Saturday 31 August 2019

We wear short-shorts...! (No we don't.)

I read a post on Facebook that no traditionalist friend of the writers's had shared this story, so I will share it.

To sum up: a mother brought her daughters to an Adoration Chapel one night. One of the daughters, in her early teens, was wearing short denim shorts. A woman in her 50s who often keeps watch in the Adoration Chapel approached the girl in short-shorts, draped her own coat over the girl's legs, indicated the tabernacle and said "Cover up--this is Jesus we're talking about here."

The girl must be a nice girl, for instead of saying "F U grandma," she cried tears of mortification. And her mother must be a kind woman, for instead of hissing at the old bat, she just took her daughters away.

My very first thought, alas, was to wonder why a teenage girl was wearing short-shorts at all. However, my next thought was that it is utterly utterly outrageous for anyone to approach a complete stranger and place her dirty clothes upon them. Doing this while she is praying is even more outrageous. Doing this in front of  her mother just compounds the seriousness of the offence.

What women should wear in church, or indeed in public, after we have hit puberty is an issue different from appropriate comportment in church. The best time to make a remark about anyone's clothing at church is when creating a sign reading "Please come in no matter what you are wearing: feel free to take a shawl from the box."

As a matter of fact, you can't get into St. Peter's Basilica in short shorts, no matter if you are a man or a woman. Many people buy outrageously priced scarves from vendors, drape them around their naked arms or legs, and toddle in unabashed.

But again I am wronging concentrating on the short-shorts (but human beings do, alas, that's how we are). The main point is: don't be a nasty old bat.

Thursday 29 August 2019

What Trads are Like

I have a bad cold, so here I am at home instead of going from one gym class to the next. As I don't feel like moving from this chair, I have perused Twitter, and I see that Dawn Eden made a Twitter attack on Catholics who go to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (aka Trads). Dr Shaw of the Latin Mass Society has responded.

I'm saddened by Dawn's attack on Trads in part because I met Dawn years ago at the Edith Stein Project at Notre Dame, and I was impressed by her energy and friendliness. I was glad to hear that she had thrown herself into theological studies and was impressed when she got her doctorate. As she became an authority on St. John Paul II's Theology of the Body, I was surprised that she has remained intensely loyal to Pope Francis. Naturally, it is normal for Catholics to be pugnacious in the defence of our pope, but normal does not describe this papacy.    

Anyway, Dawn has retweeted a Patheos blogger's belief that anti-Semitism has found a "cozy home" among Trads, and Dr Shaw has pointed out that this is libel. And I too think it is libel.

I have heard more anti-Semitic remarks from Catholics who go to the Ordinary Form (5) than I have from Catholics who prefer the Extraordinary Form (2), and they have been so few and far between that I remember them all. Anti-Jewish remarks are (or were) such a taboo where I come from that every one burns itself on my brain.

People who go to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass are not really a sub-culture, you know. We are just Catholics who go to the Extraordinary From of the Mass. There are sub-cultures among us, of course. There are, for example, young men whose guide to life is Brideshead Revisited. Then there are young homeschooling families. There are the wheelchair-bound and their families. There are also elderly ladies whose lives are given over to good works.

In Britain there are librarians and solicitors and carpenters and the occasional aristocrat. There are people who go to the EF every day, and there are those who go only on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation. There are people who are very interested in every detail of a Missa Cantata, and there are those who prefer a nice quiet Low Mass. There are people who go to FSSP Masses exclusively, and people who go to SSPX Masses exclusively, and people who will daringly go to both.

One suggestion about people who go to the EF that I am willing to entertain is that there is a noticeable number of ideological non-conformists among them. First of all, there are fewer of us, so non-conformists are more noticeable. Second, going to the EF at all is a non-conformist activity. If you are the kind of person who worries about what people think of you, you're not going to go to the Extraordinary Form--unless, of course, your friends and family all do.

Anti-Semitism does not strike me as a pressing issue among Catholics who go to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. What is a pressing issue is Catholics who go to the Novus Ordo being nasty about and to Catholics who go to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. Since I've already mentioned it on Twitter, I will repeat that a local EF-goer was recently refused a cup of water by a local NO-goer who was standing at the sink of the parish hall.

