Tuesday, 18 August 2015
I come from a dysfunctional family. In fact, I think that families that really love each other are a dangerous myth invented by movies and television. To give you some perspective: my mother doesn't talk to her mother, and hadn't spoken to her father for about ten years before he died (and didn't go to his funeral). She doesn't speak to two out of her three living brothers, and the one she is on speaking terms with none of us really like. I cannot be in the same room as my sister, who is, if not my nemesis, certainly the bane of my life and the worst human being I have ever met (an attitude for which my mother ironically scolds me some of the time). My father hasn't spoken to his sister for about fifteen years, and has a cold relationship with his mother who always treated my aunt and cousins with favouritism and who, during the course of my short life, has moved further and further away from us; first to Cornwall, then to France, and now Australia. I wouldn't care if I never saw her again and I don't think my father would either. I barely know my distant relatives; I don't really care for any of my cousins. You can feel the love, can't you.
I seldom, if ever, tell my mother anything of importance. For years growing up I was lulled by her claims to be an unselfish, caring person who was mistreated by her own family, and that her constant comparing my brother and me to other children, her constant put-downs, &c were just my misunderstandings. One parents' evening I shall remember to my dying day. Mrs Wheeler said to my mother: "This boy has produced the best piece of English literature coursework I have ever seen for GCSE." When we got home mother said that Mrs Wheeler obviously hadn't taught English for very long. This was the same parents' evening at which my mother failed to confront my history teacher about her constant bullying, and said afterwards: "well, what was I supposed to say?"
We don't see eye to eye on almost anything and, since she has a very short temper, any disagreement can and usually does disintegrate into verbal abuse (on her part). Last night was just one of many such occasions. I had let it slip that I wanted to become Greek Orthodox. She seemed to think that this was only because I had actually been to Greece recently, but her first reaction was: "what, and you think they'd accept you with open arms?" This degenerated into an argument about Roman Catholicism, and my own religious odyssey, in which she kept bringing up things from years ago, such as my one and only experience of World Youth Day, and my trip (largely against my will) to Hyde Park to see Benedict XVI, which concluded with my leaving early with my uncle, on account of boredom and scandal, to have a nice supper at Brasserie Blanc. My argument "is there anything in scripture that warrants all that?" fell upon deaf ears. But: "you don't like Roman Catholics, do you?" was the next lie that she spoke, to which I said: "that is not true; I only dislike a certain kind of Roman Catholic." "You mean 'traditionalists?'" "Yes." "Well, weren't you supposed to be one? A few years ago, you were in Blackfen every week before they got rid of you. And now you're talking about becoming Greek Orthodox? You wouldn't fit into any church with your views! You'd be better off joining some Muslim cult!"
She becomes more volatile after drinking and when she threatened to hit me I went to bed. You just can't reason with some people. Think about it! She is 54, I am 27. She is talking about a period of ten years as though I were coæval with her. For somebody my age, ten years is a comparatively long time and brings many changes. I am certainly not the same person I was when I was 17, although with respect to my beliefs I would say that the fundamental principles have remained the same, that is the same desire for Truth. I became a traditionalist at a very young age for the simple reason that I was reared in the Roman communion, and thought its teachings were true, and I saw around me a sharp disparity between what I had read about what liturgy used to be like, and what it was like now (or then); what prelates used to dress like, and what they dress like now; how people used to dress going to church, and how they dress now, and so on. It didn't enter my imagination then that Rome's teachings were false; that came incrementally over a period of years and earnest study. As to the charge "weren't you supposed to be one [a traditionalist]," I would say that I always was, and still am, after a fashion. But the vast majority of other self-styled traditionalists are faithless, disingenuous and rather nasty people who never shared my beliefs and were never interested in my liturgical ideal. Theirs was a delusional commitment to the conditions that make Tradition impossible (the Papacy), and to a very narrow liturgical era (the late 1950's); mine was a commitment to a genuine, holistic Tradition founded upon the Gospel and the Church's wide patrimony. To put it bluntly, I was the only true traditionalist in this world, and modern Traddieland had been shaped largely by the pestilential Lefebvrists and taken over by neo-cons; a realisation that came too late.
I should add that my becoming a traditionalist is really no different to a cradle Anglican joining a continuing church, or a prayer book society. The principles are the same.
"With your views." That's harsh. I don't know what she meant by that. Perhaps readers might conjecture for me? What would be so objectionable about my views that would make a Greek priest loath to receive me into the Church?
Photo: I don't know who took it, but it's me in the old barn. I found it in Google Images.