Wednesday, 24 February 2021

A comment on today's vision for RHSE in Catholic schools. Part 3.

 

Since values are spoken of so much today, I give my appraisal of them:

It is we who give value to a thing. Values are relative because we are continually making choices. So, values are also relative to objective truth. However, there are certain basic goods and values that flow from the human person, which always have to be respected. If they are not respected it is quite possible to hold and teach false values. Human values, if they are true, will lead to the person’s true good. If they are false, they put the person’s true good in jeopardy.

True human values flow out of the reality of human nature (all human faculties) and its true end (communion with God and one another.) We can summarise human values as:

·      The value of life in its physical and moral integrity.

·      The value of the procreation and education of children, and therefore of the family also.

·      The value of truth and knowledge.

·      The value of religion.

·      The value of work, and therefore of leisure.

·      The value of society.

·      The value of friendship.

·      The value of the common good, and therefore of justice.

None of these values is something that we have created because of circumstances, they all flow out of the reality of human nature. Re-assessing human nature does not necessarily lead to a truer understanding of the person, because you cannot use science, or history, or culture to construct an image of the person. Human beings are the authors of science, history and culture, not their servants. Human development follows from the moral strengthening of human nature as a whole. In other words, truth enables us to see who we are, and how to embrace that identity more fully. 

The Catholic vision clearly presents the truth about human beings and their genuine moral unity and integrity. On the other hand, the secular vision has separated the inner and outer worlds of human experience; matter and spirit are dislocated. People who seek to shape public opinion today use this dislocation to separate particular values from their true context and then to explore how a new idea of the person can be construed. Ideology, instead of objective truth, can easily become fashionable. Even so, there is much in contemporary culture which should be redeemed – because, if redeemed, it can contribute to our true good. The truth about human beings reveals what is truly of value and what takes value away.

 

What is that makes a Catholic school Catholic? There are various takes on this: its vision, its ethos, having Mass celebrated there publicly, and calling itself ‘Catholic’.

My answer to the question, what makes a Catholic school Catholic, is: It is the staff who make a Catholic school Catholic. By that I mean that the staff are people who are evangelised and who live their faith, that they are formed in their appreciation and engagement with the life and mission of the Church, and that they are commissioned to teach, in the name of the Church, by a Catholic bishop.

The recent Council had the vision for Catholic schools and Catholic teachers; there it is for us to take up and put into action today.

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

A comment of today's vision for RSHE in Catholic schools. Part 2.

 

The role of parents.

About this a comment is made; “The relationship between the school and parents is something to be desired and hopefully explored, and even evaluated.” 

No, this relationship is already clear. The school is subsidiary to the parents’ role. The school can’t impose. Parents, however, can evaluate the school. The parents’ role is a human right, and not simply something that the Church teaches. To say otherwise opens the door for this relationship to be manipulated and the parents' role to be made subject to school and state.

Speaking about “sensitive or fast-changing subjects, online safety, and mental and physical well-being”, and how the school is better placed to deal with them is again very manipulative if not patronising of parents. What is at stake here are not cultural trends, but the truth about the human person, which the Church has the responsibility to nurture.

 

The curriculum.

Well, the curriculum has its own agenda, separate and independent to that of the mission of parents and the Church. It is clear that this agenda intends to take the lead, and that all others are subsidiary. The agenda is to do with ways of living and life-style, whose nurturing is to be placed firmly in the hands of the school, making the  ethos of the school concerned with new ideas of self-identity, rather than Christ Jesus and the Christian life. The parents’ role and that of any genuine educative agency is to form persons. And so the curriculum is a big problem.

 

The requirement to involve parents.

Their role is often evaluated from the perspective of Muslims! Why is this? Why is the Catholic faith not the foundation here? This is another big problem.

 

The model curriculum.

This is spoken of as being based on “core pedagogical virtue”. But what does this mean?

It is also stated that love is the basis of Christian morality. No, it is not. God and human nature is the basis of Christian morality. Moreover, love has to be learned.

Moreover, “we have to work for the Kingdom of God.” No, our effort does not produce the Kingdom of God. We are called to live with God. Christ Jesus uniquely enables us to do this. We are called to allow Christ Jesus to form us for true human identity, which is to live with God. Out of life with God, love emerges.

“Prayer and worship nourish our lives with God.” No, everything about a baptised person’s life is to do with God, we have been brought from darkness into light. Prayer and worship help to form our new lives in Christ. The disengagement of prayer and life which is implicit here is a big problem.

 

The ethos of the new 'Catholic' presentation is profoundly Pelagian and oriented to accommodating the secular agenda. This is especially dangerous at the level of anthropology. It is presented by people who appear to have an acquaintance with the Faith, in the sense of being able to comment upon it. However, commenting about matters of faith is not the same as being in living contact with the Lord.

 

Monday, 22 February 2021

A comment on today’s vision for RHSE in Catholic schools. Part 1.

 

Today’s project of ‘values-based education’, suggests that what being human means, comes from values. 

No, it doesn’t, the meaning of humanity comes from God and from human nature.

Values, even Gospel values, are not the focus of the Christian life. No, our focus is the person of Christ Jesus, who transforms human beings; he is the entire good of humanity.

 

Values-based education can easily be manipulated today because truth is not referenced. Values can reflect opinion as well as they can reflect truth. Values are important, they reveal the way that we appreciate and understand reality. However, in the matter of RSHE we are looking at the most important values of all because these values are derived directly from humanity itself.

 

Some new ideas and associated rhetoric:

“Sex is rooted in the ‘image of God’”. Yes, it is, but how is this understood? If ‘image of God’ is used merely as catchphrase, it can become a merely ‘box-ticking’ exercise. 

 

“Sex is rooted in the ‘image of God’ and therefore we are called to a life of discipleship.” This is not so and it sounds like a way of manipulating both the subject matter and the person. What we are speaking of here is first, anthropology, which is not here defined. And secondly, the concrete embracing of the Christian life. But discipleship is not the consequence of understanding our sexuality, but of a decision for Christ.

 

“Values that are taught about sexuality need to be in line with the values taught in the school.” This is such a sweeping statement, which lacks focus and meaning. Rather, what we need to look at is how everything that happens and is taught in a Catholic school should flow out of a genuine vision of who the human person is. Values should be taught alongside a genuine understanding of the human person, not on their own, as if they are the key. For instance, if we compare Catholic anthropology with secular anthropology, we will come to very different ways of looking at RHSE. 

 

The relationship between the school and the Church or parish is spoken of

But what is this relationship? Today it is not at all clear. Yet this relationship is the key to what a Catholic school is. 

This matter was taught by the 2nd Vatican Council. Its decree Gravissimum Educationis gives a really great vision, and Paragraph 8 teaches about the relationship between the Church and the school:
"Since therefore, the Catholic school can be such an aid ... " The relationship of the school towards the Church is one of supporting the Church in her life and mission.
"But let teachers ... be very carefully prepared ... " The relationship of the Church towards the school is to feed the school with evangelised, catechised and formed personnel to carry out that mission.

 

We can’t merely assume the nature of this relationship, nor that anyone understands it, since in practice it is not clear. However, this relationship is the hinge of the whole matter, and so a conversation should be engaged in, involving all the different sectors, so that this relationship can be clarified. Such a conversation is an urgent need today, will take time and patience.

 

There is a lot of rhetoric in Catholic vision documents today, which ‘tick boxes’ regarding Christ and the Church, whilst not really engaging with either, and in which a secular and horizontal vision is the underlying ethos. The Christian life immediately becomes a human idea when it is in the hands of secularised people. The secular reality, which is in play today, marginalises the Living God and seeks to draw Catholics (parents, priests, teachers) into becoming agents of our neo-marxist State (the project to re-configure our lives and society upon the basis of newly construed ideas about sexual identity.) The key to any real development is evangelisation, not box-ticking, nor values.

 

Sunday, 21 February 2021

I forgot to add ...

During lock-down last year I also began making marzipan, Spanish style.  After one trial run the results were excellent. I now make a batch every two or three weeks.



Saturday, 20 February 2021

What did you do during lock-down daddy?

As much for myself as for anyone else, I wanted to jot down the main things that I actually did during the nine months of lockdown in 2020. I'll do another post of what I subsequently did during the lock-down of 2021.
So, here goes for 2020:
  • I formed and established a team of parish stewards.
  • I formed and established a Parish Support Team - parishioners who could offer support within the community.
  • I established a daily Mass and adoration schedule for myself.
  • I conducted the Re-consecration of England as the Dowry of Our Lady on 29.3.20.
  • I completely re-jigged and updated (in so far as I could) the parish data base.
  • I began a twice-weekly email to those parishioners whose emails were on the data base.
  • I began taking two walks each day. At lunchtime a 4 to 5 mile walk, and in the evening a 2 mile walk.
  • I led a weekly Webinar on Zoom about the Holy Spirit in the nine weeks leading up to Pentecost.
  • I began taking part, with three other priests, in a weekly Gospel sharing, every Thursday lunchtime.
  • I privately made the 30 day Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola.
  • I began weekly Zoom calls with parish groups.
  • I took part in around 10 Webinars hosted by the Divine Renovation team, approximately one each month. These were particularly helpful.
  • I encouraged a weekly parish Quiz Night to happen via Zoom.
  • I began reading John Paul II's Theology of the Body again. I had read it once before, 1998/99.
  • I took part in my monthly SJMV priests' fraternity, which meant being on Zoom for the best part of one Wednesday each month with a group of priests.
  • I gave two live 'performances' via Zoom of a talk about how we could draw inspiration from the example of our martyrs during Penal times.
  • When public Masses were allowed again, together with the stewards, we set the church up for the new protocols. Following this we developed a schedule of 4 public Masses and Confession each week. At the same time I established a screen and projector in the church to present notices and announcements.
  • I took part in a priestly ordination in Leeds, and in a priest's First Mass in Walsall.
  • I had a short break in Norfolk in early September.
  • I wrote a sixteen part series on Life in Christ, which I sent by email as PDFs to all the Key Stage Two families in the parish.
  • I joined the new Theology of the Body UK network and took part in its fortnightly Zoom seminars.
  • I began launching the Choyr.com software in the parish.
  • I read a number of books, amongst which these stand out as a particular focus: Transformation in Christ by D von Hildebrand, The Life of the Cure d'Ars by Abbe Trochu (my third and most fruitful reading of this book), The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles.
  • I developed the regular parish email postings into more attractive PDF mailings.
  • I met via Zoom with all the different Key Stage Two parents' groups.
  • I logged up quite a bit of wood in the garden for next winter (21/22) for my wood-burning stove.
  • Throughout this year I have tuned in to the Youtube Channel, 'Sampson Boat Co', to watch the re-building on 'Tally Ho'.
  • I celebrated Christmas with my brother and family.
I'll post on this years activities soon.

 

Thursday, 4 February 2021

A typical day in lock-down.

 

Broadly speaking, for the part eight months I have lived the following schedule.

6.05am Petit Levee. Make tea. Reading followed by spiritual reading.
7.05am Grande Levee. Light wood-burning stove. Pray the Divine Office, Matins, Laudes, Terce. Consult diary. Consult parish email. Note particular appointments etc.
8.30am Celebrate the Mass, followed by a time of prayer.
9.30am Make phone calls, reply to emails, schedule on-line presence.
10.30am Petit déjeuner; oeufs o saucisse grillée avec tomate, o fromage grillée, o jambon avec salad, o chorizo con habas etc.
11am Preparation of presentations/resources
12.30am Walk of 3 to 4 miles.
2pm Continuation of preparation of presentations.
3pm Dejuner, the main meal of the day.
4.30pm Phone calls, emails.
5pm Vespers and Compline.
5.30pm Reading
6pm Shorter walk and rehearsal of presentations.
7 - 8.30pm Zoom calls/seminars.
9pm Fin du jour.
9.45pm A coucher. 25 mins light reading. Pleine nuit.

