Thursday, 25 August 2016

The school of love

Life is school.  This bothers me, I don't like school, but life is a school; a school of love.  We are here to learn how to love and we finish our training with death.  There are no repeats if we don't get it right first time, if we don't do as well as we ought to have done. At the moment of death, the stark reality of the depth of our love will be made known, and that is the 'grade' we will have for eternity.  There is no increasing this grade after our bodies have been separated from our souls.

This school throws challenges our way and all we are asked to do is respond with love and in responding with love, learn even more about love and how to love.  Some challenges are part of everyone's curriculum and discipline; the boring everyday work of growing in virtue, the discipline of regular prayer, the 'duties of state' we must undertake and do well and do with goodness in our hearts.

Some challenges are more random and we may wish never to experience them, but they will happen.  Sometimes they are life changing 'accidents', like being caught up in earthquakes, floods or severe illness.  God doesn't coldly sit on His heavenly throne and say: hmm today I'll send an earthquake and see how my little ones react.  Earthquakes happen, floods happen, illness happens.  The fabric of the universe is broken and the cause of that brokenness is our first disobedience and every sin, even minor ones are capable of ripping that interconnected, beautifully weaved, delicate beyond measure fabric to shreds.  It is only God's mercy that prevents this from happening.  But the earthquakes and floods don't mean God as stopped being merciful or somehow forgot to be merciful to prevent them happening. They are part of our school of love.

Most things we learn at school aren't the things on the curriculum or things carefully incorporated into the timetable.  And this is how it is in the school of love.  Random things come our way and the challenge is to respond by putting God first and responding with love.  We cannot plan for them.

Some challenges are part of our vocation.  A vocation is a known path to the Kingdom of God, and there are really only three; priesthood, consecrated religious life and marriage.  God gives us a path to follow, and that path becomes our means of sanctification and everything that happens subsequently is part of that vocation.  Many of the 'lessons' on this course are interior struggles.  Many of the 'lessons' seem nearly cruel, of would be cruel if you didn't respond to them with love. For some, the vocation never gets off the ground, it is never 'consummated' on earth, but the rebellion against it and the battling with the enemy who hates it are what brings us to God.

I was married to a man who should have been a priest, though he never made it through seminary.  But the priesthood was his vocation, God doesn't make mistakes [that men enter the priesthood who shouldn't is not of His doing].  It doesn't mean our marriage was invalid, it doesn't lessen the vocation of marriage, it doesn't mean our marriage wasn't fruitful in love and loving witness to God (even if it was childless).  But as we grew in our faith (returning to the older rite of Mass had a massive impact), he remembered his vocation and he became more and more wounded.  He saw how the enemy had constantly put horrendous things in his way (most of which he submitted to, including sexual abuse in seminary) so that his vocation eventually became an impossibility (before he met me he'd procured an abortion for someone and that is automatic disqualification from the priesthood). But the vocation was still there, and the longing in his heart grew, and he just handed it over to God as the strain on his body became too much.  My husband had taken on probably the most difficult classes in the school; the class of failure and disappointment.  This class leads to God, it cannot fail but lead to God, if you respond with love. He died beautifully.

I'm not sure whether I too am on that path of failure and disappointment. I'm not sure where I am, or why things are as they are for me. I don't even know what my classes are in the school of love though I do feel like many of the classes I am attending are not ones I should be at. I don't think I'll ever be more than a mediocre pupil in this school but I am a fighter and there are some things that I know I must fight for even if I lose.

Friday, 19 August 2016

What I'm really thinking....

Public examination results for the UK's senior school age pupils are out this week and next.  For various reasons, professional and personal, I get to hear about a lot of the results.  I think I'm supposed to rejoice with the happy and commiserate with the not-so-happy.  I find it all so difficult and do my best to hide from having to act in this way.

My big problem is that to me it has such a hollow ring to it and I'm reminded in particular of three deaths.

