Sunday 30 June 2013

Having Fun

Having Fun in an Albanian
tourist trap
Someone who comes to Mass regularly in the Valle Adurni has just been on holiday. She decided to go to Albania. Well why not, I suppose? She is now eagerly anticipating her next dose of sun, sea and sangria—she's off in a few weeks to, er, North Korea! I asked her what she liked to do for relaxation at home—slam her fingers in car doors?

Anyway, inspired by her exotic choice of holiday location, I am spending a few days with a friend in the ancient Kingdom of Bernicia. Where? you ask. Possibly a little-known former Balkan state or part of the old Soviet Empire? Well no, really. It's the Scottish Borders and Northumberland. In the seventh century, the northern Angle kingdom of Bernicia was united to the more southerly kingdom of Deira (basically, the Yorkshires) to form the kingdom of Northumbria. Deira gave St Gregory the Great the opportunity to make his other (less known) joke about the slave boys in the Roman market. Hearing that they were from Deira, he said that he would save them de ira (from anger). Yes, hilarious, isn't it? though not quite as good as his one about non Angli sed angeli, (immortally translated by Sellar and Yeatman as 'not angels but Anglicans'). Well, they couldn't get Big Brother in those days and had to make their own entertainment.

We're staying not far from Jedburgh and when the rain permits have visited quite a few sites. I'm rather impressed with Historic Scotland, which seems to be a kind of equivalent of English Heritage, only rather better, I'm thinking.

My point is that our visits to, say, Jedburgh, Melrose and Dryburgh abbey ruins were very much more enjoyable than comparable sites in England. Scotland doesn't seem to have gone for the English obsession for dumbing-down, still less for 'enriching' the visitor's experience by dressing up actors in silly costumes to annoy people who simply want to look at the place and learn something. Information boards and audio guides seem to presume at least some interest in what you're looking at, and not to distract you with irrelevant amusements. Have you noticed how many English abbeys love to place pictures all over the place of monks carrying out their various duties, and how these are always dressed in brown Franciscan habits which reach only to the knees? How the ceremonies in the church are the purest fantasy in the mind of some artist who has never visited a functioning church in his life but tries to guess what Mass might have looked like? They don't care to inform or educate, but are insistent that we be entertained.

'Carpet' by Steve Messam
So, after the Scottish abbeys, our visit to Lindisfarne yesterday was a bit of a let-down. The experience of Holy Island was 'enhanced' and interpreted by a dancer disporting herself in the remains of the cloister with the aid of a boom box; there was a 'monk' who, dressed in a grey 'habit' (Lindisfarne was a Benedictine—black-wearing—house), tried to compel visitors to join him in the ruins of the calefactory to 'listen to a story'; there was a concert of the sort of music I associate with Irish pubs in the church alongside (£10 entrance!) and, strangest of all, an 'Installation of 30.000 bottles of colour [read tinted and upended jam jars] inspired by the 'carpet pages' in the Lindisfarne Gospels and the use of colour in the Dark Ages.' In small type I learnt that this was supported using public funding by the Arts Council of England. I suppose all this is the anxiety that at every moment we be entertained, that unless visitors to Lindisfarne are having fun, they're missing out. And they mustn't be allowed to miss out. Fun is compulsory. It is the same culture that I battle in the liturgy.

St Aidan (I think) with
Lindisfarne Castle behind
Lindisfarne is important to me. It was my first visit to the island of Saints Aidan and Cuthbert, and I was pleased that my first visit to the Holy Island wasn't totally spoilt by all that nonsense, nor by the crowds of visitors. For me it really does have an atmosphere, and I'm not sensitive to that sort of thing much. I will certainly be returning. My companion found the distractions more distracting than I did. I could see that there were lots of people for whom the priory had little interest, but who were off looking elsewhere. And there were several genuine pilgrims. I saw one tubby middle-aged man make his way from holy spot to holy spot making the sign of the cross without embarrassment and pausing, sometimes kneeling, to pray. So I prayed Sext and None in the ruins of the chancel using my iPhone. I want to come back to Aidan and Cuthbert another time and perhaps in another post. Great men.

