Essays in Idleness


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Apostle to Rome

It is embarrassing to review the condition of the Church in previous centuries. There is always something gone badly wrong, some “face-grabber” that makes any loyal Catholic wince behind his fingers. Just yesterday, in commemoration of Gregory VII, we were reminded of the mess in the later eleventh century. Or maybe it was just me, […]


This morning’s effusion is in honour of my hero, Marshal Foch, whom gentle reader may recognize in his famous telegram to Marshal Joffre, during the First Battle of the Marne: “My centre is giving way, my right is retreating, situation excellent, I am attacking.” His commendably cheerful view of warfare is otherwise encapsulated in his […]


Were you a mediaeval villein, you would be getting a week off, now. There are so many ways in which the life of a mediaeval villein was better than that of a twenty-first century wage slave. It seems odd to get a holiday because the Paschaltide is over, but there you go. In the Middle […]

Aer lingus

It would seem that the Lemming Party has swept Ireland this morning. From early returns the referendum count appears two-to-one in favour of “gay marriage.” In Dublin, it’s much higher than that; perhaps I am not surprised. Upon calling up the Irish Independent to check for results first thing, what did I get? My laptop […]

Against bombing

There is a paper somewhere (darned if I can find it) from the British Society of Antiquaries (I think) that surveys the district around the archaeological site of Çatalhöyük. This is a pair of Neolithic mounds which rise above the plain of Konya, south-east of the city that now goes by that name — the […]


The little things are what I first notice in the news. This morning, for instance, that the U.S. government is fast-tracking the shipment of anti-tank missiles to the government of (some of) Iraq. This, we can only suppose, so that Baghdad’s shrinking army may try to destroy some of the U.S.-supplied tanks and other heavy […]

Making war better

Gentle reader may have noticed that I said nothing yesterday — nothing at all — about “just war theory,” nor provided so much as a passing and whimsical Catholic justification of a foreign policy that would necessarily involve killing people (Islamist terrorists, to fine the point). By a happy coincidence, George Weigel was supplying this […]


“If you want something done right, do it yourself.” This is a principle the Daesh (“IS,” “ISIS,” &c) understand, but we in the West have forgotten. Now, I should think there is a dispute between us on what “doing right” might consist of. Eliminating all the Christians, Yazidis, Shia and other non-Sunni Muslims in Iraq, […]


Look, it is Victoria Day again, up here in the off-white North. Or it might be: you can’t know with these three-day weekends, which day is supposed to count. Our political masters shift everything to the Monday, the way the “spirit of Vatican II” shifts to the nearest Sunday — or elsewhere, as the case […]

Time’s arrow, time’s cycle

One of the things I love about the old missals — like the Saint Andrew one I swear by, my copy dutifully revised to 1962 so that it matches the current Extraordinary Form of the Mass — is the brief introductions for the Sundays and other Feasts. They “set the stage” for the liturgy, like […]

Losing the appearances

Some science writer on ye Internet performed, yesterday, the dirty trick of pulling out an old Scientific American (here). It was from 2005, and featured fifty technological “breakthroughs,” organized into seventeen “trends,” which the editors imagined to be harbingers of the future in which we now sit, a decade later. She was curious to know […]

The Vimy problem

“Lord, please don’t make me do that. Nevertheless, according to Thy will.” This is not among my favourite prayers, but I fear it could join the most frequent. Without going into sordid detail, I, along with who knows how many other practising Catholics — and our separated brethren, too — face a world that is […]

In jubilatione

It is the day of the Ascension of Our Lord, or it is, wherever the day has not been transferred to the nearest Sunday, &c, &c. What was done to the Rogation Days preceding, the Vigil, and so forth, I really don’t want to know. That is something faithful Catholics must endure, in the Novus […]