Two pupils I have taught (separated by years and location) who were recognised nationally for their intelligence and aptitude were dead within a year of their results (misadventure and natural causes) and a third who'd never been recognised for much but who was a gentle, sensitive soul committed suicide at this time, fearful of what lay beyond the safe envrionment of school.

So excuse me, my dears, if the smile on my face as you tell me how well you have done looks a little fake; it is.  I want, like St Philip Neri, to question you as you tell me your plans, I want to say like him: and then what.......? and I want to repeat it and repeat it until you see that something is missing.

You see, my dears, you are living a lie and one I (as a teacher) am partly responsible for propagating.  The lie is self-betterment, self-determination, achievement and progress.  The lie is that you are climbing a ladder, one rung at a time and you have it in you to reach all the way to the top, and that reaching the top of that ladder is somehow important. The lie is to believe in your results, that they are part of who you are, that they help you become more of who you are. Don't most school assemblies echo this sentiment?  And even if you happen to be religious, there is a danger you are turning God into your own little "genie in Cath Kidston bag", something to charm you up the ladder and see to your needs and your goals.

And, my dears, life is so much better than this, the only progress we are celebrating with your results is the fact that you are becoming more likely to end up an overworked apparatchik of the God-less state.

So instead, tell me about your creativity; tell me that you still paint or sew, write poetry or play in a band.  Tell me about the work you do with your hands; the things you have made, the creatures you have nurtured.  Tell me you see enchantment in the world.  Tell me you love life and the more you live it the more you love, even amongst illness and death and difficult things. Tell me you love learning for its own sake, not for qualifications.Tell me you love doing nothing; tell me you can rest and be content. And then perhaps you are finding the God who loves you so much.

And if I see a glimmer of genuine happiness in you, then I too will be happy and the sad stares of those who have died will not haunt me as much as they do.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Today

Today is the 395th anniversary of the natale of my one of my patrons, St John Berchmans and the 48th anniversary of my conception.  I celebrate his sainthood, it would be a bit odd to celebrate one's conception as well as one's birthday, and as one gets older, birthday celebrations get more and more muted. I got 3 birthday cards this year (4 if you count an e-card from Sergio Aguero and everyone at MCFC). However, Saint John came to find me a few years ago (I did not pick him, he found me) and guided me through some difficult times. It was only more recently when I discovered the coincidence in the dates, that I have got to wondering if our conceptions aren't somehow celebrated in heaven.

I never paid any attention to my conception until one night when a teenager, I'd come home from some grotty Manchester music venue on the last train to find my parents still up and somewhat merry on fermented grape juice. (I've never understood the fascination with wine).  Mum, disgusted as I 'fragranced' the kitchen with the stench of beer, sweat (I was a mean if somewhat unorthodox regular on the dancefloors) and cigarette smoke, blurted out "anyway you were a burst condom and it was your father's fault".  She then proceeded with an unrepeatable tale involving a hairdryer, clothespegs and the scarcity of prophylactics in Ireland.

This tale had a strange effect on me. I found God. I mean, if my parents hadn't been planning me, but I came into their lives, I was still planned, I was still wanted and it was God who wanted me to be conceived at that time, on that day, with those parents (whom He must love greatly in giving them to me).... for His good purpose.

He shoots, He scores.
So, what exactly is God's good purpose for me? He's not for saying, but He is leading me on. Where to? I don't know, but He is in charge.  I think I might know, but it is best not to say.

St John Berchmans, who by the grace of God, found holiness in the ordinary 'duties of state' done with love, pray for me.


Friday, 5 August 2016

irreversibility


This started off as a much needed clear out of my late husband's stuff.  Stuff had to be burned.  Much of his research work involved interviewing category C prisoners, this was stuff that needed obliterating.  I'd successfully seen to all the digital material some years ago.  The volumes of paper needed tackling. Today seemed like a good day.  The farmers were doing something similar in the nearby fields.  A bit more smoke wouldn't be noticed.

Paper doesn't burn very well. There is an art to keeping the incinerator going and stopping it smoking.

