Blogcatalog Widget Removed

I posted earlier about the Blogcatalog latest visitors widget which was only showing after a page refresh. Others confirmed that fact as well. So I posted on Blogcatalog's forums and received no joy, or even a reply.

Now it seems the widget is not showing at all. So until Blogcatalog can get their act together then it's been removed.

Oh, and they're annoying me with messages in my inbox about 'Expose Yourself!' I think it's one of their schemes but I ask you! Tsk, tsk.

Give and be blessed, receive and bless

Isaac Blessing Jacob, painting by Govert Flinc...Image via Wikipedia
We know full well that our obedience counts as a blessing, especially in the realm of giving. But it's also true that our obedience in receiving can lead to a blessing. Sometimes our pride can get in the way when people seek to bless us by their giving but we should always be obedient in such matters.

Let me illustrate this and more by way of an example from my pastor. He was on a mission trip to Uganda and was visiting a number of churches. As things go he would often have a lot of people wanting to speak to him at the end of the services. In one instance he was confronted by an old man who insisted that he give my pastor his blanket, a somewhat well worn blanket which in reality would be no use for my pastor. So my pastor tried not to receive the blanket, thinking it would be of more use to the man but he was pulled up by the local pastor. He told my pastor that God is telling him to give what little he has and by not receiving you are taking away opportunity to be obedient to God. So my pastor gratefully received the blanket.

Further on in the mission trip he came across an old man who had nothing, literally nothing. Then my pastor remembered the blanket which he'd tried not to receive. And with that blanket he could bring a blessing to the man who had nothing.

It shows that nothing is as simple as it seems, even the process of giving and receiving. The old man got to be obedient to God. My pastor got to be obedient to God. And in his obedience could convey that blessing to the man with nothing. We always need to be aware that Christ is at the centre, not man or ourselves. We need to have faith to trust beyond what we see or expect.

Meditiation on giving

St. Ambrose, painting by Maria Brusco; Oratory...Image via Wikipedia
I've blogged before about Catholic Social Teaching and now I've come across an excellent article from Miki Tracy from the Gilbert House Catholic Worker Community on giving and obedience which can be found on the Distributist Review.

In it Miki quotes a number of Church Fathers, bible verses, scripture and other Christians on the theme of giving to the poor. I've not noticed a lot of these before but they do really grab your attention when grouped together so I'm going to thieve them and post them here! They really do make an excellent base for some scriptural meditation.

"The mystery of poverty is that by sharing in it, making ourselves poor in giving to others, we increase our knowledge and belief in love." - Dorothy Day

"As you do to the least of these My brethren, so you do it unto Me." - Matthew 25:40

"Words express, but examples persuade." - Pope Benedict XVI

"It is the crushed heart which is the soft heart, the tender heart. - an OCD Sister to Dorothy Day

"Christian love is not philanthropy." - Father Stanley Jaki

"You never give to the poor what is yours; you merely return to them what belongs to them. For what you have appropriated [for yourself] was given for the common use of everybody. The land was given [by GOD] for everybody, not just the rich." - St. Ambrose of Milan

"The bread that is in your box belongs to the hungry; the coat in your closet belongs to the naked; the shoes you do not wear belong to the barefoot; the money in your vault belongs to the destitute." - St. Basil the Great, Bishop of Caesarea, c. A.D. 370

"Give something, however small, to the one in need. For it is not small to the one who has nothing. Neither is it small to GOD, if we have given what we could." - St Gregory Naziansen, Bishop of Constantinople, late fourth century

"Nothing is your own. You are a slave and what is yours belongs to the Lord. For a slave has no property that is truly his own; naked you were brought into this life." - Asterius, Bishop of Amasea, from "The Unjust Steward" c. A.D. 400

"It is true that there is a thing crudely called charity, which means charity to the deserving poor, but charity to the deserving is not charity at all, but justice." - G.K. Chesterton, in Heretics

"Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress; let them drink and forget their poverty, and remember their misery no more. Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are left desolate. Open your mouth, judging righteously, maintain the rights of the poor and needy." - Proverbs 31:6-9

"Make yourself beloved in the congregation; bow your head low to the great man. Incline your ear to the poor, and answer him peaceably and gently. Deliver him who is wronged from the hand of the wrongdoer; do not be fainthearted in judging a case. Be like a father to the orphans…you will then be like a son of the Most High, and He will love you more than does your own mother." - Sirach 4:7-10

"You shall love the Lord your GOD with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind….[and] you shall love your neighbor as yourself." -Matthew 22:37-40

"Stretch forth your hand to the poor, so that your blessing may be complete. Give graciously to all the living, and withhold not kindness from the dead. Do not fail those who weep, but mourn with those who mourn. Do not shrink from visiting the sick man, because of such deeds you will be loved. In all that you do, remember the end of your life, and then you will never sin." - Sirach 7:32-36
A big thank you to Miki for showing me such inspiring scripture and life.

St Justin Martyr and the Eucharist

This video seems to be doing the rounds of a number of Catholic blogs and sites. Certainly some interesting stuff there which purports to be written in the early church history.

When I was drawn to Christ I went to the nearest Church of England church to where I lived. After all, not knowing anything about Christianity I checked a few churches out but the CofE seemed the 'safest'. This church was actually in the neighbouring parish but because of the location of where I lived it made more sense to join with the neighbouring parish. We then had a Church Army captain planted on our estate to do outreach and after a year the parish set up a church to meet on out estate. It did quite well. But so that they could share communion they brought an ordained minister out of retirement to help with things. However, when he threw in the towel, the church plant wasn't allowed to celebrate communion without an ordained minister. And as they didn't have one they couldn't share communion. In the end the church plant faded and died.

At the time I think this sort of event built up my frustration with the CofE and evnetually I left for a pentecostal church where tings of this nature were looked at less religiously, or strictly.

But the video below does get me thinking, were the parish right to restrict communion or were they wrong.

What do you think? And any comments on the video?

Entertaining Angels

 1 Let brotherly love continue. 2 Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. 3 Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also.
4 Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.
5 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we may boldly say:
      “ The LORD is my helper;
      I will not fear.
      What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:1-6, New King James Version)

Blogcatalog widget issue

It may just be me but the Blogcatalog widget over on the right doesn't seem to load unless the page is refreshed. I've checked it with Opera, Chrome and Firefox on linux and all he same.

Anyone else see this problem?

French ban burkha

I wait for you...Image by insane_capture via Flickr
It's been reorted that the France's lower parliament has voted to ban the wearing of the burkha in public. The bill would make it illegal to wear garments such as the niqab or burka, which incorporate a full-face veil, anywhere in public. It envisages fines of 150 euros (£119) for women who break the law and 30,000 euros and a one-year jail term for men who force their wives to wear the burka. If ratified then it becomes law in September.

I can't say that I followed any of the debate but the soundbites being reported are somewhat worrying.

Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said it was a "victory for democracy and for French values" and "Democracy thrives when it is open-faced." She added that the bill, which makes no reference to Islam or veils, was not aimed at "stigmatising or singling out a religion".

Berengere Poletti, an MP from Mr Sarkozy's centre-right UMP party, said women in full veils wore "a sign of alienation on their faces" and had to be "liberated".

Andre Gerin of the Communist opposition compared the veil to "a walking coffin, a muzzle".

Now I'm no fan of Islam but this bill seems nothing more than playing the heavy hand against those who it deems are different. It's state intervention to change a cultural attribute, an action more worthy from a political dictatorship than a so-called modern democracy. Once the precedence has been set where do the limits end? Do we know? I could understand a bill that required faces to be seen in places like banks and government offices, but just on the streets? Likewise when driving I'm sure there are laws that require a high degree of vision.

So what does it mean for those affected, for the women, and it will be women who have to live with this decree? There will be fines for women who flout the ban. And if they are pressured or threatened by their husbands or families to continue to wear the burkha then the husbands can be fined or jailed. That's going to do wonders for the peronal safety of these women! But perhaps that's not important when compared to the state showing how tough it is when it comes to dealing with cultural islam.

I'm glad to see at least someone on the left who has managed to retain a modicum of common sense in this sea of xenophobia, Jean Glavany, a Socialist MP, who said he opposed the ban on the grounds that it was "nothing more than the fear of those who are different, who come from abroad, who aren't like us, who don't share our values". Shame on the rest of the so called left in France who have dropped their values of freedom and libertarianism.

It does make me wonder how long it will be before other cultural attributes become targets for the legislature?

A Spiritual Evening

Left Anti-Semitism?

This is a cross-post from one of my other blogs. As it's got a religious element I thought it fair game to post here!

It's not a website I normally frequent but there appears a peculiar story in the Brussels Journal. It's about the increasing harassment of Jews in Amsterdam.

As with any harassment of identifiable people groups the Dutch Police use undercover decoy tactics to hold accountable those guilty of such attacks. It's commonly used to identify people who are considered to actively harass groups such as prostitutes, gay persons, or the elderly. And to me it sounds a pretty good tactic. Who could find anything wrong with that?

Well it seems one particular party does, but only when the undercover police are dressed as Jews. The website reports Evelien van Roemburg, an Amsterdam counselor of the Green Left Party, saying that using a decoy by the police amounts to provoking a crime.

But only when it's the Jews. Apparently.

I would hate to think that a party that is identified by many on the left as 'of the left' in fact turns out to have such tendencies. Perish the thought.

But it could all be Daily Mail style reporting by what is obviously a right-wing website.

Spritual Radio

Eastern Orthodox CrossImage via Wikipedia
One thing I love to do when working, at a keyboard or elsewhere is to listen to the radio. At my daily work my lab doesn't have any windows with a view to the outside world and the radio reception tends to be a bit rubbish. It wouldn't be right to use the company's broadband so I use my mobile phone to connect to on-line radio stations.

One of my favourites is Ancient Faith Radio. On their website they say:

Ancient Faith Radio seeks to deepen and enrich the faith of Orthodox Christians around the world with streaming audio programming and on-demand podcasts. We feature liturgical music from a variety of Orthodox traditions, as well as prayers, readings, lectures, and interviews.

Ancient Faith Radio is a division of Conciliar Media Ministries, which operates under the auspices of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America. However, it is a pan-Orthodox ministry and thus serves and supports all jurisdictions.
One thing I would like to change about them is that all the liturgy seems to be in English.

Anyone know of any on-line radio stations broadcasting orthodox or catholic liturgy and chant?


I like Stan. You should too.

The Papal Visit

So Benedict XVI is going to visit the UK in September this year. How do we know? Because of all the protests that are being lined up!

We have the National Secular Society, The Orange Order, Gay Humanists, Central London Humanist Group, the British Humanist Association, the National Secular Society, One Law for All, the Gay And Lesbian Humanist Association, the Rationalist Association, OutRage! and more.

They must see Pope Benny as a big fish for him to generate this amount of indignation. Not even Mugabe could rouse the wrath of so many!

Prayer by Hans Urs von Balthasar

Just ordered Prayer by Hans Urs von Balthasar.

I was impressed by Pope Benedict's book Jesus of Nazareth and gave a short review on this blog The Sign Of The Cross: Jesus Of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI

I'm also aware of the huge theological influence that Hans Urs von Balthasar has has on the Pope so I thought it would be good to dip into some of his stuff. On his book called 'Prayer' gets some excellent reviews. And if you want to connect up on then you can find me here.

Now ordered, looking forward to delivery!

Catholic Social Teaching

One aspect of Catholicism that really appeals to me is the concept of Catholic Social teaching.

Aside from the work of the Church this is perhaps evolved and expressed most eloquently through the works of the Catholic Worker Movement initiated by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, although this movement is not an official organ of the church.

Here in the UK we even have our very own Catholic worker Farm! You can read more about the farm at the London Catholic Worker.

All fascinating stuff!

Do not the rich oppress you?

Funny what surprises the Bible can spring upon you. I got my large study bible down from the bookshelf to have a nose through when I had 10 minutes spare and I settled upon the James, specifically chapter 2.

 1My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.
 2For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;
 3And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool:
 4Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? (James 2:1-4, King James Version)

Quite a strong passage there highlighting how we should practice equality in our relations and transactions with other people. So strong is the request that the passage suggests that to treat people based upon their outward appearance or worldly standing is in fact a sin!

Verses 5 to 7 is an interesting passage which I think I will need to look into ar depth another time.

 5Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?
 6But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?
 7Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? (James 2:5-7, King James Version)

Who are the poor? In contrast to the ways of this world God seems to have a heart for those whom this world looks down upon or shuns. A world turned upside down is a world that God seems to favour!

Gang Attack St Michael's Abbey in Farnborough

Surprisingy Farnborough in Hampshire has it's own Abbey, St Michael's Abbey. Well, not quite it's own but one built by The Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III of France.

Unfortunately the Abbey grounds and the monastic community have recently been attacked, as reported in the Farnborough News and Mail.

I visited the Abbey last Saturday and asked my guide Brother Thomas how they were coping. His reply was "it's an occupational hazard nowadays."

Gang attack historic abbey in Farnborough
By Jack Sommers
June 25, 2010

MONKS are living in fear after a gang of teenagers stormed their historic abbey, causing £2,000 worth of damage.

A group of between 15 and 20 youths began shouting abuse at the monks at St Michael’s Abbey via the gate-phone at its Farnborough Road entrance in the late hours of Saturday June 12, the day of England’s match against the USA in the World Cup.

Father Dom Cuthbert Brogan, abbot of the Grade 1 listed abbey, said he had been frustrated when he was told by police that it would not be possible to immediately despatch officers to the scene when he reported the disturbance.

The police said that the evening had been busy, with disturbances caused by a large number of people who had gone out after the World Cup match.

Fr Cuthbert said: “While I understand the limited resources of the police force and the necessity of prioritising emergency calls, I cannot help but be disappointed to be informed, while 20 youths are breaking into our property and threatening us, that the most we can hope for is a visit within a few days for an incident report.

Pray for the safety of the Abbey and the community there.

Here's a pic I took whilst there. Enjoy, and visit if you can!