Monday, 23 December 2013

When the Son of Man cometh....

... shall He find faith on earth?

"The crisis in the church today is one of faith.  So few believe any more"... so said a priest friend recently (quoting another priest), and it is a sentiment that I happen to agree with.  Here are a few examples I'd like to share with you:

Firstly
I've just returned from the dreary but affluent suburbs of Manchester.  I went to the weekday Mass at the nearest Catholic church.  The church is well ordered and very well attended.  It looks like a healthy parish.  After the weekday Mass, the priest put out the monstrance for Exposition, this was done with no ceremony, but there He was on the altar after Mass for all to contemplate.  However, ladies started busying themselves in the sanctuary, cleaning up round Him, doing things that could have waited or which could have been done before the Blessed Sacrament was exposed.  In the pews, the "watchers" were in deep chat about family members loud enough for me to hear everything.  They were happy, they were comfortable and I wanted to slap them and scream  "HE'S HERE, LET HIM INTO YOUR WRETCHED LITTLE LIVES WHY DON'T YOU".

I didn't and instead uttered a nearly audible kyrie eleison and left them to it.

Whose lack of faith, mine or theirs?

Secondly
What is up with all these traditional minded Catholic blogs?  The invective against the Holy Father.  The doom and gloom about snippets of news from Rome.  There is no faith there.  There is seemingly no belief in the Real Presence; that the Blessed Trinity IS at work, that God IS the Eternal Present, that satan has been conquered and that the Church IS the bride of Christ.  They are behaving like the mouthpiece of the opposition.  They are living in a narrow, materialistic, unsanctified, trite little world that all that beautiful liturgy they do so much to promote is supposed to transcend. And indeed it is horrific that they are not in a better state spiritually after their exposure to it. They have forgotten holy scripture and they have forgotten how to love.  Again I want to slap them and scream "HE'S HERE, LET HIM INTO YOUR WRETCHED LITTLE LIVES WHY DON'T YOU".

Instead I utter a quick chorus of  Christus vincit, and decide in my heart that they are heading for Hell and I don't care.

Whose lack of faith, mine or theirs?

Thirdly
I need to sit somewhere quiet this Christmas. I need to stop thinking. I need to indulge in nothing more than a bit of spiritual senility and just smile at the Word made flesh. 

He's here, I need to let him into my wretched little life.

The Christ Child- Zurbaran



A HAPPY and HOLY CHRISTMAS to you all.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Personal response to Church matters

'Tis my blog and these are my thoughts.  Please feel free to correct me if you feel I err from Church teaching....

On the Franciscans of the Immaculate
  • Some of the greatest saints were treated harshly by the Church, the harsh treatment of the FI is no sign they are lacking in holiness.  It should be seen as a refining and a purifying and a test of obedience. Obedience to the Church (which will never ask you to sin) is very important, especially when it seems unfair.  Is this situation like the revolting treatment that St Elizabeth of Hungary got at the hands of her sadistic confessor? I don't think so.  Is it like the consigning to drudgery and hard work that dear St Philip Neri inflicted on the brilliantly gifted Cesar Baronius?  I don't think so. Is this like the politically motivated but papally decreed Suppression of the Jesuits?  No way, they are not influential enough for that.  Is it like the suspicion that St Teresa of Avila came under at the hands of the Inquisition?  Hmm, no, they are not really reformers, or are they?  It is like the necessary anti-Jansenist purges of the seminaries in the 18th Century?  I don't thinks so.  But if it is like any of the cases I have mentioned, then it will (in the long run) be for the good of souls.
  • Having a Capuchin "sort them out" is like having an Oratorian sort out the French Oratory or an English Benedictine sort out the Subiaco congregation.  It was never going to be pretty, ones close brothers are the most critical.
  • We (the great unwashed of Blogland-beyond-the-Pale) know nothing and must remember that we know nothing.
  • It is wrong to compare their treatment to that of the women religious in the States who "have moved beyond Jesus" and who have had little in the way of censure. Those women have (to be fair)  honestly stated their heresy and the Church's choice is either to burn them or to treat them as we would anyone else who is has wilfully misunderstood Church teaching to the point that they are endangering their own souls. Burning would only be an option if they were a serious threat to the souls of others.  They aren't. So the Church must work on bringing them back to Christ for their Salvation.  This will be gentle work because their mantra of male oppression produces an unhelpful knee-jerk reaction in them quicker than you can say "patriarchy".
  • It is dangerous and unhelpful to portray the struggles of the FI as if they were a bastion of all that is good and true.  The only creature who is that is Our Lady.
On the Holy Father and my mother
  • The Holy Father will not be aware of the delicate state of my mother's faith and how she finally made it back to Confession after 50 years earlier this year.  Getting her to go to Mass regularly has been difficult.  She doesn't understand the Novus Ordo.  She was attracted towards Benedict but I'm afraid that Pope Francis has not helped.  Mother is a Thatcherite and I'm afraid his love of speaking about social justice has just about completely turned her off.  Before she retired she had worked as a doctor in one of the most socially deprived areas of  England, she knew more about poverty than most and whilst politically her views are indefensible, her charity was not.  I am not blaming him for this, just saying that reaching out to people like my mum is not straightforward.
On the Holy Father
  • I love him.  It is great that he is a Jesuit.  I love the way Jesuits make us feel uncomfortable.  Feeling uncomfortable is good and necessary for us committed Catholics.  The bottom line is that the Bishop of Rome endlessly lays down a challenge for us and the challenge is; do you love Christ? It is only right that the same challenge Our Lord gave Peter, Peter should give us.  Nothing else Peter says or does has any meaning outside of this challenge

Monday, 2 December 2013

Catholic response to Tom Daley

So we find out today that a sporting superstar who has been under the media spotlight from a very tender age is pleased to tell us that he is now in a relationship with another man.

I teach in a school, the Catholic response to such items of news, irrespective of their newsworthyness, is important.

My first thought is to say, congratulations! I'm glad that he has found someone that he can be involved with in a mutually supportive way.  A life under the media spotlight must be dreadful, lonely and weird, anything approaching support and comfort from another human being is to be welcomed.  However that is not my Catholic response.  This doesn't mean that I only wear my Catholicism as a hat that I can take off at times, but this response must be seen in the light of my faith which ought to provide the fullest response, if I think and pray about this carefully.

I can only begin to imagine the crazy fan mail he has received from obsessive, hormonal teenage girls.  The poor boy has had his body on display to the world for so long and it has always grieved me that this has been the case.  We have no control over how others view images of us. I can only begin to imagine what bizarre and uncomfortable view he must have of female sexuality when expressed through such mail.  I can fully understand that it would be another man who could offer sensitivity and love to the real Tom Daley, that all seems to make perfect sense.

Being a Catholic means putting Christ first in everything.  It means that all relationships with all creatures are subordinate to our relationship with Our Lord and Saviour.  I have no idea if Tom is seeking friendship and communion with Christ.  I have no idea if he realises that all happiness ultimately comes through Christ and all lasting joy is actually a share in His life.

So, if he is not interested in God, does it matter what he is doing?  Yes.  Tom has made it matter by releasing this into the public domain.  He thinks it is important, therefore it IS important.  So if we fail to respond, we are failing in our love for all men.

