Monday, 10 December 2012

Faith

Greetings, loyal reader.  I'm still alive and still plodding on.  Not much to report really; still no diagnosis, still quite ill, still working, still madly committed to my Faith, still ever hopeful and still as intellectually arrogant as ever.

Right now, I'm sort of on a self-imposed retreat from the world, I need to make sure I'm as strong as possible spiritually and all too often the interwebs just bugs the life out of me and leaves me far from charitable.  It is amazing what "friends" do present themselves to you when you need guidance.  Friends that put joy into your heart from beyond the grave. For me in particular I am so grateful for the appearance of (though their writings..I'm not prone to visions) Fr FW Faber CO and Fr Gerald Vann OP. More about their writings in another post, possibly.

One thought has struck me and I will share it with you.  I'm not getting this Year of Faith.  I've really warmed to all the previous "Year of" enterprises from the Holy See, but this one seems a bit flat to me.

Mull, if you will, on the definition of Faith in Hebrews 11:1:

Now faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not.

From that definition, a Year of Faith and Hope  would seem to be a fertile ground, as they are inseparable.

Now mull, if you will on this quote from Fr Gabriel of St Mary Magdalene's Divine Intimacy.

Our intellect can give us only natural light on God and creatures; faith, on the contrary, gives us the supernatural light that is a participation in the light of God, in the knowledge God has of Himself and of creatures.
 So faith is ineffable and unreachable by the intellect alone.  So perhaps all the teaching materials in the Catholic world and all the "trimmings" added to the Creed at Sunday Mass really don't amount to anything if they are reached by the intellect alone.  How then to we acquire faith?

Firstly, I'd say that Truth is irresistible.  Even, sinner as he was, Herod, found the teaching of St John the Baptist irresistible.  It is Grace that is resistible, if our own selfish desires get the better of us, and that was Herod's downfall and the Baptist's end.  Therefore this year should be about us living that Truth that has been revealed to us; preaching without words mainly, being irresistible to others in our steadfastness to the Truth. It is all there in the Church, you won't find it anywhere else, folks! We all have in our possession some nugget of the Truth that we should water and feed in our relationship with God and which will grow, if we let it.

Secondly, to be inspired by our Faith, in order to reflect it and achieve this irresistability in our lives we need to see the Beauty of our Faith.  Only when we see real beauty can we reflect it back into the world.  We need beautiful liturgy.  We need to engage more with the beauty of scripture, especially (IMHO) the Psalms (little else so marvellously speaks of our own state as creatures and our reliance on God and our praise of Him).  We need to mortify ourselves so as not to be taken in by transitory worldly beauty.  We need to be exposed to the great spiritual works of art; the music, the devotional writings, the pictures and icons, the great churches.  We can then teach others how to appreciate these too and slowly draw them into the faith.

So, then, that is what the Year of Faith seems to be about to me and in many ways it is not something that can be taught or directed from Rome, it needs to be something organic and it needs to start with us and a cleansing of our hearts and an opening up of ourselves to the beauty of our Faith by closing our senses down to the false delights the world has to offer.



Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Faith and Love

The Muslim Demographics video that was shown recently to the Synod of Bishops has really got me annoyed. I have embedded it at the end of this post for reference.

Whilst the video was shown to create some debate,it is to me deeply disturbing that something so lacking in intellectual rigour and so deeply sensationalist is being shown in all seriousness to a synod of Bishops. We ought not to look for things that make us fearful, indeed we ought to not be afraid; that is the essence of our Faith. The question we should be asking is, why is the Catholic population declining in the West and what can we do about it?

May I suggest that this is actually a far deeper matter at the root of our Faith than a discussion about the use of Contraception and the issue of abortion. To me the issue is as old as the Fall. The growing understanding of the inter-relationship between Man and Woman in our life of Grace and ability to communicate with the Divine, was rudely interrupted by the serpent. Pride took over our beings and the sexes have been unable to see each other clearly since then. Man blames Woman, Woman desires stuff but gets confused over what she actually is desiring, there is fear, there is agression, there is confusion, there is passion, there are beautiful, powerful, passionate, loving relationships between members of the same sex and there IS still in all of this the genuine, transforming, sanctifying Love between a Man and a Woman.

 Christ suffered for us to redeem us. It is only through His love that we can transform our own and make this genuine love more solid and lasting.  And until we actually put Christ back into the centre of our relationships with each other, that genuine love will not exist such that marriage will be fruitful as God intends it to be.  Anyone can make babies, love isn't needed to make lots of babies.  A lack of holiness can still produce very large and loveless families, just as much as it can produce an average 1.9 children per marriage and a catastrophic demographic.


We really ought to be concentrating on our Faith and how it makes men and women more what they ought to be for each other.



Sunday, 14 October 2012

20th Sunday After Pentecost

Ahhh, beautiful day, beautiful Collect.

This is it using the Farnborough Diurnal translation:

Grant unto Thy faithful people pardon and peace, we beseech Thee, merciful Lord, that they may be both cleansed from all their sins and serve Thee with a quiet mind. Through our Lord.
 And in the Latin:

Largire, quaesumus, Domine, fidelibus tuis indulgentiam placatus et pacem: ut pariter ab omnibus mundentur offensis, et secura tibi mente deserviant.  Per Dominum nostrum.

There can be no greater blessing than having a quiet mind with which to serve God. And right now, of all times, I really do not deserve this greatest of gifts...

Monday, 8 October 2012

Catholic Courtin'

please note the post script dated 2014

Fr Zhulsdorf has posted a quote from Pope Benedict's recent sermon to open the Synod of Bishops, the sentence that caught my eye was:

Marriage is linked to faith, but not in a general way. Marriage, as a union of faithful and indissoluble love, is based upon the grace that comes from the triune God, who in Christ loved us with a faithful love, even to the Cross.
 Bravo!

My regular reader will know that this is a subject close to my heart and that I will talk for hours about the profound, earth shattering reality of this sacramental bond.

Now, imperceptibly, I may be courting again, someone I've known for some time and someone who laid out our ground rules nearly a year ago: the "rule" being the primacy of Christ.  This has led to some rather bizarre behaviour (according to the ways of the world). We rarely see each other apart from sitting next to each other at Mass, we don't have each other's telephone numbers, we've never been near each other's houses, we send the odd e-mail and don't expect replies.  Some relationship, you may say. Yet, as I have mentioned before, this cuts deep, very deep.

The thing is, if Christ is the centre of our relationships, then nothing else matters.  In heaven we are all married to the Lamb, so the ultimate goal is the sanctification of the other person and their getting to heaven and not some earthly relationship and marriage.

As far as I am aware nobody has written a manual on Catholic courtship other than to say, be chaste.  What we are discovering is that, whatever is happening to us, it is happening through Christ.  Our joy in each other's company is not simply the joy of two creatures who intellectually click with each other and find each other good fun, but a faith enhancing experience that leads to a closer relationship to God.

I have found myself uncommonly coy.  And I will add that coyness is not teasing or fear of commitment.  I simply desire to reach this person with my better part, and this needs gentleness, reserve, patience and prayer. Our better part IS the part of ourselves that we can only reach through our relationship with Christ through the sacraments and the Church.  It is the person we were meant to be, but O felix culpa! that we are aware of our need for Christ in order to reach this part of ourselves.

So this is why I say, I may be courting.  I have certainly found someone who is willing to engage in a profound relationship with Christ in which I play a part.  I'd marry him tomorrow, if he asked, but that isn't right either.  God showed Adam so much and always let Adam make up his own mind.  If, through the sacraments and our love of God, we have some small grain of our pre-lapsarian infused knowledge, then man will know his mate and know her with his better part.  Post fall, a woman is filled with desire for her husband, but that desire can be transformed into something wholly unselfish and life enhancing.  Why desire anything less, even if this means that a relationship as measured by earthly standards may be a long way off, or may even never happen at all.

****************

ps (2014): this one didn't happen, though we both grew in the trying, in the giving of unconditional love even when things went wrong and in failing to find each other.  It is fine, there is a full stop at the end of this, we cannot now be together.  For me, there will be another ......

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Had a good weekend?

