Virginia Barton

1 March 2019: Au revoir, for now

1 March 2019


It’s time for a break, and when better to make a fresh start than Lent? The penitential season begins on Ash Wednesday, March 6th , and while I cannot pretend that I will devote the six weeks to what Jerry Cruncher in A Tale of Two Cities referred to as “flopping”, I shall hope to do some of it.

(Jerry’s unfortunate wife was chided if not cuffed for her habit of flopping, unless Jerry was in a tight corner when, perversely, he hoped she was doing it.)


You need a respite from my iPad, and I must make a tour d’horizon like some hopeful periscope swivelling and scanning the surroundings hopefully.

What next? The eighty-second birthday hoves ever closer: there is surely more to come? With my extraordinary good luck, no doubt something will turn up.


There is still much to comment on, and two things this week I am loth to leave behind.

I rarely mention politics, but Brexit (who’s the Clever Dickie who invented that ghastly name?) is on everybody’s mind if not lips. A clagginess drapes the country like cold porridge. One or two bright sparks, like little stars, pierce the gloom here and there depending on your point of view: Yvette Cooper, Anna Soubry and Luciana Berger. The mood is depressed; only the extremes to right and left seem to get any pleasure out of our perilous situation.

Was it Jean-Claude Juncker who said he had “Brexit fatigue?”

We ALL do, M. Junker.


As if that were not enough, the ongoing scandal in the Catholic Church concerning the abuse of the vulnerable by priests continues to affect every Catholic everywhere. It is a question that will not be resolved until long after I am dead and gone.

But I will say this: as a convert, I did not become a Catholic because of any individual priest or lay person, although several were influential.

I became a Catholic because of faith in the truth of that religion revealed by the Church and which has never failed me. Several priests have been disappointing, also nuns. Catholic teachers have not come up to expectations – perhaps one expected too much. Many more priests, nuns and teachers have been inspirational and more than fulfilled everything one hoped for.

But I repeat, I did not join the Catholic Church for individuals. It was for the Church that the Gates of Hell cannot prevail against.

Pope Francis has his work cut out and deserves our fervent prayers.

(Flopping for his intentions during Lent might not be a bad thing…)


Curiously, I was immensely cheered by a very lively Methodist musical I went to last week; performed with great slickness and con brio, by a large cast that swept us seamlessly from Exodus to the Wesley brothers. The music was fun and catchy and the audience loved every minute of this lively performance.

I sat there thinking about my own Church’s problems in which we all suffer. I know we are not unique, and hope some simple joy and genuine forgiveness may somehow show the way to a lighter brighter future.


Can’t resist a farewell quote from GK: 

The most incredible thing about miracles
is that they really happen.”





  • Dr J says on: March 1, 2019 at 12:12 am


    Au revoir indeed, Virginia. You have earned a respite. Just please don’t keep your quill in the inkwell too long…

    Do you suppose a second referendum regarding Brexit is in the offing, or the dreaded “no deal”?

    You are spot-on about the Catholic faith. Because we put our priests on a pedestal, we often forget they are ordinary men who sin just like the rest of us. Their sins — and crimes — are abominable, but they do not detract from the essential Truths of the faith, which transcend human failings.

    The real challenge as Catholics is, our faith is inextricably tied to the institution of the Church, founded by Christ, so we cannot fully experience one without the other. But we can work tirelessly to purge the institution of wickedness as each of us grows in holiness, with the Church’s help.

    Our, as your pal Chesterton eloquently put it, with the Church’s “map”:

    “Nine out of ten of what we call new ideas are simply old mistakes. The Catholic Church has for one of her chief duties that of preventing people from making those old mistakes; from making them over and over again forever, as people always do if they are left to themselves…

    “There is no other case of one continuous intelligent institution that has been thinking about thinking for two thousand years. Its experience naturally covers nearly all experiences; and especially nearly all errors. The result is a map in which all the blind alleys and bad roads are clearly marked, all the ways that have been shown to be worthless by the best of all evidence: the evidence of those who have gone down them.”

  • Nadine says on: March 1, 2019 at 12:19 am


    We will miss your Ccommonplace messages and look forward to Easter and their return.

    xxx Nadine

  • Rosanne says on: March 1, 2019 at 12:57 am


    Dear Ginny,

    I hope your respite gives you a chance to flop how and when and where you wish, to your heart’s content.

    It is nearly spring; leaves will unfold, colors will brighten, the air will smell new and nests will be built, noisily populated and fled — all splendid reasons to step away from screen and keyboard and distressing human folly for a while.

    Sending warmest good wishes.

  • Mary says on: March 1, 2019 at 9:19 am


    Oh no! I’ll miss reading your Commonplaces Ginny. But have a really peaceful break and I look forward to having you back.

    • Ginny says on: March 1, 2019 at 11:24 am


      How lucky I am with my faithful readers: with advice, love and a timely reminder that the best things are ye to come!

      I thank you all for your kind and gentle words — just what I need at this moment!

      (And Dr J – the trouble with a second Referendum is – time is so short, what will be on it, and what if the outcome is exactly the same? A plague on all their houses…) Ginny

  • Mrs Judd says on: March 1, 2019 at 12:56 pm


    I hope by the time you get back to your writing, Ginny, that the country might have shaken off its claggy Brexit porridge. Maybe the government (whoever they are), but hopefully containing the likes of Yvette Cooper, Luciana Berger and Anna Soubry, can actually then get on with running the country as opposed to wallowing in its demise.

    Maybe you should run the country?

    • Ginny says on: March 1, 2019 at 7:53 pm


      Too late alas, Mrs Judd, for me to enter the rough life of politicians! But YOU could have a go?

      The most important thing is to vote, whenever you have the opportunity, and train your children — if you have them — to vote too. Cheers! Ginny

  • Santiago says on: March 1, 2019 at 7:53 pm


    Theresa May is living in a fantasy world, and her party includes some fanatical supporters of the perilous Brexit move even without a deal. The Labour party is in a similar state, led by that ideological dinosaur, Corbyn.

    As a convert myself (at age 26, 60 years ago!) I share some of your attitude toward this scandal of clerical abuse. I did not join the Church because of individuals, lay or clerical, although some of them were important, naturally; mostly lay friends and phillosophers like Maritain and some French existentialists, although an enormously helpful piece of the intellectual issue of faith was provided late in the day at university.

    Perhaps because of my Protestant background I was already well-armoured about scandals in the Church, but there is no question that in my time what is now being exposed is unprecedented and is hard to bear.

    I was borne along from the outset by two considerations above all: the unarguable antiquity and continuity of the Catholic Church as witness to the Christian faith and mystery, and the universality of its outreach and mission. That surely, is what our Lord intended. The Orthodox tradition alone is close to this, but there are certain issues there as well, which I will spare you.

    We must pray for Francis and his allies, and for the abused.

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