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June 30, 2007

The enemy is within ....

Is the title of my next book, currently doing the rounds of agents and publishers. But the events of yesterday brought the theme of that book into sharp focus for me at least because the activities of terrorists are very much an internal threat to any and every civilised nation. OK, so these bombs did not go off, but the unanswered question is - "Who planted them?" Perhaps more importantly is "Why were they planted at all?"

I could make an educated guess at the motives underlying such an action. There are usually three main ones:

- disaffection with the current political regime in any given country and revolutionary intent,
- religious zealots determined to destroy whatever "Great Satan" is flavour of this month/year/decade/era,
- intent to foment fear and disruption to damage the economy with the aim of achieving an economic advantage.

To that list you may add the desire to impose a new political order, to achieve "freedom" from oppression or just a hatred of some group the perpetrator feels threatened by, has a grudge against or feels is deserving of extermination. The callous use of indiscriminate bombing stems from the Marxist/Leninist mantra that "some must suffer for the benefit of the many." Ironically a mantr that Whitehall and Labour have adapted to "Some people will lose out, but it will benefit many more!"

It is my view that there are several possible motives for this latest manifestation of terror bombing. One is that a large part of the UK population, the "natives" if you like, feel decidedly excluded from the process of government. They feel ignored and betrayed by the traditional political process which is now focussed not on "majority" rule but on "minority" rights. I have recently heard it said by several young white males that they have no hope of promotion in their careers now because they are white, male and heterosexual. I would hope that they are wrong, but I am also afraid they may have a point. The religious motive is a more difficult one. Our own statistics show that Mohammed will soon be the most common boys name in the UK. Other punters have commented that in less than thirty years Europe will be an Islamic State. I sincerely hope they are wrong, Islam is not a religion I admire, nor is it one I will ever subscribe to in any form. Take a close look at the Islamic world - far from being progressive or even free from corruption they are generally the most corrupt, most restrictive and most intolerant governments in the world - the only ones that even come close in draconian control are the communist dominated governments of China, North Korea and Vietnam.

By the same token the "Faithful" of Islam have been fed a world vision of world conversion. That is the aim of every Muslim, indeed it is their duty - and the Koran even authorises that such conversion may be by force of arms if all else fails. So, we in the ex-Christian West have a problem. The "enemy" is within our societies in the form of a growing Muslim presence whose avowed objective is to convert everyone to Islam and to impose their model of government and state upon us. Nice one for those in Whitehall and Westminster who have promoted the denigration of the Christian faith and the bolstering of Islam to deal with, but, as is the manner of turncoats everywhere, when the time comes they will simply adopt Islam and carry on in power. Small wonder there is a growing element in our society who may be considering the use of force to prevent it.

The final one is much more difficult since this generally contains an element of "internal enemies" for individuals. We all have them, those irrational fears that lurk in wait, the fear of small spaces, the fear of ridicule, the fear of exposure of some minor infraction of the law. The worst one is fear of strangers or of people you have been taught to regard as "outsiders". Now we are into the realms of people who have real psychiatric problems, but they walk among us in society and the only time you might suspect them of being dangerous is when they let slip a remark or a comment which suggests an intolerance. These are the secret bombers, the ones who will allow their hatred of some part of society to fester until it reaches the point where they take action. It may be simply walking into a school and shooting everyone in sight, or it may be planting a bomb outside a public building frequented by the people the bomber hates.

The enemy is indeed within. Both inside our society and within ourselves. It remains to be seen who is responsible for this latest series of failed attacks, it will be a long and difficult investigation but they must be found. The difficulty for us all is that, throughout the "Cold War" all the super powers, the UK included, used terrorist groups and organisations to affect change in countries they wanted "on side". Look around Africa and you see former Terrorists now "respectably" ensconced as Presidents. There are many more similar models across the Far East and even in the Middle East. What does this tell the latest crop of disaffected "warriors"? Why that you can bomb and shoot your way to power - and believe me they will.

It seems to me that we have a very simple question to face. If the enemy is within our society, how do we isolate them and how do we defend ourselves in a society that is obsessed with protecting the right of protest - even violent protest. A society moreover that sponsored terrorism for political ends - until it came home to bite.

It is going to be a long a difficult haul I think, one we may not solve at all in the short term.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:45 AM | TrackBack

June 29, 2007

Water, water everywhere ....

And more on the way. Tewkesbury sits astride the confluence of the River Severn (The longest river in Britain) and the Avon (One of four River Avons in England!). Ours runs through Stratford on Avon and flows into the Severn here at Tewkesbury. The Gorse Fox recently put up some pictures taken in Worcester of the flood rising in that city, so I thought I'd get my camera up the Abbey tower and see what I could see. And it makes quite a sight.

Flooded Ham and Severn.JPG
The view from the top of the Abbey Tower looking westward across the Swilgate, Mill Avon and Ham to the Severn.

I was lucky to have this beautiful clear day to take these pictures, although the wind was a little brisk at times, at least it wasn't raining. From the top of the tower you can see Gloucester Cathedral and I suspect you might even be able, in the right circumstances, to glimpse the top of Worcester's tower. Great Malvern, Bishop's Cleeve and even Pershore are all visible to one degree or another from here. But most spectacular of all at the moment are the vast sheets of water overlaying the flood plains which lie all around Tewkesbury. The town itself rarely floods, being built on a long ridge of higher ground between the Mill Avon and the Swilgate. Most buildings do not have a cellar, and those which do, have pumps and water proof linings.

Old Avon and Mythe.JPG
The view north from the Abbey with the Old Avon and the flooded Ham. In the foreground the town stands dry footed on its ridge and the man-made Mill Avon separates the town from the Ham.

My usual walk to town is impassable at the moment with Gander Lane under water and a large part of the Vineyards Park also submerged the option for anyone wishing to walk that way is swim or wear chest high waders!

Swilgate and Gander Lane.JPG
The flooded Gander Lane Cricket Ground and Car Park, the Swilgate runs along the edge of Abbey Meadow around the south side of the Abbey and joins the Mill Avon to flow into the Severn at Lower Lode.

If the weather forecasters are right, we can expect the tide to rise again next week as the water drains down the Severn and the Avon from Wales and the Midlands following the predicted heavy rain. I think its time I investigated buying a boat.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 05:09 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 28, 2007

Rising tides

The flood waters now coming down the Severn have filled the Swilgate and the Avon - which is itself contributing a lot of water - and the tide at Tewkesbury is rising steadily. The usual places are already underwater and others are preparing their defences, which will be needed if the volume of water is anything like what is expected. And the weather forecasts for the next several days suggest that we aren't out of the woods yet.

Ironically the Monk has either caught a cold or his hayfever is reacting to something which has just exploded in the rain. Another day or two will tell the difference methinks, but a cold on top of hayfever is no fun I can tell you. But that is another story altogether.

No doubt this unseasonal (Is it?) weather and the rainfall will be blamed on Global Warming and used as an excuse by the nefarious and ill-informed to demand even more punitive controls on the freedom of the rest of us. But the important question is unanswered - is this the result of Global Warming or is it in reality part of a natural cycle. Look back sixty years and you discover that wet summers were a norm. So were floods. No one was claiming it to be the result of Global Warming then.

In my humble opinion we are now emerging from a rather prolonged dry spell (think of the 1930's droughts that hit Africa, Australia and the North American continent as a cyclic example) and we are now seeing the result of two things. One the ENSA - El Nino Southern Ocean Anomaly - has reveresed direction for the first time in a number of years. Second, the sun is entering an "active" phase with massive sunsport activity. Both are related to colder wetter weather globally. I think it is a case of "watch this space" rather than "hit the panic button".

In the meantime we had better hope that Mr Prescot's successors don't approve any more building or development in flood plains along the Severn, something he was rather too fond of allowing. It is that, rather than the admittedly exceptional rainfall, which has contributed to the flooding we are now experiencing. And just for the record the floods of 1746 were higher at Tewkesbury than any of more recent date. In June 1746 the Vicar had to row himself up the ailse to attend the daily Divine Service. We are nowhere near that level now.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 01:10 PM | TrackBack

June 27, 2007

The PM is gone, or is he?

So Blair is gone and Gordon the Dour has taken his place? Do we get a say in any of this? Probably not, the Sovietistas of the Labour Party have decided that they rule, they know best and the rest of us don't count. Now there are rumours of Gordo calling a plebiscite in May next year - to see if we really do want him. Answers on a postcard methinks.

As for the man who has destroyed this country with his cronies and jobs for the boys - well he's off the a well paid job as a "Peace negotiator" for the Middle East. Talk about snout in the trough, he really has pulled a plum this time, the salary plus his pension from being the ex-PM will see him and his family nicely into the realms of millionairedom - without ever having done a proper days work. Marvellous what the right connections can do for you isn't it. Not bad either for the man who has almost single handedly done more to destroy the United Kingdom, the English and the British nation than any external enemy has managed in almost a thousand years. His nod of approval of the EU Constitution - ignoring the requirement in his own manifesto to hold a referendum,, one he knows he will lose - is his final act of betrayal and treason. Good riddance to him - but I suggest that we demand that we do not pay a single penny towards his salary or his pension from now on.

So what will his successor offer us? More stealth taxes, fewer services, smaller pensions and no doubt even more stupid, unecessary and meddling "regulations". The man is an unreconstructed Old Labour Socialist. He still believes that he can "redistribute" wealth by using the tax system - and ten years at the Treasury still hasn't taught him that only he and his cronies and the senior Civil Service have benefitted from this stupidity. He still believes that every social problem can be cured by throwing other peoples money at it, that "poverty" is the cause of crime - in the face of the evidence that the criminals are better off than anyone around them - and that "victims" of our society must now be given preference in everything. His greatest victims are us - the tax paying and law abiding public!

But what are the alternatives? Dave Cameron's lot? Don't make me laugh - the man is simply a younger Tony Blair, full of empty phrases and gestures.

God help us, I reckon it will take even less time for this nation to tear itself apart now than it took the Roman's in 410AD after Alaric departed. They managed seventy years - I reckon we will be history in twenty at the outside.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:36 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 26, 2007

Which country are you?

Found at Dusting my brain ......

You're Ireland!
Mystical and rain-soaked, you remain mysterious to many people, and this makes you intriguing.  You also like a good night at the pub, though many are just as worried that you will blow up the pub as drink your beverage of choice.  You're good with words, remarkably lucky, and know and enjoy at least fifteen ways of eating a potato.  You really don't like snakes.
Take the Country Quiz at the Blue Pyramid

Amusing at least - the Monk is at least partly Irish and was raised by his Irish Grandfather as some will know!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:21 AM | TrackBack

June 25, 2007

Only in Africa

The South African Police have, according to their spokeswoman, recently arrested a horse for being in possession of a stolen car. That's right. A horse. The "official" News reports says -

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - A horse was detained by police on Tuesday during an arrest operation over the theft of a vehicle in South Africa's sprawling Soweto township.

"We have apprehended a horse and two suspects for being in possession of a suspected stolen vehicle," police spokeswoman, Captain Lindiwe Mbatha told AFP.

"Cops patrolling the township pulled over a cart carrying a stripped body of a brand new car, a Corolla Conquest, suspected to have been stolen.

"The cart was drawn by a horse with two suspects on board. They were locked for being in possession of a suspected stolen vehicle and will appear in court within 48 hours," Mbatha said. Mbatha said by law they were not allowed to leave the animal and its "stolen" load in the street while the suspects were taken to holding cells.

"The animal had to be taken in with its carriage and the suspects. We couldn't leave the horse on the road because it was carrying a suspected stolen car," she added. The horse was later released into the care of animal rights association in Johannesburg, but the two suspects were still behind bars and expected to appear in court shortly

You simply could not make it up could you.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:11 AM | TrackBack

June 24, 2007


In Mausi's opinion Schloss Johannisberg is a most fascinating place. She still can't get over the fact that a prince abbot would order the tearing down of a monastery - derelict as it may be - and have a castle build instead, as happened here. After the secularization the castle had various owners, one of them Kaiser Franz of Austria. He finally gave the castle to Prince Metternich for his services during the famous Congress at Vienna. The last member of the Metternich family died only last year.

Schloss Johannisberg - a truly beautiful place high up above the Rhine

Vineyards have always belonged to the monastery here and later to the castle. Prince Metternich had been given the castle on the condition that he would pay a certain amount of tax in wine each year to Kaiser Franz.

Apparently, Johannisberg is the cradle of the different special qualities of wine we know today, namely Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Eiswein etc. All these were cultured here and as with all good inventions chance played an important role.

One of the couriers, who were sent each year to the Prince Abbot at Fulda

Every year in autumn a courier was send from Johannisberg to the Prince Abbot at Fulda with a sample of ripe grapes. The Prince Abbot would then decide about the beginning of the wine harvest. In 1775, however, the courier returned later than usual from Fulda. The reason is not known. But in the meantime the grapes in the vineyards had started to rot. The steward had to harvest the rotting and the non rotting grapes separately. He made wine from both. And surprisingly, the wine from the rotting grapes wasn't bad at all. Quite the contrary in fact. So the rot was called 'noble rot' henceforth and the 'Spätlese was born. In 1858, the first 'Eiswein' was harvested in Johannisberg. Eiswein is made from frozen grapes. The grapes have to be collected very early in the morning before the sun comes up and thaws the grapes again. As one can easily imagine only small quantities are made each year and sometimes none at all if the weather is too warm. It is very expensive and tastes like pure honey. Quite nice for dessert, once a year.

Posted by Mausi at 06:47 AM | TrackBack

June 23, 2007

Christianity under threat

I came across an interesting piece of news on Ozcatholic, a Catholic Blog in, you guessed it, Oz. They report that a Christian pilgimage shrine in China is to be dynamited under new Chinese legislation aimed at restricting "illegal religious activity" in the run up to the Olympic Games. It seems that the original assurances that this would be used only to suppress the more way out cults and trully off the wall sects is not being honoured. Read the post headed "Illegal religious activity" for yourself.

It would appear that this pilgrimage shrine, built in 1903, stands on land that someone in the Provioncial Government has development plans for. Quick solution? Declare the pilgrimages there "illegal religious activity" and send in the troops. Anyone attempting to visit the site is now routinely turned away after a rigorous search of their person. The shrine itself, dedicated to Our Lady of Carmel, is to be blown up by the troops in July.

I wonder how long before we find similar action being taken against other Christian shrines in similarly "developing" nations?

Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:39 PM | TrackBack

June 22, 2007

Halcyon days?

Looking back on one's childhood tends to be through a filter of emotionally tinted glass, and this picture is no exception. It shows the pre-race launching slip for a mixed fleet of dinghies, their crews in the last throes of preparation. The Monk is the lad stood wistfully watching in the foreground, a position he occupied for a couple of years before finally being taken on as a forehand on a Sprog, in fact the one on the extreme left of the picture. At the time of this photo, taken around 1954, the Monk was considered too small to be allowed to sail and had to sit on the shore watching everyone else enjoying it until he was old enough to join in. Occassionally he would be taken on as extra ballast by one of the larger boats - usually when it was very light airs and unlikely to require much muscle power, or by his father on the rescue launch, again, when there was almost no chance of anyone needing assistance. Such are the forces that shape one's view of the world and sometimes one's personality.

Launching for the race, from left to right, the Sprog "Sash", the Sharpie "Toledo", the Winger "Wahoo" and the Sharpie "Panga".

The weekends spent here at the Yacht Club were a fun time for the most part. The Yacht Club kids tended to come in all ages and shapes and from every social background, and soon formed friendships among our own age groups. The older ones tended to sail with their fathers or have boats of their own to race, the younger ones looked after themselves playing on the beach, swimming (The Monk once swam off the end of the short breakwater in the background round to the Orient Beach on the other side with a group of friends. The next time we went out to do it we looked down to see a large shark basking among the footings .... It was off the menu after that!) and playing games in the adjacent goods sheds to the annoyance of the Dockyard Police. We also visited interesting ships in large groups, dressed for the beach and sometimes looking like a pack of Dickensian urchins - but always got a warm reception and usually some treats from the seafarers.

In those days the harbour was busy too, with many ships coiming and going during our sailing time. You learned the Rule of the Road did not include big power giving way to small sail - regardless of what it said in the book. Big ships simply did not dodge little dinghies in confined waters - something many users of the Thames in London would do well to remember. You learned to keep alert as the big tugs (700gt and possibly the most powerful then afloat) could appear suddenly and silently (steam remember!) around the end of a quay and you found yourself having to make an emergency tack to avoid him. Once the Monk got a hiding from his father for taking a quick tack across the bows of the Edinburgh Castle, a Royal Mail Steamer, who gave five short blasts on his fog horns. The moment he heard them he knew he was in deep trouble - it meant that the ship could not see me and that the Club would get a rocket from the Port Captain. Five short blasts on a big ship's sirens (Hers could be heard up to five miles away) mean "You are standing into danger of collision" and there was no way her 26,000 gross tons was going to be stopped for a small sailing dinghy - unless our wreckage fouled her screws! The Monk won the race, but boy did he get it in the neck, first the Club Commodore, then the Port Captain and finally his father .....

Did it scar the Monk for life? No, it didn't. He knew he deserved it and he knew full well he had endangered himself, his crew and the club's reputation. It was not a mistake he has ever repeated in that or any other similar situation. In short, a lesson in life that was well learned and never forgotten.

Yes, looking back, we took a lot of chances and so did our parents - the Monk was thirteen when he was given charge of a Sprog for the first time and fourteen when he won his first sailing trophy. Visiting the ships was also risky in retrospect, yet none of us was ever injured, molested or in any way threatened. A different world, one in which trust played a major part, one which, sadly, seems to have vanished forever.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:42 AM | TrackBack

June 21, 2007

The BREMEN revisited

Last year Mausi was fortunate enough to be sent to Helsinki to attend a conference. June is a perfect time of the year to visit this town with lots of sunshine and apparently never ending days. On the last day before setting off for the airport Mausi and some of her colleagues went on a harbour cruise. An unforgettable experience! There were lots of interesting ships to be seen. Among them was the German frigate Bremen.

The Frigate BREMEN in Helsinki, 2006

Mausi has already posted photos of her on July 8, 2006, wondering how a ship like that could make room for a crew of about 200.Sometime this year Mausi and the Gray Monk received a comment from Andreas, one of the crew members of the Bremen. He sent the pictures published in this post. He also explained how 200 seamen could find a place to sleep on the Bremen:

There are four beds on top of each other - a total of 12 in each cabin.

It looks crowded but Mausi bets it's a lot better than having to sleep in hammocks on a gundeck neatly stacked head to feet as the crew on the Victory had to do in the 19th century because there was not enough space to sleep shoulder by shoulder!

The last photo was taken at Wilhelmshaven, the homebase of the Bremen. She had to take a new diesel on board for her electric power supply.

Exchanging a bit of machinery

Mausi and the Gray Monk wish the Bremen and her crew all the best wherever she sails und immer eine Handbreit Wasser unterm Kiel!

Posted by Mausi at 05:19 PM | TrackBack

June 20, 2007

More reminiscences

Sailing is one of my great passions, one I don't get a lot of opportunity for these days. Sorting out these old photos and deciding how best to preserve them has brought back a lot of memories one way and another, and a sense of the freedom I enjoyed as a boy - a freedom denied children today, even though they are nominally "freer" than ever before. The photo below shows the "Sharpie" Panga lifting her hull onto a broad reach (a point of sailing with the wind over the ship's quarter) and with her crew hgaving a reaching spinnaker hoisted. These boats carried at least two spinnakers, the shallow cut "reaching" version seen in the picture and a fuller cut "balloon" for when they wanted to run before the wind.

Pnaga on a reach.jpg
Panga lifts to wind and sea as she begins to gather speed on a broad reach in the entrance to East London Harbour.

Generally I sailed a smaller class, the fourteen foot "Sprog", a slim chine built hull with a large sail area and a lively handling characteristic. The "Sharpie" had a sail area almost three times that of the Sprog and was consequently faster, although a little less nimble. The Sprog class was a two person boat, although I have sailed one single handed (hard work!), and could give a very exciting sail if you were prepared to work the boat to her limits. They were great fun, especially sailing well out to sea from the mouth of a busy harbour.

The long course on this club's racing schedule involved a triangle out to sea that meant a race was over twenty one miles in straight lines - beating to windward in a series of short tacks meant you could almost double that in some conditions. But it also gave plenty of opportunity for some wonderful sailing and to learn your seamanship the hard way.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:48 AM | TrackBack

Now here is something for the book!

A masterpiece of a joke is to be found at One Happy Dog Speaks, the blog of VWBug. Entitled Humor for the dreaded Wednesday, it is priceless. It is definitely something I must remember to use when next I am part of a suffering crowd on an airliner held up by a child throwing a tantrum.

I always knew there was a perk to wearing all that scrambled egg on your hat!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:22 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 19, 2007

That mouse had better not try anything ....

Madam Paddy can be very independent, but she can also be very determined to have company. The Monk's desk is always the subject of some debate over where we can and cannot place ourselves on these occassions. And that mouse had better watch its step - if she sees one wrong move ....

Madam may look relaxed, but that mouse she's heard is up here had better watch out!

The warm weather has made life a bit uncomforatble for some of us, but with her thick under coat and long overcoat of hair, Madam has, as ever, found she needs to think about cool places she can stretch out or catch the breeze. The Monk's desk is a good place - the surface is cool and there is a breeze when he opens the window which also helps to cool her nicely thank you. At fifteen and a bit, Madam is a venerable lady who sometimes likes to show that she hasn't lost her agility yet. Her chases from room to room are high speed, amusing and very energetic.

For those who have never had the benefit of living with a long haired cat - this season sees hair shed in quantities you would think would leave her completely bald, but no, there appears to be some quick grow mechanism at work here!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:50 PM | TrackBack

June 18, 2007

More blasts from the past ....

Sorting out a range of things including old photographs can bring back floods of memories, some good some bad. The picture below falls into the first category. It shows a very young Monk about to join one of the crack racing boats as centre hand. The boat is a "Sharpie", a twenty-two foot racing machine built in oak and extremely fast when properly handled. It took a crew of three to manage the sails, the rig she is wearing here is the basic Jib and Mainsail, and she carried tthree different spinnakers for racing and could change the jib for a genoa rig.

PGC Theun Boot and Panga.JPG
A very youthful Monk gets some final instructions from the Forehand of the Sharpie "Panga" just prior to a race.

The big burly chap talking to the Monk was the forward hand, a big jovial Hollander named Theun Boot, and his position on the crew was a vital one since without his weight on the trapeze gear keeping her upright would have been even more of a battle. The crew on these boats were the manpower to handle sails and the moveable ballast to keep the boat as upright as possible and it could be exciting and hard work. The man holding the boat was the owner, a superb seaman and racing skipper with a distinguished wartime record behind him. "Wolfie" Haukohl, was, despite his name in the Royal Navy during WW2.

The Sharpie Class were expensive boats, but fabulous at sea and in a hard blow. Fast, as only a hull of this type can be, the crew worked hard, but the reward was to go steaming past the rest of the fleet in any race. Even better was the sensation (which the Monk got when quite a bit older and larger!) of lying out over the water ojn the trapeze gear while the boat tore across the seas under full sail and reaching spinnaker. Of course, if it went wrong, it got very exciting, very quickly - as when a stay broke on another boat while the Monk was out on the trapeze. Think sling shot - with the Monk as the shot ..... I was some distance from the boat when I hit the water.

Safe? Probably not, in those days no one wore a lifejacket to sail, they got in the way. Knowing that, you took care of yourself, but hell, we lived, we survived some spectacular capsizes (The monk managed to do a power dive with his Fireball - aptly named Extravagance) and learned the art of living. I doubt if today we'd be allowed to do a quarter of what we did in these wonderful days "messing about in boats".

It was men like these that taught the Monk everything he knows about boats, sailing and seamanship, a debt of kindness to a small and probably annoying boy he can never repay.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:05 PM | TrackBack

June 17, 2007


Yesterday the Monk took part in the annual pilgrimage to Glastonbury, reputedly one of the earliest Christian sites in Britain. Legend has it that Joseph of Arimathea brought the young Jesus here in the "missing" years of Jesus life, and that it was here that the Holy Grail was hidden in the First Century by Joseph. According to this legend Joseph's staff took root and grew into the famous Glastonbury Thorn - a species of thron tree that grows near Jerusalem.

Spiritually the pilgrimage is always, for the Monk, a bit of a boost to his sometimes strained faith and this year was no exception despite the weather. The rain held off throughout the celebration of the Eucharist and even the short sharp shower during the afternoon's Benediction service didn't chase any of the faithfull away. Out came the "brollies" and the service went on.

Whatever the founding origins of Glastonbury Abbey, it is a very special place. According to one guide book legend has it that none other than St Patrick was the first Abbot, a claim based on the writings of a 9th Century monk. Unfortunately the records he refers too were lost in a disasterous fire here in 1184 so we have no way of checking his sources. The one man we do know had a major impact here was Dunstan, the man who reformed English Monastism and then became Archbishop of Canterbury. Like Patrick a remarkable man of great spiritual strength and determination in the face of opposition and sometimes physical threat and violence.

Glastonbury today is a magnet for all sorts of New Ageism, some fairly amusing and some very sinister indeed. But as long as the Christian faithful keep the spirit of this wonderful Abbey (Its conventual church was bigger than Canterbury in its prime) alive by praying here and partaking in the pilgrimages to it, we can hope to keep the Gospel and the faith of Christ alive in Britain.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:43 AM | TrackBack

June 16, 2007

Traces of the Benedictines

The Rheingau area is famous for its vineyards streching up the hills on both sides of the river Rhine. The view from some of these hills is quite spectacular.

View of the Rhine valley from the top of Johannisberg (Mountain of St John).

The first vines were brought to this area by the Romans and obviously developed very well. For almost 2000 years now this area has been farmed and cultivated by its inhabitants. Much of this is undoubtedly due to the monasteries that were founded here. Johannisberg was the first monastry in the Rheingau and the only Benedictine one. There's a Benedictine nunnery, though, a bit further down the river which was founded by the famous Hildegard von Bingen.

In 1130 the church of the monastry was consecrated. Its patron is St John the Baptist. The monastry prospered until the Peasant Wars in the 16th century. After the wars the last abbot was removed from its post by the Archbishop and the monastry dissolved. Its church became the parish church.In 1716 the monastry was bought by the prince abbot of Fulda. The monastry was torn down and a castle build instead which served as a summer residence.

Schloss Johannisberg and the church, the only part of the monastry that has survived until today

Along with the building of the castle went a redecoration of the church. Originally being build in the style of a Roman basilica the outside was left untouched but the interior was redone in the baroque style between 1717 and 1726. I am not sure I would have liked it. You don't expect Baroque when you enter a Roman building.

Present interior of the church

In 1942 church and castle were heavily damaged during an air raid. Everything combustible in the church burnt but the outer walls could be salvaged. Reconstruction work started in 1945. The architect in charge wanted to preserve the orignal character of the building while at the same time giving the interior a more modern appearance. He also wanted to bring more light into the church, hence the white washed walls and pillars. It is a pity that the original coloured floor tiles from medieval times were lost over the years. Today's stone floor is no substitute! But otherwise the interior fits a Roman basilica very well.In my opinion.

Posted by Mausi at 06:34 AM | TrackBack

June 15, 2007

OK, so which Harry Potter character are you?

Found another Quiz to try on One Happy Dog Speaks. Never could resist these - but I was surprised to discover that I am ....

You scored as Harry Potter, You can be a little reckless and hot-headed at times, but a more brave and courageous friend would be hard to find.

Harry Potter


Remus Lupin


Ron Weasley


Sirius Black


Albus Dumbledore


Hermione Granger


Ginny Weasley


Severus Snape


Draco Malfoy


Lord Voldemort


Your Harry Potter Alter Ego Is...?
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Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:25 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 14, 2007

Alternative blogging

Yup, there is - it's called a Plog on Amazon.com, and its where I post new updates on my currently battling writing career. Speaking of which, my latest Short Story, "Let him in Constancy" can also be found there, although, for some strange reason, it seems to refuse to be sold outside of the US.

The story is Ferghal's tale of following Harry to sea. I hope at least some of you will be able to access it and enjoy it - at $0.49c each a bargain!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:11 AM | TrackBack

June 13, 2007

Revisiting the past

The Monk has been busy recently, in between writing, trying to earn enough to pay the bills and the Abbey, searching through some of the accumulated detritus of several lives. In so doing he is turning up old photos and recalling long buried memories. The picture below, taken around forty five years ago, is of the Monk's father and mother in his father's favourite little ship. A thirty foot motor whaler built for the navy and, in this guise, operating as an all weather rescue launch for the local yachtsmen.

Aptly named "Buffalo Bill", this thirty foot motor whaler (built with a hard chine hull as a kit boat in 1940 - 44) performed sterling service for many years more than she had been designed to last.

My father was a consumate seaman and taught me a huge amount about boats, boat handling and seamanship. It broke his heart when this boat was destroyed when someone took it out in his absence because someone else had decided to go sailing in borderline weather and then needed rescuing. What the party who launched Buffalo Bill did not know was that there were two fuel switches, one isolated the main tank, the other the pump and filter system, unless both were ON the engine had only the fuel in the filters and lines - enough to get her to the casualty as it happened, and into danger herself. She was smashed to pieces on the breakwater which can be seen behind the tug. My father got to the launching place in time to watch his boat destroyed.

The design itself was simple, these boats were designed to be mass produced for the wartime navy and they were built with a rigid keel, on the same dimensions as a Montague Whaler, but, instead of the rounded bilge of the Montague, they had a hard chine shape. It was easier and cheaper to make. The engine was a simple four cylinder petrol unit, in this case an Austin, driving through a simple gear box operated by a lever, forward ahead, back for astern. Effective, seaworthy and all weather capable. On several occasions I saw my father, or was with him, when he took this boat in through breaking surf to retrieve someone and their boat from a beach or a rock lined gully.

It is how I choose to remember him, standing proud in the sternsheets of his pride and joy.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 05:08 PM | TrackBack

June 12, 2007

Motoring anarchist - the manufacturers nightmare

Jeremy Clarkson is to the Motor Trade what Attila the Hun was to the spohisticates of Rome in 410AD - anarchy. Here are some of his priceless comments on their best efforts ....

The wit of Jeremy Clarkson

1 Maserati Quattroporte

"In a list of the five most rubbish things in the world, I’d have America ’s foreign policy at five. Aids at four. Iran ’s nuclear programme at three. Gordon Brown at two and Maserati’s gearbox at number one. It is that bad."

2 BMW 1 Series

"I’m choosing the words for my conclusion with even more care than usual. So here goes. The 1-series is crap.

3 Kia Rio

"You may have seen The Fly II, in which a scientist attempts to teleport a dog. In one of the most gruesome scenes I’ve seen in a film it arrives at its destination completely inside out. Well the Rio is uglier than that. Inside, things get worse.

"Small wonder Kia’s importer in Britain is sponsoring the Pedestrian Association’s Walking Bus scheme. The idea is that parents take it in turns to walk a group, or "bus", of children to their school in a morning. After three days of being transported in the Rio , my kids thought it was a brilliant idea to walk instead. Even though their school is 18 miles away and it was blowing a gale directly from the Canadian tundra."
Jeremy Clarkson

The great man himself - all 6foot 5 inside the smallest car he can find.

4 Land Rover Defender 90 Td5 Station Wagon

"Often fourth isn’t enough to get you up a hill, so you drop down to third and it feels as though you’ve been hit in the back with a wrecking ball. All of a sudden you’re doing 35mph but your eight-ton suit of armour, making a noise that sounds like the birth of the universe, has come to an almost dead stop.

"What’s more, there still isn’t enough room behind the wheel for anyone with shoulders or legs, there are still sharp edges, it’s as bouncy as a small dog at suppertime, and as a result it’s about as much fun to drive as a punctured wheelbarrow. And it’s not like the misery is short-lived, because each trip to the shops can, and does, take two or three weeks."

5 Perodua Kelisa 1.0 GXi

"This is without doubt the worst car, not just in its category, but in the world. It has a top speed of 88mph but takes so long to reach it that no one has ever lived long enough to verify the claim, the inside is tackier than Anthea Turner’s wedding and you don’t want to think what would happen if it bumped into a lamppost.

"Also its name sounds like a disease."

6 Peugeot 407 Coupé 2.7 V6 HDi SE

"It has the zip of a chairlift. With plodding performance and steady-as-she-goes handling the only thing this car will make you feel like is a cup of Horlicks with a splash of hemlock. Empty-nesters should buy a PlayStation instead, and spend the afternoon shooting crack whores."

7 Mitsubishi Warrior

"’What,’ I exclaimed, ’in the name of all that’s holy, do we want one of those for?’ We’re European. We were sipping tea while the Americans were shooting Indians. We’ve had 2,000 years to get used to civilisation, not 20 minutes. We’re advanced, we’re slim, we’re at the cutting edge of evolution. We think that shooting bears is daft. Budweiser gives us a headache and we think George Bush is an arse.

"So why in God’s name do we want to drive around in a car made from a hen house and two bits of railway track?"

8 Cadillac SRX4

"This is a very ugly car. So ugly in fact that you’ll want to get inside it and shut the door as quickly as possible. But sadly when you are inside it’s even worse.

"If it were a creature, it wouldn’t be a lion or a praying mantis or even a chimp. No, I think it would be a wasp — useless and hateful in equal measure"

9 Aston Martin Vanquish S

"This is the last of the old-school Astons. It was built in the Newport Pagnell factory by men with body odour and hammers, rather than on the computer- controlled production line of the new Gaydon plant. And it shows. The car costs more than any other Aston yet is no quicker; its paddle shift gearbox is hilariously bad and its interior looks glued together from the Ford parts bin. It is the equivalent of opting for a rusty saw and leeches in the age of laser-guided brain surgery. Who is Aston kidding?"

10 Volkswagen Jetta

"I’d love to meet the man who styled the exterior, to find out if he’d done it as some sort of a joke. But mostly I’d like to meet the man who simply didn’t bother at all with the interior. Because looking at that dashboard gives you some idea of what it might be like to be dead."

11 BMW 645Ci

"If you were to buy a 6-series, I recommend you select reverse when leaving friends’ houses so they don’t see its backside."

12 Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano

"There, right in the middle of everything, is a quartic steering wheel. Yup, quartic, as in square, as in Austin Allegro. And worse still, it’s half carbon fibre and half leather, and it’s got all sorts of Formula One-style buttons on the bottom and then, along the top, a series of red lights that come on to tell you when to change gear. Unfortunately they are so bright you think you’ve been caught in the fearsome glare from a Martian spaceship.

"So you don’t change gear. You crash."

Posted by The Gray Monk at 04:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 11, 2007

A walk along the river

Mausi's not fortunate enough to live somewhere near the seaside but at least she lives in resonable distance to a proper river, the river Rhine. Near Mausi's home the Rhine flows through an area called the Rheingau, one of the most beautiful along the whole river. It consists mostly of hilly vineyards close to the river and more hills and forests farther away. Very beautiful.

The biggest city in this area is the town of Eltville on the banks of the Rhine.It is well known for its wine and for its roses.

Always a pleasure to stroll along the Rhine in Eltville. The river can just been seen in the middle of this photograph, right behind the trees.

Mausi always enjoys visiting Eltville in late spring or early summer and check on the famous roses herself. A fine collection is kept in the "Kurfürstliche Burg" (Castle of the electoral prince).

Entrance to the "Kurfürstliche Burg", the symbol of Eltville

The present castle was build at the site of an older one which was destroyed in 1301. When the Archbishop of Trier, Balduin of Luxemburg, was elected.Archbishop of Mainz, he needed a new residence. Eltville obviously was a perfect spot, not too far from Mainz, which is almost opposite on the other side of the Rhine. Balduin had the new castle build from 1330 to 1345. Some additions followed in 1419. Then the Swedes came and reduced it to a pile of rubble in 1635 during the 30 year war. The castle was partly rebuild in 1682. What was still left of the castle underwent restauration in 1938.

There is still enough left to enjoy a visit there, walking among the roses in which now grow in the former ramparts of the castle. The walls give them perfect shelter.

Roses in abundance

This year, however, Mausi was a bit late in the year. Most of the roses were already past their bloom. But still a good sight on a sunny day and well worth a visit.

Posted by Mausi at 08:03 AM | TrackBack

June 09, 2007

Threat to Churches looming ....

If anyone doubts that the government of the UK, in particular the Labour Party and its current leadership (and that includes Gordon Brown) is anti-Christian and pro-anything except Christianity, take a look at the new Charities Act 2006. From this year, every church will have to be able to prove that it is a "public benefit" in order to continue to enjoy its charitable status. Worse, Trusts set up by Christians to provide assistance and sometimes housing to the most needy in their congregations now face being stripped of their charity status with the consequence that Gordon Brown's thieves in the Treasury can strip them of their income and treat them as "companies" under the tax laws.

Why will they be able to do this you may ask. Simple, the new law requires that to be a charity you must be able to prove the following:

1. The public confidence objective is to increase public trust and confidence in charities.
2. The public benefit objective is to promote awareness and understanding of the operation of the public benefit requirement.
3. The compliance objective is to promote compliance by charity trustees with their legal obligations in exercising control and management of the administration of their charities.
4. The charitable resources objective is to promote the effective use of charitable resources.
5. The accountability objective is to enhance the accountability of charities to donors, beneficiaries and the general public.

There is further clarification of Public Benefit in 2(2) of the Act which states that this can include the promotion of religion, but then goes on to add that it includes belief in more than one god and in no god at all .....

Just to compound the situation, we must take account of the "Guidance" issued by the Commission which actually uses the word "unbenefit". Yes, you saw it here first. Whitehall speak no doubt, I despair I really do - someone should take the perpetrator of these abuses of the English language outside the building they disgrace, publically flog them and then hang them by their thumbs from the nearest bridge as a warning to others. But, back to the "Guidance". This allows the Commission to strip a body of charitable status if it or its activities can be deemed to be an "unbenefit" to the community. Can't see the problem? An "unbenefit" can be anything that is deemed to "promote religious hatred". Ergo; promoting the idea that Jesus Christ is Lord and the Son of the Living God, part of the Godhead is anathema to Muslims who see Him as a minor prophet. Promoting the idea that salvation is through Jesus and not through your good works, praying five times a day or any other "holy" action on your part is to "diminish" any other religion that does not share that view. In short, that could get your church stripped of its charitable status.

But, let's start at Number 1. on the list. Public confidence. Years of anti-Christian media coverage and even more years of promotion of the lie of "all faiths are the same" means that Public Confidence is something that will be incredibly difficult to prove. Compliance with the legal obligations on the part of the Trustees of any charity is not too difficult, unless you wanted to make life difficult of course. Then you could quite easily make it so difficult for the Trustees to provide all the proofs that it would drive them out of business. Job done, wind them up as a charity. That goes for Number 5 on the list as well, easy for the bureaucrats who make up the Commission to make life so difficult that it will be impossible to comply - especially if the Treasury is after the money! That leaves Number 4 - and what a wonderful catch all that will be. To ensure that Charitable Resources are effectively used. Well, what I may decide is the most effective use of the resources in a charity may not be what the Whitehall PC Brigade consider effective for their agenda. No more charity and again the Treasury sweeps the loot.

Looking at the proposed Guidance it is blindingly obvious that the Commission will be driven by secular ideologies and will want to exclude those "charities" which it does not consider benefit a sufficiently wide cross section of the populace. Thus "Lady Pevensey's AlmHouses for Impoverished Ladies of Quality" could find itself threatened with the removal of its charity status if it doesn't offer its almshouses to an open field (irrespective of the terms of the trust) to include the odd Billingsgate Fishwife, Pagan White Witch and Lesbian Single Parent. It is precisely this interpretation of "community" that led to a RNLI Lifeboat station near here recently being refused a Lottery Fund Grant because "it didn't benefit a wide enough section of the underprivileged and ethnic minorities." It's a bl**dy Life Boat Station for the love of God! I can well see that argument being applied to certain Trusts and Charities set up by Christian Churches to help members of their congregations - if they do not open it to all comers regardless of their faith, intent or membership of the relevant congregation they will not be given the status of a Charity.

Now there may be some out there who will think that this is an extremist position, but think carefully. Anyone recently who has had any dealings with the massed ranks of Whitehall will know that the denizens of the various Ministries never, ever, consider the consequences of what they do or say. The mantra is "there will always be some who must lose out in order for the majority to benefit". Well, if you believe that, you probably also believe in little green men, fairies at the bottom of the garden and the basic decency of the political classes. Don't worry, the men in white coats will have your strait jacket ready by the time you have finished reading this. Whitehall and those who run it, do not believe in applying common sense to anything. They will interpret this law, badly drafted and written as it is (as is all the legislation of the last ten years!) in the narrowest possible way. They apply it as strictly as they can - and they will get away with it, because most of those they apply it against will not have the wherewithall to fight them through the courts.

I forsee a bonanza for lawyers from this, an explosion of more worthless civil servants to administer it and the cramming of prisons with trustees of charities stripped of their status and assets on trumped up charges under this act.

Promote public confidence? Not unless it is in the purely secular fronts that promote the ideology of socialist control freakery. They will flourish because their trustees will all be the people who wrote this garbage and administer it. Watch this space as Christian Churches are picked off one by one.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:19 PM | TrackBack

June 08, 2007

Heard the one about .... ?

Trekking around the Blogosphere recently I came across this very funny story about a priest, a minister and a rabbi - and a bear. Visit Hard A Starboard to read it for yourselves, just don't have a cup of coffee or anything else liquid in your hand, mouth or anywhere else it could land on the keyboard when you do.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:37 PM | TrackBack

Reducing Global Warming

While I do not doubt that our climate is changing and that there is some impact on this by human activity, I do take serious leave to doubt that the measures Blair and other "Green" converts are ramming down our throats are going to help in any way at all. For one thing, all their measures really seem to be about is to produce ever more worthless bureaucrats, more restrictions on personal responsibility and freedom and more centralised control of who may travel and where.

The evidence for CO2 as the agent of change is also decidedly suspect, since now new evidence is emerging that shows that CO2 levels rise as a result of warming and not as the primary cause. The prime cause, as I have remarked here before, is too many people and too much pressure on too few resources such as water, arable land and timber - after all, if you don't live where there is electricity and piped gas, you burn wood to cook.

And now I have discovered that scientists agree with me. Take a look at "Wired.Com" and in particular take a look at this piece on one of their linked blogs. Entitled "How to save the world" it really does raise some serious issues about the population levels at present and the pressures this creates for us all.

The over population of the Third World has led to a rapid increase in desertification of arable lands, the pollution of water supplies and the wholesale destruction of rain forests. I get really annoyed when I am told by half baked twits in the "Green" campaign that eating beef is causing the destruction of the Brazilian rainforest. Garbage, first I don't eat Brazilian beef, and second, the destruction of the rain forest in Brazil is down to uncontrolled spreading of desperate peasant farmers who have no other way to feed themselves alongside the uncontrolled stripping of the forest for gold and other ores buried beneath it. Across Africa the same pattern emerges and it is not the big western nasty capitalists who are forcing this destruction, it is the people who live there that are driven to it by the greed of their own leaders.

The problem comes down to people. Now the dilemma is, which two thirds of the population do you exterminate. And how?

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:29 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 07, 2007

Corpus Christi

Today is the feast of Corpus Christi, in most of Catholic Europe a Bank Holiday, but not in Blair's Cromwellian Britain where the mighty Pound is more important that God.

What, you may ask, is this Feast of the Body of Christ? It is in fact a celebration of the institution of the Communion, the central act of worship in all branches of Christianity that consider themselves a part of the Catholic and Apostolic tradition. The breaking of bread as "the Body of Christ" and the taking of wine as "the Blood of Christ" in this act of worship has its origins in the fellowship offering before the Tabernacle in Sinai, and later the Temple in Jerusalem. You can still see it in the form that Christ and his Disciples would have used it in any Jewish household on the eve of the Sabbath when family and friends gather to share a meal before the Sabbath begins. Light is brought to the table by the women who have prepared the food, the bread is blessed and broken by the head of the household and shared by all present, then the meal proceeds and finally, a passage is read from the Torah, and the cup of fellowship is blessed by the eldest son and shared.

On the eve of his trial and crucifixion, our Lord commanded that we, his followers, continue that tradition as a memorial to him, and in our celebration we break bread using his words, "This is my Body, broken for you, do this in remembrance of me."

The liturgy has seen many changes down the years, the earleist would have followed the Jewish pattern and taken place within a meal of Fellowship. Later, as congregations became too large to continue this practice it became a separate act of worship to be followed by a meal shared in groups and later still it has become an act of worship which stands entirely alone. Yet, in this act of worship, more than in any other, we are, however briefly, joined in one with every other Christian, living and departed, for as the words of institution have it,

"We are one Body, because we all eat of one bread."

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:52 AM | TrackBack

Bible Quiz

Still can't resist these quizzes, even when I should be concentrating on something else ...

You know the Bible 100%!

Wow! You are awesome! You are a true Biblical scholar, not just a hearer but a personal reader! The books, the characters, the events, the verses - you know it all! You are fantastic!

Ultimate Bible Quiz
Create MySpace Quizzes

Anyway, nice to know I can still get a decent score on something!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:51 AM | TrackBack

June 06, 2007

Remember the D-Day fallen

On this day sixty-three years ago, thousands of allied soldiers stormed ashore in Normandy. Thousands never made it off the beaches and many died before even reaching them. On the German side as well, the casualty rate was high and we should remember them too, not least because they were the victims of a form of Political Correctness introduced into their media and schools in the late 1920's and used to promote one of the worst social engineering experiments ever devised.

We should remember the cost of overthrowing the perpetrators of that as we contemplate the current drive by a similarly dogmatic and ideologically driven group who seek to promote an equally intolerant and dangerous form of ideology in our age.

The men who stormed ashore on the 6th June 1944 on those beaches in Normandy, did not do so in order to replace one form of totallitarian thinking with another. We should remember that. And we should remember their sacrifice for our freedom. That was their memorial, one which those who dogmatically promote the Political Correct tyranny on the rest of us and who seek to take ever more control of the minutiae of our lives into their own hands are no better than the dictator these men gave their lives to overthrow. We must not allow that memorial to be destroyed.

Ecclesiasticus 44. 9 - "And some there be, which have no memorial; who are perished, as though they had never been; and are become as though they had never been born; and their children after them."

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:57 AM | TrackBack

Hypocrisy of the highest order ...

When you find the Fabian Society, an organisation that has campaigned since its inception for "internationalism" and the destruction of "nationalism", suddenly switching its coat and now appealing for "A national Britain Day" to promote British Unity and citizenship I find myself almost speechless. Mainly because I am so enraged I am unable to think coherently.

This socialist talking shop is single-handedly responsible for almost every failed "social engineering" experiment of the last century in Britain. Its luminaries include those who have campaigned for the promotion of alternative religions (I suppose at least they spared us the invented religions of Nazi-ism and the Soviet system). This is the organisation which has consistently campaigned against the maintenance of our military at anything like a workable strength, against decent education, promoting instead the dumbed down and debased comprehensive system, label everything that disagrees with them on any matter "Right-wing" or "Fascist" and the list goes on. They have campaigned for separation of authority for Scotland, devolution for Wales and now that the lid has come off and they are faced with the consequences - they rush to the barricades campaigning for a "National Day".

One thing we can be sure of, if it comes to fruition we will be ordered to celebrate "diversity", "multi-cultural enrichment" and any prayers of thanksgiving will be led by someone prepared to pray to the great god Mammon. It certianly won't be a Christian prayer, the Established Church notwithstanding.

In fact, thanks to this shower of ideological pygmies it is much more likely that any prayers said for it will be led by the newly appointed incumbent of a newly confiscated Lambeth Palace - the Grand Mufti of Britain. Blair and his shower Christians? Wrong, watch them scuttle into the nearest Mosque as soon as it suits them to do so. Any National Day promoted by this present government and their mentors in the Fabian Society will not be Christian, it won't be Humanist either though they hope it might - it will be Muslim by the time they have finished seeding their proteges into every government department and every office in the land.

And I can probably be accused now of stirring religious hatred. So be it.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:41 AM | TrackBack

June 05, 2007

Heaven sent fire?

Every now and then something comes to you from an unexpected source. I recently received a copy of a sermon preached in a City of London Church which made me want to shout with joy! At last, someone high enough up the Church of England heirarchy to say publically what I have been saying in my little corner for some time - namely that the Church has lost the plot!

In the extended post below I have taken the liberty of posting the text of the Rev Peter Mullen's views on the state of the Anglican Church and the future of Christianity in Europe (and of Europe itself!) if we continue to blunder down the road of politically correct, happy-clappy, hippy 'flower power' ideology instead of recapturing the essence of faith and of theology. Like him I despair of priests who announce that they "are not trained counsellors". What in the name of the Almighty did they learn at Theological College? Obviously nothing whatsoever about actually ministering to a congregation!

As for the penchant in some circles to sing inane and meaningless choruses, usually accompanied by a badly played and badly tuned guitar, well, I would far rather return to my cloister and forgo all music than massacre the ears of God with this drivel. And no, I can barely sing myself, and am not a musician!

Read Father Peter's sermon and weep for the demise of Western Civilisation and Christianity in any form. If that pleases you, then consider carefully what will take it's place, for faith is a basic tenet of human existence and if Christianity falls by the wayside, Islam is the alternative.

Words in Edgeways – 18 & 19 1
Sermon: Trial by Fire, 15th October 2006 …

The Bishop of London, the Archdeacon and I were in bed in France—not the same bed you understand, but adjacent. This was last week on a clergy conference in Merville in the old seminary now the conference centre for the diocese of Lille. I was asleep at one o’clock in the morning when the alarm went and voices shouting, There’s a fire. Get out! Get out! I blearily got half-dressed and opened the door. The corridor was filled with smoke. I ran down the three flights of steps and joined the others on the lawn. Five minutes later the French equivalent of the Trumptonshire fire engine arrived and a wholesale conflagration was averted.

In his talk to the conference, Richard Chartres told us what had happened. He said it was a good job he was a vigilant bishop and only half asleep, or he would not have noticed the smoke pouring from a cupboard in the corner of his room. He got out of bed and saw that this cupboard containing the water heater was ablaze and sounded the alarm. He spoke apocalyptically of the fire in the closet.

The conference was about urban ministry, and the main part of the discussion was on the church’s response to terrorist atrocities, such as happened in London last year when we were all deployed at the scenes of the explosions. And we also talked about the possibility of interfaith dialogue. Some American clergy involved in the 9/11 attack in new York told us of their experience. And they handed out a glossy brochure they had produced called New York Disaster Interfaith Services.

Here we learnt a whole new vocabulary of unmet needs roundtables; mapped vulnerabilities; networking to convene leadership and facilitate the delivery of services to underserved victims and impacted communities. I tell you, if Osama bin Laden were susceptible to volleys of bureaucratic jargon, he would be a dead duck by now. But all the time I was reading this stuff, I kept thinking of the fire in the closet.

It was all jargon. Even in the loo, in French. You stand there and read the notice that says Ne pas oublier d’appuyer sur le bouton ci-dessous afin d’actioner la chasse d’eau. Or, as we say in English, Flush! A German spoke for an hour like Professor Teufelsdröckh and actually said Twentythirdly.

Then one of the Americans spoke for the next hour, telling us that the chief sins in America are poverty, racism and sexism. I confess I still don’t understand how these can be described as sins instead of as consequences. He told us merrily that the American clergy were trained in multiple sensitivity and sexual identity. Obviously, this multiple sensitivity did not include sensitivity to the English language. He ended by telling us I have learnt to be myself. And I wondered what was the point of that.

Not to be outdone by mere foreigners, the English clergy soon demonstrated that we are not easily surpassed in the matter of jargon. We were told all about how to energise, enable through models to deal with bereavement issues by means of paradigms, objectives, systems, methodology, diversity, dissemination and of course sharing with you. One priest admitted shamefacedly - I am not a qualified counsellor—which made me wonder what his theological training had been all about. You wanted to escape to the chapel and say your prayers. But the worship was the worst of it.

One priest began the prayers by saying, Let us pray around the theme of hate. Think of a person in your parish whom you hate. Perhaps you hate yourself? Or you hate God? In the debased canticles we changed forefathers into ancestors—as if ancestor worship were the coming thing in the C. of E. There were huge dollops of touchy feely and the explicit hatred of tradition. For instance in the hymn we sang, Preaching Christ and not our customs, let us build a bridge of care. See the contempt there for our customs. But what if Christ is mediated precisely through our customs?

There were vacuous choruses—the eleven-fold repetition of what was not worth singing once. All to dreamily mothballed tunes of the Joan Baez version of 1960s nostalgia. Pools of sentimentality. And then the feminisation of the church which has followed so swiftly on women’s ordination: we prayed to the Holy Ghost as Tender sister. The climax was an act of such stultifying banality that it made you wish you hadn’t come. It was called the symbolic response.

We all had to leave our pews and be given a little night-light style candle and put them on the floor of the chapel to form the shape of the Cross. All the time the creepy goo of the chorus droning on and on. Grown men, priests for God’s sake, shuffling themselves into this mullarkey. It reminded me of Blue Peter and I wondered whether we were going to be shown how to make an Archdeacon out of egg boxes. And always at the back of my mind was the fire in the closet.

Of course when we went back into the conference sessions I knew what the fire in the closet really is. Western European civilisation is decadent, perhaps beyond recovery. We inhabit a shallow consumerism, a materialistic obsession, a universal market of flesh, drugs and public debauchery all to the background of the dead metal beat of a sickening pop culture: the death rattle of the European millennium, strangled by relativism and totalitarian political correctness.

And we are faced with militant religious Islam. Never mind the terrorists, millions of decent practising Muslims look at our decayed western civilisation and wish to recapture it for God. Islam is a serious religion. Muslims are called to pray five times a day; to attend the mosque and listen to erudite sermons and lectures; to fast during the hours of daylight for a whole month each year; to dress modestly and to be faithful in sexual morality. Given population trends, comparative birth-rates, immigration and conversions to Islam, Europe will be distinctively Muslim in thirty years time.

Against this what does the Christian Church appear to be doing?

Compromising with the anything-goes sexual immorality; incorporating the nauseating popular culture into its dumbed down liturgy; barely half believing the doctrines of the Creed; inviting its members to the emptyheaded choruses and the banalities and jiggery-pokery of worship. A sentimental, infantilised Dianafication parody of religious life. How can we expect this shambolic trivialisation of the Christian Faith to resist the Muslim determination to recapture Europe for God? What do we say—come and sing our jogging-for-Jesus choruses and act daft in church with us?

There are prophets in this wasteland. The President of the Italian Senate says this:

A foul wind is blowing through Europe. This same wind blew through Munich in 1938. While the wind might sound like a sigh of relief, it is really a shortness of breath. It could turn out to be the death rattle of a continent that no longer understands what principles to believe and consequently mixes everything together in a rhetorical hodgepodge.
He suggests the only remedy:

Will the Church, the clergy and the faithful be able to and want to be purified of the relativism that has almost erased their identity and weakened their message and witness?

There was much talk on my conference of The London Challenge. I don’t want you to think of this challenge as being to them in the church hierarchy, to some system, to some central church authority to do something about our desperate predicament. The challenge is to us. If European civilisation, which is consubstantial with Christianity, is to be saved, then you and I, all of us in this church, and all the others you must bring with you into this church, must get serious about the practice of our faith: become more informed, devout and affectionate for Christ.

There is not much time left. There is a fire in the closet.

Peter Mullen
Editor’s note:
The Rev’d Peter Mullen is editor of The Real Common Worship, Edgeways
Books. This sermon of his is reprinted from www.st-michaels.org.uk.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:29 PM | TrackBack

June 04, 2007

A very human saint

Ego Patricius, peccator rusticissimus et minimus omnium fidelium et contemptibilis sum apud plurimos, patrem habui Calpornum diaconum filium quendam Potiti, filii Odissi presbyteri, qui fuit in uico Bannauem Taberniae. Villulam enim prope habuit, ubi ego capturam dedi.3 Annorum eram tunc fere sedecim. Deum uerum ignorabam, et Hyberione in captiuitate adductus sum, cum tot milia hominum, secundum merita nostra, quia a Deo recessimus, et praecepta eius non custodiuimus, et sacerdotibus nostris non oboedientes fuimus, qui nostram salutem admonebant. Et Dominus induxit super nos iram animationis suae, et dispersit nos in gentibus multis, etiam usque ad ultimum terrae,4 ubi nunc paruitas mea esse uidetur inter alienigenas. Et ibi Dominus aperuit sensum incredulitatis meae, ut uel sero rememorarem5 dilicta mea, ut conuerterem toto corde ad Dominum meum, qui respexit humilitatem meam et missertus est adoliscentiae et ignorantiae meae, et custodiuit me, antequam scirem eum, et antequam saperem uel distinguerem inter bonum et malum, et muniuit me, et consulatus est mei, ut pater filium.

The Latinists among you will immediately be able to identify the above as the opening of the Declaration of faith penned by the man we know as Saint Patrick. There is not much one can add to that opening, because it says so much about the man himself - implied rather than stated - and about all of us who walk in his shadow and his footsteps as we negotiate this life with all its perils and pitfalls. The "Confession", or more properly, the "Declaration", was written in an attempt to answer charges brought against him by church authorities in his home country, Britain, or more likely Britannia Prime. We do not know what the charges were, we know only that he was exonerated and, while his declaration survives, neither the names of his accusers, nor their writings have survived to inform us. Perhaps even more importantly, these two documents give us an eyewitness insight into the 5th Cenury. His is almost the only authentic voice from that bleak period of a collapsing society to come through to us - and it is a refreshing voice of faith and determination in the face of adversity.

His ministry was, we can deduce, initially rejected by his own Church, but he did not allow this to deter him. For twenty five years after his escape from slavery in Ireland he worked to gain acceptance and the authority to return to be the missionary he felt called to be. He was, in his age, "out of time" in that, having been a slave, he denounced the practice and strove to stop it. In this he was alone, yet, within a hundred years of his death, the practice had died out entirely in Ireland. His letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus is a masterpiece; expressing his outrage at the Welsh/British soldiers who raided his See and carried off as slaves his new converts. In essence his letter must have burst like a bomb in the midst of the British Church and probably gave rise to the enmity against him. Coroticus was evidently a well connected and powerful magnate of the time. Some things just never change, our own society has plenty of examples of this when someone "rocks the boat" and stands out against the injustices perpetrated by the commercial or political leadership of this and other countries.

The Church Patrick left behind him was unique in Europe. Catholic to the core - as evidenced by his quoting the Orthodox Catholic Credo in the third paragraph of the Confessio but different in that it was not heirarchical as the rest of Catholicism had become. In the Irish Church the Bishop, Priest and Deacon were "in the community" and very much a part of the community. The community's hardships were their hardships, enslave one, you hurt all.

Torn from his family and comfortable upper class life aged fifteen, beaten, starved and treated as an animal for the next six years, he lost his chance to be educated, lost his place in the society that gave him birth and then, when he returned, found his desire to serve in the church that gave him the faith that had saved him and kept him sane, was rejected by the heirarchy. We do not know how he eventually overcame that, we know only that it was a long and hard fought battle, but overcome the opposition he most certainly did. To cap his problems the country he returned to was on the edge of falling apart. The fiscal system had collapsed, the legions withdrawn and the towns were barely able to function - then, in 410 AD, the leaders of the Cities declared independence from Rome and by 476 AD Roman Britain was gone, the villas abandoned, the schools closed and the written records sparse or non-existent as the mercenaries, hired to protect it, took over and threw out the bureaucrats. We know almost nothing of how Patrick managed to cope with this or even where he went in pursuit of his calling to return as Ireland's missionary. All we do know is that he did return. It speaks volumes about his character and his abilities that he managed to work within this collapsing society and emerge as one of the great spiritual leaders, one who, unlike Augustine of Hippo, Jerome of Auxere and his other contemporaries, has left us only his Declaration and the Letter to Coroticus, yet these tell us more about the man than any of the learned treatises he might have written if he had not been snatched into slavery as a youth.

He wasn't the first, and he probably wasn't the only missionary at work in Ireland at this time, but he has certainly left an indelible imprint on the Irish people and their descendents. Just remember this, next time you look at a statue of him decked out in the full medieval Roman Catholic regalia of a Bishop, remember that isn't him. Think of a man in the Braccea, Tunic and Cloak of a Celt of the 5th Century. Plain, unadorned and possibly carry a staff to walk with. A humble man, a man whose faith shone like a beacon to those around him and a man who is rightly called "The Steadfast Man", whose faith was never shaken by any hardship from the moment he discovered his God stood beside him on that hillside with the sheep. A man whose experience as a slave left an indelible mark, one he never quite managed to put aside, but also gave him the opportunity to know exactly how to bring his message into the hearts and minds of those he came to save.

Forget the legends and the accretions that later ages have added to his story, the real man is much more interesting.

I, Patrick, a sinner, the rudest and least of all the faithful, and most contemptible to very many, had for my father Calpornius, a deacon, the son of Potitus, a priest, who lived in Bannaven Taberniae, for he had a small country-house close by, where I was taken captive when I was nearly sixteen years of age. I knew not the true God, and I was brought captive to Ireland with many thousand men, as we deserved; for we had forsaken God, and had not kept His commandments, and were disobedient to our priests, who admonished us for our salvation. And the Lord brought down upon us the anger of His Spirit, and scattered us among many nations, even to the ends of the earth, where now my littleness may be seen amongst strangers. And there the Lord showed me my unbelief, that at length I might remember my iniquities, and strengthen my whole heart towards the Lord my God, who looked down upon my humiliation, and had pity upon my youth and ignorance, and kept me before I knew him, and before I had wisdom or could distinguish between good and evil, and strengthened and comforted me as a father would his son.

Therefore I cannot and ought not to be silent concerning the great benefits and graces which the Lord has bestowed upon me in the land of my captivity, since the only return we can make for such benefits is, after God has reproved us, to extol and confess His wonders before every nation under heaven.

For there is no other God, nor ever was, nor shall be hereafter, except the Lord, the unbegotten Father, without beginning, by whom all things have their being, who upholds all things, as we have said; and His Son, Jesus Christ, whom, together with the Father, we testify to have always existed before the origin of the world, spiritually with the Father, ineffably begotten before every beginning; and by Him were the visible things made—was made man, death being overthrown, in the heavens. And he hath given Him all power over every name of things in heaven and earth and hell, that every tongue should confess to Him that Jesus Christ is Lord, and whose coming we expect ere long to judge the living and dead; who will render to every one according to his works; who hath poured forth abundantly on us both the gift of His Spirit and the pledge of immortality; who makes the faithful and obedient to become the sons of God and coheirs with Christ; whom we confess and adore one God in the Trinity of the holy Name. For He Himself has said by the prophet: "Call upon me in the day of thy trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt magnify me." And again he says: "It is honorable to reveal and confess the works of God."

Although I am imperfect in many things, I wish my brothers and acquaintances to know my dispositions, that they may be able to understand the desire of my soul. I am not ignorant of the testimony of my Lord, who declares in the psalm: "Thou wilt destroy all that speak a lie." And again: "The mouth that belieth, killeth the soul." And the same Lord: "Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall render an account for it in the Day of Judgment." Therefore I ought, with great fear and trembling, to dread this sentence in that day when no one shall be able to withdraw or hide himself, but all must give an account, even of the least sins, before the judgment-seat of the Lord Christ.

Therefore, although I thought of writing long ago, I feared the censure of men, because I had not learned as the others who studied the sacred writings in the best way, and have never changed their language since their childhood, but continually learned it more perfectly, while I have to translate my words and speech into a foreign tongue; and it can be easily proved from the style of my writings how I am instructed in speech and learning, for the Wise Man says: "By the tongue wisdom is discerned, and understanding and knowledge and learning by the word of the wise." But what avails an excuse, however true, especially when accompanied with presumption? For I, in my old age, strive after that which I was hindered from learning in my youth. But who will believe me? And if I say what I have said before, that as a mere youth, nay, almost a boy in words, I was taken captive, before I knew what I ought to seek and to avoid. Therefore I blush to-day and greatly dread to expose my ignorance, because I am not able to express myself briefly, with clear and well-arranged words, as the spirit desires and the mind and intellect point out. But if it had been given to me as to others, I would not have been silent for the recompense; and although it may seem to some who think thus that I put myself forward with my ignorance and too slow tongue, nevertheless it is written, "The tongues of stammerers shall speak readily and plain"; how much more ought we to undertake this who are the epistle of Christ for salvation unto the ends of the earth, written in pure heart, if not with eloquence, yet with power and endurance, "not written with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God"; and again the Spirit testifies, "Husbandry, it was ordained by the Most High."

Therefore I undertook this work at first, though a rustic and a fugitive, and not knowing how to provide for the future; but this I know for certain: that before I was humbled, I was like a stone lying in deep mire, until He who is powerful came, and in his mercy raised me up, and indeed again succored and placed me in His part; and therefore I ought to cry out loudly, and thank the Lord in some degree for all his benefits, here and after, which the mind of man cannot estimate. Therefore be amazed, both great and small who fear God; rhetoricians and ye of the Lord, hear and enquire who aroused me, a fool, from the midst of those who seem to be wise, and skilled in the law, and powerful in speech and in all things, and hath inspired me (if indeed I be such) beyond others, though I am despised by this world, so that, with fear and reverence and without murmuring, I should faithfully serve this nation, to whom the charity of Christ hath transferred me, and given me for my life, if I shall survive; and that at last with humility and truth I should serve them.

In the measure, therefore, of the faith of the Trinity it behoves me to distinguish without shrinking from danger, and to make known the gift of God and everlasting consolation, and, without fear, confidently to spread abroad the name of God everywhere, so that after my death I may leave it to my Gallican brethren and to my sons, many thousands of whom I have baptized in the Lord. And I was neither worthy nor deserving that the Lord should so favor me, his servant, after such afflictions and great difficulties, after captivity, after many years, as to grant me such grace for this nation—a thing which, still in my youth, I had neither hoped for nor thought of.

But after I had come to Ireland, I was daily tending sheep, and I prayed frequently during the day, and the love of God, and His faith and fear, increased in me more and more, and the spirit was stirred; so that in a single day I have said as many as a hundred prayers, and in the night nearly the same; so that I remained in the woods, and on the mountain, even before the dawn, I was roused to prayer, in snow, and ice, and rain, and I felt no injury from it, nor was there any slothfulness in me, as I see now, because the spirit was then fervent in me. And there one night I heard a voice, while I slept, saying to me: "Thou dost fast well; fasting thou shalt soon go to thy country." And again, after a very short time, I heard a response, saying to me: "Behold, thy ship is ready." And the place was not near, but perhaps about two hundred miles distant, and I had never been there, nor did I know any one who lived there.

Soon after this, I fled, and left the man with whom I had been six years, and I came in the strength of the Lord, who directed my way for good; and I feared nothing until I arrived at that ship. And the day on which I came the ship had moved out of her place; and I asked to go and sail with them, but the master was displeased, and replied angrily: "Do not seek to go with us." And when I heard this, I went from them to go thither where I had lodged; and I began to pray as I went; but before I had ended my prayer, I heard one of them calling out loudly after me, "Come quickly, for these men are calling you"; and I returned to them immediately, and they began saying to me; "Come, we receive thee in good faith; make such friendship with us as you wish." And then that day I disdained to supplicate them, on account of the fear of God; but I hoped of them that they would come into the faith of Jesus Christ, for they were Gentiles; and this I obtained from them; and after three days, we reached land, and for twenty-eight days we journeyed through a desert, and their provisions failed, and they suffered greatly from hunger; and one day the master began to say to me: "What sayest thou, O Christian? Your God is great and all-powerful; why canst thou not, then, pray for us, since we are perishing with hunger, and may never see the face of man again?" And I said to them plainly: "Turn sincerely to the Lord my God, to whom nothing is impossible, that He may send us food on your way until ye are satisfied, for it abounds everywhere for Him." And with God's help it was so done; for, lo! a flock of swine appeared in the way before our eyes, and they killed many of them, and remained there two nights, much refreshed and filled with their flesh; for many of them had been left exhausted by the wayside. After this, they gave the greatest thanks to God, and I was honored in their eyes.

They also found wild honey, and offered me some of it, and one of them said: "This is offered in sacrifice, thanks be to God"; after this, I tasted no more. But the same night, while I was sleeping, I was strongly tempted by Satan (of which I shall be mindful as long as I shall be in this body), and there fell, as it were, a great stone upon me, and there was no strength in my limbs. And then it came into my mind, I know not bow, to call upon Elias, and at the same moment I saw the sun rising in the heavens; and while I cried out Elias with all my might, behold! the splendor of the sun was shed upon me, and immediately shook from me all heaviness. And I believe that Christ my Lord cried out for me; and I hope that it will be so in the day of my adversity, as the Lord testifies in the Gospel: "It is not you that speak," etc.

Some time after, I was taken captive; and on the first night I remained with them I heard a divine response, saying: "You shall be two months with them"; and so it was. On the sixtieth night the Lord delivered me out of their hands, and on the road He provided for us food, and fire, and dry weather daily, until on the fourteenth day we all came. As I have above mentioned, we journeyed twenty-eight days through a desert, and on the night of our arrival we had no provisions left.

And again, after a few years, I was with my relations in Britain, who received me as a son, and earnestly besought me that then, at least, after I had gone through so many tribulations, I would go nowhere from them. And there I saw, in the midst of the night, a man who appeared to come from Ireland, whose name was Victorious, and he had innumerable letters with him, one of which he gave to me; and I read the commencement of the epistle containing "The Voice of the Irish"; and as I read aloud the beginning of the letter, I thought I heard in my mind the voice of those who were near the wood of Focluti, which is near the western sea; and they cried out: "We entreat thee, holy youth, to come and walk still amongst us." And my heart was greatly touched, so that I could not read any more, and so I awoke. Thanks be to God that, after very many years, the Lord hath granted them their desire!

And on another night, whether in me or near me God knows, I heard eloquent words which I could not understand until the end of the speech, when it was said: "He who gave His life for thee is He who speaks in thee"; and so I awoke full of joy. And again, I saw one praying within me, and I was, as it were, within my body, and I heard, that is, above the inner man, and there he prayed earnestly with groans. And I was amazed at this, and marvelled, and considered who this could be who prayed in me. But at the end of the prayer it came to pass that it was a bishop, and I awoke and remembered that the apostle said: "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity, for we know not what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself asketh for us with unspeakable groanings." And again: "The Lord is our advocate, who also maketh intercession for us."

[And when I was tried by some of my elders, who came and spoke of my sins as an objection to my laborious episcopate, I was on that day sometimes strongly driven to fall away here and for ever. But the Lord spared a proselyte and a stranger for His name's sake, and mercifully assisted me greatly in that affliction, because I was not entirely deserving of reproach. I pray God that they may not be found guilty of giving an occasion of sin; they found me after thirty years, and brought against me words that I had confessed before I was a deacon; from anxiety, with sorrow of mind, I told my dearest friend what I had done in my youth, in one day, nay, rather in one hour, because I was not then able to overcome. I know not, God knows, if I was then fifteen years of age, and from my childhood I did not believe in the living God, but remained in death and unbelief until I was severely chastised, and, in truth, I have been humbled by hunger and nakedness; and even now I did not come to Ireland of my own will until I was nearly worn out. But this proved a blessing to me, for I was thus corrected by the Lord, and he made me fit to be to-day that which was once far from my thoughts, so that I should care for the salvation of others, for at that time I had no thought even for myself.

And in the night of the day in which I was reproved for the things above mentioned, I saw in the night. I saw in a vision of the night a writing without honor before me. And then I heard an answer saying to me, "We have heard with displeasure the face of the elect without a name." He did not say, "Thou hast badly seen," but "We have badly seen," as if he had there joined himself to me, as he said: "He that touches you is as he who toucheth the apple of my eye." Therefore I give thanks to Him who comforted me in all things that He did not hinder me from the journey which I had proposed, and also as regards my work which I had learned of Christ. But from this thing I felt no little strength, and my faith was approved before God and man.

Therefore I dare to say that my conscience does not reproach me now or for the future. I have the testimony of God now that I have not lied in the words I have told you. [But I feel the more grieved that my dearest friend, to whom I would have trusted even my life, should have occasioned this. And I learned from certain brethren that, before this defence, when I was not present, nor even in Britain, and with which I had nothing to do, that he defended me in my absence. He had even said to me with his own lips: "Thou art going to be given the rank of bishop," though I was not worthy of it. How, then, did it happen to him that afterwards, before all persons, good and bad, he should detract me publicly, when he had before this freely and gladly praised me? And the Lord, who is greater than all? I have said enough. Still, I ought not to hide the gift of God which he gave me in the land of my captivity, for I sought him earnestly then, and found him there, and He preserved me from all iniquity, I believe, through the indwelling of His Spirit, which worketh within me unto this day more and more. But God knows, if it were man who spoke this to me, I would perhaps be silent for the love of Christ.

Therefore I give unceasing thanks to my God, who preserved me faithful in the day of my temptation, so that I can to-day offer him sacrifice confidently—the living sacrifice of my soul to Christ my Lord, who preserved me from all my troubles, so that I may say to Him: "Who am I, O Lord! or what is my calling, that divine grace should have so wrought with me, so that to-day I can so rejoice amongst the nations, and magnify Thy name, wherever I am, not only in prosperity, but also in adversity?" and I ought to receive equally whatever happens to me, whether good or evil, giving God thanks in all things, who hath shown me that I should, undoubtingly, without ceasing, believe in Him who hath heard me though I am ignorant, and that I should undertake, in those days, so holy and wonderful a work, and imitate those of whom our Lord predicted of old that they should preach His Gospel to all nations for a testimony before the end of the world; which has been accomplished, as we have seen. Behold, we are witnesses that the Gospel has been preached to the limits of human habitation.

