Tuesday, 26 July 2016


So, each day there are reports of further attacks carried out on innocent people.  Today brings news of an horrific attack on the mentally ill in a hospice in Japan and an attack on worshippers in a church in France resulting in the death of the priest. This worldwide psychosis will not cease, it will only get worse and God will allow it to get worse, He hasn't deserted us.  It is always a sobering thought that God loves all of us so much that He will not interfere with our free will, which is His greatest gift to us.  We can only come to know Him and love Him through our will, the desire for Him starts there. 

That desire rests in the hearts of every man alive, and our three enemies, the world, the flesh and the devil work to smother and corrupt that desire so that we cannot recognise it. The desire pulls one way, the world pulls the other, distracting us with ideologies, fripperies, tastes and an extreme selfishness which masquerades as morality and even virtue.

We convince ourselves that the flesh is only a channel through which our senses operate and this debases any ability we have to respond to anything beyond considering our feelings. This leads to solipsism whereby only our thoughts mean anything; we are the only intelligence and matter is an illusion, we are each little gods with our own self-created universe which only allows us greater knowledge of self. And therein lies madness.

Lastly the devil, lazy bastard that he is, doesn't need to do much to convince us that we are all isolated material beings, loosely connected through ideas and feelings; that there is no deeper communion, that there is no God (who is love) and that our brothers are not all made in the image and likeness of God, to be respected and treated with dignity and love.

It is all there, at work in each and every one of us.  We see the workings of the world and we develop an increased moral outrage and sense of our own righteousness and the evil of others.  This is as much at work in you and me as it is in some nihilistic Daesh fighter.  The material world assaults our flesh and because our communion is broken (our relationship to our Creator), everything becomes brutal, we can no longer see beyond the needs of self, other beings are either useful to us or in opposition to us; disturbing our senses, irrational, sub-human caricatures we'd love to see eliminated as if they were part of a video game. And the devil just sits there pissing himself with laughter saying: see I told you, 'god' doesn't work, nothing works!

This, is the progress that dialectical materialism gives us.  This is the disenchantment of God's creation made possible through rationalism, empiricism and dualism.  Basically, what we are seeing is the psychosis caused by clinging to the ideals of the Enlightenment whilst scraping the bottom of the empty barrell of post-modernism.  The Enlightenment was an experiment (man's endeavour to make progress by himself) and it has failed. It has brought us nothing but insanity, insecurity and lonliness.

Gericault's Raft of the Medusa.. is this painting perhaps an icon of our age?
The jihad is real (but it will not be televised): there is a subsersive 'holy war' to restore the delight of God and the enchantment of His creation, to help make His way manifest. The weapons at our disposal are beauty, goodness and Truth, and the discipline is that of the Beatitudes.  Are you willing to fight, or is fear the only thing that drives you?

Monday, 25 July 2016

Litany for the NHS

For all your hard working staff               we salute you
For the dedication you show
For all your wonderful work for those in trauma
For all your work with the seriously ill
For your honesty

For the fact you are crumbling at the seams    we know it is not your fault
For the fact you are getting worse
For the fact that you are unsustainable
For the way you have treated me

9 years without a concrete diagnosis    I'm tired of this game
Lost test results
Misread test results
Protocol based on cheapness rather than effectiveness 
A diagnosis you gave me because it looked cool to show me off to visiting Romanian consultants
Then the next time I saw you, you told me I had nothing of the sort
I've asked for is my latest test results and you wont give them to me
You haven't given them to my GP either
I've asked to be fitted with a constant glucose monitoring kit and your silence is deafening
I'm managing my own condition with a medication that suggests that what you told the Romanian consultants was true
You still say I don't have that condition
If I have this condition it is operable and I could be well again
But you want me to keep taking this obscure drug
The drug works (hurray!) but I am having to up the dose
For the expensive and invasive procedure that you did so badly that a visiting doctor who witnessed it, told me to request the test be repeated
For agreeing to repeat the test then going back on your promise
For the endless trips to see consultant X
Consultant X says wait to see what consultant Y says
For the endless trips to consultant Y who says better wait on the results from consultant Z
For consultant Z saying I'm not his problem
For postponed appointments
For dithering
For the lack of any plan on your part
For the lack of scientific method in your work that is maddening to me, a scientist
I don't want your sympathy
I really don't want your sympathy
No, seriously, I really don't want your sympathy
What is the point of bothering with you?
You keep telling me there is definitely something wrong with me.
Shall I assume that as I'm not about to drop dead, then it isn't all that serious?
Shall I just get on with my life and forget that we ever tried to work together?
For even more dithering on your part

Oh NHS shall we just end this affair?   we are obviously no good for each other
Oh NHS shall we just call it a day?
Oh NHS, just what have you to show for all the money you have spent on me?

I have good days and not so good days
I have flare ups 
I have a life and I think that my ability to live this life may be best suited if we go our separate ways
I do my own thing: self medication, careful diet
I may get worse, I may not
But you are simply not helping
There seems to be no point in you taking any more of my blood.....
I'll just keep taking the tablets......

Wednesday, 20 July 2016


I have snapped (in all charity) at several people within the Catholic Church when they have tried to say they are Catholic and that they have a preferred sexual orientation.  I maintain that this is simply a nonsense.  There is only one orientation and that is towards the cross is what I say. When we see God face to face, sexual orientation, like any other 'preference' (no matter how deeply held) will be of no consequence.  In matters sexual, it is lust that is the killer and lust is lust is lust irrespective of what it is directed towards.  Indeed, all preferences smack of politics; preferred ways of doing things based on our notions of what is right and comfortable for us (and by extension what we think is right for others). Preferences and politics aren't sin, but they are of the world so they offer the potential for sin.

I've been musing on the fallout from the Sacra Liturgia conference that was held recently in London. Cardinal Sarah again talked about fostering a greater understanding of the sacred liturgy through the adoption of the ad orientem arrangement of priest and people on the same side of the altar. It has been suggested elsewhere that ad orientem and versus populum are liturgical preferences, and judging by the verbiage flying around the interwebs, it seems to me that the minute we start expressing a liturgical preference we are entering into the murky world of politics, mud slinging and division.

So if I am to be consistent in my logic, I must step aside from my 'preference' and look to approach the matter of liturgical orientation (and it is a serious and worthy matter to consider) from a completely different perspective and look sola scriptura.

Because the Jewish tradition of temple sacrifice massively favours the ad orientem arrangement for the holy sacrifice of the Mass, I decided to ignore this and look instead at references in scripture to the altar in heaven.  Scan the book of Revelation for reference to the altar in heaven, (it is easy enough to do using an online bible) and you will find 7 references: Rev 6.9, 8.3, 8.5, 9.13, 11.1, 14.18 & 16.7.

