Triduum fears

Those who read my article in the Catholic Herald over Christmas will know that Christmas had a special poignancy for us this year, it being the first time we could celebrate the coming of Our Lord together, no longer divided, either physically or spiritually.

This coming Easter promises to be equally special, not only because of the celebration itself, but because of the birth of our child. Easter is always a time of great sadness and joy, and these themes are again echoed in our family circumstances. For the first time we should be able to celebrate the most important occasion in the Christian calendar fully united and yet we will be separate but for once not due to the demands of the Triduum: usually Easter Sunday consisted of four separate Masses, the vigil Mass, the 8am Sunday morning Mass, the 11am Service and finally on the evening of Easter Sunday we would attend Catholic Mass together.

This year seems strangely quiet and both of us are antsy. Robin, because whilst busy at work, is missing the usual Holy Week preparations, there’s been no veiling of statues and icons, no Church to prepare, no Agape supper, no Holy Thursday foot-washing and watch, no Good Friday Walk of Witness, Childrens’ Stations of the Cross, Vicarage Hot cross Buns, Solemn Liturgy and none of the weekend services. This was brought home on Passion Sunday, being ‘just a voice in the crowd’ instead of traditionally reading the part of Christ, seemed bizarre, although being ‘just a voice in the crowd’ is proving to be a humbling and enriching experience. After having led the parish Triduum for 14 years, participating as a member of the parish congregation is giving ample time for spiritual reflection, as opposed to spending Holy Week caught up in the usual whirlwind of preparation and homily writing. This week he was ruefully practicing his singing of the Exultet, something that he won’t need to worry about for a good few years and when he does, no doubt the words will be  those of the new translation.

I am also restless because the baby is going to be born on Holy Thursday. Whilst on Passion Sunday we were urged to bring all of our families to all of the celebration of the Triduum, this is not going to be possible. For the first time in years, I will be unable to participate at all in any of the services, it is likely that I’ll spend the entire weekend in hospital, unless of course they see fit to throw me out 24 hours post-section on Good Friday. Given that I found recovery very difficult following the birth of my second daughter and given that it is a Bank Holiday weekend, I am envisaging that due to staff holidays that it might well be a longer stay, but we shall see. In any event, my attendance either at the vigil or the Sunday morning service is not guaranteed and my priest kindly informed me yesterday that a dispensation was unnecessary.

Last year, I attended the Easter vigil at our local parish Church alone, with just the then 4 month old baby in her car seat. Robin had already begun his journey into the Catholic Church, we knew full well that this would be our last Easter apart, we had no idea where we would be this year, our priest joked with me that perhaps Robin would be received at this year’s vigil, but little did I think that a year on, I would be about to deliver our third child. I was simply looking forward to finally enjoying a quiet, reflective Holy Week, where we could fully participate together, but it’s not to be this year, obviously Robin is planning on attending as many services as he can, hoping to be able to participate in the watch on Thursday night, and the Good Friday solemnities, but with a seven year old and a 17 month old to look after, he’s going to have his hands full!

It’s a very peculiar feeling knowing the precise date you’re going to give birth.  It still feels rather surreal, I can’t quite believe it is finally happening. As I know that I will not be able to participate, or even receive communion, I’m finding it extremely difficult to focus. What isn’t helping is, that for a passionate pro-lifer, I ironically have an absolute phobia and terror of childbirth. If I could get out of it, if I could delegate, I would! Well, actually I wouldn’t,  in that one can unite one’s pain, fear and suffering to Christ, I can’t think of a better or more apt way to reflect the passion and resurrection, the giving up of oneself to usher in new life, than childbirth, but this is my Gethsemane moment. I am admittedly absolutely terrified.

Though not scared of death, I am scared of the moment of judgement. I have been to confession, I need to go again after getting rather angry and upset by the on-going on-line hate campaign, I am experiencing severe self-doubt in writing this, given some of the email I have received, particularly by the rather interestingly named commentator known as “Theresa’s mother” telling me that I am a “vile and hateful person, sick and twisted, being God’s friend won’t help you now, may he strike you down”. I am anticipating similar, the moment I hit the post button.  Actually I know the people who feel motivated to write these things are actually eaten away by their own hurt and anger and though I feel desperately sorry for them, it is still difficult to read, being designed to cause maximum hurt and being motivated by nothing other than spite. What I need to do is simply rise above it. There was an incredibly moving article written by Francis Philips in today’s Catholic Herald,reviewing the play that is shortly to open in Oxford, about the death of John Paul 2, coinciding with Divine Mercy Sunday. Since being introduced to Sr Faustina by the inspirational Sr Joseph Andrew, vocations director of the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist, in Ann Arbour, Michigan, who was an incredible source of comfort to me during a very difficult stage in my life, (please support these sisters in your prayers), St Faustina has had a particular significance. Sr Joseph Andrew was once kind enough to send me a special Divine Mercy Rosary containing a second degree relic of this incredible saint. Francis’ Philips words are very healing in that she suggests how wonderful it would be if we could all look upon our opponents with the eyes of Divine Mercy.

