Thursday 28 August 2014

Humility, Direction, Providence on St. Augustine's Day

For the Catholic, humility is the great step on the road to holiness. No one can be holy without humility, without the death of the ego. One thing shared by many of the Catholic writers on holiness is that humility is found in times of trials, such as the Dark Night.

Saints, from the Evangelists, to St. John Paul II,  have sung the songs of the beauty of humility. Perhaps the most famous treatise on humility is St. Benedict's rule concerning the steps to humility, followed by St. Bernard of Clairvaux's commentary on Benedict's text.

But, in more modern times, we have been given this reminder about humility from one of the earliest sermons of St. John Paul II in his long papacy.

So often today man does not know what is within him, in the depths of his mind and heart. So often he is uncertain about the meaning of his life on this earth. He is assailed by doubt, a doubt which turns into despair. We ask you therefore, we beg you with humility and trust, let Christ speak to man. He alone has words of life, yes, of eternal life.

His words remind me of St. Augustine's great call to know one' self, and that only in self-knowledge can one actually come to know God.

St. John Paul II was lamenting the fact that so few people in the then, 20th Century, did not know themselves, do not know what it means to be human.

Without self-knowledge, one cannot achieve humility. We see so many Catholics wallowing in egotism, unable to really see themselves as they are, not willing to confront sin and the status of creatureliness, which is the truth of our existence.

Only, as St. John Paul II notes, in humility and trust, can we face ourselves, and then, God.  

Self-knowledge is like the rudder in the ship of our soul. Without self-knowledge and humility, there is no control over the direction of our lives. We are literally tossed to and fro. Direction comes from the knowledge of who one is as a human with a soul, which is the form of the body.

Direction is sadly missing in so many lives, as people try this or that identity, rather than knowing themselves as creatures, as children of God.

In order for a Catholic to understand what or Who Providence is, self-knowledge must precede any grasp of how God works in one's life.

One of the reasons why so many Catholics act out their personalities in public, trying this face or that, is that they lack humility, direction, a sense of Providence.

Here is St. Augustine on self-knowledge:
To you, then, Lord, I lie exposed, exactly as I am. I have spoken of what I hope to gain by confessing to you. My confession to you is made not with words of tongue and voice, but with the words of my soul and the clamour of my thought, to which your ear is attuned; for when I am bad, confession to you is simply disgust with myself, but when I am good, confession to you consists in not attributing my goodness to myself, because though you, Lord, bless the person who is just, it is only because you have first made him just when he was sinful. This is why, O Lord, my confession in your presence is silent, yet not altogether silent: there is no noise to it, but it shouts by love.

For it is you, Lord, who judge me. No-one knows what he himself is made of, except his own spirit within him, yet there is still some part of him which remains hidden even from his own spirit; but you, Lord, know everything about a human being because you have made him. And though in your sight I may despise myself and reckon myself dust and ashes, I know something about you which I do not know about myself.

It is true that we now see only a tantalizing reflection in a mirror, and so it is that while I am on pilgrimage far from you I am more present to myself than to you; yet I do know that you cannot be defiled in any way whatever, whereas I do not know which temptations I may have the strength to resist, and to which ones I shall succumb. Our hope is that, because you are trustworthy, you do not allow us to be tempted more fiercely than we can bear, but along with the temptation you ordain the outcome of it, so that we can endure.

Let me, then, confess what I know about myself, and confess too what I do not know, because what I know of myself I know only because you shed light on me, and what I do not know I shall remain ignorant about until my darkness becomes like bright noon before your face.

Tuesday 26 August 2014

Catholic Identity Conference 2014 - Updated Information

Catholic Identity Conference 2014 will take place in Weirton, West Virginia, 12-14 September 2014, beginning with a Solemn High Mass offered by Canon Jean Marie Moreau of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest on Friday, 12 September, Feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary, and concluding with a High Mass on Sunday, 14 September, Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

This year's speakers include:
For additional information and to register, see here.

Knights of Columbus Latin Mass

Monday 25 August 2014

What God Said to Mary and What Mary Said to God: The Magnificat Part 1

You will find, in Catholic links, resources, books, discourses and literature far better explorations and meditations on the Visitation of Our Lady to St Elizabeth, her cousin, than I can give. Because I am restricting myself to what the Blessed Virgin Mary said to God and what God said to Our Lady, in order to show you that she is indeed like no other creature to have lived, I will not be referring to the words of St Elizabeth to the Mother of God greatly in this post. Aside from this, I have noted St Elizabeth's bold acclamation of Mary as "blessed" and the "mother of my Lord" in the previous piece which should prove beyond reasonable doubt that Mary is who the Church says she is.

That Elizabeth sees in Mary the fulfillment of God's promises is clear, as is the miraculous nature of this maiden's encounter with Elizabeth. Where Mary is, there are miracles! St John the Baptist leaps at the sound of her voice, not merely the presence of his Lord. Mary is 'blessed', Elizabeth deems herself not worthy to receive the Mother of God and Mary, who has believed, is blessed because in her womb all of God's promises will be fulfilled because Jesus is the Saviour. How Elizabeth knows all this...God alone knows!

With that said, the Magnificat is not, so it would appear, directly announced by Our Lady, to God. It is announced 'about Him' to us. It is the praise of God announcement to mankind. It is a hymn of praise to God, but something cried aloud by Mary in the presence of her cousin, in reply to St Elizabeth's offering of praise to the Virgin when she said...

'Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord.'

The Magnificat is delivered by the Virgin immediately in response to these words from her cousin. It does not, on paper, look like a prayer. Yet it is sung by monks in monasteries. The Chant of the Church is prayer.

And Mary said:
My soul doth magnify the Lord. And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid; for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. Because he that is mighty, hath done great things to me; and holy is his name. And his mercy is from generation unto generations, to them that fear him. He hath shewed might in his arm: he hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath received Israel his servant, being mindful of his mercy:As he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed for ever.

This is a canticle that reveals this biblical figure's complete immersion in the Books and Psalms of the Old Testament and the God Who is revealed within them. A very good resource providing evidence for this can be found here, in a guide that enables readers to go to those parts of Scripture cited in Our Lady's hymn that form its construction, albeit in a hymn which Mary 'said'. Whatever else Mary said to Elizabeth, or to anyone else really, is hidden from us during her visit for three months to her cousin. We must ask why it is that the Gospel writer has included only these words from Our Lady. It is the clear intent of the writer to only include words of Our Lady which enable us to reflect and meditate on her role in Salvation history and upon her. The less that is said, the more intense our meditation on her will be. The less someone says, the more mysterious their presence can be.

Sunday 24 August 2014

What God Said to Mary and What Mary Said to God: Part 1

Atheists and other denominations of Christianity will generally not have a huge appreciation for the Blessed Virgin Mary, as we Catholics call her. Our Lady is given so many titles, due to the superabundance of virtues given to her by God and because of the multitudinous apparitions she has made throughout history in various places at different times.

Those of other Christian denominations who do not recognise, or who underplay the hugely important role of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Immaculate Queen of all the Saints, or who insist that she can in some way be overlooked, or be left unpraised, not venerated or who maintain that her prayers are ineffective before her Son's Throne, are often those who use biblical passages in order illustrate their particular version of the Christian Faith, which is, in so many ways, a 'reformed' or distorted version of that which the Catholic Church holds as its own.

Therefore, in order to illustrate to readers the importance of Mary, the ever virgin Mother of God, a belief held by the Church since its birth, it would serve us to examine what God said to Mary. Mary, it will be noted, does not feature greatly in the New Testament, even if she is prophecised from even the first of the Old Testament, when God promises that the 'seed of the Woman' will crush the head of the serpent who led, through cunning persuasion, our first parents into sin and disobedience.

The Annunciation

We will recall then that when when an Angel speaks, the Angel is a messenger not of himself, but of Almighty God. The very word, Angel, means Messenger. We can be assured very well that the Blessed Mother of God was close to God in a way in which no other human being can or will be during their earthly life, save her Divine Son, Who was and is God, the Son. There will never be a human being who is like Mary, since, though she was not and is not God she was without sin and perfect in every possible virtue. The only woman we can look at in the history of the World who was ever like Mary was Eve before the Fall. As we give to Christ the name of the New Adam, so we give to Mary the name of the New Eve. Never again will there ever be born a human being who, from the very first moment of their conception, is Immaculate, free from all taint of human sin, who is beyond reproach, pure, sinless and without fault or blemish.

Friday 22 August 2014

The Transforming Power of Sung Prayer: God's Gift to Man

"Music has power to soothe the savage breast." William Congreve, The Mourning Bride
 "This so-called ‘music,’ they would have to concede, is in some way efficacious to humans. Yet it has no concepts, and makes no propositions; it lacks images, symbols, the stuff of language. It has no power of representation. It has no relation to the world."  Oliver Sacks,The Power of Music *
"Sing unto the LORD with the harp; with the harp, and the voice of a psalm.  With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the LORD, the King." Psalm 98:5,6 (KJV)
"Did you write the book of love,And do you have faith in God above,If the Bible tells you so?Do you believe in rock n'roll,Can music save your mortal soul?Don McLean, American Pie 
This post is a reflection on how music has shaped my devotion to the Church.     There will be links to my favorite music:  liturgical, hymns and other.   I'd be grateful if readers would note in comments their favorite music.   I won't say much about the psychology of music or how music affects the brain.   A lot of work has been done in functional imaging, but I'm not sure we know much more now than when Pythagoras noted the beautiful mathematical relations between harmonious intervals.    However, for those interested in pursuing the subject, I will give references**. 

My first encounter with the power of music in liturgy came at a 40 Hours devotional service. (See Top Down to Jesus) .     I had been preparing for entry into the Church and although on rational grounds I had come to believe in the Resurrection and its implications, there were matters of dogma I found  difficult to understand, particularly that important one, transubstantiation, the change of the substance of the host into the body of Christ.   As the monstrance was carried in during the procession of the 40 Hours service,  Tantum Ergo was played, and I read in the missal
"Præstet fides supplementum, Sensuum defectui."
enough of my high school Latin came back, "faith will supplement the deficiency of the senses", and I realized in my heart, that the wafer, the host, was the body of Christ, that it was mystery beyond science and philosophy, and my eyes filled with tears.