So (prayerfully) I think the Catholic response is as follows (please add your pennorth if you think I'm wrong):

People love each other, irrespective of gender and sexuality.  True love is self-sacrificing, mutually enriching, faithful and committed.  Catholics believe that outside of marriage (and two men cannot marry) all love must be self-sacrificing in that the lovers must be chaste and celibate and never even contemplate pleasuring each other in a sexual way.  The love must be heroic and chivalrous, brave and focused on our eternal happiness in heaven.  Christ's way is totally chaste and with totally pure intentions.  It is not a matter of suppressing sexual feelings, it is a matter of realising there is desire but handing that desire over to God, from whom all that is good in that desire came in the first place. This is because desire can have several causes, and if we truly love someone, we will want that desire to proceed and be strengthened by the right source, God. It becomes a matter of subordinating sexual feelings to a truer, deeper love, which becomes an intoxicatingly beautiful thing to do.  Being chaste is loving in its fullest.  This applies to all relationships irrespective of their "orientation".  Chastity is a positive force for the good and nothing should get in the way of it. The more chaste you are, the more you realise that it is the only way to love (that applies within marriage too where chastity should continue but celibacy usually does not). A pure heart does not seek pleasure, no matter how appealing the thought of pleasure may be, but a pure heart is full of an unshakable happiness and profound joy.  Ultimately a pure heart seeks Love and the source of Love is God. The love of another human being can lead us to God, but only with purity of intention and the subordination of our own desires.

My guess right now is that if you asked Tom if he was religious, he'd probably say that he was in a very private way, and I'd bet my last pound on him saying that his lover was a gift from God.  I for one would not argue with this. I'd just add that we all always squander and waste what God gives us and ultimately ruin it, if we don't put love of God above our love of creatures.

Friday, 15 November 2013

men and myth

I'm sure I was always taught that we humans had an inbuilt need for God.  I'm sure it is part of our understanding of our faith, that we all have in us a need to seek and find our Creator.  This is no doubt true. What is getting me down a bit is just how smothered this need is.  I fear many are just seeking some sort of deity, and actually I'm concerned that many would be perfectly content if they found Apollo.  However, nobody has seen Apollo for years and even Cassandra is getting a bit concerned........



Aggie and Cassie’s house
The Underworld
Leto’s house
Mount Olympus

Dear Apollo,

I’m writing to you here because I’m sort of a bit worried about you, and if your mother doesn’t know where you are, then nobody does.  Nobody has seen you around for a while, are you OK?  There was some rumour that you were really sick and didn’t want to be seen.  Whatever is wrong, it is out of character and I have a funny feeling that you may actually be in trouble.  Don’t get me wrong, I used to hate you more that I hated that little squirt that raped me, but time does funny things to you and I find myself remembering the good times we had; those intellectual fireworks, that easy laughter, that sense of camaraderie.  I never fancied you, but you could have been a good friend.  I’m just not sure you ever understood the concept of friendship, and that is a pity.  Still, here I am offering you a hand of friendship and if you are in trouble and want someone to talk to, you know where I am.

You see, perhaps the world was a better place when you were obviously around.  You blazed through both the Renaissance and the Enlightement when you had a lot of fun, and men were so confident and inspired by your ideal.  Naturally, you were terrified by the Reign of Terror and its aftermath and seemed to become much more involved in science and medicine after that, and much less involved in the arts.  Public works programmes and philanthropy brought out a caring, mature side to your personality.  You grew in stature during the Industrial Revolution, though I’d say your sense of style wavered a little.  Your last big triumph was penicillin.  What a breakthrough!  Now, it is said you have been laid low by an antibiotic resistant strain of some unmentionable disease caught from one of your later conquests.  Didn’t see that one coming , did you? ;-p 

Sorry, that was below the belt.  I hope you take it as a joke between friends.  Well, dear Apollo, it is my view that you really should have never spat in my mouth that time.  I’ve forgiven you for that vile act and I’ve had plenty to time to be reconciled to my fate.  Indeed, had you not done that, I’d never have met Aggie, and we are actually blissfully happy together down here for eternity.  He’s a good bloke, I do prefer older men. When you gods act out of spite it invariably does you more harm than the creature you are trying to punish, I think it weakened you.  I’m just not sure women ever found you attractive. You used to flatter yourself with those Muses of yours, but they're really just projections of your own self-love. Let’s face it, it is men that want you. You are their role model; all that learning, culture and healing of the sick, all those conquests, and all wrapped up in a body to die for.  It is men that think you can give them something.  It is men that are missing you. There is so little culture now; so few great works of art, so little refinement, so little taste. Tempt yourself away from  your mum’s home baking and rescue men from their carpet slippers, novelty jumpers and Lady Gaga on the TV.  Give men some inspiration to be extravagant and think big.  Go on, inspire the world, turn yourself on again, big man!

Or is it that you too have grown a bit fat and lethargic and are feeling a bit empty and  a bit depressed.  Is it that Mount Olympus has become a naff gated community?  Are you all worried about intruders?  Are you paranoid that the modern world, whilst craving you, seems to have forgotten you and wouldn’t recognise you if you did make yourselves known?  Do you despise the modern world in all its blandness and insensitivity? Are you frightened and feeling unloved?

Well, I don’t think you ever understood love, and that is your problem.  Inspire all those great things in so many souls down the ages, but do it without love and sooner or later it all falls apart.  Even the finest palace can start to look like an out of season theme park.

Still, if you do decide to roam abroad at all and your wanderings take you down this way, do pop in for a drink, we’d love to see you,

Best wishes and fond regards,
Cassandra.

Have you seen this god recently?........

Friday, 8 November 2013

A dank and drizzly evening....

... with no sign of the moon over Jericho.

Maybe we knew each other better
When the night was young and unrepeated
And the moon stood still over Jericho.

So much for the past; in the present
There are moments caught between heart-beats
When maybe we know each other better.

But what is that clinking in the darkness?
Maybe we shall know each other better
When the tunnels meet beneath the mountains

Coda- Louis MacNeice

[assuming, of course, that Tolkein's wretched orcs don't get there first]

Thursday, 31 October 2013

feeling unloved .....

One gets to the point sometimes when one asks the stupid question of oneself: would the Pope like me?  It is a daft question and ultimately meaningless, but it is very human to feel unloved.  I have to say I think this is already a remarkable and brilliant papacy, it is gradually bringing out all the vile creeping things from under the stones and into the full light of day, long may this continue. However on a personal level, I'm feeling very misunderstood and unloved, but he's never met me, so that isn't his fault!

  • I'm relatively affluent, not materially poor-  I feel unloved by Francis
  • As a Catholic in an affluent part of the world, the people I'm amongst and the poverty I know I ought respond to with all my love is to be found in disaffected teenagers who own ponies, affluent homosexuals, ageing Tablet readers and alcoholics with wine cellars.  There aren't any favelas nearby for me to devote my energies and prayers - I feel unloved by Francis.
  • I'm happier attending the Old Rite.
  • I feel upset that he can say Mass on an altar with asymmetric candles and a flower display, and somehow feel this is a sign he doesn't love me- I need to get a life.
  • I'm a physicist, he's a chemist.  This is pure prejudice on my part, but chemists tend to believe in those wretched little things called atoms and it gives them a very different view of the world. The physicist is more metaphysical, less concerned with things that show themselves materially, the chemist is more down to earth and practical; often we have great difficulty in communicating with each other in a common language.
  • He berates "sacristy catholics"- I spend a lot of time in the sacristy and I love to make the fabrics look nice AMDG- I feel unloved by Francis who seems untouched by the power of freshly starched linen.
  • Our tastes in music are very different.  Wagner?- eeew.
  • He communicates through feelings and gestures.  My roots are Northern European and Oriental; feelings are to be controlled, indeed I was brought up to believe that showing one's feelings was tantamount to having some sort of hormonal weakness.  I live my life where love manifests in my will and my hidden actions and not in my feelings.  "...I can do no other"  ;-)
  • As far as I'm concerned, solitude rocks!  Francis is gregarious. We find God in different ways, God find us in different ways.
  • I like old skool Thomistic manuals, he doesn't.
So I wonder, if we met, if he'd have any time for me? I'll probably never find out.  The important thing is that he so obviously loves Our Lord and His Blessed Mother so much, so so much; and that ultimately is why God has chosen him, and that is why I will follow him, love him and trust in his leadership.

And Pope Emeritus looks so happy these days, not like a man who has made a BIG mistake.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Headhunters and Holy Souls

It is that time of year again; filling-in what we called up-North the "Pious List".  I'm writing down the names of the Holy Souls to be prayed for during the month of November.  The NLM has a rather cold post on why it is only the faithful for whom we pray, and indeed they are correct.  Liturgically, it is the faithful departed that fill our prayers on November 2nd and for the rest of the month.  The name of the list as the "Pious List" makes this abundantly clear.  This post is my meditation on the departed, in particular those who were not "pious".

Living quite close to Oxford, I do like to pop into the Pitt Rivers museum (a museum of anthropology), and whilst there I feel very close to my roots.  It could be one of my great grandfather's opium pipes in one of the cabinets.  It could actually be one of my ancestors or indeed a piece of their handiwork when I look at the cabinet of headhunted trophy skulls from the Iban people of Sarawak. I don't have to travel too far back in my ancestry to be in a very unfamiliar, heathen, and somewhat savage world.  These people had souls, these people had guardian angels.  They are part of me, I see their features in me.  I should pray for them, shouldn't I?

Iban Dayaks from Wikipedia: (Tropenmuseum source)

Another great grandfather was a very well respected and by all accounts good man.  He was very rich and donated money to charitable causes, many of them Christian.  He himself was Taoist.  My grandfather sat his scholarship exam for a Christian school under a portrait of his deceased father who was one of its benefactors.  A good man.  His wife became a Catholic after his death.  I should pray for him, shouldn't I?

Then there were the Japanese Navy Officers who during the Occupation of Malaya, forgot about sides and ethnic differences and protected my dad's life.  Their sense of duty to an infant first born son was stronger than any ethnic, religious or patriotic hatred of a Chinese Catholic.  Every time the air raid sirens went off, they'd rush to my grandparent's house to collect and protect my father.  They also provided him with food and medicine.  After the Surrender, as the Japanese Navy limped back home they were all torpedoed to oblivion by the US.  I should pray for them, shouldn't I?

And then there is Abdul.  Abdul was a Muslim homeless man who I got to know.  It remains a mystery how a Muslim  could end up homeless and destitute.  What had he done?  The Muslim communities are usually very good at caring for their own.  Abdul, however was destitute and relied on Catholic charity in his final months of life.  All the other men at the hostel that I knew were Catholics and their names make it to the Pious List.  What about Abdul?

Some non-Christians make it to my Pious List because they have been there for years, before I really thought about any of this, and it seems churlish to take them off.  Yet the prayers for these souls are very different from our prayers for the faithful departed.  Most people we encounter are gifts from God and Christ is the Sovereign of all people.  All are possible agents of Grace.  Some may be angels in disguise.  Our prayer for them is a prayer of thanksgiving to God.  When the Last Judgement is upon us, it will be how we responded to them that will largely determine our salvation.  God loves them, God knows what is in their hearts, leave their salvation to God, but give thanks and praise for their lives.  Though I'm sure a "Requiem aeternam" is also valid.

The faithful and in particular the Catholic faithful are another matter altogether.  They have been given (and indeed through Confirmation have themselves desired) so much; the very life of Christ.  Yet they have snubbed grace at every turn, just like we do.  They didn't nurture the ground for the fruits of the Holy Spirit to become manifest in them as they ought to have done,  just like we are doing now.  They were lukewarm, timid, forgetful, easily distracted and pride-filled, just like we are today. We know them so well, because we are so very much part of the same body.  The lowest, most painful depths of Purgatory will only contain Catholics; those given so much who squandered their gifts most stubbornly.  It is for those that our prayer is most sombre and most heartfelt. It is those for whom the Liturgy at this time is designed.  Our prayers for the non-faithful are part of our every day praise of God and are equally important. The Holy Souls in Purgatory are very close brothers and sisters to us, indeed one day they could be us. 


Saturday, 26 October 2013

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Michelle Scott, a truly delightful, strong and devout woman and good friend.  I never met her, but we shared our troubles and tribulations of the last 10 years, having got to know each other via Catholic internet chat rooms and later through blogging.
http://mum6kids.wordpress.com/

Pray also for the family she leaves behind.


Sitivit anima mea ad Deum vivum: quando veniam, et aparebo ante faciem Domini?

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her, may she rest in peace.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Children and childhood

These are some meditations that have been brewing in me based on the Gospel reading for Michaelmas:

and Jesus called unto Him a little child, set him in the midst of them, and said: Amen I say to you, unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall  not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever shall humble himself as this little child, he is the greater in the kingdom of heaven, and he that receive one such little child in My name receive Me.

My meditation concerns the nature of childhood and adulthood as related to this Gospel incident. I do muse often that probably since Victorian times we have sentimentalised childhood and that this in some way helps obscure the meaning of this passage.  We live in a world where childhood has almost become an idol, a thing to be worshipped, a thing of outstanding value, a thing that must be preserved at all cost.


I know a family of very very happy children, they have a great time being children, they have some chores to do and some responsibilities within the family, but essentially what they want, happens.  A mutual friend said that their childhood is "devastatingly happy" and is actually quite worried about them.  She argues that the children have been given nothing beyond childhood, there is no concept of growing up, there is no concept that adulthood is something to aspire to, because their parents only see adulthood as a constant feeding of the desires of their children. I simply don't know whether she is right or not.

However, there are those children for whom childhood is brutally cut short through abuse, violence or having to take on adult responsibilities due to the death of a parent. There are those children who had no childhood, having always been older and instinctively wiser than their immature parents? There are those who were in their innocence, quite horrid little brats who look back on childhood with embarrassment, glad that time has put clear water between their child-self and who they are now as an adult. There are those who simply never understood childhood, never related to other children, never saw the point of it all.

Childhood in itself is not a "good", and once left can not be regained. 

