Sunday, September 30, 2007

Graduale Romanum

For those of you who like their music Roman, Latin, and Plain (unlike my little brother, who is currently listening to Megadeth) I have been recommended recently this great site, which makes it possible to download the entire Graduale Romanum: MusicaSacra (Church Music Association of America).

Just to emphasise, it is not just 'old fashioned' music, but sacred, and steeped in culture and beauty. There are many fine young composers writing music for this genre today, in continuity with our past. Even in our own Birmingham Oratory there is an acquaintance of mine who writes music and sings in the choir.

Holy Angels

There seems to be several feasts around this time in honour of the Angels. In the ordinary Catholic calender, Gabriel and Raphael have been combined with yesterday's traditional Michaelmas (from which the university term derives its name) for St Michael the Archangel. Then on Tuesday we celebrate the Guardian Angels.

The name Michael is Hebrew and means "who is like to God?" and recalls the battle in heaven between the goodies and baddies, due to Lucifer's rebellion, which continues down the ages. So many of our modern day myths are based on this struggle between good and evil, light and dark. What I love about St Michael the Archangel, is he is the 'top dog' in that struggle, the standard-bearer, who leads us into heaven and is therefore represented in our Tradition as holding the scales of divine justice. He also presides over our worship with God, as he is the angel seen in heaven by St John, standing near the altar of God with a golden censor in his hand. He offers the prayers of the Faithful to God like the rising of sweet incense. If you click on St Michael on my side bar (towards the bottom) you will be able see a wonderful prayer addressed to him. A very holy priest told me recently to pray this every day, and be wary of the attacks which the devil will make on my family.

But what is an angel? The word is derived from the Latin angelus and the Greek aggelos, but in Hebrew means "one going" or "one sent." It is a celestial or heavenly being in the Latin, as distinct from a human messenger. However, the Hebrew uses the two terms indifferently. This may help to explain why I have always called my wife an angel, since in a very real way she has led my life towards a wonderful light, and I feel she was sent by God to do this for me. Apparently a better latinization would be to call her a nuntius, which quickly loses my original poetic intention!

With regards to heavenly angels, which it now seems fashionable for everyone to think sweetly of, there is a wonderful entry in the Catholic Encyclopedia. Here is an extract from the closing paragraph; a summary of the role angels have played in salvation history:
It is easy for skeptical minds to see in these angelic hosts the mere play of Hebrew fancy and the rank growth of superstition, but do not the records of the angels who figure in the Bible supply a most natural and harmonious progression? In the opening page of the sacred story of the Jewish nation is chose out from amongst others as the depositary of God's promise; as the people from whose stock He would one day raise up a Redeemer. The angels appear in the course of this chosen people's history, now as God's messengers, now as that people's guides; at one time they are the bestowers of God's law, at another they actually prefigure the Redeemer Whose divine purpose they are helping to mature. They converse with His prophets, with David and Elias, with Daniel and Zacharias; they slay the hosts camped against Israel, they serve as guides to God's servants, and the last prophet, Malachi, bears a name of peculiar significance; "the Angel of Jehovah." He seems to sum up in his very name the previous "ministry by the hands of angels", as though God would thus recall the old-time glories of the Exodus and Sinai. The Septuagint, indeed, seems not to know his name as that of an individual prophet and its rendering of the opening verse of his prophecy is peculiarly solemn: "The burden of the Word of the Lord of Israel by the hand of His angel; lay it up in your hearts." All this loving ministry on the part of the angels is solely for the sake of the Saviour, on Whose face they desire to look. Hence when the fullness of time was arrived it is they who bring the glad message, and sing"Gloria in excelsis Deo". They guide the newborn King of Angels in His hurried flight into Egypt, and minister to Him in the desert. His second coming and the dire events that must precede that, are revealed to His chosen servant in the island of Patmos, It is a question of revelation again, and consequently its ministers and messengers of old appear once more in the sacred story and the record of God's revealing love ends fittingly almost as it had begun: "I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches."
How glorious that every baptised Christian is entrusted to a guardian angel; "Behold I will send My angel, who shall go before thee, and keep thee in thy journey, and bring thee unto the place that I have prepared" (Exodus 23:20) and that, when all is done, our angel will say (in the words of J.H. Newman's Dream of Gerontius):

