Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Head for the hills!!

Here we go again. You all will see that I've put the begging bowl up on the sidebar again, and yes, I need some help.

Don't worry, it's not C. But it's one of those times when all the Big Expensive Things seem to be happening at once. It goes like that I guess. You see the first one coming and you adjust and figure out how to deal and you reckon you've got it worked out... then comes the second one and you're all, "OK, well just give me a little time and I'll work this one in too..." Then... holy helps!! as Grandpa used to say, who could expect that piano to fall out of the cargo plane and land directly on your head?!

But before we get into the Battalions of troubles, I've got some news: I'm moving.

Yep, there.

The time is right and the auguries are all pointing to the need for some rather large changes. For a long time, I've complained both publicly and privately that my spiritual life is at a bit of a low.

Having had a good deal of time to think about things recently, it's clear that the succession of events, a lot of which I've not written about publicly, has really knocked the stuffing out of my "faith life". (Good grief! how I loathe frivolous God-talk!)

Oddly enough, living in Italy has significantly reduced my day to day involvement with the Faith. One would think that proximity to the Pope and all those incorrupt saints lying around in their baroque Snow White coffins would be sort of inspirational. But things have happened, let's just say.

Cancer treatment left me largely housebound and these days the trip into the City [to go to Mass at the parish] is hugely troublesome. A day in town must be paid for with two days in bed, and the rest of the week exhausted and draggy... I guess there's only so much I can force my poor old battered body to do.

And I haven't really got very much better since I wrote that post over two years ago. Indeed, as to Mass attendance and public liturgical devotions, the situation has actually gone downhill. I've found it more and more difficult either to drag myself all the way into the City on Sunday mornings or to face the horrors of the NO, with all its glories of the tambourines and hand-holding. Stuck in a bind.

And I am remembering more and more that I used to go to Mass every day. And I would sprint back to the church on Sunday evenings for Solemn Vespers. I had thought that the love of the liturgy was dying out in my wee soul, but after a week in Norcia I realise that it was really just starving to death. For a week, I attended at least five of the Offices a day and Mass, and there it was! my devotion!... I thought I'd lost it, but apparently it got up and moved to this astonishing little town in Umbria without telling me.

For some time now, I've felt the need to make a change, and for a while wanted to go to Malta to study at the university. But that has turned out to be, for the moment, logistically impossible. (Also, the Maltese Church has yet to figure out that the only way it's going to survive is to revert to the traditions that got tossed 50 years ago... There are problems, let's just say.)

So I sat down and thought and consulted smart people, and asked myself what I really, actually need. A week in Norcia answered the question. It turned out to be simple, and that I had known it all along:

What's the most important thing you have to do in this life? Save your immortal soul.

How do you do that? Through the ordinary means of the sacramental life.

What if you can't get that where you live? You have to go somewhere you can get it.

What if you don't want to give up the nice friends and seaside lifestyle? Those things are important, but not as important as the other thing. If you were physically starving, and there were no food in your house, you'd go out and buy some, right? If there were no shops, you would go and forage. If you couldn't find any food, you would leave your home and go pretty far to find some. Right? Well... this is the food of the soul, and without it...

So, when I was up there, I consulted and talked to people, and, as with most of these things in life, by the time I'd finished all that the decision had pretty much just made itself.

Now, here's the weird, spooky part. I sat in the basilica, and said, "OK Lord, I think it's a good idea, and so do these important people I consult. But if You think it's a good idea, You'll have to show me by a sign. And a helpful sign would be to find the right flat or house for rent. Here's my list..."

I started simple: clean, quiet and outside the walls but close enough to not be too hard to get to the Basilica for Mass and the Office. Then I added some bonus points for a fireplace, bath tub, garden and a view

of the Valnerina,

...just to make it so hard that the only way to fulfil all of it would be divine intervention. Clever huh? A priest friend of mine told me once that when you're asking for signs in discernment, you have to be specific, and make it hard. I figured I had it licked. I had seen places in S. Marinella with one each of those, but never with all of them together.

So the next morning, the last day before I was to leave, I set out with Sandro, the nice realtor, who showed me three places: one was a rather unpleasant holiday flat in someone's house (no). The second, quite a nice ground floor place with a garden. Mmmm...not bad, a bit dark...no fireplace...kitchen a bit small... which I was going to take because it more or less fit the bill. We left the second place and I said, "Well, why don't we just go see the other one? You never know..."

We drove a little further up the hill from the City's main gate and parked. On one side of the road, the land dropped off steeply giving way to an amazing vista of the valley, spread out like a rumpled green blanket. On the other, the hill continued straight up, and there was a three story villa built on the side of the hill. The entrance was through a gate and steps that brought you up past two levels of terraced garden and into the side entrance of the house that was the middle floor flat. The whole valley-side of the house has a row of shuttered windows looking out over the valley for miles. Inside, the kitchen is huge as are two of the three bedrooms. The fireplace is functional, and the bath is one of those English jumbo kind with a sloping back. We went through the house opening windows and I was almost laughing.

The flat below is empty and the flat above is occupied for about two weeks a year by the owners who live in Calabria the rest of the year.

I asked how much, and when Sandro quoted the rent, I realised that if I took it, I would be paying less than half of what it's costing me to keep this place now. I looked up at heaven and said, OK, I get it. Thanks.

The next day I told Sandro to please start drawing up a contract for one year and left him my information before getting on the bus back to Rome-Horrible-Rome.

So, now I'm working my way step by step through the mountain of things I've got to do, and am a wee bit intimidated. And dear heavens! the money! I started choking a bit when I got an estimate from a mover (after four years and a bunch more furniture, we're finally past the stage in my life where I can move with a few friends, a two-four of beer and a rented van). So far they're saying between €1000 and €1200 to pick up, pack and deliver.

I have to pay off the gas and electric for this place, which, due to the peculiarities of Italian utility billing systems, is going to be another €2000 or so, and then there's the new place, which is going to require, as always, first and last, damage deposit and Sandro's fee, which I figure will all come to about €1500.

Which, let's see.. do the math... comes to...Holy cats!!

But I was going to soldier on, cobbling it all together with my own salary and loans from friends and some extra work I could pick up. I told myself, (breathe, breathe...) it doesn't have to all happen right this second, and the utilities will let me pay off the balance for the estimates on a monthly schedule (it's complicated... Italy...) and the new place is such a low rent (normal in rapidly emptying rural Umbria) that the whole thing will work itself out before long. Just grit teeth and get through...

Haha... funny you should mention teeth...

For the last couple of weeks, I've been fighting a rather unpleasant abscess on a tooth that has been troubling me for decades. Seven years ago, just before I left Toronto, it flared up with a ferocious infection caught through an exposed root and I was in an agony I can't describe. The emergency dentist I saw gave me a prescription for antibiotics and said the dreaded words: "root canal". For the first time in my life, I'm starting to feel like a real grownup because the words filled me not with dread of pain, but of money. In Canada, as in Britain and Italy, you have to pay for your own dental, and root canal work is between 500 and 1000 wherever you go. I didn't have that kind of money then, and still don't.

Well, the other day, the swelling got started and culminated in this... well, I won't give details. I got some amoxycilin and crossed my fingers. They're still crossed, but facts have to be faced, as do dentists. And honestly, a root canal, once the initial difficulties are over with, is preferable to the recurring trouble and chronic pain and sensitivity of the damn thing untreated. It hasn't started hurting yet, and it hasn't been long enough with the antibiotic to see if it's going to get better and settle down for a few more months. So, I'm hoping it can be pushed back a bit.

So, it's kind of a funny thing. All this banal life stuff has succeeded in distracting me from that giant, flaming Asteroid. The week in Norcia (after recovering from the trip home) has left me chipper and energetic. And hopeful. The truth is that this place was just too expensive. Rents in S. Mar. have come way down since I moved here six years ago, and if it weren't for the Mass and Sacraments problem I'd happily take a cheaper flat across town. But it's not just that. More than that, I have known for a long time that I have not been living the way I need to be living, or doing the things I need to be doing.

And something is drawing me; time's up, and I have hopes that some things that have been a long time unresolved will be sorted out by this change.

There's more to tell, of course, and I'll tell it soon,

but for now, I could really use some help.


....but in the meantime,

Nero Norcia is the annual Tartufo nero festival. Black gold. My friend and I visited right in the middle of all this in February.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Weird Italy

There's a lot of little things about living in Italy as an Anglo that you don't expect and find completely baffling when you get here. In the summer, very close to the top of that baffling list, is the baffling fact that Italians never, ever have screens on their windows, despite the entire country being infested with mosquitoes.

