Today, I started the journey towards Camino 2

I don’t know when this journey will end. I don’t even know if it will end. I’m setting out, anyway, in the hope that one day between now and who knows when, I will be fit enough and have enough money to set out from St. Jean Pied de Port to walk the Camino Francés for a second time.

I will update this blog every time I take another step towards my second Camino. Don’t hold your breath, though, for the updates will for a while be few and far between.

So, you may ask, what happened today to start the journey? Well, I started a new job.

Hold on, didn’t you start a new job back in June? Wasn’t that the start of C-2? No. Even though I knew before finishing my first Camino that I wanted to walk another one I didn’t start the June role thinking ‘This is the beginning of the journey towards Camino 2’. Back then, Camino 2 was just an aspiration. As of today, it is a firm intention.

Okay, so what are you doing starting another new job? Ah. Well, the June one was a temp position. This one, as it happens, is a permanent post.

That’s good news. It shouldn’t be too hard to save up the necessary money. Indeed. Except, it is part-time so saving up will not be easy. Especially since my bank account is currently deep in the red.

But you have job security. Did I mention that I will be freelancing? If they don’t like me…

The good news is the job is in social media, which I have wanted to work in for a long time. I started the job today and can’t wait to get stuck in.

When will Camino 2 happen? I said above ‘who knows when’ and meant it. I don’t know. It quite possibly won’t happen. I have a feeling, though, it will take an extraordinary financial turnaround for it to do so. And as it happens, that fills me with comfort: A week ago, I had no job and nothing in the offing. Today, I have a new job. The job was confirmed yesterday, just hours after I had given away all the money in my coat pocket. Two extraordinary turnarounds. If those two, why not more?

Anyway, I’m not going to worry about it. I’m just going to do as well as I can to save up and stay fit and if the good Lord wants me to set off across the Pyrenees, whether via the Napoleon or Valcarlos route, He will.

Buen Camino!

The Aid of Illness

In my last post, I said that this general election campaign is both interesting and anxiety inducing. Despite the former and because of the latter, I have steered clear of it on social media as much as possible.

Is it good to run away from one’s anxieties? Wouldn’t it be better to face them down? I’m not a psychologist, so I don’t have an answer to that. I imagine, though, that the answer is Yes, one should face them them because only that way lies freedom.

However, if that is to be done, surely one needs to confront one’s anxieties in a way that is positive: it’s no good facing what you hate or fear with that hate and fear. Freedom doesn’t lie that way, only confrontation and war, which perpetuates and escalates the problem.

So, what is to be done? I’m a Christian so my view is that my anxiety, and the hate and fear that it induces, needs to be washed away with love. How? With prayer. But also, attentiveness; attentiveness to the uselessness of anger.

It’s one thing to know that anger (the negative kind; I’m not talking about righteous indignation here) is useless but how does one interiorise it?

I think the best way is to meditate on it, to find where it exists within oneself and drive it out by the practice of love. Another way, though, and a harder way that I would not wish on anyone, is through illness.

Last week, I woke up with a need to visit my G.P. As it turned out, I wasn’t seriously ill but I didn’t know this at the time, and as a result, I was in a state of discomfort and worried.

While I was in this state, my anxiety about the general election fell away. It seemed so much stuff and nonsense, a complete waste of energy and life.

It felt bad to realise I had taken such a wrong path, but it was also a blessing, for now I could set about finding the right one. Having said that, I can’t help but look back on that morning, ten days ago, and wonder Why did it take a little existential crisis for the truth to come out?

I guess I am just spiritually immature. At least I know better, now; at least I have a chance to find the right path again. I hope I do so before the memory of what happened fades away. You see, this isn’t the first time I have had this realisation. It has happened before – yes, when I was unwell – and ultimately, nothing changed.

How to find the right path? Well, I certainly need to go back to yesterday’s post: prayer.

As I write these words

we are just two weeks away from polling day in the 2019 General Election. Will Boris Johnson win an outright majority for the Conservative Party or will Jeremy Corbyn win the day for Labour? Or will voters be split down the middle once more and return a hung Parliament?

For me, the election campaign has been an interesting but anxious time. It’s been interesting in the way that election campaigns always are. But it has, and is, anxiety-inducing because of the fact that Jeremy Corbyn belongs to the far-left of the Labour Party, and the thought of that faction holding the keys to Downing Street is, to me, a detestable one. This has been compounded by Corbyn’s failure to deal with the issue of anti-semitism within the Labour Party.