Tuesday 25 June 2013


Yes, it's over-simplifying. But it is odd now left-wingers seem to be able to get away with things that others can't, no doubt because of their self-presentation as 'compassionate'.
And when it comes to bugging, I gather GCHQ isn't so very different.

Picture: h/t Giles Pinnock, Facebook, and Five on Fox Fans

Thursday 20 June 2013

Conversion, at various levels

I must confess that I have at times been irritated with friends and family of converts who make things difficult when their friend decides that he wishes to become a Catholic.

So perhaps there is a certain justice in the fact that I have now had to become irritated over a former parishioner of mine from way back when who has left the Catholic Church to become a Russian Orthodox.

I feel more aggrieved because she has been required to repudiate her baptism publicly and has been enrolled as a catechumen. It irritates me that she continues to call me 'Father' because, presumably, since I am not even validly baptized in her co-religionists' eyes, I cannot be a priest, either. This baptism is not of a conditional kind, but will be administered absolutely, though in our eyes there was no reason to doubt that her Catholic baptism, administered in Spain, was in any way dubious.

I know already that some Anglican friends of mine reading this will be smiling wryly and saying something about sauce for the goose.

I also know that the practice of this Orthodox group is not universally observed; I have read of priests converting to Russian Orthodoxy simply being processed in some way without any questioning of the validity of their orders; their baptism was, of course, accepted without any question also.

I would be interested in any light readers may be able to throw on this divergence of practice. It seems to me to be an interesting survival of Donatism; that heretics (as these Orthodox consider us) cannot validly administer even baptism.

The convert was motivated to this seismic change mostly out of despair at the persistent liberalism in the Catholic Church of this country.

Whereas on the other hand I have seen several people leave my own congregation over the last few months precisely because we aren't liberal enough—in particular with regard to same-sex marriage. I think that there is a general malaise right now, a feeling that we have been compromised in our authority by the sex-abuse thing and by our refusal to move with the times; Stonewall and similar groups hold the moral high ground, and what I have to say is simply my antediluvian opinion. I preached on confession on Sunday (the Gospel suggesting the subject most eloquently), and I think that I might has well have saved my breath; one regular Mass-goer (and a nice chap) said afterwards that whereas he used to be regular in the box, he wasn't going to go any more, because it did no good. Others just will come to Mass when they feel like it.

The problem to my mind is really about interior conversion—it has never taken place for many people who have attended Mass simply out of habit until they ran out of steam.

Heigh ho. I'll just have to pray instead.

But I do think that Pope Francis is just what we need right now. Perhaps he might get through to some where I continue to fail.

Tuesday 18 June 2013

Eucharistic miracle

I'm never sure quite what to make of these things, but I received this the other day, and thought that it might interest you.
Sorry to be quiet for so long on the posting front.

