Dorothy Cummings McLean

Dorothy Cummings McLean

Dorothy Cummings McLean is a Canadian writer living abroad and the author of two books, Ceremony of Innocence and Seraphic Singles.

Dorothy has an MA in English literature from the University of Toronto, an M.Div./STB from Regis College and spent two years in doctoral studies in theology at Boston College.

How do you read your Catholic Register? Living overseas, I get mine over the Internet. A notice appears in my inbox around 10 p.m. on Wednesdays, just before I shut down my computer for the night. And of course I summon the issue at once and click directly to the letters page.

I have noticed a few letters in The Catholic Register critiquing cover photograph of Sr. Helena Burns, apparently because she was photographed in her habit, with a rosary, cheering on the Canadian Olympic hockey team. I find it significant that what raised the letter-writers’ ire was not the accompanying article, but the apparently “stereotypical” photo.

The most beautiful Mass in Toronto is at Holy Family Church, 1372 King Street West, at 11 o’clock on Sunday mornings. There is not much parking, but on Sundays the streetcar stops right in front of the church. The parish is administered by the Fathers of the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri.

Foolishly I read only half the memo: the Oratorian’s Missa Cantata for Candlemas would not only be at 10:45, it would be at Holy Family Church in Parkdale. I discovered my mistake only at 10:40 a.m., when I was happily chatting at the back of St. Vincent de Paul on Roncesvalles.

Candlemas, February 2, has passed and my husband has dragged the tree down the stairs, so the Christmas season is now well and truly over. Lent, with its sense of penance and renewal, hovers on the horizon. However, a secular Lent has begun for hundreds, if not thousands, of fad dieters, for the Fast Diet is all the rage.

In 2004, the Catholic chaplain at Aberdeen University was suddenly removed. In 2006, Fr. Mark Paterson, O.Carm., was convicted of sexual assault. As his accuser, a middle-aged non-student, was known among the students of the university’s Catholic Society as a teller of malicious tales, the Catholic Society was outraged. They told the media, which had broadcast the salacious accusations, that there had been a miscarriage of justice.

I returned from a week in the countryside of Fife, where my husband and I had rented a little cottage, on discount terms, from the National Trust of Scotland. The cottage is a pocket on the grassy skirts of the magnificent “Hill of Tarvit” mansion. The estate was built for an Edwardian jute king and left to the Trust after the jute king’s daughter died in 1948 — probably to circumvent the crippling inheritance taxes. Before the Trust was founded, many desperate owners just destroyed their ancestral country homes. Thus, the rescuing National Trust, my husband’s job, and our little holiday in the quiet countryside.

According to British officialdom, Canadians are a minority ethnic group. If fellow expats were to take this seriously, I’d suggest we call ourselves the “invisible minority.” Not only do we look like the British majority or the other ethnic minorities, we sound like Americans. On the bus, I strain my ear for clues as to whether a loud transatlantic rider is a charmingly lively Canadian or just a noisy Yank. In truth, Edinburgh Canadians seem to be few and far between—unlike, of course, the Poles.

When I moved to Edinburgh, I was surprised that most street beggers were ethnic Scots. Although Glasgow is a multi-racial city, the face of abject poverty in Edinburgh is white. In Edinburgh, poverty does not go hand-in-hand with race. It goes hand-in-hand with class. And to protect myself from poverty’s more public and violent manifestations, I have had to learn to discern class indicators, like accents and clothing.

Last week my husband and I took two busses, an airplane, two trains and a boat to reach a Benedictine convent on the Isle of Wight.