Monday, November 18, 2019

Thoughts on Pope Francis

I rarely write about Pope Francis on this blog. His pontificate has become an explosive subject among many Catholics and I hesitate to venture into any discussion about him.

However, I thought I would risk a few remarks today. I'm going to write this blog post in the form of a numbered list, which might be appropriate to the subject-- since my thoughts, feeling and ideas about Pope Francis are often conflicted and confused.

1) Pope Francis is the Pope, the legitimate successor of St. Peter.

2) The role of the Pope, and the deference due to him, is defined thus in Lumen Gentium, the Constitution of the Church promulgated at Vatican II: "Bishops, teaching in communion with the Roman Pontiff, are to be respected by all as witnesses to divine and Catholic truth. In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking."

3) Much that Pope Francis has said and done during his pontificate has caused me considerable alarm, distress, upset, and anxiety. I know I'm not alone in this. In fact, it's probably true to say that many Catholics now feel an habitual sense of apprehension about the Holy Father's next pronouncement or action.

The apparent compromise on the sanctity of marriage in Amoris Laetita is the chief of these, but there have been others. The change in the text of the Catechism regarding capital punishment also bothered me-- not because I am a fan of execution, but purely because it seemed like a contradiction of previously-held doctrine. The Holy Father's denunciation of "proselytism" is also confusing-- what is the difference between proselytism and evangelization? We should "use words when necessary", but when is it necessary, or even permissible?

4) Many conservative critics of Pope Francis say they acknowledge the supremacy of the Pope, but only when he acts in accordance with Catholic doctrine. This, however, seems like an empty formula, as well as a recipe for chaos. If every Catholic could be his or her own judge of doctrine, what would we need a Pope for? Isn't this like saying that you acknowledge a judge as long as he gives the right verdict?

5) Pope Francis often denounces "rigidity" in his homilies. This has become a sort of running joke among conservative Catholics, and we often ironically refer to ourselves as "Neo-Pelagians" and so forth. We also argue that laxity has caused far more damage to the Church than rigidity, in recent decades-- and this seems obviously true to us. Just look at the exodus of priests and the decline of congregations after Vatican II!

And yet, we have to admit...the danger of legalism (and of a complacent piety) is a dominant theme in the Gospels. Since the Scriptures are a living word, can we really write this off as purely historical, referring to the Pharisees and the Sadducees rather than to ourselves? Isn't it fair to say that, on paper, the scribes and priests often seem to have a slam-dunk case against Jesus? Why would this be such a central theme of the Gospels if it was not a continuing danger, relevant after the coming of Jesus as well as before?

6) The lack of charity among both defenders and critics of Pope Francis is lamentable. I have more exposure to his critics, since I am a conservative Catholic myself, and spend much more time listening to conservative Catholics than liberal Catholics. To hear the Pope described as "Bergoglio", mocked, sneered at, parodied, dismissed out of hand whenever he opens his mouth... this is a horrible spectacle.

A conservative priest I much esteem once said to me: "A Catholic should never publicly criticize the Pope." I think that's going too far, but I am more linclined to that priest's attitude than to that of the "Bergoglio bashers".

On the other hand, the defenders of Pope Francis often show a signal lack of charity themselves. They seem to desire "dialogue" and "encounter" with people of all faiths and none... except when it comes to conservative Catholics, who they often treat with a contempt they would never dream of showing to a Muslim, Hindu, atheist, gay rights activist, or pro-abortion feminist.

7) At Corpus Christi this year, I was very moved by a story I heard during a priest's homily, in Dublin's Pro-Cathedral. It concerned a Eucharist miracle which occurred in Buenos Aires in 1996-- a desecrated Eucharist was put into a dish of water and stored in the tabernacle. Upon the tabernacle being opened, it was seen to have become "bloodied flesh". When the bishop was informed, he immediately had the Eucharist photographed and investigated. That bishop is now Pope Francis.

I can't find that this Eucharistic miracle has been officially approved, but it seems convincing. Is it significant that it occurred in the diocese of the future Pope? At any rate, the future Pope's actions in this case certainly show no lack of conviction in the Real Presence.

8) Will Pope Francis's pontificate be looked back upon as a "blip" in Catholic history, a temporary wrong turning? Perhaps. But the current Pope has now appointed many cardinals to the College of Cardinals, and it seems highly unlikely that the next man to walk out on the balcony of St. Peter's will be a much more traditionally-minded Pope. (Unlikely, but not impossible.)

