Friday is traditionally a day of penance for Christians. So in a frenzy of penitential excess I betook myself to the Letters pages of The Tablet. In never fails to give the psycho-emotional equivalent of a goodly number of strokes of the discipline. It did not fail today.
The various “Outrageds of Tunbridge Wells” have a remarkable knack for flogging dead horses, hoping against hope in advocating their own private Idahos as the model of the Church for all of us.
So this week, again we find the issue of women’s ordination presented under the emblem of diaconate, with one sister who attended the now notorious and vastly unhelpful papal address that mentioned deaconesses fan-girling at the papal show of “respect and humility” towards the gathered sisters: “no kissing of rings!”, and no “pomp and ceremony”. Of course, it would be a dire crime indeed for a pope to act papally. Wasn’t it awful how regally the Queen behaved today at St Paul’s? She needs to get with the plan like Pope Francis.
Another, learned and clerical, correspondent pointed to a lone grain of sand in the scale supporting the alleged historical ordination of women to the diaconate – canon 15 of Chalcedon. Quite apart from the obvious historical question: if there were women deacons, why do we never see them in contemporary records? Male deacons are mentioned often enough. But of course, if you read the canon, it seems clearly enough to refer to deaconesses. It does use the phrase “laying on of hands” to refer to them, but laying on of hands is not inevitably associated with ordination. It was used in the early Church also as a gesture to accompany any conferring of the Holy Spirit, such as at Confirmation or Anointing. The historical argument for ordaining women as deacons does not get any stronger than this.
The “Topic of the Week” was, again, yet another dead horse, the translation of the Missal. So we have one well-known Tablestista writing in response to the leader last week, “THANK YOU for your leader (4 June) suggesting that priests – in consultation with the laity, of course – should be allowed freedom of choice on which Mass text to use.” Of course in consultation with the laity, because that it obviously what used to happen in the good old days of the early Church. Not. He advocates, yet again, the 1998 translation rejected by Rome and approved by all the bishops’ conferences; ignoring that the 2011 translation was approved by all the bishops’ conferences and by Rome. He even tries to claim this as an exercise of the liturgical pluralism advocated by Benedict XVI. Daring if nothing else!
But let’s not go on with this. The other two letters were a mild advocacy of 1998 and an advocacy of the Latin version of the Mass from the Association for Latin Liturgy (yes, it got in, so credit where credit is due).
The letter cited though does raise the issue of options in the liturgy, but that shall be a topic for another day. In order to spare suspense, the attitude that will be articulated could be summarised as “Not everything that glitters is gold”.
But on a positive note, as something to take the edge off the penance, it was a pleasant surprise to see mention of an old school chum in the theatre review. Daniel Lapaine was two years below me at St Aloysius’ College SJ in Sydney. He looks at least 10 years younger than me now. St Aloysius has a remarkable piece of real estate – smack bang opposite the Opera House, but on a very small footprint for a school of 1200 boys (it has a second campus nearby now for the Junior School). This meant that there was much mixing between forms, far more than would be seen at other schools. So Daniel was someone I saw a fair bit of at school, on debating nights for example. He was musical and artistic, lively and athletic, and to be honest, an attractive lad in an un-ostentatious way. He wrote a play in fourth form (or thereabouts), which I read but have now forgotten.
So it was a surprise to see him in the role of the South African swimming hunk in Muriel’s Wedding. This was a far more macho Daniel than I had ever known, not that he had been effeminate—rather, he had been quietly sophisticated, for a schoolboy in Sydney in the 1980s. He later stepped out for a while with Kylie Minogue. He is married now, with kids. Sadly he has never attended our annual school reunions in London. But now he has resurfaced (to my notice at least) in this review of The Invisible Hand at London’s Kilburn Tricycle theatre. The review says little about him, but nothing negative.
So The Tablet has done me a small favour in reminding me of an Aloysian with whom I was always friendly though never particularly close. (I doubt he would remember me!). Occasionally, and I suspect we all share this experience, I think back to one or other of the many boys I knew at school. With some I am still in touch, if only through Facebook. Others are lost to my present though live on in my memory, clothed in happy hues. For it is remarkable to say, but I don’t think there was anyone at school whom I actually and actively disliked. In my ten years there I never had to fight another (and I have still never thrown a punch). That is a fine achievement for a school. If only the Jesuits would stick to what they are supremely good at!
It reminds me, too, that my year group has its 30-year reunion this year in Sydney. Bless ’em all; they were a grand crew. And my headmaster from my final year, and memorable indeed, is now suffering poor health having lived the unhealthy lifestyle that goes with overwork. Fr Tony Smith SJ, may the Lord grant strength to your arm (and to your legs in particular).
That personal whimsy escalated quickly! So, back down to earth:— let’s all spare a prayer today for old school chums, those perhaps lost to our present but alive in our memory, and who, unwittingly enough, have had had significant effect on who we have become… hopefully for better, though perhaps for worse in some cases. And for school chums who have passed to the next life—may they rest in peace.
(I know, not all the lyrics are not entirely appropriate to an all-boys day school, but work with me here and enjoy Cat before he lost a few screws.)