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.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

calling a spade a spade...

A deacon is a servant of the priests and bishop to whom he is directly responsible.  He can baptise, he can witness marriages, he can officiate at funerals and burials.  He is to be a man of prayer and has the same obligations to pray the Divine Office that a priest has.  Deacons are there to support the faithful in charity and the fruits of the Holy Spirit must be manifest in their person and their actions.

Deacons are alowed to be exuberant and passionate about their faith.  Deacons ought to be committed to orthodoxy and uphold Catholic teaching at all times.  Deacons are at their best when they are men of the world, yet apart from the world, conscious of all its failings yet firm in their faith.  Deacons ought to proclaim the faith as revealed through holy scripture.  They must offer a message of hope and speak only about God's salvation in the name of Jesus Christ.  They must be resolute and steadfast in their proclamation of the truth, like Stephen and Philip. They will win souls.  They will help Holy Mother Church win the souls of those who dissent within her borders if they let God help them.

A deacon is not some modern day Papal Zouave armed with a blog.  ACTA are not the Risorgimento.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014


Sometimes I'm simply ill.

Sometimes it is more complicated than that.  There is a spiritual element to all this.  It is possible to pray and to act and for the strength to "go out" of you.  It is humbling and it is also terrifying (in a good way).....  It is all very Lenten, I feel reliant on God for everything...... I have no idea of the outcomes of what I have done, and indeed, it is best not to think of self at this time.  Direct everything to God's good purpose.

I also feel the need to share some verses of St Patrick's breastplate with you.  They're not in a form that finds its way into any sappy hymn.

I arise today, through God's strength to pilot me: God's might to uphold me, God's wisdom to guide me, God's eye to look before me, God's ear to hear me, God's word to speak to me, God's hand to guard me, God's way to lie before me, God's shield to protect me, God's host to save me, from the snares of devils, from temptations of vices, from everyone who shall wish me ill, afar and anear, alone and in a multitude.

I summon today, all these powers between me and those evils, against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul, against incantations of false prophets, against black laws of pagandom, against false laws of heretics, against craft of idolatory, against spells of women and smiths and wizards, against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.

Find the whole thing. Say it, say it not just for yourself but for the whole Church.  And don't ever forget to praise God. And don't ever lose a holy terror of offending God.  And remember that the laity have the ability to overcome world, flesh and devil, through the normal means (Sacraments and prayers) of the Church.  We can not speak in the name of the Church, we have no authority to do so  But, nevertheless, there is tremendous power right there, for us to use, so use it we must.

Bossy cow, aren't I?

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

He shall give His Angels charge over thee

Sunday's Gospel has Satan quoting scripture in his temptation of Our Lord, and it is a horrid thing that he does.  Let's  not dwell on his twisted logic in using those beautiful lines from Psalm 90 for his own purposes:

He has given His Angels charge over thee, and in their hands they shall bear thee up, least perhaps thou dash thy foot against a stone (Mt:4.1-11)

The older rite and Office go on the offencive against this vile mistreatment of Holy Scripture.  The Tract at Mass in the First Sunday of Lent is nearly the whole of Psalm 90 and the Office keeps on quoting from it all this week.  It is as if our remembrance and recitation of this Psalm is in itself a great act of exorcism against his powers. 

It is a beautiful Psalm. It is a prayer for the whole Church and so apt for Compline.

The confident and righteous psalmist speaks first, saying how his trust in the Lord has saved him from many evils (trust that was given him by God).  He then speaks to the soul in trouble, imploring him to seek refuge in the Lord also.  Telling him the Lord will save him from fear of the terror of the night (our imaginings and evil fantasies), the arrow that flieth in the day (those sudden moments of anguish and hurt as we go about our daily business), the business that walketh about in the dark (those things we do that we'd like hidden) and the noonday devil.

Ah yes, the noonday devil.  This is the most insidious of creatures.  It has no shame, it will parade itself in broad daylight because it is not there to promote those things we are ashamed of.  It seeks to erode our confidence in God, it seeks to fill us with the glare of worldly logic and whatever zeitgeist is doing the rounds, it makes us distrust God, it makes us distrust our faith, it makes us want to do rather than to contemplate, and to "do" for our own good, rather than for God, it makes us restless in  a very bad way.  The Fathers of the Church have linked the noonday demon to that most horrendous of sufferings inflicted on priests, accedie or spiritual sloth.

Yes, when you read this Psalm, pray for priests, pray as a righteous and confident soul that our priests will trust implicitly in the Lord and seek His protection.  And then when you meet our priests, behave as if you really believe this.

Pray with the  psalmist to the angels in charge of those souls in distress.  Be confident in their protection of those you love.  And if there is someone special in your life who is wavering in the faith and who you especially care for and whose soul you seek to guard, savour Christ's words to us at the end of the Psalm, this is a great act of love for that soul and will produce many blessings:

Because he has hoped in Me. I will deliver him: I will protect him because he has known my name.  He shall cry to me and I will hear him: I am with him in his trouble: I will deliver him, and I will glorify him.  I will fill him with length of days: and I will show him my salvation.

Glory be.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Happy Lent

Ash Wednesday's sermon was, I suppose, my blueprint for what I will for over the next 40 days.  Normally I make a "lenten bill", and try to stick to it.  This year, illness, exhaustion and lack of inspiration meant that I approached the season completely unprepared.  Therefore what the priest said, will do.  I am not inspired by the homily, but that maybe for  the best.

I will share it with you.

Firstly, he said he would give us two rules for Lent.  The first rule came after a little story about a master who couldn't teach his disciple and demonstrated this by pouring tea into a cup whilst the disciple was talking, the tea overflowed the cup because the disciple wouldn't shut up.  The master said to his young disciple "I can't teach you whilst you are full". The first rule is, empty yourself.

The second rule was the first two words that Our Lord speaks in the Gospel passage for that day "be careful".  It seemed to be about being hidden, meeting God in your heart, being silent, being careful to keep God as the priority, and letting Him order you.....

Whilst looking for something to read, "The Cloud of Unknowing" fell off the shelf, I haven't read that since I was a postgrad reprobate, dabbling into far too much eastern mysticism and very much pre my "reversion" to the Faith.  It seems to be an appropriate thing to re-read; emptiness, unknowing, reaching way beyond self with a desire for unity with God.....

I'm finding the Church far too blathery right now. Everyone in it seems to be chatting inanely and the starlings outside my window this morning made more sense and seemed more full of the praises of God than everything I'm hearing from my fellow sinners in the Church Militant. It is definitely the time to venture beyond words and sentiment.....  yes, it's time for interior silence and emptiness, and stillness and carefulness in thought, word and deed.

I'm gloriously uninspired by all of this, but maybe that is the point. Perhaps Lent is a good time to let go of the need for inspiration, a time to grasp the emptiness of the ordinary, to give in service to others by not giving anything, but by letting yourself be given to them... an emptying of that cup so that God can fill it with His grace....

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Saturday things

It is Saturday.  I don't know about you , dear reader, but for me Saturdays need handling with especial care.  If I am not careful Saturday night can be a shocker, as if something is out to ruin the Lord's day that follows.  Saturday can be too worldly.  Saturday can be like a faint glimmer of Holy Saturday, an empty and mischievous day, seductively "normal" and unspiritual. 

However, never forget it is Our Lady's day.  It is almost as if she held the fort whilst Our Lord was harrowing Hell on that first Holy Saturday. And she continues to hold the fort when trips have to be made to the supermarket, bathrooms need cleaning, I get preoccupied with the football, the car needs cleaning, the blather on the radio becomes so tiresome.....

