Saturday 29 August 2009

£1,500 and counting!

I can confirm that St Mary Magdalen's has raised over £1,500 for the Restoration Fund! Thanks be to God! Get in! Thanks be to God also for all who volunteered to support our beloved parish, to those who donated goods and those who bought stuff.

Wednesday 26 August 2009

An Agnostic, an Anglican, a Pentecostal and a Catholic Walk into a Bar...

...Barman says, "What'll you be having?" The agnostic says, "Give me a moment, I'm not quite sure." The Anglican says, "Can I have a pint of shandy? I can't take the strong stuff, I like it watered down a lot!" The Pentecostal says, "Give me a spirit! Any spirit!" The barman turns to the Catholic and asks, "And what'll you be having?" The Catholic replies, "Probably a very, very long evening."

The Windmill is the pub to be seen if you are a St Mary Magdalen parishioner since we usually go over there after Mass on Sunday and have very loud discussions on the Catholic Faith, making several people around us feel mildly uncomfortable or bewildered. I met an Anglican friend in there last night for a drink and a chat. I then went outside for a cigarette and met a Pentecostal lady and a 33-year-old man who heard the Pentecostal lady and I singing a couple of Smith's songs and who decided to join us inside...for what turned into a 'religious debate.'

Largely, the agnostic chap was the one doing the questioning and the answers were really as much as one would expect. The Anglican didn't really say very much at all, the Pentecostal lady wanted to talk about the Bible and her experiences of the Holy Spirit or more specifically, the 'power of the Holy Spirit,' eventually making it appear that the Holy Spirit is a force which quite literally possesses your physical body and does strange things to it, and then there was the Catholic, that's me, who talked about the formation of the early Church and the Holy Faith being One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, how the Church was built by Our Lord on the Rock of St Peter and how even St Paul warned the Early Church against heresy and schism.

What was interesting was that the agnostic chap was very interested in the different views and was, I think, searching, like we all are, for answers. It turned out that he had experienced a very religious upbringing by parents in the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, and had experienced a very 'biblical' upbringing. His parents treated him terribly as a child, abused him and his brother in particular, horrifically, had locked him in a basement and fed him through a letterbox and he escaped at the age of 16. Social services had done little to help him and his foster parents turned out to be no more caring than his parents. Later in life he was homeless for 3 years. He is now an artist working in Shoreham and given all he went through as a child and teenager now seems to be a charming, balanced and caring individual.

We talked later at the Pentecostal lady's house about the Church, God, sexuality, marriage and quite a lot really, topics which we discussed more at length at his place, since he was kind enough to allow me to crash at his pad for the night, gave me a cup of tea in the morning and paid my rail fare back to Brighton. He was married in an Anglican church but the marriage broke down after a few years. He now has a good relationship with a long term girlfriend. Today I am feeling the effect of 4 pints of Guinness, a glass of cider and two tequila's on my fragile head.

Let me finish by saying that it is in the spirit of ecumenism that I rejoice in the fact that out of the Anglican, the Pentecostal and the Catholic, the person that the agnostic found most accessible, interesting and charitable was the Catholic. Hallelujah! Praise the Lord! Thanks again for putting me up, Bro. God knows I needed a shower. May God bless you, keep you and Our Lady watch over you and protect you always.

Monday 24 August 2009

I'm in Trouble!

Someone recently told me about this. A couple of buskers 'narrowly escaped jail' for busking the same song, 'Wonderwall' by Oasis over and over again in a not very appealing manner. Not only does this story highlight the growing police state mentality regarding the issuing of Asbos, but it has huge implications for buskers all round. I hope this isn't the start of a crackdown on buskers in the same way most cities and towns have had a crackdown on beggars. I'm going to have to diversify, since I usually play 'There is A Light That Never Goes Out' and 'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now'...repeatedly.

'Wonderwall' is, by the way, one of the most requested songs by pissed up lads on a Friday or Saturday night in the town centre. If you play it, the men gather in a huddle with their arms around each other and sing this into the streetlit night sky at a loud volume. Then, afterwards, they each usually each give you a quid because they are feeling generous and you've made their night, even if they perhaps don't always remember it in the morning. By the way, if you listen to this song very carefully, there is a hidden message contained in the lyrics...Oasis are rubbish. Also, if you play the song on vinyl backwards, quite mysteriously and inexplicably...the song sounds better.

Story courtesy of Yahoo Music
We've all surely heard "Wonderwall" by Oasis enough times to realise that Noel Gallagher has never topped it but it might be good if he did. But how many of us can actually say they break down in tears at the sound of those oh so familiar opening chords? Matt Williams does and it's not because the track reminds him of an ex girlfriend. All he can think about is a pair of "lawless" buskers who played it constantly and made his life hell.

James Ryan and Andrew Stevens have been handed Asbos by District Judge Qureshi at Birmingham Magistrates Court and banned from entering parts of Moseley and playing musical instruments in public in the area. Narrowly escaping jail, they were also banned from begging anywhere in England and Wales. The pair only knew 'Wonderwall' and George Michael's 'Faith' and that's all they played from early evening into the small hours. However, their act became notorious for noise and over-aggressive money demands, prompting countless fights, intimidating and infuriating local residents.

"I break down every time I hear ‘Wonderwall' or the intro to ‘Faith'", explained Williams, who called police 60 times to complain after being abused by Ryan and Stevens. "They would go on until four, five or six in the morning. It was horrendous. It completely affected my life. I couldn't sleep but it had a far deeper effect where all of a sudden your home isn't a place where you could feel comfortable, safe or secure", he said. After the hearing, Ryan insisted: "The whole thing's about playing a guitar, it's a joke. Most people loved it". Local David Glover agreed, saying: "An Asbo is harsh, they should have to learn new songs." Well, two years is surely enough time to nail 'Shakermaker'.

St Bartholomew's Feast Day

The murderers of St Bartholomew must have had a real skinful to do this...

I have often thought that my Patron's martyrdom was perhaps the most ghastly in the history of the Church, that of being roasted alive on an outdoor griddle, even though it he bore it with such a sense of humour. St Bartholomew, however, takes some beating. The brave and holy Apostle and Martyr, known as Nathanial, when he meets Christ and within whom Our Lord says, "is no guile", willingly accepted his horrendous death at the hands of the early persecutors of the Church. The Gospel of St John recounts that St Bartholomew recognised Our Lord as, "the Son of God, the Holy One of Israel" after Our Lord had told him that He had seen him praying beneath a fig tree. By all human accounts, he got a 'raw deal' in terms of martyrdoms, just because it would be so horrific to see someone literally slicing your skin off. Being murdered for one's faith would never be pleasant but oh my! How on earth did he bear it?! Yet, he is now crowned by his Lord in the Glory of Heaven and intercedes for us. Just thinking about his martyrdom makes me feel incredibly squemish.

The X-Piano

Yesterday I sunned it up in Brighton and swam in our refreshing English Channel, all the way out to the furthest yellow bhoy. You get a totally different perspective on Brighton when you swim out. The town actually looks prettier the further you get away from it. Preparations for the St Mary Magdalen Car Boot Sale are well underway, having been advertised in the local press listings pages, but there were plenty of opportunities yesterday to raise more awareness of the event, but I didn't have any blinkin' flyers with me! O woe!

I was on the beach with John when we realised that Brighton Beach was packed and people were just waiting to be told all about the Car Boot Sale. We would have had them eating out of the palm of our hands. Then, realised later in the evening that the Brunswick Festival was on, and not only could I have distributed flyers there, but there were loads of small traders selling apples and soap who could have been interested in the event. It was a Sunday and we both wanted to rest, lie on the beach and soak up the sun, having had a few beers after Mass, which we duly did. But these were still excellent advertising opportunities missed! How irksome! Say a prayer that on the day, people still flock to the car park in the heart of Brighton for some serious browsing and that it doesn't piss it down with rain!

Anyway, the footage above is of Paul Harrison who I recognised at the Brunswick Festival because he saw me busking the other day in Brighton. He told me he was busker too and mumbled something about an open piano and I must say I didn't pay much attention at the time. Then I saw him at the Festival and was mesmerised by his incredible xpiano machine which he invented and designed and even built! I thought it was so great, that I asked if he'd like a space at the Car Boot Sale, but he is off to the 'Big Chill' Festival that weekend instead. He makes quite a bit of money from busking and selling his 'experimental open piano' music CDs. Anyway, lesson is, in future, if you are helping organise a local community event, always take a load of flyers with you, wherever you go, at all times!! Here is a picture of him. I know that his music is what might be labelled a bit 'new age', but you have to credit his ingenuity, imagination and talent. Cracking moustache as well.

Listen to more of his music here on his Myspace page. As for my busking, I've realised that people think you are more respectable if you can fingerpick, rather than just play chords. This week I will get my grubby paws on a 12-string...Oh, yes!

Thursday 20 August 2009

Obamawatch! Healthcare Bill & Euthanasia

The US is in the grip of healthcare hysteria. But is it 'hysteria' to interpret these pages of the bill as making some hideous 'end of life' plan, a plan to end the lives of the elderly and mandatory? Also, is it me or is the layout and wording of this 1012 page document designed to put the reader off from actually reading it? Here are the offending, and rather offensive pages. Click here to read through the entire document, a task which does seem to make the reader yearn for life to end...I have edited it so that it is actually readable. I wonder how many Congressmen and women will have actually read the thing. Lord, teach us how to ourselves and to care for others.



Advance Care Planning Consultation: ...the term ‘advance care planning consultation’ means a consultation between the individual and a practitioner...regarding advance care planning, if...the individual involved has not had such a consultation within the last 5 years. Such consultation shall include the following:

a) An explanation by the practitioner of advance care planning, including key questions and considerations, important steps, and suggested people to talk to.
b) An explanation by the practitioner of advance directives, including living wills and durable powers of attorney, and their uses.
c) An explanation by the practitioner of the role and responsibilities of a health care proxy.
d) The provision by the practitioner of a list of national and State-specific resources to assist consumers and their families with advance care planning, including the national toll-free hotline, the advance care planning clearing houses, and State legal service organizations (including those funded through the Older Americans Act of 1965).
e) An explanation by the practitioner of the continuum of end-of-life services and supports available, including palliative care and hospice, and benefits for such services and supports that are available under this title.

p. 426

(i) Subject to clause (ii), an explanation of orders regarding life sustaining treatment or similar orders, which shall include the reasons why the development of such an order is beneficial to the individual and the individual’s family and the reasons why such an order should be updated periodically as the health of the individual changes; the information needed for an individual or legal surrogate to make informed decisions regarding the completion of such an
order; and the identification of resources that an individual may use to determine the requirements of the State in which such individual resides so that the treatment wishes of that individual will be carried out if the individual is unable to communicate those wishes, including requirements regarding the designation of a surrogate decisionmaker (also known as a healthcare proxy).

The Secretary shall limit the requirement for explanations under clause (i) to consultations furnished in a State—

p. 427

in which all legal barriers have been addressed for enabling orders for life sustaining treatment to constitute a set of medical orders respected across all care settings; and that has in effect a program for orders for life sustaining treatment described in clause (iii).

A program for orders for life sustaining treatment for a States described in this clause is a program that ensures such orders are standardized and uniquely identifiable throughout the State; distributes or makes accessible such orders to physicians and other health professionals that (acting within the scope of the professional’s authority under State law) may sign orders for life sustaining treatment; provides training for health care professionals across the continuum of care about the goals and use of orders for life sustaining treatment; and is guided by a coalition of stakeholders includes representatives from emergency
medical services, emergency department physicians or nurses, state long-term care association,

p. 428

state medical association, state surveyors, agency responsible for senior services, state department of health, state hospital association, home health association, state bar association, and state hospice association. A practitioner described in this paragraph is a physician and a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant who has the authority under State law to sign orders for life sustaining treatments.

An initial preventive physical examination under subsection (WW), including any related discussion during such examination, shall not be considered an advance care planning consultation for purposes of applying the 5-year limitation.

An advance care planning consultation with respect to an individual may be conducted more frequently than provided under paragraph (1) if there is a significant change in the health condition of the individual, including diagnosis of a chronic, progressive, life-limiting disease, a life-threatening or terminal diagnosis or life-threatening injury, or upon admission to a skilled nursing facility, a long-term care facility (as defined by the Secretary), or a hospice program.

p. 429

A consultation under this subsection may include the formulation of an order regarding life sustaining treatment or a similar order. For purposes of this section, the term ‘order regarding life sustaining treatment’ means, with respect to an individual,

  1. an actionable medical order relating to the treatment of that individual that is signed and dated by a physician or another health care professional (as specified by the Secretary and who is acting within the scope of the professional’s authority under State law in signing such an order, including a nurse practitioner or physician assistant) and is in a form that permits it to stay with the individual and be followed by health care professionals and providers across the continuum of care;
  2. effectively communicates the individual’s preferences regarding life sustaining treatment, including an indication of the treatment and care desired by the individual; is uniquely identifiable and standardized within a given locality, region, or State (as identified by the Secretary); and...
p. 430

...may incorporate any advance directive if executed by the individual.

The level of treatment indicated...may range from an indication for full treatment to an indication to limit some or all or specified interventions. Such indicated levels of treatment may include indications respecting, among other items—
  1. the intensity of medical intervention if the patient is pulse less, apneic, or has serious cardiac or pulmonary problems;
  2. the individual’s desire regarding transfer to a hospital or remaining at the current care setting;
  3. the use of antibiotics; and the use of artificially administered nutrition and hydration.

War Poetry Emerging from Afghanistan

I'm not a great fan of protest songs, but this is not too bad, Bob Dylan doing Masters of War. It looks, however, as if those serving in Afghanistan have a 'voice of a generation' of their own, within their ranks.

A soldier serving in Afghanistan has penned a poem on Facebook which attacks the politicians who do not have to suffer what soldiers are suffering in Helmund Province.

Staff Sgt Andy McFarlane, 47, of the Adjutant General's Corps condemns the MPs who do not attend parades in Wootton Bassett...

'Politicians usually have much to say/No sign of them near here this day/They hide away and out of danger/Much easier if the hero is a stranger.'

It is hardly surprising that such poetry is emerging from brave soldiers in Helmund. Apparently, according to a friend of mine who knows some soldiers serving there, other soldiers' Facebook walls include such posts which go something along the lines of, "This war is pointless and horrendous," "It is Hell here", "Get me out!" and other posts along similar lines.

Flog it for St Mary Magdalen!

Are you a Brightonian? Are you a parishioner of St Mary Magdalen Church? Are you neither Catholic, nor interested in any way in the Church, preferring to think of it as an outdated institution that exists only to irritate you and brainwash others, but need a clear out of your stuff?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes then you, yes you, could really be of assistance to the Building Restoration Fund of St Mary Magdalen's Church, assisting in the renovation of a beautiful Grade II listed building in the heart of Brighton. If you've got a load of stuff you now consider not particularly useful, don't throw it away! Give it to us!

St Mary Magdalen Church will be hosting a Car Boot Sale on Saturday 29th August where stuff will be sold. Proceeds will go towards the Building Fund to return the Church to its former glory.

CDs, books, DVDs, jewellery, crockery...anything, really, that you don't want anymore, drop St Mary Magdalen's a line and a special envoy from St Mary Magdalen's will come and pick up your unwanted stuff and shake you firmly by the hand, while asking Heaven to shower good things upon you and all your loved ones. You could also receive a small piece of vintage 60s lino from the Church stuck on a piece of card, as a keepsake and memento. Yes, it's true! You could own a piece of a Grade II listed Church! Your donations would be much appreciated.

Alternatively, if you have a car and would like to sell your goods and make some cash for yourself on the day, setting up starts at 8am and spaces cost £15 per car/£30 per larger car or minivan. For info:

Wednesday 19 August 2009

Scorsese Planning Movie on Japanese Martyrs

Zenit reports today that...

An Academy Award-winning director is planning a movie on Japanese Christians martyred in the 17th century.

Martin Scorsese will film the movie in New Zealand and release it in 2010, according to the Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun. Names of actors linked to the project include Daniel Day-Lewis, Gael García Bernal and Benicio Del Toro.

Scorsese is known for his work on films including "The Age of Innocence," "The Departed," "Gangs of New York," "Casino" and the controversial "The Last Temptation of Christ."

The film on the Japanese martyrs is based on the book "Chinmoku" (Silence), by the Catholic Japanese author Shusaku Endo. The novel tells the story of a Portuguese missionary in Japan at the beginnings of the 17th century. "Silence" refers to the silence of God before the cross of Christ, in telling of the missionary's forced apostasy in the midst of horrendous torture.

Endo (1923-1997) was baptized at age 12. His novels reflect his effort to show Christianity reconciled with Oriental culture, as well as his vision of human weakness, sin and grace. Among his other writings are "A Life of Jesus" and "Deep River," in which he tries to present Christianity to the Asian mentality.

Last Dec. 10, almost 200 Japanese martyrs from the same era as the plot of "Silence" were canonized. Japan is today less than 1% Christian, of which only about 450,000 are Catholics.

Tuesday 18 August 2009

Eugenics with a Friendly Face?

Safe and sorted...for condoms and pregnancy 'advice'

Ed West has posted an interesting piece on his Telegraph Blog. I commented that Moulescoumb (I can never spell it right) is one of Brighton's most deprived estates and, as far as I know, the only region of Brighton to have its very own free condom and sexual health/pregnancy 'advice' centre. Take a look at the 'Swish' website. You can travel through the centre and also see how the place is ran. Click for a more general overview of the work of the Council in combating teen pregnancy including how to top up your 'C-Card' (condom credit cards!), advice on 'Pregnancy Options' and other such information...if you can stop yourself from putting your head through your monitor because yours or other people's children are having this stuff rammed down their throats...

Still whatever the faults with Brighton & Hove City Council's obvious wish to see that less Moulescoumbers come into this World and their largely distasteful attitude towards sex education, hats off to the head of the department who had the courage to publish one letter from an angry mother...

Subject: My 14 year old daughter

I am absolutely furious to have discovered that my daughter has twice been issued with condoms, please could you explain how you appear to have gained parental rights as I am horrified. Thankfully, she hasn't used them but all you are doing in supplying girls of her age is making them feel older than they are. I have not agreed to you giving my daughter contraception, this is utterly wrong, Upset Parent, Brighton


I’m sorry you feel furious about this. Under 16s do have the right to access sexual health services in a confidential manner without parental consent, this includes condoms. This is the case across England, not just Brighton and Hove. Parental involvement and engagement would always be encouraged by workers when they are talking with teenagers. Your daughter would have requested to have the condoms, and workers would not refuse this. She would not have been given them without her either wanting them, or requesting them. Condoms would always be given out within a sexual health and relationships discussion, particularly within Brighton and Hove within the C-Card Scheme. This would have included discussion about knowing when the right time is to begin a sexual relationship. We very much promote the message 'to wait until you feel ready' and support young people in their skills development to resist the pressures that are all around them in society to start being sexually active. The average age nationally that young people start having sex is now 16, so we need to be realistic about this issue.

Whenever we promote condom use we always would state that you don't have to be having sex, even thinking about sex to actually have access to condoms, its about education. All the evidence that exists on sex education supports an open and honest approach and issuing condoms in no way promotes or encourages earlier sexual activity. In other European countries who have the lowest rates of teenage pregnancy and STIs its clear its because they have a much more open and honest approach to sexuality and provide contraceptive services, sex education from a young age, this is from sex education in schools, in the home environment and also from vital confidential services we offer.

Please do contact me if you would like to discuss this further.

BBC's 'Saints & Scroungers'

Nazi Propaganda depicted the sinister 'enemy within'...

It has long been asserted by many sceptics that the BBC has been fast becoming the official mouthpiece of the Government, a Government which is fast becoming less enthusiastic about truth and transparency and more enthusiastic about social control and lies. As the recession kicks in (apparently the number of unemployed claiming benefit is actually 6 million, see Sky News here) the Government is looking for scapegoats for its catastrophic management of the economy and the effects of the Global recession for which it takes absolutely no responsibility whatsoever.

'Saints and Scroungers' is a new BBC documentary, showing at 9.15am, a time, incidently, when the working population are at work and the unemployed are at home watching daytime TV. Here is a blurb from the BBC website:

'Two fraudsters so confident of their ability to get away with it appear in newspapers and even on the radio while investigators are closing in. Plus meet 62-year-old David Searle who thought his life was over when he was told he was going blind.'

Now, I don't doubt that benefit fraud is going on and that some people are 'milking the system' for all they can get. However, timing is everything! With men and women getting laid off across the country and the dole queue getting bigger, the Government would really, rather than shelling out millions to a growing population of welfare dependents, make some cuts. How do you make cuts without pissing off everyone? You draw attention to the 'enemy within'. If the Government can convince everyone that benefit fraudsters are everywhere and these conniving, money grabbing old grannies and single mothers are doing the taxpayer out of his hard-earned cash, then you receive public consent for a great deal of nastiness. 

This programme has Department of Work of Pensions writtten all over it. If you can convince the 'respectable majority' that people everywhere are driving around in lambourghinis at your expense, or taking money that does not belong to them, then you can set in motion the net-curtain twitching, "Hello, is that the DWP? Yes I've just seen my neighbour go off to work and he's cheating the system even though he's got 4 mouths to feed, so I'm shopping him!" mentality on which Nazi Germany relied in order to make the Holocaust so horrendously efficient. 

I am not over-reacting and if I am being extreme in comparing such programmes to the German propaganda against the Jews then it is only to serve as an illustration of how bad things can get when Governments are allowed to use news channels as mouthpieces in order to target a specific group of whom they are this case, namely, the growing number of people on the dole. That figure is set to rise to 6 million, according to Sky News. 6 million, a huge number and a warning straight from history. As the impact of the recession deepens, I would expect more of these programmes at different times of the day so that resentment towards people on benefits really increases dramatically. Channel 4, for example, is about to run a programme on the exact same subject. The new programme is called 'Benefit Busters'! You couldn't make it up! And heck, what do you know, the Channel 4 programme is episode one of a series as well!

'Hayley Taylor's job is to persuade single mothers on benefits to go back to work. The company she works for, A4E, which is helping to tackle the Government's target of getting 70 per cent of lone parents into paid work by 2010, is the largest welfare reform company in the world. A4E is run by multimillionaire entrepreneur Emma Harrison, who believes her business is 'improving people's lives by getting them into work.' Until recently, the 700,000 lone parents receiving benefit didn't have to look for work until their youngest child was 16. Soon, they must either work, or be looking for work, once their youngest child is seven. At Doncaster A4E, Hayley runs a course called Elevate that aims to give lone parents the skills and confidence to enter the workplace and convince them they'll be better off doing so. Cameras follow her group of ten single mothers during their intensive six-week course to prepare them for work.'

Has someone from the DWP been having a word with the Channel 4 executive as well? Well, whoever these ignorants are, listen up. I know a single mother in London with four kids. She always wanted to work but raising four children on a minimum is totally exhausting. She always seemed to be sick and ill with worry and fatigue. I don't know how she hasn't gone under and ended up in a mental ward! If I had four screaming kids, even when half of them went to school and I had two screaming kids, who I had to look after all on my own, I don't know how I'd cope. Pretty awfully probably! Quite how it is that this shambolic Government, a Government which has wasted an unprecedented amount of money and given a great portion of the country's wealth to staggeringly reckless and incompetent banks and their executives, has the nerve, now, to target those who are the victims of its grave and supremely useless stewardship of the country, is beyond me.  

What about a new idea for a programme called 'Ministers and Money-Makers?' Episode 1: 'Is your MP on the make?' Episode 2: 'Expenses at your expense.' Heck, why not a new BBC series called, 'The BBC: How We Spend Your Hard Earned Money.' Episode 1: Brazenly Government-supporting documentaries. Episode 2: 'Paying arrogant chat show hosts 4 million quid a year'? Episode 3: 'We've got expenses too, you know!'

Monday 17 August 2009

Lose the Pews!

Let's put the pew where it belongs! In! Yeah!

A new campaign has been started called 'Lose the Pews: Pews Lead to Snooze, Drools and Booze'. The pew has long been thought to have been an invention of the Devil, introduced into Catholic Churches, probably as a result of masonic infiltration of the Church, a wicked scourge of holiness among the laity, a cause of untold numbers of lapsations and general, in-Mass sloth and mindlessness!

How much more room would there be in Catholic Churches if there were no pews but for a few around the side of the Church for the elderly and infirm? Even if Church attendance is down overall, at least all the Poles would fit into your local parish Church if you removed the pews and they wouldn't have to be queuing half a mile down the block hearing Mass, the pious Poles that they are!

Let us examine, in brief, the disasterous effect of the pew upon the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass...

1. We can say that the pew has had a negative impact on the Mass because it is not really used that much anyway...So why is it there?! At Mass we sit down during the reading from the Old Testament, the Epistle and the homily. That's about 5 minutes for the readings and 15-20 minutes for the homily. That's 25 minutes at the most in your average Mass. I think we can stand or kneel for that amount of time without suffering a heart attack and anyway, even if we do, at least we'll have died in Church, hopefully in a State of Grace! The whole point about Mass is that we are genuflecting every 5 minutes anyway, to remind ourselves of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and in the Tabernacle. The pews only hinder this...So, lose the pews!

2. What is the effect on the body and soul of the communicant of the pew? Comfort. Comfort?! At Mass!? The only comfort we should be receiving at Mass is the Consolation of the Holy Spirit in our hearts! And why do we not always receive such consolation? Why? It is because the pew has comforted our arses and we're sitting down, so we're drifting in our thoughts and thinking about whether we left the iron on, when we should be kneeling and thinking upon the great Mystery of the Mass! Did the Desert Fathers retreat into the wilderness, survive on cacti and pray always in the interior of their heart that they may always be in receipt of God's mercy, just so they could sit comfortably and sit on pews?! No! So lose the pews! If one of the Desert Fathers walked into a Catholic Church and saw a pew, he'd probably take them all outside, chop them all and turn them into Jesus Prayer beads and, most likely, single-handedly rescue the Building Fund by selling Jesus Prayer beads outside the Church door made from pews! One by flippin' one he do those pews! One by flippin' one!

3. Our Blessed Lord said, "Let your yes be yes and your no be no." That is 'kneel' or 'stand'. Surely sitting down is that ambiguous middle ground so despised by Our Lord!  He couldn't stand all that shilly-shallying, oh what should I do, procrastination nonsense! "Are you mice or men!?," He would ask us with burning Charity! If we are kneeling then we are paying reverence and devotion to God throughout the Mass as He wishes. If we are standing then we are listening attentively to the Holy Gospel and the priest's fantastic and riveting homily on the Holy Faith! If we are sitting then what are we doing? Neither. Probably thinking about lunch or worse,the 'Big Match' live on Sky at 12pm in the pub between Fulham and Middlesborough, or some other sport even more tedious, like who can run the fastest...or worse, Grand Prix! You and I know how sordid and downright dangerous the imagination is when left to wander aimlessly and we leave it to wander at our peril, and we do it at our peril the most when, in all places, in the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we take our focus of the Mass and think only of frivolousness! So lose the pews! The Court of Heaven are above our heads like in that painting of the Funeral of Count Orgaz by El Greco! And we're sitting down!? Shame on us that we don't kneel incessantly! So, lose the pews! 

4. How much greater would our simplicity and our desire for holiness be if we knelt at times when we currently sit, knelt on hard, wooden floor that hurts our knees!? How much more devotion to the sufferings of Christ would we have if all the way through Mass we were thinking, "Oh Lord! My knees are flippin' killing me! And my legs can't sustain my body weight! I can't stop trembling! Still, I offer You this discomfort in union with the sufferings of my Saviour upon the Cross!" Oh yes, we'd soon be offering up our sufferings for the souls in Purgatory, the conversion of sinners and the liberty and exaltation of Our Holy Mother the Church. We'd be offering up everything, our knees, our arms, our hearts and most likely, thousands would be offering their lives in the Holy Priesthood or Religious Life. Oh yes! In a matter of weeks people would be saying, "Vocations crisis!? What vocations crisis?! Now we've removed the pews we've more Priests than we could possibly have imagined!"

5. Parishes could sell their pews and donate them to their Building Restoration Funds. Baptists, Pentecostals and other protestants could have our pews and pay us blinking good money for more important matters, like moving the Altar right back in the Sanctuary so that only the Traditional Latin Mass could be offered before Almighty God, to the joy of Laity, Priests and Bishops everywhere. So, lose the pews! Yeah!

A Sponsored Walk?

St Jude, Patron Saint of Hopeless Cases, models the staff look. I've got a medallion but the beard might be a difficulty...

Moses had one, Abraham had one and probably every Old Testament prophet had one. They still hadn't gone out of fashion by the time we get to the Apostles as St Jude clearly had one because the picture above was taken around the time. I can confirm that Our Blessed Lord might have had one. Then, St Francis of Assisi had one and used it to miraculously make a spring of water in an Italian town the name of which I forget. Every self-respecting Catholic, should therefore have one. The staff. An essential accessory for the Catholic. I've just recently got into sticks, otherwise known as staffs with my Polish ladyfriend. They're very useful as a support for legs and also to beat thorn bushes out of the way, as well as striking down heretics with just one swift blow.

John, another parishioner of St Mary Magdalen has suggested a parish sponsored walk for the Building Fund of St Mary Magdalen's Church, Brighton. I think it is a splendid idea. A friend and I once did one for the Sri Lanka Tsunami Appeal, endeavouring to undertake a 25 mile walk from St Mary Magdalen's to Our Lady of Lourdes in Eastbourne. We were both totally shattered afterwards and couldn't move our legs for days. By the time we got to Newhaven we were doing that thing footballers do in extra-time when penalties are about to be taken. Muscle-cramp exercises that is, just to confirm, just in case you thought we were snorting cocaine off naked glamour models' behinds in the dressing room or signing contracts for rival clubs for a bigger pay deal, while claiming undying loyalty to our current fans.

I think it is a great idea and would generate quite a bit of money for the Building Restoration Fund, as people like to donate when you punish yourself brutally with exercise. It would also give us unemployed/retired-but-still-physically-capable-parishioners that all important something useful to do. I've got two sticks and I'm all set to use them. I can get more from a nearby wood so let me know if you are a Brightonian pilgrim and are up for it. More details hopefully to follow one day soon...

St Mary Magdalen's Featured in Catholic Herald

Malcolm Gregory: Homeless, suffering paranoid schizophrenia and begging to survive

"I know homeless people who've taken a beating. Sometimes it's from other homeless people and sometimes it's from people just on their way home. It's scandalous that poverty is seen as something only in developing nations; it's true, Africa does have problems, but there's a lot of poverty here in Britain."

The Catholic Herald report this week on St Mary Magdalen's Church, Brighton and poverty.

I had thought that this quote at the beginning of the Catholic Herald article on poverty and the Catholic Faith was a bit over the top. Then after I read it, I walked out and met a man called William who used to beg outside the Council Offices where I had worked a year ago. He had a week ago been beaten severely by two men in George Street, Hove, suffering profuse bleeding above his eye and two broken ribs. His crime? Begging. It is notable that nearly every police force in the country has special classification for homophobic or transphobic attacks but not for attacks on defenseless beggars. What should it be called? Homelessphobia? Local authorities are quick to leap to the defense of some, but not, it seems, others.

Anyway, St Mary Magdalen's Church is featured in the Catholic Herald this week. To read the article click here. Ed West came down to Brighton to interview me having heard I had been living the dream in a Fiat Panda for a month while blogging. Long before the interview I explained to him that I was no poor man, that I had commitments in Brighton and that it was more convenient to do that than keep driving back and forth from Brighton to my parents down the coast every day. I am sure Lady Poverty thinks I am a terrible flirt. God knows, I'm not brave enough to renounce the World and live as St Francis chose to live, and, more importantly perhaps, how Malcolm Gregory is forced to live.

An hour prior to the interview I asked God that I may find someone living in poverty who could share their experiences of real poverty with the Catholic Herald. Half an hour later, walking five minutes outside of the Church I found Malcolm walking out of the First Base Day Centre. He asked me for the time and I told him. I walked with him a while and asked him whether he was homeless. He answered that he was. I asked him if he wanted to be interviewed by the Herald on his experiences of homelessness and he replied that while wasn't religious, he would love to share his experiences with a journalist. So, the Lord provided me with someone experiencing the very real and quite brutal effects of poverty, so that his story may be shared with the Catholic world. Thanks be to God, otherwise it would have been an interview with someone who has no experience of real poverty.

Real poverty, I explained to Ed, during the interview, is not all about money, it is about stigma. Malcolm's situation, of being homeless, of living in a squat, of having to beg following a shortfall in his benefits, of suffering with paranoid schizophrenia, of not having money to have a shower and of therefore smelling not that nice, of owning only the clothes in which he stands, of being misunderstood by the authorities, of being beaten by yobs on a Saturday night because they need to take their frustrations out on someone, of being arrested for begging by the Police and spending a night every month in a cell for the crime of begging to survive, is not a singular story but a widespread circumstance in which many men and indeed women find themselves all across the country. Yet, their voices and their stories are seldom heard.

The stigma attached to being homeless, of being an outcast and of being considered worthless, of begging to survive and being viewed as someone who is 'intimidating' by society is what grinds men and women down to the dust. When men and women are considered no longer human by society then they lose their sense of dignity, something which God has given each of us, no matter what situation we may find ourselves. That is why it is important that men such as Malcolm are heard. It is important that society learns from the poorest, the most defenseless, the most vulnerable, the outcasts, because the very poor have something to say and something valuable to tell us about what kind of a society we are. Are we a society that really include everyone, or are we a society which views the outcast as a great threat. 

I reflected recently that St Francis of Assisi, the man who exchanged clothes with a beggar and took his place, a man who was the son of a wealthy merchant, who traded places with the beggar and started to beg for alms in order to know the poverty of spirit of his Lord and Master, would doubtless, today, be sectioned under the Mental Health Act, for having made himself intentionally homeless and for being a 'danger to himself and to others'. Yet here, in Malcolm, stood a man who, even though he suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, even though he is getting food from the skips outside the Co-Op, even though he is destitute, has not been given shelter by the local authority or given residential care by social services, but is left alone to beg, to wander the streets and to be arrested for trying to survive, yet little state help comes his way.

Malcolm is doing remarkably well, given his circumstances, having given up drink, drugs and gambling, admitting he was a 'compulsive and obsessive' user of these things, for well over 6 months. Yet, these are things he has achieved without state support. Brighton local authority has done next to nothing for him.

In other words, if you want to know what 'care in the community' means in 21st century Britain, then talk to Malcolm for five minutes and you will soon find out. His level of poverty is degrading. He was thrilled to be given some money saying, "Now I can get a shower." Society's poverty is a poverty of understanding of people in his situation. My one and only disappointment with what was a very well written article is that I was quoted a great deal more than was Malcolm. Stephen, a new parishioner at St Mary Magdalen's saw the article and told me he had seen Malcolm on the Western Road very recently begging. 

As Fr Ray Blake points out in his blog, supporting the Soup Run, a lifeline to the homeless of Brighton, and supporting Voices in Exile, the charity which supports destitute asylum seekers in the south-east, which runs on a shoe-string, is a big focus of the expenditure of St Mary Magdalen's Church. At the same time, Fr Ray wants to rebuild the parish Church, which has been left to fall into ruin for a long time. Hopefully, having read of the work of St Mary Magdalen with regard to the Soup Run and Voices in Exile, Catholic Herald readers will give generously to the parish. St Mary Magdalen's Church now has a Pay Pal function on the parish magazine website, so that people can donate to the Building Restoration Fund of the Church. Click here to donate.

Friday 14 August 2009

The Bitter Pill?

The Telegraph reports on some of the health risks associated with some contraceptive pills. I'm not sure such information has been widely available until now. There is doubtless much we are not told about a great deal of pharmaceutical products in terms of adverse side effects. I've never heard about any dangers with the pill before but I do sometimes wonder how strange it is that in an age obsessed with health and organic food, that few publicly challenge or question the fact that women are encouraged to pump their bodies with hormones, chemicals and pills that alter quite dramatically, the body's natural fertility cycle...This article suggests that if the pill were a brand of margarine, it would have been removed from the shelves long ago, yet it is sold as 'reproductive health'.

In the first study claiming to conclusively rank the health risks associated with the different types of contraceptive pill, researchers found that some raised the chances of developing clots like deep vein thrombosis (DVT) by twice as much as others. 

While all types of the oral contraceptive increase the risk of a clot, some combinations of hormones are worse than others. Researchers warn that many women are not using the safest type to minimise their chance of clots like DVT, a blood clot in the leg or the lungs. 

The study found that "second generation" pills first used in the 1970s, such as Microgynon, which contained low levels of the female sex hormone oestrogen combined with a second hormone levonorgestrel, were the safest. 

Newer "third generation" pills, which have been available since the 1980s, which contained a hormone called desogestrel, carried twice the risk of DVT than the second generation medication...[For full story click here]...

Explain That, Scientific Community! Part II

We have seen for ourselves that at our worst we are worse than animals. For when man stoops to his basest levels and gives into his most dark temptations, the result is general mayhem, murder and mutilation, as the soul, created good by God becomes drenched in vice and the bitter sting of sin. But wait! That is not the full story of humankind! Man is not mysterious just because of his capacity to commit random acts of gross evil! Man has been redeemed and is always capable of choosing Good! Even more so when he beseeches God's Grace! Man is as mysterious for his ability to sacrifice his own needs for his kind as he is for sacrificing everyone elses needs for his own.

Unfortunately for the stridently atheistic department of the scientific community, the man most famous for doing just this, for acting totally contrary to His own interests in this World for the sake of all of mankind was no ordinary man. That Man was God, the Second Person of the Trinity, Our Lord Jesus Christ. He made love and self-sacrifice not only fashionable for many, but widely popular by his Miraculous Birth, Life, Death, Resurrection and Ascension into Glory. Although we have always had the ability and fondness for heroic self-sacrifice, the followers of Our Lord Jesus Christ seemed to make this virtue the hallmark of their existence, even unto shedding their blood both for Christ and the early Christian Community as a whole.

So then, scientific community, explain the lives of heroic virtue which give humanity a light in the darkness, a chink of hope in a fallen World, lives that lead to both the great and the good, the not so great and not so good, and even The Sun newspaper to say, "Ah! The World will miss him!" like they did when the late and Great Pope John Paul II died. For each of the capital sins has an opposite virtue which has shone in the hearts of many a man and woman, virtues which have led to them being honoured with the title, Saint.

1. Humility. Oh humility! Precious gem of a virtue, more priceless than emeralds and rubies, than gold and silver! How sweet you are and how unlikely I will ever attain you in the blindness of my sin! The opposite virtue to the sin of Pride, the quality of humility shines like a pearl on a dark ocean bed! With what humility did the Lord receive His Cross? With what humility did Blessed Teresa of Calcutta receive in her arms the poor, the dying, the starving and forsaken of the Indian slums? With what humility did Pope Benedict XVI take upon himself the awesome responsibility of assuming the Throne of St Peter and issue Summorum Pontificum, seeking enthusiastic acquiescence of the Traditional Latin Mass from his stubborn Bishops and Clergy? With what humility did St Francis of Assisi teach all of nature to sing God's praises, to renounce his possessions, to love the outcasts and the lepers and ultimately, to receive the Stigmata of Our Lord? Can science explain this virtue when it shines in the hearts of the followers of Christ? It cannot, for those who seek to imitate Christ will always confound the World, for they are swimming against the tide, the rising tide of evil, reductionist, hopeless, inhumane, scientific drivel and nonsense! For proof see the Human Embryology and Fertilisation legislation...

