Monday, 7 March 2011

In Wax We Trust?

In a recent chat with a colleague, when I mentioned that I had a potentially difficult board of governors meeting coming up, she kindly mentioned that she would light a candle for me. What a lovely Catholic gesture! Ok, not as goood as a Rosary or a prayer offered up to a saint, but a thoughtful gesture all the same.
While not big into lighting candles myself, I do appreciate the comfort and reassurance it gives to many people. When vocal and mental prayer is difficult, the lighting of a candle gives tangible expression to the thoughts and prayers within.

In an age of weak faith, however, simple religious rituals such as lighting a candle can take on a superstitious element and actually become the centre of religious piety for some people. Trust in Christ is sidelined in favour of trust in wax; the lighting of a candle seen as something more important than going to Mass or saying a Rosary. When this happens, then religion degenerates into the realm of the superstitious with mere objects taking the place of Christ and devotion to him.

While we all need the tangible in life and in religion, there is always the danger whereby the 'material' acquires an unhealthy significance in our relationship with God and our search for meaning and stability. So while we should wear medals, use statues to help with prayer, and avail of other sacramentals such as candles, our attitude to these things is not to be idolatrous. We do not ascribe to things the power that comes from God and while God can use these things to accomplish miracles, to simply reverance them without worshipping God is a big bu-bu! First Commandment broken! Not good! I could wax on about this but I won't. Bottom line is: in God we trust, not wax! And if this is your attitude of faith, then the candles you light are a sweet offering pleasing to the angels. If not, then you will peeve off the Cherubim and Seraphim and believe me, you don't want to do that!

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Baptising the Bean.

Coffee came from the Arabs and was introduced into Christian Europe for the first time by Venetian traders in 1615. However, because of its association with Islam and its popularity among Muslims, some prelates within the Church viewed it with suspicion and wanted it banned. A more enlightened approach was adopted by the pope of the time, Clement VIII, who was curious about this new beverage. The story goes that he requested his attendants to bring him a cup of the brew and upon sampling it was so impressed its aroma and taste, that the imprimatur was given to the glorious bean. Three cheers for Pope Clement VIII! From all lovers of coffee - we salute you!