The Cause of and Solution to all Life’s Problems – Part 2

In part 1 I argued that what is wrong with Catholic education is no different from what is wrong with the church as a whole.

In this part I am going to outline the strengths and challenges for Catholic education today. It might be worth outlining my credentials such as they are. I have taught in four different Catholic schools in and been a senior leader in three of them. My children have attended three different primary schools and two different secondary schools. I often visit other secondary schools (catholic and others) and Catholic primary schools and meet secondary heads from a range of different schools as well as Catholic primary heads. I have a large number of brothers and sisters who have children who attend Catholic schools and they tell me about their experiences too. Of course my sample is small, but, I would argue significant.

The greatest strength that Catholic schools have at the moment is that they are valued. They are valued by parents; for some sending their children to a Catholic school is almost the only ways they acknowledge their Catholic identities but they still do it, often sending their offspring on long journeys past local good schools. (This is the “glass half full” view of this matter. I will look at the “glass half empty” implications later on.) Our schools are also valued by the teachers and others who work there. Almost all staff acknowledge that Catholic schools “feel” different. The majority of them (including the majority of those who are not Catholic) take their responsibility to uphold the Catholic nature of the school seriously. They don’t all measure up to one Head of Sixth form I witnessed gently admonishing his charges for the way they had come in to the hall for Mass, accurately and succinctly explaining about the Real Presence of the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the tabernacle, something he, himself, did not believe in at all. Nevertheless they do acknowledge this as part of their role. I don’t want to overstate things; there is widespread ignorance about Catholicism among parents, teachers and in some cases, I am afraid, senior leaders but the goodwill is there and it is something that can be built on.

The second strength I would point to is that the vision for what Catholic schools should be like is there. It’s firmly based in Catholic teaching, drawing on Church documents on education and quotations from popes. There is no excuse for individual headteachers doing things their own way. Interested readers should look at these documents as examples:

Christ at the centre

Fit for Mission: Schools

Curriculum directory for RE

Readers might also want to look at the Section 48 evaluation schedule for their individual dioceses.

If you have ever been dismayed by what is happening in a particular Catholic school you will almost certainly see that it is going against what is written in these documents. The first and the last are required reading for all Catholic heads (I mean required by their dioceses). The middle one has less status but I have included it because it is read by many heads and senior leaders. I like it; it’s more inspiring and challenging than “Christ at the Centre” and has a greater range of concrete requirements too.

Thirdly there is good practice in our schools. For each of the challenges I list below, there are schools which are doing a good job in addressing them.

So whilst there is lots of goodwill, clear direction (for those who take it seriously) and good practice there are tough challenges too. The most significant is that many of our Catholic children are “unchurched”. In the Catholic Herald Kevin Meagher argues that Catholic schools should be in the business of “turning out committed young Catholics” and Joseph Shaw in his blog applauds but they’re not quite right. Catholic schools must assist parents in bringing their children up in the Faith. How much can you assist someone if they are not playing their part? Then there is the impact of these children (often a large majority) on the school as a whole.

The second problem is fracture: fracture between phases meaning secondary and primary schools are often working independently and therefore incoherently. More seriously there is a fracture between schools and parishes. This is especially the case with secondary schools.

Thirdly there is a lack of challenge from dioceses. Where schools get things wrong, diocese too often turn a blind eye. One example of this is schools which do not follow a “Catholic Christianity” module for GCSE RE. Such schools cannot possibly be following the Curriculum Directory but this is rarely picked up by Section 48 inspections.

Fourthly there are demographic problems. In London there are not enough schools for all Catholics to get a place. In other places unwise local decisions mean that Catholic children are turned away from their nearest Catholic schools even if there are places in neighbouring schools. Elsewhere the number of Catholics is falling. Here the church is faced with either closing a school or having it continue with a large minority or perhaps even a majority of students coming from families of other faiths and none.

Finally there is a lot of negativity about Catholic schools. A Catholic school getting things badly wrong is much more interesting than one quietly getting it more or less right. Reading about one school that is not fulfilling its function leads us to believe that many or all schools are like this.  Add to this the fact that the Church as a whole is not in a good way in this country and the expectation from some that our schools can and should fix this on their own and we end up with a situation where it is perfectly reasonable for a national Catholic paper to run a feature on “What is wrong with Catholic education”. This undermines parents’ faith in Catholic schools and makes those who work in them defensive. Mistrust and defensiveness are not good foundations on which to build.

However I am optimistic. In Part 3, I will take a look at what I think schools and others need to do to meet these challenges and build up the Church.

The Cause of and Solution to all Life’s Problems – Part 1

(In which I take issue with four contributors to this week’s Catholic Herald – even Dr Shaw. Parts 2 and 3 are more positive)

Homer Simpson said this about alcohol but it seems to me that people often hold this view about schools. Of course there is some truth in it; one of the reasons I am a teacher is because I know that what I do every day counts but perhaps not as much as I wish it did and certainly not enough to solve all the problems the Church or society face.

A recent example of this view can be found in last week’s edition of the Catholic Herald. Here you find four articles under the theme “What is wrong with Catholic Education?” Ches at “The Sensible Bond” provides an excellent critique of the section here and Joseph Shaw (one of the contributors) expands on his ideas here: both are worth reading.

Kevin Meagher’s contribution correctly identifies the poor outcomes (as we say in education) for our children – “..somewhere along the way we are failing to make religion stick..” and has some interesting things to say about links with parishes which I will expand in a later post. Ella Leonard says very little. Joseph Shaw speaks up for home education and says a bit more; some of it really hits home. Philip Booth takes issue with the Bishop’s recent assertion that Catholic Church has worked in partnership with the state in providing education. He argues that parents and not the state should be the key decision makers and his mechanism for providing this seems to be a voucher system and the privatisation of all schools.

To look in a bit more detail at each contribution, Mr Meagher says little more than schools “could do better” and should do better. He also makes some statements that are false, such as the one that Catholic schools “fail to describe themselves as such” – in reality it is very unusual for a Catholic school not to contain the word Catholic in its name – or that Catholic schools avoid talking about the Gospel or fail to teach children prayers. These last two are true in some schools but they are very rare. His solutions are thin on the ground too. “The faith needs to be taught with greater confidence and purpose animating every aspect of the school’s life.” Well, yes, but what exactly does this look like? We need a bit more precision in our thinking if we are to make real headway.

Ella Leonard is even vaguer so I have no more to say about her contribution.

Unlike the other contributors Dr Shaw describes problems accurately and precisely. He is disappointed by bright young people he interviews for university places “whose teachers encourage the rote learning of glib, fashionable opinions in preference to critical thinking.” He also talks about “secularisation” correctly identifying this as a problem with its roots in the 70’s (when I was at school) and noting that things are getting better (the religious formation my children have received is vastly superior to that which I received). He is also concerned about sex education.   I am sure he does interview candidates for places whose education has not prepared them properly especially for philosophy courses. At least with subjects like physics or English literature schools will have a number of teachers with expertise in these areas but there are very few philosophy teachers in state schools. He is right about the disastrous experiments in Catholic education in the past and sex education in Catholic schools does pose a dilemma for governors and senior leaders. (I may expand on this in another post). However since Dr Shaw teaches at Oxford, the university that gave a Chair to the prince of “glib, fashionable opinions in preference to critical thinking” (Richard Dawkins) he’s casting stones not exactly from a glass house but there is certainly a bit of plate glass mixed in with all that Cotswold stone. It’s also interesting that he sees primary and secondary schools as being part of Catholic education but doesn’t have anything to say about universities. Surely St Benet’s hall is part of Catholic education too.

Philip Booth is right to identify the key role of parents but it is very limiting to see them as decision makers and provision choosers alone. There is not a shred of evidence that his free market approach would improve the Catholic life of schools or educational standards and the whole thing seems like a reckless experiment to me. He has also misunderstood what the bishops were getting at in there 2007 letter. Those who oppose Catholic schools ask why the state should provide any funding. Here our bishops are reminding politicians that there is a long history of the Church providing schools to educate our children. We have these schools not because the state is generously allowing us a freedom and some finance but because, in the past, the country needed the help of the Church in providing schools.

