Saturday 28 February 2015

The Joyful Art

It's Seraphic Singles Saturday, and since I brought up flirtation last week, I am duty-bound to discuss it this week. I hope discussing flirtation isn't as destructive as touching a butterfly or dissecting a poem. Flirtation must be, above all, light, fun and perhaps even fluffy

Flirtation is the art of expressing to others the idea that they are interesting and attractive and that you have thoughts or jokes in common. Yes, it can be exploitative--if  used to get power over somebody--but most of the time, I believe, it is a way to be friendly while honouring the concept of sexual attraction. You might not actually be sexually attracted to the person you flirt with, but it can be polite to pretend such an attraction might have been remotely possible, were he not a chatty old retired Irish priest 45 years your senior.

I bring up the chatty old retired Irish priest for, as far as I can recall, that is who I tried my earliest experiments in light flirtation on, back in my otherwise serious-minded early twenties. I can't remember what on earth I said, but Father Whoever was highly pleased and it was all very matey, with absolutely no fallout. Experiments with actual twenty-something laymen turned out to be more dangerous, for I ended up with a boyfriend I later concluded I didn't actually want. But that was my fault, my fault, my most grievous fault, because I had undertaken that flirtation to see if working against my serious nature could get me a Real Catholic Boyfriend, and it did.

And that is probably what alarmed me ever after about flirtation: if you catch a fish, how do you throw him back without hurting his feelings, getting a reputation for fickleness and potentially ruining your whole entire life?!?!?!?! 

Well, first of all, you have to get over such doomsday scenarios. Boys and men are not made of glass and nobody's life is going to be ruined because you told a man you like his pullover without wanting to marry him and have his children. And, really, compliments are the essence of flirtation. Smiles, attention, compliments and then move on. Brevity is the soul of flirtation. It's a far cry from eating restaurant dinners at a man's expense until you are bored with him. A coffee is just a coffee, but if you don't want him to buy you dinner, say no. What is he going to say, "But you told me you liked my pullover!"?

Is she lying or is she into me? is the pleasing question you want the fortunate young man you have flattered to ponder for the three minutes that elapse between your exit and his forgetting your existence for the day. Naturally, if you have flattered a chatty 75 year old Irish priest of clean life, he knows at once you are just flirting, but he is pleased all the same.

Some women are charming and flirtatious by nature, and compliment women as easily as they compliment men. At age three my niece Popcorn quite astonished me by fixing her blue eyes upon my outfit and saying, "I like your dress." Soon after she fixed her eyes on my face and said, with unmistakable envy, "I like your lipstick." If she has the confidence at 16 she had at 3, she will be a flirtation force to be reckoned with. Meanwhile, if you are terrified of smiling at and complimenting men, I suggest you try it on women first. Start with close friends and then get up the nerve to say something nice to a stranger whose dress, shoes or bag you honestly admire. 

One day in my theology years, I wondered aloud why it was that I was so able to compliment girls and chatty 75 year old priests but not eligible men. And a highly eligible man at the table said it was because girls and elderly priests were safe. I saw his point at once and, rising to the challenge, began to flirt with him.  He asked me out on three highly flirtatious dates, and that was it. And I am very grateful to him because during the three dates, as we flattered each other like mad, we both realized that the other, though attractive, funny and intelligent, wasn't the One, and that this was okay. But I am grateful above all because it was very good flirting practice. Meanwhile, he was a good Catholic and very handsome, although not as handsome as the men of my parish, who are surely the most handsome collection of men in all Christendom.

The best flirt I have seen recently on stage and screen is Monsieur Gustave in The Grand Budapest Hotel. I am not saying that Monsieur Gustave was a moral giant. I am just saying that he was a very good flirt, a man who won friends and influenced people with his confidence, cajolery, compliments and even calling everyone "darling". But if you are looking for a model who is less-over-the-top, then I suggest you watch Holly Golightly's method in Breakfast at Tiffany's. No, Holly Golightly was  not a moral giant either, but you have to admire a woman who can say to a looker like George Peppard, "You remind me of my brother Fred. Do you mind if I call you Fred?"

Admire Holly's method, but not her attitude. Although Holly loved her brother Fred, liked George and thought Sally Tomato was a darling man, she was terrified of life, deeply resented the men she allowed to take her out on expensive dates and was on the hunt for a wallet big enough to marry. She was indeed a phony, even if she was a "real phony."

