Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Special

Yes folks, it's still Christmas!! Happy Holy Family Sunday!! Happy Third Day of Christmas! Happy Happy!

What follows is a General Christmas Roundup--made especially for our American family and friends who--I know--were missing us terribly on Christmas Day...and who we missed very much in return. Despite a slight taint of melancholy/homesickness/loneliness in the days preceding the Nativity, Thomas More and I somehow scraped together a rollicking frolicking holiday for ourselves, thanks to (lots of) good food, (lots of) presents, and--not least--to our Lord, who was born.

And so, without further ado, a (brief as can be--and you know how NOT brief I CAN be!) account of the weeks festivities (complete with menu!).

First, our tree:
Christmas Spirit kicked off with a gorgeous blizzard which covered the Kingdom of Fife. TM and I grabbed the pooch and took off to see St Andrews in the snow:
Marley gathered snow balls which melted slowly on our car seats later.
Back home I initiated culinary preparation!! First I made the Kringle for Christmas morning--a tradition in my childhood home. I filled it with apples and butterscotch on one side and dark chocolate and orange zest on the other.
This was my first attempt at multi-layered butter pastry and I was very pleased with the result! Not perfect LOOKING but perfect tasting, nonetheless. Completed kringle with icing:
Traditionally, my family has Mexican food on Christmas Eve after going to the Pagent at church. Sadly, there was no pagent or Mexican food be had in Fife, so we made pheasant instead. Menu: Pheasant in Fruit; bulgar wheat pilaf; and pears, roasted with walnuts, cranberries and Stilton with a port wine sauce over a bed of arugula. Yum!
After dinner we read the Christmas stories from Matthew and Luke and headed off to a MIDNIGHT MASS in the next town. And 'twas a REAL midnight Mass, my friends--not beginning till AFTER midnight! I found myself quite sleepy by the time we stood for the gospel acclimation, and was looking forward to one of Father's "weekday" length homilies. "Surely," I thought to myself, "if I'm tired, FATHER should be really tired...he is over eighty, after all...Sheesh! he was ordained BEFORE Vatican II!!" But not so, not so! Father pulled off a doozy, full length, action packed and theologically nuanced to boot...too bad I was already falling prey to visions of sugarplums....!

After getting home after 1 in the morning, I in my Kerchief and Thom in his Cap managed a few hours of winters' nap. We arose bright and early to open presents and EAT KRINGLE (which was delicious!)
Since we couldn't find the traditional "little smokey" sausages (which are of dubious origin anyway...) we settled for good homemade Northumbrian sausage, bought fresh from the butcher in Northumbria. Yum!
And then to the presents! (Thanks to my Husband and my Mother for a very full tree!!)
Marley received Father Christmas squeak from his Mother and Father:
And an "Indestructible" rope toy from Mee-maw and Pa-paw.
Here I sport my Christmas wears (jacket and scarf), and my Christmas bag in front of my new poster, which is so quintessentially British, isn't it! So brilliant!
Then we toddled off to a lovely Mass in St Andrews, where I got to listen to Father's homily all the way through again! ...and, after sleep and coffee, was much better situated in my soul and intellect to receive it. After Mass we took a wonderful drive through the snow-covered countryside, the sunlight gorgeous! perfect! and went back to our favorite local castle to take pictures and let the dog try out his new toys.

Once the sun went down (at 3:30--but getting lighter every day!!) I prepared the Official Christmas feast. Menu:

-Stilton and quince jam on crackers
-Foie Gras and date puree on toast
-Fillet of Beef with tomato Madiera confit
-wild mushroom bread pudding
-a light salad with strawberries and toasted pecans
-a nice South African Merlot
And Finally:
-Flaming Plum Pudding! with Zabaoine sauce!

And then, my friends, we went to sleep, and slept the whole night through.

A very merry Christmas to you all. And a Happy New Year! May the peace of Christ grow in you.

Mary of Egypt

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Northumberland Trip

In my capacity as a student, I am (supposedly) working on a writing project dealing with ruins (namely, ruined houses, churches, salt distilleries and ruined poems). This project will help to fulfill the requirements of our (mostly superfluous) "Research Seminar," which the university administration has decided is essential to our soul or some such thing. Thankfully, said administration leaves us pretty well alone otherwise and doesn't stipulate what specifically must be included in a "research" project. Thus, I am writing poems about ruins and "researching" ruins by taking trips to see ruins. Hurray!

Last week Thomas More and I journeyed to a foreign country! (namely, England), to look at 1. the Holy Isle of Lindisfarne, 2. Hadrian's Wall, and 3. Iron Age hill forts--ruins all. Hadrian's Wall didn't happen, due to coldness of weather and laziness of student/husband, but much other joy happened to make up for it. Here follows a brief photo account with commentary.

We rose in the morning here in Fife, greeted by a thick blanket of fog which covered the whole county and all of Edinburgh. When we finally got past the city we drove out of the fog--like driving out of a dark house--into a perfectly clear world, the sun piercing (if thin), the fields diamonds in frost. Gorgeous light! (Note: this incident may seem of small importance to you who dwell in more southerly climes. But for those of us who live in the Northern Wastes where the day hardly happens in the Depth of Midwinter, where the sun is either just rising or just setting, dawn and twilight blending, and any clouds or mist blocking the tiny white coin as it narrowly clears the this kind of world, sunlight is a major event, and clearing the fog a Triumph.)

After entering ENGLAND we went immediately to Alnwick, where the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland have their Great Big Castle and where (more importantly) there resides one of the BEST BOOKSTORES IN ALL MERRY ENGLAND: the famous Barter Books.

After wandering blissfully amongst the books we drove off to our romantic holiday cottage in a nearby hamlet. (The cottage is owned by the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland.)

The next morning we rose freezing with the frosty dawn (which isn't really that early) and drove to Lindisfarne to catch the tide.

Lindisfarne, for those of you who don't know, is a tidal island which is connected to the mainland by a sand bank or causeway which is covered in water at high tide. We crossed the causeway in fog (very spooky!) just before the waters returned--trapped now on the Holy Isle until 2 pm. Little did we know that EVERYTHING on the island was closed (because what fool comes to tiny Lindisfarne in the middle of winter??). Fools indeed to come to this place in subzero temperatures--on the coldest day I have experienced in Britain. And not a shop open. Alas, no espresso.

We wandered around the ruins of the Norman era abbey (in ruins) and looked in the old parish church (with Saxon stonework), and then walked out to the Elizabethan fort on its dramatic crag rising from the sea:

Lindisfarne has a very old and venerable tradition of holy Christian communities dating back to 635 when St. Aidan went there to found a monastery at King Oswald's request. Later St Cuthbert, an ascetic hermit and (unwilling) bishop, made the island famous (see the Venerable Bede). The Lindisfarne Gospels were made in honor of Cuthbert and contain some of the most sublime examples of English art. Here are two pages from the gospels (though it's impossible to see the detail and artistry in these tiny clips):

Going to Lindisfarne was a strange experience. I was expecting to feel all sorts of emotions and have brilliant insight into the lives of holy medieval saints (and speakers of Old English!), but mainly I just felt cold.

But--I suppose this is how St Cuthbert felt in November in the 7th century--freaking freezing! in the winter with no heating and no food (he was famous for eating onions). So...I guess...insight gained.

The next day we went in search for Iron Age hill forts! But as we drove we started seeing these tantalizing signs which announced the presence of WILD CATTLE just off our path. And who could resist Wild Cattle? So we went in search and ended up in a vacant little town with a thirteenth century church, no humans, no cattle, and a castle, mysterious and dark, just visible through the forest:

Though we didn't see any wild cows, we did get to meet the Warden of Cattle:

Intrigued by the castle hulking through the trees, we set off through the enchanted wood to investigate...and we found this:
After gaping a bit we noticed a man approaching from behind one of the 3-feet-thick rampart-wall things. He spoke to us kindly and asked if we knew we were trespassing (No...) and did we know that Sir Humphrey Wakefield and the Duchess of Northumbria were staying in the castle and could we please bugger off and all that... (Yes we could!). The man (who was the estate manager) soon realized that we were harmless and ignorant Yanks with a cute dog (hurray for the cute dog!) and asked if we would like to see the Italian Garden (yes!) if we promised not to go around the the Front of the house (so as not to sully the view for the Duchess). He took out a huge iron key and unlocked a huge oak door in a huge stone wall and we wandered forth into the very bare but very grand and Exclusive-looking formal garden:

Then we left.

After Not Finding Wild Cattle, we journeyed on to find the Iron Age hill fort. This was the best part:

We didn't exactly find the ruins...which are so much in ruins as to be invisible to all except areal photographers, but we looked out at the Iron Age view and admired their taste:

After this we went home, lit a fire in the stove, ate Northumbrian lamb and dozed in perfect bliss. The next morning we headed back to the Kingdom of Fife. And thus ends my post on Northumberland!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

My Mr. More

Oh and did I mention----Thomas More is IN RESIDENCE!! Here in Scotland!! Hurray! Marley the Dog and I went to Edinburgh last Sunday to retrieve him from the airport. He was much jet-lagged but alive. It's good to be alive, you know!!

He's sitting next to me now researching restaurants and coffee-shops in Edinburgh--some things never change, thank Heaven!

We have so many plans, it's so great. We're going to Northumbria this weekend to see Lindisfarne and Hadrian's wall (blog-post to follow!)

Then we're going to have Christmas with a goose, figgy pudding, etc. (blog post to follow!)

Then we're going to Edinburgh for HOGMANAY and the New Year!! with old North Carolina friends (whose confirmation names I can't confirm...) (blog post to follow!)

Then--after Mary O' Egypt finishes various school projects--we will be going somewhere WARM and SUNNY. Any suggestions? We were thinking Greece--or Morocco!

Anyway--fun fun fun.

Recently we have been exploring St Andrews, the East Neuk and Edinburgh together, eating in good restaurants (miraculously, they exist even in Scotland!), making lots of food, drinking port, decorating Christmas trees (pictures coming) and watching the BBC. Last Sunday we took some pictures of ourselves around St Andrews--just to prove that we were here!! A select sample:

The Winters in St Salvator's Quad

Marley in front of the Catholic Chaplaincy

St Saly's Chapel

Cheesy Christmas Card Picture!!!
(in the Ruins)

Sarah in Graveyard: notice BOOTS, please. My British Boots.

Saltire Cross: flag of Scotland and St Andrew (see link)

From the West Sands

Back to the Blog

Apologies, apologies, apologies. I have committed the ultimate blog sin, I know. My readership! My readership! I have responsibilities to my readership! And so on. I know you are all forgiving. That I do not need to explain my various reasons for not blogging for *a whole month*. But for the peace of my own blog-soul I will list reasons in no particular order:

1. My computer stopped working.
2. THEN I went back to ye olde Winston-Salem to visit Thomas More who DISTRACTED ME!
3. THEN I brought home another non-broken computer that WOULDN'T CONNECT TO MY BRITISH INTERNET.
4. Then I had an essay (and it was sortof like having a disease...)
5. Then I had writer's block (i.e. Very Bad for Creative Writing degrees as well as blogging...)
6. Then I had 1,000 brilliant ideas for blog posts but got overwhelmed with their sheer number and my own inchoate genius and the fact that all my ideas were in note-form and not in complete sentences and how in the world was I going to do my own genius justice and when was I going to find enough time to write all this stuff and when was I going to write poetry too....AAAAAH.

