Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Christmas: Whose Birthday?


Some stats published by Christian Today:
  • 12% of adults know the nativity story
  • 36% of children do not know whose birthday is being celebrated
  • 51% of people now say the birth of Jesus is irrelevant to their Christmas
As a result The Bishop of Manchester has launched a campaign with these posters:

 
At the launch of the campaign, with various Christian groups and churches in Manchester, Bishop David Walker reminded people of the importance of remembering the true reason we celebrate Christmas in an increasingly secular society. The posters will be distributed to hundreds of other sites around the country. The hope is that they will inspire people to check out their local church and find out more about the Christian faith.

Are you surprised at the statistics? Do you think the posters will work? Are people interested or just concerned with themselves? Is Christmas just an excuse to over indulge? Does this campaign touch upon another serious issues of debt?

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Stabbing Baby Hitler

 
Renowned journalist and documentary maker Louis Theroux caused a bit of controversy on Twitter by asking whether, "Give the chance, should you stab baby Hitler?" with the hashtag: philosophicaldilemma.
 
 
This raises some interesting questions about nature over nurture - could we not just raise Hitler differently if we had the chance again? But also about the means of killing... some suggested it would be in some way easier to smother rather than stab!
 
If you can dig out the tweets from <here>, you can see some peoples' responses. The initial tweet is found <here>.
 
They included a full range from: "Not even a dilemma, I wouldn't stab an adult Hitler." or "Too easy... make him suffer!" while many said they would give him, "lots of cuddles, read him lots of inspiring books and encourage him to turn the other cheek."
 
Our Y12 students have been studying utilitarianism recently and some have blogged about it:

What do you think? For the 'greater good' what would you do with baby Hitler? What ethical theories could you apply to this? What do you think is more important nature or nurture? Why do you think Louis Theroux raised this?

Friday, 6 December 2013

Nelson Mandela - 1918 - 2013

 
Free after 27 years in prison

Nelson Mandela, one of the few true greats leaders, passed away on the 5th December 2013. Many words will be written about him but this collects a few resources to help understand something of the tributes being made.
 
 
CAFOD often use his speech to remind us to the 'Great Generation'... there is more information on his Make Poverty History speech here:
 
There is a further tribute from CAFOD here:
 
 

Mary & Joe: 2013's Nativity Videos



Social Media provides a perfect platform for evangelisation and the retelling of the nativity story in new forms through media.

Last year I blogged about a few videos:
This year we have 'Unto Us' a modern interpretation of the story...

Part 1:




Part 2:




Part 3:


What do you think of this 'gritty' retelling of the Nativity? Do you think it helps make the story relevant? Why do you think people put time and money into making films like this? What age range do you think they are geared towards?

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Child Taken From Womb... Literally!


This a quite an unbelievable story... Essex social services have obtained a court order against a woman that allowed her to be forcibly sedated and for her child to be taken from her womb by caesarean section.

The visiting Italian had a mental breakdown while on a business trip, but now 15 months on, the baby is still with social services. The woman claims to be fully recovered and lawyers have said this case is unprecedented, especially due to its international nature.

John Hemming MP said: “I have seen a number of cases of abuses of people’s rights in the family courts, but this has to be one of the more extreme."

Despite her now being of sound mind, Essex County Council want to get the baby adopted in the UK in case she has a relapse.

Do you think it was right to sedate this woman and take the baby by caesarean? Do you think her Italian family should have been contacted? Are the baby's needs and care more important than anything else? What could have been a better solution?

Read more: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/10486452/Child-taken-from-womb-by-social-services.html

UPDATE: A few articles have said the origianl article may be misleading. Read here for more

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The Bible: NEW TV Series


"THE BIBLE is an epic 10-hour mini-series that brings to life the dramatic tales of faith and courage in the most widely-read book of all time. Breathtaking in scope and scale, THE BIBLE series features powerful performances, exotic locations and cutting-edge visual effects to create a spectacular television event that will entertain and inspire the whole family. From Genesis to Revelation, THE BIBLE series features some of the most famous stories ever written and some of the most iconic characters: from Noah's Ark, the Exodus and Daniel in the lion's den to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Channel 5 intends to broadcast THE BIBLE series this December (see www.channel5.com/thebible). Free resources are available at www.thebibleuk.org."

This new TV series comes to the UK via Channel 5. It begins broadcasting on Saturday 30th Novemember 2013 at 9pm, presumably fitting perfectly in the run up to Christmas.

The reviews of this have been very positive and picks key events from the Old and New Testaments that cover the whole journey as the People of God to the first early Christians. Watch the trailer here:

 
 
The first episode takes the viewer from Noah all the way to The Promised Land via Abraham and Moses. It should be great viewing for all students and teachers of RE!

Monday, 25 November 2013

Faith In Action


A new part of our General RE for 6th Form course includes an element of 'Faith in Action'. Students are asked to complete one hour a week of voluntary work either in or outside of school. 

As part of this we invited Church of England Pastor from St Luke's in Cranham. He is contactable, as he offered, through the church website <here>.

He spoke about a few projects he was involved in and you may want to find out more:
It's quite amazing to see the range of organisations working in our local area and shows the great needs of nearby communities. 

Do we do enough to support local charities? Do you think that enough Christians 'walk the walk'? What could be done to encourage more people to put their 'faith in action'?


Monday, 11 November 2013

Typhoon Haiyan: CAFOD Appeal


As Typhoon Haiyan devastates The Philippines, CAFOD has launched an urgent appeal to  to support the work of its church partners on the ground.

Rey Barnido, an aid worker from CAFOD’s partner Caritas Philippines, said: "Patients are overflowing from the regional hospital in Tacloban. There are dead people everywhere. There is no water or power. Volunteers are trying to manage the disaster. It looks as if nuclear bombs were dropped."

Donate <here>
 

 

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Shoebox Appeal 2013

It's that time of year again in Sacred Heart of Mary Girls' School! We have had our visit from Samaritan's Purse and it is now all go on organising, purchasing and packaging our shoeboxes.
Deadline: Friday 22nd November 2013

How To Pack Your Shoebox (Watch VeggieTales guide)
  • Toys: Bear, soft toy, tennis ball, finger puppet, jigsaw, yo-yo, building blocks, small musical instrument, trucks, cars, dolls, clip on earrings, etc.
  • Education Items: Calculator, felt pens, pens, pencils, pencil sharpener, eraser, colouring book, notepad, picture or puzzle book, chalk, pencil case, stickers, etc.
  • Hygiene Items: Toothbrush, toothpaste hairbrush, comb, hair clips, bar of soap, flannel, etc.
  • Other Items: Sweets (sell-by date to be at least March of the following year), gloves, scarf, sunglasses, cap, hat, bangles, necklaces etc.
All gifts should be new, please include items from each category.
Y7 to 10 will have an RE lesson dedicated to making a shoebox with their friends. Y12 and 13 will have a General RE lesson putting their 'Faith in Action' and making a shoebox with their form.
What I did...
I went on to eBay and searched for 'party bag fillers' and hundreds of ideas came up! For just £21, I purchased the following:
  • 50 bouncy balls
  • 12 maracas
  • 20 colouring books
  • 18 packs of crayons
  • 20 packs of hair clips
  • 10 toothbrushes
  • 20 stretchy-man toys
  • 12 bracelets 
Who wants to share or swap?
Please also remember we need £3 to cover the transport cost for each:

Lots more information here: http://operationchristmaschild.org.uk

Please please get involved this year and bring a smile to a child this Christmas

We know that every shoebox you send brings joy, hope and smiles to a child whose life has been haunted by poverty, disaster, disease or war.  What is more, every shoebox gift that is freely given to a child overseas is a symbol of the true meaning of Christmas, of God's unconditional gift to mankind, the birth of His son Jesus Christ.

Each year in the UK alone, hundreds and thousands of people wrap and pack shoeboxes so that we can deliver them to children who may otherwise never receive a gift.


Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Selfies at Funerals?

 

Is there no limits to when it is acceptable to take selfies? It seems not... a tumblr account called 'selfiesatfunferals' is just that. 

A large number of (mainly) young people seem to find that taking a selfie at a funeral is completely fine. They then obviously feel the need to post it on various social networking sites including Twitter.

Some people realise something of  what they are doing as they say things like 'i going to hell' [sic] whereas others accompany the announcement they are at a funeral with 'lmao'.

Would you take a selfie a funeral? How would you react if someone took a selfie at a funeral you were attending? Is it simply putting a little fun into the funeral? Or is it just a harmless action that happens to be at a funeral?

See more: http://selfiesatfunerals.tumblr.com/ (will not work at school I'm afraid!)

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Baptism Debate: George


The 'Royal Christening' has brought widespread debate to the nation about the role and nature of baptism in the UK in 2013.

The Archbishop of Canterbury recorded this video to share his views and teaching on baptism:


The BBC posted an article on how baptism have changed; it highlighted 10 things:

1) There is less of them
2) There are more godparents...
3) ... who are not necessarily religious
4) There is a rise in baby-naming ceremonies
5) Children are baptised later
6) "Bogus" baptisms (to get school places etc)
7) Christening gowns are out of fashion
8) But gifts are not (although they're not always silver)
9) The christening water is warmed
10) Simpler language (in CoE)

Read more <here>

So where does baptism fit in today's society? It remains a welcome and initiation into the Christian church, but there are hints that there is almost a 'cultural baptism' rather than truly religious baptism potentially becoming more common. People enjoy the celebration, and party, and gifts associated with a christening even if they don't fully sign up to a life with Christ and in the church. 

The issue of schooling also plays a part, where some parents will stop at nothing to get their child into their first choice of school and faith schools still remain desirable.

What does baptism mean in 2013? The same as it always has. The water may be warmer and the gifts slightly different but for a Christian believer it is a recreation of Jesus' baptism, following Jesus' instruction to the disciples, washing away original sin (for us Catholics!) and welcoming a child into the Christian family.

For others, its perhaps just an opportunity to mark the arrival of a new baby a few months (or years) after the initial chaos.

Do you think baptism is changing? Do you think its right for 'anyone' to get their child christened? Should there be alternatives? How wrong is it to baptise purely to get a school place? Do vicars and priests need to do more? 


Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Y9 Vlogging Task


Y9, you are going to attempt to create a vlog of a secret Catholic during the Reformation. You need to record a series of short videos to document the events of the Reformation in England. It can be different people doing each clip.


Some things you may want to include:
  • Rumours of change, protest and reform in Europe including Martin Luther and John Calvin (1517-1520)
  • Henry VIII and his jealousy of the Catholic Church (1520ish onwards)
  • Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon (1533)
  • New Laws (forcing everyone to acknowledge his divorce and remarriage) (1534)
  • Thomas More and his fate (1535)
  • Henry VIII and the monasteries (1536-1541)
  • The future…?
In your group, you may want to split it up and do one bit each. Will you be able to communicate during the half term? Who will put it together? How will you share big files (GoogleDrive/ DropBox?)? Who will put it together? How will they put it together (MovieMaker/ iMovie?)?

Some vlogging tips:

Video Resources:

Download Worksheet: <here>

9L - Due in 13th November 2013

Monday, 21 October 2013

What Do You Talk About?


What do we talk about on Facebook?

This project fascinated me. A large group of participants gave Penn University access to their Facebook to document what they were talking about.

There are lots of words to try and it can be used for any topic or subject area. However I decided to test it with some words connected to RE.

Interestingly Jesus is spoken about by young children, he then takes a dip, before climbing again with age. Charity slowly grows, while God and Faith climb steeply in late teens and into early 20's.

What does this tell us? Not a huge amount. It's good to know that as we get older we continue to talk about Hope. Unless it's always prefixed with NO and the data didn't pick this up!

Try some words of your own, what do you find out?


Thursday, 17 October 2013

Funerals After Abortions



In Holland, a new practice has started becoming more and more popular... above is an image of coffins for aborted babies.

The idea behind this is that parents who are told they are carrying a child with particular illness or disability are given the option (or even encouraged to take) of inducing the pregnancy too early resulting in the termination of the fetus. 

They then can arrange a funeral, place they're child in a coffin and mourn for it.

Do you think this helps the process? Do you think it makes abortions more acceptable? Do you think that it is right for parents to hold a funeral when they have made the decision about the abortion? 

Read more <here>  

Are Dogs People?


Many people call their dog their best friend. There are so many stories about how dogs have shown loyalty, bravery and love to their owners beyond other humans. But is that enough? Does that make them on a par with humans?

Perhaps so.

Genesis makes it very clear that it is humans and humans only that are made in the image of God. As such, they have stewardship over the earth and are essentially 'in charge'. Humans are special and different to other animals; humans have a soul according to many.

However scientists have been performing many tests on dogs to try and establish exactly what goes on in those doggy brains, beside dreams about chasing rabbits!

After spending time training dogs to use an MRI scanner, scientists have discovered "striking similarity between dogs and humans in both the structure and function of a key brain region: the caudate nucleus." This is the part of the brain that determines our likes and dislikes and appreciation for things such as music.

However they have gone on to test this to show that dogs do seem to have a love and attachment to their owners similar to a human child. 

This could cause problems legally as dogs are still considered objects, that can be disposed off in humane ways if need be. Also they are still exploited in certain ways, puppy mills, dog racing etc which could be outlawed if they were differently classed.

This is obviously a long way off, but does such neuroscience start questioning the rights we give to animals?

Do you think this is a sensible idea? How do you feel about pets? Do you need testing to know your dog loves you? Will animals always just be animals?


Monday, 30 September 2013

Y9: Assessment 1 - Pilgrimage


Your first Y9 Assessment is focused on places of Christian pilgrimage. You must pick one place to really focus on; it must be detailed information that shows you really understand the place in the context of pilgrimage.

You may want to present it like a straightforward project book, or some people have chose to make PowerPoints, websites or even videos!

A popular choice is to present it like an advertisement for the place allowing space to fully explain why it is important and why it is a significant place of pilgrimage.

To aim for L6 and above it is necessary to think creatively! Perhaps include an interview with a person to allow for a description of the life changing effects?

Places you may want to choose:

1.Taize, France
2. St Michael’s Tower, Glastonbury, UK
3. Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem
4. Vatican City / Rome
5. Slipper Chapel, Walsingham UK
6. St James Cathedral, Compostela (Santiago de Compostela), Spain
7. Medjugorje, Croatia
8. Knock, Ireland
9. Lourdes, France
10. Fatima, Portugal

Thing about:
  • What do pilgrims do and see there?
  • Why it is an important place of pilgrimage?
  • How did it become a place of pilgrimage?
  • What effects can a pilgrim expect?
  • How will a pilgrimage effect their every day lives?
  • How do people get there?
  • Where do people stay?
  • What does it look like (pictures)?
  • Where exactly is it (map)?
Download 'Green' Sheet

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Biggest Threat to Marriage?



Catholic Memes is a website that uses Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. It is a way of evangelising through a slightly different means, often using images and text which can provoke debate around various Catholic issues.

Yesterday, they posted: "I am not in favour of same-sex marriage, but if Christians want to really support traditional marriage, then they should realise divorce is far and away the biggest threat."

This was accompanied by the above picture, which was later followed by:

 
It provided a lot of debate with many people discussing what the biggest threat to marriage was.
 
