As I sit here waiting for Confession in a parish I haven't been to in years, but frequented during my college days I wonder what has happened to my life. It's not that my life is "bad" or that I'm an alcoholic or have burned all my bridges or something like that. In fact by western standards I'm doing well: single, able to pay my bills, eat, spend money on entertainment, and socialize when I want.
Two years ago I attended a Baptist service celebrating the Dedication of a friend's baby to God. A substantial service which consisted of a significant praise and worship segment, prayer, preaching and finally the dedication of little Noah. I was moved by the intense prayer for the baby during this part of the service. Four members of the church community (who seemed to have standing in the community) prayed over the baby.
As part of the Year of Faith, the theme of this year's Marian Day is 'Blessed are you for Believing.'
Pope Francis will consecrate the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on October 13th as part of Marian Day celebrations that will involve the statue of Our Lady of Fatima.
The statue is normally kept in the Shrine of Fatima in Portugal but will be in Rome this weekend for the consecration which is one of the highlights of the ongoing Year of Faith.
I'm noticing something really interesting in comments surrounding RCIA (on this blog and in other conversations). What I'm noticing is a big gap between the American and the British perspective. I'll try to summarise this general trend (and be warned - 'I'm-going-to-be-blunt' alert - this is generalised):
In the UK, on the whole, I think we've had a bad experience of RCIA over the last few decades.
I’m afraid it’s simply a short, arbitrary post today, for various reasons – one being my Pitcharama pitch receiving FIVE requests – for which I am incredibly chuffed, but also pretty…well, frightened. Sometimes I wonder if I’ve jumped in at the wrong end of the pool, so to speak.
Anyway, I’m putting posting aside for a few days for this reason. I’m bringing forward the massive, summer edit of When the Clock Broke and frantically trying to invigorate my synopses ideas…
I can do this. I will do this.
Whilst, at the same time, I’m going out and spending the night at brilliant local clubs. C’est la vie.
What can I say? I have ideas – I fulfil them; I thrive on society – and so, I work my way further into it, even with the frantic anxiety disorder that surfaces when I step into a crowded place. I do survive, as weird as it may be.
Even so, I’m happy I’ve arrived. For, what do we have if not the experiences stored in our long-term memory, be it pictorially or through the magic of verbal memory. Even having studied memory, I find it a fascinating maze to maneuver. And maybe, one day, I’ll find my way out to something more perfect.
Yes, this is a post about being victorious and living life to the full everyday just because we can. In the last couple of years, I’ve learnt so much and been blessed with tremendous friends, that I’ve understood my purpose and the epistemic distance from God a little more. Through all trouble, I power on because I must – and when the respite comes, it is more glorious than before.
For that I am certainly blessed.
Everything that happens in this world happens at the time God chooses.
He sets the time for birth and the time for death,
the time for planting and the time for pulling up,
the time for killing and the time for healing,
the time for tearing down and the time for building…
I decided to weave this Bible quote into my post today because it’s one that I hear every year at our Leavers’ Mass – except this year, it’s my class that are leaving, and, as part of my Chaplaincy Prefect duties, I’m, for want of any other title, the Director of Liturgy.
Too, English weather continues to be a downer, though at least it means I’m missing nothing with my mornings inside revision books and my afternoons buzzing around my computer.
It may not be Spring yet, but it will come.
(Adapted from a piece of classwork)
Oliver Jeffers’ book ‘Lost and Found’ depicts a little boy finding a penguin and setting about returning him to the South Pole. But is that what the penguin wants?
This raises the question of the meaning behind books – especially children’s pictures: is this penguin, with its symbolism of friendship and loneliness, simply imaginary?
To begin with, what does this mean? We know something as imaginary as not physically existing – one might argue that fairies are not real because we do not see them – in the context of the book, the boy may see the penguin, but other people in his world may not. (Of course, theists raise these questions of God Himself, that He exists without being seen.)
Thus, the penguin is an imaginary entity created by himself to satisfy the missing pieces of the boy.
If the penguin is simply imaginary, that is, in itself, one has to take a great leap of a priori faith to believe in the existence of something not verifiable by empirical evidence. The book suggests there is a penguin – how do we, ‘real-lifers’, use science and observation to prove that, outside of the boy, the penguin is in existence?
