Saturday, 27 March 2010

"Our end is Life"

This wonderful poem, Thalassa by Louis MacNeice, says so much to us at the moment.

Run out the boat, my broken comrades;

Let the old seaweed crack, the surge

Burgeon oblivious of the last

Embarkation of feckless men,

Let every adverse force converge--

Here we must needs embark again.

Run up the sail, my heartsick comrades;

Let each horizon tilt and lurch--

You know the worst: your wills are fickle,

Your values blurred, your hearts impure

And your past life a ruined church--

But let your poison be your cure.

Put out to sea, ignoble comrades,

Whose record shall be noble yet;

Butting through scarps of moving marble

The narwhal dares us to be free;

By a high star our course is set,

Our end is Life. Put out to sea.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Heineken ministry

Fr Hunwicke has an interesting post (well all of his are interesting but not all are intelligible to the likes of me with my second rate girls’ grammar school education). He is talking about the presence of Christ through the Anglican Church in its role as the church of the establishment. He argues that being the church of the establishment allows the clergy of the C of E to be embedded in a level of community involvement that just isn’t really possible to Protestant ministers or Catholic priests. A sort of Heineken ministry, reaching the parts others cannot reach.

I have some sympathy with this view. Below is my take on the same subject, a tribute to the lady vicars of the C of E. It is mixture of several characters I have known so do not try to pin my representation down to a particular parish or individual.

She is devout and prayerful. Attending theological college surrounded by men training for the Anglican clergy who did not go to prayers in the chapel and made a big play of being “above such things”. She was ignored at college and developed a considerable fighting spirit as a result.

Now she is in a rural parish. An Anglican friend told me it is always a rural parish because “they can’t cope with the inner city parishes”. She knows everybody, including those of no faith and the Papists hunkered down in the cowshed. She cares for the people, is well known and well loved. She makes sure the medieval churches in her benefice are places of prayer and are used frequently. Everyone is welcome, no matter how rudimentary their faith. She speaks movingly at the cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday and she blesses the local hunt. She cares for the sick and the elderly and makes sure nobody is forgotten in prayer by the wider community. She is very proud of the top quality olive oil she bought on holiday in the Med and that she uses for anointing of the sick. She has witnessed the healing grace that her ministry has provided.

She is inspired by Mary who she sees as the model of her priesthood. She has a concept of priesthood that is incomprehensible within a hermeneutic of continuity. She dislikes/distrusts bishops and dislikes wearing a dog collar (too masculine) but certainly never says this in public. However, she is never without her cassock and is respectful of her office. She has views on obedience I cannot share, but serves her community with sincerity and zeal.

In other words, she probably has a legitimate Christian witness and is part of the furniture of the rural community in the way that sadly a Catholic priest is not. I love her to bits, I do not see her as a threat. It is not her fault that the Anglican hierarchy encouraged her to think she could become a priest, and that their idea of priesthood has become so far removed from what it should be.

I’m just wondering if there isn’t some role for good and holy women within our communities who visibly do God’s work, but Catholic and without the olive oil? I do wonder if some would be happy to ditch the sacramental aspects of their ministry and join us if they could keep the rest of their role within the community....

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Psalm 125

Today's Gospel about the woman caught in adultery is awesome. However, I'm still not quite sure what the writing in the dirt is all about, Father tried to explain but I did not find it convincing, he said something about it being a common response of Mediterranean peasants when they felt felt their security and livelihood were about to be taken away from them.

Today it was the psalm that caught me unawares and has provided a rich seam of meditation throughout the day:

They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.

Some have suggested that this is a grim time to be a Catholic. I have to say I disagree. The Church has done some very necessary spring cleaning and is proving to be no place where the deceitful, the manipulative and the abusive can hide. This is involving the Church bringing herself to her knees. This is painful but it is the pain of mortification and growing self-awareness, it will bare fruit.

We ARE being asked for tears of repentance and contrition BUT we are also being asked to sow, because there will be a harvest. Never has there been a better time to sow. A good hard winter and a late spring clear the ground of nasty bugs, life is pent up and waiting to spring into action, no matter how bleak and drab things may look.

The Holy Father's Letter to the Irish Faithful stresses the need for us all to do penance and to go back to the basics of our faith with renewed vigour, never was that psalm more appropriate.

Now, about that sowing:

The Pope speaks to the young in Ireland and in effect speaks to the young everywhere. Those of us who are not so young, must allow the idealism and enthusiasm of the young to germinate and set examples with solid faith well lived.

I'm reminded of St Aloysius. High born but from a very early age dedicating himself to the service of the Lord. Was he brought up in some secluded, sheltered and holy place far from any of the temptations of the world. He was not. Did he never hear swearing and lewd talk or see lewd behaviour? He was not so lucky. Was he able to devote himself ceaselessly to high and holy things? Probably not. The Oxford Oratory has a very interesting relic of his, a letter of St Aloysius, writing to one of his father's creditors trying to come to some agreement over the repayment of a loan. This is not overtly romantic, it is very human and very contemporary.

St Aloysius is like our young. They must desire to take on the Lord's work for themselves. We can not protect our youth from the world. We must however guide them to find the spiritual armour that St Paul talks about in his letter to the Ephesians that make our toil, tears, the sweat and pain bare fruit.

Therefore take unto you the armour of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and to stand in all things perfect.

Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of justice,

And on your feet shod with the gospel of peace:

In all things taking the shield of faith, wherewith you may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the most wicked one.

This is a real time for optimism.

Then again it is easy for me to say that. My doctor's are very worried about me, apparently I am very ill (I certainly feel it), but they are not quite sure what with. It is obscure and is involving professors and experts scratching their heads. Husband is still ill, and awaiting treatment, the delay is callous. I'm all out of strength, completely KO'd and not a natural optimist but God is with me and the light and hope are blinding.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

The ordained ministers exercise their service for the People of God by teaching (munus docendi), divine worship (munus liturgicum) and pastoral governance (munus regendi).

1592: Catechism of the Catholic Church

Which part of the ministerial service is covered by a priest encouraging people to sign a petition directed against their Bishops? Am I wrong to be horrified? It is worse than the bad ol' days when some priests would tell their congregations to vote Labour (admittedly in the days when the Labour party still had a backbone). Who has the authority to make such a petition, who has the authority to sign it, who has the authority to direct the faithful to sign it?

Do our brother Priests not have some mechanism whereby they can talk to their Bishops, expressing their concerns for their flock and asking for prayerful guidance. Is our hierarchy so far removed from its people that even our priests feel they can't talk to the Bishops and feel the need to sign a petition?

The bottom line is, our schools are NOT Catholic (as in true to the Magisterium, they have to render too much to Caesar for this to be the case) they are only Catholic in a cultural sense, there are not enough Catholic teachers in most Catholic schools to ensure things are done properly. Though I'm sure many non-Catholics are equally horrified by the proposals for sex-ed in our Primary Schools. Individual parents and teachers are going to have to make a stand and it is these that the Bishops will have to support. Outright, open criticism of the government by the Bishops could make this very difficult.

I don't know how far off we are from needing Bishops like "the Lion of Munster", (we are certainly not being openly persecuted yet)but without prayer and unity great men like that will not arise again. Incidentally, strong, outspoken Bishops are always patriots who love their country. Is not one of the greatest threats to England and Wales, that patriotism is considered such a dirty word within these shores?

ps. No links on this post, no criticism of any individual, just incredulity, puzzlement and a real concern that we are being divided by forces that want to destroy our witness, charity and unity.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

From Divine Intimacy: 3rd Sunday of Lent.

If we would work for the triumph of good, let us collaborate –one heart and one soul- with our superiors and fellow religious. ….It may even be necessary sometimes to renounce opinions, plans, and ways which are better in themselves. Let us not be deceived; unity is always to be preferred. Division never leads to victory.

I repeat, how can a freakin e-petition ever be a good way of showing love for Christ whilst showing such discontent with our Bishops?

People get real, this petition is wrong, we are falling into serious error here.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Paranoid, moi?

In response to my last post, Francis wrote:

I don't see how 'post-modern idealism' can 'drive' anything other than humans. It is written about and espoused by humans. Just like modernism and theism. If it is discrete from people, how do you intend to counter it?

I may be idealistic but I find your position pessimistic from your own perspective because you don't seem to have a way to change it because you don't regard humans as the agents of the post-modern relativism you dislike. And I still don't think you have answered my point: why would people like Gordon Brown and Tony Blair want to persecute Christians? Perhpas it is not post-modern relativism you need to fear but paranoia! Lol

Here is my reply

The problem comes when a system of governance and economics has been developed that relies entirely on mathematical rules. Such a system can never be seen to be truly human.

Since the start of the Cold War there has been much interest in Game Theory (did you see A Beautiful Mind? ) developed by John Nash and John Von Neumann. Game theory is essentially a set of tactics designed to maximise your chances of getting what you want. It assumes you have a competitor and that both you and your competitor are playing to win. Usually it fixes the pay-offs and if one guy wins the other looses. I do think that most politics is run along Game Theory lines. Probably the most effective “game” anyone in power can play is called Deadlock, using this strategy you simply refuse to budge an inch and stick to your aims (despite any evidence that what you want may not be really valuable in any real sense). The Deadlock strategy also denies your opponent any chance of winning and ensures that the worst case scenario for yourself is that your status quo is maintained.

This “game” effectively prevents humans behaving like humans. There is no need for dialogue, no compromise, no listening to another’s point of view, no need to gather evidence, no need to be objective. Yet so much political decision making is governed by this brutal cold logic, from going to war in Iraq to public private finance initiatives.

Whilst governments and economists are enthralled with Game Theory, we are living in a post-human society. Human life and goodness do not count, only being in a position of power and getting what you want does. Incidentally, I would argue that to be a follower of Christ is to be a loser in this world, as the goals of the Christian life are not to be found in this world. It isn’t an active persecution on this level, just a realisation that in a post-human society our values simply do not count. We need to realise that in order to be true to our faith, we will eventually give up everything else.

Prove to me that Game Theory and mathematical rules are not central to the running of the state, and I may develop a less pessimistic view about the system of government we live under.

Monday, 8 March 2010


"Every kingdom divided against itself shall be brought to desolation"

Some are still wanting our Bishops to speak out vociferously against the continued attacks by the State on our children and elderly. Some have started petitions, some have signed them...

Indeed it is hard not to want our Bishops in E & W to have the media savvy wit, the hard hitting authority and the downright awesome pastoral skills of American Archbishops like Chaput and Dolan. We forget that in America, free speech is still allowed and enjoyed, and the country as a whole still speaks the language of Christian morality. We forget they can be patriotic and still speak up. We live in half cocked, smug, Whig experiment which is smelling more and more like a police state.

Has it not occurred to anyone else that our Bishops simply can't speak up as we would desire they did?

If they spoke they would have to do so from the standpoint of our truth being one truth among many, and our Jesus, being one cool guru among many. Our Bishops simply can't speak from that standpoint and be true to our Faith. They cannot say the Government is wrong AND give the real reasons why they are wrong. Maybe it is prudent they remained silent.

We have to face facts, moral relativism will lead to our persecution. Catholic individuals will make some great sacrifices, Catholics will suffer in Blighty, perhaps "live blogging the Apocalypse" should be a tag line for all British Catholic blogs and not just Orwell's Picnic.

Keep praying for our Bishops, stop ridiculing them, we need them, and they need us to be united, prayerful and respectful.