They sell them. I've seen them in hardware stores. But no one has them. And it's not like Italians are immune to mozzies, or like getting bitten or anything hyperweird like that. Every spring the shops all fill up their anti-zanzare shelves with 50 different kinds of repellant, citronella candles and smoking coils, electric bug-zappers et al. But the simple solution of putting screens on the windows appears to have totally gone past them as a nation.

One of the first things I did when I moved into my flat in humid Santa Marinella was march down to the ferramenta and buy several boxes of those mozzie-curtains and affixed them to all the window frames. I'm the only one in the building. I think I might be the only one in town.

I also put my childhood fort-building skills to work and sewed a bunch of the nets together to make one huge one, and built a net-tent for the bed. You buy those cheap expanding curtain rods and set them with duct tape on the four corners of the bedframe for tent poles, and drape the nets over them, holding it all together with tension created by clothes pegs.

I mention all this now because the curtain I put up over the big bay window in the sitting room fell down while I was out of town and I haven't put it back up yet. I opened the windows wide this morning to air out the flat, and as I was having my tea, a wonderful huge hummingbird hawkmoth just zoomed in like a dive bomber. I tried to catch it but it has gone to hide, and possibly to meet it's maker, in the living room light fixture. I hope it flies out again. So does Winnie.

The times I've had very interesting insects in the house have been the rare moments I've let the curtains down, and that's kind of fun. What isn't fun is the mozzies feasting on your flesh like invisible flying zombie-vampires, so the screen goes back up tonight.

But I don't get the Italian aversion to window screens.


Nostalgia food

I love Kraft Dinner. I'll admit it right now. I know, I know, it's fake, it's plastic food, it's a mean fist of carbs, but I can't help it. I love the stuff. (You Americans call it "Mac and Cheese". One time I was in a house full of people including a bunch of kids, and the mum was making KD for the kids to have before the grownup food was put on for supper later. I took one look at that huge pot of glowing orangey-goodness and begged to have some. Yes, I'll take food out of the mouths of children as long as it's KD.

I also love tinned Campbell's chicken noodle soup. So many happy memories of a bowl of that lovely salty stuff, slurping up the noodles with a grilled cheese (cheddar, of course) sandwich on the side.

What are some awful packaged fake-food you like?

(Oh man, I'm so hungry!)


Thursday, September 18, 2014

In Norcia

Writing from an enoteca on St. Benedict's Piazza. Just been to Compline. Will be here a week.

Modernia, the Asteroid 2.0, the War and the Apocalypse can all just get on without me for a few days.

Working, but no posts.

Go pray the Rosary or something.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Only one problem with that eremtical life...

the constant stream of people.

If it were me, I'd be up on the hill above the trail chucking pine cones at em...

Get off my lawn!!


We are done!

OK that is IT!! I am solving this problem once and for all.

I hereby ban for all time and for all people everywhere the use of the apostrophe. There will be no more problem with "you're" "they're" or "it's". There will simply be no further use allowed of any verbal contractions.

To show possession, all persons confessing to use the English language shall from this moment forward revert to the archaic form of showing possession by writing it out complete: "mother, her book" or "the book of mother".

It might seem a bit weird at first, but we will soon get used to it, and it will be better than having to go through life either fighting the urge to shout at the computer screen or explaining the correct usage over and over.

And it will have the added advantage of making all writing sound like Jane Austen. Which can only be for the betterment of all.



The Door to Narnia

What if you knew a secret formula, a chant or an incantation, a method of getting to Narnia, or even to Aslan's own country? Would you use it? What if the only way to make the magic work, the true magic, was to make an immense personal sacrifice? Would you do it then? What if it required the sacrifice of everything you have, and took the rest of your life? And you had to give up everything and go live in a completely different way, in a different place... worth it?

What if there were a little stone house, a kind of gatehouse, where on one side of the house you came through the door in this world, and across the room there is a little wooden door, and every day, eight times a day, starting very early in the morning, you had been asked to open the door and sit in the doorway and look through, and as long as you have sung the proper song in the proper language, that doorway would show you the world that you have longed all your life to go to, would you do that?

This is a little story of a man who came from Poland to live in a little stone house high above a secret valley in the mystical Sibelline mountains in Umbria, the cradle of Western monasticism.

It is translated from here.