As well as this, when one reads the actual texts of the Pope's documents, homilies, etc. the differences between his pontificate and that of previous popes seem rather less pronounced. And the differences have surely been exaggerated. Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul II also had much to say about environmental responsibility, fulfillment of the vision of Vatican II, and dialogue with other religions. Indeed, Pope John Paul II notoriously kissed a copy of the Koran. How does this compare to the presence of Pachama statues at the Amazonian synod?

Let us not forget, either, that the Pope emeritus has repeatedly thanked Pope Francis and affirmed that there is no contradiction between his own pontificate and that of the current Pope. 

9) Having said all this, I find myself somewhat disoriented in the pontificate of Pope Francis. I began to practice my faith during the pontificate of Pope Benedict. Much that I took for granted then now seems less straightforward-- especially, the manner in which we should evangelize and present the claims of the Church. I am more cautious of making a mistake in this regard than I used to be. This makes me less eager to write on explicitly religious or Catholic topics-- or, at least, to depart from the fundamentals.

I am somewhat more inclined, now, to be a Catholic writer on non-Catholic topics, than to write on specifically Catholic topics-- and least of all, controversial topics.

I think it is also true to say that my own faith, as a result of the recent controversies in the Church, has become somewhat more "mystical" and somewhat less doctrinal; more devotional and less intellectualised.

As ever, the thing I am sure of more than anything else in the world is the truth of the Catholic faith-- and, to use the words of the liberal Catholic Lord Acton, that Communion with Rome is "dearer than life".

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

A Farewell to English-- Well, Not Quite....

Recently I finished reading A Book of One's Own: People and Their Diaries by Thomas Mallon. I'm not going to write about it here; I've realized (from previous posts) that few people share my interest in diary-writing as a topic. However, I did throughly enjoy the book, which was a commentary on the whole phenomenon of diary-keeping, and which took a look at some famous (and, indeed, obscure) diaries from the time of Samuel Pepys onwards.

Afterwards, though, I regretted reading it, for a reason relevant to this post: I've resolved to stop reading books in English, in favour of reading books in Irish, for the foreseeable future.

I've written about the Irish language on this blog before. My feelings on this score are probably best expressed in this blog post.

I've been reading Irish language journals (An Sagart and Comhar mostly) on my tea-breaks and lunch-breaks, during working hours, for several years now.

The importance of reviving the Irish language-- not simply for its own sake, but as a habitat for a distinctive and traditional Irish culture-- seems more and more important all the time. I feel a deep sense of shame that I have reached my fifth decade without ever making a serious effort to master the Irish language. Indeed, it's a shameful failure on the part of almost all Irish people. You can't be Irish in English.

We shouldn't even speak of being Irish-- we should speak of being Gaelic. Ireland is just a physical territory, Gaelicism is an imaginative and spiritual world of its own.

The problem is, I'm terrible at Irish. Yes, I can have a halting conversation in broken Irish, but nothing more than that. I can barely write a sentence without a string of grammatical and spelling errors.

My reading comprehension has come a long way in the last few years, though. My strategy is to improve through intensive reading, before anything else. After all, that seems to be how I learned English (and English was by far my best subject in school). I never really had any abstract handle on grammar (I still don't), but I read and read and read.

So my resolution is that, for the foreseeable future (perhaps forever), my leisure reading will be entirely through the Irish language. 

I'm talking about print here, rather than online. There isn't really much of an Irish language internet-- and, since the Irish language subculture had become overwhelmingly left-liberal by the time the internet came along, it is quite uncongenial to someone of my views.

But, fortunately, I have access to thousands of Irish language books and magazines in the university library where I work. And they long predate the liberalization of Ireland (which was a fait accompli in Irish language circles long before its conquest of the whole nation).

I'm not putting an absolute ban on reading texts in English. However, I need a very good reason to do so-- for instance, research for something I'm writing. (And I mean necessary research, not just background reading-- I'm not giving myself that dodge.)

I'm continually tempted to return to reading in English, not because I don't actually enjoy reading in Irish-- I do-- but because I'm more likely to come upon a book I particularly want to read in English-- like the diary book.

