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April 30, 2007


Having explored some of the East coast of the Emerald Isle, we crossed to the West via Enniskillen and Sligo to reach Croagh Patrick. From there we travelled the "scenic route" following the coast until we were forced to turn South across the peninsula and take the Loo Pass along the shore of Loo Lough. From Leenaun we were able to follow the coast again and cross the Connemara Peninsula. Two things stand out - the peat harvesting and the endless miles of peat covered landscape, and the bleakness of the scenery. In contrast to the rest of Ireland, this area is brown with outcrops of rock to break the peat. The road would break a snakes back in places and the inhabited parts are marked by clusters of small enclosures within dry stone walls. These are not boundaries however, they are the most efficient means of holding the thin soil in place!

A small "Castle" on the Town Quay at Oranmore, stands sentinel at the head of Galway Bay. It is now a private residence.

Turning East again we followed the coast to Galway at the head of Galway Bay and then continued to Oranmore were we could find a quiet place to have lunch. Again, the scenery changed and the bleakness of the Connemara is replaced by greenery, trees and rolling countryside. It has been said that Ireland is like a bowl, with all the mountains around the rim and the interior lying low and wet. This may be so, but the West is certainly steep and the valleys and lowlying areas filled with lakes and Loughs.

Our journey across to Dublin was quick and easy, but we both felt that there was plenty more we would have to return to see again or to sample new.

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April 29, 2007

A tricky question .....

A friend sent me a link to a discussion forum with the question as to whether or not I would like to comment. The questions is "Have the mainstream churches lost their way?" I responded as follows:

I am unable to post a reply as I am not a "member" of this forum, but I think you may wish to use the following: -

As a member of the Ministry Team of a "Mainstream" Church, I would reply to the original charge by pointing out that the Media seldom quote the Archbishops or Bishops in their entireity, if they did many of their supposedly "loony" statements would immediately be seen as a lot less contentious. But then, only contention and apparently "loony" statements sell newspapers. The CofE certainly does not support the taking of life, slavery or any other form abuse of human rights to life or liberty. Abortion is and will always be a highly emotional issue, one full of difficulties, such as "is it right to allow the foetus to destroy the mother?" - a very real medical question in some cases. Note that I say "some" cases. I do not think you will find anyone in any Christian community who supports "abortion on demand".

There is a long running campaign among the political classes in this country (and I include the Civil Service in that) to destroy the Christian Church or to have it so weakened that it can no longer provide people with an alternative view to the world of materialism they wish to present. A world which would give them control over ever aspect of our lives, including the dictation of what is and is not "moral". It is a well known and very well used technique which goes back a long, long way in our history but the most successful examples of its use are the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. Thus far they have successfully undermined morality, the family and the British nation, now they promote "multi-culturalism" and "Equality of Faiths" as a way to denigrate all faith.

Few serious Churchmen subscribe to the view that all faiths are the same, this liberal theology held sway briefly in the 1990's but was soon seen to be a contradiction of the Gospel message. Interestingly the "revelations" of the Gospel of Judas show us a world the politicians would dearly love to have - since the Gnostic "vision" which inspired this work is a very materialistic one, one which would exactly suit the Socialist Government we now have. If the Churches wanted to "sell out" they need do no more than adopt this gospel as their message - Blair and co would rush to pour money into churches!

We must remember that the Church is a God inspired, but still humanly driven, organisation. It does lose its way from time to time. In my own lifetime I have seen Liberation Theology come and go ("Jesus the Che Guevarra"), "Equality of Faith" is another abberation which has run it's course (The image of Buddha as Christ just doesn't work and nor does the image of Khali as a benign manifestation of God!). What is not reported in the press is the debate between Islam, whose prophet is the "Messenger" of God, and Christianity, whose Saviour is the Word of God. One bears a word, the other is the Word. Why will you not see this? Largely because Islam is another version of Gnosticism but it contains within it elements of Arianism (another Christian heresy from the third and fourth centuries) and Pelagianism (A Heresy from the Fourth Century). As long as there is human activity you will find the churches lurching from one "new" message to another since even in this human activity, the worship of God, you will find that there are those who use it to further their own particular agenda. As a Minister myself it often saddens me to see people doing this and I have to work very hard sometimes to prevent it happening within the congregation I serve.

Has the Church lost its way? I would argue not. Sometimes the message of the Church is not what people want to hear, and at the moment, certainly within the Anglican communion, the message is unpopular since it doesn't allow individuals to shirk their individual responsibilities and off load them onto some amorphous "other". That flies in the face of the current political and media driven mantra that says we are collectively responsible for the wrongs of the individual. The Church also faces some very tough challenges arising through science and medicine, challenges which make us look again at ethics, at what scripture really says about certain things and at how we respond to them. These are not matters that can be respolved by taking simplistic views and clinging to them, they need to be examined carefully and honestly and then a solution which is compatible with our beliefs worked out before we respond. Unfortunately, again, the media and the political classes demand instant answers to questions which could take years to resolve.

I look at the flight of people out of the church and towards the simplistic interpretations of scripture offered by "non-mainstream" churches with some sadness, since this tells me that these are people who do not seek to grow in their faith or in their understanding of faith and scripture. They want simple solutions to everything; comfort blankets that allow them to carry on as before without having to think.

I believe that God gave humanity, in all its diversity and with all its flaws, brains and reason so that we could explore the wonders of his creation and the wonder of the unknown that lies in the life to come. And he expects us to use them. That inevitably means that we will disagree about many things, that we will appear stupid to some and that we will sometimes lose our way. But then, that is where we believe that ultimately the Holy Spirit will put us back on the path and help us find the way.

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April 28, 2007

End of the holiday ...

Mausi's holiday came to an end today and she has returned to her normal hunting grounds along the Rhine. These last three weeks have been enormous fun, and provided us both with lots of opportunities to explore lots of interesting things. Unfortunately it didn't give us much time to post on the blog.

And now we both have huge backlogs of work to catch up with ........


Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:17 AM | TrackBack

April 27, 2007

Patrick's Mountain

Croagh (pronounced "Crow") Patrick in County Mayo is a rather intimidating peak. Crowned at it's top by a small Oratory chapel it is reputed to be the site of St Patrick's famous defeat of the devil and, some say, the place from which he banished all forms of serpent. Today it is a pilgrimage site, and pilgrims and other visitors take a challenging route to the top following a "pilgrim" route marked out by thousands of feet and markers giving the various "stations" such as St Patrick's Bed and other points at which the saint is said to have rested or performed some action. It is a very stiff climb and the path is so well trodden that erosion is starting to be a problem.

Croagh Patrick.jpg
Croagh Patrick seen from the tidal inlet below. It is a starkly beautiful place.

Sheep still graze upon it's slopes, a reminder that Patrick was once a slave shepherd, quite possibly on these very slopes. Sheep are funny beasts, not least because they cannot eat grass which is too long. Cattle like the grass long which is why many farmers and herders will put cattle into a filed, and when they have eaten it down to a certain level, move them on and put sheep in. In Patrick's day the sheep would have had a problem foraging in the lower areas because it was heavily wooded and the grass grew so well that it is recorded that haymaking was not necessary. That means that the sheep probably had to graze higher up the slopes and above the tree and scrub lines to find the low growing grass and plants they feed on. For the likes of Patrick this would, in its turn, mean that they would have had to endure exposure to the wind and rain with little shelter from tree, scrub bush or even huts.

The path to the top of Croagh Patrick is not for the faint hearted or the ill equipped. The advice is to start early in the morning and climb steadily throughout the day, to take plenty of water and to take frequent rest breaks. Part of the path runs up a ridge with steep slopes on either side - and the eroded pathways are covered in loose stones and slippery scree. Good walking boots are essential - although, in July, true pilgrims climb bare footed! - and there is advice to ensure that you have the means to summon help if necessary.

In Patrick's time it would have been a place of extreme loneliness and very harsh living for anyone, let alone a slave valued by his masters as less than the beasts he was tending. It certainly makes one think of our own ability to survive in such conditions, and on the faith that drove this man to not only survive but to return as a missionary to share that with his former masters.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 01:54 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 26, 2007

Message to spammers.

Should any of the Spam Generator community be actually reading this I hope that you will take note of the following constructive comments.

