Tuesday, 21 July 2009

The dangers of the internet

If I didn't have such a propensity to research everything to the nth degree on the internet, I would not now be questioning the authority of a priest who I believe to be a good and holy man. I would be accepting his advice, and my conscience would be less troubled than it is now. Who am I, or anyone else, to question what he has told me? Isn't this an unacceptable form of arrogance in me to believe that I know better than him?

New Man and I are still reeling from receiving the news last week that we will almost certainly never be able to conceive naturally. The consultant recommended ICSI. At the moment we're looking into embryo adoption as an alternative.

I'm sorry to say that the pain of our situation is made much greater by what I have read on the internet about the Church's teaching on this issue (despite the priest telling me that we have a medical problem and he believes that, as long as no embryos were destroyed or 'discarded' in the process, ICSI would be an acceptable treatment for that medical problem, since we would be bringing a much-wanted and much-loved child into a Catholic marriage and bringing it up in the Catholic faith), and also by the attitude of some of my friends.

Adoption in the UK these days is a process fraught with difficulty for people like us. We have three major strikes against us in the eyes of social services - namely, that we are middle class, that we're a heterosexual couple who are married to each other, and that we are Catholic. We're just not the sort of people they're looking for. We also have many other problems with the process of adoption here, which I won't go into. Embryo adoption sounds to us like the best solution for all sorts of reasons, but whatever ends up happening, we know we have a hard road ahead of us and are as likely as not to end up having to accept that we will never know the joy of being parents.

I think I'm going to take a break from this blog for a while - maybe for ever - so let me take this opportunity once again of thanking you for your prayers. I hope you'll continue to pray for us as we struggle with this situation we're in.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Please pray for us

New Man and I had some news this week which has really knocked us sideways, and we have some very difficult decisions to make. We'd really appreciate your prayers.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

The pendulum swings

After Vatican II, a lot of parishes threw out a lot that was good, beautiful and holy. The process continued throughout the 70s, 80s and even 90s, and many people have grown up knowing nothing of the beauty of the pre-Vatican II Mass, and having learnt very few, if any, hymns that were written before about 1970.

Some post-1970 'hymns' are absolutely dire. Some are trite and meaningless. Some have hopelessly unmelodious tunes. Some are actually heretical.

The pendulum has now begun to swing back, and many people are embracing the beauty and richness of the traditional form of the Mass. In so doing, some are rejecting anything that was written after Vatican II.

Now, I have lived in a number of different parishes - I moved house approximately once a year as a child. My mother is a church organist, and we used to help her to choose the hymns - always with a Missal in front of us to ensure that they fitted with the theme of the Mass. I spent many years as a member of a church choir, and for a large part of that time I was responsible for selecting the hymns for the Mass at which I played. I therefore have quite a wide repertoire of hymns, both new and old, and my favourite hymns include both old and new ones.

My experiences over the years have led me to the following conclusions:

1. What the choir wants to sing is not necessarily always what the congregation wants to hear

2. What the congregation wants to sing is usually what it knows well. Many people who enjoy singing hymns and consider that singing them is an important part of their participation in the Mass will be completely turned off by a Mass in which more than half of the hymns are unfamiliar. This means that music which is new to the congregation needs to be introduced gradually, and certainly not all in one go.

3. An average hymn which is sung by the majority of the congregation can be more meaningful than a beautiful hymn which nobody joins in with.

4. Some of the trite modern hymns are not heretical and express sentiments which actually fit quite well with the readings of a particular Mass. Some are even based on those readings.

5. We don't ban Humpty Dumpty because it's childish, but nor do we expect to hear it performed to an audience of adults at the Royal Albert Hall. There is an important place for 'children's hymns', but the main Sunday Mass of the parish is almost certainly not it.

I have happy memories connected with some modern hymns, and those memories mark some major points in my spiritual maturing (a process which is by no means complete). For instance, I remember learning 'Colours of day' when I was preparing for First Communion, and singing it with my class in a school weekday Mass. I remember the first all-night retreat I ever went on at the age of 15, which culminated in a Mass at dawn during which everyone lustily joined in with 'Our God reigns', and the emotions that this experience stirred in me.

I also remember hymns that I didn't understand at the time I learnt them - for instance, why did it matter that the green hill didn't have a city wall ("There is a green hill far away, without a city wall")?

I suppose what I'm saying (and I'm deliberately not linking to any recent posts I may have read poking fun at modern hymns, because actually a lot of what was said was very funny) is let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. And let's remember that our spiritual journey may not have ended with 'I have seen the golden sunshine', but that might have been an important step along the way, and perhaps we shouldn't be pulling the ladder up behind us and preventing other people from benefiting from the same stepping stones (hmmm, nice mixed metaphor there).