Sunday 29 July 2012

Billet Doux

We had the pleasure of bumping into Archbishop Nichols today outside Westminster Cathedral this afternoon. I'd popped into town with my two eldest children to have a quick rummage through the CTS bookshop and nip into confession at the Cathedral. We had just enjoyed a sandwich on the steps of the Cathedral followed by a fruitful visit to the bookshop and were about to head inside to join the confessional queue when suddenly hundreds of people flooded out through the doors and we realised that  Archbishop Nichols was only a few feet away. Apparently - we found out from an Italian sister  - there had been a Mass to celebrate the start of the London Olympic Games this afternoon.

The children, particularly my son, were keen to meet the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales and so as the crowd thinned we joined the reception queue behind a man in shorts wearing a sombrero with "Mexico" written on it, and were very quickly in front of +Nichols. I knelt and kissed the Archbishop's ring, and the children knelt for a blessing... and that was that. As we walked away I internally kicked myself for not saying what I wished I had had the alacrity of mind to say which was: "Thank you for defending the Truths of the Catholic Faith, and particularly for defending the family, so bravely in the face of opposition in these difficult times"...

... Now, before any readers choke, cough and splutter let me explain myself a little. When, in a past life, I had to manage and motivate large teams of people, I found that praising somebody robustly for what they should be doing, even if they're only making a faint effort, pays huge dividends. Sometimes it's a matter of confidence: being praised for what they should be doing, or are tentatively doing, moves things up a gear... sometimes someone is tentative simply because they aren't sure that they are supported in what they're doing. Praise - directive praise - inevitably moves behaviour towards the desired outcome.

Courtesy of Acclaim clipart

...and so, I propose the following: consider writing a billet-doux to your local Bishop or, indeed, to Archbishop Nichols.  Thank him, genuinely and robustly, for what he does in the face of opposition from society at large - and be specific about what you're thanking him for. Imagine if a Bishop, feeling uncertain of how supportive the average-Catholic-in-the-pews is of the Church speaking out on important issues, were to receive 100 letters from faithful Catholics in his diocese over a few weeks, thanking him for his work and praising him for, say, speaking out to support Catholic teaching on marriage, sexuality, and freedom of conscience as well as, for example, protecting local Catholic schools from the incursion of secular ideology. He may be doing some of these things, he may be doing none of them; but receiving letters thanking him for shepherding his flock and particularly with respect to issues X, Y, and Z will, at the very least, give him pause for thought.

...and that's got to be a good thing.

Our Bishops know what they need to do, but they do also need to know that we're 100% behind them when they are forthcoming with the Truth in the face of adversity. Giving them our  thanks and support - targeted support, specific support - lets them know that there is a flock for them to lead, to protect, to defend. Go on - send your Bishop a love letter this week.

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Catholic Home Education UK - an interesting new blog

Home education: sometimes our classroom looks like this!

A good start for a new blogging endeavour by Amanda Lewin, a UK Catholic home education veteran with some 15 years experience. The face of home education - and its Catholic variant - has changed over the past decade as more families find home ed not only an acceptable, but also a viable educational option and family lifestyle. The first post tackles the thorny issue of whether or not to follow the UK exam system (usually iGCSE for home educated children) rather than follow a broader Classical curriculum as provided by one of the various American home education curriculum providers. The blog is "dedicated to supporting those who may choose or have chosen to follow the UK system instead of an alternative one." 

Interested in Home Ed? Catholic? British? Keep an eye on this one then.

Saturday 7 July 2012

"You have shown me the way to Ars, now I will show you the way to Heaven."

Photo: Catholic Church (England and Wales)

We drove for over four and a half hours each way on Thursday to spend an hour and a half in prayerful contemplation before the heart of Saint Jean Marie Vianney in Saint Anthony's Church, Wythenshawe, and it was worth every moment. Hearty and heartfelt praise are owed to Bishop Mark Davies for organising the visit of this precious relic which will undoubtedly bring an outpouring of graces to the Catholic Church in England. In addition to the long queues to venerate the heart of the Cure d'Ars, it was encouraging to see long queues for the many confessionals.

There is still time to see, venerate and pray before this important relic: now more than ever our priests need the intercession of Saint Jean Marie Vianney. See below for the remaining dates. Even if you only manage a short visit after a long journey it will be worthwhile.

Working in ever-wonderful ways the Holy Spirit ensured that we bumped into a lovely family that we know while at the church in Wythenshawe; they live close by and invited us back for dinner and we spent a very pleasant couple of hours at their home before driving back to London: the children rounding off a solomn afternoon with a rowdy splashing session in a large paddling pool. The mutual support and fellowship between families seemed to underline the parallel and complimentary vocations of priest and families. Our families need our priests, and all priests come from families. Saint Jean Marie Vianney - Ora pro nobis!

Thursday 5 July 2012

Veneration of The Heart of The Curé d'Ars

Saint Anthony's Church, Wythenshawe, Manchester, 5th July 2012

We're off... Manchester to venerate the heart of the Curé d'Ars, Saint Jean Marie Vianney. Will report back afterwards and will pray for my friends, readers and fellow-bloggers - especially the priests among you -  whilst there.

Monday 2 July 2012

A testimony to self-sacrifice, unconditional maternal love, and utter trust in God

The story of Chiara Petrillo's selfless love for her unborn child and trust in God which led her to delay treatment for an aggressive cancer in order to protect her unborn baby is one of the most inspiring testimonies to maternal love and abandonment of self to God's will that I've ever read. It is all the more poignant for the fact that this was Chiara's third child: her two previous much loved babies, David and Maria, had both been severely disabled and had each died shortly after birth. In both cases she had been pressured to abort the babies but had refused.

You can read her story here, here and here and there's a lovely montage of her life on YouTube (above - in Italian only, but it's easy to catch the drift).

Chiara's baby Francisco was born on the 30th of May 2011. Chiara lived to see his first birthday, and nurture him through his first year. She died on June 13th  2012, and was buried in Rome on June 21st.

Eternal Rest grant unto her O Lord, and May Perpetual Light shine upon her.