LONDON, ONTARIO – Gagging just a little on all the witless accounts wafting out of the States about their newly-installed houseplant of a president and his wonderfully devout Catholic faith, I have sought out some sanity-restoring refuge this week by re-immersing myself in the story and example of Henry Edward Dormer (1844–66). London’s only credible candidate for sainthood, Henry Dormer was a twenty-one year-old British Army ensign who only lived in our city for a grand total of 222 days – the last seven months of his life – but his selfless piety left such an indelible impression that he still inspires his adopted townspeople more than a century and a half later.
LONDON, ONTARIO – I got my very first job in the newspaper biz at the age of eleven, working for the Toronto Star. Three years later I landed a job with The Globe & Mail and two years after that, The London Free Press. The minimum age for newspaper boys in the 1960s was actually twelve but that first paper route came with a few mitigating differences that made it less physically demanding so they figured they could bend that rule a little. It’s true that I didn't have to memorize an entire neighborhood's worth of streets and houses nor endure any sort of extended exposure to nasty weather because this was an indoor route. But in other ways – psychologically in particular – I doubt I would have been much better equipped to handle some of the stresses of that route if I’d been twice as old.
LONDON, ONTARIO – About fifteen months ago I was invited to contribute an essay for a sort of Festschrift which is being compiled to commemorate the life and work of local historian, archivist, librarian and publisher, Ed Phelps (1939–2006). I feared I was actually running a little late when I dispatched this piece to the editor precisely one year ago and was surprised to be told that I was actually the first to send his contribution along and that perhaps my sterling example would now inspire the other contributors to step up their pace a little. Not for the first time I shook my head in bemused admiration for just how elastic the concept of a deadline can be in the scholarly/academic world.
LONDON, ONTARIO - My grudge against the claustrophobically belligerent year of 2020 lightened considerably in its very last week when the meteorological elements presiding over this patch of the globe summoned the grace to deliver a substantial and transforming snowfall on Christmas Eve. That generous blanketing was augmented over the next twelve days with a few more dustings and falls so that even a bout of freezing rain wasn’t enough to significantly diminish the white bounty that was still in place for this week’s close of Christmastide on the Feast of the Epiphany. With its sublime knack for slowing and quieting everything down, snow has a way of sharpening our senses and broadening our perceptions; as does Christmas itself when we take the time and the care to observe it well.
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THE AQUINAS LECTURE
G.K. CHESTERTON AND THE GIFT OF GRATITUDE
ALL LIFE IS A GIFT :
THE IMPORTANCE OF TRADITION :