Friday, 13 March 2015

once a physicist....

This video found itself in my e-mail and has reminded me why I am a Physicist.  Nobody else could have so much fun with some blobs of fluid, some food colouring, a sheet of glass and a sharpie.

Watch and marvel!

I tip my poshest trilby in the direction of those clever folk at Stanford.....

Sunday, 8 March 2015

the reform of the reform

50 years on from the first Masses in regional tongues, if feel the need to pass some comment on how I see the "reform of the reform" is progressing.  I do not hold a candle for any particular view on this reform, I only know that it is happening, as organically these things do.  Also perhaps I am in a singularly gifted position to have within a short driving distance such a wide variety of liturgical experiences.  I will start by saying I have a marked preference for Low Mass in the old rite, and this is something I will seek out, but this is personal and I wish to make my comments general and objective.  I will also say that as I've only been hanging around this planet for 45 years, I have no first hand experience of the pre-conciliar world.

Is the old rite "flourishing" since Benedict's Summorun Pontificum?  I don't think it is.  I can and do attend the old rite across 3 counties and it is the same old faces I see where ever I go.  It is a darn small world.  Yes, there are plenty of young enthusiasts and lots of young families at these Masses.  Yes, there are plenty of good and holy priests involved but it all feels like a fringe activity.  It feels like a self-help group for a disenfranchised minority and what is worse I fear it is led by the intellect rather than the heart. Yes, they are well educated people with all the answers, but that isn’t enough.  I just wish I knew who they loved the most.  It isn't obvious and it ought to be.  I was talking to a priest recently, saying that I was dismayed that the number of parishioners who were routinely bi-ritual was so small.  I named a few, he said he could add a few more to the list, but the numbers are still small. The preference for a particular Mass is essentially factional; a lifestyle choice, a statement of allegiance.  And the two sides of the OF/EF debate loathe each other at some quite fundamental level.  I have perfectly rational and solid friends on both sides but I really don’t think I could invite them to the same tea-party at my house, it would be extremely uncomfortable.  So to the OF/EF debate I reverse the letters and say politely, “ef-of”.

What is missing is what Benedict pleaded so much for: MUTUAL ENRICHMENT.  The old rite lovers are so convinced in the superiority of their own brand that they can’t see how the new rite could possibly enrich their experience.  New rite lovers who at heart are clericalists and have been sorely influenced by priests who were only too keen to ditch the old rite 45 years ago feel much the same in the opposite sense.  Younger attendees at the new rite often have such a poor grasp of the faith that it really is genuine encounter with Christ that is needed and arguments over the liturgy are essentially meaningless in this case.

Much has been written on how the old rite could enrich the newer rite.  I want to end this post by saying how the newer rite could enrich the old rite, which is what must happen.

Where I worship, it is possible to find a Holy Day Mass in the old rite virtually entirely populated by souls who don’t normally experience this.  They are there because it is Mass and the time is convenient.  They are not tut-tutting and horrified by what they see.  There is a prayerful, reverential atmosphere, but I will add a note of caution; these irregulars rarely stay after communion, it seems like they have had enough at that point.
So here are my suggestions for enrichment of the old rite with a nod to what happens in the newer; it must flow, it must be coherent but it must not be regimented and it must not be linear (like a cookery show- raw ingredients to meal) as it was never intended to be:

  •  Scripture readings in the regional tongue, either by the priest or simultaneously delivered from the lectern whilst the priest says the readings in Latin.
  • Get rid of all the hand kissing in the old rite High Mass.  In these days of scandal the gesture looks offensive.
  •  The bowing in the old rite so often looks like Daleks having a pow-wow, somehow the humility has been lost.
  • There is a younger generation of priests and servers who are saying the old rite who have been very effectively “Bugninnid” but don’t realise that they are.  They see the Mass as performance and they perform;  Fortescue, Fortescue, Fortescue.  It can be quite unpleasant to watch, indeed it is no better than a Clown Mass.  The priest and the servers ought to be invisible in the Mass, or atleast not bringing attention upon themselves.  Once again, it is a humility thing and manifests itself best when a Mass is just a wee bit shambolic, a wee bit less than perfectly executed, a wee bit more realising that our sacrifice is ALWAYS unworthy.
  • There are perhaps some words that need to be said more clearly so that the congregation can hear them, the “introibo” and the dismissal and the Last Gospel must all be said slowly and audibly.

I remain convinced that the loss of the vulgar tongue for Mass to be replaced by regional tongues was a mistake, however I remain equally convinced that preserving the Mass of 1962 just as it is, to have it there like a fly in amber, a moment in time caught for eternity, is quite simply a nonsense.  The Holy Sacrifice of Calvary is THE moment in time caught for Eternity, and this is not anything to do with the liturgy but everything to do with our faith and ultimately if our faith doesn’t  breathe this reality any liturgical reform is a dead duck.

 A group of liturgical pedants learning to serve the old rite (or Daleks in 1963)

Sunday, 22 February 2015

In praise of monotony

More Fr Faber for you, as he is proving so popular with my loyal readership:

The spiritual life is the progress of the finite creature towards union with the Infinite.  In all its stages the process of being conformed to God is going on in the soul.  Nothing is indifferent.  Every moment of time may be made to bear the burden of something which is eternal.  Each separate action, no matter how trivial, is capable of holding a supernatural intensity.  The grace, which enables us to do supernatural things, is coming to us constantly in ways that are imperceptible except to the greatest vigilance, and operating in us with such fineness and delicacy as require heavenly discernment, in order that we may perceive them, and cooperate with them.  On the other hand, the unworthiness of our nature is almost unbounded, and its manifold unfitness for such a divine union is disabling us at every turn.  .... Moreover nature to the last draws one way, and grace from the first draws another.  Thus the three leading characteristics of the spiritual life must always be effort, detail and slowness, all three things monotonous, and all three almost insufferable monotony.

If you think that last sentence does not seem to follow directly from what precedes it, the following may help:

EFFORT: this is the perseverance to keep all our actions and thoughts fixed on God.  It is an act of the will, and it can have a severely weakening effect on the body.  It is an act of love. It is more like the slow patient effort of a needlewoman rather than the energetic effort of a sprinter. Also, if the effort is some sort of constipated straining then it is wrong.  Such effort is desirous of a particular outcome, comes from self and is directed towards the pleasures of self. No matter how "religious" its motivation it is little more than the desire for release from painful verstopfung for relief's sake.

DETAIL: recall Faber says "nothing is indifferent".  Everything has significance.  This includes your dress, your breathing, your tidiness, your deportment, how you read words and how you read people, even how your fork approaches your food. (A fasting person can still be a glutton). This is not introspection, detailed self-awarness, when the focus isn't self but mastery of self and ultimately forgetfulness of self is an important step to see if your motives for dressing up/down, fast/careful talking, food likes/dislikes are actually all simply pride. Understanding detail requires mastery of simplicity.  This is a lifetime's work.

SLOWNESS:  effort and detail require nothing is hasty.  Even if you are called to pull someone from a fire, there must be a slowness and stillness in you that are the opposite of panic and feeling like a hero.  Let God work through you, that is the only heroism that counts.

This is the monotony that we must embrace, the monotony of the desert into which we plunge ourselves during Lent, to be alone with the Infinite Solitude.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Random Numbers

To me, one of the dangers of Lent is self-absorption.  If one focusses too much on one's own sin, wretchedness and general crapitude one can easily fog the presence of the Almighty who is doing His best to raise you from you that dunghill that is so uniquely yours.  So whilst some focus on our failings is vital, if the primary focus isn't on those two Great Commandments, then Lent will be another disappointment.

