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, and Noel Coward once sang: Hooray! Hooray! suffering and dismay!

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


Saturday, 11 June 2016

She who pays the rent

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

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

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

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

Friday, 8 April 2016


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

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

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Thorns (5)

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Thorns (4)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Bl Elizabeth of the Trinity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Thorns (3)

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

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

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

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

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

So what about the thorn in the flesh?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 20 February 2016


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

Sheldon + Amy = Shamy

How about

Trump + Pope = Trope


Troublesome Questions + Pope = Trope

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

And there is always

Flight + Pope = Plight

which can be defined as an unfortunate situation.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Thorns (2)

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

me in the garden circa 1976 with thorns on thumbs

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Thorns (1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Monday, 8 February 2016

many waters

A mad weir of tigerish waters
Prism of delight and pain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Thoughts on the Mandatum

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

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

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

My old Novus Ordo Missal says the following:

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 18 January 2016

Holier than thou...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 4 January 2016

More from Tyrrell...

Happy New Year, dear readers...

New year, new resolutions, so here are some goodly words from George Tyrrell to spur us on.  They come from a chapter entitled "The Angelic Virtue", but could be about so much more than chastity, or indeed perhaps chastity is so much more encompassing than the narrow confines of the definition which it has.

The Church, taught by Christ, bids us acquiesce in truth that this world is not our home, but our school; that it is designed to school us in that which is best among our capacities, namely in courage, in heroic endurance of suffering for the sake of God and God's cause. For in this our very highest capability is exerted and strengthened and perfected.

Any impulse to do what is irregular is itself irregular, and cannot be approved or encouraged by reason.  If murder is wrong, I may not encourage a tendency to murder.  If I may not take my neighbour's property, I may not wilfully long for it.  Man is under a natural obligation of tending towards the perfect control of every controllable impulse; hence even inculpable rebellions should displease him as being opposed to his final perfection, i.e, to that ideal which he should aim at.  They are not matter for blame, but for regret; but to approve them or not to regret them would be blameworthy.

Notice how he says a "natural obligation" for tending towards self-control, it isn't even something from the higher eschelons of the spiritual life, undertaking this probably isn't even meritorious in any way, it is very much a baby step in being human.  It is the endurance in sticking to this natural obligation under the result of so much opposition that makes the struggles of so many, so heroic.

....and here is something that seems to have been lost in the last 100 years; an appreciation of the seriousness of even the slightest direct and deliberate concession to sensuality for its own sake.

... the practical wisdom of the Church's severity in regarding the slightest direct and deliberate concession as grievous, is evident when we reflect that here, as in some other matters, a slight concession, far from mitigating irregular desire, increases it; and if the first impulse is not resisted, it is indefinitely less likely that the second will be.  In fact it is like a boulder rolling down a hill, which becomes more hopelessly unmanageable at every bound.  It is the failure to realise this law, or to accept it in faith from the experience and wisdom of the Church, that lies at the root of so much difficulty in this matter.

Now we just follow in the world's wake, happily trying to regularise what is irregular or avoid this topic completely as some sort of anachronism... hey ho.... it can only end in tears...... that we don't have he capacity, through grace, through the aid of the sacraments, to be joyfully chaste is a blasphemy of the highest order, it mocks Christ in His life, passion and resurrection.

O tempora! O mores!

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

And he was excommunicated...

I picked up a copy of George Tyrrell's "Hard Sayings" from a second hand shop and have been working my way through it.  His prose style is floridly and bombastically Anglo-Irish and the book isn't universally edifying but it is sound. But some of the chapters have left me a bit disturbed because of their beautiful orthodoxy. For those of you that don't know, George Tyrrell was thrown out of the Jesuits and later excommunicated (but did receive the last rites) because of his "Modernist" views ..... it appears he fell foul of Cardinal Merry del Val ..... he died in 1909.

I retype some of his writing on marriage because I've rarely read such a good, pithy, defence of marriage from a Catholic writer.  Had this been put before the Synod on Marriage, I doubt anyone could have put up a counter argument and remained a Catholic.

And so we see that it is precisely because woman has a soul to save, that she is a help fit and worthy of man; a help in the great work of saving the soul first of her husband and then of his children; and that marriage, as God intended it, is not merely a carnal union, but principally a joining of souls; that its end is not to replenish and overpopulate the earth with animals more canino, but to fill Heaven with saints; to multiply bodies for the sake of souls.

and there is more... this bit could  have been written this year, it is darkly prescient...

[Parents should be] conscious and intelligent agents of Christ [in the] engracement and supernatural sanctification [of their children]...

Such being the type, the ideal of Christian marriage, what shall we say of the reality as we see around us in this de-Christianized country, where Catholics find it so hard, so impossible to keep mind or heart free from the infectious pestilence of unbelief, misbelief and moral corruption; a country where the true idea of a sacrament of any sort has been lost to the people at large for three centuries; where the nature of the Church and of her mystical union with Christ is wholly unknown; where the Catholic teaching concerning purity and chastity is simply ridiculed as Manichean in theory and impossible in practice; where the law of the land sanctions an adulterous remarriage of those who have been divorced, and permits marriages which in the Church's eyes are incestuous, null, and void; whose religion despises virginity and celibacy, and holds but lightly to the perpetuity or unity of Christian marriage.

Surely it is only too evident that Protestantism has done its work thoroughly; that it has first rationalised the notion of marriage and robbed it of all its mystical and spiritual import; then secularized what was a sacrament of the Gospel, and betrayed it into the hands of Caesar; and by these means has finally succeeded in degrading and profaning an institution on whose elevation and purity the whole fabric of true civilisation depends. 

It seems to me like George Tyrrell, through being on the wrong side of the debate about the role of Thomism and Scholasticism fell foul of the Church's fear of Modernism and paid the price, and meanwhile whist thinking She was shoring up her defences against Modernism, Holy Mother Church was blind to the devil who used the near universally appalling teaching of Thomism that ensued after Pius X, to sneak in and assist in the havoc of the development of  Nouvelle Theologie where grace and nature are confused and where all soundness and clarity are lost, and where God is so often reduced to sentiment..... I could get sad, if I let myself,...  I may copy out some of his teaching on purity and chastity, it's brilliant.

(Incidentally, the book "Hard Sayings" has an "Imprematur" from Cardinal Vaughan, which is good enough for me.)

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Astronomical reflection

A Happy and Holy Christmas to my loyal reader

I'm recalling the feast of the Immaculate Conception 2014.  Somehow it seemed to be one of those momentous, yet hiddenly significant days.  The church where I went to  Mass that evening was beautiful and Father preached with lightness and joy.  He quoted a French poet who died in WW1 who said "The Immaculate Conception is everything!".  And yes he was/is right.  There is something so spectacularly true, beautiful and good about that feast; about how it manifests God's loving relationship to His creatures.  And the heavens agreed.  Shining through the windows of the small church and providing illumination to my missal was a staggeringly bright, clear full moon.  The moon was utterly resplendent in the reflected light of the sun.  Yes, thought I, this will be the year of the Immaculate Conception for me, she will guide me, she will protect me, she will be my truth in darkness. She who conquers all heresies, she who loves with all tenderness....

And on the way home and for a couple of hours afterwards, I was treated to a crowning of the moon with a 22 degree halo (as shown below, only it was much sharper).  It sealed my resolve to make this the year of the Immaculate Conception. I was high with the beauty of it all.

It is probably wrong to read too much into the heavens.....

On New Year's day, I played the "find me a saint for 2015" game and visited a site that would do just that.  St John Berchmans was chosen for me, and I must admit to knowing nothing about him at the time.  BUT it was he who did much to promote devotion to the Immaculate Conception and he has been my rock this year.  He has been a devoted companion and his resolve to make the ordinary duties of state holy has been my resolve too.  It has been a foul year, but he has been there for me.  I have been fortunate enough to make a journey to a relic of him and receive a blessing with it.  I think he will be a permanent patron, I can't imagine being without him now.

And then things got really bad....
I asked a priest for advice and he suggested that I make a 33 day consecration to Our Lady, as after the Sacraments this should be just about the most powerful source of protection one could have.  A plan was drawn up and the 33 days this would finish on the feast of the Immaculate Conception 2015. After a couple of weeks when I saw far more than usual of the inside of the confessional, things settled down and the consecration was done with little fuss, a lightness of touch, and a deep interior peace.

