Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Taking things to their limit.

Today's news has hit hard, the attack on the school in Pakistan has really cut me up.  Pakistan is a country I have an uncommon affection for and I know too many Pakistanis for this not to hurt.  But my grief is not primarily a personal grief, it is a grief born of watching Islam tear itself apart, and the all too frequent tragic consequences of this rupture.

Now what is the correct response to this for Catholics?  I do know that painting Islam as the enemy, or indulging in some ghastly smug "I told you so, they are a heretical sect and heresies burn themselves out eventually", is quite simply wrong.  Each and every soul on this planet was made by God, each and every soul on this planet has a guardian angel.  Each and every soul on this planet is hardwired to recognise real love and each and every soul is free to receive or reject that love. Christians: we should know them by their love.  That is it.  That is our response.  And we have to take our love to the limit, basically because it isn't our love but the love of God manifest in us... somehow that is what we have to do.

The intellect is stronger than the heart and I do wonder if deep down there may be an intellectual solution to this tragedy.  My personal view (and I'd be interested if anyone out there who actually has a degree in Philosophy and isn't simply some second rate easily bored Physics teacher agrees with me) is that Islam has developed a parasitic "heresy" of its own and this is the source of the problem.

The heresy in question is what I will call "neo-Occasionalism".  Occasionalism is a philosophy developed mainly by Al-Ghazali (1058-1111) out of Oriental Atomism which refutes Aristotle's idea that there are efficient causes to anything.  An example of an efficient cause is a sculptor being the efficient cause of a sculpture.  Aristotle has three other "causes": material, formal and final.  (Go google them if you are interested).  Al-Ghazali argued that there are no efficient causes, basically because God does everything, the efficient cause is merely an illusion. Occasionalism was largely taken up by Sunnis and the influential Wahaabi movement. And I hereby wish to state that I am not attacking Occasionalism, but I am attacking what it has morphed into.

It sort of boils down to God being in every atom and God doing everything.  If taken to its limit, it seems to make God suffer from OCD.  And this is what I think has happened in "neo-Occasionalism", you get a system where God is doing everything.  But remove God from this philosophy for a moment (and simply consider a world where nothing is random and everything is pre-ordained) and you discredit most of Physics.  All systems of things have "degrees of freedom", laws governing things they can and can't do.  As as example, think of a volcano, it can chuck out pyroclasts as is pleases provided they interact with the local gravitational field according to physical law.  Nothing arranges the pyroclasts, they are simply spewed out.  But a volcano isn't free to spew out liquorice allsorts any more than a blackbird is free to sing like Justin Bieber.  Things operate within degrees of freedom, but not beyond that and neither are they straightjacketed into a particular rigid single behaviour. Physics can't predict every outcome, it can only assess possible outcomes.  The universe is not clockwork.

And this logic applies to humans too.  We operate under certain laws and suffer the consequences of not heeding to those laws AND we have free- will.  That is our God given "degree of freedom".  The freedom to choose our actions.  The freedom to do stupid things and the freedom to sin.  God cannot make us sin.  And here is the crux my argument. Sin really is one thing that ONLY has an effective cause.  The effective cause of the sin is the sinner.  Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.  The devil did not make you sin, YOU can resist the devil by God's grace.  You are responsible for your own sin.

BUT remove the efficient cause and you basically remove sin.  The tragic consequences of this unthinking "neo-Occasionalism" are the IS, the Boko Haram rapists and slaverymongers and people who think it is OK to blow up schoolchildren.  To them, God's doing everything.  And there is sweet nothing in the writings of the Koran that legitimises any of this cowardice and stupidity.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

the violent bear it away....

There was a small female pheasant left over from last week's shoot, neither the beaters or the shooters wanted it.  So it has been hanging in my shed for a week and today was the day when I came to skin and gut the bird for my Sunday lunch.  As feathers fly everywhere, I did this outside, watched from a distance by a lazy red kite.  I felt like shouting at it, "go kill something yourself, you lazy bird, this is my dinner and you are not having it".

I've done this many times before, I do think it is important that if I eat meat, I should know how to prepare it from its original state.  It is not a weekly thing, Wessex is not without a decent butcher or two, but worth doing for many reasons...... but I'm no ace with the knife.

It was as I was ripping the wings from the carcass that a thought came to me that I'd like to share with you.  It concerns that mysterious and multilayered saying of Our Lord's regarding St John the Baptist.

And from the days if John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence and the violent bear it away.  Matt 11:12

There I was dislocating the exquisite, precision engineering and soft, sublime, beauty of a pheasant's wing from its body, and it didn't feel great.  I was doing violence to God's creation.  But yet, there was no sin in it.  No act of cruelty had taken place, the bird had been well shot and downed instantly, not maimed by an overenthusiastic badly trained hunting dog.  God gives us stewardship over His creation, we are entitled to kill, butcher and eat what He provides. 

The violence in the act was violence devoid of sinful intent.  It was the violence of a mortal being who wanted food and had a legitimate right to that food.

How much more beautiful and perfect is heaven than that pheasant's wing?  How violent, ugly, grasping, needy and selfish are even the best of our prayers that we storm heaven with, compared with the music and prayers of angels and saints.  We are rough, violent, arrogant and needy in all that we do, yet the angels and saints make no complaint and bring our petitions before God.

How dreadful, uncouth and unholy are even the most reverently said Masses compared to the eternal liturgy of heaven?  Yet our pathetic representation and offerings are taken heavenward by God's angels and He permits His Son to become truly present in the Bread and Wine at the command of His unworthy priest.

We are doing violence to the perfection of Heaven, and God desires that we do.  He has come to us, He dwells with us, He loves us in all our pathetic, clumsy, irreverent, stinking humanity.

He gave me the astonishing beauty of a dead pheasant for me to fill my belly with, and there was simply no need for it to be so beautiful, (unless He wanted me to contemplate heaven).... and therein lies a great mystery.

Chardin- Still-life with pheasant

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Holy Theologians, Batman!

For the first time in his pontificate, I have really taken offence at something the Bishop of Rome has uttered.  You can read it here : http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2014/12/06/the-church-needs-more-female-theologians-says-pope-francis/

Normally, I find his style very petrine: loving, passionate and foolhardy.  One just knows his heart is in the right place, but like Peter he can be totally irritating, but that is my problem not his, he is the Rock, and that is that, and I accept his rockiness, that is part of my faith.

However, hmmmm, I'm exceedingly uncomfortable when he says we need more female theologians.   My uneasiness stems from my asking: just what is a theologian?

Isn't a theologian one who studies the Divine?  Isn't that all of us who claim to be Christians?  Don't we all embark on a journey to study the Divine.  Theology is a practical science and one we should all be very much involved in undertaking.  Is the Holy Father saying we need more female Christians?  Surely not!

