Saturday 20 May 2006

Traditional Hymns in School

I used to teach Science, and although I miss the fun and games I used to have with some of the more interesting practical sessions, one thing I don't miss is the relentless pressure exerted by the need to cover the syllabus.

My A level and AS level Psychology students have to work to pretty tight specifications because of the exam pressure, and if I had any GCSE classes for RE, they would be under the same constraint. But at Key Stage 3 (that's Years 7-9 in secondary school, or 11-14 year olds) there isn't the same sort of pressure, although I am expected to follow the scheme of work; and so, I occasionally take a lesson or two to go "off message."

I get very annoyed by the fact that the only hymns the children are ever exposed to in school "liturgies" are the teeth-grindingly awful standard 70s rubbish like "Bind us together" with the excuse that "the kids don't know any of the traditional, old fashioned hymns, and the words are unfamiliar ..." usually followed by, "and anyway, the young people don't like to sing ..."

So, for example, I had one lesson at the beginning of May where I asked 2 volunteers to go and pick daisies from the playing field outside the classroom. They made a small daisy chain, and I lit candles and crowned the statue of Our Lady. I also taught the children the Marian hymn "Bring flowers of the fairest" (I put the words up on PowerPoint, and went through the meaning of some of the unfamiliar words and phrases) and we all then sang the hymn (yes, everyone, even the boys, and no, I didn't need to threaten them with death first) much to the consternation of the English class next door. We finished off with some prayers.

Today, two of my classes were treated to a brief explanation of the reasons behind Henry VIII's split with Rome. I got to tell them about the "kindness" of the King in having St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More beheaded... the kids weren't too convinced, until I went into the details of what being hanged, drawn and quartered actually entailed. They were absolutely horrified (the scientific training I had comes to the fore here, as I give graphic details!) So I think that, for next lesson, we shall go "off message" again, and look at some of the other English Martyrs. I feel a need to sing a few verses of "Faith of our Fathers"...

Thursday 18 May 2006

Statistics to make you weep

On the offchance that there is anyone who has stumbled across my blog without having first visited Fr. Tim Finigan's Hermeneutic of Continuity blog, I would just like to draw your attention to some truly horrifying statistics on STIs in England. Whe I first saw the figures, I thought that a decimal point had to be missing: after all, you can't have percentage increases in the thousands! Well, apparently you can!


Mea culpa, mea culpa ... but I have to confess to a certain amount of unholy glee at the DVC debacle. Several people I know have expressed regret at having bought tickets to see the film, given the complete pasting it received from the critics. My heart bleeds ...

Wednesday 17 May 2006

More to smile about ...

I usually listen to the radio on my way home. I used to listen to tapes, but there's something wrong with the player, so I'm stuck (temporarily, I hope) with the radio.

Unfortunately I was conditioned to tune in to Radio 4 from a very young age (it even feels like they have the same presenters) and I'm too lazy to find something else which isn't constant replaying of the same old pop songs. Sometimes I regret this, as what I hear on Radio 4 can bring me close to wrapping my car around a tree in sheer frustration.

But not today. Today was all sweetness and light. They had a review or two of the DVC from Cannes and London. The film was panned. You could almost sense the regret oozing from the reviewers. They were desperate to say something nice (after all, the trad Catholics hate the book, so it must be good, right?) and the best that they could come up with was that it was a very faithful adaptation of the book ...

So I was grinning like a Cheshire cat all the way home!

(but no, Bluewater still haven't put up details of the other films showing this weekend!)

Something to smile about ...

I was too tired yesterday to put up any posts, although I did have fun pretending I knew something about computer programming and playing about with some of the codes on my blog template. I felt a sense of achievement when I managed to get my favourite blogs up, in the place where I wanted them, and done by Blogroll so they will be updated automatically.

Looking through all the codes on the template, adding and subtracting bits here and there, and then previewing to see if it looked ok really took me back in time.

I'm afraid that I have to admit to being old enough to remember computers before Windows 3.1 (and yes, they were wind-up clockwork ... only kidding !) and the fact that you could programme them yourself. I was most familiar with BBC Research Machines at school (as a pupil back then, I hasten to add) which were programmed in BASIC and I remember the excitement when we got some new Sinclair Spectrums for the school library (colour screens, wow!)

