Friday, 19 November 2010

It is a far far better thing that I do now ...

Dear readers,

As many of you know by know I am getting married tomorrow. That is why posts have been rather thin on the ground in the last couple of weeks. I leave today for Hoddesdon where guests are already starting to arrive from France, Italy and across the UK. I'm quite beside myself with excitement, though I could do without the cold which has lingered for three bloomin' weeks!!

Anyway, blogging service will be resumed after a short break. I ask meanwhile for your prayers on our special day, and if anyone is in the Hoddesdon area around 12pm tomorrow, you will be most welcome to attend the Nuptial Mass. We will marry at St Augustine of Hippo's Catholic church, Esdaile Place, Hoddesdon, EN11 8DS.

Meanwhile, one wit informs me that today is the day, and the only day, on which I can legitimately sing this little ditty. So, pushing out my chest, bobbing my head like a pigeon, and clicking my heels with gusto, I leave you with these sublime thoughts. I hasten to add I will not be conducting myself like this the evening before my own wedding!

Yours as ever,

Friday, 12 November 2010

Stag Do No. 2

There is no truth in the rumour that my inactivity this week has been due to the fact that during Stag Do No. 1 last Saturday I was stripped to shorts and t-shirt and clingfilmed to a parking bollard in Reading town centre.

I have in fact been ill. Off most of the week in fact. So, there is hardly a moment now to draw breath before launching into Stag Do No. 2 which begins essentially this evening with the arrival of my older brothers. I am under strict orders from the future Mrs Ches not to get ill again, so will most likely go out tomorrow in five layers of clothing, like some academic Michelin Man.

Meanwhile, the world turns. I'm feeling rather blogblocked at the moment. There is so much going on on the homefront. Fortunately, inspiration has just arrived in the form of a Roger Scruton book, kindly sent by Paulinus, The Uses of Pessimism and the Danger of False Hope. I'm very grateful for that and for the other expressions of good will sent in by kind readers.

I must relate one incident from last week's Stag Do. Before we sat down to dinner, I was informed that I had to go to the bottom of the garden (in the pitch dark) and recover the lambent lantern that could be seen in the distance:

Knowing that our host's sons had dug a system of First World War trenches at the bottom of the garden did not fill me with confidence. Then as I moved down the garden, out of the darkness came hooded figures to block my path and I was instantly locked in near-mortal combat, while dwarf cossacks, currently wintering in Reading, looked on:

Fortunately, the cause of justice prevailed and after a minute's battle and a quick roll in the mud, I managed to return with the lambent lantern in hand and get my breath back:

Happily, the lantern was placed on the dining table and illuminated the sumptuous feast that we then all enjoyed.

I understand this victory means I WILL be able to marry the princess, which is something of a relief, since explaining the contrary to the aforementioned princess might have proven a tad tricky!

More reports on Monday ... if I live of course.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Stag 'Do' No. 1

Today is Stag 'Do' No. 1. A late lunch with pals in Reading, followed by a hike which is brief enough to match our lack of fitness but long enough to justify another drink at a country pub!

There is nothing like getting together with old chums. Actually, there will be a variety of stalwarts from the olden days, as well as a bevy of more recent pals. I'm struggling to get past the remainder of a cold which has insinuated itself into the week like some microbial Iago. But I feel sure that when I catch sight of the boys later, my heart will fill with joy, even as my wallet quails in terror (note to the future Mrs Ches: 'That's a joke ;-).

Anyway, dear reader, I'm sorry you cannot be there but one has to draw the line somewhere. Depending on how I feel I might be late.

Don't wait up.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Novena for Philip Johnson

I just saw this on The Hermeneutic of Continuity and thought it was worth a plug.

Philip Johnson, a seminarian with cancer, blogs at In Caritate Non Ficta, and his seminary are undertaking a novena for him in honour of Blessed Pius IX.

The prayers are found here.

Guido Fawkes it up

I have never quite swallowed the theory of history by conspiracy. That is to say, there is of course the originary conspiracy of Satan against God which brought about the fall of the angels. And I'm not denying the existence, or the frequency with which, groups of men, disgruntled for one reason or another, band together to plot and scheme their way to some objective.

But in the first place such conspiracy theories, when placed on the macro-scale, always omit from their calculations the bucking bronco which is the human race. It was this very observation that - except for some early, youthful lapses - stopped me being totally taken in by the Catchers in the Rye. Since then, I have learnt another law of history which is quite as important as humanity's capacity for unpredictability: humanity's capacity for accidentally kicking over the chamber pot of history. This is the theory of history by balls-up, to give it a cruder formulation, and it is one to which I am mightily attached, perhaps because it explains so much of my own story to myself!

