Friday, 31 December 2010

Twelve Resolutions for the New Year

It's from Robert Kumpel and, as he says, it's for Recovering Dissident Catholics. I thought, at first, he was talking about the E & W Bishops but then he did use the word 'Recovering'

A Great New Year Resolution
The 12 Steps
for Recovering Modernist Catholics

STEP 1. We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction—that our lives had become unmanageable.

Maybe it began with your first folk Mass. You couldn’t get enough. It felt great, like you were telling all those nuns who insisted you be quiet at Mass to shut up! Or maybe it was like telling all the priests who warned you in the confessional that they couldn’t tell you what was a sin anymore! It’s YOUR decision! Then they let you hold the Host! Now you think you can vote however you want and believe whatever you like. You've decided you can even skip Mass whenever you feel like it!

The last time you went to Confession, two years ago, did you confess that you were "too hard on myself"? Is that when you decided you didn’t need Confession either. Do you now worship "wherever the spirit leads me"? Is that when you decided that you would simply receive Holy Communion anytime you felt like it, without bothering to even examine your conscience?

Or maybe your parents told you how awful the "old Church" was. That the priest turned his back on the people! Was that when you decided that YOU were the arbiter of your eternal destiny?

Or was it when Father Whomever began making wisecracks about those "little old ladies" murmuring over their rosary beads? When you saw that he no longer took the teachings of the Church seriously, did that give you your excuse to disregard all religious discipline?

Step 2 - Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

You mean the Catholic Church actually has REAL authority?
And it’s called the Magisterium?
It's not just my "personal choice"?

Step 3 - Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.

“For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that we may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. -1 Corinthians 2:16

Do not presume to know about Who and What God is on your own.
That is why Jesus Christ founded the Catholic Church.

Step 4 - Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

• Have I turned away from teachings that I found difficult to accept?

• Have I deliberately listened to priests who taught against the Catholic faith because they told me what I wanted to hear?

• Have I ignored the Catholic training of my youth?

• Have I failed to witness my faith to Protestants and unbelievers because I feared offending them?

• Have I modeled Indifferentism to my children by permitting them to attend a Protestant church?

• Have I created my own religion in my mind instead of working harder to learn what the Church teaches?

• Have I enabled the murder of unborn children while flattering myself that my vote was for social justice?

• Have I ignored Humanae Vitae?

• Have I flouted or mocked the teachings and traditions of the Catholic Church?

Step 5 - Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

Go to Confession. Frequently.

Step 6 - Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character

“But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh in its concupiscences.” -Roman 13:14

Step 7 - Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.

O Jesus! Meek and humble of heart, hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, deliver me Jesus
From the desire of being loved, deliver me Jesus
From the desire of being extolled, deliver me Jesus
From the desire of being honored, deliver me Jesus
From the desire of being praised, deliver me Jesus
From the desire of being preferred, deliver me Jesus
From the desire of being consulted, deliver me Jesus
From the desire of being approved, deliver me Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, deliver me Jesus
From the fear of being despised, deliver me Jesus
From the fear of suffering rebukes, deliver me Jesus
From the fear of being calumniated, deliver me Jesus
From the fear of being forgotten, deliver me Jesus
From the fear of being ridiculed, deliver me Jesus
From the fear of being wronged, deliver me Jesus
From the fear of being suspected, deliver me Jesus
That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it
That in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

Step 8 - Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

• Have I ended friendships with people who were “too Catholic” for me?

• Have I treated traditional Catholics as pariahs?

• Have I defended people doing evil things because they were my friends?

• Have I looked the other way at evil and wrongdoing, reassuring myself that I was “not being judgmental”?

• Have I refused to stick up for people who have defended the faith because it might offend my friends?

Step 9 - Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

You'll know what to do.

Step 10 - Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

Keep returning to Confession.

Step 11 - Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God's will for us and the power to carry that out.

Is prayer my first priority?

Have I read and studied Pascendi Dominici Gregis?

Step 12 - Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Go forth and share your transformation with the other cult members who drank the Kool-Aid of the “Spirit of Vatican II”.

Thank you to all who helped make Christmas a little more bearable for the unloved, the outcasts, the unseen members of our society

This is a thank you note from my daughter, Catherine, a nurse, who gave up her Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to spend it with a host of other like minded individuals, nursing, feeding and generally attending to the needs of those who have fallen through the net of society and who live in appalling conditions, on the streets. Yes, on the streets in temperatures of 12 degrees below freezing and when ownership of a woolly hat or an umbrella takes on life saving proportions.

But, this is Catherine's story:-

"This Christmas, I decided to volunteer for the national charity for 
homelessness, Crisis. It was the most incredible experience.

On Christmas Eve I was allocated to work in a day centre set up in a 
secondary school in West London. In my team was one doctor, a 
pharmacist and, of course me, the nurse. We arrived with our medical 
kit and were given a spare room in which to set up a clinic. There was 
instantly a frantic panic amongst some of the 'guests' (the word used to describe the homeless) who were desperate to see a doctor or nurse.

A "Thank you" from Catherine Mary Collins

We were only there for 7 hours but in that time, as the doctor was so 
busy, I treated guests with broken collar bones, some with deformed bones that had been left untreated and many, many frost bitten toes as well as the usual coughs and  colds. Some had not seen a doctor since last year's Christmas at Crisis.

I met incredible characters who had been made homeless for one reason or 
another, including travellers, nurses, jugglers, solicitors and web designers.

I was lucky enough to get a free meal also and this gave me an opportunity to sit down with 
the guests. I met one man who had been sleeping rough for 2 years and I 
was shocked to find out he was a qualified nurse. He explained to me 
that at night it was too cold to sleep so he just walked around trying to keep warm to stay alive. His most precious possession was an umbrella he had found, but in fear of it being stolen, he had hidden it on the streets. He said that his worry was, that if it snowed again he might never be able to find it. Crisis had given him two new hats, one with ear flaps and he was so thrilled; this was a real chance to beat off at least some of the cold.

Other services the day centre offered included podiatry (the busiest  service!), dentistry, opticians, maths lessons, haircuts, manicures  and cinema rooms. Hairdressing seemed to have the most fun being able to  transform people back to their youth within a few minutes of setting two with scissors and comb. After a good shave and a haircut, some of the guests looked twenty years younger when they came out of there!

