Thursday, 30 December 2010

You could not make it up!

The star,the cave,the angels,the shepherds, the magi. The sinless virgin and her great protector,the new born baby laid in the manger.The beginning of the greatest story ever told.
                           How wonderful that He was not born in a palace and with the promise of great wealth.How wonderful that He only had his mother to tend Him,and not a host of nursemaids.How wonderful the lowly woven cloth that covered Him,the humble donkey that carried  Him.
This is our King then ,who lays in the company of the beasts of the field,whose fodder is His pillow,whose pungent breath warms Him, whose presence comforts Him.Our King ,born out of the love of the Father,His beloved son ,born in poverty and in an occupied country.
                        Who can fathom the mind of God? Who can understand His ways?Who can deny His greatness when thinking of the birth of Christ! For only God Himself  could bring about our redemption in this way,only God Himself could love us enough to give us Christmas,only God Himself could give us the little Christ child to carry  in our hearts,only God Himself.
                         And you could not make the Holy story up.  

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Our Lady, Queen of Heaven.

As a child, I never knew Our Lady.
                   I knew of her in the stable at Bethlehem with the little baby and Joseph,but that I think, was all.My only exposure to her was at evensong in the parish church(low Church of England)and the singing of the Magnificat.I did not know it was Our Lady's song,her great response to the Almighty,but I loved the words,especially if I remember correctly "For he that is mighty hath done great things unto me,and holy is his name".I wondered often about the one whose name was holy......
                  My childhood was christian orientated.The school I attended was an ordinary state school,but very christian in ethos and practices.Morning assembly with hymns and prayers,grace before lunch and friday afternoon bible stories.It was there at school, that I came to know the Parables and learned to love the historical Jesus.I learnt about the disciples ,I learnt about Zacheus who climbed the tree ,blind Bartimaeus ,and the poor lepers,but never a word about Our Lady.Understandable of course,the protestant view of her being only, that she was blessed among women as the mother of Christ,and that is all.
                  So then ,she never figured in my world. She meant as much to me as maybe,the shepherds
abiding in the fields,or the three wise men with their gifts.....................Our great Lady unknown to me and unapproached. Strange then, that when I saw the rosary in the shop window, the year that I was thirteen, I wanted it.I hardly knew what it was,only that it was somehow holy,mainly because of the crucifix on the end . I wore it around my neck sometimes,or I carried it in my pocket.It accompanied me to school,and later on to work.I never prayed it.I did not know how to.Years later someone told me that holding the rosary is like reaching out for Our Lady's hand.Reaching out and clasping it.I like to think that that is so.
                I suppose then, that that was the beginning of Our Lady's goodness to me.I know also,that the slightest glance towards her,be it a candle lit in her honour,or a hasty, whispered prayer, brings forth from her the sweetest of  blessings on me her undeserving child.
              The great Mother of God,Mary most Holy, stands at the stable door,beckoning us in.She invites us to look upon her little child ,the Saviour long promised,Emmanuel,lying in the straw wrapped in swaddling clothes.Our God,our King,born of her,her son.
               Beata Mater et intacta Virgo,gloriosa Regina mundi,
               intercede pro nobis ad Dominum.

Friday, 26 November 2010

The Number 37 Bus.

I had to catch the number 37 bus today.
                         I do not usually travel on buses ,but as there is a rather ominous squeak underneath my car, and an appointment with the dentist which could not be missed ,I thought I would throw caution to the wind, and try public transport.
I soon realised that the 37,has a community all of its own.Along the way, each oncoming passenger was greeted by those already on .A seat prepared for old  Harry recovering from a dislocated shoulder,who recounted mournfully the hours he spent awaiting the paramedics ,and the consequent two days in hospital.The young mother,baby strapped to her in some papoose like contraption ,the blind woman with the guide dog,docile and faithful at her feet.The woman in the seat behind me, preparing for a visit from her daughter who lives in New Zealand ,and who has first hand knowledge of the awful explosions at the mine,and its tragic outcome.
                        Obviously they all use the 37 frequently.Maybe daily,and the thought struck me that I, the silent one, had shared, however briefly,in their lives in that one moment in time.That also, I was unlikely ever to do so again.I realised too, that each one, before they were born, was an idea in God's mind,that the great Creator had his own special name for them, and in some ways because of that ,we shared a common bond.I wondered about their beliefs.I wondered about their faith,or maybe their lack of it.Did they ever ponder,as I do often ,about the purpose of their lives?Do they ever worry about not becoming the person God wants, the  person he had planned?.Was there someone on that bus wounded by life,whose heart aches with loneliness and the pain of loss.Or was there perhaps,a living, breathing, saint,whose humble goodness is known only to the one who made them.                    
                       I will never know of course.There is nothing I can do to help Harry and his shoulder,no aid I can offer  to the blind lady,nor can I watch over the mother and her baby.
                       But I can remember them at the end of my day.I guess I can ask the good Lord to bless them ,He will see them in my heart,no names needed.....
God bless all then on the 37 bus.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

It is Just Not Catholic!

