Tuesday, 12 April 2016

"The Historical House" is the New Blog

Hello! If there are any readers who are wondering where I have got to, it is to my new blog "The Historical House." 

The new blog began with an attempt to stop writing in the first person. This proved untenable, but I learned some things from it.

Naturally not all readers are fans. If you have been reading my work just to feel a delicious thrill of rage at "a fundie", I highly recommend that you stop. It is probably bad for your health, and I'm pretty sure it's bad for your character.

In my years of writing for Catholic Single Women (and other Singles of Goodwill), I was careful to keep my own feelings about politics, liturgy and (insofar as this was possible) theological tendencies in the Catholic Church out of my blogs. My goal was to reach as many Singles (who were striving to remain chaste) as possible and address their feelings about being Single in a way that did not alienate anybody. (Naturally Singles who view chastity as an-artificial-construct-invented-by-men-to-oppress-women had serious issues with Seraphic Singles, etc.)

However, the older I get and the longer I am married, the less I have to say about the Single Life. For example, I am pretty clueless about the ways in which the I-Phone has changed communications between men and women and how to cope with them. (That said, I think the best policy is never to text a man back during work or study hours. Perhaps have a policy of texting men friends only after 5 PM, and always be the first to text "Gr8t chattng w/u must do sum wrk g/nite".)

Therefore, I want to be free to write about other issues that interest me, especially the loss of national identity in European countries, the effects of cultural marxism on society, how to hand on traditional values to new generations, and how to develop a closer relationship with the Blessed Trinity.  Sadly, this will of course alienate many of my old readers, which is too bad, but inevitable. The most I can say to soothe American readers--and most of my readers are USA Americans--is that I am not American--I'm a Canadian living in Scotland--and I almost NEVER write about American politics. If I write about illegal migration, I am never talking about illegal migration to the United States.

(If I may stress the point, one tendency non-Americans notice about Americans is that Americans seem to see the world through a specifically American lens. On the one hand, this is completely understandable. On the other hand, the world is not an extension of the United States. Europe's problems and identities are specific to Europe.)

But if you think you would enjoy my writing, no matter what, or if you enjoy reading a Catholic "traditionalist" point of view in any case, please come on over and read my new blog.

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Too Much Dorothy

UPDATE: Here's the new blog, in which I will make experiments in eschewing the first person singular. I will be updating it sporadically, so do drop in once in a while. Thanks to all my regular readers and fans, especially those two who sent me gifts via Amazon, and those who donated to my various causes.

When I as a fledgling writer, I received two pieces of advice that I completely ignored.

The second, from the late, great Canadian poet Margaret Avison, was not to write in the first person (i.e. "me, myself and I") for ten years. That was over ten years ago, and behold. 

The first, from the late, great Canadian professor of prose, Harvey Kerpnik*, was the remark, scrawled on one of my more lighthearted compositions in the mid-90s, "Too much Dorothy."


Before I went on our Christmas holiday, I had a think about my dependence on the internet and my perhaps unwise habit of "giving [almost all of] it all [i.e. my deathless prose] away for free". I also had a think about how much I am encouraging, through my own work, the regrettable North American tendency to "let it all hang out." It left me feeling rather depressed, but as St. Ignatius of Loyola said, one shouldn't make decisions while in a state of desolation. 

So B.A. and I went to Italy, and I turned my face to the beautiful southern sun, waiting to be placed in a state of consolation. And what I have decided--B.A. assuring me that entirely giving up writing in the first person is impractical--is to start a new blog, in which I write rather less about myself .  For example, I will stop writing sentences like "I think Sienkiewicz was a genius" and write "Sienkiewicz was a genius" instead. Stay tuned for the link to the new blog.

Meanwhile, I have pledged to write more often for pay than for blog, so insofar as I can, I will publish links to my paid work. (If you want to read regularly my biweekly column in the Toronto Catholic Register, please subscribe to the online edition.)

Incidentally, after ten days without the internet, the only important news I discovered I had missed was rampant flooding in the United Kingdom, the country in which I live. Naturally I already knew about the wretched circumstances of Christians in the Middle East--and the indifference of the world to their particular plight-- and so I encourage you to send the right Christian agencies money, in the hope that it will be used to help at least some Christians.

*I may have misspelled his name . Alas, Harvey died before any mention of him was recorded on the internet. 

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Off to Italy

I hope all readers have a blessed and holy final week of Advent and a merry Christmas! B.A. and I are taking a very early morning flight to Rome tomorrow, and I'll be offline for several days.

Take care!

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

The Faithful

If you get annoyed by traddies grumbling about the Novus Ordo, this would be a good time to click away (or skip to the bottom). Or, if you're curious, keep on reading. I shall strive for a pleasant tone. Minimal snark.