So what is Our Lord telling us about "becoming as little children"? He is telling us a lot about our adult selves.  He is saying that we must come to Him when he calls, like children being called inside to be still, from being all rowdy and mucky in the garden outside. We will be bearing all the scars of adult life; the scars of sin, the scars of seeing too much, of hearing too much, of doing too much, the scars of knowledge of the world.  But when we come to Him we must be humble, we will show Our Lord our wounds, though they are nothing in comparison to His, and we must come to Him in a state of indifference to our scars, no matter how painful.  Our humility is coming before Him in obedience, trying to hide nothing, absolutely nothing.  And that is how we must stand before our fellow adults in a hostile world.  We must cut the sin out of ourselves and be fully aware of the sins of the world, but with an abhorrence of those sins because of the damage they do (the rest of the Gospel passage makes this clear and is not unconnected to the part I have quoted). And for the rest we must trust in Christ to show us the way to love the sinners. The purest of saints like St Philip Neri and St Aloysius had slight moments of vainglory and stupidity as children that led them to such an understanding of the horror of sin that lasted all their lives, though their own transgressions were minor. Adult innocence and purity, which these two saints epitomise, has a full horror of sin and flees fom it, unlike childlike innocence which knows it not.

As adults, we are to go into the lion's den of the world, as it were, armed solely with Christ, we can bring nothing else. A holy trust in the Lord IS our regained innocence, this is how we become "like" little children.

But the world is increasingly infantile and emotionalised, increasingly sentimental and at the same time increasingly brutal.  Basically, it is increasingly abusive of children because it fails to understand adulthood and what it means to be an adult before the Lord and what a shudderingly terrifying responsibility it is to care for children of all ages.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Encounter with Fr F W Faber

My husband had a great devotion to Bl John Henry Newman and I do believe that Newman was with him as he died.  He certainly helped prepare him for death in a very personal way. Newman was present, Newman helped.  Whenever my husband called out to him in mental or physical anguish, he was there.  In his last months he took to reading from Newman's Meditations and Devotions whilst sitting on the edge of the bed before we went to sleep.  Newman's insights leapt from the page, Newman brought comfort, Newman was such a gentle teacher in the ways of suffering and death.

I was tempted to place the book of Meditations and Devotions in the coffin but didn't.  I pick it up from time to time, it is still there by the bed, but I have yet to find it the source of inspiration that it was when it was being read to me by my husband.  A portrait of Newman stares at me from the mantelpiece.  I smile, yet I can't get close.  We have a common bond in our love for one particular soul and Newman hasn't left me as I plod through life. But a lot of the actual help that I get in my day to day spiritual growth has come from a most unexpected source.....

After a hospital appointment in London some time go, I'd popped into the Brompton Oratory to pray. I was a bit emotional and at something of a low ebb.  I find the Brompton Oratory a bit overwhelming and probably not in a good way.  Trying to find a quite corner in which to collect my thoughts, I stumbled upon the resting place of Fr Faber and found myself saying a rather odd prayer.  "Fr Faber, I don't know much about you, but I feel drawn to be here next to you and I ask you to pray for me as I pray for you (if you need my prayers, that is)".  There may have been a reply to this, but it may have been my imagination, so I'm not putting it in print.

The reality is that Faber has become something of a friend through his writings, but it may go deeper than that.  In all honesty, I shouldn't be drawn to him; he's a Scotist and his language is often sentimental and flowery.  However, such gentleness and love flows out of it and I have really felt like he acting as a friend along the way.  I am genuinely now extremely fond of him.  And I'll leave you tonight, the anniversary of his death with a few words of his from his Creator and the Creature:

...we are free, and we are in earth's fair sunshine, and our heart is full of a little but most true love of God, and a whole world of God's blessed love is resting on our single heart, - and shall we doubt, shall we hesitate, shall we tremble, shall we be chilled in the midst of all these fires of love?  O my Creator, my Eternal love! O my Heavenly Father! weary yet full of trust, worthless but truly loving Thee, on earth still and very far from heaven, my home and my rest are still in Thy Fidelity!  In te, Domine; speravi, non confundar in aeternum!*
* From the Te Deum and Ps 70:  O Lord, in thee have I trusted : let me never be confounded.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

rocks, paper, scissors

I've been thinking about the rather tiresome game of rock, paper, scissors.  The aim of the game is to choose an option that is more powerful than your opponents.  You lose if your option is less powerful, you draw if you chose the same option as your opponent.  It isn't exciting.  But  could this (to me) rather sad endeavour (though all kudos to those who take it seriously and attend RPS championships and all that) actually teach us something quite profound?  I think it can.

In our constant battles of spiritual warfare, could we not think of our enemy as perhaps challenging us to a game of RPS, a bit like the way Death played a game of Twister with Bill and Ted (but I digress).

Actually, it is a it more complicated than that as we can't see our opponent, nor can we see his hand, all we see is the consequences of us choosing the wrong option. Indeed we don't actually know who our enemy is, most of the time.  It is usually an amalgam of the World, the Flesh and  the Devil, specially dressed up in such a way as to go for own particular weaknesses.  Best not parley with it, best just to play your hand and be ready to play again if your choice isn't strong enough.

So what 3 "hand shapes" can we play?
We can invoke our will.
We can invoke our heart.
We can invoke our intellect.

We must be ready to invoke all three.

The will: will to follow/live all the teachings of the church, even the ones you struggle with.  And if that is too much of a struggle, just try the follow all the Beatitudes (just!!!).  You will find that by wanting to live the Beatitudes, your niggles over Church teaching will lessen, weakening considerably the hand of your enemy. The pitfall of the will is that if your enemy is playing with your heart and dredging up hurtful memories to colour your feelings, the will can crumple.

The heart: act out of love for God and neighbour.  That disinterested love that is for their benefit only. Desire to give God glory for His own sake.  Desire to do the best for your neighbour at whatever the cost. Be impossibly romantic over this.  Give, give, give and give with joy. The pitfall with the heart is if your enemy is invoking your intellect and telling you that God loves you and will always forgive these things that you are tempted to do.  The enemy will play with your pride and tell you that your niggles with Church teaching are justified and that really through your cleverness you can take the Church into a new millennium of radical change to make God's love all the more apparent to the great unwashed.

The intellect: Be rational.  Remember that God allows certain temptations to happen to us but gives us the faculties to overcome them and become stronger by overcoming them. Think how embarrassing it would be to confess THAT sin in the confessional.  Think of a thousand things that are more pleasurable and that you can be proud of appreciating because God gave you the ability to appreciate them; like watching a sunset, listening to beautiful music, seeing the great churches of Europe, playing Twister with your children....  Here the analogy with RPS breaks down a bit because the intellect is actually quite a bit stronger than we usually give it credit.  It can certainly overcome the enemy playing with your heart, it can overcome the enemy trying to break your will, it can even overcome the enemy attempting to play with your intellect, provided you dump your selfish pride.

So, go play "spiritual rocks, paper, scissors" with your enemy and if that doesn't work, perhaps have a Twister mat to hand.



Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Chemical Weapons

I'm a little shocked to hear some Catholics seem very much pro supporting the US and their proposed intervention in Syria.  It seems to go hand in hand with a certain poo pooing of the current Bishop of Rome.

Dear traddies, answer me this: in all honesty and using your undoubted intelligence that you so usefully employ to all things liturgical, is is possible to support the US in their moral crusade, when they so freely use chemical weapons on their own citizens, killing thousands each year in the name of family planning?

It is that line in the sand thing.  Are we really so much on the side of right so as to justify our violent actions?  "He who is without sin cast the first stone" and all that.




