Monday, 29 December 2008

Faith Winter Conference 2008

I don't know how well this will work, as I'm blogging from my mobile phone, and the phone reception is a little temperamental.

There are around 200 young people present, all coming together to learn more about the Faith and to have some fun... the fact that many of these young people have taken three days out of their holiday time to come on this conference just goes to show how wrong Bishop Conry was; there is unlikely to be anything said about saving the planet through the use of low-energy light bulbs, but plenty will be said about salvation. Confession will feature in tomorrow's programme.

A few of us will try to get a Bloggers' photo session organised, but I doubt I'll be able to do any photo stuff until after I get home.

UPDATE: Sadly, we didn't quite manage the photo-shoot. Maybe we'll get more organised for the Summer Session!

Blogging Hiatus...

I'm away for a couple of days, and I doubt I'll have time to blog. With any luck, I shall recover from my cold and return full of vim and vigour, ready to start the New Year blogging regularly on fascinating and important topics...

...then again, given that I'm about to venture forth into the wilds of Lancashire, which is somewhere up North, I shall probably suffer hypothermia and return with incipient pneumonia. That is assuming I don't get beaten to death by northerners who resent the comments about "the wilds" and "somewhere."

Watch this space...

Saturday, 27 December 2008


I'm feeling a little out of sorts this evening: nowhere near as ill as yesterday, but not feeling 100% better, and feeling restless. I'm hungry-ish, because, apart from a bacon sandwich after Mass and Benediction, (supplied by one of the mums taking her children to see the panto at the Parish Club) I haven't eaten anything other than a packet of crisps. Exploration of the cupboards has revealed plenty of supplies... but I haven't the energy to cook anything. It's too late to phone out for pizza... and I don't want pizza anyway. I had a hankering for sausages, but exploration of the fridge contents revealed that the sell-by date on the sausages was December 13th. As they're pork sausages, I really don't feel like playing food-poisoning roulette. I'm not even interested in chocolate...

So, to distract myself a little, I have been having a look at Sitemeter. I haven't checked for a while, so I thought I'd see where people are...

Most of my visitors are from the UK and from the US... hardly surprising, given that my blog is written in English. But I was also surprised to see that today I had a visitor from Gaza - "Palestinian Territory, Occupied Gaza" to be precise. Looking at the referral site, it seems that they called up an image of my Ikariam game via Google. I also had a visit from the Holy See (Sitemeter actually calls it that, and adds Vatican City State in brackets after it!) on Christmas Day!

Hallo also to visitors from Brazil, Poland, Germany, Slovakia, Spain, Belgium, Latvia, Canada, Argentina, Mexico, Qatar, Italy, Netherlands, Turkey, Austria, Portugal, Ireland, Switzerland, Norway, Australia, France, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Egypt, Romania, Colombia, the United Arab Emirates, Chile, Israel, Lebanon, and "unknown" (I have to confess to being very intrigued by the idea of an unknown country!!)

You're all very welcome, and please, leave the occasional message in the com-box, just to let me know where you're from and how you found my blog...

Christmas Crib

The Crib at Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen...

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Might As Well Be Hung For A Sheep As For A Lamb...

I am up way past my bedtime. Seriously way, way past. But it's Christmas Day, and I'm just back from Midnight Mass, and it was so awesome that I had to post a picture (or two).

The Mass was a Solemn High Mass, which is just mind-blowingly beautiful. We had enough servers to have six torch bearers during the Canon, and the choir pulled out all the stops. The silence during the consecration was so profound, it really brought home to me the line about how Christ came to Earth in the silent watches of the night...

Ok, now I really do have to go to bed, or I won't make it to the 9am Mass. I'm supposed to help with the singing, so say a prayer that my voice holds out, as I'm croaking already...

Happy Christmas...

With Every Best Wish

Many Prayers
for a
Blessed Christmas

(I guess that's five people I don't need to send cards to...)

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

On The Subject Of Christmas Trees...

After my Christmas tree ornament meme, Fr. Tim declared that his method of decorating the tree was a bit like a scene from Absolutely Fabulous. I couldn't find the exact scene to which he was probably referring, but I had a great deal of fun looking, and this clip sort of gives you the general idea...

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Christmas Cheer...

Despite being a teacher, I am very much a leave-it-to-the-last-minute kind of person. I need a deadline or two to get the adrenaline flowing. Christmas is a prime example of this...

Despite knowing the end-date well in advance, I can never seem to get things sorted early. Buying presents in October (or even November) is a definite no-no... I just don't feel Christmassy enough to give it any real thought.

I resolved that this year, it would be different...

I did manage to order my Christmas cards early. I even went as far as buying the stamps. And yesterday, I printed out the address labels... but I haven't actually written any cards yet (apart from a handful which I gave out at school.) I guess they'll arrive in time for New Year... possibly...

I have actually succeeded in buying my presents before Christmas Eve. A whole 24 hours early. This is a major accomplishment, and I feel I ought to celebrate... and a bottle of Baileys is sitting in the cupboard making "Drink me!" noises. I'm a little tired, after trudging right around Bluewater shopping centre, so it's very tempting...

It would also be medicinal, as my suspicions have proved eerily accurate, and I have a scratchy throat, a tickly cough and a runny nose: the teachers' holiday bug has struck again, just in time for Christmas!

Monday, 22 December 2008

And On Similar Lines...

The following was sent to me, and it might form the basis of a little conundrum for the Bishop of Arundel & Brighton...

If I leave water in the kettle, go on long car and plane journeys, needlessly burning too much fossil fuel - Should I go to confession about it? Will I need to repent and do penance, or even seek forgiveness?

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Confessions Of A Lay-Woman...

I was rather surprised to read that the Bishop of Arundel & Brighton, Kieran Conry, advised against frequent use of the Sacrament of Confession. Surprised, and rather saddened: I hoped that he was being mis-reported, or that his words had been taken out of context, but, reading the article in the Catholic Herald, it would seem that this is his genuine opinion.

Personally, I thought that his remark was singularly unhelpful. And the following reflections on my own situation might help to explain why. Please don't get the wrong idea: I am not holding myself up as some sort of exemplar, nor do I immediately assume that everyone's experience of the Sacrament will be the same. But I do think that describing concrete experiences (rather than hypothetical situations) can be of benefit.

I'm an ordinary lay woman. I did take private vows, six years ago now, but that doesn't change my status within the Church. I have gone to Confession pretty regularly since I returned to the practice of my faith a little over sixteen years ago, in a variety of churches, to a variety of priests, and I guess that, while I don't claim expert status, I think I may have some valid points to share.

To begin with, I had a problem understanding what "regular" Confession meant. I mean, once a year is a regular interval! But I knew that not making use of the Sacrament had contributed to my fall away from the Church, and I was determined not to let that happen again. I didn't want to risk losing the pearl of great price which I had so recently found, and so I went to Confession once a month.

I was pretty ill at this time, waiting for major surgery, and I had plenty of time on my hands. I started to go to daily Mass. I found out about Plenary Indulgences, and a holy priest (now deceased) said that by going to Confession once a fortnight it was possible to obtain a Plenary Indulgence every day. So I upped the frequency. However, I was aware that other priests had differing opinions on the ideal frequency of Confession, and I felt uncomfortable telling some of those priests that it had only been a fortnight.

I had plenty of bad character faults, and I had even more bad habits. I wanted to change, and it seemed that the longer I left between Confessions, the harder it was to recall the small things. But, not being a mad axe-murderer, I had few (if any) mortal sins to confess. I was, however, very aware that it was the small stuff which was going to get me into hot water, if not actually into Hell!

Similarly, I can always tell which children, preparing for Confirmation, don't go regularly to Confession. They're the ones who start off by saying, "I haven't committed any sins..." Not going regularly to Confession helps to deaden the sense of what is sinful, and makes it more likely that serious sins will be committed.

One metaphor came to mind: if you have a favourite blouse or t-shirt, you will always get it cleaned when you spill something like ketchup on it. That's like mortal sin: Confession is the only remedy. However, if you only clean the shirt when you spill something, its going to get grubby pretty quickly, and the dirt will be harder to clean off because it will be ingrained. Venial sin is like everyday grubbiness... definitely easier to deal with on a regular basis. And if you have a really grubby shirt, the major ketchup incidents are less noticeable...!

I became aware that, if I left the period between confessions longer than usual, I felt uncomfortable, and "grubby," and going to Confession (though very difficult) really helped to take away the burden of my sins, and allowed me to make a new start. As a teacher, I have often noticed the same thing in many students: they don't want to continue working on a page which has several mistakes on it; instead, they want to turn over a new leaf (literally!)

Unfortunately, as I said, not every priest reacts so well to this frequent use of the Sacrament. Maybe they fear a penitent doesn't take it so seriously if he or she goes too frequently... however, the same standard is rarely applied to reception of Holy Communion!

For someone who is worried about being overly scrupulous, it can be hard enough to get into the confessional without being made to feel guilty for wasting the priest's time! I remember being overjoyed when I read that Pope John Paul II went to Confession every week, because if he did it, it had to be ok!

I have had to field questions like, "Do you always go this frequently to Confession?" (said in disparaging tones!) and, "You really ought to get married!" (that one was while I was trying to discern my vocation... I was sorely tempted to ask if the priest had anyone particular in mind!) And then there is the "sigh" which suggests that confession of venial sins is really not worth bothering with...

Going to Confession frequently is not simply a matter of routine. The time and place may be a regular thing, but it still requires preparation. As for bringing the same sins in to the Confessional week after week, well, that's not necessarily a bad thing. It would be pretty strange to find yourself marching in and saying gleefully to your Confessor, "Hey, Father, I've got a new one for you this week... " And we are creatures of habit: very few of us have lives which are so amazingly varied each week that we find ourselves in new and unknown situations. Work or school is the same each week. The people met are, by and large, the same each week. The temptations available are pretty much the same each week... I could go on, but I'm sure you get the general picture!

I still find it excruciatingly difficult to bring my sins to the Confessional. I am fully aware that I have committed the same sins over and over again. I am even more aware that it is due to my own character faults that I respond in the same way to various situations, and, even though I know what I should do, I do exactly the opposite. I also know that, on my own, I will never be able to change.

And that's why I go to Confession regularly. I don't want to continue with my venial sins. I want to change. But I can't do it myself. However, with the grace of God, anything's possible. Maybe not this week, maybe not the next... I may never fully succeed in overcoming my own particular faults and failings, but I have to try, to show willing... to demonstrate my desire for conversion of heart.

And that is why Bishop Conry was wrong: he seemed to imply that conversion was a sudden event, demonstrated by a complete change in one's character and way of life. But God accepts even imperfect contrition, so a desire to change, coupled with a demonstration of that desire, must also be acceptable to him...

I know that the conversion I experienced sixteen years ago was just the beginning. I have to continue that conversion every day, with the grace of God, through prayer and the Sacraments. I need all the help I can get. Please God, we won't get too many more Bishops discouraging our attempts to get to heaven!

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Uh-Oh... Tagged For An Impossible Meme!

Carolina Cannonball has tagged me for an interesting meme. Unfortunately, I am unable to comply with this one. I'm usually busy at Christmas, and, apart from one year when I was terribly antisocial and stayed at home to read a good book (I'd had a lot of work-related problems, and just couldn't face the idea of people asking me how the job was going!) I generally go elsewhere for Christmas day, once I've finished with church-related activities.

Coupled with the fact that I also go away for the Faith Winter Conference, and also the fact that Sylvester, my cat, has rather a penchant for eating any plant material left unattended, this means that Christmas trees are not my thing. I am, however, happy to make admiring noises (or disparaging remarks) about the trees of others... Being half-German makes me an expert on Christmas tree decorations, tree decorating being a national pastime (according to my mother!)

So, instead of recalling my favourite ornament, I shall describe Christmas trees of my youth. 

The most important thing was that it was always a real tree. Imitation trees were pretty ghastly objects when I was a child, and my mother despised them. If you weren't finding pine needles in the carpet (and your socks) until April, it wasn't a proper tree.

Because it was a real tree, and the varieties available in England didn't seem to last very long, the tree didn't go up until Christmas Eve. It might be bought a week before that, but it stayed in its net wrapping on the balcony outside until the big day. Once inside, it had to be put in water. Several "recipes" to prolong the life of the tree were tried, varying from sugar in the water to soluble aspirin, but they never seemed to have any noticeable effect: any attempt to swipe a chocolate sweet from a branch was rewarded by a tell-tale shower of pine needles.

I wasn't a very practically-minded child: it took me ages to discover that using scissors to snip the string holding the chocolate to the tree was far quicker and left much less in the way of evidence...

My mother had very beautiful Christmas decorations from Germany, and these were carefully unpacked each year. First thing on the tree was tinsel, and it had to be silver and fluffy, not rough, scraggy, scrawny tinsel. Occasionally silver angel-hair was added to the branches, just in small amounts. Then the baubles were hung up, and these were always silver, gold or red, or combinations of those colours.

My grandmother sent a parcel each Christmas, with a real Advent calendar, (Swiss chocolate shapes behind each window, not in a little box below) at a time when they were actually very rare in England (religious Advent calendars with chocolates in are still very rare here!) home-made biscuits, German sausage and salami, coffee and a few more decorations for the tree, as well as a supply of candles.

These candles are what I remember best. They were larger than cake candles, but much smaller than any candles sold here... I think they must have been about 1cm in diameter at a time when everything in England was measured in inches. I do remember that my mother tried to buy them from several places, and they weren't available anywhere, hence the need for the parcel. And the reason these candles were so important is that they had to fit into the little silver candle-holders which clipped onto the branches of the tree. My mother put the candles in the holders and then positioned them carefully so that they wouldn't set fire to any other decorations. It was quite time-consuming, because the weight of the candles would cause the branches to settle, and then the candle holders would have to be adjusted.

The candles would be lit for a short time once darkness fell, and a stray branch would be removed and burnt to release the pine-smell. This last practice very nearly resulted in a major catastrophe one year... as we sat down to Christmas dinner, my mother remarked on how lovely the smell of burnt pine was, and how it had lingered from the night before, so it was obviously a very superior pine tree... and then we noticed that a candle on the pine welsh dresser was actually burning a hole in the shelf...!

The final piece to be added was the "fairy" which was actually an angel. At one point, my mother switched to a star, but I can't remember when, or why. Personally, I prefer a star, simply because no-one can mistake it for a fairy (or anything else)

Ok, that's enough of my Christmas tree reminiscences for one year. I now have to tag a few poor souls...

Fr. Tim: he hasn't been tagged for a while, and his presbytery Christmas tree generally looks rather sorry for itself (the one in the church is gorgeous, but then, he doesn't have to decorate that one!)
Fr. Z, as I'm sure he has some stylish Christmas ornaments, and I want to know what they are in Latin!
The Pastor in Valle: I haven't nagged him for quite some time...
Fr. Owl: for much the same reason as the Pastor in Valle.
Fr. Longenecker: out of curiosity, as I want to know if there is anything in a British Christmas which he misses...
And, in fact, I tag anyone else who wants to play: just put a note in the combox!

Friday, 19 December 2008

Happy Happy Happy...!

The Christmas Spirit has just been cranked up a notch, as I am now on holiday for two whole weeks.

Two weeks without any marking (I carefully made sure to "forget" to bring it home with me... and we've been told that the school is closed for the entire two weeks... ) though I will have to do a little lesson-planning. Two weeks' worth of daily Mass. Two weeks spent trying to catch up with the friends I have neglected since the beginning of September.

I will get to visit family, and I'm going to the Faith Winter Conference in Stonyhurst, Lancashire... Hmmmmn.  On reflection, I might need another two weeks in January to recover!

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Starting To Get Festive...

Tomorrow is the last day of term for me, and so I'm starting to feel Christmassy.  Not a lot.  Just a little bit.  The 'O' Antiphons have started, and that is when I start to play Christmassy music, and put out the crib and stuff like that.

Exploring the Blogosphere, I found the following on Creative Minority Report:

In the same post, I was delighted to come across the original Carol of the Bells.

And a re-post of my favourite version of the Carol of the Bells, which I used to announce my first video post...

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

The Longest Week...

Well, ok, maybe not the longest week: I think that's the week before the Summer holidays.  This must, therefore, count as the second-longest week, as school breaks up on Friday.

Yes, Leutgeb... I know that you've been off since last Friday. Don't rub it in with posts about having the time to make Christmas cakes!

Anyway, I have three days left... three days of fractious children demanding to watch DVDs instead of working ("But, Miss... it's Christmas!! Why do we have to work?") This year, as my classroom is fitted with a smartboard, I have been cheating: the children have been given homework to devise short PowerPoint presentations on various topics, and then they get to present their work to the rest of the class while I sit back and watch...

It's been quite an education... I'd never heard of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever before, and the effects of smallpox infections have been something to behold when shown on a large screen in full technicolour. I also didn't realise that Walt Disney's Pluto was introduced (and named) just after the discovery of the planetoid in the 1930s. I look forward to discovering what Year 9 have unearthed about selective breeding...

Monday, 15 December 2008

Just A Thought...

...but who's bright idea was it to entrust Bernard Madeoff with all that money?

Wasn't his name a bit of a giveaway?

(And, yes, I know it's spelt "Madoff" but all the BBC news presenters have been saying "made off" so there!)

Children's Liturgy...

The phrase "Children's Liturgy" tends to bring me out in a rash. I have attended such Masses in various parishes (by accident, usually!) where the little kiddies were encouraged to go up onto the sanctuary and stare out at the congregation, or to stand behind "Farver" all holding hands. The Eucharistic Prayer for Children (I have never been able to work out if there is more than one, or whether each priest makes up his own "explanatory" bits) makes me cringe. The children concerned never seem to be particularly keen: they are often fidgetty (not counting the ones who are busy waving back at mum) and bored. Small wonder that many of them disappear shortly after they've made their First Communion...

However, for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, we had an example of what a Children's Liturgy could be...

Fr. Charles Briggs came over from Chislehurst to say a Low Mass in the Extraordinary Form. Meanwhile, Fr. Tim remained in the pews with the children, and encouraged them to pray. For example, as Fr. Charles said the Confiteor, Fr. Tim explained that the priest was saying sorry to God, and then lead the children in praying an Act of Contrition.

It wasn't a blow-by-blow account of the Mass; rather, it was a way to help the children participate fully in the Mass, to get them used to the idea that more than one thing can happen at once, and to realise that they don't have to follow every single word in order to participate.

There were around fifty people present at the Mass.  The thing that really struck me was the rapt attention of the children, and their recognition that they were in the presence of something sacred, something great...

Sunday, 14 December 2008

I've Got A Horrible Feeling...

Teaching is a very hazardous profession. Children are positive hothouses for incubating all sorts of nasty bacteria and viruses, and schools become akin to something out of The Hot Zone. This isn't just my imagination or an old wives' tale... on starting at teacher training college, we were warned that it took, on average, two years to build up immunity to a new school.

I think that it's getting worse, despite the availability of cold and flu remedies and antibiotics, because so many parents are going out to work: school makes for a convenient baby-sitting service, and so children are often bundled off to school even when they are ill.

I'm not feeling ill.  However, I have the sniffles.  And the end of term is only five days away. Teachers often find themselves going down with something nasty just in time for the holiday, almost as if the immune system decides to have a bit of a vacation as well... 

So, I half expect to get clobbered. Which made the following little snippet, courtesy of Newhousenewjob, even more amusing... Women are, apparently, suddenly becoming susceptible to "Man Flu" !

Saturday, 13 December 2008

So, What Did Happen?

With all the stuff about Nativity plays being re-written to include Barbie & Ken and other weird and wonderful characters, I found this rather amusing...

Twitch of the mantilla to Patrick at Creative Minority Report...

Friday, 12 December 2008

Dignitas Personae

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has produced an Instruction, Dignitas Personae, on Certain Bioethical Questions.

You can download a copy of the document HERE, courtesy of the USCCB.  Anna Arco has given a good summary over at her website (twitch of the mantilla to Fr. Ray for spotting that) and John Smeaton has published Fr. John Fleming's review of the document HERE.

This is an excellent, and much-needed, summary and explanation of the Church's position on IVF and cloning.  To be honest, it is stating the blindingly obvious, but, while most people have an instinctive distrust of cloning, many people do not actually realise that IVF is banned by the Church, and many of those who do know the teaching are unclear as to why the Church would be against a procedure that helps couples to have babies.

A Distinct Lack Of Christmas Cheer...

I am not a happy bunny.

I had heard that, in a break with tradition, Royal Mail had decided to produce both religiously-themed and secular stamps for Christmas this year, rather than just producing one lot and alternating each year between religious and secular themes. They made quite a big thing of how good they were being in listening to customers...

So, when I bought my Christmas stamps, I particularly requested the religious ones. Unfortunately, they were "sold out." I commented on the popularity of the religious stamps, and asked for ordinary, non-Christmas stamps, as I really didn't want to plaster the Genie of the Lamp all over my cards.

They were also "sold out."

Since when does a Post Office run out of stamps??

I decided to opt instead for second class Christmas stamps, after checking that I had plenty of time before the last posting date. They only had the pantomime ones. Getting ever so slightly frustrated, I asked for books of the ordinary second class stamps.

They were, you guessed it... sold out.

It was finally acknowledged that they did have sheets of ordinary second class stamps, but they weren't the self-adhesive type.

Just as well that I quite like the taste of stamp glue. Better get licking.


Rosary Meme...

Puella Paschalis has tagged me for this unusual (and blissfully short) meme. 

Post a picture of 3 of your most special and beautiful rosaries and tell us why they are special to you. Then pass it through to three of your fellow bloggers who will pick their three rosaries and so on. And maybe it will be a nice gesture to pray a special intention for the three persons you "gave" the rosary to the next time you pray a rosary...

My initial reaction was that, as a result of giving "spare" rosaries away, I didn't have three rosaries to photograph. However, when I stopped to have a look, I discovered that I didn't have three different rosaries.

I have this one in my pocket most of the time. I like the colour, and the fact that each bead is moulded into the shape of a rose. But, most of all, I like the fact that it has a small vial of water from Lourdes. I like to carry my rosary loose, as I don't want the bother of having to take it out of a pouch... as a result, I find that my rosaries often break.  I'll try to fix the "current" one a few times, and then I buy another one (I figure that I'm supporting the rosary market by doing this!) But, as I like the connection with Lourdes, I tend to buy the same style of rosary over and over...

This is the rosary I keep on the shelf in my car. I don't want to drape it from the rear-view mirror because it would be a distraction when I'm driving. It's one of the ACN rosaries, blessed by the Holy Father. The way I drive, I figure I need all the help I can get. It also proves to be a good conversation piece when I get my car cleaned.

I couldn't find another different rosary.  I have one by my bed, and another in my handbag, but they're both the same as the one in my pocket... but, to prove that I have got more than two rosaries...

So, now I'm going to tag three people.
1.  Karen (because she has nobbled me several times before, often in sneaky, underhand ways!)
2.  The Mother of This Lot (I'm sure she'll have a few stashed away somewhere.)
3.  Phil (to prove that there are no hard feelings after he gave in to pressure from Karen!!)

Thursday, 11 December 2008


A week ago (or thereabouts) Phil at Pellegrinaggio asked me to advertise a petition to persuade Virgin Media to carry EWTN on its cable service. Unfortunately, I was distracted by events (mainly my renewal of vows!)

However, better late than never... You can sign the petition by clicking HERE.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Sometimes I Feel Like This...

...generally, I feel like this as the awful realisation dawns upon me that I've volunteered to do something, and it's a really bad idea...


I thought Halloween was on the 31st October.  Apparently not, as this little bunch of trick-or-treaters have just crawled out of the woodwork... in full costume, too!

I wonder who the token male is... he really ought not to be allowed out in public, being of unsound mind (probably caused by too many illegal substances... I mean, get a load of the collar on his yellow shirt... not to mention the Dalek fixation... that is just soooooooo sad!)

Twitch of the mantilla to Fr. Z.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Feast Of The Immaculate Conception

One of my favourite feasts, particularly as it sorts the men out from the boys, so to speak... in other words, it is a stumbling block for unbelievers, but, for us who believe...

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Favourites Meme

I have been tagged for this by Phil.  I'd be flattered, only I learned that he only picked me because Karen said he had to... so now I'm sulking...

I doubt that any of my choices will surprise anyone who has read more than two of my blog posts. So, in no particular order...

1.  The Extraordinary Form of Mass.  I love Mass anyway, but Mass according to the Usus antiquior is like Mass with knobs on. Especially if there's lots of incense. 

2.  Pope Benedict XVI.  I agree with the Curt Jester: if JPII deserves to be called John Paul the Great, then Benedict XVI ought to be known as Benedict the Pretty Awesome Also! And Summorum Pontificum just rocks.

3.  Chocolate. No explanation needed.

4.  Cats.  The four-legged, bewhiskered variety rather than the musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

5.  Baileys.  It's not really alcoholic. It's cream. And cream is made from milk. Milk is good for you: all that calcium!

6.  Coffee. This isn't just one of my favourite things, this is practically a necessity.  

Ok, so now, who to tag...?

1. Leutgeb, because Karen said I had to.
2. Fr. Ray Blake, because he hates memes.
3. The Curt Jester, because he's cool!
4. The Catholic Caveman, because I haven't tagged him in a while.
5. Ttony, because he's there.
6. Paulinus, because his take on life is amusingly different (you have to have a certain warped mentality to come up with those bus adverts!)

There are so many others I want to tag, but I've used up my six... so, if you want to have a go, consider yourself tagged and drop me a note in the com-box.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

A Sense Of Vocation...

Later this morning I am going to renew my vows.  I do this each year, even though I don't have to, because it helps to remind me that I have chosen to live my life as a single woman living and working in the world. Otherwise, because I have no "official" standing as a Religious or consecrated person, there might be a temptation to view my life in the single state as a sort of "default" option, that I'm single because I haven't married... the single life, as a vocation of choice outside Religious life or the Priesthood, doesn't often get mentioned.

In fact, the reality is that I felt a distinct call from God to make a sacrifice of my life, and dedicate it to Christ and his Church. It wasn't an easy decision to take, to relinquish all hopes of children and a family of my own, but I thank God for all the many blessings he has bestowed upon me since I first took my vows. 

Please say a prayer for me today, that I may be faithful.

Thursday, 4 December 2008


John Smeaton has a review on his blog, written by Fiorella Nash, of the Family Planning Association's DVD promoting abortion as a method of family planning.

It was very interesting to read how the young people on the DVD were all in favour of abortion. Strangely enough, despite working in a non-Catholic state school, this is not actually my experience of young people's attitudes.

I have generally found that the girls are more vigorously opposed to abortion than the boys, and there is a distinct awareness that, to quote one teenager, "You're not pregnant with a bunch of cells, it a baby... that's so obvious!"

I find the fact that the FPA considered it necessary to produce their pro-abortion DVD as encouraging, though obviously I deplore the fact that they have done so...

I Really Couldn't Resist...

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

More Exam Answers...

None of these were from exams I have marked, sadly.  It would certainly have brightened up my day!

Catholic Bloggers Network...

I received the following message from John Mallon.  Fr. Tim posted it already, but John asked others to do the same, and I'm happy to oblige...

John Mallon is trying to assemble an email list of Blogs in the English speaking world, especially in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines. He is currently working as Contributing Editor for Inside the Vatican magazine, doing media relations for Human Life International, and assisting at the Envoy Institute in a promotional capacity. He has two degrees in theology and frequently has items of interest to Catholic Bloggers worldwide. With 25 years of experience in the Catholic Press, he has found that major secular outlets are often closed to these messages. If you have or know of Blogs that would be interested in receiving press releases and other pertinent materials for your Blogs, he would very much appreciate getting a mailing list of these blogs for this purpose. This is not spam. Anyone not wishing to receive these materials will be removed from the list immediately upon request. Catholic Blogs are absolutely critical for spreading credible information on the Church. This mailing list could serve as a News Agency supplying news and other information to Catholic Blogs.

It is absolutely maddening trying to harvest emails off of Blogs, where people won't post their emails. He is only interested in people who want to receive these messages, not bothering anyone.

For more on John Mallon please visit his website or you can email him direct.

Tolerance... But Only For Some!

I was seriously irritated by the short item on Damian Thompson's blog highlighting how the Catholic Education Service is, yet again, bending over backwards to accommodate the latest educational edicts of the British government!

At first glance, it all seems pretty straightforward, and oh-so-reasonable. After all, doesn't the Catholic Church encourage us to recognise and respect what is holy and true in other faiths?

That is not what annoyed me.  Indeed, I have a Muslim colleague who, when we're both working late in the faculty office, often asks if I mind her staying in the room to pray, and I have absolutely no problem with that. 

What I do have a problem with is the liberal Catholic establishment proclaiming love, peace, harmony and tolerance toward everyone other than fellow Catholics.

Let's examine the proposals a little more closely... There's a link to the article by Graeme Paton (Daily Telegraph Education Editor) HERE.

The guidance said schools should consider putting aside a prayer room "if reasonably practicable" for use by staff and pupils from other faiths.

Damian's point about providing opportunities for worship where children can practise a faith explicitly denying the divinity of Jesus is a telling one; if Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus etc. are all to have their own prayer rooms, then what about a child whose parents are satanists?  Sounds unlikely? One child I taught in a Catholic school claimed he was a satanist. I was rather disbelieving at the time, but who can tell? And there is also the problem of where these rooms are to be found. At many schools, huts have had to be installed in order to provide sufficient accommodation for teaching, and chapel rooms often have to double up as classrooms.

The document said schools should ensure "pupils' health is attended to in times of fasting" - and canteens should take children's religious dietary requirements into account.

And yet, in Catholic school canteens around the country, there is often no provision of fish or other vegetarian options on Fridays (some people do maintain the idea of Friday abstinance) and meat is served on Ash Wednesday (when abstinance is still required by Church Law.)

But the real irritant is this last point: the guidance said "respectful understanding" should be shown to pupils of other faiths who are withdrawn from or remain silent during Christian worship."

At the same time, children whose parents wish to withdraw them from sex education classes are often subject to ridicule from both staff and students, and parents who choose not to allow their children to watch television for hours on end are pilloried for their unrealistic views in snide comments at teacher training sessions.

Methinks that a little more true tolerance, instead of mere lip-service, is what we need.

Monday, 1 December 2008

New Blog Alert !!

Some of my fellow bloggers are of the opinion that new bloggers should be given time to prove themselves before being mentioned on more established blogs. They should, apparently, be given the opportunity to decide how often they want to post, and what sort of content they are going to run with.

I don't agree. Part of the fun in blogging is being discovered by others, and getting comments is just so coool. It's especially gratifying when the first comment from someone other than a friend arrives... because there is always the sneaking suspicion that friends are being "kind."

It is also really great to find out what a person's raison de bloggeur is (ok, ok, I made that phrase up!) and to watch how the blog develops.

With that in mind, allow me to introduce Fiorella's new blog, engagingly titled "Monstrous Regiment of Women." As a journalist, the author of two successful novels (with number 3 just awaiting a publisher) and pro-life activist for SPUC, you just know that she's going to put up some really thought-provoking stuff.  She's also the mother of two adorable little imps!

Pop on over and say hallo!

Vestments 'R' Us...

Heheheheheh. We are very fortunate in that Cllr. David Hurley likes to attend the Extraordinary Form of Mass at Blackfen. He decided a while back that he really ought to start up his own collection of vestment sets for use in EF Masses celebrated at parishes which didn't possess anything really suitable.

Polyester tie-dye horseblankets just don't cut the mustard, according to Cllr. Hurley...


He brought a few of the sets along to show us.  Here you can see Fr. Tim modelling the violet set for the First Sunday in Advent.

The black vestments had made an appearance for a Requiem Mass, but, sadly, had not been available for All Souls...  I did take some photos, but they appear to have been deleted accidentally.

David also suggested we use his white set for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.  I shall endeavour to snap them in action, as they are very, very nice.

In the meantime, Fr. Tim has suggested that we look after the vestments. Just temporarily, you understand... 

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Thank You...

The great Curt Jester knows enough about HTML to make himself a fabulous Advent wreath graphic.  Not only that, but he is generous enough to share... and he'll even update it each week, so the correct number of candles are lit!  He did this last year as well.

If you want your own wreath, you can find the relevant code HERE. It's easy enough to add with Blogger: go to "Customise" and then "Add a Gadget" and select the HTML/Javascript option, and paste Jeff's code in... and there you have a perfect Advent wreath all of your very own!

Book Meme...


I've been tagged by Karen.  I'm not complaining, not really.  Anyway, it's a book meme.

1.  Take the nearest book.
2.  Turn to page 56.
3.  Copy out the 5th sentence, and then the next 2-5 lines after that.
4.  Name the book (As Karen says, well, duh!)
5.  Inflict this on 5 other victims.

I'm sure I've done this before... in fact, I know I have, but as I have rearranged my books somewhat since then (ie. they're no longer in a pile on the armchair), I thought I'd have another go. And, anyway, it's a different page number.

However, the first two books nearest to me, namely my Collins Dictionary & Thesaurus and the Douay-Rheims Bible, were the same as before, and again unsuitable, for much the same reasons. Admittedly, page 56 of the Douay-Rheims Bible took me to Genesis rather than Leviticus, but I really am not in the mood to list all the sons of Israel (aka Jacob) who entered into Egypt.

The next book on the shelf (yes, I finally got those bookcases made up) will just have to do: and I am not a happy bunny, because the spelling of Ye Olde Englishe is a pain in the neck. The content is, however, rather better than a list of names from Genesis.

So, here goes:

Caxton clearly envisaged that lay people might also read the Doctrinal and produced two editions, one containing and one omitting material on the mishaps that can occur during the celebration of Mass, "by cause it is not conyenyent ne aparteynyng that every layman sholde knowe it".

And it continues...

There were a number of vernacular pastoral manuals printed at about this time, mostly translated from French originals and principally designed for confessors, catechists, and preachers, but also aimed at a literate lay audience, for example, the Ordynarye of Crysten Men (1502) and the Floure of the Commandements (1510).

So much for the idea that the laity in England knew little about the Faith prior to the "great" Reformation...

The book is, of course, The Stripping of the Altars by Eamon Duffy.  I started it ages ago, and never got around to finishing it (on account of its not being exactly handbag or pocket size) although it was fascinating enough for me to want to have another stab at it.  Soon.  Maybe over Christmas.

Ok, I don't want to tag the same people as before, even though it would have made life easier, so here goes:
2.  Jackie from Mother's Pride
5. Last, but not least, Phil.


Friday, 28 November 2008

And Once Again...

We had an excellent talk at St. Mary's, Chislehurst this evening, given by Dr. Adrian Treloar, all about miracles at Lourdes, from a medical point of view.  I knew about the case of Jack Traynor, but there were some fabulous details which I hadn't heard before, like the Brancardiers running after Jack as he made a dash for the grotto to give thanks... and then backing off as they realised that, technically, he shouldn't have been able to walk, let alone out-run them!

More details can be found via the Faith & Family website (under publications) - the CTS have generously given permission for the pamphlet about Jack Traynor to be made available here, as it is out of print.

Adrian directed one or two comments at the youngsters sitting by his feet as he delivered his talk, and I was delighted to discover that I'm not the only one beset by misunderstandings...

"What did Jesus do, children, as he went around Palestine?" was followed by a triumphant exclamation: "He cured the leopards!"

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Continuing The Theme...

It would seem that I'm having a bit of a run on misunderstandings this week. I posted a comment on Facebook declaring my sudden desire to indulge in a portion of chips. Knowing that I have many American friends on Facebook, I felt that I needed to specify that the chips in question weren't the American "potato chips" (known as "crisps" this side of the pond) but were "fat fries"!

Karen, that Oceanic Gem, thought I meant to say "French" fries. Definitely not. I do like French fries, especially with a good steak, but what I wanted yesterday were not French fries. No, I wanted good, old-fashioned British fish-and-chips (without the fish) and smothered in salt and vinegar.

So, to bridge the cultural divide, please pay close attention.  Below, you can see French fries...

...and now, these are "fat" fries, or "chips" as we Brits call them...

As I said, ditch the fish... but I just couldn't find a good picture without the fish accompaniment!

And while I'm on the subject of food and all things American, Happy Thanksgiving to y'all !

UPDATE: No, no, no... the chips below are definitely NOT the same as the fries above.  The chips below are squishy and soft, and fluffy on the inside, almost to the point of being "soggy"! Fries, on the other hand, are crispy, crunchy (and hopefully slightly fluffy on the inside!)

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Bless Their Little Cotton Socks...

Teaching can be full of unexpected pitfalls...

I was attempting to teach Year 7 all about space, the Universe, the Solar System, and other related topics. Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions held by children, and I decided to start by explaining that our Sun is a star, and our Solar System has eight planets (yes, Pluto has now officially been downgraded by the National Curriculum) but that there may be other solar systems out there in the Universe, etc. etc...

It was all going swimmingly (or so I thought) until a couple of hands went up...

"Miss, isn't Galaxy much bigger than a Milky Way... "

Unfortunately, I couldn't resist following a brief diversionary route past the relative merits of Galaxy and Dairy Milk, but I think it was all sorted out in the end...

If You Should Be Thinking Of Buying Me A Present...

...I want one of these, to assist me in my plan to become a traddy womynpriest! Shame that it doesn't seem to include biretta, chasuble, amice, maniple, burse or chalice veil, but I'm sure I can get those from somewhere...

Twitch of the mantilla to the Curt Jester.

Monday, 24 November 2008

I Don't Believe It...

Is your cat plotting to kill you?
Sylvester just wouldn't... I'm sure he wouldn't...

Well, not while there's no-one else to open the catfood pouches...

Twitch of the mantilla to Jackie of Mother's Pride for the link!

Sunday, 23 November 2008

A Little Interlude...

I'm still sulking.  But while I'm waiting for people to realise that I'm sulking (and to recognise that the quickest way to get me to stop sulking is to feed me chocolate) I thought I'd post a little joke. Just for a change, it doesn't involve blondes...

One day God was looking down at Earth and saw all of the bad behavior that was going on. So he called one of His angels and sent the angel to Earth for a time.

When he returned, he told God, "Yes, it is bad on Earth: 95% are misbehaving and only 5% are not."

God thought for a moment and said, "Maybe I had better send down a second angel to get another opinion."

So God called another angel and sent him to Earth for a time.

When the angel returned he went to God and said, "Yes, it's true. The Earth is in decline: 95% are misbehaving, but 5% are being good."

God was not pleased. He decided to e-mail the 5% that were being good, because he wanted to encourage them and give them a little something to help them keep going.

Do you know what the e-mail said?

Okay, I was just wondering, because I didn't get one either.

Very, VERY Upset... (& Sulking)

In addition to attending the Extraordinary Form of Mass this morning, I also attended the Ordinary Form this evening. Having read the liturgy suggestions on the website for the Bishops' Conference of England & Wales (check it out HERE, but it really ought to carry a health warning!) I was expecting something a little special for National Youth Sunday...

Alas!  I was to be very disappointed. Not only did Fr. Tim say the Mass with his back to the people (thus preventing me from checking whether he had donned a red clown nose for the event) but he also omitted to do the comedy skit after the sermon on the subject of sheep and goats. 

Of course, the last straw for me was the fact that I didn't get given any chocolate (Fairtrade or otherwise) ... not even a sniff of a cocoa bean appeared after Communion.  Think of the loss of opportunities to exhort the congregation to avoid over-filling kettles and to use low-energy lightbulbs...

So now I'm sulking...

LMS Requiem

Saturday was as wonderful as I anticipated.  Mass in the parish as usual, followed by Exposition for the Holy Hour and finishing up with Benediction, then a mad dash to a local school to pick up one of the servers, and drop him and Jonathan (who was to be Assistant MC at the Requiem) off at the station.

As usual, I eschewed the inconveniences of public transport, and opted for the inconveniences of personal transportation: being Saturday, there wasn't much traffic on the route I took up to Victoria (I carefully avoided many of the shopping areas by opting to travel via the Blackwall Tunnel and the Embankment) and there wasn't a congestion charge to worry about either.

However, I nearly fell foul of Murphy's Law: two lorries crashed just beyong the Limehouse Link, which meant that what was normally a five minute journey through the Link actually took 25 minutes. Despite this, I still arrived in Victoria with half an hour to spare, and even managed to locate a free parking space (thank you, St. Joseph!) just beside the entrance to the Cathedral!

Blackfen was well represented at the Mass: both in the congregation and on the Sanctuary itself. I had the privilege of meeting Alison Davies afterwards, as Colin (I think that was his name), a friend of hers, introduced me. Alison has spoken out on many pro-life issues which affect disabled people.

Colin said he recognised me from the blog: I found this amazing, first of all because I am always surprised to meet people who read the blog (other than friends I've sort of blackmailed into reading it), secondly, because my profile picture only has the back of my head with a mantilla (and there was hardly a shortage of mantillas in evidence at LMS events), and finally, because I was actually wearing a completely different style of mantilla from the one in my profile picture! Spooky!!

Quite a large crowd of us found our way to the Buckingham Arms, a rather nice hostelry in Petty France.  The main recommendation for this pub appears to be the Real Ale available.  Alas, having the car with me meant that I was restricted to Coca Cola... at least I was spared any teasing about drinking Novus Ordo Eurofizz (aka lager!)

Later on, a few of us decided that we needed to eat, and we went to the Ha Ha Bar & Grill in Cardinal Place.  There's a trendy (and noisy) bar downstairs, a swanky restaurant bit upstairs, and a more informal bistro-pub bit (also upstairs, but round the corner from the restaurant bit.) This strikes me as a very sensible arrangement: not everyone wanted to eat, but we wanted to have drinks available and to be able to chat in comfort.

All in all, a very enjoyable day.

Very Reassuring...

There Are 0 Gaps in Your Knowledge

Where you have gaps in your knowledge:

No Gaps!

Where you don't have gaps in your knowledge:








Twitch of the mantilla to Karen, who also scored zero gaps.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Which Way Is Up?

Things have been busy, as I mentioned in my last post. Looks like the weekend is going to be even busier...

Tonight, there is a Missa Cantata at St. Mary's, Chislehurst, for the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lady. Then tomorrow, there are the usual Saturday morning devotions (Mass, Exposition, Benediction) at Blackfen, and then there is the Latin Mass Society Annual Requiem at Westminster Cathedral... with some of us retreating to the Buckingham Arms in Petty France afterwards. And Sunday brings the usual Missa Cantata.

Not that I'm complaining, you understand...

I just might not get around to doing much in the way of blogging...

Why is it that, just when I actually have some bloggable stuff to talk about, I don't actually have time to blog...

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Blogging Lite...

Not only have I been extremely busy, but I've been getting home a little late each evening.  As part of my rule of life involves going to bed at a reasonable hour, I have found myself having to choose between making myself something to eat and blogging.  Alas, I haven't quite perfected the art of doing both at the same time, at least, not without quite a bit of my dinner ending up on the keyboard.  This is not conducive to good blogging experiences, as pasta in pesto sauce does tend to make the keys a little sticky...

So, this is just to assure you that I'm still alive.

I am also in need of a kitty-picture, just to brighten my evening.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Patron Saints For 2009...

2008 is drawing to a close, which means that it's time to find out who your Patron Saint for 2009 will be.  There's something rather appealing about the idea of getting a saint assigned to you by someone else, because it feels as if the saint is actually choosing you !

My patron this year was St. Peter Chrysologus.  I can't wait to find out who I get next year!

Angela Messenger is kindly undertaking this mammoth task... only, precisely because it is such a mammoth task, she is imposing a closing date, which is December 1st 2008.  By my reckoning, that leaves two weeks to put in a request.

Good luck.

Mantilla-twitch to Adrienne, who reminded me about the assignment of Patron Saints!

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Oldies But Goodies...

These are two hoary old chestnuts of teaching lore.  They are, however, still very, very funny, and render me liable to fits of giggles whenever I stumble across this sort of question "for real" !

Twitch of the mantilla to Andrew at Unam Sanctam.

I Won... I Won!...

Well, ok, I was just one of several winners, but who's counting?  The Original-and-Best Catholic Neanderthal has chosen my blog to receive his "coolest blog" award.

Not entirely convinced that lilac butterflies are cool, but an award's an award, and I got mine.


It was especially nice because I have been neglecting the blog a bit of late (I've been busy.  And tired.  And probably anaemic.  And ranting about stuff needs energy...) and I just happened to find it on Cavey's blog (he doesn't do "com-box announcements", it seems!)

The rules (which Cavey forgot to mention) are that you pick 10 blogs, tell them they have won an award and link back to the person who gave it to you first.

So, now to pass it on.  I think these blogs are pretty cool...

1.  Leutgeb's - Bara Brith
2.  Karen's - Gem of the Ocean
3.  Fr. Ray Blake's - St. Mary Magdalen
4.  Fr. Tim Finigan's - The Hermeneutic of Continuity
5.  Anna Arco's - Catholic Herald Diary
6.  Jackie Parkes' - Catholic Mom of 10
7.  Paulinus' - In Hoc Signo Vinces
8.  Ttony's - The Muniment Room
9.  Newhousenewjob's - Just Doing My Best
10. The Mother of This Lot's - Mother's Pride

Unfortunately, there are so many more blogs I wanted to mention...

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