To be a good flirt, I posit, you must really like people and think they are marvelous. You must summon up your confidence in yourself as a communicator and as a woman of good taste who appreciates the good taste in others, e.g. that young man with the really excellent pullover. A man with such an excellent taste in pullovers deserves some female attention, as you should go and tell him. And where did he get that excellent pullover? It very much suits him. It brings out the sparkle in his eyes. Oops, and here is Father O'Neill, to whom you must immediately speak. Good-bye, handsome young man!

By the way, I can not say this too often: complaining is not an effective means of flirtation.  I don't care if it works in the movies, or if Mr Darcy seemed ever more attracted to Miss Elizabeth Bennett the more she abused him. Gentle raillery is as charming as fingernails screeching down a blackboard. Tsk-tsking, finger-wagging, correcting, instructing and informing a man how a gentleman behaves is poison. I don't talk like that to my own husband. If a young man asks me what local courtesy entails, I will tell him, and if soft porn appears on the telly, I shriek at my husband to change the channel, but that's about it.* 

Nota Bene: if you are married, don't forget to flirt with your husband. Tell him he is marvelous every day, as if flattery was water and he was a basil plant. Otherwise he might wither and die. 

*If a young man of my acquaintance makes an exceedingly rude (i.e. sexual) remark and is within reach, I whack him with my handbag. 

Friday 27 February 2015

Flight Attendant Smiles

I thought about Pope Francis' infelicitous remark about flight attendant smiles on my trip home from Toronto, as I now do whenever I am around flight attendants. The sincerity or insincerity of the smiles of flight attendants had never occurred to me before he brought it up. As it happens, I admire flight attendants very much, for they are at the beck and call of up to three (four?) hundred people in relatively uncomfortable circumstances and can't simply chuck out customers for bad behaviour.  It is also a female dominated profession, of course, and come to think of it, I have never heard anyone complain that the captains are always male. But I digress. 

People in service positions can make a real difference  to the people they serve, which I learned as a teenager working in a coffee shop. A kind word is rarely wasted. When I got on my red-eye flight to Heathrow Airport, an English stewardess looked at the two boarding passes I was clutching, observed that I was going to have a very long day, and assured me that I'd make it. These friendly remarks so touched me that I felt my spirits lift every time that attendant came into view.

Another attendant flashed me what was a not quite so sincere smile when I asked for coffee when she was still dealing with the tea request from the girl beside me. However, I felt slightly abashed that I had misread the situation and admired the stewardess for handling it so graciously.

Perhaps this is a cultural difference between Anglo-Saxon Seraphic and Latin Francis: I admire people for being gracious under pressure, no matter how they may be feeling, and Francis admires people for being honest about their feelings. The difficulty is that Francis seems to (and this could be an injustice to the Holy Father) demand that the women religious he was addressing feel sincerely  happy and generous all the time, which is surely impossible.

It reminds me of all the attacks on pro-life activists (i.e. anyone who says or writes or does anything to combat the evil of ab*rti*n), liturgical traditionalists and orthodox Catholic believers for being sad, gloomy, shocked and angry. This strikes me as very unfair, especially in other pro-life activists, liturgical traditionalists and orthodox Catholic believers.

As hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of ab*rti*ns are committed all over the world and millions, if not billions, of people are fine with this, it is no wonder that pro-lifers are often sad, gloomy, shocked and angry. On the other hand, the merriest parties of my teenage years were with pro-life activists.

As priests and even bishops make snide remarks against beautiful Latin Catholic liturgies--while extolling the equally intricate and ancient rites of the Greek Catholics--it is no wonder liturgical traditionalists are sad, gloomy, shocked and angry. On the other hand, the merriest dinners of my married life have been with liturgical traditionalists.

And as orthodox Catholic believers read the scandals plaguing this current, if popular, pontificate, it is no wonder orthodox Catholic believers are increasingly sad, gloomy, shocked and angry. It would be very strange if we honestly greeted the actions and declarations of the German cardinals and bishops with loud hosannas. Oh look-- the obscenely rich German Church is practically schismatic! Hooray! Not. And yet the joy of orthodox Catholics after an encounter with an unmistakably orthodox pastor like Bishop Athanasius Schneider is profound.

Meanwhile, Middle Eastern Christians, be they Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant, are being imprisoned, raped, otherwise tortured, and killed. If you're not sad, gloomy, shocked and angry on their behalf--well, what can I say?

