Tuesday, 25 January 2011

My bit for Unity

I appeal to you brothers, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, to make up the differences between you, and instead of disagreeing among yourselves, to be united again in your belief and practice.

1 Cor 1:10

The second reading from Sunday’s Mass sort of clobbered me as I sat there in my pew. I’d been mulling for a few days whether “liturgy is the most important thing, ever” as some claim. I do believe it is. Liturgy is all that can happen in heaven; liturgical devotion will mark the ebb and flow of eternity, it is both eternal and temporal. An eternity without some marking of time is empty. Revelation 22:2 makes it quite clear that there will be some marking of time in eternity. To the physicists amongst us; that’s time without entropy, that’s awesome! So liturgy the most important thing because it is the stuff of heaven. On Earth, liturgy is a mechanism to order us and directs us towards heaven. But there are other means and ways for us to become receptive to grace (always undeserved).

Sorry, I’m rambling, stay with me.

Why was I clobbered by St Paul’s letter to the Corinthians? It is an exhortation to be “united in belief and practice”. Now, what this can’t mean is everyone following a particular rite. To be united in practice is not to be united in rite. Surely purgatory isn’t plagued with hosts of angels beating a particular rite into the unfortunate Holy Souls who preferred some other rite (this isn’t a sin). No liturgical rite is perfect. Because none is the liturgy of heaven. “Belief and practice” is a thing of the heart put there by God, and it prevents us saying John XXIIIs Mass is better than Paul VI s , PaulVs or Sarum or Byzantine or whatever; it prevents division, its focus is on Christ.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Through the Wormhole

By some as yet unknown process, this document has just fallen through some wormhole and landed on my desk. I take no delight in passing it on to you.

It is from the Church Times (June 2036)*

Interview with Bishop Felicity Fairweather-Flummery (Bishop of Oxford)

Continuing our series of interviews with the Anglican Bishops of England, the Church Times was pleased to catch up with Bishop Felicity* during her hectic schedule in the Diocese of Oxford. Felicity lives with her wife, the celebrity chef Jenny Bainmarie and their pet goat, Alfred. She had been married, in the past, to the Rev Bob Gland, who is her current tantric sex partner and ministry enabler in the diocese, they separated five years ago, but obviously remain good friends.

Int: Thank you for joining us after your hectic round of confirmations. How do you feel about the current health of the church?
BFF: Well, we have just had a wonderful, moving confirmation ceremony at the Mystical Vibe Tent in the Covered Market. It has been so liberating moving out of the cathedrals. Our tent is circular and allows us to all lay hands on each other in a spirit of love, energy and equality. We have some truly wonderful, talented individuals who have pledged themselves to our church; we have candle makers, academics, therapists and aromatherapists; people from all walks of life! The church is awake and living!
Int: Are you worried about the lack of men?
BFF: No not really. My male colleague and friend, Rev Bob Gland is making steady inroads and recruiting new men to the church with his Sweat Lodge and naked retreat centre in the Cotswolds. There are now 4 of them who grunt and chant in the hills and it is producing a real vibe and masculine energy that will definitely attract more men to the church. God loves men, she wants them to be healed. Healing is slow and painful; they must get patriarchy out of their system and learn to suckle at the breast of the mothercreator.
Int: How do you feel about the strong Roman Catholic presence in the city?
BFF: What can I say? Their style of worship alienates many groups of disadvantaged people and I find it inexplicable that goats are not allowed into their worship rooms. Whilst they do plenty of good works, do you realise they are not Fairtrade or Carbon Neutral and they don’t use organic cotton in their worship robes, one wonders the damage they are doing for being so misguided despite their charitable works and good intentions. We pray for them regularly.

I can’t read what follows, but here is the footnote in the paper.

* The Church Times acknowledges that Bishop Felicity is the appointment of Dr Daisy Dreary, Archbishop of Canterbury (England), within the Church of England (England). However she is not recognized as such by the Church of England (Nigeria) under the leadership of His Grace Dr Ambrose Tennyson Ntologe, Archbishop of Canterbury (Lagos) since the schism of 2020.

Monday, 10 January 2011


Some great Physics:

Entropy: the amount of unusable energy in a closed system increases..

A related truism:

Over time, material things just get cruddier.

Maybe you have to come from Manchester or Salford to be bothered by this, but if you did spend your formative years near the banks of the Irk and Irwell rivers, the following may be of importance. Though I’m not sure it would save you if you ever fell into said rivers.

I know there was some dodgy marketing by this company in sub-Saharan Africa but you have to hand it to the makers of Cussons Imperial Leather that they solidly remain the choice of soap for those whose dialing code now starts (0161). It is a hard soap, not at all flowery, fruity or foamy. It smells lovely. It is subtle and it doesn’t linger on the skin. It used to be packaged in card. It was a pleasure to unwrap and see the shiny paper seal in red, gold and black stamped into the waxy ivory bar. It was also mysterious; somehow that paper seal stayed on the soap even when it was down to an unusable slither. Bar after bar was the same, the imperial seal never came off the bar.

How do you stick something to a bar of soap?

This was one of life’s little mysteries. A mystery everyone knew was a mystery and we were just proud that it originated in our neck of the woods.

Now the soap is packaged like every other soap in plastic wrapping. Mercifully, they’ve not altered the smell or texture. They have however got rid of the Imperial Russian colour scheme, now it is just plain gold. But…..and this is the real tragedy, the seal comes off before the bar is finished. The magic and mystery are no more. And reaching for the soap bars in the local shop miles from my home town no longer feels like an act of loyalty to something special, it is just another bar of soap.

Time to drown the sorrows with a plastic beaker of weak Vimto and a Burton’s Waggon Wheel (other Manc products with a loyal following that aren’t what they used to be) and meditate on the one constant thing in my adult life; the seemingly unstoppable success of the football team I don’t support.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Middle Earth and Lace

Some people seem to have an almost irrational dislike of lace as part of the priestly attire within the sanctuary. I have to admit, lace is having something of a mini revival and seeing as decent lace isn’t being made much now, some of the lace albs that are turning up look like they were last seen in Miss Haversham’s boudoir, they look bedraggled and tired.

Machine-made, mass produced anything is hardly suitable for wear in the sanctuary. Let us transport ourselves to somewhere that abhors the heavy machine and the mass produced and really meditate on whether lace is so lacking in the qualities needed for priestly attire. Let us go to Middle Earth.

I think all would be agreed that dwarves would detest lace. It is not of any practical use and it does nothing to enhance the beauty of shiny and sparkly things that dwarves treasure so much. Those rare and talented creatures, dwarf women, have had no time for lace. Making lace needs plenty of light, something in short supply in the mountain halls. Making lace needs flax or silk, fibres that dwarves can not come by easily. Apart from metal and gems, the dwarves are happiest with animal skins and leather, they can work these beautifully and no doubt to clothe the infant dwarf and adorn the female dwarf, finest kid leather from mountain goats will be fringed, plaited, studded and cut in most intricate ways; but lace it most certainly isn’t.

In the Shire, female hobbits will work wool beautifully, they will be masters of the distaff and drop spindle which they can use whilst dandling a toddler on one hip and keeping an eye on a simmering pot of stew. They have the light and wood necessary to build looms and the fabrics will be fine, hard wearing and practical. There is some tatting and crotchet done, which may find its way to edge a handkerchief or a petticoat. No doubt some up-and-coming hobbits will trade with men and acquire linens, silks and probably lace too. But all this is a bit “new-money” and decidedly non-hobbit.

In Rohan, linen is the fabric of choice to be worn under the leather needed for horse riding. The flax will grow well there and on the vast plains the light is good and great looms are constructed for fine, hard wearing linen cloth. The Rohan women like bright colours and the fabrics are often enhanced with intricate cross stitch and geometrically patterned, colourful woven bands. Nothing that will snag whilst riding. No use for lace here.

