All posts by Kevin Kennelly

“Once Deeply Catholic, Modern Scotland Needs a Theological Revival”

“We tend to think of Scotland as a Calvinist country but a glance at history reminds us that it was once a very Catholic country. In “Once deeply Catholic, modern Scotland needs a theological revival” ( why the lower case letters I have no idea ), Tracey Rowland …… channeling George Mackay Brown ….. sets the record straight. An especially good sentence among many… “Brown reads the world sacramentally”…. speaks volumes.


400 years after his death, here are the books that likely influenced Shakespeare

Mirabile dictu… just as we need to have read widely before attempting to write, so too for the incomparable Shakespeare. His preference : mostly the classics and other canonical works by early  English authors (e.g., Edmund Spencer and Sir Philip Sidney).  The English Philosopher Thomas Spencer Baynes of the University of St. Andrews takes a shot at the subject of Shakespeare’s reading preferences.

Foote on Percy

What is it about the South that produces such fascinating , eccentric, quasi weird, genius  characters….Flannery O’Connor, Huey Long, William Faulkner, Shelby  Foote and of course Walker Percy….and a host of others? There is this sardonic, self deprecating and desultory manner in so many (although not across the board in Long) which captivates . Percy had a great sense of humor ….and he was feisty ….as  the following anecdote  told by Foote depicts:

[Interview with Shelby Foote]

Walker had a remarkable stubbornness that would come out sometimes. We got on an Amtrak train in Chicago, along with our wives, to go to San Francisco. You have this great plate-glass window and along the way you really do see the deer and the antelope play. We got to Ogden, Utah, which is where they drove the golden spike. It was about eleven-thirty at night. The train stopped and the engineers came through hollering, All out, all out. There’s an engineers’ strike. Buses are waiting to take you to San Francisco. I began to scurry around, to get our bags straight so they didn’t get lost in the shuffle, and Walker never moved from his bed. The conductor came around and said, You’d better get up. This bus will be leaving soon. Walker said, I’m not going anywhere. I’ve got a ticket that says you’re going to take me to San Francisco. The man says, Well, we’re going to close down the air conditioner and turn off the electricity. Walker says, If you do, I’ll sue you for every cent the U.S. government’s got. So the man said, Sorry, sorry, stay here. We stayed on the train. Everybody else got on the bus. Early the next morning we got up, and they had a minibus take us to Salt Lake City. We got on an airplane and got to San Francisco before the buses did. But this is the kind of stubbornness he had. I later found out he either had taken a powerful sleeping pill or a laxative, I’m not sure which. He was not about to get off that train onto any bus.


Uplifting for Scotland

The Catholic Herald calls Sir James MacMillan “the holy warrior with a baton” and has chosen him to receive its “Catholic of the Year 2015” award. He is a modern day Braveheart fighting for the faith in his native Scotland.  He says: “if you aren’t consciously counter cultural you aren’t going to be Christian for long.”

The Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War Beatified

In the passage  of history, there are certain periods during which great issues and principles are arrayed in stark contrast. Thus Henry VIII’s England, thus the American founding and  thus the 20th century struggle against communism. Throughout the world , everyone seemed to take one side or the other during the Spanish Civil War. Loyal Catholics in Spain were aligned with the pro-Franco Nationalists but elite worldwide opinion slavishly  preferred the “Republicans” who were in reality Communists…..they  were described in worshipful ways by the left but for Blessed Federico da Berga and his 25 co-martyrs ( and many others so slaughtered) there was not much to admire . The 26 Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War  were beatified on Nov. 21. in the Cathedral of Barcelona.

“France’s Catholic Revolution”

We tend to believe the times we live in are uniquely bad. They are not ….although we may be forgiven for thinking so in that it may well be true that we are living in the last gasp of a once great ( western ) civilization. We have been living off spiritual and cultural capital for a while now and the results are not pretty. But ….as we know and as we have seen many times in history …..renewal happens albeit sometimes from the ashes . France, of all places , has some very good things going on as described in a fine article by Catholic World Report.

France’s Catholic Revolution | Catholic World Report – Global Church news and views

“A Black Legend Refuted”

There’s been for the past 50 years or so a cottage industry built around
attacking Pope Pius XII for alleged  sins of omission with regard to the
Nazi death camps during WWII.  But Jewish Prime Minister Golda Meier, Albert Einstein, the American Jewish Committee and the World Jewish Congress had all praised the good Pope for his extraordinary efforts in helping the Jews.  What gives? In “Church of Spies:The Pope’s Secret War Against Hitler,” author Mark Riebling meticulously documents the good work of Pius XII in defending, hiding and protecting the Jews to the extent possible. It is high time to get this history back on track and we are indebted to Mr.Riebling for the great contribution toward this end that his book provides.


Jesuits and Jihadis

Lesser minds , for some reason, have a hard time distinguishing between true martyrdom and the craziness of fanatics who seek out death. It should not be that difficult to separate the wheat – Edmund Campion – from the chaff – today’s jihadist killers. Gerard Kilroy’s ” When English Catholics Were Considered As Today’s Jihadis ” is a welcome addition to Evelyn Waugh’s superb biography of Campion written 80 years ago.

When English Catholics were considered as dangerous as jihadis » The Spectator

CS Lewis: All My Road Before Me

CS Lewis: All My Road Before Me

I am reading a fairly obscure book, All My Road Before Me, 1922-27: The Diary of C S Lewis. It is surprisingly dull ( albeit getting better toward the end) given that Lewis was such an interesting character. What is fascinating though is this: I always found Lewis a very likable soul…..great guy to have a beer with , the Inklings, the whole Chestertonian deal. And I still think that to be true … a later , after his conversion , period of his life . The surprise however is that ….by his own words …..he seems to have been, in his early years, a very unpleasant sort of guy….arrogant , priggish, given to petty lies and so on and so forth. I do not ….surprisingly…..take all this to be negative but rather ….in an odd sort of way, positive. Many people ( most of us) after finding God still have tempers , vanities , complexes….any number and all manner of unpleasantries. This highly black and white pre and post conversion Lewis is a surprise to me …..but not one which lessens my affection for him. And a postscript: the relationship with Mrs. Moore was very odd but…..strange and eccentric things……are by no means necessarily evil things, I believe.

image: Albert Bridge / Wikimedia Commons

The Witness of Whittaker Chambers

In the 20th century, one of the turning points in the battle between the west and communism was the publication of Whittaker Chambers’ epic, Witness.  Chambers was an odd sort ….a journalist who turned from communism as he discovered faith …… but he was , in the end,  a giant of man . He wrote: “Economics is not the central problem of this century. It is a relative problem which can be solved in relative ways. Faith is the central problem of our age.” The famed Father C J McCloskey ……delightful as always……has written eloquently of Chambers and his epochal achievement in his recent article “A Man And A Book That Will Never Go Away.”