Tombé à terre à la suite de premiers coups de couteau, tu essaie de repousser ton assaillant avec tes pieds, et tu dis : « Va-t’en, Satan » ; tu répètes : « Va-t’en, Satan » (from the sermon of the archbishop of Rouen at the funeral of Fr Jacques Hamel)

(You fell to the ground at the first jabs of the knife, you tried to kick away your attacker with the words, ‘Off with you Satan’; again you said, ‘Off with you, Satan’)

If we enter deeply into a spiritual epoch like the Oxford Movement, we find ourselves in the presence of men whose spirits still live and have power to move us. For the men who count in the end are not the successful men who rode on the crest of the wave of change, like Napoleon, but those who are indifferent to success or failure, who despise quick results and preserve their spiritual integrity at all costs. It is they who are the real judges of the world (‘The Spirit of the Oxford Movement’, chapter 1).

Is it a lost art, buried under the avalanche of texts and phone calls and skypings and e-mails? It has certainly become rare. Perhaps it will never again be common. But I think that the wise will not wholly abandon it.

A pleasant letter I hold to be the pleasantest thing that this world has to give. It should be good-humoured; witty it may be, but with a gentle diluted wit. Concocted brilliancy will spoil it altogether. Not long, so that it be tedious in the reading; nor brief, so that the delight suffice not to make itself felt. It should be written specially for the reader, and should apply altogether to him, and not altogether to any other. It should never flatter. Flattery is always odious. But underneath the visible stream of pungent water there may be the slightest under-current of eulogy, so that it be not seen, but only understood. Censure it may contain freely, but censure which in arraigning the conduct implies no doubt as to the intellect. It should be legibly written, so that it may be read with comfort; but no more than that. Calligraphy betokens caution, and if it be not light in hand it is nothing. That it be fairly grammatical and not ill spelt the writer owes to his schoolmaster; but this should come of habit, not of care. Then let its page be soiled by no business; one touch of utility will destroy it all.

If you ask for examples, let it be as unlike Walpole as may be. If you can so write it that Lord Byron might have written it, you will not be very far from high excellence.

But, above all things, see that it be good-humoured (Anthony Trollope, ‘The Bertrams’, chapter 18).

Tomorrow is the 100th anniversary of the bloodiest day in British military history. I wonder how many of the young men who went over the top on the Somme that Saturday morning in July knew that it was the Feast of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus Christ. Too few: but those who gave their lives or limbs for Christian civilisation, however poorly understood, made a sacrifice which He surely did not spurn. If there are any souls of those who died on either side in that battle still in purgatory, may they rest at last in peace.

A week ago the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those who fought on the Somme, and at Mons and Passchendaele voted. They voted to resist an anti-Christian empire that wishes to rule them. The vote was close, but it was clear. It may be that if five more years had gone by, the changing of the generations would have caused the vote to be different. But the vote was not taken in five years time, it was taken in the year of grace 2016.

Now we hear voices saying that the people must be made to vote again, till they get it right. How can the poor and the uneducated be expected to know what is best for them? A feature in the Guardian yesterday solemnly warns us that elections can be the enemy of democracy. Here at Laodicea we have supported suffrage by household rather than by individual; but given that the youth vote was in favour of ‘Remain’, and given that a larger proportion of such voters than of older ones are living in another’s household, then the margin of victory would have been even larger on Laodicean principles.

In any case, the vote has been taken, and has shown an impressive popular will to resist the propaganda and the vested interests of the godless rich, and the sense of having a heritage to defend. Of course the country cannot be healed by such a will or such a sense, without first turning back to the Precious Blood. But this is, at least, a chink in the darkness, a first unmerited grace (gratia operans) given to Britain. May the descendants of the heroes of the Somme be not unworthy of their sires.

No man who has the truth to tell and the power to tell it can long remain hiding it from fear or even from despair without ignominy. To release the truth against whatever odds, even if so doing can longer help the Commonwealth, is a necessity for the soul (‘The Free Press’, XX).

1972Act

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