Thursday, 26 February 2009

Abstinence in Genesis

The Tree of Knowledge, painting by Lucas Crana...Image via Wikipedia
Reading the Fathers, and Popes, and theologians, I find it remarkable how much you can simply miss reading the Bible on your own. I recently reread Revelations and it was a wholly different experience to when I read it on a Scripture Union or CYFA or something venture in my youth.

The parish here handed out free copies of Pope Benedict's message for Lent for 2009 (looking at the back I see that they apparently cost €1 for 10 pages - that's a bit steep) and I find the following:
We might wonder what value and meaning there is for us Christians in depriving ourselves of something that in itself is good and useful for our bodily sustenance. The Sacred Scriptures and the entire Christian tradition teach that fasting is a great help to avoid sin and all that leads to it. For this reason, the history of salvation is replete with occasions that invite fasting. In the very first pages of Sacred Scripture, the Lord commands man to abstain from partaking of the prohibited fruit: “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die” (Gn 2, 16-17). Commenting on the divine injunction, Saint Basil observes that “fasting was ordained in Paradise,” and “the first commandment in this sense was delivered to Adam.” He thus concludes: “ ‘You shall not eat’ is a law of fasting and abstinence” (cf. Sermo de jejunio: PG 31, 163, 98). Since all of us are weighed down by sin and its consequences, fasting is proposed to us as an instrument to restore friendship with God.
First commandment in paradise - fast. Never would have occurred.
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Monday, 23 February 2009

San Remo

Apparently, Italians think they're too cool for the Eurovision Song Contest. One can't protest too forcefully against this, given that both Arnold Judas Rimmer and Carlton off of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air are too cool for Eurovision as well. At any rate, I once checked on Wikipedia how long it had been since the Italians entered a song in it. It's been quite a while.

They do, however, have their own annual song contest held yearly at San Remo. Monica told me, after being made to endure the Balkan delights of the European contest of song, about it in a sort of wistful way that made me think I would like to watch it. She was perhaps less keen to watch it when we were actually in Italy to see it. That's nostalgia for you I suppose. No-one's allowed to hear the music before the festival or the song gets disqualified, but the lyrics are fair game, so "Ti voglio senza amore” (I want you without love) was being criticised in advance.

I was looking forward to it anyway, and decided it would be a good thing to blog about. That's what I'm doing now, don'cha know. Here are some of the songs I liked. RAI has the videos online, but I don't seem to be able to embed them:

  • MARCO MASINI with "L’Italia” (Italy)
    I like the way he sings with his hands in his pockets.
  • PATTY PRAVO with "E io verrò un giorno là” (And I will come there one day)
    This one grew on me, though I'm not sure her voice works too well in the chorus. She's famous from way back. Not at all sure about the eye make-up.
  • POVIA with "Luca era gay” (Luke was gay)

  • "Luke was gay. Now he's with her." - I liked this one musically. I can't vouch for the words; they're about a man who stops being gay, so it's pretty controversial. Monica says they're not good.

This one I wasn't so keen on, and he sings in a strangulated style. However, the chorus really stuck in my head:

FRANCESCO RENGA with "Uomo senza età” (Man without age)

These are the top three in the main contest.

  1. MARCO CARTA with "La forza mia” (My strength)
    Nothing special.
  2. POVIA with "Luca era gay”)
  3. SAL DA VINCI with "Non riesco a farti innamorare” (I can't [manage to] make you fall in love)
    Again, nothing special. Perhaps a little annoying.

Marco Carta is from Italy's X-Factorish style reality/pop show 'Amici' (Friends - even though they're clearly not) which is probably why he won - it certainly wasn't the outstanding quality of the song. It was certainly no song to win a national contest with. Monica's Dad and Lorenzo both chalked it up to bribery. To my mind, there's no reason to attribute to corruption what can be acounted for by the poor taste of the public. I think William of Ockham would back me up on this, but on the other hand, I wouldn't exactly be surprised if shady dealings had been dealt. Makes a change from complaining about the Balkans anyway.

This song won in the 'Proposte' category, which is to say they're newcomers:

ARISA with "Sincerità” (Sincerity)

We liked it. It's nice. The girl is the antithesis of stage presence though. She must be shy. Plus, I wonder where she got the NHS-style glasses from.

This last one is the winner of a new category this year, which was voted for on the web. I think the web has quite a bit to offer on the whole, but the category is a bit of a gimmick in my opinion. The song's not terrible or anything:

ANIA with "Buongiorno Gente" (Hello people)

Sunday, 22 February 2009


For Lent there's going to be weekly adoration and stations of the cross as well as more opportunities for confession!

If I'm looking forward to Lent, does it mean I'm off on the wrong foot do you suppose?

Friday, 20 February 2009

Lent, The Bishop of Lancaster and the Web

James recently did a post on a talk given by Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue of Lancaster Diocese to the Newman Society at Oxford University.

He says a lot of choice things about the pitiful state of English catholicism, and subsequently gives a lot of suggestions for a personal response. I thought it'd be a good way to approach Lent, so I'll post it here with some handy links.

I want to propose to all of you here tonight the following acts of sacrifice to counter the trials and troubles I have just outlined to you.

Embrace the Tradition of the Church.

To counter the rejection of the past, I want you to sacrifice the modern compulsion for novelty and fashion through embracing the Tradition of the Church, which is nothing more than the source of God's revelation, along with Scripture.

I want you to re-discover the joys and beauty of personal prayer, as well as family and community prayer. Also, to re-discover liturgical prayer, to counter an undue focus on our own human activity. So often the sacred is swamped by the volume of words, noise and activity!

I want you to re-discover the devotions of the Church, such as praying the rosary, the Stations of the Cross, Benediction. I want you to embrace the discipline of praying the daily Office of the Church; the practice of regular confession. The Holy Father goes every week, so why not us also. I want you to know the four Constitutions of the Second Vatican Council inside out, start with the wonderful Constitution on revelation, Dei Verbum.
Some helpful sites for personal prayer are here:
  • Sacred Space - a web-based aid to prayer run by Irish Jesuits
  • Pray-as-you-go - substantially the same thing, but available in mp3 form (also by podcast)
For the Office, I haven't found anything better than Universalis.

The Constitutions of the Second Vatican Council are as follows:
Embrace obedience to the teachings of the Church.

To counter the infiltration of secular ideas such as relativism, utilitarianism, and hedonism into the Church, sacrifice the automatic assumption that your ideas about doctrine and morals must be right, and the Church's 2,000 years reflection on God's revelation must be wrong.

I want you to take a leap of faith, based on trust in the person of Jesus Christ, and start from the assumption that the Church has good reasons for teaching the doctrines and morals that she teaches. Search out those reasons, make the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church the most thumbed and creased books in your libraries. Go, read the Fathers of the Church and St Thomas Aquinas' Summae, with a good guide. Go, study the books and homilies of Pope Benedict XVI, and other good Catholic literature.

And if you hear any Catholic say or teach something that goes against the teaching and discipline of the Church, as safe-guarded by the Pope, politely, but firmly, challenge them, be they a lay catechist, teacher, deacon, priest or even a bishop.
If, for some reason, you want to read the Bible online, BibleGateway works.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is available in its entirety online. To put it briefly, it summarises the teaching of the Catholic Church. It is both offical and relatively up-to-date.

The homilies (sermons) of Benedict XVI are also available online.
A passion that – as Cardinal Newman puts it – the truth is spread to a wide extent among this people of Great Britain.

It is a sad truth that many people are so alienated from the Church, the language of the Bible, and their need for salvation, that they are either indifferent or violently allergic to Christianity. Also, it is heart-breaking to admit that the behaviour of some Catholics, such as paedophile priests and the failure of some in authority in the Church, has damaged the credibility of the Church.

I am convinced that in order to evangelise this generation we must follow the advice of Newman and de Foucauld and concentrate our missionary efforts on showing the unconditional love of Christ for suffering humanity though practical acts of justice and peace. In particular, we must act in solidarity with the poor and all those on the margins of society, migrants, drug addicts, alcoholics, men and women in the sex industry, those suffering mental illness.

We must do this without any ulterior motives, such as seeking converts. We must only undertake this work to show them the love of Jesus Christ.

It is only when or if they ask us why we do this work, that we can gently begin to talk to them about Jesus, and only at the pace that they want. If they reject Jesus, but accept His practical love through our actions, we must be content with that.
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Saturday, 14 February 2009


Ashes imposed on the forehead of a Christian o...Image via Wikipedia
I don't know if you've noticed, but Lent is sneaking up on us - Ash Wednesday is the 25th - so it's about time to dust off the sackcloth and then sit in the dust.

At any rate, I wanted to post some verses that I've looked at in a preparatory fashion:

You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, 'I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.' The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease. - John 3:28-30
And they said to him, "The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink." And Jesus said to them, "Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days." Luke 5:33-35
"To what then shall I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another,

"'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.'

For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, 'He has a demon.' The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, 'Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is justified by all her children." - Luke 7:31-35
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. - Romans 6:4-11
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. - John 1:12-13
And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. - Matthew 6:16-18
'Why have we fasted, and you see it not?
Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?'

Fasting like yours this day
will not make your voice to be heard on high.
Is such the fast that I choose,
a day for a person to humble himself?
Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast,
and a day acceptable to the LORD?

"Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.
And the LORD will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.

