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


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.