Friday, June 30, 2006

Catholic Worker

I can relate to This recent article in the CL magazine, Traces.

(> France
Life Is Uncertain:
The “No” Generation
by Davide Perillo)

I've felt pretty much the whole gamut of emotions, since leaving uni, from confidence and suprise at my academic success, to confusion and sorrow at my failure to get work, depression and despair at the subsequent struggle, and the first glimmers of hope that are still just beginning...

What happened to "work"? It was everywhere, and now it seems to have become a 4-letter word.

A friend from CL gave a talk / workshop on work at a recent Youth 2000 retreat. The main points I can remember:

- obedience to your boss comes first, understanding follows
- judging daily my experience, in order to keep what is good
- asking Christ daily to reveal Himself in work and the encounter with others
- recognising that what I always seek is a relationship ("fatherhood")
- praying "Veni Sancte Spiritus, veni per Mariam" as often as possible to stay "awake" to reality

I put these on a post-it on my desk and I hope to use them in my "work" as a job-seeker!

It would be lazy...

...just post that blank denial of the current fuss about a new ICEL translation.

To me, yes, it did seem a bit similar to all the hopes (on the other "side") that JPII's successor would be a "great liberal" and announce female priests, universal contraception and good times for all. I laughed and cried at the TV last year, with irony and the rather great hope of B-XVI's election!

So I suppose I should also put something positive:

I dodn't have anything at all against florid and self-deprecating liturgy.

I also don't have much against minimal liturgy.

I'm more or less a run-of-the-mill modern nihilist in practical terms, and I'm ****ed grateful for any hint of liturgy in my life!

I happen to love Latin and have an ambition to learn all kinds of prayers in that solid and refreshing speach (see the sidebar for a Latin-English prayer primer!).

But as far as I can see the main need is for catechesis, not more "reforms". If the Council is anything, I think it's more a project than a "blueprint", telling us strict lines to arrange the furniture by.

It's a work that we are called to, namely re-focussing on the fundamental aspects of Christianity, making them present in every modern context, re-infusing modern culture with Christian conscience and hope, and building cooperation with all men of good will.

Trent, like all the Councils of the Church, was a new Pentecost. It's just that until Vat II we didn't realise it could be expressed that way (hmmm... development).

The "traditionalists" deny that any Council was a new Pentecost, the "progressives" almost deny the original Pentecost, but they both seem to be denials. Academically fascinating, but unsatisfying.

Whereas Christianity is a fact, an event in one's life. Like in "The End of the Affair" (by Graeme Greene) which I finished reading today; you can love this fact, you can hate it, but in the end you can't deny it.

Amidst the horrific and omnipresent "cataract of culture" in which we all flounder these days, from the best to the worst, the clever and the clueless, only the liturgy says clearly and simply to each one: "Christ is risen, present among us {i.e. the Catholic Church} here and now" -JPII... yes, that's "The Heart of the Matter"!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Why... there so much fuss in the Blogosphere about the new ICEL translation of the Mass?

The "problems" with the current one seem pretty trivial to me.

And those who take it even further, and say there are serious mistakes, like pro multis -> for all seem to be barking up the wrong tree (St. John says in one of the Epistles that Christ is the atonement not only for our sins, but for everyone's (or words to that effect), and St. Faustina gave us a prayer offering Christ "for our sins and those of the whole world"... hello? Literalism anyone? I can get that in a Protestant Church!

I hope the new translation will be even better, but I won't be complaining about the one we have now.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Can anyone supply a meeting place?

My movement, CL, needs a place to hold our monthly meeting - "Assembly" - on the 16th June. Maybe a parish hall, retreat centre or something?

Let me know if you can help ASAP!

I wanted to ask you if you knew of another place where we could meet
on that day in London that has similar characteristics.

It should:
- hold around 100 people;
- have a separate room for kids;
- be easily accessible for people driving;
- possibly be close to a Church where we could have Mass together;
- a benefit if it has tables to have lunch together.

Email should be on my profile :)

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The loophole of life

The Cardinal (our one and only Cardinal here in the tiny UK!) has been talking to the Health Secretary about bioethics. This, as well as the fact that I discovered how to put lines across my blog posts, has prompted me to do a proper, substantial post! Enjoy.

It's interesting to consider that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a wonderful document and basically in tune with Catholic teaching and feeling about the sanctity of human life, doesn't explicitly protect "unborn" people.

For example, here are the first three, rather fundamental, articles:

Article 1

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 3

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

You will notice that it says "born", not "conceived"... and "age" is not one of the "distinctions" mentioned. I suppose it could be possible to slip "biological age" or "developmental stage" into the category of "other status". But that is not a popular suggestion!

I defy anyone, anyone in the UK, in the universe or in The Universe, to find me a GCSE or A-Level Biology textbook, in which it is denied that a human embryo, the product of the fertilisation of the human ovum by a human sperm, is a potential human organism, capable of becoming a "person" with all those moral and legal rights, given normal conditions.

"Normal" in this case involves a bit of "self-observation" - giving other embryos the same chance we had as ex-embryos ourselves, and having a bit of tenderness towards the other, the one who resembles us. But our society censors precisely this, this "loving knowledge". It pretends that science suports our nihilistic conclusions (philosophical ones, arrived at independently of the scientific evidence).

We wouldn't put anything like this in our textbooks or classroom resources because it would seem like those awful fundamentalist "Creationist" textbooks, or possibly a return to Nazism. If you don't beleive me, try it - as an excercise, write a short justification of the current relativist attitude to abortion and euthanasia, in the light of GCSE human biology and the UDHR. I promise you, it won't sound convincing to a normal 17-year-old.

