Saturday 20 February 2010

The Disgrace Which Is The CES...

The Catholic Education Service is a complete disgrace.

SPUC have done a stirling job in highlighting the collusion between the CES and the Government in drawing up the Children, Schools and Families Bill which is up for its third reading on Tuesday 23rd February.

SPUC have also produced a clear summary of the main areas of the Bill which are of concern to anyone wishing to follow Catholic teaching.

Collusion is not too strong a word - the CES has actively worked with the Government to draw up this Bill, which prevents parents from having a say in how their children are educated. Betrayal is another word that springs to mind. The Catholics of England and Wales support the CES financially through collections held in church. I have no wish to give money to any non-Catholic education services (I already pay taxes for that purpose, thank you very much!) I would, therefore, expect the CES to be fighting to uphold the rights of Catholic schools to teach the Catholic faith, in its entirety... and without outside interference.

We are not attempting to impose religious beliefs on anyone else, we just want the right to educate our children in line with those beliefs. That includes having the right to withdraw children from classes which are promoting a way of life contrary to those beliefs.

What really underlines the disgraceful attitude of the CES is the self-congratulatory tone of its pronouncements. In a statement made on 5 November 2009:

"As age and growing independence brings young people ever closer to pressures, advertising and coercion to behaviour which can undermine the healthy life of young people, we are comforted in the knowledge that our schools and colleges will do an exceptional job in providing Sex and Relationships Education, set within the teachings of the Catholic Church."

Really? In my experience, the schools look to the CES for guidance. If the CSF Bill has been drawn up with the active help and advice of the CES, then it must be ok to teach that stuff, mustn't it?

And then there is the stunning incompetence of the CES. In a clarification, the CES states:

"The proposals announced by Ed Balls today confirm that, from September 2011, Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education, including Sex and Relationships Education (SRE), will be compulsory in all schools. We welcome the government’s reiteration of its support for the important principles underlining SRE, which emphasise that schools continue to have the legal right to determine the content of what is taught in PSHE within their schools and that governing bodies retain the right to determine what is taught, and must determine this in line with the ethos of the school."

The Government, however, has rather a different view, which a simple question from parents seems to have been able to ascertain...

"Let's be absolutely clear, faith schools cannot opt out of statutory PSHE and SRE (sex and relationships education) lessons when it comes into effect in September 2011.

"All maintained schools and academies will be required to teach the full programmes of study in line with the principles outlined in the Bill including promoting equality and encouraging acceptance of diversity."

So, to suggest that Catholic schools continue to have the legal right to determine the content of what is taught is an example of gross incompetence.

And, once again, SPUC has done a first class job of debunking the latest attempts of the CES to claim credit for getting the Government to back down on the CSF Bill.

Perhaps, in these times of financial constraints, it is time for the Bishops' Conference of England & Wales to reconsider its funding of the CES, since that body appears to be nothing more than a mouthpiece for the latest Government education policy.

UPDATE: There is also Damian Thompson's excellent article, where he comes to much the same conclusion as me...

Friday 19 February 2010

One Word Comment...

A meme with a twist. Twitch of the mantilla to Nazareth Priest (a regular commenter here) for this one...

"Let's see how forthcoming my blog buddies are. Leave a ONE word comment that you think best describes me. It can only be one word. No more than one word. Then copy & paste this post on your blog so I can leave a word about you. This should be interesting."

Choir Blog...

There is a new blog by Leutgeb which has details of music and stuff for the Sunday 10:30am Extraordinary Form Mass at Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen.

Check it out HERE.

More "Stand Up" Comedy Gold...

The Stand Up for Vatican II crowd is still chuntering away in the background. However, it seems that now they want to get themselves taken seriously - the meeting they held in Victoria earlier this year has given them delusions of grandeur, perhaps...

The plan of action appears to be badgering our bishops to hold Masses to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council. Now, I have no objections whatsoever to Masses held to celebrate anniversaries, and I am quite happy with accepting the teachings of Vatican II as they have been stated and signed by the Magisterium of the Church...

I do, however, have strong reservations about such Masses being hijacked by a bunch of people whose stated aim is to protest against the teachings of the Church.

I will say again, Stand Up for Vatican II is being coordinated by groups which are opposed to the Magisterium of the Church: they want to change the Church's teaching on sexuality, contraception, abortion, women priests, homosexuality and married clergy. They're also none too keen on the actual teachings of Vatican II, preferring to invoke "the Spirit" as a cloak for their own disobedience and dissent.

Catholics for a Changing Church
Executive Committee

To allow groups such as Catholics for a Changing Church and We Are Church (UK) to have a Mass in support of Vatican II is like allowing the Family Planning Association to host a fund-raising dinner in aid of SPUC. It is nonsensical. It sounds wonderful (after all, there's nothing objectionable in the idea of a Mass supporting the Council) and many people will be taken in by it, but, like the fictitious fund-raiser, it cannot be allowed to happen. Just as we check the ethical views of charities, businesses, political parties and so on, so also we have a duty to check who is promoting a particular Church event.

