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!