Sunday, November 29, 2009


Today is not just the beginning of advent, and the beginning of the 2010 liturgical year; it is also the 40th anniversary of the implementation of the revised Novus Ordo Missale Romanum, now known as the 'Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite' of Mass. Our family celebrated this 40 years in the wilderness by attending a Sunday Mass using the 1962 Missal, which was 'Extraordinary'. We also attended Vespers, which is the first time in ages... Once I asked Fr Guy Nicholls the best way to prepare for Christmas in the Advent season, and he said "By praying Vespers".

V. Rorate coeli desuper et nubes pluant justum R. Aperiatur terra et germinet salvatorem

Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the just; Let the earth be opened and send forth a Saviour

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Wendy's Cakes

I couldn't resist sharing these wonderful Christmas Cakes with you all. If you are expecting one as a present from Wendy, then look away now to cherish the surprise!!

The process of making these delicious fruit cakes began months ago, with lots of ingredients being purchased, things soaking in Brandy, dough being made, baking, then weeks of 'feeding' with... hurrah! More brandy! Then there was marzipan... Now Wendy brought it all together just as Advent beings, with the icing and decoration of all the cakes! Fortunately Maddy has been involved in the whole process, with her own mini, non-alcoholic fruit cake.

Here are the finished results, with even more to come; orders still coming in. Of course the knife won't hit any of them until the season of Advent is over and Christmastide begins! There will also be a new baptism cake for February since we've ate all our wedding cake now! Wendy is definitely fortunate to have excellent domestic grounding from her mother and grandmothers! Maddy is already soaking up these skills!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Beatrix Potter: Homeschooled

"Thank goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality."

Beatrix Potter, born into a privileged household in the 1860s, was educated at home by a governess and was isolated from other children. Even her younger brother Bertram was most the time at boarding school. However, she grew up to be incredibly intellectual and artistically talented, publishing a series of 23 highly successful children's books in her thirties (the 'Peter Rabbit' stories). She died in 1943 leaving most of her property to the National Trust, helping to preserve the fell farming in the Lake District.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Law for Catholics

An old friend thought to encourage me to publish this on my blog. I'm impelled to because I think its very interesting:

Using the Law to your advantage: An Example for Catholics

Recently I happened to be walking through the grounds of a museum in the UK. I came
across a structure that appeared to be an exhibit. So as to not identify it, I can't give you specifics, but the "exhibit" quoted a written slogan, which appeared to deny the existence of God, or the efficacy of His actions in the world.

As a Catholic this gives me extreme cause for concern, and as a citizen I wonder what I can do about it. Fortunately, the law is meant to be there for everyone, and in this instance there are a few pieces of legislation which may be useful.

1) The museum in question is a public body, hence anyone can submit written questions to them for information and get written answers back. A few exemptions apply, but generally all information must be given, and the public body is not entitled to ask why.

The relevant legislation is the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (c. 36), or - in Scotland - the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (2002 asp 13).

In this instance, I hope to compel the museum in question to disclose whether the item is indeed an exhibit, if it is not then what it is doing there, and if it is who the artist(s) is/are, who commissioned it, the cost, and any written policy regarding it.

2) Whether the work is an exhibit or not, a second piece of legislation will help further. Public bodies have traditionally had responsibilities under the Race Relations and Disability Discrimination Acts to assess the impact of their policies and decisions. This has recently been extended.

The Equality Act 2006 (c.3) imposes the same burden on public bodies, extending it to age, gender, sexual orientation, and religion or belief. (Note: the groups do not necessarily mean a particular minority, for example something could be discriminatory by virtue of age, even if the "age" group affected is not young or old, but middling.)

This means that, in terms of this exhibit, the museum ought to have assessed the impact of hosting the exhibit on persons of religious belief, Christian or otherwise. After they have responded to my first request, I intend to use the FOI legislation listed above to enquire as to their responsibilities under this second Act.

Failure to respond to Freedom of Information requests, along with the operation of the Acts, is overseen by the Office of the Information Commissioner (Scottish Information Commissioner in Scotland). The oversight body for the Equality Act is the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

I hope and pray I'm successful in discovering the meaning of this strange "structure", but in the meantime, I thought I would share some legal resources with people of goodwill on the blogosphere. The Law exists for Catholics too. Use it!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Newman's Miracle comes to Birmingham

Rev Jack Sullivan, a married permanent Deacon from America, is currently on a trip to the UK to finally visit Newman's final home of the Oratory in Birmingham. It was by a miracle attributed to Cardinal Newman's intercession before God that Deacon Sullivan was healed of Spinal Stenosis, not only from the initial pain, but also from post-surgical recovery. From my experience of seeing people after spinal decompression and laminectomy, it is incredible that Deacon Jack was suddenly able to jump back to being a father and minister in his community.

I had the opportunity of expressing my gratitude for God's grace in this instance. I think it is no coincidence that God has chosen for this to happen and shed light on the restored ministry of the permanent diaconate, one which many have been sceptical about.

