Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for January, 2012

I finally saw The Artist at the weekend. It’s great fun – I came out smiling. But I wouldn’t say it’s a great film. The two central characters are just not interesting enough to carry the film. I’m not sure if this is intentional. Maybe they are symbols of all the silent-movie characters who had to emote and over-act and gesticulate, but couldn’t reveal any emotional depth. I think it’s probably just a weakness in the screenplay: the lead male, especially, was basically a spoilt teenager; and the resolution [minor plot spoiler coming up...] was just him getting his toys back. I’m not complaining, just reflecting!

But the psychological experience of watching a silent film for the first time in years was interesting. I was more detached as an observer. I was more aware of my own experience of watching the film, as if there was a kind of veil between me and the situation on the screen in front of me. I was less caught up in the imaginary reality of the story, but enjoying it just as much.

It made me realise that in a normal cinema experience, it’s as if I am inside the world being portrayed in the film – lost in it. But in this silent experience, it was as if the film was in my head, and I was conscious of myself watching it, and of the film becoming a part of me – but not taking over. Put it another way, I didn’t lose my self-consciousness; or my ‘consciousness-of-self’ as the French put it (because they don’t have the reflexive use of ‘self’). Interesting.

What did you think of the film?

Read Full Post »

Don’t worry, this is not going to be a xenophobic rant. I had supper with a German friend at the weekend, who has lived in France for many years, and has just spent a few weeks in London improving her English.

We got onto the difference between the French and the English, and it was interesting having her fairly objective viewpoint as someone who has lived in both countries as an outsider.

She said that the French, in the way they think and argue, are more abstract. They start with first principles and work outwards to the nitty-gritty of reality. The English are more concrete, more empirical. They start with things, stuff, examples, case-studies, and only then try to draw some more general conclusions from the specific instances.

She also put the same point in another way: that the French work by deduction, and the English by induction.

It struck me that this, if it’s true, is exemplified by our measuring systems, metric and imperial. A metre length is just an idea. It’s not based on anything ordinary or everyday or natural. Yes, there is a bar of platinum-iridium in a vault in Paris that used to be the standard measure of a metre, for reference (although this system has been surpassed now). But the bar, the metre, was created by the French mind – a mind imposing order on the world.

The imperial system – take the foot as an example – is based on (wait for it…) the foot! The whole system of measurement is based on the length of a man’s foot (a man’s and not a woman’s…). You see the world, and measure it, and understand it, in terms of something concrete; you see and understand one aspect of reality in the perspective of another aspect of reality. In the imperial system, man is – literally – the measure of all things; not a metal bar in Paris.

It sounds like I am defending the English way. Not really. There are advantages to each way; and the abstraction certainly appeals to me. And anyway, the French won! The metre rules the world. I’m just noticing the philosophical differences in world-view that are embodied in something as benign as a unit of measure; and how that connects with a German’s perception of English-French differences.

[Update: I received some good criticism in the comments, which I wanted to copy here, about my failure to mention the origin of the metre. E.g. this from Roger: 'Sorry, Fr Stephen, as a physicist I can’t let you get away with that one – the metre was originally intended to be one ten-millionth of the distance from the Earth’s equator to the North Pole. If it’s “just an idea” it’s a very practical one!' To which I replied: 'Thanks Roger. OK – the metre, like the foot, starts in the concrete world. I’d still say the way it was arrived at reflects a different mentality, a more abstract kind of reasoning (taking a distance that can only be established by careful scientific investigation and then dividing it by ten million to establish a length that is more connected with everyday human life) – that reflects something about the difference between a more deductive mindset and a more empirical one.' The metre, despite the geographical origin, is definitely 'a product of the mind'; the foot is 'a product of experience' - I think.]

Read Full Post »

That’s it. You don’t need to read the post – it’s all in the title.

What a great phrase! We all know those management and self-help rules: that getting anything done requires you to make priorities, that you need to make decisions about what you are not going to do as much as about what you are going to do, that often you need the courage to say no, etc.

I got the phrase from Tom Peters, The Little Big Things, who got it from someone else.

In Peters’ words at the end of this section:

So, top of your “to-do” list for today is immediately beginning work on your “to-don’t” list!

And he quotes John Sawhill, who took over the strategic thinking for a huge environmental charity called Nature Conservancy, and asked the question:

What areas should the Conservancy focus on, and more important – what activities should we STOP? [Peters' italics]

Profound stuff…

Read Full Post »

The homily at Mass is usually about Holy Scripture – and rightly so. There are lots of passages in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) where the natural link between Scripture and liturgical preaching is made explicit. (See a pdf of the English and Welsh version here; and a webpage with the US version here.)