My work is done,
My task is o'er,

And so I come,

Taking it home,
For the crown is won,


For evermore!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Newman Circle Meeting

On Saturday we attended an open meeting with the Birmingham Newman Circle at the Oratory. It was a very interesting occasion, which featured two talks on the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman, founder of the English Oratories and our church of the Immaculate Conception in Edgbaston.

The first talk was by Brother frank McGrath FMS about the impending publication of volume 32(!) of Neman's Letters & Diaries, based on recently discovered letters by Newman to all sorts of people and countries.

A feature of this talk was two pictures handed out, one of which I have scanned onto this post below. It is a sketch of Newman's funeral, with huge crowds on the Hagley Road lining the procession to the graveyard at Rednal. What an occasion that must have been! Even the Quakers on Bristol Road were out in force. The victorian building on the right is no longer there; replaced with a ghastly 60s affair. Behind it is the Oratory, with the House itself flush with the Hagley Road and clearly visible in the centre of the sketch.

Brother Lewis Berry (who is training for the priesthood as a member of Birmingham Oratory) also gave an excellent talk entitled "Christian Witness & Social Action" which I felt was particularly pertinent in light of this day and age. It gathered together strands of Newman's writings with that of Our Holy Father, Benedict XVI's encyclical Deus Caritas Est, giving us a true vision of Christian charitable endeavours. These should be based on the love of Christ for us as a foundation, and extend to others who must be loved as individuals and not means to an end.

Friday, September 21, 2007

St Matthew, Apostle & Evangelist

Os justi meditábitur sapiéntiam, et lingua ejus loquétur judícium: lex Dei ejus in corde ipsíus. Noli aemulári in malignántibus: neque zeláveris faciéntes iniquitátem.

The mouth of the just shall meditate wisdom, and his tongue shall speak judgment: the law of his God is in his heart. Be not emulous of evil doers: nor envy them that work iniquity.

Today is the feast day of my Patron Saint Matthew, the author of the inspired first Gospel. By contrast, I'm not doing anything special! If I'm lucky I may make it to Mass! But it's nice to reflect upon today's Gospel, which speaks to me in so many ways:
At that time, Jesus saw a man sitting in the custom house, named Matthew; and he saith to him: Follow me. And he rose up and followed him. And it came to pass as he was sitting at meat in the house, behold many publicans and sinners came, and sat down with Jesus and his disciples. And the Pharisees seeing it, said to his disciples: Why doth your master eat with publicans and sinners? But Jesus hearing it, said: They that are in health need not a physician, but they that are ill. Go then and learn what this meaneth, I will have mercy and not sacrifice. For I am not come to call the just, but sinners.
(Matthew 9:9-13)

As a physician myself, I must remember that the true physician is surely Christ, who alone has the power to heal souls, as he did with Matthew.

"Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God; Have mercy on me, a sinner"

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Borne Again

We have just enjoyed the new movie "Borne Ultimatum" at a special Newbies screening in Worcester's Odeon. There were lots of babies there, with the lights remaining on, the sound a little quieter and no one worried about the occasional yelp. Maddy was certainly yelping with excitement when she saw Matt Damon in action!

Over at Cally's Kitchen there is a good summary of the film. The real revelation, of course, was that Jason Bourne finds out his true identity: a Catholic. So after he plunges into the ocean at the end, amidst gunfire, he promptly dries off and finds the nearest Catholic Church for a healthy confession.

Okay, maybe not.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Ordinary and Extraordinary

Click here to read my original train of thought...

