Sunday, 31 December 2006

The Patter of Tiny Feet

Oh wow! I am an Auntie!

My little nephew was born (11 days early) at 4:48am this morning, 6lb 11oz (that's 3.05 kg). Apparently my sister had a rather hard time of it - her waters broke yesterday, she had to be induced, and it was a forceps delivery, and she had to have a blood transfusion, but she and the baby are ok. The baby is called Giacomo Daniele (I've just realised that his parents have named their baby after a brand of whisky... Jack Daniels!!)

I rang the hospital to find out how everyone was, but on hearing that I was merely the sister I was told that a message to say I'd phoned would be passed on.

Thanks to everyone who said a prayer!

The Inquisition

Among other topics which came up for discussion on the car journey back from Stonyhurst was the Spanish Inquisition... Benedict remembered quite a bit of the Monty Python sketch, and I couldn't resist having a look on You-Tube to see if the sketch was there.

It was... and so I'll share it with you (I'm a sharing kind of girl!!)

Top Ten Reasons for Remaining Catholic

One advantage of clicking on a particular post in order to get the exact URL to come up is that you get to see the comments at the bottom of the post instead of having to call up a separate window. So I spotted the following site which looked interesting...

The T-shirt is not for the visually impaired, not unless you want to get up-close-and-personal, but it amused me enough to include the text here:

10.) It's politically incorrect. (Annoy the Catholic bashers).
9.) You can sing badly, and no one cares. (9 out of 10 American Catholics are musically impaired).
8.) You can impress your friends. (Tell them you belong to a militant international institution).
7.) Your Mother. (Low cost way to keep her happy).
6.) Great Weddings! (When it comes to ceremony, the Catholic Church is smokin').
5.) Great Pope!
4.) Saints. (Talk about friends in high places!)
3.) Confession. (No, it's not fun, but what a deal).
2.) Dependability. (Jesus founded our Chuch on Peter, the rock, and promised that the gates of hell should not prevail against It.)
And the number one reason to stay Roman Catholic is the awesome gift of... (Drum roll, please...)

(On the back side of the shirt)


"He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood will have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day. For My Flesh is real food and My Blood is real drink. He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood lives in Me and I in him."
- John 6:54-56

H/T The Fullness of Faith

Saturday, 30 December 2006

Say it with T-Shirts

I enjoyed reading David's amusing post on Catholic evangelisation the American way... Forget "Say it with flowers" this is more "Say it on your T-shirt!"

I think my favourite is the one which reads "What part of 'Hoc Est Corpus Meum' don't you understand?"

And Finally...

Last couple of photos... Here I've captured a picture of South Ashford Priest trying to capture a picture or two for his own blog...

And these two are the fabulous Sisters of the Gospel of Life. Sister Roseann Reddy is on the left and Sister Andrea Fraile (who gave an interesting talk on inter-religious dialogue) is on the right.

I Took More Photos Than I Realised...

A few more photos: Fr Tim Finigan, known to most of you as the prolific and profound blogger of The Hermeneutic of Continuity, gave the third talk of the conference. I noticed that, with typical reticence, he hasn't actually put up much about his own talk, so I shall have to do it for him. The title was "Meeting some common objections: One God or three? How can God have a Son?"

There was a lot of information to take in, but the talk was snappily-paced and had some excellent visual aids (well, what else does one expect from a blog-supremo?) It was fascinating to hear about the beginnings of Islam and how St John Damascene had answered some of the major objections of Islam to Christianity so many centuries ago. I'm sure that his talk (and all of them) will end up on the Faith website - I'll link to it then.

There are countless pictures and artifacts connected with the Reformation and Counter-Reformation - each of the classrooms is named after a saint, many of them the English Martyrs. I discovered my favourite Martyrs' picture in the Campion Room... I have a postcard with it on, but I think this is actually the original:

There are also lots of beautiful statues just dotted around the corridors. I particularly like this one of the Madonna and Child which is outside the entrance to the chapel.

After all that theology, it's necessary to kill off a few brain cells just to redress the balance. Everyone repairs to the bar for some congenial company and good conversation. Failing that, alcohol makes an acceptable substitute...

And here's another photo of Fr Tim... I think it's much more flattering than the one on his own blog...

A Few More Photos

Ok, here are a few more photos. I only seem to be able to upload five at a time, so be patient!!

One of the really great things about Faith Conferences is that there are plenty of opportunities to chat to the priests outside the talks and discussion groups... they're all really approachable. Here we can see Fr Dominic chatting during coffee on the Thursday morning...

It was Fr Mark's birthday, and, as he usually misses out on birthday celebrations because it's so close to Christmas, Melanie arranged a cake. Not a pushover, Fr Mike's first response was "Oh, no candles..." but he quickly changed his tune when Melanie offered to help him wear the cake...

Here you can see him waving a carving knife provided by the ever-obliging kitchen staff who are unfailingly chirpy despite having to cope with over two hundred hungry individuals, and despite getting some very odd requests... several years I had a duck for a hot water bottle, and they hardly batted an eyelid when Egg was handed over with the request to "Fill him up please!" They even noticed when one year I didn't bring him!

Then, especially for Mark who wanted to know how all the priests could possibly fit on such a small sanctuary...

And then there is the ceilidh on the last evening. The photos I have of the dancers are not very good, but they seemed to think that a request to stop dancing while I focussed my phone camera was a tad unreasonable!

Friday, 29 December 2006

Photo-Fest !

I arrived home at about 10:30pm - we stopped off for a more leisurely and civilised meal by driving in to Cambridge at about 6:30pm - and I immediately downloaded my photos from my phone and checked my emails and comments on my blog. So now, as promised, I will put up a few of the photos, and I'll continue tomorrow...

First, and most importantly, a couple of photos of Sir Dan of the Nesbitry:

He was very keen to tell me that tomorrow (Saturday) is his birthday - news that he agreed to keep from Fr Tim in order to aid me in my attempts to get a blogging "scoop" ! He wouldn't tell me how old he is, but did suggest that I run a competition in the com-box to see if anyone can guess... so that is this week's challenge!

And then there are two pictures of Sir Dan manning the Faith bookstall: first, the reflective eyeing up of likely customers to gauge whether he can sell them anything...

...and then he moves in for the kill: that poor unsuspecting soul hasn't got a chance of getting away without buying at least one pamphlet!

I mentioned how impressive it was to have 29 priests concelebrating... well, this is what it looked like from the choir-loft:

Ok, I'm shattered. More tomorrow!

Feast of St Thomas of Canterbury

I've read a couple of complaints on other blogs about the "downgrading" of St Thomas to a Commemoration. I don't actually understand what the problem is... in my Breviary it's down as a Feast (admittedly in the section proper to England) and he's identified as Patron of the English Pastoral Clergy, and it has the same format as the other feasts we've celebrated during the Octave...

Obviously some people need to read their Breviaries a little more carefully...


Fond Farewells...

Ok, that's the lot... we've just had a rousing final Mass - with twenty-nine priests concelebrating (yes, I know some of you out there don't think much of concelebration, but trust me, if it's got to be done, then this is the way to do it... Novus Ordo can be so moving when it's done right!!), a deacon, two acolytes and a thurifer... bells and smells a-plenty!

Anyway, I was singing up in the choir-loft, so had a fantastic view... and managed to get some pretty impressive pics on my little phone, all of which shall be downloaded tonight when I arrive home. And in a gesture of incredible magnanimity, I even promised to send some pictures to Fr Tim... mind you, he is normally quite rude about the quality of my phone pictures...

...I suppose it would help if I didn't shake the wretched thing when pressing the button!

I'm just waiting for the lunch queue to go down a bit. Not sure what's on the menu, but it smells promising. And then it'll be time to say goodbyes. It's all whizzed by so quickly, but it's a real tonic for one's "spirituality"... beats enneagrams hands down!

Bloggers' Convention

The Conference has been really good fun. Lots of old friends here to catch up with, and lots of new faces too. The Conference was oversubscribed this year, and people have had to be turned away.

It is amazing just how many people seem to read blogs. It has also been very gratifying, when I have mentioned my blog name, to see a glint of recognition and an exclamation of "Ohhh ! So you're Mulier Fortis..."

It seems that several bloggers are present. Fr Tim has suggested getting a bloggers' photocall arranged at some time. We shall see...

Anyway, I better go. Morning Prayer...

Slightly Miffed...

I guess that it serves me right! I was feeling ever so slightly superior because Fr Tim had forgotten his camera, and I was sure that I'd be able to post loads of pictures from the Faith Winter Conference as soon as I got home... not that I'm being competitve or anything...

...and then, Sir Dan of the Nesbitry dropped the bombshell that Fr Tim was blogging from somewhere in the school...

*sigh* ...there goes my chance of a blogging scoop!

Wednesday, 27 December 2006

I'm Switching Off, Really....

...well, just one more post!

I see that Northern Cleric at Ubi Petrus, Ibi Ecclesia is dreaming of oak and marble sanctuary floors... so I thought I'd show him a picture or two of my parish church, which is still a work in progress.

First, the High Altar... set up for Benediction. Note the altar rails in the foreground...

And then the Lady Altar (the marble rescued from a reckovation in a nearby parish)

Now, now, Father... remember, envy is a sin!

Baby Jesus Like You've Never Seen Him

I'm off to the Faith Winter Conference tomorrow (well, later today, actually) and so I was having a last visit to all my favourite blogs before turning off the computer (aaarghh! I shall be unable to blog!)

This image over at Laus Crucis stopped me dead in my tracks: having heard Fr Tim's sermon on devotion to the Baby Jesus three times at Mass (with slight variations... Sunday morning, Midnight Mass and Christmas Day), as well as reading it on his blog, it really hit home. I hope that Laus Crucis will not mind me showing the image here:

Tuesday, 26 December 2006

Amusing Myself

I have beeen playing around with my computer. I'm delighted to say that my phone appears to be compatable with my PC, and so I can use the phone as a camera... and then I can upload loads more pictures to the blog!

Technology is certainly getting more and more impressive. I remember when mobile phones first hit the streets... (yes, I really am that old!!) ...they were anything BUT pocket-sized. In fact, the battery packs which were needed to power them up were the size of large rucksacks.

My current phone is a Samsung Z400. It's bigger than I would prefer, but it has video capability... and the photos are rather reasonable. When I get my next upgrade the same quality will probably be in a much smaller and sleeker model.

Anyway, I took a photo of the crib in my parish.

And here's a picture (as I promised some time ago) of my cat, Sylvester, who is doing his utmost to eat me out of house and home (in between providing me with mice to play with!)

Monday, 25 December 2006

Merry Christmas...

A very blessed and joyful Christmas to you all.

Sunday, 24 December 2006

More Festive Merriment

This has to stop. I'm trying to get ready for Midnight Mass. But a friend sent the following to me by email, and I just had to share it with you...

A Wreath for Christmas

When Mary made a holly wreath
The blood ran red - ran red.
Another Mary wove the thorns
That crowned her Master's head.
But the mistletoe was far away
Across a western sea,
And the mistletoe was wreathed around
A pagan apple tree.

In Glastonbury grew a thorn,
When Joseph came to trade.
And the holly bush was common growth
In every wooded glade.
But the mistletoe was sacred where
The sun arose each morn,
And the mistletoe knew nothing of
The Babe in Bethlehem born.

Saint Patrick sailed the stormy seas
To preach the cross - and so
He found Eve's tree - with serpent coiled -
And hung with mistletoe.
"I bid thee, serpent, leave this land,
And open, plant, thine ears."
He preached the tale of Christ - and, lo!
The mistletoe wept tears...

The holly bush has berries red,
Blood-red upon each bough.
The thorn it blooms with golden flowers,
And kissing's fashion now.
What will you give to Christ the Lord,
O pagan bough so green?
"The tears that I have shed for One
Whom I have never seen..."

Let Man then give his life for Man,
The blood-red berries say.
And men have love for fellow men
Where gorse flowers bloom so gay.
And the tears of Man be shed for Man
Where mistletoe gleams white.
Come pity, love and sacrifice...
God bless us all this night.

(Agatha Christie Mallowan)

'Tis the Season to be Jolly...

...and Credo really made my day by posting an encouraging report about the Pro-Life Initiative run by the Sisters of the Gospel of Life.

At the risk of seeming to name-drop, I will just say that the Sister Roseann and Sister Andrea are good friends of mine... with any luck they'll be at the Faith Winter Conference, and I shall get some decent photos of my own instead of having to snaffle other people's!

Anyway, you can read the article HERE and there is a podcast to be had HERE.

"Favourites" Meme

I see that the Dúnadan has put out a universal tag for this meme... and I'm feeling neglected and am convinced that no-one will tag me this side of 2007, so I shall count myself tagged...

(well, it's more fun than housework)

Your Favourite Film?

Tricky one. My all-time favourite film has got to be Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ. I saw it at the cinema nine times. And then I bought the DVD. It's only a tricky one because of the next category...

Your Favourite Film with a Religious theme?

Umm... I suppose that I can't have the same film as last time? OK, I'll plump for Bernadette. It's actually a French film, directed by Jean Delannoy, and starring Sydney Penny. They shot the film on location, and used local Pyrennées actors.

Your Favourite Film Priest?

I guess that has to be Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty (played by Gregory Peck) in The Scarlet and the Black.

Your Favourite Film Nun?

Well, since I only know of two film nuns, it's an easy choice. It just has to be Bernadette (played by Sidney Penny) but I'm not cheating - it's in the sequel: The Passion of Bernadette because she isn't actually a nun in the first film!!

(The other nun was Maria in The Sound of Music which doesn't really count !)

Ok, I shall tag the Catholic Cavemen, the Scorpion Stalking Duck and Orthfully Catholic.

Good Decision

In the end I plumped for the 10:30am High Mass option. I've only just got back (having stopped for a cup of tea in the parish hall - I knew I wouldn't be able to resist the chance for a chin-wag!) and now I have to crack on and sort out my flat.

It was definitely the right choice... all the incense, and hymns, and children getting excited, and a cracking good hymn by Fr Faber (Like the dawning of the morning)... I'm feeling all Christmassy!

Scotland the Brave

Something happening north of the border?

This morning I noticed a new blog (a genuinely new one, that is, not just one I hadn't spotted before) as I tracked back through some of the comments on other blogs. Mark, who describes himself as a Scotsman who works for the police, has started Rise and Pray, on which he promises to start posting properly in 2007... though he just couldn't resist putting up the odd snippet!

And then the tired PP from Valle Adurni has noticed that the Scottish Cardinal has been flexing his muscles (I'd be interested to hear what the clerical equivalent of muscle-flexing might be... have a go in the com-box!!) Anyway, Pastor in Valle has spotted an encouraging article in the Scotsman

Beyond that, there is the question of our identity and self-perception. A medieval peasant, living in harsh conditions, believed his soul was immortal. That gave him an immeasurable dignity and a huge sense of responsibility: the need to ensure his salvation for all eternity. Today, when a Nobel prize-winner will most likely believe he will end his existence at the moment of death, like a cat or a dog, such a reduced self-esteem must have enormous implications for humanity in the developed world. We have gained some 30 years of life expectancy through advances in medicine, and lost an eternity.

Christians, however, have retained that dignity. Unlike God, we had a beginning; but, for better or worse, we believe part of us will continue to exist throughout eternity. That is an awesome concept which must radically influence any believer's perception of himself, investing him with a majestic cosmic destiny. That is the background to tonight's salutation of the Saviour, as lyrically expressed in the prayer at Midnight Mass, taken from Psalm 109: "With thee is the principality in the day of thy strength: in the brightness of the saints from the womb before the day-star I begot thee."

...and then there are all those Scots who blog! The Scots who turn up for the Faith Winter Conference in Stonyhurst and the Faith Summer Session at Woldingham are a pretty neat bunch too...

...must be something genetic! (Did I mention I was half Scottish?)

Harvington Hall

Many thanks to Matt Doyle at Lacrimarum Valle for reminding me about this wonderful house. I had visited it with a group from Maryvale, but it had been a busy week, and I wasn't able to remember the name of the house, though it was a very moving experience.

The ingenuity of the priests' holes is just breathtaking. I would recommend a visit for anyone remotely interested in British Recusant history.

Delightful Decisions

Normally I go to the 6pm Sunday Mass. I started to go to it because I needed one day in the week when I had the opportunity to oversleep. The 6pm Sunday Mass is the quietest (no hymns) and most prayerful. And then I got roped in to helping set up and clearing away (and doing the preparations for Monday morning Mass)... I say "roped in," but don't get me wrong, I'm a willing conscript: I get to find out about all the beautiful vestments and sacred vessels and stuff (Fr Tim has very good taste), and there is a slight sense that by helping to prepare things, I am imitating one of my heroes, St Anne Line.

But, being Christmas Eve, today we don't have a 6pm Mass. So to fulfil my Sunday obligation I have to choose between the 9am and the 10:30am. I didn't know whether I'd wake up in time for the earlier Mass, but it would seem my Guardian Angel is on overtime...

9am is the "children's" Mass, and it has the advantage of finishing by 9:50am, leaving me plenty of time to get sorted for Christmas (and I've got loads of housework to do.) The 10:30am is "High" Mass (and I won't be home before midday), but it has the choir and incense... and Father sings the Asperges...

Actually, now I've thought about it, I'm experiencing incense cravings...

Friday, 22 December 2006

Seriously Hacked Off...

Chatting in the parish club this evening produced a little snippet of information which is seriously bad for my blood pressure.

One of my friends told me of what he thought would be an interesting programme due to be shown in the evening on Christmas Day. When he told me it was on Channel 4, my heart sank, because I knew it was highly unlikely that anything on that channel would be in any way favourable towards Catholicism...

Sure enough, it transpires that the programme is "The Secret Family of Jesus." Presented by Robert Beckford (described by Channel 4 as a leading theologian), the programme listing goes on to explain how he

"...tells the story of the conspiracy that Dan Brown missed. It's the story of the people who shared his bloodline and knew him best, and who existed for at least 300 years after his death."

My friend, who is a recent convert to the Faith, told me that the trailers he'd seen had described how "one" of the Gospels had mentioned the brothers and sisters of Jesus, briefly, and that any further mention of them had been firmly suppressed.

Quite apart from the feeling of déjà vu (yet another conspiracy from that wicked, scheming institution known as the Catholic Church) the sheer unadulterated cynicism which could deliberately arrange for such a programme to go out on Christmas Day really gets up my nose.

It is a deliberate attack against the teachings of the Catholic Church (and it is Catholic teaching which is being attacked, as many Protestants hold that Jesus had actual brothers and sisters) and this will be used to undermine many others - after all, if the Church lied about Jesus having brothers and sisters, then the stuff about Mary being "ever-Virgin" is untrue, and maybe even the Virgin Birth... and hey, while we're at it, why believe the stuff about the Resurrection?

This sort of slur would not be allowed against, for example, the Prophet Muhammed on the feast of Eid-ul-Fitr at the end of Ramadan. But Catholic beliefs and teachings are fair game...

Just in case any readers of my blog are in any doubt, the Gospels do refer to brothers and sisters of Jesus. However, the Fathers of the Church are quite clear that the terms "brother" and "sister" are actually being used to refer to cousins: the same thing happens in some other cultures even today (some Nigerian friends of mine caused me a great deal of confusion when I first met them by referring to cousins in this way.)

Frog Liturgy

Further to various mentions of the Prayer of the Frog on different blogs, it would appear that Paulinus couldn't resist, and has succumbed to the lure of liturgical creativity...

Check out the Inner Frog Workshop at the Recusant Cricket Club... But, be warned. This is seriously hard-core liturgical mangling, and not for the faint-hearted!! Or anyone trying to drink coffee while reading blogs...


British Preoccupation with the Weather

When I was at school (yes, ok, a very long time ago), I remember learning that Britain had a temperate climate. This meant that we got all sorts of weather. In Summer, it tended to be warm and sunny. Spring and Autumn were a bit more variable - lots of rain - and Winter was cold (and generally wet.)

Now maybe I'm guilty of remembering selectively... but, although the weather was famous for being a British topic of conversation, that was as far as it went. I do remember a hot Summer when we had a hosepipe ban (1976... oooh, that's let the cat out of the bag!) but apart from that, the British took the weather in their stride...

This is no longer the case. Any extremes in weather seem to be hailed as major catastrophes... this might be understandable, as being in a temperate climate doesn't prepare you for extremes, but I detect a cetain wimpish streak emerging.

One time the railways ground to a halt with the excuse that there were leaves on the line. Yes, in Autumn trees shed their leaves. Surely the fact that they have to land somewhere was pretty obvious, and that, as most railway lines have trees alongside, some of those leaves might possibly end up on the lines??

And then there was the time when the trains couldn't run because of snow. New trains. Designed to run in all weather. But apparently it was (wait for it...) the wrong kind of snow.

Last year the roads were in chaos because of snow. The weathermen had forecast snow, but it still was enough of a surprise to make motorways into giant carparks, and people were in danger of freezing to death.

Then, this Summer, it was too hot. We had to have drought warnings and hosepipe bans. We seem to have hosepipe bans every Summer, no matter how much rain we get in the Winter, because too much rain falls all at once...

...and now, the pièce de resistance: all short-haul and medium haul flights are being cancelled at Heathrow because of fog. But I thought we always got fog in Winter. We don't always get snow, but fog is pretty much part of the territory!!!

And just one other thing to consider... How come the long-haul flights can cope with fog?

I Don't Like Personality Tests But...

...I couldn't resist taking this one either!!

I'm a Mandarin!

You're an intellectual, and you've worked hard to get where you are now. You're a strong believer in education, and you think many of the world's problems could be solved if people were more informed and more rational. You have no tolerance for sloppy or lazy thinking. It frustrates you when people who are ignorant or dishonest rise to positions of power. You believe that people can make a difference in the world, and you're determined to try.

Talent: 21%
Lifer: 54%
Mandarin: 72%

Take the Talent, Lifer, or Mandarin quiz.

