Saturday, 17 December 2011

Thread bear

Ollie Bear here again..

We were woken this morning at , as I think you say “stupid o’clock”, by Rita making her way to the Rorate Mass at the Oratory. Now she’s got her head stuck in “The Catholic”, the quarterly newspaper from Papa Stronsay, and is unlikely to be blogging for a while. No, she’s not going to buy a mantilla anytime soon and she wont be joining the LMS, but as her diet gets simpler (we did find some cabbage, by the way) she seems to like more “twiddly bits” in her faith. You can tell she’s on holiday, she’s nearly cheery and she’s cleaned the car.

She informs us, and we are not pleased, that there is a new business venture out there, I will not mention the name because I do not wish to be the first blogging bear to have legal chappies after my fur. This business involves the selling of bears, a tasteless enterprise at the best of times. Bears find you, you don’t buy them, you pay a ransom and rescue them, when they want to be resuced. Anyway, this venture turns this fact on its head because it is purely commercial as the “customer” actually designs his/her own bear! Can you believe it? They pay to design a bear to their specification and put a “heart” in it! This is not good, the relationship between bear and bear-owner is corrupted. A bear freely gives himself to you, with all his defects, personality issues and wonky stitching and he will stick by you till you discard or forget about him. If he is designed by you, how can he freely have given himself to you. This designed bear is part of your ego and is not a free standing bag of stuffing and fluff in his own right.

Will these designed bears behave any differently? I do not know. Will their expectations be any different from ours? We do not know. We do know however that the bear’s end is a slow demise. Some are loved to bits over decades, some spend years in the loft in a toy box, some get sent to charity shops waiting to be rescued again. The majority will eventually end up in the hands of the salvage men at the tip; they give us our end. Some finish their days in a manic, all weather, teddy bears picnic at the side of the tip sitting on “rescued” plastic chairs. Others are strapped to the radiator grill of the bin wagons for a filthy, high speed final adventure. Others will be intimately examined on prime time television on the “Antiques Roadshow”, be auctioned and end up as prisoners in the glass cases of some bear fanaticists. Will a designed bear accept his fate, after all some of your ego as gone into its creation? It just doesn’t seem right to me to bring a bear into the world to satisfy your own whims.

Then again do we bears mind how you treat us? No, not really. We are just stuffing and fur after all. We are at your service and you do with us as you please. Our intellects are far superior to yours and we can out stare you any day, but we know our fate.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Bearing up

Hello there,

Whilst Rita's taken her bat home, I bethought myself it may be a good idea to keep her blog alive with some occasional ramblings from the sofa bed.

I'm Ollie. I share the sofa bed in the study with a venerable and camera shy bear of some 40+ years from Wigan (Rita's favourite, they've been through thin and thin together). I myself was rescued from the cake counter of a cafe on the Yorkshire/Lancashire border some 10 years ago. Now we all live in deepest, dankest Wessex in the most astonishing wilderness. It has its advantages, this is AGA country and the good ladies around here make damn fine cakes. Rita doesn't share my passion for cakes, but then again she doesn't really know what I get up to whilst she's away.

The only musing I have for today is: what has happened to all the cabbages, there are none in the shops? Have the Chinese commandeered the whole UK crop or something? Not that I can find a decent cake recipe with cabbage in it, but it is the vegetable of choice chez Rita. The old girl is in need of comfort food, for her this is glutenous rice and cabbage. We like to keep her on her feet, earning money and keeping us in the manner to which we've become accustomed, but she's flagging a bit and I think some cabbage would help.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Muniment and Malachi

Last Sunday's reading from the Prophet Malachi always leave priests feeling a little uncomfortable. The Book of Malachi is only short and deserves to be read in its entirety. We should read it and all feel a little uncomfortable, not just priests.

It is hard not to see this book in a contemporary light, it smacks right to the heart of the Church on earth. We should not be surprised by this, good prophecy is timeless because it reveals timeless truth. The sad thing is that there is still the need for such a stern prophecy, priests and people are still doing the same old, same old; picking and choosing what to believe in, being unfaithful and not fearing God.

The frustration of some with the Catholic hierarchy in the UK is due in no small measure to the belief that they "have caused many to stumble by their teaching"(Mal 2:8). It is a frustration that the Body has been weakened and that those in a position to strengthen the Body seem for the most part incapable of (a) obedience (b) seeing the problem, (c) having the guts to do what they were ordained to do. If it is a frustration born of love and powerlessness, both things are inherently good. Indeed if that frustration boils into anger, provided it is channeled correctly, then it can be for the good. Though at all times remembering the legal maxim those who come into equity must come with clean hands because it is always dangerous to say "we have a better claim to be the Church more than those others who claim to be the Church".

I put forward the proposition that some priests/bishops and people have always been like they are portrayed in the Book of Malachi, this is not some arrogant judgment on my part but a statement of fact. We are dealing here with types, not specific people. Many are causing others to stumble; pray that we are not a cause of stumbling or stumblers who have been led astray. Yet somehow the rickety ship keeps afloat, God is in control. The unknown faithful by their service to God in prayers, good works and adoration, in no small measure make sure of that.

When we know we are right about something, and someone else is in the wrong, we should never draw attention to ourselves, only to the source of our righteousness, and carry the ruptures the wrong has caused as a penance. I was told this by my confessor yesterday.

Let us not weary the Lord with our words (Mal 2:17).
I'm going to stop serious blogging for a bit too.

Friday, 4 November 2011

The Devil opines.....

I've been following these last few posts with interest. I like nothing better than watching strife and tetchyness between Catholics who should be on the same side...being the original lazy arsed sloth, and by far the most accomplished one at that, it is my great pleasure to do nothing and watch my work being done for me. Well, it was originally my work that meant that people lost the ability to comprehend each other, so I have to take some credit for it. A little pat on the back for yours truly, I have this amazing ability to do my own work even without doing it. I'm just so fantastic, don't you think.

I'll tell you what I hate though. What I hate most about mortal man is priests. They should be all mine but they are not. They are a bunch of weak, pathetic, insecure, vulnerable men and I love to torment them, but so few of them fall, it makes me quite mad. Mind you, I'm not always lazy, what makes me really livid and really fires me up is a very holy priest and for him I'll even venture onto the sanctuary (do you know how foul that place is, the stench nearly does for me). I can give him sudden violent pain, I can make the text in the Missal wobble comically before his eyes, I can suggest highly inappropriate thoughts and images, and I can induce blackness, emptyness and unbelief. I do most of my damage to him in the presbytery but a little nudge in the sanctuary really brings him down. A moments distraction in his prayer and whap, in I go.

I also hate children, I mean really hate them. Why do people still bother having them? What are they for? Still, they sometimes unwittingly add to my mirth, sweet little dears. I'll give you an example. There is a priest I know, who is pretty low. He feels let down by his bishop, he feels totally over worked, and he is very lonely. When I've worked him up to a high level of self pity he really is a complete wretch and then I drop the killer suggestion to him your parish don't even respect you, it doesn't matter how often you ask for fractious children to be taken out at Mass, they never are, they're ruining it for you aren't they, nothing is beautiful anymore, nothing feels sacred, there are no spiritual consolations, everything is drudgery, oh and you are sooo lonely, why not give it all up, eh? The man is a living wreck AND he's losing his faith. SCORE!!! Well not quite. He doggedly clings to his priesthood, but I'm working on that. Every time a child misbehaves during Mass, I'm just stand at the back laughing at this priest and say nothing to do with me mate, you're feeling sooo bad and soooo unloved and it soooo has nothing to do with me. Haa Haa!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Appropriate response

Dear Anonymous has replied most graciously to my last post on the behaviour of children at Mass. Most of the text is shown below, but I have added my own comments in bold.

1. Parenting is really, very hard work, a type of difficulty against which all others pale to nothing, which cannot be known properly by those who do not have children. This is not the kind of 'hard' one ever stops to consider because, when one is presented with the one's first baby, you just get on with it. By the time you have three in (nearly) four years, the work is near constant, as are the anxieties (too numerous to count, but try 'How do I form my children in a robust Faith?'), the contingent work (wage-earning), organisation, housing (especially if you do not own a place), and of course education, to important to be entrusted to normal schools. And so on, and so on. In short, when some parents seem to let their children run riot it is because they are so tired they do not know what to do, are too overburdened to think a behavioural situation through.
Yes, but would they let this happen in a restaurant or at a concert. No, they wouldn't take the children, they would find a baby sitter or go without such luxuries. Now is Mass a luxury, of course not. However, one reason why parenting is so difficult these days is the lack of an extended family, people to leave children with whilst you go to Mass with your husband. The primary aim of marriage is offspring, the secondary is the sanctification of your partner, spiritual time together is very important.

2. The children who are misbehaved may well be unwell, have ADHD or somesuch (be it nature or nurture induced). Again, although I have no direct experience of this, and one tends to think 'Bloody give them a clip round the ear', this doesn't actually work with mentally disabled children.
Unwell is fine at Mass, unwell and unruly needs thinking through, if it is going to distract the priest, then it is not good, they can be under enough assaults from the devil during Mass as it is. Children are rarely living saints, they can vehicles for ill (because of their self-centredness), even without sinning. Pray to their guardian angels.

3. The Mass may be the only time in a week a parent can get to be with the Lord in the Eucharist. Should they give this up so you can have some quiet?
No, that is a silly argument. The answer remains the same as the one to point 1.

4. Your concentration is not relevant to the reality of the Mass; God happens, so you have to be there. This is a reality of great importance to parents. In the nearly five years since I had parenthood sprung on me, I have actually felt like I prayed at most a dozen times at Sunday Mass. My children are immaculately behaved, (for children - see below) but this takes continuous low-level concentration on my part. I can never loose myself in praise.
Yes, the action of the Mass takes place irrespective of the worthyness of the priest or the concentration of the congregation. But, there is a danger here of presumption, the presumption that reverence is not necessary (I'm not referring to your family here, only really bad behaviour). Reverence is vital, Calvary deserves reverence. Yes, it is MY problem BUT the assaults of the devil and the occasions for sinful thought when children are misbehaving are great.

5. Don't expect children to behave like adults. They are not adults and do not behave like it. Even mine, who are, as implied above, quiet and engaged, will find themselves amazingly excited by some seemingly pointless thing and fall over themselves to explain it/ fall about laughing/ squeal with excitement/ whisper at the consecration/ etc.
That is all good, there is no problem with this.

6. The Latin Mass in its current incarnation creates amongst the congregants an attitude of sighing intolerance, a real 'people set apart'. 'Did you not know, Latin Mass is for the truly devoted?' I have experienced this in about five different churches. Nobody likes the de-sacralised, jumble-sale shtick of the average NO Mass, but nobody wants us at the Latin one (except the Franciscans of the Immaculate in Stoke). So what do we parents do? Trudge along broken-hearted to an event we are confused (at best) about, passing on only frustration and disappointment as the fruits of a Catholic life to our children?
But you have just said that the Mass is the Mass. I must say, I regularly attend Latin Mass is two different diocese and there are far more children there than other Masses, they are behaving like children, not adults, but they are welcomed and there is no irreverent misbehaviour.

I could go on, but my point is simply this: If the Catholic Church is going to survive in this country, and outside of the major university cities this is actually not likely, we need children to get the Faith. There is no one blueprint for the Faith, but if the children aren't praying at home and building a relationship with the Blessed Trinity, the Mother of God, the angels and the saints, then no amount of Mass attendance will work. They will not get the Faith in school, even less of it in Catholic school (statistically true), and are normally raised in functionally Protestant households (85-odd percent of Catholics are contraceptive, contra God and his Church) Our best Catholics are so often converts or reverts who really discover Faith in adulthood. If they don't go to church and receive the full grace of God by baring witness to and eventually participating in the Mass, from where is it supposed to come? Turning up at Mass does not magically bestow grace on anyone.

Question: Sanctifying grace is a habitual gift...a supernatural disposition that perfects the soul itself to enable it to live with God (CCC 2000), we know this grace by its fruits, are the fruits really there if chaos reigns supreme and a child who is old enough to know better, is bent on destruction and mischief?

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Appropriate behaviour

Prompted by some comments on my previous post, I will now dare to write about the appropriate behaviour of children at Mass.

My last school was a boys' school and we were never allowed to say anything they did was wrong, only that it was inappropriate. So overtly sexualised posturing, sexist language and racist language were never "wrong", just "inappropriate". I don't like this approach, but I will adopt it for the forthcoming argument.

Matthew 18: 1-6 is often cited as a good reason for us to suffer children at Mass irrespective of their behaviour. I quote it at the end of this piece, in case your memory needs refreshing.

The child that Jesus calls and puts in the midst of the disciples is not described. However verse 2 does not end with the words, and after the child had thrown its toy camel at a disciple, hollered loudly for its mother and tugged at Jesus's beard and hair... . An inappropriately behaved child would not make any sense in this Gospel passage. The child was meek, the child was called by Jesus and the child responded appropriately. Being placed in the midst of the disciples makes the child a teacher and a most profound one at that. As the Son is infront of the Father, so the child is infront of Our Lord, and so ought we be too. Never, never get in the way of a child and its faith, the consequences are terrifying.

It is the child who simply doesn't appreciate that church is a sacred space, different from the living room, that can lead to inappropriate behaviour, both from the child and its parents. It can never be appropriate to feed a child (save breastfeeding) at Mass,. How will a child ever appreciate the Eucharist if it is leaving great lumps of Jaffa cake smeared over the pews? It is never appropriate to bribe a child to be quiet during Mass. It is never appropriate to hold a conversation with a child that has no relevance to the Mass whilst the Mass is taking place. Is it appropriate that there is a child whose parents let it run all over the sanctuary before Mass pulling the flower arrangements to bits? Are not all these types of behaviour likely to get in between the child and its growing faith.

If we look at Luke 2:41-43, it seems clear that children were only expected to journey to the Temple in Jerusalem on reaching the age of 12. An age where appreciation of and appropriate behaviour during religious ceremonies would be expected. I'm not saying 12 is the best age, indeed I'm not suggesting any age requirements only an understanding that perhaps the child needs some appreciation of what is happening.

The things that would be considered inappropriate in the public gallery of a law court, or at a funeral, or at a gallery of priceless artifacts aren't somehow appropriate at Mass.

The very smelly old lady at Mass, the man with the bowel problem that leaves him smelling of faecal material, the man in the wheelchair who makes involuntary groans, the gurgling infant, the devout alcoholic who needs a swig of vodka half way through Mass to stop him shaking...are all behaving appropriately.

I have been in a very delicate state this last few months, I have needed to be at Mass and receive the sacraments. Can you imagine how upsetting it can be when you don't feel like you've been to Mass because children and their parents seem to have no understanding of the need for reverence, and that foucussed prayer needs a level of concentration that can not be obtained if some child you don't know is poking a Thomas the Tank Engine in your ear.

Matthew 18:1-6
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" 2 And calling to him a small child, he put him in the midst of them, 3 and said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 "Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me;.."

Thursday, 27 October 2011


The Telegraph newspaper reports the death on the 24th October of John McCarthy, the originator of probably the worlds coolest and arguably most influential programming language LISP. As undergraduate Physicists, we had to struggle endlessly with FORTRAN, a clunky mess of a language that I could never get to do what I wanted it to do. FORTRAN caused me hours of frustration and I loathed it. The Mathematicians were all using PASCAL and that seemed better, in a "grass is always greener on the other side" kind of way. But my Computer Science friends were using LISP and it just seemed worthwhile, sensible and logical...My fellow physicists laughed at it and mocked the endless parentheses, but scoot forward in time and see just how influential it has been...

So thank you John MaCarthy for the neatness and elegance of your work and for making programming nearly fun.


Aisle Rats:
When traveling by train, I like to use the "quiet carriage"; a marvelous invention where mobile phone and loud conversation are prohibited. Imagine my annoyance when two quiet adults decided to park themselves in the quiet carriage with a tribe of aisle rats all under the age of 7. How can you be quiet if you have with you mobile, random noise generators with no off button? Yes, you may look like the type of people who do not make use of mobile electronic devices, but the quiet carriage is quiet and cannot be so with your children racing and screeching down the aisles.

A bit like church really. We are expected to suffer distracting noise if it is child related. Does this really extend to suffering children who do not know how to behave in the environment in which they are placed? Does a rendition of the fireman sam song during the consecration really improve the liturgy?

We are not allowed to say anything though are we, we get accused of not liking children, we get accused on not seeing their innocence for what it is.

Children will imitate the reverence of adults around them with time and good example. Families really ought to have some sort of oratory or prayer space at home where they get used to reverential quiet and may help. And if it doesn't, take the little one out, please! Father has spent a fortune making sure the you can still hear and see the Mass from behind sound proof glass.


St Paul's Cathedral
I'm feeling that the whole sorry mess of the tented community encamped outside and preventing the cathedral from opening is a reflection of the weakness of the evangelical "what would Jesus do?" theology. Let us not forget that the ever so practical and down to earth Saint Francis de Sales used this phrase too, but he never used it out of the context of the commandments of loving God and neighbour.

Our tented friends may have a grievance that some will sympathise with, however, they took advantage of Christian niceness and some misguided belief that Jesus would be supporting them and tenting with them to the exclusion of the bankers and money men.

Remember folks; Christianity is about personal holiness and abhorrence of sin because of the love of God. Everything stems from our right action caused by our right motives and reliance on God. Maybe we ought to see being p***ed on by greedy capitalists as some sort of necessary mortification for our salvation.

The C of E does seem particularly prone to being hijacked by "causes" that then take advantage. Very sad, very sad indeed.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

More good news from Old Trafford

First the cricket, and now this...

But don't worry, the DNA of the "noisy neighbours" in blue is such that we are destined for tragicomedy...just allow us a little gloat for now.

Saturday, 22 October 2011


My computer glitches are driving me mad, any inspiration for a post is lost by the time I've fired up this ancient laptop, because EVERYTHING I try with the "fast" computer, so far has failed.

I've tried "system restore" but it wont accept any of the restore points. Therefore I think it is a virus.

I do a full virus scan, viruses detected and eliminated. Google still not loading.

I defrag the hard drive. Google still not playing.

I clean the registry. Google still not working.

I go to the command prompt (ah the nostalgia- I wrote my thesis from the DOS prompt- in the days before Windows) and "ipconfig/flushdns". Still google won't play.

I try going to "blogger" using a proxy server. I get to the website!! Hurray! I log in and then it times me out. Sigh!!!

'Tis a good job there's more to life than blogging.

Monday, 17 October 2011

blogging lite #2

My old laptop (11 years old) is still going strong but takes an age to boot up and gets a little anxious if there is too much Java stuff for it to process. Therefore I've been using the other computer in the house, and up until about 10 days ago, things were going well.

Now, on opening ANY browser, the computer will not go to anything related to blogger and is desperately slow on all google sites. It has nothing to do my firewall or the security settings when online, because the laptop is on the same settings. It may be a virus but a blinking strange one of it is...and bizarre that it has gone undetected by F-secure (they are usually very good).

This is an annoying problem that maybe related to a missive I sent blogger from that computer, complaining that they really had to sort out their problems for Firefox users (commenting on blogs being the most irritating issue). I explained I had no intention of "buying" into the whole "google experience", as they are getting far too big as it is; I would not be using "Chrome", "google+", "gmail" and out of choice I try not to use google as a search is strange that all my problems stem from after I sent that missive.

Therefore blogging is lite, whilst I summon up the enthusiasm to try to work out what is going wrong and do a system restore.

And no, I wont be moving to "Wordpress".

And, yes, I'm in a grumpy mood. I'm a rabid, foaming at the mouth Papist, incapable of compromise and stuff is happening out there I can't blog about but is driving me spare. Probably a good job gremlins have got into the computer, it will stop me from saying something I may regret.

Sent from a steam powered, 10kg, ancient laptop with a dodgy fan and not enough RAM.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

blogging lite

As much as I like this blog, I am feeling a little concerned that my science practical with year 10 on Friday involved beakers and tea-lights, and some girls in tears because they couldn't do the maths. And yes, it was risk assessed and no I wasn't wearing Hi-Viz.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Puzzling bumper sticker...

...and worse.

First the bumper sticker, that I presume is from an evangelical Christian. I happened to be driving behind this for too long this evening, so had plenty of time to muse over its naffness.

It said: Do you follow Jesus this close!!!

I presume it is a bumper sticker telling me to "back off". Yet backing off would suggest that I was not a close follower of the Lord. To deny Him is wrong, ought I have got into the car with her?

Now for the "worse".

Say a prayer for my late husband's 95 year old auntie, Mary. And say a prayer to her Guardian Angel. Mary is a fine lady, hard as nails, a foreman welder in Radcliffe during the war (and blinded in one eye for her troubles), but get beyond the toughness and there is a woman of remarkable faith and fortitude and a most reliable of friends.

She had a fall a few years ago and needed the full time care provided by a care home. Last week she got an infection, it was making her a bit strange in the head and she started refusing food and drink and spitting at her relatives and carers.

The family wanted her admitted to hospital.

The response from her GP was; well you know she is very old, is it really worth doing anything? If she has decided to go, shouldn't you choose to let her go?

Family outraged and upset, but now Mary is in hospital, responding to antibiotics and saying charitable things like "where is that bl**dy GP, I'll kill him".

The new NHS is here, folks, and the new mantra is "admit as few people to hospital as possible". You have been warned.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

thoughts at morning Mass (2)

At Mass this morning I was behind a woman who was really squirming and struggling when Father said the priesthood is only for men. Well, it is hardly groundbreaking stuff, and for many of us about as controversial as saying the Pope has a balcony. I do, however feel for those who have made allowing women into the priesthood, something of a cause. They are blinding themselves to the nature of Christ in His Church, it a sort of self-imposed spiritual mortification and it does the mortifier no end of harm.

A larger question remains as to what is the theological significance of women? The biological significance of men and women is not in question. The theological significance of men is not really in question either, theologically speaking it is men who are the barers of new life through the grace of God. Eve came from Adam's rib, the priest acts "in persona Christi" bringing us new life through the Sacraments, the new life of marriage is something that the husband brings to the wife....

I have no answer to the question I have posed.....

However I have had a phrase going round my head for sometime now "live your life as if it were all the defence of an unwritten thesis". Maybe silence is the answer, pondering things in our hearts, absorbing the complexities and simplicities of life and acting carefully and quietly, making as few ripples as possible. Just choose your thesies wisely, ladies.

One place that is not place for a woman (a pulpit in a Catholic Church)

Sunday, 25 September 2011


Error bars notwithstanding, some of those neutrinos arrived at Gran Sasso before they should have done because the went via Rome; simples really.

Takling of bars; here is a bad neutrino joke doing the rounds.

Bartender, "We don't serve your type in here". A muon neutrino walks into a bar.

A momentum-space diagram AKA Feynmann diagram depicting an anti-muon neutrino (bottom right).

Friday, 23 September 2011

I've no interest in neutrinos, unless they start to reveal huge flaws in the current best theories of Physics, and personally I think we are a long way from that...*

So by way of a Friday meditation, here is a quote from Mgr Ronald Knox on a completely unrelated topic:

The virtue of Patience. Almighty God means us to suffer; it is good for us; and he means us to suffer not only from natural causes over which man has no control, but from our fellow-men; from mistakes, the misjudgements, the misgovernment of our fellow-men. Most of us have some unlovable qualities which we can't help; most of us do and say the wrong things, without meaning to; and besides that, there are our faults. Part of the reason why God put you into the world was to exercise the patience of others by your defects; think of that sometimes when you are going to bed. It is a salutary thought... Your bad temper, your excesive cheerfulness, your tiresomeness in conversation; He chose the right person, didn't He? Well, if other people are being so admirably exercised by patience in you, it seems a pity you shouldn't be exercised by them now and again in your turn; that's only fair. The offering of patience which you can make to God; the little things you have to put up with- and that offering is to be made in slience.

Mgr Ronlad Knox: - from a talk on murmuring: The Priestly Life ( a retreat)

* Neutrino detectors are cool, however. The picture below is of the construction of the Super-Kamiokande neutrino detector in Japan.

Isn't human ingenuity amazing!

Monday, 19 September 2011

When hadrons collide

Our favourite Archdruid, has brought to our attention some comments of Jeremy Hardy regarding the religious belief of scientists. You can read the post here

Indeed, in the spirit of re-enactment for which her community are so fond, I raise my indestructible mug of strong Brownian Motion (a nice beaker of tea) in her general direction, on my own and without the support of a community or even a tea light, because as everyone knows physicists never get invited to the right sort of parties.

