Wednesday, 26 November 2008

"Buckaroo: the Sport of Kings..."*

Another distraction from the weighty concerns of the day: some board games! These offerings which I've found are both entertaining and edifying, it would seem.

There's 'Catholic - opoly' and 'Bible-opoly' (catchy names, aren't they...?), the 'Journeys of Paul Catholic Strategy Game', the 'Mary Memory Card Game' and 'Divinity' - the game which teaches you the catechism as you move around the board!

I'm sure there's a potential line in designing these games. Perhaps the General Synod could market one to raise funds. There could be a buckeroo-esque contraption onto which 'traditionalists' have to pile ammendments before it finally pops up and they all comes crumbling down. (Another suggestion was 'Trivial Pursuit'...).

On a serious note, however, there seems to be a lot of good in these (albeit somewhat 'niche') games. I wonder how many of our readers have them/use them with Sunday School pupils and so forth. Are there any others which we should know about? Answers on a postcard! Or on the back of a Mary Memory Game card, of course...

(*10 points to anyone who guess the source of this quotation.)

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

"Popping In"

I have recently started watching, extraordinarily enough for the first time, the television adaptation of "Brideshead Revisited." I have read the book many times and find that it is the sort of book which seems to change shape every time I do so. I first read it almost exclusively for the jolly larks and nostalgia, rather skipping over the adultery, the pain and, really, most of the religion. Every subsequent reading has led me to concentrate on something new, looking beyond the teddy bear and Brandy Alexanders, and watching the televised version has had the same effect. Recently, something that Cordelia said, when Bridey talks of closing the chapel, struck a chord with me.

"We must have the Blessed Sacrament here," said Cordelia. "I like popping in at odd times; so does mummy."

"Popping in" to visit the Sacrament has become more and more important to me recently. I am very fortunate that directly next to the place where I work, there is a church in which it is possible to kneel in the ante-chapel (Not the ante-chapel. What do you call the ante-chapel in a church?) in view of the tabernacle, even when the main church is locked. I frequently visit after work or during a break to say the office, or the rosary, or simply to kneel in prayer for a moment or two. Often while I am there, other people come in for a few minutes to do the same thing.

When I was at university, I would often visit the chapel during the day for a few minutes here and there and this was something that I missed when doing postgraduate work at a university which did not have a chapel. It was very valuable to have the opportunity to sit or kneel in a beautiful and (generally!) quiet environment. The church I "pop in" to now is neither so quiet, nor so beautiful, but it has one thing that my student chapel did not have: the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the sanctuary. I can (and should, more than I do) pray to God anywhere, at work, at home, on the bus and it is all very good. Praying before the Sacrament, however, is an even greater source of strength and consolation, one which I find hard to describe.

As an undergraduate, I was able to go to daily Mass, and this is something I miss greatly. Now, because of tedious things like jobs and where I live it is much more difficult to go to Mass during the week, and because of a mixture of legitimate practical reasons and sheer laziness, I rarely do so. Things like visiting the Sacrament, praying the rosary on the bus, or saying the angelus (being in earshot of the angelus bell is another benefit of my work place!) are important substitutes for the daily services of my university days.

To draw yet another, rather more frivolous comparison, with those halcyon days of libraries and essay crises, my religious life now has become rather more like my social life was then. In those days it wasn't really necessary to arrange to meet my friends, I just bumped into them, or popped round to visit. Sadly, this is no longer the case with my friends, scattered far and wide as we are. I can however, still "pop in" to visit the Sacrament. And, with Jesus, you never feel that you ought to be writing an essay instead.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Christmas Shopping

Much as I should hate to pander to the aggressive consumerism which has the shops already decked with tinsel, bells and coloured lights, I have found a superb website which, if you wanted to use it for your Christmas shopping, you'd have to think about now!

This website was recommended to me by a friend and has proved useful in birthday/Christmas present ideas. It is also very reliable in delivering! There are a range of notebooks, t-shirts, hoodies, mousemats, mugs and so forth with amusing (sometimes extreme, and not in a good way) captions and illustrations. Particular favourites: 'What part of hoc est corpus meum don't you understand?', 'It's extraordinary in Latin' and 'Be a good catholic and eat some Jesus!'.
Well worth a look even if you don't intend to part with any cash!

And remember folks, as the t-shirt tells us: Jesus is the Reason for the Season: Keep Christ in Christmas! (I'm sorry - I just couldn't resist...)

NB: The Women's
Guild will not be receiving a commission for this 'ad'. Honestly.

Excellent Women: St Hilda of Whitby

After her husband's murder, Bregusuit used to dream about searching for him everywhere and not being able to find him. Instead, she found a precious jewel under her dress which "cast such a light as spread itself throughout all Britain". This dream was fulfilled in her little daughter Hilda who became the Abbess Hilda, of whom Bede says

" All that knew her called her Mother, for her singular piety and grace, was not only an example of good life, to those that lived in her monastery but afforded occasion of amendment and salvation to many who lived at a distance, to whom the fame was brought of her industry and virtue."

Hilda went to live at the court of her great uncle King Edwin where she was converted by the preaching of St Paulinus and decided to enter religious life. At first she resolved to join her sister at Chelles Abbey in France, but St Aidan of Lindesfarne gave her a piece of land by the river Wear where she started to live a monastic life with a few companions. Aidan then appointed her abbess of Hartlepool Abbey where she organised and established a rule of life according to his instruction. When she became the founding abbess of the monastery at Whitby, Bede mentions that she did exactly the same there:

"She taught there the strict observance of justice, piety, chastity, and other virtues and particularly of peace and charity; so that after the example of the primitive church, no person was there rich, and none poor, all being in common to all and none having any property. Her prudence was so great, that not only indifferent persons, but even kings and princes, as occasion offered asked and received her advice; she obliged those who were under her direction to attend so much to reading of the Holy Scriptures, and to exercise themselves so much in works of justice that many might be there found fit for ecclesiastical duties and to serve at the altar."

Both Hartlepool and Whitby were double monasteries where men and women worshipped together in church but otherwise lived in separate buildings. Whitby alone produced five bishops: Bosa, Hedda, Oftfor, St John of Beverley, Bishop of Hexham and St Wilfrid, Bishop of York. She was also a patron to the poet Caedmon who was a herder at the monastery.

Despite suffering from a recurring fever for the last six years of her life, Hilda refused to give up any of her work. In the year before she died, she established another monastery at Hackness. One night, a nun there called Begu heard the bell that was used to wake the sisters every morning, to call them to prayer and if there was a death. When she opened her eyes, instead of the room filled with sleeping nuns, she could see Hilda being led to heaven by angels. She woke the others and they spent the night in church praying for the repose of their abbess's soul. In the morning, a messenger came from Whitby with news of her death, but the nuns announced that they already knew.

St Hilda must have been stubborn, fierce and bloody minded, as well as extremely capable and intelligent, which endears her to me. But she was clearly very much loved and shows that, even in the 7th century, women did a lot more than just look decorative! Perhaps this is why she is now considered to be the patron in particular of women's education, as well as learning and culture.

So, as her feast falls this week (on either the 17th or 19th), may I ask your prayers for all university students, for those women who are still denied the opportunity of education, for St Hilda's College, Oxford, and for the church of St Hilda, Cross Green in Leeds whose Comper banner illustrates this post.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Contact Us

We've set up a Women's Guild email address to which you can find a link in the sidebar. If you enjoy reading the blog, then please say hello, or use it for suggestions or ideas for new posts.

If you don't use a mail client, such as Outlook, then you can see the actual address by letting the mouse hover over the link and looking in the bottom left hand corner of the screen. I realise that this is probably blindingly obvious to everyone else, but I've only just noticed. Amazing.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

An Open Letter to the House of Bishops

I have reproduced in full below an open letter to the House of Bishops from the members of massinformation. We at Women's Guild would like to add our support and prayers to this letter and ask all our readers to pray for the House of Bishops, the massinformation team and all seminarians affected by this situation over the next few days:

Most Reverend and Right Reverend Fathers in God,

You will soon meet as a House of Bishops to discuss the current state of the Church of England and, particularly, the decision made at General Synod over the summer. As young people training for the ministerial priesthood in the Church of England we have attempted to put into words our concerns and anxieties about the future, and to offer you, in some small way, an insight into our hopes and fears for, potentially, forty years of ordained ministry.

The decision by General Synod in July to consider a Code of Practice, rather than structural alternatives, presents a significant problem for those who are opposed to the ordination of women. Many of this integrity have suggested that it is “too soon to give up” and that something effective can come from the next Group of Sessions. We fear this is unlikely. If the Church of England chooses not to provide appropriate structural solutions, as this resolution by General Synod would seem to indicate, it would be foolhardy - and even disingenuous - to continue to prepare for a life of ordained ministry in the Church of England.

