Monday, 31 December 2012


''I've wasted some precious time this week-end writing a letter to the Catholic Herald. One of their sentimentalist correspondents wrote about the etymology of the name Coventry, and seemed to think that unless you said it came from Convent, the answer was not 'in keeping with Catholic tradition.' 'I gather the convent of St Osburg was of no consequence' said he: boob. As convent did not enter English till after 1200 A.D. (and meant an 'assembly' at that) and the meaning 'nunnery' is not recorded before 1795, I felt annoyed. So I have asked whether he would like to change the name of Oxford to Doncaster; but he's probably too stupid to see even that mild quip.'' (The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien, no. 97).

The things people say and do in the name of ''Catholic tradition...''


If Anagnostis still reads Liturgiae Causa, would he kindly email me?

Thank you.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Velocity vs. Viscosity

Insanity comes in two basic varieties: slow and fast.

I'm not talking about the onset or duration. I mean the quality of the insanity, the day-to-day business of being nuts.

There are lots of names: depression, catatonia, mania, anxiety, agitation. They don't tell you much.

The predominant quality of the slow form is viscosity.

Experience is thick. Perceptions are thickened and dulled. Time is slow, dripping slowly through the clogged filter of thickened perception. The body temperature is low. The pulse is sluggish. The immune system is half-asleep. The organism is torpid and brackish. Even the reflexes are diminished, as if the lower leg couldn't be bothered to jerk itself out of its stupor when the knee is tapped.

Viscosity and Velocity are opposites, yet they can look the same. Viscosity causes the stillness of disinclination; velocity causes the stillness of fascination. An observer can't tell if a person is silent and still because inner life has stalled or because inner life is transfixingly busy.

Something common to both is repetitive thought. Experiences seem prerecorded, stylised. Particular patterns of thought get attached to particular movements or activities, and before you know it, it's impossible to approach that movement or activity without dislodging an avalanche of prethought thoughts.

A lethargic avalanche of synthetic thought can take days to fall. Part of the mute paralysis of viscosity comes from knowing every detail of what's ahead and having to wait for its arrival. Here comes the I'm-no-good thought. That takes care of today. All the day the insistent dripping of I'm no good. The next thought, the next day, is I'm the Angel of Death. This thought has a glittering expanse of panic behind it, which is unreachable. Viscosity flattens the effervescence of panic.

These thoughts have no meaning. They are idiotic mantras that exist in a prearranged cycle: I'm no good, I'm the Angel of Death, I'm stupid, I can't do anything. Thinking the first thought triggers the whole circuit. It's like the flu: first a sore throat, then, inevitably, a stuffy nose and cough.

Once, these thoughts must have had a meaning. They must have meant what they said. But repetition has blunted them. They have become background music, a Muzak medley of self-hatred themes.
Susanna Kaysen, Girl, Interrupted.

She can speak for me sometimes, but only sometimes. Here I think she makes a good point. Depression does slow time down, it slows down everything. Sometimes perception becomes too much, though. You listen to a piece of music and you think it's going too fast, or too loud, and you have to switch it off, turn out the lights, and lay face down on your bed in silence and darkness, then you fall asleep. You are presented with questions upon waking, do you get up? No, there's no point in getting up; all right, go back to sleep and miss work. Yes, all right, get up. What now? Do I have a bath? Well, I'm too warm in my pyjamas, and your bathing routine takes ages, and even lathering shampoo into your hair is too much of an effort, not to mention the shock of getting out of the water. Yes, you have a bath, ok, but do I shave afterwards? Well, again, the shaving routine takes ages and you only work for a cheap company anyway, what difference does it make whether you turn up looking rough or not? So you don't. Do I wash and prepare my face according to my accustomed routines? No, it takes ages. You put on an unironed shirt and trousers - you picked them up off the washing pile because you answered ''no'' to ''do I do the washing?'' yesterday. You look out the window; it's raining. Do I take an umbrella or not? You answer no, it's only rain water. You get to work looking rough and you answer with a grunt to people who ask ''what's happened to you?'' You switch on the lights to the office and sit down at your computer, and look around. You notice that some of the equipment you need to do your job is missing. You have found recently that your ability to cope with the smallest things has been slipping away, so you just sit there for ten minutes before your line manager walks in. You decide not to work that day as work is difficult and hopeless, and you go around and around in circles anyway, getting nowhere. You go home, toss the uniform onto the washing pile (which once again won't be done) and lay down to sleep. You have only worked a five hour day but even walking is exhausting, from the rising of one foot to the setting down of the other and years of time pass by and you're unconscious to it, conscious only to the effort of even standing up and trying to cope with a host of people talking to you all at once. Sleep gives you some release but you never seem to get enough of it.

Kaysen mentions panic and anxiety in Girl, Interrupted, but she has Borderline Personality Disorder as well, which influences emotion in a terrifying way. I don't panic and I am not anxious. I am too disinclined to feel either. If the worst comes, it comes; it can hardly be any different to that which is here now. I would say that my depression is characterised most by personal neglect, disinclination, tiredness, lots of staring and lots of sighing. I don't really have feelings of self-hatred (conscious ones anyway), and my enormous sense of entitlement and superiority hasn't completely vanished. But the answers to the questions I am faced with everyday, every hour, are invariably in the negative: do I wash today? No; do I go out today? No; do I get dressed today? No; do I do the washing up? No.

She is right, of course. The questions, the answers, the thoughts have no meaning. When you ask them everyday they are bound to loose meaning. Repetition just leaves you with a longing for nothing, for darkness, for release from the labour of living. Sunlight is painful, too bright; waking is exhausting; maybe eventually even breathing will become too much...

Art: J.R.R Tolkien. It's the tree from Leaf by Niggle, a melancholic story I haven't read for years.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Homo religiosus...

A lot of godless people, at work, formerly at school, etc think I am religious. This is a misconception I am very bored of correcting. I am not religious. Religious people pray before they go to bed, when they wake up, say the Office (in whatever bastardised form they like), go to church on Sunday, go on pilgrimage, etc. Superstitious people use medals and beads. I do none of these things. Whenever I go to church (I haven't been since August) it's usually to sit and listen to some choral music, not out of deference to any particular church or even to God, but for my own benefit - or malefit as the case has too often been. No, I spend most Sundays at home with the dogs. Far worthier than to go to some church, any church, and be scandalised by the want-of-liturgy, the content of the sermon (I have actually been preached at before), and the irreverence of the congregation.

Where am I now, then? I think I now have a healthy disregard for religion, and especially for religious people.

Wild Men of the Woods...

''There were great standing stones that had been carved in the likeness of men, huge and clumsy-limbed, squatting cross-legged with their stumpy arms folded on fat bellies...The Púkel-men they [the Riders of Rohan] called them.'' The Lord of the Rings, Book V, Chapter III.

''Púkel-men'' was the name in Rohan given to the effigies of men of a vanished race of the mountains. It represents the Old English púcel (which still survives in puckle), which referred to the devil, or spirits so formidable as to be confused with the him. When Merry saw Ghân-buri-Ghân, chief of the Woses of Drúadan Forest, he was reminded of the statues on the slopes of the White Mountains, weather and age worn, shapeless but for their deep, baleful eyes. In early drafts of The Lord of the Rings (see The History of Middle-earth, vol.VIII) Tolkien had experimented with the form Hoker-men, which probably represents a Tolkienian form of the Old English hocor, ''derision,'' (Oxford English Dictionary: ''Hoker,'' n).

The Púkel-men were also called Woses. As Elfhelm says to Merry: ''You hear the Woses, the Wild Men of the Woods...'' Tolkien did not invent the word ''wose,'' (well he did, in a sense). It is derived from the Old English wudewasa, a savage, a wild man of the woods (Oxford English Dictionary: ''Woodwose,'' n; a name which appears also in Unfinished Tales, The Children of Húrin, etc), comparable to the satyrs and fauns of Classical Greek mythology, and to Silvanus, the Roman tutelary god of the woodlands. But, as with so many other philological gems in The Lord of the Rings, it is simply wudewasa as it would probably be formed in modern English had it not been forgotten. However wudewasa was used throughout the Middle Ages. Capgrave, in his Chronicles of 1460, records that: ''the Kyng of Frauns daunsed in his halle with IIII knites, and was arayed lich a wodwous.'' I'd be most surprised if the word was unfamiliar to Shakespeare. Tolkien says that the wasa element meant originally a forlorn or abandoned person, and appears in modern German waise and the Dutch wees, meaning ''orphan.'' The origin of this idea was probably the actual existence of wild men, remnants of former peoples driven out by invaders, or of outlaws living a debased and savage life in the wilderness. The word also appears in Tolkien's translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

It is interesting that the Woses of Middle-earth are not evil, just ''different;'' they are disturbed by the foul smokes coming from Mordor to trouble their peace and are afright at the darkness amid the day, and they ''hate orc-folk.'' When they left the Riders in the Stonewain Valley, never to be seen again, Tolkien says that '' no heart in all the host came any fear that the Wild Men were unfaithful, strange and unlovely though they might appear.'' Very different from the vagabonds that haunted the woods about Bree in the latter days of the Third Age before the coming of the King to Fornost. All the Woses want is to be free, free from thralldom to Sauron, who would burn their woods and turn them out, and free from being hunted as beasts by the Men of Rohan. This idea is at variance with the patristic and mediaeval idea, such as the depiction of Nebuchadnezzar's madness and bestial life of seven years, interpreted by Origen to be a type of the fall of Lucifer; or the 13th century Celtic story Buile Shuibhne, where the pagan king of the Dál nAraidi in Ulster assaults bishop Finn and is cursed by God with madness and tramps through the woods naked. Of course the mediaeval concept of outlawry is not absent from Tolkien. Compare, for example, Túrin's sojourn among the outlaws upon his flight from Doriath. These were men who were driven out of their homes by their own people for murder, rape, theft, etc, and were therefore ''outside the law.'' Believing himself to be under Thingol's wrath, and though under a diabolical curse, Túrin's presence among the outlaws serves to better their lives, if not his own life.

Can you all see how one word, one concept can have so much meaning, so much history and so much theology in Tolkien? I find this confluence of history, familiarity and legend in Tolkien most fascinating.

Art: Ted Nasmith. The illumination is from a 14th century Book of Hours depicting the coronation of the Virgin by the Blessed Trinity. Notice the wild men in the border.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Just a little extra lace, dear...

Spanish vestments for an ordinariate there to supposedly safeguard Anglican traditions? See this one.

I have known Anglo-Catholic churches to use Spanish cut vestments in the past; the idea is that ''the Reformation never happened.'' Just seems to be a lot of picking and choosing to me, to be honest; can you imagine the Sunday after-Mass discussions in the vestry? ''Oh, that chasuble will go well with this frontal,'' and let's never mind about the riches of the English liturgical tradition. I call it very shallow and extravagant, not to mention tasteless. What good does it do unless to satisfy your whim on a Sunday morning?

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

The Nutcracker...

Someone suggested to me the other day that depression can inspire some of the greatest art known to man. It's true but at the time I could only think of Van Gogh and his Starry Night, famous for its swirls of intense colour upon a deep blue sky - forsooth the work of a mind in great travail. Van Gogh was not a great artist (in my opinion) but The Starry Night is a work of art, albeit one which I would not like to see before retiring.

On Friday I am going to see The Nutcracker at the Royal Opera House, which is a kind of Christmass tradition for me. My grandmother first took me in a time which seems now immeasurably remote, beyond all fateful knowledge of religion, and when hobbits, rings and elves were still new to me. I've often longed for the sensation of that first time, of discovering the works of Tolkien in a secret library somewhere, known only to me, in form as of a mediaeval Book of Hours, with the tales told in a firm, flowing hand in the most beauteous calligraphy and decked about with illustrations in Tolkien's own hand, like this dragon.

Familiarity can make even the most exquisite literature grow stale, and I first knew that something was wrong when I got bored of The Hobbit, upon taking that great work up for to read on the 75th anniversary of its publication. Anyway, coming back to The Nutcracker, which I suppose is the balletic equivalent to a Terry's Chocolate Orange, and it seems a rather puerile work; a huge Christmass tree, a kingdom of sweets and a sugar plum fairy are hardly the stuff of the most noble tradition, are they? But put that impression away which was the impression of Tchaikovsky himself when Petipa gave him the synopsis, and watch so that you can see, and listen so that you can hear. When Tchaikovsky received the commission from the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre he was depressed; sniping critics in St Petersburg, the fact that the Tsar had snubbed his latest opera, the breakdown of his disastrous marriage (well, he was homosexual), and the death of his sister, I expect all had their way with him. But his mood finds expression in the score. The music has many layers, at once lively as the Russian Dance, and melancholy as the famous pas de deux of the Sugar Plum Fairy, which all implicate the state of Tchaikovsky's great and troubled mind. While I am not familiar with Petipa's original choreography the performance at Covent Garden is always rather splendid and I think that together Tchaikovsky and Petipa produced something very sweet (no pun intended) and cheerful for the season.
The original production of The Nutcracker at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg, Christmass, 1892.

Monday, 24 December 2012

In cordis iubilo...

In cordis iubilo,
Christum natum adoremus
Cum novo cantico.
The refrain from my favourite Christmass hymn, Puer Natus; with a glad heart let us worship the new-born Christ with a new song. It can be sung beautifully by the simplest of choirs, provided they sing in tune, and can be very lively - ideal for a procession before high Mass with as many crucifers and taperers as you like. It has been some time now since I heard it.
I do not celebrate Christmass according to the Gregorian Kalendar and so I'll leave it at that, but for those of you who do, may I wish you all the temporal and spiritual blessings in the Lord on the sacred solemnity of His birth.
Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of good will.
(I always preferred this translation, the Douay-Rheims, to the Authorized version, since the Latin quite clearly says: "pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.")

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Vulgarity of the Season...

I was dragged Christmass shopping by my parents this morning; yes, on a Sunday morning. If they had decided to go tomorrow I could have had the ''I'm sorry, I'm working'' excuse, but no; moral objections don't seem to count for much in my family. It doesn't matter that I find shopping on any Sunday of the year an abuse of the Lord's Day, we just have to go out and buy everything in sight or Christmass will be ruined.

I was going to give an account of the morning, but repeating myself will only make things worse. Instead, I'd like to know why people become so sensitive this time of year? I mean you can't say or do anything contrary to all the tat without being accused of ruining Christmass for everyone else. Why is this? At work last week we had a ''Xmas dress-up'' week, where you could wear some sort of festive outfit over your uniform. When asked why I hadn't played the part, nor partaken of the ''Christmass dinner'' (Oh, God!!!), I said ''well, 1, it's not Christmass, and 2, that's not food.'' I was given a dirty look but I walked off. The other day my father came home from work and asked why the ''festive display'' lights in the front garden (upon which, by Divine providence, a fox had defecated the night they were put up!) weren't turned on. I said, ''well, why would I do that?'' In a tone of voice which spoke of hurt and dismay he said ''because it's Christmass.'' That was too much for me and I retired to my bedroom. Telling the Philistines about the cycle of the liturgical year will only exhaust the most benevolent of souls. I was sent to find a trolley in Marks & Spencers this morning and so fought my way to the other end of the store through hordes of greedy little orcs, to find another empty trolley bay; returned to where my father was, and he was gone. I thought ''sod this,'' and went into GameStation to look at retro games (the only ones worth playing). I was then summoned by text message to return to Marks & Spencers where I was scolded by my mother, who incidentally hasn't spoken to me for six or seven weeks, turning to my father and saying ''well, why don't we just have beans on toast for Christmass dinner?'' Boo hoo! Is it really the end of the world if you can't find a certain kind of cheese? On the way home they did nothing but complain about the staff, the customers, the layout of the store, and probably me, but I had switched off by then.

Then comes 25th December itself. What a nightmare! Fortunately, we don't have to put up with distant relatives, just my sister, and, as a rule, I refuse to play happy families with her. On the subject of ''playing happy families'' once a year I am reminded of a certain scripture:

Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Matthew 5:24-25.

In other words, why bother acting as if you care when by St Stephen's Day you've gone back to the way things were? Kind of makes the spirit of Christmass seem rather spurious, does it not? This, together with the greed, the stampede at the shops, the tat, the hackneyed music playing over and over and over, makes me feel rather sour by Christmass morning. Of course, actually telling people this and they accuse you of being an Ebenezer Scrooge! People think I hate Christmass! I love Christmass; what could be more wonderful than to celebrate the birth of the Saviour? But I despise tat and falsehood, and it pains me year after year to see what Christmass has become for most people, and working, as I do, in the retail industry just intensifies that grief, where a feast of the Lord has been cheapened by commercialism and greed, endless greed.

O the virtues of the Julian Kalendar! How wonderful it is to celebrate Christmass as it was of old, and better still, without all the tat, corporate greed and playing happy families that goes with the Papist kalendar.

Saturday, 22 December 2012


A lot of people, friends, readers, say that I ought to write a book. About what? Writing is very difficult, and you can't simply summon the muse and write prolifically some of the greatest literature known to man, and there is no way I could ever accept that mantle anyway. As Tolkien said, I am an ignorant man but also a lonely one. People seem to react positively to my Tolkien posts, even if most of them go without much comment, but I don't claim to say anything original, just ''this means this to me, for such and such a reason,'' and I would question whether that is the correct spirit in which to read Tolkien, or anything (especially Scripture!), in the first place. Applicability is one thing, coming to terms with the meaning inherent to a piece of writing is another, in which case subjectivism goes out the window. Liturgy? Well, there are far greater scholars of liturgy out there, and I can only claim to have an amateur interest in liturgy as part of a personal feud with fraud, deception and cliques, in the quest for authentic, apostolic Christianity. My life? Well, who wants to read about that? I am not original like Quentin Crisp; I am not as humorous and frank (even if I am brutally honest) like Susanna Kaysen; I am not a genius like Tolkien; I would say that my life has been quite boring to date. Three or four years ago I attempted to keep a diary, after having read the Diary of Kenneth Williams, with detailed entries for the days, and I ended up throwing it in the bin after two weeks for the said entries were depressing and, in one or two cases, disturbing to read back to myself. They would not be publishable, and I was too lazy to keep it up anyway.

I would be interested to know what you think about all this. What sort of book would you want from me? A memoir? An autobiography? A study of Tolkien in some field? Do let me know.

Friday, 21 December 2012

St Caedmon...

I was going through some of my old Latin stuff on file in my bedroom before I took my afternoon nap (rather later than usual), you know my translations of scripture (the complete Book of Jonah, some Gospel pericopes), bits of St Leo's Tomus ad Flavianum, odd bits of Virgil, and best of all some of my work on St Bede - all redolent of a time when my mind was more active. I came across my translation of the account of St Caedmon, who was a herdsman attached to the double monastery of Whitby during the abbacy of St Hilda. On the evening of a certain festival, as was the custom he went to dinner with the monks to celebrate, and a harp was passed to him. Now being innocent of the art of music he retired to his bed where he was visited by an angel who besought him to sing something. The passage goes:

Quo accepto responso, statim ipse coepit cantare in laudem Dei Conditoris versus quos numquam audierat, quorum iste est sensus: ''Nunc laudare debemus auctorem regni caelestis, potentiam Creatoris et consilium illius, facta Patris gloriae: quomodo ille, cum sit aeternus Deus, omnium miraculorum auctor extitit, qui primo filiis hominum caelum pro culmine tecti, dehinc terram Custos humani generis omnipotens creavit.'' Hic est sensus, non autem ordo ipse verborum, quae dormiens ille canebat; neque enim possunt carmina, quamvis optime conposita, ex alia in aliam linguam ad verbum sine detrimento sui decoris ac dignitatis transferri. Exsurgens autem a somno, cuncta quae dormiens cantaverat memoriter retenuit, et eis mox plura in eundem modum verba Deo digni carminis adiunxit.

When he heard this reply, he immediately began to sing in praise of God the Creator verses which he had never heard, of which this is the sense: ''Now it behoves us to praise the maker of the heavenly kingdom, the power of the Creator and his counsel, the things made of the Father of glory: how he, since he is the eternal God, stands out as the author of all miracles, who first, as the almighty Guardian of the human race, created for the sons of Men the heavens for a roof, and then the earth.'' This is the sense, not however the order of the words themselves, which he sang while sleeping; for neither are songs able, however well they are composed, to be translated literally from one language to another without loss of its decorum and dignity. But arising from sleep, he retained the memory of all that he sung sleeping, and soon added more words to the songs in the same manner, fitting for God.

He paints a very moving picture of God, very typical of St Bede, whose piety and learning were surpassed by none in his life. The Old English staves, of which St Bede gives a Latin translation, exist in an Old Northumbrian edition of the Historia Ecclesiastica commissioned by godly King Alfred for the edification of his people. The song was written in the alliterative metre, beloved of Blessed Ronald Tolkien, which is produced here:

Nu sculon herigean heofonrices weard, meotodes meahte and his modgeþanc, weorc wuldorfæder, swa he wundra gehwæs, ece drihten, or onstealde.
He ærest sceop eorðan bearnum heofon to hrofe, halig scyppend; þa middangeard moncynnes weard, ece drihten, æfter teode firum foldan, frea ælmihtig.

There are some interesting syntax and forms here; the cognate wuldor in ''glory-father,'' used as a kennings for God throughout much Old English poetry, and the constant repetition and pattern of ideas, inherent to the genius of alliterative verse. Most obvious of all, naturally, the form middangeard, the ''Middle-earth,'' which to the Saxons meant the lands of men between the Seas, or not seldom between Heaven and Hell (see the poem Crist by Cynewulf). The significance of the Old English translation of St Caedmon's Hymn cannot be underestimated. According to C.L Wrenn, writing for The Anglo-Saxon Anthology:

If this poet was, in fact, the very first to apply the Germanic heroic poetic discipline of vocabulary, style, and general technique to Christian story and Christian edification, then, indeed, the Hymn must be regarded (as it must have been at the time of its original recitation) as a great document of poetic revolution in early Anglo-Saxon England. Whoever first applied pagan traditional poetic discipline to Christian matter set the whole tone and method of subsequent Anglo-Saxon poetry. He preserved for Christian art the great verbal inheritance of Germanic culture.

How wonderful. This was Tolkien's life work! It is interesting that he established such an ecclesiastical connexion between the Old English tradition and his own legendarium, dedicated to England (not Britain), and mediated by pious works. It is the foundation, and subsequent ethos, of the work that is Christian, not trite things such as Gandalf's return from death seen as a type of the Lamb of God sent to slaughter, though that too is measurable. It's what distinguishes Tolkien from lesser authors.

The patrimony of God...

''I consider a translation of the Rule of St Benedict a very necessary thing. For it does not matter by which language someone is drawn to the faith, so long as in the end they come to God. So let those who only speak English observe it with no excuse! I beg all my successors in the name of our Lord to ensure that the observance of this holy Rule is increased by Christ's grace throughout our land, and many thereby be brought to spiritual perfection.

''Let no man diminish the patrimony of God and so undermine the fire of holy religion as happened in the past when kings had little fear of God. Let us heed the warning and pray earnestly that the old state of affairs never returns. Let no abbot or abbess give away church lands for money or flattery. For they are set as God's shepherds and trustees. May the possessions granted to the Church remain in perpetuity, and may anyone who subverts this languish in the pains of hell!''
St Ethelwold of Winchester.

Thursday, 20 December 2012


Quentin Crisp once said that: ''Whenever people read in the papers that someone has purchased a machine-gun and mowed down a whole neighbourhood, they invariably say, 'I wonder what brought that on.'...To me the motive is self-evident. Mass-murderers are simply people who have had ENOUGH.''

Quite. People go on about perspective all the time, you know that hackneyed line: ''there's always someone worse off than you.'' Only ignorant people say that. Perspective has nothing to do with personal problems. Opprobrium, trouble at work, making enemies of all the wrong people (senior management, priests, family, etc), constant anger, cutting off your nose to spite your face, money trouble, depression, trouble with family, having a tendency to always speak your mind, to whomever indiscriminately; take your pick! In the context of all this the very mention of ''perspective'' makes unexpressed rage take the mastery! I don't honestly care about starving people in the back of beyond, whom I've never met, when everyday I wake up I ask myself whether it's worth getting out of bed. A few weeks ago I was in the warehouse at work and an in-store demonstrator was there. This is an incredibly ignorant woman who, every time she comes to the office to sign in, always has to ask for help to fill out the perfectly self-explanatory visitor's book. Anyway, she was looking for Flora Cuisine in the ambient section, which tells me she doesn't know the first thing about what she is trying to sell, I shewed her to the chiller, and went back upstairs. Later, when I went down to recycle some paper, she commented to another colleague (in my presence), ''well, at least someone's happy!''  Maybe she saw the look on my face, my unironed clothes or unkempt hair; who knows? Have you ever wished someone dead, and meant it? I have, and do. We're all put to the test at some point. What worries me is that my wishing is not inspired by adrenalin but cold contempt. The very sight of at least one woman is enough. She was here yesterday, when I came home from work, so I went to bed just to shut out her noise. Waking was no better, though fortunately she was gone by then.

Maybe people don't realise that it's silly things that tip the scale; a look, a stupid comment, you run out of toothpaste or milk for your tea, and that's it. You bring out your revenge list, walk down to the garden shed, pick up the sledge hammer, and off you go. Or you can't face going outside, being exposed to the common light of day and peoples' scorn, and you just go into the kitchen and cut your wrists with the steak knife.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012


Having been depressed for many months many of my books have become damaged for, having a mind to read something in them, my mind wanders onto some other idea, or not seldom nothing at all, and I give up. Eventually the book ends up on the floor, opened on that page wherein I thought to read something wonderful, buried beneath a mountain of discarded papers, clothes, tissues, even empty food packets, and my room becomes such a state that movement itself becomes impeded. For somebody usually very meticulous about cleanliness and with an innate love of books, you must understand how distressing this is. I was admonished against this treatment of my books last week by a friend of mine, himself a bibliophile, who said that to leave books thus is one of the worst things you can do to them. Of course I have bookmarks in plenty but the idea is that sooner or later I will return to the book, open up and pick up where I left off, in exactly the same state of mind and disposition, as though the day, week or month since last I set mine eyes to the words had never happened. It never works like this, or seldom does anyway.

On the way to work this morning I was reminded of a passage in Aldarion and Erendis, a sad story (indeed the only story) which comes down to us from Númenor. I don't know why but it reminded me of something faintly comforting, you know like a familiar smell, something to quicken one's sense of reflection and piety (you'd be surprised how often one's olfactory perception helps in this way); not exactly a déjà vu, but something reminiscent. I had to rummage for my ''rough'' copy (I am not silly enough to leave first editions lying around), but found it without much difficulty, though not in exactly the condition I left it. The passage goes:

''Riding one day in the forests of the Westlands he saw a woman, whose dark hair flowed in the wind, and about her was a green cloak clasped at the throat with a bright jewel; and he took her for one of the Eldar, who came at times to those parts of the Island. But she approached, and he knew her for Erendis, and saw that the jewel was the one that he had given her; then suddenly he knew in himself the love that he bore her, and he felt the emptiness of his days.'' J.R.R Tolkien, Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth.

Coming back to what we said earlier about sense, can you not feel yourself standing there? Those woods must have been wonderful, especially at a time of Autumn. Imagine, it has been raining (all seasons in Númenor at that time were ever apt to the needs and liking of men), you are alone, you can feel the clemency of the Númenórean weather on your skin, a wind comes out of the West bearing a fragrance of Avallonë and causing the leaves of the trees to rustle, a sound which calls to mind the angelic chorus and the creative activity of the Holy Ghost, you look down to the Sea, the direction of all godliness, and you breathe deep and know in yourself that you are under God's protection, that your Sovereign is pious, that you are of a noble people. It speaks volumes to me and it reminds me of what Treebeard says in The Lord of the Rings about breathing, that he used to go up into the mountains and just breathe; or Sam's first experience of Ithilien. Of the wind Tolkien says:

''And when the wind was in the west, it seemed to many that it was filled with a fragrance, fleeting but sweet, heart-stirring, as of flowers that bloom for ever in undying meads and have no names on mortal shores.'' (Akallabêth).

That's not to mention the other side of the aforesaid passage - Aldarion's love for Erendis (oh, don't worry; that soon turned to hatred, anyway), and whatever you can see in that. I haven't quite got around to it yet as my mind is still full of breathing. What I found most interesting about Erendis in this scene was the combination of loneliness and colour, everything is grey-green (it is, though Tolkien does not say so, Autumn), and she seemed almost a ghostly figure passing from one tree to the next, being quickened only by the approach of the King's Heir of Númenor, though she turns to flight.

Sensory perception in Tolkien would make a good (albeit difficult) essay for me. We have seen how breathing the air of Númenor can inspire piety, what about listening? We'll think about that next time.

Art: Ted Nasmith. When the Númenóreans looked westward in the days of the domination of the Dark Power they were greeted not with a fair wind but descried instead great clowds, shaped as it were in the likeness of eagles, and the sunset was darkened for they loomed up, threatening, in token of great wrath, and some bore lightning beneath their wings, and thunder echoed between the sky and the sea; and men said: ''Behold the Eagles of the Lords of the West! The Eagles of Manwë are come upon Númenor!'' And they were filled with dread.

Sunday, 16 December 2012


There's a lot of hysteria among Roman Catholics about Mr Cameron's ideas about the exclusion of gay people from marriage, and what he wants to do about it. I personally couldn't care less; I am a confirmed bachelor in both the Victorian euphemistic sense and any other sense you like - I'm not remotely interested in relationships; and besides, it's a purely civil matter. It wouldn't be such a problem if Roman Catholics weren't so clearly homophobic, even if their church tells them to approach homosexuals with understanding and compassion. In my experience they either let on they don't know or they shun you altogether, in the Pauline spirit of ''expel the wicked from among you.'' Quite different if you're a priest of the London Oratory, of course, or you write books about Liturgy.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: ''Every sign of unjust discrimination in their [homosexuals'] regard should be avoided.'' Very well. I will not belabour the obvious discrepancy between this attitude and the one enunciated by St Paul, the Fathers and the Scholastics, who place sodomites among the basest of persons, but unfortunately anything the modern Roman church says about the subject, whether condemning homosexual acts, or repeated homosexual acts which lead to homosexual lifestyles, is tainted with fear and abhorrence, which has its uttermost source in the Devil, not God. Is this toleration? If so it has come in a form that is slightly insulting. You cannot have the unity of faith, acceptance, and a sacramental life on the one hand, and the stigma of going to church every Sunday and being greeted with the ''Oh, God, you're one of those'' look, on the other. ''You cannot sire or bear children, that part of you is crooked, an evil fruit of the Fall; don't be surprised if we don't include you in our extra-ecclesial activities.'' So all the official doctrine in the world makes almost no difference at all; it is the result of popular opinion, a stinking red herring. Thick mick priest is a homophobe, had his share in picking on the weak kid at school, and grew up with this attitude, mistaking it for orthodoxy. I have myself been on the receiving end of this, and I have known Roman Catholic parents to encourage homophobia in their children. I grew up in a homophobic house, where words like ''poof,'' ''pansy'' and ''faggot'' were used without much thought.

Being a compendium of church doctrines one can't expect the catechism to go into any great detail about homosexuality, but everything it says is rather noncommittal. Perhaps this is their idea of trying to fudge over the old ideas under the false ''hermeneutic of continuity,'' or fear of being accused of wanton bigotry without reason on the other, who knows? One Roman priest said to me once that he thought homosexuality didn't exist, and that homosexual tendencies were a temptation to sin rather than an ontological reality in the person. This is, of course, a factual statement about the reality of homosexuality in the human makeup, there is evidence bearing on it, so this man's personal opinion on the matter is completely irrelevant. I daresay that this homophobic individual would be one to support such unscientific articles as this one, begotten of hatred and ignorance.

No, given everything I've just said, it's hardly surprising that Roman Catholics are eaten up with fear and paranoia about Mr Cameron's views, is it?

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Reigning from on high...

''She has removed the royal Council, composed of the nobility of England, and has filled it with obscure men, being heretics; oppressed the followers of the Catholic faith; instituted false preachers and ministers of impiety; abolished the sacrifice of the mass, prayers, fasts, choice of meats, celibacy, and Catholic ceremonies; and has ordered that books of manifestly heretical content be propounded to the whole realm and that impious rites and institutions after the rule of Calvin, entertained and observed by herself, be also observed by her subjects.'' Pius V, Regnans in Excelsis, 25th February 1570.

So much for Anglican Patrimony; ''heretics,'' ''ministers of impiety,'' and, most sweeping of all, ''impious rites.'' What does Anglicanorum Coetibus say about the Anglican tradition? Oh yes, ''a precious gift nourishing the faith...and as a treasure to be shared.''

I found the woodcut of the pope in Google Images. Estote Proditores, ''go and be traitors to your King for daring to oppose the false religion we imposed on you for centuries.'' Succinctly spells out the good of the papacy, doesn't it?

So, jump...ok, how high?

The pope is now using Twitter. Isn't that the greatest news since the Angel of the Lord announced the birth of the Saviour to the shepherds in the deeps of time? It's so wonderful, so critical, I am literally on the edge of my seat awaiting the next tweet! Oh blast, I've just remembered that I deleted my Twitter account so for my penance I'll take a few cold showers, recite some novena prayers, and pray to Our Lady, Queen of Social Networking (in the vain hope that her attention isn't elsewhere, you know, battling devils and shagging priests), that my share in the superabundance of graces no doubt impeded by my objection to such social networking sites doesn't impact on the state of my soul on the Day of Judgement. We can't have everything. Sigh.

Dear God! Anyone who has greeted this non-event with any kind of Ultramontane impiety ought to be shot. Roman Catholics say that they do not worship the pope, and this may be written in their doctrine, but their actions say otherwise. It's as if Our Lord has said, ''don't read the Scriptures, listen to my pope!''

The fate of sycophants in the Divine Comedy by Botticelli, doomed to forever wade through their own shit. This may have been an early Renaissance play on the term ''brown noser,'' you never know.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

The Hobbit movies...

The first part of the new Peter Jackson film trilogy loosely based on J.R.R Tolkien's great book The Hobbit premieres tomorrow in cinemas throughout the land. Unlike 11 years ago when I first saw The Lord of the Rings at my local Cineworld I will not be going to see any of these new films. Jackson eviscerated The Lord of the Rings by turning it into an action film for an audience of 15-25 year olds, and it seems that these new films will be no different. The chasm between the beauty and seriousness of the work, and what it has become, has gone too far for me. There is only one solution for me now, and that is to turn my head away.

As a writer...

One day I plan to print hard copies of the ''best,'' that is the most coherent, of my posts and work on a long ecclesiological/liturgical essay. I like to think that there is something in there, however small, which is academically worthwhile, and my idea is that something could well be extracted from the mass of ranting and raving and be collated, improved and expounded for the good of the Church. Maybe the Traddies don't take me seriously but at least I have some audience willing to listen. I want to talk about Church, even if it is depressing, as something needs to be said that isn't being said, by anyone anywhere, in a manner which seems fitting to me. To offend anyone nowadays is, after all, hardly ecumenical or politically correct. I think of the Church and my mind is flooded with topics, contemporary and historical, liturgical and doctrinal, each one of these things worth a thousand years of research, but it is the synthesis of all these things (and many more) that makes up the Church, augments catholicity and constitutes Tradition. In the end I think it will have to be about Tradition (encompassing liturgy, scriptural exegesis and doctrine) and Ecumenism, how these things interpenetrate, what they mean, what it means to be ''in communion,'' and the unity of faith. To what purpose is this essay, you ask? Well, I might as well forget it if I hope to win people over, but sometimes (well, oftentimes), my mind being so fickle, my posts fall short of their full intent and purpose, and I never achieve what I had set out to do. My short-term memory is shockingly bad and a lot of the time I have to write things down as they come into my mind in great impetuous and furious speed, or I forget them, and so the impression I have now, two years and more since I started writing Liturgiae Causa, is that I have failed in a very serious way as a writer on matters liturgical and even more as a Tolkienist. But it comes into my mind this very hour that perhaps, though it is a faint hope, there are fragments of coherence, a cogent point somewhere, and if so then why not do something about it?

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Blue Dolly Day...

''And first for the Blessed Virgin Mary, I yield her that which the Angel Gabriel pronounced of her, which in her Canticle she prophesied of herself, that is, that she is blessed among women, and that all generations shall call her blessed. I reverence her as the Mother of Christ, of whom our Saviour took His flesh, and so The Mother of God, since the divinity and humanity of Christ are inseperable. And I freely confess that she is in glory both above angels and men, her own Son (that is both God and man) only excepted. But I dare not mock her, and blaspheme against God, calling her not only Diva but Dea, and praying her to command and control her Son, who is her God and her Saviour. Nor yet not, I think, that she hath no other thing to do in Heaven than to hear every idle man's suit and busy herself in their errands, whiles requesting, whiles commanding her Son, whiles coming down to kiss and make love with priests, and whiles disputing and brawling with devils. In Heaven she is in eternal glory and joy, never to be interrupted with any worldly business; and there I leave her with her blessed Son, our Saviour and hers, in eternal felicity.'' (King James I, A Premonition to All Most Might Monarchs, Kings, Free Princes, and States of Christendom).

All part of the Roman Catholic tradition.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Anglicanae traditiones...

Dear pope Benedict,

This is not your tradition. It came into existence in spite of you, and you had no part in its formation, you have no part in its excellence and you cannot, for all your unapostolic power, rewrite the history of Liturgy.

Sincerely yours,

Patrick Sheridan

P.S: ''Melkor indeed declared afterwards that Fëanor had learned much art from him in secret, and had been instructed by him in the greatest of all his works; but he lied in his lust and his envy; for none of the Eldalië ever hated Melkor more than Fëanor son of Finwë, who first named him Morgoth...'' J.R.R Tolkien, The Silmarillion, p.67.

(Substitute Melkor for the pope, and Fëanor for the Church of England, and Morgoth for Antichrist and you get the picture).

I wonder if the Traddies have added Lancelot Andrewes to their libraries and St Charles the Martyr to the Litany of the Saints yet? Oh no, sorry. I was forgetting that this newfound esteem for Anglican traditions has no substance or history.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Lost in Translation...

According to this sweeping statement over at Style-over-Substance (no, that's not its real name; that is a name I invented to better account for the constant tat) Roman Catholics overwhelmingly support the new translation of the Roman Missal. Never mind that this survey was completed by just over 1,000 Roman Catholics (out of 1 billion), that it was only done over an eight day period and all the things I've (and I'm sure you've) heard about the new translation.

The new translation is complete and utter rubbish. Roman Catholic liturgical and ecclesiastical affairs are just doomed to eternal artificiality as a result of it, and the latter day history of approved vernacular liturgical books. By the 1960s it was really too late. Rome can't seriously look to the Prayer Book or the King James Bible for ''liturgical'' English in the Latin Rite (notwithstanding the new craze for Patrimony brought about by the Ordinariates) as these are the compositions of their time, and a modern ''liturgical'' and vernacular language in the Latin Rite just raises a host of questions about the place of Latin, the relationship of great choral music to contemporary liturgy, and other complex questions about what constitutes a ''liturgical language,'' if there is such a thing at all, pastoral questions, etc. They either end up aping Myles Coverdale and Lancelot Andrewes or producing something that reads like a noticeboard at the railway station; and who on earth has sentimental and religious feelings about the railway station? Rome has opted for the latter, and what a monstrosity! Conversations I've had with lapsed Roman Catholics (I am myself a kind of lapsed Catholic) tell me that they find it all irrelevant and condescending. You may think that their opinions are not worth considering but they are in many ways the salt of the earth, and if you're trying to win them back by a verbose, ugly translation then good luck!

But who cares? Religion blows anyway.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

The new Aspergers...

According to this article from The Guardian Asperger Syndrome will no longer exist as a separate diagnosis in May of 2013. It is to be replaced by a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder on a severity scale. I'd read about things like this before in authors such as Attwood and Baron-Cohen, who say that in the psychiatric world there has been an age-old debate about the differences (if any) between Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism, with obvious concerns about accuracy of diagnoses, prognosis and appropriate treatment options for patients.

I am not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, so what do I know? My concerns are that ''severity'' cannot really be measured by a clinician and that there are clear differences between classic autism and Asperger Syndrome. Autistic people are generally mute and find communication impossible and autism is, by nature, pervasive - it pervades over every aspect of that individual's life, from clinically significant delays and lifelong hindrance in communication, learning difficulties, routines, rituals, tics etc.; everything built up to defend an otherwise defenceless person. People with Asperger Syndrome are more prone to comorbid conditions such as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Schizophrenia and Major Depressive Disorder, each one of these debilitating enough in its own right. I also have no doubt that some of the characteristics of Asperger Syndrome can increase the intensity and prolong the duration of all of these separate conditions. Autistic children are generally ''stupid,'' that is to say that because of language delays and learning difficulties they are significantly below average intelligence. In Asperger Syndrome there is no delay and generally no learning difficulties and most children and adults with Asperger Syndrome have above average intelligence. I don't tell most people in my life about my condition because it's none of their business, and sometimes when I do I'm met with disbelief, ''oh, but I've read about autism and you don't strike me as autistic,'' or ''but you're just slightly odd.'' That's not always the case; when I told my tutor at Heythrop about it he said ''now I understand.'' How I miss the society of bright people.

I'm afraid I don't welcome this change, as I'm sure you've already guessed. I always saw myself as different, even in the deeps of time when I was wont to manipulate light switches, open and close the curtains or walk on my toes, and when I was diagnosed four years ago (finally) I felt as though I had something to explain my eccentricities. Autism Spectrum Disorder on a severity scale is too nebulous for me; it's almost as if someone has said: ''you're lost and we've given up trying to find you, so feel free to wander in travail and sorrow through this wilderness we've tried, but failed, to understand.'' So like the latest papal pronouncement I think it behoves us all to simply ignore it.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Speaking your mind...

