Thursday, 30 June 2011

How to defend the Church in the Public Square

This is quite a remarkable performance. Never mind the strategy; witness the fervour and the conviction.

Can't we make this priest Bishop of Portsmouth of something? I think they will be in need of a bishop pretty soon.

A Chesterton Conference, Friday 1 July in Oxford

The G. K. Chesterton Institute for Faith & Culture, US has the pleasure of announcing a conference celebrating the centenary of G. K. Chesterton’s epic poem ― The Ballad of the White Horse. The conference will be held

on Friday, July 1, 2011

from 5 – 8 pm

at St Benet’s Hall, Oxford (38 St. Giles, Oxford).

Speakers include: Fr. Ian Boyd, C.S.B., John Coates, Dr. Sheridan Gilley, Dr. Julia Stapleton and Dr. Brian Sudlow. This event is open to the public and free of charge.

For more information please contact: chestertoninstitute@shu.edu

The Ballad of the White Horse
is a poem by G. K. Chesterton about the idealized exploits of the Saxon King Alfred the Great, published in 1911. Written in ballad form, the poem narrates how, with the help of God and the intercession of the Virgin Mary, King Alfred defeated the invading Danes at the Battle of Ethandun. In addition to being a story of Alfred's military and political accomplishments, it is also considered a Christian allegory in which Chesterton examines the threats of neo-paganism in modern times. Chesterton incorporates a significant amount of philosophy into the basic structure of the story.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Loving priests

The older I get, the less I am prepared to go in thundering against those I consider to be evil doers. I hope this is humility rather than complacency. One rarely if ever knows all the facts, even of the most public cases. The problem is all the worst in the case of priests who sometimes know things they cannot reveal. I wonder if our passion for total disclosure comes from our living in the information age. Least said, soonest mended, is a counsel honoured more in the breach than in the observance.

Neverthless, I have been scratching my head with increasing frustration in the last few days over the conduct of some of the clergy. I was dumbfounded at the nerve-shrivelling melodrama of Fr John Corapi's public self-exile. I'm not underestimating how difficult it is to sit accused of wickedness and be subject to a system in which one appears guilty until proven innocent. I'm just amazed at his lack of judgment, his appalling self promotion, and, let us say it, at his cloth-eared sense of what makes a good, heroic moniker. The Black Sheep Dog sounds a bit like 'The Black Vegetable', if you know what I mean. He is seriously in danger of looking thoroughly absurd. We can only pray he rediscovers not only his sense of obligation to the Church but his sense of proportion.

At a much more serious level, I have between tea breaks and lunch today watched the BBC's latest documentary on priest abusers: Abused: Breaking the Silence. Not for the faint hearted, this documentary lays out accusations, many of them admitted by those accused, of sexual abuse by four Rosminian priests in the late 1950s and early 1960s. One of them, Fr Kit Cunningham, later became a minor celebrity, served in Saint Elthelreda's in London, and earned an MBE which he returned last year to the Palace without any explanation. He died in late 2010.

Peter Stanford is wringing his hands in palpable confusion over this news. He wonders whether he can ever trust a priest again; if he was so wrong about Fr Cunningham, how can he ever trust his judgment in the future? I sympathise with Stanford but do not agree. The preparation for celibacy which seminarians go through these days is considerably more sophisticated than it was in the 1950s. The less formal nature of social mores also, arguably, creates a more supportive context in which priests and religious can live out their celibate vocation. The standards of child care and safeguards against abuse in the Catholic Church in this country easily compare to anything available in civil society.

But why is the fall of Frs Corapi and Cunningham so devastating for so many people? Undoubtedly some suffer directly through their actions: in Corapi's case, those who have been inspired by him; in Cunningham's case, those who have been abused by him. Yet in some way, we all are touched by their actions. The Church suffers because their sins stain the icon of Christ which they are supposed to embody. The world suffers because even though it had its doubts about such an icon, to find that they have fallen means there is a little less hope in the world at large.