Lots of Catholics understand their faith well and can clearly and accurately express Church teaching; many take their faith seriously and practice it. Unfortunately too many of us have a weak understanding of the faith and too many do not practice their faith seriously.  It is hardly surprising that our schools reflect this. There are pockets of excellent practice and some that is truly dire. Most schools do a reasonable job but need to improve. Our schools have had very little impact in causing the problems the Church faces today and are much more themselves shaped by those problems. Realising this is key in seeing how (if at all) schools can be part of the solution.

In part 2 I will describe how I see the strengths of our schools (because there are some) and the difficulties they face. In part 3 I will look at what I think our schools need to do to play their role in building up the Church in the future.

Why I think Bishop Egan is (pretty much) right and the Bishop’s Conference is not wrong (well not completely).

You can read Bishop Egan’s interview with by following this link.

Here is my summary of Bishop Egan’s interview:

  • Those not who do not hold to central teachings of the church on the right to life of the old and unborn and the nature of marriage are not in communion with the church and ought not to approach to receive communion
  • Refusing communion is an act of mercy in the hope of repentance for the person sanctioned
  • He and the interviewer spoke a lot about the consequences of separating the unitive and procreative aspects of sexual love.
  • The church faces difficulties in an increasingly secular world
  • The examples of the martyrs tell us that we are all called to witness to the whole truth
  • Notions of respect, diversity and tolerance have Christian roots and divorced from Christianity they risk becoming totalitarian
  • We have failed to articulate properly the Christian vision for marriage and this is why we are in the difficulties we face now.
  • We should still have hope (although the current situation is very difficult and he goes through times where he is not hopeful) that truth will prevail but we must be steadfast
  • Our schools are at the forefront of this
  • He personally favours withholding communion from politicians who support abortion and same sex marriage but he wants to act collegially with the other Bishops in England and Wales.

Very hard to disagree with any of that and there is some inspiring stuff there for his diocese and the rest of us (although I have a slight quibble with the second bullet point which I will elaborate on soon).  However if you look at the online and press comments on his interview it seems to me to be summarised thus:

  • All those Catholic MPs who voted in favour of Same Sex Marriage should be refused communion.

This interpretation on the interview has been pushed both by those who think our bishops should do more to uphold the teaching of the Church (who praise Bishop Egan) and by those who think that these teachings are somehow open to change (who ludicrously suggest that Bishop Egan is “out of step with Pope Francis”)

But that is not what he said.

So when the Bishops’ Conference write to all Catholic MPs saying that there are “no plans” to refuse them communion, they are not contradicting Bishop Egan said no matter what you read elsewhere on the web. Acute observers of politicians will also recognise that having “no plans” to do something is quite different from promising not to do it at a later date.

It might be worth illustrating why withholding Communion on the basis of one vote is problematic. Let’s consider 5 theoretical Catholic MPs. (Any resemblance to existing MPs is a genuine co-incidence: beyond my own MP who is not Catholic and voted against SSM, I really can’t be bothered to research individuals’ views and voting records)

MP A voted for SSM because he believes that the Church’s teaching on marriage is intolerant and discriminatory. He has campaigned for years for this change and is delighted the law has passed.

MP B also voted for SSM. She accepts the Church’s teaching on marriage but believes she is duty bound in a democracy to reflect the views of her constituents; that in fact to vote against the bill would be to impose her religious views on others. She is conscious of the Church’s teaching on religious freedom and believes she is following that in voting “yes”.

MP C voted for SSM because, although he fully accepts the Church’s teaching on marriage, he is afraid of losing his seat if his constituents think he is intolerant.

MP D voted for SSM after a lot of soul-searching. She accepts the Church’s teaching on marriage and was fearful that priests would be forced to bless same-sex unions or face jail. She believes the current law gives the Church important protections. She has accepted this compromise.

MP E also believes in SSM and the so-called “woman’s right to choose” and has ha track record of voting and campaigning contrary to the teaching of the church over decades.

The question is: “Which MPs should be refused Communion by their pastors?”

I would argue that in some cases the action pastors should take is clear but in others it is much less so. That’s why Bishop Egan is right to raise the question and the CBEW conference is right to clarify the current position before discussions begin.

Where I would quibble with Bishop Egan on the second bullet point is about the motivation of applying the sanction of refusing Communion. All discipline should be motivated by charity and in the hope of repentance as he outlines but the reason in Canon Law behind refusing Communion is to avoid scandal. His remarks could be interpreted as saying that pastors have a responsibility to the individual communicant to refuse communion as a way of saving his or her soul. I am sure he isn’t saying this at all: the Church is clear that the responsibility of receiving worthily lies with the communicant and not the minister. The statement that those who dissent from church teaching should not approach for Communion is not equivalent to saying that such people should be refused Communion. Some of those who wish for clearer teaching from our Bishops are speaking as if the two statements are identical.

Of course our Bishops as a collective are in a bit of a mess. I am reminded of the Irishman asked for directions to Cork who replied that “If I was going to Cork I wouldn’t start from here at all.” We are in a very difficult place to begin proclaiming the truth. They (and others) have failed to present correctly and clearly the vision of Christian Marriage so that the Faithful have a weak understanding of what the Church holds as true. They have also employed people whose own record is a potential source of scandal. In this context the letter from Mr Pope can be misrepresented as reassuring MPs in a questionable position that they have nothing to pray and think about. Our Bishops have a responsibility to put this right. Refusing Communion to those who persistently and publically dissent from Church teaching may be part of their response. However this cannot be the only response. If that were to be the case it might seem that the Eucharist was being used to exert political control. Since using the Eucharist in this way would also be gravely wrong this could be a source of scandal in itself. Our Bishops need great courage and wisdom to move forward. Simple single actions will not be enough.

Here’s what I think Catholics should do:

  • Be calm, clear and accurate about what has been said by whom and be very careful that our comments don’t introduce or increase divisions.
  • Pray for all our Bishops. I suggest this prayer but others will do.

Prayer of St John Fisher for Bishops

I think that our new Cardinal may be showing a bit more backbone when it comes to proclaiming the truth of the Faith.

I know that Cardinal Nichols is an admirer of St John Fisher. I understand Cardinal Fisher wrote this prayer:

Prayer for Holy Bishops by Saint John Fisher


 Lord, according to Thy promise that the Gospel should be preached throughout the whole world, raise up men fit for such work. The Apostles were but soft and yielding clay till they were baked hard by the fire of the Holy Ghost. So, good Lord, do now in like manner with Thy Church militant, change and make the soft and slippery earth into hard stones. Set in the Thy Church strong and mighty pillars that may suffer and endure great labors–watching, poverty, thirst, hunger, cold and heat–which also shall not fear the threatenings of princes, persecution, neither death, but always persuade and think with themselves to suffer with a good will, slanders, shame, and all kinds of torments, for the glory and laud of Thy Holy Name. By this manner, good Lord, the truth of Thy Gospel shall be preached throughout the world. Therefore, merciful Lord, exercise Thy mercy, show it indeed upon Thy Church. Amen

St John Fisher

Pray for us

I wondered if both the readers of this blog might consider adding this prayer to their usual ones during Lent for Cardinal Nichols and our other Bishops and for those sees that are vacant.

Thoughts on the Baptism of Our Lord, the Water Cycle and the Particulate Nature of Matter.

Today we have a great feast to end Christmastide.

A question we will all be asking, alongside John the Baptist is why Our Lord had to be baptised at all. I don’t have any special insight here but it does seem to me that this action is completely consistent with the Incarnation. Our God is not a spectator and though sinless he stands alongside us in our sinfulness and redeems us. He neither requires baptism nor deserves death yet he humbly accepts both. This is the root or the Catholic notion of solidarity in social justice.

Where I might be able to add something semi-original concerns what the water cycle and the particulate nature of matter might tell us about water itself following this event.

Sometimes for baptisms, families bring some water taken from the Jordan itself. This was the case for Prince George for example. This is a wonderful symbol of our common humanity with Christ himself. However I don’t think it’s necessary. Imagine all the molecules of water in that part of the Jordan where Our Lord was baptised; millions upon millions. These molecules over subsequent time have evaporated, condensed and fallen as rain and then evaporated again countless times. In the process they have mixed thoroughly with the rest of the water on earth. As a result some of the water in the font when you were baptised was used to baptise Our Lord.

Today’s feast recognises the humility of the incarnation and this idea shows us another aspect of the incarnation. Through sin creation lost its holiness. The incarnation re-sanctifies the whole world. In the baptism liturgy the priest blesses the water in the font by dipping the Easter candle in to it. In a sense this water has already been made holy by the immersion of Our Lord’s baptism.

Pretty awesome (in the true sense of the word) stuff, I think.

Sunshine Award

Sunshine Award


It seems this blog has been nominated for an award. A Sunshine Award to be precise courtesy of Ben Trovato at Countercultural Father.

If you visit Ben’s site (you probably have and if not, you should) you will see that I very nearly dodged this particular bullet.

“Why this talk of bullets? Aren’t you pleased?”

Yes, of course I am but it does involve a certain amount of pressure. Accepting the award means I some explicit responsibilities and an implicit one.

First I must give 10 facts about myself. Since I am trying to remain anonymous none of these can be particularly interesting (and I doubt there are 10 interesting things to write in any case). So here goes:

  1. Though a Southerner I live in the North (and really like it up here).
  2. The purpose of this blog is to record my visits to holy places around England (mostly in the North) and to encourage other people to do the same. (It may have lost its way a bit)
  3. My favourite prayer (after the Mass) is the Angelus.
  4. I try to pray the Daily Office (at least Lauds, Vespers and Compline)
  5. I own hundreds of books but am becoming converted to the Kindle (other e-readers are available)
  6. A favourite book is “The Power and the Glory” by Graham Greene. Another is “Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro.
  7. I used to follow a sport called cricket but for some reason I have lost interest recently.
  8. I am married with four pretty-much-grown-up daughters all still living at home.
  9. I teach in a Catholic school.
  10. I spend too much time on twitter.

The next task is to nominate 10 blogs who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere. This has been difficult. As Ben says, a lot of blogs have been nominated and nearly all the ones in Ben’s list are ones I would have chosen. The award has prompted me to revisit some blogs I have not read for a while which has reminded me that some of them are very good. To be honest I can’t talk about the effect that blogs have on others and I am not sure about “inspire” either but these 10 are certainly worth reading:

  1. Tigerish waters

This is an excellent blog by Rita who also teaches physics. It’s one of the blogs I am have not kept up with and going back to it and I am grateful to Ben for prompting me to revisit it. Always wise and insightful.

  1. Once I was a clever boy
    Similarly this is a blog I used to visit often and have resolved to start reading again.
  2. Charlotte was both

This blog is by Amy Welborn who is an author and travel writer.

  1. Idle Speculations
    This blog is a bit different as it mostly posts Catholic Art work.
  2. Ask Sister Mary Martha
    Sister Mary Martha seems to me to be an archetypal Catholic Nun (and we all know there are not nearly enough of those about)
  3. Stella Maris
    The blog of a Parish Priest – less well known than other Clerical bloggers but worth reading.
  4. Bridges and Tangents
    Blog of Fr Stephen Wang – more well known than Fr Abberton (see above) and always worth reading.
  5. Ethelredasplace
    This is an excellent and prolific blog.
  6. Lisa Graas
    Another really good blog.
  7. Catholic Dads
    I have only just started reading this blog. Given how important fathers are, I think it is one worth reading.

I am now off to leave comments on those 10 blogs.

#twitterangelus Why Latin?

Or so asked Nigel Green (@NigelGr when we were both up very early on Wednesday morning).

There is a short answer to this question and a rather longer one. Also behind the question is a reminder that Latin can be a barrier to some of the Faithful. I intend to discuss this too.

If you want to find out about #twitterangelus and how it began you can read about it here and here.