In 1996 in the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, Argentina, when the present Pope Francis was Auxiliary Bishop under Cardinal Quarracino, an amazing eucharistic miracle took place. He himself had it photographed and investigated and the results are astonishing.At seven o’clock in the evening on August 18, 1996, Fr. Alejandro Pezet was saying Holy Mass at a Catholic church in the commercial center of Buenos Aires. As he was finishing distributing Holy Communion, a woman came up to tell him that she had found a discarded host on a candleholder at the back of the church. On going to the spot indicated, Fr. Alejandro saw the defiled Host. Since he was unable to consume it, he placed it in a container of water and put it away in the tabernacle of the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament.On Monday, August 26, upon opening the tabernacle, he saw to his amazement that the Host had turned into a bloody substance. He informed Bishop Jorge Bergoglio (now Pope Francis, Auxillary Bishop that time), who gave instructions that the Host be professionally photographed. The photos were taken on September 6.  They clearly show that the Host, which had become a fragment of bloodied flesh, had grown significantly in size. For several years the Host remained in the tabernacle, the whole affair being kept a strict secret. Since the Host suffered no visible decomposition, Cardinal Bergoglio (Who became Archbishop by that time) decided to have it scientifically analyzed.On October 5 1999, in the presence of the Cardinal’s representatives, Dr. Castanon took a sample of the bloody fragment and sent it to New York for analysis. Since he did not wish to prejudice the study, he purposely did not inform the team of scientists of its provenance (the source of sample was kept secret to the scientists).One of these scientists was Dr. Frederic Zugiba, the well-known cardiologist and forensic pathologist. He determined that the analyzed substance was real flesh and blood containing human DNA. Zugiba testified that, “the analyzed material is a fragment of the heart muscle found in the wall of the left ventricle close to the valves. This muscle is responsible for the contraction of the heart. It should be borne in mind that the left cardiac ventricle pumps blood to all parts of the body. The heart muscle is in an inflammatory condition and contains a large number of white blood cells. This indicates that the heart was alive at the time the sample was taken. It is my contention that the heart was alive, since white blood cells die outside a living organism. They require a living organism to sustain them. Thus, their presence indicates that the heart was alive when the sample was taken. What is more, these white blood cells had penetrated the tissue, which further indicates that the heart had been under severe stress, as if the owner had been beaten severely about the chest.”Two Australians, journalist Mike Willesee and lawyer Ron Tesoriero, witnessed these tests. Knowing where sample had come from, they were dumbfounded by Dr. Zugiba’s testimony. Mike Willesee asked the scientist how long the white blood cells would have remained alive if they had come from a piece of human tissue, which had been kept in water. They would have ceased to exist in a matter of minutes, Dr. Zugiba replied. The journalist then told the doctor that the source of the sample had first been kept in ordinary water for a month and then for another three years in a container of distilled water; only then had the sample been taken for analysis. Dr. Zugiba’s was at a loss to account for this fact. There was no way of explaining it scientifically, he stated.Also, Dr. Zugibe passionately asked, “You have to explain one thing to me, if this sample came from a person who was dead, then how could it be that as I was examining it the cells of the sample were moving and beating? If this heart comes from someone who died in 1996, how can it still be alive?Then did Mike Willesee inform Dr. Zugiba that the analyzed sample came from a consecrated Host (white, unleavened bread) that had mysteriously turned into bloody human flesh. Amazed by this information, Dr. Zugiba replied, “How and why a consecrated Host would change its character and become living human flesh and blood will remain an inexplicable mystery to science—a mystery totally beyond her competence.”Then Doctor Ricardo Castanon Gomez arranged to have the lab reports from the Buenos Aires miracle compared to the lab reports from the Lanciano miracle, again without revealing the origin of the test samples. The experts making the comparison concluded that the two lab reports must have originated from test samples obtained from the same person. They further reported that both samples revealed an “AB” positive blood type. They are all characteristic of a man who was born and lived in the Middle East region.Only faith in the extraordinary action of a God provides the reasonable answer—faith in a God, who wants to make us aware that He is truly present in the mystery of the Eucharist. The Eucharistic miracle in Buenos Aires is an extraordinary sign attested to by science.Through it Jesus desires to arouse in us a lively faith in His real presence in the Eucharist. He reminds us that His presence is real, and not symbolic. Only with the eyes of faith do we see Him under appearance of the consecrated bread and wine. We do not see Him with our bodily eyes, since He is present in His glorified humanity. In the Eucharist Jesus sees and loves us and desires to save us.(Archbishop Bergoglio became a Cardinal in 2001, this miracle was published after many researches, by that time he became a Cardinal, that's why he is addressed as cardinal in this post).  Also watch where Dr.Castanon, Atheist turned Catholic explains this miracle!