BVM, CSL, and more

Corona Chronicles VI

Home
So, yesterday I wondered if I might be able to sleep through the night as I didn’t nap during the day. Nope. And in fact, I woke up twice. And had another disagreeable dream. On the plus side, though, I did get back to sleep again pretty quickly.

This morning, I changed my routine a little and did my exercise straight after my morning physio session. I just wanted to see what effect, if any, it had on me. The answer to that is not much. I had a couple of short naps this afternoon but I might have done that, anyway. I might try it again tomorrow as I felt pretty good afterwards.

While exercising, I watched Tomb Raider to its end. I rate this film 5/10. It was a very average action film. As with so many films, the script let it down. It wasted a more than half an hour with Lara Croft’s backstory before getting her to the action. As a result, there was not enough time to do anything more than bounce her from danger to danger to showdown to end. If I had written the script, I would have obeyed the rule of In Medias Res by starting the story ‘in the middle of things’ and explained Lara’s background during the course of the main narrative (her search for the ancient queen Himiko). After all, who really cares about Lara’s background? I mean, it’s important, of course, but the really important thing about Lara Croft – the reason we care about her – is her puzzle solving and combat, not first and foremost her family history. This film, though, but it front and centre.

One thing about the film made me laugh, if grimly: Himiko was said to have been imprisoned on the deserted island of Yamatai by her generals to stop her killing people. It turned out, though, that she wasn’t evil, just carrying a fatal disease in the manner of Typhoid Mary. It all reminded me of the coronavirus a bit too much. After finishing, Tomb Raider I started watching Big Boys – an action film starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. It’s directed by Michael Bay so my brain is already mush, and I have still two days of the film to go.

This afternoon, I did a bit of book re-arranging. The desire to read C. S. Lewis has been growing on me again, recently, so I have put the books that were on my chest of drawers on the book shelf and the C. S. Lewis books that were on the shelf, on the drawers. I’m hoping that by having the books physically closer to me, I will be more likely to read them.

From whence comes this desire to read C.S.L.? Goodness knows – God, I hope, but it started when I watched a clip of Shadowlands the other day.

Speaking of C. S. Lewis, as I am sure you are aware, he was for many years good friends with J. R. R. Tolkien. Speaking of whom, 25th March is the day on which the One Ring was destroyed when Gollum fell into the lava of Mount Doom. Today is also Lady Day for Christians. Tolkien was a committed Catholic so the destruction of the Ring on the day that Gabriel announced the good news to Mary is not a coincidence. Here is one of my favourite paintings of the great event.

I love baroque art and architecture but sometimes it is good to have simplicity, and here Dante Gabriel Rossetti gives a very simple interpretation of the Annunciation. I am not much of an art critic, but things to look out for in the painting are,

The flames at Gabriel’s feet indicating his angelic status
Gabriel and Mary’s halos indicating their saintly rank
The lily that Gabriel is handing Mary; this is one of her symbols (I think it is a symbol of purity). There appears to be a lily on the red stand but I’m not sure if its placement there gives it a different meaning
The colour blue, which you can see behind Mary, is also a Marian symbol. I think it is a ‘royal’ colour, hence its association with her (Mary as Queen of Heaven)
Mary appears to have red hair. I’m not sure how to interpret that as I’m sure red is a colour more to be associated with Mary Magdalen (being the colour of licentiousness)

This evening, I am writing this post and just muddling along. I read earlier that one of the early signs of having contracted the coronavirus is a loss of smell and taste, so naturally I am now sniffing things wondering if its lack of smell is my fault. Every time I get a twinge of a headache I wonder if this is the start of a persistent one. It’s pathetic, really.

Abroad
This morning, I visited the local chemist to pick up prescriptions for my parents. They were only letting two people in at a time. The rest of us had to queue up outside – six feet apart. I used to the time to do some more Duolingo lessons. Afterwards, I came straight back. My dodgy right leg was a bit stiff, and got stiffer later. This is a repeating thing now – it feels wonderful(ish) and loose after I have done my physio but then stiffens later. I still have a way to go in sorting those muscles out.

Heroes and Villains

Corona Chronicles V

I had an unpleasant dream last night. It wasn’t a nightmare, just disagreeable. I won’t record what happened in it because I don’t want to remember it. What I will say is that it was one of those dreams that is based on a normal part of one’s life – a normal part that, unfortunately, my subconscious corrupted. Thanks, mate. I stand in solidarity with Cobb.