"You can have a cup of water after your Mass," she apparently said.

Dear heavens. I have heard some stories about local anti-EF feeling, but really takes the cake.

It may be true that individual people who prefer the Extraordinary Form make personal remarks about people because they prefer the Ordinary Form, but I haven't heard any. (EF people occasionally do complain about the OF itself, e.g. "a fabrication, a banal product of the moment".)

But I have heard people who prefer the Ordinary Form make snide remarks about people who attend the Extraordinary Form on more than one occasion--including in church, after the OF Mass, blissfully unconcerned about making detractions before the Blessed Sacrament.

My theory is that Catholic tribalism doesn't know what to do with itself now that age-old resentment of Protestants is totally unacceptable and banned, and so those Catholics who feel it most keenly vent it on Catholics who won't just get with the liturgical program.  However, that strikes me as spiritually destructive, and I think I will post that deep thought to Twitter.

Tuesday 27 August 2019

Arrested Senescence

I'm home early from the gym, so we can have a chat before I go back to work. I do need a rest; I've been up since 5:45 AM.

So I don't want to have a go at the National Health Service, but as I was holding "plank" for a goodly while I thought back to the young podiatrist who counselled me about my bunions. I had been rather keen on Pilates and annoyed that it suddenly hurt to hold plank, to say nothing of being able to stand on my toes.*

"I wish I had an excuse not to do plank," said the bright-eyed young podiatrist and comforted me that I could still wear "naughty shoes" once in awhile.

She went on such great length about "naughty shoes" that I wondered it if my working-class postal code had something to do with it. (A friend and I once compared our differing experiences with the NHS, and she suggested that my problem getting decent fertility care might have been my postal code. She has a middle-class postal code.)

It didn't occur to the podiatrist to tell me that bunions did not mean a permanent end to plank, but perhaps she didn't know. At any rate, I can hold plank and do anything else requested of me in barre class. My feet and ankles are now stronger than ever and, perhaps as a result, my bunions are troubling me a lot less. Maybe I will even try on a pair of naughty shoes.

I was up at 5:45 AM because I had a spin (cycle) class before barre, and although it is only Tuesday, I am just 15 minutes short of the NHS-advised 150 minutes of cardio a week.

Another benefit of all this exercise is, of course, that I am less stressed out, and this is indeed still my primary preoccupation. My job is stressful, let's be honest, and yesterday I woke up having dreamt that the USA was waging a literal (i.e. shooting) civil war over marriage and the family, and someone had attempted to assassinate me. This morning I woke up having dreamt about accompanying Cardinal Burke around a Canadian city for some reason. I checked my Facebook and found a plaintive message from a 60+ victim of childhood clerical beatings asking "So what if Pell really did it?"

Stress is a mindkiller, and I avoid overdosing as much as possible. B.A. and I are going to be in Italy in October--not sure how long yet--so I have put aside "Daily Polish Stories" for daily Italian drill. When our Polish household help arrived yesterday, I explained (in Polish) that unfortunately I couldn't think in Polish because I have been studying Italian very hard for this trip. Then I made us a pot of coffee, sat down, asked about her new puppy, and then told her all about B.A.'s brush with death, right up to his three days of repeating "Her Immaculate Heart will triumph."

Perhaps because I have discussed B.A.'s brush with death several times in Polish,  I was rather more intelligible about that than about the new puppy. I am not sure what "Jej niepokalane serce zatriumfuje"is in Italian because my Italian tutor does not seem to be Catholic, whereas my Polish household help very much enjoyed hearing about B.A.'s delirious piety and said it gave her goosebumps.

And that is all my news except that the Council (local government) will pick up an awful old cabinet that was in the flat when we bought it and our spare room bed next week, at which point the dining-room/office/guest-room will be even more minimalist and certainly nicer.

*This said "eyes" for hours. I meant "toes"! Toes!

Monday 19 August 2019

Code-switching is the worst.

The problem with trying to improve two languages simultaneously is code-switching. Code-switching occurs when you switch from one language to another. It is relatively easy for me to switch from English to Polish--unless I have been furiously studying Italian for two hours.

