Family

Houellebecq on restoration beyond Notre-Dame

Saturday, 20 April, 2019

It has been described as “an ecumenical, conservative and, in some views, neoconservative religious journal.” It’s First Things and among the contents of the May issue is an essay titled “Restoration,” which is an “exchange of views on religion between Michel Houellebecq and Geoffroy Lejeune.” What can one say about Houellebecq? He’s a French author of international fame whose latest novel is Serotonin. There’s much, much more, of course, but that’s sufficient for now, and Geoffroy Lejeune? He’s the editor of Valeurs actuelles, a French conservative weekly news magazine published in Paris.

Their conversation took place quite some time before Monday’s catastrophic fire in Notre-Dame cathedral, but whenever Houellebecq is involved, prescience is to be expected. Snippets:

Houellebecq: “In a Romanesque cloister I feel at peace, connected to the divinity. With Gothic cathedrals, it’s already something different. Beauty takes on a character there that Kant will later call sublime (beauty accompanied by the sensation of danger, such as a great storm at sea, or a thunderstorm high in the mountains). In a baroque church it’s no good at all, I could just as well be in a palace, or at the theater.”

Lejeune: “If you choose to go by architecture, there is indeed a striking aspect: In the time of the cathedrals, monumental places of worship were erected and their construction lasted longer than a man’s lifetime. The cathedrals of Chartres, Reims, and Paris were built in 75, 134, and 182 years, respectively. At that time, preference was not for the minuscule. By comparison, Trump Tower in New York was designed, constructed, and delivered in four years, between 1979 and 1983. You can say that motorization, technological progress, and materials explain this difference. So much for the business angle, but when we see the ugliness of modern churches, these unhappy cubes of faded cement, sometimes so hideous, which hardly ever tower above the horizon traced by the surrounding houses, one understands above all that what differentiates us from the Christian builders is ‘functional thinking,’ instead of dedicating the construction to God. It was better before, when the supernatural was seen everywhere, even in the cathedral spires pointing toward heaven.”

The big question posed by First things is: Can the Catholic Church regain her former splendour? Lejeune feels it probably can but the road will be long: “Today, the Church in Europe has shrunk back into certain hard cores, sociologically very homogeneous – a social class – cut off from the majority of souls. Its embourgeoisement is perhaps, in the end, the greatest scourge that strikes the Church at the beginning of the twenty-first century.”

Houellebecq, noted for his pessimism, is more optimistic: “Can the restoration of Catholicism to its former splendour repair our damaged civilization? Here we are in agreement – it’s much simpler, almost self-evident. The answer is ‘Yes.'”


Galty: 87 today

Wednesday, 3 April, 2019

In 1932, the year he was born, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley was published; Amelia Earhart flew from the United States to Northern Ireland in 14 hours and 54 minutes; the Sydney Harbour Bridge opened; the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at its lowest level of the Great Depression, bottoming out at 41.22; Konrad Adenauer opened the first Autobahn in Germany; the Cortes Generales of the Spanish Republic approved the Autonomy of Catalonia; the first Venice Film Festival was held; the Soviet famine of 1932–33 began and millions starved to death as a result of forced collectivization; India played its first Test Cricket Match with England at Lord’s, and the Kingdom of Hejaz and Nejd was proclaimed the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia under the rule of Ibn Saud.

Galty

“His soul has in its Autumn, when his wings
He furleth close; contented so to look
On mists in idleness — to let fair things
Pass by unheeded as a threshold brook.”

The Human Seasons — John Keats


Michael Fitzgerald: 17 September 1918 – 2 April 2011

Tuesday, 2 April, 2019

“My father dead, the prince among my dead,
Has never come again except in dream,
Never his palpable presence or his face,
His ink-ringed finger or his broad-splayed thumb.
Yet when I’ve since stood in some famous place
I’ve always thought I’ll tell him he must come.”

John Hewitt

Father


The ninth post of pre-Christmas 2018: September

Friday, 21 December, 2018

On 5 September, here, our post was a short meditation on the concepts of decency, hospitality, generosity, honour and memory titled “What we save saves us.”

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Family, friends and neighbours were the bedrock upon which my parents built their world. These people were there to help and support us, to lend a hand with the harvest and eat at our table. Their presence assured us that we were never really alone.

Drawing in the hay

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Tomorrow, here, review of the year continues with the tenth post of pre-Christmas 2018, which was about the making of the world’s best sandwich.


Today is Saint Edmund’s Day. It’s personal

Tuesday, 20 November, 2018

According to Bernard Burke’s Vicissitudes of Families, the banner of Saint Edmund, with its three crowns on a blue background, was among those borne during the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169. The bearers included Maurice FitzGerald, Robert Fitz-Stephen, Redmund Fitz-Hugh, Meiler FitzHenry and Robert Fitz-Bernard. From then on, Saint Edmund’s banner became the standard for Ireland during the Plantagenet era. By the way, Richard de Clare and Raymond le Gros, who featured prominently in the Norman invasion, dedicated a chapel of Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin to Saint Edmund.

The banner of Saint Edmund Who was Saint Edmund? Well, when the Great Heathen Army advanced on East Anglia in 869, the obscure King Edmund led the resistance and he met his death on 20 November at a place known as Haegelisdun, after he refused the Vikings’ demand that he renounce Christ. They beat him, tied him to a tree, shot him with arrows and then beheaded him on the orders of Ivar the Boneless and his brother Ubba. Legend has it that his head was then thrown into the forest but was found by searchers after following the cries of a wolf that was calling out, in Latin, Hic, Hic, Hic (“Here, Here, Here”.)