Other liturgical music has struck to my heart in ways no homily or theological text seems to do.    During my first Easter Vigil Mass  The Litany of the Saints was played, and an overwhelming  vision of the history of the Church and all its holy people came to me.    During  Vespers at St. Vincent Archabbey(attended during retreat as Benedictine Oblate) or Evensong services at  the St. Thomas More Anglican Usage Parish,  a great peace and understanding  comes over me as I listen to the strong voices chanting the psalms.  

Other music, not  liturgical--Bach (the B minor Mass,  Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring), Mozart's Requiem, Ralph Vaughan William's Dona Nobis Pacem,  will bring me to thoughts of God.  Hymns  that I want to be played at my funeral have made their mark:  Amazing GraceShall We Gather by the River,  Jerusalem my Happy HomeThe Lord of the Dance (old and corny pieces from evangelical churches, for the most part).   And there are those I play with the instrumental group at Church, It is Well with my Soul, Panis AngelicusMozart's Ave VerumThe King of Love My Shepherd Is. Old 100th and so many others.  (I play the alto clarinet, not well, but enough to provide harmony--a bass voice, since I can't sing on key.***)

One thing should be clear: it isn't the music by itself that is moving, but the total situation:  liturgy, congregation, and the words.   I could read
"Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,That saved a wretch like me.I once was lost but now am found,Was blind, but now I see.T'was Grace that taught my heart to fear.And Grace, my fears relieved.How precious did that Grace appearThe hour I first believed." Liberty Lyrics John Newton 
It would be moving, but it is the combination of the words that reflect my own experience AND the music that brings me to tears of joy.  I could read the verses of Tantum Ergo and Pange Lingua, but it would not be meaningful without the presence of Christ's body, the procession, the Benediction,  and the congregation sharing this experience. 

Am I only being sentimental and not truly devoted to the austere beauty of liturgy in my reaction to this music--too catholic (with a lower-case c)?   Some Church liturgists might think so.
"It is not surprising that Church leaders have doubted whether the feelings which music arouses are truly religious.  Music's power to fan the flames of piety may be more apparent than real..."Anthony Storr, Music and the Mind     
The Hebrews did not worry about music being a distraction from devotion to the Lord.    David danced in the procession to the altar and the psalms say "Sing to the Lord a new song,  play the lute, the lyre and the harp, sound the trumpets".    St. Augustine, entranced by music, was concerned that this power might enable the senses to overcome the intellect in worship:
"So I waver between the danger that lies in gratifying the senses and the benefits which, as I know, can accrue from singing....I am inclined to approve of the custom of singing in church, in order that by indulging the ears weaker spirits may be inspired  with feelings of devotion.  Yet when I find the singing itself more moving than the truth  which it conveys, I confess it is a grievous sin, and at those times I would prefer not to hear the singer(emphasis added)St. Augustine, Confessions
The last sentence in the quote is the foundation for the expulsion of music from the Church in Calvinist sects (read "The Warden" by Anthony Trollope).   I cannot subscribe to that view.  I am one of St. Augustine's weaker spirits.   I believe God gave many many gifts to man in giving him intelligence:  language, mathematics, music, art.   Music has the power to heal the soul (as Oliver Sacks shows inMusicophilia) and to bring one closer to God.   We give joy to God  when we rejoice in music, not only to praise Him, but to rejoice in life (l'Chaim)

*This quote, to show what a strange gift  music is, comes from Arthur C. Clarke's classic "Childhood's End", in which an alien species comes to guide mankind from childhood to maturity.   The very intelligent aliens do not understand the power of music.    They go to a concert,  listen politely and come away wondering.


Robert Jourdain, Music, the Brain and Ecstasy: How Music Captures Our Imagination. 
Oliver Sacks, Musicophilia, Tales of Music and the Brain
Anthony Storr, Music and the Mind

By Bob Kurland, Rational Catholic

Dawkins and the Atheist's Dilemma

Geneticists haven't found a cure for religion yet, 
but I'm sure Richard Dawkins has a final solution in mind.
On a Catholic blog such as this, one needs not delve into the abortion argument in all instances. It is well known that the Church rejects abortion in all circumstances as an offence to God and the direct killing of the innocent. The Church does not claim that the direct killing of the unborn child with Downs Syndrome is worse than the direct killing of the unborn child dispensed with as medical waste for any other reason. The Church defends the dignity of every human life from conception to natural death.

The 'Gaffe'

There will be atheists who will find Richard Dawkins's latest Twitter contribution to be abhorrent and lacking in humanity. There will be other atheists who agree with him and there will be some who are unable to formulate a comprehensive opinion because while they find his opinion objectionable, they cannot gather together a logical response to his argument without an appeal to something which, from Mr Dawkins's point of view, is vague, tenuous or even irrational. We can all gather together a response of kind to Mr Dawkins, but would Dawkins accept it?

For nobody can deny that there is a certain logic in most of Richard Dawkins's statements, however 'off the cuff' they may be. We may not agree with them, but many of them are purely logical if we are totally alone in this Universe, without a Creator in as much good and evil, as we have hitherto known them, no longer exist. I say this not to dignify Richard's position, which is evil, but to suggest that evil can become 'logical' without the existence of a loving God. I have to say that brutal scientific logic has never really impressed me greatly as I have never found either mathematics, economics or science particularly inspiring.  Some people are interesting in how things work and I'm really not. I was not interested in that before I believed in the Catholic Faith and I am not interested in that now.