What I find helps is to be extra specially open to randomness at this time.  This involves the giving of self and a great deal of discernment (ie. talking to God) to work out just how much one should give and how.  Random acts of kindness.  Random smiles (until they become habitual and completely sincere)....random intensive listening, feeling the presence of complete strangers around you, allowing random discomfort (thirst in particular), stopping to listen to the geese, watching a random spider, being still at random times.... and then it starts to dawn that randomness isn't all that random, it certainly isn't chaos.......

And as for Lenten reading. This year I decided to opt for a random number generator method: there are 73 books of the Bible, so I typed in the upper and lower limits into this random number generator to see which book it would give me:

And 2Esdras here I come.  Actually it is already bearing fruit (somewhat unexpectedly).  And this is where discernment has to come in, I could be wasting my time.... but somehow, I'm not.... if you try it may be fruitless, what works for me may not work for you....

Actually all the books of Babylonian exile have a resonance about them right now.... I wonder why?

You could type in 1 and 150 and do the same with the Psalms..... this could be 30 mins well spent in a random kind of way. 

Sunday, 15 February 2015

a flattering superstition of self-love

It is time for more from Fr Faber.  I do heartily recommend his "Spiritual Conferences".  In time for Lent, I've been wading through the conferences on "self-deceit".  They make uncomfortable reading especially when he gets to his conclusion that the only time we are really free from self-deceit is when we meet Our Lord face to face: and well it is rather too late to do anything about it then.  He argues effectively and refreshingly against suffering and joy being paths to overcome self-deceit, instead he recommends simplicity in everything as being the firmest ground on which to build up our relationship with God and hence limit the damage done by our self-deceit.[ an aside - I remain convinced that the prescription for more suffering as a way of leading to holiness is fundamentally flawed and has done considerable harm.  Suffering has no intrinsic value, the only thing with value is God's love. Souls do suffer much and many saints have suffered greatly, but it was not their suffering that made them saints, suffering is not a supernatural virtue.]

Here is a taster:

No wonder self-knowledge is rare, when so few take pains to acquire it.  There are few even who honestly desire it.  There are but few men in the world who desire painful things, however salutary they may be; and self-knowledge is both painful in the acquisition and painful in the possession.  It is incredible how little honesty there is amongst religious people in religious matters.... Yet almost everyone claims to be preferring God before all things.  What a mass of unwholesome delusion then must the religious world be! It is.  A supernatural formalism outside with natural principles of action inside, and a thoroughly natural system, or rather quackery, of spiritual direction to keep things comfortable and respectable, - alas! it were devoutly to be wished that this definition embraced less than it does.


Is not life at every turn making unpleasant revelations of self?  But they are revelations, and that is noteworthy.  Yet what sort of wisdom is it for man to shun these revelations, because they disquiet him, when it will so concern him in the day of judgement to have known them? A spiritual life without a very large allowance of disquietude in it, is no spiritual life at all.  It is but a flattering superstition of self-love.  

Sunday, 25 January 2015

an endless fountain of odious disedification

In light of all the touchyness some seem to show at the faults and failings of others, here are some pertinent and pithy words from Fr FW Faber.  It is a quote from a book of his Spiritual Conferences and all I have done is change the word "scandal" to the word "offence", the sense remains the same.

To give offence is a great fault, but to take offence is a greater fault.  It implies a greater amount of wrongness in ourselves, and it does a greater amount of mischief to others.
For I find great numbers of moderately good people who think it fine to take offence.  They regard it as a sort of evidence of their own goodness, and their delicacy of conscience; while in reality it is only proof either of their inordinate conceit or their extreme stupidity..... Moreover the persons in question seem frequently to feel and act, as if their profession of piety involved some kind of appointment to take offence.  It is their business to take offence.  It is their way of bearing witness to God.  It would show a blameable intertness in the spiritual life, if they did not take offence.  They think they suffer very much while they are taking offence; whereas in truth they enjoy it amazingly.  It is a pleasurable excitement, which delightfully varies the monotony of devotion.
For one pious man, who makes piety  attractive, there are nine who make it repulsive.  Or in other words, only one out of ten among reputed spiritual  persons is really spiritual.  He who, during a long life has taken the most offence, has done the most injury to God's glory, and has been himself a real and substantial stumbling block in the way of many.  He has been an endless fountain of odious disedification to the little ones of Christ.  If such a one as reads this, he will take offence at me.  Everything that he dislikes, everything which deviates from his own narrow view of things is to him an offence. Men marvellously like to be popes; and the dullest of men, if only he has, as usual, an obstinacy proportioned to his dulness, can in most neighbourhoods carve out a tiny papacy for himself; and if to his dulness he can add pomposity, he may reign gloriously, a little ecumenical council in unintermitting session, through all the four seasons of the year. .... Let us leave them alone with their glory and their happiness.

Ahhh, spoken like a true Oratorian, a true son of "Gentleness and Kindness". Charity sometimes has to talk tough.  Taking offence is a fault deep within many of us and are we really willing to look in the mirror and see just how odious it is?  Faber ends this conference with the following:

He is happy who on his dying bed can say, No one has ever given me offence in my life!  He has either not seen his neighbour's faults, or when he saw them, the sight had to reach him through so much sunshine of his own, that they did not strike him so much as faults to blame, but rather as reasons for a deeper and tenderer love.


And Richard agrees!

Sunday, 4 January 2015

The problem with gender

Elsewhere a thoughtful blogger has posted a piece about the unfortunate story of a soul who committed suicide and who was "transgender". Here are my thoughts:

Firstly I do believe that often the thought of suicide and its ultimate execution stem from a blinding illogical logic that says suicide really is the only solution to a "problem".  Often it is the feeding and manipulation of the "problem" until it grows into something with a life of its own that can be at the root of this.  And then the problem dictates that the solution comes from you ceasing to exist as you are the irreconcilable anomaly in the whole sorry mess, and absolutely everything would be better off without you.  Yes, there is often abuse and genuine victimisation, always there is hurt and a feeling of being unloved, but these exist to a greater or lesser degree in most of us and yet suicide, thankfully is rare.  I am sure that suicidal tendencies lie in the creation of this monster "problem" that exists outside of the person themselves, and that the feelings of the person themselves simply colour their own self-disgust and loathing making everything so much worse.  A person who is not in a good mental state really does believe in the clarity of their own thoughts, really believes that they are right, and that is the tragedy of mental illness.  It is very hard for anyone, no matter how loving, to break through this barrier.

Secondly here are my thoughts about gender and how I believe we are creating and feeding a problem that we may cease to have any control over.  "Male and Female, God created them", sexual reproduction is good, it gives God's creation a share in His creative genius.  The condescension of God, how He still (post-Fall) desires our free consent and cooperation, and us pathetic, flawed, stubborn creatures!  So gender is biological and for the reproduction of the species.  Nobody would argue with that.  There is also a complementarity between the sexes that has nothing to do with biological reproduction and has to do with the way this chaste complementarity, when focused entirely on God, makes Christ and His works manifest.  There is a genuine "spiritual fecundity" and indeed most faithful loving married couples spend far more of their lives in this state than they do in the biologically fertile state. That is really all there is to gender and notice that it has nothing to do with person-centred feelings.