Being without Original Sin, didn't mean her life was an easy one.  The flight into Egypt and the losing of the Child Jesus for three days attest to that.  That superabundance of grace meant that a superabundance of heroic virtue was expected of her.  Heroic virtue that would lead her to Calvary.  Heroic virtue that meant she could stand at the foot of the cross and not faint away. Heroic virtue that allowed her to endure her separation from her Son after the Ascension.  Heroic virtue in her care for all humanity.

I've been meditating on how her life with Jesus and Joseph in Nazareth would have strengthened her and enlarged and magnified her already Immaculate Heart.  What tiresome irritations came her way?  How did she respond to the petty things in life that she was probably subjected to?

Was she ever short changed in the market?
Did traders ever fleece her with shoddy products?
Did people lie to her?
Did other mothers say derogatory things about "her Boy"?
Did people gossip about her and Joseph?
Was there a particularly odious tax collector in Nazareth?
Was there an inexplicable and unmovable musty damp patch on the wall of Joseph's workshop?
Did they live next door to a wretched foul mouthed and obnoxious drunk?

V. Dignare me laudare te, Virgo sacrata.
R. Da mihi virtutem contra hostes tuos.

V. Let me praise the, most holy Virgin.
R.  Give me strength against thine enemies.

Oh yes, she had enemies.  The enemies of the Immaculate Heart are our enemies too.  We have our own enemies aswell, ones that we allow to walk all over us if we don't admit to our own concupiscence.  However, it is her enemies that are the most subtle and we would do well to look out for them and imitate her response to them.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

broken and whole

I do not doubt the validity of the new Mass, I wish to make that clear.  Indeed, I believe, probably unintentionally Bugnini and his friends pulled off a masterstroke.  They "invented" a liturgy that manages to "subsist" entirely within the Catholic Church, be fully orthodox, yet embrace an "enlightenment" mind-set that should be acceptable to any protestant (provided they can come to accept the Real Presence).  It was a great act of ecumenicism, there can probably be none greater or with a greater cost, we have a "protestant friendly" liturgy, they are welcome into the fold and they will find a form of worship there that will not terrify them.  The fact that the enlightenment is bogus is neither here nor there, we will not be judged on our understanding of metaphysics, but we will be judged on our love.

One aspect of the new Mass, does however deeply distrub me and I ask for help if any of my readers can help me out with this.  I have never felt comfortable at the "ecce Agnus Dei" when the priest holds up the broken Host to the congregation, it seems especially unfortunate when a priest decides to just hold up half the Host and doesn't try to conceal its brokenness.  When I have asked priests why this is done, they say it is because scripture says so.

[In the older rite, the sacred host is broken for the comingling (and this makes sense), it is not displayed before everyone in this broken state, at the "ecce Agnus Dei" a complete Host is elevated.]

But does it actually say in scripture that Christ's body is broken for us?  Not if we read John's Gospel (19:36) For these things were done that the scripture might be fulfilled: You shall not break a bone of Him.

What about what is written in 1Cor 11:24, the earliest account of the Last Supper?  It depends on the translation you read.  In the Douay it says, This is my body which shall be delivered for you.  This do for the commemoration of me.  There is no mention of the work "broken" there.

Then I find a sermon by Mgr Knox (who is no fan of the Douay and was quite happy to go beyond the Vulgate when reserching scripture).  I read this and I am even more disturbed:

Curiously, no one can tell us with certainty what words Our Lord used when he, the first Chritsian Priest, stood there in the Cenacle offering his own flesh to his disciples. [...]  "This is my body on your behalf" - the phrase was a  mysterious one, and it was natural copyists should try to fill it out and make sense of it, some writing "my body which is being broken for you", and others "my body which is to be given up for you".  But it looks as if Our Lord simply said "my body on your behalf".

No one can deny that He broke the bread.  That is not the issue.  That the bread is broken so that we can each individualy receive in entirity, the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Saviour is as it is.  I am simply disturbed that the emphasis in the new rite is on the broken and not on the whole.  And I have been disturbed even before I knew of the existence of the old rite.

When I attend the new rite, often I simply don't look.

Isn't unity everything?

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Big Bang Theory

One of my classes has been very persistent that I watch the Big Bang Theory.  I have resisted all the bribery on offer to let them show me clips from YouTube at the end of the lesson, but finally one of them has thrust the box set into my hands and told me to watch in the comfort of my own home.  They do genuinely want to find out what a "real Physicist" thinks of the show. This weekend I  obliged.

As far as I can make out, the show involves two post grad Physicist who share a flat, there is a very attractive girl across the hallway who sells cheesecake for a living.  They are extremely intelligent but socially inept and desperate for meaningful sexual encounters.  There seem to be two types of laughs available.  Firstly some very sharp one-liners that seem to be a common feature of the best of the TV shows from the States.  I like this sort of humour, where the tongue is put to good use by being completely subservient to the intellect.  Secondly there seem to be laughs at the inadequacies of the protagonists. These are mainly due high end autistic spectrum behaviour (admittedly quite common in Physicists) causing sheer incompetence when amorous feelings start to surface. I'm less keen on this type of humour and for me it simply doesn't ring true.

Casting my mind back to the time when I resided nearly exclusively in the company of Physicists I simply do not recall this level of sexual frustration.  Well certainly I didn't notice any, but perhaps that is because I'm a Physicist.  I can remember one particularly pleasant evening in an Oxbridge post graduate college (the post grad colleges have the best food). Our host was an expert in muons. Now I was at the height of my anti-fermion prejudice, bosons rocked my world and I had little interest in muons or any other type of fermion.  However I had to admit that it was mesmerising being in the company of someone who really knew his stuff, who listened to our questions and replied like to them like we were sentient beings capable of understanding what he was saying.  My colleague who was also listening intently, sighed and whispered to me, "wow, this is better than sex".  I think this was the first time a Physicist had ever actually admitted to me to having sexual experiences, well she must have done because she had two children. 

Now it has to be admitted that female physicists are a bit of a rare breed and certainly not seen as sexual beings by the male of the sub-species.  Perhaps, having my formative years in the company of men who did not view me sexually has had a deep impact on me.  I do believe that there is something very special when close friendships are formed between the sexes that are simply not sexual.  We have different ways of approaching problems, there is a complementarity between us, we are different, not sex-less, and we work very well with each other.  Sometimes I wish more people were like the Physicists I knew and were less slaves to biological urges and less obsessed with biological function and could see some underlying hidden attributes and complimentary gifts men and women bring to the world. I'm sure in the long run procreation and child rearing would be less fraught.

So no, the general premise of the show that these guys may understand the Big Bang, but are somehow stymied by and incapable of experiencing a "big bang", is not one I can go with.


However this is not the review I will take back to my class.....


And the set designers need telling that no self respecting Physicist would have periodic table t-shirts or shower curtains.  That is Chemistry; a small, unimportant backwater of science that basically relies on Physics to make it make any sense.  Physics few of them understand, because actually the Physicist don't understand it either.

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.

Monday, 23 December 2013

When the Son of Man cometh....

... shall He find faith on earth?

"The crisis in the church today is one of faith.  So few believe any more"... so said a priest friend recently (quoting another priest), and it is a sentiment that I happen to agree with.  Here are a few examples I'd like to share with you:

I've just returned from the dreary but affluent suburbs of Manchester.  I went to the weekday Mass at the nearest Catholic church.  The church is well ordered and very well attended.  It looks like a healthy parish.  After the weekday Mass, the priest put out the monstrance for Exposition, this was done with no ceremony, but there He was on the altar after Mass for all to contemplate.  However, ladies started busying themselves in the sanctuary, cleaning up round Him, doing things that could have waited or which could have been done before the Blessed Sacrament was exposed.  In the pews, the "watchers" were in deep chat about family members loud enough for me to hear everything.  They were happy, they were comfortable and I wanted to slap them and scream  "HE'S HERE, LET HIM INTO YOUR WRETCHED LITTLE LIVES WHY DON'T YOU".