It has been said before by others that Richard Dawkins is in some ways a great gift to the Church because he keeps on revealing what atheism really is and the moral abyss of nihilism into which it leads. Others will say, in the face of such callous statements that this is not 'my kind of atheism' - because its not really humanism - and yet, ultimately, atheism denies to the one who disagrees with this opinion a logical right of reply because atheism denies an objective reality or objective set of moral truths grounded in divine revelation or even natural law. In atheism, there is no moral truth, only moral opinion. Therefore, before the horror of Richard Dawkins's opinion on the unborn child with Downs Syndrome, the concerned atheist has two places to go - to natural law - or to the God, for what else is there and Who else is there on his side? The atheist may form a 'community' who take issue with Dawkins, but is simply the momentum of the 'community' enough? It is not majority opinion that makes right, right and wrong, wrong.

Can the confirmed atheist really say, 'I am an atheist and I disagree with Richard Dawkins'? He can, of course, say it, since it is a matter of opinion, but ultimately, he cannot confront Mr Dawkins with a convincing logical argument that defeats the repellent point of view he has posited.

All combatants of Richard Dawkins are dealing with an unapologetic rationalist here and a particularly pure kind of rationalism it is as well. And for the theist as well as the atheist, this is why Richard Dawkins is so difficult to meet head on. He poses the eternal questions and asserts his logical answers. For in a godless world, logic really is on his side, if the prevailing human logic of the age asserts that there is 'life' and there is 'life worthy of being called life' and this is what makes the enigma of Richard Dawkins so frightening. He raises a spectre that simply will not be exorcised. Dawkins almost forces the one who does not believe in God into a corner and says, 'You do not like what I say, but logic - my logic - the logic of the scientist - is on my side.' There is no love here. What we understand as compassion has no place here. This is scientificism, yet human life, from our perspective, is not a science.

Moralising Atheists

Or so it at first seems. What did the woman ask? Did she indeed, ask anything? Here is what she said...

"I honestly don't know what I would do if I were pregnant with a kid with Down Syndrome. Real ethical dilmemma."

How did Mr Dawkins reply?

"Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice."

It cold, its brutal, its rational, its logical, its scientific. It was also the kind of reply that was not called for. Literally.

"Some people have Downs Syndrome. Get over it!"
See, the woman expresses a fear of how she would react in a given situation and Dawkins, being a typical man, immediately offers her a solution. A final one at that. The woman has made a statement.

She says, 'I don't know [in situation X] what I would do'. Dawkins immediately tells her what to do! By all accounts, that's a bad move. Here we have the logic of the male. It turns out that Mr Dawkins is something of a patriarch! If it had been directed at me and I had replied, 'Keep it for Heaven's sake! It would be immoral to kill a child just because s/he had Downs Syndrome!' how would she react?

"Abort it and try again", is his reply. This is something of a command, is it not? Somewhat the inversion of 'Go forth and multiply'. Next Mr Dawkins moralises to the woman. That's right. Atheists can moralise, even though there is no objective moral authority but for 'my considered opinion' upon which the atheist draws. In an astonishing assertion, Dawkins insists, "It would be immoral to bring it into the world". Note too, that the unborn child is an 'it'. 'It' should not be allowed to exist. But who says so? By what authority does Dawkins claim that 'it' should not be allowed to exist? 'Into the world' he adds? Whose world is this? Our world? Or Dawkins-world? The Brave New World?

Judgemental atheists

90% of unborn children with Downs are already aborted in this country, so Mr Dawkins touches on something of an open wound in British society. Are the 10% of parents who do not abort their child with Downs choosing a course of action that is 'immoral'? Are they guilty? If so, guilty of what? Bringing 'inferior' human beings into the world?  Making the world genetically less pure? Who is inferior to whom? Can it be empirically proven that this is the case? Is that all we are? Walking genes?

None of this is made clear. Dawkins can draw upon no authority but himself, because for him God does not exist, nor the authority of the Church, nor any other credible moral authority, despite the fact that another atheist may rightfully disagree with him, reaching the opposite conclusion according to his own lights or natural human compassion.

And yet can the 'nice atheist' confront Mr Dawkins with anything here to say, 'You are totally wrong'? Not really. An entire army of atheists can stand up and say, "What a deeply unpleasant thing to say!" But logic does not have to be pleasant. Logic, as Richard has said in his 'apology' does not need to take account of feelings. In the 'law of the jungle', feelings, remember, are for wimps. We are talking here about the 'survival of the fittest'. We're talking about the quality of the 'human species'. For this we can thank Darwinism.

Most atheists argue from a point of empiricism. Yet empiricism doesn't offer to Dawkins any evidence that it would be immoral to bring a child with Downs Syndrome into the world. That is a value judgment. It is not even scientific, unless science imposes a set of human values on the human race and then calls those values science, beyond reproach.

Unless Richard makes a real judgment on Downs Syndrome, or rather, the little one with the condition, what evidence is there concerning the morality of bringing to term a child with an extra chromosome? Unless we are grading human beings upon their inherent 'worth' or 'fitness' from a rather arrogant, subjective position, then there really is none since none of us are perfect genetic creatures.