1. I am no more likely to publish your spam comment if it begins with "Good site!" or "Useful information" than I am if it were to begin "This spam comment is..." 2. The Spam filter on this server catches them and holds them for my approval. I simply delete them. 3. It is irritating in the extreme to have to clear out my comments box daily, but, if it prevents your messages appearing, I am happy to do it.

I monitor the comments daily and delete upwards of a hundred of these irritating and utterly worthless messages every day. I am unlikely to allow you to use my blog to promote the sexual proclivities of any person or persons of whatever age, banking services, the sale of fake watches, furniture, perfumes, medications or any other commodity now or in the future. I therefoire respectfully suggest that you desist from this pointless and irritating activity.

Thank you.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:22 PM | TrackBack

Meetings, bl**dy meetings .....

The Monk has been invloved in a series of meetings over the last few days. The penalty of being elected Church Warden - again. Still, it is satisfying to be able to move things forward ever so slightly even in the face of well meaning individuals whose vision is no doubt influenced by the different galaxy or planetary system they inhabit from the rest of us.

That said, the Monk hates meetings, particularly those which seem to be about letting people voice their opinions and avoid taking decisions. He had more than enough of that in his porevious life attending that sort of meeting run by the civil service, for the civil service and with the absolutely rigid purpose of preventing any decisions from being taken or - in the event of the unthinkable - actioned. So now he has a key role in what seems to be an endless string of meetings.

It's probably a penance for the sins of his previous life!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:13 PM | TrackBack

April 25, 2007

Old Sarum

Mausi and the Monk have been exploring a bit of the South of England. Taking a scenic route they stopped at a place called Old Sarum. Fascinating site, indeed. On a hill near Salisbury with a commanding view over the
surrounding landscape traces of settlements from the Iron Age to Medieval times were found. Standing on this hill you easily understand why the first people to come here choose the hill to build a massive Iron Age fortification on top. The precise date is unknown but it may well have been around 400 BC. This ancient hillfort was protected by an outer and an inner rampart. The outer rampart encloses 29 acres, quite a big site. Iron Age hillforts served many purposes such as acting as markets, storehouses, religious sites and last but not least as protective enclosures into which the local population and their livestock could retreat in times of danger.

In 43 AD the Romans came along and occupied the top of the hill until the early fourth century. During the Roman period Old Sarum starts to appear in documents as Sorviodunum. Three Roman roads from the north and east
converged at the hillfort. It must therefore have been quite a busy place with Roman settlements outside the ramparts.

In 1070 William the Conqueror decided to build a royal castle in this spot, the ruins of which can still be seen on the hilltop.

Ruins of William the Conqueror's royal castle with the remains of the mighty keep in the background to the left

For this purpose he very cleverly divided the old hillfort in two. An inner set of fortifications protected the castle itself, a complex of towers, halls and apartments. This was surrounded by a huge outer enclosure or bailey. This was also home to a small cathedral. Unfortunately, it was heavily damaged by a severe thunderstorm on 10 April 1092, only five days after its consecration. But under Old Sarum's most influential bishop, Roger, both castle and cathedral were rebuilt and added to in the beginning of the 12th century.

Layout of the first and the rebuilt cathedral of Old Sarum

Despite all these efforts neither cathedral nor castle were occupied for long. In 1220 the cathedral moved down into the valley below and is now known as Salisbury Cathedral. Apparently only a handful of people continued
to live within the castle until about 1400.

Posted by Mausi at 04:01 PM | TrackBack

April 23, 2007

Healthy living .....

In the beginning God covered the earth with broccoli, cauliflower and spinach, with green, yellow and red vegetables of all kinds so Man
And Woman would live long and healthy lives.

Then using God's bountiful gifts, Satan created Dairy Ice Cream and Magnums.
And Satan said "You want hot fudge with that?
And Man said "Yes!"
And Woman said "I'll have one too with chocolate chips". And lo they gained 10 pounds.

And God created the healthy yoghurt that woman might keep the figure that man found so fair.
And Satan brought forth white flour from the wheat and sugar from the cane and combined them. And Woman went from size 12 to size 14.

So God said "Try my fresh green salad".
And Satan presented Blue Cheese dressing and garlic croutons on the side. And Man and Woman unfastened their belts following the repast.

God then said "I have sent you healthy vegetables and olive oil in which to cook them". And Satan brought forth deep fried coconut king prawns, butter-dipped lobster chunks and chicken fried steak, so big it needed its own platter. And Man's cholesterol went through the roof.

Then God brought forth the potato, naturally low in fat and brimming with potassium and good nutrition.
Then Satan peeled off the healthy skin and sliced the starchy centre into chips and deep fried them in animal fats adding copious quantities of salt. And Man put on more pounds.

God then brought forth running shoes so that his Children might lose those extra pounds.
And Satan came forth with a cable TV with remote control so Man would not have to toil changing the channels. And Man and Woman laughed and cried before the flickering light and started wearing stretch jogging suits.

Then God gave lean beef so that Man might consume fewer calories and still satisfy his appetite.
And Satan created McDonalds and the 99p double cheeseburger. Then
Satan said "You want fries with that?" and Man replied "Yes, And super size 'em". And Satan said "It is good." And Man and Woman went into cardiac arrest.

God sighed .......... and created quadruple by-pass surgery.

And then Satan chuckled and created the National Health Service.

After an exhaustive review of the research literature, here's the final word on nutrition and health:

1. Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.
2. Mexicans eat a lot of fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.
3. Chinese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.
4. Italians drink excessive amounts of red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.
5. Germans drink beer and eat lots of sausages and fats and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.

Eat and drink what you like. Speaking English is apparently what kills you!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:01 AM | TrackBack

April 22, 2007

Watch where you are going

For every visitor to Dublin Christ Church Cathedral is definitely a must.It was built between 1173 and 1220 and heavily altered in 1875.

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Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin

What struck Mausi most inside the cathedral - apart from its graceful proportions, the beautiful windows, and the crypt - were the beautiful tiles on the floor.Being used to flagstones and marble in German and Italian churches and cathedrals Mausi saw tiles like these for the first time in Tewkesbury Abbey. The ones in Christ Church Cathedral have probably come from the same source.

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Floor tiles in Christ Church Cathedral - warm colours and intricate patterns

One of the most beautiful bit was this cicular arrangement of tiles. The outer circle shows the 'beggar foxes', foxes disguised as beggars.

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Beggar Foxes on the floor tiles

The Monk thought the Beggar Foxes were unique to Ireland but Mausi knows they are not: she has already seen a little statue of one of them in a small town called Michelstadt in the heart of the Odenwald in Germany. Doesn't need much imagination to see them travelling all over Europe in the Middle Ages, does it?

Posted by Mausi at 03:30 PM | TrackBack

April 21, 2007


The little cathedral at Downpatrick has a number of unique features, not least being that it was originally the Quire of the larger monastic church "slighted" by Henry VIII's Commissioners at the dissolution of the monasteries. It also suffered at the hands of Cromwell's Puritans who quarried a great deal of stone from here for fortification elsewhere. The cathedral stands atop the Mound of Down and is approached along a road the leads past the former garrison barracks which later became the prison.

The Cathedral of the Holy and Indivisible Trinity in Downpatrick, Co Down, seen from the approach road at the East end.

The present cathedral was created out of the ruin of the monastic Quire in 1790 and has recently undergone a major restoration. It has several unique features, not least the preserved "Box" pews in the Aisles, the Nave pulpit and the "Return" seating for the Dean, Precentor and Canons. The Bishop's "Cathedra" is placed half way along the Nave opposite the Corporation Bench.

It is a lovely place, with a good feel to it and some wonderful glass in the windows. Not least the window commemorating Patrick himself. This two panel window shows a young Patrick tending sheep and the second an older Patrick as Bishop. For those visiting Co Down, this place is a must for both a prayer time and the tranquility. Christ is there present - and so is Patrick, Columba and Brigid.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:21 PM | TrackBack

April 20, 2007

Hillsides in spring ....

Spring is definitely upon us - in fact probably almost over in some areas - and as we have wandered around Ireland and now parts of Gloucestershire, you cannot help but be struck by the cycle of nature that we have so successfully disconnected from. Walking on Bredon Hill the other day, Mausi and I found ourselves enjoying bright sunshine and cool breeze. The ground is a carpet of tiny flowers (and the Monk is no botanist!) and the sheep have their lambs all in tow.