The souls of the redeemed are said to be under or in the altar. So this is obviously not a 'practical' altar and at first glance seem to be of no help in our understanding of proper orientation at Mass here on earth. Second glance is slightly more revealing. 'Under' is easy enough, the altar should be above the highest point reachable by man. Indeed in heaven, priests will still be priests and people people, but we will all be orientated towards the Lamb that was slain. We will all be under Him.  'In' is also easy enough to understand if we take the insight offered in Hebrews (Heb 13.10) that Christ is the altar.  We will ultimately only find rest in the wound in His side, from whence flowed blood and water. We will, in heaven, in a very real sense be both 'in' and 'under' the altar. It is a good job the rules of geometry won't apply. What is clear is that the orientation is fixed towards Christ and doesn't necessarily stick to the type given in the historical temple in Jerusalem.

The angels of God are before the altar and issue from the altar to undertake the commands of God. This fits with our liturgical notions of the place of the angels in the Mass, Novus or Vetus Ordo.

The relationship between God and altar is as follows: I heard a voice from the four horns of the great altar, which is before the eyes of God. The altar is before God as God the Father will always have the sacrifice of His Son before Him.  The altar of sacrifice is then a bridge between God and Man.  Man and God cannot be on the same side of the altar, man faces the eyes of God from the opposite side of the altar.  Surely, that is ALL men, even those who have been the alter Christus? No man, not even a priest can get between God the Father and God the Son.

It is no good!  Wherever you turn, even towards heaven, there is only one orientation and it is towards the cross.  There are no liturgical preferences, there is only one orientation.

As Fr Faber said so often; we have forgotten that we are creatures.  We must wake up to this fact because it shows the very real mess the Catholic Church is in.  We are bearing heaven away with real violence (Mat 11.12) due to our arrogance and lack of humility in our communal prayer life (and that applies to all of us irrespective of which Rite we attend). No Mass is perfect liturgy, perfect liturgy only exists in heaven.  To God every Mass must look like a clown Mass (certainly a Mass presented by clowns- that's you and me, we're nothing but clowns), but He can read our hearts and that is all that matters. So I think that what I'm trying to say is that (as I see it) there can be no 'reform of the reform' and there can be no more 'rupture' either.  Things are a mess, but most cannot see it.  This is about the conversion of hearts.  Those of us who KNOW what is right have a huge responsibility resting on us to act accordingly, and the internet will probably not be the forum where hearts are changed. Ultimately we can achieve nothing and we will fail.  But if our hearts are orientated correctly then God will do the rest.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Pokemon No!

On Saturday evening I was left dog sitting whilst my house guests (mature adults!) went Pokemon hunting. Dexter (a whippet - black lab cross with limited intelligence and phenomenal speed) looked at me somewhat wearily, neither of us can make any sense of this. Dexter then amused himself 'savaging' his squeaky toy frog and I was left with my thoughts. I'm actually very uncomfortable about this particular craze, especially the idea of Pokemon turning up in churches.  There is to me a brutal and irreversible iconoclasm in projecting something trivial into a sacred space.  Anyway, I'm grateful to a fellow blogger (with a very different take on this to me) for posting the following from someone who is obviously as dismayed by this craze as I am.

It got me thinking of the stupidest things I have lived through.  This is my list.
  • chopper push bikes
  • nylon sheets
  • mullets
  • the SDP
  • the Birdie Song 
  • space dust
  • the NHS internal market
  • squirty cream
  • the Ford Probe
  • the Star Wars franchise
  • Rugby League's "Super League" formation
  • selfies 
  • Ugg Boots
So Pokemon Go! can be added to the list. The angels may be doing the angelic equivalent of "facepalming" at our stupidity, but we are loved.

Stupid will always be with us.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Test Match Special

In the darkest days of last term, when my body was failing and I really didn't think I'd get beyond the end of May, when there seemed to be a very strong and unwanted "somebody else's problem field" around me, when no help seemed to be coming my way (though it was, I had many prayers and for that I'm grateful), someone had the audacity to ask me what I wanted.  This question stopped me in my tracks, I've spend so long just surviving, just doing what I'm supposed to do, that the concept of actually wanting something was a little alien to me.  Further to this, experience (or fate) has meant that whenever I have actually wanted something, it has always been snatched away from me and I am left lamenting and weary like a somewhat stoical (rather than a suicidal) Dido.  I've found the only way to survive is not to want "things", well certainly not to want things for myself...

However, this question was left hanging in the air and I had to give an answer.  Simply making it as far as July seemed like an impossible dream so I said: I want to be sat in the garden listening to the Test Match on Long Wave.  [ For my readership outside of the former British Empire - this is the all day radio broadcast of the 5 day long international cricket matches, starting on a Thursday and sometimes making it till the following Monday.]  Admittedly, this was only a small want, but I thought that it might at least be achievable.

Yesterday the Test Cricket got off to a very good start; England v Pakistan at Lords.  I will admit now to being a Pakistan supporter; when they are good there are few more elegant, exciting teams, when they are bad they are dreadful.  Test Match Special (radio cricket) is a thing in its own right, it has its own unwritten rules, it can be delightful, it can be poetry, it can be surreal and it drifts over me and takes my brain to another dimension, it relaxes me like I suppose some people find a long hot bath relaxing.  I find bathing intensely boring, it is TMS that does it for me.

Yes, my desire was accomplished.  I always like the first day's play.  The two teams are still checking each other out, there is a lot of psychology at work, it is not exciting, but it is good.  There are flashes of brilliance, there is patience, there is hard graft, there are moments of carelessness which are dealt with mercilessly, there is quiet aggression and gentlemanly reserve and all the time TMS ambles through endless discourse on cricket trivia, cakes, pigeons, finely dressed men and bizarrely yesterday, umlauts.

Listening on Long Wave is also vital. I like the fuzzyness of the broadcast.  It reminds me of my grandfather in Malaysia listening to the Test Matches of old on the BBC World Service. He'd be in the dark, sat in his reclining chair, outside you could hear the endless motorbikes in the distance, the cicadas and the Allahu Akbar  from the surau next door.  The house would be full of the aroma of night scented shrubs, mosquito coils and old dogs.  He'd listen, we'd be silent, he was not to be disturbed.  He'd reach a certain point then the radio would be switched off, the house would be shuttered up and he'd say his last rosary of the day (in Latin) before retiring to bed.  Listening on Long Wave is also vital for the interruptions for the shipping forecast just before noon and 6pm.  I actually find the shipping forecast a prayer, well I can't listen to it and not pray.

So yesterday, life had a certain "completeness" about it, the past and present were one and the future could wait.  A certain aching emptiness and fatigue is also there, but yesterday it all hung together and there was rest.  Real rest is something akin to heaven, and it is good to experience it occasionally. Occasionally I even fancy that God inspired the English to invent the game of cricket so that when it works (and often it falls short of what it should be) we could have a foretaste of heaven. Old Father Time can retire to the pavilion.

Weather vane at Lords: creative commons image Wikipedia

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

down the pan

It is quite possible that I am now going to be guilty of taking an analogy too far, I certainly mean no disrespect by what I am about to say, so please don't think I am being disparaging....

The Church can be said to be the Bride of Christ or the Body of Christ.  Personally I prefer the Bride of Christ, but in their espousal they are ONE so I don't suppose it matters much.  For the purposes of this post, I'm looking at the Church as Body. If we look at the human body, there are certain organs and systems of organs with specific functions.  We all have different functions within the one Body. St Paul returns to this theme time and time again, though he doesn't ever go as far as saying "you are the hands", or "you are the toe nails".  Indeed such a thing would be silly and wrong, but I'm going to do it anyway.

Now all of us can at times be hands or feet, eyes and ears. If the twofold commandment to love God and neighbour is lived seriously then there are times for watching, times for hearing, and times for doing, we simply don't have one function.  And Christ is our Head, and it is through not resisting grace that we function properly as the ONE body. The body is a UNITY; any division, any pulling in different directions, any opposition, any lack of harmony is not the work of the Head.  The divisions are caused by absorbing and being influenced by things that are of the world.  This holds true for us too; we are victims of fashion and victims of the culture we find ourselves in and more often than not it can have an effect on our health.

What is absorbed by the body is usually taken in by the mouth.  We eat stuff and it passes down the digestive tract where in successive stages it is broken down, absorbed or excreted.  Now, forgive me, but there does seem to be one part of the body that is analogous to the work of the Princes of the Church and one part that the rest of us simply don't have the authority to be.  It seems abundantly clear to me that our Bishops in their capacity for binding and loosing are indeed the body's lower intestine and anal sphincter.  They are the ultimate arbiters of what is rejected and what isn't.  This is a role that the rest of us simply don't have.   Could it be that bishops are at their most bishopy when they are doing just that?  Could it be that that is when we ought to take the most notice of them, because they are doing something that is totally reserved for them alone?

I'll give you a question.  Which of these carry the most weight; a bishop saying "lets look at this, lets absorb this information and work out what it means to us" OR "this is not going to happen because it might upset people" OR the bishops saying "this is part of the Church as revealed through Scripture and Tradition, has handed to us by the Apostles" OR  "this must be rejected because it does not tie in with Scripture and Tradition and the first Apostles".

Surely it is the last two which are the triumph of our lower intestine and the strength of the Church Militant.  Sadly, right now, I'm wondering if we've had a radical colostomy, as such no such unified behaviour seems to be forthcoming.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

apple for teacher

Well skoolz out for summer and the house is full of chocolates and 'thank you' cards and there is a bottle of Cava sat in the kitchen and if it were sentient it would be asking itself what on earth it was doing here.  Indeed the chocolates would be asking themselves that too, if they could think. Due to my illness I can start to feel quite ill after ingesting either if those things. So they are getting ignored and I'm wondering where useful second homes for them might be found....

It is however so very touching when the pupils do say thank you in whatever way they choose.  This year there has been a rich seam of  'confessional' cards and hushed conversations in corridors along the lines of "I'm sorry I have been such an utter pain in the neck for the last 3 years,  thank you for not giving up on me".  Money can't buy that.  I've also been taken aback by the  'you've really inspired a love of Physics in me' cards. OK the number will not cause a gravitational collapse and a black hole to open up in Wessex, but 4 whole cards saying that was 4 more than I would have thought possible.  I've been doing mainly chalk and talk didactic stuff that any inspector would slate because I've been too weak to do much more than prop myself up on a low cupboard next to the board in order to scrawl on it. And whilst every teacher has their own fan-club, it is always a shock when someone you thought did nothing more than sleep through your lessons says thank you.  I got one letter which said 'thank you for ignoring me, thank you for respecting my strong personality'. For my part I think I acted out of cowardice with that pupil, I didn't think I'd win the fight.

The best gift this year is just about my best present ever off anyone.  My sixth formers got me a Stirling engine and it was an emotional moment; wiping back the tears whilst running for the kettle and trying to find a can of machine oil. Simply brilliant! I've got it to work if the temperature gradient is as small as 25 degrees and I'm trying to see if it will go lower.  A few year back some sixth formers got me an abacus from the Early Learning Centre, this was the previous 'best ever' present.  Like a lot of Physicists my arithmetic is appalling, and I enjoyed the joke at my expense.

And then I start to think just how well pupils do get to know teachers.  They will know every little mannerism and be able to mimic these.  They can draw piercingly accurate cartoons of us.  They see us 'perfom' several times a week, on good days as well as bad.  They are uncompromising critics if something we do isn't to their liking.  Our style of dress is scrutinised as is any slight regional variation in our accents.  They will pitch us against their parents with a "but my dad says....", and we have to be so careful because dad is often a high powered academic at some prestigious university. They will pitch one member of staff against another and they know our weaknesses; mine being a strong belief in the inferiority of chemistry. So they will deliberately start up an ideological battle between myself and a willing chemist and stir up rivalry.

OK, so it is lots of fun, but like my Stirling engine, I've ground to a halt, but I'll need a bit more than some machine oil and a hot cup of tea to get going again.

Friday, 1 July 2016

The mysteries of the solar system...

A nifty little space craft called Juno prepares to probe the Jovian atmosphere to help us learn more about its darker secrets and immense power, and teachers up and down the country are busily stuck at their computers trying to make sense of the Govian legacy in education and its phenomenal impact on what and how we will teach next year. Many of us are looking in the rafters to see if we can uncover stores of forgotten O’level papers. The Govian world is not necessarily bad, just different; a bizarre cross-breed of 1983 and 1953 which is already showing problems with its digestive tract and probably won’t have a long life-expectancy.

As I cobble together ‘schemes of work’ I’m also depressingly aware of a further legacy of this government: British Values. We teachers have to sign up to these, we have to memorise them, we have to live them, we may be tested on our knowledge and assimilation into them if we are inspected.

I’m still not sure what British Values have to do with the contents of the Physics courses and their delivery, but never mind. Perhaps I’ll just stick a poster of a stressed Chief Engineer of the USS Enterprise over the door to the lab uttering his immortal words: ah cannae change the laws of physics, Captain. Here they are (and apologies for using sarcasm):

Democracy: yes we accept the results of elections that have been carried out fairly, we respect the views of the British people then they cast their votes, no?  

The rule of law: We abide by the rules as set out by our democratically elected government, no? And don’t seek to get them overturned in Brussels, no? We have governments who never bring forward laws that were never mentioned in their manifestos, no? Gay marriage, anyone?
Individual liberty: People are free to vote (or not vote) in whichever way they see fit, they do not have to tow a party line, no?
Mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs: We show great tolerance and respect towards the elderly, those on the left and right who made up their own minds when voting in the referendum last Thursday, including those in the North of England who may not be as well educated as ourselves in London and the SE, but who did not vote the way 'we' wanted them to vote, no?

What a joy it is to be British! The British are best summed up as a disparate group of big thinking, big dreaming, but ultimately petty-minded and insular souls, hell-bent on heroic failure and hypocrisy. Three cheers for being British!

