Extracts -1

As I look back on my life I wanted to share with you some of my writings. Here is first extract.

/1

We have to start with the assumption that you know nothing of the reality of the world around you. You may have a mish mash of fragmentary knowledge mixed up with passing fashionable ideas. You might even have constructed something that looks like a sensible construct but if viewed properly is put together back to front and inside out. There will be words you think you know the meaning of but really harbour  only erroneous shadows of truth.

So in our present society we have to make the assumption that you know absolutely nothing. This in your case may be an error. But since I don’t know you I have to make certain rules to create a starting place for all. If you are further along the journey you will eventually find your appropriate level.

Half a century and more ago we could have started with a certain assurance that there was a common basis, building blocks we could all agree on, sadly for reasons we won’t go into here, the reliable intergenerational passing on of knowledge has collapsed as our society has become self absorbed and blinded by consumerism.

Sometimes finding a beginning is a daunting task. There are in this case multiple starting points. If I knew you I might have a clue as to the starting point. However that’s not possible. It was once before when I was able to start this journey with a pen friend six thousand miles away in the infancy of the internet but you?

Who are you?

And so by an act of serendipity we find the starting point. If you missed it, we will ask again, Who are you? What are you? Perhaps even why are you? Why do you exist, deep inside where the secrets lie, who are you what do you find? How do you define your existence?

Who are you and why are you here?

/2

Let’s start with a game. A mind game. You need to take this slowly, I think, and give it all some thought. 

However before we start I sincerely hope that in asking the question, Who are You, you haven’t answered and defined yourself by your name or your life experience. You aren’t a musician, a dancer, a dentist or a mother, father or grandparent. They might fulfill a certain use as descriptors but they aren’t true answers to the question Who Are You.

The first mind game.

Imagine yourself standing in front of a mirror. 

You are five years old.  Who are you? Who is looking back at you?

You move on, you are 25 years old. Who are you? Who is looking back at you?

You are 65 years old. Who are you now? Who looks back at you?

You are 90 years old, now who are you? Who looks back at you?

Are you simply looking at a growing and decaying human figure? No you aren’t, because if you look closely you will see a shadow of your true self that doesn’t alter with your decaying body. Something inside you, that is way more than a collection of cells and atoms.

The second is harder, repeat the first exercise but you are blind. Remember blind people don’t see anything at all if they are totally blind, it isn’t the blackness of closed eyelid, it is the absence of sight, no stimuli for your brain to process at all.

So now who are you? Who do you see? You don’t see body at all. You have moved inside, closer in fact to seeing your true self.

Now imagine you are dead. Are you still there? Imagine you are one day old, are you still you?

Who is this you?

/3

Our next mind experiment requires deep concentration. You are standing in an Art Gallery. Before you is a framed painting. The paper canvas is white. In the very centre is a red dot. That’s all you see. Moving closer you see the dot has an irregular shape and is not a perfect circle.

The painting has no title, so no clue is given to help interpret the painting. What do you see?

Does it symbolise menarche? Do you then see a young girl on the cusp of womanhood?

Is it the first prick of the diabetic, the start of a nosebleed? Is it a hesitant full stop, the ending of life? Is it just a dot on white paper?

Is it a beginning or an ending, a statement or an observation?

The most important point is what do you see when you close your eyes and try to imagine what it might be?

That’s one level of seeing. Look more closely, can you imagine the journey of the ink or the paint to the canvas, can you see the atomic structure, the light absorbing property that allows the eye that isn’t colour blind to perceive a shade of red. If you are colour blind what journey of meaning do you see?

Then there is the paper, the machinery behind its construction, the science of paper making, then back to the tree, its life cycle starting with a seed, the fruitful soil, its first breaking through into light from the darkness of the soil.

At what level do you see all this?

Now go back to mirror and look at yourself with fresh eyes and see beyond what first appears.

Who are you?

/4

If we continue these thought experiments we will come to realise that our sight is very limited indeed. Having sailed in the Atlantic, it is a strange experience to see all the surface activity and yet be unable to perceive in anyway the life that exists  hundreds of meters below the surface. If we walk in a meadow we cannot see the complex life that lies just below the surface, never mind what is going on beneath our feet many kilometres below. Not only can we not see the large things that lie below our feet we cannot see the microscopic life cycles that exist all around us. We need air to breathe and yet we cannot see it.

So what we see is very limited indeed, as I think we now know. Yes it is true we can take X-rays and Cat scans, use microscopes and electron microscopes to catch glimpses of the world we cannot see with our eyes, but still we cannot see properly.

You cannot see the anger in a heart, the angst, the pain, loneliness, depression, another mind at work and you can’t see a single thought.

Yet there are impulses hidden deep within each person that on the surface we can’t explain anymore that we can explain love. We can experience the different kinds of love but we can’t explain it. Please note sex is not love.

Let me give you a glimpse of that hidden impulse. Once when I was a teenager I saw a statue of Buddha in a shop window, this stirred in me a desire to throw myself onto the ground and to adore. It felt very silly but it was very strong.This is not a series of thoughts about Buddhism.

But what was it that stirred in me that sumner morning? Have you experienced that feeling?

/5

I wonder, could you take some time and go and find a seed, any seed, sunflower, apple, cosmos or even a mustard seed. If you have a magnifying glass even better. Place it in the palm of your hand and study it, take as long as you need.