Right now, the polls are suggesting that the Conservatives will not only win the election but will do so with an outright majority. I would say good except that I am a very ‘wet’ Tory who does not believe that Boris Johnson is fit to be Prime Minister. He is lucky to have Corbyn as his opponent, otherwise I would be tempted to sit this election out.

What to do about it all? Practically speaking, one can only cast one’s vote and hope for the best. In my case, I can only do the latter: Jeremy Corbyn is my MP and has such a huge majority that my vote will not count a jot.

As a Christian, though, I can – and must – do something else:pray: pray for Boris Johnson, pray for Jeremy Corbyn, pray for all politicians. And pray hard. For the forgiveness of their sins (as well as mine, of course). For their wisdom. Especially their wisdom.

I wish there was a theology of election campaigns, spiritual guidance for how to not only survive election campaigns but turn one’s response to them to good. I imagine, though, the guidance would boil down to one thing: prayer.

I wish we had a theology of election results as well. Whoever becomes the next Prime Minister, be it Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn (whether in a Labour majority or minority government) we will have a leader who has his plus points but also negatives – some of them profoundly bad. For the next four or five years, he will be on our TV screens and computer monitors daily. He will need prayers. Lot’s of.

And so will I. Politics is a very turbulent business and it sometimes feels like social media puts us, the voters, into the eye of the storm. Where we stand, all may be calm, but we see the savage conditions around us and can only be adversely affected by them. The answer, of course, is if gets like that, then quit. But there is so much that is good about social media that it can make quitting a hard thing to do. And why should I quit when it is other people causing the problem? Sometimes, though, hard decisions simply have to be taken. In the meantime:-

This is my Theology of Election Campaigns and Results

  • Prayer for Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn
  • ~ for the forgiveness of their sins and wisdom; I dislike Corbyn most so an especial amount of prayer for him
  • Prayer for myself
    ~ for the forgiveness of my sins and the grace to endure
  • Prayer for the new government
    ~ for its wisdom
  • An active determination to get angry at those in politics whom I do not like
  • Prayer before the exposed Blessed Sacrament wherever possible
  • Prayer at Mass
  • In all social media interactions, be positive; don’t hate. Remember: those I dislike are humans, too; they deserve the dignity of the children of God. That’s a bare minimum

A Costly Ambiguity

So, a couple of days ago, someone stole the ‘Mother Earth’ statues used in the opening ceremony of the Pan-Amazon Synod at the Vatican and threw them into the Tiber River.

If nothing else, whoever did this has a good sense of the historical.

But were their actions right?

If the statues were actual idols then I’m only sorry that the thieves didn’t burn them first before scattering the ashes across the Tiber.

However, if the statues were representations of Our Lady then what happened was an act of desecration.

If they represented a thing or an idea, such as life, fertility or motherhood, etc, then they should have been let be. Having them in a church wasn’t ideal but they are not idols and, to be honest, we accept the presence of worse things in our churches.

So many ifs, and that’s the problem. All this could have been avoided if those behind the Pan-Amazon Synod had explained clearly what exactly the statues were meant to represent. They didn’t, and so naturally some people applied the worst possible meaning to them.

Responsibility for the statues’ destruction lies with the thieves, but they were helped along the way by the either deliberate or accidental (in)actions of others.

  • For footage of the statues’ theft, see the Catholic Herald website here

A good thing happened this morning: I made my peace with Star Wars.

Ever since I saw The Force Awakens I have disliked what Disney has done to the Star Wars films. The Force Awakens leaned so heavily on the previous pictures that it became a work of plagiarism; the chief villain, Kylo Ren, was the weakest of his kind I have ever seen. The best thing about The Last Jedi is that it wasn’t (as bad as) The Force Awakens. The story was weak, Kylo Ren still poor – blah.

I disliked Force Awakens intensely; I felt numb towards The Last Jedi. This morning, I watched the last trailer for The Rise of Skywalker and felt – well, at peace; instead of being angry or critical, I thought to myself, You know what, this is not for me but I hope those who do go and see it enjoy it. I thought that to myself, and I meant it. I’ve come a long way, and I am relieved.

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

The Good
On Sunday, 13th October Pope Francis canonised John Henry Newman. Newman and I go way back. In the summer of 1996 I became interested in the Catholic Church. Don’t ask why – apart from the prompting of the Holy Spirit, I don’t know. That October, I returned to university and started attending the Catholic Society. By January 1997, I knew that God was calling me to His Church. So, I approached the Catholic chaplain and asked to receive instruction. He handed me over to a lady who immediately asked if I had heard of Newman. I hadn’t. She recommended I read his autobiography – Apologia Pro Vita Sua; I did and loved him ever after. Around the turn of the century, when I was – predictably for a still fairly new Catholic – exploring my vocation, I made a few visits to the Birmingham Oratory. There, I saw Newman’s unchanged study and some of his papers, which were then stored only in boxes.