Speaking your mind is a good thing but most people don't understand this because they don't like home truths, or even the plain Truth. My mother once said that the reason people don't like me very much is because I can't keep my mouth shut. I value honesty and if people want to live in a world of lies, yes-men and ''we're all weak, emotionally unstable people; we take pleasure in sycophancy in our little cliques, where we comfort one another with false praise and stab each other in the back;'' then they have problems and I confess myself totally innocent of human behaviour. People stop speaking to me all the time because I upset them in some way; it happens in all areas of my life; at church, at work, home and formerly at school. Lord knows how I have tried to curb this, but it usually takes the form of recourse to absolute solitude where human contact is completely eshewed for fear of offending someone else. At work it took the form of silence, a breakdown in communication with colleagues and my line manager. But then you're brought to book about this as well. Then the dam bursts and you unleash a blast of pent-up anger. People don't like being told that the company is cheap (general manager), that when I come to you for help, you don't actually help (HR manager), that the reason you didn't make it as a supervisor is because you had to do actual work (someone else), or in another sphere of my life, that the reason I never tell you anything is because I think you're prejudiced, ill-informed and I don't value your opinion (she asked why, and I told her), or again the reason I refused to get any of my ''ecclesiastical contacts'' to sign your passport application is because I don't think very highly of people who use the church in this way. Another example would be my being thrust from my old parish church for expressing my views about ecclesiastical polity, liturgical compromise and the various ups and downs of church discipline, depending on the incumbent of the Roman see. Do I think that the pope of Rome is the Antichrist? In all likelihood, yes he is. Do I think that the Church of England is finished? Pretty much.

And blah, blah, blah. People can say whatever they want about me; I know my shortcomings. I live in a state of constant anger, I am very dismissive, I am not as intelligent as I let on sometimes and I am lazy. But I do enjoy art, choral and classical music, ballet and good, catholic literature.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Femininity and the call...

I began this post the day after I read about the trouble with women bishops in the Church of England but, like so much else recently, you lose your place, you make a mistake, a sentence doesn't quite make sense and you're flooded with feelings of hopelessness, and you just give up. But I decided to return to the matter after a conversation with arguably the only decent man at work on Friday morning. It was asked: ''when did women cease to be feminine?'' Eventually I said ''…which is why I don't like lesbians,'' to which my friend said ''you really are an oddball, Patrick!'' and laughed. I can't say I blame him. Now, my relationship to the fairer sex is complicated by my own ''problem,'' with that and with domineering women (like my mother); nevertheless I like women and like the society of women. But I can't understand sexual attraction to women, even less sexual attraction among women. Even more confusing is that lesbians generally dislike men, and yet many (if not most) look like men (more than me!) and are attracted to other women who look like men! But the question is apposite all the same and is not solely restricted to ''butch'' women. You don't have to cut your hair short, grow out your body hair, put on weight and wear boots to be considered an inferior woman by me. I can think of a number of women who like to dress up, wear their seven inch heels out and instigate drunken brawls with some unlucky sod. Femininity has little (if anything) to do with how much foundation you paint onto your face. Femininity is an innate quality and means rather a woman's deportment, how she carries herself, her dignity, her grace, her gentleness, the things she finds amusing. Unfortunately this concept is maligned these days and you're considered a weirdo by some for thinking of it, a misogynist by others; feminists accuse me of trying to pigeon-hole women into one particular ''idea'' of womanhood - at the kitchen sink, for example. I'm sure you'd agree that a drunken woman in a revealing dress shouting abuse at someone in a night club is just a man in drag. What difference is there between her and a football hooligan? None whatsoever. But I do think that a truly feminine woman, someone like Darcey Bussell or Audrey Hepburn, is so wonderful. I'm sorry but put Darcey Bussell next to the man in drag shouting abuse and the difference is startling; akin to the difference between Michelangelo's Pieta and Tracey Emin's Bed.

Now, where were we? Ah yes, disparaging butch women. This is not a treatise on how or why the differences between men and women are breaking down any more than a call from me to try and change anything - you would only be wasting your time. Time. Jacob Bronowski once said that the arrow of Time points always in the direction of diminishing difference. Time was when there was a clear difference between the sexes; now, thanks to a society built on secular principles, there's almost none. Lord only knows to what uneasy, unnatural future we are all bound. So where does this cultural and gender revolution leave the young woman with aspirations to join the priesthood? What shall we say of her femininity?
I am not convinced of theological arguments against the ordination of women (although I would be interested to read any theological argument in their favour); I think they are reactionary constructs and just a tad misogynistic. Rome, of course, cites its own authority in the battle; “we can no more ordain a woman than we can govern the tides!” – a rather unconvincing argument, I daresay, since Rome’s authority fluctuates depending on the incumbent of the Holy See. No institution, be it as old as the hills, is sacred in the Roman church (except the papacy)! However I would look to the ecclesiastical polity handed down to us from the Fathers as the norm and standard of contemporary church governance and hierarchy. If it is not the case in the fifth century, why should it be so now? The ordination of women may not be a purely theological matter but it is fundamental nonetheless and goes to the heart of our understanding of the Church. The very notion of a ''priestess,'' let alone a ''bishopess,'' would have been abhorrent to the Fathers, and I would say more for scriptural than cultural reasons. The ordination of women comes in the wake of a very recent history of women's rights campaigning and, to me at any rate, just seems to be a rub off from all that. This alone renders the “desire” rather dubious. How far back, then, does the “desire” among women to be the “equal” of men in ecclesiastical matters go? Whence came it? Do young girls really go up to their mothers and say: “mummy, when I grow up I want to be a bishop?” Of course, that’s not entirely how it happens and priestly or episcopal vocations are different from that of, say, a gymnast or a ballerina. The difficulty I find with priestesses nowadays, more than in the days when I was blindly obedient to Roman authority on the question, is that I do not think that a vocation to the priesthood is a feminine pursuit, nor am I convinced of the reality of the vocation among priestesses. This is, of course, not the end of the matter and it is merely the result of my own subjective thought. I am not a theologian; I can merely articulate what I feel in conscience to be a truth begotten of the unwritten natural law and the constant Tradition of the Church. I can say with total confidence that my belief in God is founded on the same principle.
Of course, my trouble is my inability to put forward an argument about anything without sounding like a bigot, and often my argument is marred by some sudden stroke. Let me say now that I do not think that women are less capable of piety and ministry than men and contrary to what I may have implied earlier I do not equate a “priestly vocation” in a woman with any kind of homosexual tendencies nor with unlawful, antisocial behaviour. I simply think that religious women who feel called in this way ought to channel their gifts and their pious notions in such a way as to be more in line with the ecclesiastical polity long established. I’m sure they have much to offer. What to do with priestesses already in existence is another matter.
This is the first post in quite a while at which I actually had to sit down and think so comments would be welcome!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

2013 Ordines...

The 2013 ordines are ready for despatch. Go over to the St Lawrence Press 'blog to buy one now.

Why do I use the ordo, you ask? Well, I don't, actually. Why do I advertise it? Probably because I admire the spirit in which the St Lawrence Press (now approaching its 40th anniversary) was founded. St Lawrence was not chosen in idle fancy (as Gandalf said of the name Entwood among the Rohirrim). The founding members wanted a saint with both a Vigil and an Octave; St Lawrence has (or had as the case may be) both, though his vigil was displaced by the feast of John Mary Vianney, and under the new rules for simple octaves (in force in the 1939 Missal) it might as well not have existed.

May I take this opportunity to remind Roman Catholics who buy the Ordo of a certain feast day in May? (This is taken from the 2012 ordo):

1(Maji) (R) Fer III. SS PHILIPPI* ET JACOBI* APP, D II CL. (pdF) Off pr. Ad Mat LL in 1n Incipit Ep catholica beati Jacobi Ap e Dom IV post Pasch cum ℟℟ de coi App T.P. Ad Primam in Mart 1°loco: Octava Solemnitatis S Joseph etc. In M Gl, Cr,Praef App. In V com seq (e I V fest) et S Athanasii ECD (ant ad Magn: O Doctor...beate Athanasi). (pd)

Feel free to pick and choose which legislation is more important, of course - that of Paul VI, who abrogated the liturgical books of 1962 or Benedict XVI who reinstated them in the name of ''tradition.'' As for me, I think it's all shite. Truth needs no assistance, only lies require so much maintenance. Legislation, of course, makes virtually no difference whatever, as I have seen with my own eyes. The more laws you have, the more fixers and the more snoopers.

I can't wait for the next pope, who will, pray God, bring the whole lot crashing down. How long, O Lord!

Monday, 19 November 2012


Years ago I was sat in the back of my father's car by myself as he went to see a mechanic about something. It was late in the afternoon; maybe it was after school; the sky was dark, heavy with rain. I remember looking up at the second story of this man's house, the windows were dark, and the walls were smothered in what seemed to be light brown pebbledash, and in the light of the sun, going down in the West, it seemed that I stood there, not in the place itself, but the light was familiar. I had the feeling that in some far distant day, beyond recall, I would stand in the same light, waiting for the onset of a ruinous storm, looking around my room, dusty floorboards, an old unmade bed, and looking out into the street, old and tired, at eternity's gate. But the light was there.

I envy the insane. If I were someone like Susanna Kaysen I could have made this so much more interesting...

By the way, the photo is rather nice but has little in common with the sky or the house I saw. It's like on the Thursday that Michael Jackson died; I walked home with an old acquaintance (he wasn't a friend, exactly; he got on my tits), and told him to look at the moon, wreathed in silver clouds, and told him to enjoy it, for it would be the last time he (or anyone) ever saw it. I'm not a literary genius like Tolkien; I cannot describe a hauting sunset, conjuring before you a vivid picture as though you too were there; nor express exactly what I felt, why I felt it, for I am not like Kaysen either. You may think I'm a crackpot for bothering to write this post, but is the significance of any life event, even a reminiscent sunset, diminished because only one person experienced it? I don't believe in ESP, and I am not saintly enough to have visions, but such things have happened before; either in dreams or waking memory, and have ''come true,'' in a sense. Now is the time to just wait for that room.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Children in Need...

Children in Need is a complete sham, and I'm not saying that because I hate Terry Wogan. Apart from allocating funds to any old cause indiscriminately (such as the infamous case of the young Muslim girl who tried to sue her school because she found integration into British society intolerable), there is something incredibly vulgar about dressing up like an idiot to raise money. Community-oriented fund-raising activities are all well and good, but it's like I said in a previous post - it's just the height of laziness, shewing off and hypocrisy. Look at me, I'm a philanthropist! And anyway, it's just another opportunity for has-been celebrities to try and resurrect their dead or dying careers on prime time television. What better way than to act like you give a crap?

But who am I to criticise? I stopped giving to charity when I realised that I live in a state of near penury myself.

Monday, 12 November 2012

The social graces...

''Hullo, how are you?''

''Hullo'' is an acceptable form of greeting, but I'm not so sure about ''how are you?'' This is why:

1. There are two answers to that question: ''I'm fine, how are you?'' This leads to another, ''yes, I'm fine thanks,'' or similar variations of that answer. But what if you're not feeling ''fine'' - whatever that means? Does fine mean adequate? So so? Neither good nor bad? Does it have any bearing on the day itself? Does the weather affect your disposition for the day? In which case, whatever ''fine'' means, if you're not ''fine,'' then the social graces apt to this interaction are riddled with small talk, a lot of yeses and lies. In which case, what is the point in asking the question? Or dignifying it with an answer?
2. So, what if you said how you really felt? Well, two things to say about that. One, are you really confident in the other person's actual interest in your well being? Do you feel comfortable in telling them, of all people, how you really feel? And two, is not telling that person how you really feel a complete waste of your (and for that matter, their) time? Is it socially acceptable to go into a long discourse about what you feel, how you feel about what you feel, and so on?

Such social graces as these are completely incomprehensible to me. What is the point in asking someone how they ''are'' if you have no actual interest in the truth and are not prepared to listen to them? Apropos, asking people about their health and well being is a complete waste of breath.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

The social network...

I know I did this last year, at about this time too, but I have left facebook again. I don't know, since the ''account settings'' on facebook are very difficult to navigate anyway, but facebook doesn't seem to have any concrete way of facilitating an actual account deletion, only a deactivation (which only serves to suspend the account, where you are free to re-open it again, at any time, and more or less pick up from where you left off), and so I went to great lengths the other day to manually delete almost everything on my account. I have ''unliked'' all my ''liked'' pages, untagged all my friends' photos, deleted all my own albums, deleted all the past statuses, links, check-ins on my timeline (although there were two I simply could not delete, so I made them visible only to myself), deleted all old messages, wiped my profile information clear, etc. I then went on to ''unfriend'' all my friends. Of course, it would have been impossible to delete absolutely everything, and I was not about to waste time going through peoples' timelines and looking for past likes and comments of mine, but after all that I changed my name and sex, and then deactivated my account. I just hope I have the will power this year to actually not go back. The Liturgiae Causa page will be deleted in two weeks.

Why, you ask? Well, it's simple really. The reality is that facebook does not enhance friendship. In the balance facebook had more of a negative influence on my life than a positive one. I am suffering from clinical depression and nothing was more irksome to me than to be constantly presented with such things as: ''now waiting at the airport, going on Safari with friends,'' or ''just off to the Maldives,'' or ''sampling some very expensive claret,'' or even ''I just love my job,'' a host of lives riddled with standard of living. I never was an envious person, having indeed a store of my own life experience (and a monstrous sense of entitlement), but I have hit rock bottom; and I am one of those people that if I am miserable, I want the whole world to share in my misery. I could, of course, have simply ''unfriended'' all my real friends and replaced them with an inferior stock, in order to lord over them, but that would hardly have worked, would it? This is not to mention the constant vanity, the endless pointlessness. Everywhere you look on facebook you see people tagged in thousands of photos, most of which look exactly the same, and the vulgarity of ''checking-in.'' No I'm not interested if you're having your nails done; no I'm not interested if you check into some night club with a string of your friends. Of course, facebook does have ways of restricting who sees what, but then your friends just become a number in a list, and so what is the point in having them there? Having no qualms at all about this sort of thing I started to ''unfriend'' some of them, going from some 180 friends to 113 (at which point I started deleting indiscriminately). This, of course, impacts on your life in other ways; maybe you won't receive a Christmass card from that person, or maybe you won't be invited to their wedding, or something. To think that facebook has this kind of monopoly on human interaction! What on earth did we do before it!?

What am I left with? Nothing, and at the moment this suits me. Yesterday I spent the afternoon in town; I had tea at Brown's, went into the National Gallery (where I spent about ten minutes staring at Constable's Cenotaph to the Memory of Sir Joshua Reynolds, a painting so wonderfully autumnal and melancholy), and then went to see Swan Lake at Covent Garden. The music and choreography are so familiar but ballet is an art form that, like liturgy, I never thought would grow stale. The performance was marvellous but I felt nothing, only tired and uncomfortable, and people don't dress appropriately anymore. I am blessed that the performance lifted any sense of bitterness I had felt throughout the day but I fear that I am still left with an exhausting sense of apathy. Even my dogs don't help.

Those of you who will may email me at my personal address:

Monday, 22 October 2012


The papal fanon has returned, sing joyfully unto God! I first saw the fanon in a biography of John Paul II by Lord Longford many years ago and thought it a rather ugly thing, and I guess it's one of those things where I really can't understand the enthusiasm for its return; although the photograph was taken somewhere like Phoenix Park or Knock (I think it was in Ireland), and the general hideousness of John Paul II's attire may have formed my view of the fanon; who cares? I certainly don't care for modern papal liturgy. This ''Rome is home'' mentality, the pope is a Mr Fix-it (who can't fix it) idea are sentiments foreign to my nature. The pope was the peasant who dropped the stone in the mountains...I know, we'll all look to the pope a century later to try and sort it all out. Never mind that the pope publically celebrates Mass facing the wrong way...oh what's the bloody point in carrying on? Why bother repeating myself? Just take this as a proverbial raspberry and two fingers up.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

St Edward...

I am not dead, though I am not at all well at the moment. I decided against going on pilgrimage to the Shrine of St Edward the Confessor as I didn't feel up to being so far from home by myself, though I have made intercession unto him for counsel and help in my travail. St Edward was a paragon of kingship and piety; no wonder no Roman Catholic 'blog (to my knowledge) has made mention of him! I cannot say that I have been reading any 'blogs of late, though, or indeed any literature of any description. So, what have I been up to recently, you ask? Nothing; just work and sleep.

The image at the top of this post is a 15th century rendering of St Edward from the rood screen in the church of Sts Peter and Paul in Eye, Suffolk. It was restored by Sir Ninian Comper, I believe.

This scene from the Bayeux Tapestry depicts not St Edward but Harold Godwinson at his coronation. Note that the Archbishop Stigand wears something strikingly akin to the Russian Orthodox felon; something else which supports the much-maligned fact that the Saxon Church was Orthodox, not Roman. It was under William the Bastard, marching under the papal banner, that Roman Catholicism was brought to these shores.

St Edward the Confessor, pray for us; fortify Her Majesty and all the Royal Family in righteousness and fear of the Lord, and keep the illustrious church of St Peter at Westminster in the faith of our fathers. You may like to read posts I wrote in 2010 and 2011. I cannot presently add to them.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Two posts...

I have published two draft posts, on topics which in hindsight were beyond my skill as a writer to complete and beyond the scope of this 'blog to bother worrying about. I have edited nothing. The one is about (or at least was intended to be about) Christian elements in Gandalf and the wizards of Middle-earth in general, the other about similarities between the codification of the Sacred Canons and a canonical Silmarillion narrative. Both are vastly unfinished and incoherent, and I have left the ''notes'' I am accustomed to jot down as I get new ideas (it grew in the telling, sort of thing). They were composed weeks ago, and weeks apart.

I just gave up. Enjoy! If you think they are worth completing I may return to them later.

