Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Ashers' Bakery vs the Gay bully boys - Support the McArthur family

Bake me a big gay cake ... or else!

There's something beyond bully-boy tactics in this case which I have always thought stank to high heaven. Even somebody not opposed to the redefinition of marriage could reasonably feel deeply uncomfortable with the projection of a sexual relationship (same0sex or otherwise) onto children's television characters. The same-sex lobby's attempt to "queer history" lies somewhere between pathetic and nauseating, particularly in its steamrollering over any notion of celibacy and platonic friendships (all those chaste saints were actually rampant gays and lesbos don'tcha know?)... but the appropriation of children's characters as gay icons is profoundly unpleasant.

For this reason alone - that any adult might reasonably object to a sexualisation of children's icons - it seems that the case against Ashers should have always been a non-starter. Taking into account that the slogan asked for was a political one - for a lobby group - the baker's right to decline the business seems equally reasonable. The McArthurs have always been clear that their problem was with the message on the cake, not with the customer. Ashers is a family-owned Christian bakery. They are protestants. Imagine if someone had asked them to decorate a cake commemorating fallen IRA murderers as heroes: presumably it would be reasonable to decline? What if the Countryside Alliance wants a pro-fox-hunting cake made?  Should a baker who is opposed to fox-hunting be compelled to make it? We all know what happens when a Christian goes into a gay bakery asking for a cake celebrating natural marriage: Some rights are more equal than others. Four legs good, two legs bad.

Today's verdict finding against Ashers defies logic and decency but is right in line with the zeitgeist. I'll bet that Judge Isobel Brownlie patted herself on the back for showing the rest of the UK just how progressive they can be over there in Norn Iron. Just how far they've moved from that repressive Christianity. The saints and martyrs of Ulster must be weeping.

There's not a lot those of us not living close enough to patronise Ashers' bakeries can do to practically support the business. For the sake of the McArthur family I'm hoping that they manage to elide the issue by no longer providing cakes with slogans / writing / messages. Perhaps the whole  decorated cake part of their business will have to fold - and that's a big part of any bakery's trade - because you can be certain that the bully boys and girls of the LGBT brigade will be doing everything possible to trip Ashers Bakery up, to drag them back into the courts, to make an example of them; because they dared to stand up for the Truth.

I dropped a short note in the post earlier today thanking Daniel & Amy McArthur for their courage and Christian witness over the last few months. I also assured them of our family's prayers. I encourage all of you to do the same. The addresses of their bakeries are on their website: the bakehouse in Newtownabbey is the main address, but I'm sure that post sent to any of their business addresses will find its way to them.

May God bless and sustain them in their trial.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

The other side of the grille

I first read this humbling and thought provoking article by a priest about his experience on the other side of the confessional some time ago but I came across it again today and thought it worth sharing because it serves as a wonderful reminder of why we often most need to go to confession at those times we least want to.

Getting hung up on the sinfulness of sin -- the shameful, petty, sordid nature of sin -- is an easy pitfall. It's what makes us despair - small daily habitual sins are so tawdry they grind us down and the wretched baseness of larger sins convinces us to lose hope. In both cases the temptation is to avoid - or delay - going to confession. We become weighed down by the sin itself, which blots out our memory of Our Lord's love and mercy that we so desperately need at those moments of despondency.

I think that this is precisely what is meant by the glamour of sin as professed in our Baptismal vows. These days we associate glamour with celebrity (think a glamorous film premiere) or with the demi-mondaine (think "glamour models"). In both cases glamour denotes something with a quality that separates it from ordinary life. Sin exists in a parallel shadow world, and its tentacles work to keep us there wallowing in our failings, luring us further away from the good that God has given us, away from the light. Extracting ourselves from the unhappy magnetism of sin is the key: get to confession, whatever it takes.

As Fr Mike Schmitz reminds us, "Confession is always a place of victory. Whether you have confessed a particular sin for the first time, or if this is the 12,001st time, every Confession is a win for Jesus".  Amen to that and please remember to say a prayer to thank God for those priests who in the footsteps of St Jean-Marie Vianney spend hours of their lives on the other side of the grille for the good of our immortal souls.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

In support of our priests, our families, and our Church

You may have seen the recent letter from more than 450 priests in support of the Church’s teaching on marriage.

We would like to invite you to sign the letter below, to be sent to the press in support of them, and to encourage others to sign it.

To sign, please leave your name and your diocese in the comments box below, or if you prefer email them to me or to one of the coordinators: Mark Lambert (mark@landbtechnical.com) or Andrew Plasom-Scott (andrewplasom_scott@me.com)

The Letter:

Dear Sir,

We, the undersigned, wish to endorse and support the letter signed by over 450 priests in the recent edition of the Catholic Herald, http://bit.ly/19kuBkl

As laity, we all know from our own family experiences, or those of our friends and neighbours, the harrowing trauma of divorce and separation, and we sympathise with all those in such situations.

It is precisely for that reason that we believe that the Church must continue to proclaim the truth about marriage, given us by Christ in the Gospels, with clarity and charity in a world that struggles to understand it.

For the sake of those in irregular unions, for the sake of those abandoned and living in accordance with the teachings of the Church, and above all for the sake of the next generation, it is essential that the Church continues to make it quite clear that sacramental marriage is indissoluble until death.

We pray, and expect, that our hierarchy will represent us, and the Church’s unwavering teaching, at the Synod this autumn.

 Yours faithfully,

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Prayer to Saint Joseph

Saint Joseph has guided and protected our family, particularly over the past eight or so turbulent months. When we prayed for guidance and direction about where to live, our prayers for intercession were directed to Saint Joseph, beloved foster father of Our Blessed Lord. Although we are now happily moved and settled into a new home and parish, we have friends who are in the throes of moving or buying or selling houses, so we've continued our nightly novena to Saint Joseph for their intentions. I thought that those readers who have not come across it might want to add it to their prayer armoury.

The beautiful picture (above) of Saint Joseph and the Infant Jesus hangs in our home. I was told by our dear friend Pater Michael Mary that it is a copy of a very old picture recovered from inside a chimney when the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer were renovating a building. You can obtain a copy of this lovely devotional picture for yourself from the Papa Stronsay website (it's possibly the best £2 you will ever spend).

The prayer can be said as a one-off, as a novena (with the Our Father, Hail Mary & Glory Be appended to it) or (as we've done) as a rolling perpetual novena. However the prayer is said, Saint Joseph, the quiet man of the Gospels, is listening.

Prayer to Saint Joseph

O Saint Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in thee all my interests and desires. O Saint Joseph, assist me by thy powerful intercession and obtain for me all spiritual blessings through thy foster Son, Jesus Christ Our Lord, so that having engaged here below thy heavenly power I may offer thee my thanksgiving and homage.

O Saint Joseph, I never weary contemplating thee and Jesus asleep in thine arms. I dare not approach while He reposes near thy heart. Press him in my name and kiss His fine head for me, and ask Him to return the kiss when I draw my dying breath. 

Saint Joseph, Patron of departing souls, pray for us. 

Holy Saint Joseph, Ora Pro Nobis!

(Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be)

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Versus populum Masses make me uncomfortable

It struck me the other evening how enriching the ad orientem orientation is for the layperson in the pews. As our priest led the faithful in the prayers of the (silent) Canon towards the consecration, I was absorbed in prayer, my eyes focused on the figure of the infant Jesus in his Blessed Mother's arms above the crucifix on the altar. There was something profoundly moving about the Blessed Sacrament being lifted in adoration towards both the representation of the Crucifixion and that of Our Lord and his Mother.

Later, in contemplation after Holy Communion it occurred to me that this intense visual focus would not have been possible if the priest was saying Mass versus populum: even if the priest was a master of directing his gaze away from the congregation, there would be something uncomfortable, even unseemly about staring in the general direction of a person for an extended period -- even if the stare wasn't directed at the priest.

Ad orientem, the priest all but disappears: he is in alter Christus  - he is a conduit for the sacrifice of the Mass, not the "show".  This applies whether the Mass is in English or Latin, the Traditional Mass or the Novus ordo.  In our culture staring at a person is considered bad manners, a habit avoided from childhood onwards. Ad orientem the priest as person disappears leaving the worshipper free to worship without constraint, without self consciousness, with fewer barriers to their relationship with God.

Friday, 2 January 2015

In with the new...

There's something deeply reassuring about the gentle rhythms of the liturgical cycle. Singing the Te Deum on New Year's Eve and the Veni Creator Spiritus on New Years's Day is a reminder that no matter what changes or challenges the past year has brought, or the coming year will bring, we will, Deo volente, once again offer praise and thanksgiving when this infant year draws to a close..

The blog has been quiet for a while: there have been many changes in my (and my family's) life and the orchard I once gazed over from my kitchen window has been replaced by a seascape of muted greys and blues. Our new home is full of packing crates crammed with our worldly possessions and it will take some time for these to be organised... In the meantime I intend to resume blogging but have one small query: my nom-de-plume was the common name of a large apple tree in my former garden. Shall I change it, or shall I remain an apple tree at the seaside?

In the meantime, here's a jolly singalong to practice for next year: