"Fast away the Old Year passes," and in fact I am fasting, for yesterday I got on the bathroom scales and said, "Right-o! Only liquids until supper both today and tomorrow."
Friday, 31 December 2021
"Fast away the Old Year passes," and in fact I am fasting, for yesterday I got on the bathroom scales and said, "Right-o! Only liquids until supper both today and tomorrow."
Tuesday, 28 December 2021
Merry Christmas! I have had a splendid four days writing barely a word. On Christmas Eve I cooked and baked from before dawn until well after dusk (see photos).
On Christmas Day, I baked the Christmas Bun (see photo again).
On Boxing Day, Benedict Ambrose and I were in the countryside and at Mass in Dundee. On St. John's Day, Benedict Ambrose and I went for a long country walk and then had a late lunch with his mother in Dundee.
It was all splendid, and it was the least stressed I've been during Christmas for a very long time. This is very likely because I had all of Christmas Eve off work, so I wasn't working and cooking and baking and cleaning all at once. Also, I knew our boxes of Christmas presents for Canada were in Canada, and our small pile of gifts for the UK were either delivered or sitting waiting on my desk. It was all good.
Meanwhile, I also knew that this was [very probably] our last Christmas at our church-home because the Traditional Latin Mass is indeed being moved across town after all, and I was at peace with that. I AM at peace with that. I don't like how it happened, but St. Thomas Aquinas points out that the Reason directs the Will to keep the Passions in check, and I'm choosing gratitude. After all, we still have our priest, and we still have the Traditional Latin Mass, and all we are doing is leaving a wooden building in a middle-class neighbourhood for an architectural jewel in a very wealthy neighbourhood.
I know things are quite awful elsewhere (e.g. Chicago), but in this Archdiocese, we are going to be okay. We're even going to have disability access added to the Architectural Jewel for our people in wheelchairs. And there's an ordinary bus that will take the people (including children) who used to walk all the way from the railway station (whatever the weather) straight to our new-to-us-chapel.
"As long as we can get all our people in, it will be marvellous," I said to someone at today's Holy Innocents Day Mass for pro-lifers in the archdiocese.
There were at least nine people from the TLM community at today's special (Novus Ordo) Mass, including the two children, and Benedict Ambrose observed that we are all very "integrated." But, indeed, there is usually much overlapping of groups in the St. Andrews & Edinburgh Archdiocese, just as there is a lot of overlapping of groups in Edinburgh itself. At today's Mass for pro-life activists, there were Edinburgh Uni students, Poles, TLMers, women religious, priests, laypeople who work closely on life issues with the archdiocese, and people I didn't recognise at all. Very normal, really.
If there is a plan afoot to marginalise and isolate and finally crush Catholics who love the Traditional Latin Mass, not to mention the Traditional Latin Faith, it's not going to work here. It really won't. The TLM community will continue going to confession at the Cathedral (in Polish and/or English), will continue going to pro-life events, will continue helping at the sisters' soup kitchen, will continue going to Catholic Chaplaincy at Edinburgh University and/or to events organised by Catholic Chaplaincy at Edinburgh University. When we can't get to our usual TLM, we'll go to the NO. We aren't a mid-century sect. We are simply Catholics who love the Traditional Latin Mass.
Meanwhile, I'm very grateful for the years--the Summorum Pontificum years--we had at our old wooden church. I turned up on the scene (as longest-time readers will recall) in 2009, and I thought a new era of liturgical beauty had been born. The new-to-me Mass was so beautiful, and the Men's Schola sang such wonderful music, and the Master of the Men's Schola could make the crankiest, wheeziest pipe organ or harmonium sound great. Our priest gave (and gives) stirring homilies, too, and gave us many a catchphrase to use in later discussions (e.g. "even little baby ANIMALS!")
Our community was (and is) a mix of people from various countries, not to mention socio-economic backgrounds, and since I arrived 13 years ago, over a dozen of the children now at our parish were born. When first I came, there was one parent of still-small children, I think: his wife didn't come, but his little boys sometimes did. Well, now we rejoice in many young families, as well as the usual rush of university students, bachelors, middle-aged marrieds, old married couples, widows, widowers, white-haired maiden aunts. It is really wonderful, and I really enjoy gazing at everyone over my teapot at the After-Mass Tea.
After-Mass Tea reminds me of the time members of the Parish Council scheduled their meeting in our tea hour, and they seemed rather red-faced and flummoxed when they came into the hall to find us all still there, happily chatting away. After attempting to address us in polite terms, the elderly woman among them just began to shriek hysterically, "JUST GET OUT! GET OUT!"
