Friday 30 August 2013

Between my finger and my thumb / The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Please join me in praying for the repose of the soul of Seamus Heaney. I spent much of my pre-children life studying 20th C Irish writing and his work was central to my PhD research. I was fortunate to have met him on numerous occasions, some formal, others less so. I will fondly remember drinking Guinness with him in a small dark Belfast pub after an impromptu reading he gave to a small group of post-graduate students. He was not an overtly religious man, and had expressed an uneasy agnosticism over the years, but his poetry often articulated an innate sense of the divine in our lives and the nuances of the Catholicism that was indelibly imprinted upon the Ireland of his youth. He came from a humble family, the eldest of 9 children but despite being a famous poet by the time I met him in the early 1990s he was modest in his demeanour and generous with his time: truly one of nature's gentlemen. I pray that he will experience the joy of the beatific vision before long.

Réquiem ætérnam dona ei Dómine; et lux perpétua lúceat ei. Requiéscat in pace. Amen


The Biretta

Like Gaul, the biretta was divided 
Into three parts: triple-finned black serge, 
A shipshape pillbox, its every slope and edge 
Trimly articulated and decided. 

Its insides were crimped satin; it was heavy too 
But sported a light flossy tassel 
That the backs of my fingers remember well, 
And it left a dark red line on the priest's brow. 

I received it into my hand from the hand 
Of whoever was celebrant, one thin 
Fastidious movement up and out and in 
In the name of the Father and of the Son AND 

Of the Holy Ghost... I placed it on the steps 
Where it seemed to batten down, even half-resist 
All the brisk proceedings of the Mass - 
The chalice drunk off and the patted lips. 

The first time I saw one, I heard a shout 
As an El Greco ascetic rose before me 
Preaching hellfire, Saurian and stormy, 
Adze-head on the rampage in the pulpit. 

Sanctuaries. Marble. Kneeling boards. Vocation. 
Some made it looked squashed, some clean and tall. 
It was as antique as armour in a hall 
And put the wind up me and my generation. 

Now I turn it upside down and it is a boat - 
A paper boat, or the one that wafts into 
The first lines of the Purgatorio 
As poetry lifts its eyes and clears its throat. 

Or maybe that small boat out of the bronze age 
Where the oars are needles and the worked gold frail 
As the intact half of a hatched-out shell, 
Refined beyond the dross into sheer image. 

But in the end it's as likely to be the one 
In Matthew Lawless's painting, The Sick Call, 
Where the scene is out on a river and it's all 
Solid, pathetic and Irish Victorian. 

In which case, however, his reverence wears a hat. 
Undaunting, half domestic, loved in crises, 
He sits listening as each long oar dips and rises, 
Sad for his worthy life and fit for it.

Seamus Heaney (13 April 1939 - 30 August 2013)

Matthew Lawless, "The Sick Call", National Gallery of Ireland


Mid-Term Break

I sat all morning in the college sick bay
Counting bells knelling classes to a close.
At two o'clock our neighbors drove me home.

In the porch I met my father crying--
He had always taken funerals in his stride--
And Big Jim Evans saying it was a hard blow.

The baby cooed and laughed and rocked the pram
When I came in, and I was embarrassed
By old men standing up to shake my hand

And tell me they were "sorry for my trouble,"
Whispers informed strangers I was the eldest,
Away at school, as my mother held my hand

In hers and coughed out angry tearless sighs.
At ten o'clock the ambulance arrived
With the corpse, stanched and bandaged by the nurses.

Next morning I went up into the room. Snowdrops
And candles soothed the bedside; I saw him
For the first time in six weeks. Paler now,

Wearing a poppy bruise on his left temple,
He lay in the four foot box as in his cot.
No gaudy scars, the bumper knocked him clear.

A four foot box, a foot for every year.

Seamus Heaney (13 April 1939 - 30 August 2013)

Tuesday 27 August 2013

We say 'napkin' dear...

Oh my! Bad parenting alert: this morning my eldest daughter (9) told me with some surprise that she had just discovered that 'serviette' was not the correct, official, or tactful way to refer to female altar servers.

...just not on the sanctuary please.

As my children have been taught to use the correct term for the item of table linen used for discreet ablutions (i.e. 'napkin' *) the only context in which they'd heard the word "serviette" was in conjunction with female altar servers (of which, without any guidance from me, they disapprove ; a conclusion they reached independently in our previous N.O. parish where twirling dervishes populated the sanctuary, tossing ponytails and waving at parents. No I'm not exaggerating. In fairness they also disapprove of baseball caps and mobile phones: they're funny that way, my children).

I confirmed that serviette is not the correct liturgical term for female servers, but is a non-U term for napkin.

photo credit: Adoremus in Aeternum

*for my stateside readers: saying 'serviette' in polite company in England is tantamount to nose picking, eating peas off a knife, or saying "toilet" (it's lavatory, darling).



Monday 19 August 2013

Wow. Just, wow.

“For in His Hand are all the ends of the earth: and the heights of the mountains are His.” ~ Psalm 94:4
Father Antony Sumich, FSSP, offers the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at the base of Mount Assiniboine on the British Columbia-Alberta border.

