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Mar. 9th, 2012

Lent rosary


(no subject)

This community has been sadly neglected by me for too long! I thought it might be interesting to have some discussion about the issue of equal marriage, since it's pretty hot topic at the moment... Anyone interested in sharing their thoughts? :)

Sep. 16th, 2010



x-posted to my journal

So sorry if you've seen this before...

I haven't written anything about the Pope's visit to the UK because mostly the press coverage and people's reactions have been giving me a headache. But here is a quick tuppence worth after reading the BBC's Have Your Say, which posed the question "what does the Pope's visit mean to you?" Most people replied "nothing". Of course, there was also a lot of invective about Catholicism in general, but the thing that struck me was just lots of people saying: "I don't care about this, why is it happening?"

So, let me just try to say why for me, as a British Catholic, it is important that this visit is happening, and why I feel sad I'm not on British soil today.

(Just to get this out of the way: I've blogged on this before, but to reiterate as it's bound to come up. I am, in the strongest possible terms, horrified by the paedophilia scandal, extremely disappointed in the Church's response to it, and understand completely why for a lot of people this casts a pall over the Church generally. I do think it's worth noting that the way the media has reported on this is probably not that helpful to future victims of child abuse, because it presents priests who sexually abuse children as "other" - men made abnormal by their religious vows and beliefs, and a lot of correlation has been drawn between vows of celibacy and sexual abuse. Actually, the men most likely to sexually abuse children are fathers and stepfathers, many of whom will be in a sexual relationship with adult women. This isn't to diminish the significance of what has happened, but it's time we started thinking about what social structures contribute to allowing sexual abuses to take place, rather than smugly acting as if they only happen within institutions we don't really like anyway.)

Right. As the BBC website says:

"The trip is the first to the UK by a Pontiff since John Paul II in 1982. It is also the first to be designated a state visit because the Pope has been invited by the Queen rather than the church."

This is about history. For many modern British people, the immediate response to what I'm about to say is "so what? All this stuff you're talking about happened years - even centuries - ago." But it's funny how long things are ingrained into the national psyche. I wonder how many people who have in the last weeks casually used the words "papist" and "popery" on Twitter, message boards and so on understand what historic prejudices they are drawing on. Let me be clear: I respect your right to dislike the Catholic Church. Objecting to hate language is NOT attempting to silence you. Here is a selection of tweets that use the word "papist" just within the last few hours on Twitter.

I still can't believe that it's 2010, and my city is preparing to welcome the world's premier Papist to it's environs.

pope + rapist = papist

pope + rapist = papist. The beauty of these simple confluences (and) elisions makes my life in the arse lane endurable.

I'm anti-papist I must admit. Mind you, I'm against most organised religions that have been forced by politics upon the masses.

Predictive text win: just tried to type Papist but my phone suggested rapist. Bloody clever phone this.

You can read just a little bit here about the historic use of the word "papist".

It was not until 1829 that civil rights for Catholics in Britain were (mostly) restored. The Catholic Relief Act, for instance, allowed Catholics to take office. There was vehement opposition to the Act both on a national scale and also in government, a lot of which was the result of anti-Irish prejudice. The resulting Act was a compromise, as it effectively disenfranchised the Irish peasantry (in Ireland prior to the Act, any man owning property worth 40 shillings or more had the vote; the qualification was raised to £10).

In 1850, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in England was officially restored, meaning, essentially, that Catholics once again had dioceses - and bishops. Prior to this, for two centuries English Catholics were overseen by Vicars Apostolic. The first Vicar Apostolic landed in secret in England in 1623. I'm just going to quote this bit from Wikipedia since it says it neatly enough: "The years from 1688 to the early nineteenth century were in some respects the nadir for Catholicism in England. Deprived of their dioceses, four Apostolic Vicariates were set up throughout England until the re-establishment of the diocesan episcopacy in 1850. Although the persecution was not violent as in the past, Catholic numbers, influence and visibility in English society reached their lowest ebb. Their civil rights were severely curtailed: their right to own property or inherit land was greatly limited, they were burdened with special taxes, they could not send their children abroad for Catholic education, they could not vote, and priests were liable to imprisonment." So the changes in the 19th century were welcomed enthusiastically by the Catholic population, and there was a significant Catholic revival from the late nineteeth century onward.

Still, the spectre of anticatholicism in Britain looms large. Those of us with Irish blood (which is quite a lot of British Catholics) will be particularly aware of this. There's not really room here (and I don't have time!) to really discuss sectarian violence in Ireland and how the popular trend at the moment to say "it's about politics, not faith" is a way of obscuring the complex web of prejudices (on all sides!) in Northern Ireland. But for those of you who think that anticatholicism is a relic of the past, please do consider 1972's Bloody Sunday, and wonder why it is that it took nearly 40 years for the British government to acknowledge that it murdered its citizens for the crime of being Irish Catholic men who wanted the same civil rights as their Protestant neighbours. They were shot as they crawled to safety. It could easily have been my uncles, my cousins.

I know that the Irish situation is more complex than "just" religion. I know. But I also know that for me, and for many other British Catholics, with history hard at our back, to have an official state visit by the leader of our Church - whatever one thinks of him, and trust me, many British Catholics are angry with him, but our many and varied discussions on the state of the Church today do not get covered by the mainstream media - after centuries of repression of our faith right into the late 20th century, it's a big deal. It's a really big deal. I hope that you can understand that.

Aug. 14th, 2010

misc- Facepaint fairy



Hi there!

Just found my way here, via a link left in response to a secret on the fandom!secrets LJ and just wanted to Introduce myself. My name is Kaitlin and I was born and raised in Boston, still an Irish Catholic stronghold, lol. I live in Maine now and am a chef/caterer.

Jul. 22nd, 2010



(no subject)

I posted this on my livejournal, but it seems like it could be relevant here, since part of this community's purpose is flagging up the ways in which the Church actually IS liberal (whatever that actually means). I think, for instance, there can be a deep misapprehension about the Church's teachings on human sexuality. I may write about that at some point. But for now I'll cut and paste my journal entry here.

stern as deathCollapse )

Jul. 19th, 2010


(no subject)

For some months now I have felt a pull to join the Society of Jesus. On Saturday I had an extended discussion with a priest about the priesthood. He mentioned that if I, say, join the Jesuits, I may not get to do what I want. I'll say "university professor," and they'll say "missionary to Guatemala."

Could I stand that?

At first I thought NO WAY. Staying in the university cocoon is just too delightful. But that is not what Christianity is about - one must be out DOING things, and one must learn to break out of one's own cultural bubble. Some time ago I realized that activity could be just as much a form of education as sitting in a classroom. Think: where did you learn about kindness? Virtue?

If I decide to enter that sort of life, I must set aside the idea that I am fully in charge of what I get to do. And this life looks awfully appealing, even in the midst of an institution that disgusts with its current conservative leadership. Who can help the Church change?

I discussed this with an ex-Jesuit who joined 1963, the year Vatican II started. He left in 1980 because he saw Vatican II was not going to be implemented. Pope Benedict XVI hasn't helpedd. Ex-Jesuit says he can see the appeal of the life of the mind for me, but cautions that change will be very slow, and likely will not happen until we get the right guy as Pope.

Despite all this I still feel a calling.

What are your thoughts? Advice? Warnings?

Apr. 2nd, 2010

Easter he is risen


(no subject)

A bitter Good Friday it is today, with rain lashing down from a leaden sky. The church was as cold as December through the hour and forty minutes of the service until at the very end the clouds broke and sunlight streamed through the emptying church - a sort of reversion, one would think, of the appropriate weather for Good Friday. Surely the sky should darken, the clouds roll in, as we exit in mourning for the crucified Christ? It seems a dark sort of Good Friday indeed, with the Vatican once again putting its foot in its mouth in a fairly spectacular fashion. There are so many dark clouds of late. And yet -

I have said a lot about this already this week, and once again T.S. Eliot does it better, anyway (though for a change I'm not quoting Ash Wednesday). He may have been an Anglican, but Eliot always seems able to turn to words the own fumblings of my own lazy Catholic heart. This strikes me today:

I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you
Which shall be the darkness of God. As, in a theatre,
The lights are extinguished, for the scene to be changed
With a hollow rumble of wings, with a movement of darkness on darkness,
And we know that the hills and the trees, the distant panorama
And the bold imposing facade are all being rolled away -
In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not.
The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood—
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.

Good Friday is a day to be tested, not to be comforted. I think of the disciples, the agony of despair they must have felt, seeing Christ crucified, the sun pulled down from heaven as the earth fell dark. If they could bear that, what should we not be able to bear? That our hearts can be broken is a sign that our hearts love, and Good Friday is a day of love stripped of its pretenses, of its grace, a day when love is blood and death and a hope that is closer to agony than comfort. O Man. O God.

Perhaps then it is fitting that the sun came out after the service today, as we turned away from the cross, the empty tabernacle. This is only one ending.

I want my church to shine. But I understand that everything, from our institutions to our innermost beings, are seen through a glass, darkly. Arms outstretched, listening for the Word, and its echoing liturgy, I make my way forward, in bright hope.

Mar. 29th, 2010

Days gone by dandelion


crossposted from my own journal

See, your king comes to you,
righteous and having salvation,
gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
I will take away the chariots from Ephraim
and the war-horses from Jerusalem,
and the battle bow will be broken.
He will proclaim peace to the nations.
His rule will extend from sea to sea
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
Zechariah 9:9-10

It is understandable that you find it hard to forgive or be reconciled with the Church. In her name, I openly express the shame and remorse that we all feel.
Pope Benedict's letter to Catholics in Ireland, 19 March 2010

"...He performed a sexual act on me. At that very moment he murdered my soul."
German victim of sexual abuse by a priest

I've been wanting to write about the paedophilia scandal which has once again reared its head in the press, but I have not been sure how to do it. I do not have anything to say that has not already been said about the terrible crimes that were committed against children by men who were trusted by those children and by those communities. There is little more monstrous than the abuse of children. How do I articulate the disappointment I feel in knowing that my Church covered up crimes against the vulnerable? Such things can make it harder to hold up one's head and pronounce oneself still proud to be a Catholic, even in the face of such evils. And yet I still have such faith in my Church. How can I reconcile this disappointment with my love?

Today it is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week, that sad, solemn approach to the great heartbreak of Good Friday and the joyous celebration of Easter Sunday. Christ rode into Jerusalem on a donkey to fulfill the words of scripture. The Gemara, the rabbinical commentaries of the Talmud, says that the Messiah will come on a donkey, rather than a horse, if Man is not worthy of salvation. Christian tradition says that Mankind is not worthy; salvation is a gift of grace, for none of us are perfect enough to "deserve" salvation. This is not saying that Man is innately wicked, for we are not, but we are all imperfect vessels. Before we go to communion, Catholics say: Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.

I think about those words a lot. I have never felt worthy of taking communion, and as you all know I have a high opinion of myself! To be given the gift of Christ's body and blood, to take God into myself, is an act of startling intimacy and of deep holiness. Why on earth would I deserve that? And yet, when I ask Christ before I take communion - may I come to You? the answer is always yes. It is a gift of grace.

This is something like the Church itself, I think. There are two Churches - one is the Bride of Christ, shown to us through the perfection of the sacraments that give us access to God, and the other is the Church made up of men - of imperfect, loving, brilliant, failing Man. Man who can in one moment understand absolutely what it is that God wants, and for Him perform acts of great courage, and then before the cock crows thrice betray Him again and again in cowardice and in cruelty. On the day Christ entered Jerusalem, he was greeted by cheering crowds; but days later they called for his death on the cross. Were the individuals in the crowd wicked? No, I think not. I think they were you, and me, and us. If even Peter - the rock on which the Church was founded - floundered in his faith, turned his back on his Lord, then any of us can fall, can fail.

Christ died knowing this. We were still worth dying for, even so.

I suppose all of this is to say that I am disappointed with the Church hierarchy, but I still love my Church. I think she has begun to make restitution; for the past few years there has been concerted effort to protect children and a much stronger line taken. I have seen the evidence of this in my own parishes over the years. But it does not make up for what happened to so many children for so many years, and it does not excuse the Church - the second Church, the church made up of men like you and me - from its enormous failures in dealing with these reprehensible crimes. But while men can tarnish the reputation of the Church, they cannot tarnish the sacraments; they cannot poison scripture; they cannot ruin what has been taught to us through the Holy Spirit. They cannot take away from the moment at mass tonight where, as one body, the congregation - normal men and women in drab coats and smart coats and me there in my free National Geographic fleece and leopardprint tights - got heavily to its knees as we reached the part in the Passion where Christ dies. There was nothing graceful in that thump, in the creak of wood under knees. It was a very human moment as we marked how Christ, perfect Man and perfect God, gave up His life. We knelt, and doubtless many of us were thinking of other things than Christ's death - worrying about bills, or needing to pee, or hoping that we can get out of church quickly before the car park gets crowded with everyone leaving. And yet that moment was perfect.

Lord, we are not worthy. Please guide your Church - your beautiful, human, imperfect Church - to acknowledging when it is not worthy, when it is unChristlike, and help it - help us - to make amends.

Mar. 23rd, 2010

wolf awesome


My name is Zeromark and I'm a CL...

I've taken a long time in coming here, but especially within the last year, I've found myself more and more divorced from my parent's theology. (Which is, arguably very conservative catholic.)

Part of this is working for a Jesuit High School, another part is me reading blogs like Slacktivist, a evangelical liberal blog. Other than that, a lot my drifting from my parent's theology has come down to my own questioning of where things fit in with the basic two rules of the Christian ethos, namely "Love God and Neighbor."

Problem is, I'm not even sure how I can really approach the issue anymore around my parents. This is partially due that I'm an actual B.A. of theology, and while my parents are well read on their faith and college educated in their own right, there's a definite divide about how we approach theology.

(We had a lot of squabbling over my spring break over the right of universal health care.)

I guess I'm asking, has anybody here come from a rather conservative background and turned liberal over time like me? Or have relatives that are conservative like this?

Feb. 17th, 2010

Ocean to the granite shore


(no subject)

teh_elb's posting of Ash Wednesday made me look back through my LJ to a post I made a few years ago. Since today I have been sadly lacking spiritual vim, preoccupied instead with mundane thoughts (marking; job applications), this will do in lieu of new writing!

Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper-tree
In the cool of the day, having fed to sateity
On my legs my heart my liver and that which had been contained
In the hollow round of my skull. And God said
Shall these bones live? shall these
Bones live?

Ash Wednesday. A day of penance. And oh, what things we have to make penance for! At mass, just before communion - which, for those unfamiliar with Catholic rites, is what makes the mass; there is no mass without communion - we say Lord, I am not worthy to receive you; but only say the word and I shall be healed. I have said them time without memory, sometimes by rote, sometimes with my forehead pressed into my knuckles, knowing no obesiance is deep enough, but still that all can be forgiven. For there is nothing that cannot be forgiven; no sin so great that God cannot take it from us. That is not to say we are left as blank slates; sin changes us, and if we believe we are but wax to be shaped we can easily form ourselves into moulds that are unworthy of us. If we do not remember, we will sin again. And even when we do remember, we still sin. The same trite and dull sins again and again, so often that after a while we forget we are doing wrong. Sometimes we must let the yew be shaken and reply. Ash Wednesday is here to shake us out of our complacency. To let our hearts open up and to call out into the wilderness. It is frightening, because out there is the desert and the wind and the pain that comes with faith, and with hope. It is sometimes more comfortable to sit in the shadows of our own errors. I should know; I do it often. But instead we should try - I should try - to call out, not just murmur along with those bleached bones.

Let my cry come unto Thee.

Feb. 14th, 2010

Lent rosary


(no subject)


I have no idea how it's that time again already.

I really need to shape up this Lent. Lent can be a really useful time of spiritual renewal for me. I find writing about faith can be helpful during Lent, so perhaps I'll do some of that here. Maybe others will find some online devotion and discussion useful? Perhaps we could pick a topic for each week? e.g. talk about particular sacraments, Marian devotion etc. What do you all think?

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