...Mind you, I have to admit that I thought a mandarin was a type of orange!!

I'm Not a Sporty Type, But...

...I couldn't resist this one!

I'm an Audi TT!

You're not the fastest, nor the most nimble, but you're cute and you have style. You're not intensely competitive, but when you pass by, everyone turns to look.

Take the Which Sports Car Are You? quiz.

H/T to Scorpion Stalking Duck

Wednesday, 20 December 2006

Does Santa Claus Exist? - Scientific Viewpoint

Santa visits the Lebanon


1) No known species of reindeer can fly. But there are 300,000 species of living organisms yet to be classified, and while most of these are insects and germs, this does not COMPLETELY rule out flying reindeer which only Santa has ever seen.

2) There are 2 billion children (persons under 18) in the world. BUT since Santa doesn't (appear) to handle the Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Buddhist children, that reduces the workload to 15% of the total - 378 million according to Population Reference Bureau. At an average (census) rate of 3.5 children per household, that's 91.8 million homes. One presumes there's at least one good child in each.

3) Santa has 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming he travels east to west (which seems logical).

This works out to 822.6 visits per second. This is to say that for each Christian household with good children, Santa has 1/1000th of a second to park, hop out of the sleigh, jump down the chimney, fill the stockings, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left, get back up the chimney, get back into the sleigh and move on to the next house.

Assuming that each of these 91.8 million stops are evenly distributed around the earth (which, of course, we know to be false but for the purposes of our calculations we will accept), we are now talking about .78 miles per household, a total trip of 75-1/2 million miles, not counting stops to do what most of us must do at least once every 31 hours, plus feeding and etc.

This means that Santa's sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second, 3,000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the fastest man- made vehicle on earth, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second - a conventional reindeer can run, tops, 15 miles per hour.

4) The payload on the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium-sized lego set (2 pounds), the sleigh is carrying 321,300 tons, not counting Santa, who is invariably described as overweight.

On land, conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting that 'flying reindeer' (see point 1) could pull TEN TIMES the normal amount, we cannot do the job with eight, or even nine.

We need 214,200 reindeer. This increases the payload - not even counting the weight of the sleigh - to 353,430 tons. Again, for comparison - this is four times the weight of the QE2.

5) 353,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance - this will heat the reindeer up in the same fashion as spacecraft re-entering the earth's atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer will absorb 14.3 QUINTILLION joules of energy. Per second. Each.

In short, they will burst into flame almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them, and create deafening sonic booms in their wake. The entire reindeer team will be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second.

Santa, meanwhile, will be subjected to centrifugal forces 17,500.06 times greater than gravity. A 250-pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of his sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force.

In conclusion - If Santa ever DID deliver presents on Christmas Eve, he's dead now...

(NOTE: This appeared in the SPY Magazine (January, 1990) )

Does Santa Claus Exist? - Theological Viewpoint

From the lesser-known Summa Contra Scroogicum...

Whether Santa Claus Exists?

We proceed thus to the Third Article: -

Objection 1: It seems that Santa Claus does not exist, since Christmas gifts are able to be given by good elves. Therefore Santa Claus does not exist.

Objection 2: Further, if Santa Claus did exist, there would be no narrow chimneys. But there are narrow chimneys, and sometimes no chimneys at all. Therefore, Santa Claus does not exist.

On the Contrary, Kay Starr says: "I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus underneath the mistletoe last night."

I answer that, The existence of Santa Claus can be proved in five ways.

The first and foremost way is taken from Christmas trees. It is certain and evident to our senses that in the world some things are Christmas trees. Now, no pine tree becomes a Christmas tree unless it is trimmed. Now to be trimmed means to receive ornaments from another. But this cannot go on to infinity in the trimming of Christmas trees. One must come to some first untrimmed trimmer; and this everyone understands to be Santa Claus.

The second way is from the nature of Christmas gifts. We see that in the world Christmas gifts are given and received. Whoever, then, gives Christmas gifts either receives them from another or makes them in his workshop. If, however, no one makes Christmas gifts in his workshop, they are not given or received. Therefore, it is necessary to posit some first giver of Christmas gifts, whom everyone calls Santa Claus.

The third way is from plastic images resembling Santa Claus. At all stores we see things of plastic that represent Santa Claus. These things are of such a quality that they are representatives according to Santa himself or according to other images of him. But, it is not possible to proceed to infinity in images. Therefore, it is necessary to posit something which is resembling Santa Claus, and hence Santa Claus exists.

The forth way is taken from the grades which are found in Christmas spirit. Indeed, in this world, among men there are some of more and some of less Christmas spirit. But "more" and "less" is said of diverse things according as they resemble in their diverse way something which is the "maximum." Therefore, there must be something which has the most Christmas spirit, and this we call Santa Claus.

The fifth way is taken from the behavior of children. When Christmas day approaches, we see from their being good always or frequently that children, who lack understanding, are moved because of an end. But children would not be good because of the nativity of Christ unless there were someone who strengthened them so that they were good. And this someone is known by all to be Santa Claus.

Reply Objection 1: Good elves, since they receive Christmas gifts from another, should be named the highest helpers of Santa Claus.

Reply Objection 2: It is not impossible that Santa Claus should use the door like everyone else.

H/T The Ironic Catholic

More Encouragement

Another "new" blog... well, new since September 2006. Fr Jay Toborowsky describes himself as a "Young Fogey." He had an interesting post on the Sacrament of Confession.

H/T to Ma Beck for putting up the link.

Spreading the Christmas Cheer...

The Catholic Blogosphere appears to be preoccupied with the idea of the Vatican fielding a football team. Booooooring!

So I am going to post a joke. Not a very funny one, but it made me chuckle.

Ok, this duck waddles in to a bar. He goes up to the barman, and says, (ok, I know, talking ducks are not very believable, but humour me... suspend disbelief just for a moment...)
"Got any bread?"

Bemused, the barman replies, "Err, no... this is a bar. We don't sell bread."
"Ok," quacks the duck, and he waddles out.
Next day, duck returns. "Hi, got any bread?"
"No," says the barman, "this is a bar. No bread."
Duck waddles off.
Next day, duck returns again. "Any bread?"
Barman, getting irritated, "No bread... THIS IS A BAR! We DON'T sell BREAD."
"Oh, ok." And the duck waddles off.

This goes on, and on, and on, for several days. Same question from the duck. Same answer from the barman, though he is getting more and more irritated. After a fortnight, the barman cracks.
In reply to the duck's question, he leans over the bar, grabs the duck by the beak and pulls him up, eye to eye.

"Listen, Daffy, I have had just about enough of you. This is a BAR. We serve DRINKS. We do NOT sell BREAD. Now, if you come in here again, asking for bread, I swear that I am going to nail you by your beak to the bar and batter you senseless, and serve you up to my customers with orange sauce... Now, have you got that?"
"Err, ok," says the duck, and waddles off.

Next day, the duck comes in. He looks up at the barman, who is glaring at him...
"Got any nails?"
The barman, almost apoplectic, shouts out "NO!"
"Good," says the duck... "Got any bread?"

Blog References

I seem to have made someone's day! David, over at Fullness of Faith, has noted a major jump in visits, and they are apparently arriving via this blog. He suggested that I make another reference to it, and I'm happy to oblige!!

I see that Fr Tim has given his blog a mention too... now that really will increase David's visitor numbers. Check out his new poll on brussels sprouts!