The name Edmund, which is also spelled Edmond, contains the elements ēad (“prosperity, riches”) and mund (“protector”). The Irish Gaelic forms are Éamon, Éaman and Éamann. The corresponding Anglicised forms are Eamon and Eamonn.

Your blogger’s grandfather on the maternal side was Edmond O’Donnell. He is buried in the graveyard of Lisvernane Church in the Glen of Aherlow, County Tipperary.


Walk beside me…

Monday, 24 September, 2018

“Don’t walk in front of me… I may not follow
Don’t walk behind me… I may not lead
Walk beside me… just be my friend”

— Albert Camus

Ann and Eamonn

Happy Birthday, Ann! Happy Birthday, Mary! You two share this unforgettable day with F. Scott Fitzgerald, who said, “You’ll understand why storms are named after people.”


Michael Fitzgerald: who would have been 100 today

Monday, 17 September, 2018

In memory of Michael Fitzgerald (17 September 1918 – 2 April 2011), farmer and fencer.

This hand fenced

Fencing is farmwork for the fall of the year.
The days are dry and so are the essential stones.

When given their allotted places in ditches,
They stand side-by-side patiently.
The rows look uneven but are never untidy.

Timber is crooked here as well,
And whitethorn offers no mercy.
So the fencer returns with bloody hands,
But the stigmata were earned honourably.

Robert Frost was right —
“Good fences make good neighbours.”

Eamonn Fitzgerald

Father


What we save saves us

Wednesday, 5 September, 2018

Family, friends and neighbours were the bedrock upon which my parents built their world. These people were there to help and support us, to lend a hand with the harvest and eat at our table. Their presence assured us that we were never really alone.

Drawing in the hay


Happy Pattern Day!

Wednesday, 15 August, 2018

The “drawing in” of the hay was a typical activity around the Pattern Day and a trip to the meadow on the horse-drawn “float” was a really big adventure. On board (right to left): Madeleine, Jacqueline, Helen, Mary, Eamonn and Michael John. Head and shoulders above us all is Father, in his prime.

On the float

Background: Ireland has thousands of “holy” or “blessed” wells. These ancient water sources were attributed mystical powers in pagan times and the related customs and beliefs were incorporated by Christianity when it arrived on the island some 1,600 years ago. The converts assigned a “patron saint” to each well and thus began the custom of the “Pattern Day” (from the pronunciation of the Irish Pátrún, “patron”). The “Pattern Day”, then, is the feast day of a parish’s patron saint and entails a pilgrimage to the sacred well and the saying of specific prayers in a certain sequence. Bottles are filled with the “miraculous” water, which is often applied to wounds or sprinkled on children, visitors, travellers and animals for their well-being.

Ethnologists describe patterns as “community generated festivals”. In 1810, Crofton-Croker counted up to 15,000 people at the Pattern of St. Declan, which is still held annually on the 24th of July in Ardmore, County Waterford. This tradition of vernacular religious practice and the carnivalesque continues in Ballylanders, County Limerick, where the 15th of August, the Feast of the Assumption, is the local Pattern Day.


Riversdale House: 18 June 1952

Monday, 18 June, 2018

On this day in 1952, Michael Fitzgerald and Catherine O’Donnell were married in the village of Lisvernane, County Tipperary. The ceremony was followed by a meal at the famed Riversdale House in the Glen of Aherlow in County Tipperary. Built by the Massy family in the early 19th century, Riversdale House was bought from the Massy Dawsons by John Noonan in 1922, who ran it as a hotel.

Riversdale House

Transport for the bride and her family was via a Ford V8 driven by Jack Fraser, grocer/publican/undertaker. Cars were scarce in the Ireland of the early 1950s so some of the guests cycled. The wedding cake was prepared by the bride, baked by Mrs Ryan-Russell, who had a Stanley Range cooker, and the icing was added by the confectionery specialists of Kiely’s Bread Company in Tipperary town. The sun shone and the couple went on to spend 59 years together, during which time they earned love and respect from those who loved and respected them.

Mammy and Daddy

Scaffolding is one of the first poems Seamus Heaney wrote. It’s a metaphor about marriage and the measures needed to keep it firm in the face of the shocks. Walls of “sure and solid stone” will be strong enough to stand on their own, says Heaney. “Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall / Confident that we have built our wall.”

Scaffolding

Masons, when they start upon a building,
Are careful to test out the scaffolding;

Make sure that planks won’t slip at busy points,
Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints.

And yet all this comes down when the job’s done
Showing off walls of sure and solid stone.

So if, my dear, there sometimes seem to be
Old bridges breaking between you and me

Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall
Confident that we have built our wall.

Seamus Heaney (1939 — 2013)


It matters who I remember he was

Monday, 2 April, 2018 0 Comments

Actually, what the poet Anne Sexton said is this: “It doesn’t matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was.”

Michael Fitzgerald (17 September 1917 – 2 April 2011) was a farmer and a thinker. He loved the land, its substance, its history, its moods and its meaning. He knew why people had fought and died for it and he understood the passions it generated. His hands were shaped by decades of making a living from his fields. He was one of the last representatives of a culture that had its roots in an ancient, a simpler, a more traditional world. His decency .

Father

“Of life’s two chief prizes, beauty and truth, I found the first in a loving heart and the second in a labourer’s hand.” — Khalil Gibran