Thursday, 25 February 2010

Modern Miracle of the Miraculous Medal

Lorraine had been taking her groceries out of the trolley, and lining them up so that they could be scanned. She was in the Iceland shop in Middlesex. She bent over and her miraculous medal caught the light and its shine caught the attention of a middle-aged man behind Lorraine in the queue.The man gave Lorraine a scorching look. He gave Lorraine’s miraculous medal a look that would have melted Everest. 

A bit taken aback by the man’s obvious hate for the medal – or what the medal represented – Lorraine took a deep breath and asked him,
‘Am, is there something the matter?’
‘You’re wearing a miraculous medal’ the man said stonily in an Irish accent.
‘Oh, have you got one?’ asked Lorraine, a bit nervous of this Irish fellow at this stage.
‘Huh. I put it in the gas meter years ago because my sister was abused by Catholic priests in Ireland.’
‘That’s terrible’, Lorraine sympathised. ‘Those priests should not have been put in that position of caring for children. But the majority of priests do very good work. You can’t tar them all with the same brush.’
The man listened, and didn’t say anything, but was surprised that Lorraine had intelligent answers.
Lorrained continued, ‘regardless of what the priests have done, we need Jesus and the precious Eucharist to heal us at Holy Communion.’ Lorraine felt that she was implying that the man needed healing. The man softened and said,
‘Before in Ireland, a lot of men were pushed into the priesthood.’
Lorrained nodded, and the man said ‘I feel a lot better for having talked to you.’
Lorraine believes that the miraculous medal was the catalyst for this opportunity for the man’s conversion. Had Lorraine not been wearing the miraculous medal she would never have got into a conversation with this wounded man. 

Similarly, I was on the Bakerloo line in November, sporting a miraculous medal, when I found myself worrying about a pregnant friend of mine. Almost as a reflex at this stage, I blessed myself and began praying. My prayers are very childish and take much longer than other people’s because my thoughts interrupt the words of my prayers. While praying, I saw a lady stare at me, get out of her seat like she had had a fright, walk all the way down the carriage and not stop until she was leaning into me. Sighing, she said,
‘What are you doing...Are you one of those religious people?’ she said accusingly, and with a corrugated frown. Oh dear, not another ‘lady’ who feels duty bound to persecute Catholics. I didn’t think she was up for a two-way discussion, most likely she just wanted to berate me. So...
‘I can’t see how that is any of your concern’ I said, and extricating myself and my gigantic handbag from my seat, I walked around her, got out at the next stop and sighed with relief. Perhaps I had acted like a spineless coward in not engaging in discourse. I do, however, think that wearing the miraculous medal is in itself a good example and can jog the conscious of those who behold the miraculous medal. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the rays of grace from the miraculous medal are in the eyes of the scoffers.

Outside the abortuary. 'C’mon now, cast the first stone! You’ve sinned, how can you throw a stone? '



'He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her' Gospel of John



‘How dare you?! How dare you stand there, tell my girlfriend that she’s doing some reeelly dirty thing, like she’s some baby killer or something. You with your rosary! You’re meant to be some kind of Christian? C’mon now, cast the first stone! What’s that bit from the Bible? You’ve sinned, how can you throw a stone? Cast not the first stone!’ The boyfriend then screws up his eyes at the ‘side walk counsellor’ and any further effort on the part of the counsellor to discuss the dangers of abortion, and the detail that by going into the clinic, they are enabling and witnesses to their child’s murder is prevented by the boyfriend sniping ‘cast the first stone!’
The body language of the boyfriend is always very telling. He clenches his teeth guard dog like. If the girlfriend tries to peer around him, and merely make eye contact with the pro-life counsellor the boyfriend will sidestep and prevent the girlfriend. This isn’t a protective action; it’s a dishonest one.
Likewise, the clinic workers who pass in and out of the abortion clinics, can muster the courage, purse their lips and hiss ‘oh go on you, you’re no follower of Jeeezus, you can’t cast the first stone!’
Parents, who bring their children to the clinic so as to procure a hasty dispatch of their grandchild, are most difficult people to counsel outside a clinic. If they are in the forties/fifties, they may actually know the bible verse by heart. The parents create a bubble around the expectant mother and jeer ‘He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her!’ Parents say the line with the most conviction, parents feel the most shame and are cross that their ‘secret abortion’ is being witnessed by some pesky ‘Christians’. ‘Well, we’ll show those anti-abortionists who’s really Christian, and who really knows their bible!’ is their mind-set.
Everyone responsible for the abortion, from the twenty-five year old boyfriend in tight jeans, the clinic worker who glistens with expensive jewellery to the stressed parent who stridently walk in with their thirteen year old daughter, are trying to transfer their guilt and shame onto the pro-lifers. It’s their bid to make those who participate in a peaceful, prayerful life-saving mission outside the clinic feel alienated from Our Lord and feel ashamed of their life-saving mission. They are testing our Christianity.
When who is actually throwing stones and ending life?
Excuse my repetition of ‘life-saving mission’ but just like Our Lord saved the life of the woman taken in adultery, ‘we’ (everyone involved in a mission outside abortuaries) are there to save the lives of unborn children.
We may with every confidence politely say, ‘thank you for bringing my attention to the bible, and you must also know that Our Lord saved the woman’s life. We are trying to save life - the lives of babies.’ 

The background to the woman who was saved from being stoned to death is that the Pharisees were testing Jesus on His loyalty to the law of Moses, when they said ‘Moses in the law commanded us to stone such a one.’
The ‘such a one’ refers to the woman guilty of adultery, and yes applying the law of Moses, she would have been stoned. 
Nowhere, however, in the law of Moses does it command that completely innocent babies growing in the womb be stoned – to death.
But our modern-living creed passes guilt and blame on the innocent babies for being conceived at the ‘wrong’ time, the inconvenient ‘unplanned’ babies, well those babies deserve ‘medical abortion’. By ‘medical’ this euphemism refers to the fact that the mother takes ‘pills’ that will either stone the foetus, or cause the baby to die in its own blood. Errr, now who’s throwing the first stone?  
The hope for ALL that working in the ‘abortion industry’ and for the many mothers of stoned babies: there is forgiveness from Our Lord.
He forgave the woman caught in adultery. And in giving her forgiveness, Our Lord, the world’s first Catholic priest nullified the law of Moses by cleansing the woman of her sin and her guilt: ‘Neither will I condemn thee. Go, and now sin no more.’

Outside the abortuary. 'C’mon now, cast the first stone! You’ve sinned, how can you throw a stone? '



'He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her' Gospel of John

‘How dare you?! How dare you stand there, tell my girlfriend that she’s doing some reeelly dirty thing, like she’s some baby killer or something. You with your rosary! You’re meant to be some kind of Christian? C’mon now, cast the first stone! What’s that bit from the Bible? You’ve sinned, how can you throw a stone? Cast not the first stone!’ The boyfriend then screws up his eyes at the ‘side walk counsellor’ and any further effort on the part of the counsellor to discuss the dangers of abortion, and the detail that by going into the clinic, they are enabling and witnesses to their child’s murder is prevented by the boyfriend sniping ‘cast the first stone!’
The body language of the boyfriend is always very telling. He clenches his teeth guard dog like. If the girlfriend tries to peer around him, and merely make eye contact with the pro-life counsellor the boyfriend will sidestep and prevent the girlfriend. This isn’t a protective action; it’s a dishonest one.
Likewise, the clinic workers who pass in and out of the abortion clinics, can muster the courage, purse their lips and hiss ‘oh go on you, you’re no follower of Jeeezus, you can’t cast the first stone!’
Parents, who bring their children to the clinic so as to procure a hasty dispatch of their grandchild, are most difficult people to counsel outside a clinic. If they are in the forties/fifties, they may actually know the bible verse by heart. The parents create a bubble around the expectant mother and jeer ‘He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her!’ Parents say the line with the most conviction, parents feel the most shame and are cross that their ‘secret abortion’ is being witnessed by some pesky ‘Christians’. ‘Well, we’ll show those anti-abortionists who’s really Christian, and who really knows their bible!’ is their mind-set.
Everyone responsible for the abortion, from the twenty-five year old boyfriend in tight jeans, the clinic worker who glistens with expensive jewellery to the stressed parent who stridently walk in with their thirteen year old daughter, are trying to transfer their guilt and shame onto the pro-lifers. It’s their bid to make those who participate in a peaceful, prayerful life-saving mission outside the clinic feel alienated from Our Lord and feel ashamed of their life-saving mission. They are testing our Christianity.
When who is actually throwing stones and ending life?
Excuse my repetition of ‘life-saving mission’ but just like Our Lord saved the life of the woman taken in adultery, ‘we’ (everyone involved in a mission outside abortuaries) are there to save the lives of unborn children.
We may with every confidence politely say, ‘thank you for bringing my attention to the bible, and you must also know that Our Lord saved the woman’s life. We are trying to save life - the lives of babies.’ 

The background to the woman who was saved from being stoned to death is that the Pharisees were testing Jesus on His loyalty to the law of Moses, when they said ‘Moses in the law commanded us to stone such a one.’
The ‘such a one’ refers to the woman guilty of adultery, and yes applying the law of Moses, she would have been stoned. 
Nowhere, however, in the law of Moses does it command that completely innocent babies growing in the womb be stoned – to death.
But our modern-living creed passes guilt and blame on the innocent babies for being conceived at the ‘wrong’ time, the inconvenient ‘unplanned’ babies, well those babies deserve ‘medical abortion’. By ‘medical’ this euphemism refers to the fact that the mother takes ‘pills’ that will either stone the foetus, or cause the baby to die in its own blood. Errr, now who’s throwing the first stone?  
The hope for ALL that working in the ‘abortion industry’ and for the many mothers of stoned babies: there is forgiveness from Our Lord.
He forgave the woman caught in adultery. And in giving her forgiveness, Our Lord, the world’s first Catholic priest nullified the law of Moses by cleansing the woman of her sin and her guilt: ‘Neither will I condemn thee. Go, and now sin no more.’

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Solzhenitsyn: Our Lady’s Historian

What Our Lady Foretold: Solzhenitsyn Chronicled


When Solzhenitsyn’s died, the worldwide press were in a competition to out-do themselves in admiration of the literary giant. Solzhenitsyn was lauded as one of the greatest writers to have ever lived. He is accredited with having played a crucial intellectual role in the fall of Communism. And contrary to the usual candy-floss schmaltzy eulogizing the Western press doles out when a celebrity dies, the praise given Solzhenitsyn is justified. Incredible. Could it be that the liberal media were ‘waking up’? Not quite. And since Solzhenitsyn’s death, there has been very little discussion of his real vocation in national newspapers and even on the blogosphere. No corner of the press – religious or secular has yet given Solzhenitsyn what is rightly his greatest honour. It is this: Solzhenitsyn was the artist who dramatized what Our Lady at Fatima foretold about Russia and the world. No comparison exists between Solzhenitsyn and the Queen of Heaven, there remains only an alliance. Solzhenitsyn (perhaps totally unwittingly) was Our Lady’s servant. 



Stalinism, Communism, the Gulags and societal Soviet persecution were the raison d’etre of Solzhenitsyn’s writings, but they were also what Our Lady of Fatima termed Russia’s ‘errors’. Yes, the media correctly identified Solzhenitsyn’s writings as brave exposés of the horrors of Communist Russia. But the media confine Solzhenitsyn’s apocalyptic analysis to Communist Russia. There is a continuing prevailing sense that the media is trying to establish a sense of superiority over the Russian chumps who made all the mistakes. A sort of ‘well if the Russians had done Lefty-liberalism-socialism our way, they wouldn’t have got themselves in the pickle Solzhenitsyn describes!’ In essence, the liberal media’s analysis of Solzhenitsyn has been insufferably, school-prefect-like patronizing. No attempt is made to see that what Solzhenitsyn described was of significance to everyone worldwide. As I will detail, we have not learned from the ‘errors’. 

Solzhenitsyn was informed by his own personal, first hand experience of eight years in the Gulag and had the integrity to never deviate from the truth. It was Solzhenitsyn’s credibility that made the Soviet Russian authorities flinch.

And the fact that he was a best-selling author who would eventually sell thirty million books worldwide. Without Solzhenitsyn, the everyday reality and details of what Our Lady at Fatima warned would be our personal imaginings. His talent as a story-teller engaged readers worldwide. Solzhenitsyn’s meticulous attention to detail captivates attention, we are there with Ivan Denisovich prisoner of the Gulag when he must chose either socks or hard boots to scuttle around in the snow; he cannot have both.

Let us first explore Our Lady of Fatima’s urgent message. Before Our Lady appeared to the three shepherd children. 

The children were taught to pray by the Guardian Angel of Portugal. The Angel told them ‘to pray a great deal’. Our Lady appeared to them for the first time on the 13th of May 1917. On the 13th of July 1917, Our Lady showed the three seers a vision of Hell. St. Lucia depicted the vision as thus: ‘Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers’. The vision lasted an instant, but Our Lady told the children that poor sinners go there because they have no one to pray for them. Our Lady continued to notify the children that if people did not stop offending God, He would reprimand the world "by means of war, hunger and persecution of the Church and of the Holy Father," using Russia as His chosen implement of punishment. In other words, Russia would be the means, but the consequences are for everyone. However, it was a precise consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart that Our Lady requested. Our Lady offered very specific instructions, that if not granted, "Russia will spread her errors throughout the world, raising up wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer and various nations will be annihilated."
The ‘errors’ of Russia were never clarified for the three seers. By ‘errors’ Our Lady inferred that which is objectively wrong from a Catholic point of view. We can establish that, in Russia, the root ‘error’ was the abrogation of Christianity, the denial of religious formation and the denunciation of religion as ever having played an important role. What Solzhenitsyn would describe as ‘the total surrender of the soul.’ 

Firstly in Russian society, it was the concept of God as creator and judge that was utterly abolished. Hence, the dominant ‘error’ of Soviet education. The very first thing a Soviet child learned at school was the theory of evolution and where, as ‘animals’, they were on the evolutionary scale. There is much debate in Catholic circles about the validity of Evolutionary theories, but Catholics have never been taught by Mother Church to teach children that they are primarily animals. Under Stalin, the Soviet officials thought of the Russian people as animals with speech, and were content to treat them as such. In Solzhenitsyn’s novel A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, the Gulag prisoners are like sub-humans in an abattoir. They scrounge for scraps of food, stand naked in a frozen field during a body search and every minute their survival is threatened. Solzhenitsyn peppers his prose with lots of ironies; how the Gulag guards are in defiance of the Communist ideology of equality for all men. How Communism was meant to eliminate social divides; when in fact total societal breakdown ensues because only the ordained alpha male authority figures are able to protect themselves. The weak are to be used, it’s their fault they are weak. The Gulag guards are atheists, believing in no higher Judge, nor do they have any concept of grace or even kindness for its own sake.

The Communist system has ensured the guards are aware of absolutely no biblical/Christian teaching that would lead them to think of themselves as other than vicious animals. Similarly, Solzhenitsyn’s novel Cancer Ward, ends with a zoo scene, representing the Soviet culture that has reduced humans society to a jungle.

Whilst not a Catholic, Solzhenitsyn’s masterpiece A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is a true depiction of the accumulative effect of Russia’s errors on Russia herself. It is Stalin’s Russia in microcosm and portrays Stalin’s Russia as one huge prison camp. The character of Ivan Denisovich embodies the Soviet view of religion. He can only see what religion may do for him in material terms. The ‘Our Father’ is incomprehensible to him, because he does not see how it will give him daily bread. Prayers for Ivan are like the complaints one makes to the Soviet authorities, pieces of raggy paper put in a box that will never get the establishment’s attention and is merely a pyrrhic exercise. A devout Baptist in the Gulag attempts evangelising Ivan. But for Ivan, talk of God’s love is meaningless babble. Ivan’s only religious contact is a Russian Orthodox priest who Ivan resented, and thus he distrusts anyone religious, because for Ivan religion and the personality of his cruel and indifferent authority figures are the same. Ivan’s rejection of religion signifies he is a product of the system he abhors. The challenge of bringing Ivan to the Christian faith is a taste of the challenge of bringing the entirety of Russia back to organised religion.

Solzhenitsyn not only revealed the deplorable conditions of Soviet Russia, he bared the souls of select Russian characters. As the spiritual nucleus of Solzhenitsyn’s works became more obvious, more and more did he stand alone. Solzhenitsyn was the ‘traitor’ of the ‘nomenklatura’, upsetting Russia’s reputation, but simultaneously ‘progressive’ politicians and writers found his traditionally religious outlook embarrassing. His devotion to orthodox Christianity but rejection of westernization of Russian culture would not know compromise. Throughout his writing career, Solzhenitsyn increasingly emphasized that the only antidote to Communism was a spiritual resurgence. This assaulted the West’s politically correct smarmy talk of democracy as the only solution. Solzhenitsyn wrote: ‘our present system is terrible not because it is undemocratic and based on force but because it demands total surrender of the soul.’

Whilst Solzhenitsyn knew what medicine the world needed, Our Lady held the prescription pad. Part of the prescriptions given the whole world was to pray the Rosary everyday; indeed six times did Our Lady call for the daily recitation of five decades of the Rosary. Our Lady also advised ‘the Communion of reparation on the First Saturdays’.

Fr. Rupert McHardy: ‘Lent is about taking responsibility for our own sins’

London is having one of her maddeningly muggy and heretically humid days. The smug clouds hold rain that will bathe London’s streets, but instead of releasing a cleansing shower, the clouds hold on jealousy to their charge of rain, instead there are just odd splashes of escaped water. I walked through South Kensington passing groups of gals with their Harrods bags and at one point helped a lady from Spain to find the post-box. The trees begin to betray winter’s austere fashion of exposed limbs, and sport the odd shy patch of leaves; their edgy silhouettes cast patterns of lace against the rough grey cotton of the sky.

Leaving the bustling thoroughfare of Brompton Road, I crept into The Oratory and prepared for the 5.30 ‘Extraordinary Form Mass’.


Fr. Anthony offered the Tridentine Mass in the side chapel. Every time I attend such a Mass, I am startlingly aware of my own Catholicity in the instant the priest recites ‘Agnus Dei Qui tolis pecata mundi, misere nobis’. My character as a Catholic is realised with every word of the Agnus Dei; and it’s a tremendous, causes-my-heart-to-tremor moment, when life is pumped into my faith, and my sense of belonging is great. It’s that sense of belonging that gives me peace and fulfilment.



A little reluctantly, I offered my Communion in atonement for my sins, and for the lessening of my punishment in this life and the next. I write ‘reluctantly’ because I would rather have prayed for more ‘worldy’ pie-in-the-sky intentions, such as getting a 3 million pound publishing deal. But instead I slowly asked Our Lord to grant me pardon for sins that include holding grudges and vanity. My thanklessness at having so beautiful a Mass where I may do this is especially glaring when one considers that there are one million Catholics worldwide who are faithful to the Traditional Latin Mass, and only eleven of those Catholics were at Fr. Anthony’s Mass.

Ironically, I then prayed the Rosary that my friend ‘S’ will convent from his atheist, pro-abortion stance and become a practising Catholic. While I’m so keen to pray for the remission of the sins of others, I often address my own so flippantly.Which is why Fr. Rupert’s sermon during the 6PM Mass that followed was a welcome washing instruction; that each soul needs selective sponge downs. Fr. Rupert told a half-full church that Lent gives us an opportunity to examine our own sins and to make recompense for them, that our sins are own responsibility and no one else’s. Fr. Rupert ended his sermon by exerting us to see that in amending our own lives, being a good example to others that ultimately ‘we will do God’s will’.

Fr. Rupert      

Monday, 22 February 2010

Your Name is Needed to Help Catholic Adoption Agencies...


And the petition reads: We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Amend the Equality Bill to make space for Catholic Adoption Agencies.

The Background Info:

Forgive the revision book style bullet points, but to be succinct...

-          The  means of access of the Equality Bill allows Parliament its FIRST opportunity to modify (FOR THE GOOD OF CATHOLICS) the sexual orientation goods and services legislation that originally led to the near-abolition of Catholic adoption agencies....in 2007. 
-         In the Commons, Ann Widdecombe MP has already put down an amendment to ensure that Catholic adoption agencies may continue, and gained 22 co-signatories from across the parties.

-          The e-petition (see link) is a great way of clustering Catholic co-operation for an amendment that will once again allow Catholic adoption agencies the agency they need to be holistically Catholic.



It takes one minute to sign, and your name will join with many well-known and distinguished Catholics.
                                                
St. Clothilde, patron saint of adoption, pray for this!


Scuppered by Scrupolosity?

‘Scrupulosity’: the trusty term for select individuals who strap themselves to a self-made mental rack. The reasons they may mentally castigate themselves are inevitably bound to practices of the faith. Catholics who painfully pinch their hands when they forget to bless themselves when they pass a church. Or bite lips when they are not sure if it was an hour they fasted for Communion or a mere fifty-nine minutes... Or did we break our fast by brushing our teeth with toothpaste thirty minutes before Mass? Those of us who attend PG films but feel sullied for watching the graphic clips from trailers or, sharpen our nails on our scalps, when we find ourselves laughing at some seedy joke in a cartoon. It's a good job we gloss over the detailed translations of Shakespeare's works. Could it be the bard was partial to the bawdy?!

Scrupulosity may take the form of trawling through the waters of the conscience for any type of minor sin. In my case, should I have had extra toast? Oh no, I'm guilty of gluttony now! People like us trash about in the waters between what is an outright sin and what our own confused consciences may perceive as sin. We terrorise our minds because we inadvertently put ourselves in what may be an occasion of sin or because due to poor human memory we have forgotten a minor duty. Or else, in pride, we want to be holier than thou. The scrupulous Catholics are the invisible minority. We would be well at home in a JP Wodehouse novel, stumbling after Jeeves asking his advice.



What makes it particularly difficult for the overly scrupulous few, is that our culture of extremes and excess, renders moderation invalid. Problem pages of the mainstream papers and magazines are lined with confessions of people who have difficulties with controlling their appetites, select depraved passions etc. Clinics are sprouting up everywhere to facilitate the curing of people with anything from masochistic sex addictions to buying soft-toy addictions, from addiction to barbiturates to betting to body building. Catering for healing-of-addictions is a huge market! There's a new colourful 'therapy' for everything, and there's even a closed circle of thought that everyone, (no exceptions) has a serious addiction. Well some of the great saints did teach that everyone has an addiction to sin. But addiction to sin isn’t in the list of addictions written by secular associations. I have a private fantasy to contact one of these organisations who tell people it’s perfectly normal for everyone to have an out of control addiction, and ask them how they will help me with my (made-up) addiction. I plan to tell them I have an addiction for eating gherkins. We’ll see what transpires. But what actual, practical recourse is there for those on the total opposite of the spectrum, the self-controlling (and obsessively) scrupulous?

It would do well to muse on the advice of the saints. The great saints taught consistency, never dangerous extremes; that to obsess over one's own faults was a barrier to developing true love of God and for saving the souls of others. Padre Pio, gifted with bi-location and the ability to 'read souls' was very good at helping the scrupulous. In fact, he even guided me! One day after confession I sorely regretted not confessing that I had stuffed myself on gluten free cake. A few hours later, I (accidentally) found an Internet account of a man who forgot to confess to Padre Pio that he had eaten extra figs. He raced back to Padre Pio. Before the man could speak, St. Pio warmly cajoled him, laughing and saying extra figs were no sin! The scrupulous have recourse to Our Lady, the Queen of Saints. We may (and should) pray to our lady for peace of mind.

Prayer could be important to a twelve-step programme for scrupulosity. A friend of mine and I had an idea to start a local SA society, that’s Scrupulists Anonymous if you hadn't guessed. We would keep it low budget, all in the guise of being low-key. A dark, damp garden shed would be rented and pound-shop candles procured. Seats would be stolen from someone's camping kit. We would even have watery ribena and salty spam sandwiches on offer. Well, we wouldn't like to make these poor tortured souls feel even worse by indulging them in plush surroundings and foods? Oh, and let me not forget the glow in the dark rosaries! I can imagine the scene now. 'Am…hello...my name is Pam and my worst scruple is wondering if I have broken my fast for Communion by wearing peach smelling lip balm hours before Mass. Oh help! I just tasted some in my mouth! I am going to mass in four hours time!' I can imagine that at least one tortured girl would run out of the shed half way through the meeting shouting, ‘oh! Help! I’m too close to members of the male of the species! I’m having lustful thoughts!’

One draw back to having these types of support groups (as if!) would be, as anyone with experience of pious Catholic company knows; people can pick up scrupulosity habits. I know of people who have been told (in pious company) to only receive Holy Communion with their eyes shut tight, so that they won’t distract the priest with open eyes. I have found no argument to substantiate the wrongs of receiving with open eyes and view the matter as people misreading their own personal opinion and foisting it on others as justification for what they perceive as solemn duty, i.e. playing the part of the Pharisee. And yes, Pharisees do lurk, I was chided once because I had not kept my eyes low enough as I walked up to the Communion rail. Sigh.



However, if you are keen to avoid ‘spreading’ scrupulosity, one thing definitely to avoid is becoming a nit-pick of others. Those not content to futilely find faults with themselves, resort to endlessly griping about how so and so wore bright pink lipstick at a funeral or how some man rushed out of Mass, a minute before Mass was over. We run the risk of becoming modern day Pharisees; thinking ourselves so tough on ourselves, that we can be even tougher on others.


Should a soul fall into the whirlpools listed above, outside of earnest prayer and spiritual reading, one needs a lifeguard in the form of a good confessor. Like Padre Pio, a good confessor will guide the penitent to see what is a sin proper, and what is just obsessing over self-perfection.

The above was originally published by The Brandsma Review.

Adornment is never anything except a reflection of the heart. ~Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel




There was a time, and a very funny time it was when the author of this blog dressed in glitterati sequined tops, shimmering minis and fluorescent eye-shadow. Hair was accustomed punk style. 17/18 years of age or thereabouts.  And that was just to do the odd exam or attend a lecture. Those were my salad days/bright green days when I would hear ‘she looks like she is constantly going clubbing’ walking into an 9AM class. The joke was on me, especially days when I wore orange feather earrings and matching feather necklace. Mater told me that I looked like someone who had got carried away in a fish tackle shop. Some young lads that I bumped into on the street corner told me that I looked like a peacock.  
I had a pink rose in my hair, that was permanently attached, and the family doctor (Dr. Ronan Gleeson RIP) used to sing ‘are you going to San Francisco, remember to wear some flowers in your hair...'
But in recent years, a grave dignity has come upon me, and I will only be found wearing longish skirts, jackets that look like they were stolen from Miss Marple's wardrobe and more tweed than is found in a Tory retirement home. And I’ve swapped the 6’ heels for 6mm flats. What’s the point in looking taller than everyone else?
Oh, and the ‘conservative’ brown eye-liner. All very Mark and Spencers as opposed to the my David Bowie groupie punk rock look.
As testament to my new, old school, traditionalist and tawdry look is the fact that I spent quite a bit of time labouring over whether or not to buy a jacket in Zara. Hence picture of said jacket. 
Yes, I took pictures and carefully sought the opinions of Anna and Angela, fellow in-mates at our abode. Was the jacket a bit too garish and bright? Did it hug my figure a bit too securely? Ahem, was it therefore risqué? And most SCRUPOLOSLY OF ALL – was it too flashy? My friends laughed at my suggestions. I concede; it's not the sartorial stuff that will send hearts racing.

The jacket was going for a few quid (literally) and was a lot cheaper than the 80 quid that had originally been asked for it. But yet, I sweated over buying this woolly creation with rich silk lining and cuffs finished with velvet. The cut was Chanel, and the quality excellent. But I troubled myself thinking that if only I were to give the few pounds towards a Mass intention. What if I forgot about buying the jacket and stuck with my grey and black schock instead? The thought came to me that I would not be able to buy the velvet or the silk that lined the jacket for the sale price of the jacket.


So, on Saturday last, I boldly snuck into Zara on High Street Kensington, plucked the jacket from the rail (anyone would have thought that I was buying a car costing 90 grand, not a sale item that had a pound shop price) and taking a deep breath, I proceeded to the cash register where I handed over the jacket to be de-labelled. They treated my beloved red and black creation as though it were a sack of potatoes, and flippantly folded it into a bag. When I had paid, they waved to the next customer.Those folk behind the counter had missed the exhilarating, dizzy head moment, where I went from longing to possess the jacket to actually carrying the jacket as my own purchase, in my own bag. I get excited just at the memory of that faithful moment.

On arriving home, I tried on the jacket, twirled around the kitchen and turned and fled for fear that kitchen greasy smells would find a home in my new treads.

That night, I could be found wearing the jacket with my pjs, and that next morning, Sunday, I wore it to Mass. When others commented that I had a nice garment on, I went into hyper-gushing mode. ‘You like it? Wow! You won’t believe how much it cost. And I believe they still have one or two of this jacket left. You could run along...’ God forgive me for all the times that I have bored the jackets off others with my clothes-talk. But, those vibrant red hues! Those blue flowers around the neck-line! It’s re-awakened all the girly garrulousness of years gone by.
Only this time ‘round, I’ve managed to intellectualise my absolute all-encompassing love of clothes with a line or two of poetry.

O what a sight were Man, if his attires
Did alter with his minde;
And like a dolphins skinne, his clothes combin'd
With his desires!
~George Herbert

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Selling The Pill at the back of our churches when the Pope visits? Part Two



The Pill writers are more in favour of Barack Obama’s policies, than Pope Benedict’s

Page after page of Pill articles have the same thrust, 'we the suffering progressive members of the Catholic Church must endure this regressive pope'. The irony is that while The Pill is trenchantly arrogant, it is also cowardly and anything but progressive. Let's look at this week's page 31 offering 'Vatican Shelves 200-page condom study'. The article makes it sound like a grand pity that a study on condoms, has been ‘apparently’ discarded. The word ‘apparently’ is their get-out clause here. The Pill writers or ‘Tabletistas’ as Damian Thompson calls them do not have absolute confirmation that this ‘study’ has been abandoned. But The Pill writers are reporting that this study, commissioned by the Vatican, looked into allowing married couples to use condoms if one of the spouses was HIV positive. Even if the Pill writers do not know for certain that the Vatican have jettisoned the study, they can’t help but join the golden elite of their pro-condom and anti-Catholic Church journalist colleagues, and give the church a good rub in the mud for not allowing condom use in this hard case – where a loving married couple are compromised because one partner may infect the other.

I have not read the supposedly ‘shelved’ study by the Vatican, and cannot since it may have been abandoned, but I have read studies on condom use that very simply portray condoms as being ineffective in preventing the spread of HIV from one partner to the other. Yeah, my mum (bless her) gave me those studies to read when I was fourteen. Would any mum of a Pill journalist be so kind as to look up the studies done on condom failure and pass them on to their offspring?

I mentioned above that The Pill is cowardly – yes – it will do anything to ‘follow the crowd’ , and is so slavishly loyal to ‘the principles of cool’, that it neglects truth and real education for the sake of being with the ‘in crowd’. Is it really true that Pill writers have never seen any of the hard core scientific evidence that outlines the dangers of relying on condoms? Or are they too spineless to admit that on a purely secular, scientific basis, condoms do not give sufficient protection, and that Mother Church is actually right?

Well, if The Pill journalists were going to turn anti-condom, they might have to endure the same bullying that every faithful member of the Catholic Church endures in this day and age of condomania.

Selling The Pill at the back of our churches when the Pope visits?



There is so much talk about how broke the Catholic Church is in Britain, and how 'strapped' all the parishioners are, and how we will have to scrimp and scrape to prepare for Pope Benedict's visit, that it's time to do something that would cost nothing, and would rid our churches of a resident poison.

I propose that those glossy piles of The Pill stacked at the back of our churches be removed - without delay - and consigned to the recycling bin. Sure, would anyone on their editorial board resent a bit of rubbish recycling? It would improve our green status immediately. Ms Pepinster will be proud!

Forgive my use of arguably vulgar language with the term 'rubbish', but The Pill often resembles hate notes that bullies write to ridicule their victims. I'm sometimes confounded to read the nasty belittling of Pope Benedict, and belittling is what it is. There is always an attitude that The Pill knows best, and must point out the woes and wrongs of Pope Benedict's papacy. It could just be me, but whenever I read The Tablet, (and this could be a trained response from my teaching years) I feel as if I have happened upon evidence of pupils bullying the headmaster.

From their delirious statement in 2007 that 'Pope Benedict is not a trained liturgist' to their spiteful implication that the Pope's Motu Proprio was anti-Semitic, it's all too easy for Pill-writers to portray the pope as a fetish-fond German who at best is too fond of 'nostalgia', and at worst a fascist at heart.

This week's bitchy article by 'a leading human rights law lawyer' (let's all bow low to this 'lawyer') who claims that 'while Pope Benedict XVI calls fro dialogue, that conversation is made problematic by his very concept of dialogue'. From reading this bully-talk, you would think that our pope was in his dotage, because according to this lawyer, the pope is not capable of 'true discussion'. And it is implied that our pope would like to rule as though he were a dictator; 'this pope in particular...he seems somehow to regard a democratic society separate from the authority of the Church'. 'This pope' sees democracy 'as a concession'. May I assert to the Pill journos, that you are writing about our pope, not King Lear?

The mere sight of The Pill at the back of churches is damaging to everyone's faith - if you are nine months old or ninety. If you are the former, you may see these despicable caricatures of our pope in the pages of The Pill.



This is political satire, where the pope looks like he is floundering and ‘out to lunch’. Then when Mum and Dad are doing their best to inform the growing child that the pope is the Vicar of Christ, the child may sense a contradiction in that he seen loathsome images of the pope at the back of Westminster Cathedral or even in his own living room. All the young Catholics that I know would not leave the Pill lying around the living room when they have kids, why then should we tolerate it at the back of our Father’s house?

Thursday, 11 February 2010

‘I was pregnant once...didn’t have it...I mean I didn’t think twice about it, that’s what smart girls did.’

‘I was pregnant once...didn’t have it...I mean I didn’t think twice about it, that’s what smart girls did.’
Cue for straining-not-to-cry sighing. ‘I just wonder sometimes whether...they would be funny...or clever...or...or...neurotic...stupid really’
Thus confides Emma Thompson to her co-star Dustin Hoffman as they sit, stranded and wallowing in their sorrows by the fountains near Trafalgar Square. It’s the 2008 flick Last Chance Harvey, and Emma and Dustin are two old fogies falling for each other, as Emma the native from Willesden Green accompanies New Yorker Dustin around London.



They meet first in some austere looking bar at Heathrow where Dustin downs multiple shots, tries to make conversation with the sharp-tongued Emma, then decides to go for broke by cataloguing the rotting vestiges of his life. Dustin’s been fired from his job as a jingle writer for an advertising business, he never made it as a jazz pianist, he’s had a painful divorce, his wife has married some smoothie who gave his daughter quality time, and now his daughter is getting married and wants smoothie step-dad and not biological (ergo bad) Daddy Dustin to walk her down the aisle. Emma’s claim to failure is that she’s a repressed writer working in Heathrow taking surveys, and gets set up on blind dates only to spend the time squeezing her eyes so as not to cry. And we later find out that she’s had an abortion that makes her ‘sad’ to think about.

The New York Times did not mention the ‘A’ word – I can’t fathom why - when critiquing the film, instead they merely wrote of the post-abortion female lead ‘it’s hard to buy this Miss Lonely Hearts act’, and that ‘the screenplay chips away at the character’s dignity.’ But there was no cynical 'women never regret abortion' riposte from our colleagues at The New York Times.