But I watch very carefully how I express my own sad, gloomy, shocked and angry feelings when I write for my archdiocesan newspaper, which is currently my primary service to the Church, and when I write my blog, believe it or not. This is because, like the flight attendants, my first thought is for the people I serve, namely readers. I have two tasks: to acknowledge and respect your sorrow, gloom, shock and anger (e.g. about Single life) and to give you food for joy.

"You must consider your audience!" I have said at least a dozen times to fellow blogger Vox Cantoris, although not for his blog so much as for his letters to editors, bishops et alia. As I have pointed out, although he is a Middle Eastern Christian--and suffering real agonies of mind right now about his fellow Middle Eastern Christians, on top of his feelings for unborn babies, the traditional Latin liturgy and suspiciously heterodox-sounding priests and bishops--the Church in Toronto has a very Anglo-Saxon understanding of communication. (Incidentally, although fawning over the rich and powerful may make you popular among the rich and powerful it does not endear you to Joe and Mary Ontario. We Anglo-Saxons admire moderation and wit above either passion or flattery, and that's a very Anglo-Saxon understatement.)

We Catholics pray the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary between the Joyful Mysteries and the Glorious Mysteries. I don't think we deserve to be chided for our sorrow---or  for our attempts to keep our sorrow private by polite simulations of happiness when necessary. As I have mentioned before, I was shocked when a very cheerful and well-beloved priest said he wanted to paint smiles on statues of the Sorrowful Virgin. The woman looked on as her Son--who was also God--was crucified and died. It is terrible to want to erase her sorrow, a sorrow which is paradoxically comforting to the sorrowful. Have you lost a child or seen your child hurt? Guess who understands what that feels like!

That reminds me that today is the feast of Saint Gabriel of the Sorrowful Virgin. I was baptized in one of his churches--a very left-leaning, creation spirituality one, which is terribly amusing when you consider that Saint Gabriel is the patron saint of handguns. Hello and Happy Feast Day to Saint Gabriel! As a child in that intensely Spirit of Vatican II Church  I was enormously impressed by the woodcuts of the Way of the Cross. No matter how many jokes the pastor made or how jolly the music (which, being a child, I rather enjoyed), nothing erased the impact on my child's mind of the lean, ascetic, wiry body of Christ.

But to get back to the two flight attendants--"Mary" who said the extra kind word that really made the difference and "Martha" who dealt with a slightly gauche traveller (me) with laudably professional politeness--I see them as sisters of the same family. Given that I was a helpless traveller, more or less imprisoned in my seat (a middle seat at that), it was better that Martha should smile insincerely than that she should roll her eyes.  And given that I was a helpless traveller, had Martha rolled her eyes, I would have been justified in complaining bitterly in the British Airways survey I was sent just now.

I am sorry I didn't have a box in which to report Mary's kind remark. However, I did praise Martha's grace under pressure. If she was annoyed  by my interruption, she behaved very well, and I acknowledge that I was in the wrong, if only because it was way past my bedtime.

INCIDENTALLY: Although I recommend skipping  This Is Where I Leave You, a morally vacuous film, I do heartily encourage those of you who don't mind cartoon violence to see Scarlett Johanssen in Lucy. There's a lot of shooting and some blood, but no gruesome shots of heads exploding and, most importantly, although a bad guy sticks his hand down Lucy's top (the one sexual assault) and kicks her in the stomach, there is no rape. And Scarlett kicks butt.  I very much enjoyed seeing Scarlett kicking butt, not to mention gradually becoming way smarter than everyone else. And there's time travel. Truly a fantastic trapped-in-an-airplane movie. Thanks, British Airways! 

Thursday 26 February 2015

The Creative Genius of Outer Children

I'm home in Edinburgh with wicked jet lag. I didn't sleep a wink on the flight to London, and I didn't have any kind of nap until I got on my second plane. Thus, I might commit more typos than usual.

I had a very good time overall, but what really strikes me, as I slowly read through Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, is that I spent an unusual amount of time playing with children.

Pirate--well, Pirate plays a lot of video games, and I really hate video games, so I didn't play with Pirate like I did in the old days. (And it really was too cold to play outdoors.) However, he is learning how to play chess, and he taught me the rudiments, so we did play chess.

