Saturday, March 7, 2015

Whither This Blog?

First off, thanks for all the prayers and kind messages about my father's illness. He really looked to be in serious danger for a while but now he is discharged from hospital, and-- even though I think he was discharged too soon-- seems to be recovering. He was extremely heartened to hear of all the prayers being said for him.

Secondly, and to get to the main point of this post, I'm wondering what direction I should take this blog in. As I've said a few times, I began it in purely apologetic vein-- to respond to the various attacks on the Church in the Irish media and elsewhere. Later on, I began to include various reflections on matters secular as well as sacred, as well as my poetry, stories, serialised novels etc.

My justification for this was that I wanted this blog to be catholic as well as Catholic, and to show that Catholic faith is compatible with a broad view of life. (I feel arrogant even putting it like that, but I hope you know what I mean.)

On the other hand-- even though I have occasionally tried to distinguish between my views and Catholic orthodoxy, and to be careful nobody ever mistook my speculations for doctrine-- I do think there is a certain responsibility on anyone who uses the term 'Catholic' (or even 'Papist'!) to avoid any possibility of putting themselves in place of Christ.

My mind is turning more and more to the need for a Christian imagination. I feel I have erred in often trying to superimpose my own views, my own imagination, on the Christian gospel. I don't want to exaggerate this; I do feel there is room for creativity in drawing on and presenting the Christian gospel. But one has to be cautious about this and I don't think I have been cautious enough in the past.

So I am 'stock-taking' regarding this blog at the moment, along with other things in my life. Of course I am praying, but I am also interested in hearing what my readers have to say. What sort of thing do you like to see here?

I think the Catholic blogosphere is a wonderful gift and I am privileged to be a part of it. There can't be enough Catholic blogs! Every one is an act of witness, to some extent.  And the fact that Irish Papist has had a flattering response (almost a quarter of a million views, since I started in 2011!) inclines me to think that I am supposed to keep it going. I'm just not sure what direction to take it in-- but more rambling essays about my most fugitive thoughts is not going to be part of the plan.

Incidentally, I'm sorry I shelved Mystery Tour. I was excited about that story and I only shelved it because I didn't have time to continue it. I intend to revisit it some day, maybe several years from now!


  1. Lowercase-c catholic Catholic writing might be best summarised by the inevitable Chesterton quote: “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” And what is behind the Catholic, but the Good Lord Himself, and His Mother, all the hosts of Heaven, sunrise, the curl of a wave against the sky, the smell of herbs in a sunny garden, songs worth singing, the impossible separate universe that is each human being. . .None of those things are only impressive because they are better than sin and sordidness. They are, first, beautiful and good in themselves. I think catholic writing (I left the ‘c’ lower-case on purpose again) is one way to remind Catholics of that, to remind them, as it were, what it is that stands behind them when they face out to evil.

    As for what I like to read here--well, all of that catholic stuff! Of course I am always delighted when there are poems. You have said yourself that there are not enough good poems being written. And the stories are always good fun--the image of the fellow flying off, a bird, in "The Man Who Could Make Worlds," has been remembered many a time; of course I would enjoy a return to "Mystery Tour" when time permits.

    The "Open Door" columns are always great little gems; the lecture reprints, not so little, but equally valued.

    But as for the rest--I know you are praying about it, so I trust there is a much greater influence at work than your various readers' musings, otherwise I would hesitate to say it--as for the rest. . .I quite like the rambling essays. Your reminder above about reflecting the Church's views, rather than inventing them certainly leavens any encouragement I might make to go on writing them, as I realise the burden that fine line might prove for a writer. (Not, mind, that I ever noticed you saying anything ambiguous that you hadn't carefully clarifed as your own opinion, I just mean, remembering to do that, and wondering whether folks noticed you had done it, every time you wanted to ramble could be understandably burdensome). But at the very worst, you can say the introspective pieces contributed to "things being various"--I mean in the full, reeling delight of that phrase. Ideas, and musings of a living mind, and no mere talking about the weather.

    Though (and talk of rambling--surely this is the last paragraph!) I hope you don't count under the head of problematic rambling such subjects as the delights of tea, observations from the purple notebook, and lists of good things like snow globes and ships in bottles. Those were all good reading, too!

  2. Thanks for those thoughts, Molly. Hitherto the only responses had been compliments on the fastidiousness of my writing and invitations to meet Russian girls online, both of which seemed to be rather missing the point.

    What you say certainly gives me food for thought. From what I know of the internet, for everyone who writes something there are a certain amount of 'lurkers', so it could be that my 'rambling essays' are not as irrelevant or unhelpful as I feared. I will certainly go in for fewer of them, since I undoubtedly overdid it, but maybe not cut them out entirely, or try not to go off the deep end.

    I certainly intend to write more hymns. Actually I have started to collaborate with a lady in my parish who is putting music to a few of them. I hope it might lead to them being sung in my parish, but that might be too ambitious.

    I'm so very glad you remembered that scene from 'The Man Who Could Make Worlds' because I liked it myself. Unfortunately the story rather goes downhill from that (flying?) start. For a story about the wonders of imagination I was incredibly conservative in inventing its fictional world, lamentably so.

    I was actually cleaning up my laptop desktop yesterday and going through my fiction files. I realise I have started serializing TWO separate novels and left them both hanging in air, and commenced another but also left it 'on pause'. Maybe I should recommence the serialization of one of them.

    Finally, I'm glad you like the Open Door columns, they seem to go down well. I don't know how long that magazine will go on being published (it's a teenager already), or how long it will keep wanting my Chesterton articles, but I would dearly love for it to be still running many years from now. In our digital world it's nice that any little magazine can survive.

    Thanks again! I'm going to 'think on', as they say in Yorkshire!

  3. Hello Maolsheachlann, I am very pleased to hear that your father's health seems to be improving. Re your blog: it evidently reflects all of your own particular interests which is good in itself. I find your personal accounts of interacting, as a committed Catholic, with a largely pagan world, and your own take on the contemporary 'soft sell' Catholicism most interesting. I also like your poetry! Paul

  4. Thanks Paul! Hmmm, interacting with a largely pagan world, that is interesting. I often think that reading something which reflects one's own situation is a big encouragement; somehow, the written word has a solidity that even human companionship and solidarity doesn't. So if I can help anyone in that way....And, of course, I am VERY happy you like the poetry, which I don't intend to give up!

  5. I'd meant to write in sooner than this, sorry! I was very glad to hear that your father is getting better and hope he is still recovering well.

    Yes, you are supposed to keep this blog going! (not to put it too strongly!). I can't really do better than the two other commenters. I certainly don't think you have confused your own views with the Gospel. If you have, I haven't noticed it: in fact, my view that you don't is one of the many reasons why I consider myself a subscribing 'reader' of this blog, rather than simply that I 'read' it. There are other reasons - I come for the literary and artistic taste, the tone of voice - and the metrical verse, of course! - that I can't seem to find being written anywhere else. I enjoy the rambling essays as well; indeed I rejoice in them.

    I would venture to suggest that as far as witness is concerned, what is written isn't so important as that it is kept up (to a reasonable extent). Then even people who don't share your literary tastes and so on can still see that even a twenty-first century writer can be both Catholic and prolific.

  6. Thanks so much, Dominic, nice to hear from you as always. I very much like what you said about 'tone of voice', I appreciate hearing that, as I would say that 'tone of voice' is very often why I like a particular writer, though I wouldn't have thought of using the phrase myself.

    I completely agree with you about witness and keeping up. I think that's very important. And cyberspace is very well served with lots of active and well-written Catholic blogs, at which I rejoice, but Irish cyberspace not so much-- although there are certainly a few others.

    As for your kind words about my verse, it always seems like a little miracle to me that there are people out there who enjoy my poems. That was something I had given up hope on not too long ago.

    Thanks for the encouragement and input, and I hope you have a happy and holy Easter.

  7. Oh, and yes, my father is still recovering, and is in better health and (most of the time) spirits than he has been for many months.