Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Preparing for Christmas

Ahh the delights of Christmas. I mean the tinsel and baubles and fake snow and EVERYTHING.

So shopping has started early. I found cheap tinsel in a local supermarket and intend to turn my office into a veritable wonderland! I don't care that it's not Christmas yet. The boys go during Advent and we all deserve a bit of sparkle.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

The Mysterious Case of the Blue Tongued Monster

Occasionally you come across quite bizarre things as a Chaplain Abroad. You read in the news papers about holiday makers who went off on their holiday of a life time to some far flung place. They spend their time on the beaches sunning themselves and tasting and experiencing the local delicacies - revelling in everything that the locale has to offer. When they come home, of course, they are riddled with parasites and flesh eating antelope who by some unmentionable path have managed to get themselves in their lower bowel.

Example of the lesser spotted flesh eating antelope, which often inhabits the lower bowel.
(please note that the existence of the lesser spotted bowel-dwelling flesh-eating antelope is still questioned by some authorities)
Now I am quite aware that I would have to be a pretty terrible Johnny Englander to parallel France to the rich savannahs grazed by those worrisome antelope. But I must say that some things are qiute different here. I still have no meaningful idea why towels are so expensive, and I do not understand why or how a French Doctor can give a boy a sick note so that he does not have to do the one sport that he hates, but can do the ones he likes just because of some strange illness that has to do with not having the right shoes or a bit of a twinge in the elbow or some such nonsense.

Now I seem to remember, but don't quote me on this, that you have to cut out all the extraneous stuff to see what's left. Actually I think that that was Sherlock Holmes who said that and not Ockham, but never mind. Yes, definitely Sherlock Holmes "when you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

And these thoughts come to you regularly when you are a chaplain and a teacher in a boys school. I am well aware of the tongue colouring effects of certain sweets. How I remember from my own youth the delights of black jacks. Just the thought of them turns my tongue black and licoricy.

So how is a man supposed to respond to a boys blue tongue? Answer me that. A blatant blue tongue. And in the middle of study. A blue tongue can only have come about by the eating of Bubble Gum Smaak or the like (highly sugared and colourant enriched sweety delights). The boys are not allowed to eat during study so there must have been illicit eating going on.

Ah the horrors of disobedience! The deception as he swears to me that he has not eaten anything!

But blue tongues are not normal in boys - they do not happen in nature. Even a French Doctor would find it hard to explain away that one (while giving out spurious medical notes). It's not as if they are lizards or anything. So how are we to explain a boy with a blue tongue who swears that he has not eaten sweets?

So there I was on my high horse, full of righteousness and fury, about to bring down condemnation on the poor sinner, to show him the errors of his ways and reveal to him the way from blue bonbons and their tell-tale tongue-turning tricks to the paths of honesty and not lying to Father ness.

And then I saw it... the leaking pen... the ink stained fingers... and I remembered the rather odd habit of certain boys sticking either end of a pen into their mouths.

Not lizards. Not secret sweet eaters. Not evil.

Just boys.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

St Martin's Basilica

The post below is about the Cathedral in Tours (and God on a rock) but St Martin also has a rather nice Basilica down the road. Their website is here.

In the crypt are the relics of the Saint.

It has that wonderful atmosphere of still bustling. People came and go, but the silent prayer is palpable.

The High Altar of the Basilica of  St Martin of Tours

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Saint Martin

On a recent trip to Tours, I went to the Cathedral and also to the Basilica of St Martin. The Basilica is new but really quite fine (not new as in concrete).

The Cathedral is a wonderful example of gothic, soaring to the heights, but slap bang in the middle is this rather odd rock.

well, you know, I'm sorry and all that but this is just down right weird. It's a rock. It's not an altar it's just some stone (might even be fake). Now if it were a piece of moon rock that would be SO cool. But I fear not. It's just some rock thing.

God on a rock.

Friday, 9 November 2012


Altar at Chavagnes International college

Every Sunday afternoon, we at Chavagnes have Exposition and Benediction. It is, of course, obligatory. The reason for this is that we human beings will usually do anything to get out of doing what we should do, and what we know is good for us.

It is a fine thing to have to sit in silence for a while in the presence of the Lord and have to do... nothing.

Life is too full of stuff. Too many words, too many distractions. Here all we have is the flickering of the candles and Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Stop for a while and remember the Lord your God.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Canterbury has a new man at the top

The Anglcan ecclesial community has a new leader, Justin Welby.

With his elevation it seems that Eton has taken over the world!!

(Prime Minister, Mayor of London, Prince William ... )

Obviously boys boarding schools are the place to be or have been. This year Eton, next year Chavagnes!

I already have an episcopal hat!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

St Hubert (a bit late)

St Hubert
St Hubert with his hunting horn
We have never been too bothered here in Chavagnes about time. And this includes liturgical time. So yesterday we celebrated St Hubert. He was a 7th century Bishop of Liege.

One Good Friday morning he went hunting rather than go to the Holy Ceremonies. As he went through the forest he saw a magnificent stag with a crucifix between its antlers. So astounded was he, that he took orders and ended up as the Bishop of Liege.

Stuffed Foxes and Pheasants

St Hubert with his horn
St Hubert them is associated with hunting. Thus the displays.

A lone boy faces the wrath of the matador
We had horn playing and venison to eat, with rabbit and Cognac Pate. Then the matador fights. It's is too dangerous to do it with bulls, so we used boys instead.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

The Tower of Babel

Brueghel's Tower of Babel
There is always a danger of copy-cat crimes. You know the argument. You cannot have mad blood crazed killing on television, or else everyone will go off and kill their friends in a horrible mirror image of the crime they had seen. Or that terrible series of cases when boys and girls from  all over the world started to levitate and turn their friends into cats and the like after the release of Harry Potter.

Cat in spectacles

So imagine my horror when I saw that the boys had listened to the Old Terstament stories that I had been telling them. Of course they being boys, they had conflated the stories of human sacrifice, the Towel of Babel and a bit of lying down.

This modern day horror must stop. I'm going to start a campaign.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Foie Gras - the Californians

Here is a report of the ban in California by the Huffington Post. We have Californians in the school. Of their own free will, they ate the foie gras.

Then the dog said goodbye to us.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Busy Doing Nothing

Usually I am quite cool about what I am doing. I know my getting up time and my going to bed time (though they do seem to be getting closer and closer together). I know when I am to say Mass and when I am to say my prayers. I know when my lessons are (though still some take me by surprise, like when I thought I was on my way to teach Brevet Mathematics and it turned out to be first year religion!). I know when I have a gap in my day to go to chapel and sit down by myself. To my shame the latter is not as often as it should be.

But it is an odd thing to have enforced doing nothingness.

I'm sitting at Southampton Airport and my flight is delayed two and a half hours. I've said my prayers. I'm putting off my Robert Ludlum novel (I justify it by persuading myself that because it is in French it is improving my vocabulary. That might be true but I'm not entirely sure when I'll use such espionage based words - actually no, scrub that: first year religion, that's when I'll use it).

But here I am " busy doing nothing" as the song from "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" so proudly proclaimed.

Even this blog post will soon come to an end. I can't bang on for another two hours. I can try...

At times like this my mind naturally floats to the metaphysical poet George Herbert. This pretentious statement belies the fact that I really do not like poetry (a fact that the English master and I often come to blows over). But one bit sticks in my mind. "Bit": technical term for a bit if poetry.

"A servant with this clause makes drudgery divine. Who sweeps a room as for thy cause makes that and the action fine."

This means that no matter what you're doing if it is done for the honour of God then it is good and beautiful and true. All can be turned to the worship of God, a worship that is His by right.

This is hard. Hard when you're sitting in an airport, but much harder on the normality of daily life with a dull job and dull chores. Sweeping a room, doing the dishes, driving to work, watching daytime TV.

But they can all be turned into a song making our soul sing to join in the infinite majesty of God's creation. The creature in harmony with his creator. Our voice blending with the music of the spheres and the wing beats of the angels.

So I'm off for a bacon sandwich to do my bit for the glory of God.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Prof Tina Beattie - the Saga Continues

It is quite instructive really that when something odd happens in some out of the way diocese, like Clifton, then there is no real outcry. But when it happens in America, then it has wider implications.

