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Showing posts from 2007

Protestants and Pagans

Who is the more Catholic: a witchdoctor or a Calvinist minister? It is a question I have often asked myself ever since I made friends with a very charming young man called Darren. Darren came from a typical lukewarm Protestant background. Old-style ‘public school’ (in the British sense) in pre-Mandela South Africa, with freemasonic Anglicanism and vicious bullying. Then national service in the Army (more bullying).

By the time I met him, he had found his way to Catholicism, ‘via paganism’, as he said. He was devouring Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and encouraged me to do the same.

At university there were plenty of nerdy mathematicians and scientists in the Christian Union. They broadcast their conviction that Catholics were no better than pagans. After I had made friends with Darren, I began to wonder whether in fact those geeks were on to something.

On the face of it, it is undeniably true that Catholics seem to worship statues, mutter incantations and generally do all sorts of things that pa…

Being a sign of contradiction for Catholic education

THE SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL (in the Constitution Gravissmum Educationis, 28th October, 1965) taught that Catholic education should be characterised by four key elements. They make a good checklist for parents searching for the right school for their children: 1. Promotion of academic excellence; 2. Breadth (an all-round education); 3. Moral formation (teaching children to choose what it is right); 4. A formation in prayer, especially how to pray with the liturgy of the Church.

The Council Fathers are clear that every one of the four aspects is geared towards evangelisation: Catholic education should make a difference not just to the children at Catholic schools, but also to the world of work they will enter when they leave full-time education.

Catholic schools today are like a shop window for the Church: they should show Catholic life and witness at its most authentic, preparing the young to bear witness to the faith and to become the movers and shakers in every sphere of modern life. A …

Exam results and looking ahead at the new year

I have just put together all the various exam results at GCSE level for our fifth form boys, and although there are one or two niggles (and disappointments for some individuals), the overall results are not at all bad.

One thing which has been on my mind for a while has been the concern of some parents that one either has to go for academic selection and high academic standards or inclusivity and low standards. I have maintained that as long as Chavagnes is a small school with small class sizes it can operate well with many different profiles of pupil, as long as they are of at least average intelligence and have a strong commitment to the College's ideals, notably to the Faith.

The Times today (24th August) ran an article on standards in state schools, and it would appear that our percentage of passes at A* and A (38.8%) would put us statistically among the top 150 state schools in the UK. Not a bad place to be. Private schools in the UK are often around the 50% mark for passes at …
The recent documentary

A few comments would seem to be in order regarding the recent documentary about Chavagnes, shown on UK television.

The documentary seems to have concentrated on what makes Chavagnes different from other schools, rather than what makes it similar to them. In fact, most of the time boys at Chavagnes are engaged in exactly the same kind of academic work, sports and cultural activities as boys at other boarding schools.

Here are some examples:


There is a high level of literary culture in the College which was not at all represented in the documentary, although it was extensively filmed.

This academic year we have organized three plays at the school: Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, a Medieval Passion Play sequence and a dramatization of Oliver Twist.

Boys participate in regular debating and learn poetry off-by-heart for public recitation in inter-house competitions.

Boys from Chavagnes have won prizes in national writing competitions and had their work and lett…
May Day Morris dancing at Chavagnes ...

From my column in StAR magazine

The Ball and the Cross:
Easter anachronisms

Why is this regular feature called The Ball and Cross? It is a question that I am asked from time to time by various people, and now seems as good a time as any to tell you.

Several of the original StAR columns back in 2001 adopted recycled titles borrowed from Chesterton and Belloc for, partly ‘for luck’, partly (at least in my case) to attempt to misappropriate thereby the latitude accorded to the Chesterbelloc in matters of style; in other words to extend the scope of their poetic licence.

Chesterton’s The Ball and the Cross is a novel about how terrible the modern world is, or perhaps how terrible it looked set to become, almost an hundred years ago when Chesterton wrote it.

So I resurrected the evocative name of a zany, futuristic novel for a column that would tackle the modern world in what some might call a self-consciously anachronistic way.

Chesterton’s novel begins in an UFO, captained by a crazy scientist called Professor Lucifer. Like …

Treading on egoshells

Men's egos like eggshells
crunch easy underfoot.
And we for holy charity
Pick up the sharp shards
to eek new eggs,
though thereby
they and we
are changed.

Changed, not ended,
Never quite mended;
The bigness of our boots
A bumbling humbling
Every time we take
a step forward
and two steps back.

And even in reverse gear
More egos are broken
In the making of the great omelette.

So I'll tread more softly
next time ...
Here is a little glimpse of life at Chavagnes International College, where I work. It was put together by one of our parents. Something to cheer you through the cold of February: