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Well, here we are at last. Seahouses, UK. That’s our hotel in the center of the photo up there, the only “regular” hotel of the trip – all the rest have been small guesthouses, B & B’s and one apartment. The taxi driver got us to the hotel, kindly helped with our bags, we got checked in even though it was early, got ourselves ready, and set out for the Holy Island.

Here’s the brief history of Lindesfarne:

Possibly the holiest site of Anglo-Saxon England, Lindisfarne was founded by St. Aidan, an Irish monk, who came from Iona, the centre of Christianity in Scotland. St Aidan converted Northumbria to Christianity at the invitation of its king, Oswald. St. Aidan founded Lindisfarne Monastery on Holy Island in 635, becoming its first Abbot and Bishop. The Lindisfarne Gospels, a 7th century illuminated Latin manuscript written here, is now in the British Museum.

The island of Lindisfarne with its wealthy monastery was a favourite stop-over for Viking raiders from the end of the 8th century. These Vikings raiders obviously concerned the monks somewhat as they vacated the monastery and did not return for 400 years. Lindisfarne continued as an active religious site from the 12th century until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1537. It seems to have become disused by the early 18th century.

Like Mont-St. Michel, Lindesfarne is a tidal island. It’s only accessible by road or walking at certain times of the day. The tidal charts for the current timeframe are here.

Not a great photo, and taken from the taxi. But you get the idea.

It was a beautiful, sunny day, and so this popular spot was very busy on a Friday afternoon. Our driver dropped us off a little after three and we agreed to meet there again at 5:30.

There was a very good little exhibit before you went out to the priory. The setting of the priory was not what I expected – I thought it would be high up on the coastline, looking out onto the sea, but it was actually set back a bit and down low, protected by a natural barrier.

There is a castle, though – and that sits up very high. It’s closed for the moment, but you can walk out there and around it, where you will have close encounters with sheep.

We started out with food – of which we’d not had any that day – crab salad sandwiches for two of us and a ham and cheese toastie (grilled cheese) for another. Then we wandered, together at times, splitting up at times. We hit the priory, of course, one of us got down to the tidal pools, others of us made our way to the sheep, and we all tasted some mead at  Lindesfarne Mead

Returning, we rested a bit, then had some fish and chips here, wandered a bit more, and one of us decided he wanted to take a dip in the North Sea. So he did.

Now things get complicated. And they also get stupid because of my mistake.

First off, let’s review. I had built in a potential almost full day for Hadrian’s Wall sites, with us then getting to the next stop (Seahouses) in the early evening, and doing the activities in that area on Friday. It would be tight getting them both in on one day, but I was pretty sure we could swing it.

But after our afternoon at the Roman Army Museum, a bit of the wall and Vindolanda, it was decided that this was enough. More would have been great, and perhaps will be another time, but given the complexities of travel, especially on a strike day, we thought it best to just get going Thursday morning in case we’d end up having to take a bus all the way.

But…how?

The original plan had been to ride the train from Hexham to Newcastle, and then Newcastle to Alnmouth, where we’d get a taxi to Seahouses. There are buses from Alnmouth to Seahouses, but honestly, I just didn’t want to bother with figuring out and coordinating with one more schedule. It seemed as if it all work out – but then the strike was declared.

So..plan B. We’d have to take a bus from Hexham to Newcastle, since that train would not be running. However, there was limited service along the Edinburgh-London route, with a stop at Alnmouth. That would do fine.

Early Thursday morning I got the bright idea, though, of doing a taxi to Newcastle. It was only 22 miles, for heaven’s sake, and the bus would be almost an hour and a half. (78 – yes 78 – stops). The hotel clerk called a couple of services for me, but the answer was the same: “They’re all out taking kids to school and won’t be available until 10.” Taxis take kids to school in England? Okay, well good for them, bad for us, time to get up and get going to the bus station.

Newcastle train station was almost empty (of course. There’s a strike!) The ticket-taking gates were wide open. A train arrived at the right platform, destination Edinburgh, we got on for the 20+ minute ride to Alnmouth. Our tickets were never checked. We sped along. And kept going. And going.

Past…Alnmouth.

I walked up and down the cars. There was no one working (it’s a strike!). I asked one of the four other passengers on the train if he thought the train would stop. He said maybe at this place…but also maybe not. But why? Was this an effect of the strike?

No, idiot – you got on the wrong train, that’s what. Which happened to be an express train to Edinburgh. Geez. Lesson learned. If a train pulls up and leaves early – that is probably not your train. And if you are not sure…ASK. (if you can find someone)

I had already booked tickets for a boat trip out to the Farne Islands from Seahouses that would be leaving at 1:30 that afternoon. Even getting to Edinburgh and getting on another train immediately to come back down south would not get us there in time. I did some rearranging, the boat company kindly transferred our tickets to Friday – and they didn’t mind because that freed up three more seats on an afternoon boat that was sold out. The taxi driver was kind and sympathetic, and even though I told him to charge me, he refused, and just asked for a good review instead – which he got and deserved. I was pretty upset about my stupidity, but it really did turn out fine. We just were able to flip our plans around, doing what we planned for Thursday on Friday, and Friday on Thursday….

So on we sped to Edinburgh, which would have been fantastic if that had been our train. Luckily, there was a train back leaving in about twenty minutes, so we just were able to get on that. It wasn’t stopping at Alnmouth, however, but at Berwick-on-Tweed, which was north of Seahouses, rather than south. Which was fine – we’d get there sooner, but not soon enough.

Arriving at Berwick-on-Tweed, I was really relieved to see a taxi stand. I went to a random driver, who was sitting in his car with his mate and explained the issue and the plan. Could he A) Take us from Berwick-on-Tweed to Seahouses so we could check into our hotel and drop our luggage then B) from Seahouses up to the Holy Island or Lindesfarne and C) get us a couple of hours later on the Holy Island and then take us back to Seahouses?

(There is a bus from Berwick to Seahouses, but you know – it’s a bus, with a schedule, and then I’d have to find a way up to Lindesfarne and back, which required a car on this particular day, since the tourist bus wasn’t running – so might as well use the same driver.)

They worked it out, consulted on a price, which was very fair, and off we went!

So yes, those were our two destinations on this very short leg of the trip:

Lindefarne, or Holy Island, where St. Aidan came from Iona to found a very early monastery, the Vikings invaded very early on, and the source, of course, of the famed Lindesfarne Gospels.

And

The Farne Islands – off the east coast, islands which David Attenborough said were his favorite place to see nature in the UK. Every spring through early summer, hundreds of thousands of birds nest here, including….

Well, that’s enough of this nonsense. Let’s do Holy Island in another post.

St. Cyril and OLPH

Before you read this, considering that you might not read to the end – I’ll toss this in here:

Speaking of good homilies….as I did yesterday…

One of the great tasks and challenges of being a Catholic minister or faith-sharer of any sort is to help one’s listener understand the timelessness of this body of faith and practice. The importance of that timelessness is not to “prove” anything but, more than anything else, to give hope. You, there – you are not alone in your weakness, pain, suffering and fears. It’s called being human and in Christ, no matter who you are, when or where you live or what the specifics of your situation are, in him and his Body, the Church, you will find comfort, healing, hope and answers.

In other painfully well-worn words, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel every generation. We have the spiritual resources, if we understand them properly and at a deep level, to point the suffering, questioning soul in the right direction, to open their hearts so they can hear Him.

A few weeks ago, our Cathedral rector offered this homily – short, direct and substantive – on Pentecost, in which he held up the Pentecost Sequence as a framework for discerning how to live out the call to share the gifts the Spirit has given us:

The beautiful Sequence for this feast gives us much food for thought in regard to how we can put our gifts at the service of others, and ultimately to the service of the Church, for it describes the action of the Holy Spirit in very concrete terms: as a “Father of the poor”, as a “comforter”, as “sweet refreshment”… “coolness in the heat”, “solace in the midst of woe”, the healer of wounds, one who can “bend the stubborn heart and will”, and “guide the steps that go astray”. All of these are things that we can share in, things that we can do.

Therefore, we can ask: How do I provide for the poor? How do I offer comfort to others? How do I seek to refresh others, help them find relief? Am I a source of solace – am I there for those who are hurting or mourning? Do I try to be a healer and a peacemaker? Am I willing to dialogue with the stubborn and the inflexible to help them find a place of healthy compromise? And do I correct those who are erring? All these things have their source in the gift of the Holy Spirit – and we can be his hands, his feet, his mouthpiece in these works.

So on to today – June 27 – the life and thought of an ancient philosopher and a not-so-ancient but still old tradition. Relevant? Potentially helpful in the 21st century? Perhaps.

There are a couple of memorials associated with today’s date – June 27. First is St. Cyril of Alexandria.

From B16, a General Audience talk, an introduction to Cyril, from 2007.

 In it, we see two important truths emphasized. First, the importance of theology, which is not pointless nit-picking, but rather part of the journey to clarify the mysteries of faith as far as is humanly possible. Secondly, the Christian faith as one rooted in revealed truths, and the Body of Christ has a responsibility to guard and share those truths faithfully.

Cyril’s writings – truly numerous and already widely disseminated in various Latin and Eastern translations in his own lifetime, attested to by their instant success – are of the utmost importance for the history of Christianity. His commentaries on many of the New and Old Testament Books are important, including those on the entire Pentateuch, Isaiah, the Psalms and the Gospels of John and Luke. Also important are his many doctrinal works, in which the defence of the Trinitarian faith against the Arian and Nestorian theses recurs. The basis of Cyril’s teaching is the ecclesiastical tradition and in particular, as I mentioned, the writings of Athanasius, his great Predecessor in the See of Alexandria. Among Cyril’s other writings, the books Against Julian deserve mention. They were the last great response to the anti-Christian controversies, probably dictated by the Bishop of Alexandria in the last years of his life to respond to the work Against the Galileans, composed many years earlier in 363 by the Emperor known as the “Apostate” for having abandoned the Christianity in which he was raised.

The Christian faith is first and foremost the encounter with Jesus, “a Person, which gives life a new horizon” (Deus Caritas Est, n. 1). St Cyril of Alexandria was an unflagging, staunch witness of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God, emphasizing above all his unity, as he repeats in 433 in his first letter (PG 77, 228-237) to Bishop Succensus: “Only one is the Son, only one the Lord Jesus Christ, both before the Incarnation and after the Incarnation. Indeed, the Logos born of God the Father was not one Son and the one born of the Blessed Virgin another; but we believe that the very One who was born before the ages was also born according to the flesh and of a woman”. Over and above its doctrinal meaning, this assertion shows that faith in Jesus the Logos born of the Father is firmly rooted in history because, as St Cyril affirms, this same Jesus came in time with his birth from Mary, the Theotò-kos, and in accordance with his promise will always be with us. And this is important: God is eternal, he is born of a woman, and he stays with us every day. In this trust we live, in this trust we find the way for our life.

As I mention often, Benedict’s General Audience talks on great Church figures were collected into books by several Catholic publishers, including Our Sunday Visitor. I wrote study guides for two of them: his talks on the Apostles, and those on the Greek and Latin Fathers. You can find the latter in a pdf form here, and it is still useful for both individual and group study, I believe.

Below are images of the pages related to Cyril of Alexandria, and then below that the questions themselves. Thought you might find it useful.

The questions for the unit including Cyril of Alexandria:

1. Cyril of Alexandria is remembered for his defense of Christian orthodoxy against Nestorius. What did Nestorius claim?

2. What did Cyril say was wrong with Nestorius’s teaching? Why was this conflict just as much about Jesus as it was about Mary?

3. What was at stake in this controversy? What is the deeper reality that concerned Cyril?

4. Why was Hilary of Poitiers exiled? What did Hilary do during his exile?

5. How did Hilary’s approach combine adherence to truth with pastoral sensitivity?

6. How, according to Hilary, do we come into relationship with Christ? How does this change us?

7. What role do the words of baptism play in the thought of Hilary?

8. Where did Eusebius of Vercelli live and minister? What was the spiritual condition of this area?

9. What role did his monastic establishments play in his ministry? 10. What was Eusebius’s time in exile like? What did he accomplish?

11. How did Eusebius encourage his clergy and people to keep their spiritual balance?

12. What were the conditions in Turin during the ministry of Maximus?

13. To whom were many of his homilies addressed? Why?

14. What did Maximus have to say about wealth?

15. How did Maximus come to be involved in a role in the civic life of the community?

Questions for Reflection

1. The Fathers in this session, as well as in the rest of the book, grappled with questions of Jesus’ identity. Why was this not a simply academic question? Why was it so important to them? How does our sense of Jesus’ identity impact our own spiritual lives?

2. Eusebius emphasized monastic establishments as centers for spiritual renewal and pastoral ministry in his area. Why do you think he did this? Why was monasticism such an important factor in Christian life for the next millennium? What role does monasticism play in today’s Church and world?

3. Maximus spoke strongly to the people of his community about their relationship to wealth and material things. What do you think he would say to us today?

4. Pope Benedict cites Hilary’s “spirit of reconciliation” in dealing with those who cannot quite affirm the fullness of faith. Are there areas of life in which you have reached out and built relationships with those with whom you disagree? What is the foundation of such a relationship?

5. These Fathers ministered in communities in which Christianity was still a minority and often found itself in conflict. How did they minister in those situations? What can you learn from them about living in such an environment, in which the general culture stands in conflict with the Gospel?

It’s also the memorial of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, or Our Lady of Succor.

From the Loyola Kids Book of Catholic Signs and Symbols:

To Hadrian’s Wall

This is…a fairly crazy trip. I really cannot reconstruct how I came up with this itinerary except to say that, well, since we’re on this island, we might as well got to Scotland, and Hadrian’s Wall is on the way to Scotland, and people in this crew are interested in Romans and archaeology in general, so why not…

I am not sure if it was the best decision, but it is what it is, so where we are. Or were. Because we’re in Edinburgh now.

Anyway.

Time to leave York!

The route? York to Newcastle to Hexham, with fingers crossed that the rail strike that had been called for the previous and the next day wouldn’t affect our travel. It didn’t.

Newcastle train station

Everything went smoothly, we arrived at Hexham before noon and walked the very short distance from the station to our hotel, quite appropriately called:

It was a little shabby, but what mattered was in place: the beds and sheets in the Family Room (three twin beds) were super clean and the employees were incredibly nice, so we were good.

It was too early to check in, but we parked our bags at the hotel and found the Hadrian’s Bus and off we went!

But first – the original “plan:”

I had built in the afternoon of the 22nd and most of the day on the 23rd for Hadrian’s Wall stuff, after which we would make our way further north, to Seahouses. For puffins. But more on that in the next post.

I had a couple of destinations in mind, but beyond that had absolutely no idea how much time we would need or want to spend in the area. Of course, spending a lot of time, and doing so hiking along the path of the wall was something that would ideally be in the cards, but given that this trip was this trip and not that trip – well, as it turns out – it wasn’t in the cards after all. There are a few major sites to see and lots of smaller ones. One could hike a chunk of the Wall, or on another trip, the whole thing. What would we want to do? There was no way of predicting until we got there and saw how long it would take to get from one spot to another.

So here we go. First off – the Hadrian’s Wall Bus is a bus, obviously, dedicated to the route along the Wall, obviously. It runs seasonally, you buy a day pass, and hop on and off. It was certainly helpful, but would have been even more convenient if it had run more frequently – say every half hour instead of every hour. Perhaps during the really busy season (which I assume is July and August) it does.

First stop: The Roman Army Museum and, with a very short walk, Walltown Crags, one of the spots where one can see a stretch of Hadrian’s Wall.

It is just what it says, the exhibit beginning with a decent, albeit a bit cheesy 3-D film, and then continuing with a clear and interesting exploration of Roman army life on the frontier.

The women’s restroom was….interesting.

As I said, a short walk from the museum was a stretch of the Wall.

Of course, we had to time everything so we wouldn’t miss the next bus – or else we’d have to wait another hour after that.

Next, the spot I’d really been looking forward to – the Vindolanda Fort and Museum. It didn’t disappoint!

The site is a working excavation, continually turning up new finds, many of which are featured in the museum. The most well-known find at the site is the Vindolanda Writing Tablets:

The Vindolanda writing tablets, written in ink on post-card sized sheets of wood, have been excavated at the fort of Vindolanda, immediately south of Hadrian’s Wall in northern England. Dating to the the late first and early second centuries AD, the formative period of Roman Britain’s northern frontier, they were written by and for soldiers, merchants, women and slaves. Through their contents, life in one community on the edge of the Roman world can be reconstructed in detail.

I believe most of the tablets are in the British Museum, but they have a few on display in Vindolanda. The writing is faint, and they are delicate objects, but the display is helpful – the tablets are gently lit in a cycle, with a card and audio offering the text in both Latin and English.

Of course there is a lot more at the museum, since hundreds of people lived here and left signs and evidence of their lives – including shoes. Because of the composition of the soil at the level these were left – no oxygen – they did not decompose. Fascinating. I’m particularly taken with the designs of the textured soles.

There some folks working on the excavation.

We had to wait a bit for the bus for a few minutes after the site was closed, all alone in the parking lot, sheep gazing placidly at us from the other side of a fence. I got a touch concerned and wondered how we would get back to town if the bus didn’t show, but of course it did, so it was back to Hexham to actually go into our room (they’s gone ahead and put our bags in after check-in time), then walk up to the town for dinner in a pub, pop into the should-be-Catholic Hexham Abbey (closed to visitors, but the door was open and it looked to me like there was a wedding rehearsal happening), a stroll through Aldi, some time with a few rabbits on an athletic field..and back.

Now….tomorrow’s a strike day. We need to go somewhere. Huh.

@ Edinburgh Castle.

More day-by-day tripblogging on the way, but first, a reflection prompted by our experience at Mass tonight (Saturday Vigil).

If nothing else has been gained from this trip, we have this at least: We’ve heard two excellent homilies at Mass.

The first at the Oxford Oratory last Sunday, and the second today, at St. Mary Star of the Sea here in Edinburgh.

Both were rooted in the Scriptures, especially the Gospels, both drew on other sources (the first, Aquinas and B16, the second, Victor Frankl) and both related the matter at hand to everyday, ordinary life. The first – since it was Corpus Christi – to the need we all have for what Christ amazingly offers us in the Eucharist, and the second, on the challenge of following Christ, especially after the initial enthusiasm wears off.

But do you know what else these homilies had in common, aside from being just good, substantive, practical and oh yes, under fifteen minutes long?

They were both written.

Oh, there were moments in which the homilist did a bit of improv and added a thought or two, but for the most part, both seem to have kept to what they had written.

I’ll be honest. I’ve never heard an off-the-cuff homily that was worth a dime. I know that homilists can be all Oh, the Holy Spirit will guide me and it will be awesome…but real talk here. Most of the time, guys…it’s not. The risk of meandering self-indulgence is super high if the homily isn’t written down and presented pretty much exactly as planned.

Anyway. Thank you to homilists who work hard, prepare, sacrifice your time and humbly – and probably quite often in fear and trembling – share that very Good News.

York (2)

I’ll make this quick.

I began the day by going to the 8:15 Mass at St. Wilfrid’s – the York Oratory. It was a Latin Low Mass. 9 people besides me in attendance, four men, five women. Two of the women were veiled, all but one wore slacks. I only mention this because in my limited travel and even more limited presence at Traditional Latin Masses, I’ve found that in such Masses in a) cities and b) non-US countries – the demographic is always diverse and one does not see the concerns and expectations associated with the TLM crowd – either in reality or via caricature – being expressed, at least in the externals.

Anyway, a stop for pastries and then a walk back to the apartment (York is very walkable – absolutely no public transportation needed) to awaken folks, and then up and out.

First stop: Jorvik Viking Center. I thought it would be cheesy, but it actually wasn’t. It’s a combined animatronic tour through a typical Viking village – the center is built over such a site – and a small museum, with a very well-informed and interesting docent giving a presentation. I can’t believe it, but it actually worked, and was well-done.

(I guess I didn’t take many photos there. To see more go to the York Highlights on my Instagram page.)

Then York Minster, including a climb up the tower. Imposing, beautiful in its way, but also sterile and expressive, not so much of Christianity but of national religion, which…makes sense. One can’t help but look around and wonder, What is this were still Catholic?

We joined in part of a short tour and went through the very good Undercroft Museum, which relates the history of the cite as it went back to the Roman era.

That’s Constantine sitting there – he was proclaimed emperor in York.

A walk along the famed “Shambles” – supposedly one of the inspirations for Diagon Alley, and as such, peppered with Harry Potter-themed shops. But of most interest is:

It’s the shrine of St. Margaret Clitherow, who lived on this street, hid priests and hosted them saying Mass and catechized children here.

Then….to the Yorkshire Museum, which was excellent – hosting good exhibits on the Roman era, the Jurassic period and the medieval period.

I am always so moved by these ancient funerary/memorial stones, especially those that are about children.

Then back towards our apartment and the nearby Bar Convent Living Heritage Center – basically a small museum offering exhibits on Recusant Catholicism and specifically the establishment of Mary Ward’s order, the Congregation of Jesus.

Included below are images of a portable altar set-up, a bed headboard which doubled as an altar, and a very interesting vestment which, when folded, looked like a bundle of ribbons sold by a peddler, but, with all of the proper colors, was suitable for celebrating Mass in any liturgical season.

Fascinating.

Then…back through the gate, rest, and dinner. Pretty good Thai at a small chain.

Post-Roe

I’m currently traveling, so have limited time and brain power to comment. I’ll have much to say when I return, which is probably for the best – let all the knee-jerk reactions work themselves out before spending time on this.

But I will say this:

As many, many scholars on both sides of the abortion issue have pointed out over the decades – including Ruth Bader Ginsburg and countless others who are supportive of abortion rights – there is no explicit “right” to abortion in the Constitution, obviously, and Roe’s (and subsequently Casey’s) imaginative retcon did, first of all, great damage to Constitutional reasoning, federalism and legislative process in this country. Even aside from the specifics of abortion, it will be fascinating to see the fallout from this decision in this regard.

Secondly, the Catholic response to this deserves some sustained examination, and I’ve been pondering this since the leak of the decision some weeks ago.

My short hand for a lot of what I’ve seen is….ackshually….

That is:

People anxious – almost desperately anxious – to separate themselves from the pro-life movement and, of course, as per usual, to castigate it. Abortion is icky, but so ackshually, so are pro-lifers. Please know that I know this. I don’t sit at their table. Did you think you saw me sitting at their table once? That wasn’t me! Promise!

The denigration of pro-life activists is, of course, an ancient pasttime, but it’s been taken up by more and more public Catholics since the Trump presidency – but it preceded that, of course.

As I have said many times, I’m a student of social movements – my graduate work was focused on 19th century feminism and American Christianity – and I am no stranger to the ins and outs and evolution and fractures in any and all movements, including the pro-life movement. In any movement, you will always have disagreements on process, emphasis and goals. In the American pro-life movement, the serious disagreements have been centered on support of legislation and politicians: is supporting half-measures a sell-out or just realistic politics? And of course, a fundamental disagreement about process: should politics or culture be emphasized? You can trace these disagreements back decades.

But there’s never been any disagreement that helping women and their children is central to the pro-life movement. And this is what is so annoying about those in the Catholic world who are busy declaring, Well, ackshually, pro-lifers (eew) you DO know that just because Roe is gone…that doesn’t mean abortion is going to end tomorrow, RIGHT? Ackshually….you DO know that the REAL work starts now, right?

Friends, I have been involved and an observer of the American pro-life movement for forty years now, from local agencies to Feminists for Life in its early days to National Right to Life, and I have never met a single pro-lifer who viewed this issue bombastically or unrealistically. Most of them have been touched by the issue personally in some way and those who are involved on a daily basis are, for the most part, involved with actual women and their children, listening to their stories, embracing them, working tirelessly to find them the support they need, fully aware of the dynamics and tensions in the lives of these girls and women.

The ackshually, you DO know that it’s super important to build a Culture of Life trope reflects either a deep ignorance of what some folks are claiming expertise in or just simple bad faith and virtue-signaling. The conversation about an abortion-resistant culture has been ongoing for fifty years, but a huge part of that conversation has always been the role of law in any potential life-affirming culture. Can you even begin to build a robust culture of life when it has been declared that abortion must be legal through all nine months of pregnancy? Can you?

Because, you see – as people who have reflected for a long time – what Roe did was to institutionalize, at a federal level, atomization and individualism. A caring society built on the common good and care for the most vulnerable cannot be built – especially in a diverse, post-Christian world – when the law of the land undergirds extreme individualism and a definition of “human being worth my care” in terms of “my opinion about this creature’s humanity.”

In other words: a society built on Roe is going to be a society that shrugs at the plight of a pregnant girl or woman and concludes: Your choice, your problem.

And yes, there are issues with the pro-life movement. As I said, there always have been. There are always grifters and weirdos in any movement. But the choice to focus on them instead of the children is…an interesting one.

I will never forget, decades ago, I was in a crisis pregnancy center office, and one of the steady volunteers there, a middle-aged woman who clearly did not agree with everyone else in the office on every detail of politics and society said, in some context or other, “It’s about the kids. That’s what I focus on. Saving a life. This is hard – but it’s not hard.”

It’s a sensibility I also say in the early Feminists for Life, back in the 80’s, women who had to sometimes had to struggle to have their voices heard in the mainstream movement. It didn’t matter what other feminists or some pro-lifers thought. The cause was right, and the women and children deserved truth, justice and a real culture of support.

So no, this is not new. Back then, the ackshually critics shrank from be associated with Reagan, Reaganites and Phyllis Schlafly. Yes guys, I’m super old. I even went to a debate between Schlafly and Sarah Weddington (who represented McCorvey in Roe) at UT – it was a kind of…tour they were doing. Odd now that I think about it. So now it’s Trump and the MAGA devils I guess. But it’s the same dynamic: Placing yourself and your anxiety about how others perceive you ahead of the actual issue at hand.

Of course everyone is and should be open to criticism and critique. As I said, every movement has grifters, opportunists and weirdos. Sometimes right at the front lines. If you see something, say something! That’s a good thing. Being held accountable is always a good thing. Change and adaptation in a movement is inevitable and good. Grifters and counter-witnesses should be encouraged to stand down, to say the least.

And it’s also a good thing to challenge a movement in terms of its associations, both with other movements and other causes. This has been a huge issue within the pro-life movement, and no it’s not new. It’s also where the Catholic holistic sensibility makes a big difference. Getting stuff done requires making uncomfortable alliances and maybe coming to a point where you recognize that “uncomfortable” was actually “damaging.” Yup.

But…do you really think this is a brand new conversation that no one noticed before you posted a 20-slide Instagram story on it from the coffee shop yesterday? I mean, go for it, but also, no you’re not some lone brave prophetic voice here. Maybe benefit from the dialogue on this as it’s been going on for a while. Maybe.

So what I’m seeing, in general, a lack of engagement with these issues as they have been experienced and discussed within the pro-life movement for literally decades. Yes, abortion existed before 1972. Yes, there are realities, well documented, about access to abortion procedures by the poor and the wealthy, realities about the persistence of abortion no matter what the law is, tensions about how to account for those realities in law and policy.

This is not news. Ackshually.

Can we blame social media? Sure. Let’s. Once again, we see the possibility of the amplification of the personal voice and the encouragement to be a personality on the digital stage – to center that as the purpose of one’s presence there, rather than the subject matter you started off sharing or the cause you started out trying to promote.

Folks – it’s okay. I’m not going to get you mixed up with Abby Johnson, if she’s your devil of choice, or Donald Trump, if he’s the one. You can stop the frantic declarations.

So, to conclude this early morning meandering from a kind of an odd guest house in Edinburgh:

Much of the conversation I’ve been seeing about a post-Roe world from some public Catholics has been characterized by:

  1. A lack of engagement with the conversation about abortion, law and society as it has been happening in general and particularly within the pro-life movement for half a century.
  2. A lack of engagement with the realities of the work of the pro-life movement on the ground, in the present moment, beyond a few pubic personalities.
  3. Anxious, vain virtue-signaling.

Whether 1 and 2 are due to ignorance, laziness or malice, I don’t know and I won’t declare. But I do know that I know a lot of people working in the pro-life movement on the ground – and as glad as they are about this decision, their tone today is not triumphalist. It’s a tone characterized by gratitude, but woven through, as always, with realism, a little bit of hope, but always, given the suffering they witness every single day – sorrow.

But marveling, at the same time, that this decision was handed down on the day on which we celebrate the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, this year at least. How strange, and sort of marvelous.

A child in the womb recognizing the One who is love – a day that reminds us, above all, that the reason any of us exist is because we are loved by the (deep breath)…Creator of the Universe. No matter what the circumstances, each of exists on purpose because we are loved. Climbing back out of a landscape built on something quite different – that your existence is dependent on the opinion of others, and therefore only as valuable to the extent that they value you – will be a challenge, to say the least. But perhaps this timing means something. Perhaps that challenge is met with another – the challenge to always keep love – of the child, of the mother, the father and the entire family – at the forefront rather than our pride, vanity and side agendas: You are here, no matter who you are, where you dwell, or how old you are, because you are beloved.

May our treatment of all – unborn, born, aged, disabled, imprisoned, in flight, in need – reflect that powerful message of this date:

We recognize you. We see you. You are beloved.

Hearts ablaze

Today’s the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I wrote about this here – at the beginning of this month dedicated to the Sacred Heart.

Reminder: this feast is moveable – it’s the Friday after the second Sunday after Pentecost.

Here are the pages on the Sacred Heart from The Loyola Kids Book of Catholic Signs and Symbols. 

Click on each image for a larger version.

More about the book – and the others in the series – here. 

Tomorrow is the Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Why this date?

Pope Pius XII instituted the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1944 to be celebrated on 22 August,[13] coinciding with the traditional octave day of the Assumption.[14] In 1969, Pope Paul VI moved the celebration of the Immaculate Heart of Mary to the Saturday, immediately after the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This means in practice that it is now held on the third Saturday after Pentecost.[15]

At the same time as he closely associated the celebrations of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Pope Paul VI moved the celebration of the Queenship of Mary from 31 May to 22 August, bringing it into association with the feast of her Assumption. Those who use the 1962 edition of the Roman Missal or an earlier one (but not more than 17 years before 1962) observe the day established by Pius XII.

(And August is still devoted to the Immaculate Heart….)

Also from  The Loyola Kids Book of Catholic Signs and Symbols. :

York (1)

Okay, I am waay behind here.

Monday it was time to go to York. I’ll begin by saying that this step had become a bit fraught because on Saturday afternoon, the owner of our Airbnb in York had messaged me to say that she was very sorry, but the work that was being done on the apartment would not be finished by Monday, and she was cancelling our reservation.

Oh.

Luckily, there was a lot of availability, and I immediately got another apartment for just a touch more but with a lot more space and – best of all – a washer and dryer. Well, a washer/dryer combination that was, as per usual with European appliances, festooned with code and runes impossible to understand with no manual anywhere and no manufacturer name evident on the machine and no searching of “WD001” bearing any useful fruit. The owner did give us a rundown on how to operate it before she left us, which I made my sons listen to as well, since I am not, to say the least, an auditory learner.

But we are jumping ahead!

Monday morning, we got up, checked out and rode the bus to the train station, and after some delays – a truck had rammed into a bridge somewhere so we had to take another track – we got to York by 2pm.

(I will say that I am impressed with the English forthrightness about refunds. It’s all very clear and direct. We were only delayed by 22 minutes, but if it had been 30 – we would have been entitled to a 50% refund, no questions asked. An hour? 100%. I assume it all works, and if it does, it certainly is an incentive to run those trains on time.)

We walked to the apartment – about a 10 minute walk, through the Micklegate and over to Priory Street. As I said, the apartment was lovely, and the space just what we all needed after three nights together in one small (nice) room with two beds, total.

(Note Diet Coke. Spoiled brat me is grateful that they drink Diet Coke, not Coca-Cola Light, in England.)

Then off to York, and the first thing there was food – so let’s do fish and chips, of course.

Drake’s Fish and Chips. York Minister in the background.

By the time we finished eating, it was around 3:30, and the problem – something we’d found in Oxford as well – was that everything closes at 5, or at the very latest 6. I guess that is not a problem for employees who have a decent workday, but it is a little challenging when it comes to sightseeing or even shopping. We even found a lot of restaurants close by 7 or 8.

And I thought Birmingham (AL) was bad on that score…

So what that meant was that “attractions” – such as York Minster and the Yorkshire Museum – might have been open by the time we finished eating, but only for a short time. Oh, and I should mention that one of the major sites of York – the National Railway Museum – is close on Mondays and Tuesdays – both days of our visit, so that was out.

Well, what was in? The Museum gardens, for one, including the ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey.

Followed by a walk atop a good chunk of York’s city walls – the largest stretch of city walls still remaining in England.

Followed, once we got back, by the always incredibly fun activity of figuring out the washing machine without a manual.

Tomorrow: More York and starting to stress about this “Industrial Action” – aka rail strike.

(Remember – I am posting more as we go on Instagram Stories, and each day’s set is archived in the Highlights.)

And I am writing this in a place that is not quite York:

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