Thursday 30 December 2010

BBC - balance and bias...

Contrast the approach to these two news stories.

On the one hand, the Holy Father is invited to present Thought for the Day. This is certainly news-worthy: he is after all the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, and it is a first. It is scarcely controversial: Thought for the Day always features a religious leader or thinker (or at least someone who thinks she is...). But the BBC ferret out a spokesman for the National Secular Society (who represent practically nobody) to say what an outrage it is - in the interests of balance, of course.

Then Sir Elton John and his male lover evade the British laws by making arrangements overseas to have a surrogate mother bear a child. This is also news-worthy. And some might think rather controversial. And of course the BBC cover it: but strangely there is no attempt made to represent any view but the BBC's, which is clearly that this is a jolly good thing.

Yet another reason I do not pay a licence fee to the BBC...

Wednesday 29 December 2010

Drawn to Catholicism

Just came across a blog which I should have known of before: Drawn to Catholicism. Well worth a visit!

Off to Faith at Stonyhurst

Ant has left us for a few days to go to the Faith Winter Conference at Stonyhurst. She and a few of her friends have been a number of times previously and have always come back very enthused.

The conference offers a mix of thought-provoking and orthodox talks, a full liturgical programme (including sacramental confession), social time (I'm told the ceilidh is a highlight) and plenty of free time for the participants to play sports, chat or do what they will. All in all an admirable mix.

It's for those in the 16 - 30 age range (though I don't think the age boundaries are fiercely policed). This one has already started and is fully booked, but if you know anyone who would benefit from future ones, do go to the Faith wwwsite and get on their mailing list. You will find much else of interest on their site

Tuesday 28 December 2010

Another lie from the BBC...

The BBC reports: 'Sir Elton John and his partner David Furnish have become parents to a son born to a surrogate mother in California.'

No they haven't; or at least not in any sense that most of humanity through most of history would recognise. At most, only one of them can be the child's biological father. It is only by a legal fiction that both can be named as parents on a birth certificate.

But the BBC, of course, has its own agenda here: the normalisation of these very abnormal arrangements.

And who could possibly argue that such arrangements are in the child's interests? It is simply the gratification of two people's selfish desires, and the exploitation of a woman, and above all a child, to meet those desires. Children as a commodity to be bought and owned - and the BBC thinks this is progress...

Monday 27 December 2010

A Family Christmas

Our Christmas only starts on Christmas Eve. Until then we have been celebrating Advent. But on Christmas Eve the family moves into full-scale preparations for Christmas. Cards are made , presents wrapped, the tree decorated at 3.000 pm precisely (to coincide with the Service of Lessons and Carols from Kings College Cambridge on the radio); and meanwhile Anna and her mum do all the food preparation.

In the evening, we have our last Jesse Tree and Advent Wreath of the year at family prayers, and put the kids to bed as early as we can manage - after hanging their stockings of course. This year Ant stayed up to help decorate the house (she is 20, after all) and put out the cribs - still minus the Christ-child, of course.

Then at 11.00 we rouse the kids and set out for Carols and Midnight Mass. It is with that night-time journey, saying the rosary on the way to Church through the snow, that marks the beginning of the Christmas magic for the children; then singing and praying through the night, and returning to fall sleepily into bed. Anna and I then added the Christ-child to the cribs and filled the stockings.

The day itself starts with the kids opening their stockings, which are stuffed with silly jokey items which Anna has acquired over the year and stored away. There are a few generic things which all the kids get, but also some that are personal to each one’s tastes and interests. For example, Bernie got a booklet on identifying different types of donkeys, as she’s always slept with a toy donkey for as long as she can remember.

After grace, we have our Christmas breakfast with the table covered with candles and home made cards; and then the exchange of presents. This always follows the same pattern. The youngest (Dominique) gives presents first, starting with hers to the next youngest (Charlie) and proceeding all the way up to grandma’s. Then Charlie gives his, and so on. The presents are always chosen (or made) with a lot of thought and love. Dominique seems to have spent most of her art lessons this year making things for one or other of her siblings. There was lots of laughter...