On Sunday Benedict Ambrose and I took the the train north to visit his mother. We were under the impression that the Extraordinary Form of the Mass would be available in her town that day, but we were wrong. Alas. We took the train back south and debated how to fulfill our obligation. And yes, "how to fulfill our obligation" is a wretched way to think about Mass.

"Polish Mass," I said as B.A examined our options via train wifi.  "Polish Mass."

B.A. did not look too happy at the thought of Polish Mass.

"You won't understand the homily, but I have it on good authority it's usually kind of boring. You could play a [mental] drinking game to it. Every time the priest says "miłosz" (love), you get a sip."

B.A. did not look amused. Tappity tappity.

"There," he said, pleased, and I looked to see an English-speaking Mass at a church not too far from the railway station.

"But will we get there on time?" I asked.

"Chalice veils," said Benedict Ambrose, which refers to his belief that the absolute bare minimum to Sunday Obligation is being at Mass between the Offertory, when the chalice is (or was) unveiled and when the chalice is covered up again after the Communion of the Faithful.

I was not happy. I would rather have gone to Polish Mass than show up late for English Mass, but I admit that Polish Mass can be rough going if you don't understand Polish or aren't moved by the traditional hymns. The English Mass started before the train pulled into the station, and I wondered if we could still get to Polish Mass on time if we missed the bare-minimum moment. I hoped there would be a long homily, even if the long homily was about how rotten the Extraordinary Form of the Mass is and how silly the people who want us all to go back to it.

We got off the train and scurried through the station and ran through the dark, wet streets to the handsome old church, which glowed in the night, and found ourselves among 160 or so people saying the Nicene Creed. Great was my relief. We scurried to the very back, and I hoped we didn't stick out too much in the half-empty church. We could have taken a pew of course but like most people who go to the EF week after week, we're allergic to the Sign of Peace.

This is not because we are jerks but because we take Mass seriously. If we really were jerks, we would really yuk it up during the Novus Ordo, crossing the aisle to shake hands, kissing the prettier people, blessing the babies, singing twice as loudly as everyone else, in a spirit of angry irony. Oh dear, how wicked that would be.

Anyway, we stood at the back, behind the last pew, in which two cherubic moppets played a slapping game, which we found very distracting, but hey--their parents may have picked the back pew for a reason. And I noticed two things that shocked me although mentioning the first one is an old traddie cliché.

1. The priest prayed at the congregation.

First of all, I know this was not his fault. Once I had a look at the "how to say liturgy properly" book that came out in 1971 or so, and it was adamant that priests really had to put their back into presenting the prayers with emotion, expression and volume. And this priest obediently did that. He was miked, and so although he was purportedly praying to God, he was obviously speaking to/for/at us, the congregation. In his defense, his delivery was not all about him. He didn't show off, mug, make jokes, chat wittily or do any of those populist-priest things that some people love, and I loved myself until I went to BC.

2. The priest sang to the congregation.

The congregation did not sing, but a pleasant male voice sang the offertory and communion hymns through a microphone to the organ accompaniment. I looked in vain for the excellent cantor before realizing he was the priest. The congregation sat in silence while the priest sang verse after verse. I looked over at another man standing at the back, and although he was reading the hymn paperback, he wasn't singing either. Afterwards, B.A. explained to me that these were difficult hymns for a congregation to sing, and he thought the priest should have picked hymns the congregation would know.

It was Gaudete Sunday--the priest was not wearing rose vestments but sad old purple--but I didn't feel very happy. I looked at the singing  priest and the sparse congregation, and wondered how long this state of liturgy can continue. It was a big church, but in the 1950s it would have been packed to the door with Scottish Catholics whose faith too often meant social marginalization  but was strong nonetheless.

Those Catholics, though, had the solemnity, grandeur, silences, music, rhythms and certainties of the Old Mass. These faithful 160 do not--or don't know they do--but still they came to Mass on a wet Sunday evening. Still they fulfilled their obligation. Many received communion from either the (surely redundant) Extraordinary Minister or the priest. Some brought their children. "It's a miracle," I told B.A.

When I didn't recognize the recessional hymn, I nudged B.A. and off we went into glistening night. I have been to Sunday Mass almost every Sunday of my life, and missing Mass feels like a minor trauma. "Chalice veils" is really not enough. However, my husband has been a trained liturgist since he was a child in a fine Anglican choir, and public worship is very important to him. Witnessing a shift in the focus of worship from God to the community hurts him, just as bad singing hurts my musician brother, who has perfect pitch.

But as for me, if others can be bi-ritual, surely I can be bi-form. I never knew anything but the Novus Ordo from birth to the age of 37, and I do believe it can be done well, can be made a true child of the Mass of Ages, and I think merely turning the focus of the priest from the congregation back towards God, facing the same way as the congregation, is the best place to begin. Will the faithful accept it? Thinking of those faithful 160, I would hazard that the remaining faithful of Scotland will accept just about anything.

The O Antiphons. I was going to write about the O Antiphons today, but I was moved to write about  our experience at Sunday Mass instead. Here is an article about the O Antiphons by our friend Gregory DiPippo

Update: I've been reading through the Father Z comments on Sunday obligation, and I was struck by a comment about a woman who came to Mass for the barest of the bare minimum, lit a candle before the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary and was on her way. It occurred to me that this woman's trip to church might be longer than the time she spent in church. The journey itself was less tedious to her than an extra minute spent in church. Why? The commentator assumes the woman was caring for the sick; I wonder if she wasn't a brokenhearted trad.

Monday, 14 December 2015


Today I was late in writing up my Christmas column for the CR for I was entertaining two little Edinburgh girls and their mother. Now I feel very Christmassy indeed, even though by family standards I cheated by having a tin of Cadbury's chocolate cookies to hand instead of proper home-baked cookies. Family pride was saved by the presence of Chocolate Piernik (gingerbread), which I thought the girls might not like, as it is stuffed with chopped prunes and candied ginger. The youngest loved it, however.

This may sound fatuous, but I do like children, especially tiny ones. The youngest are rarely self-conscious and just wriggle about doing their own version of Pilates or suddenly decide to take naps in the middle of the carpet, which I often want to do at parties. They are not at all shocked or disapproving if you join them on the floor, as I did, for I wanted to see if I too could tuck my feet behind my head. You can't really get away with this sort of thing when all your guests are adults.

I was a bit worried that the children would be bored, for we have no proper toys. However, we have a large collection of toy owls--owl cushions, owl doorstops, woolly owls, brass owls, wooden owls--plus my old, immensely long-suffering teddy bear and a hedgehog cushion. I assembled them all together in the sitting-room, and I think my small guests were a bit awed that one grown-up could own so many owls. They consumed milk, chocolate biscuits and cake, played with the owls and made them a nest, and I felt our "elevenses" was as successful as a dinner party.

"Elevenses" is a meal you will know if you read the Paddington Bear books as a child. Although Paddington is himself Peruvian,the Paddington Bear books are as English as English can be. Paddington has a mid-morning snack with his friend Mr Gruber, a very English Hungarian who keeps an antique shop in London's Portobello Road. Mr Gruber calls this snack "Elevenses," and it generally involves a cup of cocoa.

Afterwards I walked my guests through the woods to the bus stop, but despite the rain, the children were in no hurry. The youngest was fascinated by the stream and stood about staring at it, looking like an illustration in a classic English (or Scotttish) children's book. When I was three and four, I lived in England, and I have very fond memories of being three and four and playing in woods. In fact, I like everything and everyone that reminds me of that time which is yet another reason why I fell for B.A.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

St Lucy's Eve Supper

Crisps (Tesco)

Barszcz Czerwony (clear red borscht) with
Uszki ("little ears" mushroom dumplings, Sugared Orange) &

Garlic & Goat's Cheese Tart (Plenty, Ottolenghi) with
Boiled Potatoes and
Fennel Salad &

Chocolate Gingerbread (Sugared Orange) with]
Sweetened Whipped Cream with Orange juice &
Elderflower champagne (2015)

Chocolate eyeballs & Coffee


Friday, 11 December 2015

Humility the Path to Linguistic Glory

Today is Polski Piątek, and the last day before Christmas I will think about Polish stuff. B.A. and I are going to Umbria for Christmas, so I must pack up all the Polish in my brain and shove it into a mental closet to make room for the Italian I am going to spend the next week reviewing.

If you take Polish classes, it is very helpful to have Polish friends around to help you with your homework. All over Edinburgh there are Poles of every class and condition hunched over the assignments of their "foreign" friends, lovers or spouses. "The girls at work translated it for me," one chap would say of the Polish songs he presented to class. His songs were always Polish Praise & Worship hymns, and as a matter of fact, the number of Catholics in the top grade is now so high, our teacher has started sending her fictional characters in our readings to Mass on Sundays.

Usually I do my assignments on my own but take or send any extraordinarily long passage to Polish friends to correct. The Principal Authority, however, is Polish Pretend Son, who is rather like the stern priest who shouts his homilies but then is very kind in the confessional. The most important thing about PPS, as an arbiter of Polish, is that he does not let any error slide. So it was with mingled joy and trepidation that I brought my most recent assignment to him on Monday and sat beside him on the couch.