The short answer to the question “Why Latin?” is that most of those who join in prefer it that way. However there are reasons why Latin is appropriate. Firstly, despite the fact that most of us experience liturgy in the vernacular, Latin is the official language of the church. Secondly I rather like the idea of tweets being read across the world in an international language. (This may be slightly fond of me: probably more people speak English). Thirdly the Angelus was written in Latin. What we say in English is a translation so praying it in English is a bit like reading Shakespeare in a French translation; good but not the same as the original. Fourthly there is the chronological continuity – when the Angelus is prayed in Latin you are saying an identical prayer to that prayed by Catholics across the world Finally remembering that he who sings prays twice, musical settings for Latin versions of prayers are usually* superior to vernacular versions. I particularly like this for the Angelus.

It is also clear, however, that Latin can be a barrier. Speaking personally I prefer English as I don’t know Latin and I like to understand what I am praying. I am comfortable with Latin for the Angelus because I know it off by heart in English and the Latin text is available for me to copy and paste so I don’t need to learn that. In truth when I pray the Angelus away from Twitter, I always pray it in English. Other prayers in Latin that I don’t know (e.g. Rorate Caeli for Advent) are much less appealing to me. The settings can be beautiful when sung but if I don’t know the Latin words or what they mean I am not going to get the same benefit from praying it.**

For me a key question is whether we are putting Nigel Green (and others) off. One of the purposes of #TwitterAngelus is to share what I think is the most beautiful Catholic prayer outside the Mass. Perhaps we are failing.

So what’s the answer? I certainly don’t think we should abandon Latin (and that is not for me to decide anyway) but perhaps we could use English more. We also, I think, ought to provide links to the tweetable text and English translations every time.

*only the theoretical possibility of bad settings of Latin prayers or excellent ones of English prayers which I haven’t heard yet stops me from saying “always”.

**This is probably theologically questionable. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say I am not going to feel I am getting the same benefit from praying it.

Quick November Post

Not much time to post today (which is a confession in itself). I probably ought to be visiting Whitby given today is the Feast of St Hilda as I have done in the past. However I do just have time to remind readers of an idea I had last year regarding praying for the dead:

A November thought

and to point you in the direction of two posts on this topic (which are better than anything I would have written)

(Mark Lambert is always worth reading)

Can a faithful Catholic give to CAFOD?

The short answer is “yes” but it is not a daft question.

Ben Trovato makes a good case for giving your money to an alternative charity here and elsewhere on his blog. In fact Ben is a bit of a scourge of CAFOD. (He’s not the only one but I read him more and trust his judgement on most things.) I am not sure the current “scandal” is actually as bad as the other things he calls the charity to task for. To decide that properly I would have to read Damian McBride’s memoirs and judge whether he was glorying in past misdeeds or simply describing them in a confessional sense. Life is a bit too short for that. And in any case whilst Mr McBride’s money may or may not be tainted, I don’t think mine is.

But there is a problem. Put simply CAFOD have done more than enough to call in to question whether they promote Catholic values in their work. That’s a serious problem. If we want to support development in poor parts of the world (and if you think we shouldn’t you need to listen to today’s gospel again) choosing which charity to donate to is a moral minefield. We could easily find our donation going to pay for abortions, distribution of condoms or other things that would be both against the teaching of the church and (it’s vital to remember) not in the interests of those we are trying to help. If CAFOD were operating properly then the solution is simple: donate to them.

However if you have taken the trouble to read Ben’s blog posts you will see CAFOD is not operating properly. You don’t need to read his posts. Just look at what they say themselves. If you look at what they say about condom use here, scroll down and you will read:

What is CAFOD’s policy on the use of condoms in relation to HIV prevention?

As the official agency of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales and respectful of Catholic teaching and beliefs, we never fund the supply, distribution or promotion of condoms.

We ask all partners working in the area of HIV prevention to give individuals full information about all means of HIV prevention and that this advice is scientifically correct.”

That’s not a ringing endorsement of Catholic teaching. It’s not good enough. It might suffice as a statement from a non-Catholic prospective employee of CAFOD in a job interview who disagrees with the Church’s stance on the use of condoms but is prepared to put this to one side if offered the job. As a Catholic agency called to promote the Church’s teaching (11% of their money is spent on education) a grudging acquiescence does not go nearly far enough.

Prima facie there is enough evidence to suggest boycotting CAFOD. So why am I continuing to donate? Three reasons in short:

  1. It is our development agency. We actually have a responsibility to reform them. In my judgement refusing to donate is unlikely to be effective. In fact we might fall in to thinking we have done enough if we disengage. But we are not really disengaged. We are Catholics in England and Wales and CAFOD is still our agency. I choose to remain in contact with the organisation and to continue to work for its reform.
  2. There is also the danger that we might stop giving to CAFOD but not contribute elsewhere. If that happens people will die. We might also suffer the same fate as Dives (I might anyway).
  3. Whilst their statement on condom promotion is completely unsatisfactory it is sufficient to re-assure me that my donation won’t be used in ways that are directly opposed to Catholic teaching.

CAFOD is broken but my strategy for fixing it (or at least helping to fix it) is different. It’s three pronged. Firstly every time I donate I am going to pray for CAFOD. Secondly every fast day my fasting will be in reparation for the failures of the Church in this area and thirdly every time I donate I will write to my bishop and to Rt. Rev. John Arnold (Auxiliary Bishop in Westminster) who is their chair.

The problems at CAFOD are due episcopal failures so our Bishops need both our prayers and our charitable promptings to help them to put things right. Readers will themselves decide whether to adopt Ben’s approach, mine or some third (perhaps even better – let’s hear about it!) alternative is the best way of addressing the problem.

Novena to Saints Joachim and Anne

Bad news for marriage and family life in England today. It’s easy to feel powerless as parliament enacts a fiction that will deceive many and harm us all. What can we do?

As they are the only married saints to share a feast day, I am going to start a novena today to St Joachim and St Anne today. (I hope I have counted correctly!)

The intention will be that the institution of marriage will be strengthened and family life will flourish in England.

I like this version taken from EWTN (modified slightly to include St Joachim, to remove some parts where I felt powers of God almighty himself were being attributed to St Anne and, most importantly to use proper English spelling)

O glorious St. Ann and St Joachim, you are filled with compassion for those who invoke you and with love for those who suffer! I cast myself at your feet and humbly beg of you to take the present intention which I recommend to you in your special care: that the institution of marriage will grow stronger and family life will flourish in England.

Please recommend it to your daughter, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and place it before the throne of Jesus, so that He may bring it to a happy issue. Continue to intercede for me until my request is granted. But, above all, obtain for me the grace one day to see my God face to face, and with you and Mary and all the saints to praise and bless Him for all eternity. Amen.

Our Father, . . . Hail Mary . . .

O Jesus, Holy Mary, St. Ann and St Joachim, help me now and at the hour of my death.











Dear St. Ann and St Joachim, though I am but a prodigal child, I appeal to you and place myself under your great parental care. Please listen to my prayers and intercede that my requests may be granted. See my contrite heart, and show me your unfailing goodness.

Deign to be my advocate and recommend me to God’s infinite mercy. Obtain for me forgiveness of my sins and the strength to begin a new life that will last forever.

Blessed St. Ann and St Joachim, I also beg of you the grace to love, to serve, and to honour your daughter, the most holy Virgin Mary. Please recommend me to her and pray to her for me. She refuses none your requests but welcomes with loving kindness all those for whom you intercede.

Good Jesus, be merciful to the faithful servants of Your grandparents St. Ann and St Joachim.



From the depths of my heart, good St. Ann and St Joachim, I offer you my homage this day and ask you to shelter me under the mantle of your parental care.  Be pleased to extend your helping hand in all my wants. Listen to my prayers, for I place my trust in you.

Jesus, I thank You for all the graces which in Your infinite goodness You have lavished upon St. Ann; for having chosen her, among all women, to be Your grandmother on earth and exalted her in heaven.  In the name of her merits, and those of St Joachim I humbly recommend myself to Your infinite mercy.



Hail, good St. Ann, who first responded to the needs of Mary, Mother of our Saviour and Queen of Angels. Hail to you and to your husband St. Joachim, who watched over her infancy, presented her to the Lord in the temple and, according to your promise, consecrated her to the service of God.

Hail St. Ann, good mother! I rejoice in the marvels you continually perform, because they encourage all to seek your intercession.

