EDUCATION is simultaneously a great and terrifying word. It has been used across many decades and centuries to explore all kinds of theory and forms of enlightenment. Being an educator, as I know many fellow bloggers are, is a great gift and a great responsibility. Every day I try to be the best educator I can and every day I am not quite sure I've pulled it off. This week the kind education being talked about in the papers here in Britain is sex education. The morning after pill is now being advertised on British TV in a cartoon format and I am thankful to say this has been met with some debate (that is something at least). When I read the comments page on the tube home last night however, I found there wasn't much room for 'debate'. All the comments bar one were radically in favour of the ad. Whichever way you look at it this it is not exactly uplifting - I doubt its proportional representation on the other hand if it is not then it is a media attempt to manipulate us into believing it is proportional representation and that is not much better.
Comments read 'Give our children the best possible education'
'It is important for them to know how to protect themselves'
I have no doubt that these people were sincere in what they had to say and that brings me back to my original statement. EDUCATION - a simple and innocent enough looking word but one that can alter who we are and what we become.
In the last ten years I have seen a tidal change in the sexual 'education' of children. At the beginning of this decade I was a teenager myself, still at school . I saw the markers of this change approaching in my own education. In my last year at school a woman with a mousy voice and cropped hair appeared with small clean little cards and handed them out to us following an innocuous talk that skirted round her point. The cards read 'Off The Record' followed by 'confidential advisory service and drop in centre'. Our parents had been given no notification of this woman coming into the school. Ten years on and those 'advisory' services are now often within the school grounds . They have taken 'options' out of parents hands completely so that an abortion can be arranged for a 14 year old girl without the knowledge of her parents. It has happened slowly - so slowly we barely felt it but now it is here it is difficult to get back to where we started from. Why?
Girls who become pregnant are told that the selfish, irresponsible thing to do would be to carry their pregnancy to term.
They are told that they were not wrong to engage in a mature relationship too fast but that they were wrong not to use any contraceptive they could lay there hands on before they did so.
It has become expected that children will engage in sexual relationships and their education has been that this is acceptable and even necessary.
What is irresponsible is to have a baby.
Miseducation. Parents themselves are educated to believe that throwing contraceptives at teenage kids is protecting them - you can't expect anything better of them.
When that fails you throw abortion at them as the RESPONSIBLE thing to do - you can't expect anything better.
I have stood outside abortion clinics and watched parents troop in and troop out with their teenage children -their heads held high - believing they are doing the RESPONSIBLE thing.
In an era where we take pride in how well we protect and nurture our children we belittle them and take their sense of personal RESPONSIBILITY away from them. We believe them to be incapable of behaving with forethought, strength and decency. And an EDUCATION based on this belief must be fundamentally flawed.
An EDUCATION which ignores RESPONSIBILITY, life, potential, possibility and the unexpected gifts which make life what it is- this is fundamentally flawed
Life, language - these have become the greatest irony and for those with their eyes open this is an EDUCATION in itself.
With all our EDUCATION we find ourselves with the highest teenage pregnancy rates in Europe. Yet no one will speak because they are too afraid that the spell might be broken. Someone might see through the semantic field of pleasant language that is a cover for horror and indoctrination.
For those of us who can see through this language our RESPONSIBILITY is greater than it has ever been. We must teach that our duty in this world is not to avoid consequences and RESPONSIBILITY but to embrace these things- for nothing EDUCATES better than the outcome of our actions. We all screw up - but what if something beautiful can come from that? What if we ignore that beauty?
What if we seek to destroy it?
What if we EDUCATE a generation to believe that destruction is not only valid but right?
What if that generation has to live with a silent guilt and shame?
What if they never achieve the potential they had because we didn't believe them capable?
As a young man called Karol Wojtyla once said 'my principle task would be to preserve, to protect, to defend, to augment, to deepen this desire for the good, the true, and the beautiful.'