Firstly I should say the Masses at the Birmingham Oratory are anything but "ordinary." An average, ordinary Catholic Mass, for starters, will have the Priest behind the altar facing the people throughout. The traditional common direction of prayer, ad orientem, is preserved at the Oratory which means the Priest will face the same direction as the people, figuratively towards God, throughout the recitation of the Canon during the principle part of the Mass said at the Altar. This is visibly the greatest distinction, but I should like to take comparisons a step further, and briefly compare the way the 'Ordinary Use' of the Roman Rite, with its greatest solemnity, compares with the High Masses of old, to see how the missals truly differ.

Back in November last year I wrote a post entitled "Aesthetics of the Mass" in which I described what I saw to be the difference in the old and new Rites. Since then I have assisted with my presence at three High Masses using the 1962 Missal (have a look here), and have an even better impression of how these, at the Oratory, differ from the usual High Mass on Sunday (the text of which can be found here). As I have tried to illustrate by the photo, the most striking distinction for me is the way the Ambone or lectern now predominates the first part of the Mass, with a microphone placed on the opposite side of the Sanctuary for the Priest to address all other parts (confiteor, prayers, etc). Although the Altar is still kissed and incensed, it plays very little role in the new Liturgy of the Word. In the 'Extraordinary Use' the Subdeacon sings the Epistle (usually of St Paul) from the right side of the Sanctuary (photo, right) and facing East (away from the People). A Gradual Psalm is then sung, and then the Alleluia verse, or a Tract, in which solemnity is afforded the Deacon who sings the Gospel on the opposite side of the Sanctuary facing North (or sideways to the people; photo, below). The Celebrant stands by the Altar and faces this preaching of the Holy Gospel.

The new way of doing things is for all the preaching and reading to be done from a single place; the Ambone. The rationale is a unity between a dual nature of the presence of Christ in the Mass:
The Eucharist is light above all because at every Mass the liturgy of the Word of God precedes the liturgy of the Eucharist in the unity of the two "tables", the table of the Word and the table of the Bread.
(Mane Nobiscum Domine - Apostolic Letter of John Paul II)

I think it is a shame the way the Liturgy of the Word is centred in this single place, and by and large does not involve the celebrant (who represents Christ). A glorious feature of the High Mass in the Extraordinary Use is the dynamism and movement, symmetry and contrast in the first part of the Mass. At the Oratory, certain features are retained: the celebrant blesses incense and the Deacon for the reading of the Gospel, and does so from his chair rather than from the Altar. He remains seated during much of this. There is still a Gospel procession, which involves a transfer of the Gospel book from the Altar to the Ambone. Much of this still retains symbolism. But I feel great care needs to be taken, especially since the readings are now in the vernacular (as requested by the II Vatican Council, and now permitted even in the 1962 Liturgy). By no longer retaining Latin for the preaching of scriptures, and having the reader face us (including a lay reader for the First Reading, although the Oratory retains the Subdeacon for the Second Reading) we are presented with a situation where the "Mass of the Catechumens" becomes a reading of the Bible and exposition of it: the "Liturgy of the Word." The Mass becomes artificially fragmented and we are fooled into thinking Christ is present in equal measure through this reading of scriptures. Many churches have a seperation of the children for this first part because it is seen purely as catechesis, which is better achieved by lay people, on their level.

The original division between the two parts of the Mass dates back to ancient Christian times, when those present were divided into the Catechumens, or Christians by desire and belief but not Baptism, and the Faithful. The former could take part in the initial readings, prayers and chants, but were not permitted to communicate or be present at Mass; they were dismissed before the Offertory. This division has not continued, except in the naming of the two parts of the Mass. Nowadays it seems there has been a theology based around Scripture which seeks to displace the sacramental presence of Christ. He is present in the Blessed Sacrament, above and before any other presence (such as presence in the believers gathered, or present in the Priest, or present in the Gospel). The whole Mass should prepare us to receive Christ in the Sacrifice of Calvary; ideally through receiving communion but also spiritually in prayer. If we are not being led into that specific reality then we are merely becoming self absorbed and distracted.

