Wednesday 26 May 2021

Writing Joy

I was going to write something today about sustainable living--and how much I enjoyed Caroline Steele's Sitopia, which is about sustainable eating, one of my favourite topics--but the first thing I came across this morning, via Facebook, was Steve Skojec's cri-de-coeur expressing his disappointment in the Church. 

Long pause while you read Skojec's broadside against the Una Vera Fides. Maybe make yourself a cup of coffee first. 

The Church has been a disappointment to Steve from beginning (or by the time he was 14) to end (or very recently when an easily-recognised priest denied baptism to his youngest child). Steve writes that he is angry, which will not be a surprise to any of Steve's long-time readers. Steve has been angry for as long as I remember reading his tweets, and the mischievous have inspired Steve to new paroxyms of online rage for months, if not years, now. As you know if you read the article, Steve has reason to be angry, and he has the right to be angry---and yet I'm sorry that he's writing angry because I don't think it will help him become happy. 

The internet loves anger, mind you. I don't think I realised what an addictive drug online rage is until I started reading Mundabor. (Vox Cantoris to me in Toronto: "People admit to reading Mundabor now?") Eventually--after I met her, in fact--I even starting reading Ann Barnhardt. Yowza! Even spicer than Mundabor!

 If I were interested in building up a readership for readership's sake (or to get Substack subscriptions), I'd start a blog called "Reasons I'm Angry" and let rip every day. Although it might be good for our bank account, it would be very bad for me. When I was writing the "Seraphic Singles" blogs, I was often angry and depressed, but obviously I couldn't sound that way when I was calling myself "Seraphic Single", for heaven's sake. Therefore, I summoned joy into my brain and wrote cheerfully--or at worst just solemnly--about aspects of Single life.  Blogging was often the best part of my day, and it wasn't just because I was distracting myself or thinking about other people. It was because I was writing happy. 

My wellness journal has a daily space for writing out what I feel grateful for. When I'm in a rush, I skip it, but sometimes I take the time to write things like "B.A./parents both well/mortgage overpayment/Pauline [the blackcurrant bush] improving.'' It's a really good idea. And it's also a good pastoral practise. Once when I disclosed my pain about an unfortunate confession by my ex-therapist, a Jesuit friend asked me if she had helped me. That stopped my complaints short, for I had to admit that, yes, she really had. Was she a saint? No. Had she helped? Yes. I never felt as badly about her massive screw-up again, and so not only was I reminded to be grateful for her good work, I was grateful to my Jesuit friend.

This reminds me the the messiness of life is not all bad, for I sustain joy and gratitude for all kinds of disparate things and people. I'm grateful I can go to the Traditional Latin Mass every week, and I'm grateful that I had an enriching, happy time at a Jesuit theology school. I'm grateful that there are Benedictine monks celebrating the Old Mass in Norcia, and I'm grateful that there are Benedictine nuns singing the old Latin Office in Ryde (even if only the New Mass is celebrated in their chapel). One of my best friends is a leftie-lib agnostic feminist, and another is a devoutly Catholic traditional mother of five. One of my old mentors is such a fan of Pope Francis, he clearly isn't comfortable meeting with me anymore, and I remember to pray for his late parents every Sunday because--despite his religious beliefs--I am terribly grateful for his kindness to me years ago. 

Agonized by scandal after scandal, Catholics ask ourselves how our faith can survive all this. I think of my thirteen or fourteen year old self, in our beautiful old parish church (sold soon afterwards because the land under it was worth millions), wondering what martyrdom might look like in my lifetime. I thought it might involve being shot by Soviet invaders for sneaking off to church. Now I wonder if it doesn't simply mean hanging onto the mast, singing snatches of childhood hymns or even psalms set to tunes in the Bad Old Days, i.e. the 1960s and 70s, while the barque fills with sewage.

The funny thing about being a Catholic trad who grew up in mainstream Novus Ordo Catholicism is that I have a lot of 1970s and 1980s hymns stored permanently in my memory banks, and if I were languishing in prison, I'd be singing "And I will RAY-AY-se you UH-UP on the LA-AST day!" Yes, I have terrible taste, but that's what I've got, and I'm grateful for it and my elementary school music teacher. (Weirdly, he also taught us "Hava Nagila" in kindergarten, so technically I knew some Hebrew before even French.)

But my point is--in case you are wondering--is that the way through all this mess--the disappointing priests and the wrong-headed bishops and the usherettes in jogging pants gesturing at you to receive  Holy Communion--is to remember everything you love or have loved about your Catholic life (if you are Catholic). I shall now write a short list to prompt you to your own:

Catholic Book of Worship II.

Sunday Mass (either Form) on a very sunny morning, especially Easter.

The 1960s wooden Stations-of-the-Cross at St. Left-wing.

The 1940s stained glass windows at St. Right-wing.

Fr C and Fr L (crypto-trads, the both of them, I later discovered).

Heroines of God by Fr. Lovasik.

My First Communion dress and veil.

My mother cutting up my First Communion veil to make my wedding veil.

Doughnuts after Mass. 

Parish youth group.

Parish youth group dances.

All-girls Catholic school.

Catholic school dances at the all-boys Catholic schools. 


That time I helped served tea to the priests who had just heard up to 900 teenage girls' confessions, and the air was blue with cigarette smoke.

That time I ran away from an awkward social situation to get to Midnight Mass. 

That time the archbishop was coming at last, and so every Trad from here to Glasgow filled the pews. 

That time my husband was in surgery, and I went to the [Church of Scotland] chapel to argue with God, and the Lord was there with me. 

Those times friends walked with me on my pilgrimages to the local saint, interred five miles away.

That time our priest came to my husband's hospital room to give him Final Unction, and B.A. struggled to sit up and began beating his emaciated breast. 

That time my Protestant friend died of cancer and I went to the Cathedral to cry. 

That time during Covid we were so worried about our priest being sick and then there he was in the carpark, wan but alive. 

This morning's Polish class--live from Krakow--when my teacher explained why in Poland Whitmonday is dedicated to Mary.

Update: Dr. Edward Feser knocks it out of the park. 


  1. All that SS has done is lay bare his childhood hurts, disappointments, and insecurities. But instead of letting them go, like big boys and girls do, he relishes in every imagined persecutory second.

    He is the little boy, pointing to others and crying, "It's all THEIR fault"!

    Steve should know that no one REALLY cares if he stays in the Church or skips off banging a tambourine for quarters.
    This is the Internet. The attention span of a gnat.

    Steve: You showed your ass and got nothing for the showing.

  2. Thanks for teaching me we ought to name our plants, Please say hi to Pauline.