Hermit for love, for love that transforms the world, destroys evil, invents the good and hope. For this love Tadeusz came from Poland and climbed the mountain to live in solitude among wild boars, foxes, weasels and eagles. The resort in Val Castoriana branch of the Nera Valley is not even marked on maps, as are the villages of the Valley, Acquaro di Nera, Collescille that form the bastion. It was the cradle of the first hermit's life in Italy, as evidenced by the rock caves and inhabited by St. Fiorenzo and Sant'Eutizio, who migrated from Syria in the fifth century as a result of the persecutions of the Emperor Anastasius Aryan Dikoro and heretical bishop Severus of Antioch. The young St. Benedict frequented these places of Umbria that exude peace and holiness, who drew inspiration for founding his monasteries at Subiaco.

You come to the hermitage of San Fiorenzo, which dates back to the tenth century and is perched on a steep slope (near the walls is the ancient collapsed cave where the saint lived), after walking for half an hour along a narrow and steep trail that breathes the air of the firs and larches of a mountain that reaches 1,100 meters.

When Tadeusz discovered it ten years ago, it was a ruin, the vaults collapsed, the roof caved, the church unsafe. He rebuilt stone by stone, leading by hand the material from the valley, supported by the persuasion of having arrived at the place destined by the God who, had the first time, called him to the hermit's life when he was 15 years old. "But I do not, then I said. I wanted a normal life. After high school I have been in the military, such as 684 days in jail, because communism fell in 1989, but in the army things changed slowly. Then I worked for two years, but the "Voice" continued to pursue me. Nothing to do, it was so strong that I left parents, friends, projects, entered in the Work of Providence of Don Orione in Warsaw and took a first year of novitiate. "

"I did not want to be a priest," continues Tadeusz. "I came to Rome in '90 and from there to where I lived with the Monte Corona Camaldolese monks eight months. I was happy and strong, but still was not what I wanted. There is a profound difference between community life as a hermit and that in total solitude. If you live alone in a hermitage there is a complete insecurity, you have to abandon yourself completely to Divine Providence. Between you and God there is no means, are in direct contact with the eternal Father." So Tadeusz, consecrated layman, diocesan hermit, after receiving the Rule approved by his bishop, began a life of prayer, silence, penance, manual labor, waiting every day that "the Lord did his part."

"Here you are at the center of the world"

And God has answered the call. Here there are people who have brought him food, and offer material for the restoration of the hermitage, now back to the ancient understated beauty with the chapel overlooking the valley, the cell with a bed, a table for work and study, a kitchen, a room to accommodate guests. The electrical energy is supplied by a solar panel, the burning of the wood used for economic stove.

On Sunday, Tadeusz descends to the fields five miles on foot, to help the priest during Mass, families invite him to lunch, someone needs your help, then back up the mountain to listen to the silent God and to pray for all the people of the planet. "I have here in the center of the world, so many times I see it well, often less well. I try to see the positive things. As Christians, we must be witnesses of joy. We're so sad and so not cooperate with the grace of God which sends us the energy to overcome the difficulties and trials, provided that we know take advantage of it."

To this energy Tadeusz appeals in times of distress and temptation, when solitude is disturbed by stormy thoughts. It's the time of Jesus, led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. But even when the temptations are silent, the hermit's life is never at rest. "The struggle for the control of thought and mind can endure for a lifetime. So should we take the mind and hold it in prayer, soak in the name of Jesus 24 hours a day, as do the monks in the east, claiming: "Lord Jesus, Son of the living God, have mercy on us." This prayer enters into the heart, whether you're working, sleeping or praying. Salt inside of you with a burning heat impurities and restores serenity and peace."

"The monks of the desert," continues Tadeusz, "on the window sill put a handful of pebbles with two containers, one right, one left. If it was a good thought, put a pebble on the right, if you arrive a bad one, a pebble on the left. The evening did an examination of conscience: if there were more stones to the right supper, or skipping the meal. "

"In the silence of gathering myself"

And to those who think that the hermits "flee from the news" to carve out a world of their own, Tadeusz replies: "You do not become hermits to escape from the world and its troubles, but to make a life of sacrifice and penance that gives the brothers of human companionship more help than they would have given if I had stayed among them. Live forever in the world, even if you live out of the world. With Jesus I can get anywhere. If something goes wrong on Earth is my fault, because I just prayed. But the brethren of the city, which became a chicken coop, where you are forced to frantically produce "eggs" for the food chain of consumerism and enrich those who give the food, I say that to find yourself and the meaning of life is necessary to rediscover the value of be quiet. "


Friday, September 12, 2014

It used to be normal

Rubbish. This is just normal knitting speed for someone who was taught properly in childhood.