What about the heavens that night?  Everything was overcast.  No sign of the moon. Father's preaching was far sterner, but it was what we needed to hear.  It was about the Truth.  It was about Mercy in Truth.  There was a tangible weight of exhaustion about the church, about the people, about everything...... but She was there..... only totally hidden.......

The following morning, as if to re-echo this, there appeared the tiniest slither of a moon and what looked to be Mars and Venus, competing with each other in their brightness and boldness.  It felt as if she was most definitely there, but nearly completely hidden..... but that is when she is at her most powerful.....

It is probably wrong to read too much into the heavens.......

Now, tonight, Christmas Eve 2015, the moon is nearly completely full... and Our Lady is fully aglow with the impending birth of her Son.  She is leading us to Him.....

And we so desperately need Him to be born anew in our hearts.  There is so much healing needed, and as one of the antiphons this morning said....

This day you shall know that the Lord is coming, and tomorrow you shall see His glory....


Sunday, 20 December 2015

Early Doors

For those of you unfamiliar with the term "early doors" , it is a Northernism for something happening sooner than expected....

This morning I had one of those moments.  I attend an 8am Mass at some distance from my home at a large and "important" church which has been designated as a place of pilgrimage for the Year of Mercy and so has a Holy Door.

When I arrived at Mass, it was just like any other Sunday; cold dark, nobody around save a jogger and the odd taxi driver.  As usual, after a long journey and post-morning medication, I was in need of the lavatory.  This can only be accessed at that hour from inside the church. I was not thinking about much more than my bladder as I walked towards the church porch.  Post-toilet, I'd get into "worship-zone", bless myself at the stoup, genuflect before the Lord and take my place in my pew of choice.  But lo and behold, the usual door to the church was cordoned off and we were to walk through the Holy Door.

Oh, hang on a minute thought I, this isn't fair!  Essentially this is my door to the lav, I'm going to the loo before I go to Mass. I would like to be able to choose when I make use of the Holy Door, to mediate on what I am doing, and to conform heart, mind and body to God's designs and Holy Mother Church's generosity in being able to grant indulgences. I was hoping for a special first use of the Holy Door, not one thrust upon me with no choice, when nature had the upper hand.

I don't suppose it matters much.  Grace perfects nature, it doesn't override it.  We all have calls of nature, and whilst alive, we always will.

It is a bit like life really.  Things don't happen in the order we want them to.  Things don't happen at times we think would be most suitable.  Sometimes thinking of God is thrust upon us when it is "inconvenient".....

and just perhaps Mercy works in that way..... we may do all we can to seek repentance, to be contrite, to promise God we will do of our best in future, but we keep doing it on our terms, perhaps we have to stop thinking about ourselves completely, perhaps our hopes and desires are nothing more significant than the fullness of our bladders, yet God comes to us.  God meets us in our corrupted nature and maybe we never really "know" when we have been in receipt of His mercy, we could have thought we were just going to the loo, but God had other plans....

I can and will pick up indulgences for myself, sinner that I am, and for the Holy Souls in Purgatory in good time.

Saturday, 5 December 2015


There are some characters in Holy Scripture who are difficult to like, I find Jacob and his favourite son Joseph fall into this category.  For various reasons I’ve been meditating a lot on Jacob and Esau lately and feel I am coming to some sort of understanding of Jacob that I’d like to share with you. Joseph will have to wait.

It is all about trying to see God’s ways, not ours, and it isn’t easy.

Isaac’s wife Rebekah has twins struggling in her womb and it certainly seems like an unpleasant pregnancy.

And the Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two people, born of you, shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the elder shall serve the younger.”

God sets the scene, God is in charge and I have no doubt that as young children whist Esau was doing manly stuff with his dad, Rebekah would dandle Jacob on her knee and tell him of God’s plans for him.  Jacob isn’t slow at coming forward and realising his brother’s weakness so that the elder sells his birthright to the younger “for a plate of mess”. The two nations warring in Rebekah’s womb are nature and grace and nature will always be weaker and succumb to its lusts.  This doesn’t make nature any less lovable, and at this stage grace seems to be somewhat devious, unpleasant and downright unfair. And there is Rebekah, who so may ancient writers see as a prototype of Our Lady, making absolutely sure Jacob gets his due and his father’s blessing, even if it means deceit.

