LONDON, ONTARIO – I was a little late twigging to the fact that I have been living all my life on richly storied and sacred ground. Like any child born into an even halfway decent home, I was suffused with that sense of enchantment that emanates from a loving mother and father (and, in my case, three usually goodhearted older brothers) and spills over into your first apprehensions of the larger world beyond the domestic realm. But by about the age of twelve, I started to feel that there were other kinds of nourishment and belonging that were inaccessible to me or any other denizen of the so-called ‘New World’ because our cultural roots just didn’t go deep enough. Canada just didn't have enough history.
LONDON, ONTARIO – I rarely miss the Oscars even though it’s been about thirty years since I didn’t hate myself in the morning for handing over four hours of my life to preening narcissistic airheads who are not qualified to tell anybody how to think or live. By now I ought to have shed that impression formed in the first half of my life that this awards show has anything to do with artistic merit or glamour or entertainment. Sub-consciously I think I’ve known the gig was up for decades. How else to explain the self-sabotage which I only commit on Oscar night by pounding back a family-sized bag of potato chips – with French onion dip, no less – before we've even made it through the dullest of the technical awards?
LONDON, ONTARIO – It was some time in the fall of 1980 when I met Bill McGrath for the first time as he poked his head through the office doorway while I was dropping off my latest essay to Norm Ibsen, the London Free Press’ editor in charge of the opinion/editorial and book review pages. “We seem to be running something by this guy every week,” Bill said to Norm, indicating me with a nod of his head. “Isn’t it time we had a picture?”
Norm agreed and Bill took me out to the less cramped hallway and set me up against a clear section of wall where a reasonable amount of natural light leaked through and took my photo with his Polaroid.
LONDON, ONTARIO – As a bookend to a piece we ran last December commemorating the death of my father - we publish this essay to mark the hundred and first birthday of my mother - and, coincidentally enough, the eleventh anniversary of her funeral - this Wednesday.
LEAVING ST. JOSEPH'S HOSPITAL just after my father died in the early evening of December 13th, 2003, I couldn’t wait to pour memories, images and thoughts of our Dad down onto the page as a way of helping me come to terms with the grief of losing him. If Jack couldn’t be with us anymore, at least I could erect some sort of narrative monument to his memory and that would be something. With our mother’s death at 2:20 on Easter Saturday morning, 2009, the grieving process was not so sudden or straightforward.
LONDON, ONTARIO – Perhaps in this first week of Easter, you are casting about for some edifying literature; seeking out what Bertie Wooster used to call, “an improving book” or two or three. One of the best source books I know for picking up leads and cues about writers who are working in my favoured field of zealotry is Literary Converts: Spiritual Inspiration in an Age of Unbelief by Joseph Pearce (1999). Pearce accomplished something utterly new under the sun with this book which is nothing less than a running chronicle of twentieth century Christian conversion (mostly Catholic) among British literati. As interesting as the thumbnail sketches of everybody from Robert Hugh Benson and Ronald Knox to Malcolm Muggeridge and Graham Greene, was Pearce’s meticulous tracing of the threads of inspiration and influence which connect them all.
LONDON, ONTARIO – Holy Week is upon us and the churches are blessedly open so I know where I’m putting my head and my heart for the next seven days as I drink in just as deep a draught as I can to make up for last year’s government-imposed drought. For your edification while I’m otherwise engaged, here are some journal selections from a near-silent religious retreat I underwent in late March of 1999.
LONDON, ONTARIO – As a writer who shuns distractions and a technophobe who shuns gadgets, I like nothing more than to be left to the non-manufactured devices I was born with. I’ve never wanted a cell phone and refuse to get one. My old school rotary phone is no smarter than my toaster or my coffee grinder and I am here to tell you that even in the year of our Lord 2021 (and so long as you know how to use a road map) it is still possible to live a blissfully app-free life. I remain one of the most constant readers of physical books that I know and subscribe to three physical newspapers (the London Free Press, The Catholic Register and Epoch Times) which are regularly delivered to my door. Yes, I use a computer but mostly as a glorified typewriter and e-mail server and – as you who are good enough to visit this site can attest – as a do-it-yourself publishing platform.
LONDON, ONTARIO – London lawyer, Dan Mailer, is a generous-hearted soul with a marked love for his hometown that he is always trying to share with others. In furtherance of that fine impulse, last year he launched a bi-weekly program on Rogers TV called London Lights where he chats up various Forest City notables and milestones. Dan is a more than competent musician in his own right and heads up a band of lawyers who occasionally play gigs and release recordings in aid of charitable causes. So perhaps it isn’t so surprising that the preponderance of stories that have so far aired on London Lights have concerned London musicians.
LONDON, ONTARIO – One of Hermaneutics’ Britain-based correspondents – the one who makes other readers ask, “If you disappoint him so much, why does he keep reading you?” – sent me a note this week inquiring whether I’d ever seen the 1987 film that was made of Helene Hanff’s 84 Charing Cross Road. I had indeed and his twigging made me watch it again.
LONDON, ONTARIO – In a spirit of defiance I rise to my feet and proclaim that for the last couple of months I have been poring through a half dozen samples of the prodigious literary remains of Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson (1871–1914) and ... I’m afraid there’s no other way to put this ... I've been having a wonderful time. This wasn't supposed to be possible. If you're aware of him at all, perhaps you too have heard the discouraging reports spoken against this priestly powerhouse of an author who in the final ten years of his life following his Catholic ordination (and having published nothing in the thirty-two preceding years) produced a total of thirty-seven books including ten works of apologetics, sermons and religious biography, three devotional works, one volume of verse, two children’s books and twenty-one novels.
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THE AQUINAS LECTURE
G.K. CHESTERTON AND THE GIFT OF GRATITUDE
ALL LIFE IS A GIFT :
THE IMPORTANCE OF TRADITION :