Thursday, March 28, 2024

Happy Easter!

I won't get another chance to blog over the Triduum, so I wish you all a happy Easter.

As I've often said on this blog, I love special times and seasons. And which is more special than Easter? Indeed, it surpasses the capacity of human language.

In the lives of the saints and visionaries, we see ample proof that God takes the liturgical calendar very seriously. For instance, the death of St. Gemma Galgani seems to mirror Christ's Passion in a very mysterious way.

Going with my recent practice, I've tried to change the blog's theme to gold and white (which will sadly be incongruous with the sombre nature of Good Friday), but I can't seem to work out how to change the colour of the blog post titles this time. Oh well.

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Letters to Malcolm

I remember reading an Amazon review of C.S. Lewis's Letters to Malcolm, Chiefly on Prayer which confidently asserted that the "Malcolm" of the title was Malcolm Muggeridge, the English journalist and writer who became an outspoken Christian in his later life. (It's still up.)

This isn't true, of course. The Malcolm to whom Lewis was writing was imaginary. But just yesterday I came across a book which is full of letters to Malcolm Muggeridge. It's called Searching for God in Britain and Beyond: Reading Letters to Malcolm Muggeridge, 1966–1982. The author is David G. Reagles (what makes someone decide to use their middle initial, incidentally?).

It draws on the thousands of fan letters that Malcolm Muggeridge received for his religious writing. Unlike some authors, Muggeridge was very appreciative of this fan mail, and very responsive to his readers; not only writing back, but even sending them copies of his books, and meeting with them in person. He kept the letters in the hope that someone would write a book such as this one.

Muggeridge is a strange case. He has nothing like the stature of C.S. Lewis or G.K. Chesterton, perhaps because he was unwilling to engage in traditional apologetics. I rarely hear anybody quote him, even conservative Christians. Nevertheless he seems to have spoken to many people in his own time, and his resistance to the tide of liberal secularism was most courageous.

He's regularly mocked for his debate with the Monty Python crew over Life of Brian, but I think he acquitted himself very well. He was quite obviously fighting a lost battle. The Pythons' insistence that they meant no disrespect to Christianity is not terribly convincing, and even seems like a cop-out.

Despite a certain amount of academic jargon, this is a fascinating insight into the lives of British people living through the liberalization and secularization of Britain, and how they reacted to that. The letter-writers had a great deal to say about their own histories, and it's deeply interesting.

It's a pricey book, so it might not be worth actually buying first-hand. I came across the e-book on the library catalogue while looking for something else, and I've been printing chapters out to read them on my tea-breaks.

Aren't books wonderful? So many different things can make material for a book.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

New Year's Eve 2019

In the last hours of a decade with no name
I flicked through channels, looking for some show
Where guests would put the decade in a frame
And hang it. Surely there’d be one…but no.

The fifties, sixties, seventies…had they
Expired like this, uncommented upon?
I didn't think so, even though they say
You never see the Zeitgeist till it's gone.

My father hated end-of-year reviews
Nostalgist though he was, the same as me.
A dinosaur addicted to the news.
This was the first New Year he wouldn't see.

Tonight, bizarrely, he’d be missing from
The New Year's hooly that his best friend threw
Year after year. So I’d agreed to come
Although I felt uneasy in that crew.

They sang all night and drank to beat the band
And I'd heard decades of familiar tales
About them (sometimes more than I could stand,
Weary of tracing their well-trodden trails).

All socialists, republicans, and such,
Children of Pearse and Connolly and Sands.
Their slogans (though not mine) were double Dutch
To this new Ireland of Big Tech and brands.

We’d moved to Sillogue Gardens just a bit
After my mother’s death, when the Twin Towers
Were newly fallen. Though we’d lived in it
For eighteen years, it never quite seemed ours.

Our New Year hosts had lived there all the time
I’d been alive. It was their realm. And yet
Its atmosphere was not the sad sublime
Of rebel ballads, rosy with regret.

To me, at least, the Gardens still preserved
Their nineteen-eighties vibe, all teenage pop
And roller-skates and bubble-gum. It’s where
I’d seen most of that kid’s stuff, growing up.

Who would recall the twenty-teens like that?
And what about the noughties? Just a name.
The view down twenty years was almost flat.
I strained for images and nothing came.

Well, New Year’s Eve. I took my corner spot.
The early-party awkwardness went by.
(They spoke more Irish than I thought, this lot.)
I listened to a story from some guy.

The night advanced. The rebel songs began.
The grievances of decades filled the air.
Songs lend us life beyond man’s natural span.
My father sang these songs. He wasn't there.

And as the night wore on, the party seemed
Almost a wake…the old spoke of the dead.
So few this year, where once this house had teemed
Each New Year's Eve. That's what my father said.

The rebel ballads ended, and they sung
“The Boxer” and “the day the music died”.
The decade's final hour was almost done.
We went to see the fireworks start outside.

Kisses and hugs and phone calls and bad jokes.
“Next Year in Jerusalem” my father said
Each New Year's Eve. We stood and tried to coax
Some sense of wonder. Someone went to bed.

My father, mythmaker, was now a part
Of that uncertain sure thing, history.
Covid was next. Oh, hapless human heart,
What hopes and fears you fix on memory!

Friday, March 15, 2024

Happy St. Patrick's Day!


The ideal Ireland that we would have, the Ireland that we dreamed of, would be the home of a people who valued material wealth only as a basis for right living, of a people who, satisfied with frugal comfort, devoted their leisure to the things of the spirit – a land whose countryside would be bright with cosy homesteads, whose fields and villages would be joyous with the sounds of industry, with the romping of sturdy children, the contest of athletic youths and the laughter of happy maidens, whose firesides would be forums for the wisdom of serene old age. The home, in short, of a people living the life that God desires that men should live. With the tidings that make such an Ireland possible, St. Patrick came to our ancestors fifteen hundred years ago promising happiness here no less than happiness hereafter. It was the pursuit of such an Ireland that later made our country worthy to be called the island of saints and scholars. It was the idea of such an Ireland - happy, vigorous, spiritual - that fired the imagination of our poets; that made successive generations of patriotic men give their lives to win religious and political liberty; and that will urge men in our own and future generations to die, if need be, so that these liberties may be preserved.

Eamon De Valera, St. Patrick's Day 1943

(A little in advance, but it's become a bit of a festival rather than a day, anyway...)

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Blessed Angela Salawa

Today is the feast day of Blessed Angela Salawa. I'd never heard of her before this morning and I found her story quite fascinating.

Read about her here.

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Deo Gratias!

Yesterday saw an overwhelming rejection by the Irish electorate-- or those who bothered to turn up-- of the government's attempts to remove Ireland's constitutional protections for motherhood and marriage, and to swap those terms for terms which were nebulous and indefinable.

Irish referenda are very mysterious. Why did the abortion referendum have a bigger "yes" vote than the gay marriage referendum? Why does an electorate which is so liberal on many social issues seem quite conservative when it comes to proposals such as abolishing the Seanad or lowering the age at which someone can run for President?

I've voted "no" in every single referendum in my lifetime. I've only regretted it once-- I wish I had voted "yes" to the referendum on the Good Friday Agreement. At the time I thought it was a mistake to relinquish our constitutional claim to the North. Now, I think it was necessary for the peace which followed.

I took a walk to the Dublin count centre in the RDS, close to where I live, to see if I could lap up any of the excitement from outside. But there wasn't much to see. I've always loved interviews and footage from the count centres. It's one of my life's ambitions to be present in one at some stage.

This referendum was the first time I've voted as a Southsider. I crossed the Liffey in 2019 and there was a local by-election in my constituency in that time, but I didn't change my address on the register soon enough to vote. This time I managed it just in time.

(I thought of turning the blog background pink for Laetare Sunday, but it doesn't seem worth it for one day. St. Patrick's Day is a Sunday this year, so since I rarely have desktop access at the weekend, it might be green for a few days on either side-- if I don't forget.)

Saturday, March 2, 2024

Vote No, and No

It hardly needs saying, but anyone who can should vote "No" to both referendum proposals on Thursday.

A country's Constitution is serious business. Our government (and we have had essentially the same government for decades now) seems to think it should be changed as often as a hand-towel.

Here's the statement from the Catholic bishops (good on them) and here's a video from Fr. Brendan Kilcoyne making the arguments against the proposals.

It seems most likely they will pass, given the voting record of the Irish public. But there's some hope; as recently as 2013, a proposal to abolish the Seanad (the Irish upper house of parliament) was narrowly rejected.