Tuesday, 28 January 2014

It is just a symbol .....

I've been musing to myself on the meaning and interpretation of symbols, and how bad we are at doing this.

Here is Wikipedia on the meaning of "symbol".  It is a good enough definition.
A symbol is an object that represents, stands for, or suggests an idea, visual image, belief, action, or material entity. Symbols take the form of words, sounds, gestures, or visual images and are used to convey ideas and beliefs.

Here are some symbols I've been thinking about;
  • the Pope releasing doves as a symbol of peace
  • the mandatum
  • Papal red shoes
Each of these symbols has problems associated with it:

The release of the doves
There is no peace till there is peace in men's hearts.  The doves are nothing. They stand for peace, but aren't peace and don't bring about peace.  In the same way that  Ar stands for the inert gas argon, but is not actually argon in any way shape or form.  The Holy Father could just as effectively unfurl a large bedsheet from the balcony with "peace" written on it in poster paints and scatter rose petals on the crowds.  This symbolic act does not increase the peace in the world, though it may give those watching a nice cosy glow of self satisfaction, thinking that they know about "peace".  It doesn't make the act of peace any more or less likely.  It is a more meaningless symbol than the papal red shoes.

The mandatum
I hate the mandatum.  It is a representation of the washing of the disciples' feet as told in John's gospel.  It is a symbol.  It is NOT A LITURGICAL ACT.  It can be performed anywhere by anyone in a position of power who wishes to symbolically show their humility and their service.  Wash women's feet, wash the feet of infidels, it doesn't matter, do it in prisons, in convents, it is a symbolic act and as such is very powerful. What I hate about it is that it is so hard to explain to people that it isn't liturgical, it certainly should never take place in the sanctuary which really ought to be reserved for the liturgy.  It can't be done wearing a maniple, therefore it isn't part of the Mass.  Indeed the maniple is the symbolic representation of the towel used at the last supper.  Just as the priest removes his maniple for the homily because this isn't part of the liturgy, he uses an actual towel for the mandatum because it isn't part of the liturgy.  It needs removing from the Holy Thursday Mass to be done at some other time during the day, definitely outside the sanctuary.

Papal red shoes.
A symbol of tradition, that some pontiffs have messed around with by adding buckles or braid, or discarded in favour of some other colour.  Red does serve to represent the colour of the martyrs.  Every step a pope makes is courtesy of the blood of the martyrs, and this should not be forgotten.  As such it is an effective symbol.

 So what about the headline I saw in the secular press recently; "Pope prays for peace".  Is this just a symbol?  It ought to be symbolic in that it ought to get us praying a swell.  The prayers are genuine and not a symbol, but the symbolic act sets an example we must follow.  Sadly so much of the world looks at the gesture and  turns it into a bit of magic, thinking well if the Pope does it, that's good that will work, God listens to him he's holy..... maybe I don't have to pray myself then 'cos he's doing it.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Archbishop Warlock and me

Readers may be aware I am a "revert" to the faith.  After a somewhat lacklustre start and no parental encouragement, I finally found "my home" with the aid of my late husband who raised me de stercore and put a somewhat aimless, underemployed reprobate on the path that has filled her with so much joy.

In my years away from the faith, one figure stood out as a figure that kept the church attractive to me and that is the figure of Archbishop Warlock.  He was visible, he was pastoral, his work with the Anglican Bishop David Sheppard seemed so very important.  Liverpool was going through a torrid time but these two figures seemed to do something very important, something cohesive and something that visibly showed the love of Christ for people.  I knew nothing about the faith, I knew nothing about Warlock, but the office for which he stood and the pastoral care the media portrayed him as having for his flock stood out for me as significant  Christian witness.

In the mid 1990s, with diminishing funds and the need for full-time, honest employment, husband and I took a trip to Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral.  I found myself praying for work in the little side chapel of St Joseph where Abp Warlock is entombed.  Now I knew enough about the faith to know that praying to St Joseph for employment is a common and effective thing to do. I myself prayed before the tomb of the late Archbishop, I simply felt a connection to him and prayed before him.  Two weeks later, I had a job in a Catholic school within the archdiocese.  I'm just telling you this.  Don't please read any more into it than the bare facts.


I'm increasingly getting people asking me about the faith because they find Pope Francis so attractive in what does and the cheery manner in which he does it.  They are not avidly reading every last thing he writes, but they see his witness and it is attractive.


I am not comparing Abp Warlock to Pope Francis in any way other than to say that highly visible Christian witness is vital in bringing people into the true Church, and when it comes from the shepherds of the flock it has a terrific potency that I believe is attached to the office and not to the man himself.

