Wednesday, October 14, 2009

New Blog on Blogger

One of the principal narrative problems of the spiritual life is the fact of each significant moment seeming so much more significant than the last significant moment. After all, in this age of the lean style, certainly not without its merits - like the Gospel of Saint Mark - too much unrolling of the thick red carpet of superlatives can seem tedious, like the Blockbuster claims of Hollywood, leaving us titillated for the moment, but in the end as disturbed, and eventually flattened, as the child who's been fed too many sweets.
Yet, it does happen precisely and without the least real suspicion of exaggeration that the infinitely generous Lover of mankind insists on outdoing himself, so that as grace piles upon grace, the receiver cannot help but feel that no matter how awesome the then, the now is even greater.
I speak of a new novel and a new blog to facilitate its distribution.
Not Without the Angels started its haunting of my creative imagination two or three weeks ago and I think it fair to say that for all the angels had necessarily to do with all my literary inspirations from my teens on, never have they had so much to do so manifestly. I don't go into these things lightly. After the rigours of the dark night, I'd say that writing good fiction is the hardest bloody work I've ever known, and I have not been inexperienced in the ordinary trials of physical labour, especially with a questionable lower back to bring to the fray. There is only one kind of work I've never been able to do when exhausted, or even tired, and that is: write readable fiction. To go to the typewriter or, now, my lovely computer keyboard, in any other condition than the pink, is to go to fail. I have to be at my best, my absolute best, because the spiritual novelist's brink of observation, his field marshal's command of the field, is so filled with the original battle of the good angels versus the bad ones, that he cannot afford to be anything but on the complete top of his game.
I wrestle with the Almighty over this situation, scared crapless of getting there too late, equally terrified of coming up to the study too soon. The pen is now, always has been, and forever will, be mightier than the sword, and writers work under conditions generals would be most fortunate to understand. It is the words that send out the armies, not the other way around. Lincoln and Churchill had made this plain. I was, after all, in the army. I left it for the word.
Well, words and music. And the blackboard. All of which is being put together nicely by Providence for the sake of some form of comeback, now that the Pope is moving heaven and earth to restore chant to the ordinary practice of the liturgy of the parishes.
But there has also been another mighty restoration project, closer to home. This is our Capuchin bishop's decision to refit the cathedral rectory, not so much for himself as for the ordinary parish personnel and the return of the rectory chapel. Because of population changes since the 30s founding of the diocese of Nelson, most of the bishop's clergy live in the Okanagan, two hundred miles west, leaving him pretty much obligated to spend at least two-thirds of his time in and around Kelowna rather than Nelson, which was the major interior city at the time the cathedral church was built, with a view to the obvious future. Nelson was then at the heart of the biggest mining centre of the world, after the diamond mines of the Transvaal. But the mines died in a matter of decades, at least in terms of the initial volume of ore taken out of the ground, while the Okanagan boomed first in the orchard industry once irrigation was introduced and then in tourism with its summers so little discomfitted with rain.
There was a chapel in the ample quarters of the cathedral rectory, when and quite a while after the bishops of the time resided in the building, but in the latter years of Emmett Doyle it was removed, apparently for the sake of office space. Apparently, where there is neither love nor faith, put administration. It covers up a multitude of negligence and chicanery. Also, at that time, we had a nun for a chancellor. Thank Christ I was by then able to relate to the Vatican on a professional basis. As MT has said more than once, in those days the only parish or diocesan post we could have filled in good conscience was assassin, and as we all know, this is not a job description the Church endorses.
But all that has been swept away at the top, for almost two years now, and lower down the mopping up moves along at a leisurely but inexorable pace. Sooner or later, the truth will out, and Christ comes to judge the living, a little, before he has to deal with them dead.
It was in that gruesome time, the last days of WED, that a humble little widower named Paul Dixon was inspired to persuade the cathedral rector of the day to institute a weekly exposition of the Host. The rector thought Exposition a good idea, but was not confident the faithful could man the past more than once a month, even for a simple eight-hour shift of one hour per man, or more accurately, per woman. But Paul stuck to his guns, and a weekly business it became, and has been in place now all but twenty years. Perhaps it was simply this operation which influenced Christ to inspire Benedict to send to the armpit of the universe such a wonderful catch as Bishop John.
I got to know Paul through my elder son, found he had a taste for good writing, and lent him Cardinal Newman's autobiography. In return, he tried to insist that I had to show up every week at Exposition. I retaliated that I could very easily cover all that ground in my own house, being a mystic, and, furthermore, that God had for some time put the ban on our belonging to any special groups. He was not immediately buying my excuses - having been sucked in by Medjugorje he played with a shrunk deck - so I was forced to tell him that God had also made me a spiritual director to John Paul II and finally quietened him. We also had a great meeting of minds over Padre Pio, and that may have done even more to help him see my point of view. He's long gone from Nelson, but now, just about as long as it took Ulysses to get his wandering butt back to Ithica, we are, in a sense, responding to his initial inspiration. This is not because I'm a slow learner, but the recent unfolding of the universe makes our hour at Exposition an efficient use of time.
But it took until this recent Thursday for the Host itself to settle down to an exchange of ideas. Up till now the Man has been awfully busy either complaining about the sins of this and all parishes, or reminding me of all the old devotions I used to exercise in the various churches of my history with the Church. Mary, the Crucifix, the Sacred Heart, the Little Flower, and so on, and the Stations of the Cross, which remind me so vehemently of my days as a school teacher.
And there are always various publications to thumb through, as recently referred to regarding Our Lady of Kibeho. It's been a ripping good time, actually, quite putting the Stanley Cup or the Super Bowl in their places. But not the simple stare at the Host that has been axiomatic in so many other circumstances for so long.
And this is merely in the cathedral.
It will be even more interesting to see what the Host gets up to in the new chapel, especially now that the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has been confronted, in his own quiet way, with our new bishop, a Capuchin, at the annual meeting of these worthies. And just at the time, as well, when my guardian angel, and the guardian angels of literature and spiritual writing, have conspired to bring about The Third Blog. Contemplatives is about a diocese that might have been. It was constructing and writing this which kept me sane. Not Without the Angels is about the diocese that was. That is what, without the angels, that would have driven me insane.
Graham Greene should be chuckling in his grave.