Monday, 31 December 2012

Well said, Fr. Blake!


Fr. Ray Blake has recently written a very good post concerning our bishops, in general, being 'too nice'.

I quote the following, in particular:-

"Niceness means being all things to all men, being willing to burn incense before a pagan god, gathering into the big Catholic tent people whose lifestyle choices and whose theology in any other age would exclude them.
Radical orthodoxy would suggest that we proclaim teaching loud and clear wherever we can."
I would suggest we should all be careful not to fall into this subtle trap. Christianity is not about being nice to everyone: it is about doing God's will. Love is not about letting people do as they want: it is about seeing that they get what is best for them. The greatest love we can show towards others must involve wanting them to receive the ultimate reward of Heaven, and doing what we can to ensure that they get this. This may often have to be 'tough love': not letting them have their own way if this is a danger to their souls, helping them to overcome that which puts their souls at risk. Is it really an act of charity to be nice and accomodating towards someone, encouraging them to live their life any old how, regardless of morality and Our Lord's wishes, only to end with their immortal soul consigned to the flemes for eternity? Surely to do so would be putting our own souls at risk. It is not a case of 'I'm O.K., you're O.K', otherwise very soon neither of us will be O.K.

Here is a clip of one of Venerable Fulton Sheen's talks, in this case about 'Youth and Sex', where he points out (with his typical simplicity and humour) our need for boundaries and limits and training in what is right, and without which we are never happy. The part I would focus on is from the start up to about 2 minutes, 50 seconds. I would, however, commend the whole of this talk to you (it is on Youtube in four parts - this clip is the second part), and indeed any of Fulton Sheen's talks and sermons.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Byzantine Christmas Carol - In Arabic!

I stumbled across this lovely thing while searching for plainchant on Youtube: a very interesting change fromWestern liturgical chants. The video also includes some lovely images.
Please remember in your prayers the Christians of the Middle East, both those of the Oriental Catholic Rites, and also our separated brethren of the Eastern Churches, especially those who are suffering persecution or war at this time.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Richard Dawkins 'An Embarassment'

Apparently Peter Higgs, particle physicist and postulator of the Higgs Boson, has branded Richard Dawkins 'an embarassment' for his fanatical attacks on religion. You can read a fuller account over on 'Protect the Pope'

I am glad to hear that the scientific establishment are starting to recognise that this man is bringing science into disrepute.

It is interesting that Higgs also said that whilst he was not himself a religious believer, he did not consider that science and religion were incompatible.


Not Embarassing

p.s. If you like a good bit of satire, why not pop over to Eccles and see his recent posts concerning Richard Dawkins.

Holy Innocents

Reflecting on today's feast, I have been looking at some accounts of the Massacre of the Holy Innocents.

What I did find notable were the estimates of numbers for those killed (according to Wikipaedia article).

The story assumed an important place in later Christian tradition; Byzantine liturgy estimated 14,000 Holy Innocents while an early Syrian list of saints stated the number at 64,000. Coptic sources raise the number to 144,000 and place the event on 29 December. Taking the narrative literally and judging from the estimated population of Bethlehem, the Catholic Encyclopedia (1907–12) more soberly suggested that these numbers were inflated, and that probably only between six and twenty children were killed in the town, with a dozen or so more in the surrounding areas.
Compare this with the following, taken from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service's [nice innocent sounding euphamism] own website, concerning abortions in the UK in the years from 1969-2011:-
In 2011, there were 189,931 abortions to women resident in England and Wales. This is roughly the same (a rise of 0.2%) from 2010. The highest recorded number of abortions to women resident in England and Wales was in 2007, with a total of 198,499.
The total number of abortions carried out in every given year includes non-residents: that is, women who come to England and Wales from abroad. The number of abortions is presented in Table 1 of the official statistics. The figures below give a snapshot of the number of abortions to residents of England and Wales over the past four decades.• 1969: 49,829
• 1979: 120,611
• 1989: 170,463
• 1999: 173,701
• (2007: 198,499)
• 2011: 189,931
Do we really live in less barabaric times?

