Friday, 30 November 2012

St Andrew's Day

Happy Feast Day!

...especially to all you in Scotland....

... also Russia, Romania and Ukraine, who share St. Andrew's patronage.

In addition to these countries, St. Andrew is also patron saint of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, so this is a good time to pray (invoking, of course, St. Andrew's help) for the healing of the scism between Catholicism and the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

Ora pro nobis.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Science Songs

Being a science teacher, I am always interested in novel ways of getting tricky concepts across to pupils.

I see that Mac of Mulier Fortis (also a science teacher) has recently posted on a song about DNA, which provoked some interest from Fr. Tim, who wishes he had had this sort of thing in his science lessons when at school.

Not to be outdone, here is one of my favourites for introducing the topic of elements and compounds in chemistry. The animation includes a surprising amount of information about chemical elements and the periodic table, and is also useful for revision - get the class to identinfy and explain as many points as they can find shown in the video

The video comes from a DVD called 'Here Comes Science' by a band called 'They Might be Giants'. There are quite a few very good videos/songs on the DVD for giving overvies of science topics (sadly, the opening track, called 'Science is Real' appears to be a bit of propaganda for the Dawkinsian materialists, but fortunately it is easy to skip / ignore / never show to a class).


Sunday, 25 November 2012

Rotherham Debacle - Cui Bono?

("IS THAT SO?"  ....As my Irish Grandad would apparently say to my mother or her siblings when, as chidren, they would try to come up with some excuse for misbehaviour)

There has already been considerable discussion in the blogosphere concerning Rotherham Council's decision to remove three children from an apparently very successful foster placement, on the sole grounds that they did not like the foster parents' political affiliatons (which, whether you share them or not, could hardly be described as 'extreme', 'fanatical' or 'dangerous'). I refer you to the excellent posts (1)(2) by, and by Lawrence England over on 'Bones'. Fr. Ray Blake has also posted on this topic.

I have only just got round to saying something about it now, as the initial news made me really quite angry.

I recall that Fr. Tim recently wrote a post entitled 'Determination to redefine marriage: cui bono?', and feel that a very similar question could be leveled at the Rotherham Debacle. What exactly was the aim of this action?
  • To help the children? If so, why take them away from a place where they were happy and  settled (the foster parents have been described as 'exemplary' and the children were apparently calling them 'Mum' and 'Dad'), and subject them to upheaval and trauma?
  • To help the council look good? That one failed miserably then - they have probably lost votes as a consequence, and were quickly denounced by their party leader.
  • To discredit the UK Independence Party? They seem to have raised their profile significantly, and possibly handed them votes.
  • To fulfil an egotistical political ideology, and ignorant prejudice? Quite possibly.
This also raises a number of other questions. For example, where would this go next? Would they remove children from a foster placement if the foster parents had strong religious beliefs (which of course might be the prime reason for their commitment to caring for children in the first place), in case they 'polluted' the children or 'conficted with their own belief system'? If the foster carers were a homosexual couple, heavily invoved in 'Gay Pride' activism, would the same thing happen? I wonder...

Saturday, 24 November 2012

St. John of the Cross

Happy Feast Day.

St. John was a 16th. Century Spanish Mystic, and (with St. Teresa of Avila), co-founder of the Discalced Carmelites.

He is perhaps most associated with the concept of 'The Dark Night of the Soul', which derives from the title of one of his writings. This is basically the idea of a spiritual crisis, or period of spiritual suffering, which ultimately leads us to closer union with God.

Essentially sin and concupiscence cause us to become attached to things which we than find difficult to 'let go'. However, letting them go is essential if we are to reach the Beatific Vision in paradise, as they effect imperfcations in our souls. This process of separation is painful: we don't like giving up familiar things. For most souls, much of this separation will probably occur in Purgatory, but nearly all of us will experience some of it in this earthly life. Some of the great Christian mystics who reported deep experiences (for example Blessed Teresa of Calcutta is reputed by some to have suffered a 'Dark Night' for much of the last 50 years of her life).

When we experience crises of the spirit, be they the traumas that arise as a consequence of the events in our life, or difficulties we experience at times with our faith, we can dispose ourselves to use these positively, so that ultimately our souls will develop and grow closer to Our Lord.

We can also remeber to pray for the Holy Souls in purgatory, to help them on their way through, and also to encourage the practice - we hope there will be someone to pray for us when it is our turn.

Interesting Letter in Yesterday's Paper


I noticed the following on the letters page of yesterday's 'Metro' - a free newspaper that is distributed on railway stations and similar in London (I believe there are also versions for some of the other big cities in the UK.). It refers to the Church of England, and I am guessing from the way it is worded, that it writer is probably an agnostic (or deliberately trying to sound like one); the key points it makes, however, could perhaps be applied even more accurately to the Catholic Church.

"Why is everyone making such a fuss about the Church of England's decision on female bishops?
The Church does not exist to create a designer religion that suits the people. It exists to determine whether any God exists and, if so to work out exactly what that God's position on all issues of equality"

I feel this shows a clear and succinct understanding of two key points about the Church:-
  1. She doesn't offer 'cafeteria religion' - she requires us to accept the whole deposit of Faith that God has revealed to us, regardless of what bits we like or dislike, or find easy or difficult to understand (I think here of the words of Blessed John Henry Newman 'Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt', and the prayer 'I believe, Lord: help Thou my unbelief')
  2. Her mission is to lead souls to their salvation by enouraging and helping them to fulfil the will of God (Fiat voluntas Tua). God has told us that there are particular ways in which he wants us to act, and has revealed many of the ways in which he wants to be worshipped and followed. We may not understand why all of these are so, but then we aren't God, so how can we question His desires? We do not make the rules. All we are required to do is live by them, and this, we believe, will ultimately lead to our reward in Heaven.
It's nice to read something interesting in the paper from time to time.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

St. Cecilia's Day

Happy Feast, especially to musicians, and to those who strive for holy purity.
O glorious saint, who chose to die instead of denying your King, we pray you please to help us as His fair praise we sing. We lift our hearts in joyous song to honor Him this way. And while we sing, remembering, to sing is to doubly pray.
At once in our hearts and in our tongues we offer double prayer sent heavenward on winged notes to praise God dwelling there. While in our hearts and tongues we try with song to praise God twice, we ask dear saint, to help us be united close to Christ! Amen.
I also note that Leutgeb managed to post on this before me - then I suppose that is a Director of Music's priviledge. ;-)

Kate Winslet and the Queen on Motherhood


A number of today's papers report on the latest Honours Ceremony at Buckingham Palace. I was particularly struck by a brief exchange between the actress, Kate Winslet (who has been awarded a CBE for services to acting) and Her Majesty the Queen. The following quotation is taken from The Telegraph's report.

'The 37-year-old actress said it was an "unbelievable honour" and revealed that the Queen had congratulated her and asked about her enjoyment of acting.

"I said yes I loved it but not as much as I love being a mother. She said, 'yes well that is the only job' and I thought that was really touching." '

It's good to hear, amid all the brouhaha about women company directors, women bishops, career women, and all the rest, not to mention the ongoing acrimony about what constitutes a marriage and a family, someone actually acknowledging that motherhood is something of 'number one' importance. The sooner more people again acknowledge the value of mothers and the infinite preciousness and primacy of the vocation of motherhood, the better.

Three cheers for Her Majesty!

The type of a good mother
Maria, Mater admirabilis, ora pro nobis.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

    Happy Feast for Wednesday.

    [From the St. Andrew's Daily Missal, 1945 Edition]

   " The feast of the Presentation of Mary is founded on a pius tradition, originated by two apocryphal gospels [Footnote: The apocryphal gospels contain certain passages deriving from primitive tradition which may complete what the Gospels relate] which relate that the Blessed Virgin was presented in the temple of Jerusalem whe she was three years old, and that she lived there with other girls and the holy women who had them in their care [The First Century B.C. equivalent of a residential, convent school? - my thoughts]. Already in the sixth century the event is commemorated in the East, and the Emperor Michael Comnenus alludes to it in a constitution of 1166."

Monday, 19 November 2012

St. Felix of Valois and the White Scapular

Tomorrow, 20th. November is the feast of St. Felix of Valois, co-founder of the Trinitarian order. This year marks the 800th. Anniversary of his death.

[From the St. Andrew's Daily Missal, 1945 edition]

St. Felix of Valois founded with St.John of Matha the Order of the Most Holy Trinity for the ransom of captives. He belonged to the royal family of France and distinguished himself as a child by his compassion for those in trouble.
Wishing to pit aside any claim to the throne, he renounced all he possessed and retired to a desert, near Meaux, where he was joined by St. John of Matha. In consequence of a vision, they left their solitude and went to Rome. [Pope]Innocent III approved the Institute founded by them for the Redemption of captives. They were ready to suffer hunger and thirst and all sorts of ill-treatment to deliver their brethren. On their return to France, they presented themselves before [King]Philip-Augustus who was most generous towards them. The Lord of Chatillon gave them a place called Cerfroi, where they founded the monastery which was the principal one of their order. St. Felix gave up his soul to God in 1212.

The vision mentioned above was given to St. John of Matha during his first Mass (c. 1193) and involved Christ between two chained captives, one a Moor, and one a Christian. The Christian captive carried a staff topped with a red and blue cross. This cross was adopted as the badge of the Trinitarians, and today forms part of the White Scapular of the Trinity, which permits those who wear it to share the spirtiual favours of the order, and to gain associated Indulgences.

The original charism of the Trinitarian Order was to liberate Christians taken into captivity by the Moors and to glorify the Trinity. St. Felix's feast might therefore be a good time to remember in our prayers those Christians living in some parts of the islamic world who are today being persecuted for their Faith.

Welcome to another new blogger

I have just had a look at Recusancy, a new blog (actually it started a bit before this one, but I've only just found it). It is written by a young lady who writes some excellent and very informative posts on issues of interest to Catholics, particularly concerning healthcare. It is well worth following.

Please do have a look.

Thanks to Mulier Fortis for her post which brought it to my attention.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Thoughts on Relativism

There has been quite a lot of talk in the last few months about school exams, and possible changes to these (as a teacher, I try to keep abreast of these things, not least because they usually mean a lot of extra work is coming my way - but that's by the by).

Anyway, much of late has concerned the GCSE exams of summer 2012 (the principal public exams in England and Wales, taken at the end of secondary schooling) where the requirements were suddenly made more strict, resulting in fewer pupils passing with the grades they had expected - needless to say, there has been something of a furore about this (still ongoing), and, as a result, much discussion about the way in which exams are marked and graded.

In essence, there are three ways that you can assess pass/fail and grades in an exam:
  1. The candidate must be able to demonstrate specific knowledge or skills in order to pass or make a certain grade, if they cannot do this they fail (the approach used, for example in driving tests, where the inability to do certain things would make the driver unsafe to be on the road)
  2. The candidate must obtain a certain number of marks to pass or make a grade: these can be derived from anywhere on the paper, so it is theoretically possible to know nothing about certain topics, provided one is very strong in all or most of the others
  3. Use statistics alone and always have a certain proportion of candidates passing / meeting each grade. This means that if nearly everyone performs badly, it is possible to pass with very few marks (and hence very little knowledge), whereas on other occasions a candidate may have to demonstrate outstanding knowledge to obtain even a mediocre grade
The procedure for GCSE exams involves aspects of both 2 and 3, where certain scores are required, but the pass mark and grade boundary marks can be shifted up or down somewhat to reflect 'easy' or 'hard' years of exams.

There has also been rather a lot of discussion about how many times candidates should be allowed to resit their exams: should they be able to keep trying and hopefully gradually improve their marks, with consequent financial and time costs for their schools, or should they wait until they are really ready and properly prepared for their exams (this could, indeed should, of course, include opportunities to practice answering exam-style questions, followed up by targetted tuition by their teacher to address weaknesses)?

It strikes me that there is something perhaps more than a little perverse that our society is quick to criticise weakenesses in a school examination system, but stubbornly refuses to even consider applying a similar set of values to its own moralilty.

The concept of absolute values is now pretty much alien in all but the most extreme cases (which involve actual crimiality), so morals are rarely assessed in a way resembling method 1 (this is the expected way to behave, and if you don't do so, you aren't living your life properly). Instead, the default approach would appear to be method 3 (nearly everybody is now living to a lower moral standard than in the past, so this standard is now o.k.).

God doesn't work like this. He doesn't accept this position of relativism: He has his rules and standards and expects them to be met. He also only allows us to 'take the exam' once (it's called death and judgement). He does allow us some time to practice, learn and prepare (it's called our earthly life), and He does provide us with plenty of guidance, teaching and help  (it's called the Magisterium of the Church, Prayer and the Sacraments).  This is important to bear in mind, or there might be some nasty shocks awaiting.