General Synod is the “synodically governed” part of the Church of England’s systems of authority, but there is another: the recognition that it is “episcopally led” is as vital to this discussion, and it is this element that we wish to address. At the July Group of Sessions, Synod decided to disregard the interventions of the two Archbishops and a number of our most senior bishops. This would seem to undermine the authority of the Archbishops, and appears to reflect a distressing disunity within the House of Bishops itself.

If the House of Bishops is to lead us from the brink of irreparable damage to the systems of government within the Church of England, then this is the time to do it. Whether you, as the bishops of the Church of England, wish to follow this route is your decision. We will continue to pray for an increased unity in the House of Bishops in order that the same unity might spread throughout the Church of England.

There has been much discussion of a Code of Practice but, as we have stated above, this is unworkable. Fr Jonathan Baker’s resignation from the Manchester Group indicates the strength with which the constituency resents being, seemingly, ‘dealt with’ in this way. A Code of Practice may seem attractive on paper, but it is hard to see how it could sustain a body of Christians shaped for mission and evangelism and who are not merely tolerated, but respected.

Many have pointed to other Provinces within the Anglican Communion as examples of places where women are ordained to the episcopate, using this as a reason for us to consider it within the Church of England. If this is taken seriously as legitimising the quest for episcopal ordination for women, it follows that other related examples within the Communion should also be taken seriously. The House of Bishops need not be reminded of the current situation in the United States, where it is possible to see instances in which such a Code of Practice has failed to provide for those it intends to. A similar situation has developed in the decision by the Governing Body of the Church in Wales not to replace the Provincial Assistant Bishop following his recent retirement.

The House of Bishops has the opportunity to bring this situation under control. Nobody would suggest that this issue is going to go away; nobody would suggest that the House of Bishops can, over the course of a weekend, solve all the problems that currently exist. However, it is possible for the House of Bishops to provide the leadership and unity that is so urgently needed on this matter.

The House of Bishops represents as broad a range of opinions as the Church of England encompasses—and well it should. On this issue a matter of Christian Unity is at stake. Not only within the Church of England, but in the church at large, there is genuine concern that the future could bring further dissonance and disunity to Christ’s Church, bringing realistic hopes for Christian Unity to an end.

A Code of Practice cannot sustain the Church of England as it is today. The House of Bishops has the potential to do something about that, and to come together as a model of Christian living, affirming and including all within our number.

With our good wishes and prayers,

Monday, 10 November 2008

Catholic Cuisine

I've just come across this blog filled with delicious recipes including baked potato mice for St Martin's day, lion cupcakes for St Mark and many other good things:

Catholic Cuisine

I am filled with admiration and it makes me miss the days when I had time for proper cooking. Let's hope that it proves to be an encouragement.

Friday, 7 November 2008

No desertion? Nun at all*

With apologies for the recent absence of blogging, here is this week's news story about nuns, or rather, just one very determined nun:

"I am alive and kicking, and so is the Community of the Epiphany"

Ninety-two year old Sister Elizabeth, the last survivor of her order, still takes part in services and has written a homily on the importance of obedience for a service to mark the 125th anniversary of the Community of the Epiphany. At its largest after the World Wars, the community numbered over seventy and worked particularly with children and the disadvantaged, even setting up a mission in Japan.

The Daily Express adds a romantic detail that the war widows who joined the order gave their engagement rings to be melted down into a chalice for Truro cathedral. Apparently, religious life was still seen as a "suitable place to go" for a woman who had lost her husband or fiance. This surprised and disappointed me a little, as I had thought, and this is possibly naive, that the growth in choices and opportunities for women by the end of the first, and certainly the end of the second, World War would have removed the need for a "suitable" place for single women. Surely these vocations were a positive call to the religious life, and not just a desire to leave the secular world? Does this explanation belittle these women's call or does it reflect a sensible and pragmatic decision at the time? What do we think?

But as Sister Elizabeth is the only remaining member, this question is perhaps now of only academic interest. Richard Norman's article, in November's edition of New Directions (for which a mantilla tip to massinformation), considers what we are losing in "failing to recognise and encourage" these vocations as distinct from those to ordained ministry, and asks us to:

"Pray that God would call men and women to the religious life and that we should be granted grace to look for and answer this call."

*I'm so sorry, I just couldn't resist it