothers. I very much doubt the woman's appearance would be of any interest to anyone on the beaches of the Mediterranean where elderly ladies tanned inside with cigarettes and outside with sun wear such costumes all the time, heedless of the collops of skin hanging from their frames. That said, if she hadn't shaved her head, she might have attracted some interest from the men around, as men are rather less obsessed with thinness in women than are women.

Schism is a State of Mind

I am not in the habit of reading the American newspaper National Catholic Reporter, but I was intrigued by a headline linking columnist Phyllis Zagano with Father Thomas Rosica, whom I remember from student days in Toronto, and clicked.

Zagano's sub-editor (presumably) entitled the column I read "The next schism is already here", and I would be rolling my eyes if I hadn't written on a similar theme when I left Boston College in 2007.  At the time I was positively (perhaps literally) shell-shocked by the deep hatred of some American Catholics for then-Pope Benedict and "conservatives" and by the contempt and fear expressed by other American Catholics for "liberals." This hatred, contempt and fear was almost completely foreign to my experience as a Catholic in Canada, even (or especially) at my Jesuit theologate in Toronto. At the latter I learned to love; at BC I learned to hate. It's amazing I kept my sanity. Oh, wait. I didn't.

Well, let us see what Ms Zagano has to say, keeping in mind that she is not talking about the Universal Church but the Universal Church as one American journalist sees it.

The next schism isn't down the road somewhere. It is already here. The proponents are lined up in a serious face-off, their team shirts emblazoned "Pre-Vatican II" and "Post-Vatican II."

I notice there is no team called "Vatican 2", the documents of which the "Post-Vatican II" gang seems to read  rather less than the "Pre-Vatican 2" gang. The "Post-Vatican II" team  also  seems shaky these days on Humanae Vitae and everything St. John Paul II ever wrote, never mind Benedict XVI.  

The "Pre" folks are the all Latin, all the time minority, solemnly preferring Bach during liturgy.  

Bach? During liturgy? Um, no. Maybe the prelude before, maybe the postlude after. But during?  My Sunday lunch money says she's never set foot in a TLM since 1970. And that she thinks her audience is so musically illiterate they'll never have heard of Palestrina.

The "Post" people comprise the rest of us, dutifully singing St. Louis Jesuits' songs and even (gasp!) exchanging handshakes at the kiss of peace. 

I enjoy the recognition that one sings SLJ songs out of duty. Meanwhile, countless ordinary mass-attending people loathe the handshake of peace, especially during flu season. In Toronto people occasionally wave germy fists of Kleenex at each other in an apologetic sort of way instead.

The fissure is getting worse, as more and more younger people come along yearning for the good old days (before they were born) when everything was orderly, everything had its place, and the rules were followed.

Fifty years of citing the "youth" as the excuse for everything have come to an end.  It was inevitable, however, as if there is something modern youth know about, it is the difference between good music and bad.

Meanwhile, older church professionals who adjusted to vernacular liturgies and who incorporate mercy into their understandings of justice are retiring daily. 

What's a church professional? Er...does she mean priests and women religious?

They are being replaced, where they are replaced, by people whose theological education is complemented by self-appointed Internet theo-bloggers whose opinions grow from the conviction that anything that happened since 1965 is anathema.

Personally, I pick 1963 as the Annus Horribilis, but I have great sympathy for those who blame 1914. Others find the beginnings of the rot in the 1940s.

I would be delighted if the next generation of priests and--please God--bishops find their education is "complemented" by my scribbles. As far as I know, three of my readers have converted to Catholicism and two have become Benedictine nuns. Okay, the nuns were not particularly influenced by me, but the converts were so--yay!

Meanwhile, I have never seen any evidence that any blogger--and I read THE most ferocious English-speaking traddy bloggers on the web--has appointed him or herself a "theo-blogger."  There are blogs, Catholics blog, and the squeakiest Catholic bloggers get the audience.

That is probably why Fr. Thomas Rosica, a Canadian priest and CEO of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation took on the so-called Catholic blogosphere several weeks ago, as he delivered the keynote address at the Brooklyn, N.Y., diocesan World Communications Day events. Rosica reported that many people say to him that "we 'Catholics' have turned the internet into a cesspool of hatred, venom and vitriol, all in the name of defending the faith!"

Hilarious. The internet is apparently full of porn that makes even demons puke, and yet Rosica's arch-enemy Vox Cantoris is the problem. Meanwhile, if video killed the radio star, I cannot imagine what the Catholic blogosphere has done to Rosica's television station.

It is true. The internet, as Rosica said in Brooklyn, "can be an international weapon of mass destruction, crossing time zones, borders, and space."

Could you imagine if letters,  books, radio and television could do that? Eeeek!

Rosica, whose attorneys sent a "cease and desist" letter to a Canadian blogger who attacked him with a combination of character assassination and misinformation,

Amusingly someone obtained the Rosica-Vox correspondence and sent it to Catholic World Report. Who was that? Oh, it was I. The amazing thing about this so-called character assassination is that it has been carried out by many people since 1995 or so and the character refuses to die. It could give lessons in survival to Rasputin.  

charitably reported that "Often times the obsessed, scrupulous, self-appointed, nostalgia-hankering virtual guardians of the faith or of liturgical practices are very disturbed, broken and angry individuals, who never found a platform or pulpit in real life and so resort to the internet and become trolling pontiffs and holy executioners!"

If that's charity, show me chastity.  But if I may be permitted a teeny weeny critique, the internet features videos of quite another different kind of "holy executioner" throwing men off buildings, beheading captives and setting girls on fire, so I wouldn't throw that phrase around any more that I would describe co-religionists as the "Catholic Taliban."

I agree. Because they never did or at least no longer do find space in legitimate media, 

Legitimate media including the National Catholic Reporter blog. Really, when the MSM wails about the internet, I keep thinking about the invention of the printing press and the desperate attempts of churchmen and statesmen to control it.

the self-appointed pontiffs build internet and other social media followings for their unfiltered personal attacks on anyone who strays beyond the boundaries of the church of their imaginings. In unedited postings, they freely criticize anyone -- from the pope on -- who carries and/or lives the Gospel in the "wrong" way.

Unedited!?!?? OMG! It's positively Protestant, this access to print unmediated by an editor. Editors, as we know, have years of training, plus ordination at the hands of a General Editor in communion with the Chief Editor in Rome. But criticizing powerful people (like those in establishment media) is actually in the tradition of the pamphleteers of the 17 and 18th century. Mundabor  may not be your cup of tea, but he is basically William Hogarth in print.

I hope my own experience with these type persons is atypical. 

To gather from your remark about liturgical Bach, it must be.

While Rosica's attorneys demanded his attacker stop assassinating the priest's character, 

It was just one attorney, really. Bloody expensive firm. Pro bono? My research (unpublished as I incorporate mercy into my understanding of justice) suggests so.

my own university actually banned a nasty blogger from campus and any online activities some years ago, when he tried to disrupt one of my online seminars. The idea was to keep him away from me. Aside from denigrating my scholarship 

Oh, she's a scholar? I must Google. I see. She's the Woman Deacons lady.

and defending his personal version of the faith, my attacker also brags about carrying a gun.

That really goes against the spirit of conceal-and-carry, I think. Living in a country where it is beyond illegal to firearms, I would be slow to brag about the Swiss knife I forgot to take out of my raincoat pocket when I got back from Girl Guide camp. Personally I would not want people who live far, far away from me to feel threatened by my Swiss Army knife when I denigrate their scholarship, etc., in unrelated articles.

That is where the schism is now. It is no longer butchers and bakers having street fights over Real Presence, or any other theological issue. 

 Maybe mentioning bakers was a mistake. I don't know about butchers, but Christian bakers are having a hard time over one particular theological issue right now. How much support are they getting from the NCR, I wonder.

 It is shoot-from-the-hip typists whose access to bandwidth lets them threaten your livelihood and, implicitly at least, your life. What they say is true because they say it, no matter their lack of credentials or, possibly, sanity.

Possibly St. Athanasius would just have punched her in the snoot.

The slow and steady recovery of church life during the papacy of Francis

WHAT? Slow and steady recovery ----from WHAT?  Let's look at that again.

The slow and steady recovery of church life during the papacy of Francis

What is she dating the illness of church life from? Benedict? Saint John Paul 2? Humanae Vitae? Trent? Constantine? 

is marred by these true schismatics, who denigrate the pope and everything he says and does, and who long for the good old days. 

Somehow she has managed to insult a whole lot of popes while complaining about people who denigrate the pope in the SAME SENTENCE.  Even before he became pope, Catholic academics denigrated Papa Ratzinger constantly and quite obviously longed for 1968. The good old days almost every trad I know longs for ended on February 11, 2013.

These bleating word processors have influenced, are influencing, and will influence otherwise kind people, who think verbal brickbats and worse will bring the church "around." Around to what?

Would you care to quote these otherwise kind people? If they said any such thing, which I doubt, they presumably hope the Church (capital C) returns to its work of saving souls and convincing the doubtful and despairing that every soul is worth saving, that every human being can be a Temple of Christ and that no human being has to be mired in a life of sin and degradation.

