Monday, 27 July 2015


It is the appetite incontinence of our adult years I wish to write about and not any toilet related use of the word.

Aristotle in the Nichomachean Ethics explains the difference between the continent and the incontinent thus: Again, the incontinent man acts with appetite, but not with choice; while the continent man on the contrary acts with choice [will or purpose], but not with appetite. Ethics III 2.

Incontinence is a stage beyond sin.  Sin has to be a wilful transgression of the Law of God, to quote Tanquerey.  It has to be an act of disobedience.  If the incontinent man is somehow beyond making a choice over his actions, then he is not sinning.  The drug addict, the alcoholic, the compulsive masturbator, the glutton and others have probably all moved beyond sin into an incontinent state where they have no choice of how to act. A state where they are a complete slave to a particular appetite.  This is wretched, this is surely a living hell.

How do people arrive at this state?  One would like to think that the all powerful efficacy of the Sacrament of Confession would protect the sinner from such a horrid fall.  An initial sin is confessed, it is done as sincerely as the penitent knows how.... and yet this fall into a state of complete wretchedness ensues. What went wrong?  Was God so petty as to not "like" the sincerity of the confession and to punish the sinner accordingly?  No, this can not be the reason.  Perhaps it is best not to analyse the reasons why things go wrong, but to understand the charity that is needed in helping these souls reach a point where they can be continent again.  We ought to desire their continence; it is only the continent that can grow in virtue, it is only the continent that fully respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit,  it is only the continent that can truly sing the praise of God.  There is no real happiness in incontinence.  It is not a state God wants us to be in.

And this is where I feel the Church could be doing a lot more, this is where I feel the Church has in some quarters lost her way....

1Peter 4:15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or a railer or a coveter of other men's things.

And I will quote this in the Latin of the Vulgate too, because there is something about the Vulgate that no translation seems to do justice.

Nemo autem vestrum patiatur ut homicidi, aut fur, aut maledictus, aut alienorum appetitor.

That phrase "alienorum appetitor" is the key to all of this, methinks.  "Foreign appetites" is perhaps a better translation, certainly it is about appetites that did not come from God,  it is about "foreign tastes", "lusts"; things contrary to God's designs and God's plans for our happiness.

But there is Peter telling us not to suffer for these things.  Peter in both his letters makes it clear that all suffering must be conformed to the suffering of Christ.  He says that true suffering is suffering or bearing the burden of another's transgressions, like Christ, who was without sin suffered the consequences of all our sin.  Therefore we should not suffer for our sin, we must recognise it and manfully stare it in the face, but we must not suffer for it. We must be become like Christ and if some future suffering comes our way, then we can glory in it, because it is the life of Christ Our King... It is not rocket science... it is our Faith.

Yet, how often do we hear from the Church that those with an "alienorum appetitor" must unite their sufferings to the cross.  BUT their suffering is NOT like Christ's..... how can you unite to the cross your misery at having a "foreign appetite", or your misery at not being able to consummate your "foreign appetites"? The Church says your appetites are intrinsically disordered and then tells you to "suffer" them... but this seems to contrary to Peter. I worry about the Church.

We all have some "alienorum appetitor", and sooner or later we will give in to it... and maybe it will lead to incontinence and complete wretchedness. I suppose the thing to do is not to nurture it in the first place, not to even think about developing a taste for it.... yet we do, and the Church has ceased in many quarters to insist in the necessity that we have control of our "tongue, genitals and stomach"...

And what to do with our incontinent? I feel even the Devil can't be bothered with them. And maybe that is the key, God still loves them, some light can still fall on them, some extraordinary act of grace can still fall upon them,  and if they can respond with even the slightest flicker of recognition, then astounding things can happen.  And for the rest of us, we must just pray, with all lightness of heart, with the faith that can move mountains, glorifying the Lord in our hearts and our deeds.... and then the incontinent can be lifted out of the pit they fell into all for the greater glory of God.

It still remains a tragedy that we let so many fall down there in the first place.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Magdalene, Manning and Neri

This is a post about the Resurrection.

I am currently reading Cardinal Manning's "Glories of the Sacred Heart", it is a decidedly unflowery book about the Sacred Heart, unlike anything else I've read on the subject.  However it is typically Manning: zealous in his love for the Lord, steeped in the Church Fathers, forthright, pastoral, clear and unsentimental.

He writes about the "Transforming Power of the Sacred Heart" and quotes this rather wonderful phrase that apparently is used by spiritual writers whose names he (sadly) doesn't mention.