St Paul preaching in Corinth

Here is one example:

Although in the readings from Sacred Scripture God’s word is addressed to all people of every era and is understandable to them, nevertheless, a fuller understanding and a greater effectiveness of the word is fostered by a living commentary on the word, that is, the homily, as part of the liturgical action. [#29]

And another here:

For in the readings, as explained by the homily, God speaks to his people, opening up to them the mystery of redemption and salvation, and offering them spiritual nourishment; and Christ himself is present in the midst of the faithful through his word. [#55]

But it’s worth remembering that in the main GIRM section about the nature of the homily (#65-66), it is explicitly stated that the homily does not always have to be about the Scripture readings. The ‘terms of reference’ are wider:

[The homily] should be an exposition of some aspect of the readings from Sacred Scripture or of another text from the Ordinary or from the Proper of the Mass of the day and should take into account both the mystery being celebrated and the particular needs of the listeners.

So there is an invitation here, if it is appropriate, to preach about other texts from the Mass, whether they are the prayers from the Ordinary of the Mass, or Proper prayers for a particular Sunday, feast-day, votive Mass, etc. And that will obviously include, insofar as they come up in the Proper prayers, the feasts and saints themselves that are being celebrated that day.

I mention this in passing just because I happened to preach about the Collect (the opening prayer) last week, for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, at the Sunday morning Masses in the parish I was visiting. It’s the first time I’d ever done this explicitly – just to spend the whole hour of the homily (joke! 10 minutes…) examining and opening up the theological riches of the Collect. It’s much easier and much more rewarding with the new translation.

I also mention it because now and then you meet a fervent Catholic who becomes incensed if someone has not preached about the Scripture readings or mentioned them in the homily. I’m not, as a rule, advising anyone to ignore Scripture – of course not. But I’m just pointing out that there may be occasions when the homily takes a different focus, and looks at the prayers of the Mass; and that this is perfectly in line with what the Church is asking of her preachers.

Here, by the way, is the beautiful Collect that I was so keen to speak about. First the Latin:

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus,
qui caelestia simul et terrena moderaris,
supplicationibus populi tui clementer exaudi,
et pacem tuam nostris concede temporibus
.

And then the various translation possibilities (from Fr Z at WDTPRS).

LITERAL RENDERING:
Almighty eternal God,
who at the same time does govern things heavenly and earthly,
mercifully hearken to the supplications of Your people,
and grant Your peace in our temporal affairs
.

OBSOLETE ICEL (1973):
Father of heaven and earth,
hear our prayers, and show us the way
to peace in the world
.

NEW CORRECTED ICEL (2011):
Almighty ever-living God,
who govern all things,
both in heaven and on earth,
mercifully hear the pleading of your people
and bestow your peace on our times.

Read Full Post »

To procrastinate:

to defer action; to put off what should be done immediately [Chambers]

It’s exam time in Allen Hall, so I’m guessing (without judging our seminarians at all!) that the demon of ‘procrastination’ is in the air.

Rebecca Ratcliffe writes about the daily struggle as a student to actually get down to things, especially with the internet staring you in the face. Some of the tips are useful for the rest of us non-students as well.

The spectre of the second term, with its attendant horrors of essay deadlines and January exams, is looming. But as we reflect on the negligible amount of work we completed over the Christmas break, let’s soberly consider our new year’s resolutions.

Pledges not to run up astronomical library fines or drink any more cans of Relentless have probably been sworn by students up and down the country. But this year’s promises will be dominated by the mother of all academic resolutions – to stop procrastinating.

The irresistible desire to put off until tomorrow what should be done today afflicts ooh, I don’t know, 99% of students? What I do know is that it’s by no means a new phenomenon – the term “procrastination” was first used in the 1500s. But it’s reached new heights among those battling the distractions of Facebook, Twitter and instant messaging.

If procrastination is the thief of time, the internet is its most insidious accomplice, delaying work one small click at a time.

But fear not, dawdling scholars, there is help out there. Firefox extensions are an easy way to curb stray clicking: LeechBlock can block distracting websites from loading during specified time periods – you could set it to make Facebook available only between 6 and 7pm. And the desktop program RescueTime can provide a breakdown of how you have spent your time online.

Here are some tips she has plucked from the seasonal crop of self-help books:

Remind yourself of past successes.

You will procrastinate less if you boost your belief in the relevance of your work and your ability to succeed, according to Dr Piers Steel’s book The Procrastination Equation.

Shut out the world with some noise reduction headphones.

