25 September 2016

This is actually how most of my plans turn out.

I spent a week learning and polishing the communion chant for today.  Then, while singing the chant, my glasses slip down my nose, effectively flushing that week's worth of work down the toilet.

16 September 2016

The other day was the anniversary of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham (which would be better called "The Brief Fight in Abe's Cow Pasture").  Tonight I found a painting of the original Notre Dame de Quebec, which was destroyed by the British bombardment during the siege of the city.  Built in the 1640's, this was for a time the cathedral for all of North America North of Mexico. 

UPDATE:  A reader with a far greater knowledge of the Faith and its history than I wrote to correct my above understatement (verging on a dismissal) of Mexico in the early years of the European presence in North America:  "(W)e must understand that "Mexico" (to use its modern name), included California, Florida, and much of the central continental basin, though New York was in a Puerto Rican diocese older than the mainland ones.

The Spanish contribution to North America was immense, including, but not limited to, the horse, the grape, the olive, the citrus fruits - and The Faith."

15 September 2016

Murder by another name

Some years ago in Canada we had the Lattimer case, where a man gassed his severely disabled daughter. A lot of people came out of the woodwork to discuss how the father was a kind and loving man, and this was an act of love. The disabled trembled in fear as people wrote long and passionate letters and articles stating, in brief, that their lives were not worth living and killing them would be an act of mercy.

Now this case in Britain, where a young girl with autism was starved to death with the approval of the British legal system. Nancy Fitzmaurice's mother fought hard to see her daughter dead, and the press lined up to portray her mother as a loving woman who, like all mothers, only wanted what was truly best for her child. 

We recently celebrated the seventy first anniversary of the defeat of the abomination that was Hitler's Germany. Almost four hundred thousand people from Britain and her Commonwealth died in the struggle to destroy the monstrosity of Nazism, its warped philosophy and twisted science and its goal to eradicate from the world all 'life unworthy of life'. And now many in Britain have embraced the heart of the ideology they once bled to destroy.

My son is autistic. He has been assessed as being on the moderate to severe end of the spectrum. It sickens me to know there are many out there who would pat me on the back were I to murder him, and call it an act of love and mercy. An act of love and mercy to kill a boy who spends most of his day laughing and smiling.

There are days when this world and the people in it make me sick.

13 September 2016

On this day

Today is the 257th anniversary of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. The battle itself was brief, lasting perhaps fifteen minutes. The place of the battle, while it was a grand sounding name, was actually a cow pasture owned by a farmer of the name of Abraham. It was unusual, in that both Generals died in the battle, during an era when generals usually watched their armies battle at a distance.

It brought about the end of the French absolutist government in North America, and brought in British rule of law, and eventually parliamentary democracy. The nightmare of the French Revolution and its attendant Reign of Terror and the genocide of the Vendee never spread to North America because of the outcome of this brief battle. A stagnant government and economy was replaced by a more dynamic one, allowing for rapid economic growth. Despite being defeated, the French were offered generous terms of surrender, and were permitted to keep their language and religion, and to even vote, becoming the first place in the British Empire that allowed Catholics to vote. The Quebecois have been complaining about it ever since.

Wolfe, on the eve before his victory, as he dressed for battle, recited from memory lines from Thomas Grey's Elegy in a Country Churchyard.

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave
Awaits alike the inevitable hour.
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

Wolfe declared he would rather have been the one to have composed those lines than win Quebec on the morrow.

His path of glory did lead but to the grave. A monument once marked the spot on the battlefield where he fell, with the legend "Here died Wolfe victorious" carved into the stone. it was blown up by Quebec separatists. A new monument stands in its place with the words "Here died Wolfe". The burial place of the British soldiers who fell in the battle was long ago paved over.

University begins again.

All the fine young gods and goddesses have returned to their universities, seeking not new knowledge, but to be confirmed in what they have already decreed to be true.

Once again I see the books and course lists in my old field, English, and it is rushing to see. All but gone is the canon, replaced with comic books and graphic novels and books of recent vintage. If they wish to teach contemporary literature, then they should change the name of the program, and stop pretendi...ng what they teach is the works of the English language. They are not being exposed to old books and old ideas. They aren't even being exposed to new ideas. They are only being exposed to current ideas, most of which are already in their heads without reading these books.

"Who decided which books are the great works?" asked my colleagues in years past, many of whom are now professors themselves. "Why should we abide by their decisions?" now they have decided on their own list of great books, and demand all abide by their decisions. They are unaware in their blindness that they were asking the wrong question, and they were already on the wrong track in merely asking the question. The answer to their question was obvious to anyone who was not us, anyone who had worked in the field prior to time: No one decided these were the great books. Scholars made no decision about the greatness of this work or that, they discerned the greatness of these works.

CS Lewis once wrote that only the learned read the old books any more, and they, of all people, are the least likely to gain any benefit from doing so. Scholars in his time inoculated themselves against any benefit from reading by engaging in their schools of thought. When they read a work the questions they never asked is: "Is this true? Should I change my life based on what I have just read?" Instead, they wondered how this fit in with what they already believed. Feminists wondered about how women were represented and how their oppression was represented in this work. Marxists examined how the class war played out here. Deconstructionists would state that this work once again attempted to say something, but ultimately said nothing.

And so we read and read the great works, and were none the wiser for any of it. The new professors who asked the wrong question and got the wrong answer now pick their works, not because they have discerned, but through an act of will. We will study this work, not because it has something in it worthy of study, but because I say so. They have no insight, no wisdom to pass on, and it is reflected in their choices. Nor are their students seeking it. They are not looking for nor offering windows into worlds not imagined, but only mirrors reflecting themselves endlessly.

29 August 2016

Sigh. On the American election

Despite my efforts to ignore the American presidential campaign, I cannot avoid it. Having, and then having to defend, an opinion where I have no say and no influence is a rather pointless exercise. But others have very strong opinions indeed about this candidate or that one, and they find my position (they're both awful, I am glad not to be stuck making that choice, and I am praying for America) intolerable. Can I not see that their preferred candidate is better? Can I not see that the other is worse?

I think of the seventies and eighties, where every week there was some show or new prediction about how the world would end in nuclear fire. Some said the combined nuclear arsenals of the world could destroy the earth five times over. Some said it could destroy the earth six times over. And sometimes they would argue over the precise number: was it five, or was it six?

The debate was, I suppose, important: one should be precise about such things. But at heart it didn't really matter. The arsenals only had to destroy the earth once for the earth to be destroyed. After that, the extra was irrelevant. The difference between the two is a difference that is no difference.

That is my opinion of this campaign. It may be true that one candidate may be worse than the other, but the level of bad represented by both candidates is so great, it renders the difference irrelevant. All I hear in these arguments is that some prefers their candidate because that candidate will only destroy the country five times over, whereas the other will destroy it six times. A difference that is no difference.. One way or the other, disaster looms. Choosing one over the other is simply attempting to avoid Scylla by sailing into Charybdis.

I shall now resume my efforts to ignore the political campaign.

13 August 2016

Summer vacations

Just a few photos of our summer trips.

The road between Wawa and the Sioux.

Aguasabon Falls, Terrace Bay.

Looking for Amethysts, near Nipigon.

Terry Fox memorial, Thunder Bay.

Ouimet Canyon.

Giant Indian Head, said to be Ouimet himself.

View of the canyon in the other direction.

Possibly some more later.

11 August 2016

Feast of St Clare

St Clare, frightening away the Saracan mercenaries with her monstrance.

Ora pro nobis.