But it is too long to detail my labors particularly, or even partially. I will briefly say how the good God often delivered me from slavery and from twelve dangers by which my soul was threatened, besides many snares, and what in words I cannot express, and with which I will not trouble my readers. But God knows all things, even before they come to pass as he does me, a poor creature. Therefore the divine voice very often admonished me to consider whence came this wisdom, which was not in me, who neither knew God nor the number of my days. Whence did I obtain afterwards the great and salutary gift to know or love God, and to leave my country and my relations, although many gifts were offered to me with sorrow and tears. And I offended many of my seniors then against my will. But, guided by God, I yielded in no way to them—not to me, but to God be the glory, who conquered in me, and resisted them all; so that I came to the Irish people to preach the Gospel, and bear with the injuries of the unbelieving, and listen to the reproach of being a stranger, and endure many persecutions, even to chains, and to give up my freedom for the benefit of others. And if I be worthy, I am ready to give up my life unhesitatingly and most cheerfully for His name, and thus, if the Lord permit, I desire to spend it even until my death.

For I am truly a debtor to God, who has given me so much grace that many people should be born again to God through me, and that for them everywhere should be ordained priests for this people, newly come to the faith, which the Lord took from the ends of the earth, as He promised formerly by His prophets: "Our fathers falsely prepared idols, and there is no profit in them, to thee the Gentiles come and will say." And again: "I have set thee to be the light of the Gentiles, that thou mayest be for salvation unto the utmost parts of the earth." And thus I wait the promise of Him who never fails, as He promises in the Gospel: "They shall come from the east and the west [from the north and from the south], and shall sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob." So we believe that the faithful shall come from all parts of the world.

Therefore we ought to fish well and diligently; as the Lord taught and said: "Come ye after me, and I will make you fishers of men." And again: "Behold, saith the Lord, I send many fishers and many hunters," etc. Therefore we should, by all means, set our nets in such a manner that a great multitude and a crowd may be caught therein for God, and that everywhere there may be priests who shall baptize and exhort a people who so need it and desire it; as the Lord teaches and admonishes in the Gospel, saying: "Going, therefore, teach ye all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, even to the consummation of the world." And again: "Go ye into the whole world, and preach the Gospel to every creature; he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be condemned." The rest are examples.

And again: "This Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a testimony to all nations, and then shall the consummation come." And again, the Lord, speaking by the prophet, says: "And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith the Lord, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Moreover, upon my servants and handmaids in those days I will pour forth my spirit, and they shall prophesy." And Osee saith: "And I will say to that which was not my people: Thou art my people: and to her who hath not found mercy; and they shall say; Thou art my God. And in the place where I said to them, You are not my people, it shall be said to them, Ye are the sons of the living God."

Wherefore behold how in Ireland they who never had the knowledge of God, and hitherto only worshipped unclean idols, have lately become the people of the Lord, and are called the sons of God. The sons of the Scoti and the daughters of princes are seen to be monks and virgins of Christ. [And there was one blessed Irish maiden, of adult age, noble and very beautiful, whom I baptized, and after a few days she came to us for a reason, and gave us to understand that she had received a command from God, and was informed that she was to become a virgin of Christ, and to draw near to God. Thanks be to God, six days after this she most excellently and eagerly entered on this state of life, which all the virgins of God now adopt, even against the will of their parents, even enduring reproaches and persecution from them, and notwithstanding they increase in number; and as for those who are born again in this way, we know not their number, except the widows and those who observe continency. But those who are in slavery are most severely persecuted, yet they persevere in spite of terrors and threats. But the Lord has given grace to many of my handmaids, for they zealously imitate him as far as they are able.

Therefore, though I could have wished to leave them, and had been ready and very desirous to go to Britannia, as if to my country and parents, and not that alone, but to go even to Gallia, to visit my brethren, and to see the face of my Lord's saints; and God knows that I desired it greatly. But I am bound in the spirit, and he who witnesseth will account me guilty if I do it, and I fear to lose the labor which I have commenced—and not I, but the Lord Christ, who commanded me to come and be with them for the rest of my life; if the Lord grants it, and keeps me from every evil way, that I should not sin before him. But I hope that which I am bound to do, but I trust not myself as long as I am in this body of death, for he is strong who daily tries to turn me from the faith, and from the sincere religious chastity to Christ my Lord, to which I have dedicated myself to the end of my life, but the flesh, which is in enmity, always draws me to death—that is, to unlawful desires, that must be unlawfully gratified—and I know in part that I have not led a perfect life like other believers. But I confess to my Lord, and do not blush before him, because I tell the truth, that from the time I knew him in my youth the love of God and his fear increased within me, and until now, by the favor of the Lord, I have kept the faith.

Let him who pleases insult and laugh at me; I will not be silent, neither do I conceal the signs and wonders that the Lord hath shown to me many years before they took place, as he who knew all things even before the world began. Therefore I ought to give thanks to God without ceasing, who often pardoned my uncalled-for folly and negligence, who did not let his anger turn fiercely against me, who allowed me to work with him, though I did not promptly follow what was shown me and what the Spirit suggested; and the Lord had compassion on me among thousands and thousands, because he saw my good-will; but then I knew not what to do, because many were hindering my mission, and were talking behind my back, and saying: "Why does he run into danger among enemies who know not God?" This was not said with malice, but because they did not approve of it, but, as I now testify, because of my rusticity, you understand; and I did not at once recognize the grace which was then in me, but now I know I should have known before.

Therefore I have simply related to my brethren and fellow-servants who have believed me why I have preached and still preach to strengthen and confirm your faith. Would that you also might aim at higher things and succeed better. This shall be my glory, because a wise son is the glory of his father. You know and God knows how I have lived among you from my youth up, both faithful in truth and sincere in heart; also, I have given the faith to the people among whom I dwell, and I will continue to do so. God knows I have not overreached any of them, nor do I think of it, because of God and his Church, lest I should excite persecution for them and all of us, and lest the name of the Lord should be blasphemed through me; for it is written, "Woe to the man through whom the name of the Lord is blasphemed." For though I am unskilled in names, I have endeavored to be careful even with my Christian brethren, and the virgins of Christ, and devout women, who freely gave me gifts, and cast of their ornaments upon the altar; but I returned them, though they were offended with me because I did so. But I, for the hope of immortality, guarded myself cautiously in all things, so that they could not find me unfaithful, even in the smallest matter, so that unbelievers could not defame or detract from my ministry in the least.

But when it happened that I baptized so many thousand men, did I expect even half a "screpall" from them? Tell me, and I will return it to you. Or when the Lord ordained clergy through my humility and ministry, did I confer the grace gratuitously? If I asked of any of them even the value of my shoe, tell me, and I will repay you more. I rather spent for you as far as I was able; and among you and everywhere for you I endured many perils in distant places, where none had been further or had ever come to baptize, or ordain the clergy, or confirm the people. By the grace of the Lord I labored freely and diligently in all things for your salvation. At this time also I used to give rewards to kings, whose sons I hired, who travelled with me, and who understood nothing but [to protect] me and my companions. And on one day they wished to kill me; but the time had not come yet; but they put me in irons, and carried off all we possessed. But on the fourteenth day the Lord released me from their power, and what was ours was restored to us through God and through the friends we had before secured.

You know how much I expended on the judges in the districts which I visited most frequently. For I think I paid them not less than the hire of fifteen men, that you might have the benefit of my presence, and that I might always enjoy you in the Lord. I do not regret it, nor is it sufficient for me. I still spend, and will still spend, for your souls.] Behold, I call God to witness on my soul that I do not lie, neither that you may have occasion, nor that I hope for honor from any of you; sufficient for me is the honor of truth. But I see that now in the present world I am greatly exalted by the Lord; and I was not worthy nor fit to be thus exalted, for I know that poverty and calamity are more suitable for me than riches and luxury. But even Christ the Lord was poor for us.

Truly, I, a poor and miserable creature, even if I wished for wealth, have it not; neither do I judge myself, because I daily expect either death, or treachery, or slavery, or an occasion of some kind or another. [But I fear none of these things, relying on the heavenly promise; for I have cast myself into the hands of the omnipotent God, who rules everywhere; as the prophet says: "Cast thy care upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee."

Behold, now I commend my soul to my most faithful God, whose mission I perform, notwithstanding my unworthiness; but because He does not accept persons, and has chosen me for this office, to be one of the least of His ministers. "What shall I render to Him for all the things that He hath rendered to me?" But what shall I say or promise to my Lord? For I see nothing unless He gives Himself to me; but He searches the heart and reins, because I ardently desire and am ready that He should give me to drink His cup, as He has permitted others to do who have loved Him. Wherefore may my Lord never permit me to lose His people whom He has gained in the ends of the earth. I pray God, therefore, that He may give me perseverance, and that He may vouchsafe to permit me to give Him faithful testimony for my God until my death. And if I have done anything good for my God, whom I love, I beseech Him to grant to me that with those proselytes and captives I may pour out my blood for His name, even if my body should be denied burial, and be miserably torn limb from limb by dogs or fierce beasts, or that the birds of heaven should devour it. I believe most certainly that if this should happen to me, I have gained both soul and body; for it is certain that we shall rise one day in the brightness of the sun—that is, the glory of Christ Jesus our Redeemer—as sons of God but as joint heirs with Christ, and to become conformable to His image.

For that sun which we see rises daily for us; but it will not rule or continue in its splendor for ever, and all who adore it shall suffer very miserably. But we who believe in and adore the true sun, Christ, who will never perish, neither he who shall do His will, but even as Christ shall abide for ever, who reigns with God the Father Almighty, and with the Holy Spirit, before the ages, and now, and for ever and ever. Amen.

Behold, again and again, I shall briefly declare the words of my confession. I testify in truth and in joy of heart, before God and His holy angels, that I never had any occasion, except the Gospel and its promises, for returning to that people from whom I had before with difficulty escaped.

But I beseech those who believe in and fear God, whoever may condescend to look into or receive this writing, which Patrick, the ignorant sinner, has written in Ireland, that no one may ever say, if I have ever done or demonstrated anything, however little, that it was my ignorance. But do you judge, and let it be believed firmly, that it was the gift of God. And this is my confession before I die.

Thus far is what Patrick wrote with his own hand; he was translated to heaven on the seventeenth of March.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:41 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 03, 2007

Trinity Sunday

Guess I drew the short straw again this year. I am the preacher for the Solemn Evensong and Benediction in celebration of the Holy and Indivisible Trinity ..........

In the twenty-three years I have been in the preaching ministry I seem to have drawn the straw to preach on this most difficult of subjects more times in my time here at the Abbey than at any time in the fifteen years before I had the good fortune to be posted here. I have prepared myself this year by looking at a number of aspects of faith that revolve around the doctrine, such as "Is it Biblical?" The simple answer to that is yes, though there is a much more complicated debate to go with that.

The recent Dan Brown "Da Vinci Code" tried to present the Gnostic case and made some misleading claims about "narrow votes" in the Council of Nicea rejecting the Cathar (Gnostic) vision that Christ was simply a Divine Being and never a man, which was the real Jesus who, by contrast, wasn't God. The narrowness of the vote by the way was two to over three hundred for the Trinity.

The Trinity is best described as "An enigma wrapped in a mystery" and taken on trust (ie: Faith) and left at that. The problem is that it is so badly understood by the majority of Christians that it is the single thing which divides most of us - and provides the teachers and spreaders of the Gnostic heresy that is Islam with ammunition.

Please take a little time to read my sermon and let me know what you think.

“God said to Moses, I am who I am.”

+In the name of God, Father Son and Holy Spirit,

1. Quicunque vult salvus esse, ante omnia opus est, ut teneat catholicam fidem:
2. Quam nisi quisque integram inviolatamque servaverit, absque dubio in aeternam peribit.
3. Fides autem catholica haec est: ut unum Deum in Trinitate, et Trinitatem in unitate veneremur.
4. Neque confundentes personas, neque substantiam seperantes.
5. Alia est enim persona Patris alia Filii, alia Spiritus Sancti:

I think most of us view with dread the rota which assigns us to preach on Trinity Sunday, and I confess that I was tempted to simply read the Athanasian Creed in Latin and then sit down …..