It all underlines the importance of support for our priests, of the need not to be too hasty in judgment, of the need not to isolate them out of a false sense of hierarchy. If you want to make people good, the first thing you have to do is to love them, i.e. to see them as God sees them.

I pray that Fr Corapi comes to his senses. I pray that the Rosminians do the right thing by the victims of their members. Other than that what can one do except wonder at the God who gave such power to men?

Monday, 27 June 2011

Flat for sale!

We interrupt our normal inactivity to advertise a one-bedroom flat for sale in East Dulwich, SE22.



The flat is on the first floor. All details available here.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

On the road again

We spent most of last week on the road, travelling between relatives and visiting Birmingham. There is something incomparably liberating about escaping from London. The skies seem bigger, the air is definitely easier to breathe, and the spirit seems to calm down and revive a little far from the frenzy of the capital. He who is tired of London is tired of life, said Samuel Johnson. But the London he knew was something different from the London of Boris Johnson.

We spent one night at Studley Castle, as can anyone actually. These days it is a hotel. And, moreover, it never really was a castle; more a glorified stately home. Still, getting beyond the idea of Studley as an early Victorian fashion accessory, we found it to be a very comfortable inn for the weary travellers that we were.

The glorious Warwickshire countryside stretched away into the distance:


And in the evening the castle sat back in splendour and told us its tales during our after dinner walk:


One more could one ask a 'castle' to do?

The following day we found ourselves in Birmingham on the feast of Corpus Christi (except in England and Wales, worst luck), which proved as good an excuse as any to toddle along to the Birmingham Oratory before dinner and assist at a Solemn High Mass (Extraordinary Form).


The pictures I had seen of the church did it no justice at all. I was expecting something like the wearisome albeit devotional monstrosity in South Kensington. What I found was something smaller but infinitely more tasteful. It seems that Blessed John Henry Newman, who founded the Oratory in Birmingham, died before the church was even begun. They have a very pretty little chapel dedicated to him and in which we said our prayers before heading off for a well-earned dinner.


Did I just mention dinner again? Well, we always eat well when we go away (and, I hasten to add, it's not too bad at home either).

So, now, it's back to London for the time being. I don't think I'm tired of London life. I'm not even tired of Boris Johnson. But rather as Bilbo Baggins found, having once left the Shire, you never really settle again when you return.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Brumington bound

Little blogging time this week as we are up in Brumington, inspecting the city and doing a lot of thinking. I managed tonight to go for the first time to the Birmingham Oratory. What a gem! For Corpus Christi there was a Solemn High Mass and a procession of the Blessed Sacrament. The choir was top draw.

We also paid a visit to the shrine of Blessed John Henry Newman to whose intercession we ascribe my recent appointment. The chapel is simple but very pretty. All of the altars throughout the church and chapels were ad orientem. How refreshing!

Back to the big smoke tomorrow. It's amazing to get out of London once in a while and find out how friendly the rest of the country is. We had two spontaneous offers of help from people today and others were simply obliging in the extreme. I could get used to that!

Pictures this weekend.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

It's one of those afternoons ...

... when only a little English choral music can soothe the nerves all frayed by the English summer.




My song is love unknown,
My Savior's love to me;
Love to the loveless shown,
That they might lovely be.
O who am I, that for my sake
My Lord should take frail flesh and die?

He came from His blest throne
Salvation to bestow;
But men made strange, and none
The longed for Christ would know:
But O! my Friend, my Friend indeed,
Who at my need His life did spend.

Sometimes they strew His way,
And His sweet praises sing;
Resounding all the day
Hosannas to their King:
Then Crucify! is all their breath,
And for His death they thirst and cry.

They rise and needs will have
My dear Lord made away;
A murderer they saved,
The Prince of life they slay,
Yet cheerful He to suffering goes,
That He His foes from thence might free.

Here might I stay and sing,
No story so divine;
Never was love, dear King!
Never was grief like Thine.
This is my Friend, in Whose sweet praise
I all my days could gladly spend.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

A new book to take note of

I'm happy to report to readers the publication of Anselm Gribbin O.Praem, Pope Benedict XVI and the Liturgy (£12.99) published by Gracewing. The blurb goes something like this:

A prominent and inescapable feature of Pope Benedict XVI's pontificate is the importance which has been given to the sacred liturgy, in its actual celebration, as well as in the pope's Magisterium and theological writings. Not only have we witnessed the reappearance of many elements used in older, but recently-abandoned papal liturgies, but also what amounts to be the virtual liberation of the 'Old Latin Mass'. This has come as a great surprise to many people in the Church, some of whom almost regard it, and the pope's liturgical theology, as a betrayal of recent liturgical reforms. On the other hand, others have viewed these liturgical changes, and the emphasis which Pope Benedict places upon the liturgy in the life of the Church, as positive developments, leading to a more correct understanding of the Second Vatican Council within 'the hermeneutic of continuity' and reform, and the notion of 'organic development'. But, in the midst of conflicting interpretations, how are we to understand these developments and Pope Benedict XVI's re-affirmation of what we now call the usus antiquior? In this book Dr Anselm J. Gribbin explores these and other related questions by examining the liturgical theology of Pope Benedict XVI in his magisterial teachings and writings, particularly in the post-synodal exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, and The Spirit of the Liturgy. Gribbin, in an extensive, and detailed analysis, indicates that the liturgical theology of Pope Benedict XVI/Joseph Ratzinger points the way forward for the Church in the field of liturgy. He also addresses the fundamentally important question of the relationship between the liturgical writings of Pope Benedict XVI as a theologian, and his Magisterium as the supreme pontiff of the Catholic Church, and that the latter is best understood with recourse to the former.

Frater Anselm, a Scotsman and a Norbertine of the Abbey of Tongerlo, is a medievalist by training, and I have no doubt that this book will be worth the read. I'm asking Gracewing for a review copy and hope to report back on the book in due course on the blog.

Friday, 17 June 2011

The 'why' of the TOB

It has been interesting watching the reaction buttons on my last post. Eight readers happen to think it was funny. I'm not sure exactly what was funny. Larson wasn't funny for a start.

I fear greatly that what was meant was that it was 'laughable', i.e., it's laughable to be talking about the body, especially in relation to theology. Larson himself seemed to take if not this point of view, then at least a dismissive point of view, considering the expression theology of the body as 'inappropriate pomposity'. Now, we can wonder what Larson thinks 'appropriate pomposity' would be, but that is tangential for now. I suppose I can only confront those amused by the notion of TOB by answering the question I left hanging at the end of an earlier post on this topic: what's the point of theology of the body?

Again, I come at this very much as a novice, simply asking the questions and trying to work out the terrain which has necessitated such study and provoked such debate. But I have to say that anything within Catholicism which reminds us of our embodied condition is worth considering. The nature of the human being is after all composite.

To consider this reality purely from the point of view of theological tradition is interesting. Doubts about the bodiliness of our condition can be found in some early Christological heresies. Doubts about the embodied character of our means of salvation are later found in doubts over the necessity of the sacraments. The incarnation too was one of those themes that became ever more prominent in late nineteenth-century theology, as historical criticism began to break down Protestant and then Catholic belief in the divinity of Christ. Speaking now as someone interested in France, I find divine poetry in the fact that Ernest Psichari, the grandson of Ernest Renan whose notorious Vie de Jésus was responsible for popularising a proto-modernist understanding of the Christ of History, would turn back to the Church at the same time as his good friend Charles Péguy who placed the incarnation at the heart of so much of his late work.

We can look back at other traditions within Catholicism which are equally proccupied with the body in ways that have the potential to surprise us. I remember coming across Saint Dominic's 'nine ways of prayer'. Instead of the complex psychological treatise which my formation in counter-reformation spirituality led me to expect - how to train the imagination, use the mind in prayer, elicit desires, move emotions - I found a list of bodily postures. Who would have thought that one of the masters of Catholic life in the Middle Ages would have left us such 'ways of prayer'. If we are surprised, it is indicative of how our thinking about spirituality and prayer has shifted locus, since the Cartesian revolution, from outward to inward. Of course, traces of this earlier dispensation remain within Catholicism until the present. Traditionalists often prefer to kneel when they are praying. Some other Catholics prefer to adopt the orans position with hands stretched out and palms facing upwards. To my mind, anything that casts our bodies in an attitude of prayer - rather than pretending that our souls are the ghosts in the machine - comes from a good instinct.

All this, it seems to me, can be linked to a theology of the body, i.e. how our bodies, as well as our souls, are intimately linked to the ecology of salvation.

***********

The need for a theology of the body, which John Paul began to work out well before he came to Rome to be pope, seems to arise from several accidents of history. The first of these is the development in the social sciences in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, notably anthropology and semiotics. Anthropology, as I understand it, is the study of the species of homo sapiens, but it can also concern basic human production and those things that dominate the symbolic domain which each individual or community lives in. While this has no apparent theological significance, the fact that God became man - homo - and that the religion he founded is worked out in material conditions suggests that anthropology can serve theology in how theology thinks about man's return to God. After all, Saint Thomas used not only philosophy but also biology and astronomy in various questions of the Summa Theologica. All truth is of the Holy Ghost, as Saint Ambrose observes.

The other science to develop in the twentieth century and which is of importance here is semiotics, i.e. the study of how signs or symbols work. Our cultures are full of signs and symbols denoting directly, and connoting indirectly, meaning. The very work of our intellects is to make sense of the world around us. In other words, our minds' search for meaning is closely associated with the world's capacity to express meaning and purpose. The heavens proclaim the glory of God and our minds can embrace this meaning.

The second accident of history crucial to the development of the theology of the body - I say accident because everything in history depends on our free choices - was the collapse of sexual morality in the West. We can spend a long time going over this ground, but essentially what we have since the 1960s is a massive departure not only from the practice of a truly human sexuality (seen in various ways in previous centuries) but also from the understanding of human sexuality which is reduced for many to the level of a purely pleasurable pursuit, entirely unrelated to procreation and only incidentally related to personal relations.

Now, it is in these contexts - the development of the social sciences and the sexual revolution - that a thinking man like JPII begins working out ways in which the men of his time could be shown again the path towards a sexuality which is worthy of humanity and - at the same time and because God is the author of nature and grace - which is compatible with our call to salvation. In TOB, JPII appears to have set out to win the battle over the meaning of sexuality. If 'sex' has become the dominant theme of this theology, at least as it is popularly received, it is certainly in part because sex has become pathological in the liberal culture of death. But it is also because the division of genders and their orientation towards one another in creation are at the heart of all our bodiliness as designed by God; a bodiliness which is bound to the rational soul in a substance known as the human person. This is at least what a Christian anthropology, derived from revelation, would posit.

Another way of saying this is actually that the family, not the individual, is at the heart of Christian anthropology. Another way of saying this is that the Christian teachings on sexuality can only be supported and nourished by a better understanding of why God wants it this way.

In other words - and this, you'll be glad to know, is my last word on the matter since I am only learning about it myself - here is the importance of understanding what theology of the body terms the 'nuptial meaning' of the body. Nuptial must be understood not only in a univocal and concrete sense but also analogically. We are all, men and women, single and married, somehow shaped by this nuptial dynamic that belongs to us as embodied human persons. We must in some way give ourselves. Christianity completes that insight by telling us that we give ourselves to our sacramentally bonded spouse and children, or to others through our celibate service (singletons, priests or religious).

And that is, as I understand it, the why of the theology of the body. Laugh at it if you will.

