I think the most alienating thing about a return to the city and to work is the tyranny of the digital age. How good it was not to be at the beck and call of emails, with their ability to find you anytime and the concomitant implication that their speed and ease of flight should be mirrored in your instant reply. It’s the correspondence equivalent of changing the rules of tennis so that you have to volley every service at the net instead of allowing it to bounce towards the baseline.
It strikes me as crazy that the modern equivalent of bread and circuses is a lottery whose lure of untold wealth is predicated on the statistical near-impossibility of matching five or six random numbers. Yet every time I want to do anything involving viewing, buying, communicating, voting, parking or paying tax online I have to remember endless sequences of random numbers and letters of Byzantine complexity. And if I can’t, I have effectively ceased to exist.
The world being run by computers is not a world I like, because it has no place for the individual or the personal. By definition, if your beef with it originates from the unreliability of computers. as the self-cancelling direct debit for my phone does, you are trapped in an impossible Cartesian vortex which can’t direct you to a solution as it can’t conceive that it could have a problem – because if it could it would compute it out.
The final straw was an automated voice menu which included snide inflections in the synthesised voice: “I am trying to help you. I didn’t understand that …” as if to further imply that you are the one with the competence problem.
For all that, the seminary term got off to an edifying start with sung Pontifical Vespers for the 125th anniversary of the building’s opening. All the seminarians were in albs in choir and the new rector took the public oath of fidelity in which he professed the creed and promised to teach the faith in its entirety, as handed down in the creed and magisterium, whether solemnly defined or taught by ordinary magisterium. With his right hand on the Gospels, he spoke the words and appended his signature to the oath, witnessed by the bishop. I sensed it was a thought-provoking moment for all present.
The sonorous cadences reminded us that these young men take their line in a long procession which reaches back not only to those who entered here more than a century ago, whose circumstances and mission field look so different from the contemporary situation. The oath invokes a mission that stretches back to the Apostles, and therefore is resilient enough to transcend any difference of circumstance or place.
How to continue reading…
This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week
The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection