Tuesday, 31 May 2011

"I have lost my Nobel Prize"

A touching interview on Zenit with the daughter of Professor Jerome Lejeune. Professor Lejeune is one of my heroes, a brilliant and courageous scientist whose pioneering research into Down's Syndrome has never been properly acknowledged because he did not approve of killing his patients. Wherever people stand on the abortion issue, it is impossible not to admire a man who was prepared to take on the might of the scientific establishment on a point of principle, knowing it would have devastating consequences for his career and reputation.

He never received a Nobel Prize but I hope I will one day attend his beatification.

Friday, 27 May 2011

The Apologist and the Clown

This allegory for the obstacles facing Catholic apologists really set me thinking. To read the rest of the article, check out the Napa Institute blog.

“According to this story, a traveling circus in Denmark caught fire. The manager thereupon sent the clown, who was already dressed and made up for the performance, into the neighboring village to fetch help, especially as there was a danger that the fire would spread across the fields of dry stubble and engulf the village itself. The clown hurried into the village and requested the inhabitants to come as quickly as possible to the blazing circus and help to put the fire out. But the villagers took the clown’s shouts simply for an excellent piece of advertising, meant to attract as many people as possible to the performance; they applauded the clown and laughed till they cried. The clown felt more like weeping than laughing; he tried in vain to get people to be serious, to make it clear to them that this was no stunt, that he was not pretending but was in bitter earnest, that there really was a fire. His supplications only increased the laughter; people thought he was playing his part splendidly — until finally the fire did engulf the village; it was too late for help, and both circus and village were burned to the ground.”

h/t Insight

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Child Abductions in China

h/t to PRI for this report on child abductions in Chinese villages. According to the report, family planning officials have taken to abducting 'illegal' children from parents who cannot pay the fines and placing them in orphanages, where they can then be put up for adoption. In the past, they would smash up a person's home, now they are stealing children. But, oh yes, I had forgotten, there is no coercion by family planning officials in China. Couples are encouraged to have fewer children...

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

India's Missing Girls

This article about the continuing scourge of sex selective abortion in India, otherwise known as gendercide, makes appalling reading for so many reasons. I was particularly cut up by a story at the start about a woman who was forced into repeated abortions by her family.

In the years between the birth of her third daughter and her son, Kulwant became pregnant three times. Each time, she says, she was forced to abort the foetus by her family after ultrasound tests confirmed that they were girls.

"My mother-in-law taunted me for giving birth to girls. She said her son would divorce me if I didn't bear a son."

Kulwant still has vivid memories of the first abortion. "The baby was nearly five months old. She was beautiful. I miss her, and the others we killed," she says, breaking down, wiping away her tears.

Until her son was born, Kulwant's daily life consisted of beatings and abuse from her husband, mother-in-law and brother-in-law. Once, she says, they even attempted to set her on fire.

"They were angry. They didn't want girls in the family. They wanted boys so they could get fat dowries," she says.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

The Cousin who saved Graham Greene's Life

I was intrigued by this article about Graham Greene's cousin and the role she played in saving his life. I went through a massive Graham Greene phase when I was a teenager and particularly fell in love with The Power and the Glory. I have rather more mixed feelings about him as an author now but The Power and the Glory is still among my favourite novels and the nameless protagonist's overwhelming sense of regret as he stands in his cell moves me to tears every time I read it.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Books, Pirates and Catholicism

My interview with Premier is available on play again. I had a great time in the studio and thoroughly enjoyed meeting Lizzie and Dave. My only fear beforehand was that I would oversleep and arrive late, so I woke up every hour the night before, convinced my alarm would not go off. I mentioned this blog during the interview, so if anyone is visiting via Premier Radio, welcome to the Monstrous Regiment!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

I am going...

...on Premier Radio's Big Breakfast Show on Saturday morning. I am feeling a little nervous, more about doing something dire like sleeping through my alarm or my train getting cancelled, but - potential catastrophes aside - I am very much looking forward to talking books on the show with Dave and Lizzie.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Mariana's Journey

The new issue of Dappled Things is now available for purchase from the website. Please consider subscribing to this excellent platform for Catholic writing. Some of the content is already available online and the online features page is well worth a visit. My short story looks at the crisis faced by a young woman whose husband has recently been killed in Afghanistan. The inspiration behind the title is Tennyson's poem Mariana.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Lewis and Tolkien on Myth and Knowledge

I am mulling over an article in Faith Magazine by Roger Peck entitled C S Lewis and Tolkien on Myth and Knowledge I am somewhat exhausted after a very busy weekend, which is probably not helping my concentration much, so when my head has stopped spinning I will have another read of it. Here is a taster

An idea is either true or false but both true ideas and false ideas must be meaningful, and it is imagination that makes them meaningful before reason makes them either true or false. For Lewis the imagination is the organ of meaning as reason is the organ of truth. But myth lives in that middle ground between truth and meaning, experience and knowledge, abstract thought and concrete reality, reason and imagination, head and heart. And as myth transcends thought, says Lewis, "Incarnation transcends myth".

Thursday, 12 May 2011

The Fine Delight

Very interesting interview in The Fine Delight with the founder of literary magazine Dappled Things, looking at two of my favourite subjects, Catholicism and Literature.

When talking about Catholic culture, especially Catholic art and literature, the first thing people bring up is the “sacramental imagination.” That’s certainly true and important, but I think it is just as important to develop what we might call the “paradoxical imagination.” Perhaps I need a better term, but what I mean is that part of Christianity’s genius is getting at the truth of things by standing them on their heads. That’s how the most triumphant and hopeful image in our religion ends up being also the most humiliating and desperate: the crucifix. No Catholic literary culture or subculture is going to flourish until we can rediscover and internalize the paradoxes at the heart of life and reality, instead of just trying to create a sanctimonious or vaguely mystical version of what the secular world has to offer.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Dreams of the Dead

Death has come for me again. The others are already lost. I heard their screams as I was cast into the night; I heard them cursing as they burned or drowned before the roar of the explosion stopped up my ears and I fell into a world of silence. I am burnt by fire and stifled by the black, icy waters that drag me down. There is merciless darkness everywhere, which even the flames tearing the ship cannot pierce. I spin and struggle, raising my head for air as my blood freezes, and I know the sea will take me in the end.

First paragraph Poor Banished Children. As a relative put it, another characteristically cheerful start. More on the publisher's excerpt page.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

God's Undertaker

I came across this article on Mercator.net about a new book God’s Undertaker – Has Science Buried God? by Professor Lennox of Oxford University. It sounds like a fascinating read.

The remarkable picture that is gradually emerging from modern physics and cosmology is one of a universe whose fundamental forces are amazingly, intricately, and delicately balanced or ‘fine tuned’ in order for the universe to be able to sustain life. Recent research has shown that many of the fundamental constants of nature, from the energy levels in the carbon atom to the rate at which the universe is expanding, have just the right values for life to exist. Change any of them just a little, and the universe would become hostile to life and incapable of supporting it.

Anyone read it?