This was the sad situation I was in on Sunday when a parishioner introduced me to his girlfriend,  visiting from Poland, and I said "Miło mi poznać" ("Pleased to meet you") and then totally blanked out. I even forgot my "magic word" for such occasions, which is "Spokojnie" ("Be calm").

Today I studied Italian all the way to exercise class, but then listened to Polish lessons on my phone all the way home because my Polish-speaking help was coming, and I didn't want another brain-freeze. Alas, the help messaged to say she is sick today, so I might have spent another bus ride working on Italian, but there it is.

One of my sisters is fluent in both French and Spanish and is now learning Italian, so I must find out how she manages. I suspect she has an unfair genetic anomaly, though. Possibly the left side of her brain talks to the right lickety-split.

Saturday 17 August 2019

The Battle of the Falaise Pocket

The 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Falaise Pocket began earlier this week and continues into next. Benedict Ambrose and I took the bus to Penicuik Town Hall to see a small exhibit on the subject.

It is of local interest because Polish soldiers who had been stationed in Scotland were sent to Normandy with the Canadian Army, and they were led by General Maczek into Operation Totalize and the Battle of the Falaise Pocket. It is of interest to me because two of my Polish friends had fathers at that battle---and so did my mother. The Canadian Army was, after all, mostly made up of Canadians.

All three men were, therefore, accidentally bombed by the Americans around the 8th of August, 1944. R's dad and my grandpa were okay, but K's dad was very badly wounded (65 men were killed)   and spent ten years in British military hospitals afterwards.*

The exhibition is small, made up entirely of placards put up on the walls around a multi-purpose room currently serving as a tea shop, to raise funds for the Polish-made Map of Scotland down in the Borders. There has been a significant Polish community in Scotland since 1941, and don't you forget it. I can't forget it because I get Facebook messages from various Scottish-Polish friendship groups, which heavily emphasise the war generation, especially Wojtek the Bear.

Wojtek, incidentally, was not at the Battle of the Falaise Pocket. I believe he helped win the Battle of Montecassino with Polish Pretend Son's Great-Grandfather and the leatherworker on Lauriston Place.

That was the adventure of the day. Otherwise the day was spent in:

7:15 AM Accepting that I had slept in and making coffee.
8:15 AM Watching a TV interview with Jakub Baryła, whom I hope to interview. (Niech Pan pisze do mnie!)
9:15 AM Polish conversation tutorial with my tutor.
10:15 AM Studying Italian in my chair.
1:15  PM Eating brunch in old-fashioned caff (i.e. greasy spoon) in Penicuik.
2:15 PM Buying groceries in Penicuik Lidl.
3:15 PM Studying Italian on the bus.
4:15 PM Ordering a sofa bed from home.
5:15 PM Obeying orders in gym class.
6:15 PM Studying Italian on the bus again.
7:15 PM Taking B.A.'s photo for his new passport.
8:15 PM Contemplating Facebook.

Sinead asked the other day how I get all the reading in. I am not actually getting that much reading in this year because I have thrown myself into exercise instead. However, I do get a goodly amount of studying done because of all the bus trips.

*Apologies to American readers that this tragic friendly fire episode is what R, K, and I best remember about Operation Totalize. Naturally our ancestors were also endangered by the Germans.

Thursday 8 August 2019

Embracing my Novus Ordo Past

Every once in a while I read an article by a new convert to Tradition who is seething with fury because he or she has been to a Traditional Latin Mass and now feels like "I was ROBBED!" Frankly, I don't think this is the best response to the sacred liturgy myself. I'd go with joy and gratitude although really my first response to the Edinburgh TLM was confusion, disorientation and awe.

Having been trained by the Novus Ordo to ponder the People of God, I was very aware of the People of God all around me, and they were all concentrating like mad on the altar. Thus, I was awed by the congregation more than by the liturgy, but that was my first time (as an adult) at the TLM, and perhaps that's to be expected. The congregation's attention was pointing to the central reality, just as Our Lady points to Baby Jesus in paintings.

I was really happy to have found the TLM when I did because I was so tired of ordinary Sunday liturgies that I had taken up going to the local German Mass. This was a result of my highfaluting theological education, which involved an unusual amount of Aquinas. Inter alia I intuited somehow that the language used at Mass should not be the language of ordinary life, and German fit the bill. (My German was much better then.) I had also become very precious about homilies, both in terms of intellectual rigour and of orthodoxy, and the great thing about German homilies was that if they were dumb or heterodox, my German wasn't good enough to know. The only phrase I remember from a Toronto German homily is "Grandma's apple pie." He was a lovely priest.

The majority of people who attended the German Mass 11 years ago were elderly and devout. They prayed in reverent silence, but their choir's pre-War voices were no longer in good singing order. My brother Nulli, who has perfect pitch, would have been in agony. Probably B.A. would have been too. Despite all attempts, I am not particularly musical, but even I was a bit ...

Okay, enough about the German Mass. What I want to do is express gratitude for the Novus Ordo-based catechesis of my childhood and teenage years because I am tired of being ashamed of it.

Benedict Ambrose is a convert from Scottish Episcopalianism and was an old-fashioned Anglican choir boy, so naturally he drank Coverdale's Psalms like Iron Bru and knows the Book of Common Prayer backwards and forwards and, no doubt, inside out.  The Anglican choral and liturgical tradition is objectively beautiful, and so he is very fortunate to have it all still coursing through his veins.

I used to feel very embarrassed before Anglicans, especially Anglican suitors flirting with Catholicism in an attempt to please me, because in my golden youth I knew just enough about music and art to know that contemporary Catholic music,  prayers, art and architecture were terrible compared to the High Anglican tradition which, I eventually realised, was a homage to mediaeval Catholicism.

However, the most embarrassing thing of all--until now--is that all that late 20th century music, prayer and art is actually part of me.  If ever I am languishing in prison for 'misgendering' or some other thought crime, I will not be meditating on the Psalms in Latin or the Coverdale translation but on the hymns of my youth.

"Looooord be my shep-heeeeeerd, let meeeeee be your sheeeeep!" 

There is no point crying "Wah! Wah! Robbed!" It's a fact. It's what I got. When I am a very old lady (or washing laundry in HMP Edinburgh), I will  remember being in the choir during an elementary school gym mass and watching my blonde little sister in the congregation doing the hand-gestures for "I Will Sweep Away Your Transgressions."

I will sweep away your transgressions like a cloud
And your sins will be to Me like a mist dissolved.
So return to Me; I will heal you, for I love you. 

After a promising start, catechesis in Religion Class was so negligible by Grade 8 even I knew it and complained to my mother, who mentioned it to a priest. We had some good and solid parish priests (two of them very probably crypto-trads), so I managed to learn the faith anyway. Just as influential, however, was the school music teacher, who beat a form of Catholicism into our heads via song. Is it worth mentioning that one of the first songs he taught my kindergarten class was "Havah Nagila?"

The most exciting part was:

"Uru achim belev sameach,
Uru achim belev sameach,
Uru achim belev sameach.
Uru achim! Uru achim!
Belev sam-e-e-e-e-ach!"

To this day, I have no idea what this means but, come to think of it, I wish he had taught us the dance, too.

It is now fashionable to rail against the St. Louis Jesuits, and Hagan and Haas, and all of those chaps and chapettes, but the truth is that I loved their songs when I was a child. I loved those songs when I was a teen. On Eagle's Wings made me cry.  I Am the Bread of Life did too. I was horrified when, in later life, I made a jest at the expense of the SLJ, and one of them emailed me a sharp reproof.

Mixed in with all these 1970s and 1980s hymns (and Godspell) was the Good News Bible, with its cool cartoons, and felt banners, but also exhortations from the pulpit to say the rosary; being enrolled in the Brown Scapular by, I now realise, Fr. Gruner himself; nativity plays; warnings against the SSPX; the Pope being shot; modern-day martyrs (killed in Latin America or Communist countries); modern-day confessors (priests imprisoned in Canada for pro-life work or in Communist countries);  resounding hymns composed by ancient Lutherans; and the whole half-new, half-old Catholic marinade which pickled at least some of us for life.

