Monday, September 23, 2013

Céad Míle Failte

Over the weekend, this blog had its hundred thousandth hit. Yayyy!

I set it up two years ago, writing this in the first post:

There are too few voices raised in loyalty to the teaching of the Church's Magisterium; so few, I feel justified in launching yet another blog into cyberspace. (Also, I can't believe nobody has named a blog Irish Papist yet.) In fact, the immediate stimulus was an RTE programme I heard mere hours ago, in which Charlie Bird interviewed various (carefully selected) Catholic commentators who all agreed that institutional change (oh deliciously vague word, change!) was imperative. The usual attacks upon the Vatican and the "clerical mindset" ensued.

The idea in this blog is to provide a rapid and rolling response to the many attacks on the Church in Ireland. Will I have the time and patience to stick to that plan? To quote St. Paul, "I do not know; God knows". But I'm going to give it a go. I hope you join me for the ride, and don't hestitate to chip in!

Well, as anyone could tell from reading a few posts, I didn't exactly follow that plan. Not that I think that's necessarily a bad thing, since being confined to "a rapid and rolling response to the many attacks on the Church in Ireland" seems somewhat reactionary (in the literal sense) and negative to me now.

When I started including more personal posts, with no immediate or obvious relation to religion, I did so rather gingerly. I was delighted that these posts often received a warm response. I know I've defended this practice several times now, perhaps to tedium, but I do feel rather self-conscious about it so I will repeat...

I write like that because it's the kind of thing I most like to read-- by far. I've always loved the kind of writing where the author addresses you directly, almost as a friend, makes asides and jokes and autobiographical comments, rambles, and generally talks like someone sitting next to you in a pub rather than a lecturer at a podium. I'm thinking of the newspaper columns of Keith Waterhouse and of Myles Na Gopaleen, the articles and essays of G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis and George Orwell, the humorous compositions of David Sedaris, the film reviews of Roger Ebert, the books and columns and blog of Peter Hitchens, the articles written by Barbara Mikkelson on the urban legends website, the books and blog of the Catholic apologist Mark Shea, Stephen King's non-fiction book about the horror genre Danse Macabre, and many other examples. (Indeed, I would be grateful for any suggestions for similar reading.)

In general, I detest impersonality in writing, or writing that restricts itself severely to the subject at hand. I like authors who nudge you excitedly and whisper, "We're alive and isn't it amazing? Hey, look at that over there! That reminds me of...". That might sound cutesie but it's the best way I can think of putting it.

To a Catholic, faith is not something that is one detachable part of his or her life-- rather it pervades and influences everything. I believe that all the moments of wonder and joy and insight in my life were (and are) beacons on the path to God.

I am very much alive to the danger of idolatry, of celebrating something that is perhaps an obstacle or a path away from God rather than something that leads us to Him. I have no theological qualifications and I often think of putting a disclaimer on this site, stressing that I write under correction and everything I say has to be tested against the teaching of the Church. Jesus told us that we will render an account for every idle word on the Last Day. The Letter of James speaks of that unruly member, the tongue, which is restless and evil and full of deadly poison. On the other hand, the apostle Paul said: "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." So I dare to think it is OK for a layman to write from a Catholic perspective, and to range widely while so doing.

I don't flatter myself that my blog fulfils any great evangelistic function, but I like to think there is some aspect of evangelism to it. Who knows but that someone might, just might, come across this blog and have some of her preconceptions about the Faith weakened, or that my particular slant just might scratch the particular itch of some seeker? Or, indeed, that I might hit upon some thought that will be inspirational to a practicing Catholic? I hope for this.

Since writing is what I'm good at (I hope), I do hope to use my pen to serve God, and if this blog doesn't actual fufil that, I hope it at least prepares me to do it in some other way.

Above everything else, I love writing this blog. I really do. I've never written anything that gave me such pleasure, and rarely done anything that gave me such pleasure, either. Time and time again, I've sat down at the computer, rather nervously trying to give expression to some idea or some mood that has haunted me for many years, become deliciously absorbed in the attempt, enjoyed a huge sense of accomplishment when I felt I had succeeded to some degree...and then felt insanely happy that other people knew what I was talking about and also found it worthwhile. That kind of thing is gratifying beyond all words.

And, of course, I married my wife Michelle during the lifetime of this blog, which gives it very special associations for me. Everything I write here is dedicated to her, as well as being in the name of the Lord Jesus.

So thank you, thank you, thank you, everybody who has ever read this blog! I really appreciate your time, your patience (!), your kind words, and (in the spirit of the lines written above) I consider you a friend.


  1. Well thank you for your blog.

    I don't mind impersonal blogs, but I also enjoy personal blogs were the blogger puts a bit of themselves into it. The first blog I ever started following was the Catholic Knight who lives somewhere in the Southern states of America. A lot of the time he's talking about Catholic stuff, other times he talks about Southern stuff, but it's still quite intriguing. Learning more about the bloggers you follow is interesting.

    Also, I would argue that every Catholic blog is useful in some way. The mere existence of a Catholic blog is a good support in my opinion. It shows that there are like-minded people, and it's good for keeping spirits up.

    Thanks again for the blog Maolsheachlann.

  2. I agree with you that "the mere existence of a Catholic blog is useful in some ways"-- that is how I justify this one whenever I'm feeling apologetic about it!

    The bloggers I like most are:

    Edward Feser
    Peter Hitchens
    Fr. Dwight Longenecker
    Mark Shea
    Father Levi, The Way Out There

    I never read The Catholic Knight.

    Thank you for your kind words, Antaine!

  3. You are an outstanding blogger (which is to say, writer).

    An observation: I am a relative latecomer and also an intermittent web surfer so I may have missed something, but you don't seem to blog much about the Marian aspect of Catholicism

  4. Thank you so much for that kind comment, Mick, it is very much appreciated.

    I have never blogged about Marian topics. To be honest, this is something of a problem area for me. I don't really "get" Our Lady-- I don't mean that in any irreverent way. I wish it was otherwise and I don't dispute or dissent from anything the Church teachers about her, or the emphasis placed upon her, but she doesn't have the hold upon my imagination that she does for others (and that she should have, indeed).

    I have sometimes thought of writing a long review of Mark Shea's Mary: Mother of the Son trilogy, which is one of my favourite books and which addresses many of the mental blocks I have myself. But even having read this several times, I feel rather awkward about Marian devotion. I do hope that this will change in the future.