Thursday 28 February 2013

Unto Us...

I am grateful to a comment left by someone signing in as 'Uncomfortably Glum' for recommending this and other poems, which I had not previously known.  His or her comment (here) is worth reading for other reasons, too.

I will post the other poems over the next day or two.

Unto Us...

Somewhere at some time
They committed themselves to me
And so, I was!
Small, but I WAS!
Tiny, in shape
Lusting to live
I hung in my pulsing cave.

Soon they knew of me
My mother --my father.
I had no say in my being
I lived on trust
And love
Tho' I couldn't think
Each part of me was saying
A silent 'Wait for me
I will bring you love!'

I was taken
Blind, naked, defenseless
By the hand of one
Whose good name
Was graven on a brass plate
in Wimpole Street,
and dropped on the sterile floor
of a foot operated plastic waste
There was no Queens Counsel
To take my brief.

The cot I might have warmed
Stood in Harrod's shop window.
When my passing was told
My father smiled.
No grief filled my empty space.
My death was celebrated
With tickets to see Danny la Rue
Who was pretending to be a woman
Like my mother was. 

Spike Milligan

Friday 22 February 2013

High Mass (EF) at Westminster Cathedral for the Election of a new Holy Father

I have just learned of the votive High Mass (Missa votiva pro eligendo Summo Pontifice) which Monsignor Gordon Read will be offering at Westminster Cathedral on Saturday 2nd March at 2.00pm.
I will not be able to be there, unfortunately, but would encourage all those living in or near London to put this in their diary.

There is a chance that it will televised by CNN, so that is a further (though obviously subsidiary) reason that a good turnout is desirable. 

The Mass will be preceded by a Lenten morning of recollection, led by Father Simon Leworthy (of St Bede's Clapham Park).

Full details are on the LMS News Blog, along with contact details if you are able to attend.

Tu Es Petrus

In honour of today's feast and our Holy Father.

They don't write them like this any more.

Tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam. Et portae inferi non praevalebunt ad versus eam: et tibi dabo claves regni caelorum et quodcumque ligaveris super terram erit ligatum in caelis et quodcumque solveris super terram erit solutum in caelis.

Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I shall build my church. And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it: and I shall give thee the keys to the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.
(Matthew 16:18 - 19)

Thursday 21 February 2013

Free Conclave guide from the CTS

A free booklet from CTSA free companion to the Papal election from CTS  

Following Benedict XVI's announcement of his resignation on Monday, many are now speculating on what happens next. This new and completely up-to-date publication takes you step by step through what happens until the election of the new Pope.

This free downloadable book from CTS has all the answers:
  • Written by expert Monsignor Charles Burns, Ecclesiastical Adviser at the British Embassy to the Holy See.
  • An easily accessible and authoritative explanation of what happens, when and why.
(Adobe Acrobat PDF format)

The usual Ben Trovato money-back guarantee applies: if you do not like this on receipt, let me know and I will refund you precisely what you paid for it, with no deductions for admin or anything else!  You can't say fairer than that...

Sunday 17 February 2013

Learning from the past

As a traditionally-minded sort of chap, I am interested in learning from the past; indeed it strikes me as the height of folly not do so. A mind that declares 'History is bunk' is only revealing its own paucity of understanding.

With regard to my recurring theme of the need for Apologetics, (and here) that means, as Ttony has pointed out, considering the example of the Catholic Evidence Guild.  I have been doing this mainly in the introduction to the CEG Training Outlines, but also reports such as this.

I am not quite clear if the CEG is still active anywhere: recent links seem harder to find.  Further, I am not sure that their particular approach to the apostolate is now the best one: outdoor talks seem to me less and less likely to attract listeners.

However, I do think that their approach to training apologists is something from which we can learn a great deal.

To give some idea of that, here is a quick sketch of how volunteers were expected to prepare to talk about just one aspect of the Faith: The Visible Church.

First, they were given a reading list:

Tixeront: Apologetical studies (most important)
Sheehan: Apologetics (Ch ix)
Knox: Essentials of Spiritual Unity
Sertillanges: The Church (Chapters l, ll and V)
Adam: Spirit of Catholicism
Hughes: History of the Church (Vol l, Ch ii)
Rousselot: Life of the Church
(For the Mystical Body)
Sheed: Map of Life (Ch vi)
Benson: Christ in the Church.