Don't get me wrong, that is no cause for alarm. On the contrary, a heathy awareness of the fallibility of the human race does no harm at all. Occasionally I visit The Darwin Award website, not only for the laughs but for a sober reminder of what twits we can all be.

So, if today we remember, remember the 5th of November, not the least of the reasons we do so is the counsel which posits we should always check our plans with someone sensible. Or we should, if we wish not to be overtaken by the contents of the chamber pot of history.

Frontline report from Afghanistan

More scintillating, hot news on The Sensible Bond.

Paris, France: The ground war in Afghanistan heated up yesterday when the Western alliance revealed plans to airdrop a platoon of crack French existentialist philosophers into the country to damage the morale of Taliban zealots by proving the non-existence of God.

Elements from the feared Jean-Paul Sartre Brigade, or Black Berets, will be parachuted into the combat zones to spread doubt, despondency, and existential anomie among the enemy. Hardened by numerous intellectual battles fought during their long occupation of Paris's Left Bank, their first action will be to establish a number of pavement cafes at strategic points near the front lines. There they will drink coffee and talk animatedly about the absurd nature of life.

Their leader, Colonel Marc-Ange Belmondo, spoke yesterday of his confidence in the success of their mission. Sorbonne graduate Belmondo, a very intense and unshaven young man in a black pullover, plans to deliver an impassioned thesis on man's nauseating freedom of action with special reference to the work of Foucault and the films of Alfred Hitchcock.

Humanitarian agencies have been quick to condemn the operation as inhumane, pointing out that the effects of passive smoking from the Frenchmens' endless Gitanes could wreak a terrible toll on civilians in the area.

Further news as it becomes available.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Aid to the Church in Need

Aid to the Church in Need have asked me to pass on details of the following event.

Prayer Procession
“500 Crosses for Life”
13 November 2010

Every day more than 500 unborn children die by abortion in England, Scotland and Wales.

13:30 Start at Westminster Cathedral Peaceful Prayer Procession with a Mourning Ceremony at Westminster Bridge

End at Westminster Abbey at about 16:00

"500 Crosses for Life" is an European, ecumenical initiative of "European Voice of the Unborn Children: Protect Our Life" (EuroProLife, Westendstr.78, D-80339 Munich) and partners.

Contact in London: Joe Clovis (0208) 690 8314, Email:

Join the united prayer forces of European and British prolife groups for our unborn brothers and sisters, their parents, doctors and all other children of God, who are involved in abortion.

Good Counsel Network – Doctors Who Respect Human Life
Association of Priest for the Gospel of Life – Maranatha

European Voice of the Unborn Children: "Protect Our Life"!

EuroProLife represents meanwhile 20 European nations

The situation:

Within the framework of the second Worldwide Prayer Conference for Life in Cracow/Poland on 13th/14th October 2007, the representatives of 12 European Nations agreed upon the establishment of a Christian, interdenominational network, in order to give voice to the unborn children in Europe. As the only continent, Europe has a birth rate of only 1.5 which greatly differs from the least rate of 2.1 indispensable to maintain a nation’s population.

Our objectives:

1. We concentrate our energies in order to organize and support public prayer events for Life in Europe.

2. We want to stop the flood of destruction by peaceful means: We intend to give testimony to the public by devout prayer.

3. We express our pain regarding the innocent killed children and their wounded parents by our prayer during sour processions and mourning ceremonies.

4. We pray in the same loving attitude as did Mother Mary and the apostle John under the cross.

5. We do not pray against somebody or something. We pray for love, light and life.

6. We pray for all the persons involved in the abortion process (doctors, politicians etc.) in order to flash the light of love in their hearts for the innocent defenceless babies.

7. Euro Pro Life is a Christian interdenominational network, which unites the different pro life organisations of European countries in common prayer for life.

5pm Friday, 19th November
Little Oratory, Brompton Road,
London SW7 2RP
AID TO THE CHURCH IN NEED will remember all our departed benefactors with a Sung Latin Mass (1962 Missal) on the evening of Friday 19th November at 5pm.

The Mass will be celebrated by Father Martin Edwards, ACN UK’s Ecclesiastical Assistant, at the Little Oratory on Brompton Road.

