Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Shakespeare and the Catholic Faith

Whilst brain is in functioning mode, I’ve been doing my own rumination over the question of whether Shakespeare was a Catholic. Others have alluded to the research done that suggests he was in Rome in the period prior to his surfacing as a major playwright in England in 1591-1592, supporting his Roman orientation.

I remain skeptical and would suggest that Shakespeare probably agonised long and hard over whether to remain a Catholic, but I am yet to be convinced that he died a Catholic.

What really fascinates me are the three plays he chose to put on at the Rose on the south bank of the Thames in this period around 1591. They are the three plays about Henry VI. Note that at this time Edmund Spencer was publishing his Faerie Queene and all righteous England was in love with good queen Bess, unless of course you were a Catholic or had Puritan tendencies. It must be remembered that Henry VII had very nearly succeeded in getting his ancestor Henry VI beatified. His grave in Windsor was certainly a major destination for pilgrims up to the Reformation, he had a love for the poor and was famous for his acts of charity. Henry VI was an overtly pious king, whose record as king looks bleak. He lost France, got the country into horrid levels of debt and “started” a civil war. He is not really the sort of figure to be glorified in drama during the reign of Elizabeth. He was not a success by any measure of success that most Elizabethans would recognise.

Perhaps in the collective psyche of the covert Catholics of Elizabethan England Henry VI did embody something they could relate to. His faith was the most central thing in his life, he lacked ambition and any ounce of ruthlessness. He was surrounded by many who were far more scheming than him and he was perhaps easily manipulated. There is a theme in the three plays that strong (true?) faith leads to earthly failure.

However the plays are not a hagiography. They were obviously quite watchable for any of Elizabeth’s subjects (who liked plays) and indeed the very pro-Establishment Thomas Nashe even goes as far as recommending one of them in his Pierce Penilesse. These plays are not intended to be acts of sedition, yet nor are they anti-Catholic like much of the pro-Establishment literature of the time. Henry is never made to look a fool because of his faith. There is a corrupt Cardinal in the shape of Henry Beaufort, but the Church itself is not seen as corrupt.

I see Shakespeare more as a philosopher, trying to reach as many as possible with balanced tales that delve deep into the psychology of the times. For him to have overtly take sides would have meant him having to obscure universal truths about human nature.

For example, try reading Sonnet 26 as Shakespeare’s “protestation” of his Catholic faith, a faith he loves but does not wish to die for. It works for me, but then I’m no scholar.

Lord of my love, to whom in vassalage
Thy merit hath my duty strongly knit,
To thee I send this written embassage,
To witness duty, not to show my wit:
Duty so great, which wit so poor as mine
May make seem bare, in wanting words to show it,
But that I hope some good conceit of thine
In thy soul's thought, all naked, will bestow it;
Till whatsoever star that guides my moving
Points on me graciously with fair aspect
And puts apparel on my tatter'd loving,
To show me worthy of thy sweet respect:
Then may I dare to boast how I do love thee;
Till then not show my head where thou mayst prove me.

Monday, 28 December 2009

The lights are on ....

....but who is home?

This post is about trying to blog in 2009. It hasn’t been easy.

I’ll put no hyperlinks in this post, you know who you are.

Some bloggers have just vanished. Perhaps they have too much work to do? Perhaps they have nothing to say? I don’t know, but I do know that often the busier you are the more the blog posts flow. I know I miss these bloggers.

Some bloggers have left and said goodbye. They are missed too, but they have their reasons for saying farewell.

Some bloggers have simply had a dreadful year and real life has overwhelmed them and made blogging difficult.

To all of you, my heartfelt prayers.

I myself have had a difficult year for many reasons. I am trying to continue blogging but it is not easy. However, it is often just about the only real witness I can give to my faith. This is sad. But in my job, there is so much compromise between what I am and what I am employed to do, that beyond seeing it as a way to keep a roof over my head, it is far from being a calling. I need to blog to reconcile the contemplative life within me to the active life that others see me in. It helps form a bridge between the two.

My active spiritual life is always centred round my marriage. The other aspects of it this year have mainly revolved around the dying and the dead.

What is missing is a broader feeling of community with living breathing Catholics. Yup, I know this should come through my parish, but it doesn’t. They also, rightly centre their apostolate around their families and those they care for. But being English, we are all so tight a**ed, about involving each other, helping each other, asking each other to pray for us and our needs, helping each other be obedient to Holy Mother Church. Also in a rural community like ours, the next nearest parishioners are 4 miles away, it isn’t a tight knit community.

Bizarrely, it is the internet, where you can let your guard down, be vulnerable, ask for support. It is easier on-line to find and express the caritas that is so hard to grasp in the muddled world outside.

However my lack of posts recently is due to two things, firstly, whatever is wrong with me is making thinking difficult and typing takes forever. I have to write everything in Word first and re read it many times because putting sense in to words is so difficult for me at the moment. Secondly, the whole Irish Abuse Scandal hurts deeply. I have reasonable credentials to be Irish, I was born in Dublin and Baptised in St. Andrews on Westland Row, but I just don’t feel Irish. The hurt comes from the real sense of damage the whole thing has done to the mystical Body of Christ, through the sheer number of souls that are affected. Such a betrayal of Jesus has taken place that we are all wounded. The staggering silence (from a pastoral perspective) from our own hierarchy only adds to the sense of how fallen we are.

I have been wanting to scream the Safeguarding policies, screening and enhanced disclosures will NOT protect us from evil, only prayer and fasting will do that.

Maybe it is just better to shut up.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

This is one of the most beautiful confessions of Faith I have read. It is long, but worth it. I urge you to read it too.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Homo Factus Est

I am an avid reader of Faith magazine. I like the depth of issues covered and I think the whole Faith organisation is worthy of supporting. However that doesn't mean I agree one bit with their basic philosophy. I had penned a letter to their editor about my misgivings, but I feel far from brainy enough to get involved with this on a theological level (I got cold feet about sending my letter) and would therefore be grateful if someone could assist me in my meandering thoughts via this little blog.

This post of mine certainly doesn't intend to be a "my idea of the Trinity is better that your idea of the Trinity" post. I would however dearly like some clarification on the Scotist idea that Christ was predestined to come into the world before the creation of the universe and ...Christ would have become incarnate even if there had been no sin to give us the fullness of salvation and grace that we need (words taken from the editorial). I must be a Thomist because I find the second part of this statement worrying.

I would like to pose some questions in regards to this statement.

Should Christ become incarnate and be revealed to an unfallen Adam, the first question I ask is why this didn’t actually happen anyway? One is assuming the cosmological battles have already begun between the angels and fallen angels. When Adam arrives, surely the appearance of an Incarnate Christ to guide him away from the wiles of the Devil would have been a good thing. God obviously didn’t deem this necessary, after all it is God that gave us freewill.

Unfallen humanity did not know death. Death is a scandal, it is the separation of the eternal soul from the body. Sinless man was meant to be assumed intact into heaven when the earthly body grew tired, as happened to the Immaculate Conception. Christ in an unfallen world would be subject to the same rules as the other creatures who were without sin, and as he wouldn’t have got murdered, he would have known old age. Being incarnate means being subject to the constraints of time. How can we justify Christ knowing old age? How could He be around for all, locked into one earthly lifetime as God made Man?

I simply don't get the concept that Christ's coming would still be necessary in a sinless world to provide us with the fullness of salvation and grace. We wouldn’t need saving if we were sinless, or am I missing something?

The Incarnation has to be a unique event. If always destined to happen, but happening in an unfallen world, how would God have chosen/crafted his handmaid?

The editorial goes on to suggest that we should reach out to scientists with the Cosmic Christ as opposed to Christ Our Redeemer. Reaching out to scientists with the eternal, cosmic Christ seems somehow silly if the rest of the population find Christ primarily through His passion (love, suffering and death), why should Scientists be steered away from engaging with Christ Crucified? Seriously, I do worry that the Cosmic Christ is just not lovable. We are fallen beings and we love Christ as our Saviour. It is the only way we can begin to grasp at the pure love that flows from and through the Trinity. Our perspectives and feelings are inherently part of the world we live in.

