Saturday, 11 March 2017

Some girls....

I work in an institution that prides itself of empowering women.  On Wednesday, it being International Women's Day, there was hype on this very theme.  I hid my feelings. I don't understand. I don't feel part of a common sisterhood.  It was not my day but nor was it my day to rain on somebody elses parade.

Once again it got me thinking about identity.  It got me thinking about how we define ourselves. Indeed in looking for an identity, do we miss some greater truth about ourselves.  Is there not a danger that in trying to forge an identity we miss something fundamental to our being?

I for one can't identify with half the world's population simply on the grounds that I share the same biological tackle as them.  I feel no sense of sisterhood.  No sense of belonging.  Our common experiences in terms of what happens to our bodies are not enough to bind us together with a common sense of belonging.  I think most women would agree with me here.

I could see the positive in much of the rhetoric of International Women's Day in terms of celebrating feminine toughness, resilience and independence of thought.  However the positives in this only lay in their opposition to the unappealing female traits of needyness and emotion-laden manipulation. I didn't  like the promotion of complete independence in the sense that a woman's destiny is her own to decide for herself.  I believe such an idea is decidedly far from the truth. Women will ever go down this path, but it seems to be fantasy to me.  The strength of women is in their interactions not their independence.

Often we identify ourselves through what we are not.  Indeed this can be a gloriously quick and easy way to form a bond of connection.  From Bolton to Borneo I have witnessed that glee smile and sense of belonging within the tribe that identifies itself with the tag: we who don't support Manchester United. Though it has to be remembered that this tribe has no meaning without the presence of Manchester United.  Likewise, identifying as not being a man relies heavily on the presence of men.  This negative identifier is not the essence of womanhood.

Occasionally there is a bond to other women, but it not a bond of identifying with them as such.  It is about a bond due to a common understanding of love.  A quick glance between two women who have read a man in the same way.  However, it only happens in love, it only happens with those who love men and who have no sense of sisterhood either.  It is with those of us who prefer the company of men, those of us who would never parade our shared understanding of men, those of us who know that some things are best hidden and not talked about. Our identity here is not so much about belonging as about knowing.  I suppose this is "my tribe", but it is a very "un-tribe-like tribe" as we don't need each other or seek each other out.

The bottom line is that St Paul is right: Woman was created for man 1Cor 11:9
That is the identity of women; to bring out what is good in men that they can't bring forth for themselves. The goodness comes from God, but we are His handmaids. Simply what more could we want or desire to be?  This is a gift beyond telling.

It is not about rights, empowerment or independence.  It is about unconditional love with the lightest of touches and the humblest of hearts. It is entirely directed towards men and for men.  That is the only feminism I understand.

And here is a link to a track (in a spirit of sisterhood) from The Sisters of Mercy to keep me in good cheer. I was no "goth" but living in the M62 corridor meant throwing yourself round the dancefloor to the Body Electric was just about the most fun you could have in the 1980s.
Some girls wander by mistake....

I've been wandering by mistake all my life....

Saturday, 25 February 2017

the Pokrov

A week ago, someone I trust and who has a habit of giving me timely and unexpected gifts, gave me a Russian icon of the Pokrov. It is a resin copy of an original, but it is very special..... The Pokrov is the Orthodox version of the Western "protection under Our Lady's mantle", but it has many levels and tells many tales. The Baptist, Andrew the Holy Fool, Roman the Melodist and a Byzantine Emperor all feature and indeed the protection of the Virgin seems open to all... and  somehow, I feel like I am living inside the icon, it has "consumed" me....The protection is timely, the friendship greatly appreciated. The shadows lengthen and there is a darkness that keeps trying to bite and it can't.... everything is so light and of good cheer.... and I can say no more until She lets me out!

Or perhaps you should join me... This isn't a journey into Orthodoxy, I am a Catholic, I have no choice, there is no choice, we're not Protestants, we can't "shop around". The Veil of the Theotokos is the Veil of the Theotokos and there are times when it is best not to question and just to accept the help that is given.



 The Pokrov I have looks nothing like this, but the sense is the same.

Sub tuum praesidium confugimus,
Sancta Dei Genetrix.
Nostras deprecationes ne despicias
in necessitatibus nostris,
sed a periculis cunctis
libera nos semper,
Virgo gloriosa et benedicta

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Love....

Lent is approaching  and is starting to scream in my head. If I am honest, there are simply times when I can't face it and it isn't Lent itself that is the problem, it is the Easter that follows.  Each year the silence of Lent marches into Easter and my song of "love unknown" continues. Easter is as hollow as a chocolate egg for me. It is not lack of faith that makes it so.  It is my very faith, hope and love of God that make it so. I can't explain why, other than the sense that I am not where I am meant to be, or doing what I am truly called to do, though it has been expedient to be like this.  God just seems to desire I "hold on" and keep going. 

To focus my mind on what really matters: love of God and love of neighbour... here are an eclectic set of quotes from my notebooks that have got me through in the past....

This year seems different. I am well, for the first time in a decade, I am well.... but for what end I do not know..... some new cross will be coming my way and I will accept it cheerfully.......


Edwin Morgan

Love rules. Love laughs. Love marches. Love
        is the wolf that guards the gate.
Love is the food of music, art, poetry. It
        fills us and fuels us and fires us to create.
Love is terror. Love is sweat.

Hakim Jami: Ordinary human love is capable of raising man to the experience of real love.

El-Ghazali: If one loves someone because it gives pleasure, one should not be regarded as loving that person at all.  The love is, in reality, though this is not perceived, directed towards the pleasure.

Rabia el-Adawia: I will not serve God like a labourer, in expectation of my wages.

Fr Gabriel of St Mary Magdalene OCD: Union of love demands resemblance: love either finds two beings similar or makes them so.

Ven. Raymond Jourdain: By my love for my neighbour I shall know whether I love you, O Lord, for he who is neglectful of loving You, does not know how to love his neighbour either.

St Elizabeth of the Trinity: You will never be commonplace if you are vigilant in love! But in the hours when you feel oppression and lassitude, you will please Him even more if you faithfully believe that He is still working, that He is still loving you just the same, and even more: because His love is free and that is how He wants to be magnified in you: and you will let yourself be loved.

Friday, 17 February 2017

the Chemistry Teacher

Chemistry teachers and Physics teachers are often very different animals.  There are some interesting souls who can teach both and teach both well, but for the most part we like to steer very clear of each others subject.  The bottom line being that we don't quite get it.  Science is not a unified whole.  Science involves models and methods that simply don't transfer from one subject to another.  The models and methods of the Physicist are a universe away from the models and  methods of the Chemist.

Being a Physicist, I will now look at the Chemist through the lens of Physics, I hope to be objective, but I am aware of the limits of my objectivity and the limits of my method.