Mostly I played with younger children,  highly imaginative children who already have strong interest in the arts. I spent a lot of time with my niece Popcorn, drawing and colouring, admiring and choosing clothing, listening to her sing and watching her dance. I built things with her older brother Peanut, who loves to play out battle scenes with his Asterix figurines, with other figurines to supplement the Romans, so that the Romans aren't outrageously outnumbered by the Gauls, and with knights and other toy soldiers. He loves acting parts, especially the Sheriff.

Back in Toronto, I found myself entertaining my friend Lily's sons, Thing 1 and Thing 2. (Thing 1's paintings are quite interesting and pleasing to the eye.) They became entranced with one of the photos on my tablet: it is a tableau of two duelling frogs at the moment one stabs the second. I think the frogs are real==preserved by a brilliant taxidermist long ago. To answer the boys' questions, I made up spontaneous stories about the frogs, full of intrigue, kidnappings, lovers' triangles and violence. Thing 1 and Thing 2 were rapt; this was very flattering.

"That was very exciting!" declared Thing 1, cementing my eternal love for him.

I suspect that doing art--of any kind--with children is a really great way to foster one's own creativity. And now I am severely nappish.

Wednesday 25 February 2015

Seraphic Goes to Prison

But only to visit a prisoner. Stay tuned for the articles. 

I was not allowed to bring pen, pencil, tape recorder or anything except my locker key into the visiting room, so I concentrated as much as I could on the conversation.  The experience was very rewarding but seriously intense, and now I am exhausted.

In other news, I spent an hour or so entertaining three boys under six. The ones old enough to speak were transfixed by my photograph of duelling frogs. The babe in arms stopped yelling when I sang "Edelweiss" to him and almost fell asleep to "Too-rah-loo-rah-loo-rah." All babies are suckers for "Edelweiss" and "Too-rah-loo-rah-loo-rah." If necessary, add "Skye Boat Song" and Elvis hits. 

Then I bought two Polish CDs and went to my youngest brother's birthday supper.

Tomorrow I fly back to the UK. 

Tuesday 24 February 2015

Aunting is Easy

"Auntie, I want to colour Jesus!"
I'm back in Toronto after a fun four days away. The visit reminded me that nobody starts a family; you just add to the one you have already. My parents added me to both sides of their family when I was born, and then added four more sprigs as time went on. Then one sister had a sprig, and my brother added a wife, and then together they had a sprig, and then I added a husband, and my brother and his wife added another sprig.  We're an ever-expanding tree, or interwoven trees.

When my brother got married, he gave me a new sister, and when they had children, they gave me a new nephew and then B.A. and me a niece, and their parents grandchildren, and their nephew cousins. Meanwhile, they were given a host of uncles and aunts at birth, thanks to their four grandparents. 

It would be hard to say when my married brother's family started, so I'll posit Adam and Eve

At any rate, my familial roles--adult daughter/sister/aunt/wife --are some of the easiest, made even easier because I live so far from everyone in the family except B.A.  I very much enjoy my role as Holiday Daughter-Hostess, and I also enjoy visiting my nephews and niece and never having to shout at them or discipline them in any way. When things get out of control, I just say, "Oh, [nephew], you are making me very nervous. I think I forgot to take my pill. Did I take my pill?"  Then I run away. 

Oops. I lie. I did whine a bit on Sunday when I was writing a column and Popcorn and Peanut were having a noisy battle beside me. However when my niece barged into her aunt-occupied room while I was on the phone with a colleague,  it was another story. 

Me: [Snarling] "And I think that's just outrageous and if he thinks he can get away with ---- [Sweetly] Oh, hello, Popcorn sweetie, Auntie's working so could you go out and shut the door ? Thanks. [Snarling] If he thinks he can get away with this, he can think again!

Colleague: "Well, I know! And I can't STAND that kind of--Honey, will you give that to your mother? Take it to your mother...."

As Colleague and I shouted our agreements at each other, Popcorn drew portraits of green men and slid them under the door. 

My auntie duties were very light and most enjoyable. They were as follows:

1. bringing presents
2. paying attention
3. drawing pictures
4. helping colour the pictures
5.  building a castle
6. building a prison
7. random acts of tidying and toy-finding
8. counselling a nephew having a meltdown ("She hates me!" "No, she doesn't. She LOVES you." "She won't pay attention to me!" "She'll play with you tomorrow." "She won't!")
9. becoming personally involved in a battle between a woolly rabbit and whatever that was
10. occasional niece-dressing
11. preventing unwarranted karate attacks
12. apologizing for saying "Crap" over the phone after seeing niece had snuck in to listen

Meanwhile my brother and his wife were busy from dawn till well after dusk. So I must admit that aunting is easy.

Saturday 21 February 2015

Coffee to my Cake

"Auntie" by Auntie and Popcorn. She misses Uncle.
It's Seraphic Singles Saturday, and I am really beginning to miss my husband Benedict Ambrose. Saint Paul recommends that spouses take time away from each other for prayer, but not too much. And apparently British men, at very least, should take time away for boys' nights and maybe even a he-man camping tip. I take time away to see my family, but in this case a spouse would not at all get "in the way". When I was at the village café on Thursday, I had a piece of maple cake that was delicious in itself (and how!) but cried out for a cup of coffee.  I am starting to think of B.A. as that cup of coffee. I want him here!

It would have been amazing, and I would have been saved a lot of sorrow, had I known from age 9 or so that B.A. was waiting for me in the future, just as I know that B.A. is currently waiting for me at home and I'll see him (God willing) some time on Thursday. If my faith in God's plan for me had been as strong as my belief that I'll see B.A. next week, I would have had something much closer to the serenity of knowledge. Oh me of little faith.

Meanwhile, I have been visiting more formerly Single pals. Life works such enormous and amusing changes. The friend who wailed, "Where is [the One]?" is happily married, with chickens in her urban garage because the coop is too cold. The friend who was equally worried about the advent of the One is also happily married, has three children under seven and looks a little tired. The friend who was a fiery urban opera singer is living in Vermont, heavily pregnant, chasing a toddler, married to a farmer with movie-star good looks.

"Everyone is on a different schedule," a Catholic cop who grew up in my parish once told me, and I found that of enormous comfort. It's true. If you really want to get married--and this means you actually enjoy the company of the opposite sex as it is (or we are) and you have a good grasp of what marriage actually is--then you probably will get married. To be brutally frank, any of us Westerners could get a spouse from the Third World (or Russia) with a few emails and American dollars, but we don't, do we?

We don't because the "marriage" we can buy is not the marriage we want. We recognize that marriage begins in friendship. Marriage is the ultimate in human friendships--"friendship caught fire", as Ann Landers (I think) once said.

Sexual attraction can make or break a male-female friendship. The unselfish friend who does not want to marry the friend in love with him/her leaves that friend alone to recover and, hopefully, find another friend to marry. The unselfish rejected suitor takes his/her disappointment on the chin and goes away for awhile, not to stew in bitterness, but to see the beloved with greater objectivity. People who are neither inclined to marry the attractive person nor able to inspire a deep depression in him/he, can--spouse and culture permitting--keep up a light flirtation for forty years. (Yes, I know Mary Crawford of Mansfield Park said something similar. IMHO, Mary Crawford gets a bad rap. Who would you rather talk to at a party, eh, Fanny or Mary?)

I must write another post on flirtation soon. Flirtation, when honest and mutually agreeable, is great training against the seductions of men from outside the Anglosphere. All over the world there are women who know that when 99% of the men of the world say "OMG, you are so beautiful I'm in love with you and I want to marry you and have children with you" to random women they barely know, they are lying.  When I was forty, dressed as Dame Maggie Smith, pushing Hilary White around her Mediterranean town in a wheelchair, teenage boys playing soccer in the street gazed at me with bedroom eyes crying  "Che bellezza!" What nonsense. Anglosphere men almost never say such delightful things to women, so we are suckers for les autres.

Well, that is a different post (or two) entirely. To sum up this post:

1. B.A. marvellous and worth waiting for.

2. God has many wonderful surprises in store for people who respect themselves and others and enjoy the company of the opposite sex.

3. Everyone is on a different schedule.

4. Sexual attraction makes a wonderful servant but, as we oldies know, a lousy master.

5. Marriage is rooted in, and begins with, friendship.

Friday 20 February 2015

David's Trouble

Whenever I am in Toronto, I run around having brunch, lunch and dinner with everyone I know. I have a lot of friends and acquaintances (and a few enemies, too, it must be admitted, alas) from different walks of life, faiths, politics and even...ahhh.....philosophies within the Catholic faith. I did my theological training with the SJ, after all. I toddle off to the TLM, and I adore my Jesuit/Ignatian pals. 