The Physicist Earnest Rutherford once said, all science is either Physics or stamp collecting. Surely Adam, before he was exiled from Eden, was the first stamp collector. Adam was happy and content to be naming things in the garden, well botanist rather than stamp collector, but it really is the same thing. Questions of why and wherefrom, would not have occurred to him. He was a cataloger and gardener. I wish to argue (as a Physicist myself) that natural philosophy (physics) is a product of the Fall. It is our exile from the garden makes us feel the need to put purpose into our existence, or atleast question our existence, the yearnings of the natural philosopher are not the yearnings of an unfallen creature. Therefore pure science is a human construct to try to grasp some understanding of the created universe. This would imply theologians should engage with scientists through their combined lack of understanding.

Whilst I would unswervingly support the movement to promote the primacy of Christ in Creation. Is it not the case that because as we are poor, frail beings, destined to die, trapped by gravity and time, we simply can not get close to the Cosmic Christ, though He is just that, we will only meet Him through His Passion, that is the whole of His encounter with the fallen world?

Saturday, 21 November 2009


Our first meeting with the great prophet Elias has always fascinated me and as the rooks and jackdaws swarm around the nearby fields in their thousands, I am reminded again of this tale.

And Elias the Thesbite of the inhabitants of Galaad said to Achab: As the Lord liveth the God of Israel, in whose sight I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to the words of my mouth. And the word of the Lord came to him, saying:Get thee hence, and go towards the east and hide thyself by the torrent of Carith, which is over against the Jordan, 4 And there thou shalt drink of the torrent: and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there. 5 So he went, and did according to the word of the Lord: and going, he dwelt by the torrent Carith, which is over against the Jordan.

6 And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening, and he drank of the torrent.
3 Kings 17

It is the ravens* in the tale that gnaw away at my thoughts.

The prophet had given the wicked king Achab (Ahab) a terrifying prophecy and no doubt the prophet’s life was in danger. God tells the prophet where to hide. The place had a welcome supply of fresh water but was obviously in a barren bit of country. The absence of food is relieved by God commanding the ravens to feed him there.

Was ever a bird more vilified? He is a nasty brute, he waits for lambs to emerge from their mother and will peck their eyes out so that they die a horrible, slow death. The destroyed newborn is then the raven’s food.

The raven, being a lover of carrion, would have been about as unclean as an animal can get to a God fearing prophet. Did Elias secretly say to himself, Oh Lord, why couldn’t you have chosen some other creature to provide me with sustenance?

But God never does anything without a firm purpose. The raven is absolutely necessary to the tale, methinks.

God needed his prophet and loved his prophet dearly. In order to do the miracles he performs in the future like raising the widow’s son to life and smacking down the prophets of Baal, Elias needed to be totally humble and submissive to the will of God. Receiving food from ravens would be a test of total humility. Any speck of righteous indignation that may have been driving Elias to counter the plans of queen Jezebel in the past would be erased in this one penitential act.

Is it not the case that sometimes we must acknowledge we are sustained by creatures we may find repugnant? Is it time to ditch our indignation? Could this in some way be a necessary part of our growing calling towards the Lord? Remembering our own need for humility and remembering too that it is ultimately it is God who is the source of our daily bread.

Do you have ravens?

* I have read that the Hebrew word for Arab is very similar to the word for raven. The story works just as well with Arabs however.

Saturday, 14 November 2009


We’re trying to get up to Oxford for as much of the 40 Hours at the Oratory as possible. Last night, the opening Mass took place. The sermon was sombre, and so was the Gospel. Both highlighted the contrast between Our Eucharistic Lord in the silence, humility and nakedness of His death (and in the silence, humility and nakedness of His presence in the Eucharist) to the finery lavished upon the sanctuary for the occasion.

It has been so many years since Exposition left me with a warm and cosy glow and left me feeling good. Back then, going to Exposition was a sort of affirmation of how great it was to be a Catholic. I’m sure I felt a sense of superiority and smugness amongst the beauty and the candles.

Having spent many years in the wilderness of Clifton, I have craved the 40 Hours devotion. Now I have access to it again, I find not the consolation I remember from my days in the North when every parish would put it on and it was so much part of the liturgical landscape.

The truth is that Our Eucharistic Lord is silent and humble. At the Oratory, I’m afraid nearly invisible too, I can only assume the nuns are using unbleached flour when they make the altar breads but to my eyes the monstrance could have been empty. He does not speak to us from the monstrance, just like He makes no audible comment about the atrocities taking place all over the world and the countless sufferings of the poorest amongst us. We want God to speak out and condemn the vile acts committed against innocent souls all over the world, we want God to stop the sufferings of those daily faced with famine, flood and disease. We want Our Lord to love us by placing a cosy fleece blanket over us and hushing up the world.

However as adult Christians the reality is different, the love of God shows itself in the crosses to be taken up, the gaping holes in our hearts to be acknowledged, the inadequacies in our witness to the Gospels to be rectified. Our prayers never seem good enough and essentially they are not. We find it hard to pray because comfort can be missing from those prayers and we feel the absence of comfort means are prayers are worthless.

At times like these it is right to drag your body to its knees and pray before the Blessed Sacrament in pain and discomfort. Show Our Lord the chaos that surrounds your being and remember that he cannot remove this veil from us too swiftly as we are not yet ready to reveal our very nakedness before Him when it is removed.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Dear Bishops......

So treat others as you would like them to treat you; that is the Law and the Prophets
Matt 7:12

I used to have a suspicion about this saying, that after Our Lord had said all the hard stuff about planks in your eyes, He uttered this by way of saying, OK if you are not up to the difficult bits of my teaching, I can atleast appeal to your selfish nature to get you to behave nicely to each other, because nobody wants to be treated horribly by others. Interpreted in this way, the saying is bland and this contradicts all Our Lord is teaching us. This saying is primarily NOT about being nicey nicey because Our Lord always appeals to our higher nature.

Treat others as you would like them to treat you.

Replace self interest with caritas and the saying becomes significantly more profound. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we want to be treated as members of the same body, therefore the saying can be interpreted as being about the care of our bodies and souls.

Care for the spiritual and physical needs of your brothers and sisters as you would expect them to care for your spiritual and physical needs.

My dear Bishops, this has profound implications and it means that if we truly care about the souls of our fellow men, then we have a duty to point out instances where the caritas may not have been felt to be flowing as freely as it ought. In such cases all our souls are weakened as the nourishment that Christ gives us through the Church is not as effective. So, please excuse my presumption as I speak out about something I care very strongly about.

Let me provide you with a highly theoretical example. Let us suppose that there is a church in your diocese that is facing closure. You have done all the sums and the Church simply isn’t viable. The building and its presbytery are crumbling and need millions spending on them urgently. The population of the area is over 50% Muslim and the number of Catholic families is falling fast. There is a sizable Catholic population of migrant workers, none of whom contribute significantly to the collection and none of whom can be relied upon to be there year after year. What do you do. How do you go about the closure of the church?

Would you fail to meet up with the stable members of the parish to discuss the matter with them face to face? I’d hope not. Would you keep them guessing using false hope and carefully planted rumours? Surely not. Would you drop the bombshell that the church is definitely closing by announcing it at a deanery meeting without ever seeing the members of the parish concerned? No, you would not.

As we are all agreed about what not to do. Let’s now turn to what could be done.

A Catholic church is not just a building where a religious service takes place. Primarily it houses the Blessed Sacrament that is the source and summit of all we are and do. This home for the Blessed Sacrament has been lovingly cared for over the years by armies of members of the Church Militant. The have invested their care, love and income into making it a fitting place. Many of these souls can be of very modest means and devote a disproportionate amount of time and money into this sacred place.

As a Bishop, naturally you should be seen to be praying for these souls. You should be meeting with the current parishioners to decide where precious artifacts could be rehoused, and deciding what will happen to plaques in memorial chapels and such like. You would lovingly involve your brothers and sisters in Christ with the difficult and painful process of letting go but making sure that the souls of those who came closer to God through the sacraments performed in that building would long be remembered and celebrated. You would be a father to them in difficult times.

I’m glad you agree.

My dear Bishops, we have a problem. So many of us feel the weight of your paperwork more than we feel your love. We do so very much need to feel your love. At each and every Mass we pray for you, let those prayers storm heaven, let those prayers be truly heart felt rather than glib responses. We must all pray harder for you and love you more and love you unconditionally. You need our love more than ever.

I’ll finish with one quick point; nobody is likely to get to heaven because of a pronouncement a Bishop makes about Climate Change, but someone may very well come closer to heaven through the loving instruction and faithful teaching of their Bishop, their successor to the Apostles.


Sunday, 25 October 2009

Adult Education

My take on the Anglican/Catholic relationship:

Many years ago, I decided to train as a teacher in Further Education (post 16) and Adult Education. It was my most useful teacher training by far. One of the key things teachers need to know about when adults learn (that makes it quite different from when children learn), is that for adults to learn anything, there will have to be a time of unlearning and possibly considerable emotional turmoil.

Here are some things I picked up all those years ago. I use them frequently when looking at myself and in my covert evangelisation for the Faith.

(1) Adults carry attitudes, these are settled ways of thinking and behaving. In order to learn, there will often be direct conflict with these attitudes.

(2) Adults have values. We live in a world where "core values" are essential and we are constantly asked to make "value judgments". Do they have any place in our quest for the Truth? Probably not, our values are essentially "value neutral". Plunging deeper into our being to see what lies behind our values is far more important and far more painful.

(3) The motivation of an adult to learn may simply be to shore up a set of pre-conceived values and attitudes. Get them questioning these attitudes and vaules and the motivation to learn can often disappear.

(4) Adults are far more likely to personalise their involvement with their learning than children. A far greater set of painful memories, guilt and anxieties exists in adults than in children. When teaching adults, you may find they start looking for answers to problems that they have not discussed with anyone. They may seem completely off task, when really you have encouraged them to think about something painful that they may have buried deep within themselves for some considerable time. Be extremely gentle.

(5) Be wary of the well educated, articulate and well-balanced individual. Often the eloquence is an effective smoke screen to hide emotions and to act as a rational damper for all feelings. This person will probably end up hating you, and their learning will be an uncomfortable experience for themselves and for you.

So there you have it. In my twenties, I learned that adults were vulnerable, insecure individuals and that gentleness is the only way.


As the "only Papists in our village", we are feeling relationships with our neighbours are a little difficult at the moment. Resentment towards Rome simmers beneath the surface.....The Holy Spirit is always the advocate of Truth. The only way through this is with prayer and charity.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Motorway Theology

Conversation whilst driving along the M6 travelling back from Manchester.

Me: Gosh Dearest Husband, every time we drive along here they seem to be doing something else with this tarmac, this must be one of the most expensive bits of motorway in the universe.

DH: in the Universe? How can you be so sure?

Me: Oh, I’m really not happy with the idea that there are any other planets out there with life on them. So an extremely expensive stretch of tarmac on Earth will be the only one of its kind in the Universe.

DH: don’t assume to know the mind of God. He can do anything and if he wants, he will have other planets with life on them.

Me: Oh no, dearest, far be it for me to be that arrogant. Our awesome Triune God can do what he likes, much of which will blow my little brain to smithereens. No, my problem is with Our Lady. We were tempted by the serpent and we fell. To redeem us, God sent His only Son into the world to be born of a virgin. The Incarnation has to be a unique event in the Universe. There can only be one incarnation, there can only be one spotless tabernacle of the Lord, there can only be one Queen of Heaven. How can heaven have more than one Queen?

DH: Who says those on the other worlds fell like we did?

Me: Oh, I see, like we’re the black sheep of God’s children in the Universe and something a bit special was needed to redeem us. That might explain the lack of extra terrestrial visitors, we’re in quarantine.

DH: Could be.

Me: But if all the other worlds have not fallen, would they have any need for motorways?

DH: Probably not.

Me: Then this probably is one of the most expensive bits of tarmac in the Universe.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

So it is now a week since St Therese was in Oxford. I know several of you have commented on this already.

Veneration for me involved kneeling before her tomb, placing my left hand on the perspex and asking her to help me love Jesus more and more. Very simple, very sisterly, totally sincere. I then knelt at the altar rails and spent much time before the tabernacle before moving onwards to light my lamp……

I was amazed at the numbers of people who asked me (as a their token holy Joe) how they ought to venerate a relic. So many thought there would be a rigid protocol, a prescribed formula. So many seemed stunned that really, you do what you feel most comfortable doing provided you do it whilst opening up your heart to our God.

However, what is clear is that her visit represents a clear watershed. The faithful and the keen to be more faithful, have regained a sense of worth and belonging. Forget traditional and liberal divides, this was about the ordinary being so ordinary in their faith, simplicity and togetherness that it was extraordinary.

Hopefully the days when priests would not even hold Eucharistic Adoration because they couldn’t prescribe how the “punters” would “adore” during silent adoration and felt threatened by this are nearly over. The ordinary have extraordinary faith, and nobody can dictate to them how they ought to show it or feel it.

The sheer numbers (30,000) at my home cathedral of Salford left a tear in my eye. Such people deserve the best of shepherds.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Thank you ....

Thank you dear friends for your prayers and support.

I'm afraid that coming from a medical background means I'm highly cynical about aspects of the medical profession and the NHS. If we can communicate with each other and they are as objective as possible without playing at being minor deities or second rate accountants then it will be a blessing.

Our Lord is the only physician that counts! And I am going to see one of His best senior registrars, St Therese, this week.

Don't get me wrong, I haven't as yet been able to join in with the great St Therese love-in. However it has been a couple of very bizarre weeks. Despite or maybe because I find her so difficult, I decided to organise minibus for those nearby who wished to visit the relics. I'm immersing myself in things Theresian and this too is proving very difficult. I keep telling myself that she was a seeker after the truth and as truth cannot contradict truth, I must be able to find Truth through her.

Instead all I had, up till today, was a heady cloud of jealousy over her "holy daring", the unconditional love of her parents, the good Catholic childhood that she had...and everything else I could possibly be jealous over about her. It was a real inner struggle. I felt like I was one of her diabolical tormentors in her last year and I felt like a worm for being like that. I also felt extreme anger, indeed I shocked myself at how angry I felt that freeze dried rose petals were for sale at the back of the Oxford Oratory this weekend ahead of her visit. Get thee behind me, Luther.

And all the time, I've worn the mask, making sure the visit or our minibus will be a success. Organising it to make sure it will be as prayerful a visit as possible. All the time beating myself up for being a hypocrite.

Well, that cloud has lifted today.....I sincerely feel ready to visit the Oxford Oratory when she visits.

Thank you for your prayers. My illness seems currently to be irrelevant. I know what I have to concentrate on, with all my will, all my intellect and most importantly, all my heart.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Still here ....

Blogging is reluctantly on the backburner. My head is a mess and it is taking me all my time to try to keep at work and be relatively human for my husband when I get home. Only 10 days till I get to see the specialist....I'm not holding my breath.

The word for the week is "thwarted". Everything I do seems to take twice as long as it ought to and is usually full of mistakes.

Bizarrely, I'm also filling up with jealousy and rage over someone/something so totally undeserving that I feel nothing but disgust for myself. But as I was thwarted in my attempts to get to confession this morning, I will not reveal the reasons why.

Many of us seem to be facing battles at the moment. Faith, Hope and Charity will see us through.

St Michael, pray for us.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Origin of the Specious?

Once upon a time there was a little boy who did not believe in God. He grew up and became even more determined not to believe in God. So he ate some food. He did some poo. Had some sex. Paid some taxes. Died.

The End.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Dear St Therese

You are simply impossible to ignore. Has ever a woman, later to be declared a saint, been so extensively photographed? And how did that come about in the quiet, enclosed world of the Carmel? Was, indeed ever a prospective saint so imploringly photogenic? You demand attention from everyone who gazes into your eyes.

Sister, help me. We need to have a talk, you and me. It is wrong of me, I know, but I do not like you. I know that if we were together in the same convent, you would seek me out, and now more than ever, I feel we need to meet. Something attracts me to that which I find difficult, even impossible. Something attracts me increasingly to those who are so willfully stubborn in their obedience to Our Lord. The only problem is, Little Flower, I so want to see you as a small delicate bloom clinging to a sea cliff in a raging storm, but all I can picture is a demanding, needy prize dahlia. My assumptions about you must go, the truth about you lies outside of my imagination.

Thank you for visiting the UK at this time, I look forward to seeing you, probably at the Oxford Oratory in early October.