Sunday, 4 August 2013

Mortification

Over a cup of tea with some good Catholic male acquaintances of mine, we got onto the subject of mortification and its necessity (as you do in this hot weather).  None of us really could make much sense of the "glamour" attached to this; the whips, cilices and hair shirts, but we all felt that somehow the discipline of the body, and the exterior senses (ear, tongue, taste, smell) and the interior senses (memory and imagination) are important things to strive for. 

As Tanquerey says in La Vie Spirituelle:
We cannot attain to union with God without mortification, without detaching ourselves from the inordinate love of creatures.

The aim therefore in mortification is to think upon its End (union with God).  We must not be too attached to it for its own sake as this defeats the object. We must not think for a moment we can achieve results by ourselves (Pelagianism), everything must be prayerful or atleast detached from any notion of a merit attached to the mortification.  We must be lighthearted and joyful, God delights in his people. Letting His grace work in us cannot be achieved if our hearts are like stone, we must have some measure of holy delight as God delights in us.

All this was brought home to me when I was in Soho earlier this week [a district of London famous for its loose moral code, gay bars and secretive but tangible Chinese underworld].  I was only there for the fabric shops and the food, innocent enough pleasures but for yours truly whose senses are more accustomed to the bucolic delights of rural Wessex, it was a bit of a shock.

So what, practically, can a Catholic do in 2013 to mortify the body and the senses?  Here are some possible suggestions, in no particular order and of no particular significance, it is what you do with your heart that is important.

When you are gobsmacked and even allured by the allusions to the sins of the flesh that assail your senses:
recite the opening lines of Psalm 64:
A hymn, O God, becometh thee in Sion: a vow shall be paid to thee in Jerusalem. O hear my prayer; all flesh shall come to thee.
Or Psalm 67
Let God arise and let His enemies be scattered. Let them that hate Him flee from before His face.

If a sense of moral/intellectual superiority starts to well up inside of you because you are a Catholic:
Use the public toilets and leave them in a better state than before you went in.
Never break the speed limits when driving.
Always give way to buses and white vans when driving.
Smile at strangers.
Ask yourself how many people have come to the Faith through your example.

On social media
If you are going to write anything on Twitter, write it as a Haiku.
Avoid the blog that calls itself Rorate Coeli
Never spread gossip

On dress and deportment;
Walk slowly and carry yourself well (no slouching, no swagger, no slinking)
Dress modestly and dress well but avoid expense.
Avoid fragrances that will invade another's personal space.
Do not use any electronic device whilst walking.

On custody of the eyes.
Keeping your eyes averted is not possible or indeed safe with the traffic as it is, so discipline yourself to look caringly at others with disinterest (this is not a contradiction, you can only really care if you are not bound up with self-interest).
Pray for anyone whose appearance or actions deliberately or unknowingly arouse sexual thoughts in you.  Pray that their guardian angel will protect them from the hurts caused by the thoughts of others and pray that their minds may be turned towards healthy self-respect.
If you catch a stranger's eye and the exchange penetrates deeper than expected, pray that your eyes reflect Christ (in all modesty, goodness and innocence) and not you.

On daydreaming
Don't.  Find something to do.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Super Flumina

Over Lent I read an excellent book by  Fr Eugene Boylan O.C.R called "This Tremendous Lover". It was written in 1946. It is a book about Christ and how to find Him.

The author spends some pages berating the disappearance of Metaphysics from education, which may seem a million miles away from the aim of the book, but the more this year progresses the more I agree with him.

To quote:
For the source of all the evils and errors in the intellectual life of to-day - the disease that makes much of its utterances, the mere wanderings of a feverish imagination - is the loss of metaphysics and of the ability for abstract thought.

So what has the absence of metaphysics from the intellectual life done for "modern man"?  To paraphrase Fr Boylan:

We think only with our imagination and subsequently we think what can't be imagined must be impossible .
Sentiment rules over moral principles.
The particular clouds the general in arguments.
Opinion trumps certainty.
Prejudice takes the place of judgment
Quantity rules over quality.
Matter is seen as the ultimate reality.
Now as a humble physics teacher, I see time and time again, a spark from pupils  who want to grapple with metaphysics. They are hungry for abstract thought and deep, deep questions as to the nature of things. Questions that don't necessarily have answers but which do require a disciplined approach to thought that is crying out to be nurtured.  I have seen this hunger for thought in some of the roughest and most deprived children I have taught.  I saw it also in clients when I worked for the probation service.  It is something I have regretfully had to walk away from.  Partly because my own training in metaphysics is inadequate and partly because it simply isn't what I'm paid to do.

I have blogged before that the Older Rite of the Mass is a profoundly more metaphysical entity than the Newer Rite.  It transcends matter, space and time simply by what it does.  The New Mass is linear.  Metaphysical and theological reality is not linear, it is the Eternal Present, it is God.  Attend a Solemn High Mass in the Older Rite of the Mass; what the choir is doing may or may not be the same as the priests, they may be in a completely different time frame, yet the priests and choir are not fighting each other.  The reality is in the NOW, it blows the mind away.  Attend a Solemn High Novus Ordo and everything has to be choreographed, the priests have to wait till the choir have sung their "bit", everything drags, it becomes a performance.  The final blessing comes before the "ite missa est" and this simply doesn't make sense. If the supreme interaction with the eternal present that is God is the Mass, and it isn't yet complete as the words "ite missa est" have not been said, then we don't need the priest's blessing.

So I have seen a hunger for metaphysics in ordinary people that could very well lead them to God.  I believe that the newer rite is not as metaphysically satisfying and the older rite of the Mass (but I do not question its validity).  Is the Church really suffering in some wasteland devoid of metaphysics?  Is that really what lies at the heart of the malaise in the world today?  Our intellect is a gift from God, it is there to bring us closer to God.  Are we stifling our intellects through sidetracking metaphysics?

I do feel sometimes like I'm weeping by the rivers of Babylon.  We are stuck in a strange, stifling, miserable land that is curious but doesn't have the language to engage with all that is True and Good.  But what can I do about it?  Wholesale Tridentine Masses for all won't achieve anything.  It is not so much about the liturgy as about our ability to think.  We are losing our ability to think.  The fecundity of Babylon and her daughters is making us all zombies.


Monday, 8 July 2013

Avoiding Pelagianism

This is, as I understand it, a brief summary of the "Scottish" heresy.  Pelagianism is often called the English heresy, but I'm sure Pelagius was a Scot and no doubt Alex Salmond would like to claim him as his own.

Pelagianism states that:
  • Original Sin did not taint human nature.
  • mortal will is still capable of choosing between good and evil without Divine aid
  • Adam set a bad example
  • Jesus set a good example
  • there is no need for grace
  • human free will can attain perfection
  • humans are sinners by choice
  • humans have full responsibility for obeying the Gospel and also full responsibility for every sin.
A modern day pelagian is portrayed as someone who is convinced that they can work out their own salvation.  That through the right prayers, the right discipline, good works and a good life the soul will be judged worthy of Heaven. A modern day pelagian may be caricatured either as a "religious nutter" (a novena, liturgy and rosary junkie) or as an upright member of a church community who goes to church each Sunday, is a fine upstanding member of the community but never examines their own conscience. In either case they are seen to be working for their salvation, but judged to be forgetting God and His mercy and grace.

I have a problem with poo-pooing pelagianism, because like most thing pertaining to come from these Isles it is complex, nuanced and actually worth taking seriously.  Why take a heresy seriously? Well if we don't look it square on, then I fear many more of us will actually fall into a serious trap with regard to our spiritual development.