Now as we have already established all you can observe is an outer casing, you can’t see inside. Even if it had a transparent casing you still wouldn’t be able to see it fully. If you pull it apart you will still not see the very thing we are looking for, which is the trigger for life.

If you keep it in your pocket or mantelpiece and observe it, the great secret of life contained within it will not be revealed. You can keep it for as long as you like but nothing is going to happen. It needs to be buried in the ground and there hidden from sight the great miracle of life, unseen by us, unobserved, will take place and the seed appears to die and then rises into a complex plant. I regularly marvel at the apple tree I first sowed in a pot last century and is now lovely little tree.

Now the same is true of every human being. We have the gift of life. A seed. We can do one of two things with it,  keep it like the  cosmos seed and do nothing with it, except keep looking in the mirror or we can take that precious gift and bury it in good soil and watch what happens when appearing to die we spring into the life we are meant to live.

In order to live we have to be prepared to die.

So who are you? Are you an apple seed or an apple tree?

How do we die like a seed? What soil do we need?

A letter of St Maximilian Kolbe

We must sanctify the whole world

I rejoice greatly, dear brother, at the outstanding zeal that drives you to promote the glory of God. It is sad to see how in our times the disease called “indifferentism” is spreading in all its forms, not just among those in the world but also among the members of religious orders. But indeed, since God is worthy of infinite glory, it is our first and most pressing duty to give him such glory as we, in our weakness, can manage – even that we would never, poor exiled creatures that we are, be able to render him such glory as he truly deserves.

Because God’s glory shines through most brightly in the salvation of the souls that Christ redeemed with his own blood, let it be the chief concern of the apostolic life to bring salvation and an increase in holiness to as many souls as possible. Let me briefly outline the best way to achieve this end – both for the glory of God and for the sanctification of the greatest number. God, who is infinite knowledge and infinite wisdom, knows perfectly what is to be done to give him glory, and in the clearest way possible makes his will known to us through his vice-gerents on Earth.

It is obedience and obedience alone that shows us God’s will with certainty. Of course our superiors may err, but it cannot happen that we, holding fast to our obedience, should be led into error by this. There is only one exception: if the superior commands something that would obviously involve breaking God’s law, however slightly. In that case the superior could not be acting as a faithful interpreter of God’s will.

God himself is the one infinite, wise, holy, and merciful Lord, our Creator and our Father, the beginning and the end, wisdom, power, and love – God is all these. Anything that is apart from God has value only in so far as it is brought back to him, the Founder of all things, the Redeemer of mankind, the final end of all creation. Thus he himself makes his holy will known to us through his vice-gerents on Earth and draws us to himself, and through us – for so he has willed – draws other souls too, and unites them to himself with an ever more perfect love.

See then, brother, the tremendous honour of the position that God in his kindness has placed us in. Through obedience we transcend our own limitations and align ourselves with God’s will, which, with infinite wisdom and prudence, guides us to do what is best. Moreover, as we become filled with the divine will, which no created thing can resist, so we become stronger than all others.

This is the path of wisdom and prudence, this is the one way by which we can come to give God the highest glory. After all, if there had been another, better way, Christ would certainly have shown it to us, by word and by example. But in fact sacred Scripture wraps up his entire long life in Nazareth with the words and he was obedient to them and it shows the rest of his life to have been passed in similar obedience – almost as an instruction to us – by showing how he came down to Earth to do the Father’s will.

Brethren, let us love him above all, our most loving heavenly Father, and let our obedience be a sign of this perfect love, especially when we have to sacrifice our own wills in the process. And as for a book from which to learn how to grow in the love of God, there is no better book than Jesus Christ crucified.

All this we will achieve more easily through the intercession of the Immaculate Virgin, to whom the most kind God has given the task of dispensing his mercies. There is no doubt that the will of Mary should be the will of God for us. When we dedicate ourselves to him, we become tools in her hands just as she became a tool in his. Let us let her direct us and lead us by the hand. Let us be calm and serene under her guidance: she will foresee all things for us, provide all things, swiftly fulfil our needs both bodily and spiritual, and keep away from us all difficulty and suffering.

New Scalan altar honours persecuted Scots

A new altar has been installed at Carfin Grotto in Motherwell to honour the Scots forced to practise their Catholic faith clandestinely through two and a half centuries of persecution, from 1560 onwards.

The altar is named after the secret seminary in the Braes of Glenlivet which operated from 1716 to 1799 in contravention of the Penal Laws against Catholicism. The laws forbade the celebration of Mass in Scotland; priests were prohibited from being in Scotland at all. 

Fr Michael Briody, President of the Scalan Association said:

“There are several shrines at Carfin Grotto honouring the Irish, Polish, Lithuanian and Ukrainian immigrants who brought their own contribution and strength to the Catholic Community in Scotland. The Scalan altar pays tribute to those native-born Scots who kept the Faith through centuries of persecution, especially in The Enzie of Banffshire, Lochaber, Strathglass, “Blessed Morar”, the Southern Hebrides and Galloway. The Scalan altar is a worthy representative of them all.”

Bishop Joseph Toal, Bishop of Motherwell said:

“The new Scalan altar recognises the courage of the men and women who gave witness to their Faith in the darkest and most testing of times. It reminds us that we must never take for granted the freedom we have to practise our faith in public and in private, and our responsibility to stand up for our fellow Christians around the world who face severe hardship, discrimination and persecution for professing belief in one God and his holy religion.”