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Friday, March 31, 2006

Many Thanks!

Baby Harry is in the clear and his mother is enormously grateful for everyone's prayers. She rang me this afternoon just after they returned home from hospital. On Wednesday night Harry was found to have all four of the external symptoms associated with meningitis. His parent took him to the GP who sent them straight to hospital. The specialists told them that there was at best a 5% chance that it wasn't meningitis. A blood sample was taken. That was when they began asking for prayers. The quicker test was too dangerous because the baby was too distressed. The blood sample takes more than a day to show up. Lots of prayers and Masses later the symptoms completely disappeared and the blood test came back clear. The doctors apparently are very surprised, as they don't know anything else that produces all these symptoms. Harry is back home with his parents and feeling much better.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

HFEA Consultation Report

Analysis of response to consultation on review of the Human Fertility and Embryology Act - link to PDF file on website linked above.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Chaps of a sensitive disposition, look away now

On Women's Hour, Jenni Murray asks about the new contraceptive wonder-pill, and wonders if its effect of entirely suppressing menstruation might be less than positive. Reply (from Edinburgh academic... shame...):

'If you look at the situation of women - sexually active women - say a hundred and fifty years ago, many would have been pregnant and therefore not having periods, or breast-feeding and not having periods, or menopausal and not having periods, or would have died in childbirth and so - not having periods. So not having periods is not an unnatural condition...'

It does not take a highly trained mind to note that there is a considerable difference between (i) the fact that there are factors in the female life-cycle which naturally mean that menstruation at times does not occur, and (ii) the assertion that not having periods is per se a natural enough condition. It is difficult to see that dosing oneself with hormones could be placed under the former heading.

The mention of death in childbirth was so bizarre as to be amusing. Death as the ultimate contraceptive... there are so many things wrong with that notion... Its inclusion also rather implies the feeling of the contraceptive-abortive lobby that lack of 'control over one's fertility' is essentially death: non-contracepting women are liable to find themselves dead at the hands of both male oppression and the intruder in the womb... - although I doubt (to be fair) that the woman on the radio particularly meant to make this point. Yet it is also interesting, I suppose, that the idea of lives wherein fertility is not seen as something to be overcome is so far outwith the lived or even imaginative experience of the contraceptive lobby that it can only be viewed in terms of mid-Victorian novels and their high maternal mortality rates. Perhaps someone should point out that one does not cease to benefit from modern medicine (if one is fortunate enough to live somewhere where it is available) just because one does not impede procreation in its appropriate context.

(Quoth the scholasticula, who, being neither in the paternal household, married, nor in a college or convent, is obviously in a completely unnatural state of life and cannot speak with personal authority on any of the above matters...)

Saturday, March 25, 2006

What are Opus Dei?

Are Opus Dei a military order? They are lay. They recruit only the "Aristocracy of the intelligentsia". They have full celibate members and associated non-celibate members. They also have financial and spiritual supporters and an order of chaplains. This is exactly the same structure as the Templars or Hospitallers. In the twelfth century the knight, his horse and his armour were the fundamental unit of power in Western Christendom; now there the are different skills central to the exercise of power in the West. It would appear it is the holders of these skills in which the prelature is most interested. The fundamental idea is the same: to insure the ordering of social life to man's true end, "pro sola devotione, non pro honoris vel pecuniae", through the promise of celibacy. The ordinary knights of Outremer were always likely to seek stabilizing alliances with Muslim powers or retire to the safety of Cyprus. The Military orders, however, had no dynastic agenda to advance and preserved the austere spirit of the original crusade. This of course is one of the purposes of celibacy throughout the church. It makes no sense in the terms of this world; it is tied inextricably to the world to come; it institutionalizes the truth that the kingdom is not of this world, and prevents the church turning into an organ of the state.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

More importantly

than toast -

The poor brave man in Afghanistan. You're probably all praying for him anyway, but, well, carry on.

Lectores dilecti, please also pray for - a private intention, as people seem to say, since I can't decently air the matter in this forum. Please particularly ask St Augustine, St Thomas Aquinas, Blessed John Duns Scotus and John Henry Newman for intercession. It's urgent - well, has been urgent for a while, probably, but I've just found out. Gratias multas ago.

Random thought

Eating toast in the bath is preferable to eating toast in bed. The crumbs are less troublesome.

Why has it taken twenty-four years to discover this simple key to breakfasting happiness?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Tidings of Comfort and Joy?