 Plucky little spacecraft has close encounter with the Govian atmosphere.

Sunday, 26 June 2016


The efficacy and power of prayer does not come from us. Prayer comes through us but it can leave us drained.  In order for Joshua to be successful in battle, Moses has to pray and if he got tired and his arms dropped things did not go well for Joshua.  So Aaron and Hur supported his arms.  The analogy to the work of the Church and Christ's work is blatantly obvious.  Yes, prayer drains.  The woman with the issue of blood drained the strength from Christ, we ought not be surprised if prayer weakens us too.

Usually I try to keep my prayer as lighthearted as possible, and I thought that the prayer I made this morning would fall into that category: access to a Door of Mercy and a prayer for the Holy Souls of that place.....  I find that place an exceptionally sad place, there is an atmosphere there I've never felt in another Catholic Church, not even in those desecrated during war. I thought this prayer may help.  Perhaps it has, I'm now so drained....

But perhaps it is just me.  Perhaps the tiredness is my constant battle with myself and my ideals.  Perhaps it is both. Perhaps it is something else. Prayer can be very irresponsible, it just happens and we never quite know its reasons or its consequences, a fleeting prayer for a near stranger could have done this to me. Indeed, one never approaches prayer for others from the position of one's own perfection and understanding.  Charity is wrought in our imperfections and that is what fits us for Heaven, perfect charity is made in imperfect, ignorant people......

I have also put an end to a 25 year old hurt. Back then I didn't know my own strength and I cornered someone intellectually and morally and left them with virtually no dignity and no room to back away. And subconsciously at least, I've been basking in my own righteousness ever since. It was time to make peace, it was time for us both to smile and get on with our very different lives.... I'm staggered it has taken so long, though perhaps this one needed time... And the release; letting go of the past, the complete freedom we now both have, that too is probably extremely draining. I seem to be spending a lot of time now  'mending stuff and ironing out creases'.

Time for some Louis MacNeice and time for bed....

 from Autumn Journal XXIV

Sleep, my body, sleep, my ghost,
Sleep, my parents and grand-parents,
And all those I have loved the most:
One man's coffin is another's cradle.
Sleep, my past and all my sins,
In distant snow or dried roses
Under the moon for nights' cocoon will open
When day begins.
Sleep, my fathers, in your graves
On upland bogland under heather:
What the wind scatters the wind saves,
A sapling springs in a new country.
Time is a country, the present moment
A spotlight roving round the scene:
We need not chase the spotlight,
The future is the bride of what has been.
Sleep my fancies and my wishes,
Sleep a little and wake strong,
The same but different and take my blessing-
A cradle-song.
And sleep, my various and conflicting
Selves I have so long endured,
Sleep in Asclepius' temple
And wake cured.

The Spiritual Wombat takes a nap.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Reasons why....

.....I won't be voting on Thursday.

I don't care and I don't want whatever trivial response I generate in the booth with my stubby pencil to cancel out the vote of someone who actually cares.

I can't care about something that seems to me to be an illusion.  A question has been generated that simply can't be answered in a binary way, yet we are being asked to make a binary choice.

I feel like I am being manipulated.  I feel like this is a pretence at democracy; this is lazy government. Most referenda are simply a manifestation of lazy government.  "Let the people say, let the people say...."  but it is a sham, and an horrific waste of money, and I wish to make a democratic response to this by not voting.

The actual outcome doesn't matter.  It is what we do with the outcome that matters.  What needs to happen is that the outcome acts to foster greater subsidiarity.  It should be the beginning of the debate, it should act to develop a greater understanding by a greater number people of nationhood and government.  However I am not optimistic or even enthusiastic.  Indeed in this instance it will probably be the most economically ruinous outcome that works the greatest good!

hey ho, as Noel Coward once sang: Hooray! Hooray! suffering and dismay!

I'll leave the last words to a real Physicist.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

She who pays the rent

Ollie Bear here after a long break, hope you are all well.  She who pays the rent has not blogged much recently so I thought I'd inject a spark of life into the blog by letting you know what is happening here at Cozee Cottage in deepest Wessex.

She who pays the rent has been having a somewhat difficult time of it and we who sit and think on her spare bed are nearly feeling sorry for her.  However, heaven help you if you give her any false pity, so just read and digest. She comes form the wrong side of the Pennines, but this trait of hers is quite in keeping with good Yorkshire bears, she'll give you a very hard stare of you go "ooo how awful" or "gosh, you're having it rough".  I mean this is how we bonded in the first place. About 20 years ago now, I was sat on a shelf above the cake counter in a tea room in Kirby Lonsdale with a price tag on my paw and some young children started pointing at me and saying to their parents that they "wanted" me.  Panic set in, I'm simply not a "children's bear", I became petrified and then she caught my eye and saw the panic therein.  She returned my look, not with an "oo you poor bear, how awful for you", no she walked straight up to the counter and "purchased" me before the children's pesterpower could have any effect on their parents.  It was a sweet moment, the look on the faces of the children is not one I will forget. You see, we both know if you are going to have pity, it needs action not words.

But back to my ramble.  Yes she's definitely having it rough.  She started the year by having a patch of really good health, we actually thought that the doctors may have finally got her medication right and she may actually start flourishing again.  It has been a long time.  But then her job went crazy stupid in the amount of works she was being expected to do.  It was unreasonable, she said it was difficult but she felt quite well, so she kept going in the hope that things would settle down.  We knew she was not OK, and then one day she wobbled badly at her work and they had to call an ambulance. There was nothing wrong with her that A&E could sort out and they told her to get back in touch with her consultant.  We don't think she's been right since then, she sighs a lot and it takes her a long time to do anything and also she's been far less attentive to us.  Also, Cyril the Wombat (her personal valet, pax! we don't like each other much, I think I'm jealous, he just arrive one day in a paper bag covered in wisteria and our little world has not been the same since, he lives in the study so he sees more of her than we do) says that although he's plying her with as many oven chips as she can eat, she's not exactly putting on weight.  Anyway, her consultants have been doing a barrage of tests on her, the most spectacular of which was a lumbar puncture.  She had an "unfortunate" reaction to this which meant she was in bed for about a week and she was definitely in a lot of pain.  I don't think her "ailment" responded well to this shock and she's still not right.  She even called for one of those "men in black" who came and muttered loads of Latin over her and did something with some oil.  They were both very cheery about it afterwards, but she is like that, she can be so annoyingly and genuinely cheery when things are serious, it quite puts a bear off his guard.

So yesterday, I called her into the spare room for a chat.  We needed to know the truth about her.  Quite frankly we are worried.  We are worried about her naturally, but bears are also selfish creatures and we are worried that she may lose her job and we will forfeit our cushy life here on the Spare Bed of Deep Thinking and Tranquillity.

Annoyingly she just said "well boys, stuff is happening, it often does to me and we get through, be patient. If you want to do something useful, read the Book of Tobit (Douay version), and think deeply about the messages contained therein".