Phyllis Zagano is senior research associate-in-residence at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. 

Never heard of it, but I presume it is "legitimate".

There is no Schism in the Catholic Church, except in the minds of "establishment" media and academe who are staggered that people who disagree with them are now allowed to say so in public, without being shut up by a moderator or employing the clever nudge-nudge wink-wink style of discourse in which Benedict-haters used to begin their lectures.

It is interesting that the kind of writing that gets the most reading on the internet is not the kind of writing that appears in Catholic newspapers. The most popular figure in heritage Catholic newspapers is Father Ron Rolheiser. He's the J.K. Rowling of elderly Catholics, and if I could figure out how he does it, I would get a lot more work and no doubt sell more books. However, the kind of writing that stands out on the internet is a lot more explosive.

Those who write frankly on the internet against liberal pieties that are basically the  one-world-government religion either have nothing to lose, or are willing to lose it, or have cynically identified their target market and are pandering to it.

I was somewhat annoyed by an online comment by a woman responding to my CWR article on BC. She teaches at another Jesuit university and as everything I wrote rang true, she was feeling very stressed about being complicit with it all. My first thought was "How much money are you making?" That's my last thought, too. Here's what St. Ignatius of Loyola had to say about jobs and money in his Spiritual Exercises:

First Humility. The first manner of Humility is necessary for eternal salvation; namely, that I so lower and so humble myself, as much as is possible to me, that in everything I obey the law of God, so that, even if they made me lord of all the created things in this world, nor for my own temporal life, I would not be in deliberation about breaking a Commandment, whether Divine or human, which binds me under mortal sin.

Second Humility. The second is more perfect Humility than the first; namely, if I find myself at such a stage that I do not want, and feel no inclination to have, riches rather than poverty, to want honor rather than dishonor, to desire a long rather than a short life -- the service of God our Lord and the salvation of my soul being equal; and so not for all creation, nor because they would take away my life, would I be in deliberation about committing a venial sin.

Third Humility. The third is most perfect Humility; namely, when -- including the first and second, and the praise and glory of the Divine Majesty being equal -- in order to imitate and be more actually like Christ our Lord, I want and choose poverty with Christ poor rather than riches, opprobrium with Christ replete with it rather than honors; and to desire to be rated as worthless and a fool for Christ, Who first was held as such, rather than wise or prudent in this world.

The situation in the Church is not a schism but the uneasy relationship between Catholics and non-Catholics who think they are Catholics despite never having been catechized, or never having accepted the Catholic faith, or having long since rejected the Catholic faith. Catholicism is not as easy to measure as veganism. A vegan who eats cheese is by definition not a vegan, but a Catholic who rejects Catholic teachings on holy purity and/or murder, for example, as wicked is still considered a Catholic by the Church.

However, in the old days such a Catholic would be considered a bad, renegade Catholic and not permitted to speak as a Catholic to Catholic audiences. Now he or she is given a pulpit--literal or figurative--and is shocked, shocked!--when orthodox Catholics object.

This is very disheartening for Catholics who believe Catholic teachings on holy purity and/or murder. Believing Catholics have long been persecuted outside the Church; being persecuted inside the Church for our Catholic beliefs is really an eye-open for the rank-and-file faithful.  And this is why there is anger and frustration, anger and frustration that, expressed badly in print, doesn't always make it into Catholic newspapers. The internet has broken the rules of "who gets to speak", and mercifully it has come when so many establishment posts have been taken by cheese-eating vegans.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Traditional Guiding

Yesterday I received a letter from the Girl Guides I left behind (with their leaders) in the Perthshire wilderness last week. They often sing the song I taught them; they have continued the improvement to camp hygiene I suggested; they have played positively epic games since I left; so-and-so fell asleep on watch, was 'kidnapped' by two woodland beasts and had to be rescued. They very much miss me. Bless their girlish hearts.

One of the questions of my childless life is what on earth to do with all this pent-up maternal instinct, and a solution has come in the form of traditional Guiding. The establishment of Guiding in our TLM parish means two different age groups who sometimes need an old auntie to pitch in: the tween/teen girls and their twenty-something leaders. Thanks to an eight year stint with the (non-traditional) Girl Guides of Canada, I know a lot of stuff, and in Guiding situations it slowly comes back to me. But the same time, I know that nothing is more annoying to a twenty-something leader than a woman old enough to be her mother sticking her oar in at the wrong time, so I save my expertise until it is needed. Wisdom of age, y'all.