I have a horrid feeling the Holy Father is referring to those who are professional theologians, those who make their living out of its study (and not necessarily its practice).  We need more theologians like the mice in my kitchen need a trap.  Lord preserve us from professional Catholics, Lord preserve us from professional theologians, irrespective of their genital apparatus.

Being a theologian is not one of the manifestations of the Spirit that St Paul talks about in 1 Cor 12.  The Spirit can give the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, the grace of healing ,the working of miracles, prophecy, the discerning of spirits, tongues and interpretation of speeches.  It is these things that we need, and the Holy Spirit can only work in those who seek the Lord with humility and purity of heart.  I can not reconcile this with a life in academia studying "theology".

We should be living theology not studying it.  There is such danger in seeing the Church as being made up of two things, a body of professionals and those who ought to be grateful for the work those professionals do.  I've heard better theology from a 5 year old child than from many a professional theologian.

Strawberry on the cake, pah!

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Sunday This before Advent

I love the Feast of Christ the King.  In those "normal" days shortly after my "reversion" to the Faith, it seemed right and proper that there was a feast at the end of the year dedicated to Christ the King.  This is what we were told: it was fitting to have a Feast right at the end of the Church's year when we celebrate the Kingship of Christ and that is why the feast was instigated.

Now it isn't that simple.  I mainly attend the EF and here the feast is as it was originally designated to be on the last Sunday before All Saints and now it makes perfect sense (to me) for it to be there.  At Mass this morning were readings for the 24th and Last Sunday After Pentecost and they seem right and fitting for the end of the Church's year.  The Kingship of Christ is Universal and timeless and not part of some linear narrative; there should be a feast to celebrate it but not necessarily this Sunday as we look towards Advent and with an eye ever on the Second Coming.

For personal reasons I also attended my local parish church today after Mass and they are dedicated fans of the Book of Common Prayer 1662 style and gloriously Low Church.  They too were supposed to be celebrating the Feast of Christ the King, but wanted their "Sunday Next Before Advent".  We had a common bond, a love for the collect for this Sunday; the "stir up" collect, and we like to hear it. 

As an aside I'm not sure what Cranmer and chums did to the Latin of this Collect as the BCP version is rendered:
Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

The translation in my Missal reads:
Stir up, we beseech Thee, O Lord, the wills of Thy faithful to seek more earnestly this fruit of the divine work, that they will receive more abundantly healing gifts from Thy tender mercy.  Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum..... 

An altogether richer and more satisfying pudding being stirred up by the Catholics than the Anglicans, methinks....

Still, in a spirit of ecumenicism, we both want our Last/Next/After Pentecost/Before Advent  "Stir up Sunday" and both homilies I heard today were about judgement, both were meant to makes us feel uncomfortable and make an assessment of what was lacking in our lives, AND both were full of joyful hope.

So what am I trying to say?

The 1962 Missal (imperfect as it is) and the 1662 BCP (protestant as it is) have a liturgical "sense" to them that unites across the centuries to something way older, something nearly intangible, something that wasn't designed by a group of "modernising", "sensible" liturgical experts......

.... and the villagers where I live want their Rogation Days back. Lord knows the crops have suffered over recent years, there is a real sense that everything needs to be handed back to God.

You know, sometimes I feel the very soil of the country is Catholic, its people are actually Catholic but don't realise it and somehow England is groaning to be Catholic once more........

But who is going to come to her aid?....... It won't be "knights" in fiddleback chasubles and yards of lace, that is for sure....

Saturday, 18 October 2014

The Psalm of the Synod

Dear faithful reader, I'd like you to ponder with me a little bit of holy scripture that seems wonderfully apt for the proceedings currently taking place in Rome.  It is Psalm 67 and is always worth saying with confidence, but right now it is DYNAMITE.  Allow me to lead you through some of the most profound bits, I'm using Challoner's translation,  which whilst not perfect, has a certain majesty.

Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: and let them that hate him flee before his face.  As smoke vanishes, so let them vanish away: as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God.

Say it brothers and sisters, say those lines, and don't stop saying them, you know it makes sense!

Let the just feast, and rejoice before God: and be delighted with gladness.

Whatever is going on amongst His creatures, we can and must rejoice before God, otherwise we turn the Resurrection into a sham. If we don't rejoice before God, it means we have stopped believing.

Sing ye to God, sing a psalm to His name, make way for Him who ascendeth upon the west, the Lord is His name.

In the western sky, in the darkness of the approaching night, He is there, call on Him, love Him.

Rejoice ye before Him, but the wicked shall be troubled at his presence, who is the father of orphans and the judge of widows.

We are all orphans, and we are adopted children of the Father, that is enough to rejoice over in itself. Myself, as a widow, someone for whom God has intervened so directly in my life through the death of my spouse, I will do His work, I will stand before Him and be judged, I see no harshness in those words.

God in his holy place: God who maketh men of one manner to dwell in a house.

Unity is a mark of God, God is ONE. Division is a mark of Satan.  Pray for the unity of the Church.

Who bringeth out them that were bound in strength: in the like manner them that provoke that dwell in sepulchres.

It is God who will give strength to those that love Him, even if the enemy presses against them with terrible force.  It is also God who will expose the empty vessels, the shallow clanging brass, the sound and fury with no significance.  This empty fury is in the Church, it is in each and every one of us, and we need to pray for the discernment to cut out this noise, this illusion that pretends to be life, that emanates from the tombs, and is nothing but the death of the spirit.

Thou has set aside for thy inheritance a free rain, O God: and it was weakened, but thou hast made it perfect.

The free rain of Grace, the superabundance of His mercy, the Eucharist..... God made It perfect.... we are the cause of the weakness... and the humbler we are them more we can share in Its perfection... indeed the weakening is a signal to us to be humble... our faith is not something palatable to glory hunters and to the smug.

The Lord will give word to them that preach good tidings with great power.

Pray that we all stick to the Gospel, that we live by it, and the Lord will do the rest, He will put the right words in the mouths of the right souls at the right time and His will be done.

The king of powers is of the beloved, of the beloved: and the beauty of the house shall divide the spoils.

The only treasures that matter are in the house of the King, and the "beauty of the house", Our Lady, has His ear and will make sure the treasures are distributed.

If you sleep among the midst of lots, you shall be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and the hinder parts with the paleness of gold.

Trust in the Lord, fall asleep in His arms, and "He will give sleep to His beloved" Ps 126... His rest, His treasures..... do not fear. Trust in Him.

The mountain of God is a fat mountain, A curdled mountain.  Why suspect ye curdled mountains?

This and lines that follow it make it abundantly clear that God hears the voices of His faithful followers.  There are many more faithful than we know about, but they are silent, unfashionable and living in those parts of the world that nobody gives much of a thought to.  God's oeconomy of salvation isn't some catastrophic failure, a harvest with a poor yield. The harvest is rich, believe in it and work for Him alone, be one of His labourers and His friends.