The problem we are creating is to link gender to the way we feel and the feelings we have.  It links everything to the human, it makes gender a burden that the person has to carry. This burden can at first be pleasurable and therefore can be fed and nurtured to suit our needs, until it takes over, as burdens always do.  Or this burden can be intolerable, an irreconcilable set of feelings that create conflict in our hearts and minds and cause upset, misunderstanding and tragedy.  Yet society says we should feed our feelings of gender and explore them.  Society says this is good and wholesome.  And when a buffoon of a cleric says words to the effect of "go watch Brokeback Mountain and feel the love", there is a real danger that the Church is walking into the trap of defining gender by the feelings we have.  We also have a touchy-feely mood to the current Papacy and there is an inherent danger in this if we elevate our feelings or if we take offence at such touchyfeelyness.  Taking offence is dangerous, very dangerous... think about it.... it is nothing but pride......

One of the things we have lost by sin is our "original nakedness" (I think this is St JPII's idea in his Theology of the Body, but I only skim read an idiot's guide to this work, so am no expert).  Original nakedness is surely the ability to be unaware of our gender, yet to know our loving complementarity. In the occasional chats I have with other unmarried chaste women, we all seem to have a desire to find the man who could look on us naked without lust.  That is the man we could love, that is the man we could trust, that is the man we would surrender ourselves to.  (We long for that unveiling, to be looked on for what we are, and yet it seems like a dream too big, so we remain single...... and we know that ultimately it is Christ who will unveil us all.)

What we have lost by sin we can regain through Christ in the Sacraments, through God in His ineffable love for us all.  This should be our focus; the rediscovery of "original nakedness".  The more we cave in to the victimhoood of the LGBT polemic (as well meaning and as heartfelt as it is) the more the penis and the vagina will become intolerable burdens, false gods, and gods that are hungry and need feeding, sacrifices and martyrs.

As an aside, modern living is certainly putting more oestrogen mimickers into our water supply (most notoriously through use of the contraceptive pill), gender will become fuzzier and less well defined and this is a problem of our own making and not a gift from God.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Taking things to their limit.

Today's news has hit hard, the attack on the school in Pakistan has really cut me up.  Pakistan is a country I have an uncommon affection for and I know too many Pakistanis for this not to hurt.  But my grief is not primarily a personal grief, it is a grief born of watching Islam tear itself apart, and the all too frequent tragic consequences of this rupture.

Now what is the correct response to this for Catholics?  I do know that painting Islam as the enemy, or indulging in some ghastly smug "I told you so, they are a heretical sect and heresies burn themselves out eventually", is quite simply wrong.  Each and every soul on this planet was made by God, each and every soul on this planet has a guardian angel.  Each and every soul on this planet is hardwired to recognise real love and each and every soul is free to receive or reject that love. Christians: we should know them by their love.  That is it.  That is our response.  And we have to take our love to the limit, basically because it isn't our love but the love of God manifest in us... somehow that is what we have to do.

The intellect is stronger than the heart and I do wonder if deep down there may be an intellectual solution to this tragedy.  My personal view (and I'd be interested if anyone out there who actually has a degree in Philosophy and isn't simply some second rate easily bored Physics teacher agrees with me) is that Islam has developed a parasitic "heresy" of its own and this is the source of the problem.

The heresy in question is what I will call "neo-Occasionalism".  Occasionalism is a philosophy developed mainly by Al-Ghazali (1058-1111) out of Oriental Atomism which refutes Aristotle's idea that there are efficient causes to anything.  An example of an efficient cause is a sculptor being the efficient cause of a sculpture.  Aristotle has three other "causes": material, formal and final.  (Go google them if you are interested).  Al-Ghazali argued that there are no efficient causes, basically because God does everything, the efficient cause is merely an illusion. Occasionalism was largely taken up by Sunnis and the influential Wahaabi movement. And I hereby wish to state that I am not attacking Occasionalism, but I am attacking what it has morphed into.

It sort of boils down to God being in every atom and God doing everything.  If taken to its limit, it seems to make God suffer from OCD.  And this is what I think has happened in "neo-Occasionalism", you get a system where God is doing everything.  But remove God from this philosophy for a moment (and simply consider a world where nothing is random and everything is pre-ordained) and you discredit most of Physics.  All systems of things have "degrees of freedom", laws governing things they can and can't do.  As as example, think of a volcano, it can chuck out pyroclasts as is pleases provided they interact with the local gravitational field according to physical law.  Nothing arranges the pyroclasts, they are simply spewed out.  But a volcano isn't free to spew out liquorice allsorts any more than a blackbird is free to sing like Justin Bieber.  Things operate within degrees of freedom, but not beyond that and neither are they straightjacketed into a particular rigid single behaviour. Physics can't predict every outcome, it can only assess possible outcomes.  The universe is not clockwork.

And this logic applies to humans too.  We operate under certain laws and suffer the consequences of not heeding to those laws AND we have free- will.  That is our God given "degree of freedom".  The freedom to choose our actions.  The freedom to do stupid things and the freedom to sin.  God cannot make us sin.  And here is the crux my argument. Sin really is one thing that ONLY has an effective cause.  The effective cause of the sin is the sinner.  Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.  The devil did not make you sin, YOU can resist the devil by God's grace.  You are responsible for your own sin.

BUT remove the efficient cause and you basically remove sin.  The tragic consequences of this unthinking "neo-Occasionalism" are the IS, the Boko Haram rapists and slaverymongers and people who think it is OK to blow up schoolchildren.  To them, God's doing everything.  And there is sweet nothing in the writings of the Koran that legitimises any of this cowardice and stupidity.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

the violent bear it away....

There was a small female pheasant left over from last week's shoot, neither the beaters or the shooters wanted it.  So it has been hanging in my shed for a week and today was the day when I came to skin and gut the bird for my Sunday lunch.  As feathers fly everywhere, I did this outside, watched from a distance by a lazy red kite.  I felt like shouting at it, "go kill something yourself, you lazy bird, this is my dinner and you are not having it".

I've done this many times before, I do think it is important that if I eat meat, I should know how to prepare it from its original state.  It is not a weekly thing, Wessex is not without a decent butcher or two, but worth doing for many reasons...... but I'm no ace with the knife.

It was as I was ripping the wings from the carcass that a thought came to me that I'd like to share with you.  It concerns that mysterious and multilayered saying of Our Lord's regarding St John the Baptist.

And from the days if John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence and the violent bear it away.  Matt 11:12

There I was dislocating the exquisite, precision engineering and soft, sublime, beauty of a pheasant's wing from its body, and it didn't feel great.  I was doing violence to God's creation.  But yet, there was no sin in it.  No act of cruelty had taken place, the bird had been well shot and downed instantly, not maimed by an overenthusiastic badly trained hunting dog.  God gives us stewardship over His creation, we are entitled to kill, butcher and eat what He provides. 

The violence in the act was violence devoid of sinful intent.  It was the violence of a mortal being who wanted food and had a legitimate right to that food.

How much more beautiful and perfect is heaven than that pheasant's wing?  How violent, ugly, grasping, needy and selfish are even the best of our prayers that we storm heaven with, compared with the music and prayers of angels and saints.  We are rough, violent, arrogant and needy in all that we do, yet the angels and saints make no complaint and bring our petitions before God.

How dreadful, uncouth and unholy are even the most reverently said Masses compared to the eternal liturgy of heaven?  Yet our pathetic representation and offerings are taken heavenward by God's angels and He permits His Son to become truly present in the Bread and Wine at the command of His unworthy priest.

We are doing violence to the perfection of Heaven, and God desires that we do.  He has come to us, He dwells with us, He loves us in all our pathetic, clumsy, irreverent, stinking humanity.

He gave me the astonishing beauty of a dead pheasant for me to fill my belly with, and there was simply no need for it to be so beautiful, (unless He wanted me to contemplate heaven).... and therein lies a great mystery.

Chardin- Still-life with pheasant

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Holy Theologians, Batman!

For the first time in his pontificate, I have really taken offence at something the Bishop of Rome has uttered.  You can read it here :

Normally, I find his style very petrine: loving, passionate and foolhardy.  One just knows his heart is in the right place, but like Peter he can be totally irritating, but that is my problem not his, he is the Rock, and that is that, and I accept his rockiness, that is part of my faith.

However, hmmmm, I'm exceedingly uncomfortable when he says we need more female theologians.   My uneasiness stems from my asking: just what is a theologian?

Isn't a theologian one who studies the Divine?  Isn't that all of us who claim to be Christians?  Don't we all embark on a journey to study the Divine.  Theology is a practical science and one we should all be very much involved in undertaking.  Is the Holy Father saying we need more female Christians?  Surely not!

I have a horrid feeling the Holy Father is referring to those who are professional theologians, those who make their living out of its study (and not necessarily its practice).  We need more theologians like the mice in my kitchen need a trap.  Lord preserve us from professional Catholics, Lord preserve us from professional theologians, irrespective of their genital apparatus.

Being a theologian is not one of the manifestations of the Spirit that St Paul talks about in 1 Cor 12.  The Spirit can give the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, the grace of healing ,the working of miracles, prophecy, the discerning of spirits, tongues and interpretation of speeches.  It is these things that we need, and the Holy Spirit can only work in those who seek the Lord with humility and purity of heart.  I can not reconcile this with a life in academia studying "theology".

We should be living theology not studying it.  There is such danger in seeing the Church as being made up of two things, a body of professionals and those who ought to be grateful for the work those professionals do.  I've heard better theology from a 5 year old child than from many a professional theologian.

Strawberry on the cake, pah!

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Sunday This before Advent

I love the Feast of Christ the King.  In those "normal" days shortly after my "reversion" to the Faith, it seemed right and proper that there was a feast at the end of the year dedicated to Christ the King.  This is what we were told: it was fitting to have a Feast right at the end of the Church's year when we celebrate the Kingship of Christ and that is why the feast was instigated.

Now it isn't that simple.  I mainly attend the EF and here the feast is as it was originally designated to be on the last Sunday before All Saints and now it makes perfect sense (to me) for it to be there.  At Mass this morning were readings for the 24th and Last Sunday After Pentecost and they seem right and fitting for the end of the Church's year.  The Kingship of Christ is Universal and timeless and not part of some linear narrative; there should be a feast to celebrate it but not necessarily this Sunday as we look towards Advent and with an eye ever on the Second Coming.

For personal reasons I also attended my local parish church today after Mass and they are dedicated fans of the Book of Common Prayer 1662 style and gloriously Low Church.  They too were supposed to be celebrating the Feast of Christ the King, but wanted their "Sunday Next Before Advent".  We had a common bond, a love for the collect for this Sunday; the "stir up" collect, and we like to hear it. 

As an aside I'm not sure what Cranmer and chums did to the Latin of this Collect as the BCP version is rendered:
Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

The translation in my Missal reads:
Stir up, we beseech Thee, O Lord, the wills of Thy faithful to seek more earnestly this fruit of the divine work, that they will receive more abundantly healing gifts from Thy tender mercy.  Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum..... 

An altogether richer and more satisfying pudding being stirred up by the Catholics than the Anglicans, methinks....

Still, in a spirit of ecumenicism, we both want our Last/Next/After Pentecost/Before Advent  "Stir up Sunday" and both homilies I heard today were about judgement, both were meant to makes us feel uncomfortable and make an assessment of what was lacking in our lives, AND both were full of joyful hope.

So what am I trying to say?

The 1962 Missal (imperfect as it is) and the 1662 BCP (protestant as it is) have a liturgical "sense" to them that unites across the centuries to something way older, something nearly intangible, something that wasn't designed by a group of "modernising", "sensible" liturgical experts......

.... and the villagers where I live want their Rogation Days back. Lord knows the crops have suffered over recent years, there is a real sense that everything needs to be handed back to God.

You know, sometimes I feel the very soil of the country is Catholic, its people are actually Catholic but don't realise it and somehow England is groaning to be Catholic once more........

But who is going to come to her aid?....... It won't be "knights" in fiddleback chasubles and yards of lace, that is for sure....

Saturday, 18 October 2014

The Psalm of the Synod

Dear faithful reader, I'd like you to ponder with me a little bit of holy scripture that seems wonderfully apt for the proceedings currently taking place in Rome.  It is Psalm 67 and is always worth saying with confidence, but right now it is DYNAMITE.  Allow me to lead you through some of the most profound bits, I'm using Challoner's translation,  which whilst not perfect, has a certain majesty.

Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: and let them that hate him flee before his face.  As smoke vanishes, so let them vanish away: as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God.

Say it brothers and sisters, say those lines, and don't stop saying them, you know it makes sense!

Let the just feast, and rejoice before God: and be delighted with gladness.

Whatever is going on amongst His creatures, we can and must rejoice before God, otherwise we turn the Resurrection into a sham. If we don't rejoice before God, it means we have stopped believing.

Sing ye to God, sing a psalm to His name, make way for Him who ascendeth upon the west, the Lord is His name.

In the western sky, in the darkness of the approaching night, He is there, call on Him, love Him.

Rejoice ye before Him, but the wicked shall be troubled at his presence, who is the father of orphans and the judge of widows.

We are all orphans, and we are adopted children of the Father, that is enough to rejoice over in itself. Myself, as a widow, someone for whom God has intervened so directly in my life through the death of my spouse, I will do His work, I will stand before Him and be judged, I see no harshness in those words.

God in his holy place: God who maketh men of one manner to dwell in a house.

Unity is a mark of God, God is ONE. Division is a mark of Satan.  Pray for the unity of the Church.

Who bringeth out them that were bound in strength: in the like manner them that provoke that dwell in sepulchres.

It is God who will give strength to those that love Him, even if the enemy presses against them with terrible force.  It is also God who will expose the empty vessels, the shallow clanging brass, the sound and fury with no significance.  This empty fury is in the Church, it is in each and every one of us, and we need to pray for the discernment to cut out this noise, this illusion that pretends to be life, that emanates from the tombs, and is nothing but the death of the spirit.

Thou has set aside for thy inheritance a free rain, O God: and it was weakened, but thou hast made it perfect.

The free rain of Grace, the superabundance of His mercy, the Eucharist..... God made It perfect.... we are the cause of the weakness... and the humbler we are them more we can share in Its perfection... indeed the weakening is a signal to us to be humble... our faith is not something palatable to glory hunters and to the smug.

The Lord will give word to them that preach good tidings with great power.

Pray that we all stick to the Gospel, that we live by it, and the Lord will do the rest, He will put the right words in the mouths of the right souls at the right time and His will be done.

The king of powers is of the beloved, of the beloved: and the beauty of the house shall divide the spoils.

The only treasures that matter are in the house of the King, and the "beauty of the house", Our Lady, has His ear and will make sure the treasures are distributed.

If you sleep among the midst of lots, you shall be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and the hinder parts with the paleness of gold.

Trust in the Lord, fall asleep in His arms, and "He will give sleep to His beloved" Ps 126... His rest, His treasures..... do not fear. Trust in Him.

The mountain of God is a fat mountain, A curdled mountain.  Why suspect ye curdled mountains?

