Tuesday, 30 June 2009

The Royal Houses and Princes of the Eldalië

We have seen (briefly) how the Eldar of Eldamar flourished and how with the instruction of the Valar, they became the the most wonderful of all the people of the Earth, building high towers, quarrying in the hills for the earth-gems, carving out fair havens, building fair vessels, singing many songs and writing books of lore. Incidentally, it was Rúmil the Loremaster (of the kindred of the Noldor) who first achieved the craft of fitting characters for the recording of speech. Little is said of him in The Silmarillion, but if you wish to find out more, read The Book of Lost Tales - as presented in The Silmarillion, he little resembles the eccentric philologist of Mar Vanwa Tyaliéva!

And so now it is worth having a look at the Elven Royal Houses. Since the history of The Silmarillion deals chiefly with the Noldor, it is worth beginning with them (as the other Royal Houses are dealt with in the texts as relating to them rather than as separate peoples). I shall treat the Houses of the other Elven kindreds in separate posts. Finwë was king of the Noldor. Finwë had three sons, namely Curufinwë (Fëanor), Fingolfin and Finarfin. The mother of Fëanor was Míriel Serindë. The mother of Fingolfin and Finarfin was Indis of the kindred of the Vanyar (she is said to have been related to Ingwë, High King of all the Elves, but the relationship is not clear - some texts suggest that she is his sister (The Later Quenta Silmarillion II), others that she is his sister-daughter. That she is his sister seems to me to be more consonant with the rest of the Legendarium. Fëanor had to wife Nerdanel, and she bore to him Seven Sons: Maedhros, Maglor, Celegorm, Caranthir, Curufin, and the twins Amrod and Amras. Curufin's son was Celebrimbor, the greatest smith of Eregion (and one of the forgers of the Rings of Power).

Fingolfin's children were Fingon (later King of the Noldor in the North of the World), Turgon (King of Gondolin), and a sister (youngest in the years of the Eldar than her siblings) Aradhel Ar-Feiniel, the White-lady of the Noldor. Finarfin took to wife Eärwen of Alqualondë, Olwë's daughter, of the kindred of the Teleri; and she bore to him five children: Finrod the Beloved (later Felagund, Lord of Caves), Orodreth, Angrod, Aegnor, and most famously of all, a daughter, Galadriel, most beautiful of all the House of Finwë.

Amo, Amas, Amat...

...or in my case it was Paro, Paras, Parat. I am having a day of organising old University notes and handouts. I keep the vast majority of them in old W.H Smith Narrow-ruled A4 size writing pads - and where masses of them are piled on top of eachother, they get all dog-eared and creased etc. Today, I decided to have a massive ''spring-clean'' and get rid of all the superfluous and out-of-date stuff (many of them were just odd sheets upon which I did ''doodling'' in the Library, or in some cases even in lectures; some sheets I had filled up with things like 1964+45=2009, 1892+81=1973, 1947+41=1988, 1961+27=1988 etc; some were just odd scribblings, in Latin in most cases, examples of the monumental amount of Time that I have wasted over the last three years!) I keep all of them in two old toy boxes (bright red and blue), kept from my youth, under my bed.

Anyway, I've been doing this since about Midday, and the time now is 3:20pm. Amusingly, I have come across the first ever test I did for Latin (I knew nothing whatsoever at this time). It goes (in my Latin teacher's spidery script):

TEST: FIRST CONJUGATION Present Tense (and then she wrote: ''Whose?'' - since I had not signed my name)

Conjugate ''Paro'' in the Present Tense.

I. Paro
II. Paras
III. Parat
I. Paramus
II. Paratis
III. Parant

In what order are pronouns used for Conjugations?

I. I
II. You (I wrote Thou to be pedantic)
III. He/She/It
I. We
II. You (plural)
III. They

I got 12/12 and she wrote Optime! You may think it odd that I have sentimental feelings about a test, but this was the real start of my education...Anyway, back to work!

Monday, 29 June 2009

Saints Peter & Paul...

I am diametrically opposed to the ''Ecumenical Movement'' in its current manifestation. I do not agree with services of ''ecumenical'' Vespers, I do not agree with self-styled Archbishops of Canterbury setting foot in the Sanctuary of Westminster Cathedral (whilst our separated, and more worthy, brethren the Eastern bishops are sat as dignitaries in the Nave) in their silly red choir dress, still less do I agree with inter-Communion services and things that generally make a farce of Catholic doctrine and liturgical orthopraxis. I refer readers to Pope Pius XI's Encyclical letter Mortalium Animos for a proper discourse on Ecumenism: namely, we are the True Church of Jesus Christ, extra Ecclesiam nulla salus. It's that simple. Pretending that there is an ''imperfect'' communion among self-styled Christians achieves nothing. Divisions remain, and will always remain, as this was fated to happen. Once the Protestant reformers splintered from the Church, naturally there would just ensue a gradual (or rapid, depending on how one reckons Time I expect) declension of Faith. This photo encapsulates this. But the True Church is One and She always will be. But it was also always going to be the way of the World that people preferred their own fancies to Revealed Truth, and the so-called ''Ecumenical Movement'' is certainly no tonic for that. If only heretics would abandon their obstinate arrogance and come back to Rome. But we can only pray I expect...

Anyway, today is the Feast of Sts Peter and Paul, the two great Apostles who were martyred in Rome under the Emperor Nero. I was going through my copy of Adrian Fortescue's The Early Papacy this afternoon and came across this pertinent quote (at least in relation to what I've just said):

''The whole principle of believing the teaching of the Church goes by the wayside, if we admit the possibility that the Church may consist of a group of separate communions, all teaching something different.'' (Adrian Fortescue, The Early Papacy, Chapter VI, Communion with Rome.)

As the Successor of St Peter is the ''meeting point,'' or the ultimate focus of the Church's Unity (one of the four marks of the True Church) then a post on union with Rome seemed especially relevant for this Feast. Also, since this is Singulare Ingenium, a quote from Tolkien might well conclude the post as I have now run out of ideas:

''I myself am convinced by the Petrine claims, nor looking around the world does there seem much doubt which (if Christianity is true) is the True Church, the temple of the Spirit* dying but living, corrupt but holy, self-reforming and rearising. But for me that Church of which the Pope is the acknowledged head on earth has as chief claim that it is the one that has (and still does) ever defended the Blessed Sacrament, and given It most honour, and put It (as Christ plainly intended) in the prime place. 'Feed my sheep' was His last charge to St Peter; and since His words are always first to be understood literally, I suppose them to refer primarily to the Bread of Life. It was against this that the W. European revolt (or Reformation) was really launched - 'the blasphemous fable of the Mass' - and faith/works a mere red herring.

''*Not that one should forget the wise words of Charles Williams, that it is our duty to tend the accredited and established altar, though the Holy Spirit may send the fire down somewhere else. God cannot be limited (even by His own Foundations) - of which St Paul is the first & prime example - and may use any channel for His grace. Even to love Our Lord, and certainly call Him Lord, and God, is a grace, and may bring more grace. Nonetheless, speaking institutionally and not of individual souls the channel must eventually run back into the ordained course, or run into sands and perish. Besides the Sun there may be moonlight (even bright enough to read by); but if the Sun were removed there would be no Moon to see. What would Christianity now be if the Roman Church has in fact been destroyed?'' (The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien, no. 250).

I have deliberately omitted what he wrote about the reform of St Pius X and the Council! (this letter was written in 1963) - but I expect that we can't blame him for having said such things. I am still trying to find out what he meant by ''greatest'' and ''achieve'' in terms of those and subsequent ''reforms.'' But the letter (if anyone has a copy) is well worth reading. It certainly makes interesting reading in the light of the post-Conciliar Church. Tolkien could not foresee (who could?) in 1963 what state the Church would be in 46 years on - but like he said, the Church is ''rearising.''

I have said surprisingly little about Sts Peter and Paul, in a post that is dedicated to them. Let us just bless them for their courageous Faith and pray for their intercession.

Sts Peter and Paul,
Pray for us.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Of Elvenhome

I was going to do a post on vernacular hymns in the Liturgy (a subject that is more important in terms of the sequence and fluency of the Liturgy than perhaps some people care to think) but since many of my readers are members of the parish (indeed long-standing members) I thought that this was a post better omitted. My only moan (at least the only one that I shall post about!) is that it is a novelty - and something that you can thank the Jesuits for...

Anyway, it has been a while since I posted about Middle-earth and so I shall do so now. As we have seen, the Eldar have reached the Western shores of Beleriand and the Vanyar and Noldor have indeed passed over the Sea to Valinor. The Sindar, or Eglath, have of course remained - some out of love for the starlit lands of Middle-earth, wide and wild, and yet under the Sleep of Yavanna, some because they are still in search of their lord Elwë (who was lost in the fastness of Nan Elmoth). After some time, the Teleri (those who had passed onto the coasts) in their turn were also ferried over the Sea and dwelt on the isle of Tol Eressëa.

