Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Evangelist - Moi?

Last night I went out with a Legion sister, knocking on doors, witnessing to the truth of the Christian message as disseminated by the Catholic church. I was scared. I said to my Legion sister when she picked me up, 'I don't really know what we're doing', and to my horror she said, 'neither do I'. I had figured she was the experienced one.
So we motored off to a charming housing estate tucked away from the main roads where the mums stood talking on the footpaths while their children played on the grass. There were good cars in the driveways, and no litter anywhere - a 'nice' place, I thought. Until we rang the first bell....
The lady was angry. She didn't want to talk about the church. She wanted to send us away fast, but despite herself she did talk. I think she was secretly dying to talk, to rant, to question, to even cry. Some of the bad things she believed were quite true, we couldn't defend them. Some of them were straight out of The Da Vinci Code. But there's no difference anymore to her. She's lost her perspective on the church, and I could tell she found it painful. Perhaps the Church had once meant a great deal to her. She wanted it to go away and not come calling at her door. But we were there, tremulous, hesitant, not brave but wanting to be brave, and despite herself she talked to us. No, we didn't make a conversion, but she had the chance to talk to some real Catholics, not those who label themselves 'lapsed' or, even worse, 'recovering' (as if it were a disease), but real, believing, faithful Catholics. My Legion sister was better than I. All I did was stand there. But at least I did stand there, didn't withdraw into my shell when the criticism started coming, didn't say to myself, 'well it's her loss' and leave. I stood there, and listened to my companion talk to her with great gentleness.
This is a milestone in my life: I'm an evangelist.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A New Hymn for Solitude by Edward Dowden

I found Thee in my heart, O Lord,
As in some secret shrine;
I knelt, I waited for Thy word,
I joyed to name Thee mine.

I feared to give myself away
To that or this; beside
Thy altar on my face I lay,
And in strong need I cried.

Those hours are past.
Thou art not mine,
And therefore I rejoice,
I wait within no holy shrine,
I faint not for the voice.

In Thee we live; and every wind
Of heaven is Thine; blown free
To west, to east, the God unshrined
Is still discovering me.

(The picture above is A Monk by the Sea by Casper David Friedrich. Dowden, the poet, rejected organised religion, but I dont think his poem should be rejected on this account. I love it, and hope you
do too.)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Flaming Heart - Richard Crashaw, 1612 - 1649

O Heart, the equal poise of love's both parts,
Big alike with wounds and darts,
Live in these conquering leaves, live all the same,
And walk through all tongues one triumphant flame;
Live here, great heart, and love and die and kill,
And bleed and wound, and yield and conquer still.
Let this immortal life, where'er it comes,
Walk in a crowd of loves and martyrdoms;
Let mystic deaths wait on 't, and wise souls be
The love-slain witnesses of this life of thee.
O sweet incendiary! show here thy art,
Upon this carcass of a hard, cold heart,
Let all thy scattered shafts of light, that play
Among the leaves of thy large books of day
Combin'd against this breast, at once break in
And take away from me my self and sin;
This gracious robbery shall thy bounty be
And my best fortunes such fair spoils of me.
O thou undaunted daughter of desires!
By all thy dow'r of lights and fires,
By all the eagle in thee, all the dove,
By all thy lives and deaths of love,
By thy large draughts of intellectual day,
And by thy thirsts of love more large than they,
By all thy brim-fill'd bowls of fierce desire,
By thy last morning's draught of liquid fire,
By the full kingdom of that final kiss
That seiz'd thy parting soul and seal'd thee his,
By all the heav'ns thou hast in him,
Fair sister of the seraphim!
By all of him we have in thee,
Leave nothing of my self in me:
Let me so read thy life that I
Unto all life of mine may die.

(The picture is by Jim Dine, who spends so much time making hearts.)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

O Me of Little Faith

The Holy Father has returned to Rome, safe, well, happy, very much alive. I was so fearful before he came, and now feel a little silly. Should I? Looking back to just a week ago, there was non-stop criticism on the airwaves. Most of it was of the level of a Discovery Channel documentary - you know the ones: "because of the tenuous relationship between this vague rumour and that crazy loon THE END OF THE WORLD IS NIGH". But it was unrelenting. The door was thrown open and they all walked through into our heads. And it got me down. I have to say, it's hard raise your head in a society where you're being told 24/7 the person you admire, and pray for is a neo-nazi woman-hating homophobe baby eater. The British media went crazy on it. The Irish media went crazy on it too, only a few days later. Nobody told us there was all that organisation happening, that schoolchildren were writing poems and drawing pictures to give to the Pope, that families were buying rail tickets and packing picnic baskets, that choirs were practising, practising, practising, seminarians polishing, polishing, polishing, and millions of people praying, praying, praying. I suppose that's not a good news story - 'CATHOLICS DO EXACTLY AS THEY SHOULD' - but it sure feels good to me.

So I'm sorry, iron faced woman who wants to be a priest of a religion she neither loves nor respects, and I'm sorry, gay activist and semi-official public blame apportioner who wants the pope to resign even though of what the pope does and what the pope is gay activist public blame apportioner does not have the slightest clue, and I'm truly sorry, sexual abuse survivor, because you're so, so, so in danger of developing what has been called 'the vanity of victimhood', and now it's time for you to stop surviving on a diet of apologies and settlements and resignations and start living. I'm even sorry for you, charming television personality and successful author atheist. You unfailingly target the Catholic church as your opponent, which is a sort of compliment, I suppose, as if other religions don't really propose or defend a concept of God, and your pride in the disinterestedness of your logic is so irrational it smacks of Robespierre and Co. I'm sorry for you all because you have no love in your hearts. But I'm happy you are all alive because any person can change, and any hard heart can soften, and some day you may be happy to let Catholics be Catholics. Some day, soon I hope, you may feel the way I feel now.

I know, I did'n't have enough faith, but I'm not going to beat myself up about it. I am, as always, surprised and overjoyed by the grace of God.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Two Wrongs?

'All a load of sh*t,' shouted the drunk with the bag of beers and the skinny girl swaying after him...'All a load of sh*t' he roared at the elderly priest who looked back at him with gentle surprise. The congregation was shocked when he staggered in, shouting, just after the Communion had started. He staggered up a side aisle and out in front of the altar, dropping his pearl of wisdom all the time, freely, a phrase so perfect it could but be repeated, never bettered. 'Get out', I shouted - another rare gem of syntax. I heard a few other half raised voices that trailed away, leaving me as the only one who thought both sides of this fascinating debate should be audible. 'Get out'. Was I wrong? But he didn't get out and the congregation sat like lamped rabbits. Why? If it was in the cinema the same people would roar 'down in front' without any hesitation.

I nudged my husband. A few other women nudged theirs. About eight men started down the aisles and there was a kerfuffle and then they were gone.

I felt so angry and churned up I couldn't receive the Eucharist. I wouldn't dare with my mind in such an unworthy state. I fumed instead of prayed. Something about the reactions of the congregation made me almost as mad as the drunk, something about my reactions too.

When Mass was over the congregation applauded the priest for his sang froid. He was chuffed. He had kept his cool, but what had the congregation kept? Its head down?

It will take a long time to work out this one.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

When Wicked Men Blaspheme Thee

Do you remember this old Marian hymn:

I sing a hymn to Mary
the Mother of my God,
the virgin of all virgins
from David's royal blood?

It's a lovely song, and I sang it in my youth to a world where Mary was, if not celebrated, at least respected. The most negative things said came from the sola scriptura side of the house, that Catholics were worshipping Mary as a God. I often had it said to me and I wondered at the lack of subtlety in such minds. Would that that were the worst said about our Virgin Mother.

We're just back from a short visit to Amsterdam. It's a lovely city, full of lovely, healthy people. They're lively and bright, artistic, fashionable, mad about kooky design and....well, yes, that's the problem - kooky design. Our Lady, intercessor for the human race, is now a design element in these kooky knick knacks. I saw a water bottle, to be used while cycling, I suppose, with the inscription 'Holy Water' and a drawing of Mary feeding the water to Jesus. The caption was something like 'the water that refreshes sinners'. It's ironic, you see. Everything is ironic - cocktail shakers are shaped like cows and sharp knives look like soft bananas because it's 'ironic'. T-shirts slogans order people to look and also not to look at the wearer. Marlyn Monroe seems to be everywhere, laughing her great horse laugh, and poor old Che Guevara, once a symbol of revolution, is done in cross-stitch on comfy cushions - ironic. No harm, you say. But in one shop where I rummaged through bins of edgy stuff I saw a t-shirt with a print of the Virgin and the most, most, most disgusting suggestion underneath. Remember, this was a designer shop, not a sex shop or a joke shop or a head shop; this stuff is for educated people who fancy they have taste. In another shop I saw an altar with a plastic blow up version of Our Lady of Guadaloupe adorned with great plastic roses. Automatically I blessed myself, to the shock of the black clad shop assistants with their lacquered, bored faces. I'd forgotten that everything there was 'ironic'.

I suppose Buddhists have for a long time had to look at the Buddha's head in the form of garden ornaments or candles or guest soaps. Do they find it offensive? I don't know, but I never use the religious symbols of other faiths. It's just common politeness, if nothing else. There seems to be an extra delight, though, in demeaning the Blessed Virgin. Embodiment of purity that she is, there is more than irony, there is true viciousness, in these attacks upon her. The dark cannot bear the light to exist, and must try to cover it.

Hey, I wonder if my misplaced respect for the blow-up altar gives us the way to go? When people set up these ironic 'altars' in their shops, why don't we Catholics turn up and say a few decades of the Rosary? I'm sure the post-modern shop keepers would appreciate the irony. And when we see someone wearing a t-shirt with the Virgin's image, thank him/her for bringing the image to us and ask him/her to join us in a decade.

O teach me Holy Mary
a loving song to frame.
when wicked men blaspheme thee
I love and bless thy name.

The painting at the top is by Domenico Veneziano. Please enjoy its beauty. May God bless all the creators of loving, respectful images that bring us closer to our Mother, closer to God.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Laughing Peasant: Sacred Art

This is an intersting website by the artist Jeff Lefevier. He works to make sacred art, a difficult task in these sad times. The scale of his work is important. See the dimensions of the banners above contrasted with the six foot man viewing them. I also like the clarity - absence of the muddy and the tangential. God is Great. God is Clear.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Such Stuff As Dreams Are Made On

Marion Peck is the artist of this haunting image. Not just in this, but in all her work, there is a sadness, a waste, a tragic unknown that clings to the psyche. It is a re-working of the seventeenth and eighteenth century Dutch school flower pictures, and like all such pictures, it has surprising depth. In the average flower picture the blooms symbolise the transitory nature of beauty, joy, youth and all that delights. The flowers are beauties, but they will soon die, and what now delights will in a short time disgust. Here the poignancy is brought to an acute pitch: the flowers are actually souls, beautiful, vulnerable girls - will they fade and be discarded, like dead flowers?

I find something suggestive of abortion in this image. The artist herself says only that the images come from her dreams. She pins no particular meaning on any of them, which is normal in the surrealist genre - dreams are accepted, not interpreted. But yet, I see the troubled innocence of the faces, the human features on the insects - suggestive of larvae or foetuses - and above all the overall impression of something beautiful (the flowers, or our modern pleasure centred lives) with a sickening core (death/abortion). Copy this picture to your desktop, look at it over and over again. You will find it troubling, as I have.

May God send His grace to stay the hands of the abortionists, and give confidence to the women who fear the births of children.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Wrapped Him in Swaddling Clothes

Swaddling clothes consisted of a blanket that was softly wrapped around the baby to keep him warm, and linen bands bound more tightly to keep the blanket in place and the child immobile. Hundreds of thousands of generations of children were swaddled all over the world without any seeming harm or deformity. Apparently it promotes sleep and passivity. They don't cry. They feel safe. It would seem babies need less freedom than we give them. The freedom to thrash their limbs wildly and cry out for someone to hold them, someone who might or might not come, is not all that much appreciated by babies. They like the feeling of being held tightly and safely, of all decisions being made for them, of others being in control. With the baby nice and swaddled, trussed up like a larva, the parents could work. The baby would not begin to look for food until the bands were loosened, so the mother could very much set her own feeding schedule.

Jesus is, of course, the most famous swaddled baby. We hardly ever see him in the full get up, however. Medieval artists would depict a baby in a pretty gown, as worn by an older, mobile child, and renaissance artists progressed to portraying him nude or loosely draped in a cloth. The reason for not showing the confining bands was possibly located in an area of tension between the divine nature of the child and the purpose of swaddling, which was plainly to restrain the baby. Swaddling was also considered necessary to ensure the baby's limbs grew straight, and - some said - to prevent the baby plucking his own eyes out. So it was unseemly to show Jesus in bands. But it was such a part of childbirth - to immediately swaddle the child - whether in Bethlehem, Judea, first century Rome, or tenth century Germany, that it had to be in the Gospel. What sort of a birthing would it be if the baby were left unswaddled?

I love this Madonna and Child by Guariento d'Arpo because it shows the place of swaddling in the average family's life, and it's such a warm and intimate moment between mother and child. It could be any mother and child. It's the primal emotional bond of the human race, that same bond that worked our salvation. Here Mary has finished her work and is now seeing to the baby. She has unwrapped the bands and loosed the underblanket so Jesus can move his limbs. The first thing they do is have a cuddle, cheek to cheek. This is their moment for play. The blanket falls about him in graceful folds, still showing the wrapping pattern over arms and feet.

I sense the painter was a man with happy memories of being swaddled or of his own children in their swaddled phase. I love it. May God save the souls of all the painters who made such images for our delight. Amen.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Mourning Becomes Impossible

There's no mourning anymore. That's just a fact. In Jane Austin novels it's six months in black and six months in violet. In my youth it was six months in black for the women and armbands for the men. But I don't know what it is now. It's a few days, if anything. Everybody wears black so much anyway: look into any hairdressing salon - they look like everyone belonged to them just died. And you didn't call to the house in my youth, unless specifically to make a mourning call. The bereaved were still invited to weddings and so forth, but were expected to decline. People left them alone, and that was o.k.

Now no-one leaves anyone alone.

I'm bereaved and I don't want to meet anyone. Your loved one dies and at first you're busy making sandwiches and answering the phone, then you're busy replying to messages and thanking people, then you're busy clearing up and paying people, but there comes a day when you're not busy anymore. Then you just want to sit in your house and look out the window.

It's very much frowned on, I know, and I get told I cant let myself go and I need to seek closure (whatever that is) and I should 'get out there' and so on. I get told this by people who are afraid all this sitting and looking will end in depression. They love me and they don't want that to happen. But they truly don't understand the difference between me and them. They have no religion. They don't understand what I'm doing when I'm just sitting....I'm letting God explain to be why my loved one had to die, why all my loved ones will die, why I will die.

It takes time to talk to God. It's not done in a prayer - it's started, but not done. No, God picks up the conversation sometimes ages later, when I'm just sitting and looking out the window. I cant speed that along. I wait for God. And I reckon that's what mourning is about, allowing people the time and space to talk to God and then feel the answers as they come slowly and whisperingly.

But the world wont wait for that. The world doesn't understand that vocabulary anymore, so we have short cuts - supposed short cuts - to the mysterious 'closure'. Counsellors and anti-depressants - sign up for a life time's addiction, but don't have a sad face at work and don't hide in your home (although your home is supposed to be your safe place to hide).

I wont go for that. This is too important to me. I'm going to mourn in the old fashioned way.

Friday, June 4, 2010

A Happy Death

My dear sister tried many times to talk to me about her impending death. Educated by a lifetime of soap operas I knew the right thing to do was refuse to hear - there would be no negative talk, no sad pauses, no acknowledgement of reality. So every time I visited was like a birthday: I had presents, gossip, music, fun. I would keep on and on until I made her laugh. On her behalf I refused to accept death. It must have been so trying for her.

Because, really, what business of mine was it? She was succumbing to a most terrible cancer, buying precious weeks with aggressive treatments that made the days won too painful to bear. What right had I to censor her attitude?

Of course, I wasn't the only one. the whole family was at it - being positive. Positive of what? Mainly, I think, we were scared stiff. Death had stalked into the middle of our village and was carrying off the fair maiden. And we couldn't do a thing about it.

Finally, when she wanted to get some business done she made me sit down and listen. I was to have a treasured possession of hers after her death - WHICH WOULD BE SOON. No, no, I cried, but at that stage she didn't have the time to waste indulging me. It would be soon and she had things to do in preparation. She arranged her will and her funeral in the kindly and efficient way she had lived her life. As I knelt by her coffin I was still saying 'no', in the selfish and inefficient way I have lived my life. I know she's in Heaven, or going there very soon. I know she forgives me, because she always did. I miss her very much, and I'm so sorry I could not contribute to her happy death.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Old Home Town Looks Just The Same

I went back to the old home town at the weekend. I went to a local beauty spot, called to a cafe there and had a nice snack, then went for a walk on the pretty pier to look at the fishing boats and enjoy the peace. I was accompanied by a mentally disabled man. He looks quite normal except he says odd things out loud and has an exaggerated fear of nearly everything. He is autistic. I've known him all his life, as has that town because he is a native through and through.

There was a group of adolescent boys playing football across the path to the pier. We walked to one side to get by. They stopped to watch us. When we were much farther along I looked back and saw some of them watching us and talking. We looked at the boats and I read out their strange names. We spied the life-boat and that was a treat. We saw some kittiwakes and my companion opined they sounded like babies crying, which was true. We walked back to the exit, again passing as far as we could from the game. A ball came directly at us, flying with some force. I batted it away with a cry, and, instantly knowing the game afoot, laughed as if it were a huge joke. My companion shrieked. He was very frightened. Some of the boys, a fair haired one in particular, started mimicking his cries, the blond boy distorting his handsome face to make the joke visual as well as aural.

Forty years ago this man used be jeered at in the street. Back then street footballers were skinny looking, practically ragged boys, nearing the end rather than the beginning of their education. But these boys were well fed, beautifully clothed, with parents already talking to them about college options and course choices. Forty years ago the received wisdom was that it was deprivation that made people mean - deprivation and lack of public awareness. Now there's a sign as you enter the old home town saying it supports the Special Olympics, and it also calls itself a 'centre of excellence'.

One boy looked at me from the group, one boy, as I was pretending there was no malice involved and it was all a silly accident, so my companion wouldn't know immediately that the world was still not to be trusted, one boy gave me a 'sorry' look, as if to say 'what can I do about these morons'. One boy was secretly disgusted and afraid to show it. That didn't make it any better. Kid, do you think you get points for just 'knowing' the right thing to do? No, you must actually do it. I hope you change, even more than the others, I hope you change.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Should Catholics buy the Irish Examiner?

I had a shock today when I read the Examiner. There is an anti-Catholic article in it that - well, I can't critique it. It is beyond description. I would ask you to buy it, read it, and let that be the last time you buy, or consider buying, the Irish Examiner. We Irish Catholics have to ask ourselves, at this stage: should we buy such newspapers, should we support the enemies of the Church? Free speech, they claim. Go ahead, speak freely. But if I must suffer your hateful bigotry, must I pay you while you're writing it?

I read papers every day, the morning papers, the on-line papers, the free papers, including all the small ads, and the evening paper that tops off my day. I soak it all in, I agree and I don't agree but I rarely take exception. Now - I'm taking more than exception. I'm sick, I'm shocked, I'm truly frightened. What are they trying to do? It seems they are already planing to take our religion from us. This is no conspiracy theory: I'm just reading the signs here.

Confirmed Catholics must ask, can I have it on my conscience that I aided the enemies of the Church? It has come to this, in our free Republic, alas it has come to this.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Is the Holy Father Safe?

Terrible thoughts occur to me, and I try to banish them. I say "this is the 21st century", but that's no help - it's well on it's way to be the most irrational century ever. Terrible things have already happened in the 21st century and what haunts me is the thought that there could be one more, perhaps the most terrible. Is the Holy Father safe? Could we be looking at a Pope about to be martyred?

I'm sure the Vatican and the Swiss Guard deal with so many cranks and nuts, benighted individuals with inner voices saying 'kill the pope'. It occurs to people who have never been Catholic, never even knew Catholics, don't really know what a pope is. Councillors still report they feel under instruction to kill the pope. Mental illness seems to open up the mind to the dark forces swirling around in society. Let us never forget, to the forces of greed, selfishness and aggression - 'progress' - we Catholics are the old enemy.

And now, there is this constant drumbeat of hatred pounding away, and sad, bewildered souls take it up, are suffused by it's hatred and feel in it a call to insane action.

Look at what is said about the Pope. Look at what people dare to say in the media? May I liken it to inter-war Germany? In 1924 there were things that simply could not be said in the Press about the Jews: frequently said in conversation, but not in the Press. But by 1934 those things were being said, had long since been said and were being superseded by things so foul no-one had even thought of them in 1924. And it was all backed by a huge fire-storm of mutual authentication that roared through society, whereby one writer became the source for another writer becoming the source for another writer, so that these things were said everywhere and there was no need to look for the source because - they were said everywhere.

Never think people enter journalism because they have a commitment to the truth. They become journalists because they want to be heard. And after that, they want to be feared. They are a particularly dangerous group of people when let off the leash of common decency. In the French Revolution they wrote people to the tumbrels, in Nazi Germany they wrote people to the camps, what they'll do to us Catholics - I don't know. But I know they want to do something nasty, now or as soon as possible. They are slavering, you can feel their appetite.

God protect our Holy Father.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Rowan Williams: What a Bum

Rowan Williams, purveyor of priestliness to the English crown. What a bum.

Mr. W., how many of your ministers are paedophiles? Do you even know how many are of them are Christian? You bum!!! Useless, useless, useless hangnail upon Christianity. You didn't mean to cause offence!!! That's what drunks say, the next day, and they carry a bunch of flowers and offer to pay for the damage. But you, sober, thought this was not an offensive thing to say. Do you want to know what sort of people support you? Look in the chat rooms, the Sky news comments site, the gutters where the Catholic haters share their thoughts. Nice, nice company, Mr. W.

What are you - a bumbling old fool who runs off at the mouth, or a professional public speaker used to large audiences and media coverage? If you didn't mean to cause offence, truly, you're just a bumbling old fool of an anti-Catholic bigot. If you knew you'd cause offence but hadn't calculated on the negative response, thought you'd be hailed as a liberator, not a crawling opportunist, then're just a bum.

Ah hell, either way you're just a bum.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

My O My

So many people say they are sad, and they cant shake off this sadness. I'm sort of like that too. It's a worry and a trial. I keep reminding myself that as a confirmed Christian I must be strong, but I'm so used to leaning on my church, not having my church lean on me. Am I not also a victim of clerical sexual abuse? That's the tenor of what I read, confessions of distressed Catholics being run in all the papers. They echo my feelings, I thought, glad to find others like me, while I settled once more into the weepy Catholic mainstream. But yesterday, Spy Wednesday, I suddenly thought, for whom is the distress I feel - for the victims of sexual abuse, for the priests and nuns unjustly tarnished, for the Holy Father so viciously attacked by old, old enemies? No, it's for me. For my loss of happiness and my loss of tranquility and the interruption of my progress in Catholicism. MY, MY, O MY. Just like the high priests and the pharisees looked at Jesus and thought only of how he was upsetting their world, I think of these scandals as things visited upon me by others, from outside my beautiful religious space, and so, I contrive to make myself a victim. Boo hoo, make it better. I'm the original Catholic baby.

I have nothing to be sad about. I have the gift of the Holy Spirit. I have the treasures of the Church. I have the unbroken apostolic line to follow back to our Founder, to follow hand over hand, until I come to the precepts handed down by Him. I have everything I need.

Catholics should not be sad. The Pope has called us to penitence, but let it be a penitence undertaken cheerfully, for we know the reward is great. Some people love to get in on the sympathy act. I could be one of them myself. I must guard against it.

Jesus came from Nazareth to upset their world, so they set about getting rid of Him. They didn't want to hear what He had to say, just make Him go away. They must have considered themselves perfect. They had their sects, and their temple, and the division of duties and the division of spoils. Though they didn't always get along with one another, they were united in hating Jesus. I must not be like that. The Church is never perfect. I must listen to what these times have to tell me. But I cant do that while I'm concentrating on my own hurt and my own victimhood. I repeat, I have everything I need.

That's why I'm giving myself a bouquet. I'm officially cheering up. I'm present and ready to help. Word of advice to those who style themselves 'abuse survivors': in my life I've had to cope with some really awful stuff, stuff I survived, though many did not. I could call myself a 'survivor', but what's that? We're all surviving from day to day, until we're not anymore. Don't say you're a survivor: say you're alive.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Be Still And See That I am God

Abuse Finder General

There was a sort of Catholic woman once whose lips were constantly pursed, whose eyes were sharp as claws and who hated enjoyment, especially enjoyment of the Catholic religion. She made children adopt horrible, uncomfortable poses in church, and set gruelling, weird essay questions, never let young people handle anything of value and had no eye for beauty whatsoever. My mother always said of such a woman, 'There's a great Calvinist lost in her'. For she was, indeed, a puritan, and catholicism was the field of her puritanical mission. There were many such women once. They rarly became nuns, in my experience, just trials to the rest of us. And where have the gone - fallen away, like so many others? No, puritans dont give up. Now they seek out paedophiles. They are the Abuse Finders General.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Myth of Pedophile Priests

I'm grateful to Fr. Dwight Longnecker for bringing this to our notice. This says neatly all the stuff I've been inwardly rehearsing but never could express coherently. Not, of course, that I ever get a chance to express it. I'm immediately shouted down - 'what, don't tell me you're standing up for those paedophiles' etc. etc. But I persist in trying to have reasonable discussion, and this post will help.
Standing on My Head: The Myth of Pedophile Priests

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Saint Robert de Molesme

This lovely piece of eleventh century metalwork is the crozier of Saint Robert de Molesme (1027-1111), founder of the Cistercians. Saint Robert is a man for our time. He left his Benedictine abbey when the community would not accept his reforms. The abbey was notorious, and wedded to its sins. His biographer, Stephen of Citeaux, says
'Let it not disturb you, O Reader, that in that holy community evil claimed the place as its own, since pride invaded heavenly minds, calling them away from their heavenly country to its own region and hid amidst dust and ashes that which was more accustomed to appear in purple and fine linen.'
Refusing to reform, they more or less threw him out. Stephen adds, sagely, 'So it is that there has always been in the church both the just who make progress and the wicked who are a trial.'
Robert went to live in the woods with a group of brothers intent on poverty and simplicity, earning their food by the work of their hands and holding nothing as their own. So successful was he that his community grew and prospered, while the willful brothers of Saint Michael at Tonnere Abbey found the going hard. 'Now they fretted and wept over both their moral and financial ruin' Stephen says, so much so that they petitioned the Pope to send Robert back to them, and this time the community accepted the reforms .
Indeed, the wicked are a trial, but they have ever been with us. St Robert of Molesme's feast day is the 29th of April.

Monday, March 22, 2010

from the Sky Road, Connemara

This picture is like the news, more heavy clouds rolling in.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Year for Priests

The Year for Priests is three quarters over, and what have I done? I resolved I would get to know the local clergy, but that hasn't happened.

I resolved I would pray for priests every day, but I have not been consistent. I confess, I have fallen far short on this one.

I recently found the Prayer of the Year for Priests on the website of the wonderful A Catholic Mom in Hawaii. I'll print it out on a card and try to remember to say it.

I'm included in the prayers of many priests every day, as a parishioner, as a congregant, as a Catholic. It's time I gave something back.
I love this image. The artist is Mandy Bundan. It's not stained glass, but looks like it could be so easily.
It says Spring to me. And Spring is just outside my window. The old holly tree is a favourite of the birds, even though there is nothing left to eat there - they polished off all the berries by mid-November.
I suppose it's just a good place to catch the sun. I cant give you a link to Mandy's website because I found her on a gallery site that did'nt offer one. But Google her name - you'll probably find her.

The Work is the Prayer

A very good way to incorporate prayer into work is to use those damned annoying computer passwords of which we office types have hundreds to be committed to memory and changed, it seems, every ten days or whenever the I.T. crowd read about another virus during their extensive web-surfing coffee-breaks.

As you get older it's not so easy recall all the passwords. The temptation is to use just one but then you get a circular saying it's come to their attention that people are using just one password for everything and that's SO insecure and SO unprofessional and if your memory is SO bad maybe you should think of retiring.

I make my passwords lines from prayers, pious exhortations, verses from the Bible - something that will make me recognise, as I enter, that I am beginning a work that can be dedicted to God. Each work is holy: also dreary, boring, etc., but that can be offered up.

I thank God for having work in these difficult times, for having nice colleagues and a comfortable office. I thank God that no-one challenges me for saying my Angelus at my desk or complains about the little holy picture I have pinned up in my booth. They give me odd looks, sure, but then I give them odd looks when I see the younger girls wearing skirts that would hardly qualify as bandages, or the skinny boys with t-shirt slogans hinting at a manliness that is, frankly, not credible. I know they'll grow out of these fads and become boring old middle-aged people like me. I'd like to think they had a treasury of Catholic education in their memories to draw out for the times when the wind blows keener and the sky is not so blue. I fear they dont. Thank you Sisters of Mercy. Thank you, thank you.