The thing we must consider is the role of our free will.  Yes pelagianism takes free-will too far and gives it too much power and importance.  However, free will is a gift from God and is something very special.  Without free will, we can not love.  True love is primarily an act of the will and is not the fruit of our sentiments and feelings no matter how noble they may be.  We must will to love God.  We must will to obey the First Commandment above all others.  We must will to love our neighbour. I can't think of a saint who wasn't wilfully stubborn and single minded....

Once we have made this act of the will, we must continually renew that act and in order to avoid pelagianism we must also acknowledge our sinfulness, weakness, fallenness and our total reliance on God and His mercy.  And all of this is very Old Skool Catholicism.  It is the Catholicism of the manuals (see previous post) that tell us not to trust ourselves, that tell us to be disciplined and strive to live a virtuous life, it is the Catholicism that is hard, very hard, often uncomfortable and always humbling work, but work through which Grace can flow.  The problem is, it may be Catholicism that is a bit light on saying that God loves us and that may be why it has fallen out of favour.

However in forgetting this whole package of free will and humility before God, we may be in danger of falling into an equally sinister trap; the trap of presumption.  We presume that God loves us.  OK that is fine.  God really does love all of us, more than we'll ever know.  But then we presume that we're OK. We loose sight of the Gospel message to flee from sin. We presume the Holy Spirit is working in us (in other words, that we are not hindering His working). We loose sight of the need for the Sacraments and the wholesale embrace of the teachings of Holy Mother Church, no matter how uncomfortable they may make us. We make up our own religion, we make up our own god in our image, who is just like us, only better.  And now we've come full circle, because this sort of presumption sounds horridly like pelagianism too!

So, dear reader, my conclusion is that stray from a very narrow path and you will find yourself battling with the briars and brambles of pelagiansism on either side.  

Narrow path through nettles and brambles (Evelyn Simak) / CC BY-SA 2.0

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Might you be a latent manualist?

If you look up the work "manualist", you will find it either refers to someone who being rather old fashioned, likes to use a manual of instruction to help them grow in Faith or you will find it means someone who likes to mimic the sound of breaking wind using their hands.  This post will be of no interest to people striving for perfection in the second mentioned field of endeavour.

I'll fess up and admit to being a rabid manualist (of the first kind).  The alternative seems to be spiritual direction, and I've had no luck with that, partly because spiritual directors are such nice people.  Cosy chats with nice people who make you feel good about yourself, that is all I seemed to get.... Maybe Christ spent a lot of time doing that and it never got recorded in the Gospels.  However, encountering and following Christ seems to me to be something far more uncomfortable.

A good manual will have distilled the basic truths of our Catholic Faith and present them with a sound, disciplined look at how to live a virtuous life. It will then take you through your journey of spiritual growth from beginner to advanced, with things to look out for on the way and notes on how your prayer life will change and the challenges you may face.  Much of this is simply a summary of the teachings of St Thomas Aquinas, St John of the Cross and St Teresa of Avila, but put in such a way that even a numpty with no prior theological knowledge can grasp.  There will be no flowery language, no touchy feely stuff and certainly no hiding from the fact that you are a sinner, and you must continually WANT to stop being a sinner if you are to make progress.

I will mention below a few choice examples that I have come across, there may be one to suit you.  This are my personal thoughts, they are not meant to be definitive summaries.

  • The Spiritual Life-  Fr Adolphe Tanquerey SS (1930).  A fine, clear manual designed for seminarians but used extensively (before it went out of fashion) in the training of all religious and for the laity.  A soft, paternal style that gently gets you moving forward in the spiritual life.  It remains a classic and the one that personally I like to use. It fell off a bookshelf into my hands for the princely sum of £1 two years ago and I haven't looked back since. It also has a bibliography at the front that will make any lover of classic spiritual writing drool.
  • The Theology of the Spiritual Life- Fr. Joseph De Guibert SJ (1953).  Less weighty than the Tanquerey but very well written and very clear.  It seems to be the last of the manuals, I can't find one later than this.  You can sense that by 1953 manuals are beginning to out of fashion and the author is desperately trying to say that you mustn't dismiss the old ways, Tanquerey and others have much that is good to say, listen to them, they are still relevant.
  • Christian Perfection and Contemplation- Fr Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange OP (1937).  A manual more suited to those with brain cells.  It lacks the numbered paragraphs of the previous two I've mentioned so it is easy for me to get lost, and is very scholarly as you would expect from the author. It is beautifully and seductively written nevertheless.
  • Abandonment to Divine Providence - Fr J P de Caussade SJ (d.1751) .  This book is the letters of a spiritual director to various religious sisters who were in his care.  It is very caring and covers all the possible things a devout soul may be going through, with a helpful index so that you can home-in on the advice you need.
  • An Introduction to the Devout Life- St Francis de Sales (1608).  A beautifully written classic from a Doctor of the Church. A gentle, gentle book, so gentle people may slip into it like a hot bath, then forget its message is actually rather a tough one.  Despite its gentleness, it is particularly hard on widows, I simply couldn't do what it was asking of me (I'm more Ruth than Naomi and more of a fool with it).  I recommend it to all who are not widowed.
  • The Spiritual Combat- Fr Lorenzo Scupoli (1598?) A violent little manual which strangely was much loved by St Francis de Sales, but is so very different in style.  This is hard, heavy weight punching stuff: you are a sinner, you must stop sinning, you must not trust yourself.  This is a particularly useful manual if you have one particular vice that you really are struggling to overcome.  Sins of the flesh meet their doom if this manual is followed.
  • The Science of the Spiritual Life - Fr James Clare SJ (1896).  This takes you through the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises in a most beautiful way.  It is heavily scriptural and meditative.  It really is a beautiful book, if you can find it.  You can follow it as a 4 week retreat or pick particular sections to work through. 
  • Manual for Interior Souls- Fr Jean Grou SJ (1803)  Written by a Jesuit who fled to England from revolutionary France.  It is most similar in style to the Caussade but it is not written as a series of letters.  It is the least dry of the manuals I have mentioned and may appeal to those who wish to have their instruction flavoured with a more generous helping of holy sentiment.
The key thing to remember is that manuals are all about bringing us closer to Christ.  There are other means of doing this but I think it is good to have a book of instruction that you stick to, that rests on centuries of experience and prayer, that isn't just the writings of an academic or a latter day mystic.  So I recommend you get trawling the interwebs and second hand shops looking for your own little life saver.

Not a photo of my manual collection, I think these are scouting manuals, but I can't be bothered taking my own photograph....and I'm sure Tanquerey has  a word to say to me about such sloth...

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Citric Acid

The world is now officially crazy.  I have just been down to my nearest town (a goodly drive away) to try to buy some citric acid.  It is stuff found in lemons.  It would be an irritant if you stuck the powder in your eye. It is a mild acid but quite frankly most products for cleaning your home would do you far more damage.  Citric acid can be used by cooks and I wished to purchase it to clean my shower head which is filling up with limescale.  Oh, the innocent pleasures of the weekend!

