Sunday, 25 September 2016

Our Fascination With Felines...

I have occasionally wondered whether I write too many cat posts.However, whenever I suggest that I might stop, the feedback is overwhelmingly in support of my continuing kitty updates, from the Kitty Kill Count in the sidebar (which does not show up in RSS feeds, unfortunately) to health updates and general reports and photos of the antics of Cardinal Furretti and Monsignor Miaowrini.

There really does seem to be a fascination with cats on the internet - and much more so than with dogs. There is the LOLcats site with pictures and videos of cats,along with amusing captions. There is one for dogs as well, but that was an offshoot from the original idea

Our fascination with cats is enough of a phenomenon to make advertising agencies sit up and take notice. Ikea, the Swedish furniture chain, even went as far as running an "experiment" with 100 cats let loose overnight in one of its stores - and then used the resulting film footage for an advertising campaign.

The idea that cats provide good PR has even got through to our political masters.

Larry, the Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office at Number 10, has his own Twitter account. Journalists in papers such as The Telegraph report on Larry's (in)famous lack of application at his mouse-catching task (last I heard, he'd caught two) but the fur really flew when, in the recent political upheavals, it was suggested that David Cameron was leaving Larry behind because he had never really liked the cat.

Forget the fact that the Prime Minister of Great Britain had resigned and was being replaced after the Brexit referendum. The really important political question was whether David Cameron was a heartless monster who disliked cats... I'm not joking - in his last PMQs, David Cameron actually went so far as to deny the accusation and brandish a photo of himself with the cat on his lap as proof of his kitty-loving credentials. Personally I am unconvinced - he doesn't look at all comfortable, though Larry looks happy enough.


Other government departments decided to get cats to deal with the rodents in the buildings - and were quick to set up Twitter accounts and Instagram pages. Cats are good for PR. So now we have Palmerston, the Foreign Office cat (he has three Twitter accounts - @DiploMog being the official one along with @PalmerstonFOCat and @PalmerstonCat ) and Gladstone, Chief Mouser to the Treasury (two accounts - @HMTreasuryCat and @GladstoneCat ). Given that the cats can't take photos or tweet for themselves, it suggests that some of our civil servants have been given this task... and not a single soul of any political persuasion has protested. They know there would be uproar from the public if the kitty updates were stopped.



And now it appears that the National Trust has decided cats are an aid to increasing visitor numbers at its properties... people want to see the cats, and are willing to explore the stately homes and gardens in search of the famous felines.

So what is so fascinating about cats?

Personally I think it is the fact that cats appear so self-sufficient. Dogs are loyal, but they show unswerving and undiscriminating loyalty to their owners, no matter how badly those owners treat them. Cats, on the other hand, will go wherever they want. If you don't treat them well, they will go and find somewhere more congenial. Zephyrinus has two cats who prefer to stay with him rather than their real owner a few doors away. My cat Miaowrini was very timid at first, and would hide at the slightest noise. One of the most moving moments for me was the realisation that, when seriously injured a few years ago, Miaowrini dragged herself back home. At that moment, she chose me...

Dogs have owners; cats have slaves.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Up Close & Personal...


There's something very soothing about sitting on the beach on a Sunday evening... even when the gulls start demanding treats...

Retreat For Young People...

I received an email from Damian Barker asking me to advertise the following weekend... and despite being too old to go myself, I'm happy to pass on the information on the offchance that I still have a few young readers...

Young Catholic Adult Weekend, Douai Abbey 28th - 30th Oct 2016

Are you 18-40, do you want to deepen your knowledge of the Catholic faith, learn its devotions and meet like minded people? Young Catholic Adults are organizing a weekend at Douai Abbey in Berkshire) led by Fr. Thomas Crean O.P. You’ll be able to hear catechetical talks, learn how to sing Gregorian Chant, say the Rosary, socialize and have fun. Book soon as places are limited!

For updates goto:- http://youngcatholicadults-latestnews.blogspot.co.uk/. For more details goto:- http://www.youngcatholicadults.co.uk/events.htm. Prices start from £12.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

A Treat On The Feast Of St. Bartholomew...

A treat after lunchtime Mass today - Fr. McNally brought out his relic of St. Bartholomew (among a few others) for veneration...


I had forgotten that he was martyred by being flayed alive. On his blog Zephyrinus has a photo of the statue in the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome, in which St. Bartholomew is holding his skin. Gruesome but fascinating and demonstrating amazing skill on the part of the sculptor.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Contemplating Communion...