So instead, this incredible scientific whitewash happens at the level of popular culture, politics, implicit assumptions and newspaper rhetoric. It's still an affront to reason though, also to law, I suppose (I'm not an expert) and an affront to good science.

But this is rather interesting, isn't it? Try to guess who wrote it:

...surely it would be far more useful for everyone if women were taught to read signs of their own fertility. This would attune them with their bodies and help them notice changes, and they could then, in certain cases, get help well in advance of actually wanting to have children. Such insight into your own fertility can be found by charting your monthly period, temperature, cervical fluid and cervix position. Easy, quick and empowering when you know how. It's not fashionable to do this, but it can help determine if you have a short luteal phase (which may deter successful implantation of a fertilised egg), and can even help you see the menopause coming.

It costs nothing, yet doctors rarely explain it, preferring to prescribe fertility drugs and send a woman for tests that she may not need. But then drugs and IVF treatment make money for someone, somewhere. Perhaps scaring women is easier, and more profitable.

Nope, it's not from a Catholic paper, destined to be read with righteous but vague disgruntlement and then forgotten, it's from Guardian journalist Annalisa Barbieri!

Leaving asside all the to-do about women's career vs. family priorities, which is a question threatening to go way above my non-economist head, isn't it amazing that a Guardian journalist is advocating a universal education in the latest NFP techniques, something which the Catholic Church could wholeheartedly advocate!

I've been a dyed-in-the-wool feminist since reading Germaine Greer at age 18, and I'd much rather consider paying women better for the more fundamental work they have always done, and still do: producing the next generation of society through childbirth, motherhood and a thousand other unnoticed "works".

I don't know if Barbieri would agree with this "Chestertonian Feminist" side, but it's amazing that there is support for NFP.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Lost in the Cosmos

That's a little bit how I feel (but perhaps replace "cosmos" with "job market") at the moment, and also the title of the book I got from Amazon today, at the recommendation of a CL email-pal from the States.

Ironically, I started flicking through it today, a Wednesday afternoon, and only just noticed that I had indeed been reading this hugely appropriate "caustic, witty, existential, and profoundly moving revelation about why we'd rather see our neighbor's house burn down than live through another Wednesday afternoon..." (quote from the Amazon readers' reviews).

I was struck again by the feeling I got when I finished my flicking, of how I seem to have an unerring knack of finding all the books I wish I'd written myself, and meeting all the people doing things I'd imagined myself doing. I feel strangely redundant (apart from the fact that I am literally between jobs). I wonder if I'll ever reach the "other side" of this feeling...?

Saturday, June 17, 2006

I know I shouldn't say this, but...

Friday, June 16, 2006

The Timekept City

Haha, writing that last post reminded me of an experience I had about 3 years ago in my last year of University...

..I was attending the London Environment and Futures conference, and the Major was there. In one of the breaks, I spoke to a guardian journalist, who wanted to hear what people suggested he should ask the Major about London. I chimed in with a typical "what is London for?"... and during the panel at the end of the show, the Major was asked and answered this question!

But I wish that every Major of London and every British MP had been meditating on the words of Elliot since they were written last century:

When the Stranger says: "What is the meaning of this city ?
Do you huddle close together because you love each other?"
What will you answer? "We all dwell together
To make money from each other"? or "This is a community"?

Hope in the UK

The Alive and Kicking Campaign has been launched, a coalition of pro-lifers, aiming to at least reduce the number of children aborted in the UK.

Tip of the hat to XT3 for this news.

The early Church rescued children who had been abandonned outside the city walls.

Now we have the duty to speak for children who don't even make it this far.

For me, it recalls the words of T. S. Elliot, in Choruses from The Rock : thinking that everything has been accomplished, we don't even guard the most basic foundations of our society, when really, unless we are vigilant, this country will collapse beneath us.

Belong to CL has shown me another meaning for the words "pro-life": how much value do I really attach to my own life? Do I realise that there is only one life, really, which I am priveledged to be able to share in, which I have the gift of sharing in, and does it make me grateful?

I don't want to be only "anti-death" but "pro-life"!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Second to Nun

Happy feast of Corpus et Sanguinis Christi!

I always love to hear the traditional hymns for this feast, with their use of the expression "faith alone":

Verbum caro panem verum
Verbo carnem efficit;
Fitque sanguis Christi merum;
Et si sensus deficit,
Ad firmandum cor sincerum
Sola fides sufficit.

...thus showing that even the formulas used by those who attacked the Church in certain periods of her history find a place when put in the correct context; the faith is Catholic, universal. In the context of totality, even the "sola" has its place.

As a convert to the Church, I remember feeling that the more sincere Protestants tended to make the Bible a "mystery"; it couldn't be put into context without a lot of trouble, "sola Biblia" made it a kind of monolith.

Well, the same could be said of the Eucharist, except that for us the Mystery is a joy! We gladly acknowledge that it's an ultimate mystery, and that faith alone can grasp it. But the difference is that this Mystery makes sense of everything, really everything we experience, whereas you can only take Bible-centricism so far (admittedly quite far!) because the Bible is not the whole mystery (though it is also essential).

Anyhow, the Beeb has kicked off a second Religious Reality show!

The Convent (it's second to Nun).

I watched with great enjoyment last night. I thought the use of a typical modern phrase like "de-tox for the soul" is really perfect. It shows, to me, the fact that even the most mundane of modern yearnings, the self-help mentality with which we approach our problems, can be fulfilled (though in a new and unexpected way) in Christ; it was a joy to hear all those nuns talking about all the usual self-help-type issues (I won't knock them, we all have them!) but in reference to an experience of community and prayer. Who would expect it?

It beats Big Brother (more on that later!) hands down...