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.


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?


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..

Friday, 18 July 2008

Skoolz out for Summer

Ahh, I'm done with school! Can someone explain why the rowan trees in the car park are full of berries? They're not supposed to have any till September and the start of the new school year, it's all very creepy...bring on the new job.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

To the wouldbe distributor of nasty latex products at WYD

Driving to work this morning, the nice lady news reader on Radio 3 announced that people now have the right to harass Catholics at Sydney's World Youth Day, because if they didn't it would be an infringement of their human rights. So the right to distribute contraception outside the venue as a protest towards the Church and its teachings has been established. The newsreader went on to say that WYD was the Pope's way of spreading the word about global warming. I was getting cross at this point, so used my time to compose an imaginary reply to a fictitious condom distributor at the event. This was hastily written at work before the network crashed and I had to find something important to do, here it is.

Say Dude,

Just what is it with these things? Nasty, smelly, slimey things. What are they for? You tell me they prevent the spread of disease. But they are not as effective as the way promoted by our Papa. You tell me they are about safe sex. Let me tell you that we're not interested in that. We are interested in love. Papa wants us to have a good healthy loving relationship with our life partner through the sacrament of marriage, that is one place where true love is found and the only home of the sexual act. You can't tell me anything about that. Can you tell me anything about chastity? Can you tell me about how we are all to live continent lives and not give in to base urges and desires? Do you understand about love for your fellow man that never reveals itself in the sexual act?

So, just how many men is it that can't use them? 20%, 30%...or higher? They are no panacea, they create a whole heap of problems. We Catholics have freed ourselves from their false logic. It is clever of you to make men feel ashamed because they can't sustain anything when strangulated by a piece of latex. Come off it, these things kill passion. Admit it, it's like having a bath with your socks on.

Respectfully, Dude, leave us alone or rid yourself to these things, join us and find out about true love.


Monday, 14 July 2008

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Years ago, when I used to work in a Sixth Form College, we'd have broken up for the Summer holidays by now and this would mean DH, myself and my intrepid MIL would be valiantly exploring the parched, staggeringly beautiful and vast region of Andalucia (S Spain). This would be a cheap holiday as other relatives had a flat out there we could use and I'd usually cook all the meals (Lancashire folk just can't get their stomachs round to eating when the Spanish eat).

We'd be there for the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and also take in the feast days of St Martha and St Mary Magdalene. The fishermen on the coast have a big devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Her statue can be seen being taken for a boat ride and a stroll along the prom at many of the coastal towns. It seems strange that the vision of a medieval English friar has left such a massive mark on people so very removed from the time and the place of St Simon Stock.

The fishermen want her protection. Most of the fishermen I have seen take part in these processions are hard looking men whose eyes are red and narrow from too much salt. There is great devotion and reverence, even in the brashest holiday destinations. The photos here are taken from other sites, I still don't use a digital camera and I dislike scanners, if anyone recognises one of their picture and wants credit or wants me to take them down, I will do so. There were no credits attached.

Though I've mentioned before that I often struggle to feel Our Lady in my life, I never tire of looking at Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The Virgen del Carmen watches me from above my desk. She is of the earth, she is dressed in brown, she is a direct link back to the Prophets, she is veiled, yet she wears a crown and she and her Son together offer us the scapular (such powerful battle dress for those that take up the devotion).

I am the mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope. Ecclesiasticus 24- from the Mass of the Feast

This is my last week in my current place of work. I really don't want to be there after all that has happened, I'm ready to go. DH still has to find permanent work, we still have to sell this house, these are not good times! I've never been one for believing in "better times around the corner", we have to live in the present, but it is all rather uncertain and tiresome at the moment.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

It's just a phase we're going through...

What with Autumn Rose putting an Iron Maiden video on her blog, I thought it was about time I shared my misspent youth with you. The Chamelelons are often referred to as "the best band nobody has ever heard of". They were doing their thing in N Manchester in the early 1980s and were a brilliant live act. Ah, happy days...The song here is "Monkeyland" and it still sends shivers down my spine. A tale about trying to cope with the "triviality of everydayness"...I'm still no better than I was as a teenager with "everydayness", it still feels like an optical illusion to me.