A curious lamb stares into the eye of Mausi's camera.

How different our lives are to those who lived here just a hundred years ago - and how very different to those who created the great Iron Age "forts" that crown this hill and adorn its surrounding areas. Kemerton Camp, Elmley Castle and the Bredon fort itself stretch human occupation of this area back at least a thousand years before the Roman occupation of Britain. We know a little of their lifestyle since it didn't change radically until the coming of the Romans, but even then, parts of it survived. Who were they? Some were definitely Celts, but there may well have been other tribes and races here as well, since the genetic record is confused.

A carpet of flowers springs from the hillside on Bredon Hill.

The great ditches and ramparts of the Bredon settlement command the heights of the hill itself and from here the view is spectacular. Worcester can be seen at one side, Tewkesbury lies south west of it and Gloucester's cathedral tower crowns the skyline to the south-south-west. The country was heavily forested in pre-Roman times - in fact right into the late Jacobean period - but this hill, like so many others would have provided the type of grazing needed for sheep - short cropped grass and small scrub. That would, in its turn, mean that the hill's inhabitants would have had little shelter from trees during the winter storms which funnel along the Severn valley around them and you do have to wonder how they survived some of it.

The life of an Iron Age inhabitant would certainly have been a hardy one!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:44 AM | TrackBack

April 19, 2007

Three saints in one grave lie ....

In the churchyard at Downpatrick Cathedral, formerly a monastery dating back to St Patrick's work in Ireland, lies a large granite boulder, placed here in the ninteenth century to replace a rather battered marker. The great slab marks the spot in which are reputed to lie the bones of Patrick, Columba (Columcille) and Brigid. The bones of Patrick were moved from an earlier grave to here along with those of Columba (buried at Bangor) and Brigid on the orders of the Earl of Ulster, one Lord de Courcy in the twelth century when he paid for the rebuilding of the small monastery that once stood on this site. The size and form of the de Courcy monastery can be judged from the fact that the present cathedral is only the Quire of the former monastic church.

Legend has it that the bones of three saints share a grave here at Downpatrick's ancient cathedral. The inscription on this slab says simply "Patrick", but here too lie Columba and Brigid.

According to legend this reburial was foretold in a prophesy and originally the three saints remains were kept in reliquaries in the church where pilgrims could come and pray before them. Then came the dissolution of the monasteries and the reformation. The three saints were condemned to be burned as superstitious fakes and the records show that one Lord Grey supervised the burning of the reliquaries (stripped of their jewels and gold of course!) and the bones in the town square below the mound. Again, it is reputed that the monks had secretly buried the saints bones in the grounds and replaced them with animal bones before Lord Grey arrived. The tradition is certainly very strong in support of this, but the exact place of the reburial is now lost.

That said, it doesn't matter - Patrick, Columba and Brigid are still as present today as they ever were. The Monk, who is named for Patrick, felt very much in his presence here and spent a very valuable while in silent prayer and meditation in these ancient and hallowed grounds.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:13 PM | TrackBack

April 18, 2007

Patrick's breastplate

Patricks breastplate.jpg

This tile sums up for me the loneliness of the boy Patrick, kidnapped, humiliated, beaten, probably starved, deprived of family and friends, left alone to herd sheep on a lonely hillside in a strange land. Here he found a faith that I can only envy, a faith that sustained him and brought him back to serve as missionary and Bishop to the very people who had treated him so harshly.

I hope I have the privilege of meeting him in the life hereafter, even if only for the briefest of moments in his company.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:10 PM | TrackBack

April 17, 2007

Patrick's first church

The village of Saul lies just outside and to the East of Downpatrick, almost within spitting distance of Strangford Lough. This is the site of the first church established by St Patrick - in a barn given by the local chieftain, a man named Dichu. Also nearby are the Struell Wells, where Patrick is said to have baptised many of the local converts. The present church is a recent building designed and constructed on the pattern of buildings dating from the 9th Century onwards, Patrick's original building has left no trace since it was a wattle and daub structure with a thatched roof. The tower too, is a much later invention - this one dates from 1932 and is again a copy of towers built for refuge from the 8th Century onwards.