I'm still alive, dear blog readers, but quite low on stamina and this illness thing is just a pain.  They have ruled out anything tumour related, Deo Gratias, but this doesn't make me well.  I'm trying to get them to investigate further, as things are getting worse, but they feel like they've done their job.  So I plod on.  A friend said to me, perhaps I'm destined to become the patron saint of "just getting on with it".  I don't suppose I should argue with that and certainly I don't want to throw in the towel, but I am very weary.

So life is a little surreal.  Nobody seems to appreciate what my illness is like and everyone says how well I look.  When I tell people this illness is like being permanently drunk (with added nerve damage), they certainly don't seem to see it is a problem.  It is a problem; being in charge of a class of children, driving, having responsibilities, all these are a problem if you are drunk.

When I return to school on Monday and go into the staffroom, I'll be faced with the inevitable question, "have you had a good weekend?".  Does anyone else have a problem with this?  There is one obvious problem, that the person that asks it isn't really interested.  A second problem is that if you actually told them what makes a weekend good, they'd probably mark you down as a weirdo (and I am still debating with myself whether I should mind being a weirdo, would it make me a good ambassador for the faith).  Here are some of the things I've wanted to say:

  • Yes the weekend was lovely, I got to such and such a church for the feast of St So and so and the Mass was beautiful.
  • Yes, I was able to say Lauds outside as the sun was rising
  • Yes, the collect this week is really inspiring
  • Yes, I've discovered the chaplet of St Michael and it has really produced a great strengthening of my resolve.
  • Yes, I overcame some tricky stuff in my spiritual battles, thanks be to God.
  • Yes, my main prayer intention is a shaping my life quite profoundly and I can't quite believe that God would deign to let me be involved with something so gently beautiful.
Usually, I come out with the standard half-truth to the questions which is "Oh yes, it was a good weekend, saw some good friends and it was relaxing, what about you?".  People are expecting something like this and it seems to do the trick.

Then I wonder, it can't just be religious nutters like me that have problems telling the truth in answer to this question; and I suddenly feel some sympathy for sadomasochists.What would happen in the staffroom if someone turned round and said "yes, I had a great weekend, I found this marvellous woman to walk up and down my back in stilettos and chains whilst giving me some grief with a bullwhip". They too must remain silent about the truth of their lives....

I have no idea how this weekend will pan out.  Today has been like most days; it has been hazy, hard work yet prayerful and I've been somewhat indifferent to its charms and inconveniences.

Yet something is there that is good...and the saints are smiling.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost

It isn't easy being a Catholic these days.  No it is a breeze, if you live somewhere politically and geologically stable, you've got food in your belly and some money in your bank account.  But I digress.  Here in 2012, if (like me) you have fallen in love with the old collects, antiphons and ancient hymns and say Lauds and Vespers, then you meditate on the readings from the EF of the Mass.  You may then (like me) always end up at a NO Mass on Sundays, so you meditate on the readings in that too.  Sooo much scripture, so many blessings! But I digress again.  What I've been ruminating over this morning is the Gospel for the day for the EF form of the Mass; the story of the 10 lepers (Lk 17: 11-19).

Those lepers have been bugging me for years.

When people ask me why I have such difficulty in praying to be well again, I always cite those lepers. I say I'm terrified, that once I'm cured I'll go off doing my own thing and forget to give thanks to the Lord, like 9 out of the 10. However, that isn't the whole story for me.

The lepers knew they had leprosy.  They knew what they wished to be cured from and they implored Our Lord to be cured from that which they knew was ailing them.  The passage is always taken metaphorically as well to show us how leprosy of the soul can be cured, when we know our sins and go to the priest to confess those sins.  My problem quite simply is I don't now what ails me physically.  Therefore I can't ask to be cured from it.  There are a range of unpleasant symptoms and like the Lernaean Hydra, you think you've got to manage one of them and two more spring up in its place.  Yet the illness isn't a beast.  It is a burden. Nobody really has a clue what I am carrying (not even me) and it changes its shape and weight and burdensomeness at random.

But just maybe for now, this burden is necessary.  It certainly comes with many blessings and has increased my faith.  I am not attached to it, that would be wrong, I am detached from it and bored by it.  I am however slightly fearful of being without it, slightly scared of what God may have in store for me next.  I accept it, but I don't want to be resigned to it.

So, how will my story progress?  Will I get a diagnosis and implore the Lord to cure me of my ailment?  Somehow that seems too simple.  I accept that in my illness there is a purifying element for my soul. I rejoice that God has looked so favourably on me so far, when by all rights I should be long dead through my own mischief and bad living.

Fiat voluntas tua

What else can I say?

Friday, 24 August 2012

Mutterings.....

I can't help thinking that all the fuss over Cecilia Gimenez's amateur attempts to restore a fresco at her local church (see here to view her efforts) stand as a timely metaphore of the way the Church has operated over the last 40 years and the fruits thereof: well meaning lay people with no training but a lot of enthusiasm, and apparently with the blessing of a cleric, creating a mess. Every parish has a cluster of these types and in my estimation they have done far more damage than the spirit of the sixties academics and theologians who gave birth to them. Her "restoration" even has a Spirit of VII feel about it, don't you think? Does this mean the Church always has to operate through an educated and trained elite? I don't know, I really don't. It probably depends who is doing the educating and the training.  Not that the original fresco was a masterpiece, just quite well loved and fondly remembered: sounds a bit like the Church of the 1950s to me.  Do people feel the same about Cecilia Gimenez's efforts? No, it is just a laughing stock....  I've made my point.


*******

How Catholic are you?

(1) You heard the words Canonical Erection recently.  Did you (a) snigger, (b) shout Yippee!?
(2) 4 Candles means: (a) a sketch by the Two Ronnies (b) the Feast of a Martyr ?
(3)  When speaking to your pets, they respond best to (a) your native tongue, (b) Latin?
(4) You visit your local department store looking for clothes and say to yourself (a) I like the colours this season, (b) why are none of the skirts below-the-knee in length?
(5) You see a well turned-out cleric in full cassock and fascia walking down the high street.  You say to yourself  (a) that reminds me of that Bing Crosby film with the priest in it...., (b) must be an Anglican.

*******

My other mutterings are not for print.....

Monday, 20 August 2012

Anathema sit

Fr Tim Finigan has written the following quote which I have shown below. It has brought to mind an e-mail conversation I've been having with a friend over the nature of the Sacrament of Marriage. Both of us (from opposite ends of the liberal/conservative Catholic spectrum) think that Marriage is not inferior to celibate Holy Orders.

The 24th session of the Council of Trent, in 1563, duly defined in the canons on the sacrament of matrimony (canon 10) that

If any one says, that the marriage state is to be placed above the state of virginity, or of celibacy, and that it is not better and more blessed to remain in virginity, or in celibacy, than to be united in matrimony; let him be anathema.
(Remember that this is de fide teaching which we are bound to believe with the assent of faith. If we find it surprising today, it is our job to ponder how to reconcile our thinking with the teaching of the Church, not to adjust the teaching of the Church to our thinking.)

It got me wondering if I am afterall a heretic and or a liberal. My friend would probably enjoy the accolade "anathema sit", I'm not so sure I do. I'm like a dog with a bone when it comes to stressing the value and dignity of marriage, it is perhaps something widows understand better than most.  I also find the Catechism of the Council of Trent really rather beautiful about the Sacrament of Matrimony, so why should canon 10 cited above cause me to scratch my head and wonder where I've gone wrong?

Here are some of my musings.

I think it very hard to deny that the Sacrament of Marriage is the only sacrament explicitly given to man before the fall, therefore it has the highest of value.  Since the fall, having lost our preternatural gifts (in particular our control over our passions) it may very well be that marriage too has fallen with us.

It may also be pertinent to state that canon 10 is NOT referring to the sacraments but to the states of marriage, virginity and celibacy.  All three states involve sacrifice of some sort and all three states are blessed.  However a celibate person is not necessarily more blessed than a married person.  Some people find celibacy very easy, it involves little or no sacrifice for them, they are the natural born eunuchs of the Gospel (Matt 19:12). How can this be of greater value than the marrried couple fully living out Catholic teaching and struggling with their appetites to remain faithful to that teaching and fully continent and chaste in their sexual relationship, that they rightly and naturally thoroughly enjoy?

I feel the whole canon hinges around the words "better and more blessed".  A married couple really only have the duty to sanctify each other, not even to sanctify their children though they must strive to bring them up in a holy and loving environment.  In not marrying and remaining celibate and a virgin (the only other real option for Catholics, in an ideal world), there is much more of an expectation that you are called to do "better and more" work for the Kingdom of God and save more souls.  The very fact that the natural companionship and the most natural bond in the world (between a man and a woman) is to be denied in this virginal state, works against nature for a higher grace, but only provided it is done for the love of God.  This to me is the essence of canon 10, and is the only way I can prevent myself being anathema.

Now, as a widow, the only state of life where celibacy is forced upon an individual (all vocations involve free consent), perhaps I have a clearer understanding of the "better and more blessed".   A great sacrifice has been made and celibacy, chastity and control of passions help bring about greater, more far-reaching love. God knows what He is doing and He's not scratching his beard over canon 10.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Happy Feast of the Assumption.  I love this Feast so much, it is nice just to soak it up and not make any comment on it myself, because whatever I say will be rubbish.

 Hodie Maria Virgo caelos ascendit: gaudete, quia cum Christo regnat in aeternum.

Sorry I haven't been blogging.  I've been in and out of hospital and feeling pretty grotty.  When I have good times, which do come along quite frequently, the last thing I want to do is blog.  I really don't know how I'll get through next term, I do feel very enfeebled.  We are working towards a diagnosis.

The consultant has compared me to a laptop computer with one of two faults; either the battery back-up is knackered or some internal diagnostic is telling the processor the battery is knackered when it isn't and this is causing mayhem. By September 3rd we'll hopefully know which one it is.  Though why I can't be permanently plugged into the mains, I'm not quite sure.


Monday, 23 July 2012

Waiting

Well, today I'm just sat here waiting for the hospital to ring to say whether I have a bed or not.  This may take some time.  If I don't get a bed this week, I fear I wont get one for some time due to the wretched Olympics and all those extra visitors to London and this warm weather causing people to pass-out in surprise and bewilderment. To add some "colour" to the proceedings we have septic tank issues at this end of the village and guess whose house is starting to smell.  All cleanish waste water is having to be carried out to the storm drain.

Still, not to worry, every dog has its day.



Sana me, Domine, et sanabor: salvum me fac, et salvus ero: quoniam laus mea tu es.
Jer: 17,14

UPDATE: Monday pm, I've been "rolled over" to tomorrow, so I've got to go through all this again, waiting and waiting.  It is really exhausting.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Compline

I'm now being treated in London, and whilst the doctors and nurses are excellent, efficient and caring, the "bed managers" make me very weary.  There was no bed for me this week, I am to try again next week.  Life on permanent stand-by aint no fun. At least I'm on holiday and I don't have the stress of planning cover work, and liaising with other staff only to find plans have changed.  It is one way good-will can start to become eroded.

Monday night saw me staying in London at my sister's house prior to my appointment.  She has a nice place.  It is expensively furnished and stylish.  I like my own house, but it really looks shabby next to hers.  My furniture is mainly veneer and chipboard and from crap shops and I'm not interested in objet d'art.

Being prepared for the tedium of my extended investigations at hospital, I'd taken my monastic diurnal with me, these visits can become retreats of sorts.  I can't claim to have been able to pray the hours regularly, but Summer holidays and hospital stays usually mean I can commit to more regular devotions.  So there I was, in my sister's spare room saying Compline when the Collect came up and hit me in the head and heart.

Visit we beseech thee, O Lord, this dwelling and drive far away from it all the snares of the enemy; let Thy holy Angels dwell herin, who may keep us in peace, and let Thy blessing be always upon us.

It was incredibly difficult and draining to say.  Not through lack of belief, but simply hard to say.  My sister's house was not used to prayer.  The house was not used to having angels summoned to it.  It came as quite a shock to realise just how much God expects us to do; how much we who claim to be Christians are expected to do in terms of blessing the houses of those who are strangers to God, in return for their hospitality.

To end with, here is a picture of a hospital ward from the near mythical past when the NHS had no internal market and patients got beds and outside air was allowed into the wards rather than sickly air-conditioning.


Friday, 13 July 2012

The First Commandment

The OT readings at daily Mass this week are from Hosea and in them God laments over the sinfulness of Ephriam and desires Ephraim to repent so that God can show forth His mercy.  Ephraim was one of the two sons of Joseph (the other being Manasseh).  The crime of the tribe of Ephraim was idolatory, they placed other gods before the Lord.

Do a quick trawl through any digital Bible by typing in Ephraim into the search bar, and you will see references to Ephraim's idolatory, God's mercy and pity and the desire for the redemption of  a penitent Ephraim (in the Psalms, Ecclesiasticus, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Hosea).

There is anothe tribe that dosen't seem to come off so well, and their crime was also idolatory, that is the tribe of Dan.  Certainly, there isn't much in the OT to suggest prophets bewailed the fate of Dan.  God doesn''t seem to thirst aften them in the way He does after Ephraim.  The only "hero" of the tribe is Samson; the Nazarite that breaks every Nazarite vow in the book, suffers greatly for his wrongdoings and only triumphs through his death in the Lord (Judges 16).  By chapter 18 of Judges the Danites had founded their ignominious city of Dan in the Northern most reaches of Israel with their graven image, and become lost to the Lord.

Jacob's prophecy for his son Dan, does not seem all that positive:

Let Dan be a snake in the way, a serpent in the path, that biteth the horse's heels that his rider may fall backward. Gen 49:17
 I have written before that Caesarea Philippi and Dan can't be more that a short walk from each other and that Our Lord's decision to take the apostles so far out of their way to found the Church on Peter at that spot can't just be coincidence.  Whatever else, memory of Dan and the dangers of idolatory should bite at us all; loving anything over Our Lord is idolatory and that includes ourselves, our parents and our children.  Here we are meant to stumble.  The breaking of the First Commandment is more serious than any other.

The Benjaminites commit a crime that is truly horrific involving homosexual lust, rape, murder and mutilation (Judges 19), yet with attonement they come back from the brink, and indeed give us the Apostle of the Gentiles.

It seems to be much harder to come back after breaking the First Commandment. Breaking it seems to erode our very being, making us incapable of receiving sancitfying grace.  Our pride makes understanding the First Commandment so difficult, becuase pride prevents us from loving God, so breaking the First Commandment doesn't seem such a big deal, we hardly know we are doing it.

The 144,000 of Israel that are the servants of God who are saved in the Book of Revelation (Rev7) number from all the sons of Israel except Dan.  In Dan's place, to make up 12 tribes are the 12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh (Joseph's son), notice how the name of  Joseph's other son, Ephraim is missing too.  One can only assume that the righteous of Ephraim will be included under the 12,000 of his father, Joseph.  All is not lost.




Thursday, 12 July 2012

Poetry Corner

Rita's rather pleased with herself becuase she's managed to find a book of the poems of the Glaswegian poet, Edwin Morgan.  He was a bit of a favourite of hers at university (she's always happiest in the company of Scots). Whilst she's busy with some sewing, I thought I have a read, and I have to say, I'm impressed.  It is a sign of a good artist when their work doesn't date.  Here is a poem about high energy particle physics written in 1979, it has not become cringey with the passing of the years.

Particle Poem (6)

Their mausoleum
is a frozen slient flack.
The fractured tracks,
photographed, docket
dead dogfights,
bursts of no malice.
Almost pure direction
points its stream,
deflected, detected.
Better than ogam
or cuneiform the tracer
of telling particles
fans out angrily
itself, itself, itself-
who we were
were here, here,
we died at the crossroads
or we defected
or we raced ahead
to be burnt out.
Faint paths hardly score,
yet shake the lens, end
in lucider mosaics
of theory. Go,
bid the soldiers shoot.

Particle tracks...



Monday, 9 July 2012

The Bear Returns

Greetings, blog fans!

I thought I'd give you some of the news from this quiet corner of Wessex, nothing of major importance. I'm finding thinking very difficult at the moment, so I'll blog instead...(it is what you humans do - disenagage brain and then post something in the public domian).

