Thursday, 30 December 2010

BBC - balance and bias...

Contrast the approach to these two news stories.

On the one hand, the Holy Father is invited to present Thought for the Day. This is certainly news-worthy: he is after all the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, and it is a first. It is scarcely controversial: Thought for the Day always features a religious leader or thinker (or at least someone who thinks she is...). But the BBC ferret out a spokesman for the National Secular Society (who represent practically nobody) to say what an outrage it is - in the interests of balance, of course.

Then Sir Elton John and his male lover evade the British laws by making arrangements overseas to have a surrogate mother bear a child. This is also news-worthy. And some might think rather controversial. And of course the BBC cover it: but strangely there is no attempt made to represent any view but the BBC's, which is clearly that this is a jolly good thing.

Yet another reason I do not pay a licence fee to the BBC...

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Drawn to Catholicism

Just came across a blog which I should have known of before: Drawn to Catholicism. Well worth a visit!

Off to Faith at Stonyhurst

Ant has left us for a few days to go to the Faith Winter Conference at Stonyhurst. She and a few of her friends have been a number of times previously and have always come back very enthused.

The conference offers a mix of thought-provoking and orthodox talks, a full liturgical programme (including sacramental confession), social time (I'm told the ceilidh is a highlight) and plenty of free time for the participants to play sports, chat or do what they will. All in all an admirable mix.

It's for those in the 16 - 30 age range (though I don't think the age boundaries are fiercely policed). This one has already started and is fully booked, but if you know anyone who would benefit from future ones, do go to the Faith wwwsite and get on their mailing list. You will find much else of interest on their site

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Another lie from the BBC...

The BBC reports: 'Sir Elton John and his partner David Furnish have become parents to a son born to a surrogate mother in California.'

No they haven't; or at least not in any sense that most of humanity through most of history would recognise. At most, only one of them can be the child's biological father. It is only by a legal fiction that both can be named as parents on a birth certificate.

But the BBC, of course, has its own agenda here: the normalisation of these very abnormal arrangements.

And who could possibly argue that such arrangements are in the child's interests? It is simply the gratification of two people's selfish desires, and the exploitation of a woman, and above all a child, to meet those desires. Children as a commodity to be bought and owned - and the BBC thinks this is progress...

Monday, 27 December 2010

A Family Christmas

Our Christmas only starts on Christmas Eve. Until then we have been celebrating Advent. But on Christmas Eve the family moves into full-scale preparations for Christmas. Cards are made , presents wrapped, the tree decorated at 3.000 pm precisely (to coincide with the Service of Lessons and Carols from Kings College Cambridge on the radio); and meanwhile Anna and her mum do all the food preparation.

In the evening, we have our last Jesse Tree and Advent Wreath of the year at family prayers, and put the kids to bed as early as we can manage - after hanging their stockings of course. This year Ant stayed up to help decorate the house (she is 20, after all) and put out the cribs - still minus the Christ-child, of course.

Then at 11.00 we rouse the kids and set out for Carols and Midnight Mass. It is with that night-time journey, saying the rosary on the way to Church through the snow, that marks the beginning of the Christmas magic for the children; then singing and praying through the night, and returning to fall sleepily into bed. Anna and I then added the Christ-child to the cribs and filled the stockings.

The day itself starts with the kids opening their stockings, which are stuffed with silly jokey items which Anna has acquired over the year and stored away. There are a few generic things which all the kids get, but also some that are personal to each one’s tastes and interests. For example, Bernie got a booklet on identifying different types of donkeys, as she’s always slept with a toy donkey for as long as she can remember.

After grace, we have our Christmas breakfast with the table covered with candles and home made cards; and then the exchange of presents. This always follows the same pattern. The youngest (Dominique) gives presents first, starting with hers to the next youngest (Charlie) and proceeding all the way up to grandma’s. Then Charlie gives his, and so on. The presents are always chosen (or made) with a lot of thought and love. Dominique seems to have spent most of her art lessons this year making things for one or other of her siblings. There was lots of laughter...

The kids then play for a while while lunch is prepared and served. We always have real candles on our Christmas tree, which are lit for the first time for Christmas lunch, adding a very special feel to it. Lunch again follows a traditional pattern: grace, crackers, turkey with all the trimmings, Christmas pudding (home-made this year, triumphantly by Anna) and a glass or two of wine for the adults and special juice for the kids.

After lunch we went for a snowy walk, and found a pond sufficiently frozen to skate on - Bernie was given some skates a few years ago, and they fit all the girls, so there is some good-natured sharing and skating tuition. We were lucky this year to meet some another family of friends walking off their Christmas lunch - and they joined us skidding around the pond.

Then back home for some family games around the fire; this year we played balderdash, which is a word game where you invent false - and often hilarious - definitions for obscure words. Then we had some family music: Dominique has taken up the Saxophone this year, so our family jazz band sounded in fine form: Ant on clarinet, Bernie on piano, Charlie on trombone, Dominique on Sax and me on Drums. We worked up a great version of the Pink Panther theme tune which we then inflicted on Anna, who was duly appreciative.

Grandma hadn’t joined us for for the snowy walk or the word games, as neither are really her cup of tea, so we then descended on her room with a a DVD of White Christmas, which we’d given Ant and Bernie, and knew she would enjoy.

Finally we had a late light supper (mainly Christmas cake) and then sang carols around the crib by candlelight, said our night prayers, and so to bed.

And so it is every year: a pattern we have developed to ensure that the kids have a wonderful day, and that the fun and the faith are intertwined inextricably in their experience and their minds. And I think that is the reason Ant continues to come home for a family Christmas, even now she’s been away at University for two years - and this year was invited on a Carribean Cruise over Christmas. Of course she won’t come home for Christmas for ever, nor should she, but I think when she doesn’t she will re-create a faith-filled Christmas wherever she is - and that will be job done!

So I wish all readers a very happy and holy Christmas-tide, and hope that sharing our family Christmas will help you reflect on how much better yours is at interweaving fun and faith!

Friday, 24 December 2010

The Holy Father on Thought for the Day

The Holy Father's address on Thought for the Day this morning is worth listening to.

You may hear it here:

Porta Caeli carries a transcript.

The subsequent interview with Archbishop Longley was less clear. Sounded more like a politician than a Catholic Archbishop: desperate not to say anything that John H. could pick him up on, and therefore said almost nothing except that we believe in the development of doctrine. If you want to form your own judgement, you can here it here, at 2 hours 10 minutes into the programme.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Well I prefer the old lectionary...

There seems to be something of a consensus among those who take an interest in such issues that whatever one may think of the Novus Ordo generally, the new lectionary is a great improvement. Over the three year cycle we hear the vast bulk of the Bible read in Church; we have three readings at Mass every Sunday, the first from the Old Testament that was sadly neglected in the older lectionary and so on.

I disagree.

One reason for my preference for the Old Lectionary is the advantage of a one year cycle. Having the same readings at Mass on the same Sundays of the year creates a certain familiarity: we start to recognise the pattern and feel at home in it. I think that is nigh on impossible to achieve with a three year cycle, and I think the loss is a significant one.

Underlying that, I realise, is a different understanding of what we are doing at Mass. I don't mean the most important issue of attending the sacrifice of the Calvary versus a gathering of remembrance or whatever. Rather, I think of the Mass as (inter alia) a familial gathering.

Families thrive on rituals and celebrations, and nearly all of these run on an annual cycle: birthdays, anniversaries, saints days, feast days. I think an annual cycle of readings meshes well with that.

The other model, implicit in the new lectionary, is that the Mass is a school room, where we come to be instructed in the Faith. Of course there is room for some instruction at Mass: that is what the Homily is for. But instruction is not the primary focus of the Mass, and if we rely solely on the Mass for instruction, we will end up poorly-instructed.

So of course we should be familiar with the Old Testament and how it informs the New; but the Mass is not, in my view, the place for that.

Incidentally, the ordinary of the Extraordinary Form is saturated in the Old Testament; and those who wanted more of the Old Testament proclaimed were those who stripped out so many of the psalms and other verses; with the same kind of logic as saying we needed to be much more aware of the active working of the Holy Spirit, and therefore we will no longer refer to the Sundays after Pentecost, but instead call them Ordinary Time...

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Holy Father on Thought for the Day

The BBC has announced that the Holy Father will be broadcasting a specially written 'Thought for the Day' on Christmas Eve, on Radio 4 at 7.45 am.

Thought for the Day is a regular weekday slot on Radio 4, with speakers ranging from the inspired to the banal. This will be the first time a Pope has broadcast in this slot.

Needless to say the National Secular Society has reacted agains the announcement...

Tuesday, 21 December 2010


The Vatican (to be more accurate, the CDF) has issued a clarification. And guess what: the Pope wasn't saying condom use is OK - in any circumstance.

Strangely, what he said was... well, what he said.

I hate to say told you so, but I did

What is marriage?

A very interesting article in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy by three academics (one philosopher, one politician and one political scientist).

The essence of their argument is that if we look at what marriage actually is, and therefore why the state has any interest in it, we recognise that it is essentially the monogamous union of a husband and a wife - nothing else qualifies. They then address certain reservations others may raise to this argument. Well worth a read.

