Monthly Archives: February 2003

Lafferty Update

Well, he’s still a great writer — and certainly his chances of Heaven are still high — but apparently R.A. Lafferty’s chances of canonization are the classic Slim, Fat, and No. Sandra Miesel commented in email:

I knew Lafferty and wrote some critical articles about him which he liked. In fact he wrote a limerick about me and once sat on my lap. He was indeed a VERY Catholic writer, to the degree that it made his work less accessible to his non-Catholic readers. His most religious books being PAST MASTER, FOURTH MANSIONS, and THE FLAME IS GREEN. But unfortunately, the old gentleman was a long-time heavy drinker who died senile. Not a good candidate… I can vouch for his drinking by personal observation. Over at least 11 years of conventions I never saw him remotely sober nor did anyone I know.

Poor guy. But that is pretty indicative. Miesel further commented, on the saint topic:

Check out my article on Tolkien’s Universe in the current issue of CRISIS.

Some years ago I was going to write an article for Catholic FAITH & FAMILY on possible future saints but the Legionaries scrubbed it lest they be appearing to tell the Congregation of Saints what to do. Some of my chouices were: Rose Hawthorne, Cornelia Connelly, Caritas Pirkheimer, Anne Dacre, Mary Ward, Mother McCauley, and St. Elizabeth of Hungary’s husband Louis.

Yes, you may put the above comments on your blog.

I didn’t know Tony Boucher but he was much loved in the SF world.

Some of Lafferty’s papers are at the University of Iowa, but there’s not much of them. One linear foot is one banker box, folks. The balance of his papers must be the ones at the University of Tulsa.

A Lafferty bibliography, a short summary of his novels and another of his works. A biography in French and German, and a page biographical information. An obituary by Michael Cassutt and the guy at Snarkout, twice. Interesting musings by Michael Swanwick and a fan: scroll down to read them. “A counter-surrealist”. I like that. Reviews of Past Master by Bill McClain and The Devil Is Dead by Steve Hooley.

As Snarkout noted, Lafferty’s books are in print, from the invaluable Wildside Press. Go forth and buy them.

Who the Heck Is Mother McCauley?

A thorough Googling didn’t reveal who the heck Mother McCauley is, except that there’s a big old girl’s school named that in Chicago. Googling for Bishop Ford of Bishop Ford Hall (used as the old cafeteria at my school) produced a couple pages, including these memories of the man and this sermon inspired by the article. There’s also the splendid tribute of a cheat essay one must pay to download, and this other cheat essay, which is at least free. Amusingly, that free cheat essay can also be purchased from the aptly named Cheathouse. No honor among thieves. And yes, I’m sure Bishop Ford was martyred so some lazybones can Google herself a good grade. Fortunately, teachers can Google too.

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Another Story about Virginia Kettering

How Virginia Kettering once got robbed of her groceries, and she advised the robber on how to make the food last longer.

Deepest Sleeper in My Family

Still not me. My brothers have both fallen asleep standing up in the shower. My younger brother, though, once answered the phone while asleep, told me he was awake and dressed and was on his way out to the airport, and that I should get off the phone so he could go. Needless to say, he missed that flight.

Worst Apartment Disaster in My Family

Also not me. My older brother’s apartment in Alexandria got flooded with snowmelt this week. Lo, I am a piker.

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SWAT Team in My Apartment Building Update

Look! It’s my building! Somewhat inaccurate story, though. And isn’t it creepy how so many news stories prove inaccurate, whenever you know something about the story? That looks like the ambulance there, but it came later in the day. The one outside my window this morning was an orange truck, and shaped very differently.

It was the nutty guy downstairs. He was about to get evicted this week, and that process has just gotten a lot easier. He’s always been prone to run around banging doors and yelling (which is why my poor body ignored all that pounding on doors this morning by the police), and he started doing it this morning at 3:30 or so, continuing till 4 or 4:30. I, like most people in the building, turned over and went to sleep as much as his noise allowed. Then the police came and he retreated to his apartment (as he always does). He got relatively quiet; I got to get some real sleep. However, this time when the police stood outside talking to him, he added a new line to his usual ones of “You don’t have a warrant!”, various obscenities, threats to call a senator, and “I’m not coming out!”). He announced that he had a gun on his hip. He later elaborated this to say that it was a .357 Magnum, that he also had a rifle, that anyone who came through the door was going to the morgue, and that he would then kill himself.