Meanwhile, traditional Guiding is different from the Guiding that I did in many ways, and none of my leaders knew her way around a hatchet, saw, chisel and awl the way our girls' Captain does. I barely ever used my knife in my Guide career, and yet during the three days I was at this camp, all the Guides had their knives out constantly to help turn our patch of Scottish forest into a colony of France. (The Guides' branch of Traditional Guiding and their Captains come from France.)

The most obvious difference between Traditional Guiding and Canadian Guiding As I Knew It is the emphasis on the Guides' Catholic faith. The girls were amazed that my parents didn't send me to Catholic Guides but to the geographically nearest Brownie troupe, down the street at the Anglican church. I reassured them that in those days, it was okay (by which I silently mean we weren't yet a branch office of Planned Parenthood). And it was, really. A sort of lukewarm  mainstream Willowdale Anglo-Saxon Protestantism still lingered, except when the dirty books came out at camp, which--come to think of it--was in direct violation of Guide Law 10: "A Guide is pure in thought, word and deed." Meanwhile, I doubt the Guide company at my parish church was half as devout as this Traditional Guiding Company. While collecting firewood, I overheard dishwashing girls seriously discussing some saints and the liturgy. Each of the two patrols built its own oratory.

Another obvious difference is that Traditional Guides wear skirts to camp. Okay, they do have "play uniforms", which is when the (rather long) shorts come out, but for such camp ceremonies as morning assembly, they race to the parade ground in dress uniform, which means berets, button-down shirts, navy skirts, sturdy boots and blue pullovers. In Scottish July, one is glad of that pullover, believe me. In my Canadian Guiding days, camp uniform meant a soft, brimmed camp hat, a T-shirt, shorts and running shoes. The shorts were rather flimsy, come to think of it; I much prefer the dark-navy, knee-length denim skirt I managed to find myself in a charity shop while packing for Trad Guide Camp. Camping in skirts is rather fun, and as traditional Scottish dress for men involves kilts anyway, traditional. The theme of the camp was the history of Robert the Bruce, and to play the Bruce convincingly--as our French Captain rather did--you need bare knees, let's face it.

Guiding everywhere involves a "campfire" meeting at the end of every day, and the girls cheered when they were told the leaders would take care of "campfire" that first night at camp. Their campfire always involves songs, hymns, a comic sketch, a dramatic sketch, boisterous games and five decades of the rosary. The girls half-kill themselves preparing it, so I understood their relief, but at the same time I felt a bit stressed. These are very talented, very enthusiastic, very creative girls, so I wasn't sure how I was going to do a sketch up to their standard. Fortunately, I had remembered to do as the Captain bid and brought a "fun story" about Robert the Bruce, which is naturally the apocryphal story of his being inspired by a doughty spider.

We quickly decided that the Captain would be the Bruce and I would be the spider. The Captain had a splendid tunic with a lion on it, and I gave myself four extra limbs by way of plaiting my hair into four braids. But best of all, I had brought a big ball of green twine, which would serve me as spider silk. I stuffed it down my shirt with the end sticking out my collar, and felt rather pleased by this special effect.

If you don't know the story of Robert the Bruce and the Spider, basically the Bruce had failed six times to establish his rule over Scotland/liberate Scotland from the English, and he was lying in a hovel wondering if he should make another attempt or pack it in and join the Crusades when he saw a spider trying to swing from one beam to another. The spider tried six times to attach its silk ot the opposite beam and six times failed. The Bruce decided that if the spider made another attempt, he would make another attempt to free Scotland. And lo. The spider succeeded on its seventh attempt, and Bruce never again lost an important battle.

Anyway, when I succeeded on my seventh attempt to reach the tree across from the one attached to the end of my string, I enjoyed myself winding a web around all the trees within reach, Robert the Bruce, etc., while shouting high-pitched spider cries of "Wheeee!" But then, as Robert the Bruce, continued  the campfire by leading some complicated comic song about a moose, I discovered I was stuck. Somehow the string inside my clothing had wound itself around my underclothing in such a way that I was permanently attached to my web, and I had to gesture helplessly to a Guide that she cut me out.

"What I like about you, Your Grace," said some Scottish Catholic to some Scottish bishop (Cardinal Winning, actually) in a story frequently repeated by the Schola, "is you've got nae dignity."


However, I made up for this glitch (I hope--campfire is almost a professional affair with this company) with my store of traditional English-language Girl Guide songs, my subsequent lesson on fire safety, and my open-fire cooking. It seems to me that my open-fire cooking has vastly improved since I was 14, probably because I have since then learned to cook at all. Meanwhile, open-fire cooking takes patience and a determination not to serve food that is either half-raw or burnt. It really puts one's theological education in perspective. Nobody really cares that I have an M.Div, but the ability to serve perfectly cooked potatoes can be crucial to the happiness of all around.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Earliest Champions of the Trad Mass in England

This in the Catholic Herald today. It is very interesting historical perspective. It includes, for example, the names of those who first gathered to save the TLM (now called the Extraordinary Form of the Mass).