Pray for me,


Saturday, 29 August 2009

Is there any finer sound than that of the door to the Confessional opening and shutting? The sound of Grace being won.

Friday, 28 August 2009


Here is Wikipedia on what a Tory is:
Toryism is a traditionalist political philosophy, which grew out of the Cavalier faction in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. It is most prominent in Great Britain, but also features in some parts of The Commonwealth — particularly in Canada. Historically it also had exponents in former parts of the British Empire, for instance the Loyalists of British North America who sided with Britain and Crown during the Revolutionary War. The Tory ethos can be summed up with the phrase God, King and Country. Tories advocate monarchism, are usually of a High Church Anglican or Recusant Catholic religious heritage and opposed to the radical liberalism of the Whig faction. Some call their stance counter-revolutionary, neo-feudal and medievalist.

Sounds pretty good to me, minimal state interference and a love of the land and a sense of its history. I could quite happily live a feudal lifestyle. I have no objections to tytheing myself to a land owner for so many days of my labour each year in return for a reasonable rent on a reasonable dwelling and some land to cultivate as I like. Toryism needs separating from the shabby and morally inept modern Conservative party, most of whom are definitely NOT Tories. Most of the people round here in deepest Wessex, the county that doesn't exist, are Tories. Most are compassionate, charitable, generous and hard working, unfortunately they have coupled themselves to the workings of the Conservative party for too long. Some are flirting with UKIP, now there (IMHO)is a complete set of jokers. Anti-European sentiment is devoid of sense and has so much to so with the mindset of Henry VIII to be anything other than bankrupt. Yes the EU is a mess, but we need Europe and we need to be influencing it from a position of strength and with full knowledge and greater control of our own assets. Our shared and largely Catholic heritage (I'm not just talking about buildings and art here)is of great importance.

Why am I writing this? Well, we need an opposition. For the good of this country, we need those that own and work the land to have a greater say in the fair governance of this land. We need de-centralisation, local solutions for local problems, we need to wake up before we loose everything, including the ability to think.

PS. I may have an appointment with a consultant, the GP has run tests for the 4th time and they are still giving bizarre results. There IS something wrong with me. However, with language like this on the booking form to see a consultant, I am skeptical:

You can use any of the options below to get information to help you make your choice of alternatives below.

That is NOT English, all I want to do is see a consultant, choice doesn't come into it.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Prayer of Bl Dominic Barberi

My Jesus, you alone are my Light, my Strength, my All.
You have taken my weaknesses, to give me in return, Your Strength.
Blindfolded, you give sight to my eyes: bound, you loosen my chains;
Experiencing bitterness, You give sweetness to all who come to you;
Humbled, you raise others to glory; dead, you Give back life to me.
My Jesus, in you I find all things, outside of you I find nothing.
Let those who will seek find but you in this poor world,
for me it is enough to have found Jesus.
Henceforth, my life must be consecrated to Jesus, to his glory, to his love.

But Lord, sustain me, support me,
do not trust in me nor in my poor resolutions.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Yup, sorry for the quietness from Wessex, but blood sugar way down, blood pressure way down, brain on walkabout. Apparently I need a General Physician but in the brave new internal market NHS, they no longer exist.

I'm just so grateful I can get to Mass, I can slump before Our Lord and none of my health problems matter any more.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

For he knew not what he said

I love this feast of the Transfiguration! But I've said that before.

Today we heard Mark's account of the Transfiguration, here is the first half of the Gospel account:

1 And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter and James and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves, and was transfigured before them. 2 And his garments became shining and exceeding white as snow, so as no fuller upon earth can make white. 3 And there appeared to them Elias with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus. 4 And Peter answering, said to Jesus: Rabbi, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles, one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. 5 For he knew not what he said: for they were struck with fear.

This time I want to concentrate on Peter. Peter so often appears to get a raw deal, especially in Mark's Gospel. You can hear Peter recounting the stories to Mark and every inward cringe of Peter's at his own foolishness and unworthyness is highlighted in the text. The point I want to make is that only Peter has the right to be hard on Peter. Only Peter can possibly criticise his own actions. It is not for us to say Peter was silly, said stupid things, was impetuous, wasn't the sharpest of the bunch....though I've heard many say such things of him.

We forget that when the transfiguration takes place, Peter had recently made his great profession of Faith. Our Lord had seen what was so special about Peter, we should think about what those qualities are.

The Gospel text above gives us many clues. Firstly, despite his fear Peter calls out to Jesus, "Rabbi". He acknowledges Our Lord and he acknowledges that Jesus is teaching them something they as yet don't fully understand. "It is good for us to be here", Peter is filled with joy as well as fear, Peter loves the Lord. "Let us make three tabernacles", Peter understands, instinctively he is to serve the Lord, even if he is unsure how to do it. James and John do not say or do anything that is recorded.

This is why Peter was the first Pope, he observes and listens to Christ to teach him. He loves the Lord totally. He instinctively seeks to serve the Lord.

These are characteristics that the successors of Peter must have too.

Surely the transfiguration reveals something of the strength of Peter, not his human weakness.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

A bit of art

Mooching around the fine art on the Internet, I came across this painting by an artist I am very fond of. The painting is of St Juliana of Nicomedia and you can read the Golden Ledgend account of her martyrdom here.

The painter is Domenico Feti (1589-1623), an Italian Baroque bad boy whose untimely death was probably a result of his excesses. He has a beautiful eye for humanity and to my mind is one of the finest baroque painters of women. St Juliana is totally unsexualised, despite the depictions of the torture she endured before her martyrdom which could lead to more racy depictions of the 4th Century martyr. He shows her with a devil who had been tempting her to make sacrifices to idols in order to be spared her fate. The devil lost. He truly looks "sick of sin". How did Juliana beat him? She looks to help from the Father, she looks to heaven. She didn't beat him with clever arguments, just trust and faith in God. It is unclear whether the irons at the bottom of the picture are those that will chain the martyr or those that chain the devil to his unreedemable, miserable state. She has bound him with the flimsiest of cloths, it is the Lord who has given her all the power she needs to overcome him. She is beautiful in her innocence and in her plainness and even dull appearance because she is illuminated by God. I think it is a great painting.

He also painted my favourite Mary Magdelene. She is modest, feminine and has obviously regained her lost innocence through her love of Christ. Surely this painter must have had a great devotion to her.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Passing it on

Over the weekend, our newspaper gave the story of an 11 year old boy as a vignette on modern parenting. His mother was Jewish by birth, she had married a “Christian-in-name-only”, in effect both parents were agnostic/atheist in their beliefs. His maternal grandparents were also non-practicing Jews. I found the story quite sad. The boy wanted to become more Jewish, he felt a connection with his past that had not been given him by his relatives. He wanted to wear a kippah and he wanted to have his bah mitzvah. Then all the problems started. Firstly they had to find him a synagogue liberal enough to allow him to go through instruction for his bah mitzvah even though he was uncircumcised. Then they found out that really his Mum should help him with his instruction. She really struggled with this as she couldn’t believe in any of it. Eventually, the strain of not having his mother’s support and having to go alone for instruction surrounded by boys whose families supported their sons proved too much and he gave up his idea of being Jewish. He gave the resigned and gentlemanly sigh “Oh well, may be I can give it all a go when I’m older”.

I was deeply touched by the boy’s story mainly because it had parallels with my own life. My parents had no interest in their Catholic faith (in fact we had quite a bit of anti-Catholic invective off them) and my grandparents were all hundreds of miles away and not seen often enough to make a difference to my upbringing. So when I decided I wanted to look deeper into my faith and become more Catholic, my request was greeted with astonishment. I couldn’t possibly go to the local Church, no reasons given, but I think it was because Mum didn’t want the locals knowing she was a Left-footer. So I was sent to see a priest from some parishes away. I found the whole experience bewildering and I really didn’t like having to fit my instruction around times that were both convenient to my parents and the priest. There was no sense of belonging to a church, let alone the Church. It was like going to see a tutor for extra maths lessons, devoid of context and eventually the whole experiment floundered.

It would be another 13 years before I fully embraced my faith. In the intervening years I’d do a lot of bad stuff and feel totally bewildered and empty. Experimenting sexually because intellectually it seemed a logical thing to do. The heart was somewhere else and I was only aware of a complete emptiness in everything I was doing.