The Physicist observes the following about the Chemist: (I will use the male pronoun for simplicity):

  • The Chemist lives in a world of reactions.  Reagents come together and conditions are manipulated to produce a variety of outcomes. The Chemist sees himself as a facilitator of outcomes.  He has confidence in his model which describes the reactions because he can be fairly confident as to the outcomes that will be produced.
  • The Chemistry teacher is often a frustrated children's entertainer. He loves the wide eyed enthusiasm and curiosity of his unsuspecting audience as various interesting effects are produced. He loves flirting with danger, making things look more dangerous than they really are to  further enhance the entertainment value of what he is doing.  And he remains confident in his model because it works.
  • However he manipulates everything, his model is all about what and how things can be manipulated.  He constructs.  His model involves building blocks that fit together following known patterns.  They are neat.  There is elegance.  It is Science.  But it is not the whole story.
The wide-eyed child fresh from her Chemistry lesson wearily trundles up the stairs to Physics. (Chemistry is usually confined to the ground floor because it dribbles more than the other sciences). This Physics teacher has an invisible sign above the door that all the pupils know about, it reads: Physics is not fun.  This sign tells them that for pleasing entertainment value, they are not to expect anything from Physics.  The will secretly find it satisfying but not in a way they can admit to their peers.  Physics will entice, but her methods are very different from Chemistry.  Where Chemistry appears as the sweet counter at Woolworths, Physics is the butchers shop or fishmongers. There is something fascinating and dangerous amidst the sharp knives, chain gauntlets and lifeless displays. We rip the carcasses apart as carefully as possible, lay the bits out, prod with as much skill as our previous training will allow ...... and most of the pupils would simply rather not be there. Just occasionally it comes together, we all see something in a new light, something clicks and the routine drudge becomes worthwhile.... something beautiful is revealed.

The thing is, I am never sure the Chemist is seeking deep understanding.  The Chemist sees himself as a facilitator; his models and methods allow a whole field of endeavour to open up.  He simply facilitates and he believes his little atoms and molecules dance to his personal understanding though they are not under his control. The more chaotic it looks, the better. The outcome is assured (he thinks). It isn't about the sharp knives of logic and law, it is about process.  Process is Queen.

The Physicist is far more likely to say that process is subservient to law. Law is not as rigid as others may think it is.  Law is about degrees of freedom, not about total control.  The Physicist finds beauty in the law; law reveals beauty and truth. Models and methods will be cheerfully ditched if a greater understanding of the law is revealed.

As I said, Chemist and Physicist, two very different animals. Let each be. And heaven help us if we ever have a Supreme Pontiff who had once been a Physics teacher.



Monday, 13 February 2017

A Tiger in a Doll's House

Our recollections of our early childhood are always hazy and of we will naturally have absolutely no idea of what we put our parents through.  Like the cuckoo in the blackbird's nest, our demands can be outrageous, selfish, high volume, perhaps even cruel and we just expect  a response.  But we are no imposter chick, and our parents respond out of love as best they can, and family life struggles on. Hopefully we gradually learn what is reasonable and what is not and we learn to give and take, we lean to find pleasure in generosity and perhaps one day, we even learn to appreciate the massive sacrifices our parents made for us.

I am the eldest of three.  Apparently I was a delightful child. My nanny is still alive and still dotes on me, and I feel utterly unworthy of her unconditional love for me. Her own children are in their late sixties and keep in contact with me, they are not jealous, they know she struck up a bond with me that is special and they wish to honour that.  Again, this is humbling. My parents also took great delight in me.  I could happily sit in adult company and behave and not be bored. I could be taken to classical concerts, ballets and to restaurants form a very early age.  I'd always behave impeccably and I can remember the adulation I'd get off complete strangers.

And so the hagiography is already written!  I can't for one moment believe it is anything like the reality.

Then two things happened to change life forever; one natural, one supernatural.  The natural one was the arrival of my middle sister.  She was a kicker, a screamer and a tomboy.  She had no interest in the refined world that I was inhabiting.  I was thrust into childhood, my parents could no longer treat me like a mini adult.  I was now just a big sister.  It made me a little withdrawn, but that was no bad thing.

The other thing that happened was altogether stranger.  I was cursed.  A poor unfortunate boy in the dinner queue at school spoke in a voice that was not his own and uttered this curse: from now on, I'd never be able to have anything I wanted. And he pointed at me and said there would be a mark on my body to act as a permanent reminder of this.  I had no idea that this was not a normal thing to happen and I remember being very calm, going to the bathroom and noticing that I'd developed a mole where he'd pointed.  I still have it.  I told my mum, but it seemed all so ordinary, and I got on with life. Mum did make me change schools.  I loathed my education from then on.  I was a whole series of reading books behind the other children and never caught up.  I was struggling to write and never caught up.  I was struggling to do arithmetic and never caught up.  I could however shine at things nobody else could do so although each year I'd only have a handful of stars on the star chart, whilst every other pupil's star column reached the ceiling (and is some cases even the light fittings), I did enough and was quiet enough that nobody really bothered with me.  And I liked that.

I couldn't quite forget about the curse.  Indeed it seemed to carry some truth so I half decided that it would be best if I didn't want anything.  Besides, minima was screaming the place down, nobody would hear me anyway.

Anyway the upshot of this is I have gone through life not wanting anything.  Not REALLY wanting anything.  I can pretend and that is OK.  I get what I pretend to want.  But what I really want, if I do ever do this, is always taken from me, and it is simply too painful and is best to back away.

Finding priests who understand has been a massive help.  Lightheartedly we work together to ensure the curse becomes a blessing, revoking it would not work.  My total consecration to Our Lady was the main part of this.  I do feel somewhat impervious to the curse, though it is still there.  It still reminds me of its presence and I just have to praise God and not sink into a mire of self-pity.

We can't live in a world without desire, it kills us.  We are meant to desire and we are all broken individuals whose desires are disordered to some extent.  I'm left hanging is some limbo, now nearly pathologically unable to want things for myself but desiring things nevertheless. Knowing also that the curse cannot touch God's desires for me.

I am walking a very strange path, but I would not have it any other way. God's love shines through it all.

The title of the post is the last thing I wanted and got prior to the curse: a tiger in a doll's house. One Christmas Mum obliged and my sister got the rest of the set of plastic zoo animals to chew.  I can picture it very clearly even now and I think the tiger may be me.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

The Hind

I've been re-reading John Dryden after too long an absence. I'd forgotten how much I love the English of the 17th Century.  Dryden's use of language has hardly been surpassed and his Tory sensibilities and Catholic heart give his writings added potency.

The Hind and the Panther is an allegorical work about the Catholic Faith to which he had recently and sincerely converted.  The Hind represents the Catholic Church; the Panther, the Anglicans.  His vision of the Church is what keeps me within the fold.  She is Truth, though you have to seek her out.  She has a light touch and a fleetness of foot, She is beautiful and unchanging......

.... yet She is obscured in a forest of fakery; of polyester, obfuscation, ugliness, bitterness and verbiage.  We all desperately need to desire to connect with Her again.  I'll quote the first 18 lines and trust you get the message. It could have been written for these strange times.

A milk-white Hind, immortal and unchanged,
Fed on the lawns and in the forest ranged;
Without unspotted, innocent within,
She feared no danger, for she knew no sin.
Yet had she oft been chased with horns and hounds
And Scythian shafts, and many winged wounds
Aimed at her heart; was often forced to fly,
And doomed to death, though fated not to die....