It was really something, and it reminds me that although I love that little wooden church---and helped clean it both during an annual clean and as COVID hygiene theatre---we were often made to feel like interlopers. Sadly, some people in the "regular parish" will be absolutely delighted that, after 15 years, we have been sent away.
One last memory before I use up all the material I really want to use for a blog article for work:
Feast of the Assumption, 2017. Benedict Ambrose was sick. Very sick. I kept feeding him pudding, but he just kept losing weight. When eventually his weight fell below 100 lbs, I did everything I could to get him hospitalised. He had had 2 or 3 surgeries, and his medical team was sure there was nothing wrong with their work. However, he was always in pain, he had horrible nightmares, and his vision was going. He was barely able to walk, so I borrowed a wheelchair from the Red Cross.
On the Feast of the Assumption, B.A. very much wanted to go to Mass--and I think we went to our priest's house first. Why I didn't call a cab is anyone's guess. Because what I did do was push B.A. to the railway station in the wheelchair, push him on a train, and then push him all the way to our priest's house, or to church. (If we did go to the priest's house, I assume he went by car the rest of the way.)
Every bump in the pavement hurt B.A., and he cried out almost every time. It was terrible for me, and worse for him. It cost us so much physically (him) and mentally (me) to get to that little wooden church (or at least as far as our priest's house) for the Feast of the Assumption Mass, according to the Old Rite, but we did it because it is a Holy Day of Obligation in Scotland and B.A. terribly wanted to go.
When we got to the church, I parked B.A. in the wheelchair near the back of the church, but where he could see the altar. We didn't know it at the time, but we caused a bit of a stir. Later many people told us that they were shocked at how thin and sick B.A. looked. (Now B.A. says it's a good thing we turned up, for that probably meant everybody prayed for him at that Mass.) Meanwhile, B.A. and I spent Mass begging Our Lady and her Son for B.A. to get better, and two months later he did get better.
Anyway, that's my story about what B.A. and I were willing to do to get to the TLM at that little wooden church. (Going to our local parish church seems not to have even occurred to us.) But naturally this was a rare occasion of extreme suffering. More often, before and since, we have been very happy, and even once when to a TLM wedding there. This wedding was quite an occasion, and the only time I have ever seem Muslims (including in hijab) in that little church, but that is a whole different blogpost.
Meanwhile, the point to my story, really, is that B.A. wanted not to get to that little church, per se, but to get to the Traditional Latin Mass, and the little wooden church was just where it--and our priest--and our little TLM community--happened to be.
The Lord has given, the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.
Wednesday, 22 December 2021
As I slaved away yesterday on other people's sentence structure (and checked Facebook for new critiques of my critique of The Photograph), there was loud knocking on the front door. Benedict Ambrose answered it, and then he called to me from the hall, sounding very surprised. I popped my head out of the office/dining-room/guest room door and beheld a 5 foot tall cardboard box.
"It's the pear tree," I said with glee, for my youngest sister had said she wanted to give us one for Christmas, and I had forgotten.
I began to pull apart the box, and it was indeed a baby Conference Pear tree, skinny and leafless, supported by a bamboo cane, standing in a pot.
B.A. immediately took charge, soaking the root ball according to the instructions, and repotting Perry (as B.A. informed me the tree is called) in the pot formerly belonging to an old live Christmas tree. B.A. had released poor Chris from its potbound captivity by planting it beside a blackcurrant bush.
Our downstairs neighbour came out to see what B.A. was doing, and when B.A. pointed out the Christmas decorations he had put on our new friend, she offered to lend us her spare Christmas tree. I suspect our neighbours think we are destitute, for they keep offering us to loan us things we obviously don't have, e.g. an electric lawnmower.
No partridge came with the pear tree, but that is no loss for we have the Real Thing: the partridge in a pear tree is a symbol for our crucified Lord. "The Twelve Days of Christmas", we have been told for some years, was possibly a secret catechism for Catholics in Britain during the Penal Times.
In the Penal Times, it was illegal to celebrate or attend Mass, and as the English and Scottish Catholic clergy, trained abroad, learned the Traditional Latin Mass of Rome, not the more local Sarum (Aberdeen, etc.) Rite, the TLM we know and love was the one Catholics were willing to suffer to attend and to die to celebrate.
