Wednesday 26 December 2007

Was St Joseph a strict father?

Today's studies of parenting styles reveal the effect of different styles on the personalities of children, and they can be a good indicator for parents who are endeavouring to be the best parents they can be to their children.
Maccoby and Martin in the late 80s undertook an extensive study of parenting. Their work was measured according to two variables:

1. The demandingness of parents - ranging from authoritarian to permissive.

2. The responsiveness of parents - ranging from reciprocative to negligent.

Thus, the opposite of authoritarian/reciprocative parents are permissive/negligent ones, and the opposite of permissive/reciprocative parents are authoritarian/repressive ones. So, with that in mind we could describe permissive/reciprocative parents as non-traditional and lenient, but conscientious and committed to their children. Authoritarian/repressive parents are obedience and status oriented who give a structured environment to their children. Authoritarian/reciprocative parents give clear standards, asserting and supporting (rather than permitting) their children. Permissive/negligent parents are basically uninvolved with their children.
Which category do you think St Joseph and Our Lady would represent?
It is also very indicative to look at the consequences of these parenting styles in the personalities of their children. These studies found that children of permissive/reciprocative parents had only average behaviour and low academics, but high self-esteem and good social skills. Children of authoritarian/repressive parents had good academics and behaviour, but poor social skills and low self-esteem. Children of authoritarian/reciprocative parents had good academics and behaviour, and good social skills and high self-esteem. Children of permissive/negligent parents showed little sense of educational development.
For a fuller treatment of this put Maccoby and Martin into a Google search - you will find a host a very accessible web pages.

Monday 24 December 2007

Live Christmas with the Holy Family!

The circumstances surrounding his birth were most unpromising for the founding of a universal religion. For what God asked of Joseph, his spouse and the baby, the challenges were very great.

A new start

Yesterday the News carried reports that Catholicism was the leading religion in the country. The statistics show that attendance at Anglican Sunday services has dropped by 20 per cent since 2000. A survey of 37,000 churches shows the number of Catholics going to Sunday Mass in England last year averaged 861,000, compared with 852,000 Anglicans ­worshipping, and thatthe rise of Catholicism has been bolstered by an influx of immigrants from eastern Europe and Africa, who have packed the pews of Catholic parishes that had previously been dwindling.
However, beyond the sensationalism of the Headlines, that Britain is now Catholic, lies another reality: the reality of pagan Britain. These religious statistics reveal that proportionally the number of Christians in the country is very small in a society whose predominant culture is antithetical to the Gospel, a culture marked by consumerism, alcohol and drugs poisoning, pornography, chav, gay, violence, and the culture of death, and a mass media which operates at an IQ level of 14 and which is utterly opposed to the Gospel. Indeed, in choosing to give up the Gospel our country is reverting to its original indigenous state, adopting cultures which are virtually impossible to evangelise, as we are experiencing. What’s more, those who are the forefront of evangelisation today are neither the Catholics nor the Anglicans, but the Evangelicals – they are doing our work for us!
Last week’s headline statistics put one in mind of the first evangelisation of our country which was carried out, after the long brutal centuries of the ‘Dark Ages’, largely by celibate Cistercian monks. These monastic communities gradually first civilised, brought order, then evangelised and baptised the peoples of this country. It was a task which took hundreds of years and which brought spiritual, material, social and political benefits. It is that same task which we must begin again, except that today, this task is being experienced as a new Pentecost and is rightly called the New Evangelisation.

Saturday 22 December 2007

A private religion?

When bombs expode in Afghanistan and the news report is at pains to tell us that this act by Muslims is not faith-based but merely an abberation by some citizens, it is yet another way in which our culture has separated religion and life, spirituality and culture; making religion an unhappy tag which really doesn't help any more. Our whole western culture separates spirituality and life. We do it best of all by promoting abortion and saying that a person has a right to choose quite apart from what God says. And the media downplays the meaning of spirituality so as to promote the culture of death with more impunity.
Of course spirituality is connected with life, in fact, it is spirituality which informs our life. At least, this is the case with Christianity which is an incarnate faith - our spirituality is the very substance of our lives.
How then can someone who has been at the forefront of promoting the culture of death become a Catholic except by a radical change of heart. How can someone who has been, in the most public way, an architect of the culture of death become a Catholic?
Tony Blair's conversion seems very much like a disincarnate conversion. His public life was given over to promoting the culture of death, but his religious life on the other hand is a private matter. This 'cafod catholicism', a catholicism in which the personal and the social have no real connection, is deameaning to the Church. The Church needs to hear Tony Blair's testimony of conversion so that the grave matters, of which he had governance, can be seen anew by many in the light of Christ. After all there are many others, much better than he, who we should seek to convert.

What a terrible thought ...

I had a dream Joseph. I don’t understand it, not really, but I think it was about a birthday celebration for Our Son. I think that was what it was all about. The people had been preparing for it for about six weeks. They had decorated the house and bought new clothes. They’d gone shopping many times and bought elaborate gifts. It was peculiar though, because the presents were not for Our Son.They wrapped them in beautiful paper and tied them with lovely bows, and stacked them under a tree. Yes, a tree Joseph, right in their house. They decorated the tree also. The branches were full of glowing balls and sparkling ornaments. There was a figure on the top of the tree. It looked like an angel might look. Oh, it was so beautiful. Everyone was laughing and they were very happy. They were all excited about the gifts.They gave the gifts to each other, Joseph, not to Our Son. I don’t think they even knew Him. They never mentioned His name. Doesn’t it seem odd for people to go to all that trouble to celebrate someone’s birthday if they don’t know Him? I had the strangest feeling that if Our Son had gone to this celebration, He would have been intruding. Everything was so beautiful Joseph, and everyone was so happy, but it made me want to cry. How sad for Jesus not to be wanted at His own birthday party. I’m glad it was only a dream. How terrible Joseph, if it had been real!

Lay Chaplain required

St Wilfred's Catholic High School near Wakefield/Pontefract is recruiting a Lay Chaplain. 32 hours per week (£15,800 - £16,900). Further details and information pack from the school: Closing date 25th January 2008.

Friday 21 December 2007

Living in abberation

Today we are seeing what it means to live 'after Christ'. The usual course of events for most people is to be in period 'before Christ', and then, when Christ is revealed, to begin to live 'with Christ'. Indeed, Advent is the representation of this: the world is in darkness and is enlightened uniquely by the coming of God, an event which leads us to embrace the mystery of Christ.

The architects of today's culture have created an abberation, for having lived in the light of the Mystery of Christ, and then to have choosen to help create a post-Christian culture, is an abberation. Living 'after Christ', but apart from him. Yet, it is this culture of abberation which is the setting for the New Evangelisation.

Let us not forget however, that many still live in a culture that can genuinely be called 'before Christ', and who still await the full revealing of God's light. The New Evangelisation is for them also.

Saturday 15 December 2007

From the perspective of humility

This is what the original statue of Our Lady of Walsingham may have looked like after it was dragged to London in 1539, by Royal Decree, to be burned on Chelsea Old Bridge, along with the statues of Our Lady of Glastonbury, Doncaster and Coventry. The statue of Our Lady Vulnerata (wounded), originally in the Jesuit church in Cadiz was broken and spoiled there by English soldiers of Drake's warring squadron in 1586. It is now enshrined above the high altar in the English College, Valladolid, where she is honoured weekly, and annually with her own Feast Day. Smashed up as it is, this is the image of she who, as B16 has said, opened up the windows of the world to let the light in. Not surprisingly she is honoured still by many.
But in one long slow blow England went from being part of a Universal Communion to become a religion of museum culture and of shopping. Yet still the Holy Spirit insists on our company, and during this Advent there "are those whose interior sensitivity enables them to see and hear the subtle signs that God sends into the world to break the dictatorship of convention." (B16, "Jesus of Nazareth) The Festival of Consumption is almost over. Keep watch!

Living Christmas with the Holy Family

"The family is the basic cell of society. It is the cradle of life and love, the place in which the individual is born and grows. Therefore a primary concern is reserved for this community, especially in those times when human egoism, the anti-birth campaign, totalitarian politics, situations of poverty, material, cultural and moral misery, threaten to make these very springs of life dry up." (Christifildeles Laici, 40)

Sunday 9 December 2007

Another tale for rediscovery

Here's a great find. I have looked for this for years; it used to be shown on TV every Christmas during the 1970's. It is a tremendous animated cartoon version of Oscar Wilde's top short story, "The Selfish Giant". This is another great tale for Advent and Christmas, a tale of conversion and salvation. But you'll have to watch it here in three parts:

Reclaiming Advent culture

Do you remember the days before "Harry Potter and the clinting crag", "Shrek", or "Golden Compass", when sotries would be read aloud to amusable and expectant children. There are two book which come to my mind as exceptional stories for this time before Christmas.

The first is "Bill Badger's Winter Cruise" by "BB". It is a tale of how badger and his friend Izzy Bizzy, a hedgehog, go down the canal on a barge in deep winter. They share together many of the simple experiences which you and I cherish during Advent - hope, expectancy, friendship and generosity.

The second is "Little Grey Rabbit's Christmas" by Alison Utley. This is probably my favorite children's (or adult's) book. It is the story of how a family of rabbits prepare their home, and by way of that, themselves, for Christmas. Such a story as this is set to help create just the kind of atmosphere in a family that you would wish for in Advent. One in which there is a simple but genuine joy and expectancy because a great Feast is approaching.
These books come from a less self-consciousness age and we have much to regain in this respect. May they take their place again in our lives and the lives of our children.

