October 2008

Now it has to be said—no-one likes an emo-blogger (except maybe other emo-bloggers, and who cares what they think?).  I, Benedict Ambrose, scourge of the fey and soppy, have tried to keep this blog free of navel-gazing bilge.  For the most part successfully, I flatter myself.  But there are certain events in one’s life that inevitably cast one upon choppy emotional waters: being received into the Unam Sanctam after a long journey, falling base-over-apex in love with a gorgeous gal, heartbreak, bereavement, coming close unto death, mistakenly dropping a tenner instead of a fiver into the collection plate, etc.  And if more than one of these things happens at the same, one’s upper lip could be in serious danger of flaccidity.

Just as well for my readers I’m made of sterner stuff, eh? [Blows nose and re-pockets hankie]  But I have been prone to some rather soppy thoughts recently, and many of the less egregiously sick-making of them have to do with gratitude.  My second-favourite Canadian authoress, Margaret Visser, has just published a book on that very virtue, I believe. [Is gratitude a virtue?  Discuss. (Please show your workings.)]

It is a fairly obvious and easily acquitted duty to give thanks for the small occasional favours one has been done, by kith, kin and strangers alike; a fortiori for the (generally rare) acts of true magnanimity with which one is blessed.  But there are some kinds of personal debt of some considerable magnitude on which it is easy to default.  I will use but one example to represent many, which I hope may help acquit myself of one particular obligation as well as to illustrate the kinds that can all-too-easily slip through the net.

For the first four years of my primary (elementary) school career I was little better than a daydreaming dolt.  Industry was not congenial to me and I frequently experienced acute dismay at the amount and complexity of the work expected of me.  I remember one particular occasion on which I was asked to copy a picture of a hedgehog, and thinking to myself, “What, all of it?”  A wave of Sartrean nausée washed over me at the disgusting and multiform complexity of the task before me (truly, I was an intellectually precocious dolt)—all those spines and all that hair and how to distinguish with my poor pencil between them!  I gave up and picked at my tank-top instead.

Anyway, that’s the kind of clay my poor pedagogues had to work with, and heaven help them.  But then, per miraculum (I’ve been saying that a lot recently), along came Mrs Stewart.  The very thought is sweet!  Here was a teacher who finally got into the inside of my nine-year-old bonce and poked into flame the embers within.  She first of all praised my artwork (of a simpler sort than verisimilitudinously copying British mammals: “Your mother should have that framed!”); then it was my arithmetic, and then (you may regret her encouragement here) my very first haiku.  I swam, I splashed, I wallowed in the positive attention – and of course I flourished under it.  Most amazingly of all, she continued to teach my class for three consecutive years, which saw me to the end of my time there—and what years they were. 

She was no pussy-cat though, I may tell you.  She could reduce us all to utter imbecilic obedience with a single “How dare you!”  She was fiery-tempered and warm-hearted and red-headed.  When she taught us about Mary Queen of Scots, I wondered if she might actually be her (or at least be related).  In truth, she was far more like Elizabeth I of England (although, I would be very surprised if Mrs Stewart had eviscerated any Catholics—unless they had chattered through one of her lessons).

If you are reading this, dear Mrs S, and are wondering if it is you I am describing, I can tell you that you taught me between 1981 and 1983 in P**k Pl**e Primary, and that you most likely turned the entire course of my life around with your encouragement, discipline and strength of character.  I owe to you my self-confidence, my love of learning, of literature, of history – of much, in short, that makes me who I am today.  Soppy, navel-gazing and over-confessional though it may be to recount all of this—I thank you, Mrs Stewart.   There it is.


Well, having acquitted myself of hostly and chivalric duties by forbearing to post more detailed news of my recent personal epiphany until the the lady in question had herself had a chance to do so, I have some wee beans to spill.

In the very week of my reception into the household of the Faith (Laus Deo), my household (i.e., me) has been blessed with the presence of a certain Canadian lady blogger.  Dear Seraphic Single, my e-dealings with whom over the last months many of you will have witnessed, has been the ideal houseguest –  even to the supererogatory point of consenting to be associated with me in a somewhat more personal way than mutual blogging usually entails.  I shall make myself more clear (and a grateful nation gives thanks).  Seraphic S and I are, as she has charmingly explained to her parents, “walking out together” (and a grateful nation gives thanks).

I am naturally in a state of giddy delight about all this, but will spare you all the gushy, emo-bloggery.  What I will say is that this has been quite the most wonderfully odd fortnight of my entire puff.  Moreover, the good lady herself wishes me to mention to all who have recently been scouring the muddy dregs of the e-tmosphere for photies of me that the those currently available do not, in her fond estimation, quite do me justice.  That is to say, none of them are worthy of the brush of Hans Holbein, whose more attractive subjects she endearingly insists I resemble.  Honest.

This tribute to her (as this, albeit cack-handedly, is intended to be) must be wrapped up now (and a grateful nation gives thanks), for I can scarcely string together two consecutive words without grinning and giggling .  God bless the gorgeous wee beastie though, eh?

Well, if anyone had told me that my first week of proper Catholicism was going to be as eventful and bewildering and stupendously marvellous, I think I might have converted earlier – or possibly later…  I think the former.

The phrase “totally unexpected, perhaps inevitable” has been clanking around in my hollow nut for days now.  A warning, dear sadly-neglected readers: inviting a lovely Catholic blogpal to stay for a few weeks and to witness one’s reception into the Unam Sanctam is certainly a glorious idea – but maybe in more ways that one initially envisions.  Caution, delight and a healthy sense of self-preservation prevent my saying too much more.  But I will add just this.  The past week has been spectacularly revelatory – as it was bound to be, of course.  “Surprised by joy” doesn’t cover the half of it.

The moral to this rather hasty and gnomic post: do become a Catholic as soon as you possibly can, and do have blogpals to stay.

More news as it breaks.  Please pray for this barmy blogger.  Cheers the noo.











The thing I have to say is this (I could not have said it before your step: I can say so now.  Before it would have been like a selected pleading.)  The Catholic Church is the exponent of Reality.  It is true.  Its doctrines in matters large and small are statements of what is.  […]  My conclusion—and that of all men who have ever once seen it—is the Faith: Corporate, Organised, a personality, teaching.  A thing, not a theory.  It.

Excerpt of a letter from Belloc to Chesterton after the latter’s Reception