Neither is there any real empiricism concerning the value of the life of a child with Downs Syndrome, or any condition, like, say, aspergers or epilepsy. Who decides who is genetically 'fit'? Who decides what 'suffering' is? Who quantifies what level of 'suffering' is acceptable in the prospective life of an unborn child or his or her parents and what level of suffering is not? Who decides what cosmetic or real beauty is? Where does this stop? If we are not in possession of an absolute moral stance on the value of every human life, then we cannot really object if Dawkins targets one group, for let's face it, it may as well be gypsies, Jews or people with brown hair. Perception of 'worth', or value to the human species is in this scenario only in the eye of the beholder. Without God Almighty, I would argue that all we're banking on to keep us from pre-born genocide is natural human compassion and reason which may very well let us down. It has before and it does today. This is why 90% of children with Downs Syndrome are aborted.

And yet, who is one atheist to say that the rationale of Dawkins's morality is inferior to the rationale of the 'good atheist'? The atheist can say, 'This is eugenics!" and Mr Dawkins can reply, 'Well, I am a eugenicist. Do you have a problem with that?' He hasn't said that, but he could, if he was more honest. Why? Because even though Richard has made an absolutist statement concerning children with Downs Syndrome, moral absolutes, to the general atheist, do not exist (except when, like Dawkins, they subjectively decide that they do). Why shouldn't he be a eugenicist if there is no objective reality or fixed morality at work in human life? Let's face it, just because the world is inhabited by many atheists, there is no fixed reason why all atheists should subscribe to a fixed morality, but don't say Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot didn't warn you!

The Appeal to Compassion and Human Experience

The appeal to compassion and the lives of children with Downs Syndrome bringing joy into the lives of families is fine, but it does not answer Richard Dawkins's inhuman logic, cold and brutal as it is. He is entitled to his repulsive opinion, however much we think its abhorrent. His view is that this disease should be eliminated. This is based in the assumption - the scientific assumption - that genetic conditions such as this are negative of their own nature. There is only black and white here, a kind of atheistic, scientific fundamentalism as dangerous as the concept of a bloody Islamic Jihad. This is a brutal ideology. Human experience and compassion, natural bonds of love and affection do not come into this school of thought. The only way in which Downs Syndrome can be effectively eliminated is by eliminating the persons who may acquire it in the womb, thus ridding the world of pre-disposed genetic 'imperfection'. In his stated view, it is not compassionate, rather it is immoral to allow an unborn child with Downs Syndrome to be born.

But we do, if we reject this child.
With 90% of unborn children in the United Kingdom, you could say the UK Government is well down this path, with the help of British citizens. Human existence is not 100% logical, nor is it utopian. It is imperfect and flawed. As human beings, we are all imperfect and flawed, but made in God's image and likeness unto the soul. What we see in Dawkins's horrendous 'gaffe' is no 'gaffe' at all, but a perfectly understandable response to a World in which God has been eclipsed by reason and flawed human logic, a World in which human life is not sacred, or valuable in and of itself, a brave new world in which the 'fit' survive and the vulnerable and defenseless are abandoned in pursuit of a vision of genetic perfection that has already, in the 20th century, been discarded as contrary to our very humanity.

While Richard Dawkins issues his 'apologies', as Catholics, we make no apologies for what we believe. We have no reason to apologise for professing the Gospel of Life and of Love. We believe that God loves and made every human being to be cherished and nurtured from conception to natural death. We don't offer any other explanation for our existence but the loving Hand that crafted us in our mother's wombs. We can account very easily for the evil that men do and the evil that men believe in, instead of God. We do not believe that some lives are more valuable than other lives. We believe that God is the beginning and end of our existence. We were not made for nothing.

Atheists: Isn't this the problem?

We believe that Jesus Christ has redeemed our fallen humanity and raised us up to a higher dignity than that which we could ever have imagined. We believe that every child is a gift. What we do with that gift, God leaves up to us. With the support of the British Government, 90% of unborn children with Downs Syndrome are not permitted to see the light of day. Every abortion is a scandal and a crime against God and His children. We pray that we and this country, once so fervently Catholic that it was named 'Our Lady's Dowry' will reject the law of the 'survival of the fittest' and replace it with the law of the protection of the unborn child. Why? Because the law of God calls us to, universally, reject evil and choose good, to refuse death and to embrace life.

You atheists, of course, you knew we believed that already, but in the face of Dawkins's 'gaffe', we see that atheistic 'logic', devoid of faith, or hope, or love, or genuine compassion or justice, can lead an atheist into a belief system that was embraced by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime. It's not really human logic. It is inhuman logic. It's a logic grounded in the pre-conceived, prejudiced, pseudo-scientific beliefs of many inside and outside the scientific community concerning Downs Syndrome, genetics and the application of genetics to human value and worth.

It should have no place in 21st century Britain but abortion figures reveal that it does and it does because the view is clearly prevalent that some people are defective, when the only objectively defective thing to see here is the moral condition of the British. The only way in which Dawkins's view can be deemed rational is if we accept his cruel and inhuman rationale, that some people, subjectively, have more innate value than others and that the others should be discarded. We Catholics do not believe that.

I ask you, atheists: What do you really believe?

Monday 18 August 2014

Letters to and from The Guild

I write on this blog because I want to send sisterly-love letters, letters from a little sister in Christ, to all my fellow Guild members and readers.

I write because I want to personally give Bones a few pressies in this, his busy time.

I write because I am not afraid.

Be not afraid. Be not confused. God is in charge even though it seems as if the world is exploding.

It may be that we are in that greatest generation prophesied by the Desert Fathers.

The answer to the monks' queries gives me hope.

"The holy Fathers were making predictions about the last generation. 
They said, 'What have we ourselves done?' 
One of them, the great Abba Ischyrion replied,
'We ourselves have fulfilled the commandments of God.'
 The others replied, 'And those who come after us, what will they do?' 
He said, 'They will struggle to achieve half our works.' 
They said, 'And to those who come after them, what will happen?' 
Abba Copres said, 'Blessed is he who bears affliction with thankfulness.'"

Sunday 17 August 2014

The Beatitudes

The great saints who write tell us that the Beatitudes are the work of God's grace in us in the life of the virtues. The Beatitudes do not take the place of the Ten Commandments, but compliment the Law by showing the way of love. One could call the Beatitudes the Law of Love.

Garrigou-Lagrange has the best short explanation of the Beatitudes I have found.

The first three beatitudes tell the happiness that is found in the flight from sin and deliverance from it, in poverty accepted for love of God, in meekness, and in the tears of contrition. The two following beatitudes are those of a Christian's active life: they correspond to the thirst for justice and to mercy exercised toward one's neighbor. Then come those of the contemplation of the mysteries of God: the purity of heart which prepares the soul to see God, and the peace which springs from true wisdom. Finally, the last and most perfect of the beatitudes unites all the preceding ones in the very midst of persecution endured for justice' sake. These are the final trials, the condition of sanctity.
We shall follow this ascending order to get a precise idea of Christian perfection, taking care not to lessen it. We shall see that Christian perfection goes beyond the limits of asceticism, or of the exercise of the virtues according to our own activity, and that it implies the eminent exercise of the gifts of the Holy Ghost. The superhuman mode of the gifts, when it becomes frequent and manifest, characterizes the mystical life, or the life of docility to the Holy Ghost.
Following St. Augustine, St. Thomas teaches that the beatitudes are acts proceeding from the Holy Ghost or from the virtues perfected by the gifts. 

The whole focus in the Beatitudes is not really on "us" but on God in us. Those who have come to this "docility", this life of the realization and living of the Indwelling of the Trinity are those who live the life of the Beatitudes.

(Notice, I am avoiding the horrid Jerusalem Bible translation of the "Happytudes".)

Garrigou-Lagrange divides the Beatitudes into the stages of attaining perfection: the Beatitudes of "deliverance from sin", of "the active life of the Christian", and the Beatitudes of "contemplation and union with God."

Because of space and time, I shall only highlight the last one with Garrigou-Lagrange's words:

Lastly, in the eighth beatitude, the most perfect of all, Christ
shows that all He has said is greatly confirmed by affliction borne with love: "Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." The final trials especially, the requisites for sanctity, are indicated here.

Christ's surprising statement had never been heard before. Not only does it promise future happiness, but it declares that a soul should consider itself happy even in the midst of afflictions and persecutions suffered for justice. This is an altogether supernatural beatitude, which is practically understood only by souls enlightened by God. There are, moreover, many spiritual degrees in this state, from that of the good Christian who begins to suffer for having acted well, obeyed, and given good example, up to the martyr who dies for the faith. This beatitude applies to those who, converted to a better life, encounter only opposition in their surroundings. It applies also to the apostle whose action is hindered by the very people he wishes to save, when they will not pardon him for having spoken the Gospel truth too clearly. Entire countries sometimes endure this persecution, such as the Vendee during the French Revolution, Armenia, Poland, Mexico, and Spain.
This beatitude is the most perfect because it is that of those who are most clearly marked in the image of Jesus crucified. To remain humble, meek, and merciful in the midst of persecution, even toward persecutors, and in this torment not only to preserve peace but to communicate it to others, is truly the full perfection of Christian life. It is realized especially in the last trials undergone by perfect souls which God purifies by making them work for the salvation of their neighbor. All the saints have not been martyrs, but they have, in varying degrees, suffered persecution for justice' sake, and they have known something of that martyrdom of the heart which made Mary the Mother of Sorrows.

I highly suggest reflecting on this entire section found here:

Sunday 10 August 2014

On The Reality of The Courtyard

Because of an excellent TLM sermon today, I can share an insight from the priest, whose name I do not know, as he was a substitute, on the Court of the Gentiles.

This priest may have visited the Holy Land, or at least studied in detail the surroundings of the Court of the Gentiles.

Apparently, even though, as those who read this blog know, the Court of the Gentiles was a place of prayer set aside for the Gentiles in the Temple of Herod in Jerusalem in Christ's time, it was a mixed blessing. The Gentiles were allowed to pray in the Temple, but the location of the Court of the Gentiles was insulting. It was placed next to the place where the animals sold for the sacrifices were kept. Those Jews, who Christ hit with the bullwhip, kept the animals in the sacred area. But, the Gentiles had to put up with the noise, the smell, the calls of selling, and all the usual noises of a Middle East market place.

Obviously, Christ, the Son of God, the Second Son of the Blessed Trinity was not pleased. First, the selling had no place in His Father's House, Second, the sales people purposefully set the prices of the animals higher than those sold outside the Temple, when the priests claimed the animals brought in were not "pure enough". This is like modern scamming.