Good St. Ann, by the great power that God has given you, show yourself my mother, my consoler, my advocate. Reconcile me to the God I have so deeply offended. Console me in my trials; strengthen me in my struggles. Deliver me from danger in my time of need. Help me at the hour of death that gates of paradise may be opened to me.



Good St. Joachim and St. Ann, you offered your pure and holy daughter Mary in the temple with faith, piety and love. By the happiness which then filled your hearts, I beg you to present me to your Grandson Jesus. Offered by you, I will be agreeable in His sight.

Kind St. Ann, take me forever under your protection. Deliver me from the temptations which continually assail me. Above all, attend me in my last hour. As I lie on my deathbed, be present with your daughter to console and strengthen me.

Holy Mary and good St. Ann, show yourselves to be mothers indeed by obtaining for me the grace of a good death. When my soul goes forth, lead it to God’s tribunal so that, by your powerful help and intercession, it may obtain a favourable judgment.



Hail, all-powerful Lady. By God’s special favour, grant consolation to those who invoke you.

Good St. Ann, obtain my deliverance from the punishment which my sins deserve. Obtain for me success in my temporal affairs; especially see to the salvation of my soul.

St. Ann, by your influence with Mary’s son Jesus, you have won the gift of conversion for many sinners. Will you then abandon me, who have chosen you as my mother? No, St. Ann. Your name alone, which signifies grace, assures me of the help of your prayers. You will pray for me now and at the hour of my death.



Good St. Ann and St Joachim, intercede for me that my soul, a masterpiece of God’s creative power, be not lost forever; that my heart be free of pride, vanity, and self-love. May I know myself as I really am and learn meekness and simplicity of heart.

God’s great love for me leaves me cold and unresponsive. I must reflect this love through works of mercy and charity toward my neighbour.

In your boundless charity, good St. Ann, help me to merit the glorious crown which is given to those who have fought the good fight against the world, the devil and the flesh. Assist me to preserve purity of heart and body. With Mary and her divine Son, protect me always.



Once again, Good St. Ann, I choose you for my advocate before the throne of God. By the power and grace that God has placed in you, extend to me your helping hand. Renew my mind and my heart.

Dear St. Ann, I have unbounded confidence in your prayers. Direct my actions according to your goodness and wisdom. I place myself under your motherly care.

Receive me, good mother. Cover me with the mantle of your love. Look kindly on me. By your powerful intercession, may I obtain from God grace and mercy. Obtain for me remission for sin and release from the punishment my offenses have deserved. Pray that I may receive grace to lead a devout life on earth and that I may obtain the everlasting reward of heaven.



Hail, St. Ann! I rejoice at your exalted glory. You gave birth to Mary, whose divine Son brought salvation to our lost world by conquering death and restoring life and hope to sinners. Pray to Him who, for love of us, clothed Himself with human flesh in the chaste womb of your daughter.

Glorious St. Ann, with your blessed daughter, deliver me from everything that is displeasing in the sight of God. Pray to your gentle and powerful Grandson that He may cleanse my soul in His precious blood, that He may send His Holy Spirit to enlighten and direct me in all that I do, always obedient to His holy inspirations.

Good mother, keep a watchful eye on me. Help me bear all my crosses. Give me the fullness of your bounty and sustain me with courage.



Good St. Ann, I have reached the end of this novena in your honour. I have asked and ask again. Good mother, let not your kind ear grow weary of my prayers, though I repeat them so often.

Bounteous Lady, implore for me from divine Providence all the help I need through life. May your generous hand bestow on me the material means to satisfy my own needs and to alleviate the plight of the poor.

Good St. Ann, fortify me by the sacraments of the Church at the hour of my death. Admit me into the company of the blessed in the kingdom of heaven, where I may praise and thank the adorable Trinity, your grandson Christ Jesus, your glorious daughter Mary, and yourself, dear St. Ann, through endless ages.

Of course I have chosen to pray for England because I am English and live in England. I am sure that St Anne and St Joachim do not have favourites when it comes to countries (although England is their Daughter’s dowry) so feel free to pray for marriage and family life in your country too.

(In a spirit of honestly I must admit that when it comes to novenas, I usually only manage 7 out of 9. However when you think about what our bishops have done to the feast of the Ascension perhaps a Septina is following their example)