Monday, October 29, 2007

St Jude - patron saint of Anglo-Papalism?

Today is the feast of SS Simon and Jude, apostles of Christ, transferred from yesterday.

I often feel sorry for St Jude since he has been tarred with possessing the same name as Judas (surnamed Iscariot). Of course I also have a sympathy for the Iscariot as well. If ever there was one who made the wrong decision, it was he. However in the citation of Judas Iscariot as an example of perfidy and treachery, St Jude Thaddeus, the rather subtle and more background apostle, only is asked to pray as a last resort, hence his patronage of lost causes.

Might St Jude be the saint who ought to be praying for Anglicanism in the West?

It's interesting that in his epistle, St Jude says:

3 ἀγαπητοί πᾶσαν σπουδὴν ποιούμενος γράφειν ὑμῖν περὶ τῆς κοινῆς ἡμῶν σωτηρίας ἀνάγκην ἔσχον γράψαι ὑμῖν παρακαλῶν ἐπαγωνίζεσθαι τῇ ἅπαξ παραδοθείσῃ τοῖς ἁγίοις πίστει

4 παρεισέδυσαν γάρ τινες ἄνθρωποι οἱ πάλαι προγεγραμμένοι εἰς τοῦτο τὸ κρίμα ἀσεβεῖς τὴν τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμῶν χάριτα μετατιθέντες εἰς ἀσέλγειαν καὶ τὸν μόνον δεσπότην καὶ κύριον ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν ἀρνούμενοι

5 ὑπομνῆσαι δὲ ὑμᾶς βούλομαι εἰδότας ὑμᾶς πάντα ὅτι ὁ κύριος ἅπαξ λαὸν ἐκ γῆς Αἰγύπτου σώσας τὸ δεύτερον τοὺς μὴ πιστεύσαντας ἀπώλεσεν

6 ἀγγέλους τε τοὺς μὴ τηρήσαντας τὴν ἑαυτῶν ἀρχὴν ἀλλὰ ἀπολιπόντας τὸ ἴδιον οἰκητήριον εἰς κρίσιν μεγάλης ἡμέρας δεσμοῖς ἀϊδίοις ὑπὸ ζόφον τετήρηκεν

7 ὡς Σόδομα καὶ Γόμορρα καὶ αἱ περὶ αὐτὰς πόλεις τὸν ὅμοιον τρόπον τούτοις ἐκπορνεύσασαι καὶ ἀπελθοῦσαι ὀπίσω σαρκὸς ἑτέρας πρόκεινται δεῖγμα πυρὸς αἰωνίου δίκην ὑπέχουσαι

8 ὁμοίως μέντοι καὶ οὗτοι ἐνυπνιαζόμενοι σάρκα μὲν μιαίνουσιν κυριότητα δὲ ἀθετοῦσιν δόξας δὲ βλασφημοῦσιν

3 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. 4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. 5 I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. 6 And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. 7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

8 Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities. (Epistle of St Jude vv3-8)

Personally, I just don't see how the Liberals in the United States can come to any conclusion other than that their blessing of same sex marriages can be anything other than futile at the least and corrupting at the most. There are plenty of other of scriptural references which say the same thing. Yet I cannot possibly be right because I am not a U.S Bishop who are obviously so much more learned than I and who can show me that "going after strange flesh" doesn't really mean homosexual practice between a committed couple.

Conservative members would I'm sure be forgiven for thinking that ECUSA is a hopeless cause, and around the Catholic members, there must be several prayers aimed in the direction of St Jude. You see, like St Jude, faithful Episcopalians ar being tarred with the same brush as those who seek to reinterpret Holy Scripture to their own devices. While some strive to get out, for others it is not so easy, and yet they still remain faithful.

The same is true of the Church Of England as it languishes in its "re-invention" as a trendy and "relevant" church. There are Traditional parishes but far and few between. Similarly, this is true of parishes of the Roman Catholic Church in its swapping of dignified hymn singing for the twang of guitars and trendification of the Mass.

The future for Anglicanism looks bleak, as does Traditional Catholicism. I still maintain my Anglo-Papalist course remembering that the movement is very much temporary in its nature. So what does St Jude say to those who are trying to overcome vast obstacles?

20 ὑμεῖς δέ ἀγαπητοί ἐποικοδομοῦντες ἑαυτοὺς τῇ ἁγιωτάτῃ ὑμῶν πίστει ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ προσευχόμενοι

21 ἑαυτοὺς ἐν ἀγάπῃ θεοῦ τηρήσατε προσδεχόμενοι τὸ ἔλεος τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον

22 καὶ οὓς μὲν ἐλεᾶτε διακρινομένους

23 οὓς δὲ σῴζετε ἐκ πυρὸς ἁρπάζοντες οὓς δὲ ἐλεᾶτε ἐν φόβῳ μισοῦντες καὶ τὸν ἀπὸ τῆς σαρκὸς ἐσπιλωμένον χιτῶνα

24 τῷ δὲ δυναμένῳ φυλάξαι ὑμᾶς ἀπταίστους καὶ στῆσαι κατενώπιον τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ ἀμώμους ἐν ἀγαλλιάσει

25 μόνῳ θεῷ σωτῆρι ἡμῶν διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν δόξα μεγαλωσύνη κράτος καὶ ἐξουσία πρὸ παντὸς τοῦ αἰῶνος καὶ νῦν καὶ εἰς πάντας τοὺς αἰῶνας ἀμήν

20 But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, 21 Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. 22 And of some have compassion, making a difference: 23 And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. 24 Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, 25 To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.

So there's the message for Anglo-Catholics and Anglo-Papalists alike. Just keep at it. Just keep holding to the Catholic Faith. There are so many in both the Holy See and in the Anglican Church who are just trying too hard to include what cannot be included and who say that Anglo-Catholicism is just clinging to the past, and that the Anglo-Papalists are confusedly clinging to the past. There is much that both aspects of the via media have to be hopeful for. For the Anglo-Papalists, we have a Pope who seeks to reinstate the Traditional Mass and remove the insipidity of modern song-writing. For the Anglo-Catholics, there is a fresh and strengthening recourse in the Anglican Catholic and Traditional Anglican Churches.

Still much to pray for. Are the Prayers of St Jude still welcome?

Friday, October 12, 2007


Heard this read today. It spoke volumes.

DESIDERATA by Max Ehrmann (1872-1945)

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
And remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly & clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull & ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud & aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain & bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing future of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity & disenchantment
it is perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue & loneliness.
Beyond wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees & the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labours & aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery & broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

Does a Christian need self-confidence?

This question has been puzzling me for some time. I see many a student paralysed in maths exam purely because of a lack of confidence in their ability to solve the problems. They check and double check and, if the question has a non-obvious answer, they become distressed when they reach that inevitable but strange conclusion.

One recent problem involved finding a number which turned out to have to satisfy two different conditions, first x lies between 2 and 4 and second, x is less than 2. Well clearly, a number cannot be both between 2 and 4 and simultaneously less than 2, yet when they reached this conclusion, several students doubted their own work and tried to rectify it by altering their answers.

This leads me to the idea of having confidence in our ability. Can a Christian who is necessarily aware of their own fallibility as a person ever have any self-confidence? It would seem not, and indeed the best answer is to have confidence first in God rather than the self. However, let's just unpick this to see in what way our confidence should manifest itself.

The fact is that each one of us is fallible and limited in every single aspect of our being. We can do nothing without the possiblity of failure lurking in the background like an uninvited member of the paparazzi, haunting our every step. It is precisely our awareness of failure that can paralyse us into inactivity. As Christians, we have to walk this path of life doing what we can, examining our talents and making use of our faculties despite their inevitable failure.

So the problem with self-confidence has its roots in our perceptions of success and failure. Whenever we start a task, we often begin it with a preconceived notion of what it would mean to succeed or fail. This is inevitable in such systems within society as our education systems where success or failure is determined by a percentage score on an exam. Even if we are not being formally examined, we construct parameters for the pass mark in ever undertaking we begin. We often measure the outcome of our labours by comparing the actual result with the intended result; the greater the discrepancy the greater our perception of failure.

Even if we are in complete control of the work, we often take our pass mark from the expectations of others in society. Unintentionally the perceptions and judgments of others affect our own judgment of the quality of our work and thus a judgment on ourselves as human beings. We all know that we "shouldn't care what other people think" but that's a challenge which we nonetheless fail to apply to our lives. We judge ourselves by our actions all to easily, even if our intentions were honourable.

The sooner each one of us stops seeing ourselves as something to be useful to society the better. The sooner that each one of us loves oneself as a person despite faults and failings and foibles, the more that we realise that our successes or failures in life are not the measures of a human being, the more we can be confident that success or failure is only of a passing significance. Aristotle and St Thomas Aquinas would probably say that we cannot measure the substance of a human being, we only measure the accidents of our being. Our substance as human beings requires only love to make us substantial as humans, and that Love comes from God creating us in His own image.

Ultimately, the Prince of the bigger picture, who is responsible for putting everything into a cosmic perspective will show us the effects of our "successes" and "failures" and throw our understanding and measurements upside down. After all, one only ascends the ladder of humility by descending.

So Christian self-confidence must lie, not in the confidence of our ability, but rather in the reality of our existence and its intrinsic meaning as an object created for loving and being loved. Our confidence is in the fact that no matter what we do (including the worst sins), we still have the opportunity to find our worth in the love of God. He will judge us according to what we do, but this judgment is Eternal and far beyond the understandings and comprehensions of what we do. Our self-confidence lies in our confidence that we are loved by God. Do we really believe that?

...and down comes the gauntlet!