Christmas not over yet

The wonderful thing about being Catholic at Christmas is that the Feast isn't over in just a day - we have the Octave of Christmas, followed by the Epiphany and its Octave, ending with the Feast of Our Lord's Baptism. We therefore have time to reflect on the awesome mystery of the Incarnation and its implications for us.

One of my favourite Christmas hymns is 'Corde Natus Ex Parentis', which dates from the 5th. Century (attributed to the Roman poet Aurelius Prudentius), and set to a plainsong melody 'Divinum mysterium' at some stage during the Middle Ages (the melody itself is believed to have originally been a Sanctus trope). The hymn expresses the beautiful theology of God the Son, begotten of the Father and beyond all time and space, foretold by the prophets, taking to Himself our human nature, as an expression of His love for us (like Fr. Tim I am attracted by the Scotist view that even had man not fallen and needed redemption from sin, Our Lord would still have become incarnate out of pure love for us and a wish to share in our experiences).
Here is a rather nice video of the first verse in Latin, accompanied by some beautiful astronomical images (just to stress the point that we scientists aren't all atheists, and that the wonders of the universe can, in fact, lead us to a greater appreciation of God).

I am also including a link to this version in English, which contains more of the verses with text of they lyrics, to help you appreciate the beauty of this hymn.

 May God bless you and continue to grant you a Happy Christmas.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

So who exactly is likely to be offended?

I'm not sure I get where the politically correct lobby are coming from.

The cab journey back from Blackfen following Midnight Mass this year was rather interesting. It began with the cab driver asking me about the Mass I had just come from, and some of the symbolism and theology of Christmas (he had apparently been listening to something on the radio earlier in the evening which sparked his interest). He explained that he was a Muslim (in his words, 'not a very good one, not really practicing'), and that he had been brought up to respect Christians (which, I believe, is what the Koran actually teaches). He also told me how annoyed he was by the atheistic lobby who try to suppress public displays of religion. The whole conversation ended with him asking me to pray for him (quite a humbling request, but one which I was happy to carry out).

Similarly, the events at the end of term were also of interest. While the school is very secular, we managed this year to have a very Christian Advent Calendar, in the form of a Nativity Scene, on display (this was originally oredred because our RE teacher had planned to do some lessons around it). Unsurprisngly it did not upset any pupils: several were practicing Christians (notably a number of Catholics among them) and expected it; others were curious or liked it because it was an attractive image; certainly they were all accepting. The only concern was raised by a member of staff, who though it might upset the pupils (sic).
Our end of term concert also managed to include a number of Christian foci, including a rendition of 'Away in a Manger' (which, of course mentions the Holy Name five times), the tunes of several other proper carols, a reflection of how Christmas is celebrated in Brazil (by a pupil originally from there), and a very moving modern hymn (with a distictly Marian angle), sung by the daughter of one of our staff, who had originally been 'roped in' to assist with musical accompaniment. Again no difficulties, only compliments.

So why exactly are so many in official positions concerned with avoiding the religious aspects of this season?

Et Verbum caro factum est, et habitavit in nobis; et vidimus gloriam Ejus, gloriam quasi Unigenti a Patre, plenum gratiae et veritatis.

Monday, 24 December 2012


Et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto, ex Maria Virgine, ET HOMO FACTUS EST.
May the joy and peace of Christmas and the blessings of the Infant Jesus be with you all.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Thoughts on Bishop Egan's letter to David Cameron

Thanks to Father Ray Blake for posting this interesting link to the 'Quo vadis, Petre?' blog, which contains the full text of Bishop Egan's recent letter to the Prime Minister, concerning SSM.

Bishop Egan very eloquently makes the point that equality is relative, because people and their circumstances are different, or as I usually put it, equality is not the same as identity.

This principle is fairly obvious, and applies widely. For example, in my own field of Education, efforts are made to ensure that pupils all have equality of opportunity (i.e. the chance to do their best as learners), precisely by provideing them with instruction, work, and experiences that are not identical with everone else's. Indeed OFSTED inspections are now focussing on the quality of personalisation of learning. There is much research done and being done on different types of intelligence, learning styles, and so forth, all recognising that people are not identical and that they will end up following very different paths in life. What does apply universally, however, is that children should be educated, although this may involve attending very different schools, or even being home-schooled. No-one seems to get paricularly upset that not everyone goes to a grammar school, or a stage school, or attends Oxbridge, or excels in sport, art or music.

There has also been a lot of research done in the fields of psychology and the social sciences, about the contrasting ways that men and women think, and also the importance of male and female role models for children (this has been particularly noted with the vast increase of single parents over recent decades, and the observation that boys who grow up without a Dad around often fair badly).

Why then, is the present government so keen to rush through a piece of legislation that seems to be  'one size fits all' in its approach: the misconception that because marriage is a good thing, everyone should be able to marry, not realising that this will lead to a fundamental change in what marriage means, and possibly remove the very features that make it a good thing in the first place. This is all the more strange when society is still arguing whether marriage is still relevant or an outmoded instution. Clearly this is not something that can be easily and quickly addressed by human reason alone.

There is a story that Blessed Teresa of Calcutta once visited an institution and came across a copy of the book 'I'm O.K., You're O.K.', and remarked that, "Actually I'm not O.K., and you're not O.K., and that is why we need Jesus."

Perhaps there is a reason why human society has always had a very particualr understanding of marriage, why marriage is viewed as something special, dare I say, sacred, and why Jesus elevated Matrimony to a sacrament. Maybe, just maybe, the Church has got it right, after all, she is infallible in matters of doctrine.

Friday, 14 December 2012

St. Leo the Great meets Attilla the Hun

Having just read a post by Mac of Mulier Fortis, concerning Bishop Davies statement on SSM, I was suddently struck by a thought of St. Leo meeting Atilla the Hun in the year 452, and successfully turning the Hun armies at the Mincio River.

Here is Raphael's interpretation of the event.

Methinks here is another Saint whose help we should be invoking at this time.

Also, nod to the Bones for this:-

Thursday, 13 December 2012

St. Lucy

St. Lucy lived in the Fourth Century, and was born into a wealthy family in Syracuse in modern Sicily. She is understood to have lost her father when young, and to have been brought up and educted by her mother, Eutychia. From an early age, she devoted herself to God, and vowed to consecrate  her life to Him. She kept this vow secret until her mother attempted to arrange her marriage to a young, pagan Roman.

Lucy knew that Eutychia would not be easily disuaded, and so spent time in prayer at the tomb of St. Agatha, which eventually led to the miraculous cure of her mother from a long-standing haemorrhage. Following this, Eutychia became sympathetic to Lucy's wishes, and supported her choice to live in consecrated virginity, and to donate her wealth to the poor.

Sadly, the same cannot be said of her former suitor, who, in his anger, betrayed her to the Roman authorities as a Christian: this was the time of the notorious persecution by the Emperor Diocletian. Lucy was ordered to be forced into prostitution, but miraculously, he became physically immovable, and could not be carried off to this fate. Instead, she was tortured and eventually martyred. One legend tells that she was blinded, which is why she is depicted carrying a dish containing her diembodied eyes. She is nowadays invoked as Patron Saint of the blind.

In the current climate, it might be appropriate to invoke St. Lucy's aid in combatting the present climate of sexual licentiousness, and in 'opening the eyes' of our politicians to the potential consequences of some of the current proposals for legislation.
Saint Lucy, you did not hide your light under a basket, but let it shine for the whole world, for all the centuries to see. We may not suffer torture in our lives the way you did, but we are still called to let the light of our Christianity illumine our daily lives. Please help us to have the courage to bring our Christianity into our work, our recreation, our relationships, our conversation -- every corner of our day. Amen.

 Happy Feast!

