Francis Phillips talks to Roger Buck the author of the ‘Gentle Traditionalist’
Having blogged about an unusual book, The Gentle Traditionalist, on Tuesday and wanting to know a bit more about its author and its genesis, I asked Roger Buck, who devised this Irish Catholic fairy tale a few questions.
For a start, what was his faith background? He tells me he was “utterly New Age till aged 34, when I first became baptised as an Anglican in 1998.” His Catholic conversion came two years later. He admits he has “progressively moved from being an ultra-liberal Catholic to my far more (hopefully gentle) traditional orientation.”
Why was he drawn to the New Age cult in the first place? Buck replies that he had “no faith in mainstream culture or Christianity as I perceived it”, alongside “a hunger for idealism.”
Indeed, he spent 20 years within a New Age mindset, including over two years at Findhorn, the New Age community in the north of Scotland. He had first visited Findhorn in 1980 and was still close to it when he finally converted to Catholicism in 2000. He has written about his conversion experience on his blog. Here is the link.
It is worth reading in full for an understanding of the depth and fervour of Buck’s faith, an explanation of how New Age Gnosticism fundamentally differs from Christianity, and how a mystical experience on the night of 18 September 1997 while he was actively promoting New Age literature in Cambridge made him recognise “that my life would change forever.”
When I ask Buck what made him decide to settle in Ireland, he informs me that he “cannot help but feel providentially guided here.” As he wrote in his book that it has only taken 50 years for Ireland to become thoroughly secularised, I am curious as to what signs of hope he finds in this country.
He answer soberly that his “real hope lies in realising how very, very deep the roots of the Christian heritage in Ireland really are.” This includes, as he wrote in his book, “the remarkable piety, humanity and kindness” of his Irish neighbours, who are “regularly praying by their parents’ graves” and “witnessing their continued devotion to family and friends.”
And what gave him the idea for his “fairy tale”? “It started as a dialogue to express the ideas; the fictional elements came second. For example, I needed to invent a reason as to why a secular agnostic would be drawn into such a long dialogue.” (I should explain here that the young agnostic in question longs to marry a girl who has become a traditional Catholic and who refuses to marry him as long as he remains in his secular, materialistic mindset.)
In his book Buck, as I wrote in my earlier blog, is highly critical of the Ordinary rite of the Mass. Here he is anxious to qualify this impression, insisting that, although he agrees with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI that the “ecclesial crisis in which we find ourselves today depends in great part upon the collapse of the liturgy”, it certainly doesn’t mean he is convinced that “the Ordinary Form must go and that the Extraordinary Form is the only way.”
He directs me to the “Acknowledgements” at the front of his book, in which he wrote, “Whilst this book invokes the serious problems often occasioned by the new liturgy, our priest [in the rural Irish parish of Upper Badoney] is living proof that the Novus Ordo can be celebrated with beauty, dignity and reverence.”
Buck also quotes from his blog, in which he has written, “Who can count the many souls who have had the way to Christ illumined by such sincere priests of the Novus Ordo? There are no statistics for such matters. But let us render thanks to these courageous men who battle against the zany currents of the day!” By the “zany currents” Buck refers to “a very concerted, very liberal faction of the Church. This faction exists and it carries on conscious, yet undeclared warfare with those who try to consciously uphold Catholic tradition.”
Behind his gentle and prayerful manner, Buck is deeply serious about the liturgical crisis, telling me he wants to stress “perhaps pedantically, one thing here: it is only the fact that as a daily Mass-goer who has travelled a lot through several countries and who has thus been to Mass in hundreds of parishes, with well over 1000 priests, that has convinced me of the catastrophe…”
Readers should watch out for Buck’s forthcoming new book. He tells me that it will include “much more about the New Age movement as well as Catholic France and devotion to the Sacred Heart.”