Friday, March 19, 2010

What's happening....

Cardinals, Bishops, do not be like the hireling shepherds. Stay with the flock. Those who attack you are the wolves who will scatter us and tear us apart. Stay with the flock. This isn't a political body, where problems are solved by resignations and heads on spikes. This is the Church founded by Jesus, the body of loving Christians, existing both in Heaven and on Earth. Our master forgives us as we forgive each other. So let us all stay together, even the wicked ones. Let us heal together, including the wicked ones, we hope. Sins found out are as nothing to sins undiscovered. Forgiveness should be like the holy water into which we dip our fingers, at every door, as we enter and as we leave.

I cant bear the church to act like a political party. I cant bear it. There have been some terrible people in our church. It survives despite everything. Did He not say that the gates of hell would not prevail against it? We must accept the terrible, wicked, sinful ones and pray for them. A bad Catholic can become good. A weak bishop can become strong.

Christian resignation is a virtue, but resignation of Christian bishops from their posts is not - it is an insult to Saint Peter, an insult to Christ.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Monday, March 15, 2010

Calming down

I'm using Robert Ryan's beautiful 'Blossoms' as an antidote to the stress of it all. Look your fill. It has a rare gentleness, as has all his work.

When I see what the London Times wrote about the Holy Father this is how I feel

What is happening? It's more than anti-catholic propaganda. It's as if some great force is shaping up against the Catholic church. I used to feel there was something very bad out there, but vague and distant. Now I feel it much sharper, clearer, nearer.
Is it the eternal struggle between good and evil, or is it the final struggle?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

You Adam, Me Eve

Look at this picture; Adam and Eve, our first parents. Theirs is the most engrossing story in the Old Testament, for me anyway. Surely there is never as heart-stabbing a phrase as:

and the eyes of them both were opened, and they perceived themselves to be naked...

We've all had those moments, in a small way, but the human race has never had such an eye opening experience as the revelations about climate change. They didn't all come at once - to our timescale it seems like it's been a slow drip feed of bad news, but in what I might call Biblical time it's instant, calamitous, the blink of an eye. Suddenly, we the masters of nature perceive we are naked, not in control of anything, not knowing what we're doing, stupid children messing with stuff we shouldn't go near. And of course there is always the snake....the one who says 'it's only the natural cycle, the climate is always changing''. Are all our eyes open yet?

The revelation for Adam and Eve was that they had committed the sin, not that they were committing it. It was over. They couldn't go back to a time where there was no sin. Now they had to live in its consequences - miserably hard work, a threatening environment, a bitter marriage full of recriminations and then, the tragedy of their children in that terrible world.

See how beautifully the artist, Karoly Patko, has painted them - Adam so strong and Eve so beautiful. She is full of narcissistic confidence as she grasps the fruit. His pose is one of command but his hand hangs back, waiting for her to guide it - he is weak. I never can see a snake in this picture. Karoly Patko hasn't included one because for him it was all a human story, no outside agency. But the snake is there, in their sinuous poses, and their averted eyes.

The tree of knowledge of good and evil - isn't it really the tree of definition of good and evil.? Nuclear power, for instance, that most people had put firmly on the 'evil' list, is now being edged back towards the 'good'. In the light of our present circumstances, let's redefine, they say. And the new plants are so much safer, it says. And if there's a problem it will be solved in the future by our children, it hisses.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Friday, March 5, 2010


Would you kill to make a drug to cure you?

Do you kill to make a drug to cure you?
All the time.

Has the drug worked?
Up to now, no.

Will it ever work?
It's a drug. I'm addicted.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Who is the Laughing Peasant?

The Laughing Peasant is a pencil drawing by Durer. I don't know if he ever used it in a painting. He may have used it slightly changed. In those days artists collected characters in their sketchbooks - as indeed good artists have done up to modern times - but unlike modern times sketches then had a remarkable degree of finish. They needed so many faces for their vast crowd scenes, you see, and their viewers knew how to scan those pictures intensely. And perhaps the relatively high price of paper then meant they would not use it wantonly.

I like this drawing because the face is genuinely good humoured, not beautiful but certainly healthy looking. I can see this woman in the fields, happily pulling beets, with the sun burning the back of her neck and a couple of children tugging at her skirts. She looks capable. She's in this life to enjoy it. And if one day a poncy artist spots her looking healthy and happy and having a laugh, well, let him draw her. She likes a bit of art, likes to look at it in the church. Beauty always touches her.

I bear something of a resemblance to this woman - same shaped face, same nose, same chin. I would like to look as healthy and even half as happy. I'd like my default expression to be that broad grin. By God's grace, it will be, some day.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Guilt of Giving Up Pleasures

Rachel Gray at her blog Infused Knowledge (Losing weight during Lent) asks the searching question:
Have any of you ever used Lent as motivation to go on a diet?
Her answer is pointed, for me anyway, as I need the whole force of the Catholic world behind me before I can give up the sweet stuff.

It could be argued that you lose out on the spiritual merit of a fast if you're doing it to look good, because you have received your reward in full in this life. But you know, that's still better than my method, which is to gain weight before Lent (three pounds this year) by telling myself I can eat whatever I please because the fast is around the corner!

Nice one, Rachel - a little guilt, a little encouragement.
So it is with just a small few qualms (tiny, tiny amount) that I say I am giving up sweeties until Easter Sunday, by which means I hope to purge my sins and find my lost waist .

Roman Imposition

I watched the Holy Father lead the Ash Wednesday ceremonies from St Sabina's Basilica in Rome on EWTN (love that channel). Were other people as surprised as me to learn that ashes are 'imposed', not daubed, marked, put, placed or anything else? Imposed. Nothing like a glimpse of Rome to make you feel like a provincial.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

One Thing Alone I Crave / Unum sit Mihi Totum

One thing alone I crave
All in everything

This One
I seek
the only One
do I desire

Rooted in One
is all
from the One
flows all

This is the very One
I seek
will have
only then
be filled

Unless I drink
this Spring
I thirst
for nowhere else sup I to be fulfilled

What or Who this One is
I may not say
can never feel
Nothingmore or less
is there to say

For the One is not simply in all
the One Being is over all

YOU are my GOD
holding me
within my very SELF

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Let the Lost be Found

I was lost briefly as a child. I was in sand dunes. Everywhere I looked was the same, and nothing was familiar. At one stage I saw my older sister looking around from the top of a dune, but she didn't see me, and the wind was so loud she couldn't hear my screaming. I knew, really, really knew, I was lost forever.

Of course, in the way of children, I got over my fear the second I was found and moved on to the fear of what was going to happen when my overwrought mother caught up with me. But I remember the fear every time I hear of a missing person. Every time, it comes back. There is no worse feeling.

And so I pray, every day, this little prayer:

O Lord, Let the lost be found.
Whether on the land,
Or on the sea,
In the city,
Or under the ground,
Let the lost be found.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

On Waking

by John O'Donohue(1954 - 2008)

I give thanks for arriving
Safely in a new dawn,
For the gift of eyes
To see the world,
The gift of mind
To feel at home
In my life.
The waves of possibility
Breaking on the shore of dawn,
The harvest of the past
That awaits my hunger,
And all the furtherings
This new day will bring.

Dame Catherine Gascoigne: One thing alone I crave / Unum sit mihi totum

Dame Catherine Gascoigne: One thing alone I crave / Unum sit mihi totum

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Derek Fitzpatrick

This painting affects me with something ominous. Derek Fitzpatrick is the artist. I find it quite beautiful. Artists seem to know, even when they dont know.....something wicked this way comes.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Weapons of Mass Creation

Colors mean nothing to those who cannot see
or feel because their hearts have lost the touch.
In lack we fail to find divinity,
we lie to say we cannot love much.

The Christ is in the billions of the world
in same degree and will not be denied;
the Christ of innocence has often cried,
and reigned as waves of warring were unfurled.

The thorns will prick with every orphan's cry,
the nails will pierce as nameless bombs destroy.
Their vic'try in control for some means joy,
if only Christ were not in those that die.

Our peace is in the billions of the earth
when Christ is seen and touched in ev'ry birth.

Bro. David Kaczmarek, TOR
First Vows - May 31, 2003

Friday, January 8, 2010

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Patrick Madrid: Google is for Dhimmies

This is really interesting, and kind of confirms suspicions I did'nt even know I had until I read it.

Patrick Madrid: Google is for Dhimmies

Taking Down the Crib

Taking down the crib today. It's another of those small, sweet, unexpected brushes with mystery. In the secular world Christmas is a feast of memory. We are forever trying to recapture the wonder of the child's Christmas morning, and so it becomes a little sadder each year, a little more frenzied. Only by celebrating the religious significance, which is one of ultimate generosity, can we truly relive that moment of bliss, long ago, when we realised, 'hey, there's a day in the year when we get what we wish for', and even if what we got was not what we wished for, well, ... it was. A day of perfection, that's how I remember it. But then, even while still a child, I started on the road of reenactment in the hope of a re-experience. And the day was a little less perfect every time it came round. Do'n't tell me you live it again through your children: that's a whole different set of experiences. A feast of memory - the memories of what we once had, and the whole phenomenon of memory itself. I think it's perfectly lovely though utterly imperfect. Only since coming to an understanding of just what the crib means do I 'get it' again, that great buzz: 'hey, there's a day in the year when we remember how we got everything we could ever wish for.'
And so we lay away the figures for next Christmas. Go mbeirimid beo ar an am seo arís, le cúnamh Dé.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Ancient Evidence for Jesus from Non-Christian Sources

This delighted me. Would'nt you love to know what the hymn was that those 110 A.D. Christians sang 'in alternate verses' before sunrise?
Ancient Evidence for Jesus from Non-Christian Sources; NET Bible, Bible Study