Pray for Pope Francis



The Lord preserve him and give him life, and make him blessed upon the earth; and deliver him not up to the will of his enemies.




The Liebster Award

My favourite young person (in fact the only young person I know), the fabulous Katherine of... what's she call it again?... oh, yes... the Five Feet Above Sea Level blog, has nominated me, or rather this blog, for the Liebster Award.

The point of the award is to encourage blogs to link to each other and so boost their profiles and traffic.
Here’s what you do:
1) Post the Liebster award graphic on your site. (Google to find it if needed)
2) Thank the blogger who nominated the blog for a Liebster Award and link back to their blog.
3) The blogger then writes 11 facts about themselves so people who discover their blog through the Liebster post will learn more about them.
4) In addition to posting 11 fun facts about themselves, nominated bloggers should also answer the 11 questions from the post of the person who nominated them.
5) The nominated blogger will in turn, nominate 9 other blogs with 200 or less followers (We’re guessing for our nominees) for a Liebster award by posting a comment on their blog and linking back to the Liebster post.
6) The nominated blogger will create 11 questions for their nominated blogs to answer in their Liebster post.
This is kind of difficult because a) there are no "fun facts" about me, and b) the only other blogs I know with less than 200 followers are also written by myself or the above fabulous Katherine. So there wouldn't be much point in that exercise, would there?
As long as you're happy with just facts, rather than "fun facts", here goes:
1) I've been a Catholic for five years now. Before that I was Church of England, and before that I was a sort of mishmash of things - atheist, agnostic, nothing in particular, couldn't care less, etc - and before that I was Church of England again.
2) Having been all those things, I believe firmly that atheism makes no sense at all, agnosticism is intellectually tenable but emotionally unfulfilling, that the existence or otherwise of God is the most important question, that the Church of England is where you find good music and people like yourself, and the Catholic Church is where you find terrible music and people of every race, colour and social class.
3) If I wasn't Catholic, I'd be Orthodox. And one day soon I hope there won't be a difference.
4) As well as several blogs with hardly any followers, I also have one with over a million hits a year.
5) I've been seriously learning French now for considerably longer than most French people and I still can't speak it anything like a native.
6) I thought Pope Benedict was the best pope who ever lived (except St Peter himself) and I'm hoping Pope Francis will be even better.
7) My biggest regret in life is that I never joined the French Foreign Legion (though I did spend over 20 years in the British infantry). My second biggest regret is that I can't sing (which come to that wouldn't have gone down very well in the Legion).
8) My favourite foods are cauliflower cheese, steak and kidney pudding, and fish pie.
9) I can read the New Testament in Latin without a crib (the OT is a bit more difficult).
10) In 2014 I intend to walk the route of the Retreat from Mons and the Battle of the Marne being at each place en route on the exact day one hundred years later that my old regiment was.
11) The most recent footballer I have ever heard of is George Best and the most recent cricketer Denis Compton.

And now for the questions Katherine asked me:

1) What's your favourite piece of Scripture and why?
I love the first chapter of the Song of Solomon because it's so beautiful in AV English, Septuagint Greek, Vulgate Latin, and the original Hebrew. Even modern English translations can't quite hide the beauty (though some of them have tried pretty hard!). And I also love it because many passages from it are used as antiphons for feasts of Our Lady.
2) Of all the posts you've written which do you like best and why?
The Chapel at Jufen This little place meant so much to me, and I still don't understand the mystery of the man who told me about it.
3) Which post has the most hits on your blog?
A Prayer of St Thomas Aquinas which only goes to show that St Thomas wrote much better than I do.
4) Which spiritual writing/book has helped you most in your journey of faith?
Having a complete grasshopper mind, I seldom stay with one thing for very long, but the one I have kept coming back to time and time again is Divine Intimacy by Fr. Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen. I have the one volume TAN edition, which I think is now out of print but Baronius also produce it. Avoid the three-volume set. They have been extensively edited and have nothing like the force of the original.
5) What is your favourite prayer?
The rosary. I'm not very good at keeping to it, but I love it dearly. Oddly enough I've never got on with the 20 decade version, so I stick with the old 15 decade version. It fits better into the week too.
6) Why did you choose your blog's name?
It's a quote from my favorite psalm, 136 "By the waters of Babylon" in the Vulgate:
Quómodo cantábimus cánticum Dómini in terra aliéna ?
How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?
7) What issue inspires you to write the most and why?
How to do God's Will. The most important question in the Christian life.
8) How were you called to your particular vocation/state of life?
I've always wanted to be rich and idle. I've managed the second now that I'm retired. Still waiting for the first!
9) Do you pray using a smart phone/tablet etc. or does praying using technology not appeal?
I occasionally pray the old Latin offices on my PC using either or , but really I'm happier flipping pages in a breviary.
10) What's your favourite church/cathedral/basilica?
In this country, Westminster Cathedral. I've been going there all my life (long before I was a Catholic) and it means a huge amount to me. In the world as a whole, the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem - just amazing.
11) Who is your favourite saint?
If I can interpret that as "most inspiring Christian", then I would go for Sophie Scholl - though she was a Lutheran rather than a Catholic, but inspired by a great Catholic Bishop. If this post does nothing more than get people to read both these links, the time writing it will have been well spent.