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The little Church at Saul, seen from the top of Slieve Patrick, stands on the site of St Patrick's first church and is where he died in 461 (Or 490 depending on whose chronology you follow!).

The present Saul Church stands on the site of St Patrick's "barn" church, which was in it's turn replaced by a stone monastic church of the Celtic style, and then rebuilt in the 12th to 13th Centuries as the monastery expanded. The monastic buildings were torn down in 1539-40 and the church fell into ruin. It was rebuilt as it is today in 1932 to commemorate Patrick's arrival in Ireland as it's missionary apostle in 1932 - the 1500th anniversary of his return in 432 AD.

I found this to be a very holy place - and I found myself wondering what this very interesting man would have made of the church as it is today. Or, for that matter, the society that has grown from the world he helped to create!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:01 AM | TrackBack

April 16, 2007

Monastic cats ....

Visiting the exhibition on the Book of Kells (which includes the Book of Dunnow, Book of Armagh and several others of very ancient date) one finds oneself confronted by a little piece of whimsy in the midst of all the wonder of the creation of a book on vellum and by hand. It is a poem by an Irish Monk, obviously distracted from his work sufficiently to make a scribble in the margin of the book he was copying .... It is written in the margins of an illuminated manuscript at the Abbey of St. Paul at Reichenau, Corinthia.

The poem inspired a book telling of the adventures of the cat Pangur Ban who finally ends his travels at Cashel Castle in Eire, keeping it rodent-free and where he was greatly loved.

Pangur Ban is Gaelic for "white Pangur" or "little white cat."

Pangur Ban

I and my white Pangur have each his special art: His mind is set on hunting mice, mine is upon my special craft.

I love to rest - better than any fame!
With close study at my little book;
White Pangur does not envy me:
He loves his childish play.

When in our house we two are all alone...
A tale without tedium.
We have - sport never-ending!
Something to exercise our wit.

At times by feats of derring-do
a mouse sticks in his net,
while into my net there drops
a difficult problem of hard meaning.

He points his full shining eye
against the fence of the wall:
I point my clear though feeble eye
against the keenness of science.

He rejoices with quick leaps
when in his sharp claw sticks a mouse;
I, too, rejoice when I have grasped
a problem difficult and dearly loved.

Though we are thus at all time,
neither hinders the other,
each of us pleased with his own art
amuses himself alone.

He is master of the work
which every day he does:
While I am at my own work
to bring difficulty to clearness.

Eighth Century Irish Monk

Obviously the Latin version has a better rhythmn and rhyme to it's cadences. One can but wonder what Father Prior or Father Abbot thought of the Monk's doodling in one of their precious books!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:57 AM | TrackBack

April 15, 2007

Return from Ireland

The Monk and Mausi got back from their trip to Ireland early this morning. At 0430 to be precise ......

The trip has been a wonderful experience, with plenty seen, wonderful people met and even a short walk up the Croagh Patrick mountain. To the first saddle on the pilgrim route anyway. One day we will return and make it all the way up the mountain.

One of the things the Monk hoped to do on this trip was discover more about the REAL St Patrick, not the one of legend, but the real man and his life. He has come back with a huge amount of material to read and a sense of what the man, his mission and his life must have been like. The legends are nothing at all compared to the reality! The Monk has always felt that St Patrick was somehow very much more than the plaster saint and cutout figure the legends give us - and he has discovered not only that he was right, but that the man was even more amazing than he thought.

Watch this space for more on that score!

For those who missed us, we're back and our pictures will adorn these pages soon!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:45 AM | TrackBack

April 09, 2007

Visiting Ireland

Mausi and the Monk are visiting Ireland, and hoping to see as much as possible of County Down (The Monk's family connections are with Downpatrick and Newtownards) and possibly Antrim, Sligo and the West. We will be in Dublin on Friday and Saturday of next week and back in the UK on Sunday.

In between we hope to be able to get on the blog from time to time using Mausi's new laptop which is able to go online without a line, so don't despair if we don't post daily - we'll keep you posted when we can.

For the Monk at least this is part a pilgrimage and part an exploration. The pilgrimage part is to visit the sites that his name saint is associated with, the exploration is to learn more of the home from which a good half his family have sprung. For Mausi the exploration is a chance to visit a part of the British Isles she has never before seen, and to make her acquaintance with Ireland, the Irish and, of course, Guiness.

The Monk has high hopes he will also be able to convert her to drinking proper Whiskey!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:27 AM | TrackBack

April 08, 2007

Happy Easter

Christ is Risen! Allellulia!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:14 PM | TrackBack

April 07, 2007

Holy Saturday

A day of anticipation and traditionally the day on which we clean our churches from top to bottom in preparation for the great celebration of Easter tomorrow.

Having just returned from the Easter Vigil Service I can tell you that the Abbey is looking fabulous - and the congregation are looking forward to celebrating Easter with joy. The Pascal fire has been lit, the Pascal Candle lit and blessed and the Vigil is now over, in a few short minutes Christ will have once more burst from the tomb and be among us.


Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:19 PM | TrackBack

April 06, 2007

Good Friday

The Solemn Liturgy on Good Friday is an incredibly powerful liturgical experience. It begins with the sacred Ministers prostrating themselves before the bare altar and then moves through the readings and the singing of the Passion from John 18: 25 to 19: 42. This is followed by the bearing in of a veiled Crucifix, carried by the Deacon who reveals the cross and the figure by removing the veil at three sperate stations at which are sung the words, "Behold the wood of the Cross, on which hung the Saviour of the world."

Good Friday Cross.JPG
Behold the wood of the cross, on which hung the Saviour of the world.

Placing this between two acolytes who hold it steady, the cross is then venerated by the three ministers, followed by the acolytes and then the congregation, each making a genuflection before it and kissing the feet of the figure - or simply kneeling briefly in prayer. When everyone has had the chance to kneel at the foot of the crucified Christ in this way, the crucifix is carried into the Sanctuary and placed on the High Altar. While that is done, it is the Sub Deacon's task to go to the Lady Chapel with two acolytes and to carry from there to the High Altar the Ciborium in which lies the consecrated bread - the Body of Christ - from the Maundy Thursday liturgy. The Ministers, servers and congregation then make their communion and the final prayers are said.

At the closing of the final prayer, the Celebrant slams the book onto the surface of the altar, the ministers strip off their Chasuble, Dalmatic and Tunicle, throwing these onto the altar - and walk out, each going a different way.

I can only say that, as the Sub Deacon, I know exactly how the disciples felt as they hurried away from their crucified teacher, master and friend.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 05, 2007

Maundy Thursday

Having just got back from the Cathedral and the annual blessing of the oils and renewal of priestly vows Mass, it is a beautiful day, the service was, as ever, very, very moving and the light inside our Cathedral fabulous. These are the sort of days when it is a joy to be alive.

Today is, of course Maundy Thursday and in a few hours I will be off to the Abbey to take part in the Maundy Mass. During this service the Celebrant will wash the feet of twelve parishioners, in itself one of the most moving acts to witness, and even more so if you are part of it. "Then Lord, not just my feet, but my hands and my head as well!" Sor exclaimed Peter when Jesus washed his feet at the last supper. He is referring to the ritual washing performed before prayer - and echo of which is seen in the washing ritual practiced by Muslims before prayer - and to the ritual washing away of sin practiced in Judaism in the first century. The priest performs this act as a reminder that Christ came as the Servant King - and that is a part of the priests calling as well, to be the servant.

At the end of the Mass the final Gospel will be read while the Altars are stripped and all the decoration is removed from the church. As the Gospel ends and the last items are carried out the choir and congregation will scatter. A reminder again that the disciples ran away when Jesus was seized.

A day, which begins in joy and ends in abandonment. Something to make us think as we approach the Cross on Good Friday.

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April 04, 2007

The truth may be slow in surfacing - but it certainly bites when it does.....

So Brown wouldn't listen to his civil servants and pushed ahead with his robbery of our pension funds? Well, there's a surprise! The man is driven by self interest and entirely convinced that his "socialist" ideology is the only way to a "free" and "fair" society. But his concept of "free" seems to be a strange one - one in which those of us who are "rich" are "free" to be robbed blind by him and his cronies so they can hand our hard earned "wealth" to his voters and freeloaders. And, of course, his own pension is utterly bomb-proof, unless we, the voters and taxpayers refuse to pay up!

