The night is dark, and I am far from home

The characteristic posture of the prophet – having one ear to God and one ear to the ground – has always been found uncomfortable by those who have adopted it. And the prophetic role itself has ever been as much misunderstood as it has been burdensome. That role is not, primarily, to foretell but to forth-tell: to relate the purpose of the eternal to the limitations of the temporal. It is a task that must ever be carried out, even as the prophet is accused of interpreting what is merely a falling acorn as the collapse of the sky itself.

It is thus a continuous responsibility; and perhaps never more so than today when the Divine voice of reason, peace and grace is all but drowned out by the shrieks and clamor of evil on every side. To say that will doubtless evoke references to Chicken Little, but only on the part of those who have embraced palpable ignorance, confusion and obscurity, and who turn their backs on truth.

The editor of First Things, R. R. Reno, has recently described the social decomposition of the United States. “The warning signs are everywhere. Anyone visiting Seattle or San Francisco is struck by the packs of feral youths living on the streets. People shoot up in public. The smell of marijuana is now commonplace in most major cities …. A fish rots from the head down. The social dissolution of our nation is a direct consequence of the mentalities, policies and actions of our ruling class.”

Among the signs of that decomposition there is the terrible slaughter by abortion. The Didache, as long ago as the First Century A.D. taught that: “You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish.” It is murder, prohibited by Divine decree. Yet twenty centuries after the Didache our political leaders are still permitting, if not advocating, such evil.

“One of the awful facts of our age,” wrote the monk Thomas Merton, “is the evidence that [the world] is stricken indeed, stricken to the very core of its being by the presence of the Unspeakable.”

We need to take that dread warning with the utmost seriousness; and it should be a matter of great alarm that most of our leaders – spiritual as well as secular – are not, apparently, doing so.

Consider this vignette. There is a small and beautiful community of contemplative nuns in France – The Little Sisters of the Lamb – most of whom are handicapped by Downs Syndrome. Compare that with the fact that all of the current slate of contenders for the Democrat presidential nomination are unequivocally pro-abortion. Of course, these two facts are not directly related. But where could you find a more striking assertion of the chasm of contrast between life and death, light and darkness, love and selfishness, good and evil.

“Times have changed”, says presidential candidate Joseph Biden, as he backs off his previous stance on the Hyde Amendment. Well, not for the better, as Merton asserts. But God has not changed. He remains – in the Nicene words that Biden, as a soi-disant Catholic proclaims at Mass every Sunday —  the Lord and Giver of Life. Yet, in the great words of Henry Francis Lyte, “Change and decay in all around I see … O thou that changest not, abide with me.” And Joseph Biden should care to remember that he is named for the Husband of Mary and the protector of the Holy Family. Nor should he forget the words of Alice von Hildebrand: “One day, all human accomplishments will be reduced to a pile of ashes. But every single child to whom a woman has given birth will live forever, for he has been given an immortal soul made to God’s image and likeness.” Those words come from her book The Privilege of Being a Woman. [cf. #MeToo]

Barbara Tuchman, the acclaimed historian and Pulitzer Prize winner died in 1988. Just before her death, one of her essays appeared in the New York Times Sunday Magazine. Here is portion:

“Decline of a nation or a society” (she wrote), “is a provocative historical problem. In Rome, it is associated with external pressure coupled with internal weakness. In the ancient Greek cities of Asia Minor (like Ephesus), it can be traced to the silting of harbors through environmental neglect, closing them to access by sea. In the Aztec Empire of Mexico, it was the invasion of ruthless Europeans. … In the United States, who knows? Will it be moral collapse from within? One certainly experiences a deteriorating ethic at every level of society, and with it incompetence from the people who no longer function at their utmost, who grow lax and accept the mediocre. Violence is also symptomatic of a nation’s decline, and today’s deepening climate of bloody violence is not reassuring. More disturbing, however, is what is missing in American attitudes and public opinion: Where is the outrage? Why aren’t people angry about violence, injustice and immorality? Why aren’t we angry over misconduct and incompetence in Government by public officials of the highest rank? Where is the outrage over racism, over fraud in business, over deceit and betrayal of trust, over the trivialization of morality, where it is ‘moral’ if it works or makes us feel good? Anger when anger is due is necessary for self-respect and for the respect of this nation by other nations.… What has become of national self-respect, not to mention common decency? Why do we keep turning back to Sodom and Gomorrah?”

