A Marvel

Corona Chronicles VIII

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Last weekend was all about me trying to get on with things in the face of low level anxiety about the coronavirus. There was a moment on Saturday when I lay down on my bed because that was all I could do but I soon got up again and, while the day perhaps wasn’t the most productive one ever, I still got a few things done – Duolingo, physio exercise and one or two other bits and pieces.

Sunday was a much better day in terms of activity. I gave myself a day off physio and exercising (I had gone light on Saturday because my leg was aching a bit) but managed to keep myself busy all day. I watched the live-stream of Mass from my parish church at 8am, wrote two posts for my Alexander the Great blog (this and this one), met my Duolingo target, and did a big load of washing up in the late afternoon. The Alexander blog posts were my big achievement. They take time and patience to write. Because of this, I usually only write one on any given day. On Sunday, however, I was inspired to write both Saturday’s and Sunday’s.

Monday went well. I still felt anxious but I managed make good use of the hours. In the late afternoon, I left a message for my friend C. (she is the saintly person I mentioned in last Thursday’s post. Because she is busy, I try to leave a voice mail message for her every weekend to let her know how the family and I are getting on). She called back and we talked and prayed together. We talked about how I am feeling and she gave me a Novena to say. It’s this one.

Today has been the best day I have had for the last week or so. I haven’t felt anxious at all. For once I have felt physically okay. Who knows how tomorrow will go but right now, I am grateful.

Saturday: I finished watching Hook. I rate it 7.8/10. Robin Williams plays Peter Banning who cares more for his work than he does his family. When Captain Hook kidnaps his children, Peter meets Tinkerbell who tells him that he is Peter Pan. She takes him back to Neverland where she and the Lost Boys successfully make him remember who he used to be. Pan defeats Hook in the showdown and wins the day. I might have rated Hook 8. but I would have preferred it to be set in its original time (Edwardian) time period. I love period dramas. With that said, there is nothing objectionable about its modernisation so don’t take this ‘criticism’ too seriously. Any film with Robin Williams in it is always going to be worth watching.

Saturday/Monday: After finishing Hook, I moved onto Captain Marvel. I did a bit of extra exercise yesterday and so finished the film in two days. I rate it 8/10. I really enjoyed this film. The story was okay to good. Brie Larson plays Vers, a woman from the planet Kree, who comes to earth to stop the Kree’s mortal enemy, the Skrull, from stealing an advanced piece of technology here. Nothing is as it seems, however (SPOILERS AHOY); Vers turns out to be a human woman named Carol Danvers, and it is the Kree who are the enemy not the Skrull. The plot twists were well done but what really made the film for me were the characters. It was great seeing a younger Agent Coulson and Nick Fury as (the film is set in the mid 90s). Most of all, though, I really like how they wrote Carol Danvers. She is very cool, determined and measured. No screaming, no deferring to the male characters (there’s a neat scene where she is talking to an old friend and sends Fury out of the room with the child, a complete reversal of goodness knows how many films when the woman is sent out), no nonsense. I hope Captain Marvel made enough to ensure a direct sequel. I finished the film today just before finishing my exercise so I haven’t decided what film to watch next.

Abroad
Shopping went well on Friday afternoon. The Sainsbury’s that I go to now only admits people a few at a time so we had to queue up but not for so very long. Most people seemed to be respecting the two metre rule. Soon, I was inside and running around so that I could get my shopping done as quickly as possible so that those after me didn’t have to wait to long. On Saturday, I went to the chemist for my parents’ prescriptions. Another queue but this time only two or three people. After the chemist, I popped over to my favourite corner shop, but forgot to buy the one thing I actually went there for. So, as soon as the live stream of mass finished on Sunday, I dashed over again to pick it up.

A.O.B.
I watched Pope Francis’ extraordinary Urbi et Orbi address on Friday afternoon. I didn’t mention it in my last post so I must have finished writing it before he started. The address took place in an empty St. Peter’s Square. Watching this small figure in white advance slowly, with a pronounced limp due to Sciatica, up the long ramp to the lectern amidst the vast expanse of grey stone and under the rain was very striking. This image, of the Pope lifting the Blessed Sacrament up, was also very powerful.

I downloaded this photo yesterday, I think from the Opus Dei website, here. Apologies if it came from somewhere else.

I watched a video today in which our own Cardinal Nichols confirmed that due to the lockdown the obligation of Catholics to go to Mass/Confession at Easter is removed. As you saw in my last post, I have my arguments with (members of) the Catholic Church sometimes, but I really do miss going to Mass, and confession.

I read a little over the weekend but I need to read more. There is also something else I am not doing: being creative. The problem is I am busy all day so that by the time I get to evening, I just want to relax. I need to try harder.

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.

We Have A Saint!

When I told the university chaplain that I was interested in becoming a Catholic, he introduced me to a saintly lady whose first action was to suggest that I read something by John Henry Newman – we settled upon his autobiography, his Apologia Pro Vita Sua.

This was in 1996. Back then, Newman was a ‘mere’ Venerable. In 2910 Pope Benedict XVII beatified him during a visit to England. In February this year, Pope Francis authorised Newman’s canonisation. Today, the Vatican announced that it would be carried out on 13th October this year.

I am extremely happy at Newman’s elevation to the ranks of the Saints. However, while on the bus home this evening, I asked myself – what exactly does Saint John Henry Newman bring to the table?

It’s easy to see what he brings for priests – Newman was utterly committed to his priestly ministry.

It’s easy to see what he brings for theologians and scholars – Newman was expert in both disciplines.

What about for lay people, though; people like me? If I am academically minded this question is easily answered. But otherwise…? What is the JHN Factor that makes him a Saint worth paying attention to?

I have to admit, I don’t yet have an answer for that; at least, not a specifically Newmanian one. I suppose we could point to his virtues – patience, perseverance, etc, but as I write this nothing that speaks to me specifically of Newman comes to mind. I look forward to thinking more about Newman’s life and seeing what answers I can come up with.