We're reading and we're thinking and we're stumped.  We can't quite see what a tale about sparrow droppings, dead fish, a lively dog and a very helpful angel has to do with life here in Cozee Cottage, but we are working on it.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

I have nothing positive or edifying to say.  So this post will be brief.  I am however mustering my thoughts for a possible series of posts on "the theology of failure and disappointment"... something may come of this, it is a recurring theme in my spiritual life and my relationship with the Church, and my relationships within the Church.

Spiritually I'm in the desert, it is exhilarating, it is not empty.  I feel fully alive, I feel more healthy than I have felt for some time, everything is supercharged, every sense is heightened, every joy profound, every sorrow painful....It is the desert, but it is not the Lenten desert.  I am alone and there is an overwhelming sense of "unknowing", but "my cup runneth over" in the emptiness... So that in the everyday world of work, parish and village life I am, and it is no sham, content, happy and calm.  Spiritually, battles are raging furiously but God doesn't seem to want me to be "dragon-slaying" or fighting anything.  My fighting days are done for now. My battle now is personal, it is to trust God in the desert..... to trust Him that the ravens will keep coming to feed me.

And folks, that is where I will be until I next write; feeling like an Old Testament prophet in my quaint but bleak corner of Wessex.

Friday, 8 April 2016


It doesn't get much more simple or beautiful than the Tridentine Catechism's teaching on Marriage.  Read that, be inspired by that and be of good cheer.....

And here is a picture just to remind you of how simple some things are...

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Thorns (5)

... and now to dealing with the thorns.....

my advice.... be very cautious!  You see, the thing is,  we ARE the thorns.  As Christ speaks to His beloved in the Song of Songs:

I am the flower of the field, and the lily of the valleys. As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.

And this is the whole point of Lent, something impossible has to happen.  The lily will be injured by the thorns, the lily will be be killed by the thorns, but the lily will rise again and will not stop loving us.  And somehow in true love, we become lily and leave our thornyness behind... and being lily, we too get injured by the thorns.... but now they cannot kill us because we truly love.

And one more thing; dry thorns have the terrifying ability to start a conflagration that will destroy everything in their path.  Are not dry thorns the sins of our past?  Surely it is nothing but the mercy of God that prevents our countless sins from devouring and destroying all that is good... go to Confession! And pray for mercy on us and on the whole world. 

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Thorns (4)

A quick search of the online D-R Bible reveals that the Bible makes 40 references to thorns.

The first is in Genesis 3:18 after the fall.

And to Adam He said, 'Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded  you 'You shall not eat of it,' cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life: thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. ....'

This sets the tone.  I think it is important to note that God does NOT curse Adam or Eve at all.  God explicitly says the serpent is cursed and the ground is cursed as a consequence of the fall but not humans.  God says our lives will be difficult, we will have to toil and much of that toil may appear fruitless and/or be painful, but this is surely not a curse, it is a necessary chastisement so that we can come to know God better.  And through Our Lord's willingness to embrace ALL the sorry consequences of the fall (though without any stain of sin Himself), ultimately our toil is elevated as a work of redemption and of glory. Indeed, if we too are willing to accept this toil for the love of God, especially where it is grossly unfair and not caused directly by our own sin, we can share in His work of redemption, because we are then in imitation of Him.  And surely that is the lot of the saints.

But back to the thorns.  The passage from Genesis seems to suggest that thorns and thistles are a consequence of the cursed ground.  There would certainly be no thorns and no thistles in the Garden of Eden.  They seem to be a part of God's creation that at best seems "useless" and at worst seem to be in direct conflict with the Tree of Life, strangling and blocking out all that is naturally good.  However, I am not a fan of arguments about "usefulness".  God doesn't seem to operate anywhere within the realms of "utility". Galaxies are too numerous to count and there are simply too many species of insects and plants most of which have yet to be discovered.  Beauty in nature is fractal and spreads from the microscopic to the galactic with no diminishing is the lavishnes and abundance of its creativity.  God is not interested in "usefulness".  Love is not a "useful" thing, it simply is, it simply has being and simply propagates itself as and how it chooses because it can, and its "fecundity" would be unstopable if it weren't for sin. Thorns are not sin, God does not create sin.

So thorns then seem to strangle what is naturally good but they are God's work, therefore they MUST bring about grace if we accept them for what they are; a necessary chastisement a necessary block to our notions of progress and what is best for us, they spring up just when we don't want them, just when we think things are doing well, just when we forget God.  So rejoice that we have been given thorns and rejoice that they are such a potent symbol of His plans for His stubborn, proud, little creatures.

How we should tackle the thorns that spring up in our lives will be the subject of my next post.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Bl Elizabeth of the Trinity

I rejoice at the news that Bl Elizabeth of the Trinity is to "receive her sainthood".  She is a dear dear friend to me and one I have great difficulty in getting others to appreciate.  There are even people very receptive to the Carmelite spirituality who find her dry and even boring, and in her writings nearly devoid of human characteristics.  So this is my post to try to enthuse my dear readers with a greater understanding of this amazing woman and all that God made manifest in her. I will not do this by giving you a biography of her life and inspiring you.  I will not do this by trying to explain her understanding of the indwelling of the Blessed Trinity and her own very special take on Carmelite Spirituality. I will do this by trying to show you what she means to me. I will try to show you how I have engaged in her friendship and how the misgivings of others are actually completely valid and actually the correct way to approach her and understand the amazing richness of what she has to give.

When she was asked what she thought her mission in heaven would be she said:

It seems to me that my mission will be to draw souls, by helping them to go out of themselves in order to adhere to God by a simple, wholly loving movement and to maintain them in that great inner silence which allows God to imprint Himself on them and transform them into Himself.

From her "mission" it ought to be obvious that we will not find her if we seek her, she is totally absorbed in the Blessed Trinity, she has forgotten herself. But that doesn't mean she isn't present to intercede for us and to guide us if we too wish to go where she has gone.  And guide she does, gently, but carefully, meeting the soul where they are and indicating the signposts along the way.

But that place she loves is scary.  She calls it the abyss.  God for her is the Infinite Solitude.  Loneliness is fullness of being.

To me it is all about how we love God, and her way of loving God may seem outrageous to you, but that doesn't make it wrong.  We are all different and naturally there are different genuine ways of loving God.  So taking some advice from Fr Faber's The Creator and the Creature, here are the some of the manifestations of our love of God, as listed by Faber, but with particular reference to how Bl Elizabeth's love shows itself.

Firstly there is the love of benevolence: a loving kindness towards God, a wanting things to be better for God, wishing Him impossible perfections through the actions of His humble little creature who so loves Him.  This is a childish love and one that is expressed by many of the saints. Such a soul wants God to be happy and through their love, they do help impart His grace on others. They desire impossible things, like an empty hell and an empty purgatory, but their desire is always motivated by a desire for God's happiness and mercifully this prevents it becoming too cloyingly sentimental.

