Tuesday 21 February 2012

All Hail, the NHS!

Today I have no complaints against the National Health Service - indeed just the opposite. I went to see the doctor at 8.30 am with my 'fat' leg - origin of 'fatness' unknown at this stage and unchanged after 4 weeks of water tablets. I was a few minutes late in getting into the surgery, but after some proddiing and poking of the leg the doctor asked the receptionist to prepare a "DVT Pathway" and to arrange an untrasound scan asap. Paperwork was prepared, injection given, blood taken, and I was told to be at the Memorial Hospital in Darlington at 12.30 pm. I suspect that I must have disrupted the normal working of the surgery by quite a lot!
I arrived good and early for my appointment, but absolutely at 12.30 pm I was called in for the scan. The technician started the scan by probing from the groin area, and within a short while she said, "There's no point in going any further - I can tell you have a clot". Out inside ten minutes, and back to my surgery to return the paperwork and notes to my doctor.  I see him again tomorrow for the next step of the treatment.
Everything went with very smooth efficiency, everyone was pleasant and welcoming.  Well done indeed!
Final comment: over the years of my ministry, there have been those who though I was a bit of a clot; now I know that they were at least partly right!

Friday 10 February 2012

St Valentine's Day

This article about St Valentine is taken from the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1912.  The St Andrew's Daily Missal of 1962 declares that, rather than three St Valentines, there was only one; the confusion was caused because he was first buried in Rome and then removed to Terni, and in Terni it was claimed that he was a bishop.

At least three different Saint Valentines, all of them martyrs, are mentioned in the early martyrologies under date of 14 February. One is described as a priest at Rome, another as bishop of Interamna (modern Terni), and these two seem both to have suffered in the second half of the third century and to have been buried on the Flaminian Way, but at different distances from the city. In William of Malmesbury time what was known to the ancients as the Flaminian Gate of Rome and is now the Porta del Popolo, was called the Gate of St. Valentine. The name seems to have been taken from a small church dedicated to the saint which was in the immediate neighborhood. Of both these St. Valentines some sort of Acta are preserved but they are of relatively late date and of no historical value. Of the third Saint Valentine, who suffered in Africa with a number of companions, nothing further is known.
Saint Valentine’s Day
The popular customs associated with Saint Valentine’s Day undoubtedly had their origin in a conventional belief generally received in Englandand France during the Middle Ages, that on 14 February, i.e. half way through the second month of the year, the birds began to pair. Thus in Chaucer’s Parliament of Foules we read:
For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.
For this reason the day was looked upon as specially consecrated to lovers and as a proper occasion for writing love letters and sending lovers’ tokens. Both the French and English literatures of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries contain allusions to the practice. Perhaps the earliest to be found is in the 34th and 35th Ballades of the bilingual poet, John Gower, written in French; but Lydgate and Clauvowe supply other examples. Those who chose each other under these circumstances seem to have been called by each other their Valentines. In the Paston Letters, Dame Elizabeth Brews writes thus about a match she hopes to make for her daughter (we modernize the spelling), addressing the favoured suitor:
And, cousin mine, upon Monday is Saint Valentine’s Day and every bird chooses himself a mate, and if it like you to come on Thursday night, and make provision that you may abide till then, I trust to God that ye shall speak to my husband and I shall pray that we may bring the matter to a conclusion.
Shortly after the young lady herself wrote a letter to the same man addressing it “Unto my rightwell beloved Valentine, John Paston Esquire”. The custom of choosing and sending valentines has of late years fallen into comparative desuetude.

In 1912 the "choosing and sending of valentines" may have "fallen into comparative desuetude", but now it is very big business indeed and even bigger hype!
And usually poor old Valentine is not even called a saint!!
I will be celebrating an Extraordinary Form Mass in his honour on Tuesday evening.

Monday 6 February 2012

The Quaker Way

Recently the bishop of our diocese, the Rt Rev. Bishop Seamus Cunningham, was present in choir at a Traditional Latin Mass as part of his visitation of St Joseph's parish, Gateshead,  A layman who was present has shown me a letter which he sent to the Bishop afterwards and he has given me permission to reproduce it here.

My Lord Bishop,

I thought that your sermon at St Joseph’s and your illustration of Psalm 62 was very thought provoking. I hope you will not think it presumptuous of me to comment.  In my late twenties I became a Quaker.  I loved the spirituality of silent worship.   That aspect that you referred to in your sermon of waiting passively and silently, what you referred to as the Waiting Room was important to me; it allowed me space.  Eventually though I found Quakerism was lacking both in its lack of visible sacraments and authorised ministry and reverted to Anglicanism but still at times worship missed those aspects of silent waiting, listening and yearning.

A few days after I was received into the Catholic Church we were staying in London for a short holiday.  Being near the Oratory I decided to go to the 8am Mass.  It was a Mass in the Extraordinary Rite.   What for me was so remarkable about it was not the difference in the rite but that I found it evoked those very aspects of silent worship that I had so deeply missed.  I still feel now whether I am serving or not that there is a profound and very deep peacefulness present in the Extraordinary Rite that is somehow lacking in the Novus Ordo.  

I realise that many Catholics feel that the Extraordinary Rite, because it lacks lay participation, is no longer relevant to the times in which we live.   On the other hand I find that the expectation of an audible response in the Novus Ordo can be almost intrusive.  It doesn’t matter to me that I can not, even when serving, hear everything that the Priest says, something is happening but I can still feel fully involved by the very nature of that profound silence and space that it leaves me.   I think perhaps that sometimes Catholics who have not experienced worship in other forms do not always see the unique and profound power of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.

Asking Your Lordships Blessing, I am, Yours respectfully, (he asked me not to name him).

 I have not seen the silence of the traditional Mass explained in quite this way, and I find it intriguing; perhaps we should expect an influx of Quakers into the church!