By Jotter National Almanacks In a Few Words
A T this time of the year a good • deal of amusement as well as information may be obtained from thumbing annual almanacks. I have before me the time-honoured "Whitaker's" which is still cheap at 18s 6d.; the American "Information Please" which is very cheap at 10s.; and "Pears", which is not really an almanack, but fairly close to one, since "Information Please" strikes one as a cross between "Whitaker's" and "Pears". One can learn a lot about the two national outlooks through the study of these pages. Thus "Information Please" gets off to a flying start with sections on "Your Health and Long Life", "Space Age News", and "Follow the Music". Britain sticks to the good old "Solar System" and "Tidal Constants" and quickly moves on to the Royal Family, the peerage. baronetage and knightage. "Contract Bridge" positively gets no mention in "Whitaker's", but is given a good run for its money in "Information Please" and "Pears". Our national adoration of dogs and pets is fobbed off in "Whitaker's" with "Dog Days", "Dog Licences". and " Dog's Home, Battersea". given the full treatment in "Pears", and confined to "Dog Shows" in "Information Please".
" INFORMATION PLEASE"
" gives very full world religious statistics. Its estimate of the total Christian population of the world is 835,564,542 of which 496,512.000 are Catholics. Our own "Catholic Directory" gives 423,000.000. Moslems are the next highest with 420,606.698; then Confucians 300,290,500; then Protestants 209,859,787; then B ud d hist 150,310.000; then Eastern Orthodox 129,192,755. In the United States. Protestants are numbered as 59,823,777; Catholics 35,846,477. The "Catholic Directory" gives 30,213,510 for British Commonwealth, etc. I count 81 separately listed and described "leading religious groups in the United States". An interesting comment on progress is provided by the estimated figures of major crimes in the U.S.A. They rise steadily each year from 1,685,670 in 1948 to 2.796.400 in 1957. On the other hand, murder and manslaughter have significantly diminished.
Trials in Spain
IN these days when Magna Cartas
• and the rule of law are becoming rare birds, it is something of a compliment to Spain or Portugal that the national press rarely misses any opportunity of headlining political arrests and trials in those countries. Without wishing in any way to condone any injustice thus perpetrated, one surely cannot help feeling some sympathy at least with the odd way in which Spain indulges in its bullying and worse. There is no attempt to hide the truth from the outside world. though the news is kept from the people at home. That, in itself, is rather odd, since one would have thought that the aim was to frighten the latter while seeking to guard against foreign criticism. In the "Spectator", a writer present at a military trial wrote: "Within five minutes the courtroom had assumed the appearance of a cocktail party, with groups of prisoners chatting to a judge or some other officer, cigarettes being offered and stories swapped. Never in an experience of political trials ranging over dictatorships of all sorts have I seen such a scene. It is a pity that Bateman was not there to draw the expression on the face of some visiting British High Court Judge." And in the "Manchester Guardian" we read a long interview wit Is a house-arrested offender who tells the whole story and, when asked if all can be reported. answers: "Go ahead." Two uniformed policemen stand outside and pay a call of an evening to see that their bird had not flown. No doubt, for choice one would prefer the religious solemnity of scrupulously fair trial in Britain. but there is humanity somewhere in those arbitrary Latin ways.
IKNOW that many readers are deeply interested in Dom Bede Griffiths' experiment in Benedictine apostolic work in India, and from time to time he writes to me to give his news. But this month "Pax," the Prinknash quarterly. has a fascinating article by him on his experiences. This new-type missionary lives in a hut of bamboo and plaited palm leaves, the floor of which is cowdung and with virtually no furniture. "The cow-dung." he explains, "is used partly for sanitary reasons, as it keeps off all insects in a remarkable way." But that it might keep men off also in a re markable way is suggested by his confession that "our floor is always damp". But, as he points out, "this way of life is still common not only among the poorer people. but even among the well-to-do in the country... Christians on the whole tend to adopt Western customs, but for this very reason we think it important that monks should be prepared to adopt this humbler way of life."
A People's Rite
NOT less interesting is what Fr. Bede has to say of the SyroMalankara liturgical rite which the monks have adopted. He calls it "perhaps the best example of a popular liturgy in the whole Church". The people know all the chants and "the whole liturgy is a constant dialogue between priest and people, including the consecration, which is sung aloud (though in this case the words are preserved in Syriac)". The rite is Semitic and completely uninfluenced by Latin or Greek. "It must be remembered that Syriac is practically identical with the Aramaic spoken by Our Lord .. . Its background is wholly Bihlical."_ Fr. Bede believes that there should be no trace of "western garb" in Catholic liturgy for non-western countries and he feels that here is an answer to hand. His is a missionary experiment which we should support with our prayers. and I darcsay he will not be sorry if we can support it with offerings.
The Proudest of Them All
THE publication towards the end of last year of the fourth edition of "Burke's Landed Gentry of Ireland" carries me back to a room in a large house in Co. Westmeath where as a boy I used to lie on the carpet and pore over the fascinating family and genealogical information it contained about families of neighbouring kinsmen and friends. Indeed. the third edition, the one, if I remember rightly, bound in red, instead of today's more appropriate green, which I used. was published as long ago as 1912. 1 imagine it was snob interest rather than any serious genealogical and historical research which accounted for my fascination. Today as I thumb these near 800 pages, illustrated with many delightful coats-ofarms, I feel a good deal more detached, but not less fascinated. Irish pedigrees arc often something to rave about, as for example the pedigree of the Rev. Charles Dents Mary Joseph Anthony O'Conor. S.J., the "O'Conor Don", lineal descendant in the male line of "Concovar or Conor, King of Connaught (son of Teign of the Three Towers and said to be 18th in descent from Daagh Galach, first Christian King of Connaught, who d. AD 438) from whom the family name of O'Conor is derived. lie d. 971, leaving a son." Who would not gaily abdicate any modern parvenu throne to be the "O'Conor Don"—and a Jesuit to hoot? What fun this book is going to be— and at seven guineas it ought to be! 'Prominent Persons'
"WHETHER or not you feel you
I! can help, may God bless you." I like that ending to an appeal letter, and 1 hope it may move some readers to join the "500 prominent persons" asked to send a pound each — or much less — to ensure the water supply of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary's Hill, Kavule, Lugazo P.O., Uganda, British East Africa. The present supply for this home for the aged and sick Sisters is entirely dependent on one small tank from the roof. An underground storage tank is needed. "The mosquito," says Sister Hilda. "is no respecter of persons."