Interestingly their argument for a defining feature of marriage being a 'comprehensive union' seems to me to outlaw contraception...

Hat tip to The Hermeneutic of Continuity.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Forcing to kill

The European Court's judgement that Ireland must provide abortions for women in some circumstances (labelled life-threatening, but actually closer examination reveals that is not the case...) means of course, that somebody will have to be told to do the killing.

In fact for the kind of provision they want (eg local and accessible) it will need people at several hospitals around the country prepared to do the killing. And whole teams around them to support the procedure.

Given the Irish people's sound sense and Catholic heritage, there may be problems finding people to volunteer to do so: so then people will have to be ordered to (and make no mistake about it, if those pursuing this agenda have their way, there will be nowhere to hide).

The gentle march of totalitarian 'liberalism'....

Sunday, 12 December 2010

A Handy Hint

Anna was complaining that we never listen to any music: our records (remember them?) are all in boxes in the attic, and our Cds all over the place. Most of our music is now on MP3 players.

So she wanted to jettison our old stereo and buy an MP3 dock. I had a look at them, and decided the cheap ones wouldn't give the sort of sound quality our old stereo did - and the expensive ones were expensive. And then I had a brainwave. I bought a cable with a stereo jack on one end and two phono plugs on the other. The phono plugs connect into the back of our amp (where the turntable used to connect, as it happens) and the stereo plug goes into the headphone socket of a laptop or MP3 player - and our digital music emerges from our old, but good quality, stereo system.

So don't throw out your amp and speakers and replace them with a dock - simply buy a cable (it cost me £5.00 sterling - say $7 or $8) as opposed to hundreds for a dock of comparable quality.


Today is Gaudete Sunday:

Gaudete in Domino semper,
Iterum dico gaudete!

No rose vestments at our Church, alas.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Self deluding...

I had a fascinating conversation yesterday with a very intelligent chap, published researcher and all that, who had created a totally closed belief system for himself, and managed to interpret the evidence to make it fit his views.

What he was arguing was that Christ had no intention of founding a Church and did not do so; no more did Sts Peter and Paul see themselves as leading a Church, and so on.

According to his reading of it, Christianity was founded by Constantine, and was simply a way of prolonging Roman values with religious fervour. This, he explained to me, was why the Church was so riven with sex abuse scandals, because the Romans were always sexually licentious; likewise it was the reason for teachers in Catholic schools beating children: that was the way Romans behaved. And so on.

It was so obviously absurd that it took my breath away - but as I say he is an intelligent man. It reminded me of the fact that the human brain is so powerful an instrument that we can construct an understanding of the evidence to fit almost any philosophy to which we choose to sign up. Or as Blessed John Henry Newman put it: We can believe what we choose. We are answerable for what we choose to believe.

Friday, 10 December 2010

non invasive prenatal diagnosis (NIPD) 'Safe'

The Times yesterday, reporting excitedly on NIPD quotes Dennis Lo, the scientist leading the research, as saying 'It is safe for the baby.'

This is some new meaning of the word 'safe' given that the sole purpose of the process is to identify candidates to be killed.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Stir up Sunday

At least, that what we always call it. The traditional day on which to stir up your Christmas pudding and cook it, so it can mature nicely between now and Christmas day.

The name, of course, comes from the Collect of the Mass (in the Extraordinary Form):

Excita, Domine, corda nostra ad praeparandas Unigeniti tui vias: ut per ejus adventum purificatis tibi mentibus servire mereamur.

Stir up, O Lord, our hearts to make ready the ways of thine only-begotten Son; and with minds undefiled to pay to thee, through his coming, the homage of our service.

This is the prayer we will say around the Advent wreath every evening, until Gaudete Sunday, next week.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

All the best iTunes...

It has been said (I can't remember who by) that the Devil has all the best tunes.

He also has control of the best computers and iTunes apparently.

I'm a huge Apple fan, in that I love their products. However they are not admirable in other ways.

Their latest idiocy is to pull the plug on an app that supported the Manhattan Declaration - see NCR article here and then if you are so minded, sign the petition here.

Outside the Magic Circle

A very interesting article at Catholic World Report, surveying the English & Welsh scene from a bit of a perspective...

H/T Ttony.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

A victory for life

To the evident disgust of the BBC the Scottish MSPs have refused to bow to pressure to decriminalise killing people - or 'assisting them to die' as it is euphemistically called.

The BBC presents the case for change very sympathetically, and there was a lot of campaigning for (and against) it. However, the MSPs voted very decisively 85 - 16 (with two abstentions.

A victory for life, compassion and common sense.

The Pope's Prayer for the Unborn

Pope Benedict XVi composed this prayer, which he prayed at the Vigil on 27 November.

Lord Jesus,
You who faithfully visit and fulfill with your Presence
the Church and the history of men;
You who in the miraculous Sacrament of your Body and Blood
render us participants in divine Life
and allow us a foretaste of the joy of eternal Life;
We adore and bless you.

Prostrated before You, source and lover of Life,
truly present and alive among us, we beg you:

Reawaken in us respect for every unborn life,
make us capable of seeing in the fruit of the maternal womb
the miraculous work of the Creator,
open our hearts to generously welcoming every child
that comes into life.

Bless all families,
sanctify the union of spouses,
render fruitful their love.

Accompany the choices of legislative assemblies
with the light of your Spirit,
so that peoples and nations may recognize and respect
the sacred nature of life, of every human life.

Guide the work of scientists and doctors,
so that all progress contributes to the integral well-being of the person,
and no one endures suppression or injustice.

Give creative charity to administrators and economists,
so they may realize and promote sufficient conditions
so that young families can serenely embrace
the birth of new children.

Console the married couples who suffer
because they are unable to have children
and in Your goodness provide for them.

Teach us all to care for orphaned or abandoned children,
so they may experience the warmth of your Charity,
the consolation of your divine Heart.

Together with Mary, Your Mother, the great believer,
in whose womb you took on our human nature,
we wait to receive from You, our Only True Good and Savior,
the strength to love and serve life,
in anticipation of living forever in You,
in communion with the Blessed Trinity.

H/T Fr Z

Monday, 29 November 2010

Alma Redemptoris Mater

Alma Redemptoris Mater, quae pervia caeli

Porta manes, et stella maris, succurre cadenti,

Surgere qui curat, populo: tu quae genuisti,

Natura mirante, tuum sanctum Genitorem

Virgo prius ac posterius, Gabrielis ab ore

Sumens illud Ave, peccatorum miserere.

V: Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae
R: Et concepit de Spiritu Sancto

Mother of the Redeemer, who art ever of heaven
The open gate, and the star of the sea, aid a fallen people,
Which is trying to rise again; thou who didst give birth,
While Nature marveled how, to thy Holy Creator,
Virgin both before and after, from Gabriel's mouth
Accepting the All hail, be merciful towards sinners.

(Tr Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman)

V: The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary
R: And she conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Advent again...

You can tell it's advent! We spent the afternoon trudging through the snow in search of holly for our Advent wreath, and a suitable branch for our Jesse tree.

And after Mass, we sang the Alma Redemptoris Mater.

At prayers tonight, we'll sing O Come O Come Emmanuel, and say the wonderful collect Arise in thy strength we beseech thee O Lord and come; from the dangers which threaten us because of our sins, be thy presence our sure defence, be thy deliverance our safety for ever more; and we'll sing the Alma Redemptoris Mater again.

And so we will continue till Christmas Eve (changing the collect each week, of course!) Only then will we start to decorate the house, put up the tree and so forth.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Holy Father: more Christ-like than Blair-like (Deo gratias)

The BBC and others are grossly misreporting what the Holy Father has said about condoms. Some of this is doubtless a result of ignorance and laziness, some wishful thinking and some deliberate pursuing an agenda of their own.

What he actually said was very specific: in the case of somebody who is in a very bad place, then the intention of minimising harm to others might be the start of a moral awakening.

Thus as a pastor, and following in the footsteps of his Lord, he is always looking for signs of hope, for the potential redemption of every sinner - indeed of us all. With the eyes of faith he can see even in the most depraved situation that there may be the first quickening of moral awareness in a small shift of intentions.
That is what he said and I believe is what he meant.

Of course the media twisted it. But he is not there to be a spin doctor. He models himself on Christ, not Blair. Ands just as Christ was often wilfully misunderstood by his hearers, so is the Holy Father.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

EF Mass at Birmingham Oratory

Bernie and I were in Birmingham visiting some friends (Anna and the rest of the kids couldn't come this time) so we took the opportunity of going to Low Mass at the Oratory this morning.

It's a while since I've been to a Low Mass, and it was fabulous. So quiet (apart from various children, whose subdued soundtrack made it sound like a truly Catholic Mass!) and so prayerful.

