Tuesday, 30 August 2016

A Little Quiz of Englishness ...

A bit of fun for HL, in his temporary exile in Brasil:

1. Where, or what, is Ulster?

2, Who was the last British monarch to claim to be monarch of France?

3. Who were the first, and last, Empresses, of India?

4. The British Cabinet has three "chancellors". What are their full titles?

5. What is a quart?

6. What is a pre-lactarian?

7. Who founded the Church of England?

8. What are the Queen's other names?

9. Who is the Heir Presumptive?

10. What is the wife of an earl called?

11. Name three London Underground lines.

12. Name three "national treasures".

13. Where are the Crown Jewels kept?

14. When is tea served?

15. "Sofa" or "settee"?

16. What is a "closed season"?

17. What is haggis made from?

18. What is "the West Country"?

19. What is "the Black Country"?

20. What is Blackpool famous for?

21. What's the nickname for people from Liverpool?

22. England has two ancient universities (Scotland has four) - which is the older?

23. How old do you need to be before you can apply for a car driving licence?

24. When was the NHS founded?

25. Who is the third most senior bishop in England? (two answers will do, double points for explaining why)

26. Which of these are part of the United Kingdom - The Channel Islands, Wales, the Isle of Man, the Falklands, Gibraltar, The Isle of Wight, Lancashire, the Isle of Man?

27. Who, in literature, and song, made the aspidistra famous in the 20th century?

28. By treaty, which country is England's oldest ally?

29. What are "the Home Counties"?

30. In which fictional village is "The Archers" set? (extra points for fictional county)

31. What is "toad-in-the-hole"?

32. Where do the Crown Jewels live? And what unusual birds guard them?





Sunday, 21 August 2016

Some thoughts on eternity, in answer to a kindly Sister

Your thoughts raise echoes in the sounding chamber of my own empty head! I use the phrase - nicked from a memorial tablet in Ely Cathedral (just on the right, as you go into the Lady Chapel) - "exchanged time for eternity". And in some of our conversation, especially to do with Jung, and collective consciousness, and praying for the dead, I think Helen Columba and I explored that a little together.

Every moment is eternal. All that will be always has been. We glimpse - as you say - the eternal fleetingly now, because more than that would overwhelm us. It's like a kind of map - the geography lies under, but from the surface, we can't always see it. And the space is as eternal as the moment. We locate ourselves in the eternal geography of time.

I've never found the words to say these things well, and they have eluded me yet again, but maybe there's some glimmer in there.

I do wish people didn't have to die, but sometimes you look at them and you know it is right. Another thing Helen Columba said to me - often, when I was whinging about some wasted disastrous part of my life! - "nothing is lost". And this is why.

Maybe God is like a kind of roadsweeper, tidying up the dust and ashes of our broken lives, but instead of consigning them to landfill, taking them home and weaving them back into the glorious tapestry of life for which we were always meant?

Or, I might be bonkers!


Richard Haggis
Barton-upon-Bayswater, Oxford
August 2016

Sunday, 7 August 2016

The Transfiguration - a snapshot of light from 6 years ago

Some thoughts on the Feast of the Transfiguration
9th August 2010

Gospel: Matthew 17:1-8

“This is my beloved son, in whom I take delight”

In the Orthodox churches, the Transfiguration is one of the great feasts of the year. Bafflingly, our Anglican reformers left this utterly Biblical occasion out of the Book of Common Prayer, until it was put right in the rejected Prayerbook of 1928.

On Friday morning I went down to Fairacres to celebrate the feast with the Sisters of the Love of God. I was sitting in the visitors’ chapel, and a priest I have known for many years was the celebrant. It was bright, and sunny, and all was well with the world … until my mobile ‘phone rang. After years of telling people at weddings and funerals to turn their ‘phones off - lest it seems in the first case as if someone has thought of a “just cause or impediment”, and in the second as if the dear departed has thought of a loophole and wants to appeal – I was finally hoist by my own petard. But worse, much worse, was the ringtone that His Lordship has put on the telephone, and which I can’t shift. It says “pick up, bitch, pick up, bitch”. Fairacres chapel has the most amazing acoustic, and I was most amazingly embarrassed. I ran for the door at a most unusual speed, and wouldn’t have returned if I hadn’t left my hat behind. A very naughty friend said that the suave thing to do would have been to hand the ‘phone to the nearest Sister and say “I think it’s for you”.

But I’m very glad I did return. Something happened at The Peace, which transfigured my experience, and, I’m sure, that of many others there. They say of the saints, and of the dying, and even the dead, that sometimes they are transfigured. The great Russian mystic, Saint Seraphim, is perhaps the most famous. They say he often glowed with the mystic light of God, in the same way that Jesus did in our story in the Gospels. More prosaically, when my godfather died, and it was a hard dying, nobly borne, his wife said “he looked so peaceful, you couldn’t wish him back”. She was lost without him, and that was a sacrificial thing to say. Without knowing it, she’d hit on what transfiguration is all about – peace.

Jesus tells his disciples not to be afraid. Fear corrupts us, but love casts it out. And when love is allowed in, peace prevails. Love, of course, is hard work. When we look to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, or the progress that has been made in Northern Ireland, peace has been made by hard work, by self-sacrifice, by forcing ourselves to see the face of God in our former enemy, by committing ourselves to the welfare of our brothers and sisters now, rather than harking on about the injustices of the past.

We find it in our own lives, too. In domesticity, with partners, or children, we can choose to fight a battle, or choose to let things go. We can let peace in. My mother always says that with children it is far better to distract than to confront. They’re behaving badly – of course they are, that’s what children are for – but face them head-on and they will transfer their anger to you, and peace becomes impossible. Of course, some instances need to be addressed directly, but most don’t, and the awful task of the parent is to tell the difference. The wonder is not that so many get it wrong, but that so many get it right. And the parent is the midwife of the child’s transfiguration to adulthood.

And every so often we do get it right. We sit on the sofa with a lovingly-made meal (or even at the table if we have space for such luxuries), and “dinner’s at seven, and God’s in his heaven, and everything’s right with the world”, as Joyce Grenfell joyfully sung.

And that is peace. And it transfigures us.

There is a better prayer than this, but what I can remember is “God, give us your peace, in the world, in our nation, in our homes and families, and in our hearts, now, and always. Amen.”

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

A Homily for the Curé d'Ars, patron saint of parish priests

A Homily for the Sisters of the Love of God at Fairacres, Oxford
4th August 2010, 9 a.m.

Feast Day of Saint John Vianney, the Cure d’Ars

Imagine my delight after pondering how to celebrate the 110th anniversary of the birth of the late-lamented Queen Mother, as well as the 96th anniversary of the even-more-lamented outbreak of the Great War, to discover, on consulting my e-mails at 5.30 this morning that you were keeping the feast of the Cure d’Ars, patron saint of parish priests.

I’d heard of him, read quotations either by or about him, but never really paid any attention. I was a know-nothing. So, of course, to the Incomparable Betsy, the editor of the Oxford Dictionary of the Christ Church, quite the best reference work in the world. And so, I had a thought.

Maybe you too have had the experience, at a time of spiritual fervour, of wishing you could become a saint? To convert multitudes by the brilliance of your preaching, the humility of your life, the wisdom of your spiritual advice, the gentleness with which you deal with the poor, the sick, and the dying? Fortunately, it wears off, and you spend the rest of your life wondering where it has gone. Reading Saint John Vianney’s story makes me realise why. He was said to have seen up to 20,000 people a year. That’s 55 a day. I get exhausted when someone comes to the front door with a questionnaire. He spent 16-18 hours a day listening to people in the confessional – and he must have been good, because the multitudes kept coming. I spent five hours taking dictation from horse dressage show judges on Sunday, and by the end was fit for the knacker’s yard myself. Maybe I don’t really want to be a saint after all – it’s too much like hard work.

Saint John was of course a Roman Catholic. You know he can’t have been an Anglican because if he was, he’d probably have been married, and an irate wife would have dragged him out of the confessional to go shopping. And I wonder if communities, friends, partners, families, children, are all given to us by God to save us from becoming saints? Of course, in all those relationships we can, and do, exercise our sainthood in different, more low-key ways.

And do parish clergy need a patron saint? Do they know “trouble, sorrow, need, sickness, or any other adversity”? All of us here know that they do. I think it might be the loneliest job in the world. You can’t talk to the laity for fear of gossip, you can’t talk to the archdeacon and the bishop for fear of kyboshing your next job. You have to love everyone, but also challenge and innovate, and everyone hates change apart from THEIR change. You must be “all things to all people”, and be seen as a hypocrite. So, the parish clergy need the prayers of Saint John Vianney, and if he could deal with 20,000 a year in this world, imagine what he is achieving in the next! But they also need our prayers, our ears, our help, our love.