The village is very wet. I've not been out much recently to enjoy tea and cakes with the ladies. Being a bit low to the ground, even wellingtons won't save me from the puddles and long grass. I don't want a chill. I'm currently living off the memories of the Jubilee party in the village. It was a most excellent do with some excellent baking and cake decorating skills on show too.

The aged bear I share the sofa-bed with, the camera shy one that won't have anything to do with this blog, is depressed. It may be something to do with the weather,even a fly past from the Vulcan bomber on Saturday couldn't shake his mood. Maybe it is 40 odd years with Rita that is doing it, but I don't think so, she is in good spirits at the moment (though we aren't getting enough hugs). Depression doesn't need a reason, it just happens. Sadly, when you are in close proximity to it and are powerless to do anything about it, it can start to drag you down too. Then again, what do I know, he hasn't said he is depressed, he is just very quiet and out-of-sorts and sighs a lot. I want to shake him and tell him to snap out of it, but there is no point.

Whilst we are on the subject of the aged bear, he has a most intriguing peculiarity. Many years ago, one of his eye's fell out and Rita's mum, an opthalmologist, sewed it back on. Sadly, she sewed it in the wrong place, so whilst it is too tightly fixed to remove and re-do, it is most definitely not aligned with the other eye and makes him very wonky. What is strange is that this wonkyness is much more noticable in the mirror. So much so, that we daren't let him catch sight of his own refelction, it is just too bizarre and doesn't look anything like him. What is a lovable eccentricity face-to-face becomes a grotesque abnormailty in the mirror. I do wonder how many of us have a dysfunctional relationship with mirrors? They may flatter us, they may mock us, but they aren't us. Why do we keep seeking their approval? What you see in the mirror simply isn't you, it is a characature, a cruel one, partly of your own making.

Rita's kicked the local hospitals into touch and is currently being investigated in London. They seem very efficient and keen to help her. Next week sees yet another in-patient appointment and barrage of tests. The worst case scenario is pretty nasty, but let's hope it isn't that. She has faith and she's in good spirits, she's not deluding herself either. That God of hers is pretty awe inspiring.

Friday, 6 July 2012

A horrid feast

This just has to be about the worst feast in the Church's year.  It is perfectly horrible.  What is there to celebrate about St Maria Goretti?  Yes she attained the twin crowns of Virginity and Martyrdom, yes she forgave her attacker, but......ought we feel guilty or ashamed if we couldn't follow her example, if we chose to live and submit to the assault rather than fight it to the death?

What about those countless children systematically raped by family members; childhood lost in a web of blackmail, lies and violence.  Is not their determination to live worthy?  Is not their daily battle (every day for the rest of their lives), a battle of scars that won't heal, wrestling with self-hatred and disgust, and freaked out by "normality", worthy of a crown.  Is not their endurance a form of slow martyrdom?

Forgiving your assailant on your deathbed, shortly after your ordeal is worthy.  Living on for decades in the same neighbourhood as your attacker is heroic.  Making a mess of your life and battling self-abusive behaviour because you've got no self worth and struggle with sexual relations as a result of your childhood experiences, is utterly tragic.  But any act of love, performed by such an individual, moved by the love of God to perform heroic acts of charity, is a pearl beyond price.  Such people are living saints and even if they can't be canonised, they deserve a voice.

Just saying....

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Faith, Science and Gollum

Here's Gollum's fifth riddle from chapter 5 of the Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien

This thing all thing devours:
Birds, beasts, trees and flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays kings, ruins town,
And beats high mountains down.
The answer to Gollum's riddle is of course "time".  Time does all those things; depressing, huh.
But, wait!

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One of the most immensely satisfying things about atttending the Extraordinary Form of the Mass is that it makes a mockery of the power of time.  Time is subservient to the Mass, and the Physicist in me finds this awesome. "Put time in its place! Stuff causation, rationalism and determinism...blow up the Enlightenmemt every hour of every day...this is a good thing".  All the immensely unsatisfying things about Physics are blown away by the Mass.

*******************************

The Extraordinary Form starts with the Introibo ad altare dei. The priest prepares to align the altar on Earth with the altar in Heaven and with the Sacrifice on Calvary.  Timelessness (heaven), a single event in time (Calvary) and "now" are joined so that they become one.

After the Pater Noster, the priest says the following prayer

Libera nos, quaesumus Domine, ab omnibus malis, praeteritis, praesentibus, et futuris: et intercedente beata, et gloriosa semper Virgine Dei Genitrice Maria, cum beatis Apostolis tuis Petro et Paulo, atque Andrea, et omnibus Sanctis, da propitius pacem in diebus nostris: ut ope misericordiae tuae adjuti, et peccato simus semper liberi, et ab omni perturbatione securi.

In English this starts with

Deliver us, we beseech Thee, O Lord, from all evils, past, present, and to come:
Our grubby little lives, through the Sacrifice of the Mass can be delivered from the ravages of time and the evils therein.

The later form of the Mass does not make this conquering of time so explicit, and to me is poorer for it. If our liturgy doesn't explicitly blow away the constructs of purely human philosophy and purely human physics, what is the point in it?  If our liturgy leaves us rooted to the earth, slowly decaying and prisoners of time, why bother with it?  Are we really nothing more than the flickering candles on the altar or the fading flowers in front of Our Lady? 


Lorenz Attractor-I can't explain why I've put this image up, but it makes sense to me.


Sunday, 24 June 2012

Do ye manfully

O love the Lord, all ye saints:
for the Lord will require truth,
and will repay them abundantly that act proudly.
Do ye manfully,
and let your heart be strengthened,
all ye that hope in the Lord

Ps 30:24-25
A few weeks back I attended the First Holy Communion of the daughter of a good friend on mine. I had never been in that parish before and I had never see the priest in action.  It was the feast of Corpus Christi and the priest gave a very hard hitting, very orthodox homily about how the Real Presence is scriptural and how those that don't believe in the Real Presence have got it terribly wrong.  I'm quite used to hard hitting preaching but this was in a league of its own.  I knew there were many non-Catholics in the congregation and I was beginning to cringe thinking how uncomfortable they must be feeling.

Something quite remarkable happened after the Mass.  One of the attendant non-Catholics went up to my friend and asked her to thank the priest for being so inclusive and welcoming.  I couldn't believe my ears, the sentiment was warm and the words were genuine.  Nor was he alone in feeling like that.

Then the Psalm I've quoted above came into my head.  It is all there.  Speak the Truth and be proud of it and the Lord will do the rest.  It is proper manful behaviour.  Are we so hung up on the sin of pride that we forget to be proud of Our Saviour?

There is a sub-text here about priests behaving like men (masculine men), and being proud of the Incarnate Word indwelling within them, whose representatives they are.  Am I criticising certain priests?  Well yes I am.  It is not big, it is not a clever thing to do, but it is born of deep frustration when I know how convincing they could be if they could all just man-up a bit in a Godly way.  I'm also praying like crazy for them and  if you felt so inclined, you could join my prayers for a genuine masculinisation of the priesthood.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Identity

The Queen's Jubilee has been an interesting time for me as I try to continue to make sense of my identity.  I have mentioned before that what brought my parents together was a shared desire to sever the ties with their respective cultural backgrounds.  They settled in the UK yet openly mocked everything English.  There was no English mustard in the house, the only peas were petite pois , horseradish was just for visitors and holidays would be spent along the Rhine ogling and marvelling at all things German!

I was musing about the Silver Jubilee back in 1977, when as a child I was left in charge of the hot dog stall in the vicar's garden. Never having tasted English mustard and thinking it in all likelihood was not stronger than German, I innocently drenched the hot dogs in the English concoction and was somewhat perplexed by the reaction of my customers.


At Mass yesterday I wore a Malaysian batik cheongsam; flying the flag for the Commonwealth.  I sometimes call myself a "child of Empire" and whilst not English British, I can feel Empire British.  But what sort of identity is that? The British hard-wired half the globe to a particular way of education, particular sporting preferences, a particular way of eating, a particular style of administration, a particular set of manners, particular goals in self-betterment and a British sense of humour.  Culturally, this was the inheritance my parents couldn't escape from. They may have ditched the ethnic inheritance but they couldn't ditch the Britishness.  It is a remarkable thing and maybe it is perhaps beginning to die out which is sad.  Liberal hand wringers are killing it off and the left wing guilt trip associated with the having an Empire has infested national identity in most Commonwealth countries.  It is OK to be anti-British.  Yes they were cruel, pig headed, insensitive, stubborn and failures in a crisis, but isn't any administrative power. Has what has replaced the British been any better?

