Thursday, 30 July 2009

Reflections on a quiet morning outside the abortion clinic.

Because I am flying out from Heathrow tomorrow I am staying with my parents so I went to the abortion clinic this morning to pray outside with my Mum.  This clinic, unlike the one closest to my own house on the opposite side of the city,  is BPAS (British Pregnancy Advisory Service).  Marie Stopes (the one closest to my house) and BPAS (the one closest to my parents') are the two largest abortion providers in Britain.  Most of these abortions are government funded - funded by the taxes I pay.  The worst thing about it- and brace yourself for this because it actually hurts me when I think about it- the building used to be a Catholic Convent.  Ouch! It is a huge,  beautiful Victorian building and now it is used for this..

We just stood quietly on the opposite side of the street and prayed our Rosary as a witness.  I find it so hard to watch those girls going in and out -I so want to hep them and stop them causing this pain to themselves and their child.  I looked up at that building I noticed something striking: the psychology of it. I realised I have never stood outside an abortion clinic that doesn't have the blinds down and the curtains drawn in almost every room. In a quiet Liberal Democrat, residential area this seems totally unnecessary unless, somewhere within, you feel what you are doing needs to be hidden. It was an empty street on a Thursday morning, a side street at that - rain rather than sun - why hide? That got me thinking about the parallels to Nazi concentration camps- the attempts to sanitise everything and keep the realities from prying eyes. To keep people asleep to the realities because what they don't see can't hurt them.  It was also interesting how everybody going in did so with their head down and rung the doorbell impatiently while they waited a short time as though they were anxious not to be seen.  It wasn't us bothering them - we were just two people standing on a street. I think they felt, even on a subconscious level, that they did not want to be associated with this place or what was happening there.

The thing is there is hope in this because what we can hope that peoples' consciences will one day open their eyes to what is right.  Nothing is impossible for God.  Sometimes we seem to have come so far from our centre of morality that we can perceive no way back. Yet there must be a way back -as with ideologies of the past- as long as there is prayer.

A quick nod to Saint Martha

I know I am a day late but I just wanted to mark the feast day of my confirmation patron Saint - Martha.  Martha liked to get things right but in her hurry to do so she got them wrong- I picked her for this reason- because I can relate. The thing that I like best about her though is her willingness to learn - it is not easy to be criticised by someone you love and respect. It is hard to then take this criticism to heart and learn from it.  Martha is a good example of how to do so graciously and I pray to her that, when I am corrected, I will act to correct the error of my ways, that I will listen carefully to what others have to say. 

When the bishop asked me why I chose her, I did tell him "Because she had to learn the hard way" He looked rather shocked but I stand by it.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Link to some great posts on Lourdes

Just wanted to tip you off about some great posts on Lourdes which I have been really enjoying over on Poetry, Prayer, and Praise  - they can be found here.  

henna hand

My friend is getting married tomorrow and last night I went to her henna party, she is from an Asian background and this event traditionally prepares the bride for her wedding.  The brides friends also have the opportunity to have henna - I thought I'd show you how mine turned out.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Journeys and promises

One of the luxuries of summer holidays is being able to stay up late into the night reading and praying. Late night and early morning are, in my opinion, the best times for these activities because there is a stillness in them that seems to speak of expectancy. During the school week I normally flag out by about 10 (which at 25 is rather a sorry thing to admit to the world at large but a day with kids ranging from 11-18 will do that to you). During the school term I get to enjoy the early mornings because I have quite a commute. During the holidays I switch and the night becomes my time of stillness. 

At the moment I am preparing for my various summer journeys, of which there are a few. I always find the process of travelling quite a spiritual experience, perhaps a reminder of our pilgrim way through life.  I feel that every journey has a spiritual element to it and there is an element of growth and renewal in leaving behind what you know and going towards the unfamiliar, even just for a few days. There is so much of this beautiful world to experience but, thanks to mankind, not all of it always seems particularly beautiful.  Nevertheless, where there is life there is surely goodness and hope to be found. I am not, of course, speaking of external beauty - but true beauty- the beauty of the soul, which often has an external appearance which suggests the opposite to superficial beauty.

My first journey this summer is to a friend's wedding- one ceremony  is in the north of England and the other in Holland because her future husband is Dutch (I am leaving for Holland next Friday while the English festivities are early next week).  It seems strange to be seeing another dear friend embark upon the vocation of marriage. The more of these ceremonies I go to (and they are rather frequent these days) the more moved I become by the incredible beauty of an institution of such trust in another person, such willingness to accept another with all their faults and failings.  In an increasingly cynical world it also seems very brave to do so, when the statistics and culture seem to be persuading against. Nothing gives me more pleasure than to see friends who I have grown up with happy in their lives.  Although this is a friend from university, I still feel that, to some extent, we were children when we met. Of course marriages also contain a certain aspect of sadness because they are farewell to an aspect of that particular friends life - however, this sadness is far outweighed by the joy and promise of the life to come. 

I am praying that the journeys I make this summer, that the journeys all make this summer, will be fruitful - that they will teach me, help me to grow and help me on my own pilgrimage - the pilgrimage of life. 

I am reading a book about Dominican spirituality at the moment - just because I like to find out about different orders and understand them better. Tonight I read this quotation from Meister Eckhart 

'God is always ready, but we are unready. God is near us, but we are from from him'

I pray that the journeys of life may make us ready (whether these journeys be literal or metaphorical)
I pray that that the journeys of life may allow us to draw near to Him.

Wherever I travel you are all truly in my prayers.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009


Summer evokes some strange feelings- perhaps because it is so heavily linked to childhood- I feel a heavy dollop of nostalgia these days. It is nice to be away from the classroom for a few weeks but I always plan to do far too much and never seem to accomplish quite what I intended.  I am trying to be more realistic this summer holiday and not set myself too many tasks. Last week, on the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the anniversary of the final apparition at Lourdes I did achieve one thing I had been praying about and preparing for over a number of months - I became a member of the Militia of the Immaculata -a movement of prayer that unites lay, clergy, married and unmarried Catholics. I felt this was a good way for me to thank Mary for the many graces I have received through her- especially in Lourdes and Nevers- and a way to make a real commitment to her in actions as well as words.

Read about it here

The movement itself was founded by Fr Maximilian Kolbe in 1917 and continues to spread itself throughout the world. I picked up a leaflet about it up in the town of Lourdes close to the Cachot, Bernadette's home at the time of the visions, when I was there in April.  As many people know I also had the privilege of visiting Fr Kolbe's cell this year and only then did I really comprehend what it meant for him to make a sacrifice of love in a place of such momentous hatred. I believe that Maximilian Kolbe prayed for great graces and that, when he needed them most, he received them in abundance.

In spite of its impressive name,  the Militia of the Immaculata is in some ways a very simple movement indeed.  It mainly centres around wearing the miraculous medal, and as many who read this blog know I love my miraculous medal! St Maximilian believed that the Miraculous medal was  a BULLET which targeted sin and evil.  As a member of the Militia one is asked to commit to the cause of the miraculous medal,  first and foremost to wear it yourself and pray the prayer which we all know so well: "O Mary conceived without sin pray for us who have recourse to thee" daily. Fr Kolbe added slightly to this "and for those who do not have recourse to thee, especially the enemies of the Church and those recommended to thee. Amen." One is also asked to pray the rosary regularly. Once you feel confident of your own commitment the idea is to pass the medal on to members of your family and friends and finally to go beyond the realms of family and friends into the wider world. It is a movement of prayer and peace, dedicated to Mary and her immaculate heart.

I am glad to have joined, while I already do many of those things that the Militia requires I feel doing them as part of an army of prayer is something a little different,  it is, I hope, a start to keeping a very real promise in life.  It is only one way to do it-  as we all know- our great Church gives us many ways to make our individual promises and commitments to God- we all do so every day. I just wanted to share with you something that had been very meaningful to me. I can never return the great love that has been given to me by God- in terms of its perfection and purity- but I can hope to share it with others and live it as best I can. 

MI Consecration Prayer

Explanation of the Prayer of Total Consecration

(Composed by St. Maximilian Kolbe)

O Immaculata, Queen of Heaven and earth, refuge of sinners and our most loving Mother, God has willed to entrust the entire order of mercy to you. I, (name), a repentant sinner, cast myself at your feet, humbly imploring you to take me with all that I am and have, wholly to yourself as your possession and property. Please make of me, of all my powers of soul and body, of my whole life, death and eternity, whatever most pleases you.

If it pleases you, use all that I am and have without reserve, wholly to accomplish what was said of you: "She will crush your head," and "You alone have destroyed all heresies in the whole world. " Let me be a fit instrument in your immaculate and merciful hands for introducing and increasing your glory to the maximum in all the many strayed and indifferent souls, and thus help extend as far as possible the blessed kingdom of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus. For wherever you enter you obtain the grace of conversion and growth in holiness, since it is through your hands that all graces come to us from the most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

V. Allow me to praise you, O sacred Virgin
R. Give me strength against your enemies

Thursday, 16 July 2009

18th apparition - A day for Mary

So today is the anniversary of the last of Bernadette's apparitions at Lourdes and of course it is also the feastday of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. It seems so long ago that I tried to post on the anniversary of each of the other apparitions- this one feels a little disconnected. This, the eighteenth time Bernadette saw Our Lady, was really just a silent farewell by which time the grotto was already overwhelmed by visitors and Bernadette had her vision on the opposite side of the river bank, transported in her ecstasy so that she felt she was kneeling by the niche in the rock.

