Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Synthesis

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.