Is This God's Will?

I wrote the following some years back and promptly forgot about it. I think I was wrong to do so because recently I re-read it and started putting it into practice again. It's been proving its worth as  a piece of advice, and indeed one of the changes that it's brought into my life already is to start this blog again.

... I learned a very simple way of keeping myself on the right path. That was to ask myself regularly throughout the day “Is this God’s will?” without seeking for a precise answer. What I found was that my actions would change in response to the question, a bit like a sailing boat responding to the helm.


We're back!

"We" as in "My blog and I"!

I've decided to resurrect this blog, though without so far any clear idea of where it's going or what it's for. I've never let little things like that put me off before, so why now?


Discontinuation of the blog

With regret I have decided not to continue this blog. The existing material will remain visible until February 14th, when it will become no longer accessible.

Thanks to all my readers. Vaya con Dios!


The Joy of the Lord - Another must see Video

"The Aggie Catholic campus ministry is one of the most heartening and impressive things I've seen in American Catholicism in decades. This is exactly what Vatican II imagined: a Church engaging and transforming culture and society through a deeper encounter with Christ. Good bull."
-George Weigel,
Pope John Paul II's Biographer.

[Editor's note: "Aggie" (short for Agricultural) refers to Texas A&M University, the 7th largest university in the United States, formerly the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas]

St. Mary's - College Station, TX from on Vimeo.



The Truth about Mary and Scripture

This is a must-see video.


The Rosary, the Chilean Miners and the Pope

Back in July I wrote a few postings about the Rosary, and I was very affected to hear that during their ordeal the Chilean miners constructed their own chapel underground and prayed the rosary together daily using rosaries which had been sent to each of them by Pope Benedict. The amazing heroism of these men has been an inspiration to the entire world.



Yesterday was the first day for a long time in which I ended the day with the feeling that, as far as I could discern it, I had done God's Will for the entire day.  It was a wonderful experience - and in the course of it I dealt with some things which had been causing me a lot of anxiety, went for a long walk among scenes of my boyhood on Epsom Downs and chatted to a maker of wonderful cakes, who I came upon during the walk just after I had prayed "Lord, I'd really love a cake right now." God is good!

Today however things started to go wrong. I spent most of the morning rushing around in a distracted manner, unable to regain the sense of peace that I'd had yesterday. Then after lunch I realised that this was my chance to put my finger on what it was that was causing the problem. Once I had had allowed myself to sit down quietly in order to think about it the answer came immediately. I'd been presenting God with a series of faits accomplis - starting to do something off my own bat and then asking God if it was OK to continue. Now there may be occasions when that is necessary, but if it happens all the time the result is not good.

The right way is to ask before starting any new task - and as far as possible to be indifferent to the answer. By indifferent I mean letting go of any preferences I may have about what to do next - I am seeking God's will, not my own.

As soon as I had realised this and acted accordingly, my sense of peace returned and the distractions disappeared.


The Gift of Oneself - II

Last night just before going to bed I got completely fed up with ticking things off lists and decided to go back to The Gift of Oneself. I can't live for long these days without needing to return to my main motivation - to do God's Will - something I have up to now abysmally failed to do. This morning so far (11.21 a.m.) I have succeeded in living this method.

As a retired time management "expert", my temptation is to see The Gift as a time management method, i.e. a method for doing my will instead of the way to do God's Will. I think that is probably the main reason I have failed at it in the past; that and a reluctance to trust myself to whatever the method brings. Faced with a myriad of things that "must be" done, I panic and let go of God's hand, relying instead on my own methods and lists and inclinations. I forget how poor these have always been at getting even my own will done, let alone God's - and how much of the worry and stress is due solely to my own procrastination.

Do I really think that God is less trustworthy than I am. Or that God's purposes for my life are less desirable than my own stumblings? Even if I can only hear God intermittently and unreliably isn't learning to live his life an infinitely better thing to aim at?

If the soul is thus faithful to the practice of seeking the Divine Will at each moment, by a simple glance, she soon acquires marvellous facility in discerning her duty. A secret instinct tells her that such an act is agreeable to God, that such another would be less pleasing to Him. This infused discernment is the privilege of the simple soul. God loves to converse with upright hearts. He communicates Himself to them in a thousand most mysterious ways.

(from "The Gift of Oneself" by Fr. Joseph Schryvers, C.SS.R)


Internet problems

My resolution to start posting regularly again on this blog has been upset by continuing problems with my ISP, which have already resulted in my being unable to access the internet for three days and are likely to continue for at least another week. (This is being sent from someone else's computer).