(Full marks to you if you get the film reference there)

Today went better – work in the morning, Tomb Raider during exercise this afternoon, work in the afternoon, then finish. I rarely sleep straight through the night these days – for reasons I don’t know, I am very prone to waking up around three in the morning – but I wonder if I might manage it tonight as I didn’t nap this afternoon.

At the weekend and today, I joined the Discord servers of two live streamers whose streams I enjoy watching. Doing so wasn’t easy – you don’t just give them your email address and a password but have to verify your e-mail. Discord seemed very fussy about that. Maybe I was just being a bit simple. Anyway, the two live streamers were MB Hammer and Nova of the Sea who has just finished playing The Last of Us and its DLC Left Behind. Why am I watching so much entertainment where people die due to infections at the moment?? That aside, The Last of Us was the first game I ever saw livestreamed on Twitch so quite aside from its excellence as a game, TLoU is very dear to me.

A.O.B.
Last night, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson announced a much stricter ‘lock down’ in Britain. It was a lovely sunny day, today, but very few people outside (we have a good view from our kitchen windows!)
There were two corona villains on social media today. The first was a recalcitrant 75 year old woman who couldn’t understand why the young presenter on Radio Solent was so worried about the coronavirus as he would obviously survive it. Neither did she care about the risk to herself on account of her age. The lady was completely blind to the fact that the reason we have a lock down is not for ourselves who might be healthy enough to beat the virus but to protect those who aren’t (for example, her husband, who, she said, had suffered a stroke). Her blindness was so complete that I wondered if she was mentally ill or ill in some other way that made her not care about anything, anymore. The only alternative seemed to be malice but she didn’t sound a malevolent person. It was a very sad interview to listen to. The second villain was Mike Ashley, owner of the Sports Direct sports store who wanted to keep his shops open on the grounds that (as I read on Twitter) they were providing an essential service. As important as exercise is while we are cooped up, no one on Twitter was having that.
Earlier today, there was one corona hero: a hospitalised priest in Italy who gave up his ventilator for another person, and subsequently died. Unfortunately, this story appears to be false. Happily, though, the same reports said that the priest was a holy man. Requiescat in Pace.
Going back to the corona villains, I wonder how people who behave irresponsibly during the pandemic will write the narrative of their lives in a few years time. I don’t mean the lady on Radio Solent or Mike Ashley but those who flout the social distancing requirement. I strongly suspect that in five or ten years time, you will find very few people who will admit to having visited the park or pub when they were being asked to stay at home.
This is a note to myself to mention C. S. Lewis in tomorrow’s post.

By The Book

Corona Chronicles IV

Home
The parents and I remain well. In the early hours of Saturday morning, around two or three AM, I woke up and although I felt alright, I could feel worry about the coronavirus at the back of my head. Fortunately, I was still able to get back to sleep again.

On Sunday morning, my parish church live-streamed two Masses, the 8am (which I usually serve at) and one at 10am. Being able to watch it was very comforting.

Today, I got on with my work, and this afternoon, did my exercise and finished The Terminal. I rate this film 8/10. Tom Hanks plays Victor Navorski who is forbidden to enter the USA after a coup in his home country renders his passport invalid. Unable to return home, he is forced to live in the airport’s international transit lounge. The airport authorities do their best to get rid of him but without success. In the meantime, Viktor makes some friends, plays Cupid, and enjoys the friendship of the lovelorn Amelia Warren (Catherine Zeta-Jones). The film is sweet and kind hearted. It’s the type of picture where even the baddie, in this case, airport director Frank Dixon (Stanley Tucci), is actually alright. I was going to give this film 7.8 out of 10 but rounded it up because it is so sweet. Once The Terminal finished, I started Tomb Raider – not the Angelina Jolie version but Alicia Vikander’s from 2018. Review to come on Wednesday.

Abroad
On Friday I did my shopping. As I thought might be the case, the Sainsbury’s store I went to was better stocked than the one my father visited on Thursday. Of course, there were still empty shelves, but overall it was in better shape. This week, I will be helping my father with the shopping again, though probably not until Wednesday.

