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August 2015

52 Authors: Week 35 - Sydney Taylor

When I wrote the post about Anne Pellowski’s Latch Valley Farm series (the Catholic Little House books), I said that I would write another about a sort of Jewish Little House books. This is it.

When I was about 8 years old, The All-of-a-Kind Family books by Sydney Taylor were my favorites. I fell in love with them the moment I first saw them in the library. They were larger than any of the other chapter books (about 9” x 7.5”) and the covers had full-color illustrations both front and back. This was quite unique for the the time--mid '50s. I have a large collection of children’s ex-library books and none of the covers approach the quality of the artwork on these books. And the inside of the books was even better.

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The All-of-a-Kind Family series begins about 25 years later than the Pellowski and Wilder books. It is set in the early 20th century. The woods and creek banks and windswept plains of the Little House books and the beautiful hills and valleys of the Latsch Valley books are far away from the family of this series, who live on the East Side of New York City.

The East Side was not pretty. There was no grass. Grass couldn’t very well grow on slate sidewalks or in cobblestoned gutters. There were no flowers except those one saw in the shops of the few florists. There were no tall trees lining the streets. There were tall gas lampposts instead. There was no running brook in which the children might splash on hot summer days. But there was the East River. Its waters stretched out wide and darkly green, and it smelt of fish, ships, and garbage.

Like many other families, Mama and Papa and their children lived in the crowded tenement house section of the lower East Side of New York City.

To my eight-year-old self, this would have been almost as exotic as a houseboat in China. (I really wanted to live on a houseboat in China.) We lived on a 13 acre corner lot and our house was surrounded on two sides by fields which ended in tree lines and on the third by a row of trees. I had been to downtown Memphis a few times to department stores, but I had no real conception of what an apartment was, and downtown Memphis in the mid '50s was hardly the East Side of New York at the turn of the century.

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Mama and Papa (whose names we don’t know) and their five “steps-and-stairs” daughters (Ella, Henny, Sarah, Charlotte, and Gertie), and finally baby Charlie, are more fortunate than many of the tenement-dwellers on the East Side. Although they have little money to spare, they have a four-room apartment which occupies an entire floor of their building. The reason for their comparative comfort is that Papa has his own business—a junk shop.

The girls love to visit the shop on rainy days and are therefore good friends with the peddlers who do business with Papa: Polack, Joe (a swarthy Italian), Charlie (a young, handsome man whose presence among the peddlers is somewhat of a mystery, and Picklenose.

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Poor old Picklenose! His face would have been most ordinary had he not been blessed with such an enormous object in the middle of it. It was a bulbous nose, and not only did it glow red, but on its top grew a pickle-shaped wart which had given him his name.

There is also joy to be found sometimes in searching through other people’s cast offs, for instance, the unwanted books from a rich young man’s collection. There’s a book called Dolls That You Love with stories about the dolls on one side and paper dolls on the facing page (Oh, how I loved paper dolls), and a complete set of Dickens! I probably didn’t appreciate the Dickens at the time.

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There is nothing especially exciting or adventurous about the stories told in these books. They are made up of the small, everyday events in the life of a happy family. The parents are loving and wise, which seems a clichė, but they are, of course, the best kind of parents to have. The children have their disagreements, but they take care of each other. The family isn’t always happy. Sometimes there is severe illness, disobedience that pains both parent and child, young men leaving for war, and a single mother dies. All-in-all though, the stories are happy ones.

My very favorite chapter is called, “Who Cares If It’s Bedtime.” The two youngest girls, Charlotte and Gertie, having used their spending money (a penny a day) to buy some candy and a bag of broken crackers, smuggle their treats into their bed to be enjoyed when they are supposed to be sleeping.

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The room was in darkness save for the gas light which shone from the kitchen through the opened bedroom door. Lucky for them! One look at their guilty faces, and Mama would have known that something was up. But Mama suspected nothing...Tucking in the featherbed, Mama said good night to all and went out, shutting the bedroom door behind her

The fun could begin at last! Charlotte directed because the game was hers.

“First we take a chocolate baby, and we eat only the head.” They bit off the heads and chewed away contentedly.

“Now the feet.” That was hard. The tiny feet were very close to the legs but they did the best they could.

“Let’s gobble the rest up altogether.” That was a good order. They gobbled away.

Charlotte continued. “A cracker now.” They fished about in the dark. “We’ll take a small bite just to find out what kind it is.”

They each took a small bite. “Mine is a lemon snap, I think,” Gertie said. “What’s yours?”

“Mine’s a ginger. We have to nibble along the side of the piece of cracker as if we were mice and we have to do it until I say stop.”

And the games go on for another page and a half. It was the greatest desire of my life to have a bag full of broken, different-flavored crackers (Who knew there were different-flavored crackers?!) and taste them one by one with a little sister in our bed at night. Not my little sister, of course. My little sister was pretty much a nuisance and it was bad enough to have to share my room with her, much less my bed. I wanted a little sister named Gertie. My mother’s name was Gertie and I’d never before known that a child could have that name. I was glad, though, that I wasn’t a child with that name.

The very best part of these books, though, was the description of the Jewish feasts. There was one about the solemn celebration of Passover, and one about Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement when you had to fast all day—really fast and ask God to forgive you for your sins. I wanted to light the menorah for the Festival of Lights. I wanted to dress up for Purim and go from door to door singing,

Today is Purim
Tomorrow no more,
Give me a penny
And show me the door.

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But most of all, I wanted my father to build a Succah for us to live in during the Feast of Booths.

Sydney Taylor was born Sarah Brenner in 1904 in New York City. Her parents and older sister, Ella, immigrated to the United States in 1900, and the All-of-a-Kind Family books were the stories of her family. Ms. Taylor was the middle daughter. There are five books in the series: All-of-a-Kind Family, More All-of-a-Kind Family, All-of-a-Kind Family Uptown, All-of-a-Kind Family Downtown, and Ella All-of-a-Kind Family. The first three were written in the 1950s and the latter two in the 1970s. It may not surprise you to find out that the first three are the best. Naturally, I didn’t read the last two when I was young because they weren’t written, and it was only when I was reading the books to my children that I came across them. Sadly, I really didn’t like the last one very much at all.

—Janet Cupo has been commenting on this blog for about as long as it's existed, and has her own excellent blog at The Three Prayers.

