One of our students took a picture from a recent retreat – as we were walking on Formby Beach (8 miles north of Liverpool). It reminds me of the pair of disciples walking to Emmaus…. He has called the picture ‘The Entrance to Heaven’ and entered it into a Winter Photography Competition. I love the sense of space and the incredible skies in it. The Competition had over 150 entries – but it has been selected for the final – the last 5. You can vote for it by following this link…. and ‘liking’ it *Link
Its been a busy couple of days at the Manchester Chaplaincy. Traditionally we sell pancakes to fund the excellent work that our student SVP group do, particularly with the poor homeless (4 soup runs a week) and the breakfast club that they fund and run in Moss Side which ensures that the kids start the school day with a full stomach. Foolishly I challenged them to beat the record of 300 pancakes – with a meal on me promised as the prize ….. they sold 600 pancakes this year. A great effort and busy day at the chaplaincy – we reckon with the foodbank open in the morning we possibly had close to 800 coming in and out of the building in one day …which is probably a record!
Next day, Ash Weds, it was the church’s turn to be full – with 400 at each mass. as well as welcoming all who came – I challenged the irregular mass-goers to make it a regular habit during Lent. I also asked them to do something I never thought I would find myself doing ….. to take a ‘selfie’ of them wearing there ashes with pride…. and to post them on Twitter / Facebook / Instagram etc…. as a way of witnessing. We even had #ashtag trending, albeit it briefly, in Manchester…. here is our collage below. Sorry for all those we have left out ……
And one of my favourite Tweets!
*Hagiophobia, I have just discovered is the fear of saints or Holy things…. ok so we are all familiar with Vampires cowering from crucifixes, or troubled by holy water, but I am thinking about a more subtle and perhaps more serious form of cultural hagiophobia.
Christopher Hitchens’ almost visceral hatred of Mother Teresa would be an example of this, his book the Missionary Position, is a classic case of a hatchet job. But at least Hitchens described himself as a polemicist and was quite open about this. However Hilary Mantel’s historical novel Wolf Hall and its sequels contain a more subtle but equally relentless character assassination of St Thomas More. Her distorted and cruel caricature of one of the great figures of the Tudor times, is a great calumny.
Mantel, raised a Roman Catholic and educated at convent school, has turned her back on the church of her youth with an unusual and unbalanced venom. In an interview in the Telegraph she said “ I think that nowadays the Catholic Church is not an institution for respectable people.” With the stroke of a pen she condemns 1.2 billion people. At the time I remember reading many comments expressing relief that we have been saved from the ‘respectability’ that Mantel obviously craves. And she has achieved that respectability in glorious fashion with back to back Booker Prizes and now wall-to-wall gushing praise for the BBC adaptation of her books.
This leaves me very uneasy, as one of the biggest problems that a post-Christian culture faces is a cultural amnesia. A lack of historical grasp can be dangerous, repeating mistiakes and underpinning prejudices. This portrayal of More as a zealous monster, and Cromwell the destroyer of the monasteries, as a hero, flies in the face of history. This is important as so many of viewing the series will see this as history, my atheist sister after reading the books declared with a certain provocative pleasure – what an unpleasant character More was. The vast majority of historians describe More as one of the intellectual greats of Europe, a renaissance man, the author of Utopia, great friend of Erasmus who worked for the reform of the church from the inside. As the newspapers are full of gushing praise about Wolf Hall – they focus on the lavish production values, the great acting, its what the BBC does best, historical dramas – and I can see the producers eyes filling up with dollar signs as they anticipate the DVD box sales, and BBC Worldwide licks it lips anticipating the sales to foreign broadcasters. The problem is the History Sucks – and we will be exporting it around the world and most people will be watching it as fact.
The series has just been reviewed on Thinking Faith