All are welcome to join us at this Memorial Mass. For details of all our
forthcoming events, please visit

Frontline report from Nancy

My nephew is teaching in France this year and writes these lines on his experiences of French industrial action:

The train strikes have been really frustrating, I've been caught out on more than one occasion by a cancelled train; the SNCF only confirm what trains are running the evening before and sometimes even that is wrong. I've taken to venting my anger by labelling the place as a 'pays du tiers-monde'.

That's it kid. Hit 'em where it hurts!


I just learned that a Catholic couple I have known for years have divorced. I know nothing of the case, and if I did, I wouldn't rehearse it here anyhow. But I have to say how deeply shocked I am at this news.

Oh, I know that makes me soft and out of date. But on this topic I retain the instincts of the close family in which I was blessed enough to be raised. I know it is a part of our every day life nowadays. Even monarchs in waiting divorce!

And of course there are times when divorce might be the only option for an irreparably broken situation that needs legal closure for the benefit of all concerned. I'm not talking about the farcical concept of the 'death of a marriage' which one Anglican theologian recently cited to me in conversation. I'm talking about the practicalities of life which result from marital breakdown.

But I am, and hopefully will remain, dumbfounded at the spectacle of Catholics who divorce. I know we can all wander into dark places. I also know how paralysing such places can be, how they can sap our resources and undermine even our basic aptitude for good will. We are all victims of our fallen human nature. And in a marriage it requires not one but two people to cooperate. But still, the end of a marriage, or the end of a commitment to live out the marital vows together, seems to fill me with dread.

I don't think I feel this way only because I'm now seventeen days from my own wedding! I think it is because Christian marriage is sacramental before it is functional. At least it is thus from a theoretical point of view. In the concrete it is surely the living out of that functionality which the sacrament makes possible. But marriage is like a living icon, not only of the mystery of Christ and the Church but also of the possiblity of human solidarity. It is so deeply embedded in the psyches of those involved that its destruction leaves a legacy that can last a lifetime and pass from one generation to the next. Divorce among Catholics (and not only them) is as shocking as seeing a church gutted by fire or a favourite statue smashed by hooligans. Somehow what it represents or symbolises is also degraded by the destruction of the symbol.

Obviously nobody can take the security of such a human endeavour for granted. I know the theory and I have yet to live out the reality. Every marriage surely has its dark times and its pains. Many are unknown to anybody outside the relationship.

But isn't that the point? If we cannot take pain - and who among us lives it well with ease? - are we not going back on those baptismal promises we made at baptism? If we agreed to be conformed to Christ, how did we ever acquire a taste for the roses rather than the thorns? Well, of course we all want to be happy, but even if a philosophy of happiness could stop us getting into the dark places, but it is hard to practice once we are in them. There, we are in need of some stronger medicine or some brighter light. When I reflect on those who have divorced, I can only wonder at their confusion and pain and at the difficulty they encountered in finding some solution.

Please pray for this couple and for some miracle of grace to repair what is otherwise beyond repair. And God preserve us all from the blasphemies we commit when our choices sever us from the divine wisdom.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

More tired than a very tired person

I know I have lapsed into blogging-lite again, but it is the rhythm of life currently demanded by my temporary, pre-nuptial and nomadic arrangements. Normal service will be resumed asap.

For now I'm nursing a bad throat, I have a stack of accusatory marking piked on my desk, a set of essays to edit and a book review to rush through before 16 November.

'Bugger' was a word invented precisely for just such occasions.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Useful resource

A very useful website was just brought to my attention. It goes by the name of The Institute of Catholic Culture. What is most interesting about it is its bank of lectures on topics as diverse as Chesterton's The Everlasting Man, the lives of the Apostolic Fathers and the origin and history of Islam. Audio files can be downloaded and listened to.

It's very fashionable for Europeans to look down their noses at the Americans. My own sense is that when the faith is driven from our European shores - or as near as damn it - by demographics and by the liberal death wish, the US might be its cultural ark.

But that, as Michael Davies was wont to say, is a point of view!

What a way to start November

The news comes to us this morning of the death of thirty-seven Catholics in Baghdad. They were taken hostage by terrorists demanding the release of prisoners in Iraq and Egypt. The gunmen entered the church during Mass and shot dead the two concelebrants before making their demands. The siege ended with Iraqi and American security forces stormed the building.

In total fifty died, including hostages, terrorists and police. Seventy to eighty were seriously wounded. Bishop Warduni, the auxiliary of Baghdad said of the two priests who died first:

"They were former students, both very young, both very committed to their vocation and community. This whole episode is truly sad and really very painful, but we must have hope and trust in God that he will protect his Church."

See Vatican Radio for more