Thus, I think we in the United Kingdom are especially awake to the irony of Pope Francis and his court trying to suppress this Mass themselves. And as there is no English or Scottish cardinal or bishop who has publicly said, "Well, now, look here, Holy Father, that just isn't cricket," British Catholics who love the TLM don't have clear episcopal leadership in this matter.
Who speaks for Catholics who love the Traditional Latin Mass? I think this is at the heart of what I was writing here yesterday and in my imprudent remarks on Facebook. In fact, more than one of the women who took me to task on Facebook would make much better spokeswomen for the TLM than a social media star received into the Church three weeks ago--insofar as the laity and, indeed, laywomen, can speak for the TLM community.
And this is where I open the worm can, and the worms go crawling all over my desk. The internet revolution has created a number of popular figures who have set up their own talk shows on any number of subjects, and one of those subjects is, unsurprisingly, Traditional Catholicism. Some of these popular figures started their online careers by discussing Catholicism; others moved into discussions of Catholicism as a subsidiary to their other interests. Some of these popular figures sell gimcracks: mugs with slogans, for example, and this is not (by the way) a hit on Fr. Z, whom I very much admire much and who, as a priest, is an actual pastor.
Occasionally there are rivalries between the different popular figures, hurt feelings, disrupted alliances, social media wars in which fans take sides and accuse this or that social media star of being a "grifter." I draw the line at calling people grifters unless there is real, solid evidence that they are misleading their generous donors by leading a double life, and I don't know of any current Catholic social media stars who do. That said, there really are grifters out there.
How much authority TradCath social media stars have is an open question. Certainly the Catholic priests who write about traditional Catholicism have authority by virtue of their ordination, their training, and their education. Certainly Catholic laymen who are known for their scholarship, like Gregory Di Pippo at New Liturgical Movement and the prolific Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, have a different kind of authority. Catholic lay leaders like Dr. Joseph Shaw, the president of the International Una Voce Federation, and Michael Matt of The Remnant newspaper have authority through the many years they have worked for the traditional movement and, indeed, by the longevity of their organisations.
What all these men--and they are all men--say counts, and it counts for good reason. They are not celebrities but statesmen, as it were. Sadly, there are today celebrities who are famous only for being famous and have done very little work except make themselves famous. And if they lose their conventional fame, I can think of a community that is always happy to reward a new convert with a blaze of new publicity: Catholics, especially poor Catholics marginalised for their love for the TLM.
Of course women who love the Traditional Latin Mass have a leadership role to play, but for the vast majority of us, it's going to be at home and/or in the parish hall, either teaching children or setting up the tea table about which, by the way, there is nothing menial. The House of God should also be a home, and it is up to the socially-attuned women of the community to make sure it feels like a home to the new, the young, and the shy.
But there have also been women who have played a massive, decisive role in promoting the Traditional Latin Mass. Edinburgh's Miss Mary Neilson fought like a latter-day St. Catherine of Siena for the TLM in Scotland. Her obituary makes for impressive reading, and I think it's safe to say that there are not a lot of Miss Mary Neilsons among us, just as there have been few Joans of Arc.
That said, there have been other interesting women who have represented the TLM community in public, notably the novelist Alice Thomas Ellis and the cook/television star Jennifer Paterson. Paterson was very fat (indeed, she was one of the Two Fat Ladies) and over 60 when her TV show began. As such, she was proof that Fat and Old Women Matter. I don't think she ever published a photo of herself looking winsome in a veil, but she struck a real blow for the Old Ways when she kissed an abbess's ring.
"That's all gone into the past," said the abbess, hair escaping from her inadequate coif and flying about in the wind.
"Not with me, it hasn't," said Paterson.
Who we have not had, and who I hope we will never have, is a woman who is treated as an authority on the Traditional Latin Mass by virtue of pretty, let alone being famous for being famous. One of the distressing comments that followed The Photo I've been banging on about for three days was by a non-Catholic who asked the celebrity for her thoughts on Archbishop Roche's Responsa against the TLM. By her own announcement she had been to the TLM exactly once.
Actually, almost all of the comments were distressing, for a goodly number of people hate this particular social media celebrity with all their hearts, and the comment stream was a sewer. But anyway, this is hopefully my last word on the topic of The Photograph, if not on Who Speaks for the Movement? and The Trad Woman Question.
Tuesday, 21 December 2021
I got into a slight social media spat yesterday, for a social media star (and I have just found out there is such a thing) posed for a photo of herself in a white chapel veil and false eyelashes and, once it was enhanced (the star looks ten years younger than usual), posted it on social media.
