Sunday, 22 October 2017

Just so that you know ....

... after nearly 2 years, it is time to hand you back completely to the care of your Guardian Angels.   Your soul is beautiful but you are more swan than cormorant, what happens above and below the waterline are so very different. Perhaps I could see too much .......

Bendictus Dominus die quotidie. Prosperum iter faciat nobis Deus salutarium nostrorum. 

I am out here now for some other purpose that is slowly being revealed to me, and there is joy in my heart......

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Angels and Demons

I wrote this piece below for the a creative writing competition at my last workplace. It got a prize... not bad for a Physicist ...... With all the nonsense of Halloween coming up, I was reminded of it again and it may help explain why I'll not be getting into the party spirit for that occasion ..... just thought you might be interested......

Somewhere in England, an angel and a demon are sitting on a tree stump watching people in a park.
The demon speaks:

What is it that you see? These creatures before us. Flesh and blood
Stinky stinky flesh and blood
(ponder and pause)
I find them funny.  Yes, most of the time I find them really funny. 
See that tired old man. Look!  Him and his dog.
He’s shuffling. Little doggie’s shuffling.
He’s got a vacant stare.  Little doggie’s just the same. 
Same old route every day.  Same, same, same, same, same.
No curiosity, no smile, no nothing. 
You have to laugh, eh?
Oh, I forgot, you don’t laugh much. 
Poor old boy is so tired, tired of life,
Joyless  utterly  joyless.
What am I saying?  Who cares?
Hmmm, anyhow this joy stuff’s your department. 
I dunno what it is. 
What is it?  I mean if you’re so big on joy,
why don’t you just give the old boy some joy?
Puff! Sparkle! Woosh
down over him like fairy dust and smother his old bones with “joy”. 
Eh, whaddya say? 
Or, maybe it’s all a lie, maybe there is no “joy”,
Whatever it is. 
That one thing you promise, it doesn’t exist does it? 
Eh?  Eh. 
You are a fraud.  You and your like, you are simply frauds. 
That is why you never speak to me.  You’ve got nothing to say.
You’ve got nothing.
Say something.  For crying out loud, say something.
Huh, why do I bother?
OK, so you won’t talk about that old boy. 
Yup I know we’ve tussled over him before. 
I got him interested in gambling and he really took to it. 
He loved talk of the bookies, his “turf accountant” and getting the Racing Post. 
See, I did him a favour. 
I gave him something to believe in, I gave him some pleasure.
Those gee gees really romped home sometimes ….occasionally.
And what did you do, eh? 
Well, you came and fetched his wife and took her to the realm beyond. 
What’s that all about? 
There was me, giving him some pleasure,
and there was you, filling him with grief and regret. 
What is it with you? 
You take everything from these people.  Everything…..
Man, you really are a joke!
OK so you won’t talk about the old boy. 
How about those two on their lunchbreak on that bench?
I don’t think we’ve seen them before. 
They’re tired too.  (sniffs) They’re eating foreign stuff,
Bet they’re Polish or Latvian or something. 
Look at how the more they eat, the more they stare into the distance.
Remembering something far from here.  Some half-forgotten warmth. 
Some half-forgotten tenderness. Some time when life was simpler.
Oh they’re sooo lonely….
Oh they’re sooo tired ….
Now I’m feeling sorry for them. 
Yes, I’m feeling sorry for them! 
Me, nasty little me, is really feeling sorry for them. 
I’m going to befriend them. 
I’m going to tell them to go and spend some of that money on themselves for a change and stop sending it back home. 
I’ll tell them to go into town, dress up a bit, feel goooood, have some beers, find some girls, be good to themselves, really go and…..
Oh wait,
Did I see you flinch then? 
Was there a nearly imperceptible flicker of something from your angelic self. 
Little angelic-eyes always fixed on heaven – goody goody- angel never says anything – rarely does anything…. nearly moved….
Yes, I nearly got a reaction out of you. 
You don’t want me to go near them, do you? 
Well, stop me. 
Go on, stop me.
(he goes to approach the two men but stops short)
(He wails like he’s been scalded and comes back to the tree stump.)
What in the name….! 
How did you do that?
I get near the one on the left
He bent over to tie his shoe and
That thing round his neck fell from his neck. 
He picked it up.
Held it close. 
He did that thing that I find so repugnant. 
That thing I can’t talk about. 
He got strength from somewhere.
Ewww, yeuch, I feel a bit creepy, bit “unclean”
… but I’ll try again later
… if I can be bothered
…. There’s probably more fun to be had elsewhere. 
I’m out for fun. 
F.U. N. 
Hear that word? 
What you are not. 
You are no fun, no fun at all.
And you just sit there.
Why do I bother? 
Why do I even try to talk to you? 
You disgust me.
Right here before my eyes
You disgust me.
Constantly alert, yet so very calm
And there’s light
Foul, terrible, incomprehensible light….
Seering pain to the heart of my being.
The lance in my side
I scream silently and eternally
Hurt unfathomable.
But.. get this, oh angelic one!
Get this….
I win, 
Hear that.
Non, rein de rien,
Non, je ne regrette rien.
They are not interested in what you have to offer. 
The world is mine.
I will open all their eyes.
I will turn them all to me.
And they will see nothing else. 
They will feel pride. 
They will be selfish. 
They will be greedy.
They will be careless. 
They will hurt.
They will feel anger.
They will hate. 
They will be violent.
They aren’t capable of anything else. 
That is their lot. 
Miserable stinky creatures, born for misery…
Live in misery….. 
And then they die…
Puff, dead... puff… puff…
Snuffed out like a candle and
Not even a wiff of that thing called “joy”.
Whatever it is.
(walks off in disgust)

Saturday, 14 October 2017

on being Catholic

A holy priest (who stopped linking to my blog from his own some time a go) has a motto "never tread rough-shod over the piety of the faithful". It is a good motto and one I try to live by.

Out here the faithful I am in daily contact with are mainly Orthodox. There is a wonderful simplicity to their faith and an understanding of Catholicism that is instinctive.  There is a closeness which is indescribable.  There is also a "slain in the Spirit" Pentecostalism about Orthodoxy which is find most attractive because being Orthodox it is distrustful of human emotions.  It is quiet, sure footed, confident, and for the most part humble, but Pentecostal it is.  In many ways it is what I have been looking for all my life.

Immersed in the minutiae of the Catholic Church, I felt stuck at the foot of the cross.  It is not a bad place to be, but I longed to experience the Resurrection in my heart;  not as some sort of happy feeling, but as a living reality, beyond words, something silent and blindingly obvious.  I knew it intellectually, but something was missing, which being Catholic, I have been willing to suffer.

The switch has been thrown out here.  What I have been longing for, the Resurrection is now everything and I am nothing.

I am a Catholic. Being a Catholic is being stuck  in Hotel California.  You can check out any time you like but you can never leave. I can never not be a Catholic, I attest to the Truth of the Faith,  I do not find myself with any argument or disagreement over doctrine or dogma or the supremacy of the Bishop of Rome and I try by the grace of God, to live by Her Truth: She is Holy Mother Church.  But oh how I loathe Catholicism!

Is it part of my faith that I have to attest that merit can be gained through bidding on beads or through suffering per se?  Is it part of my faith that God wants our suffering per se?  Is it part of my faith that merit exists as something objective and quantifiable?  What has that to do with the Grace of God? I find Catholicism obsessed with morality and merit; it often feels more like a belief in Santa, checking to see if we've been naughty or nice. The one thing necessary is the Love of God: everything else falls into place from that One Thing. Goodness comes from God, not from morals.  The Law comes from God. Drink in the Law, love the Law in its Fullness and Completion and morality flows in you..... recite Ps118 and praise God without ceasing...... morality is meaningless otherwise.

You see dear reader,  this is only my personal opinion and one I am allowed to hold; but I feel the Church has been held to ransom by Fatima for the last 100 years.  It treads roughshod over traditional piety, the piety I am witnessing out here.  It leaves me feeling so isolated amongst many of my fellow Catholics. I find Fatima as loveless as it is spectacular and I think it has become divisive amongst the faithful (even amongst different flavours of Fatima devotees). I can be a Catholic without Fatima and you can be a Catholic with Fatima, in that respect it is unimportant. There is lots I want to say about Fatima, but I'd be treading on your piety if I did, so I'll refrain.

For the record, I am consecrated to Our Lady, I have received many graces through undertaking the 33 day consecration. I have no difficulty with Marian dogma.  Her Immaculate Heart will triumph.

The sun is shining, it is a beautiful Autumnal day out here and a major Feast day for the Orthodox: Saint Parascheva, who is very dear to the Romanians. There is a festive air about the place. I am so very grateful to be here.... living as I do the life of an "Anonymous Catholic"......