I like the irreversibility of burning.  Stuff just goes.

It was just a bit more difficult letting go of my own stuff.  Several weeks back the cottage had a serious attack of mildew.  It was virtually overnight.  I told one of the men in black and he raised a thoughtful eyebrow and suggested I get the place reblessed.  He may be onto something, he may not.  One has to be careful who one prays for, there can be consequences, but if the worst the enemy can do is make a mess of my furniture and stain a wall, then so be it. Praising God, liberal doses of Old Rite Holy Water and a dehumidifier work wonders. The alternative theory for the mildew was a man-made change in the microclimate around the north facing wall which is made of very porous chalk lumps. The sad thing was that the sum total of all my academic work in Physics was left a soggy, stinky mess; from A'level to the completion of my Thesis the whole lot, gone.  It wasn't in a great state before this, it had been stored in various unsuitable places over the years. Digitally, there was nothing apart from some 3 and 1/2 inch floppy discs (showing my age). My achievements were all on paper.

It was the burning of the rotten lab books that really hurt.  Damn, I was good! I was neat, I was thorough and the work was cool.  I have just one academic paper to my name.  There should have been more.  Those lab books mostly contained work I was doing for greater beings, higher up the food chain than I. One never gets any credit for doing this type of work.

I now have nothing to show for my life in my late teens and well into my twenties.  It has all gone.  Perhaps one day this will feel liberating.  Right now it hurts, oh the vanity, oh the pride!  Though the irony of my main love in Physics being the Second Law of Thermodynamics, irreversibility and Entropy has not been lost on me.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Family (3)

Last year I went to my father's birthplace, the reason for going had little to do with family but it ended up being an important trip to 'lay some ghosts to rest'.  My visit coincided with the Chinese festival of the Hungry Ghosts and there were constant reminders of the dead and remembrances of the dead. The Taoist devotions are colourful (I love Chinese Opera), but to me their underworld is a very real hell.  It has overlords and material goods are constantly needed for the happiness of the dead and the overlords need keeping 'sweet'. I have no living family left in that part of the world and I felt like I was walking with the dead as I travelled through the back streets away from the tourist routes, retracing my grandfather's trips to work and visiting the cafes my grandparents had frequented since before the Japanese Occupation.  I went to the churches where they heard Mass, were married, acted as godparents to a significant part of the area's Catholic population. Praying before the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Succor that my grandfather had prayed infront of every day of his working life, I felt like I was stepping back into his past and offering prayers for his intentions, and there was peace in praying for those.  I was praying for those who went missing during the war, praying for the victims of the war and the Communist insurrection that followed and I prayed for my blood family, Taoist and Catholic, the figures in the shadows, those hardly talked about, the fugitives from China, the murderer, the abused, the good, the heroic and the wicked.

This year, there is a calling to do the same in my mother's birthplace, Dublin.  There is even less of a narrative for me to go off here.  My grandmother disowned her own family except for one aunt who came over to England and was living on the Wirral. My mother is an only child and the narrative she tells is never consistent.  Grandfather was an engineer and a gentle man and grandmother a fiercely independent and head-strong, self-made woman who ran her own fashion house, I remember them well but we never discussed our history. I simply don't know what pain there was in my family's past in Ireland, just that everybody seemed to be running away from something and I just want to go and stare it in the face.

 And that seems to be the point, I know there are some deep wounds, but the story behind them has got lost and indeed is not important because the telling of any tale distorts the truth and it becomes legend. Place is important and walking streets and visiting places of significance can do much to heal wounds if approached prayerfully (it certainly worked in Penang). 