Let us close with a prayer:

Gracious God, guard and guide the guardians of your flock; give them humble and noble hearts, fortitude, compassion, inspiration, and love; and inspire all of us to be good friends to them in times of joy and times of trouble, so that in the fullness of time, we may all be celebrated as saints in your eternal kingdom. Amen.

Richard Haggis
Littlemore, Oxford
August 2010

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Lisa's Quiz - blank

1. Do you like blue cheese?
2. Have you ever smoked?
3. Do you own a gun?
4. What is your favorite flavour?
5. Do you get nervous before Doctor visits?
6. What do you think of hot dogs?
7. Favorite Movie(s)?
8. What do you prefer to drink in the morning?
9. Do you do push ups? .
10. What’s your favorite piece of jewelry?
11. Favorite hobby?
12. Do you have A.D.D.?
13. What’s the one thing you dislike about yourself?
14. What is your middle name?
15. Name three thoughts at this moment.
16. Name 3 drinks you regularly drink?
17. Current worry?
18. Current annoyance ?
19. Favorite place to be?
20. How do you spend New years eve?
21. Where would you like to go?
22. Name three people who would complete this?
23. Do you own slippers?
24. What color shirt are you wearing right now?
25. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets?
26. Can you whistle?
27. What are your favorite colors?
28. Would you be a pirate?
29. What songs do you sing in the shower?
30. Favorite girls name?
31. Favorite boys name?
32. What’s in your pocket right now?
33. Last thing that made you laugh?
34. Best toy as a child?
35. Worst injury you ever had?
36. Where would you love to live?
37. How many TV’s do you have?
38. Who is your loudest friend?
39. How many dogs do you have?
40. Does someone trust you?
41. What book are you reading at the moment?
42. What’s your favourite candy?
43. What’s your favourite sports team?
44. Favorite month?

Lisa's Quiz - answers

1. Do you like blue cheese?
Yes
2. Have you ever smoked?
Tried, made me wheeze
3. Do you own a gun?
No
4. What is your favorite flavour?
Asparagus
5. Do you get nervous before Doctor visits?
Only if I haven't worked out what's wrong
6. What do you think of hot dogs?
OK if I make them
7. Favorite Movie(s)?
The Godfather, Parting Glances, Remains of the Day
8. What do you prefer to drink in the morning?
Tea, but I usually have coffee
9. Do you do push ups?
Whatever for?
10. What’s your favorite piece of jewelry?
My wedding ring
11. Favorite hobby?
Digging up the dead (genealogy)
12. Do you have A.D.D.?
Did you hear that noise outside?
13. What’s the one thing you dislike about yourself?
I fret most about the least important things
14. What is your middle name?
I was deliberately not given one by a father who hated his
15. Name three thoughts at this moment.
How am I going to sort out this invoice for the naughty people who used the room at work far later than they said? Where am I going to put my enormous cock? Will the ratatouille keep?
16. Name 3 drinks you regularly drink?
Wine, coffee, water
17. Current worry?
Getting my husband home, for good
18. Current annoyance ?
Idiots (Home Office, Council Tax Office, you name it)
19. Favorite place to be?
Home
20. How do you spend New years eve?
On my own
21. Where would you like to go?
Back to Jerusalem
22. Name three people who would complete this?
Liz, Robert, Sharon
23. Do you own slippers?
Good reminder!
24. What color shirt are you wearing right now?
Purple
25. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets?
Never tried it
26. Can you whistle?
Not for money
27. What are your favorite colors?
Blue
28. Would you be a pirate?
For the travel by water
29. What songs do you sing in the shower?
I don't, I shout at the radio
30. Favorite girls name?
Marie, Elizabeth, Rosa
31. Favorite boys name?
Matthew, Paul, Joscelino
32. What’s in your pocket right now?
Wallet, purse, camera, mobile, handkerchief, work keys
33. Last thing that made you laugh?
My boss being wound up about my using incense at mid-day prayers while she was away (which I didn't!)
34. Best toy as a child?
Lego
35. Worst injury you ever had?
Countless ankle sprains
36. Where would you love to live?
In a house of my own
37. How many TV’s do you have?
Two
38. Who is your loudest friend?
Cat Minor
39. How many dogs do you have?
None - yet
40. Does someone trust you?
Everyone trusts me. HAHAHA
41. What book are you reading at the moment?
"Is there a science of God?" by Austin Farrer
42. What’s your favourite candy?
I liked the mint chocolates I was given for my birthday (by Mr Wind-Up, No. 33)
43. What’s your favourite sports team?
Sport is an instrument of Satan
44. Favorite month?
April, when I met the love of my life.