Let God arise!

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Autumn Journal

Well dear reader, my plans for being busy have been floored, literally.  I fell over twice and it seemed to be a precursor to some sort of ear problem, I am extremely dizzy and have been unable to do anything much, even watching the clouds and vapour trails whilst reclining on the sofa in the living room was too much.

I needed to be far more resilient when ill back in remotest Wessex.  Staggering about to find a neighbour who could make the 10 mile round trip to the nearest chemist to pick something up for me was no easy feat. Here, after downing some Aspirin and bottle of soothing Chefir (fermented milk product and comfort food par-excellence) all that was needed was a very slow walk on a stick to the nearest chemist about 200 yards away followed by some faltering Romanian to explain I was dizzy, but had no temperature and was not pregnant.  Some extremely powerful, and expensive medication was obtained (which would certainly not be "over the counter" in the UK) and I can now sit upright for more than a minute.

And as I type there is the gentle and welcome sound of hot water gingerly trickling through the central heating system for the first time in months. Central heating and hot water are communal, we do not have our own boilers.  The heating only comes on when it has been below a certain temperature for 3 consecutive nights. We have definitely reached that milestone. It is now officially cold.

My bonus for not being at work today was a warm shower.  Normally I'm first up in the bloc and the hot water has to travel a long way before entering my apartment, I usually can't be bothered to wait for something better than tepid. This morning somebody else had to be first up and run the cold out of the system.

Life plods on. Life is good. Just remind me never to say I plan to be busy ever again.

So that if now alone
I must pursue this life, it will not be only
A drag from numbered stone to numbered stone
But a ladder of angels, river turning tidal.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Power and Glory

I am grateful to Joe for his latest post Guardini on the Rosary.  The quotes from Guardini give such a  clear exposition of the beauty of the Rosary and its simplicity. My own thoughts were turned towards Lepanto and were considerably more acerbic. I now feel able to write more clearly on this subject. Whenever I think of the Battle of Lepanto, Bob Dylan's God on their Side starts playing automatically in the cranial jukebox and it makes for an uncomfortable juxtaposition, but one that needs to be worked through.  To quote Dylan:

But now we got weapons
Of the chemical dust
If fire them we're forced to
Then fire them we must
One push of the button
And a shot the world wide
And you never ask questions
When God's on your side.


So now as I'm leavin'
I'm weary as Hell
The confusion I'm feelin'
Ain't no tongue can tell
The words fill my head
And fall to the floor
If God's on our side
He'll stop the next war.

There is bitter irony in Dylan's words and some truth in that irony.

I think the Battle of Lepanto has to be seen in the context of a hermeneutic of continuity,  a continuity stretching back to the battles of Joshua and the battles of King David. Certainly for David, victory only came when his army was outnumbered and poorly equipped.  Victory was never guaranteed. Victory was always supernatural not mathematical, he even gets help from the trees in one case. It was about complete trust in God and purity of intention and purity of self.  If the Battle of Lepanto is seen in this light, and in the light of Guardini's words on the Rosary, then it makes perfect sense.  Lepanto was a victory not because the Catholic forces were right, or because God was on their side, but because through the rosary all thoughts were turned to God, all thoughts were purified, all thoughts were stilled.  God could work through the sailors in battle and the victory could be won. As Cassain said memorably and somewhat uncomfortably to our ears, "All thoughts not of God are fornication".

You see, my problems stem from seeing Lepanto, Vienna and other memorable Catholic victories as victories of right over wrong, good over evil.  There is something terribly dualistic and un-Catholic about that and it leads to a sort of Catholic self-righteousness that misplaces the true essence of what it is to be a Catholic.

To be a Catholic is to be a failure and weak and invisible to the world. To be a Catholic is to know that nothing good can come from us.  To be a Catholic is to submit totally to the Blessed Trinity with unconditional praise, thanksgiving and shame for all those times when we tried to go it alone.

If we Catholics wish to be strong and right, if we truly desire to be fortified and be a citadel, shining like the walls of Jerusalem, then it is not victory that will be ours but Martyrdom.... read Ps50, if you don't believe me:

Deal favourably, O Lord in thy goodness with Sion:
that the walls of Jerusalem may be built up.
Then shall thou accept the sacrifice of justice
oblations and whole burnt offering:
Then shall they lay calves upon thy altar.  


Dear regular readers, sorry for the flurry of activity on the blog, you have better things to do than read my drivel.  I will slow down again. You might not hear anything for a while now, too much to do.....