We had the privilege of getting to know Fr Sumich during the three weeks we spent in Alberta earlier this year, and we were struck by his robust holiness and masculine witness to the faith. He is a superb role model for young men, and leads a wilderness pilgrimage / camping trip for older teenage boys and their fathers during the summer: I'm assuming that this photograph was taken on this trip. My husband and eldest son were captivated by the idea of a rigorous expedition with a spiritual dimension and have both insisted that we make sure that one of our future visits coincides with one of Fr Sumich's camping trips -- as soon as our son is old enough, that is! 
Two of my fondest recollections from our family's trip to Canada this year are the wonderful traditional Mass community at St Anthony's Church in Calgary, ably led by Fr Sumich; and the (literally) awesome scenery, particularly in the more remote mountain areas. This photograph brings both together and looking at it made me feel very very happy. Here, if only for a few moments, is a corner of the world where all is as it should be. Deo gratias.

Monday 12 August 2013

"We must aim for the abolition of the family..."


You know that things have come to a pretty pass when the uber-liberal Huffington Post carries an article warning of an organised campaign to destroy the family; a campaign orchestrated by the homosexual lobby, and openly supported by leading political figures - including the Prime Minister and the Mayor of London.


"Peter Tatchell writing for the Guardian this week, talks of "how the Gay Liberation Front Manifesto helped to shape me." You may not have heard of this document before, but you should read it because it sets out - in no uncertain terms - the path our society has taken over the last few decades, and gives a clear picture of where the path is heading. The document says: "We must aim at the abolition of the family".

The manifesto was published in 1971 and then revised in 1978. As Peter says himself, it was written by "anarchists, hippies, leftwingers, feminists, liberals and counter-culturalists". I doubt that David Cameron has ever read it, but whether he knows it or not, he has allowed himself to be influenced by its central agenda. In an attempt to suck up to his liberal metropolitan chums, he has bought into it.

I first came across the manifesto when I saw a photo of the Conservative Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, marching under a banner celebrating 40 years since the formation of the now-defunct Gay Liberation Front. It struck me as unusual to see a Conservative politician marching for any radical group whose name ended with the words "...Liberation Front". It sparked my curiosity, and that's when I came across the manifesto."


...and it gets ever more sinister. Read the whole article here...


Then pray for our families, our children and our priests - the well being of whom is all interconnected.


Friday 2 August 2013

Deo gratias for the men who are saving the world...

Twenty-five years ago... "...On the Isle of Sheppey in Kent, in a small, once Toc H, chapel duly decorated for the Sacrifice of the Mass in the Extra-ordinary form, five young men gathered around a young Redemptorist priest who was offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It was the Feast of Saint Alphonsus 1988. On this day then, began the foundation of a Redemptorist community that would follow the Rule written by Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori and which would finally receive the blessing of the Church to become the Congregation of the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer..."

...and now

...and thank God for these great courageous souls who are a powerhouse of prayer up on Papa Stronsay. Visit their website and their blog and please include them in your prayers today. Our family continues to be inspired and grateful to the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer for the good that they do and they all -- and our dear friend Pater Michael Mary in particular -- have a special place in our hearts and in our prayers.

Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori pray for them and continue to inspire them in holiness! 

Our Lady of Perpetual Help, guide them and keep them in your maternal care!


 It's probably worth adding that our dog Rosa comes from the Isle of Sheppey - she's the only known Sheppey Terrier in existence: a rare breed indeed. Sadly for her she was born there after the Sons of Most Holy Redeemer had left the island.

From Sheppey, but not a Redemptorist

Thursday 1 August 2013

Never too modern to Mantilla...

As regular readers will be aware, I'm a big fan of veiling in church - I've written about mantillas (or lack thereof) in France , rainbow-coloured SSPX veils in Switzerland, and the more traditional sort in Canada... lost mantillas ... stolen mantillas... mantillas in Rome ... the reactions that mantilla-wearers get... You get the idea.  Mulier Fortis and I even set up the Blackfen (where even the snow-women wear mantillas) branch of the Mantilla Mafia  and have set out to convert unsuspecting women to mantilla-wearing.

Whatever the weather, it's mantilla-time in Blackfen...

 I have almost a dozen mantillas between my house, handbag and van. So I suppose you could say that I'm pretty serious about mantillas... least that's what I thought until my internet pal Amanda (she of the praiseworthy Catholic Home Ed blog) wonderful  created the wonderful Loving Mantillas blog. Next to Amanda I am a mantilla dilettante! Not only does Amanda love mantillas, she also writes about them and publishes photographs of them and her blog is a treasure-trove for British mantilla lovers: I think it's the only UK based one in existence.

I was saddened but not surprised to hear that she's been getting a slew of nasty comments and emails from loose-cannons all over the green-ink-splattered interweb -- fancy having so much time on your hands that you waste it castigating somebody who puts up pretty photographs of mantillas for people to enjoy. Bizarre.

...and the photographs *are* lovely: there are exquisite photos of bridal mantillas, baby mantillas, Spanish mantillas and lots of serene pictures of women praying.  Pay it a visit! Send her beautiful photographs of yourself and your family wearing mantillas to make it even better -- and -- to encourage others to consider loving mantillas themselves...

...and leave her some happy feedback so that she knows that her labour of love is appreciated!