This weblog starts up again … after months of winter.
And although most of the time, I resist the temptation to very personal and informal writing at this blog – I’ll make an exception here. (Note the contractions I wouldn’t normally use).
Many personal events have sharpened my awareness these last months, including mild, recurrent illness (which at least provided for further reading) and more intense inner crises.
Ever sharper awareness … as to the world situation and to what constitutes my own individual response to that situation.
Now, the front page of this site speaks of our purpose for this project – in terms of the Christian and Catholic ‘Tradition which must be guarded, cherished and preserved – now as ever – at this point of crisis of Western civilisation. The Crisis of the West! Increasingly the West is cut off from the font of its civilisation, the Mystery of Christ. In the Catholic cradle of Western civilisation, this Mystery once flourished: People knew they were fallen and turned with humility to the Supernatural Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, as He became present in the Sacraments.’
But it is one thing to say that.
It is another thing entirely to know HOW to guard, cherish and preserve the Catholic Mystery.
There is always prayer of course, at the very bedrock of everything. But as vital as that is, one may have the aching sense, more is asked of oneself.
And one may feel this ever more acutely, the more one feels the danger to the Mystery and the ever ongoing call to not allow – as Valentin Tomberg puts it – ‘the lamp illumined to the glory of God be extinguished in the world’ in order ‘that the sacred fire above the altars of hearts and the altars of stone is not extinguished from century to century’…
And so these winter months have led Kim and myself to ever more burning questions as to how we can most effectively offer ourselves as individuals to that great, collective task.
Pondering all this, I come back to the individual biography of my own life.
For each person’s biography is filled with Providential occurrences yielding gifts – the gifts each of us have been purposefully given to fulfil our own vocation.
In looking to the working of Providence in one’s own life, very obvious things need to be considered.
For example, as I have said before, I am an American, though I have British parentage and long years living in Britain.
No doubt then, a key part of the Providential Mystery of my own life is the very obvious fact that my heritage and upbringing are White Anglo Saxon Protestant.
Though later in life, I was confirmed a Catholic. And so I became a WASC. Providence led me to see such very different things then!
Providence opened Portals into the Catholic Mystery.And how this happened especially as Providence led me to live in Catholic cultures: Ireland, Spain, France!
I saw how those cultures were all still awash with Portals into the Mystery.
What do I mean Portals? I mean many different things.
Some are very intangible. For example, praying the Rosary in Spain or Ireland is different than in England. One can feel inwardly blessed that one joins in prayer with centuries of the Rosary prayed by generations of people. And in Britain, how one can feel most deprived of the very same!
But there are all kinds of tangible Portals in those countries, as well. Some are great and some are humble indeed. From a mighty Cathedral such as Chartres to an old and faded prayer card that a young child finds in her great-grandmother’s attic …
Either one can be a sign that points to the Catholic Mystery.
What I mean by ‘Portals’ is manifold: countless cathedrals, convents, humble churches and wayside crosses, windows in stained glass, Catholic bookshops, statues, old customs and traditions, the sites of Apparitions such as Paray-le-Monial in France or Knock in Ireland. More upon more.
To be sure, these exist in England and America to some extent, particularly in American places originally settled by Catholics. New Mexico, for example. But on the whole, they are far fewer and further between in the countries dominated by WASP heritage.
Pondering all this, these winter months, I see ever more clearly that a central purpose of our website is to open Portals – however humble they may be – into the Catholic Mystery in the English-speaking worlds Kim and I grew up in.
For not only have the Portals into the Mystery been fewer in these Anglophone worlds, they are increasingly obscured and menaced.
In Britain particularly, the situation of Christianity is grave indeed. However, there’s a book we may be reviewing here soon called unChristian. The book is written by an American evangelical Christian David Kinnaman, who commands my respect, though his approach is very different to my own.
Still Kinnaman cites studies showing that even in far more religious America, anti-Christian attitudes have risen very sharply in the last years. While Britain by comparison … my voice trails off shuddering. What would Kinnaman make of Britain?!
In America, in England, we are witness to an ascending materialism, where the main spiritual alternative to that materialism becomes ever less Christian and ever more New Age.
By contrast, the New Age still does not go down very well in places like Spain, for example. And Spain remains astonishingly Christian compared to Britain.
These Catholic cultures tend to protect people from New Age-ism – which is first and foremost an English-speaking phenomenon (despite its pretensions to universalism).
There’s a lot about such New Age pretensions at this site (for example here). And there will be a lot more to say in the future.
The main point for now, is that my own life is shaped by the Providential experience of comparing ‘Anglo-America’ to Catholic Europe.
That’s what Providence has given me. And the gifts of that Grace are what I can bring to this web project.
So future blogs here will have a lot more about Catholic cultures, which have offered – and offer still – startlingly different possibilities to the ascending Anglo-American world.We also want to revive the visual blog here – which is now simply called Imago. (The old name ‘In Memory’, you may notice, has been changed. It sounded too much like Rest in Peace – the very opposite of our aspirations!)
So both in words and in images, we want to point to Catholic culture, which exists most vibrantly beyond the English-speaking world.
Now Valentin Tomberg lived in England for twenty five years – but he was very clear that his Magnum Opus could not be written in English. Instead, even while he lived in England, he wrote in French. His own ‘Guarding the Mystery’ involved the French Catholic Tradition, as well as restoring awareness of some highly unusual figures within that tradition.
Unusual … As this site comes back to life, we are publishing some unusual items, including some old reviews of mine previously featured elsewhere on the web.
Odd, suspicious stuff, some folk might think.
Even stuff about comic books … of all things!
I have my reasons for these odd choices. But – once again – they are all to do with this: providing Portals.
Enabling the Catholic Mystery to be visible – just simply visible! – in a world where that Mystery is ever more obscured by ascending materialism and New Age-ism.
I am grateful to see that many people from around the world find this site through googling. And more importantly, I am gratified many of them do stay awhile, going through the 200 pages offered here …
I would like to believe that by the Grace of God, this website can enable people to glimpse a little of the Catholic Mystery.
I am hoping in difficult personal circumstances to push forward passionately with this website, as well as publish my long-delayed book this year.
In doing this, you will see a little more advertising than before and find (hopefully unobtrusive) appeals for help. (There is one such below.)
Any help we receive from this will enable what Kim and myself to devote maximum time and energy to this site and publishing my upcoming book, as well as other titles.
Now, I know this site and particularly my own upcoming book are unusual and controversial.
Personally, I don’t find it easy to be controversial.
How much easier it was when I was a New Ager, when my opinions were so compatible with the secular and liberal mainstream!
I thought then that I was ‘counter-cultural’. But how much more ‘counter-cultural’ is the aspiration to be truly Catholic!
By contrast, the so-called ‘counter-cultural’ New Age sits very comfortably indeed with the secular and liberal mainstream.
Now by the Grace of His Sacred Heart in Paray le Monial, I finally found my way beyond this secular and liberal mainstream – found my way to a far more traditional Catholicism.
However, as much as my Catholicism troubles my old New Age and liberal friends, I also know that my writings (at the site and in my upcoming book) will trouble certain traditionalists.
Personally, I don’t find that easy either.
For example, I need to say much more about global warming, capitalism and the crying need for greater simplicity of life.
Now it is precisely traditional Catholicism that can address that crying need for simplicity.
Living in places like Catholic Ireland and Catholic Spain made it very clear to me how Catholicism once fostered the very kind of simplicity we so desperately need to re-establish.
Meanwhile, the great Protestant, capitalist countries stigmatised the Irish and the Spanish as backwards in terms of such precious things as ‘first rate economic development’ …O Ireland! O Spain! How your cultures have been awake to vital things that my own England and America hardly saw at all! How you have been awake to the Catholic Mystery …
However, there are certain American conservative Catholics, who want to maintain – even further stimulate! – the massive capitalist consumerism that is destroying the biosphere.
For myself, it is clear. Such views tell us more about ‘Americanism’ than about traditional Catholicism.
There will be more to say about that. And again, I won’t find it easy saying it.
Because really, I want very deeply to uphold and support the Traditional Catholic movement. And that movement is strongest in France and – astonishingly! – America.
Yet I know that there are things I need to say that may trouble the traditional hearts of my fellow Americans.
Not easy for me.
Because my heart is very with their hearts – weeping with them, I would say.
But yes, I am conscious of alienating many on all sides: Right/Left, conservative/liberal. This I know from personal experience.
So here we go again … While I am gratified that the site attracts genuine interest, I suspect it finds few natural allies.
But Kim and I believe in it and in the controversial book I hope to publish. I would say, I believe in it more than I ever have.
These winter months have only strengthened my conviction and my passion as to the critical need to uphold the Mystery of Christ in His Church, in His Sacraments …
There are mighty forces trying to drown out the Catholic Mystery. Once again these forces are very strong in my own Anglo-American culture, where the prejudice and propaganda of centuries continues to ripple out … For how long? Further centuries perhaps. Why not? Unless individuals do what they can …
This is what we’re attempting here.
In the past, I’ve resisted the temptation to find a soundbite to describe the work of this site.
But succumbing to temptation perhaps, I will now say it is all about this: Trying to open Portals to the Catholic Mystery. Trying to enable vision of the Mystery of the Church.
Particularly in our own Anglophone culture, where the Portals become ever darkened and invisible …
Thus dear Reader, should you look at the comic book stuff I put up here (for example) and ask: what on earth was he thinking …?
I shall say I was trying to open a little Portal in cyberspace. A silly, strange Portal perhaps, but a Portal nonetheless.
This is what we’re trying to do here. Again, in ways that will not always be easily appreciated. And we’ve decided we need to ask for a bit of help from any friends, known or unknown, who can appreciate what we’re trying to do.
That’s what the appeal and advertising below is about. And there will be more like it in coming months.
Now I said at the start, I don’t often like to write quite this personally.
However you will see this vein of writing continue just a little bit longer in some upcoming blogs I have written about Tomberg, Catholic France and my experience there.
A final note about Tomberg, concerning the long series started here on Tomberg and the Counter Revolution. This series will continue. I envisage dozens of parts eventually. But I fear it’s going to take me much longer than I originally thought to complete it. It will slowly appear here.
Please forgive me for any false expectations I created that the series would progress more rapidly.
And thank you for your time and consideration here at this website, dear Friends, Known and Unknown.
We wish all of you a Blessed Eastertide. May His Resurrection serve to continually resurrect everything in your souls that is weighed down …
In Our Book Stores (Numerous New Titles)
Here is a slideshow of many of our Amazon titles. I have also added comments as to why I believe in each book.
If you appreciate this website and shop through Amazon, please consider supporting us by clicking on our Amazon links. It will cost you nothing and will help us. You can either click on the links for recommended books or you can use the Amazon buttons found in the left hand column.
Virtually anything ordered by clicking on these Amazon buttons in the left hand column will earn us a commission.
Thank you – RB.
Prints, Posters, Imagery and More
The world is awash with materialistic imagery, designed to stimulate consumer desire. Yet once, Christendom was awash with imagery of the Christian Mystery. Whatever can redress this imbalance is most needed. With such thoughts, we present this small selection also available from Amazon: