Saturday, May 5, 2012

Baring & The Mix

Maurice Baring
"Never, never, never talk theology or discuss the Church with those outside it. People simply do not understand what you are talking about and they merely (a) get angry and (b) come to the conclusion that one doesn't believe in the thing oneself and that one is simply doing it to annoy."  

This was Maurice Baring's advice to Hilaire Belloc...which he didn't take, of course.  I really think Maurice Baring has a point following an experience I had some time ago at a dinner I had organised in a Chinese Restaurant.  I can't remember how the topic came up about my religious affiliations but I do remember trying to point out to someone that what they said wasn't true and eventually saying that they were being insulting and rude.  The result was that he and his wife left!

Sadly Maurice Baring seems to be the forgotten man of the triumvirate of Chesterton, Belloc & Baring and he was an elegant writer.  He was in the Royal Flying Corps in World War l and became a Wing Commander in the RAF!

"But the pronunciation varies,
Some people call it Buenos Aires.
A line I stole with subtle daring
From Wing Commander Maurice Baring"  as Belloc says in his Cautionary Tales....though the last two lines are asterisked at the bottom of the page.

Radio Veritas 576 AM
I really must advertise my programme, The Mix, on Facebook...9,00am every Friday.... This week I had well-known political commentator Dr Steven Friedman, Director of the Institute for Democracy, discussing 'The Ruling Party & Religion' as well as Des Lindberg talking about SoirĂ©es and my weekly classical music spot with Richard Cock.  He and I talked about the University of Johannesburg Choir and how it has developed from the old Rand Afrikaans University Choir post 1994.  It gave me the excuse to play a couple of tracks from their new CD.  Bob Dillon & Joan Baez were the other musical offerings as they tied up with Des Lindberg to a degree.  You can listen to Des & Dawn in the Video Bar.
Fr Ralph Wright OSB

On a more Catholic note I interviewed Judy Stockill as she steps down as editor of the Archdiocesan News and I talked about a book, "Christ - Our Love for All Seasons.  A Liturgy of the Hours for Everyone" by Fr Ralph Wright OSB.  I think the poetry in the book is not only good, but also thought provoking so I was able to read a couple of his poems.  

Here is one of them:

The man who fell in with thieves 
on his way to Jericho 
may have been going there 
-for all we know- 
to murder his mother 
he may have come from robbing the Temple 
or sleeping with his next-door-neighbour's wife 
-we are not told- 
the man who finds him 
half dead 
clearly does not know 

and God seems to be hammering home 
blow by blow 
the thought 
that worthiness is irrelevant 

all we need 
is to recognize need 

Next week I will add my guests before the programme so you will have the opportunity of listening.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Radio Veritas & Hilaire Belloc

The family invasion is over and life has almost returned to normal!  The astonishing news is that I am presenting a programme on Radio Veritas now that it has it 576MW.  The Mix, 9,00 to 10,00am every Friday.  It's astonishing because of my criticism of the station when I was at the SABC and even on this blog in the past so I was convinced that I would never be approached to help them in any way.

I have presented two programmes so far.  The first had to be recorded as I was heading for Cape Town to join the family invasion of the city.  The second was live and there were a few mistakes which is to be expected.

The programme is part miscellany and part half-hour in depth interview.  The miscellany this week will include the local Fatima Pilgrimage, the 120th anniversary festival of St Joseph's Mayfair, Johannesburg's oldest Catholic Church, music with Richard Cock (that's a weekly fixture) and I always talk about a book.  The main interview will be with Fr Michael Van Heerden the Vice Chancellor of St Augustine's Catholic University.
We also talk about wine and food from time to time and there is a bottle of wine as a prize for a listener each week!......that reminds me of Belloc.

Heretics All

Hilaire Belloc
Heretics all, whoever you may be,
In Tarbes or Nimes, or over the sea,
You never shall have good words from me.
Caritas non conturbat me.

But Catholic men that live upon wine
Are deep in the water, and frank, and fine;
Wherever I travel I find it so,
Benedicamus Domino.

On childing women that are forelorn,
And men that sweat in nothing but scorn:
That is on all that ever were born,
Miserere Domine.

To my poor self on my deathbed,
And all my dear companions dead,
Because of the love that I bore them,
Dona Eis Requiem. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Lenten Gap...Mea Culpa.......

St Therese, Edenvale
I've missed a couple of posting days through an invasion of family and Telkom attempting to get the landline functioning and cutting off the ADSL line in the process.  The family are now rushing around nature reserves dying to see nature red in tooth and claw but hopefully not red enough to frighten the children!

This has also meant a change in Church and my normal Mass time on a Sunday to easily accommodate the children.....7,30 at St Therese, Edenvale, a huge modern Catholic Factory run by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate with a school attached.  It's not to my taste but it is successful and they sing all the "Sing Hosanna" stuff that the girls obviously sing at their Catholic School in Surrey.

Easter Day we will all be going to Holy Trinity, Braamfontein at 9,30  as I am on duty then and I will be interested to see the reaction to the liturgy and the music.

Lent has been grinding on and my decision to give up alcohol has been interesting.  Up until Laudete Sunday I really felt that this was a nothing thing.  Somebody said that as it was Laudete we could have a glass of wine but I really didn't feel like one!  For the last couple of weeks it has suddenly become difficult.  I had to present a mystery wine to the Bacchanalian Society and have subsequently been entertaining family and friends with a ginger beer in my hand.  Now, in Holy Week, it is more difficult than ever.  I can remember, a few years ago, on a religious discussion programme that I hosted on the radio on Easter Day one of the panel arriving with a big bag of chocolates and slowly demolishing them...he had apparently given up chocolate for Lent and was making up for lost time!  At the time I thought it strange and certainly not in keeping with a Lenten fast and celebrating Christ's Resurrection.  I can now empathise!  Jean is having the same problem with a lack of computer games and now has severe withdrawal symptoms!

Halfway through my second assignment on Moral Theology at the moment.  It's a very long time since I did any theological study and I really battled to get started on the first assignment though everyone said I would find it easy as I had done it all before.  You need something to get the little grey cells to start working properly again and I'm finding the second one easier.  This easing yourself into systematic studying was the right approach.

A Blessed Holy Week to you all.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A New Papal Nuncio; Archbishop Mario Cassari

The Apostolic See (the Vatican) announces the appointment of Archbishop Mario Roberto CASSARI as the incoming Nuncio (Papal Ambassador) to South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland and Namibia.
H.E. Archbishop Mario Roberto CASSARI – Archbishop Titular of Tronto
27 August 1943: Born in Ghilarza (Sardinia – Italy).
27 December 1969: Ordained priest, after studies in Philosophy and Theology.
1969-1974: Parish Vicar at the Cathedral of Tempio Pausania (Sardinia), Teacher at
Secondary School and Bishop’s Secretary.
•  Doctor in Theology at Pontifical Lateran University in Rome.
•  Licence in Canon Law at Pontifical Lateran University in Rome.Graduated in Diplomatic Studies in 1977 at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy (also known as the “Vatican Diplomatic Academy”).
•  Archbishop Cassari speaks Italian, French, Spanish and English.
22 March 1977: Admitted into the Diplomatic Service of the Holy See. He served on the following Apostolic Nunciatures: Pakistan, Colombia, Ecuador, Sudan, Southern Africa (1985-1989, under Abp. Mees and Abp. De Paoli), Japan, Austria, Lithuania (Latvia/Estonia), Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia/Montenegro) and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
3 August 1999: Appointed by the Blessed John Paul II as Titular Archbishop of Tronto and
Apostolic Nuncio to Congo and Gabon.
16 October 1999: Consecrated Archbishop by H.E. Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Secretary of State.
31 July 2004: Appointed Apostolic Nuncio to Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Niger.
14 February 2008: Appointed by Pope Benedict XVI as Apostolic Nuncio to Croatia.
10 March 2012: Appointed by Pope Benedict XVI as Apostolic Nuncio to South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Swaziland.

A new Nuncio to succeed the popular Archbishop Green.  If you read through the CV you will notice that Archbishop Cassari has been here before under Archbishops Mees and De Paoli.  Paddy Kearney refers to Archbishop Cassari, then a mere Monsignor,  in his biography of Archbishop Dennis Hurley, "Guardian of the Light:  Dennis Hurley : Renewing the Church: Opposing Apartheid".

Archbishop Jan Mees, the then Nuncio, was invited to give a message from Pope John Paul II at the last Plenary Session of the SACBC that was chaired by Archbishop Hurley in 1987.  Mees was close to the Paraguayan Dictator Alfredo Stroessner with whom the then SA government was also on good terms.  Mees basicly told the SA Bishops to keep their noses out of politics in a roundabout way quoting JPII.....President PW Botha had similarly quoted the Pope to the Bishops on an earlier occasion.  It was contrary to everything that Archbishop Hurley and the SACBC stood for.

Mees was transferred shortly afterwards leaving Mgr Cassari in charge of the delegation.  At the first possible opportunity he addressed the SACBC and said " You, more than others, know your people,  you live among them, you share their anxieties and their sorrows as a result of their everyday living conditions.  For all this you must shout, even from the roof tops - in the name of God - that the time has come that South Africa really becomes a New South Africa."  He was given a standing ovation...and that New South Africa seemed a very long way away in 1987!  

Don't be put off by the stern picture. He is obviously a good man.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Two Weeks into Lent & Stations of the Cross on your Smart Phone.

Church has been packed for the last two Sundays.  It is usually full but is now bursting at the seams.  Is this a Lenten revival or just coincidence?  Weekday Masses are also up.

Hope & Joy...powered by the Jesuit Institute.....have produced a Stations of the Cross App using the Stations at Holy Trinity as illustrations.  I think this is a wonderful idea:

Stations of the Cross for your Smartphone

Walking Jesus’ Way of the Cross with Hope&Joy

In the spirit of Vatican II, the Hope&Joy project is challenging Catholics in South Africa to be a Church in the modern world.  One way of doing that is to re-look at traditional devotions and allow them to be re-created today.
The Way of the Cross has been a central devotion of Lent for about 800 years, a means of enabling Christians who could not go to Jerusalem personally to follow in Jesus’ footsteps on Good Friday.  We walk with him (literally around the church or symbolically in our prayers) from his condemnation by Pilate, through his suffering and death, and finally to the tomb.  In more recent times, a 15th has been added to the traditional 14 stations – to remind us that Jesus’ life does not end in death but in the triumph of the Resurrection.
In every age different artists and musicians have re-interpreted the Way of the Cross.  In our age it is not only modern artists and musicians but also technicians who have something to share.  We are therefore pleased to offer these downloads designed so that you can meditate on the Way of the Cross on your smartphone at any time and in any situation.
The images are painted by the South African artist Joseph Capelle, installed in 2011 in the Jesuit parish of Holy Trinity, Braamfontein – tucked between the Johannesburg business district and Wits University.
The different words are by the artist and also by Fr Russell Pollitt, the Jesuit parish priest who commissioned the paintings and who is Catholic chaplain to Wits University and the University of Johannesburg. The music is sung by the choir of the University of Johannesburg and draws on traditional African hymns and modern settings of ancient Church texts.

Giving up drinking alcohol hasn't been as difficult as I imagined it would much for self-mortification!  Also it hasn't been noticeable to others and that is  more to the point!  The only time I had to say anything is for the Bacchanalian Society lunch on Friday.  Normally we choose our food and so ordering a non-meat dish is no big deal but this month a special tasting menu has been prepared and we have a particular item with which to match a wine.  There are some of my favourites like quail and I had to sound a little prissy and ask for alternative dishes.  Fortunately one of our members doesn't eat meat so I could ride on his back.

For those who have an interest in wine I have been asked to match a wine with Insalata Scoglio di Frisio- A vinegary and lemony salad of baby clams, diced red onion and celery on a little lettuce, a nightmare for any wine!  The suggestion was a Sauvignon Blanc but I know it will turn to dross in your mouth so I am trying a Vinho Verde and hoping that it has enough acid to overcome the dressing.  And if you think this constitutes drinking alcohol, tasting is not drinking.

It is interesting that the great arguments in the States over Obama's Contraception Clause and the two discussions in the UK on same-sex marriage and the argument that a new born child is not yet a person and can be killed are not even a blip on the South African radar screen.

Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Archbishop of St Andrew's & Edinburgh came out with quite an intemperate statement where he likened the graveness of same-sex marriage to the evil of slavery.  Quite silly, really, as the Church didn't see slavery as an evil for centuries.........

The Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols came out with a much more measured and reasoned statement.  I can't help thinking that it will have little effect on the British Government's intentions, let's see.

I did mention that the SA Catholic Bishops' Conference had issued a statement on abortion about 6 weeks ago.  For the sake of completeness I'm posting it here.  It's very well phrased.

Abortion on demand was legalized in South Africa

Fifteen years have passed since abortion on demand was legalized in South Africa. Since then it is estimated that over one million unborn children were denied the most fundamental of rights, the right to life. We remember those one million babies.  Those aborted fifteen years ago would now be in grade 9 or 10, bringing joy to their families and planning their own futures. Those whose lives were ‘terminated’ ten years ago would now be playing on the streets of our towns and villages in the evenings and singing and praying with us in our churches on Sunday. We regret that those children of God were denied the right to be born into God’s world and to enrich it with their own unique gifts and talents.  We will never fully realize what we have missed because the law says “abortion is fine”.
When the legislation was being discussed those in favour of it said it would save some mothers from the dangers of what has become known as “back-street abortions”. We question if this has in fact been the case. On almost every electricity pole along the streets of our cities and towns there are advertisements for ‘safe and painless’ abortions. They are outside the Head Office of the Department of Health in Pretoria and on the boundary walls of our schools. If the advertising is so public and so widespread, then the demand for those” back-street abortions” must be high.
The position of the Catholic Church on abortion is clear and unambiguous .Just because the law says it is legal does not make it morally right. Each unborn child is created by God, “knit together in (its) mother’s womb” (Ps139.13) .That unborn child is a human being with a human life that must be protected. He or she has a right to life, a right that must be respected by the mother and protected by the state.
Another right that must be respected by the state and its agents is that of conscientious objection. Those who believe that abortion is morally wrong have a right to refuse to participate in the medical procedures.
All of us, parents, teachers, members of the Church, must understand what a young girl is going through when she realizes she is pregnant. She needs our love, our support, our understanding and sometimes our forgiveness. We in the Church are committed to helping unmarried pregnant girls and couples tempted to take the abortion route in whatever way we can. We will never condemn, just as Jesus refused to condemn (John8.11)
As we remember the many children who have been aborted since February 1997, we also remember the mothers of these children. Just as we do not condemn a pregnant young girl, we do not condemn her if she made the mistake of procuring an abortion. Only she knows how much she has suffered as a result. She needs help and healing. We invite her to come and speak to one of our priests or counselors so that we can be part of reconciling her to God and bringing about healing.
Archbishop Buti  Tlhagale, OMI,
On behalf of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, 30th January 2012

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday & Lent.

It's Shrove Tuesday.  I am not sure how many people rush off to be shriven now-a-days but certainly quite a few are celebrating Mardi Gras.   

The old English term is 'Shrove Crocking'.  Any excuse to get round the village and beg for food!

A-shrovin, a-shrovin, 

I be come a-shrovin;

A piece of bread, a piece of cheese,
A bit of your fat bacon, 
Or a dish of dough-nuts, 
All of your own makin!

A-shrovin, a-shrovin,

I be come a-shrovin,
Nice meat in a pie,
My mouth is very dry!
I wish a was zoo well-a-wet 
l'de zing the louder for a nut!

Chorus—A-shrovin, a-shrovin, 
We be come a-shrovin! 

And don't forget the ancient game of Football before it was tamed by the Association!

Some friends are having a multicultural Pancake Party this evening with the equivalents from India, Spain, Italy, Mexico etc and naturally the British Isles.  I am sure it will be great fun and it is deliberately being held as precursor to Lent.

Ash Wednesday fascinates me.  It's not a Day of Obligation yet we are hard pressed to cope with the numbers coming to the Masses.  (We have 2 extra this year.)  Is it because you do not have to be Catholic to be 'ashed'?  I don't know.  There must be something inclusive and special about it because it seems to attract more people than anything else the Church does.....and we are small potatoes compared to New York where people queue up in the street.

There does seem to be more of an emphasis on Lent this year, or am I mistaken?  The SA Bishops' Conference has always sent out a missive prior to Lent but the emphasis, or what I remember, is on the Lenten Appeal.  This year it is more on keeping Lent with quite strong suggestions:

 Lenten Appeal 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ

Greetings and love from your Bishops.
With joyful hearts we thank you for your generous contributions to our Lenten Appeal for 2011. We received a remarkable contribution of R8 million. May the Lord bless each and every one of you for the sacrifice and support you give to your Church.
In the Pastoral letter we issued in 2011 calling for “A year of Eucharistic Renewal” we invited you to renew your love and celebration of the Eucharist and the way in which we live the Mystery of Faith. This takes on special value in this season of Lent which is completely built up around Eucharistic Spirituality. The Eucharist makes us saints, and there can be no holiness that is not enveloped in Eucharistic life. “The one who feeds on me will have life because of me” (Jn. 6:57).
As your Bishops, we invite you to enter the 2012 Lenten Season seeking to rediscover the treasures that God has placed in each one of you. “May you be established in love, that you may obtain all the riches of a full understanding and know the mystery of God, Christ himself. For in him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Col 2:2-3)
This is also an invitation to meet each other anew as we become one flesh and blood through our communion in the flesh and blood of the Lord. “Blessed are all who are invited to the marriage feast of the Lamb”. (Rev 19:9)
“The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.”In this Lenten season Jesus is offering healing and renewal to each and every person-even you!
The gospels relate how people encountered Jesus and found new life.  Look at the Story of the disciples encountering Jesus on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13ff); you might say you would love to have been part of this experience.
We are! Every time we celebrate the Eucharist we meet Jesus in the same way. Jesus explained the Scriptures to the two disciples; “he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27) as we listen to the Scriptures. Then Jesus “took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them” (Luke 24:30) and we partake of the Body of Jesus in the Eucharist.
As Lent begins the following ways may help us to deepen and renew our love for the Eucharist:
  • Make Sunday a special day reserved for the Lord and your family.

  • Attend Eucharistic practices (Eucharistic adoration and prayer before the Blessed Sacrament) organised in your parish which support the celebration of they Eucharist and prolong its spiritual effects.

  • Keep a Lenten journal of, successes, struggles, feelings and discoveries. Set aside some time to write each day, focusing on how Jesus’ love and teachings inform your thoughts, feelings and actions.

  • Think about attitudes and behaviour patterns that you need to change. Pray for help in changing them.

  • Make prayer a daily habit. Pray for those you know are suffering. Each day for a week pray for a different neighbour or friend.

Ultimately, you will be able to say like the disciples “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?” (Luke 24:32).
As we make the Eucharist the centre of our life, the risen Christ empowers us to reach out to others in charity. The annual Bishops’ Lenten Appeal is a special way that seeks to carry out the teachings of Christ. With your sacrifice and contribution to Bishops’ Lenten Appeal you join hands with other Catholics in supporting the poor and needy, a young man or woman discerning a religious vocation, refugees, special ministries that serve the physical, educational and spiritual needs of our brothers and sisters. “Whatsoever you do to the least of these, my brothers and sisters that you do unto me”. (Mat 25:40). The exercise of charity in the state of grace is the condition by which one can fully celebrate the Eucharist. “God is able to fill you with every good thing, so that you have enough of everything at all times, and may give abundantly for any good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:7-8)
We wish you a fruitful Lenten Season and we look forward to the Joyful Easter season.
The  Bishops of England & Wales sent out a similar letter with an exhortation to attend Mass daily during Lent.   That would be more difficult in this country but it is a thought. 
I am sure that this is an attempt to reclaim our Catholic identity and it was most noticeable at the Academic Mass at Holy Trinity last Sunday at the start of the South African Academic Year.  In the past it was a rather grand professorial occasion and it has now become very much a student affair.  Quite a number of students were wearing "Catholic and Proud of It"  t-shirts!  In the past to be Catholic at university was to be invisible!
I always try and do something extra for Lent and I am getting better at it!  I would always try an attend extra Masses but would fail after the first week.  The last two years, how-ever, I have managed to keep it up...after getting through the second week you're on a roll!
This year I'm going to be braver and give up alcohol.  It will be very difficult as I have to present a wine at the Bacchanalian Society in March and match a wine to food at a lunch.  I have justified this, thanks to the casuistic rationale, that tasting is not drinking. 
Jean is giving up computer games....and that is really hard for her! 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Twixt Charybdis & Scylla.

I've just received a letter from my parish priest asking me to sponsor him per km on the Pronutro AfricanX Trail Run in the Western Cape in March.  It's 90km over 3 days up and down mountains and along beaches and a friend of his is braving the run and his company for the event as it is run in pairs.

I think this is really great and I applaud his initiative and the effort he is making, I would never do it!

I do have a problem with why he is doing it.  The Archdiocese of Johannesburg is building a new Chancery Building at a cost of R30 million.  Our parish has been levied R882 000 to help pay for this and has shown very little interest in raising the money...I think we have raised about R180 000 so far.

I am very opposed to the project.  I agree that the Archdiocese needs new offices etc but I am sure that such huge expenditure is unnecessary as I said in a previous post (scroll down to 18th July).

Our Parish Priest is caught twixt Charybdis & Scylla on this one as he is no-doubt under great pressure from the Archdiocese to produce the cash and is faced with a laity that is less inclined to pay a huge amount foisted upon them without consultation.  What do you do?  Refuse to sponsor him?  That seems mean and churlish.  Sponsor him knowing that the money is going to what could well be someone's personal monument for posterity?  Sponsor him and say "Don't give it to the Archdiocese"!  Any bright ideas?

“Scylla lurks inside it – the yelping horror,
yelping, no lounder than any suckling pup
but she’s a grizzly monster, I assure you.
No one could look on her with any joy,
not even a god who meets her face-to-face…
She has twelve legs, all writhing, dangling down
and six long swaying necks, a hideous head on each,
each head barbed with a triple row of fangs, thickset,
packed tight – and armed to the hilt with black death!”

“Atop it a great fig-tree rises, shaggy with leaves,
beneath it awesome Charybdis gulps the dark water down.
Three times a day she vomits it up, three times she gulps it down,
that terror! Don’t be there when the whirlpool swallows down -
not even the earthquake god could save you from disaster.”

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Education and an ID Card!

I have changed the appearance of this blog because I have often had problems with reversed out type... I am sure you have noticed!  I must now go back through the blog and adjust things....aaaaagh!

The SA Catholic Bishops' Conference seems to be saying more things than usual.  They came out with an anti-abortion statement recently and now this:

Bishops’ express deep concern at the education crisis in the Eastern Cape, urge action.

Children are the hope and future of the nation. Consequently, the Southern African Catholic Bishops, express their deep concern about the current crisis effecting schools in the Eastern Cape Province. Access to education is a matter of simple justice for each child – and it is incumbent on Government to provide it without fail.
St Thomas Aquinas
The lack of infrastructure and the rundown state of schools as well as the ‘go slow’ by teachers is putting the future of many of our children at risk. The Eastern Cape Provincial Government must take appropriate action to rescue the floundering education system, which is denying children their right to education. Otherwise the government will be responsible for perpetuating the second class ‘bantustan’ education system, and contributing to the wide divide between rich and poor
Education plays a crucial role in building up a democratic society. Teachers as key role players must put the children first and teach them by example to be engaged and responsible members of society, who give meaning and purpose in life by being agents of change for the good of all. In order to achieve this, teachers must make teaching a vocation that is marked by conscientious work, professionalism, care, love and a breadth of vision.
We acknowledge the efforts that are being made to end the ‘go slow’, as well as government’s attempts to arrest the slide to chaos. Nevertheless we call on national and provincial government to take full charge and control of the situation, work together with  SADTU (the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union) to end the impasse as soon as is practically possible. They owe it to the future generations of the Eastern Cape to ensure that the doors of learning are open to all the children in the Province.
- Issued by the Office of the Secretary General of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

St John Bosco
Good for them!  We are big players in education here and it is so depressing to see so many children leave school with no hope and even those who have had their hopes raised by passing their matriculation having them dashed when they realise that the certificate is of little worth and will certainly be of little value in the job market.

When you think that we spend a disproportionately high proportion of GDP on education it has little effect.  If the Conference can come up with constructive suggestions through drawing on Catholic educational expertise and trying to ensure that those suggestions were implemented the we might get some where.

A Catholic ID Card

The Bishops of England & Wales are introducing one that looks like this and is about the size of a credit card.  "In a case of Emergency contact a Catholic Priest."

If it will fit into an ATM and show our heavenly balance that would be fantastic!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Do we refuse to marry people? And George Herbert.

This quite interesting comment was made in our weekly parish newsletter:

Sometimes unpopular things need to be said. It's not easy and very often I have to mull over
things for a while wondering whether or not I should say them. This weekend I am away as
part of the Engaged Encounter Team – a weekend course for couples wishing to marry in the
Church. So often I get requests for weddings at Trinity from couples who never come near the
Church – it's happened a number of times in recent weeks. It is perplexing to me as to why
the Church has no place in their lives and yet when couples decide to get married they want
a “Church wedding”. The reasons vary – “I want it to be like the movies” to “It‟s what my
mom really wants” or “It‟s my Gran's dream for me”. Sometimes couples do decide to come
back to Church after being married in the Church but, in my experience, these are not the
majority. I guess the real nagging question for me is who is actually being disingenuous:
Couples? Me? Both? I find weddings to be the most difficult part of my ministry because so
often integrity seems to be lacking. I believe that couples do mean what they say to each
other but I am, sadly, often sceptical about why they want to get married in the Church.
There are couples (and I am always grateful for them) who do take the religious side seriously
and truly want to live their marriage in midst of the Church community. Sadly, I cannot say
this for all and  sometimes am really tempted to advise them to forget about a Church
wedding and go to the registry office because it would be much more honest of them and me.
A few months ago I wrote a column for The Southern Cross on weddings (filed on their blog
page under “Southern Blogs”). It‟s a tough call but at one point have we sacrificed our
integrity and honesty?                                  - Fr Russell Pollitt SJ    

And there was a stronger note on marriage:

For those intending Marriage 
People wanting to get married should marry in their Parish Church  – i.e. the place they
regularly attend. Archdiocesan regulation stipulates that you have to see a priest at least 6
months before your proposed date of marriage. Couples wanting to get married in the Catholic
Church have to do the necessary preparation – an Engaged Encounter Weekend. Couples that
wish to get married in the Church should be practicing their faith: i.e. attending mass regularly
and be involved in the Parish community. Unfortunately we, at Holy Trinity, do not conduct
weddings at venues.

It's quite difficult, this one because, theoretically, it can be a means of reclaiming people for the Church even if it seldom is in practise.  I would have thought that erring on the side of leniency is best.  When I was in Bloemfontein I always remember the Administrator of the Cathedral preaching on an awareness of people's needs and how important it is to take a funeral because decency is expected and that means a priest or minister being present.  (He had just conducted a funeral at the crematorium when no other denomination would.)  If just one couple a year come to Mass on a regular basis as a result of being married in the church it is worthwhile.

A discussion amongst Anglicans on Ship of Fools brought up the topic of George Herbert, one of my favourite Anglican characters.  (another is Hensley Henson....some other time!)  I happened to mention that I found two verses from "The Elixir" very useful as prayers when driving!  Here it is...verses 1 & 3 are the ones I mean.  It appeared in his book "THe Temple" published in 1633 just after he died.  he was rector of Bemerton in Wiltshire for only three years before dying of tuberculosis but was renowned for his caring ministry, visiting the sick and taking them the Sacrament and the image I always have of him is of tolling the church bell so that the villagers would know that he was saying Mattins or Evensong and praying for them.

¶   The Elixir.

    TEach me, my God and King,
        In all things thee to see,
And what I do in any thing,
        To do it as for thee:

        Not rudely, as a beast,
        To runne into an action;
But still to make thee prepossest,
        And give it his perfection.

        A man that looks on glasse,
        On it may stay his eye;
Or if he pleaseth, through it passe,
        And then the heav’n espie.

        All may of thee partake:
        Nothing can be so mean,
Which with his tincture (for thy sake)
        Will not grow bright and clean.

        A servant with this clause
        Makes drudgerie divine:
Who sweeps a room, as for thy laws,
        Makes that and th’ action fine.

        This is the famous stone
        That turneth all to gold:
For that which God doth touch and own
        Cannot for lesse be told.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Reflections on Corinthians & Secular Distractions

The second reading on Sunday was from I Corinthians 7: 29 - 31.  Corinth was the 4th largest in the Roman Empire and a very new city at that!  Ancient Corinth had been completely destroyed by the Romans in 146BC, the men being killed and the women and children sold into slavery.  Julius Caesar had re-established the city in 44BC so when St Paul arrived there in 51AD it was just over 100 years old.

I couldn't help thinking that there are many parallels with modern Johannesburg.  It was a city based only on making money, it was cosmopolitan with many Jewish inhabitants...hence St Paul's visit.  Money came from trade, not mining, so there was a constant influx of peoples and no doubt a lot of people surviving on the fringes of the city.  St Paul in his two letters is well aware of the problems of living in a city like this.  If we take out his assumption that the parousia will take place almost immediately, a lot of what he says speaks to us as inhabitants of a secular city with no real traditions.

St Clement also wrote to the Corinthians - I don't think he wrote the second letter attributed to him - and that is encouraging for us because he also addresses the issues of Christians assailed by secularism and what Pope Benedict calls relativism.

Corinth became untenable because of earthquakes!  Maybe St Paul had a point!

The two main topics hitting the International Catholic Media at the moment are the new Health Care provisions in the USA that states that all Plans must cover free contraception and sterilisation and in the UK that Clinics offering abortions will be allowed to advertise on television.  What worries me about the Catholic outrage at these and other issues is the way that so often it can distract from our spiritual  life.  Don't misunderstand me.  I am not saying that we should ignore issues that we find in conflict with our Faith but it is so easy to lose focus and forget that we are here to worship God.

If we think of people who always work in the front line of human misery such as social workers it can be very difficult not to think of anything other than the people you are working with and only to see life in that context. Everyone needs to disengage and needs support from others if they are working with people in stressful environments.  The problem is exactly the same in a Catholic context, that we can only see situations where the Faith seems to be losing ground rather than keeping our eyes on that which is good and true and positive.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” -Philipians 4:6

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Moral Issue that so often works against us.

This cartoon from The Independent newspaper in the UK following the pro euthanasia report submitted to the British Government sponsored by its supporters says far more about "pro life" than the shrill pro-life lobby.

I am quite naturally pro life as well as being a Catholic but the pro-life movement I find generally repellent with its gory videos, it's fanaticism and its inability to see that not everything is black and white;  that there are shades of grey!

I find it particularly difficult in circumstances where people are kept alive by artificial means with minimal brain activity.  "Thou shalt not kill but need not strive officiously to keep alive."  I would agree with that and I hope that applies to me, if necessary.....not that I'd know anything about it either way!

St Margaret of Antioch, Patron of Pregnant Women
Similarly to whip up emotions over abortion and to equate it with murder, which it is not, has resulted in real murders in the USA.  It's the inability to engage in argument and only to shout slogans that does the cause and the Church much harm.

The pro-choice group is not much better and I think the reason for this is that it seems to be impossible to discuss the issue without it being emotive.  Pro-life should be something positive but so often it comes across as being purely negative.  When you think about it 99% of people are opposed to abortion, the disagreement is on how to handle the catastrophic problems of unwanted pregnancy:  those who see abortion as a solution of last resort and those who do not and both groups claim the moral high ground.
St Aloysius Gonzaga, Patron of AIDS caregivers & sufferers

The slogan shouting is at its loudest in the comfortable world of developed countries where there are options ( and I don't mean pro-choice options). In countries like this where newborn babies end up in rubbish bins and shallow graves and so many are born HIV positive the Church's priority is to assist people in their distress and show compassion and that, to me, is the moral high ground.

The most important thing is prayer for everyone involved, no matter what side they are on, and not to neglect the victims.

To end on a lighter...or maybe heavier.....note a wonderful Catholic joke I picked up from The Hermeneutic of Continuity Blog:

A Higgs Boson particle walks into a Catholic Church. So the priest comes up to him and says "Oi you! Higgs Boson! You can't come in 'ere."

So the Higgs Boson particle says, "Without me you can't have any mass."