On Christmas Day, as part of  a larger team, I was despatched to an old warehouse in 
East London set up especially for the rough sleepers. Crisis provides 350 beds 
for people sleeping on the streets for the week over the Christmas period. All beds were full after just 12 hours.

As our minibus pulled up at the centre the guests surrounded us and cheered saying 
'God bless you for coming to help!'- it was very moving.

The day centre on Christmas Eve had been an experience, but the East End centre was more like a vast concentration camp. We set up our clinic and a long queue formed instantly. Some were so ill they had to be blue lighted to hospital immediately.

For the second part of my shift I was sent to the dependency centre 
for alcoholics and drug addicts. This was equally harrowing but of 
course much livelier! It was humbling that everyone we ministered to was so grateful.

Many volunteers I met had done Crisis at Christmas year after year. I 

now understand why  it is such a life changing experience, not just for the guests but also the helpers.
Thank  you all very, very much for your donations made to Crisis through my sponsorship  page; that cash really will change lives profoundly."


Thursday, 30 December 2010

There is good news and hope for 2011 - it could be a great New Year!

For why? You ask.....Well, for a start we will welcome the new Papal Nuncio to Great Britain, Archbishop Mennini. I suspect his post box is filling up nicely as I blog - at least I hope all those who have had short shrift from their Bishops will be writing to welcome ++ Mennini and to flag up the issues.

Secondly, we know, do we not? That ++ Mennini is going to be a busy man on the Human Resource front. Some of our Bishops will be making their way to the exit door whilst others will be taking up position in the transit lounge...ready for the off in a year or two.

Here is a quick rundown of who goes and when. Some of us, no doubt will throw our hats in the air.....mainly because, in their place, we hope and trust that the Holy Father's wishes will be implemented and we will begin to receive men who hold firm to the faith and the Magisterium.

Arundel & Brighton - + Kieron Conry due to retire 2026 (sorry)

Birmingham - ++ Bernard Longley - with us until 2030

Brentwood - +Thomas McMahon - Hats in the air! He goes in 2011

Cardiff - Vacant....pray like mad that Wales gets a good man, first task for ++ Mennini?

Clifton - + Declan Lang - in for the journey, 2025 - if the Diocese lasts that long

East Anglia - + Michael Evans - 2026 is his red dot on the calendar year

Hallam - + John Rawsthorne - Bingo! he bows out in 2011!

Hexham & Newcastle - + Seamus Cunningham is there until 2017

Lancaster - + Michael Campbell - staying put until 2016

Leeds - + Arthur Roche (groan) - with Yorkshire until 2025.....Ecky thump!

Liverpool - ++ Patrick Kelly........into the transit lounge, 2013 is his year

Menevia - + Thomas Burns - in for the long haul, 2019 is his date

Middlesborough - + Terry Drainey...2024....what????

Northampton - + Peter Doyle - 2019

Nottingham - + Malcolm McMahon......2024...yawn!

Plymouth - + Christopher Budd....nearly there (Deo Gratias) 2012 and he get's his rest

Portsmouth - + Crispian Hollis...Yay! another one for the strasse! 2011 is his year

Salford - + Terence Brain....2013....tempus fugit but not fugit enough!

Southwark - ++ Peter Smith.....with us until 2018

Westminster - ++ Vincent Nicholls - a mere spring chicken, 2020 is his year

Wrexham - + Edwin Regan...ooops! should have gone in 2010, please do not delay on
                our account

Bishop Rawsthorne (left) for the early bath. Bishop Lang, (right) in it for the long haul!

So, out of 22 Dioceses and Archdioceses, we have no less than 8 expecting a change in leadership within the next three years. That represents a 38% new intake of Bishops by 2013. And that is massive.
It could be the beginning of the end for the Magic Circle and the start of an era of spirituality for the Catholics of England and Wales - let's pray that is the case.

The Mass is only a symbolic act - is that what we believe today?

"What is the Mass to you?"

(Kinsella answers:) "I suppose the Mass to me, as to most Catholics in the world today, is a symbolic act. I do not believe that the bread and wine is changed into the body and blood of Christ, except in a purely symbolic manner. Therefore, I do not, in the old sense, think of God as actually being present, there in the tabernacle......"

"Isn't that remarkable," the Abbot said, "And yet you seem to be what I would call a very dedicated young man".

"In what way is it remarkable, Father Abbot? It's the standard belief, in this day and age."

"Or lack of belief," the Abbot said, "I think I was born before my time. A man doesn't have to have such a big dose of faith anymore, does he?"

Kinsella smiled. "Perhaps not." He had been about to add that today's best thinking saw the disappearance of the Church building as a place of worship in favor of a more generalized community concept, a group gathered in a meeting to celebrate God-in-others. But decided that, perhaps, the Abbot was not ready for that step.

"Yes," the Abbot said. "I see now why the old Mass is now non grata.
And why you're here to tell us to cease and desist"

Extract from Catholics by Brian Moore

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

What is Bishop Burns talking about?

The Bishop of Menevia Diocese in Wales gave a sermon at the end of the Year of the Priest in June and now it has been regurgitated to form part of the 2011 Menevia Diocesan Yearbook. H/T to Chris Gillibrand of Catholic Church Conservation.

Apart from the fact that the grammar and syntax is pretty dull, the content itself is appalling. He seems to have lost the plot in terms of theological fact and speaks about 'the priesthood of the laity' in one sentence before stating that: 'there is only one priesthood'. He speaks of 'triumphalism and male domination,' these are, apparently the result of the EF Mass rubrics not being inclusive of Female Altar servers or  the "Ministries" does he mean Extraordinary Ministers, I wonder?

The language used is imprecise, the intention seems to blur the lines between followers of the OF Mass as opposed to followers of the EF Mass. Is this a slick ploy to deflect any allegations of him waging a war of attrition against traditional belief Catholics?

Please judge for yourself......and help those of us who live in the bounds of Menevia by posting are the Bishop's words, verbatim:-

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Bishop Tom Burns of the Diocese of Menevia does not get it!

Mass to Celebrate the Closure of the Year of the Priest

HOMILY: In most walks of life, we need back-up: e.g. reaching agreement in a family about some proposal; winning support at work for a new idea; welcoming a helpful word or a shoulder to lean on at a time of crisis; in sport, as in cricket: backing-up at the wicket to prevent an overthrow; and, of course, in the world of computers, making a back-up copy of files gives new meaning to the phrase Jesus saves! In the Church too, the sacraments back-up the living-out of our Christian calling. Indeed, the Eucharist is not just a back-up to something else; it is the very means of receiving the Lord fully into our lives. It is the major part of a priest's ministry, in which he brings the Lord to others. It is the summit of our prayer and worship as priests.

The Ministerial Priesthood functions amid today's frenetic reality. What we are doing today can seem to some a bit out of touch with reality. To some, the Priesthood appears to be a bit remote from the physical and moral difficulties of ordinary lives. Yet, as priests, we are to step into a new space, the space of the Transcendent, of Otherness. For, we are signed by a special character and - conformed to Christ the Priest. We need to see beyond the Priesthood, and delve more deeply into it, because it is our call to Priesthood that has to change people's lives. The transcendent demand needs ratification, so that the Priesthood is recognized as that group of men, anointed by Christ to stand in that daunting space, to gather the rest of God's people around that space, and to underwrite the presence of that holy space as near and accessible to each one of us. This 'other' space will provide a bridge between this world and the next, between what we are and what we shall be. So, by our ordination, we are anointed, to be Christ-like, to bring others to that goal of human history and that focal point to which the desires of humanity aim: Christ himself. We are called to a ministry of preaching and healing, to make people whole again, ready and willing to meet the Lord when he calls, to be there when others need us most. This requires us to develop our inner well-being; our generosity; our selflessness; our desire to give and encourage forgiveness in others by our word and example, and most of all by our generosity of service. We are called to have the strength and courage to contradict the ways of the world.

And to do all this, we cannot do it alone. There is another aspect of priesthood that complements the ordained priesthood. It is the priesthood of the laity. It is the priesthood conferred on all who are baptised. Yet, there is only one priesthood of Christ, within which there is a diversity of kind and function. It is the role of the ministerial priesthood to bring to its full exercise - and to its full expression - the priesthood of the entire body of Christ, in which all share in different degrees. And to remember, every ordained priest comes from among the laity in the first place.

It is difficult to convey what it means to say, for the first time, the words of consecration at Mass, and to realise that it is the first person singular - I - that we are using. It is my voice, my hands, my mind, that are engaged in this tremendous act which is central to the Eucharist, in which Christ is made present through my person. How could anyone in the priesthood ever have abused that anointing deliberately and-repeatedly, not just in a single, one-off moment of immaturity or indiscretion immediately regretted, but by knowing and planning habitually, without remorse or regret, what they were doing?

It's ironic that the Year of the Ordained Priest began as the Year of the Abused Victim. During this past year we have made no excuses; for there are none to make. The lapses and the offences of the few, who make up no more than a half of one percent of all clergy, have sadly damaged also the many. It's been a year when society has called into question the integrity of politicians and their expenses, financiers and their bonuses, and not least of all priests and their assaults on the innocent and vulnerable. All these groups have been guilty of betraying trust. All have been convinced of their own self-righteousness, almost their entitlement to do these things, their conviction that they were doing no wrong.

For priests who offended, I'm not sure that their abuses grew out of the rule of celibacy; abuse happens within otherwise good families too. I'm more convinced that it grew out of the clericalism of the past. That clericalism risks raising its head today among those who again are looking for identity in status, not service. They want to be treated differently. There are those who set high standards of morality for lay people, while they blatantly violate those same standards themselves. There are those who go to extremes to express the Mass in a particular way, whether it is in the Ordinary Form or Extraordinary Form, in a so-called VAT II rite or Tridentine Rile, through the "People's Mass" or the . "Priest's Mass". Some want to put the priest on a pedestal, whilst the people are consigned to be privileged spectators outside the rails. Flamboyant modes of liturgical vestments and rubrical gestures abound. Women are denied all ministries at Mass: doing the Readings, the serving, the Bidding Prayers, and taking Communion to the Sick. To many in our Church and beyond, this comes across as triumphalism and male domination. This clericalism conceals the fact that the Church as an institution has often acted in collusion with what I can only regard as structural sinfulness. It has paid dearly for it and is untrue to its humble Founder, Jesus Christ.

This underlying culture of clericalism has to end and never happen again. In addition, where there have been victims of it, they merit our individual and collective expression of sorrow, without reservation, plus our promise of listening and healing, and our assurance of Support, These are openly given. Accompanying all this is a deeper truth without which life would be just too hard to live. It is the truth that there is a deeper power at work below the surface of our human failings and our uncertainties. The strength of the priesthood, exercised by some 99% of the clergy, lies in the daily sacrifice of self in the service of the Lord, in making him known, in a Church that all of us love and that does so much, good. We can only glimpse a horizon beyond which so little is known this side of eternity. Here, earthy symphonies will always remain unfinished. And we want a priest to ease us out of this world, who anoints and forgives us, to speed us on our journey into the next.

Together, whether you are ministerial priest or baptised priest, you are all called to be a dynamic force in the Church. You, the ordained, have to realise the power for good that you have and thus exercise your God-given gifts. None of you can measure the good that you do. Most of it is hidden. It is rarely publicised, and because of its personal and confidential nature it cannot be shouted from the roof-tops. It is known to the individual who has benefited. It is known to the Lord himself. Whereas everything else can be taken away from you, even your reason can diminish or disappear, no-one can take away your priesthood. You are a priest forever. Cherish that. You, the laity, and us, the ordained, have been given a dynamic force to be Christ and to make Christ present in this world, today and for as long as we are alive. Sometimes we need to pray as Pope John XXIII did one night he knelt by his bedside, tired and frustrated at the end of a long day. He said: "It's your Church, Lord. Get on with it!"   AMEN.

Bishop Tom acknowledges the helpful advice and comments which he obtained as a result of consulting certain individuals and resources in the preparation of this homily, which was given in St. Joseph's Cathedral, Swansea, on the occasion of the Closure Mass for the Year of the Priest' 21st  June 2010.
It would be very interesting to know just who the "certain individuals and resources" mentioned above are. I don't think he has spoken to anyone of a traditional bent.

Muslim population explosion!

In the space of just ten years, the UK Muslim population has increased from 1.65 million (2001) to 2.87 million - a staggering 74% increase.
This report comes from The Daily Telegraph of 28th December as a result of figures produced by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, a seemingly straight and trustworthy organisation that focuses on 'promoting a deeper understanding of issues at the intersection of religion and public affairs'.
I post on this to flag up some looming problems, not to incite racial discrimination.
At this rate the whole cultural, religious, social and political ethos in Great Britain will change dramatically in a very few years.

The good side indicates that, if this does happen, there will be a new awareness of the horrors of abortion and the moral implications of homosexuality.
The bad side (a slightly longer list) is a shade more problematical; the agenda of Islam is largely about establishing their own rule of governance on a country - in brief, creating a Caliphate that administers, among other things, Sharia law. A law that condones stoning of women found in an adulterous relationship, execution for practising homosexuals, public floggings for minor misdeeds together with a disregard for Christian beliefs.
Now, not all Muslims fall into the 'Islamist' category, there are many good and decent Muslim citizens of the UK but......and it's a big but.....we have a watershed of young, male Muslims, largely disaffected with the British way of life and, as such, they are going to present a volatile force in the years ahead. I do not entirely blame them; I believe that radicalisation has taken place in mosques around the country without let or hindrance on the part of either the Imams or the British Government. To a large degree the damage has been done and it is going to be very hard if not impossible to undo it.

We have also opened the immigration flood gates and allowed hundreds of thousands of people into this country who have no legitimate claim to be here or to asylum here. Furthermore, once in the UK, we have made no attempt to educate and inform them as to the sort of country they are settling in. They have little or no concept of democracy and all that it entails, no historical background, no English as a Foreign Language skills, no proper knowledge of Christianity.

Action needs to be taken urgently now (and I do not mean BNP type action). I mean that we need to block up the holes in our entry laws, establish training and education programmes for the existing immigrant population (a large proportion of whom are Muslim). Create decent career path programmes for young British Muslims and set up voluntary worker experience schemes so that job skills may be honed by working in the voluntary sector for a period and gaining, at the same time, an insight into the social structures of the country. And much more besides.

Venerable William, Viscount Stafford 1680

A member of the famous Howard family, Viscount Stafford led a good and innocent Catholic life with disregard to the forces of Protestantism raging around him.
He fought for the King during the English Civil War and came off badly. After the Restoration he lived in peace with his family until, at the age of 66, he was caught up in the Titus Oates false accusations and committed to the Tower of London.

Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church, Chideock

After two years imprisonment in the Tower he was brought for trial to The House of Lords where he was subjected to a legal barrage for four days. During this period he remained calm in the face of adversity. Finally, he was found guilty by his peers on a vote of 55 against 31.

On his way to the scaffold he was advised to put on his cloak to which he readily agreed: "Lest I shake from cold, but never from fear."
Brave words from a brave man.
He gained his martyr's crown on 29th December 1680 in the reign of Charles II - dubbed "the Merry Monarch".


Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Nil by hand at the Vatican

H/T to Robert Kumpel for his report on a new emphasis given at the Vatican to receiving Holy Communion on the tongue and only on the tongue.
Now, I know I do bang on about this issue but it is of fundamental importance to our faith today. The lack of reverence for the Blessed Sacrament leads to a lack of belief in the actual Body and Blood of Christ and an alignment with Protestant theology which claims that we are only re-enacting a symbolic 'meal' and that the host is still bread and the wine still wine.

Here is is:-

Holy Father Re-asserts the NORM

from What Does the Prayer Really Say? (Fr. John Zuhlsdorf's blog)

I was not able to watch all of the Papal Mass in the Vatican Basilica, but I have started to get interesting emails about something people noticed.

Among them was this email from a priest in Rome:

In a change to former practice, those distributing Holy Communion at
the Holy Father’s Mass tonight were told that ‘at all Papal Masses
Communion is to be given only on the tongue.’ The usual statement that Prelates receive in the same way as the Laity remained.
thought you might be interested.

Yes, indeed.

One of the emails from people watched the Mass said:

Did you notice that during the communion of the faithful during Pope Benedict’s Midnight Mass at least one priest refused to give Holy Communion on the hand? Instead, the security guard near this priest motioned for each communicant to receive on the tongue. If the communicants didn’t get the hint, the priest still did not give them the Host in the hand, but rather held It near their mouth until they finally understood. Some of the people looked very surprised when they held their hands out and didn’t get the Host.

This was apparently noticeble during the broadcast.

This is way it is going to have to be done. Example… then buzz buzz buzz… then people will catch on and, over time, things will shift to a point where the change back to the NORMAL manner of reception of Communion can be effected without as much upheaval.


Reception of Holy Communion in the hand is only by indult to specific countries, petitioned for by the various bishops conferences. An indult is a SPECIAL PERMISSION or PRIVILEGE and, as such, can be revoked by the Holy Father at any time.

And every Catholic in the United States deserves to know that this indult was obtained by dishonest means by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

We continue to pray for a restoration of the norms: The norms of sacramental discipline, the norms of liturgical practice and the norms
Let me add...

Monday, 27 December 2010

If the USA can do it, why can't we?

The Catholic Church in the US does seem to be putting its house in order, thanks mainly, it appears, to the recent appointment by the Holy Father of Cardinal Ouellet as Prefect for Congregation of  Bishops.
Now American Catholic bloggers are talking of the 'Ouellet effect' that is, the revival or, at least the start of the revival of integrity and sanctity in the episcopate.
The latest of Cardinal Ouellet's appointments has just been announced, namely, that a noted pro life Bishop, Bishop Paul Coakley of Kansas, has been made Archbishop of Oklahoma City.

Archbishop Paul Coakley H/T Last Papist Standing

And, another great man is in the news. Bishop Olmsted of Phoenix has stripped St Joseph's Hospital of its Catholic status for its failure to 'comply with the ethical and religious directives of the Church' - inferring that it has been involved in abortions or referrals for abortions.
Can you imagine a Bishop of England and Wales taking a stand against the Catholic Education Service? Or making a public statement in support of Pope Benedict?
Look what happened over a similar case 18 months or so ago at St John's & Elizabeth's Hospital.

2011 - And for me it is going to be the Year of the Bishops!

St Thomas More challenges, Cardinal Wolsey - we need to take
inspiration from this man when we tackle our Bishops!