Dublin is also the place of my own birth.  I feel the need to connect to that too, there is something restless in my own soul, some connection with place that needs to be reestablished.  I need to visit places important in my own history: it is almost as if I'm being told to 'go home' one last time, pick something up that I carelessly left behind and have forgotten about but will recognise when I see it and wonder how I ever survived without it..... Or perhaps I simply have too much time to think.....
The Rotunda maternity hospital in Dublin, where my journey of bewilderment and 'wrong turns' started over 47 years ago.
*****

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Bad Sex

The increased activity on this little blog is mainly due to the fact I am still orbiting planet Gove.  It is amazing how the mind wishes to take you down other paths and away from what you ought to be doing when what you are doing is tedious and involves long periods of silence and monotony. In space no one can hear you scream.


 My holiday is still being spent developing the Physics courses for next year at school following on from Gove's reforms.   It is dull work, though it will be worth it in the long run.  I'd be tarred and feathered by my colleagues if I actually admitted to them that what he set in motion is actually good.  However, I tend to see all educational reforms as 'opportunities', and this opportunity is actually worth taking seriously.  It is not all work, I'm taking days off and those days I am working, I spend a few hours where I morph into Mrs Tiggywinkle and immerse myself in clerical laundry and mending.

I'm rambling. This post is about bad sex and I'll now get to the point.

It is school related in that whilst I'm deliberately kept away from having any input into the pupils' personal health and social development programme (being a Catholic seems to prohibit me from having any sense in the matter), there are many things that I've had to speak up about.... I don't ever take a moral view with the pupils... it doesn't work... and essentially the only way to avoid moral relativism (mine against theirs) is to avoid morals altogether.

Picture the scene: the pupils enter your class having just come from some 'lesson' on sexual health, they are carrying goodie bags containing glow-in-the dark sperm shaped key rings, biros with information written on them about where to get free contraception or leaflets about 'growing up' and exploring sexuality. Hey, I'm only employed to teach Physics, but such things cannot go unchallenged, and a 5 minute 'rant' leaves me feeling better and gives them something to think about...

(for pupils aged 16 or over):
What have you got there?  Oh so this school is now educating you in a thousand ways to have bad sex.  How mediocre, how unchallenging, how dull [waving a plastic sperm in the air]. Sex using contraception will always be bad sex.  Condoms?  Nah, like having a bath with your socks on.  Why?  Oh, so this is about 'safe sex' is it?  So sex is inherently dangerous?  Make sure you and your partner are both virgins, stick with that partner for life and you'll never need barrier protection from infection, because you'll never have a sexual infection. Simple, heh. Oh, I see, so it is also about not making babies, is it?  Well, isn't that what sex is for?  Surely the ultimate expression of sexual love is in being open to new life?  When two people are involved in an act of total self-giving, when something is happening that is meant to be happening, then it will be good. Sex with contraception is bad sex. What did you just ask? What about 2 gay people who love each other?  They don't need contraception. Yes, you are right (provided there is no chance of STDs), but nor can they have sex.  What they are doing is not sex. The bits don't fit properly, it is not sex, it is mutual masturbation not sexual intercourse. And this is the point, all sex with contraception is also an act of mutual masturbation, you enter into a contract with the other person to supply you with some pleasure, whilst you give them some pleasure in return.  These acts are essentially selfish and have nothing to do with love and once you have engaged in them it is too late.  Once some spotty youth is humping away on you, oblivious to your needs and you realise that if you suddenly turned into a watermelon he wouldn't notice, it is too late, there is no beauty in the act, and you are worth infinitely more than that.  Protect yourself from vodka fueld fumblings on a trip Newquay, protect yourself from seeking pleasures that are not actually that good.  The day somebody tells me I'm wrong and that their first sexual encounters as teenagers weren't phenomenally disappointing, is the day I will stop ranting. But nobody ever does.......

And why do I mention this?  Partly mulling over a conversation I'd had over the weekend with someone entering the teaching profession.... partly I'm just wondering for how long I'll be able to be let loose on your sons and daughters, I cannot follow instructions and teach them as I'm supposed to....

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Psychosis

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

Orientation

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
  • visible thongs
  • 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

Sleep

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

Simplicity....

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

Couplings

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

Sheldon + Amy = Shamy

How about

Trump + Pope = Trope

Or

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.