There is, of course, an additional strand to this - the mercy of God. Just as passing an exam demonstrates a general level of competence in a subject, but not necessarily a perfect, flawless knowledge, so a good death and positive judgement (a soul being saved) do not necessarily mean that the soul is at a state of perfection, as would be required to face the Beatific Vision of God. This is what Purgatory is about. The knowledge and skills we use to pass an exam can become more embedded in our minds if we continue to be reminded of them, and so our souls can become perfected by gradual approach towards God, accompanied by gradual detachment from the effects of our sins. Here, of course, the analogy begins to break down - we can perfect our knowledge of exam topics both passively (by being told things) and actively (by practice); the souls in Purgatory can do nothing actively for themselves, but must be perfected passively, enduring whatever pace this may occur at. That is why the prayers of those still here on earth are so important to them. and that is why the Chuirch encourages us to pray for the dead and sets this month aside to specifically emphasise the point.

Fidelium animae, per misericordiam Dei, requiescatnt in pace. Amen.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Prayer Request

Please could I ask you, of your Charity, to pray for the wife of a friend and colleague of mine.

The friend in question is also an Anglican clergyman, and both he and his wife are very active in their church. As he has often commented to me on the power of prayer, I know they would be grateful for your intercessions on their behalf.

Yesterday morning, he happened to mention that his wife had been taken into hospital, and was later called away from work to be with her. I do not know any further details as yet, but he appeared anxious, so I hope that nothing serious has happened.

Please pray for them, and also for their young family.

Thank you.

In Domino.

Sunday, 11 November 2012


Of your charity, please pray for the dead of all wars.

When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say,

For Your Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today

To aid you, may I recommend the following remembrance video, made by Zephyrinus, following a visit to the war graves on the Somme in 2011 by the Leyton Orient Football Club Supporters Association.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Brook Church

In my initial post on this blog, I mentioned attending Compline in a beautiful medieval church (now in the care of our Anglican brethren), during my student days.

The chruch in question is St. Mary's, in the village of Brook, in Kent (incidentally, not far from St. Simon's, Ashford, where Fr. John Boyle of the Caritas in Veritate blog was formerly Parish Priest).

The following is a quote from the Church of England's website, regarding St. Mary's:-

"St. Mary’s Church Brook is famous for its medieval wall paintings, their quality and artistic content place it in the top 20 churches in the UK regarding quality of medieval wall paintings. They derive from the 12th / 13th Century and were originally painted in red with gold leaf, and today appear as dark brown on white.

The paintings in the chancel depict the Nativity, Ministry and Passion of our Lord. Paintings on the south wall of the nave are slightly larger and done in red and white. These apparently show incidents in a saint’s life. A key to all subjects of the paintings is to be found in the red-backed booklet at the rear of the church in the vestry. This has been prepared from notes by Professor Tristram and later experts who have cleaned and restored the wall-paintings. Those on the north wall of the nave are a palimpsest and very difficult to make out. Low down we may discern two fourteenth century figures, with two large seventeenth century texts above.

Over the north door is a faded wall painting of St. Christopher.

The architecture of a priest room overlooking the congregation is a special architectural feature, which only 3 churches in the UK can claim. A faded painting of the Lord in the Priest Room gives this room a very special atmosphere for prayers, reflection, and for finding the presence of the Lord."

The church is quite interesting from a point of view of what was preserved by locals at the time of the Reformation. Firstly, the wall paintings mentioned above were effectively protected behind whitewash. Then there was the altar - this was removed during the protestant reordering when wooden communion tables were mandated, but the mesa survived, having been dragged just outside into the churchyard, where it was presumably mistaken for a gravestone until its rediscovery in the 20th. Century; it has subsequently been restored to the sanctuary of the church, and to use. When I was there in the 1980's, parts of the original rood screen (complete with Cromwellian saw marks) had just turned up following structural alterations to the pub next door, where they had been incorporated into part of the bar; these had been returned to the church and were being stored in the vestry, although I don't think there has been any plan to reinstate the screen.
Other interesting features include the large Westwerk tower, incorporating accomodation for a priest (the 'Priest Room' mentied above), complete with its own altar (the ruined base of this is still in situ) and squints lloking into the main church (good for both devotional and security purposes (?)). A further squint in the north wall of the chancel and marks on the exterior stonework indicate that the church also once had a small cell attached to it, probably for the use of a resident anchorite.
The picture below shows the chancel, including the altar and some of the paintings (try also to imagine an oak rood loft and screen with panelling to altar-rail height across the arch, and you should get an idea of its original appearance).
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