Saturday, 29 May 2010

Fruit out of season

Next day as they were leaving Bethany, he felt hungry. Seeing a fig tree in leaf some distance away, he went to see if he could find any fruit on it, but when he came up to it he found nothing but leaves; for it was not the season for figs. And he addressed the fig tree. ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again’ he said. And his disciples heard him say this.
Mark (Chapter 11)

I know I’ve written about the barren fig tree before. But like the Transfiguration, there seems to be so much you can get out of this event in the life of the Apostles. Yesterday at Mass it was the turn of the version in Mark’s Gospel (Chap 11: 11-26). Father, in his short homily, said it all seemed rather unfair on the fig tree, after all, it wasn’t the season for figs. In fact Mark stresses how out of season a fig would have been. Our sympathies for the tree seem to reflect the shock of the writer of the gospel to the events that unfolded when the tree was cursed with such dramatic consequences.

There is one interpretation we can not put on this story; the interpretation that says Jesus was in a bad mood (after all, this event is in the same time span as the cleansing of the temple) and He did it out of spite. Spite, can never be a motive for the works of God.

What does that leave us with? Here is my humble suggestion.

God made the tree, He made it to bear fruit, as a work of God it was made to serve God through being of service to his creatures. Yes, some trees need a bit of nurturing and are reluctant or too sickly to fulfill their promise, but the gardener perseveres season after season. This tree however is different. When Our Lord is hungry, it means so much more than a hunger for physical nourishment. Our Lord was hungry to show His disciples something. Perhaps events could have gone one of two ways. Our Lord could have found figs on the tree and still preached to them about faithful prayer being able to move mountains. Instead Our Lord found a tree that had forgotten who had created it, a tree that would not serve the Lord. The lord had to show it who was boss.

So where does that leave us?

How often does God desire things from us in season and out of season? Sarah and Elizabeth both bore rich fruit out of season. Their desire throughout their lives was to serve the Lord and he rewarded their good works and good wishes out of season. We too, I’d suggest, should immerse ourselves in Pentecostal fecundity to bring forth the fruits God desires of us. The consequences of not doing so may be unpleasant.

St Rita, knew all about the significance of out of season figs and roses and was rewarded with both.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Cautionary Tales

O wicked presumption, whence camest thou, to cover the earth with thy malice and deceitfulness? There is a companion who rejoices with his friends in his joys; but in time of trouble, he will be against him.

Ecclesiasticus 37:3-4

This is a series of tales about the relationships between women and priests; ordinary women, ordinary priests.

There was the woman who spent every moment she could down at the presbytery. Each day she would work with the housekeeper. Her husband’s dinner would be left for him in the evenings. Her children hardly saw her. Her son was drifting into drug addiction, her daughter was drifting into unsuitable relationships. Words were had between loving husband and wife but nobody could convince the woman that working for the priests was NOT her primary role.


There is the priest who marvels at the efficiency of his female secretary. He can’t believe anyone could be so organised. When he moves parishes, he wants her to continue to work for him, but she can’t. When the job of being parish secretary is advertised, he is determined the job will go to a woman. “Men can’t possibly be any good at this type of thing”, he says.


There was the woman who, when the priest came to visit was so in awe of him that she wouldn’t go to the toilet during his visit. Being of a certain age, she had a weak bladder and caused herself no amount of discomfort, he was a regular visitor and liked to stay for a lengthy cup of tea.


There is the woman who is so protective of “her priest” that nobody can get near the newsletter, the various parish groups, or the priest himself without her knowing about it. People talk, you know.


When the time came for the soul to depart the body, one poor woman was at the centre of a tremendous, unseen battle for her soul. Having spent her life in admiration of priests, having served them dutifully, having spend what little she had providing them with little luxuries, she thought they might like, when, in those last days priests came to provide her with the Sacrament of the Sick, she would send them away with venom and fear in her eyes, unrepentant.


Maybe my quote from Ecclesiasticus is harsh. But the relationship between priest and female parishoner is fraught with presumptions and misconceptions. Indeed, if a woman and a priest really did get to understand each other, they probably would fall in love. And even if that love were truly chaste and noble, people would talk wouldn’t they.

As a married woman, I will not get involved with parish stuff unless my husband is involved too. I think that priests should have male secretaries. As much as I would dearly love the intellectual banter and good humour my husband enjoys when talking with priests, I retreat into the wallpaper. Priests are for the sacraments and I am united to them in love through prayer and silent sacrifice.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Happy Birthday, Church Militant!

A little recap from the Catechism for us all:

The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit
1. Wisdom
2. Understanding
3. Counsel
4. Fortitude
5. Knowledge
6. Piety
7. Fear of the Lord

The Twelve Fruits of the Holy Spirit
1. Charity
2. Joy
3. Peace
4. Patience
5. Kindness
6. Goodness
7. Generosity
8. Gentleness
9. Faithfulness
10. Modesty
11. Self-control
12. Chastity

I just wonder what it is that we (faithful Catholics) do (mainly unwittingly I think) to prevent our Honoured Guest from finding a habitable abode in us. There would be a lot more evidence of these Gifts and Fruits if we weren’t such shabby creatures.

I’d like to suggest that the epitome of our shabbiness lies in the sin of presumption. To quote the Catechism (2092):

There are two kinds of presumption. Either man presumes upon his own capacities, (hoping to be able to save himself without help from on high), or he presumes upon God’s almighty power or his mercy (hoping to obtain his forgiveness without conversion and glory without merit).

We’d all better shape up, there’s work to be done.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Novena to St Rita

It is that time of year again so to promote her feast this year I am publishing an old novena to St Rita, which I found recently. It is a little "old skool", but none the worse for that. You can sing the hymn to “All people that on Earth do Dwell”, but it becomes rather dirgey if you do.

Holy protectress of those in danger, help of those in utmost need, patient as Job, strong as the Mother of the Macchabees, whose virtues were a model for every state in life, I come to thee, uniting my will to the adorable will of God, and implore thee to obtain my earnest petition. Through the Passion of my Lord and Saviour, throughHis patient wearing of the Crown of Thorns which thou didst contemplate every day, and through the merits of His holy Mother, I ask …….If it be according to the Providence of God and a help towards my salvation, gain this favour for me. Gain also for me a true pardon for my sins and the grace to persevere in the path along which Our Lord desires to lead me.

St. Rita, who has obtained favours which seemed impossible,
Pray for us.

St. Rita, who are called Advocate of the Helpless,
Pray for us.

Our Father Hail Mary Glory be

(this hymn is a translation of the hymn of Lauds. Office of St Rita approved by Decree of the S.C.R.., November 24th, 1900)

From fast her sinless frame is weak
Her livid flesh the sourges streak
In pity for her Saviours’s woes.
Her days and even nights are closed,

The widowed, spouse and wedded wife,
The way to Heaven see in her life
The way secure our Rita trod
In life’s dim day, through pain to God

The thorn-wound on her brow is shown
The crimson rose in winter blown
And full-ripe figs on frozen tree
At Rita’s wish the wonderers see.

Praise to the Father and the Son
Praise to the Spirit, three in One
Oh grant us grace in heaven to reign
Through Rita’s prayer and life-long pain

V. Pray for us St. Rita
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us Pray.

O God, who in thy infinite tenderness dost deign to listen to the prayer of St Rita, and to grant her in reward for her compassionate love and firm reliance upon Thy Promises, what to human understanding seems impossible; have pity on our adversity, and assist us in our needs, that the unbeliever may know that the recompense of the humble, the defence of the helpless and the strength of those who trust in Thee, Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord.

Indulgenced Prayer

O, glorious St Rita, who didst miraculously participate in the sorrowful Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, obtain for me the grace to suffer with resignation the troubles of this life, and protect me in all my needs.
(300 days once a day to all who devoutly recite this prayer in honour of St Rita of Cascia- Decree August 11th 1906)

Inprimi potest:
Epus Plymutensis
+ Franciscus
die 25 Martii, 1949

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Partly Politics

I for one hope this coalition works. I do not like party politics and always struggle at voting time. However, anything that brings back the old skills of negotiation, debate and working out concessions has to be a good thing. There have been two leaders of this country (Thatcher and Blair) with big ideas and big majorities who between them ruined any vestiges of consensus politics. I'd also argue they put far too much control into the hands of government.

This government will effectively have its wings clipped and this has to be a good thing.