Half a century earlier, in 1940, Dorothy Sayers (whom I, as a child, was privileged to meet briefly), wrote this:

“Something is happening to us to-day which has not hap­pened for a very long time. We are waging a war of religion. Not a civil war between adherents of the same religion, but a life-and-death struggle between Christian and pagan. The Christians are, it must be confessed, not very good Christians, and the pagans do not officially proclaim them­selves worshippers of Mahound or even of Odin, but the stark fact remains that Christendom and heathendom now stand face to face as they have not done in Europe since the days of Charlemagne. In spite of the various vague references in sermons and public speeches to the (the Second World) War as a ‘crusade’, I think we have scarcely begun to realize the full implications of this. It is a phenomenon of quite extraordinary impor­tance. The people who say that this is a war of economics or of power-politics, are only dabbling about on the surface of things. Even those who say it is a war to preserve freedom and justice and faith have gone only half-way to the truth. The real question is what economics and politics are to be used for; whether freedom and justice and faith have any right to be considered at all; at bottom it is a violent and irreconcilable quarrel about the nature of God and the nature of man and the ultimate nature of the universe; it is a war of dogma.”

At the heart of this quarrel (but, in truth, not so much a “quarrel” as a radical  life-and-death battle with Satanic evil) lies the family. Divorce, contraception, abortion, pornography, same-sex “marriage” (a relationship intrinsically closed to procreation cannot be a marriage anymore than a triangle can have a fourth corner or an elephant can be a penguin) are all deadly enemies of  family life and the happiness of children.

Mary Eberstadt’s hugely important book,  How the West Really Lost God, was published in 2013. In it she demonstrates convincingly what she characterizes as the “double helix” of Faith and natural Family – the complex relationship that links inextricably the welfare, the blessings, the woes of the Church and of the Family. When one suffers, so does the other. But when both flourish, they do so for the welfare and happiness of society.

It is impossible to consider these things without reference to the fathers of families.  Fatherhood and – yes, patriarchy – are threatened species today. Yet Almighty God has revealed Himself to us precisely as Father, presiding over, providing and legislating for his family; and, in so doing, he provides us with the template and (literally) the pattern for human society. We do not elect our human father who, within his family is prophet, priest and – yes—king; and, as such, he is entitled to our love and fealty.

The Fourth Precept, of the ten given to Moses, reads: “Honor you father and mother” – words which, inter alia, provide us with a perception of the moral significance of hierarchy. And it should be noted that this is the only one of the Ten Commandments to which a promise is attached: “that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you.” There is no absolutely no justification here for what has been described in the words of the founder of the Paneuropa Movement, “We are experiencing the most dangerous revolution in world history: the revolution of the State against man. We are experiencing the worst idolatry of all time: the deification of the state.” — Richard N. Coudenhove-Kalergi, Totaler Staat – Totaler Mensch (The Totalitarian State Against Man).

As long ago as 1969 (in a Christmas radio address) then-Father Joseph Rattzinger warned that the “totally planned world sought by progressives would devalue individual agency – along with human connections like family and local community.

But, in the memorable words of the first president of the Federal Republic of Germany, “Europe was built on three hills: the Acropolis, which gave her the values of freedom, philosophy and democracy; the Capitol, which represented Roman legal concepts and social order; and Golgotha …” quoted by Metropolitan Hilarion, at a symposium held in London on Sept 22, 2017, on the Christian Future of Europe.