But all the English reading in the world doesn't have the same value as any amount of Irish reading. (The same applies, even more, to speaking and writing in Irish-- though I wonder if I will ever be fluent in writing.)

Although I'm a galloping romantic, I also suffer from a strong streak of scepticism. So I don't make any claims for the Irish language except that it is my ancestral language and that it is lamentably neglected.

I don't believing there's any utilitarian case for reviving the Irish language, or any language. Daniel O'Connell, an nationalist leader of the nineteenth century, notoriously said that: "It would be of vast advantage to mankind if all the inhabitants of the earth spoke the same language." If you share that view, I don't know how to argue with you. (You also give me the creeps, like one of the pod people in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.)

Having paid my dues to scepticism, I must admit I often have very romantic reactions when reading Irish language texts; particular words and phrases make my blood stir. Is it a stir of ancestral recognition? No, I don't really believe that.

The feeling of warmth I experience when reading Irish language texts may have several explanations.

It might be pure nostalgia, pleasant associations from my school days. (My schooling was almost entirely through the Irish language, which makes my ignorance of it even more shameful.)

It might be (and actually, I know it is) a sense of cosiness from inhabiting, as long as I am reading, a smaller cultural universe. So many books have been published in English! It can be dizzying. Irish language culture is on a much, much smaller scale-- a more human scale, perhaps.

And then there is the warm glow that I always experience when I feel I am swimming against the tide.

I am only a nursling when it comes to the Irish language-- still-- but even that is no bad thing. It is like discovering the world afresh-- learning a new word for a familiar thing is, in a way, experiencing the familiar thing for the first time. It is rather like the section of The Magician's Nephew when the protagonists witness Narnia coming into existence.

But there's a long, long way to go, and I don't know if I'm ever going to get there.

The Pleasant Joys of Brotherhood

The Pleasant Joys of Brotherhood

by James Simmons

I love the small hours of the night
When I sit up alone.
I love my family, wife and friends.
I love them when they're gone.
A glass of Power's, a well-slacked fire,
I wind the gramophone.
The pleasant joys of brotherhood
I savour on my own.

An instrument to play upon,
Books, records on the shelf,
And albums crammed with photographs:
I céilí by myself.

I drink to passion, drink to peace,
The silent telephone.
The pleasant joys of brotherhood
I savour on my own.

This is a poem I came across in The Oxford Book of Comic Verse, which I received as a Christmas gift in my late teens. I've never been able to find it transcribed on the internet (and I hope the estate of James Simmons won't come after me for remedying this).

I never knew anything about James Simmons until I looked him up on the internet just now. He was a Derry poet and musician who died in 2001. This lyric is sung to the air of "My Lagan Love" (which I don't know) and you can find recordings of it on the internet.

This poem appeals to me as an introvert! I love people, but I sometimes prefer to love them in their absence.

There is a footnote in The Oxford Book of Comic Verse explaining céilí as "a friendly visit, a social evening".  I would have thought Irish music was essential, but I may be wrong.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The Wayfarer in a Pub

Reader, what do you fret about?

I don't mean for yourself. I'm not talking about your final examinations, or your love life, or your bank balance. I mean, what social trends do you fret about? What are your worries for society?

Because I think most of us worry about society, and that our social philosophies can (to a great extent) be boiled down to our worries for society.

Now and again I seem to glimpse the world through the eyes of a progressive, and I realize that they actually fret about society collapsing into a racist, sexist, theocratic dystopia where secret police bundle "minorities" into vans and take them to concentration camps-- or some similarly lurid scenario.

This seems absurd to us. But then, I think such anxieties-- anxieties regarding social trends-- are very often irrational. In fact, I will willingly accept that my own anxieties regarding social trends are often irrational.

Here is one example, which may or may not be irrational.

For as long as I can remember, I have felt a very deep anxiety at the loss of what I might best term "folk culture". Perhaps I might also use the term oral culture. Or cultural memory.

In fact, it's very hard to come up with an appropriate term, because what exactly it is that I'm anxious about is hard to define-- though it seems very clear to me.

Perhaps a list of things towards which I feel protective, or nostalgic, might explain it:

Skipping chants. Ghost stories. Folk ballads. Street games. Parlour games. Card games. Local sayings. Riddles. The widespread use of literary and poetic and Scriptural quotations. Amateur dramatics. Shadow puppetry. Regional accents. Proverbs. Sing-a-longs. Stories around the campfire.

