Welcome to the Ink Desk

Enjoy the ponderings of the Star's contributors and add your own thoughts. As this section develops, we hope it may become a medium for an exchange of ideas among those who are working towards the cultural revival.

  • December 17th, 2014Five Books Every Catholic Should Readby Joseph Pearce

    My personal selection of the five indispensable books that every Catholic should read has just been published by Pete Socks on the Catholic Book Blogger. Check it out: 


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  • December 17th, 2014Sorcha Ni Ghuairim, A Voice from Across a Thousand Yearsby Brendan D. King

    Sorcha Ni Ghuairim (1911-1976), a native of the Connemara Peninsula of Western Ireland, is probably one of the greatest Irish Gaelic vocalists ever recorded. Hers was a voice that seems to echo across a thousand years. After decades of fighting for the preservation of the Gaelic language and its musical tradition, Sorcha decided in the 1950s, that she had failed. She moved to London and remained a virtual recluse until her death in 1976.

    But her belief as proved premature. Sorcha's surviving recordings have played and continue to play a major role in Irish traditional music. Among the modern vocalists who have cited Sorcha Ni Ghuarim as a major influence is Roisin Elsafty, a fellow native of the Connemara.

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  • December 17th, 2014A Nod To Distributismby Kevin Kennelly

    Does Small Is Beautiful still work? Luke Johnson believes so ....and probably anyone who has had to interact with a "call center" or a government office (can you say Health Care) this Advent season does also. Modern life has become madness. Mr. Johnson ,in a recent issue of the Financial Times , suspects there is a better way and that such way  happily should appeal to capitalist  and socialist alike ..... and most everyone in between.


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  • December 17th, 2014Flora MacNeil, the Voice of Gaelic Scotlandby Brendan D. King

    Flora MacNeil, OBE, (born 1928) is probably the greatest Scottish Gaelic vocalist ever recorded. A native of the Isle of Barra in the Hebrides, she was first discovered and recorded in 1951 by American musicologist Alan Lomax, who was then attempting to document the folk music tradition of Europe. She played an enormous role in the Scottish folk music revival of the 50's and 60's and continues to have an enormous influence upon more recent vocalists like her daughter Maggie MacInnes, Capercaillie's Karen Matheson, and, most recently, Julie Fowlis. Despite being in her eighties, Flora continues to perform publicly and is regarded as a national treasure.

    The recording below dates from Flora's vocal prime in the 1950's is one of "The Big Songs" as they are called in Gaelic. It is a lament composed by the wife of William Chisholm of Strathglass, who was killed in action while bearing the standard for the Chisholm Clan during the Jacobite Uprising of 1745.

    In the lament, his wife rebukes Prince Charles Edward Stuart, saying that his cause has left her desolate. She then expresses her devastation at the loss of her beloved and names every quality which she loved about her husband.

    To those who love Celtic music and who are curious how it sounds in its traditional form, I present the following:

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  • December 17th, 2014Old England in New Englandby Joseph Pearce

    One of the most rumbustious and rambunctious evenings that I've enjoyed in many a year was at the founding meeting of the Chesterton Society of the Abenaki Lands during one of my regular visits to New Hampshire to teach at Thomas More College. I am, therefore, honoured to be a founding member of this irrepressible and quirkily quixotic band of brothers. The GKCSAL, as it is known acronymically, has now gone live on the American Chesterton Society's website. Those wishing to know more about this band of brothers, who are truly Menalive in the full Chesterbellocian sense, should check out the link:   


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  • December 17th, 2014Elves, Hobbits and Menby Kevin O'Brien

    I just saw one of the very best things EWTN has ever done. 

    "Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings: Elves, Hobbits and Men", hosted by Joseph Pearce and featuring yours truly as J. R. R. Tolkien, with artwork by Jef Murray, directed by Michael Masny, is a brilliant production.  Sadly, if you didn't catch it or record it yesterday, Dec. 16, when it aired, you'll apparently have to wait until the DVDs come out, as it's not scheduled to be rerun any time soon.