So spare a thought, not only for me on Thursday, but actually for all of those who are unable to fully participate in the Eucharist this Easter for many diverse reasons. Whilst we have so much to celebrate, including the reception into the church of the members of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, there is so much new life and resurrection, firstly we need to die with Christ and I know of a few people for whom Easter will be very poignant, either because they will be unable to be received for reasons of paperwork, or others I know who are still grappling with momentous decisions of conscience as to whether or not to join the the Ordinariate. May all of us who cannot participate in the Easter Eucharist still be able to make a meaningful spiritual communion.

I hope that death will not be a reality for me, but I am still scarred by memories of lying helplessly on the operating table, surgeons covered in blood, stating that they were finding it difficult to stop the bleed, my husband obliviously cuddling a purple screeching bundle, who I was desperate to hold and feed, whilst I lapsed in and out of consciousness, until they managed to sort out the problem. This  time, I know better than to bring in a CD containing what I thought to be very soothing music, namely Faure’s requiem. The procedure went on so long, that it moved onto Mozart’s requiem which was also on the disc, which whilst sublime, a crashing chorus of “Dies Irae” is not what one needs whilst in that situation.

No doubt in a week’s  time, with a new baby in my arms, I will feel very silly, but for now, I am scared, restless and of course excited. And in the meantime here is a prayer  to St Gerard for all expectant mothers:

O great Saint Gerard, beloved servant of Jesus Christ, perfect imitator of your meek and humble Savior, and devoted child of Mother of God, enkindle within my heart one spark of that heavenly fire of charity which glowed in your heart and made you an angel of love.

O glorious Saint Gerard, because when falsely accused of crime, you did bear, like your Divine Master, without murmur or complaint, the calumnies of wicked men, you have been raised up by God as the patron and protector of expectant mothers. Preserve me from danger and from the excessive pains accompanying childbirth, and shield the child which I now carry, that it may see the light of day and receive the purifying and life-giving waters of baptism through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Right of reply

I was alerted that the same poster who had called my daughter illegitimate, had copied my blog post about Kate Middleton’s confirmation, quoted it verbatim and used it to spark a discussion thread on the commercial parenting website Babyworld.

Though I am no longer engaging, it seems rather futile, I pointed out my displeasure. The problem with quoting me out of context or not providing a link was that it seemed to confuse some posters, who thought that perhaps Kate was being confirmed into the Catholic Church. The thread was titled, ” Is it fair to make Kate Middleton public property?” and copied my post word for word to justify the rhetorical question.

I am rather sore that my response has been removed. To recap, I left said forum because I was very upset that a thread regarding homosexuality degenerated into an attack on me, my Catholic faith and indeed my personal circumstances. I have yet to receive any sort of apology that this comment was misconceived or acknowledgement that certain comments could be considered offensive and perhaps deliberately provocative. I don’t expect one. The people who made these remarks have been very clear that they feel they were justified. In condemning divorce, my Church obviously makes it clear my daughter is illegitimate, it is not them who are saying it, but the Catechism allegedly…

I deserve the right of reply. So here is my response, which the moderators saw fit to remove. 

“Firstly, I have not made Kate Middleton public property, she was a public figure already. So quite why the OP needed to quote my blog word for word is unclear. Was she trying to have a sly dig? Why not be upfront about it. I am intrigued as to why someone, who seems to have personal difficulty with me, feels the need to read my blog, if her mind is made up as to the type of person she believes I am.
Secondly, the thread where my daughter was called illegitimate has been viewed by my local priest and a few others because I was genuinely very distressed and needed some pastoral advice. My conduct or motives have not been called into question, indeed it was felt that I was being deliberately baited or taunted, as again this thread has been viewed as a deliberate attempt at provocation. I have had someone keeping an eye on DDD for me for a while and I was advised not to look on here, because apparently, in the aftermath there was some deliberate provocation.

To call my daughter illegitimate and me a hypocrite for having an annulled marriage has been viewed as unkind, ignorant and irrelevant particularly in the context of the debate. Some of the accusations made about the Christian faith and Jesus as a whole have been seen as deliberately inflammatory and provocative. I defended my faith and indeed my knowledge of it vigorously as I am called to do.

There was much wilful misunderstanding and deliberate distortion and misinterpretation. A lot of fellow Christians were equally upset and offended on my behalf, at all times I remained polite and civil and yet I had a lot of absolute bile thrown my way.

I needed to vent frustration and I did just that. If you and BW would like I shall link to the entire thread, to put it all in context. I have been advised to do that by several people, however I consider the matter closed. Several people did not conduct themselves well, in the heat of the moment, perhaps I should not have blogged, but actually I felt the need to vent amongst those who have experienced similar and would understand. The level of abuse I received afterwards was unprecedented and uncalled for.

It is particularly telling that a moderator publicly told me I was insane, I should be ashamed and was unwelcome. I did nothing wrong, I quoted some highly offensive and publicly visible insults against me and my faith to explain why I was upset. They weren’t out of context either. Quite what my daughter has to do with the Catholic position on homosexuality is beyond me.

Westboro Baptist Church have been under immense scrutiny this month for some of their hateful actions which must be condemned. The burning of the Koran is seen as deliberately provocative, offensive and hate-filled. I think members who post what seem to be deliberately inflammatory statements such as calling me a hypocrite on the basis of a doctrine they don’t understand or even want to understand (by all means disagree but if you understood you wouldn’t call me a hypocrite nor tell me I had damaged my child in some way), members who use emotive phraseology such as “who the hell are you to tell me xyz”, tell me I am not a ‘normal’ Catholic, tell me that they have a deep-rooted faith and I don’t, and who trawl through a text they haven’t studied, in an attempt to prove how hateful and awful it is and reinforce and spread prejudice about THEIR view of Catholicism, can expect some verbal criticism.

Though I would never wish to deny anyone their right of free speech, I am glad we live in a society where you can say these things and insult me all you like, it needs to be acknowledged that I have the same freedom to criticise those posters and their words. It’s a 2-way street. It’s funny, the burning of the Koran has been justly condemned for being provocative, I was provoked in an identical fashion, what was said to me was every bit as insulting and what did I do, vent a bit of verbal spleen at what I perceived was ignorant attitudes and all of a sudden I am the villain. For what? Saying these remarks have desperately upset me and I think those who made them rather silly? And yes, I think anyone who calls my daughter illegitimate or implies the Catholic Church does or attempts to imply that I have been hypocritical and not lived my faith by having an annulled marriage, despite my repeated attempts to explain, displays misunderstanding at the very least.

I suspect the main problem was that people did not like being called ignorant or my highlighting what had been said. I remind everyone that BW is a public site, you do not need to be a member to view threads. Had I linked to thread, there would have been a similar outcry.

I have no problem with Rosi linking to my blog or reading it if she chooses to. It just seems bizarre to have C&Ped my blogpost in this fashion. What was the point? To critique that I had talked about Kate Middleton? Well she’s a public figure and this issue IS of interest to Christians. Every year my husband led packed adult confirmation classes.

If the point was to talk about Kate being in the public eye, there are plenty more articles from far more prolific sources than me. Why not highlight one of the ubiquitous articles about her outfits, weight, appearance? If it was to talk about her confirmation then why not link to a news report?

If it was to link to a critique/discussion, in which I expressed surprise and disappointment re her apparent keeping of her faith a secret, then again there are other sources. It seems that she wanted to critique my attitude and attempt to get a thread going about those mean old Christians again. Or maybe she wanted to resurrect this whole debacle?

All I ask is that if you want to debate/discuss/critique/dissect my blog posts, you are honest about that. To many and certainly to the person who highlighted this to me, it just seemed like a piece of playground bullying and an attempt to drag me back.

I will shortly be posting a copyright notice on my blog, I am sure other bloggers or those who might write for a living (I don’t) would also share my concern at chunks of their blog being lifted and C&Ped verbatim, without a link/acknowledgement.

For those who might claim that I did just that to them, I would firstly apologise if they feel their privacy was breached, however BW is a public site. What I should have done is link to the entire thread. In terms of reaction, I would have had the same response, both from posters on here and from horrified Christians alike.

I apologise for the length of post and wish Christians a blessed Holy Week and everyone on Babyworld, regardless of faith, a Happy and Blessed Easter, whatever your plans might be.

Caroline “

I shall put it on my list…

Spare a thought for my husband. He’s not yet 100% comfortable in terms of making his confession in the Catholic Church (mind you are any of us ever entirely ‘comfortable’) and tonight went to his first ever service of reconciliation, prior to Easter.

I have been granted permission to blog about this, given that it was not at our local parish church or within our local cluster due to work commitments.

Mac addict that he is, he had dutifully downloaded the new confession app and was using it as a prompt whereupon the priest spied it and told him to put it away, “you don’t need a list, if you can’t remember it then it doesn’t matter, Jesus forgives all”. Whilst the priest was undoubtedly trying to be pastoral, being in his late 60s, early 70s and of the liberal school, it left my poor husband rather flummoxed, particularly when it came to saying the Act of Contrition which he has not yet memorised and needs an aide memoire, (there were no helpful cards), hence he stumbled through it rather awkwardly whilst receiving absolution.

He came away feeling that it wasn’t the most personally satisfying experience and disempowered and hindered by the priest in making his confession. He didn’t feel at an emotional level that he’d made his confession properly. On an intellectual level he knows full well that he made a confession, that he has received the sacrament and one needs to be careful not to apply a sentiment that sacraments are all about what you get out of them, but certainly the feeling of liberation following confession is an important aspect for the penitent, particularly if one has spent some time preparing.

On the plus side, at least it has prompted him that he needs to sort out a regular confessor/spiritual director at the earliest possible opportunity.

I’m wondering whether or not I’ll be allowed to use my app tomorrow; with my pregnancy hormones I can’t remember where I’ve put things five minutes previously, perhaps this ban on lists or aide memoires is a cunning ploy to get us going more often?

Kate’s confirmation

According to a press report that has just popped up on my Twitter feed, Kate Middleton was confirmed in a private service conducted by the Bishop of London last month as part of the preparations for her wedding service.

Apparently her decision had nothing to do with her wedding, but was part of a private journey of faith. Whilst it is heartening to learn that the couple have been in receipt of formal marriage preparation, which is a pre-requisite before couples may be allowed to marry in the Catholic Church, I can’t help but be slightly disappointed that this seems to have been kept something of a secret.

I can perhaps understand Kate’s reluctance to admit that the future wife of the Head of the Church of England was not in fact a practicing Christian, but it is a shame that she felt unable to make her news public. Confirmation signifies that one has a proper understanding of what it is to live as a disciple of Christ, part of this entails demonstrating faith in the community and bearing witness to the truth of Christ, thus her decision to keep this private, demonstrates a worrying conformity by those nominally in charge of the Church of England, to conform to the secular agenda of keeping faith behind closed doors, instead of actually living it.

Her confirmation should be a cause of celebration, a public bearing of witness, otherwise it risks being seen as a procedural exercise for the sake of form alone , a devaluation of an important sacrament and is yet another step towards undermining the established Church in this country, ironically by the very people who are sworn to defend it.


An ecumenical matter


As Royal Wedding fever begins to mount, there seems to be a surprising amount of apathy towards the couple from various Catholics on the blogosphere.

Whilst I admit that I was somewhat under-whelmed by the both wording and the timing of the prayer for the couple that was released last week by the Catholic Church in England and Wales, I struggle to see why many Catholic commentators are expressing indifference towards William and Kate’s nuptials.

Whether one likes or loathes the Royal Family, whether one is a fervent monarchist or committed republican, the monarchy is here to stay for the foreseeable future and thus as Christians we should celebrate that they are choosing to endorse the institution of marriage, which forms an important part of Catholic social teaching.

Though scoffed at by the liberal intelligentsia there are many who do still look to the royals to set an example, and I for one, was both dismayed and concerned that the royal couple seemed to be endorsing the practice of cohabitation, not least because it put Kate Middleton in a seemingly impossible position, unable to lead any sort of normal life, unable to carve out a career for herself and stuck in limbo until such time that William felt able to commit one way or the other. Of course it was desirable that he should not act hastily, but eight years seemed to be more than ample to decide whether or not this was the woman with whom he wished to spend the rest of his life.