Thursday, 21 January 2021

Prayer workshops

 Our desire to pray comes from the very root of our lives. We do pray and we sometimes talk about prayer, but we rarely explore together the great potential that we have, as baptised people, for intimacy with the Lord. During Lent this year, I would like to place prayer as a particular focus and, in order to nurture this focus, to offer some workshops on prayer.

Every person needs a ‘centre’ in his life, a source of truth and goodness to draw from in the flux of the different situations of everyday life and its toil. Everyone of us, when he pauses for a moment of silence, needs to feel not only the beating of his own heart, but more deeply, the beating of a trustworthy presence, perceptible to the senses of faith and yet more real: the presence of Christ, heart of the world.” (Pope Benedict XVI, 1.6.08)

I am offering weekly workshops, via Zoom, starting before Lent so we can look to discover a deeper personal contact with the Lord. My hope is that, together, we can nurture our prayer with new vision and rhythm.

The workshops (25 minutes) will take place on Sundays at 5pm, starting this coming Sunday, 24th January. If you would like to take part in these Zoom calls, please send your email address to office.stignatius@dioceseofleeds.org.uk

Monday, 18 January 2021

Sad news

 

Earlier today I learned, from social media, of the death of Mrs Daphne Mcleod, a leader of the Catholic Faith, and especially of Catechesis, in our country.

As a young man, I met Mrs McLeod on two occasions in the early 1980s; once in Preston and once at Westminster Central Hall. Both of these occasions were hugely inspiring and influential for me as they occurred just before I went into seminary. Almost single-handedly she set me up for what I was to encounter at seminary, and how to respond from a Catholic perspective. I am still deeply grateful to her.

I know too, that she was a tremendous presence in the Church in this country for decades, informing and forming many people's consciences and intellects about the Faith and the Church. I don't know where we would have been without her. I think that we had a saint in our midst!

I hope that in due course her life will be written up more fully, by those who are competent to do so, and so that her life and her witness can be helpful to, and inspire new generations. I will offer Mass for her next week.

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Monday, 11 January 2021

A Novena to St Joseph

 

On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception last year, Pope Francis inaugurated the Year of St Joseph, whose aim he said, is to increase our love for this great saint, to encourage us to implore his intercession and to imitate his virtues and his zeal.

This year is the one hundred and fiftieth Anniversary of the proclamation of St Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church, and we can look with great confidence to St Joseph as we try to live with the effects of the pandemic, seeking both his intercession and leadership.

A Novena to St Joseph in the nine weeks leading up to his Feast Day on 19th March, taking place on nine Saturdays at 5pm, via Zoom, starting on Saturday 16th January, and finishing on Saturday 13th March.

The intention of this Novena is the safety and Christian lives of our families.

Each Saturday we will have a short reflection on St Joseph (based on Fr Gildorf’s book, Go to Joseph), followed by the Litany of St Joseph and the Novena prayer. The Novena is led by Fr Richard Aladics, each session lasting around 12 to 15 minutes.

If you would like to take part send your email address to

pp.stignatius@dioceseofleeds.org.uk

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Last year's reads

 

A very happy new year!

We often see, at this time of year, recommendations of good books for the year ahead. I can reveal the books that I read during 2020, in the order that I read them.

"The Shallows" by Nicholas Carr. This book about the influence of the internet on the way in which we think, is a very important book - we will learn more from this book than we do from the internet! Things have moved on since this book was published, but I wonder if anyone has developed Carr's presentation.

"Letters by J.R.R. Tolkien." Wonderful, especially the letters to his son, Christopher, during WWII. Tolkien's view of the world is very much mine.

"In the school of the Holy Spirit" and 'Time for God" by Jacques Philippe. I used to recommend this author to the seminarians when I was in Sydney and wanted to catch up on some of his books. They are good.