Panting and pensive now she ranged alone,
And wandered in the kingdoms once her own.
The common hunt, though from their rage restrained
By sovereign power, her company disdained,
Grinned as they passed, and with glaring eye
Gave gloomy signs of secret enmity.
'Tis true she bounded by, and tripped so light,
They had not time to take a steady sight;
For truth has such a face and mien
As to be loved needs only to be seen.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Open Reply to Dr Shaw

I know I shouldn't have done this till his series of three posts had finished, but next week promises to be very busy and the points I wish to make are general ones. I'm not picking holes in what he is saying.  I just wish to point out some dangers as I see it in the apporach he wishes to take.



In a recent series of blog posts, Joseph Shaw has been musing over what to do in the Church in this current crisis.  I am not about to do a Jim Callaghan and say ‘crisis what crisis?’, I admit that things are somewhat tricky right now. However, I firmly believe that the Church is permanently in a state of crisis.  The barque of Peter has always been a leaky vessel, indeed left to the laws of buoyancy, it probably shouldn’t float.


I am writing to wholeheartedly reject his idea that in order to protect orthodoxy in the Church (something that must be protected at all costs), we must make the Traditional Latin Mass the focus.  There are several points that I wish to make.

Firstly, the older Rites of the Church are to my mind, profoundly more beautiful, edifying, metaphysically more satisfying and closer to heaven than the Novus Ordo.  My arguments are not for or against the Older Rites per se. I am writing because I see something distasteful and also several dangers in doing as he suggest.  

I will turn my attention first to what I consider to be distasteful.  No matter how he dresses up his arguments they politicise attendance at the TLM and that is simply wrong.  Rallying behind a political flag is no guarantee of orthodoxy to what the flag signifies.  To see the TLM as something to rally around is distasteful.  Indeed it is almost Protestant in its assertions of independence from those within the Body of Christ that they consider to be less than orthodox than themselves.  I will admit that  given half a chance I would dearly love to introduce the TLM in places where is has not been seen for nearly 50 years.  How many for a ‘stable group’? 2? A husband and wife who know their Mass and know their chant and are good at befriending priests; missionaries for the TLM in some Novus Ordo stronghold?  Oh yes! People have a right to experience it and come to know its beauty.  However, using the TLM to proclaim orthodoxy or to be a bastion of orthodoxy seems to me to be to deliberately setting it up as ‘other’ and not ‘integral’ to the Church. This is to my mind abhorrent.

The dangers in his way of thinking follow on from this. The TLM has enough enemies as it is.  We deserve what happens to us if we are ever see to use the Mass for such political ends, or even be percieved to be using the Mass for these ends.  What I fear is that perfectly within the power of Church would be the ability to supress the older calendar, she has done smething similar before. [Someone with more knowledge of such matters, tell me I'm wrong, please!] Nobody would dare supress the Older Rite but supressing the calendar is possible, cruel and very detrimental to the re-propagation of the Old Rite.  

The second danger is to believe that orthodoxy only has one stripe; the Traditional one. However, orthodoxy isn’t what people do or even what they profess to believe.  You can fast with pride in your heart, you can be pro-life without charity.  Orthodoxy is being truly “slain in the Spirit”. Orthodoxy is “putting on Christ” and being dead to the world.  Orthodoxy can not be known apart from its fruits. Orthodoxy is not a thing or even a creed. It is Christ. None of us can claim to be perfectly orthodox.

There is one simple test for orthodoxy.  It relates to the promises we make at Confirmation. Can we, do we make the Devil flee? When he obsesses with us because we are doing good, do we know what to do to repulse him? When he wears us down and when we can see his power to cripple others, do we instincively know how to respond? Not by our own strength, no we can never do it alone.  But is our love of God and whole company of heaven such that we know how to call on Them to repulse the attacks of the Enemy.  Heck, we are soldiers for goodness sake! Do we REALLY know how to fight? Do we really know the Enemy? Are we really fearless as Scripture implores us to be? Do we really see him or just the smoke and mirrors he puts up to stoke our fears and prejudices; splintering the Church and breeding discontent?  Do we really root out sin in our own lives? Being in a state of grace is not an optional extra, it is the only way to be fit for duty. Its fruits are the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

There are many, many orthodox souls for whom the TLM means nothing. Vast swathes of the globe are without the TLM and many humble souls therein are orthodox. Some of the most powerfully prayerful people I know are charismatics, but there is no antagonism towards me and my more traditional tendencies, there is a common sense of purpose and a quiet ability to get on with fighting the good fight, in Communion.  If we are to “bring forth Christ” as One Body, then we must go out and look for Him and be prepared to see Him in unexpected places.  We can’t do this if we are unsighted through hiding under the shield of a particular Rite.  Also, this argument applies just as much to the proponents of the Novus Ordo as it does the to the TLM brigade. It isn't one rule for them and one for us.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Year of the Rooster

Happy Chinese New Year!

There are reports that we Roosters are to keep our heads down this year in order that we don't annoy the earth gods too much.  However I can't remember a time when I wasn't annoying the earth gods. We Roosters can't help but state the blooming obvious, and state it loud. If I end up in the pot for my troubles so be it, I'm past caring!


Sharp dressed, quick witted, loyal, genial, blunt, patient, stubborn and fearless: very best Roosterish good wishes to you all!

Surgamus ergo strenue:
Gallus iacantes excitat,
Et somnolentos increpat,
Gallus negantes arguit.

Bring it on!

Wake up sleeper 
And rise from the dead
And Christ will shine on you.
Eph 5:14

Saturday, 21 January 2017

What is it all about?

This Women's March thing is depressing.  I look at the pictures on the BBC website and my heart sinks.   I can't find anything funny or erudite to say.  The following words are in my head and it hardly seems worth putting them into a paragraph, I'll leave you to do that: middle class vacuous meaningless happy shiny rights people nonsense  life get a.

At the educational establishment where my employment days are numbered, some pupils were talking about going on the march and how they hated Trump because he was anti women's rights.  I asked them to explain (a) what women's rights are and (b) what hating Trump means.  Their efforts on both fronts were poor.  I put the suggestion to them that Trump was actually the democratically elected president of another country, and that if we believed in freedom and democracy we must accept the decision of the American people.  I suggested that demonstrating against his election was an undemocratic, unsound and irrational thing to do.  I also asked them if those women that don't agree with the women's rights issues would be welcome on such a march, would they be allowed a voice?

They looked at me like I was an alien.

Should I have said anything?  Teachers don't just deliver their subjects.  Some comments made by pupils can't go unchallenged and in some bizarre way I think in that little exchange I may have been standing up for British Values (so called).

A parent is currently trying to get me to allow her precious to use a dictaphone in my lessons to help her with her learning needs. She wants to record everything I say. I will not agree to this.  I don't see how it will help.  Her struggles are with the diagrams and the mathematics not with what I am saying.  I don't want her mother pouring over my every word, out of context and with too much time on her hands and looking for anything that may 'blame the teacher' for the fact her child is actually not that bright and will find my subject a challenge no matter who is teaching it. Also, if she heard my little exchange regarding Trump (I think she would be supportive of the march), would I find myself on perched the chaise longue of doom outside the Head's office waiting for a severe reprimand?

 It is definitely time to go.....

Monday, 16 January 2017

Like Brother and Sister

As is my style, I'm weighing in on an issue in a somewhat oblique manner.  I'm not one for righteous indignation.  I'm trying to see the path ahead.  The issue at hand is the Maltese Bishops's response to Amoris Laetitia.

I will start by saying I don't like the phrase living "like brother and sister".  It is simply a euphemism for a relationship between a man and a woman who are living under the same roof but who would not dream of sexual relations because it would be as wrong as if a brother and sister were to engage in this. There is no grey area, there isn't even black and white, it is simply the absence of sex; end of.  Brothers and sisters fight and are competitive.  Brothers and sisters do not usually have the bond that brings two souls together in such circumstances.  When two souls come together under that roof, they are usually in trouble, something has broken down, something is already very wrong, they come together for mutual support, they are trying to get their broken lives back on track.

They can't.  Only God can do that. Unless, they give their lives totally to God, they will fail. God must come first.

I want to tell you a story about two such broken souls: the dear departed 'husband number 1' and myself.

I'd reached rock bottom; I'd strained my intellect as far as I could possibly take it, I was 'experimenting' with life, and not particularly enjoying any of my escapades. I had no faith but in the blackness and emptyness I called out to a God I didn't really believe in and said, you are the only plausible reality left, help me, this life I'm living is hell and I need a guide. I need help.

The next day I went to my voluntary job at a centre for souls whose rock-bottom involved drugs, criminal convictions and abuse. The man with whom I was to spend the next 17 years of my life bounded up to me in a far too cheery manner and introduced himself, but I knew, I just knew, that this other volunteer was going to be my special friend along the way. So I ignored him. But he wouldn't give up, and simply for his persistence, I agreed to a date: something public, a football match (away at Port Vale to watch his team not mine), on the terraces with a pie and a pint in a plastic beaker (those were the days...). I was tired of sex, I didn't want this to start in that way.

We were soon seeing quite a bit of each other and it became obvious to me that he too was broken, but desperately wanted someone he could trust.  We'd walk round Manchester and he'd point out in  a very matter of fact way where incidents in his life happened; the school where he was abused, the street where he watched helpless and stoned as his best friend died, the public toilets where he'd go when he'd got his heroin, the places he'd slept rough, the clubs where he'd got a reputation as a 'speed king'. I listened, no judgement, no amazement, he wanted someone to listen, it was the least I could do.

Then one day, when he'd walked me back to my one bed flat in Salford, he pulled a bag of needles and vials out of his coat pocket, and said "here, look after these for me." I nearly cried when he'd gone.  Nobody had ever trusted me like that before. I knew what he had meant.  He was giving up his drugs, he was going to clean up.  And he did.

He was married, but his wife had (understandably) run off with someone else.  He was a Catholic but not at that time going to Church, I was nominally also one.  We moved in together. We needed the support and friendship of each other.  We were both learning how to live again.  We discussed religion and within a few weeks he'd decided that as we were both Catholics we'd better start living like we were.  We went to Mass, but not Communion at Salford Cathedral.  It was a start.

We slowly got oursleves into our local parish.  He had to show me how to go to Confession, I hadn't a clue. They heard him sing and we were in the choir before we knew what was happening.  We were sharing my one bed flat in Salford, we were sharing the bed in the flat, there was no other room.

We never made a conscious decision to "live like brother and sister".  We both wanted to live.  We both knew we couldn't do so without God.  We were normal, healthy, libido laden creatures, but certainly once we were members of the choir, we simply couldn't entertain the hypocrisy of having sexual relations. Besides it was simply more fun, more life affirming not to.

And God's grace penetrated our corrupted sinful lives to enable us to live together in such a state for 8 years (till we got news that his wife had died and we were free to marry).

It is possible.  It is only possible when you know you have no alternative.

Terracing at Port Vale

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Resignations

There is a spring in my step these days.  On a prosaic level, this is due to my getting used to my 'post-lump' body. It is early days and I'm being very cautious, but the carcass really seems to be working quite well. Actually, I'm not sure what well is, but things certainly seem more normal, I have stopped feeling drunk.  9 years of illness have left me a bit unfit, but I can now move about without getting exhausted and I can rest without getting a hypo. I no longer feel like Sisyphus; condemned never to rest and to be always pushing something up a hill.  The brain is also more able to cope with random stimuli, I can walk down a busy street without feeling like a tetchy horse that needs blinkers. There is nerve damage but I can live with it.  I still need to be careful about what and when I eat.  But, hey, I have a Chinese stomach; refined wheat, alcohol and sugar are bound to be an issue. I am resigned to the fact that medicine did not improve my condition; vanity did.  I'm also resigned to the fact that the illness had a large supernatural element to it. I have been genuinely ill, the doctors will all agree to that, but not to its cause. The illness has been my reins and my discipline for the last 9 years and now it no longer has a purpose, either for the entertainment of the Devil or for God's good purpose. A new discipline will reveal itself.

I am also really happy to have resigned from my job.  I am happy to have made the decision that I will have to be doing something other than teaching come September. I have no desire to follow another career, I'm simply not interested in self-betterment and I don't believe in self-fulfilment.  I can and will work, but something else is needed, something not written on or found in any job specification

The problem is that lurking underneath, buried under my resignation to my illness all these years lies something that simply won't go away, and it is getting stronger and stronger. In some ways, I'm still the 12 year old girl crying on my dad's lap, crying that I don't want the future that they want for me.  I don't want a nice house in suburbia with a mortgage, a microwave oven and a near by garden centre. These days I'm not crying, and there is nobody I want to burden with my tears anyway. Besides, I couldn't cope with someone giving me the same answer as my dad all those years ago.  He told me to get on with my work and I'd be OK.  I resigned myself to obedience and it has served its purpose. However, the cry has turned into an inner scream, made worse every time I go into Waitrose.  I really really don't want a comfortable life amongst comfortable people.  If I am to live that way, it will have to be as a big act of deceit, something joyfully, kindly and genteely subversive will have to be going on under the veneer of bland respectability. Something subversive for God. I can resign myself to that, that seems right.

And I can hear my poor parents say: when will you ever grow up?

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Spadaromathics

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy told us about Bistromathics where

Bistromathics itself is simply a revolutionary new way of understanding the behaviour of numbers. Just as Einstein observed that time was not an absolute but depended on the observer's movement in space, and that space was not an absolute, but depended on the observer's movement in time, it is now realised that numbers are not absolute, but depended on the observer's movement in restaurants.

Now we have Spadaromathics where a flakey Jesuit says 2 +2 = 5 see this link because God can tinker with the numbers and do what He likes and it becomes theology if it does.

Unfortunately the Catholic Culture post to which I have linked does miss the point.  Indeed there are serious problems with those who say that  2+2 = 4 ALWAYS

Sadly it doesn't. In the quantum world, photons don't behave like that, 4 only becomes the most probable outcome, not the ONLY outcome. 