Understandably, the police took the guy’s threats seriously; they couldn’t afford not to, with him as loopy as he is and on drugs, too. So the SWAT team arrived around 6:30 AM (I’m not sure when he made the gun threat, but it wasn’t long after that) and pounded on everybody’s doors, including mine. However, I was dead to the world, as you’d expect if you went to bed after midnight and was awakened again at 4 in the morning. I wasn’t the only one who slept through it all, either — one woman who lived on his floor managed it, too. The awakened people were shooed off to the office side of the building, out of danger, or allowed to leave and go to work early. Then the SWAT team took over the apartment across the hall from me as a command post, and used the apartment next to mine to practice entries. I remained dead to the world.

I woke up at 7:15, got ready for work as normal, and then dragged myself out, only to see a whole SWAT team entering my next door neighbor’s apartment, with him looking on and his dog barking away inside. What’s a bit scary is that I managed to stand there gaping for a couple minutes before the SWAT guys even noticed I was there! But then, they knew the place was locked down. We looked at each other with some startlement, one of the officers quietly explained to me what was going on, and I was sent on my way to work down the stair. The guy guarding the stairwell looked out for me to see it was safe for me to pass the nutty guy’s floor, and then I went on my way.

The guy finally surrendered about 10 AM. He had no gun, luckily. The building people were afraid he might have gotten himself shot by having a toy gun or something, but he wasn’t that nutty. He’s being charged with inducing panic. Hopefully he will get some help.

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SWAT Team in My Apartment Building Update

They’re gone and everything’s over, according to the local school. What happened I don’t know yet; I’m going to have to go home for lunch and find out. Presumably nothing too serious, since you’d think that if anybody got hurt it’d be a crime scene or have lots of people there doing paperwork.

Maybe I’ll take a half day to go home and sleep. I am so tired I can’t even get scared-in-retrospect.

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Best Excuse for Not Blogging This Morning

There’s a SWAT team in my apartment building and some poor guy threatening to kill himself or somebody else. Please pray for all of them. You might also pray that none of the trouble strays away from my building, as we’re a block away from an elementary school.

Poorest Excuse for Observational Skills

You might also pray for me, since my “Don’t Notice Me” field kept them from knocking on my door and warning me the way they did everybody else at four this morning, and my sleepiness just had me thinking we had an unusually belligerent group of drunks roaming around at that hour, especially for a weeknight. And my eyesight’s bad enough that when I finally got up, looked out and saw an orange SWAT van, I couldn’t read what it said and assumed it was repairmen who actually came to work at seven….

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Five People Who Should Be Made Saints

1. J.R.R. Tolkien. You can make his wife and his mom saints, too. And probably his son the priest who just died. A family package!

2. Blessed Vilmos Apor, baron and Bishop of Gyor. Made bishop in 1941, he did his best to defend not only his own flock but all Gyor’s people from Nazi laws. When the town was bombed, he went out to succor the wounded. When people were left homeless, he gave them his episcopal palace to live in. When the Soviets invaded in turn, he spoke out for his townspeople once more. And when a bunch of Russian soldiers came to his palace and demanded women, he told them to get out. They gut-shot him, then ran away in fright. The bishop died on Easter Monday, 1945.

3. G.K. Chesterton, of course! Give him a really wide holy card!

4. Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha. Because she was a quiet person who nevertheless would not be cowed in following God’s will. (And it’s Gah-deh-lee Deh-gah-quee-tah.)

5. R.A. Lafferty and “Anthony Boucher” (William White). Saintly science fiction writer and saintly founding editor of the Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy/gourmet cook/Opera News reviewer. Again, think of the opportunity for holy card illustrations! Here’s Lafferty’s haunting story “Land of the Great Horses” and another one best described by its title, “Nine Hundred Grandmothers”. Here is a page of obituaries, in which John Clute said, “….his Roman Catholicism governed not only the surface of his work, but its deep structure as well.” Anthony Boucher isn’t represented as well online, but here’s “They Bite”.

UPDATE: Yeah, I admit that Lafferty’s life and death were iffy. But probably he put in enough time in Purgatory on Earth, towards the end, that he’s likely to have made it to Heaven. Boucher’s cause might not work and going through his writings would take forever; but researching his life would definitely be fun!

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The True Identity of St. Blog

Those who read St. Blog’s Confidential by The Curt Jester may have noticed a post claiming that St. Blog was in reality a St. Blagoje. While I hesitate to argue with Shawn O’Neal, I’m surprised to see that he doesn’t realize that St. Blog is an Irishwoman.

St. Blath of Kildare (January 29) was the laysister who cooked for the community of St. Brigid of Kildare. Her name means “flower”. It is pronounced “blah”. The usual form of this name in Ireland, however, is “Blathnat” or “little flower” (other forms: Blathnet, Blaithnait, Blaithnaid, Blathnaid, Blanaid, Blanid, etc.), and she is called by this name in a tale of St. Brigid collected by Lady Gregory:

The Seven Bishops came to her in a place she had in the north of Kildare, and she asked her cook Blathnet had she any food, and she said she had not. And Brigit was ashamed, being as she was without food before those holy men, and she prayed hard to the Lord. Then angels came and bade her to milk the cows for the third time that day. So she milked them herself, and they filled the pails with the milk, and the whole of Leinster. And the milk overflowed the vessels till it made a lake that is called the Lake of Milk to this day.

The city of Kildare became known as a place of learning (since St. Brigid attracted scholars), poetry and music (since Brigid had many poets and bards as followers), and great craftsmanship (there was a school of metalwork, teaching craftsmen to adorn the books made in the scriptorium). But because of St. Brigid’s generosity and St. Blath’s cookery, Kildare also had a tradition of “plentiful diversity of banquets”. (From the end of the section from a source of 1625).

Anyway, St. Blath’s fame, like Brigid’s, must have spread across the sea to Wales. The Welsh version (Cymricization?) of Blathnat would be “Blaguryn”, blossom. The barbarous English surely cut off the end and simply called her St. Blog. Meanwhile, in Wales, many devout laypeople began following the example of St. Blaguryn. They called themselves “blagur” (the plural form of “blaguryn”). English devotees of course anglicized the term and called themselves “blagurs” or “bloggers”. (Her French followers called her “Ste. Blague”, of course….)

All parishioners of St. Blog should keep their patroness in mind at all times. I recommend using the ancient form “Blath, Blath, Blath, pray for us.”


Meme Warning

I don’t want to get killed by Heather Rose Jones for spreading false medieval onomastic information. Sooooo…everything I said about “St. Blaguryn” being celebrated in Wales and so forth is a big fat lie. Although “blagur” is the plural form of “blaguryn”. Also, there’s apparently an Advent program for kids in Wales called “Blaguryn o Gyff Jesse”, which is the Welsh translation of the English title, “A Shoot from the Stem of Jesse”. It’s not a very literal translation, apparently, since it seems to refer to the second part of that verse of Isaiah: “and from Jesse’s root a bud shall blossom”. But this may be more misinformation, since I don’t speak Welsh and just go by the dictionaries, and I can’t find “root” anywhere.

Solas Bhride

Here’s a page on Kildare as it was before the English and the Reformation. This next page is a pagan site but it has information about some nuns who’ve set up a convent in Kildare and are trying to revive some of the old traditions of St. Brigid’s foundation. (There’s also a nice picture at the top of the page of the foundations of the house where the fire was once kept — on the grounds of the cathedral — which I’ve never seen before.) This other pagan page has a nice picture of part of the nuns’ garden, if you scroll down. Here’s a Brigidine page about Solas Bhride, which paradoxically is less informative! It looks like the nuns are trying to draw pagans and New Age folks back to the Church as well as doing more normal stuff. Here’s a short report on their activities, and here’s a long interview with Sr. Mary Minehan. She seems to be doing a pretty good job of promoting Celtic spirituality without straying into what is not Catholic. I also found a prayer the nuns have been circulating that popped up on several pagan sites! (Sometimes with Catholic stuff hacked out and pagan stuff stuck in, alas. But not always, which is a start.) Those nuns must be working hard. Here’s the prayer:

Brigid, you were a woman of peace.

You brought harmony where there was conflict. You brought light into the darkness. You brought hope to the downcast.

May the mantle of your peace cover those who are troubled and anxious,

and may peace be firmly rooted in our hearts and in our world.

Inspire us to act justly and reverence all God has made.

Brigid, you were a voice for the wounded and the weary.

Strengthen what is weak within us. Calm us into a quietness that heals and listens.

May we grow each day into greater wholeness in mind, body and spirit.

Amen.

Incidentally, here’s a history of the Brigidine sisters.

The Other Blathnat

St. Blath/Blathnat the cook should not be confused with Blathnat, the daughter of Midhir and sister of Angus Og. She either helped Cu Chulainn of Ulster and Cu Roi of Munster rob her father’s mound, or was carried off against her will. Cu Roi (who was both a great warrior and had magic powers) disliked Cu Chulainn’s division of the spoils and ran off with Blathnat, forcing her to become his wife. Cu Chulainn showed up at Caherconree to get revenge; Blathnat helped by tying Cu Roi to his bed by the hair, stealing Cu Roi’s sword (the only thing that could kill him), and then signaling Cu Roi’s helplessness by pouring milk into a stream, turning it white for a while. Then Cu Roi’s bard avenged his master by throwing himself at Blathnat as she stood on the wall of the fortress. They both fell into the river and drowned. (Personally, I’m suspicious. If you were a fairy woman who’d had that much trouble, wouldn’t you fake your death, turn into a salmon and swim away?) Here’s another version of the story.

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