Notwithstanding the upheaval of the United Kingdom’s apparent determination to leave it  (because, perhaps, of the abandonment of the vision afforded by the summit of those three hills?), the European Union is surely to be counted as one of the great Christian Democrat achievements. And it was precisely that ideal, sought by the founders of the PanEuropa Movement, and Robert Schumann, Konrad Adenauer, Alcide de Gasperri, Henri Spaak – themselves inspired by the vision of the Second Vatican Council’s Gaudiem et Spes.

However, several months ago, in the Catholic Herald, Andrew Cusack suggested that Christian democracy is a spent force. We see the trajectory of “democracy” into plutocratic oligarchy. How can the members of Congress, the majority of whom are incredibly wealthy and who enjoy Congressional pensions and medical benefits that would exceed the dreams of most, be – in any meaningful way – “representatives” of the very many who live from paycheck to paycheck.

Judge Andrew Napolitano celebrated this year’s Independence Day by observing that  the Jeffersonian ideals of personal natural rights have become myths. “In Jefferson’s day, the voters knew all that the government did, and (the government) knew nothing about them. Today, the government operates largely in secrecy, and it captures our every communication. In Jefferson’s day, the government needed the people’s expressed permission to tax and regulate them. Today, the people need the government’s permission to do nearly everything.”

Although Judge Napolitano does not say this, it would seem that Congressional term limits and a determined dedication to subsidiarity must be sought.

Years previously (June 2010) Dr James Patrick wrote (in Tradition, a publication of the College of St Thomas More, Fort Worth) that “our country has never before been governed by a temper that can only be described as godless. And this fact, the fact that the government has moved from neutrality plus nods to God to aggressive godlessness brings home to those who will see the whole tenor of history since 1300. For if we look at the grand sweep of the last five centuries, we can see that a movement  that began in the Garden by proclaiming the freedom and omnicompetence of the human race, reigning unchecked since the Renaissance, has ended in slavery.”

That indeed is the trajectory of “democracy” – an idea which is founded upon a fatal fallacy, as the magisterial work of Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn in his truly great book  Liberty or Equality has demonstrated with scholarly eloquence.   [It was first published in 1952, and there is a second edition in 1993.] He insists that liberty and equality are in essence contradictory. Potentiality and actuality should not, he says, be confused. “Judas Iscariot expiring in the noose and St. John the Evangelist closing his eyes on Patmos are spiritually not equals. If we focus our attention upon the biological, characteriological, intellectual  and physical status of the individual, the inequalities are even more apparent.”

Hans-Hermann Hoppe (Professor Emeritus of Economics  at UNLV and Distinguished Fellow with the Mises Institute) has written this:

While it is impossible to predict the exact outcome of the permanent democratic strug­gle of all against all, except to say that it will lead to ever higher taxes, to a never ending flood of legislation and thus increased legal uncertainty, and consequently to an increase in the rate of social time-preference, i.e., increased short-term orientation (an “infantization” of society), one outcome of this struggle, one result of democracy can be safely predicted, however. Democracy pro­duces and brings about a new power elite or ruling class. Presidents, prime ministers, and the leaders of parliament and political parties are part of this power elite, and I have already talked about them as essentially amoral dem­agogues. But it would be naive to assume that they are the most powerful and influential people of all. They are more frequently only the agents and delegates — those doing the bidding — of other people standing on the sidelines and out of public view. The true power elite, which determines and controls who will make it as president, prime minis­ter, party leader, etc., are the plutocrats. The plutocrats, as defined by the great but largely forgotten American sociologist William Gra­ham Sumner, are not simply the super-rich — the big bankers and the captains of big business and industry. Rather, the plutocrats are only a subclass of the super rich. They are those super rich big bankers and business­men, who have realized the enormous poten­tial of the State as an institution that can tax and legislate for their own even greater future enrichment and who, based on this insight, have decided to throw themselves into poli­tics. They realize that the State can make you far richer than you already are: whether in subsidizing you, in awarding you with state contracts, or in passing laws that protect you from unwelcome competition or com­petitors, and they decide to use their riches to capture the State and use politics as a means to the end of their own further enrichment (rather than becoming richer solely by eco­nomic means, i.e., in better serving volun­tarily paying customers of one’s products). They do not have to get involved in politics themselves. They have more important and lucrative things to do than wasting their time with everyday politics. But they have the cash and the position to “buy” the typically far less affluent professional politicians, either directly in paying them bribes or indirectly, by agreeing to employ them later on, after their stint in professional politics, as highly paid managers, consultants, or lobbyists, and so manage to decisively influence and deter­mine the course of politics in their own favor. They, the plutocrats, will become the ultimate winners in the constant income and wealth redistribution struggle that is democracy. And in between them (the real power elite staying outside the limelight), and all those whose income (and wealth) depends solely or largely on the State and its taxing power (the employ­ees of the always growing state apparatus and all recipients of transfer payments, its “welfare clients”), the productive middle class gets increasingly squeezed dry.