They were also expected to be thoroughly familiar with relevant passages of Scripture, such as:
Matthew: xvi, xxviii; Mark iv 11; John, xvii 11, 20 -23; xxi; Acts: viii 17-19; xiii; xv etc  1 Timothy, iii 5 and 15, iv 14; Titus i 5, iii 10 etc; Ephesians iv 11-3; 1 Corinthians xi 34; and Galatians i 9.

They would then attend a talk by an experienced speaker and trainer on the topic, and ask questions.  They would also present on the topic themselves and be asked questions.  Sample questions that might be thrown at them included:

1) If visibility is an outstanding feature of the Church, why is the Church so difficult to find among all the conflicting sects? and how is it that so few find the Church?

2) The Kingdom of God is within you.

3) Why do we need an organisation to teach us Christ's Gospel?

4) Where two or three are gathered in My Name - nothing about a Church there.

5) The visibility of the Church is a mere political development

6) Visibility is but an ideal to be worked and prayed for

7) The Salvation Army is as much a visible body as your Church

8) I have the voice of God within telling me that I am right. What more do I need?

9) St John says: 'You need not that any man should teach you.'

10) Churches are only a means to an end: why do you worry so much about the means, when it is the end that matters?

11) Christ said: 'I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." Why the Church?

(and so on - another six are listed, and speakers in training were encouraged to think up the hardest, most realistic questions they could think of - so in our times that would doubtless include issues of abuse, cover-up, corruption, dissent and so on).

Only when they were able to answer all questions quickly, succinctly and accurately were they put forward to be tested by a priest, and only then allowed to speak for the CEG.

Moreover, they were also offered spiritual formation, and instructed that for every hour they intended to practice their apostolate, they should spend an hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

They were expected to attend two training sessions every week, as well as the actual commitment to speak...

As I said above, I am not seeking to recreate this, but to learn from it.

I suspect that I am not alone in recognising that faced with the questions listed above in the pub or the workplace, I might not have good answers to offer on the tip of my tongue (backed up by appropriate quotations from Scripture, and examples from the lives of the saints of the lived reality...).  And I feel that I should.  The CEG were clear that their task was not to convert people: that is God's responsibility; but rather to be able and willing to give a clear, comprehensive, accurate, positive and compelling account of the Faith.  To plough the soil, as it were, and scatter the seed: the miracle of germination is God's to work...

So the question I keep returning to, is how do we accomplish that, given (on the one hand) the difficulties of modern life (eg as highlighted by Joseph Shaw here) and (on the other) the opportunity presented by the social media?

Keep praying about this throughout Lent, please, and contribute any ideas.

Thursday 14 February 2013


It strikes me, as I have suggested before, that a pressing need in the Church in the UK is good apologetics.

That is, a widespread ability, amongst ordinary Catholics, to be able to explain their Faith, accurately and convincingly, to others.

In the first instance, I think to other Catholics who have not been well educated in the Faith; but also to other Christians and people of other faiths, and of course to those who have no faith at all, those who never think about such things, and those who are actively hostile to the Faith.

There is, of course, a lot of good work going on already. Maryvale continues to lead the way, but an MA in apologetics from Maryvale takes a lot of concentrated study, requires a lot of money, and while excellent is likely always to be an option for relatively few people.

Likewise many parishes, particularly in this Year of Faith, are running programmes to look more deeply into the Faith, and many of these are very good.  But understanding alone, while important, is not sufficient to be able to defend and promote the Faith in the public square (or at the workplace, or in the pub).

I suspect that many of us find it hard to defend the Church's teaching on morality, for example, and many more to articulate clearly the broader social teaching of the Church, or to understand and refute the various Protestant errors, in a way which will be heard by those who adhere to them.  I know that last point is unfashionable, and may strike some as against the spirit of ecumenism.  But ecumenism is about working for Our Lord's wish that all may be one; that finally implies that all should be united under the Holy Father in the One True Church.  When one thinks what Protestants are deprived of, (eg the Sacraments and the fullness of Faith), how could one not wish to convert them?

What I would like to see, therefore, is a programme, made widely (and if possible freely) available that would help lay Catholics throughout the UK to develop as apologists.  It seems to me that some of the important elements of this would be:

  • Good spiritual direction and formation;
  • A structured programme of study of the Faith (possibly based largely on resources already freely available), supported by both philosophy and rhetoric;
  • Local support, possibly small groups meeting both to discuss and check their understanding, but also to practice putting it across convincingly and dealing with questions and objections;
  • A wider community of support, where issues can be discussed, and questions raised and answered;
  • A small team to make it happen.
The growth of the Catholic presence on the internet clearly supports some of these well, but others are best done on a local level (subsidiarity and all that!)

This would, of course, be a long term programme; indeed, I think it would need to be a lifelong one, so inexhaustible are the riches of the Faith.  But that is no reason not to start; quite the contrary.

So I would like to ask you to pray about this, as I shall do, throughout Lent.  And at Easter, I will revisit the topic and if others believe it to be a worthwhile project, explore how we can make it happen.  But 40 days of prayer seems to me the best way to start.

I would also be interested in any comments, suggestions, and so forth about any aspect of it.

But prayer above all, for the harvest is great, but the labourers few.

Wednesday 13 February 2013

The Knox Bible - Online

I have long been a fan of Monsignor Ronald Knox.  His 'Slow Motion' series of books (The Mass in Slow Motion, The Creed in Slow Motion, and Retreat in Slow Motion) are favourites to which I return frequently.

His translation of the Bible is also the one I read on a daily basis.  It is an astonishing feat, and I understand it to be the last translation (into English) made by a single individual (and apparently it took him nine years), rather than a committee.  That shows: the style is consistent and individual.  Knox has chosen a slightly heightened style (hieratic, one might say) including thee and thou, but also one that is clearly not old-fashioned; indeed at times it is quite idiomatic. 

Thus reading Knox has the refreshing quality of seeing the text anew, without the disconcerting vulgarity, or simple infelicities of style which bedevil some more recent translations.

So I was delighted to see (courtesy a commenter on Fr Z's blog) that it his translation is available online.

To give you a flavour, here is Psalm 22 (or 23):

Psalm 22 (23)

(A psalm. Of David.)

The Lord is my shepherd; how can I lack anything? He gives me a resting-place where there is green pasture, leads me out to the cool water’s brink, refreshed and content. As in honour pledged, by sure paths he leads me; dark be the valley about my path, hurt I fear none while he is with me; thy rod, thy crook are my comfort. Envious my foes watch, while thou dost spread a banquet for me; richly thou dost anoint my head with oil, well filled my cup. All my life thy loving favour pursues me; through the long years the Lord’s house shall be my dwelling-place.

and here is St Luke, telling of the Annunciation:

When the sixth month came, God sent the angel Gabriel to a city of Galilee called Nazareth, 27 where a virgin dwelt, betrothed to a man of David’s lineage; his name was Joseph, and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 Into her presence the angel came, and said, Hail, thou who art full of grace; the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women.[d] 29 She was much perplexed at hearing him speak so, and cast about in her mind, what she was to make of such a greeting.30 Then the angel said to her, Mary, do not be afraid; thou hast found favour in the sight of God. 31 And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call him Jesus. 32 He shall be great, and men will know him for the Son of the most High; the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he shall reign over the house of Jacob eternally; 33 his kingdom shall never have an end. 34 But Mary said to the angel, How can that be, since I have no knowledge of man? 35 And the angel answered her, The Holy Spirit will come upon thee, and the power of the most High will overshadow thee. Thus this holy offspring of thine shall be known for the Son of God. 36 See, moreover, how it fares with thy cousin Elizabeth; she is old, yet she too has conceived a son; she who was reproached with barrenness is now in her sixth month, 37 to prove that nothing can be impossible with God. 38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; let it be unto me according to thy word. And with that the angel left her.

Knox's translation is also republished by Baronius Press, if you wish to buy a copy.

By the Babe Unborn

By the Babe Unborn

                If trees were tall and grasses short,
                  As in some crazy tale,
                If here and there a sea were blue
                  Beyond the breaking pale,
                If a fixed fire hung in the air
                  To warm me one day through,
                If deep green hair grew on great hills,
                  I know what I should do.
                In dark I lie; dreaming that there
                  Are great eyes cold or kind,
                And twisted streets and silent doors,
                  And living men behind.
                Let storm clouds come: better an hour,
                  And leave to weep and fight,
                Than all the ages I have ruled
                  The empires of the night.
                I think that if they gave me leave
                  Within the world to stand,
                I would be good through all the day
                  I spent in fairyland.
                They should not hear a word from me
                  Of selfishness or scorn,
                If only I could find the door,
                  If only I were born.

G.K. Chesterton

I was prompted to post this by the moving poem just published by Richard Collins, and written by his brother. 

I think a collection of pro-life poems on the web would be a great undertaking (if it has not already been undertaken)...

Memento homo

Memento homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.

Remember man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent in the Western Church.  We are called to repent of our sins and believe the Gospel, to dedicate ourselves anew to prayer, and to restrain our misguided subjection to our passions (the result of Original Sin) by mortification and good deeds.

Humility and obedience are little valued by the World, which teaches self-esteem and autonomy as the highest human values.  We are called to be a sign of contradiction.

The ashes which receive are a sign of this (note that we receive them humbly, not take them...)  Here is one of the prayers over the ashes from the Extraordinary form of the Mass:

Almighty and everlasting God, spare the penitent sinner, have pity on thy suppliant people, and in loving kindness, send down from heaven thy holy Angel to bless and sanctify these ashes.  Thus hallowed, may they be a saving remedy to all who, humbly calling upon thy holy name, reproach themselves with the sins of which their conscience accuses them, and who, grieving over their evil deeds, make pitiful recourse to thee for mercy and pardon.  Grant, in fine, that they over whom, in token of sorrow for their sin, these ashes are sprinkled, may be blessed by thee with lasting well-being of soul and body.  Through Christ our Lord.

And here is the Lenten Hymn: Attende Domine (English translation below the Latin text)

(NB: The Marian Antiphon for the season, of course, is the Ave Regina Caelorum.)

Attende Domine, et miserere, quia peccavimus tibi.
Attende Domine, et miserere, quia peccavimus tibi.

Ad te Rex summe,
omnium Redemptor,
oculos nostros
sublevamus flentes:
exaudi, Christe,
supplicantum preces.

Attende Domine, et miserere, quia peccavimus tibi.

Dextera Patris,
lapis angularis,
via salutis,
ianua caelestis,
ablue nostri
maculas delicti.

Attende Domine, et miserere, quia peccavimus tibi.

Rogamus, Deus,
tuam maiestatem:
auribus sacris
gemitus exaudi:
crimina nostra
placidus indulge.

Attende Domine, et miserere, quia peccavimus tibi.

Tibi fatemur
crimina admissa:
contrito corde
pandimus occulta:
tua, Redemptor,
pietas ignoscat.

Attende Domine, et miserere, quia peccavimus tibi.

Innocens captus,
nec repugnans ductus;
testibus falsis
pro impiis damnatus
quos redemisti,
tu conserva, Christe.

Attende Domine, et miserere, quia peccavimus tibi.

Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy, because we have sinned against Thee.
Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy, because we have sinned against Thee.

To Thee, highest King,
Redeemer of all,
do we lift up our eyes
in weeping:
Hear, O Christ, the prayers
of your servants.

Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy, because we have sinned against Thee.

Right hand of the Father,
way of salvation,
gate of heaven,
wash away our 
stains of sin.

Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy, because we have sinned against Thee.

We beseech Thee, God,
in Thy great majesty:
Hear our groans
with Thy holy ears:
calmly forgive
our crimes.

Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy, because we have sinned against Thee.

To Thee we confess
our sins admitted
with a contrite heart
We reveal the things hidden:
By Thy kindness, O Redeemer,
overlook them.

Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy, because we have sinned against Thee.

The Innocent, seized,
not refusing to be led;
condemned by false witnesses
because of impious men
O Christ, keep safe those
whom Thou hast redeemed.

Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy, because we have sinned against Thee.

Monday 11 February 2013

On the Holy Father's Abdication

I have to admit that the Holy Father has proved me wrong again.  Not only did I think it was unlikely that he would resign, I had thought that he would be wrong to do so.

However, I am quite certain that he is both wiser and holier than me, and that if he discerns that is what the Holy Spirit is calling him to do, then it is evident that he must do it.

My reservations sprang from my familial view of the Church. We call him a Holy Father for a reason, and my thinking was that he could no more step down from that role than I could step down from being the father to my children.

However, the analogy was imperfect: time and again God raises up a new Holy Father to lead the Church on earth; and Pope Benedict clearly trusts God to do so wisely again.  How could he not?

Of course it is tempting to speculate why he has done so; not least after the astonishing witness borne by his predecessor, who visibly poured his life away as a libation...

But perhaps Pope Benedict is also aware that there were those who took advantage of John Paul ll's self-sacrifice to do things in his name which he would not have sanctioned - and is determined not to allow that to happen again.

And it is certainly the case that the role is immensely more burdensome and important than any other I can imagine, so the simple recognition of failing strength and ultimately health means that stepping aside in favour of a younger stronger man makes perfect sense.

In any event, we owe Pope Benedict an immense debt of gratitude for his papacy: and we can best repay that debt by praying for him and for his successor.

Our Lady of Lourdes

Today is the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.

We are not, of course, required to believe that Our Lady appeared to Bernadette; private revelations are never compulsory elements of the Faith.  However, the Church, after much scrutiny, has declared that the apparitions are worthy of belief, and further that Bernadette lived a life of heroic virtue - hence her elevation to the altars of the Church by canonisation and the title Saint.

And then there is the small matter of the thousands of well-attested miracles...

It is many years since I last went to Lourdes with the family, and longer since I worked as a brancardier, when a student.  Every visit has left a profound impression on me.

But from now on this Feast will also always be associated with the resignation of our Holy Father.

Our Lady of Lourdes, Pray for us.
St Bernadette, Pray for us.
St Peter, Pray for us.
St Benedict, Pray for us.


The stained glass window is courtesy of

Sunday 10 February 2013


Today, Quinguagesima, is the last Sunday in the count-down to Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday.

Here is the Introit of the Mass (EF)  sung by the Benedictine Nuns of Notre-Dame de l'Annonciation, Le Barroux:

Esto mihi in Deum pro­tectórem, et in locum re­fúgii, ut salvum me fácias: quóniam firmaméntum meum et refúgium meum es tu: et propter nomen tuum dux mihi eris, et enútries me

In te, Dómine, sperávi, non confúndar in ætérnum:  in justítia tua libera me et éripe me.

Glória Patri...

Be Thou unto me a God, a protector, and a place of re­fuge, to save me: for Thou art my strength and my refuge: and for Thy name’s sake Thou wilt lead me, and nourish me. 

In Thee, O Lord, have I hoped, let me never be confounded: deli­ver me in Thy justice, and save me.

Glory be to the Father...      .

Saturday 9 February 2013

A mirror image

I was fascinated to read this post by  the Dean of Durham Cathedral.

In many ways, it is almost the mirror image of my post here.  It argues that the Church (of England) has managed to accommodate itself to contraception, divorce and remarriage, and the legalisation of homosexual acts; so it is intemperate to get too concerned about Same Sex 'Marriage.'  (And he could have added abortion to the list, of course.)

In its own way, the logic is pretty sound.  However, I argue precisely the other way: it was in accommodating to all these other attacks on the integrity of marriage that we have enabled this latest assault on it.

And the Dean seems to have a couple of massive blind-spots, one spiritual and one historical.

Does he not reflect on the fact that there might be issues of truth, relating to the Divine Will as revealed through Scripture and tradition, that should be considered here?

And does he not suspect that the decline in the COE might have something to do with its constant accommodation to the sliding standards of the World (not to mention the flesh and the Devil)?

Pius Xll not 'Hitler's Pope' shock horror!

It really shouldn't need saying, but the myth of Pius Xll  being Hitler's Pope has no substance.  At the time, most observers, both Jewish and gentile, were full of praise for the work Pius did in helping Jews to escape from the Nazi regime. People realised that grand-standing - taking the moral high-ground by issuing condemnations from afar - was simply not the best way to counter the evil of Hitler's regime.

It was much later that the myth of complicity, if not collaboration, was propagated, initially by Hochhuth's infamous play, The Deputy, in 1963, and reinvigorated by Cornwell's 1999 book, Hitler's Pope (a book whose central thesis Cornwell disowned a mere 5 years later ('I would now argue, in the light of the debates and evidence following Hitler's Pope, that Pius XII had so little scope of action that it is impossible to judge the motives for his silence during the war, while Rome was under the heel of Mussolini and later occupied by Germany')

In the meantime, we have had books like Michael O'Carroll's Greatness Dishonoured, (1980) seeking to set the record straight, drawing extensively on the work of Jewish commentators.

However, it is good to see a new book being published, based on the latest documentary evidence, which again confronts the myth, and seeks to restore Pius' good name.

Gordon Thomas is a Protestant, and his book, The Pope's Jews (reviewed here) is subtitled The Vatican's Secret Plan to Save Jews from the Nazis.  It is due to be published on 7 March.

Tuesday 5 February 2013

Recommended reading

I don't think I have got around to recommending this before, but the Catholic Medical Quarterly is well worth reading.  The Nov 2012 edition on Humanae Vitae, for example, is full of good articles.

The site also has an index of recent articles by topic (such as Abortion and Start of Life issues, Faith at Work, Medical Ethics etc) as well as an archive index of older articles in similar groupings (though many more categories).

I have not spent as much time exploring it as I should like, but will invest more time now that I have remembered it: it is a very rich resource for us all.

Sunday 3 February 2013

A New Evangelisation?

Just before leaving for Mass, I heard Fr Marcus Stock interviewed on the Sunday programme on Radio 4.  It was about the recently re-published guidelines on the appointment of senior staff and governors to positions in Catholic Schools.  The guidelines include some clarification of the requirement that they be practicing Catholics, pointing out that the term precludes those who are living in open and deliberate contradiction to the moral teaching of the Church (eg by co-habiting, living in a 'second marriage' whilst still married to their true spouse, and so on).

Fr Stock seemed to me to be rather vague and defensive.  All the media training I have done has always stressed the importance of identifying three or four key messages you wish to get across in an interview, and ensuring that you cover as many of them as the questions and time permit.

I struggle to identify Fr Stock's key messages.  The nearest I could get to them would be:

The timing of this coincides with the 'Same Sex Marriage' debate purely by coincidence;
The guidelines are deliberately non-specific in terms of application, because it is all very difficult in practice;
This is not a snoop's charter.

I think he could have gone in on a more positive tack, stressing the role of leader as a role model, talking more about the integrity of an individual who is teaching Catholic truth in these areas and so on.

I know that media interviews are not easy, and that the presenter on the Sunday programme had his own agenda, but that only underscores the need for proper training and preparation.

I mention all this, not to criticise Fr Stock, but to illustrate a much bigger concern.  I am continually reminded, in this Year of Faith, of the need for far more work to be done on the New Evangelisation: and specifically better training in apologetics.

Another example: the Catholic response to the proposed dismantling of marriage was very slow off the mark and very poor initially. It has got rather better, but even now I am troubled that we arguing against the changes on the grounds that they have no democratic mandate.  True though that be, it moves the debate into the wrong territory, and indeed, risks implicitly conceding that with a democratic mandate the government would have the authority and competence to re-define marriage; which is not, in fact, what we believe.

As a political argument, it is reasonable enough, and if the measure is thrown out by the Lords for that reason, I would be happy.  But of course, all it would take would be for a party (or more likely, all parties) to include it in their manifesto next time around, and we have nowhere to go.

No, the Church should argue from fundamental principles of Faith and Human Reason, such as Natural Law.  Yet we are ill-equipped to do that due to decades of inadequate formation, both of the laity and the clergy, and also a sapping of the will to do so from a desire to be more accommodating of, and comfortable with, broader society. The Second Vatican Council's throwing open of the windows of the Church was surely with the intention of letting more of the holiness of the Church out into society, not letting the corruption and errors of society enter the Church.

That is the challenge to which we have to rise.  The Catholic Voices project was well-intentioned, but perhaps shows the limitations of a quick-fix approach to these issues.  I am talking about something longer term: a serious re-evangelisation of ourselves, a training in apologetics such as the Catholic Evidence Guild used to offer, grounded in prayer and study.  Only in that way, I think, can we really hope to proclaim the Faith effectively and reverse the terrible trends we see around us both within the Church, in terms of lapsation and apostacy, and in civil society.

The harvest is great, but where are the labourers?  Let us pray, therefore, that the Lord of the harvest send labourers: and let us pray for discernment about our own role in this great work.

Saturday 2 February 2013

Today's Introit

The Introit for today's feast...

Suscepimus, Deus, miseri­córdiam tuam in médio templi tui: secúndum nomen tuum, Deus, ita et laus tua in fines terræ: justítia plena est déxtera tua. 

Magnus Dóminus, et laudábilis nimis: in civitáte Dei nostri, in monte sancto ejus. 

Gló­ria Patri...

Suscepimus, Deus...

We have received Thy mercy, O God, in the midst of Thy temple; according to Thy name, O God, so also is Thy praise unto the ends of the earth: Thy right hand is full of justice. 

Great is the Lord, and ex­ceedingly to be praised, in the city of God, in his holy moun­tain. 

Glory be to the Father.....

We have received...

The Purification of Our Lady

Today is the feast of the Purification of Our Lady, also known as the feast of the Presentation of the Lord.

It marks the occasion on which we meditate in the fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary: that extraordinary visit of the Holy Family to the temple, to be met by the prophet Anna and Simeon, the priest.

There is so much to meditate on: the humility of Our Lady (of all people) being ritually purified;  the devout Jewishness of the Holy Family; the idea of Our Lady offering God back to God, and being entrusted with God by God; and the extraordinary prophecies of Anna and Simeon.

Today also marks the end of the Christmas season: our cribs will be taken down this evening, and we will stop singing the Alma Redemptoris Mater, and start singing the Ave Regina Caelorum.  This is sung daily until compline of the Wednesday of Holy Week.

Ave, Regina Caelorum,
Ave, Domina Angelorum:
Salve, radix, salve, porta
Ex qua mundo lux est orta:
Gaude, Virgo gloriosa,
Super omnes speciosa,
Vale, o valde decora,
Et pro nobis Christum exora.

Hail, O Queen of Heaven enthroned.
Hail, by angels mistress owned.
Root of Jesse, Gate of Morn
Whence the world's true light was born:
Glorious Virgin, Joy to thee,
Loveliest whom in heaven they see;
Fairest thou, where all are fair,
Plead with Christ our souls to spare.

Friday 1 February 2013

Evidence Based...?

I really should learn to hold my tongue (as advised, I seem to recall, by + Nichols - but this post is not about that.).  The other day on twitter I made a passing reference to having had a fascinating conversation with an academic Social Scientist friend, de-constructing the term 'evidence-based' when applied to education, and whom it privileged.  To my dismay, a couple of people picked up on this and asked for more details.

So I have been trying to remember how the conversation went in detail, and realise quite how skillfully my academic friend managed it.

I spent some time struggling to recall what she had said about the term, which I vaguely remembered as being both wise and devastating, but in fact what she did was get me to question it, (and, naturally enough, it was my own critique I thought both wise and devastating.)

She simply asked a few questions, and provoked me to think about the implications of the words.

What does 'evidence' mean, and imply?
What does 'evidence-based' mean, and imply?
What are the assumptions underlying such a term?
Whom does it privilege?
Whose views, experience, knowledge and intuition does it ignore or de-value?
... and so on.

I can't remember precisely what I said (though I know it was both wise and devastating) beyond the obvious point that it begs a whole load of philosophical questions and gives power to academics who collect and analyse 'evidence' and even more to those who fund the research projects, and therefore set the terms of the debate.

But it probably doesn't matter that I can't remember my answers in detail: in a sense the power lies in the questions, and if you think about each of them seriously, you too are likely to find answers both wise and devastating.