To allow such a Mass to be promoted (and hijacked) by groups which are in open defiance of Church teaching is to give tacit support to their dissent. This would be to ignore the recent statement of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, on the occasion of the ad limina visit of the English and Welsh bishops:

"In a social milieu that encourages the expression of a variety of opinions on every question that arises, it is important to recognize dissent for what it is, and not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate. It is the truth revealed through Scripture and Tradition and articulated by the Church’s Magisterium that sets us free."

I suspect that our bishops will need to be given prayerful support in seeing the Stand Up for Vatican II campaign for what it is. I have seen an email from Bernard Wynne calling for members of the group to send letters and petitions to their diocesan bishops, giving suggested wording. Particularly interesting was the instruction to have about 10 names actually on the letter to the bishop, with a statement to indicate that several other people had also appended their names - and to have these extra names recorded separately. This is, I am told, a popular political manoeuvre, as these extra names have not necessarily seen the exact wording of the letter being sent... There was also a suggestion that meetings could be arranged to coincide with any Masses being held as a way of drumming up enthusiasm.

Watch this space for further developments...

Thursday 18 February 2010


I try to go on retreat once a year as part of my rule of life, but usually it is just a private retreat at home made over the days of the Easter Triduum. This is partly because I loathe the happy-clappy, let's-all-discuss-our-feelings type of retreat that seems to be mostly on offer for women. I'm not interested in what I (or anyone else) feels about God or prayer - well, not on retreat - I want to know what the Church teaches. "Feelings" is for coffee mornings...

I'd heard that Wickenden Manor was a good retreat centre from friends of mine who had been there for days and evenings of recollection. I had a brief look at their dates last year, but nothing coincided with holidays. Then, after Christmas, a friend handed me their list of dates for 2010, and I noticed that there was a retreat for women being run at the start of Half Term. None of the other dates were convenient, and I knew that I needed a serious spiritual going-over before Lent began, so I promptly booked myself in.

Despite having taken great care to work out my route beforehand, I succeeded in getting myself lost. I had forgotten, you see, that 7pm in February is rather dark... and, there not being any streetlights in the middle of nowhere, dark really does mean dark, so one can't read directions left on the car seat... and narrow winding lanes, going up and down hills, with ditches on one side and forests on the other, don't make for convenient places to pull over and check... add the sudden onslaught of sleet and a sudden blackout of sat-nav signal, and you have the recipe for a rather good horror movie...

Eventually, I found out where I'd gone wrong, and was able to retrace my steps. I arrived just in time to find out that the first meditation was about to begin, and with it, the silent retreat. This was a bit of a shock - I knew that there would be periods of silence (the brochure had mentioned it), but hadn't expected the retreat to be totally silent... In addition, everyone else seemed to know what they were doing...

I found it a little difficult to settle during the first meditation because I didn't know what was "coming next." However, I gathered that the meditations during the retreat would follow the Gospel of St. Luke. An entire Gospel to be covered in three days seemed rather an ambitious plan...

The woman in charge of the retreat then took me up to my room, showed me where we could make tea and coffee, and where the bathrooms were, and, with an encouraging smile, she left me to my own devices.

I was impressed by the bedroom, and promptly whipped out my camera. I loved the fact that the handbasin was "built in" and could therefore be hidden away. I also liked the fact that some books were already on the shelves - so I wouldn't have to go far to find some reading material. There was also a copy of the retreat timetable left on the desk... knowing that I'd never be able to remember it all, I promptly entered the information on my phone notes. I looked out of the window, and saw a glow of lights on the distant horizon, but couldn't see anything else. I unpacked, and then settled down to pray the Office before going to bed (which was very comfortable.)

Retreat Timetable

Getting up in the morning was a real effort, but I managed. Glancing out of the window, I could see that the temperature had dropped, and that it was a bit frosty out. Then it was down to the Oratory for the first meditation of the day, followed by Mass. Breakfast was weird: I'm not at my most communicative in the morning, but being in the midst of twenty women eating in complete silence was a first for me!

The talks before lunch each day were held in the sitting room, and each one was given by a different lay member of Opus Dei, emphasising the lay apostolate as it affected the women present on the retreat: there were, therefore, many references to husbands, children and family life and responsibilities, and it was assumed that all those present were actually involved in Opus Dei. I still found plenty of food for thought.

All the meditations and prayers were held in the Oratory. On one of the mornings, I went and sat in the library for a break. The amazing thing was that I hardly ever encountered any of the other retreatants... I have no idea whether people went back to their own rooms or out into the grounds... however, as you can see from the programme, there weren't many "spare" moments!

At lunch and dinner, the silence was broken by people taking it in turns to read from a book about the beginning of Opus Dei in America, Putting Down Roots. I'm sure I made a complete hash of the pronunciation of "Muzquiz" as well as some other Spanish words. I would rather have heard a bit more about St. Josémaria, but then again, I expect the women present had already heard quite a bit about him!