"I felt that I was in front of the Grotto, at the same distance as before, I saw only the Blessed Virgin, and she was more beautiful than ever!"

Bernadette had to let go of her grotto, and a few years later of Lourdes (in the physical sense) all together and find her own path to serving God and Our Blessed Mother in her life. As we all do- the fact that she managed to do it with such completeness is a testimony to her sainthood. But hey, the rest of us can but try!

I do know that I believe completely in the phenomenal POWER of Mary's immaculate heart and that she is capable, through her son, of things that we would consider impossible. I believe, as she promised at Fatima, that she will triumph over all the evils of this world. I also know that through her, in spite of all my faults and failings I have received so many graces in my life (one of them has been stumbling on blogging as an outlet and meeting so many people living out their faith and vocations in so many different ways everyday).

To read each of the other apparitions just click on the post labelled marked apparitions

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Confessions of a reluctant grace seeker

I had a beautiful experience in confession today (don't worry I'm not about to recount my sins - I fount that hard enough the first time around). Why am I telling you this? Well because my confession to you is that I find confession the hardest of the sacraments (though bear in mind I am not married, will obviously never be ordained and have never had the last rites). The reason I find it hardest is because I don't think I'm very good at it and rather than going more to overcome this I avoid it. I am ashamed of this but it is the truth.  I love the graces I receive from this sacrament - I love the way it lifts the heart and humbles you with a kind of fresh awareness of what forgiveness really means but I am weak and often this is not enough to induce me. 

Nevertheless, in search of that beauty and grace which I so love to receive I do crawl out from under my rock from time to time and make myself go. The last time I went, I had a slightly rocky experience as I went into the box just before mass and because the priest was in a rush he let me say one thing and then said he was going to absolve me and chucked me out (I was just warming up!)  

So you can imagine my confusion when I couldn't even get into the Cathedral and found the whole place in flux- turned out a university graduation was taking place inside (?) and the cathedral would not be open until 4pm. I was flummoxed - having built myself up to go I was rather disappointed.  Then I caught sight of signs pointing me in the direction of offices belonging to the Cathedral where confessions were taking place.

By the time I had traipsed around the corner I had lost a bit of courage. I like the safety of a confessional box (yet another shameful confession to you dear readers) so I waited in line outside an ordinary room a little nervously.  

However, a far cry from my last experience the priest listened and responded with a thought provoking tenderness.  He made me very aware of how many great priests serve us in our Church - something I do take for granted in my life.  The experience was one of humility, love and forgiveness and it made it very clear to me (as if my conscience didn't already know it) that I need this sacrament so much in my life. It keeps us in touch with that redemption and forgiveness that comes with the nails of the cross. It makes us more aware of our own part, hard as it might be to accept, in the passion of Christ. Yet it makes us equally aware of all the love and mercy that is shed with the blood and our personal relationship with Christ illuminates the point that this love and mercy belongs to us- on an intimate and personal level. It is trust. I feel privileged to be subject to this trust - that is to trust in the infinite mercy and to be trusted to amend my ways with a contrite heart. I am weak, but when I recognise my weakness I am strong (to paraphrase St Paul)

At the end of my confession, after absolution the priest in question asked if he might bless me with a relic of St Paul of the Cross. Of course I eagerly said yes (I can't imagine anybody said no!) So I thought I would end by leaving you with the words of Pius IX on the beatification of St Paul on October 1st 1952:

"Although continually occupied with the cares of governing his religious society, and of founding everywhere new houses for it, yet he never left off preaching the word of God, burning as he did with a wondrous desire for the salvation of souls"  

His relic seems to be a fitting one to use in confession. I am sure that he won't have given up his mission just because he has reached heaven. St Paul pray for us! is certainly an invocation I will remember next time I am tapping my foot in line for confession - which I hope will be sooner rather than later.