I have a fully Chinese cousin who has spent most of her life living in London.  She is desperate to find some roots and find some cultural identity.  She is learning Mandarin at nigh school.  I wish her well but somehow to me this misses the point.  None of our forefathers ever spoke Mandarin and indeed Mandarin sound so ugly and graceless next to the Hakka and Hokkien dialects of a just 2 generations back.  The Chinese fables and myths are important culturally, the food certainly hits a spot and is pure comfort, but open us up and you will not be able to extract the Britisher from the Chinese woman.

Monarchy is good.  It enables me to feel at home at my village Jubilee party.  It is our common inheritance.  I have a photograph of my grandfather sat at his desk in Penang with a portrait of the Queen behind him (and Our Lady of Perpetual Succor infront of him).  My Chinese grandmother could recite the names of the towns in Lancashire, from West to East and which industry they each specialised in and which canals linked them, she could sing Scottish folk songs and she could make a Victoria sponge.  Cultural indoctrination this may have been, but is was never overpowering, she remembered the Scottish missionaries who taught her with affection.  They didn't set out to say the British way of life was better, they knew their pupils would get the Chinese culture back home, but they were ambitious for their pupils.  I for one am very grateful they were.  Grandfather would never have made it to Oxford and Inner Temple without the British and Grandmother would never have known how to hold fabulous tea parties without them either

Hurrah for the British Empire. Hurrah for our our Monarchy too, as the thought that all this Britishness is somehow related to Parliament and the bureaucracy of the state is quite nauseating!

Monday, 21 May 2012

St Rita - Advocate of the Hopeless

Guess whose feast day is looming?

Just a quick post because I get so many hits on her feast day and I just want those who arrive here searching for information on St Rita to know that I will pray for them before my patron.

She is a marvel.  I do like saints who didn't write much but whose saintliness shines out of the scant details of their lives that have been handed down to us and who are so generous in their support.  You cling to next to nothing and get so much back.  That is the essence of Faith!

I do know that the title I have given in this post for St Rita as Advocate of the Hopeless is not widely liked these days.  People start muttering that hopelessness is despair and that is a sin against the first commandment.  Basically, they are saying, you need to go to confession, not rely on the prayers of a saint.

The way I see it is that sometimes situations can appear hopeless.  When these occur, the very fact that you ask for the prayers of a saint mean that you are not guilty of the sin of despair.  You have the hope that your prayers will be answered.  Seemingly hopeless situations are usually the result of hopelessly inadequate people like you and me, making a hopeless mess of things and  being ignored by the world and those in it who could provide some respite from the hopelessness of it all.  You see it is not about a lack of hope but a realisation of our total inadequacy and stupidity and an understanding of our total reliance on God for anything good.  So ask for the intercession of this powerful saint when things are looking hopeless and go to confession too!  It always helps.

So I will continue to pray to St Rita - Advocate of the Hopeless, for myself and for all those who desire her intercession.



And St Philip's feast day on Saturday,and Our Lady throughout May, there are so many blessings to be had!  You only have to ask.....

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Defining Marriage

I've been mulling over the nature of marriage for some time now and I really do wonder if we are  theological enough in our definition of marriage.  The secular world will not pay any attention to an earth bound definition of marriage from religious leaders (man, woman, love, offspring...).  Why should they? The liberal mantra says everyone in entitled to their own view, but our view will be one among many and ultimately irrelevant as the secularist, egalitarian bandwagon rolls on.

In replying to the government's consultation on marriage I wrote something like this and it most likely will be ignored:

As a Catholic, marriage has a wide theological significance.  The marriage between a man and  a woman can not be separated  from an understanding of the marriage of Christ to His Church or an understanding of the marriage between Heaven and Earth.  Marriage is a divinely instituted covenant between two parties that are essentially and substantially different, the creative loving action of God flows through marriage to produce a unity between the two distinct parties.  Therefore it is impossible to accept a definition of marriage that allows for two creatures that are essentially and substantially similar to come together under that union.

I did not say that relationships between members of the same sex are not creative.  They do not produce the ultimate fruits of creation; children.  Nevertheless they can be life-affirming, loving, sacrificial and creative (and let's keep this celibate, I'm definitely not referring to sexual acts here).  They are not however sacramental or unitive (two creatures essentially and substantially the same can not become more one) and therefore as a lasting bond between two individuals they are contrary to God's ideal. 

Why am I trying so hard to define marriage without much reference to its primary function; offspring?

This is because, any secularist will point out to you perfectly functional nice couples who produce perfectly rounded, "nice" children "without the need for God".  Biologically, children happen without any need for religious input from the human parties involved.

Christian marriage has to be about sanctification.  For Catholics, the mutual sanctification of the spouses through the Sacraments adds a dimension to the bringing up of children that would not be there if this were not the case.  As Catholics I feel that we must see way beyond the earthbound view of traditional marriage (man, woman, love, children...) and whilst marriage is only a bond whilst the two parties are alive on earth, it is nevertheless aligned to the supernatural in the most fundamental and beautiful of ways, as the unity therein gives glory to God.

Is marriage not ultimately the most profound expression of the "priesthood of all believers"?


Sunday, 13 May 2012

Superbia in Praelia

Well, they did it, and it was done as only City could; near shambolic, coronary inducing lunacy. 
You've really got to love 'em.
Meanwhile in the United diaspora that is deepest Wessex, you'd be forgiven for thinking that no football actually took place today, everyone has had a collective bad dream and it will all be back to normal tomorrow.

Lunacy, sheer blue lunacy....

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Love and Marriage

One of the main arguments against the Catholic Church's stand on contraception is that if a loving, sensual relationship is going to develop between a man and a woman, then they really don't need the impediment of always being faced with the possibility of children whenever sexual relations take place.  The old joke; "Ques: What do you call a devout Catholic husband and wife? Ans: Parents" will always be thrown at us as if we are a bit simple in the head.

I'm not convinced that the cycle watching, fertility awareness of the reliable Billing's method will ever convince many of the evils of contraception either.  I do wonder if somehow we could do more to actually shout about the joys of chastity within marriage rather than the evils of contraception.  Chastity is positive, chastity is creative, chastity can be sensual.  We are all asked to be chaste, and you don't need me to tell you this is very different from celibate (though devout celibate marriages are allowed and can be extremely fruitful in other ways).

I've taken a trawl through Scripture, and there are some passages I'd like to meditate upon.

Genesis 6: 2
the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were fair; and they took to wife such of them as they chose.

Here men are themselves choosing their wives based on looks and desires.  The subtext here is that to remain "sons of God", God and goodness ought to be involved in the process of wife choosing, not simply human senses.  God sent the flood shortly after this.  This fault in man is serious.

Ruth 3:
Here Ruth goes to comfort the man who is to be her future husband by lying at his feet whilst he sleeps (on the instructions of Naomi, the mother of her deceased husband).  And Boaz is no wimp, he's 100% real, genuine, masculine male.

There is no hint of lust or depravity here, just sensual comfort and companionship.  Nor am I saying that there isn't some sexual tension and temptation in this act.  Ruth makes herself very vulnerable and has to be very trusting, Boaz responds as he ought. It is the beautiful chastity and continence of faithful God fearing people, in control of their bodies. The later fecundity of Ruth and Boaz was vital in the salvation of mankind, but there is a time and a place for everything.

Psalm 37: 7-8 (look at the pain that lust and misdirected sensuality brings)

I am become miserable, and am bowed down even to the end; I walked sorrowful all the day long.  For my loins are filled with illusions; and there is no health in my flesh.