Third, the money traders would force all the Jews of the Diaspora to change the coins with the head of Caesar into Temple coins, as those from the far-flung countries under the empire, were not accepted as Temple tax or money for sales, because of the head of Caesar being considered idolatrous.

And so on...the poor Gentiles were given the worst part of the Temple in which to pray.

What should we take from this, considering the name of this blog? Do not expect the best seat in the house, do not expect a comfortable place to pray, if you are in the Court of the Gentiles.

Be ready to go into the cell of you mind in order to pray.

Practice on that point makes perfect. And, remember, only the perfect see God.

Friday 8 August 2014

August 9th Day of Prayer and Fasting

It Is Not The Role of The Layman...

to be a pacifist....why have the the post-WWII generations lost their nerve, their heart. If you do not want to fight physically, go to a monastery, or be a priest, and fight spiritually.

How can Western nations stand by and watch this? Where are the Men of the West?

God forgive the men of this generation, who are afraid, because they have turned against You, O Lord. Renew their hearts and minds and souls in you, O God.

From Justin Welby on the site above...

“The international community must document human rights abuses being committed in northern Iraq so that future prosecutions can take place. It is important and necessary for the international community to challenge the culture of impunity which has allowed these atrocities to take place.
“With the world’s attention on the plight of those in Iraq, we must not forget that this is part of an evil pattern around the world where Christians and other minorities are being killed and persecuted for their faith. Only this week I received an email from a friend in Northern Nigeria about an appalling attack on a village, where Christians were killed because of their faith in Jesus Christ. Such horrific stories have become depressingly familiar in countries around the world, including Syria, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.
“We must continue to cry to God for peace and justice and security throughout the world. Those suffering such appalling treatment in Iraq are especially in my prayers at this time.”
Other Christian leaders have also spoken up about the situation in Iraq including Roman Catholics, who, in England and Wales, have designated Sunday, 9 August, as a Day of Prayer for Christians in Iraq. The Syrian Orthodox Patriarch yesterday wrote to the UN, following an emergency meeting of Patriarchs, calling on the UN Security Council to “fulfil their responsibilities in stopping this genocide”.

Catholics, Ordinariates, join in this day of prayer. But, Laymen, do more than pray. There is not enough anger. Is there no man who cares?

Saturday 2 August 2014

Spiritual Homes

Some people do not understand why I want to return to Great Britain, where I lived for almost thirteen years. They are mystified that I would want to live on the small island instead of the United States, where I was born.

But, I believe in spiritual homes. A spiritual home is a place where one meets God more readily than in other places and where one feels, well, "at home". For some, spiritual homes are places of pilgrimage, such as Walsingham or Knock, Lourdes or Fatima.

For others, a spiritual home may be the same as the family home, where one was nurtured in the Faith and where one feels "at home" spiritually.

For others, like British ex-pats, a spiritual home may be an affinity with Spain, or Portugal, or Malta.

Most people do not understand ex-pats. Most people wonder about ex-pats and think they are running away from something.

But, for me, when I come to England, I am running towards something. This concept of a spiritual home happened in my adolescence, at about age 10. I began to be besotted with English things (not the Beatles-I was never a groupie).

I read copiously about British history, British heroes, British culture, and so on. I imagined falling in love with a Brit, (which I have three times now), and settling down in sunny Surrey, or Somerset, or Sussex.

I lived in Bristol, West Kensington, Bayswater, Ealing, Hayward's Heath, Plymouth, Sherborne and Petersfield. I have vacationed in Kent, East Anglia, Cornwall, Wales, Scotland and Yorkshire, especially the West Riding, which I love.

I have made several pilgrimages to Walsingham, and one to Holywell. I have hiked in the Brecon Beacons and prayed in Tyburn.

I have studied at Bristol and taught there, worked in Westminster Diocese, and brought my tiny baby home to Hayward's Heath.

But, the years of living there began in my soul and in my heart, years before I actually did live there.

England was always my spiritual home. In America, for my adolescent and adult life, I read Newman, Manning, Anselm, Aelred, Julian, Bede, Beowulf, Sir Orfeo', 'Sir Degaré', 'Sir Gowther', 'Emaré' and 'The Erle of Toulouse' all in the original. Of course, I read Chaucer, Shakespeare and the other dramas of the greats and some not-so-greats. My doctoral work in British poetry covered all from the beginnings to the present day as well as Irish poetry. I cannot list all the literature or theology or mysticism I have read from the British Isles. My work on David Jones spanned seven years of my life. I have read most of the British novelists, essayists and political theory. I have even read biographies and works on such as John Maynard Keynes, T. E. Lawrence, Oscar Wilde and J. R. R. Tolkien,  and as my first degree is in history, I know the history of the peoples from prehistory, through the various occupations, such as the Roman times, to the present. I devoured archeological and architectural books on England. I studied the flora and fauna of Great Britain and kept a bird diary for 10 years there. I know the saints of the holy isles. I named my son after two of the martyrs of England.

I wrote a book on Fountains Abbey and many poems and essays relating to England. I have written dramas about medieval England and Walsingham.

One's soul is formed by influences and for a scholar, the influences of reading and study become the stuff of working towards perfection.

Why a person is called to a certain field and to a certain land is a great mystery.

But, one thing seems particularly mysterious to me and that is the call of the land. When I am here in my new home in New York (upper state), I can objectively appreciate the beauty and richness of the land. But, the very ground I walk on seems strange to me.