It is too easy to read the story as if it ended there, as if Isaac’s blessing of Jacob was to be some sort of triumph, and if we read it like that, then it leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.  Almost as if Rebekah is the handmaid of a cruel and uncaring God who approves of deceit and trickery to get His way.

What struck me when I read this recently is what Jacob says to his father as he is busy fooling him into thinking that he is his brother Esau
Isaac said: “Are you really my son Esau?” Jacob answered “I am”.

He doesn’t say “yes”, he says “I am”, which is far more potent. In a sense, as twins, “he is” Esau, as Esau is Jacob, there is a unity in twins that defies explanation. In another sense he is about to become his brother, indeed, the life he is about to embark on will sanctify the pair of them.  Jacob has to become as worldly as Esau (wives, children, livestock, that kind of thing) and in something that certainly seems to be divine justice, Jacob is deceived and deceived again by his supremely unlikable kinsman Laban.   And it makes Jacob, he is refined in the refiner’s fire of Laban’s household.  Jacob never forgets God and Grace leads and Nature follows.  After Laban’s treatment of him, Jacob must be even more acutely aware of Esau’s hatred of him.  

 So after he has freed himself from Laban, it is no surprise that Jacob, before the eventful meeting with Esau, wrestles with God. Jacob wants his blessing from God, he’s been through a lot and God seems to have forgotten the promise made to his mother.  Jacob wrestles till he gets his blessing.  He wants to survive his brother’s wrath. The grace in Jacob is made more magnificent in his anger and sense of justice.  Jacob has become a hunter and he knows his quarry, and his quarry is God. Meanwhile, the elder brother has had to have supernatural strength to forgive the younger so that it is only by the Grace of God that they can meet as equals in all humility and the pair of brothers by the end of those verses are almost indistinguishable in their forgiveness, graciousness and wealth. They are not equal, Jacob (Israel) is God’s chosen (through Israel will the salvation of the world be wrought), but that doesn’t deny Esau his due, his God-given dignity.

Had Rebekah not instigated the action, had Esau not been tricked and learnt to overcome his anger, had Jacob not had to suffer Laban, Jacob would not have been half the man he became and nor would his brother.  The elder would have always been the worldly but amiable fool and the younger, the other-worldly layabout and drifter. Rebekah did the best for both her sons.

God’s ways are not ours and somehow it seems worth reminding ourselves of this when we think He is not doing as we think He should.

The birth of Esau and Jacob,
Master of Jean de Mandeville,
French, Paris, about 1360-1370.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Family (2)

What do you do if a family member turns away from the family and decides they no longer belong?  Do you still love them? Yes.  Will you still stand up for them if they are in trouble?  Of course you do.  You show them love in the hope that they recognise the source of this love and "come home".  You will not cast them into the desert, order them never to return and hope they die.

Now what if you had not been a very good example as a parent, if your teaching and love had been less than perfect, if through your lack of love you had left a void into which that child had wandered.  What if your child had found in this void a "new" creation, something fascinating and energising and had embraced it? What if your child had found more love there (or something that felt more like love) than you had shown it?  I think you'd still love that child, and accept some of the responsibility for its decisions.  I think you may actually find that child more beautiful for being so bold and indeed that child may actually teach you much about love and the Truth through their journey. No amount of arguing over words, laws, teachings will bring them back.  Only silent, gentle love can do that.