The chariot of God is attended by ten thousands; thousands of them that rejoice: the Lord is among them in Sina in the holy place.

Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive.

I never tire of those lines!

Blessed be the Lord day by day, the God of our salvation will make our journey prosperous to us.

Or those!

Our God is the God of salvation: and of the Lord are the issues from death.  But God shall break the heads of his enemies: the hairy crown of them that walk on in their sins.

Let God deal with those who do not put Christ as their head.

In the churches bless ye God the Lord, from the fountains of Israel.

Do it!

There is Benjamin a youth in ecstasy of mind.

Surely that is St Paul?  "Rejoice I say always rejoice!".  Don't dismiss anything he says.

The princes of Juda are their leaders, the princes of Zabulon, the princes of Nepthali.

There are the Apostles.

Command thy strength O God: confirm O God what thou hast wrought in us.

That the successors of the Apostles are worthy and work to strengthen the Church, to make the bride of Christ beautiful for her Beloved.

Rebuke the wild beasts of the reeds, the congregation of bulls with the kine of the people; who seek to exclude them who are tried with silver.

There are wild beasts who have found their way into the church and they have brought their wild ways with them and they wish to exclude those who are truly sons and daughters of the Church, those who gladly suffer silently for their faith, by sticking to it despite the arguments of those within the church to lessen the discipline ...  the "bulls" wish trample on them and say their ways are irrelevant.....

Scatter the nations that delight in wars, ambassadors shall come from Egypt: Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands to God.

Only by being witnesses to the Truth can we seek to lead others to Christ.  They will come, if they see our example; the clarity and brilliance and beauty of the Truth by which we live.

Sing ye to God, ... sing ye to God...

God is wonderful in his saints: the God of Israel is He who will give power and strength to His people. Blessed be God.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Could anyone pity her?

I'm still trying to work out to myself if today's reading from the Prophet Nahum was the most appropriate or inappropriate that could possibly have been read out as the horrors unfold before us on the plains of Nineveh.  He who said Mass for us today made no mention of it whatsoever.

See, over the mountains the messenger hurries!

‘Peace!’ he proclaims.

Judah, celebrate your feasts,

carry out your vows,

for Belial will never pass through you again;

he is utterly annihilated.

Yes, the Lord is restoring the vineyard of Jacob

and the vineyard of Israel.

For the plunderers had plundered them,

they had broken off their branches.

Woe to the city soaked in blood,

full of lies,

stuffed with booty,

whose plunderings know no end!

The crack of the whip!

The rumble of wheels!

Galloping horse,

jolting chariot,

charging cavalry,

flash of swords,

gleam of spears...

a mass of wounded,

hosts of dead,

countless corpses;

they stumble over the dead.

I am going to pelt you with filth,

shame you, make you a public show.

And all who look on you will turn their backs on you and say,

‘Nineveh is a ruin.’

Could anyone pity her?

Where can I find anyone to comfort her?

Perhaps the message is that it is God who will punish wickedness, not us.  Perhaps the message is that we should continue to live as God has always said we should live, in peace and charity with our fellow man and avoiding idolatry at all costs.  Perhaps it is also worth quoting an earlier passage from the same prophet  as it refers to all the people of good will in that area, whatever their faith.  (What is happening out there is a tragedy for the faithful of Islam too, and we rejoice over that at our peril).
Though I have afflicted you, I will afflict you no more, And now I will break his yoke from off you and will burst your bonds assunder ...
Behold, on the mountains the feet of him who brings good tidings, who proclaims peace.

You see, I think the thing is that we are all forgetting is that Christianity is THE religion of worldly failure.  The world should ever look at us and laugh, scorn, mock, deride.  Ours is not a religion where battles are won and temporal victories resound triumphant.  Necessary battles have been fought in the name of Christianity but there is always a larger defeat looming around the corner.  We are a failure in the eyes of the world, therein lies our strength.  It is only through rallying round Christ whose earthly mission was a  near complete failure, that we can possibly hope to share in the supernatural victory over sin and death. He won this for us through His complete, abject, degrading worldly failure. And when individuals see this, when they see the love we have for each other and all our fellow men, then they will recognise the Truth, and the peace that only Christ can win.

And how does this practically help all the good souls caught up in this horror in Northern Iraq? We offer practical help where we can and also we pray for them all, we pray to their Guardian Angels to guide them, inspire them and comfort them.  We pray to the God of compassion and mercy that no suffering is prolonged.  We offer a sacrifice of praise to God for all those souls too distraught to do it themselves.  We do not fear the enemy (who is most definitely behind all of this) and we do not trust any purely political or military  "solution".

"Our God bringeth help to both man and beasts alike"

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Bloggers block...

It is "University Sunday" today.  Well, the Introit at Mass starts with the lines from Ps 26: Dominus illuminatio mea (the Lord is my light) and that is the motto of an ancient seat of learning not too far from here.

My grandfather (who was a graduate from said dump) gave me his bookstand which has these words written on it as part of the crest, and this graces my desk as you can see below.  [I was too lazy to even consider applying to this seat of learning, and so attended an ancient in the distant North that only required grade C's at A'level]

Yes, the Lord is my light.  How important those words are.  And somehow, like many others out there on the interwebs, I'm not getting the light to blog much.  And yes, I do wonder why this is.

For me there seem to be several, not unconnected reasons:

  • Real life is just too damn hard right now.
  • Part of the reason why real life is hard is that I love the Church so much and I'm increasingly finding I'm being called upon to give witness to that love.  This is demanding, intense and rooted in prayer and silence and not really stuff I can blog about.  This witness to the faith seems to be the result of an ever growing spiritual battle for the Truth.  The windows, doors, skylights and coal bunkers of the Church are well and truly open, all sorts of stuff is sniffing around. ... Metaphorically speaking, I feel like I'm having to guard the ancient books, silks and silver ware from intruders who don't understand its use! (And I don't think I'm alone in feeling like this)
  • The Traddies, for the large part seem to have lost the plot.  There is no spiritual nourishment amongst them.  There is too much kvetching about the current papacy.  They are boring me.  It is all "toys out of the pram" with them.  Blogging does not exist in a vacuum, one needs some sort of intellectual illumination to inspire one....  increasingly I find I'm just on the blogs to try to get people to wake up and reconnect with their faith, but increasingly I'm wondering if they had any in the first place.  There is no humour, no gentleness, and little that illuminates out there.
  • It simply isn't a papacy that is intellectual in any way what so ever.  Previously, somebody on the blogs would pick up on something the Holy Father had said (usually an erudite clerical blogger), produce an inspiring meditation on it, and the fruits of this would nourish other bloggers and their posting for weeks.  We're not getting that right now.  Whilst the inspirations of the liturgical year remain our common ground, there was something more immediately "blogfriendly" about responding to papal utterances, some sort of Catholic bonding was taking place.  Now there are simply too many words and too many gestures; some careless, some profound, some too easy to become infuriated with.  The times do not inspire careful, insightful, holy blogging... 
  • When I try to write sometimes, I feel like I'm repeating myself.  I've said all I want to say about about certain issues, especially pertaining to human sexuality, and as this issue comes up again and again and people like Voris are not helpful, and there appears to be little solid guidance from Rome, it is not for me to keep banging the drum for orthodoxy on the net, I've got a life to live, this battle is being fought in the very classrooms where I teach and the streets where I live and amongst those I'm close to and love. Dominus illuminatio mea.... too right!
  • Real life is just too damn hard right now...
But out there, well away from the Tradski's there are green shoots emerging, a fresh flourishing of good inspiring posts is happening and good luck to those bloggers....  

