Wednesday, August 30, 2023

My Article on the Book of Kells

This week's issue of Ireland's Own has as its cover story my article on the Book of Kells.

I put a huge amount of work into this article. I'm quite happy with it. I'd never actually seen the famous book before I did my research for this piece.

It's hard to think of anything more quintessentially Irish than the Book of Kells. Certainly, when I contemplate its pictures and decorations, I have a sense of being spiritually at home in a way that's hard to compare to anything else. But I mean "home" in a certain sense-- home not as a resting place, but as a horizon.

Anyway, buy it if you can! Even if you don't like my article (and I hope you will), you'll like others!

Monday, August 28, 2023


What fills you with wonder?

Lots of things fill me with wonder. Words, for instance. I saw a guy silhouetted in a window this morning and found myself thinking of the word "silhouette", one of my favourites. I suppose the wonder of words boils down to the wonder of consciousness. But I don't want to boil it down, particularly.

Candlelight fills me with wonder. Eyes. Memory. Stories and storytelling. Playing cards. Books.

Wonder is a funny thing. It doesn't mean curiosity and it doesn't mean surprise. It's hard to "cash out" analytically. I mean, given the existence of a world, it had to be one way rather than another. It's hard to see why billions of galaxies are more wonderful than five.

Anyway, what fills you with wonder? I'm interested.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Another Depressing Stage In the Dehumanization of Everyday Life

Check out this post on the Some Definite Service blog, regarding the monstrous proposals to close pretty much every ticket office in the British rail system.

The public consultation process has been extended until September the first. I beg any readers in Britain to participate in it. The link is here.

Monday, August 14, 2023

In a Café

What light-years you have travelled to be here,
With me,
At this café table, in the morning sun.
What a race you have run
From the vast abyss beyond your memory--
The neonatal dark, the primal light--
From the savage jungles of the infant soul
Where monsters might uncoil from every bough
But paradise is never far from sight.

What epic treks you've made through countless lands
Mapped and unmapped; childhood, and childhood's end;
Growth, grief, first love, the blazing desert sands
Of loneliness, the finding of a friend.
What dungeons, torture chambers, furnaces,
You crawled through, all alone, where none could aid;
What limitless horizons were displayed
Only to you, on mountain-tops of bliss.

I see my face look back from out your eyes--
Those oceans limitless;
Those windows to a world other than this;
Those starry starry skies.

And from so far, for you to be so near--
So very near--
As near as ever time and space allow;
The morning sunlight playing on our tea
With me,

Thursday, August 3, 2023

Walking With Fr. Vincent by Andrew McNabb: A Review


I am awarding "Walking with Vincent McNabb" full marks because it entirely achieves what it sets out to achieve. If you are interested in Fr. Vincent McNabb, you will lap this up. If you are interested in G.K. Chesterton or Hilaire Belloc, you will be fascinated. If you are simply a Catholic or Christian reader, perhaps one interested in the social teaching of the Church, it will absorb you. If you are a general reader, with none of the above interests, you will still find it stimulating and perhaps even inspiring. It is written by the great-grandnephew of Fr. Vincent, and so gives an unabashedly affectionate and appropriately reverential picture of the great man.

I read this book as a longstanding fan of G.K. Chesterton, one of Fr. Vincent's most famous associates. Both were involved in the movement rather awkwardly called Distributism, which was an attempt to find a "third way" between big business and big government. It was also an attempt to follow the social teaching of the Popes.

I've never really considered myself a Distributist. Its ideals are admirable, but seem unrealistic. The author of this book is clearly aware of this tension himself, and writes a lot about his own efforts to reconcile Distributist ideals to the reality of twenty-first century capitalism. He never really comes to a definite conclusion, which I consider a strength rather than a weakness. The book lives in the tension rather than trying to neatly resolve it. The world is too full of people with easy answers.

What can be said for sure about Fr. McNabb is that he lived his ideals to the fullest. How many people really do this? A believer in a materially simple life, he slept on the wooden floor of his monastic cell with only his arm for a pillow, and only his habit for bedclothes. He walked everywhere, eschewing motorized transport. And he put all his energy into proclaiming his belief in Jesus Christ, and into promoting what he believed was a Christian way of life.

Andrew McNabb is a most companionable author, and the book is written in a warm and anecdotal style, with no fussy formality. Some readers might possibly find the style a little too fluid. McNabb interweaves his own experiences, relationship with the memory of his great-uncle, and family life with his ongoing narrative of Fr. McNabb's life. Personally I enjoyed this, although perhaps others might prefer a more conventional structure.

I greatly enjoyed this book. It's called Walking with Father Vincent, and it frequently returns to the theme of this great priest's dedication to walking, in the simplest and most literal sense of that verb. Appropriately enough, I read a great deal of this book while walking. It was that compelling. I hope Fr. Vincent would approve.

You can buy the book here.

Trials and Tribulations

That has been the theme of my life for the last two weeks. I might write about it here at some future date, but I don't have the time or the heart for it now.

It's been a crazy, crazy time. Myself and Michelle have encountered both the worst and the best of human nature in that interval. People who had legal and moral obligations to us, failing those obligations in the most callous manner possible. Other people, who we didn't even know a month ago and who have no obligation to us, going way beyond the call of duty. I've experienced kindness that truly humbles me-- from Christian and non-religious, Irish and immigrant, and even complete strangers.

Please pray for us, and also pray for either conscience or justice to overtake those who have left us in the lurch. Apologies for being mysterious.