Luckily at the Oratory the sheer brilliance of the Liturgy of the Eucharist is preserved through traditional signs and gestures: the Priest moves to the Altar and no longer faces the people. Bells are rung at highly significant points in the Canon to remind us of the importance of the presence of the Holy Spirit sanctifying and transforming the gifts of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Our Lord. But this turning towards the Lord in the second part of the Mass draws the division ever more distinctly for me of how we are no longer addressing God in the first part of the Mass, but celebrating ourselves. Most Catholic Churches run with this symbolism so far that all reverence and solemnity is forgotten, and a community becomes closed in on itself. Circular church buildings spring to mind.

This post is not intended to criticise. I use the example of the Oratory's High Mass on Sunday because it clearly lends aspects of the older Liturgy to itself, and attempts to create continuity between the two uses of the Roman Rite. But distinctions remain very clear, and these can be summed up as a dumbing down of the Liturgy in the new missal, to make it more 'people friendly'. I will close with some words from Pope Paul VI, spoken when the new missal of 1970 was released:
This change has something astonishing about it, something extraordinary. This is because the Mass is regarded as the traditional and untouchable expression of our religious worship and the authenticity of our faith. We ask ourselves, how could such a change be made?

In the new rite you will find the relationship between the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, strictly so called, brought out more clearly, as if the latter were the practical response to the former. You will find how much the assembly of the faithful is called upon to participate in the celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice, and how in the Mass they are and fully feel themselves "the Church." You will also see other marvellous features of our Mass. But do not think that these things are aimed at altering its genuine and traditional essence.

Rather try to see how the Church desires to give greater efficacy to her liturgical message through this new and more expansive liturgical language; how she wishes to bring home the message to each of her faithful, and to the whole body of the People of God, in a more direct and pastoral way.
For me, the newer use of the Roman Rite has certainly fostered within me an appreciation of the huge diversity and variation in the way the Mass is said. In many ways I'm sure it has made things more comprehensible and approachable. But for me all this was simply preparation for the infinite treasures which can be found in the Church's Traditional Liturgy, the Mass which it is now possible to call Present and Extraordinary!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Back From Leave

Allelúia, allelúia! Dulce lignum, dulces clavos, dúlcia ferens póndera: quae sola fuísti digna sustinére Regem caelórum et Dóminum. Allelúia.

Sweet the wood, sweet the nails, sweet the load that hangs thereon: for thou alone, O holy Cross, wast worthy to bear the King and Lord of heaven.

I have arranged a few days leave from work which has enabled us to take a break 'up North' over the weekend. On the way to the magnificent Lake District in Cumbria, we stayed the night in Manchester with a good friend who was Best Man at our wedding. Now, the M6 is a ghastly motorway, linking Birmingham with the North West of England. So although we had planned to arrive in time for a High Mass for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (in thanksgiving for Summorum Pontificum) our plans were scuppered by long queues and standstill traffic. I haven't seen any photos, but I'm sure it was a joyous event. The friend in question we stayed with was very pleased to see us after so many years, and may even be reading this after I stored my Blog under his favourites. I will respect his cautious anonymity by referring to him only by his alias - Hello Mace!

Onto the Lake District where we stayed with some of Wendy's family, who had yet to meet Maddy. They live in a lovely little town called Kendal, which is not far from Lake Windermere. The picture above is the view from their quaint terrace. We took the opportunity before we left of visiting the Beatrix Potter Attraction which brings to life those quintessentially English children's tales. It seems they often bear tribute to the surrounding area where the author lived. Madeleine has already been bought the entire collection of books, which I have always affectionately known as "the Peter Rabbit Books," named after their forerunner. There is now a Hollywood film all about Beatix Potter, which we have yet to see, but which is certainly on our list. Maddy's favourite character? Jemima Puddleduck, of course!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Christus Regnat

The Institute of Christ the King. I have linked to this traditional-style priestly order for some time on my Resources, and would recommend a closer look as I, too, am getting to know them. They have recently opened a house in Liverpool, and so at last have a presence in the UK. What is special about them? It is a society of apostolic life whose goal is the honour of God and the sanctification of priests in the service of the Church and souls. It has a specific missionary aim, with missions in Gabon, Africa as well as Europe and America. The mother-house and international seminary (under the patronage of St Philip Neri) is located in the Archdiocese of Florence in Northern Italy.