Over the weekend, I saw photos and video of people out and about in parks and at markets in London. On the one hand, it of course made me very frustrated; on the other, who knows how the camera was being used. By that I mean, even if cameras don’t lie, they can still be used to present a manipulated image. This is the case even when they present the truth – in publishing it, the intention of the photographer or cameraman could be to use it to arouse our emotions positively or, unfortunately, negatively. I felt mine rising in the latter way so moved on.

A.O.B.
I continued Duolingo this weekend. As of today I am on a 289 day streak! If I get there and remember, I will record Day 300.
Today, I read a book for the first time in probably about two weeks (excluding Lent spiritual reading). I started with Anthony Beevor’s The Second World War and Clare Lydon’s lesbian romance Nothing to Lose. Now, can I read some more tomorrow, and the day after that, and…
I bought two little bottles of wine at the weekend and am now enjoying them. I shall end this post here so that I might continue to do so!

From 1208 to Dunkirk to the Present

Corona Chronicles II

Home
All remains well in my house. My brother, who stays here during the week for his work, has returned to his home in Suffolk to be with his wife, and help look after his mother-in-law who is very unwell (not with the coronavirus). We won’t see him again until the pandemic is over.

For my part, I have managed to keep my home exercise going this week: just simple on-the-spot walking while watching a film on Netflix. I exercise like this for one hour. I would do more but with all the other things I want to do there isn’t the time. Today was the day of my follow-up appointment with the physiotherapist. Unfortunately, after writing my last post, I received a text message to say it had been cancelled. I shall take a day off tomorrow and then continue the exercises until such time as I see him again.

On Monday and Tuesday I watched Dunkirk again. It is a great film. I love how Christopher Nolan not only doesn’t name but barely ever shows the enemy. In doing so, he forces you to pay that much more attention to the British soldiers and their suffering. I was once more very stirred by Admiral Bolton’s, Mr Dawson’s and George’s heroism. For the last couple of days I have been watching Kursk: The Final Mission. I’ll say more about it when I have finished it, today or tomorrow.

I continue to work. I wonder how long for? Will the company I work for decide that since their work is impeded it isn’t worth keeping me on? As that decision is out of my hands, there is no point worrying about it. All I can do is just the best job in the time given to me.

I have discovered a really good new livestream to watch during my downtown. Check out Nova of the Sea on Twitch. She is currently playing the brilliant The Last of Us. This game is all of a sudden a bit on the nose, being set in a post apocalyptic world where Mankind has been decimated by an, er, incurable infection. Oh dear.

Abroad
On Tuesday, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York said that Church of England services should stop. I’m not sure how things work in the C of E, if ABC & ABY have the power to stop services or if they can only advise it, but either way, I doubt that there will be a church that defies them. At least, I hope not.

On the day that this announcement was made, an Anglican priest who I follow on Twitter said that it was the first time since 1208 that ‘all public worship has been banned in the Church of England.’ which was a bit cheeky as the C of E didn’t exist then. His argument was that the Reformation led to a ‘change of management’ (I’m sure that was the phrase he used but I haven’t been able to find the tweet) but that the church remained the one that existed before. That is, shall we say, not quite the Catholic understanding but let’s leave that for the theologians and historians to argue about. Back in 2020, the Catholic bishops of England and Wales followed the ABC’s and ABY’s lead (as well as the Scottish Catholic bishops) by calling a halt to Masses as of Friday. So, on Sunday I’ll get to lie in. We take the positives where we can! I must say more about the Church of England as I think about her more these days than I ever did before.

This morning, I will start work earlier as later on I am accompanying my father on his weekly shopping trip. He usually does it by himself but because people over 70 may soon be told to stay indoors I might have to take over. He’s taking me along so that I can see what he does. I wonder what we will find – if anything – and what state we will find out fellow shoppers? Anything less than panicky will please me.

Inspired by a friend I’ve never met

Corona Chronicles I

I follow Niall Gooch on Twitter. He is a clever and compassionate person and I always benefit from his tweets. A few days ago, he tweeted,

This seemed to me a good idea so on this blog, until such time as the coronavirus abates, I will try and record what’s going on in my little corner of the world – Islington, London, U.K.

First of all, home life.

Yesterday, our Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, ‘urged everyone to avoid unnecessary social contacts, to work from home where possible, and to stay away from pubs and restaurants.’ This doesn’t affect me too much as I work from home, and don’t have the money to go out very much, anyway.

The above quotation comes from the BBC website, here. The same report states that ‘[p]eople in at-risk groups will be asked within days to stay home for 12 weeks.’ My mother and father are 79 and 80 so are definitely ‘at risk’. I still live in the family house so am now part son, part shield. The latter fits my love of chivalry perfectly. Are there any medieval romances where the Knight washes his hands a lot?

A concern for my parents now informs all my actions when going out. For example, yesterday (16th March) I had intended to take a walk across town to Westminster Cathedral to go to confession. Because of the worry that I might pick something up, at the cathedral if not along the way, however, I decided to stay at home. Now that we are being told to avoid unnecessary social contact, I suspect I will not go to confession again until the summer. It’s not ideal but the thought of bringing an unwelcome guest home is even worse.

Now that I am avoiding going out, what about my daily walks? I am going to do more exercise at home, even if it is just walking on the spot while watching a film on Netflix or a You Tube video.

Speaking of exercise, you may recall me mentioning my dodgy leg in last year’s Camino posts. Well, back in January I finally – FINALLY – got round to submitting a request for a physiotherapist appointment with the NHS. I thought I might not get an answer until later in the year but within a week or two, I was offered an appointment. Three weeks ago, I met the physiotherapist and he gave me some exercises to do. I have been carrying them out religiously ever since and let me tell you, while my leg is not perfect, it is SO MUCH BETTER than before. The old pain is almost entirely gone. Not quite, but almost. I am amazed. And all it took was ‘some’ stretches. Unless the medical centre has been closed, I am meeting the physio again this week to let him know how I have been getting on. I can’t wait to tell him.

There is one fly in the ointment – part of the physiotherapy involved walking in a slightly different way and I haven’t managed to perfect that yet. In fact, I am a long way off it, so that’s something I need to work on whenever I do go out.

Away from home.

I mentioned above not going to confession. I will keep going to Mass unless one of us in the house falls ill or until/unless the churches are closed. How extraordinary it is that I have to write these words. Who could have foreseen it, even at the start of the year? It’s like we have gone back to the time of Shakespeare with the closing of the theatres. The other day, someone on Twitter said that when W.S. was quarantined he wrote King Lear. The implication was that you should do something similar. Nonsense, of course, but I hope I can be at least a little creative. I have one or two ideas in this regard and will mention them if I can realise them.

All sporting events in the country have been cancelled or postponed for the time being. The one that affects me most is the calling off of the first few Formula 1 races. I can do without football or even rugby but F1 I miss. Depending on how things go we won’t get any races until May or June.

As I said above, I don’t go out the often. I am the secretary of The Keys Catholic literary group, though, so attend its meetings every month. I had already decided not to go to this month’s meeting but yesterday the Master decided to postpone it. I immediately sent the e-mail to all the members confirming this. Thankfully, the ones who have responded have been very understanding. We haven’t decided what to do about April’s meeting, but as with the F1, I don’t expect there will be another one until the summer.

Further Afield

There is just one thing I would like to write here. Business Insider reports that the American President, Donald Trump, ‘tried to poach German scientists working on a coronavirus vaccine and offered cash so it would be exclusive to the US’. You can read the report here.

If the report is true – the German government says it is, the company for whom the scientists work say it is not – it really is the most diabolically selfish act on Donald Trump’s part. Of course, given his past behaviour, we should not be surprised by this, but I think we may be surprised by the depth of his selfishness in this regard.

Thank you to Niall for letting me quote his tweets in this post! (It’s true I’ve never met him so I hope he doesn’t mind me calling him a friend).

An Unexpected Reader

The coronavirus in London, U.K.

I attend and serve at the 8am Mass in my parish. Today, there were definitely fewer people there, but I don’t think a lot were missing. Not yet.

We were missing two important people, though: our Readers.

In case you aren’t familiar with the Mass, we have four readings: one from the Old Testament, one from the New, and one from the Gospel. Sandwiched between them is a Psalm. Lay people read the OT, NT and Psalm, while the priest reads the Gospel.

At the 8am Mass, one person reads the OT and Psalm, while the second reads the NT and then returns from the pews to read the Bidding Prayers a few minutes later. When a Reader is away, someone else usually takes their place. This morning, however, that didn’t happen. On seeing this, the Parish Priest asked me to do the readings.

It was rather nerve wracking! Ito be fair, it could have been worse – I have been a Reader before, but only a long time ago (the Church doesn’t encourage people to do more than one ‘ministry’ at Mass and mine for some years now has been to altar serve). There were two complications – I wasn’t wearing my reading glasses, and while I had already read today’s readings after completing Lauds this morning, I had tripped over St. Paul once or twice due to his long run-on sentences. This meant I wasn’t very confident about having to read him aloud.

Happily, though, the readings went well. I didn’t make any big mistakes and managed to hold it together with St. Paul. I think I even understood him better than when I had read him silently earlier. The Holy Spirit was definitely working through me.

I returned to the lectern to read the Bidding Prayers. By now, I had had two or three minutes to get properly nervous so my heart was pounding away. When I started reading, I had to contend with having to read one or two prayers that, let’s just say, were written in a very general way, as well as with one or two typos. Neither were huge issues, though, and I got to the end just fine.

Mass continued. The coronavirus has put an end, for now, to the handshake that accompanies the Peace and the distribution of the Precious Blood so lay people no longer bring the chalices containing the water and wine to the Sanctuary. The priest still needs both but they are placed on the credence table (the table at the side of the Sanctuary where the various chalices and other items needed for the celebrating of Mass are kept until required by the celebrating priest) before Mass and are brought over to him by the altar server.

Because I am not used to bringing them to the priest before bringing the other things that he needs, I almost got lost in working out what to do first this morning. I had to pause, take a breath and think before moving on. Looking back, I can only shake my head at how easy I got confused but at the time I was a bit flummoxed! At least next week I will remember what happened and be prepared. I hope!

I wasn’t the only one getting flummoxed today – whoever prepared the credence table forgot to put a corporal on the chalice to be would be used for distribution of the Eucharist. When the priest realised this, he asked me to go and fetch one. Cue me dashing ‘backstage’ to pick one up. I almost took the wrong cloth before remembering and picking up the right one!

***

When I decided to write this post, I thought it would be a very quick and short one. Having written it, however, I see that I have used quite a bit of Catholic jargon. Apologies for that. Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s any way to avoid it. There are a couple of words I’d like to explain here: a corporal is a large piece of cloth that is unfolded on the altar. Its practical purpose is to protect the altar surface. I can think of one or two other reasons for it being there but that will suffice for now. The Sanctuary is the area in which the altar is located. In some churches, the Sanctuary is cut off from the congregation by an altar rail (or even, in old churches, a wooden rood-screen).

Another effect of the coronavirus outbreak is that the people doing the collection today (which in my church is done by passing round a bag that is then brought to the front of the church and taken by me to a safe, ‘backstage’) wore rubber gloves. Finally, when I say ‘backstage’ I mean either the corridor leading to the sacristy, where we get ready for Mass, or the Sacristy itself. In this post, I mean the former.

The Aid of Illness

In my last post, I said that this general election campaign is both interesting and anxiety inducing. Despite the former and because of the latter, I have steered clear of it on social media as much as possible.

Is it good to run away from one’s anxieties? Wouldn’t it be better to face them down? I’m not a psychologist, so I don’t have an answer to that. I imagine, though, that the answer is Yes, one should face them them because only that way lies freedom.

However, if that is to be done, surely one needs to confront one’s anxieties in a way that is positive: it’s no good facing what you hate or fear with that hate and fear. Freedom doesn’t lie that way, only confrontation and war, which perpetuates and escalates the problem.

So, what is to be done? I’m a Christian so my view is that my anxiety, and the hate and fear that it induces, needs to be washed away with love. How? With prayer. But also, attentiveness; attentiveness to the uselessness of anger.

It’s one thing to know that anger (the negative kind; I’m not talking about righteous indignation here) is useless but how does one interiorise it?

I think the best way is to meditate on it, to find where it exists within oneself and drive it out by the practice of love. Another way, though, and a harder way that I would not wish on anyone, is through illness.

Last week, I woke up with a need to visit my G.P. As it turned out, I wasn’t seriously ill but I didn’t know this at the time, and as a result, I was in a state of discomfort and worried.

While I was in this state, my anxiety about the general election fell away. It seemed so much stuff and nonsense, a complete waste of energy and life.

It felt bad to realise I had taken such a wrong path, but it was also a blessing, for now I could set about finding the right one. Having said that, I can’t help but look back on that morning, ten days ago, and wonder Why did it take a little existential crisis for the truth to come out?

I guess I am just spiritually immature. At least I know better, now; at least I have a chance to find the right path again. I hope I do so before the memory of what happened fades away. You see, this isn’t the first time I have had this realisation. It has happened before – yes, when I was unwell – and ultimately, nothing changed.

How to find the right path? Well, I certainly need to go back to yesterday’s post: prayer.

As I write these words

we are just two weeks away from polling day in the 2019 General Election. Will Boris Johnson win an outright majority for the Conservative Party or will Jeremy Corbyn win the day for Labour? Or will voters be split down the middle once more and return a hung Parliament?

For me, the election campaign has been an interesting but anxious time. It’s been interesting in the way that election campaigns always are. But it has, and is, anxiety-inducing because of the fact that Jeremy Corbyn belongs to the far-left of the Labour Party, and the thought of that faction holding the keys to Downing Street is, to me, a detestable one. This has been compounded by Corbyn’s failure to deal with the issue of anti-semitism within the Labour Party.

Right now, the polls are suggesting that the Conservatives will not only win the election but will do so with an outright majority. I would say good except that I am a very ‘wet’ Tory who does not believe that Boris Johnson is fit to be Prime Minister. He is lucky to have Corbyn as his opponent, otherwise I would be tempted to sit this election out.

What to do about it all? Practically speaking, one can only cast one’s vote and hope for the best. In my case, I can only do the latter: Jeremy Corbyn is my MP and has such a huge majority that my vote will not count a jot.

As a Christian, though, I can – and must – do something else:pray: pray for Boris Johnson, pray for Jeremy Corbyn, pray for all politicians. And pray hard. For the forgiveness of their sins (as well as mine, of course). For their wisdom. Especially their wisdom.

I wish there was a theology of election campaigns, spiritual guidance for how to not only survive election campaigns but turn one’s response to them to good. I imagine, though, the guidance would boil down to one thing: prayer.

I wish we had a theology of election results as well. Whoever becomes the next Prime Minister, be it Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn (whether in a Labour majority or minority government) we will have a leader who has his plus points but also negatives – some of them profoundly bad. For the next four or five years, he will be on our TV screens and computer monitors daily. He will need prayers. Lot’s of.

And so will I. Politics is a very turbulent business and it sometimes feels like social media puts us, the voters, into the eye of the storm. Where we stand, all may be calm, but we see the savage conditions around us and can only be adversely affected by them. The answer, of course, is if gets like that, then quit. But there is so much that is good about social media that it can make quitting a hard thing to do. And why should I quit when it is other people causing the problem? Sometimes, though, hard decisions simply have to be taken. In the meantime:-

This is my Theology of Election Campaigns and Results

  • Prayer for Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn
  • ~ for the forgiveness of their sins and wisdom; I dislike Corbyn most so an especial amount of prayer for him
  • Prayer for myself
    ~ for the forgiveness of my sins and the grace to endure
  • Prayer for the new government
    ~ for its wisdom
  • An active determination to get angry at those in politics whom I do not like
  • Prayer before the exposed Blessed Sacrament wherever possible
  • Prayer at Mass
  • In all social media interactions, be positive; don’t hate. Remember: those I dislike are humans, too; they deserve the dignity of the children of God. That’s a bare minimum

A Costly Ambiguity

So, a couple of days ago, someone stole the ‘Mother Earth’ statues used in the opening ceremony of the Pan-Amazon Synod at the Vatican and threw them into the Tiber River.

If nothing else, whoever did this has a good sense of the historical.

But were their actions right?

If the statues were actual idols then I’m only sorry that the thieves didn’t burn them first before scattering the ashes across the Tiber.

However, if the statues were representations of Our Lady then what happened was an act of desecration.

If they represented a thing or an idea, such as life, fertility or motherhood, etc, then they should have been let be. Having them in a church wasn’t ideal but they are not idols and, to be honest, we accept the presence of worse things in our churches.

So many ifs, and that’s the problem. All this could have been avoided if those behind the Pan-Amazon Synod had explained clearly what exactly the statues were meant to represent. They didn’t, and so naturally some people applied the worst possible meaning to them.

Responsibility for the statues’ destruction lies with the thieves, but they were helped along the way by the either deliberate or accidental (in)actions of others.

  • For footage of the statues’ theft, see the Catholic Herald website here

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

The Good
On Sunday, 13th October Pope Francis canonised John Henry Newman. Newman and I go way back. In the summer of 1996 I became interested in the Catholic Church. Don’t ask why – apart from the prompting of the Holy Spirit, I don’t know. That October, I returned to university and started attending the Catholic Society. By January 1997, I knew that God was calling me to His Church. So, I approached the Catholic chaplain and asked to receive instruction. He handed me over to a lady who immediately asked if I had heard of Newman. I hadn’t. She recommended I read his autobiography – Apologia Pro Vita Sua; I did and loved him ever after. Around the turn of the century, when I was – predictably for a still fairly new Catholic – exploring my vocation, I made a few visits to the Birmingham Oratory. There, I saw Newman’s unchanged study and some of his papers, which were then stored only in boxes.

As the years passed, I drifted away from Newman but we met again in 2010 when Pope Benedict XVI beatified him in Birmingham. Guess what happened after 2010; yes, I drifted away from him again, only to be pulled back when word of his second miracle reached me. What pulled me back? God’s golden thread made manifest in the love he has given me for Newman’s writings and example of holiness. It was such a joy seeing Newman being declared a saint, I can only hope that I never drift away from him again.

The Bad
The Vatican wouldn’t be the Vatican without a scandal of some sort attaching itself to the Holy See. Over the past few years the clerical sex abuse scandal has dominated but today I read about another, older, scandal rearing its head again – that involving money. The Times reports that the Vatican is losing money hand over fist due to bad management.

What is to be done? Who knows. Who only knows. It’s the Vatican so I feel like saying ‘Nothing’. Isn’t that sad? It’s more than sad, it’s awful. If anyone in authority thinks like that, it means the bad guys have won; it means the Bad Guy himself, Satan, has won. We can’t have that. We know he has already lost the war; we – or rather, the people who have power in the Church – need to do everything they can to make sure he loses the battles, or at least as many of them as possible, as well. But how? If Pope Benedict couldn’t do it; if Pope Francis can’t do it, who can?

The Ugly
The Vatican is currently hosting a ‘Synod of Bishops for the pan-Amazonian region’ in South America. It’s purpose is ‘to identify new paths for the evangelization of God’s people in that region’ (These two quotations are from the Synod’s Wikipedia entry here).

The Synod started with a ceremony which included some of the delegates from the pan-Amazon region bowing down, paying homage, to wooden statue of a pregnant woman, apparently a symbol of Mother Earth. So far so veering towards paganism. It wasn’t, though, the first controversial moment of the event. Before it started, traditionalist cardinals, such as Raymond Burke, were warning that the working document promoted apostasy (see the Wikipedia link).

I have been reading about the Synod from a fair distance and I believe the Synod Fathers and delegates have been discussing the possibility of having married priests in the region, and perhaps even female deacons.

The possibility of married priests doesn’t alarm me in the slightest; that Catholic priests should be celibate is a Church discipline, not a doctrine derived from Our Lord. My only question would be how such families would be paid for (and could a divorced man continue to be a priest?). I wouldn’t even be averse to female deacons if it could be proved that they were permitted by the Early Church. Here, I would be concerned that progressives would take the matter too far and, having ‘won’ the argument on a female deaconate, try to bring about female priests, for which Scripture and Tradition provide no justification.

What is ugly about all this? Everything and nothing. If the Church gets it wrong at this Synod, goodness knows what damage she will cause for herself in the future. If she gets it right, all will be well. Either way, I, and we Catholics in general, need to get praying: Anything to stop this kind of thing:

The kairos, the culture of encounter, being lauded in the Pan-Amazon Synod is a Bergoglian kairos and culture. The church “called to be ever more synodal,” to be “made flesh” and “incarnated” in existing cultures, is a Bergoglian church. And this church, not to put too fine a point on it, is not the Catholic Church. It is a false church. It is a self-divinizing church.

First Things

If we don’t believe in a Catholic Church that is protected by the Holy Spirit from ultimate destruction then we are simply not Catholics and it is not the ‘Bergoglian church’ that has the problem. I’m being a bit annoyed here; my point is that of course a pope can slip into heresy but he would not be able to take the Church with him. The gates of hell…, remember. The above writer seems to have forgotten this and it both annoys and grieves me.