I find this so fascinating because, as I have mentioned many times, when I was a kid in the 1970s and 1980s, nobody explained to me why the Catholicism in old books was so different from the Catholicism in everyday life. When I asked teachers, I got variations on "those were the bad old days."

It is curious how clueless I was able to remain about the changes until I was in my early thirties. Until I went to theology school, I had a Chesterton-era belief that the Jesuits were still the canny "shock troops of the Vatican" fighting the good fight against post-Reformation heresy.

My Jesuit professors in Canada were wonderful teachers--intelligent, professional, generous, personable, inspiring--but the Society's concerns were quite different from those I imagined they were. There was still  an emphasis on saving one's own soul (at very least), but they did not train us students in apologetics. I think that a pity, really, as some of the most inspiring lay Catholics I know could argue a dead horse into life again.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Fit for Purpose

There are two candidates for the job of leader of the Conservative Party in the UK. They are called Theresa May, whom everyone British and informed knows from telly and internet, and Andrea Leadsom, who is only now that much in the public eye.

The media gave Theresa May a hard-nosed reputation, but now they have  given her a soft side by playing up remarks Leadsom made to the Times. Leadsom said it would be horrible if she pointed out that she had children and May did not---which, of course, she was actually doing.  And now everyone is thinking how tragic it is that May couldn't have children and how stupid it is to think that "being a mum" gives you a professional edge in a country where only one Prime Minister has ever been a mum.

Benedict Ambrose is wroth at what he sees as Leadsom's mean-women-treating-the-office-like-it's-high-school* tactic. He says either Leadsom is catty or she is dumb about the media, and he wants neither quality in his Prime Minister. As a woman who, like May, wanted to have children but couldn't have them, I am not exactly applauding either. However, I have thought about this "stake in the country" issue a lot--mostly because both Alec Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon don't have any children and they want to remove Scotland from the United Kingdom. (That said, Ruth Davidson, the head of the Scottish Conservative-Unionist party, doesn't have children either.)

My own feelings about Scotland are a bit backward-looking: I think of all the Jocks who died in various wars thinking about their "wee bit hill and glen" and grind my teeth when developers rip them up. I have no Scottish relations younger than my husband. Do I have a stake in Scotland past my death in 2057?  Well, I wouldn't want to meet my Maker having done nothing to save His handiwork from destruction. "What about that wee bit hill and glen then, Dorothy?" The trad Catholic mothers of Scots I know (who are not always Scots themselves) worry endlessly, however, about the Scotland their children will grow up in. 

I don't know if Angela Merkel has children, so I will now ask Google. That reminds me. I was at the airport yesterday waiting for my parents, and a man and his young (perhaps 10 year old) son came through the sliding doors. The boy was wearing a T-shirt that said (with all the letters written in) "F**k Google. Ask me." My thought was, What kind of parent allows his son to wear a shirt like that in public? Yes, I do judge parents by their children, if the children have attained the age of reason. Angela Merkel had no children herself, but she has two stepsons.

Frankly I do not think a woman needs to have children to be the best choice for Prime Minister. The soft motherly virtues are probably not what you need to run a G-8 nation, and I don't think anyone ever accused Margaret Thatcher (mother of two) of having any. Naturally, as both candidates are in their late fifties, nobody would worry that May or Leadsom would be distracted at crucial moments by children contracting the mumps or being caught smoking grass behind the tool shed, of course. Meanwhile, the media habitually makes male politicians' children a topic of discussion, so this whole stramash cannot be said to be deeply sexist, however it may appear. Tony Blair paraded his kids for the cameras whereas Gordon Brown, to his great credit, never let us see his until the day he left 10 Downing Street.

One thing that prevents me from joining in the general kicking of Andrea "Loathsome", as she has fatally been dubbed, is that she respects the existence of social conservatives and was opposed to gay marriage. This may be why the media has decided to give her absolute merry hell. So keep that in mind.

*One reason why I work from home, and one reason why I am so glad when university-age girls tell me they are studying the hard sciences and/or maths, is the existence of mean-women-who-treat-the-office-like-it's-high-school. I saw a lot of them in my years of temping and--shudder. In general, I am a woman's woman, but there are limits to my tolerance of female evil. I am not sure Saint Edith Stein gets into the subject of women bullying women in her writings about women in the professions: I should look.