Good Words for the Anglican Ordinariate Mass

I can't remember how I happened across this piece, but it describes very well what I consider most important and most appealing about the Ordinariate Mass, and also what I had hoped might come of it: that it would have broad appeal outside the Ordinariate, and perhaps in time be part of the liturgical renewal that...well, I don't want to beat that horse, but suffice to say it fell short of its promise. 

Unfortunately that doesn't seem to be happening. The writer thinks the Ordinariate liturgy could "draw thousands of Anglicans to convert to Catholicism, and provide a haven for Catholics desiring more traditional liturgy."

That sounds very plausible, but it doesn't look that way. The Ordinariate is not exactly thriving, though it is surviving. Conversions from Anglicanism are few; as someone said, "That pond seems to be fished out." And the number of Catholics who are interested doesn't seem to be very great. I think the Ordinariate came thirty years too late. If, instead of the very limited Pastoral Provision of 1980, there had been something like the Ordinariate, it might have been more successful. 

My own little group is barely surviving. That's partly due to external circumstances, but in any case we are actually fewer now than we were in the first year. But the article I linked to makes me want to carry on. As long as it's alive, there is the possibility that it will bear more fruit in time. 

52 Authors: Week 34 - G.K. Chesterton

“Anything worth doing is worth doing badly” said Gilbert Keith Chesterton and that gives me the strength to tackle this post, when a fear of not being able to do it well enough would prevent me from even starting.

From 6-8 August, I attended the American Chesterton Society's (ACS) Conference in San Antonio, Texas (a mere four hour drive from my house!) entitled “A Miscellany of Men.”

I had a blast! There were some people there I had met last year, so it was great to see them again and I met plenty of good people at this conference too.

The talks I particularly liked were:

Chesterton and Orestes Brownson

Chesterton and William Cobbett

Chesterton and Distributism

Chesterton and Oscar Wilde

Chesterton as a Model of Lay Spirituality

I'm giving these titles here in case anyone might be interested in hearing them when they become available to download for just a couple of dollars each from the ACS website (here is the link). Kevin O'Brien gave such a passionate talk on GKC and Orestes Brownson, using illustrations of the struggles in his own life, that we gave him a standing ovation.

The talk on William Cobbett (1763-1835 – basically one century before Chesterton) was very interesting to me, because I had only recently heard of him as one of the early historians to challenge the official Whig History of England. I had just bought Chesterton's biography of Cobbett at the book table and GKC's dedication moved me so much I was in tears:

To all the present-day Cobbetts, wherever they may be, who let neither fortune nor favour stand in the way of their defense of the Truth, in season and out, and its proclamation from the housetops. Take courage: for Truth has already overcome the World.

I nearly didn't bother attending the talk on Chesterton and Distributism, because I felt I'd heard it all before. However, I changed my mind, attended, and am pretty glad I did. It was given by John Medaille (pronounced May-die: he wants a hospital named after him!). The Dismal Science hurts my brain at the best of times and especially at 4pm on a Friday afternoon. Consequently I really didn't understand much, but I picked up enough to realise that this was an important talk. He spoke of needing to explain Distributism as a real alternative to modern economics and to demonstrate it as such he applied its principles to cost accounting. Yes, it was getting more dull by the nano-second. I can't explain it to anyone else, but I think that anyone who is truly interested in Distributism would do very well to listen to this talk when it is put up on the ACS website, and that's why I've included this information here.

Joseph Pierce gave a talk entitled Chesterton and Oscar Wilde. I highly recommend it – again, when it becomes available to download. He mostly speaks of Wilde's lifelong love affair with the Catholic Church and by itself, the list of Decadents who eventually converted to the Faith is worth listening to the talk for. Chesterton was no great fan of Wilde, but he did have this to say:

The time has certainly come when this extraordinary man, Oscar Wilde, may be considered merely as a man of letters. He sometimes pretended that art was more important than morality, but that was mere play-acting. Morality or immorality was more important than art to him and everyone else. But the very cloud of tragedy that rested on his career makes it easier to treat him as a mere artist now. His was a complete life, in that awful sense in which your life and mine are incomplete; since we have not yet paid for our sins. In that sense one might call it a perfect life, as one speaks of a perfect equation; it cancels out. On the one hand we have the healthy horror of the evil; on the other the healthy horror of the punishment. We have it all the more because both sin and punishment were highly civilized; that is, nameless and secret. Some have said that Wilde was sacrificed; let it be enough for us to insist on the literal meaning of the word. Any ox that is really sacrificed is made sacred.


The American Chesterton Society has done great work in keeping the work of Chesterton alive and spreading the good news. Lots of people have converted to the Catholic Faith at least partly because of Chesterton, so it is valuable work. Its website has been nominated for best resources website at Best Catholic Websites. I include their blurb here:

The American Chesterton Society (ACS), founded in 1996, works to promote interest in G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936), one of the 20th century’s greatest writers. A convert to the Catholic Church, Chesterton wrote over a hundred books during his lifetime and published over five thousand essays in newspapers and magazines.

One of the most quoted writers in the English language, yet one of the least studied, G.K. Chesterton foresaw and wrote about the issues we struggle with today: social injustice, the culture of death, the decline of the arts, assaults on religion, and attacks on the family and on the dignity of the human person.

One of the talks from last year's conference which I really loved was by David Fagerberg:

Chesterton Is Everywhere

He has a book of the same title and naturally I bought a copy. Here are a couple of GKC quotes from the book, which I only found as I was skimming through it this morning:

Once I found a friend
“Dear me,” I said, “he was made for me.”
But now I find more and more friends
Who seem to have been made for me
And more and yet more made for me,
Is it possible we were all made for each other
all over the world?

(from one of his early notebooks in his youth)

A Man Born on the Earth

Perhaps there has been some mistake
How does he know he has come to the right place?
But when he finds his friends
He knows he has come to the right place.

I often feel that Chesterton really is everywhere. By now I have read quite a few of his books and certainly many quotes. He wrote about so many things that I often think of what he would say, when I'm at home looking after the children, when I'm at the store, when I'm with friends and family and especially when I am online!

I first read Chesterton some time in the nineties, I think. I would have read some of the Fr. Brown stories, but didn't read anything else of his until some time in 2002. For some reason, my husband had bought me a subscription to the St. Austin Review and one edition was devoted to Distributism. This certainly had me interested in finding out more, so I next read more about this topic and also tried to read Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man. Initially, I didn't have much success, but then I worked out that Chesterton does not write “linearly.” He sort of meanders about, it seems to me. So then I decided just to follow him around and I've been doing that ever since! I re-read Orthodoxy, or parts of it fairly regularly. After these, I read his biographies of St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Francis of Assisi, which I enjoyed. More recently I have read What's Wrong With The World and so far this is one of my favourites. I love reading a chapter or two regularly. (It can be read online at Project Gutenberg.)

From the chapter “The Emancipation of Domesticity”:

The shortest way of summarizing the position is to say that woman stands for the idea of Sanity; that intellectual home to which the mind must return after every excursion on extravagance. The mind that finds its way to wild places is the poet's; but the mind that never finds its way back is the lunatic's. There must in every machine be a part that moves and a part that stands still; there must be in everything that changes a part that is unchangeable. And many of the phenomena which moderns hastily condemn are really parts of this position of the woman as the center and pillar of health. Much of what is called her subservience, and even her pliability, is merely the subservience and pliability of a universal remedy; she varies as medicines vary, with the disease. She has to be an optimist to the morbid husband, a salutary pessimist to the happy-go-lucky husband. She has to prevent the Quixote from being put upon, and the bully from putting upon others. The French King wrote—

"Toujours femme varie Bien fol qui s'y fie,"

but the truth is that woman always varies, and that is exactly why we always trust her. To correct every adventure and extravagance with its antidote in common-sense is not (as the moderns seem to think) to be in the position of a spy or a slave. It is to be in the position of Aristotle or (at the lowest) Herbert Spencer, to be a universal morality, a complete system of thought. The slave flatters; the complete moralist rebukes. It is, in short, to be a Trimmer in the true sense of that honorable term; which for some reason or other is always used in a sense exactly opposite to its own. It seems really to be supposed that a Trimmer means a cowardly person who always goes over to the stronger side. It really means a highly chivalrous person who always goes over to the weaker side; like one who trims a boat by sitting where there are few people seated. Woman is a trimmer; and it is a generous, dangerous and romantic trade.

I don't wish to start a quarrel in the commbox about the role of women in the home v. women in the workforce. I simply include these large passages because they are directly applicable to my own life as a homeschooling mother and I have found much comfort in them when I have really needed it:

To put the matter shortly, woman is generally shut up in a house with a human being at the time when he asks all the questions that there are, and some that there aren't. It would be odd if she retained any of the narrowness of a specialist. Now if anyone says that this duty of general enlightenment (even when freed from modern rules and hours, and exercised more spontaneously by a more protected person) is in itself too exacting and oppressive, I can understand the view. I can only answer that our race has thought it worth while to cast this burden on women in order to keep common-sense in the world. But when people begin to talk about this domestic duty as not merely difficult but trivial and dreary, I simply give up the question. For I cannot with the utmost energy of imagination conceive what they mean. When domesticity, for instance, is called drudgery, all the difficulty arises from a double meaning in the word. If drudgery only means dreadfully hard work, I admit the woman drudges in the home, as a man might drudge at the Cathedral of Amiens or drudge behind a gun at Trafalgar. But if it means that the hard work is more heavy because it is trifling, colorless and of small import to the soul, then as I say, I give it up; I do not know what the words mean. To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors and holidays; to be Whiteley within a certain area, providing toys, boots, sheets, cakes and books, to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people's children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one's own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman's function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.

Finally, Chesterton is on Twitter!

Some of today's quotes from GKC fans on Twitter (August 16th):

“We fight for the right of normal people to define normality”

“There are only two things that can bind men together; a convention and a creed.”

“Morality is always terribly complicated—to a man who has lost all his principles.”

“There are no uninteresting things, only uninterested people.”

“All that talk of not caring for creeds has simply become one fixed, very formal, and slightly hypocritical creed.”

“In the modern world we are rapidly going back to dividing the tolerable and the intolerable merely as the familiar and the unfamiliar.”

“The weakness in the Liberal theory of toleration was this: that its apostles seem to have taken common morals & natural religion for granted.”

"A patriot is always a little sad."


—Louise is an Australian homeschooling mother of six, currently living in Texas.

Stuff I'd Rather Have a Root Canal Than Do

Read Sandra Tsing Loh on Erica Jong, an opportunity presented by a recent issue of The Atlantic. If I'd had any doubt, the blurb on the Contents page would have convinced me: "In her 70s, she's as eager as ever for sex and adventure."

These old people still preaching the sexual revolution are a sad sight. Especially the women. One is less surprised by that sort of foolishness from old men.

52 Authors: Week 33 - Marion Montgomery

Marion Montgomery (1925-2011) authored three novels, three books of poems, and several short stories, a few of which were award winners. He is best known, however, as the author of some 20 or so books of literary and cultural criticism, based on a Thomist reading of philosophy, history and literature. At the root of his critical work is the idea that the “spirit of the age” has manifested itself in poetry and literature as much as it has in political and social matters, and that analysis of literature can thus aid us in the diagnosis of modern ailments with a view towards eventual treatment.

Montgomery taught literature and creative writing at the University of Georgia for over 30 years before his retirement in 1987, after which he continued writing and lecturing. He was born in the same general area of central Georgia as Flannery O’Connor was, in the same year, and they both attended the same graduate program, the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop. He didn’t know her then, however, and was only introduced to her work in the early 1950’s, when a friend recommended one of her stories that had appeared in Harper’s Bazaar. They later became friends and correspondents. In a well-known letter from 1962 O’Connor praised Montgomery’s first novel, The Wandering of Desire: “The Southern writer can out-write anybody in the country because he has the Bible and a little history. You have more than your share of both and a splendid gift besides.”

Montgomery found out later, after O’Connor’s death, that they had both been reading St. Thomas at the same time, using the same book as a guide -- Anton Pegis’s Introduction to St. Thomas Aquinas. Just as for O’Connor Thomas became the touchstone for Montgomery’s reading of history, philosophy and literature, and he was extremely well-read in all three. He is one of those writers who appears to have “read everything,” although Michael Jordan of Hillsdale College believes that this is because Montgomery may have had a photographic memory. Because of this, as well as his discursive style, Montgomery can be quite challenging to read. Fortunately, unlike many contemporary critics, he uses no modern lit-crit jargon, so even when he’s difficult he’s not indecipherable.

Because of his style and his depth (as well as his tendency to write long paragraphs), Montgomery is difficult to quote. He is the precise opposite of an aphorist, and out of the context of the flow of his arguments his paragraphs wouldn’t make a lot of sense. One finds evidence of this in one of the most well-known analyses of Montgomery’s work, the essay “Why Marion Montgomery Has To ‘Ramble’ “by Gerhart Niemeyer. Niemeyer includes a few block quotes from Montgomery’s work in his essay, but the majority of the quotes are smaller ones embedded in the essay’s text itself, used to support Niemeyer’s various points.

Says Niemeyer, the prime matter that Montgomery addresses in all his work is the modern idea of freedom, which allows even the freedom of “the will to atheism,” which involves alienation, the self-separation of the individual from reality. This act, in Montgomery’s words, “issues forth from the deepest regions of the self, where freedom is more than choice, where it is the self recognizing its own existence in the recognition of God or rejecting its own existence in the refusal of God – and thus lapsing into absurdity.” Where other writers have traced this absurdity in politics and culture, “Montgomery traces it in American literature.”

A good example of this approach, which also serves as a summary of his take on Flannery O’Connor, is this excerpt from his little book The Trouble With You Innerleckchuls:

It was mistakenly assumed when the stories first began to appear, and it continues to be, that [O’Connor] writes a very sophisticated kind of local color with sociological implications. But what interests her is the condition of the modern intellectual. That is the issue in this fiction, rather than representations of rural characters whose concrete historical presence misleads “some New York critics.” The pole of grace on the one hand and of the finite gnostic mind on the other establish the intellectual ground within which the fiction’s dramatic tension arcs, sputters into a climax, and then calms to a steady glow when the reality of existence – of being – reasserts itself with persuasive finality. Hence we discover that her protagonists are, in their spiritual state, reflections of the larger, geographically foreign (one might call it New Yorkish) intellectual community where Gnosticism is dominant and from whence it trickles down through Atlanta (Taulkingham), even unto rural Georgia. She says this to be so and says it in plain enough language in her letters and essays. But that her agents are reflections of that larger self-insured gnostic world is signaled as well by the disquiet with which her fiction was and is received in many otherwise sophisticated quarters.

The attempt to declare Haze Motes or The Misfit merely backwoods psychopaths, the sort of unfortunate, deprived creatures on the evening news for whom poverty programs and rehabilitation are designed, is only a momentary stay against confusion, against a shock of self-recognition. Her chosen audience doesn’t remain safe, since the stories keep saying, shouting in an irresistible way, “You can’t be any poorer than dead” – dead spiritually and intellectually.

The constant comparison in Montgomery’s work is thus between those thinkers and writers who reflect “the pole of grace” and those who champion the “finite gnostic mind.” Drawing into the discussion poets, novelists, and philosophers, Montgomery believes that most writers lean towards one or the other, and that this leaning is reflected in their writing. Into this discussion he brings the thoughts of such luminaries as Hawthorne, Poe, Wordsworth, Dostoevsky, Eliot, the Fugitives, Pound, Maritain, Voegelin, Gabriel Marcel and Walker Percy.

As a starting point for reading Montgomery, I’d recommend the collection of essays titled On Matters Southern, edited by Michael Jordan. For a deeper introduction, one that requires some familiarity with O’Connor’s work, I’d recommend the small, but dense, book I quoted above, The Trouble With You Innerleckchuls, published by Christendom College in 1988.

I’ve read two of the three novels, The Wandering of Desire and Darrell, and though I liked both, I’d have to give the nod to the former. It’s a tragi-comic somewhat Faulknerian story of two families who have fought for generations over a piece of land, it going by hook or crook back and forth between them. As far as his poetry goes, I’ve not read enough of it to comment, other than to say that he has written in both modern and traditional/formal styles, and is seemingly fairly adept at both.

When Montgomery died on Thanksgiving weekend 2011, he was in the midst of writing a book on Hawthorne. Not sure if/when that will ever see daylight, so at present Montgomery’s last published book was 2009’s With Walker Percy at the Tupperware Party, a big rich ride through Percy’s fiction and nonfiction. It’s a no-nonsense academic-level work, albeit one with absolutely no critical apparatus: no index, no notes, no bibliography, no table of contents. Just a solid block of 330 pages of text divided into numbered chapters -- huge, challenging, and fun, like an intellectual whitewater rafting trip.


M.M. is one of my favorite nonfiction writers, and I fear I haven’t quite done him justice here. He’s a writer that for whatever reason I find much easier to talk about than to write about. But if your appetite has been whetted a little I encourage you to give him a go. In my opinion he was one of the most astute and interesting literary and cultural critics of the past thirty or forty years. I’ve come across no one that connects literary and philosophical dots in quite the way that he’s able to, and it is this aspect of his work that I find most stimulating.

—Rob Grano has a degree in religious studies which he's put to good use working on the insurance side of the healthcare industry for the past 20 years.  He's published a number of book and music reviews, mostly in the small press, and sometimes has even gotten paid for it. He lives outside of Pittsburgh, Pa.

Bassic: Televisionary

Ages and ages ago, when downloadable music was a new thing and Napster roamed the net, there was a site which I think was called where mostly unknown or little-known artists could post their music to be downloaded free. I got half a dozen or so tracks from a Swedish electronic musician who called himself Bassic. I think this was my favorite of those. I'm a bit hesitant to post it, and a bit embarrassed, because it might strike people as just sort of cheesy. It's a combination of music, miscellaneous TV dialog, and the sound of a thunderstorm. It seems to be the soundtrack of someone idly flipping through TV channels during a thunderstorm; I want to say an afternoon thunderstorm, because that's what I envision. There is unfortunately one recurring synthesizer pattern that I find kind of annoying, but other than that, it's a pleasant cozy atmosphere.  It sounds best on headphones, where you can get all the TV bits as they fade in and out.

Mockingbird and Watchman

Has anyone read Harper Lee's "new" novel, Go Set A Watchman? Intrigued by the event, I decided to do something I've had in mind for a while to do, which was to read To Kill A Mockingbird for the first time since I was a teenager. I think we were assigned it in school, which, if true, is maybe a little surprising, since it was the Deep South in the mid-1960s. Or maybe I just read it on my own. At any rate, I did read it, and liked it. But I hadn't read it since, and had long begun to suspect that it was really not such a great novel, and that its reputation probably rested as much on its place in racial politics as on its literary quality.