Tuesday, 19 December 2006

Encouraging Signs

I am really having fun exploring the Blogosphere with my new computer. I am revelling in the freedom of broadband, so much so that, this evening, when a few pages took more than ten seconds to load, I found myself getting impatient...

I shall try to be more adventurous in my explorations. One "new" blog to add to my UK list is Valle Adurni - the blog is run by Pastor in Valle, who describes himself as a tired Parish Priest. Like my own PP, he's a lecturer at the Seminary at Wonersh. I like his gentle style...

With the sort of priests we seem to have at the seminary as lecturers (several bloggers among them) and students like those great guys at Orthfully Catholic (I think they're at a different seminary!) I would say there is real hope for the future of the Church in the UK. Good. I was getting a little down-hearted with some of the stuff which has been going on at the moment... I've quite cheered up!

Our Lady, Queen of the Clergy, pray for them.

Evidence (At Last)

I had a really great day when I renewed my vows two weeks ago. I also mentioned that Fr Tim had sacrificed the second of the two poundcakes which he'd ordered from Ma Beck for the party afterwards... and that the cake had gone down a real storm ! Fr Tim took pictures, but he's been a little busy lately (well, so he says...) so I've only just received them...

...admittedly I wouldn't have been able to upload them before now anyway!

But here is the "before" picture when the cake made its appearance...

...and here is what happened to it...

(I think it's safe to say that it was pretty delicious!)

Monday, 18 December 2006

Picture Uploads

Ok, I now have to admit that it was either my desperately aged and decrepit computer which couldn't cope when Blogger changed the image upload format, or it was Internet Explorer which couldn't cope. I don't know which, as I'm no longer using either!

However, I wanted to put up a photo of Fr Richard Whinder in my post on his excellent talk, determined as I was to get one over on Fr Tim, who hadn't brought his camera along (and who still hasn't sent me the photos of Ma Beck's poundcake! Such dereliction of duty in a cleric is shocking!!) So here is the photo...

...and in case anyone was wondering, I got those awfully nice chaps from Miles Jesu to take a photo of my nails (which looked pretty good, despite having to retrieve a mouse from my cat's clutches while the nails were still wet!!) And by the way, the nails are real, and I painted them myself.

What Have I Started??!

I might have known it was a bad idea... After checking out old YouTube videos on my favourite blogs, I came across some brilliant spoofs by Wierd Al Yankovic. Then I suddenly remembered he'd done a spoof of the Madonna hit "Like a virgin" which he'd changed to "Like a surgeon"

...Given the number of medics who seem to haunt the Catholic Blogosphere, I just had to post this one: so, Joee, Matt, Antonia, Paulinus, and any other docs out there, enjoy!!

First Video Post !

I just had to try to put this one up! H/T to Scorpion Stalking Duck.

Sunday, 17 December 2006

Fun and Games

Well, the broadband internet connection works... and the email appears to be ok (I decided to take the advice of Fr Tim over at The Hermeneutic of Continuity, and have switched to Firefox and Thunderbird for internet browsing and email respectively.)

Now all I need to do is download some software... when I've finished looking at all the video clips I've been unable to access all this time!

Saturday, 16 December 2006

Christmas Arrives Early

I went to visit my mother and stepfather this afternoon. My sister and her husband also came over - we're not meeting up for Christmas itself, as my sister will have rather more pressing matters to attend to...

The baby has moved round, and is now wherever it should be with only three weeks left. So thank you to everyone who said a prayer. It would appear that my nephew/niece resembles me: it got very excited when my sister started to eat chocolate cake! Nice to know we already have something in common!!

My sister and brother-in-law also gave me my Christmas present: they started off with a long explanation of how they thought it would be useful for me, especially with me being a teacher... that confused me - it sounded as if I was going to be given a supply of chalk rather than my usual present of perfume (I always ask for Dior Poison or Hypnotic Poison as I really love the smell, and I get through bucketloads of it !)

In fact it turned out to be a COMPUTER ! I was completely stunned. I have been warned that this is a combined birthday and Christmas present for the next couple of years!!

It is ever so exciting: my old computer is pretty near to death: the CD drive doesn't work, the on-off switch has just snapped within the last week, and the monitor is getting darker and darker, and takes nearly five minutes to warm up. The computer is so old that I can't get broadband, and it still uses Windows 95, which means that practically nothing new will run on it.

The advantage of having an obsolete operating system is that none of the viruses, worms and other nasties out there can cope...

Anyway, I have spent an hour or so connecting everything to check that it works - the computer is technically second-hand, as someone had returned it after a week, but the system has been re-booted, and it's got its warranty (and protective plastic strips still on the front of the disk drives)... I gather that my brother-in-law was able to get a good deal on it because of the "used" status. It also came without a monitor, but another friend had given me her old monitor (which wasn't that old, but the speakers were meant to be attached to the monitor and the attachments had snapped off) and it turns out that it's the same make as the new computer...

So, everything works. I haven't got as far as getting the internet up and running yet (I'm a bit tired, and I suspect I'll need my wits about me) and I need to download all my useful files and folders from the old computer before I can clear it out and put the new one in its place. I also need to get a cable, because the broadband connection is in the sitting room (along with the tv and phone) and I really want the computer to stay in the spare room (I've got a phone line in there, but not broadband) - but these are minor glitches !

In case anyone is interested: the new computer is a Packard Bell iMedia MC 2459. It's got a Pentium 4, 524 processor, and an 80 GB hard drive. Yum yum!!

Friday, 15 December 2006

Your Prayers Please

I was chatting to one of my friends this afternoon (Max's grandmother) and she told me that her younger son (who's doing A levels) and a friend of his were involved in a horrible accident yesterday. A car swerved to avoid another car, and drove up onto the pavement, hitting the two boys. Her son is rather battered and bruised, but thankfully not badly injured. His friend was less fortunate: he is in intensive care, on a respirator, and he's had his spleen removed, but there might be more internal bleeding.

Please spare a prayer or two for all those involved.

Pilgrimage Planning

It is that time of year again... middle of Advent, so it's time to organise the Parish Pilgrimage. Somehow or other I ended up with this job last year, and, after failing to make a complete hash of it, I'm in for Round 2!

We go to Lourdes for the May half-term holiday, Monday - Friday. Rather than paying an exorbitant amount for the privilege of fitting in with whatever the official tour operators decide you should do, we organise the whole shebang "in-house". This is actually much easier than it sounds.

A small group of us went on a recce before the first "home-grown" Parish Pilgrimage and we identified a lovely three-star family-run hotel almost next door to the shrine. It's a great place - with lots of dark wood panelling straight out of an Agatha Christie novel, only without the dead bodies - and so we go back each year. The hotel staff are friendly and helpful, and are happy to arrange coaches to and from the airport. We go half-board, which allows people plenty of time to explore during the day, rather than forcing them to rush back to the hotel for lunch. And finding a good place to eat isn't exactly rocket science...

Arranging Masses and other religious activities is pretty easy as well. There are a few ghastly modern-type chapels which we avoid like a dose of the plague, but if you are willing to be flexible about times, it isn't a problem getting the chapels you want. The only restriction is that you can't book a small parish group in until after April, as the big Diocesan (and other organisation) pilgrimages are given first priority for obvious reasons.