When the invitation to Prof Beattie to speak in Clifton Cathedral was withdrawn, then, apart from Bishop Lang's support for her, and clergy from the Diocese wrongly thinking I had written to the CDF (had I, then I would have had the good grace to inform the Bishop first - politeness should always be observed!), there was not too much fall out.

In parentheses I find the whole idea that a Bishop, a prince of the Church, a successor of the Apostles would go against something that he feels so strongly in (i.e. the professor's right to speak in his Cathedral and expresses her views on a subject that was not related to her published dissent) that he should bow to assumed pressure from me and others, is a sad indictment of the status and power of the teaching office of the local Church.

But when it comes to America then the stakes are much higher. I assume that the criticism leveled of the university in question, see the link here, is the equivalent of the "Hitler Debating Point". This goes that as soon as you compare someone to Hitler, then the argument is over. I assume that in the USA if you say that something is becoming more and more like the Soviet Union, then the same debating rules jump into place.

So what now?

Well... let's look at this for a moment from a pastoral side.

You simply cannot say that if I go along and address a group on a certain subject, then that group does not in some way validate something about the essence of who I am. If we got Bishop Williamson along to talk to us on 18th century lace making in the Netherlands, do you think that we are not making a statement about position in regard to him? And it would be one thing if we were a lace making group, but something very different if we were actually a revisionist history group. And do you think for a moment that at the end of his peroration on the use of various imported needles from the Rhineland no one would ask him a question about relations with Rome and the Holocaust? Get real!!! So when questions would have come to an individual who dissents from the teaching of the Church in the symbolic place of that Church's authority (the Cathedra of the Bishop) then there can be no response or reply that does not have implications - either to speak or not to speak puts you in relation to the place where you are. This is neither a lecture hall, nor a pub.

These distinctions are very clever, and very theologically nuanced. The people in the pew are not. They have better things to do with their lives, like live them. They see a speaker in the Cathedral, and to an biased mind this means that the Cathedral is in favour with their views. And this means all of their views, or at least the important ones. I am not known for my opinion of the best way to cook onions. And this is not a defining public characteristic of me. But the things I am known for are the things I am bothered about. And these are the things I will defend in all situations and at all opportunities. Like it or loathe it, it is the case. Were I to invite a white supremacist to my parish to give a talk on the politics of South Africa, I would be making a statement, and the woman in the pew would be quite right in thinking that I was wrong in my judgement because I was giving him a platform and a voice no matter what he was talking about. And if someone who did not have the time or inclination to come or to pick through his arguments, then it is a reasonable response to think that I approve of such a stance.

No, I am not comparing Prof Beattie to Hitler, Stalin, Williamson, a white supremacist, an advocate of the baked onion movement or anything else... I am saying that this was not good for the faith of Christ's lay faithful, and especially not for those who do not have time or inclination for theological argument.

So here's a conversation:

The Bishop invited that Prof Beattie to the Cathedral to give one of those talks on the faith.
Isn't she the one how says that we can have gay marriage?
Didn't know we allowed that now.

No it doesn't make logical sense. But we do not use analytical tool every day of our lives, Life does not work like that.

But that's what it looks like to the family on the street.

Ooooh enough.

Foie Gras - the killing place

Of course this is a shocking title. But we eat animals, and they have to be killed, or else we would be gnawing live cows' legs.

Chavvers Blogspot has a wonderful article on this by one of our boys. LINK HERE.

The abattoir of the foie gras man, was in premises under his house - so you can be sure that they was well kept.

The man was keen that the birds are killed with electricity first (the Brigid Bardot Law). This makes the whole process quick and easy. If not, then blood gets in the liver and spoils the product. The bird is then taken to the room next door and processed. All of it is used - the liver obviously, but also the meat, and until very recently the feathers as well. The shop selling the products is next door to the kitchens.

I've never had a look around a big abattoir, but this one really was not too bad.

And then we ate the products. There was a fine array of pate set before us.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

All Saints

This year I celebrate All Saints in Dursley at the Parish of Saint Dominic.

Mass has been said and the saints have been honoured. One of the most wonderful and ancient parts of Catholicism is the veneration of relics. From the earliest times we have said Mass on tombs and relics of the Church Triumphant. They stop our obsession with the here and now and open us up to aeternity.

So a privilege to say Mass in the presence of so many of them.

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