I will NOT throw eggs at Tina Beattie. REPEAT: I will NOT throw eggs at Tina Beattie.

Professor Tina Beattie

Professor Tina Beattie

“Those of us who tried to answer the questionnaire honestly and in a way that might be helpful to the synod on the family are misrepresented by Edmund Adamus’s ‘reflection’.

Like most other Catholics I know, I respect the Church’s teaching on marriage and parenthood. I also know from experience that marriage and family life can induce agonies of guilt over our inevitable failures and shortcomings. However, I do not experience guilt over deciding in good conscience to use contraception to limit the number of children we had. I do not feel ashamed of my adult children for cohabiting with partners who have enriched our lives by their friendship. I do not feel compelled to pass negative judgement on the loving relationships of my gay friends. I am glad that some of my divorced Catholic friends have found joy in second marriages, and I want to share the sacraments with them. In other words, I’m like the vast majority of Catholics whose answers to the questionnaire have been made public.

I seek from the Church the formation I know I need most – formation that has to do with love and generosity of spirit, with faithfulness and integrity, with wisdom and discretion, with prayer and discernment. The list is long, but it does not include learning to regard contraception, premarital sex and homosexuality as intrinsically evil, nor does it include regarding divorced and remarried Catholics as people uniquely barred from the forgiveness offered by Christ in the sacraments.” – Tina Beattie

Her lunatic theology also includes:

  • In an examination of the morality of abortion Prof. Beattie justifies  the argument that the embryo is not a person by using the doctrine of the Trinity.
  • Prof Beattie uses the doctrine of the marriage between Christ and His Church to support gay marriage.
  • Prof Beattie condemns as ‘perverted’ a CTS booklet defending the Church’s doctrine on divorce and contraception.
  • Prof. Beattie describes the Mass as an ‘an act of (homo) sexual intercourse…’. ‘God’s Mother, Eve’s Advocate’, p.80.
  • Prof. Beattie supports same-sex marriage.
  • Prof. Tina Beattie imagines the apostles and women disciples having sex in her meditation The Last Supper According to Martha and Mary(2001) which the publishers describe as ‘part fiction, part Biblical reflection’.

She has been banned previously banned by Archbishop Leo Cushley of St. Andrews and Edinburgh from addressing the Edinburgh Circle of the Newman Association. In a letter quoted by ‘The Tablet’ the Archbishop criticised both Beattie and Joe Fitzpatrick, a theologian the Newman Association previously hosted, saying:

“Professor Beattie is known to have frequently called into question the Church’s teaching. I would therefore ask you to cancel this event, as it may not proceed or be publicised on any Church property in this archdiocese.“

The Archbishop’s intervention has been attributed to the Vatican’s official position on banning Beattie from Church events, as ordered by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), the Vatican’s watchdog on orthodoxy. She has also been banned from speaking in Clifton diocese for the same reason by Bishop Declan Lang.

The CDF ordered her banned from Church properties after she signed a letter, in 2012, to the Times, in favour of same-sex marriage, along with a number of other Christian theologians who wrote “it is perfectly proper for Catholics, using fully informed consciences, to support the legal extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples.”

So you can imagine my surprise to hear that the Wimbledon branch of the Newman circle had invited her to come and give a talk at Sacred Heart Parish next week entitled ‘From Synod to Synod: Families in focus in the church of Pope Francis.’

egg

My initial reaction to hearing the news that Tina Beattie was coming to speak at my beloved childhood parish was to lie in wait, and then at the appointed time ambush her with a meteor shower of raw eggs. “Well! That sort of raucous behaviour is not very becoming of a good catholic!” I would ask you to remember that St Nicholas delt with Arius by punching him the right in the face at the Council of Nicea (Arius, of course was using his intellect and position of authority to destroy the true Faith from within the church and implement his own lunatic theology.) And of course there was last Sunday’s Gospel where we are reminded that as Catholics, flipping tables and whipping people is not entirely out of the question!

Anyway, knowing it was most probably sinful to blissfully enjoy the thought of egging a heretic, and to laugh hysterically at the fact that my spell-checker auto corrects the words ‘Tina Beattie’ to ‘Tuna buttie’ I decided to take it all to confession.

Tuna-Bread-Pack

A Tuna buttie.

Holy Mackerel! My poor priest. He took a quite a while to consider exactly what he should say to me.

“You should aim for meekness.” He said.

MEEKNESS!!! ME???!!!

It was lucky he couldn’t see my face at the time. I’m not exactly sure how to describe the expression on my face at that precise moment, but my mouth was wide open and there were no words coming out – which is, unusual.

He went on to draw possible parallels between Tina Beattie and St Paul:

“St. Paul was so sure of his own political convictions in regards to the Christians. He would kill them quickly from the outside, with the sword. Tina Beattie is similar in this regard, although she kills people slowly from the inside with her ideas and theories. But there is one important thing to remember – before his conversion, St Paul had Christians praying for him – praying for his heart to change.”

Then he said to me:

“Anything you say or do should lead to her conversion of heart.”

Wow. Now there’s a challenge. It is all too easy for me to look at Tina Beattie and hate her. But to hate her would be to de-humaniser her, to objectify her to something less than she is.

My Lord Jesus still looks on Tina Beattie as His beautiful little child, just as he looks at me, and Kim jong un and Lady Gaga and all the members of ISIS, the paedophile priest, the gay prostitute, the Queen of England and the Pope. We are all just human beings. Sinful, broken human beings who need to turn away from sin and back to God.

St. John Paul II teaches us about this topic of de-humanisation and objectification in his masterpiece ‘Theology of the Body’. Funnily enough, Tina Beattie despises Theology of the Body:

“Having spent years researching and writing about ‘theology of the body’, I think it functions more as a vehicle of resistance to feminism and homosexuality than as a genuinely viable account of human sexuality…” – Tina Beattie

How ironic that Theology of the Body is helping me to see her not as a de-humanised object of hate that I would like to throw eggs at, but as a child made in the image and likeness of God.

beattie_285

I am doing the 33 day consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary at the moment and yesterday we learned through the writings of Mother Teresa that our Lord Jesus doesn’t just love souls, He thirsts for them:

“Just put yourself in front of the tabernacle. Don’t let anything disturb you. Hear your own name and “I Thirst.” I thirst for purity, I thirst for poverty, I thirst for obedience, I thirst for that wholehearted love, I thirst for that total surrender. Are we living a deeply contemplative life? He thirsts for that total surrender.”

So if my lord Jesus thirsts for Tina Beattie, then it is my job to quench His thirst by bringing her back to Him – to bring her to total surrender. How am I going to do this? I have no idea, but I’m guessing meekness is going to play a pretty pivotal role here. After all – isn’t meekness the thing that feminists misunderstand the most?

I guess it’s a bit like David and Goliath. She is a professor. I got chucked out of school age 17. I am no challenge to her intellectually, but that doesn’t really matter. I am not fighting an intellectual battle I am fighting a spiritual battle. And I am not even fighting her as such, but the powers and principalities that are whispering in her ears day and night, seducing her with her own pride and hardening her heart.

From her writings and theories it is plain to see that Mrs Beattie (bless her heart) is spiritually weak and sickly. She is utterly consumed with the idea of a comfortable ‘man centred’ faith (or should I say ‘person centred’?!). But as Pope Benedict XVI reminds us: “…you were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness!” All her theories revolve around the idea that we can side-step the cross. And she has warped the faith and moulded it into a pale comparison of itself: she has divorced love from suffering.

Where does this idea come from? Does suffering frighten her? It frightens me. Perhaps there is something in her life, something in her past that is just too painful to face? I don’t know. It all sounds a bit fishy to me. All I do know is that Jesus tell us that “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me…” You can’t have Jesus without the cross. Love demands sacrifice. It’s not easy.

I will begin by offering my prayers and fasting for her. As part of my 33 day consecration I am letting go of everything I am to Mother Mary so I can become an instrument in her immaculate hands. I am allowing her to use me in any way she sees fit to ‘crush the serpents head’. And even though it would give me indescribable pleasure and satisfaction to throw eggs at Mrs Beattie (or custard pies, or fish sandwiches) I will not be doing so because after all – what I want is not really that important is it? It’s what God wants that is important. THY will be done, not My will be done. Says it all really.

Blessed Mother Teresa pray for us.

Blessed John Henry Newman pray for us.

Mother Mary, Queen of heaven, pray for us.

Sources:

http://tina-beattie.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/the-family-reflecting-on-view-from.html

http://www.cuf.org/2014/01/thirst-mother-teresas-devotion-thirst-jesus/

http://protectthepope.com/?p=10153

http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2012/09/11/bishop-cancels-lecture-by-liberal-theologian-who-argued-for-same-sex-marriage/

How Tinnitus Prepared me for Carmel.

Tinnitus

I was recently sent a rather snooty message by a diocesan priest who used to be a Trappist monk. He was telling me that it was basically impossible for me to live a contemplative life in the context of a family home. He told me my children would not find my ‘requirement’ for silence much fun. He also told me it was impossible to be a contemplative without silence. I decided not to reply. But I do hope he reads this blog post.

The Lord began preparing me for contemplative life at home 5 and a half years ago – two weeks before Annabel was born – by giving me Tinnitus.

It was nothing other than torture. It was 9 months before I began to have even brief periods of not noticing the noises. At its worst it was louder than the phone ringing. In my left ear I had (and sometimes still have) a Morse-code style beeping. In my right ear there was a high pitched whistle. In my head there was a low pitched rumbling, and every so often I would get a really loud pure-tone that would drown out ALL other outside noise. So I would go completely deaf for a few seconds which was absolutely terrifying.

The worst part was that my brain was registering the noise as an outside threat, which meant that I would experience high levels of anxiety during the day and insomnia at night. I would lie awake at night listening to the noise. I had a new baby which meant that when I did manage to fall asleep, I would soon get woken up again by the noise of a crying baby. Then I would feed her, in the silence of the night, all alone in my prison of noise. Then I would take sleeping pills to knock me out. In the morning I would wake up, and the noise was still there. It never went away.

My husband couldn’t hear the noises going on inside my ears. No-one could hear it except me. It was so loud. I was so alone. I am not over dramatising this – tragically, earlier this year a 47 year old woman chose Euthanasia because she was unable to cope with her Tinnitus.

It was too much. I knew I couldn’t die because I had kids to raise, so just accepted that the rest of my life would be filled with a cacophony of beeping and whistling and rumbling.

As I began to accept and improve, my tinnitus therapist kept asking me if my tinnitus was holding me back in any way in my life. After careful consideration I told her “No, I can still still do everything, but… I would like to be able to pray.” She suggested mindfullness. Initially I found this to be life-changingly helpful. It did help me accept the intense suffering I was experiencing in a calm way, but it soon became apparent that there was a fair bit of *wacky* stuff that accompanied it. So I dropped it. But it did lead me into how my own faith viewed suffering. I kept remembering a line I must have read years before, something about “Joy in suffering”. It took me back to the saint who had claimed me for her own 11 years previously – St Teresa of Avila. I didn’t know why she was making an appearance in my life once more, but all I can tell you is that I felt her with me very strongly throughout that time of noise.

As time passed and my life continued in a strange sort of way. I accepted the noise. I cried because of the noise. I masked the noise with the TV and radio and found relief from the noise in my crying baby and my raucous 3 year old son. I couldn’t pray – or so I thought. I cursed myself for wasting all those quiet moments I had previously. I cursed God for giving me tinnitus. I cried and screamed at Him because I was at my wits end and I couldn’t think because of the noise. I told Him I didn’t understand – that there was no point to this. It wasn’t achieving anything. I begged Him to take it away. But He didn’t.

Usually I feel God very close to me, but at that time it was like He was withdrawn to a distance. I felt as if God had abandoned me, like He was enjoying torturing me. I wanted to hate Him, but I loved Him too much to hate Him. I thought about all this a lot.

The removal of silence from my life changed me. I had to concentrate on not becoming overwhelmed by the noise. I got very good at this. It’s amazing what you can do when you are pushed to the brink. As my anxiety began to decrease I used to experiment by sitting down and facing my noise – instead of trying to run away from it. I would actually sit and listen to it – develop a relationship with it almost. But in hindsight what I was actually doing was finding the deeper silence within myself, the silence of my soul. Teresa was guiding me, I could feel that, but I didn’t quite know how.

No-one on the outside could hear my noise. In fact here were only 2 people who could hear my noise – me and God. And when I would sit and listen to my noise, God would be there too. I began to realise that there must be purpose in all of this, but I didn’t know what that was. I allowed Him to sit with me while I explored my noise, and the place inside it was directing me to. He was in that place. My noise had driven me into the desert. Only me and Him were in that place. I was at the core of who I was in Him, and I found peace there. Not audible peace, but spiritual peace.

I began experimenting with this ‘place’, this desert. I began going there more often. I was not afraid there because He was there. Pretty soon I was finding myself in this place all the time throughout the day. It became totally natural to be in this place of extreme calm and inner silence, while I carried on with looking after the children – with the noise was still ringing in my ears.

As I began to recover from the tinnitus I did begin to experience times of real silence once more – something I thought would never happen again. During these times of real silence I would sit and just listen to the silence. Beautiful silence. I would let the silence surround me and go in me and through me and touch my heart in a way I didn’t really understand. It was if the peaceful desert my tinnitus had lead me to was now on the outside too. I felt the silence, and God was there.

It was another 5 years before I had any indication whatsoever of why God put me through that period of suffering. But in hindsight it is now obvious to me that there was no better preparation for the life of a secular Carmelite than this. To be a ‘contemplative in the world’ meant I would most likely be surrounded by noise all the time – which I am. I have the noise of the hoover, the children, my husband, the car etc. Are these bad noises? No! They are beautiful noises – they are the sounds of my primary vocation. “Doesn’t it distract you?” No! How can they distract me – they are the point of my focus! “But when do you get time to pray?” I am praying all the time. I can be here in my kitchen making the dinner, and at the same time I am in my desert with my Lord and Creator. And when I do get quiet periods during the day I sit and enjoy the silence – perhaps in a way you cannot understand if you have not had tinnitus. You could be a Trappist monk for 50 years, but I don’t think you really understand or appreciate silence until it has been force-ably taken away from you. Teresa will tell you that.

Last month during our Carmelite studies, I laughed out loud when I discovered that during her life Teresa had tinnitus too!

St Teresa of Avila, pray for us.

St Paul, pray for us.

St Louis de Montfort, pray for us.

Today I was received into Carmelite formation – and no, I did NOT just become a nun!

20150221_1318101

Today I was received into Carmelite formation. Really – I couldn’t be happier! 🙂 It seems as if my whole life has lead me up to this point. Now I am part of a family where I will have the space and the resources to discover and develop a part of myself that has been screaming to get out for a very, very long time.

I have been asking people to pray for me on Facebook regarding this over the last few weeks and to my great amusement, there were quite  a large number of people who congratulated me on becoming a nun! This got even funnier when they realised I was married with 3 kids!

Let me explain…

In the Carmelite (ocds) order there are the First Order – the friars (who are active/contemplative), the Second Order – the nuns (who are cloistered) and the Third Order (or ‘Seculars’) – laypeople who continue to live in the world, and can be married or single, and diocesan priests. I am becoming a Third Order (secular) Carmelite.  The seculars are fully part of the Order, taking similar promises to friars and nuns but related to their lives as lay people.

The first part of my formation lasts 1-2 years. At the end of this time I will make my First Promise. Then there is a second period of formation lasting 4-5 years. At the end of this time I will make my Final (life long) Promise. After this I will become a fully fledged Carmelite.

The charism (or spiritual focus) of the Carmelite Order is contemplation. But a very important point is to understand that Carmelites understand contemplation and action to be complementary, not contradictory. This is a particularly important point to grasp because I am living the Carmelite charism within my vocation as a wife and a mother. The two actually fit together hand in hand beautifully, and is perfectly described in the famous quote for Teresa of Avila “God is found among the pots and pans.”