I hope that young boy doesn’t have the rocky road to finding his faith that I had.

My parents were unable to pass on their liberalism to me. Liberalism to me just seems a way of avoiding the truth. Maybe they were hurt by the Church or by a particular priest, it is very hard to get to the bottom of why they turned away. In fact I genuinely hurt now at their lack of faith and how they managed to turn away from such a priceless gift. If they do ever come back to the faith, they will hurt so much at what they ridiculed in front of their children. It is parents that are supposed to hurt at the waywardness of their children, it has been the other way round for me. Not that it will it stop me hiding a green scapular in their house next time I’m up North.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Sex ed rant..(last part)

Recalling that these posts are just therapy for me and probably of no use to anyone else, I will proceed with my rant for the last time, I promise.

So far I have argued that sex education can not be confined to biology lessons, it simply doesn’t belong there as it isn’t science and treating it as science trivialises the issues. I have also said how worrying the attitude of the state is to children, how it sees them just as young consumers.

How can we teach about growing-up to children in such a way that we do justice them, treating them as precious and unique gifts of God whose wholeness, dignity and grace must be preserved and encouraged as much as is possible?

For Catholics, surely the answer lies within the context of the Theology of the Body. In order to get anywhere with this however certain things will need to happen. Firstly, we will have to reclaim Genesis from the biblical literalists. Adam and Eve and their intended nature and fallen nature are essential to an understanding of the Theology of the Body. We live in a culture where even mentioning Adam and Eve makes people think you are a simpleton who denies evolution. In contrast, Adam and Eve profoundly encompass what makes us human, what makes us so dependent on God and through God’s interaction with them we understand more clearly why a second Adam was needed to redeem us. Secondly we need to be really convinced about the validity of what we are doing, if we were then we would face the secularists with confidence and on our own terms, we would also face sex education with joy and confidence…we are a long way from this.

I have often been tempted to say to my fellow teachers (but lack the bottle), Holy Mother Church loves and cares for us and wants to protect us from lousy sex., She wants us to be good lovers by teaching us to love in the way God intended us to love each other. Yes, we must adopt an unpopular NO SURRENDER approach to the sanctity of life, to sex before marriage, to contraception and to all forms of illicit and immoral sexual activity. However, we must not forget that the Catholic Church is a great defender of the sensual world. We have great feasts, we ought to know how to put on good public pageantry, we have fantastic art and music and our sensual world transcends the ordinary because it is all directed towards God. We are equally at home with the natural and the supernatural and with the marvelous and the miraculous. We are the home of mystery and awe. Little of this penetrates the average Catholic secondary school and our children are not properly nourished as a result.

What about the non-Christian world? I have some sympathy with any secularist who says he doesn’t want to have to believe in God. I do believe that we can deliver good quality sex-education in this context too. Firstly, a new anatomy of the human body is needed. An anatomy that takes into consideration our self-awareness. An anatomy that acknowledges that the human body is the seat of the intellect (our ability to reason), the will (our ability to desire) and our heart (our ability to love). Without this anatomy, children are left without any framework for their emotions and will be left believing they are consumers is a shopping mall of choices and lifestyles devoid of higher purpose. It is truly is sinful if we allow this to continue to happen to the younger generation.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Sex Ed. rant (part 2)

In the previous post I established that the teaching of human sexual reproduction can hardly be classed as science and should not really be considered part of the science curriculum because at its most basic (for these young children) it is condensed into a series of half-truths masquerading as fact. Teaching should not be about the delivery of “facts” and the forced digestion of said facts by small people.

The counter argument to this is one that has never seriously been tackled by the Catholic community, it says something like this: well they have to know the facts of life.

The “facts of life” is a cliché that we rarely question. We rarely look at its meaning. I have already argued that it is important that sexual reproduction is studied at school but that this can be effectively confined to the animal and plant kingdoms and there is no need to venture into human sexual reproduction in biology lessons. It is also vital that puberty is handled sensitively and effectively. My poor grandmother was never told as a child what would happen to her and the shock of that first bleed was terrifying for her and left her nearly suicidal. Break the cliché down, however and it appears that the life forces we are talking about can be broken down into bullet points, “facts” like past FA Cup winners. Facts to talk about dispassionately, facts complemented with obscure anatomical names and badly drawn diagrams. Facts that deliberately diminish the sensitivity that should be shown to this subject.

I know teachers who get the pupils to shout out “penis”, “vagina” "fallopian tubes" etc at each other. Obviously, there is a lot of reticence on their part to do this and a lot of giggling when they do. Is this right? Personally I’ve never equated teaching to “working a crowd” and it is something I could not do. I am uneasy about that position of power that a teacher can suddenly find themselves in, I’m uneasy about milking a moment at the expense of the very real feelings and trauma that some of the young pupils may be experiencing. The issue is, that if we make it into “science” by learning the medical vocabulary of sex, we have started to dehumanise the process. We are also telling the young people that this is what sensible adults do. We are telling them that sensible adults have decoupled sex from emotion, sex is no big thing, just a bit if fun that grown-ups get a lot of pleasure from, but hey its scientific and biological so that makes it OK. Obviously the logical next step from bigging-up the science in sex is to then say how science can control/tame/manipulate sex for “our benefit”. We are now on seriously dangerous ground and we only got there by teaching some “innocuous” biology that everyone says is necessary: the “facts of life”.

So that is the compulsory education our children have to have in schools. Read the governments “Every Child Matters” documents and you will see that out of necessity, it is very much a lowest common denominator approach to children. The government has decided that as a lowest common denominator, that everyone can agree on, children can be viewed as emerging consumers; learning how to assess risks and make choices. The whole of the educational system is about children learning how to assess risk, make balanced assessments and make choices. It is as if this is all the freedom we have. The whole problem with it is that it relies on only one way of thinking that runs something like this: there is an argument for something, there is the counter-argument, weight the two arguments up and come to your own conclusion. It is a great structure for an essay but a crap way to live your life. We as Catholics live in a world of non-negotiables and immutable truths, we do not fit into this scheme and the sooner we realise how we are being squeezed out of society the better.

To be continued…

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Sex education rant....

There is something going on at work that is causing me great anxiety. I fear my faith may very well be clashing with what I am supposed to do in order to earn a living. It is truly tearing me apart, but ultimately I know what has to be done.

Exactly what is going on, I will not reveal as I don’t want to be recognised which would put those I teach and the school where I work in a difficult position.

The bottom line is I feel that I cannot deliver what is expected of me in terms of the National Curriculum as I feel it contradicts my Faith and could actually harm those in my care.

So, I will only talk in very general terms, mainly as therapy for myself and in the vain hope other teachers may feel able to support me with their prayers and maybe some ideas of their own for a resolution to these problems.

As things stand, parents may not withdraw their children from biology lessons where the mechanics of the sexual act are being taught. They can however withdraw their children from any of the touchy feely discussion type stuff that goes on in PHSE (Personal Health and Social Education) though there are moves afoot to make this compulsory too.

I am classed (against my will) as a Science teacher so the biology of the sexual act has to be delivered by the likes of me. We can have no difficulty in looking at plant reproduction and mammalian reproduction. Plant reproduction can involve experimental work and is good science. Most children have pets, so mammalian reproduction can be related to their pets. The nature of this study relates back to their experiences and we can quite happily discuss bitches on heat and puppy care and male dogs getting excited and “showing their lipsticks” (the children’s phrase not mine).

We live, thank God, in a culture which still has taboos on third parties watching the sexual act between adults. We certainly(whether we are religious or not) have taboos about children watching this. So why should it fall the responsibility of the hapless science teacher to have to describe and produce diagrams of said act for a random group of 11 year olds? We can have no difficulty with diagrams of rabbit or dog sexual organs and little difficulty, apart from some squeamishness, about possibly watching a video that contains some animal sex or animals giving birth. We are just about behaving as scientists, relating theory to the reality of the world around us. Teaching about the human sexual act is not science, there is no investigative work, no relation to real life experience (for 11 year olds), no analytical work and certainly no experimentation (most of these would be illegal). There is simply no need for human sexual intercourse to be on the biology syllabus for pre-14s.

