Saturday, 31 July 2010


Silvio Berlusconi 09072008Image via Wikipedia
The man is a dangerous fool. I would have liked to write something much stronger, but I'd hate to turn people off the gentler religious content here.

Just read this from the Guardian. He's trying to censor Facebook and blogging.

He's trying to censor Facebook and blogging. It's not enough that he basically owns Italian TV, has incredible influence over the papers, intimidating the ones that criticise him and governs the bloody country, he's trying to censor the Internet like in, you know, communist China!

Seriously - do us all a favour. Write to your local MP and tell them that you're very concerned about the activities of a certain intellectual pygmy who has somehow contrived  to become the prime minister of a country in the European Union. That you, in point of fact, could have sworn that you saw your own prime minister in the same room as the man, speaking to him as if he didn't represent a serious threat to society.

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Saintly Catholic scientist types

St. George Jackson Mivart (1827-1900)Image via Wikipedia
Since Monica's been away, I've been listening to Catholic Answers Live a bit. I like CAL, but I don't usually listen because they're a bit long, and there're 10 of the buggers every week, so it's a bit impegnativo. But give it a listen if you haven't. It's easy to find the podcast, either through the site or iTunes. I like the host they have now; the old one was a bit earnest, but they replaced him with a Canadian who's always messing about.

Anyway, I like it, and I like learning new things, such as the existence of two Catholic scientists who otherwise would not have passed under my radar. One is a Saint (*) and the other is having his cause for sainthood postulated.

The one I just found out about is St. George Jackson Mivart (see also Catholic Encyclopedia). I went to the trouble of  editing a video of the CAL show that mentioned him so here it is:

It's only 2 minutes, and it saves me from paraphrasing other people, but he's an interesting person.

The other person I found out about is "servant of God", Jérôme Lejeune. No mp3 to fall back on here - he did important research into Down syndrome, discovering that children with the disease have an extra copy (called a trisomy) of a chromosome in chromosome 21. From the wikipedia entry, I have also just learnt why my wife is currently knocking back the folic acid. He doesn't have a cause for sainthood because of the science, obviously, but because of the love he showed to Down syndrome children.

So I found that quite interesting and hopefully you did too. It's good to find out more about your brothers in Christ, and the many gifts that they offered to Christ, the Church and the world.


* Confusingly he may not be a Saint after all. The wikipedia talk page says he's simply named for St. George. Why does life have to be so confusing?
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Saturday, 24 July 2010

Albums Meme

Just remembered that I like these meme things, so, inspired by the fact that I've just finished transferring my music into iTunes (woohoo!), I've decided to start another one. It's a bit lighter than a prayer meme...

First album you bought? (obviously)

Pulp - Different Class. Nothing to be ashamed of there.

The artist with the most albums in your collection?

Not absolutely sure, but Captain Beefheart and his/the Magic Band is a safe bet.

Most pretentious album?

Set myself a bit of a challenge here; there are so many potential candidates: inaccessible jazz and classical music, art-rock, Marxist rock, music which is simply gratuitously obscure. I think I'll go with Ornette Coleman - Beauty is a Rare Thing. I mean, honestly, who buys a jazz box set?

Most embarrassing album (that you don't want to get rid of)?

The category which inspired the meme: Daniel Bedingfield - Second First impression. The difficult second album! I didn't actually bother putting this one on iTunes though - I was listening to Gotta (sic) Get Thru (sic) This instead. Cough.

Most under-rated album (by other people, not you)?

Longpigs - The Sun is Often Out. All killer, no filler. Don't understand why they didn't manage to put another half-decent album out afterwards.

An album you own because of a particular person?

Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention - Weasels Ripped My Flesh. When I was doing my A-levels, my English Lit teacher went off on pregnancy, and the Vice-Principal did a stint of teaching to cover her absence. Nice man. He was quite the ex-hippy, and I forget how it happened, but he lent me this album, which I bought. Odd, considering the scorn that Zappa pours on hippies.

Last album you bought?

Two together, as it happens. Abba - 18 Hits (Monica felt that Abba was a gap in my collection, and she had a point I feel) and Fabrizio De André - Anime Salve
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Thursday, 22 July 2010

Prayer Meme

James got tagged for a meme, which I liked the sound of. He didn't tag me for it, but as I feel like doing it:

Name your three [...] favourite prayers, and explain why they're your favourites. Then tag five [people] - give them a link, and then go and tell them they have been tagged. Finally, tell the person who tagged you that you've completed the meme... [The Liturgy and the Sacraments are off limits here.] I'm more interested in people's favourite devotional prayers.