The paragraph above describes Protestants of all shapes and sizes.  They are children of the Roman Church.  They filled a void created by our poor teaching, our lack of love and our poor examples. They embraced heresies that were already there.  Nothing is new under the sun.  There are contained within this the good, the bad and the ugly; for every Westbro Baptist, there is a Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

I wish to argue that in a similar way, Islam is the child of the Universal Church.  I'd like to argue for her beauty, her learning, her boldness.  I'd like to argue that I've seen more "fellow travellers" amongst my Muslim friends than amongst my Catholic acquaintances.  There is a hunger and thirst for God.  There is a love of man and a spontaneous charity that puts most of us to shame.  Good Muslims humble me, shame me, they are so profoundly gentle, reasonable and totally God centred. In ordinary everyday Islam, you are more likely to see beautiful demonstrations of chaste love between married couples, you are more likely to see generosity and warmth of spirit, you are more likely to see sincere demonstrations of the love of God.  My late friend and dear parish priest would only ever go on holiday in Islamic countries and he'd say with a twinkle in his eyes "I loathe Catholics, why would I want to holiday with Catholics".  I know exactly what he means.  Some of us have a tendency to love all the more the child who has rebelled, to seek the good in that child, some of us find the child who has stayed at home a bit dull.  The child who has stayed at home needs shaking up, needs to feel the blood coursing through its veins, needs to grow up. The Church is Mother and she has no room for spoilt, lazy brats.

So I am arguing that our Muslim brothers need our support and prayers right now and most of all our love. I will repeat till my dying breath: Islam is not the enemy. Islam is in trouble because like western Christianity many of its followers, through western secular eduaction and immersion in that culture have an Elightenment mind-set that tries to box-in God; all transendence, all beauty, all that is numinous is ignored.  The angry young men and women of IS are Nihilists, they are more of a product of western philosophy and politics than they are of the Koran.The cancer that threatens to consume Islam is also there in Christianity, we must deal with the cancer and not let the patients die.

Granted, the Devil is alive and well and has been enjoying himself in Paris recently.  I think he is revisiting his old haunts where he's had such success in the past, and Paris was the scene of some of his finest moments during the Revolution.  He is particularly fond of Europe.  But he is not where you think he is.  He is dining with the rich and famous, he is eating at all the best restaurants, he loves high culture and fine clothes and he is using all the prettiest boys.  His aim is the destruction of all religion.  His aim is that humanity throws out the Infant with the bathwater.  And he will succeed unless we love and unless we behave like Christ.  And to do that we have to fail; we will be strung up, beaten, ridiculed and nailed to trees, but we have no choice.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Mercy me!

Perhaps "Mercy" is currently "on trend", here is Michael Gove talking about mercy and other things (and making sense) to those nice people at the Howard League for Penal Reform. Good words... Sincerity? Who knows....

File:Michael Gove at Policy Exchange delivering his keynote speech 'The Importance of Teaching'.jpg. Uploaded to creative commons Dec 2013
Actually, I have to admit that I thought he was one of the better Education Secretaries we've had, I am not actually seething about something he did (unlike Estelle Morris for example)... I must be losing the plot....

And just in case you are reaching for the smelling salts... here are some good Catholic words on Mercy from Bl Columba Marmion

Our miseries are very real; our weaknesses, our limitations, we know them well enough, but God knows them better than we do.  And the sense of our frailty -recognised and avowed - honours God.  And why so? Because there is in God one perfection wherein He wills to be eternally glorified, a perfection which is perhaps the key of all that befalls us here below; it is mercy.  Mercy is love in the face of misery; if there was no misery, there would be no mercy. The angels declare God's  holiness; but as for us, we shall be in heaven the living witnesses of the divine mercy; in crowning our works, God crowns the gift of His mercy, and it is this mercy that we shall exalt during all eternity in the bosom of our beatitude.

How different (yet not exactly so) divine mercy is from earthly mercy, and how necessary both are.  In both cases we have to know how much in need of it we are, otherwise it cannot be effective .....

Sunday, 25 October 2015


This is a post about post-synod fatigue.... and I wasn't even following it closely!

I have found peace in the Church, a peace the world cannot give.  She has fed me, she gave me nourishment through the Sacraments that flowed through her from God.  Her light and her wisdom are not Her own, they come from God, IS God, GLORIFIES GOD.

I have been through much, yet Christ has been by my side and Holy Scripture has ever been my consolation.  The Church has been my rock: Triumphant, Militant and Suffering.  The Church is One, Holy and Catholic.  The Church is timeless because Her Spouse is the same yesterday, today and forever.  She walks to Calvary at His side, her bridal attire in shreds, her glory hidden in His suffering, and He feeds Her, He consoles Her, He dignifies Her with the shedding of His Precious Blood, because He loves Her, madly, passionately, eternally and in covenant.  He is a fool for Her and we must be a fool for Him.  And through a glass dimly, we see something of Her true beauty,  Her marriage to her Spouse is the eternal delight in the house of the Father.

So, blindly and trustingly, at all hours of the day and night, willingly and unwillingly, with good heart and hardened heart, in season and out of season, I have done my best to follow Him.  I have had to rely on my intellect; weakness and illness injured my will and my heart is damaged and unreliable.  And He has been there for me and He leads me on......

He set me in Psalm 118.  I love Him, He is the Law, my intellect knows it and heart and my will consent.  He forever reveals the light of His Law , it grows and the more I see, the more I seek, the deeper it becomes and the less "I" understand.......  I simply follow where His Law takes me, I surrender all to that.....

And so this little sheep finds herself at the end of that long Psalm.  I have followed the Law, it has been my delight, I have become intoxicated with its beauty and like a drunk man after all the pubs have shut, I'm staggering down the road alone.  I am a lost sheep, I can't find the flock, and I can't see the shepherd, my intoxication is my isolation and now I am helpless....

Let thy hand be with me to save me;
for I have chosen thy precepts.
I have longed for thy salvation, O Lord
and thy law is my meditation.
My soul shall live and shall praise thee;
and thy judgements shall help me.
I have gone astray like a sheep that is lost;
seek thy servant, 
because I have not forgotten thy commandments.
[Ps 118: 173-176]

I am bleating alone in a damp and desolate place with my intellect screaming at me that it simply can't understand anymore, that the Church simply does not make sense, that all clarity has gone....

And whilst my bleating is pathetic, weak willed, not entirely kindhearted and decidedly stubborn, I am bleating ¡Viva Cristo Rey ! and I ask for His Mercy.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Holy Horror

What are we seeing in the synod?

We are seeing worldliness.

Let Faber explain:

There is a hell already upon the earth; there is something which is excommunicated from God's smile.  It is not altogether matter, nor yet altogether spirit.  It is not man only, nor Satan only, nor is it exactly sin.  It is an infection, and inspiration, an atmospehere, a life, a colouring matter, a pageantry, a fashion, a taste, a witchery, an impersonal but a recognisable system.  None of these names suit it and all of them suit it.  Scripture calls it "The World".  God's mercy does not enter into it.  All hope of its reconciliation with Him is absolutely and eternally precluded.  Repentance is incompatible with its existence.  The sovereignty of God has laid the ban of the empire upon it: and holy horror ought to seize us when we think of it.  Meanwhile its power over the human creation is terrific, its presence ubiquitous, its deceitfulness incredible...

...It cannot be damned because it is not a person, but it will perish in the general conflagration.... we are living it, breathing it, acting under its influences, being cheated by its appearances, and unwarily admitting its principles

Faber doesn't advocate the remedy of total escape from the world into the severe aesthetic of the coenobite.  He argues that worldliness will follow us into that particular cell.  He argues simply that we put God first; remembering our smallness and His eternal majesty, remembering the hardness of our own hearts and His infinite love.  He argues for our continual remembrance of the Incarnation; that He came into the world because He loves us.  He argues that we forever remember that God's creation is good, and that it is only sin that corrupts and that He is not the author if sin.

I'd also add that I think it important we stop blaming the devil for all that we see. He'll be enjoying the credit too much, especially when he has hardly had to lift a finger and actually do anything.  The confusion is caused by worldliness more than the prince of this world.  The bottom line is, we only have ourselves to blame.  Our Lord and His Holy Scripture have spelt out in simple language the dangers of worldliness since the very beginning. It is worth reading John Chapter 17 carefully and humbly, about what it is to be a disciple and to live in the world, but not be of the world, because that is what God calls us to do.

Faber again....

It is not so much that it [the world] is a sin, as that it is the capability of all sins, the air sin breathes, the light by which it sees to do its work, the hot-bed which propagates and forces it, the instinct which guides it, the power which animates it .... It has laws of it own, and tastes and principles of its own, literature of its own, a missionary spirit, a compact system, and it is a consistent whole.  It is a counterfeit of the Church of God, and in the most implacable antagonism to it.