Saturday, 20 December 2008

Cheap night in

As a poor, impoverished student, many years ago, I had several favourite cheap nights in alone. There were times when the emptiness of student life would drive me to screaming pitch and I wouldn't have been much company anyway.

A good night in for yours truly would be to read the whole of the Duchess of Malfi, or follow a Beethoven symphony on LP with a score, both could be purchased for peanuts from the countless purveyors of second-hand culture in the city. Then I discovered this in a book on non-European Mathematics:



You can read about it here, though I have to admit, its mystical significance was never of much interest to me.

It is a remarkable object and one I was determined to get to know better. In true physicist style, I set out to try and draw it myself, surely, I reasoned, with a ruler and a pen, it could be redrawn, after all it is just a series of triangles. Maybe I'm not a good draughtsman, but it is not possible for me to draw it. I could copy it, I suppose, but that is not the same as being able to draw it, having a feel for the ratios of lengths and angles, understanding it....mastering it.....



Nevertheless, there was something deeply satisfying in my numerous failures. The object became more beautiful and more remarkable. I found that I understood it better because I couldn't master it.

I've read somewhere it is a symbol of non-dualism. It is a meditation on the non-duality of male/female, body/soul, good/evil... I like that, an object that looks simple, geometric and Descartes-friendly and that ends up sticking two fingers (in the English bowman sense of the gesture)at his philosophy.

I mention this for Tom and suggest he turns to the Catechism:

365 The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the "form" of the body: i.e. it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body; spirit and matter, in man are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature.


Science just can't take you there!

Incidentally, doesn't our failure in scientific progress and understanding make the Nativity all the more wonderful?

Verbum Caro Factum Est

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

A prophetic quote?

It isn't very festive but it may explain my inattentiveness to the blogging community, I've been doing some work for a friend on the implications of quantum theory to belief in God. I've been looking at the Solvay conference of 1927, where the greatest Physics brains of the time were gathered to discuss the emerging science of Quantum Theory. On one side were Einstein, Planck and de Broglie, who although they first quantized matter and light into "chunks of energy" were deeply opposed to the randomness and wierdness inherent in the development of quantum theory. On the other side were Dirac, Pauli and Heisenberg, many years younger and willing to embrace anything the new theory had to throw at them.

From Heisenberg's memoirs comes this quote from Pauli, late one night at the conference, I hadn't seen it before and it made me shudder. We are living in the world he describes.


It's all bound to end in tears……society is in such danger whenever fresh knowledge threatens to explode the old spiritual forms. The complete separation of knowledge and faith can at best be an emergency measure, afford some temporary relief. In western culture, for instance, we may well reach the point in the not too distant future where the parables and images of the old religions will have lost their persuasive force even for the average person; when that happens, I am afraid that all the old ethics will collapse like a house of cards and that unimaginable horrors will be perpetrated.



This from a man who, though baptised a Catholic, was not much of a lover of religion. I can't help thinking that the Church's embrace of modern science under the maxim "Truth can not contradict Truth" should be more widely known. Too many think that the separation of faith and knowledge, especially scientific knowledge, is a reality and not a construct of the Enlightenment that went on to pollute most of 20th Century thinking.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

happines

Before we start, Mr J. Smith of Toledo seems to be having one of his spells again, don't click on his site, just pray. We've been here before and no doubt we'll be here again.
St Michael Pray for Us


This 6 things that make you happy tag is a good tag and I'm touched by tagger, Kirk's kind words. Nevertheless I'm feeling a bit guilty about not doing La Mamma's book meme, the problem with is that apart from Old testament prophets, I'm not reading anything else in Advent, and they just don't fit the meme!

Anyway here goes, things that make me happy:

The Beginning to John's Gospel Shut your eyes and it transports you simultaneously to the furthest reaches of the universe and into the bosom of our loving God. A taste of heaven.

Dawn, I'm a morning person which is a good job as I get up at 5.15 am. Dawn round here is poetry you can drink. It is flat and the skies are big and there is just enough of a slope down to the east to get a beautiful sunrise.

The rare pleasure of walking in unsullied moonlight not something I can put into words, it is just very special. Living without streetlights is a luxury but a foolhardy one.

Watching husband serve Mass Doesn't happen very often since we moved down south....this is a shame as I've not seen a better thurifer, though I suppose I'm biased.

Good Ol' funky music: Apart from Ska (for which I'm getting a little old), nothing is more likely to get me thrashing round a dance floor (actually the carpet in the living room these days). Keep on steppin' on- Fatback band, Up for the down stroke- parliament, Funky Kingston- Toots and the Maytals, Ball of Confusion- the Temptations, Skin I'm In- Chairman of the Board.

Ball of Confusion- The Temptations

The Films of Oliver Postgate RIP My blogging has been light of late, too busy watching his stuff on you tube. I'm getting the feeling he was my earliest political influence.

The Clangers- Probably my favourite Postgate creation

Now, who to pick who has not done this already?

Deb,
Autumn Rose
Andrew,
Archistrategos,
oh yeah and the Barclay Brothers- just what makes you happy? All that "toys out of the pram" silliness effects poeples'lives, remember, boys, Feudalism- it's the future, you heard it here first.


Sunday, 7 December 2008

Goal

DH is now doing some part-time lecturing. He came home from work the other day with a comment from a student that I found very interesting.

I really like your lecturers. They're depressing and I don't mean that in a bad way. On this topic you are challenging me. I'm finding my view of the world very limited and I'm realising how little I know.


We live in a world where we are becoming increasingly conditioned to have goals in life. To achieve these goals all we need are a step of achievable targets and if we achieve these everything else falls into place and we reach our goals. Universities are now for most students just places where, provided you jump through enough hoops, you get your worthy degree and that is just another target to tick off the list. Thinking for yourself is not on the agenda. Being challenged to alter one's perceptions is an alien concept and one this student had obviously not considered before. The use of the word "depressing" is very interesting.

The effervescent Young Fogey, Fr. Jay Toborowsky has a good post where he contrasts the attitude of parents to catechism classes to attitudes towards sporting commitments. Basically, in general parents will bend over backwards for sporting coaches but not for a priest and his catechists.

Isn't the issue here that the sporting coach has goals, targets and all manner of incentives to get the parents and youngsters motivated. The Church only has the goal of Eternal Life and that just doesn't attract! Few these days seem so motivated. What is wrong with folk??! The Church has the ultimate goal and few seem able to comprehend it because it can't be broken down into bite sized targets that stir ones motivation.



The problem is targets. The journey of the pilgrim is an internal one; getting closer to God in one's heart. It is not something your parents can brag about to the neighbours. You don't get any medals for it. There is no graduation ceremony here on earth. Confirmation itself (the enrollment to the whole proceedings) so often is seen as a cultural rite of passage or just something to please grandma.

Ironically, in yester year the Church had more managable targets; novenas, chaplets, plenary indulgences, pligrimages, Trinity walks, guilds. These are now so unfashionable with the local heirarchy as being somehow primitive and even bad. On their own they probably won't get you to Heaven, but they can't hinder your progress, so how can they be bad?

What do the wise ones give us in their place: Live simply! Recycle some paper and buy some Fair Traid products and think about poor people far far away, cook a trendy meal, have a walk with some friends...lame isn't it? Well it is worthy in a small way, but can all be done without any recourse to Holy Mother Church (Triumphant or Militant)....that is why it is lame. The Body of Christ is almost excluded from the proceedings and the proceedings would probably work quite well without this inconvenience. If this seems like I'm venting my spleen and I'm being unfair, please let me know and I will remove this paragraph.

The Church can't compete with soccer coaches because the language of the Church is now so alien from the everyday speak sporting coaches use:

Souls, resurrection of the body, Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, sin, passion, caritas, the Fall, redemption, intercession, obligation, grace, peace...I don't think any of these are on Auntie Adrienne's list of inaccesible works like concupiscence or hermaneutic, but they might as well be as our youth have been strangualted by a curriculum of relevance and blandness that has obliterated their vocabulary.

