Saturday, June 8, 2013

Thoughts on Catholic Blogs

Being confined to bed is an unmissable opportunity to write a blog post. And I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has read this blog, everyone who has made kind comments, and (especially) everybody who has prayed for me and for those close to me when I requested it-- which last I appreciate more than I can possibly say.

I have just been looking at a different Catholic blog, and (as usual, when I look at Catholic blogs) I was struck by the sheer quality of the thing. The only accurate term for so many Catholic blogs is gorgeous-- the layout, the use of sacred art, the profusion of pictures and quotations and fancy backgrounds. The only real drawback to all this is that sometimes the pages take a long time to load, but even that's not always the case.

I have rather a barebones design here, but that's not entirely by choice. I'm simply not very good with computers. I think the most important thing is for a blog to be readable-- I mean, in this instance, not vexing to the eye, or to the patience-- but after that, I think a perfume-and-tissuepaper approach is highly desirable.

Sumptuousness, when it comes honouring the Lord and our faith, has always been a virtue in the Catholic tradition, and most Catholic blogs very much lean towards the Baroque when it comes to presentation. I think this is all to the good.

Another thing that gives me great pleasure, when it comes to Catholic bloggery (I refuse to use the hideous word "blogosphere"), is the almost ubiquitous orthodoxy of Catholic bloggers. Dissident Catholics may be found in great numbers in the pews of Catholic churches, but when it comes to the internet, they're almost nowhere to be seen. I guess few people would take the trouble of writing a blog about their Catholic faith if they felt lukewarm or dubious about that faith's truth. Dissident Catholics may legitimately protest that they don't feel lukewarm about their faith, they merely question some of the hierarchical Church's teachings. But it seems to me that that as soon as you question any of the defined doctrines of the Catholic Church, the whole edifice totters. Whatever the explanation, there seem to be very few blogs of a "liberal Catholic" tone (to use a phrase I hate using).

Are blogs silly? I don't think so. I'm getting less and less apologetic about having one. It seems to me that they add to the variety of human existence, which is a good thing in itself. If nobody reads a blog, well, it's doing no harm. And if even a few people do, then it has a motive for its existence. (I even like thinking about all the little-read blogs out there. We cherish the existence of sleepy little village shops, why not extend the same romantic approval to obscure blogs? Small is beautiful.)

I increasingly find a certain poetry and satisfaction in the whole format of a blog, too. I am a hoary old traditionalist, and if I had to choose between abolishing the internet and printed books, I would abolish the internet without a moment's thought. I don't think anything can replace the glory of a musty old book with yellowed pages and dog-ears and an inscription from eighty years ago on the flyleaf. A book has a history of its own that an e-book can never have. We enter into a relationship with printed books (and magazines, and newspapers) in a way that we never can with the electronic word.

And yet, and yet...I do find something quite magical about the fact that blogs are just the opposite. I like their insubstantiality. I like how they can be summoned up like a spirit at any computer or on any smartphone. When I'm asleep, anybody could be looking at my blog. I wonder what living rooms and bedrooms and offices it might appear in, places I'll never see, places I may never come within a hundred miles of. It's an exiting thought.

I cherish the sheer openness of the blog format-- mostly because, like Chesterton, I could never believe that there was such a thing as a different subject. It's not that I don't value difference (I do! I do! I do!), or that I don't value the artificially-imposed limits that we use in the debating hall or the classroom or the boardroom to keep a discussion on-track. But I have always been dazzled by the idea that every subject is a thread that will eventually lead you to any other subject. (This is very different from the wishy-washy mystical platitude that "all things are one", which seems the most depressing and nauseating idea imaginable to me.) And, just as some people are irritated by writers who can't help digressions and asides, I am every bit as irritated by writers who are ruthlessly focused and who never relax, joke or let their hair down. I've always wanted a writer to be my buddy, as though we were sitting in a pub together somewhere. And that kind of informality is very easy in a blog.

Finally, I think Catholic blogs are a good thing, because-- regardless of the quality of the actual blogs (and I am presuming they contain nothing actually contrary to the Faith)-- they are a demonstration to the world that their authors care enough about their Faith to put time and effort into writing a blog with a Catholic theme. Of course, they could be neglecting their widowed mothers while doing so, but we hope they aren't.

I think the existence of a vibrant Catholic internet is yet another sign to the world that ours is a living Faith. The more I explore my Catholicism, the more I understand that the Faith is not simply what's written in the Bible, the Catechism, and the various magisterial documents-- as though all practicing Catholics could be wiped off the face of the Earth and the Faith could be reconstructed, undiminished, from those written sources. Just as a person remains alive only because the heart is pumping warm blood around the body-- and just as you and me are alive now only because our ancestors, in an unbroken line going back to Adam and Eve, had warm blood circulating in their bodies to the moment they conceived our progenitors-- so the Church remains a living thing through the currents of life that pulse through it. The warm blood in this case is the celebration of the liturgy (first and foremost), but everything else as well-- the saying of the rosary, the reading of the Bible, solitary and communal prayer, Eucharistic adoration, discussion of the Faith, theological study, and a myriad other activities. And one of those activities-- undoubtedly a very minor and relatively insignicant one, but one nonetheless-- is the writing of Catholics blogs.

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