Monday, March 20, 2006

To any home

two relatives, little used (to doing anything). Will pay for uplift.

Now that that is off my chest, a puzzle. The tiles inside are all the same size and shape, as are the triangles themselves.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Winston and Mohammedanism

"How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property‹either as a child, a wife, or a concubine‹must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the Queen; all know how to die; but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science - the science against which it had vainly struggled - the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome."

Winston Spencer Churchill, The River War, first edition, Vol. II, pages 248 50 (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1899).

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Something's off here

A Businesswoman of the Year competition where the prize is... a Chanel suit. Much as the idea of a Chanel suit appeals, the notion that one's reward for doing well in business ought to be to look nice seems a bit dubious. Possibly even patronising. Not sure how, if at all, this reflects on the nature of and priorities expressed in our economy; but something doesn't seem right.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

A Holy Office

Friday, March 10, 2006

Feast of St John Ogilvie

A happy feast day to all chaps called John (etc), girls called Jean (etc), Ogilvies, north-easterners, people who've studied in Eastern Europe, Jesuits, fellow Scottish converts, etc etc!

God our Father,
fountain of all blessing,
we thank You for the countless graces
that come to us
in answer to the prayers of Your saints.
With great confidence we ask you in the name of Your Son
and through the prayers of St John
to help us in all our needs.

Lord Jesus,
You chose Your servant St John
to be your faithful witness
to the spiritual authority
of the chief shepherd of Your flock.
Keep Your people always one
in mind and heart,
in communion with Benedict, our Pope,
and all the bishops of Your Church.

Holy Spirit,
You gave St John
light to know your truth,
wisdom to defend it,
and courage to die for it.
Through his prayers and example
bring our country
into the unity and peace
of Christ's kingdom.


Sancte Johanne Ogilvie, ora pro populo Scocie!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

St Duthac, pray for us

It's St Duthac's day today, so a happy feast day to any readers in northern dioceses. Last year's post on the subject is here. Haven't given up blogging for Lent as such, but have more pressing matters to attend to, so no further elaboration, I'm afraid.

Lenten discoveries: broccoli and humous really don't go well together. And, disturbingly, Tesco's Bourbon cream biscuits have no dairy products in them. So you can eat as many as you want, at any time.

Additionally: Don Reto Nay for Lent.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Continued application of governmental heads to sand

Yes, why not add a financial incentive to further a policy which has been shown to be ineffective in several countries? And remove the financial incentives to marry and stay married, since fidelity is actually effective in reducing the transmission of disease? Too obvious?

Aaron's clarty beard

As one of the estimable local Doggies o' the Laird Maist Hee put it.

Not an image I'd ever found conducive to understanding the point, to be honest. Light, however, has recently dawned.

'Like the precious ointment running from Aaron's brow to his beard and into his garments, supernatural happiness streams from the ascended Christ into His members in Paradise.'
- John Saward, Sweet and Blessed Country: The Christian Hope for Heaven (Oxford, 2005), p. 22

and n.25 (p.161): 'Like the ointment on the head that came down on to Aaron's beard, we have all received from His fulness (cf John 1:16). FIrst, then, we are anointed with a priestly unction as a figure of the Kingdom to come, for we shall be kings and free men. And since we still suffer from our enemies, we shall be afterwards anointed with actual glory, namely, the robe of glory in soul and body' (St Thomas, In psalmos, pars 26 n.1).

This is from Thomas's commentary on Ps 26, which is 'a Psalm of David before he was anointed' - Thomas is trying to work out which anointing is referred to.

Said canis Domini further provided this:

''/See how good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell in unity/. The psalmist who bade us, /See!/ wanted us to see, and see we do brothers and sisters, and we bless God and pray that we too may be able to invite others, "See!"Now let the psalm tell us what these brothers are like. /Like fragrant oil upon the head, flowing down upon the beard, Aaron's beard, the oil that flowed down to the border of his tunic./ What was Aaron? A priest. But who is the true priest if not the one priest who has entered once and for all into the holy of holies? Who is the real priest if not he who was both priest and victim? Who, if not he who could find nothing pure in the world to offer and therefore offered himself? The fragrant oil is upon the head because Christ is one whole with the Church, and the oil flows from the head. Our head is Christ; crucified and buried, who was raised from the dead and ascended into heaven. And the Holy Spirit came from our head. To what did he come? To the beard. A beard is the sign of strong men; a beard is typical of young, vigorous, energetic, eager people. That is why we say "He is a bearded fellow", when we describe someone of this character. The fragrant oil first fell upon the Apostles, upon those who withstood the first attacks from the world: the Holy Spirit came down upon them for this reason. Those who first began to live in unity suffered persecution. Yet, because the oil had flowed down to the beard, they suffered but were not overcome. Their head had preceded them on the path of suffering, and from him the oil flowed. Who could conquer the beard when such an example had gone before?....../it flowed down to the border of his tunic/. That is why the Church could follow the martyrs, and oil from the Lord's garment engendered monasteries, for the priestly garment symbolises the Church'
- from Augustine's commentary on the Psalms.

Big mantilla-tug to fray N (who is responsible for said mantilla as well; multas gratias!).

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Read the master

There are too many links on this blog: I put them on either because it is handy to have some heavily-used links handy wherever I access the web, because they have some similarity to the flavour of this blog, or because I think they are really, no really, worth reading. Sandro Magister comes under all of them. Though to be honest I linked to this story in particular because it's gossipy.

Film News

thanks for your email. . . . we are still in negotiations with British distributors.

best regards,

Stefanie Zeitler

Sales Manager

The Contemporary Idea of an Intellectual Man

AN intellectual man, as the world now conceives of him, is one who is full of "views" on all subjects of philosophy, on all matters of the day. It is almost thought a disgrace not to have a view at a moment's notice on any question from the Personal Advent to the Cholera or Mesmerism. This is owing in great measure to the necessities of periodical literature, now so much in request. Every quarter of a year, every month, every day there must be a supply, for the gratification of the public, of new and luminous theories on the subjects of religion, foreign politics, home politics, civil economy, finance, trade, agriculture, emigration, and the colonies. Slavery, the gold fields, German philosophy, the French Empire, Wellington, Peel, Ireland, must all be practised on, day after day, by what are called original thinkers. As the great man's guest must produce his good stories or songs at the evening banquet, as the platform orator exhibits his telling facts at mid-day, so the journalist lies under the stern obligation of extemporizing his lucid views, leading ideas, and nutshell truths for the breakfast table. The very nature of periodical literature, broken into small wholes, and demanded punctually to an hour, involves the habit of this extempore philosophy. "Almost all the Ramblers," says Boswell of Johnson, "were written just as they were wanted for the press; he sent a certain portion of the copy of an essay, and wrote the remainder while the former part of it was printing." Few men have the gifts of Johnson, who to great vigour and resource of intellect, when it was fairly roused, united a rare common-sense and a conscientious regard for veracity, which preserved {75} him from flippancy or extravagance in writing. Few men are Johnsons; yet how many men at this day are assailed by incessant demands on their mental powers, which only a productiveness like his could suitably supply! There is a demand for a reckless originality of thought, and a sparkling plausibility of argument, which he would have despised, even if he could have displayed; a demand for crude theory and unsound philosophy, rather than none at all. It is a sort of repetition of the "Quid novi?" of the Areopagus, and it must have an answer. Men must be found who can treat, where it is necessary, like the Athenian sophist, de omni scibili,
"Grammaticus, Rhetor, Geometres, Pictor, Aliptes,Augur, Schœnobates, Medicus, Magus, omnia novit."
I am speaking of such writers with a feeling of real sympathy for men who are under the rod of a cruel slavery. I have never indeed been in such circumstances myself, nor in the temptations which they involve; but most men who have had to do with composition must know the distress which at times it occasions them to have to write—a distress sometimes so keen and so specific that it resembles nothing else than bodily pain. That pain is the token of the wear and tear of mind; and, if works done comparatively at leisure involve such mental fatigue and exhaustion, what must be the toil of those whose intellects are to be flaunted daily before the public in full dress, and that dress ever new and varied, and spun, like the silkworm's, out of themselves! Still, whatever true sympathy we may feel for the ministers of this dearly purchased luxury, and whatever sense we may have of the great intellectual power which the literature in question displays, we cannot honestly close our eyes to its direct evil.
Ven. John Henry Newman, The Idea of a University

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

A good idea

The Shepherd of Hermas, a second-century text, reads: “In the day on which you fast you will taste nothing but bread and water; and having reckoned up the price of the dishes of that day which you intended to have eaten, you will give it to a widow, or an orphan, or to some person in want, and thus you will exhibit humility of mind, so that the one who has received benefit from your humility may fill his own soul.”