Friday, 10 June 2011

James Larson's objections to TOB

One commenter below asks me what I think of James Larson's latest offering in Christian Order about the Theology of the Body. Having just read it, I wonder if he wrote it at the last minute or something. It seems to be a piece that works mostly by insinuation.

For example, Larson quotes at length a passage of St Thomas in which the saint observes that:

Since a lawful occupation about lower things distracts the mind so that it is not fit for actual union with God; and this is especially the case in carnal intercourse wherein the mind is withheld by the intensity of pleasure.


(ST, Suppl., Q.41, A.3).

Commenting on this, Larson states:

St. Thomas’ words clearly leave no room for exaltation of the married act to the status of any kind of profound spiritual experience. [...] To attempt to identify or confuse the two is a manifest perversion. Nor is it permitted to identify the marriage act itself with the fullness of that ontological reality by which the marriage of man and wife image Christ’s relationship to the Church. This “image” is not to be found in the sexual act itself, but in the virtue of fidelity between man and wife, and in their bringing forth and rearing of children.

But there are a number of problems here. First, Larson gives us no idea which bit of Theology of the Body he is talking about. We cannot check his insinuations (for example, that the TOB does indeed confuse the marriage act with a spiritual experience) because he isn't engaging with TOB. He appears rather to be engaging with a secondary account of TOB which has come from who knows where. Larson certainly doesn't tell us.

A second problem here is Larson's reading of St Thomas. In this passage St Thomas distinguishes which acts actually unite us to God in contemplation and specifically rules out the marriage act for this purpose (since it is concerned with lower goods and its intensity impedes the action of the mind). But Larson talks about 'any kind of spiritual experience', a category which, it seems to me, is not quite the same as the exercise of the gifts and virtues which lead us into contemplation. If TOB enthusiasts talk about sex as a 'spiritual experience', it seems to me such a claim is probably a way of describing the union of persons (not just bodies) which the act can bring about, especially in persons who realise that their union through the sacrament of marriage has been conformed to Christ and become a source of grace for them.

Actually, now I think about it, if we wanted to connect sex to one of the gifts, it surely can be seen in relation to the gift of knowledge which allows us to understand created things in relation to their supernatural end. Still, if you want to hang TOB on this Thomistic scaffold, you have to establish that TOB indeed claims copulation as an act of the theological virtues or the gifts. Larson is nowhere near establishing this because, again, he does not cite TOB in any place in his argument.

The third problem here is with Larson's last claim:

Nor is it permitted to identify the marriage act itself with the fullness of that ontological reality by which the marriage of man and wife image Christ’s relationship to the Church. This “image” is not to be found in the sexual act itself, but in the virtue of fidelity between man and wife, and in their bringing forth and rearing of children.

On the one hand, I want to know who has said this identification is not permitted, apart from James Larson. Indeed, while the marriage act is not everything, its power and importance as a sign of Christ's love and fecudation of his Church is given full and blazing expression in the Song of Songs. On the other hand, I would like to know also why he thinks he is making such a big distinction by introducing the notion of fidelity. In TOB, all copulation is already considered as posterior to the marriage vows. The marriage act then gives expression precisely to those vows. Nowhere have I heard TOB enthusiasts say that any copulatory act carries nuptial meaning. Indeed, they try to help the struggle that many today have with the sin of fornication by showing how sex outside marriage is is a lie (because the body then says what it cannot mean). In the marriage act, our bodies are expressing something which can only be expressed by those who have mutually given themselves to each other in matrimony. Incidentally, when I pointed out to Professor Michael Waldstein, the translator of the TOB discourses, that this knowledge (of impurity as a lie) cannot replace the virtue of purity, he completely agreed. It is not a case of either one or the other. Purity helps us understand the law while a greater understanding of the law helps us to be pure.

It seems Larson labours under a major assumption that Theology of the Body is all about sex. For which he reason, he observes:

'But to designate a separate “theology” specifically assigned to human sexuality amounts to an exaltation of this sphere of human activity which implicitly masks a serious disorder.'

But this is not the case, as far as I understand it. On the contrary, Theology of the Body seems to be an attempt to work out how the structure and ecology of grace in our moral and ecclesial lives have been made by God not arbitrarily but so that they heal and elevate our embodied condition. Now, our embodied condition is connected to our gender and our psychosexual condition regardless of what state of life we live in. In fact, 12 of the 132 papal discourses in TOB concern continence for the Kingdom of God.

As far as I understand it, the heart of TOB is the idea that the nuptial relationship helps us make sense of this area of morality regardless of whether we are sexually active or not. We are all called to make a gift of our person in someway. In calling some to celibacy, God is not only providing for the Kingdom by a restraint of their sexuality; He is providing a new and elevated goal through which all the dynamics of the individual's gender and psychosexual energy can be raised up by grace and made to serve God in a new way. That is why in my experience the celibates that are happiest are those who see themselves as married to the Christ and the Church in a union through which they continually bring souls to the life of grace and sustain them in it. After all, we call some celibates 'father' and 'mother'! In other words, the obediential potency of human nature to be raised by grace is not a voluntaristic reality, but one whose shape and character (what is it actually that is raised by grace?) have already been taken account of by God's plans.

Let me say as a last remark that Larson perhaps reveals the true origin of his criticism by his claim that TOB leads to emasculation which is endemic throughout the Church, especially in most performances of the new liturgy. Emasculation is what he is concerned about, and I mostly agree with his concern. Emasculation certainly is abroad in the Church, and it is certainly articulated by liturgical praxis in many places.

To push TOB into the dock, however, without even quoting a word of it seems like a rather emasculated way - because not grounded in reason and evidence - of going about facing the problem.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

TOB objections

Apologies for the short, euphoric interlude, but if you know me, you'll realise why I just had to stop and find a small glass of sherry to toast the recent news. Now back to business...

Let us make all the reservations first. I was standing in the lunch queue on Sunday next to another conference delegate who, like me, had had some reservations about what was an otherwise great conference. My view, I told him, was that it was very bizarre to hear a treatise of theology expounded almost as the panacea of twenty-first century Catholic illnesses without hearing a word breathed about the liturgy. Of course the Church, like Christ, has a role as servant, and so is concerned with ethics, but first her role is that of priest, because she is the Mystical Body of the High Priest himself who worships the Trinity ceaselessly. My theory, which I think is borne out by history, is that an ethically-preoccupied Christianity is on the slide towards secularisation, because sooner or later it is in danger of placing human agency above the agency of God. So, I found it problematic to be hearing all about Theology of the Body with no account of our bodies in relation to worship. I think one speaker during the weekend said that a Christian who fails to serve is on his way towards Phariseeism; he failed to mention the correlation that a Christian who serves but fails to worship is on his way to Zealotism.

My lunch companion had had another concern, which was that we had talked about 'the body' all weekend but not about the Mystical Body. Quite! And this was strange since one of the central themes of theology in the last half of the twentieth century was the attempt to marry all the treatises of theology to the treatise of ecclesiology.

Let me mention a last problem I had this weekend which not many people seemed to get. Everyone kept banging on about the body as a sign carrying a nuptial meaning. But it is clear that very few of the speakers had problematised this expression. I contend, however, that if you are going to borrow scientific language - and 'sign ' and 'meaning' qualify as terms belonging to the fields of linguistics and semiotics - you have to know what you are doing. You cannot, moreover, ignore the consequences. If, for example, I say the conjugal act has a specific 'meaning', and thus borrow a linguistic concept, I have to be able to defend the untranslate-ability (if you'll allow me the neologism) of that meaning. Normally, all signs that denote meaning can be translated into other signs. I can tell you I love you, or I can kiss you. I can tell you I hate you or punch you on the nose. If there is a meaning of the conjugal act, why cannot it be translated into other signs - not a man and a woman but a man and a man, for example?