Now when the Eldar were brought to the land of Valinor, they were welcomed to its bliss. Tolkien writes that a gap was made in the walls of the Pelóri for the purposes of allowing the Eldar to ''breathe the outer airs,'' to see the stars, and to feel the winds that blow from the Outer Lands - but he fails to account for how the Eldar passed over those mountains (raised by the Valar as a defence against Melkor - to keep him out I expect). They were not impassable - as they were not yet raised to ''sheer and dreadful heights'' as they were later, but I tend to think that the gap (called later the Calacirya, the Pass of Light) already existed - even if just from a practicle perspective. Imagine you're an Elf - you're tired after a long looooooooong journey (several thousands of miles over Middle-earth, through thick woods - even through Greenwood the Great! - across rivers, over mountains etc, and even over the Sea - even if you were ferried over on an island) and you look at more mountains, stretching north and south as far as the eye can see. I think that I would be on the point of despair by then...

But that is ''neither here nor there'' as my mother is wont to say. A small detail that means little or nothing at all to most of my readers I expect. In the Calacirya, the Eldar raised a green hill called Túna, upon which the light of the Two Trees shone on the western side, and on the east was ever in shadow - looking towards Tol Eressëa and the Bay of Eldamar. A small beautiful detail is that upon the western shores of Tol Eressëa, there bloomed the first flowers that ever were East of the Mountains of Aman. Upon the crown of Túna, the Elves (Vanyar and Noldor) built their city - Tirion the fair. The highest of it's many towers was the Tower of Ingwë (High King of all the Elves), Mindon Eldaliéva, whose silver lamp shone far out to Sea. In that great and fair city, the Vanyar and Noldor dwelt in fellowship, and the Valar gave them many things in gift (among them, an image of the White Tree, called Galathilion in the Sindarin tongue - another strange fact that is unexplained anywhere: why Sindarin and not Quenya? The Sindar never saw Galathilion (not even Elwë - that is, in those days) and it would have had a High-Elven name. My supposition is that, like the names of the Princes of the Eldalië as recorded in the Annals of Aman and The Silmarillion, the form was taken in the Sindarin tongue because it was the form that they took in Beleriand in after years. This would make sense, but it doesn't account for the absence of a Quenya form. I have looked this up in The History of Middle-earth, but can't find it anywhere - perhaps this is a small detail that Tolkien overlooked, although that is unlike him.

I have side-tracked, again! Anyway, the Eldar in Valinor grew in grace, wisdom and beauty, and received much in gift from the Valar. Indeed, they prospered in Valinor, and had they not come, their history would have been diminished. Beloved of Manwë and Varda were the Vanyar, the fair Elves. Seldom have mortal Men spoken with them. But beloved of Aulë and his people were the Noldor, the wisest of the Elves (arguably at any rate), and by their labours they enriched all of that fair kingdom. The masons of the Noldor first discovered the earth gems, and brought them forth in great and wonderful myriads; they were changeful in speech and ever they devised words more fitting for the things that they knew or imagined.

In time, the Teleri of Tol Eressëa desired to come at last to the last western shore, and so at the bidding of Ulmo, Ossë came to them and taught them the craft of ship-building. As his parting gift, he gave to them beautiful and strong-winged swans which guided the ships to Valinor. In the Bay of Eldamar, they built a haven, Alqualondë, lit with many lamps (in this labour, they had also the aid and counsel of the Noldor); and there Olwë was lord of the Teleri of Aman. The Teleri were ancestrally lovers of the Sea, and in Eldamar they became the fairest singers, and wrought the fairest ships.

This is merely a rough and clumsy sketch of that vast and wonderful history of the Eldar in the Blessed Realm over the Sea; I shall devote a second passage to a more detailed elucidation of its history and of its princes.

The above image depicts the voyage of the newly-wrought Telerin ships to Eldamar. Notice the swans. The painting is by Ted Nasmith.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Something to darken the light of day...

One thing I forgot to mention in my previous post was this. On leaving Charing Cross Road on my way back to the Station from a few bookshops, I walked past the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields. What I saw there was quite untoward - well no, that is reticent, quite horrible actually. A man was standing there dressed in a purple cassock, with a pectoral cross and all, and had a dark brown wicker basket hanging from his shoulders upon a chain. The lid to the basket was open and supported two pictures, one of Our Lord and the other of Our Lady (I didn't get a good look, as I was walking fast and my eye-sight isn't that great). But above this was a white A4 size placard with bold black writing which said: Please Receive the Body of Christ; and walking closer (not too close) I noticed that the basket was filled with hosts!! I recoiled in horror and went by the speediest way to the Station. I had not the gumption to rebuke the man, or perhaps I was too shocked.

I once spoke to a man I consider to be a rather militant atheist about matters of this sort; and he said that equally he was not in the least ''impressed'' by such callous display of mockery. He said something like ''if you're going to believe fairy-tales, at least defend your cause and don't sell it out'' - or words to that effect. Indeed, anyone with any notion of early Church history (let alone the perilously marvellous knowledge of God in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar) would find such things highly offensive. Think of St Polycarp, or of St Stephen Protomartyr - any great Martyr or Confessor for the Faith - imagine what they would think if they saw that. It makes me so angry. The Church has ever defended the Blessed Sacrament, and put It in the prime place as Our Lord intended. Perhaps this man was just a clown and making a spectacle of himself - if so, he made a rather grotesque spectacle of my Faith along with it; the faith of St Margaret Clitherow who was crushed under a door for keeping it; the faith of the Apostolic martyrs in Rome when St Peter yet walked the earth. But even if he were just a clown, such a thing can only have been done out of plain contempt for the Faith. Perhaps a few Votive Masses for the Defence of the Church are in order?

Tutoring and more days out...

...which will catch up on me one day - some nasty shock is in store I shouldn't wonder. But I am being pessimistic and that won't do - it is a beautiful day and I've had another fine day here.

I rose early and went to the University for a meeting. The meeting having ended, I returned to the Library to commence nosing through old books (if I forget my Library card next week I shall go altogether ballistic!) I made a note of some old rubrical books and liturgical commentaries that I intend to buy in the fullness of Time - some of them I had never heard of (although I knew of the authors, many of them familiar, some I knew just the name). The Martinucci (Manuale Sacrarum Caerimoniarum) I especially want to get hold of if I can; also this wonderful little old book from about 1860 called ''Ancient Devotions for Holy Communion'' - nothing like this could possibly have been produced after Vatican II - it is a beautifully traditional pious work of Art.

In the late afternoon, I went to the National Gallery. It was rather too hot and crowded to spend the time I usually spend in there, but I find it difficult not to enjoy art galleries (provided they exhibit real Art) no matter how rapidly we tour the place, or we're jostled about a bit. Imagine, you're returning to the entrance having admired old Gothic Altar-pieces and 13th century Western religious art, your mood is thoughtful, elevated above the jostling, contemplative; then you look to one side and you see an amusing satirical portrait by Quinten Massys. The mood is completely shattered in a fit of laughter (not exactly appropriate to the National Gallery!) It can't possibly have been a real portrait of course (I am not putting it on my blog either). But Art is like that, it is emotive much like the Liturgy which is the Supreme Art Form. But there are of course varying degrees, concentric circles etc; not all Art is on the same plane. The feelings are different - not obviously different in the sense of laughter or sadness, but varying degrees of the same feeling that juxtapose the highest sentiments - something completely wonderful. I get lost in the sunset of Turner's sunset over Carthage; Constable's Salisbury Cathedral, all one can think of doing is running to the Cathedral to escape the lightning and thunder! Well, these are just broad strokes, and we all affected by Art in different ways.

I shall devote the better part of the weekend to translating bits of Virgil's Eclogues, which shall be frustrating probably but fun too! Real work begins next week though...

''Many meetings'' and other things...

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!

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

A day at the Hospital and book-hunting...

I went to see my father at the hospital again today. Before I entered the Hospital grounds, I went into a nearby church to say a few prayers. I noticed that Exposition was being held there, but I then had a sneezing-fit due to hay-fever, so out of respect for the Sanctissimum and the people present (lamentably just one or two, but it was around Midday on a Tuesday so that is understandable), I departed. I brought my father some lunch from a local cafe. I was only at the hospital for about 10 minutes, and they let him go. His neck still aches (understandably), but he is quite well now. My mother drove us home, but I asked to be dropped off at a nice bookshop.

I hadn't been in this bookshop for some years, and it was nice to be there again. I was hunting for various books (none of which they had) - among them a Lewis & Short Latin Dictionary, the O'Connell, and various Tolkien books. I did however pick up an original Humphrey Carpenter Biography from 1977, and a 1974 reprint of a Second Edition of The Lord of the Rings - not in terribly good condition, but better than nothing. The 1977 biography contains a number of different photographs of Tolkien throughout his life, some of which I had never seen before (among them a photograph of him with his students and faculty at the University of Leeds in 1921) and they are logically spread throughout the book, unlike the 2002 edition in which they're all in the middle. I shall make another journey here methinks. A lot of their books are about local history, but they also had a number of Art history books which interested me - among them a biography of Michelangelo; and various old English literature books.

A friend of mine, a Church historian, has also recommended another good second-hand bookshop opposite The British Library. He told me of this some years ago when he showed me an old edition of The Aeneid. (Perhaps they have an O'Connell!) The trouble is that I am so disorganised; I am always meaning to do things, but never get round to actually doing them! However, I shall be in London on Thursday, and I shall make the effort then I think. Nice end to a beautiful day!

