Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Our Lady Who Turns Her Face to the Wall

Some years ago, my late mother gave me a small statue of Our Lady of Torreciudad.  She sits on top of the chest of drawers by my bed, in the corner of the room.  And she turns her face to the wall.

Or to be more accurate, perhaps, she turns her whole self to the wall.  She does this gradually, over time, so I don't notice it happening, until suddenly, one day, I see that she's facing the wall (or nearly) and turn her back.

The explanation, of course, is simple and natural; the statue has come free of its base, and every time I shut one of the drawers, it shifts a little on its base, with the net result I have described.

But because I am a very simple soul (or a very profound one - you decide) I see meaning in such things. There's a line in CS Lewis somewhere (That Hideous Strength, I rather fancy) about Our Lord doing all things for all people. 

And so I ask myself, why would Our Lady turn her face to the wall?  And the answer, of course, is sin.  So now I have developed the practice of only turning Our Lady back to face the room when I have been to confession: and when she turns to the wall, I know it's time to go again.

And that works pretty well...

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Guilty or not guilty?

I have followed the story of the trials of Cardinal Pell (as best one can, given the information management strategies in place for much of the time); not least because I have met him, and have walked the pilgrimage to Chartres with his (then) personal secretary, Fr Mark Withoos (now Brother Augustine Mary, OSB). So I am not an impartial observer: I have personal reasons to believe him innocent. But that is not what I want to write about here (and for good accounts of why the verdict against him is suspect, see here and here)

But I am blogging because I have something to say which is from a fairly unusual perspective: I have been on the jury of a rape trial.

I need to proceed with some caution, as it is an offence to talk about anything said in the Jury room, even once a trial is over.

Therefore I will give no clues about the location or date of the trial, nor any indication of any remarks made by any individual juror. Instead I will recount my own impressions, feelings and reactions to the experience, in the hope that they will shed some light.

The first thing to say is that I found the experience harrowing. Listening to the woman in the case describe the years of controlling behaviour (another charge) and multiple counts of rape and sexual abuse that she was accusing the defendant of perpetrating, was terrible. I quickly found myself thinking, imagine if this was one of my daughters - and feeling extremely angry as well as profoundly upset.

But listening to the defendant, conscious of the assumption of innocence as the foundation of our system of justice, I consciously tried to imagine that it was my son in the box, accused of all these foul deeds, so as to listen without the previous anger distorting my judgement.

In the event, the evidence was confused and confusing. Both witnesses had mental health issues; both contradicted themselves, let alone each other. Their lives were chaotic, and they both demonstrably lied on more than one occasion.

That made it extremely difficult to reach a clear view as to what had happened.

But in the Jury room there were two people who had swallowed the 'Believe the victim' narrative so strongly that they found a guilty vote on each charge to be easy. The rest of us were less convinced.  Indeed, it was hard to believe the victim when she gave contradictory accounts of the same event: which version should we believe?

But the amount of pressure I felt to conform to their view was substantial. It was moral cowardice not to convict this evil man, in the eyes of some.

After the trial (and outside the Jury room, so I can mention it) one of the other Jurors thanked me for the role I had taken in reminding people of the standard of proof required by law: beyond reasonable doubt, and for standing up to those trying to exert moral suasion. Without me, she said, she and others might have felt obliged to fall in with their view.

In the event, we could agree no verdict on the rape and abuse charges. 

Given the sustained campaign against the Catholic Church in general, and Cardinal Pell in particular, in Australia, along with public pronouncements from the highest quarters about believing victims, in the run-up to his trial, it seems to me quite likely that the Jury room in that case was a much more pressurised environment.

I believe a serious miscarriage of justice has taken place, and I think I have some insight into at least one of the contributory factors.

Sunday, 23 December 2018

The Great Antiphons: O Emmanuel

Today is the seventh and final Great O AntiphonO Emmanuel.  As always, this is the antiphon sung just before the Magnificat at Vespers. It is the last, because tomorrow's Vespers, on Christmas Eve, is the First Vespers of Christmas.

O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster,
exspectatio Gentium, et Salvator earum:
veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus noster.

O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver,
the hope of the nations and their Saviour:
Come and save us, O Lord our God.

Here is the final part of Pärt's Sieben Magnificat Antiphonen.

O Immanuel, unser König und Lehrer, 
du Hoffnung und Heiland der Völker: 
o komm, eile und schaffe uns Hilfe, 
du unser Herr und unser Gott.

O Emmanuel, our king and counselor, 
Thou hope and saviour of the nations: 
O come, make haste to help us, 
Thou our Lord and our God, our God.

Saturday, 22 December 2018

The Great Antiphons: O Rex Gentium

Today's Great Antiphon is O Rex Gentium.

O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum,
lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum:
veni, et salva hominem,
quem de limo formasti.

O King of the nations, and their desire,
the cornerstone making both one:
Come and save the human race,
which you fashioned from clay.

And here is Arvo Pärt's setting:

O König aller Völker, ihre Erwartung und Sehnsucht,
Schlußstein, der den Bau zusammenhält,
o komm und errette den Menschen,
den du aus Erde gebildet!

O king of all nations, their expectation and desire,
Keystone, which holds all things together:
O come and save mankind,
whom thou hast formed from clay! 

Friday, 21 December 2018

The Great Antiphons: O Oriens

Today's Great Antiphon is O Oriens.

O Oriens,
splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae:
veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Morning Star,
splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

Here is Arvo Pärt's setting:

O Morgenstern, Glanz des unversehrten Lichtes:
Der Gerechtigkeit strahlende Sonne:
o komm und erleuchte, die da sitzen in Finsternis,
und im Schatten des Todes.
O morning star, incandescence of pure light, 
radiant sun of righteousness; 
O come and enlighten those who sit there in darkness 
and in the shadow of death.

Thursday, 20 December 2018

The Great Antiphons: O Clavis David

Today's Great Antiphon is O Clavis David - O Key of David.

As ever, this is sung at Vespers, just before the Magnificat.

O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel;
qui aperis, et nemo claudit;
claudis, et nemo aperit:
veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris,
sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel;
you open and no one can shut;
you shut and no one can open:
Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house,
those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

And here, once again, is Arvo Pärt's setting.

O Schlüssel Davids, Zepter des Hauses Israel,
du öffnest, und niemand kann schließen,
du schließt, und keine Macht vermag zu öffnen:
o komm und öffne den Kerker der Finsternis und die Fessel des Todes.

O David's key, sceptre of the house of Israel,
That which thou openest, none can secure,
That which thou securest, no power may open;
O come and unlock the prison of darkness and the fetters of death.

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

The Great Antiphons: O Radix Jesse

Today's in the series of Great Antiphons is O Radix Jesse.

As usual, here is the chant, as sung at Vespers before the Magnificat:

O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum,
super quem continebunt reges os suum,
quem Gentes deprecabuntur:
veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.

O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples;
before you kings will shut their mouths,
to you the nations will make their prayer:
Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.

And here is Arvo Pärt's setting:

O Sproß aus Isais Wurzel, gesetzt zum Zeichen für die Völker,
vor dir verstummen die Herrscher der Erde,
dich flehen an die Völker:
o komm und errette uns, erhebe dich, säume nicht länger.

O Scion of Isaiah's Line, predestined to be a sign for the nations,
the rulers of the earth fall silent before thee,
the nations cry unto thee:
O come and save us, bestir thyself, delay no longer.