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

we're all doomed!... yay!

Few things get me as wound up as when someone belittles the "medieval mind" as being somehow primitive.  It happened recently at school and it set me thinking.

It was the school debating competition and one of the motions was "This house believes we are all doomed".  The proposition was weak and the opposition very strong.  The gist of the opposition's argument was as follows:

  • doom is an outdated concept, just look at all those medieval doom paintings; heaven and hell and all that.
  • eternal punishment was just there to scare people
  • we have a chance to make the world a better place
  • whilst we have hope in the future and we have hope in humanity we are not doomed 
They won.

But there was me thinking, my dear if your were a Catholic, you'd be a heretic.  I also thought that the argument seems so plausible, how to fight it as a Catholic?  #weredoomedgetoverit  perhaps?

Had I been a pupil and been able to attack the opposition, my argument may have gone something like this:

  • We're doomed: nature dooms us through decay, death and destruction
  • as individuals we die, 
  • the planet won't go on forever, it could be hit by a very large asteroid, the greenhouse effect could go out of control, there could be a devastating ice age, super volcanoes could erupt
  • in 6.5 billion years sun will be a white dwarf and incapable of providing enough energy to sustain life anywhere in the solar system, sounds like doom to me
  • if we make it that far, we'd have to have survived the collision of our galaxy, the Milky Way with Andromeda in 4 billion years time and the unknown effects that would have on our existence.
  • We're doomed: history dooms us.  We can not make the world a better place.  Each age has its own evils.  One evil is defeated and several more spring up in its place.
  • We're doomed; religion dooms us.  BUT the doom that you decry so much as shown in those medieval doom paintings, that stark choice is IS OUR ONLY HOPE. Nature offers no hope, humanity's hope is empty if not seen in the wider context of the Creator who sustains us.
  • We're doomed either to Hell: you send yourself there though your lack of desire to be transformed by love, through the vanity of your self-protection at all costs,  through selfishness, pride and the ugliness of your hatred and intolerance.
  • Or Heaven: allow yourself to be transformed by love, see where Love takes you, follow Christ and He will show you...
  • You see, doom is hope.  Live in that hope because of the doom.  We are all doomed, get over it!
Yes, I fear the 4 last things desperately need some "rebranding"or the message of our faith will be lost in a sea of righteous humanism.  My effort is paltry, but I think it is something we should all be working on....

Over to you....

The Doom window at St Mary's Fairford- Gloucestershire

Sunday, 8 June 2014

The Paraclete

Bl John Henry Newman on the Paraclete, the Fount of Love

My God, I adore Thee, as the Third Person of the Ever Blessed Trinity, under the name and designation of Love.  Thou art that Living Love, wherewith the Father and the Son love each other.  And Thou art the Author of all supernatural love in our hearts - Fons vivus, ignis charitas. As a fire, Thou didst come down from heaven on the day of Pentecost; and as a fire Thou burnest away the dross of sin and vanity in the heart and dost light up the pure flame of devotion and affection.  It is Thou who unitest heaven and earth by showing to us the glory and beauty of the Divine Nature, and making us love what is in Itself so winning and transporting.  I adore Thee, O uncreated and everlasting Fire, by which our souls live, by which alone they are made fit for heaven.

Iglesia del EspĂ­ritu Santo- Ronda (Malaga)
(One of my favourite churches and a spot where my heart rests)

Monday, 2 June 2014

wake up, smell the incense!

Dear friends of a traditionalist persuasion,

Have we forgotten that rallying cry? Have we forgotten the joy that the rediscovery of our lost heritage and tradition has brought us?  What is wrong with us?  Is our faith that shallow that we really think it is under threat?  If so, then we are a disgrace to all we hold dear, we should be filled with joy, and we should be letting the world see our joy.  More specifically we should let the Holy Father see our joy,
  • bombard  the Holy Father with pictures of smiling youth on the Chartres pilgrimage and invite him next year
  • write to him saying how happy you are since you found the faith and live orthodox lives supported by the solid church doctrine and how happy you are that you can go to the EF Mass (this is especially important if you are under 40)
  • if you can, and you have the evidence, write to him saying how the FFI have brought you such joy in Christ through your contact with them and give examples.
  • show him the fruits of your faith in your happy children and the charitable work you do
And whilst I'm a little uncomfortable at my equating of joy with happiness, being miserable and kvetching and thinking you are persecuted and being unhappy about it, are not part of the faith.  If you think you are being persecuted from within the church, show some joy and be charitable to your persecutor.

Cheerfulness is so important, for starters the devil can't stand it, and there is no better reason than that to be cheerful, as he's always on the prowl.  Let us show the world that we can "out happy" the pope, or at least match him.  Being cheerful is appealing, it is good and it is also a very wise thing to be.

St Philip, pray for us.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Dear St Rita

Dear St Rita,

You are a marvel!  The White Queen in Alice Through the Looking Glass talked about believing six impossible  things before breakfast.  With the aid of your intercession we can achieve six impossile things before breakfast. AMDG

Thank you, thank you, thank you...

Alice and the White Queen

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Grumpy Cat-holic

Hi Gang,

I thought my last post would be my last post for a very long while, but I'm back.  I'd become really fed up with the Catholic blog world and in particular I'd found myself increasingly frustrated by the whole Protect the Pope saga; I disliked that blog almost as much as I dislike Catholic Church Conservation and  Rorate Caeli.  I struggled to see any merits in it whatsoever.  But I seemed to be in a very small minority and then all the carping about +Campbell just about finished me off.  We don't treat our Bishops like that and call ourselves Catholics.

The phrase I like is "critical solidarity" when it comes to the hierarchy of the Church and permit me to indulge in a bit of that right now, it is the reason for this post.

Joseph Shaw has a good piece on Cardinal Kaspar and the giving of Communion to those in "irregular" relationships. http://www.lmschairman.org/2014/05/cardinal-kaspar-replies-to-his-critics.html

What I found worrying about the Cardinal's words is what he says about those who live heroically as "brother and sister" as a consequence of a previously failed relationship:

To live together as brother and sister? Of course I have high respect for those who are doing this. But it’s a heroic act, and heroism is not for the average Christian.

 I'm afraid I find the phrase "average Christian" deeply offensive.  We have all been called to be saints, we have all been called to a life of heroic virtue.  I'm left wondering if he really loves us, because he doesn't sound very ambitious for us.  We're just Joe and Joanna Average and heroic virtue is beyond us.  Has he forgotten the Holy Spirit?

Then I mooch over to Fr Ray Blake's blog and find out there are moves to have Paul VI beatified later this year. http://marymagdalen.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/blessed-paul-vi.html I'm increasingly of the opinion that NO POPES should be beatified or canonised PERIOD.  So a Pope does what he's supposed to do and defends Church teaching at a time when it was seriously under threat. Yes, that takes great heroic virtue granted, but he is only doing what was asked of him by Christ. Are we to canonise every Pope who does not errr, who does not flinch from duty, who states Church teaching as it is, was and ever shall be? Find me a Pope who has not done this?  There may even be a cause for Alexander VI, I'm being serious. Surely the Church in Her modesty should never canonise Her Chief Steward (Martyrdom notwithstanding) it nearly sounds like nepotism.

And then I start to like the two posts together, Joseph Shaw's and Fr Ray Blake's and I start to get grumpy.  It is almost as if we the flock, are not considered capable of holiness or considered capable of being shepherded towards holiness.  Yet Popes somehow exude holiness and somehow we should build up cults around them as if they existed as some unobtainable odour of sanctity, not for imitation but for admiration.

Bleurgh, this sounds horribly like CLERICALISM at its worst.

Monday, 5 May 2014

oculos habent et non videbunt

It is so easy to see the faults in others, especially when they err in matters of orthodoxy.  It is so easy to get annoyed when such souls seem to have the official backing of the Church. Perhaps they are writing in Catholic newspapers, perhaps they are not receiving censure for things that sound like heresy, perhaps they are living openly scandalous lives, perhaps they have made very public statements or contributed towards policies that contravene Church teaching.... and yet the Church does nothing.  We get frustrated, we want the Church to change, we want the Church to be like our vision of the Church that we had and fleetingly enjoyed with other like-minded souls.  We had seen how the Church should be, we are the keepers of what is right, our little vision is the correct one.

And so we build ourselves a little self-help community of online criticism and even vitriol against people who can't defend themselves.  We analyse the writings of others to death showing how wrong they are and how clever we are.  We get all nostalgic over our little vision.  We feed each other with horror stories about how terrible others are who don't share our vision: how they dishonour God, how they hurt the Church. We then start thinking perhaps the nutters may be onto something and the end-times are just around the corner.

We should be VERY uncomfortable about all of this.  It is we who have forgotten God.  Like the polyester clad, Kung-loving visionary from the 1970s the Old Rite loving visionary of a few years back has made a god out of their version of the Church.  The former has made a god out of "a changing Church", the latter has made a god out of "orthodoxy". 

Idols need feeding to exist.
Idols demand allegiance.
Idols are jealous of rivals.
Idolatry dries up the heart.
Idolatry drives out charity.
Idolatry makes you as blind as the idol you worship.

Orthodoxy isn't the end of everything, Christ IS. God doesn't need us to be little warriors of orthodoxy.  He wants us to be soldiers for Christ.  We skimp not on matters on doctrine and dogma.  We remain 100% loyal to Church teaching, the orthodoxy ought to be tattooed onto our hearts.  It is our weapon.

But if your orthodoxy comes from and through Christ, be prepared to suffer. Be prepared to be ridiculed.  Be prepared to lose your friends.  Be prepared to be alone (in Christ).  Be prepared to be vulnerable.  Be gentle. Be patient. Love the idolaters. Weep and mourn.  And if your orthodoxy does come from God and is not an idol of your own making, you will be able to do all of this with joy, and what that is no man can tell.

Toodle pip......

Wednesday, 23 April 2014


I've always thought the Divine Mercy devotions to be a fine thing and St Faustina is a saint I am very fond of.  What I couldn't quite fathom is why Divine Mercy Sunday had to be positioned where it is, what is the specific connection between this feast and Easter?  However, I think I've fathomed it out and this comes from now being nearly completely immersed in the older rite, both for the Mass and for the Office.  It is the older rite which makes sense of positioning the Feast of Divine Mercy and not the newer rite.  Hence the title of this post, synthesis; a new feast and the old liturgy.

Let me explain.

In the older form of the liturgy, epistle for Easter Sunday is also the lesson in the Office for the whole of  the Easter Octave, it is 1 Cor 5: 7-8

Brethren, purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new paste, as you are unleavened: for Christ our Pasch has been sacrificed.  Therefore let us feast, not with the old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

 On first reading this I was puzzled.  It is not the most exuberently joyous thing St Paul ever wrote so what makes it fit the season?  I was puzzled by the emphasis on purging.  Surely that was Lent, surely the purging is over?  The context of this bit of Paul is scary stuff.  He is talking about excommunicating an adulterer from the brethren and delivering him "to Satan for the destruction of the flesh".  This seems so very terrible until you see that excommunication is actually an act of mercy.  If somebody is no longer within the Church, it is up to God alone to judge them (as St Paul goes on to explain at the end of this chapter).  If the serious sinner remains in the Church he can cause no end of damage to the Body of Christ, corrupting it terribly.  This will bring down a very heavy judgement from on high as it mocks the sacrifice of Our Lord. Bishops have to exert their office of binding and losing.  A certain amount of judging has to go on, some people should be excommunicated if there is any chance of saving their souls. St Paul is clear on this and we ought to listen to him.  It is a last resort and the faithful, through their prayers can do much to prevent things reaching this sorry state.

So purging during the Easter Octave, what is it all about?  Well, hopefully we have had a good Lent and have purified ourselves, by the grace of God.  We are now in a position to purify the Church through our prayers and remove all traces of the old, corrupting leaven, this is our new purge. To be like Christ is to enter into eternal life with Him and to have no mark of decay. Yeast is a fungus and therefore feeds on decay.  It is not part of our new life.  The leaven must be removed, sin in the Church must be rooted out and this is the very week when we are most cleansed and most able to assist in this act through our prayers.

And how do we purge the Church?  Well, surely it is through the priestly prayers to the Divine Mercy that we, the priesthood of all believers can make. It is not for us to go bringing down judgement on the sinners known to us in the Chruch (unless any Bishops are reading this), but it is very much up to us to pray to God for His Mercy on those individuals who break our hearts through their sinfulness or cause public scandal.  The more we can do this, the purer our hearts and the more the Truth will be manifest within the Church.

The Love of God is the flower - Mercy is the fruit

Divine Mercy, gushing forth from the bosom of the Father,
I trust in you
Divine Mercy, greatest attribute of God,
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, incomprehensible mystery,
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, fount gushing forth from the mystery of the Most Blessed Trinity
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, unfathomed by any intellect, human or angelic,
I trust in you
Divine Mercy, from which wells forth all life and  happiness,
I trust in you
Divine Mercy, better than the heavens,
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, source of miracles and wonders,
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy. encompassing the whole universe,
I trust in you
Divine Mercy, descending to earth in the Person of the Incarnate Word,
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, which flowed out from the open wound of the Heart of Jesus,
I trust in you
Divine Mercy, enclosed in the Heart of Jesus for us, and especially for sinners,
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, unfathomed in the institution of the Sacred Host
I trust in you
Divine Mercy, in the founding of Holy Church
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, in our justification through Jesus Christ
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, accompanying us through our whole life
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, embracing us especially at the hour of death
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, endowing us with immortal life
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, accompanying us every moment of our life
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, shielding us from the fire of hell,
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy in the conversion of hardened sinners
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, astonishment for Angels, incomprehensible to Saints
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, unfathomed in all the mysteries of God
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, lifting us out of every misery,
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, source of our happiness and joy,
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, in calling us from nothingness to existence
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, embracing all the works of His hands,
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, crown of all of God's handiwork,
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, in which we are all immersed,
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, sweet relief for anguished hearts,
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, only hope of despairing souls,
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, repose of hearts, peace amidst fear,
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, delight and ecstacy of holy souls,
 I trust in you
Divine Mercy, inspiring hope against all hope,
 I trust in you

Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence sumbit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself.

O, incomprehensible and limitless Mercy Divine,
To extol and adore You worthily, who can?
Supreme attribute of Almighty God,
You are the sweet hope for sinful man.

St Faustina's praises of the Divine Mercy.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Catholick schools (part 2)

Catholick schools (part 2)
Lessons from History

Below is a copy of the rules for the Jesuit school in Fenchurch St dating from about 1720.  It is worth expanding and having a read:
It can also be found at the bottom of this achived edition of the Tablet (when it was kosher) from 1916  http://archive.thetablet.co.uk/article/23rd-september-1916/28/a-jesuit-free-school-in-london-x688
It seems to me to be quite inspiring: a school to teach youth vertue and learning, to be gratis, to be non-selective and to be non-proselytising.  One assumes the catchment for this school would not have come from the upper echelons of society and indeed any Protestant who did send their boy there would have done so either because he was a dissenter and not welcome in an Established school or else, the boy was not smart enough for the Grammar schools.

There is a real sense from reading this that the Jesuit schools were necessary. They were founded to do good work and that that good work was utterly Catholic in outlook and execution.

The question must be asked,  do Catholic schools today do something similar, do they provide something that can't be had elsewhere?

These days people praise the examination results that Catholic schools get and indeed this is the main reason why they are popular.  To me this is a poor excuse for a school.  So, we can train the pupils to "jump through a series of hoops" and pass examinations.... this isn't learning.  They are not being taught how to learn and to love learning, they are being instructed in a skill and a fairly valueless one at that.  (Sorry, jaded teacher writing this, there are times when I detest my job).

People are attached to church schools because of morals and discipline and a vague sense that they can provide something for the child that can't be got at home, namely a grounding in the spiritual life. Again this is a poor excuse for a school. Unless the catechising is thoroughly Catholic, it is worse than useless.  But if Catholic schools are the sole meagre fayre of light weight spirituality, the only look-in that God gets in the child's life, then better that than nothing, I suppose..... (what a depressing argument).

What I like about this poster is that the school puts expectations on the pupils; to turn up, to be decently clad and to behave. This seems to be what is missing from the education system at large right now.  Instead teachers are a service providers in a market economy and are judged under those remits. The expectations seem to be mainly on the teachers and it is they who are measured and judged and told how to do their job, incessantly.

No I still can't decide whether on balance Catholic schools are a good thing or a necessary thing in the UK these days, the view out the classroom window is decidedly different to what it was in 1720.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Catholick Schools (part 1)

Catholick Schools: Part 1
I Blame the Teacher

It's my turn to have a meander through the murky waters of Catholic Education and the vexed question of "what is the point?".

Every time I've found myself teaching at a Catholic school I've said to myself "never again".  They leave me very uncomfortable because they all lie and do not live up to their mission statements. At root, they are embarrassed by the Second Person of the Trinity and turn Him into some good guy who gave us a good example.  Basically they are heretical. Normally I wouldn't care if a school lived up to its mission statement or not, but if that mission concerns Christ, then it ought to be taken very seriously indeed.

In the end I've spent all but 5 of my years as a teacher in Catholic establishments, and I don't know why I go back.  Perhaps it is the ease of employment, you can hear the interview panel's collective brain swing into action: wow you can teach Physics and "double wow" you are a practising Catholic who on the face of it doesn't look like a complete nutter, that must be a good thing, I'm sure you will be very useful to us....!

Blessed John Henry Newman said that the conversion of this country will be achieved through an educated laity.  That's us, all my non-clerical readers!  Are our schools set up to foster an educated laity?  Are our schools staffed by an educated laity?  The answer to both these questions is a resounding no.  I will not go into the reasons why, as they are self-evident to anyone who has been near a Catholic school in recent years.  You see, I really don't think Bl JHN had adults with certificates from Heythrop or ever Maryvale in mind when he talked about an educated laity.  It isn't about pieces of paper, it isn't about qualifications in "professional catholicism" *bleurgh*. It IS about being confident in one's faith, it is about being known to be a Catholic and it is about being a convincing witness to that faith.

I am reminded of a very good sermon I heard a few months back about us being "the salt of the earth". I do think us Catholic teachers should be just that.  Too intense and we are an emetic and a complete turn-off.  Too little and we have no effect.  Just enough and we enhance what is happening with a clarity that is uniform (salt always tastes the same) and leave the appetite craving a bit more.  The schools themselves can't do this.  It is not something an establishment can achieve.  It is a small but significant body of individuals within the organisation which will determine the true experience of Catholicism for the rest of the school.  And I'll put money on them not being part of the senior management and rarely within the RE department.

So, what I'm trying to say is that if you find yourself as a Catholic teaching in any school, live like you are one, be known as one.  It is amazing the number of pupils who'll pop their heads round your door during lunch time as say something like "Miss, you're a Catholic, what's your view on....", the success of your response is that they go away saying "Hmm, that does make sense...".  You see our faith IS the most sensible thing they will ever hear, don't be frightened by it.  The Truth is irresistible, they many not desire to follow it, but it will get them thinking.

To me there is just one golden rule to teaching, and if one endeavours to live by it and at the same time be known for who you are, then it will do nothing but enhance your enjoyment and fulflment within the job because it is a way of living out your faith in the job.  My golden rule is this: never tread on a child's sense of justice or you've lost them. A child may not be searching for God, but all children have an inbuilt sense of what is fair and just; work with this, you may be the only adult in their lives who does.  That you are a Catholic will then give them a good experience of how Catholics are and that is so important.

If I had children, would I send them to a Catholic school? No.  I would be too anxious about heretical assemblies, bad experiences of the Mass, a curriculum that purports to be Catholic and is anything but.  I would hope that my children would experience the company of enough well adjusted, happy Catholic adults who are my friends to give them good role models and some excitement about taking their faith into the adult world. As a parent I'd see it as my duty to instruct them in the faith and to do this with joy and enthusiasm.

Are Catholic schools needed?  I think the answer is, yes, though I'm not quite sure why... hang on for part 2, when I've completed my coursework marking.....

Apologies for spelling mistakes, I never said I was a good teacher.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Simon of Cyrene

Meditation 1:
Simon is the stranger in the crowd who took pity on the Man.  He is spotted by the tormentors who are so filled with hatred because they cannot stand to see any such sentiment.  As Simon is a foreigner and looks like a foreigner, he is an easy target for their cruelty, and is commanded by them to carry the cross amid much jeering and behaviour designed to humiliate.

Meditation 2:
The look between Simon and the Man as the cross is passed to his shoulders is a look that speaks of Love; pure and simple, penetratingly unfathomable love….It is Christ who is asking for the cross to be carried, not the soldiers.

Meditation 3:
Simon cannot comprehend the burden of the cross.  At heart he does not know what he is doing, only that his response to the Man’s suffering was pure and genuine.  He reasons that if his motives were pure, why should he mind what it is all about and he carries the burden willingly. The insults and the mockery just fill him with a sense of pride in the Man whose passion he is sharing.

Meditation 4:
As the cross starts to weary his body, Simon starts to get angry:  angry with the cruelty of the soldiers, angry with the world for its indifference, angry with men for their unremitting indifference to love.

Meditation 5
At the height of his anger, he stumbles, falls and curses the world.  The cross is returned to Jesus, who once again looks on him with such penetrating love whilst Simon himself feels a complete failure for being as base as those around him.  He is ashamed, too ashamed to follow Our Lord, he tries to blend in again with the crown but the spittle on his face and the dirt of his clothes make him feel different from those around him.  He is aware that although the burden has been removed, he will never be the same again.

Meditation 6
The burden is gone, the physical pain of carrying the cross is there.  An uneasy peace descends.  Things are definitely not right with the world yet Simon has some release from this.  In his union with Christ, he is forever changed.  He stands at a distance on Calvary, nobody even notices him now, he is completely invisible, he savours his own nothingness and is horrified by his own unworthyness, knowing that Love itself is being crucified before him. His union with Christ is strong, yet it is Christ who is now completely pierced by the burden. All Simon knows, is that from the Cross, Our Lord is asking him to hope in Him and to love Him unreservedly.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Joshua and Mercy

Joshua may not be the first figure you turn to in the Old Testament in order to understand mercy and compassion.  The Book of Joshua is bloody and violent.  However, even in his name, Joshua prefigures Jesus and there is much in the book that soberly tells us about God's love and mercy if we read it right.  To say that the God of the Old Testament is somehow different to the God of the New, that love and forgiveness are to be found only in the New is the heresy of Marcionism and must be avoided at all costs.  Christ is the same, yesterday, today, forever (Hebrews 13:8).

The musing that follows is about what Joshua teaches us with regards to Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics and those who openly flout heresy within the Church.

The treatment of the inhabitants of the promised land at the hand of the Israelites seems incomprehensible to us.  None were to be spared.  How can this be compassionate?  Well, God has set up a covenant with His people.  It goes without saying that God will keep his side of the covenant.  It is us, His children,  who will, left to our own devices move away from that covenant, dilute it, infiltrate it with false teaching and ideas, feeling that God is not fulfilling His side of the covenant, losing our trust in Him, turning Him into something He is not (fickle and moved by the times).  Contact with the Caananites represent that tendency within us to dilute the faith, to distort and disfigure all that is good.  It is that which we must cut out at the root.  Christ tells us as much in the New Testament too.

In chapter 9 of the Book of Joshua, along come the Gabaonites.  They, fearing for their lives, trick Joshua into sparing them.  They pretend to have travelled a long distance, to be weary and desolate, they throw themselves on the mercy of Joshua and he swears an oath before God that they will be spared. Now oaths always seem to be a bad thing in scripture (something to regret) because they must be kept. [ As an aside, surely the biblical precedents against oaths, should have been enough to make St Pius X see that getting priests to swear the Oath Against Modernism (no matter how well motivated) was a bad thing.  The backlash it created was certainly harmful and I do believe that the oath did more harm than good.  But this just goes to show that Pope's don't have to be wise to be Saints.]

The Gabaonites had deceived Joshua, but he had to spare their lives because of the oath.  They were put to the service of the Israelites, hewing wood and carrying water.

Now, Christian marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman and God.  We are people of that covenant.  Holy Communion is a covenant too and it comes quite rightly with preconditions. God can't break covenants, but we in our stupidity think we can.  We cannot dilute a covenant, we can not change its essence.  If some claim that the Church is not merciful for denying certain people Communion, and therefore that the Church is out of step with God, are they not then like the Gabaonites.  Are they not therefore asking for mercy as outsiders with little understanding of the faith?  Now, will the Church, like Joshua, give them mercy and give them what they want irrespective of their motives, assuming the purity of their intentions.  Surely if She does, then the modern day Gabaonites must be willing to be at the service of the Church in the most unglamourous of ways (the hewers of wood  and carriers of water) and if they are not willing to give such service, then surely their motives must have been corrupt from the start.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The smog of unknowing

Not much going on with the old grey matter right now, I'm afraid.  This is mainly what my Lent seems to be about, it is mortification of the intellect, of curiosity and of reason that seem to be what is needed off me.  I'm too ill for fasting and nothing else seems to be a particular struggle or battle that needs to be faced.  I am naturally an inquisitive, thinky person, but it seems very important to avoid questions of the "what if?", "how?", "when?", "could?" variety. In itself it is not enough, but it is coupled to a desire to keep my eyes fixed firmly on the cross and to retain a holy trust and joy in my heart.... simple heh.....  It is kind of working as there is peace, but physically it is exhausting, one has no strength of one's own, when one mortifies that which so often keeps one going.  But tiredness and weariness can be good things, one learns patience in this state....... patience with others, patience with self and most importantly patience with God....

The author of this blog, like everyone else, can't live as a hermit, the world does impinge, it is enveloped in a thick smog of incomprehension, but somehow one has to engage with it.

I'm finally getting round to getting a new-to-me car, and oh the vanity of it all, I've gone for something that looks good and is impractical (3 doors, minuscule boot), but it is a northern European make, sturdy, safe, reliable, gimmick free and designed for tall people.... (who am I kidding!)