Her comments did get me thinking about my fellow Physicists. I'd have to agree, a sizable number are religious. However I am still puzzling as to why this is. It would be bad sicence indeed to probe the questions of ultimate smallness and beginnings of beginnings and to say, simply because our brains were fried, we can't understand this so it must be God wot done it. That would be bad science and bad theology.

My own view is that the aquisition of scientific knowledge involves rigourous discipline and hard study. One has to be a mental athlete and have a heightened awareness of the world around one, in order to really succeed. Therefore what the Physicist achieves is a merited reward, based on their study and their sensitivity towards the natural world. Knowledge of God involves grace, which is always an unmerited gift and involves the receiver at the very least acknowledging that he wishes to seek God. Hence the religious Physicist has not got his understanding and knowledge of the Divine from his study of Science. I'd suggest that it is his openness to religion that is a product of the rationality that his discipline has given him and the metaphysical questions he inevitably asks, BUT that his faith does not come from that source, it comes from the same source as everyone elses whether they be a scientist or not.

To paraphrase Fr Georges Lemaitre, religious physicists don't walk or play sport differently from anyone else, why should they do science differently from the non-believing scientist.

One final point and I'd be interested if any other Physicists can back me up on this. In my years of being in the company of male Physicists, I'm very struck by the fact they don't seem to age like other men, check out the age of Prof Brian Cox, if you don't believe me. Is Physics the elixr of youth, for the male of the species at any rate (the sample size for females being too small, and my lack of objectivity meaning I can't make any claims about them)? The boyish yet senior Physicist is not something I find all that charming, but I have to admit I do think it is an observable phenomenon worthy of further study.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Lost in Translation...(2)

There are things from the Vulgate that to me seem so much more inspired than later translations that have worked from more sources. I would be grateful if anyone can point me to passages where the opposite is true and later translations have specific poigniancy for the reader and where the Vulgate translation seems bland. Below is one small example of significance to me as this psalm is my main scriptural prop these days.

Consider Psalm 84 (83) Quam dilecta

try the second stanza:
For the sparrow has found herself a house, and the turtle a nest for herself where she may lay her young.

Even the sparrow finds a home and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young.

RSV: sparrows and swallows are good; a home bird and a migratory bird both finding a home in the dwelling places (tabernacles) of the Lord.

D-R: sparrow is there too, and maybe I'm reading to much into this but the turtle rather than the swallow takes this to another level. (Yup, I know I should check the Latin/Greek for the correct fauna, but the whole point of this post is that you shouldn't have to, it isn't an option for most people.) The turtle is an animal that makes a nest for her young and leaves them there in trust never to return. Somehow, I relate to this. So often I find I offer up what I have and what I am before the Lord before returning to the wasteland, trusting it entirely to His safekeeping.

Consider the later stanza:
Blessed are men whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. As they go through the valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools.

Blessed is the man whose help is from thee; in his heart he hath disposed to ascend by steps, in the vale of tears, in the place which he hath set.

Undoubtedly the RSV is more poetic and obviuously draws from more material, however again it is the D-R that is more inspiring. Both versions show ascent to the Lord, highways to Zion or ascend by steps. But it is so much more personal inthe D-R; the man with the singular determination to ascend from the vale of tears, from where he is right this moment, with gritted teeth and determination from whatever abject state he may now be in. Again, this is so much easier for me to relate to.

Why am I mentioning all this? Just this notion that translation ought to be inspiring as well as accurate. Yup, I know that is a subjective thing and it is a good thing that we have so many translations available, and I not knocking using other sources apart from the Vulgate, it is just for me, time and time again, it is the Vulgate that inspires and gets to the heart of the matter.

Just don't get me going on the Grail psalms in the Office.......

A turtle (the author of this blog)

Monday, 12 September 2011

Lost in Translation....(1)

The New Jerusalem Bible, what is the deal with this? After all, it is the translation used for scripture readings at Mass in the UK, but why is it so, well so....I can't explain, but here is an example from yesterday's Mass:

Matthew 18:21 New Jerusalem
Then Peter went up to him and said ,"Lord, how often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? As often as seven times?"

Mathew 18: 21 Douay-Rheims
Then Peter came unto him and said: Lord how often shall my brother offend against me, and I forgive him? Seven times?

Matthew 18:21 RSV
Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?"

Matthew 18:21 Good News Bible
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, if my brother keeps on sinnning against me, how many times do I have to forgive him? Seven times?"

When the Good News Bible is saying the same thing as the Douai-Rheims , but the New Jerusalem is on a different tack (no mention of the offender sining many times, just multiple forgiveness)...hmm, is the New Jerusalem just trying to be clever? I'm not sure it is being helpful.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

What I learned today

Maybe I'm a bit slow, but I today I've discovered someting which I consider quite profound regarding the differences between Anglicans and Catholics. It is that the ordinary Anglicans, within their own communion service acknowldge they are not receiving the whole truth. Let me explain:

Before going to receive communion they state as we do that they are not worthy, but rather than align themselves as we do with the centruion (Matt 8:5-13), they align themselves with the Caananite woman whose child needed healing (Matt 15:21-28). Part of what the Anglican's say is:

We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs from under your table.

You can read the full text here, in the holy communion pdf, p181.

The Caananite woman, like the centurion is a foreigner, and Our Lord praises and rewards the faith of both of them. The Caananite woman is of no significance in the social sphere, the centurion is a person of importance who has duties and responsibilities. Similar, stories but profoundly different in one clear respect. The centurion feels unworthy to let Christ under his roof: that is not worthy to receive the whole person of Christ into his sphere of influence. It is about being unworthy of an intimacy with Christ.

The Caanantite woman (on the other hand) doesn't even stand before Christ as herself, she denegrates herself to being as a puppy in his presence. There is no intimacy in receiving the scraps from the table, just faith alone and an acknowldgement of an incompleteness about the whole thing.

So, there it is, Anglicans are doing something completely different to us, there is no common ground in our concepts of Holy Communion and liturgy. It is their own order of service that makes this abundantly clear. I do admire the honesty of the peole who constructed the Anglican holy communon service, they reallly knew what they were doing wasn't a demonstrably equal alternative to the Holy Mass.

So next time you meet a lapsed Catholic who attends Church of England services and says something like "Oh we believe in the same things and the words are nearly the same". You turn round and say "Oh no they're not".

A typical English village church, currently occupied ( I presume) by some rather lovable puppies.


Not that Catholics are to feel smug or anything. If we are identified as the centurion, then the reception of Christ (for which we are entirely unworthy) comes explicitly with duties towards our fellow man that spread way beyond the immediate family. If we don't acknowledge those duties, are we perhaps worthy of condemnation through our reception of the Eucharist? Hmm, scary stuff.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

SSPX and all that

I seem to be getting slightly more traffic than usual thanks to Ttony, if you want the "dementors" post scroll down one.

Faced with a choice today between an EF Mass (many many miles from home) and an OF Mass celebrated with all due reverence (slightly nearer home) I chose the EF Mass. Priests round here have embraced the new translation of the Mass for weekday Masses, and I'm sorry to say that I've already become a little tired of having to watch what I'm saying.

I have carefully avoided using the word "think" about what I'm saying, becuase that isn't the point. This interim period, where we get used to the new translation is now full of moments when you are making sure you don't slip up and insert a casual "And also with you". It is about learning lines, not about praying the Mass. I'm not sure you can do both simultaneously. I'm finding it a little frustrating and I'm noticing frustration creep in with the priests due to the unhelpful nature of the interim Missal. They're book juggling, whilst we are learning our lines...not prayerful stuff. This is all part of the process, it has to happen and I can't see how any souls can be lost through it, we are never attentive enough during Mass: non sum dignus.

So EF it was today (the Mass for Pope St Pius X), no need to watch my words, just be immersed in the Mass, I'm glad I went.

It got me musing about the SSPX on my way home. I used to think they were just a bunch of reactionary loosers, now I don't know what to think. All I know is that the meeting scheduled between Bp Fellay and the Vatican is truly significant and packs a greater punch than it simply being about the SSPX. I am way out of my depth here, but knowing this is much more about Theology than about Liturgy, is it just possible that the SSPX are right in many ways theologically speaking. There is so much grey and murky water within the theology of Rahner, von Balthazar and de Lubac, it is impossible to say whether it is right or wrong becuase it is never clear enough about what it is actually on about. The Truth ought to be clear becuase it is illuminated by Christ, the new theology is just simply too complex and too fuzzy. For those of us who hold the old theology as divinely inspired or atleast self-consistent and clear, surely it is still so? The SSPX will not embrace the new theology. We have to ask now, does it form part of the Magesterium? Do they need to embrace it? Successive pontiffs have embraced the "new" theology, but that doesn't mean they are in error and not valid sucessors to the see of Peter. Nor does it mean that those who don't embrace the new theology are in error either. The vast majority of the world's Catholics simply wouldn't find it necessary for growing in grace and the understanding of, and obedience to Our Lord.

Could it just be that we are wandering into an era where we get a more focussed, more united Church with a much better understanding of the role of the Pope. The reading at Mass today (John 21:15-17) is Peter's threefold protestation of love for Our Lord and His three fold commandment to "Feed my sheep". Isn't that really what the papacy is all about? The successor of Peter is the one who must most amply display love of Our Lord and proclaim most visibly who He is (and correct where errors have come in regarding Jesus Christ since the preaching of the first apostles) and then, as a consequence of this, feed the sheep with the "Bread" that lasts. No Pope has ever been in error over these matters. Even young Patricius would struggle to argue with that. Popes may not always express their Theology with crystal clarity, but provided they know who Christ is, God doesn't expect them to be the cleverest of men. Popes may not always do the wisest of things (God doen't expect them to be the wisest of men). Changes to the liturgy are always done for pastoral reasons, but again they may not always be done with wisdom. Saints and Blesseds do not need to be wise or clever men but they must love Our Lord madly, foolishly and visibly.

Could it be that, the SSPX will actually do the whole Chruch a favour by staking the claim for a more robust, clear, intelligible Theology? The result of this may well be a clearer understanding of the nature of the priesthood and the papacy. This must be a good thing. They may find they have new friends in very diverse corners of the Church.

St Pius X ora pro nobis.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Dementors in "Per Una"

I'm being a bit uncharitable here and in fact most of them don't wear "Per Una" (an upmarket range of clothing from Marks & Spencer for ladies), but the fact remains, some people just seem to drain the "gubbins" out of me (like the Dementors in Harry Potter).

It is all about givers and takers and that highly overrated quality "niceness". There are so many so very nice people who think they are givers. They go out of their way to ask how I am with that ghastly phrase "how are you feeling?". This is truly the "dementors kiss", they think they are giving of their love and affection but they seem to want to feed on my emotions, it doesn't matter how I answer that question, I am left drained by the fact it was asked. Through engaging with them, and being in their company I really feel it is me who is doing the giving. Yes, they may hurt for what has happend to me, but they seem to want to increase that feeling inside of them by feeding off me. I love them, I can't change them, but oh boy, they are exhausting.

So for now, though it be a significant number of miles from anything Roman (my diesel bill is huge), I feel the need to stay among these people of Wessex where I have made my home: high Tory, low Church. There is a different sort of giving here and it is so very English. My neighbours give out of a sense of duty and care, a sense that it is the right thing to do. They keep an eye out for me, leave me with little presents of surplus produce from their gardens, a cheery wave, a firm handshake, invite me in for a cup of coffee, with a total lack of interest in what I'm up to but so keen I'm showing an interest in what is happening in the village. They care, but they stay out of my emotions, they give at little cost to themselves and it is so hugely appreciated by me. They take nothing off me (except the rent) and I feel ever so privileged to be among them.

Englishness is a good thing (for the English), but it seems to be dying out, it is a bit like living in a "designated rare-breed area", are honour, duty, respect and civility really such difficult qualities to pass on these days? They are certainly very precious.

Saturday, 27 August 2011


The Benedictine's at East Hendred have a good post about widowhood for today's feast in honour of St Monica and Richard Collins has also excelled himself with his musings on St Monica.

I did perhaps overdo the amount of widowhood (and alcohol) in my choice of patrons; choosing both St Monica and St Rita. Then again, they chose me, I did not choose them, and they have been the most loyal of friends. And indeed, a third widow, St Jane Frances de Chantal has recently come into my life. Whilst wandering throught the convent where I was staying, I found her relic and prayed before it. I then get back to Blighty on her feast day and find myself at Mass in her honour, I am just beginning to get to know her too.

One thing is certain, there is a great apostolate of prayer involved in widowhood. This is possibly, because in the loss there is a greater identity with God as the Infinite Solitude (see Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity's famous prayer). The Infinite Solitude isn't a concept our two most recent Holy Fathers have had much time for, but they are shepherds trying to bring home the flock, they have to stress the solidarity of God rather than the solitude of God. The "pious widow" is already in the sheep pen and waiting, she has stared into the abyss of unfathomable love and knows something of the solitude. Solitude isn't isolation or even lonliness in the sentimental sense, nor is it some existential crisis, it is a realisation that outside of God, there is nothing. Through the death of your partner, the unity of the marriage is broken, yet strangely made more whole. Widowhood is about allowing the Infinite Solitude to reach inwards and open up great fissures in your heart and soul so that one day you too may, in your own small, insignificant way have a soul that can magnify the Lord.

And if that wasn't enough, there's illness, there's bills and rent to pay, there's cooking, cleaning & ironing and there's teaching the drivel that passes as a science curriculum to uninterested teenagers.

The Young Widow - Edward Killingworth Johnson (1877), a bit sentimental for my tastes but it makes the point.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Here we go again...

With apologies to the memory of Salford's finest, Al Read

Dad, dad, have you seen that dad...that priest over there, have you seen that priest over there. Dad I know you can see him, well he's wearing a polyseter chasubule,, are you listening, you don't like polyester chasubules do you dad, why don't you go and tell him dad? Do you want me to tell him? Dad do you want me to tell him....ooh and what about that lady over there, she's received Communion standing up and in the hand, you don't ike that do you dad, you don't like that do you? Dad, why don't you say something, it's disprsepctful intit dad, intit, intit? What aren't you listening, you could tell 'em where to go, couldn't you dad? You could tell 'em where to get off, I know you could. You've got that authorittitiy thing haven't you dad, that authorittity thing means you have power, dunt it dad, dunt it, dunt, dad you can tell em where to get off, I know you can. Dad, dad, why don't you do something....

Perhaps the Pope isn't a fan of Ultramontanism either.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Caesarea Philippi

Today's Gospel is Peter's declaration of faith at Caesarea Philippi. If you're a Catholic, reading this is one of those rather triumphalist moments we (occasionally) allow ourselves: the supremacy of Peter, the binding and loosing, the gates of Hell not prevailing. Today it feels good to be a Catholic.

I have always been a bit of a fascination with the place where Our Lord chose to ask Peter to make this profession of faith. Caesarea Philippi is way oop north, on the same latitude as the coastal port of Tyre, but way inland on the lower slopes of Mt Hermon and on the boarders with Lebanon. It is well known that Caeseria Philippi was also called Panias/Banias and had been settled by Hellenests since about 300BC when Alexander the Great had conquered these eastern provinces. Its alternative name gives a clue to the pagan worship of Pan that took place there. Whatever went on, it was probably highly sexualised and scandalous and just what every good Jewish person whould bring their children up to abhor. By the time of Christ, on top of the sites dedicated to Pan, was a temple dedicated to the emperor Augustus. This place was so just the right spot for the events between Our Lord and Peter to happen. The Church would destroy the twin evils of pagan worship of idols and the deification of earthly emperors. Oh, and look at that cave, it is the very mouth of hell, the locals referred to it as that, what a setting! Oh, and the place is also one of the sources of the River Jordan. Talk about theatrics, talk about perfection. Referring back to my Rahner rant from yesterday, using his logic, there has only been one "epoch" for the Chruch, it is the "epoch centred on Caeserea Philippi", we're still living this momentous event.

The "rocky outcrop" at Caesarea Philippi.

None of this will be news to any of you, you are much better read than I. But on coming home from Mass today I got to thinking how Christ's disciples must have felt, schlepping all that way to Caeseria Philippi from Galilee. They were heading deep into Gentile territory, it must have felt very threatening, they were well out of their comfort zone. What could they dredge from their knowledge of sacred scripture about the place?