There also lurks at the bottom of everything a little bit of devastatingly wonderful mathematical logic called  Gödel's incompleteness theorems.  The upshot of this is that basic arithmetical operations have no proof.  We can't say WHY 2+2 = 4 , it is unprovable.

Therefore we must be careful before we take aim at Fr Spadaro and be absolutely sure what it is we are attacking or we could look very stupid.

My personal view is that this episode shows up clearly the mess we have got into through the wholesale acceptance of Nouvelle Theologie and the smudging of Grace and Nature that it entails.  There is a world of Grace and a world of Nature, there is no Grace in Nature.  That is how things used to be till the 1920s, and that is how they should remain.  God set Nature up within parameters and with degrees of freedom, it obeys those Natural Laws irrespective of our incomplete understanding of them.  Grace perfects Nature, Grace is growth in holiness, Grace is the theological virtues, Grace is vision of God.

I personally think Spadaromathics does God a great injustice. It makes Him out to be a tinkerer, it makes His Cosmos look fatuous, it takes the grandeur out of Science and belittles its Creator at the same time.

This is my bugbear with Nouvelle Theologie. It is bad Science.  It is not heresy, but it is bad science. It has led to a sentimentalising of Nature which in turn has led to the sentimentalising of Grace. Theology lost its clarity, it should be the Queen of Sciences .....

Please someone: tell me I'm wrong.  Tell me I'm out of my depth.  Tell me I don't know what I talking about and I have maligned poor Fr Spadaro.

Friday, 6 January 2017

Wet and Dry

Happy Feast of the Epiphany, dear reader.

The symbolism is so rich and every year something new manifests itself.  In many ways it is my feast; the scientist putting  all her understanding and knowledge at the feet of the One from whence it came. Also, the link between the Baptism in the Jordan, the Magi and the Wedding Feast at Cana, never ceases to be a rich source of wonderment. This year it was the Benedictus Antiphon that hit me:

Today the Church hath been joined to her heavenly Spouse, for Christ hath washed away her sins in the Jordan; the Magi hasten with the gifts to the royal nuptials, and the guests are gladdened with wine made from water, alleluia.

It would take a lifetime to unpack all of that, I can hardly start.... needless to say my obsession with the supernatural ends of marriage play a large part in how I have reacted to this today.

The other, more prosaic thought was that 2 of the the 3 manifestations are wet (the Baptism and the wine at Cana) the other is dry. A bit like the weather today, sunshine and showers, and more of the latter... There is stuff to unpack here too.  Wet make no sense without dry, delight no sense without pain, understanding no sense without unknowing....

Whilst the Eastern Churches are busy throwing themselves into icey waters today (give or take Clavius and his calendar changes) and looking very manly, the feast in the West is more centred round the Nativity scene in the crib, we in the West are most definitely dry; the dry gifts from the Magi from a dry land and you don't get much drier than the blessed chalk handed out to mark the entrances to our homes. Both the wet and the dry are needed...

Bulgarian Theophany 'river dance'.
From Creative Commons: By Balkanregion - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5551337

And what should Epiphany do to our hearts? You don't need me to tell you that. As for my own heart as I ponder my future,  it is the growing realisation that whatever happens in 2017, I will be doing something robust for God, I have the talents and skills, no sense of fear and I am ready.. a 'partner in crime' would be nice, but that is not up to me.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Ladybird books

How my Ladybird Book of Sleeping Beauty* found its way into a box of LPs, nestling in between Ultravox's Rage in Eden and John Coltrane's Love Supreme, I'll never know.  But that is where I found it recently and the memories it brought back are potent.


Every little girl is a princess.  Every little girl is waiting for her prince to rescue her. And when she grows up and the random cruelties of life have worn her down a bit, she can still be dreaming that some prince will do the right thing.....

She can even read in more grown-up books, even books of a spiritual nature, that such dreams are reality.  For instance, read this from the wonderful Dominican writer, Fr. Gerald Vann**:

That is the most obvious fact about woman throughout the course of history; it is her fate to bring out either the best or the worst in men.  They will perform herculean feats of bravery to win her, or they will cheat and lie and do crimes of violence; they will fight amongst themselves for her; for her sake they will become wise and strong and gentle, or they will sink into servility and degradation which will in the end empty them of their manhood.

Now I'm sure many men reading this will disagree.  You see, whilst girls were reading fairy stories, (ancient texts with good pedigrees and deep messages), boys would be reading Ladybird Books on how to be a fireman or a soldier; how to be brave in a way that the world would understand. Boys have not been looking for princesses for sometime (if indeed they ever have). They want to be heroes. They want to be neededThey want to be useful and valiant. They will look to the world to find places and careers where they can be like that.  It is an honourable dream for a boy to have, it is good as far as it goes.  If a boy ever thought about the girl dreaming of the prince coming to rescue her, he'd think her a bit lame, a bit passive, a bit unreal.

But the boy will have missed the point of the fairy stories, and perhaps the girl has too. The thing is these princesses are independent, unneedy, lovely and unselfconscious creatures in their own right.  They do not clamour for attention, they are virtuous, vivacious and intelligent. They will never say anything like "I want you, I need you", "be there for me, darling".  Sadly, when boys hear these words, every hero response in them is triggered. They can be fireman, soldier and brave knight to their damsel in distress, but she's no princess. Then, because they then find themselves with a girl who has simply been a projection of their own need to be needed, the romance dies and they often don't think much of her as a person in her own right and they end up having a weight round their neck, rather than a companion for life. Meanwhile the girl he really liked (his princess), he has ignored because her lack of passionate needyness has been taken as a sign that she's not that  interested in him. I've watched it happen too often, but nobody listens to me....

Oi veh!

So there you have it. A woman must be loved for who she is, not loved out of some sense of duty. A man must recognise his mate as a person and not for some secondary need he may have to care or protect. That will come, that will come in family life.

Running through the fairy stories is the Judeo-Christian notion that life comes from the man.  These princesses have died (the stories say cursed, poisoned, locked up.. they are all metaphors for the death in women due to original sin.. and she can't chase him, because she's 'dead'). She remains 'dead' till the prince gets off his butt and takes her and gives her life, and he takes her because he recognises at some deep level that she is his mate for life. Unlike the fairy stories, she isn't really reclined on a bed at the top of a castle or lying in a glass sarcophagus in a flowery meadow, he won't find her in such places. She's right there, under his eyes, he doesn't need to look far, but he must act and take what is his. If he does, they will grow together, they will make each other live truly. Obviously it is the life in Christ that they are both need; the prince is as dead as the princess until he acts. They must both have the desire to grow in faithfulness to Goodness, Beauty and Truth to live "happily ever after". That is the ancient narrative that is played out in the fairy stories...

+++++++++

Och, don't believe a word of what I write, it is all just makebelieve....

* Story 'retold' by Vera Southgate, illustrations by Eric Winter, pub 1965
** Eve and the Gryphon by Gerald Vann OP, pub 1946

Friday, 30 December 2016

Call me old fashioned.....

