Thursday, 27 August 2015


When I first went to university these nine years ago I was in a very fragile state, although I didn't know it at the time. I had become bored with full-time education and I had wanted to take some sort of "gap year," but my mother forbade this so I went straight from sixth form college to university. I was offered a conditional place at Exeter College, Oxford to read History. I turned it down to read Divinity at Heythrop instead, a mistake so grave that not a day goes by that I don't regret it. It was a combination of stupidity, vanity and desperation. Stupid in turning down a place at the most prestigious university in the United Kingdom; vain in that I thought that "Divinity" sounded far grander than "Arts," and Divinity being a postgraduate degree in some institutions, I thought that this would, in some way, work to my advantage; and desperate in the sense that even if I were inclined to go to Oxford, I was by no means ready to leave home. I had the wherewithal to leave home then, but not the maturity. Now that I have the maturity (and earnest desire), I lack the wherewithal.

When I went to Heythrop I spent most of my time in the Theology Library in the "stacks" reading old editions of Martinucci and Le Vavasseur, diocesan and religious liturgical books, old collections of letters, some Latin literature. I never went into the JCR. I had almost nothing in common with my fellow Divinity students, all of whom were seminarians. I was the baby, by at least eight years. I was the only traditionalist. I went to the college Mass only once. As such I took to solitude and the books like a duck to ducks. In addition, I was living at home with my belligerent, unpredictable and volatile sister. Two hours on the train there, two hours back. I seldom worked at home because I had no privacy, or peace and quiet. At college I was too distracted by my liturgical interests to focus much on the work, much of which I found tedious. The combination of stress, adjusting to the rigours of academic study, new people, the travel, my sense of having no rest at all (I was working part-time at Morrisons, again at the insistence of my mother), the domestic situation, the unfinished essays piling up, &c eventually led to some sort of mental breakdown. I ended up at a crisis unit at Queen Mary's Hospital. I was discharged after spending the night there and referred to an outpatient clinic for treatment for "undifferentiated psychosis." I dropped out of Heythrop, needless to say without telling anyone, and kept up the pretence of going for as long as I could. In those days I was still comfortably well off and could spend days in London and elsewhere without hurting my bank balance (I had a black card in those days too).

Another reason "AnthonyMunday" is barred from commenting here.

With the help of my therapist I negotiated a place back at Heythrop and managed to do much better. I achieved several firsts in Latin, Greek and Church History, and respectable seconds in fundamental theology and Biblical studies. I devoted much more time to studying, staying in the library until closing time, taking notes, consulting all works in the bibliographies. Nevertheless, I couldn't keep it up. The domestic situation hadn't changed, and had in fact worsened (which also goes to explain the extra time I spent in the library), I was still working part-time and had no day off (I was even working Sundays), I was still having to travel the four hours everyday. My money was fast disappearing, squandered on a trip round Italy with my father, dining out, the Royal Opera House, not to mention an expensive wardrobe. I dropped out again.

Now that I am a drain on society, being both unemployed and in debt, I had been giving very serious thought to going back to Heythrop to actually finish my degree. And I would have this time. I would have moved into halls of residence in order to extricate myself from my toxic family (my sister, who hasn't changed, is moving back with us), and knuckled down. But I read the sad news two days ago that the college will be closing in its current form as a constituent member of the University of London in 2018 and, as such, won't be accepting new students. I was grieved at this ill turn more for the college, which last year celebrated its fourth centenary, than for myself. But for myself, I have nowhere to go. I am at this moment trying to have the debt for my tuition fees waived, or in some way reduced, as I did in fact leave the university for health reasons. Otherwise I am ineligible for student finance. Postgraduate degrees cost over £6,000 which I can scarcely afford even if I were not already in debt. And I am beginning to feel tired with rejected applications for menial jobs that I don't even want.

Above all, I need to get out. I need to get out of this prison without bars. But the only way I can do that seems to be by returning to education of some sort. A friend of mine found a MA in Christian Liturgy that I could do. Otherwise there are undergraduate degrees in Theology, if I can only get the money to fund them, at places like King's College London. I need to get out. Life for me at this time is nothing short of a living hell.

So I desperately implore readers for their prayers for me at this time. Pray for me that I can get out and move on.


  1. Famulorum tuorum, quaesumus Domine, delictis
    ignosce: ut qui tibi placere de actibus nostris
    non valemus: Genitricis Filii tui Domini nostri
    Intercessione salvemur: qui tecum vivit et regnat
    in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus,
    per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.

    Arguably the finest collect in the entire book - I would try using it Patricius, She will never let you down.

    1. The old Collects are indeed the finest. Indeed, the Collect represents most clearly the genius of the Roman Rite.

  2. Prayers for you, Patrick. But honestly, if I were a young man I would just learn a trade of some sort.

    1. Do you know, my father said exactly that when I first went to university. The trouble is, I am not like him or my brother. I can't saw wood or fix engines. The only thing I really know how to do is write. Thank you for your prayers!

  3. You're obviously right to think that you can write. I hope you can find a way to complete your degree. Once this is said, nothing prevents you to write something of substance already and try to get it published. What you need is to be discovered and recognized. The degree is a mean to get there, but nothing should prevent you to use more than one mean to achieve this end.

  4. Patrick, you said; "The only thing I really know how to do is write." But Anti-Gnostic and your father suggested that you LEARN.

    I second the idea that you learn a trade. I second this as a bookish, OCD, introvert. You might find peace where you wouldn't otherwise expect it. Perhaps you could find a monastery where you could learn a trade?


  5. Patrick. I too am praying for you, and have been for a while. You are a very sensitive, talented and perceptive man and you need an environment in which your talent for research and writing may flourish. I agree with the two posters who suggest that you seek a monastery that would grant you hospitality while you find your way. Just know that there are many of us in the cyber Pale who have been touched by what you write, even if agreement with some of your conclusions may be contrary to our own beliefs.
    Pax et bonum.

  6. You have my prayers, Patricius, and I understand your situation. A long time ago, I entered a PhD program in classics. Halfway through, I realized that the academic life was not really for me. I dropped out, and went back to work for the Postal Service. (I had worked there for 2 years before I left to go to graduate school). I just retired last year after 40 years in postal middle management. Now I happily read widely in classics and Church history. (The languages never really go away.) I don't regret dropping out of graduate school, now that academics has become so politicized and PC. My postal life was a fine career, allowing me to bring up 2 wonderful children. University is not the only way.

  7. Prayers for you, Patricius.

  8. When I was 17, I wanted to study music at university, but my organ teacher encouraged me to go into organ building. Unlike you, I am quite a manual sort of person, and I readily turn my hand to woodwork, metalwork, masonry, electricity. I have even done the plumbing in my house myself - after 8 years, there are still no leaks. With all that, I did have a hankering for intellectual things, music and culture. With my decision to go for the priesthood, I went to Fribourg University for my theology after a year at the "Lazy A" (the Angelicum) in Rome. I agree with John Repsher that university isn't everything. Had I gone and studied musicology and composition, I would have been pressured into atonal "modern" music. I prefer to work on my own, especially from William Lovelock's classical books on harmony and counterpoint - and work on my little chamber choral pieces as if I were working under Parry, Stanford or Vaughan Williams, or Herbert Howells at a pinch. There are many things we can do. The trouble is your job. I had no alternative other than setting up my own little business in translating - because, with my profile, I have been unemployable for a very long time. That is something you might consider - finding a marketable idea and a market and setting up on your own. There are loads of books and courses for learning to run a business and managing your money. That would give you independence, and then you can do the things you like doing. If my story can be of help to you, you might glean some ideas. You also have the possibility of part-time study that you would finance with your work. It can be done - you just need to get your finger out (as we say up north) and get on with it.