Friday, 27 June 2014

Happy Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

We began the day with a beautiful Mass and prayers of reparation to the Sacred Heart at the Sacred Heart side altar this morning; Fr. Finigan's sermon mentioned that Sacre Coeur in Paris was built with donations from Catholics throughout France in order to have a place of perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and a permanent place for prayers of reparation to the Sacred Heart.
...and our celebration cake:


...which was probably a little too jolly looking but was delicious nonetheless. My two eldest children
(10 and 12) baked cake in a heart-shaped tin and I decorated it later on with strawberries, cream and mint-chocolate wafers shattered to make the thorns.



Saturday, 7 June 2014

You don't know what you've got 'till it's gone.

Home educators in France are waking up to the reality that their educational choice is about to be legislated out of existence by the French Senate. This is the latest in a raft of anti-family measures by the Hollande government, which has also added traditionalist pro-family group Civitas to groups to be monitored for “religious pathology” by the newly minted “National Observatory of Secularism” created by Interior Minister Manuel Valls  to promote France’s secularist policy and what it deems to be 'public morality' in schools.  

It shouldn't be surprising that home education is under threat in France. Vincent Peillon, current National Minister of Education is on YouTube saying that democracy is not possible where the Catholic Church is present and that the Church must be destroyed as part of an ongoing “revolution”. Pro-family groups in France are finding the legislative ground shifting, but  have become well organised: the wonderful pro-(natural)-family “Manif Pour Tous” movement has spread beyond France to Spain, Italy and Ireland. We need it in Britain as well.

British home educators watch France with increasing unease. We have a few things in our favour – for the moment at least. The first is that home educating in the UK is not a predominantly religious phenomenon. The vast majority do so for loosely philosophical  reasons: most are found somewhere on the hippie-ish spectrum – from yurt dwelling alternative lifestylers to slightly mad Oxbridge academic families, they are all people who have thought outside the box and often place great value on family and children. For Catholic home educators this is positive: religion can't be pinpointed so easily as a reason to crack down on home ed. Britain also has a legacy of civil liberties,  from which stems a residual  tolerance of home education  compared to other European countries. The strong home education communitiessthat have resulted mean  home educated children have access to wide and varied social networks. This is significant as the French legislation specifically mentions "voluntary de-socialization, destined to submit the child, who is particularly vulnerable, to a psychic, ideological or religious conditioning" as the reason for banning out-of-school learning.

In Britain the current government is taking a laissez-faire attitude towards home education. If it's working – and the research shows that it is – why change it?  However only a few years ago,  in his role as Secretary of State for Children Schools and Families, Ed Balls did his best to crush home education, commissioning a report on electively home educated children. When the initial report recommended no changes to the existing situation Balls commissioned a second report followed by a select committee. Backbencher Barry Sheerman, (who as Chairman of the parliamentary cross-party committee on children, schools and families under the last government  asserted that “faith education works all right as long as people are not that serious about their faith. But does become worrying when you get … more fundamentalist bishops”) has been asking leading questions about Home Education and making cryptic comments on Twitter. The message is clear: home education is in our sights and we won't be happy until it's gone.

Should this matter to the majority of parents who do not home educate? ABSOLUTELY. Why? 
Because Home Education as a litmus test of the relationship between the family and the state. Where the state accepts home education the state is accepting the family as the natural and safe environment for a child to learn. By contrast, state prohibition of home education is symptom of a state’s broader ideological position: suspicious of the family, wary of religious or ideological “indoctrination” , and insisting that professionals are better equipped than parents to guide children's academic and moral growth. 

A government that does not respect the right of a family to determine their children's educational path will never respect the rights of the parent to be the primary influence on their child. When the next round of state-led threats to home education kicks-off, pay attention: it’s not just about home education.

A version of this article appeared in Catholic Family Round-up in April 2014

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Traditional blessing of Easter Food

Each year on Holy Saturday our Parish Priest blesses meat, bread and eggs brought in by families that will be used for their Easter feast. I've been told that this is an ancient Catholic tradition that has survived best in Eastern Europe - Poland in particular where it is referred to as Święconka or in some regions Święcone. I'm half Polish, although grew up without any Polish customs or traditions in my family, so it's lovely to incorporate this into our family Easter rituals - so my quarter-Polish children have some sense of the Grandfather's culture.  

The prayers are particularly beautiful and remind us of the passover and the resurrection. Today the families who brought in their food also received a blessing and together we prayed Blessed Pope John Paul II's Prayer for Families. 

After the rigours of Lent -- and particularly Holy Week -- this simple ceremony feels like a gentle push towards the coming celebrations of the glory of the Resurrection. 

I wish all my readers a blessed and happy Eastertide. Blogging will resume after Easter and I will pray for you all at the Easter Vigil this evening.

Christus resurrexit! Resurrexit vere!

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Tablet making you sick?'s a simple, Traditional home remedy: print up a few of the signs below and leave them on the newsstand of any parish foolish enough to sell heretical lavatory paper masquerading as a Catholic journal...

(...these are a 2010 version, but easily updatable and I'm sure that you can make up your own suitable wording...)