This should be my last musing over Amoris Laetitia. I will be found guilty of picking up the telescope and looking through the wrong end but there are times when an alternative perspective is needed, no matter how nonsensical.

Finding one's spouse ought not be difficult.  There is a match out there for everyone (who so desires marriage) and most of the time feats of heroism are not needed in order to secure the match.  It is quite an ordinary thing in many ways: companionship, friendship, trust and fidelity. Man find his mate, recognises her and calls her to be his for life.  It is there from the beginnings of scripture: Adam recognises the flesh of his flesh, that which makes him whole. Fundamentally it is that way round, women are far more adaptable (and less passionate) than men, a man has to know that he has found the right woman and he has to tell her.  [The woman already knows, but it is pointless to tell a man anything, he has to work it out for himself or he will be miserable for life. His happiness is everything for her and better that he never recognises her (God will find her another), than she ever thinks of coercing him.] This is more than tradition, it lies at the heart of the supernatural differences between men and women. It lies at the heart of God's desires for us.  As many as the species of angels are the ways in which marriage works, each couple is unique, there is no blueprint for a perfect marriage, but it ought to be very rare indeed for a woman to propose to a man. If both parties then do their best (by the grace of God) to live by 1Cor13, then all is fine and dandy.....

Christian marriage is raised to the heights of a Sacrament and a sacrament that the man and the woman bestow on each other.  The outward sign of inward grace is given. All Sacraments are a bringing forth of Christ; making Him manifest in the world. Christian marriage is not an insular thing, it is something to show the world and if both spouses are Christians then they should be plunging headlong into a growing relationship with God and a bringing forth of His desires in a world that so desperately needs to see the strength and beauty of God's plans for His creation. If one of the partners is not Christian, then the marriage is sanctified by the Christian witness of the believing spouse.

Marriage is the best expression of the 'little way'.  It is the domestic church, it is small and it its smallness it is most powerful. It is small but it is not insular, it is not holed up in an enclosure or behind a large privet hedge in the suburbs, it is to be seen in public, in the time and space that has been allocated to it. A married couple  do not openly proselytise, yet their Christian witness can be profound.

So much for the idealism.  Now for the rant against my fellow Catholics (all stripes, I make no exception, though Trads annoy me the most)....

The understanding of Marriage is a mess and here is a possible reason why:

We are still living with the Counter Reformation's failure to answer the "movements of  the spirit" encapsulated in the Haus der Liebe, Anabaptists, Quakers and their ilk [somebody please tell me I'm wrong here, this is my own home baked reading of history, but it feels to me as if the Puritans eventually won].  It is these Puritan movements that "spiritualised" sex, that abhorred celibacy and forced sex into marriages as a good in itself that must be had. [You can't force love, love and force are opposites, and sex without love is an abomination] Indeed we have accepted their ideas wholesale, seeing the Catholic perspective of the time a being at fault.  The idea of sex as a gift from God is a Puritan one. Sexual incontinence starts here.  The whole 'theology' is person centred (masquerading as Spirit centred) and not God centred.

You don't have to trawl too far on the internet to find you tube sermons from trad Catholic priests (mainly Americans and therefore far too tied to the Mayflower than they realise) exhorting that the "marriage bond" (which they interpret as sex) be fulfilled, that it is a mortal sin not to do so regularly, that it is a moral sin if women go out to work rather than keep breeding their quiverfull of children. That large families are everything, that family life is a breeding programme to make more righteous people just like them. It is all about breeding; bringing forth Christ is absent from their rhetoric, chastity and continence are absent from their rhetoric, spiritual growth and learning to love God more are absent from their rhetoric, humour and understanding of the companionship of marriage are absent from their rhetoric, understanding that some couples simply can't have children is absent from their rhetoric, the freedom of children to walk away from the faith is missing from their rhetoric.  Love is absent.

Love is also absent from our trendy liberal friends too.  They too have swallowed the Puritan lies wholesale and come up with a different but equally anti-God conclusion: that by nature we give into our sexual urges, we can't help it, but they are God's gift so it is is OK.  That it is merciful to recognise sexual activity is certain circumstances outside of the sacred bond in which it is meant to exist. It is not just the true love between creatures that is absent, it is the lack of God Himself that is so worrying..

I'll leave it to my reader to ascertain prayerfully what it is that God so desires in the marriage bond that He so generously gave us in order that we could begin to comprehend the depths of His love for us through His unbroken Covenant with us. It will be different for each of us.....

fifth Edition of Pagit’s Who’s Who of rebels: the Heresiography. (A list of Heretics against Godly Order): yes I am being ironic but it is a fascinating piece of history! I am trying to be a loyal daughter of the One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church: a Papist.


Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Yellow camellias

One of the books I liked to read at my grandfather's house was about a medical missionary working in pre-War China along the old silk roads.  It was understated in its Christianity but vivid in its descriptions of a long lost world.  One of the stories concerned a rumour that there was a yellow camellia growing in one of the Buddhist convents and our intrepid medical missionary goes out investigate.  Yellow camellias are rare and far more rare back then than they are now. He was met by one of the nuns who said quite plainly that yellow camellias don't exist.  It took a lot of persuasion for him to be allowed to look further, but there was indeed a yellow camellia in the grounds of the enclosure.  There was absolutely no recognition from the nun, she was sticking to her belief even when confronted with the shrub.

Throughout my life,  keep feeling I meet that Buddhist nun in various guises; a complete absence of curiosity, a lifelessness, a dull sense of righteousness, a lack of hospitality....

And there have been various yellow camellias that I have been chasing, but every time I get a hint that I may be close, she's stood in the doorway telling me to go away, there is nothing to see here. If I am not careful, she sucks the life out of me, she is very persuasive and I am by nature far too passive and obedient. Sometimes I give up.

Right now I have a somewhat ephemeral yellow camellia in my sights.  I know that I am not thriving in the life I am living, it is more than the sum of my job and my illness (though something very bizarre is happening on that front- see footnote*). I know I have to do something and am resigning from my job, I will see out this academic year, but I will not be doing another. And she is there, telling me all the consequences of my actions: giving up a very cushy salary, losing the ability to keep renting this house or running my car, moving away from the network of people I like and who seem to like me.... She's speaking for the wisdom of this world that says that ephemeral yellow camellias don't exist, that the life I am living is as good as it gets, that I'm a fool. However, this runs so deep and action is needed and I'm not scared or anxious, but I am weary and I'm in the process of simply and silently squeezing past her. I KNOW there is something better, something that I am supposed to be doing, some way of being the person I was created to be.... but at the moment it is sadly a Rumsfeldian known-unknown, but one that needs action in order to reveal itself fully.

*****

Today: Feast of the Holy Innocents, we are reminded that innocence is so often the first casualty when we stand up to our enemy.  Innocence has no voice of its own. We can never regain that innocence once it has been lost, but there is something childlike that we need if we are to overcome the world.  Even with our world-weary eyes and bodies, we can have a child like trust and joy that allows us to run into that unkempt garden beyond the convent walls and discover what we know to be there.

I do like today's Collect:
O God, Whose praise the martyred Innocents rendered this day not in words, but in their death; mortify within us all vices, that our lives may declare in actions the faith which our tongues profess in words. Per Dominum nostrum....

******
A rare yellow camellia


Footnote*
My illness coincided with the growth of a lump on my body.  It was diagnosed as a lipoma and therefore considered harmless and nothing to worry about and nothing to do with my complaint. My health care provider refused to see the need for its removal.  It grew to be larger than a hen's egg and I got so fed up that I paid to have it removed privately. It was certainly not a textbook object, the surgeon greeted it with a "gosh that is unusual!", but the original diagnosis stuck. The operation was performed under GA two weeks ago.  The hypos have stopped (they were mainly nighttime ones and ones when I was sat for long periods of time)..... physically I am a lot better.... could this lump have been excreting something that triggered insulin production?  I'll never know....  

So it is now definitely not illness that is making me walk away from my comfort zone..... my inability to thrive goes way deeper than that....

Friday, 23 December 2016

Brave New World (5)

Once upon at time, when there were knights and ladies, there was a thing called Courtly Love. A knight would be very much in love with a woman.  He would see his entire role as being one where he would honour the purity and sincerity of that love he had. If he only got one smile out of her once in his lifetime it would be enough, she may not even know he loved her. He would serve God and he would fight for his king in an honourable way, because not to do so would dishonour the purity of the love he had for his lady.  It was a sacrificial sort of love and rather beautiful in its own way in its chastity and chivalry.  Then they started to codify it and give it all sorts of rules and human nature being human nature it became cultish and lost its innocence.  It all came to a sorry end.

Moving on to more recent times, chastity was a given, and indeed very ordinary and mundane.  Read the novels of Anthony Trollope if you don't believe me.  It is chastity that allows two close male friends to walk down The Strand linked arms and holding hands. It is chastity that underpins the quiet heroism of some of his unsung greats like Lucy Robarts or Mary Thorne.  They risk losing everything for a point of honour, they love to the nth degree, but will quietly watch that love drift from them because they love so much.  (Though Trollope gives his readers a happy ending)

We have lost something and lost it quite recently and that is an organic understanding of chastity and its fundamental role in our being human. This is the narrative that we need to regain. This underlies all the parables of Tradition, indeed much of Holy Scripture and the witness of the early martyrs makes no sense unless viewed throug this lens. Sadly the recent theology of the Church has tended to underplay chastity, overplay and even sacramentalise sex and our sexual feelings.

Chastity does two important things. One: it acknowledges biological gender differences and clothes them in modesty. (note to white Trads: no need for Amish-chic, modesty is enough). Two: it cuts through the artificiality of masculine and feminine stereotypes, to look at the dynamics of relationships; a masculine interacting with a feminine.  This is remarkably fluid in its relationship with biological gender and everything to do with the wholeness inherent in the bond between a man and a woman. For example, men find their 'female softness and compassion', women their 'masculine fortitude and magnaminity'. Chastity stops you from worrying that you don't fit, that others are different from you, that you are in the wrong body. Wrong body and right body are irrelevant terms because you don't "use" your body when you are chaste.  If you are married, you give your body for procreation and for the protection and happiness of your spouse, is is not about use, it is about freely given sacrifice and detachment.  If you are single and chaste, you still give your body in your work for others, you are not using your body for your own ends.

Chastity allows you to see people as they really are and to reach into their souls and love them for who they are and in proportion to their needs of that love (we don't love everyone in the same way).  The game playing stops and the beauty is serious and serene. Chastity allows you to love creatively.  Chastity is a pure heart that is naturally generous and patient.  Many celibates are not chaste without ever even breaking their vow.

Surprisingly you don't obtain chastity through rigorous self-denial and mortification. Chastity comes through 'putting on Christ' and when that is primary, then chastity comes to us through Him and in Him, just as He and His Blessed Mother and St Joseph were chaste. Chastity is the state we are supposed to be in.  It was the state of our first parents before the fall. Chastity comes through the liberality of God, not through our efforts, but we must desire it because we love Him and wish to honour Him.  We can not truly honour Him if we are not. [Mortification to strengthen chastity will come in due season if needed......]

And there is something beautiful in a chaste married couple; a man and a woman totally and completely comfortable with each other, totally in love yet without lust that will have anybody even remotely taken up with the zeitgeist saying "I want a bit of what they have".

Chastity is uncompromising, it demands you obey, but the letter of the Law killeth, chastity is not a set of regulations, just like there are no regulations as to how to breathe; we are meant to breathe, we are meant to be chaste. Chastity is gloriously simple. Chastity ought to be the focus of our narrative and our relationships with the world and all we need to do is 'come out' and be chaste.

And the Lover says to the Beloved: vulnerasti cor meum, soror mea sponsa.
(and you've been wounded by her (in a good way).... ever since she was removed from your rib) 

Without chastity we cannot even begin to be credible witnesses of the Beauty and Truth encapsualted in the picture shown above.


Thursday, 22 December 2016

Brave New World (4)

Caveat lector: this post is personal but necessary to explain why I think the way I do....

I had a very liberal education and upbringing. The reason why I'm the rabid, uncompromising Catholic I have become is because sexual freedom, finding myself and exploring the possibilities of self actually bored the living daylights out of me.  I desired some discipline and found the uncompromising rigidity of the faith liberating.

It is time for some personal details of the days before my faith meant anything to me...

Sexual freedom had a dark side, I was a student in Edinburgh in the late 80s when it was dubbed the "AIDS capital of Europe". At least 1 in 10 sexually active men was said to be carrying the HIV virus, no distinction was made for the sexuality of those men.  Indeed the 'gay scene' seemed to be little more than a self-help group for those who were a little insecure and needed affirmation.  Sex just happened, it didn't need labelling.  If you were confident, you didn't need a club. I was bored but the risks associated with having sex out of boredom didn't seem worth the game. I was a keen swimmer and preferred using the wonderful old Infirmary St baths in the centre of the city (sadly long gone). It was a known hang out for gay men, it was the best place to swim and be ignored (if you were a woman). The other women there tended to be elderly matriarchs, in the other pools there was a fair amount of covert posturing from younger women, I knew the signs, and I was tempted. Women seemed immune to the AIDS tag in those days and there was a burgeoning sense that sisters should be doing it for themselves.  Luckily for me, one day out of the blue, a stunning Brazilian woman in a leopard print cat suit just happened to invite me to the Turkish Baths in Portobello.  I turned up but never went in.  There was a seedyness about the place back then, a sense of fakery (I don't even think the sand at Portobello is real sand), I headed back and outside a chippy near the bus stop something happened.

There was a man in a wheelchair and he smiled at me.  I had never seen such a beautiful smile.  I smiled back, we were connected in some way. Indeed for the first time in my life I actually felt connected to another human being, we were looking into each other's souls. I was loved and loved back.  I never saw him again, but it didn't matter, that was not the point, something else other than sex was necessary for relationships between consenting adults, and that something was beautifully liberating.  My friend in the wheelchair and me let go of each other, but in doing so we blessed each other's futures. Some people we meet are angels in disguise.

