This is me, Eccles

This is me, Eccles
This is me, Eccles

Thursday 30 January 2014

How to praise the Lord

A sermon from Fr Arthur of the church of St Daryl the Apostate.

Many of you will have seen the Pope's recent homily on the fruitfulness of praise, telling people not to despise good people who praise the Lord in a spontaneous manner. Deacon, would you mind holding back on your spontaneous cries of "Hallelujah! I been saved!" for a few minutes, so that people can hear me preach? Just go back to sticking pins in that wax dummy of Brother Eccles. Thanks.

Rod Hull and Emu

Fr Arthur releases an "emu of peace".

Now, we in the church of St Daryl interpret the Pope's words as meaning that you can sing whatever you like, and it is acceptable to the Lord. There's no need to look for good hymns with well-constructed melody and harmony, with verses that rhyme and scan appropriately, and which contain at least one new idea in every line. No, the Lord likes it if we sing "Walk in the Light" thirty times in one hymn, without ever bothering to analyse what walking in the Light actually involves, or why exactly it is a good thing to do. The same applies if we sing "Kum ba yah" thirty times. Who needs the intellectual hymns of a Newman or Wesley? It's sheer snobbery to prefer them.

You know, the Lord wouldn't mind if we just sang "The Laughing Policeman". Let's do that now.

laughing policeman

Oh, be joyful in the Lord!

I know a fat old policeman,
He's always on our street.
A fat and jolly red-faced man,
He really is a treat.
He's too kind for a policeman,
He's never known to frown.  
And everybody says
He is the happiest man in town!

A ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!
Ooo hoo hoo hoo ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!
Ooo hoo hoo hoo ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!
Ooo hoo hoo hoo ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. 

There! That did us all a power of good, didn't it? I'll bet that God was laughing too! That's the joy of praise for you, even if we're not sure exactly who we're praising here. Even the deacon joined in the chorus.

We take the same attitude to the liturgy. A committee of scholars has produced a new English translation, faithful to the Latin original. Phooey! As the great Fr Butler of Brentwood has said, the Vatican II Council (crosses himself reverently, and genuflects at the sacred name) allows us to use the vernacular, if we want to, and this means "informal, colloquial speech". Cor, strike a light, missus!

So, let's have another hymn. This one comes with a liturgical dance.

Dick Van Dyke

Liturgical dancing.

Chim chiminey,
Chim chiminey,
Chim chim cher-ee!
A sweep is as lucky
As lucky can be!

That was good, wasn't it? Of course in this hymn the sweep is a metaphor for all Christian people. Well, let's not be judgemental here - he represents all people of faith, regardless of what it is or whether they have any. God is indeed bringing us luck!

By the way, next Sunday we'll have one of our special "fun" Masses. The deacon and I will be dressing up as a pantomime horse - I'll take the front part of course - and we ask you all to enter into the spirit of the occasion. After all, what is a holy day, but a holiday? Let's parteeeeee....

pantomime horse

The priest and deacon on their way to Mass.

Wednesday 29 January 2014

How to address the clergy

If you are reading this blog, you probably encounter clergy on a regular basis - whether Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox, or something else - and indeed you may even be a person of the cloth. However, you may not be precisely sure how to address them, and how to treat them.

Deacon Brodie

A deacon or "Reverend Mister". Often he has a second job, e.g., burglar.

Deacons are customarily accorded the "Reverend" title, which means that they should be revered, or held in reverence. When two deacons meet, they say things like "Oh how I revere you!" or "No, I revere you more than you revere me!" Of course being a deacon doesn't make you immune to hypocrisy (you have to be a bishop to achieve that level of purity): I once knew one who had enough planks in his eyes to make an entire shed.

murder at the vicarage

Murder at the vicarage! All in a day's work for a priest!

So we come onto the priesthood, where again "reverence" is the appropriate reaction. Priests come across many sins in their daily round, of which murder is perhaps the most common. The priest above was an Anglican, but the same applies to Catholic priests, of course. Some (particularly the Catholic priests) are addressed as "Father". Not "Dad", not "Pop", just "Father".

Fr Brown

Fr Brown. (The raised umbrella on a dry day is a liturgical error.)

After that it gets complicated. There are lots of clergy with titles such as Canon Street, Metropolitan Line, Marble Archdeacon, etc. but I think we'll move straight on to Monsignor.