On Tuesday I had a late lunch with a dear friend who is a Tarot-reading Wiccan. She offered to read my cards, and I explained that as a strict Catholic I couldn't have heread my cards.

"But you told me about Von Balthasar and Meditations on the Tarot!" protested my pal.

"I know," I said sheepishly. I had thought at the time that it might be the way to open up a Catholic-Wiccan dialogue. "But B.A. is very, very strict and he wouldn't like it."

("You said NO, right?" asked B.A. when I told him of this offer. "Otherwise you might be travelling home with demons in your suitcase!")

Yes, I said no. Meanwhile, I hope you are all more shocked with me hanging out with my Wiccan pal (who is really very nice and a talented artist) than you will be to read I had lunch last week with Vox Cantoris, whose long-simmering feud (about which I could say much but won't) with a certain Vatican functionary from Rochester, NY, has become international Catholic blog news.  I mean, when Michael Voris interviews you on his show--holy guacamole. 

It was a very good lunch: I had żurek and cheddar cheese pierogi. (Yes, cheddar cheese is not traditional for pierogi, but Canadians love cheddar pierogi.) What did Vox have? Schnitzel, I think. We talked about Bishop Pearse Lacey, whom Vox knew as a very old man, and also Mary Wagner, who is currently in prison "for life". Little did we know that Vox would become a Catholic blogging cause celebre within a week.

I suppose I could comment at length, but I feel a chill coming on. So I will confine myself to the following statements:

1. Niche television is dead and began to die when blogging was born. The internet is here to stay, and everybody gets to play. Whoever has the most (and the most generous) readers wins.  

2. As the laity has been told that they, too, are "priest, prophet and king" it should not be surprising that the laity--in particular the well-read laity--now have a lot to say about doctrine, theology and what's going on in Rome. 

3. As the Canadian laity have been humiliated by thirty years of revelations of Canadian clerical abuse of boys, teenage boys and seminarians, capped off with the news that Bishop Lahey of Antigonish had been in a homosexual relationship for a decade by the date of his trial for possession of child po*n, it may be understandable that we get a bit snippy about priests who insult the laity, not to mention the Holy Family. Automatic forelock-tugging deference is gone like the beautiful pre-1965 interiors of our churches. 

4. The priest threatening Vox did me a good turn many years ago.  

5. I fervently hope that the lawsuit does not go forward. It would be a terrible scandal, eroding even further Canadian respect for the priesthood.  I am not worried about the anti-Catholic Canadian media--this priest is one of the two or three they like. But I am worried about Joe and Mary Catholic and any financial and spiritual harm to Vox and his Fox, who are also Joe and Mary Catholic. And who knows what this will do to Catholic  bloggers' attitudes towards the Vatican, especially in light of the oncoming Synod! 

Thursday 19 February 2015

Maple Sugar

I have not been lynched by the CWL. (They were very nice and welcoming.) No, I am in deepest Quebec, visiting my brother, his wife and their children.  Today I am a full time aunt. Also I am high on maple sugar. 

I have rendered several members of my family into pencil-and-ink drawings and my niece Popcorn, home from day care to keep me company, has been drawing them. Ink and crayon, we have discovered, are not best friends.

Not sure where mommy bloggers find time to blog, to be honest.

Update: Now I have built an Usbourne castle. When B.A. and I bought it, I never pondered that I'd have to put it together.... Thankfully the instructions were aunt-friendly.

Tuesday 17 February 2015

Seraphic Goes to the Parish Church

Today is Traddie Tuesday, the day of the week I dedicate to would-be converts who are scandalized by their local Catholic parish liturgy and/or the "nudge, nudge, wink, wink" attitude of the functional Deists running their convert classes.

This morning I will take my life in my hands by reflecting on my experiences at the ordinary Sunday Novus Ordo my family attends every week. I'm going to say mostly nice things, Aged P.  The parish priest is a good and kindly man I met years ago.  He is also completely compos mentis, unlike his immediate predecessor, of whom the most charitable thing that can be said is that he was barking mad and so couldn't help it. So delighted am I that my parents' parish have finally been gifted with a splendid priest that I actually told my mother that I would go there on Sunday, and so had to go.

