Sunday, 25 January 2015

an endless fountain of odious disedification

In light of all the touchyness some seem to show at the faults and failings of others, here are some pertinent and pithy words from Fr FW Faber.  It is a quote from a book of his Spiritual Conferences and all I have done is change the word "scandal" to the word "offence", the sense remains the same.

To give offence is a great fault, but to take offence is a greater fault.  It implies a greater amount of wrongness in ourselves, and it does a greater amount of mischief to others.
For I find great numbers of moderately good people who think it fine to take offence.  They regard it as a sort of evidence of their own goodness, and their delicacy of conscience; while in reality it is only proof either of their inordinate conceit or their extreme stupidity..... Moreover the persons in question seem frequently to feel and act, as if their profession of piety involved some kind of appointment to take offence.  It is their business to take offence.  It is their way of bearing witness to God.  It would show a blameable intertness in the spiritual life, if they did not take offence.  They think they suffer very much while they are taking offence; whereas in truth they enjoy it amazingly.  It is a pleasurable excitement, which delightfully varies the monotony of devotion.
For one pious man, who makes piety  attractive, there are nine who make it repulsive.  Or in other words, only one out of ten among reputed spiritual  persons is really spiritual.  He who, during a long life has taken the most offence, has done the most injury to God's glory, and has been himself a real and substantial stumbling block in the way of many.  He has been an endless fountain of odious disedification to the little ones of Christ.  If such a one as reads this, he will take offence at me.  Everything that he dislikes, everything which deviates from his own narrow view of things is to him an offence. Men marvellously like to be popes; and the dullest of men, if only he has, as usual, an obstinacy proportioned to his dulness, can in most neighbourhoods carve out a tiny papacy for himself; and if to his dulness he can add pomposity, he may reign gloriously, a little ecumenical council in unintermitting session, through all the four seasons of the year. .... Let us leave them alone with their glory and their happiness.

Ahhh, spoken like a true Oratorian, a true son of "Gentleness and Kindness". Charity sometimes has to talk tough.  Taking offence is a fault deep within many of us and are we really willing to look in the mirror and see just how odious it is?  Faber ends this conference with the following:

He is happy who on his dying bed can say, No one has ever given me offence in my life!  He has either not seen his neighbour's faults, or when he saw them, the sight had to reach him through so much sunshine of his own, that they did not strike him so much as faults to blame, but rather as reasons for a deeper and tenderer love.


And Richard agrees!

Sunday, 4 January 2015

The problem with gender

Elsewhere a thoughtful blogger has posted a piece about the unfortunate story of a soul who committed suicide and who was "transgender". Here are my thoughts:

Firstly I do believe that often the thought of suicide and its ultimate execution stem from a blinding illogical logic that says suicide really is the only solution to a "problem".  Often it is the feeding and manipulation of the "problem" until it grows into something with a life of its own that can be at the root of this.  And then the problem dictates that the solution comes from you ceasing to exist as you are the irreconcilable anomaly in the whole sorry mess, and absolutely everything would be better off without you.  Yes, there is often abuse and genuine victimisation, always there is hurt and a feeling of being unloved, but these exist to a greater or lesser degree in most of us and yet suicide, thankfully is rare.  I am sure that suicidal tendencies lie in the creation of this monster "problem" that exists outside of the person themselves, and that the feelings of the person themselves simply colour their own self-disgust and loathing making everything so much worse.  A person who is not in a good mental state really does believe in the clarity of their own thoughts, really believes that they are right, and that is the tragedy of mental illness.  It is very hard for anyone, no matter how loving, to break through this barrier.

Secondly here are my thoughts about gender and how I believe we are creating and feeding a problem that we may cease to have any control over.  "Male and Female, God created them", sexual reproduction is good, it gives God's creation a share in His creative genius.  The condescension of God, how He still (post-Fall) desires our free consent and cooperation, and us pathetic, flawed, stubborn creatures!  So gender is biological and for the reproduction of the species.  Nobody would argue with that.  There is also a complementarity between the sexes that has nothing to do with biological reproduction and has to do with the way this chaste complementarity, when focused entirely on God, makes Christ and His works manifest.  There is a genuine "spiritual fecundity" and indeed most faithful loving married couples spend far more of their lives in this state than they do in the biologically fertile state. That is really all there is to gender and notice that it has nothing to do with person-centred feelings.

The problem we are creating is to link gender to the way we feel and the feelings we have.  It links everything to the human, it makes gender a burden that the person has to carry. This burden can at first be pleasurable and therefore can be fed and nurtured to suit our needs, until it takes over, as burdens always do.  Or this burden can be intolerable, an irreconcilable set of feelings that create conflict in our hearts and minds and cause upset, misunderstanding and tragedy.  Yet society says we should feed our feelings of gender and explore them.  Society says this is good and wholesome.  And when a buffoon of a cleric says words to the effect of "go watch Brokeback Mountain and feel the love", there is a real danger that the Church is walking into the trap of defining gender by the feelings we have.  We also have a touchy-feely mood to the current Papacy and there is an inherent danger in this if we elevate our feelings or if we take offence at such touchyfeelyness.  Taking offence is dangerous, very dangerous... think about it.... it is nothing but pride......

One of the things we have lost by sin is our "original nakedness" (I think this is St JPII's idea in his Theology of the Body, but I only skim read an idiot's guide to this work, so am no expert).  Original nakedness is surely the ability to be unaware of our gender, yet to know our loving complementarity. In the occasional chats I have with other unmarried chaste women, we all seem to have a desire to find the man who could look on us naked without lust.  That is the man we could love, that is the man we could trust, that is the man we would surrender ourselves to.  (We long for that unveiling, to be looked on for what we are, and yet it seems like a dream too big, so we remain single...... and we know that ultimately it is Christ who will unveil us all.)

What we have lost by sin we can regain through Christ in the Sacraments, through God in His ineffable love for us all.  This should be our focus; the rediscovery of "original nakedness".  The more we cave in to the victimhoood of the LGBT polemic (as well meaning and as heartfelt as it is) the more the penis and the vagina will become intolerable burdens, false gods, and gods that are hungry and need feeding, sacrifices and martyrs.

As an aside, modern living is certainly putting more oestrogen mimickers into our water supply (most notoriously through use of the contraceptive pill), gender will become fuzzier and less well defined and this is a problem of our own making and not a gift from God.