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 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 is basic 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 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.