My suspicion was probably fortified by Flannery O'Connor:

I think I see what it really is--a child's book. When I was fifteen I would have loved it. Take out the rape and you've got something like Miss Minerva and William Green Hill. I think for a child's book it does all right. 

(from a letter)

So I read it a few weeks ago, and as I suspected it's not a great novel. But it's certainly not junk, either. It's better than I expected, really. And I can see why people love it so much, for reasons that go beyond its message. Fundamentally it's a coming-of-age story, and a very rich and charming one; it's really that more than a lesson about racism, which was what I half-expected, and which it certainly contains. Flannery O'Connor was right, if you note the "fifteen" rather than the "child"--it is what would nowadays be called a Young Adult novel.

But I don't think I'm going to make the effort for Watchman. My wife read it and concurred entirely with the judgment of the editor who turned it down, and/or helped Lee extract and develop what became Mockingbird. According to her it's primarily Scout as a grown woman, looking back in anger at her roots, denouncing her parents, etc. I must say it's not pleasant to think of the delightful Scout turning into just another angry and self-righteous liberal. I was avoiding the reviews, which I always do with a new book that I think I might read, but now that I've pretty well decided not to I'm going to read some of them. I gather most have been negative. Does anyone here have an opinion? 

Oh, and by the way, I'm with those who suspect that Harper Lee did not truly consent to the publication, and that it was orchestrated by people who stood to make a lot of money from it.

52 Authors: Week 32 - Thomas Mann

I have met few people who have read Thomas Mann extensively, and, among those few, fewer still who hold him in as high regard as I do. The problem, therefore, seems to be one mostly of neglect, and only secondarily of poor judgement. My own view is that he ranks with the finest novelists of the twentieth century. 

Mann was born in 1875, in Lübeck, and died in 1955, in Zürich. He lived most of his life in Germany, though for a little over a decade, during and after the Second World War, he resided in the United States. (A few years ago, when at Princeton University, I had the joy of visiting his former home and standing in his library, which was quite a thrill. Presumably anyone could do the same: the house is now the home of the university's Catholic chaplaincy.) He had been forced to flee Germany when the Nazis, of whom he had been a forceful critic, came to power. He continued his critique of Hitler's regime from the safety of America, and, in the post-war years, one of his greatest works resulted from a long meditation on the intersection of Nazism with German history and culture. But more on that below.


Mann with Einstein at Princeton, 1938

Mann was something of a prodigy. When he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1929, the work principally cited by the committee was Buddenbrooks, which had been published when he was just 26 years old. This book is in the tradition of the nineteenth-century novel, and traces the slow decline of a family over the course of several generations. It was an assured and impressive debut, but, if memory serves (for I have read it only once), it only hinted at those qualities which were to distinguish Mann's writing as he matured: his long, delicate sentences, with their networks of balanced and counter-balanced clauses (a reasonable English-language comparison would be with Henry James); the poise and precision of his language, which always gives the reader the sense of being in the company of a man who is thinking, and thinking carefully; his talent for adopting a distinctive narrative voice that lingers in the imagination long after the details of the plot have drifted away; an interest in matters of culture, history, religion, and philosophy; and, perhaps most distinctively, an ability to write stories which, while not exactly allegorical, resonate with multiple levels of meaning, and are therefore richer and more rewarding than a bald description would suggest.

In my opinion Mann's two masterpieces are The Magic Mountain and Doctor Faustus. The former is a sprawling tale about a young man, Hans Castorp, who, suffering from some ill-defined disorder, "takes the cure" in a mountaintop sanitorium for an extended period — so extended, in fact, that the reader begins to suspect not only that he is not recovering, but that the doctors who treat him do not intend his recovery. Castorp is naive, and during his stay he falls under the influence of a number of older intellectuals who introduce him to the contested battlefield of ideas raging over European culture, morality, and history. If that makes it sound didactic, I have failed; it is, I suppose, one of those dreaded "novels of ideas" — a meditation on fin-de-siècle European society, for which the sanitorium itself becomes a proxy — but so beautifully written that it dazzles rather than discourages the reader. And persevere to the end: the last chapter is staggeringly great.

Even better (for I would count it among my favourite novels) is Doctor Faustus, a modernized and novelized telling of the famous legend. In Mann's version, the Faust character is a composer named Adrian Leverkühn (modelled rather obviously on Arnold Schoenberg) who makes a diabolical wager in exchange for a lifetime of artistic brilliance and acclaim. Sticking to the conventions of the realistic novel, Mann's tale can be read as confined safely within an immanent frame — there is no Devil in the waiting room such as visited Ivan Karamazov — but the realm of portent and mystery hovers over Adrian all the same. And, by ingenious use of a framing device, the story of Adrian's life becomes a mirror in which to examine Germany's ill-fated encounter with National Socialism, a deal with the Devil if ever there was one. It's a wonderfully rich book, especially recommended to music lovers, for it contains some of the finest writing about music that you're likely to find.

For the readers of this blog, I would also recommend two other books. Joseph and his Brothers is Mann's longest book — a tetralogy, really — which runs to about 1200 pages in my edition. The story is that of the Biblical Joseph, and I know of no greater novelistic realization of a Biblical story than this one. It is told rather straightforwardly, with evident respect for the subject matter — though, as is often the case with Mann, the reader cannot perhaps entirely shake the worry that there is an understated irony sunk several fathoms deep. The narrative immerses the reader in the historical period, teasing out the religious mindset of the time in an effort to better understand and appreciate the origins of monotheism. Mann himself apparently considered it his greatest work, and the judgement is a defensible one. I am due for a re-read. And the other book is The Holy Sinner. Though it is generally thought to a fairly minor work — certainly it is much shorter than any of the books I have mentioned thus far! — it has an appeal all its own. The story is a re-working of a medieval legend about the early life of Pope Gregory (which one, I am not sure). It is a tale of magic, with elements familiar from medieval romances, and makes no effort, so far as I recall, to transpose the legend into realist terms. The tale is one that had fascinated Mann for years. (In Doctor Faustus Adrian Leverkühn had actually composed an oratorio telling the same story.) I remember that I greatly enjoyed it when I first read it; again, I am due for a re-read.

Mann is also admired for his short stories, especially "Death in Venice". His collected short stories fill a hefty single volume, and there are some jewels in it. I would particularly recommend two of them: "Tonio Kröger" is, in my opinion, his best short story, exploring some of the same themes as "Death in Venice" (especially the contest of Apollo and Dionysius in life and art), but doing it more winsomely and without the unsavoury elements. And I am also very fond of "A Man and his Dog", which is about ... a man and his dog. Dog-lovers will, I predict, get a kick out of Mann's unnervingly precise descriptions of dog antics; cat-lovers will probably hate it.

I should say that I have read Mann only in translation. He has had two principal translators into English. H.T. Lowe-Porter translated the books as they were being published and came to be closely identified with Mann in the English-speaking world; her versions were known to him and I believe he thought them satisfactory. In the last few decades John E. Woods has been producing fresh translations; he has completed most of the books I have recommended here (the exceptions being The Holy Sinner and the short stories). For purposes of comparison, here is Lowe-Porter's version of the first paragraph of The Magic Mountain:

The story of Hans Castorp, which we would here set forth, not on his own account, for in him the reader will make acquaintance with a simple-minded though pleasing young man, but for the sake of the story itself, which seems to us highly worth telling — though it must needs be borne in mind, in Hans Castorp's behalf, that it is his story, and not every story happens to everybody — this story, we say, belongs to the long ago; is already, so to speak, covered with historic mould.

Catch that? (One wit credited Lowe-Porter with having translated Mann into German.) Here is Woods with the same passage:

The story of Hans Castorp that we intend to tell here not for his own sake (for the reader will come to know him as a perfectly ordinary, if engaging young man), but for the sake of the story itself, which seems to us to be very much worth the telling (although in Hans Castorp's favor it should be noted that it is his story, and that not every story happens to everybody) is a story that took place long ago and is, so to speak, covered with the patina of history.

My own preference, not just in this case but in general, is for Woods' translations.


I wish that I knew more about Thomas Mann, the person, but I don't. I believe that he was a rather sad man — if I remember rightly, at least a few members of his family committed suicide — and his intellectual influences, which would include Nietzsche, Wagner, Schopenhauer, and Freud, are not exactly a band of merry men, but from his books I have learned that he was a man committed to serious moral reflection who used the resources of modernist literature to probe the spiritual and intellectual malaise of our times. In that sense, he can be appreciated as something like a secular counterpart to T.S. Eliot. There was nothing of the ideologue in him, and he was a great artist.

In conclusion, Thomas Mann was a wonderful novelist.

—Craig Burrell is not a wonderful novelist, nor any sort of novelist, but if he were he would try to be like Thomas Mann. He blogs (in a manner of speaking) at All Manner of Thing, and is curator of The Hebdomadal Chesterton. He lives in Canada.

Pro-Life vs. Anti-Abortion

I wrote about this some time ago (here) saying that I thought it had been a mistake for the movement against abortion to adopt the term "pro-life." Not that it's not accurate, and not that I don't understand the rationale for it. But it invites the response which it regularly gets: "You're not truly pro-life, because you don't support [some other cause] in addition to your own." The other causes can be anything that the speaker believes to be good for people, or for that matter for animals, or the entire planetary ecosystem. 

For reasons that are obscure to me, this tactic is used even by some people who are actually anti-abortion.  I can only conjecture that they are so repelled by the right-wing associations of the pro-life movement that they want to distance themselves from it. A few weeks ago, for instance, I saw a link to a piece by Catholic blogger Mark Shea that appeared to suggest that insufficient concern about gun violence disqualifies one from calling oneself pro-life. I say "appeared to suggest" because I didn't read more than a few sentences, Shea's signal-to-noise ratio having long since dipped below the level I'm prepared to deal with; the link appeared on my Facebook feed because someone I know had commented on it. Then a few days ago he pointed out that you aren't truly pro-life if you don't consider illegal immigrants to be human.

I dare say that almost all pro-lifers are opposed to the use of guns in settling disputes or committing crimes, and believe immigrants, legal or otherwise, to be human. But it doesn't matter. The tactic is so tempting that those who use it often don't even seem to care whether the charge is true. I.e., the thing they say pro-lifers should support (or oppose) is often something that many or most of them do in fact support (or oppose), although perhaps not embracing the specific solution proposed by the leftist who is the usual accuser. But it does seem to be an effective way of changing the subject,  at least for those who want to change it, and of putting the anti-abortion side on the defensive.

We've seen a lot of this in the past couple of weeks, following the release of videos showing Planned Parenthood employees discussing in grisly detail their harvesting of organs from aborted babies. Hardly had the videos appeared than the "But you're not really pro-life because..." talk began, including quotes from Joan Chittister, whose identification as a "Catholic nun" always becomes worthy of respect when she's criticizing conservatives.

But these considerations are perhaps moot. Some of the reactions I've heard from the pro-Planned-Parenthood side have made it clear that although the "not really pro-life" feint is useful, nothing, except perhaps the direct intervention of the Holy Spirit, would make the persons involved reconsider. That is, if every pro-lifer were uniformly "pro-life" as defined by the left, it would not make the latter one bit more open to the arguments against abortion.

I've been appalled by one woman I've encountered on Facebook. She's personally unknown to me, being the Facebook friend of one of the people who are "friends" with me due to some mutual friend, but whom I don't actually know. The friend posts frequently in support of the exposure of Planned Parenthood's barbarism, and this woman responds with an unreasoning fury that's really pretty disturbing. She wants the people who made the videos to be jailed. I wonder what she would say if someone had surreptitiously taped someone making racist remarks. There is some serious evil abroad in our land.

52 Authors: Week 31 - Newman

I am not a Newman enthusiast. I find his prose to be dense, difficult, and often obtuse, not to mention unnecessarily long-winded. This is probably one of those differences in sensibilities between 19th century Victorians and 21st century blog readers. I find much more pleasure reading Lewis.

That being said, Newman is one of the most important authors in my intellectual formation and spiritual development. First of all, he was a major influence on several authors that been crucial to me—Tolkien, de Lubac, Pieper, and Giussani. And, of course, many people say Vatican II was “Newman’s Council.” I wrote my dissertation on Vatican II (Gaudium et spes).

Besides that, a handful of key ideas taken from a reading of Newman’s works have substantially changed my intellectual makeup. I have read four books by Newman. Three of the four contained ideas that forever changed the way I look at very important realities in my life and in the life of the Church and the world. I have read almost none of his other, occasional writings, poetry, or his fiction.