We just look a like a bunch of weird nut cases....What can we do? Our catechisis can almost seem aimless because the language of salvation is not special, desired or known by our youth.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Waiting

It is not very nice watching someone fade away. I’m not sure the person is dying as such, but the ropes are slowly loosening from their moorings and there is an accompanying death of spirit that is frightening to behold.

Imagine a woman who has been through many struggles in life but was always determined to retain her dignity. There was the time when they were too poor to buy coal and her children would be sent out to scavenge for it from the railway embankments (not that she would ever divulge this story, you understand). There were the many times the children may have behaved less than perfectly as they grew up and caused embarrassment, grief and pain and gossip amongst the neighbours. There were her countless trips to hospital with one serious problem or another, always undignified and humiliating for such a prudish woman.

She is a gentle creature and prone to follow other people’s wishes for her, never sparing a thought for her own wishes and desires. She meekly does what she thinks she ought.

Now she spends most of her day, every day, sitting in her chair, being poached alive by the suffocating heat of her sheltered accommodation, having no company but the over loud telly. Her teeth don’t fit, but you’re not allowed to trouble anyone to get her new ones. Her hearing aid is crap, but don’t you dare trouble anyone for a better one. There are plenty to care for her and yet so little care is implemented. Yes the smells, leaks and creaks are cared for, but somehow I wonder if that is what she has become, just a series of ill fitting plumbing pieces. How often does anyone have tea with her? How often does anyone visit her and talk to her about adult things as an adult to another adult. My own visits are frustrated, there is so much I want to say but it gets lost in a vacuous sea of talk about family and their achievements. She is more than capable of good and fun conversations face to face, but most visits nowadays usually involve the smoke screen of a cute infant to dandle on the knee. Diverting, and joyous yes but not enough, not adult enough. Adult company and companionship, a recognition of a joint spiritual journey, wisdom and fear of the unknown, prayer and heartache, talking about matters of the heart and soul, lighthearted and serious….

She is electing to eat very little, she is electing to find no pleasure in anything, she is giving up. This is not helped by a frightening chemical cosh supplied by her doctor for pain management, it is impossible for her to think straight for any length of time. Are the drugs worth the side effects?

She is a woman who has been a faithful Catholic all her life and been an inspiration in the faith in so many ways, this makes her current state so very distressing. Has her determination and love of life come to this? What were a lifetime of “Hail Marys” about if this emptiness is the last days you have on earth?

We ask if she wants to see a priest?

Oh no, she’s not ready for that, she says.

Maybe that’s it, maybe she isn’t loving life enough to face death. She isn’t in a living purgatory, that would be redeeming, there would be a positive element to her suffering. Is she creating her own hell on earth by neither owning up to living life or owning up to facing death?

Why are there no formal missions to the elderly? Isn’t evangelising a priority? When the onslaughts on you body and mind (through no fault of your own) are so great why is there so little spiritual help for you.

As an aside, the meals on wheels man can enter her flat when he needs to, the man who brings her pills can enter when he wants to, so can the carers…..but a priest….oh no, he needs to be let in by the occupant, he can’t make a call because he wants to…..she has to let him in herself, but she doesn’t seem able to do that….


Pray for the lonely elderly, who are waiting this Advent.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Scant postings at the moment, mainly due to marking November examinations and writing endless progress reports.

Our hearts sunk this weekend when we received a letter from British Gas. A final demand and a threat to cut us off. This is because we owe about £60 from our previous property (not yet sold and can't afford the outlay to get it rented). We have already explained to them countless times that mercifully our cash flow dilemma is temporary and we can pay them in full on the 28th November. They handily forget this. If I had the guts I'd send them a letter that may read something like this:

Dear British Gas,

In common with many people, we find ourselves in very difficult times regarding our finances. We contacted you last week to explain than we could not pay the bill at the moment but that it can be payed in full on the 28th November. Your telephone operator claimed to understand and was even sympathetic to our plight.

In receiving your horrible letter today I have a few points I'd like to make. You provide us with a utility. Some would say we have a right to fuel to keep up warm and to cook with. When does it become fair to charge us £14 in addition to the money we owe simply because you have decided to generate a letter threatening us with court action? Then you also threaten to charge us an additional £400 if you have to visit our property to cut us off from the gas supply. The logical conclusion to this is that if money was still not forthcoming you would make us go on a prepayment meter where the tariff for gas is DOUBLE what your ordinary customers pay.

Our financial situation is temporary. I feel deeply for those souls who receive such letters and have no way of paying. How are you making these people feel? Adding extortionate extra charges to their debt with no offer of assistance. You are robbing and using the poor and vulnerable as an extra cash generator.. I hope you realise you could ROT IN HELL for this. Not my judgement, you understand but there is a judgement that comes to us all on how we treat our fellow men. Your treatment is despicable and I weep for those less fortunate than myself who will literally feel despair on receipt of such a letter.

You can do something about this, and it is your choice. Think about it.

Cheers,
Rita.
xxxx

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Winter Asparagus

I don't like asparagus, in fact I find them singularly unpleasant. However someone once said to Rachmaninov that finding deep deep male voices was rarer than asparagus in winter. Well here is some stupendous singing. Go on turn up your speakers and damage the brick work, or the suspension on your airstream!


The Male Choir of St. Petersburg
Beautiful.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Figs



In Matthew's Gospel, something happens after the money changers and dove sellers have had their tables and chairs removed from the Temple. Jesus goes off to Bethany for the night, then on his return to Jerusalem something quite shocking happens. I personally have always found this far more puzzling than the incident with the money changers in the Temple.

And leaving them, he went out of the city into Bethania, and remained there. And in the morning, returning into the city, he was hungry. And seeing a certain fig tree by the way side, he came to it, and found nothing on it but leaves only, and he saith to it: May no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And immediately the fig tree withered away.

Matthew 21: 17-19


I think the order may be different in Mark (this may have happened before the incident at the Temple), but that is not the point. This is more than just a device to show the disciples how little faith they have. Something much bigger seems to be going on.

When we hear about Jesus being thirsty, he meets the woman at the well and so much grace ensues. Here we hear about Jesus being hungry (did Martha not feed him well enough in Bethany- unlikely!). What sort of hunger is it? Is this some sort of hunger for justice and God's will?

When a fruit tree fails to behave like a fruit tree, is it not violating God's law? The tree is inanimate, it can not be saved, yet it can be corrupted. Does this tree is someway represent the "culture of death", to appear to be living yet to lack any fruitfulness whatsoever? It is almost as if the tree is possessed. There is more than a hint of exorcism about this event. Elsewhere Jesus exhorts us to care year on year for the barren fruit tree until we are absolutely certain it cannot produce fruit. I remain puzzled by this passage from the Gospels.

One thing is certain, we cannot go around driving the chatterboxes and gossips out of the pews on Sunday (like moneychangers from the Temple), nor can we kill stone dead some unjust anti-life law (like a barren fig tree)without another one springing up to take its place. We are too puny and sinful to behave like Christ. When we get angry that God's will is not being done we must be so careful that we don't become as ugly and abhorrent as the barren fig tree itself. In our anger, ugliness will produce no good fruit. We must put our faith in Christ, let his light shine through us and let him get on with the dirty work.

Super Smashing Great

I've got an award from Mum6Kids!



I went over to check what it meant using Alta Vista's Bable Fish and apparently it means Prize Darts. I'm now supposed to award it to a lot of other bloggers. Well basically anyone who is in my side bar is a jolly good blogger, so consider yourself awarded! And if you want more darts, have a "bit of bulley too". British "in joke" for anyone else who loved that game show.