The Carmelite Order is considered by the Church to be under the special protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and has a strong Marian devotion. ‘Our Lady of Mount Carmel’ is the title given to the Blessed Virgin Mary in her role as patroness of the Carmelite Order.

We wear the Brown Scapular (which is basically a tiny habit!)

We say the Divine Office morning, evening and night prayer.

We follow the rule of St Albert.

Some famous Carmelite saints you may have heard of are Teresa of ÁvilaSaint Thérèse of Lisieux, Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), Saint John of the Cross, St. Simon Stock and many more…

It is a way of life. A spirituality focused on the interior life – prayer from the heart, relationship with God.

I am really just scratching the surface here! And lets not forget I’m just a beginner! But I hope this goes some way to explaining what I am doing in my life now and the fact that even though I have just been received into formation, I have not just become a nun!

download

 

The Little way of Fasting – by Fr. Aidan Kieran

Fr Aidan Kieran

The Little way of Fasting – by Fr. Aidan Kieran

The season of Lent is almost upon us, it begins tomorrow on Ash Wednesday. During Lent, we are asked to take on three traditional Christian disciplines: Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. Today I want to share with you a new insight into fasting which I gained recently.

I’ve generally always dreaded the idea of fasting during Lent. It always seemed to me like a test of endurance, and I never thought I had all that much endurance. Typically I would decide to, say, give up biscuits for the whole of Lent. It would last about ten days, I would have a biscuit and Lent would be over for me. And no matter what people would say about ‘beginning again’ it would never feel the same once failure had set in.

Now, I have learned a new approach to fasting, and it has become a much more appealing prospect.

St Therese of Lisieux teaches us that the “Little things done out of love are those that charm the Heart of Christ… On the contrary, the most brilliant deeds, when done without love, are but nothingness.” These words made me realise that the way I had been approaching the Lenten fast in the past was wrong. Lent is not a test of endurance. It is not even a test of discipline (even though we gain discipline as a by-product). Lent is a little test of LOVE. It is quality the Lord is interested in – not quantity.

I can describe this new approach to fasting – the little way of fasting – with an example. Here is a fast I recently undertook:

At breakfast time I didn’t have my normal cup of tea. I had a cup of hot water instead. It’s not much of a sacrifice is it? But this is the important part: fasting must always be accompanied by prayer. You may remember from the Gospels that on one occasion Jesus told the disciples that a particular evil spirit could only be driven out by prayer AND fasting. The two must be always occur together.

So while I was having my cup of water, I prayed.

I spoke to the Lord Jesus and told him that I was denying myself this 1 cup of tea as an act of love for him. I was doing this so that I might grow in my love for Him. I prayed for others. I asked Him to grant my intentions, but above all I asked him to help me grow in faith and love of Him.

It didn’t matter that it was only a small sacrifice. That’s not what matters to the Lord. What matters is that the sacrifice is accompanied by prayer and offered with a sincere and open loving heart. Fasting must always be accompanied by prayer, and must be done as an act of love for the Lord.

Perhaps you would prefer to go through Our Lady. While fasting, we can also pray through the intercession of Mary, our blessed Mother. I can tell her I am offering my fast as an act of love for her, and ask her to bring me closer to her son Jesus. We give Mary the title ‘mediatrix of all graces’ so we can of course pray through her intercession.

With this approach, fasting has become a wonderfully joyful act. Rather than a miserable endurance test, it becomes a joyful act of offering a sacrifice for the good of others, the good of the Church and above all the good of my own soul. I can have a smile on my face, knowing that the small sacrifice I have made has had a powerful effect in the spiritual life. Since I started this little way of fasting, I have prayed better and I feel I have drawn closer to Christ.

It’s just 1 cup of tea. A little thing, done with great love.

During Lent, I won’t totally deprive myself of other drinks, because I know I would find that too burdensome. My aim is to give up my first cup of tea each morning. On some days I may give up my second cup of tea too! – a definite sacrifice, but one I can realistically sustain.  And each time I am conscious of foregoing a drink I would like, I will pray. I will offer my sacrifice to the Lord with a joyful heart and a smile on my face.

I will offer my Lenten fasting for your intentions, for the people who read this blog. In particular I will pray that those of you who need to do so will make a good confession in preparation for Easter, because confession is so important.

And if any of you would like me to pray for a particular intention of yours, please contact me through this blog in the comments section below. I’d be happy to offer my fasting on a particular day for your personal intention.

I hope you will find these words about fasting helpful during the coming season of Lent.

Fr Aidan.

friendly_cup_big

 

Another boring Valentines day, Another boring Mass.

DinnerIsBoring_350

Last week I was visiting a church near to us. I went into the sacristy before Mass to speak to a friend of mine. She was busy getting things ready for Mass and was showing me where all the vestments and altar linens were kept. She asked me if I would like to serve Mass that day. With a heavy heart I said “No, thanks. I’m a girl!”

That threw me a little bit and it wasn’t until i got home later that day that I realised that something very, very disturbing indeed was going on in that sacristy. The used altar cloths – the corporals, and the purificators used by the priests and the ministers of Holy Communion were not being properly rinsed after Mass. Instead they were being tossed straight into an old cardboard box where they would wait to be picked up by the cleaners and put through the washing machine. This meant that small parts of our Lord’s body and precious blood were getting washed down the drain. With our Lord’s body and blood on this linen, this old cardboard box shoved under the sink was in-fact acting as a tabernacle.

I spoke to a priest friend about this and he told me that there is no way in the world this should be happening. I was horrified. I felt sick to my stomach. I was so distressed by this that I didn’t sleep that night. How could this possibly be happening? Did no-one realise what was happening? Did no-one care?

In the morning I cancelled all my plans for that day and set about buying the things that were needed to set this situation right. I bought a glass bowl that the linens could be soaked in, a clothes dryer they could be hung out on, I replaced the old cardboard box with a plastic crate and put instructions for the priests and ministers of Holy Communion explaining how the linens needed to be rinsed by the priest before going into the laundry. I spoke to the sacristan that morning who had never really considered what was happening but agreed with me that it could not continue. I spoke to some of the priests who agreed with me that it could not continue.  I set up all the stuff in the sacristy and said the chaplet of Divine Mercy, begging forgiveness for the way His body and precious blood had been treated. I went home feeling uneasy – but better.

That night I sent an email to the priests of that parish explaining what I had done and also saying “… although there are many clubs, groups and initiatives within the parish, the central focus should always be Jesus in the Eucharist. And if we cannot get respect for Jesus in the Eucharist right, then any other work we do is quite frankly useless…”

I spoke to another priest friend that night and told him about the situation. He was embarrassed to say that he had also been failing to rinse the altar cloths properly after Mass, but that he would not be making that mistake again. It started to dawn on me that this was probably not a one off situation. My heart sank. No, it broke.

936001t

The next morning I got a call from the parish manager. She had removed all the stuff I had put into the sacristy and proceeded to call me a “very naughty girl” for acting without getting specific permission from the parish priest (who’s day off it was yesterday). I apologised and said that in any other circumstance I would agree with her, but on the issue of the blessed sacrament being disrespected then I’m afraid I had no other choice than to act that day. She asked me who was in charge of the parish. I said Christ. She disagreed with me! It seems that by not following strict parish protocol I had somehow offended her to the point of undoing time and space. She was more concerned with the fact that I hadn’t got an email reply from the parish priest, than she was about our Lord’s body and precious blood getting washed down the drain. I told a priest friend about this and he told me not to worry too much. He said “Clare, if she had been around on the morning of the resurrection she would have complained to Jesus that He had left cloths in the tomb!”

So now what was I to do? I sent a letter of apology to the priests:

“…I’m very sorry if I have caused any offence by trying to sort out the used linen situation in the sacristy.
The parish manager called me today and explained that under no circumstances must I act without the approval of the Parish Priest.
I understand and agree with this, but in this circumstance my responsibility was to my Lord. I’m afraid once I found out what was happening, I knew the situation needed rectifying that day. I simply could not be responsible for His Body or Precious Blood being disrespected in that way for a second longer.
I was also aware that if anyone else was to find out what was happening it would cause great embarrassment to the parish.
I’m sorry if I have caused distress, and of course it is up to the parish priest if he wants the linen situation to continue in the way it was? But I assumed that he would have been as horrified as me…”

I just couldn’t understand how the parish priest was letting this happen? Either he didn’t know he was supposed to be doing this – which is a FAIL. Or he did know he was supposed to be doing this but wasn’t bothering – FAIL. Or even worse, he didn’t believe those altar cloths were carrying our Lord’s body or precious blood – MAJOR FAIL.

How was it possible, I thought, that the relationship this priest has with Jesus (assuming he has one) has got so dry, so mundane. How is it possible that his heart has become so cold that he is not moved to tears by this situation like I am?

25815

And then my husband asked me a question: “Sooooo honey! What shall we do for valentines day this year? Hot crazy sex under the stars? A mad shopping weekend in Paris? A hot air balloon ride over the Pyramids? Or shall we just do what we’ve done every year for the last decade and get a take-away and watch Arnold Schwarzenegga movies?”

“Meh.” I replied. It kinda struck me at that point that I had probably been judging that poor priest unfairly.

Let me be the first to admit that I take my spouse for granted – everyday. We have been married for 15 years. And anyone who has been married for more than about 5 minuets will agree with me that the mind blowing-ness of well, everything tends to wear off pretty soon – well day-to-day at least. Eating dinner together every night, having sex, watching films, conversation, all gets a bit, blah. And of course the relationship will go through good patches and bad patches. And in the bad patches we would rather just not be around each other at all to be honest, but we have made a life long commitment so we just get on with it.

Now who am I to say that this priest is not going through a bad patch in his relationship with Jesus? And who am I to say whether the relationship has just got a bit, blah? This good and faithful priest has said mass pretty much at least once EVERYDAY for the last 40 years or so. And that is besides all his other duties. I can’t even say whether I have the backbone to survive marriage for 40 years?! Who knows? The thought sends shivers down my spine to be honest (and my poor husbands too he!he!).

But, I am also a mother. And if it was my son’s blood on that cloth, and I was standing I the sacristy after Mass, you can bet your bottom dollar the priest would not be throwing that altar linen into a beat up old cardboard box. And for us as laity, do we prepare properly every time we receive Jesus? Or has that become routine too? Forgive us Mother Mary, for routinely disrespecting your Son in this way.

In hindsight I would have approached this whole situation differently by going straight to the parish priest and bringing up the subject with gentleness and compassion. But instead I just reacted, all be it justifiably, but it has still resulted in a massive evangelisation FAIL on my part in regards to the needs of the priest. Now, somehow, I have got to find a way to sort it all out “…That’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into!”

Finally, may I ask all the priests who read this blog to have a think about if this is a situation that is going on in your sacristy? If it is, please, please take steps to ensure the Blessed Sacrament is not washed down the drain. And know that I am praying for you. I love you, and I understand that a lifelong vocation is not easy, but it is worth it.

“I’m not sure I’m ever going to be able to give the sign of peace again.”

peace

 

I had another conversation with my seminarian buddy… (I’m in black, he’s in red):

“I’m going to mass just now for what seems like the first time. Well, it is the first time since I actually became aware of where I am and what is happening on the altar. Actually I’m terrified. Say a little prayer for me! And thank you for opening my eyes to the fact that I am the ACTUAL crucifixion and the ACTUAL resurrection – not just a re-enactment of the last supper.

I was praying for you throughout Mass today. So…I’m dying to ask…how was your experience of Mass today then now that you know what’s really going on?!

Mass today… Just like we discussed, I put myself at the foot of the cross with mother Mary, Mary Magdalene and John. But I kept having to get up, sit down, get up, kneel down, get up….. And I kept having to respond to the priest which was interrupting my concentration.

I felt Jesus very clearly during the consecration enter my heart, and I was not afraid of being at the foot of the cross with the others – His Mother etc. and also my parents and the rest of the congregation. I understand now that there is no separation between the church militant and the church triumphant during Mass. None at all.

NONE at all! You’re absolutely right. Someone commented on the book of Revelation on your blog post – absolutely correct, the Lamb is adored for ever in the heavenly liturgy as one standing as if slain. This is WONDERFUL news Clare. Wonderful news. I would say, also, that the ‘having to respond’ thing is a frequent comment of those who go a bit deeper into the spirituality of the Mass – responding is somehow ‘inclusive’ on one level, but on another, it misses the point. I don’t think responding means you are participating more fully – in many cases, you participate less fully by responding because you don’t get the chance to pray.

…And then, as we were all standing there at the foot of the cross, contemplating this intimate declaration of love between God and mankind, alongside Christ’s grieving mother, someone taped me on the shoulder and with a big grin wanted to shake my hand!

Even WORSE!

It was totally out of place. I dropped to my knees instead. I’m not sure I’m ever going to be able to give the sign of peace again.

The way I look at it is this – I’d really rather not, but that’s because my understanding of the Mass is very different from those for whom the sign of peace is more significant. I suppose, I tend to do it on auto-pilot and I don’t move from the spot I’m in unless it would cause misunderstanding.

If you believe the Mass is a re-enactment of the last supper the sign of peace is great! It totally fits into place with what the disciples would have been doing – chatting and socialising round the dinner table. Before today I was a hugger and a kisser at the sign of peace! But now I cannot think of a more inappropriate gesture at that’d point in the Mass. What it achieves is to take ones attention away from the foot of the cross and instead directs it at each other. It’s nothing short of diabolical. At the most intimate part of the Mass – seconds before we receive the risen Jesus in holy Eucharist, the focus switches onto MAN. Surely it makes much more sense to have it at the beginning of Mass – the natural time to greet each other.

Seriously – if you are standing at the foot of the cross, would it be appropriate to smile and offer mother Mary a hand shake?!? When did people start doing this anyway? Who’s crazy idea was it? Whoever put this in place either did not understand what is happening at mass, or they deliberately wanted to move the focus away from Christ.

I don’t know where handshaking comes from. In the Roman Rite, the Kiss of Peace was done in two ways – at Solemn Masses between the clergy, in hierarchical order and soberly, whilst amongst the people a white disc called the ‘Pax Brede’ was passed around for each individual to kiss and hand on – they did not greet each other and certainly did not shake hands.

I’m going to have to look into this…”

The MASS: How could I possibly have been so dumb?

the-passion-of-the-christ-0

I had a life changing conversation last night with a seminarian friend of mine. It was about the Mass. It went like this… (I’m in red, he’s in blue.)

Hey! I have just started my first parents newsletter on the Mass. I’m talking about the Last Supper and how that was the first Mass. What would be the one line you would want to get across?

If the Mass was meant to recreate Maundy Thursday, the Christian Holy Day would have been Thursday. But it’s not – it’s the day of the Resurrection – because Thursday gives the model for what happened on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Ok say more to me…! explain it as you would to a 10 year old. So Mass is not a re enactment of the last supper? *Stumped at the first hurdle, Clare realises she is way out of her depth and knows nothing*

OK here goes (this is exactly as I’d say it to a 10 year old): Some people think that what we do at Mass is a bit like having a meal – a special meal – but still a meal. In some ways this is right, BUT it is the most special meal you can imagine. It is special because the person you love most in the world (Jesus, of course) is actually giving you himself as food. That sounds a bit gruesome doesn’t it? Well, that’s what’s special about Mass – Jesus gave us the way to eat his body and drink his blood in a non-gruesome way the night before he was raised up on a cross. This was called the Last Supper – or you could call it the First Mass! You see, the important thing is that Jesus died and was raised up again 3 days later. That’s what we have at Mass, not just a memory of something that happened in the past, but we’re actually there – we are there with Mary beside the cross, but also there 3 days later when Jesus rose from the dead. So to go back in time to the night BEFORE he died doesn’t make sense – why would we want to go back in time then? The most important bit hadn’t happened yet! Instead, on that night Jesus gave us the way, not to time travel, but to make present in our today what He did for us once and for all.

So Mass is not Maundy Thursday?

…no Mass is not Maundy Thursday! Maundy Thursday gives the model for the making present of Good Friday and Easter Sunday – the Paschal Mystery itself!

My head understands it technically, but my heart wont let it in. I’d die I think, if I let it in.

No you won’t! Let it in! Your heart is where it makes sense – your head – well, not so much!

I have enough problems coming to terms with the fact that He did that for me AT ALL – let alone to be present while it is happening! Man, this year is going to be an emotional roller-coaster

Yep.

So in a line…. At Mass, we are present at the crucifixion, and resurrection. I regard myself as being an extremely enthusiastic Catholic. If I don’t understand this then I can tell you right now – other people don’t understand this either. 

Strictly speaking, at Mass, we witness the sacrifice made once on the cross, it is made present for us in the Eucharistic species and we can see Him lifted up, whose sacrifice alone could atone for the sins of humanity. So yes, it is the way for us to witness Calvary – but Calvary is only efficacious because of the Resurrection, so we witness the sacrifice in view of the Resurrection – the Lord’s “Hour” is not just the Cross, but also the Empty Tomb and the Ascension.

You know the greatest fear I would have if I was a priest? That saying Mass would become anything other than mind-blowing.

To be honest – it has to be less than mind-blowing otherwise a priest wouldn’t be able to celebrate it. But that’s how wonderful He is to us – He makes himself small for us, touchable…edible.

It’s too much! seriously! I’m going to bed…

I’m shell shocked. I never knew this. I NEVER KNEW. At Mass, I am present at the actual crucifixion and the actual resurrection! How come I don’t know this? Am I stupid? No. Did anyone ever teach me? No. NO ONE EVER TAUGHT ME. I was however wrongly taught that the Mass was just a re enactment of the last supper. I can’t remember who is was – it must have been at school. Who ever taught me was wrong. Who taught them?

I cried myself to sleep last night and then woke up at 4am filled with the same emotions. How many times in my life have I been present at the actual crucifixion and the actual resurrection without even realising it? As a Catholic with contemplative tendencies this kills me. How has this spiritual information been withheld from me for 35 years? I’m so angry.

But I’m also terrified. How am I supposed to go to Mass now? It’s the crucifixion: I will be standing at the foot of the Cross alongside His grieving Mother Mary. It’s the resurrection: I will be running to discover the empty tomb with Mary Magdalene – but instead of Jesus saying “Do not touch Me…”  -(John 20: 17) He is telling me “Take and eat; this is my body.” – (Matthew 26:26).

Ressurection

The secret jealousy I have felt towards Mary Magdalene all my life is now the cause of my utter humiliation. I have been at the actual crucifixion and resurrection with her pretty much EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. for years and years without realising it. *Deep breath*

How is it possible to take this all in? I feel an overwhelming desire to go to confession.

The romance of Christmas child vomit.

20141226_132224-1

There is something actually quite romantic about cleaning up toddler sick together at 11.30pm on Christmas evening. I actually had other ideas of what I would be doing with my husband at that time of night – but it seems that was not to be. Luckily God has granted that my cycle coincides with Christmas perfectly this year, and Christmas is of course 12 days long – so there’s always tonight 😉

Anyway… amidst the tsunami of child vomit and lack of sleep, I was reminded that this was not so far from the truth of what would have been happening on Jesus’s original, 1st or 2nd birthday. Mary, no doubt – like any other mother would have spent many a sleepless night dealing with the normal duties of motherhood: dirty nappies, vomit, teething, bumped heads, lost bedtime toys, you name it…

And by her side would have been Joseph. Amazing, kind Joseph who had committed his life to protect and care for a woman he knew he would never sleep with, and a child who was not biologically his. What kind of man is this?! What kind of love is this?! Joseph – my confirmation name, my son’s middle name. Joseph – always there, but always in the background. Obtaining such graces for our family. Solid, gentle, dependable, selfless Joseph.

So as my husband and I look up at each other over a mountain of wet wipes and antibacterial spray, we smile! Our baby is feeling much better now she has been sick, and really that’s all that matters. Despite the hellish, chronic fatigue ridden, unemployed, emotional roller-coaster of a year we have had, Christmas day has been wonderful. And I am here cleaning up sick with a man who could never love me more than he does right now 🙂

‘Why the Ox and the Ass?’ Fr. Dylan James’ Christmas Homily.

ST005048

By Father Dylan James.

For my Christmas homily this year I’d like to drawn your attention (c.f. Benedict XVI, The Infancy Narratives, p.69) to two of the figures in our nativity set, in the Christmas crib here. Because the statues in the traditional Christmas crib are not random, rather, they are full of great meaning –meaning that lets you and me see various things about what Christmas is all about.
The two statues I want to mention are probably the two figures you’d think, at first glance, are the least important. The ox and the ass, which for those of you who don’t know your farm animals, is basically a cow and a donkey.
These two figures are in every nativity set. But, let me note a curious detail: the Gospels them don’t mention them. The Gospel says that the baby Jesus was “laid in a manger” (Ml 2:7) because there was “no room in the inn” (Lk 2:7) and so He was born in a stable. But the Gospels don’t tell us which animals were in that stable. A manger would have been full of soft hay, for the animals to eat, and the Christian tradition has obviously imagined what sort of animals would have been there. And the choice of an ox and an ass is not random –it symbolises something.