Hang on, I'm not saying it can be translated! But I am saying that the language of 'signs' and 'meanings' appears not to have been thought through. Actually, the answer is not that difficult, but it forces us to connect the personalism which suffuses TOB with a bit of old fashioned cosmology. Blessed John Paul II knew this in fact, but sometimes, in listening to some of the enthusiasts of TOB, I get the impression that they are just a little unaware of it. On Saturday one speaker got carried away with a stream of melifluous consciousness on the theme of conjugal love, but when she was faced with a member of the audience who had been conceived by sperm donor (not her fault, right!) and who stammered her pain at the thought of her conception being so removed from the culmination of conjugal love, the speaker, not knowing what to say, blurted out, 'I'm sorry was there a question in that?' Everyone in the room hung their heads in embarrassment.

Well, anyone can screw up on the podium, and that is not a TOB problem. But my point is that some exponents (not all!) of TOB appear to go around with a halo of melifluousness which has not been grounded in classic, Thomist psychology - the psychology which JPII himself knew so well.

Right, you lot, you've made me miss my train! So I shall leave it there and come back to this later or tomorrow. I have stated the reservations that sprung to mind over the weekend and in doing so raised the question: so what? What indeed is the point of TOB?

Monday, 6 June 2011

I'm too excited ...

... to write about TOB. I just learned I have got a new and permanent job! I cannot tell you what a relief this is!

Many thanks to all who prayed for me last week. Blessed John Henry Newman be thanked for his intercession!

It has been a long and difficult path these last few years.

On the suggestion of the Rev Trisagion, let Te Deum and Non nobis be sung!



This weekend, one of the speakers at the TOB conference quoted a Mexican proverb which says: Every baby comes with a piece of bread under his arm. In our case this certainly seems true since we are expecting our first baby on 5 September a few days after the new job begins!!!

TOB

After a fraught week, I spent the weekend with my wife at the International Symposium on the Theology of the Body (TOB), this year held at St Mary's College near Twickenham. It probably wasn't the best remedy to the stress of the last fortnight, but that said, it was a remarkably stimulating conference in any number of ways.

Knowing the constituency that most readers belong too, I know this might sound a bit odd. Ches is really going off his rocker this time! I'm no enthusiast of Blessed John Paul, as I think I have well established, and I'm quite aware of the arrant nonsense talked by some proponents of TOB. That said, the symposium had much to offer. Major stars like Professor John Crosby and the feisty Dr Janet Smith were on the programme. In the event, some of the 'lesser' speakers were among the most powerful, notably Dr William Newton and Edmund Adamus (he who described London as the 'geopolitical centre of the culture of death'). Robert Colquhoun of Love Undefiled, one of the chief organisers, worked relentlessly throughout the weekend; clearly nobody had told him that ushering conference delegates is like shepherding cats. He stuck to his task, neverethless!

So I came home exhausted but full of ideas - both positive and negative, but ideas all the same! Now, however, I must dash for a train, so more of this later.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Theology of the Body

Thanks to those of you who said prayers for me in the last week. At this point, it appears that God has said, 'No!' - a result I'm still trying to get my head and heart around. I promise you I wasn't praying for a second car or a yacht in the Med. It was more like; please don't let us go smashing into that brick wall. Well, that won't happen just yet! God remains in charge.

Meanwhile, I'm at the Theology of the Body conference this weekend in London. Reports tomorrow.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Ascension Day

Happy Feast to the rest of the Church Universal. Here in England, it's just another ordinary Thursday for most people. But not for me!

No, it's a big day chez Ches today, so if you have a spare prayer around 12pm BST, I'll be most glad of it. If God wills, then I will ascend in glory, possibly to the sound of tubae, who knows!

Meanwhile, I'm listening to some cool music to loosen me up a bit. I've posted this before, but, heck, another time won't hurt.