Sunday, 29 January 2017

Open Reply to Dr Shaw

I know I shouldn't have done this till his series of three posts had finished, but next week promises to be very busy and the points I wish to make are general ones. I'm not picking holes in what he is saying.  I just wish to point out some dangers as I see it in the apporach he wishes to take.

In a recent series of blog posts, Joseph Shaw has been musing over what to do in the Church in this current crisis.  I am not about to do a Jim Callaghan and say ‘crisis what crisis?’, I admit that things are somewhat tricky right now. However, I firmly believe that the Church is permanently in a state of crisis.  The barque of Peter has always been a leaky vessel, indeed left to the laws of buoyancy, it probably shouldn’t float.

I am writing to wholeheartedly reject his idea that in order to protect orthodoxy in the Church (something that must be protected at all costs), we must make the Traditional Latin Mass the focus.  There are several points that I wish to make.

Firstly, the older Rites of the Church are to my mind, profoundly more beautiful, edifying, metaphysically more satisfying and closer to heaven than the Novus Ordo.  My arguments are not for or against the Older Rites per se. I am writing because I see something distasteful and also several dangers in doing as he suggest.  

I will turn my attention first to what I consider to be distasteful.  No matter how he dresses up his arguments they politicise attendance at the TLM and that is simply wrong.  Rallying behind a political flag is no guarantee of orthodoxy to what the flag signifies.  To see the TLM as something to rally around is distasteful.  Indeed it is almost Protestant in its assertions of independence from those within the Body of Christ that they consider to be less than orthodox than themselves.  I will admit that  given half a chance I would dearly love to introduce the TLM in places where is has not been seen for nearly 50 years.  How many for a ‘stable group’? 2? A husband and wife who know their Mass and know their chant and are good at befriending priests; missionaries for the TLM in some Novus Ordo stronghold?  Oh yes! People have a right to experience it and come to know its beauty.  However, using the TLM to proclaim orthodoxy or to be a bastion of orthodoxy seems to me to be to deliberately setting it up as ‘other’ and not ‘integral’ to the Church. This is to my mind abhorrent.

The dangers in his way of thinking follow on from this. The TLM has enough enemies as it is.  We deserve what happens to us if we are ever see to use the Mass for such political ends, or even be percieved to be using the Mass for these ends.  What I fear is that perfectly within the power of Church would be the ability to supress the older calendar, she has done smething similar before. [Someone with more knowledge of such matters, tell me I'm wrong, please!] Nobody would dare supress the Older Rite but supressing the calendar is possible, cruel and very detrimental to the re-propagation of the Old Rite.  

The second danger is to believe that orthodoxy only has one stripe; the Traditional one. However, orthodoxy isn’t what people do or even what they profess to believe.  You can fast with pride in your heart, you can be pro-life without charity.  Orthodoxy is being truly “slain in the Spirit”. Orthodoxy is “putting on Christ” and being dead to the world.  Orthodoxy can not be known apart from its fruits. Orthodoxy is not a thing or even a creed. It is Christ. None of us can claim to be perfectly orthodox.

There is one simple test for orthodoxy.  It relates to the promises we make at Confirmation. Can we, do we make the Devil flee? When he obsesses with us because we are doing good, do we know what to do to repulse him? When he wears us down and when we can see his power to cripple others, do we instincively know how to respond? Not by our own strength, no we can never do it alone.  But is our love of God and whole company of heaven such that we know how to call on Them to repulse the attacks of the Enemy.  Heck, we are soldiers for goodness sake! Do we REALLY know how to fight? Do we really know the Enemy? Are we really fearless as Scripture implores us to be? Do we really see him or just the smoke and mirrors he puts up to stoke our fears and prejudices; splintering the Church and breeding discontent?  Do we really root out sin in our own lives? Being in a state of grace is not an optional extra, it is the only way to be fit for duty. Its fruits are the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

There are many, many orthodox souls for whom the TLM means nothing. Vast swathes of the globe are without the TLM and many humble souls therein are orthodox. Some of the most powerfully prayerful people I know are charismatics, but there is no antagonism towards me and my more traditional tendencies, there is a common sense of purpose and a quiet ability to get on with fighting the good fight, in Communion.  If we are to “bring forth Christ” as One Body, then we must go out and look for Him and be prepared to see Him in unexpected places.  We can’t do this if we are unsighted through hiding under the shield of a particular Rite.  Also, this argument applies just as much to the proponents of the Novus Ordo as it does the to the TLM brigade. It isn't one rule for them and one for us.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Year of the Rooster

Happy Chinese New Year!