Mergeţi cu Dumnezeu!

Friday, 6 October 2017

Super Flumina (2)

I've been mulling a bit over Psalm 136: Rivers of Babylon.  It turns out that the Holy Father has also been mulling over it too, see here.  Great minds, eh?

Line 4- How shall we sing a song of the Lord in a strange land? How can I sing with my heart and my actions my Catholic faith in a "strange" land?

You see the thing is I'm deeply joyful to be amongst strangers.  I love being away from Western Catholicism.  I feel more alive than I've ever done in my life.  Somehow exile for me is an experience of growth.  The anonymity, the invisibility, the smallness of my life out here is just a wonderful thing.

My "exile", my migration away from Catholic culture means that faith has to be lived at a much more essential level: it is the Sacraments and those bits of the Office I will say daily acting as my body armour to protect me in a "strange" land..  I am not established as a member of a Catholic parish and part of me simply doesn't want to be.  I have a contact who could fetch me a priest if my life were in danger.  I am not doing anything rash.  I'm just learning to sing that song of the Lord in a strange land.  This isn't about explaining the Catholic faith to others.  It is simply about living, breathing and being prepared be obedient to the faith for the love of God. And unsurprisingly, the temptations to be disobedient are ever present.... The strange thing is, I've had more than one conversation where I've explained aspects of Orthodoxy to Orthodox friends, to their astonishment and hopefully their enrichment.  I've also struck up a friendship with a Romanian evangelical protestant, we talk scripture to our mutual enrichment and time passes most pleasantly.

All of us live in Babylon.  Each one of us in in exile.  At a deep level we can feel the exile inherent in our creation as Eve was fashioned and separated from the side of Adam.  And each of us wretched sinners feels exile and the longing to return to the wounded side of Christ where we truly belong.

By the grace of God, I my heart is "singing" in Babylon.  It involved my life being stripped back to the essentials and a near complete severance from the trappings of Catholic culture.  Perhaps you could try the same, wherever you are.

Here is a Romanian Orthodox version of Super Flumina from a group who are a sort of an Orthodox version of a Gospel Choir. Their patron and mine are the same: Roman the Melodist. Do listen, it is beautiful and every line ends with an Aliluia.  One isn't truly alive unless one can sing a song of exile and end each line with an Aliluia.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Cage Fighting

A friend out here has hamster problems.  Following a failed relationship, emotional energy was invested in these pets (as some sort of substitute for the human relationship) only for the little critters to provide tragic drama that somehow seemed to mirror the failed relationship and make things worse.

The problem started when the first set of hamsters were stolen by the ex-partner.  Substitute hamsters were purchased but found to be not half so cute and cuddly.  One of the new pair was thought to be sick  and indeed after some unconvincing "playing dead" did actually die.  There were little bloody paw prints on the cage but my friend simply thought the creature had a tumour or something and had passed on.  A substitute for this hamster was duly purchased last night and introduced to the cage as a playmate for the surviving beast.

To my friend's horror, this idea proved to be a disaster.  Hamsters are unpleasant (I've always thought so, I much prefer rats).  The original beast spat and snarled at the newcomer and the real dirtiness of hamster fighting was shown in all its gory details. The worst of which I cannot print. According to my friend, who (through feeling somewhat guilty for causing animal suffering) felt the need to confess all to me today, hamsters seem to fight by going for each others genitals. It is most ungentlemanly.  It seems that as a last resort the weaker newcomer rolled timid and trembling onto its back to reveal its genitals to the more dominant hamster as if to say: I submit, do what you will.  Was the weaker animal really asking for mercy from the stronger one?  Surely it couldn't have been asking for castration, but that is the only alternative.

And there I must leave the tale, as I do not yet know how it has ended.  There was only one cage in the flat, my friend had to go to work this morning leaving the pair together.  Have they become friends?  Has something dreadful happened?  I know not.

So why am I telling you this?  I'm not quite sure.  Perhaps to show that naivety and emotional substitution don't produce happy results.  Perhaps to show that what we desire from others, even if they are only hamsters, is not what we will get.  Perhaps to show that well intentioned desires to be benign forces for good are often little more than projections of our own inner Disney cartoon: the one that plays in our subconscious and tells us that the world can be at peace and harmony and we can empower this peace and harmony through our actions.

It is all a sham.  It has always been a sham.  It has always been the greatest of lies. The bottom line is that our intentions are corrupt and our means of achieving those intentions always doomed to failure because we project ourselves (and the fantasy-self we believe is ourselves) into all our actions.

We are here to know God, love God and serve God, everything else is a failure of our own creation; be that the creation of harmonious artificial hamster communities or our efforts to make the Catholic Church into some idealistic, harmonious earthly institution that it never has been and was never meant to be.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Brotherly Correction

I once gave a Jesuit a lift to Oxford Station and in the car he was animatedly talking about the work of  several Jesuit scholars who are top of my "reasons why the Church is a mess" list and also top of my "people who think they are clever but aren't" list.  I surprised myself by agreeing wholeheartedly with everything he was saying, though normally I'd  be muttering "heresy" to myself when such ideas are thrown into the arena.  He was convincing, very convincing because he believed wholeheartedly in what he was saying and in what he was doing with his life.  But there was more to it than that.  A passionate proponent of euthanasia, equal marriage or abortion who had sacrificed everything to live as a proponent of these causes could never convince me of their arguments.  He was convincing, not because of his arguments or the arguments of the scholars he was quoting.  He was convincing because there was something of Christ in him.

On hearing him, there was no question I was going to pick up the works Rahner or de Lubac and start reading them avidly, I wasn't being converted to them.  I think what was happening was that this Jesuit and I were simply looking at the same thing through opposite ends of the same telescope, but when we speak of Christ and with Christ, then something of the Truth becomes manifest and it is arresting.

Now as much as Amoris Laetitia has left me feeling very uncomfortable and been responsible for the bulk of my blog posts over the last year, I'm feeling once again like I'm driving to Oxford Station with a talkative Jesuit.  The whole document is a mystery to me, like the whole style of this papacy is a mystery to me.  But yet the document talks and talks with conviction, long winded conviction, a somewhat anti-intellectual conviction, but sincere, loving conviction, nevertheless. As a pastoral document, it says many convincing things.  If it is read with the heart and not dissected by the intellect, it just about holds together.  Its style is not a style I like.  Its arguments are too person centred for me to understand properly.  I'm always looking at marriage and the family from the completely opposite perspective.  My perspective is: how does marriage reveal God to us, how can we live marriage to make God more manifest in the world, how does marriage become "Incarnational"?  These perspectives are not those of ALAL is pastoral, it is human centred and problem centred. I do not think the authors of this work are working either intentionally or unintentionally for the Antichrist.

Rather than correcting the Pope, I think it would have been better to invite him to speak enthusiastically and directly to those who feel threatened by AL, so that they/we can hear his passion and commitment to his ideas and his approach. It is not about criticism, correction, debate or dialogue or the potential for heresy. Our relationship with the Pope centres on his commitment to Christ and his defence of Christ's teaching. We all need a "driving to Oxford Station with a Jesuit" moment.  We need to see Christ in this and not personalities, popes, philosophies or traditions.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Another referendum

I was out last night with very worldly, secular company.  Conversation came round to the topic of a referendum that will take place in this country on the issue of how a family is defined. You can read details of  it here.  I have already given my views on this blog concerning referenda, and how dumb I think they are: they give people  the illusion that they are exercising a democratic voice when in fact they are simply tools in the in the prevailing cultural hegemony.

Whilst the referendum has noble intentions: to block same-sex marriage from ever becoming legal in this country, I fear a disaster.  It is a foolish idea as it is giving voice to those who wish to destroy the traditional notions of family and marriage, and there is a young population out here who are only too willing to listen to this in the name of freedom, tolerance and justice. In the UK (Brexit) and in the US (Trump) where democratic votes have not given the results "the people" want we are witnessing the apparatchik of the "deep state" and the media outlets that rely on this for their survival stirring up all sorts of trouble.  The results of the referendum here, if successful, will never satisfy the vocal few with powerful friends who are determined that "equal marriage" become a flag of belonging for all truly "democratic", "mature", "tolerant", "right-thinking" nations. These are things Romania desperately wants to  be. The traditional notions of family and marrige will continue to be erroded until opposition is silenced.

For my part, it is not for me to take sides in the internal politics of this country.  However I wish to throw one very secular argument into the debate.  I implore my secular, liberal friends  to think on the following which is not an argument based on religion or morality but on the state and its powers.

If same-sex marriage is ever allowed then it would mean the state sanctioning the alteration of the meaning of a word.  Is this a power the state should ever have; a democratic or totalitarian state? Is not this a thing of horrific, Orwellian overtones?  If the meaning of the word "marriage" is altered, what meaning does the word take on when marriage becomes "equal"? It means marriage  takes on the following meaning:

A state recognised grouping containing at least one human who are "committed to each other" and wish to enjoy the protection of the state whilst they remain "committed to each other".  They wish to have their right to live together and if so desired mutually masturbate for their joint pleasure, and bring up children, known to all. 

But we live in a world where words lack the clarity they were created with and where we can live our own reality where we give things any meaning we wish them to have.

But surely, here of all places, the notion that the meaning of words can be altered by the law and the state should make people think twice about what exactly they would be voting for or against. I fear the desires of those who wish to to shore-up the notion of what family is to prevent same-sex marriage from ever being a reality here, may in effect do the opposite. "Family" is quite a losely defined word at the best of times, it is "marriage" which must be defended at all costs.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

What I have been doing this week

  • I have had my first kiss on the hand from an elderly Romanian gentleman, it is a traditional greeting and it is wonderful, those old boys have class.
  • I have kissed crosses and icons and a Bishop's ring: apparently quite normal Catholic behaviour out here.
  • Sung Vexilla Regis, even if the only listener was a rather bemused dog from the upstairs flat, I will not let Sept 14th pass without singing it.
  • Been the butt of the odd joke as the paranoid English woman who always turns up early, there is no concept of being early, everyone is simply on time.
  • Wondering when autumn will kick in.  It is still extremely summery here, but the shadows are lengthening and the lower light is penetrating the woods near where I work quite beautifully.
  • Having my annual bout of plantar fasciitis
  • Working hard and for the most part enjoying it.
  • Engaged in the following conversation on several occasions "Why come here out of choice? It is mess and nothing works", "I have left a country in a mess where nothing works."
  • Enjoying the complete lack of fuss at classical concerts.  No programmes in sight and half-time refreshments means queueing for water from a vending machine. The quality of the music is fantastic.
  • Preparing for a visit from my parents next weekend.
  • Found out that I am older than Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Sunday, 10 September 2017


There is a little old lady who often begs at the front door to my apartment bloc.  I simply can't give her anything, because she'll keep coming back if I do.  This hurts. She carries a bit of card with her sorry tale written on it and I don't doubt it is true.  There are many beggars on the streets here and most of them are little old ladies.

Then the Gospel story of Lazarus and Dives starts to sear itself to my soul.  What fate will befall me for not giving to the beggar at my door?  What can I do?

I'm getting into the routine of walking from which ever church I have attended for the Sunday liturgy to the Italian Church.  It is on my way home and its layout is reassuringly Catholic.  There is a statue there of St Rita too and we need the odd chat. This was the first Sunday the walk was actually pleasant.  The weather it not quite as hot as it was.  Anyway, in the church is a statue of St Anthony and a box for "his poor". I've taken to going in and leaving a high denomination note in the box.  And that for now is quieting my conscience, I'm letting the Church decide who are the deserving poor, I'm letting the Church distribute as She sees fit. The Italians simply have somewhere convenient for me to leave my beggar tax.

Slightly less pitiful than the beggars are the little old ladies who make a living squatting by the side of the road selling a few flowers, vegetables or herbs.  Good quality florists are plentiful and actually better value than these women, but once again, they pull at my heart strings and I will buy a bunch of flowers off them for Our Lady.

The apartment is full of little niches and alcoves for things.  They are great for icons and I earned instant respect from my landlady for having Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in the largest alcove. She gets the flowers and with them my prayers for all the little old ladies that could be so easy to ignore in this city.

Little old ladies were once pretty young girls with dreams.  Of all the citizens of this city, it is the young women who irk me the most.  They can be quite unpleasant and in a country that places extraordinary emphasis on politeness, they are rude. The locals just smile and say things like "huh, they think they are American, they watch too much television, they'll grow up". Maybe they will.  Though I do wonder whether if in all their wannabe designer gear and underneath all that overbearing make-up they are actually considerably poorer then the old ladies who have so little.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017


Often in the past, I used to get a very strong auditory hallucination of church bells.  It happened when life was particularly rough and it was a particularly comforting thing.  I love bells.  I'm sure you can tell the nationality of a bell from its ring.  Each foundry will use a specific alloy and each foundry will have a particular shaped bell.  I convinced myself that the bells I was hallucinating were French and monastic.  They were very different from the bells I could occasionally hear from the neighbouring village. All that stopped, and I'm fairly sure I know why it stopped.  That phase of my life was over, I was no longer staring into the abyss, constantly mindful of a reckless soul who was blithely endangering his life. In prayer, I was given about as strong a signal as possible that we would no longer be linked souls.  I was to move on. He no longer needed me to pray that intensely for him. Just perhaps those bells were a sign of the prayers for me from a monastic community that loved him very much..... But loving does involve knowing when to hold and when to let go.  I am not sentimental. I don't care about him any more, it is a matter of trusting God, and that is done with joy and thanks. If I cared, I'd ruin his life by interfering with it.

