Buy holy water!

Holy water, available on Amazon! What would you use it for? The happy reviewer wrote, living in shoreditch i have regular problems with foxes and vampires. This particular holy water didn’t work so well on the foxes but was just so effective against the undead. I splashed just a small amount on this vampire once and his whole face fell off.

The forum Catholic Answers- To explain and defend the Faith– debated this. Veteran member Dorothy said, Right away it is problematic, as new age “holy water” is not blessed by a priest. You can obtain holy water that is blessed from your Catholic Church. Note the scare quotes: make sure only to use proper, Catholic, holy water.

Porthos- probably not the Musketeer- said, Further, any blessed item loses its blessing when sold. Revert_Jen wanted to see citations for that: I suppose a controlled experiment could be held easily enough, unless experimenting on blessed items makes them lose their blessing too. Lovely, to see her Mediaeval way of finding truth prospering in the Catholic church.

I checked with eBay. If a blessed item is sold, the blessing is lost; to claim otherwise is the sin of Simony, and a mortal sin for the seller. Further, blessed items have no special power, only sentimental value. The Pope’s blessing is worth no more than a deacon’s, a rare non-hierarchical rule for his church. But this bit is odd: Any blessed item may be given to another person, whether that person is Catholic or not, and the blessing is retained. The exception to this is for items blessed under the old regulations on indulgences. These blessings have all been abolished. These blessings were personal and do not pass on to another person if the item is given as a gift. So, if someone were to give you an old indulgenced crucifix or rosary you would not be able to gain the indulgences. The item is, however, still considered blessed in the ordinary sense.

I had thought the RC church last sold indulgences before the counter-reformation.

eBay again: what about “Papal Blessings” obtained from Rome? In this case the person obtaining the blessing is paying for the parchment of declaration, packing and shipping, and any administrative fees. Remember, the people involved in producing the document and packing and shipping it must be paid. There is no charge for the blessing per se. Any fee is to pay those involved in the process of procuring and sending the document.

Parchment Papal blessings may be granted, if there is a nihil obstat, for the 18th and 50th birthdays and every decade thereafter, and requested in writing or by facsimile transmission equipment- telefax (+39) 06.69883132- but not by email or telephone.

Direct From Lourdes provides Lourdes Water, Rosary Beads, Miraculous Medals and a large collection of the best Catholic Gifts. Our fine range of quality and unique Religious Goods and Catholic Jewelry can be sent to any location worldwide. A grateful recipient writes, The Catholic Products were beautifully packaged and I am very pleased with the quality of your Catholic Gift Shop. I even cried when I opened the package and held the water in my hand. These things give many people a great deal of comfort.

Murillo, Maria Immaculata

Emotional ambitions

As I accelerated downhill towards the chicane, a white van passed me. When I caught him up at the junction, as his window was down I had the delight of shouting at the driver: What if someone was coming the other way? What if you had had to stop suddenly, and I had run into your back?

-There wasn’t anyone coming the other way, he said.
-There’s a blind bend! You’re an idiot!

My throat is a bit sore.

The brakes on this bicycle are a lot better, so I would not have run into his back. I might’ve, on the other one. Anger is not the best response when rushing down hill with nothing protecting your head but a lump of polystyrene. And there is a feeling of freedom letting it out shouting.

I read that climbing I should look for a cadence of 72rpm, far faster than I am used to. It uses different muscle fibres. I tried it. I will try it again. I am pleased by learning this.

Normally I would not want to go off on one. One is cool and calm, until wound up by something which seems totally wrong or unfair especially where I do not anticipate it. I can forgive my father- he is just like that- though a rebellion phase of expressing anger may be useful, and perhaps anger after might be effective.

My problem has not been showing my feelings to others, but knowing them myself. I suppressed them. Now, my problem is facing and accepting them. This is why I shut them down with television, rather than opening them with meditation. Or why I procrastinate: I am overwhelmed by the feelings I anticipate, some of which I project on others.

Feelings, situations, even depression are OK- the problem comes in fleeing them. I am like Jonah fleeing God: the storms get higher. Escape the belly of the beast- come out into the sunshine- out of the Cave…

Tintoretto, Jonah leave the whale's belly

Behold, the man

More Ecce Homo pictures.

Rubens, Ecce Homo

At first I thought Rubens had got it completely wrong. His Jesus made me think of frown, and wrinkled lip, and stare of cold command- quite the wrong passions for the Passion. And then I saw this Christ as holding your gaze: demanding to be seen, as a human being, but any challenge is in the viewer. We may project, but Christ accepts. Pilate is defeated. He wants to release Jesus but politically has no power to.

Willem van Herp, Ecce Homo

You would expect a Dutchman of the time to give the Romans Spanish helmets. The soldiers mock, jeer and prod, and even the dog challenges, and Christ sits, powerless- the crossed wrists exemplify that for me- yet straight-backed. This is art as resistance.

Bosch or follower, Ecce Homo 1590s

More Bosch. Below there is tumult, and in the upper left- many possible stories there.