But why does it have relevance to us? The Institute recognise the importance of beauty in the liturgy, as a means of drawing our attention to heavenly things through the harmony between faith, liturgy and life. The celebration of the 'extraordinary form' of the Roman Rite following the 1962 missal is the principle means with which they do this. There is also a community of religious sisters which was formed in 2004, "the Adorers of the Sacred Heart" under the patronage of St Madeleine Sophie Barat.

From their web-site:
Thirty-five houses in ten countries, fifty priests, and over sixty seminarians in fifteen years are perhaps sufficient proof that the Institute is on the right path within the Church. It is not our intent to grow quickly and to become mushroom-like, that is big and weak, but to consolidate our Institute by a careful selection of possible candidates and by an always-growing emphasis on a solid community life according to our own spirituality. We do not press our candidates into a typical uniformity of mind and expression, but again we follow St. Francis de Sales who commands us "to be good at what we are," which means that through the collaboration with the grace of God, everyone has to develop the different talents and gifts according to the will of the Lord and to eliminate from his character those traits that are opposed to the divine teachings. It is a combat for life but a fraternal community, the participation in the mysteries of the liturgy, and the continuous study of the marvelous tradition of the Church as reflected by Scripture and the Magesterium, which are the appropriate instruments that give us the strength never to cease in this battle but to look forward to it every day with renewed joy and confidence.
I was really taken by today's mailing, their newsletter for September 2007, which contains a fantastic letter from the Vicar General, Msgr. R. Michael Schmitz (Provincial Superior):
With his recent Apostolic letter, Summorum Pontificum the Vicar of Christ has not only encouraged the celebration of the Classical liturgy, but has also followed yet another theologically important tradition of Holy Mother Church called liberalitas Ecclesiae, the generous "liberality of the Church." This genuine liberality is the very reason we call the Church our Mother, because in the name and authority of the Blessed Lord she dispenses liberally all the graces her children need. She gives suum cuique, as the motto of the Holy See tells us, to everyone what he deserves. Never cheap, meticulous or narrow in the administration of the Divine riches entrusted to them, the Spouse of Christ and her visible head, His Vicar, want to grant free access to the treasures of grace contained in the first place in the sacramental instruments of sanctification to all who worthily request it. Hence, with nearly the entire history of the Church as background, the Bishop of the Universal Church wisely proceeded to lift all restrictions and obstacles that could hinder priests and faithful to access the wide field of grace open to them in the extraordinary form of the Latin Rite. His fatherly gesture merits forever our prayerful gratitude!
These words are worth careful reflection. But for now, I should like to explain some of my thoughts about the contrasts between the way Mass is widely celebrated today, and the way it is celebrated today in the extraordinary form. It is not a question of looking back, or being nostalgic, but of clearly contrasting and asking questions about the differences. The thing I have noticed most about attending the Classical liturgy, is the way it makes me appreciate all Masses, no matter how they are celebrated or presented. This makes me sometimes tearful that Our Lord's sacrifice doesn't receive all due reverence and respect, but most of the time it enhances my own participation. For many, a deep affection for the Classical liturgy creates within them a hatred and disdain for the newer forms of liturgy. I try to resist this simply because it creates only division and is rarely constructive. I am grateful for the instances where the newer liturgy is celebrated with care and honour, especially as it is so consistently done by the Oratory Fathers.