Tuesday, 28 April 2009
Friday, 24 April 2009
Saturday, 18 April 2009
This year the theme in Lourdes is THE PATH OF BERNADETTE and to mark this theme there is a prayer to Bernadette being given out in the sanctuaries at Lourdes - I think it is really beautiful and wanted to post it to mark the 130th anniversary of her death which occurred on Thursday the 16th of April. I hope you enjoy it - I have copied it as accurately as possible with bold and italics faithfully reproduced. Just see below:-
Prayer to St. Bernadette
Bernadette, you have long sought the Lord where he called you to.
You asked. You listened. You trusted.
You were sure the Lord would guide you.
You surrendered yourself completely in the hands of God.
Like Mary you are confidant
Inspire in me the same confidence, the same generosity and patience.
Lord, enlighten me on my path
And give me strength to say "yes"
when I hear your call.
Bernadette, you intensely desired the Eucharist,
You had done everything to receive communion
in the Body of Christ,
You loved to adore the Blessed Sacrament,
You united your life living in the offering,
that of Christ at the alter.
Like Mary, the Woman of the Eucharist
Inspire in me the same hunger for the Eucharist, the food,
presence and sacrifice.
Lord, you have given us your Son,
the living and eternal Bread.
That the Eucharist transforms my life to be a
perpetual act of thanksgiving.
Bernadette, you always enjoyed serving others,
On 11th of February, the Virgin appeared to you when you
were fetching wood.
Among sisters, you learned to treat the sick and
residents of the hospice
Later, in Nevers, you were an excellent nurse,
offering an attentive and intelligent in charity.
Like Mary, who saw the family's needs, in Cana.
Inspire in me the same generosity and the same faith
to see that Christ is present in each one
Lord, you have given us brothers and sisters to love.
That our eyes, our hands and our hearts are open
to all those that you put in our way.
Bernadette, your faith has grown in the Church.
The Church, it was your family, your church,
your religious community.
Bravely, you went to tell the priests to hold a procession
and to build a chapel.
Once your mission was accomplished,
you retreated in silence and humility.
Like Mary, in this day of Pentecost and then silence.
Inspire in me the same love of the Church:
I trust that it will support me in my prayer.
Lord, you give everyone a place in your Church.
Let me answer my vocation with the same simplicity
and the same generosity as Bernadette.
(Copyright Service Creation- Sanctuaries Notre-Dame de Lourdes)
RELATED POSTS: Third Apparition and Bernadette's Feastday
Friday, 17 April 2009
I fly out tomorrow after a blessed few days in Lourdes. Just had a quiet day today soaking up life here. I had forgotten what it is like when there are big pilgrimages out - so busy! I have been used to being here in February or working in the baths in the summer when you never get to see anything because you are inside all day.
I will put a few little posts out on little things I have picked up on that I think you will enjoy over the next few days. I had a wonderful day celebrating the anniversary of Bernadette's death yesterday- when she was finally reunited with Our Lady after a long wait- so I didn't manage to post. The fact I was celebrating here meant I neglected my little blog celebrations but there is a prayer to Bernadette which is being given out in Lourdes this year to mark her special anniversary and I really want to share it with you but I will have to type it out so I will try and do that upon my return.
I will remember you all when I say farewell to the grotto tomorrow morning.
God Bless one last time from Lourdes!
Wednesday, 15 April 2009
I just wanted to let you all know that your prayers were placed in the intentions box at the grotto, just in front of the source of the spring Bernadette dug today. I also remembered you all at the baths.
Look out for photographic evidence of your petitions at the grotto- coming soon!
Tomorrow is the 130th anniversary of Bernadette's death and I hope to be at the grotto where she first experienced the love of Our Blessed Mother. I continue to pray for you all and all your intentions.
Tuesday, 14 April 2009
O Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes,
may your beauty and your smile warm our hearts
That in your call for repentance you find us available and generous!