I'm fed up with signing into my e-mail and being faced with the image of a simpering woman in a beige jumper telling me it is better if I wash everything at 30 degrees, that I'm harming the planet if I don't.  How long will it be before washing machines wont do a boil wash?  Well,  simper away as you get horribly ill from some nasty fungal infection and bed bugs picked up from hotel towels and sheets that have only been subjected to 30 degrees.  The new moral order; totally arbitrary, with no founding on religious or natural law; telling us what is right and wrong....  E-cigarettes to be banned in public places, but  "bending over backwards" (ahem) to help with the health problems associated with promiscuity and sodomy, rather that just saying they are wrong and very harmful.

Am I the only one to mourn the passing of the tax disc?  It is a decidedly quaint perforated paper disc that tells us in the UK if the car we are looking at is fully taxed.  It is so very British, nobody else has them.  Foreign tourists have stopped me and asked me what they are, and we have struck up a good conversation.  There is the annual excitement of seeing what ingenious colour they can come up with.  There is the annual terror of not removing it as a perfect circle as you tear round those perforations.  Oh, there are so few perforations left in our lives; no more "green shield stamps", no more perforated postage stamps, soon no more tax disc!  Very sad....  And practically, if you live in an area where cars get dumped, looking at the tax disc is the first stage of ascertaining if anything suspicious is going on when you see a car hanging about that you haven't seen before.

Coursework or "controlled assessments" (as they have been rebranded), need marking.  This is just about the most irritating thing about being a teacher.  Come on Mr Gove, sort these out.  They are a pointless exercise in anxiety and hoop jumping.  As the smog of incomprehension and Saharan dust descends on this forgotten corner of Wessex, I can be quite grateful my brain has gone awol, because if I thought about what I was doing, I'd go insane.
Happy days: sticking in the latest batch of green shield stamps into the booklet as my legs stuck to the searingly hot plastic seats in the back of my dad's DAF Variomatic.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

calling a spade a spade...

A deacon is a servant of the priests and bishop to whom he is directly responsible.  He can baptise, he can witness marriages, he can officiate at funerals and burials.  He is to be a man of prayer and has the same obligations to pray the Divine Office that a priest has.  Deacons are there to support the faithful in charity and the fruits of the Holy Spirit must be manifest in their person and their actions.

Deacons are alowed to be exuberant and passionate about their faith.  Deacons ought to be committed to orthodoxy and uphold Catholic teaching at all times.  Deacons are at their best when they are men of the world, yet apart from the world, conscious of all its failings yet firm in their faith.  Deacons ought to proclaim the faith as revealed through holy scripture.  They must offer a message of hope and speak only about God's salvation in the name of Jesus Christ.  They must be resolute and steadfast in their proclamation of the truth, like Stephen and Philip. They will win souls.  They will help Holy Mother Church win the souls of those who dissent within her borders if they let God help them.

A deacon is not some modern day Papal Zouave armed with a blog.  ACTA are not the Risorgimento.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014


Sometimes I'm simply ill.

Sometimes it is more complicated than that.  There is a spiritual element to all this.  It is possible to pray and to act and for the strength to "go out" of you.  It is humbling and it is also terrifying (in a good way).....  It is all very Lenten, I feel reliant on God for everything...... I have no idea of the outcomes of what I have done, and indeed, it is best not to think of self at this time.  Direct everything to God's good purpose.

I also feel the need to share some verses of St Patrick's breastplate with you.  They're not in a form that finds its way into any sappy hymn.

I arise today, through God's strength to pilot me: God's might to uphold me, God's wisdom to guide me, God's eye to look before me, God's ear to hear me, God's word to speak to me, God's hand to guard me, God's way to lie before me, God's shield to protect me, God's host to save me, from the snares of devils, from temptations of vices, from everyone who shall wish me ill, afar and anear, alone and in a multitude.

I summon today, all these powers between me and those evils, against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul, against incantations of false prophets, against black laws of pagandom, against false laws of heretics, against craft of idolatory, against spells of women and smiths and wizards, against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.

Find the whole thing. Say it, say it not just for yourself but for the whole Church.  And don't ever forget to praise God. And don't ever lose a holy terror of offending God.  And remember that the laity have the ability to overcome world, flesh and devil, through the normal means (Sacraments and prayers) of the Church.  We can not speak in the name of the Church, we have no authority to do so  But, nevertheless, there is tremendous power right there, for us to use, so use it we must.

Bossy cow, aren't I?

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

He shall give His Angels charge over thee

Sunday's Gospel has Satan quoting scripture in his temptation of Our Lord, and it is a horrid thing that he does.  Let's  not dwell on his twisted logic in using those beautiful lines from Psalm 90 for his own purposes:

He has given His Angels charge over thee, and in their hands they shall bear thee up, least perhaps thou dash thy foot against a stone (Mt:4.1-11)

The older rite and Office go on the offencive against this vile mistreatment of Holy Scripture.  The Tract at Mass in the First Sunday of Lent is nearly the whole of Psalm 90 and the Office keeps on quoting from it all this week.  It is as if our remembrance and recitation of this Psalm is in itself a great act of exorcism against his powers. 

It is a beautiful Psalm. It is a prayer for the whole Church and so apt for Compline.

The confident and righteous psalmist speaks first, saying how his trust in the Lord has saved him from many evils (trust that was given him by God).  He then speaks to the soul in trouble, imploring him to seek refuge in the Lord also.  Telling him the Lord will save him from fear of the terror of the night (our imaginings and evil fantasies), the arrow that flieth in the day (those sudden moments of anguish and hurt as we go about our daily business), the business that walketh about in the dark (those things we do that we'd like hidden) and the noonday devil.

Ah yes, the noonday devil.  This is the most insidious of creatures.  It has no shame, it will parade itself in broad daylight because it is not there to promote those things we are ashamed of.  It seeks to erode our confidence in God, it seeks to fill us with the glare of worldly logic and whatever zeitgeist is doing the rounds, it makes us distrust God, it makes us distrust our faith, it makes us want to do rather than to contemplate, and to "do" for our own good, rather than for God, it makes us restless in  a very bad way.  The Fathers of the Church have linked the noonday demon to that most horrendous of sufferings inflicted on priests, accedie or spiritual sloth.

Yes, when you read this Psalm, pray for priests, pray as a righteous and confident soul that our priests will trust implicitly in the Lord and seek His protection.  And then when you meet our priests, behave as if you really believe this.

Pray with the  psalmist to the angels in charge of those souls in distress.  Be confident in their protection of those you love.  And if there is someone special in your life who is wavering in the faith and who you especially care for and whose soul you seek to guard, savour Christ's words to us at the end of the Psalm, this is a great act of love for that soul and will produce many blessings:

Because he has hoped in Me. I will deliver him: I will protect him because he has known my name.  He shall cry to me and I will hear him: I am with him in his trouble: I will deliver him, and I will glorify him.  I will fill him with length of days: and I will show him my salvation.

Glory be.