Saturday 24 December 2011


... et habitavit in nobis et vidimus gloriam ejus, gloriam quasi unigeniti a Patre, plenum gratiae et veritatis

May God grant you all a happy, holy and peaceful Christmas.

I will remember all my readers (all five of you ;-) ) at Midnight Mass (solemn High Mass) tonight. (Thanks to automatic publishing I'll be singing carols when this goes live)...

God bless, Annie Elizabeth & family xxx

And the winning name...

...for our lovely black brindle and white Bull Terrier pup is TREACLE!

For non-English readers (and those of you living north of Watford) Treacle is Cockney rhyming slang for "sweetheart"...  As she's an Essex girl and one of her breeders is a very nice Cockney gent, the name seemed appropriate. Treacle = treacle tart = sweetheart.

...and she is!

Note the non-stop wagging tail!
Meeting the chickens... They're bigger than her - for now!

(That's it for dog posts, we can now resume regular programming)

Restoration, Declaration, Illumination...

We bought outdoor Christmas lights for the first time last year - largely because I was delighted to find a Christian company making (shock!) Christian decorations for Christmas! I like to think that our nativity and star go some way to counter the cultural tide of flashing Santas, reindeer and "Winterval" type decorations..

If you're interested in getting some illuminated angels, stars, or a nativity of your own I heartily recommend Silent Lights - I have no connection with them, apart from being a very happy customer.

Wednesday 7 December 2011

Mantilla mayhem

Somehow, somewhere our family has managed to lose three mantillas at church in as many months. It's annoying and puzzling in equal measures. I lose my red leather gloves, they turn up in the lost and found box. But three mantillas -- zoop! -- disappeared forever. Or have they? It's sort of like a lacy version of Schrödinger's cat. Mac suggested that I check the spare mantilla drawer, but no luck there either. Yes, I did say Spare Mantilla Drawer. How cool is that? Does your church have one? Nyah-nyah.

And speaking of cool -- well, just check this out. A parish like ours is worth any number of self-vapourising mantillas: perhaps it's fueled by mantilla power. I may stock up on a few extras just in case...

Sunday 27 November 2011

Anathema sit!

We will have a new family member joining our household on 10th December - a black-brindle English Bull Terrier bitch puppy (she'll look similar to - but, obviously even prettier than -  the one on the left of the picture). We've waited a long time to have a dog join our family: I've been the retiscent one - as much as I love dogs I have my hands full with four (home educated) children, a teenage lodger/aupair,  thirteen chickens, two rabbits, two cats, two fancy rats, six mice,  two tanks of tropical fish, and a husband as well. But now I've relented - with my youngest growing out of his "puppylike phase", I think we're equipped to cope with another small needy creature in the house. We've been waiting for the right puppy from the right breeder for a while, and are very excited about our new furry family member... BUT... we can't agree on a name! a household full of people with strong ideas (OK, the children come by it honestly and I'm sure this is my comeuppance for having been equally, erm, opinionated in my youth, obviously not at all now...) it's difficult to reach a consensus. What we want to avoid is a compromise with a name that no-one really likes. So I thought that I'd throw a few ideas out to my readers in cyberspace and see what comes back. Vote in the combox OR better yet, come up with a new idea. I'd love a catchy name that was somehow recussant Catholic - would be so suitable for an English Bull Terrier.

...Although local accents must be taken into account. When someone (only half jokingly) suggested "Thurible", I pointed out that in South East London dialect that would translate as "Furry Bawl" and you can imagine fellow dog walkers saying "I don't understand why that terrier's called "Furry Ball" cos she ain't furry or round". Equally, another favourite name, "Stella" fell at the first hurdle when I realised that bawling "Stella" across the dog walking fields would make me new friends among the drinking-tins-from-paper-bags-before-10am crowd....

So - our current list of names is: 


What do you think? Please vote now!

Saturday 26 November 2011

" noble in reason, how infinite in faculties..."

"Conception to birth, visualised" is a stunning use of MRI technology to show the development of the human baby. I was interested to note that the video's subtitles say  "baby's first division" at 24h showing the initial cell division, not "embryo" or  "clump of cells" or "blob" or other dehumanising euphemisms that we've become inured to. The video's creator, Alexander Tsiaras, Chief of Scientific Visualization in the department of Medicine at Yale University, seems almost overwhelmed by the miracle of developing human life. It is, he says, beyond any human imagining. 

Indeed. Whilst the video was clearly not made with a pro-life agenda (it's the result of scientists enjoying the fruits of new technology) it's virtually impossible not to take a pro-life message as a given, particularly if you have any understanding of the science. What is clear here is that the miracle of human life is evident from the very first moments after conception; describing the moments before conception Tsiaras  says "these two simple cells ... have this unbelievable machinery that will become the magic of you" then notes that at four weeks "[heart] cells are developing at one million cells per second".

It's rare to hear a high-profile scientist using words like "it's a mystery, it's magic, it's divinity..." and the video would would be worth watching for this alone, but the conception to birth imagery is so breathtakingly  beautiful that it stands alone, needing no explanation. It makes a sobering contrast with recent stories about the new RCOG abortion/feticide guidelines and the tragic story of the Australian 32-week-gestation twins killed in utero (one by "accident" the other deliberately).

Saturday 12 November 2011

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you..."

“Even at that early stage [moments after fertilization], the complexity of the living cell is so great that it is beyond our comprehension. It is a privilege to be allowed to protect and nurture it,”
- Dr. Hymie Gordon (d. 1995), Chief Medical Geneticist, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. 
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; 
your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. 
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth your eyes saw my unformed body. 
All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be
(Psalm 139)

Wednesday 9 November 2011

Prayer to St. Raphael, Angel of Happy Meetings

O Raphael, lead us towards those we are waiting for, those who are waiting for us! 
Raphael, Angel of Happy Meetings, lead us by the hand towards those we are looking for! 
May all our movements, all their movements, be guided by your Light 
and transfigured by your Joy.

Angel Guide of Tobias, lay the request we now address to you 
at the feet of Him on whose unveiled Face you are privileged to gaze. 
Lonely and tired, crushed by the separations and sorrows of earth, 
we feel the need of calling to you and of pleading for the protection of your wings, 
so that we may not be as strangers in the Province of Joy, 
all ignorant of the concerns of our country.

Remember the weak, you who are strong--you whose home lies beyond the region of thunder,
 in a land that is always peaceful, always serene, 
and bright with the resplendent glory of God. 

Baby Raphael, gone back to God after 10 weeks in my womb, 
pray for us your family who love you so very much, until we meet again, 
under the gaze of our loving Father in heaven.

Wednesday 2 November 2011

The biggest baby and toddler group imaginable

That's how our much-loved parish priest described those innumerable tiny saints in Our Lady's care in his homily  for the family Mass on the feast of All Saints yesterday. In addition to the children who have died, there are the babies who may have only lived for a few weeks, days or even hours, as well as so many tiny babies who went back to Our Lord long before birth, before their mothers ever had the chance to hold them, kiss them or stroke their cheek in sleep. What a beautiful image, and what a great comfort to those who have tiny saints watching over them in Heaven, safe under Our Lady's mantle.

The unimaginable joy of being united with God's love

Many years ago I read a description of Purgatory as a cleansing process that allowed us to move from the darkness of sin to the brightness of God's love; that in a similar way to when we are momentarily blinded when going from a dark room into bright sunlight, the spiritual shock at going from the gloom of an earthly life stained with sin into the radiance of God's love would be unbearable to our soul, and that the cleansing of purgatory allowed us to repair, atone and prepare our soul for joyful union with God's love.

I'm no theologian and can't remember where I originally read this (I thought it was Saint Therese, but I haven't been able to find anything even close in her writings today) but it helped me understand the point of Purgatory beyond the simply punitive.

Pray for the Holy Souls - and if you can, visit a cemetery between 1 and 8 November and pray for the dead, thereby gaining a plenary indulgence which some soul in Purgatory will be - literally - eternally grateful for.

Friday 28 October 2011

Is this worth celebrating?

Not really, but the re-conversion of England certainly would be

photo: Swanson Media

So in around four years the Act of Settlement (1701) will have been re-written and a Catholic will be able to marry the heir to the throne in England. Is this something worth celebrating? I asked my two daughters - 4 and 7 - what they thought, as it had a greater chance of affecting their lives than mine. My seven year old looked pensive for a moment and said "well, I suppose if the Catholic person who married the person who would be King could convert the King and he could convert the country then that might be a good thing, but otherwise I don't think that it really matters..."

She has a point. For a Catholic to marry the heir to the throne (who will henceforth be the oldest child, rather than the oldest son) s/he would almost certainly have to marry in the Church of England as s/he would be marrying the future "Defender of the Faith" and head of that sect. I'm not completely clear on this, but wouldn't that be an invalid marriage for a Catholic? And if you're a Catholic willing to participate in an invalid marriage then, surely, you're not that bound to your faith? So is today's news that a Catholic will soon be able to marry the heir to the throne, or that a lapsed / ex- / lukewarm Catholic will be able to marry the heir to the throne? Unless, of course, as my seven-year-old speculated, the Catholic may have ulterior motives and manage to convert the monarch and return England to her earlier and happier state as Mary's Dowry...

I suppose the fact that a piece of anti-Catholic discrimination dating back to the reign of William III will be removed from the statute books can only be considered a good thing. Until today's announcement takes effect, a satanist, an animist, an atheist or a Moonie can marry the heir to the throne, but a Catholic is forbidden to by law. Clearly this is no more than a symptom of the deep-seated Catholophobia from which Britain suffers. Weirdly, Catholicism is seen as the foreign interloper rather than the made-it-up-as-we-go-along strains of Protestantism that are widely considered to be more "native", even by thinking, educated people. It's as though Merrie Olde England only existed in legend before the Tudor period, as though England was simply waiting to be "liberated" from that foreign Catholicism by the hodge-podge of Luther and Calvin's ideas that formed and informed the various protestant sects that are now seen as "truly British". The only problem is that there wasn't much, er, British about either Calvin or Luther... In fact they were an awful lot less British than the native Catholic faith that had flourished for almost a thousand years and that these sects sought to supplant.

In fact here's a thought - the British Isles have been Catholic for much more of their history than they have been protestant: it isn't the Catholic faith that's the foreign upstart! Pray for the re-conversion of England and her neighbours!

O Mary! O Mother! Reign o'er us once more,

Be England thy Dowry as in days of yore.

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Ave Verum Corpus

We've been singing the Elgar version in our church choir recently, and it's been playing repeatedly in my head for the past fortnight, providing no little comfort in a rather difficult period.

I've also been wondering whether any sublimely beautiful music has been written by a non-believer. Is it possible to create music (or art) that aspires to the sublime without a belief in God? I doubt it.

For now just enjoy this version from the Hereford Cathedral Choir. Yes, they should give us back our cathedral, but it's a jolly good choir and sings the Ave Verum Corpus at a decent speed: it's amazing how many dirge-like recordings of it there are on YouTube.

And if that inspires you, here's a PDF of the music:

Free sheet music
Elgar, EdwardElgar, Edward
Ave Verum, Op. 1, No. 2 (Op. 1, No. 2)
Choral SATB, Organ
Mass; Choir; Sacred

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Sunday 16 October 2011

The only thing worse than a gypsy is a Catholic gypsy...

French Gypsies at Lourdes: Catholicism is part of their identity even though they may feel excluded from the mainstream Church (photo: Iglisia Descalza) least that appears to be the gist of a rather bizarre article by Germaine Greer in Saturday's Telegraph. It's an oddly written opinion piece that veers from extreme nimbyism at having travellers living in her village to evoking warm fuzzy images of "nomadic peoples". One of the worst things about the travellers that we have here in the UK, the article suggests, is that they're Catholic. My comments are in bold.
How diverse are British nomads? They include English Romanichal and New Age Travellers and Roma refugees from eastern Europe, but the largest group is the Irish Travellers. These are not only Irish; they are also Roman Catholic. This is not the same as being simply Irish Catholic (we can, apparently, tolerate "cultural Catholics" as they're no different from the rest of us) : the travellers are more Catholic than other Irishmen and women (Ack! More Catholic! Than the Irish! As in they might actually BE Catholic). Traveller women have no sex before marriage (Oh the horror! And how bad for the contraceptive/abortion industry: think of the economy!) , marry young within the community (This is a problem? Why?), and bear more children than any other women in Europe (I say hooray for them! Germaine clearly sees this as A Bad Thing).
The highest value in traveller society is the family (what's wrong with that?), and the honour of the family resides in its women (wasn't it Archbishop Fulton Sheen that said that the value of a society can be measured by its womenfolk? So the travellers are in good company)....
Prolonged contact with the more relaxed mores of the host community carries a high risk for traveller families, who dread their children becoming involved in under-age drinking, experimentation with drugs and casual sex. (That would be true of many of us who don't want our children to adopt the normative behavior of the sewer; I'm with the travellers here as are most parents I know). When travellers are housed by local authorities it is invariably in the kinds of housing estates where all these are rife (well a caravan in a field looks like a good option then, doesn't it?)

Greer gives some anecdotal evidence which largely amounts to Why She Does Not Like Travellers But Is Too Liberal to Say So. She relates feeling "uneasy" when visiting a traveller site:

One day an official letter for a Mr King was delivered at my house, and I took the opportunity to visit the encampment. I drove past the piles of rubbish which were all we neighbours got to see and found myself in a compound swept clear of every speck of mud, surrounded by caravans that sparkled in the afternoon sun. The only people I saw were children, who formed a solid phalanx between me and the caravans.
“Does Mr King live here?’ I asked.
The children did not respond. Their faces were closed and blank. I showed them the letter and asked if I should leave it with them. They neither moved nor spoke.
There was something familiar about the whole situation, the size and shape of the compound overlooked by the invisible mothers in their caravans and the implacable mien of the guardian children. For a while I couldn’t place it and then I realised that I could have been in a Rajasthani village.
Oooh, not a Rajasthani village, the sort of place where people have better things to do than read tripe books by Germaine Greer. And what's with the "invisible mothers in their caravans" - how unbelievably patronising! How denigrating of motherhood.  How does she know that they aren't all at the supermarket, or enjoying a cup of tea and a laugh while looking after their babies, or happily making their family's lunch. Should they have dropped everything and rushed out to greet the important feminist academic? Or perhaps they should all be at work, their babies in second rate substitute childcare. As for the "implacable guardian children", well, I reckon that Germaine doesn't have a lot of contact with children. Round our way she'd likely find herself escorted by a phalanx of stony-faced warriors, and would count herself lucky if she wasn't tied to a tree "Just-William" style if she let herself onto our land without invitation. Face it, Germaine, an elderly scary lady brandishing an envelope and speaking in clipped antipodean tones is hardly going to put a group of children at their ease. Why, who knows, maybe they'd read your books and were too scared to speak.

Germaine Greer argued in Sex and Destiny (1985) that the nuclear family was a bad environment in which to raise children. Her criticism of British/Irish Travellers appears to be rooted in a morbid distrust of the natural family augmented by  a profound anti-Catholicism. In this article she gives a series of unsubstantiated "facts" (e.g. "traveller women have twice the rate of miscarriage as the UK average" - this without being able to specify how many travellers  are in the UK) pointing the the "obvious" conclusion that it would be in the travellers' own best interests to be brought into the mainstream. Then the children could be sexualised at a young age, the babies born out of wedlock, the mothers could all go out to work full-time, families could break down and they'd be just like the dysfunctional moral sewer of mainstream British society . You'd like that, wouldn't you, Germaine? That the Travellers value family, chastity and children irritates you no end. I'm sorry to tell you that that's exactly what some of us admire in them; that and the fact that they -- and we -- will out breed your sterile feminist intelligentsia with joy and alacrity. And that's the real reason that you're worried, isn't it?


Wednesday 12 October 2011

Science and theology

Superb letter in today's Irish Times (12/10/11) by somebody called Maolsheachlann O Ceallaigh who appears at one point to have published a blog called "The Irish Chestertonian". An exerpt from today's letter below:

"The doyen of modern atheism, Richard Dawkins, has written that “the universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”
I suggest that such a response can only come from someone spectacularly tone-deaf to the music of existence. Mankind’s craving for ultimate truth goes deeper than can be satisfied by any scientific explanation of empirical facts (which simply pushes the explanation back one more stage to some mysterious “laws of nature”); as St Augustine wrote, “our hearts are restless till they rest in Thee.” 

The rest of the letter's worth a read too. Unfortunately the way the Irish Times webpage is set up means that it is not possible to link to an individual letter, so by tomorrow the link will be out of date.

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Nothing under the Sun is new....

"The more they called themselves philosophers the more stupid they grew"

Nothing under the sun is new, neither is any man able to say: Behold this is new: for it hath already gone before in the ages that were before us.

These words from Ecclesiastes 1:10 (Douay Rheims) came to mind as I listened to the reading from St Paul's letter to the Romans in this morning's N.O. Mass. It is easy to assume that the sarcasm and know-it-all dismissiveness of the likes of Richard Dawkins and Philip Pullman are a contemporary phenomena. That this attitude is a reflection of late 20thC/early 21stC disaffection with religion, fetishisation of knowledge and surrender to concupiscence. It's good to be reminded that the clever-clogs brigade has always existed: believing that they are too intelligent for God, mocking the faithful.
The anger of God is being revealed from heaven against all the impiety and depravity of men who keep truth imprisoned in their wickedness... such people are without excuse: they knew God and yet refused to honour him as God or to thank him; instead, they made nonsense out of logic and their empty minds were darkened. The more they called themselves philosophers the more stupid they grew, until they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for a worthless imitation...That is why God left them to their filthy enjoyments and the practices with which they dishonour their own bodies, since they have given up divine truth for a lie... (Romans 1:16-25 passim)
 I think that the opening words of today's reading  - "I am not ashamed of the Good News: it is the power of God saving all who have faith... as scripture says: The upright man finds life through faith"  set the tone for the Church Militant today... as they did 2000 years ago. 

Monday 10 October 2011

Hurrah for Sir Nicholas Windsor! Queen's cousin stands up for human life

"The world doesn't have a right to abortion" writes Lord Nicholas Windsor, the Queen's cousin and a Catholic convert, in today's Daily Telegraph.

Lord Windsor's writes that his robust defense of the right to life comes on the day that 

an important project is launched today in the House of Lords by parliamentarians and experts, as it was last week in the United Nations General Assembly and around the world.
The aim of this, based on a document called the San José Articles, is to stop the practice we've been talking about from being foisted on to countries that don't want it. The Articles aim to show that there is no "right to abortion" to be found in international law that would oblige such countries to "conform, or else". This is in spite of the UN and other agencies' claims to the contrary.
Human rights lawyers of a certain stamp around the world are taking the same pro-abortion line, manipulating the current provisions of international law. Frankly, officials and politicians in developing countries are being bullied into writing such a right to abortion into their domestic law. This project aims to help them to fight back. 
 This campaign is one to watch and support. And no prizes for guessing who my favourite member of the Royal family is!

Wednesday 5 October 2011

"Ignore science, this is about opinions"

That's what representatives of Planned Parenthood told American university students at a debate in Colorado on 20 October 2010. Anyone with a basic understanding of human biology would find it difficult to argue a pro-abortion stance using science, but I've never before heard someone say "just ignore the science. This isn't about science, it's a matter of opinion". Oh, and isn't it a bit scary that the brightest and best that Planned Parenthood could put together for the debate think that a baby's heart starts beating at 24 weeks?! Yes, weeks!

Watch the video with commentary on Lifesite News ; a video of the whole debate, including the impressive pro-life arguments is on the EternityImpact website.

Evidence is one of the things that will win minds and hearts in this debate. But the pro-life movement needs foot soldiers and prayers as well. If you're near London, please consider signing for an hour praying at the 40 Days for Life vigil at Bedford Square. Details and how to sign up are on the 40 Days for Life London website (click on "vigil schedule" link at top of page).

Thursday 29 September 2011

A Michaelmas miscellany

Holy Michael the Archangel is one of our family's favourite saints: the clue's in the blog title, really. St Michael is the patron saint of this blog. We have pictures of him in several places in the house which are comforting reminders that his aid can be invoked in time of need. We pray the "Saint Michael" prayer at least twice daily, and I like to think of Saint Michael poised to help us in our hour of need. He's traditionally been invoked in times of war, is the champion of warriors (including the spiritual kind, I have no doubt) and is usually pictured carrying the scales of judgement and often simultaneously casting Satan down into Hell.

Until I returned to the Church, "Michaelmas" didn't really mean much to me. I knew that it was the name of the first term at Cambridge (and the other place, apparently as well) but assumed that this was down to an old and long forgotten English folk tradition. Basically, I didn't have a clue. (That's where going to a heterodox Catholic school in the 1970s will get you!)
Later on I learned that St Michael is patron of the Church, especially called upon in times of great need or crisis; he is also the patron saint of the dying, of the holy souls in purgatory, of the Jewish nation, sick people, mariners, and grocers.  He is the Captain of the Heavenly Host, the fearless warrior angel who banished Lucifer to the depths of Hell; for this he has been known as the "love that conquers pride". 

Years later, I realised that Michaelmas wasn't just the feast of St Michael, but also of all the angels: the other two archangels mentioned in the canonical scriptures are Sts Gabriel and Raphael. No other angels are mentioned by name in the Bible.

Michaelmas is bound up with folk traditions: one of the most well known is that on his eviction from Heaven, the Devil supposedly landed in a bramble patch and spat upon the berries in his anger. This is why it's said that  blackberries are no good after 29 September, and why blackberry pie is traditionally eaten on this day (Quick! Use them up before the Devil gets them!). Goose is the meat traditionally eaten at Michaelmas in Britain, but I think that this may be a protestant addition as it supposedly dates back to Queen Elizabeth hearing the news of the defeat of the Spanish Armada whilst eating goose, and declared that goose should always be eaten on Michaelmas Day. Perhaps she was eating what was already a traditional meal for the day - does anybody know?

The Benedictine monastery at Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy was built by St. Aubert, Bishop of Avranches, and according to the legend, by direct command of the Archangel Michael himself, who appeared to the Bishop in a dream on three separate occasions. Some versions of the story  claim that the bishop ignored the Archangel's repeated requests until St Michael burned a hole in the Aubert's skull with his finger. Ignore an Archangel's request at your peril! 

If you have a waffle iron or waffle maker you might like to try this French recipe for "St Michael's Waffles". Obviously to keep it authentic you'll want to make a blackberry syrup to eat them with. Failing that, fresh blackberries (picked before today's feast) and whipped cream would be delicious as well.

(St. Michael's Waffles)

2 eggs
1 egg yolk
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/3 cups flour
3/4-1 cup milk
4 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Blend eggs and sugar. Add flour and milk alternately. Beat hard. Add butter and vanilla. The mixture is thin and should spread evenly on the preheated iron. If Gaufres tend to stick, butter both sides of the iron. Serve hot or cold. (thanks to Catholic Cuisine for the recipe)

St Michael's name is invoked four times in the Bible (all texts in full below): twice in the book of Daniel 10:13 and 12); IN the Epistle of Saint Jude where the Jewish tradition of a battle between Satan and Saint Michael over the body of Moses is alluded to (Satan attempted to dupe the Jewish people into the sin of hero-worship by disclosing Moses's tomb to them; Saint Michael had previously concealed the tomb to avoid subjecting the Jewish people to this temptation); and, probably most well known,  in the book of the Apocalypse when Saint Michael and his army of angels vanquish Satan and his demons - the battle at the end of time reflecting the battle at the beginning of time. Interestingly Jesus describes the fall of Satan from Heaven in Luke 10:18: "And he said to them: I saw Satan like lightning falling from heaven". Lucifer's fall from grace is described in Isaiah 14. 

Daniel 10:13 But the prince of the kingdom of the Persians resisted me one and twenty days: and behold Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, and I remained there by the king of the Persians. (Princeps autem regni Persarum restitit mihi viginti et uno diebus : et ecce Michaël, unus de principibus primis, venit in adjutorium meum, et ego remansi ibi juxta regem Persarum. )
 Daniel 12: But at that time shall Michael rise up, the great prince, who stands for the children of your people: and a time shall come, such as never was from the time that nations began, even until that time. And at that time shall your people be saved, every one that shall be found written in the book. ( In tempore autem illo consurget Michaël princeps magnus, qui stat pro filiis populi tui : et veniet tempus quale non fuit ab eo ex quo gentes esse cœperunt usque ad tempus illud. Et in tempore illo salvabitur populus tuus, omnis qui inventus fuerit scriptus in libro.)
 Jude: ...When Michael the archangel, disputing with the devil, contended about the body of Moses, he dared not bring against him the judgment of railing speech, but said: The Lord command you.(Cum Michaël Archangelus cum diabolo disputans altercaretur de Moysi corpore, non est ausus judicium inferre blasphemiæ : sed dixit : Imperet tibi Dominus. )
Revelation 12:7  And there was a great battle in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon fought, and his angels.  And they prevailed not: neither was their place found any more in heaven. And that great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, who seduces the whole world. And he was cast unto the earth: and his angels were thrown down with him.(Et factum est prælium magnum in cælo : Michaël et angeli ejus præliabantur cum dracone, et draco pugnabat, et angeli ejus: 8 et non valuerunt, neque locus inventus est eorum amplius in cælo)

The Catholic Encyclopedia also says " According to the Fathers there is often question of St. Michael in Scripture where his name is not mentioned. They say he was the cherub who stood at the gate of paradise, "to keep the way of the tree of life" (Genesis 3:24), the angel through whom God published the Decalogue to his chosen people, the angel who stood in the way against Balaam (Numbers 22:22 sqq.), the angel who routed the army of Sennacherib (2 Kings 19:35)."

There are lots of recipes for St Michael's Bannock on the internet -- Bannock is a cakey bread traditionally eaten in Ireland and Scotland. Here's one that's easy and sounds tasty (we haven't tested it yet) from Our house of joyful noise

 St. Michael’s Bannock

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Mix together:
2 cups of flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
Cut in 2 tablespoons butter (not margarine)
1 cup buttermilk or yogurt
handful of raisins or currants
On a floured surface, knead the dough until smooth, then pat into an 8 inch round loaf, and bake on a greased baking tray for 40 minutes... and enjoy!

... I think all this post is missing is the obvious:

Holy Michael, the Archangel, 
defend us in our day of battle. 
Be our safeguard 
against the wickedness and snares of the devil. 
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; 
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, 
by the power of God 
thrust down into hell 
Satan and all evil spirits 
who wander through the world 
for the ruin of souls. 

Sáncte Míchael Archángele, 
defénde nos in proélio, 
cóntra nequítiam et insídias diáboli ésto præsídium. 
Ímperet ílli Déus, súpplices deprecámur: 
tuque, prínceps milítiæ cæléstis, 
Sátanam aliósque spíritus malígnos,
 qui ad perditiónem animárum pervagántur in múndo, 
divína virtúte, in inférnum detrúde. 

Sancte Michael Archangele - defénde nos in proélio - Ora pro nobis!

Monday 26 September 2011

Toddler catechism fail

We've been using the Baltimore Catechism at home with the children: it's so simple, and straightforward that even the youngest one picks up bits and pieces. As he's only two, we focus on the easy stuff like "Who made you? / God made you" and I thought that things were going well in his little head until...

...yesterday evening he toddled in from the garden with a smeared and dirty face, evidence of a feast in the blackberry bushes. "How did your face get so dirty?" I asked as I wiped his cheeks. The little brows furrowed for a moment, then he suddenly beamed and announced with the certainty of one who has learned his lesson well: "God make my face so dirty!"

I guess we still have some way to go...

Saturday 24 September 2011

Every life has value

Twitch of the mantilla to Fiorella @ Monstrous Regiment of Women for this utterly inspirational video.

I'd love to know more about this young man's family. After watching this video I couldn't help but think about the baby at the centre of the successful $4.5 million dollar "wrongful birth" lawsuit in Florida. That baby was born with no arms and only one leg; his parents sued as had the ultrasounds been read correctly they would have aborted the baby because of his disabilities.

Given the current moral and ethical climate today,  I wonder whether Nick Vujicic would have been allowed to live, or whether his parents would have had to fight his corner against medical "advice". 

I think this video should be shared widely -- it's a wonderful rebuttal to the "quality of life" arguments put forward for aborting disabled babies. Equally importantly, I think that lack of familiarity with disabled people creates an environment where fear of the unknown panics mothers into aborting children with even minor disabilities. Seeing a person like Nick Vujicic living a happy, fulfilling life goes some way to redress the balance.  Please share this, and show it to your children.

Friday 23 September 2011

Friday Menu ideas 2

No photo this time, I'm afraid, but a blissfully simple, very tasty meat-free meal that's scalable from a singleton portion to an extended family. I'm not even going to give weights and measures - just use common sense and make enough to satisfy however many you need to feed... This is also a great fall back as it's a store-cupboard recipe - you can keep everything (except the potatoes) on hand for when you need them. It comes from an American friend of mine: I think that Americans are really good at simple, tasty recipes of this kind. I used to be somewhat snooty about this sort of meal - made from tins from the larder; now I'm grateful for the time saved on days when I'd rather be doing something fun with my children than spending hours in the kitchen. I usually make this with milk or cream, but to get the full benefit of the American store-cupboard cooking it's best made with cream of mushroom soup.

Easy Tuna-fish pie

tinned tuna (drained)
sweetcorn (tinned or frozen; drained if tinned)
potatoes (mashed - with milk, butter, salt and pepper -- or however you like them).
cream of mushroom soup (tin)  - OR milk or cream
optional - grated cheese

Mix tuna, sweetcorn and soup (or milk/cream) in the bottom of a baking dish.
Top with mashed potato.
Sprinkle grated cheese on top, if you like that sort of thing.
Bake at a sensible temperature (say Gas mk 4 / 180C / 350F) for 20-30 minutes.
Enjoy with steamed green beans on the side, or a salad.

Thursday 22 September 2011

Ban on "street prayer" fuels attack on pro-lifers

A French commentator has claimed that the recent French ban on "street prayer" was a critical factor last Saturday's attack on a peaceful pro-life protest in Paris. More than 200 pro-abortion militants from the Partie de Gauche attacked a small group of pro-life advocates who were protesting peacefully and legally outside a hospital that has recently resumed performing abortions (see the full story here). The pro-lifers, from SOS Tout-petits had to be protected by police who were forced to charge to leftist militants on two occasions in order to protect the group of seven pro-lifers praying the Rosary. The militants mocked the pro-life protesters, shouted blasphemous slogans, insulted the Blessed Virgin Mary and slandered the Catholic Church. They physically and verbally attacked protesters on several occasions; "it was pure hatred" said a witness. 

Eyewitness and photographer Anne Kerjean, writing on Nephtar et Nephtali, points out that the leftists have never before taken the risk of mounting a counter-demonstration until the ban on street prayers came into force. This view is supported by the call to action on the Partie de Gauche website which refers to SOS-Tout-petits as "Catholic fundamentalists" and, with reference to the proposed Rosary protest, declares that "the Partie Gauche reminds you that religion has no right to interfere in our secular republic and denounces the fundamentalists who attack women's rights."   Anne Kerjean writes that within a day of the ban on street prayer legislation, the Partie Gauche "demonstrated their cowardice by physically and verbally attacking a small group of men and women who were, thankfully, well protected by numerous policemen". 

