Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Illiteracy...

..is it worth trying to talk to the manager? Does it really matter?

 I don't think that the team in the local Tescos meant to be ironic when they put up the big new notice which says: "It's the imaginary ingredients in our bread that make the difference."






Prison...

...and the route from the railway station to the prison where I do some visiting is a particularly ugly and smelly walk beside a main road, which in a particularly sad way retains some hints of its former setting as a rural- pathway-alongside-a-meadow...

This particular prison is, however, itself clean and with good provision for education, for family visits, for access to  fair advice and help, and more..

I am increasingly impressed by the work of  our Catholic prison chaplains, priests who give themselves in service to people that others might want to forget or dismiss as being unworthy of good spiritual care. And there is serious work being done: instruction, baptisms, confessions, talks and use of videos (Fr Robert Barron's Catholicism series, the excellent Evangelium material, and more)...and good numbers for Mass.

Pray for prisoners. Pray for the chap being confirmed next week. Pray for the one who is distraught about the break-up with his girlfriend. Pray for the men I met today.

...and...

...further to the ghastly news of the ruling today by a judge in the Supreme Court concerning conscientious objections to abortion - see this excellent commentary by a senior lawyer...

Back in the 1970s...

...there were huge - HUGE - crowds at marches in London and elsewhere to oppose the 1967 Abortion Act and the widespread killing of unborn babies...I remember speaking at a rally in London where even the BBC admitted some 80,000 people were present, and the real figure was probably much nearer 100, 000.

I remember that in those days, people who supported abortion tended to say "Well, no one is forcing you to have anything to do with it, are they?" An odd remark, because if you are obliged to fund abortion through your taxes, and if you know you should have some care for your neighbours and for human life and for the common good, then you can and must speak out and try to do something  when abortion is becoming a part of everyday life...

However,there was and is a "conscience clause" in the Abortion Act that is meant to protect medical staff who knew that involvement in aborting babies is wrong...

Now, today, a Supreme Court judge has announced that midwives do not have the right to refuse, as a matter of conscience,  to supervise the provision of abortions on their ward. The judge seems to think that anyone who opposes abortion has a sort of duty to ensure that others provide it - which is most certainly not what the lawmakers had in mind, and seems opposed to any ordinary reading of the Act.

Pray for a revival of spiritual and moral values, and common sense and human decency, in our country.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I'm enjoying these...

MADE FOR GLORY messages for Advent. View here...

An invitation...

...to a book launch can mean a slightly bleak evening, with some wine and potato crisps and not many people, and a publisher anxiously hoping that somehow all this will result in some sales...

But the book launch I attended this evening was utterly different. An absolutrely packed Westminster Cathedral Hall, lots of young families,  a stirring call to evangelise, and at one point we were all invited to sing (yes, you read that correctly) the Hail Mary, and everyone stood up and did so, in rousing style, to a tune I had never heard before.

This was all to launch a book, The Kerygma, by Kiko Arguello, founder of the Neo-Catechuemenate. I heard the word Kerygma  ( you say it: Kare-ig-ma) a lot when studying evangelisation at Maryvale: it means the first proclamation of the Gospel, the invitation to encounter Christ.

The Neo-Cats are impressive: enthusiastic, prayerful, practical.There was a warm welcome, interesting speeches, a  good atmosphere, and a delicious buffet with sandwiches and snacks and cakes, and plenty of wine. Cardinal Vincent Nichols was there and spoke well, quoting Pope Francis and encouraging us to ake the Gospel out to the lonely and the confused and the needy.  A Christmas Tree glittered on the stage, alongside a massive icon depicting the Nativity. A Neo-Cat priest encouraged us to think about three angels - messengers. First, Lucifer, the fallen angel, who tempted Eve and succeeded in getting her to put her own wishes first and disobey God. Then the second angelic messenger - Gabriel, to Mary, who opened her heart to God and said "Yes". And then us - each of us should be a messenger...

I'm enjoying the book and will report on it in due course.

A celebration...

...of the Jewish festival of Chanukah was held in London today - a young friend attended and loved it, and there is a useful description and explanation of it all here, from the Council of Christians and Jews.

The Council of Christians and Jews does good work, and I am glad to be able to commend it.

A picture of St John Paul the Great...

...blessed by Mgr Keith Newton at the TOWARDS ADVENT Festival, will now be given to a Catholic residential home for the elderly.  Once a year, it will leave there, and be carried on the John Paul Walking Pilgrimage to Walsingham, which in 2015 marks its 10th anniversary. The Pilgrimage is organised by the Dominican Sisters of St Joseph.

I am about to take the picture, which is an embroidered one with the embroiderer's signature on the back, to the Home...

Those who attended the TOWARDS ADVENT Festival may remember the two very charming children who brought it forward to be blessed, and the solemn and reverent way that they stood holding it as the beautiful prayer was said...a very special moment.

This is good news...

...for all who love Walsingham...

Christmas cards...

...tucked along every bookcase and in the useful Christmas-card holders than I bought years ago from Aid to the Church in Need and are among the best purchases I've ever made. Candles on the Advent wreath. Gifts in cheery wrapping paper and bright ribbons. I love it all.

Soon I'll erect the crib, with its special angel. Special?  Yes...some years ago I punctured my bike on my way to a friend's house. Fortunately I was just outside a bicycle shop, so hurried in and the tyre was swiftly mended while I chatted and admired the shop's little Christmas tree topped with an angel. I set off again..and  five minutes later, the bike ran over some broken glass in the next street, and the other tyre was punctured. I was cross, and fed up. No mobile phones in those days...I'd be horribly delayed, people would be upset. I dragged the bike back to the shop in a bad temper. The man was kind and briskly got to work and as I left he told me "Take the angel. You look as if you need one!"  I was embarrassed, but he insisted. And the angel has been part of our family Christmas ever since, hanging over the Christ-child in the manger, in white and gold with swooping wings...

I received some panicky emails and messages ...

...one from a from good and faithful soul, some from self-appointed know-it-alls who announce that they are the-Faithful-remnant-of-Traditional-Catholicism. All were gulping and worrying, because they believed stories that the Pope had announced that animals go to Heaven when they die.

I didn't reply because I am a busy woman and assumed that the Pope had made no such announcement.

I was right. Read here.

Pray for America's splendid Little Sisters of the Poor...

...and admire their courage.

Watch here

Monday, December 15, 2014

...and a wonderful welcome in Torquay...

...where the choir at the Ordinariate Mass sang a joyful "Gaudete! Gaudete!" and I enjoyed a delicious lunch and got the whole story on the Torquay Ordinariate project.The local Methodists in Chelston have had to leave their church, and have asked the Ordinariate to "keep the flame of faith burning" there,  Fr David and his team are committed to doing just that, and more - and they will need your help and mine to do so.

Send them a Christmas donation, large or small. This is your opportunity to do something positive in response to that moan that has become so popular "Oh, we are no longer a Christian country..."

The Torbay team are busy with outreach - their charity shop not only offers a magnificent local service but is also a place of welcome, good cheer, advice, counsel and simple neighourly friendship for the lonely...the church will be a place of glorious worship, sound teaching, youth activities, and mission. This is a story of hope as a New Year beckons...join in and be part of it!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Frosty fields...

...in the early morning as the bus trundles through Somerset. I am visiting an elderly relative, and the walk up the hill with glorious views of Exmoor is pure delight. But the chill of the day doesn't work so well for a lady in a wheelchair, and the warmth of an Indian restaurant and a dish of seafoord korma suits her better. As we meet frequently, there isn't much family news to tell, so we enjoy reminiscing...

An evening of writing Christmas cards. Tomorrow I am getting up early to go to Mass at Torquay, because there's a church thyere I specialoly want to visit...

Friday, December 12, 2014

Evensong...

...followed by the Advent Course at Precious Blood Church, London Bridge. We pondered the message of various images of the Annunciation -  an early one from the East, a glorious one by Fra Angelico, a more modern pre-Raphaelite one. Lots to think about...in Fra Angelico's picture, the  sacred space between the Angel and the Virgin, the latter's hands clasped in prayer...in the pre-Raphaelite one, the flames of fire around the Angel's feet...

At Evensong, one of the Scripture readings was the story of Ruth amid the corn...later, we got talking about it...the significance of Christ's genealogy, that reference to Bethlehem...we decided to ask for a specific session on that at some stage.

People say "Christmas is for children", but in my experience it all gets much, much, more important and thrilling and exciting as you get older. The mystery of the Incarnation is so enormous.

 As a child, I simply found Advent to be a time of gosh-we-are-one-day-nearer-Christmas, with my mind fixed on gifts under the Tree, and delicious smells in the kitchen. I loved making paper chains and singing carols and putting up the Crib, and of course had one of those Blue Peter Advent Wreaths made of old coat-hangers...(remember? Oh...Mondays and Thursdays, and that familiar signature tune...)  But with adulthood came the dawning realisation of the fullness of what we were all celebrating, and every year the wonder of it grows.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The New Movements...

...in the Catholic Church had a big gathering recently in Rome. And here in Britain they have an occasional get-teogether, with a representative or two  from each group...and today I went along for the first time, representing the FAITH Movement. It was a useful and friendly day, with quite an upbeat feel,  and I learned a lot. There were a good many people I already knew, and we were given a warm welcome at the Focolare Centre in Welwyn Garden City (never been there before...it really is a garden city, at least the part where you approach it from the railway station...all wide lawns and green spaces with shops alongside).

The people from the Neo-Catechumenate were interesting - I met them once on Ealing Common where they were doing a sort of mission/evangelisation thing.  They've just published a book by their founder, which will be launched at Westminster Cathedral Hall next week.


Sunday, December 07, 2014

A weekend...

...in the country with friends. They were hosting a fund-raising event for a local church, so a busy evening and lots of cheery talk and hurrying around with plates of delicious sandwiches and snacks, finishing with carols and mince pies.  Next morning an early Mass followed by a good breakfast and a morning enjoying the outdoors, and writing Christmas cards by a log fire...then a great family lunch with lots of guests, and finally a reluctant departure for home...

IN GOOD VOICE...

...a grand carol singing team gathered at London Bridge station on Friday, and it was tremendous fun.  We sang all the traditional carols:"Hark the Herald Angels" "Away in a Manger" "Once in Royal David's City" "Good King Wenceslas" "We Three Kings" "O come all ye faithful"...the works. And there was a wonderful response. People gave money. They came and joined in. They brought their children along to enjoy us. And one lady was to enthusiastic that she presented us with a magnificent bouquet of flowers!

It was all wonderful, and when had given the crowds and crowds of commuters a good couple of hours of singing, we hurried back through the damp cold streets to the Rectory at Precious Blood Church, and enjoyed lots of mulled wine provided by younger members of the team and served in proper style with sliced oranges and sugar and spices. A grand evening.