Tobit 8: 1-9
A demon is in pursuit of the blameless Sarah, and has already killed her previous 7 husbands on their wedding nights.  With the help of the archangel Raphael, Tobias is determined that a similar fate won't befall him. The demon is exorcised and bound by the angel.  But Tobias does something really profound, rather than go ahead straight away and consummate the marriage, he and his new wife pray at the end of the bed and then sleep without consummation for 3 nights.  Purity and self-control are so important when vanquishing demons and making sure they don't return with their mates.  The prayer is worth quoting in full:

Blessed are you, O God of our fathers, and blessed be your holy and glorious name for ever.  Let the heavens and all creatures bless you.  You made Adam and gave him Eve his wife as a helper and support. From them the race of mankind has sprung.  You said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone; let us make a helper for him like himself.' And now O Lord, I am not taking this sister of mine because of lust, but with sincerity.  Grant that I may find mercy and may grow old together with her. Amen.

Beautiful; it shows the majesty of procreation and the beauty of chastity and continence.

What I think I'm trying to say is that past obsessions with "spotted wedding sheets", the evils of not consummating a marriage and having sexual relations in marriage to prevent sins out of marriage, all leave out something that is beautiful.  Let God into the relationship, be lovingly continent and there is no need for contraception. True religion is true freedom.


Tobias and Sarah on their wedding night: stained glass in the V&A

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Love and Death

Something of a deeply personal post, this one. It is strange, being an anonymous presence on the internet and sharing something deeply personal with a potentially massive audience, however I’ll just let it be strange and not think about it anymore.

 May 10th will see the 1st anniversary of my husband’s death. I’ve mentioned before that it was a good and holy death, but I have not said what a profound effect it has had on me, I am more changed by his death than by my becoming accustomed to widowhood. It is about love and sacrifice. At some point, when you are watching a loved one become more and more seriously ill, the balance tips and you know they will die. We’d started the novena together to Blessed John Henry Newman and I’d said to him, ‘Paul, if you want to serve and please the Lord in the land of the living, you only have to ask and it will be given to you.’ By about day 6 of the novena it became clear to me that his heart was set on bigger things; he was in pain and he was aware his body was wrecked, he wanted to meet the Lord. However whilst he lived, we were one flesh, and I knew that I’d have to play my part in preparing his path. I’d have to jettison any ideas of a miraculous recovery, any thoughts about the future, any thoughts of self and anger with doctors and fear of being alone, in fact I’d have to die to self, to help him die. It is the only thing I could do, to offer myself to God as a sacrifice for Paul’s holy death. I’m not the healthiest individual, but supernatural strength came my way, my closeness to God through prayer was intense.

Paul’s last few hours on earth were grace filled amid the horror of Intensive Care. A priest I vaguely knew came to anoint him. We prayed together, then he left. I called frantically for a priest who was Paul’s friend to come, but there was no reply, we’d be alone together at the end. Singing “Lead Kindly Light” and “Praise to the Holiest”, and reciting the Psalms, the saints and angels gathered round his bed. Demons were vanquished. Paul opened his eyes and slipped away as I recited a particular psalm (145: Lauda, anima); the heart monitor “flat-lined” as I said “and He will support the fatherless and the widow”.

I don’t actually want to ‘recover’ from an experience like that. I want to live it every moment of my life. I start to desire that closeness to God (that was palpable as Paul handed over is life), in every moment of the day and night. This involves a constant dieing to self and giving in love, in one way or another. Sometimes it is waking up at strange hours totally elated and needing to recite some more Psalms. Sometimes, it is forming new friendships and sensing real goodness in others. Sometimes it is fighting for the souls of those I care for. Sometimes it is just living the sheer tedium of illness and an unfulfilling job, but doing it well, doing it with praise and thanksgiving. This state underlies everything I do. I’m still a sickly, grumpy, intellectually arrogant, highly critical individual but I don’t care anymore. I’m not always feeling that close to God either; there are many ‘dark nights’, but they hold no fear, there are also few consolations, but that doesn’t matter anymore.

And yet in the midst of all this, I have found another love. There is one soul who has touched me so deeply. But, how to love? Everything is so different. The heights of love have been revealed as disinterested, self-sacrificing love. I can’t love for the sake of my future happiness or for companionship, they are strangely inadequate and 2 dimensional. I just pray continually that this person will grow in knowledge and love of God and find on earth that which he is looking for and that which will be of benefit in helping him get to heaven. It doesn’t sound romantic, I can’t do romance, but this cuts very deep, very deep indeed.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Under April Skies

Those of us of a certian age who grew up on the West coast of the UK from Glasgow, down to Liverpool, Manchester and on to Bristol grew up with rain. Lots of lovely, soft, wet, drizzly, warm rain. It has come as a bit of a shock to the system to suddenly realise than I'm now finding rain a bit of a novelty. It had been ubiquitous and predictible; a given in life.

Indeed it was part of the youth culture, so much so that you could quite literally fancy a boy based on the quality of his umbrella and his umbrella handling techniques. Every boy apart from the ones that looked like Michael Foot and wore donkey jackets (and therefore were'nt fanciable) carried an umbrella. The small but perfectly formed DA probably overcompensated for his lack of height with a magnificent, rolled, black umbrella of real class. We girls all wanted to get under it with him, even if we were several inches taller, we knew the umbrella would cope....A less good looking lad could be equally desirable if he could carry his umbrella well, unfurl it gracefully and offer you some shelter under it as you waited for a bus into town from Rusholme.

Ah the simple delights of proper rain. Not the mean rain that is accompanied by some evil little wind which makes umbrella usage so difficult and which is more common on the East coast of the UK and contributes to the completely different character of the people from the other side of the Pennines. I'm talking about the generous, gentle soaking rain straight from the Gulf Stream that gave us West coasters our identity.

To end with here is a wonderful video of Sister Rosetta Tharpe singing about the rain, in the rain, in the UK,(rather bizarely) on some "Beechinged" station to a group of revolting students (in donkey jactets).  By the way did you know, Dr Beeching was a PhD Physicist, oh the shame....



I'm happy when it rains.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Galilee and Jerusalem

The Easter Vigil homily I heard was on the theme of Galilee and Jerusalem and I've been musing on this ever since.  I've been wondering if my "not feeling the Resurrection" has anything to do with not meeting the Risen Lord in the right place.

The gist of the homily was that Jerusalem stands for the institution of the Church, and everything that we recognise as part of the Church including its churches, tabernacles, sacraments, priests and charitable work (and I'm not in any way implying this is a perfect institution).  Galilee is the "beyond the pale", the rag bag of unbelievers, believers and scraggy, chaotic half-truths with constitutes the rest of the world.  The homily went on to say that whilst the first appearances of Jesus after His death were in Jerusalem (and just outside); certainly in these appearances in Mark and Matthew he exhorts the brethren to go to Galilee and meet Him there.  Jesus in not to be found exclusively in Jerusalem.  Go about doing your disciple thing in Galilee and you will meet him there.

It is almost as if Christ brings about a marriage between "Jerusalem" and "Galilee", the Risen Lord appears in both.  You can't pick and choose whether to be in one or the other exclusively.  You are expected to be up in "Jerusalem" at certain times, but don't stop being a disciple when you return to "Galilee".  The two, whilst different in nature and essence are made one through the presence of the Risen Lord, the two are enriched and united through the presence of Christ in both.  Before you claim I'm swallowing some "Spirit of Vatican II" and actually finding it good taste, let me just make it clear: I am talking about the disciples finding Our Lord in Galilee, they are already the faithful, the mutual enrichment isn't "Jerusalem" opening up to the secular world, but the enrichment of both "Jerusalem" and "Galilee" through the presence of Christ working wherever His disciples are.

I can find my Lord in church.  When I'm there I don't want to leave (unless it is perishingly cold).  It is good (even vital) to spend time with Him and come to His holy place.  But am I therefore neglecting the opportunities of finding the Risen Lord in "Galilee".  Or perhaps I should rephrase that: am I blinding myself to His presence and appearances to me in "Galilee" simply because I'm not longing for Him to be with me there too?

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Topical joke....

Heard this joke on BBC radio many years ago and it still makes me laugh.

An American Jew and a Chinaman are getting increasingly drunk at a bar.  After a while the Jew goes up to the Chinaman, hits him in the face and knocks him off his stool.