What do you think? Should the Catholic Church focus on all these areas and not just same-sex marriage? What do you think has been most damaging to marriage?

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Atheist Babies?


Many people define atheists as people who believe "there is no God". But what if that definition was people who do not believe "there is a God."?

This second definition is becoming more common. However it raises certain problems, one such being babies. Are babies born atheists?

Atheists have used this to claim that the 'natural state' is therefore one of atheism.

Yet it creates problems as babies don't believe there is no God, in the same way they don't believe there is a God, thefore is this not a form of non-atheism?

Jimmy Akin explores this in more detail <here>. It is also one of themes of the book, Knowledge of Angels (buy it <here>).

Do you think babies make a good 'test case'? What do you think our 'natural state' is? How do we best define atheism? Should we just leave babies alone to dribble and pull silly faces?

Monday, 16 September 2013

Ban the Burqa?


A number of European countries have banned the burqa veils: France, Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands have various laws restricting their wearing in public places. Could the UK be next?

Lib Dem Home Office minister Jeremy Browne has called for national debate and possible ban from girls wearing veils in public places such as schools.

This was a reaction to the news that Birmingham Metropolitan College had dropped a ban on pupils wearing full-face veils due to protests.
 
The Qur'an and the Hadith require both men and women to dress and behave modestly in public, known as hijab. This has then been interpreted in many different ways by Muslim scholars and communities. Some communities do believe that a burqa is mandatory. If it is worn, it is often by young, unmarried women.
 
Any ban is likely to cause problems with the Muslim community. Mohammed Khaliel, founder of Islamix, a group that aims to build understanding between communities, said: "A small section of the Muslim community do believe that the face veil is mandatory... Now, why should I go and rip that off their face saying 'I don't think you should believe that'?"
 
The debate is a complex one with many comments already been made on the topic. Does it create division or unity for the UK population?
 
Do you think the burqa should be banned in the UK? Does it make society 'more free' by banning it? Do you think it is wrong to make young girls wear it at a young age before they really know what they are doing? Do you think it should be banned just in places like schools?
 
Read more <here>

*UPDATE* 17/9/13


The Sun demands vital reforms:
1) BAN veils in school, courts and hospitals
2) BAN them in airports, banks and secure areas
3) LET employer decide if ok in the workplace
4) BUT freedom to wear them in the street

Read more <here>
 
Full-face veils aren't barbaric – but our response can be
"It is crucial to distinguish such legitimate debate, and reasonable legal regulation, from political and legal responses such as those in France and Belgium that construct Muslim religious difference as barbaric – thereby targeting veiled Muslim women as the latest victims in Europe's long history of persecution."
 
Interesting Guardian Comment <here>

 

Sunday, 15 September 2013

SHoM A-Level RS Blog


"The Examined Life" is the working title of the Sacred Heart of Mary Girls' School A-Level RS Blog. Students are taking it in turn to blog about one aspect of their AS/A2 course, either linked to philosophy or ethics.

Our first post has been made, so please visit here to read, share and comment: http://shomrs.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/as-we-begin-new-school-year-our-focus.html

We hope you will visit frequently to find out what we have been learning about and read the reflections that students and staff have made.

What would you like to see on the blog? What topics would you enjoy reading about? Are you inspired to start a blog?

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Teenage Girl Exorcists


The casting out of demons was a power given by Jesus to his disciples. There are numerous accounts of Jesus performing exorcisms and it has forever remained a fascinating part of Christian life. Earlier in the year, Pope Francis was accused of making an exorcism in public (see <here>).

However in the latest tale of exorcisms, Brynne Larson (18) and Tess (18) and Savannah Scherkenback (21) claim to be able to cast out demons and indeed have dedicated their lives to it.

There is a certain 'performance' that goes with these exorcisms, "The teenage exorcists are greeted on stage as if they were celebrities. There is applause and they announce to the audience that they look forward to "kicking some demon butt". They see themselves as "freedom fighter" and hold up silver crosses and Bibles on stage while confronting the demon to make it return to hell.

They have already travelled to over 20 countries casting out demons and performing exorcisms.

Do you think it is right that these girls have been trained up by on of their fathers to perform exorcisms? Do you think that the 'performance' is necessary? Do you think that it is okay for them to ask for donations for doing this (a few hundred dollars reportedly)?

Teen Exorcists will be broadcast on Thursday 12 September 2013 at 21:00 BST on BBC Three. Or catch up later on BBC iPlayer.

Read More: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-23986595

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Buy A Priest A Beer!


Monday 9th September marks International Buy A Priest A Beer Day. According to The Catholic Gentleman blog: "On this festive day, faithful Catholics all over the world take their priests out for a beer and get to know them better. It’s a beautiful Catholic tradition that goes back to the time of St. Hopswald of Aleyard, the first man to take his priest out for a beer."

In the write up of this day, it reminds people that priests are normal people too. It suggests inviting your priest out for a beer, or round for dinner. Despite their often hectic schedule, it is often a welcome break for the dedicated clergy.

I'm not sure how well-known this special day is, or indeed St Hospwald of Aleyard is, but it seems like a good reason to pop to the pub with a priest!

Read more <here>.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Syria: "We Cannot Just Stand By"


The phrase "we cannot just stand by" is often used by the general public and politicians alike as a justification for going to war with Syria.

It is hard to argue that the images and stories emerging from Syria are nothing short of horrific, but the UK parliament have already voted against military action and the US are still awaiting a decision from Senate.

A blogger pointed out this phrase, "we cannot just stand by", is particularly dangerous as an excuse for military action because:

1) Standing by might be better than poorly thought-through action.
2) Diplomatic options are not just 'standing by'.
3) People who say it 'stand by' various other human rights violations day after day.

Do you think it is wrong to 'just stand by'? A well know saying is "Evil exists because good people do nothing", could this be used against the UK's decision? Do you think people are selective in what action they want to take?

Inspired by Alex Higgins

Tweeted by @StanCollymore

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Good Riddance or Cowardly?


On Tuesday, Ariel Castro, the man who kept women captive at his home in Cleveland, Ohio, has died after being found hanging in his cell.

He had been sentenced on to life imprisonment without parole plus 1,000 years on 1 August 2013.

The prosecutor who had tried him responded by calling him a "coward" unable to withstand "a small portion" of what he had inflicted on the women he had raped and kept captive for 10 years.

Reports suggest he used his bedsheets to hang himself and was discovered during a routine 30 check. Doctors were unable to resuscitate him.

Such a long sentence, in a country where the death penalty is still legal and used, was always going to be controversial. This comment from Facebook makes it clear:


It is indeed costly to keep someone in prison for their whole lives. However in this case where Castro kept young women as captives, it was a small dose of revenge in the eyes of many.

In the UK, killers such as Harold Shipman and Fred West have committed suicide rather than live out their life sentences. Both cases caused controversy with one group saying good riddance, while others claiming that prisons should do more to prevent such criminals gaining and 'easy way out' from their punishment.

Do you think suicide is an 'easy way out'? Is it a sign of absolute remorse? Do you think it is better or worse for the victims? Do you think prisons need to do more to prevent suicides?

Read more:Here
Papers Divided After Shipman Suicide

Sunday, 1 September 2013

The Conscience of Guide Leaders: God or Not?


In June it was announced that Girls Guides would drop an allegiance to God in their oath. The Queen was to remain, but it was decided that to mention God was inappropriate; read more <here>. However a number of Girl Guide groups have close ties to churches and are run by Christians, as such they have decided to keep the 'to God' part and risk being expelled from the Girl Guides.

The promise to “love my God” has been scrapped and replaced with a pledge to “be true to myself” and to “develop my beliefs”. The idea being it allowed all Guides to make the promise with sincerity.

However a group of leaders from Harrogate, North Yorks, have decided that they plan to defy the change and continue to use the old pledge at the groups which meet in their church and are supported by a Christian community.

Adding to the situation, a volunteer leader, Jem Henderson, who is an atheist has accused the group of forcing her to take the old promise, against her conscience.

The Harrogate Guide leaders' response to this was, "No one need join Girlguiding, so removing the reference to God in the interests of inclusivity removes much of what we stand for."

They added: “Girlguiding has God at its core and anyone who has issue with this is free to start their own organisation.”

However the Girl Guides HQ have made it clear that the leaders risk expulsion from the guiding movement.

Do you think the group is right to use the old oath given they are part of, and supported by, a church community? Do you think the oath should include Christian links? The Guides has always had a Christian foundation, is it right to abandon it? Do you think it would be right to expel these Guide leaders?

Read more <here>

We're Back!


It's the start of a new year and TalkingDonkeyRE is back from his summer holidays!

Hopefully there will be a couple of posts a week to help students and teachers of RE. We have just had our 80,000th visitor which is truly amazing; thank you all for your continued support.

Please do continue to give feedback, adding comments and sharing the links.

Make sure you are following @TalkingDonkeyRE on Twitter to get the latest updates. If you are a teacher, please also follow @iTeachRE and visit www.iTeachRE.co.uk.

Mr Lewis & the SHoM RE Dept 


Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Indulgences for Following on Twitter


The Catholic Church has always granted indulgences to reduce the time Catholics will have to spend in purgatory after they have confessed and been absolved of their sins. Now, indulgences are available to followers of Pope Francis' tweets.

However senior Vatican officials were quick to warn Twitter addicted Catholics that indulgences still required a level of faith and commitment to the teachings of the Church.

Catholic World Youth Day begins in Rio de Janeiro on 22nd July and lasts for a week. As many people can't get to Brazil, the Vatican has offered indulgences to those who follow the "rites and pious exercises" of the event on television, radio and through social media too.

It is important to remember that an indulgence would hinge on the beneficiary having been to confession, as well as being "truly penitent and contrite".

As well as Pope Francis using Twitter, the Vatican has launched an online news app, a Facebook page, and it plans to use the online social networking site Pinterest.

"What really counts is that the tweets the Pope sends from Brazil or the photos of the Catholic World Youth Day that go up on Pinterest produce authentic spiritual fruit in the hearts of everyone," said Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli.

Do you follow the Pope? Is this a good way for young people to engage with their Catholic faith? Do you think it is right to grant indulgences for following on Twitter?