Sunday, 12 July 2009


Finished reading Redemptoris Mater and so much enjoyed it - I feel that there is so much hope to be found in the gift of Mary our blessed mother. I thought I would just share this bit:

The Second Vatican Council, by presenting Mary in the mystery of Christ, also finds the path to a deeper understanding of the mystery of the Church. Mary, as the Mother of Christ, is in a particular way united with the Church, "which the Lord established as his own body." It is significant that the conciliar text places this truth about the Church as the Body of Christ (according to the teaching of the Pauline Letters) in close proximity to the truth that the Son of God "through the power of the Holy Spirit was born of the Virgin Mary." The reality of the Incarnation finds a sort of extension in the mystery of the Church-the Body of Christ. And one cannot think of the reality of the Incarnation without referring to Mary, the Mother of the Incarnate Word.

In these reflections, however, I wish to consider primarily that "pilgrimage of faith" in which "the Blessed Virgin advanced," faithfully preserving her union with Christ. In this way the "twofold bond" which unites the Mother of God with Christ and with the Church takes on historical significance. Nor is it just a question of the Virgin Mother's life-story, of her personal journey of faith and "the better part" which is hers in the mystery of salvation; it is also a question of the history of the whole People of God, of all those who take part in the same "pilgrimage of faith."


Just a request to anyone able to do so here in the UK to sign the petition HERE arranged by SPUC to lobby against abortion referral in schools. I understand this is a policy Mr Obama is in admiration of so if anyone in the US is interested in this issue it might be worth checking out this:

"Although people think that giving contraceptives to teenagers should stop them getting pregnant, this is not the case. Recent research found that areas which provided greater access to contraceptive services tended to had bigger increases in teenage pregnancies. Figures for 2007, the latest available, show the highest rate ever of under-18 abortions." 

Statistics here show that throwing contraceptives at kids is only increasing irresponsible behaviour and casing a RISE in abortions and STIs. Why would you want to implement this failing policy

SPUC to hold national petition day against school abortion push

Preston, 3 July 2009 - Tomorrow (4 July), hundreds of pro-life campaigners throughout the UK will be seeking signatures from the general public and church-goers for SPUC's petition against the promotion of abortion in schools.

"The aim of the petition is stop schools being turned into abortion referral centres," said Tony Mullett, the national co-ordinator of the petition day. "Abortions are being arranged for children in schools behind their parents backs and one out of three secondary schools already has a school-based clinic where sex advice can be offered and abortions can be arranged without parents knowing. Successive governments have targeted young people with sex education telling them where to get contraception and abortion advice. But sexual diseases and abortions continue to increase among the young. The policy has failed, and now they are arranging secret abortions, destroying unborn children and leaving young teenage mothers to deal with the aftermath of abortion. It is profoundly evil."

SPUC's goal is to reverse the government's approach and end the promotion of secret abortions through schools.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Down here in the dirt

When Bernadette was about to be given the last rights for the fourth time in her short life she shrugged and said 'down here we are in the dirt'. This was not intended to be a criticism or rejection of the great beauties of this life but simply an observation that here we are separated from the great beauty of heaven- from the source of beauty. She knew this better than most because she had seen through to that other world and met the Queen of heaven. It does not lessen the value of the life we live here to say that it is imperfect - every follower of Christ, every human being knows this to be true. We all carry our burdens, of differing weights, but we cannot forget that where there is dirt there must be growth, life and productivity. From down here in the dirt we can fix our eyes on heaven with all the more clarity. Bernadette did not like suffering, she did not want to suffer but through it she found a way to strip everything else away so that only God remained. I often fail to see this when I find myself in a little more dirt than usual (like this week) and I would do well to remember it. 

I wondered if you would be so kind as to remember someone very important to me in your prayers. My Mum, like all mothers, is very stoic and always holds back on how she is feeling, putting others before herself.  I know she is not feeling well at the moment (its my parents' 37th wedding anniversary and I popped home to see them).  She is a strong woman but she still likes to avoid a fuss. Please, if you would be so kind, pray for her and her health. Many thanks to you all. God Bless!

NB Sorry I am not replying to comments again - my blogger ID is on the blink again and thinks I am an impostor.       

Monday, 6 July 2009


A week ago my friend Jennifer over at My Chocolate Heart  gave me something very special and I hope she will forgive me for taking so long to fulfil my bloggerly duties. I have had crazy week at school and wanted to give this post the time it deserved. Jennifer awarded me the True Heart Award and I am so pleased to be chosen to pass it on. She is a wonderful and poignant voice in the blogging world and when it comes to pro-life issues she writes about this modern tragedy of our world with tragic beauty. So thank you Jennifer!

"Those who receive this award are of the sweetest nature. They are kind, friendly, funny, loving, eager to share their love for Jesus with others, and brave in their efforts to reflect Him to this darkened world. They are the kind of folks you're blessed to know, even if it's only in the bloggy-sphere."

I must pass this award on in order to warm Jennifer's chocolate heart...

I would like to give it to





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