Be careful what you might find

This evening, after dinner, I was looking for something completely different – isn’t that always the way – when I looked at a Puma shoebox and wondered if there was actually anything inside it, or whether it was just sitting there in this bookcase taking up valuable biblio-real estate. That that question was even viable might tell you more than I’d be comfortable with about how organised my flat is (hint: really not very).

It wasn’t empty. At some point in the past I evidently had a flash of inspiration, collected up a bunch of letters and other paraphernalia, and stored them away in this red shoebox.

I lost perhaps a good half hour looking through these papers; letters, holy cards, paperwork from the Inland Revenue (!), and last but not least, photos. Let’s just say that my aversion to my photo being taken is not by any means a recent phenomenon, and past me had little problem in showing that in facial expressions!

But it’s a joy to be reminded of times past, and even more so to be able to do so having let go of an awful amount of pain and unhappiness. God is faithful, and time heals much.

The Centenary

There will never not be war in this world.

The previous sentence would be mocked by so many I know. Yet more would agree, but perhaps not see the real reason why.

Striving for no war is pointless and futile; what must be striven for is the elimination of unjust war. There will be enough just war to satisfy any bloodlust. But it seems to me that the very notion of a just war implies that there be a Right Side™ and a Wrong Side™ (without necessarily drawing conclusions on any particular individual involved), and that is just too ‘judgemental’ for many Westerners who then harp on and on ad nauseam about mediation and aid efforts for the local  and whatever.

But in Life there is a Right Side™ and a Wrong Side™. One is either one or the other, and in this war is of course no different to the rest of the human condition. Only without submitting to Christ and His Church, there is no likelihood of choosing the Right Side™. Which is telling, really.




July has been the month of the end of the World Cup (go Germany!), Days of Warmth™, and MH17. That’s before we even start on the rest of the world also joining in the Handbasket Hellbent Express.

Oranje didn’t win the World Cup. I know I should be linguistically consistent and say that Orange didn’t win the World Cup, but this is my blog en ik ga talen door elkaar mengen als ik dat wil, dank u. Besides, Orange is a village in France, orange is too messy to eat, so there’s only Oranje left over to be able to say that Louis (his first name is Aloysius) van Gaal is our countryman. Booya.

Being a resident of the fair North-West European Marshes was (is!) enough to support Oranje. Being of the noble Britannia, however, provides so much weight in terms of anti-Argentinaism that during the semi-final I almost forgot I was wearing an orange top.

But could anything have really measured up against the almighty visceration that Germany had dealt out to Brazil the night before? My Mate Mulier and I had established a worthy tradition (give it two hundred years and I expect the rubrics to be taken up in a Rituale) of Skyping during football matches. In Dutchieland I am spoilt with NOS (like the BBC, but better, not least because a mate of mine makes sure that their online streams work, and she is excellent at what she does) and their enlightened approach to streaming stuff live, so every now and then my part in the conversation would abruptly stop, my eyes would widen, and Mulier would say something like, “You’re not telling me Germany have scored again…..”

Those poor Brazilians. Ha ha ha.

And then Argentina *spit* beat the Oranje lions, and then Brazil lost to us for third place.

I’m torn between a patriotic disdain of South America and simple pity.


I am typing this on a train zooming diagonally across this fair sceptered isle. The rain has just started. I feel completely at home.

En ja in het Engels zeg je dat je op een trein bent, en niet in een trein zit, en nee dat betekent niet dat je letterlijk op het dak zit. Het is niet dat we het opzettelijk “niet letterlijk waar, dus wellicht en eventueel verwarrend” maken…maar leg mij nou eens uit waarom ik keer op keer op sodemieter keer naar uw geklaag erover moet luisteren en mijn eigen taal moet verdedigen, terwijl ik juist (waarschijnlijk) veel meer van uw eigen taal – inclusief vergelijkbare rare-ig-heden – af weet dan u zelf.

Dat moest ik maar even kwijt.


It was a month of the most debilitating heat I could imagine. Those in the know have informed me that 30C is perfectly survivable when your humidity is low. The problem was that our humidity wasn’t low. Unless you use the word “low” to mean what the rest of us mean when we say “blisteringly, suffocatingly high”, in which case you are a numpty with a poor grasp of the English language.

For the last few years I haven’t worked in the month of July; it’s one of the few perks when you are employed enslaved in the education system. There is, however, a certain breed of superhero that works in that blistering sun on railways and the like. A couple of years ago I offered to take a crate of beer round to one such site, only to be told that whilst the men would certainly have appreciated the gesture, alcohol isn’t permitted at work.

Poor sods.


I have just been on a day trip (!) to Liverpool. It had to do with passports. I’m sure you understand the predicament and I thank you in advance for your sympathy. But all went well and once back in Cloggieland I shall be legal once again – which is surely a life goal of any self-respecting expat, I’m sure you’ll agree 😉

Liverpudlians are, I was reminded, lovely, charming people! I hadn’t been there in something like fifteen years, and I ought to go back and spend a bit more time in the area.

I have, however, absolutely no good explanation for what happens to my accent whilst talking with a local. I think it probably wobbled between Runcorn and Wakefield. Sorry, Liverpool.


This is the first trip back to Our Lady’s Dowry where I have felt slightly Other™. Perhaps I have been abroad too long.

But how can ten years be too long? Ten years isn’t much, in the larger context. I’m reminded of the psalm which says,

Our span is seventy years, or eighty for those who are strong.

And most of those are emptiness and pain….

Now I’m not a psalmist by any stretch, but I can empathise with a sentiment expressed in there.


My train has whizzed through many miles and it’s time to put my sandals back on. Benediction this evening. My GA’s desk is open.

Unholy trinity

Who was the bright spark who looked at the calendar for 2014 and did not co-ordinate the dates of the World Cup, the Cricket, and Wimbledon? It must have been what my snarky side calls a very special person.

And now I will stop using italics in the way St. JP2 did. All other things being equal, the way in which his encyclicals etc. seemed to be peppered with italics grated a bit.

What kind of character imperfection is that?


Oranje are playing Mexico right now (shall we just…not talk about how England fared in Brazil? *snigger*), apparently Eng-er-land got thrashed at the cricket (I’m not even totally sure who they were playing…Sri Lanka?), and apparently Wimbledon started. Somewhere. Sometime. Iono.

This latter in particular is a sign of how so much of what you hold dear as a Brit™ can be whittled away after time as an expat. How could the start of Wimbledon possibly pass me by?!

The Summer is here, bringing with it empty weeks that will be filled with all sorts of constructive and industrious activity (which will also include sleeping in…well, probably). I plan on taking over the world. Probably for Christ. Hopefully for Christ. Or at least for an ice cream.

But really, what is it with England losing at cricket all the time?

Also, our goalie has much too much work to do. Plus it’s about 39ºC out there. This is just nuts.

But we’re going to win! Hup Holland Hup! Etc.


For years I have wondered exactly how badminton (the racquet game, not the horse trials) works, specifically with regards to the shuttlecock. That is…how do you hit the thing?

Tennis is simpler – there’s a ball, which by nature of its ballness, is spherical, and when it hits a surface (like a racquet) it stops in that direction and goes back in the opposite one (spin etc. notwithstanding).

But badminton is different; the shuttlecock is a different beast with fewer symmetries. What happens when you hit it dead-on? If the force of the strike is perfectly evenly distributed, the feathers/skirt perfectly symmetrical, how does that thing turn around for the return? Does it turn inside out? (…but those things are pretty rigid)

I could say that these thoughts were what distracted me in school when I came a miserable 10th out of 11 in a tourney in PE…but I just sucked at PE (wasn’t much better at Physics either*).

