Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Jackass Plays The Lyre, Oxen Dance

"I also have a problem with the discourse of planned/unplanned pregnancy in this context. Planned/unplanned assumes young women have agency, that they can choose what happens to them, that pregnancies are either accidents or overtly desired. In fact, for these young women, pregnancy will be one more in a string of things that just happens to them, over which they have little control."

The woman who wrote this is an elected representative of the good people of Oxford, though , Deo Gratias, only a town councillor. I find it hard to believe that teenage pregnancy, any pregnancy, the creation of precious human life can be reduced to a “discourse” and put on the same moral category as school holidays and maths homework.

Umberto Eco, even through the prism of smirking postmodernism, tells the truth even if he doesn’t recognise it.

"In the past men were handsome and great (now they are children and dwarfs), but this is merely one of the many facts that demonstrate the disaster of an aging world. The young no longer want to study anything, learning is in decline, the whole world walks on its head, blind men lead others equally blind and cause them to plunge into the abyss, birds leave the nest before they can fly, the jackass plays the lyre, oxen dance. Mary no longer loves the contemplative life and Martha no longer loves the active life, Leah is sterile, Rachel has a carnal eye, Cato visits brothels, Lucretius becomes a woman. Everything is on the wrong path. In those days, thank God, I acquired from my master the desire to learn and a sense of the straight way, which remains even when the path is tortuous."

~ Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose

God help us.

Otium Sanctum Pars Secundum

The Paulinus family have enjoyed a happy holiday in Crete - hence no blogging for the past fortnight. The young Paulinus boys were intrigued by the visual presence of the Orthodox Church on the island. So many little chapels dot the countryside and the seaside, little shrines are virtually at every corner of the road but good to see 3 or 4 priests through the weeks in the kafenions or supermarket in their riassas (not one of them over 40). We only heard bells once, though - the beautiful sound of the Angelus drifting across the inner harbour from the tiny Catholic Cathedral in Chania.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Hope There's Someone

Hope There's Someone

Hope there's someone
Who'll take care of me
When I die, will I go

Hope there's someone
Who'll set my heart free
Nice to hold when I'm tired

There's a ghost on the horizon
When I go to bed
How can I fall asleep at night
How will I rest my head

Oh I'm scared of the middle place
Between light and nowhere
I don't want to be the one
Left in there, left in there

There's a man on the horizon
Wish that I'd go to bed
If I fall to his feet tonight
Will allow rest my head

So here's hoping I will not drown
Or paralyze in light
And godsend I don't want to go
To the seal's watershed

Hope there's someone
Who'll take care of me
When I die, Will I go

Hope there's someone
Who'll set my heart free
Nice to hold when I'm tired

A colleague of mine introduced me to this this first track, ‘Hope There’s Someone’ from the Antony and the Johnsons CD I Am A Bird Now. It is one of the most moving songs I have ever heard and I am not ashamed to say it reduced me to tears the first time I heard it. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but Antony’s mournful, near-falsetto voice, coupled with the lyrics made a deep impression. With a name like Antony Heggarty, I can’t help but think that Antony has some Catholic heritage, and if you have anything serious to do with the Catholic Church the words " and at the hour of our death" will have passed your lips more than once. Interestingly one of his influences is Andy Warhol, who despite his rather bohemian life tried to remain a devout , if rather unconventional Catholic. He was particularly keen on the more traditional aspects of the faith (Mass, rosary and the image of Our Lord crucified)

It made me consider my own death and the hope that there will be someone to share my last hours (my wife if she has not predeceased me, or my boys). It is something I think of often in the nature of my professional work (I work with the terminally ill). So many older people have no-one to share that last illness (because of smaller more disparate families). I had the great privilege of being with my mother and father in their last hours, to pray for them and with them, to ensure they had the Last Sacraments and to tell them I loved them and knew that they had loved me.

It must be in part some explanation of the desire for euthanasia or assisted suicide that we have lost the ability to ensure a happy death. Joee Blogs recently alluded to this when outlining a prayer he was composing for a lady for a happy death. It seems to be a deep fear or yearning that we should not die alone and it is part of the great wisdom of the Church that she should provide us with the comfort of the Sacraments for that last journey.

I pray tonight, especially for those who feel alone facing death, and all those who need God's presence in the night.

Watch, dear Lord with those who wake or watch or weep tonight, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend your sick ones, O Lord Jesus Christ, rest your weary ones, bless your dying ones, soothe your suffering ones, shield your joyous ones, and all for your love's sake.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

In vino veritas

My chestertonian father-in-law gave me one of my best ever birthday presents some years ago - membership of The Wine Society. They have some fantastic wines delivered to the door but they clearly haven't judged their Scottish members very well by offering something called The Ned. For those of us North of the Tweed know that Neds tend to drink a monastic brew, familiar to anyone who has walked the streets of Glasgow, Airdrie or Coatbridge, rather than a sophisticated sauvignon.

My dear friend, a monk of Downside, told me once of a time when in fit of post-Conciliar soul-searching the community wondered whether they should be using expensive muscat for communion, given The Spirit of the Council (etc, etc)

"Well, there's no good reason why Our Blessed Lord shouldn't taste nice!" said a monk of the old school. The muscat survived.