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 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 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.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Happy Birthday to Me

It is my 40th today. Deo Gratias!

And let the brightness of the Lord our God be upon us, and direct thou the work of our hands over us: yea, the work of our hands do thou direct.

Psalm 89.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Remember folks,

the right judgement we are capable of,
the right judgement that is a gift of the Holy Spirit
is NEVER, can never,
be enhanced by alcohol.

Stay awake, stay sober.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Ladies and Gentlemen,

These new style blogger blogs. I can't leave comments on them probably because I refuse to get a g-mail account.

So sorry, Jackie, Kirk and Sir George, Suffering World and others but until I've worked out what I'm doing wrong, you'll never know I've visited......

Sunday, 3 May 2009

musings of a half educated halfwit

I'm determined to get back to blogging. I miss it. However, without going into details, things are a little tough at the moment. My Lenten illness did ease somewhat after Easter, but I'm uncommonly tired and my GP is a little concerned about some of my test results. But enough of this, I'm sick of being asked how I am, I don't want to become my illness. There is still the arrogant, idealistic, headstrong nearly-fortysomething in there with a head full of thoughts that need ordering and perspectives that need straightening.

One of the big issues for me at the moment is that everything is taking me so much longer to do that my prayer-life has taken a bit of a tumble. One day, while driving, feeling guilty about my curtailed prayer routine, I said a quick Our Father on the dual carriageway stretch of my route home. It got me thinking. I've always had a problem with the "Our Father", yet another thing that causes a chasm to open up between me and the Incarnate Word whom I desire so much. I'd love, like St Teresa of Avila, to be able to dwell on it for hours a line at a time, but this has evaded me.

In my twenties, I even, shamefully arrogantly, thought there might be something wrong with the the prayer (something missing from it), until it occurred to me that it is actually something wrong with me, not the prayer. I was finding it disjointed and more of a list than a prayer, I didn't feel I was engaging with God the Father when saying it.....This never really left me till quite recently.

Whilst most of my schooling was empty, I'm glad I studied my Latin and got an A for my O'Level (one of only a few, I'm too lazy to be a grade chaser).

Anyway, I decided to meditate on the Lord's Prayer in Latin rather than English. This has been a real blessing. There is a poetry about the Latin and a subtlty that seems to be missing in the English. No, there isn't some hidden, esoteric meaning to the prayer that only Latin scholars (albeit shabby ones) can grasp. It is that I've found a wholeness to the prayer that does allow me to meditate very gently and slowly on what it contains.

"Forgive us our trespasses" seems a long way from "demitte nobis debita nostra". For a start, demitte is quite passive, like dismiss or loosen, and therin lies the key for me to the next line, we are also asked to "dismiss", "not hang on to" all those transgressions that have been committed against us. We can burn ourselves up into a seething, mean spirited and nasty mess by constantly going over all those things that have been done against us. We have to let go or we will not let God enter our hearts for our own sins to be forgiven.

When David cries out to God in the Psalm "Against you alone have I sinned", I used to want to answer back, "I wonder if Uriah the Hittite would agree with that?". But then I didn't understand sin. Sin is a willful separation from God, sin is only committed against God, those transgressions against us by our fellow humans are opportunities for sin by the transgressors, the frightening thing is how they can make us sin too if we hold onto them and hold onto any malice for the transgressor.

Then today at Mass the contrast between the Lord's prayer and Agnus Dei had me weak and tearful. "Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi", "Lamb of God you take away the sins of the world", only "tollis" is a lot more physical than "take away", it suggests carry, raise up, it suggests heaviness.

Only the Lamb of God can physically take on the burden of our sin and raise it up. What a contrast to that "letting go" that we in our humility must do.