There are reports that we Roosters are to keep our heads down this year in order that we don't annoy the earth gods too much.  However I can't remember a time when I wasn't annoying the earth gods. We Roosters can't help but state the blooming obvious, and state it loud. If I end up in the pot for my troubles so be it, I'm past caring!

Sharp dressed, quick witted, loyal, genial, blunt, patient, stubborn and fearless: very best Roosterish good wishes to you all!

Surgamus ergo strenue:
Gallus iacantes excitat,
Et somnolentos increpat,
Gallus negantes arguit.

Bring it on!

Wake up sleeper 
And rise from the dead
And Christ will shine on you.
Eph 5:14

Saturday, 21 January 2017

What is it all about?

This Women's March thing is depressing.  I look at the pictures on the BBC website and my heart sinks.   I can't find anything funny or erudite to say.  The following words are in my head and it hardly seems worth putting them into a paragraph, I'll leave you to do that: middle class vacuous meaningless happy shiny rights people nonsense  life get a.

At the educational establishment where my employment days are numbered, some pupils were talking about going on the march and how they hated Trump because he was anti women's rights.  I asked them to explain (a) what women's rights are and (b) what hating Trump means.  Their efforts on both fronts were poor.  I put the suggestion to them that Trump was actually the democratically elected president of another country, and that if we believed in freedom and democracy we must accept the decision of the American people.  I suggested that demonstrating against his election was an undemocratic, unsound and irrational thing to do.  I also asked them if those women that don't agree with the women's rights issues would be welcome on such a march, would they be allowed a voice?

They looked at me like I was an alien.

Should I have said anything?  Teachers don't just deliver their subjects.  Some comments made by pupils can't go unchallenged and in some bizarre way I think in that little exchange I may have been standing up for British Values (so called).

A parent is currently trying to get me to allow her precious to use a dictaphone in my lessons to help her with her learning needs. She wants to record everything I say. I will not agree to this.  I don't see how it will help.  Her struggles are with the diagrams and the mathematics not with what I am saying.  I don't want her mother pouring over my every word, out of context and with too much time on her hands and looking for anything that may 'blame the teacher' for the fact her child is actually not that bright and will find my subject a challenge no matter who is teaching it. Also, if she heard my little exchange regarding Trump (I think she would be supportive of the march), would I find myself on perched the chaise longue of doom outside the Head's office waiting for a severe reprimand?

 It is definitely time to go.....

Monday, 16 January 2017

Like Brother and Sister

As is my style, I'm weighing in on an issue in a somewhat oblique manner.  I'm not one for righteous indignation.  I'm trying to see the path ahead.  The issue at hand is the Maltese Bishops's response to Amoris Laetitia.

I will start by saying I don't like the phrase living "like brother and sister".  It is simply a euphemism for a relationship between a man and a woman who are living under the same roof but who would not dream of sexual relations because it would be as wrong as if a brother and sister were to engage in this. There is no grey area, there isn't even black and white, it is simply the absence of sex; end of.  Brothers and sisters fight and are competitive.  Brothers and sisters do not usually have the bond that brings two souls together in such circumstances.  When two souls come together under that roof, they are usually in trouble, something has broken down, something is already very wrong, they come together for mutual support, they are trying to get their broken lives back on track.

They can't.  Only God can do that. Unless, they give their lives totally to God, they will fail. God must come first.

I want to tell you a story about two such broken souls: the dear departed 'husband number 1' and myself.

I'd reached rock bottom; I'd strained my intellect as far as I could possibly take it, I was 'experimenting' with life, and not particularly enjoying any of my escapades. I had no faith but in the blackness and emptyness I called out to a God I didn't really believe in and said, you are the only plausible reality left, help me, this life I'm living is hell and I need a guide. I need help.

