Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The new season

Where did July go to? I only blogged once, though I can assure you I thought about blogging on more than one occasion, rather like one those tired old dogs that begin to rise from their snooze in front of a warm fire only to collapse again in a heap of legs and tail before returning to unconsciousness.

Yes, August is upon us and not a child in the house dressed. But on it roles, as do I, this time into my appointed office in the deathly unhallowed grounds of Reading University. The month ahead is looking promising, with prospect of fair weather - need I say more? - after 15 August (i.e. after the Assumption of Our Lady naturally) and much beavering away in the books, with my eye on the new term's teaching load, thesis corrections, optimistic publication proposals and much, much more, as the glossy magazines say.

The old brain has not been entirely dormant this last month however. I'm now within spitting distance of the end of George Weigel's monumental 1000 page biography of John Paul II. Perhaps like Sir Edmund Hilary or Sherpa Tensing upon the ceiling of the Himalayas, few people have trodden in this place before me. The early chapters are model portraits of the historical, cultural and political scene in Poland pre-1979. The account of Karol Wotyla's life, as a young lad, seminarian and then priest, is also remarkably instructive: intense piety, phenomenal industry, both combined with intellectual equipment of the highest order, and all refined through an adolescence and early adulthood under the jackboot of one vile dictatorship to the west and then another to the east. I found myself warming to the man, having spent many years grumbling about his apparent obsessions with ecumenism.

The later chapters fade a little in their critical depth, veering at times towards the apologetic rather than reflexive. This is not the case every time. Concerning women's ordination, Weigel suggests that JPII's failure to deepen his reasons for rejecting the feminazis' favourite theological chestnut left the field open for further confusion and accusations of chauvinism. Certainly, a rejection of sacramental functionalism and a better clarification of the nature of liturgical semiotics would have been timely and might have helped cut the ground from under the Richard McBrien's of this world. But when he comes to Assisi, Weigel barely begins to get to grips with Joseph Ratzinger's strong objections. We await further development since the latter gentleman is now occupying John Paul II's position.

And so on we go. August is the quiet time in Rome, and I haven't yet breathed a word on this forum about Summorum Pontificum and the Tridentine Mass. But we'll leave that for another time. Corrections beckon, as does lunch and the gentle blue sky which sits rather sheepishly over an otherwise sodden Britannia.