Read more <here>
Follow Pope Francis <here>

Monday, 15 July 2013

Frank Skinner, Fatherhood & Meditation


Frank Skinner is most commonly associated with his popular Saturday morning radio show on Absolute. However he is also a stand up comedian, former prime time chat show host and committed Catholic. He regularly attends Mass at Farm Street Jesuit Church in Mayfair.

He returned to the Catholic Church in his late-20s, after being disillusioned with it in his teens. Now he feels he is able to discuss his faith openly, even on his radio show, "I find that the people in my line of work who talk to me about religion are often very interested, rather than very disparaging... Atheists and agnostics are often more interested in religion than the religious people."

His son, Buzz, was born in May 2012 and was baptised at Farm Street Jesuit Church in Mayfair; "When you've got a child, the love that you feel is like nothing else you feel in the rest of your life. And I think for the believer - certainly the parent - it gives you the clearer view of what a big painful, awful sacrifice that was. When they become your primary concern, ahead of yourself - for me, it's helped me to understand that sort of love of God, that selfless, forgiving love."

Frank Skinner has developed an interest in silent reflection and in his last book about life on the road as a stand up comedian he talks about Lectio Divina; "Through short periods of time, I developed the ability to stop thinking and clear my mind... And I suppose afterwards you feel peace. You start to feel very centred and that starts to inform the rest of your life. I feel that God is in that - in everything - and it's like that silence can make you feel it in yourself." 

Why do you think it is still unusual for celebrities to talk openly about their faith? Is there many Catholics who are as proud and as open about their faith as Frank Skinner? Do you think this helps others? Do you think its common for people to change their outlook to their faith as they go through life?

Read more <here>
Full interview: Read the interview with Frank Skinner - alongside features on the first Jesuit Pope (Francis), a preview of World Youth Day in Brazil and expressions of hope for Zimbabwe in the light of forthcoming elections - in the summer edition of Jesuits and Friends, available online at: www.jesuitmissions.org , from Jesuit parishes throughout Britain or by post from Jesuit Missions, 11 Edge Hill, London SW19 4LR.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Most Babies Born Out of Wedlock?


A report predicts that if current trends continue, the majority of babies born in three years' time will have parents who are not married.

The number of children born out of wedlock rose again in 2012 for the 40th consecutive year to 47.5%. By 2016 it is expected to rise to more than 50% meaning more babies are born out of wedlock than in it. In 1938, just 4% of babies had unmarried parents.

This may be linked to the fact that the number of couples who are cohabitating/serious relationships that are married has now fallen below 50% according to the 2011 census. This is the first time since 1801 (when figures were first collected) that they have been in a minority.

Does this matter? Do you think the government should do more to promote marriage? Do you think this is because people are less religious? Do you think there would be a similar trend in religious couples?

Read more <here>

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Is Hulk a Catholic?

 
L'Osservatore Romano have recently run an article on  'the religiousness of superheroes' - including comic book favourites the Hulk, Batman and Superman.

The article featured images of Bruce Wayne (Batman) as a boy saying his prayers by his bed and the Hulk depicted with rosary beads in his hands.

Senior journalist Gaetano Vallini wrote, "Is it enough for a person to have a rosary in his hand to be defined a Catholic? ...Bruce Banner, the incredible green man, in fact married his beloved Betty Ross in a church and a Catholic priest presided at the ceremony... There are other indications dispersed among the hundreds of comic strips dedicated to him that are said to unequivocally reveal his faith."

He then goes on to say there is evidence to suggest the mother of Batman’s alter ego Bruce Wayne was Catholic while the character Nightcrawler from the X-Men films explicitly refers to his Catholic faith.

Do you think many people have worked out these superheroes are Catholic? Do you think it just use of distinctive imagery? Is it more just the illustrators Catholic upbringing? Do you think it's right (or indeed useful!) that Churches are encouraging their congregation to view these films in a Christian context?


Read more <here> and <here>

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Priests & Nuns Should Drive Humble Cars!


Pope Francis has said, “It hurts me when I see a priest or a nun with the latest model car, you can’t do this.”

He went on to say, "A car is necessary to do a lot of work, but please, choose a more humble one. If you like the fancy one, just think about how many children are dying of hunger in the world."

Much has been made of Pope Francis' attitude to the poor and the way in which he is living his life (see previous blog post <here>). He has given up some of the trappings of Office including living in a guest house rather than the opulent papal apartments.

Apparently the Pope's car of choice for moving around the walled Vatican City is a compact Ford Focus. He also borrowed Fiat as a popemobile for his first papal visit to the Italian island of Lampedusa last Monday (see above).

Do you think the Pope is right to challenge the clergy on their materialistic attitudes? Do you think by setting an example he is able to change the thousands of priests around the world? Do you think it is too simplistic to say they should be thinking of the staving children?

Read more <here> and <here>

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Praying Isn't Enough



Two parents who believed that visiting a doctor was akin to worshipping a false idol have been found guilty separately of second-degree reckless homicide. They prayed to save their child instead of taking her to hospital, and as a result their 11 year-old daughter Madeline Kara Neumann (pictured above) died of undiagnosed diabetes.

The Neumanns had contended their convictions, claiming they were unconstitutional because of the Wisconsin state's law that allows residents to pursue "treatment through prayer." However the judge over ruled this effectively eliminating legal immunity for prayer treatment.

The girls grandparents have pleaded for her to be taken to a doctor but her mother, Leilani Neumann, claimed that would take away the glory of God. After the girl died, Leilani told police God would raise Kara from the dead.

Do you think someone should have intervened before the girl had died? Do churches that promote this idea of prayer over medicine need to be challenged? How do you think this effects the perceptions of Christians?

Read more <here>

Thursday, 4 July 2013

"Protection of the Rights and Interests of Elderly People"


The title of this blog post is the name of a law passed in China a few months ago, introduced to effectively force people to look after and visit their elderly relatives.

In Confucian philosophy, filial piety is a virtue of respect for ones parents and ancestors. It is seen as one of the most important of virtues and many folklore stories tell of individuals great love, service and dedication to their parents. However it is seemingly not enough to simply tell your children of these ancient tales, it also needs to be enshrined in law officials have decided.

The law has nine clauses that lay out the duties of children and their obligation to tend to the “spiritual needs of the elderly.”. It clearly states that children should go home “often” to visit their parents and send them greetings. Companies and work units should legally give employees enough time off so they can make these parental visits.       

It does not specify punishments, but already people are beginning to use this law to force their children to take care of them. A court in Wuxi found a couple guilty after they were sued by the wife's mother-in-law. They are now bound by a court order to visit at least once every two months to tend to her 'spiritual needs' and pay her compensation. One can only assume the subsequent visits have been more than a little awkward!

Much of this has come after many Chinese people have moved to the cities in search of work and left their parents in the countryside. Reports indicate that half of the 185 million people age 60 and older live apart from their children.

Do you think this is a good idea? Do you think it will help the problem? What aspects of this are a positive thing? What problems can you see?

Read more here: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/03/world/asia/filial-piety-once-a-virtue-in-china-is-now-the-law.html
  

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Organ Donors: Opt-in or Out-out?


On a historic day, the Welsh assembly have voted through a law that will mean people have to opt-out of the organ donation register. Effectively in Wales, people will automatically be considered as a donor when they die, unless they have expressly 'opted-out' of the register.

It was discussed on this blog last year about how the ethical dilemma presented by the fact it was easy to sign people up to the donor register, and that you could save lives by signing up your friends and family with them not knowing.... read more <here>.

It is the first part of the UK to adopt such a law, which is already in place in a number of other countries and could be in force by 2015.

The aim of the aim of the Bill is to increase the number of organs available from Wales, potentially by 25%. It is important to remember that not every organ is suitable for donation, nor is it necessarily easy to find a match. It is hoped that the number of donors rise from around 65 donors to 80 and that from these additional donors, there would be a further 26 kidneys, 10 livers, two hearts and four lungs available for transplant - all potentially saving a life.

It is not as easy as some people think to make a correlation between signing up, then donating organs and then saving a life. According to the NHS Blood and Transplant service, it is fewer than 5,000 people that die every year in the UK in circumstances that would allow them to donate successfully.

However, it is estimated there are around 250 people in the UK on a waiting list for a transplant at any one time, with 33 people in Wales died in 2012/13 while waiting. Surely if even a few of these could be saved, the law would be worth while?

The counter-argument revolves around the fact that some people do not like the idea that the State takes charge of the dead body, using it as they see fit. Also people want to know what clauses there will be if a family are against donation from a loved one, will it forcibly take place?

It certainly creates a few ethical questions will no doubt be asked over the next few years in Wales.

Do you agree an opt-out system is better? Despite it only saving a few more lives, is it worth it? How do you think the people of Wales will feel? Do you think it is right that the State can interfere like this? What clauses would you like to see in the new law?

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-23143236
Read more with further detail on the 'For' and 'Against': http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/debate/should-we-move-to-an-optout-system-of-organ-donation-8375859.html

Friday, 28 June 2013

St Alban: Protomartyr of Britain



Today I visit St Alban's for the first time, taking Y8. The Abbey there is home to St Alban and it reminded me of something I wrote for a website on 'English Heros':

Saint Alban was the first British Christian martyr.

To understand his importance for England, it is important to remember that many have called for him to replace St George as the patron saint of England, or even as Britain as a whole.

Alban was a pagan living at Verulamium (now St Albans), who converted to Christianity, and was executed by decapitation on a hill above the Roman settlement of Verulamium. St Albans Abbey was later founded near this site.

The date of Alban's execution has never been firmly established, although The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles lists the year 283.


His crime?

Alban sheltered a Christian priest in his home, and was converted and baptised by him. When the Roman soldiers were sent to Alban's house to look for the priest, Alban exchanged cloaks with the priest and was arrested in his stead at Chantry Island. Alban was taken before the magistrate, who was furious at the deception and ordered that Alban be given the punishment due to the priest if he had indeed become a Christian. Alban declared, "I worship and adore the true and living God who created all things." These words are still used in prayer at St Albans Abbey.

