Archive for August, 2010

A pleb writes

August 24, 2010

This weekend, one of Britain’s leading supposedly left-wing blogs carried the following astonishing claim about the social composition of British Catholics:

And as a result, Scotland, Liverpool, Manchester and North London developed a substantial Irish Catholic, population.Which is where the problem lies. If you’re not from those parts of the UK, Catholics are simply crazy posh Evelyn Waugh types, who’ve decided that pointless treachery would be better than just admitting that an evil foreign overlord wasn’t really worth following.

This was supposed to mitigate earlier claims in the liberal blogosphere to the effect that Catholics are generally superstitious and feckless fenian layabouts, which the over-sensitive amongst us may have construed as being racist. Sentimental souls, us Catholics. Thus absolved from the threat of appearing to be a bigot, our author is free to tell us that

On the one hand, the Catholic Church is one of the most revolting institutions ever to have existed, second only to the USSR in terms of ‘well-meaning ideas invented by a nice chap that you could have enjoyed a cup of tea with, taken up by insane evil egomaniacs and turned into an excuse for tyranny and genocide’.

Causing sighs of relief to be breathed throughout the United States of America. How about that? From Jefferson to Gunatanamo, and you still don’t make it into the top two betrayers of founding principles. Nonetheless, I’ll swap you hawking indulgences for Hiroshima.

I digress. Sadly, contra the claim about British Catholics, the closest I get to being an Evelyn Waugh type is having a teddy bear I am rather fond of.  In particular I was denied the benefits of a public school education. Not only does this mean that I am unable to understand what is so palpably clear to my betters: example, how cutting public spending at the present stage in the business cycle is anything other than a very bad idea, it also means that I lack elementary reading comprehension skills. Thus, when Rosamundi wrote the following on her blog:

“Name your three most favourite prayers, and explain why they’re your favourites. Then tag five bloggers – give them a link, and then go and tell them they have been tagged. Finally, tell the person[ahem – people] who tagged you that you’ve completed the meme… The Liturgy and the Sacraments are off limits here. I’m more interested in people’s favourite devotional prayers.”

I completely ignored the bit about excluding the liturgy. The angelus and the rosary stay in. But since I now have a free slot, I’d like to give a mention to the Prayer to the Holy Spirit:

Come Holy Spirit

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.
V. Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created.
R. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

Let us pray.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

I tend to say it before mass. I’ve always liked it. Scriptural and simple; drawing on the liturgy, yet capable of being made personal.

Incidentally, I doubt that most Guardianista types would have enjoyed having a cup of tea with our Lord. Bringing a sword rather than peace, and declaring the powerful of this earth to be cursed, is hardly the kind of stuff which goes down well over croissants in Hampstead. That, however, is another post. I must away to do the research which you, the long-suffering tax-payer, pay me to do.

Pot pourri

August 22, 2010

Rosamundi has been talking about her three favourite prayers. Apparently this is some kind of Caholic internet memey thing. Ever one to follow trends, unless they involve clothing or Boris Johnson, here are my three favourite prayers:

(1.) The Mass

This might seem either lazy, or pious in a sickly way, or just straight out of Father Ted. But I’ll risk all of those. Strictly speaking, the only Christian prayer is the prayer Christ makes to the Father, expressing that love which we call the Holy Spirit. We participate in that prayer by grace, even as we do not understand it, because we do not understand God. Prayer is emphatically not a matey chat to my best friend, as Christianity lite has it.. As far as this life goes I am, as Thomas puts it, united to God as to one unknown. The danger is not only one of minimising God and denying our creatureliness; there is also the worry that if I think I am in a personal relationship with God qua friend, I might think that I have comprehended her. And then I might be all too confident he is telling me to do daft things (example: invade Iraq). Better to let God be God, and to let ourselves be transformed by God in God’s humanity. The Mass is where the sacrificial prayer of Christ, the human being who is God, is made sacramentally present. It is the Church’s prayer above all else – all other prayers lead to it, and flow from it.

(2.) The Divine Office.

Reasons as follows. The corporateness of it all. The richness of scripture. The fact that it can be more or less meditative depending on one’s sate of alertness. And my ability to recite it with a cup of coffee in one hand.

(3.) The Angelus

A tricky one. Like Rosamundi, I’m going to cheat by explaining my deliberation. I nearly went for the rosary, for many of the same reasons as the office, plus a lurking fear that I would be a Bad Dominican if I didn’t mention the beads at some point. However, I’ve gone for the Angelus. It is a simple prayer, profoundly incarnational, and the collect at the end sums up the whole gospel of redemption: incarnation, cross, and resurrection:

The Angel of the Lord declared to Mary:
And she conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of
our death. Amen.

Behold the handmaid of the Lord: Be it done unto me according to your word.

Hail Mary . . .

And the Word was made Flesh: And dwelt among us.

Hail Mary . . .

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray:

Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, your grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, your Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection, through the same Christ Our Lord.



There is a very interesting piece in today’s Observer by Padraig Reidy, I’m an atheist but this anti-Catholic rhetoric is making me nervous


Last night I went to a vigil and meeting in support of the campaign for justice for Sean Rigg. Sean was a young black man who died in police custody in Brixton two years ago. The dignity and resolve to discover the truth on the part of his family are both moving and inspiring. I’d encourage you to support the campaign in any way you can.

The victory of God in a poor woman’s body

August 15, 2010

My walk to vespers this evening was impeded because Whitehall was blocked. The proximate result of this was that I had a nice walk along the river bank, which is no bad thing. It turns out, though, that the reason it wasn’t possible to go down Whitehall was that there were celebrations of the 65th anniversary of VJ day. Now, I feel a general discomfort about people celebrating victories in war. But this discomfort becomes considerably more marked in the case of a victory brought about by the two single greatest acts of mass murder human beings have ever committed. The burning alive of human bodies is something to which the proper response is repentance; and any supposed victory achieved by that means is so tarnished as to be unworthy of celebration.

Today the Church celebrates a rather different kind of victory, and a rather different view of the human body from that implicit in the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction. The gospel for mass during the day on the feast of the Assumption is not Luke’s account of the visitation and magnificat simply because, as the vigilant advocate of sola scriptura might imagine, there is no biblical description of Mary’s assumption. Rather, it is chosen because the words of that passage speak vividly of what we are celebrating. Mary’s assumption is precisely the exaltation of the lowly and meek, and so the putting down of the powerful and mighty, in fulfilment of God’s promises to Abraham. In the taking up into glory of a peasant woman whose conception of a child was source of scandal, and who is portrayed by Matthew as a refugee – not one who would be loved by the Daily Mail, our Lady – we see the victory of the anawim, the poor of the Lord (or, ‘the scum of the earth’ as Eagleton translates the word in his recent book on religion).; God victorious in and through the poor of the Lord. The doctrinal content of today’s feast is that this victory is ultimate. Mary is not assumed as a one-off, as some kind of divinely orchestrated side-show to bring her life to a nice close. The sharing in Christ’s resurrection which we see first in Mary, the lifting high of the humble, and the fulfilment of God’s promises, is an enduring reality. It is the most enduring human reality. This victory will last when nations and empires have disappeared from the face of the earth, and when the guns have fallen silent. History, through divine grace, is on the side of the woman from Nazareth, not of the men with flags.

Mary’s victory is, of course, bodily because Mary is a human being, and to be human is to be a certain kind of animal, and so to have a body. This is a salutary reminder to be wary of the ubiquitous temptation, which has religious and secular variants, to downplay our embodiment. We are not angelic beings temporarily trapped in a fleshy prison. This prison, so to speak, is me (and, as St Thomas reminds us, ‘my soul is not me’). Our eternal destiny is a bodily one. The human body was not created for death. It is loved by God and belongs to his redemptive plan. That is both a source of hope, and motivation to resist those forces that burn and maim, starve and oppress, human bodies.

Happy St Dominic’s Day!

August 7, 2010

..which began with first vespers this evening.

O lumen Ecclesiae
Doctor veritatis,
Rosa patientiae,
Ebur castitatis,
Aquam sapientiae
propinasti gratis,
Praedicator gratiae,
nos junge beatis.