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I wonder at times whether we have not got things very wrong in the western church, now that everyone seems to want to be his own spiritual master and guide.

The image that comes to mind is the common garden wood fence, of the type that surrounded thousands of English suburban gardens, including my parents, in the immediate post-war years: solid posts rooted into the earth every three yards or so, joined by two cross-bars, against which were nailed a series of vertical palings. 

This was the basic Christian pattern until the 1950s: one person in twenty or so were posts, solidly rooted in God and the Church. It was their duty to keep the fence up. The rest of us were palings, doing pretty much what we were told in sermons and the confessional.

Those rooted as posts (mature priests, older religious, lay people with serious spiritual lives) were by and large well trained, with a spiritual depth derived from prayer, disciplined lives and experience. The rest of the faithful accepted this situation: their job was to go about their daily work - office, home, school, mass on Sunday - with a sense that both palings and posts were all part of one fence.

This old style, solid wood fence is no longer. I would now describe it as a series of individual posts and palings, all sticking into the ground directly, some straighter and more firmly than others, in a rough line (the cross-bar has gone), and with holes through which cats, dogs and small children can stray in and out. In other words, a fence that is no longer doing its job.

The palings have decided that they should be posts, and the posts are unable or unwilling to bring them back into line.

anglomedved: (Default)

4 July 2010

 I am increasingly aware of spiritual hazard of my own profession of translator. Increasingly I am translating by people having particular value systems, which are often subtly different from my own Christian one.  I suspect that fifty years ago, a company was rarely a value system in itself: its employees subscribed to one of the other of the value systems prevalent in society, in the social groupings ('tribes') which they saw themselves as belonging to. With business companies (and other large employers also) becoming people's sole tribe, their role in providing value systems has increased enormously. I see here three main weaknesses. The first is that value horizon goes not much further than the workplace, with little meaning ascribed to what is done outside work. In a society which is built up of a series of such tribes, those ‘untribed’ (the unemployed, the unemployable, the retired) have little social meaning. The second is that there is little or no room for any praeter-human reference: humanism is a virtue, holiness not. The third is that the ‘priesting’ of these tribes is often subcontracted to outsiders – the ubiquitous copywriter –with no deep attachment to the ‘tribe’ and a generally shallow ‘gospel’.

After translating a week for such a company, you need to stand back and ask whether  what you translated was not spiritually unbalanced and whether any of this unbalance has not transferred to you.


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15 June 2010

We hear a lot about the ‘mystery of the female’, which the male of the species encounters as he comes into adulthood.

Where we may be doing ourselves an injustice is forgetting that there is also a ‘mystery of the male’. Just as a woman coming into adulthood who has been properly educated knows, there is something very precious in her, which she must not deface (symbolized but not entirely reducible to her virginity), so I would argue there is a male mystery, something which a male has to guard equally, and which, too, can be trampled underfoot.

These mysteries are defined largely, but not completely, in terms of the other gender. They meet, and their mutual interdependence is expressed, in good sexual encounter.

But not only: but also on the spiritual level, if we take care to differentiate (which we rarely do, the differences between male and female spirituality).

Paradoxically, despite the male’s greater natural strength, the male mystery is probably more fragile and at risk, not helped by the weakening of the role of fatherhood.

It is something that used to be taught in a good Catholic education –not least because a clear sense of male mystery, of the vocation of maleness, makes possible the sacrifice of celibacy.

It is also something which has to be passed on from male to male, from one generation to another, a process seriously impeded by a situation in which pubescent males are taught with girls and not separately from them, also when pubescent males are deprived of large swathes of traditional male symbolism, in particular the warrior symbolism. And excuse me, kicking footballs into goals is symbolically very inferior to fencing or kendo. 

It is something which men can destroy themselves, but yes, dare I say it, it is something that woman can also damage, just as men can, and often do, trample over the mystery of the female. One often encounters an at times quite vicious 'I can get by without a male' mentality. Yes a woman can, and has always been able to, often of necessity in post-war situations. But I do ask whether she doesn’t lose something very valuable en cours de route.  


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