The four books are An Essay in Aid of A Grammar of Assent, The Idea of a University, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, and Apologia Pro Vita Sua. Looking at each one in turn, I will focus on the idea that has affected me rather than giving a general overview of their structure and content. I trust that even if these particular ideas aren’t life-changing for you, there is something in these works that will be. Newman is that important.

Note: the quotations are going to be long. You have to put up with that with Newman. He says in 20 lines what might be said in 5. There is a reason for this, which has to do with the method proposed in Grammar.

Grammar of Assent

Grammar was written in response to Humean skepticism. It was an apologetic work, the final chapter being a defense of theism and Catholic faith.

The main point is that certainty and assent do not come from formal inference—logical syllogisms—because in any formal inference (logical argument) you also had disputable premises, leading to an infinite regress of controvertible premises. Logic therefore only produces probabilities. Also, formal inferences tend to produce notional assent to abstract concepts. Real assent, which is always about individuals and particulars, is much more easily able to impel the affections and passions.

For Newman, certainty is achieved through an informal process of accumulating evidence, a “mass of probabilities” (233), from all kinds of sources, including experience, reliable reports from trusted authorities, and logical arguments, which then are united in our minds by what Newman called the “illative sense,” a synthesizing faculty which functions quasi-unconsiously. While each of the individual pieces of evidence is only probable, the conclusion has the character of certainty.

And to this conclusion he comes, as is plain, not by any possible verbal enumeration of all the considerations, minute but abundant, delicate but effective, which unite to bring him to it; but by a mental comprehension of the whole case, and a discernment of its upshot, sometimes after much deliberation, but, it may be, by a clear and rapid act of the intellect, always, however, by an unwritten summing-up, something like the summation of the terms, plus and minus of an algebraical series” (232)

The concept of the illative sense freed me from any temptation to require Cartesian clear and distinct ideas or mathematical certainty before assenting to a truth. What is necessary is a convergence of probable evidence and an absence of any substantial opposing evidence.

One of the consequences of Newman’s thesis is the impact it has on education. As Newman states, the affections are moved by the concrete, the image, rather than the abstract concept. Combining the Thomist affirmation that the will is only moved to act by the passions associated with the image (phantasm) properly informed by reason, one can find a theoretical basis for Christopher Dawson’s contention that a renewal of the Catholic Intellectual Tradition should focus not so much on Thomistic philosophy and scientific theology, on which a consensus is now gone, but rather history, literature, and the arts.

The Idea of a University

I read Idea of a University at the same time as I was reading St. Bonaventure’s Itinerarium (Mind’s Road to God). I wrote a paper coordinating the two. I wish I still had that paper.

Newman famously asserts that the purpose of the university is not moral or spiritual formation, but universal knowledge. In other words, its purpose is to cultivate the intellectual virtues, not the moral or supernatural. It is not enough for Newman that the University provides a home for a large variety of sciences; the ultimate purpose is to cultivate a coordinating intellectual activity he calls the “philosophical habit,” a.k.a. the habitus philosophicus. Sciences, even theology, are incomplete and subservient to “philosophy” as such. Here is his description:

[A]ll knowledge forms one whole, because its subject-matter is one; for the universe in its length and breadth is so intimately knit together, that we cannot separate off portion from portion, and operation from operation, except by a mental abstraction; and then again, as to its Creator, though He of course in His own Being is infinitely separate from it, and Theology has its departments towards which human knowledge has no relations, yet He has so implicated Himself with it, and taken it into His very bosom, by His presence in it, His providence over it, His impressions upon it, and His influences through it, that we cannot truly or fully contemplate it without in some main aspects contemplating Him. Next, sciences are the results of that mental abstraction, which I have spoken of, being the logical record of this or that aspect of the whole subject-matter of knowledge. As they all belong to one and the same circle of objects, they are one and all connected together; as they are but aspects of things, they are severally incomplete in their relation to the things themselves, though complete in their own idea and for their own respective purposes; on both accounts they at once need and subserve each other. And further, the comprehension of the bearings of one science on another, and the use of each to each, and the location and limitation and adjustment and due appreciation of them all, one with another, this belongs, I conceive, to a sort of science distinct from all of them, and in some sense a science of sciences, which is my own conception of what is meant by Philosophy, in the true sense of the word, and of a philosophical habit of mind, and which in these Discourses I shall call by that name. (Discourse 3)

To cultivate this habit is the central purpose of the university.

An important quality of the university is participation in a community of scholars from a large circle of disciplines who are engaged in philosophical discussions about the relationship between the sciences.

An assemblage of learned men, zealous for their own sciences, and rivals of each other, are brought, by familiar intercourse and for the sake of intellectual peace, to adjust together the claims and relations of their respective subjects of investigation. They learn to respect, to consult, to aid each other. Thus is created a pure and clear atmosphere of thought, which the student also breathes, though in his own case he only pursues a few sciences out of the multitude. He profits by an intellectual tradition, which is independent of particular teachers, which guides him in his choice of subjects, and duly interprets for him those which he chooses. He apprehends the great outlines of knowledge, the principles on which it rests, the scale of its parts, its lights and its shades, its great points and its little, as he otherwise cannot apprehend them. (Discourse 5)

God knows university life is often not like this!

The effect of this habit properly cultivated is to somewhat lesson the temptation to prejudice, ideology and relativism:

To have even a portion of this illuminative reason and true philosophy is the highest state to which nature can aspire, in the way of intellect; it puts the mind above the influences of chance and necessity, above anxiety, suspense, unsettlement, and superstition, which is the lot of the many. Men, whose minds are possessed with some one object, take exaggerated views of its importance, are feverish in the pursuit of it, make it the measure of things which are utterly foreign to it, and {138} are startled and despond if it happens to fail them. They are ever in alarm or in transport. Those on the other hand who have no object or principle whatever to hold by, lose their way, every step they take. They are thrown out, and do not know what to think or say, at every fresh juncture; they have no view of persons, or occurrences, or facts, which come suddenly upon them, and they hang upon the opinion of others, for want of internal resources. But the intellect, which has been disciplined to the perfection of its powers, which knows, and thinks while it knows, which has learned to leaven the dense mass of facts and events with the elastic force of reason, such an intellect cannot be partial, cannot be exclusive, cannot be impetuous, cannot be at a loss, cannot but be patient, collected, and majestically calm, because it discerns the end in every beginning, the origin in every end, the law in every interruption, the limit in each delay; because it ever knows where it stands, and how its path lies from one point to another. (Discourse 6)

This does not free the recipient of such an education from the distortions and blindness that come from moral and spiritual poverty.

I’m no expert on the British education system, but I think the residential college and tutorial in the Oxbridge system serve the purpose of providing this kind of community and cultivation of a philosophical habit. The colleges are also are supposed to provide for the cultivation of non-intellectual habits, such as religion and morals, I guess, although Brideshead and the life of Thomas Merton make me doubt how effective they are.

On the Development of Christian Doctrine

This essay did not influence me concerning the main thesis about the integrity of doctrine in its development. That has always seemed to me to be obvious and common sense even before I read the essay.

The essay most directly influenced my spiritual life, especially my devotion to Our Lady. The usual response to a Protestant objection to our veneration of Mary is to say we don’t “worship” her, but give her honor not unlike we give special people honor and we don’t pray to her, but ask her to pray for us. All well and good, but that doesn’t get to the heart of the problem. In fact, Catholics do treat Mary as a kind of divinity.

Newman helped me see why this is the case and why it is not really a problem. Specifically, the honors paid Mary are paid to a creature just as the Arians considered Christ a creature, although far above us. Mary is above us because she has experienced transforming power of the resurrection of the body known as theosis or divinization. She participates in the divine nature in a way that we only will at the second coming, but even so to a greater degree.

And as containing all created perfection, she has all those attributes, which, as was noticed above, the Arians and other heretics applied to our Lord, and which the Church denied of Him as infinitely below His Supreme Majesty….Christ is the First-born by nature; the Virgin in a less sublime order, viz. that of adoption. Again, if omnipotence is ascribed to her, it is a participated omnipotence (as she and all Saints have a participated sonship, divinity, glory, holiness, and worship). (Ch. 11, Section II.10)

Newman asserted that Arius had opened up for the Church a “place” in her thinking for an exalted creature like that which Arius ascribed to Christ. That place was filled in her speculation and piety by the Blessed Virgin Mary.

And thus the controversy opened a question which it did not settle. It discovered a new sphere, if we may so speak, in the realms of light, to which the Church had not yet assigned its inhabitant..…Thus there was "a wonder in heaven:" a throne was seen, far above all other created powers, mediatorial, intercessory; a title archetypal; {144} a crown bright as the morning star; a glory issuing from the Eternal Throne; robes pure as the heavens; and a sceptre over all; and who was the predestined heir of that Majesty? Since it was not high enough for the Highest, who was that Wisdom, and what was her name, "the Mother of fair love, and fear, and holy hope," "exalted like a palm-tree in Engaddi, and a rose-plant in Jericho," "created from the beginning before the world" in God's everlasting counsels, and "in Jerusalem her power"? The vision is found in the Apocalypse, a Woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. The votaries of Mary do not exceed the true faith, unless the blasphemers of her Son came up to it. The Church of Rome is not idolatrous, unless Arianism is orthodoxy. (Chapter 4)

Newman’s sense was that the common devotion to Christ, though nominally orthodox, was de facto Arian or worse:

Yet it is not wonderful, considering how Socinians, Sabellians, Nestorians, and the like, abound in these days, without their even knowing it themselves, if those who never rise higher in their notions of our Lord's Divinity, than to consider Him a man singularly inhabited by a Divine Presence, that is, a Catholic Saint,—if such men should mistake the honour paid by the Church to the human Mother for that very honour which, and which alone, is worthy of her Eternal Son. (Ch. 4, Section II.9)

I]t must be asked, whether the character of much of the Protestant devotion towards our Lord has been that of adoration at all; and not rather such as we pay to an excellent human being, that is, no higher devotion than that which Catholics pay to St. Mary, differing from it, however, in often being familiar, rude, and earthly. Carnal minds will ever create a carnal worship for themselves; and to forbid them the service of the Saints will have no tendency to teach them the worship of God. (Ch. 11, Section II.3)

This leads them to mistake the Catholic devotion to Mary for idolatry. All the early heresies, and the Protestant practical Arianism tended to underestimate the potential of the creature to be a vessel of Glory. Orthodoxy established the absolute transcendence of the Divinity of Christ, thus making room for the affirmation of the exalted destiny of the creature, esp. after the resurrection of the dead as exemplified in Mary (Ch. 4, Sec. II.10).

Chapter 4 contains a very long enumeration of patristic witnesses to the glories of Mary, especially starting at Section II.11. Chapter 10.4 and Chapter 11, Section II give detailed explanations of the history and dogmatic justification for Catholic devotion to Mary as exalted Queen.


The Apologia, from what I remember of it, is a defense against that accusation that Newman as a Catholic condoned the use of an “economy” to explain or defend the Catholic faith. An “economy” is a nominal distortion of the truth so as to have the desired good effect in the mind of the hearer.

The accusation is that this is the normal modus operandi of the Catholic Church (the putative Jesuitical dissembling). He wrote it not because he was worried about his reputation, but because he was concerned that such a vice in so public a figure would unnecessarily mar the reputation of the Church. True to the method of Grammar, he does not simply argue abstractly using syllogisms, but rather argues by giving a detailed account of his entire life, thereby hoping that the convergence of an avalanche of evidence would convince the reader that it was impossible that, precisely because he had become a Catholic, he could use lies to promote the truth.

Still, for me, the Apologia cameoff as whiny. It has been a long time. Maybe I would have a different experience now.


I don’t know Newman’s poetry very well, but one of his verses have long been a part of my personal spiritual life. I turn to it when my habitual melancholy threatens to sweep hope away:

LEAD, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom
    Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home—
    Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene—one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor pray'd that Thou
    Shouldst lead me on.
I loved to choose and see my path, but now
    Lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will: remember not past years.

So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still
    Will lead me on,
O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent, till
    The night is gone;
And with the morn those angel faces smile
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.

At Sea.
June 16, 1833.

—Robert Gotcher and his wife, Kathy, live in Milwaukee, where they've been raising their seven children, four of whom are "out of the house" more or less. He teaches writing and Latin at a seminary.  He wrote his dissertation on de Lubac and Vatican II. He is originally from Oklahoma, but has lived in Kansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, and Innsbruck, Austria.