I was going to say that it was a ''chance-meeting'' (as we would say in Middle-earth) but it was not so - it was planned several weeks in advance, but it was enjoyable, enriching and intellectual all the same...the title of this post, for those who are interested, comes from the first chapter of Book II of The Lord of the Rings.
After a day at the Theology Library (spent reading old editions of O'Connell, periodicals of The Tablet, and perusing through old Altar Missals!) I went to Westminster Cathedral for prayers, Confession and reflection. I went to see the ''evidence'' that the old box had finally disappeared, and, to my delight, it was so; I also noticed that there were six candle-sticks lined along the ''wall'' (it's hardly an Altar rail) that divides the Sanctuary from the Nave - perhaps in preparation for a solemn something-or-other in the New Rite, perhaps to be left there indefinitely. When I turned to go, I noticed that some middle-aged man was looking at me with disdain - probably thought I was an ignorant tourist or something. I also noticed that the Lady Altar now has six candle-sticks and not just two - I wonder whats going on?
Anyway, at 5:00pm, I met Joanna Bogle of Auntie Joanna Writes, famous Catholic journalist and author. We went to a local Marks & Spencers for tea and cakes (although we both agreed that it was too hot for tea, so we had chocolate milkshakes instead). The conversation covered a range of subjects, politics, theology, liturgy, education, history, art history among other things. I felt strangely rustic and untutored in her presence, and my contributions to the discussion were chiefly through nods of agreement and a few humms and harrs; although I did make at least some positive contributions. Certainly my quotes from Tolkien went down well, especially what he wrote about the Blessed Sacrament, and the Church being driven into new catacombs (he wrote that in the 1940s!!!) I told her of my impoverished education - how most of what I know (at least that which I consider to be in any way worthy) I have in fact taught myself etc. For example, the History and Art History that I did at school and Sixth Form were awful - in fact, my mother told me, it wasn't history when she was at school! I recall very little that went beyond the Year of Our Lord 1900! I wanted to do the Angevin Empire, and the Crusades, well anything about feudal Europe at school, but I don't think that I had actually heard of the feudal world before I was 16.
This is quite scary actually - we both agreed that it was so. My education was appalling. The only language I studied at school was French (I excelled in the subject but found it boring). My uncle did six languages at school. I certainly knew more about Theology than my R.E teacher - in fact, I recall correcting her on several occasions on minor points, particularly concerning Canon Law. I did virtually NO English Literature at school except (probably because of Curriculum requirements or what-not) Shakespeare, which, like Tolkien, I ''cordially disliked.'' No Chaucer, no Pearl, no Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, no William Langland, well any great Medieval author was discarded as irrelevant, no Byron, no Hardy, nothing of any worth - just this hideous green anthology containing mediocre and rather meaningless ''poetry'' (I think the general idea is that anyone can compose poetry these days!) oh, and To Kill a Mockingbird (this was for the ''higher tier'' group too!) which was, whilst a good book, not a masterpiece and certainly not English literature. History was all Second World War (which as I said earlier was NOT history when my parents were at school). I won't elaborate the other subjects, as I'm sure you get the general gist of it.
But, compare this to J.R.R Tolkien's education. He went to King Edward's School in Birmingham (when his mother was deciding which school to send her sons to, the Catholic Grammar school, or the decent Public School, she chose wisely), where he spent most of his time doing Latin and Greek; other subjects were secondary. At school, Tolkien would be expected to translate (say) Shakespeare into Latin. Tolkien had a better knowledge of European history than I do too.
It all reminds me of what I have generally been deprived of. When I first encountered the Old Rite, my sentiments were: ''this is beautiful; why was this concealed from me, indeed, from many of us? We who might otherwise have been nourished in our Faith in a manner infinitely more deep and beautiful, and grand, than anything the New Rite can provide.'' There is still much that I need to learn about many things; but I often feel that this is stuff that I ought not to be reading about now in my early adult years - I should have been taught it all at school.
Joanna and I both agreed that there is a serious crisis in...well just about everything. Any modern approach to anything is seriously flawed.
However, as is my wont, I have departed entirely from the original intention of this post (a mere résumé of the day!); we parted ways at about 7:20pm, just in time for me to catch the train back home. I arrived late for Benediction at my parish, but Lord knows I had an eventful day, and arriving late once is not a serious sin is it. I shall do my penance for it though by tackling several tedious essays over the coming months! I have a meeting again tomorrow morning, and it is way past my bedtime, so I'm off to bed (after I read more Tolkien of course to settle me down!). Good night and God Bless.
The above image is of course of Westminster Cathedral (seen from the direction of the local M&S). It is obsolete, for if you look carefully, the stairs leading to the front door have since been reorganised (to allow easier access for disabled people...I'm saying nothing). When we were going back to the Cathedral, I said what I thought of it- that it rather reminds me of Sacré Cœur in Paris (giant wedding cake); how it is in the Byzantine style, but not really - rather apes the architectural style of the Byzantine period, and rather inimical to Western Christendom - and she said that I ought to write a thesis on it! But alas! There are many things that I muse over, and are of general interest, but I have not the time to write theses on them - even were I able. Maybe in 40 years - but who knows, maybe in 40 years the Cathedral will be the meeting place of Stonewall or some other apostate group - a sober and depressing ending to an otherwise good (if incomprehensible) blog post!