Monday, December 06, 2010
Why do so many people associate being Catholic with being racked by guilt and not joy? In my lifetime I have certainly made enough mistakes and turned my back on God at different times to deserve to feel guilty so why does so called 'Catholic Guilt' not apply to me? If I ever feel guilty about something, then I tend to realise that this is precisely because I've done something wrong, not because of the church trying to make me feel that way.
If at the end of each day I have sinned in any way, I will confess this and receive forgiveness because of what Christ did for me by dying on the cross. This daily examination of conscience brings me joy, peace and serenity. Not one day goes past when I do not need to confess and receive grace and in doing so, receive greater freedom and joy.
Our faith is more than a religion, a culture, a label - it is the joy of living the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It means that we may make mistakes, mess up, sin and fall but we can turn back to Him and accept the grace offered us through His death and resurrection. GK Chesterton's wonderful imagery comes to mind: "Catholic doctrine and discipline may be walls; but they are the walls of a playground." In a playground, people will have freedom - they will sometimes fall over, but their friends will help pick them up again.
If someone has an identity as a Catholic because they went to a Catholic School, used to go to Mass, prefer fish on Fridays, drink Guinness or they support Glasgow Celtic (I've seen it all) but they don't go to Mass, then why look to them as to what being Catholic means? Listening to some rent-a-bores telling us how repressed they are because of their Catholic upbringing makes about as much sense as someone with a gym membeship they never use complaining that they're overweight.
Even going to Mass or Confession do not in themselves indicate that we are Catholic. If I go to Mass but pick and choose from a menu which parts of Christ's teaching to follow then what right do I have to go round telling people that being Catholic is about guilt?
Perhaps those of us who are brought up with a Christian faith will know how to discern right from wrong. If we decide to ignore this and do what we kow to be a sin, then of course, we will feel guilty. In this case we have a choice. We could choose to complain, criticise the Pope, campaign for the church to change its teaching, picket cathedrals and tell everyone we know about "Catholic Guilt". The truth is that they are suffering from something called "Cafeteria Catholic Guilt". The cure for this deadly disease is to examine how we think, act and behave and ask forgiveness - we will then experience freedom - Catholic Joy.
Another form of this deadly disease of Cafeteria Catholicism is when someone goes to Mass, undertakes numerous devotions and has their own favourite apparition but disobeys Christ by harbouring resentment, refusing to forgive or condemning others for their sins without looking at their own. This is no less Cafeteria Catholicism - picking and choosing from a menu - and can only bring bitterness and not the joy that is offered by Our Lord.
If we live life as a Catholic - offering ouselves in obedience and submision to Christ - then we will live a life filled with joy and a peace that the world cannot give. As Catholics we are called to surrender our lives to Him completely. When we do this, we will not see being Catholic as being about a bunch of rules to follow but we will be transformed from the inside.
If we invite Christ to live within us then we would not need rules to tell us to be generous, to love our neighbour, to forgive and bless as we would naturally be transformed. When we confess our sins, attend Mass in a state of grace, receive communion and read the scriptures with an open mind, then we cannot remain the same. We should no longer wish to commit adultery, harbour resentment or tell lies. If I go to Mass or say the rosary purely out of habit or obligation then I may not be open to graces that are offered.
My friend who sees joy within me knows that I have messed up, sometimes pretty badly, but also knows that Christ's grace is more powerful than any of my sins. If I go around feeling guilty when I have already been forgiven, then I am listening to Satan, the accuser, rather than Christ, our advocate. I do not always feel joyful but when this is the case, it is perhaps a reminder that I need to change in some way. When I do change, then the joy is greater than it was before.
To conclude, I would like to quote a man who lives the joy of a life committed to Jesus Christ:
"True freedom is rooted in knowledge of and loving obedience to God, as well as the grace of true penitence, the need for pardon, renewal and transformation."
- Pope Benedict XVI (speaking on 15th April 2010)
Thursday, October 21, 2010
There are many moments that struck me during the visit: the common Christian witness of the Pope and the Queen; the Pope sitting at the same place where St Thomas More was condemned to death within the Palace of Westminster and of course the Beatification of John Henry Newman.
The meeting between the Pope and the Queen had an impact on me. Both are heads of state and both are Christian leaders. Although they may differ on so many areas it strikes me that they both have something very important in common: they both strike me as committed Christians who have dedicated their lives to others. The Queen welcomed the Pope with the words, "your presence here today reminds us of our common Christian heritage" and he reminded her of the great contributions of so many British Christians from William Wilberforce, Florence Nightingale and John Henry Newman.
The speech in the Palace of Westminster struck me more than anything else. The speaker of the House of Commons recalled his predecessor, Thomas More and Pope Benedict recalled the witness of the 'great English scholar and stateman' in the place where the fomer speaker was condemned to death for refusing to put his loyalty to the King above that he owed to God. Listening to the Pope's words in front of so many politicians, I only pray that some of them may listen to his teachings and protect people from forms of socialism and capitalism that lead to injustices and poverty, avoid illegal war, protect all human life from conception, promote compassion and to protect freedom of conscience.
The Beatification of John Henry Newman began with my favourite hymn, Praise to the Holiest and I was moved throughout the ceremony by the crowds, the ritual and the words spoken. The life of John Henry Newman points us again to someone who put truth before convenience, a man whose life shows that we do not have the choice in life between orthodoxy, reason or compassion but they can and should exist together. Blessed John Henry Newman has often been called "the Father of Vatican II" in the sense that he anticipated key themes of the Council and rightly so. The Council he anticipated is not the false 'spirit of Vatican II' but its authentic teachings based on Scripture and Tradition. Blessed John Henry Newman and Pope Benedict share a love for Christ and his Church, a desire to spread the Gospel but rooted in the truth.
My overall impressions following the Papal visit however are that there was such a contrast between the love, joy and hope found in those who welcomed the Pope and the hatred, bigotry and ignorance all too evident in those who attacked and prosted him. The words of the Pope throughout his visit point us to Christ, the only name under which we can be saved.
Thursday, April 01, 2010
The Church needs nothing less than a radical leader who can:
- Focus on the core tenets of our faith: God's amazing love for us and our response to this.
- Fight the scourge of child abuse by cutting through Vatican bureaucracy and red-tape.
- Be strong enough to remove those in the church who have abused their positions.
- Implement the teachings of the Second Vatican Council in their entirety.
- Move beyond endless ecumenical committees but take concrete steps for Christian unity.
- Reach out to Eastern Orthodox Christians who share our faith but are separated from us.
- Breakdown centuries of misunderstanding between Lutherans and Catholics on faith.
- Welcome those who accept Catholic teaching but are attached to their own faith traditions.
- Understand the Holy Spirit has always been with the Church and not just since the 1960s
- Restore in our liturgies the sense of the sacred and the beautiful.
- Lead by example by promoting worship that is God-centred not priest-centred.
- Increase our knowledge of scripture by ensuring accurate translations of the Mass.
- Ignore hate-filled criticisms and set an example by visiting the poor and the sick.
- Undermine those who attack the faith by talking of the 'pre' or 'post-conciliar' Church.
The Church needs Pope Benedict XVI: Ad mutos anos!
Pope Benedict XVI: Change you really-can believe in
Pope of Christian Unity and of Vatican II
Today's liturgy is a powerful celebration of the depth of the love that Christ has for us and an invitation to us to respond to this love. The Church recalls his washing the feet of the disciples before his betrayal, the institution of the Eucharist and ends with a solemn procession of the Blessed Sacrament to an altar of repose symbolising Christ's journey to the Garden of Gethsemense where he will be betrayed. It is for this reason that Christians will traditionally watch with Christ and pray at this time, perhaps for an hour in remembrance of his rebuke to the apostles, "Could you not watch with me one hour?" [Matthew 24:40]
In England to this present day, the monarch will give specially minted Maundy Money to the poor as a sign of Christ's care for all. In the past the King or Queen would also wash the feet of the poor in imitation of Christ although this practice stopped after the overthrow of the last Catholic King, James II.
Enjoy the haunting simplicity of the piece below thanks to two priests called Thomas. St Thomas Aquinas wrote the words in the 13th Century and the Spanish Renaissance composer, Tomás Luis de Victoria produced the Officium Hebdomadae Sanctae (Office of Holy Week of which this is part) in 1585.
The commandment we are given on this day, to love as Christ loves us, is not easy. The Pange Lingua reminds us that this literally means loving to death, the shedding of his precious blood. It is no coincidence that the Mass was instituted at the same time as this great commandment. The words, 'Ite Missa Est' from which we get the word 'Mass' do not just signify that it is time to leave but are a call for us to bring Christ's love to the world around us even if this involves sacrifice.
Pange lingua gloriosi corporis mysterium,Sanguinisque pretiosi, quem in mundi pretium Fructus ventris generosi, Rex effudit gentium.
Tantum ergo Sacramentum veneremur cernui: Et antiquum documentum novo cedat ritui: Praestet fides supplementum sensuum defectui.
Genitori, Genitoque laus et iubilatio, Salus, honor, virtus quoque sit et benedictio: Procedenti ab utroque compar sit laudatio. Amen.
Sing, my tongue, the Saviour's glory,of his flesh the mystery sing; of the blood, all price exceeding, shed by our immortal King, destined, for the world's redemption, from a noble womb to spring.
Down in adoration falling, Lo! the sacred host we hail; Lo! o'er ancient forms departing, newer rites of grace prevail; faith for all defects supplying, where the feeble senses fail.
To the everlasting Father, and the Son who reigns on high,with the Holy Ghost proceeding forth from each eternally, be salvation, honour, blessing,might and endless majesty. Amen.
I hereby reproduce the article in full along with my comments:
STUART REID: GETTING THE HANG OF HATS
When you get old, you started do things that you would never have dreamt of doing when you were young and still had a bit of self-respect. Like wearing a hat.
I have a brown felt hat with a wide brim. You might call it a trilby that is too big for its boots, or maybe it is a fedora. I've had the hat for some time, but until fairly recently seldom wore it.
One reason was vanity: I feared that I looked more idiotic in a hat than out of one, and the fear was not entirely groundless. Once, when I was returning home by Tube from the office, a high-spirited young man indicated my hat to his companions and cried out: "Yee-haw!" My, the merriment... [The contempt of the ignorant is surely a good reason to wear a hat?]
This winter, however, I have been wearing my hat a lot, and I am now beginning to think that a hat might bring dignity and purpose to my declining years. If I am to be worthy of a hat, however, I really must learn how to use one.
Unfortunately, there are not many instructors left. Men stopped wearing hats in the Sixties, apparently under the influence of President Kennedy, who liked to go about uncovered. [If the Kennedy went about uncovered, this would surely be a motive to do the opposite?]
Perhaps I can learn from my father's example. He wore a trilby in town and would raise it rather elaborately when approaching a woman. There was something theatrical about this gesture, even a bit ironic, but it was charming all the same. When he was a bit tight, he would take his hat off, press it to his chest, click his heels, and bow. [Splendid.]
Until last week, I had never thought that I might one day do something of the sort myself. In the past few days, however, and very tentatively - you don't want to get into trouble with the police - I have started to raise my hat to women on the common.
I obviously still have much to learn. Should you, for example, doff your hat to strange women (as I do)? Or only to women you know, such as your wife or mother or case-worker? I am not absolutely sure. [I read somewhere that this depends on one's level of intimacy with the lady in question, something that could lead to awkward social situations I'm sure.]
In the course of researching this subject, however, I came across an article by Marian T Horvat, PhD entitled "Getting the Ball Rolling on Hats". The article was posted on "Tradition in Action", a website edited by Atila Sinke Guimarães, a Brazilian of German extraction.
In spite of its occasionally rather strident tone, the site appears to be sound on hats. At any rate I can detect nothing heretical or schismatic or unreasonably integrist in its approach.
Here's what the good Dr Horvat has to say: "Besides protecting a man against the elements, a hat properly worn gives him dignity. [I fear that this is not always the case. A trilby worn at an illicitly jaunty angle could look positively rakish.] It also permits him to practise a small ceremonial, that is, an act recognising the right condition or social status of others."
For example: "If a lady who is a stranger thanks [a man] for some service or assistance, he lifts his hat in acknowledgement."If he accidentally jostles or disturbs a lady in a crowd or in passing her in a tight space, he lifts his hat and excuses himself, saying 'I beg your pardon'."
Also: "A man habitually doffs his hat when he enters into a conversation with a lady or a group of ladies. [What if it is a group of ladies plus someone of indeterminate gender? Should one simply adjust the angle of their hat to play safe?] If the conversation is more than a short greeting, the well-bred lady or ladies should invite him after a short while to return his hat to his head. The man also recovers his hat should he continued on his walk either alone or with one of the ladies."
Furthermore: "If the man stops to speak with a superior, after greeting him, he should remain with his feet together and with his hat in his hand until he is invited to cover his head."Plus: "Keep your hat clean and free from dust, sweat, dirt, and fuzz. The fact that a hat belonged to your grandfather or has a sentimental value does not legitimise the use of a dirty, stained or tattered hat. Far from being considered a gentleman and a man of good taste, the wearer of such a hat makes himself a laughing stock in good society."
Way to go, Dr Horvat. Here's another tip: when you doff your hat you should keep the inside of it towards yourself, since no one wants to see the stained sweat band, the traces of Truefitt & Hill Hair Management Pomade, the white rabbit, etc. [Eminently sensible.]
Where does all this leave the priests who have lately taken to wearing soup-plate hats? It's not for me to say, but here's a rubric I have just made up: if a priest wearing a soup-plate hat meets a lady parishioner, he should smile encouragingly and extend his hand so that she may kiss it. [The hand or the hat?]
Same applies to priests who wear a biretta outside. It goes without saying that laymen must remove their hats before entering a church. Or does it? You will quite often see men in baseball caps in church, especially in the great churches of Tuscany, but they seem to have been born - and perhaps conceived - in baseball caps, and therefore do not know that they are wearing one.
Conversely, some women remove their baseball hats when entering a church, out of a misguided sense of respect, not knowing that women are still encouraged to cover their heads. [So the baseball hat could act as a mantilla in the spirit of Vatican II?]
It would be a mistake to get too fogey about this. [Why not?] The old ways are best, of course, but that's no excuse for obscurantism.
Not so long ago, according to Dr Seuss, the International Hat-Doffing Rules Committee met to revise Rule Number 196. [If the IHDRC doesn't actually exist, I want to found it.] That rule, as Dr Seuss records, deals with the etiquette of doffing a top hat while carrying a cane, an umbrella, a bust of Catullus and a watermelon. Condemning the old way as too clumsy - but without describing it - the Committee now allows you to balance the watermelon on your left calf. [I strongly disagree with this decision and think the watermelon should be balanced on the bust of Catullus which should be balanced on the right calf.]
Sorted. Maybe I'll get the hang of hats after all.
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
I have had the privilege of reading a novel called "The Devil's Fairytale" by the little known writer, Greg Stewart. It would be a compelling read for those of any background and would have a positive impact on someone who does not yet know Christ.
The author describes it as follows: It is dark and epic and draws heavily on Grimm’s Fairytales but as the story progresses the reality of a supernatural world unfolds, and then as people takes sides in the developing struggle, a Christian reality slowly shines through, affecting all of the characters in one way or another, There is also a strong pro-life message and an emphasis on the power of sacrifice, friendship and the bond between parents and children.
As one character says towards the end of the book:
‘In all our broken relationships, from our childhood, through to our adult life, from our broken marriages and separated families – and ultimately to the broken relationship we hold with ourselves – not knowing who we are, what we want or where we are going – there is only one true bond that can save us, the bond that is the covenant offered by the eternal love and friendship of Jesus Christ.’
You read this book by clicking: http://bit.ly/cuHXLL. If you know of any publishers who may be interested in this work, please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org and I can put you in touch with the author. Alternatively follow the links on the above website and click on ‘back the book’.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
We all know that the more distinguished gentleman will wear a trilby, but do we know the finer points of etiquette? I have been described as a little unorthodox (in my trilby-wearing) and so will redirect you elsewhere so that you may be educated: http://bit.ly/bFtUcz
This link gives you important lessons in hat etiquette including the following gems and my comments:
- I generally remove my hat indoors, although generally not in corridors or elevators or airports or other places where people are moving about. As a general rule, remove your hat before entering the places you'll be seated. [Do people not sit around in airports? I fear that next time I'm about to flee these shores, I may have a crisis of conscience.]
- A basic rule is on outside. When inside you can leave it on in public areas; off in private ones, off when you sit to eat. [What if one stands to eat? I think we should be told.]
- The first time you meet a lady, take off you hat. The next time you met her tipping your hat is acceptable. To show particular respect to a specific lady take off your hat the second time you meet her as well. [What if you're not sure if you've met her before? Is a semi-doff permitted?]
- In a restaurant, use an extra chair. If you have the guts, put it upside down under your own chair. A side note, to keep from forgetting your hat, drop your keys in it when you set it down. [I like the insinuation that real men keep their hats upside down. I do, however, see a flaw in this advice, I might simply forget both and find myself at home sans keys and trilby.]
My favourite comment so far, is this one:
- My wife better not ever catch me tipping my hat to a strange woman. I mostly do it at church anyway. [This begs certain questions: Firstly, is extra-marital doffing, strictly speaking, sartorial adultery? Secondly, didn't Saint Paul suggest men don't wear hats in church?
Thursday, March 11, 2010
"You will sprinkle me Lord with hyssop and I will be made clean. You will wash me and I shall be whiter than snow. Have mercy on me God according to your great mercy. [Psalm 51(50)] Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit."
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
"Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!
Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."
Philippians 4: 4-8
This blog purely exists in order to be a place for me encourage, inspire and amuse. The subjects will be diverse but the tone will always be positive. It may be that you won't share my sense of humour or attitude to life but you are welcome to drop by and comment at any time.