Also, as ever at the Oratory, I was struck by the variety of people present. I spotted Matthew Doyle and family, whom I recognised from his blog; I also think I saw Dr Strabismus (whom God preserve) of Utrecht, Captain Foulenough, the well known diva Rustiguzzi, Roland Milk, the poet, and Mr Justice Cocklecarrot.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010


I recently received this email from a reader:

I can see your stance on abortion but most contraceptives do not end lives. The birth control bill can cause an early abortion so I am against that but what is wrong with others. Most catholics support Natural Family Planning and the rhythm method so what is the difference if a couple decides to use something like spermicide or a condom? I am a protestant by the way. I believe premarital sex is a sin but contraceptives are not necessarily the reason for the rise of unwed pregnancy and stds. It's because are so careless. If you are going to have premarital sex all you have to do is to get your partner tested for stds and don't have sex with anybody else. As far as pregnancy is concern don't have sex during ovulation and use a condom as back up. It's just laziness.

Also abstinence is the ideal and is what God wants but is it realistic to think everybody will abstain. Even before sex ed premarital sex was more of a problem than people wanted to admit. If a woman got pregnant she often walked down the aisle pregnant. This happened to my grandmother. If a girl could not get married she was sent away to a home for unwed mothers to give up her baby. These women were unfairly labeled sluts even though most of these girls were not anymore promiscuous than women who experienced shotgun weddings. Boys were not condemned at all.

The Girls Who Went Away- Google Books

My point is to ask you which is worse Some girl using birth control or Girls secretly sent away to some maternity home, coerced by society into giving the bay, and then suffering emotional damage for decades while the father moves on with his life?

It was signed, but as it was not put in the combox, I won't give the name...


To this, I wrote the following reply:

Dear (...)

Thanks for your email.

I think with regard to pre-marital sex, you are quite right: abstinence is the ideal and is what God wants. To ask if it is realistic seems to me to miss the point. We could equally well say that people are going to assault each other - it is not realistic to expect that nobody will. But that doesn’t make it right or acceptable, and certainly doesn’t mean that we should make it easier for them to do so (which is what contraceptives do with regard to pre-marital sex).

And that is my whole point: our job is to discover God’s will, and then carry it out. It is clear that his will for human sexuality is that it is for reproduction and for the expression of mutual love and self-giving within marriage.

It is interesting to note that until less than 100 years ago, all Christian denominations were united on this issue. It was only in 1930 that the Lambeth Conference of Anglicans decided that contraceptives might be permissible within marriage - and look where that has led.

One of the other problems with contraceptives is that when they fail, (and they do - ask anyone involved in pregnancy counselling!) then abortion is the back-up - so contraceptives and abortion are closely linked in fact, if not in theory.

You raise another couple of interesting questions. One is:

Most catholics support Natural Family Planning and the rhythm method so what is the difference if a couple decides to use something like spermicide or a condom?

There are in fact many differences:

In NFP, the couple are enjoying a God-given facet of biology; they are not doing anything, except abstaining from sex for certain periods of time;

In NFP, the attitude is different: it is fundamentally one of obedience (NFP is not easy!) which means if a child is conceived, the parents will not abort it; in artificial contraception, the fundamental attitude is 'My will be done...'

In NFP, the effect is to encourage the couple to restraint and mutual respect; whereas artificial contraception tends in the opposite direction;

In artificial contraception, a barrier is placed between the couple, either physical or chemical, at the very moment that they are united: they are giving themselves to each other - yet with-holding a fundamental part of themselves, the capacity to give life.

Couples who use NFP have a remarkably low divorce rate, compared to the rest of the population (including compared to Catholics who use artificial contraception). By their fruits...

The other interesting question was this:

Which is worse: Some girl using birth control or Girls secretly sent away to some maternity home, coerced by society into giving the baby, and then suffering emotional damage for decades while the father moves on with his life?

Both of these are bad: therefore we should choose neither. But girls (or others) using artificial birth control fuel the problem, they don’t solve it.

When contraceptives were being promoted, we were promised 'no more unwanted pregnancies; more stable marriages; happier people.' But they have failed to deliver on those promises, and as far as I can see work drectly against them - and that is because they work directly against the will of God.

But I realise that it is most unlikely that I will convince you. Instead I would urge you to pray and study the Bible and the historic teaching of all Christianity.

Best wishes

Ben Trovato


To this, I received the civil reply: Thanks

Sunday, 7 November 2010

New Latin Mass Society Website

The Latin Mass Society of England and Wales has launched its new website

It is well worth a visit: I particularly like the map of England and Wales showing where Masses are, and the section on chant, including the embedded Gregorian Chant Network blog.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Dominique's 12th Party

It was Dom's 12th birthday party at the weekend - and Bernie ran it brilliantly. They got off to a great start with a silly name game, as not everyone knew everyone else. That involved throwing coloured bean bags (little ones!) at each other whilst calling out names etc. Structured at first and rapidly descending to hilarious chaos.

Then Bernie had them running around the village on a treasure hunt - she'd planted cryptic clues all around the place, which after 30 minutes of manic charging around finally led them to a packet of chocolate coins as the treasure.

After that, she got them making sculpture out of food - biscuits, marshmallows, cocktail sticks, smarties, and so on.

Then a series of games, from pictionary to hide-and-seek. And finally birthday tea and cake.

All in all a great success. I was delighted, as there's a tendency towards competitive party-giving (swimming parties, laser-quest parties etc) that seem a bit focused on each being more extravagant than the last. But this low-tech, low-cost party was thoroughly enjoyed by all: a number said on leaving it was the best party they'd been to.

And it was great for Bernie, too...

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Bishops too holy?

I've been toying with this idea on and off for some time.

Are our bishops too holy? When they read some deficient school textbook, do they read it through such Catholic eyes that they interpret everything in the most Catholic sense they can? When homosexual activists tell them that they approach Holy Communion in good conscience, do the bishops assume they mean a clear, well-informed Catholic conscience? And so on...

It might explain a lot (though not perhaps all)...

Monday, 11 October 2010


Anna found a bit of paper scrunched in the bottom of Charlie's school blazer pocket. ' Important dates for this term.' It included the fact that Charlie has an exam today - first part of his English GCSE, so moderately serious.

Somehow, with his big sisters, we would have known about this, we would have been given the bit of paper, we would have had the dates in the family diary, and so on.

But I'm told by other, more experienced, parents, that boys are different like that - and I reflect ruefully that Charlie is very much as his dad was a that age...

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

The Fear of the Lord: an outdated notion?

The old language – of mortal sin, for example – was, he says, a misguided attempt to motivate the faithful.
"Fear is never a good motivation. The whole point of the Catholic journey is that it is a journey, and we try to hold together high ideals and understanding. That is the same for people who struggle in whatever way with their sexuality. It's an aim."

Thus +Vincent Nichols, according to Neil Tweedie.

But I seem to remember learning that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

And further, I am sure I was taught as a child that fear of punishment (I believe Hell was mentioned, so I'm really showing my age) was a sufficient motive for penitence, even though Love of God was the gold standard.

And as for the concept of mortal sin: surely if there is something I can do which is so terrible that it can put my soul at risk of eternal damnation (as the Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly states) then my bishops and priests should let me know?

Pray for our bishops...

Sunday, 3 October 2010


Last post, I wrote about Bernie’s trip to London to see the Holy Father, and the huge impact that has had on her. One of the things she always mentions is the beauty of the music at the Mass in Westminster Cathedral. The Cathedral has a fine choir, and they sang Byrd’s five part Mass. This is an early polyphonic Mass written in the late 16th century when Catholics were still being persecuted in England. It is indeed stunningly beautiful – and it reminds me powerfully of one of the reasons I kept my Faith as teenager.

I was lucky enough to sing in a good Catholic choir: we didn’t sing the Byrd 5-part Mass very often, but the 4-part Mass was a regular part of our repertoire. We also sang great masses and motets by Tallis, Gibbon and others of that period, as well as music from very century since – and indeed some chant, from the preceding centuries. We also sang three or four hymns every Sunday, of varying quality, from truly wonderful to fairly dire.

But what all this means is that there is a permanent soundtrack to my life, in the background, as it were, of fantastic music. And the words associated with that music are the words of the Mass and various passages of scripture used as motets.

So I’ll be walking along, and a tune will come into my head, and almost without noticing it, I will be singing a prayer. It might be Kyrie eleison, or it might be Praise to the Holiest in the Height. But surprisingly often, it is incredibly apt for the moment, either what is going on, or what I am thinking, feeling or worrying about…

It also means that I have in my memory a huge amount of scripture: not because I’ve been made to learn it by rote, but because the best way to learn words (for me, at least) is to attach them to a tune.

Our kids haven’t had the opportunity to join such a choir as there isn’t one locally, but I have tried to give this gift to them in a couple of ways. One is to get them singing the plainchant at the local Cathedral’s Extraordinary Form Mass once a month. In that way, they know the words of the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Pater Noster, and Agnus Dei. It is in fact one of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council that we should all know these in Latin (except the Kyrie, of course, which is Greek!) And I haven’t had to make them learn them off by heart: simply by singing it regularly, they have learned them – and will probably never forget them.

