Tuesday, 27 September 2016

School of the Annunciation: Foundations in Faith for the New Evangelisation

I have just received this news from the excellent School of the Annunciation, with a request that I publicise it:

Exciting new developments from the School of the Annunciation – the Foundations in Faith for the New Evangelisation (FFNE) course which began in June in Nelson Parish, Salford Diocese has three centres beginning this autumn and winter.

The FFNE course is an 18 month course which takes students systematically through the foundations of Church teaching.  Subjects include the triune God, Jesus Christ, the Church, Our Lady and the saints, introduction to Sacred Scripture, the Liturgy and the Sacraments, the dignity of the human being, Christian moral life, Sacred Art, media and the parish.

The course is for all Catholics who wish to know their faith better, especially those who pass it on to others, such as catechists, parents, grandparents, children’s liturgy leaders, youth workers, parish staff and volunteers, and anyone who has ever fumbled when they have been asked a question about the faith which they have struggled to answer.  As students study the course material they learn how to express it both for themselves and for others.  There are also practical workshops included in the study days and weekends.

After attendance at either the residential weekend at Buckfast or the study days at Ealing and Southwark, students work on their own with constant support by email from their course tutor. 

No prior learning is necessary, no essays or exams to be taken.  Students work at their own level through the course material and send in short 500 word assignments to their tutor every 7-10 days.

The forthcoming centres are:

Buckfast Abbey on 28th October with a residential weekend in the lovely and relaxing setting of the Abbey enjoying excellent accommodation and food, as well as excellent lectures and liturgy of course.

Ealing Abbey on 12th November (the course is run over 2 years at this centre)

Southwark Diocese on 7th January in Tooting Bec (under the title “Diocesan Catechetical Certificate”)

Both the Ealing and the Tooting Bec centres structure the course around 6 days of attendance.

Please forward these details to all your Catholic contacts and encourage them to get in touch with Mrs Carol Ann Harnett if they have any questions. 

Mrs Carol Ann Harnett

School of the Annunciation
Telephone Number (01364) 645660.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

The Seven Dolours of the BVM

Today is the feast of the Seven Dolours of the  Blessed Virgin Mary.  It is one of the few occasions that the Mass includes a Sequence: the Stabat Mater. The other Sequences in the Liber Usualis are the Dies Irae, the Lauda Sion, the Veni Sancte Spiritus, and the Victimae Paschali - distinguished company by any standard! Perhaps that is a mark of the importance our forefathers attached to this feast.

Here is the Sequence:

If you are unfamiliar with the Latin text, you may know the English: At the Cross her station keeping, which is often sung at the Stations of the Cross.  I include both below (the translation is by Caswell; the original may well have been written by Jacopo da Todi in the thirteenth century.)

Today's gospel is the one about Our Lady standing at the foot of the Cross - and, in that moment when her heart is being pierced as foretold by Simeon, being given to us as our Mother.

Stabat mater dolorósa
juxta Crucem lacrimósa,
dum pendébat Fílius.

Cuius ánimam geméntem,
contristátam et doléntem
pertransívit gládius.

O quam tristis et afflícta
fuit illa benedícta,
mater Unigéniti!

Quae mœrébat et dolébat,
pia Mater, dum vidébat
nati pœnas ínclyti.

Quis est homo qui non fleret,
matrem Christi si vidéret
in tanto supplício?

Quis non posset contristári
Christi Matrem contemplári
doléntem cum Fílio?

Pro peccátis suæ gentis
vidit Iésum in torméntis,
et flagéllis súbditum.

Vidit suum dulcem Natum
moriéndo desolátum,
dum emísit spíritum.

Eia, Mater, fons amóris
me sentíre vim dolóris
fac, ut tecum lúgeam.

Fac, ut árdeat cor meum
in amándo Christum Deum
ut sibi compláceam.

Sancta Mater, istud agas,
crucifíxi fige plagas
cordi meo válide.

Tui Nati vulneráti,
tam dignáti pro me pati,
pœnas mecum dívide.

Fac me tecum pie flere,
crucifíxo condolére,
donec ego víxero.

Juxta Crucem tecum stare,
et me tibi sociáre
in planctu desídero.

Virgo vírginum præclára,
mihi iam non sis amára,
fac me tecum plángere.

Fac, ut portem Christi mortem,
passiónis fac consórtem,
et plagas recólere.

Fac me plagis vulnerári,
fac me Cruce inebriári,
et cruóre Fílii.

Flammis ne urar succénsus,
per te, Virgo, sim defénsus
in die iudícii.

Christe, cum sit hinc exíre,
da per Matrem me veníre
ad palmam victóriæ.

Quando corpus moriétur,
fac, ut ánimæ donétur
paradísi glória.


At the Cross her station keeping,
stood the mournful Mother weeping,
close to her Son to the last.

Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
all His bitter anguish bearing,
now at length the sword has passed.

O how sad and sore distressed
was that Mother, highly blest,
of the sole-begotten One.

Christ above in torment hangs,
she beneath beholds the pangs
of her dying glorious Son.

Is there one who would not weep,
whelmed in miseries so deep,
Christ's dear Mother to behold?

Can the human heart refrain
from partaking in her pain,
in that Mother's pain untold?

For the sins of His own nation,
She saw Jesus wracked with torment,
All with scourges rent:

She beheld her tender Child,
Saw Him hang in desolation,
Till His spirit forth He sent.

O thou Mother! fount of love!
Touch my spirit from above,
make my heart with thine accord:

Make me feel as thou hast felt;
make my soul to glow and melt
with the love of Christ my Lord.

Holy Mother! pierce me through,
in my heart each wound renew
of my Savior crucified:

Let me share with thee His pain,
who for all my sins was slain,
who for me in torments died.

Let me mingle tears with thee,
mourning Him who mourned for me,
all the days that I may live:

By the Cross with thee to stay,
there with thee to weep and pray,
is all I ask of thee to give.

Virgin of all virgins blest!,
Listen to my fond request:
let me share thy grief divine;

Let me, to my latest breath,
in my body bear the death
of that dying Son of thine.

Wounded with His every wound,
steep my soul till it hath swooned,
in His very Blood away;

Be to me, O Virgin, nigh,
lest in flames I burn and die,
in His awful Judgment Day.

Christ, when Thou shalt call me hence,
be Thy Mother my defense,
be Thy Cross my victory;

While my body here decays,
may my soul Thy goodness praise,
Safe in Paradise with Thee.

In these troubled times, we should have incessant recourse to our Blessed Mother...--

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Having a dig...

Acting on orders received in 2007, and again in 2008, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16, I have used the first two days of my holiday to start to remove the site of our bonfire, and prepare it for grassing over. 

As Dominique has just got back from a week in Cambridge, on an Archaeology summer school, I was paying particular attention to what I found as I dug out the fire pit.

It was my first pit (hereafter Pit 1), and I have to say, I was astonished at the richness it yielded.  The most exciting find, to my mind, is this amazing selection of fossilised calamari, thus demonstrating that the people of Cumbria were trading with Venice far earlier than was heretofore thought. I pictured them with a garden fork for scale, as I do not own a geological hammer. (Mrs T, incidentally, facetiously remarked that she thought they were curtain rings. Charlie's theory, that they were gold bangles from the arm of the Young Woman [Tutankhamun's mother] was not supported by the fact that they are not gold. So the calamari hypothesis remains).

But that was by no means my only find in Pit 1. Perhaps it is not surprising, given that we are relatively near Hadrian's Wall, and very near the old Roman Road, High Street, that we should have found these carefully shaped bricks, clearly designed for crenelations, or battlements, along the Wall. What is more surprising is finding so many together, and in such good condition.

Pit 1 also yielded this intriguing object; my conjecture is that it is a Roman toy catapult. It was found by the battlements, and is remarkably like a modern catapult, but is clearly of great antiquity. I will be sending this to the experts at Vindolanda for further analysis.

And then there was this, which I can only take to be an early barber's shaving blade. I imagine it had an ivory handle, or decorative knob on the end, as the handle end is a hollow tube. Clearly it is very old, as more sophisticated tooling has allowed much less coarse blades to be manufactured for such intimate and intricate work.

Another extraordinary find was this scimitar. I can only assume that this was brought home as a souvenir from the crusades by a previous occupant of the house; and was, perhaps, banished to the flames of a fire following some domestic dispute (?). It has survived well, and I am carefully cleaning the rust, in the hope of finding some inscription on the blade.

I had decided to keep the location of Pit 1 secret, and had indeed installed a guard dog, for obvious reasons. Pit 1 having yielded such treasures, it might have proved tempting to the less scrupulous of my archaeological followers.

However, following further discussions with the landowner ("Don't you leave that like a big mess in the garden; I want it turfed over, not left half-finished like so many of your projects...") Pit 1 has now been filled and is not available for further excavation. I will have to ensure that Mrs T does not disappear in the near future, as I understand the police take a dim view of freshly dug pits in such circumstances. 

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Living in a Parable

Reflecting on today's Gospel ('they look but do not see' etc) I was struck by the fact that my life, too, is like a parable. I cannot understand it, unless I listen to Our Lord's explanation. And when I do, 'blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears, because they hear.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

My Lord and My God!

In the end, however, these words send us on a never-ending journey. They are so vast that we can never grasp them completely., and they always surpass us. Throughout her entire history, the pilgrim Church has been exploring them ever more deeply. Only by touching Jesus' wounds and encountering his Resurrection are we able to grasp them, and then they become our mission.

Jesus of Nazareth,  Joseph Ratzinger, p 305


How do I touch his wounds? In others, the wounded; in myself, the wounded...

How do I encounter his Resurrection? In death to self, in re-birth in Him; In sacramental confession.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Loving them to death?...

In an article in The Federalist, it is argued that the very high rate of suicide amongst those who self-identify as transgender is not due to discrimination, bigotry and hatred, as the accepted wisdom has it. Daniel Payne, the writer of the article, points to the fact that the suicide rate amongst black people in America, who suffer higher levels of discrimination, bigotry and hatred than white people, remains lower than the suicide rate for white people.

That resonates with the fact that suicide rates for homosexual people remains stubbornly high in the most liberal societies that are most celebratory of homosexuality. So Payne searches for another explanation, and his hypothesis is that it is because 'transgenderism is a deleterious psychological affliction,' and therefore 'it is wholly unsurprising to find higher rates of suicide among that class of people,' since 'Mental illness ... is very clearly a motivating factor in a great many suicides: the rate of successful suicide is extremely correlative with conditions of mental illness.'

That sounds convincing, and may be the case; but there are other possibilities. One that springs to mind is the phenomenon of peer-group suicide contagion. There seems to be significant evidence (see, for example, here) that those exposed to suicide by others, particularly those who they see as 'like them' are more likely to attempt suicide than those not exposed. So the understandable tendency of those with sexual dysphoria to associate with others who also experience it could also explain some of the high rates of suicide. 

Clearly, what would be valuable is serious research into this area: many lives are being lost. But the likelihood of serious research seems to me to be low. The issue has been so politicised, and not least in academia, that it is nearly impossible to see how, or by whom, such research could be undertaken. Underlying that is the fact that those who study and research gender issues at universities are particularly interested in the topic for a reason - typically their own gender dysphoria.  That is why the whole push from the academy has been to push for theories that normalise and legitimise behaviour and lifestyles that until very recently were widely seen as deviant and perverse.

It is now seen as 'unloving' or more typically, 'hate-crime' even to raise such questions. Rather the 'enlightened' approach is to accept people as they are. But if such acceptance actually results in research not being undertaken that might save lives of people in extreme distress, are we not loving them to death?...

Friday, 1 July 2016

A Better Way

In my last post, I highlighted the evils of the BPAS's pushing of abortion. Today, I am delighted to highlight the alternatives.

Life has just launched its new website, following its successful re-launch event, Ignite, last weekend. The site is modern and user-friendly. More importantly, it offers a range of responses to the evil of abortion.

Life is now organised into two main divisions: Pregnancy Matters and Life Matters. Pregnancy Matters offers support of many types,  for women in many different situations. This ranges from pregnancy information and advice, through counselling for women who are pregnant unexpectedly, support for pregnant women who are homeless, post-abortion support, and so on.  Life Matters is the home of the educational and campaigning work: school and university talks, research, campaigns and media work.

On top of all that, there is Life FertilityCare, offering alternatives to IVF, and the Zoë's Place network of hospices, offering respite, palliative and end-of-life care to babies and children.

So go over to Life's new website, and familiarise yourself with their new approach and the wide range of work they do in support of women and children - you never know when you may need to tell someone about it.

And then consider what you are doing for the unborn - and what more you should be doing.