There is nothing to reassure us in all this. Even so, there are those who – like  Larry Diamond ( a professor of Sociology and Political Science  at Stanford University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution) – lamented in Time (June 24, 2019) the decline in democracy across the globe, which he described as an “emerging crisis”. You may suppose that he was speaking of Venezuela or, perhaps, Hong Kong. But no:  he spoke – with particular reference to Hungary and Poland – of what he calls “the dark period that has descended upon Europe”. His words are characteristic of the liberal hysteria that erupts at any mention of Hungary’s Fundamental Law:

“We are proud that our king Saint Stephen built the Hungarian State on solid ground and made our country a part of Christian Europe one thousand years ago.

We are proud of our forebears who fought for the survival, freedom and independence of our country.

We are proud of the outstanding intellectual achievements of the Hungarian people.

We are proud that our people has over the centuries defended Europe in a series of struggles and enriched Europe’s common values with its talent and diligence.

We recognise the role of Christianity in preserving nationhood. We value the various religious traditions of our country.

We promise to preserve the intellectual and spiritual unity of our nation torn apart in the storms of the last century.

We proclaim that the nationalities living with us form part of the Hungarian political community and are constituent parts of the State.”

If then, democracy is a spent force, if God Himself has indicated the foundational structure of human life and society as hierarchical, familial, paternal – and, as the Catholic Faith insists, sacramental — then we must return to a serious and (though this may difficult for Americans to appreciate) non-hysterical consideration of monarchy with its concomitant values of chivalry, personal loyalty and honor, offered to a person and not to an abstract symbol. The Emperor Franz Joseph, once asked in a moment of candor by Theodore Roosevelt what he considered to be the role of a monarch in the present age, replied: “To protect my peoples from their governments”. As Aristotle said: Monarchy is the one system of government where power is exercised for the good of all.

One of the great Christian thinkers of our own time was C.S.Lewis. This is what he said:

“Monarchy can easily be debunked, but watch the faces, mark well the debunkers. These are the men whose taproot in Eden has been cut: whom no rumour of the polyphony, the dance, can reach – men to whom pebbles laid in a row are more beautiful than an arch. Yet even if they desire mere equality they cannot reach it. Where men are forbidden to honour a king they honour millionaires, athletes or film stars instead: even famous prostitutes or gangsters. For spiritual nature, like bodily nature, will be served; deny it food and it will gobble poison.”

There is much to concern and disturb us in the contemporary scene. “The night is dark, and I am far from home”, wrote John Henry Newman. But the glittering words of the fundamental Hungarian law are full of hope. And we must remember the words of Robert, Cardinal Sarah: “I would like to point out that everything is prepared for a renewal. I see families, monasteries, and parishes that are like oases in the middle of a desert. It is from these oases of faith, liturgy, beauty, and silence that the West will be reborn.”


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Ecce sacerdos magnus, qui in diebus suis, placuit Deo

As I write this I am listening to a CD recording of music by Sir Malcolm Arnold — the first tracks of which are his English Dances and the last his charming and hilarious Grand Grand Overture that he wrote for the wonderful, satirical Hoffnung Festival Concert held in London’s Royal Festival Hall in 1956.

The CD was a kind, imaginative and characteristic gift, when I was recovering from surgery in a hospital in Fort Worth in 1999, from my most dear friend Edwin Barnes who died just a couple of weeks ago. At the time of his visit to me he was the Bishop of Richborough, one of the so-called “flying” bishops who cared for the remaining orthodox faithful congregations within the Church of England.

Edwin and his wife Jane were received into the Roman Catholic Church early in 2011; and Edwin was then ordained to the Catholic priesthood, in March of that year, by the then-Bishop of Portsmouth, Crispian Hollis. Bishop Hollis’ grandfather was an Anglican bishop who, previously, had served as Vice-Principal of Wells Theological College, when my own father had been a seminarian there in the mid-1920s.

EPSON scanner image

Edwin and I first met in 1958 when we were students at Cuddesdon, where (as Edwin recently remarked) there used to be a seminary. Cuddesdon Theological College, near Oxford, founded in 1854, had its roots in the Tractarian Movement, that had sought to recover and revive the Catholic elements and history of Anglicanism. Also known as the “Holy Hill”. It has been suggested that in Cuddesdon “the presence of the Church has been more strongly felt than perhaps anywhere else in England”.

Apart from the central ascetical and academic ethos at Cuddesdon there was also a strong sense of corporate, community life – and the fun that could be found therein. The last evening of the academic term would be marked by a show of some sort, staged by the seminarians themselves and known as “Bright Hour” – a term affectionately hijacked from the title given in some evangelical quarters to afternoon Bible-study tea gatherings. These shows were usually mini-musicals, based on some ludicrous send-up of members of the seminary staff or of currents trends in ecclesiastical life. I was often responsible for the lyrics; and Michael Marshall (himself to become an Anglican bishop) wrote and performed memorable melodies for them. But Edwin was indubitably the star performer.

All this prepared us, probably as well as possible, for the ecclesiastical storms that raged round the years of our respective ministries in the Church of England. There is no need to recount all this here, for the passion is now spent and healing and restoration has come. However, our respective involvement in the work of the (English) Church Union played some part in this. The Church Union was the most venerable and effective Anglo-Catholic institution, with full-time staff, offices and a publishing house located in central London. We were both participants in the Catholic Renewal international conference, organized by the Church Union and held at Loughborough University just after Easter 1978. [See my earlier blog of an Open Letter to that conference: Well, we tried. March 26, 2017.] Thereafter, I was privileged to serve as the chairman of the National Executive Committee of the Church Union under the presidency of Bishop Eric Kemp of Chichester. Some years later, Edwin was to succeed Bishop Kemp in that role.

Just a day or two before his death Edwin wrote an extensive – and, I think, important — piece in his own blog “Antique Richborough” [] on the experience of the Ordinariate; and he asked for my comments on it. In his blog-piece he explored the Anglican background that we both shared.

“For most, the Church of England has meant the building near their home. ….. When families were less peripatetic, the churchyard was where generations of the family were interred. Their loyalty was to the building, because (parish priests) with their funny ways some and go, but the Church stands firm. What was assured was that the Vicar or Rector or Curate was the real thing. He might stand at the north end of the Lord’s table wearing a black cassock and preaching bands, or he might be in Mass Vestments attended by servers with candles and thuribles. What we understood though was that however he dressed and whatever he taught, the (sacrament) was always the same sacrament, as ordained by Christ as the Last Supper.

“When Rome through the person of dear Benedict XVI made the offer of joining the Catholic Church as a group, we jumped at it because whatever individual priests (or bishops — or even Popes) might believe, the faith was the faith was the faith; that is, the Faith once delivered to the Saints.”

Edwin then went on to express something with which, from my own perspective, I profoundly share; and I am grateful to him for expressing the matter so succinctly:
“Episcopalians then have an experience of the Anglican Church very different from that of former members of the Church of England. The English Ordinarians are seeking the truth, quite separate from the language in which it is expressed. For Americans, it seems as though the language is of the esse of their faith. So forgive us, American friends, if we do not share your concern for such things as plainchant …. or Tudoresque language. Some of us will have a hankering after these things; most of us do not. We are happily at home in the Catholic Church with the Novus Ordo. …. I am happy to have comments made to redress the balance of what I have written here. And, in the words of Tiny Tim, God Bless us, every one.”

Over the 60+ years of our friendship he and I discussed these matters often – by e-mail and telephone, and when, on several occasions, we were made such welcome guests of Jane and Edwin at Lymington in the New Forest, when they stayed with us in France, and when he visited the USA.


How often we would consider the true patrimony which we had been blessed to bring into the Catholic Church: not just a matter of period English, but how modern rites could be adorned by a precious and unique cultural, musical, poetic, spiritual, ascetic, homiletic heritage – notably expressed in the teaching of the late Martin Thornton, and generously appreciated in the writings and support of Fr Aidan Nichols O.P.  And we also brought with us a profound pastoral and juridical practice (expressed not least in the experience over the centuries of a married priesthood), with its parish-based tradition of pastoral care and commitment to a flock. Philip North, writing in the issue of the Catholic Messenger in 2010 just after the proclamation of Anglicanorum Coetibus, refers to something that he suspected was important to the compilers of the apostolic constitution: “that married clergy are a defining feature of that patrimony …. married priests are an accepted feature of every major Christian denomination except Rome.” [For more about this, see my blog: — the entry entitled “Father”, Feb 15, 2015]

It is said that, when St. Lawrence Justinian – an Italian saint who died in the middle of the 15th century — was on his deathbed, he caught a glimpse of one of his attendants weeping. Summoning his waning strength, he said: “If you wish to weep, go away; for if you want to remain with me, you must rejoice, as I rejoice, for the gate of heaven is at last opened to me, so that I may be united with my God.”

Edwin, we do indeed rejoice with you, praying that – sacerdos magnus, after the order of Melchisadek — you may rest now in peace and rise in glory.





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This scene is not strange to any air-traveler: waiting hopefully at a carousel for the baggage to arrive. This particular picture was taken at New York’s JFK Airport.


Note what you can see in the foregound: a device for dispensing baggage carts, called Smarte Cartes.


They should be renamed “Smarte Aleck Cartes”.

Imagine arriving, weary and jet-lagged, from – let us say – Singapore. You have no US cash in your pocket, for you have yet to reach a bank or currency exchange. You really need a cart – but this thing requires payment in cash (or credit card) in the amount of $6. Yes, you read that correctly: six dollars. Welcome to the United States of America!

The only thing that is “smarte” about these carts is their smart-aleck ability to be rapaciously inconvenient and to take advantage of weary travelers and new-comers to these shores.

Note: there is no such charge at London’s Heathrow and Gatwick, at Charles de Gaulle in Paris, at Fiumicino in Rome, nor at the airports in  Frankfurt, Amsterdam,  Munich, Vienna, Manchester, Stansted, …. etc., etc.

PLEASE, PLEASE don’t tell our grocery stores and supermarkets about this! I think that they are probably too public-spirited to take this kind of mean advantage of their shoppers – but let’s be careful.

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The 27th Sunday in ExtraOrdinary Time


Senators: Mark Begich, Alaska; Maria Cantwell, Washington; Robert Casey Jr., Pennsylvania; Richard Durbin, Illinois; Kirsten Gillibrand, New York; Tom Harkin, Iowa; John Kerry, Massachusetts; Mary Landrieu, Louisiana; Patrick Leahy, Vermont; West Virginia; Claire McCaskill, Missouri; Robert Menendez, New Jersey; Barbara Mikulski, Maryland; Patty Murray, Washington; and Jack Reed, Rhode Island – and, while I am about it, to Representative Nancy Pelosi et al.

I understand that each of you claims to be Roman Catholic; and I assume that, as such, you were present at Mass yesterday, the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time. I have suggested above that these are, in fact, extra-ordinary times – marked as they are by the extravagant hysteria that is currently being displayed by those who fear that the liberal agenda is under threat. At the heart of that agenda is the determination to undermine and to destroy all that Catholics (and, indeed, most Christians) regard as the God-given meaning and purpose of marriage and secure family life as the foundation and basis of human society.

There, at Mass yesterday, you heard – in the sublime and poetic account in Genesis 2 — of the Divine origin of human sexuality, of how by God’s intention and purpose, “the two of them become one flesh” (and there is no mention here of Adam and Steve, by the way).

In yesterday’s Gospel lection (from St Mark) you heard that since, in marriage, man and woman who have been joined together by God to become one flesh, “no human being may separate”.

In the lyrical Responsorial Psalm (128) you sang with rejoicing in the very God-given being of life itself and the prodigal generosity of the fertility He provides. “May you see your children’s children” – an aspiration that is hardly likely to appear as the watchword of Planned Parenthood or of any supporters of abortion.

Indissoluble marriage between man and woman, the sanctity of life; the immorality of genital homosexuality: the Judeo-Christian witness, the unchanging teaching of the Catholic Church, render the liberal agenda not merely wrong or mistaken but actively evil.

As Mary Eberstadt says in her important book How The West Really Lost God: “In an age when many people live lives that contradict the traditional Christian moral code, the mere existence of that code becomes a lightning rod for criticism and vituperation.”

The Catholic is a subject of Christ the King – and that fact is either the very top priority, the determining factor in every decision, every act political or personal. Or the soi-disant Catholic is revealed in the brilliant light of Christ as a shameful sham.

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“I am delighted”, the words of a woman quoted recently in the New York Times

The word “delight” needs no definition: it is in itself golden, effervescent, luminous and beautiful. The contemplation of beauty, as John Hadfield observed in the Introduction to his Book of Delights (one of the six glorious anthologies he published in the mid-1950s), affords “some evidence in support of Henry Vaughan’s belief that Heaven lies about us—not only in our infancy, but through all the seven ages of man.”

Three centuries after Vaughan, and far from Wales, Louis Armstrong made the same affirmation:

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do
They’re really saying I love you
I hear babies crying, I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more than I’ll never know
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
Yes I think to myself what a wonderful world

Such delight is not only golden, luminous and beautiful, but it can also be ecstatic and immensely powerful. Thus, almost one hundred years ago, at the ending of the horror and unimaginable slaughter of World War One, Siegfried Sassoon (who had served as an infantry officer on the Western Front) wrote from his heart:

Everyone suddenly burst out singing;
And I was filled with such delight
As prisoned birds must find in freedom,
Winging wildly across the white
Orchards and dark-green fields; on – on – and out of sight.

What comparable ecstasy can have occasioned the delight of the woman quoted in the New York Times – or, indeed, of the rapturous joy that is so evident here?

Perhaps it was the awareness that it is right and just, in the words of the Gerald Bullett(1893-1958) to –

Be still, my soul. Consider
The flowers and the stars.
Among these sleeping fragrances,
Sleep now your cares.
That which the universe
Lacks room to enclose
Lives in the folded petals
Of this dark rose.

Maybe it was the gracious recognition of the fact that, as Henry Vaughan understood, all of life is circumscribed by Heaven. Maybe it was a sharing in Louis Armstrong’s joy in hearing babies crying and watching them grow.


But no. The occasion was, in fact, the outcome of the referendum on abortion in the Republic of Ireland – where the slaughter, dismemberment and rejection of unborn human beings, their creation being the work of the Lord and Giver of Life, Almighty God who is the giver of all that is good, the uncouth refusal of the generous gifts of God, will be “legalized”.

It is hard to imagine how such a thing could be — for a sentient, sensitive and intelligent person — any kind of occasion for such evidently ecstatic delight. How can it be anything other than demonic, evil, the choosing of death rather than life, of darkness rather than light. And how can our civilization, already terrified by its demograhic prospects and by the implications thereof, regard suicide as a reasonable highway into the future?

We know, and we are daily made more aware of the fact, that we live in perillous times, that governments are out of control, that huge and remote bureaucracies have ominous power over us and over our culture, that family life is targeted for destruction, that the culture of death is in mortal combat with the Gospel of Life.

The situation is so grave that we cannot now be content with merely seeking such palliatives as an end to overreaching government, transparency in public affairs, the ensuring of a determined oppostion to the baleful effects of liberalism and secularism. We can be engaged in nothing less than an epic campaign for the recovery and restoration of Christendom, even if that were to take centuries to accomplish. Of course, the task is of Herculean proportions: but how can those of us who pray daily Adveniat Regnum Tuum be content with any less lofty goal? And if we are too few, too weak, too simple, too spiritually compromised to undertake this challenge, then who should do so? And if not now, then when?

Christ is our King; and it follows, inevitably, that our urgent concerns will be with fatherhood and family, with courtesy and chivalry. It will strive and pray for the unity of all Christians as Christ wills. It will consider the relationship between liberty and equality, not evading the challenge that this may present to all the received notions about “democracy”. It will study the social teachings of the Holy See from Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum to the present day. It will ponder Pope Saint John Paul II’s statement that its foundation “rests on the threefold cornerstones of human dignity, solidarity and subsidiarity”. It will remember that the first president of the Federal Republic of Germany said that (Western civilization) was built on three hills: the Acropolis, which gave the values of freedom, philosophy and democracy; the Capitol, which represented Roman legal concepts and social order; and Golgotha …” (quoted by Metropolitan Hilarion, at a symposium held in London on Sept 22, 2017, on the Christian Future of Europe).

Let us set out now under the banner of Theodosius. The Roman Emperor was born in Spain in or around 346 AD and died in Milan on January 17, 395. As the Catholic Encyclopedia says: “Theodosius is one of the sovereigns by universal consent called Great. He stamped out the last vestiges of paganism, put an end to the Arian heresy in the empire, pacified the Goths, left a famous example of penitence for a crime, and reigned as a just and mighty Catholic emperor.”

We must begin again; and so the Christian Labarum will triumph once more over the banner of the ancient , but now horribly revivified, gods.



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The end of guns


The Wall Street Journal leading Opinion article on Feb 27 deplored what it called “Our Childish Gun Debate”. And Gerald F. Seib’s Capital Journal article in the same issue provided some striking examples of just how infantile it is. Let me add something that may be a little less childish. It concerns Teleology.

The phrase “the end of guns” is capable of several meanings. It could mean some kind of abolition of guns. It could refer to the physical extremities of an object.

But it could also refer to that object’s telos – its intrinsic purpose and goal, the ultimate and irreducible explanation for its existence. Teleology or finality is a reason or explanation for something in function of its end, purpose or goal. It is derived from two Greek words: telos (end, goal, purpose) and logos (reason, explanation).

Thus: the telos of a fork is to stab a sausage so that one may eat it; the telos of a screwdriver is to drive screws; the telos of an automobile it to gets its driver from one place to another; the telos of a beer-bottle is to carry a beverage; the telos of a pen is to write a poem, a letter, a novel.

Each of these objects could be capable, if misused deliberately or otherwise, of inflicting injury or even killing. This, however, is not their telos, the reason for which they exist.

But the telos of guns is solely to maim, damage, wound, kill. No one, in their right mind, would use a gun in order to pick up a sausage, write a novel, open that beer bottle, or write to a loved-one.

So there is my very small contribution to the current debate.


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God said, “Let there be light”

According to reports today in the Daily Telegraph, the Guardian and the Independent,  astronomers have detected a signal from the first stars as they appeared and illuminated the universe, in observations that have been hailed as “revolutionary”.

The faint radio signals suggest the universe was lifted out of total darkness 180m years after the big bang in a momentous transition known as the cosmic dawn.


Take a look at the first chapter of Genesis. The first two verses describe the initial chaos and darkness. And then, in verse three: “God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that light was good…..”

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