The other thing we do is to sing at home: and this links to a post I wrote a few weeks ago. We try to sing something that relates to the season of the Church’s year. So at Easter, we sing the Regina Caeli and a few favourite Easter Hymns. During Advent, we always sing O Come O Come Emmanuel as part of our Advent Wreath ceremony at prayer time. Christmas, of course, is celebrated with Carols, and Pentecost with the Veni Creator. One of the lovely effects of that is that when they are confirmed, they recognise and can join in with the great chant of the Church, just as when they sang the Credo in Westminster Cathedral, Bernie felt truly at home amongst thousands of strangers.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

More on Bernie and the Holy Father

Bernie, (17) was chosen as one of our diocesan youth representatives to go to London to see the Holy Father. She was one of a (relatively) small crowd in the piazza outside Westminster Cathedral for the Pope’s Mass there and then marched to Hyde Park to be one of the huge crowd for the Papal Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

She came back absolutely buzzing: “the Holy Father’s a legend!” she proclaimed.

She was already secure in her Faith, and I think likely to remain so, but that pilgrimage has been a huge boost for her, so I was interested in her reflections.

“Well, of course, it was meeting the Holy Father himself!” He is so evidently a good and holy man, and his well-chosen words at Mass, after Mass and at Hyde Park made a huge impact. Essentially his message to young people was a call to personal sanctity.

“But also it was all the people: the crowd was immense – and really Catholic. We roared for the Holy Father, but you could have heard a pin drop during Adoration.” Clearly, there is something here about community. Practicing Catholics are in a small minority in most parts of the UK; certainly where we live. So it is easy to feel that we are insignificant and have little impact. Being part of a crowd of 80000 all cheering the Holy Father - and then all absolutely silent in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament – was incredibly exciting and affirming for her.

“And the kids on the coach were great, too. I made a couple of new friends. And outside the Cathedral was fantastic: all those kids desperate to hear what the Pope had to say.” So a particular aspect of this is about peer relationships. In the area where we live, we are one of very few Catholic families. Bernie doesn’t meet many people her own age who practice the Faith on a regular basis. But as part of the Diocesan Youth Pilgrimage, she travelled to London on a coach full of other young committed Catholics. Then at Westminster, their coach-load from our diocese met all the other coach-loads from every other diocese in England and Wales.

“And of course going with Fr Philip made it really special.” This aspect is perhaps more unique: the chaplain for the trip was a priest whom we have known for a long time. Many years ago, we spiritually adopted a seminarian: we promised to include him in our family prayers every day, and invited him to dinner occasionally etc. So for as long as they could remember, the kids have been praying for ‘Philip our seminarian.’ We went to his ordination, of course, and since then pray for Fr Philip. So it was a real treat for Bernie to have his spiritual direction for the trip.

But because of his spiritual leadership, the other distinguishing feature of the trip was that it was a pilgrimage, not just an excursion. The young people were praying, discussing their Faith and so on, not just chatting idly.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

The Legacy of the Holy Father's Visit

One of the great things about the Holy Father's visit was how he preached the Gospel at all times - and only used words when necessary.

The words he did use were very well chosen, and repay careful study. But what I want to focus on is what he taught by his actions.

For example, he celebrated Mass with a crucifix in the centre of the altar. This is a direct refutation of the liturgical mindset that thinks it's all about making eye contact with the people, and the priest as animator...

He used silence: recognising that we are more likely to hear the words of God in our heart if we pause from the busy-ness of doing and talking all through the liturgy. Silence as a most profound active participation...

And of course, he distributed Holy Communion only to people kneeling, and only onto the tongue; surely he is teaching that this is preferable - and certainly legitimate.

People have sometimes questioned my insistence on receiving in this way, as though it is a maverick action, symbolic of disunity. The Holy Father has given the lie to that, and I think he has, by his example, taught that everyone who wishes to receive in that way should feel free to do so.

Perhaps we can persuade our bishops and priests to provide kneelers for the purpose: after all, they did when the Holy Father came to town...

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Still buzzing

Bernie had been in two minds about going to see the Holy Father. Of course she wanted to go, but it was a long way (they left on Friday night and got back on Sunday afternoon - spent two nights on the coach...) and it was a very busy time: she's putting together her applications for University at the moment, including an art portfolio, and so on, so could ill afford a weekend away.

And she is absolutely delighted she went. The Holy Father was 'a legend', she reports, and his repeated call to the young people to become saints really touched a chord. It is not just what she says; she can't talk about the trip without a broad smile taking over her face, and laughter - the type of laughter that is the welling up of happiness - bursting through.

She's still buzzing with it, and I'm sure the whole trip will have a profound long-term effect on her - and on countless others.

Ad multos annos.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Liturgical infantilism v. liturgical wisdom

Others have commented on the re-writing of the Litany of the Sacred Heart. I noticed something else.

The Litany was split up with different readers reading a few invocations each.

That struck me as indicative of one of the problems with liturgy in this country, which I call liturgical infantilism, and was in stark contrast to the Holy Father's approach.

When the Holy Father is engaged in a liturgical action, it is all about Christ: hence his insistence on a crucifix on the altar. He switches modes, very deliberately, from his interactions with the faithful, before and after Mass, when the focus is on relating to them, to focus on the serious business of adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, supplication... The person of the celebrant almost disappears; he becomes transparent, so we see Christ through him. It is not all about the front-man.

But liturgists in the UK don't seem to understand this, and the Litany was a glaring example of the problem. By splitting the Litany up - presumably so as to 'include' more people, and possibly with the intention of making something long 'less boring' they distract from the focus on the Sacred Heart and draw attention to the reader: who is it now? who is it next? How well was that read? Why did they choose him? and so on...

But what the Holy Father did brilliantly was to demonstrate by example that worthy and reverent liturgy is hugely attractive and intensely prayerful. Let us hope and pray that our bishops noticed: I look forward to their copying his example, not least in the manner of the distribution of Holy Communion...


It is probably worth noting that this post referred to Pope Benedict's visit to the UK.

Love or hate?

I watched a snippet of Dawkins addressing the Protest the Pope rally yesterday.

How odd. He and the Holy Father were both talking abut the Catholic Church. One of them was inspiring in his vision for humanity, his compassion and his wisdom. The other was full of hate, bile and misrepresentation.

I know who I'll be following.

I was disappointed by The God Delusion - I read it hoping that a serious challenge would prompt a serious response in me - but the challenge wasn't serious: I could have written a better attack on Christianity. Now I know why: it seems to be hatred that motivates his attacks, not intellectual argument, as he maintains.

In fairness, at least Dawkins understands that there is a doctrine of Original Sin (something many Catholic educators either don't know or wish they didn't...) but unfortunately he fails to understand it.

Pray for him; such hatred probably springs from deep hurt.

I've a suspicion God will have the last laugh and Dawkins will convert before the end. I hope so.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

She's back

Bernie has just got back from her trip to London to see the Holy Father.

She was in the piazza outside the Cathedral yesterday morning for the Mass and Papal Address, and then marched to Hyde Park for the afternoon entertainment and the Vigil in the evening, with Papal Benediction.

She is absolutely buzzing with how wonderful it all was: the music, the crowds, the liturgies, the nuns, the good humour - and above all the Holy Father himself.

She also had wry observations on the fact that many young people (herself included) sang Praise to the Holiest with far more zest than the stuff youth are supposed to prefer...

And she made some new friends among her fellow pilgrims, as well as meeting some old friends.

The Papal visit has been a huge success and I'm sure will be the cause of countless blessings for years to come.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Off to see the Holy Father

Bernie is representing our family at tomorrow's Papal Celebrations in London. So I dropped her off at teh diocesan Youth Centre this evening after school. She and the other youngsters from the diocese will be travelling through the night to be in London early tomorrow. They will spend the day in Hyde Park and see His Holiness late in the day. Then they travel back through the night, to hear Mass at the Youth Centre on Sunday morning, and be collected at noon on Sunday.

A long trip, with two nights on a coach, but I'm sure it will be well worth it. The Holy Father is being tremendously impressive here in the UK.

Remember him, and all the pilgrims who travel to be with him, in your prayers.


One of the classic signs of immaturity, in my experience, is people listening for offence, interpreting what they hear as offensive, and then reacting to what was not, in fact, said.

One should I suppose, expect no more of the children in the Secular Humanist movement, but it still saddens (but no longer surprises) me when the ever-wonderful BBC does the same.

So the Holy Father warns against the dangers of an aggressive atheism that denies the dignity of man, citing the Nazis as an example, and the BBC headline read something like Pope links atheists and Nazis. I say read, as it seems it has now been removed (which is why I can't quote it verbatim - I was too busy with other stuff last night to write this post immediately). They are now (gleefully?) reporting that the Holy Father's atheism and Nazis remark has sparked a row.

I'm not sure it has. All that has happened is that the British Humanist Association's knee has jerked in the predictable spasm.

They said:

The notion that it was the atheism of Nazis that led to their extremist and hateful views or that it somehow fuels intolerance in Britain today is a terrible libel against those who do not believe in God

And I say, if the cap fits wear it.

Clearly the Holy Father was specific in what he was saying, and they are generalising it with the sole intent of taking offence and thus having a righteous position from which to attack the Holy Father.

Note, in passing, how judgemental these non-judgementalists are, how intolerant these proclaimers of tolerance...

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Young People Today...

Two enlightening documents worthy of your consideration.

On the one hand, the Statement of the NGO Global Meeting World Youth Conference 2010 which demands, inter alia:

2. Guarantee the rights of young people, including the right to safety, food and water; the right to education; the right to health, including sexual and reproductive health and rights; the right to decent work, the right to freedom of assembly, expression and movement; the right to participation; and the right to non‐discrimination.

In case the code-words sexual and reproductive health and rights are not sufficiently clear, they are unpacked later:

5. Fully recognize young people’s sexual and reproductive rights, particularly the right to choose, through achieving universal access to confidential, youth‐friendly sexual and reproductive health services, including access to evidence‐based comprehensive sexuality education, in formal and non‐formal settings. Implement key effective interventions in the continuum of care for maternal health, including access to a full range of contraceptives and safe abortion.


3. That Governments recognize LGBT as part of the spectrum of gender identities and ensure that young people that identify themselves as such have their Human Rights upheld; as outlined in the Yogyakarta principles in reference to gender and gender‐based violence, and uphold the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW); the Beijing Platform for Action; CAIRO; and Belem do Para.

Contrast this with the Statement of Youth to the UN and the World, Promulgated by the International Youth Coalition. This is premised on a different set of assumptions and beliefs, viz:

Young People are Relational Beings,

Parents are the Primary Educators of Young People

Rights of Youth are Based on Their Evolving Capacities

The Right to Life is Inviolable from Conception to Natural Death

Youth are Participants in Development and Employment

A Proper Understanding of Sexuality and Healthy Relationships Must be Respected

Man and Woman are Based in Nature

Youth Must be Protected Against all Crimes of Exploitation

If, like me, you believe the second to be better - in every way - than the first, sign the declaration at CFAM

Monday, 13 September 2010

The Pope's British Divisions

I've just been listening to The Pope's British Divisions - which Catholic Voices rated as superb, though my view is somewhat different.


There are countless idiocies in the programme.

For example, a young person saying that the Pope's 'views are still quite out of date' on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage, and another saying the great thing about Catholicism is that you can pick and choose what you believe.

More alarmingly, the Director of Youth Services of Nottingham Diocese, Fr Joe Wheat, thinks it is 'Brilliant' and 'Fantastic' that if you ask 50 young people what Catholicism means, you will get 50 different answers; and that if young people are 'grappling and struggling' with some aspects of Church teaching, the worst thing you can do is tell them that some beliefs are required if one is to consider oneself Catholic. The particular idiocy here is that the young people are not 'grappling and struggling' with Church teaching: they have simply swallowed the secular view hook line and sinker and rejected the Truth (which has almost certainly never been explained to them by Fr Wheat or anyone else - because he doesn't want to 'make value judgements about people's Catholicism').

Another idiocy is perpetrated by Sir Stephen Wall. He recalls how when he worked for +Murphy O'Conner, Cardinal Sodano would ask + MO'C to get the Tablet to correct some of its errors. He likens that to Mobutu or some other dictator asking the British Government to censor the BBC. This is a seriously idiotic analogy. The Tablet describes itself as a Catholic paper, and it is one of the responsibilities of the hierarchy to control who uses that label and how they use it, to protect the Faithful and the Faith. Failure in this area is a continuing source of scandal.

Communion Not a Time of Judgement
At one stage they are discussing the Soho Gay and Lesbian Masses (of particular interest, perhaps, to the reporter, Mark Dowd).

Here is what Archbishop Nicholls had to say when asked if he expected those who come to Holy Communion at the Mass to live in chastity:

No priest makes the moment of Communion a moment of judgement. I trust in people as they come forward, that they do so with a good conscience, and they do so knowing that this public gesture by which they receive the Body and Blood of Christ is reflected in their heart, in their desire to live in union with Him. So that is never a point for judgement, and anybody from the outside who is trying to cast a judgement on the people who come forward to communion really ought to learn to hold their tongue.

It seems to me that there are several problems with this.

Holy Communion is a moment of judgement: St Paul is quite clear about this. That is not to say that we should judge people coming forward for communion, but it does mean that the Archbishop should ensure that the 'good conscience' in which he 'trusts people to come forward' is a conscience correctly formed in accordance with the Truth.

And where that is manifestly not the case - as the interviews with the attendees at the Mass make clear (even the Priest in charge says 'we're not here to campaign for Church teaching' - which presumably means he's not there to proclaim the Truth...) - I believe he has a responsibility to do something about it.

So he misunderstands us when we question the grave scandal caused by those openly dissenting having their own Mass. We are not judging them - they are proclaiming their dissent quite openly; no, our 'judging' if such it be, is aimed at the decision to sanction such a thing, as we fear it emperils the souls of those who take part, as they are denied proper pastoral care, and it also does great harm to others, as it risks teaching a falsehood, viz that the Church accepts practicing homosexuality as a valid lifestyle choice.


Susan Reynolds' 'heart was broken' by the introduction of one Latin Mass (out of 4 at the weekend) at Blackfen. My heart bleeds for her... Why do we never hear of the heartbreak caused to so many when at the drop of a hat ALL Latin Masses were outlawed and replaced by an infantilised and banal English liturgy?

Fr Finigan put his case well, though I would have put it differently, I think, and the indomitable Mac managed to get the Holy Father's point that Truth is not subject to a majority vote onto the radio.

And so it went on.

It seemed balanced, in some ways - a bit of tradition, a bit of liberalism and so on. But I was left feeling dissatisfied with it as a programme and I'm not sure why. Perhaps because although two sides of a faultline were given a reasonable airing, neither was really examined or interrogated in depth.

There is much more that could be said about this, but I really ought to get on with my work. However, there is a good review at The Sensible Bond should you wish to read more.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Fascinating meetings with Hawking

A parallel me was operating as a string in a parallel universe yesterday (except it was't really yesterday as time works rather differently there) and I bumped into a Professor Stephen Hawking.

Fascinatingly, he poured scorn on M-theory and rubbished it for postulating more dimensions and more universes than are necessary to solve the problems it is designed to address.

He was rather dismissive of the Stephen Hawking in this universe, claiming that he didn't exist and it wasn't necessary for him to be invented.

However, in another universe, the Stephen Hawking there (who manifests as a hyper-intelligent shade of the colour blue) told the Ben Trovato there that both were wrong and that M-theory had to be combined with N-theory to to produce Theory-S which was a proper theory of everything.

And so it was as I visited my other selves across many universes: each Stephen Hawking was more sure than the last that the others were wrong. The only thing they all agreed on was that whichever one I was talking to at the time was right and that each could prove the non-existence of God.

Meanwhile the deluded BBC here continues to adulate the Stephen Hawking here as he appears to validate their particular world-view, despite the fact that numerous other Stephen Hawkings in many other unknown universes clearly think he's quite mistaken.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Aid to the Church in Need Annual Mass

ACN Have asked me to post details of their annual Mass in London, which I am delighted to do.

Aid to the Church in Need Annual Mass and ‘Hope Without Fear’ Event, taking place at Westminster Cathedral and Hall, Ambrosden Avenue London, SW1P 1QW on – Saturday, 16th October Mass of Our Lady (Feast of Margaret Mary Alacoque).
The day begins with Sung Latin Mass in Westminster Cathedral at 10:30am. Mass will be followed by an afternoon of talks in the cathedral hall. We are delighted to welcome some very special guests from the suffering Church in Sudan and Siberia.

Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala of Tombura-Yambio, south Sudan is leading his people in south Sudan through a time of great uncertainty. Despite the country’s fragile peace agreement, he has seen his people fall victim to atrocious attacks, including crucifixion. Benefactors are helping to provide hope, funding Christian education at the Save the Saveable schools , training seminarians , Sisters and catechists , and helping priests reach Christian communities with new vehicles .

Father Michael Shields from Magadan, Siberia is a long-time friend of Aid to the Church in Need. An American from Alaska, he chose to serve in a former communist gulag camp in Magadan, Siberia. Millions died here. Father works for those who survive, ensuring their stories are told and their suffering acknowledged by the authorities. He is the author of the Aid to the Church in Need publication Martyrs of Magadan – a book that tells the stories of 15 survivors of the gulags. Earlier this year, Aid to the Church in Need paid tribute to Father Michael’s work by including him in the book Heroic Priests .

Neville Kyrke-Smith, UK Director, Aid to the Church in Need has travelled extensively in Eastern Europe and, this year, he will give an update on the help benefactors are giving to Christians in Ukraine, where he recently visited.

John Pontifex, UK Head of Press and Information, Aid to the Church in Need will speak about suffering, faith and hope in Pakistan and how benefactors are helping to nurture this hope.

For more information please visit their Website

First Day

Today Dominique started secondary school. In honour of the occasion, Ant and Charlie made a cake for her, decorated with the kind of stuff they thought any secondary school kid should have in his pocket....

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Bowdler again

Another hymn Bowdlerised...

You know:
Sojourners in this vale of tears
We sinners make our prayers through thee,
Remind thy Son that he has paid
The price of our iniquity.

Well not any more. Now we have:
Sojourners in this vale of tears
We sinners make our prayers through thee,
Remind us all that we are saved
In spite of our iniquity.