The next day I went to my voluntary job at a centre for souls whose rock-bottom involved drugs, criminal convictions and abuse. The man with whom I was to spend the next 17 years of my life bounded up to me in a far too cheery manner and introduced himself, but I knew, I just knew, that this other volunteer was going to be my special friend along the way. So I ignored him. But he wouldn't give up, and simply for his persistence, I agreed to a date: something public, a football match (away at Port Vale to watch his team not mine), on the terraces with a pie and a pint in a plastic beaker (those were the days...). I was tired of sex, I didn't want this to start in that way.

We were soon seeing quite a bit of each other and it became obvious to me that he too was broken, but desperately wanted someone he could trust.  We'd walk round Manchester and he'd point out in  a very matter of fact way where incidents in his life happened; the school where he was abused, the street where he watched helpless and stoned as his best friend died, the public toilets where he'd go when he'd got his heroin, the places he'd slept rough, the clubs where he'd got a reputation as a 'speed king'. I listened, no judgement, no amazement, he wanted someone to listen, it was the least I could do.

Then one day, when he'd walked me back to my one bed flat in Salford, he pulled a bag of needles and vials out of his coat pocket, and said "here, look after these for me." I nearly cried when he'd gone.  Nobody had ever trusted me like that before. I knew what he had meant.  He was giving up his drugs, he was going to clean up.  And he did.

He was married, but his wife had (understandably) run off with someone else.  He was a Catholic but not at that time going to Church, I was nominally also one.  We moved in together. We needed the support and friendship of each other.  We were both learning how to live again.  We discussed religion and within a few weeks he'd decided that as we were both Catholics we'd better start living like we were.  We went to Mass, but not Communion at Salford Cathedral.  It was a start.

We slowly got oursleves into our local parish.  He had to show me how to go to Confession, I hadn't a clue. They heard him sing and we were in the choir before we knew what was happening.  We were sharing my one bed flat in Salford, we were sharing the bed in the flat, there was no other room.

We never made a conscious decision to "live like brother and sister".  We both wanted to live.  We both knew we couldn't do so without God.  We were normal, healthy, libido laden creatures, but certainly once we were members of the choir, we simply couldn't entertain the hypocrisy of having sexual relations. Besides it was simply more fun, more life affirming not to.

And God's grace penetrated our corrupted sinful lives to enable us to live together in such a state for 8 years (till we got news that his wife had died and we were free to marry).

It is possible.  It is only possible when you know you have no alternative.

Terracing at Port Vale

Saturday, 14 January 2017


There is a spring in my step these days.  On a prosaic level, this is due to my getting used to my 'post-lump' body. It is early days and I'm being very cautious, but the carcass really seems to be working quite well. Actually, I'm not sure what well is, but things certainly seem more normal, I have stopped feeling drunk.  9 years of illness have left me a bit unfit, but I can now move about without getting exhausted and I can rest without getting a hypo. I no longer feel like Sisyphus; condemned never to rest and to be always pushing something up a hill.  The brain is also more able to cope with random stimuli, I can walk down a busy street without feeling like a tetchy horse that needs blinkers. There is nerve damage but I can live with it.  I still need to be careful about what and when I eat.  But, hey, I have a Chinese stomach; refined wheat, alcohol and sugar are bound to be an issue. I am resigned to the fact that medicine did not improve my condition; vanity did.  I'm also resigned to the fact that the illness had a large supernatural element to it. I have been genuinely ill, the doctors will all agree to that, but not to its cause. The illness has been my reins and my discipline for the last 9 years and now it no longer has a purpose, either for the entertainment of the Devil or for God's good purpose. A new discipline will reveal itself.

I am also really happy to have resigned from my job.  I am happy to have made the decision that I will have to be doing something other than teaching come September. I have no desire to follow another career, I'm simply not interested in self-betterment and I don't believe in self-fulfilment.  I can and will work, but something else is needed, something not written on or found in any job specification

The problem is that lurking underneath, buried under my resignation to my illness all these years lies something that simply won't go away, and it is getting stronger and stronger. In some ways, I'm still the 12 year old girl crying on my dad's lap, crying that I don't want the future that they want for me.  I don't want a nice house in suburbia with a mortgage, a microwave oven and a near by garden centre. These days I'm not crying, and there is nobody I want to burden with my tears anyway. Besides, I couldn't cope with someone giving me the same answer as my dad all those years ago.  He told me to get on with my work and I'd be OK.  I resigned myself to obedience and it has served its purpose. However, the cry has turned into an inner scream, made worse every time I go into Waitrose.  I really really don't want a comfortable life amongst comfortable people.  If I am to live that way, it will have to be as a big act of deceit, something joyfully, kindly and genteely subversive will have to be going on under the veneer of bland respectability. Something subversive for God. I can resign myself to that, that seems right.