The photo was later reposted by one of my Facebook friends, who used it to illustrate that young converts are drawn to traditionalism.
The sight of this photo on Facebook irritated me, and I had been awake since 4 AM, so I imprudently wrote an ironic remark, watched as it was misunderstood, and then made serious remarks about what a mantilla is meant to do. I was counselled to be more restrained, which I suspect meant to be silent, as in my opinion I had been restrained.
We were not restrained when as Catholic schoolgirls we discovered a photo of a girl wearing our uniform kilt in an advertisement for feminine hygiene products. There was a rumour that the model was a student at our school who had cravenly and stupidly worn her own kilt to the shoot. The advert was in a Canadian magazine (probably Chatelaine), and so we thought we were in danger of having boys shout comments about feminine hygiene products at us in the street.
I was not restrained a few years later when I discovered Canadian film director Atom Egoyan had kitted out a stripper in his film Exotica in a Catholic schoolgirl uniform. For one thing, men used to park outside my school and watch us walk past in our own Catholic schoolgirl uniforms. For another, I was horrified to discover that "Catholic schoolgirl" is a stock character, however ephebophiliac and grotesque, in male sexual fantasy
About twenty years later the Trad Catholic blogosphere was unrestrained about an odd blogger who enjoyed taking erotic photographs of women in chapel veils. This was probably inevitable, as there are men who could find erotic meaning in galoshes and umbrellas, bus transfers and sellotape, let alone scraps of lace. And, of course, there's a custom in which unmarried girls wear white chapel veils and married women wear black chapel veils, so white chapel veils = virginity and cue heavy breathing for that kind of man.
The fetishising of Catholic clothing is why I was very cross with the married social media celeb's speedy appropriation of the white mantilla. She had apparently just been to her first TLM, but instead of saying "Wow, that was incomprehensible," or "There were so many kids," or "Nobody told me I had to bring a missal," like an honest trad-to-be, she posted a photo of herself attempting to look like a virginal teenager.
She did this less than a month after becoming a Catholic (an event thoroughly discussed on a social media show) and one day after the Congregation of Divine Worship's ghastly Responsa put the TLM in the headlines. And the more I read about her famous-for-being-famous career, which involves being photographed with politically controversial objects and clothing, the more I believe I was right to be annoyed--and to say something.
Traditional Catholicism is neither a political movement nor a fashion statement. And like the vestments that blot out a priest's individuality so that he can put on Christ for his congregation, the chapel veil/mantilla/or hat is meant to blot out women's beautiful hair during Mass. It is also an ancient sign of modesty, and modesty includes not going out of your way to be looked at.
Therefore posting a photograph of yourself in a chapel veil so that you can be looked at wearing a chapel veil is the exact opposite of what the chapel veil is for.
"Cut her some slack," wrote someone in Italy, so I will remind myself that newcomers to the TLM often get it wrong, only in a different way. Some wear leggings. Some sing at the part where only the choir sings. Some get upset because nobody seems to notice them. Some hit on the first girl they see. Some begin a conversation about why all women must dress like the Blessed Mother. Because trads have a reputation for being mean, it is indeed important to cut newcomers some slack.
However, this was the first time I had ever seen a mantilla used in self-promotion. The normal progress of a young Catholic maid or matron is to show up bareheaded, and then the next week covered with a nice scarf of some sort, and then after a few weeks or years, with an actual mantilla or chapel veil or lace rectangle like most of the other women.
But I was also chastised (on Facebook) for my sanctimoniousness and was asked WWJD, which is the most non-Trad question ever, since Trads are more concerned about what the Lord HAS done and what He WILL do on dies irae, dies illa.
And then I was asked whether anyone would become a Catholic reading my (mild, by the way) remarks, let alone visit a TLM. Sadly, my interlocutor erased this question before I could publish my answer, which is that anyone who would make a decision that important based on a few online comments by a complete stranger does not have the intellectual freedom to become a Catholic.
But that said, I do know two people who became Catholics in part because they read my blog, so my interlocutor did have a point. Thus, I will now repeat that self-promotion is the opposite of traditional Catholicism, and that the ultimate thing to do, as a traditional Catholic, is to enter a convent or monastery, change your name, go through a symbolic death, and be rarely seen in public again.
Naturally, if you're married or called to be married you can't do that although there is a lot of humility in putting aside your own surname to take your husband's and there is a lot of trust in giving your name to your wife. If you become the mother of children, especially many children, you will probably spend almost all your time at home, the Domestic Church.
At any rate, I hope that anyone who reads these words will not be put off finding out about traditional Catholicism but discern my point, which is that the Faith is real, deep, profound, so real, deep, and profound that its true richness can only be transmitted through symbols, symbols like the chapel veil. Therefore, the chapel veil must not be abused. It is not a fashion statement. Catholicism is not a fashion statement. It is a slow dying to oneself in order to live fully.
In short, Catholicism is not a costume.
Monday, 20 December 2021
"So is this the last Mass?" asked a new member of our community, a young father of at least three, with a half-martial, half-merry glint in his eye.
This was yesterday outside the parish hall before Mass.
"No," said I in a high good humour, for I had been to the christening of a tiny baby with seven siblings, and it had been a truly beautiful occasion, unmarred by the surprise cancellation of the train the family meant to travel on.
"There's always the SSPX," said a veteran member of our community.
"We don't have to go to the SSPX," I replied cheerfully. "Father [X] is about [Y years old], and he'll probably live to be [Z], so we're good for 20 years."
"I've heard that Pope Francis is very ill," said the vmoc.
"I've heard that he's ill. I've heard that he's crazy. I've heard that the Vatican is in chaos. I've heard a lot of things," I said, later reflecting that it was not prudent to say these things just outside the parish hall while the 1970 Mass people were still in it.
Thinking now about the1970 Mass people, I wonder what they make of the local Catholic schools. There's a doughty grandfather who always brings his grandsons to Mass; when I was going to both Masses in an attempt to build up the courage to Become a Bridge, I generally sat behind them. I wonder now if he knows about the atheist bullies at one local Catholic secondary school. They terrorise the minority of teachers and students who actually believe the Catholic faith.
I know one poor girl who went through agonies at that school. She was not only bullied by foul-mouthed atheists, she saw them swagger up to the altar at school Masses to make sacrilegious communions.
I also know more than one religion teacher sorely oppressed (to put it mildly) by his or her school's embrace of anti-Catholic sexual ideology. There's a reason an increasing number of Catholics homeschool their children, and it's not COVID.
Speaking of embracing anti-Catholic ideology, I haven't taken our current sovereign pontiff entirely seriously since 2016 when he appeared with a statue of Martin Luther. Apparently it was a gift, so presumably the Lutherans weren't taking him seriously either. I mean, who thinks a statue of Martin Luther is a wonderful present for a successor of Pope Paul III? Personally, I'd go with a bottle of wine and a cheque made out to Aid to the Church in Need.
It was also reported in 2016 that Pope Francis mused that he might divide the Catholic Church. However, the Church was already divided in the 1980s between Catholics who believe the Catholic faith and Catholics who dislike it and want to replace it with something else. The latter group is now in ascendance, alas. But since the Catholic faith, handed down full and entire, is beautiful, sensible, and compelling, and because Our Lord promised the gates of hell will not prevail (Matthew 16:18), some Catholics will always believe the Catholic faith. And an increasing number will avoid institutions run by the second group, including advertised-as-Catholic parishes, seminaries, and (especially) schools.
Attempting to ban the Traditional Latin Mass is not going to force Catholics who believe the Catholic faith back into parishes, seminaries, and schools that want to replace the faith with something else. It won't work. It won't work because, unlike many poor Catholics who are so confused that their one rock in the stormy sea is not the Faith but "Vatican II" or "The Pope", traditionalists are not confused. We know what the Faith is, we know that a rupture has occurred, we know that John Paul II wasn't perfect, and we have come to accept that Benedict XVI isn't either. We watched as nothing much happened to most of the anti-Catholic dissenters in the Church, and we suspect nothing much will happen to most of us pro-Catholic loyalists as well.
More to be pitied than traditionalist Catholics are Catholics badly hurt by the post-1962 innovations and ideologies. First, of course, are the Catholics harmed by clerical sexual abuse, but there are many other spiritual victims.
I think, for example, of the single mother who had no idea she could have her baby baptised privately. Thanks to a lifetime of liturgical innovations, she thought she would have to stand in front of a church with a bunch of married couples and their babies, probably during a Sunday Mass. Not wanting to exhibit her single motherhood to an entire congregation, she put off baptising her baby for years. In the end, the child was baptised according the the traditional rite.
I also think of the child who refused to make his First Confession because he would have to do so in front of an entire congregation. (Yes, really.) I was summoned to remonstrate with this child, and so I saw the set-up. In short, the priest sat in a chair in front of the sanctuary, and each child in the class walked up to him to confess quietly--while parents watched from the pews---and then went back to his or her pew. In the end, I took this child home unshriven and congratulated him on his authentic Catholic sensibilities. He later made his First Confession in decent privacy.
I next think of the potential convert I put in touch with a certain priest 15 years ago. The potential convert is now good friends with this priest, but she is still not a Catholic. I sent another potential convert to the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, and she is now a Catholic. ("I thought you were going to suggest Fr. [certain priest]," she told me. "Ha," I said.)
So when Catholic traditionalists believe and teach the Catholic Faith whole and entire--and celebrate or assist at the traditional Catholic liturgies that best express that Faith--it is not merely for ourselves and our likeminded neighbours. It is for everyone, all Catholics and everyone who might become a Catholic--which is to say, everyone on earth.
It's not going to be comfortable. But it's not supposed to be comfortable. In the traditional Confirmation rite, the bishop is supposed to smack the confirmand in the face as a reminder of this fact. My Confirmation was Novus Ordo, so I didn't get a slap. Happily, however, the large and heavy hand of the future Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic clamped down hard on my shoulder. It has served the purpose.
Update: Pardon me as I fix my many typos. I've been up since 4 AM.
Update 2: If anyone is interested, traditional Catholicism is perfectly compatible with love for the environment, aka stewardship of the earth. Traditional Catholicism has always recommended abstemiousness about meat, for example, and there are traditional monks and nuns who are functional vegetarians and/or organic farmers. Traditional Catholicism is also not particularly keen on cosmetics (St. Thomas Aquinas has an interesting take) or vast wardrobes/fast fashion or luxury/consumerism in general. It is definitely against the contraceptive pills whose mass use is doing extremely weird things to the fish. The pre-V2 bishops of Quebec have been disparaged by historians and politicians for wanting to keep their flocks on their farms and out of the the cities; perhaps one day they will be hailed as agricultural visionaries. Pope Gregory XVI objected to both fossil fuel lighting systems and to mass transportation (well, trains). And naturally our faith built a wonderful civilisation that depended on neither petroleum in general nor plastic in particular.
Saturday, 18 December 2021
Today it was my unhappy duty to edit a breaking news report on the CDW "Responsa" to a set of Dubia. (Not those Dubia.) Shortly before I published, the traditional part of the Catholic blogosphere was beginning to go nuts.
My own Responsa to the Responsa are as follows:
I will say my evening prayers as usual.
I will say my morning prayers as usual.
I will go to a Catholic baptism according to the traditional books tomorrow morning.
I will go to the traditional Latin Mass afterwards.
I will then rush out of the church to make tea and set out cookies for the TLM community, particularly the many children.
I will chat with homeschoolers about their writing lessons and their homework.
I will wish everyone a "Merry Christmas when it comes" and feel vastly pleased that for once I remembered to bring my own tea towel for the washing up.
I will go home and giggle again at the modified Grinch cartoon that is now my screensaver, and then I will see if I can find The Grinch Who Stole Christmas on Youtube.
He hadn't stopped Christmas from coming! It came!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!
UPDATE: I forgot to bring my tea towel AGAIN! But the christening was beautiful, and tea was very satisfactory. There was a cheerful, Christmassy atmosphere.
Oddly, though, a woman I half-recognised turned up--just as I was about to make the tea--to stand in the middle of the tiny galley kitchen and apparently take possession of a cardboard cake plate. It was over an hour after the 1970 Mass had finished, and I was in a great bustle to get the tea and biscuits out before
the ravenous hordes my fellow traddies poured in, so I did wonder why this lady was there. Before she left, she asked if there was anything I needed, which (like, "Can I help you?") is British for "This is MY place."
"We have everything down to a fine art," I replied cheerfully, which is British for "I've drunk tea in this hall most Sundays for almost 13 years."
I have been reading Evelyn Waugh's St Edmund Campion, so I am aware that there were Catholics during the reign of Elizabeth I who made a living spying on other Catholics and turning them in to the authorities to be tortured, imprisoned and executed,. The spies would pretend to repent and go to confession, etc. One apologised to St. Edmund Campion himself for his part in his capture, apparently terrified of being killed by the real Catholics. St. Edmund forgave him, and the man went off to continue his career as a tattletale-spy. The jailer, however, was so edified, that he became a Catholic himself.
Thus, I have spies on the brain.
