Wednesday, 19 June 2013

'Don't cook your dog' is dialling 999 the right thing to do?

Anyone will tell you that I am the biggest softie alive, especially when it comes to animals. I'm one of those that used to cry at 'Animal Hospital' and  similar programmes whenever a pet was put down and the mere thought of animal cruelty or some poor creature being hunted to extinction would make my blood boil. And when it comes to dogs I'm a real sucker, having been very attached to my own little pooch whilst he was still alive. Things like animal neglect etc. still upset me as I really don't get why or how someone can treat a pet or other non domesticated animal in such an awful way. (The way we as a society treat creation in general upsets me too, we have so little respect for nature and everything in it.)

The case last year of two police dogs dying in a hot car shocked many. Similar ones have for years and I am totally in favour of campaigns to try and make people think about leaving their dog in the car on a hot day and what may happen to it. I saw this one pop up on Facebook earlier today;

You can view the full details of the campaign by clicking here.

As much as I agree with their intention to raise awareness about the effects of heat on pets, to reduce abuse and neglect I do have an issue with something they've said. Under the "emergencies" tab it lists advice on what to do should you see a dog in such a situation. It recommends as a first port of call that people dial 999 to report it to the police. Yes, people are responsible for the care and well being of their pets but 999 is an emergency number, to be used in urgent cases only. This number was introduced over 75 years ago to reduce and report serious crime and to help save lives from fires and so on. It was introduced for the protection of people in the event of an emergency, not dogs in hot cars. Some might say that a dog suffering and in danger of death would count as pretty urgent and requires immediate attention. It certainly does but the emergency services are there to ensure the safety of human beings and not animals. If you see a baby or small child locked in a hot car and overheating that is a totally different issue, 999 would be the appropriate number to dial. I know one person who would argue with me that it is no less right to ring the police to save the life of a dog as opposed to the life of a small child if they have been left and neglected. An animal lover I may firmly be but humanising our pets, seeing human traits in them does not make them people. As hard as it is for some to hear people take priority. The life of a person is of a much greater value and we have to remember that. We have heard many times about how over stretched the system already is, we even now have a non-urgent number for less pressing cases, so we should not be actively encouraging people to use this for what it is not intended. Call the RSPCA, call the local police, but using 999 is inappropriate and may cost a person their life.

Monday, 3 June 2013

St. Charles Lwanga and the marriage vote

Over on his blog Laurence England has made the very good suggestion that we pray the rosary today and tomorrow that the House of Lords will reject Cameron's bill to redefine marriage. There's no better to person to ask to defend marriage than Our Lady, Queen of the Family, but it is also a good idea to ask the prayers of the martyrs whose feast it is today.

St. Charles Lwanga and his companions were executed by King Mwanga of Uganda in 1886 for rejecting his sexual advances and refusing to renounce their faith under threat of torture and death. For those of us who believe that marriage is a sacrament and exists only between one man and one woman this witness is a cold splash of water in the face, reminding us that we are called to stand up for our beliefs no matter what the cost. We are not going to be burned alive as St. Lwanga, we will not be beheaded as some of his companions so with all this in mind we should be even more bold in testifying to the truth. Staying silent is not an option. And we have no excuse for not trying.

St Charles Lwanga and companions, pray for us.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Corpus Christi

A very nice gentleman in my parish and I were having a conversation a couple of weeks back and he was telling me how it had always pained him that he couldn't feel any love for Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. This came as news to me because he's one of the most reverential and devoted men I've ever met. The only time he misses the daily holy hour at St. John's is when he's away on pilgrimage or retreat. He said he firmly believes, he knows that it definitely is Jesus and that he loves God but in all those hours he spends on adoration each week he feels no emotion whatsoever. I felt quite sorry for him when he said that as whenever I enter a church my heart leaps to be before the Lord present in the tabernacle. I love adoration, I love the Eucharist. And whilst my feelings don't make the reality of Christ's presence any more or less real they do aid and strengthen my own personal devotion to him. One of my favourite prayers is this one of St. Francis;

I adore You, most holy Lord Jesus Christ, here and in all Your churches throughout the world. And I praise You, because by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world.

On Tuesday our discernment group was given a talk about the Eucharist and our vocations. The priest, Fr Dominic, told us the story of two reformation martyrs; one was Blessed Margaret Pole who, because of her faith, was imprisoned and deprived of the sacraments but her love of God persevered despite her not being able to attend Mass, the other was St. Anne Line who sheltered priests in her London home, went to Mass frequently and helped other Catholics go too. She was caught having Mass said in her house one day when it was raided and swiftly tried and executed. I was pondering the stories of these two women today, thinking whether I could cope without the Blessed Sacrament, without the Mass and the honest answer is no! Many of us would like to think that, in the face of persecution we could stand firm, but if I, like Blessed Margaret, were to be kept from the Eucharist like that I would waste away. Just a some people can't bear to be away from their husband or wife or children I couldn't bear to be parted from Christ's real presence. It would literally break my heart.

