Sunday 21 December 2008

The Listing Barque

Poor old bishop Kieran Conry has just made a bit of a twit of himself (see almost every Catholic blog - eg Holy Smoke, Hermeneutic of Continuity).

He has fallen victim to what I call the listing barque syndrome.

Some years ago (1950s) it seemed that the barque of Peter (aka The Catholic Church) was leaning a little too far to the right. The Second Vatican Council suggested a few minor and moderate changes to stabilise the ship, but the main message was steady as you are. However, a few of the watch leaders over-reacted and rushed to the left, calling everybody to follow them. The crew, being largely obedient types, followed suit, with the inevitable result that the boat lurched to the left.

Some observant souls noticed this, and rushed to the right to counter the list; unfortunately, some went too far and fell off altogether (eg into sedevacantism). Seeing this, the watch leaders leaned further to the left, not noticing the thousands of souls behind them falling off to the left.

And every time anyone suggests that there is a problem, they say 'Look, we can't go back to the right, look what happens!' pointing at the unfortunate few who fall off the barque that side.

And thousands continue to fall off behind them on the left.

And bishop Conry is still telling us that regular confession is a bad thing because (conceivably) in the 1950s some people went out of habit... And of course adherence to the traditional Mass is very dangerous; whereas altar girls, innumerable extraordinary minsters, liturgical dance and so on are necessary correctives to the dangerous tilt to the right (which may have been almost discernible more than 50 years ago!).

I used to think that we needed to await the next generation of bishops for this silliness to pass- and by and large I think that's true. But the bishop of Lancaster has proved me wrong, at least in one case: most recently by his brave and necessary decision to sever links with (soi-disant) Catholic Caring Services, as despite all his efforts they are determined to follow an anti-Catholic path.

Wednesday 17 December 2008

Family Jazz

Another entertainment is the family jazz band. With all the kids at varying degrees of competence on first or second instruments we can now line up with various combinations of flute, trombone, piano, cello, drums, electric violin and clarinet. At present they are working on You’ve Got a Friend in Me (from Toy Story) and are planning to do the Bare Necessities, the Pink Panther theme and one or two others over the Christmas Break.

I’m also teaching them to sing a carol or two in four part harmony (I take the bass, Ant the tenor, Bernie the Alto, and Charlie and Dominique sing the treble line.

Games and log fires

As the evenings are drawing in, we are spending more time by the fireside. Having no TV we have to make our own entertainment. At the moment, card games are very popular: our favourites are knockout whist and cheat. Cluedo is also popular, and once the kids are off school we’ll probably be playing more board games, especially Monopoly.

18th Birthday

It was Ant’s 18th Birthday the other day, and we were fortunate enough to get snowed in, so the kids couldn’t go to school. So they spent the morning building an igloo in the garden. It was most impressive: large enough to go inside, and it lasted for days. Grandma was giving Ant an iPod, so Bernie had spent the last few weeks collecting music form our cds and from itunes so that it was loaded with lots of stuff Ant would enjoy. It was a huge success. We bought her a day’s paragliding instruction, which she was hugely excited by (though she has yet to do it). As usual, all the kids had made her cards, and Anna did a wonderful cake.


Ant learned the other day that she is not to be invited to Oxford for an interview. This is naturally very disappointing and she was upset. However, she is always one to look on the positive side of things, and seems to be handling the disappointment very well: she’s decided that if she’s suffering it must be because it is good for her a this stage...

Carol Singing

At the weekend we had our annual carol singing expedition with a few other counter cultural families we know. We went round the streets singing rousingly all the familiar and traditional carols, with lanterns on sticks and kids wrapped up against the cold. People respond very positively and generously: we always collect for the local hospice.

Afterwards we have mulled wine and mince pies and a visit from St Nicholas for the kids...

This always makes it feel as though Christmas is nearly upon us, and is one of the highlights of the kids' year.


We always make a point of celebrating Advent as distinct from Christmas. So we won’t be putting up a tree or any decorations till Christmas Eve. In the meantime, we have a Jesse tree, an advent wreath and (re-used) advent calendars for the kids.

So at prayer time each evening, we have a reading about a character from the Old Testament, and his (or her) emblem is hung on the Jesse tree while we sing O Come O Come Emmanuel. We follow that with the collect from the appropriate Sunday Mass (Extraordinary Form: wonderful prayers) and our usual prayers around the wreath. then the kids open the window in their advent calendar.

Anna's Birthday

It was Anna’s birthday recently so at breakfast the table was awash with the cards the kids had made, as well as a few small presents they’d made and bought. I took the day off and we went for a long walk stopping for a pub lunch half way. Much as we love our children, it is important to have some time just for the two of us occasionally, and we’ve developed a tradition of doing this on her birthday, mine and our wedding anniversary.