Next there is the love of complacence: a soul that loves in this way simply loves God as He is.  The soul has tranquillity.  As Faber says "it rejoices with Him in His unity, one of His own deepest and most secret joys". And Faber almost predicts Bl Elizabeth's "new song", her "praise of His Glory" when he writes "a new strain of music steels out from its inmost soul.  It rejoices that none else is like to God". Such love may appear a bit dull to others, but such complacent love is ecstatic.

I would argue that whilst St Therese's personality makes the love of benevolence more manifest, with Bl Elizabeth it is the love of complacence that shines through.  Bl Elizabeth forgets herself, she is disinterested in her own sufferings and consolations, but she has found the pearl of great price and she wants you to "come and see".

I advise you to read her two short retreats, "Heaven on Earth" and "Laudem Gloriae".  Forget about her as a person but, let her explain the depth of St Paul's writings to you, let her love of God lead you on, let her lead you like any good teacher, at your pace and with your own personal curriculum.... and she will not disappoint.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Thorns (3)

This post is about those mysterious words of St Paul in the second letter to the Corinthians:

And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given to my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated.  Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

My reflection is personal and based on my own experience of illness and all the world, the flesh and the devil like to throw at us.  I am not intending to speak for St Paul.

The more a person opens up to allowing God to let His will and His glory be their life, the more joyful they are.  It is that Christian joy, the joy that cares neither for suffering or sweetness, it is the joy of being in the Eternal Present, it is somewhat detached from the human condition. This person will walk in imitation of St Paul, as he walked in the life of Christ and not in his own. That level of peace, self mastery and generosity of spirit should be something we all ought to aspire to, rather than the somewhat lesser goal of trying to overcome temptations and sin.  In both cases we will fall short of the mark, but surely it is better to have aimed higher and not to succeed than to have aimed lower and to have landed somewhere very unpleasant.

There is no way we can sustain such a state with our wills.  There is no way such a state is in our control, we are passive to it, we have to be obedient to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.  Such a state is a gift and often the receiver of such a gift is, I think, almost unaware that they have it.

So what about the thorn in the flesh?

Personally I agree with those commentators who say that it was some sort of bodily affliction and that St Paul does us a favour by not being specific.  It would be wrong to associate a particular ailment like cataracts, haemorrhoids or tennis elbow with a growth in holiness.  But it has to be some sort of medical ailment.  A temptation or a persistent sin simply in someone otherwise healthy doesn't make sense.  It has to be an ailment because ailments weaken us.  It is like a permanent Lent.  We are brought low, we are made helpless, we are frustrated and it is not of our doing, we have not tripped up, we have been tripped up, upended and are lying flat on our faces in the mud. Overcoming temptations makes us stronger. Illness weakens and weakens and weakens.....  Granted, such a state could lead to temptations within us to despair, to be filled with self-pity, to be horrid to others who seem to be better off than us, to lose our trust in God.  And when you are ill, these things are precisely what the devil will tempt you to do.  He is persistent.  He constantly whispers in your ear that everything is futile, that "your God won't save you", that life is nasty, brutish and short, that your love of the divine is a sham, that you have nothing of the sort, that you are deluded... and even if you are not tempted to give in and follow his advice and wallow in the misery of your own self-pity.... you are ground down by his persistence and the weakness grows and grows and becomes unbearable.

And yes, then you do cry out to God that you have had enough, that you want this to end.  For me this passage is not about suffering.  I don't think suffering has any intrinsic merit and I steer clear of the writings of saints that talk too much about "embracing suffering".  To me to suffer is to lose faith and to lose charity.  That is true suffering and a true abomination, and not something with any merit in itself.  This passage is about a physical affliction that will bring us low and then tempt the devil to kick us when we are down.

And because God's grace is sufficient, all that the kicking, screaming and petulance of the devil does is make us love God more.

A picture of a remedy for a solvable complaint.  I am now more than 9 years without a definite diagnosis.  I am being seen by my third set of consultants.  They are very interested in me and say my complaints are genuine, I have had more tests and trips to London than I care to recount and they still haven't got a clue what is wrong... hey, ho......life eh??? Illness is soooo boring.

"Rejoice I say again rejoice"  Phil 4:4.

......and the NHS, and the whole panoply of doctors and pharamacists and health care professionals can't touch that.....

Saturday, 20 February 2016


With a nod to popuar culture and the Big Bang Theory's coupling of

Sheldon + Amy = Shamy

How about

Trump + Pope = Trope


Troublesome Questions + Pope = Trope

A trope being a figure of speech where meaning goes from literal to non-literal.  Tropes cannot be taken literally and ought not be analysed too severely.  They do not form part of theological, scientific or philosophical discourse, they are used for emphasis, they are very human..... tropes are about feelings and passion. That the Holy Father's tropes are elongated and last for several paragraphs is fine, that is how he speaks, that is how he loves God. Never decry a man for truly loving God, or his means of doing so. Tropes do not stand up to having meanings nailed to them by the ever helpful Lombardi. Spend more time with Sacred Scripture, spend more time with the Divine Office than with the words of any one man..... find God there and listen to Him first.

And there is always

Flight + Pope = Plight

which can be defined as an unfortunate situation.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Thorns (2)

Once upon a time, thorns could be fun.  I remember the old rose bushes in the garden would produce them with abundance and they could be easily snapped off and being sticky you could put them on your skin.  So in those impossibly warm and innocent summers of the mid 70s, we'd be running through the gardens, thorns on noses or thumbs pretending to be a Triceratops or an Iguanadon (or a some strange hybrid of the two).

me in the garden circa 1976 with thorns on thumbs

As a rule, however, thorns aren't fun.  Nobody makes jokes about thorns.  Nobody lovingly cares for a plant to nurture its thorns (or do they?).  Thorns don't do irony or parody either.  They are too straight talking, too clear about their own purpose, too unsubtle...

And they've led me to the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13).  Seed is scattered on different types of ground, with different results.  The seed that falls on thorny ground is choked by the thorns.

Our Lord explains, saying that the seed than fell amongst thorns "is he who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the delight in riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful".

There is nothing to suggest that the seed isn't in good soil.  I think this seed has depth and security for its roots.  But the seed is choked.  This suggests an above-ground phenomenon. The germinating seed has nutrients (good education, ample access to the Sacraments, access to intelligent priests and pious literature) but progress is blocked by that which is impregnable, an attack on the senses and the intelligence of man, an attack from his greatest enemy, that which is in complete opposition to the Christian life: the cares of the world and delight in riches.

And the problem is we will see thorns everywhere, if we start to look, and the whole Church seems to be choking with them (if you read certain blogs).  But the problem, I think, is engaging with them in the first place. They are battles we can't win. Thorns, remember don't do humour, subtlety, irony, gentleness or beauty.... and if you start seeing Holy Mother Church trapped in a Masonic conspiracy of thorny badness, then basically you are the one who is being choked, and that is one less solider fit for active duty in the Church Militant. Indeed if we take too much delight in the riches of our Catholic culture over and above delight in the good soil of the solid teaching and love of Our Lord, and that which has been handed down through His apostles and the Church Fathers, then we too come up against thorns.  We see everything as "under attack".  We see enemies everywhere, and basically we are screwed.

