Saturday, 2 April 2011

Mothers Day with Fire and Brimstone?

Excuse the American spelling - but it is a great cartoon
Reading through the Mothers Day notices in this morning's South Wales Evening Post (only Swansea could have a morning paper called the Evening Post!) I was struck by the amount of bizarre names.

I am a bit of a traditionalist. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Rebbecca, Claire, Mary and Theresa. Good names. Christian names. We seem these days to be surrounded by Tylers and Shanices. Dear God.

Still it could be worse. Hollywood is far away and so we have few Zowies, Apples and Sunset Blossoms (the 60s has a lot to answer for).

According to one report I read a few months back, the most popular name in Britain is now Mohammed. Judging by Swansea and Cardiff I'm not altogether surprised. despite this there were no Mohammeds in the Evening Post. Perhaps the Koran has a passage against paying for adverts in newspapers - or Mother's Day is too Christian?

Talking of which I read somewhere else (I am good at reading, average on retaining knowledge and poor on recalling sources: that's what age does to you) that Mothering Sunday was originally the time of year you would return to your "Mother Church," i.e. the Parish where you grew up.

Of course these were in times when we were all Catholic, and Christianity held us together, even when the Welsh, Scottish, Irish and English had their petty squabbles. Catholicism was as natural and as normal as the air our ancestors breathed, and no-one wasted their energies on searching for the meaning of life via yogic hopping or swimming with dolphins.

If we were troubled, back in the day, Christ was truly present back in our local parish church, and the widow's penny got you the same visiting rights as the Baron's ransom.

I wonder if our medieval forebears would have been as devout if they were called Talullah or Jordan, and I'd better not compare them and Mohammed or I'll be treading on egg-shells, offending all and sundry, starting a crusade/fatwa and goodness knows what else.

It's funny isn't it, that Muslims, when you get to speak to them one-on-one are, in my experience at least, quite charming, erudite, knowledgeable people --  perhaps because they are aware of the wider public image? They love their religion, they seem to defend the family as an institution and are quite traditional. All traits we can and should admire. The only ones I've seen who wish to strap explosives to themselves are dished up on Newsnight (and even then, like our own politicians, they seem to prefer to send young men off to die while they flit around TV studios: I see little difference between a "mad mullah" preaching death to the infidels - oi stop nicking our words - and the likes of Tony Blair who invades countries illegally and in the process kills many more people). Misrepresentation does seem the flavour of the day. Do most Muslims frown at the mad mullahs just as most British people frowned at Tony Blair?

It is when viewed as a mob through the lens of the media that Muslims become this snarling mass. Do people in Muslim countries watch photos of anarchists rioting and smashing windows, then turn to each other and say "those mad Christians, look how they behave, I've never seen such hatred" thinking it a fair representation of most "Brits?" Or do they look at the stats for street crime and thank Allah they don't (all) live here?

I wonder what Catholics come across as when viewed as a mob? The lens of the media certainly paint us as "homophobic" (whatever that means!), medieval, insular and somewhat bigoted. Not all bad then ;-) Worse still is when "Fr. Pete" is on the radio and we are representing by someone more interested in promoting gooey, clingy, happy clappy, kum-by-ya, "inclusive" Catholicism who present Christ as some sort of feminine milksop coupled with the traits of a trendy social worker. The sermon is so 'touchy feely' you think he's having some sort of febrile convulsion as the homily on loving everyone is sneaked in between hits from Freddie Mercury and Elton John (that the priest tells the DJ were "just great").

My fear is that as a mob all Catholics could do in this day an age is get a concession from a tea and biscuits wholesaler... Sure we don't want the wailing mobs (having said that if it's against the banks or the BBC and its blasphemy... ;-) why not?), the fanaticism of the ultramontane sort or the clericalism that sees all priests --especially the "Fr Pete" sorts who go from parish to parish ripping out altar rails in the name of progress-- as infallible in every pronouncement. But just once in a while, even if not via the mob, wouldn't it be nice to hear a priest give it some of the old 'fire and brimstone' instead of the usual media-fodder happy clappy vomit inducing goo? I know it would do me the power of good!

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