I think you probably understand what I mean now.

But it's very hard to know what collective term to give such things, or what to take as a defining characteristic, or even what they can be contrasted against.

I could try "oral culture", but this doesn't really cover it. Oral culture involves the transmission of culture orally. But take the example, for instance, of some kids improvising their own sport, using whatever equipment they have to hand. This would be an example of what I mean, but it can't be called oral culture.

Or take the example of somebody quoting a speech from Shakespeare, in an everyday context. This also fits, but it's not oral culture per se. It's written culture that happens to be expressed orally.

Sometimes I've defined this thing (whatever it is) against the mass media. I've defined it as everything which has been eroded, and continues to be eroded, by the radio, the television, the cinema, and the internet. The phrase "making your own entertainment" is often used in this context.

But that's not really it, either. Card games, for instance, are not really a case of people making their own entertainment-- there's not much imagination or creativity involved-- but they somehow seem to fit in this category. To me, at any rate.

And many of the media that existed before radio and television were pretty rubbishy. Music hall, for instance, seems to have been a tawdry form of entertainment, without much artistic or social merit. The same is true of a lot of print culture which preceded radio and television. "Penny dreadful" magazines were trashy by any standard, it would seem. (I've never actually read a penny dreadful, but I have looked through some popular magazines that predated radio and TV. Some of them were just as trashy and trivial.)

The wonderful website TV Tropes has an interesting page called New Media are Evil, which gives examples of the anxieties that greeted every new media as it came along, all through history.

As the page puts it: Almost every new medium of communication or expression that has appeared since the dawn of history has been accompanied by doomsayers and critics who have confidently predicted that it would bring about The End of the World as We Know It, by weakening the brain or polluting our precious bodily fluids.

The same thing has happened to basically every type of media in history, making this trope as old as mankind itself. Writing itself was hugely suspicious for example, as people feared that it would cripple the ability to memorise things, as this was now no longer needed, as everything could be written down.

Silly, right? And yet... I can't help feeling that there was considerable justification to even this anxiety, and that something is lost when a society passes from an oral to a written culture.

Something is obviously gained, too. In fact, most people who love books would agree that far more is gained by the spread of literacy than is lost. 

But...something is lost. Modernist literature, for instance, could never have arisen in an oral culture. Perhaps what is lost in oral culture is a kind of innocence. (My own theory is that all art becomes decadent the further it is removed from folk culture.)

Whenever a new cultural medium comes along, I would argue, something is lost as well as gained. And with some media, we might argue, more is lost than is gained.

For instance, I believe the introduction of television was cataclysmic to social and cultural life-- while, at the same time, I am fascinated by the history of television itself. (Peter Hitchens writes a brilliant and depressing chapter on television in his masterly book The Abolition of Britain.)

What about the internet? Well, it could be seen as an improvement, in that it is less passive than the media which dominated immediately before it-- television and radio. One might argue, as well, that it is a corrective to the homogenizing tendencies of TV and radio. Instead of millions of people watching the same show, you have millions of people writing their own blogs, participating in obscure internet forums, and pursuing the most arcane interests. That's a good thing...isn't it?

And yet, and yet....a young relative of my own admitted to me that he found it difficult to read books, since he was so unused to reading text without a light glowing behind it. I was touched and saddened by the admission.

So, although I cannot find an adequate term to describe the thing towards which I feel protective, I need to use some term. I will go with "folk culture".

Here are the characteristics of "folk culture", in this sense. These are tendencies rather than absolutes, and not all of them apply to every case:

1) It is non-technological, or minimally technological.
2) It is traditional.
3) It is national, regional, or local.
4) It is performed to small groups which are physically present, rather than to a mass audience across space and time.
5) It is participatory, rather than passive.
6) It is non-commercial.
7) It is improvized, rather than standardized.

I really do fret a lot about the loss of this "oral culture". I seem to encounter examples of this loss all the time-- although I am aware of the phenomenon of "confirmation bias", and realize my view may be excessively gloomy, that things might not be quite as bad as I fear

Be that as it may, I feel an obligation to protect and propagate "oral culture" in my own small way. This has led me to various efforts, but the effort I am going to write about in this blog post is my effort to memorize poetry.

I recently wrote an article on the decline of poetry for The Burkean. In this case, I am sure that the decline is a real decline, and not an imagined one-- and I give arguments for this in my piece.