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  • December 16th, 2014Class Reunions and Adventby Dena Hunt

    This past summer I got in touch with a childhood friend from the eighth grade. (That’s a very long time ago!) Since she didn’t live far away, I drove up to see her and have lunch together. We had great fun reminiscing about that time. I didn’t graduate with her class because I moved away after that year, but I will definitely go to their class reunion next spring. The year I spent in that little country town was one of the happiest years in memory.

    But I’m almost afraid to go to the reunion, not because I’m afraid I’ll be disappointed in the people I see there—how we’ve aged and changed—but because of all I hear and read about reunions in general. Specifically, old scores that demand to be settled, old humiliations that must be atoned for, old competitions still unconceded; the awful desire some people have to get even, to triumph, and even a kind of macabre desire to see how age has changed those we might have envied—as though we actually want to see some people brought down, as though we want to see some beauty queen become old and wrinkled, or some football hero as a fat and bald old man. Why? Do we imagine it would somehow make us feel better about ourselves by seeing time’s ravages on others?

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  • December 15th, 2014Venerable Songs and Quiet Eveningsby Daniel J. Heisey

    Snow fell, and the tea steamed; the clock ticked as the man turned the pages of his book.  Five years ago appeared a new edition of selected poems by Wallace Stevens, and it offers a handsome format for savoring the words of this great poet.  Stevens once described himself as “a dried-up Presbyterian,” and there is some controversy whether on his deathbed he converted to Catholicism.  For appreciating his poetry, however, that question has no bearing.

    Stevens (1879-1955) was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, and following undergraduate work at Harvard, he studied at New York Law School.  After posts with the American Bonding Company and the Equitable Surety Company, he took a job in the fidelity and surety claims office of a new firm in Connecticut, the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company.  There he stayed, retiring as a vice president.  His life as a poet tended to occur after hours:  as he walked to work, words formed in his mind, flowed around and assembled themselves; upon returning home to his white gabled house, he went to his desk and began to write

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  • December 12th, 2014Join Me on the Pilgrimage to Englandby Joseph Pearce

    For those who might be interested, there’s still room on the Pilgrimage that I am leading with Fr. Dwight Longenecker to England next summer. Over a ten day period, we will follow in the footsteps of the English Martyrs, visiting priest holes and places where the English Martyrs were imprisoned and put to death. We will also be visiting places of Catholic literary interest connected with Shakespeare, Tolkien, Lewis, Belloc and Chesterton. Father Dwight and I will give talks on the bus journeys between the sites. The registration deadline is February 28 with the final payment due by March 31. For more details phone (800) 290-3876 or visit www.catholicheritagetours.com/ACFC.

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  • December 12th, 2014What Is “What-Is”?by Kevin O'Brien

    Here's something Flannery O'Connor said,

    "What the fiction writer will discover, if he discovers anything at all, is that he himself cannot move or mold reality in the interests of abstract truth.  The writer learns, perhaps more quickly than the reader, to be humble in the face of what-is.  What-is is all he has to do with; the concrete is his medium; and he will realize eventually that fiction can transcend its limitations only by staying within them."
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  • December 10th, 2014A New Tolkien Special on EWTNby Joseph Pearce

    EWTN will be broadcasting a new special on the Catholicity of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings this week! It will air on Dec 14 at 9pm and Dec 16 at 5pm! Hope many of you can watch it! As with the earlier Tolkien specials, I have written and presented it, with invaluable help from StAR’s writer-in-residence, Jef Murray, and StAR columnist, Kevin O’Brien. The hour-long special includes many of Jef’s paintings and sketches and features the acting talents of Kevin. It’s not to be missed!

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  • December 9th, 2014An Essay in Cyber Spaceby Joseph Pearce

    As a self-professed techno-minimalist and a self-confessed technoramus, I don’t normally write anything exclusively for the e-market (if writing for blogs such as this one or the Imaginative Conservative are conveniently excluded). I have, however, contributed an essay for an eBook published by Homeschool Connections, for which I teach on-line classes. My essay, which is entitled “Why I Should Learn Shakespeare”, is one of many excellent essays in this excellent guide for homeschooling parents and students.