My only concern is that we no longer have the calibre of civil servant necessary to make it work. Few are educated well enough in the finer arts necessary for posts in the civil service, few may be able to "speak truth unto power". And whose fault is that.......?

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Just one soul

Friday evening before the Blessed Sacrament.

Still my heart, Lord.
I kneel before You this evening for just one soul.

If just one soul could see in his wounds, Your wounds.
That Your wounds are his wounds.
That you know how it feels to be bullied, abused and forsaken.
If just one soul could reach out to you in love and hope
And cleave his heart to Yours.

If just one soul will come to realise that his healing can only come through reaching out to You.
Through trust in the promises You have made.
Through trust in Your Sacred Heart.

If just one soul today comes to realise how much You have grieved over us.
How much pain our sins have caused You.
You who loves us so much.

Oh that today, just one soul would come to realise that You are waiting for him;
The bridegroom waiting for His bride.
That you love Your bride to distraction
That your keenest longing is for unity with your bride.

Oh that today Your bride, through her tears, will grow in beauty and serenity.
Your care for souls is her care for souls.

Oh that today, just one more soul will come to realise
The truth about your bride.

So I pray for the healing of just one soul.

Jesus I Trust in You.

Monday, 3 May 2010


When praying for priests, I like to think of all the possible priests out there in all the possible situations they could find themselves in. Here is the result of my meditations, I just thought you might be interested:

o Pray for the priest whose calling was genuine but through the sinfulness of the world, his calling was ignored, mocked, ridiculed or abused to such an extent that he let his calling go, to his continued grief.
o Pray for the priest whose calling was never genuine but whose priesthood has been used as a stepping stone for power, greed, manipulation, bullying or abuse. Pray too for his victims. Pray for those who trusted him.
o Pray for the priest who made rash judgments about others that have had a lasting effect on that person’s ability to function within the Body of Christ. Pray that they grow in discernment.
o Pray for the priest riddled with doubt.
o Pray for the priest facing spiritual aridity.
o Pray for the priest facing temptations of the flesh. Pray he has the courage to resist. Pray that the object of his desire knows how sinful it is to lead him on.
o Pray for the priest who wants the Church to change, yet can’t see to his own continual renewal.
o Pray for the priest who feels uncomfortable amongst his fellow clergy.
o Pray for the priest who is feeling old and tired.
o Pray for the priest who is feeling young and enthusiastic.
o Pray for the priest in danger of his life.
o Pray for the priest having to give wise counsel who does not feel up to the task.
o Pray for the priest who thinks he can change the world.
o Pray for the priest who constantly has to fight his own temper and bad humour.
o Pray for the priest who feels he must be a people pleaser, involving his parishioners, to the extent of compromising the sacred liturgy.
o Pray for the priest having difficulty going to confession.
o Pray for the priest struggling to preach.
o Pray for the priest who can not feel anything in the Mass.
o Pray for the priest who is physically ill.
o Pray for the priest who is suffering from mental illness.
o Pray for the priest in very real combat with the Devil.
o Pray for the priest chosen to be a Bishop.
o Pray for the priest who will one day be Pope.
o Pray for the priest burning with love for Our Lord and filled with zeal for the conversion of sinners.

May justice, truth, and genuine self-sacrificing love pierce the hearts of all priests, through Christ Our Lord and High Priest. Amen.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Puffin Counting

It is at times like this that I start yearning for my dream job; puffin counting on a remote Western Isle.


The Media: I want to be as far away from Spencer Tunick, Carla Bruni, Lady Gaga, Damian Thompson and Orange Tony as I can get.

Commerce: I'm kinda guessing I'd be a long way from crap supermarkets.

England: Oil seed rape, strimmers, people revving their car engines incessantly, all political parties which don't include the word "raving" and probably should and all political parties that do include the word "raving" and are.

If you want to know how many dead pigeons are lying in a barn after a shoot, I can estimate with staggering accuracy, and I can only assume counting living puffins isn't too different from that, so I'd be good at the job.

Puffins don't do stupid examinations and aren't "dead stressed" if they don't get straight As all the time.

I'm not very well and I'm fed up with doctors telling me I'm not very well, but that I'm a bit complex and they don't really know what to do, but "try having double cream on everything, it might stabilise your weight". I want to be in a doctor free zone...they are not helping.

Oh, and there is this. H/T Fr Stephen Wang