Thursday, March 22, 2007

And then there was one fewer...

For those of you who move in Anglo-Papalist circles online, you will surely have come across the Confused Anglo-Papalist which subsequently became the Seriously Confused Anglo-Papalist. Well, the prefix Anglo has disappeared (as well as the serious confusion), a sure sign that Fr. Marco Vervoorst has made the decision to swim the Tiber. Certainly I wish him well, and pray that he may be happy in his new Catholic family.

So how do I react to a rare breed becoming one fewer? Well, I have no condemnation for Fr. Vervoorst at all; he will always be one of ours just as Cardinal Newman was always one of ours. There is sadness yes, but there is no real problem with what he's done.

It does make me think about my own position. I am on my own in my physical community, and I find myself surrounded by larger animals telling me which is the correct doctrine. As an individual I have a choice, but with my choice comes the responsibilities of living up to the consequences of that choice. I no longer belong to a church whose teaching is consistent with the Catholic Faith.

So what will it take for me to finally shake the dust of the C of E from my feet?

First: a home to go to. I do not want to run away from the C of E, I want to run to an established home which will receive me in love and keep me in the Catholic Faith.

Second: that I am assured of a smooth period of transition so that I may in some sense get my affairs in order before I make the break. Considering that I have a family and a considerable number of friends whom I only really see in a church context as a member of a choir and a Bible Study group, this will be where the pain of the transition lies.

Third: if there were a definite split in the C of E along the Catholic fault lines then I would move with that split on the proviso that the resulting denomination is perfectly consonant with the Catholic Faith.

These are the big three that readily spring to mind. There may be others.

God bless Fr. Vervoorst!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Suffer the little children...

Sermon preached at St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Swanscombe on the fourth Sunday in Lent (Mothering Sunday), 18th March 2007 based on I Samuel i.20-28 and St John xix.25-27.

In a little house sits a mother,
her little boy at her breast
content and happy.

To him,
her thoughts are irrelevant.

All he seeks is warmth
and love
and milk,
items his mother supplies
as abundantly as she possibly can.

As he sleeps,
he is comforted
by the steady beat of her heart.

Not for him is it to know that
despite all this tranquillity,
his mother is wracked
with pain and worry.

The child does not know
of the preparation that his mother is making,
for when he has stopped needing
the milk and the cuddles,
when he has teeth and is on solid food,
when he is just about to walk,
his mother,
the one who has prayed fervently
for his birth,
will give him to the priests
and walk away.


Before Samuel’s birth,
his mother was declared to be barren.

her husband’s other wife,
has children.

At that time Hannah didn’t,
and she was mocked for it.

Hannah has prayed
to the God she has always prayed to
and Samuel is the result
- a happy and fine baby boy
with fat legs and thick black hair.

So why on earth did she want him born
if she is only going to give him up
while he is still small?

Has Hannah been selfish?

Has she only prayed for Samuel’s birth
just to save face
in the light of mockery from Peninnah
and social disgrace?

Is Samuel just a trophy baby
so that Hannah can say
“see, I can have children”?

Is Hannah like some women of today
whose only thought is to have children
so that she can claim benefits?


Samuel stretches a little
in Hannah’s arms and
as she wipes his little mouth,
her heart is heavy
because she loves him
and she must give him up.
Is there anything more difficult
than for a mother
to give away her child?


Having to let go of a child
is an inevitable part of motherhood.

There are many tragedies in life
which see a mother having to say goodbye
to her baby prematurely.

Isn’t “goodbye” something
that all mothers have to say at some point?

Is there a mother
who hasn’t shed a quiet tear because
Her baby has left her because
it’s their first day at school,
the first time they sleep
over at someone else’s house,
go on holiday on their own,
go to university,
get married and leave home.

A mother’s heart is filled with worry.

Will they be alright?

Will they get there safely?

Will they eat well?

Have they packed enough clean underwear?

Motherhood is tough, no two ways about it.


When Our Lady, Mary,
presents the infant Jesus, Our Lord
at the temple,
the priest Simeon tells her that
because she is the Mother of God,
a sword will pierce her own soul,
just as the Lord’s body
will be pierced
on Good Friday.

Isn’t this a sensation with which
mothers are all too familiar?

Suffer the little children…
and, boy, do we have to suffer them!


In presenting Jesus in the temple,
Lady Mary is fulfilling the requirements
of the Jewish law.

Every first-born male must
be presented to the Lord for His possession.

Thankfully for the parents,
God usually charges them
to look after the child for Him.

It’s also a bit of a relief for the priests too.

Just think – wouldn’t the Rectory
be a little inundated with nappies?

But in giving the child back to the parents,
God is telling them that the child
must be brought up in His ways.


Hannah is serious in what she wants to do.

She loves God,
and wants a chance to worship Him fully.

This is why she is determined
to offer up Samuel in worship of God.

She’s not saving face
by praying for a baby to be born
and then foisting him on the priests
just because he’s inconvenient.

She’s asking God for a way to worship God
through the hard sacrifice of being a mother
- a sacrifice made harder
by giving Samuel up when he’s still very little.

Samuel will turn out to be a very fine priest.

What does this say about Hannah’s sacrifice?


Being a mother is a priesthood unique to women.

It involves a sacrifice of love
to bring a child into the world,
to nourish it,
to love it,
to teach it,
to give it every opportunity
to become the person that it is going to be.

This can only happen
if the mother decreases
so that the child increases.

As a church we all,
men and women,
have a duty in mothering.

When a child is baptised,
the Church becomes a spiritual mother
and has a duty to make sacrifices
in order for that child to grow up in the faith.

We, the Church, have a duty in our mothering
to decrease so that our little ones can increase
knowing the love of God,
and how He provides for them.

In giving us His son,
God also gives us the example
of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
the Mother of God,
to show us how seriously
we must all take our
mothering duties.

Like any Jewish Mother,
Mary is the one who teaches the Jesus the Faith,
so must we teach our children
the same Faith built
on the same precepts.

Mary is the one who has
to accept the person that her son is,
so must we accept the people
who our children are,
and let them have every opportunity
to serve God.

Mary is the one
whose heart is broken
when she sees her son
bleeding on the cross.

So too must we have our hearts broken
in letting our children go
to do what they must do.

Mary— Mother of God.

The Church— mother of Christians.

Have you made your sacrifice of motherhood yet?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The most obscene VIth form assembly ever

I was asked to give my first talk to the assembled sixth form today. I chose to elaborate on a theme I've already covered in "An Obscene Posting" and from the comments made. A little near the knuckle I thought!

Address given at the VIth form assembly at Eltham College on 15th March 2007

Cricket commentators
Don Mosey and Brian Johnston
are in the commentating box
for the BBC World Service
in a test match between
West Indies and England at the Oval.

Batsman Peter Willey is at the stumps,
bowler Michael Holding is at the crease.

As the On Air sign comes on,
Johnston begins his commentary:
We welcome World Service listeners to the Oval,
where the bowler's Holding,
the batsman's Willey.


Yes, there's always some laughter about that,
and I suspect that some of you who didn't laugh
are feeling uncomfortable
that one of your teachers
has just mentioned the word "willy"
in assembly.

But have you ever wondered
why we find words like "bum" or "willy" funny?

Still further,
our lexicon of rude words and phrases
is populated solely with
so-called unmentionable parts of the human body,
functions of the human body,
things that one human body
does to another human body,
and suggestions about
what one human body can do to itself.

Why is that?

We all have to use the bathroom,
be we a sixth former, the Queen,
or even Michael Jackson!

Why is the lavatory funny?

Our parents have all engaged
in a certain activity
which has resulted in us being here,
so why does that produce nervous giggles,
and even more horrible thoughts?


Well, using the bathroom is a fact of life
- the end process of a complicated
and indeed remarkable
chemical decomposition of food
and the rejection of that
which is unnecessary or harmful.

It's funny because it's unpleasant,
especially after some school dinners,
but it’s something we all have in common.

Sex is an action
which should take place
between married couples
in order to bring forth human life.

That's what it's for!

Sex is traditionally funny
because the Church gets
rather hot under the dog-collar about it
- in more ways than one.

Among others,
we have to thank St Augustine of Hippo for that.

St Augustine is a notorious womaniser
who famously prayed
"Lord make me chaste,
but not yet."

When the Lord eventually made him chaste,
he turned on sex with such a vengeance
that there is still an attitude (a minority)
in the Church today
which hold Augustine’s view
that sex is sinful
and to be ashamed of.

However, the truth is that
the Church properly believes that sex is far
from disgusting.

Indeed sex is held in such a high regard
that Christians believe that it belongs
to the sanctity
- and privacy -
of the marriage bed.

It is not to be shared with anyone else
other than the person to whom you are married.
The pendulum has swung a long way
from St Augustine,
and many people these days,
old and young alike,
tend to be praying
"Lord make me chaste,
and quite easily caught".

The media have blown sex out of proportion.

No longer is it that something people do,
it's something that everyone has to do
at anytime
and in any place
as long as you are under 30.

At least that's what our television programmes,
papers and the cult of celebrity tell us.

If sex is so out in the open,
then why do we use sexually explicit language
to swear or curse at someone?

Why tell someone to F-off if,
in telling him so,
you are wishing him a pleasurable experience
with his lover?
Why tell someone to P-off if,
in telling him so, you are wishing him
that unique sense of relief
that comes from getting rid
of three cans of cola?

Does this really make sense to you?


If we use sex as the barrel
from which we draw our insults,
then doesn't this say something about
our respect, or lack of it,
for the way in which our species
regenerates itself.

We're not amoebas who go off
and quietly divide
in order to replenish our population.

We are beings who forge
complex and meaningful relationships
which colour our lives.

Our friends and our families are important to us,
but even more so the person
with whom we fall in love
to the extent that we wish to marry
and populate our lives with children.
How can that be a curse
if we find our love?

How can we look at the newborn baby
in its mother's arms and say to it
"your conception was disgusting"?

How can sex be this obscene?

Surely there are greater obscenities in life
than the toilet or the bedroom?

Isn't beating someone up in a pub an obscenity?

Isn't kicking a dog to death
more disgusting to us than bringing a baby
into the world?

Why isn't the greatest obscenity
of them all "I hate you?"

At least our biological waste products
have the potential
for creating and sustaining
the beauty of creation.


The human condition is wonderful.

Our bodies are the product
of complex and delicate
and chemical engineering.

How will you stop yourself
from treating your own humanity
and the humanity of others with anything
less than the greatest respect?

Aren’t you worth it?