People are always writing about how weird Trid Mass seems after a lifetime of going to the NO, but I can tell you that it is always startling to go to an English-language parish NO after years of going to the TLM, making exceptions only for the Polish Mass three or four times a year. There are so many differences.

The first obvious difference was the altar girls in their red cassocks and white cottas. There was one male server, but he was a seminarian, born and mostly raised abroad. The littler one was adorably sweet, but her attention did flag as she gazed at the children's choir.

The children's choir is a new institution. It is parked at the side of the church--not the back--but it is not an immediate distraction from the altar--unless of course you're on the altar. So far the choir is composed of four or five little girls and my nephew Pirate. As yet they do not really know how to sing, but it's early days yet and the choirmaster, a young man, sang along with the very possibly petrified pint-sized cantor.

But I am ahead of myself. Mass began with a laywoman lector welcoming us and telling us what to do, i.e. stand and welcome our "presider."

"Priest," muttered Seraphic as she stood. At the TLM, we have a bell for that.

The Introit opening hymn was "Sing a New Song." I am not making that up.

The procession ended at the chairs to the right side of the altar. I am happy to report that the Tabernacle was in the centre, where it belongs. Naturally once the presider was in the sanctuary, he never turned his face away from us. (The seminarian took the ciborium from the Tabernacle. Yes, I know.)

"The Lord be with you."

"And with your spirit."

"It's cold out there, isn't it?"

"Uh huh!"

You know how it goes. I once checked the text of the Novus Ordo and welcoming remarks do appear to be in it, as a possibility, I mean. Therefore, Trads can't really blame the priest if he acknowledges that the weather has made it harder to get to Mass. The possibility is in the black.

As absolutely never happens in the TLM, there was a gathering together of the Sunday School classes and a sending of them away. One little boy was wearing a soccer shirt emblazoned with the name of the god Ronaldo. I thought that mildly amusing. The most inappropriate shirt I ever saw on a child at Mass said "I sold my soul for rock 'n' roll."

First reading, read by layperson: Leviticus. Hebrews simply awful to the lepers.

(Evelyn Waugh once complained that the TLM used WAY more texts from the Old Testament than the NO does, despite the First readings. I don't remember a mention of the old rules concerning lepers, however.)

Psalm: Debut of tiny cantor.  Not the Psalm for the day, however, so much squinting of hymn board and flipping though pages by congregation.

Second reading, read by layperson: Don't rightly remember. Saint Paul's CV, possibly. My bad.

Gospel, read by priest:  Our Lord is very kind to the brave leper.

Homily: Good solid homily--delivered with modest simplicity--on our Lord's kindness to the leper and the courage of the leper. My one quibble is that the priest called the homily his "reflection." Noooo. A "reflection" is what nuns and lay people give when for some extraordinary reason we are called on to preach. Priests give sermons or homilies. The more we erase the distinctions between priest and lay, the fewer priests we will have and the more "presiders" we will have to make do with.

Creed: Apostles'. I had to read it in the book because of the new translation.

I think there were Prayers of the Faithful, but I simply do not remember what they were. My bad. Neither can I remember what the Offertory Hymn was. The Lord's Prayer was prayed by all, I reading along with the book. The Sign of the Peace was interesting in that few people around me actually shook hands. They just nodded. (My family shook hands among ourselves.) The Canon was said at a slow, reverent pace, so it did not seem to zip right by, as it has done in the past. (Natually it was much shorter than that of the TLM.)

At communion I decided I would do the Traddy Compromise, which is to genuflect behind person in front of you, stand up and stick your tongue out. The danger here is that the person behind you might walk into you as you genuflect, so if it's your dad, you should probably warn him ahead of time. (And try for a sideways kind of genuflection.) Meanwhile, the splendid new p.p. is rather short, so I did a sort of half-curtsy while sticking my tongue out. He didn't bat an eye, bless him.

Needless to say, there was no altar rail, there were Extraordinary Ministers and many, perhaps most, people received on their unconsecrated hands, as has been customary at that parish for at least thirty years.

As I knelt down after receiving communion to pray, the choir burst into "Here I am Lord", and I realized that the biggest and most distracting difference in the Ordinary Form is the almost total lack of silence. Either the priest is talking, the bells are ringing or the choir and congregation are singing hymns. It makes it seriously difficult to meditate and pray.

The recessional hymn was to the tune of Ode to Joy. Mass was done in approximately 50 minutes, a contrast to the 1.5 hours of the Sunday Missa Cantata.