UPDATE 2: What we all hope for:
Saturday, 11 December 2021
Yesterday rolled out green and sunny until I met a slightly rocky patch, which activated my anxiety about taxation, and then then it proceeded merrily until I fell into a great pit of fear and rage, into which we will not go now but is not unrelated to COVID-19.
Thursday, 9 December 2021
I have been reading Evelyn Waugh's Edmund Campion: Jesuit and Martyr every morning for the past two weeks or so, just a few pages every morning between morning prayer and Polish study. I highly recommend it, and it was a great comfort to me when the rumours of a planned visitation of the Ecclesia Dei communities were published. As many traditionalists ascertained during the pandemic, Tradition is not so easily suppressed. As the great saint wrote:
There will never want in England men that will have care of their own salvation, nor such as shall advance other men's, neither shall this Church here fall so long as priests and pastors shall be found for their sheep, rage man or devil never so much.
On Sunday I was at my usual place at the after-Mass tea table, and thanks to loyal volunteers, the hour of merriment went very well. There were tables of university students and tables of parents young and not so young. There were married couples without children, happily chatting to those with. There was an organiser of pilgrimages selling Christmas cards to finance future pilgrimages. There were two lovely girls, chatting over tea, who eventually did the washing up. There were swarms of little boys rushing indoors to the cookie plate and then out-of-doors again. There was a more stolid little girl. There was an infant girl dressed as a pink bear.
And as my heart rejoiced in all this traddie humanity, my brain reeled at the idea that a Holy Father, a sovereign pontiff, wanted this company to disperse and never come together again to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass of their ancestors, or their ancestors in faith. How utterly and absolutely bizarre.
However, we recusants have seen this all before, if from quite a different source, so we know what to do We even know that suppression has its spiritual fruit. As Waugh wrote of Campion's time:
The listless, yawning days were over, the half-hour's duty perfunctorily accorded on days of obligation. Catholics no longer chose their chaplain for his speed in staying Mass, or kept Boccaccio bound in the covers of their missals. Driven back to the life of the catacombs, the Church was recovering their temper.
On a somewhat related note, I seem to have lost my makeup bag. I regret the bag itself more than the things inside, for it was made by the now-retired wife of a Polish veteran of the last battle of Monte Cassino. They had a leather goods shop in Edinburgh for 50 years.
For some reason, it has become the habit of many Christian women of all kinds of denominations (although not the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland) to wear lipstick, or an entirely made-up face, to church. I suppose the idea is to look one's best out of respect for the Lord and the congregation, but no doubt Padre Pio had something devastating to say about it.
When I was a teenager, my mother tartly informed me that I didn't need to wear make-up as I already had the complexion women wore make-up to obtain. Now that I am older now then she was then, I see what she was on about. I cannot see how make-up could improve any of the beautiful young girls who turn up at the TLM. However, I have a very glamorous friend in middle-life, a wife and a mother of two, who is a dab hand with eyeshadow and therefore looks terrific.
I feel set with a terrible choice, worse than the conundrum of the choice, when 40, of looking either like a Hockey Mom or a Cougar. Either I can slide into a noble, unvarnished old age, looking like Mother Teresa, or I can join the mainstream fight to resemble an octogenarian retired film star instead. But naturally there must be a third way--as long as whatever it is doesn't frighten children.
Meanwhile, there are the plastic containers to consider. If womankind gave up, en masse, buying and wearing cosmetics, we would save
Pachamama the world from thousands of tons of landfill every year. We might also save a goodly sum of cash.
This reminds me of Christmas and how I hope to write another blogpost for work exhorting the social conservatives of the world not to spend too much this year. So far I have argued against Black Friday shopping and against obsessing over "the perfect present." Now I would like to extoll them not to go into debt. At first I thought it might be too late, but then I read that most gifts are bought in the last week of Advent.
Therefore, on Friday I will inform my readership that the average British family spends over £700 on Christmas and the average American spends $997 on Christmas. A third of Britons go into debt to buy Christmas presents--I hope this largely means that they buy them with a credit card, but unfortunately 1 in 20 of them skip paying one of their December bills. They thus run up interest. I am certain that He who took a whip to the moneychangers in the Temple does not want the moneychangers making so much money off the celebration of His birth.
Now, I am more than aware that I do not have children and therefore do not know firsthand what pressure parents are under to supply a sufficiently merry Merry Christmas (a point I will make in my piece). However, I have had a Christmas gift list of around 10 people for most of my life (and have a bigger one now) and now do some Christmas cooking and baking myself. I am also reading A Christmas Carol with one of my pupils, and the Cratchit family was able to make merry without recourse to a borrowed £700.
Obviously I will want to be sensitive about this--for (A) richer readers may object that it is the greatest delight of their lives to shower material goods and food upon their progeny at Christmas and (B) lovely packages are arriving here from Canada--but, seriously, the Scourging of the Temple does come to mind. Also Good King Wenceslaus, but that's anther blogpost.
Wednesday, 1 December 2021
Happy December and, more importantly, a blessed Advent! We have decorated the table with Advent candles and the cypress (leyandii) that we found strewn on the pavement after Storm Arwen ripped through that wealthy neighbourhood.
"The branches that fell from the rich man's tree/Shall furnish forth the poor man's feast," I declaimed after gleaning the branches.
"Who wrote that?" asked Benedict Ambrose.
"I did just now," I replied smugly but then worked on it on and off for the next day or so as obviously we weren't going to eat the branches. Does "Shall ornament the poor man's feast" scan?
Meanwhile, we are not so terribly poor as all that, for we were delightfully parsimonious this month despite a snazzy lunch in the New Town and our trip to London. Well, I say "delightfully," but B.A. might object to the carefree impression that creates. In fact, I drove B.A. bananas, as you will see.
Here are the food bills for the month:
November 2021: Groceries--£300.75; RBCT (Restaurants, Bars, Cafes, Takeaway)--£279.95. Total: £580.70.
This is significantly larger than the last few months but only because we hosted an out-of-town couple at a restaurant on George Street. It was a memorable meal, one of the luxuries of life well worth economising for.
Looking at the last few months, we spent as follows on food:
October: Groceries--£327; RBCT--£100. Total: £427.
September: Groceries--£296; RBCT--£156.89. Total: £452.89.
August: Groceries--£288.35; RBCT--£153.22. Total: £441.47.
The food bill is now our largest monthly expense, and obviously I like August's grocery bill better than October's. As November progressed, I saw we were clearly spending more than £10 a day and once again likely to go over the budgeted £300. Thus, I began to get a bit squirrelly and shifty-eyed. During the last week I began to pop out to Tesco to buy the very cheapest bread and the minimum needed to make frugal suppers. As it was, we were still 45 pence or so over by the 30th.
B.A. rebelled against this spartan regime, for he wanted to celebrate St. Andrew's Day properly. Thus, he printed off a Tesco Club Card coupon for £5 and sailed forth to get his beer "off the books," as it were. Delighted by the coupons, I asked him to get some butter, too.
This was not as easy it is sounds, for the check-out machine would not allow B.A. to buy just the beer and the butter with his coupon. He had to have £5 or more of stuff. He collected some stuff, but it was still not enough. In the end he enlisted the help of a young cashier, telling him that he wasn't actually homeless but that his wife was very strict with the budget. They managed to make the check-out machine work by putting a banana on the scale and pressing on it.
B..A. was very apologetic to the cashier, who then said it was the most interesting thing that had happened all day. Hopefully it gave him a funny story to tell when he got home. B.A.'s own amusement was, shall we say, mingled, and so this month I am not going to mention the cumulative grocery bill at all.
Meanwhile, I am pleased that we didn't beggar ourselves in London, which happens to unwary travellers, and also that in terms of groceries and cafe breakfasts, it doesn't seem to be more expensive than Edinburgh, second-most expensive city in Britain.
Here, for your entertainment and my nostalgia, is a list of where we splashed out our RBCT cash:
Sunday lunch in Stockbridge; Snack at Soederberg; Chinese takeaway supper; Snazzy lunch in the New Town; Cafe Nero latte on way to London train; Breakfast in South Kensington; Beer in pub near Covent Garden; Bun from a "Paul" in S. Kensington; Snack on Edinburgh train; Snack at Soederberg; Coffee alone near Edinburgh University (read Sciascia's "Un lungo viaggio"); Lunch with pals in Arbroath; Coffee near Edinburgh University (chatted in Polish).
Lest you worry that we went to our South Kensington bed hungry, I will remind you that we went to Waitrose and had a hotel room picnic. We ate the leftovers for breakfast and then lunch on the train home. Incidentally, Scots do not joke about themselves as being cheap. Apparently they joke about the good citizens of Aberdeen being cheap. Thanks to the oilmen, Aberdeen is a lot more expensive than it used to be, though. Hopefully the Aberdonians are richer, too.