A few days later and I was out drinking with the boys from the course.  It was 3am, the only pubs officially open were the ones for the printers of The Scotsman, we lived close by and it prevented the need of attending the notorious 'lock-ins'. One of the lads turned to me and said "here I am buying a moderately attractive woman a drink at 3 in the morning and I don't want to get into bed with you, what is going on?".  Another smiled at me and turned to him and said, "she's one of us, can't you see".

I'm still not quite sure what he meant.... but in his comment I sensed something of a hidden truth about the nature of relationships that could be forged between men and women. I could connect to him, not near as intensely as to the guy in the wheelchair, but from then on I knew that we knew each other..... connections were being forged... life no longer seemed so boring.

*****
The point of this look into my past is to try to show that we have to look beyond sex and sexuality.  There is a hunger that will only be satisfied if we look beyond the physicality of our bodies. Sexual desire is intoxicating, but there is something even more potent, something far more liberating and something far more capable of bringing us to understand why we love and are loved. Indeed, ironically, it is something that is absolutely necessary if sexual activity is to be as good as it was intended to be.

Welcome to the strange world of chastity (which isn't the same thing as celibacy) and it is just about the queerest thing imaginable.
Tomorrow's post will be the last in this series, I promise....

Infirmary St Baths

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Brave New World (3)

So, in my previous post I got us into the correct space for us to think about what we are up against and to consider carefully what will count as success if we are to get our narrative across to those who are so ignorant of it.

Now let us consider the position of the world; the narrative which makes the world buzz with excitement at its own beauty and creativity.  It is an impenetrable fortress.  We cannot compete with it.  All we can do is demonstrate an alternative and the reason why I have give these posts the tag out-queering queer may become apparent. Is it not our desire for those inside the fortress to start to see it as a prison and wish to break out into a new and lasting freedom? We certainly will have no success if we attack the fortress, those inside will only find stronger and stronger reasons to defend it. Souls will have to walk out of their own free will, confident in the fact that what has been revealed with our help and witness is actually their path to true fulfilment and lasting happiness: we will have to out-queer queer.

The fortress is built around the concept of self-actualisation and the world believes this to be the height of spirituality. The world will say: find yourself and you will find your inner peace and your connectedness to the universe.  This self-actualisation is entirely a matter for self, you fulfil your own destiny; you can be totally material and self-actualise, or you can be an aesthetic or anything inbetween.  The key though is a celebration of self; a growing sense of carving an identity for self, a need to be affirmed in your sense of self and to celebrate your beautiful individualness with other beautiful individuals.  It is humanistic, it is egoistic and it is spiritual in that it does not seek solely to connect to the material but looks beyond that towards energies and creativities and flourishings. It is a work in progress and reaching for a new horizon, a pushing out towards new-frontiers with the infinite capacity that man has for believing in himself and his own bullshit. He is grazing on bits of pseudo-science here (left-brain/right-brain seems very persuasive right now), assimilating cosier bits of religion there, discarding what he believes to stifle freedom and concocting an inaccurate,  history-less narrative that this is how people have always been, but were too repressed by 'powerful institutions' to ever realise that this was the truth.

The mistake that Christians make is try to parachute God into this fortress.  He's already there!  He will rule in the midst of His enemies, as the Psalmist says. It is simply our job to be His back-up, to reflect His beauty, His glory and His peace.  In other words, we are just there to enable some flicker of True light to scatter into the fluorescent fakery of the brave new world.  And we will no doubt fail, that is what we do best.

Queerness is obsessed with beauty, it is hard-wired to find it, we just need to out-beauty it.  The danger for us lies in assimilating a fakery the masquerades as beauty because we are actually ourselves far more confined within the walls of this fortress than we realise. You probably don't have to be 'gay' as such to be queer, it is simply about stepping beyond the normative, and 'gay' is ever so normal these days.  Queerness is about change, about self-actualisation and the finding of self-brilliance, and it is the very 'fluidity' inherent in the queerness that means it can be out-queered without compromise on integrity and without all the self-actualisation nonsense.

Smaug- lover and hoarder of fine things


So how do we reveal our beautiful narrative?
Stay tuned and I'll tell you what I know.  It isn't a method but it is uncompromising....


Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Brave New World (2)

There is a lie that sadly most of modern Christianity (including most trad Caths) believes.  The lie is that if you  show love and are a loving person, the world will change for the better.  It simply isn't true, it wasn't true for Christ, it can't be true for us. That doesn't mean that you don't love, that love isn't everything; love is everything.  Just don't expect any results (apart from crucifixion). Love is about giving unconditionally, about not expecting a return.  Love begets love; this is true.  But if you are expecting an outcome, then it is all about you and not about love, you start to become possessive over that love and all sense of the liberality, generosity and freedom of love will be lost.  Love loses its beauty and is lost.

If we are going to engage with this brave new world that I spoke of in my last post, if we are going to be ambassadors for Christ amongst those who can not comprehend or have no knowledge of the parables and poetry of the Truth, then I think the 40 Martyrs of  Sebaste may offer some encouragement. (Some information is available here.) They went to their martyrdom of freezing to death in a lake, one of them failed and ran towards the shore, and one of the soldiers overseeing this, warming himself by a brazier suddenly saw a vision of heaven, he saw what the martyrs saw and willingly ran into the freezing water to take the place of the one who failed.  We must always believe that there is one who will see, one who will change, one who will desire what our hearts desire.  You see, it isn't about us, it is about Christ.  We will look foolish, our experience of the world may by worldly standards be pointless, but if we are going to narrate the parables that are ingrained in our hearts, then we must be prepared to be the convincing story teller, and we can only do that if we 'put on Christ'.  Then just maybe others will be able to strip off everything and join us in the freezing and uncompromising waters of His Love.  If true loves exists between humans, it is captivating, it has a peace and a restlessness at its centre and it is about having a common purpose to spiral headlong, ever deeper into the depths of what the Lord has prepared for us.  There can be no love without Christ.

We will never have a platform on the TED talks or their like in which to tell our story.  The world finds Christianity faintly embarrassing (as do most Christians and that is why they try to change it to accommodate the world).  We will tell our story where we are, to those whom God has placed around us.  The Martyrs of Sebaste were Roman soldiers, just like those who were instructed to kill them.  We have to be fully and convincingly engaged in the world if we are to make Christ manifest beyond the seductive and articulate messages of secular society. Our narration is not about ramming Christianity down people's throats, it is a lot more subtle and subversive than that, and thankfully most of the time, we won't have to tell the story at the cost of our lives.


If we don't what will happen?
Consider the following:  The secular world in its obsession with sexuality is increasingly sexualising children.  It is certainly possible that in the future children may increasingly commit indecent sexual acts on other children and infants.  It is certainly possible that children may demand sexual rights and I have no doubt that they will have the backing of many 'well intentioned' adults. The LGTBetc community will not be culpable for this though we might want to make them out to be. Personally, I think this nightmare is quite possible and I for one don't want to bear any responsibility for making the Angels weep. This is about us so called 'good Christians' and our culpability.