"This is very lazy," said PPS (or words to that effect). "It is all in the nominative case!"

"Whoops," said Seraphic who, when PPS was busily being born, was either dancing with super-cute guys at the Brebeuf College School Christmas Dance or writing all about them in her journal.  "I suppose some of it should be in the genitive."

"HMMph", uttered PPS, which is PPSski for "Yes."

I busily worked that section , and then inquired about the next. PPS looked at it for a long time.

"This is all wrong," declared PPS.

"Oh dear."

For the entertainment of Polish readers and learners, I will now present two versions of my essay, the first draft and the final, so you can see how pathetic my first draft was and I can relive once again my errors, for this is the path to linguistic glory.  (The most egregious errors will be underscored.)

Before I do that I should mention there is a bit of biographical exaggeration, as what counts in Polish class is not factual truth but getting whatever Polish you know onto paper or into ears. I will fix this for the translation.

First draft (exceedingly terrible)

Jestem pisarką i niezależną dziennikarką od ośmiu lat. Najbardziej mi podoba się pisanie noweli ale muszę też pisać artykły wstępne i rownież wiadomość, żeby zarobić pieniądze.

Piszę dla "Catholic Register", tygodnik w Toronto, i dla "Catholic World Report" dziennik w siecię, który jest czasopismo mojego wydawnictwa w USA, które opublikowało moją pierwszą powieść.

Kiedy pracuję dla "CR", opiniuję delikatnie o jakąś sprawie życie, n.p. jak mam tym roku gotować dla bożonarodzeniowego. A kiedy piszę dla "CWR", mam nagrać wywiady, n.p. z księdzem ukraińskim o wojnie, albo przeczytać kziążki, n.p. "Bóg albo nic" przez Kardynała Sarah, albo tłumaczyć jakiś artykły na Polski.

Mnóstwo artykłow w CWR należą do USA--ja zamuję się wiadomościmi z Kanady i z Europy też. Podoba mi się napisać o nowinych w Kosciele Polksi. Mam tłumaczyć, a to jest zabawa....

Final draft 

Jestem pisarką i niezależną dziennikarką od ośmiu lat. Najbardziej podoba mi się pisanie noweli, ale żeby zarobić pieniądze, muszę też pisać felietony i reportaże.

Piszę dla Catholic Register, tygodnika w Toronto i dla Catholic World Report, dziennika internetów, który jest czasopismem mojego wydawnictwa w USA, które opublikowało moją powieść.

Kiedy pracuję dla CR, piszę o przyziemnych sprawach, np. co mam ugotować na Boże Narodzenie. Natomiast, kiedy piszę dla CWR muszę nagrywać wywiady, np. z księdzem ukraińskim o wojnie, albo czytać książki, np. Bóg albo nic kardynała Sarah, albo tłumaczyć artykły z Polski.

Mnóstwo artykłów w CWR dotyczy USA; ja zamuję się wiadomościmi z Kanady i z Europy. Lubię pisać o nowinach dotzczących polskiego Kościoła. Muszę robić tłumaczenia; co jest dla mnie dobrą zabawą.

I hope that is all right. My corrected draft was rather a mess. I showed it to my teacher yesterday, so she could correct anything I missed, and it was mostly the punctuation.


"I have been a writer and freelance journalist for eight years. I like writing stories best, but in order to make money, I must also write opinion pieces and news.

"I write for the Catholic Register, a weekly paper in Toronto, and for Catholic World Report, an internet daily, which is the magazine of my publisher in the USA, who published my novel. [And very tired my classmates must be of hearing about it, too.]

"When I work for the CR, I write about everyday things, e.g. what I must cook for Christmas. However, when I write for CWR, I must conduct interviews, e.g. with a Ukrainian priest about the war, or read books, e.g. God or Nothing by Cardinal Sarah, or translate articles from Poland. [Not to republish but for myself, to understand the story and to get quotes.]

"Most of the articles in CWR are about the USA; I [concern myself] with news from Canada and Europe. I love to write news about the Polish Church. I have to translate; I think this is great fun..."

Meanwhile, here is my latest article for Catholic World Report. Some readers will probably be shocked, and other readers will probably be impressed. Just remember that this Polish story has nothing to do with a North American or British context and everything to do with A) Polish history and B) contemporary events in continental Europe.

P.S. I know perfectly well that Gazeta Wyborcza is a left-wing, liberal newspaper highly critical of the Church. It is, however, a mainstream, national daily paper with a large (albeit rapidly falling) readership. It's not the Morning Star.