Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving

It occurred to me recently just how many American friends we have - the vast majority of whom we met in another former British colony - Hong Kong. 

do love my American friends but feel it's my duty as an Englishman abroad to resist the temptation to call a "film" a "movie" and a "nappy" a "diaper".  I confess to having failed in both of these at times and have even addressed friends as "dude" rather than "sir".  

One American custom I do very much approve of is that of Thanksgiving. This particular celebration is a reminder though to give thanks at all times and in all circumstances even when we might not naturally feel like doing so. 
Once at a Mass in English I was getting more and more irritated. There was a projector showing the congregation the words to sing on a screen by the altar. The words were scribbled badly and the grammar was appalling. At one point it even suggested that we should engage in polytheistic worship as it stated: "gods' glory is all around."

I found myself looking away and remembered the inportance of gratitude: I thanked God that I was able to attend Mass, that I have a wonderful wife and that someone had at least gone to the effort to try and help people sing along. I found myself becoming aware that a domestic helper - and thousands like her - worked solidly for six days a week to support family in another country and the one day they have free they spend serving God. My whole perspective changed in a matter of moments and after Mass I found myself wishing to thank her for all she does. 

Gratitude works - let's remember to thank God for so much that we probably take for granted each day. I thank God that I'm a Catholic Christian, that my wife shares my faith and inspires me, for my life, my amazing friends and yes - for any enemies I have too - these can bring us grace when we forgive and seek forgiveness. 

Every joy and suffering, every event and need can become the matter for thanksgiving which, sharing in that of Christ, should fill one’s whole life: “Give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess 5:18). Catechism #2648


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Pope's Effigy Burned in Argentina as he defends the unborn

Pope Francis speaks plainly on the dignity of the unborn in his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium.

Satan does not like this - already anti-life activists are burning the Pope's effigy in Argentina as reported in Rorate Caeli.

"Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children, the most defenseless among us ... this defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right. It involves the conviction that a human being is sacred and inviolable, in any situation and st every stage of development. 


"... The Church cannot be expected to change her position on this question. I want to be completely honest in this regard. This is not something subject to 'modernisations'. It is not progressive to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life."

Let's thank God that we have a Pope willing to defend the most vulnerable in society - and pray for his protection. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Council and continuity

There seems to be two types of heresy most rampant in the Catholic Church over the last 45 years - those who believe the Holy Spirit left the Church during the Second Vatican Council and those who think that it was the first time He showed up. 


When I was a child - back in the early 80s whenever I did something such as genuflect, talk of the "Body of Christ" rather than "special bread" or say how much I loved Gregorian chant and the Latin Mass I would be told by various elderly ladies that we don't say and do these things any more.

There was a nativity play at a "Catholic" school in my home town and one parent asked why there wasn't an angel appearing to Mary and was told by a "Catholic" teacher that "we don't talk about angels anymore."  I spent almost half of my life being told, "That was the old church" or "in the new church we ... don't do that."  

In my experience the biggest obstacles to unity, to evangelisation and works of charity are those liberal "Catholics" who seek to spend time, money and resources seeking rebellion and sowing confusion and error.  

It was a breath of fresh air therefore to have the Catholic Faith reaffirmed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church under Blessed John-Paul II and for Pope Benedict XVI to focus on the hermeneutic of continuity. 

It is blatantly absurd for a Catholic to discount everything that happened either before or after the council and to claim that a new church appeared in the 1960s doesn't make someone a traditionalist or a liberal - it means they don't believe in the Catholic Faith as revealed by Jesus Christ to the Church He founded and promised that the gates of Hell would not prevail. 


Some people may be surprised by this but I just think we can reply in the affirmative to the question: "Is the Pope a Catholic?"

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Dads' Advice on Fatherhood: Part 7 - Authenticity


The many different fathers I spoke to about fatherhood shared so many different  pieces of advice with me but some also made it clear that they themselves have often failed to live up to their own advice.

"I realise the importance of prayer but to be honest, I've sometimes been too lazy or not been organised with my time." 

"It's so important to set a good example but my sons have seen me miserable, short tempered, use foul language and speak disrespectfully to their mother."