The above photograph is of All Saints Anglican church, seen (roughly) from the direction of this bookshop.

In need of a new old book...

I am in desperate need of a copy of J.B O'Connell's The Celebration of Mass: A Study of the Rubrics of the Roman Missal. I enjoy reading old books of ceremonies. I own a 1943 and a 2003 edition of Adrian Fortescue's The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described, and I read them regularly. Well no, actually I read the 1943 edition regularly (I have long ceased to read the modern edition, except to compare various ceremonies for the Liturgical Year), I am delighted by the diagrams, especially for Pontifical functions. But I need an O'Connell as it is indispensable. There are plenty of post-1956 available online, but these aren't what I want. I expect that I will eventually buy a modern edition for comparison too, as this is always handy - I attend, and serve, Masses according to the rubrics of '62, and in the Tridentine Rite.

The other day I was a Torch-bearer at a ''1962'' High Mass, only one Collect, Secret and Postcommunion (this was orthopraxis anyway, since the rank of the Feast was a Double of the First Class), the Celebrant did not read the lessons proper to the other Ministers, no Confiteor before the Communion of the Faithful...but turning towards the Altar expecting for the Ecce Agnus Dei, and the Celebrant shouted out ''Misereatur vestri...'' and the Indulgentiam (first time I had heard it in the Second Person Plural in this particular church too!!!) Of course, since the Deacon was not kneeling on the predella facing the Gospel side (since there was no Confiteor), the Celebrant had his back to the Sanctissimum because he was still in the middle. Even if this was liturgically peculiar, it did make me chuckle (and I expect others in the Sanctuary too).

Anyway, back to the matter at hand - the O'Connell. I need (ideally) a First Edition (1940) complete set. I have only found individual first and second volumes from 1940 and 1942 respectively, and that is no good because I can't find a third volume from those years anywhere. I have spoken to various Masters of Ceremonies and rubricists, and they all told me that they found their copies 15-20 years ago when they were cheap and readily available - one in fact told me he found his at a boot sale! Another that his was an ex-library copy. One can't even remember where he got his. Hmmmm, I wonder if this is a good sign - that interest in the Old Rite is increasing since the Motu Proprio? I still need one though - anyone have any comments or suggestions?

Monday, 22 June 2009

Prayer to St Luke...

...for the success of my father's operation. Today, he had a benign tumour removed from his neck. It had a technical name, but I can't remember it. The tumour was attached to his neck, his left arm, and his spine - and so there was a chance that he could have permanently lost the use of his left arm (had the operation gone horribly wrong). I went to see him this afternoon at the hospital, and saw him sitting on a bench in the hospital garden beside my brother. He was wearing a blue dressing gown, and had a bottle in his pocket attached to a tube in his neck, which he said was like a drain (please forgive my hopeless ignorance of this sort of stuff but it doesn't interest me in the slightest). The specialist said that he will probably be slightly numb around the back of his head and neck because of the operation, but this is the best news I have seen in a month of Mondays (as Gandalf told Butterbur at Bree!). God be praised for the skill of the doctor and the gracious intercession of St Luke!

Good Saint Luke, before you met our dear Lord and became a follower of His and a writer of His Gospel, you were a doctor. We beg you this day to bless and help and protect our doctors. Obtain for them the graces they most need to do their work well and serve God generously. Help them to be strong and gentle, prudent and charitable, understanding and self-sacrificing. Give them great skill in the care of our bodies, so that, blessed with physical strength and health, we may more faithfully perform our daily tasks. Help us all, good Saint Luke, to imitate very closely the life and virtues of our Blessed Mother Mary, about whom you wrote so beautifully, and of Him whom she bore into this world, Jesus Christ our Lord and our God, who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.
Many thanks for the prayers of all readers, God bless you all.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

''Common sense'' and Social Interaction.

I think about things all the time. Usually, however, they are things that I am not supposed to be thinking about (being a student, I ought to do more work - but since the work is tedious, that can be very laborious and depressing). Just give me a moment to collect my thoughts - after a day at church, I tend to be all over the place, as it were.

I find Asperger Syndrome a puzzling, yet fascinating, phenomenon. My father once said to me: ''Patrick, you might be able to recite the Aeneid in Latin but you can't tie your shoe-laces up.'' Does this seem so strange? Of course, I can tie my shoe-laces just as well as anyone - my mother taught me how to do that when I was little (I do, in fact, remember her instruction). This is all going to sound completely garbled, so please be patient. Of course, my parents have articulated similar pearls before - you are ''socially inept,'' or you have ''no common sense,'' or you don't ''walk in other peoples' shoes'' being three of the most common. Amusingly, a typically ''me'' incident occurred this very day at my parish. I was asked by the MC to go and fetch a set of keys from a safe in the Sacristy - and I was given specific instruction as to where they were too. And so I went, looked for the keys, and couldn't find them (or perhaps just couldn't ''see'' or ''perceive'' them). Not being able to find them, I returned to say that I couldn't find them - although the safe was locked. Explaining that I ''couldn't hit a barn door with a shovel,'' as the saying goes, the MC himself had to go to the Sacristy. He returned promptly, with the keys, saying that they were exactly where he left them. Why could I not find them? I don't know. This is a very complex question of psychology I expect.

What is ''common sense'' anyway? Does it entail being able to locate a set of keys? Or being told to write on alternate lines in Primary School, only to continue writing as usual? Or being sent to the post-box as a boy with an A4 size brown envelope, only to return to tell my parents that it wouldn't fit in the post-box, then my mother taking it from me, folding it, and giving it back and telling me to post it thus? I have read many approaches to this, from philosophical, psychological perspectives, and they all seem to fail spectacularly to explain exactly what it is - articulating fantastical theories rather than answering the question - ''beating around the bush'' as the saying goes. I always understood ''common sense'' - at least as articulated by my parents in relation to my behaviour in unfamiliar circumstances - to mean the apparent ability to take in information, process it, and act accordingly. I don't seem to have this ability - there seems to be some sort of barrier that prevents me from processing information that is commensurate to an unfamiliar situation.

Of course, in such a world that we live in, this can often have serious consequences. I remember when I was in the first year of Secondary School, my Maths teacher told me that they had no more graph paper - and so I was handed an ordinary piece of narrow-ruled paper. I spent the whole lesson with my pencil and ruler drawing small squares on it, so that my paper was the same as everyone else, and so that I could do the work. An hour later, my teacher came to me and asked: ''Patrick, what is your mother going to say when I tell her that you have been drawing squares all lesson?'' I didn't know what my mother would say - I cannot even remember what she DID say. But it is an interesting thing all the same - some aspect of ''Theory of Mind.'' Tony Attwood, a renowned expert in Asperger Syndrome, devoted a whole chapter of his excellent book The Complete Guide to Asperger's Syndrome, to this subject - it is well worth a read - although I have personal reservations about the title of the book.

People are confusing. I watch social interactions between two or more people from a distance sometimes, and am altogether perplexed by it. It is another seemingly essential aspect of the human condition in which I fail spectacularly. I watch and listen, and am ''put out.'' They seem to talk about things that I find meaningless, or the conversation is just base, or neither party seems to derive anything (that I see) beneficial or efficacious from the interaction - and yet there is laughter, and some kind of enjoyment in evidence. For example, I have watched the interactions between an impecunious young man that I know from work (in that respect, we have something at least in common!), not very bright - with a gentleman's degree from a not-very-prestigious university - and other people that I may or may not like, (one young man that seems to get on well with him I am very fond of); and am sometimes confused as to why on earth people ''like'' him. He doesn't seem to take life in general very seriously, and he seems to enjoy what I consider to be monotonous and degrading work. But I find his acceptance by other people rather confusing. I can guarantee that if I condescended to say the words that he said, to adopt the bodily postures and inclinations that he adopted, I would look ridiculous. But there seems to be more to ''social interaction'' than adopting body inclinations, and saying words. He seems to ''know'' something instinctively about other people that I don't.

But is this ''instinctive'' knowledge worth it really? As I have said, most social interactions that I have been privy to seem entirely meaningless, and were I capable of it, would render me entirely barren - almost, dare I say it, debauched - people conversing about which TV program they watched the other night, or about which distant relative has had a baby, etc. As an aside, it amused me once sitting on the train listening to an interaction between three women - one of them venturing to say that another was more ''cultured'' than another for watching Britain's Got Talent!!! My dogs are more interesting than that! But in many ways, I think that my two dogs are two of the most important individuals in my life. I talk to them often; we have our own little world together. I tell them things, and unlike people who are for the most part inadvertent, they don't give me bad advice or unwanted consolation - but instead keep an ''understanding'' silence. I have sometimes wished that they could talk - but that would indeed be rather weird! Dogs are very important and intelligent. A dog is not going to whine in Woolworths because you didn't buy it a Mars bar is it? As Audrey Hepburn (one of the 20th century's archetypal women) said of dogs:

''I think an animal, especially a dog, is possibly the purest experience you can have...no person, and few children...are as unpremeditated, as undemanding, really. They only ask to survive. They want to eat. They are totally dependant on you, and therefore completely vulnerable. And this complete vulnerability is what enables you to open your heart completely, which you rarely do to a human being.'' (Pamela Clarke Keogh, Audrey Style, p.108).