Not in glory, but in humility...

''Many are the strange chances of the world,'' said Mithrandir, ''and help oft comes from the hands of the weak when the Wise falter.'' (J.R.R Tolkien, The Silmarillion, Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age).

One of the core leitmotifs in The Lord of the Rings is the enoblement of the simple and the triumph of the meek over the powerful, or as Elrond put it: This is the hour of the Shire-folk, when they arise from their quiet fields to shake the towers and counsels of the Great. Of course he had, and I expect you have, the hobbits in mind, and I may return them in another post. But here I am thinking of Gandalf. Gandalf! Dearest of counsellors, Enemy of Sauron, chief among the Wise, pick any passage in The Lord of the Rings and you are presented with many different perceptions - of his person, his character, deportment, wisdom; at once of a rather comic figure who adopts a somewhat avuncular attitude towards hobbits, drinks ale and blows smoke rings from his pipe; at some points that of a frail old man, bent with many labours, or pitted against powers too great to withstand; but most of all that of a great and noble sage, wisdom on his brow, power, albeit a power he conceals, in his hands, a man who works many wonders. And yet, he isn't ''out of place'' anywhere - in the Shire, in Bree, in Rivendell, in Gondor, etc. To the hobbits he was a curiosity, someone who turned up after many long years, made fabulous firework displays and was otherwise a damned nuissance; he was beloved of the Elves, and it's said that only to Galadriel, Elrond and Círdan did he reveal his true nature and purpose; to the Men of Gondor and the Dúnedain of the North he was a master of lore, and they perceived that he did not die, though ancient of days, and some among Men (Aragorn and probably Denethor also) guessed at his true end; in Rohan, during the days of the domination of Saruman, he was seen as a bringer of woe (Láthspell he was named in scorn by Wormtongue, ill news sent to quail men's hearts); in Mordor as a spy of the Valar.

I think he's wonderful. It was young Faramir who remarked that Mithrandir (the ''Grey Pilgrim,'' for so the Grey Elves and the Men of Gondor loved to call him, and he was content) was ''more than a lore-master,'' but ''a great mover of the deeds that are done in our time.'' For so he was. He ''proved mightiest,'' as Treebeard observed, and by his labours did much for the succour of Elves and Men at the end of the Third Age.Who, then, was ''Gandalf,'' which is but Old Norse for ''Elf of the Wand?'' Like Pippin in the halls of Denethor, do we not wonder in what far distant time and place he entered into the lives of Men, in raiment as of a traveller, yet concealing a power over the hearts of Men and wisdom beyond the lore of the Elves?

The Istari (that is, ''wizards'') belonged to the Third Age. There seem to have been five, each ranked according to their ''Valinórean stature'' in an ''order,'' the Heren Istarion. It was at the behest of the Valar and with the blessing of God that they came; the Valar who, though Valinor was removed from the world and all roads are now bent, still took counsel for the right governance of Middle-earth. The Istari were chosen from among the Maiar, angelic spirits of the order of the Valar, mighty peers of Sauron, and they were sent in forms as of Men, aged but hale, and foregoing open display of power, to contend with the overweening might of Sauron, and to unite the remnant of the Dúnedain and the Elves in the North to courage and good deeds against him, lest each singly be destroyed. It must here be stressed that they were real Men, their bodies were not feigned, as it were images constructed in the imagination of the Maia; each wizard (much like Christ) was subject to the pain, weariness and temptations of Earth, and could fall from their high purpose (as indeed afterward befell), either being enamoured of Middle-earth and seeing Valinor as a vision afar off, or being tempted to power and the domination of others. According to the Tale of Years they appeared in the West of Middle-earth in about TA year 1000, when the Great Ships came over the Sea, just as the shadow of Sauron began to take shape in Mirkwood. Curumo came first, and came alone, and was accounted the greatest among the Istari in arts and lore; he who in after days was known as Saruman among Men, for he was marvellously skilled. Next, it seems, came the Blue Wizards, whose names are remembered in no tale for they went into the East of Middle-earth with Saruman and came not back. There, I expect, they did what they would until they failed of their purpose, either starting mystery cults or being overcome by Sauron (which is more likely). Aiwendil came with the Blue Wizards, he who was of the Maiar of Yavanna, and he travelled not far but befriended all the beasts and birds of Middle-earth and settled at Rhosgobel. In later days he was known to Men in Wilderland as Radagast and his raiment was brown.

Last and seeming the least, for he was not tall and was more aged than the others, came Olórin, clad in raiment grey as ash. He was welcomed at the Grey Havens by Círdan the Shipwright, who divined in him, by a sense other than sight, the greatest power and wisdom, and with reverence said unto him: ''Take now this Ring, for thy labours and thy cares will be heavy, but in all it will support thee and defend thee from weariness. For this is the Ring of Fire, and herewith, maybe, thou shalt rekindle hearts to the valour of old in a world that grows chill.'' And the Grey Pilgrim took the Ring, and kept it ever secret; but Curumo the White, ever skilled to uncover secrets, learned of this gift and begrudged it. It was a curious gift, and of manifold significance to the Grey Messenger, arising at once from the nature of the Great Rings (not, of course, the One), which were bethought them of old in Eregion under tutelage of Celebrimbor the Gnome, having as their primary end the preservation of art, slowing of decay, which under the Sun of this world is doom for all things, and the desire to make ever present the regal Tradition of the West in the waking memory of all men of good will (wherein is seen at once their supreme beauty and folly); and the nature of the Grey Messenger himself, who came of the Maiar of Manwë, the Elder King, an archetype of Archangel Michael in the defence against the evil of the Diabolos Melkor; and Varda, the bringer of Light; light to illumine the Great Lands and herald the arising of the Children of God, and light to dispel the Shadow of Death, vis-à-vis Sam's supplication unto her in Cirith Ungol pass:

A Elbereth Gilthoniel
o menel palan-díriel,
le nallon sí di'-nguruthos!
A tíro nin, Fanuilos!

O Queen of the Stars, Star-kindler, from heaven gazing afar, to thee I cry now beneath the shadow of death, O look towards me, Everwhite! Almost it could be a prayer to St Mary, and it has a rather child-like quality about it, does it not? Again exemplifying the triumph of innocence and humility over pride.

wielder of the flame of Anor - the light of the unsullied Sun before the coming of Melkor, a light to shine in dark places, the stabbing of a sudden white light into a dark place

...significance of Narya for Gandalf, servant of the Secret Fire, fire that kindles and warms opposed to the fire that lays waste, servant of the Holy Ghost, servant of Creation against servant of Morgoth, servant of chaos.

The mission of the Istari had no clear means; they were not commanded to act together at any given time, nor I think would this have been possible. Of the Blue Wizards we know nothing. They went ''into the blue,'' as it were, and came never back, and whatever they did in the Enemy-occupied lands to which they went is remembered by none in the West. Saruman went with them, but returned into the West of Middle-earth, settling at Isengard in TA year 2759 and devoting himself to the study of the devices of Sauron and the lore of the Great Rings. Radagast achieved nothing, but was received well by the Beornings and the other inhabitants of Wilderland. Gandalf travelled far and wide over Middle-earth, though is remembered in no chronicles or annals for much of the Third Age, for he went in many guises and had no abiding place, nor did he gather followers unto himself. I expect the purpose of these early wanderings was simply to get to know Middle-earth and its peoples, building trust, and being sent in the bodies of Men the Wizards had to learn much from slow experience. Even in the Elder Days the Maiar were seen seldom in Middle-earth. But Gandalf...

History of Gandalf's wanderings, dealings with Elves, Men (and hobbits)

curious name Olorin, memory, dreams, visions, Tradition. Preservation of Tradition.

Merry - destruction of the Witch-king
Pippin - salvation of the line of the Stewards.

Sauron was worshipped by the Men of Darkness, for he surrounded his abode with fire

Of the fate of Radagast, no tale tells. His house at Rhosgobel was empty at the time of the War of the Ring

the more I think of it, the more I believe the work to be truly catholic because of the presence of Gandalf.

By his labours he brought about the destruction of Smaug, who might otherwise have wrought

power, machine, domination as opposed to ''the fire that kindles,'' inspiration to courage
Elvish ''power'' in art, healing rather than display of power

could anything be more Christian than this?

this is the great paradox of the Christian Faith, that which ends life has brought life more abundantly, that Christ, humiliated, hideously tortured, naked on the Cross, actually reigns therefrom

include something about Gandalf's counsel to Elrond during the formation of the Fellowship, about trusting to the friendship of the hobbits rather than to the lords of Elrond's house...

And when at last Gandalf the White returned into the West. It is significant in the light of Saruman's fate, that he looked to the West and was blown away