The Torchlight Procession and the Blessed Sacrament Procession happen at fixed times each day, and the International Mass (held in the imitation-underground-car-park... oops, sorry, the St Pius X Basilica!) is on the Wednesday morning. The Stations of the Cross, a visit to the Baths, a tour of the town in the footsteps of St Bernadette, a video about the Apparitions and the opportunity for Confession all have to be slotted in around the times of Masses, so the final programme can't be sorted yet.

The most difficult part is booking the flights: unless you can charter a plane, you are pretty much at the mercy of the airlines. Full details of each passenger are required, and it is almost more trouble than its worth to change a name at a later date, so this can be a bit fraught. Prices seem to vary on a daily basis, and they go down as well as up, so booking early isn't always cheaper... though at least you're guaranteed a seat.

Anyway, the notice has gone in for this week's newsletter, and the Booking Form has been given to Fr Tim to photocopy. So now it's just a case of wait and see...

Thursday, 14 December 2006

First Knight of the Catholic Blogosphere

Fr Tim over at The Hermeneutic of Continuity (I can almost spell it without looking now!!) has proposed that stalwart of the Faith Movement, Dan (also affectionately known to many as Cooperman) should be voted in by acclamation as Knight of the Blogosphere.

Absolutely brilliant idea. Vote now. At the moment the votes stand as 27 for and 0 against. I suspect that anyone who votes against this excellent suggestion will be cast into the outer darkness, and only let back in when they have bought ten pamphlets and a magazine from Dan's stall at the Faith Student Conference... and read them...

Wednesday, 13 December 2006

Blogging Debut

As I scrolled down my blog checking a few things (basically trying to figure out what subjects I want to burble on about next) my eye was caught by a new blog on the block...

David, over at The Fullness of Faith, put up a link to my blog. I hadn't spotted the name before, and as the link list is the blogging equivalent of one's ears burning, I scooted over to investigate. He's a convert to Catholicism, and he also had to make the difficult decision to leave his ministry as an Anglican Vicar. So far, David just has an introduction up (but I love his choice of picture: Jesus giving Peter the keys.) It will be interesting to see how his blog develops...

More on Babies

I put up a post last week explaining that some friends of mine had recently had their baby, and that the doting grandparents had assured me that the baby was gorgeous...

Well, I went round for dinner on Monday night, and got to see the baby for myself. He is absolutely scrumptious, and has got to be the most placid and well-behaved baby I have ever clapped eyes on. He submitted to being passed around among his young aunts with hardly a gurgle. And I got to cuddle him for a bit, which was great. I need the practice, as my own nephew/niece is about to arrive.

The poor little chap got the hiccups, which shook his whole body, and left him looking a little bemused. I didn't manage to get a picture - though I still can't get photos to upload, which is beginning to irritate.

Anyway, Max is an absolute stunner!

Friday, 8 December 2006

More Prayers Please

On the subject of babies, I have mentioned that my sister is expecting her first in early January. She had problems at the beginning of the pregnancy but they had seemed to have passed.

Yesterday she was told that there is a possibility that the baby will be a breech presentation, as it's in the wrong position at the moment. There is still another week in which my nephew/niece could move round, but obviously my sister is a little worried. Any prayers gratefully received.

St. Gerard, pray for them.

Baby Boom

Two of my friends have just had their baby a couple of weeks ago - a gorgeous baby boy named Max. I've been told he's gorgeous by the proud grandparents - I haven't seen him yet, but knowing the parents I'd say they're probably right!!

Two more friends emailed to say that they are expecting baby number five in April. And on Saturday another friend said she was expecting her second baby around April/May time.

Wow !

Thursday, 7 December 2006

Blogger Bother

I don't quite understand what is going on. Each time I try to upload an image so that I can add it to my post, the little triangle beside the "Uploading Image to Blogger" message gets blocked out by a grey-ish square and after a minute or two more I get a "Cannot find server" message.

This is patently stupid, because I can still put up posts, which presumably go to the same server...

...then again, maybe not.

Anyway, I've tried refreshing the page, emptying my cache, re-booting my computer... all to no avail. This is irritating, as just for once I have some decent pictures I want to put up.

I've contacted Blogger Help but haven't heard anything yet...

In a minute I'm going to start sulking...

Wednesday, 6 December 2006

Debunking the Myths

Miles Jesu are visiting our parish each evening this week - and in addition to a Holy Hour we've been treated to talks from various speakers.

Yesterday Fr Richard Whinder gave a fascinating (and enlightening) talk on the Church in the Middle Ages. He pointed out that England was noted throughout Christendom for its devotion to Our Lady (hence the title Dowry of Mary), for its many great saints, for its Universities and for its great Religious houses.

He painted a picture of the medieval Church which was very much at odds with the popular ideas promoted in the media. In view of my last post, I was very entertained by Fr Richard's comments on the role and status of women in Christian Europe: a position not held under the rule of the Roman Empire, and lost again at the Renaissance when Roman law was "rediscovered" and reimposed.

Fr Tim managed to put up a post before me YESTERDAY, but he didn't have his camera handy and so didn't get a shot of Fr Richard (it has become a bit of an in-joke: for a priest who doesn't have a blog himself, he seems to crop up with amazing regularity in posts by UK Catholic bloggers, usually in the photos!) I didn't have my phone with me (I don't have a digital camera, but my phone works pretty well!) BUT Fr Richard kindly sent me a photo I could use to adorn this post... and so get one over on Fr Tim!!

(Unfortunately, the best-laid plans and all that... Blogger seems to be throwing a strop at the moment, so I can't upload the photo. I shall put the photo up as soon as the system sorts itself out.)

UPDATE: I've finally sorted the problem... by changing both the computer and the browser... so here is the picture:

Monday, 4 December 2006

The True Mulier Fortis

I get more than a little annoyed when people criticise the Church for not giving enough "power" to women. Of course, what they really mean is that women are not "allowed" to be priests. I'm not proposing to go into the theological justification for this (although I might give my opinion another time), just suffice it to say that I totally concur with the teaching of our Holy Mother the Church (funny, but none of the PC crowd ever object to that use of gender-specific nomenclature!)

Quite apart from the fact that those misguided souls who are calling for women to be admitted to the priesthood obviously have a very warped conception of what the priesthood actually is (because they equate being a priest with being "powerful") but they also rather miss the point when it comes to the attitude of the Church towards women.

Yes, there have in the past been some individuals in the Catholic Church who had a rather ambivalent view of sex and women, etc. etc. I'm no historian, and I don't know all the ins and outs of gender politics during the past two millennia (but let it be noted that the Protestant Church has had an even more ambivalent attitude - burning (female) witches being a more predominantly Protestant activity!) But whatever may have been said by individuals, the fact remains that the most powerful human being throughout the history of the Catholic Church is a woman.

Our Lord and Saviour was born of a woman. He was carried for nine months in the womb of a woman. Our God became incarnate, and he asked for the co-operation of a woman. Joseph was the foster-father of Jesus. Mary was truly his mother.

Our Blessed Lady is often dismissed as a poor role-model by feminists. They point to the emphasis on her virginity, and use this to claim that the church only approves of women who are either perfect virgins (impossible for most women to imitate) or saintly repentant prostitutes (citing devotion to Mary Magdalene as evidence for the latter). This feminist view ignores the truth: Mary's virginity is not valued because procreation is somehow degraded and sinful - a very Gnostic attitude, and condemned by the Church as heresy - but because it shows that Jesus did not have a human father: he is truly the Son of God, not just a man given divine power.

Another reason for Mary's dismissal as a role-model for modern women is the portrayal of her as a very insipid character. She is a model of humility, of obedience, of total submission to God. Milk-and-water meekness and goodness. Very unfashionable.

I beg to differ. Our Lady appears infrequently in the Gospels, but her character as revealed by those appearances is anything but insipid. When the Angel Gabriel appears, she asks for clarification of what she does not understand. If a supernatural being suddenly appeared to me, I don't think I would have the courage to ask questions! At the wedding feast at Cana, Mary takes the initiative and tells Jesus that the newlyweds are in dire straits. She trusts him to do something about it - and is so confident that she orders the servants to " whatever he tells you." Nothing insipid about that.

And then there is Mary's presence during the Passion. Unlike those terribly brave (male) disciples of his, Mary ran off because she was afraid... umm, no, I don't think so!!

I have just finished reading The Glories of Mary by St Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787). He assembled as much information about Our Lady as he could find from the writings of the Saints, Doctors of the Church and other holy authors as well as from Sacred Scripture. And although he writes much about her mercy towards those who call upon her, especially sinners, the person who emerges from the pages is far from insipid, especially in her attitude to unrepentant and obstinate sinners:

"...he [the sinner] saw the most Blessed Virgin Mary, who said to him: 'Presumptious man that thou art, dost thou dare to appear before me? Depart hence, and go to that fire which thou hast deserved.' "

The book I read just before this one was True Devotion to Mary by St Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort (1673-1716). In it, St Louis-Marie describes Mary as having power and authority even over the angels:

"...God has made her queen of heaven and earth, leader of his armies... destroyer of his enemies..."

And to leave absolutely no room for doubt,

"...The most fearful enemy that God has set up against the devil is Mary, his holy Mother."

Anyone described as "queen of heaven and earth," "destroyer" and "most fearful enemy" is far from weak. Mary's power, given by God, would make her truly terrifying were it not for her love towards us, her children, entrusted to her by Jesus on the cross. If it were not for this merciful love, we would indeed fear to approach her. Devotion to Mary is not mawkish sentimentality and veneration of spineless subservience. The 12th century hymn, "Daily, daily, sing to Mary," ascribed to St Bernard of Cluny, makes this very clear:

"All our joys do flow from Mary, all then join her praise to sing;
trembling, sing the virgin mother, mother of our Lord and King,
while we sing her awful glory, far above our fancy's reach,
let our hearts be quick to offer love the heart alone can teach.

As a woman, I would count myself blessed if I could imitate even some of Mary's virtues. The true Mulier Fortis is a role-model to rejoice in.

Saturday, 2 December 2006

On the Vow of Chastity

I thought I'd put up a copy of the reading I had from the Introduction to the Devout Life by St Francis de Sales. I also had a Gospel reading (Matthew 16:24-27).

"She must offer God her body and chastity by means of a vow. After making her vow she no longer has the power to give up chastity without giving up her title to heaven. Hence she will watch over her vow so jealously that not for a single moment will she let the least thought of marriage enter her heart. In this way her holy vow will serve as a strong barrier between her soul and every project contrary to her resolution.

"A vow not only makes good works done as a result of it more acceptable to God but it also encourages us to put them into practice. It gives God not only the good works that are the fruits of our good will but likewise dedicates to him the will itself, the tree on which all our actions grow.

"By simple chastity we lend our body to God while still retaining the liberty to use it for sensual pleasure at some other time. By the vow of chastity we make him an absolute and irrevocable gift of our body without reserving to ourselves any power of recall. In this way we happily make ourselves slaves of him whose service is better than all royal power.

"Souls who are so happy as to desire to follow this advice should do so prudently, devoutly and firmly, having first examined their resolutions, invoked God’s divine inspiration, and taken counsel of a wise and devout director. Moreover, this renunciation must be made purely and simply with the single intention of turning all the affection of one’s soul toward God and uniting one’s heart wholly with that of his Divine Majesty.

"In God’s eyes nothing can truly merit praise except what is done for his sake."

(St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, Third Part. No. 40)

A Day to Celebrate

I had a lovely day today.

It started with a card in the post and a few text messages conveying best wishes. And there was one text which was from a friend who had managed to get lost when leaving Sidcup Station.

There was a card in the sacristy for me (which had been sent c/o the PP) with best wishes from fellow-blogger Paulinus (of In Hoc Signo Vinces fame) - this made me laugh out loud, because the picture on the front of the card was thought to be one "Blackadder"... the first Archbishop of Glasgow, that is, not the character played by Rowan Atkinson! I hadn't realised that there really was someone of that name!!

The morning progressed as I indicated in my last post: Mass, Exposition, Benediction and then the Servers' Latin lesson (it was to learn the Classical Rite, not the Novus Ordo as I thought) and then it was time for me to renew my vows.

It took much less time than the half-hour I had predicted... partly due to the fact that this year, instead of a homily, Fr Tim read an extract I'd picked from St. Francis de Sales' Introduction to the Devout Life. It could have been written especially for me, and I liked it so much I've had the same reading for a couple of years.

Then we went to the Large Hall, where the UCM had really gone to town preparing a beautiful spread. Just for once I allowed myself a few drinks (I'll have to pick the car up tomorrow) and had a relaxing afternoon chatting away to my friends.

The blueberry pound cake baked by Ma Beck made its appearance, and was a great success - its demise was duly photographed by Fr Tim - the evidence will appear either on his blog or mine (if he sends me copies of the photos!) It really was delicious.

To finish off my day, I got a comment from those great guys at Orthfully Catholic: they've sent me a spiritual bouquet of prayers from all of them - Masses, Rosaries and Holy Hours - and that was a wonderfully uplifting thought. The knowledge that people are praying for you is just awesome.

Friday, 1 December 2006

Last Minute Preparations

Well, I think I'm almost ready for tomorrow. I prepared a leaflet with the order of service on it, but then realised that there wasn't much point printing it out, because the Litany of Saints will be in Latin rather than English - and my Latin wasn't up to the task of translation (Fr Tim will translate "on the hoof") and the other readings and prayers are pretty straightforward... and I am firmly of the opinion that the less paper being waved about the better (that goes for Mass as well!!)

Because I want to fit in with the usual Saturday devotions in the Parish, I will be in church pretty much all morning. There will be Mass (Novus Ordo, but in Latin and ad orientem at the Lady Altar) then Exposition for an hour, and Benediction. Then Fr Tim will be teaching a couple of youngsters some Latin so that they can serve Mass (Classical Rite eventually, but Novus Ordo to start with) and I help to fulfil the child protection requirements by being there... as well as getting to learn some Latin, hopefully! And then my Renewal of Vows is at 1pm.

And of course, I haven't neglected the more secular side of things: the UCM will have the catering well in hand, and tomorrow the bar will be open in the Parish Club. I've got my outfit sorted, and I've treated myself to a DIY facial. I am also attempting to do my nails... they've all reached a decent length for once, and I decided to go for the "French Manicure" look. Easier said than done - painting all the tips white on my left hand was ok, but getting the edges straight on my right hand is proving more problematic. Vanity, vanity... well, yes, maybe so, but a girl has got to try and look her best on her "wedding anniversary" !! And to counteract the very secular nature of my activities I am listening to a CD of Mass chants - Missa de Angelis to be precise.

Sylvester, my cat, is obviously determined to distract me from such frivolous pursuits... he brought me in a mouse to play with. Trying to retrieve a mouse from your cat when your nails are wet is a real challenge. I thought that this year's mousing season was over - obviously the warm weather has confused more than flowering plants...

Thursday, 30 November 2006

Another Anniversary to Celebrate?

This time last year I had a pretty major car crash - and when I say major, I mean I really stopped traffic, six lanes, both sides of the A2 (it's actually more like a motorway at that point.) Getting hit twice by an articulated lorry, spinning across three lanes in the middle of the morning rush hour, colliding with (and denting) the central reservation barrier and flipping over onto your roof doesn't do much for the bodywork. Especially when those nice men from the fire brigade promptly cut the car open like a tin can in order to get you out...

...none of the people from the emergency services (police, ambulance and fire brigade) could believe that I'd survived the crash, and with nothing more than bad bruising and a tiny cut on one finger from a fragment of glass. The insurance assessor bluntly told me that he'd double-checked with the company when he'd seen the state of the car, because he was sure that the driver would be "out of the picture" and he needed to know who to speak to.

I thought I was going to die after the first impact, and I started to pray the Hail Mary as I wanted to die with those words on my lips. Our Lady and my Guardian Angel obviously had other ideas...

Wednesday, 29 November 2006

The Traveller Returns...

I note from his latest post on the Hermeneutic of Continuity that Fr Tim has made it back to Blighty in spite of being fog-bound on his travels to foreign climes...

He really should know better. The year of my first anniversary he managed to get himself stranded somewhere like Geneva. Fog. The night before my Renewal of Vows I got a phone call telling me that he was on his way to Belgium and hoped to get back to England by Eurostar in time for the ceremony (at which he was presiding!) but he thought he'd better warn me that he might not make it...

At least that won't be happening this year... unless he's planned another trip for tomorrow!

Tuesday, 28 November 2006

In Search of St. Anne Line

St. Anne Line is the particular patron saint I chose when I first took my vows. I thought that, in the run-up to my Renewal of Vows, it might be an idea to put up a description of a pilgrimage I made a few years ago, in her honour... I wrote it up, and Joanna (of Auntie Joanna Writes fame) persuaded me to submit it for the ACW Review. It was published in June 2004...

...unfortunately I don't know how to put up a longer version of a post somewhere else, so the whole thing will be posted here.

I was attracted to St. Anne Line as a patron because of her feisty retort at her trial when charged with harbouring a priest, where, totally unrepentant, she declared that her only regret was not harbouring a thousand of them. However, I had been unable to find out very much else about St Anne, and even hours of surfing the web had only resulted in three very sketchy accounts.

I was talking to Joanna, about the lack of information available, and it was then that one of those spooky coincidences occurred. She told me that she had recently met a priest at Tyburn Convent, and he was the Parish Priest of a church dedicated to Saint Anne Line. We both agreed that this was amazing, and agreed to make a pilgrimage to the church to see if we could find out more.

The day we picked for the pilgrimage was a Saturday. We both wanted to get to Mass, but although the idea of attending Mass at the church dedicated to St Anne was an attractive one, the idea of getting up early enough to find it was somewhat less so. Instead, I drove over to Joanna’s parish to meet her, and we attended Mass there. Then, very excited, we jumped into the car, and tried to work out the best route. This was when we hit our first snag. Neither of us knew the address of the church. We decided that we might try to locate it by looking through the Catholic Directory.

The first one we came across was in Dunmow, which made sense because this was where St Anne was born. We looked at the name of the parish priest, and this wasn’t the priest Joanna had met at Tyburn. Eventually we found the one she was looking for, in South Woodford. This lead to the second snag: which one should we visit? We decided to look at distances, and consulted our map. Third snag: Dunmow wasn’t listed in the map index. We then rang the number listed in the directory, and I spoke to an elderly man (presumably the Parish Priest) to ask for directions. After a few acidic comments about the poor quality of our map, he told us the name of a nearby town. Then I realised that Dunmow was on the map…. but it was listed as Great Dunmow in the index. Silly me!

We still were torn between the two places: the church in Dunmow was named for Our Lady and St. Anne Line, and was the older of the two churches, as well as being in the town where she was born; the church in South Woodford was dedicated to St. Anne Line alone, and was the parish of the priest Joanna had met at Tyburn. Intrepid explorers that we were, we hit on a compromise... and decided to visit both.

The journey itself was very enjoyable, with both of us chatting merrily away. In fact, we were chatting so much that we missed the turn-off for the M25 (only coming to our senses when we passed Guildford) and later took a wrong-turning onto the M11 (we suspected that we were going the wrong way when Joanna spotted Canary Wharf dead ahead!) But the weather was gorgeous, traffic, for once, was minimal, and we hardly noticed the time. Before long, we had arrived in Dunmow.

We found a car park in the centre of the town, and checked out the map for the location of the Catholic Church. It was only a few streets away, and so we strolled off to find it. It didn’t take us long, but it didn’t look much like a church from the outside. Both of us gazed at it in horror, but we decided to go and have a look inside.

The church itself was locked, but as we stood there considering our next move, a woman appeared at a side door. She explained that the church was normally locked during the day, but that she was cleaning in preparation for the Sunday services, and we were welcome to have a look inside. We followed her through a community hall and stepped into the church.

The contrast with the dismal exterior was so great we were almost speechless. The walls were faced with beautiful wood panelling and there were some really lovely paintings on the walls, including a huge one of St Anne Line, probably painted around the time of her beatification. We started to chat to the lady who had let us in, and she told us a bit about the parish and how it had developed over the years. She also brought us several large pieces of card which had information about St. Anne pasted to them. I asked if she had access to a photocopier, and she explained that there were several places in the High Street that did photocopies, and we were welcome to borrow the information until we could get it copied.

Having looked around for a bit longer, we lit a couple of candles and said a prayer or two. We then went in search of a photocopier and lunch, in that order. We found a bar with a garden, and sat outside enjoying good food and good conversation. We were tempted to linger over coffees, but it was getting late, and we still had another church to find. Reluctantly, we bade farewell to Dunmow, amazed at the contrast between the outside and the inside of the church, delighted with the information gleaned about St. Anne and marvelling at our luck at finding the lady in the church.

The journey to South Woodford was even easier than the one to Dunmow, and with fewer unintentional detours. We located the church easily, but again were appalled at its appearance: it looked like some sort of concrete bunker. The church was closed, and we wandered across to the presbytery which was nearby. The parish priest welcomed us, and invited us in for a cup of tea. He was just back from an Ordination, and would shortly have to go in to hear Confessions, but he said he would be delighted to show us the statue of St. Anne. This, he explained apologetically, was actually being stored in his garage, because it had been vandalised. He was hoping to set it up inside the church, but hadn’t yet prepared a suitable spot.

The inside of the church was again in complete contrast to the exterior. A passage about St Anne from the Martyrology was framed on the wall, but it was in Latin. I copied down a Latin inscription from a stone in the wall, hoping to get my own Parish Priest to translate it for me later. We stayed for a while to say another prayer, and then started off for home, praying the Rosary together in the car.

I felt sure that St. Anne was watching over our little pilgrimage, and was helping us along. I felt it very strongly when we met the lady cleaning the church in Dunmow, quietly preparing everything for the celebration of Mass, much as St. Anne herself must have done. And I felt it again when we turned up at just the right time to meet the Parish Priest in South Woodford. I used to think of pilgrimages as long journeys to big shrines in foreign countries, but every time we make a special journey to a church or other place associated with a saint it is a pilgrimage of faith. I hope and pray that I will be able to make many more.

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