On one level, the fact that ANY animals are pictured with the baby Jesus is deeply significant: it tells us what this child is all about. This child is the Lord God Almighty entering His creation. It is about the restoration and union of that damaged creation with its Creator. The baby Jesus started His human existence in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary, but He existed before her, He existed before all His creation. Thus Scripture calls Him, the eternal Son, “the first-born of all creation”(Col 1:15).

We all experience the fact that we live in a broken and suffering world. Thus the importance of the promise of the Old Testament that a child would be born who would bring about the RESTORATION of His creation. The prophecy of Isaiah thus pictures a child leading harmony between the lion and the lamb, the wolf and the goat, with the child able to put His hand into the snake’s lair (Isa 11). Another prophecy pictures the Lord being recognised between two living creatures (Hab 3:2) while Isaiah himself refers to the “ox” and the “ass” knowing “it’s master’s crib”(Isa 1:3).
As Scripture says elsewhere, all creation is yearning for this revelation with groaning and “eager longing”(Rom 8:19). And so the statue of the ox and ass here in our crib set symbolise this.

But there is another symbolism too. A symbolism that relates to humanity. Because pious tradition has identified the ox and the ass as symbolising both the Jew and the Gentile coming to same one Lord God. It is not just one human race, or just one type of animal, that Jesus has been born for, but for ALL of us –for you and for me.

Let me offer one final piece of symbolism. St Augustine notes that the manger is what the ox and the ass EAT from, where they get their hay. The fact that the baby Jesus was laid in the manger is symbol of Him coming to be the new food, “the Bread of Life”(Jn 6:35) as He would later say of Himself.
He has come among us, He has been born as one of us, that He might feed us. All of humanity has a SPIRITUAL hunger, a longing for more than this world’s material order. Today many fill our stomachs with turkey, and our trees may have a multitude of worldly possessions under them as presents. But there is more to us that such things.

We are made for love. Made to love, and made to be loved. And to be loved in the most solid and dependable manner by the Creator God come among us. And He HAS come and been born and been laid in the manger.

What the ox and the ass in the manger set signify is the fulfilment of such a need. We long for the Creator to come and enter His creation, to teach us, to heal us, to feed us, to love us. The animals, the ox and ass, symbolises that all creation has come to recognise and be at peace with the Creator born as one of us. “Today a saviour has been born to us, Christ the Lord”(Lk 2:11).

Father Dylan’s Sermons – 4th Sunday of Advent, Year B

Profile pic

Lk 1:26-28; 2 Sam 7:1-5,8-11,16
We’re now in the final few days before Christmas, and this Sunday’s readings are given to us by the Church to be our final preparation for Christmas. And, as every year, the Church aids our final focus by turning us towards Our Lady. The Blessed Virgin was the one who first welcomed the baby Jesus into her heart and into her womb, and if we turn to her she can help us do the same for us this Christmas.
There are a great many things we can learn by imitating Our Lady, a great many things we can gain by turning to her powerful and motherly intercession on our behalf. But this year let me point to just one, one thing that we too can do, can imitate, to prepare for Christmas. And that thing is believing what God has promised. Because He has promised a great many things, including things that hold for us especially at Christmas.

There are two obvious things we can see in today’s readings, two ways she trusted in God’s promises. The most obvious is the manner in which she responded to what the Archangel Gabriel asked of her. She said yes. She trusted that this highly unusual thing that the angel was saying would come true. She had just been told that she was to conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit. This had never happened before in human history, and never since. And yet, she trusted what God said through the angel.
And when she proceeded to go visit her cousin Elizabeth (which we didn’t hear read today), Elizabeth praised her for this very thing: for trusting what God had promised her, “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord”(Lk 2:45). And we too need to trust what God has promised for us.

The second, less obvious, thing she trusted in was a promise of God from of OLD. The message from the Archangel Gabriel referred to a much older promise, a promise not made to Our Lady but to King David, a thousand years beforehand. We heard that promise re-read to us today as our first reading, in which God told King David that He would raise up a “House” for him(2 Sam 7:13), meaning that his descendants as a line of kings would continue, and that a great king would arise. Our Lady, as a faithful trusting Jew, trusted and hoped in this promise. She knew that the Scriptures showed countless occasions when the Lord kept His promises, and she expected Him to keep this one too. And so when the angel said that she was to have a child who would be this descendent of David, a new definitive king to fulfil the ancient promise that there would be a king, when she heard this promise to her personally it made sense to her in the light this ancient promise of old.

Where does this leave us, today? We too have promises that were made of old in the Scriptures.
We can choose to ignore those promises, maybe ignore them because they are old and to people in a far away land.
Or, we can choose to listen to those promises, just as Our Lady trusted in promises that were old and ancient and made a thousand years before her.

And what promises are those, for us, at Christmas?
Let me note just two:.
1) The promise that His “grace is sufficient for you”(2 Cor 12:9), as He was sufficient for St Paul in His trials, and His grace is sufficient even to sustain me amidst the busy hectic pace of Christmas.
2) The promise that He still comes to the lowly and humble of heart (c.f. Lk 2:50), as Our Lady joyfully proclaimed in her ‘Magnificat’. If I am lowly and humble, if I put other people before myself at Christmas, think of their needs and preferences before my own, then the Lord will come to me at Christmas.

So to sum up…
Our Lady trusted in God’s ancient promises in the Scripture, and so was ready to hear and trust the message from the angel, and her faith was rewarded by God coming to her.
If we trust in those many promises of old, if we are trust in His strength, if we are humble and lowly before others in their preferences, then He will reward and come to us this holy season too.

Gabriel_Mary