Friday 7 December 2007

Reality check

I wanted to share with you a passage from JPII's book "Memory and Identity" which he published shortly before his death. This book is a genuine source book for today's 'apostles' for it covers a huge spectrum of human identity and knowledge. In the passage I want to quote (from page 137) JPII speaks realistically about European countries, such as ours, at the very beginning of the era which we call the "New Evanglisation". I am reading this book for the second time and, when I came to this passage I was struck by the force of what the New Evangelisation of our countries means. We are rebuilding civilisation. What looks today as though it is civilisation, is really the remnant of civilisation. Our part in Christ's Body is far more real and we are called to help build "brick by brick" the Civilisation of Love. (This is not a photo of Niamh's car.)

In the twentieth century great efforts were made to stop people believing, to make them reject Christ. Towards the end of the century, the end of the millenium, those destructive forces were weakened, yet they left a trail of devastation behind them. I am speaking of a devastation of consciences, with ruinous consequences in the moral sphere, affecting personal and social morality and the mores of family life. Pastors of souls, who engage every day with the spiritual lives of their flocks, know this better than anyone. When I have occasion to speak with them, I often hear disturbing admissions. Sadly, one could describe Europe at the dawn of the new millenium as a continent of devastation. Political programmes, aimed principally at economic development, are not enough to heal the wounds of this nature. On the contrary, they could even make them worse. Here an enormous task opens up for the Church. The evangelical harvest in today's world is great indeed. We have only to ask insistently, that he send labourers for this harvest, ready and waiting to be reaped.

We need to give our lives to Christ and follow him. No one else will do. He will help us build. That's how it happened before in Europe and that is how it will happen again.

Thursday 6 December 2007

There's a pagan festival on its way ...

... and it's very hard to completely avoid it, especially if you are hoping to celebrate Christmas. The Virgin website is offering ways that seems to avoid the Yule, but as you can read, their ways are extremely pagan:
There'll be ice and snow but the absence of civilisation in Antarctica means you won'tbe subjected to any Christmas merriment there, besides whatever celebrations your fellow cruise passengers arrange...
Virgin has put its finger on it - the absence of civilisation. Anti-civilisation is the new Yule! (Oliver Cromwell, here we go!)
We, however, do want to celebate the birth of he who is the civilisation builder - he who builds the Civilisation of Love. And with the help of grace we want to be a part of the building of the Civilisation of Love. Families are at the forefront of this season, and I can't help but quoting JPII's call from the Letter to Families:
To the family is entrusted the task of striving, first and foremost, to unleash the forces of good, the source of which is found in Christ the Redeemer of man. Every family needs to make these forces their own so that ... the family will be strong with the strength of God.
I'd welcome any suggestions or discussion about how Christain families can avoid the Yule but celebrate the Feast.

Tuesday 4 December 2007

A leader in the north.

Bishop O'Donoghue is setting the stage to clear Pelagianism out of Lancaster Diocese. His "Fit for Mission: Schools" report has just been published and, although its style is not that of the Holy Office it does say that the congregation should kneel for the Eucharistic Prayer and that the Theology of the Body must guide teaching about the person in Catholic schools.
However, what makes this report so important is its main concern: "Is Jesus Christ the true centre of our schools and colleges?"
He distinguishes between the focus of Ofstead for schools and the focus of the Church - its Catholic ethos. Today we must create this ethos anew, since there is a crisis of values, relativism is a dogma, the secular vision sees education only in terms of career and bases happiness firmly in consumerism.
That the basis of the Catholic ethos is located in the dignity of the person and in the Sermon on the Mount, and that such an ethos comes about only through the living presence of Jesus and in embracing gthat presence.
He names other factors which affect the Catholic ethos: the parctice or non-practice of the staff, and even if they are practicing, are teachers modelling themselves on Christ? Do Heads, Senior Management and Governors know what the identity and mission of a Catholic School is? Are the parents embracing their own primary role under God? Is the Gospel proclaimed in schools?
There is an interesting comparison with Cardinal Pell's goals for Sydney's Catholic Schools: proclaim a Christ-centered life, embrace the full teaching of the Church, formation for Mission. Very sucinct!
We have been labouring under Pelagianism for far too long; let's support Bishop O'Donoghue with our prayers as he now begins the renewal of his schools. (You can find the report on "What's new" on the Diocese of Lancaster website.)

Saturday 1 December 2007

Humanae Vitae 2008

Here is a banner which I offer for the celebration of the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae. Feel free to copy and use it on your Blog or Website. I am grateful to a friend of mine, Tomas, who created it.

Spe Salvi

Thank you Holy Father for lighting our way!

I look forward to getting into this one.