So I got my bible lands maps out and tried to find what was there before Panias. Less than two miles from where they were (ie. roughly in the same spot) had stood the city of Dan (founded about 1200 BC). I'm sure the disciples would have been awareof this. Let us go back to the Book of Judges and see what went on there.

It is not an edifying tale (Judges 17 & 18). A man called Micah and his mother make a graven image out of silver for their home. Even the writer of Judges squirms a bit saying "In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes". A dodgy Levite from Bethlehem comes into town and Micah persuades him to stay and be his priest. Meanwhile the Danites are looking for somewhere to settle, and come across Micah and his household and his priest. Eventually they persuade the priest to go off with them, taking the graven image with them to the town of Laish way up north, where they slaughter the "quiet and unsuspecting " people of the city, claim it as their own and rename it Dan.

So as much as the disciples may wish to pour scorn on the idoatory in the place where they find themselves, they will have to check themselves as, to their shame, their ancestors (fellow sons of Jacob) had graven images at that site too. It would have surely added to Simon Peter's humility at becoming the rock.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Anonymous Catholics

I don't like this concept of Karl Rahner's, the Anonymous Christian, read wikipedia's synopsis of it here. More especially I have heard three sermons from different Catholic priests that have referred to Rahner's idea, and perhaps it is their interpretations of Rahner's idea that I find so objectionable.

The stock sermon goes someting like this:
  • Humanity is full of great people
  • I (the priest) met some realy great people the other day who would probably never go inside a church, but they're really great because of all the good work they do.
  • Rahner would call these people Anonymous Christians
  • They'll get to heaven, Rahner says so.

You can see the problem for the pew sitter is not so much Rahner but the interpretation of Rahner which has the world populated with really great people, much better than the ones sitting inside the church, doing much better things than the people sitting inside the church. Pew sitter really left wondering, why do I bother coming to church. It is punishment for not being some really great person? Wouldn't I be better if I just upped sticks, forgot about the Sacraments, and try to become a really great person out there in the real world?

This is dangerous stuff, very dangerous.

Now let us look at Rahner and his fascinating interpretation of Vatican II as expounded in the Catholic Times by him whose name we musn't mention. Actually, I congratulate him whose name we mustn't mention for bringing Rahner's ideas to my attention. I'd never heard of them before, and I trust the interpretation provided in the Catholic Times is a fair and accurate synopsis of Rahner's ideas.

Basically, according to you know who (no not Voldemort, you know who) Rahner bypasses the Hermeneutic of Rupture/Continuity interpretations of the Council to stress the continuity of the Church founded by Christ on Peter as moving through epochs. The Second Vatican Council representing the dawning of a new third epoch. The first epoch was centred in Jerusalem, the second in Rome, the third "will be centred on the world". This is strange; the first "epoch" lasted less than the time of Peter's active ministry, it was hardly an epoch. The "centre of gravity" of the early church was always Rome, both Peter and Paul were desperate to get there, get into the heart of the biggest empire the world had seen, and take on the world. AND they never intended it to move from Rome, the blood of the martyr popes has sanctified the place, nobody has ever suggeste that in future generations, due to the shifting power of empires, the Chruch should be centred in Ulan Bator or London, or Washington. Respectfully, Rahner, your "epoch" theory is no good.

Rahner sees this third epoch as a "self-actuation as a world-wide Church". I presume he is suggesting that at all levels, it will take into account all peoples and sort of self-organise itself to do what it is meant to do, a bit like a flock of starlings, I suppose with each starling being a "Eucharistic community". I'm realy not sure what "self-actuation" is, in a dictionary the synonym suggested was "self-stimulation", and that is just plain wrong.

Perhaps Rahner just gets lost in translation. But in the mean time, faced with a choice between hermeneutics of rupture and continuity, I'll pick continuity.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Patronal meme

A dumb meme is doing the rounds courtesy of some very nice people, it goes something like this:

Assuming you are a saint, and your cause has been executed, your miracles confirmed, your date on the calendar established, all that is required is to select that of which Holy Mother Church will name you Patron(ess) of.

For this meme, you must name your patronage and then tag 5 other people who would like to play along.

Linking your answer to your nominator's post would make it easier to get

your answers.

I'm not going to pass this onto anyone, it is just too silly. But for the record, and if they are not already taken, my choice for me would be:

(1) People who dislike cats
(2) People who don't like school
(3) Toilet attendents
(4) People who have to fight the medical profession

and one that hasn't happened yet, so God willing it will happen

(5) for the conversion/reversion of parents.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Marian post (3)

Our Lady, St Monica and St Augustine

This is the third and last of my Marian posts to celebrate the Assumption. It concerns Our Lady of Consolation.

Most years I do my "back to school novena" to Our Lady of Consolation. The Augustinians celebrate this feast on the 4th September so the novena starts on the 27th August, for others the feast day is the 20th June. I know about the novena thanks to the Augustinian Recollects in Devon, you can find more out about them here. Once you are on their mailing list, they notify you about various novenas they support throughout the year, for each one you can have your petitions placed at the foot of their altar. They also do the "piety lists" for Holy Souls in November, I'm staggered how many parishes have stopped doing this, if your parish has stoppped this then why not support the Augustinians? I'm very fond of them, in particular for their simple and effective promotion of popular piety. Anyway I'm way off topic.....

Back to Our Lady of Consolation.

I have read that "we are not on this earth to pick the flowers of consolation" and I agree whole heartedly with this statement. The sense of consolation in this life consists of brief moments of respite, each one somewhat transient, but with grace at work, you know that the real flowers of consolation await in heaven. This allows you to enjoy the sensation of consolation while it lasts and move on to face the next battle, we are the Church Militant afterall, knowing the consolation is still there even when you can't feel it.

The Augustinian tradition has Our Lady of Consolation giving St Monica a leather cincture which she gave to her son. Augustinians still wear it today. The cincture signifies chastity and I have the feeling that nothing would have given St Augustine more consolation than chastity, he spent so much of his life engaged in and fighting the voluptuous pleasures.

And isn't this the point of the appeal of praying to Our Lady of Consolation? She knows what is best for us and it will involve hard discipline (like chastity). Consolation isn't about warm cosy feelings, big hugs and hot chocolate, it is about the grace to uphold a vrituous life. It is about our willful ordering of ourselves to the will of our Creator and this is a tall order but who better to assist than the Mother of God?

Have I ever told you how difficult I find teaching?

Our Lady of Consolation, pray for us.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Ave Maria (2)

Whilst away, I went on a "chruch crawl" of the nearest big city. One of the churches was a dark and uninviting affair by the banks of the river. Like many places in southern France, there is a shrine there to the "Black Madonna" and there can be no denying that despite the garish early 20th century surroundings of this statue, there was an atmosphere and a reverence around it that certainly isn't in proportion to its beauty. Invariably these statues are primitive at best and ugly at worst.

Picture from Wiki Commons

I was left wondering what this cult was all about. For starters, it is important to reclaim these statues from the occultists who see them as relating to some pre-Christian fertility goddess. These statues are Catholic, they are in Catholic churches and the Catholic faithful can attest to the intercession of various regional Black Madonnas over the centuries.

Then I was reminded of the words of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, that most scientific of mysitics. She gives a hypothesis, states the evidence, explains it and draws conclusions. Her style is succinct; some say dry, but I find it staggeringly beautiful.

After Jesus Christ, of course, and as far away as the infinite is from the finite, there exists a created being who was also the great "Praise of Glory" of the Most Holy Trinity. She correspondes fully to the divine vocation of which the Apostle speaks; she was always holy, unspotted, blameless in the sight of the thrice-holy God.

From the 15th day of her last retreat.

As far away as the infinite is from the finite, that is just it. These small Black Madonnas say just that, they are, if you like, a profound meditation on the smallness of the Incarnation and the infinity of what it contains. The black but beautiful in the Song of Songs springs to mind aswell. They are the humility of Our Lady before the majesty of the Blessed Trinity. They cannot be dismissed as "primitive".

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Ave Maria

I did write a post nearly 4 years ago when I was a wide eyed innocent in the ways of the bloggerdom, about my difficult realtionship with Our Lady. Difficult on my part, not hers. I had this feeling of inadequacy as a Catholic because my hyperdulia was never hyper enough, or atleast never as hyper as most other Catholics I knew.