That our communities rely on the faith of Peter and commit to follow Christ!
By your Immaculate conception do we hope to rediscover
innocence and holiness!
May the light of Easter rekindle in us the flame of charity!
Mary, Queen of Peace:
look to the people who are victims of war!
Mary, "salus infirmorum"
give to the sick, strength and hope!
Mary, you who have experienced poverty:
come to aid, to help the poorest!
Mary, mother of the Church:
like you that everyone says "yes" to the call of God!
Mary, mother of God:
Help us to sing the Magnificat
since the Kingdom of God is open
Our Lady of Lourdes pray for us!
Saint Bernadette, pray for us!
O Mary, conceived without sin,
pray for us who have recourse to you!
Monday, 13 April 2009
I have arrived safely in Lourdes so thank you for your prayers - it is full of faith and light. I prayed for you all so very much at the grotto tonight. I hope you feel the presence of Our Lady with you (which of course you do anyway ;-) ) But I hope it is extra powerful. You are all with me here this week. I can get internet in the hotel lobby so if there are any extra petitions that you would like to have brought to the grotto then let me know. I will be checking comments but won't be blogging much as I can't lose too much precious grotto time! (so you all get a nice break from me jabbering on)
Peace and blessings to you from the foothills of these most blessed mountains!
Sunday, 12 April 2009
He is risen! And so has my heart after a beautiful vigil mass in which it seemed almost possible to touch the invisible that is always so close to us. It is a great thing to know we are loved.
I am up late preparing for pilgrimage to Lourdes early on Monday morning and right now I am procrastinating by writing this post. I think I am going to give up and go to sleep. I just thought that before I packed all of them I would let those who gave me petitions see that their prayers are starting their little journey with me (only a few of the envelopes are shown as I have already packed the others- also pictured is my trusty rucksack which has been with me for about six years now and has travelled wherever I have).
Anyway, your petitions and I are flying Ryan Air which I have never flown before (I know I have said it before but I'm going to say it again - I hate flying!). Ryan Air are cheap and cheerful - I am placing myself in the hands of our blessed mother even before I reach Lourdes - on a pointless point of information I am actually flying to Pau and then getting the train to Lourdes.
I have three more things to say before I go to sleep and my brain is no longer functioning so I am going to write them as a list:
1. If anyone has any other last minute petitions then its not too late - email me or pop them in the comment box as soon as you can.
2. I am taking you all with me on my little pilgrimage and will offer prayers for you all at the little grotto
3 HAPPY EASTER!!!!! I am hoping to write a little Easter Sunday post tomorrow but in case I don't have time I will say it now. Thank you for sharing your Lenten journeys with me and I thank you truly for sharing in mine.
Friday, 10 April 2009
I felt tonight that I wanted to stay with Jesus in the garden - I did not want to leave Him in that terrible loneliness. How alone He must have felt as those closest to him slept peacefully nearby while He confronted all the sins of humanity. Yet I know when it came to it, whatever I feel, He was alone and there is nothing I can do to change it- this was part of the price he had to pay- isolation from comfort. I couldn't help thinking back to Auschwitz and the crushing weight of woe and desolation that I felt there. If that was just the tiniest fraction of what He suffered that night then it is no wonder He sweated blood.
As I knelt before the blessed sacrament after mass I considered what a dark place the world would be without it. It would be unbearable. What light that terrible suffering has brought - it has transformed the world. Just think about tonight - it is twenty to one in the morning here, we stayed with the blessed sacrament till twelve but as we sleep tonight that beauty and light will be celebrated in churches in the USA and has already been celebrated much earlier than us in Australia. All those prayers ascending and unceasing - perhaps we could not offer our comfort to him in the garden but on the other hand the prayers that were to come may have strengthened Him and helped Him bear the pain.