Deformata reformare, reformata transformare, transformata conformare

All of this is only made possible through the outpouring of Love on the cross,  through the living Sacred Heart of Jesus.  Hence this is a post about the Resurrection.

To reform the deformed is the nature of Baptism. In Baptism we die with Christ.  And on this day, the Feast of St Mary Magdalene, 500 years ago, an infant was brought to the Baptistery of St Giovanni in Florence, born in the early hours of that morning and recorded in the register of the Baptisery with the following words: Filippo e Romolo di Ser Francesco di Filippo da Castel Franco, popolo San Pier Gattolini, nato di 21 luglio 1515, a ore 6. And had that infant died there and then, his sainthood would have been assured, though perhaps largely unremarked.  But God had other plans.  Reforming the deformed is not enough and the singular degree with which that boy submitted to the actions of grace led him onwards: the reformed was transformed through love and the transformed so wondrously conformed to the Sacred Heart of Jesus that St Philip Neri, with much labour, anxiety and peril, reconverted Rome. He is the saint of Joy.

Our Joy comes from the Resurrection.  As St John writes:That which we have seen and have heard, we declare unto you; that you also may have fellowship with us, and our fellowship may be with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you, that you may rejoice and your joy may be full.

This is a post about the Resurrection.

This brings me to St Mary Magdalene.  Her story only makes sense if she was the woman from whom seven devils were removed, because her story only makes sense if she is the one who anointed Christ with oil.  Perhaps she anointed Him twice (as the scriptures seem to suggest), once for His Priesthood and once for His Kingship. Nobody was worthy (not even John the Baptist) to anoint the King of Kings or the Great High Priest.  But anointing was necessary, just as Baptism in the Jordan was necessary. No, only a redeemed sinner whose sins were scarlet could anoint the Priest and King. It is our total redemption, our complete salvation from sin which is wrought through our reformation, transformation and conformation to the Sacred Heart which is the very reason why we need a great High Priest and King. St Mary Magdalene was amongst the first fruits of this (Dismas may have been the first fruit, but Mary Magdalene ripened more slowly and more lavishly), ripening from her tearful penitence, through her witness of the Crucifixion, through her bravery and steadfast love in going to the tomb, through her hidden and most gloriously joyful life which followed.

She was not some misery ridden penitent, crying over her sins for the rest of her life.  No, she was redeemed and redemption is joy and it is the joy of being conformed to the Sacred Heart.  The joyful tears of one that pours sweet smelling oils over the sorrows and sufferings caused by sin and the joy which binds our bruises, mends our broken hearts and finds its rest in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, because it IS the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

I'm tired of joylessness, so much of the piety around is little more than titillation at scandal, an outpouring of moral indignation masquerading as charity but lacking the one thing essential to charity and that is joy. Prayer without joy is quite simply mean and stingy.

How many of you actually believe in the Resurrection, I mean REALLY believe....?

What does "go and sin no more" mean?  What does "your sins are forgiven" mean?  Do we not mock these words with our high moral tone and our false humility.

Surely holiness is like climbing a mountain?  You learn what to do as you traverse the lower slopes, you learn how to train you body and learn the sensible way to do things.  But near the summit, your belief in the rules alone goes out of the window, you can no longer rely on them, your learning and your skills count for nothing.  The path disappears, the sides are steep and full of scree, you are helpless, totally liable to go plunging into a ravine at any moment and that is what you will do if you are not conformed to Christ and totally distrustful of self. Though the paths they took were very different, this is where St Mary Magdalene found herself, this is where St Philip found himself, and that is where we ought to be going too.

The Baptistery of San Giovanni in Florence


Wednesday, 15 July 2015

£££££s Sterling

What on earth! WHY?  WHY?

Still, I hope Liverpool spend that money wisely.  None of you lot will have any sympathy for me, but I'm often left wondering why I support MCFC .... I can't help it, it runs deep, being kicked in the playground by a bunch of Manc reds as a child, turns you blue to your core... but, oh, it was all so simple when we were crap and the only pleasure we had as City fans was watching our team get thrashed by Liverpool.

I still wince when I think of the money we spent on Trevor Francis way back when......

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

The Oldest Profession

The oldest profession is being a Taxonomist. It is what Adam was doing in the Garden.  Naming things isn't just some random game. Naming puts significance into something, it in some ways makes it more real.  It insists on a hierarchy, as it will relate one named creature to another in relation to how they behave with each other. Naming gives us patronage but not control.  To name something isn't to seek mastery of it, the creature retains its freedom but it gains an identity and a protection it wouldn't have otherwise had.

And God has given us each a name from the very beginning; the "white stone name" we all long to hear Him call personally and intimately to each and every one of us.

When we name things it ought to be with this in mind.  It ought to be in imitation of the Divine Life.

And so human "progress" spirals ever onwards and inwards, in ever tighter and more self-referential circles. We have names for thing, and either the thing itself or its name has no clear significance, no clear definition and the names have some bastardised entomology.  Take the word "paedophile" for example; what it should mean if we consider its entomology and what it stands for are complete opposites.  There is something ugly about this.  Something which suggests only the unguided human at work in the naming of the "thing". The human who has forgotten God. The human has created the paedophile through naming it.  God will have another name for him and will still call him His child until such time as he totally rejects His Divine love and mercy.

And to forget God is to make oneself easy prey to the Devil.  In our desire to name things without reference to God, do we not fall prey to the Devil's own Taxonomy?  A Taxonomy which mocks everything Adam was doing in the Garden.  A classification system which confuses, divides and creates false relationships.  The "science" of politics falls into this category.  The "science" of "sexuality" falls into this category. The "science" of education also sadly falls into this category.  Each of these "sciences" has its own empirical, evidence-based system of measurement and "pigeonholing".  But each of these "sciences" isn't a science, it is a fashion, and the "fashionistas" make damn sure that in excluding their "definitions of the day", you exclude yourself from society, you become part of the untermensch....

And it is happening already that many are having to make great sacrifices to stand apart from this mockery of all that is good.  To say "I do not recognise your definition of marriage",  "I do not recognise the categories "homosexual", "heterosexual" or "bisexual", "I only recognise love and sin", even to say "the child is not thick, passing exams is not a measure of intelligence", to say these things makes us children of God and enemies of the world and there are consequences to this.....

Science ought to open our eyes and make God more apparent.  Many theologians argue about what Adam was doing when Eve was tempted by the serpent; whether he was with her and ought to have protected her, or whether he'd gone off chasing butterflies or something.  Recalling the Adam was older than Eve, that his science was more developed, perhaps he simply didn't recognise the serpent.  His science (and his innocence) meant he couldn't engage with its perfidy, he couldn't classify it, he didn't see it coming, the creature in the tree was not on his radar, he had no sense of danger.  Eve had no sense of danger either, but she engaged in its conversation, she could see it.  Perhaps in many ways the medieval images of a  human female-like serpent are correct, Eve recognised something Adam could not see (he had his life partner, before any procreation had taken place, why should he even recognise another human female), in the same way Eve would not have recognised a male figure that wasn't her husband.... but there was the Devil, pretending to be something he wasn't, distorting the human image, distorting our notions of self, blurring the lines, confusing us......

We ought to be very careful about what we recognise and categorise and what we name.

Eve tempted by the "female" serpent from Notre Dame Cathedral

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Bloggers Block (2)

When you are in love, you're senses are heightened and there is delight in all things creative; you love music, poetry and art and the pattern and movement of every aspect of your life is poetic, the mundane is transcended, a song echoes from every corner and it sings of the highest of things. In joy and in sorrow, the song rings out the same, there is beauty in everything.

Well, dear reader, I think I'm totally out of love for the Catholic Church.  This is not the same as not loving and being loved by God.  God's love is ring-fenced, it is solid, it is unshakable and the poetry sounds out, deep unto deep...

But the Catholic Church is like a lover I no longer recognise. I hear her voice and it doesn't make my heart leap for joy, indeed it seems to have a sibilance to it I don't remember hearing before.  I witness her liturgy and anything higher than the lowest of low Masses sounds like sounding brass and clashing symbol, I want the noise to cease as it seems like nothing but distraction. Indeed, I wish she'd shut up.  I wish she was silent.  Her staggering beauty is still there in her persecuted and forgotten, but all that is done in public that is meant to enhance her beauty, or simply promote her, just looks and sounds plain wrong. It is a bit like one of those child beauty pageants, the child would simply be more beautiful is she weren't on the stage and if she weren't wearing make-up.

So basically, without an infatuation with the Catholic Church, I've lost my creativity, I've lost my drive... and because I'm kinda married to her, I've nowhere else to go....

I'm not in love, but hopefully it is as those nice boys from Sale Grammar School once sung "it's just a silly phase I'm going through"