Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Prayer to Saint Joseph

Saint Joseph has guided and protected our family, particularly over the past eight or so turbulent months. When we prayed for guidance and direction about where to live, our prayers for intercession were directed to Saint Joseph, beloved foster father of Our Blessed Lord. Although we are now happily moved and settled into a new home and parish, we have friends who are in the throes of moving or buying or selling houses, so we've continued our nightly novena to Saint Joseph for their intentions. I thought that those readers who have not come across it might want to add it to their prayer armoury.

The beautiful picture (above) of Saint Joseph and the Infant Jesus hangs in our home. I was told by our dear friend Pater Michael Mary that it is a copy of a very old picture recovered from inside a chimney when the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer were renovating a building. You can obtain a copy of this lovely devotional picture for yourself from the Papa Stronsay website (it's possibly the best £2 you will ever spend).

The prayer can be said as a one-off, as a novena (with the Our Father, Hail Mary & Glory Be appended to it) or (as we've done) as a rolling perpetual novena. However the prayer is said, Saint Joseph, the quiet man of the Gospels, is listening.

Prayer to Saint Joseph

O Saint Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in thee all my interests and desires. O Saint Joseph, assist me by thy powerful intercession and obtain for me all spiritual blessings through thy foster Son, Jesus Christ Our Lord, so that having engaged here below thy heavenly power I may offer thee my thanksgiving and homage.

O Saint Joseph, I never weary contemplating thee and Jesus asleep in thine arms. I dare not approach while He reposes near thy heart. Press him in my name and kiss His fine head for me, and ask Him to return the kiss when I draw my dying breath. 

Saint Joseph, Patron of departing souls, pray for us. 

Holy Saint Joseph, Ora Pro Nobis!

(Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be)

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Versus populum Masses make me uncomfortable

It struck me the other evening how enriching the ad orientem orientation is for the layperson in the pews. As our priest led the faithful in the prayers of the (silent) Canon towards the consecration, I was absorbed in prayer, my eyes focused on the figure of the infant Jesus in his Blessed Mother's arms above the crucifix on the altar. There was something profoundly moving about the Blessed Sacrament being lifted in adoration towards both the representation of the Crucifixion and that of Our Lord and his Mother.

Later, in contemplation after Holy Communion it occurred to me that this intense visual focus would not have been possible if the priest was saying Mass versus populum: even if the priest was a master of directing his gaze away from the congregation, there would be something uncomfortable, even unseemly about staring in the general direction of a person for an extended period -- even if the stare wasn't directed at the priest.

Ad orientem, the priest all but disappears: he is in alter Christus  - he is a conduit for the sacrifice of the Mass, not the "show".  This applies whether the Mass is in English or Latin, the Traditional Mass or the Novus ordo.  In our culture staring at a person is considered bad manners, a habit avoided from childhood onwards. Ad orientem the priest as person disappears leaving the worshipper free to worship without constraint, without self consciousness, with fewer barriers to their relationship with God.

Friday, 2 January 2015

In with the new...

There's something deeply reassuring about the gentle rhythms of the liturgical cycle. Singing the Te Deum on New Year's Eve and the Veni Creator Spiritus on New Years's Day is a reminder that no matter what changes or challenges the past year has brought, or the coming year will bring, we will, Deo volente, once again offer praise and thanksgiving when this infant year draws to a close..

The blog has been quiet for a while: there have been many changes in my (and my family's) life and the orchard I once gazed over from my kitchen window has been replaced by a seascape of muted greys and blues. Our new home is full of packing crates crammed with our worldly possessions and it will take some time for these to be organised... In the meantime I intend to resume blogging but have one small query: my nom-de-plume was the common name of a large apple tree in my former garden. Shall I change it, or shall I remain an apple tree at the seaside?

In the meantime, here's a jolly singalong to practice for next year:

Friday, 27 June 2014

Happy Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

We began the day with a beautiful Mass and prayers of reparation to the Sacred Heart at the Sacred Heart side altar this morning; Fr. Finigan's sermon mentioned that Sacre Coeur in Paris was built with donations from Catholics throughout France in order to have a place of perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and a permanent place for prayers of reparation to the Sacred Heart.
...and our celebration cake:


...which was probably a little too jolly looking but was delicious nonetheless. My two eldest children
(10 and 12) baked cake in a heart-shaped tin and I decorated it later on with strawberries, cream and mint-chocolate wafers shattered to make the thorns.



Saturday, 7 June 2014

You don't know what you've got 'till it's gone.

Home educators in France are waking up to the reality that their educational choice is about to be legislated out of existence by the French Senate. This is the latest in a raft of anti-family measures by the Hollande government, which has also added traditionalist pro-family group Civitas to groups to be monitored for “religious pathology” by the newly minted “National Observatory of Secularism” created by Interior Minister Manuel Valls  to promote France’s secularist policy and what it deems to be 'public morality' in schools.  

It shouldn't be surprising that home education is under threat in France. Vincent Peillon, current National Minister of Education is on YouTube saying that democracy is not possible where the Catholic Church is present and that the Church must be destroyed as part of an ongoing “revolution”. Pro-family groups in France are finding the legislative ground shifting, but  have become well organised: the wonderful pro-(natural)-family “Manif Pour Tous” movement has spread beyond France to Spain, Italy and Ireland. We need it in Britain as well.

British home educators watch France with increasing unease. We have a few things in our favour – for the moment at least. The first is that home educating in the UK is not a predominantly religious phenomenon. The vast majority do so for loosely philosophical  reasons: most are found somewhere on the hippie-ish spectrum – from yurt dwelling alternative lifestylers to slightly mad Oxbridge academic families, they are all people who have thought outside the box and often place great value on family and children. For Catholic home educators this is positive: religion can't be pinpointed so easily as a reason to crack down on home ed. Britain also has a legacy of civil liberties,  from which stems a residual  tolerance of home education  compared to other European countries. The strong home education communitiessthat have resulted mean  home educated children have access to wide and varied social networks. This is significant as the French legislation specifically mentions "voluntary de-socialization, destined to submit the child, who is particularly vulnerable, to a psychic, ideological or religious conditioning" as the reason for banning out-of-school learning.

In Britain the current government is taking a laissez-faire attitude towards home education. If it's working – and the research shows that it is – why change it?  However only a few years ago,  in his role as Secretary of State for Children Schools and Families, Ed Balls did his best to crush home education, commissioning a report on electively home educated children. When the initial report recommended no changes to the existing situation Balls commissioned a second report followed by a select committee. Backbencher Barry Sheerman, (who as Chairman of the parliamentary cross-party committee on children, schools and families under the last government  asserted that “faith education works all right as long as people are not that serious about their faith. But does become worrying when you get … more fundamentalist bishops”) has been asking leading questions about Home Education and making cryptic comments on Twitter. The message is clear: home education is in our sights and we won't be happy until it's gone.

Should this matter to the majority of parents who do not home educate? ABSOLUTELY. Why? 
Because Home Education as a litmus test of the relationship between the family and the state. Where the state accepts home education the state is accepting the family as the natural and safe environment for a child to learn. By contrast, state prohibition of home education is symptom of a state’s broader ideological position: suspicious of the family, wary of religious or ideological “indoctrination” , and insisting that professionals are better equipped than parents to guide children's academic and moral growth. 

A government that does not respect the right of a family to determine their children's educational path will never respect the rights of the parent to be the primary influence on their child. When the next round of state-led threats to home education kicks-off, pay attention: it’s not just about home education.

A version of this article appeared in Catholic Family Round-up in April 2014