Thursday, 23 August 2012

Ark of the Covenant.

The portrait above has hung upon my wall for forty years or more.
                          There has been laughter,and tears, beneath it.Every Christmas it is placed above the fireplace,and decorated with evergreen branches, two  candles on either side, alight  on Christmas Eve.It is part of the very fabric of my home,a constant reminder of the cause of our joy.
Many, are the paintings of Our Lady and the Holy Child,and there are many that I love.But it the "Jewishness" of Our lady in this picture that appeals to me.The gravity,and composure in her face,the little child in her left arm,close to her heart.
I have often wondered which part of the Gospel this portrait depicts.After the presentation in the temple maybe,when she has listened to the words of Simeon,or resting briefly on the flight into Eygpt.Perhaps after the visit of the Magi.
                   There is sorrow, as well as overwhelming love in her gaze.She seems to be aware of the shadow of the cross.Aware also, of the sword that will pierce her heart.
                   I do not know the artist,as I cannot read the signature on the print,and I have never seen it in any other place.No doubt it is a well known portrait in some corner of the world,it may not even be a painting of Our Lady and the Holy child,but......I treat it as such!
                   Mystical Rose
                   Tower of Ivory
                   Cause of our Joy
                   Ora Pro Nobis.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Do Not Mess With The Mass.

For a really good explanation of the Mass please go here:.
  And can any one explain to me what a "Praise and Worship Mass " is?                                                                                                                                   

Friday, 17 August 2012

The Legion Of Mary.

"Faith must strain after all men with inextinguishable ardour.Sometimes that essential note is missing.People are not sought after,neither in the fold nor those outside it.But if the Ascension commandment(Go preach the Gospel to every Creature) be disregarded,it will be at a price.....the price of loss of grace,of diminution and decay even to the extinction of faith.Look round and see how many places  have already paid that awful price."
(Handbook of The Legion of Mary).
                      As a  young catholic,I understood that the great mission of the church was evangelization. That it was our duty if not our joy,  to spread the words of our salvation to those around us and beyond.Most converts are fired up by zeal to begin with.  I was no exception and wanted to share the pearl of great price with everyone.In those days The Legion Of Mary existed in most parishes in this area,all having a very healthy mixed membership and all as the name suggests, dedicated to Our Lady under a particular title.My local praesidium  or unit (the Legion is organized on the model of the Roman army)was called "Our Lady of Grace",and I joined it a few months after my baptism.
                  The work undertaken was as the Parish priest prescribed.He attended every meeting ,led the Rosary and gave the allocutio or homily.One of the first assignments given to me and my fellow Legionary was to visit the local bowling alley.There the young gathered,their own meeting place.It was easy to strike up conversations there.They were my generation,and I was not afraid to ask them their thoughts on life and death.Frank Duff, the founder of the Legion, once said that if a man stops you in the street, and asks you for a light for his cigarette,within a few minutes he will be asking you for God.I think that that is true whatever veil covers the request.
               Census work was undertaken,census of the whole parish.We knocked on every door,every mansion,every council house,every mobile home.Any dwelling where a lapsed catholic might be found(.It seems to me these days, that there are many lapsed Catholics waiting to be found....that no one searches for the lost).Hospitals and nursing homes were visited ,catholics and non catholics conversed with if they were well enough and always, always a prayer said before departure.The most lovely work undertaken was the taking of a statue of Our Lady to catholic families in the parish.The statue would be left with the family for a whole week,on the understanding that every day the rosary was prayed before her ,all the family together if possible.I loved transporting the statue and seeing the place made for her in their homes.A place usually decked out with the flowers of the season for Our Lady's honour.
              Christmas day was not exempt from work for the Legionary.The old and the lonely were visited on that most holy day.Looking back I guess it required some level of commitment to be  a Legionary.The weekly meeting was one and half hours more or less, and the work assigned at least two.Added to which the Legionary prayer had to be prayed daily,and you were required to attend the next level meeting,where all the local Praesidia from Parishes round about, would meet,usually once a month.
            "The object of the Legion is the sanctification of its members by prayer and active co-operation,under ecclesiastical guidance,in Mary's and the Church's work of crushing the head of the serpent,and advancing the reign of Christ".(LegionHandbook).
           I know that the Legion survives still in other parts of the country....I mourn its loss here.It seems that "Lay ministry" has taken the place of the lay apostolate ,that this" ministry" as applied here, has the effect of turning a parish community inward looking,instead of outward,making it exclusive instead of inclusive, of forgetting those outside the church gates who but for them, may never know the loving Christ.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The Angel at the Bus stop.