Ronald Knox

Mgr Ronald Knox. What is it about the clergy and crime?

These chaps used to be regarded as Very Reverend, or in some circumstances Right Reverend, but have now been downgraded to "Reverend". Since future Monsignors will have to be at least 105 years of age, it won't matter how you address them as they won't be able to hear you anyway.

the bishop murder case

Bishops, then...

You address a bishop as "My Lord", although they are also "Right Reverend". This shows that they are the bosses, are always right, and should obeyed under all circumstances. In return for your squirming in their presence, they undertake always to be loyal to the Pope, the Queen, the Magnificent Archdruid of the Luminous Feet, or whatever the big cheese in their church is called.

rolling stones

Four young members of the dissident group ACTA, turned away by a faithful bishop.

Archbishops are a bit more senior. I was told "Say 'Your Grace', Eccles, when you meet Archbishop Nichols," but the poor man looked disconcerted when I began "For what we are about to receive..." So this one is a mystery to me.


Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor ("His Eminence").

Cardinals are "His Eminence" or "Your Eminence". This is a bit of a come-down, really, as being "eminent" is less impressive than being "reverend", surely. It's not much better than just being a celebrity, like Eminem. Still, these are the princes of the Church, so should be regarded as eminent in the same way, as, say, Prince Harry.

pope and doves

A Pope, with birds of pray.

Popes are very busy men, asked to give many off-the-cuff newspaper interviews in addition to their ecclesiastical responsibilities. If you meet a pope - perhaps performing papal duties at your local bird sanctuary - call him "Your Holiness". This is to emphasise that he's not merely eminent, like a cardinal, but is in many ways a saved person. If he then says "Bless you!" it would be discourteous to point out that you didn't sneeze.

Sunday 26 January 2014

How to stay healthy in church

On advice from my doctor, who was concerned about my blood pressure, I went to a "said" Mass today: being a music-lover, I suffer a lot of stress if I have to sing "Shine, Jesus, Shine", "Walk in the Light", or "Follow Me". It is also bad for my blood pressure to hear badly-played guitars and flutes. So a "said" Mass it was.

the battleground

Now, can you see the next health hazard?

I was sitting next to the aisle. In front of me, a man coughing and sneezing into his hands, practically non-stop. Behind me, a woman, less of an invalid, but also sneezing into her hands once in a while. Ahead of me... the dreaded Kiss of Peace!


"Sorry, Eccles, I should have sat next to you."

Clearly, when the deacon (for it was he) uttered the fateful words about offering each other a sign of peace, I was not going to be able to avoid clasping the germ-sodden hands of Mr Sneezy and Mrs Spluttery. The words of a famous 1960s hymn came to mind:

Coughs and sneezes spread diseases:
Trap the germs in your handkerchief.
It is memorably sung to the tune of Deutschland Über Alles (Haydn's Emperor's Hymn) by Tony Hancock in the Blood Donor sketch. I heard that Kevin Mayhew was planning to include it in his next hymnbook, set to a newer and more trivial tune.

Tony Hancock

"Coughs and sneezes spread diseases."

Let's formulate this as a chess problem: Eccles to move.

chess knight

My inspiration - a chess knight!

Yes, I surreptitiously edged two places to the left, behind the military man in the eye-patch, and in front of the middle-aged woman who insisted on singing loudly, even though it was widely reported that she could not carry a tune in a bucket. During the offertory, I had to get up anyway, to pass the collection plate to the man on my left, who vaguely resembled a film star. So when I sat down again, I was a knight's move away from the sneezing duo. The current rules of etiquette mean that shaking hands is not compulsory at that distance, although a "leer of peace" is expected. Saved!


"Peace be with you! But come any closer and I'll shoot you with my phaser."

I'll stop there - I think I've got a cold coming on.

Friday 24 January 2014

President Hollande meets the Pope

Thanks to our personal contacts at the Vatican (old Cormac the handyman), we can give an exclusive transcript of the deep and far-ranging discussions held today between President Hollande of France and Pope Francis.

Hollande and Pope

Would you like to meet the First Lady of France? Or the Second? Or the Third?

Hollande: Forgive me, votre Popenesse, for I have sinned, and I'm going to carry on sinning.