Talking about puberty should firstly be the responsibility of parents and then form teachers. Detailed biological accounts of ovulation and ejaculation can wait till they are much older. A discussion about puberty should be all about the fact your body is getting ready for adulthood, but that you are not yet an adult and you have to get used to your new (and evolving) shape and appearance for many years before you can consider yourself ready to have children of your own. Some child always helpfully chirps in at this point that their cat had kittens when she was too young and hasn’t grown properly and has bad hips as a result.

I wonder why the secular world still has taboos about children watching sex between humans? Could it be that there is still a suspicion that people are more than just a biological machine, that there is some higher dignity involved in making love, or is it just some good old-fashioned shame and guilt that they are so good at accusing Catholics of being riddled with?

To be continued…

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Last Things...

When I was at school, we supported, year on year, a home for limbless ex-servicemen. We provided the men with cards and Christmas presents and a certain amount of money from our fundraising exploits. Most of the men were veterans from WW1. Being a somewhat reflective and some say morbid child, I often used to wonder where I'd be when the last man to serve in the trenches of WW1 had died. To me it seemed far more momentous than where I'd be when 1999 became 2000, or what age I'd be when I married...

Well here I am. Harry Patch has died. May he rest in peace.

There is just this dreadful feeling that it could all happen again, not in the same way, the map of Europe is very different, but in a subtle, all voted in by our elected representatives way, a feeling we are walking into a nightmare. A feeling that Europe in particular is facing a crisis of monumental proportions on which the souls of millions will ultimately rise or flounder.

So I'm a bit reflective as I look over this stunning, peaceful and hard fought for Wessex countryside....these days with genetically enhanced, super-productive stock, the grain is now much shorter than the poppies that rise up through the fields proclaiming something and nothing, if anyone cares to listen.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Prayer in financial hardship

I found this inside one of my MIL's prayer books. It dates from the great depression. It still seems very relevant and is a rather beautiful prayer.

Monday, 20 July 2009

40 years ago...

This shows my level of interest in the moon landings

not much has changed.

Divine Intimacy

Deb, in her comments to my previous post, has got me thinking I should write more about Fr. Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen's remarkable Carmelite devotional manual Divine Intimacy. There are some cheap copies available on Amazon but I whole heartedly recommend the Baronius Press edition, the binding is durable, once the book is open it remains open with no stress on the spine. The pages are beautifully type-set and I feel it is worth the money. It will last a life time.

I'm not going to write a book review however. The rest of this post is just a rambling on the reasons why I find it an inspiring book.


A few weeks back I was talking to our parish priest and he kept repeating a phrase about how priests are expected to live in "a monastery of one". I think he was driving at the loneliness or atleast the solitaryness of his vocation, perhaps with some envy of those who have a monastic life in a community. No doubt life as a parish priest can have its lonely times, coming home to a ready meal for one in a large and draughty presbytery after being stuck for hours in a tedious meeting with the diocesesan health & safety committee, must be grim. Family life too can be a lonely experience. Caring intimately and patiently for sick loved ones is a lonely experience. Sorting out family finances is a lonely business. Going to work and working in an increasingly secular and at times anti-Catholic environment is blinking lonely.

People who know me well, know that they shouldn't ever expect sympathy off me. I do hope our parish priest wasn't looking for sympathy.

There is a type of loneliness that I do believe is a healthy part of our spiritual development. We can feel very lonely when our emotional response to a situation is significantly different to those around us. However, if our response is due to our increasing desire for intimacy with God, then surely this loneliness is wholesome and good. Surely Our Lord felt a little alone from the people around him when he calmed the waters round his little fishing boat. Surely Our Lady felt very alone when she had to let others know of her pregnancy. Loneliness is good if it is a result of an increasing desire for an interior life united to the Lord. Infact surely it is inevitable and surely is it just as likely to happen in a convent, in a draughty presbytery, in a suburban semi, in a large and loving family.

I feel that somehow over the centuries we have lost track of our innate prayerfulness, our desire for intimacy with God, our desire to turn every gesture, movement and utterance over to Him, to do His will. This is not just for priests and religious. It is for all. Anything that helps us do this, when coupled to the sacraments and the prayers of the full Body of Christ, is worth pursuing.

The book does need some knowledge of the pre-1970 liturgical calendar and I find that I still have difficulty reading the writings of the Little Flower the book contains, she is such a demanding and inspiring yet "insipid in style" Doctor of the Church.

Those of us who do retire to our secret rooms to spend time in contemplation and prayer can find we relate to hermits in the desert and find Carmel an inspiration.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Our Lady of Mount Carmel- Pray for Us

This is undoubtedly my favourite Marian feast. Fr Gabriel in Divine Intimacy expresses its essence beautifully:

Devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel indicates a strong call to the interior life, which, in a special way, is Mary's life. The Blessed Virgin wants us to resemble her in heart and mind much more than externals. If we penetrate into Mary's soul, we see that grace produced in her a very rich interior life: a life of recollection, prayer, uninterrupted giving of herself to God, and of constant and intimate union with Him. Mary's soul is a sanctuary reserved for God alone...

Those who wish to live truly devoted to our Lady of Mount Carmel, must follow Mary into the depths of the interior life. Carmel is the symbol of the contemplative life, of life wholly consecrated to seeking God and tending wholly towards divine intimacy; and she who best realises this very high ideal is Mary, Queen, Beauty of Carmel.

"Judgment shall dwell in the wilderness and justice shall sit in Carmel. And the work of justice shall be peace, and the service of justice quietness and security forever. And my people shall sit in the beauty of peace, and in the tabernacles of confidence" Isaiah 32:16-18

Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the Souls in Purgatory

Occasionally in Spain you will see a Carmelite nun nipping out of the convent to the chemist for medicines for her sisters. It is a sight that makes my heart beat faster. There is no colour on earth richer or more full of hope than the brown of the Carmelites.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

More shorts

Currently I'm just enjoying the peace and quiet of rural existence. It is so quiet out here that your senses really do become more attuned to the movements of nature. There are times of quiet elation and joy in the stillness and beauty of it all. There is much to thank God for.

DH and I are really enjoying Taylor Marshall's podcasts on St Paul at the moment. I strongly recommend them to you. Yup I know it is the year for priests, but you're never really relieved of your duties to study Paul. The podcasts can be found here.

Husband is still unwell and being very let down by the health service, the delays in his treatment are nearly intolerable. I still remain undiagnosable, the GP has ended up saying I'll just have to learn to live with it, what ever it is. I'm nearly 6 foot and am struggling to keep my weight over 9 stone, my hands are still very painful and I know there is something amiss with my metabolism (the tiredness is chronic and has little to do with looking after DH). "Still it isn't life threatening, so get on with life".......so the doctor says. I'm offering my sufferings up for the priesthood....

The Year for Priests is so important. I wonder what you are dong for it? There are so many priests dear to me to pray for, at the moment I'm concentrating on one a week, but also saying a general prayer for all priests each day. Don't forget Bishops in your prayers.....and make a super human effort not to criticise them. Is there any way of letting priests know they are being prayed for......some anonymous card we could send them to let them know they are in our prayers and let them know their flock are faithful to the desires of the Holy Father?

Finally another physics based lolcat that made me laugh, this one may be going on my classroom wall.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Oxford odyssey

A not very good short story wot I wrote....

Margaret, I’ve enjoyed this little weekend coach holiday in Oxford, and if you weren’t now fast asleep next to me, I’d love to ask you what you thought. I think you enjoyed that farce at the Playhouse too much last night, you could hardly stay awake at Mass this morning. I wont wake you, we’ll probably be stopping at the Stafford services, you get a good kip in before then. Well, I’m glad you invited me, I haven’t been away since Frank passed on and this made a lovely change.

Oxford meant such different things to you and me. Though we were in the same class at school, you went to the right parish and the nuns at school were full of aspirations for you, filling you with thoughts of becoming a professional, a doctor or lawyer. I was at the “shawlee” parish, which to them meant Irish and ignorant, I had to work so hard to get into teacher training college with little or no encouragement. The irony is you found Thomas, married at 18 and had those wonderful boys of yours, including your Andrew who got into Oxford who you have been so proud of. So you rightfully have a claim on Oxford, it has memories for you. Me, teacher training in Liverpool and a lifetime teaching in the mill towns of Lancashire, marrying my Frank when I was close to retirement, having a few precious years with him and then….No, Oxford was for someone else, not me, nor any of the children that passed through my hands. Actually it brings out the old Labour socialist in me, but I won’t tell you that!