I felt particulary lonely last Sunday.
Lonely in my life,lonely in my faith,lonely in my spirit.Mass had seemed even more noisy than usual,which seemed to add to the humidity in the air.Before Mass I tried to bury my head in The little Office of Our Lady,which seems to put people off from trying to engage me in any conversation.I know that I must seem unapproachable to the people there.Not least because   I refuse to take the   magazine that is handed to me every month(I have a good reason for that)and refuse to wear a name tag.I am embarrassed by my refusals.I inwardly cringe as I run the gauntlet of the welcomers in the narthex knowing that they perceive me as unfriendly.That morning as I once again refused the magazine,I was told to take it and leave it on the bench if I didnt want to read it.What is the point in that!.
          My solitary life is not by my design.Circumstances have made it so.I guess that it is God's will.If that is so,then my heart and mind says that I must embrace it, and bring forth with His grace, something beautiful from the desert. I make no secret of my traditionalist leanings.......I have been ridiculed because of matters not.It does not stop me loving those who do not agree.All of my life I have lived with people who did not agree.My own family, all non catholics at the time of my first conversion, were either seemingly indifferent to my new found faith,or, as in the case of my Father,rather hostile towards it, to put it mildly.That hostility he felt back then, did not stop him loving me,nor did I stop loving him.It was never a barrier to love,and that is how I feel about my fellow catholics now.The fact that I would wish to cover my head,to kneel to receive Him,to pray using the ancient beautiful language of the church is not a condemnation of them who do none of these things...far far from it,for most of the people at that little church have been more faithful than I.Rather, I think it is a case of honouring God , of recognising my own littleness before Him,of being concious of the holy ground that is The Mass.But these beliefs set me apart from my fellows,there is no traditionalist group in the area that I Sunday Latin Mass whereby I might fulfill the obligation ,no chance to worship in the way that my heart, mind, and conscience tells me.There is great loneliness in that ,and great sorrow.
These thoughts consumed me as I stood at the bus stop after Mass,  my lower self(who is my constant companion)told me that there was no point in going to Mass,where He whom the priest confects is not honoured.My higher self (who visits me now and again)told me that as long as Christ is present upon the altar there is no possibility of not going.My lower self, so persistent,, do not belong there,you are a pre-vatican 2 relic,remember what the priest says....we must move with the times,and so must the church.My higher self does not matter that you are alone in your beliefs,it does not matter if you are rejected or laughed really does not matter.
It is a very remote bus stop.I have never, ever, been joined by anyone else in waiting for the bus.Most people I would guess are still in bed at that time on a sunday morning.The congregation usually stop for coffee after Mass,or jump in their cars and drive off into the distance.To my surprise,this morning was to be different.What appeared to be an elderly lady was crossing the road and walking towards me,intent it seemed on reaching the stop.She showed me her bus pass and asked me if it was valid for that particular route and as I answered her and looked at her face ,I realised that it was quite beautiful.Now I am not a fanciful, person,nor am I prone to holy imaginings,but there was something unearthly in her beauty, some goodness which radiated from her gaze and my loneliness so oppressive ,seemed to vanish as I looked into her eyes.She asked me if I had been to Mass and what were those labels that everyone  wore.I answered that they were name tags worn to show everyone your name..............She was silent, waiting for me to continue,and I couldnt help it but the words fell out of my mouth.It was all about community I said,about being inclusive,you know, not leaving anybody out.....but.......,go on, she said, go on.Sometimes I said, I think that they have forgotten about the great God,that they praise and love themselves before God,that community means more to them than worship,and reverence,and consciousness of holiness.That if it is God's house,then it must be treated as such,not as a social meeting place,but a quiet sanctified  place, where the Creator meets the created, and where the Son is sacrificed for the sinner.
           I expected reproof.Or a polite disagreement.It did not come.Instead it was seven words,Seven words that lifted my spirit ,and which remain with me."I am so glad you said that".With that, the bus arrived.She only travelled for one stop.Hardly worth it I thought.Was it possible that she agreed with me?Am I not so alone in my views,did she understand that I meant that if you love God first and honour Him,the love of your neighbour would follow?
         I have never seen her before.I dont know if I will see her again.As I sit here and remember that encounter,I wonder if she was a figment of my imagination.Conjoured up from my loneliness and dejection.A kind of self-justification.I am not a fanciful person.I do not have holy imaginings.I am sane,sensible,and normal ,no I do not have holy imaginings...................