So--the genius posts will have to wait. I'm starting small right now and I will probably be posting alot of pictures because they don't require me to use up my creative genius (which should be used for poetry at this point in time...). But that's okay, because everyone likes pictures. At least I do.

Thank you for reading my blather, I love you all.

Now I needs must go
to stir the lamb-shank ragu,
and write a sonnet or two...
or maybe only
a haiku.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Technical Difficulties

My computer is broken. This is very upsetting.

I tell you this so you will understand why I cannot write any extensive posts--maybe you are relieved? If so, keep it to yourself!

Soon, I hope, I will be reconnected and continue dissertating on various topics of general (or not so general) interest.


I Need Your Help! Saint...or Sinner???

This Sunday I will be attending the traditional All Saints Day party at the Catholic Society here in St Andrews. This *epic* event requires costumes...of course. One must arrived dressed as either a Saint (appropriately enough) or...a Sinner!!

I am at a loss. Who should I be? What should I wear?? Ideas would be much, much appreciated, O Fair Reader!!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

On a Lighter Note: Chicken!

Actually, not exactly "light" considering how much butter I used...

I've never been a big fan of roast chicken, but that's probably because I wasn't using enough butter--or bacon (the Italian pancetta variety, of course).

This was so very delicious. I stuffed the chicken with shallots, pancetta and chopped prunes mixed with sherry and dijon. Then I rubbed loads of softened butter underneath the skin. Then covered the whole thing with more dijon (and salt and pepper). Then I baked at 350 for 1 hour +45 minutes. I removed the stuffing and mixed it with some of the pan juices. Then I carved the PERFECTLY JUICY AND TENDER bird and covered the rich, sweet and savory stuffing. Yum.
I served it with roasted butternut squash, but when I do it again I'll probably serve it with an arugula salad and a light vinegrette. The chicken was so rich--it needed something acidic and fresh to complement.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

“Anglo-Catholic? (Wherein I Discourse upon the Anglican Issue)” OR “My Two Pence (Which Isn’t Very Much these Days!)”

Archbishop Vincent Nichols speaks with Archbishop Rowan Williams

"We are profoundly moved by the generosity of the Holy Father [...] May I first state that this is an act of great goodness on the part of the Holy Father. He has dedicated his pontificate to the cause of unity. It more than matches the dreams we dared to include in our petition of two years ago. It more than matches our prayers. In those two years, we have become very conscious of the prayers of our friends in the Catholic Church. Perhaps their prayers dared to ask even more than ours." (full text here).

There is similar joy at St Therese Little Flower—a parish in my hometown of Kansas City, where Fr. Ernie Davis greeted the new Constitution with these words:

"Who could have hoped for as much as has been offered? Is the miracle of medical healing attributed to the intercession of John Cardinal Newman any less spectacular than the healing of the divisions in the church? Wasn't it clear that something amazing was about to happen when the relics of St. Therese spent her feast day at York Minster?" (Follow links for more on these two events!)

The “New Evangelization,” passionately preached and promoted by Pope John Paul II, certainly seems to be taking root and flourishing in the Anglican world. Even the secular media has caught wind, and the Wall Street Journal published an article heralding a “new” Church full of renewed liturgical diversity (see: "The Pope Lets a Thousand Liturgies Bloom"). St Therese Little Flower could be seen as a front-runner in this “new” brand of Catholicism (though if you read a bit deeper in history you’ll find that such liturgical and racial diversity is very ancient!). St Therese, a historically African-American parish, now hosts two extremely different liturgical communities, continuing its commitment to active community involvement and social justice, worshiping with a well-established and vibrant Gospel Mass---even as it introduces a second liturgy in the Anglican Use: a solemn High Mass complete with incense, candles and medieval chant.

As a former Episcopalian myself, I too rejoice in the Pope’s invitation. As the TAC bishop says above, this is a gesture of great generosity on the part of the Holy Father. The Church will be richer for the beautiful traditions and ancient faith of Anglican Christians. I pray that many, many come into the unity with the Church in the years following this announcement.

