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 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.