2. Temperance. Explain that! Someone, please, because I can't! Why would anyone want to forego great food, fine wines, fancy meals out and a bottle of champagne every now and then? Why would anyone want to forego anything and deny themselves anything but for the love of God? Greed is good, right? Greed is good?! Look at the economy now! Is Greed really good? Let the banks lend, lend, lend at extortionate rates of interest! Let the people buy, buy, buy goods and even houses on credit, at extortionate rates of interest and sod the consequences! What the Church has always said of usury is now biting the World on the arse! If Greed is really good then how come people are being made redundant most everywhere and are having their houses repossessed left, right and centre. If Greed is a virtue and Temperance a vice then how come the poor are still lining up for the soup run day after day? Really, would you credit it?! No pun intended. Then, O atheistic scientists, look at the temperance in all things of St Jean Vianney, Patron of Priests, in this, the Year for Priests, 2009, a model for us all, Priest or Layperson. All he owned, it seems, was a pair of old boots. See how he was moderate in all things, all things, that is, but...

3. Charity. O atheistic scienticts! From whence does Charity, from whence does Love come, if it comes not from God? Can there be any other source of Love but Love Himself!? Love came into the World in the womb of the Virgin. Love then taught us to how to love! Love then died for us that we may seek Love Himself! Then did appear Love's followers even after the Apostles. A Cloud of Witnesses bearing witness to Love, that is, God! The awesome power of Love which filled the Virgin to be the Mother of God drove too the early Saints and Martyrs to renounce their earthly ambitions and to die for the love of Christ. Then Love drove men and women to establish monasteries, to establish Christendom itself so that they too may die to themselves and live for Love.

What motivated those venerated by Holy Mother Church to live not for themselves any longer, but for God and their brothers and sisters, for the poorest and weakest and those modern science deems unfavoured, if it were not Charity? What motivated Blessed Teresa of Calcutta? What motivated St Francis of Assisi, his followers and St Clare? What motivated St Augustine to stop shagging around and embrace the Catholic Faith? What motivated his mother, St Monica to pray for it? What motivated St Anthony of Padua to preach and love the Poor? What motivated St Pio of Pietrelicina? It was Love, it was the Light of the World and the scientists have not comprehended it! But then how could they, since they are mostly geeks?  Ah, you may be able to cure all manner of diseases, you may be able to clone badgers, but if you have not Love you begin to sound either like a clashing gong, or a crashing bore, like me, if I don't shut up...Oh yes, that'll learn you, good and proper!

4. Diligence. O scientists! Think about those who work really, really hard. Even if you are a scientist who works really, really hard, whether it be on trying to discover the 'God Particle' despite your rabid atheism, or even on a cure for cancer. Oh come on! Even you, you who work really really hard have days when you just can't be arsed! And then, even if you work all your life on experiments, remember that even when you have your 'eureka' moment and realise the exact amount of time it takes for the mouse to remember in which box it left the cheese, that it will have profitted the World nothing. Then think of those who worked really, really hard to, Cathedrals! That was blood, sweat and tears mate! Oh yes! What motivated them?! Aha! I'll tell you...

5. Patience is a virtue. 

6. Kindness. The opposite Virtue to the sin of Envy, Kindness wishes well to all, never covets and always wants good for the other. Explain kindness, heartfelt kindness, you atheistic scientific muthas! Do other animals send flowers or sympathy cards, even really naff ones, when one of their other animal's relatives passes away? Do other animals go over to someone who looks a bit down and say, "Here, listen son, chin up. Things will get better and you'll be right as rain tomorrow. Carry on, son, don't quit." How can you explain, without recourse to the Virtues why someone would want to talk a suicidal person from topping himself on the Thames bridge? Is this in the behaviour of other species? Can you explain this, really? No, I guess its just a blip in the 'selfish gene'! If life is just a 'survival of the fittest' then why would anyone want to walk an old granny across the road, nevermind a holy nun want set up an entire rest home so that old grannies can be looked after once they're too old and frail to look after themselves and their sons and daughters want their inheritance, while eagerly looking forward to the day assisted suicide becomes legal? Maybe those graced with Kindness rather than steeped in Envy are inspired by the Holy Spirit, Whom we cannot see but for the actions of those who believe and yes, too, in those who do not, like so many of the Virtues, for indeed, God works through all.

7.  Chastity. O Chastity! You are probably wonderful! May you and I embrace as soon as is humanly possible! May I walk with you down the promenade, hold your hand and sing songs to your sweetness and your odour. O Chastity! I know that most likely I'll miss our appointment tonight but I know that you are most likely radiant and pure, shining like white linen after a box of Daz! O Chastity, I know that you and I do not always see eye to eye, yet look not upon me, but those who truly loved you, you beautiful virtue, you.

Now, behold, scientists, those souls who loved Chastity. The holy monks, the holy priests and the odd Bishop here or there. Look at St Anthony of Padua who honoured her, at St Francis, who would sooner throw himself into a thorn bush than give into himself and spurn her! Look at the Holy Virgins of the Church, like St Lucy and St Agnes who would sooner die than commit mortal sin? What motivated them to live lives of purity and holiness? It was Chastity, the gift of God, the gift of Love Himself. Do other species embrace Chastity and swing her around in their arms without even fondling her? No! Can science explain these phenomena? No! For these gifts, they all come from God! Let those who are able and graced embrace her gladly. Let those who cannot, admire her from afar and write her love letters!

Yes, O atheistic scientists. We have seen the Deadly Vices. We know them well ourselves, for we have all fallen short of the Glory of God. But the Virtues too are bestowed upon the human race as well by God, the Most High, so that we may see Him in others, and see Him especially in those graced by Him the most, in His Saints, the inheritance of which the human race has been called to share. Explain that!

Thursday 13 August 2009

Franciscans Need a Car Appeal!

I just spotted this on At Home In My Father's House...Anyone got a spare car?

The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in Bradford have need of a car. Their current one, a Fiesta, sounds as if its had its last oil change...

The Friars say, "We took it round the clock and around most of the country. But soon it will have to retire. For this reason if anyone has a car they'd like to give us, for the love of God, we would gratefully receive it as long as it's over three years old and doesn't have 'a look of luxury'! Also, if there was room for three broad shouldered men in the back, that would be helpful..."

If you can help at all, here are the contact details:

The Community of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal
St. Pio Friary
1, Sedgefield Terrace

Tel: 01274 721989

Make sure you add a disclaimer to your car donation saying that they will only receive your car if they start celebrating Mass in the Extraordinary Form with immediate effect and to "get with the programme". Warn them, in charity, that the Franciscans of the Immaculate are getting all their potential new vocations because the Franciscans of the Immaculate are "hardcore" and because they celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass, and are therefore more beloved in the heart of the dear Father of the Order, St. Francis. Tell them its time to put the keyboards and guitars down and embrace the TLM with joy. That'll learn 'em!

Hildegard von Bingen

O Jerusalem

Fr Ray Blake told me about the music of an Abbess called Hildegard von Bingen a week or two ago. I've had a dig around my Dad's CD collection and it turns out he's got a stack of beautiful Gregorian and religious music CDs. I found a quite bizarre one of Benedictine Monks singing 'Gregorian Chant By the Sea', not I presume, Goring-By-Sea, although it is quiet enough here to set up a monastery. The CD was, quite literally, recordings of Benedictine monks chanting Gregorian Sea with the sound of waves washing against the shore. The waves, unsurprisingly, ruined the whole thing. How odd.

Anyway, I really like the Hildegard von Bingen CD I discovered. It turns out that she was up for Canonization by no less than four Popes; Pope Gregory IX, Pope Innocent IV, Pope Clement V and Pope John XXII. Canonisation, however, never came to pass, unless some later Pope has done it on the sly without the World batting an eyelid, yet she is recognised in the Roman Martyrology. Imagine that! Sainted without papal announcement or formal Vatican process! 

New Advent have a nice summary of her spiritual life and Wikipedia have some interesting info on her as well. Look up her stuff on YouTube as well. The lady had God-given talent and an ear for a cracking holy tune since she was a mystic and upon succeeding a lady called Jutta as abbess of Bingen Convent, saw tongues of flame descend from the heavens and settle upon her. 

Good lyrics too...

"With a great desire I have desired to come to you and rest with you in the marriage of Heaven, running to you by a new path as the clouds course in the purest air like sapphire."

Tuesday 11 August 2009

That's Heaven to Me

Mulier Fortis has tagged me to ask for 7 things I love. I think Sam Cooke puts it better than me. Other than his sentiments, which I share. I also love,

1. Holy Mother Church, especially St Mary Magdalen's Church. Our love for God can be feeble or strong, but our love for His Church remains a constant!

2. Ben and Jerry's Cookie Dough Ice Cream, sliding in at number two - a new entry!

3. The Smiths and playing guitar in the style of their guitarist, Johnny Marr, while smoking a cigarette, in the style of their guitarist, Johnny Marr.

4. Polish Beer, oh yes.

5. Rowing a boat on a lake with my sweetheart.

6. Altar Serving, especially at the Traditional Latin Mass

7. Blogging, of course.

Apparently I now have to tag another few people or something. I'll try.

Tears of St Lawrence

Stargazers are preparing for the annual Perseids meteor shower which takes place around the date of the feast of St Lawrence. They are so named because of the 'burning tears' of St Lawrence who was martyred by the Emperor Valerian. Lawrence, a Deacon of the Church was asked to bring to Valerian the treasures of the Church while the Church was under persecution and brought to him the poor, sick and lame of the Church and presented them before the Emperor as the true treasures of the Church, having sold or distributed the earthly vessels of the Church and given to them to the Poor. 

For his faith and loyalty to God he was grilled to death. His martyrdom took place in 258 AD on an iron outdoor stove. During this torture, Lawrence was said to have cried out, “I am already roasted on one side and, if thou wouldst have me well cooked, it is time to turn me on the other.”

The saint’s death was commemorated on his feast day, Aug. 10. The great number of shooting stars seen annually between approximately Aug. 8 and 14 have come to be known as St. Lawrence’s “fiery tears.” We know today that these meteors are actually the dross of the Swift-Tuttle comet. A very good shower will produce about one meteor per minute in a dark country sky. Any light pollution or moonlight will obviously lower the count.

These 'perseids' which are visible the World over annually were named the Tears of St Lawrence in honour of his Feast. Click here for more stargazing info.

Friday 7 August 2009

Explain That, Scientific Community! Part I

Body hair, Art, Altruism, Adolescence, Picking your nose, Superstition, Dreaming, Kissing, Laughter and Blushing. The Telegraph reports that these are, according to New Scientist magazine, the aspects of human behaviour which science cannot answer. But are these the only mysteries of the human condition that science fails to answer? No! Join me, Laurence England, as I take you through the heights and the depths of humanity according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a reference guide to Divine Truth revealed by Almighty God to His Holy Church. Mysteries of our condition unexplained by scientists, then, include the seven deadly sins and their opposite virtues.

1. Other species in the animal kingdom do not suffer the sin of Pride. Even the lion, the strongman of the jungle, while striding majestically through his domain, does not go around saying, "Everybody! Check out my style and fear me because I could eat you at any time. Check out my coat and my massive paws. Basically, all you other animals are pretty lame compared to me, and come to think of it, I'm probably one of the best lions in this jungle, even if I do say so myself. Really, I should have been a model." Whereas human beings are prone to self-love and self-adoration, which leads to man looking down on his fellow man, losing sight of his true status as a child of God. Sure, animals eat other animals for food or even sport, but where, for example, in the animal kingdom other than in man, do we find narcissistic leaders of dangerous sects and ideologies who say to the other animals, "Look! I'm fantastic! Follow me and I'll lead you into a land of milk and honey!", in order to be receieved rapturously by their followers, only then to organise the gassing of millions of their animal brothers and sisters in concentration camps. Can science explain the apocalyptic madness of eugenics? Hmm...perhaps, in a way it does, but do we like the answers?

2. Envy. Do other animals covet each others stuff? Really? Given that other animals do not tend to hoard stuff anyway, as their only possessions are their coats or shells or whatever keeps them warm, or maybe a tree to live in, it appears unlikely. While we may think to ourselves, "That David Beckham's got it all. He's got so much money he could fund St Mary Magdalen's Building Restoration Fund several hundred thousand times over and still have change to feed an entire African nation and still take his wife to The Dorchester," yet other species don't think along these lines at all. We may think, "He's got the kind of body of which we can only dream. He even looks good in y-fronts and he can score a breathtaking goal from the half-way line," but this kind of envy appears not to be a condition of the animal kingdom as a whole. But then, hey, neither does gross inequality of wealth and resources. Basically, other species do not have to read Caritas in Veritate.

3. Do other species suffer the sin of Wrath or Anger? I'm not convinced. Even if a zebra gets back to his lady zebra late one night and she's been at it with another zebra, a perhaps unlikely event given that faithfulness seems more common in the rest of the animal kingdom than in humans today, does he challenge the other male zebra to a dual or tear him limb from limb in a fit of rage? Do animals act out of Anger or are they just doing what animals do? Can they be blamed for killing? It appears they cannot. Mostly killing in the animal kingdom is fodder fetching. Yet we, suffering the sting and stain of Original Sin are culpable and can be guilty of the sin of Wrath, and, should we nurse grievances against Gordon Brown for being useless, and against Lord Mandelson for his Machievellian 'waiting in the wings' political predator behaviour, which result in us constantly belittling them, mocking them and sending them dead kittens in the post, out of Wrath for Labour's dreadful economic stewardship and the shambolic state of the UK economy, then we, are we culpable for our sin? Yes...but then we are infinitely forgivable.

4. Some human invented money and what a bright spark that person was. "I'm going to invent money," he thought, "and by doing so I'll get absolutely minted." Of course, there were tribes who did not use money but shared as a community all the resources of the land, but they were uncivilised because they refused to use we killed them. No other species in the animal kingdom uses any currency of any kind, so no other species suffers the sin of Avarice. Yet we do, and out of our greed we wish to acquire more money, so we can buy more stuff and are even willing to send men down dangerous mines just to get precious gems, the pursuit of which may kill them. But as long as we get the gems that's the main thing. Pandas do not seek any other commodity but bamboo and they are content to eat it. Clearly, they love bamboo and do not even ask their zookeepers for ketchup. They are not interested in fast cars, big houses, holidays in the Bahamas or even a bed from Dreams. If you asked a panda whether he would like any of these things he would probably say, "No. But do you have any bamboo, as there is still yet a chance I could run out. It's always nice to know there's some spare just in case." Yet we are obsessed with money and material possessions...Explain that scientific community! We are the only species which seek coffee machines and plasma TV screens, when instant coffee and the bulkier standard versions of TVs were already available.

5. Sloth. "Get a job you dole scrounger!" "Yeah! Get a job you layabout!" Ah sloth...Nice sin if you can get it. Are other species guilty of sloth? It seems the cat population do spend an awful long time just sleeping and soaking up the sun, maybe rolling around on the floor a little, eating some cat mint and going mental a while and then sleeping again, and that we can imitate this behaviour rather well. But are the cats culpable? No! That's what cats do and cats don't have to get a job, because there is no work for cats. Yet, even, for us, if unemployment is spiralling at a rate of knots, we feel like we really should get out of the house or do something productive, anything, because if we do not we feel a bit useless. How can it be, wonder the scientific community, that some people are vastly productive, imaginative, creative and invent new kinds of hoovers, the light bulb and a vast range of Virgin products, entirely from scratch, seemingly out of nothing, whereas others sit on their arses all day long, eating, drinking cider and getting ASBOs? Well, scientific community, you can run tests all you like but at the end of the day its another deadly sin and you'll never work out why it persists unless you accept the Doctrine of the Fall of Man.

6. Are other species suffer the sin of Gluttony? Not like us they not! They get what they can when they can. Other animals get what they need to survive. We can eat and eat and eat, enjoy a five course meal and then go down the pub and sink 10 pints and then still stumble home for a kebab. Do other animals fantasise about houmous, czech beer, Marlboro Lights, more houmous and midget gems? No! But I do! Because of our sin we take more than what we need for the journey and then some. When it comes to food animals are more likely to share out what they've found with the community. A tiger might maul a zebra, but then then she might call out to the rest of the community, "Look! I've only gone and got us a blinkin' zebra! Over here you ravenous tigers and get a piece of this!" The chances of either us, hotel and restaurant owners, waiters or anyone else taking the massive quantities of food not eaten in an evening and distributing it around the local homeless population is negligible to zero. 

7. Lust. Ah, a biggie! Lust has driven men to kill others, kill themselves or write vast treatises on their sin and be made Doctors of the Church, telling all and sundry of their crimes and for their reward being made Bishops in Hippo. Lust drives men to sleep with men, women to sleep with women, men to sleep with women, women to sleep with men, men to sleep with animals and animals to wake up in the morning feeling sheepish. Lust breaks up families, creates adulterers, bigamists and leads men to waste their future children on internet sites with viruses attached to them. Now you can say that animals have lust, but they're just doing what animals do and not only that, they never go looking for condoms, they never contracept, they never watch footage of other animals doing it, refuse voyerism of any kind, and never or at least very rarely, kill their own out of an 'unintended pregnancy'. But then, hey, I guess we're more 'evolved' and 'progressive' than they are...Join me for Part II tomorrow when I'll take you through the Virtues, which too, are visible in us, the most complicated and mysteriuous species upon Earth! 

Today is my Patron's feast day. Enjoy it!

Thursday 6 August 2009

The Norbertines

Fr Hugh (3rd in from the left) came to visit St Mary Magdalen's yesterday and I served a low Mass for him at the Altar. I am beginning to feel more comfortable serving the Latin Mass now that I know the movements better, where to be, left or right of the Priest. I think the server is meant to always be on the Epistle side of the Altar. This time, I even remembered to lift the Priest's chasuble at the Consecration! What I did forget to do was light the candle's before Mass. Pretty basic stuff really but without a mistake here or there we don't learn.

He was kind enough to take Fr Ray and myself out for a lovely meal at a classy french restaurant on Western Road. He was very good to talk with and has an excellent sense of humour. Every now and then a Priest from another place in the UK just pops in to St Mary Magdalen and wants to say a private Latin Mass, which I think is wonderful. He told me about the Norbertines, their founder St Norbert, the history and current standing of the Order. Apparently, Fr Hugh told me, two of St Norbert's initial followers died because they couldn't hack the penance of their founder. Hardcore! Here is some info on the Norbertines. May God continue to bless Fr Hugh and the Canons of St Philip's Priory.

Click here for the St Philip's Priory, Chelmsford and here for the Norbertine Vocations Blog...

St. Norbert was born around the year 1080 in the town of Xanten near Cologne, Germany. As a small child, he was sent to be educated by the cathedral chapter of St. Victor in Xanten where he was later ordained a sub deacon and became a canon of the cathedral. It was from here that he was called into service at the court of the emperor Henry V. He soon become noted for his charm and good company which meant he was distracted by the pleasures of Court and neglected his religious life.

However, in the year 1115, Norbert was thrown from his horse and nearly killed. At that moment he heard the words of the Psalmist: “Turn away from evil and do good.” This he now desired to do with all is heart. He immediately began to live the life of a penitent and wandered the country, barefoot and dressed in sheepskin...for more click here...

Our Lady of the Snows

Yesterday was the Feast of the Dedication of St Mary Major, Basillica in Rome. It is also known as Feast of Our Lady of the Snows, because God basically made it snow in August on a hillside in Rome so that a Church be dedicated in honour of Our Blessed Lady.

Courtesy of Magnificat's Lives of the Saints

There are in Rome three patriarchal churches in which, on different feast days, the Pope officiates. These are the Basilicas of Saint Peter on the Vatican Hill, Saint John Lateran, and Saint Mary Major on the Esquiline Hill. The last-named, the Liberian Basilica, was founded in the time of Pope Liberius, in the fourth century; it was consecrated to the Virgin Mary by Sixtus III in the year 435, under the title of Saint Mary ad Nives, or at the snow, because the Mother of God Herself chose, and indicated by a miracle, its site to be that of Her first church in Rome.

In the fourth century a patrician by the name of John and his pious spouse had no children; already advanced in age and without heirs, they resolved to consecrate their wealth to the Most Blessed Virgin. They prayed in order to know how the Queen of Heaven would like them to use their fortune. On August 5, 366, She appeared to each of them in a dream and told them that Her Divine Son’s and Her own will was that their wealth be employed in the construction of a church on Mount Esquiline, at a place which in the morning they would find covered with snow. They consulted together when the dawn broke, and went to the Pope at once to tell him what God had made known to them. He himself had had a similar dream and could not doubt that this was a celestial prodigy. He assembled the clergy and people, and all went in procession towards the indicated place, to verify the reality of the marvel. When they arrived on the hilltop, they saw an area covered with snow, extending over a space sufficient to build a vast church. It was built at the expense of the noble couple with great magnificence, and given the name of Saint Mary of the Snows.

The same Basilica is sometimes entitled Saint Mary ad Praesepe, of the Manger, from the holy crib or manger of Bethlehem, in which the Infant Jesus was laid at His birth. It was transported to Rome and kept in a sumptuous subterranean chapel of the church. Today this Basilica bears the name of Saint Mary Major, because it is, both by its beauty and its antiquity, the first of the numerous Roman churches dedicated to Mary.

The Funniest Picture You Will See Today

"Eureka! I saw it! It flinched!" L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology, uses his Hubbard Electrometer to determine whether tomatoes experience pain, 1968. Photo: Hulton Archive

The Telegraph
today reports that L.Ron Hubbard's qualifications as a doctor were less than credible, having obtained a PhD from a dodgy source. Scientology, as we know, is well dodgy, as exemplified by the fact that it is revered by Hollywood celebrities, enough to pour discredit upon any religion or philosophy. Just as an aside, it is worth remembering that the founder of Scientology famously said, "You know how to become a millionaire? Start a religion." At some point he decided to act upon his assertion, having perhaps realised that there was not much money in his research into whether tomatoes actually feel pain. Having now seen at first hand, photographic evidence of his groundbreaking research, I'm never going to look at a salad the same way again.

Sunday 2 August 2009

Thurible Training

I was instructed on the ideal way in which to hold a Thurible today at the 10.30am Sung Mass at St Mary Magdalen. I scouted YouTube looking for a formal instruction video on Thuribles: The Ultimate Guide to Being a Thurifer. I couldn't find one. The best Thurible action I have seen recently is the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate using the Thurible absolutely immaculately.

I did, however, find the World's largest Thurible in action at Santiago De Compostela. Watch this! Imagine the Health and Safety Executive getting ahold of this in the UK!

Archbishop Vincent Nichols Interview

The Telegraph has interviewed Archbishop Vincent Nichols in Lourdes...

Standing in the shade of a magnolia tree in the garden of the Gallia Londres, a four-star hotel in Lourdes, Archbishop Vincent Nichols is deep in conversation with two teenagers.

They are among a group of 800 pilgrims from the diocese of Westminster whom he has brought with him to the French market town that is home to one of the most important shrines in the Christian world.

However, their discussion is devoted not to spiritual questions, but to the forthcoming football season. The Liverpool-supporting archbishop has been trying, unsuccessfully, to persuade the young pilgrims of the error of their ways in following Chelsea.

Archbishop Nichols is a rare Church leader, equally comfortable talking about the transcendental as the trivial. It is a different scenario from only a matter of weeks ago, when he was drawn into the child abuse scandal that had engulfed the Irish Catholic Church. Despite condemning the catalogue of abuse published in a 2,600-page report after a nine-year investigation into Ireland's Catholic-run institutions, he faced fierce criticism for suggesting that the clergy who admitted to committing the acts had been "courageous". It was a lesson in the level of scrutiny he will be under as leader of Catholics in England and Wales, a position he took up in May.

He concedes that he has been tempted to indulge in self-pity. "I look back over my life and sometimes ask, 'How can I be Archbishop of Westminster?'" he says. "A miracle of Lourdes is that people lose their self-pity. I could at times be quite despondent about being archbishop."

For full interview click here.

How to Nurture Your Inner Dark Side

Join Facebook's 'The Tablet Appreciation Society', in order to sin gravely against Charity and rubbish Britains most outdated and brazenly anti-Catholic Catholic publication! The Telegraph blogger and Catholic Heraldian, Damian Thompson has encouraged all Catholics to voice their appreciation of The Tablet. Do so here. In order to support the Archbishop Vincent Nichols recent statements on Facebook, Bebo and Twittering, I've posted a Facebook discussion group in support of his comments.

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...