Saint Bega, 2021
For the second week running, the writing of the Ladydale Diary has been delayed from the customary Friday until the following Monday. The reason on this occasion is the fact that I was on the road from Wednesday till Friday last week giving keynotes and breakout sessions at two Catholic School Mission Days for the diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
Having flown to South Bend on Wednesday, staying at the Morris Inn on the campus of Notre Dame, I gave the keynote address at the first of the two Mission Days on the following morning. My keynote on both days addressed the issue of what constitutes a “true education” and why such an education is a matter of cultural life or death. The first of my breakout sessions in the afternoon was on Literature, based loosely on my book, Literature: What Every Catholic Should Know. The second breakout session was on “How History is His Story” and was based loosely on the history of Christendom that I’m currently writing. This same format was repeated the following day in Fort Wayne.
Mass was celebrated by Bishop Rhoades on both days and I was heartened by his own remarks on Catholic education, delivered in his homily, which dovetailed very well with my own address, including quotes from Chesterton.
On Wednesday, I found time to visit the gloriously beautiful basilica on Notre Dame’s campus, as well as the Lourdes grotto, at which I lit candles for various friends and family members who are in need of healing. I was greatly heartened by the number of students who visited the grotto while I was there.
On the two days at home last week, prior to travelling, I recorded the Formed Book Club discussion with Father Fessio and Vivian Dudro, as usual, continuing our discussion of Chesterton’s essays. I wrote my weekly essay for the Imaginative Conservative on the question of whether history does in fact repeat itself.
I recorded this week’s three podcasts for the Inner Sanctum three days earlier than scheduled, so that I could post them after I returned from my travels. This week, we visit Sherwood Forest in the footsteps of Robin Hood, we continue our series on Tolkien’s philosophy of myth, and I read Tolkien’s wonderful poem “Mythopoeia” in which he muses lyrical on the very philosophy of myth that we’re currently discussing more prosaically. Check them out!
One other memory of my sojourn on the campus of the University of Notre Dame is my time in the restaurant and bar of the Morris Inn. I dined outside in the courtyard on a late summer’s evening in which one could bask and not bake in the dying embers of the sun’s rays. Dining alone, I read before and between courses in the manner in which I had spent many evenings in Rome and other Italian cities. It reminded me, indeed, of similar halcyon evenings spent at restaurants in the Eternal City, prompting a nostalgic basking in memory to accompany the basking in the sun. The food was good (carrot soup followed by ribeye, brussels sprouts and roast potatoes, with cabernet sauvignon) and the book I was reading was even better. With respect to the latter, I’m currently reading A Gentleman in Moscow, the protagonist of which, Count Rostov, is an edifying delight. It’s so consoling to know that a work of this literary calibre and aesthetic traditionalism can still make the bestseller list in these dark days in which everyone is woke and nobody is awake. One might even say that the novel is itself a wake-up call.
Having finished my meal, I relocated to the bar for a nightcap. I recognized the elderly bartender and told him that I thought he had served me when I was last at Notre Dame, more than ten years previously. It was not unlikely that he had done so, he responded, because he had been bartending at the Morris Inn since 1966. He then regaled me with many memories, my favourite of which were his personal memories of the great Thomistic philosopher, Ralph McInerny, especially of his loneliness following the death of his wife. This bartender then told me that he had inspired one of the characters in one of Dr. McInerny’s Father Dowling mystery stories.
So much for my travels….
I returned home on Friday night, soon after 9pm, in time for family prayers and to put our son to bed.
On Saturday morning, I spent some time posting the podcasts to the Inner Sanctum before spending the rest of the time with my family. On Saturday, while Susannah and Evangeline enjoyed some time together, I spent a “playing day” with Leo, which is always a joy.
On Sunday it was the customary leisurely morning prior to departure for the noon Mass. This week, being the first Sunday of the month, was the post-Mass convivium and potluck, enabling us to catch up with our friends in the parish. Returning home, I took my customary siesta and then enjoyed more family-time, culminating in a night in which we sat together on the couch to watch a classic film, in this case Take Me to the Ball Game, a musical starring Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly and Esther Williams. It was not deep but what it lacked in profundity it gained in slapstick fun!
On the wildlife front, this is muscadine season. Since I am the only one in the family who likes muscadines, the onus is upon me is to eat them! This means a daily bowl of fresh, raw muscadines, mixed with other fresh fruit, usually a sliced banana, topped with either sour cream, fresh raw cream, or yoghurt. In addition, we’re being visited twice a day by a family of deer, two does and three fawns. This morning, having risen early, I watched them from my office window in the gloaming just before dawn, only a few yards below me. The other regular visitors are a brace of wild turkeys. And then there are the ever-present trees, which, as I write, are dapple-dancing in the breeze in full sunlight. The world is truly charged with the grandeur of God!