This and lines that follow it make it abundantly clear that God hears the voices of His faithful followers.  There are many more faithful than we know about, but they are silent, unfashionable and living in those parts of the world that nobody gives much of a thought to.  God's oeconomy of salvation isn't some catastrophic failure, a harvest with a poor yield. The harvest is rich, believe in it and work for Him alone, be one of His labourers and His friends.

The chariot of God is attended by ten thousands; thousands of them that rejoice: the Lord is among them in Sina in the holy place.

Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive.

I never tire of those lines!

Blessed be the Lord day by day, the God of our salvation will make our journey prosperous to us.

Or those!

Our God is the God of salvation: and of the Lord are the issues from death.  But God shall break the heads of his enemies: the hairy crown of them that walk on in their sins.

Let God deal with those who do not put Christ as their head.

In the churches bless ye God the Lord, from the fountains of Israel.

Do it!

There is Benjamin a youth in ecstasy of mind.

Surely that is St Paul?  "Rejoice I say always rejoice!".  Don't dismiss anything he says.

The princes of Juda are their leaders, the princes of Zabulon, the princes of Nepthali.

There are the Apostles.

Command thy strength O God: confirm O God what thou hast wrought in us.

That the successors of the Apostles are worthy and work to strengthen the Church, to make the bride of Christ beautiful for her Beloved.

Rebuke the wild beasts of the reeds, the congregation of bulls with the kine of the people; who seek to exclude them who are tried with silver.

There are wild beasts who have found their way into the church and they have brought their wild ways with them and they wish to exclude those who are truly sons and daughters of the Church, those who gladly suffer silently for their faith, by sticking to it despite the arguments of those within the church to lessen the discipline ...  the "bulls" wish trample on them and say their ways are irrelevant.....

Scatter the nations that delight in wars, ambassadors shall come from Egypt: Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands to God.

Only by being witnesses to the Truth can we seek to lead others to Christ.  They will come, if they see our example; the clarity and brilliance and beauty of the Truth by which we live.

Sing ye to God, ... sing ye to God...

God is wonderful in his saints: the God of Israel is He who will give power and strength to His people. Blessed be God.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Could anyone pity her?

I'm still trying to work out to myself if today's reading from the Prophet Nahum was the most appropriate or inappropriate that could possibly have been read out as the horrors unfold before us on the plains of Nineveh.  He who said Mass for us today made no mention of it whatsoever.

See, over the mountains the messenger hurries!

‘Peace!’ he proclaims.

Judah, celebrate your feasts,

carry out your vows,

for Belial will never pass through you again;

he is utterly annihilated.

Yes, the Lord is restoring the vineyard of Jacob

and the vineyard of Israel.

For the plunderers had plundered them,

they had broken off their branches.

Woe to the city soaked in blood,

full of lies,

stuffed with booty,

whose plunderings know no end!

The crack of the whip!

The rumble of wheels!

Galloping horse,

jolting chariot,

charging cavalry,

flash of swords,

gleam of spears...

a mass of wounded,

hosts of dead,

countless corpses;

they stumble over the dead.

I am going to pelt you with filth,

shame you, make you a public show.

And all who look on you will turn their backs on you and say,

‘Nineveh is a ruin.’

Could anyone pity her?

Where can I find anyone to comfort her?

Perhaps the message is that it is God who will punish wickedness, not us.  Perhaps the message is that we should continue to live as God has always said we should live, in peace and charity with our fellow man and avoiding idolatry at all costs.  Perhaps it is also worth quoting an earlier passage from the same prophet  as it refers to all the people of good will in that area, whatever their faith.  (What is happening out there is a tragedy for the faithful of Islam too, and we rejoice over that at our peril).
Though I have afflicted you, I will afflict you no more, And now I will break his yoke from off you and will burst your bonds assunder ...
Behold, on the mountains the feet of him who brings good tidings, who proclaims peace.

You see, I think the thing is that we are all forgetting is that Christianity is THE religion of worldly failure.  The world should ever look at us and laugh, scorn, mock, deride.  Ours is not a religion where battles are won and temporal victories resound triumphant.  Necessary battles have been fought in the name of Christianity but there is always a larger defeat looming around the corner.  We are a failure in the eyes of the world, therein lies our strength.  It is only through rallying round Christ whose earthly mission was a  near complete failure, that we can possibly hope to share in the supernatural victory over sin and death. He won this for us through His complete, abject, degrading worldly failure. And when individuals see this, when they see the love we have for each other and all our fellow men, then they will recognise the Truth, and the peace that only Christ can win.

And how does this practically help all the good souls caught up in this horror in Northern Iraq? We offer practical help where we can and also we pray for them all, we pray to their Guardian Angels to guide them, inspire them and comfort them.  We pray to the God of compassion and mercy that no suffering is prolonged.  We offer a sacrifice of praise to God for all those souls too distraught to do it themselves.  We do not fear the enemy (who is most definitely behind all of this) and we do not trust any purely political or military  "solution".

"Our God bringeth help to both man and beasts alike"

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Bloggers block...

It is "University Sunday" today.  Well, the Introit at Mass starts with the lines from Ps 26: Dominus illuminatio mea (the Lord is my light) and that is the motto of an ancient seat of learning not too far from here.

My grandfather (who was a graduate from said dump) gave me his bookstand which has these words written on it as part of the crest, and this graces my desk as you can see below.  [I was too lazy to even consider applying to this seat of learning, and so attended an ancient in the distant North that only required grade C's at A'level]

Yes, the Lord is my light.  How important those words are.  And somehow, like many others out there on the interwebs, I'm not getting the light to blog much.  And yes, I do wonder why this is.

For me there seem to be several, not unconnected reasons:

  • Real life is just too damn hard right now.
  • Part of the reason why real life is hard is that I love the Church so much and I'm increasingly finding I'm being called upon to give witness to that love.  This is demanding, intense and rooted in prayer and silence and not really stuff I can blog about.  This witness to the faith seems to be the result of an ever growing spiritual battle for the Truth.  The windows, doors, skylights and coal bunkers of the Church are well and truly open, all sorts of stuff is sniffing around. ... Metaphorically speaking, I feel like I'm having to guard the ancient books, silks and silver ware from intruders who don't understand its use! (And I don't think I'm alone in feeling like this)
  • The Traddies, for the large part seem to have lost the plot.  There is no spiritual nourishment amongst them.  There is too much kvetching about the current papacy.  They are boring me.  It is all "toys out of the pram" with them.  Blogging does not exist in a vacuum, one needs some sort of intellectual illumination to inspire one....  increasingly I find I'm just on the blogs to try to get people to wake up and reconnect with their faith, but increasingly I'm wondering if they had any in the first place.  There is no humour, no gentleness, and little that illuminates out there.
  • It simply isn't a papacy that is intellectual in any way what so ever.  Previously, somebody on the blogs would pick up on something the Holy Father had said (usually an erudite clerical blogger), produce an inspiring meditation on it, and the fruits of this would nourish other bloggers and their posting for weeks.  We're not getting that right now.  Whilst the inspirations of the liturgical year remain our common ground, there was something more immediately "blogfriendly" about responding to papal utterances, some sort of Catholic bonding was taking place.  Now there are simply too many words and too many gestures; some careless, some profound, some too easy to become infuriated with.  The times do not inspire careful, insightful, holy blogging... 
  • When I try to write sometimes, I feel like I'm repeating myself.  I've said all I want to say about about certain issues, especially pertaining to human sexuality, and as this issue comes up again and again and people like Voris are not helpful, and there appears to be little solid guidance from Rome, it is not for me to keep banging the drum for orthodoxy on the net, I've got a life to live, this battle is being fought in the very classrooms where I teach and the streets where I live and amongst those I'm close to and love. Dominus illuminatio mea.... too right!
  • Real life is just too damn hard right now...
But out there, well away from the Tradski's there are green shoots emerging, a fresh flourishing of good inspiring posts is happening and good luck to those bloggers....  