Monday, 3 November 2008

All souls day

Well, I couldn't make it to Mass, due to work commitments, but the nearest Catholic Church to my work has its doors open all day (deo gratias), so I was able to spend some time in prayer down there.

All blogs are filtered out at work and only certain clever blogs can circumvent this. For entertainment therefore at work I rely on the Curt Jester, the Anchoress and Daniel Mitsui's excellent Lion and Cardinal.

It is from the latter that this stunning Ars Moriendi comes from,

(H/T The Lion and the Cardinal). It was constructed by someone in the middle ages with such wondeful insight into the human condition and goes through the full cycle of death throes as they should be seen, birth pangs into the eternal life. Thoroughly uplifting and perfect for All Souls Day. See the full collection here with explanations.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Good Stuff

Time to plug some other blogs where some quality writing has gone on, as opposed to my witless ramblings. Here are a few things worth reading if you have a spare minute.

(1) Fr. Eugene Lobo SJ has done it again, this is an excellent resource for anyone stuck with some bores on the God/Science debate. Read it here.

(2) Fr. Jay Toborowsky (the Young Fogey) has written an excellent piece on funerals. He has really said something which deserves a wider audience and which asks questions of all the faithful. Read it here.

(3) Terry Nelson has written a good piece on being a member of the Church. The parish he writes about couldn't be round here because we don't seem to have Eucharistic Adoration, but we have all the other stuff.....Read it here.

(4) Terry Nelson again on why Tradition ain't enough and how tradition for tradition's sake is meaningless. Read it here.

(5) The catholic teuchtar is on fine form with a series of posts providing a "counter-history" of Scotland's more famous/infamous Catholics. Here is an example.

Home alone

As much as I love peace and quiet, being home alone doesn't suit. There are too many little things to do and my complete inability to "multitask" means I spend rather too much time dithering. I've reached the conclusion I'm better off at work!

Take for instance reciting the Morning Office, with only a short window of opportunity to say this on a school day, I have to be very organised and very focussed. Today, in my little dream world I found my mind wandering and I'm not sure its has been fruitful.

I like to use the pocket sized Shorter Morning and Evening Prayer published by Collins. This is not because I like the text, but because it unites me to all those others in other parishes and religious communities I know are using it too; prayer is not an isolated experience. However the text is woeful and today's readings are no exception. Normally I wouldn't give this a second thought, but dangerously, I've got time on my hands:

The scripture reading is taken from Ephesians 2: 13-16, in the Collins it is rendered thus:

Now in union with Christ Jesus, you who used to be far away have been brought near by the death of Christ. For Christ himself has brought us peace, by making Jews and Gentiles one people. With his own body he broke down the wall that separated them and kept them enemies. He abolished the Jewish Law, with its commandments and rules, on order to create out of two races one new people in union with himself, in this way making peace. By his death on the cross Christ destroyed the enmity; by means on the cross he united both races into one body and brought them back to God.


The same reading for today is rendered here thus:
Now in Christ Jesus, you that used to be so far apart from us have been brought very close, by the blood of Christ. For he is the peace between us, and has made the two into one and broken down the barrier which used to keep them apart, actually destroying in his own person the hostility caused by the rules and decrees of the Law. This was to create one single New Man in himself out of the two of them and by restoring peace through the cross, to unite them both in a single Body and reconcile them with God: in his own person he killed the hostility.


This is taken from the Jerusalem Bible and as a reading it flows better and does not contain the questionable phrase He abolished the Jewish Law, with its commandments and rules, on order to create out of two races one new people in union with himself, in this way making peace. This so goes against everything else St Paul writes that it can't be a good translation: why does the Collins use it?

One of the fruits of the current Papacy is a legitimising of our(the ordinary pewsitter's) desire for worthy liturgy. I feel we are more likely to question Fr when liturgical norms are not adhered to. The internet allows us to reach for the GIRM as soon as we get home from Mass. What does this do? Well, often we end up saying "Ha, I was right, Fr was nearly out of order there....that wasn't quite as it should be". What has it done to my soul? Does it now shine brighter having partaken in the liturgy but having been distracted by intellectual meanderings and irritations with imperfections. Has this made me a better Catholic? Am I using the little bit of love planted in my heart to the best possible advantage so that is may become fuller with that same love?

For me, this is spiritually quite draining. I am thirsting for pure water and needing to drink out of desperation at streams that are muddy and brackish. I have no doubt that this is a thirst I should hold onto, but I am feeling so weak, so isolated and so lacking in that sustainance that is our right. I'll have to keep at the clouded waters, I'm not running to my cassock clad lovelies in another diocese....It is a St Bernadette thing...it is mortification, and in this year of St Paul I'm determined this weakness can become my strength.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

School Holidays


One of my tasks this holiday is to try to put together a meaningful programme of study in Physics for the yrs 7, 8 and 9 since the welcome demise of the KS3 SATs. This is not an easy task for someone like me, I philosophise too much.

I've had an idea that if I dump my thoughts out on my blog, they may leave me alone for a while and allow me to do the job I should be doing rather than screaming through my brain that all is futile and I'm wasting my time. Do you get voices like that? Irritating little gremlins aren't they?

Thought 1
The only educational theory that is considered "Kosher" these days is constructivism. Basically this is the idea that students actively construct their own understanding and that learning by doing is the only way this can be achieved. On the face of it, this doesn't seem so bad. In an idealsitic world a classroom full of students actively engaged in their own learning, working to fulfill their own potentials sounds great. In reality it demands that education is goal centred. This means there has to be aims and objectives that are easily accessible to the students and achievable in a given time span. Once we have goals we have targets and measurable outcomes. This means we have tests, we have learning to tests to measure achievement. We have lost our way.

Thought 2
There are plenty of commercial work schemes, neatly packaging together science for pre-GCSE students. They all assume science is a single entity. This confuses the students, biology is easily grasped as a concept, chemistry and physics less so. Continuously chopping from one to another creates great confusion. The schemes of work aim to make science colourful and relevant to the students. I hate the word "relevant", it is Blairite and it is meaningless. Science is abstraction, model making and pattern finding; not much relevance there. The other problem with these schemes is they follow the national curriculum and use the outcomes that those in power have deemed acceptable learning outcomes for our students. The outcomes are phrased with an infinitive followed by a statement; for example "to know that our galaxy is called the Milky Way", or "to know that solar cells convert the energy in sunlight into electricity". There is a major problem with this. The vast majority of these learning outcomes are "know" statements. Well, they DON'T KNOW, I DON'T KNOW...I hate "know" statements, this is just fact, fact, fact, it is shallow, it lacks any concept of discovery, it flies in the face of their beloved constructivism. Get rid of teachers and sit the class in front of the Bumper Book of Facts (or its CD ROM equivalent) if that is all you want from them.

Thought 3
So much damage has been done in education by taking Piaget's theories of cognitive development way beyond where they were supposed to go. He developed a hierarchy of cognition starting with the simplest, as done by an infant and leading to the most complex, those done by children over the age of 11. The problem is, he believed the highest level of cognitive development is abstraction. As mathematics is abstraction in its purest form, it is constantly left out of science for being too difficult.
This leaves the prospective scientist effectively with out a full compliment of limbs and prevents true cognition and development of thought processes. My argument is that the moment a child moves from the Baldrick "one bean, two beans, some beans" mode of quantifying and writes 1 + 1 = 2, that child is engaged in abstraction. The minute a child draws a circle or makes a flower shape using a pair of compasses, that child is abstracting...it is basic stuff....it doesn't make one a genius if one can do this yet still beat your little brother up because he trod on your favourite crayon.

Thought 4
I admit that not everyone can do maths. Some hate it and quite right too. My final thought is that science needs much more maths but that science should not be compulsory for so long (up to the age of 16). This would make a lot of people very happy and solve the Physics teacher shortage in one fell swoop. (Then again, shortly there may be a glut of physics teachers as countless unemployed city financiers re-train)


There, I've got this off my chest and done myself out of a job in the process. Are there any remote monasteries out there requiring a couple of house keepers; I can cook, clean and sew and when DH's rheumatics aren't playing up he's a decent handyman.

PS: Philip has asked be to link to a petition on his blog, which I do gladly. I'm struggling a bit with point 5
Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children
. I think I'd prefer to see "Children have a right to stability and unconditional love and support". Real education doesn't happen in the classroom it happens on the streets, with friends and via the media, a child will only be receptive to learning if that child is confident, loved and is a part of a wider family with consistent moral boundaries, routine and fun. It is important that that wider family is the one you want for your child, not one a child finds for itself. This goes way way beyond a parent's right to choose a school or type of educational experience.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Sorry, I'm a bit grumpy in an Ecclesiastes kind of way. Some people I know can have a habit of replaying the less savoury bits of their lives, like endless Eastenders in do-loop. Each time they think it's different, but it's the same ol' thing.

Nothing under the sun is new, neither is any man able to say: Behold this is new: for it hath already gone before in the ages that were before us.

Ecclesiastes 1:10

On a less personal but equally depressing note, here is a picture of Herod by Archimboldo- does it remind you of anything closer to home? The British Parliament for one thing...

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Britisth pluck at its best.

Whether I'm proud that such research is being done at a UK university is another matter.

Click here and enjoy!

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Marriage and Mortification

AR has been musing on mortification again and I find myself doing the same. The Catechism is helpful: 2015 The way of the perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle. Spiritual progress entails the ascesis and mortification that gradually lead to living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes.

However there is no guide there as to how this should be achieved and in particular how it should be achieved within the married state. Some forms of mortification are just not suited to the married life. When one is sacramentally united to a partner is mortification still a personal matter or does it become a unitive matter for the couple? Extreme simplification of diet becomes a selfish act as one can't expect ones husband or children to partake. It may also lead to illness and if a bread-winner is deliberately weakening their physical state this is not a wholly charitable thing to do. Mortification through acts upon the body is also not really goer. I'd argue that your body is not your own ever, as it is the temple of the Holy Spirit. However when married, it is even less your own because with your partner you form One Body. Mortification that may leave marks upon the body is certainly not acceptable in this light.

I like simple food but DH is a fairly traditional northern male and loves a thick rump steak above all other meals. I find this far too rich and over-facing but we have them occasionally as a "treat". His luxury is almost my penance. I feel similarly about most cream cakes...

I want permanent reminding of the sacrifice of Calvary but it would be wrong to mark my body. On Fridays I often wear an extremely irritating pair of socks that ride down into my boots and leave me feeling very uncomfortable. It isn't much and I laugh at myself for doing it, but I still do it. Meatless fridays are out of the question as DH's won't do vegetarian (except on Holy Days of Obligation)and I think fish is a luxury so is banned on fridays.

I thank God for my strength and good health. I feel I'm kept in good health for a reason and I'm to use this special gift.

The 4 new saints this week were all ones who showed great devotion to the crucified Christ through mortification. None of them were married.

To conclude my musings; I'm very taken with the symbolism of the crowns worn by the Orthodox at their marriage ceremonies. Surely this is what mortification within marriage is all about?

The crowns may be a wreath of flowers or an actual crown, gold with red velvet and jewels. The crowns have several rich symbolisms. They express the creation of a new household, a "kingdom" which they are charged to rule wisely and with full responsibility to each other and to God.

The crowning is a sign of victory, just as athletes were crowned in ancient times at their triumphs. In this instance, the Bride and Groom are crowned on account of their growth as mature Christians, prepared for the responsibilities of a Christian marriage.

The crowns also represent martyrdom, sacrifice and steadfast devotion. In marriage, the couple must deny themselves and take up their cross as they relate to their spouses in building up the marriage, and to commit themselves as responsible parents to their children.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Matthew 22:1-14

I questioned hubby again regarding his insistence that the changes in attitude to Lent were somehow more significant than the change of the mass from Latin to the vernacular. He said he liked the post VII emphasis of the positive contribution Lent can make to your spiritual life, as opposed to the rather dour and negative (suffering for the sake of suffering) attitude pre VII. What concerned him is that Lent had become too easy, somehow he feels we loose too much of Christ in the rush to sanitise the suffering. This is relevant to the rest of my musings below.

I love Matthew’s Gospel, and I love this cycle readings for Mass that we are currently having. They tell a linear story of the growing hatred the authorities have for Christ, but as with everything else in Matthew’s Gospel, nothing is quite that simple, it shines and glitters differently depending on how the light catches it.

I feel our parish priest was struggling with this Sunday’s reading, wrestling with the violence inherent in the tale, he couldn't accept that Chirst actually told this tale. He gave a sermon that had been written by a theologian, not himself. The gist of which was as follows:
The tale is a reworking of a similar one in Luke but with considerably more violent imagery. This had been inserted by later writers. Jesus never said those things. It is a morality tale for the Jewish authorities.

My problem is this: The Gospels must always be "interpreted" in the light of the Truth they contain. This Truth is divine and timeless. At no point is any story in the Gospels intended purely for one generation or one select set of people. The reading is uncomfortable, yes. But everything in Matthew's Gospel is tied up with the Four Last Things, everything is about our salvation/damnation. This is uncomfortable. But it is a discomfort we must face, like mortification in Lent. These discomforts are part of adult faith, they should make us grow towards Christ in love, longing and meekness. Intellectualise them away and awesomeness of our salvation fades away.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

a good day in Wessex

A beautiful day today, warm Autumn sunshine, breezy enough to dry two full loads from the washing machine...a day for simple domesticity.

The following conversation was had between DH and myself, he was ironing and I was cleaning:

DH: I wonder if those women will be singing the Mass tomorrow?
Me: Well it's not the week for the folk Mass is it...it could be anything. I'm sorry but it drives me nuts, all these different flavours of Mass. What is it all about? You remember before Vatican II, this is all new isn't it?
DH: Not exactly, you have to remember, there were Masses to suit all types each Sunday. the 6:30 am for the workers and yours truly as server, then there was the 8:30 which was a little grander. Then there was the kiddies Mass at 10am.
Me: What!
DH: That is the one the children went to. Heaven help you if you weren't there. You were made to stand up in class on Monday and say why you weren't there. You didn't sit with your family, you were with your teacher, you sat in your classes.....After that Mass was the solemn sung high Mass if that was more your bag then there was the Sunday evening Mass, I'm not quite sure who that was for...But there were lots of priests so they were able to accommodate all these different tastes and needs. Now, there is just one priest and he is trying to please everyone...folk Mass one week, squeaky high female choir the next, organ the next and so on. Maybe it isn't as different from the past as we think.
Me: What do you think has been the biggest change?
DH: Lent. It used to be really, really hard. I was away from the Church for a few years and came back and all the old lenten hymns had gone, there was no talk of suffering, there was no blood, no wounding...the symbolism, imagery and meditation were all missing. This was worse for me than the change from Latin to English, though we lost so many as a result of that.
Me: Was it worth it?
DH: We never really understood the Latin so I suppose it had to happen. It was just too quick, too wholesale and too radical, overnight the Latin Mass was considered wrong. That was in the days when people put priests on a pedestal, they believed them. They believed the Latin Mass was wrong because their priest/Bishop said so...
Me: Come off it. You might not have understood all the words in the Mass, but you knew you had to be properly prepared for it and you knew what was happening at the Consecration.
DH: Oh yes! The bells were so important then....The sixties have so much to answer for, you can not divorce what was happening in the world from what was happening in the Church... my generation have a lot to answer for.
Me: Your generation were not pulling the strings....

DH starts singing bits of the Missa De Angelis whilst he irons my shirts. Nice.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Another Anniversary

Kirk has posted that today is the anniversary of the birth of Henry III, I post another anniversary. It is three hundred years since the death of the fine English composer John Blow. Radio 3 celebrated with a fine choral evensong from Westminster Abbey which I was able to listen to on my way home from work. For the next 7 days you can listen to the evensong courtesy of the BBC here. It is a real treat.

Kirk has also posted a prayer request which I think you ought to read, here.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Being leaderless and disillusioned with politics is one thing, but feeling the Catholic Church in you own country is bereft of many good, sound, loyal, holy and humble men to lead it in these difficult times is quite another. There are such priests, but as with much that is good, they will be sidelined. Few of our English Bishops seem to be showing the vertebrae they were born with.

Why hasn't the Cardinal issued a prayer card for the nation, so that we can all be united, praying for the intercession on the Holy Spirit to guide the Church and inspire a suitable candidate to fill the post? I think that some in high places see the office of Cardinal as purely political and not as anything divinely inspired. Politics is crap on its own, we don't want the Church filled with it too.

Talking of this, if I were Cardinal (tee hee), one of the first things I'd do is ban lay parish liturgy groups. They have far too much influence with far too little sound training. Guess who populates them too? All those recently retired baby boomers with time on their hands. Guess where their sympathies lie, guess their agenda? I could be really bitchy and say something about "empty vessels"....hmm. Unfortunately, priests are often somewhat terrified by ladies of this certain age and often just "give the punters what they want" irrespective of how representative these well meaning folk are.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Unless the Lord build the house....

Often economics mimics the science of the day. It has been well documented that capitalism and the "free market" wouldn't have taken hold so convincingly in the 19th century if parallels hadn't been favourably drawn to the rising science of evolution, and in particular "the survival of the fittest".

Less well documented is the fact that Adam Smith's "invisible hand", the self regulatory mechanism that keeps the market ticking simply mirrors the science of "equilibrium chemistry". Those who say there should be no intervention in the markets, that they should be left pure to function properly are really just modeling the markets as a simple system in equilibrium chemistry. This stuff is 200 yrs old and showing its age. Those who are following Dr Ron Paul on this are wrong, the model is obselete. Those who don't want George Bush to intervene on the markets are reactionary idealists.

I'd argue that the markets are far more complex than equilibrium chemistry allows. In the 20th century Ilya Prigogine radically developed the science of complex systems far from any equilibrium. These systems are chaotic but develop periodic order and patterns of behaviour, this is far more like the system inherent in the world markets.

Patterns develop, prosperity and poverty grow and become polarised, greed and the state intervene and the patterns repeat. It is not pretty, but it is the deeply flawed system of market economics. There is no good in the system. It is unfair, it always will be. However putting your faith in an unfettered free market, free from state intervention is like putting your faith in caloric or flogiston, a bit silly!


The Belousov-Zhaobtinski reaction; complex, non equilibrium, chaotic, yet a pretty system (unlike the free market which isn't pretty).

Psalm 126
Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.
Unless the Lord keep the city, he watcheth in vain that keepeth it.

Friday, 19 September 2008

From Irene

Irene linked to the following blog with this holy card and caption, saying it was appropriate for my ponderings about a parish:


"It is such a folly to pass one's time fretting instead of resting quietly on the heart of Jesus."

St. Therese of Lisieux



(This is a 5-fold booklet holy card.
This means you open the first page to the left, the second page to the right, two smaller pages, and then the larger picture in the middle. Be sure to double click to see it enlarged.)


That is beautiful, thank you Irene. It does put things in perspective. However, you are always on the move in the ol' Airstream and part of me is a little jealous of your nomadic existence. Unfortunately, being stuck in a stone house without wheels, means I'd quite like to feel at home in my locality and that means having a parish, a parish family and a parish priest. The big crime I'm guilty of here is the picking and choosing of a parish, it reeks of all that is wrong with our consumerist, "shop around" society. Where I've moved from there was no choice and whilst aspects of parish life and liturgy were decidedly off the wall, it was home and we felt part of the family and it was an enriching experience. I even got a present off the priest when we left, priests don't usually do that sort of thing!

You're right, just go to Mass and don't fret. Now, what do I do about confession?

Monday, 15 September 2008

The last time a beautiful voice made me cry was when listening to a recording of the Red Army Chorus. Perhaps this shows what a shallow person I am. Still, even today, when their routine verges on the high camp and pantomime, they still have some of the best lungs in the business.

Here they are singing Dark Eyes



No real reason for this post other than I felt like it. Don't for one minute think I'm a fan of Russian imperialism, or the imperialist posturings of any other country for that matter.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Flocks

Just a quick post to let you know how things are progressing. I feel I have sounded fairly snarky recently, this is not my intention, I'm not really such a curmudgeon, I do smile occasionally....

Where we have moved to is a region which (by necessity of having a very low density of Catholics) supports pastoral areas rather than parishes. The up shot of this is that, living nearly equidistant from two of the churches in the pastoral area, we don't feel we have a parish home/family. On e-mailing the lead priest in the area, he informed us that we could go to Mass where we wanted, I supposed we were a little underwhelmed by this response. So over the last couple of weeks, we have been trying out the alternatives. This has been far from satisfactory. Once you are given a choice, you start to become very critical. Do you prefer the Mass with the perfectly drilled altar servers but less friendly congregation to the one in the church which doesn't have a crucifix but where they sing like angels? We shouldn't be making these sort of comparisons, it is wrong, very wrong. The really big temptation now is to say we just can't feel at home, jump in the car and drive up to the Oxford Oratory.

Saw something that has stayed with me, yesterday. We went for a walk in the early evening, the moon was up and the sun was setting gracefully over the village. There was utter pandemonium coming from a near by lake. The Canada geese were really excited. Then the din stopped and the geese set off in groups of about 15 flying into the setting sun. They struggled to get much higher than the rooftops, it could have been a last staging post before a very long flight, they were probably at their fattest. After the last group had nearly disappeared over the horizon, one solitary goose turned around and headed back to the lake, calling into the gloom and not receiving an answer back. Had it lost its mate, did it not feel fit enough for the journey?..who knows..I felt strangely sorry for it though.

More likely though is that the rest were off to rich feeding ground at the Cotswold water park or even Slimbridge, and my little friend couldn't be bothered. Nature is not full of romantics.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

This and that

I'm sorry I haven't been around much, but commuting is a nightmare and the new job is taking some getting used to. I'm needing my sleep and the blog world has had to take a back seat.

Here are a few things I have noticed recently:

There is at least one supermarket that sells a "chocolate for dieters" that is marketed in packaging to make it look just like the contraceptive pill. It has a logo that makes much of all the indulgence and none of the weight gain. Well, it is sick. I feel I ought to do something about it, I just can't think what...any ideas?

The same supermarket was selling 2 litre bottles of wine in plastic that looks like it had been designed to hold vegetable oil. The price was ridiculously cheap. Just who was it designed for? It look like it was designed for someone with a drink problem (or the potential for a serious drink problem), nobody else would touch it. I thought it was irresponsible...but then I've known too many for whom alcohol has become a demon and parasite.

I know those trapped in life threatening weather conditions all need our prayers but somehow I feel driven to pray even more so for the people of Haiti. Not only is the weather deadly, but that is on top of the starvation and the hopelessness of the economy; it is probably a better candidate than Zimbabwe for "Hell on Earth" at the moment. There are many strange things afoot in that land but how marvelous is every soul that is saved from the brink. Aid to the Church in Need have funded many projects in that land.

Finally, I'm utterly sick of the cult of personality that shamelessly parading itself as politics both in the UK and the USA and elsewhere. Can it be said clearly enough; none of the politicians, senators, Vietnam-vets, great white hopes, great brown hopes or hockey moms will do any good. Why? Because we are putting them on a pedestal. What happens when we stick a fellow human being on a pedestal? Someone else tries to knock them off. We don't know these people, but we do know they are human. Like the rest of us they are all deeply flawed. They need political parties with policies. Policies that show concern for all those within the country, that are fair and not obsessed with ratings and serving the press and media and feeding our fears. We put these guys on pedestals, they do their little dances for us, we holler and slaver like guys watching pole dancers. We've forgotten the human being, we have created a fictional being that we then start to put our hopes and fears into...it is doomed to failure. There is no debate and nothing is done, the cult of celebrity is a smoke screen that everyone wishes to hide behind whilst more and more are falling into poverty, falling out of education, loosing opportunities, unable to use their talents and becoming slaves to welfare, crap insecure jobs and loan sharks.

Oh, and I'm sick of all this nice hair and day-glo teeth, why do politicians all have to look like Barbie's aunties and uncles? Why can't they have rotten teeth, sweat problems, the odd scar, a funny walk, embarrassing tattoo and inability to make clothes look good. I guess, this just goes to show I'm as obsessed with image as the rest of you..

Friday, 5 September 2008

A quizzy thing found on Mac's blog and open to all. I've just done it cos it was a deep trawl through my past which has steadily become more and more repetitive and respectable...I should get out more.

1. President Kennedy's Assassination - 22 November 1963
I was not born, but my mum was atop a bus in Dublin having just come back from the pictures (an Elvis film she says).

2. England's World Cup Semi Final v Germany - 4 July 1990
Slightly the worse for alcohol in a rented flat in Rochdale.

3. Margaret Thatcher's resignation - 22 November 1990
In a public house in the Leith docks nr. Edinburgh, the pub had the legend on the door "Belgian sailors welcome" and the mature ladies who like to welcome sailors that frequented the establishment were dancing on the tables in celebration of her demise. Don't ask which Edinburgh drinking house I was in when Gulf War One fired up..... I can't remember much apart from the poor go-go girl doing her thing whilst everybody was too transfixed on the TV screens of fighter planes to notice. (All these places have now been sanitised and gentrified...is this a good thing? I'm not sure.)

4. Princess Diana's death - 31 August 1997
At work.

5. Attack on the twin towers - 11 September 2001
At a different work. I remember not being able to get through to one of the maths teachers what had happened, she kept wittering on about something really trivial.

6. The election of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger to the papacy - 19 April 2005
DH told me when I came home from work.

BTW, I hate the taste of alcohol these days and I've seem too much of the damage it does to people.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Cheers!

I must thank Philip for awarding me this stupendous award! Especially as due to the pressures of work I'm hardly blogging at the moment.



All the chaps and chappesses I would have nominated for this have been done with the exception of the brilliant James Mawdsely, but he's too cool for this sort of thing (perhaps).

Life is weird at the moment. Imagine waking up and finding your soccer team is now the wealthiest in the Universe thanks to some serious money from the Gulf. Well, I have done. I hope they realise the DNA of this team is programmed for self-destruction and heroic failure. As irritating as this is, they wouldn't be MCFC if it wasn't the case. In other words, if they start becoming as pompously successful as their nearest neighbours (if you don't know who they are - you must come from Manchester), then they simply ain't my team, so I'll know it was all a dream anyway and MCFC have really ceased to exist due to an act of enourmous stupidity and greed.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Routine

Developing a routine can be very difficult when everything has been turned upsidedown. I think things will be better once I'm back at school. Work is great for focusing the mind and time spent in prayer becomes so precious and special because you simply have to make time for it.

My current prayer life is scrappy and lacking routine yet I'm finding it easy to thank God and praise God and I feel very much at peace.

My study in the new house is the smallest bedroom, it only has a velux window so I get no dreamy views. Also with it being a rented property, I'm reluctant to cover the walls with blu-tac and prayer cards and posters as I would in my own home. However, it does have two small wooden shelves that are practically useless for holding anything.

They have become something of a focus my prayers as they contain:

My late grandfathers's freestanding crucifix.
An icon of the Virgin and Child surrounded by the Apsotles that my parents brought back from Poland for me.
My St Michael prayer card (given to be by DH's 91 yr old auntie)
My small plastic statue of St Rita minus halo (she lost it when we were rewired a few years ago)
My late grandfather's wormhole ridden Missale Romanum given to him by his Latin teacher in Ipoh when he converted to the Faith in 1930. This contains various memorial cards for the deceased.
Next to this is a small rosary belonging to my late maternal grandmother and next to that is a small wooden statue of Our Lady given to me by my paternal grandmother.

The display forms a good focus for prayers and constant a reminder of prayers for the living and the dead around the world.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

meme thing

AR has tagged me for my "quirks". I'm sure my DH could think of others, but these are the ones that come off the top of my head.

Da rulz R as shown below, but I don't like rules so consider yourself tagged if you want to be:

1. Link the person(s) who tagged you
2. Mention the rules on your blog
3. Tell about 6 unspectacular quirks of yours
4. Tag 6 fellow bloggers by linking them
5. Leave a comment on each of the tagged blogger’s blogs letting them know they’ve been tagged

Here goes:

(1) I love crows. They are an much maligned bird and given the correct circumstances they have some pretty disgusting habits, but don't we all...It is currently a good job I do like them as one has taken to tapping on our window at 6 am each morning...I couldn't ask for a better alarm clock.

(2) I always tend to pick physical solutions to problems rather than chemical ones e.g fly swat rather than fly spray, leg warmers for night cramps rather than quinine.

(3) I really dislike TV and film period adaptations and spend most of the time moaning at the telly when they have costume and hair styles all wrong.

(4) My sneezes waken the dead.

(5) I dislike technology; cars must have wind-down windows not electric ones, my mobile will only send and receive calls, I refuse to have one that will do more than that.

(6) I finish off other peoples' sentences whilst they are still speaking...and I really dislike it when I do this...

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Well, we've now moved house! We managed to find somewhere reasonably cheap but in the countryside. DH has got used to hearing owls at night and talking about ferrets with the locals...he'd struggle to be back in a large town. We're pretty exhausted after the unpacking and de-spidering.

Thank you all for your prayers. You remain in mine.

God Bless

Friday, 15 August 2008

Someone's turned gravity up...

The contrast between the sublime covenant between God and his creation that is manifest in the Feast of the Assumption, and the crud in our daily life just couldn't be greater. It is as if the gravitational field strength on Earth has increased to Jovian proportions, keeping us well and truly glued to the mundane, the irritating and the soulless.

(1) Banks remove money from your account instantly, why does it take them 4 working days to get funds into your account? What are they doing with the money in the mean time? Could a good Catholic girl's money (or lack of it) be being used to finance drug companies involved in contraception or armament sales or worse.....

(2) You cancel a standing order with an insurance company, they charge you £8 for doing so even though their insurance won't cover your change of circumstance.

(3) You set up a direct debit to pay an insurance company, they charge you £60 for doing this as a direct debit rather than paying in one lump sum. They say it is to cover inflation: running at 13% ?!, go tell it to the marines!!!!

(4) Water rates....don't talk to me about water rates.....

(5)You are moving to another Diocese, just as infatuated as your last with Parish teams and collaborative ministries and committees, crap clip art and "seeking". You just want a parish where the Sacraments are available and reverently ministered, where there may be a chance of Exposition, Benediction and the rosary, where the church has a confessional.....

Your bloghost will be taking a week off whilst the move is under way. No, we have not sold our current house, don't ask how we are funding this....
Love to you all, you remain in my prayers,
Rita
xxx

Monday, 11 August 2008

Why go to Mass?

I recall a few years ago hearing a 70+ yr old revert to the Church (he'd been away from her for 50 years) trying to persuade some of the other men at the Catholic Club to go back to Mass. The men were grumbling that Mass was boring and they couldn't see why they should go, they didn't feel any different for not going, God hadn't smited them.....

Our zealous revert retorted with "Well shaving's boring, but you still have to do it."



Whilst it may not be the most convincing argument, it does hit on a few important facts. Firstly obedience - we have to, the Church tells us that we should go each Sunday. In a "me me" world, obedience is difficult, you will get a "But why?" and as your answer to that is not good enough a "prove it" will triumphantly be exclaimed. You will have no answers that will convince...Convincing a waverer of the importance of obedience is like convincing the child who has yet to burn themselves on a hot plate not to touch it.

Christ proclaimed "Do this in memory of me" at the Last Supper. We want to remember those we love, we should attend Mass as the greatest possible memorial of His death and resurrection.

Yes, but Christ didn't say go each week, put up with over long sermons and in-jokes from priests over chummy with the great and good in the front pew.

This brings me onto the second point made by my zealous revert. Routine. Consider our human selves; in adult life, prone to grow hair where it isn't wanted and lose it where it is wanted, we need grooming. If we leave ourselves to the tender mercies of all the world has to offer, surely our souls can become bedraggled and develop plenty of "unwanted hair". Mass, even if you feel unable to attend communion, even if your faith is flagging (especially if your faith is flagging because your effort is like the widow's mite) , must be good for your soul. Making the effort to leave the house, join others, trying to focus on the supernatural, loving Jesus and doing as he asked.....your soul will gain strength even if you can't feel the benefit.

St Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:8:
let us put on faith and love for a breastplate, and hope of salvation for a helmet.

When we lose our faith, or it starts to waver, we can still have love as a breastplate protecting our own hearts (love Jesus and do what he says even if you can't feel where it is going).

Protect our heads with the helmet of hope of salvation. All our rational thoughts and difficulties need prioritising, St Paul is not asking us to believe in salvation, just hope for it....Hope is expectation and desire.

What better thing to desire than heaven?

Mass should be a foretaste of the banquet of heaven, it may often seem to fall far short, this collectively is our fault, the fault of the Church, for not desiring heaven enough.

Please read terry Nelsons post here for further help.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

The Transfiguration

I love this feast! I can bore people stupid with why I think it is so wonderful.



Is not the reaction of Peter so human and understandable? Here is something truly extraordinary, brilliant and glorious, we want it to last as long as possible. Peter suggests shelters for Moses, Elijah and Our Lord to encourage them to stay. How many times have we been before the Blessed Sacrament and wanted it to last and last, even when our concentration wanders we feel we could live and die before the monstrance.

Look who is present, Moses, the giver of the Law and Elijah, the prophet who tugs at our sympathies and is hard not to think of as a great hero. Notice who isn't present: no Abraham, no David, no Aaron. No Father of the Nations, no King, no High Priest....but they ARE there as the Transfigured Christ. This is deep stuff, I can meditate on it for some time....

Then the Father call to them "This is my Son, the beloved; he enjoys my favour. Listen to him". Peter, James and John are overcome with fear when they truly realise what is before them. If we really felt the presence of the Almighty in the Eucharist, we'd approach on our bellies, if we dared approach at all. All those bold promises made before the Blessed Sacrament are as straw. Who were we kidding? Our concept of the Divine is truly pathetic, if the Almighty really did make his full presence felt, we'd probably die of fear before Him, as I doubt we have the strength of Peter, James and John.

Then Jesus comes to them gently, tells them to stand up and not to be afraid. The vision is gone. Jesus enters our pathetic little world and puts the stabilisers back on our bicycles, we're not ready for riding on two wheels just yet.

Few have the strength for a full beatific vision, how many of us would really desire it. There seems to be a connection between sensing God in his majesty and accompanying Christ on his journey to calvary. We're cowards. If we think about it we couldn't handle being united with Christ on the cross, crying out in agony "My God, my God why have you forsaken me?". Many of the Saints have done just this.

Absorb the majesty of this Feast and be prepared to love and follow Christ in the way that is best for our salvation, the way he desires us to follow him. Remember, he gave his own Blessed Mother to the youngest of those there present, the one who was at the foot of the cross. We are all treated with the utmost gentleness.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Was this the aim of the Lambeth Conference?



Actually I find all the goings-on tragic, it is just that I can't see what else they were trying to do. Very sad, very sad.

Thursday, 31 July 2008

This made me laugh

There is a blog called God in All Things , hosted by Fr Eugene Lobo SJ, it just contains a series of little stories with a moral twist, the sort of thing that is very useful for school assemblies.

The most recent one here, hit a nerve.

Essentials

Due to the fact we are supposed to the moving, should anyone buy our house, I have been thinking about what essentials are actually necessary to carry around with one. Wardrobe essentials and kitchen essentials are easy, I'm not a fan of gadgets and I have a very conservative colour scheme with clothes so it is quite easy to trim the wardrobe down. More difficult is the book essentials and rather than bore you with my essential, "must have" physics/teaching collection, I thought I'd ponder my essential books for evangelisation. By evangelisation, I mean the proclamation of the Faith and the Gospels in whatever random situation you may find yourself in, not necessarily formal catechisis. The teaching/evangelisation that happens when talking with friends or colleagues or neighbours, the teaching that happens just by the way you handle a particular difficult situation and those involved know you are a Catholic. You may well have a different set of essentials, I'd be interested to know.

Here goes:

(1) the Bible: pretty obvious really and on the whole the RSV Catholic Edition is a readable and accessible translation.
(2) My prayer life would be much poorer without the Douay Rheims/ Challoner translation of the Psalms. I don't think any evangelisation can take place if you don't have an active prayer life. Prayer books and the Office are essentials but I assume their use and have not included them in the list.
(3)The Catechism of the Catholic Church: I love this tome! Originally I mistyped this and wrote I live this, it is inspirational and I do try.
(4) Humanae Vitae: Own it, read it, know it
(5) The Theology of the Body Made Simple- Anthony Percy (gracewing):Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body is vast, but this slim little volume nicely extracts the essentials. I think its contents should be known.
(6)God is Near Us- Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Ignatius Press): Some inspirational teaching on the Eucharist is vital and I personally have got a lot out of this book that I have passed on.
(7) The Stripping of the Altars- Eamon Duffy (Yale): This essentials shelf is getting a bit heavy and this book is the same weight as the Catechism, but I do think this book is one worth getting to grips with if there are wavering Anglicans in you life. By dealing with the history of ordinary worship in England from 1400-1580 it shows just how Catholic we were and how similar these people were to ourselves. Profoundly; it shows how the entire life of an ordinary person was totally consumed in living out the faith. How prayer and intercession were so important, how the relationship between the living and the dead was essential, how earthy and sensible the faith was as well as being sacred and mysterious. There are so many stories to tell from it that may just get people thinking....
(8) A book on some figure from recent Catholic history who made a difference by doing something extraordinary, counter cultural and brave because of his/her faith. I'm a big fan of the founder of Aid to the Church in Need so I have Fr Werenfried- A Life by Joanna Bogle (Gracewing). A useful book to retell inspiring snippets from.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

'If with all your hearts ye truly seek Me, ye shall ever surely find Me.' Thus saith our God. Oh! that I knew where I might find Him, that I might even come before His presence! Obadiah - Mendelssohn's Elijah



Not sung to perfection (the 1957 Huddersfield Choral/Malcolm Sargent takes some beating), but still one of the most beautiful arias ever written.

BTW: DH is still jobless, we can't sell our house, we have no money and we need to move! Good innit? Modern living sucks! Strangely though, I don't care...not sure where God is taking us, but something is happening for the better. Thank you for your continued prayers. Please say one for Autumn Rose too, I worry about that girl. Be assured you are all in my prayers tonight.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Newish Jolly Good Blogs

Traffic is definitely having a Summertime lull and some of my favourite bloggers seem to be having some well earned time off. Nevertheless, there are some reet good reads out there that I've been meaning to add some new blogs to the side bar for some time.

