Thursday, 12 December 2013

To kindle the ashes...

Occasionally (very occasionally these days), I receive e-mails from people who read my blog. Usually they come from people who have only just discovered the wretched thing and are hoping (against hope) that I am still as charged and enthusiastic as I was three years ago when I began Liturgiae Causa. Much has changed in that time. Not that three years is any time at all. Quoth the Psalmist: "but a thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday." But ostensibly, to us men, three short years can bring many changes. I suppose I was already on the path to this present state when I began writing three years ago, and writing in such impetuosity can only lead to wrath and despair. Having silenced Singulare Ingenium and feeling, as it were, a fire growing hot within me, I remember having a tremendous urge to trample upon the euphoria of Traddieland (a land of make-believe), the godly popes of yore, and to counter the general contempt the Traddies always had for the liturgical Office. I endeavoured to procure a solution to the problems as I saw them but invariably fell short. Nor did I go about the business of daily living practising my solution. Hypocrites were among Our Lord's pet hates if the Pharisees are the measure of hypocrisy but you may have guessed by now that I am actually quite lazy.

Inevitably my enthusiasm and inclination dried up. I feel now as though I am hanging on a rotten rope over an abyss or as if I have run a race against an opponent tirelessly swifter and, having at last reached the finish line, feel worn out and bitter. I suppose Aesop would call that "sour grapes," for I think the sentiments are (roughly): "hmph...well, I was never interested in winning in the first place!" After all, you cannot impose, or even suggest, any positive changes upon a group of people that is totally against them. I set out to rehabilitate Roman Catholics, in the externals of liturgical worship at first (as a means to rehabilitate their sense of tradition to a more holistic mode in order to bring about a reappraisal of the Petrine ministry among them), but failed, failed utterly and ruined my own life in the process. Time was when I sneered at the godless kind who deliberately avoided church on Sundays; liturgical worship on Sundays is, after all, a thing most civilised (in theory: my own snobbery dictates that I decide the liturgical and architectural style thereunto, the music, etc). These days I seem to have willingly joined the legions of the damned, and I don't give a shit! The road to Hell is such a beauteous way, ever so easy and comfortable. But if the road to Paradise is understood solely in terms of altruism, self-denial and long-suffering then we're all in trouble!

I make no secret (secrecy is a terrible sin) of the fact that I have been depressed. Someone suggested that I "do something" about it. I thought then that I had made one of the more spectacular blunders in my life, having hoped that the depression would simply lift of its own, or that a divine wind would blow it away, or that a white light would suddenly stab into the darkest corners of my mind and pierce the wretched cankers that were living there where all else was dead. There is no such hope, of course. A change is required but of my own making and that entails eshewing that godly vice in my life, namely sloth. Already I have changed jobs. Until October I was a victim of fate, working, living, etc where I was put by others. Not much has changed on that frontier, except now I can no longer order my own comings and goings in the workplace. My dog died. That was a change that was thrust upon me by Nature but it may tributary to something greater and more beautiful. Where, in my darkest months, the palace of my mind became a dark place there were still the remotest corners where the knowledge of light, saxifrage and God was unblemished. Those corners are expanding, I think, albeit slowly and there is nothing, to me, more precious than my mind's home. It is the one place I have always tried to keep free of dust!

But what to do? What do you do, when you are depressed, to try and rekindle the ashes of your former passions? How can a man start his life again? This state of mind has really been a round-about turn. I never once thought that I would completely abandon old pastimes, reading (I was an assiduous reader until this year), going out, etc and exchange them for a simple continuance. I would go to work, I would come home, and I would invariably go to bed. At work (when I bothered going) I would stagger on and not really bother with most of it. I was fortunate that my work was "behind the scenes," so any mistakes would only really be brought to light by a senior auditor so there were some days on which I could sit in the office with the lights off and nobody would ask questions. I don't have that luxury anymore so I am forced to stay active; not a bad thing. In fact one of the coins with which I tried to buy back my sanity was to change jobs so that I would have no option but to work! I am on a temporary contract at the moment and, having received four failed job applications in the last fortnight (one external, three internal), I am under no delusions that I shall be in work on 5th January, in spite of all my efforts and the praise of other members of staff. My decision to end the nightmare of my last job had been taken seriously but it was, nevertheless, a great throw of the dice. I haven't been unemployed for eight and a half years so that will be interesting!

So, what do I do now? Have I resumed blogging? Someone suggested that my literary style is particularly suited to satire or the writing of novels. That sounds quite grandiose and I am by no means a latter day Swift. But there is something about publication and having an audience that appeals to me, and I have missed Liturgiae Causa. But have I, in turn, been missed?

A note on the images. They are quite meaningless, having been recycled from previous posts. The crocuses are used as a sign of hope, I suppose, and The Way to Emmaus long time readers may remember was the signature image and raison-d'etre of the blog. The one in the middle is of me and Joe the Working Class git.


  1. And drop the need to fight an ennemy. Remember instead Plato, who said that one speaks well only of the things one loves. Speak of what you love. Show the loveability of the things you love, and trust the power of truth to indicate itself, independently of your argument to 'defend' it

  2. I am a Methodist pastor serving near Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. I have been in my present assignment for 13 years. In all that time, I have not met even one person that has even heard of the Divine Office. Catholics in this area appear foreign to it, or at least never mention it ( I serve in a predominently Catholic city--lapsed Catholics). Art and culture here does not exist in any meaningful way, although there are events held from time to time (you would probably be dismayed by them). The whole of South Florida is a desert, believe me.
    I came to the Divine Office during seminary training, and over the years have gradually moved from the Book of Common Prayer to the Monastic Diurnal. You, Patricius, seem to be concerned with creating reforms within the church (if I am following this correctly) concerning the liturgy, or offices. But you are also depressed (I see that). I am not familiar with the task you have received or why it needs to be done, but I can tell you what it is like to serve God in the desert. That's how it is done here. It appears, as someone said somewhere, that without great suffering no good comes into the world. So the desert exists, all right, and I can see why. It will not be any less a desert for understanding this. It is not going to become any more hospitable. There will not be much, or any, company. What company you have will not understand what you are trying to do. As you get older, you become a riddle to people. That's how it is.
    Psalm 84 (83, I think, in the Septuagint numbering) verse 4 says "those who pass through the Valley of Baca make it a well." There is no Valley of Baca anywhere in the geography of the Holy Land. Look as hard and as long you wish, you won't find it. The expression appears to have been idiomatic. It seems to have described hardship, wilderness (we have some expressions in English that do this: Being "up the creek without a paddle" etc.) If this is so, then those passing through the Valley of Hardship are described as creating "wells," streams, an oasis. The desert begins to change. It will not always be a desert, for no other reason than for the fact that you were there.
    Don't know if this helps, but I am standing with you.

    Rev. Bob

  3. Thank you both for your contributions here.

    Robert Gray, I am always curious as to how Christians in the "non-Conformist" traditions discover my blog. Since I write primarily about issues oblivious (as you concede) to most Roman Catholics I am surprised that I have any following at all among Protestants.

    1. Uh, I think I ended up here from a site called "Ex Fide." I am not that good with computers. Just now I am trying to teach myself Latin and was wandering around looking for some resources. I am in the Wesleyan Church, which developed from the Church of England. We're in the family--am not sure you could call us non-conformists. The church has gotten kidnapped by the business culture around here, so we are all about "networking" and "discipleship programs" now. Before this happened, we were standing firmly (if mustily) in the holiness tradition, as it evolved in the American Midwest during the 1800's. I personally have not made the transformation into a progressive-type forward-looking technologically-savvy church, on account of I'm too tired.

  4. Patricius, welcome back! I read your blog for almost two years, and then you disappeared. Well, I too have lost a dog or two, one from lymphatic cancer (she died before we could get her to the vet, we buried her in our yard) and two from old age and probable dementia.
    As to the depression, I know that people will offer you 'advice', and sometimes it is really unwelcome, but here goes! My wife had a problem with low energy and mild depression for years. Discovered that her thyroid was almost non-functional, and getting on the right medication (called Nature-throid here in the States) and of all things, eating raw cashews and sunflower seeds made all the difference. I hope something similar will help.

    James Morgan
    Olympia, WA USA

  5. Welcome back, Patricius! I had missed your blog, and your tribute to Lucy reminded me of the loss of several dogs, particularly Alice, a black lab who succumbed to lymphatic cancer before we could get her to the vet. We were able to bury her in our yard.
    As to the depression, advice from others is frequently unhelpful and unwelcomed, but my wife and I have both had our bouts with it. Important to have one's thyroid checked. Proper meds have made a world of difference for us, as well as eating raw cashew nuts (which help replenish serotonin in the brain. Just so you know!
    Thinking kindly of you,
    James Morgan
    Olympia, WA USA