I thought of the unborn tonight and their suffering, I prayed that the efforts in America to prevent doctors from opting out of abortive procedures will fail- just another evil Jesus must have encountered. The loss of so many lives - perhaps these little souls were his company that night.
Either way I go to bed now with hope in my heart and prayer on my lips as many of you go off to your own masses and adoration. Peace be with you! May we wait and watch with Him.
Wednesday, 8 April 2009
This is taken from a documentary called The Star of Bethlehem which I think has been widely shown in the US but I had to order it on DVD from the US because we can't get it here. While the title might imply that this is not the most apt time of year for an excerpt from this particular piece of Biblical research there is in fact a section about how the Bible can point to the exact timings of Christ's death. I really enjoy it so I hope you will too.
Tuesday, 7 April 2009
The 17th apparition is often described as 'the miracle of the candle' which is best recounted by Dr. Dozous, the town physician who had known Bernadette for most of her life. He was initially unsure about events surrounding the apparitions but as time went by he observed Bernadette's ecstasies, as well as the inexplicable healing of many of his own patients. This skeptic, rationalist was increasingly convinced that the little asthmatic Soubirous girl was experiencing something beyond the realms of rationalist understanding and science. Dozous wrote of April 7th 1858:
"Bernadette seemed to be even more absorbed than usual in the Appearance upon which her gaze was riveted. I witnessed, as did also every one else there present, the fact which I am about to narrate. (...) The child was just beginning to make the usual ascent on her knees when suddenly she stopped and, her right hand joining her left, the flame of the big candle passed between the fingers of the latter. Though fanned by a fairly strong breeze, the flame produced no effect upon the skin which it was touching. (...) I then asked the person who was holding the candle to light it again and give it to me. I put it several times in succession under Bernadette's left hand but she drew it away quickly, saying 'You are burning me!'. I record this fact just as I have seen it without attempting to explain it. Many persons who were present at the time can confirm what I have said."
Monday, 6 April 2009
On Friday I went to a restaurant in London where you eat in the pitch black - weird I know but bear with me I am going somewhere with this. The idea is that when you can't see your other senses are heightened and your experience of food greatly improved. A friend of mine had recommended this place as a good and somewhat unusual venue for a Birthday meal. There was a group of nine of us. I had been told before hand that we would be assigned a blind waiter for the evening and that the reason for this was that the blind are the only people capable of navigating their way around the restaurant because it is so dark - I thought this was a clever idea but that was as deep as my thought went. My friend who made the initial recommendation also warned me that while we are used to our sight adjusting in the dark at this restaurant her eyes had not adjusted at all and she had not been able to see anything - no shadows, no shapes just absolute black.
I had never considered the difference between darkness and absolute pitch black before-where you can see nothing whatsoever - I am not sure I had even thought there was a difference- I have now realised that there is. Before entering the main dining area we met our waiter Ryan and we were asked to stand in a line with our hand on the right shoulder of the person in front us. Ryan then led us through a fairly dark corridor into the pitch black. I don't know how they achieve it but it is the case that I have never experienced any darkness like it- dense black - I could see absolutely nothing and my eyes never adjusted during the two hour meal. When we entered I felt intensely vulnerable - there were obviously other people eating and I was overwhelmed by how loud everything seemed and how disorientating it was. Ryan led us clearly, warned us when we were approaching curtains and seated each of us at the table. It was necessary for him to place our hands on the chair and to guide us into it. I couldn't tell where any of my friends were, it was very strange and we were totally helpless - if we needed the toilet we had to raise our hand and a waiter would lead us out. We had lost all power. Truly fascinating - but now I am coming (at last!) to my point. Ryan was able to laugh and joke with us, to see to our needs and care for us - to ensure we got the food we ordered and he knew exactly what he was doing and where he was going.
This may seem like a small feat but it makes a huge point. Able bodied people are often of the opinion that a disabled person is in need of their pity because they believe disabled people have a deficiency that makes their lives less...livable. Our society questions whether children with disabilities should even be born - what is the point if they are just going to be miserable?