What is that about? It's not a rejection of Our Lady's intercession, as each verse still concludes 'pray for me.'

I can only assume that it is some idiot not happy with the idea of Our Lord having to be reminded.

And I say idiot, because if that is the objection, the person concerned is both a theological and a scriptural dunce.

Of course Our Lord doesn't need reminding because He is forgetful. But to make that objection is to fail to realise that we almost always have to speak of God using human metaphors. Just this morning in today's Mass we had 'Is your anger for ever.' One can't read the Old Testament intelligently unless one grasps this basic fact...

And as ever, there was no acknowledgement of the Bowdlerising in the hymn book, which strikes me as both dishonest, and damaging of the reputation of the poor writers whose work they adulterate.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

STI's relentless march - and the inevitable jerking knees...

The BBC reports (both in the Today programme this morning and on its www site here) that STIs continue to rise, particularly among the young.

The usual knee-jerk responses were also available:
Dr Colm O'Mahony, a consultant physician in sexual health, told BBC Radio 5 live, that the safe sex message was still not getting through to young people.

"In general, most STIs occur in young people because they lack the knowledge and self-esteem to actually avoid getting sexually transmitted infections - and that's what we've been shouting about for years," he said.

"We really need proper sex and relationship education in schools, and it needs to be a statutory obligation or this relentless increase will just continue unabated."

Perhaps the most worrying thing, apart from the moral bankruptcy and sheer idiocy of reflected in the comments above ('the fire is still raging, no matter how much petrol we pour on it. We must pour some more!') is the following:
The HPA says the bacteria which cause gonorrhoea are becoming more resistant to the most commonly used antibiotics.
Professor Cathy Ison, from the agency's Centre for Infections, said: "We could see gonorrhoea becoming a very difficult infection to treat within the next five years.

So the inevitable is happening (see my previous posts tagged 'open systems') and the diseases are now becoming resistant to antibiotics.

Quick - pass the petrol!

Friday, 20 August 2010

Bernie's results

AS Results yesterday. Bernie was hoping for four As plus a not-too-disgraceful result in General Studies...

She got three As, a B in General Studies, and then... Music. Her performance rated a strong A, her written paper a B (which we suspect may be a bit low and are considering having re-marked) but her composition was awarded a U - unclassified fail. Given that her school had seen is (it is a pre-prepared piece of work, not done under exam conditions) and they reckoned it was A standard, that seems odd. It brings her overall Music grade to a C, which rather took the gloss off her success in everything else.

We're pretty sure there's an error somewhere (I think they may have entered it in the four-part harmony category, when it was a variation on a theme), and we will have it re-marked.

But what has been very positive is Bernie's mature response to this, not least in the face of her many friends who are naturally delighted at their own 4 or 5 As.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Touched by Sevenfold Grace

I often say my morning prayers walking Goldie in the hills, and today, as the sun rose, I suddenly saw a fragment of a rainbow in the clouds. There was nobody else about, so it felt as though it was there just for me.

I tend to use ACTS (Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving, Supplication) as a structure for my morning prayers, and was at the thanksgiving stage: so the rainbow seemed very apposite.

And of course a rainbow is highly symbolic: firstly of the Old Covenant, and God's promise after the flood; the seven colours recall the seven days of creation - and up in the hills, creation is always one of the things for which I give thanks.

But for us of the New Covenant, seven is also the number of the Sacraments, of the primary virtues (three theological, four cardinal), and the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: more for which to give thanks.

I am not normally very emotional in my practice of religion, but today I felt touched by Grace.

And then I noticed I'd lost the dog...

Monday, 16 August 2010

Low Mass of the Assumption

As a treat, we went to the Cathedral for a Low Mass (Extraordinary Form) for the feast of the Assumption.

It's a long while since we've been to a Low Mass in the traditional form: the Cathedral Masses are generally sung. I was struck afresh by the prayerfulness, the focus, the silence, the dignity and the simplicity of the ceremonies.

I love Sung Masses (if they sing proper liturgical music - chant or sacred polyphony) but there is something special about the humility, almost the poverty of a Low Mass. The priest is almost invisible to us, just his back visible at the altar, as he leads us into the mystery, and in the Person of Christ, makes the Word-made-flesh present for us in the sacred sacrifice.

The children all love the Latin Mass, as well. We normally go to the English Mass locally, so the trip to the Cathedral (an hour away) could be a bit of a bore: but actually they respond to the beauty, the music, the silence, and the fact that they need to work a little harder, pay a little more attention.

Our Lady's statue was of course surrounded by flowers and candles for the Feast, so in many ways, she took centre stage, rather than the priest: surely an appropriate set of priorities: particularly as she always points us to her Son: 'Do whatever He tells you...'

Friday, 13 August 2010

On Holiday

It's all go during the holidays.

Ant is working at a Sailing Centre, teaching sailing. It's like being paid to do your favourite hobby - in fact, it is being paid to do her favourite hobby.

Bernie is in Edinburgh, doing an Art Summer School as she considers her University choices - and awaits her AS results - and visiting the Fringe shows in the evenings...

Charlie and Dominique are at home at present, and we have Ant's boyfriend, Zadok, as a guest at present - so we've been doing lots of walks, a bit of sailing, a few visits to National Trust places. Charlie and Dominique have also been working on a project on Cardianl Newman, in preparation for his beatification by the Holy Father later in the year. They now take an avid interest every time his name is mentioned in the press etc.

Zadok and I have been working hard clearing out our outhouses and sheds. I now have a re-floored upstairs for storage, and a bike shed, a wood shed, a potting shed, a couple of general storage sheds and a tool shed all organised and tidy. (These were all full of the debris of the guy who lived here before us for many years; he never threw anything away, so we have given away or dumped a huge amount of stuff: a Victorian bath, old bicycles etc...)

And games in the evening: Zadok is a dab hand at card games, and managed to beat me at chess (though that was mainly carelessness on my part in the endgame...)

Monday, 9 August 2010

A Classic!

A review of the late Monsignor Knox's classic The Creed in Slow Motion over at Catholic Book Reviews. If you have not yet read it, you should! (Knox that is, not Catholic Book Reviews...) The review seems to me to understate quite how good the book is...

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Inside the Ethics Committee

On BBC Radio 4 there is a programme called Inside the Ethics Committee which tries to throw light on how ethical dilemmas in medicine are handled.

A recent programme focussed on the issue of how soon and how much you tell a child about a disease he or she is growing up with: clearly a difficult issue.

Much of the programme focused on a child born with HIV.

As the story unfolded it became clear that those responsible for her (she was being raised by the state) were colluding with:

her being sexually abused (sleeping around before reaching the age of 16, the age at which the law assumes she can first meaningfully give consent);

her risking infecting her boyfriends/abusers, as her ‘carers’ knew she was not telling them about her HIV status and did not have the skills to ‘negotiate’ her sexual encounters (ie they recognise the encounters were not consensual in a meaningful way);

her refusal to take the medication that would help her, not from any principled grounds, but on childish ones;

her life disintegrating into living in a chaotic and violent environment with a group of criminal young men addicted to various hard drugs.

And all because they assume that young girls of a certain social background will sleep around and be abused and there is nothing they can or should do about it.

That issue, of course, played no part in the ethical discussions...

And they call these people carers.

Friday, 6 August 2010

The Holidays are Upon Us

Suddenly we are well into the holidays: so far more important things to do than blog regularly.

Have taken in several good walks, lots of games (frisbee is in at the moment, as the bruise and scab on my nose attest!), a bonfire, a major shed clearing project (in anticipation of being given a snooker table and needing space for it - cleared the shed, then offer of table withdrawn...), a bit of music-making, a movie or two...

Do I live for pleasure alone, you may wonder. But actually, spending time with the kids, doing the kind of things they want to do, is central to being a Father; and of course all sorts of moments arise where by example or word one influences, teaches or communicates values to the kids. And my theory is that if I am with them when they want me to be, they will find it easier to turn to me when it might become more difficult (if you see what I mean...)

Sunday, 25 July 2010

A good weekend...

It felt like the start of the holidays this weekend (though I still have to work for while yet...) All the family are home, as Ant is back from University, and Bernie and Charlie are back from their orchestra trip to Italy.

So went to adoration and confession first thing on Saturday (and how great it is that my teenage girls still see this as the best way to start a weekend - marvellous example for Charlie and Dominique). Then had a relatively quiet day at home until later in the afternoon when we went to the local County Show.

Last year, we won a number of prizes (well Anna, her mum and the kids did - I have no appropriate talents...) but this year we didn't win a thing (though I thought Bernie was unlucky not to win with her painting or her photography, and Anna didn't win with her muffins simply because they went for chocolate over fruit...but perhaps I'm biased).

In the evening went to see Toy Story 3 in the evening, which we all enjoyed enormously.

Today we went to the Extraordinary Form of Mass at Lancaster Cathedral - and this time you could really hear the impact of Nick Gale's training workshop: the Schola sang better than I have ever heard them before.

And this afternoon, we've packed Charlie and Dominique off to Sail Camp to improve their sailing - and Bernie is there as an assistant instructor. And has a summer job, so can't help at sail camp this year - but as her summer job is teaching sailing, she's not too disappointed...