Of all people to cite in a post of this nature, Audrey Hepburn seems the least likely! However, she was a very beautiful, very intelligent and very understanding woman, whom I have always held in high esteem - ever since I first saw her when I was 4 or 5 years old in The Nun's Story! Of course, Audrey did not hold people in contempt, or thought more highly of dogs. But the relationship that she had with her dogs (she had several dogs in her life) was exemplary. But returning to the pertinent points I have raised regarding social interaction, I asked whether such ''instinctive'' knowledge of peoples' desires, feelings, thoughts etc is worth the effort. I cannot answer that question at present - for both the ''yes'' and ''no'' options have serious psychological consequences. If I say ''yes,'' then I put myself into a very uncomfortable position. I have to cope with the general chit-chat about The Jeremy Kyle Show with a grin on my face, whilst inside I am screaming for release from this labour. If I say ''no,'' then I suffer the consequences of social isolation. I shall be mute, I shall have no friends, no intellectual discussion (although sometimes I wonder if what I say warrants the label ''intellectual'' at all - I am not very good at verbal dialectic, which is, incidentally, something I have in common with J.R.R Tolkien) and no desire for it. What a bleak existence that would be.

It has often been alleged that people with Asperger Syndrome are typically solitary out of choice or conscious desire. I am not an expert in the complexities of Asperger Syndrome - since it sits uneasily upon the Autism Spectrum of Disorders, naturally the symptoms that present themselves with each individual are going to vary considerably. But I am, however, qualified to speak from a certain personal perspective. I am solitary sometimes out of necessity, sometimes because my ''oddities'' are not accepted or understood fully by neurotypical people. By necessity, I mean that state after work where I have seen enough of the general public to last me a month, and so I retreat to my room to read Tolkien. By choice sometimes for similar reasons. In the case of ''oddities,'' I think I can understand, at least I am able to scrape the periphery, as it were. Naturally, a lot of people (even the most erudite of men) are not going to know about Asperger Syndrome, and how it comes across in the people with this fascinating condition that they are privy to. To some, I may just be the ''slightly odd'' individual, with a lot of knowledge of Tolkien. Some people, however, are quite nasty about it. To some reprobate individuals (are they really that individual? - a cogent point...), this is ample opportunity to start bullying. I expect that some people with Asperger Syndrome are ''blunted'' to social cues and general interaction because of bullying - their general opinions of most people being that they are cruel and stupid (and not without reason I venture to add). Bullying is one of the most heinous affronts against the human person that I can think of, and people with Asperger Syndrome are particularly susceptible. In 1944, Hans Asperger wrote:

''Autistic children are often tormented and rejected by their class-mates simply because they are different and stand out from the crowd. Thus, in the playground or on the way to school one can often seen an autistic child at the centre of a jeering horde of little urchins. The child himself may be hitting out in blind fury or crying helplessly. In either case he is defenceless.'' (Tony Attwood, The Complete Guide to Asperger Syndrome, Chapter IV, Teasing and Bullying, p.95).

I narrated these words to a friend of mine once in an Instant Message over the Internet, and then to my surprise, I began to cry. I told him so, and he said to me: ''having often been that boy.'' I think that anyone with any notion of Original Sin, and thus the everlasting weight of human iniquity, cannot be unmoved by these words. I think that the words moved me from personal experience, but there were probably other reasons too. But anyway, I digress, social isolation is in this case not chosen by the individual with Asperger Syndrome, but is inflicted upon him by the jeering horde of urchins. He may, after this (and similar experiences) freely choose to remain isolated from other people. Can you blame him for this?

This post has gone on far beyond the original length that I had intended. To conclude (I am always useless at conclusions) I shall say that people with Asperger Syndrome can have some extraordinary and wonderful abilities and talents. But these always seem to be at a great cost, and people with the condition can have some apparent ineptitudes, or at least have great difficulty, in areas that most people take for granted. Although I am still trying to find out the best way to approach the social interaction side of things; is a ''laboratory-approach'' to social cues (''I have said something nice to that woman,'' or ''I have made an observation about that man, therefore there will be a positive reaction from him'') a good way to proceed? I personally think it can be a waste of time - imagine trying to vent all one's mental effort on appearing pleasant and normal to someone and then being unable to think of anything appropriate to say because one's concentration is entirely focused upon some other aspect. I shall perhaps await comments on this matter...

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Reflections at the End of another day...

I have just got in from work - I actually made it the whole day without a telling off for not being pedantic enough for the company! During my lunch break, I read some short Latin stories to amuse me. I tend to do ''easy'' stuff on the bus or on breaks at work, as this does not require such an effort of mind. My parish priest kindly lent me an old book of Virgil's Eclogues today, designed for the use of students without a great mastery of the language (such is me) - the difference a century makes though is that 100 years ago this book would have been used by such boys as J.R.R Tolkien, C.S Lewis or Ronald Knox at school, who would undoubtedly have found it easy - I expect that the general declension in the standard of education in previous decades would indicate that this sort of stuff is employed by Universities now...I shall certainly enjoy reading them; he advised me to do only about five lines a day, which seems reasonable.

My father is going into hospital on Monday to have a benign tumour removed from his neck, and so prayers would be greatly appreciated. His name is Kevin.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Sacred Heart of Jesus...

Happy Feast Day and Octave all!

In fraterno amplexu benedictionem Dei Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti, per intercessionem Beatae Mariae Semper Virginis, Vobis ac Vestris adprecans, me humiliter signo Vester in Corde Iesu,



My family and I watched Cast Away on DVD last night, which is one of my favourite films. It is quite ingenious, there is hardly any ''dialogue'' in the film at all, and it's funny in places too. I will not divulge the plot for those who have not seen it; I shall just say that Wilson was my favourite character...

Thursday, 18 June 2009

The Passing of the Elves into the West: Part II

The hosts of the Vanyar and Noldor are now in the fair shoreland regions of Beleriand, and the Telerin Elves are encamped along the shores of the River Gelion in East Beleriand. The Vala Oromë has now departed over the Sea to seek the counsel of the Valar - because practically, it would be impossible to lead the Eldar into the far north, where Middle-earth and Aman draw nigh together, as that region contains a narrow straight where the waters of the Ekkaia and Belegaer meet and blend, and the straight is filled with grinding hills of ice and waste - likely due to the violence of Melkor. Therefore, the Eldar are left for a while in Middle-earth.

During this time, Elwë Singollo, Lord of the Teleri, wandered into the forest of Nan Elmoth in search of Finwë his friend. Elwë was eager to return to Valinor, and he had ever urged his host to continue the Great Journey. Then on a sudden, he stopped, hearing the sound of singing and the sound of Nightingales (they are called in Quenya lomelindi, which signifies ''dusk-singers''), and he was held in awe, and forgot then all the purposes of his mind, and wandering deeper and deeper into Nan Elmoth, he was lost. And at last, coming upon an open glade, he beheld Melian the Maia, and the light of Aman was in her face. She spoke no word, but coming towards her, he took her hand, and they stood thus for long years, and the people of the Teleri who sought him, found him not. Olwë, the king's brother, then took the lordship of the Teleri.

Now Ulmo, the Lord of Waters, by the counsel of the Valar, came to the north-western shores of the Outer Lands and spoke with the Eldar. And he made music for them upon his horns of shell, the Ulumúri, wrought by Salmar, and then the Elves, who had until that time been afraid of the look and sound of the Sea, were desirous of it. And then Ulmo, with the aid of his servants, uprooted an island that stood amidst the Great Sea and brought it to the Hither Lands, and the Elves embarked upon this Isle and were ferried across the Sea. But the Teleri dwelt yet in East Beleriand and heard not the summons of Ulmo, moreover some searched yet for Elwë who was lost. When they heard of the departure of their kindred, they pressed onto the seaward regions of Beleriand and abode near the Mouths of Sirion in longing for their friends; and Ossë and Uinen, servants of Ulmo, came to them and befriended them.

The Teleri remained long by the western shores of Middle-earth, until listening to the prayers of the Vanyar and Noldor, who grieved at their long sundrance from the Teleri, Ulmo returned to the shores of the Great Lands. Then a great many of the Teleri (those that had pressed onto the coasts) embarked upon the isle and were ferried over the Sea. But those that remained, the friends of Elwë, were left behind, and were filled with sorrow. They called themselves the Eglath, the Forsaken People, and they dwelt rather in the woods and valleys than by the Sea, which reminded them of their lost kindreds. But after a time, Elwë returned with Melian (whom he took to wife) and met his people, and he had grown tall and grey. He became the Lord of Beleriand, and his people were the Sindar, the Grey-Elves, and Melian was his Queen.

Now Ossë followed the isle that was taken over the Sea, and when it reached the Bay of Eldamar, he called to the Teleri, and they were glad. Then Ulmo anchored the isle in the Sea, for he understood the minds of the Teleri, and at the great councils of the Valar, he had wished that the Quendi were left free to wander the lands of Middle-earth, and with their arts to heal the hurts of Melkor. The Isle became known as Tol Eressëa, the Lonely Isle, and there the Teleri abode as they wished, under their lord Olwë, and under the bright stars.
The above image is another of Ted Nasmith's Middle-earth inspired artwork. It is called ''The Light of Valinor on the Western Sea.'' If any reader is curious to find more Tolkien artwork, go to this link.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009


...about the Latin language! During the Summer holiday last year, my Latin teacher and I exchanged emails in Latin (well partly on my part). She would send me a story about her day, greetings etc, and I would say something along the lines of: ''Gratias tibi ago pro epistula tua, mihi delectat. Etiam mihi bene placet quod...'' etc, and I would translate what she wrote, and send it back with a story of my own in very bad Latin...! I have learned a lot in the last year, but still not as much as I would like. You would think that after three years of earnest study, I'd be more competent in the language!

I mentioned before that I own several Latin anthologies, books, short stories, fairy tales etc; sometimes they are easy to read, sometimes they are not. Certainly tackling something like Caesar or Cicero is at this time rather self-defeating. It's rather strange, because the word-form and aesthetic are all familiar, the same with cases, word-endings, they are all fine, but my vocabulary seems rather impoverished, and sometimes metre can be confusing. I often wonder if this is like a chastisement for my sins - or I am just not that good. I know many Latinists, and they all say the same thing: keep at it! Adhuc frustra! I am, however (and amidst other things) returning to my translation of (part of) St John's Gospel; so far I have only done chapters I-III.

It is nice to receive so many kind and interesting comments from readers. Blogging is an interesting thing, sed ''periculosae plenum opus aleae'' ut Flaccus scripsit (although I doubt he had blogging in mind!) Let me just wade on with my Latin now...

The above image is completely unrelated to what I have just said: it is a painting by Ted Nasmith that depicts the scene from Book II of The Lord of the Rings where Frodo and Haldir ascend the high flet of Cerin Amroth and look towards the green city of Caras Galadhon. It is not quite as I imagine it, but you can form your own image too if you like. It is one of my favourite moments in the whole book. Tolkien writes that Frodo longed to fly like a bird to rest in that green city, the place that seemed fairest in all the land, and from which all of its fairness radiated - kind of like the feeling you get when you close your eyes and you look in the direction of the Sun - you know that it is a nice day, and that the Sun is warm, but when you turn your head hither, you know that that is where the Sun is, and from that place comes all the light and all the warmth. Kind of like Our Lord, who is the Morning Sun and the Light of the World - I imagine that when the children ran to embrace Him (and were foolishly obstructed by the Disciples), Christ's embrace must have been nice, clean and warm. Although I digress, you think that when Frodo descends to the feet of Cerin Amroth, it is all over. But he looks upon Aragorn who seems to be in a trance, he utters a lovely farewell to his beloved Arwen in the Quenya tongue, and turns to Frodo and says: ''Here is the heart of Elvendom on earth, and here my heart dwells ever, unless there be a light beyond the dark roads that we still must tread, you and I. Come with me!'' This beautiful scene puts me in mind of the Psalms, particularly that verse from the Office that says: Laetatus sum in his quae dicta sunt mihi: in domum Domini ibimus!'' My feelings about regular church attendance are exactly this. I simply adore it.

Monday, 15 June 2009

The Passing of the Elves into the West: Part I

Middle-earth is now ''free'' of the shadow and menace of Melkor; although you must remember that Sauron and many of Melkor's other monsters and creatures remain in the North, albeit in hiding and in fear of the Valar. The scars of that terrible Battle of the Powers remain; mountains have been thrown down, valleys raised, seas have broken in upon the lands, and many lands have been broken; great black clouds have risen and obscure the sight of Varda's stars in the North. It was at this point that the Valar hold a council in Valinor and debate what ought to be done in the best interests of the Elves; whether they ought to abandon Middle-earth, which has no Sun, no Moon, and is therefore in perpetual twilight, or to come to the Blessed Realm and live in bliss at the feet of the Powers and under Eru. The Valar were divided over this point; for some, and of those Ulmo was the most outspoken, held that the Elves should be free, and left alone in Middle-earth, and with their arts to heal the hurts of Melkor. But others, fearing for the Elves in the gloaming and wild lands of Middle-earth, wanted them to remove to Valinor indefinately. Finally, a consensus was made, and the Elves were ordered to come to Valinor; and at this point Mandos, who until that moment had remained silent, said: ''So it is doomed.''

Oromë, therefore, returned to Middle-earth and sought for the Elves. (Rather interesting point here, that is not addressed by Tolkien, is what on earth happened to the guard about Cuiviénen!)But the Elves were filled with dread at these summons, having seen the Valar only in their wrath as they went to war. And so, Oromë chose three ambassadors from among the three kindreds of the Quendi who would go to Valinor and see for themselves; and these were Ingwë, Lord of the Vanyar, Finwë, Lord of the Noldor, and Elwë, Lord of the Teleri. On coming to the Blessed Realm, they were all filled with awe at the glory and majesty of the Valar, of their many mansions and gardens, and most of all at the beauty and radiance of the Two Trees of Valinor. And on returning to Middle-earth, they urged their peoples to hearken to the summons and abandon Middle-earth, which was for the most part dark and barren. And so began the Great Journey of the Eldar (that name was first given to the Quendi by the Vala Oromë, but has since only been used to refer to those of the Elves who embarked on the Great Journey), and the first great sundering of the Elves.

All of the Vanyar, under their lord Ingwë, went to Valinor. Most of the Noldor listened to Finwë and also embarked on that journey, but only a portion of the Teleri (but still a great host, greater than the others) passed into the West, under two lords Elwë and Olwë, most of them preferring the quiet and twilight of Middle-earth. The great host followed the Vala Oromë on his great horse Nahar. Many of the Elves on that Journey grew weary and many turned aside, out of fear of the ruins of War, or desiring to abide permanently besides many fair rivers and forests (these were all Telerin Elves). Eventually, they passed through a great forest (later called Greenwood the Great, and during Sauron's sojourn there, Mirkwood) and came to a great River (it was in fact Anduin, that River that was afterwards the great frontier of the West) and beyond that they caught sight of great mountains - the Hithaeglir, Towers of Mist, which were reared by Melkor to hinder the riding of Oromë, and many grew afraid and turned back, and were lost. The Vanyarin and Noldorin hosts passed over the River and were led by Oromë into the passes of the mountains, but the Teleri remained beside the banks of Anduin. And a certain Lenwë then led a great host of the Teleri (the people of Olwë) south down the vales of Anduin and was heard of not until many ages had passed (these Elves became known as the Nandor).

At last, the hosts of the Vanyar and Noldor scaled the Blue Mountains and came into the fair country of Beleriand; and at this point Oromë left them and departed over Sea to seek the counsel of Manwë. And a great many of the Teleri, under the lordship of Elwë, also crossed over the Misty Mountains, passed over the wide lands of Eriador and eventually came to the Blue Mountains, for Elwë wanted eagerly to return to Valinor, and he also had the friendship of Finwë, lord of the Noldor. At last, they too crossed the Blue Mountains and entered Beleriand; and set their camp by the River Gelion.

Sorry if this all seems dull or completely incomprehensible, but there is really no other way of telling it without missing out a great many important details. It would be nice, though, if someone read it! The above map is of Beleriand, the region on the north-western coast of Middle-earth in ancient days. The River Gelion is the long river that stretches from the lower regions of Ossiriand up to the March of Maedhros in the north (although at the time that the Telerin Elves made their camp at Gelion, Maedhros was not even born yet!) I hope the map makes it easier.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

The Voice of Tolkien...

For those who are interested, I have here two links where you can hear J.R.R Tolkien himself narrate part of The Lord of the Rings. These recordings were made in 1952. The first is (part of) a chapter from Book IV, ''Of Herbs & Stewed Rabbit,'' one of my favourites, and the second is Tolkien narrating Galadriel's famous lament Namárië:

Of Herbs & Stewed Rabbit.



Friday, 12 June 2009

Novena Prayer to St Anthony of Padua

I know its a bit late to start a Novena to St Anthony of Padua, but it is not quite his Feast yet, and he remains one of my favourite Saints (I shall put his image in my side-column). Particularly poignant is that this year, his Feast falls within the Octave of Corpus Christi. Also, he is also one of my Patrons. And so...

O White lily of purity, sublime example of poverty, true mirror of humility, resplendent star of sanctity. O glorious St Anthony, who didst enjoy the sweet privilege of receiving into thy arms the Infant Jesus, I beseech thee to take me under thy powerful protection. Thou in whom the power of working miracles shines forth among the other gifts of God, have pity upon me and come to my aid in this my great need.

Cleanse my heart from every disorderly affection, obtain for me a true contrition for my sins and a great love of God and of my neighbour that serving God faithfully in this life, I may come to praise, enjoy and bless Him eternally with thee in Paradise. Amen.

Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the Fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and in the hour of our death. Amen.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

A true theologian...

Auntie Joanna has picked up on this excellent quote of Pope Benedict XVI in the Faith Magazine:

"...we proclaim Jesus of Nazareth Lord and Christ, Crucified and Risen, Sovereign of time and of history, in the glad certainty that this truth coincides with the deepest expectations of the human heart..."