... Oh, and btw these were just spotted and photographed at the back of a church, who knows who might have left them there...


Saturday, 25 January 2014

Vandalising the Rosary

Photo credit: Vintagethisretrothat on Flickr


Apparently it wasn't just the Mass of Ages that the vandal Bugnini intended to demolish in the name of ecumenism and "noble simplicity" (a.k.a.Brutalism): the most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary was also in his crosshairs. A fascinating article on Venermur cernui (a new-to-me blog from Dallas, Tx., well worth a rummage through) describes what can only be called Bugnini's evil masterplan to destroy reform the Rosary including only allowing one "Our Father" per five decades and removing everything after the word "womb" in the Hail Mary. This is all detailed in Bugnini's Reform of the Liturgy which I haven't read but am now sorely tempted to - if only to raise my (usually too low) blood pressure! The whole article is worth a read, you can read it here.


My first thought after reading this was about the children at Fatima. As I remember, one of the very first actions of Our Lady in her apparitions was to teach the three children to say the Rosary properly: until then they had rushed through it, simply saying the first words of each prayer: "Our Father, Hail Mary, Hail Mary, Hail Mary, Hail Mary, Hail Mary, Hail Mary, Hail Mary, Hail Mary, Hail Mary, Hail Mary, Glory Be..." etc..

...and if Our Blessed Mother thinks that saying the Rosary properly is both important and necessary, then who are we to argue?

That the Rosary is recognised as a particularly efficacious prayer against evil makes any attempted sidelining or attempted vandalism even more sinister. I'm thinking specifically of its use as a tool in prayer campaigns outside abortuaries against the slaughter of innocents and towards the conversion of the hearts of those involved in the grisly business of abortion.

Being a post Vatican II baby, I ran a reasonably high chance of never encountering the Rosary. It wasn't until I was an adult that met anybody who prayed it, apart from my grandparents; sadly I never saw them praying although I am positive that their prayers for me are in large part responsible for my return to the Faith in my late 20s. For that I remain ever-grateful.

As a child in the 1970s, I remember my grandmother had sending me Rosary beads. I asked my parents what they were for. "Oh it's a lot of Hail Mary's and you're supposed to think about other things as well" was the gist of the answer. The message was clear: it's long and boring and we're not going to do it. I loved my Rosary beads though and tried to make up what I thought the Rosary might be, although rather unsuccessfully.

About 10 years ago, having been back in the arms of Mother Church for some time, I decided I to find out more about the Rosary. At first I only said one decade, at night, usually as I nursed a baby to sleep in bed. At the time a decade -- a whole decade! -- seemed like a lot. Sometimes I would even fall asleep before I finished. It took some time for me to remember the different decades of the different mysteries, and I read various books, various approaches. In time, and as the children were a little older, I suggested to my husband that we pray a decade together as a family before bedtime at night. It was awkward and a bit clumsy the first few times, but we could feel the graces flowing and soon it was a habit that we wouldn't dream of breaking for any reason. Around the time of the Papal Visit we decided to graduate from our nightly decade a whole Rosary including the Creed and the prayers for the Pope and we built our family night prayers around this. My husband leads our prayers, but we each take turns to lead a decade of the Rosary, with parents helping the youngest children. This has been a great blessing for our family -- a time of calm contemplation before bed. When we have Catholic guests, we share our night prayers with other families. Reading through the description of Bugnini's proposed truncated version of the Rosary, I wonder whether, had his vandalism been accomplished, I would have had a chance to know Our Lady's Rosary, let alone witness the great graces that flow from it to my family, to all who pray it, and to the whole world. If you haven't tried praying a regular Rosary - do. It will, literally, change your life.

Our Lady of the Rosary, Ora pro nobis,




Sunday, 12 January 2014

The family ... holy in essence, holier when shared

We've just spent a pleasant impromptu evening with two other families: chatting, eating, laughing. Children from toddlers to teenagers romping and playing. As with many similar gatherings, the evening ended with everyone together in one warm room, praying together in the gloaming light of the fire. Together young and old sang the last carols of the Christmas season. We prayed the Rosary, the father of the hosting family leading a decade, then the young girls, then the boys, followed by the mothers and finally the fathers all praying together. A savvy teenager reminded us that we could gain a plenary indulgence if we prayed the Creed and the Prayers for the Pope as well as our rosary, and we sang a Salve Regina with even the youngest children raising their voices to God. I was acutely aware of what a blessing this gathering of souls was, and that the warmth I felt was not simply the contrast of the cozy woodstove compared to the rainy night outdoors, but the far more profound warmth of true fellowship and a shared love of God and family. There is something both humbling and ennobling about groups of families praying together; it is as though the raging storm stills for a moment and Heaven bends its ear to the collective prayers.

Today is, appropriately,  the Feast of the Holy Family (E.F.)  - I wish all my readers and their families a happy and holy feast day.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Happy Feast of the Epiphany!


Just home from High Mass and the blessing of chalk. With this and Epiphany water from yesterday's blessing, my husband led the traditional Epiphany blessing of the home. Lovely way to round off Christmas. We are so very fortunate to have a Parish Priest who encourages the traditions that keep the Faith alive in the family. Deo gratias!