Essays in Idleness


Month: October, 2017

Make it new

The extraordinary presentation of the Old Testament in the liturgy: as a whole library of ancient texts that are all about Christ. Re-new-al, re-nova-tion, restoration: even the bright lights of the “Renaissance” (a term desperately in need of qualification) knew that making new means going backwards. Backwards towards the new. Newman: “Walking to heaven backwards.” […]

Plain speaking

It is Friday. Lots of gentle readers in desolation this morning (about this, &c); and others in confusion (though only about my last Idlepost). Easy things first. I seem to have caused much confusion by the word “Modern,” which I’m in the custom of using as a term of abuse. But I used it yesterday […]

Ancient & modern

Allow me, gentle reader, without mentioning Saint Augustine for a moment, to throw three dates wildly in the air. These will be the conversion of the Emperor Constantine in 312; the death of the Emperor Justinian in 565; and the death of the Emperor Charlemagne in 814. From first to last we have five centuries […]

Of money & honey

The economists (such bores!) tell us that money can be many things. It can be, for instance, a store of value. It can be a medium of exchange. A unit of account. A source of information. We find a somewhat different, more curt account of money in the Bible, but pass that by. Just as […]

Our Lady of Fatima

One hundred years after the apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima, Portugal, do we have a clearer understanding of what happened? I don’t think so. We had tens of thousands of witnesses for the Miracle of the Sun, on 13th October 1917. We have an embarras de richesses of testimonies, for that and related occurrences, […]

An embarrassment

One hesitates to recommend a book, such as Jean Daniélou’s Scandaleuse Vérité (“Scandal of Truth” is a mild translation), because it will be misunderstood. By the half-attentive, English-thinking reader, it may be taken as the pretentious blather of a French intellectual — which, since it came out in 1961, is now sufficiently dated to be […]

Dr Frank Hutson Gregory

Frank Gregory lived a shameful life, by his own accounts. He loved to shock people, but had the misfortune to live in an age and environment where his preferred methods no longer worked. Illicit sex, for instance, has had little shock value through the last few decades; illicit sex in Bangkok possibly none at all. […]

Good is prolific

Somewhere in The Idea of a University — Discourse VII, I discover — Newman unfolds a battle flag I have long saluted. He is struggling against utilitarian principles in education; he finds that far from being recent innovations they go back directly to Locke; and he is aware that as champion of classical learning he […]


North America takes a day off today — for Canadian Thanksgiving, and Columbus Day down there in Buffalo and points south; or Día de la Raza more properly celebrated on the 12th of October (the actual date of Columbus’s first landing in this New World). It is also, I understand, a Fiesta Nacional in Spain, […]

At sea

We come again to the victory at Lepanto, commemorated today in the Sacrifice of the Mass, embracing the Feast of her Holy Rosary. I’ve remembered Lepanto more than once before (as, here), and God willing, will return to it again. The reader who wants to know more about it can go to the reference books: the […]

About time

One last week, two more in this: the doddering oldies, pushing off. How often they die in the approach to winter. Ich habe genug, as the Bach cantata says: an expression that may be taken wryly. Both my parents left, about this time of year. The youngest of that generation, ahead of mine, are now […]

Viva el Rey

According to Alfonso II (“the Troubadour,” “the Chaste”), Catalonia is an autonomous collection of counties within the Kingdom of Aragon, which straddles the Pyrenees. This was in the twelfth century, slightly before my time. As king he was also styled “Count of Catalonia”; and too, “of Provence”; with interests beyond in Languedoc and oversea in […]

Against closure

To the contemporary mind, empathy is a sentiment, and therefore we must sentimentalize. We who think ourselves Christian should be trying to make some distance from this; to re-establish (my favourite word this month:) chastity in our empathetic responses. There is too much hugging. There is not enough quiet, selfless devotion. For the demonstrative empathy […]