Monday, 15 September 2014

So Here We Are Scotland!

I guess when I stumbled upon and read a Scottish history book thirty five years ago and became a supporter of Scottish Independence I didn’t in my heart of hearts dream that I would be given an opportunity to see it happen.  When you read the history of your country for the first time as a schoolboy and realise that in the classrooms you have been getting taught somebody else’s you conclude that something is amiss.

Things have been amiss for me ever since. The North Sea oil con, the flawed 1979 devolution referendum, Poll Tax, Trident, Iraq, I never again trusted a government that taught me their own history and not mine, or their submissive media mouthpieces which constantly told me Scotland was too wee and too poor. With age I found far from diminishing, the reasons just started stacking up. 

One vote for Labour in a General election to help their promise of outing the Tories aside (it never happened by the way, I voted Labour, so did the rest of Scotland in huge numbers, they lost) I have always been a single issue voter. Independence. Party politics has just been a means to an end. In that time I helped out at elections and even stood in a council election. It has shaped who I am and the friends I made.  

In my mid-thirties I in a sense bound myself to the pre-reformation history of our ancient nation by converting to the Catholic faith. There was nothing of this in my reasoning at the time but It was a great delight to later discover more about Scotland’s Catholic history and the likes of St Margaret of Scotland, Cardinal Beaton, some famous Jacobites by name and many converts like myself in St John Ogilvie and more recently Sir Compton Mackenzie who became a Scottish Nationalist too.

So here we are Scotland! 

It seems that the very same Westminster of which I became so suspicious as a young lad has this past few months proven my case to hundreds of thousands of other Scots who had never seen it that way before. That seems to be what has put this referendum on a knife-edge. There is a certain delicious irony that it is their attempt to create fear and awe, that has at last awakened the nation to the fact this was no union of equals and it never will be, and that you can’t trust a word they say about Scotland.

I have seen my fellow Catholics try to reconcile their voting intentions to their religious beliefs and I know Catholics are voting in different ways for different reasons. Some still feel let down badly by the Scottish Government in Holyrood on homosexual marriage. Others seek more social justice in what they see as a grossly unequal society. Witness todays advert in the Herald supporting Yes by a “cross-section of the Catholic community”. 

Me? I’m just a Scottish nationalist who happens by the grace of God to be Catholic. The two are not related in any other sense than the history of our nation at times in varying degrees and also for me the story of my wonderful and blessed life.  

Maybe if I realise on Friday morning that my fellow countrymen living and working in Scotland have voted Yes I will inadvertently drop to my knees in thanks, and maybe if it is No I will do sackcloth and ashes.  I don’t know. God willing I will go to Mass on Thursday Morning and the days following and that is as religious as the referendum will get for me. 

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Leaning on Divine Mercy

On Saturday evening I was chatting with a non-Catholic acquaintance of mine who was quite open to me that his “zeal of the convert” phase was a thing of the past and he was now “questioning things” as he put it.  I tried to offer encouragement such as even the greatest saints having questions, but I felt restricted in where I could go with him.  

He was also questioning the worship at his church of choice.  Happy. Powerpoint. You get the picture.  

Nevertheless I found his open-ness refreshing. I can’t help but wonder since if he felt able to confide in any of his fellows. 

Today, just before it was time to put my PC in standby mode, dash out and attend lunchtime mass it came to me that I really didn’t feel like going.  I wasn’t feeling very pious and I wasn’t really up for it at all. I did go and from the moment I arrived I was glad of my decision. That is almost always the case when you reflect on days like these. By the time we were through the Confiteor I was feeling suitably penitent and attentive. 

After I had received communion and I knelt gathering my thoughts in adoration the warm sun shone its rays through the window onto me.  It momentarily warmed my body as Jesus was warming my soul.

It isn’t always like that. I have learnt not to rely on these moments or expect them and I have read some of the saints say we shouldn’t even seek them. Since my own “zeal of a convert” era has eroded I have tried to lean on God more than on my own feelings and this is where the sacramental life comes to the fore.  

Sure, I might not get zapped by a ray of sun every time I receive communion but my experience of the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist are that the reality of the words and symbols are enticing and keep drawing me back. Man could not have come up with this of himself. 

There is the irony.  Where there is so much accusation of self-righteousness there is very little. God keeps drawing me back.  All I am doing by coming back is leaning on Him. 

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Scottish Independence: Church silence is golden!

There is something consoling that the Church in her wisdom has stayed silent on the issue of Scottish independence. Catholic Herald: Church is right to be silent on independence

That doesn't mean that its members shouldn't have an opinion and I found Professor Tom Devine's story of his journey from being an intended No voter to making his mind  up recently that he will be voting Yes very interesting. The reasons he gave for the Union being past its sell by date were insightful and not what you would normally find in the debate. Link to article available here

Without doubt individual Catholic clergy have differing opinions but that is their right as individuals as long as they use right terminology and context. Looking around lines have been crossed I feel when rendering to God and Caesar. 

The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland have officially argued that any change to the constitution would be "a provocation against God" .

The Church of Scotland seems to think their Free Presbyterian brothers do not know the mind of God as well as they think. "Self-determination for any nation is a good political principle that the Church supports and this includes the right of the electorate to vote for or against constitutional change" says this spokesperson of the Kirk quoted here on their official website. 

Then again this Free Church of Scotland minister thinks Christians can not be pro-independence in good conscience. Although to be fair there is public support for both sides from among their office-bearers, citing a Christian's use of "good conscience" in this debate is dangerous ground when so many of his colleagues disagree. Google for example "Calvin Luther Conscience Interpretation of Scripture".

Pope Francis has even been embroiled in this although I believe unintentionally and as a result of maximum spin from certain quarters. Nevertheless, worse for me than the fact Pope Francis was being spun mostly as being anti-scottish independence was to see him reduced to being a a sort of David Bowie or J K Rowling type figure. Or for that matter, a sort of Professor Tom Devine figure.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Symbolism: Stay Classy

I'm Catholic. I'm all for symbolism. Because I am Catholic I like my symbolism meaningful and appealing to man's higher intellect. When it isn't sacred and profound I like my symbolism to be at least classy. 

Glasgow City Council which is twinned with Bethlehem, Palestine, showing a bit of solidarity with a war torn people in Gaza Palestine, would come under that category. Agree with it or not it is meaningful. In my opinion flags in the correct context are classy. 

Symbolism can be misinterpreted. Does Glasgow City Council support Hamas? Or are they just mildly expressing sadness at the horror of Gaza. The answer is probably somewhere in the middle.  

I guess you could spend time wondering what they are actually saying. How far do they mean to go with that symbolic statement of solidarity?

Delivering what looks like a massive chocolate coin to the First Minister's house on the other hand... 

Monday, 4 August 2014

Charlie thanks God

Charlie Flynn, Scotland's Commenwealth games gold medalist in the men's light 60kg category was jubilant after the bout and it showed during his live TV interview immediately after.

"I'd just like to thank God for all that he has gave me. Life. When your in these games... There are other countries that have not got much. Know what I mean? It makes you thankful for your health, wellbeing, and the place you are right now. Know what I mean?" 

   Charlie was also spotted making the sign of the cross when he received his medal.
   As they say in Glasgow " Well done wee man."