What an incredibly arrogant and blind (in the true sense of the word) assumption. While it may seem to be a small thing this restaurant stands to make this point - all nine of us were utterly useless in that space of darkness, given ten years I don't think I would have found my way out let alone waited on tables and served a total of 60 diners in one session. Yes able bodied people are fine until they find themselves challenged beyond their capacity. That is exactly what this place did and it showed that far from being disabled Ryan and his colleagues were highly able- there was no deficiency here - only efficiency - life had challenged them so much that they did not need sight. The deficiency is ours. I am not suggesting that sight is a bad thing or that we all walk around with eye patches- I am just making a point about the attitude of our supposedly equality loving world does not make room for actual equality- it strives for a sameness which devalues and disables all of us by failing to recognise both our abilities and our disabilities as aspects that make us real, struggling human beings. It is often our disabilities that make us great because they challenge us
It is also worth noting that because we were eating in the pitch black we all ate very carefully and to our amazement not one of us split anything on ourselves. Interesting. Even we had become more aware of our movement and the way we ate.
My eldest brother, as most will probably be aware, had no thumbs but his writing and sketching surpassed anything I have ever been capable of. He was incredibly precise and aware of detail. Far from being a deficiency his lack of thumbs made him very attentive to the formation of each word and picture. Equally, Jean Vanier who begun the L'Arche communities found in the adults he lived with life's greatest teachers. Having spent over forty years living with adults with learning disabilities he argues that these men and women are the people closest to Christ because their love of life and other human beings is without affectation or agenda- they give a tremendous amount- a million times more than they take. That is not to say that those in his communities are perfect - often they have been rejected by their families or institutionalised and they suffer a great deal because of this. However, in Vanier's homes able bodied people live as assistants, there is no differentiation between assistants and those they assist - Vanier argues that the assistants are often in more need of his help then those they are supposed to be helping. And it is often those with the 'disability' that nurse these assistants back to health - the great Catholic writer Henri Nouwen went to L'Arche and found love and life there which helped him overcome crippling depression- he even wrote a book about the boy he was assingned to care for and I would recommend it if you are interested (just click on the title which will take you to Amazon) its called Adam
My ultimate point is how can we be so ignorant as not to recognise the realities of life and humanity? British society constantly repeats phrases about diversity and the value of diversity. Yet at the same time it would see a disabled child aborted legally up until birth because that baby is different - the wrong kind of diversity. How can you even claim equality when there are different laws for an 'able' and 'disabled' child? I suppose that what made me want to put this into words in the first place was seeing my friend's baby scan today - she is 6 months pregnant and you could see her little baby clearly - I am just devastated by the fact that a baby with a disability can be thrown away and that the world will have lost a potentially beautiful human being with capacities that someone 'able bodied' may not have possessed. People talk of the arrogance of the Nazis who said that some people did not deserve life because they were not of the same value- how can this society claim a distinction?
Our values can only change when our hearts change and we admit that disability does not equate to deficiency - life is far too great, complex and mysterious to allow that.
Sunday, 5 April 2009
In a weeks time I have the very great privilege of being able to visit Lourdes once again. My family have made this possible for me as my birthday is coming up and its quite a big one. So off I will go on my little budget flight and I was wondering if I could do something for all of you on this trip. I have to admit I haven't quite worked out the finer details of this plan but- as some will know -within the grotto there is a petitions box where pilgrims can place their prayers directly in front of the miraculous spring. I wanted to ask if anyone would like me to take specific prayers and place them at the grotto for them - this is where the difficult part comes in so if this is something that you would be interested in I have three options:
1. Leave your petition in the comment box and I will print it off, place in an envelope and take it to the grotto.
2. Email your petitions to my blog email address firstname.lastname@example.org and I will print them off and seal them tightly in an envelope - be assured that once printed they will be deleted and that I will not read through them.