As the years passed, I drifted away from Newman but we met again in 2010 when Pope Benedict XVI beatified him in Birmingham. Guess what happened after 2010; yes, I drifted away from him again, only to be pulled back when word of his second miracle reached me. What pulled me back? God’s golden thread made manifest in the love he has given me for Newman’s writings and example of holiness. It was such a joy seeing Newman being declared a saint, I can only hope that I never drift away from him again.

The Bad
The Vatican wouldn’t be the Vatican without a scandal of some sort attaching itself to the Holy See. Over the past few years the clerical sex abuse scandal has dominated but today I read about another, older, scandal rearing its head again – that involving money. The Times reports that the Vatican is losing money hand over fist due to bad management.

What is to be done? Who knows. Who only knows. It’s the Vatican so I feel like saying ‘Nothing’. Isn’t that sad? It’s more than sad, it’s awful. If anyone in authority thinks like that, it means the bad guys have won; it means the Bad Guy himself, Satan, has won. We can’t have that. We know he has already lost the war; we – or rather, the people who have power in the Church – need to do everything they can to make sure he loses the battles, or at least as many of them as possible, as well. But how? If Pope Benedict couldn’t do it; if Pope Francis can’t do it, who can?

The Ugly
The Vatican is currently hosting a ‘Synod of Bishops for the pan-Amazonian region’ in South America. It’s purpose is ‘to identify new paths for the evangelization of God’s people in that region’ (These two quotations are from the Synod’s Wikipedia entry here).

The Synod started with a ceremony which included some of the delegates from the pan-Amazon region bowing down, paying homage, to wooden statue of a pregnant woman, apparently a symbol of Mother Earth. So far so veering towards paganism. It wasn’t, though, the first controversial moment of the event. Before it started, traditionalist cardinals, such as Raymond Burke, were warning that the working document promoted apostasy (see the Wikipedia link).

I have been reading about the Synod from a fair distance and I believe the Synod Fathers and delegates have been discussing the possibility of having married priests in the region, and perhaps even female deacons.

The possibility of married priests doesn’t alarm me in the slightest; that Catholic priests should be celibate is a Church discipline, not a doctrine derived from Our Lord. My only question would be how such families would be paid for (and could a divorced man continue to be a priest?). I wouldn’t even be averse to female deacons if it could be proved that they were permitted by the Early Church. Here, I would be concerned that progressives would take the matter too far and, having ‘won’ the argument on a female deaconate, try to bring about female priests, for which Scripture and Tradition provide no justification.

What is ugly about all this? Everything and nothing. If the Church gets it wrong at this Synod, goodness knows what damage she will cause for herself in the future. If she gets it right, all will be well. Either way, I, and we Catholics in general, need to get praying: Anything to stop this kind of thing:

The kairos, the culture of encounter, being lauded in the Pan-Amazon Synod is a Bergoglian kairos and culture. The church “called to be ever more synodal,” to be “made flesh” and “incarnated” in existing cultures, is a Bergoglian church. And this church, not to put too fine a point on it, is not the Catholic Church. It is a false church. It is a self-divinizing church.

First Things

If we don’t believe in a Catholic Church that is protected by the Holy Spirit from ultimate destruction then we are simply not Catholics and it is not the ‘Bergoglian church’ that has the problem. I’m being a bit annoyed here; my point is that of course a pope can slip into heresy but he would not be able to take the Church with him. The gates of hell…, remember. The above writer seems to have forgotten this and it both annoys and grieves me.

Brexit. Saturday, 19th October 2019

Just when we thought our MPs might finally – as Boris Johnson would say – get it done, Oliver Letwin threw another spanner into the works this weekend with his last minute amendment.

It would be easy, so easy, to feel annoyed at Letwin for messing things up, and at Hilary Benn and others for acting like they are the government but that would be unjust.

To the best of my knowledge, the Benn Act and Letwin Amendment are the work of two (and more) people who care about this country, and who want to see things done in a certain way for her good. It may be frustrating that Britain will not get it over and done with and leave on 31st October but who knows, maybe Benn, Letwin et al have saved us from a departure that would unnecessarily hurt people.

Either way, Hilary Benn, Oliver Letwin and co. give Christians, indeed, people in general, an opportunity to practice that great virtue: patience, and we can never have enough practice of that.