I didn't and instead uttered a nearly audible kyrie eleison and left them to it.

Whose lack of faith, mine or theirs?

What is up with all these traditional minded Catholic blogs?  The invective against the Holy Father.  The doom and gloom about snippets of news from Rome.  There is no faith there.  There is seemingly no belief in the Real Presence; that the Blessed Trinity IS at work, that God IS the Eternal Present, that satan has been conquered and that the Church IS the bride of Christ.  They are behaving like the mouthpiece of the opposition.  They are living in a narrow, materialistic, unsanctified, trite little world that all that beautiful liturgy they do so much to promote is supposed to transcend. And indeed it is horrific that they are not in a better state spiritually after their exposure to it. They have forgotten holy scripture and they have forgotten how to love.  Again I want to slap them and scream "HE'S HERE, LET HIM INTO YOUR WRETCHED LITTLE LIVES WHY DON'T YOU".

Instead I utter a quick chorus of  Christus vincit, and decide in my heart that they are heading for Hell and I don't care.

Whose lack of faith, mine or theirs?

I need to sit somewhere quiet this Christmas. I need to stop thinking. I need to indulge in nothing more than a bit of spiritual senility and just smile at the Word made flesh. 

He's here, I need to let him into my wretched little life.

The Christ Child- Zurbaran

A HAPPY and HOLY CHRISTMAS to you all.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Personal response to Church matters

'Tis my blog and these are my thoughts.  Please feel free to correct me if you feel I err from Church teaching....

On the Franciscans of the Immaculate
  • Some of the greatest saints were treated harshly by the Church, the harsh treatment of the FI is no sign they are lacking in holiness.  It should be seen as a refining and a purifying and a test of obedience. Obedience to the Church (which will never ask you to sin) is very important, especially when it seems unfair.  Is this situation like the revolting treatment that St Elizabeth of Hungary got at the hands of her sadistic confessor? I don't think so.  Is it like the consigning to drudgery and hard work that dear St Philip Neri inflicted on the brilliantly gifted Cesar Baronius?  I don't think so. Is this like the politically motivated but papally decreed Suppression of the Jesuits?  No way, they are not influential enough for that.  Is it like the suspicion that St Teresa of Avila came under at the hands of the Inquisition?  Hmm, no, they are not really reformers, or are they?  It is like the necessary anti-Jansenist purges of the seminaries in the 18th Century?  I don't thinks so.  But if it is like any of the cases I have mentioned, then it will (in the long run) be for the good of souls.
  • Having a Capuchin "sort them out" is like having an Oratorian sort out the French Oratory or an English Benedictine sort out the Subiaco congregation.  It was never going to be pretty, ones close brothers are the most critical.
  • We (the great unwashed of Blogland-beyond-the-Pale) know nothing and must remember that we know nothing.
  • It is wrong to compare their treatment to that of the women religious in the States who "have moved beyond Jesus" and who have had little in the way of censure. Those women have (to be fair)  honestly stated their heresy and the Church's choice is either to burn them or to treat them as we would anyone else who is has wilfully misunderstood Church teaching to the point that they are endangering their own souls. Burning would only be an option if they were a serious threat to the souls of others.  They aren't. So the Church must work on bringing them back to Christ for their Salvation.  This will be gentle work because their mantra of male oppression produces an unhelpful knee-jerk reaction in them quicker than you can say "patriarchy".
  • It is dangerous and unhelpful to portray the struggles of the FI as if they were a bastion of all that is good and true.  The only creature who is that is Our Lady.
On the Holy Father and my mother
  • The Holy Father will not be aware of the delicate state of my mother's faith and how she finally made it back to Confession after 50 years earlier this year.  Getting her to go to Mass regularly has been difficult.  She doesn't understand the Novus Ordo.  She was attracted towards Benedict but I'm afraid that Pope Francis has not helped.  Mother is a Thatcherite and I'm afraid his love of speaking about social justice has just about completely turned her off.  Before she retired she had worked as a doctor in one of the most socially deprived areas of  England, she knew more about poverty than most and whilst politically her views are indefensible, her charity was not.  I am not blaming him for this, just saying that reaching out to people like my mum is not straightforward.
On the Holy Father
  • I love him.  It is great that he is a Jesuit.  I love the way Jesuits make us feel uncomfortable.  Feeling uncomfortable is good and necessary for us committed Catholics.  The bottom line is that the Bishop of Rome endlessly lays down a challenge for us and the challenge is; do you love Christ? It is only right that the same challenge Our Lord gave Peter, Peter should give us.  Nothing else Peter says or does has any meaning outside of this challenge

Monday, 2 December 2013

Catholic response to Tom Daley

So we find out today that a sporting superstar who has been under the media spotlight from a very tender age is pleased to tell us that he is now in a relationship with another man.

I teach in a school, the Catholic response to such items of news, irrespective of their newsworthyness, is important.

My first thought is to say, congratulations! I'm glad that he has found someone that he can be involved with in a mutually supportive way.  A life under the media spotlight must be dreadful, lonely and weird, anything approaching support and comfort from another human being is to be welcomed.  However that is not my Catholic response.  This doesn't mean that I only wear my Catholicism as a hat that I can take off at times, but this response must be seen in the light of my faith which ought to provide the fullest response, if I think and pray about this carefully.

I can only begin to imagine the crazy fan mail he has received from obsessive, hormonal teenage girls.  The poor boy has had his body on display to the world for so long and it has always grieved me that this has been the case.  We have no control over how others view images of us. I can only begin to imagine what bizarre and uncomfortable view he must have of female sexuality when expressed through such mail.  I can fully understand that it would be another man who could offer sensitivity and love to the real Tom Daley, that all seems to make perfect sense.

Being a Catholic means putting Christ first in everything.  It means that all relationships with all creatures are subordinate to our relationship with Our Lord and Saviour.  I have no idea if Tom is seeking friendship and communion with Christ.  I have no idea if he realises that all happiness ultimately comes through Christ and all lasting joy is actually a share in His life. 

So, if he is not interested in God, does it matter what he is doing?  Yes.  Tom has made it matter by releasing this into the public domain.  He thinks it is important, therefore it IS important.  So if we fail to respond, we are failing in our love for all men.

So (prayerfully) I think the Catholic response is as follows (please add your pennorth if you think I'm wrong):

People love each other, irrespective of gender and sexuality.  True love is self-sacrificing, mutually enriching, faithful and committed.  Catholics believe that outside of marriage (and two men cannot marry) all love must be self-sacrificing in that the lovers must be chaste and celibate and never even contemplate pleasuring each other in a sexual way.  The love must be heroic and chivalrous, brave and focused on our eternal happiness in heaven.  Christ's way is totally chaste and with totally pure intentions.  It is not a matter of suppressing sexual feelings, it is a matter of realising there is desire but handing that desire over to God, from whom all that is good in that desire came in the first place. This is because desire can have several causes, and if we truly love someone, we will want that desire to proceed and be strengthened by the right source, God. It becomes a matter of subordinating sexual feelings to a truer, deeper love, which becomes an intoxicatingly beautiful thing to do.  Being chaste is loving in its fullest.  This applies to all relationships irrespective of their "orientation".  Chastity is a positive force for the good and nothing should get in the way of it. The more chaste you are, the more you realise that it is the only way to love (that applies within marriage too where chastity should continue but celibacy usually does not). A pure heart does not seek pleasure, no matter how appealing the thought of pleasure may be, but a pure heart is full of an unshakable happiness and profound joy.  Ultimately a pure heart seeks Love and the source of Love is God. The love of another human being can lead us to God, but only with purity of intention and the subordination of our own desires.

My guess right now is that if you asked Tom if he was religious, he'd probably say that he was in a very private way, and I'd bet my last pound on him saying that his lover was a gift from God.  I for one would not argue with this. I'd just add that we all always squander and waste what God gives us and ultimately ruin it, if we don't put love of God above our love of creatures.

Friday, 15 November 2013

men and myth

I'm sure I was always taught that we humans had an inbuilt need for God.  I'm sure it is part of our understanding of our faith, that we all have in us a need to seek and find our Creator.  This is no doubt true. What is getting me down a bit is just how smothered this need is.  I fear many are just seeking some sort of deity, and actually I'm concerned that many would be perfectly content if they found Apollo.  However, nobody has seen Apollo for years and even Cassandra is getting a bit concerned........

Aggie and Cassie’s house
The Underworld
Leto’s house
Mount Olympus

Dear Apollo,

I’m writing to you here because I’m sort of a bit worried about you, and if your mother doesn’t know where you are, then nobody does.  Nobody has seen you around for a while, are you OK?  There was some rumour that you were really sick and didn’t want to be seen.  Whatever is wrong, it is out of character and I have a funny feeling that you may actually be in trouble.  Don’t get me wrong, I used to hate you more that I hated that little squirt that raped me, but time does funny things to you and I find myself remembering the good times we had; those intellectual fireworks, that easy laughter, that sense of camaraderie.  I never fancied you, but you could have been a good friend.  I’m just not sure you ever understood the concept of friendship, and that is a pity.  Still, here I am offering you a hand of friendship and if you are in trouble and want someone to talk to, you know where I am.

You see, perhaps the world was a better place when you were obviously around.  You blazed through both the Renaissance and the Enlightement when you had a lot of fun, and men were so confident and inspired by your ideal.  Naturally, you were terrified by the Reign of Terror and its aftermath and seemed to become much more involved in science and medicine after that, and much less involved in the arts.  Public works programmes and philanthropy brought out a caring, mature side to your personality.  You grew in stature during the Industrial Revolution, though I’d say your sense of style wavered a little.  Your last big triumph was penicillin.  What a breakthrough!  Now, it is said you have been laid low by an antibiotic resistant strain of some unmentionable disease caught from one of your later conquests.  Didn’t see that one coming , did you? ;-p 

Sorry, that was below the belt.  I hope you take it as a joke between friends.  Well, dear Apollo, it is my view that you really should have never spat in my mouth that time.  I’ve forgiven you for that vile act and I’ve had plenty to time to be reconciled to my fate.  Indeed, had you not done that, I’d never have met Aggie, and we are actually blissfully happy together down here for eternity.  He’s a good bloke, I do prefer older men. When you gods act out of spite it invariably does you more harm than the creature you are trying to punish, I think it weakened you.  I’m just not sure women ever found you attractive. You used to flatter yourself with those Muses of yours, but they're really just projections of your own self-love. Let’s face it, it is men that want you. You are their role model; all that learning, culture and healing of the sick, all those conquests, and all wrapped up in a body to die for.  It is men that think you can give them something.  It is men that are missing you. There is so little culture now; so few great works of art, so little refinement, so little taste. Tempt yourself away from  your mum’s home baking and rescue men from their carpet slippers, novelty jumpers and Lady Gaga on the TV.  Give men some inspiration to be extravagant and think big.  Go on, inspire the world, turn yourself on again, big man!

Or is it that you too have grown a bit fat and lethargic and are feeling a bit empty and  a bit depressed.  Is it that Mount Olympus has become a naff gated community?  Are you all worried about intruders?  Are you paranoid that the modern world, whilst craving you, seems to have forgotten you and wouldn’t recognise you if you did make yourselves known?  Do you despise the modern world in all its blandness and insensitivity? Are you frightened and feeling unloved?

Well, I don’t think you ever understood love, and that is your problem.  Inspire all those great things in so many souls down the ages, but do it without love and sooner or later it all falls apart.  Even the finest palace can start to look like an out of season theme park.

Still, if you do decide to roam abroad at all and your wanderings take you down this way, do pop in for a drink, we’d love to see you,

Best wishes and fond regards,

Have you seen this god recently?........