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