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.