Moreover, a deep experience of the Classical liturgy creates in me a yearning to be closer to it; to centre my life on it, and to bring my whole life to it, before the Cross itself. I am certain that these feelings are aroused in others, attending both forms of the Rite, and this can only be a good thing for the Church. However, a greater understanding and appreciation for the Classical liturgy will serve to orientate Priests and faithful towards a "rehabilitation" of the way Mass is commonly celebrated today. Many features are (or should be) open to a traditional interpretation: the orientation of the Priest (facing the same direction as the people - ad orientem) especially during the "Liturgy of the Eucharist"; the use of Latin; the use of silence (especially the 'silent canon'); the traditional offertory prayers; the prayers at the foot of the Altar; the traditional Confiteor... many of these features which are so desirable (I feel) can be incorporated immediately into the newer form of Mass. Others are forbidden and not allowed as they are a mingling of Rites (or so the previous declarations of the 1980s maintain). A good example of a very traditional and classical way of saying the ordinary form of Mass is at the Oratory's Sunday High Mass. I should reflect more on this at a later date: It is, in appearence, so similar to a Traditional High Mass, that one would be forgiven for not knowing the difference! The actual differences, and their consequences, that remain are worth highlighting, because they are the true and authentic developments which have been made to the Missal, and possibly called for by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council.

To be continued...!

First Picture ICK
Middle Two Photos
©2005-2007 Vernon Quaintance

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

SALVE, sancta Parens, eníxa puérpera Regem, qui caelum terrámque regit in saecula saeculórum.

Hail, holy Mother, thou who didst bring forth the King, who ruleth heaven and earth for ever and ever.
Today is the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Commonly referred to as her Birthday! As we celebrate everyone's birthday so joyfully, so too today we especially celebrate the "Vessel of honour... House of Gold... Cause of our joy"! We preserve the Christian practice of venerating the one who gave birth to our Saviour in the Catholic Faith, as does all of Orthodox Christendom. We place special honour to Mary above all the other Saints because she is the first fruits of all redemption; God deigned to preserve her from the slightest sin in order that she bore forth Christ from an unstained tabernacle. She attained the dignity of a mother, whilst losing not her virginal purity. That is not to say marriage is an imperfect and unholy institution; but that God in his infinite goodness blessed her with riches beyond measure, and showed through her a most extraordinary manifestation of his greatness in the incarnation of His Son; a simple babe.

Our Lady says herself in her great hymn of joy, the Magnificat: "For He that is mighty hath done great things to me: and holy is His name. And His mercy is from generation unto generations, unto them that fear Him". Today is a chance to praise God for the unique birth of an almost heavenly woman. The Blessed Virgin was first and foremost the vehicle by which God made manifest His Wisdom in the world, as we are reminded in today's Epistle (Proverbs 8:22-35):
The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His ways, before He made anything from the beginning. I was set up from eternity, and of old, before the earth was made. The depths were not as yet, and I was already conceived... When He prepared the heavens, I was there.
Before Our Lady was even born, or conceived, she was a plan and thought in Our Heavenly Father's mind: a pre-ordained gift through which our salvation would come. The Incarnation of the Word of God made flesh, Our Lord Jesus Christ, was always meant to be given to the world in this way. Therefore the Angels themselves were presented before all time with a vision of the Salvation of Humanity in the image and person of the Blessed Virgin (Revelation 12): "A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars." A third of those angels rejected this model of humble sanctification, just as men do today; they became the demons, the greatest fall from grace that has ever been.

The feast today originated in the Christian East, and found its way into the Roman calender about the 7th century. We also celebrate the day of her conception, the Immaculate Conception, fixed, due to this feast, as December 8th. They are closely connected and we can see, when combined with Christmas, a dual manifestation of God's revealed saving action in the New Covenant: the lowly birth of a girl who is exulted through the working of the Holy Spirit; and the divine epiphany of the Saviour's Birth and all its implications. Whilst Our Lord's conception, birth and infancy are filled with portents of divine revelation; Our Lady was one of obscurity and hidden grace. Perhaps it is that beauty which shines through in the dignity of every Christian soul.
We beseech Thee, O Lord, grant to Thy servants the gift of Thy heavenly grace; that as the child-bearing of the Blessed Virgin was the beginning of salvation, so the joyful festival of her Nativity may bring us an increase of peace. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Television Debate

As well as the comments on my previous post, there seems to be an awful stir in blog-world over the topic of ditching the TV. Some say its the best thing they ever did, whilst the Eastenders-watchers think I'm a religious extremist who should probably be held in detention.