A chemist shop, belonging to a chain which shall remain nameless, said they were no longer allowed to sell it and gave me a very dirty look.  So I ambled over to another chemist who was quite happy to sell it to me.  However I threw him a curved ball and said that the other chemist was not stocking it anymore, probably to take the moral high ground with the heroin addicts.  He chuckled and said that I didn't look like a heroin addict.  But the truth was out.  This is about the fact that citric acid is used to cut heroin, and that is why shops are wary of selling it.

Hold on, think I.  Citric acid is relatively cheap, and it is safe, very much safer than other things heroin addicts may be forced to cut their smack with.  Neat heroin can kill.  Why can't an addict make a choice to try to stay as healthy as possible and manage his habit accordingly?  Indeed, I've known professionals who are addicted to the stuff and had no desire to come off it. Not all heroin addicts look like they've just come off  the set of Trainspotting. Obviously, dear reader, I'm not endorsing it as a lifestyle choice, I must make that clear.

This seems to be part of the culture of control and I am very uneasy about it: don't make it easy for the addict to use his heroin safely, make sure he is registered and then get him on the Methadone.  Now Methadone is simply state zombification.  It is a horrid horrid drug, it destroys souls much more effectively than the natural opiates.

Further to this, isn't a heroin addict allowed to make jam or clean their shower head?

Lunacy.  Lunacy.

But then again, the Moon is tugging a bit more than usual tonight.



Friday, 21 June 2013

Midsummer Madness

This is a strange poem to be lurking about my brain at the height of the summer.  But then again, maybe it isn't.  It is a poem about one's muse, and as muses can be such contradictory things, it is quite possible that the summer can resemble deep midwinter and be more peaceful for it.  The Sign of Contradiction is in charge; who ascendeth upon the west.  The Lord is his name (Ps67) To ascend with the setting sun seems contradictory, but as Fr Faber once pointed out; our natural journey is from dawn to dusk, but our journey in Faith is from dusk to dawn; it is Christ who takes us through the night. What seems strange simply isn't! I just thank God for it all.

The Thought Fox- Ted Hughes
I imagine this midnight moment's forest:
Something else is alive
Beside the clock's loneliness
And this blank page where my fingers move.

Through the window I see no star:
Something more near
Though deeper within darkness
Is entering the loneliness:

Cold, delicately as the dark snow
A fox's nose touches twig, leaf;
Two eyes serve a movement, that now
And again now, and now, and now

Sets neat prints into the snow
Between trees, and warily a lame
Shadow lags by stump and in hollow
Of a body that is bold to come

Across clearings, an eye,
A widening deepening greenness,
Brilliantly, concentratedly,
Coming about its own business

Till, with a sudden sharp hot stink of fox
It enters the dark hole of the head.
The window is starless still; the clock ticks,
The page is printed.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Celibacy

I suppose I should be grateful for Joseph Shaw for pointing out a worrying article by Fr Ron Rolheiser OMI on the nature of celibacy.

For personal reasons I am deeply fond of the OMI  and their founder, St Eugene de Mazenod.  I am less fond of the writings of Fr Rolheiser.  This particular article is worrying as it is not joyfully positive about celibacy.  It sees it as part of suffering (which we know is a necessary part of the human condition), with the emphasis being on the solitude of the celibate.  Is solitude a form of suffering? The "infinite solitude" of God is our only joy, surely? Is celibacy something to be suffered?  I can't believe this to be the case.

Firstly and most importantly Chastity is a Fruit of the Holy Spirit. Therefore it is not something to be suffered but wells forth from The font of joy. It is available to all, the Holy Spirit doesn't refuse His gifts and their fruits to anyone.  Celibacy is founded on a healthy and prayerful understanding of Chastity. Secondly, we are all called to be celibate who aren't in the married state and therefore the development of our sexual selves is something only to be worked on within the married state, it isn't a given, it is a gift of marriage. We are supposed to marry as virgins, right? Marriages that incidentally should be continent and chaste, where the partners are fully in control of their sexual selves. Thirdly (and here I will have a grump), I can't stand descriptions of celibacy that aren't joyful coming from priests, because THEY CHOSE THAT STATE!  It is only us widowed that had celibacy thrust upon us, and we have to damn well make it work. Marriage is a choice, the priesthood is a choice, the consecrated religious life is a choice, widowhood isn't a choice! Celibacy is good, celibacy is fruitful, God has given it to us, so why should it be otherwise? Celibacy is natural outside of marriage and as not everyone is called to the married state, celibacy can't be unnatural.

I think what I'm trying to say is that we are forgetting about love in all of this; agape, that is to say "disinterested love". The love that only seeks the good of the other and the glory of God. This love is the love that sounds so difficult in 1 Cor 13, yet is so necessary for our salvation.  This is the love Christ has for us and the love we are asked to return to our neighbour.  It is gentle, patient, kind, never seeks its own way..... you know that passage as well as I.  BUT most importantly, it stems from an act of the will.  Agape must be willed.  Obviously, it cannot be achieved by the will, as it comes from God, but the soul must will that God enters in and transforms that person into one capable of demonstrating this love.  The "holy daring" of the saints is nothing more than a stubborn desire to will this disinterested love into being at whatever cost.  It works on all levels and should be what we are all trying to do; "be ye perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect" Mat 5:48. That isn't a command to someone else, it is for us all.  God is love, that perfect love is "disinterested"and that is what we should be striving for.  And it simply can't be done if we see the non-development of our sexual selves as something that must be suffered.  Finally, isn't there something more to being adult male and adult female beyond that which is sexual?  Surely the gift of male and female as companions for each other  that was given by God to our first parents, was not primarily sexual, because if it were, our first parents would have known they were naked before the Fall.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Cuckoo

I heard my first cuckoo of the year this morning.

Those birds have always bothered me.  It seems so very ugly that a bird should dupe a bird of another species, usually half its size, into rearing it as its own offspring.  When the price to be paid for this is the death of the entire natural brood of the foster parents, the whole things just seems so ghastly.

I have no problem with watching a documentary showing killer whales smashing seal pups to bits in some icey Atlantic breakers.  I have no problem with animals that are killers, doing their killing.  It is natural and there is even a beauty in it, especially if the killer is a graceful big cat or a spider.  It isn't cruel.  We make nature too anthropomorphic by using adjectives like cruel and merciless.  Nature simply is.  The natural world echoes the spiritual world by having a beauty that is bittersweet.

But there is nothing beautiful about a baby cuckoo.  To human eyes, all that can be seen are selfishness, greed and deceit.  But these characteristics are not there because the cuckoo is an animal and not a man.  The cuckoo can not sin.  The cuckoo hasn't had the life of grace breathed into it like man had when God first formed him out of the earth.  The cuckoo does not have free will to err from that which God created it to do.

Yet we are right to be repelled by selfishness, greed and deceit but must remember that they are in the corrupted hearts of men and not in nature.

I remember seeing a documentary about the bonobo apes and how they use sexual intercourse as a form of greeting, recreation, stress relief and appeasement.  The sexual activity is even with very young babies and is not restricted to members of the opposite sex.  It was to me, repellent.  Yet because of its perceived "innocence" and the low levels of aggression amongst these apes as opposed to those of other species, some people do not find their behaviour repellent and indeed argue that we should be more free with our own sexual intercourse as it would make us a more peaceful tribe.  I am as guilty as the supporters of bonobo culture for seeing their behaviour in human terms.

Personally, I have no desire to be like an ape.  A small amount of instantly forgettable fleshy titillation is all they are after.  Like badgers seeking out some over ripe sweetcorn.  There are other foods, there are other pleasurable activities for these animals.  They just seek out the ones that they have become accustomed to.

Humans are offered so much more; the permanent ecstasy of heaven in an eternity with God.  To get there we have been given  the Way of living which ought to make us feel revulsion at the thought of people behaving like cuckoos or bonobo apes, though not necessarily with the animals themselves.

Nature isn't there to show people how to behave.  We shouldn't admire animals that seem to show alturism, compassion, mutual cooperation and grief. Nor should we revile animals that show characteristics that would be unpleasant in a human.  Before the fall, Adam just named all the creatures and marvelled at them with their Creator for their own sake as part of His creation.  Adam knew he wasn't an animal.  This is something (post-fall) man seems to be forgetting.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

The Eucharist and the Word

Mass is always a battle; a spiritual battle to concentrate, to be worthy to receive, to make sure that one's wandering thoughts, though a sign of our frailty are not actually a sign of our sinfulness.  It is a battle we always lose, that is why we say Domine, non sum dignus.  It is a battle we can't win.  Christ's is the fight, Christ's is the victory.  We are just asked to be there and love Him and submit to Him, such that even our inadequacy glorifies Him. I personally rarely feel any spiritual blessing in attending Mass, it is even physically hard work just being there, I can feel the strength leave my body and can get quite ill.  But this isn't about feelings.  Love is an act of the will.

However, in receiving the Eucharist, we know something is happening even when we can't feel it.  We know that it really is our only food.

Receiving the Word through Sacred Scripture is somehow different, well it is for me.  It has an instant effect of revitalising my physical being and my intellect.  It is like I am in  a dream until I find the Word in Scripture, then I feel alive and real.  None of this would be possible without "worthy" reception of the Sacraments, I know that.

I attend a scripture group at a Catholic church and I really "need" to be there.  It strengthens me.  It helps me live, I feel so much better for going.  BUT, oh dear, it is so very hard to not be distracted by the other people there.  People who love the sound of their own voice.  People with ignorant or even heretical views that are painful to listen to and who it is so difficult to bring round to the truth. It becomes so very nearly an occasion for the sin of pride to run rampant.

Basically we are all just like pigs in the trough.  Some fat pig (just like yourself) muscles in and prevents you troughing so that they can.  We all have a hunger, yet we can't all satisfy it at the same time or in the same way.  We become jealous of our relationship with the trough and want to guard our patch, rather than realising that the food will never run out, is given to all gratuitously provided we desire it.


Ah, Catholicism would be so much easier without other Catholics getting in the way.....

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Syria

We here in the UK have a government that nobody actually voted for (such is the nature of this coalition), therefore how does it have the right to interfere in the goings on of another country? I accept its right to govern the UK, because it has gone through due process, but surely it is not legitimate for it to interfere in the affairs of somewhere else, unless that other place was actually aggressively hostile towards us. In particular, what gives them the right arm rebels in Syria? Whilst the regime there is far from perfect, what gives us the right to try to escalate a conflict that will undoubtedly cause even more suffering to countless innocent people, and radicalise countless more. We went ape over America's Noraid funding the IRA. But if we use our own twisted logic on ourselves, then the IRA had a right to be armed. Why not allow the English Defence League to be armed? Why not allow every radicalised Islamist cleric in the country to set up his own militia?

The language of peace is missing from the European strategy, because the language of Christianity has been lost We have some serious praying to do. We have some serious Christian witness to make.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

It was very good of the Bishop of Portsmouth to provide a pastoral letter for the Feast of the Holy Trinity. Priests so often feel pressured by this feast, it was a very pastoral thing to do. That the letter is excellent is a real bonus. If you have 9 minutes to spare, I ask you to listen to His Grace reading his own letter.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

The Impossible and the Hopeless

Funny old days, these. 

It is a good time of year. Impossible, seemingly hopeless situations dissolve and joy bubbles up in most unexpected ways and all for the greater glory of God. And even when we don't have clue what is going on, often through the mundane and the seemingly normal routine of everyday life, miracles are being worked.

God rules in the midst of His enemies (Ps 109).  Never forget that.  Then get on with offering your sacrifice of praise...

My patrons have feast days coming up. What St Rita and St Philip say especially, which seem so relevant to the craziness around us, are the following things:

  • be generous hearted and have time for all people
  • seek peace in your own life and in your own affairs
  •  mortify your sense of reason, don't be always trying to think too hard about stuff
  • desire the Gifts of the Holy Spirit
  • give yourself a spiritual healthcheck and meditate on how the Fruits of the Holy Spirit are manifesting themselves in your own life.
  • Don't give the devil any wriggleroom.
  •  Abhor sin and strive for virtue
  • pray generously and lightheartedly.
  • persevere
  • Trust God.
Blessed be God in His angels and in His saints! 

Must get back to my ironing.  Doing the mundane and seemingly innocuous things of life are actually very powerful weapons for us against the darkness, provided they are done prayerfully.  My lack of blogging has been due to my crazy job and my ironing endeavours.... My mother has started calling me Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, however I wish to assure my reader that I am in good shape spiritually and of very good cheer and that my prayers for you continue.


Saturday, 13 April 2013

Facebook

It is well known amongst educationalists that if you are struggling to get a shy child to communicate what they have learnt, it is often successful to give the child a puppet or a bear and let the child express the ideas it has through the puppet or the bear.  The child invests some effort into constructing the personality of the toy (over which it has total ownership) and is therefore quite happy to let the toy voice opinions.  It depersonalises the right and wrong of what may or may not be being said.  If it get things wrong, it is the bear that has got things wrong and not the child.

I have been wondering if Facebook works along similar lines.  However, before I go any further I will have to admit to being a Facebook virgin, I only know about it in theory and from what people tell me and from the damage it does to the relationships the teenagers I teach have with each other. What I find fascinating is that people do adopt Facebook personas.  You read what they write (I've seen screen dumps of argument threads) and you can hear their voices, but yet it isn't them.  They are in some ways bolder, in other ways more trivial and careless than the individuals you know in real life.  It is something to hide behind, it is a stage onto which you can project a certain representation of who you'd like to be at that precise moment.  And critically, for Facebook you NEED an immediate audience, these are your "friends".  I think it would be very rare to find someone who was self-assured enough to be themselves on Facebook, warts and all.

So it involves the projection of a certain image, it means that when a "conversation" happens on Facebook it is not a conversation reaching cor ad cor.  It is "my projection of myself reaching out and wanting your projection of yourself to make some sort of response to this".  The danger really is, that people believe their Facebook persona to be them.  It is, it has to be, a shallow, vague approximation of the person with all the difficult and deep bits removed.  As a forum for people getting to know each other, ie. become real friends, it sucks. It will always have the fallback position of becoming Punch and Judy or Sooty and Sweep.
Harry Corbett and friends.

As least with blogging, a blogger is writing the thoughts wafting through her skull, it is a diary of sorts but in the public domain, and as such it does not demand responses.  A blog isn't crying out for attention and "likes", it just sits there, the static creation of a flawed creator who for some unfathomable reason doesn't mind their thoughts potentially going global. Though I am left wondering if bloggers are therefore wierder, and even less emotionally stable than regular Facebook* users.

*There are other Social Networking outlets.