Chinaman:  Ahh, what you do dat for?
Jew: Pearl harbour
Chinaman: But I Chinese not Japanese
Jew: Pah, Chinese, Japanese they're all the same to me

A little while later the Chinaman goes up to the Jew and delivers a solid right hook that leaves the Jew on the floor.

Jew:  Man, what ya playing at!
Chinaman: That for Titanic
Jew: What!!!!
Chinaman: Goldberg, Iceberg it's all the same to me.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

This is the day....

Here we are in the Easter Octave, 8 days celebrating and re-living the One Day. Is there euphoria chez Rita, I hear you ask? Well, not exactly. The Triduum went better (more prayerfully) than expected. I'm rather exhausted after it, but I have to say things "feel" much like they did last year. There is now an emptyness where once there was the discipline and exile of the wilderness during Lent. I think you are supposed to have some "Eastery" alleluia feelings now and I just don't have them.

 Then again is it all very Protestant to associate feelings with faith? I don't know.

But surely, I should feel "something", rather than a profound emptyness and stillness, which whilst it isn't at all negative, it isn't exactly positive either. My late mother-in-law always called Monday's evening meal the resurrection meal becuase that is where the Sunday roast meat would resurface either as a "tater 'ash" or as cold meat and chips. And on those occasions when the meat ran out, the meal would be known as "resurrection without father".

 I think I'm having a "resurrection without father" experience.

What gives me hope is that I can still stand by my little oratory in the bedroom and proclaim the Te Deum in the morning to the sparrows assembled on the balcony outside. They chirp back enthusiastically.

 I firmly believe that true freedom is the praise of God. All creation is made free to praise God, each according to its kind. If God controlled everything in the universe like it were some great big train set of His making, then there would be no praise and no love; both praise and love have to be freely given and can not be forced or engineered. So the task for me is not to let health and work and other issues associated with the world subsume me and overwhelm me with chains. Provided the praise of God is loud and clear and heartfelt then I am free and nothing else matters; as a wretched sinner I must work with God to aquire the grace to do this, unlike the sparrows, mountains and hills, dews and snows, beasts and cattle, for whom it all comes quite spontaneously.

If the boys in the Nebuchadnezzar's firey furnace could praise God, then so can I.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Waiting

I made it to Tenebrae at Blackfriars this morning, and as the last of the unbleached candles was snuffed out and as 4 Dominicans lay prostrate before the altar, the stillness and greyness of the moment were nearly unbearable. It really felt like a battle was about to be fought and these were the last moments to draw breath and contemplate one's mortality before the inevitable takes place.

Christ is hidden behind the veil. We put on our armour, we are His soldiers and whatever we go through Our King will go through worse. We know under whose banner we will fight and how paltry our efforts will be. But Our King is alone, supremely vulnerable, silent and passive. The world will do its worst and Our King will die.

And what about us, are we really up to this? Are we really going to do the Triduum or will it be so much theatre for us to attend and shift uncomfortably in our seats,full of half remembered excitement from Holy Weeks from long ago, criticisms of priestly "preformances" that aren't quite up to scratch and anticipated boredom at the length of the services.

This feels like religion for grown ups, people who have felt pain, betrayal, isolation and stared death in the face. But this is almost to miss the point, for it is the Lamb who will be slain and even the most child like amongst can feel the horror in that.


The horror is universal, the greyness and silence unbearable and this is as it should be.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Pilgrim in a barren land

I've needed this Lent like a bullet to the brain. But it is better to live it than to try to evade it. In fact I don't think you can avoid Lent, it is simply there, in the air, like the faint smell of Spring. The voice calling for repentance and conversion is real and speaks to us all, we can choose to block our ears but it doesn't make it go away. We all must admit that we are journeying through a wilderness, other creatures may be a comfort but they are also a distraction, we have to confront ourselves alone before God if we are to be of any use to Him.

The only thing is, I was already in a wilderness before Lent:

And I said: who will give me wings like a dove, and I will fly and be at rest?
Lo, I have gone far off flying away; and I abode in the wilderness.
I waited for him that hath saved me from pusillanimity of spirit, and a storm.

Psalm 54:7-9


The wilderness is a blessing, you have to confront yourself, you have to survive, you lose all your feelings yet fill your heart. Your senses are both mortified and heightened at the same time.

Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.

Hosea 2:14



So what is new about my Lenten wilderness?

Sheer, unremitting, backbreaking, hard, hard slog.

Body, mind and spirit are being pushed to the limits. There is something lurking in the shadows wanting me to fail, there is a knife edge off which I must not fall. I have no sense of balance and my reliance on God is absolute, yet I'm deaf, dumb and blind in prayer.....everything is an act of will, there is no sense. This is not a will trapped in desolation and feeling abandonment, it is a will acting out of duty, a promise I made many years ago, an act of sheer blind obedience.

Please, Lord, when Lent is over, can I have an Easter this year? Or do I have to keep on waiting......

Thy will be done.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Stalactites, potholes and debt

A recent sermon started with a quote from Blessed John Henry Newman which says that the only sign of life is growth. Now, I do not wish to contradict the great man, I haven't seen the quote and I don't know the context of the quote. However, had any of my younger pupils been in the congregation they may had chirped up that Miss says there are actually seven signs of life. They may have even been brave enough to be able to contradict the statement made at the start of the sermon. Often I will ask then to name things that are definitely not alive but which grow. Some good, if slightly precocious answers that I have had back have been stalactites, potholes and debt. And there is no arguing with any of that.

So the seven signs of life are:
Growth,nutrition,respiration (getting energy from food),excretion, reproduction, sensitivity and movement.
All seven need to take place for something to be classed as a living organism.

I thought it may be a profitable meander to see how these fit into the Spiritual Life.

Here I'd say growth in the spiritual life quite simply depends on a good balance of the other six taking place. So let me take a personal look at the other six:

nutrition
The spiritual life needs feeding, primarily by the Word; through the Sacraments of the Church, through Scripture, through inspired pious writing and the holy and heroic actions of the saints.

Respiration (getting energy from food)
You can read and watch all you like, but unless it involves some sort of "chemical reaction" within you, you will not profit from it. This is grace. This involves practicing the presence of God. If it isn't happening a sort of "spiritual indigestion" takes place and the spiritual nutrition is totally unsatisfying and possible even wasted. Spiritual aridity, on the other hand, is simply spiritual respiration taking place but without the awareness of the soul that it is having any effect, it is often necessary (for a while) but very disconcerting and even distressing, a bit like taking an anesthetic or a medicine with nasty side effects.

Excretion
There are waste products in one's spiritual life. There is a time to discard some of the elements of a childish faith to adopt a deeper more mature union with God. I'd possibly argue that (for example) whilst statues and rosaries are vitally important to our faith, sentimental attachment to a particular statue or rosary really ought to be ditched. This doesn't mean we don't care for such objects, especially if they have been blessed, but if they break, we shouldn't cry over them. Sentimentality is necessary, but like roughage, it ought to pass straight through.

Reproduction
If your spiritual life isn't producing fruit in other souls, then it is not as it should be. And if you are not reproducing Christ in your own spiritual life (in what ever small inadequate way) then your spiritual life is not healthy either.

Sensitivity
The ability to respond generously to the inspirations of God and to the needs of others is a sure sign of a healthy spiritual life.

Movement
A static spiritual life is one that consists of routine that does not impinge on how you behave when doing everything else that you do, is a dead spiritual life. Movement involves a desire to move in a particular direction and also actual movement instigated through grace. The movement should be fluid and confident (faith)and accompanied by a complete distrust of self (and ones own ideas and feelings) as the path gets rockier.

So there you have it....my seven signs of a spiritual life, based on a biology lesson for 11 year olds.

Oh how the mind wanders during sermons, sorry Fr R.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Angels and Demons

A bit of a rambling post from yours truly this week but all on the same theme:

Firstly, my Catholic witness in my place of employment has to be subtle and subversive. So I was overjoyed when some pupils, before performing in the school play, decided to pray to their guardian angels, and later tell me that it worked. I've also been encouraging prayers to St Anthony for a lost (very expensive) make-up bag, but either the girl has not taken on board my suggestion or St Anthony thinks she'd be better off without it and its contents.

A friend of mine that I see for tea about once a month told me a disturbing story from her parish about a formidable and strangely influential woman in her parish. Apparently, this woman thinks the Prayer to St Michael is theologically incorrect and that we ought to be praying for Satan and his fallen angels. I really have to ask if this woman is serving the Church. She'd get an earful from me if she started spouting that nonsense in front of me. I do wonder if Satan is strangely touched by her misguided concern for him or if he is just laughing at the damage she could do to the Church with her beliefs?

In my wanderings to Catholic churches far from here and far from orthodoxy, I heard a sermon that has left me very puzzled and for which I cannot find a suitable response. The sermon was about the devil and St Michael. The priest said that as only God is omnipotent, and the angels are not, this means that the devil can only be bothering one person at a time as he can only be in one place at any one time. Likewise with St Michael. Take this sermon's theme to its logical conclusion and it is the same with the saints; don't bother asking a popular saint for their intercession unless you are prepared to join a very long queue. Oh it is all stuff and nonsense, heaven exists outside of space and time, the supernatural is just that; supernatural. The saints and angels can do what they want for any soul that requests. Omnipotence is something else; it is more than the supernatural with the dial turned up to 11.

Lastly, I have been debating with another friend why there were so many demons around the place when Our Lord was walking this earth. We have several possible suggestions:
  • The Holy Land was just the baddest, evilest of places 2000 years ago. (We're not convinced by this argument)
  • The demons were necessary to give witness to Christ to show his dominion over everything.
  • The very bad is always attracted to and seeks out the supremely good.
  • There are just as many demons around today, but we are cr*p at recognising them and few have (or realise they have) the authority to deal with them.
  • They weren't really demons but psychological disturbances, the Gospel stories are just stories about healing. (this is the rubbish some of us were brought up to believe and ought to be consigned to the Archives of Oblivion)
What do you think?

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Surge, amica mea

On the feat of St Scholasitca, yesterday, Father reminded us of how St Benedict had the vision of his sister's soul ascending to heaven as a dove.

The folllowing came to mind:

Surge, amica mea, speciosa mea
et veni, columba mea
in foraminibus petrae
in caverna maceriae.

Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
and come;
my dove in the cleft of the rock,
in the hollow places in the wall.


Not because I know the Song of Songs that well, but because of the thing of beauty it has been fashioned into. Dietrich Buxtehude and St Bernard of Clairvaux joined forces to produce a profound meditation on the wound in the side of Our Lord. And maybe no coincidence, but the text forms the gradual of today's Mass for the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.



Just beautiful, just beautiful

Hail redeeming side,
where is concealed sweet honey;
where is laid out the vigour of love,
and whence surges forth the fountain of blood
that cleanses soiled hearts.

Behold I approach thee
-save me, Jesus, if I transgress-
my forehead bowed down,
to thee, however I come of my own accord,
to examine thy wounds.

At the hour of my death let my breath
enter, O Jesus, thy side,
that expiring it may go to thee,
lest the fierce lion invade it,
and may live eternally in thee.




Ad Jesum per Mariam

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

...the future?

Just what are the current threats to the Church from within?

I'm asking this question, because it interests me. And as blogs are entirely self-serving, here are my answers to my own question. I ask the question because whilst I know the "gates of Hell will not prevail", I'm sure that because the Church is too stubbornly human the "walls of Jerusalem" are not as strong as they ought to be. Souls are being lost and their blood is on our hands. This is my personal Anglo-centric list and you are free to disagree with it.

  • The right wing politics that is dominating the Church is a threat. Whilst naturally Catholics favour conservatism, this doesn't mean Catholics have to be Conservative. The Church needs Christian Socialists and Tory-Anarchists (but probably not greens or liberals). The Republican/Conservative self-righteous alignment of many Catholics under the banner of "traditional family values" is masking an "I'm alright Jack" mentality which flies in the face of what we ought to believe in.
  • The fact most of us are luke warm or asleep is perhaps the biggest threat.
  • Agendas are a threat. If we engage too much with the standards by which the world measures its own, we become too much like the world. Why class people as heterosexual or homosexual, for example? There are simply human beings made by God and stained by sin. Why catalogue souls? Crawling out if sin demands detachment from all labels. The only orientation needed to towards the crucifix.
  • The Catholic pro-life movement may be a threat. It is too political (but it has to be). It is too much of a cause, it is too much of a thing, it is too easily reduced to "sloganeering". The Church is not about things. The pro-life movement is a good thing, it does astonishingly good work BUT it ought to be ecumenical/inter-faith in all its endeavours, but from a standpoint of sound Catholic doctrine. If the Catholic Church is seen as just a series of good causes, then we're scuppered.
  • Our invisibility is a threat.
  • The near collapse of working class Catholicism especially in the North of England is a worry and a threat to the dynamics of Catholicism in this country.
  • Liberal-Traddie polarisation is a threat.
  • A lack of obedience is a threat. Most of this caused by a lack of leadership from those to whom obedience ought to be directed, through love of Christ and His Church.
  • The nouvelle theologie remains a threat. The Church already had a sound theology of Grace, a new one was not needed. Theologians should not be left to explain Nature, they should leave that to Scientists. The Grace/Nature mishmash of the Nouvelle Theoleogie is confused, complicated and incoherent and plays into the hands of those who wish to downplay Christ on Calvary, the role of the Sacraments and the nature of the priesthood.

So there you have it. My little blog on the periphery of a very unimportant corner of the blogworld has had its say.

I'll end with a quote from Hebrews 12:14-17

Strive for peace with all men, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fail to obtain the grace of God; that no "root of bitterness" spring up and cause trouble and by it the many become defiled; that no one be immoral or irreligious like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.



Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Just asking....

Err, what does one do with one's Epiphany chalk once one has made the inscription over the door?

The chalk was blessed, was it blessed solely for the purpose of writing 10+C+M+B+12 and then ceased to be a blessed object or does it remain a blessed object?

I have 3 pieces now (3 year's worth) and am just wondering.



Not that I'm likely to start using it at school, though I am the proud owner of the last remaining blackboard in the place.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Vocation (again)

I’m still here, sort of.

Ollie Bear is having a very long think at the moment and is far too busy to post. As for me, I’ve given up thinking, so blogging is difficult, you need to think to write, and I just can’t think. Indeed the less I engage my brain the better, I’m finding.It isn’t that it has stopped working. It is currently being kept entertained by a good book on the 100 Years War and another one on quantum physics. No, the old mental faculties are intact despite the insulin and sugar issues. I think it is my reasoning skills that are totally on the blink.

One thing is getting me down; I’m really not lonely, but having to keep fending off all the people who keep saying to me that I must be feeling lonely, is making me feel rather isolated. On the surface, I suppose my existence looks a little lonely, but it simply isn’t. I know too many people to never get a smile out of them when I’m out and about, I don’t want much more than a smile, I don’t need much more than a smile. I have Christ and the Church; Holy Mass at least 5 times a week is a real boon, plus Confession whenever I want it, Exposition, and endless chats with my friends in the Church Triumphant. I also have some most excellent long dead priests for company, Tanquerey and Dr Challoner’s translation of the Psalms are by my side each night. I have a habit of waking up as strange hours, sometimes full of joy (in which case I’ll read some psalms), love for my fellow man (psalms again) or blinded by doubt (Tanquerey to the rescue). I’m soon back in dreamless sleep and wake refreshed. It is very hard to explain to anyone that I don’t feel lonely, I feel overwhelmingly good.

Work is a pain, I don’t like my job, well I don’t like it if I think about it. This is another reason to stop thinking. It is vital that I keep busy (another reason to not blog), and work has a way of filling the hours when there is no laundry to do.

You see dear reader, I am feeling a real sense of a burgeoning vocation, and I will say no more about what that will entail just yet, other than it isn’t the cloister for me. Vocation is so deeply personal (myself and Christ Crucified are in deep unspoken dialogue). Vocation isn’t all sweetness either, there are long encircling shadows and vast dark empty chasms to traverse…and vocation can’t be reached by the light of reason, only the light of faith, hope and love.

Total loving silent stillness
The marriage of longing and union
Desire and understanding
Lightness and depth
Solitude and communion
Prepared for now
Awaiting in eternity.


Is not the iconostasis a true image of vocation?