This is one of the great crimes of modernity, the robbing of these skills from young people. I grew up watching my mother and grandmother and their friends doing this constantly. None of them ever went out without some kind of needle work tucked into their purses, and any time they had reason to wait, in the post office, at a bus stop, out would come the stuff and off they went. Throughout my childhood, I took it for granted that this is just what ladies did.

And they all knitted this fast. Crochet too. Later in life, my mother took up bobbin lace and tatting.
So familiar were the movements that when I finally decided to pick it up myself, at 16, it took a few lessons from the (of course) English mother of a friend, and in no time at all, my fingers just automatically started doing what I had grown up watching.

But I realised how culturally impoverished modern young people have become when I took some knitting with me to a meeting of student pro-lifers in Toronto one weekend. As the speakers were talking, I sat at my spot working on a pair of socks. They were all fascinated, and quite taken aback. I told them that my mother had knitted her way through her undergraduate degree (maths and marine biology). She said it drove her professors mad to see her there, fingers flying, looking as though she wasn't paying attention, but they soon learned that it actually aids concentration. These days of course, the kids sit in class looking at their phones and tablets. (Note to self, if I ever teach a class in anything, the first person to pull out their phone while I'm talking will get the ruler across the fingers.)

Mothers, if you don't know how to do these things, learn them, and do them in front of your kids. Save Western Civilisation; learn to knit.


Monday, September 08, 2014

The Skinner Box

I'm a bit worried the internet is ruining my life. What if it's all a giant BF Skinner experiment? Think about it. The headshrinkers have discovered that you get a teeny, tiny dopamine jazz every time you see an email or a FB message come in. Or every time someone retweets something you've said, or leaves a message in your blog commbox. A friend of mine used to call them "love bubbles" and said it didn't take long after signing up for FB before she found she was pretty much addicted to them. She solved the problem by quitting Facebook cold turkey.

And then she became a cloistered Carmelite nun. So, you know...

I'm just remembering something I read a long time ago about an experiment with mice. The mice were addicted to some popular drug, and taught they could get a dose if they depressed a switch. Then they were put in a cage in which there was one switch for food and another for the drug. The switch for the food would work every time, but the switch for the drug would only work randomly. The mice ignored the food switch and clicked the drug switch constantly. When the food switch was turned off, they kept clicking the drug switch incessantly until they starved to death.

BF Skinner was a bad man, but he raised an important question:
[He] invented the operant conditioning chamber, also known as the Skinner Box. He was a firm believer of the idea that human free will was actually an illusion and any human action was the result of the consequences of that same action. If the consequences were bad, there was a high chance that the action would not be repeated; however if the consequences were good, the actions that led to it would be reinforced. He called this the principle of reinforcement.

Is the internet really just one vast Skinner Box?

Where's my tiny dopamine rush?


A great pair of shades

So, for the umpteenth time, I forgot to take off my sunglasses when I went in swimming, and, sure enough, after tucking them down the front of my suit, they worked their way up and out, just as I hit the deep end of the pool. I tried to grab them, but just barely too late. It was about seven feet, so, I figured, no big deal. Ditched the snorkel and dove down. They were just out of reach, and I realised that it was actually more like ten feet, and I'd gone into the part of the water between the two breakwaters and it was cold and deep.

On the second try, I blew out all the air in my lungs to get down lower and juuuuust barely didn't quite get them. Back up and treading water, I realised, was going to create more movement in the water that might push them deeper, so before I had quite caught my breath, down I went for a third try. As I was blowing the air out again and swimming down as hard as I could, I thought, "Man, this would be a really stupid and embarrassing way to die." Just as that thought was fully formed, I managed to grab them.

Human stupidity apparently knows no bounds. But they really are quite a good pair of shades.


Thursday, September 04, 2014

Meet John, the Kinesin motor-protein

When I was lying around the house all day recovering from chemo, I watched a lot of interesting YT videos on microbiology and cell biology and kind of fell in love with kinesins, those intrepid and fearless little motor proteins marching stoically back and forth across their microtubule highways, towing their outsize dirigbles of proteins and cell nutrients along, giving their all so that you can have healthy cells, no matter what kind of crap you've put your body through. They're steadfast, if somewhat goofy-looking, friends.

