I should imagine that many of us in the northern hemisphere are going through the late January blues since the end of the Christmas season (though some argue that it continues up to the eve of Candlemas). We arrive at the gates of Septuagesima, which is particularly early this year. I remember a seminary pilgrimage to Lourdes in February 1991 when we stopped off at the Abbey of Le Barroux for Ash Wednesday before continuing on towards Lourdes for the feast day of 11th February. It was all ice and snow and I was driving three other seminarians in a 2CV – yes that legendary French car – and once skidded on black ice. Fortunately, I was driving slowly, so there were no injuries or damage to the car.
I haven’t written anything here for nearly a week, and I still have my reading into the old Gnostic world view in mind. I am concerned to write articles of my own and not plagiarise anyone else! I am fortunate this January to have a reasonable amount of translating work to keep money coming in to pay the bills. I have also been going through an introspective phase and some research into the Asperger Syndrome, which might explain many things I have found difficult to understand about my own life. Various articles I read tell us that this autism-related condition manifests itself in different ways. For example, not all people affected by this condition are clumsy physically, they have good space perception and they do not all collect locomotive numbers or other bits of useless information. On the other hand, one can get quite passionate about things like sailing boats, classic cars, pipe organs and the liturgy. I often find myself noticing details of architecture on buildings, like for example what kind of windows they have – and then I realise that I need to concentrate on what I’m doing like driving – or walking without bumping into other people. I don’t know whether I have this condition or not, since I am disinclined to jump through the hoops of the “system” for a formal diagnosis in the hands of a psychologist. Online tests can be unreliable unless you answer the questions one by one and with absolute honesty and naivety, otherwise we know what is implicit in the questions and the result we are “looking for” determines our answers. I have no need of an “identity label” other than just being myself. Aspergers is about how your brain is made from our genetic code, and is not some problem caused by chemicals in the brain or bad psychological experience. I leave all that to the experts! I could find many explanations for many aspects of my own childhood and difficulties in relating to schoolmates, teachers and even my own family, and which extended into adulthood. Some things match, but others don’t. There are variations. Over the years, I have learned how to “compensate” for many of the more difficult aspects, make an effort to “read” people’s emotions and implicit communication, look at eyes, etc. I am a priest, and it is important to relate to others even if it is difficult. Like Gnosticism, this will have to be something ongoing, open-ended and without any final conclusion.
I have kept my eyes open on the blogs and news sites. The world continues to go very badly due to the criminal elements in high places, the lies of politicians and the barbarism of people claiming to follow a certain religious tradition. The players of the Anglican establishment continue to hedge their bets and try to please everybody. One blog article hung the bait in front of my face, calling continuing Anglican bishops frauds – to give you a clue – but I did not react. What’s the point?
Most blogs concerned with religion and liturgy are filling in the gaps with the current saints’ feasts and the upcoming Septuagesima period preceding Lent. Some are commenting on Pope Francis making changes to Maundy Thursday. I am totally unconcerned, as I am by just about everything else I read and hear about this pontificate of a Church to which I belonged for only some fifteen years. Now, I must not sound too melancholic, since I feel rather calm about things.
I mentioned being passionate about the boat. At last, the registration for the Route du Sable is open and I have sent off my registration for the event that will take place in June. I intend to precede this gathering with three days alone on the Rade de Brest. The Rade is protected from the really big Atlantic swell, but can be a challenge to a sailor. This week, I made some modifications to my boat trailer to incorporate a separate launching trolley, so that the road trailer never has to go anywhere near seawater. Mild steel goes rusty very quickly, even when painted and regularly maintained. All said and done, my two boats Sarum (12 foot Zef) and Sophia (10 foot Tabur 320), both with the standard Mirror rig, are still wintered and waiting for the new season, which is still likely to be a month and a half away at least. Enough rambling for now! The idea gives something to look forward to.
Even though it is winter and the mornings and evenings are long and dark, there are landmarks. My wife and I will participate in a choral weekend from tomorrow and meet up with all sorts of amateur singers. Mixing with crowds takes effort, but can be done! They are good people and there will be jokes, good food and flowing wine. We have booked a little weekend in early February to visit Amiens and its magnificent cathedral (which I didn’t do on my canal trip on the boat last September). There is also the house of Jules Verne, my great childhood hero, and that promises to be fascinating.
I have tended to close off to “churchy” news apart from the healthy developments with our ACC bishops and those of other Churches. They are working towards reconciliation and unity, a way to overcome the sins of the past and provide for a bright and hopeful future. There is so much darkness and evil in the world that we need to find beauty and goodness in the simple things of life. Let’s keep the faith!
As when I was with the monks all those years ago, I am heartened to see the first snowdrops and even a sprouting daffodil with a tinge of yellow in the flower bud. These are reminders that more joyful days are ahead, and this should bring us courage and hope.
Father, I went to Amiens before Christmas (took the coach from England), and it was a marvel to see the cathedral. Every evening in December and in the summer, they do a wonderful presentation, projecting a dazzling polychromatic display on the façade, with accompanying music and narration about the cathedral in the Middle Ages. For me it was dreamlike, transcendent, unforgettable view into the past and into the internal—and a ringing reminder that Gothic is about light. None of the photos you see of it online do it justice. I recommend you and your wife go for a return trip to see Amiens all lit up medieval style. I know I will.