Interesting how the Welsh now have given themselves "free" prescriptions on the NHS, as have the Scottish Parliament - but the English, ruled by the Scottish and Welsh Labour Majority, are denied this - while their tax money flows in ever increasing amounts across the nominal borders to fund their constituency handouts in Wales and Scotland. The disgraced Paymaster General now admits they knew that taking £5 billion a year out of the pensions could be damaging, but I see and hear nothing of their being any compensation for those they have consigned to a life of penury as a result. Alright for some - the motto here seems to be the old "I'm alright Jack - I'm inboard!"

Well, we'll see what happens at the upcoming local elections - and then we'll see what happens in the General Election. But don't expect that idiot David Cameron to do anything to redress the pension theft. He voted for it.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:35 AM | TrackBack

April 03, 2007

A new tale on Amazon.com

I am delighted to be able to put this up - it has been four weeks in the processing at Amazon.com - but at last it has made it's appearance. A Tall ship and the wind's song tells the story of Harry and Ferghal joining their first ship and their first short voyage in her.

On sale through Amazon Shorts as an "e-story" it's a bargain at $0.49c! Click on the picture above to visit the relevant page on the Amazon.com website.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:15 PM | TrackBack

April 02, 2007

Loaded dogs ....

Recently I was reminded again of one of my favourite pieces of Australian literature - and yes, there is plenty of it - by a passing reference to the work of one Henry Lawson. His descriptive prose is priceless, a master craftsman of the art of building up a story and my favourite among his many works which look at Australian life in the late 19th Century is "The Loaded Dog". Follow the link to find the story.

As someone who has spent a little time at various times in a misspent career, around explosives and fires, on being introduced to this story for the first time I could see the outcome before the reader had read beyond the first page. By the time they had reached the half way point I had sore sides - and by the end, I was crying with laughter.

One of Walter Cunningham's fabulous illustrations from the children's version of Henry Lawson's "The Loaded Dog". Note; the Echidna is simply a bystander and plays no part in the story!

So what does happen when you have a young, playful dog, miners who make their own blasting cartridges, a cooking fire and the inevitable outback tin shack hotel-cum-pub?

Follow the link and find out!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:36 PM | TrackBack

April 01, 2007

Palm Sunday

Today is Palm Sunday in the Christian Calendar, the day we mark the start of Holy Week by commemorating the triumphal entry into Jerusalem of Jesus Christ, riding on the back of a donkey. In churches all over England services will start with a procession of people bearing palm branches or crosses made from palm fronds and in many they will be led by a donkey, its back covered by a blanket to symbolise a riders 'saddle'. Many of the donkeys will be old hands, some will be new to it. Most will stop at the door to the church, but many will be led right to the altar as will happen today in the Abbey.

Having animals in procession is always an entertaining business since you never quite know what they think of all the fuss - or what they may find they want to investigate. Over the years I have seen donkeys suddenly decide that a floral display looks tasty, or that the basket of palm crosses is edible. One year we had one that was very new to this - it was his first outing as the 'star' - and the band got its Rubrics wrong. So when the donkey led off the band, instead of joining the tail of the procession as they should, nipped in behind him. First bar of the hymn brought the procession to an immediate halt as our donkey stopped dead, legs locked and refused to move with that noise behind him! Nothing would shift him at all - not even moving the band, so we ended up processing in front of him - a lesson learned to the amusement of all.

I confess to having a soft spot for donkeys, even today these little beasts can be seen all over the world loaded down with burdens almost as big as they are, uncomplaining as they wander along behind a master or draw an overloaded cart. Popular imagination says that the mark of the cross found on their backs and shoulders is the badge of honour from that first Palm Sunday. Perhaps it is. As I walk behind the donkey today I will be focussed on the fickleness of the mob that welcomed Christ when they thought he would evict the Roman and establish the Davidic Kingdom anew - and not very long afterwards, when the real nature of His kingdom became apparent - crucified Him.

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