Yes, there has been much rejoicing. But there has also been much anger, much confusion, much uninformed gossip, and much ingratitude. I don’t want to go into all that in this post. But I do want to highlight a few controversies surrounding the Anglican Issue in the Church, and also a few of my own concerns.

The first small point I want to mention: There has been an angry tone in many of the media reports concerning the Vatican’s announcement. Headlines like these are only a google search away: "Vatican Moves to Poach Traditional Anglicans," or "The Pope's Anglican Blitzkrieg," or "Pope in Bold Transfer Swoop for 8 Million Anglicans," or "Bishops invite Pope to Park his Tanks on the Archbishop's Lawn."

Notice the rhetoric of aggression: the Church is “poaching,” She’s “parked her tanks” in Canterbury. She’s bringin’ out the Big Guns! This not-so-subtly-implied accusation (actually, not implied at all) of “aggression” on the Church’s part fails to take into consideration the thousands of requests which Rome has received from Anglican groups over the past decade—appeals for full, visible communion with the Catholic Church. This action on the part of the Holy father is a response to a plea for help--not an aggressive initiative. You can read about one such appeal (from the TAC) here. After the TAC sent this particular letter they heard nothing for two years. Many began to think that the appeal of such a small, unimportant group must surely have been lost in the long corridors of the Vatican. Not So! Back in Rome learned men were working to create a radical new structure that would allow not just the TAC but MANY other groups—even whole diocese—to come into the Church while still retaining much of their own traditions and hierarchy. As we can see from the excerpt at the beginning of my post, this Constitution was MUCH, MUCH more generous that anyone was expecting. Aggressive? Perhaps aggressively generous. SO—first small rant on my part, excuse me.

Next: The secular media (and some super-dissenting “Catholic” papers…i.e. the National “Katholic” Reporter) has implied that the REAL issue behind the Vatican’s offer and the Anglican defection is “homophobia” and “mysogyny.” These, apparently, are the "real" issues. (Over-simplification alert!)

Now I have no time at the moment to write a dissertation on the Theology of the Body, women’s rights or roles in the Church (I’m thinking about Mary…), or sex in the scheme of salvation. I will only say this: For most “Anglican defectors,” of whom I am one, the PARTICULAR issues of womens’ ordination and the homosexual lifestyle are only SYMPTOMS of the larger problems inherent in Anglicanism as a whole. These concerns include, but are not limited to: lack of a legitimate, Spirit-led teaching-tradition consistent with the teaching of the Church throughout history, and lack of consistent scriptural interpretation in the hierarchy (i.e. lack of what Catholics call Magisterium). Also, concerns about sacramental legitimacy, loss of Apostolic Succession, and desire for unity with the visible Church (One, Holy, Apostolic) on earth. The ordination of women, the endorsement of the homosexual lifestyle, the proliferation of unorthodoxy even in the highest levels of the episcopacy (ahem! Bishop Spong!), only appear as SYMPTOMS of the problems listed above. Jeffrey Steel, a former Episcopalian priest who recently was received into the Church, says this of his reasons for leaving his former ecclesiastical home:

“Let me state clearly that I did not leave the C of E over women’s ordination or homosexuality though in regards to both of these issues I hold the Catholic orthodox line. I became Catholic because being Catholic was true, the primacy of Peter and his infallibility is true and the lack of the Magisterium in Anglicanism leaves the priest with nothing other than his (or now her) own opinion.”