3. If it is something personal you can email me to ask for a postal address, send me your petitions and I give you my word that I will not open them but to place them straight in the box at the grotto
There is two weeks until departure so should you think of anything up till that point then just let me know in whatever way suits you.
I will take you all in my heart and pray for you all at the grotto regardless. However, if there is anything special or specific I wanted to offer this - it is the very least I could think to do for people who give so much to others by sharing a little of themselves. You can see the petition box in the video TAKING YOUR PETITIONS TO LOURDES - a simple offer
A year before he died my brother Garvan was interviewed by Sister Frances Dominica an Anglican nun who began the childrens' hospice movement in England. Garvan had spent a couple of weekends at Helen House, the first hospice for terminally ill children in England when my Mum was having my elder brother and I, and while there he had spoken a little about his beliefs. My parents were aware that he was quite a wise little soul and they had always been honest with him that there was a strong possibility that he would die. However, they were astounded at the depth of his responses. A few years ago Sister Frances wrote a book for grieving parents and asked if she could quote Garvan in the opening chapter- my parents were happy with this and when the manuscript was complete she sent us a copy - I picked it off the self this morning and thought I would post the quotation Frances chose:
"My body is just my reflection...
When you die you leave your reflection.
Your real self leaves your body and
goes into another world...where
it will be the happiest of all...
God has the answers, we have the questions,
and only in the end will he tell us the answers
God has kept that new life a secret
and I am glad because it will give
us a surprise, it will give us such
a big surprise."
Then begins the book. Garvan died a year later aged 12 on the 16th of April.
Wednesday, 1 April 2009
On the 2nd of April 2005 John Paul II finally left this world for the House of his Father. His last words were that he wanted to 'go back to the the House of [my] Father'. The 2nd of April 2005 was also my 21st Birthday and for me it was rather poignant to enter 'official' adulthood with the loss of a great pope- the only pope I had ever known. In life and in death John Paul II made Christ so visible in him that he was almost transparent. In the darkest era of European history when Poland was being used for means of evil he dedicated himself to light, to life and to hope. He chose to become a priest at a time when seminaries were being closed down by the Nazis. He risked his life at many points and continued to do so when his beloved Poland fell into the hands of communists who promised freedom and delivered the opposite. Under this regime he was made bishop, still aged 38, and finally Cardinal making him not only an important figure in a persecuted Church but a prime target. He took it all in his stride. Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz has written of how John Paul how, with his mischievous sense of humour, would wave at those who were supposed to be secretly watching him and talk to them through the bugs that had been fitted in the furniture of his house to monitor him. He was always so full of life that he never feared death but he embraced it instead believing that it would bring him home.
Like most people when when John Paul died I felt the loss very deeply- not just because he was our pope but because he was a really beautiful person and a great shining light in the world. I felt very close to him- and perhaps this was his greatest gift that he seemed to establish an almost personal relationship with his flock - even when his flock happened to be 2 billion people strong. Please don't think I don't appreciate Pope Benedict - I think he is a great man but to say you loved one is not to be disloyal to the other. Popes are not set up in competition with one another after all and these two great men were friends who appreciated each other very much indeed. Yesterday Pope Benedict prayed for the beatification process of John Paul II. I join my prayers to his.
I am delighted that my Birthday happens to be joined to the memory of John Paul II. Again, this is another 'I am weird because I am Catholic' thing. I suppose it is not normal to be glad if someone dies on your Birthday - but if you believe that death isn't really dying and you know someone lived an incredible life united to Christ then why shouldn't it be cause for celebration? Can there be any greater celebration?
Dear John Paul we ask you:
Teraz masz już powrócił do domu Ojca waszego, módl się za nami
Now you have returned to the house of your Father, pray for us!
I get to give thanks for my life today and for the may graces I have received but I also get to give thanks for another life that rather than beginning on this day ended its earthly journey.