I have just been sent a book to review: How to Get More Out of Holy Communion by St Peter Julian Eymard, published by Sophia Institute Press. Opening it at random (something one should not do) I alighted on the following passage: “We are tormented by a great sadness. It is fixed in the depths of our heart and will not be dislodged therefrom. There is no joy for us on the face of the earth that is not fleeting and that does not end in tears; there is none and there can be none. This sorrow comes to us as an integral part of our heritage from Adam, through whose sin we are exiles from our native land and from our Father’s house.”
This passage reminds us of the larger, eternal context of our lives, despite a sense of frustration and of sadness at the current local context: the sorry state of affairs our Government has got us into over yesterday’s debate on the proposed Bill to redefine marriage. What is obvious to those who have any historical perspective, who have an understanding of the common good, who want what is best for children and future generations, and who foresee the unintended consequences of this disastrous piece of legislation, is that yesterday’s vote – 400 in favour of redefinition, 175 against – marks the start of a formal and unbridgeable chasm between them and their opponents.
My father used to quote to me, “Man proposes; God disposes.” In this instance man has proposed a piece of folly; God, whatever those who use his name to support their ideas might imagine – for example, I heard Theresa May, the Home Secretary, say on the radio yesterday that as a practising Anglican she supported the Bill – will make his own dispositions clear in time. In the here and now, as with William Oddie’s recent blog on this subject, I will not be voting for the Tories in the next election or indeed again; the party that used to defend the preservation of what was tried, tested and true in our ancient institutions (and surely marriage comes into this category) has gone for good. As William Oddie commented, if this stance brings Labour to power in 2015 it could not be any worse.
A young priest got in touch with me early last week to suggest that the Catholic Herald promote parish Adoration during yesterday’s debate, to remind Catholics that nothing good can be achieved without prayer. As it happened, the Herald was about to go to press so it was too late to include this idea. Nonetheless, although prayer is not the only practical remedy against coming events which one is powerless to prevent – the legislation still has several hurdles to overcome at the committee stage, though it is unlikely its opponents will be able to do more than merely modify it – prayer is still the final, most powerful and most consoling one. As St Peter Eymard reminds us, we are in exile from our native land and from our Father’s house during our time in this world. The Bishop of Shrewsbury suggested in a recent interview with Luke Coppen in the Herald that we must be prepared to face persecution in the future. Why should this surprise us?