Southern and Catholic is a fine convert with some good things to say though seems to feel she's broadcasting into a vacuum, pay her a visit please!

Ponte Sisto Philip's new blog is excellent and already winning hearts and minds with his gentle style and good grace.

I need to slap myself soundly round the head and shoulders for omitting Maggie Clitheroe and Mrs Pea from the list.

Kirk is busy having a holiday at the moment but a worthy blog nevertheless.

Bangor to Bobbio is an excellent clerical blog our Catholic Mom of 10 linked to some time back, it is well worth a read.

Please, please visit Iesus Hominum Salvator, Rob's blog is a real gem and he's like to know people are out there, keep him in your prayers.

The Hound of Heaven seems to roam the same part of the world as me, I wonder if our paths have crossed?

The Scottish Catholic Teuchtar is where I dream of being.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Heaven (3)

Sort of in reply to Irene's last comment....

Whilst God can do what he likes, what is certain is that we are to believe in the resurrection of the body, and towards this we are prone to be as incredulous as Thomas the Apostle. The resurrection of the body is like aniseed to the hound for a physicist! The miraculous nature on the resurrection of the body is not the problem: as a scientist one wishes to dispel superstition, one can cope with the unexplainable, things that are not easily expressed in words, one is happy/delighted that miracles exist. No, what will fascinate the physicist is that matter is fundamental to our relationship with God. The flesh is solid and tangible, matter has volume and density, light interacts with matter, solid objects bounce off each other....

In his book States of Matter, States of Mind, Allan Barton argues that the number of possible states of matter is limited only by our ability to perceive them. There are a myriad of ways of describing matter, some are more suited to a particular purpose than others. The key thing is we really don't know what matter is. This stuff of my fingers and the keyboard that feels so solid as I type is actually mainly empty space; the gap between the nucleus of an atom and its orbiting electrons is equivalent to the gap between the sun and the earth. Solid stuff melts away as you try to explain it. The physicist is not looking for a definitive description of "reality", just a model that might work in a few particular cases. A heaven made of matter is just begging to be imagined and modeled by our inadequate brains in such a way that it is consistent with descriptions in Revelation and elsewhere.

Is this a worthy pursuit? I think so. God has allowed science to develop as far as it has. I for one am glad I live when I do (even though DH often says I'd have been much happier in the 15th century). Superstition has been eroded, this is a good thing, the medieval world may have had beautiful and holy devotions and a stronger sense of the sacred but this coincided with a strong belief in fortune telling, portents, astrology and alchemy. Unfortunately, science has set itself up an explainer of all and a destroyer of the sacred as well as the destroyer of superstition. Ironically, science itself in isolation, as a pursuit on its own is unreasonable. Its claims for total objectivity are simply wrong as we can never be totally objective, it can not be removed from the human condition.

I am increasingly worried by those who move away from their faith and embrace the romanticism of the early 19th century, finding all that is good and true in the natural world. They claim to experience God in His creation, but the God that is intimate to their lives and their person is missing. They say there is nothing more spiritual than being at one with nature. They tangibly grasp at a heaven on earth as revealed in the wondours of God's creation.


from Mark Meyer Photography

Such people are sincere and plentiful and their ideas have permeated our ways of thinking. We are so unwilling to grasp the intimacy with which God calls each and everyone of us. We are so unwilling to grasp our interconnectedness with our fellow human beings. We fail to acknowledge that our salvation is intrinsically linked to that of our fellows. We see ourselves as tarnishers of the created world rather than its stewards. Ultimately, we don't like ourselves very much. Nature is much better, we've screwed things up.

Surely the best remedy for such stinking thinking is to fully meditate on what God has in store for us, the creatures of flesh and blood the Son died to save? Surely, in our humility and in full knowledge of our total reliance on Him, God has given us the mind and senses to tangibly sense a little something of its glories?

Monday, 21 July 2008

Heaven (2)

Warning, there may be some physics in this post.

Then the angel showed me the river of life, rising from the throne of God and of the Lamb and flowing crystal-clear. Down the middle of the city street, on either bank of the river were trees of life, which bear twelve crops of fruit a year, one in each month, and the leaves of which are the cure for the nations.

The curse of destruction will be abolished.
The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city; his servants will worship him, they will see him face to face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. And night will be abolished; they will not need lamplight or sunlight, because the Lord God will be shining on them. They will reign for ever and ever.

Rev 22:1-5


The new Jerusalem is/will be timeless and eternal. However, those there present will have some notion of time. They will sense the flowing of the river and the ripening of the fruit on the trees of life. This would suggest that the inhabitants of this wonderous place are not in a state of perpetual ecstacy. Surely such a permanently heightened state would prevent one from experiencing much other than that state.

The notion of time we have due to the relative motion of the earth and the sun is entirely missing. It is almost as if the time experienced is entirely liturgical, mapped out for the worship of God.

Does time still have an arrow? Does time still point in one direction? We experience such a time, it is all bound up with the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which was succinctly explained by Bertrand Russell as "you can't unscramble eggs". Processes are irreversable, you can't having cooked an egg, un-cook it. My guess is heaven is not governed by the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The Second Law involves the creation of heat energy that is then wasted as it can't be turned into anything useful with 100% efficiency. The Second Law involves decay and the relentless march of time. With no Second Law present, our bodies would know no decay. There will be no irreversable chemical reactions and that also means no cooking! There is also every possibility that we can eat, and that "food" is transferred into useful energy with 100% efficiency. No waste products would be produced, our food is that which is needed to give us back the energy that we may have expended in our prayers and worship, through our senses and perhaps being chased by the odd playful cherub. Nor does it negate the fact that this food is divine in origin and very special, it is not just about transpiration, it is about Communion.

I assume that the First Law of Thermodynamics still holds (that the total amount of energy is conserved)though it doesn't have to! I don't think the Zeroth and the Third are particularly relevant to my mad ramblings.

So, in heaven I guess time moves on liturgically, which is both circular and linear. There is no entropy and no decay. The experience of time becomes a sensual thing only.

Praying here on earth, to partake in beautiful liturgy with the utmost sincerity and concentration, has to be our surest way of hungering for the gifts of heaven. That type of hunger just has to be healthy. I think I can sell that to teenagers! It beats contemplating images of heaven where everyone is holding hands and singing hymns.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Heaven (1)

We are required to meditate upon the Four Last Things (Death, Judgment, Heaven & Hell)by our Faith. Indeed, Faith without eschatology is staggeringly one dimensional and of necessity utterly earth bound. It becomes living by the Golden Rule of "Doing unto others as you would have them do unto you", it goes virtually no further. Why then do so many seem reluctant to embrace the Four Last Things? Perhaps, one of the ironies of living surrounded by this suffocating culture of death (abortion, contraception, euthanasia, war & violence) is that we are becoming increasingly blind to the true nature of death and death as God intended.

My musings on Heaven are legitimate but I can in no way claim to have any real insights. My training as a physicist often leads me to think of different possibilities of different worlds with different laws. As someone often in the company of young people who ask me about heaven, it is something I feel I have to meditate on, it can be very hard to sell heaven to teenagers.

My main motivation however was a modern "doom painting" in a convent chapel in S Spain. The nuns had painted it themselves and the heavenly host were all lanky, androgynous types with short cropped hair. Personally, I don't want to be in a heaven where everyone looks like k.d lang in a nightie, it looked like a vision of hell! Am I missing something here?


Heavenly...?

Our most fruitful meditations on heaven surely come from our relationship with the Eucharist and by meditation on the Transfiguration. It is from these sources that I want to get to grips with questions like: What will our bodies be like in heaven? Will we eat? Will there be animals? What will we do? What will we feel?

I will write more later, but we're off dh's job interview this evening, say one for us..