Why have The New York Times become shy about rubbishing any even slightly pro-lifey film? They gave Juno a very favourable review; something that would have been unheard of in the 1970s and 80s when only-pro-abortion-screaming-feminism-articles-will-be-published was their credo.

I’m surprised that no big hub-bub was made of the curious pro-life tone to the film Last Chance Harvey. I mean, it does have Dustin Hoffman, whose strange magnetic presence even inspired rave reviews when he did the voice of a chicken in Chicken Run, and Emma Thompson, an actress who has globally defined Britishness for global audiences since winning an Oscar for Sense and Sensibility. Most of ‘us’ by that I mean, tried and tested pro-lifers may automatically think, ‘even tiny pro-life message in a film definitely means lots of angry pro-choicers will rubbish the film’.

In fact most people have either forgotten about or never heard of the film. Not that the film would be indelibly memorable. I don’t recommend it. The plot for the most part is as predictable as the bad wine they keep slinging back, we all know that Emma and Dustin will get together in the end. They’re of the same vintage and so dried up of enthusiasm and life that even a computer would link them instantly. In the final scene they walk by the Thames, falling into each other/supporting each other as they walk. Emma even takes off her shoes and then, bereft of her black heels, she is only a teensy bit taller than Dustin. Stock clichés roll off the script from Dustin telling the crowd at his daughter’s wedding that ‘divorce is really hardest on the kids...’ to Dustin telling Emma in his crinkly New York accent ‘y’know, you’re my kinda girl’. But somehow the fact that the script is not clever or ‘innovative’ makes it all the more real. That’s why when I heard the line ‘didn’t think twice about it, that’s what smart girls did’, it resonated with the hundreds of times I’ve heard it in real life. Acquaintances of mine have mouthed similar words like this to me since we were teenagers.

OK, it’s a Hollywood movie, and while there are lots of movies with girls brimming over with relief following an abortion, there are few movies that have an academy award winning actress in the role of a very unfulfilled middle aged woman, who crumbles with regret that she doesn’t know what ‘they’ would be like because she ‘didn’t have it’.

It’s hard to decide whether Emma’s ‘I do wonder sometimes whether they would be funny or clever’ part of the film is subtle or too slight to make a difference. Would it make Anne Furedi of British Pregnancy ‘Advisory’ Service cynically tut and stop watching for fear that it would turn into a pro-lifey plot?

I actually wouldn’t watch it with radical pro-abortion campaigners that I know. It would be unpleasant to hear the whoosh of my lap-top going out the window as Emma Thompson mouths despairingly ‘I do sometimes wonder if they would have been funny...’

The daring part: Emma is not ‘what a good decision, the abortion made such a difference to me, I climbed the career ladder like a mountaineer, sans crying baby I was able to meet lots of suave, eligible men...’ Instead she plays a post abortion character who spends a lot of the movie holding back tears, whose emotions are so repressed they are like the wind trapped in an extremely colicky baby.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

On the whole, does the European Court of Human Rights 'defend' Catholic traditions? Part One


Inside the European Court of Human Rights

My last post posed a question; does the European Court of Human Rights defend Catholic traditions?


Last month, the European Court of Human Rights did well to instruct the Romanian Orthodox Church to restore schools and churches to their rightful owners: the Romania-based Greek Catholic Church. These Greek Catholic Church owned buildings were seized immediately after World War II, by the then Romanian Communist government, and made the property of the Orthodox Romanian Church. Perhaps a simplistic but distinction between the Romanian Orthodox Church and the Greek Catholic Church in Romania is that the former is an instrument of the government, whereas the latter obeys Rome.

The Court has also decreed that 23,000 Euro be given the Greek Catholic Church by the Romanian Government. The 23 grand is compensation for the fact that the Romanian government previously would not return the properties to the Greek Catholic Church. The Romanian government even tried to pass a law in 2008 that would confirm Orthodox ownersip over still-disputed Catholic places of worship.

The European Court have empowered the Greek Catholic Community, by re-establishing rightful ownership of a diverse list of buildings, from parish houses to cultural centres. The case before the European Court centred on property rights per se, not on freedoms to practice Catholic traditions, and was in essence a case of settling a large-scale property dispute.

The European Court of Human Rights is 'Defending Traditions?'



Interior of Greek Catholic Church

Mr. Kenn Winters wrote in earnest to The Catholic Herald to assert that, contrary to what I had written, that the European Court of Human Rights does (on occasion)help defend Catholic traditions.



SIR_-_Mary O'Regan's party political attack on " distorted human rights laws" in the European Union (Comment, January 29) was somewhat ill made, and blurred the distinction between the EU's European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, serving 27 member states, and the non-EU European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, serving all 50 European countries.

Another Catholic paper, The Universe, reported on the same day the latter's recent ruling that Romania's Orthodox Church must return 5,000 churches and schools to the local Greek Catholic Church outlawed after World War II - and which has lost nearly one million members in the meantime.

Miss O' Regan's recalling the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Bertone's counsel that the EU threatened her native Ireland's identity and traditions is in sharp contrast to the wider European Court of Human Rights' defence of Catholic identity and traditions in Romania.

Yours faithfully,
Kenn Winter
Huddersfield
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