All this made me think of Pope Francis and his initiative to have millions of Catholics praying worldwide before the Blessed Sacrament and how many people these days are not free, not able to do so. They would give anything for this, but the persecution and discrimination they face is so fierce they simply cannot. Like Blessed Margaret Pole that love for God dwells, burns quietly within. We, who are as lucky as St. Anne to have frequent access to Mass and the Eucharist, should pray for them daily, that this love and faith will persevere no matter what.

Friday, 31 May 2013

Why Our Lady's feasts are so important

I love feasts of Our Lady, they communicate so much of the love of God for his people to us, which may well be why there are so many of them!! Sitting and meditating on how almighty God chose not just to become one of us but to be conceived and born as weak and frail and...human as you and I is mind blowing. And of all the women in all the ages he chose a young, seemingly insignificant girl from utter obscurity. And in fact he didn't simply decide on her and impose his will upon her, he asked her first. He loved her so much, he loves all of us so much, that he respects our freedom to choose him and asks us, not forces us, to follow him. And because she was totally open to his will for her e poured out more love and grace into her soul than the mind can scarcely imagine. This is why we have that beautiful prayer of hers, the Magnificat, that is why she intercedes so readily for us when we all upon her, because she is filled to the brim with divine love.

"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my saviour. With these words Mary first acknowledges the special gifts she has been given. Then she recalls God’s universal favours, bestowed unceasingly on the human race.

When a man devotes all his thoughts to the praise and service of the Lord, he proclaims God’s greatness. His observance of God’s commands, moreover, shows that he has God’s power and greatness always at heart. His spirit rejoices in God his saviour and delights in the mere recollection of his creator who gives him hope for eternal salvation.

These words are often for all God’s creations, but especially for the Mother of God. She alone was chosen, and she burned with spiritual love for the son she so joyously conceived. Above all other saints, she alone could truly rejoice in Jesus, her saviour, for she knew that he who was the source of eternal salvation would be born in time in her body, in one person both her own son and her Lord.

For the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. Mary attributes nothing to her own merits. She refers all her greatness to the gift of the one whose essence is power and whose nature is greatness, for he fills with greatness and strength the small and the weak who believe in him.

She did well to add: and holy is his name, to warn those who heard, and indeed all who would receive his words, that they must believe and call upon his name. For they too could share in everlasting holiness and true salvation according to the words of the prophet: and it will come to pass, that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. This is the name she spoke of earlier: and my spirit rejoices in God my saviour."

I was reading this homily by St Bede the Venerable this morning and I just love how he describes how she "burned with spiritual love" for Jesus after he was conceived in her womb. And how is she able to love him so powerfully? Because he loved her first, he has emptied himself to become man, he has emptied his love into her heart.

What makes my heart skip a beat is hat God will do this for anyone who truly and honestly seeks him. He comes knocking and we have only to say yes and let him and he will transfigure us into who we were created to be. Our Lady is the prime example of who we as Christians should be, we should be docile and receptive to God's word and, in all things, bring forth Jesus for all people. She is the shining witness of what can happen if we put God first and, like her, say "let it be done into me according to your word." And because God passionately desires each of us to come to him he has given us his mother to be our mother, to be the Queen of heaven and earth. She visited Elizabeth out of her love for her cousin, of we ask her help she will come and visit us, to bring God to each of us too. We just have to ask.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Spiritual writings and an examination if conscience

I was reading this earlier today, it's from the Confessions of St. Augustine. One thing I love about the Catholic Church (among many things) is that we have 2,000 years of amazing saints writing amazing things like this. It hit me that this would prove a good examination of conscience for me this week; when am I hiding myself from God, hen do I try to veil myself in sin? Have a read of it, it's soul stirring stuff!

"Whoever I may be, Lord, I lie exposed to your scrutiny

Lord, you know me. Let me know you. Let me come to know you even as I am known.You are the strength of my soul; enter it and make it a place suitable for your dwelling, a possession without spot or blemish. This is my hope and the reason I speak. In this hope I rejoice, when I rejoice rightly. As for the other things of this life, the less they deserve tears, the more likely will they be lamented; and the more they deserve tears, the less likely will men sorrow for them. For behold, you have loved the truth, because the one who does what is true enters into the light. I wish to do this truth before you alone by praising you, and before a multitude of witnesses by writing of you.

O Lord, the depths of a man’s conscience lie exposed before your eyes. Could anything remain hidden in me, even though I did not want to confess it to you? In that case I would only be hiding you from myself, not myself from you. But now my sighs are sufficient evidence that I am displeased with myself; that you are my light and the source of my joy; that you are loved and desired. I am thoroughly ashamed of myself; I have renounced myself and chosen you, recognizing that I can please neither you nor myself unless you enable me to do so.

Whoever I may be, Lord, I lie exposed to your scrutiny. I have already told of the profit I gain when I confess to you. And I do not make my confession with bodily words, bodily speech, but with the words of my soul and the cry of my mind which you hear and understand. When I am wicked, my confession to you is an expression of displeasure with myself. But when I do good, it consists in not attributing this goodness to myself. For you, O Lord, bless the just man,but first you justify the wicked. And so I make my confession before you in silence, and yet not in silence. My voice is silent but my heart cries out.

You, O Lord, are my judge. For though no one knows a man’s innermost self except the man’s own spirit within him, yet there is something in a man which even his own spirit does not know. But you know all of him, for you have made him. As for me, I despise myself in your sight, knowing that I am but dust and ashes; yet I know something of you that I do not know of myself.

True, we see now indistinctly as in a mirror, but not yet face to face. Therefore, so long as I am in exile from you, I am more present to myself than to you. Yet I do know that you cannot be overcome, while I am uncertain which temptations I can resist and which I cannot. Nevertheless, I have hope, becauseyou are faithful and do not allow us to be tempted beyond our endurance, but along with the temptation you give us the means to withstand it.

I will confess, therefore, what I know of myself, and also what I do not know. The knowledge that I have of myself, I possess because you have enlightened me; while the knowledge of myself that I do not yet possess will not be mine until my darkness shall be made as the noonday sun before your face."

St. Augustine, pray for us.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Is he being serious?

I have had a lovely mini pilgrimage to York this bank holiday weekend and spent this morning sitting outside, enjoying the sunshine in one of the parks reading the Telegraph marvelling at how hunky dory life is when I came across this news story.

Errr...what?! So this man breaks up with his girlfriend uses an adult chat line and wants the bill waived because it's too high? Isn't that kinda his fault? After all he rang the chat line and, since the bill is £91,000 he must have rung it an awful lot. Like an excessive amount. But is this honesty Vodafone's fault? He chose to call the chat line however many times, it's not their responsibility to nanny their users all the time. Surely as an adult he is capable of looking after his own phone bill. And he must have been on that line for hours each day for the bill to be that high.

I am sorry he broke up with his girlfriend, he is obviously heartbroken but calling sex chat lines is not a healthy way to deal with a break up. Pornography trivialises relationships, turning them into meaningless sex and that has a knock on effect in how we then relate to people in the future. This case is a classic example of how dangerous it is; he was using he women on the phones to ease his pain, he didn't really care about them, they were objects or him to use and equally they used him to make money. Chat lines like these prey on people like him. It's sad certainly, but the blame does not lie with Vodafone...

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Spreading hate

This popped up on my Facebook earlier today:

I remember when I was in sixth form we in our critical thinking class were discussing whether we thought the death penalty was right or not. Saddam Hussein had not long been executed which was why it had come up. It was certainly interesting to hear people's views, many were against it in principle but agreed that Hussein should die for what he'd done, others felt no one should undergo the death sentence no matter what and some (but not many) believed capital punishment is an effective deterrent to crime and should be reintroduced. Personally I am not in favour. I believe that all life is sacred, all life is precious. No one has a greater or lesser degree of dignity than another. We are all created equal, we share equally in the fact that our dignity stems from our being made in the image and likeness of God. I firmly believe that no one has the right to take the life of another. Michael Adebolajo had no right to murder Lee Rigby but the State has no right to execute him either. I know that many people are very angry about what happened, I too was shocked and appalled when I heard how brutal the attack was. Some would say that I am wrong to say that Adebolajo should live having done something so dreadful, that it isn't fair for him to keep on living, that his crime calls for the supreme punishment and to stop further attacks of this nature we need to have a hard line on people like him.

I have several issues with all this.
1) Assuming that there will be more attacks like this and capital punishment is the required antidote/deterrent is scare mongering. There is no evidence that there will be a wide scale attack upon our service men and women by Muslim extremists. From what I have understood thus far from the media reports there are a lot of questions that need answering about why he was allowed to settle here when he had a history of extremism etc. but there is no sign of any imminent threat. And one reason this attack was so deeply distressing is that we have never seen anything like this happen before, there have not been previous murders like this. Jumping the gun is only more likely to make people paranoid and hostile than protect us from threats.
2) Michael Adebolajo is a human being. Yes he has committed a terrible, terrible crime but he is still a human person. He deserves to be punished, don't get me wrong, but we must not lose sight of his humanity. Adebolajo didn't see Rigby as a person with equal dignity, equal humanity which is why he did what he did but we should not demean ourselves by coming down to that level, letting hatred cloud our eyes that we see a human life as no longer worthy of living. This makes us as bad as him and the preachers that influenced him. We must take the higher ground.
3) Capital punishment is not an effective deterrent to crime. Countries that have it still have murders and hate crimes committed, the thought of "what might happen if I'm caught" evidently doesn't cross their minds, they either believe they won't be caught or, like Adebolajo they want to be to publicise what they've done and why.
4) Capital punishment is not about justice, it is about revenge. It is about getting our 'pound of flesh' our 'eye for an eye' when the response that we need to give is forgiveness. We need to give it not only to stop ourselves from forgetting the value of every human life but we also need to forgive if we are to properly mourn and heal. Hatred is insidious; it festers in the heart, makes us bitter as resentful, it eats away at us, hurting us ever more deeply, fragmenting us. Forgiving those who do us harm lets love rule in us and not hatred, that doesn't mean we are doormats but are not consumed by our anger. It helps to keep us whole and to move forward.
5) We need a penal system that reforms criminals as well as punishes. It's all well and good to say we need deterrents but we need to stop the cycle of reoffending too. Deterrent alone won't work.

I agree something needs to be done to stop the radicalisation of young people. I don't know what, I can't give that answer but I do know acting out of anger and a desire for vengeance will only make things worse. We will make things worse. Lee Rigby's family need our love and support not our loud cries for blood. Will executing Adebolajo bring Lee back? No. Will it heal the wounds? No. Will it help at all? No. Forgiveness is the hardest path to take, but it is the most fruitful and the most worthwhile.

"But you're wasting your life"

Yesterday I finished my first ever come and see with the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal. It was fantastic and whilst I do want to take a week or so to properly reflect and pray on my time with them it was an amazingly positive experience.

Although I've visited nuns and sisters at their convents in the past I had never been on a come and see before and wasn't 100% sure what it would be like and what we would do. The lovely Sr Catherine explained that, since I was visiting one of their mission houses and not one of the main convents in the US this would be quite informal; a chance for me to experience what life would be like if I were part of their community. The fact that it was quite relaxed and that I could just "slot in" to their schedule for a few days was kind of a relief on both sides I think!!

The house in Leeds is small and only has four Sisters (and only three were home this week). But even though there's just a few of them there was so much going on! In their little parish in the four days I was with them we had the primary school youth group, the secondary school youth group, the soup kitchen, the mum and toddler group, preparations for a family festival on top of all the normal chores and a day filled to the brim with prayer. It was brilliant, absolutely brilliant. The apostolates run by the Sisters are so needed in that community where, for various reasons, mass attendance was dwindled and people have lost their connection with their faith. Their mission is to work with the materially poor, those whom society forgets or neglects or ignores and help them in spiritual and practical ways. What these Sisters do is done with great love and care, to show people they are not trying to 'force God down their throats' but that God loves them deeply and wants to be a part of their lives. They give so much of themselves through their work, trying to show the light of Christ through all that they do, in the big and the small things. Taking the soup kitchen as an example a lot of those who come to the door are not shown respect or low by others, they are used and abused and use and abuse others perhaps too, but they seem encouraged and strengthened by the non judgemental and joyful compassion from the Friars and Sisters. Some are even exploring the faith again. People have said I would be 'wasted' were I to become a religious sister, but a life poured out for love of God and his people is by no definition a waste.

Oh and their life of prayer is...wonderful. It is centered on the Eucharist with a daily holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament and is filled too with a deep devotion to Our Lady. There is a real sense of closeness to Jesus in it all which I think is what makes their apostolates so fruitful. Even their little devotions speak so much of their love of God. It's fabulous. On Fridays they have a dedicated day of prayer of adoration and silent contemplation. I loved that!!

I was reading a book whilst I was there, written by a Poor Clare nun, on what life in a convent is like (The Right to be Merry it's called). It's hilarious and she talks about some of the preconceived ideas people have about nuns and active sisters. A big one is that they don't do anything, that they slowly waste away behind their walls (which isn't true, even for contemplatives whose life is poured out in prayer for the whole world - a great calling!!) and that they're boring and miserable. Somehow people think religious don't have a sense of humour. Well I can tell you I have never laughed so much in the space of four days!! The Sisters a happy people, they are living the life they were created for and that brings them immense joy (why shouldn't it?) which they share with everyone. So yes all in all an amazing visit. If you get a chance to meet the Friars or the Sisters do go up and say hi, they're brilliant!