There was no real chance to enter into deep prayer after Mass either although some kneeling people made an attempt at it (and perhaps they were successful) because of the roar of chatter.

There was no After Mass Tea. Off to the frozen snowy parking lot we went.

The altar girls did not pelt me with snowballs. So far I have not been chastised for saying in the paper that we may need to discourage the service of altar girls and altar women to foster more vocations to the priesthood, but I am going to a CWL meeting tonight, so it is a distinct possibility.

Monday 16 February 2015

When Your Gal Pal Goes Crazy

Occasionally I get an "Auntie Seraphic" letter from a reader saddened by the insanely self-defeating behaviour of a female friend. The reader often sounds as if she is at her wits' end over her friend, and invariably I will start my reply by asking, "How are you?"

I am always more interested in the reader than in her friend-gone-crazy because there is absolutely nothing I can do for the friend-gone-crazy. I can do something for my reader, and it is to shock her into considering her own mental and physical health.

Craziness is contagious, and women who get over-involved in their friends sexual/romantic/addiction misfortunes can start deteriorating themselves. I once raced out of work to hunt the bars for an alcoholic boyfriend; that's when I knew for sure I had become a co-dependent.

It hurts very much to see a friend behave incredibly stupidly over a man. Recently I had an email from a reader who had been a good influence on a culturally Catholic friend and  accompanied her on a journey to become spiritually Catholic. The friend is classically beautiful so in her wild days had no trouble attracting and bedding men although winning a husband was, of course, a different story. She keeps loneliness at bay with the bottle and recently met a foreigner, a man of a different culture,* over a non-Catholic dating website.

The man was wonderful and told her how beautiful she was and how much he was in love with her, and she believed all that. Then he asked her for sex, and she said no. He immediately lost interest, and she was sad. So sad, in fact, that she began to chase him and, indeed, went to bed with him. He then told her that he would be really mad if they did not remain friends. And, by the time my reader wrote to me, the friend was behaving like a lunatic: making serious mistakes at work, drinking, weeping, wanting to call the guy up for comfort, wanting revenge,  wanting to have deep "closure" conversations with him. My reader was terrified that her friend was going to lose her high-pressure job. What could she do?

Nothing. Honestly nothing except to take the phone calls when they are at reasonable hours (not 2 AM) and listen. To say, over and over again:  You deserve better than him. Cut your losses. He doesn't matter.  To say, Don't call him, without investing one ounce of ego into it, so that she isn't hurt when her friend goes ahead and calls him anyway.

I didn't think of it at the time, but it must have been a slap in the face of my reader, who may have thought she was a real influence in her beautiful friend's life, helping bring her back to Christ, to find out that some two-bit seducer off a dating site had even MORE influence. That must hurt like hell, if it comes as a surprise.

It does not come as a surprise to me because with the exception of addiction to alcohol or illegal drugs, the most powerful think I can think of is sexual attraction. It takes social agreement, serious discipline, a well-informed conscience or servile fear, and grace to withstand the siren call of sex, especially in an age that talks about it ALL THE TIME. (And here am I talking about it, too.) The one time I can think of friends being able to stop the power of sex in its tracks is at some club with the girl being drunk and one friend taking one arm and the other friend taking her other arm and literally marching her out and away from the guy she has just met.

Wishful thinking is also very potent. Sex doesn't even have to come into it. Another reader has a friend who has bludgeoned her boyfriend, after years of chaste dating, into proposing marriage. Months later, there is still no wedding date. And another reader has a friend who has already been told by the guy that he's not interested but she follows him around anyway. What can the readers do? Nothing. Speak their minds once--possibly risking the friendship--and that's it.  If these women are willing to sacrifice their youth, beauty and fertile years on men who are just not into them, that is their business. It's sad--it's downright tragic--but there is nothing anyone else can do about it.

Oh, there is prayer. Prayer is amazing. I have been praying for an impossible situation for twenty years, and slowly but surely the situation is improving. In twenty more years, who knows what further progress will have been made?

*That's a whole other post. For now, let's just say that if you think he's attractive because he's "exotic", which is sex-tinged racism, he might think you are "easy meat", which is also sex-tinged racism. This is a huge problem in the UK right now.

Here's some "disco polo" from a strangely ugly boy band to cheer us all up. "Jesteś szalona" means "You're a crazy girl."