She had intended to join the protest, but lost her way and, arriving late, was bewildered to find a large and belligerently aggressive crowd shouting pro-abortion and anti-Catholic slogans where she had expected to find a small, quiet group praying the rosary. Blending into the crowd she took photos, trying get a record of this unexpected event. As she came through the crowd she spotted a line of police officers in riot gear and realised that behind them were seven pro-lifers, quietly praying the Rosary. they looked frightened, and she exchanged glances and smiles of recognition with them. Unfortunately this gave her away as one of the "enemy" and she found herself physically attacked by leftists demanding that she give them her camera; she reports that she was grabbed, pushed and hit, and had several people trying to take her camera and backpack from her while screaming abuse. The police intervened and put her in the "safe zone" with the pro-life protesters; she was later escorted to safety alone by the police.She has put her photos of the event online, and has subsequently been inundated by abuse and threats from members of the Partie Gauche.

Another witness, Jean Vincent at Lesalonbeige, reports that there was originally a larger group of pro-life protesters but that they were split up by aggressive action by the Partie Gauche, leaving the group of seven "stranded" against the hospital railings - cornered (which is why they needed police protection). This second group were (deliberately) prevented from joining the rest of the pro-life group by the Partie Gauche extremists, but  managed were to pray the rosary unimpeded until the 4th decade when they were pelted with eggs by the pro-abortion group which then attacked them from two sides. The police were confused by the tactic, and the protesters were outnumbered more than 5 to 1. The priest who was leading the Rosary and several others were assaulted, thrown to the ground and beaten.
"It is one thing to disagree" writes Jean Vincent, "but to attack peaceful people, praying the Rosary, with a ratio of five to one is shameful". 

Anne Kerjean notes that the groups that had a "call to action" against the Rosary protest included Alternative libertaireLes marxistes révolutionnairesLe parti de gaucheL'Union Syndicale SolidaireLe front de gauche, and Les anarchistes de Montreuil -- or as she puts it wryly "...feminists, transexuals, homosexuals ... and not there for a Techno-Parade -- they were all there for us!"

We saw extraordinary pictures recently from Madrid of warped protesters verbally attacking children praying in the public arena; last Saturday in Paris it seems that the public recitation of the Rosary was as much a motivator to the pro-abortion rainbow coalition as anything else. I've not commented until now on the French law banning street prayer because I've not been sure how I've felt about it. on one hand I sympathise with those who do not want roads provocatively taken over by Muslims on Friday afternoons: this is the supposed motivation behind the legislation. On the other hand, Christine at Laudem Gloriae makes the apt point that the new law could be just as easily applied to a Eucharistic procession or the Paris-Chartres pilgrimage. I think that it's essential that prayer remains in the public sphere, that prayer doesn't become something invisible, something that only happens behind closed doors between consenting adults. So what can we, the average pewsitter, do about this?  Here are a few ideas: say grace when you're out in public. No, it isn't rude or weird or antisocial. Nobody bats an eyelid when people raise a glass of wine in a toast; how much more important is making the sign of the cross, saying grace, and then making the sign of the cross again?! Over the years our family has grown in boldness with this: we used to only say grace if we were in a semi-public space -- having a picnic for example. Then we started saying it in restaurants, and now we say it everywhere. Nobody has ever taken offense -- if we're in a home where grace isn't said, we'll say "we usually say grace at home before a meal, do you mind if we do the same here?" Nobody has ever minded. My husband and I say grace before our meal when we eat out together; we don't flaunt it, but nor do we hide it. We just say it.  OK, perhaps somebody somewhere will think we're a bit odd, but more importantly it's a witness to our Faith, to Our Lord, and is a small sacrifice to make for all the good things that we've been given. 

I was recently at the Treasures of Heaven exhibition at the British Museum with a small group of families on a tour led by a priest. As there are many relics, including more than one relic of the True Cross, we were reminded that these are objects worthy of veneration, not simply "exhibits". Accordingly the priest led us all in adoration of the relic of the True Cross. It was humbling and powerful to kneel and pray in that secular space. I suspect that some people viewing the exhibition might have been a little taken aback, but I'd be surprised if anyone had been offended. I don't know if I would have had the courage to do that if I'd been at the exhibition on my own, but I felt that kneeling and praying before a relic of the cross on which Our Lord suffered and died provided both a powerful witness whilst buttressing  my faith. 

Public prayer can be awkward whether you're used to it or not. Human beings have a natural fear of ridicule, of looking silly, of contempt by our fellow humans. But here's a thought to bolster your courage: look at the photo at the top of this page. Next time you feel sheepish about saying grace in Starbucks or Pizza Express, just think about the seven frail elderly people praying the Rosary surrounded by a violent and baying mob. A few funny looks isn't much to put up with really, is it?