Since then, I've just decided to let go, pray and stop trying to intellectualise it all. As a way of celebrating the Assumption, my next few posts will be Marian in flavour.


There is a church many many miles from where I am now dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. At the rear of the sanctuary is some stained glass featuring, among other things, the Immaculata herself. Due to the ridiculously high (in stature not orthodoxy) sanctuary, a gift of the "modern liturgical reforms", this window is now extremely visible during Mass. What is disconcerting is that Our Lady has no face. I don't know whether the glass depicting her face fell out and was never replaced or whether the details simply wore away. It is a trifle disconcerting, but it has taken on a great significance to me, it has become soemthing of a genuine icon for me.

Then again, no artist can truly depict her beauty, though the more divinely inspired can produce great devotional pieces. Our Lady whose face I can't see, pray for us.

With this in mind, it came as no surprise to find that the first bit to wear off my brown scapula was the face of Our Lady, everything else is still clearly visibe. When I put on the scapula, Our Lady goes between my shoulders and Our Lord to my heart. Our Lady whose face I can't see, pray for us

Now there is an indelible set of images before me, of a mother helping her toddler take the first baby steps. A mother has two ways of doing this, she can either crouch before the child at a distance with arms open, welcoming the child into her arms or she can stand behind the child reassuring her that she won't fall as she totters forwards, there is a sense of a stabilising arm there if it is needed. Many will relate to the first image, I think it is particularly pertinent to priests as their path is so treacherous and their steps so shaky. I relate to the second. There is a motherly "go on keep trying" from behind me, we are facing the same way, that is why I can't see her, she knows what I'm doing even if I don't. Our Lady whose face I can't see, pray for us

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Il ne marche pas

I'm back from the land of the long lunch and dismal apples. I have to say it is quite nice to be back to my coffee and garlic free cuisine, but there is so much I miss from my stay with the sisters.

I miss having a bedroon 4m from the Blessed Sacrament, I miss the sung Office, I miss the good company, I miss my evening walks saying the rosary as the sun sets, I miss my devotional reading and note taking (it is so much harder to do when everything else crowds in). I knew it would only be for a short time and I knew I'd miss these things when I returned to Wessex, this just makes them all the sweeter; a real rest with God.

Before I went out, I thought I'd get organised and buy myself an adaptor for the 2-pin French plugs, this would enable me to charge my phone, charge the batteries for my camera and use my hairdryer. Well, on opening said adapter in France, the small print with the "instructions" said that it may not work on older French sockets. Too right! I was nearly filled with indignation. My camera batteres were flat, I hadn't had time to charge them up before I went, my phone was in a similar state and I do need to wash and dry my hair every 6 days or so....

I willed myself not to get irritated and just to accept that I would have no pictures of my stay and only select contact with the outside world by text. Hair drying was a challenge, but no worse than the challenge I faced (which incidentally made me feel very British) about just how do you keep yourself clean for 10 days with only a bidet and a bucket.

"Not getting irritated" starts to take on a spiritual dimension, it calms the heart, it prevents frustration that my spoken French is so lousy and means that communication is done generously, with love and with very few words. All this means that even the little things become time with God and "time with God" itself takes on a transcendent quality (as it realy ought to); something stored up for eternity that can never be taken away from you, unlike photographs, phone calls and the taste of strong black coffee.

Monday, 1 August 2011

I'm off for some much needed rest and recuperation with the sisters who live here. You remain in my prayers, and no fighting whilst I'm away.....

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Keep Bishop Crispian in your prayers

Bishop Crispian Hollis has sent the following letter to the clergy of the Diocese of Portsmouth.

Dear Brothers,

You will all know that I have been struggling a bit this year with health problems and I seem to have been spending a great deal of time in surgery waiting rooms and the QA hospital.

To cut a long story short, I was given a CT scan at the QA in the middle of June and I have now received the results, which are not very good.

The scan has revealed cancer of the bowel, which is probably malignant, though that has yet to be definitively confirmed by biopsy on Monday August 1st and an MRI scan on August 2nd.

Whatever the results of the tests may be, it is likely that I will have to face major surgery sometime in September. Between now and then, I will be spending my time between Portsmouth and Somerset though I hope to join the Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes from August 21st till August 27th.

I will, of course, keep you as informed as I can about what is happening, but, in the meantime, I would be very grateful for your support and prayers, together with the prayers of all in the diocese.

With my love and blessings to you all,

Bishop Crispian

Friday, 29 July 2011

Holy Hour

It hadn't ever occurred to me, until it was mentioned in a sermon recently that the supreme example of the Evangelical Counsels (Poverty, Chastity and Obedience) is Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. I found myself meditating on this during Holy Hour today....and if Christ himself lives by these counsels, we ought to aswell (to the extent that our state of life will permit). They aren't just for the consecrated religious.

Poverty: The poverty of the host, the poverty of the surroundings, no matter how beautiful the church or the monstrance, the poverty of the company Our Lord is keeping during Holy Hour....Holy Poverty is infinitely generous and beautifully simple.

Chastity: The chaste love Our Lord has for each of us. The love that never imposes itself, but patiently waits for us to draw closer to it, only desiring our good....Holy Chastity is passive and demure (the candles and the sunlight through the windows outshine the Host).

Obedience: Our Lord is obedient to the prayers of the priest as He is made present at Mass and becomes our Divine Prisoner in the tabernacle. Our Lord is obedient to us as he listens to our fumbling prayers and sees our unworthy devotion. ...Holy Obedience is humble to the point of nakedness and totally underserved by those who are being obeyed.

What have we done to deserve any of this?

painting by Jan van Kessel (17th century)

Sunday, 24 July 2011

A gallery of fake tapestries

Clerics have opined here and here that a lot of the problems in Ireland at the moment are certainly not helped by the calibre of their Bishops. There are many in this country, myself included, with considerable emotional attachements to Ireland who really grieve over what is happening and the unimaginable pain of many of the Irish priests who feel so scandalously scapegoated.

From the perspective of a lay person, I wish to add my voice to the discussion and say that I'm fairly convinced finger-pointing is just as much an Irish trait as an English one and that it is perhaps time to move away from all that and not blame the Bishops, the Vatican, the Irish government or even the laity (thought their silent complicity and two facedness is staggering). Everyone has some guilt in this, the penance needed is nation (and diaspora) wide.

So much of this, to me, boils down to concepts of nationhood. The Irish Republic is a mess because it still divides into the Pale and beyond the Pale. My folks were Dublin people, beyond the Pale was where you went for a holiday, romancing the poverty in your own little holiday bothy with no modern conveniences. Back in Dublin, you were cosmopolitan, you looked East, to the rest of Europe, you cultivated friendships with the Jesuits and the more "educated" of the clerical caste, you were proud many of your friends were drawn from Ireland's Jewish, Church of Ireland communities or claimed ancestry from Dublin's Hugenots. The rest of Ireland seemed ever so slightly phoney. I don't think the history of my people will be too different from the history of others from the upwardly mobile, nice suburbs of Dublin. It is a world away from so much of the rest of the country.

The Irish as a nation are a people of superlatives. I only have to think of the many Irish priests I have known; they are the kindest, most generous, the most zealous, the most firey, most lazy, most ignorant, most willfully truculant, most articulate, most charismatic, most will meet.

Perhaps the biggest national trait is an unwillingness to face the truth. Ireland's past is too painful, Ireland's present too messy, Ireland's future too uncertain. So everyone is colouring everyone else to weave a tapestry of half-truths and obfuscation, to conceal the collective guilt and collective trauma of a people desperate to forge their own identity and reinvent their history.

Apologies for this, I've been reading MacNeice again, and him a son of an Ulster clergyman, his poem Valediction says a lot about why my folks left Ireland and it articulates some of my feelings for the place.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Magdalene collage

Below is a picture essay of some of the best and worst depictions of today's saint. Personally, I prefer the penitent Magdalene to be modestly dressed with no allusions to her alleged past misdeeds. Pentitence through prayerful study would seem to be most fitting for someone who spent so much of her time at the feet of Christ. Any other "penitence of the body" stuff ought to be totally private and depicting it in art makes us little better than voyeurs. If I'm trying to say anything at all with this picture essay it is that the centuries of objectification of this particular woman detract from the real power of her story.

Below is one of my favourites: Roger van der Weyden's Magdalene reading

good posts see here and here

Thursday, 21 July 2011

thoughts at morning Mass

The readings at daily Mass recently have been following Moses from the beginning of Exodus onwards. They have been long, they are difficult to take in and priests seem reluctant to preach on them. So why include them? It is always good and fitting to hear of the triumphal routing of Pharoah in the Red Sea at the Easter Vigil, why does it make any more sense to include it again during "Ordinary" time?

Is there some mysterious link to the Gospel readings for the day I haven't yet fathomed? Exodous does not make for easy teaching material and left out of context as a somewhat disjointed first reading at Mass seems so pointless.

I have a personal problem with this too. A good five years ago I was involved in the preparing a young woman for Confirmation who was as intelligent and articulate as I was inexperienced. The story of the parting of the Red sea came up in our lessons. It is seen as a prefiguring of baptism. Now I love analysing the Old Testament in this way, seeing how it points to the New, and far be it for me to criticise Chruch Fathers and Doctors but this young woman came up with the following and I remain a little stumped. She said:

This is not right. This is not the infinitely merciful God I want to believe in and grow to love. How can he treat the Egyptians so badly? Yes Pharoah was bad and stubborn but there was no need to rout his forces so completely. These Egyptians had souls, there would be good and bad amongst them, why did he treat them worse than the town of Sodom (at least he let Lot escape from there). What has this to do with baptism?

I had no answer at the time and it has been bugging me ever since.

Here are a few thoughts of my own:

The sons of Israel did not get wet going through the Red Sea, how does this prefigure Baptism? The routing of the Egyptians "just" shows the greatness of God, and greatness must include here "ineffableness".

Surely, the twelve springs at Elim in the next chapter are a better prefiguring of Baptism? God makes a statute for Israel before they get to the springs saying "If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give heed to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases upon you which I put upon the Egyptians; for I am the Lord, your healer."

I'm left with the uncomfortable feeling that if the parting of the Red Sea is a prefiguring of baptism, then it is the Egyptians who are getting baptised, they certainly died by the power of God, which certainly meant they were unable to do anymore bad things. They would certainly have been aware of the power of God and some of them may have felt contrition for their treatment of the Israelites. Now, for a take on salvation history that might just have met with the approval of this young woman; was it possible then for the some of the Egyptians then to enter Sheol and await the coming of the Lord?

Friday, 8 July 2011


Well, I seem to have got to the end of another school year. There have been times during this one when I really thought I wasn't going to make it.

Below are a sample of the random musings from my sugar-lite brain.

I found an article recently in a reputable journal detailing the effects of induced hypoglycemia in healthy individuals. The doctors found that intellectual function was not significantly impaired, but that ability to concentrate, respond to multiple stimuli and react at speed, all were. I find this to be true of the state I'm in too, yet my specialists say I don't exhibit "normal" signs of hypoglycemia. I'm sick of having to justify how ill I am. All I know is that I find my job increasingly difficult to do becuase of its resemblance to herding kittens, there are just too many things going on, my mind starts to freeze. If the doctors don't come up with something soon, I'm going to have to seriously consider a career change, I love my job, but I no longer have the faculties to do it well. I have serious issues with the protocols in the UK for measuring insulin concentration. Basically, it is expensive so they only send samples off to be analysed having first checked your blood glucose levels. This is daft, it is not measuring glucose concentration in the brain and is not done for medical reasons, it has meant every test I've had has been inconclusive, because there has not been enough insulin monitoring in each test to rule anything in or out. It ends up costing the NHS more because they keep having to repeat each test. Meanwhile, I'm growing old.

Visited a Russian Orthodox church recently, I was overwhelmed at its beauty and the fact that the priest graciously drew back the curtain in the iconostasis so we could see the altar and tabernacle. It was profoundly moving and so kind of our host.

Visited an Anglican cathedral recently. A party of school children were being encouraged to sit on the steps of the high altar, whilst one of their classmates was being dressed as a bishop and sat in the cathedra for a giggle and some pictures.

I'm summoning up the courage to cut my own hair. I hate going to hairdressers. Husband used to give it a trim every few is beginning to get a bit of a mess. I don't quite trust all the self-help guides on youtube for cutting your own hair.

Why is it so difficult to buy soap-flakes from a shop? There 20 different kinds of fabric softener and I don't know how many different aromas for water in your steam iron, but nothing useful like soap. So many things just wash better in soap than more modern washing products. Yes, I'm definitely getting old.

Why can't I buy this stuff either?

Why does everything have to be minty? Who said minty means you mouth is clean? Minty is yeuch, and leaves me with an aftertaste, the original was best (but to be used sparingly).

Actually blogging leaves a bit of an aftertaste when such a deep tragedy is welling up in the Horn of Africa.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Don't Fall

I can't quite work out why, but I've been musing about minor orders: lamenting their demise, lamenting the fact I can't find an English translation of Paul VIs Motu Proprio Ministeria Quaedam, which was interpreted so as to sound the death knell for them (surely they still exist?), and wondering more generally if there was some much needed way of de-clericalizing the laity who have roles within our houses of God.

My musings have led me down the following path; there is a lay equivalent to minor orders which are necessary progressive steps towards fulfilling our commandments to love God and neighbour, this lay equivalent has no relationship to lay ministries within the Church, and indeed should make all such "ministries" dubious. Let me explain:

Tonsure the first minor order, an outward non-permanent sign of commitment to God and detachment from the world. Lay equivalent:an outward visible sign of commitment to the Church (like wearing a crucifix meaningfully).

Porter , the custodian of the House of God. Lay equivalent: making our own homes and ourselves welcoming to our neighbours and making homes where God is welcome with space for prayer, holy pictures, holy water and such like.

Reader. Self explanatory really. Lay equivalent: making time for study of the scriptures and an openness to finding God within the scriptures NOT reading at Mass.

Exorcist now we all know this doesn't mean Exorcist as in a priest with the sanctity to cast out demons, but what it does mean is an acknowlgement of the reality of Satan's power and the determination to fight it by loathing sin and taming our concupiscence. This really ought to be much the same for adult laity.

Acolyte, developing the purity to serve at the altar. Lay equivalent: growing in love for our Eucharistic Lord and a desire for purity and worthy reception of Communion. A growing sense of the reality of the sacrificial nature of our love of God and neighbour. It is NOT about serving at the altar for the laity.

Is it just possible to see the steps present in the non-sacramental, non-liturgically instituted minor orders as necessary steps in the holiness of all God's people? But that there are two distinct routes, one for those men called to the priesthood and who have to go even higher to be an alter Christus, and one for the lay faithfull, who can never be readers and acolytes in the priesthood route. Any serving or reading the lay are allowed to do is given them by a priest in recognition of their commitment to God, but it is not a "ministry" or a calling, the calling lies in following the "minor orders" in the state in which God desires of you.

Onwards and upwards, whatever step you're on, don't fall off.


Thanks to Andrew, I now have a translation of Paul VI's Motu Proprio. At first glance it is a depressing doucment, however, I do think that 40 years down the line, his envisaged reforms and institution of "lay ministries" simply hasn't happened. These are the guidelines for the opening up of Acolyte and Reader to the lay faithful:

7. In accordance with the ancient tradition of the Church, institution to the ministries of reader and acolyte is reserved to men.

8. The following are requirements for admission to the ministries:

(a) the presentation of a petition that has been freely made out and signed by the aspirant to the Ordinary (the bishop and, in clerical institutes, the major superior) who has the right to accept the petition;
(b) a suitable age and special qualities to be determined by the conference of bishops;
(c) a firm will to give faithful service to God and the Christian people.

9. The ministries are conferred by the Ordinary (the bishop and, in clerical institutes, the major superior) through the liturgical rite De institutione lectoris and De institutione acolythi as revised by the Apostolic See.

Has this happened anywhere? Certainly in not in the West, but possibly in mission territory where it no doubt has produced fruit.

All those who think they are lay ministers of the word, involved in the lay ministry of flower arranging, lay minsitry of greeting and handing out hymn books, lay ministry of choosing inappropriate hymns...etc etc...are simply mistaken. None of that is contained within this MP. Is there some other Motu Proprio that legitimises these lay ministries?