No doubt many of you have read the article from Catholic News Service about the Maltese bishops’ response to Amoris Laetitia that appeared last week on The Catholic Register web site.
School’s in, and again I look upon my lost youth with mingled regret and nostalgia. Not to terrify 14-year-old readers, but occasionally I see an ex-classmate on Facebook wailing, “If only I were 14 again and could do things differently.” Having read an excellent book called Make It Stick: the Science of Successful Learning (Brown, Harvard, 2014), I too long for the time machine.
My father once told me the story of a Japanese tourist who wandered into a historical European church. A guide hurried to meet him and point out the intricate carvings, the famous paintings. It took her a moment to realize that the Japanese visitor was paying no attention. He was standing frozen in the middle of the aisle with his face contorted in horror. Finally he raised a shaking finger to the baroque and bloody crucifix and asked, “Who is THAT?”
I spent the eve of Advent polishing the makeshift communion rail in our little wooden church. All around me parishioners vacuumed the rafters or cleaned the windows or mopped the floors. Someone had decided that this year we should clean the church for Christmas, and I thought that a great idea.
Migrant crisis leads one to wonder: how many are real refugees, how many are queue-jumpers?
The day after our friend George was elected MP, I walked to his house with a bottle of champagne. It wasn’t chilled, so George and his wife took another bottle from the fridge. When I left them I was a little woozy but not so woozy that I couldn’t do a little lobbying: “I know, George, that if the question comes up in the House, you will speak on behalf of the Middle Eastern Christians.”
It’s late August, and the wild roses have blown over. In July they grew profusely, and every time I passed them on the way to the supermarket I stopped to smell them. Although its delicious scent is indistinguishable from that of the pink, I like the proverbial “white rose of Scotland” best.
Before I started theology school, I thought I would be trained in apologetics, which I saw as the art of arguing one’s own beliefs so well that others are converted to them. However, when classes began I was told, “We don’t do apologetics; we do theology.”
“Marriage is not just any relationship between human beings,” wrote the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. “It was established by the Creator with its own nature, essential properties and purpose. No ideology can erase from the human spirit the certainty that marriage exists solely between a man and a woman, who by mutual personal gift, proper and exclusive to themselves, tend toward the communion of their persons. In this way, they mutually perfect each other, in order to co-operate with God in the procreation and upbringing of new human lives.”
In the 1970s there was a marked contrast between the Catholic faith as it was taught in my elementary school and as it was taught in the church around the corner. At school, it wasn’t taught as much as it was assigned, and religion class often morphed into art class. At the church, the faith took on much larger dimensions, as if in school we had been looking at it through the wrong end of a telescope, and only when we went to Mass were we able to see it the right way round.
Distressing news chez the McLeans: someone has dumped or leaked raw sewage into our stream. For over 200 years the stream has been trickling musically through the woods, falling silent under the ground here and then splashing merrily over a waterfall there. The whole landscape — fields, woods, stream — was designed for the wealthy family that once lived in our house. It is now open to the public, but the woodland path toward the Firth of Forth has had to be roped off. The stream is now a health and safety hazard. It stinks to high heaven.
One day my Warsaw friend suddenly took it into her head to fly to England and enter the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Cecilia at Ryde on the Isle of Wight. I found out after the fact and was cross that Weronika had robbed her friends of our traditional goodbye party for postulants. However, Weronika wrote a charming apology for her elopement, explaining that she had thought she would leave by Christmas and therefore didn’t want a fuss.