Saturday 28 February 2009

Lenten/Recession Song

Massive Attack covering William De Vaughan's excellent, 'Be Thankful For What You've Got'.

Friday 27 February 2009

Williamson 'Apology' Rejected by the Vatican

Holocaust denial may not be a sin, but it is still repulsive.
I remember seeing this picture when I studied politics at Liverpool. It was one of the most profoundly disturbing pictures I had ever seen. At least the Vatican Media Office are finally getting it sorted...

A Vatican spokesman says an apology from formerly excommunicated Society of St. Pius X Bishop Richard Williamson is not enough. The Lefebvrite prelate released a statement Thursday regarding his declarations aired in January about the Holocaust. The prelate denied the gassing of 6 million Jews in an interview that aired on Swiss television at about the same time as he and three other Lefebvrite bishops had their 20-year excommunication lifted. The lifting of the excommunication is unrelated to the bishop's interview and occurred in the context of Benedict XVI's efforts to heal the schism with the Society of St. Pius X.

Still, the coincidental concurrence of the interview and the lifting of the canonical penalty was viewed as an affront to Jewish-Catholic relations in some circles. It led to Vatican officials -- including Benedict XVI -- making repeated clarifications about the Church's respect for the Jews and its commitment to dialogue with Christians' "elder brothers."

In his statement Thursday, Bishop Williamson said that observing the consequences of his interview, "I can truthfully say that I regret having made such remarks, and that if I had known beforehand the full harm and hurt to which they would give rise, especially to the Church, but also to survivors and relatives of victims of injustice under the Third Reich, I would not have made them. […] To all souls that took honest scandal from what I said, before God I apologize."

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, said in a verbal statement today that the apology is lacking. He told journalists that the statement "does not seem to respect the conditions established in the Feb. 4 note from the [Vatican] Secretariat of State, which stated that [Bishop Williamson] must distance himself in an absolute, unequivocal and public way from his positions regarding the Shoah."

The spokesman also noted that the prelate's declaration was not a letter directed to the Holy Father or to the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, which oversees the Church's efforts to heal the schism with the Society of St. Pius X. Bishop Williamson's personal views of the Holocaust are unrelated to the larger issue of the Society of St. Pius X and that group's lack of full communion with the Church. Bishop Williamson is in the same canonical position as the other three prelates of the society, including its superior-general Bishop Bernard Fellay. Citing canon lawyer Peter Vere, the prelates' ordination 20 years ago was illicit, but nonetheless valid. In other words, it is unlawful because it was against the wishes of the Pope, but effective. This applies equally to Bishop Williamson and to the other three.

The lawyer explained, "Bishop Williamson is not a Catholic bishop in that his episcopal consecration was carried out without papal mandate. […] However, the episcopal consecration was valid -- that is, effective. So he is in fact a bishop with episcopal powers, meaning he can validly -- but unlawfully -- ordain, confirm, celebrate Mass, and validly -- but unlawfully -- perform any other episcopal function."

The lifting of the excommunication, Vere affirmed, does not make the ordination of the four prelates lawful. The Vatican Secretariat of State note from Feb. 4 clarified the position of the society in relation to the lifting of the excommunication: "The remission of the excommunication has freed the four bishops from a very serious canonical penalty, but it has not changed the juridical status of the Society of St. Pius X, which presently does not enjoy any canonical recognition by the Catholic Church. The four bishops, even though they have been released from excommunication, have no canonical function in the Church and do not licitly exercise any ministry within it. […]

"A full recognition of the Second Vatican Council and the magisterium of Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II and Benedict XVI himself is an indispensable condition for any future recognition of the Society of St. Pius X." And those conditions do not promise to soon be met. According to the Italian ANSA news agency today, quoting the Swiss daily Le Courier from Thursday, Bishop Fellay says Vatican II has brought "only damages" to the Church. "The aftermath of the Council has been to empty seminaries, nunneries and churches," he said.

Bishop Williamson, with his views on the Holocaust, faces a challenge above those of his order at large. In a separate section, the Secretariat of State note went on to speak of Bishop Williamson's positions on the Holocaust, saying they are "absolutely unacceptable and firmly rejected by the Holy Father."

In addition to the requirements extended to all the prelates of the Society of St. Pius X, the Vatican added that for Bishop Williamson "to be admitted to function as a bishop within the Church, [he] must also distance himself in an absolutely unequivocal and public way from his positions regarding the Shoah, which were unknown to the Holy Father at the time of the remission of the excommunication."

The Vatican spokesman was not the only one who found Bishop Williamson's apology Thursday lacking. Jewish groups from various countries have also expressed their dissatisfaction. Dieter Graumann, vice-president of the Central Council for Jews in Germany, told the Handelsblatt newspaper that the prelate's statement "leads one to the conclusion that he still believes in the Holocaust-denial."

First It Happens to the US then it Happens to Us

Are the USA and the UK imitating the policies of the USSR?

The much derided but highly informative website, Prison Planet, today reveals that the 'new policy initiatives' being mooted in the UK about compulsory voluntary service are already in the offing in the US. The website keeps a watchful eye on the actions of States around the globe and mostly on US, UK and European movements of the State towards a new brand of totalitarianism. Quite naturally the US citizens have had a suspicion of the power of the State since the founding of the US and the Civil War.

Hence the right of US citizens to bear arms, as, if the State were to become too powerful, the people would have the power to resist. This was also the reason behind the division of powers between the Executive, the Legislature and the Supreme Court. The great hope was and remains that the Executive never had too much power and the interests of the individual states would always be preserved. Yep, I did my degree in Politics so I know a little bit about this. History suggests that indeed at times of crisis, or actually at any time, to put too much trust in the State or the Government is highly dangerous.

The problems always come in times of 'national emergency', whereby the balance of power tilts at an unequal equilibrium towards the Executive. This was seen most dramatically in the wake of the 9/11 attack and the launch of the two-pronged 'War on Terror' which saw the US and the UK invade two sovereign countries in order to defeat terror. Another outcome of the attack of 9/11 was the Patriot Act which handed much more power to the Executive to call time on democracy and act without restriction in times of national emergency. Most States have this capacity, as seen when, for example, martial law was imposed during times of national emergency in Latin American countries like Argentina during the so called, 'Dirty Wars'.

So, as I mentioned yesterday, the reason the following article is interesting is because the exact same policy is now being mooted here. The policy proposal is from a Democratic Senator from Connecticut who has...

'...introduced four bills aimed at establishing a groundwork for a system of comprehensive national service. Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., says that the legislation will “create the architecture and the structure that will serve as the invitation for everyone to serve.” The Senate Bills, co-sponsored by Thad Cochran, R-Miss., are companion legislation to bills Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, introduced Tuesday in the House, calling for increases in federal spending for public service programs.

The legislation would target everyone from schoolchildren to the elderly and aim to create new bases of volunteers beyond the usual young-adult pool of service-program participants, reports The Day. Two of the bills, named the Summer of Service Act and the Semester of Service Act, are particularly aimed at middle school and high school students and will offer “credits” in return for participation in community-service programs.

Some residents and education experts are concerned that such public service programs may become part of student graduation requirements. A third bill, named The Encore Service Act, offers cash awards to people aged 55 and over who complete 250 or 500 hours of public service. In return for their service, participants would also receive an education award which could be transferred to their children or grandchildren. Some residents and education experts are concerned that such public service programs may become part of student graduation requirements.

A fourth bill, The ACTION Act, is aimed at increasing awards for AmeriCorps volunteers and reestablishing the Corporation’s connection with federal agencies. The bill would also grant the 'Corporation for National Service' Cabinet-level status under the Obama administration.
Sen. Dodd is reintroducing the bills which he previously failed to bring to a vote. Dodd told the media that the legislation is a response to President Obama’s call in his inaugural address for national service. ”People ask me why I joined - I joined because the president asked,” Dodd said. “We’ve got a president who’s asking.”

The key word here is timing. What do you do when unemployment begins to spiral out of control and the threat of civil unrest increases dramatically? What do you do with 20 million disaffected and impoverished people left stranded by the sub-prime mortgage crisis? Well, the easiest thing to do is to make people do National Service...or worse, make them join the military. The main reason Hitler managed to achieve full employment in Germany was because the nation was miltarised. If everyone's in the army, there is no unemployment. That is how awful dictatorships start. Obama's getting plaudits now for setting a timetable for the withdrawl of US troops from Iraq. Some of them will go to Afghanistan, but again the key word here is timing. He also needs them on home soil because the proverbial is hitting the fan!

Now, accuse me of scaremongering if you like, but what was the method by which Hitler and Stalin attained full employment and made people feel happier again in the midst of an economic meltdown? was National Service and demands upon people to give total loyalty to and even worship of, the State. The fact the two of them shared different ideologies was irrelevant. To them, the State owned the people, not vice versa. After years of constitutional liberty and relative economic prosperity, the State is coming out fighting in both the US and the UK and is requiring loyalty and subserviance, now that those in authority realise the chips are down and people feel 'without hope'.

By its policies it is no longer saying, "The State is here to serve the people," Instead, it is saying, "The people are here to serve the State." Notice how the US didn't make any sideswipes at China this time for human rights abuses? Not only does China own loads of US Treasury bonds, but the US are nicking all their ideas off the Communist State it so willingly denounced years ago. I have no truck with anarchists, and I don't consider myself to be a political radical...It's just that history has a habit of repeating itself...and repeating itself it is.

Some Catholics might think, 'Well what does this have to do with the Catholic faith?' The problem is that when the State becomes supreme, religion isn't tolerated. The Church is persecuted widely in China, suffered under Nazism and was banished in the Soviet bloc. Wherever the State is too powerful, there the Church suffers. The only people who don't suffer in this situation are the people who merely acquiesce.

Bizarre Laws

Courtesy of Times Online

25. It is illegal for a cab in the City of London to carry rabid dogs or corpses.

24. It is illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament.

23. It is an act of treason to place a postage stamp bearing the British monarch upside down.

22. In France, it is forbidden to call a pig Napoleon.

21. Under the UK’s Tax Avoidance Schemes Regulations 2006, it is illegal not to tell the taxman anything you don’t want him to know, though you don’t have to tell him anything you don’t mind him knowing.

20. In Alabama, it is illegal for a driver to be blindfolded while driving a vehicle.

19. In Ohio, it is against state law to get a fish drunk.

18. Royal Navy ships that enter the Port of London must provide a barrel of rum to the Constable of the Tower of London.

17. In the UK, a pregnant woman can legally relieve herself anywhere she wants – even, if she so requests, in a policeman’s helmet.

16. In Lancashire, no person is permitted after being asked to stop by a constable on the seashore to incite a dog to bark.

15. In Miami, Florida, it is illegal to skateboard in a police station.

14. In Indonesia, the penalty for masturbation is decapitation.

13. In England, all men over the age of 14 must carry out two hours of longbow practice a day.

12. In London, Freemen are allowed to take a flock of sheep across London Bridge without being charged a toll; they are also allowed to drive geese down Cheapside.

11. In San Salvador, drunk drivers can be punished by death before a firing squad.

10. In the UK, a man who feels compelled to urinate in public can do so only if he aims for his rear wheel and keeps his right hand on his vehicle.

9. In Florida, unmarried women who parachute on Sundays can be jailed.

8. In Kentucky, it is illegal to carry a concealed weapon more than six-feet long.

7. In Chester, Welshmen are banned from entering the city before sunrise and from staying after sunset.

6. In the city of York, it is legal to murder a Scotsman within the ancient city walls, but only if he is carrying a bow and arrow.

5. In Boulder, Colorado, it is illegal to kill a bird within the city limits and also to “own” a pet – the town’s citizens, legally speaking, are merely “pet minders”.

4. In Vermont, women must obtain written permission from their husbands to wear false teeth.

3. In London, it is illegal to flag down a taxi if you have the plague.

2. In Bahrain, a male doctor may legally examine a woman’s genitals but is forbidden from looking directly at them during the examination; he may only see their reflection in a mirror.

1. The head of any dead whale found on the British coast is legally the property of the King; the tail, on the other hand, belongs to the Queen - in case she needs the bones for her corset.

With thanks to: Donald Stewart at Faegre & Benson; John Barnett at Burges Salmon; Robert Crossley at Walker Morris; James Odds at Matthew Arnold & Baldwin; and Dan Kieran, author of I Fought The Law (Bantam Press).

Hilarious Picture

Damian Thompson posted this extraordinary picture on his blog. LMAO!

When asked when how long they had been ex-masturbators, the guy on the right said, "Oh about 10 minutes." The interviewer said, "My, oh my, well then I guess congratulations are in order. Here my man, let me shake you by the hand...Oh, on second thoughts."

Rumour has it that before the 'EX' there is an 'S' which is hidden by the creases near the armpit. I'm so juvenile! But then so is the Protestant conception of Faith!

Oh Lord, have mercy! I don't mean to be nasty...I just always think that chastity is a belt best worn around your heart and if you wear it on your t-shirt the likelihood is that people will think you're a bit of a tosser...

Martin Luther King's Niece Decries Abortion

By accepting large campaign donations from Planned Parenthood and by acquiescing with their wishes to see public funding go towards the promotion of abortion, President Obama has betrayed the Black community of the United States of America, whose support and admiration he won at the election. The article below is by Martin Luther King's niece, Dr Alveda C. King.

Courtesy of Priests for Life

“The Negro cannot win if he is willing to sacrifice the futures of his children for immediate personal comfort and safety.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 1929-1968

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1929-1968

In 1939, Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, outlined her plan to eliminate the Black community: “The most successful, educational appeal to the Negro is through a religious appeal. We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their rebellious members.”

Dr. Martin Luther King was among a select group of Negro leaders hand-picked to promote a seemingly beneficial plan to promote healthy family planning. It was a plan of wolf in sheep’s clothing and Trojan Horse proportions.

Dr. King, a man of love, peace, non-violence and strong Christian faith would be assassinated before the truth of the Planned Parenthood map for genocide would be made public after the passage of Roe v. Wade. The abortion agenda is in direct conflict with the teachings of Dr. King.

In 1966, Martin Luther King, Jr., a non-violent supporter of natural family planning, received the Planned Parenthood Margaret Sanger Award. In his acceptance speech, Dr. King pointed to the benefits of family planning among Negro families and the "kinship" between the civil rights movement and Margaret Sanger's early efforts.

His hopeful speech would not include abortion: "Our sure beginning in the struggle for equality by non-violent direct action may not have been so resolute without the tradition established by Margaret Sanger and people like her."

As Dr. King’s niece, I too once accepted the lies of Planned Parenthood until the truth of the violence of abortion was revealed to me. If Planned Parenthood had announced that over 50 million babies would be aborted in the onslaught of their agenda, I would never have aborted a child.

Dr. Martin Luther King would never have agreed with the violent violation of the civil rights of the millions of aborted babies, and Planned Parenthood’s subsequent blitz of women’s health problems related to chemical and artificial birth control methods.

This conclusion leads me to remind my readers that I too have a dream. It’s in my genes. How can the dream survive if we murder the children?

Dr. Alveda C. King, Pastoral Associate of Priests for Life, is a mother, grandmother, ordained minister, author and artistic producer.

New Laws

Every day it seems a new law comes into being
Every day we say, "I can't quite believe what I am seeing"
Clearly the previous laws were old and outdated
I guess if they didn't make new ones they'd only get frustrated

Yet they keep making new ones and keep getting elected
While people are wondering, "Aren't our rights being neglected?"
But bad Governments really only want our submission
"Come on now and behave like true Englishmen
Be polite, quiet, obedient, self-effacing
Don't worry if you discover
It's your movements we're tracing"

"But I remember the days when I could smoke down the local"
"I remember the days when the police were quite jovial"
"I remember the days before Governmentalism"
"Before we gave up our freedom for fear of terrorism"
"I remember the days when free speech wasn't banned"
"Before Our Lady's Dowry became an unpleasant land"

I remember the days
When I wasn't under suspicion
Until one day I stepped out
To be greeted by policemen
It hasn't happened yet
But I'd be willing to bet
If I sang this song and a few sang along
It wouldn't be a matter of if, no, but when

Because the new laws are chilling
If the police beat me up nobody'd be filming
CCTV would be doctored
While my blood they'd be spilling
Only the Good Lord would know
That my crushed bones were thrilling!

Because each new law
Tries to bury the New Law
Because each new law
Tries to bury the True Law
Because each new law
Tries to bury the Maker of the Law

Yet because the New Law
Is stronger than the new laws
The New Law will win
Because the New Law
Is Eternal
It doesn't need any revision
It doesn't need updating
It just says time and again
To the hearts of women
And to the hearts of men
And to all legislators
"Love conquers sin!"

And who'd have thought that?
I mean you really couldn't legislate for that
But isn't that why they keep making new laws?
Because deep down they are afraid?
And deep down so are we
But it does beg the question
"Whatever will they think of next?"

Just How Equal Are Equal Opportunities?

And why is any of the above information really of importance to applying for a job? This one is quite original, I must say, because even the gender identity section has an option for total ambiguity. I mean, on a grand scale, if sexuality, age, ethnicity and disability are not barriers to work and everybody is being treated equally on their merits for a job, then there is really no need for a form. I mean, you look at this form and just think, 'For Goodness sake! I'm a human being!'

The Penny Drops...

A Liverpudlian lady with her microchipped bin.

I was recently having a conversation with some people after Mass in which we were discussing conspiracy theories. Ah, well here's one for you. I called the local Council today to find out why the Church bins haven't been collected for ages. It turns out that recently the bin system has been changed and the Council no longer collect necessarily from some neighbourhoods bins outside but in communal set areas only. Interesting! No? Uninteresting? Well, hold your horses just one doggon' second. Today the penny dropped...

Talking with someone today who works for the Council I was informed that there is a new scheme in operation whereby the Council are microchipping bins to monitor whether people are recycling or not. If they, for instance, aren't recycling then I can only presume you get a fine or an ASBO or something for anti-social behaviour towards the beloved environment. Well, at least some of the Bishops will be happy...

Thursday 26 February 2009

21st Century Work House?

James Hulme
of the 'New Local Government Network' has posted a Telegraph blog on the dynamic new Government ideas for the nation's disenchanted youth. Ultimately, I think this has more to do with the Government's concerns about poverty, which is deep in the UK and, of course, trying to deal with the outcome of that poverty, which is social exclusion (a fashionable phrase I know) and people with a poor education with less opportunities than the more privileged.

It also has something to do with the fact that I think the Government, now that unemployment is spiralling, are gearing up to blame unemployed people for their situation, rather than admit that the Government themselves bear some responsibility for the present economic crises. I don't know! They take all the credit when the economy is in 'boom' time and then blame us when they've bankrupted the State by bailing out incompetent bankers. In these harsh financial times, the only thing left to do is blame the people who don't have a voice: the Poor. This is how the article begins...

Sometimes ideas are so good yet so simple that you wonder why they haven't been enacted by the Government already. This is the case for the recently published proposals from James Crabtree and Frank Field MP to establish a compulsory civic service for young people in the UK. Whilst Hampstead liberals and professional harridans will no doubt balk at the idea, citing an abhorrent infringement of our young people's liberty, the scheme could spark a revival in civic pride and help to tackle unemployment, crime and anti-social behaviour.... here for more and see what you make of it. Sounds nice and fluffy on the face of it, but it is just that idea of "compulsory" "voluntary" "work" just doesn't make much sense to me.

CD Raising Funds for Modern Martyrs

Courtesy of Zenit

The Leeds Cathedral choirs and Aid to the Church in Need are working together to raise money for persecuted and suffering Christians. With a CD of devotional music inspired by Leeds Cathedral's close connection to English martyrs, the three choirs are lending their voices to the work of Aid to the Church in Need.

The recording is called "Catholic Collection II" -- a sequel to the first production in this project. The CD includes a range of music from unison plainchant to congregational hymns to polyphonic chant. Bishop Arthur Roche of Leeds said he is "delighted" to support the "wonderful recording of music by the choirs of Leeds Cathedral." He called it a "great joy" to know this recording will help the aid agency - "for in so many parts of the world today people are in need of the consoling love of Christ." The CD is being sold for £11.50 (about $16.74) and can be obtained by visiting

Lord, Save Me Lest I Perish

This is a picture of me on my yacht. I didn't mean to get a union jack dinghy it was just the cheapest three person dinghy available at the time. It is quite a nice analogy of the spiritual life, I think. Choppy waters, drifting out to sea...someone call the friggin' coast guard! The tide has changed!

3 Year Old Sings the Sanctus!

Yes, it is true! The Latin Mass is popular with the young and the Church is seeing young people flock back to Church to attend Mass in the Extraordinary Form! The question is, if you can teach a 3 year old to sing the Sanctus, then why do people think that children can only sing the 'Sorry Song' while intermittently clapping their hands!? Sometimes I don't think we give children enough credit. What a cutie!

I was woken up by Gregorian Chant the other day, by the way, as my clock radio is set to alarm mode for about 8am. "Oh my!" I thought, "What radio station is this? This is great! I'm going to tune into this station every day!" I waited for 45 minutes for the DJ to come on and talk about where this music was being performed, only to realise when the music went silent that it was a Gregorian Meditation CD that was in the CD player and the clock radio was set to CD mode! It wasn't the radio at all! Doh!

God of Mercy and Compassion: E Vaughan

We also sang this last night. Lovely, lovely hymn. Looking at the link to this hymn on YouTube I noticed a plea from a Catholic in Pakistan for prayers because of persecutions happening there. He/she says, "Pray for us, we are persecuted, no media shows it, please pray for our women who are raped, killed, nuns and priests persecuted, please, pray for us."

Aid to the Church in need release a report on the persecution of Christians around the globe called, 'Persecuted and Forgotten'. It does appear persecution of the Church is worse in majority Islamic countries than anywhere else. I don't think the mass media do report everything that happens to the Church and to Her members. I know the Orissan Christians in India got a small mention and so did the Chaldean Christians of Iraq, but it usually spends more time reporting mad, suspended Bishops or negative publicity about the Church.

Wednesday 25 February 2009


Today has been Ash Wednesday, so obviously the majority of the day I spent in Churchill Square publicly lamenting and wailing on account of my sins, saying...

"Oh lament! Oh lament! Oh let Top Shop fall on me, Oh let Primark go under! Oh let the streets be flooded with migrant workers selling ethnic scarves, 3 for the price of 2! That's right, 3 for the price of 2!"

Winks at migrant worker for a pre-arranged cut of the profits of bellowing advertisement.

"Oh behold my poverty! Oh behold, Western Road and her vacant Woolworths! Oh let Western Road's shops remain vacant, for we Lord, we have sinned! Order a fast! Oh, woe is me! Can't you see I'm fasting, O Brighton!? Oblations and libations! Oblations and libations!"

Dips into a mega-size pack of Monster Munch.

" I haven't eaten all day, look!! I'm wasting away! It's a wonder I've still got hair or teeth! It's a wonder I have fingernails! Oh lament! Relent Lord and show mercy! Oh the hunger pains!"

Reaches into family-sized KFC bucket for another bite of fried chicken, cleverly tucked away.

"Now where was I? Oh yes, O Lament! Lament! I'd urge you all to do penance, oh yes! Like me!"

A little child approaches offering a prawn sandwich.

"Begone, thou vile fiend! Nothing shall pass my lips today, I tell thee! Nothing! I'm lamenting and wailing. Oh the weeping and the mourning! Oh holy joy!

Dabs eyes with Evian.

"Look, look at my weeping! O salvation, oblations and libations! Oh, behold Brighton, my dustiness. I am dustier than Dusty Springfield singing about dust in a desert of dust before the face of our God! Oh I am overcome by my dustiness and I lament!

Reaches into 500g bag of Maltesers, cleverly tucked away.

"O so much fasting! It's a wonder I'm not dead! Yes, brothers, yes sisters, lament like me, repent! O Lord, have mercy, and relent!"

Elderly tramp approaches seeking alms.

"What do you want?! Can't you see I'm too busy lamenting, get away from me you old crone...I mean...Look everybody, I just want you to know I'm giving money to the poor! Yes! Lament! It's Lent! Repent! It's Lent! All our credit is spent! It's Lent! Half of Brighton is bent! That's right, it's Lent!"

Passers-by shout, "Go away you old hypocrite!"

"Oh yes! Oh that's just fine and dandy that is! Here I am pleading to the Lord with tears and fasting on your behalf and that's all the thanks I get! Well, a prophet is never accepted in his own shopping mall...typical!"

A friend approaches...

"Alright, Loz, you got time for a pint?"

"Yeah, go on why not."

"You had a good day?"

"Yeah, you know, same old, same old. Ash Wednesday, isn't it, so been lamenting, wailing and fasting mostly."

"Nice one. Guinness yeah?"

"Yeah, nice one, I'll get the next round."

"You need to get a job, mate."

"Yeah, hopefully something will come up soon."

Attende Domine

The music was lovely this evening and we choristers were complimented on the singing. The main point isn't whether we sung well although the Choir wants to give the best. The main point is that Gregorian Chant is true prayer. It was reintroduced by Pope St Gregory the Great for his monks and as well as being music which is at its heart, prayerful, it is also an aid to prayer for others.

Primarily, this is because you can hear the sense of petition in the Chant, the sense of the penitent's plea, the sense of human yearning for the Divine, even in Latin you can feel it, because of the swift movements in the composition, the lilting and the rhthym, the flickers from minor to major. This is why Chant is so popular in the liturgy, because it creates a sense of the reality, or of our reality, whereas so much modern liturgical music creates a sense of an unreality, of falseness or escapism in a way reminiscent of pop or folk. Anyway, nobody likes a muso, so hope you enjoy the piece.

Attende Domine, et miserere quia peccavimus tibi. Ad Te Rex summe, omnium Redemptor oculos nostros sublevamus flentes: exaudi Christe, suplicantum preces. Dextera Patris, lapis angularis, via salutis, janua coelestis, ablue nostri maculas delicti. Rogamus Deus, tuam majestatem: auribus sacris gemitus exaudi, crimina nostra placidus indulge. Tibi fattemur crimina admissa, contrito corde pendimus oculta, tua, Redemptor, pietas ignoscat. Innocens captus, nec repugnans ductus, testibus falsis pro impiis damnatus: quos redemisti, tu conserva, Christe.

Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy, because we have sinned against Thee. To Thee, highest King, Redeemer of all, do we lift up our eyes in weeping: Hear, O Christ, the prayers of your servants.
Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy, because we have sinned against Thee. Right hand of the Father, corner-stone, way of salvation, gate of heaven, wash away our stains of sin. Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy, because we have sinned against Thee. We beseech Thee, God, in Thy great majesty: Hear our groans with Thy holy ears: calmly forgive our crimes. Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy, because we have sinned against Thee. To Thee we confess our sins admitted with a contrite heart. We reveal the things hidden: By Thy kindness, O Redeemer, overlook them. Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy, because we have sinned against Thee. The Innocent, seized, not refusing to be led; condemned by false witnesses because of impious men. O Christ, keep safe those whom Thou hast redeemed. Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy, because we have sinned against Thee.

Lenten Tip I

Ask a friend to come over and leave drawing pins hidden in the carpet around your house and leave the rest to Providence.

Obviously, I was up at 8am today, which isn't bad for me, for an ice cold shower and a light breakfast of iron filings on toast, washed down with a brussel sprout and beetroot smoothie. Delicious.

Tuesday 24 February 2009

Vice Squad!

Miami Vice: Stubble-faced detective Crockett and his partner Tubbs. Together they took on the Florida drug world. The show influenced men's fashions toward Italo-casual and interior decor toward the Memphis look.

Ah the eighties...A time when it was cool to be capitalist, when ladies wore shoulder pads, Tubular Bells played everywhere and a female Prime Minister smashed the unions with an iron fist, deregulated the banking sector, destroyed our manufacturing base, privatised every public utility in sight and handed them over to companies motivated only by profit and the pockets of their shareholders, while
heroically and determinedly moulding Britain into a beacon of the Global free-market economy. Oh hang on...

Tomorrow is officially the start of Lent. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of 40 days of abstinence and is a penitential season set aside by the Church in order for the Faithful to live more in conformity with Christ and to grow in His love ending with the Easter Triduum of Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday. For our models we look to the lives of the Saints and of course, Crockett and Tubbs from Miami Vice, who defeated vice wherever they found it.

I have composed a list of vices which, with the help of God's Grace, I should endeavour to overcome over the Lenten period. Here they are: 1. Pride, 2. Avarice, 3. Lust, 4. Greed, 5. Envy, 6. Anger, 7. Sloth. How very daunting! The very idea of even overcoming two of them seems like climbing Mt Everest...with a sack of rocks on my back! I mean, I can't even give up picking my nose, so quite how I am going to overcome any of these God alone knows. Sloth?! I can't even get up in the morning! Let's not get onto lust...

However, we are not alone in our battles. The Church offers us a wide range of assistance in our battle against the Devil, the World, the Flesh and the Self. Regular Confession, reception of the Holy Eucharist, prayer and almsgiving are among the top recommendations for pilgrim souls. Fridays we can make the Stations of the Cross, reminding us of the true cost of our redemption and a way of making reparation for our sins.

Ultimately, Lent is not meant to be about giving up chocolate or kebabs (as I somehow managed last time round!). It is about repentance, acknowledging our need for God and expressing through deepening prayer a desire to live in Union with God. It is about turning away from our selves, so often the cause of our greatest pains, and turning towards God and the needs of our neighbour, especially the poor, who become our greatest joy.

Ave Verum Corpus by Mozart

The choir tonight practised this little number. Clever chap that Mozart. Its the first time I have sang in polyphony but I really love it. Such a beautiful piece as well. The rest of the music for Ash Wednesday is Gregorian Chant, which is nice, but this piece is a bit special.

Ave, verum corpus
natum de Maria Virgine,
Vere passum immolatum
in Cruce pro homine,
Cujus latus perforatum
unda fluxit et sanguine,
Esto nobis praegustatum
in mortis examine.

Hail, true body
born of the Virgin Mary,
Who truly suffered, sacrificed
on the Cross for man,
Whose pierced side overflowed
with water and blood,
Be for us a foretaste
In the test of death.

With the potential of polyphony like this filling Churches in England and Wales, it still seems incredible some people want guitars, tambourines and kazoos. I guess the point is that some Church music is timeless and that some is just absolutely appalling. Leave it to the masters and if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Take it away Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart...

Britain Has Many Foreigners: Shocking Exclusive!

The Telegraph today warns us of the shocking figures of foreigners in the UK. One in nine workers in the UK are foreigners. In the good times nobody cared, but now that UK residents are feeling the heat, calls to send foreigners home will no doubt grow louder. In order to prepare yourself to blame unemployment on foreigners, why not buy one of these British bulldogs complete with a union jack-et.

One in nine people now resident in Britain was born abroad. Official figures show 6.5 million people born overseas were resident in the UK in the year to June 2008, an increase of 290,000 on the year to June 2007. The Annual Population Survey showed 4.1 million foreign nationals resident in the UK in the year to June 2008, compared with 3.8 million in the year to June 2007.
There were fall in the number of short-term migrants coming to study for less than 12months, down 13 per cent to 374,000 for the year to June 2007. Other figures showed in that in the 12 months to September 2008, 720,000 national insurance numbers were allocated to adult foreign nationals, seven per cent down on the previous year. Other figures released by the Home Office showed an increase in applications from asylum seekers from 23,430 to 25,670 in 2008. As revealed in The Daily Telegraph today, there was a steep fall in the numbers of eastern Europeans coming to work in Britain.

In the final quarter of last year, 29,000 people came to work in the UK, down from 35,000 in the previous quarter and the lowest level since 2004. Experts have blamed the fall on the recession and the fall in the value of the pound. The Home Office said the data showed that work registration applications from the eight accession countries had fallen to their lowest level since they joined the EU. Phil Woolas, the Border and Immigration minister, said: "The number of Eastern Europeans coming here to work is dramatically falling and research suggests that many of those that came have now gone home. "This will ensure that during these economic times, when people are losing jobs, people already here have the first crack of the whip at getting work."

If you can't afford the veterinary bills and Pedigree Chum, why not consider concealing your growing xenophobia by purchasing some of these delightful union jack boxer shorts. That way, you'll know you are considering voting for the BNP when election-time comes around, but nobody else will!

Lenten Recipe II: The Prawn Cocktail

Behold, ladies and gentlemen, Sister Prawn Cocktail. Elegantly dressed in a thousand island sauce, she is cool, refreshing and, with a twist of lemon, gives the penitential season of Lent an extra zest and vitality much needed for the purgation of our sins. Her companion, Sister Cucumber too is refreshing, and if you can't finish the whole meal, why not use the remaining slices of cucumber as a revitalising eye treatment, while praying, "Lord, may Sister Cucumber bring about an end to my spiritual blindness and may my eyes be further moistened by the waters of repentence."

Top 10 Things to Give up for Lent in a Recession

1. Your house
2. Your car
3. Your job
4. Holidays abroad
5. Nice meals out
6. The friendship of high society
7. Hopes of a promotion
8. Being a shareholder
9. Aspirations of starting a small business
10. Admiration for the efficiency of the UK banking industry

Each wordly renunciation is offset by a spiritual good however. So, therefore the top 10 things to take up during Lent in a recession are:

1. A profound and ongoing relationship with Lady Poverty
2. Camping
3. Busking/Street Entertainment
4. Volunteering/Soup Runs
5. Shopping at Aldi/Lidl
6. Solidarity with the homeless and destitute
7. Fasting (we'll have no choice when hyperinflation hits)
8. Heartfelt, prayerful forgiveness of the Government/financial sector for the economic crisis
9. An eagerness not to blame foreigners or resort to xenophobia and to teach others the same
10. Daily Mass and giving more of your time to the local parish church

News Just In...

Catholics are being urged not to make pancakes this Shrove Tuesday in light of new revelations that the founder of the practice was 'a right tosser'. The tradition which goes back hundreds of years has been maintained by Catholics who needed to get rid of stuff in their cupboard before the penitential season of Lent. A media spokesman for the Vatican said, "Such behaviour can never be encouraged and the Church calls all Catholics to chastity and to take up the Cross, whatever their state of life. In light of the new allegations about the founder of the pancake, we cannot endorse the meal."

Puerile? Moi?

Lenten Recipe I: The Jacket Potato

All praise be Yours, Lord, for Brother Jacket Potato. He teaches us holy patience by always taking at least half an hour longer to cook in the oven than you had first imagined. Brother potato is a root vegetable of virtue; strong, crusty and hard on the outside, like a wall of Christian armour against sin, only to be soft, warm and lovely on the inside. He is humble and modest but delicious, accommodating himself to a wide range of toppings from baked beans to prawns or tuna/mayonnaise. Garnished with a sprig of lettuce by his side he makes for us an ideal Lenten meal, unless we're addicted to him or unhealthily obsessed by him, whereby we must renounce him gently but courageously.

Monday 23 February 2009

Today is the Feast of St Polycarp

Courtesy of Catholic Online

Imagine being able to sit at the feet of the apostles and hear their stories of life with Jesus from their own lips. Imagine walking with those who had walked with Jesus, seen him, and touched him. That was what Polycarp was able to do as a disciple of Saint John the Evangelist. But being part of the second generation of Church leaders had challenges that the first generation could not teach about. What did you do when those eyewitnesses were gone? How do you carry on the correct teachings of Jesus? How do you answer new questions that never came up before? With the apostles gone, heresies sprang up pretending to be true teaching, persecution was strong, and controversies arose over how to celebrate liturgy that Jesus never laid down rules for.

Polycarp, as a holy man and bishop of Smyrna, found there was only one answer -- to be true to the life of Jesus and imitate that life. Saint Ignatius of Antioch told Polycarp "your mind is grounded in God as on an immovable rock." When faced with heresy, he showed the "candid face" that Ignatius admired and that imitated Jesus' response to the Pharisees. Marcion, the leader of the Marcionites who followed a dualistic heresy, confronted Polycarp and demanded respect by saying, "Recognize us, Polycarp." Polycarp responded, "I recognize you, yes, I recognize the son of Satan."

On the other hand when faced with Christian disagreements he was all forgiveness and respect. One of the controversies of the time came over the celebration of Easter. The East, where Polycarp was from, celebrated the Passover as the Passion of Christ followed by a Eucharist on the following day. The West celebrated Easter on the Sunday of the week following Passover. When Polycarp went to Rome to discuss the difference with Pope Anicetus, they could not agree on this issue. But they found no difference in their Christian beliefs. And Anicetus asked Polycarp to celebrate the Eucharist in his own papal chapel.

Polycarp faced persecution the way Christ did. His own church admired him for following the "gospel model" -- not chasing after martyrdom as some did, but avoiding it until it was God's will as Jesus did. They considered it "a sign of love to desire not to save oneself alone, but to save also all the Christian brothers and sisters." One day, during a bloody martyrdom when Christians were attacked by wild animals in the arena, the crowd became so mad that they demanded more blood by crying, "Down with the atheists; let Polycarp be found." (They considered Christians "atheists" because they didn't believe in their pantheon of gods.) Since Polycarp was not only known as a leader but as someone holy "even before his grey hair appeared", this was a horrible demand.

Polycarp was calm but others persuaded him to leave the city and hide at a nearby farm. He spent his time in prayer for people he knew and for the Church. During his prayer he saw a vision of his pillow turned to fire and announced to his friends that the dream meant he would be burned alive. As the search closed in, he moved to another farm, but the police discovered he was there by torturing two boys. He had a little warning since he was upstairs in the house but he decided to stay, saying, "God's will be done."

Then he went downstairs, talked to his captors and fed them a meal. All he asked of them was that they give him an hour to pray. He spent two hours praying for everyone he had every known and for the Church, "remembering all who had at any time come his way -- small folk and great folk, distinguished and undistinguished, and the whole Catholic Church throughout the world." Many of his captors started to wonder why they were arresting this holy, eighty-six-year-old bishop.

But that didn't stop them from taking him into the arena on the Sabbath. As he entered the arena, the crowd roared like the animals they cheered. Those around Polycarp heard a voice from heaven above the crowd, "Be brave, Polycarp, and act like a man." The proconsul begged the eighty-six-year-old bishop to give in because of his age. "Say 'Away with the atheists'" the proconsul urged. Polycarp calmly turned to the face the crowd, looked straight at them, and said, "Away with the atheists." The proconsul continued to plead with him. When he asked Polycarp to swear by Caesar to save himself, Polycarp answered, "If you imagine that I will swear by Caesar, you do not know who I am. Let me tell you plainly, I am a Christian." Finally, when all else failed the proconsul reminded Polycarp that he would be thrown to the wild animals unless he changed his mind. Polycarp answered, "Change of mind from better to worse is not a change allowed to us."

Because of Polycarp's lack of fear, the proconsul told him he would be burned alive but Polycarp knew that the fire that burned for an hour was better than eternal fire. When he was tied up to be burned, Polycarp prayed, "Lord God Almighty, Father of your beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have received knowledge of you, God of angels and powers, of the whole creation and of the whole race of the righteous who live in your sight, I bless you, for having made me worthy of this day and hour, I bless you, because I may have a part, along with the martyrs, in the chalice of your Christ, to resurrection in eternal life, resurrection both of soul and body in the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit. May I be received today, as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, among those who are in you presence, as you have prepared and foretold and fulfilled, God who is faithful and true. For this and for all benefits I praise you, I bless you, I glorify you, through the eternal and heavenly High Priest, Jesus Christ, your beloved Son, through whom be to you with him and the Holy Spirit glory, now and for all the ages to come. Amen."

The fire was lit as Polycarp said Amen and then the eyewitnesses who reported said they saw a miracle. The fire burst up in an arch around Polycarp, the flames surrounding him like sails, and instead of being burned he seemed to glow like bread baking, or gold being melted in a furnace. When the captors saw he wasn't being burned, they stabbed him. The blood that flowed put the fire out. The proconsul wouldn't let the Christians have the body because he was afraid they would worship Polycarp. The witnesses reported this with scorn for the lack of understanding of Christian faith: "They did not know that we can never abandon the innocent Christ who suffered on behalf of sinners for the salvation of those in this world." After the body was burned, they stole the bones in order to celebrate the memory of his martyrdom and prepare others for persecution.

Operation Entrapment?

A friend of mine has a court case upcoming. Known to the authorities as having a history of drug abuse and 'anti-social' behaviour, one evening in Brighton he was approached by a young lady, sweating, desperately asking him if he could supply her with a small bag of heroin. Having suffered much of his life with withdrawal symptoms from the drug he managed to obtain her a small bag of it from a friend. He maintains he took no money for it, but did it 'as a favour' because the lady who approached him seemed desperate. Withdrawal symptoms from heroin, as anyone with a bit of knowledge about the drug would know, include sweating, nausea, mania, running nose, itchiness, diarrohea and more. Withdrawl symptoms from methadone are similarly horrendous.

It turned out that the lady in question was an undercover police officer who works in the police laboratories. She had taken a 'blocker' so that drugs she took had no effect on her, but still she smoked the drugs she was given. The friend in question was filmed as he did this and is now awaiting trial for which he could get a maximum of 3 years in jail. Now in jail, awaiting bail, he maintains that although he was 'stupid' to give the lady the drugs, he can't help feeling as if he was the victim of entrapment by the police. He says he knows 30 other people who are now in jail because of the police entrapment operation. Apparently it is called Operation Georgia.

My friend is a recovering drug user, not a recovering drug dealer. He has a history of addiction, institutionalisation and homelessness. The irony is that the people banged up as a result of Operation Georgia are not dealers but, by and large, vulnerable drug users with a history of addiction and illness. My friend knows what he did was wrong, but he was set up in a deliberate method of entrapment by the police, who used some pretty underhand tactics to level the charge of 'supply' to my friend, who could now get 3 years in prison. The irony is that the drug dealers themselves don't appear to be the target of the police operation, but instead the drug users who are seen as a problem. I asked him whether the dealer was given a sentence also. He said, he found it odd, but no, whoever it was who gave the drug to him didn't receive a sentence.