I mean that it is in 2011 that I intend to work, pray and strive to aid the Bishops of England and Wales in their Episcopal roles, after all, they do want laity involvement do they not?
Of course, I am not being quite so public spirited as it might first appear; my interest in the Bishops is all due to the fact that, I have had enough of them, their puerile defence of the faith in the media, their lack of spine in facing up to legislation on adoption by homosexuals, their general absolute lack of resepect or obedience to the directions and teachings of the Holy Father.
This is what Our Lady of Fatima meant when she said: "The Holy Father will have much to suffer."
I appreciate that many believe that we should pray for our Bishops and let them get on with it, after all, they are the Princes of the Church.......but they have had long enough to put the England and Wales house in order. Instead of order we have disarray.
What do the stats show? I suspect that the decline in Mass attendance figures, conversion rates,  number of Baptisms and Marriages are at an all time low. Who is responsible?
So what can be done?

Firstly, all that can be done should be done with the full force of Christian charity; no histrionics, no snide remarks - no "Punch and Judy contest" as David Cameron remarked when he became leader of the Conservative Party.
That does not mean that we should be soft on failure or disobedience to the Magisterium, we need to be clear, unequivocal and straightforward, no pulling of punches.

Where to start? How about by reviewing a few facts about our Bishops?
For example, has your man publicly defended the faith in a full and confident manner?
Has he issued guidelines to Catholic Schools regarding how he will protect them when they stand firm against the imposition of sex education. Has he re-taken the high ground over homosexual adoption and instructed Catholic Adoption Agencies accordingly.
Has he fully implemented the teachings of the Holy Father (and past Holy Fathers) with regard to:-

a) Priestly celibacy
b) Women priests
c) Extraordinary Form of Mass
d) Priestly freedom to celebrate EF Masses as and when they see fit or in accord with  
    parochial demand.
e) Freedom of entry to seminaries for young men who hold to an orthodox stance in
    their faith.

I suspect that the answer to all of the above is NO. So, maybe, a start needs to be made to hold them to account. I am working on a project that I will publish shortly, once the full facts are made available, meanwhile, pray and watch this space!

Friday, 24 December 2010

Tomorrow shall be my dancing day........

Tomorrow shall be my dancing day;
I would my true love did so chance
To see the legend of my play,
To call my true love to my dance;

Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love,
This have I done for my true love
   Then was I born of a virgin pure,
Of her I took fleshly substance
Thus was I knit to man's nature
To call my true love to my dance. 

    In a manger laid, and wrapped I was
So very poor, this was my chance
Betwixt an ox and a silly poor ass
To call my true love to my dance.

  Then afterwards baptized I was;
The Holy Ghost on me did glance,
My Father’s voice heard from above,
To call my true love to my dance. 

   Into the desert I was led,
Where I fasted without substance;
The Devil bade me make stones my bread,
To have me break my true love's dance. 

   The Jews on me they made great suit,
And with me made great variance,
Because they loved darkness rather than light,
To call my true love to my dance. 

   For thirty pence Judas me sold,
His covetousness for to advance:
Mark whom I kiss, the same do hold!
The same is he shall lead the dance. 

 Before Pilate the Jews me brought,
Where Barabbas had deliverance;
They scourged me and set me at nought,
Judged me to die to lead the dance. 

  Then on the cross hanged I was,
Where a spear my heart did glance;
There issued forth both water and blood,
To call my true love to my dance. 

    Then down to hell I took my way
For my true love's deliverance,
And rose again on the third day,
Up to my true love and the dance.

 Then up to heaven I did ascend,
Where now I dwell in sure substance
On the right hand of God, that man
May come unto the general dance. 

Ero cras..............

      A Merry and Holy Christmas Feast to all Bloggers and Friends

Holy Father on Today programme is all 'due to perserverance of BBC'

This extraordinary claim was made by Ms Pepinster, Editor of The Tablet in an interview with James Naughtie some 40 minutes before Pope Benedict's 'Thought for the Day' message is broadcast.
Even more bizarre, she claims it was "due to BBC journalists"....really?.....that doesn't sound too likely to me but then, I do have a cynical side, or two.

In the same interview the representative of the National Secular Society was expectedly bitter and sour. Thankfully, he does not object to the Pope speaking on air but he does think that it is a big mistake and one not appreciated by the "hundreds, thousands and hundreds of thousands" of victims of child abuse. Hang on, didn't he forget millions, trillions and krillions there?

Catherine Pepinster put up a lack lustre defence of the Church and appeared to reduce everything to a mechanical 'nuts and bolts' level.
Must go now and hear some real broadcasting history. Radio 4 at c. 7.48am

Thursday, 23 December 2010

The 60th Anniversary of 'The Archers......'

....and not a Catholic in sight!

An everyday story of Anglican folk....

Now, I am not an Archers fan (for those from beyond the shores of Cambria and Albion, this is a radio soap, a story about country folk) but I have noticed that it is the 6oth Anniversary of their first production. Congratulations to the Producers and the BBC, an all time winner.
But.....where are the Catholics? To my knowledge (and please correct me if I am wrong, I know you will), There has never been a Catholic character featured in this diary of rustic life. There have been Indian Solicitors, Geordie wives with the most appalling Geordie accents (but, then, all Geordie accents are appalling), there have been drunks, cheapskates, thieves, adulterers, fraudsters, homosexuals (yes, even the odd homosexual), women vicars, name it and they have all put in an appearance in the last half century plus ten; but never a Papist.
So what's wrong with us Romans then? I know we can't be king, queen or prime minister in Great Britain, or married to same, but surely there's room in Anglican Borsetshire for an odd RC or so?
Apparently not.
Never fear...I have a cunning plan. I am going to draft a new character(s) specification for the producer.....Beeb style. That way they could not possibly refuse to incorporate a Catholic element along with the harvesting, pig slaughtering and general serial flirtations that normally take place.

Here it is:-

New Character Profile:
From Producer to Casting Director:

"We need a Catholic presence, not overwhelmingly so, just a faint breath of Romish air filtering through the sileage fumes. I suggest the following.
Main character to be female, middle aged and of county stock. Dress style to be large voluminous blouses, flowing Laura Ashley skirts and straw boater. The sort of person I am looking for is an Auntie sort of figure, someone that the whole of Ambridge can relate to and confide in. She needs to be forthright and outspoken but firmly set in the chintzy, olde worlde English mode.
Maybe even referred to as "Auntie" possibly "Auntie Flo" or something a shade more upmarket; "Auntie Bee" has better connotations (bee in the bonnet type, get it?).
Auntie Bee needs to speak in a cosy, twee fashion, maybe leaving out the primary part of her sentences so she might say:
"To Borchester today to purchase provender for hubbie, snow flakes on the carriage windows minded me of icing the Christmas cake..... (more of the same). Sang carols to self throughout journey.....loved town decorations of neon reindeers errant over a luminescent Santa Claus..."
She needs to temper her Catholicism with a love for the C of E, especially gets on well with female vicar and they organise 'knit ins' together to provide native children in Zambia with woolly hats. Lots of ecumaniacal activity indulged in. Possibly should be a dog breeder, maybe pugs? Should speak in loud, strident tones, a bit like Mrs Antrobus on speed!
Husband to Auntie Bee needs to have a lesser profile, maybe a retired Army Major type...pipe smoker...still hankers after the military life. Often to be seen (heard) in The Bull holding forth. Tends to pause mid sentence, gaze into the distance and murmur..."When they come they'll advance up main street and storm the vicarage". (Has a hang up about Fundamentalist Muslims and how to deal with full frontal attacks). Still not sure how we stitch Ambridge into this scenario but it's topical."

Ah me, when will we ever see a Catholic influence in this series? Is it just too fanciful to let one's mind wander (maybe, in my case, rather too much!).
Trouble is, it just ain't that important - we can get along fine without any form of mandatory representation...but it would be rather  fine to have an Auntie Bee and, maybe an occasional cameo appearance of a Catholic Bishop - that would certainly be mind boggling!


Extract from 'Why do Catholics do that?'

The Manger

"A young girl, far from home, delivering her own baby in a barn in the middle of the night after an exhausting trek across rough country. but she has the intelligence - the wit - to see that a manger full of hay looks just like a cradle.
Such a girl is a wonder in any age.
Whatever happened to that manger? If you visit the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, you'll see a grotto with a marble floor and a silver star to mark the spot of the birth of Jesus (history holds that the orginal stable was in a cave, which makes sense, with the Babe in swaddling clothes parallel to the linen wrapped Saviour in the rock-cut tomb). There's no manger in sight.
But, in the Church of St Mary Major in Rome, there are five small boards of sycamore wood from the Middle East that have been traditionally referred to as the crib of Bethlehem. This isn't one of those improbable relics from the Middle Ages that showed up out of nowhere; since at least the fifth century, there's been a chapel at St Mary Major fitted up to represent the cave at Bethlehem, and the evidence is that the chapel was built specifically to house those boards.

St Mary Maggiore, Rome
Since the sixth century, St Mary Major has had the secondary title of S. Maria Praesepe, St Mary of the Manger. Today, in the Nativity chapel there is the oldest existing devotional reconstruction of the stable of Bethlehem.
It's been the site of the first papal Mass of Christmas since the seventh century........"

Westminster Diocese - hang your head in shame!

My daughter wants to go to Midnight Mass (Extraordinary Form) on Christmas Eve, but according to the LMS listing there are only two choices, 6pm at Corpus Christi Maiden Lane or 6.30pm at St Mary Moorfields, EC2.
As she is working up until 8pm (ministering to the medical needs of the homeless and destitute), she will not be able to go.

"It's true, Holiness, only two EF Masses on Christmas Eve!"
Westminster, as lead British Diocese, does not do very much in accord with Summorum Pontificum, even on a normal Sunday. There's the little Oratory and Spanish Place, one in four Sundays at St Mary Moorfields and that is it. London, capital city, population of c. 7.8 million souls, just has 2.25 EF Masses on a Sunday. Abysmal! 7.8 million folk, over 200 parishes! Over 300 priests! 500,000 Catholics!

And all they provide are 2 'Midnight' Masses on Christmas Eve. Words fail me.

You would have thought that Archbishop Nichols could muster up the troops to provide a 10pm EF Mass in a side chapel, there must be some priests at the Cathedral who know how to celebrate it? Surely?

Ah, the penny has dropped, I now know why there isn't one at a respectable hour - it would be packed to overflowing and that would be a sore sight for Westminster eyes!

Soap of the Year Award 2010 goes to.....

'The Nativity'! Sorry to all those who have emailed or commented otherwise, I gave it a go and watched the third episode but it was all to no avail. It was and is a soap, I do not now believe that, by dumbing it down, it reaches people who have no knowledge of the Annunciation and following events. Rather it is pernicious because it distorts and gives a very false impression of what we, as Catholics know to be the truth.

Is this the face of the Queen of Angels, Mother of God?
St Joseph had a hissy fit within seconds of the start of episode 3, throwing furniture around (that he had made) and smashing it up. St Joachim shuffled on and off  looking increasingly like the character Greengrass from Heartbeat; all he needed was a twitch of his features and he would have been perfect. Easy to snipe and chisel away at the characterisation but it really was more than I could stand and I switched off, mentally and physically.
The trouble is, the scriptwriters, producers and actors were so obviously not Catholic. That may sound pompous and pretentious but that really is it. They may not even have been Christian so how could they fully comprehend the evocation of mystery and reverence that this story should portray and inspire.
The fourth in the series goes out tonight (Thursday) but, sadly, I will have a prior engagement.......not sure what but it will be more important than the BBC's Nativity.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

He who would be a leader must first become a bridge.......

Enigmatic words unless you are familiar with the tale of a Welsh Prince (sorry Gareth, can't remember his name).
In a time of strife and being chased by the enemy (possibly English) the Prince leads his people through hill and mountain until, reaching a crevasse, they are, apparently, stymied.
Leaning out over the abyss, the Prince grasps a root growing out of the cliff face opposite and forms a bridge over which his people are able to progress to safety.
A simple but beautiful story.

I came across this image on the Catholic Nerd Writer blog and it just seemed so appropriate.
Christ is our Prince and He will lay Himself across the chasm between Heaven and Earth and lead His people to safety.
A good Advent thought.

Bless this horse!

A little humour to aid in de-stressing if you have encountered problems with snow/airports/trains/roads/Julian Assange/Vince Cable etc.....

                           Catholic Horses
One day while he was at the track playing the ponies and all but losing his shirt, Mitch noticed a priest who stepped out onto the track and blessed the forehead of one of the horses lining up for the 4th race.
Lo and behold, that horse - a very long shot - won the race.
Before the next race, as the horses began lining up, Mitch watched with interest; the old priest stepped onto the track.  Sure enough, as the horses in the fifth race came to the starting gate the priest made a blessing on the forehead of one of the horses.
Mitch made a beeline for a betting window and placed a small bet on the horse.  Again, even though it was another long shot, the horse the priest had blessed won the race.
Mitch collected his winnings, and anxiously waited to see which horse the priest would bless for the 6th race.  The priest again blessed a horse.
Mitch bet big on it, and it won.  Mitch was elated..  As the races continued the priest kept blessing long shot horses, and each one ended up coming in first.
By and by, Mitch was pulling in some serious money.  By the last race, he knew his wildest dreams were going to come true.  He made a quick dash to the ATM, withdrew all his savings, and awaited the priest’s blessing that would tell him which horse to bet on.
True to his pattern, the priest stepped onto the track for the last race and blessed the forehead of an old nag that was the longest shot of the day.
Mitch also observed the priest blessing the eyes, ears, and hooves of the old nag.  Mitch knew he had a winner and bet every penny he owned on the old nag.
He then watched dumbfounded as the old nag come in dead last.  Mitch, in a state of shock, made his way down to the track area where the priest was.
Confronting the old priest he demanded, “Father! What happened?
All day long you blessed horses and they all won.  Then in the last race, the horse you blessed lost by a Kentucky mile.  Now, thanks to you I’ve lost every penny of my savings -- all of it!”.
The priest nodded wisely and with sympathy.

  “Son,” He said, “That’s the problem with you Protestants, you can’t tell the difference between a simple blessing and last rites.”

The Jesuits - What a great order (they used to be)

And a great order they will be again, given God's grace. Inspired by the
 Welsh Catholic Martyr  posts on Jesuit martyrs (and having trouble leaving comments) I thought I would give a glimpse of how the order of the Society of Jesus was perceived by a historian.

Here it is:-

In the sixteenth century the Pontificate, exposed to new dangers more formidable than had ever before threatened it, was saved by a new religious Order, which was animated by intense enthusiasm and organised with exquisite skill. When the Jesuits came to the rescue, they found the Papacy in extreme peril; but from that moment the tide of battle turned. Protestantism, which had, during a whole generation, carried all before it, was stopped in its progress, and rapidly beaten back from the foot of the Alps to the shores of the Baltic.
Before the Order had existed a hundred years, it had filled the whole world with memorials of great things done and suffered for the Faith.

Jesuit Scientists in China in the 16th century, led by Fr Verbiest they charted a map of the world for Emperor Kangxi
No religious community could produce a list of men so variously distinguished; none had ever extended its operations over so vast a space; yet in none had there ever been such perfect feeling of unity and action.
There was no region of the globe, no walk of speculative or of active life, in which the Jesuits were not to be found. They guided the counsels of Kings, they deciphered Latin inscriptions. They observed the motions of Jupiter's satellites. They published whole libraries, controversy, history, treatises on topics, Alcaic odes and editions of the fathers....................

Extract from Macauley

I once spent the Feast of St Ignatius in Boston, USA.,  (home to Boston College).
On television, the weatherman was dressed a la the great Saint and, at Boston College itself, they had a ghastly sort of folk crossed with panto type Mass. I carried on walking! Nothing like trivialising the Faith to make good Catholics fall away.

"Do Catholics buy their way into Heaven?

This week's question and answer from Father Clement Tigar's book, Papist Pie. we buy our way into Heaven?

"Yes, not by money, but by toil, and sweat, and self-denial: by obeying conscience even when it is against their personal inclinations; or, if they have violated the dictates of conscience, by humble painstaking repentance and a firm and sincere purpose of amendment; by constantly getting up again after they have fallen down; by perservering to the end in faith, hope and charity"

A simple, clear and uncomplicated answer (that's what I need). The trouble is, do we overlook the obvious, the simple explanation in our hunt for 'a more informed view'.
It would be easy to read Fr T's answer and move on; but there is a great deal to ponder on in that brief paragraph. 'By obeying conscience' does not mean going against Church teaching on IVF or artificial birth control. What the good priest is talking about is the conscience of St Peter, the Faith, the Holy Father. He goes on to talk about the subjugation of our own conscience again, in obedience to the Magisterium.
How many Catholics today 'obey' the teachings of Christ and His Church? The smart answer is not enough. We tend to airbrush out the bits we don't agree with. How often have I heard Catholics say "I don't agree with some of what the Church teaches".

In the words of Fr Corapi:

"What? You don't agree with the Pope? You are more learned than the Pope?"

And how many Catholics recognise the phrase: "A firm and sincere purpose of amendment?" That means that, when we go to confession we have to be genuine in our plan to avoid those particular sins in future and make a great effort not to repeat them. Without that our confession is not valid.

St Ignatius Loyola, Founder of the Jesuit Order

Pray to Fr Tigar, for the return of the Jesuit Order to the same high standards that it enjoyed in his lifetime.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

The Nativity, not bad....just naff!

Yes, I actually watched episode two of the Beeb's production, 'The Nativity' tonight. It was not as cringingly awful as I had thought at first but it was pretty naff.

For a start, Our Lady (Mary) appeared petulant in the opening scenes; she had a petulant, or, at least, puckish face; fine for many roles but not this one
Now, I say that as one who likes tradition. That means that actors playing classical parts are, in my view, at their best when looking the part and speaking classical English. Once they start on the regional accents you begin to drift into the realm of fantasy. Was St Joseph speaking with an Irish accent? I started to wait for the word "Youse" to come at the end of a sentence. One of the three kings looked rather Rasta in appearance and his accent was pure Brixton. Again, I was waiting for the "innit" or "Blood" words to enter the proceedings.
That is a distraction. What is wrong with the Queen's English, or, for that matter, Oxford English? It is, after all, a classical story that is being told. One could argue that the producer should have gone the 'authentic' way and had all the cast spouting off in Mile End Road Yiddisher accents, and, to tell the truth, Herod's right hand man did, so I believe, sell me some dodgy DVDs in Spitalfields market last Sunday....but no....
The trouble is that once you go down the route of popularising the story, any story, you run the risk of losing the essence of the plot.

Rasta, Wycliffe and Balthasar!
 You begin to think Galway instead of Galilean, Wycliffe instead of Melchior (!). And  what was the Archangel Gabriel playing at? I have never seen Billy Connolly in a straight part before...(I jest)...and what was with the whispering the whole time? Gabriel was doing it Joachim joined him. It does not add to the drama..when will producers realise this basic fact?
I am, of course, out of my time; but, before you condemn me totally, which of these line styles do you prefer?

Elizabeth:   "My baby gave such a kick when I saw you......"


Elizabeth: "The babe leaped in my womb when I saw you...."

The choice is just so straightforward..............innit?

Welcome to.......Eva Florence!

My new Grandaughter, just taken 20 minutes ago when she was 25 minutes old, God bless her in this life and in the next!

St Joseph - What a man!

I am fed up with the image of St Joseph that runs through so many paintings and mental pictures we have of this great saint. Apparently, last night's screening by the BBC of 'The Nativity', featured St Joseph as a bumbling half wit - that may be unfair, I did not see it! I have blood pressure problems.

Pure as the lily flower.....
In Renaissance art he is shown as an elderly man and, I must admit, that my teaching at school directed us down that route. But that is not my image of him. I see him as a handsome, young man, maybe just a year or two older than Our Lady.
He is strong (carpenter skills), resourceful - he must have worked pdq to turn that stable into a form of crude accommodation and, above all else, holy.
It is hard looking around our society today, to see anyone with those sort of qualities, not just any qualities, outstanding qualities. And I am not getting at the young, few of any age could stand up to that wonderful model.
He is not afraid of taking decisions either, he is a 'risk taker', albeit guided and informed from on high. He stood by Our Lady in her hour of need after the Annunciation and he stood by her again in Bethlehem and then fleeing into Egypt. Not a journey to be taken lightly with a new born babe and a young mother.
His chaste nature is a beacon to all and he must have been much loved by his foster Son, Our Lord. And, of course, he must have been wholly exceptional to have won Our Lady's hand!
We look to him for aid with our homes and house buying especially, as protector of the Holy Family and, by immediate association, our own family, as a symbol of purity, as a patron of the Universal Church, a patron to carpenters and the champion of a happy death to all.

This is the hymn I always associate with St Joseph and March 19th


Another G K Chesterton gem

Thanks to Lead Kindly Light for nudging my grey cells to enable me to recall yet another famous GKC tale.
The great man was in a queue for confession at Westminster Cathedral (if that seems strange, most churches had a Saturday afternoon queue for confession up until about 40 years ago). Suddenly the priest's door to the confessional was flung open and the confessor appeared and said:
"I have to go on a sick call, I will only hear those who are in a state of mortal sin".

As you may imagine, the row of would-be penitents froze in horror until GKC rose to his feet, slowly looked up and down the line, flung his cloak over his shoulder and boldly marched into the confesional.

Monday, 20 December 2010

The Nativity? You can keep it!

I am referring to the screening  (of course, how could you think otherwise) of the BBC Television  four part drama that begins tonight. 'The Nativity' is described as a story normally only seen performed by 7 year olds (?) and, in the words of the Telegraph reviewer this timeless tale, as re-constructed by the Beeb:  "Is a valiant attempt to infuse the story with some contemporary resonance." Whoops, I have immediately switched on to auto spontaneous combustion mode.

St Joseph in Al Qaeda mode. Episode one begins tonight
 I was already pretty cynical when I heard that a production was on the cards. I have an intense dislike of religious plays and performances that carry with them a banal form of dialogue. you know the sort of thing; Our Lady (Mary) says to Joseph (St Joseph) something like "Joseph we've got to hurry and find somewhere to stay - this stable looks OK". Joseph responds: "Well it's a little dirty but I guess we''ll just have to make do Mary". Riveting.
The words "contemporary resonance" in particular have me rushing to the bathroom. Why do we need "contemporary resonance"? Isn't the story one hundred per cent fascinating and beautiful as it is? Can a scriptwriter improve on St Matthew's Gospel?

Thankfully, my eye is caught by another production at 8pm tonight, this time on BBC Three. That'll do nicely I think. What is it? "Young Butcher of the Year". Just my cup of tea!

Refusal to implement the Motu Proprio - the EF Mass - could be breaking with Rome

Fr Z, that great priest and bird lover (why are so many Catholic bloggers either cat lovers or feeders of wild birds (I am in the latter category, by the way) reports an amazing text from Mgr Bux, who, upon appearing at a conference in France,
spoke of a break with Rome as being a consequence of refusal to allow the celebration of the EF Mass. Here is a report of his speech:-

.....began his intervention by saying that the French bishops, who like to interact with non-Christians, ought also to dialogue with Catholics and that they must not be afraid of the sheep of their own flock! They should confront reality and not the perception that they have of it. He recalled that the Extraordinary Form is for all of the People of God, and not just a minority, and that it ought to serve as a training for the better celebration of the Ordinary Form. He indicated that, in Italy, the implementation of the Motu proprio is done through priests. He therefore admonished priests to be courageous in the implementation of this text. Finally, he added that the refusal of the Extraordinary Form could be considered as a rupture of communion with the Pope.

God bless Mgr Bux!

Alpha is not better (ouch!)

I was coming out of the London Oratory recently on one of my rare visits to London when the heavens opened and I leaped into a handy taxi.
The cabbie was a sterotype of his kind, cockney, earthy and direct.
"You just come out of there Guv" he said, indicating the rapidly vanishing Oratory entrance. "Yes, why?" I responded.
"You was in the wrong place" Came the response. "You shoulda been in there" At that he pointed in the direction of The Holy Trinity Anglican Church, also in the Brompton Road.
He then went on to say that he was doing the Alpha Course for the second time  round at "the Trinity" and advised me to do the same. We finally parted on good terms (of course) but I did feel that I should know more about Alpha just like I sometimes speculate how little I know about Jehovah's Witnesses - something one should know but never gets around to reading  up.

Well, I googled Alpha extensively and am left with the conclusion that it is hard to pin down, a bit like candy floss, rather sweet and frothy but elusive. Nothing to get your teeth into. Finding a few online accounts of non Christian bloggers who had 'done' one of the courses it seems that you can go in at a number of levels.....the committed but ignorant go in at GCSE level while the more erudite might pitch in at A, UG or even Post Grad level.
But, what I read did not excite me in the same way as RE delivered by Sister Oliveria excited me. The holy Sister covered the history and geography and socio political structure  of the Holy Land, the Gospels and Epistles, Parables and Apologetics - and I was only 12 years old! That's the Dominicans for you!
So, next stop it's got to be the JWs..............who, according to a couple who appeared on my doorstep a few weeks ago are Christians. I asked them if they believed in the Divinity of Christ.............err, not actually Divinity "but he was a very good prophet."