Now, moving on to issues surrounding Anglo-Catholics. Over the years many groups of traditional Anglicans have united in a heartfelt prayer for renewed unity with the See of Peter. These groups, separated from the C of E to one degree or another, have been, in many ways, “wanderers upon the face of the earth,” with little or no connection to the Body Catholic which they so strongly desire to be in union with. Some of these groups asked for corporate reunion with the Catholic Church (I have heard estimates of somewhere around 1,000 bishops). Now the Pope has presented a radical, new pathway to unity. The core of what is particularly Anglican will be preserved. It is possible that Anglican seminaries will appear throughout the Catholic world. The discipline of celibacy will be suspended for those who wish to be ordained. Diocese will remain under Anglican jurisdiction wherever possible. If you have been Catholic even for a little bit you realize how radical this all actually is.

Now I hear members of these same groups murmuring amongst themselves and asking questions like: “will we have to accept papal authority?” “will we have to accept the Marian dogmas?” Hmm, I think. The Pope is being very generous, I think. He is moving ecclesiastical mountains to get these people on board. But, in the Catholic Church, some things can never, ever be changed. Dogmas of the faith are one of those things (Marian dogmas included). And the Church’s converts throughout the centuries have always understood that they must accept “all that the Holy Catholic Church believes, holds and teaches” in ORDER to become Catholic. (At least that was what I said when I was confirmed.)

So it may not be so easy for all the Anglo-Catholics to come in after all. Despite their professed desire to be Catholic, there seems to be some important and not easily surrendered precincts in their theological imagination. Let us pray that this hesitancy is not mere stubbornness. If it’s only explanation or rationale for the Assumption of Mary or Papal Infallibility that they require we will win them over yet!

Now I would like to briefly (yes! I’ll try!) address one last bit of the Anglican puzzle. We all know that the more liberal “progressive” types of Anglicans will happily remain in the C of E or her American counterpart. They will probably not consider the Pope’s offer for themselves. The Anglo-Catholics (both inside and outside the C of E) have their own set of issues which I have addressed, in part, above.

But there is one more group within the Anglican Communion (or Dis-union) who seem, in my opinion, curiously neglected in the current discussion—neglected, in fact, by the secular media, the Anglican discussions and the Catholic blogosphere. This is the Anglican tradition from which I have sprung: namely the Evangelical wing of the Anglican body. This group is represented by associations such as AMIA (Anglican Missions in America) and the Continuing Anglicans. While I was an undergraduate at Wheaton College in Illinois I found myself at the crux of the “Continuing Anglican” movement. When I was a Junior my Episcopalian church split and soon-to-be-Thomas More and myself went along with the “more orthodox” split. All Souls AMIA parish was (and, I trust, is!) a lovely, warm community with an Anglo-Catholic liturgical style and a good foundation of the best of Evangelical theology and zeal. Many of these Evangelical Anglican parishes are affiliated in some way with Anglican bishops in Africa (our bishop was, I think, Rwandan).

Now in the States and in Africa especially, it is this evangelically oriented, theologically and morally conservative strain of Anglicanism which represents the most explosive growth and spiritual vibrancy within Anglicanism in general. In addition, within Continuing Anglican circles there is wide recognition that the church is shifting south and east—away from a soon-to-be post-Christian Europe and North America. Catholics, watching our own growth and development, are seeing the same trend.

My question is—how will these burgeoning groups respond to the Pope’s invitation? How should Catholics approach these groups, which seem to suffer inordinately from internal strife and church split upon church split? It makes sense to me that High-Church Anglo-Catholics might be drawn into communion with Rome naturally and organically. But the conversion of Anglicans of the Evangelical stripe must, in my opinion, look very different. I am not saying that such a conversion would not be possible. Many, many Evangelicals have become Catholic and have found the Catholic Church to be, in the end, the protector and defender of the truths they hold most dear—the truths they always thought were the special property of evangelical Christianity! I am one such example. Thomas More another. And I could list many other thoughtful, zealous evangelicals who sacrificed much to come Home to the Catholic Church.

So to conclude: I will continue to watch events unfold with the greatest interest and with much prayer. Let us all pray with Jesus “that all may be one.”

Here ends dissertation!!

Bl. ohn Henry Newman, captain of the Tiber Swim Team, pray for us!!