It makes me continually grateful to share a part in the community of the Birmingham Oratory when I hear Deacon Jack recount his experience, and that he now feels like he has "come home" to the place where Newman lived; the 'saint' responsible for utterly transforming and restoring his life. In recognition of this miraculous event, verified by the medical profession and vatican theologians, Cardinal Newman will be pronounced 'Blessed' by the Pope next year.

For more of Deacon Jack's visit, see the Cause Website:
1) Deacon Jack Sullivan, Newman's Oratory, and the 'hermeneutic of continuity.'
2) Jack Sullivan on Newman's Healing Message
3) Visit to Westminster Cathedral
4) Visit to Brompton Oratory
5) Visit to Birmingham Oratory

Remembrance Day

Today was dedicated by King George V as Armistice Day to commemorate the ending of the First World War on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 when the Germans signed the Armistice. Nowadays it has come to commemorate all those soldiers killed in war. It is commonly observed by a two-minute silence today at 11am, which is always a poignant moment in the busyness of normal life. It is a good time to pray for the souls of the deceased, especially those Catholics who died during the great wars.

I recently read an eye-opening article in this month's Mass of Ages magazine (Latin Mass Society) written by Fr David Smith RAChD, who is an Army chaplain and has ministered to the soldiers in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Whatever anyone can say about the legitimacy of these wars, his witness is a striking one. He writes of the Extraordinary Form of Mass, which he has found very successful amongst the soldiers:
[In the old Mass] the idea of the Sacrifice is in your face. It is absolutely suffused with blood, battle and triumph. This Sacrifice is, so to speak, God's weapon against the powers of darkness...

The silences are important. Why? Because the life of the warrior is surrounded by noise and clamour. The killing-zone is not a place of quiet and calm. Silence is rare - and we crave it... In the face of such majesty, such suffering, even a soldier's 'lesser calvaries' are put into a certain context.

I found this article so powerful. Here is a priest who knows his flock, and realises that the Catholic Mass is so important and applicable to every human situation, even ones infinitely removed from our own experiences. Indeed, I began to realise the truth- that these men need the mercy and nourishment of this 'sacrament of sacraments' so much more acutely than I can ever imagine.

Also appropriately today is the feast of St Martin of Tours, who died in 397. Brought up the son of a military tribune, he was obliged to enlist as a soldier in the Roman army. During this time he was moved to compassion upon seeing a cold beggar, and divided his cloak for him. Touched by this incident, Martin eventually converted to the Catholic Faith. Upon his release from military service he become a monk under St Hiliary and later reluctantly became Bishop of Tours in France. He was renowned for his spirit of humility and mortification, and his example can also teach us the working of grace to touch human lives in the most unlikely of places.

In the two-minute silence of today, I will try to spiritually unite myself with the little silences which our modern-day warriors are going through; whether these silences are filled with anger, pain, bitterness, or the encounter with the divine that any Catholic can see in the Mass.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Deacon Jack coming to Birmingham

The Birmingham Oratory will next week host Deacon Jack Sullivan from the USA, who was miraculously healed through the intercession of Cardinal Newman which attributes the upcoming Beatification.

The Newman cause website has an introductory article, which is bound to be updated this week, so keep an eye on it. Of particular note is this little snippet:

When Jack Sullivan exercises his diaconate at Mass at the Birmingham Oratory at 12.45pm on Wednesday 11 November, he will do so at the Oratory’s ad orientem (east-facing) High altar. This traditional position for Catholic altars has, exceptionally, been preserved at the Birmingham Oratory. Pope Benedict XVI has often spoken of the deep theological and spiritual significance of celebrating Mass ad orientem, and of what has been lost through the current practice of celebrating Mass facing the people. Anticipating a Papal visit to England next year, Wednesday’s Mass links in a special way Newman’s Beatification to Benedict XVI’s own ‘hermeneutic of continuity’.

I think this is bound to be significant.

The Lake District...

... Because its a great place to go on a swing!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

It's a Boy!!

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, it is not only possible to say the above phrase at the birth of a child, but also half way through its gestation. Wendy is now almost 29 weeks pregnant, and instead of opting for the NHS 20-week anomaly "abortion-screening" scan, we decided to have fun with 4D ultrasound instead.

It was a joy to have a consultant obstetrician (a fellow of the Royal College of Obs' & Gynae' no less) lavish his attention on Wendy's womb, whilst Maddy and I looked on with joy at our new addition to the family. He went on to say it is 100% certain to be a boy, and sure enough showed us all the bits and bobs on the screen. In addition, there is less likelihood of Wendy developing pre-eclampsia, with the consultant noting the normal pattern of umbilical blood flow, and told us to expect a slightly larger baby this time if that remains the case.

Any couple having routine scans will be pleased to see the heart beating and all the organs in check, but a 4D scan allows an even greater joy; witnessing the very facial features of the new baby. It is hit or miss how successful this real-time calculation is, depending on the position of the baby. However, we were able to clearly see our baby boy sucking at the amniotic fluid, and even saw the shape of his nose (a beautiful inheritence from his mother's side) and his beautiful lips!

There has been a lot of excitement this last week with my being on annual leave, visiting family, the lake district, planning a Solemn High Requiem in West Bromwich... but of course this tops them all! Life is beautiful indeed.