The Holy Father never ceases to amaze me. He is verily a theologian in the all-encompassing sense of that term. What he has just said is rather reminiscent of what Tolkien said of the Blessed Sacrament in my previous post too.

Oremus pro beatissimo Papa nostro Benedicto, ut Deus et Dominus noster, qui elegit eum in ordine episcopatus, salvum, atque incolumen custodiat Ecclesiae suae sanctae, ad regendum populum sanctum Dei.

Liturgical Musings on ''Pastoral Theology.''

My blog is over a month old now! I am pleasantly surprised that I didn't run out of things to say, that may or may not be useful to my readers, within a few days - a consolation amidst other cares and griefs.

This short ''essay'' does not aim at completeness; it is not academic or anything other than personal reflections. Its length will, I hope, give some indication of my interest in the matter. Some things that I have said may be useful, or at least quaint or interesting. I earnestly hope that someone takes the trouble to read it. I expect that many of my readers will be Catholics of a traditional mould - that is well. However, since others will be less so, I apologise in advance if you are irritated by the tone of many of my criticisms. But I am sure that we are all aggrieved by the current liturgical crisis; and so I hope this short piece provides you all with a kind of sensus fidelium, if that helps anyone at all, that is.

I have decided to follow up on my previous post about change and how it is sometimes needed, and more often than not, isn't. For change, as I have said before, is inevitable in this life whether we like or accept that, or we don't. As someone very ''peculiar'' (lets put it that way), I don't like change much. As I said in my previous post, meaningless changes (such as the priest turning his back on the East in the Liturgy) anger me; they proceed from inadvertent minds, with little or no understanding of how I see things, and what my personal needs are. That may sound selfish, but I am sure that my needs are just as agreeable as the next person's; and they are probably consonant with a lot of other people’s needs too. And changes introduced for ''pastoral'' reasons seem especially pertinent to discuss.

This aversion to change characterises my personal perception of the Sacred Liturgy of the Church. Liturgy is naturally something I take a great deal of interest in, as I am (at least I like to think that I am) a homo religiosus. It is a vast and fascinating subject, but though I have at times thought about the Liturgy, I have not studied it. I do not intend to either; that is the province of men like Dom Prosper Guéranger, and of course, the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI. I am a layman, and therefore I think it would be presumptuous and somewhat impertinent of me to delve too deeply into the province of more competent and learned men than I. Interestingly, as an aside, this is one thing that J.R.R Tolkien objected to about C.S Lewis - making a spectacle of himself as a theologian and amateur apologist! Apologetics being the province of theologians and not laymen. However, it is worth saying a few words on my part, even if they just serve to exhibit my ignorance.

I cannot quite understand the reasons for change - radical change - articulated in a so-called ''pastoral'' context. Of course, this principle applies to other aspects of the Church's life quite apart from the Liturgy (although in a sense, since the Liturgy is the source and summit of the Church's life, they can never be quite separated). For what do they mean exactly? What is ''pastoralism,'' and who decides that? So far as I can see, it is just some fantastic notion that doesn't warrant its accustomed place among the other theological disciplines within the broad spectrum of Catholic Theology. Not so much about the Shepherd’s care for the flock anymore (this has always been a pertinent point, and a very ancient one, as old as the Church herself), as I understand the term ''pastoral,'' but a kind of new philosophy with this former connotation a mere shadow or red herring. I shall try to explain.

Pastoral Theology has its origin in the Enlightenment. In an excellent article for the Pastoral Review, Fr Richard Price articulates the history of this novel discipline, and traces it to the University of Vienna in 1774. I need not tell all that here, it may suffice to mention just a few interesting points. In 1773, Pope Clement XIV dissolved the Jesuits. Before this, they had run education in Austria, and so now there was a situation where education could be ''reformed'' (I am always suspicious of that word) and so the Austrian government entrusted this to the abbot of two Benedictine monasteries - a certain Franz Stephan Rautenstrauch. He rapidly devised a completely novel programme for priests - in order to correspond, as he put it, to ''the stage of Enlightenment in which we now see ourselves.'' I will not belabour the obvious parallel with that ghastly concept aggiornamento, but it is interesting to see that in its origins Pastoral Theology is inimical to both the old Scholastic methods, and of course the Religious Life. Indeed, the discipline seems better suited to Protestantism than to the life of the Church.

And so, skipping a few centuries, we find ourselves at Vatican II and the years immediately before and after it. Following the Enlightenment ideals of understanding (it was, afterall, the age of Reason), activity (the Rationalists couldn't stand Religious life, because of its emphasis on contemplation over activity), and the modernist principles of Ecumenism (I am not strictly against Ecumenism, that is, understood to mean the genuine desire of the reunion of all sincere self-professed Christians, doctrinally and liturgically, into the One True Church of Christ) and aggiornamento (which was, as you know, explicitly condemned by Blessed Pius IX in his famous Syllabus of Modernist Errors), the likes of Bugnini - the man who dared to say that genuflections, or any traditional liturgical inclinations, were tiresome anachronisms and externals! - and his accomplices on the Consilium, began to do things that weren't in the least bit enlightened. They began to deform and dismantle the Liturgy, and drew up (quite literally) a fabricated liturgy, passing it off as the traditional Roman Rite, with a few alterations here, and a few obsolete rubrics done away with. Good grief! And I am sure that these changes were introduced and explained by enthusiastic Bishops, Priests and eager new rubricists in so condescending a manner, in tones that implied: ''we know better than you, so just get on with it; this is the new Catholicism whether you like it or not'' - kind of like my own experiences as a child, persistently telling my father that I didn't like jam sandwiches, only to be told: ''yes you do!'' Is being told what is good for me in such a way ''pastoral'' - no it isn't, it is impertinent; almost a grotesque calumny.

When I was little, my parents and grandparents told me how when they were younger, the Mass was ''all in Latin.'' Years before I knew the Old Rite, before I began to research the Second Vatican Council, I thought that the Ordinary and Propers (not that I generally experienced Propers as a child - one great stain of ''creative'' liturgy) of the Mass were merely translated into local languages for pastoral advantage. And so, decidedly bored with the New Rite (in English), I went to a Latin Mass in the New Rite at Westminster Cathedral. What difference did it make, you may be wondering? Quite honestly, none whatsoever! I was just as easily bored and perplexed by it all; the priest came out, a lonely figure, ascended the Altar (made no reverence by the way) and turned to us and began addressing the Congregation (not God, well what does He have to do with it afterall?) in a language that none of us understood. One objection to the use of Latin in the Liturgy is that it is not generally understood, being the province of Classicists and academics. But the Mass is one of the chief mysteries of our Faith. I wonder whether Mary at the foot of the Cross, or your average peasant or serf who attended Mass in the Middle-ages, fully ''understood'' the mind of God in this pouring out of His Grace into our hearts? No, of course not, and why should they? Such an understanding has nothing whatsoever to do with the Liturgy. It lusts after the Faith, trying to dominate it, which is inordinate. I remember a Scripture that says: ''At that time Jesus answered and said: I confess to thee, O Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to little ones. Yea, Father: for so hath it seemed good in thy sight.'' (St Matthew 11:25-26). Similarly, this is the correct frame of mind and heart in which we must approach the Liturgy, which comes from God and is directed back to Him - very much like Aristotle’s concept of the Prime Mover’s love which is thrown forth from him, and comes back to him. All of us, wise and unlearned, must be, in the presence of God, of the utmost reverence and humility - to be as little ones, as Christ said.

Another thing wrong with the New Rite is it's impoverished ceremony, and gross want of beauty. I think it was Hilaire Belloc who said that the Catholic Church was the world's most ''complicated'' religion. Naturally! And since the Liturgy is ordered to a supreme Good, naturally it ought to be ordered with complex ceremonies. These ceremonies reflect and contain 2000 years of devotion and piety - and only a reprobate mind would call them anachronisms, or mere ''externals'' (who knows, this attitude to ''externals'' may reflect some interior doubts about the inherent ''goodness'' of Creation on the part of the Reformers, perhaps a new form of Manichaeism or some heresy, old or new, which is inimical to the Catholic Faith). Remember that on the liturgical rites, the sacrosanct Council of Trent said that they contain ''nothing unnecessary or superfluous.''

Antipathy towards ritual, images etc is nothing new in the history of the Church. Iconoclasts, the Lollards, Protestants to name a few groups all propounded the same arguments; that the Church flies in the face of the Decalogue, that the veneration of images is idolatry, that ceremony is superstition. I can honestly say that I am even less convinced by them when articulated by men in the Vatican - who are supposed to defend the Church’s traditions, not sell them out. Images and Ritual are two necessary parts of the Catholic faith. On the subject of Beauty in the Liturgy; that is pretty self-explanatory really, and is explained by men better than I. I can really only repeat what I said in my previous post on the Veni Creator Spiritus - that Liturgy ought to of its living beauty evoke that peculiar response in us that is joy, penance, sorrow for our sins - almost as the little children that ran to embrace Christ. I refer readers to Uwe Michael Lang’s recent article in L’Osservatore Romano where he treats this very subject. Its very good. He reminds us that the ‘‘sapiential tradition of the bible acclaims God as "the very author of beauty" (Wisdom 13:3), glorifying him for the greatness and beauty of the works of creation.''

The changes brought about in the Liturgy by the Modernists, with fierce impetuosity, during the 1950s and 1960s, seems to me to betray the very principles of Pastoral Theology. For I expect that the question of how to be a pastor to one’s flock, particularly pertinent for a parish priest, is as old as the hills. Indeed, it probably reflects (however dimly, depending upon the priest) the very words of Our Lord Himself as recorded in the Gospel of St John: ''I am the good shepherd: and I know mine, and mine know me.'' (St John 10:14). Now, I always understood knowledge of Our Lord in a sacramental and liturgical sense. We can only know God through His works, and the chief of His works as manifest in any (decent) church is the Sacred Liturgy. Now, the voice of God as It is heard in the Liturgy seems to me to have been muffled by puffed up liberals in their drastic re-designing of the Designs of the Creator, the supreme Author of Liturgy. The Liturgy, which is the greatest treasure of the Church, has lost all familiarity. These are very complex questions of pastoral needs, but my own needs seem inextricably linked up with familiarity. A Proper Mass in the Old Rite, where the texts have significance and meaning for the liturgical season, would seem to me to be far more ''impressive'' (and pastoral) than yet one more extempore prayer-service, which is called audaciously ''liturgy,'' with more folk-choirs and rather meaningless Scripture lessons thrown in, where a ''parish council'' (yet more grotesque reflections of that tendency, all too easy to find these days, to treat the Church as in someway subject to political trends) decides: ''oh we haven’t had Colours of Day for a while, I think we’ll have that at the Offertory. Oh and Father, do make sure the girls tie back their hair this week, the Communion wine had one floating in it last week.'' I shudder to write things like that, but these things do happen, and are more widespread yet than the venerable Old Rite. Of course, such churches are completely inappropriate and make a farce of the Liturgy.

And it is all quite criminal too. For Bugnini’s (apparent) reasons for liturgical changes, aggiornamento, pastoral needs, and paradoxically, to return the Liturgy to the ''noble simplicity'' of the Fathers (as if this is a guarantee of value, as Tolkien said at the time of the Council; and the Novus Ordo is sufficient evidence to show that Bugnini knew nothing whatsoever about the Fathers, liturgically or otherwise), then making any criticism of the New Rite seems unjust and unreasonable. It is quite genius, one would almost say, devilish. For criticism of the New Rite often comes across as an ad hominem attack on Bugnini himself, or worse, an attack on the Church, or the Mass. But these apparent reasons were stinking red herrings. Bugnini himself admits that it was his intention, in his conquest of the Catholic Church, to sap from the Liturgy anything that was a ''stumbling block'' to Protestants. Why should we moderate our beliefs to suit them? (That is assuming such an attitude to Liturgy were legitimate in the first place!) And he executed this foul design ingeniously. Virtually everything in the New Rite smacks of ambiguity. The Liturgy of the West has become a rather piteous and shadowy hodgepodge of half-remembered traditions and mutilated prayers, where once it was venerable and wonderful. The New Rite has certainly assumed a somewhat Protestant character. What was once reverenced and defended by the Church’s beloved Confessors and Martyrs is now scoffed at by puffed up liberals - the article (''Beyond Language'') published in The Tablet on the Old Rite on the publication of Summorum Pontificum is sufficient to show this.

It has long been alleged that Annibale Bugnini was a Freemason. Now, whether you believe this or not is up to you - I do, as did celebrated author Michael Davies; but what is sad is that the Liturgy has been deformed beyond all recognition largely because of him - he was, even if he was not a Freemason, a rather disgraceful and dubious man. Isn’t it ironic though, that the man whom Modernists champion as a great pioneer of pastoral liturgy spent virtually no time at all in his life tending to the needs of any flock! It is highly unlikely that Pastoral Theology will be done away with - at least any time soon. However, we can take the questions posed by this novel discipline - at least the only one that warrants serious consideration, namely, how to be a good pastor to the flock - and gear it towards liturgical catechetics. How is it best to integrate the misguided laity (and in many cases, clergy!) into the riches of the Church's old liturgical tradition? How can we accustom the laity to the use of the Latin language? And many others beside.

I have spent some days writing this, and I am now somewhat barren of things to say; and so I shall end with two pertinent Scripture quotations: ''Beware lest any man cheat you by philosophy and vain deceit: according to the tradition of men according to the elements of the world and not according to Christ.'' (Colossians 2:8); and ''Therefore, brethren, stand fast: and hold the traditions, which you have learned, whether by word or by our epistle.''

Thursday, 11 June 2009

J.R.R Tolkien on the Blessed Sacrament

Today is the Feast of Corpus Christi, the greatest gift of Almighty God to His Church. It took me ages to find this first passage in Tolkien. I had intended to put it up with other stuff, but until this very moment, by a special Grace of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I haven't been able to find it! Tolkien's personal piety was simple, Confession before Mass, Mass everyday (until the unfortunate changes of the 1960s, when Mass attendance became a ''bitter trial'' to use the expression of Evelyn Waugh), and Rosary before bed. The sole ultimate focus of his devotion was the Blessed Sacrament. I produce here the conclusion of a very moving letter he wrote to his son Michael in 1941:

''Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament.....There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves upon earth, and more than that: Death: by the divine paradox, that which ends life, and demands the surrender of all, and yet by the taste (or foretaste) of which alone can what you seek in your earthly relationships (love, faithfulness, joy) be maintained, or take on that complexion of reality, of eternal endurance, which every man's heart desires.'' (The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien, no. 43).

In another moving letter, written 22 years later to the same son, Tolkien writes:

''But I fell in love with the Blessed Sacrament from the beginning - and by the mercy of God never have fallen out again: but alas! I indeed did not live up to it...Out of wickedness and sloth I almost ceased to practice my religion - especially at Leeds, and at 22 Northmoor Road. Not for me the Hound of Heaven, but the never-ceasing silent appeal of Tabernacle, and the sense of starving hunger. I regret those days bitterly (and suffer for them with such patience as I can be given); most of all because I failed as a father. Now I pray for you all, unceasingly, that the Healer (the Hælend as the Saviour was usually called in Old English) shall heal my defects, and that none of you shall ever cease to cry Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.'' (Ibid. no. 250).

Have a solemn and blessed Feast and Octave of Corpus Christi all readers...and pray for me, I am sorely in need of it...
The above image is of Our Lady with the Sanctissimum; I thought the customary picture of an Ostensorium would be used by just about everyone else. Also, I was told by my parish priest, that Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament began as a Marian devotion.

Another example of post-Conciliar Iconoclasm...

When my grandparents were on Pilgrimage in Spain in the early 1970s, they came to a certain church. The parish priest was carrying a lovely and unique Crucifix - an image of a miracle-working Crucifix in another church - and my grandmother asked what he was doing with it. The priest told her that he was going to throw it away because it reminded parishioners too much of the Passion of Christ and did not focus upon His Resurrection. And so, my grandfather suggested that instead of throwing it away, they take it home with them. Surprisingly, the priest acquiesced and it hung near the front door of my grandparent's house until they retired and moved back to Ireland. That is when they left it for me. Naturally, I fell in love with it when I first laid eyes upon it.

It is rather shameful that such a beautiful dimension of Catholic piety as sorrowful contemplation upon Our Lord's Passion has been largely discarded since Vatican II. But here it is, all these years later. This Crucifix was solemnly blessed at my parish church on the Feast of the Invention of the Holy Cross.

The Great Battle of the Powers

I have not posted about The Silmarillion of late, so it is about time to do so. They are quite easy to write I suppose, its just that they take a while and I am not sure of how familiar my readers are with the text, if at all. I wouldn't want to be giving the plot away! That may or may not be too late by now though...

Anyway, the stage we are at now is this: the Vala Oromë had dwelt for a short while at Cuiviénen, the Waters of Awakening, with the ancient kindreds of the Elves, but must needs return into the West to bring the news to the other Valar. He does so. On hearing the news, the Valar rejoice, but are unquiet amid their joy because of the menace of Melkor who is still dwelling in the North of Middle-earth. And so the Valar and the Maiar hold a great council together, and thither came even Ulmo from the Outer Seas. At this point, Oromë returns to Middle-earth to guard the Elves. The Elder King Manwë then seeks the counsel of God upon the mountain of Taniquetil, and coming back down to Valinor, he summons the Valar to the Ring of Doom where he says: ''This is the counsel of Ilúvatar in my heart; that we should take up again the mastery of Arda, at whatsoever cost, and deliver the Quendi from the shadow of Melkor.''

And so, the Valar prepare to make war once again upon the Diobolus Melkor, albeit with reluctance - and even without real hope of victory (''at whatsoever cost''). You must remember that in the most primeval wars for the mastery of Arda, Melkor could single-handedly drive all the Valar into retreat. Therefore, the war upon Melkor undertaken by the Valar was rather in the hope of distracting his attention away from Cuiviénen, where the vulnerable Children of Ilúvatar yet dwelt. And so, they came from the West in force of war and met the onset of Melkor in the North-west of Middle-earth. The Valar find that they can deal with Melkor's agents piecemeal, and their first victory was swift, and so the servants of Melkor fled before their wrath to Utumno. The Valar then pass over Middle-earth and set a guard about Cuiviénen. Thereafter, the Elves knew nothing of the great Battle of the Powers, except that the earth groaned and shook beneath them, the waters of the sea were moved, and far away to the North there were lights as of many fires. Tolkien writes that:

''Long and grievous was the siege of Utumno, and many battles were fought before its gates of which naught but the rumour is known to the Elves. In that time the shape of Middle-earth was changed, and the Great Sea that sundered it from Aman grew wide and deep; and it broke in upon the coasts and made a deep gulf to the southward. Many lesser bays were made between the Great Gulf and Helcaraxë far to the north, where Middle-earth and Aman came nigh together. Of these the Bay of Balar was the chief; and into it the mighty river Sirion flowed down from the new-raised highlands northwards: Dorthonion, and the mountains about Hithlum. The lands of the far north were all made desolate in those days; for there Utumno was delved exceeding deep, and its pits were filled with fires and with great hosts of the servants of Melkor.'' (The Silmarillion, Chapter III, Of the Coming of the Elves and the Captivity of Melkor, p. 48).

The scale of this war must have been huge; even if it was localised to the North of Middle-earth. You know, I often find the location of the primeval dwelling place of the Dark Lord, in the North, a source of significance, and sometimes amusement. At Mass, of course, the Deacon chants the Gospel in the direction of the north (even if not strictly the geographically correct compass direction) because, as the Scriptures say: ''And the Lord said to me: From the north shall an evil break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land.'' (Jeremias 1:14). I wonder if Tolkien had this in mind when he wrote all this? I should know this of course; that is what my parish MC would say anyway! However, the only referrence to the North in relation to the Diobolus that I know in Tolkien is in a (very funny) letter he wrote to his publisher Allen & Unwin on 23rd February 1961, in which he said: ''The placing of Mordor in the east was due to simple narrative and geographical necessity, within my 'mythology.' The original stronghold of Evil was (as traditionally) in the North...'' (The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien, no. 229). Perhaps someone more learned than I can illumine me. At least I should stop thinking about dark lords etc when we line up in the Sanctuary to go and convert the heathen barbarians in the North with the Word of God!

Anyway, back to the subject! After the long and arduous battles, sieges etc before the gates of Hell, the Valar at last break them down and unroof the many pits of Utumno, and Melkor flees into the deepest dungeons to take refuge. This is a rather cogent point; Melkor, who once drove the Valar into retreat, is in his turn driven into retreat. The Valar perceive (and Melkor himself perceives this, from a personal perspective) that Melkor does not himself have sufficient personal force to shield himself from direct assault. The reasons for this are complex and beyond the scope of this post - I shall perhaps do another post dedicated to the concept of ''the Morgoth'' - Tolkien treats this subject in The History of Middle-earth. And so, the account given in The Silmarillion is that Tulkas ''stood forth as champion of the Valar and wrestled with him, and cast him upon his face; and he was bound with the chain Angainor that Aulë had wrought, and was led captive; and the world had peace for a long age.'' And Melkor was brought before Manwë in the Ring of Doom, and he sued for pardon, but his prayer was denied and he was locked away in the fastness of Mandos, where he was doomed to abide for three ages long. Ominously, Sauron was not found by the Valar, nor a great many of the Balrogs, and they waited in the dark pits of Angband that the Valar had not found, awaiting the return of their lord...

I can't find any ''Tolkien art'' that accurately illustrates the Battle of the Valar, so I'll leave that to your imagination.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Why I hate my job...

I don't know if anyone has noticed, but whenever I mention my job, I always mention it in a snide, ''I am above this'' sort of way. Well, there is little to wonder about that. It is quite simply degrading and demeaning beyond my worst nightmare. It gets a bit much when you start to dread going to work on Wednesday on a Monday evening...I was feeling rather more sour about it when I was there on Saturday. I had overslept, and therefore missed the special Ember Day at my parish, and when I got there eventually, I was told off by two people for not abiding by their rather pointless and pedantic rules, deliberately. I am not the only one who hates it there though, one man I used to work with in my previous job was transferred there too, and while he ended up with the more respectable job, he says there is little difference. Some people like it there though - but they tend to be the rather rude people in Personnel and Management, the pedantic ones who enforce the silly rules. Kind of like the Sheriffs in the Shire when the Hobbits came back, telling them all off because they had broken some rule. Would that like Pippin, I could rip them all down. Sometimes I wish the place would blow up or something.

Of course, it doesn't do to complain about one's job in this ''economic climate'' - my mother told me so. ''You ought to think yourself lucky that you have a job'' - well, that is all very well and good, but thats a rather veiled way of saying ''you have no right to complain about it.'' My difficulty lies in the fact that I am an academic under-achiever. When (or if) I get my degree(s), I may be so numbed by my rather monotonous job that I may be of little use to anyone. God help me!

Monday, 8 June 2009


I attended a Missa Cantata this evening and was Master of Ceremonies. I kind of think that ''MCing'' (there I've just coined a new verb!) is so inextricably linked up with personal judgement under pressure, thorough knowledge of the Rubrics, and anticipation that I am less than competent. At least, however, I remembered to lift the chasuble at the Elevation of the Sacred Host! (even if that Rubric is rather obsolete...)

Sunday, 7 June 2009

A peculiar story...

This is a sort of impromptu, ''stop-gap'' post - put up purely for the sake of giving me time to work on more elaborate stuff. But anyway, this story is the first part of Chapter I of a rather academic book of psychology that I have. It is quite a ''nice'' (for want of a synonym) story, but I'll let you decide that. Often, stories like these move me, even if they aren't intented to by the author.

''The door bell rang, heralding the arrival of another guest for Alicia's birthday party. Her mother opened the door and looked down to see Jack, the last guest to arrive. It was her daughter's ninth birthday and the invitation list had been for ten girls and one boy. Alicia's mother had been surprised at this inclusion, thinking that girls her daughter's age usually considered boys to be smelly and stupid, and not worthy of an invitation to a girl's birthday party. But Alicia had said that Jack was different. His family had recently moved to Birmingham and Jack had been in her class for only a few weeks. Although he tried to join in with the other children, he hadn't made any friends. The other boys teased him and wouldn't let him join in any of their games. Last week he had sat next to Alicia while she was eating her lunch, and as she listened to him, she thought he was a kind and lonely boy who seemed bewildered by the noise and hectic activity of the playground. He looked cute...and he knew so much about so many things. Her heart went out to him and, despite the perplexed looks of her friends when she said he was invited to her party, she was determined he should come.

''And here he was, a solitary figure clutching a birthday card and present which he immediately gave to Alicia's mother. She noticed he had written Alicia's name on the envelope, but the writing was strangely illegible for an eight-year-old. 'You must be Jack,' she said and he simply replied with a blank face, 'Yes.' She smiled at him, and was about to suggest that he went into the garden to join Alicia and her friends when he said, 'Alicia's birthday present is one of those special dolls that my mum says every girl wants, and she chose it, but what I really wanted to get her was some batteries. Do you like batteries? I do, I have a hundred and ninety-seven batteries. Batteries are really useful. What batteries do you have in your remote controllers?' Without waiting for a reply, he continued, 'I have a special battery from Russia. My dad's an engineer and he was working on an oil pipeline in Russia and he came home with six triple-A batteries for me with Russian writing on them. They are my favourite. When I go to bed I like to look at my box of batteries and sort them in alphabetical order before I go to sleep. I always hold one of my Russian batteries as I fall asleep. My mum says I should hug my teddy bear but I prefer a battery. How many batteries do you have?'

''She replied, 'Well, I don't know, but we must have quite a few...,' and felt unsure what to say next. Her daughter was a very gentle, caring and maternal girl and she could understand why she had 'adopted' this strange little boy as one of her friends. Jack continued to provide a monologue on batteries, how they are made and what to do with them when the power is exhausted. Alicia's mother felt exhausted too, listening to a lecture that lasted about ten minutes. Despite her subtle signals of needing to be somewhere else, and eventually saying, 'I must go and get the party food ready,' he continued to talk, following her into the kitchen. She noticed that when he talked, he rarely looked at her and his vocabulary was very unusual for an eight-year-old boy. It was more like listening to an adult than a child, and he spoke very eloquently, although he didn't seem to want to listen.

''Eventually she said, 'Jack, you must go into the garden to say hi to Alicia and you must go now.' Her facial expression clearly indicated there was no alternative. He gazed at her face for a few seconds, as if trying to read the expression, and then off he went. She looked out of the kitchen window and watched him run across the garden towards Alicia. As he ran through a group of four girls, she noticed one of them deliberately put out her foot to trip him up. As he fell awkwardly to the ground, the girls all laughed. But Alicia had seen what happened and went over to help him get to his feet.'' (Tony Attwood, The Complete Guide to Asperger's Syndrome, Chapter I What is Asperger's Syndrome?, pp11-12).

I sincerely hope those girls were asked to leave...The above photograph is of Hans Asperger himself, with one of his ''little-professors.''