I live in a Diocese that was described some thirty or forty years ago as "The Showcase of Vatican 2".
A diocese described recently by one famous blogger as part of the liberal,protestant south.
That description is not unmerited.Liberal it most certainly is, sin has disappeared and with it the need for confession.The idea is, that you only need to confess if there is something worrying you,that any catholic can receive communion whatever the state of their soul.Those not in a state of grace will just  not get "Full Benefit" from it !Confession is, in many cases ,a little chat with a priest ,and frequency
 is not encouraged.The concept of sacrifice has been removed from the Mass.It now seems to be a celebration of community,a neighbourly coming together,a chance to catch up with the latest gossip a chance to "Participate".It has in some way been sanitized,as if the crucifixion is too horrible for us simple people to contemplate, and that it is far, far better to concentrate on the glories of the risen Christ.
Hence on Good Friday, a plain wooden cross processed,and not a crucifix,a veneration of the infamous tree, and not the bleeding figure of redemption.
Where, oh where, have the old devotions gone?Whereto the rosary,the 40hrs,the holy hour,Benediction,processions,the crowning of Our Lady? In place of Hail Mary we have the parish "Mission" statement,and parish renewal days with a pentecostal mime artist.Well it is just not catholic is it!
So how does an orthodox catholic survive?The answer is just one word,and that word is hope.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Walking to Heaven Backwards.

Of course, I never intended to come home.It was, I suppose, the last thing on my mind.I never needed to come home,because in my own view I had never really left.....I just did not go to Mass.Not for thirty plus years!What made me come home? I think that story is for another time.Enough then  to say that somehow I was thrown a lifebelt, and here I am in a little rowing boat lashed to the barque of St Peter.
                I knew that the church had changed.Indeed I had watched with some bewilderment the re-ordering of our churches after Vatican2.In the space of what seemed like a very few weeks, the thing that first drew me to Catholicism,the Latin Mass,was replaced by the Novus Ordo.The Gregorian chant no more,instead,a hesitant congregation manfully trying to sing a woefully inadequate version of the Gloria and the Sanctus in their native tongue.I had only been a catholic for about two years!
              It was The Mass then that first attracted me.It was, no doubt, the bells and smells that catechized me.It was the reverence,the holiness, the piety,of those around me.I had no idea of the concept of sacrifice.Coming from a protestant background ,that idea was alien to my mind,Holy Communion was purely symbolic nothing more.When I grasped the meaning of the Mass,when I understood the Real Presence I wondered how I dared to lift my eyes to the Altar ,how I dared to merely kneel at the consecration,should I not prostrate myself before Him whose sacrifice was being perpetuated before me?
              It was not hard for me to believe it.In some ways I sort of recognised it.I very quickly learned the Latin.Low Mass was I believe ,called Dialogue Mass, a sure way of learning and understanding the ancient language of the church ,and I loved every word.
I coped with the changes.I coped with them for ten or eleven years.I coped with them but did not understand.I think looking back,this new direction that the church took after Vatican 2 contributed to my subsequent desertion.........I saw no need for change. I resented the removal of the altar rails,the redundancy of the high Altars ,the opening up of the Sanctary.All that I deemed to be holy crumbled before me.Communion in the hand was another blow to me.Had I not been taught a few short years before,that only the consecrated hands of a priest should touch the Body of Christ.!What kept me faithful was the knowledge that in spite of everything,the Mass, was the Mass ,was the Mass.That faith was a gift, a precious gift,that externals should not matter,and that nothing could ever shake my belief in the truth of catholicism.
That last conviction remained with me during the following years.The years without Mass and the sacraments.I never did not believe.I always believed in the truth of it all.I just did not practise........
         There are no excuses for my failure,apart from the one mentioned above.I know that sometimes it takes time for converts to start "thinking catholic".But for me, from the moment I experienced Mass  in a Catholic church I assumed that catholic identity,that distinct way of thinking,and of looking at the world.
Very strange,but very true.
So then ,I understand the words of Blessed Cardinal Newman.
"We advance to the truth by experience of error;we suceed through failures.We know not how to do right except by having done wrong...We know what is right,not positively,but negatively................
Such is the process by which we suceed;we walk to heaven backward."

Thank you KKOLLWITZ,for your comment on my previous try-out post.
I hope you are not disappointed.