St Alban was eventually sacrificed to the Roman gods and was condemned to death. He was taken out of the town across the River Ver to the top of the hill opposite. The reputed place of his beheading is where St Albans Cathedral now stands.

St Bede tells several legends associated with the story of Alban's execution. On his way to the execution, Alban had to cross a river, and finding the bridge full of people, he made the waters part and crossed over on dry land. And the executioner was so impressed with Alban's faith that he also converted to Christianity on the spot, and refused to kill him. Another executioner was quickly found (whose eyes dropped out of his head when he did the deed), and the first was killed after Alban, thereby becoming the second British Christian martyr.



His shrine in St Alban's Cathedral

St Alban's Cathedral website reads: "Ever since those early times, people have journeyed to this place to remember Alban and all that he stands for. They have come to pray for peace and healing and to seek God. They came in such numbers in the early middle ages that St Albans became the premier Abbey in all England. They come here still."

England has a history of matyrdom, it is something that littered our history books. There have been protestants killed by catholics, catholics killed by protestants, and all other nature of early Christians willing to die for their faith. Perhaps it is something to do with our English-ness that we are ready to die for what we believe in? St Alban was just the first of literally thousands who have died over the last 1800 years in England for their Christian faith. I do think the calls for him to be our true patron saint are very well founded indeed.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Religion: Cause Of Evil, Not Force For Good?


The headline from a recent YouGov poll gave two key facts about young people in Britain:
  • Religious figures have the least influence on their lives.
  • More say religion is a force for evil than a force for good.
The 2011 Census suggested 59% of the population defined themselves as Christian and just 25% said they had no religion, but it seems that when looking at 18-24 year olds there is a very different picture.

Friends and family obviously dominated the question about who had most influence on their lives but only 12% feel influenced by religious leaders, which was far less than politicians (38%), brands (32%) and celebrities (21%).

Religion's reputation also seems to have suffered with young people, 41% agree that “religion is more often the cause of evil in the world” and only 14% say it is a cause for good.

When asked if they believe in God, only 25% said they did; 19% believed in some non-Godlike “spiritual greater power” and a further 38% claimed no belief no God or spiritual power whatsoever.

Amongst believers, the most represented denominations were Church of England (13%), then Roman Catholic (9%) and Muslim (4%).

The Huffington Post reported that A Church of England spokesperson said: "It is unsurprising that this sample of less than 1,000 people gives a different result than a Census of tens of millions of people. Even then these figures show more people choosing belief over non-belief."
Do you think this is an accurate picture? Do you think that 18-24 year olds are 'less religious' than the rest of the population? Why? Do you think their views are heavily influenced by the media? Do the the media portray a 'fair image' of religion? Why/not?

Read more at: http://yougov.co.uk/news/2013/06/24/british-youth-reject-religion & http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/06/25/religion-cause-of-evil-force-for-good-_n_3494971.html

Monday, 17 June 2013

5y/o Peace Campaigner vs Westboro Baptist Church


Jayden Sink is the 5 year old daughter of Jon, who runs a philanthropic arts group called Fresh Cassette. After being told that the church across the street had a message of hate, she decided to set a goal of raising money to instead go towards a message of love and peace.

The Equality House stands across the road from Westboro Baptist Church's Kansas headquarters. It is owned by a group called Planting Peace who are a non-profit organisation dedicated to spreading goodwill and equality.

She put up a sign "Pink Lemonade for Peace: $1 Suggested Donation." and literally hundreds of people came and supported her. All money raised goes towards Planting Peace.

However the Westboro Baptist Church tried to shut her down, even calling the police and then shouting obscenities at those who arrived to support Jayden.

“Jayden represents the natural humanity we are born with," said Davis Hammet, Director of Operations at Planting Peace, "We come into this world compassionate, caring beings and only become hateful if we are taught to be.”

Donate <here>
Read more <here>

Why do you think as Christians the Westboro Baptist Church is so filled by hate? Do you think this act was deliberately antagonistic? Why do you think they had such a problem with the young girl selling lemonade?

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Tweeting from the Afterlife?


Are you addicted to Twitter? Is it the first thing you do in the morning? And the last thing at night? Would you want to keep on Tweeting even after you died?

_LIVESON are now offering just this service. It takes over your Twitter account after you have died, so you can 'live on' in cyberspace. It "analyses your main twitter feed. Learning about your likes, tastes, syntax.". It will start Tweeting while you are still alive in order for you to give it feedback, to make it Tweet more like you!

AS ABC News point out, this is just one of the odd things concerning people now about their 'social media afterlife':

"Questions about who owns your social media and Internet accounts after you pass away have swirled for years. New Hampshire State Rep. Peter Sullivan introduced legislation to allow the executor of an estate control over the social networking pages of the dead. There have been similar questions about who owns your iTunes or other media downloads."

Dave Bedwood, the creator of the _LIVESON service, says “This to me, this is no weirder than any afterlife that has been promised by organised religion, or hell that has been threatened... It’s just a sign of our times, lets explore that.”

Would you want to 'live on' on social media after you die? How your friends and family feel? Would it be comforting or disturbing? Do you agree with Bedwood that this is no weirder that what Christianity teaches?

Visit _LIVESON: <here>
Read more: <here>