- Isaiah 58:3a,4b-7,9b-11
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Monday, 9 February 2009

25 Random Things

Rules: Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you.
  1. I was baptised on Christmas day 1990, aged 8 (if I err not). I kept the certificate with my Sheffield City Council 50m and 400m swimming certificates for some time. Little bit of filing humour for you there.

  2. I was nicknamed 'Dino' in my GCSE sociology class. Ostensibly this was because I resembled a pterodactyl.

  3. I am continually bewildered by polarisation; why, for example, can't orthodox and liberal Catholics find more common ground? Why, for example, are left-wing concerns so different to right-wing concerns?

  4. Contrary to what may appear to be the case, I don't hate Robbie Williams and Davina McCall. I just think life would be better if they were out of the charts, the news, the telly, the radio - as applicable. Fortunately in Italy no-one's heard of Davina McCall.

  5. Mmm. Russian classical music. Shostakovich, Stravinsky, Mussorgsky, Prokofiev... so good.

  6. I really miss my old choir at Sacred Heart.

  7. I can't quite get over the fact that PCs still exist and Amigas don't. An injustice that is quite emblematic of what is wrong with the world, to my mind. I even took an Amiga to university to write my essays with (of course) but I did cave in and got one of Bill Gates' soulless boxes before the end.

  8. Since I married in August, I have slept in a real double-bed on but one occasion.

  9. Monica is envious of my eyelashes. Apparently they look as though I use mascara on them. For the record, I don't.

  10. I really appreciate confession. I had cottoned on to it's practical utility well before I entered the Church. I feel a bit sorry for those who live their Christian life without it, for whatever reason.

  11. I went through a phase at university of leaving the house barefoot, especially to go to Mass at the university chaplaincy when it was practically across the road. Monica found this fascinating at the time, but she would never let me do it now we're married. I can only assume she doesn't want other young women exposed to the raw sexual magnetism of my naked feet.

  12. For more or less the duration of my teenage years, I wrote music on my computer. It's here.

  13. I can't click my fingers. I seem to get by all the same.

  14. For a while I've nursed a vague desire to eat a locust. Not any locust in particular. That probably sounds very grim, but they're a bit like flying prawns I suppose, and I've no trouble with them. I have no desire whatsoever to eat anything's testicles however; that's a delicacy too far.

  15. I think 'Ulysses' by Joyce is not worth my time. He can write a boring, impenetrable lump of words if he wants to and then expect the adulation of the modern world, but balls to him if he wants me to read it.

  16. Although I think (and this is not a consensus view) that I'm generally pretty laid-back, I can get very competitive. On the other hand, this only occurs when I think I have a realistic chance of winning. If I'm not good at something, I tend to just leave it to other people. I suppose this isn't a very sporting attitude.

  17. Probably my favourite grammatical error is the double superlative a) because it sounds funny when you hear one and b) because it has a nice name.

  18. I am (or was in England anyway) continually disturbed by the number of men that don't wash their hands after going to the toilet. Euggh. I think we're talking about a majority here.

  19. Crisps: what the hell is the point of crisps? They don't fill you up, they're unhealthy, and every flavour is disappointing. Write to your MP.

  20. For several years now, I've wanted to own a filing cabinet. Not ardently, you understand, but consistently nonetheless.

  21. I'm very sceptical about the religious benefits of faith-schools. I don't think (all other things being equal) that I want my children to go to one.

  22. When I buy a new bit of kit, I like to read the instructions fully. I don't like the idea of not being fully appraised of all the functionality that I've just shelled out for. I did think that this was just a man thing, but it seems to me that a lot of men prefer not to read manuals. Perhaps this is because they feel that if they work out how to use it on their own, they're as good as whoever invented it.

  23. When I was young and foolish, I decided to commit 'Shine Jesus Shine' to memory. Happily, those days are behind me.

  24. My earliest memories (which may be lies, dreams, or both) involve me falling (or perhaps being pushed) down the stairs and a horde of ladybirds flying into my eyes.

  25. I thought I had brown eyes until Monica said they were green. Brown, green, it's all good.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Prayer Request

Monica's mum has had an accident. She fell and fractured a vertebra. Now she's got a month of ceiling-staring to look forward to, with attendant problems.

Could you send a few prayers her way? Thanks.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

St. Anthony again

Hi etymology fans,

Not every day that the church newsletter gives you an etymological factoid, but this week, yes:

For those who have come recently to Offagna, [the feast of St. Anthony] remains little understood because they don't know the meaning of the distribution of the blessed bread. In a time in which bread is not highly regarded, it should be a symbol of brotherhood and union. The word 'companion' ['compagno'] derives from bread: The Latins said "Cum pane", that is, being in agreement and being friends because they ate the same bread; we should be like this as well.