I think this police operation stinks to high heaven, because, in the process of trying to pin the charge of the supply of drugs on those with addiction, they are actually putting temptation in their path, using a vulnerable looking woman with all the outward signs of withdrawal and then slamming the addicts who have been conned into HMP. The same person has an ASBO, so even if he is released from jail in a while, he will still be unable to walk freely around Brighton. He says prison life is appalling, with a toilet only a yard from his pillow. He has no money, no giro, tobacco and feels like he has been set up by the police who only really wanted rid of him. Say a prayer for him.

Sunday 22 February 2009

Love and Logic

C4 continued its awful documentary series on the history of Christianity, this week with Professor Colin Blakemore discussing the changing role of Science and Faith in Christianity through the centuries. Above is a statue of Galileo at the Vatican. It was humourous when Blakemore paid a visit to a 'Creation Museum' in Tennessee, where Bible Christians had built a bizarre scene of Adam and Eve walking around surrounded by gigantic friendly dinosaurs. However, his dismissal of Christianity on the basis of reason, empirical data and logic alone was crass and mind-numbingly dull. "Science," he maintained, "I expect one day will make Christianity redundant." Personally, I think that with any luck, the recession will mean financial cut backs for C4 and one day it will make the head of programming redundant.

He spoke with a religious Brother who works at the astronomy institute at the Vatican, who basically told him that the Genesis account of Creation was not meant to be taken literally but as a spiritual allegory, but that when it comes to the Virgin Birth, Life, Death, Resurrection and Ascension of Christ, "all bets are off."

The amount of time Blakemore dedicated to trashing the Church for its past errors in the scientific field, literal interpretations of creationism which ignore scientific progress and heresy trials of scientists who disagreed with the Church's stance on the Earth's place in the Universe, was breathtakingly disproportionate to the gentle Brother's assertion that God had, in the person of Christ, inserted Himself into His own creation a little over 2,000 years ago.

Blakemore's response was, "Well, prove it!" The Brother said, "I can't! It is an article of Faith! All we have to go on is the Faith of the Church and the testimony of people who knew Jesus Christ and were witnesses to the Resurrection!" Clearly challenged by considering the idea that God had been made manifest in the World as the Incarnate Word, Blakemore decided to instead go and talk with an Anglican priest who denied the Divinity of Christ, the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection and basically all major tenets of Christianity.

And yet, Blakemore ignored the most important aspect of the Christian faith. Christ! He ignored the entire New Testament accounts of Christ, His Apostles, His Death and His Resurrection. He ignored the fact that no bones of either Our Blessed Lord or His Blessed Mother were ever found, even though historical accounts of His Earthly Life are widely accepted and that according to the Gospel well over 300 people were witnesses to the Resurrection. Anyway, this is not my main point. I suppose my main point is that empirical evidence, scientific testing and cold human logic will never lead any soul to any belief in God. It is a matter of the heart, it is a matter of Grace and ultimately it is a matter of Love.

Take for instance, the Large Hadron Collider, the black hole machine which Blakemore toured after having chatted with his militant atheist friend and absurdly wealthy best-selling writer and expert on God, Richard Dawkins. It cost £8 billion to build and uses the electricity of a small country. Will it find 'the God particle'? Perhaps, but even if it is found, wouldn't it be cheaper and more effective just to pray? I always maintain that everyone finds God eventually, just some believe in Him when they are alive, others when they are dead and that when we stand before Him in the flesh at the Last Judgment, atheistic scientists will get all the empirical evidence they require. Also, if they just abandoned the project and gave up, there would be one less thing to worry about when they start colliding particles and set about heightening the risk of turning the Universe into a new flavour of jelly.

Cold reasoning, logic and emiricism, those great scientific values of the 'Enlightenment' really do rob us of the Divine and often rob us of our humanity. I mean, how do militant atheists and logical scientists deal with aspects of human love while dismissing aspects of the Love Divine as 'delusion'. I'm just imagining a romantic scene at a restaurant

Spouse: "Darling, I love you. Oh, you really are the most fascinating, most charming and splendid person in the World. I love everything about you, even in your faults. To me everything you do is wonderful. I love the way you hold your knife and fork even now, the way you eat and oh, everything about you. Oh my darling, I do just love you so much!"

Atheistic empirical evidence-based logical scientist: "Ah, yes, but do you love me? What is love? Does love really exist? Perhaps you have some kind of chemical imbalance in the brain. Show me the data! Then I will believe you love me, but until I see some empirical evidence in a research paper, I am afraid I cannot believe you. Feelings and emotions which we are experiencing, many of which, objectively speaking, could be desribed as love, could be down to several causal factors. These include transference, biological impulses for the furtherence of the species and..."

Spouse: I'm sorry darling, I just wanted to express my love for you. You make me so happy, sometimes I just thank God you were sent to me. What can I say? I guess we were meant to be!

Atheistic empirical evidence-based logical scientist: "Meant to be?! Meant to be?! Are you suggesting there is some kind of benign Deity up there lovingly upholding the Universe and that He guided we hitherto two lonely souls into each others arms to be married and live joyfully together for the rest of our days?! Is that what you are suggesting?!"

Spouse: "Darling, I was just..."

Atheistic empirical evidence-based logical scientist: "Waiter, get me the bill. I want a divorce."

I pray he burns his morning toast. Go on, Lord, give him a gentle smoting, a light chiding in Your love!

Next week, one Cherie Blair will be revealing the final installment of the series which is routinely laced with poisonous secular arse-nic. She will be covering the future of Chistianity. Cherie is another one of those 'ardent Catholics' who publicly deny Church teaching on birth control, abortion and the gender arrangements that constitute true marriage. We'll watch in bemusement as she tells us how Christianity is thriving in the US while, presumably, she'll be using the opportunity to dish out condoms to school children and cut the red tape at the unveiling of a new abortion clinic, before humbly assisting in making decorative preparations for the Catholic float for Gay Pride Day.

Christ Heals the Paralytic

Today's Gospel reading was of Christ's healing of the paralytic, which personally I thought was apt, as this is a term which could quite objectively be used to describe my state at a friend's birthday party last night. Alternative adjectives include wasted, plastered and hammered. The birthday girl reminded me of something I did last night. I said, "That's a ridiculous suggestion. I didn't do that." She said, "Yes, you did." I said, "No, no I didn't. I don't recall doing that." She said, "No, you definitely did." Oh dear...The only thing I was able to do today was get out of bed and walk to to Mass in the evening. A Miracle? Yes!

"A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that He had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and He preached to them.

Some men came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralytic man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, 'Son, your sins are forgiven."

Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 'Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?' Immediately Jesus knew in His Spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and He said to them, 'Why are thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, "your sins are forgiven,"
or to say, "Get up, take your mat and walk?" But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins...' He said to the paralytic, 'I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.'

He got up, took his mat and walk out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God saying, 'We have never seen anything like this."

Saturday 21 February 2009

Canonisation Date Set for Priest to the Lepers

The date of October 14 2009 has been set by the Vatican for the Canonisation of Blessed Joseph de Veuster, otherwise known as Father Damien, the Priest who cared for lepers on a colony in Molokai. Fr Damien's life of heroic virtue is a staggering example of pastoral love and service to the most marginalised and excluded.

It was characteristic of him that when he spoke to his congregation he spoke of "we brothers and sisters" but one morning, after the confirmation of his personal suspicion that he himself had contracted the disease, he addressed his flock and said: "We lepers…" It is said that from that day the bitter opposition from among the lepers to his stern programmes melted away.

It is a great paradox of the Catholic faith that a priest who renounced everything to live in service of the poorest should himself contract the disease, but very much an echo of Christ, who became for us a Man of Sorrows, one disfigured and one from whom men turned away their gaze, during His Passion. It is a sign of his total and unconditional solidarity with the poorest.

For a wonderful biography of his life click here. Also you can buy the DVD of the life of Fr Damien, entitled simply, 'Molokai' from Amazon for £14.95 new, or, even better, as little as £1.49 used. Click here for the appropriate Amazon webpage.

Extreme Lent: Week 1

The penitent St Jerome beating himself up with stones

Day 1 (Ash Wednesday): It is the first day of Lent. 'Remember, O man, that from dust you came and to dust you shall return.' Taking heed of these words, you gather dust from around your house. You keep a small collection of it on your desk at work and some in your pocket so that every now and then you can fiddle with it during the day in rememberance of the brevity of life and your mortality. You attend the Holy Day of Obligation with piety and awe. Ash Wednesday is a day of Fasting and Abstinence and so it is a lunch of thinned gruel or vegetable soup, if you are feeling indulgent, with a bread crust for lunch and a dinner of sardine delight. It is a day of weeping and mourning both for your sins and for the fact that you've gone and imposed upon yourself 40 days of extreme self-mortification.

Day 2: Lent is a period of time spent in the spiritual wilderness. It is a time to devote yourself to overcoming your sins with prayer, fasting and almsgiving. You decide to turn your house into that wilderness to remind yourself that you are combating self-indulgence and the passing vanities of this World. This is extreme Lent, remember, so you call a house clearance firm instructing them to remove all of your worldly possessions from the house, asking them to sell it all and to give all the money raised to the first beggar they encounter. You now own nothing but the clothes you stand in and your passport. You have freed yourself from the shackles of the material World and are ready to become incredibly bored and spend the next 38 days twiddling your thumbs.

Day 3: Although your house is now desolate, you long to recreate the sense of the desert. You order 3 tonnes of sand from Travis Perkins and with a shovel cover every inch of your floor, turn the heating up to maximum, paint your ceiling sky blue, and swelter in your very own wilderness, eating nothing but fragments of a cactus which you have bought from B&Q. You have asked the Water board to cut off your water supply and are dehydrated, but are comforted by mirages of the Saints and Holy Angels egging you on.

Day 4: Your life of constant interior prayer is intensified by the fact that there is absolutely nothing else to do. Yet unholy distractions will come your way and you suffer your first spiritual defeat in the battle, when, under severe temptation, you leave the life of prayer for an hour and build a miniature city of sand castles formed by spit, tears of penitence and the work of your own hands. It is a work of sublime genius and your have become master of an entire civic civilisation, complete with an elaborate tram network and town hall. Overcome with contrition at your vanity you spend another hour kicking it to pieces and return to your cell to beg the Lord for mercy.

Day 5: The life of solitude can be too much to bear and inspired by the Holy Spirit, you find the joy of companionship when you spot a spider in the corner of your lounge. Having forgotten your own selfish needs you open the window for a while to allow small flies to enter, lest the spider go hungry. They enter by the hundreds because you emit a bizarre body odour. Purified in spirit by prayer and mortification you rejoice in the happiness of the spider who has had his fill of flies. To the survivors you preach your first sermon on the love of God. They rejoice in your growing holiness and virtue and by sign of their gratitude to God, formation fly into a Cross before your eyes. You spend the rest of the day weeping for joy at the gracious love of your Saviour.

Day 6: Friends and work colleagues are concerned and wonder where on earth you have gone, and you have hitherto ignored all calls on the door enquiring of your whereabouts. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, you open the door to one work colleague. He is a worldly soul and still immersed in the fleeting pleasures of this earthly existence and asks if you fancy a pint down the local. Idle chatter, however, you have renounced as part of your extreme Lent so you tell him that you would love to talk to him but you have taken a vow of silence. He says, "Really?" You say, "Yes, absolutely. In fact, I've never been so sure of anything in my life. Silence is the interior route to God, you know, a mystical ladder by which we ascend..." He remains at your door for an hour while you tell him all about the wonderful benefits of your vow.

Day 7: Word of your hermit existence has spread throughout the town and locals gather outside of your window asking for spiritual advice. Many have brought you bread and water, concerned that you are not eating properly at all and are worried your extreme Lent could end tragically. You turn away all offers of help telling the crowd that there is enough moss and rainwater in the gutter outside your bedroom window to last you a whole lifetime and that the Lord in His Providence has provided for all your needs. From your lounge window you introduce the crowd to your new spider friend and tell them that if we are to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven we must be as reliant and dependent on God for our needs as the humble spider. The crowd, astonished by your life of mortification and love for God go home and lock themselves in their houses, sell all they own and sit in their lounges surrounded by a gigantic web structure of sellotape and wait for the Lord to provide for their necessities in their new life of Chrisitan holiness.

Friday 20 February 2009

Spanish Government Vs The Catholic Church

The Church squares up to the raging bull.

Spain. Home of good looking people, romance, cracking wine, delightful tapas and a steady bedrock of Catholicism. Oh, hang on, the Spanish Government are just about to legalise abortion. One by one, even 'Catholic' countries are falling for the pro-choice arguments that relaxing abortion laws leads to better 'healthcare' for women and makes the World a happier place. Since the 1967 Abortion Act, the number of abortions in England and Wales totals approximately 6.7 million. That's 6.7 million human lives snuffed out, and, let us not forget millions of women who live with the painful and self-destructive agony of maternal loss for the rest of their earthly lives.

Courtesy of The Telegraph

The move has put the Socialist government on a collision course with the Catholic Church which has argued the need "to restrict and not expand abortion" in Spain. A parliamentary committee presented recommendations to Congress this week that included legalising early stage abortions, while gradually imposing more restrictions as pregnancies progress.

The proposals will form the basis of a draft bill to be presented to Parliament later this year that will tackle one of the traditionally Roman Catholic nation's final taboos and bring the abortion law in line with most other European countries. The move is the latest in an ambitious programme of social change under Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero that has seen him clash repeatedly with the Roman Catholic Church.

Since coming to power in 2004 his socialist government has legalised gay marriage, eased divorce laws and dropped religious education from the curriculum in public schools, all measures which have deeply angered church leaders.

The Ladder of Divine Ascent

This evening, I attended a lecture by a monk from the World's oldest monastery, here in Brighton. Fr Justin, librarian at St Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai, Egypt gave a talk on the Sinai Illuminated Manuscript of the Heavenly Ladder by St John Climacus, at St Michael's & All Angels, Brighton. The Monastery houses more than 4,500 ancient manuscripts and tens of thousands of fragments from others. I'm one of those chaps near the bottom of the ladder falling off frequently. Thank God for Confession!

The talk was fascinating. St John Climacus wrote a spiritual treatise on a 30-step ladder to Divine union, called 'The Ladder of Divine Ascent', which reminded me of the works of other great mystics such as St John of the Cross and St Teresa of Avila. It was interesting to think that the monastery at Mount Sinai, until very relatively recently really was in the wilderness, but of course is now a tourist destination. Those who wished to escape the World are now immersed back in it!

The Holy Father recently held up St. John Climacus as a reminder of the need for “continual conversion and purification with the help of the Holy Spirit. Speaking to 8,000 people in Paul VI Hall, the Pope, in February explained that in the first part of “Ladder of Paradise,” St. John Climacus describes a “break with the world in order to go back to a true evangelical infancy, the time of childhood, in accordance with Jesus’ words.” John Climacus teaches that innocence, fasting and chastity are the “pillars” of this journey, the Pope said.

Every “newborn in Christ,” Pope Benedict continued, “learns from these things, which allow the soul to enter in communion with God.” “Blessed be those who mortify their will till the end,” John Climacus said, for they “shall be placed on the right of Christ. The rung of St. John’s ladder is the “spiritual struggle against passions.” St John Climacus saw passions not as “bad in and of themselves,” but taught that they “become so when they are put to bad use by man’s freedom.” In fact, the Pope said summarizing the saint’s teaching, “If the passions are purified they open onto the path that leads to God.”

“The struggle against passions becomes positive thanks to the image of the fire of the Holy Spirit, whose strength ensures victory over passions, transforming them by the Creator’s positive nature,” John Climacus adds. “The fire of the Holy Spirit is the fire of love and truth.”

The third step on the ascent to Paradise that John Climacus describes, deals with “Christian perfection,” the higher levels of which “can be experienced by those who have reached peace of mind and inner peace.”

John Climacus emphasizes the importance of discernment: Christians must examine every aspect of their behavior in order to ascertain their deepest motivations and reawaken a "sense of the heart." This leads to tranquility of soul, “esichía,” which prepares Christians to probe the depths of the divine mysteries, the Pontiff explained.

The final part of the saint’s “ladder” is dedicated to faith, hope and charity. John Climacus speaks of charity as Eros, “the figure of the soul’s matrimonial love for God.” An intense experience of this Eros, the Holy Father related, makes the soul progress more than any hard-fought struggle with its passions. This positive character counts more than the struggle itself.

St. John Climacus writes, “Hope is charity’s strength.” In its absence charity is obliterated. Hope surrounds one with God’s mercy. "How topical is the opus of a hermit monk from 1,500 years ago?” the Pope asked. “At first glance, we would say no, but if we look closely at monastic life we see that it is a great sign of Christian life. It shows in capital letters what we write daily in small letters; it shows how a baptized person can live in communion with Christ, his death and resurrection.”

Pope Benedict mentioned how this is demonstrated in relation to one’s ego. “I give up my arrogance, for which I too must judge for I cannot rely on others.” It is a question “of overcoming the arrogance of saying ‘I know best.’” In this manner, the soul grows. “Only hope can make us capable of charity. With hope we can transcend everyday reality,” the Pontiff stated. “We don’t have to wait for success every day but for God himself in the end…We can be good with others without expecting a reward. The mystery of prayer, the personal knowledge of God, hides in charity,” Benedict XVI shared as he concluded with the prayer: Let us use the ladder of faith, hope and charity to reach true life.”

Change in the Law on Photography

This video was made before the change in the law under the Terrorism Act, which now means you cannot photograph the police, even, we presume if they're kicking the proverbial out of a peaceful protester, arresting a beggar or caught taking cocaine.

The Daily Mirror in November 2008 posted this video of police abuse of power. Clearly, this kind of video footage doesn't reflect that well on the UK Police force. Perhaps, this is one reason why they don't want to be filmed...This was a case of 'mistaken identitiy'. Oh that's alright then, because obviously the 'right man' deserved a good hiding at the hands of the boys in blue. Instead they picked on a war hero who'd served for this country on an ordinary night out in the town centre.

Well, at least, thank God, this will mean the end of those awful 'Police, Camera, Action' programmes, where a film crew follow the police around on a night on the beat in St Albans town centre, while viewers at home cheer the good cops on as they arrest a drunk for having the temerity to swear at them when they don't respond to police 'diplomacy', and then sling them in the cells for a night.

I remember the time a friend and I were once standing outside a nightclub and the bouncer asked us to smoke further away from the entrance of the club. There was nobody else there, partially I expect because it was the first weekend of the smoking ban. I think I sarcastically said, "Yes, you're right, I mean, look at the queue of people trying to get in." We proceeded to have something of an argument and then my friend and I were thrown out of the club. I considered it a grave injustice and said to him something like, "You pray? Well I do! I'm going to pray for you you f***!"

Joe Pesci eat your heart out. That's as close to getting in trouble with authority as I've come.

"That Was Not My Mass"

The only downside of facing the same way as your congregation at Mass is that someone could stab you in the back at any moment.

The Tablet this week lay heavy blows upon a very highly regarded Catholic priest of the parish of Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen, one Fr Tim Finegan. Thankfully, there are enough men and women who admire his determination to be faithful to the expressed desire of Pope Benedict XVI to see the Latin Mass implemented in parishes alongside the Novus Ordu, that he will not feel too isolated. Many will have leapt and will continue to leap to his defence.

Elena Curti, who penned the article, sadly, has quoted some of his parishioners who have expressed their disapproval of Mass in the Extraordinary Form on Sundays, even though, Fr Tim has made it widely known that on the very same day, Mass is also celebrated in the ordinary form slightly earlier at 9am.

The real giveaway in the article is the headline, which reads, "That was not my Mass." This headline is actually at the heart of the 'divisions' in the Church over Sacred Liturgy and the Mass.

Why? Because no, it wasn't your Mass, never was and never will be. It is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and like all things Holy, the Mass belongs to God. A great part of the problem that a minority of laity, some priests and many Bishops struggle with is really about seeking a balance of power and authority in the Church and an inordinate desire to view Church liturgy and decision-making over it, or even the Church itself, as a 'democracy.'

Listen to some of the complaints which the parishioners made about Fr Tim's implementation of Mass in the Extraordinary Form...

“It is a matter of principle.” What is the principle? As far as I know the chief principle of the Laity is to attend Mass as part of our Sunday obligation. The Laity have not been placed in a position of authority in the Church. The Priest has been, by virtue of his Office at his ordination. Therefore, arguably, our personal feelings about the liturgy we really need to put to one side. God knows, I've sat through some pretty awful guitar Masses in my time, but I don't go and tell the Catholic Herald about it, because I respect the Church and the Priest enough to hold back. I won't say I haven't been tempted, mind.

"I won’t be driven out." Nobody is driven out of the Church. If we leave the Church we leave of our own free will. Ultimately, if I was marooned on a very tiny island and only able to go to one parish and it was full of guitars, keyboards, singers and liturgical dancers, it would be a pain in the arse but I'd still have to go to Mass.

"I have no objection to them having it once a month or once a week, but it should not be the main Sunday Mass and it should not be imposed over the whole parish.” My first reaction to reading this was, 'Who on earth asked you?' Nobody consulted me on any aspect of Church matters. I can't see why they should. Clearly, this person is disgruntled, but really, it is up to the Priest. Also, where he says, "the whole parish", read, "me," because "the whole parish" may not be so keen on the Novus Ordu either. Let the people decide? By majority vote? It is always worth recalling that 'the people' voted Blair in 3 times and Thatcher in twice.

“People who have been away from Church come back at Christmas and Easter and are totally put off. It is so sad.” I see. Yes, it is sad many Catholics only go to Mass twice a year. So, the New Rite didn't retain their interest in the Church and the Old Rite didn't either. Heck, you can't please everyone! Mass attendance is an obligation incumbent upon those souls and it is not up to Holy Mother Church to devise a Mass which is simultaeneously pleasing to everyone because someone will always want something different.

The only Mass which would suddenly attract hoards of lapsed Catholics is one where the Font is a jacuzzi, where the bar in the corner serves free cocktails and where young ladies in Playboy outfits served cheese and pinapple on sticks for those souls yet to be reconciled to Holy Mother Church and who deem themselves unable to receive Communion in good conscience. The moment Priests design Mass around the congregations' whims rather than the worship of God is the moment Mass becomes little to do with God and everything to do with us. Which is why it is best to let the Priest do his job. For proof, look up the words 'Rock-teen/Balloon Mass' on Google and eventually you'll find some pretty horrendous videos.

“I grew up with the Latin Mass and remember sitting watching men and women saying the Rosary, slyly reading the newspaper or making responses they didn’t really understand." Tempting as it often is, watching others at Mass is not advisable. At Mass we should be been praying, revering and adoring God. It is a bit presumptuous to think that just because one doesn't feel like one is 'getting anything' out of Mass, that those around you are not either. The one thing that has struck me about the Latin Mass is that I don't really have to say anything, which is actually a great relief. Thank God for some silence. It's rare I can tell you.

"The English Mass made us participants and co-celebrants in the Sacrifice of the Mass. The instruction to ‘open the windows and doors’ is one of the most liberating things to happen in the Catholic Church. If you listen carefully you can hear them being shut in Blackfen.” Ah...Now we are getting to the heart of the matter. We are participants in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, in as much as we participate in the Mystery of the Trinity and the Company of Heaven, but this is the case regardless of which rite is used. Our participation in the Mass is not dependent upon us, our endeavours or our efforts. It is always worth remembering that if nobody turned up to Church one Sunday, the Priest would still offer Mass. Pope Benedict's call is for men and women to 'open the windows and doors' of our hearts to Christ...

The word, 'co-celebrant' insinuates a little that the Laity are a bit like the Priesthood in that the Laity respond vocally and utter the sacred words which used to be uttered by the Priest alone. Some people have described this as the 'clericalisation' of the Laity. The idea of the vocal responses, the congregation's vocalisation of the pattern of the Mass, the hymns, bidding prayers, Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, the need for Eucharistic ministers and lay readers all being removed from us and being done by the Priest leaves some people with a feeling of disempowerment. This of course, at a time when society says that only empowerment is good.

Now, I'll grant these parishioners one thing. Disempowerment does not necessarily make us feel warm and cosy but it is undoubtedly holy. Why? I'll tell you why. It's because..."All Power, all Glory and all Honour is Yours, Almighty Father. Forever and Ever. Amen."

Power belongs to God and is shown forth through the Pope, who speaks infallibly on Faith and Morals on the Throne of St Peter, through Bishops who are under obedience to the Pope, through Priests who are under obedience to the Bishops (who, remember, are meant to be obedient to the Pope!) and there the power line stops. Why does it stop there? Because only these people can offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass or be instrument's of Absolution in the Sacrament of Penance. Only these people have been ordained to serve God in the Church.

We, the Laity were never meant to be 'empowered' in any other way than to proclaim the Gospel joyously in our daily lives and work. Anyone who thinks Heaven is going to be a 'democracy' will be in for a big shock, when Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal King of Glory, sits upon His Throne at His Glorious Second Coming.

The Pope Who Won't Be Buried

It has been a long time since I have put finger to keyboard to write about our holy Catholic Faith, something I regret, but which I put larg...