I would very much appreciate your prayers. I have been asked by the powers that be in my school to give an address (reasonably light-hearted and yet a little challenging) to the sixth-form as part of a series of three addresses on belief in (or otherwise) God. It has fallen to me to begin the series with the address on Theism and I will be followed by an Atheist and an Agnostic.

It's a big ask to present an apology in front of young adults and, of course, out of my own steam I cannot do this but seek help from my Creator. Having your prayers supporting me would be a great fillip.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

What is this thing called wuv?

Homily preached at Eltham College on Wednesday 10th October 2007.

Pass the sick-bag!

That’s the reaction of boys aged between 10 and 13 to the sight of the modern-day Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde, Anthony and Cleopatra, or Katie Price and Peter Andre engaging in the contest of “who can reach the other’s uvula first.”

Of course a courting couple, to use your grandmother’s phrase, would call this activity kissing and that their reason for exchanging several pints of saliva is that they are in “in love.”

What does “love” mean for you?

Does it make your stomach turn?

Do you feel uncomfortable or embarrassed?


All too often our view of love is obscured by clichés and commercialisation.

St Valentine’s Day usually sees the lovesick swain spending thousands of pounds on objects coloured pink to persuade the object of his desire to engage in a mutual massage of molars.

Shops are filled with balloons and flowers and chocolates and teddy-bears wearing T-shirts which say that most tiresome, vapid and odious of phrases “I wuv you.”

It is sickening, but why?

Think about it!

It is common practice among many animals for the male of the species to find some trinket, a shiny stone, a collection of the right sort of twigs, or a mouthful of dead caterpillars.

In the eyes of the female, the male who can provide the best material for bringing up a family is going to be the better father.

So, human males are merely following their biological instincts in buying hideously expensive and ludicrously useless trinkets for the women.

Likewise it is the same biological instincts which are responsible for the plumage parade of the peacock and scrapping of tom cats in the alley at night that are also responsible for the lad wearing his hair long and dying a strip of it green and using up half of the British supply of Davidoff all for a night out with a buxom blonde from Bromley.

But is it love?


Animals do not have a concept of love.

They thrive merely on biological instinct.

They pair up in order to produce babies, who grow up in order to pair up and produce babies who grow up in order to pair up and produce babies et c.

That is all.

Human beings wonder what all this is for.

What is the point of having children if they are just going to have children who are just going to have children and so on?

To what end?

Human beings see very clearly the concept of love as separating us from basic biological machines.

But why is it that we feel revolted by outward expressions of love?

Many of us who see the stock on sale around Valentine’s Day feel a sense of loathing because all these items are so superficial – they don’t really mean what they are saying.

The “I wuv you” teddy bear makes us uncomfortable because it conveys a message about something which love isn’t.

Indeed, it isn’t talking about love at all, but this tedious and meaningless quantity called “wuv”.

What is this thing called “wuv”?


For many of us, the idea of love makes us feel uncomfortable because it seems to involve a loss of reason, or control.

The rather soppy notion of love in our Jeremy Kyle culture forgets the mathematician Pascal's famous saying, "The heart has reasons of which reason knows nothing."

Love is something that is intensely personal, that invades our innermost beings – our thoughts, feelings, opinions and experiences.

It is dealing with this invasion of our inner selves that takes effort.

We become embarrassed through sheer fear that we are going to forget ourselves and make a fool of ourselves in front of our mates.

But where would we be without love?


Look at your life and imagine.

What if when you go home tonight and find that there is no love in your family?

No warmth towards you, no kind words of greeting, just coldness, indifference, uncaring - there are folk who do come home to this.

That raises a different kind of discomfort – a bleakness and a fear.

No matter how embarrassed we are at the idea of love, we realise that nonetheless we need it.

St Paul tells us the attributes of proper love:

Love is always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited, it is never rude and never seeks its own advantage, it does not take offence or store up grievances.

Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but finds its joy in the truth.

It is always ready to make allowances, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes.

Love never comes to an end.


So if ever you are patient with a friend, or make allowances for someone, then you are showing love.

That pain you get when you miss someone who has moved away or died is love.

That need to help someone out just because they are in difficulty is love, whether you recognise it or not.

This might not be something you’d like to think of.

You’d still feel mighty awkward if your friend sat next to you suddenly turned to you and said “I love you.”

Most of us would run a mile, or at very least start edging away very slowly.

But what we should be edging away from is this idea of love as being a slushy, sentimental, vacuous, vomit-inducing and at times downright rude emotion.

Instead we should see love in the life of Mother Theresa of Calcutta who devoted her life to the poor of India.

We should see love in the lives of Edith Cavell and Raoul Wollenberg who sought to save lives rather than sit back and just let them be destroyed and so paid with it with their own lives.

And indeed for those of us who are Christians, we cannot fail to see anything but true love in the self-sacrifice of Christ upon the Cross.

There is nothing vacuous or artificial about the love that resides in these folk.

Whom do you really love?

Can you honestly describe that love as artificial?