I now have the sound of a real bell entering the windows of  my apartment, and a Catholic one at that! This is a rare thing in such an Orthodox country.  It has a beautiful sound.  Orthodox bells are lovely too, but I feel an affinity with the Catholic bell! The bell tower has battled communism and it has survived earthquakes, modernism , post-modernism and liturgical rupture. I can time my saying of Vespers to when the bell rings and there is a simple joy in saying the old rite Latin Vespers with it tolling in the background.  This is what it means to me to be a Catholic out here. I attend the Sacraments at various Catholic churches but it is those bits of the Office that I have time to say that have become as special for me as the Old Rite was back in the UK. Something special happens in the mundane act of this middle aged woman reading Latin badly and praying distractedly......  This is a blessed state, one that won't last, but I'm here and this is my life and God will do with it as He pleases.

I'm glad I have a real bell and not an hallucination.  There is another linked soul and has been for some time now, but there is no abyss and no agony just simplicity and peace.  As the bell rings out indiscriminately on all my neighbours (more Orthodox and Jewish than Catholic), I know the surety in the link to that other, though there isn't an earthly sign of its existence and may never be. I don't care. I am not sentimental.

A "normal" relationship would be nice, I'm sure I'm capable romance (there is a glorious pun in that word out here). God has promised me I'll re-marry, but I'll leave Our Lady and Mother to make all the introductions when She sees fit.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

More thoughts on the Liturgy...

Today, I have experienced my first Greek-Catholic Liturgy that left me ashamed to be Roman.  Today's Liturgy had a distinctly postconciliar feel to it. I don't wish to go into details; place and people would be identifiable if I wrote in too much detail and that is not my intention.

The Liturgy had been "popularised"; by which I mean aligned more towards the people than anything I had seen amongst the Greek-Catholic ex-pats in London's East End or in other Greek-Catholic Liturgies I have attended.  And, unlike those others I have attended, the congregation was nearly entirely aged and female, is there a correlation here? There were some men, but the majority of them were stood by the door, half-in, half-out, waiting for it to finish. The Liturgy was dragged down to earth time and time again rather than soaring heavenward in humility and pain of separation. It certainly seemed to me that it was a postconcilair "romanisation" that was achieving this terrible effect. It was similar to attending a "dialogue Mass". I had been warned that I may experience this. It was good to be there. It was good to experience it for myself.

And yet, I am not cross, unhappy or dismayed. How can you be cross with the state of things as they are? How can you be cross when all is done with such sincerity and reverence?  I simply feel shame for being a Roman Catholic.  We suck.

I love this country and I have never felt closer to God. I think it is best to live this shame rather than ignore it and then perhaps in my shame, something truly beautiful may be revealed.

Saturday, 26 August 2017


Routine is important but when you are somewhere totally new, finding one takes time.  However it is important to me to have one. The routine of work reveals itself and that is developing nicely.  I can't tell you how good it is to be somewhere with no "Protestant work ethic".  Nobody takes the moral high ground here by trying to outdo everyone else with the amount of work they do.  Nobody believes they are indispensable.  There are no "girly swots" (so glad to get away from them): adult women who still think they are school prefects and want to be noticed and want to show you how good they are at working hard and being beautiful and brilliant.  Instead, work is treated seriously but life and family come first always.

My main concern is to develop a routine for Saturdays.  That will have to be entirely my own creation.  I'm thinking along lines of; house clean and a morning tram to one of the markets to get my fresh produce, then after lunch give myself a good 3 hour Romanian lesson.  I used to learn German for 3 hours on a Saturday, this is achievable. I have found that Saturdays can leech the life out of you if you don't control them.  Back in the UK I'd put an awful lot of church based activity into a Saturday.... that is not so easy here. [I'm learning of the importance of the sanctification of ordinary daily life; offering all in thanks to God and wearing at least some armour of blessed sacramentals to help keep me rooted to the "unum necesarium".  It is not about doing, it is about being what God wants me to be.] I can't start that routine next week because I'm determined to go over to Constanța: I need to be by the sea for a bit. I can't start this week because having got back from a party at 3am, there is no way the rest of the day is going to be "routine" even if I wanted it to be.

All but 5 of my colleagues are Romanian.  They are the most sociable, honest, genuine and fun loving people I have met.  I'm a Physicist; not a natural at parties.  Here, however I feel at home and that is all thanks to them.  The other aliens present feel the same; we are all in love with the place and the people.  It is no infatuation, it is realistic, eyes-wide-open and objective, but it is love.  We want to do what we can, we want to give our skills, time and the best years of our lives to the people here.

Somehow, somewhere, I'm going to have to learn to dance to the crazy Moldovan folk-pop they are all so fond of.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Thoughts on the Mass

Before I get down to the serious business of justifying my salary, here are my observations and thoughts on the Novus Ordo as I have experienced it to date in this city. I think there is considerable influence of Orthodox custom (at least subconsciously) in how they approach the Mass, but I’m not going to labour the point and nor do have enough evidence to justify this claim.

At the Roman Catholic churches I have been to out here, there are large queues at the confessional, and confession will take place right through Mass and after it too. They make full use of the Sacraments and sacramentals.  In my short time here, I’ve seen bread blessing and relic veneration in Catholic churches and the vessels containing Holy Water at the back of church are very large and well used. Many Masses seem to have “trimmings”: litanies, rosaries and other devotional prayers both before and after.  It is custom to receive Communion on the tongue; kneeling if there are altar rails, standing if there are not.  I have only witnessed Communion under one kind.  There appears to be no involvement of Eucharistic Ministers or lay readers, I have yet to see any evidence of their existence.  The priest will do all the readings if he has no server, if he has one, his chief server will read prior to the gospel. (This is not part of GIRM where servers can only have one function). Sadly servers are male or female but their reading has been of a very high standard. Congregations sadly are predominantly female and middle aged. There are quite a few religious sisters present, all in habits. I feel that if this were the standard of things in the UK, then we’d be quite happy. I’d say that the Novus Ordo is being executed here without the politics of protestantisation, it is said in all holiness and with all reverence.

The priests will sing parts of the liturgy where they can.  It seems to be quite normal out here and I have yet to hear one who can’t sing and there is often a competent, lay male cantor to lead the congregational singing.  Sadly what is on offer are the bland, Gellineau inspired Mass settings that sound more like lullabies than liturgical music. There seems to be no tradition of hymns writing.  I have yet to hear an original tune for hymns… most have been rousing Wesleyan numbers with Romanian words. It seems slightly incongruous to me. But the Novus Ordo makes room for hymns in the Mass, so hymns are sung.  Liturgy is all in the native tongue, but it is in the Eastern tradition too.

Liturgical music aside, to me there is a problem with the Novus Ordo itself. It is a Mass that insists on speaking to the people.  It is wordy in the extreme and speaking to the people also means that frustratingly (and this has little to do with my limited Romanian and more to do with a sense of the sacred) the priests will often fit in a lengthy sermon and several mini ones into the Mass at various points. There is no adlibbing during the Liturgy here, and definitely no abuse of the Liturgy, but I have yet to hear anything but the shortest of Eucharistic Prayers, and Low Mass still takes a long time. They don’t seem to understand the concept of a quick Mass here (probably because there is no Irish in them). They expect a wordy, lengthy Mass. The Eastern Liturgy is also very wordy and lengthy, but it is a song of love and humility.  It is not directed via the people to God, but directly to God. The silence of the Vetus Ordo does much the same thing as does the plainchant.  It is the Novus Ordo that is out of step and here especially where it is said so well, there is an agony for me because of the overwhelming presence of Tradition in the form of Orthodoxy. The lack of real Tradition in the Novus Ordo is strikingly obvious out here. A priest is a warrior on earth who is here battling for souls partly by singing to God for hours on end; that is his life. Orthodoxy makes this abundantly clear.  It is more difficult to listen to a priest talk to his congregation for so long, which is what happens in the newer Roman Rite. I do not doubt that this is a reason why there are so few men. Men as a whole do not like to be talked to, women usually are more tolerant. It is also difficult for the priests. The Novus Ordo is a strain and a contortion even for the most devout of priests; they are facing the wrong way in all senses of the expression.