Listening again to all this did make some emotions come to the surface. What was so good about this band was their ordinaryness and blokeyness, they had no image and this is probably why they could never be a cash cow for a big record company, though some big names did try. Their songs were about the terror of being part of the machine (they were quite influenced by Pink Floyd) and back in the 1980s it was easy enough to relate to those fears. Those fears haven't gone away either. I did not try to find solace from it all in the cod philosophy of idiots like Morrissey and the Smiths. I just immersed myself in books and physics and walking for miles and miles round Manchester, trying to make sense of it all. I sometimes wonder if I was not far from some sort of breakdown, because I found solace in the buildings, the terracotta man leaning against the chimney stack with his axe, the carvings of animals and castles, the coloured tiles and marble, and the cast iron . These decaying Victorian warehouses spoke of a world where things did not have to be functional, where people did things because they could, to brighten up the dull and mundane. I'm still kicking against functionalism, I'm still kicking against the machine. Luckily I've grown to realise most people feel much the same, the isolation associated with being a teenager is horriffic and mercifully transitory. The anger about being fashioned into a working unit amongst other working units, the fear of becoming dehumanised; that is very real!

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Because of the Angels

For your general interest, here are some headcoverings from diverse Christian communities. We seem to have forgotten just how natural it is for women to cover up. It has only taken a generation or two, for this to happen.

Mennonite head coverings like the one shown below can be found here. The site also contains handy hints for keeping them on your head.

More really fine coverings from a Christian site in the US "She maketh herself coverings" like the one shown below, here. Scroll down the page, it's not an easy to navigate site.

"Lilies of the Field" provide some scary modest clothing, but some delightful, understated veils, here

Or if you want something altogether more Catholic looking, try the easy wear mantilla (see below) from Halo Works, here.

Then again, there are some staggeringly beautiful (see below)Spanish mantillas here from "Blooming Veils"

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Subtle and profound differences

Mac has been musing on single-sex education here and I have to say I much prefer teaching boys and girls separately. Boys rush headlong into things without thinking, girls are timid starters but much more methodical once they get going. How do you keep a mixed class going, catering for two such different needs? Slow the boys down and they loose interest, push the girls and they will sometimes become even more timid. Naturally, this isn't always the case, these differences are not absolute. However, if for no other reason than the faster biological/sexual maturity of girls over boys, in my opinion it is a very good idea to keep their classes apart.

Since getting back from the Eucharistic Congress, Joe has posted some thoughts from the participants.
I am still meditating on the comments Joe noted off one of the participants:

Reflecting on the Eucharist as a memorial in the sense of the Jewish liturgy, we could encourage boys to use the words of St Thomas when he recognised Jesus after his Resurrection,"My Lord and my God", as their prayer of adoration just after the consecration at Mass. Girls could be encouraged to use the greeting of Mary Magdalen when she recognised Jesus in the garden on the morning of the Resurrection: "Rabboni". (Cardinal Barbarin)

The differences there are so subtle yet so beautiful. Reaching out to Our Lord as Thomas or reaching out to Our Lord as Mary Magdalene, both were granted such special favours from God, one so utterly masculine, the other so utterly feminine. Sometimes it is best not to make a list of what makes little boys and what makes little girls becuase if you do you'll only end up with stereotypes. Sometimes it is best just to put yourself into the heart of the Gospel and just dwell there just as God made you.

When you've spent some time with Thomas and Mary Magdalene, try Peter and Martha and their professions of Faith.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

The Lass with the Ferret

I've been asked about the lady who graces my side bar. The painting is by Leonardo da Vinci and is called "Lady with Ermine". The furry mammal is quite clearly a ferret so the painting is misnamed. Personally I think it is a brilliant portrait, the sitter is decidedly enigmatic, beautiful and lively. What is all the fuss over the Mona Lisa?

The painting is on my side bar because I like it, the same reason Zurbaran's pots grace the top of the blog. I make no claims about knowing anything about the sitter, Wiki has some possible answers.

Incidentally ferrets are brilliant little animals, but you have to give them the stimulation you would provide a dog, they can not be treated like rabbits and left in cages. In fact, let them do what they were bred to do and snuff out rabbits, they are efficient little hunters and do the job far better than traps or poison. They have more personality than cats and are less vain and selfish.

Just promise me, if you ever own a ferret, NEVER dress it up.