I decided to make a change in the title of this blog to reflect my broader interest in Christian faith in a post-Christian world. I have not lost interest in the liturgy or the Use of Sarum, but I feel the need to have a much wider idea reflected by my Goliard theme.
This blog has nothing to do with the radical left-wing French periodical Golias, and I try to work out a new and unconventional angle of priestly vocation and ministry. The original Goliards were monks and priests who went their way very much like many religious and clerics in the 1960’s. They wrote secular poetry and music, often not very respectful of conventional church life and in a spirit that showed their independence from the local Bishop and the Inquisition. Unlike them, I am a priest under a bishop in an instituted Church body and I am only too aware of the limits of individual freedom. I don’t write dog Latin verses, and nor do I burn old leather in the thurible!
I am concerned about the possibility of a ministry to those who live on the edges of society. I often meet the victims of life in odd places, near boats and the sea, people living with next to no money but yet earning their bread honestly by their work. Many people live “off the grid” for different reasons. Some hold weird conspiracy theories, but most want to be as independent as possible from the consumer society and the pressure to have and spend ever-increasing amounts of money. Sometimes, one finds communities in which there are ideas similar to those of Hilaire Belloc’s Distributism, though perhaps in a less organised version. As I have discussed before, there is the danger of sectarian drifts as someone with the callous soul of the school-yard bully decided to base a base of power and money. Many things cannot be institutionalised without corruption creeping in. It will happen too in my Church, but I hope not within my lifetime.
It is essential for Christianity to be connected with some kind of praxis and culture. Marginal people are unlikely to accept bourgeois and conventional church religion, and this is why so many priests after World War II decided to side with the working class and join in solidarity with their lives. In the spirit of Charles de Foucault, many priests began to live contemplative lives in towns to be a leaven in the desert. Traditionalists and conservative Anglicans often dismiss such ideas as left wing politically and tending towards secularism and loss of faith. This seems to be the place of the modern Goliard, not necessarily working in a factory or on a farm, but living close to those who have declared as much independence as possible from the consumerist and capitalist society and the reign of unbridled technology and the more frightening excesses of science. There is also the example of Fr Guy Gilbert, the Prêtre des Loubards with his long hair and motorcycle jacket working among young people kicking drugs and finding something better in life. The important thing is to have been a Christian witness to people who may never make the step of going to a church service or receiving the Sacraments. If some good is done, I’m sure Christ will in some way fill in the rest…
I imagine that I will continue to write articles on the liturgy and our old English patrimony, but in this greater context of culture and life. In early July, I will be at our Council of Advice in London. I have booked my ferry crossing a day in advance so that I can visit a residential marina on the north bank of the Medway, a place where people live in boats. I hope to learn a thing or two. Kent and the Thames Estuary is a strange place, full of stories of grinding misery related by Charles Dickens – different today but still a world of its own. I would dearly like another time to bring my boat over and explore some of those waters at high tide.
People live in more different lives than we can imagine. Look at any house and we can only speculate what happens within its walls, both good and evil, longing for love and kindness – or for wealth and power. The great unshriven mass of people, the thousands on whom Christ had pity, and our awareness that we, clerics or regular laity, are among all those people with their concerns, problems, illness, grief and everything imaginable. Perhaps then the priest rediscovers his vocation.
I have no real plan in my own life, but a constant idea in my mind moves onwards and forwards, waiting for a time and opportunity to bring it to fruition. So much will depend on so much. Does anyone else here share this kind of thought?