Monday, 26 November 2012

Femininity and the call...

I began this post the day after I read about the trouble with women bishops in the Church of England but, like so much else recently, you lose your place, you make a mistake, a sentence doesn't quite make sense and you're flooded with feelings of hopelessness, and you just give up. But I decided to return to the matter after a conversation with arguably the only decent man at work on Friday morning. It was asked: ''when did women cease to be feminine?'' Eventually I said ''…which is why I don't like lesbians,'' to which my friend said ''you really are an oddball, Patrick!'' and laughed. I can't say I blame him. Now, my relationship to the fairer sex is complicated by my own ''problem,'' with that and with domineering women (like my mother); nevertheless I like women and like the society of women. But I can't understand sexual attraction to women, even less sexual attraction among women. Even more confusing is that lesbians generally dislike men, and yet many (if not most) look like men (more than me!) and are attracted to other women who look like men! But the question is apposite all the same and is not solely restricted to ''butch'' women. You don't have to cut your hair short, grow out your body hair, put on weight and wear boots to be considered an inferior woman by me. I can think of a number of women who like to dress up, wear their seven inch heels out and instigate drunken brawls with some unlucky sod. Femininity has little (if anything) to do with how much foundation you paint onto your face. Femininity is an innate quality and means rather a woman's deportment, how she carries herself, her dignity, her grace, her gentleness, the things she finds amusing. Unfortunately this concept is maligned these days and you're considered a weirdo by some for thinking of it, a misogynist by others; feminists accuse me of trying to pigeon-hole women into one particular ''idea'' of womanhood - at the kitchen sink, for example. I'm sure you'd agree that a drunken woman in a revealing dress shouting abuse at someone in a night club is just a man in drag. What difference is there between her and a football hooligan? None whatsoever. But I do think that a truly feminine woman, someone like Darcey Bussell or Audrey Hepburn, is so wonderful. I'm sorry but put Darcey Bussell next to the man in drag shouting abuse and the difference is startling; akin to the difference between Michelangelo's Pieta and Tracey Emin's Bed.

Now, where were we? Ah yes, disparaging butch women. This is not a treatise on how or why the differences between men and women are breaking down any more than a call from me to try and change anything - you would only be wasting your time. Time. Jacob Bronowski once said that the arrow of Time points always in the direction of diminishing difference. Time was when there was a clear difference between the sexes; now, thanks to a society built on secular principles, there's almost none. Lord only knows to what uneasy, unnatural future we are all bound. So where does this cultural and gender revolution leave the young woman with aspirations to join the priesthood? What shall we say of her femininity?
I am not convinced of theological arguments against the ordination of women (although I would be interested to read any theological argument in their favour); I think they are reactionary constructs and just a tad misogynistic. Rome, of course, cites its own authority in the battle; “we can no more ordain a woman than we can govern the tides!” – a rather unconvincing argument, I daresay, since Rome’s authority fluctuates depending on the incumbent of the Holy See. No institution, be it as old as the hills, is sacred in the Roman church (except the papacy)! However I would look to the ecclesiastical polity handed down to us from the Fathers as the norm and standard of contemporary church governance and hierarchy. If it is not the case in the fifth century, why should it be so now? The ordination of women may not be a purely theological matter but it is fundamental nonetheless and goes to the heart of our understanding of the Church. The very notion of a ''priestess,'' let alone a ''bishopess,'' would have been abhorrent to the Fathers, and I would say more for scriptural than cultural reasons. The ordination of women comes in the wake of a very recent history of women's rights campaigning and, to me at any rate, just seems to be a rub off from all that. This alone renders the “desire” rather dubious. How far back, then, does the “desire” among women to be the “equal” of men in ecclesiastical matters go? Whence came it? Do young girls really go up to their mothers and say: “mummy, when I grow up I want to be a bishop?” Of course, that’s not entirely how it happens and priestly or episcopal vocations are different from that of, say, a gymnast or a ballerina. The difficulty I find with priestesses nowadays, more than in the days when I was blindly obedient to Roman authority on the question, is that I do not think that a vocation to the priesthood is a feminine pursuit, nor am I convinced of the reality of the vocation among priestesses. This is, of course, not the end of the matter and it is merely the result of my own subjective thought. I am not a theologian; I can merely articulate what I feel in conscience to be a truth begotten of the unwritten natural law and the constant Tradition of the Church. I can say with total confidence that my belief in God is founded on the same principle.
Of course, my trouble is my inability to put forward an argument about anything without sounding like a bigot, and often my argument is marred by some sudden stroke. Let me say now that I do not think that women are less capable of piety and ministry than men and contrary to what I may have implied earlier I do not equate a “priestly vocation” in a woman with any kind of homosexual tendencies nor with unlawful, antisocial behaviour. I simply think that religious women who feel called in this way ought to channel their gifts and their pious notions in such a way as to be more in line with the ecclesiastical polity long established. I’m sure they have much to offer. What to do with priestesses already in existence is another matter.
This is the first post in quite a while at which I actually had to sit down and think so comments would be welcome!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

2013 Ordines...

The 2013 ordines are ready for despatch. Go over to the St Lawrence Press 'blog to buy one now.

Why do I use the ordo, you ask? Well, I don't, actually. Why do I advertise it? Probably because I admire the spirit in which the St Lawrence Press (now approaching its 40th anniversary) was founded. St Lawrence was not chosen in idle fancy (as Gandalf said of the name Entwood among the Rohirrim). The founding members wanted a saint with both a Vigil and an Octave; St Lawrence has (or had as the case may be) both, though his vigil was displaced by the feast of John Mary Vianney, and under the new rules for simple octaves (in force in the 1939 Missal) it might as well not have existed.

May I take this opportunity to remind Roman Catholics who buy the Ordo of a certain feast day in May? (This is taken from the 2012 ordo):

1(Maji) (R) Fer III. SS PHILIPPI* ET JACOBI* APP, D II CL. (pdF) Off pr. Ad Mat LL in 1n Incipit Ep catholica beati Jacobi Ap e Dom IV post Pasch cum ℟℟ de coi App T.P. Ad Primam in Mart 1°loco: Octava Solemnitatis S Joseph etc. In M Gl, Cr,Praef App. In V com seq (e I V fest) et S Athanasii ECD (ant ad Magn: O Doctor...beate Athanasi). (pd)

Feel free to pick and choose which legislation is more important, of course - that of Paul VI, who abrogated the liturgical books of 1962 or Benedict XVI who reinstated them in the name of ''tradition.'' As for me, I think it's all shite. Truth needs no assistance, only lies require so much maintenance. Legislation, of course, makes virtually no difference whatever, as I have seen with my own eyes. The more laws you have, the more fixers and the more snoopers.

I can't wait for the next pope, who will, pray God, bring the whole lot crashing down. How long, O Lord!

Monday, 19 November 2012


Years ago I was sat in the back of my father's car by myself as he went to see a mechanic about something. It was late in the afternoon; maybe it was after school; the sky was dark, heavy with rain. I remember looking up at the second story of this man's house, the windows were dark, and the walls were smothered in what seemed to be light brown pebbledash, and in the light of the sun, going down in the West, it seemed that I stood there, not in the place itself, but the light was familiar. I had the feeling that in some far distant day, beyond recall, I would stand in the same light, waiting for the onset of a ruinous storm, looking around my room, dusty floorboards, an old unmade bed, and looking out into the street, old and tired, at eternity's gate. But the light was there.

I envy the insane. If I were someone like Susanna Kaysen I could have made this so much more interesting...

By the way, the photo is rather nice but has little in common with the sky or the house I saw. It's like on the Thursday that Michael Jackson died; I walked home with an old acquaintance (he wasn't a friend, exactly; he got on my tits), and told him to look at the moon, wreathed in silver clouds, and told him to enjoy it, for it would be the last time he (or anyone) ever saw it. I'm not a literary genius like Tolkien; I cannot describe a hauting sunset, conjuring before you a vivid picture as though you too were there; nor express exactly what I felt, why I felt it, for I am not like Kaysen either. You may think I'm a crackpot for bothering to write this post, but is the significance of any life event, even a reminiscent sunset, diminished because only one person experienced it? I don't believe in ESP, and I am not saintly enough to have visions, but such things have happened before; either in dreams or waking memory, and have ''come true,'' in a sense. Now is the time to just wait for that room.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Children in Need...

Children in Need is a complete sham, and I'm not saying that because I hate Terry Wogan. Apart from allocating funds to any old cause indiscriminately (such as the infamous case of the young Muslim girl who tried to sue her school because she found integration into British society intolerable), there is something incredibly vulgar about dressing up like an idiot to raise money. Community-oriented fund-raising activities are all well and good, but it's like I said in a previous post - it's just the height of laziness, shewing off and hypocrisy. Look at me, I'm a philanthropist! And anyway, it's just another opportunity for has-been celebrities to try and resurrect their dead or dying careers on prime time television. What better way than to act like you give a crap?

But who am I to criticise? I stopped giving to charity when I realised that I live in a state of near penury myself.