Authenticity doesn't mean that we make mistakes and think that this is acceptable but it does mean recognising these and of course asking forgiveness.  Catholics and Orthodox Christians have the Sacrament of Reconciliation but in addition to seeking God's forgiveness and that of our wives, a number of fathers said that there may be times when we need to apologise to our children.

"I mentioned example to you earlier but sometimes you will fail - when you do, do not hesitate to admit this and apologise.  They will learn to be authentic when you are."

"Try your best, with God's grace ... It is much easier than done, and I fail many times as well.  But the rewards I get from loving my wife and kids without condition is what drives everything in me."

I have mentioned Father Larry Richards before and do so again as his encouragement to men is so powerful - he states that we should recognise that we will never be the fathers our children need but only God is their true Father - we should recognise our shortcomings, strive to the best men we can be and apologise every time we fall.

Dads' Advice on Fatherhood: Part 6 - Discipline


A number of the fathers whom I spoke to about fatherhood spoke of the importance of setting boundaries and of discipline.

One father said that he doesn't have too many rules but he makes sure that both he and his wife enforce the ones they do have.  He was saying that children may play one parent off against the other but be firm and consistent.

One father wrote, "The trick is "not to spare the rod" not that I'm implying to hit them but be very careful not to pamper them as this will have severe consequences down the line."

A consensus seemed to be that if a father doesn't act like a man and firmly but gently discipline his children then it will make things very difficult for their wives who will then end up making up for this and perhaps overacting.

One father said that one of the biggest problems in society today is that men don't know how to be men - we live in a society where fathers are emasculated and instead of being the leaders that they are divinely called to be, they end up being passive and silent.


A friend said to me that when he saw his son hitting his mother he made it very clear that this is wrong - he didn't mind his child hitting him but he wanted his son to know from a very early age that women should be treated differently and with great respect.

Although it is perhaps common sense, some fathers said that part of the discipline of disciplining children is to be realistic - not to threaten over the top punishments then back down and not to give in every time.  He said, "Your son will push the boundaries, but if he's anything like my sons, he'll deep down want to know where the line is and to have the comfort of know what is and what isn't acceptable.

Two of the fathers emphasised that in disciplining children we have to avoid using abusive language and hurtful words - to get the right balance between criticising bad behaviour whilst affirming the child.  A friend also said, "For every criticism, give five words of affirmation."

Incidentally there is a good article on discipline at the excellent, Fathers for Good website

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A 15 decade journey

Yesterday morning I spent my journey to work reading the news on my iPhone - it wasn't good news, I then read about the England - Kiwi game and was depressed further. No wonder I arrived at the office feeling despondent.

This morning I decided to do something different. What if I started praying the rosary from when I leave my home until I arrive at work?

Amazingly my journey to work - including a brief stop at a coffee shop en route took me exactly 15 decades of the rosary!  Instead of arriving at work filled with an awareness of the bad news - I was reminded of the good news. 

My praying of rosary concluded as always with the Prayer to Michael the Archangel and I whispered the Amen exactly as I entered my office. 

The contrast couldn't be greater. Monday starting work thinking of England battling - and losing to New Zealand - and Tuesday starting work being reminded of Christ and His victory - and that of His mother and the angels. 

 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Divine Obstinance

I only discovered Jason Bach recently but love his cartoons. 

Here's one of my favourites about how obstinate the Catholic Church is in actually keeping to the teaching of Christ. 
You can see more of Jason's cartoons at http://www.jasonbachcartoons.com. 

Even better, commission him to produce one for you and support this talented artist. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Dads' Advice on Fatherhood: Part 5 - Example


"Example is everything.  Children will naturally love their mothers but copy their fathers." 

A number of fathers whom I spoke to gave similar advice when I asked for advice on being a father. 

A story was shared by Fr Larry Richards about the future Pope John-Paul II when he was a child. He woke up in the middle of the night and found his father on his knees praying. What would your children find you doing?  This is certainly a challenge. I think I'd be more likely to be surfing BBC news for the latest Arsenal results - or possibly thinking up an amusing response to a comment on my favourite blog.

At university a fellow student was in the minority of those who would go to Mass each week and took her faith seriously. I once asked her why this was and she said that when they went to Mass as a family, her father would be completely transfixed by what was happening around him - focused on the altar and not chatting or letting his mind wander - this is something that she could tell even as a child. 

One father said to me: "the best “parenting advice” that I can give a father is that your son will “catch” more behaviour than you “teach” – because as we all know, actions speak louder than words, and this is never more true than in the home.  Your son will constantly be watching you – constantly be copying you (especially when they are smaller – boys want to be just like their dads when they grow up) – so make sure what he is copying is worth copying.  You can “say” whatever you want to a child, but unless your words and teachings are back up with actions (living out the words) the lessons will be lost – scripture talks about this when God calls us (as fathers) to teach His commandments to our children – talk to them, repeat them, when you are sitting at home, when you are walking along the road, when you lie down and when you get up – in other words – teach your son about God (and God’s commandments and God’s wisdom) by living out God’s commandments."

These words were echoed more succinctly: "Know that your son is always - and always will be - watching your every behaviour and listening to your every word. They are great imitators. Model the life you want him to live. The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world."

One of the most amazing fathers I know gave as the core advice to me: "It's simple, always give a good example.  What you ask of your children you must do yourself."
 

Monday, November 11, 2013

We will remember them

11th of the 11th - a date I haven't forgotten since hearing at school about the horrors of the Great War. 


It can be easy to forget the past especially when the survivors of the First World War are few and far between but it's important to remember the heroic sacrifices of those who died - giving their lives - as well as those who survived and had to live with horrific memories for the rest of their lives. 

As a Catholic I shall pause to remember those who have died, pray for and end to all war and pray for the dead on all sides of conflicts:

Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine et lux perpetua luceat eis. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Dads' Advice on Fatherhood - Part 4: Pray with them


In addition to praying for our children, fathers I spoke to emphasised the importance of taking time to pray with them both as a family and as a wider community (at church).


"Always say your prayers together as a family.  After that it is all in God's hands." 

"Keep going to Mass with him.   If he's anything like my kids, he might get bored and rebel a bit. We always made our kids go, and now they like going.....which is good!"

"Pray WITH your son before and after he is old enough to understand."  "You two should pray together and also with your wife."  "A boy should know from an early age that real men pray and to experience this."

"When you pray with your son be real.  Don't use baby language - this is serious and vital for him to learn at an early age." 

"Pray with him daily and together seek God's will for him in his life." 

"As father and head of the family, lead the family in the daily family Rosary-the family that prays together stays together."

"Pray with him morning and night and read to him everyday from the Word."

"Pray with your son every day even before he's born. It’s not too early! This is not just for him, but also for you and your wife. Get into the habit. It needn’t be long, but it should be regular. And consistent. When they get older, make it a habit. Pray before every meal. Pray the rosary with the family, and supplement it with spontaneous prayer as well."

Dads' Advice on Daddyhood - Part 3: Pray for them


The fathers that I asked advice with regard to being a father were all Christians and so it is not surprising that prayer for the child was one of the top pieces of advice.



"Pray by yourself, and pray with your wife, too. Together, you are the Body of Christ. But a body operates best when each part is in unison with each other.  We cannot be true Christians – truly Christ-like – if we are not in community with other believers."

"Pray for your child every day – prayers of protection, prayers of blessing, and prayers of wisdom (for you – as to how to best parent your son).  Prayer is the greatest gift that you can give your son.  Pray for him every day, and as he grows older and understands, pray with him, and when he first starts going to school – hold him / put hands on him – and pray for him as he leaves for school.  And while I don’t do it every day (due to travel and sometimes just being behind schedule as we get ready in the morning) – I try to pray with and for each of my four children every morning before they head off to school – it is mostly a quick 30 sec to 1 min prayer – a time of individual prayer – just me and one of them – they love it (and miss it and even ask for it if we miss a day or two) and they need it – so start it off young and make it a tradition."

Father Larry Richards makes the point strongly as always.  He asks men if they would die to protect their wives and children from an attacker.  He then says, "The world, the flesh and the devil are attacking your children.  You must pray - and say - if you want to attack them you better come through me."  He made the point that a father is the priest of a family interceding for them before God.

One father made the point, "Your son was His son before he was yours.  The Father will listen to a Dad who prays protection over his son as it is most clearly following His will.  Pray for him daily to be protected from all that might harm him, to get to know Jesus Christ and grow to be a man of compassion"

Dads' Advice on Fatherhood - Part 2: Unconditional Love


The second most common piece of advice I got when I asked fathers I admire for advice was the importance of unconditional love.



We might have various dreams and ideas as to how we would like our children to grow up and they might rebel and reject what we hold dear but again and again I was advised to reassure my son of my unconditional love on a regular basis.

One friend of mine said, "Show your son you love him by hugging him and reassuring him daily." 

Another shared a list of practical ways to show our love for our children:
  • Tell him you love him, every day. 
  • Don't publicly humiliate or criticize him. 
  • Be understanding when he makes a mistake.
  • Control your anger. 
  • Don't hit him or be verbally abusive.  
  • I have found that it is possible to discuss with children right and wrong behaviour. He will often choose to do what is right once he understands. 
  • Be patient with him when he makes the same mistake again.  
  • Don't compare him to others. 
  • Leave work early to attend and support his participation in an event. 
One father shared that even as his children grew older he felt that it was just as important to reassure his children - and that he would do so personally to each one and not just to them all as a group.  He said that he felt it important to do so privately but also on public occasions such as 21st birthday parties and weddings.  He said that he will make it clear that whatever choices they make in life they will always be welcome at his home.  "It is so important that the children fully know and realise how much they are individually loved - not just as a group - and that they know ,and realise how much you both love each other and the tremendous implications of that love in every " thought, word and deed"- that they know that love gives and doesn't just receive  - that love is not about me but about the other."

Another father also said, "Love him unconditionally, guide him to his God given talents and rejoice when he rejoices, Love him unconditionally even if his choices are not your choices ... Tell him he is measures up, boys just want to be reassured they have done well in their dad's eyes."

One of my brothers made a similar point, "Be proud of your son and make sure he knows that.  Don't assume that he knows how you feel just because its obvious to you.  Boys ... aren't always perceptive and need reassurances!"

Ironically, one person who underlies this point more than anyone else is actually a celibate priest.  Father Larry Richards, an American pastor and founder of the Reason for Our Hope Foundation makes this point very strongly in a speech he gave to men.  In the last ten minutes of this video (see from 50 minutes onwards he hammers this point home in the strongest possible language.  He says that fathers who can't tell their children that they love them (without judging them) are a bunch of wimps, not real men and should be ashamed of themselves.

Finally what struck me more than anything else is what one friend shared: "If a boy doesn't hear from his father that he is loved and that he measures up - he will look for acceptance in all the wrong places.  Be man enough to give your son this reassurance - or face the consequences."




Saturday, November 09, 2013

Dads' Advice on Fatherhood - Part 1: Protect your marriage

I mentioned previously that I had asked a dozen fathers what their advice was for me as a new Dad.  The number one comment I received was that when you have children you should protect your marriage.



One friend said, "Make sure you have a strong marriage.  Don't neglect your wife because of the new addition ... ". One of my brothers reminded me to look after and cherish my wife as much as the baby and that the best gift I can give him is a happy, secure and loving family. 

Some people saw a strong correlation between protecting the marriage with setting a good example: "Love his Mum with all your heart. Know that He will learn how to treat a woman and how to be a husband by your behavior. Parents will sometimes disagree. Most stuff isn't really important. Know the difference and don't argue with your wife in front of your son."

One of my brothers advised me: "Look after and cherish your wife as much as your baby. One of the greatest gifts you can give your son is a happy, secure and loving family.  Always remember what (your wife) has given you and be there for her always."
 
It surprised me how some people said that I should actually make my wife a priority over and above my child. This is perhaps more about redressing the balance and being mindful of the importance of protecting marriage. 

One father said: "I cant emphasise enough that your marriage comes first, it comes before the kids – your marriage existed before your son and will live on long after your son has moved away from home – so make your wife your priority – not your son – a mistake many people make – but God calls you to love your wife as Christ loved the church (a scripture that is a hard one to live out on a daily basis – but critical for a strong marriage).  And from a physiological standpoint, the happiest children are the ones that know their parents' marriage is secure.  So be sure to keep things like going on dates as part of your marriage tradition - this is the first – and probably most important – piece of advice for a new father – as it is the opposite of what most people tend to do."

Although it seems counter intuitive to me, yet another friend said, "I have three pieces of advice about being a dad, love your son more than you love your self, love your wife more than you love your son and love God more than you love your wife." 

