Sunday 27 March 2011

White wash

On this day, which in the year of my birth was the fifth Sunday in Lent- or, as it was known then, Passion Sunday, I was baptised. I was exactly three weeks old. I gather, since I have no personal recollection, that it was all pretty straightforward. And so it was for my own children- since when, it appears, things have changed and parents wishing to have their children baptised are required to undergo some course of instruction. As I remarked to my good lady today- if we were, by some miracle, to have another child then I am quite sure I could not be bothered with all that nonsense but would do the job myself. Called to account I should say: "Danger of death"- my own- given the way these courses appear to be drawn out.
I did experience some of the parish courses when the children were being prepared for First Holy Communion and for Confirmation. It was tedious beyond words. In one a good and holy nun spent a long time asking rhetorically and to little purpose that I can remember what we had felt when our child was born. In another a well-intentioned layman got rather mixed up on the subject of which of the sacraments conferred a character upon the soul and told us that on that account one could only receive one's First Communion once. My American cousin, who had seven children, agreed with me on the pointlessness of these courses. She had managed to get herself excused after her fourth had been confirmed.
It is difficult to account for this enthusiasm for giving courses. Even people getting married are required to attend preparation courses. I wonder if anyone attending such a course was helped to a mind-blowing insight. "Wow! So that's what marriage is! I don't think I want to go ahead with that!" Of course the advantage of teaching people things they already know is that one's success or otherwise as a teacher cannot be assessed. It is rather like painting a white wall ...white! Once the paint has dried it scarcely matters whether or not you have covered all of it. Or like washing. As we learn in the Gospel, the "one who has taken a bath has no need of washing. He is already clean all over."

Monday 21 March 2011

Of course it is!

I found myself, for the Second Sunday Of Lent, at mass in the Lake District. I did not know the hymn, being unfamiliar with the words, but the tune carried me back to my early teens. I was not sure how the words of the hymn related to either the readings or the part of the mass but the original words were oddly apt!

Indeed! It is Lent: Carnival has been over for a good week and a half now!

Thursday 17 March 2011

Wednesday 9 March 2011

Go on! I'm a man... I can take it....(?)

Somewhere in St Thomas More's "Dialogue of Comfort against Tribulation" the all-too-human tendency to make light of the dying person's prospects of actually dying is criticised. Indeed the absurdity of denying the probable and apparent approach of death even to those of extreme age and frailty when an open facing of the facts might provide them with an opportunity to be properly prepared is emphasised. I mention this because, as I received my ashes today, I was told to "Turn away from sin and believe the Good News."

Salutary and much-needed advice such that I cannot fault. It appears to be a legitimate option in the current rite. As an option, however, it seems to have come to dominate to the extent that I cannot recall having heard the words " are dust...." for several years now and I wonder Why?
Do the clergy look at me and think, "There is a fine fit fellow in the very bloom of health. No point in worrying him with a prospect that is clearly years, nay, decades away." Or is it that the priest sees me and thinks "Poor fellow! His life is hanging by the merest of threads. Better not risk startling him with thoughts of death for fear that he might just pop his clogs right here and now!"

Well I suppose the important thing is that one does make the effort to turn away from sin- because that is the practical point for one whichever form of words is used ... and yet....

And yet, I think I should prefer the traditional words- not least because they have a whole range of resonances. They take us back to Genesis and our human solidarity with Adam and the rest of humanity and even with created matter itself. We"share the likeness of the earthly man..." It is far from being the end of the story. Indeed it is a beginning!

Sunday 6 March 2011