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

More lies

According to Ruth Smith, who led the research on the increase in AIDS in older people:

"We must continually reinforce the safe sex message - using a condom with all new or casual partners is the surest way to ensure people do not become infected with a serious sexually transmitted infection such as HIV."

Actually, the surest way to ensure you do not become infected is to avoid 'new or casual partners.'

Those who practice chastity are at no risk of contracting diseases via sexual transmission.

But that would be unsayable...

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

10,000 celebration

I reached 10,000 hits yesterday and forgot to post about it.

I don't know if that's a lot or a little for a blog that's been going for a while - more than some and less than others, I guess. But I'm quietly pleased that someone out there is reading this...


Blimey, Mac and Leutgeb!

Three favourite prayers...

Well let's start with the rules:

Name your three most favourite prayers, and explain why they're your favourites. Then tag five bloggers - give them a link, and then go and tell them they have been tagged. Finally, tell the person who tagged you that you've completed the meme... The Liturgy and the Sacraments are off limits here. I'm more interested in people's favourite devotional prayers.

I'm not sure I have three favourite prayers - probably don't pray enough.

So should I think theologically - one to the Father, one to the Son, and one to the Holy Ghost (I'm particularly fond of 'fill the hearts of thy faithful' etc)?

Or in terms of the language and imagery (I love the prayer to St Michael and the Salve Regina on that count)?

Or in terms of prayers that have particular memories for me (my mother saying the Hail Mary as she died)?

But I'm also conscious of the risk of this meme being very repetitive, so let's strike out into fresh territory.

I choose the Veni Creator Spiritus, because I love the melody as well as the words, and it evokes in particular memories of the children's confirmations at St James, Spanish Place; the Regina Caeli as a great resurrection prayer and a wonderful Marian prayer - and it has a wonderful melody too... and this prayer of Cardinal Newman's because we really should include him this year, and it has long been a favourite:

May He support us all the day long, till the shades lengthen and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then in His mercy may He give us a safe lodging, and a holy rest and peace at the last.

And I tag Ttony, Fr Brown, James Preece, Radagast, and Athanasius.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Comparative seriousness of sins...

Last night I was reading 1 Kings 15, and came across this (Knox translation, of course!):

Rebellion is sin as witchcraft is sin, all one with idolatory is the unsubmissive heart. (v23)

This set me thinking about those who rush to point out that 'of course, nobody is saying that attempting to ordain women is as serious as abusing children.'

Are we so sure? Abusing children is intolerably evil: for whoever scandalises one of these little ones... and so on.

However, to attempt to ordain women within the Catholic Church is knowingly and deliberately to abuse the Church: the mystical body of Christ.

Are we really so sure we can say that is less evil?

OP - Obfuscating and Pernicious

Fr Timothy Radcliffe, OP, had a letter published in Saturday's (UK) Times purporting to explain "the Vatican's" position on the attempted ordination of women.

He wrote (inter alia): "The sexual abuse of minors is a gravely serious sin. The attempted ordination of a Roman Catholic woman raises different issues.

The priest presides at Holy Communion, the sacrament of our unity in the Church, and so an ordination that is productive of division would be a contradiction in terms. Many Catholics believe that women should not be excluded from ordination, but this will only be possible with the consensus of the communion of the Church."

Firstly, the opposition in the first paragraph (sin v different issues) seems to imply that the attempted ordination of women is not a serious sin.

Secondly, his reason against the ordination of women is a bit of a straw man: it is one of the reasons, but by no means the most telling: he makes it appear to be the only one.

Thirdly, Many Catholics believe that women should not be excluded from ordination,
is not a Catholic way of expressing this point: "many who claim to be Catholic believe" or even "many Catholics mistakenly believe" would be better; likewise the use of 'excluded' is prejudicial and partisan.

Fourthly, he knows full well that the Church teaches definitively that the ordination of women is impossible - it will not be possible by consensus or any other means.

Fifthly, the ecclesiology implied in 'the consensus of the communion of the Church' .is erroneous - and he must know that.

He should be ashamed of himself: pray for him.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

What does 'being a Catholic' mean?

I ask the question, as it seems to me to be used to mean quite contrary things.

When I say that I am a Catholic, I mean that I am a baptised member of he Catholic Church; and that I hold to the promises made at baptism, including believing in one holy Catholic and apostolic Church - and further, by that I mean that I accept the teaching authority of the Church and (strive to) conform my will and intellect to it. And my guess is that many others mean the same; that until recently that is what everyone meant by it, and further that most outsiders would assume that is what is meant.

However, many other people, some prominent (politicians, journalists, academics, self-appointed experts) and some befuddled clergy and laity, seem to use the word in quite a different sense. Tina Beatie is a current example (much blogged about elsewhwere). Here the word seems to mean I am baptised may or may not attend Church and see it as my mission to change the Church to teach and be what I would like it to teach and be.

Frankly, I find the second usage dishonest.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Flying in Argentina

In Tom Stoppard's play Travesties, there is a great exchange:

Tzara: Doing the things by which is meant Art is no longer considered the proper concern of the artist. In fact it is frowned upon. Nowadays, an artist is somebody who makes art mean the things he does. A man may be an artist by exhibiting his hindquarters. He may be a poet by drawing words out of a hat. In fact some of my best poems have been drawn out of my hat which I afterwards exhibited to general acclaim at the Dada Gallery in Bahnhoffstrasse.

Carr: But that is simply to change the meaning of the word Art.

Tzara: I see I have made myself clear.

Car: Then you are not actually an artist at all?

Tzara: On the contrary. I have just told you I am.

Carr: But that does not make you an artist. [snip] If there is any point in using language at all, it is that a word is taken to stand for a particular fact or idea and not for other facts or ideas. I might claim to be able to fly... Lo, I say, I am flying. But you are not propelling yourself about while suspended in the air, someone may point out. Ah no, I reply, that is no longer considered the proper concern of people who can fly. In fact it is frowned upon. Nowadays a flyer never leaves the ground and wouldn't know how. I see, says my somewhat baffled interlocutor, so when you say you can fly, you are using the word in a purely private sense. I see I have made myself clear, I say. Then, says the chap in some relief, you cannot actually fly after all. On the contrary, I say, I have just told you I can. Don't you see my dear Tristan you are simply asking me to accept that the word Art means whatever you wish it to mean; but I do not accept it.

They have just pulled the same trick in Argentina.

They may think they have legalised homosexual marriage: in reality they are simply using the word marriage to mean something quite different.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Of One Being with the Father?

Of whom might 'of one being with the Father' reasonably (let alone rightly) be said?

No prizes if you answer God the Son; God the Holy Spirit is also a correct answer.

But according to today's hymn at Mass, the correct answer is you - and anyone else dopey enough to sing without thinking what the words mean.

Yes today's hymn (or was it a gathering song, I forget now) ended with the extraordinary line:

'For I know that I am one with You.'

That is after already singing: " I want to do the things You do,' (like hold the world in being, judge the living and the dead...?)

Who sanctions these Protestant hymns with dubious lyrics for Catholic worship? And why?

Ant confessed she hadn't really noticed the words, which is fair enough.

The theory behind vernacular hymns was that we were meant to understand what we sing. However, we don't always pay that much attention - and that's part of the danger. These Protestant errors and idiocies can creep into our understanding, bypassing our critical faculties, by the simple process of singing them repeatedly without thought...

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Raoul Moat RIP

Spare a prayer for Raoul Moat, who died this morning after shooting himself - almost certainly while of unsound mind.

Four things he is reported as saying stick in my mind, illustrative of his despair and a sad reflection on aspects of life in Britain today:

'We waited three months before sleeping together, which made it really special.'

'I've lost everything.'

'I've got no dad.'

'Nobody cares what happens to me.'

Comment would be superfluous.

Requiem aeternam dona ei Domine.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Wish I'd thought of this...

Have you ever wondered what to blog about next?

Over at Catholic Book Reviews, Andrew has come up with the easiest self-perpetuating blog ever: reviewing CTS booklets.

Looks like one of those virtuous circles: his reading will keep the blog going, and his blog will keep the reading going.

Now, what shall I post on next?...

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Intolerant tolerance

I had to make a presentation as part of a training course at one of my clients today. Another presenter was the client's Equality and Diversity Officer. He is a homosexual, and as part of his talk on tolerance of difference cited his experience when a social worker realised that he and his lover were a homosexual couple seeking to adopt a young boy. He said that the additional scrutiny to which they were subjected was a clear example of homophobia, as was the social worker's questioning whether two homosexual men were the best possible potential adoptive parents for the child.

I disagreed - but said nothing, in the knowledge that to say anything (even to raise the question about whether there was any evidence that children thrive in such settings, or that they don't do better with one male and one female parent to act as role models) would mean that I would not work for that organisation again - and possibly be blacklisted beyond it.

I did however mention my reservations in private to a senior manager, who agreed with them -but also agreed that if either of us voiced our doubts, we would be labeled homophobic: she would be sacked and I would have my contract terminated.

Given all this was a result of a talk on tolerance... well draw your own conclusions.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Great Chant CD

At Sunday's Workshop I bought a copy of Nick Gale's CD of chant. It consists of the Asperges, Vidi Aquam, Ordinaries (Masses 11,8,9,11,15,17 and 18) the Ambrosian Gloria, Credos 1, 3 and 4, and 4 Alleluias.

It is beautifully chanted by Nick and two colleagues from the Southwark Cathedral Choir, and ideal for any Schola wishing to extend their repertoire and sing the chant giving primacy to the words, and aspiring to a robust rather than ethereal sound.

Highly recommended - get it at - a snip at a tenner!

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Chant Workshop

I went to the Chant Workshop at Lancaster Cathedral last Saturday. It was run by Nick Gale and was inspirational.

In particular his approach to rhythmic interpretation (tearing up the old rules about, for example, the quilisma) made a lot of sense.

We worked hard all day, and made considerable progress. Nick's knowledge - and his opinions - were very stimulating and really helped us all to understand better how best to sing this ancient liturgical music.

I was looking forward to hearing how the Schola - who were nearly all there - would perform the next day; but I have to say it was a bit disappointing: the Asperges, for example, proved to be an interesting mix, with some attempting to sing it the way we had learned the previous day, and others slipping back into autopilot mode. I guess it takes some time to integrate a new approach into your singing, and particularly to break old habits.

So I will look forward to the next sung Mass with interest.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Bernie to meet the Pope!

Bernadette, our second daughter, has been chosen by the Parish as one of those to go on the diocesan trip to London to meet the Holy Father when he meets the Youth of England in London.

She is rightly excited and looking forward to seeing His Holiness.

Perhaps 'been chosen' is a bit overstating it - there were three places available (as some parishes nearby can't find a single youth to send) and only 3 people of the right age who attend Mass with any regularity...

That in itself is something of a scandal.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Obsessed with Sex (2)

When people accuse the Church of being obsessed with sex, I think what they really mean is that the Church confronts a world that is obsessed with sex. The Church's insistence on teaching the Gospel truth about human love is so counter-cultural that the sex-obsessed world thinks this is all that the Church has to say.

Of course it is not, but it is an important front in the battle. Why is that?

Principally because it is one of Satan's chosen battle-fronts. From the dawn of time he has hated Love; and in particular he has hated the dignity bestowed on human beings in being able to express love in a way that is co-creative - co-operating with God in bringing new life - including a new eternal soul - into the world. That is something the Angels cannot do.

And from the earliest time he has attacked this: there can be no doubt that one of the effects of the Fall of Man is disorder in our sexual nature - and that is why the Church's witness in this area is always so unpopular, and always so important. For it is the truth that sets us free, and those who live by the Church's teaching - the teaching of Our Lord Himself - can attest to the fact that it is truly liberating and love-promoting.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Obsessed with Sex

There is a rather boring troll at Laurence England's blog who has raised the age-old question: Why is the Catholic Church obsessed with Sex?

It's a fair question, when you consider the posters of scantily clad women outside every Catholic Church, beckoning you in, the fact that no parish bulletin is complete without a page 3 starlet, the parish youth workers in all the schools arranging abortions for other peoples' kids without their knowledge and consent, the huge revenues the Church generates form its porn, condom and abortion interests, EWTN's most popular show 'Sex and the Sinner' and so on and so on.

What is it about Catholics?...

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Where are we going?

Quoted from the Telegraph article on the fact that 89 girls aged 17 or under had their third abortion last year,

Ann Furedi, the chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said repeated pregnancies among teenage girls were often caused by chaotic lifestyles and difficulties they had in using contraception.

She said: “With teenage girls, often they feel able to handle sex, emotionally and physically, yet aren’t able to handle the planning that comes with contraception.”

Note that they 'feel' able to handle sex etc... The fact that they are clearly mistaken in that feeling - and wrecking their lives (not to mention ending their babies' lives) is clearly of no concern at all to Ann Furedi - after all BPAS makes no money from kids who don't have abortions...

What can one do?

Prayer, fasting and alms-giving, I guess...

All you need to know about Brighton?

All you need to know about Brighton?

(sorry Laurence, couldn't resist...)

Wot no Bowdler?

I've complained recently about the re-writing of hymns to make them more suitable for modern sensibilities (eg taking the Catholic content out of them...)

But today we had 'Lord for tomorrow and its needs, I do not pray,' complete and uncensored: including the line 'help me to mortify my flesh....'

How did that slip past the Bowdlerisers?

Incidentally, I was reflecting on my own changed response to this hymn. When I was small, I thought all that 'just for today' stuff was very short-sighted, unambitious and.. well.. wrong. Surely I should want all these things all my life.

Now in middle age, just for today seems absolutely right: the focus I need to maintain on the present moment, trusting the rest to Our Lord....

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Young Catholic Adult Retreat: Douai, September

I've been asked to post this, and am pleased to do so...

The annual YCA weekend at Douai Abbey has always been aimed at the UK (or more precisely England and Wales). For the first time it has gone international! The annual Juventutem Conference is usually held in Switzerland; however, for 2010 it has moved to Berkshire in England.

During the weekend of the 10-12 September 2010. Young Catholic Adults will be running a Traditional Retreat at Douai Abbey, the retreat will be led by Juventutem Ecclesiastical Assistant Fr de Malleray .

The weekend will be full-board

Places are limited so please book early

* YCA will have half of the retreat centre to itself
* There will be a Marian Procession, Rosaries, Sung Mass, Low Mass, Confession and socials
* Fr. de Malleray FSSP head of Juventutem will preach the retreat, Masses will be in the Extraordinary form

Prices range from £5 (approx 6 Euros) to £51 (approx 60 Euros) per person per night .

See for more info:-

How to book - limited places so please reserve your place early
To reserve your place FOR THE WEEKEND (no deposit needed if you are coming for the day on Saturday 5th July), please a 20 pound deposit (NON RETURNABLE) to Damian Barker, Flat 5, 12 St. Catherine Street, Kingsholm, Gloucester, Glos. GL2 9DU (please make any cheques payable to Damian Barker). For enquiries ring 07908105787.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

A great half term

Along with the rest of the country, I think, we had fabulous weather for the half term week - and we made the most of it, with some serious walks, a bit of rock climbing, messing about in boats on the lake, some gentle gardening, and some idling around not doing much; hardly spent a penny (except on a few ice creams) but had a truly memorable and highly enjoyable week.

The only exception was Bernie who spent most of the week revising for her remaining AS levels.

It's tough these days:- when I was at school the lower sixth was a very relaxed year: only studying subjects you had chosen to study and with no pressure. Not so nowadays...

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Are the Modernists getting Paranoid?

I am not invited to post on Val Farrell's blog (which I have mentioned before) since he closed it to public comment, after a couple of comments from me challenging some of the more idiotic things he was saying. (see previous posts here and here about his spamming invitation, his life is better when we engage philosophy, and his humpty dumptyness)

However, I was struck by this, in his comments about the invitation to the young of the diocese to attend the Holy Father's visit to England:

'I daw (sic) it to your attention now SOLELY for this sentence about the requirements of those chosen to attend: "someone who can stand up and tell parishioners what they have experienced, and who will also be a good witness amongst their peers".

Now it is just possible that I am wrong, but that sentence sounds to me like Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse Tung and the rest, who carefully "organised" in advance, the peoples' response to their every public utterance.

What a blessing this must be to diocesan newspapers up and down the land who now already know what the correct reaction to the papal Visit will be: joy, inspiration, holiness. Get working on those headlines right away. Blow the FACTS, we have already been told what the MESSAGE will be.

From all this, people can surely only conclude that Gospel Truth no longer matters; only the survival of the institution counts.'

Is it me, or is the non sequitur (from 'tell what they have experienced' and be a good witness' to 'correct reaction... joy, inspiration, holiness...') and the whole language of Stalinesque manipulation reading rather more into the sentence he analyses than it warrants?

Clearly from Val's perspective (remember his prayers for women priests et al) anyone who thinks the Holy Father is Holy or a Father is severely deluded - but nonetheless, I think this smacks of paranoia.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

The New Morality...

Of course David Laws is an honourable man, as all the politicos are quick to point out. He was quite right to...

- move in with his male lover (after all homosexual relationships are legal, so they must by right, according to the new morality)

- live a duplicitous life, deceiving his parents and others about the nature of his relationship with his male lover

- seek public office while living a duplicitous private life

- claim thousands of pounds of public money to pay to his male lover in rent (a rent boy?) before it was, technically, against the rules to do so (because if it's not against the rules, it must be right, right?)

- continue to claim thousands of pounds of public money to pay his male lover once it was clearly and explicitly against the rules to do so - because it was only to protect his privacy... (nothing to do with the money at all...)

- resign promptly in the hope of quick rehabilitation and return to high office (which must be right, as it's almost certain to happen - the manoeuvring has already begun).

And Cameron and Clegg know they have to say he's honourable, because they don't know how many more such scandals will emerge from their parties. It's in nobody's interests to suggest that Laws may be a dishonest fool who does not deserve a penny more from public funds.