If those nuns are rustling their habits on some cloud up there, I wonder what they think of us, are they proud?. I can’t help remembering they ignored me in class because our Mam washed coal for a living, or that it how it felt to me as a schoolgirl.

Margaret, I really want to wake you up and talk about that Mass with you. I wonder what you made of it? When was the last time you saw three priests with birettas? Gosh what a sight, what reverence. Oh, and those altar boys….oh everything was just so right and so prayerful. I was nearly in tears, I was. I felt exhausted by the depth of prayer and closeness to God. I wonder what you felt?

The problem is it has got me thinking. I mean, I’m dreading my turn on the rota as Eucharistic Minister. I don’t want to do it anymore and I don’t know why. Father won’t be pleased, I’d be letting him down. But I can’t do it if it doesn’t feel right, can I?

Oh yes, and despite these knees, I’m going to genuflect properly once again, and get rid of that pathetic curtsey of mine, I can do better for Our Lord……

Sunday, 5 July 2009

10 things...

The wonderful Mrs Pogle has circulated this meme and I've decided to join in, like her I'll open it up to anyone who is interested.

The "rules" are:
To keep this award, I must do the following:

1) Say thanks and give a link to the presenter of the award.
2) Share “ten honest things” about myself.
3) Present this award to 7 others whose blogs I find brilliant in content and/or design, or those who have encouraged me.
4) Tell those 7 people that they’ve been awarded HONEST SCRAP and inform them of these guidelines in receiving it.

The temptation, when it comes to me and my blog is to drop a significant consonant from the title, but I'll refrain.

(1) I have a Chinese name which means beautiful Cassia blossom
(2) I have one leg longer than the other which causes me to walk funny when I'm being too vain to wear my special insoles.
(3) I always wear a cheap perspex cross with a thorn embedded in it. The symbolism works on many levels.
(4) I have a weakness for military hardware and love military aircraft and ships.

(5) I like Strauss waltzes (and I've never admitted that to anyone before - there's real honesty for you)
(6) Scottish oatcakes, butter and marmalade ...what a treat!
(7) I'm allergic to asparagus
(8) I drive an N reg Rover 214 and am too attached to it, she's an old lady and the rust is getting such that I will need to replace her
(9) I cannot multitask, I can't even hold a conversation if the telly is on
(10)I would like to travel the length of the trans Siberian railway one day....

What about you?

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

A bit if a winge

I’ve been meditating on why it is so difficult to talk calmly and rationally with many good Catholic Americans about a cautions approach to Capitalism. So many think that is has to be the only way of doing anything, the only alternative being Socialism and this being intrinsically evil.

This is not intending to be a political post. I’m worried because some seem to hold the tenets of Capitalism closer to their hearts than their Faith. They use their Faith to justify their belief in Capitalism, they say “my Faith shows that Capitalism is the only valid economic process”. This is dangerous. Faith should never be used to justify any theory. It is absurd as using Faith to justify a particular theory in science as being better than another scientific theory. One place we end up in, if we go down that route is the academically unsatisfying backwater that is “Intelligent Design”. There is an embarrassing lack of academic rigour both for scientists and theologians in intelligent design, the Church is rightly sceptical of its merits. Incidentally, can it ever work the other way round, has anyone ever been brought to a deeper understanding of their Faith by wholehearted embracing of a political theory? Has anyone ever said “My wholehearted embrace of Capitalism/Socialism has deepened my faith, hope and charity”. Would you trust them if they did?

Now this I say, that every one of you saith: I indeed am of Paul; and I am of Apollo; and I am of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided?
1 Cor 1:12-13

How can we be a “right wing Catholic” or a “left wing Catholic”? The universiality of the Church demands that the C of Catholic is branded on our heads and pierces our hearts, it can not lead to unstinting political allegiance, or unstinting allegiance to an economic theory (we have to let go of this idea), our allegiance is to Christ alone. Christ in the poor, the naked, the hungry, the lame, the neighbour who tells you uncomfortable truths, the neighbour you like, the neighbour you can't stand and Christ manifest in the Magesterium of the Church and the great Sacraments of the Church.

So, why are our American brothers and sisters in Christ often such truculent political idealogues? Partly, I think as they see us in Europe as inherently leftist, they see the old world as a failure and leftism being the epitome of failure, it makes them love America more. Partly also because the spirit of Frontierism seems hardwired into the American psyche. Wagon trains roll and strive, achieve, make good by your own hands and love your liberty. A regulatory state such as appears in Leftist governments gnaws at the very soul of the Frontierist. He feels emasculated and threatened. Importantly, the American will also have a strong sense of family, and a sense that the family is the most precious thing. It could be argued however that some Americans cannot see beyond the family and a concept of wider networks of humanity and wider bonds of charity and affection. In many ways there is nothing to admonish in loving your country, Frontierism or strong family values, they are all valid and life-affirming. However they can be quite insular mindsets, firstly there is an inability to see and love much that is good in Europe and beyond, secondly Frontierists do not interact with their environment they conquer it and do not listen to its needs and thirdly a totally family centred approach falls apart if it is not thoroughly bound into the wider communion of the Church Militant, Triumphant and Suffering.

We all have mindsets, I’d like an American perspective on prevalent European mindsets. My grouse is a worry that some of us will hold onto these mindsets at the expense of failing to let Christ work in our hearts.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Completely Different

Some time ago my union sent me a questionnaire to fill in on workplace bullying, this is a topic of some interest to me, as I have alluded to in the past. I dutifully filled in the questionnaire including the very PC, equal opportunities bit at the end, this included the question:

State your sexual orientation:

  • gay
  • bisexual
  • heterosexual
  • prefer not to say

It struck me that this is a totally daft question: what does it mean? It must just be referring to our capacity for sexual love, and at that our capacity for sexual love devoid of higher human feelings. Is the question referring to more that our preferred means of genital stimulation? If it is a higher question than that, then surely we are all bisexual, indeed our capacity for love should not be restricted by age, race or gender. If is is purely about sexual feelings, then surely it is a simply a matter of the preferred means of genital stimulation. How should a Catholic answer this question? I don't think they should.

Heterosexual is NOT the correct answer. We should not define ourselves by the criteria of others. The labels start to stick. Ours in not a world of homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, but it will become so if we let it.

Incidentally, these questionnaire setters think they're so PC, but they forget the obvious, surely in the interests of inclusivity, there should be a box to tick for those that would call themselves Onanists.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009


MIL (Phyllis)died peacefully in her sleep earlier this week, I humbly request you please pray for her soul.

There is much I wish to write about, but it doesn't seem quite appropriate at the moment. DH is devastated....

I will however say that I am finding great solace at the moment using "Divine Intimacy" by Fr Gabriel of St Mary Magdalene, which has been beautifully reprinted by Baronius Press. Whilst MIL was suffering and we were wondering why the good Lord was not taking her from us in her agony, the following passage gently instructed my raging heart:

Just as the Holy Spirit dwelt in the most holy soul of Christ in order to bring it to God, so He abides in our souls for the same purpose. In Jesus he found a completely docile will, one that He could control perfectly, whereas in us He often meets resistance, the fruit of human weakness; therefore, He desists from the work of our sanctification because He will do no violence to our liberty.

I'd not really got anywhere near appreciating the relationship between our free will and the will of God before reading that.

I also noticed for the first time that the battle for the soul really does take place as someone dies. I may write about what I saw at some later date, but not now. I just ask you to recall what you already know, that the prince of this world will do his best to lead you away from God right up to the time of your death, and that he seems to show a special interest in those that are doggedly faithful to God. This is not an excuse to lapse away from your faith but a reminder to make sure you embrace and submit to your faith and the sacraments even more fully.

I do fear the Catholic blogworld is getting more egocentric, argumentative and obsessed with earthly and largely irrelevant goings-on....this is not the work of God. Please be warned, and practice even greater humility and vigilance.

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Why Red?

Why red vestments for Pentecost?

I was pondering this today and wondering why white is not used. Luckily my 1962 Missal came up with an answer:

Red signifies the fire of love towards God and is therefore the liturgical colour for Whitsuntide, the Feast of the Holy Ghost, the God of Love;....

It did strike me how visceral red is. How the Holy Spirit needs to be indwelling within our bodies for God's love to be manifest. The Holy Spirit doesn't hover over the Church, He needs to burrow into each and everyone of us and find a welcome home. Penetcost surely then is the feast of God's sublime gift to us and the red is our Passion united to Christ's and ignited by the flame of the Holy Spirit.


Thursday, 28 May 2009


Tis a humid day and husband is rather ill. Whilst he sleeps the the worst of it and his medication away, I'll provide you with a taster of what has impinged on my fragile consciousness this week.

Baroque music on our "award winning" (not sure about that) national classical station, Radio 3, has really been getting on my nerves recently. Now given the choice, I'd spend my life in the Baroque, but there is something about modern recordings that really annoys me. Has anyone else noticed that they sound about as lively as if they'd been recorded for the holodeck of the Starship Enterprise? You want to smell wig powder, musty velvet, sweat and sawdust and all you get is a whiff of Glade plug-in air freshener. Some goon has been let loose with the digitiser and tried to make the music atmospheric. Baroque music at its best is raw, unsentimental and full of life, everything these recordings aren't.

Vascular dementia, double incontinence, burgeoning bed sores, hypertension, leg ulcers and much more, and that little old lady I love so much doesn't qualify for nursing care on the NHS. The system stinks. I'm going to fight this one. We had a lengthy meeting about her Care Plan earlier this week. It was horrid. I dared to mention that she had a great need for spiritual care and whilst they were sympathetic in an ignorant and politically correct kind of way, you could tell it wasn't going in...."Yes, but how critical are her spiritual needs to her health and recovery, is this a low, a medium of a high need?".......It is a critical need!!!!...."Yes but how does it aid her recovery?".....She isn't going to recover, she is dying, ah yes but you don't have anything to do with peoples souls do you....well you should...you can't dare to mention that she is dying because that would mean she needs palliative care and that costs money. Still, we had some precious moments praying with her, softly spoken prayers, but very beautiful and she mouthed along and made the sign of the cross. Problem is, the devil is lurking close by, it is never too late for him to torment a soul...keep praying, it is all we can do.

Cats, I'm not a cat lover, in fact I loathe them. More specifically, I loathe the pampered, dumb looking, over fed house cats that turn their owners into fur-worshiping brain dead cat slaves. Having said that, I'm developing a soft spot for the feline psychokiller that lives next door. I've watched it drag rabbits more than the cat's body weight across fields to eat. It seems to go for the larger prey, rats and rabbits. It is a master of its art and if it can keep the bunnies off our marigolds, it is OK by me.

N Korea. It is a mouse that roars, just remember that this mouse has the mange, halitosis and cancer, why are we pandering to its own sense of importance? Now my university text books on nuclear fission are not part of the official secrets act, and they do make it clear that whilst getting a lump of fissile nuclear material critical and explosive is not too difficult, doing it in a timed and controlled way from a warhead to explode in just the right way at just the right height above the ground is a far from trivial matter. What I'm trying to say is that an underground test, is not the same thing as having a working weapon of mass destruction. Portray the N. Koreans as a world superpower with the ability to frighten the US and some gink will make them a working weapon out of hatred for the US, they will be incapable of doing so themselves without outside help.

Is it me or are the Spring nights uncommonly light this year? We live fairly far south in England but a mile from the nearest street light and it never seems to be getting dark, full moon or no moon.

Cucumber sandwiches, leaf tea in bone china cups with saucers, are needed, time to put the kettle on.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Something Missing

MIL is dying, that is a fact, even if some of her closest relatives think she will pull through. The phrase used by the nurses looking after her is “she is weary”. Very upsettingly her elder sister went to see her yesterday and whilst she was incapable of verbal communication she cried twice.

When we saw her last week she was very frail but she atleast had a twinkle in her eye and when I held her hand and looked her in the eye and said “the Infant is looking after you, isn’t he?” she replied confidently “Of course!”. Last week, the pain she’d been experiencing for years didn’t seem to be there. The anxiety and worry and feelings of worthlessness that had also dogged her later years also seemed to have gone, whilst she slept for most of our visit a beautiful smile played across her face.

Unfortunately for us, there is a drama playing out of which she is mercifully unaware. Care for the elderly in England is about as subtle as moving boxes of books around the Amazon warehouse. The bottom line seems to be, she cannot die where she is. For the last 6 weeks, since a particularly viscous bladder infection, she has been in and out of hospitals and intermediate care centres with the “hope” of being able to send her back to her flat in sheltered accommodation. The intermediate care centres now don’t want her and she will probably need constant supervision so going back to her flat is not an option either. The family all now dread the thought of her slipping away unnoticed in some dreary nursing home.

How have we let this state arise? I suppose in the past she would have died a long time ago, her long life is largely down to the physician’s skill and her great fear of meeting her Maker. What is sad is that everyone of us close to her live in houses too small to accommodate her, and is desperately trying to earn a living and hang onto his or her job. The old fashioned option would have been to take her in and care for her and cherish her in her last weeks. This just can’t happen now, and we are the poorer for not being able to care for our elderly in this way. Nor does the hospice movement in England provide care for the elderly dying who are simply dying of old age which would allow them to fade away in their own beds in their own homes, surrounded by their own things and close family. Nor are there hospices for the dying elderly. Why do we all fear nursing homes so much?

The answer is, whilst some are brilliant, many are hopelessly understaffed, dreary and soulless. It all seems too much like the warehousing of unwanted books waiting to be pulped.

The wholesome and Catholic option is what is missing. It is not the care that the state can provide that matters the most. Along with newborns, the dying should be our most cherished members of the Church. They are closest to God and this is so tangible as you sit with them and cry. Both newborns and the faithful dying are the greatest evangelists the Church has to offer. When we are with the dying, we seem to have forgotten how to listen to them and to be near them in the way God wants. We are so busy caring for the physical body, we become absent minded about their souls. Whilst, thank God, in MILs case priests have visited and she has received the Sacrament of the Sick, this is in danger of becoming just another thing on a “to do” list, like her laundry and conversing with the social workers. Why do we laity find it so hard to pray for and with the dying? Christ is physically with them as they die, we should be as willing to be there as we are to pray before the Blessed Sacrament.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

St Rita - Model of Charity and Patience

We are fast approaching the one day of the year when my blog gets a serious number of hits. Dear blogger, I've decided that I ought to write something to make your visit a little more meaningful.

I am going to write something of a personal reflection on St Rita, my confirmation saint, whose feast day is on Friday.

St Rita is seen as a model of charity and patience. She was a peacemaker between antagonistic families, she worked selflessly to do God's will, and she had supernatural patience with her difficult husband and during her protracted and embarrassing illness in the convent.

What exactly makes her a saint of such popularity?

These are my opinions:

Nobody becomes a saint through passively suffering abuse. Personally I do not subscribe to the view that she suffered beatings and intimidation from her husband as a result of his drink problem. Even if she did, this is not what makes her a saint. I'm reminded of something attributed to the great St Philip Neri (whose feast day is soon too), he said "I would let boys break wood on my back, provided they didn't sin". To live with someone on the path of self destruction, (like her husband) requires prayer, patience and charity. What ever is done by the partner it is done in order to try to save the soul of the addict and this requires at least guiding him away from greater sin. The marriage bond is dedicated to helping the marriage partners get each other to heaven. Passively allowing oneself to be abused as part of the "obedience" of the marriage bond entails the abuser being led into greater sin, to me it is not saintly behaviour. Though we have no evidence for it, I'm sure her marriage was one of happiness amid the suffering. She was certainly a woman who loved well, this is seen in her relationships with many others too.

When her sons wished to avenge the murder of their father, Rita prayed that they would not sin and that they would enter into God's grace. Again this shows her care for the souls of others.

When in the convent it wasn't her rigourous mortifications that made her saintly. They were just a manifestation of her desire for total abandonment to the will of God.

What an honour was then bestowed on her, the only stigmatic ever with a foul smelling wound! Just meditate on that for a moment....to willingly take on the malorodourness and ugliness of the crucifixion in obedience to the Lord. I only hope I can have half her fortitude and trust in the Lord.

She is a very special woman, for her ordinary upbringing, ordinary education, her courageous response to the vows in marriage and the consecrated life and her profound love of Christ Crucified.