So, there you have it, Abp Warlock applied the jump-leads to my faltering journey of faith that has brought me to be the Tridentine Mass loving, theologically conservative nutter who posts on this blog. If you know nothing about him, I'll leave you in ignorance.


I wonder if it is worth pointing out that the statue of the saint before which I prayed prior to gaining my current employment recently self-immolated.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Thought from Challoner

If you ever see a copy of  Challoner's Daily Meditations, I can heartily recommend that you  purchase it and use it.  It isn't uniformly brilliant, at one stage he gets rather bogged down in the 4 Last Things and goes on for rather too many days about Hell. You may find endless talk of Hell an aid to your devotion, I certainly didn't.

However, the meditation for January 7th throws up something interesting I'd never really thought about before; a little detail from St Matthew's Gospel that I'd always overlooked.

The Magi go to Jerusalem (naturally enough) to enquire after the King of the Jews that they are seeking.  News of His momentous birth should have reached there, however, it hadn't.  Herod didn't know and was "troubled" and "all Jerusalem with him". The chief priests and scribes are assembled and it turns out they do  know.  Quite casually they say that He will be born in Bethlehem.

What Challoner points out is that the priests and scribes can point people to the Saviour (almost as a matter of routine), but they haven't actually been seeking Him with their hearts or they would have gone to pay Him homage too.

This got me thinking. The Magi may have been astrologers but wise men they certainly were.  They fulfil Christ's own maxim (Matthew 6:33) to "seek ye first therefore the kingdom of God". And they also, most remarkably, tell us so much about the "fear of the Lord".  Deep within our intellects is a fear that drives us to use our intellects to seek God; the fear of misusing the God given gift of our intellects.  Deep within our will is the drive to persevere against all difficulty to find the Truth, there is a certain fear of failure if we don't do so.  Deep within our hearts is a joy in finding the Christ Child and a holy fear of ever bringing about any harm to Him.

So yes, they are truly wise men because "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom": Psalm  110:10  and Proverbs 9:10.

Are you one of the chief priests and scribes, so comfortable in your religion that you glibly know the answers to matters of faith but have never encountered Our Lord?  Or are you one of the Magi, wise enough to know you are duty bound to pay homage to the Infant, because without Him you are nothing?

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Putting the record straight...

Ollie Bear here..

Happy New Year to you all! I know I have a loyal set of fans and have been sorely remiss in my posting, but as Rita mentioned me yesterday, I feel that I ought to say somehing in my defence.

It is not that I don't like Cyril, though I can't say that any of my best friends are wombats.  It is a cultural thing.  He doesn't join the elder bears in on the sofa bed and never bussies himself with important (thinky) thing that bears do.  He is pratical, cheery and seems to have endless success with finance.  Bank of Bear has suffered terrilbly in the current economic crisis, yet he always comes up smelling of roses, he invests in wombat dung or "square poo" as he calls it, and there seems to be no end of dividends he can reap from the stuff.  I'm not jealous you understand, he just does things differently.

Oh, and then there has been the cricket, dear readers.  Living with an antipodean has been unbearable (pun intended) these last few weeks.  It isn't that he's been gloating, it is the quiet certainty of his manner, his smile and his confidence about his business that makes me want to thump him.

Dear readers, do you know of any retreat centre that will take a tea-drinking, cricket-loving, bow-tie wearing, English bear and calm his shattered nerves.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

I come back from retreat to find....

 I am extremely pleased Jackie is back blogging again, here, with all her warmth and sincerity (increaslingly rare things out there in blogworld). I am also touched that she has handed out an award to me.  I put in on display here:

Anyway, 10 things about me as that is part of the bargain:

  1. I really have no earthly ambition
  2. I have no work ethic
  3. By the grace of God, I remain just well enough to hold down a full time job and do it without embarrasing myself with incompetency.
  4. I live in a converted cow shed in the middle of nowhere in which I clean albs and altar cloths and mend cassocks to keep me sane.
  5. My current favourite on the old sound system is Jean Philippe Rameau; never did a man write such happy music (unless it was Haydn.. of course).
  6. My current favourite food is S Indian: Dosas, Idli..... yummmm
  7. I am currently being cared for by a wombat called Cyril, he has a full time job keeping my larder stocked and cleaning up around me and reminding me when I need to things. This is a picture of him with me when he first arrived at the cow shed.
    8. Ollie bear doesn't like Cyril, but Ollie is far too busy to help me and he recognises my need for a  wombat about the house.

     9. Spiritual sustainance these days comes from the Psalms, the Monastic Dirunal and the writings of Gerald Vann OP and Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity.

    10. Disinterested love, life is all about disinterested love; let it change your life...

Consider yourself similarly awarded dear reader, if you so wish.  I don't know of 10 bloggies to pass on the award to who haven't had it already.