I have no affinity with the trees which tower over me, or the myriad wild flowers which line the edges of this property. The lake is beautiful, but it is not "my lake".

The Pool of London is "my pool",  just as the River Skell is "my river". I know London like the back of my hand and love just to walk in the City.

I have walked in the Surrey Hills and in Dartmoor many times.

When I walk in England, I feel energy and strength from the very ground on which I walk. It is as if the very soil speaks to me of the centuries of love and warfare, religion and paganism, life and death.

When I first came to England for a visit in 1980, I was struck with the ground. It was soft, not like the hard dirt of Iowa or Indiana. Thousands of years of tilling and work on the land had made the ground a living record of history.

I miss that rich heritage. I miss my great friends who are British. They are of the land I love. They are, as well, part of the land.

For those of you who live in Great Britain, I beg you to pray for her. She is Mary's Dowry. Mary loves her and I think part of what I feel and sense is God's great love for Britain.

Pray I can come back and live out my life there. I want my body to mingle with the dust of England when I die.

I share in one small bit of England, the bond which God made with my English son. He will missionize England even if I cannot. But, I, too, would love to return to my spiritual home.

Will you join me in prayer for this miracle of grace? Will you love your spiritual home?

O blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and our most gentle Queen and Mother, look down in mercy upon England thy "Dowry" and upon us all who greatly hope and trust in thee. By thee it was that Jesus our Saviour and our hope was given unto the world; and He has given thee to us that we might hope still more. Plead for us thy children, whom thou didst receive and accept at the foot of the Cross, O sorrowful Mother. Intercede for our separated brethren, that with us in the one true fold they may be united to the supreme Shepherd, the Vicar of thy Son. Pray for us all, dear Mother, that by faith fruitful in good works we may all deserve to see and praise God, together with thee, in our heavenly home.

Friday 1 August 2014

The Glory of The Church-Sacramental Life

To be a Catholic is to live a sacramental life. The sacraments feed up spiritually, even daily. Without the sacraments, we all would be dead, in mortal sin, without grace and the growth of the virtues.

One of the great signs of a saint is devotion to the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I cannot think of any of the great saints who did not mention in their writings the importance of Holy Communion or Confession.

That the sacraments define our lives as Catholics is also a sign of predestination. Converts over and over say and write that the sacraments, especially Holy Communion, brought them into the Church.

We forget that the last several popes have been masters in teaching us about our faith. Take advantage of the encyclicals and apostolic letters online. These are the milestones on the way to perfection, to holiness, in our times.

It is clear that the grace of the sacraments leads one to perfection. The Eucharist, states Saint John Paul II, gives us both the power and the source of that complete gift of self. Christ gives Himself to each one of us and each one gives himself to Christ. 

From Veritatis Splendor:
21. Following Christ is not an outward imitation, since it touches man at the very depths of his being. Being a follower of Christ means becoming conformed to him who became a servant even to giving himself on the Cross (cf. Phil 2:5-8). Christ dwells by faith in the heart of the believer (cf. Eph3:17), and thus the disciple is conformed to the Lord. This is the effect of grace, of the active presence of the Holy Spirit in us.
Having become one with Christ, the Christian becomes a member of his Body, which is the Church (cf. Cor 12:13, 27). By the work of the Spirit, Baptism radically configures the faithful to Christ in the Paschal Mystery of death and resurrection; it "clothes him" in Christ (cf. Gal 3:27): "Let us rejoice and give thanks", exclaims Saint Augustine speaking to the baptized, "for we have become not only Christians, but Christ (...). Marvel and rejoice: we have become Christ! ".28 Having died to sin, those who are baptized receive new life (cf. Rom 6:3-11): alive for God in Christ Jesus, they are called to walk by the Spirit and to manifest the Spirit's fruits in their lives (cf. Gal 5:16-25). Sharing in the Eucharist, the sacrament of the New Covenant (cf. 1 Cor 11:23-29), is the culmination of our assimilation to Christ, the source of "eternal life" (cf. Jn 6:51-58), the source and power of that complete gift of self, which Jesus — according to the testimony handed on by Paul — commands us to commemorate in liturgy and in life: "As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes" (1 Cor 11:26).

And, of course, as seen in the sections from St. John of the Cross and others, the seeking of perfection is rooted in love. Love demands perfection and perfection demands love. Such is the relationship between Christ and His Church, Christ and each one of us.

24. And so we find revealed the authentic and original aspect of the commandment of love and of the perfection to which it is ordered: we are speaking of a possibility opened up to man exclusively by grace, by the gift of God, by his love. On the other hand, precisely the awareness of having received the gift, of possessing in Jesus Christ the love of God, generates and sustains the free response of a full love for God and the brethren, as the Apostle John insistently reminds us in his first Letter: "Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love... Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another... We love, because he first loved us" (1 Jn 4:7-8, 11, 19).

Grace leads us to love and perfection. We become like Christ through this process. 

By the way, if someone is still confused as to natural law philosophy, the evil of "teleological", "consequentialist" and "proportionalist" ethical theories, and how a Catholic approaches moral issues, this encyclical provides excellent definitions and guidelines. There is much confusion among younger Catholics who have not had the advantage of good catechesis on these matters.

Take advantage of the fact that this encyclical in on line here.
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