Sunday, 16 June 2013

Back in Jerusalem

'If English was good enough for Jesus Christ it is good enough for me.' 
(Allegedly said by a politician in the American South, but really a canard.)

I should write a book about Americans. If I did I might get to understand them. I am on the internet in the Notre Dame centre which is an odd and very American combination of  religious institution and four staff hotel, just outside the walled city.  It was built in the 1880s but restored in the 1970s and feels very 1970s. Every guest (pilgrim) seems to be American.  

Around me are Americans talking across me at the top of the voices. One offers to send me a video about the history of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. When I suggest we cannot know if the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is built on the site of Calvary he looks absolutely furious. As if I had doubted the existence of God. He is not going to send me that link. I feel like a dangerous freethinker. I begin to understand for the first time why some people are pleased to be atheists.

One expects more subtlety from Catholics, but American Catholicism is very Protestant, just as Romanian Catholicism (happily) is very Orthodox. The Catholicism of this place seems breezy and cheerful, like the late Senator Edward Kennedy's grin. It has none of the darkness of the Spanish baroque, for example. On the first floor the interior of an English Gothic church has been created. Mercifully, though, the evening Mass is half in Latin.  I wish the last pope had ordered every church in the world to say or sing the Gloria, Credo and Sanctus in Latin, but I tell myself to be self-forgetful and obedient.

I saw this poster in the kasbah in the Christian quarter, from the good old days. 'No photographs' read the sign alongside it.

I like travelling alone and coming closer to ones true self than when at home. I like meeting new people. I like the solitude though there is perhaps faint undercurrent of not displeasing melancholy. I like this quotation from Thomas De Quincey which I just came across:

Solitude, though it may be silent as light, is like light, the mightiest of agencies; for solitude is essential to man. All men come into this world alone and leave it alone.


  1. Speaking of believing, can you believe I read through half of this Post and had to halt in disgust. You are aware that there are many orthodox Catholics in the U.S. Notre Dame is certainly representative of protestant Catholic-
    ism. And Ed(as I like to call him) Kennedy is
    represensative of worse. Your impression of Catholic Americans is sadly of the worst, one
    unfortunately mingles with.
    I'll finish reading when I tamp down my disgust.

  2. Okay now that I've shared my thoughts about this most unappealing representation of Catholic Americans. full stop!
    I am joyful at your comment about Latin in the Mass. A kind of
    self forgetfulness is not meant to be concerning the Churh and it's historical, theological memory. And you are not being
    disobedient. The Latin Mass has never been abrogated by the Church. Blesses.