Having some time freed up, I caught up with the Letters section of the Toronto Catholic Register, and lo and behold, I got a mention for once. The author of the letter noticed the strong difference in opinion between Robert Brehl and me on the subject of Amoris Laetitia. She seemed to agree with me.
Meanwhile, I had completely forgotten I had begun the piece with Amoris Laetitia and ended it with the Girl Guides. I had also forgotten how, er, vigorous it was. Here's what I submitted to the CR, whose website now seems to be down.
Sharing Faith, Tradition with Young Brings Joy
Dorothy Cummings McLean
[The Catholic Register*]
Nova et Vetera
April 11, 2016
Here’s how it went. I was sent Amoris Laetitia hours before its official release. It arrived just before bed, so I left it until morning. I assumed it would take three hours to read—plenty of time to submit my first thoughts before Roman noon. Ha. On Friday I read the novel-length exhortation from morning to night, writing pages of notes and grumbling aloud. My opinion of Amoris Laetitia is that the faithful should print it out, remove Chapters 1, 4-7 and 9, put them on a table and set the rest on fire. Chapters 1, 4-7 and 9 contain wonderful pastoral theology that all families should read. They are written simply, with the homespun wisdom of a friendly parish priest. Leave the introductory paragraphs, Chapters 2-3 and 8 for the clergy to sweat over. Incidentally, don’t forget to pray for them, especially the bishops.
By 10 PM I was in no state to write, so I decided to sleep on the topic. Unfortunately—or fortunately—my husband was so distressed by the exhortation that we were awake past midnight tutting, sighing and bewailing Paragraph 301. On the one hand, this murdered sleep. On the other hand, I was reassured that my husband is not going to dump me in old age for a younger, sexier model in the hope that after enough tender pastoral accompaniment his parish priest will give him and the usurper Holy Communion. One of the great joys of marriage is that [B.A.] is even more afraid of Almighty God than he is of me. Hooray!
I woke up at 5:15 AM Saturday mentally writing about Amoris Laetitia. At 5:40 I gave up on sleep and got up to write. I was due in central Edinburgh at 11 AM to go to Girl Guide camp, and I hadn’t packed. I wrote from 6 AM until 9 AM and then Yahoo Mail refused to send my work. My kind husband, answering my shrieks, sent my article via his Gmail account and listened as I yammered that I couldn’t go to Girl Guide camp after all. I was too tired, too cranky, too useless, too weak to carry bag and bedroll all the way downtown.
“I’ll come with you,” said [B.A.], and it was as easy as that. Within an hour, my knapsack was packed, my bedroll was rolled and I was walking through the woods towards the bus stop, husband at my side. It was a sunny day and the forest was full of white wild garlic blossoms. Here and there bloomed bright daffodils and pale narcissi. Birds were singing. I was cheering up. [B.A.] was cheerful, too, contemplating a weekend of bachelor-style freedom, which in his case means long, luxurious hours reading in the tea room of the National Portrait Gallery.
His holiday began (i.e. he vamoosed) when we spotted the happy faces of the Girl Guides. The girls belong to an independent Scouting company which emphasizes both the Catholic faith and traditional Scouting as it was envisioned by Lord Baden-Powell and not , ahem, cultural Marxism. The girls are Scots, their leaders mostly French, the devotions traditional and it’s all very sweet. At the end of our jolly Saturday night campfire, we prayed the rosary in the drizzle and when our Redemptorist chaplain said he’d like to pronounce a blessing, the girls—aged 11 to 16—fell to their knees in the mud. Father was highly impressed.
There were many joyful moments during this camp, but I think my favourite happened after the girls proved to a leader that they had memorized the Guide Law. “I know a song version of that,” I offered shyly, and the leader left me to hand on this English-language tradition.
We were in a rustic cottage that Baden-Powell himself had visited. The dining hall looked positively mediaeval with its low timber ceiling and long refectory table. I sang the song several times with the girls before recalling that it is a marching tune. I began to march jauntily around the table and at once the girls fell into step behind me. We marched and sang the laws at the top of our Girl Guide lungs. And the girls—clever, creative, joyous, pious girls—began to add variations to the march. They marched tall, they marched small, they cried “Taran-tara!” Before my eyes, they made the grand old tradition fresh and new, their very own, without altering a word.
“We attract people with our joy,” said the Redemptorist in his Sunday homily, and it’s true. The joy of the innocent Guides made me feel once again the intoxicating joy of Catholicism. Although we adults need to ponder the Church’s trials and suffering, we must remember to hang onto her joy.
*Not to be confused with the American "National Catholic Register"
Update: Here's my blogpost about the camp; there was a request!