In my view it may not be helpful ranking ones child or wife in terms of which is more important but the message I received loud and clear is - when we're new to being a father, let's not forget to honour, protect and love our wives.

On the subject of protecting marriage, I would recommend that any man reads this excellent article on Michael Hyatt's blog on leadership entitled: What are you doing to protect your marriage?

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

New blog title and address

I decided after a couple of years and at a possible inconvenience to both of my readers that I should change the name of my blog to: "Non angelus, sed Anglus."

The reason for the name change are:

1.  Latin blog names are cool. 
2.  It's true. 
3.  It amuses me.
4.  Because I can. 

Enjoy. 


Sunday, November 03, 2013

Dads' Advice on Fatherhood - Seven things to know


When my son was born almost two weeks ago he didn't come with an instruction manual - foreseeing this, I took the precaution of asking a dozen Christian fathers whom I respect, their advice on daddyhood and the following were overwhelmingly the strongest responses I received.



Seven things to know about being a Dad to a son (according to amazing Dads I know) -

1.  Protect your marriage: Love your wife and make her, not just your child your priority after Christ.

2.  Unconditional love: Reassure your child of your unconditional love regularly and let him know you're proud of him.

3.  Pray for them: Spend time alone and with your wife and other friends praying for your child.

4.  Pray with them: Make time where possible to pray with each child individually or as a family.

5.  Set a good example: Be the man you wish your child to be. Children will naturally love their mothers but copy their fathers.

6.  Discipline: Set boundaries, ensure he knows what is and isn't acceptable.

7.  Authenticity: Be real - don't pretend - apologise when you screw up.


I treasure the advice that these people shared with me - some of it surprised me and some didn't - but  these are real men whom I have seen guiding and actively taking a part in their children's lives - and had the generosity and courage to share their views with me.

All of the above will soon turn into links where I share in greater depth what was shared with me but in the meantime I shall leave you with "I've been watching you" by Rodney Atkins which illustrates all seven of the above but especially setting an example and prayer: YouTube: I've been Watching You 

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Requiem in pace

I intended to go to the Mass of All souls today but it didn't quite happen but did go to a Vigil Mass for Sunday and decided to receive Holy Communion and go to Confession to gain a plenary indulgence. 

Whilst I was wondering whom to gain it for it occurred to me - I had four grandparents, all of whom have passed away. I have decided to receive communion on behalf of and also gain a plenary indulgence for each of them this week - I didn't even know one of them and am not sure if they were all Christian but in any case thought it seemed like the right thing to do. 

I then thought that as God is outside time I could pray that all of my grandparents accepted Christ before they died - these things are very much beyond my understanding but then again I'm not God and they're in His hands. 


Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord and may perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen 

Friday, November 01, 2013

A moment of silence

As a father of a very young son, I imagine that quiet times shall be few and far between.

I have been enjoying a short time to think, pray and meditate at home but this led me to think - what about at Mass?

In a world full of every distraction - phones, Internet, TV, etc. all competing for our attention it is nevertheless important to have time aside to listen to God and what He might be saying to us. 

One of the reasons I love the traditional Mass is that there is that silence that permeates it. Even in the church we attend where we have a Missa Cantata every Sunday the Canon of the Mass is prayed silently and this is something beautiful and lifts my heart and mind outside of my daily worries, concerns and thoughts as to where Arsenal is in the Premier League.

In fairness to the Ordinary Form of the Mass, there are a number of places where silence is expected but sadly so rarely observed:

1.  "Let us call to mind our sins ..." - I'm not sure about you but it takes me more than half a second to call mine to mind.

2.  After the words, "Oremus" or "Let us pray": How often are we actually given a chance to do so?

3.  After each of the readings - silence is encouraged to allow the Word to penetrate our hearts and minds.

4.  The final Prayer of the Faithful: "Let us pause to bring before The Lord our personal intentions Lord in Your mercy, hear our prayer."  Do the readers actually realise what they are saying?"

5.  After communion: The modern liturgy when celebrated with dignity will always include time of silence for our thanksgiving after receiving the Body of Christ. 

If you're a priest, deacon or reader in the modern liturgy, would you please give us a moment of silence?