Friday 25th December - Merry Christmas

There's a strong sense of spiritual refreshment I feel every time I return to my local parish. The familiar faces, the heavenly smell of incense (my priest actually said: it's what heaven smells like so get used to it) and most importantly a simple sense of inner peace, one that fills me with warmth that only being close to God brings.

I never get tired of MC-ing and tonight's Mass was no different. I'm nearly 20 and unofficially hung up my alb 3 years ago, and yet there's just something about being on the sanctuary knowing that I am serving God and the people in their worship. One feels a sense of contentment and comfort that, I find, sitting in the pew does not provide.

Oh and before I forget, Merry Christmas all. May God's love fill you with peace and joy on this special day.

One of my Christmas card photos this year - St Andrews, West Sands

Monday 21st December - Snow

All it took was an inch of snow to make central London an ice rink for disaster.

Yeah it took me 3 hours to travel for a journey that usually takes 30 mins, I may have looked like a drowned rat by the time I arrived home, and perhaps I couldn't feel my fingers or toes, not to mention nearly sharing an intimate moment with a car's bonnet for thinking the road was an ice rink, but it was worth it. Meet Peter everyone:

Saturday 19th December - London


Friday 18th December - Christological Tutorial / Party

Last night I was trying on possible items for my Jesus costume. Before you jump to conclusions, I don't make a habit of doing so but thought I'd push out my sacriligious thoughts to the side for this one occasion. It is Christmas after all. Anyway, I adjusted my yarn beard and toga blanket to the sound of approval from my flatmates, but soon decided against the whole thing for several reasons:

1. Yes it is rather blasphemous to dress up as Jesus, Christmas or not.
2. It was snowing outside and I was concerned for the blood circulation in my legs.
3. Cycling with a blanket flung around me is an accident waiting to happen.

We were asked to bring along something christological-related. One person brought feta cheese, pitta bread and olives only to be 'condemned' for hellenising the tutorial (oh the hilarity of being a theology student). And me? I brought jaffa cakes because it contains chocolate which, like christological, begins with ch. Genius I know.

There was much merriment for the rest of the hour, with port, and the playing of taboo and charades. Similar to writing limericks about theology (same tutor) trying to act out 'Son of Melchizedek' was as hard has hammering an iron nail through a piece of iron. Still, a great way to start my last day of the semester.

Straight after my Classics tutorial I'm excited to say I'm London bound!

Wednesday 16th December - Edinburgh

Going to Edinburgh straight after my afternoon lecture wasn't planned. I'd had a late evening the previous night and wasn't consciously all there when I woke up, but a friend asked if I wanted to go to the German market. Me being in my 'I'm so tired but I have no work so I should just enjoy these last few days in the bubble' state of mind, I overcame the throbbing pain in my head and clambered aboard the next bus to Leuchars.

Not much to say about the day apart from that I really enjoyed being out of St Andrews for a bit. Don't get me wrong, I love the place but sometimes one just needs to escape. The city of Edinburgh was bustling with Christmas shoppers, kilted-men playing bagpipes and tourists flashing their cameras away at everything that moved. Oh how I'd forgotten what being in a city was like.

So, German market. I pretty much spent most of my time trying on the most awful hats ever - very warm but seriously, who would wear a hat designed to look like a highland cow gobbling up your head?

Christmas Carol Service

Went to my first of two carol services this week. If the facebook event group was anything to go by Holy Trinity expected to accommodate for over 1000 people. With the service starting at 8pm I wasn't too hopeful that everyone would be able to get a seat just from the sheer length of the queue at 7pm.

Anyway, all I really wanted to say was that it was great. It made me feel so merry that I was still singing Adeste Fideles on the way home. Friends, cheer, joy, heavenly singing, mulled wine and mince pies. What more could you want from an evening?

Sunday 13th December - A Television-induced Rant

Watching a programme where Tony Blair was interviewed infuriated me. It just goes to show how many people think having faith can be dichotomised between living a religious life and a social life.

A part of me empathises with Blair when people ask silly questions like 'do you pray together? Is that how you made your decision to go to war on Iraq?' as if the questions are not ploys to catch him out; make religion seem like a deluded mentality so detached from the world. Like in many other religions prayer is a form of communication; it's a form of contemplation where one as for guidance and give thanks. It's not like a Q&A session with Paxman for God's sake. Get a grip. I'm sick of these childish, naïve narrow views of religion.

Not all Catholics are driven by a religious zeal to promote the views of the Old Testament. Slavery is wrong and swine with split hooves that don't chew the cud are eaten. Wake up Britain. One will never understand why people of faith do what they do if one is not open to really trying to understand.

It's the bloody taboo in this country that makes speaking about having a faith feel like you've just admitted to hearing voices. Britain needs to grow up and learn that having faith is not always a conscious choice. Yes, some convert to Catholicism, but to have faith is to be blessed with the Spirit; it is a gift provided by God that opens our eyes to the person of Jesus Christ and it is a gift some are yet to receive.

About the war in Iraq, I don't agree with Blair's decision to invade but his decision to do so (as he said so himself) was not solely based on his belief in God. Just like any other ethical decision a person makes, it's never as black and white as one may think. 'Thou shall not kill' means what it says, but it does not mean that in every possible situation it will be the case. It's just not how the world is. And just like a person of no faith, a Catholic still adopts the method of reasoning between pros and cons. Blair's right in saying that one's faith is not a flawless compass directing one towards the right or wrong choice. One can never be 100% sure about a decision they make. It's choosing what you think is right and it is faith in God that strengthens this decision.

For Blair, religion and politics cannot be separated. Then again, religion and politics are not mutually exclusive anyway. In an essay I wrote last year I argued that for Archbishop Óscar Romero to detach his religious views from the political situation in El Salvador was impossible.

... He [Romero] stresses the point that the Church and state are distinct, although not necessarily unrelated.[1] They may have been two different institutions but that did not mean that the current rule of state, in this case General Romero's dictatorship, would not affect what the Church would have to say about it ... In this sense, religion became a way of addressing life for him, and in turn a means of reacting to the disorder that surrounded him. His reaction therefore was one inspired by scripture, and is clearly seen in the way that the gospel and the sayings of Jesus are central to his sermons.

And here's the concluding point:

... To say that religion has no place in politics is to be mistaken. To say to a priest that he cannot have a say in the way the state is run, or that if he does he must leave his religious beliefs at the door is similar to asking him to close his eyes to the reality before him. For Christian believers religion and politics cannot be separate in the sense that engaging in politics demands a response....

Faith should be seen as part of the solution to the troubles of the world and not part of the problem. If only more people would realise this.

[1] Aguilar, M. Current Issues on Theology and Religion in Lating America and Africa, (New York: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2002), 33.