Stories by Colin Burke

The Science of Morality; Catholic Beliefs

To deserve to enjoy, you have to enjoy deserving. You might not see at once exactly how much sense that makes, but as we go along, you may find that at least it helps make sense of much else, as G.K. Chesterton said about belief in God. I first read Chesterton during my first year of high school; “The Blue Cross,” his first Father Brown story, was part of our Grade Nine literature course here in Newfoundland in those years long past. During my first year at the boarding school I began attending three months before my fourteenth birthday, I used to read at the Gosling Memorial Library in St. John’s, hundreds of miles from my family, between school and chapel prayers before supper, to let the words of Father Brown stories soak into me and to dwell upon those words to keep me from dissolving in tears of homesickness while my fellow boarders and a Christian Brother said the Rosary. Two years later, well settled at St. Bonaventure’s, I read “The Shop of Ghosts: A Good Dream” about the lastingness of Christmas. That “inspired” an essay in which I described seeing Chesterton himself in a modern department store just before Christmas, his having his cloak caught in the store’s revolving door, and my recovering it for myself – ah, the presumption of youth! But I seem to remember that Brother Duffy gave me a good mark for it. That was the year I actually began to like writing essays. The year after that, I got acquainted with Addison, Steele, Swift and Pope, and wrote some satire, encouraged by Brother J.P. Keane and Brother (now Father) Kevin B. Molloy. Three years after that, a “spoiled priest” and failed schoolteacher who had come to contemn his nearly four months as a warehouse clerk catering to mechanized mining and who was most reluctant to go back there, I sought an appointment with the editor of western Newfoundland’s daily newspaper, essays in hand, looking to be hired as a weekly columnist – ah, the presumption of (relative) youth! However, on approaching the newspaper building, I requested Mr. Chesterton’s intercession in the matter. Cal Holloway said he’d look at the essays. He did, and he called the bus station from which I was to leave Corner Brook for Port au Port, and asked me to see him again; he needed a reporter and would hire me on three months’ probation at $60 a week, increased after probation to $65, of which for some months I paid each week $20 for board, put $20 in the bank, and put $20 in my pocket. It was, in September of 1966, the start of a career I enjoyed until I decided I really wanted to marry a certain woman, and then I no longer enjoyed being a wage-slave to a national newspaper chain which had bought out the independent owners of only two papers.