I find it strange why so many people get so very hot under the collar when the issue of Communion received on the tongue comes up. I don't claim to have any answers to this conundrum, but, since I have been on both sides, I thought I'd share my experiences, and explain my own position.

My profile mentions that my reversion to the Faith happened a little over twenty years ago. I was in severe pain, and had to hobble around with the aid of crutches. I received Communion on my tongue; I had to - my hands were busy keeping me upright.

My Parish Priest at the time was a nice enough chap, but of a rather liberal persuasion. At first I didn't perceive this very clearly; my own initial formation had been rather deficient and I was keen to remedy this in whatever way I could. So, when Father told me that it was more "adult" to receive Communion in the hand, and that this is how the Apostles would have received Him, well, I believed what he told me. After all, he was the Parish Priest, he'd studied Theology, and must therefore know what he was talking about...

I couldn't wait to be able to receive Communion in the hand, to be able to hold Our Lord for a few precious seconds before consuming the Host. Once I ditched the crutches, I stopped receiving on the tongue.

Kneeling was never going to be an option for me - I had to receive standing because of my mobility issues (even once I'd come off the sticks) but everyone was walking up to receive Communion, so that wasn't really a problem. However, I wanted to show reverence before Our Lord, and so would try to genuflect. This wasn't always very successful: in the absence of altar rails I would have to find the edge of a pew whilst en route, and this often caused me some anxiety - I didn't want the person behind me to fall over my outstretched limb. In order to avoid a collision (embarrassing for the person behind me, and painful for me) I would make exaggerated movements to signal that I was going to genuflect - not helped by the distance of the last available pew end from the front of the queue. This did not help me in achieving a prayerful frame of mind before I received Communion. But I was assured that it was one of the instructions resulting from Vatican II, and so I didn't argue.

I should explain that pride in my own intellectual abilities and my tendency to demand proof for everything (everything except the assumptions of the scientific mindset, that is!) had facilitated my departure from the Church... as a result, after my reversion, I was anxious to accept whatever the Church proclaimed. And I was assured that, prior to Vatican II, no-one understood what the Church actually taught, and they'd got the wrong end of the stick... especially the reception of Communion on the tongue...

My Parish Priest then persuaded me to become an Extraordinary Minister. I usually administered the chalice - which gave me quite a few opportunities to notice how little reverence was accorded to the Precious Blood. People would quite happily refer to "the wine," demonstrating a woeful lack of catechesis. The more I saw, the less inclined I became to receive from the chalice if given the option. After all, the Host on its own consisted of Our Lord's Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. It wasn't necessary to receive from the chalice, and vague assertions of how this made Communion "more complete" as a symbol rang very hollow.

As I learned more about the Faith (I owe a particular debt of gratitude here to the priests and laypeople involved in the Faith Movement), I deepened in my understanding and appreciation of the nature of the Blessed Sacrament. This was my Lord and God, here, in person; a physical presence. And in many places he was being manhandled - dumped, even - from a dish to a ciborium, or from one ciborium to another... and it hurt me, physically, like a hand around my heart, to see this lack of respect and love.

Instead of the chalice, I was often asked to give out the Hosts at Mass. I became aware that my fingers felt "grainy" afterwards - and each grain was the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The idea that a priest's hands are consecrated in order that he can hold Our Lord began to surface, along with thoughts of the fate of the Israelites who, although not priests, tried to steady the Ark of the Covenant to prevent it falling (surely the best of motives, but it didn't stop them being struck down!); I became more and more convinced that I had to stop acting as an Extraordinary Minister.

But I still received Communion in the hand. The final nudge came as I noticed that my palm frequently felt slightly powdery after the Host had been placed there. Unfortunately, from the pew there was no way to purify my hand after Communion, and I would resort to licking the palm and fingers which had come into contact with the Host, to ensure that no particles could be lost...

The ridiculousness of this soon struck me: none of this would be necessary if I received directly on my tongue. No anxious checking of palms and fingers before Communion to ensure that they weren't covered in board marker (for weekday Masses after school, I hasten to add) and no need to worry about profaning the Sacrament through unconscious wiping of my hand on my skirt afterwards. By cutting out the middleman (me) I could remove all worry and distress, and just focus on what really matters: receiving my Lord and God, whole and entire, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.


Friday, 12 August 2016

St. Philomena

I have had a devotion to St. Philomena ever since I discovered that she delights in confounding modernists and sceptics, with many miracles attributed to her intercession.

If she was considered to be a saint by St. John Vianney (the Curé d'Ars) then I'm not going to stop praying to her just because someone (who probably doesn't believe miracles are even possible) says that she didn't exist. I'll take the side of a canonised saint over a modernist sceptic any day.

Fortunately, my Parish Priest is quite keen on St. Philomena, and so yesterday we had a Mass in her honour. The Latin Mass Society gave a grant towards the expenses of a schola, and we had a wonderfully uplifting Solemn High Mass.

The Schola Sanctae Scholasticae sang Tomas Luis de Victoria's Missa O Quam Gloriosum, and his motet O Quam Gloriosum, as well as Tallis' O Sacrum Convivium and the Gregorian propers. It was great to be able to allow the music lift one's heart and mind to God while watching the awesome Mystery unfold on the Sanctuary. We are created body and soul, and so the external "trappings" of the Liturgy are so very important for the worship of God: the material aspects are not just optional add ons, but are integral to the action of the Liturgy.

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I took some photos during the Mass, and they are on Flickr in the St. Philomena 2016 album.

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If you want to read more about St. Philomena, I can recommend the excellent summary on Zephyrinus' blog.

The Schola Sanctae Scholasticae have been instrumental in setting up the Gregorian Chant Hymns website, which, by making various recordings and other resources freely available, is dedicated to promoting the learning and singing of Gregorian chant in the liturgy.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Caught Unawares...

As is usual on a Sunday, I spent the morning at church. Friends visited the parish, and so I went down to the sea front... It was rather busy, but the weather was good, and at weekends in the Summer months I expect Margate to be busy. Nevertheless, we managed to sit comfortably in the Two Halves micropub and watch the world go by as we chatted.

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By the time we left, it seemed to be rather more busy than usual. Jonathan figured out there was some sort of carnival procession happening. I was pretty sure that it was all happening on the main seafront, and prepared to take an alternative route to the station. Alas, it seemed that the carnival was due to go up past the station, and after dropping Jonathan off so he could catch his train home, I proceded to follow another little back-route home, feeling rather smug that I had learned a few alternative ways around the locality.

I was therefore rather disconcerted to find my road blocked off by numerous parked cars and rather a large number of pedestrians all sitting on the grass. A marshall tried to direct me back the way I came.

"But I live here!" I wailed. The marshall allowed me through (I'd only just made it in time) and I parked in the first gap I found. I thought about walking home (I was quite near) but I decided to stay and watch the parade - after all, it's not every day you get to see a carnival.

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The majority of floats appeared to have been sponsored by local Kent businesses and sports' clubs. There were also lots of floats labelled "Miss insert-name-of- town-here" with lots of girls dressed up in sashes, crowns and so on. I don't know if there was just one "Miss" per Kent town who invited her chums along or if each town got to appoint several Misses. But it was great fun watching them wave regally as they passed. I was a little surprised by the netting on the side of each float - almost as if they feared the locals would try and fling tomatoes...

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One of my fellow onlookers explained that the Carnival was an annual event, and the route was well-known, so I'm not sure how I missed it last year. Next year I shall be better prepared!

More photos can be seen in my latest Flickr album.

A Day With Mary At The Seaside...

Today we were blessed with what looks to be an annual event here in the parish of Margate.

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The Day With Mary team held one of their devotional days last year at St. Austin & St. Gregory's Church, Margate. This year it was held at the other church in our parish - St. Anne's in Cliftonville.

St. Anne's church is bigger than St. Austin & St. Gregory's; it has a much bigger hall, there is an outside area, parking near the church is much easier, and there is no Saturday evening Mass, making the organisation of the Day With Mary much more straightforward. Given today's success, I expect that the Day will be held at St. Anne's from now on...

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We started, as ever, with the Crowning of the Statue of Our Lady and a procession with recitation of the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary. I think the route went along the sea front, but walking on uneven surfaces isn't my strong point (especially if I have to watch my feet), so I remained in the church, as did a few others...

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Mass was next - a beautiful Missa Cantata. Fr. Mark Higgins preached the sermon - he's just arrived as curate in the neighboring parish of Ramsgate.

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Lunch gave me the opportunity to have a look at the devotional items on sale - I didn't get to check out the books this year - but I was desperate to have a cup of tea, and so neglected to take my usual shots of the books and other items on offer. I will endeavour to do better next year! However, I did manage to have a very enjoyable chat with friends.