There is no reason to be ashamed of any of this, for those of us who grew up in it had very little say and the teachers and priests who plunged us in it were doing what they thought was God's will. Meanwhile, I have dozens of happy memories of trying to sing the Three Hymn Sandwich as loudly as my mother--who loves jolly church tunes--and cannot help to contrast them with the dirges we trads sing on Corpus Christi while trudging around the parish car park.

(No, but really. Could Scottish Catholics have been singing "Lauda Zion" to that tune throughout the 19th and 20th centuries? Surely not.)

There were, of course, divisions even in the 1980s. Of my two childhood churches, one had female altar servers and one did not. Both had Guitar Masses, but only one rang with "God Save the People." (My mother was and is strongly pro-union, but she drew the line at "God Save the People".) One was terribly left-wing, it turned out, and the other was decidedly Marian (and probably crypto-trad).

Meanwhile, there was the Cathedral, whose Novus Ordo was even more solemn than that of our Marian parish, and featured proper boys-and-men's choirs, thanks to the post-Vatican II survival of the Cathedral's choir school. Both my brothers went to that school, and naturally I was sad and resentful that there was no place there for girls. (It was not, however, an entirely joyful place for boys.) The choirs sang actual Latin hymns composed men with odd names like Palestrina and  Victoria. Tourists wiped away tears of gladness, and eventually I realised that this music, reserved for boys and boys alone, was the Quality, noble survivors from a liturgical shipwreck nobody ever talked about. 

England's Cardinal Heenan famously said that the experimental Novus Ordo he saw in 1967 was just not going to cut it with men. "At home, it is not only women and children but also fathers of families and young men who come regularly to Mass. If we were to offer them the kind of ceremony we saw yesterday we would soon be left with a congregation of women and children," he said.

Clearly he know what he was talking about. The Edinburgh TLM is one of the only Masses I have even been to (outside monasteries and seminaries) where men outnumber women 2 or 3:1.

But, you know, I was a child--a woman-child to boot--so yes, I loved the Novus Ordo and the Three Hymn Sandwich. They sank deep into my bones. As much as I like to think I would be singing the Credo in Latin when ISIS chopped off my head, it is more than likely that at that stressful moment, the only song I will remember will be "Loooord be my shep-heeeeerd, let meeeeee be your sheeep!"

Wednesday 7 August 2019

"I'll Not Be Working"

Hello from Edinburgh Airport. I am off to the USA for a work retreat, but "I'll not be working" I said to the inquisitive airport official. You need a visa for that. Nobody expect an investigative phone call from me over the next few days. 

It seems a bit unfair as Canadians had Monday as a holiday (as did many Scots, apparently, and my guess is that it was the modern replacement for Lammas Day), and so I didn't work three days in a row, wrote up two stories yesterday, and here am I not working again. 

Still, I have a book to review, so I will be kept busy, and meanwhile it will be nice to have yet another break from The Worst News in the World. Yesterday I went to spin class, barre class and Italian class before plunging into TWNW. Both stories I wrote yesterday were about sexual abuse of minors.

"Is there any pudding?" I asked B.A.

"Are there any ice cream bars left?" asked B.A.

"No," I said guiltily, having eaten the last one during an editorial meeting.

"Well, I'm set because I'll have the chocolate cornflake crispies," said B.A.

"Oh yes," I said. "I meant to tell you about that. I haven't eaten them all, but I ate some...."

Only now do I remember that there are carrot sticks somewhere in the fridge. 

Amazing fact: over the weekend, I did no mindless snacking. And also, I do no mindless snacking when there are no snacks. I still wandered in and out of the kitchen and opened and shut cupboards, but as there were no potential snacks, I did not eat them.  I think about going to Tesco for snacks, and then the snack attack passes. 

This is hard cheese on B.A., who is going to have to take any desired snacks with him to work and then back home again. The other solution is for him not to leave any open snack bags. Due to early childhood training, I have a psychological block against opening snack packages I didn't buy. Although not above raids on the cookie bag, I don't think I ever dared open a new pack.

Meanwhile, I have been practicing conscious interior kindness. Whenever I see a very overweight or obese person, I wonder how many children they have or what stresses they have been under, and then I feel a kind of solidarity with them. This is a great contrast the super-fit days of my late twenties, when I mentally divided women over 40 into two groups: the Hockey Moms (short hair, pudgy) and the Glamour Queens (dressed to the nines). Naturally, I wanted to be a Glamour Queen, which was shallow. That said, I don't think the ballerinas on the stationary bikes around me are shallow: I just think they are young and keen. Thus I feel a solidarity with them also, for I was once myself young and keen. 

It helps that my spinning class instructors yell a lot of encouragement including the message that There Is No Judgement in this  Room!

Saturday 3 August 2019

Lammas Day!

August 1 was Lammas Day, formerly a British harvest festival and "quarter day" in Scotland. The celebrations were tied to the wheat harvest, and peasants were expected to give their landlords a quantity of grain.  (In more recent times, Scottish tenants paid landlords their quarterly rent that day.) According to Wikipedia, the ancient Anglo-Saxons would take loafs of bread to church to have them blessed and then break them in four pieces, putting a piece in each corner of the barn.

Benedict Ambrose and I love incorporating ancient traditions into our lives in meaningful ways, so we celebrated Lammas Day by paying our first annual mortgage overpayment to the bank and eating a "Victoria Sandwich" cake, prepared by me.

Victoria Sandwich, by the way, is the easier cake in the world to make, because all you need are 6 oz self-raising flour,  a 1/4 tsp of baking power to make sure this "self-raising" actually happens, 6 oz butter, 6 oz sugar,  3 eggs and a 1/2 tsp of vanilla. You pop the cake (8' tin) in a 350 F oven for about 40 minutes, and when you have allowed it to cool, you slice it in half horizontally, take the top off, cover the bottom with jam (and whipped cream if you're ambitious), and then put the top back on and dust the whole with icing sugar.

August 10th will be our first anniversary of taking possession of St. Benedict Over the Apple Tree, and thus we are beginning to redecorate, using some of the savings we still have after the mortgage repayment. We thought waiting a year would be the best way to proceed, learning from the house, as it were, what it wanted done to it. (We also needed a year to recovery from the stress of buying and moving.)

Thus today I am going to go out and buy paint samples for the dining-room/guest-room/office, which wants to be red instead of magnolia.

"It will be terribly dark," says B.A., but I do not care because the room wants to be elegant and cannot abide magnolia walls when we entertain. If we ever sell, we can just paint it magnolia again. Meanwhile, I am uncertain as to how elegant the room can be as under the magnolia is a lot of textured wallpaper, and everyone advises us not to take it down, lest the plaster come down with it.  Fortunately, we have engaged the services of an artist friend who is quite brilliant at interior decorating.

The wisdom of painting the office red is somewhat dubious, I admit, as I have a hard time staying calm as I write or rewrite the Worst News of the Day. Early this week I had a total meltdown and hurt my hand by banging my fist on my desk three times, dislodging my M.Div. diploma on top of the desk, which fell to the floor.  I also shouted at poor B.A. who, despite having been married for ten years, made the mistake of saying "You just need to ...". After that I cried stormily for about five minutes. Finally I took the last two hours of my work day off, as I couldn't type with a towel of ice on my hand, and apologized to B.A. between giving him tips on how to speak to furious women.

The next day I casually mentioned my meltdown to various fitness instructors to see if they had any advice on how not to get into such a state, and to my surprise, one said "How sad that you're not allowed a meltdown."

Her philosophy was that when you need to melt down, you should just melt down.

"The the river run through it," she said. "I'm going to make that my mantra for the day."

I found this pro-meltdown stance incredibly revolutionary although, really, I don't think hitting my desk or shouting at B.A, is good outlet for my running river of rage. As I'm pretty sure a good old fashioned punching bag would work against the elegance we are planning for this room, I may invest in a large pillow to beat up instead. If we weren't going to replace the overly-soft single guest bed with a sofa-bed, I'd fling myself on that and flail about.

I think the idea that red-haired people are more passionate than others is nonsense, but I am also sure that Vikings lurk near the bottom of my family tree, and that at least one of them is a berserker. I wonder if they lived long enough to accumulate belly fat from all the cortisol. This reminds me that a good way to make a woman stop freaking out might be to say, "Remember your cortisol!"