Now this doesn't mean denying that there are issues.  It means KNOWING that we can't solve them.  It means knowing we are helpless.  It means concentrating on the unum necessarium.  Leave the Lord to apply the systemic weedkiller, all you need to do in concentrate on your own growth in that lovely rich soil that He has so generously provided for you.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Thorns (1)

I've been meaning to write a series of Lenten reflections on thorns for some years now. I think the time has come.  Even my words of wisdom from St Philip Neri on the sidebar are thorn related, I had intended to pick something far more up-beat from his Maxims for 2016, but that saying of his stuck out and stuck to me and won't let go.

I will start with Jothan's parable in the Book of Judges.

The back story is that Israel had had Gideon as Judge.  He was a humble man and fearless in battle. Israel was toying with the idea of having a king and said to him "Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also; for you have delivered us out of the hand of Midian." Gideon replied to them, "I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you." (Judges 8:22) That Gideon then goes and messes up by making and object for idolatry, is typical of the tales in the book of Judges and one of the reasons why I love the book so much.  Gideon may not have been king in name, but he lived with the trappings of kingship. After Gideon's death, the son of Gideon by a concubine then stirs up his mother's people in Shechem against his 70 children by his various wives. All but one are ritually slaughtered (upon one stone), the youngest Jothan escapes and his parable is the tale he tells atop Mount Gerizim addressed to the people of Shechem.

I can't imagine he gathered the townsfolk together to tell them this parable.  Rather, I see him standing in some natural auditorium in the hillside speaking to the wind. I see him hoping his voice will carry to Shechem, and perhaps carry down the centuries; it is a prophetic tale about the nature of kingship.  He leaves his words to future generations and disappears into obscurity, like any good prophet. It is his message to us all that interests me, rather than his immediate curse-like prophecy regarding the destruction of Shechem at the hands of Abimelech.

Listen to me you men of Shechem, that God may listen to you.
Ahh, Shechem with its chequered history and chequered future; where Abraham built his altar in recognition of God's covenant, where the son's of Israel, Simeon and Levi massacred the inhabitants in revenge for the rape of their sister, where in a few short years after Jothan's prophecy, the self-proclaimed king, Abimelech massacres its inhabitants, where for a short while after the death of Solomon , the kings of Israel held their investitures  and finally where Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well of Jacob. Yes, Shechem has a lot to say to us about Kingship.  Jothan is speaking down the ages, he is the rightful heir of Gideon and a rightful king of Israel (if he so desired).

The trees once went forth to anoint a king over them; and they said to the olive tree, 'Reign over us.' But the olive tree said to them, 'Shall I leave my fatness, by which the gods and men are honoured, and go to sway over the trees?'
The oil from the olive is the oil that ran down Aaron's beard to the hem of his garment, it is the oil of anointing, the oil of the priesthood. It has humbler uses too as a food staple. The tree has utility to men and gods.  I think Jothan is telling us that Kingship is not about utility.

And the trees said to the fig tree, 'Come you and reign over us.' But the fig tree said to them, 'Shall I leave my sweetness and my good fruit, and go sway over the trees?'
The trees are still looking for a king amongst those trees that are useful. And the fig tree, like the olive tree seems to have a distorted view of kingship.  It sees kingship as lording it over the other trees.  The fig, like the olive, knows its place and knows it isn't destined for kingship.

And the trees said to the vine, 'Come you and reign over us.' But the vine said to them, 'Shall I leave my wine which cheers gods and men, and go sway over the other trees?.
As with any good parable, there needs to be triple failure to drill home the point.  Trees of utility can not be kings, kingship is not a "useful" thing. BUT neither is kingship about "swaying over the other trees" in superiority.

Then the trees said to the bramble, 'Come you, and reign over us.' And the bramble said to the trees, 'If in good faith you are anointing me king over you, then come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon.'
Is it not strange that the trees never asked the mighty cedar to be their king?  Too scared perhaps.  So they approach the bramble who is humble and honest. He understands the nature of kingship. Firstly, he knows kingship is about protection and he knows he can make an impenetrable fortress with his thorns.  But you will have to get very low yourself to make use of it.  You will have to be humble and sincere or he can offer you no protection. And in the heat of the summer is is possible for tinder dry bramble to cause the most awesome of fires that will consume all the other trees, including the mighty cedar. So secondly and not actually paradoxically, the bramble knows that having a king has consequences; a king can also destroy as well as save.


.....And The King was mocked as a crown of brambles was placed on His Sacred Head.  His Kingship was not taken in good faith, and we've been mocking it ever since.  

But the bramble was raised up with the King, to sit upon His Head as He reigns from Calvary. A sign of His Glory and our protection.

Monday, 8 February 2016

many waters

A mad weir of tigerish waters
Prism of delight and pain

There are times when I wish I could bump into a middle aged Louis MacNeice (whose words those are, the full poem can be found here), find some slightly run down tea room, stain a cup with lipstick, hang on his every word, smoke seductively in stockings and tweed and observe the ordinariness and complexity of complete strangers that pass by......  I've been reading his poetry again, those waters I inhabit seem particularly tigerish at the moment.

The pews at church even joined in, they too looked tigerish this Sunday.  Wood grain is funny stuff, it is almost impossible to recall a pattern once you've seen it.  It seems so fluid. The delight and pain dance round each other: complementary not adversarial.

And I'm tired of the pain.  Very tired.  And this makes me weary of the delights.  I could shake my fist at God and tell Him to stop.  The delights all seems like a cruel joke: holy things and the comfort of scripture, feeling consolation in prayers, the peace in my soul, birds singing at Lauds.... when all the while, the burden of plodding on, the weariness of bearing up, being ill, being there for others, being unable to communicate to another that which is in my heart..... and add to this the cruelty of the enemy and God's steadying hand to "be patient", "bear with"....... and I'm just screaming out "how long Lord?  How long?"

But this is our path.  The path is never right entirely because even if it were, we are too broken to walk it as we should.  Indeed it is the mistakes, the crazy mixed up, unknown, mathematically unpredictable, shambolic mess of our faults and failings that is our very path to heaven (or to hell). Indeed the path becomes our hell if we at any stage think we are making progress and we start to rely on our own strength and forget the God who loves us.

Solomon is right: (Song of Solomon 8:7)

Many waters cannot quench charity, neither can the floods drown it: if a man should give all the substance of his house for love, he shall despise it as nothing.

We are just asked to love and know that God loves us and has given ALL for us, even as flooding looms and the waters are baring their teeth and snarling pitilessly.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Thoughts on the Mandatum

The Evening Mass on Holy Thursday used to be my favourite bit of the Triduum.  It was the most meditative and the most moving.  However I have never really liked the "washing of the feet", here are my thoughts, following what I've read eslewhere today about women being "given permission" to have their feet washed.

