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.