And I can hear my poor parents say: when will you ever grow up?

Saturday, 7 January 2017


Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy told us about Bistromathics where

Bistromathics itself is simply a revolutionary new way of understanding the behaviour of numbers. Just as Einstein observed that time was not an absolute but depended on the observer's movement in space, and that space was not an absolute, but depended on the observer's movement in time, it is now realised that numbers are not absolute, but depended on the observer's movement in restaurants.

Now we have Spadaromathics where a flakey Jesuit says 2 +2 = 5 see this link because God can tinker with the numbers and do what He likes and it becomes theology if it does.

Unfortunately the Catholic Culture post to which I have linked does miss the point.  Indeed there are serious problems with those who say that  2+2 = 4 ALWAYS

Sadly it doesn't. In the quantum world, photons don't behave like that, 4 only becomes the most probable outcome, not the ONLY outcome. 

There also lurks at the bottom of everything a little bit of devastatingly wonderful mathematical logic called  Gödel's incompleteness theorems.  The upshot of this is that basic arithmetical operations have no proof.  We can't say WHY 2+2 = 4 , it is unprovable.

Therefore we must be careful before we take aim at Fr Spadaro and be absolutely sure what it is we are attacking or we could look very stupid.

My personal view is that this episode shows up clearly the mess we have got into through the wholesale acceptance of Nouvelle Theologie and the smudging of Grace and Nature that it entails.  There is a world of Grace and a world of Nature, there is no Grace in Nature.  That is how things used to be till the 1920s, and that is how they should remain.  God set Nature up within parameters and with degrees of freedom, it obeys those Natural Laws irrespective of our incomplete understanding of them.  Grace perfects Nature, Grace is growth in holiness, Grace is the theological virtues, Grace is vision of God.

I personally think Spadaromathics does God a great injustice. It makes Him out to be a tinkerer, it makes His Cosmos look fatuous, it takes the grandeur out of Science and belittles its Creator at the same time.

This is my bugbear with Nouvelle Theologie. It is bad Science.  It is not heresy, but it is bad science. It has led to a sentimentalising of Nature which in turn has led to the sentimentalising of Grace. Theology lost its clarity, it should be the Queen of Sciences .....

Please someone: tell me I'm wrong.  Tell me I'm out of my depth.  Tell me I don't know what I talking about and I have maligned poor Fr Spadaro.

Friday, 6 January 2017

Wet and Dry

Happy Feast of the Epiphany, dear reader.

The symbolism is so rich and every year something new manifests itself.  In many ways it is my feast; the scientist putting  all her understanding and knowledge at the feet of the One from whence it came. Also, the link between the Baptism in the Jordan, the Magi and the Wedding Feast at Cana, never ceases to be a rich source of wonderment. This year it was the Benedictus Antiphon that hit me:

Today the Church hath been joined to her heavenly Spouse, for Christ hath washed away her sins in the Jordan; the Magi hasten with the gifts to the royal nuptials, and the guests are gladdened with wine made from water, alleluia.

It would take a lifetime to unpack all of that, I can hardly start.... needless to say my obsession with the supernatural ends of marriage play a large part in how I have reacted to this today.

The other, more prosaic thought was that 2 of the the 3 manifestations are wet (the Baptism and the wine at Cana) the other is dry. A bit like the weather today, sunshine and showers, and more of the latter... There is stuff to unpack here too.  Wet make no sense without dry, delight no sense without pain, understanding no sense without unknowing....

Whilst the Eastern Churches are busy throwing themselves into icey waters today (give or take Clavius and his calendar changes) and looking very manly, the feast in the West is more centred round the Nativity scene in the crib, we in the West are most definitely dry; the dry gifts from the Magi from a dry land and you don't get much drier than the blessed chalk handed out to mark the entrances to our homes. Both the wet and the dry are needed...

Bulgarian Theophany 'river dance'.
From Creative Commons: By Balkanregion - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

And what should Epiphany do to our hearts? You don't need me to tell you that. As for my own heart as I ponder my future,  it is the growing realisation that whatever happens in 2017, I will be doing something robust for God, I have the talents and skills, no sense of fear and I am ready.. a 'partner in crime' would be nice, but that is not up to me.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Ladybird books

How my Ladybird Book of Sleeping Beauty* found its way into a box of LPs, nestling in between Ultravox's Rage in Eden and John Coltrane's Love Supreme, I'll never know.  But that is where I found it recently and the memories it brought back are potent.

Every little girl is a princess.  Every little girl is waiting for her prince to rescue her. And when she grows up and the random cruelties of life have worn her down a bit, she can still be dreaming that some prince will do the right thing.....

She can even read in more grown-up books, even books of a spiritual nature, that such dreams are reality.  For instance, read this from the wonderful Dominican writer, Fr. Gerald Vann**:

That is the most obvious fact about woman throughout the course of history; it is her fate to bring out either the best or the worst in men.  They will perform herculean feats of bravery to win her, or they will cheat and lie and do crimes of violence; they will fight amongst themselves for her; for her sake they will become wise and strong and gentle, or they will sink into servility and degradation which will in the end empty them of their manhood.

Now I'm sure many men reading this will disagree.  You see, whilst girls were reading fairy stories, (ancient texts with good pedigrees and deep messages), boys would be reading Ladybird Books on how to be a fireman or a soldier; how to be brave in a way that the world would understand. Boys have not been looking for princesses for sometime (if indeed they ever have). They want to be heroes. They want to be neededThey want to be useful and valiant. They will look to the world to find places and careers where they can be like that.  It is an honourable dream for a boy to have, it is good as far as it goes.  If a boy ever thought about the girl dreaming of the prince coming to rescue her, he'd think her a bit lame, a bit passive, a bit unreal.

But the boy will have missed the point of the fairy stories, and perhaps the girl has too. The thing is these princesses are independent, unneedy, lovely and unselfconscious creatures in their own right.  They do not clamour for attention, they are virtuous, vivacious and intelligent. They will never say anything like "I want you, I need you", "be there for me, darling".  Sadly, when boys hear these words, every hero response in them is triggered. They can be fireman, soldier and brave knight to their damsel in distress, but she's no princess. Then, because they then find themselves with a girl who has simply been a projection of their own need to be needed, the romance dies and they often don't think much of her as a person in her own right and they end up having a weight round their neck, rather than a companion for life. Meanwhile the girl he really liked (his princess), he has ignored because her lack of passionate needyness has been taken as a sign that she's not that  interested in him. I've watched it happen too often, but nobody listens to me....

Oi veh!

So there you have it. A woman must be loved for who she is, not loved out of some sense of duty. A man must recognise his mate as a person and not for some secondary need he may have to care or protect. That will come, that will come in family life.

Running through the fairy stories is the Judeo-Christian notion that life comes from the man.  These princesses have died (the stories say cursed, poisoned, locked up.. they are all metaphors for the death in women due to original sin.. and she can't chase him, because she's 'dead'). She remains 'dead' till the prince gets off his butt and takes her and gives her life, and he takes her because he recognises at some deep level that she is his mate for life. Unlike the fairy stories, she isn't really reclined on a bed at the top of a castle or lying in a glass sarcophagus in a flowery meadow, he won't find her in such places. She's right there, under his eyes, he doesn't need to look far, but he must act and take what is his. If he does, they will grow together, they will make each other live truly. Obviously it is the life in Christ that they are both need; the prince is as dead as the princess until he acts. They must both have the desire to grow in faithfulness to Goodness, Beauty and Truth to live "happily ever after". That is the ancient narrative that is played out in the fairy stories...


Och, don't believe a word of what I write, it is all just makebelieve....

* Story 'retold' by Vera Southgate, illustrations by Eric Winter, pub 1965
** Eve and the Gryphon by Gerald Vann OP, pub 1946