I came away from the retreat feeling as if I'd been clouted over the head by a very big bag of bricks: this is not a criticism, you understand! It's just that the intensity of the experience was quite a lot to take in, it was quite the most intensive retreat I have ever experienced.

I have certainly started Lent in the best way possible, and suspect that I shall be mulling over my retreat for some considerable time! If you get the chance, I would definitely recommend going on retreat with Opus Dei!

Wednesday 17 February 2010

Back Again...

... Just so that you know I am no longer incommunicado!

I have had a very long day, though, and, having just arrived home after Mass at Our Lady of the Rosary, cuddled the cat, unpacked my suitcase and checked my emails, I realise that, unless I want to break my Lenten resolutions within the first 24 hours, I am going to have to leave the blogging until tomorrow morning!

Thanks for your good wishes, I've now published all the comments left in my absence, and I prayed for my readers while I was away.

Sunday 14 February 2010

We Interrupt This Service...


Sorry. Having just started blogging again, I will have to stop. I'm off on retreat until Wednesday, which makes a nice little pre-Lenten preparation for me.

Wickenden Manor in West Sussex is an Opus Dei retreat centre. I shall do my best to avoid any albino monks and all paintings by Leonardo Da Vinci...

Day With Mary 2010...

The Day With Mary team visits Blackfen on an annual basis. It is a tremendous blessing to have them in the parish - the enthusiasm, the joy, the devotion, the prayer... it's a real spiritual powerhouse! At the beginning of the day, I spotted the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate preparing the bier for Our Lady's statue.

The Church's teaching on indulgences was explained at the start, and we were encouraged to offer up what we could for the benefit of the Holy Souls in Purgatory. In the middle of the day there were three priests hearing Confessions, each with a sizeable queue! So I have no doubt that quite a few Holy Souls got "sprung" as a result!

Our Lady's statue was carried in, and candles and lights arranged; then prayers were recited and a hymn or two sung before the statue was crowned... I am always amazed that Fr. Tim actually manages to climb the stepladder while wearing a cope, cassock and cotta... let alone that he crowns the statue and arranges the rosary without falling into the flowers!

More prayers followed, and then the statue was carried round the block in procession, while the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary were recited. After taking a quick photo or two, I returned to the warmth of the church... It is strange, but we've always been very lucky with the weather. Even though the Day With Mary is in February each year, I don't remember it ever having rained for either the Rosary Procession or the Blessed Sacrament Procession. Today was no exception: it actually snowed later on in the day, very lightly, but the processions were unaffected!

Then it was back for Mass, in the Extraordinary Form, which was well attended.

The Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate sang the Mass propers, and the congregation enthusiastically joined in singing Mass IX (Cum Jubilo) and the other responses. I wanted to put up a slide-show of the photos I took during Mass, but I haven't had a chance to arrange them yet...

There was generous use of incense, which I really like... though at one point I thought we came close to losing sight of an altar server or two!

My favourite bits...

After Mass, we stopped for lunch, and I made my now customary bee-line for the book stall. I was so keen to check out the books that I forgot to take a photo of them. I'll do a separate post detailing my purchases... suffice it to say that the chaps in charge of the book stall remembered me!

After lunch, it was back to the church for Exposition. The Blessed Sacrament Procession only went round the car park due to time constraints, but I repeated my earlier tactic of taking a quick photo and then retreating back to the warm church. Yes, I'm a wimp.

Fr. Tim gave an excellent sermon on Our Lady - with any luck he'll put the text up on his blog later. We then recited the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary, led by one of the Sisters, followed by the Stations of the Cross (with hymns and prayers in between!) My one regret was that I wasn't able to join in the singing, as it made me croak.

The croaking was soon sorted, though, with a couple of cups of tea, and a little look at the devotional objects on sale. I had hoped to get a replacement statue of St. Philomena, but alas, someone else had already snaffled the one the team had brought along.

My attention was caught, however, by a rather good bust of Our Lord crowned with thorns: coming so swiftly after Fr. Tim's reference (in his sermon, and a few days before on his blog) to devotion to the Sacred Head of Our Lord, it seemed just perfect.

The final session followed on, with Fr. Agnellus, FI, giving a hard-hitting sermon on doing everything we possibly could to avoid hell, and turning to Our Lady for her assistance. Plenty of food for thought, and a real challenge against lukewarmness or complacency.

We then had Benediction, which was very moving. I thought I'd give a little flavour of the atmosphere and the enthusiastic response of the congregation by recording a snippet from the recitation of the Divine Praises and the singing of Adoremus in aeternum as the Blessed Sacrament was reposed in the tabernacle...

Waving goodbye to the statue at the end of the day, to the hymn "O Fatima, farewell !" always brings a tear to my eye... and watching a little toddler wave a white hankie, while being carried in her father's arms, nearly finished me off completely...

And finally...

The day has been a real blessing for the parish. I can't wait until next year!
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