"Sherry" by Ben Howkins. Excellent. I really wanted to learn about sherry, how it is made etc, and learned so much from this book. I can see now why there is a new sherry revolution taking place in Spain, and this book draws you in to that revolution. "Sherry" and its namesake is truly excellent.

'The Buildings of Tudor and Stuart Wakefield" by Peter Brears. This book is fascinating and a total revelation. Wakefield had some of the best building of these eras in the whole country, but living on the edge of Wakefield, as I do, I would not have known. This book is written so well and with such detail. There is a sadness associated with this book since many of the buildings which the author describes were lost in the 1960s and 1970s. Wakefield could have looked fantastic - and it still could, if a real project to develop the two was put in place.

"The day is now far spent" by Robert Cardinal Sarah. This Cardinal is a true prophet. I will read this book again and recommend that you do too.

"Transformation in Christ" by Dietricht von Hildebrand. I read this book for the first time ten years ago while I was in Sydney. This second reading, enabled by lock-down, was wonderful and set in motion a series of texts about the Christian life that I then wrote for families in my parish.

"Opening the door of faith" by Jim Sullivan. This author indicates the new evangelisation and ways in which we can enable it. I recommend this book especially to lay people in parishes.

"Companion to the Order of Mass" by Bruce Harbert. This booklet was published at the time that the new English Translation of the Altar Missal was published. We gave copies to all the seminarians in Syndey. Again this is my second reading of this excellent work which opens up the Scriptural basis of our Liturgical texts and the Mysteries that they express. This booklet is for every Catholic.

"Life of the Cure d'Ars" by Abbe Francis Trochu. My third reading of this definitive biography. I enjoyed this reading even more and continue to be surprised by St John Vianney and his modelling of the priesthood.

"Cranmer's Godly Order" by Michael Davies. This book is a masterpiece. It presents the English Reformation at the level of faith and shows how keenly a new version of Christianity was devised and then imposed on the people, distorting both the faith and its practice. I met the author twice when I was young and wish that he were still around today.

"The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles" I have dipped into these ancient texts before but never read them through. It was a fascinating read, helping by referring regularly to Wikipedia to look up names and places which were unknown to me. I was amazed at how devastating to the English were the Viking raids, and at how quickly a power struggle developed between Church and state. Reading these texts has sent me in search of learning more about the first Dark Age for this country.

I look forward to getting into this year's line-up of books on my dresser.

Friday, 4 December 2020

A new series

 


When the government originally said that parents would not have an 'opt out' option for their children with reference to the RSHE curriculum, I wanted to put together a clear and simple presentation of Catholic anthropology. A genuine vision of who the human person is, is the necessary foundation for everything that happens and is taught in a Catholic context, and it is the very thing that is lacking, in practice, at this time.
So, in March, at the start of lock-down, I began writing a series of texts which sought to delineate the basic truth about the human person. I am very grateful to Christine Ward who helped me with the starting point of this project. After I had written a number of texts it became clear to me that I wanted to write a presentation of what it means to live in Christ Jesus - all underpinned by this genuine vision of the human person.
To date I have written fifteen texts, each one is around two pages of texts, interspersed with carefully chosen photos, and each one finishing with a question designed to further engage the reader. I converted each text into a PDF and have emailed these to a whole raft of recipients.
These are the titles of the texts:

1.   What is a human being?

2.   How can we really understand who we are?

3.   Human nature and Christ Jesus.

4.   Human nature in the hands of Jesus Christ.

5.   Approaching the education of our children.

6.   Discerning the value of culture.

7.   Discerning the value of human nature.

8.   The spiritual life.

9.   The Life of the Church.

10.                 Human beings and virtue.

11.                 The formation of the will.

12.                 The moral life.

13.                 The Christian life and science.

14.                 The Christian life and the internet.

15.                 The Christian life and philosophy.

      16. Who is God? 
I am glad to have developed this form of presentation of the faith during lock-down. I have enjoyed writing them, and I hope that someone finds some value in them. Currently, I am writing the sixteenth text - which really should be no. 1.
I now intend to develop the series more, but will hold subsequent titles in abeyance for the time being, and then look to make them more widely available. 


Monday, 31 August 2020

Remains of Parlington.

Our Catholic History Walk last Saturday went ahead, partly due to the lovely weather we had that morning. Our destination was the old estate of Parlington Hall, just to the south of Aberford. This house had been the seat of the Gascoigne family from the mid 1500s up to the beginning of the twentieth century. The Gasgoignes had moved here from their original house, the remains of which are in the grounds of Harewood House, north of Leeds. The family had been Catholic from the early days until 1780, when Thomas Gascoigne became and Anglican so that he could become an MP.

Parlington Hall was abandoned by the family at the start of the twentieth century and was finally demolished in the 1950s. The house had been remodelled in the 1700s, but there is no evidence now to give indications about is medieval origins. This photo shows the house as it was at the end of the nineteenth century. 


We all parked on the south end of Aberford village on the old Great North Road, close by the Gascoigne Almshouses.

These were built in 1844 by Elizabeth Gascoigne for two men and two women who had worked on the estate. They are now used as offices.
A little further up on the other side of the road is the former Catholic chapel of St Wilfred. This chapel was built by the Gascoigne for local Catholics in 1788, together with a presbytery. I think that it was served by priests from Ampleforth Abbey up until the 1980s when it was sold. It is now a private house.

We found the old main entrance to the Parlington Estate and walked up the lane. Here we caught a view to where the old house had stood.
And so we arrived at the famous and unique monumental arch. This was built by Thomas Gascoigne to celebrate the American victory in its War of Independence. The inscription reads: "Liberty in N America Triumphant 1783". There is no other monument to the American victory in this country. One day, the Prince Regent, who was coming to Parlington for lunch, stopped to view the arch and had his carriage turned round and drove off to find lunch elsewhere!

We walked back down Parlington Lane, crossed the Cock Beck and walked over to the site of Becca Banks. This Ancient Briton fortification, part of the extensive earthwork defences of the Kingdom of Elmet, was perhaps created to stop the Roman invaders. Perhaps its builders and defenders were not Catholics, but all of us we were interested to see it for the first time. It would have been more impressive to see without the tree cover.


Our next walk will be on the last Saturday in September, weather and virus protocols permitting. We have yet to decide upon a destination.








Saturday, 15 August 2020

Catholic History Walk near Aberford.

Now that we are coming out of Lock-down we can look to take up where we left off in February. This next walk is at the end of the month, Saturday 29th August - unless it is pouring rain.
I'm calling this walk, "Remains of Parlington", the old estate of the Gasgoigne family close by Aberford. We can take in also the old, now disused, Catholic chapel at Aberford, the ancient earth works at Aberford and, depending on how we plan lunch, we could take in a visit to the old church in Barwick, where the medieval Gasgoignes are buried. And we could also drive over to see the now disused Catholic chapel at Lotherton Hall.
The walk will be no more than 4 miles in all, over more or less flat land. Wear outdoor shoes. Lunch could be packed, or in a pub. The plan is to meet at Aberford at 10am. Park on the main road near the Almshouses, which is at the south end of Aberford.
We are leaving the parish at 9.30am and would expect to be back at the parish by 2pm, at the latest.
 

Friday, 14 August 2020

Summer Session of the SJMV 2020

 


This photo of the priest members of the SJMV was taken on 5th August 2020 at the Foyer in Art, France.
I am fifth from the left on the back row. There is an empty space on the right hand side; this is purely by chance and not because a priest had fallen over the railings behind.
The weather for our session was beautiful. The week before it had been 39C, the week following our session was 39C, but during our session it was between 23 and 26C.
We welcomed around a dozen new priest members into the Society at the various stages of engagement, and I was struck again by the evident and overriding ethos of the Society - carefully and intentionally to nurture the lives and supernatural vocations of Diocesan priests.
I wish I had known about and had joined the Society twenty years before I did. St John Vianney, keep us all before God.