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

we're all doomed!... yay!

Few things get me as wound up as when someone belittles the "medieval mind" as being somehow primitive.  It happened recently at school and it set me thinking.

It was the school debating competition and one of the motions was "This house believes we are all doomed".  The proposition was weak and the opposition very strong.  The gist of the opposition's argument was as follows:

  • doom is an outdated concept, just look at all those medieval doom paintings; heaven and hell and all that.
  • eternal punishment was just there to scare people
  • we have a chance to make the world a better place
  • whilst we have hope in the future and we have hope in humanity we are not doomed 
They won.

But there was me thinking, my dear if your were a Catholic, you'd be a heretic.  I also thought that the argument seems so plausible, how to fight it as a Catholic?  #weredoomedgetoverit  perhaps?

Had I been a pupil and been able to attack the opposition, my argument may have gone something like this:

  • We're doomed: nature dooms us through decay, death and destruction
  • as individuals we die, 
  • the planet won't go on forever, it could be hit by a very large asteroid, the greenhouse effect could go out of control, there could be a devastating ice age, super volcanoes could erupt
  • in 6.5 billion years sun will be a white dwarf and incapable of providing enough energy to sustain life anywhere in the solar system, sounds like doom to me
  • if we make it that far, we'd have to have survived the collision of our galaxy, the Milky Way with Andromeda in 4 billion years time and the unknown effects that would have on our existence.
  • We're doomed: history dooms us.  We can not make the world a better place.  Each age has its own evils.  One evil is defeated and several more spring up in its place.
  • We're doomed; religion dooms us.  BUT the doom that you decry so much as shown in those medieval doom paintings, that stark choice is IS OUR ONLY HOPE. Nature offers no hope, humanity's hope is empty if not seen in the wider context of the Creator who sustains us.
  • We're doomed either to Hell: you send yourself there though your lack of desire to be transformed by love, through the vanity of your self-protection at all costs,  through selfishness, pride and the ugliness of your hatred and intolerance.
  • Or Heaven: allow yourself to be transformed by love, see where Love takes you, follow Christ and He will show you...
  • You see, doom is hope.  Live in that hope because of the doom.  We are all doomed, get over it!
Yes, I fear the 4 last things desperately need some "rebranding"or the message of our faith will be lost in a sea of righteous humanism.  My effort is paltry, but I think it is something we should all be working on....

Over to you....

The Doom window at St Mary's Fairford- Gloucestershire

Sunday, 8 June 2014

The Paraclete

Bl John Henry Newman on the Paraclete, the Fount of Love

My God, I adore Thee, as the Third Person of the Ever Blessed Trinity, under the name and designation of Love.  Thou art that Living Love, wherewith the Father and the Son love each other.  And Thou art the Author of all supernatural love in our hearts - Fons vivus, ignis charitas. As a fire, Thou didst come down from heaven on the day of Pentecost; and as a fire Thou burnest away the dross of sin and vanity in the heart and dost light up the pure flame of devotion and affection.  It is Thou who unitest heaven and earth by showing to us the glory and beauty of the Divine Nature, and making us love what is in Itself so winning and transporting.  I adore Thee, O uncreated and everlasting Fire, by which our souls live, by which alone they are made fit for heaven.

Iglesia del EspĂ­ritu Santo- Ronda (Malaga)
(One of my favourite churches and a spot where my heart rests)

Monday, 2 June 2014

wake up, smell the incense!

Dear friends of a traditionalist persuasion,

Have we forgotten that rallying cry? Have we forgotten the joy that the rediscovery of our lost heritage and tradition has brought us?  What is wrong with us?  Is our faith that shallow that we really think it is under threat?  If so, then we are a disgrace to all we hold dear, we should be filled with joy, and we should be letting the world see our joy.  More specifically we should let the Holy Father see our joy,
  • bombard  the Holy Father with pictures of smiling youth on the Chartres pilgrimage and invite him next year
  • write to him saying how happy you are since you found the faith and live orthodox lives supported by the solid church doctrine and how happy you are that you can go to the EF Mass (this is especially important if you are under 40)
  • if you can, and you have the evidence, write to him saying how the FFI have brought you such joy in Christ through your contact with them and give examples.
  • show him the fruits of your faith in your happy children and the charitable work you do
And whilst I'm a little uncomfortable at my equating of joy with happiness, being miserable and kvetching and thinking you are persecuted and being unhappy about it, are not part of the faith.  If you think you are being persecuted from within the church, show some joy and be charitable to your persecutor.

Cheerfulness is so important, for starters the devil can't stand it, and there is no better reason than that to be cheerful, as he's always on the prowl.  Let us show the world that we can "out happy" the pope, or at least match him.  Being cheerful is appealing, it is good and it is also a very wise thing to be.

St Philip, pray for us.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Dear St Rita

Dear St Rita,

You are a marvel!  The White Queen in Alice Through the Looking Glass talked about believing six impossible  things before breakfast.  With the aid of your intercession we can achieve six impossile things before breakfast. AMDG

Thank you, thank you, thank you...

Alice and the White Queen

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Grumpy Cat-holic

Hi Gang,

I thought my last post would be my last post for a very long while, but I'm back.  I'd become really fed up with the Catholic blog world and in particular I'd found myself increasingly frustrated by the whole Protect the Pope saga; I disliked that blog almost as much as I dislike Catholic Church Conservation and  Rorate Caeli.  I struggled to see any merits in it whatsoever.  But I seemed to be in a very small minority and then all the carping about +Campbell just about finished me off.  We don't treat our Bishops like that and call ourselves Catholics.

The phrase I like is "critical solidarity" when it comes to the hierarchy of the Church and permit me to indulge in a bit of that right now, it is the reason for this post.

Joseph Shaw has a good piece on Cardinal Kaspar and the giving of Communion to those in "irregular" relationships.

What I found worrying about the Cardinal's words is what he says about those who live heroically as "brother and sister" as a consequence of a previously failed relationship:

To live together as brother and sister? Of course I have high respect for those who are doing this. But it’s a heroic act, and heroism is not for the average Christian.

 I'm afraid I find the phrase "average Christian" deeply offensive.  We have all been called to be saints, we have all been called to a life of heroic virtue.  I'm left wondering if he really loves us, because he doesn't sound very ambitious for us.  We're just Jo and Joanna Average and heroic virtue is beyond us.  Has he forgotten the Holy Spirit?

Then I mooch over to Fr Ray Blake's blog and find out there are moves to have Paul VI beatified later this year. I'm increasingly of the opinion that NO POPES should be beatified or canonised PERIOD.  So a Pope does what he's supposed to do and defends Church teaching at a time when it was seriously under threat. Yes, that takes great heroic virtue granted, but he is only doing what was asked of him by Christ. Are we to canonise every Pope who does not errr, who does not flinch from duty, who states Church teaching as it is, was and ever shall be? Find me a Pope who has not done this?  There may even be a cause for Alexander VI, I'm being serious. Surely the Church in Her modesty should never canonise Her Chief Steward (Martyrdom notwithstanding) it nearly sounds like nepotism.