To us, the concept of penguin exists (and we apply this to the context of the book automatically); I, personally, would argue that this penguin is imaginary, but not simply imaginary. This penguin has a chance of existing – we see that via the picture-prose – but does so only in the boy’s mind in the context of the story. Elsewhere, for instance in a story about a zoo, the same penguin may well exist.
Certainly, whilst the statement is non-cognitive and doesn’t require proof to its being spoken, the statement is meaningful. I know what I have asked – both in the context of the real world (that is: this is a picture book with an imaginary boy and an imaginary penguin and an imaginary journey to the Pole, but I am aware of that, outside the temporality of this created world) and in the inner context of the imaginary world: that is, this physical boy may be conjuring up an imaginary penguin to serve his lonely aspirations.
Is the penguin imaginary? That depends on opinion and how far one is willing to extend into the realm of the fiction.
Steven Oliver, author of Smoke in the Sanctuary (and, coincidentally my Head of School), gave a talk a couple of weeks ago on the English Catholic Novel, and thus I have had some to time to contemplate whether this specific genre can still be of interest to modern day readers of all ages.
To begin with, firstthings.com (which also provides a more in-depth discussion of the topic) defines the English Catholic Novel (ECN) as “a work of substantial literary merit in which Catholic theology and thought have a significant presence within the narrative” (by an Englishman), which sums it up quite nicely. It’s what it says on the cover.
The deeply religious probably take great comfort from sharing their ideas, rules and experiences. I don’t mean this in disagreement of the genre, but that I like the idea of novels published to unite a community of faith.
There can be, however, problems with a religious approach to writing. One question is of how easy it can be to craft and publish an ECN. Sure, one might start off with a priest protagonist and church-based location and one’s book is likely to fall into that category – at first glance. However, there are many books that fall into the ECN category without having any outwardly religious connotations. ‘Brideshead Revisited’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’ are two, very diverse in themselves.
Conversely, one could set up a scenario based on faith, but reject the premise with plot and characters not reconciled by religion or faith. Thus, it appears that the ECN is more than something with features of the Catholic faith, but with a distinct Christian element to it.
I’d say it depends on the author.
The idea of a Catholic novel must depend on the author’s own definition, in addition to whether other readers of the genre would accept it in. But I reiterate that the author’s opinion is paramount. To create a story but have it mistaken for a different genre would, of course, be the epitome of frustration for the writer.
And, once one accepts that, one starts to apply the ideology and themes. For instance, in Triangle, my MC and his sister are Catholics and, whilst not being the most faithful of people, do tend to adhere to their faith. Yet, even during a discussion of morality, one could argue that these themes are not deep enough to warrant calling it an ECN. (I’d probably have to agree; it is a chick lit romance, after all!)
Nevertheless, I would be intrigued to see how far into the ECN category Triangle might rate. I fall into two of the categories: English and [almost] Catholic – but I understand that it’s the novel that has the greatest weight itself. Religion was important right from the genesis of the novel – and religion does have quite a point in several of the later chapters to influence the way the romance goes. Since I have been thinking about such religious themes, it’s fair to say that I have wanted to include them more and more, even in the more subtle way of writers like Tolkien.
Applying my situation to logic, one could argue that more novels fall into the English Catholic Novel genre than writers would admit. So why are they not as well known or used in labelling a book?
Simple: the ECN market is quite a small one, for the fact that not many people in society today would outwardly admit to reading novels which might place a label over their heads. Too, to say one is writing a book with Catholic themes may be enough to turn a whole segment of readers away. Even in the community of a Catholic school, such as that within which I have matured, the word can cause a *look* to pass amongst fellows.
It has been suggested by modern writers that this form of novel is something that cannot be recreated in a modern secular society. In 1982, one critic referred to his book on the Catholic novel as an “elegy for an apparently dying form.” Not the best of omens….
However, that is not to say that the ECN is ‘dead’ to the world of writing or to those who want to read it. As proven with
the release of The Hobbit, battles of good against evil (rooted in a belief in the good of one’s self if nothing else) are still some of the most popular threads of plot. After all, there’s a bit within most of us that wants the good protagonist to conquer the bad antagonist. I think that even novels that others might say ‘scream Catholicism’, about clergy and church activities, are accessible to those outside of the Catholic Church. Regardless of content (though I do agree that this is important) a well-written novel is still a well-written novel and a pleasing read for anyone who chooses to. Recently, there’s even been the adaptation of G. K. Chesterton’s Father Brown on TV, starring one of my favourite actors, Mark Williams.
With the large amount of novelists and genres that exist in the world today, the ECN is just less obvious than it has been in other – possibly more puritan – centuries.
Yesterday, I happened upon someone whom I hadn’t seen in months. There was no prearranged meeting, he just happened to turn up at an event I was doing. But, at the distance – our distance, in fact, that way we had so conjured – I was anticipating the moments when we would speak again with both delight and fear.
I had done him a great wrong once.
As much as I wanted to share my updates with him, I had no idea that he would even want to look at me. After all, I might well have not done so, had our positions been reversed.
So, I moved closer with my breath catching in my throat.
He turned those unreadable, turquoise eyes upon me. A thousand universes flittered through my mind. I would have this one chance to show him that I was so sorry (for words would do no good).
He grinned. We’ve known each other for six years and it felt as if the ice had broken again.
Although it, in retrospect, was shorter than I ever would have liked, we talked for a full conversation. After that, I felt lighter than I had in ages.
All my darkness had been blanched away by the light. It may be an odd metaphor, but, like being born again, I had emerged from the water, cold, but refreshed, and utterly good. After three months of doubt and furor, my hand has finally penetrated the invisible glass casing surrounding me from the better world.
Moreover, I had seen it in my disturbing prescience.
Yet, the fact I had guessed it was going to come no more dampened the feelings of relief; forgiveness is a wonderful thing – both for the forgiver and the forgiven – in that one mistake is struck through with a red pen of sorts, wiped from the mind, hearts and voices of those involved, and replaced with something new and clean: a different view.
This is what I love about being a Christian! To think that Jesus would take all the agony of our sins and make forgiveness a possibility is an incredible thought.
A small essay I came up with today, in response to feedback on one of my Soul + Afterlife Philosophy essays that suggested I use the Catechism’s definition of soul as an argument for the Christian perspective. However, my own metaphysics (which I like to think of as my Philosophy speciality) contrasted a couple of ideas I discovered there and so I needed to readdress the matter of human and internal metaphysics.
Of course, I’d value any opinions and views.
I have before noted that the soul plays a part in the ‘essence’ of mankind by supplying emotion and instinct to the mind in order to create a conscience that has its place in decision-making. I may have to double-back on the topic a little, that is if we are to suppose in a third metaphysical part of a human, beyond the spiritual, yet wrapped up quite within it: heart. Or, rather, what the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) calls ‘heart’.
It is in the language used where I come across one of my disagreements. ‘Heart’, to me, implies the physical organ that pumps blood around the body. Thus, if we are to adopt the theory of the CCC, I require a second term. Whilst the Latin word animus has its purposes in many translations, here I choose it for the state of emotion.
Now we come to my second disagreement. State. Granted, the CCC suggests that the animus is necessary in order to choose whether to follow God or not; yes, this may be so, but this is a great conscious decision, which I belief involves more of the mind that the Church allows for. Why? Because the mind is a very selfish thing. Even when looking at it from a Cognitive viewpoint that the computer requires self-sufficiency and the warmth of other monitors, we see that it is in human instinct (or ‘programming’) that we look to ourselves.
So from where does this nature to turn to God come from? Whilst the CCC states that it lies in the animus, the heart, I think this puts too much weight on the heart as the core of human essence.
In the times of the Greek philosophers, there still existed a term called ‘ensoulment’ – that is when the soul entered the body during the first nine months of life. With or without religion, the soul appears to be the key consistently. Thus, it is to the soul that I turn. I have always imagined the soul to be rooted or entwined with the physical heart, but it is possible that soul in itself (anima, to use the Latin) actually has no fixed position in the body and no fixed physical equivalent, thus it is able to roam throughout. That card is still to be played, in my opinion.
For the moment, let us keep that the soul and physical heart are connected across the metaphysical-physical boundary. Where, then, does the animus come in? Because of the soul, I still stand that no animus is truly needed as an individual state; that is, that it comes directly from the soul. Whilst the conscience relies on both soul and mind, the animus relies on soul alone, but must transfer itself to the conscious mind, otherwise a believer would not have the ability to use their free will. I know that I choose God – why? I don’t truly know. To say it feels ‘right’ is not quite the best answer, but maybe that is the emotion brought from Him and channelled through the animus of the soul.