Friday 15 November 2019

Poor Venice

Both climate change and bureaucratic incompetence are being blamed for the Venice floods.  Venice has been sinking all my life, and I suppose it will eventually sink---unless of course Venetian and other Italian officials really get their act together.

I am reminded of the idea that the Amazon jungle should be the responsibility of the world, not the Brazilian government and the other eight regimes with Amazonian territory. Would it be nice if Venice were ruled by professional conservationists, like Benedict Ambrose? One thing about Old Building Fanatics: they love their work more than money, and embezzle from its preservation fund they would not. 

My one and only trip to Venice was in 1998, and I remember it being a sad place. Of course, it may have been me, not Venice, that was sad. I made a mental note not to return to the city without a loved one. Being all alone, save for my Contiki tour group, was sad in Venice. Now I am wondering if I shall ever return, for tourism is killing the community as much as it pours money into it. 

I was there that October, so the crowds were not as daunting as they would have been in July. Because most of us tourists dress any which way now, crowds of tourists detract from the beauty of a place. Venice is intricately beautiful, but crowds are not, and because when I think of Venice, I think of crowds and obscenely overpriced gelato in St. Mark's Square, I have not be dying to return.

If I did return, I would read all about it first, spurred by the understanding that this would be for the last time in my life, not only because Venice may indeed slip under the lagoon before I die, but because I myself would be an unlovely foreign tourist, part of a crowd, displacer of citizens.

At least I was in my twenties when I first saw Venice, and although I had no entree anywhere, knew no Venetians, stayed in a cheaper hotel outside, and had a cookie-cutter Venetian tourist experience, the memories are special to me now because I was young. My unasked for general advice is to go to the great urban jewels of the world when you are old enough to truly enjoy them and not to old to truly enjoy yourself. This means between 18 and, say, 28. 

I suppose in some cases you should take an oldster with you, but only if they have some useful skill (like local languages) or acquaintance in the urban jewel of your choice. My dear late friend Angela brought the first Scottish art exhibition to the Venice Biennale, and she was friends with an actual Venetian family. Angela, therefore, would have been an excellent chaperone for a young person wanting to see Europe. She had acquaintance in Paris, too, and in Oslo, I believe. 

Should my niece and nephews' eyes fall upon this post, I will point out that I would be an excellent oldster to bring along on travels to Italy and Poland. However, I do hope they are 18 or 19 before they   see these countries. Currently they seem not to distinguish much between playgrounds in Brussels and playgrounds in Berlin.  

Of course, I am taking for granted that transatlantic air travel for entertainment purposes will still be permitted when my younger relations reach gap-year age. Greta Thunberg has finally found someone to sail her back to Sweden, which suggests a new (or renewed) industry for forward-thinking sailors: eco-transit. Currently it takes just under 4 days for racers to sail from New York to Cornwall. It warms my heart to image the seas full of sailboats racing across the seas with their eco-conscious travellers. 

Well, that's enough from me, for I have to write up a speech on the use of the internet to further socially conservative causes I'm giving tomorrow. 

Wednesday 13 November 2019

Just Try to be Holy?

I had a note from a priest who was feeling guilty about what he was saying to his flock. He read on a news forum the complaint of a Catholic who had spoken to a priest about these heartbroken times in the Church that the priest had said "Just try to be holy." The priest who wrote to me felt guilty because that's what he's been saying to people.

Priests have very little freedom of speech because they are, in short, the hands of their bishop. The laity can publish critiques of all kinds of Pope Francis's theology and not much can happen to us unless, of course, we work for an unsympathetic bishop. Bishops, of course, have a lot of freedom of speech, especially if they don't mind having their mandatory retirement letter accepted right after their 75th birthday.

Incidentally, I would not want any young man I loved becoming a diocesan seminarian before working for at least five years to save up a large sum to invest towards his retirement. Even if he has a lovely, fatherly, saintly bishop now, the chances are that this bishop's successors will not be as holy.

The priest noted that Cardinal Burke just keeps teaching perennial doctrine without criticising Pope Francis. I note also that the cardinal refrains from calling the pontiff names or demanding his resignation or being hostile towards him in any way. Cardinal Burke just continues on defending doctrine and accepting invitations to say the Traditional Latin Mass, red-faced and tired under all the heavy vestments we traddies heap on him. It blows my mind that his critics think he enjoys dragging a cappa magna around: vestments are the liturgical equivalent of a burkha, for they hide personal identity, and they are uncomfortable.

Cardinal Burke has suffered numerous humiliations under the pontificate, kicked from post to post,  his influence curtailed, and on top of that there is all the sneering from the left side of the aisle, which I hope he doesn't read. He does read LifeSiteNews, but then everybody reads LifeSiteNews. Whether they admit it is another question, of course.

Presumably Cardinal Burke also reads devotional works, and this is where my advice for the laity comes in--besides taking Cardinal Burke as a model: don't read nothing but the bad news. Read a lot of good news, including the Good News. Keep an eye out for the latest books by your favourite Catholic authors. This could be fiction by Fiorella de Maria or philosophy by Peter Kreeft. Go to the library or Catholic bookshop and find classic works by Catholic authors you haven't read before, like Alice Thomas Ellis or Rumor Godden. Walk on the wild side, and read a non-Catholic with some traditional values like Wendell Berry.  

Read your diocesan print news, not for the bad news, but for the mundane and the good news. Read about the pilgrimage, the children's concert, the high school's food drive for the poor, the parish's 150th anniversary celebration.

Go to Mass. Fast between midnight and Mass, if you can. Pray for Pope Francis, Pope Emeritus Benedict, your bishop and your pastor. Offer up sacrifices in reparation for both your sins and their sins. Support financially only those priests and bishops who teach perennial doctrine. Ask yourself what you can do to be a good Catholic, and do that. Focus on what you can do, and not on what you can't.

As you know, I did not throw Pachamama in the Tiber, and it never occurred to me to do so, even though I visited Santa Maria in Traspontina twice while the carvings were there. Much more offensive to me than Pachamama, as I was too busy on other stories to pay attention to the reported details of the October 4 celebration in the Vatican Gardens, was the racist, sexist, pornographic poster of an indigenous woman breastfeeding a wild piglet.*

I went as far as to examine how this disgusting object was attached to the wall (masking tape), but I never intuited God's command to me to pull it down and whisk it out of the church. It was always my hope that an actual Roman would do it, but really it was the job of whomever God called to do it. It seems that God called a young Austrian to throw Pachamama in the Tiber: certainly Tshugguel prayed long and hard about it.

What I did was my daily duty, which was to write about the Synod, and I worked overtime so that not only did the Big Stories get out, but also the little stories about who-said-what. I also went to Mass almost every day, and what got me through the insanity was going to Mass, doing my job, and enjoying my off-time as much as I could. I met with friends, and I made daily trips to a cafe-bar for a five minute croissant-and-cappuccino break.

The five minute croissant-and-cappuccino break was, by the way, a full-immersion into real Roman life. It had absolutely nothing to do with the Synod or the Vatican or the Amazon or this pontificate.   I stood out like a seagull among blackbirds, but this really didn't matter. It was the psychological equivalent of a hot shower.

If feeling terribly sad or worried by this pontificate, find your own version of my croissant-and-cappuccino break.

But that is enough from me for the housework has slipped while I have been ill and I have several articles still to write.

*Apparently this is not as unheard of as I thought, since there is a wikipedia entry devoted to the practice of inter-species breastfeeding, and rock star Tori Amos shocked America in 1996 with a photograph showing her pretending to breastfeed a piglet. I found also commentary suggesting that "America" is a "bigot" for being shocked. In defence of America, I am Canadian, in my late 40s, an expat, conversant in four languages, relatively cosmopolitan, and I was shocked out of my gourd.

Monday 11 November 2019

Dispelling November Gloom

I don't think April is the cruelest month. The cruelest month is most definitely November, especially in a northern country like Scotland when the sun starts setting at 4 PM. By the end of the month the sun will set at 3:45 PM. Then there's the rain. And the cold. And British concepts of indoor home heating. There's a reason Harry Potter was written in Edinburgh cafes.

Our radiators aren't working, but I am procrastinating from calling the plumbers because it's warm only in bed and I still can't understand Scottish Plumber over the phone. I have a cold, and all the Catholics blogs and news sites to the right of Daniel Berrigan are apocalyptic. No hideous Church story goes unreported, right down to a potentially obscene Station of the Cross in, naturally,  Germany. (It might be, but it might just be the viewer's interpretation.)  It's like being covered in boils and yet finding a new and worse one.

I started keeping a list of one bright spot in every November day: holly berries, a pied wag-tail,  bright yellow beeches, Christmas lights in Poundland.

Naturally I go to exercise classes--although it is fortunate I didn't sign up for one today as my head hurts. All the experts seem to agree that exercise is a mood-lifter.

Another mood-lifter is writing stories. One of my young homeschooled pupils was too sick for a lesson last week, so I wrote him a story, starring him at age 19. Naturally his future self is at Oxford University, but he is also a detective and a cook at a Mexican restaurant. His actual self enjoys classic adventure stories, and he wrote a good one for Writing Class in which his hero crosses the Laconda jungle.

I worked on my story on bus trips to and from classes, and so I have to admit that this was a good weekend despite the cold radiators, catching a cold, and the daily additions to the apocalyptic genre of religion reporting. Yesterday, the boy having recovered from flu, I read the story aloud to both of my pupils as part of a lesson on "Dialogue." One or two of their siblings came creeping in to hear it, too.

Cheerful children are also dispellers of November gloom unless, I suppose, you have postpartum depression or some other illness like that.

Another mood-lifter is appreciation for one's work, and I see that my LSN article on the Traditional Latin Mass has been shared on Facebook a thousand times now. That is by no means a big number of shares for an LSN piece, but it is at least a sign people liked it.

I wish now I had added a few more details that are obvious to me but would not be to people who have never been to a TLM before. The most important are that the TLM works according to the Old Calendar, not the New, and that the readings are different from those said during the Ordinary Form. When I was a child, I was impressed by the fact that "The readings are the same all over the world" in the same way past generations bragged that the Mass was the same over all the world. Well, the readings are only the same depending on which Form you attend. There are no Years A, B and C in the Extraordinary Form.

Meanwhile, I would love to turn off the firehose of bad news and just go about having an ordinary, friendly life with lots of dinner parties and meeting people for coffee. Unfortunately, that is now impossible. For one thing, it would be like being a young British or French man of military age who waited out Second World War on the sunny beaches of Spain.