The dear departed was invariably picked to have his feet washed; being male, being a solid member of whichever parish we were in and being someone who would not say "no".  He hated it; trying to find decent socks, shoes that he could easily get off and on with arthritic fingers, making sure his toenails were decent and making sure he put out his left foot only, he didn't want any priest to be startled by his hammer toe on the right foot.  We'd never start that Mass in the right frame of mind, he'd be worrying too much, and he a server of some standing, proficient in both rites.  This was different, it was about him as a man, not a server, and he simply hated the attention.

Thought (1): It is disruptive to the congregation.

My old Novus Ordo Missal says the following:

The washing of the feet may follow the homily.  The men who have been chosen are led by the ministers to chairs prepared in a suitable place.  The priest  goes to each man.  With the help of ministers, he pours water over each one's feet and dries them.

Thought (2) : that word "may"... it is optional, remember that, it is optional
Thought (3): those words "suitable place".... I maintain the sanctuary is NOT a suitable place.  My first parish in Salford was blessed with a very large sanctuary, but the priest (no Trad) always insisted that chairs were positioned infront of where the altar rails would have been, had they not been removed.  He said, "it is about serving the people of God, and that takes place outside the sanctuary, we serve God in the sanctuary".  He had a point, and I happen to agree with him.  Indeed, I've been informed that if this ever takes place in the Orthodox liturgy, it obviously happens on the layman's side of the iconostasis.  I would also argue that hospitals, prisons etc are suitable places.  The Mandatum could be seen as "liturgy in the streets" in a way that no other aspect of the liturgy can.
Thought (4): you don't need 12, but you knew that already
Thought (5): If women are permitted, women are permitted, deal with it.  However, this woman won't be volunteering.  Having been privileged enough to receive the Sacrament of the Sick in the old rite where one's feet are anointed with the sacred oil... oh dear no! Priests and women's feet, it is too intimate... I actually kept my shoes on and he did a double anointing on both hands instead... we were both uncomfortable about the intimacy of seeing my feet, that felt right, I was not about to expire, I was not on my death bed, though the sacrament was absolutely necessary, undressing before him would have been wrong.  It was unsaid, we both just knew that naked female feet were not appropriate.

Thought (6)
Is it actually "liturgy" at all?  It could be argued that it is a form of preaching, and before Pius XII, was not preaching seen as a non-liturgical act?  Indeed, just like the maniple is removed before the homily and the homily takes place outside the sanctuary because it is not a liturgical act, there is no maniple  for the washing of the feet, there is a REAL TOWEL.  Hmmm.....that says to me it was originally not intended to be liturgical.... therefore it can be performed anywhere and on anybody as an act of symbolic service to God's people by priests, mother superiors, bishops, popes.... just not in the sanctuary... because it is non-liturgical. BUT we are in a mess because preaching is considered to be a liturgical thing these days and the maniple is not worn in the new rite.

Thought (7)
If it is just a re-enactment of Christ's symbolic act of service to the Eleven, then surely it should only be performed by a Bishop on priests (and probably only in a Cathedral).  It is a heirarchy thing, and if it is clerical, then it is clerical and laypersons should not be used, especially to "represent" the priesthood. 

I now attend a 12 noon Mass on Holy Thursday because I have become so uncomfortable with seeing the Mandatum take place in the sanctuary.  The noon Mass has no Mandatum and I then return to the church for the stripping of the altar and watching in the evening.... it is the stripping of the altar that sends the shivers down my spine.... and to me, it is that act that is the essence of that special day.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Holier than thou...

I don't normally take any notice of stuff on Rorate Caeli, I think the site is indecent....

However as they were good enough to highlight and warp the Holy Father's homily for today's readings, I feel inclined to draw out some exegesis of my own, making points that the Holy Father did not choose to draw out, but ones that are nevertheless relevant to us all.

The passage in question is 1 Sam 15:16-23.  I use the DRB translation because it is out of copyright.

And Samuel said to Saul: Suffer me, and I will tell thee what the Lord hath said to me this night. And he said to him: Speak. And Samuel said: When thou wast a little one in thy own eyes, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel? And the Lord anointed thee to be king over Israel. And the Lord sent thee on the way, and said: Go, and kill the sinners of Amalec, and thou shalt fight against them until thou hast utterly destroyed them. Why then didst thou not hearken to the voice of the Lord: but hast turned to the prey, and hast done evil in the eyes of the Lord. And Saul said to Samuel: Yea I have hearkened to the voice of the Lord, and have walked in the way by which the Lord sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalec, and Amalec I have slain.  But the people took of the spoils sheep and oxen, as the firstfruits of those things that were slain, to offer sacrifice to the Lord their God in Galgal.  And Samuel said: Doth the Lord desire holocausts and victims, and not rather that the voice of the Lord should be obeyed? For obedience is better than sacrifices: and to hearken rather than to offer the fat of rams.  Because it is like the sin of witchcraft, to rebel: and like the crime of idolatry, to refuse to obey. Forasmuch therefore as thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, the Lord hath also rejected thee from being king. 

If you care to read the preceding verses, the Lord makes it abundantly clear that NOTHING of Amalec must remain.  It is all tainted with evil, the whole lot.  It all has to be destroyed.  And of course we read this today in the spiritual sense, seeing Amalec as sin itself: something which must be rooted out completely.  Sin must not be found on the Lord's anointed (and these days, that is you and me folks, we are anointed). 

Now we transgress and transgress again.  That is human nature, and it doesn't make us failures.  BUT if the Lord gives us an instruction, then we follow it.  We cannot love Him unless we obey.  To be disobedient to a command of the Lord, especially when it was given personally, is serious stuff. 

Saul disobeyed the Lord.  He allowed his army to take booty and he did not slay Agag, king of Amalec.

It is Saul's response to Samuel's dressing down that interests me.  Saul says "yes but we used the best of the booty to make sacrifice to the Lord".  He is almost saying, "yes, but we honoured God most beautifully and timelessly (all lace and fiddleback chasubules), it really was all rather splendid and edifying".  But the Lord is not impressed. Saul is standing up for the Lord's people, to be fair that is honourable, but he most blatantly was not showing any leadership.  He most blatantly was not behaving like a king, even though he is being very nice to make excuses for his subjects.

If you are not obedient to His commands, then no amount of splendid worship will please God.

We still have the command to put the ban on sin, to eradicate it completely.  Nothing has changed except that it is now encompassed in the twofold commandment of loving God and neighbour.

So peeps of a traditional persuasion: have you put the ban on sin, are your spiritual leaders guiding you out of love of God and neighbour, have you really not tried to cover up some avarice and lust and mask it or excuse it through undertaking some fancy but traditional and male-only liturgical dance, ad orientem round the altar of sacrifice, as if doing so covers a multitude of sins?