So for a good many months now, I have been putting a corpus of poetry to memory. It's not the first time I've done something like this-- I've memorized quite a lot of poems in recent years, from the same motives-- but, inevitably, they have faded from my mind. I came to the realization that I had to keep them fresh, by constantly revisiting them.

In my teens, I had a great memory for poetry. I memorized poems without even trying. Since my twenties, however, it has required an effort. (The amount of effort depends on the poem-- in fact, I believe that the ease with which a poem sticks in one's memory is a good sign of its merit as a poem. Great poems almost brand themselves upon the memory.)

I started out simply memorizing poems I loved, and then I decided to start trying to memorize a poem (or passage from a poem) from every notable poet. My idea was that, one day, I would be able to say: "Name any poet and I'll recite a poem by him or her"

This is the list I have put to memory so far:

Death of an Irishwoman by Michael Hartnett 
Snow by Louis Macneice
The Fool by Patrick Pearse
Ulysses by Tennyson
The Burning of the Leaves by Laurence Binyon
“Our revels now are ended...” by William Shakespeare
"All the world’s a stage...” by William Shakespeare
To Helen by Edgar Allen Poe
“Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow...” by William Shakespeare.
On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer by John Keats
“Ay, but to die…” by William Shakespeare
Lines Written on Westminster Bridge by William Wordsworth
The Wayfarer by Patrick Pearse
The Kraken by Lord Alfred Tennyson
The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
A Birthday by Christina Rossetti
Heraclitus, by William Johnson Cory
The Owl by Lord Alfred Tennyson
The Planster’s Vision by John Betjeman
“No Longer Mourn for me When I am Dead…” by William Shakespeare
Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night by Dylan Thomas
“That Time of Year Thou Mayst in Me Behold” by William Shakespeare
“Let Me Not to the Marriage of True Minds” by William Shakespeare
“My Mistress Eyes are Nothing Like the Sun”, by William Shakespeare
“When I Consider How My Light is Spent” by John Milton
““Say Not the Struggle Naught Availeth” by Arthur Hugh Clough
“The Burning Babe by Robert Southwell
Remember by Christina Rossetti
“Ring out, wild bells” by Lord Alfred Tennyson (from In Memoriam)
The Song of the Strange Ascetic by G.K. Chesterton
Forget Not Yet by Thomas Wyatt.
The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe
September 1913 by W.B. Yeats
The Workman’s Friend by Gem Casey (Flann O'Brien)
If by Rudyard Kipling
When I was One-and-Twenty by A.E. Housman
"Loveliest of trees, the cherry now..." by A.E. Housman
Annus Mirabilis by Philip Larkin
Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll
An Irish Airman Foresees his Death by W.B. Yeats
How Do I Love Thee? by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
"Yonder see the morning blink..." by A.E. Housman
"Under the wide and starry sky..." by Robert Louis Stevenson
"Into my heart an air that kills..." by A.E. Housman
Peace by Henry Vaughan
She Walks in Beauty by Lord Byron
Acquainted with the Night by Robert Frost
John Anderson my Jo John by Robbie Burns
When He Who Adores Thee by Thomas Moore.
Golden Stockings by Oliver St. John Gogarty
Ringsend by Oliver St. John Gogarty
The Return by Thomas Traherne
Shakespeare by Matthew Arnold
Ode on a Snowflake by Francis Thompson
Adelstrop by Edward Thomas
Ozymandias by Percy Shelley
The Fisherman by W.B. Yeats
The World’s a Stage by Hilaire Belloc
“Among the crooked lanes..” by James Thomson.
“When the hounds of spring are on winter’s traces...” by Charles Algernon Swinburne.

"The Raven" is the longest poem in this list, at one hundred and eight lines long. I'd actually memorized it before, some years ago, for the sole purpose of reciting it at a dinner party. (I switched the lights off and held a candle in my hand, as I recited it. The sense of drama was punctured somewhat when I tried to blow out the candle before the final "Nevermore", but struggled to do so). Then it faded from my memory. However, it was easier to memorize again, since I had memorized it before.

I decided "The Raven" would remain the longest poem in my repertoire, my "party piece". I actually recite it to myself, silently, every morning, to keep it fresh. It doesn't take that long.