Check out Jackie Parkes' Blog
Fr Tim's Blog
for more on this.

Meanwhile we're having fun occupying ourselves much the same as before. TV has been on the way out for some time in our household. But tonight we even tuned into EWTN for the coverage on Blessed Teresa of Calcutta! I'd much rather donate my license fee to them, me thinks.

What's your view? Please take the time to vote on my sidebar poll. Follow this link if you can't find it.

God bless everyone!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

My Simpsons Family

Hopefully we won't turn out to be as dysfunctional as the real thing!

Note that this excellent generator can't compute that a girl my daughter's age would have such a head of hair!! Where has Maddy's hair gone??!!

Down with Tele!

Today, September 1st, should be the day I renew my TV licence. For those of you not familiar with this British curiosity; a TV licence is required by the government for every home making use of equipment which receives or records broadcast television pictures. It is a bit like a tax, which ploughs money straight into the British Broadcasting Corporation (the beloved BBC). In reality it is quite outdated, but at over £135 per annum, not cheap.

So me and mine have taken the (somewhat difficult) step of dispensing with our TV. Hooray! Catholics unplug your TV! And all that jazz... well, no - not quite. We are keeping our TV. But we're just not watching it.

Confused? I understand. But just consider, if we actually got rid of the TV set itself, what would all our furniture point towards? So the TV (and most importantly the DVD player) stays. But the aerial goes. And as long as we are not using this magnetic field generator to watch broadcast TV (or record it), then we are safely outside the scope of the dreaded TV licensing man. I'm sure they will bother us, but they can be rest assured our black box will only be used for watching movies which we have chosen to watch ourselves.

So why this sudden change of heart? Especially since the household (including Maddy) loves to watch TV? Well, we have found that its an awful addiction to mindlessly switch on the TV when an idle moment comes along. It really can be a waste of time. Besides, the BBC is just awful. If they produce anything exceptional, then I may be persuaded to buy it on DVD. Otherwise, we are bored with their reject and tired of funding it.

Maybe one day we will get rid of the TV altogether, leaving a large space in the corner of our living room, and instead use a pull down screen and projector ("That Artoo unit and I have been through a lot together!!") but until that time, appearences will remain deceptive. And we, as a family, will actually be well and truly UNPLUGGED!

Why I Blog?

Here's a good issue to tackle: Why I enjoy blogging?

My blog is the maturation of something I have been doing since the age of 12. At that age, I had great fun committing myself to the task of writing a diary: An A5 page every day without fail. I continued this right up to the age of 16, when I still carried on, but on a less frequent basis. In the year leading up to my blog, I had resurrected my diary writing which had stopped altogether around the same time I lost my faith in God.

I still have all these diaries in my possession. Perusing them now brings back many memories, which would otherwise have been consigned to an oblivion of obscurity. Some things may best be left forgotten, but at least I can see how much I have matured and grown over the years.

Diary writing has been very therapeutic for me. During the difficult years of adolescence, it was a way of ordering my thoughts and making sense of my life. A daily reflection. It is this sort of reflection which I should really endeavour to continue in the traditional form of examining my conscience before God each night, and making new confessions and resolutions each evening in a spirit of contrition.

During the last months, my diary writing has petered out, and instead I have channelled my energies into writing this blog. This was a natural progression because I was writing less about the daily mundane, and more about my reflections and thoughts. I always find this sort of writing the most rewarding. My blog has become less frequent due to new changes and pressures; what's certain is that it will continue as long I derive this great benefit from it, and I'm sure I will find an equilibrium soon enough. I will leave this post with a poem about diary writing, which I wrote in March 1999:
Each and every single page
Tells the story of a mysterious age.

Turning point: Boy into man
All part of God’s overall plan.
Future is bright, that much is clear
But only if I succeed year after year.
The door out of grief will soon open wide
As I learn how to deal with a brother who’s died.

The memories: with me till the end of time
Locked away in a diary which is all mine.