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Once back in the church, we had Exposition. The Blessed Sacrament Procession with recitation of the Luminous Mysteries (following the same route as the earlier Marian Procession,), a talk on Our Lady by Fr. Bernard McNally, the recitation of the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, and meditations on the Stations of the Cross formed the second session of the day. Tea provided another opportunity to photograph the stalls selling books, statues, rosaries, medals and what-have-you, but this was completely missed by your shame-faced blogger here. I was just having too much fun basking in the glorious sunshine...

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The final session kicked off with a talk on Our Lady given by Fr. Tim Finigan, followed by the recitation of the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, enrolment in the Brown Scapular and confering of the Miraculous Medal. We ended with the traditional farewell to Our Lady's statue - it makes me cry every time! Watching everyone in the church waving little white hankies (in imitation of what happens at Fatima) is unbelievably emotional.

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I am sure I have said it before, but, I want to say it again: if you ever get the chance to attend a Day With Mary in a parish near you, even if only for part of the day, make the effort.

More photos are in my Flickr album.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

The Blood Of The Martyrs...


Justórum ánimæ in manu Dei sunt, et non tanget illos torméntum mortis. Visi sunt óculis insipiéntium mori: illi autem sunt in pace.
Wis 3:1-3

(But the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and the torment of death shall not touch them. In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die, but they are in peace.)

There has been a brief discussion on social media about whether we should call Fr. Hamel a martyr; whether he died in odium fidei. I don't think there is any room for doubt on that score: what other reason could make two men walk into a small church during the celebration of Mass and cut the throat of the priest (who was in his 80s and hardly likely to be any kind of physical threat to anyone)? 

Fr. Jacques Hamel, ora pro nobis.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Feeling Birdbrained...

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I've been spending more time on the beach with my feathered friends. They really are amazing. I went and sat on the beach, not a bird visible in the sky, and threw out some small pieces of bread. Within a few minutes, a whole load of eager gulls were wheeling around me.

It was a bit reminiscent of that Hitchcock classic, The Birds.

The gulls were, however, all very well-behaved towards me - even though they did have a few squabbles among themselves. It seemed to be a territorial thing - there was much chasing and squawking by some birds who also appeared to let certain others go and eat without protest - but I don't know enough about gull behaviour to interpret it.

I am unsure why "birdbrain" is such an insult - the gulls appeared pretty smart to me. Once the bag containing the bread scraps had been put into my pocket I was no longer of any interest, and they rapidly abandoned me.

But today I was feeling distinctly birdbrained. Arriving home from work, I walked directly from my car to the polling station. Standing in the queue, I realised, to my horror, that I couldn't remember my house number. Arriving at the desk, I had a sudden flash of inspiration, and I gave my address in a confident voice.

"Ah, ummm... that address doesn't appear to exist..." was the reply.

I had given the wrong street name!

Saturday, 4 June 2016

More Sea Views...

The subjects for my blogposts seem to fall into three categories of late: cats, the seaside and church activities. At the risk of boring you all to death, this is going to be yet another one of my seaside posts!

The weather has been pretty ghastly over Half Term. If I was visiting, I'd probably be pretty miffed - I guess that's why people go abroad for holidays, where the weather is more predictable. However, as I actually live here, I can enjoy the scenery in bad weather without feeling as if I've lost an opportunity to catch the sun.

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It was so windy at the beginning of the week that even the majority of the gulls were hunkering down on the grass - one or two tried flying, but were rapidly blown back inland. I drove down to the car park on Westbrook promenade and took a few photos of the waves...

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I could see from the remnants of surf on the walkway just how far the waves were reaching. I'm no lightweight, and there were two sets of railings between me and the water, so little chance of my being swept out to sea at that point, but I had no intention of getting soaked by a rogue wave! I decided to beat a fairly rapid retreat to the comfort of my own front room.

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This evening the weather was considerably drier, and the wind had dropped - though a sea mist appeared to be building. I could barely make out where the sea ended and the sky began. The tide was out, which allowed me to see just how deep the water got at high tide - it's difficult to judge when the tide is actually in. Even so, I thought a few more photos, especially of the sunset, wouldn't go amiss. If the view was good enough for Turner to capture more than once, then who am I to disagree...?

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I hope to get a few more photos once the Summer weather makes an appearance...

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Corpus Christi...