Monday, 12 November 2012

The social graces...

''Hullo, how are you?''

''Hullo'' is an acceptable form of greeting, but I'm not so sure about ''how are you?'' This is why:

1. There are two answers to that question: ''I'm fine, how are you?'' This leads to another, ''yes, I'm fine thanks,'' or similar variations of that answer. But what if you're not feeling ''fine'' - whatever that means? Does fine mean adequate? So so? Neither good nor bad? Does it have any bearing on the day itself? Does the weather affect your disposition for the day? In which case, whatever ''fine'' means, if you're not ''fine,'' then the social graces apt to this interaction are riddled with small talk, a lot of yeses and lies. In which case, what is the point in asking the question? Or dignifying it with an answer?
2. So, what if you said how you really felt? Well, two things to say about that. One, are you really confident in the other person's actual interest in your well being? Do you feel comfortable in telling them, of all people, how you really feel? And two, is not telling that person how you really feel a complete waste of your (and for that matter, their) time? Is it socially acceptable to go into a long discourse about what you feel, how you feel about what you feel, and so on?

Such social graces as these are completely incomprehensible to me. What is the point in asking someone how they ''are'' if you have no actual interest in the truth and are not prepared to listen to them? Apropos, asking people about their health and well being is a complete waste of breath.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

The social network...

I know I did this last year, at about this time too, but I have left facebook again. I don't know, since the ''account settings'' on facebook are very difficult to navigate anyway, but facebook doesn't seem to have any concrete way of facilitating an actual account deletion, only a deactivation (which only serves to suspend the account, where you are free to re-open it again, at any time, and more or less pick up from where you left off), and so I went to great lengths the other day to manually delete almost everything on my account. I have ''unliked'' all my ''liked'' pages, untagged all my friends' photos, deleted all my own albums, deleted all the past statuses, links, check-ins on my timeline (although there were two I simply could not delete, so I made them visible only to myself), deleted all old messages, wiped my profile information clear, etc. I then went on to ''unfriend'' all my friends. Of course, it would have been impossible to delete absolutely everything, and I was not about to waste time going through peoples' timelines and looking for past likes and comments of mine, but after all that I changed my name and sex, and then deactivated my account. I just hope I have the will power this year to actually not go back. The Liturgiae Causa page will be deleted in two weeks.

Why, you ask? Well, it's simple really. The reality is that facebook does not enhance friendship. In the balance facebook had more of a negative influence on my life than a positive one. I am suffering from clinical depression and nothing was more irksome to me than to be constantly presented with such things as: ''now waiting at the airport, going on Safari with friends,'' or ''just off to the Maldives,'' or ''sampling some very expensive claret,'' or even ''I just love my job,'' a host of lives riddled with standard of living. I never was an envious person, having indeed a store of my own life experience (and a monstrous sense of entitlement), but I have hit rock bottom; and I am one of those people that if I am miserable, I want the whole world to share in my misery. I could, of course, have simply ''unfriended'' all my real friends and replaced them with an inferior stock, in order to lord over them, but that would hardly have worked, would it? This is not to mention the constant vanity, the endless pointlessness. Everywhere you look on facebook you see people tagged in thousands of photos, most of which look exactly the same, and the vulgarity of ''checking-in.'' No I'm not interested if you're having your nails done; no I'm not interested if you check into some night club with a string of your friends. Of course, facebook does have ways of restricting who sees what, but then your friends just become a number in a list, and so what is the point in having them there? Having no qualms at all about this sort of thing I started to ''unfriend'' some of them, going from some 180 friends to 113 (at which point I started deleting indiscriminately). This, of course, impacts on your life in other ways; maybe you won't receive a Christmass card from that person, or maybe you won't be invited to their wedding, or something. To think that facebook has this kind of monopoly on human interaction! What on earth did we do before it!?

What am I left with? Nothing, and at the moment this suits me. Yesterday I spent the afternoon in town; I had tea at Brown's, went into the National Gallery (where I spent about ten minutes staring at Constable's Cenotaph to the Memory of Sir Joshua Reynolds, a painting so wonderfully autumnal and melancholy), and then went to see Swan Lake at Covent Garden. The music and choreography are so familiar but ballet is an art form that, like liturgy, I never thought would grow stale. The performance was marvellous but I felt nothing, only tired and uncomfortable, and people don't dress appropriately anymore. I am blessed that the performance lifted any sense of bitterness I had felt throughout the day but I fear that I am still left with an exhausting sense of apathy. Even my dogs don't help.

Those of you who will may email me at my personal address: