LONDON, ONTARIO – A little distracted by the unfolding Corona Virus apocalypse all around us, Hermaneutics this week brings you one of my favourite Yodeller interviews from five years ago with Jean Alice Rowcliffe; a woman who knows a thing or two about living with courage and compassion in the face of unthinkable disaster.
LONDON, ONTARIO – Back around the turn of the century I marked my fifteenth year as a Catholic by participating in a 72-hour Lenten retreat at an Opus Dei centre north of Toronto. Each silent day of prayer and reflection was punctuated by daily Mass and three ‘meditations’ led by a newly ordained Peruvian priest whose command of English wasn’t fabulous (yet) but whose logical cast of mind and bottomless knowledge of the faith were. I initially worried that his carefully measured manner of speaking was going to be an enervating trial but quickly came to regard it as ideal for taking in and actually digesting what he had to say. They were not dazzling talks that he gave. No one was left gasping to apprehend all the territory that was touched on. And if delivered in a public lecture hall, such a talk might even have made me impatient. But in this quieter atmosphere of piety and meditation where dazzling was not the point, his almost pedantic approach was infinitely more assimilable and constructive and lodged much deeper in my consciousness as a result.
LONDON, ONTARIO – Lent is upon us for 2020; a time when observant Christians are called upon to reflect on their mortality; to remember that they come from dust and sooner or later shall return to it and should therefore orient their lives and their allegiances in the light of that certain knowledge. Last week I sat in a mostly darkened church in the early evening of Ash Wednesday waiting for the Mass to get underway and (I hope) subtly stared at a four or five year old boy a couple of rows ahead of me. Sitting beside his two older sisters and his father, the boy was calm, attentive and quietly observant in a way that bespoke a sense of purpose it seemed unlikely he could fully possess just yet. I nonetheless envied him his initiation at such a young age into the deepest mysteries of life. “Already,” I thought approvingly, “he is learning to look at everything hard enough.”
LONDON, ONTARIO – There was a glowingly optimistic feature in last Saturday’s Free Press about the promise of revitalization and an economic turnaround for East London that might be spurred by the overhaul of the gargantuan old Kellogg’s cereal factory as a mixed-use space that will eventually house a relocated Children’s Museum and Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, a distillery, a brewery, some kind of simulated golf course, a hotel, a market and food hall, and more executive offices than you can shake a stick at. Well, I don’t want to rain on anybody’s parade here but I’ll believe it when I see it. It could, of course, be that I’m old and out of touch and worn down to a cynical nub by the regularly repeated experiences of my lifetime when one over-hyped new elixir after another has failed to effect the promised transformation of London’s east end.
LONDON, ONTARIO – When Larry Henderson died thirteen years ago this fall, obituaries printed in newspapers from coast to coast and short clips tucked into the later portion of all the national TV news reports, focused primarily on Larry as the first full time national news anchor on CBC TV from 1954-59. During this pioneering period in electronic journalism, the CBC was the only national broadcaster around and for the better part of that decade, Larry’s was the best known face in a country full of TV sets that mostly pulled in just the one station.
LONDON, ONTARIO – This week I set before you a series of snapshots which I believe are not unrelated, outlining the gradual fraying of our social fabric. Let's start with the very earliest of them all; recounting a hot afternoon in my 13th year when I was taking temporary leave from my most constant companion that summer to go home for supper.
We had decided to run an experiment. My friend stood on the sidewalk in front of his house on the south side of Baseline Road as I walked backwards up the very long block to Wortley Road, and every ten feet or so I would call out “goodbye” and if he could still hear me, then he’d wave his arms and holler back. We were testing to see whether we would first move beyond one another’s range of sight or sound.
LONDON, ONTARIO – This Easter will mark the thirty-sixth anniversary of my conversion, baptism and confirmation into full membership in the Roman Catholic Church. Getting out my handy actuarial table I see that I have now spent the better part of my life as a Catholic. In one way, that feels about right. I know that this is the Church where I belong and I have felt that way from the moment Bishop Sherlock baptised me and anointed me with holy oils at the great Easter Vigil at St. Peter’s Cathedral on April 22, 1984. Yet in other ways – thirty-six years into this glorious game – I still feel like a callow newbie, hopelessly out of my depth in the company of those lifelong Catholics who live the life of the faith at its fullest.
LONDON, ONTARIO – Except for thirty seconds one evening in the winter of 1973, I’ve never really been much of a dancer. Not only is this an incapacity which I have come to regret, I recognize it as something I share with the vast majority of my peers. It’s a bit of a paradox but the rock music we grew up with – arguably the most physically agitating music ever played by Western man – didn’t generate much in the way of great dancing. Certainly there were individual performers who developed a reputation for their dazzling moves but most rock concerts were just that – concerts. Up until the 1950s, few popular musicians gave concerts – not even the biggest headlining acts - without provision being made for their audience to dance.
LONDON, ONTARIO – “My goodness, why is he reading that right now?” my wife sometimes wonders when she sees me go digging through a book so apparently eccentric or retrograde or unconnected to the sort of fare that usually beckons my interest, that its appeal utterly stumps her. But recognizing the powerful influence which she uniquely exerts on my consciousness, she usually manages to muffle such questions for a while at least. Stuffed to the brim with prudential wisdom, she understands that – with reading as with writing – a word of discouragement or bewilderment that is voiced too soon may jinx the possibility of worthwhile engagement and exploration.
LONDON, ONTARIO – I first got to know Howard Katz, the founding pastor of Open Door Christian Fellowship Church, in the spring of 2008. I was doing up a feature article about him and his younger brother, Harvey, for the old quarterly, Christian Life in London, which was then edited by Rob Hueniken. The hook upon which the article was hung was that both brothers had published books just the year before with Believe Books, the U.S.-based publishing house operated by one of the great heroes of my life, former London mayor, Dianne Haskett.
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THE AQUINAS LECTURE
G.K. CHESTERTON AND THE GIFT OF GRATITUDE
ALL LIFE IS A GIFT :
THE IMPORTANCE OF TRADITION :