I'm not so conversant with html as I once was with BASIC, but it is fun to experiment. And sooner or later, more by luck than judgement, I might even learn a thing or two ...

Monday 15 May 2006

What's sauce for the goose ...

I seem to have an animal theme tonight. First rabbits, now geese ...!

Anyway, I just spotted this highly amusing post from Curt Jester, "extracting the urine" (so to speak) from the DVC. I have a horrible suspicion that everyone has seen it already (note the self-assured tones - I'm assuming I have had visitors!) but I'm going to put it here anyway, as it gives me the perfect excuse to try and put in a link.

Ha. Did it. (Admittedly I had a blonde moment and had to delete my first attempt!)

DVC "othercott" hurdle

To say that I'm not a happy bunny this evening is to understate the situation somewhat. I am close to being a seething, snarling bunny, and rabid to boot.

I read about the idea of going to see another film on the opening weekend of DVC, and thought it was pretty neat. I also read somewhere - I forget where, exactly - that "Over the Hedge" was out this weekend, and I thought that it would make a good option ... Unfortunately, I also forgot that most of the blogs I read are overseas ...

... It turns out that "Over the Hedge" isn't out in the UK until the end of June. So, I logged on to the Bluewater Cinema website to check out what films were going to be on this weekend. (BTW, Bluewater, for those of you who don't know, is a giant temple of Mammon just to the south-east of London, and great fun it is too!)

Imagine my disgust when, having picked the Saturday night option, I found that the ONLY film that is on the listing is the "Da Vinci Code" !

When I rang to find out what computer glitch was responsible for this one, the operator could only offer the feeble excuse that the listings didn't go on the system until Tuesday. She had absolutely no idea what other films might be on offer (there are about 18 screens in this place, I think). However, they were already able to get the DVC listing up. She couldn't explain that one ...

And while I'm on the subject, don't believe the old chestnut about DVC getting more people to really think about Christianity. I teach RE in my school and several kids decided to ask me if I'd go and see the film ... it was pretty obvious from the way they asked the question that they knew (a) what my answer would be, and (b) exactly why. One of the boys even pointed out that the film-makers wouldn't have been able to get away with making a film like that about another religion ...

I consider the DVC to be a direct attack on my (much loved) Holy Mother Church. And the kids at school would know exactly how to respond to an attack on one of their mothers ...

Sunday 14 May 2006

And another thing...

Of course, what really annoys me is when these so-called Catholics are interviewed by the media (usually Radio 4 - I really shouldn't listen to it, it's bad for my blood pressure) and are described as leading Catholics or prominent Catholics.

They do not speak for me, and I get really hacked off when they claim to give a voice to the silent "majority."

I've also noticed that a favourite argument for the proposed change in Church teaching (whatever one happens to be up for discussion, and you can be sure that it will be presented as a "policy" rather than a teaching) is that the majority of ordinary Catholics already do whatever is being discussed. Well, hallo people, wake up and smell the coffee: there are a lot of people who commit murder, and lie, and steal... that doesn't mean we should change the law and make it legal!

Cafeteria Catholics

Another one of my pet hates is when people call themselves Catholic but feel quite happy to disagree publicly with basic Church teaching on matters such as abortion, euthanasia, contraception, homosexuality, etc. etc.

There is a smug assumption behind it that the individual concerned is better informed on whatever matter is being discussed, and the Church will eventually have to change the "backward" policy when she catches on to public opinion.

When I returned to the Church, 14 years ago, I was very conscious of the fact that my own arrogance had previously led me astray: I was a scientist, and if you couldn't prove it, then it was a matter of opinion, and my opinion was better! So I made the deliberate decision to work from the basic assumption that, if there was a conflict between my reason and Church teaching, it was my reason that was at fault. Of course, I now know that this is very old hat - St Thomas Aquinas said exactly the same thing ... (great minds, hey!?)

I think that we're too diffident about proclaiming the fact that there is such a thing as Truth, and that the Church teaches it. Maybe we don't want to upset anyone and say, bluntly, "you are wrong." But my dictionary defines the denial or doubt of any defined doctrine of the Catholic faith as heresy. And maybe we need to have that spelled out.
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