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We were very fortunate in Margate to be able to celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi with a TLM on the proper day. On the Sunday, however, the Deanery held its Corpus Christi procession at the Shrine of St. Augustine in Ramsgate.

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It was a huge success - over 350 people squeezed in to the church to adore Our Lord. Children who had made their First Holy Communion were invited to ring bells and scatter rose petals before the Blessed Sacrament as the procession walked along the seafront promenade.

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A few years ago, someone rather dismissively told me that no-one bothered with silly things like processions any more...

Do have a look at the pictures of no-one bothering...!

St. Augustine's Feast Day...

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Last Saturday was the Feast of St. Augustine of Canterbury (in the old calendar), and, as the National Shrine is in Ramsgate, we had the opportunity to venerate the only relic extant in England (I think that was what Fr. Holden said in his introduction... I shall have to try to pin him down on that one!) It was wonderful to see so many people making a pilgrimage to honour the saint.

After a procession with the relic along Ramsgate's Westcliff promenade, there was a High Mass, with Fr. Armand de Malleray FSSP as celebrant.

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Fr. de Malleray's sermon gave plenty of food for thought, particularly when he contrasted the secular disbelief in the power of priests to change the bread and wine through the words of Consecration at Mass with the total acceptance that words spoken in Parliament can actually change physical realities. As Fr. de Malleray pointed out, through the words spoken by Black Rod, thousands of women found that they were no longer carrying a child in their womb, but merely a collection of tissues and cells!

Fr. Marcus Holden, the Rector of the Shrine (and Parish Priest of Ramsgate) has organised a whole series of events for Half Term celebrating the work of St. Augustine - you can find out more here.

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There are also more photos to see on my Flickr album page.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

More Gull-Watching...

Now that I work locally, I have the opportunity to spend an occasional afternoon sitting by the beach. It's not, in my opinion, warm enough to go paddling just yet (though we did have a few warm days at the beginning of May) but I do enjoy driving down to a little point near home where I can park the car and watch the waves as they hit the sea wall.

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The other afternoon I decided to get myself a KFC takeaway, and eat it in the car. The last time I was gull-watching, I had brought some bread as "bait" - but not just any old stale stuff. It was brioche. Nevertheless, the gulls were not impressed with my offering, and ignored the scraps I threw in their direction. I had to crop my photos to zoom in on the birds.

This time I threw out a few chips...

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One chap (I assume it was a chap) obviously thought the chips should be his... he spent a lot of time squawking and chasing other gulls away... meanwhile a few opportunists were sneaking in behind him and hoovering up the chips.

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The gulls of Margate are obviously much more choosy than the ones in Cornwall (the PM was answering questions about the gull-menace in Cornwall last Summer!) I'm not sure if that's because they are a more discerning class of gull or if they are just better-fed.

More photos HERE...

Friday, 29 April 2016

Miaowrini's New Hobby...

Miaowrini appears to have started a new hobby... or, rather, adopted a new approach to an old hobby...

She now comes in through the catflap late at night and miaows in a particular way for attention. The sound is unmistakable as she has a mouth full of mouse. She then deposits the mouse in the hall in front of my bedroom door (directly in line with my pillows, so I can't miss it), bats it about a bit, looks in my direction as if to say "Deal with it!" and promptly stalks off.

When I attempt to retrieve the unfortunate mouse, she suddenly comes back to watch. Sometimes she tries to swat it from my hand. I get the distinct impression I'm being Ofsteded by my own cat...

She appears to have discovered a regular supply - yesterday she brought me three. I have visions of seagulls lurking in dark alleys: "Pssst... you wanna score some mouse?"

Thursday, 14 April 2016

A Possible New Hobby...

Ever since I moved to Margate, I have been fascinated by the gulls. The more I watch them, the more beautiful I find them, and I promised myself that I would have a session of photography with my "proper" camera, as I thought my phone camera wouldn't be up to the job.

Arriving home on a beautiful evening, I thought it might be fun to go and sit on the beach... so made a cup of tea in my travel mug (happily unused and abandoned since the end of my daily commute to London) and went out.


The view was almost heart-achingly beautiful, and I settled down to pray Vespers. That completed, I started to watch the gulls - I suspect it's mating season, as much of the wheeling flight seemed to have a display element. I decided to try and take a few photos...


I couldn't see much on my mobile, but I thought it might be worth cropping the photos to focus more closely on the gulls in flight. You can see the results on my Flickr page. Not too shabby, even if I do say so myself!


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