Pope: So, I've heard. I wanted to talk to you about the issue of same-sex "marriage".

Hollande: I didn't know you cared, mon ami. It would be modern of me to appoint a First Gentleman or two, as a change from all those First Ladies, ...

President Sans-Culottes

Domestic problems at the Elysée Palace.

Pope: Oh, never mind. I was going to bring up the subject of abortion, too, but I know you wouldn't listen.

Hollande: Sacrée Vache! This is not open to negotiation. So what can we talk about?

Pope: Well, it would look odd if you went home again after just one minute's deep and far-ranging discussions.

Hollande: On the other hand, if we talk about anything serious, you're going to punch me sur le hooter, aren't you?

Pope: Well, can we find something uncontroversial to chat about while they take some photos?

Hollande: Eh bien! What do you think of the new version of The Three Musketeers on the goggle-boîte?

Pope: Well, I appreciated that portrayal of Cardinal Richelieu as a cunning and devious man, the real power behind the throne. I've got quite a few like that.

Cardinal Nichols

Cardinal Richelieu - his agents are everywhere.

Hollande: Ah, in France we keep the Church in its place. Did you get round to seeing Father Brown?

Pope: Yes. Too many anachronisms, I thought, but who am I to judge?

Hollande: It's true they didn't have light sabres in the 1920s.

Pope: Or clown masses. If they had, I'm sure Chesterton would have mentioned it.

Fr Brown goes to ACTA

Father Brown prepares to attend a meeting of ACTA.

Hollande: Well, that's enough chatter. What shall we say in our press release?

Pope: We had an amicable discussion of the urgent issues facing the world.

Hollande: Yes, I'll go along with that. Oh, and I've brought you une bouteille de vin...

Old popes wine

A little gift for Pope Francis and Pope Benedict.

Sunday 19 January 2014

Why I Love Liberal Catholics

Following Fr Dwight Longenecker's piece Why I Love Trad Catholics, we have come across a companion piece that he decided not to write.

flowerpot men

A liberal Mass. Note that the Cross is replaced by something Greener.

One of the riches of the Catholic Church is her unity and diversity. Within the Catholic big tent we have many who accept the Church's teaching - informed by scripture and tradition - but there are also many who want to make up their own rules, because they know better.

Christ the King

Do you really need to follow Christ to call yourself a Christian?

What liberal Catholics have concluded is that all this stuff about "eternal verities" is simply nonsense. It is the duty of the Church to adapt to the Spirit of the Age. We mustn't get left behind, trying to teach something different, must we? People might think of us as "different" from atheists, cranky, even. They might even stop inviting us to fashionable dinner parties!

St Paul

St Paul - wrote nothing important.

Liberal Catholics understand that we have to rewrite our religion from scratch. Out goes all that old-fashioned stuff believed by Christ, the Apostles, the Saints and Martyrs, the Popes, and lots of other dead people. We have to find new religious teachers: Leonardo Boff, Hans Küng, Tina Beattie, David Cameron, Barack Obama, and Polly Toynbee! Only by taking a little wisdom from each of these sages can we move forward.

St Pol

"Let us pray." Pol replaces Paul.

Now, if you want to understand modern liberal Catholicism, you need to watch the BBC, or read the Guardian. Remember even Jesus, in one of His more advanced moments, said, And you shall know the comments, and the comments shall make you free (John 8:32). He saw that one day His teachings would be superseded. The teachings of Alan Rusbridger are more modern, and their scriptural authority is undeniable, since the writers are all still alive, and can be located in your nearest nursing home.

Of course liberal Catholics do not reject all moral teaching: adultery, murder, and false witness may no longer be sinful, but we must still condemn all bigoted attempts to impose ideas of sexual morality, any attempts to obstruct Choice, and the denial of climate change.

climate change Hell

Forgive us our carbon dioxide, and deliver us from climate change.

I realize that traditionalists may not appreciate my take on the matter, but like it or not, the second Vatican Council has taken place. And although nobody ever talks about what it decided, God (if you don't mind my using an old-fashioned term) has sent His Spirit of Vatican II to tell us what it should have decided, and liberal Catholics are in the vanguard of inventing new things that could have been decided.