And then I start to like the two posts together, Joseph Shaw's and Fr Ray Blake's and I start to get grumpy.  It is almost as if we the flock, are not considered capable of holiness or considered capable of being shepherded towards holiness.  Yet Popes somehow exude holiness and somehow we should build up cults around them as if they existed as some unobtainable odour of sanctity, not for imitation but for admiration.

Bleurgh, this sounds horribly like CLERICALISM at its worst.


Monday, 5 May 2014

oculos habent et non videbunt

It is so easy to see the faults in others, especially when they err in matters of orthodoxy.  It is so easy to get annoyed when such souls seem to have the official backing of the Church. Perhaps they are writing in Catholic newspapers, perhaps they are not receiving censure for things that sound like heresy, perhaps they are living openly scandalous lives, perhaps they have made very public statements or contributed towards policies that contravene Church teaching.... and yet the Church does nothing.  We get frustrated, we want the Church to change, we want the Church to be like our vision of the Church that we had and fleetingly enjoyed with other like-minded souls.  We had seen how the Church should be, we are the keepers of what is right, our little vision is the correct one.

And so we build ourselves a little self-help community of online criticism and even vitriol against people who can't defend themselves.  We analyse the writings of others to death showing how wrong they are and how clever we are.  We get all nostalgic over our little vision.  We feed each other with horror stories about how terrible others are who don't share our vision: how they dishonour God, how they hurt the Church. We then start thinking perhaps the nutters may be onto something and the end-times are just around the corner.

We should be VERY uncomfortable about all of this.  It is we who have forgotten God.  Like the polyester clad, Kung-loving visionary from the 1970s the Old Rite loving visionary of a few years back has made a god out of their version of the Church.  The former has made a god out of "a changing Church", the latter has made a god out of "orthodoxy". 

Idols need feeding to exist.
Idols demand allegiance.
Idols are jealous of rivals.
Idolatry dries up the heart.
Idolatry drives out charity.
Idolatry makes you as blind as the idol you worship.

Orthodoxy isn't the end of everything, Christ IS. God doesn't need us to be little warriors of orthodoxy.  He wants us to be soldiers for Christ.  We skimp not on matters on doctrine and dogma.  We remain 100% loyal to Church teaching, the orthodoxy ought to be tattooed onto our hearts.  It is our weapon.

But if your orthodoxy comes from and through Christ, be prepared to suffer. Be prepared to be ridiculed.  Be prepared to lose your friends.  Be prepared to be alone (in Christ).  Be prepared to be vulnerable.  Be gentle. Be patient. Love the idolaters. Weep and mourn.  And if your orthodoxy does come from God and is not an idol of your own making, you will be able to do all of this with joy, and what that is no man can tell.

Toodle pip......

Wednesday, 23 April 2014


I've always thought the Divine Mercy devotions to be a fine thing and St Faustina is a saint I am very fond of.  What I couldn't quite fathom is why Divine Mercy Sunday had to be positioned where it is, what is the specific connection between this feast and Easter?  However, I think I've fathomed it out and this comes from now being nearly completely immersed in the older rite, both for the Mass and for the Office.  It is the older rite which makes sense of positioning the Feast of Divine Mercy and not the newer rite.  Hence the title of this post, synthesis; a new feast and the old liturgy.

Let me explain.

In the older form of the liturgy, epistle for Easter Sunday is also the lesson in the Office for the whole of  the Easter Octave, it is 1 Cor 5: 7-8

Brethren, purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new paste, as you are unleavened: for Christ our Pasch has been sacrificed.  Therefore let us feast, not with the old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

 On first reading this I was puzzled.  It is not the most exuberently joyous thing St Paul ever wrote so what makes it fit the season?  I was puzzled by the emphasis on purging.  Surely that was Lent, surely the purging is over?  The context of this bit of Paul is scary stuff.  He is talking about excommunicating an adulterer from the brethren and delivering him "to Satan for the destruction of the flesh".  This seems so very terrible until you see that excommunication is actually an act of mercy.  If somebody is no longer within the Church, it is up to God alone to judge them (as St Paul goes on to explain at the end of this chapter).  If the serious sinner remains in the Church he can cause no end of damage to the Body of Christ, corrupting it terribly.  This will bring down a very heavy judgement from on high as it mocks the sacrifice of Our Lord. Bishops have to exert their office of binding and losing.  A certain amount of judging has to go on, some people should be excommunicated if there is any chance of saving their souls. St Paul is clear on this and we ought to listen to him.  It is a last resort and the faithful, through their prayers can do much to prevent things reaching this sorry state.

So purging during the Easter Octave, what is it all about?  Well, hopefully we have had a good Lent and have purified ourselves, by the grace of God.  We are now in a position to purify the Church through our prayers and remove all traces of the old, corrupting leaven, this is our new purge. To be like Christ is to enter into eternal life with Him and to have no mark of decay. Yeast is a fungus and therefore feeds on decay.  It is not part of our new life.  The leaven must be removed, sin in the Church must be rooted out and this is the very week when we are most cleansed and most able to assist in this act through our prayers.

And how do we purge the Church?  Well, surely it is through the priestly prayers to the Divine Mercy that we, the priesthood of all believers can make. It is not for us to go bringing down judgement on the sinners known to us in the Chruch (unless any Bishops are reading this), but it is very much up to us to pray to God for His Mercy on those individuals who break our hearts through their sinfulness or cause public scandal.  The more we can do this, the purer our hearts and the more the Truth will be manifest within the Church.

The Love of God is the flower - Mercy is the fruit

Divine Mercy, gushing forth from the bosom of the Father,
I trust in you
Divine Mercy, greatest attribute of God,
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, incomprehensible mystery,
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, fount gushing forth from the mystery of the Most Blessed Trinity
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, unfathomed by any intellect, human or angelic,
I trust in you
Divine Mercy, from which wells forth all life and  happiness,
I trust in you
Divine Mercy, better than the heavens,
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, source of miracles and wonders,
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy. encompassing the whole universe,
I trust in you
Divine Mercy, descending to earth in the Person of the Incarnate Word,
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, which flowed out from the open wound of the Heart of Jesus,
I trust in you
Divine Mercy, enclosed in the Heart of Jesus for us, and especially for sinners,
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, unfathomed in the institution of the Sacred Host
I trust in you
Divine Mercy, in the founding of Holy Church
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, in our justification through Jesus Christ
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, accompanying us through our whole life
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, embracing us especially at the hour of death
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, endowing us with immortal life
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, accompanying us every moment of our life
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, shielding us from the fire of hell,
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy in the conversion of hardened sinners
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, astonishment for Angels, incomprehensible to Saints
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, unfathomed in all the mysteries of God
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, lifting us out of every misery,
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, source of our happiness and joy,
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, in calling us from nothingness to existence
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, embracing all the works of His hands,
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, crown of all of God's handiwork,
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, in which we are all immersed,
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, sweet relief for anguished hearts,
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, only hope of despairing souls,
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, repose of hearts, peace amidst fear,
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, delight and ecstacy of holy souls,
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, inspiring hope against all hope,
 I trust in you

Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence sumbit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself.

O, incomprehensible and limitless Mercy Divine,
To extol and adore You worthily, who can?
Supreme attribute of Almighty God,
You are the sweet hope for sinful man.

