Friday, 29 August 2014


In my last blog post, I wrote of Tina Beattie that 'this woman has tenure at a Catholic teaching institution.'

I think that was incorrect, and Digby Stuart, now part of Roehamption University, is no longer a Catholic teaching institution.

Perhaps I could pass it off as a typo, and claim that what I really meant to write was: 'this woman writes manure for a once-Catholic paper.'

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Tina's inconsistency

Tina Beattie in her very poor piece in the Guardian (by poor, I mean it is full of unsubstantiated assertions and a remarkable degree of prejudicial thinking) makes clear that she does not support Catholic teaching on contraception.

In her comments afterwards, it is also clear that she does not accept the Church's absolute opposition to abortion.

She repeats how dreadful it is that so many women die of maternity-related causes and botched abortions (though she nowhere reveals the sources for the figures she quotes). She is, of course right: it is dreadful.

However, what is lacking is any concern at all for the children aborted. And her proposed solutions - the promotion of the 'women's reproductive rights' agenda -  would only increase that number.

And this woman has tenure at a Catholic teaching institution.

Sub tuum praesidium confugimus, Sancta Dei Genetrix.
Nostras deprecationes ne despicias in necessitatibus nostris,
sed a periculis cunctis libera nos semper,
Virgo gloriosa et benedicta.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

A great resource re the Lectionary

Yesterday, the indomitable Fr Z asked if anyone knew of a site that listed the readings on Sundays in the EF alongside those for the OF.

A couple of people kindly pointed him at my series of posts on the Lectionary (follow the Lectionary tag in the sidebar...), but that was not what he was looking for.

So I felt, I suppose, a sense of obligation, and started to compile what he wanted.  However, fortunately, the excellent Matthew Hazell got on with the job rather more quickly, which saved me a lot of time!

The results may be seen here, and are a valuable contribution to the growing resources available to those interested in understanding the liturgical changes.

Kudos to our bishop!

What with one thing (a daughter's wedding) and another (a camping holiday) I haven't had a lot of time to blog recently.

However, I did want to highlight this note, on our parish newsletter last week, from our excellent Bishop + Campbell.

When Mass cannot be said through the week
Bishop Michael has informed all parishes in the diocese that on those occasions when priest (sic) is not able to say weekday Mass the parishioners should gather to celebrate either Morning or Evening Prayer (Matins or Lauds). These are the form of prayer for the parish when there is no priest available, not Eucharistic Services with the distribution of Holy Communion.

I welcome this for many reasons. I hope this is something that the CBCEW has agreed and that similar instructions will be issued in other dioceses. If it is not, then particular kudos to +Campbell for taking a personal lead in the diocese for which he is responsible.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The Samaritan Woman

I have been reflecting on the Samaritan woman at the well, and her encounter with Our Lord; prompted by Sheed, but deeply informed by a meditation on the subject I heard some fifteen years ago, by Fr Dominique of the Community of St John.

The first thing to notice is the place: it was at Jacob's well that the meeting took place: that is, where Jacob gave water to his people and his flock: bear that in mind when meditating on Christ's words. These details are not coincidences!

The second significant detail is that it was in the heat of the day (the sixth hour, that is noon). That means that the woman was an outcast; which is why she was on her own at the well.  The women of the village would come together for their water (and chat, no doubt) in the early, cooler, hours of the day.

So Our Lord touches this, perhaps the most superficial of her wounds, first: he talks to her. It is easy to miss the full significance of that alone; she was a Samaritan, and ever since the Samaritans' offer to help re-build the Temple after the Babylonian captivity was so rudely refused, the Samaritans and the Jews were hostile to each other. Moreover, she was a woman, and Jewish rabbis avoided talking to women in public, even their own wives. And, as we have noted, she was an outcast - a social leper. Moreover, he placed himself in a position of dependency on her will, by asking her to give him a drink.

It is not surprising that she was astonished that he should ask her for a drink. 

His answer surprised her yet further: he offered her living water, that is the life of grace. Here he touched her second level of woundedness: the lack of grace in her soul. And she, just as Nicodemus had done not long before, misunderstood him, by being too literal in her interpretation.

Our Lord persists, despite her protestation that he has no bucket, in his claim to be able to give her water that will well up to eternal life. And in her response, 'give me some of that water,' full of misunderstanding though it be, there is enough of a request of Christ for him to be able to work at a still deeper level.

He addresses the barrier to grace in her soul: she is living in sin, and has clearly forgotten how to love, having got through five husbands before her current man, whom she has not even bothered to marry (we see now why she was an outcast).

This revelation of his knowledge of her, prompts her to reveal the deepest wound of all, that she does not know how to worship God. For the Jews say it must be at Jerusalem, whereas the Samaritans worship on mount Garizim.

He then reveals the true way to worship, in spirit and truth; and then, astonishingly, reveals himself as the Messiah: replacing the temple of the Old Covenant. 

This is the first record of Our Lord revealing himself as Messiah. He had refused to respond to Satan's attempts to draw him on the subject, or to Nathanael's declaration; and throughout his public life, he deliberately avoided the direct statement, and even warned the Apostles to tell nobody that he was the Christ.  It was only under oath to the High Priest that he made so clear a declaration.

And many Samaritans came to believe in him; not just because of the woman's testimony, but because they listened to his word. 

But I am particularly moved by the progression of Our Lord, touching each wound with his healing love until he had reached the deepest wound of all, prompting that saving self-revelation.

Without right worship, we are lost...

Monday, 21 July 2014

Going underground

I have, for some reason I cannot quite fathom, been meditating on the Underground Map. It is widely recognised as an iconic and genius representation of the London Underground's complex network.

But it raises several interesting questions.  For example, is it truthful?  As a teenager and young adult, I used to cycle around London a lot, and I navigated by a mental tube map which I carried in my head. It worked: but it did take me on some strange routes at times; and it was certainly very misleading if one thought that the stations were equi-distant, as they are on the map.  Cycling out to Watford or Epping soon disabused one of that illusion.

But of course the map is not designed to designate distance (nor to be used by cyclists). It conveys the information it is designed to convey very accurately: which lines stop at which stations, in which order; and where connections may be made.

Which reminded me of, say, Fundamentalists (and atheists, come to that) reading Genesis. It teaches precisely what it is intended to teach, but reading it in the wrong way may take you round the houses...

It is very popular in some circles to parrot: the Map is not the Territory; a mantra made popular by the pseudo-psychology known as NLP. At one level this is a truism: of course a representation is not the thing it represents.  However, frequently people make the illogical leap to: therefore, as we all have different maps in our head, there is no such thing as objective reality. Yet somehow, when I emerge from Oxford Circus tube station, there is Oxford Circus: and it is when you do, too.  And we know, as a matter of everyday experience, that we rely on objective reality being there, and on maps of various kinds as guides to it.

Thus the questions to ask about any map, whether a tube map, Wainwright's sketches of the Lakeland Fells, or the Ordnance Survey, is firstly, what are they trying to convey; and secondly, how well do they do that.  And the same applies to the religious and philosophical maps which we use to make sense of life.

But, of course, the real reason for this post was an excuse to link to the sounds of my youth, here:

and here:

Saturday, 19 July 2014

The Hidden Life

I have been reflecting on Our Lord's hidden life: that period between His infancy and His public ministry, with help (naturally) from Frank Sheed's To Know Christ Jesus.

Apart from the Finding in the Temple, we know almost nothing, of course. But almost is the operative word.

We do know a little, and can deduce a little more, and even speculate a bit beyond that.

What we know is that 'He went home and was subject to them.'

We also know where home was, a village called Nazareth, and that He was raised there by the Blessed Virgin and St Joseph.  We know that they will have taught Him, by word and example, as He grew up; and we can assume that He went to the village school, probably in the synagogue (or perhaps outside in hot weather) where the curriculum would have been reading, writing and knowledge of sacred Scripture.

As a good Jewish family, they would certainly have observed the Sabbath, and heard the Shema read at the start of each synagogue service: three passages of scripture that they would also have recited twice a day at home (two from Deuteronomy, and one from Numbers).

 We can safely assume that He worked with St Joseph, the Carpenter.  After all, He remained at home till the age of thirty.

And I think we can speculate a little, too.  For example, it is unthinkable to me that these carpenters of Nazareth would have turned out anything less than the very best they could. He would necessarily have been skilled at, and I surmise would have loved, his craft.

Likewise, they will have sold fairly; in that culture, that would have necessitated bargaining - for that is the process by which fair deals were reached.

We can also deduce that He did nothing spectacular: His neighbours were astonished when He suddenly came to prominence.

And He did not marry. Sheed points out how unusual that would have been for a man of His age, to be still a bachelor: but He had a different vocation.

So what light do we gain from this? I think it valuable. A certain type of Christian will often say 'What would Jesus do?' I am generally wary of that approach; apart from anything else, what He did was always the action of God Incarnate. Moreover, His public life is so different from the situation in which we normally find ourselves.

However, in the Hidden Life, there may well be things to apply to our daily lives: fair dealing, doing the very best we can in our work, commitment to prayer, obedience to our lawful superiors, and fidelity to our vocation.  And the fact that He chose to spend thirty years living a very ordinary life in a village, but always ready to turn His hand to God's work, is a wonderful reminder of the value of the everyday - when offered to God.