Not that these are in order of preference, but first would be the Jesus prayer.

There is no definitive version; it's a sort of continuum starting simply from the Holy Name of Jesus itself to a phrase based on some healing miracles of Jesus and the parable of the pharisee and the tax collector:

Jesus - Lord Jesus, Son of David [or Son of the living God], have mercy on me, a sinner!
(Mt 20:30-34, Mk 10:46-52, Lk 18:35-42, Lk 18:9-14)

This is also a liturgical prayer, but never mind. Consider that the original Greek of the gospels for "Lord, have mercy!" became the the ecclesiastical Greek of the penitential rite: "Kýrie, eléison."

I suppose the main reason that I like this prayer is that it never seems out of place! It's also simple and easy to remember. I understand that some Orthodox Christians actually use it as a form of constant meditation, though that still sounds like a pretty tall order to me. I've found it very helpful in times of temptation.

And consider what's being requested too:

"Lord," they answered, "we want our sight."

"Rabbi, I want to see."

"Lord, I want to see,"

It was Fr. Robert Barron of the Word On Fire podcast (he's American, but don't hold it against him; I suspect he's a convert from evangelicalism - he always begins his homilies with "Friends, ...") who pointed out to me that with this prayer, and consequently in the penitential rite, you're not wallowing in "Catholic" guilt, but simply acknowledging your radical dependence on Jesus to see the world through God's eyes, recognising the extent of your spiritual blindness and asking for the healing that we need in order to be conformed to Christ - that is, to become men, made in the image of God.

Then there's the litany of the saints. It's long (though in fact, like the Jesus prayer, I don't believe there's a definitive version), but the obvious part goes like this:

St. Peter, pray for us.
St. Paul, pray for us.
St. Andrew, pray for us.
St. James, pray for us.

Looking at it on paper, it probably seems dull as ditchwater, not helped by the fact that there are rather a lot of saints to invoke, if you're in the mood, but I find it a beautiful prayer. Something to experience rather than read - like all prayer then. There's also the fact that, at least in my experience, it is sung rather than recited. The major part of it is a very simple chant that a child could pick up pretty quickly, but it draws you in, it helps you to meditate on the fellowship, witness and intercession of our brothers in Christ.

That's the obvious focus of the prayer, the communion of the saints, and it so happens that this is a doctrine which is dear to me. When I became Catholic, I had the distinct impression of entering a larger world, and the saints have a lot to do with that. How awesome to think of all the heroes of faith who intercede for me in the Church, the body of Christ, the one mediator between God and men! Evangelicals are great at fellowship compared to Catholics - on a practical level they kick our arses frankly, but when I think of the universal -in time and space - Church, of the men and women who are on my side in the struggle against sin, the world and the devil, it doesn't seem to matter so much.

Another part of the reason that I like it so much is because it reminds me of so many particular positive moments, mostly at Sacred Heart, my old parish in Exeter: my reception into the Catholic Church at my first Easter Vigil, a beautiful ordination I went to on my birthday one year with James and Ben, my stint with the awesome Sacred Heart 11 o' clock Choir, my own wedding. It's an important enough prayer for me that I wanted it there on that day, and I wanted to sing it to proclaim my love and commitment to Monica to the whole assembly of God.

Than there's the Angelus. Again, I won't quote the whole thing (though it's not long). Here's what seems to me to be the crux of it:

V. The angel of the Lord announced unto Mary.
R. And she conceived by the Holy Spirit.
Hail Mary...

V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
R. Be it done unto me according to your Word.
Hail Mary...

V. And the Word was made flesh.
R. And dwelt among us.
Hail Mary...

As a Catholic, I'm a pretty lousy with Marian prayer; to me the rosary seems as though it's designed to confuse me (I repeat a vocal prayer 50 times while trying to meditate on something else?) but this one speaks to me. In case you didn't know, one of the reasons that we Catholics venerate Mary is that she is the disciple of Christ par excellence. This prayer doesn't actually have that much to do with angels, but is has a lot to do with that discipleship; Mary accepts that message and mission of the Lord (no small matter; remember that, if people put two and two together, she was cruising for a stoning?) in her heart and becomes the Mother of God, of the Eternal Word made flesh in her body. Evangelism? She literally brought the Word of God into the world.

It's a short, largely scriptural prayer which reminds us of the importance of discipleship and evangelism. That's good.

I'm blogging this here, but I'll do the tagging part on Facebook.


An hon mensh for Psalm 27:

One thing I ask of the LORD,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple.
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