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Gay 'Marriage' - Thoughts on Interesting times

On the same subject as my previous post, it would appear that interesting times are afoot. I have just read the following in the London Evening Standard in an article entitled 'Law will make it illegal for Cof E vicars to conduct gay weddings'

Church of England clergy will be banned from conducting gay weddings under the same-sex marriage laws unveiled today.
Although the new legislation will make it illegal specifically for the Church of England, other churches and religious organisations will be able to “opt in” and host ceremonies...
Uniquely for the Church of England, both its own canon law and the law of the land would have to be changed if the Cof E decided to embrace gay weddings... 
Under the opt-in system, an entire religious organisation must agree before any of its individual clergymen [sic] or churches can offer a gay marriage. This means no Catholic priest could take part unless the entire RC church changed its mind.
[This last point could prove interesting, given that the Catholic Church claims Jesus Christ Our Lord as her Head, and incorporates not only the Church Militant but also the Church Penitent (which know the fullness of truth and are coming to terms with it, and their previous errors, through the fires of Purgatory) and the Church triumphant (who have the fullness of the Beatific Vision, and so cannot err or be decieved). Don't know how that would fare in a court of law, but then I don't think there is much chance of the entire Church Militant being decieved into changing their mind either.]

The article also quotes the following remark from Culture Secretary Maria Miller:-

Marriage binds us together and makes society stronger. Our proposals will mean that marriage would be available to everyone.
“I feel strongly that if a couple wish to show their love and commitment to each other the State should not stand in their way.”
I can't help feeling that this is the sort of faulty logic of which governments are often guilty, and which can lead to failure to forsee potential consequences and calamities caused by legislation. It is the same faulty logic which the previous government used in connection with academic degrees:-

  • University graduates are (were) at an advantage in the employment market and contribute to the development of society and the growth of the economy
  • Let's massively increase the number of people with degrees (I think 50% of the population was suggested at one point) and more people will o as above
  • Result (1) - people not really capable of, or suited to a  university education are given one, leading to debasing of academia, and a reduction in the value of a degree as a benchmark of ability
  • Result (2) - what constitutes a degree course, or indeed a university, are subtly redefined
  • Result (3) - there are too many graduates chasing too few jobs, many people are doing work for which they are vastly overqualified (to the exclusion of those for whom the work would be better suited), money has been spent educating those who are unlikely to use their education, intelligent people are unfulfilled (with the consequent possibility of depression, stress and mental health issues), and the whole thing is an economic disaster. (Here endeth the rant).

Of course it might be prudent to rememeber that while important, university degrees are not a fundamental part of human society, unlike, of course, marriage...

Gay 'Marriage' - Bishops' Conference Statement


This afternoon, the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales issued the following statement concerning the Government's proposals for Same Sex 'Marriage'.

The meaning of marriage matters. It derives that meaning from its function as the foundation of the family. The union of one man and one woman for love and mutual support and open to procreation has over the centuries formed a stable unit we call the family. Marriage is the enduring public recognition of this commitment and has been rightly recognised as unique and worthy of legal protection.

The government has chosen to ignore the views of over 600,000 people who signed a petition calling for the current definition of marriage to stay, and we are told legislation to change the definition of marriage will now come to Parliament.

We strongly oppose such a Bill. Furthermore, the process by which this has happened can only be described as shambolic. There was no electoral mandate in any manifesto; no mention in the Queen’s speech; no serious or thorough consultation through a Green or White paper, and a constant shifting of policy before even the government response to the consultation was published today.

We urge everyone who cares about upholding the meaning of marriage in civil law to make their views known to their MPs clearly, calmly and forcefully, and without impugning the motives of others. We urge all parties to ensure their Members have a free vote. It is not too late to stop this Bill.
This long-awaited statement follows the much more eloquent ones issued by Bishop Egan of Portsmouth, and the letter ,sent to David Cameron by Bishop Devine of Motherwell, as reported in Scotland on Sunday .



Wednesday, 5 December 2012

St. Nicolas

(Much nicer image than the 'Santa' of fizzy cola ads, etc.)

Happy Feast!

Monday, 3 December 2012

St. Barbara

Tomorrow is the commemorated feast of St. Barbara, one of several virgin martyrs whose feasts are remembered at this time of year (others include St. Cecilia on 22nd. Novemeber - see my earlier post, and St. Lucy on December 13th.).
I quote the following account of her life from Catholic Online:
Barbara lived in the 4th century and brought up as a heathen. A tyrannical father, Dioscorus, had kept her jealously secluded in a lonely tower which he had built for that purpose. Here, in her forced solitude, she gave herself to prayer and study, and contrived to receive instruction and Baptism in secret by a Christian priest.
Barbara resisted her father's wish that she marry. Then on one occasion, during her father's absence, Barbara had three windows inserted into a bathhouse her father was constructing. Her purpose was thereby to honor the Trinity.
Dioscorus was enraged by her action and by her conversion. So he himself denounced her before the civil tribunal. She was horribly tortured, and at last was beheaded. Her own father, merciless to the last, acted as her executioner. God, however, speedily punished her persecutors. While her soul was being borne by angels to Paradise, a flash of lightning struck Dioscorus, and he was hurried before the judgment seat of God.
The life of St. Barbara is a vivid reminder that there can be much anger in our world and in our lives. Being in touch with God's presence in a very special way can do much toward relieving ourselves of our tendency to allow anger to control us. We should pray often against a sudden and unprovided death; and, above all, that we may be strengthened by the Holy Viaticum (Last Sacraments) against the dangers of our last hour.
Because of the judgement on her father, St Barbara is named as the patron of artillarymen, military engineers, miners, mathematicians, and all who work with explosives. I particularly commend to her protection those servicemen currently involved in the detection and disposal of mines and IED's in the various war zones of the world.
I would also like to invoke her prayers for all young people who are suffering the effects of emotional or physical abuse resulting from the anger of those who should care for them, and also for those who have problems controlling their own anger.

Advent Music

I notice that several bloggers have already commented on chants for Advent, notably Leutgeb (Bara Brith) on the chants generally, Fr. Ray Blake on Mass XVII, and Lawrence England (Bones) on the hymn Veni Emmanuel. The chants for this season are particularly beautiful, and seem to reflect very aptly the anticipation of the coming of Christ, which Advent recalls.

I hoe that Mr. England will not be offended if I graciously suggest he is, in fact,  a little early liturgically, Veni Emmanuel being based on the Great 'O' Antiphons, which properly belong to Vespers of the latter days of Advent, starting on 17th. December with O Sapientia.

This does, of course, give me chance to post on a couple of chants proper to the whole of Advent. First, the office hymn for Vespers, Creator Alme Siderum - here is a nice version by the choir of the Carmelite Priory, London:-

It is possible that you might also come across the more archaic version of this hymn, Conditor Alme Siderum , which is preserved in some usages, notably the offices of the Dominican Order. Here is a version from Blackfriars Oxford:-

The hymn is followed by the opening versicle of Rorate, Caeli ; here is the full version:-

Ye Heavens, drop down from above, and let the the clouds rain down the Just One!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Gift of Tears

Having been brought up with quite a few old fashioned British values, such as 'keeping a stiff upper lip' and 'men don't cry', I often find it hard to express emotions through tears.

Earlier today I read a post by John Smeaton, Director of SPUC, and was quite surprised to find myself 'welling up'. You can read John's full post here,: in it John describes how, following a public meeting in Preston at which he was invited to speak (concerning the recent opening of an abortion clinic in a local health centre), he was presented with an envelope containing a donation to SPUC, and a poem written on what appeared to be a page torn from a diary.

I reproduce the poem below.

Your first smile ... I will never see
Your first words ... I will never hear
My strong hands will never stretch out
To guide your unsteady steps
No whispered lullabies to a sleepy head

I will never wait at a school yard gate
Or watch with pride a nativity play
No school photographs on my mantelpiece
No first communion dress for me to buy

What would you have been like?
Pretty or plain? ... Clever or slow?
It doesn't matter ... You were mine.

When you died you were not tenderly laid in a snow-white coffin
No family or friends were gathered
To say goodbye
A man in a mask
Was your only companion
A plastic bucket
Was your resting place
Your only headstone
"Clinical Waste"

No-one remember you
But I do
No-one misses you

But I do.

One can only speculate on the story, and tragedy, that lead to this being written. I thank Our Lord for allowing me to weep a little for the those innocent children never given the chance. Maybe you can see why I am pro-life.
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