St Faustina's praises of the Divine Mercy.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Catholick schools (part 2)

Catholick schools (part 2)
Lessons from History

Below is a copy of the rules for the Jesuit school in Fenchurch St dating from about 1720.  It is worth expanding and having a read:
It can also be found at the bottom of this achived edition of the Tablet (when it was kosher) from 1916
It seems to me to be quite inspiring: a school to teach youth vertue and learning, to be gratis, to be non-selective and to be non-proselytising.  One assumes the catchment for this school would not have come from the upper echelons of society and indeed any Protestant who did send their boy there would have done so either because he was a dissenter and not welcome in an Established school or else, the boy was not smart enough for the Grammar schools.

There is a real sense from reading this that the Jesuit schools were necessary. They were founded to do good work and that that good work was utterly Catholic in outlook and execution.

The question must be asked,  do Catholic schools today do something similar, do they provide something that can't be had elsewhere?

These days people praise the examination results that Catholic schools get and indeed this is the main reason why they are popular.  To me this is a poor excuse for a school.  So, we can train the pupils to "jump through a series of hoops" and pass examinations.... this isn't learning.  They are not being taught how to learn and to love learning, they are being instructed in a skill and a fairly valueless one at that.  (Sorry, jaded teacher writing this, there are times when I detest my job).

People are attached to church schools because of morals and discipline and a vague sense that they can provide something for the child that can't be got at home, namely a grounding in the spiritual life. Again this is a poor excuse for a school. Unless the catechising is thoroughly Catholic, it is worse than useless.  But if Catholic schools are the sole meagre fayre of light weight spirituality, the only look-in that God gets in the child's life, then better that than nothing, I suppose..... (what a depressing argument).

What I like about this poster is that the school puts expectations on the pupils; to turn up, to be decently clad and to behave. This seems to be what is missing from the education system at large right now.  Instead teachers are a service providers in a market economy and are judged under those remits. The expectations seem to be mainly on the teachers and it is they who are measured and judged and told how to do their job, incessantly.

No I still can't decide whether on balance Catholic schools are a good thing or a necessary thing in the UK these days, the view out the classroom window is decidedly different to what it was in 1720.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Catholick Schools (part 1)

Catholick Schools: Part 1
I Blame the Teacher

It's my turn to have a meander through the murky waters of Catholic Education and the vexed question of "what is the point?".

Every time I've found myself teaching at a Catholic school I've said to myself "never again".  They leave me very uncomfortable because they all lie and do not live up to their mission statements. At root, they are embarrassed by the Second Person of the Trinity and turn Him into some good guy who gave us a good example.  Basically they are heretical. Normally I wouldn't care if a school lived up to its mission statement or not, but if that mission concerns Christ, then it ought to be taken very seriously indeed.

In the end I've spent all but 5 of my years as a teacher in Catholic establishments, and I don't know why I go back.  Perhaps it is the ease of employment, you can hear the interview panel's collective brain swing into action: wow you can teach Physics and "double wow" you are a practising Catholic who on the face of it doesn't look like a complete nutter, that must be a good thing, I'm sure you will be very useful to us....!

Blessed John Henry Newman said that the conversion of this country will be achieved through an educated laity.  That's us, all my non-clerical readers!  Are our schools set up to foster an educated laity?  Are our schools staffed by an educated laity?  The answer to both these questions is a resounding no.  I will not go into the reasons why, as they are self-evident to anyone who has been near a Catholic school in recent years.  You see, I really don't think Bl JHN had adults with certificates from Heythrop or ever Maryvale in mind when he talked about an educated laity.  It isn't about pieces of paper, it isn't about qualifications in "professional catholicism" *bleurgh*. It IS about being confident in one's faith, it is about being known to be a Catholic and it is about being a convincing witness to that faith.

I am reminded of a very good sermon I heard a few months back about us being "the salt of the earth". I do think us Catholic teachers should be just that.  Too intense and we are an emetic and a complete turn-off.  Too little and we have no effect.  Just enough and we enhance what is happening with a clarity that is uniform (salt always tastes the same) and leave the appetite craving a bit more.  The schools themselves can't do this.  It is not something an establishment can achieve.  It is a small but significant body of individuals within the organisation which will determine the true experience of Catholicism for the rest of the school.  And I'll put money on them not being part of the senior management and rarely within the RE department.

So, what I'm trying to say is that if you find yourself as a Catholic teaching in any school, live like you are one, be known as one.  It is amazing the number of pupils who'll pop their heads round your door during lunch time as say something like "Miss, you're a Catholic, what's your view on....", the success of your response is that they go away saying "Hmm, that does make sense...".  You see our faith IS the most sensible thing they will ever hear, don't be frightened by it.  The Truth is irresistible, they many not desire to follow it, but it will get them thinking.

To me there is just one golden rule to teaching, and if one endeavours to live by it and at the same time be known for who you are, then it will do nothing but enhance your enjoyment and fulflment within the job because it is a way of living out your faith in the job.  My golden rule is this: never tread on a child's sense of justice or you've lost them. A child may not be searching for God, but all children have an inbuilt sense of what is fair and just; work with this, you may be the only adult in their lives who does.  That you are a Catholic will then give them a good experience of how Catholics are and that is so important.

If I had children, would I send them to a Catholic school? No.  I would be too anxious about heretical assemblies, bad experiences of the Mass, a curriculum that purports to be Catholic and is anything but.  I would hope that my children would experience the company of enough well adjusted, happy Catholic adults who are my friends to give them good role models and some excitement about taking their faith into the adult world. As a parent I'd see it as my duty to instruct them in the faith and to do this with joy and enthusiasm.

Are Catholic schools needed?  I think the answer is, yes, though I'm not quite sure why... hang on for part 2, when I've completed my coursework marking.....

Apologies for spelling mistakes, I never said I was a good teacher.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Simon of Cyrene

Meditation 1:
Simon is the stranger in the crowd who took pity on the Man.  He is spotted by the tormentors who are so filled with hatred because they cannot stand to see any such sentiment.  As Simon is a foreigner and looks like a foreigner, he is an easy target for their cruelty, and is commanded by them to carry the cross amid much jeering and behaviour designed to humiliate.

Meditation 2:
The look between Simon and the Man as the cross is passed to his shoulders is a look that speaks of Love; pure and simple, penetratingly unfathomable love….It is Christ who is asking for the cross to be carried, not the soldiers.

Meditation 3:
Simon cannot comprehend the burden of the cross.  At heart he does not know what he is doing, only that his response to the Man’s suffering was pure and genuine.  He reasons that if his motives were pure, why should he mind what it is all about and he carries the burden willingly. The insults and the mockery just fill him with a sense of pride in the Man whose passion he is sharing.

Meditation 4:
As the cross starts to weary his body, Simon starts to get angry:  angry with the cruelty of the soldiers, angry with the world for its indifference, angry with men for their unremitting indifference to love.

Meditation 5
At the height of his anger, he stumbles, falls and curses the world.  The cross is returned to Jesus, who once again looks on him with such penetrating love whilst Simon himself feels a complete failure for being as base as those around him.  He is ashamed, too ashamed to follow Our Lord, he tries to blend in again with the crown but the spittle on his face and the dirt of his clothes make him feel different from those around him.  He is aware that although the burden has been removed, he will never be the same again.

Meditation 6
The burden is gone, the physical pain of carrying the cross is there.  An uneasy peace descends.  Things are definitely not right with the world yet Simon has some release from this.  In his union with Christ, he is forever changed.  He stands at a distance on Calvary, nobody even notices him now, he is completely invisible, he savours his own nothingness and is horrified by his own unworthyness, knowing that Love itself is being crucified before him. His union with Christ is strong, yet it is Christ who is now completely pierced by the burden. All Simon knows, is that from the Cross, Our Lord is asking him to hope in Him and to love Him unreservedly.