However, my Latin being very sparse, as you will have gathered, and my pronunciation of it probably unintelligible, I will refrain from inflicting the rest of it on you.

Have you noticed how God frequently chooses as his instrument someone apparently unsuitable? Look at the Old Testament – it is full of some of the most dodgy characters you could wish to meet. Moses, a murderer and runaway, Jacob the thief of his brother’s inheritance, David was certainly no saint and neither was Solomon, yet God uses them to bring the nation that became the Israelites into an understanding of his purpose. Read on into the New Testament and we find the collection of disciples is a far from perfect group of individuals. Matthew the tax collector – in first century Judea synonymous with fraud – Peter, James and John fishermen and by definition hardly the sort of people we would welcome sitting alongside us on the bus, among the rest, several Zealots and members of way out sects and the list goes on. When we consider the early church Augustine of Hippo was something of a playboy and certainly not what anyone would have expected to become a man of God!

Yet God not only calls to them, but provides them with the energy, the courage and perhaps even the means to carry out the task he has set them. And he does so through HIS grace and power - not our own! It is in the strengthening power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to carry out the work of God, just as the Son, our saviour gave us the Word of Life in the Gospels. In the power of the Holy Spirit even the most unsuitable and sinful can become the instrument of God.

Last weekend we celebrated the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the assembly at Jerusalem, an event of inspiration and some power, since, as we read then, it provoked the cowed and frightened group of friends into getting out into the street to proclaim the gospel to a skeptical crowd. New wine in flawed and decidedly iffy wineskins. Small wonder the reaction of many was to pour scorn on them proclaiming that they were already drunk at nine in the morning.

My text, taken as you know, from our first lesson, has to be one of the most frustrating and enigmatic statements in the Bible. “I am who I am.” As an explanation it certainly lacks detail, yet it does encapsulate our understanding of God. God is, as God is.

He manifested himself to the Israelites in several ways, as the burning bush to Moses, as the fiery pillar or as a pillar of smoke, as a voice heard through Prophets or in dreams and we have parallels of that with the later Christian era in the accounts of various saints. And he continues to manifest himself to us even in our own age, when we will stop our noise and listen or open our eyes and see. Throughout the Old Testament He made himself and his desires known though all these channels and many more – when mankind was prepared to listen and sometimes when we were not. He certainly has ways of grabbing our attention when he wants it.

The doctrine of the Trinity has caused many finer minds than my own to agonise over the nature of God. It is this aspect of our faith which has given rise to the controversies of Docetism, Gnosticism and the Cathars. It is this aspect of our Faith which Islam regularly misrepresents and attacks and it is probably the least understood part of our faith of all the doctrines of the Christian credo. Yet, it is both Biblical and central to our faith. Father Peter once remarked that to preach on the Trinity is to commit heresy, well, I hope to avoid that. In doing so I want to take you to three of Christ’s own statements. In the first he tells his disciples John 6. 46

“No one has seen the Father, except the one who is from God. Only he has seen the father.”

Later he tells the disciples openly, John 16. 28

“I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and returning to the Father.”

In the first he tells us that he has seen the Father, ergo; he is from the father, and in the second; that he is returning to the Father – that he is the incarnation of God. In his third statement he tells the disciples that, unless he goes to the Father, the Holy Spirit will not come upon them. Yet we should not imply that the Holy Spirit is therefore somehow a mere replacement, one we cannot see, for he (or as Julian was fond of provoking us – she) was and is with God from the beginning.

As Athanasius tells us:

1. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God.
2. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.
3. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord.
4. And yet not three Lords, but one Lord.
5. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity: to acknowledge every Person by himself to be both God and Lord,
In part this sums up a small fragment of what Jesus is trying to explain to the amazed Nicodemus. That in order to attain everlasting life we need to undergo that rebirth by water and the spirit, as our reading says:

“I tell you the truth, no one can enter the Kingdom of Heaven unless he is born by water and the spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the spirit gives birth to spirit.”

In Acts we are told that the Holy Spirit was sent as a “Comforter” to encourage, uphold and to guide, yet we also know that the Holy Spirit has been at work in the world from the first – Christ himself tells us this. One can almost pity Nicodemus as he listens to Jesus and finds that what he thought he understood he no longer understands at all.

I began this evening on a slightly irreverent note, reading the opening of the Athanasian creed in Latin. I would like to close with the serious suggestion that we do need to understand at least the intent of that creed if we are to defend our faith against an increasingly agnostic world. It is all too easy to misrepresent the Trinity and to fall into the trap of dismissing the central figure, Jesus, as a mere man, quite a powerful prophet, but just a man. To do so is to fall into a serious error in understanding him.

I can put it no better than to use St John’s opening words – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

That Word was Jesus Christ, son of God and God made manifest as man. Not a mere Prophet, as some would have Him, but the very Word itself, the one who told Moses in the desert; “I am that I am.” That is what he tells us himself in the three examples I have given, that is the statement of faith we make Sunday on Sunday in the creeds.

The pre-medieval church stated in it’s version of what we today call the Nicene Creed:

For there is no other God, nor ever was, nor shall be hereafter, except the Lord, the unbegotten Father, without beginning, by whom all things have their being, who upholds all things, as we have said; and His Son, Jesus Christ, whom, together with the Father, we testify to have always existed before the origin of the world, spiritually with the Father, ineffably begotten before every beginning; and by Him were the visible things made—was made man, death being overthrown, in the heavens. And he hath given Him all power over every name of things in heaven and earth and hell, that every tongue should confess to Him that Jesus Christ is Lord, and whose coming we expect ere long to judge the living and dead; who will render to every one according to his works; who hath poured forth abundantly on us both the gift of His Spirit and the pledge of immortality; who makes the faithful and obedient to become the sons of God and coheirs with Christ; whom we confess and adore one God in the Trinity of the holy Name.


In the Father we have all things that are,
In the Son we have salvation and the promise of everlasting life
In the Holy Spirit we are provided with the grace and power to do that which God sets us.

Three person in one God, Trinity in Unity and Unity in Substance.


Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:38 PM | TrackBack

June 02, 2007

Big Brother is taxing you...

Trust the bureaucrats to look after themselves. In Germany they've just invented a new Federal authority, the Bundeszentralamt für Steuern (BZSt). With lots of cosy jobs for pen pushers, to be sure. Up till now the tax offices in local authority districts were responsible for keeping the tax records of the people living there.You were issued a tax number and if you for example moved to another district you had to apply for a new number. That makes keeping track of an individual not an easy task, of course.

So someone had a brainwave and we, i.e. every single of the 82 million citizens of Germany, are to be issued an individual tax number which will stay with us all our live and even 20 years afterwards! That will be the first task of the BZSt. They estimate is that it'll take three to four yours until the last one has got his tax number. It is a huge task as for the first time all tax records will be accessible in electronic form and the local tax offices will be able to access them in a database. Seeing how many IT problems I encounter daily at my computer at work I am rather skeptical if this will really work. The new tas identification number will consist of 10 digits plus one, encoding things like name, former names, title, address, gender, day and place of birth and the local tax office. I wonder, why they would need to know about the local tax office. Probably to find your oldes tax declaration...

This system will of course make it easier for tax so offices to track down defrauders. As a law abiding citizen I wouldn't mind that so much, although if our tax regulations were less complicated getting around them would be a lot more difficult. (Someone told me only last week that about three quarters of all the existing tax regulations in the world were German.) But I do wonder if keeping data like that in a central database wouldn't make other institutions want to access them before long. And I am a bit worried about the protection of personal data.

The last example is the German toll system for trucks. Trucks carry little electronic black boxes in the drivers' units called OBUs (On Board Units) that send out signals. These are received at certain stations located on the motorways and the truck owners will get an invoice for the kilometers that have been driven by their trucks. The side effect of this is that it is possible to keep track of the movements of a certain truck and its driver. This has already been used in some criminal investigation. Rumours have it that plans are underfoot to install OBUs in every private car as well. Apart from getting a bit more money out of the car owners it will also accumulate vast amounts of data about individual persons. Who is going to guarantee all this information will be kept strictly confidental and will only be used by the proper authorities?

All this rather reminds me of George Orwell's 1984. And I think it will be one of the true challenges of our future life: with all this computer power and performace that is available nowadays it is easy to collect all sorts and vast amounts of data and information of all sorts. But what are we going to do with it? Will be not be buried by it? And will we be able to still protect the rights of privacy of individuals? It will be interesting to watch, I am sure.

Posted by Mausi at 02:06 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 01, 2007

Back to the future

Last holiday weekend, my wife and I went to Scotland to visit family in Dumfries. It was a chance to catch up with everyone, and also to bathe in nostalgia. Since I’m now nearer the century than my birth day, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on the past, as well as looking forward to the future. I’ve also discovered I’m a natural conservative, and I abhor change for changes’ sake. However, some things are almost timeless, and I would like to share with you my experience when visiting a haunt of my youth.

On Bank Holiday Monday I decided to go fishing on Lochrutton loch, about 5 miles from Dumfries. The small village of Lochfoot nestles along the northern shore.

The village of Lochfoot seen across the Loch.

This a large, windswept and relatively shallow lowland loch, probably formed at the end of the last Ice Age. It has a very interesting feature – a crannog. Crannogs are a type of ancient loch-dwelling found throughout Scotland and Ireland, while one has been discovered in Wales in Llangorse Lake. Most are circular structures that seem to have been built as individual homes to accommodate extended families. Other types of loch settlements are also found in Scandinavian countries and throughout Europe.

Seen in 2006, the crannog is barely above the water.

Crannogs are also known as artificial or modified natural islands and they were as much a product of their environment as the period in which they were constructed. The one in the middle of Lochrutton appears to have been last occupied in the 13th century. For further information see:
Lochrutton Crannog

Last year when I visited, all I could see were some trees sticking out of the water. This year the crannog was more visible, due to a drop in water level.

The Crannog as seen this year, with the stony structure revealed.

I got to wondering who lived there, and what sort of life did they lead? I also got to reflect on my agnosticism, which came about after my father’s early death in 1969. It was after this traumatic period that I was given an old fishing rod and reel, with the purpose of giving me an interest, and probably to keep me out of mischief – I was 13 at the time! One of the first fish I caught was a wee perch from Lochrutton, and I spent many a happy day fishing there in my school holidays and weekends, after cycling all the way there. I am so grateful I was given this opportunity, as it has lasted a lifetime (apart from a small break of about 10 years due to getting married and raising a family!). It has helped me to find serenity and peace of mind through life’s troubles, much the same as many readers of the Monk find comfort in God and Church.

I used to attend church before my father’s death, but since then I have gained solace and serenity from Mother Nature, who embraces me every time I wet a line. As I sat under my brolly (well, it was a Bank Holiday and I was in Scotland!) to shelter from the wind and showers, I was aware of the swallows with their beautiful aerial dancing displays as they dived to the loch’s surface in search of insects. I also caught a hard-fighting pike of around 8lbs. Small, but perfectly formed, I slipped him back to his environment after unhooking him. He sulked in the margins for ages before moving off to wherever he lived. He lives as his ancestors have done for millions of years. As I looked up at the sky, with its mixture of large rain clouds and blue sunny patches, I even had a conversation with my Grandmother. She passed away many years ago, but I cannot believe that all the love that she had within her simply disappeared into the earth when she was buried. My understanding of science is that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Love is a type of energy in my opinion, so what happens to it when we die? It’s got to be eternal, hasn’t it?

What is the point I am making here? Well, I mentioned my agnosticism earlier. Have I replaced the God I thought I believed in with something else? I believe I have, through Mother Nature. I have no doubt that there are great forces at work in this universe. Those same forces formed the environment I am so enthralled with. The loch was there 800 years ago when the crannog-dwellers were alive. There may even have been people living on it long before that thousands of years ago. It will still be there 1000 years from now, barring some dire global catastrophe. Even though I was wallowing in nostalgia, I realized that in the future, someone else will be enjoying the experience I was having too.

On a final note, my experience was marred by the presence of litter all around the area I was fishing. This is despite the local Community Council threatening to ban fishing if it continues. Most anglers cherish their environment, but sadly, the morons who leave it behind don’t give a fig about anyone else, so what do we do? I did pick up some, but not all of it, as I had to carry a lot of gear back to my van. I hope that you have enjoyed my story and may your God go with you.

Slim Jim

Posted by The Gray Monk at 05:36 PM | TrackBack