William and Kate reflected today’s society in which cohabitation is a fact of life, a try-before-you-buy policy and certainly in their case the balance of power seemed to be one way, with Kate potentially having a lot more to lose had things not worked out. I am able to speak from the fairly unusual position of having cohabited before a marriage, as in the case of my annulled marriage, and also of having remained chaste before marriage and I can testify to the effectiveness of the latter in optimising one’s chances of a successful union. Though the blame for the breakdown of my first marriage cannot be solely attributed to cohabitation, it doubtless did not help us to make the transition from simply living together and sharing a house, to the permanency of marriage. Marriage entailed a lavish and expensive day, but the day after, neither of us felt any different, nothing had really changed, and as we both languished on the sofa the day after the wedding, nursing our hangovers, we even debated whether or not it would be worthwhile to cancel the honeymoon, given neither of us had any energy. Once the excitement of the wedding was over, there was nothing different, nothing new to look forward to.

When I properly entered into the sacrament of marriage, things could not have been more different. Everything was a novelty to the pair of us and highlighted the new status of our relationship. Even doing things like sharing the washing-up together, and sorting out various household tasks, reinforced the new intimacy between us. It was no longer his vicarage, but our family home, and even now, a few years later, having spent a few years dating before marriage, just the act of sharing the same bed to sleep in, still hasn’t quite lost that sparkle. There was a definite demarcation between simply going out and actually being married, there was a positive decision on behalf of the pair of both of us, a saying “yes”, a leap of faith, “this isn’t going to be easy, we won’t always feel as we do now, but I love you, I trust you and I am going to do my best to be the husband/wife that God is calling me to be”. It’s decidedly different from “well I’ve lived with you for x years, we share everything, why not, I think I can risk it and if it doesn’t work out there’s always a get-out clause”. The problem with cohabitation is, as far as I can discern it, is that there is always that get-out clause and its easy to carry that forward into a marriage as well as slide almost unthinkingly into matrimony. This sentiment is borne out by a recent study. Whereas in our case we had to make a positive decision with regards to whether or not to take our relationship to the next stage. It wasn’t without difficulty, chastity did not come without struggle for either of us, logistically had we lived together then we would not have encountered the difficulty with regards to my daughter’s school, she missed out on places at both the excellent C of E school that my husband was the governor of in his capacity of vicar, and indeed the equally good Catholic school, but it was certainly the right thing to do in terms of setting her a living example. Shortly after we got married, she exhibited signs of jealousy given that all of a sudden mummy was sharing a bedroom with dad and she felt excluded from the sleeping arrangements, although this was made up for by letting her choose the décor of her brand new bedroom, the painting of pink walls and the addition of lots of fairies, cupcakes and butterflies!

As Catholics we should not just shrug our shoulders at the forthcoming nuptials but actively wish the couple well, as we would with any other couple, regardless of status or privilege. Though it is tempting to be disdainful of the costs involved and the necessary pomp and pageantry, befitting the representatives of our country and solemnity of the occasion, given the prevailing economic gloom, it seems more than a little churlish to deny Kate Middleton her moment of glory. Though one doesn’t need to buy into the Royal Wedding fever currently being whipped up by the press, the idea of a street party being something of an anachronism from a by-gone age, if the Royal Wedding engenders a sense of community and enables friends and family to spend time reinforcing their bonds whilst celebrating the forging of a new one, then perhaps this isn’t such a bad idea after all. It might well be bread and circuses, but I’m sure most of us are, if nothing else, appreciating the extra day off and extension of the May bank holiday.

To note that as Catholics we should not be concerned by the behaviour of the Anglican monarchy from which we are disallowed, excluded, and which has no spiritual jurisdiction over us is misguided; actually the royal wedding is, in the words of Fr Ted Crilly, an ecumenical matter. In his book The Realm, Fr Aiden Nichols argues that Catholics need to reclaim Englishness and the institutions that stem from Catholic heritage, in order to build for the future. Though we may have doctrinal differences with Anglicanism, we need to recognise that the throne and the Church of England, are to quote Newman “breakwaters against infidelity”. They guard important elements of our Christian past and will slow down the process of secularisation, until such time, that the Catholic Church may genuinely renew its spiritual force.

Instead of defining ourselves by our political leanings, and  our  feelings towards the monarchy as a whole, we need to remember that we are first and foremost Christians, disciples of Christ and not forget the symbolism of marriage and the vital role it has to play within our faith and the building of a stable society.

Christians of all denominations should therefore unite in prayer and thanksgiving that the future King and Head of the Church of England is, albeit belatedly, embracing and endorsing the institution of marriage, before writing off the nuptials as irrelevant.