Perfect for anyone distracted by noise, say Pamela Dodd and Doug Sundheim’s in The 25 Best Time Management Tools and Techniques. And if your flatmates are still refusing to turn the heating on, they can double up as ear warmers.

Don’t miss out on a good night’s sleep.

A clear head is the key to a better memory and academic success, says Lynn Rowe in How to Beat Procrastination – and you’ll save money by cutting down on cans of the aforementioned Relentless.

Move.

If you feel yourself getting distracted, do something physical like standing up and stepping away from your computer screen, Michael Heppel advises in How to Save an Hour Every Day.

Just get started.

“A job begun is a job half done,” Timothy A Pychyl reminds us in The Procrastinator’s Digest.

Well go on then.

I haven’t looked at all these sites yet. RescueTime sounds terrifying – let us know in the comments if you have tried it…

Read Full Post »

Here is some information from the Westminster Diocese website about an event for women discerning a call to consecrated life.

Day for Consecrated Life logo

On 4 February 2012 women aged 20-40 are invited to a special day of discernment.

In 1997 Pope John Paul II instituted a ‘World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life’ on February 2nd, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. Each year since then the Church has thanked God for the gift of the different forms of consecrated life, and prayed that our world will continue to be enriched by the lives and witness of consecrated men and women.

In 2012, Westminster Diocese will mark this ‘World Day of Prayer’ in a new way. On Saturday February 4th, there will be a day for women interested in finding out more about consecrated life;  a ‘Come and See’ experience from a ‘neutral’ perspective, held in the Carmelite Priory in Kensington Church Street. The idea is that it will enable women to make a first step into exploring what consecrated life is, with the opportunity to ask questions and interact with religious and with others who are discerning their vocation.

A variety of women religious (representing both active and enclosed congregations) will speak about consecrated life and how to discern if God is calling a person to this way of life. There will also be time set aside for prayer, with both Mass and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

If you, or anyone you know might be interested in attending the day please contact Fr Richard Nesbitt for more details at richardnesbitt@rcdow.org.uk

Read Full Post »

For any young adults living within striking distance of London, Soul Food is starting another Life in the Spirit Seminar this week – details copied below. You can see the website here. They are a great group, and I can highly recommend them.

The Life in the Spirit Seminar is a series of talks, worship, scripture, sharing and testimonies that helps us to encounter God’s immense love for us. It opens us up to the power of the Holy Spirit so that we can deepen our personal relationship with Christ and receive the gift of freedom and happiness that he wants for each one of us.

What is the structure of the Life in the Spirit Seminar?

The Life in the Spirit Seminar is made up of 9 sessions and will run mostly on Thursdays from 7 to 9pm at St Charles Borromeo Church, Ogle Street, W1W 6HS:

19th Jan: Session 1 – Welcome and Witness

26th Jan: Session 2 – The Father’s Love

2nd  Feb: Session 3 – Search and Rescue

9th  Feb: Session 4 – Salvation through Jesus

Fri 10th – Sun 12th Feb: Weekend Retreat at the Wycliffe Centre in Buckinghamshire, covering sessions 5 to 7.

Session 5: New Heart, New Spirit

Session 6: Come Holy Spirit

Session 7: Learn to walk, Learn to run

16th Feb: Session 8 – Life in the Spirit: Prayer

23rd Feb  Session 9 – Life in the Spirit: Sacraments & The Church

The format for most sessions will be praise and worship, followed by teaching, personal testimonies and small group sharing. The Life in the Spirit Seminar is a journey of discovery undertaken together as a community so, to get the most out of the series, it is key that you are able to attend all the sessions as well as the retreat weekend.

Please take this opportunity to invite other people who you feel will benefit from attending the Life in the Spirit Seminar.

Weekend Retreat.

The weekend retreat takes place from the evening of Friday 10th February until the afternoon of Sunday 12th February at the Wycliffe Centre in Buckinghamshire.

Although the Life in the Spirit Seminar is free, there is a charge of £135 for the weekend retreat [snip...]

What if I cannot attend the weekend retreat?

You will get the most from the Life in the Spirit Seminar by coming on the weekend retreat but if you cannot come, you are still more than welcome to register and attend the Thursday evening sessions. We will make specific arrangements for people in this situation.

Can I come just for the weekend retreat?

No. The retreat is designed to consolidate and build on the teaching from the Thursday evenings, the scripture prayer programme and the small group sharing over the weeks preceding it.

Still not convinced?

Then read this article on the internet about a previous Life in the Spirit Seminar!

Yes please – how do I register?

Register here

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,273 other followers

%d bloggers like this: