What’s New in the Inner Sanctum

Please consider supporting me and my work by becoming a subscriber to the Inner Sanctum of my personal website:
New this week and exclusive to Inner Sanctum members:
My discussion and reading of Wordsworth’s anti-secularist poem, “Ode to Duty”.
The latest instalment of our pilgrimage to Rome with Hilaire Belloc.
My discussion of Homer’s theology. To what extent can Homer’s Zeus be reconciled with the Christian God?
In the latest entry in the Ladydale Diary, charting the day-to-day life and doings of the Pearce Family, I talk of my shocking close encounter of the serpentine kind with two snakes and give an update on my work in progress.

Faith and Fairy Stories

What have faith and fairy stories to do with the real world? Are the truths to be found in fairy stories more real and practical than the sneer of the cynic or the promises of the politician? These questions are addressed in this essay of mine, just published by the National Catholic Register, in which I employ the wisdom of Chesterton and Tolkien to shed light on the subject:

A Lovely Afternoon

These past six months I have lived in isolation. No Mass, no shopping, no volunteer work, no social life. I am old, I have a serious respiratory illness for which I take a daily medication that suppresses the immune system. According to medical advice, I shouldn’t go anywhere public unless really necessary. A neighbor shops for me, my beloved Sophie (a Yorkie) keeps me company, and I look forward to the weekly workday of my yardman. I haven’t been to Mass. I tried once, but the mask made it impossible for me to breathe and I had to leave.

There was one really lovely day. I called a couple who are dear friends about a month ago. “Please visit”, I whimpered. “We’d have to sit on the porch, but maybe we could manage”. They arrived with a floor fan (anyone who knows what August is like in South Georgia can imagine), a cooler, and wearing masks. When we reached the porch, they removed their masks and withdrew from the cooler a lovely bottle of Shiraz, and plates wrapped in plastic and laden with cheeses and crackers, and the floor fan was plugged in. Afterwards, we had wonderful Meyer lemon cookies straight from the bakery. My friend wore gloves to distribute our plates and disposable wine glasses. No gourmet banquet at the Ritz-Carlton could have competed.

I’m not so very unusual. Older people who live alone and are usually active now are not. They may not want to ask for some kind of improvised visit. I might mention here that only one or two people have phoned during this time. I am lucky in having a kind neighbor shop for me. And I am blessed in having such good friends. Not everyone can say that, however. If readers know someone who might appreciate an improvised visit or even a phone call, it might be good to remember, “I was in prison, and you visited me.”   

Secret Ballot

The news is horrifying. I would never have thought the United States could be in such disarray, such violent disarray. I lived through the sixties, but it wasn’t like this. Protests were actually protests and not riots, no real violence, no arson, no killing. And most important, no willful disobedience on the part of elected city and state officials of their own laws. But the sixties protested the VietNam War, not the country itself.

This looks more like Kristallnacht, more like the racial hatred of Nazism—not least in the practice of “cancel culture”, the refusal to allow expression of any view but the one of condemnation or hate. And like that nightmarish period of history, appeasement justifies the violence and fans the flames. Self-defense is disallowed and even punished. A man in Seattle, I think it was, hid his children in the basement and sat with a shotgun across his knees all night.

But most distressing of all: I saw a newsclip of a vested priest behind the altar leading his congregation in new vows in place of old: I will do whatever I can to dismantle white supremacy, etc. The congregation was obliged to respond as to Baptismal promises. Clutching the snake to their bosom, so many German churches leapt on the political wave during the rise of Hitler.

We have a duty as citizens to participate in our democracy. That duty is to obey the law and to vote. That’s it. Politically minded folk carry the notion of citizens’ duty much further, but that’s all we’re really obligated to do. This steady rise in partisanship to the cracking point is the inevitable result of centralization of power. Everyone knows the latest bit of conflict news from Washington; no one knows the name of their local councilman.

Christ did not involve himself in politics, much to the dismay of many. He was steadfast about that, most notably in the story of the image on the coin. But modern churchmen, using his concern for the poor and outcast as an excuse to justify their political partisanship, tend to involve themselves deeply and attempt to carry their flocks with them. But the fact is that he wasn’t into politics, just people. If his care for the poor inspires anything, it should inspire our personal conduct as Christians. Every time the Church engages in politics in history, it pays a dear price—not in sacrifice, but in culpability. Despite the modern regard of politics as religion, it has no place in the Church because it has no place in Christ’s teaching. Our democratic system allows Christian faith and charity to flourish—if it will. There is an alternative for Christians to all this screaming, violence, and hate. There is Christ.  

It’s worth remembering—because nobody ever mentions it—that the vote is via secret ballot. I don’t respond to polls; I don’t talk politics. When the time comes, I will vote my conscience and I will tell no one how I voted. No one is in that booth except the Truth and me.