The kids then play for a while while lunch is prepared and served. We always have real candles on our Christmas tree, which are lit for the first time for Christmas lunch, adding a very special feel to it. Lunch again follows a traditional pattern: grace, crackers, turkey with all the trimmings, Christmas pudding (home-made this year, triumphantly by Anna) and a glass or two of wine for the adults and special juice for the kids.

After lunch we went for a snowy walk, and found a pond sufficiently frozen to skate on - Bernie was given some skates a few years ago, and they fit all the girls, so there is some good-natured sharing and skating tuition. We were lucky this year to meet some another family of friends walking off their Christmas lunch - and they joined us skidding around the pond.

Then back home for some family games around the fire; this year we played balderdash, which is a word game where you invent false - and often hilarious - definitions for obscure words. Then we had some family music: Dominique has taken up the Saxophone this year, so our family jazz band sounded in fine form: Ant on clarinet, Bernie on piano, Charlie on trombone, Dominique on Sax and me on Drums. We worked up a great version of the Pink Panther theme tune which we then inflicted on Anna, who was duly appreciative.

Grandma hadn’t joined us for for the snowy walk or the word games, as neither are really her cup of tea, so we then descended on her room with a a DVD of White Christmas, which we’d given Ant and Bernie, and knew she would enjoy.

Finally we had a late light supper (mainly Christmas cake) and then sang carols around the crib by candlelight, said our night prayers, and so to bed.

And so it is every year: a pattern we have developed to ensure that the kids have a wonderful day, and that the fun and the faith are intertwined inextricably in their experience and their minds. And I think that is the reason Ant continues to come home for a family Christmas, even now she’s been away at University for two years - and this year was invited on a Carribean Cruise over Christmas. Of course she won’t come home for Christmas for ever, nor should she, but I think when she doesn’t she will re-create a faith-filled Christmas wherever she is - and that will be job done!

So I wish all readers a very happy and holy Christmas-tide, and hope that sharing our family Christmas will help you reflect on how much better yours is at interweaving fun and faith!

Friday 24 December 2010

The Holy Father on Thought for the Day

The Holy Father's address on Thought for the Day this morning is worth listening to.

You may hear it here:

Porta Caeli carries a transcript.

The subsequent interview with Archbishop Longley was less clear. Sounded more like a politician than a Catholic Archbishop: desperate not to say anything that John H. could pick him up on, and therefore said almost nothing except that we believe in the development of doctrine. If you want to form your own judgement, you can here it here, at 2 hours 10 minutes into the programme.

Thursday 23 December 2010

Well I prefer the old lectionary...

There seems to be something of a consensus among those who take an interest in such issues that whatever one may think of the Novus Ordo generally, the new lectionary is a great improvement. Over the three year cycle we hear the vast bulk of the Bible read in Church; we have three readings at Mass every Sunday, the first from the Old Testament that was sadly neglected in the older lectionary and so on.

I disagree.

One reason for my preference for the Old Lectionary is the advantage of a one year cycle. Having the same readings at Mass on the same Sundays of the year creates a certain familiarity: we start to recognise the pattern and feel at home in it. I think that is nigh on impossible to achieve with a three year cycle, and I think the loss is a significant one.

Underlying that, I realise, is a different understanding of what we are doing at Mass. I don't mean the most important issue of attending the sacrifice of the Calvary versus a gathering of remembrance or whatever. Rather, I think of the Mass as (inter alia) a familial gathering.

Families thrive on rituals and celebrations, and nearly all of these run on an annual cycle: birthdays, anniversaries, saints days, feast days. I think an annual cycle of readings meshes well with that.

The other model, implicit in the new lectionary, is that the Mass is a school room, where we come to be instructed in the Faith. Of course there is room for some instruction at Mass: that is what the Homily is for. But instruction is not the primary focus of the Mass, and if we rely solely on the Mass for instruction, we will end up poorly-instructed.

So of course we should be familiar with the Old Testament and how it informs the New; but the Mass is not, in my view, the place for that.

Incidentally, the ordinary of the Extraordinary Form is saturated in the Old Testament; and those who wanted more of the Old Testament proclaimed were those who stripped out so many of the psalms and other verses; with the same kind of logic as saying we needed to be much more aware of the active working of the Holy Spirit, and therefore we will no longer refer to the Sundays after Pentecost, but instead call them Ordinary Time...

Wednesday 22 December 2010

Holy Father on Thought for the Day

The BBC has announced that the Holy Father will be broadcasting a specially written 'Thought for the Day' on Christmas Eve, on Radio 4 at 7.45 am.

Thought for the Day is a regular weekday slot on Radio 4, with speakers ranging from the inspired to the banal. This will be the first time a Pope has broadcast in this slot.

Needless to say the National Secular Society has reacted agains the announcement...

Tuesday 21 December 2010


The Vatican (to be more accurate, the CDF) has issued a clarification. And guess what: the Pope wasn't saying condom use is OK - in any circumstance.

Strangely, what he said was... well, what he said.

I hate to say told you so, but I did

What is marriage?

A very interesting article in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy by three academics (one philosopher, one politician and one political scientist).

The essence of their argument is that if we look at what marriage actually is, and therefore why the state has any interest in it, we recognise that it is essentially the monogamous union of a husband and a wife - nothing else qualifies. They then address certain reservations others may raise to this argument. Well worth a read.

Interestingly their argument for a defining feature of marriage being a 'comprehensive union' seems to me to outlaw contraception...

Hat tip to The Hermeneutic of Continuity.

Saturday 18 December 2010

Forcing to kill

The European Court's judgement that Ireland must provide abortions for women in some circumstances (labelled life-threatening, but actually closer examination reveals that is not the case...) means of course, that somebody will have to be told to do the killing.

In fact for the kind of provision they want (eg local and accessible) it will need people at several hospitals around the country prepared to do the killing. And whole teams around them to support the procedure.

Given the Irish people's sound sense and Catholic heritage, there may be problems finding people to volunteer to do so: so then people will have to be ordered to (and make no mistake about it, if those pursuing this agenda have their way, there will be nowhere to hide).

The gentle march of totalitarian 'liberalism'....

Sunday 12 December 2010

A Handy Hint

Anna was complaining that we never listen to any music: our records (remember them?) are all in boxes in the attic, and our Cds all over the place. Most of our music is now on MP3 players.

So she wanted to jettison our old stereo and buy an MP3 dock. I had a look at them, and decided the cheap ones wouldn't give the sort of sound quality our old stereo did - and the expensive ones were expensive. And then I had a brainwave. I bought a cable with a stereo jack on one end and two phono plugs on the other. The phono plugs connect into the back of our amp (where the turntable used to connect, as it happens) and the stereo plug goes into the headphone socket of a laptop or MP3 player - and our digital music emerges from our old, but good quality, stereo system.

So don't throw out your amp and speakers and replace them with a dock - simply buy a cable (it cost me £5.00 sterling - say $7 or $8) as opposed to hundreds for a dock of comparable quality.


Today is Gaudete Sunday:

Gaudete in Domino semper,
Iterum dico gaudete!

No rose vestments at our Church, alas.

Saturday 11 December 2010

Self deluding...

I had a fascinating conversation yesterday with a very intelligent chap, published researcher and all that, who had created a totally closed belief system for himself, and managed to interpret the evidence to make it fit his views.

What he was arguing was that Christ had no intention of founding a Church and did not do so; no more did Sts Peter and Paul see themselves as leading a Church, and so on.

According to his reading of it, Christianity was founded by Constantine, and was simply a way of prolonging Roman values with religious fervour. This, he explained to me, was why the Church was so riven with sex abuse scandals, because the Romans were always sexually licentious; likewise it was the reason for teachers in Catholic schools beating children: that was the way Romans behaved. And so on.

It was so obviously absurd that it took my breath away - but as I say he is an intelligent man. It reminded me of the fact that the human brain is so powerful an instrument that we can construct an understanding of the evidence to fit almost any philosophy to which we choose to sign up. Or as Blessed John Henry Newman put it: We can believe what we choose. We are answerable for what we choose to believe.

Friday 10 December 2010

non invasive prenatal diagnosis (NIPD) 'Safe'

The Times yesterday, reporting excitedly on NIPD quotes Dennis Lo, the scientist leading the research, as saying 'It is safe for the baby.'

This is some new meaning of the word 'safe' given that the sole purpose of the process is to identify candidates to be killed.

Sunday 5 December 2010

Stir up Sunday

At least, that what we always call it. The traditional day on which to stir up your Christmas pudding and cook it, so it can mature nicely between now and Christmas day.

The name, of course, comes from the Collect of the Mass (in the Extraordinary Form):

Excita, Domine, corda nostra ad praeparandas Unigeniti tui vias: ut per ejus adventum purificatis tibi mentibus servire mereamur.

Stir up, O Lord, our hearts to make ready the ways of thine only-begotten Son; and with minds undefiled to pay to thee, through his coming, the homage of our service.

This is the prayer we will say around the Advent wreath every evening, until Gaudete Sunday, next week.

Thursday 2 December 2010

All the best iTunes...

It has been said (I can't remember who by) that the Devil has all the best tunes.

He also has control of the best computers and iTunes apparently.

I'm a huge Apple fan, in that I love their products. However they are not admirable in other ways.

Their latest idiocy is to pull the plug on an app that supported the Manhattan Declaration - see NCR article here and then if you are so minded, sign the petition here.

Outside the Magic Circle

A very interesting article at Catholic World Report, surveying the English & Welsh scene from a bit of a perspective...

H/T Ttony.

Wednesday 1 December 2010

A victory for life

To the evident disgust of the BBC the Scottish MSPs have refused to bow to pressure to decriminalise killing people - or 'assisting them to die' as it is euphemistically called.

The BBC presents the case for change very sympathetically, and there was a lot of campaigning for (and against) it. However, the MSPs voted very decisively 85 - 16 (with two abstentions.

A victory for life, compassion and common sense.

The Pope's Prayer for the Unborn

Pope Benedict XVi composed this prayer, which he prayed at the Vigil on 27 November.

Lord Jesus,
You who faithfully visit and fulfill with your Presence
the Church and the history of men;
You who in the miraculous Sacrament of your Body and Blood
render us participants in divine Life
and allow us a foretaste of the joy of eternal Life;
We adore and bless you.

Prostrated before You, source and lover of Life,
truly present and alive among us, we beg you:

Reawaken in us respect for every unborn life,
make us capable of seeing in the fruit of the maternal womb
the miraculous work of the Creator,
open our hearts to generously welcoming every child
that comes into life.

Bless all families,
sanctify the union of spouses,
render fruitful their love.

Accompany the choices of legislative assemblies
with the light of your Spirit,
so that peoples and nations may recognize and respect
the sacred nature of life, of every human life.

Guide the work of scientists and doctors,
so that all progress contributes to the integral well-being of the person,
and no one endures suppression or injustice.

Give creative charity to administrators and economists,
so they may realize and promote sufficient conditions
so that young families can serenely embrace
the birth of new children.

Console the married couples who suffer
because they are unable to have children
and in Your goodness provide for them.

Teach us all to care for orphaned or abandoned children,
so they may experience the warmth of your Charity,
the consolation of your divine Heart.

Together with Mary, Your Mother, the great believer,
in whose womb you took on our human nature,
we wait to receive from You, our Only True Good and Savior,
the strength to love and serve life,
in anticipation of living forever in You,
in communion with the Blessed Trinity.

H/T Fr Z