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  • December 9th, 2014Utopia versus Myopiaby Joseph Pearce

    What is utopia? The question is asked and hopefully answered in my latest piece for the Imaginative Conservative:


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  • December 7th, 2014Jesus vs. the Dragon Sicknessby Kevin O'Brien

    "The dragon sickness serves the same purpose in The Hobbit as the Ring serves in The Lord of the Rings. It represents the addictive attraction of sin and its destructive consequences, best summarized in an understanding that the thing possessed possesses the possessor -- or, as the Gospel says, where our treasure is, there our heart will be also (Matthew 6:21)." - Joseph Pearce on the "Dragon Sickness"

    So what is the Dragon Sickness?  It's that place that we guard and cherish, that secret and comfortable thing that we hoard in darkness - even though doing so turns us into miserable dragons, the way the ring turns Smeagol into Gollum.  It's the sickness that the Divine Physician addresses - if we let Him (which, I'm sorry to say, we usually don't).

    Consider the following examples of otherwise good Christians acting like selfish dragons, of good Christians (like you and me) getting the sickness (like you and me).  I have changed the names, but the stories are all true ...

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  • December 7th, 2014Ursula Le Guin at the 65th Annual National Book Awardsby Dena Hunt

    This 85-year-old writer accepted an award for her distinguished contribution to American Letters and made a brief speech that apparently brought the house down. Here’s a link:


    And here’s an excerpt of NPR’s report that gives an idea about the nature of her remarks:

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  • December 7th, 2014The Wheels Are Coming Off the Sexual Revolutionby Kevin Kennelly

    I don't know why but ....in the public sphere .....it often happens that an issue suddenly reaches "escape velocity."  Everyone is now talking about the unfortunate results deriving from the much ballyhooed sexual revolution . Such revolution has now reached middle age having been floating around since the Age of Aquarius , roughly 50 years ago.

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  • December 7th, 2014Moths, Flames, and Loveby Dena Hunt

    I once had an uncle who was a very hard-working truck driver, taking extra runs to support his family. He went away for days at a time and returned home to a wife and four daughters whose lives were interrupted by his returns. He slept when he was at home and the wife and children had to keep quiet, couldn’t play in the house, couldn’t watch television—because the television was in the room next to his bedroom. When he was gone, they made their own lives without their father, going to school, enjoying social activities with their friends, and so on. My aunt never worked, so she involved herself in her daughters’ lives, kept house, and watched TV.

    My uncle had a very domineering personality and a mercurial temperament, which he’d inherited from his own father, and he’d married a woman very much like his own mother. Some women are attracted to domineering men. There is a kind of female sexuality that is drawn to such men, like moths drawn to flames. But it goes beyond sexuality; there is a symbiosis there, strange as it may appear to an outsider, on which both the moth and the flame depend for their sense of identity and psychic security.

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  • December 6th, 2014The Day I Divorced Facebook the Hussyby Kevin O'Brien

    "Doctor, I'm in a dysfunctional relationship."

    "Tell me about it."

    "She's abusive to me and I can't trust her."

    "What's the woman's name?"


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  • December 4th, 2014Sex and the Virus that Makes Us Madby Kevin O'Brien

    Babylon was a gold cup in the LORD's hand, making the whole earth drunk. The nations drank her wine; therefore, the nations go mad.  (Jer. 51:7)

    It's like a virus, this thing.  It infects you.  We drink of the wine of Babylon and we go mad.  We don't just get drunk, we go mad.

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  • December 3rd, 2014The Painter of the Popesby Joseph Pearce

    I'm delighted that the interview that I did with the great Russian artist, Igor Babailov, has been published by the National Catholic Register, not once but twice! In October it was published in the web edition and last week it was published in the print edition. The latter was shorter because of space constraints in the print edition. Here are the links to both versions:




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What are your thoughts on the subject?