Saturday 26 May 2018

Mass readings in Scots: Trinity Sunday

Gospel reading
Matthew 28: 16-20

Than the ele’en discipels gaed awa intill Galilee, intill ane mountan whar Jesus had appoyntet them. An’ whan they saw him, they wurshippet him: but sume doubtet. An’ Jesus cam’ an’ spak’ untill them, sayin’, "A’ рowir is gien untill me in heæven an’ in yirth. Gae ye therfor, an’ teach a’ nationes, babteezin’ them in the name o’ the Faether, an’ o’ the Son, an’ o’ the Haly Ghaist: teachin’ them til tak’ tent til an’ do a’ things whatsaeevir I hae commandet уow: an’, lo, I am wi’ yow aye, een untill the en’ o’ the warld. Saebeid."

The Gospel of St. Matthew in Lowland Scotch, from the English Authorised Version. By H. S. Riddell (1856) here

Thursday 24 May 2018

Men and the Irish Abortion referendum

Not Irish. Not a woman. Two good reasons to keep out of this debate.

But then: Irvine Welsh. Not Irish. Not a woman. (And countless other non-Irish men of that ilk.)

Hoping for a huge YES vote in the Irish abortion referendum. Time to consign all those flat earth medieval clowns and their antiquated patriarchal pish to history’s garbage can.

So let's talk about men and to men...

1) My first memorable brush with the issue of abortion was as a student on a training day for a counselling service. I was pretty left wing in a slushy, undergraduate sort of way, but certainly would have signed up to all the usual shibboleths including abortion on demand. The presenter was a (male) GP who began by bad mouthing one of his partners (a female GP) who apparently had religious objections to contraception, abortion etc. He then enthusiastically went on about how easy it was to do an abortion secretely, describing how they had managed to get a girl into an abortion facility without her mother (female, cleaner at the hospital) ever knowing. It was all very gung-ho. Even at the time I thought it was utterly repulsive. And typically male.

2) Me. (Male.) Can't remember which of my wife's pregnancies it was but one of the 'routine' tests flagged up a heightened risk of one of those conditions which all sensible people abort. (I think it was Downs.) The next stage would have involved an amniocentisis with a risk of miscarriage. I confess I was slightly tempted: I was scared of having a child with a disability. Didn't even cross my wife's mind to accept the further test with the possibility of an abortion down the line. Not the first time I was reminded of  the mother-child bond, nor the first time I was reminded of male inadequacy. (And neither of us were Catholics at that point.)

3) Welsh. (Writer not people. Male.) Would it be fair to describe him as patriarchal? He's a bit bullish anyway, hardly presents as quiche eating. Likes boxing apparently. Creates imaginary, druggy Lebenswelt which is striking rather than flourishing. Seems very certain of his own rightness on any number of issues including pish and abortion. Wants to leave it up to women by telling them how to vote.

4) The guy (that guy) who screams abuse at pro-life rallies or at pro-life women on Twitter. (Male.)

Men like Welsh are heavily involved in promoting abortion: the debate just wouldn't be the same, certainly in tone let alone substance if it were left to women. Moreover it's hard to think of a more patriarchal othering of women than reducing the multiplicity of views and feelings and even morality among real women on this subject to the simplistic 'Women think...', 'Trust women' etc etc. Reasoning regarding the status of an unborn child, bodily autonomy and the interaction of law and morality don't just disappear 'coz lady brain or summat'. I'd be perfectly happy to leave the debate to women because there are plenty of women who defend the pro-life position and, frankly, do so with more authority because they have more skin in the game than most men. But let me say this as a man to men: don't delude yourself that the creation of a culture in which 1 in 5 children are killed, where men encourage women to see abortion as a morally neutral issue, and where you push some ultra dumb narrative about bringing Ireland out of a world of 'flat earth medieval clowns and their antiquated patriarchal pish' into a glorious shiny future just like Britain's isn't more poisoned by patriarchy and indeed neo-colonialism than anything you'll see from the pro-Life side.

Let's leave the final word to a woman:

This immediately makes essentially relevant not only all the facts about human reproduction I mentioned above, but a whole range of facts about our emotions in relation to them as well. I mean such facts as that human parents, both male and female, tend to care passionately about their offspring, and that family relationships are among the deepest and strongest in our lives -and significantly, among the longest lasting.
These facts make it obvious that pregnancy is not just one among many other physical conditions; and hence anyone who genuinely believes that an abortion is comparable to a haircut or an appendectomy is mistaken. The fact that the premature termination of a pregnancy is, in some sense, the cutting off of a new human life, and thereby, like the procreation of a new human life, connects with all our thoughts about human life and death, parenthood and family relationships, must make it a serious matter. To disregard this fact about it, to think of abortion as nothing but the killing of something that does not matter, or as nothing but the exercise of some right or rights one has, or as the incidental means to some desirable state of affairs, is to do something callous and light-minded, the sort of thing that no virtuous and wise person would do. It is to have the wrong attitude not only to foetuses, but more generally to human life and death, parenthood, and family relationships.
Rosalind Hursthouse (1997) 'Virtue theory and abortion', in Daniel Statman (ed.) Virtue Ethics: a Critical Reader, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, p.236.

Saturday 19 May 2018

Mass readings in Scots: Pentecost Sunday

First reading
Acts 2: 1-11

Ande quhen the dais of Penthecoste war fillit, all the discipilis war togiddir in the sammin place. And suddanlie thar was made a sound fra heuen, as of a gret wynd cummand, and it fillit al the hous quhare thai sat. And diuerse tonngis as fire apperit to thame, and it sat on ilk of thame. And all war fillit with the Haligaast, and thai began to spek diuerse langages, as the Haligaast gaue to thame for to spek.

And thare war in Jerusalem duelland Iewis, religiouse men, of ilk natioun that is vndir heuen. And quhen this voce was made, the multitude com togiddir, and thai war astonait in thoucht, for ilk man herde thame spekand in his langage. And all war astonayit, and wonndrit, and said togiddir, "Quhethir nocht al thir that spekis ar men of Galilee, And how herde we ilkman his langage in quhilk we war born? Parthi, and Medi, and Elamite, and thai that duellis at Mesopotamie, Judee, and Capaddocie, and Ponthe, and Asie, Phrigie, and Pamphilie, Egipt, and the partijs of Libie, that is about Syrenen, and cumlingis Romanis, and Iewis, and proselitis, Men of Crete, and of Arabie, and we haue herd thame speke in our langages the gret thingis of God."

[From The New Testament in Scots Murdoch Nisbet [c.1520] (1905) vol 3 here]

Responsorial Psalm
103: 1, 24, 29-31, 34

Bliss the Lord, O my saul.
O Lord my God, thou art verra grit;
Lord, howe moniefald ar thy warks!
the yirth is fu' o' thy riches.

Thou takist awa thair breæth, thaye dee,
an' return til thair dust.
Thou sen'ist furth thy speerit ; thaye ar creaatet,
an' thou makist new agayne the fece o' the yirth.

The glorie o' the Lord sail induur forevir;
the Lord sail rejoyce in his warks.
My meditatione o' him sail be sweet;
I wull be gladsume in the Lord.

[From Psalm 104, The Book of Psalms in Lowland Scots Henry Scott Riddell (1857) here]

Second reading
1 Corinthians 12: 3b-7, 12-13

[N]o man may say, "the Lord Jesu", bot in the Haligaast.

And diuerse graces thar ar. Bot it is all aa spirit; and dyuerse seruices thar ar, bot it is all aa Lord; and diuerse wirkingis thar ar, bot it is all aa God, that wirkis althingis in althingis. And to ilkman the schewing of spirit is geven to proffite.

For as thar is aa body, and has mony membris, and al the membris of the body quhen tha ar mony, ar aa body, sa alsa Christ. For in aa spirit al we ar baptizit into aa body, outhir Iewis, othir hethen men, outhir seruandis, outhir fre; and al we ar fillit with drink in aa spirit.

[From The New Testament in Scots Murdoch Nisbet [c.1520] (1903) vol 2 here]

Gospel reading
John 20: 19-23

 Tharfore quhen it was euen in that day, aan of the sabotis, and the yettis war closit quhare the discipilis war gaderit for drede of the Iewis, Jesus com and stude in the myddis of the discipilis, and he sais to thame, "Pece to yow." And quhen he had said this, he schewit to thame handis and side; tharfore the discipilis ioyit, for the Lord was seen. And he sais to thame agane, "Pece to you.

"As the fader send me,
I send you."

Quhen he had said this, he blew on thame, and said,

"Tak ye the Haligast;
Quhais synnis ye forgefe,
tha ar forgeuen to thame;
and quhais ye withhald,
tha ar withhaldin."

[From The New Testament in Scots Murdoch Nisbet [c.1520] (1903) vol 2 here]

Wednesday 16 May 2018

Five books on Scottish Catholic History

I was recently asked on Twitter for a recommendation for books on Scottish Catholic history, interpreted widely. Having made it clear that this is merely a highly personal (and possibly even silly) selection, here it is:

Interested to hear of alternative recommendations/comments!

Saturday 12 May 2018

Mass readings in Scots: Seventh Sunday of Easter (Year B)

Gospel reading
John 17: 11-19

[Jesus liftit up his een aboon and said:]
"Faither aye holie!
keep by thy ain name’s micht a’ thou gi’est me,
that they may be ane, e’en as we are ane!
The time I was wi' them i’ the warld,
I keepit them i’ thy name;
thae thou gied me I keepit, and nane o’ them is tint,
savin only the son o’ the pit:
that the Scriptur micht be carry’t oot.
And noo, hame to thee come I!
And a' thir things I speak i’ the warld,
sae as my joy micht come to pass in them.
Thy word hae I gien them;
and the warld has ill-wulled them,
for that they arena o’ the world’s ain:
e’en as I am-na o’ the warld’s ain.
I pray na they soud be taen oot o’ the warld,
but that thou keep them frae the ill o’t.
For they are na o’ the warld’s ain,
e’en as I am-na o’ the warld’s ain.
Consecrate them throwe thy truth;
thy word is truth.
As thou did pit me intil the warld,
e’en sae hae I putten them intil the warld.
And for them I consecrate mysel,
that eke they soud be consecrate i’ the truth."

[From The New Testament in Braid Scots William Wye Smith (1904) here]

Friday 11 May 2018

Being in two places at once: Plotinus and Augustine

One of the odd -yet regular- aspects of Catholicism is that one finds oneself in two levels of existence at once. One exists in a Church that has been responsible for some of the highest flights of intellect and art; one finds oneself in a Church surrounded apparently by the work of five years olds. Byrd wrote Mass settings for our Church; the Praise Band warbles on accompanied by a kazoo...

And so, for the Ascension Day Mass yesterday, I find myself in a rather ill-judged 1970s' building, listening to a priest with a tendency to the folksy. But he has obviously said his Office of Readings today because there is a strong reminder of Augustine in the homily:

Today our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven; let our hearts ascend with him. Listen to the words of the Apostle: If you have risen with Christ, set your hearts on the things that are above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God; seek the things that are above, not the things that are on earth. For just as he remained with us even after his ascension, so we too are already in heaven with him... 
Why do we on earth not strive to find rest with him in heaven even now, through the faith,  hope and love that unites us to him? While in heaven he is also with us; and we while on earth are with him...
[From today's Office of Readings: attributed to a sermon by Saint Augustine]
It's odd, sitting there in fairly unprepossessing surroundings, but hearing something which touches on a theme which runs through Plotinus: the soul's dwelling at the same time with the Divine but also on the earth (from the Mckenna translation here):
Many times it has happened : Lifted out of the body into myself ; becoming external to all other things and self-encentered ; beholding a marvellous beauty ; then, more than ever, assured of community with the loftiest order ; enacting the noblest life, acquiring identity with the divine ; stationing within It by having attained that activity...yet, there comes the moment of descent from intellection to reasoning, and after that sojourn in the divine, I ask myself how it happens that I can now be descending, and how did the soul ever enter into my body, the soul which, even within the body, is the high thing it has shown itself to be.
[Plotinus Enneads IV.8.1]

The entity, therefore, described as "consisting of the undivided soul and of the soul divided among bodies," contains a soul which is at once above and below, attached to the Supreme and yet reaching down to this sphere, like a radius from a centre. Thus it is that, entering this realm, it possesses still the vision inherent to that superior phase in virtue of which it unchangingly maintains its integral nature. Even here it is not exclusively the partible soul: it is still the impartible as well: what in it knows partition is parted without partibility; undivided as giving itself to the entire body, a whole to a whole, it is divided as being effective in every part.
[Plotinus Enneads IV. 1]

I'm sure the Dawkins brigade will sneer at ancient myth; I'm sure evangelicals will mutter about how the Catholic Church looks to Athens far more than it does Jerusalem. Well, so much the worse for them: this splitness of the human is as clear a fact of human experience as anything else and we should be talking about it. And, indeed: here we are, talking about it. A very ordinary, predominantly working class parish, with its priest talking about the way we live both with God in heaven and yet in time.

Catholics -well, I- don't deserve Catholicism. We squabble; we create ugliness; we're smug. If we can get through this generation without having completely destroyed the Church, it sometimes seems that would be achievement enough. That is indeed one of our main tasks: if we cannot appreciate Catholicism, not to destroy it for future generations who may be a better audience than we are. And yet, perhaps even for us, the occasional glimpse of our true life at  'rest with him in heaven even now'.

A belated happy Ascension Day!


Thursday 10 May 2018

Mass readings in Scots: Feast of the Ascension (Year B)

First reading
Acts 1:1-11

The first historie I made, O Theophilus, anent a' that Jesus begude baith to do and to teach, till whatna day he was taen up, eftir that he had by the Holie Spirit gien commauns to the Apostles he had waled oot; and to wham he schawed his sel leevin eftir his sufferans, by mony sure and certain tokens, appearin to them throwe forty days, and speakin o’ the things anent the kingdom o’ God. And companyin wi’ them, chairged them no to gang awa frae Jerusalem, but to bide for the promise o’ the Faither, “ Whilk,” quo’ he, “ye hae heard o’ me. For in sooth John bapteez’t wi' watir, but ye sal be bapteez’t in Holie Spirit no mony days frae noo !”

And sae they, whan they cam thegither, speir’t at him, “Lord, do thou at this time bring back the kingdom to Isra’l?” And he said to them, “It isna for you to ken times and seasons, whilk the Faither has keepit in his ain haun. But ye sal hae strenth, eftir the Holie Spirit is come to ye; and ye sal be witnesses for me baith in Jerusalem, and in a’ Judea and Samaria, and to the far-awa’ ends o’ the yirth.”

 And whan he had said thir things, while they war lookin on, he was liftit up; and a clud happit
him oot o’ their sicht. And while they lookit, peerin intil the heavens, as he gaed up, twa men stude by them in white cleedin; wha said, “Ye men frae Galilee ! why staun ye peerin intil the lift? The same Jesus, wha has been ta’en frae you intil Heeven, sal come in like mainner as ye hae seen him gang intil Heeven.”

(From The New Testament in Braid Scots (1904) by William Wye Smith here)

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 46 (47): 2-3, 6-9

Ding wi the loof, O a' ye folk!

Lilt ye till God wi' the sugh o' a sang !

For the Lord owre a' is himlane till be fear'd;

atowre the hail yirth, a king fu' gran'.

God has gane up wi' a sugh ;
the Lord wi' the tout o' a swesch.

Sing ye till God, sing a sang :
sing a sang till our King, sing ye.

For God himlane, o' the hail yirth is King;

fu' wyssly till him sing ye.

God owre the hethen is king;
God sits on his thron, sae weel shiftit.

(From Psalm 47, The Psalms: frae Hebrew intil Scottis P. Hately Waddell (1891) here)

Second reading
Ephesians 1:17-23

That the God o’ oor Lord Jesus Christ, the Faither o’ glorie, may gie ye a spirit o’ wisdom and revealin in his knowledge: yere inward een bein fu’ o’ licht, that ye may come to ken what the hope o’ his blythe-bidden is, what his rich inheritance o’ glorie i’ the saunts, and what the unmeasured vastness o’ his pooer toward us wha hae faith, e’en as by the up haudin o’ his micht, whilk he wrocht in Christ, raisin him frae ’mang the deid, and settin him doon amang a’ the heevenlies, at his ain richt-haun, far up aboon a’ rule, and authorise, and pooer, and dominion, and ilka name that is named, no alane i’ this warld, but eke in that that is to come: and "pat a’ things under his feet"; and gied him as heid ower a' things to the Kirk; whilk in sooth is his body, the completion o’ him wha completes a’ in a’ for himsel.

(From The New Testament in Braid Scots (1904) by William Wye Smith here)

Gospel reading
Mark 16:15-20

[Jesus apperit to the xj discipilis and said:] "Ga ye intil al the warld, and preche the Gospell to ilk creature. Quha that beleues and is baptizit salbe saif; bot he quha beleues nocht salbe dampnyt. And thir taknys sall follow thame that beleues: In my name thai sal cast out feendis; thai sall speke with new tonngis; Thai sal do away serpentis; and gif thai drink ony venomme, it sal nocht noy thaim; thai sal put thar handis on seekmen, and thai sal wax hale."

And the Lord Jesus, eftir that he had spokin to thaim, was takin vp into heuen,and he sittis on the richt half of God. And thai yede furth, and prechit ouir alquhare, fore the Lord wroucht with thame, and confermyt the word with signis following.

[From The New Testament in Scots Murdoch Nisbet [c.1520] (1901) vol 1 here]

Friday 4 May 2018

Mass readings in Scots: Sixth Sunday of Easter (Year B)

Gospel reading
John 15: 9-17

[Jesus said to his disciples:]

"E’en as the Faither has lo’ed me,
sae e’en hae I lo’ed you:
bide ye in my love.
And gin ye keep my commauns,
ye sal bide in my love;
e'en as I, keepin my Faither’s commauns,
bide aye in his love.
Thir things hae I said t’ye,
sae as my joy sal bide wi’ ye,
and yere joy be fu’ and skailin ower.
Here is my commaun —
That ye lo’e ilk ither,
e'en as I lo’ed you.
Nae man has evir mair love than this —
to lay doon his life for his freends.
Noo ye are my freends,
gin ye do my commauns.
And frae this oot, I dinna ca’ ye servants,
for the servant kens-na
what the maister dis:
but I hae ca’d ye 'freends';
for a’ that I hae heard frae my Faither
I hae tell't you.
Ye hae-na made wale o’ me,
but I hae made wale o’ you,
and made ye sterk;
sae as ye soud gang and bring forth frute,
and frute that sal bide:
that a’ things ye seek frae the Faither i’ my name,
he may gie ye.
O’ thir things I gie commaun —
that ye lo’e ane anither."

[From The New Testament in Braid Scots William Wye Smith (1904) here]