However, my schooldays were prior to the Golden Age of YouTube.

The interesting bit (in terms of this question) starts at about 1:00, when we see a series of ‘head-on’ shots. Those at about 1:30 and 1:40 are even clearer. The show the head being pushed back into the body of the shuttlecock, which (I guess because of non-symmetries in the fabric of the skirt?) at a certain point must give in and flip.

But what would happen if the axis of a flawless shuttlecock were exactly normal to the racquet? INQUIRING MINDS WANT TO KNOW.

Also I probably need help in overcoming some high school demons. Thanks.

* Physics is simply Maths made unnecessarily a) difficult, and b) applied. And because it’s quagmired in this need to describe the universe and stuff, it’s going to inevitably come a poor second to Maths, which is second only to the Queen of Sciences herself (which is Theology if you don’t read Aquinas, shame on you). This is the main reason I would be an outsider nerd even on The Big Bang Threory.

Utrecht copies the Black Mass

I’m being provocative.


In the Netherlands, as in some other countries, there’s an Association for Latin Liturgy (Vereniging voor Latijnse Liturgie for those who can read Dutch). It’s mainly focused on the Latin Novus Ordo; for the last few years the Association has had use of a church in the centre of Utrecht (seat of the Dutch Metropolitan See) where the Novus Ordo is offered every day, and a TLM is offered each Sunday evening. A few days ago the Assocation held its annual Members’ Day in the Dutch version of St. Peter’s Basilica in Oudenbosch – at which the Mass was, for the first time, a TLM.

The Association had for several years been characterised by a ‘coolness’ towards the TLM, preferring instead the Novus Ordo offered in Latin. So people were happy that this year’s Mass was a TLM; I wasn’t there as I’d promised to sing at Mass elsewhere. Otherwise you can be sure I’d have busted a few guts to be there. I mean the speaker was Le Barroux’s Fr. Abbot!

St. Willibrord’s Church

The ‘home’ church in Utrecht is that of St. Willibrord, one of the many British missionaries who came to the northern part of the European continent. It itself has a chequered history, having almost been demolished after everyone got jiggy wit it, only to be saved by the tenacity of the near-legendary Fr. Kotte. A few years ago the then-Archbishop-now-Cardinal Eijk re-dedicated the church building, and the Association came to an agreement with the Archdiocese and the building’s owners regarding its regular use. At the time it gave great relief; after years of being in a shadowy no man’s land, the position of the church was clear, and the Association had a national base for its activities.

By the way, if you haven’t seen the inside of St. Willibrord’s, here you go:


Oh but there’s lots of pictures of the place. In short, it’s an example of Dutch neo-Gothic, which can feel like an all-out assault the first time you see it, but after about six and a half minutes you get used to it and just see the beauty and care and time and effort that went into getting these places off the ground once Catholic emancipation was achieved in the Netherlands in the 19th Century.


The Association was never the owner of the building. It’s always also been used for things like concerts. I suppose people aren’t too thrilled about this – I mean it was rededicated as a sacred temple of God – but sometimes you have to be happy with what you have?

And then De Uitvaart started.

‘De Uitvaart’ is Dutch for ‘the Funeral’. Some chap called Dries Verhoeven, who doesn’t know that men should take their hats off when in church,


decided he wanted to be controversial (insert cynical comments about a Dutch stereotype in here), and stage ten ‘Requiems’, one each day, from 15th – 24th May. These Requiems don’t seem to be for people, but for concepts: one being the idea that the Netherlands is the centre of the world (if you laughed at that, you’re not the only one).

Mr. Verhoeven secured the use of St. Willibrord’s church for all ten dates of his theatre project, in which a ‘priest’ along with other ‘ministers’ (including girl ‘altar servers’) offer a ‘requiem’ with a ‘coffin’ and ‘mourners’. And yes, there’s  ‘communion’ too.

Let me be clear – this is scheduled to happen in a consecrated church building, which on weekday mornings has a real Mass. There are two Masses on Sundays; a Novus Ordo in the morning and the TLM in the evening.

So at 5:30pm tomorrow evening there’d be the True Mass of the Ages, and at 7:15pm ‘the public’ will come in with their season tickets (there’s a canon forbidding charging entrance fees to the holy liturgy, just sayin’), and watch this farce.

No more Masses – how can we mock God?

The Association, on hearing about this, asked the owners and organisers to call it off: to no avail (statement on Facebook, in Dutch). As such the Association has decided to cease all its Masses in St. Willibrord’s, a consequence which damages the spiritual lives of people. You know, the real spiritual parts of man’s existence. The part that deals with whether people can give proper worship to God almighty. The God who will not be mocked – yet St. Willibrord’s owners are happy to hire out His sacred temple, presumably in exchange for a decent cut of those profits.

It’s not a Black Mass. But Satanism is not the only way Christ is insulted. If Mr. Verhoeven wants to mock and upset people, then he has succeeded, and perhaps he will be satisfied with himself. But Earthly fame and glory pass away, and the reckoning must come after, for all of us, Catholic or not.

The Association is brave, and in my view has made the right decision. My prayer is that a new location – one that hasn’t been desecrated – will be found for Mass. Real Mass.

(A Dutch-language take on this ‘deconsecration’ can be read here)

Missing the real point: the debate on Communion for remarried divorcees

Deo gratias for Dom Hugh

Dominus Mihi Adjutor

Most Catholics will be aware of the recent, vigorous debate that has emerged the last few months on the subject of whether remarried divorcees should be admitted to Holy Communion. The debate was given impetus by the desire of German bishops to change the immemorial teaching of the Church. Following the explicit and unequivocal teaching of Christ, the Church does not recognize the possibility of divorce. Spouses can separate without any canonical consequence. Any civil divorce has only civil effect, and does not affect the sacramental bond which endures. The problem comes if a civilly-divorced spouse re-marries. It would have to be a civil wedding, naturally. In the eyes of the Church, with the original marriage bond intact, that spouse is now officially and publicly committing adultery. Adultery is a grave sin that precludes one from receiving Holy Communion.

As any sensible pastor, like our own Bishop Philip Egan, will…

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Christ has risen, as He said; He is truly risen. Alleluia!

During Lent one year – whether it was last or the one before escapes me – I read a suggestion for a Lenten penance that involved using nothing that produced artificial light after sundown. Depending on the date of Easter this may have a more or less arresting effect on its practitioners; this year the switch to daylight savings time came early on, but last year the clocks (in Europe at least) jumped forward an hour on Easter night itself, thus making it even shorter than it normally would be. In 2013, then, abandoning light bulbs and computer and television screens would have been quite the thing. Despite all that, it seemed to me to be wonderfully romantic and medieval in a way that I enjoy greatly, all of which probably precluded it from ever being a suitable penitential measure for me.

Easter is all about light; from the fire to the Exultet and all the way down to some of the twee-est, sappiest colouring-in books you can imagine, you hear lumen Christi and you might sing Christ be our light (commiserations if the latter was imposed upon you in any setting other than a campfire shindig). The tomb is pitch black, Christ’s pristine Body is scarred by our sins, and it is only by His descending into the lifeless darkness that there can be any hope of healing the gaping chasm between God and His creation.

Now because I’m weird, I prefer the church when it’s dark. Electric lights are so harsh and we seem so petrified of operating without them. Of course we have a justified preference for surgery to take place under good lighting, but not everywhere is an operating theatre!

So it was during the Vigil this year (for me). Even though Easter is so late anno 2014, the falling darkness of the evening meant that the fire really had a role to play. The symbolism of candles and flames and all this is wonderful, but the perks of 21th Century living are not without some loss of realisation of how the ‘Mysterious’ happenings are directly reflected in the lives we lead here and now. The Light is our inheritance, but we’ve not yet come in to it.


You mean Lent started?

Believe it or not, one of my lesser resolutions this Quadragesima was to blog more often. Whahahaha!

There was a time when I could not envisage not blogging on a regular basis. It was one of the ways in which I kept in touch with friends, amongst which a group which became quite close-knit, not only in the vincinity but also rather farther afield. In the days before Twitter really took off (or perhaps I really am that slow on the uptake!), before ‘microblogging’ became passé, it was how many of us stayed updated on each other’s wel en wee, the ups and downs of life. We (I use the term loosely) could thus pick up on news and pass it on; but it wasn’t an entirely online interaction as most of us would see each other at church on the next Sunday, if not before. It all formed part of my social fabric at the time.

Well, I should have known not to be so ‘idealistic’ about such impermanent things; just like all creation (it’s a bit boggling to me, but in a good way, to realise that that social life was just as much part of Creation as any stunning scenery I might stand and admire) it changed and passed away – at least for me. This happens to everyone and everything, and just as an inordinate attachment to material things, similarly clinging on to intangible but nonetheless temporary and falliable friendships can (and will) be horrifically damaging to the soul. St. Aelred’s Spiritual Friendship it most deffinitely weren’t, loike, although they were by no means exclusively bad connections.


Once, when talking about the novitiate, a Dominican spoke of it being like a purifying fire, preparing the infant religious for the new life ahead. I of course paid no attention to this, because I am nothing if not bad at listening (which is unfortunate for a Benedicine oblate). But standing on this side of what has been a tumultuous half-decade I can only agree with the unheeded OP. It ‘feels’ as though I’ve been through the wringer. Two wringers. A whole Victorian-era laundry business get-up of wringers. Had I thought there were wounds before, then by now they’ve either been ripped open and stitched up again, or their scars have paled over time, outdone by the fresher ones, some still bleeding even now. Life is hard. Pick your hard. I don’t know how often I’d spoken those words to others around me, going through their own trials, but the quip always seemed so pathetic (as well as eminently true) when I had to say it to myself.

So that ‘world’ passed, or I passed out of it, and my blogging along with it. At times I miss the experience. It was a relatively safe and protected way to talk to people with whom I was more likely than not to be in agreement on many important things, and on a much more personal level I’m sure there’s some benefit to placing thoughts on cyberpaper at least fairly frequently. None of that is there anymore. I’m so much more aware that the tiny corner of the blogosphere which I inhabit is just that – tiny – and that the real influence to be had is in that cold, barren, seemingly inhospitable interior of my own self. There are no cell walls around me, however much I may want them, but I only have to turn away from the world to find a cell more cut off, more confrontational, more terrifyingly isolated than anything excepting the cells of the chronicled (and forgotten) English anchorites.

God be praised for Septuagesima; along with a host of other things, of course, but uppermost in my mind in typing this post, for Septuagesima. I will never be someone of great insights and what lesser insights I do have will only ever be of benefit to myself, but seeing as it is only my own soul’s health I’m completely responsible for that’s probably just as well. But it was during Septuagesima this year that the supreme audacity (yet when reasonably considered, not audacious in the slightest) of a desire peered around a corner.

I want, I brashly wrote in a letter, to be a saint.

Now each time I think about this the ridiculousness of it all gives me a fit of the melancholy giggles (you know the type – often overdone in films). At most I’ll be thought of – namelessly, thank goodness – at All Saints, and as such there will be no cause looking for diaries and all that nonsense (note to self: burn all of your diaries before you die). But if only to somehow help strip myself of all this stupendous worthlessness…it might not be so bad to put down stuff here that would otherwise threaten to cloud this seemingly lifelong novitiate with preoccupation.

So I’ll try and blog more.

suscipe me secundum eloquium tuum et vivam: et non confundas me ab expectatione mea

If only I weren’t always so absent at 10am on Mondays.