Meet John, the Kinesin motor-protein


Things popes say: Jesus "instructed them in order to convert them"

Beware of
"this distortion of the Gospel and to the sacred character of Our Lord Jesus Christ, God and man, prevailing within the Sillon and elsewhere. As soon as the social question is being approached, it is the fashion in some quarters to first put aside the divinity of Jesus Christ, and then to mention only His unlimited clemency, His compassion for all human miseries, and His pressing exhortations to the love of our neighbor and to the brotherhood of men.

True, Jesus has loved us with an immense, infinite love, and He came on earth to suffer and die so that, gathered around Him in justice and love, motivated by the same sentiments of mutual charity, all men might live in peace and happiness. But for the realization of this temporal and eternal happiness, He has laid down with supreme authority the condition that we must belong to His Flock,

- that we must accept His doctrine,

- that we must practice virtue, and

- that we must accept the teaching and guidance of Peter and his successors.

Further, whilst Jesus was kind to sinners and to those who went astray, He did not respect their false ideas, however sincere they might have appeared. He loved them all, but

He instructed them in order to convert them and save them.

Whilst He called to Himself in order to comfort them, those who toiled and suffered, it was not to preach to them the jealousy of a chimerical equality.

Whilst He lifted up the lowly, it was not to instill in them the sentiment of a dignity independent from, and rebellious against, the duty of obedience.

Whilst His heart overflowed with gentleness for the souls of good-will, He could also arm Himself with holy indignation against the profaners of the House of God, against the wretched men who scandalized the little ones, against the authorities who crush the people with the weight of heavy burdens without putting out a hand to lift them. He was as strong as he was gentle.

He reproved, threatened, chastised, knowing, and teaching us that fear is the beginning of wisdom, and that it is sometimes proper for a man to cut off an offending limb to save his body.

Finally, He did not announce for future society the reign of an ideal happiness from which suffering would be banished; but, by His lessons and by His example, He traced the path of the happiness which is possible on earth and of the perfect happiness in heaven: the royal way of the Cross.

These are teachings that it would be wrong to apply only to one's personal life in order to win eternal salvation; these are eminently social teachings, and they show in Our Lord Jesus Christ something quite different from an inconsistent and impotent humanitarianism.


Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Save Malta!!

This is a blegging letter, but it's not for me. It's for Malta's only active pro-life and pro-family organisation, formed this summer, to start their work pushing back against the Culture of Death, the Culture of Nihilism and suicidal despair, that has turned its sights on their little Catholic island. We need help to fund a single person (not me) to go there and start running workshops training the Maltese Catholics to defend their home from the Ideology of the New Paradigm.

Read and then follow the link to their PayPal account. They need £250 to cover airfare for this person to fly down from England.

Again, this is not for me. It's for Malta.


So, y'all know I've been kind of in love with Malta in the last little while... well, there's problems down there in the little Catholic paradise.

I know we all know that Malta is the Last Man Standing. With the fall of Ireland, there is now not another single EU nation that entirely outlaws abortion for any reason. For many years, we enjoyed covering the news from Malta's interactions withe the gender ideologues, including the pro-abortion feminists at the UN. Time after time, they would dutifully show up at the annual CEDAW meetings and ever so politely tell the UN abortion-pushers where to put their ideology.

But a few years ago, that started to change:

Malta’s MEPs were among a small bloc at the EU who worked against the recent failed proposal by socialists and abortion activists that would have forced member states to consider direct abortion a “right”. But a December 12th op-ed in the Times of Malta warned that the Estrela Report is not going to be the last attempt to impose the rest of Europe’s abortion regime on their country.

“The daily sifting through pro-life articles makes me feel uneasy at the status quo of the pro-life work being done in Malta. Are we doing enough by way of educating our society as regards building a culture of life? Are we getting prepared for the next onslaught by some EU body on Malta,” Miriam Sciberras asked.

As we know, the reason we use the term "totalitarian" to describe it, is that the Ideologues of Death cannot leave a single corner of the world un-converted. There will be no exception made for any little corner, any little Shirefolk who want to just be left alone.