I've noticed another benefit to having a body of poetry put to memory-- it's quite comforting. The mind (indeed, the world) can be a chaotic place-- having a refuge of structure and form is soothing.

I've had opportunities to recite the poems on my list, and here I come (finally) to the real subject of this meandering blog post.

There have been a lot of get-togethers in my extended family recently. Mostly (though not exclusively) these have been on the occasion of family deaths, including the death of my father.

More recently than that, my cousin passed away-- a relatively young man, in his early fifties.

Since Irish nationalism is deeply embedded in my extended family, there is a tradition of singing Irish folk ballads at get-togethers. My father himself had an apparently limitless fund of these. He would quite often toss off a verse of a ballad and then remark, casually: "I haven't even thought about that song in forty years."

Once, some years ago, my wife asked me to sing her a song. I realized I couldn't think of a single song I could sing her. When I told my father this, he said: "You should be ashamed of yourself." I agreed, and I was ashamed of myself.

So I felt a mixture of admiration and envy at my extended family, that they had such a wealth of patriotic (and other) ballads on the tips of their tongues.

However, at the recent get-togethers, I made a troubling discovery: they actually don't have them on the tips of their tongues. Not anymore.

Even the older ones-- men and women in their sixties or seventies, who had participated in innumerable sing-alongs over the years-- had trouble remembering the lyrics of most of the ballads they sung. They had to consult their smartphones for many or even most of the lyrics. As for the younger members-- those in their twenties and under-- they had no songs at all.

There was much lamenting of this fact. A member of my family who is very progressive, and frequently argues against my own social nostalgia, was particularly outspoken. She said: "Remember the days when we used to sing without any phones, actually remembering the words?" She was disdainful of anyone resorting to a smartphone-- although she had to do it herself, when joining in with some songs.

My father never learned how to send a text or navigate the internet. Perhaps that is why his memory for ballads never decayed. I think he was better off.

As is usual in such occasions, each member of the party was implored to sing a song. When my turn came, I suggested I would recite a poem instead. (I "haven't a note in my head", as the saying goes-- and I had already been building up my repertoire.) I recited "The Wayfarer" by Patrick Pearse. Pearse was the leader of the 1916 Rising against British rule in Ireland, so it fit the patriotic mood of the evening, although it is not obviously nationalistic:

The beauty of the world hath made me sad,
This beauty that will pass;
Sometimes my heart hath shaken with great joy
To see a leaping squirrel in a tree,
Or a red lady-bird upon a stalk,
Or little rabbits in a field at evening,
Lit by a slanting sun,
Or some green hill where shadows drifted by
Some quiet hill where mountainy man hath sown
And soon would reap; near to the gate of Heaven;
Or children with bare feet upon the sands
Of some ebbed sea, or playing on the streets
Of little towns in Connacht,
Things young and happy.
And then my heart hath told me:
These will pass,
Will pass and change, will die and be no more,
Things bright and green, things young and happy;
And I have gone upon my way

I was nervous I would forget some words, or stumble over them, but I didn't. I recited it slowly, and gained in confidence as I went along. To my great surprise, the pub went silent, and lots of people beyond my own party were listening. There was even a round of applause from people I didn't know. It gave me a thrill.

Afterwards, we adjourned to a house until the early hours of the morning, and I recited some more poems: "Death of an Irishwoman" by Michael Hartnett, "The Burning of the Leaves" by Laurence Binyon, and "The Fool", which is another poem by Patrick Pearse.

I even joined in the communal singing this time, although I also had to look at lyrics on a smartphone.

I've stopped memorizing poetry now-- I'm intensifying my efforts to improve my grasp of the Irish language instead, having decided that the Irish language is even more important than poetry. That gives me plenty of scope for memorization. However, I'm still keeping my repertoire of poems fresh in my mind. I carry the list in a notebook, and mentally recite a few every day.

Am I alone in my concerns for "oral culture"? Do other people fret about this? I don't know. I wonder. Even finding words for these concerns, finding terms for what I am talking about, has been difficult. And yet, I would like to think I am not alone.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

My Lighthouses Series in Ireland's Own

If you buy the Halloween special of Ireland's Own, you can read the first in my series of articles on Irish lighthouses, about Wicklow Head.


Wednesday, October 16, 2019

How Can We Foster Vocations?

Here is an article I wrote recently for the Catholic Voice newspaper (which is published by the Lumen Fidei Institute).