The vernacular Mass is now accepted as the Ordinary Form, and modern liberal Catholics see this as an opportunity for further development of the rite. Since most of them don't attend Mass very often, anyway, they cannot get used to the new translation, and so they have invited Kevin Mishmash, the publisher of Walk in the Light, Follow Me, and so much more, to produce a version without any of the hard words.

Kevin Mayhew

Do your hymns make people ill? If so, Kevin Mishmash may want to publish them.

Out goes: We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

In comes:

We believe, We believe, We believe, 
That the Father's been making things!
Earth and Heaven, Heaven and Earth, 
The Father's been making things!
Things that we see, things that we don't.
The Father's been making things! Yeah!
© 2014 Kevin Mishmash.

I, for one, am glad that the liberals are there to interpret Catholicism as it was never interpreted before. They are a gift to the whole church.


So it's welcome back to our class of atheists and other beginners, as we resume the Eccles Bible project after the break. I hope you all had a Merry Christmas (er, just Mas in your case!), and wish you a Happy Nehemiah.

Anyway, to recap, here we are in the 5th century BC, and the Jews have been in exile in Babylon. As we saw last time, Ezra (Esdras) has brought some of them back to Jerusalem.

Nehemiah the cup-bearer

What ho, Nehemiah! Any chance of one of your pick-me-ups?

This is the tale of Nehemiah, the cup-bearer of King Artaxerxes of Persia, who retrains as a builder (or maybe architect) in order to get Jerusalem rebuilt. Ezra turns up again later in the Book of Nehemiah, and he is now billed as a priest and scribe,

Nehemiah the builder

Our hero rebuilds the walls of Jerusalem.

In the above picture Nehemiah is presumably the one reading the plans, rather than the ones doing the actual building, but one can never be sure. Perhaps the other chaps are the sons of Hassenaah, who built the Fish Gate (see Chapter 3); or possibly Malchiah the son of Rechab who was told to repair the Dung Gate. It was a true poet who named these gates.

gates of Jerusalem

This is what Nehemiah has on his scroll.

Actually, talking of Gates, we have Bill and Melinda here today in our Bible class for the first time. Welcome, guys! No mention of Windows in this book, I'm afraid, but I suppose you'll enjoy Jeremiah when we get to it, with its For death is come up through our Windows. I wonder whether Jerry was thinking of you there?

Half way through the book, Ezra attends to the spiritual needs of the people (now that their deliveries of fish and dung have been sorted out), and after a bit of prayer and penance they once again promise to keep the Law.

fish puppet

A delivery of fish.

Nehemiah actually becomes the effective governor of Jerusalem; he later pops off back to Persia to do some more cup-bearing, before returning to find that the Jews have gone off the rails yet again. So he fixes that.

In next month's instalment we have a choice: we can follow the Protestant Bible and jump straight onto Esther (so to speak), or take the Catholic and Orthodox line, and include Tobit and Judith.

Oliver, Hamlet

Tobit or not Tobit? That is the question.

We'll discuss Tobit next. Class dismissed.

Saturday 18 January 2014

A sin-based approach to weather-forecasting

Following Councillor David Silvester's comments that recent storms and floods were caused by David Cameron's same-sex "marriage" legislation, and the Rev. Drayton Parslow's consequent explanation of many of the events seen in the last few thousand years, we have enlisted the aid of leading moral theologians and meteorologists to present a sin-based approach to weather forecasting. Simply see what sins you have committed recently, and we can tell you what tomorrow's weather will be like - more accurately than the Met Office.

Alice and floods

Alice, affected by flooding. Was sex to blame?

LUST. Lust is normally associated with extreme wet weather, leading to floods in some areas. Remember the book of Genesis, and what happened to the cities of the flood plain? That.

Prescott and pie

GLUTTONY. Put that pie down for a minute and I'll tell you what to expect. Probably a foggy day tomorrow, where you'll be wandering round aimlessly in circles.

AVARICE. Well you may have been saving for a rainy day, but, tough luck, you're more likely to get hail, with snow on high ground.

a sloth

SLOTH. Expect one of those days that are cloudy and dull, without even a trace of a breeze. Since you're probably in bed anyway, you won't even notice, will you?

ANGER. Shocking weather, with disruption on the rails, flights cancelled, long traffic jams, and road rage. Apparently it's the wrong kind of sunshine, so don't get cross. I said, don't get cross.

bring me sunshine

Sunshine! Doesn't it make you want to beat someone up?

ENVY. Expect lousy cold weather, with scattered showers and sunny intervals. It's much nicer on the Costa Blanca, I assure you. Some people have all the luck, don't they?

PRIDE. You have got wonderful weather, but that's because where you are it's the height of summer. But remember, this always comes before a Fall.


Forgive me father, it's cloudy today.

This guide can of course be used in the converse sense: if you go to Confession and it's foggy, that may mean that you overdid on the pies last night. Be warned.

Wednesday 15 January 2014

Laurie Penny and the Pope's views

We are deeply honoured to have as our guest columnist the lovely Laurie Penny of the New Statesman.

Laurie Penny

An oil painting of the lovely Laurie Penny.

Urgh! Wasn't Pope Benedict ugly! With his squinty evil grin and his red shoes he looked just like a Sith Lord!! Except that Sith Lords don't wear red shoes, do they? Well never mind. Anyway, it proves he wasn't worth listening to!!

George Clooney

If Pope Benedict had looked like this, we'd have had to take him seriously.

Pope Francis is different. He doesn't wear red shoes. He doesn't look creepy. He doesn't eat babies or kick beggars in the street. You won't find him pulling the wings off butterflies - well, only on special occasions, I expect. Rumour hath it that Francis is keen on charitable actions. He radiates love to all mankind, almost at the level of a typical New Statesman columnist.

The Saint

Pope Francis - handsome and saintly, but he will insist on talking.

But then Pope Francis spoilt it all by talking about his religious views - a mistake made by popes throughout the ages. He spoke of "children, victims of abortion" being "discarded as 'unnecessary'". WHO DOES HE THINK HE IS, THE EDITOR OF THE NEW STATESMAN OR SOMEONE?


A butterfly, spared (for the moment) by Pope Francis.

Shut up, Francis, you right-wing extremist. They might hear you in Spain, the United States, even Ireland, where there are still people who call themselves Catholic. What about abortion rights, eh? Have you ever been a baby in the womb? I doubt it very much! I have, so there! We all want the world to be better, and allowing women full access to abortion is the way to make it so!

Trust me, I'm a mother. Oh, in fact I'm not (I just checked my CV); but I could be. Well, you never hear people speak of "The Holy Grandmother", and this proves that Pope Francis never even had a mother. Anyway, you don't see female Catholics supporting "pro-life" issues, do you?

Joan of Arc

This is what Catholics do to women.

I'm running out of steam, drat it. Oh yes... institutional sexism... medieval moral code (Christ was medieval, wasn't He? Could someone check?)... the right to control what happens to our bodies... placating conservative Catholics... how many more words do you need, Editor? Could you copy and paste some more clichés, please?


We love clichés.

Even in the 21st century there are still women giving birth to children. IS THAT RIGHT? IS IT? IS IT? Until Pope Francis dies, he has no right to talk about matters of life and death. And maybe not even then. Phew. Can I go, now?

Tuesday 14 January 2014

Scribbler Cards accused of corrupting children

As related elsewhere, a company called Scribbler Cards has been criticised for displaying disgusting Valentine cards in their shop window, where children could be expected to see them.

I want to read the Tablet with you

One of the cards, making a particularly indecent suggestion.

A spokesman for the organization Child Eyes commented: "It is shocking that young children should see such revolting cards; who knows what sort of emotional scarring could be caused to tender minds?"

Sing Shine, Jesus, Shine, to me, baby

More lewd practices that could damage children.

Sensitive to this hostile criticism, Scribbler cards have now agreed not to display the offensive cards where young people might see them, and have produced a new design, which could not possibly offend anyone.

as lovely as Tina Beattie

What the true romantic will send.

Sunday 12 January 2014

Signs that the world is ending

We live in remarkable times. Here are some signs that the End of the World may be at hand.

pigs flying

Pigs fly.

More surprising than that:

Hell frozen over

Hell freezes over.


blue moon

It really is once in a Blue Moon.

And, most surprising of all:

Cardinal Nichols

Vincent Nichols is appointed Cardinal.

Congratulations, your Eminence.

♬ God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm. ♬
mighty waves

God, moving in a mysterious way.

Since we have already blogged on Vincent Nichols's irresistible rise, there is no more to be said now.