And brother, are they working on Malta! In 2005, the government, seeing the social catastrophe it precipitated everywhere else, said they would never legalise divorce. It was legalised in 2011. Since then the dominoes have been falling quickly. In incredibly rapid succession, (almost as if it had been planned) homosexual "civil unions" were legalised this year. This month, as the first civil unions were legally registered, Helena Dalli, the Socialist government's Minister for Social Dialogue (I'm not kidding) went to Budapest...

Dalli was head of the Maltese delegation to UN’s Universal Period Review, which took place in the fall of 2013. According to the report, Dalli’s delegation affirmed that Malta’s “new Government was fully committed to the protection of the rights of LGBTI persons.”

The document noted that only “a few weeks after being elected,” the Labour Party government, which came to power in March last year, amended the Maltese Civil Code “to allow persons who underwent a legally recognized gender change to be recognized in the new gender acquired, in those remaining areas where it was hitherto not acknowledged.”

Last month, we saw the passage of the "transgender anti-discrimination" bill. This was the fulfilment of a promise by Helena Dalli to a “transgender” congress in Hungary in May that while her government’s focus had been mainly on homosexuals, they would shortly be turning their attention to “trans” people.

“A month ago, we enacted a Civil Unions law with rights and duties on a par with marriage for same and different-gender couples,” she said.

“On the same day, we amended the Constitution in such a way as to provide protection on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. I am told that we are the first country in Europe to have included an express reference to gender identity in the Constitution.”

As one of the most useful barometers of the homosexualist ideology's advance, Wikipedia's LGBTQI pages, put it:
"Rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Malta have improved in recent years. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity is legal in Malta. A bill creating civil unions equal to marriage in all but name, with the same rights and obligations including joint adoption rights and recognition of foreign same sex marriage, was enacted in April 2014."

So rapid has been the advance of the New Paradigm in Malta that it received somewhat surprised praise from no less a source than ILGA Europe who named Malta, with Montenegro, one of Europe’s two “fastest climbers”.

Paulo CĂ´rte-Real, co-chair of ILGA-Europe’s executive board, said in a statement attached to the organization’s Annual Review, “It is very encouraging to see countries like Malta and Montenegro make such huge progress in the space of one year. It shows that so much is possible when there is political leadership, especially when it is coupled with meaningful engagement of civil society.”

The ideologues must be licking their chops, because Malta is ripe for the plucking, their people softened and their leaders distracted and divided. And we know what's coming. The country's slide from the Faith, its adoption of easygoing European hedonism, along with European subsidies, will, as it always does, be inseparably coupled with European materialism, European ant-Catholicism, European anti-natalism, European socialism and, finally, the logical conclusion: European auto-genocide.

Why is it important? Malta's tiny. There are just under 420,000 people in the whole place.

Why was it important to Suleiman the Magnificent to bring the island to heel? Why did the Axis bomb the place to pancakes? Why is it important to totalitarian ideologues to have no tiny little place left in the world willing to stand up to them? Why did ILGA Europe hold their annual general meeting in Valletta last year?

On the whole, the reason the country is under threat is simple: the Maltese have not bothered to do anything to stop it. Indeed, they seem barely to have noticed. They are a Catholic country, and as is common among cultural Catholics of our post-Conciliar times, they have simply assumed that this was enough. In a nation with 95-98% of the population calling itself Catholic, it seems not to have occurred to anyone that they need to defend themselves against the incursions of this foreign ideology. They are Catholics who do not care about being Catholic. Not the laity nor the clergy nor the episcopate. Malta has also adopted Novusordoism without a single twitch of a qualm.

And the results are, as we would imagine, depressingly predictable.

In the last ten years, Malta's rate of Mass attendance has fallen from about 80% to about 50. From my own observations, I can attest that while their churches may be full, it is the usual story of cotton-tops and their grand children, dragged reluctantly along.

And perhaps most tellingly of all, the total fertility rate is barely above the European standard, at 1.45 children born per woman. Contraceptive use is rampant, and, as everywhere else in what used to be called Christendom, has been met in the Church by a determined clerical silence.

At the moment, the Maltese news is full of dark implications that there is a "power struggle" going on within the Maltese Church. Who knows what that means. And, given the general tenor of life in the Catholic Church at the moment, who knows how it is going to affect the situation there.

But in the midst of this unprecedented rise of the Big Dark, there is one little ray of hope. I recently wrote a column in which I said that Malta's third Great Siege is coming. Indeed, is already inside the gates, which the new ideological invaders found standing open and largely unguarded. Well, it turns out someone there was paying attention.

My recent visits to Malta haven't all been about swimming and pastizzi. I met each time with members of the nation's newest, (and as far as I can tell, only) comprehensive pro-life, pro-family, anti-New Paradigm organisation, the Life Network.

I recently spoke on the phone with their leader, who told me that there had been a meeting with the Maltese president, who had "assured us that the government would never legislate for abortion."

Just like the government of equally Catholic Ireland would never legalise abortion?

Just like your own government would never legalise divorce?

I warned her not ever to believe anything a politician says about abortion.

As I said, we had meetings, and we had a few dinners, which were also meetings. And I told them that they are the last ones. That in all the western world, there is no other place who has said no to the Culture of Death, who has stopped them covering the world in their shadow.

I told them that as grim as it looked, there could be a chance in Malta of turning back the tide. They have three things in their favour. However corrupted their Church has become since the Council, the Maltese are still a deeply Catholic nation. They may have been lulled to sleep with promises of soft pillows and a quiet night, but that 98% rating is still meaningful there.

And it's a tiny country. If they wanted to, if they were determined enough, they really could actually go door-to-door and talk to nearly every person in the country.

And third, Malta has them. This little group of people have been woken up. They've heard the drums and have they are starting to understand the threat their ancient and beautiful country faces.

A few weeks ago, the leadership of this group held a small backyard barbeque for pro-life students at the University of Malta with a view to founding a pro-life and pro-family student group. It was in July, and Maltese university students often spend their summers away on work placements, and still 23 students showed up, with about the same number sending a message saying they would be ready to join such a group. There are plans to go ahead with a campus pro-life group in the new academic year, which starts in October.

This group, that meets in a small office every Saturday, told me that they felt they were ready for any fight that might come, but that they needed to be equipped to make the case in the public forum. So, I have put them in touch with a group in England who trains pro-life leaders. This group has arranged for one of their members to go over there. This person has just done a four month training internship in Calgary with the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform to learn to do exactly this work. Their work is to go to other countries to teach pro-life people how to make the case and fight in the public square.

The ticket has been purchased, and the workshop booked.

We just need some help paying for it. They need about £250.

If you want to be a part of the Great Pushback in the world's last pro-life country,

go to their page and donate.


Sing to me of a warm pastizz in the morning sunshine

Well, my Maltese Pastizzi experiment has been broadly a success. The filling was a huge pain but only because it was nine freaking hours of simmering the peas. I'm told this is because of the high calcium content of our water, and because the peas were old. Get better peas and put a new filter in the jug. On the whole, the only drawback is that the filling takes a long time to prepare, but it doesn't require too much attention. It's mostly just "put it in the fridge over night" sort of thing.

Soak about two cups of dry split peas in a bowl overnight. Then wash them in a colander to get the extra starch off. Then simmer in water with a cube and a half of mushroom stock, a blob of tomato paste and some fresh mint. Simmer until they're soft. If they stubbornly stay slightly crunchy, which happens frequently with dry split peas, just get them to the point where they're chewable and put about half of it in the blender, then back with the rest of the peas. Boil off the remaining extra water while you're standing over them stirring (that last bit is important; peas love to stick to the bottom of the pan and burn, then they're ruined because they also love to pick up the burnt flavour) until it's a nice thick paste. Let it cool to room temp or in the fridge over night.

I used a roll of store-bought puff dough. Take the roll out of the packet and off the wax paper. Roll it back up into a snake and cut the pieces about three or four inches long. With your hands coated in flour, just form them into the little envelopes and pinch them closed.

The pastry opened at the top as they baked, but you can fix that. Just a little egg wash will glue them closed, and if that doesn't work, you can just use a wee bit more dough and form a more bowl-like shape as in the video below. Dough pockets open on the top because as they bake the water boils off and the dough shrinks, so it pulls apart at the join, which is the weak spot. The solution is to stretch the dough pocket a little more when you're forming them.

On the whole, however, they really are just more or less the same as the ones we had in Malta, and they're really simple to make. Have with your tea in the morning like the Maltese do, or they'll go perfectly for 3 o'clock tea time or elevensies.

Just don't do it every day, or you'll be four hundred pounds by the end of the week.

Also, there's a song. A pastizzi song. Sing the song. It will cheer you up.

Not to Maltese standards of cheeryness, but I think that's impossible unless you have the right genes.