The Elves do have lace, but not like the lace men make. It looks like the skeleton leaves of Autumn and is made out of thread finer than spider’s web; part spun part sung into existence. Mysterious stuff and rarely seen.

Finally, in the citadel of Minas Tirith, this is where you will find beautiful lace. Lace needs many unmarried maidens with nimble fingers, these maidens need to be comfortable and warm. Maidens who can not be seeing to the stew or young children whilst they are at their craft. Lace is the product of the intricate social structures that develop in the citadel. It is a show of finery in an otherwise rough world. Its fragility mirrors the fragility of the citadel itself. Lace is not a vanity project, it is a protestation of love; to adorn the bride (and the groom), the bridal chamber and the infants cot.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Family funerals

This is a bit of personal heartache. I’m sure there are plenty of others in my situation, heavens only knows how they stop themselves getting as bitter and uncomfortable as I now feel.

My paternal grandmother died on Boxing Day, a lovely lady and even if she weren’t, I’d ask you (of your charity) to say a short prayer for the repose of her soul.

All this happened a long way away; too far for me to travel in my current state. However it isn’t the physical distance that is the issue here, but the sheer remoteness I feel from my family at times like this. Both my paternal grandparents were Catholic converts; grandfather most sincerely, grandmother perhaps less so. Their children have all fallen away from the Faith and I’m now the only living, practicing Catholic left. Grandfather longed for his children to return to the Faith, he would tell me “nothing would bring me and you grandma greater happiness that to see your Dad be reconciled to the Church”. Grandfather did not get his wish during his lifetime, it still has yet to happen.

In my grandmother’s final months she did wish to see a priest (and with help I was able to find one who would sit and talk with her). I know she was very grateful. One of her biggest problems was the Real Presence. She was brought up Anglican and whilst she harboured doubts over the Real Presence, the fact that her beloved children fell away from the Catholic Church probably strengthened her low church Anglican tendencies. Torn between love for her children and love for her husband she sought refuge in the “as long as everyone is nice to everyone else, what is the problem” theology.

What annoys me is those that aided and abetted her to keep her views, including a home-visit nurse and rampant Protestant who did much to move her further and further from Church teaching, she should have kept her nose out, but she was one of those women who looks like she can smell something real bad if she just looks at a rosary. Not that my relatives cared much about these theological battles.

I don’t know what happened in her conversations with the priest, even whether she was reconciled enough to make a good confession and how the priest treated her views of Holy Communion.

It is just so sad that when she did die, the priest (a different one) thought it would be best if there was just a funeral service rather than a Mass as there would be no living Catholics present. The priest did allow my dad to say a few words at the funeral, begrudgingly I gather; it is sad my family did not see the reasons why this would not have gone down well. I’m not even going to tell you about the cremation and her ashes.

You see, I should be happy (this is what makes me feel worse). I think my grandmother would have approved and been happy and proud of everything that was done for her. I’m just not a sentimental person, happiness is low down on my list of priorities. Just because everyone is happy, doesn’t make something right. There is an absolute Truth, a Truth obfuscated in sentimentality, lazy thought and poor teaching, a Truth that hurts because Love hurts.

Monday, 3 January 2011


If my opinion mattered in the slightest and I if had any influence over anything, these are the things I’d like to see happen in 2011. Selfish things, things that irritate me and I’d like to see changed….

For the Liturgy: I’d ban any sung setting of the Mass that had endlessly repeated Amen, Amen, Amens in it. Eighteenth century composers with big wigs are just as guilty as 1970s composers with tragic knitwear and beige slacks for this. It is wrong, wrong ,wrong. Amen only needs saying once or at most twice in any given context, endless repetition to some dire tune grates on the nerves. Does Jean-Luc Picard need to say “Make it so” more than once? No, he does not. The same logic applies with Amen.

In Education: I’d like to see a “bonfire of the vanities” with the national curriculum. In future all subject curricula will have to fit on a single side of A5. I’d like, once again, to be able to teach Physics, rather than the castrated imposter-subject that is currently part of the National Curriculum (the vital but missing apparatus being mathematics and coherence).

Tax: Get rid of these criminal taxes on things where duty is already paid; inheritance tax and VAT on fuel spring to mind. This could be offset with a shoe tax: higher tax for anyone who annually buys more than 5 pairs of shoes for themselves, an annoyance tax: handed out to those that inflict our children and ourselves with the phrases “you guys”, “OK guys” and “OK kids” and a “Tony Blair tax”: given out to any former public servant who has made millions after mismanaging their office, tax’em till it hurts.

Politics: I’d like to see some small scale feudalism. I’d quite happily tithe myself to a (good Catholic) landowner and promise to do X number of days work for him in return for a roof over my head, a peppercorn rent and the freedom to do what I reasonably wanted for the rest of the time. I think I’d even let him have my vote (did I really say that?!). The NHS can stop providing free contraceptives to those who are currently eligible, this would save millions. And death to the Liverpool Care Plan (state sanctioned Euthanasia; unless you are able to manipulate it).

I can dream…..

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Matthew 10:16

Joe has made some observations about phobias for 2011, he mentions Tradphobia and Episcopophobia. I have to admit I’m getting a little uneasy with the tone of some blogs with regard to Bishops, as irritating as our Bishops can be, flippancy is no weapon in the fight for orthodoxy. On the subject of Traddies, I’m not sure I know what one is. It seems to be one who is a lover of Baroque finery, but that is hardly tradition as it does not date back before the Reformation. Perhaps, those who won’t go to a Mass where the vestments are Gothic rather than Roman and insist on Latin, if they desire holiness, should be pleased that they are being criticised, and be gracious to their critics.

With the news from Alexandria, as it is today, I am more concerned with another phobia that can infest Catholic circles, Islamophobia. I believe this phobia does nothing but damage the Church. Our example should be the Holy Father and his efforts post Regensburg, Serious and lasting progress towards peace is being made, most of it unreported by the Catholic bloggers.

Without in any way seeking to lessen the tragedy of the bombing in Alexandria, I would like you to consider the following points.

Moslems claim to be believers in the One God. We cannot be in the situation where our “One God” is different from their “One God”. We would then be hypocrites. We could perhaps say, we are believers in the “One God”, you Muslims are not. In which case we are calling them idolators, because what they believe in is false. Can I just say, how unwise it is to go down this route. We too easily forget, or never knew in the first place, that Moslems have a code of conduct which involves acting as a mirror to the behaviour they see around them. In mirroring this position, they would say they were the true believers and we were the idolators; and as they take the charge of idolatory very seriously (as we should) the consequences for us are severe and unpleasant.

Just remember Matthew 10:16: that we are sent out as sheep amongst wolves and that we must be a shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. Gentleness, humility and shrewdness are called for and this does seem to be Benedict’s winning formula.

Our Lord never gave foreigners, Samaritans or Canaanites a right ticking off. He was most venomous over the Pharisees, who were so close to the Truth but also so carried away with their own egos. Our Lord was also most critical of those closest to Him, those He loved, like Peter.

So, perhaps we should not be phobic over any grouping of people. But righteous indignation may be allowed, perhaps we are allowed to call a whited sepulcher a whited sepulcher. But what is the target for our venom? I say, let it not be Moslems, let it be luke warm Catholics. After all, a Wahabi Jihadi nut job with a belt of plastic explosive would not even be recognized as a Moslem by the majority of Moslems. Let us not fly into a rage over them, but we must pray sincerely for those whose lives are terrorised by those lunatics. No, our target must be luke warm Catholics, they, afterall are likely to damage far more souls. Remember, if we have a target, the target also has a right to use us as target practice (it is the other side of the Golden Rule: do to others as you would have them do to you).

Bring on the luke warm Catholics, we can fight them (in the nicest possible way).

A huffy-fluffy image from a misqoted bit of scripture; lions lying down with lambs, make of it what you will.