Love and Ritual

“Saxon Church” said the sign, so I asked if we could have a look. It has round, Roman, arches, which is unusual, but a pointy, Gothic, one between the nave and the sanctuary- this one architectural factoid does not take me far. I studied the many long, narrow stones making up the arch.

On entering, I noted a stoup marked “Holy water” so crossed myself. In nomini Patris et Filii et Spiritu Sancti. Liz would not do that. Up the nave to the Sanctuary, past the Victorian stained glass, “To the Glory of God”- of course- “and in loving memory of”- 1888. Jesus, in gorgeous robes fit for the most prosperous Bishop, looks with love at three different people whose lives are changed instantly. I note there is the usual altar/ communion table at the end of the nave, then steps up and an altar rail shielding a further altar. I go down the steps to the south chapel.

“I saw there was no light over the Aumbry.” These words mean nothing to her. I explained: the bread and wine are consecrated, and may be kept for later use, in a wee cupboard, but normally there is a lamp burning constantly above it, to stop the holiness, er, evaporating off. This don’t impress her much. I did not say that the light also indicates whether one should bow or genuflect when passing the altar. The lock protects the silver chalice, but the precious thing inside is the wafer itself.

Going out, I read the card under the stoup: when we cross ourselves with holy water, it explained, we remember our baptism and renew our baptismal vows. I would not go that far; but if I went a bit Buddhist with my Quaker friend and said the unusual sensation of the cold water on my forehead might put me into that sensitive sensory state we call mindfulness, that might mean more.

I have another job interview. She will hold me in the Light. When is it, exactly? Another Friend had been irked to get the wrong day; she had been Holding me a day early, so I rushed to assure her it is not time-limited. My Friends love me. This upholds me. I tried telepathy as a teenager- what, you did too? Powerless leads to desperate measures- and do not expect a sudden rush of a feeling of worth as I shake hands. The feeling of worth might also come from the new suit, from Planet- well, new to me, anyway.

The water is a symbol the love and care of the vicar for the church and all who enter it. Crossing myself, I acknowledge and partake in that love. I accept its welcome, and we come together though we do not meet. It is a deep stoup with a lot of water, so won’t evaporate away if unfilled for a day. I have seen tiny Catholic stoups dry, because they need refilled constantly.

John Paul II had to make a ruling- if you see him blessing a crowd on the telly as it happens, he said, it’s effectual, and he has blessed you. But not if you record it on video, and get it out for a blessing when you feel the need.

Rossetti, Lady Lilith


Here is an argument as put by an ally, in a way I could not put it:

I am cisgender, identifying with the gender I was assigned at birth, and will therefore not pretend to understand what it is like to be otherwise. But given the difficulty and expense of changing pronouns, name, wardrobe or sex organs, I find it hard to believe that anyone would do so out of some goal of attention or manipulation, or anything other than genuine and extreme discomfort with their previous life… All that is being asked of people comfortable with the gender they were assigned at birth is their acceptance and respect.

“Cisgender”, “identifying”, “assigned”- this is a person who has read about us or talked to us, and uses our language. “Cisgender” is a word she feels the need to explain, unless the magazine put that bit in. This is the only language which does not call trans women men, but some object to it. She has done some research, and shows empathy.

Pronouns, name, wardrobe or sex organs– I like that list, giving an indication of the magnitude of the change. Changing my wardrobe to a new look is indeed a big deal. Social changing is huge.

Genuine and extreme discomfort is the point. I felt it, and before then was desensitised by its magnitude. I still feel it, am still recovering. That’s the argument I can’t make, because when it is not a killer argument for someone that’s a punch in the throat for me. “You were upset? Tough. Shit happens.” Lots of people have a really hard time, and I do not want to dismiss anyone else’s struggles, because when someone dismisses mine it makes me worthless, weak and ridiculous, again, and I despair.

She said it. I am grateful. I feel cared for. I wish I did not need that, which is a shame, because it is part of the human condition.

Acceptance and respect. Not special treatment in any way; if we are criminals I want no special treatment, but I want your horror directed at the criminal themself, not at all of us. I want called by the name I choose and not to have particular fears around going to the toilet. It is not much to ask.

Renoir, Parisiennes in Algerian costume

Key Stage One

How do we test the English Language skills of seven year olds? By checking whether they write sentences they- and I!- would never speak. To be classified at “working at the expected standard” they must use four different forms of sentences- statements, questions, exclamations and commands. A sentence has a subject and a verb, and an “Exclamation sentence” must start with “How” or “What”. “How odd!” would not do, as it has no verb.

We learn to write by reading and thinking. But what we read rarely has exclamatory sentences in this form, so one can only learn it by rote. What a lot of bullshit this is! How it reduces writing, an exploration of freedom, into a boring rote-learning!

Ah. I could just add “How” to the start of a sentence, check if it just might do, and tick the box in my own mind; though not to the sentences beginning with conjunctions. I understand you are not supposed to start a sentence with a conjunction. But I do it all the time, and now have found out about “subordinating conjunctions”. I am not sure what they are, exactly: I must ask a primary school child.

Key stage two writing assessment

These changes take writing back to the 19th century, and I remember a story of children learning Willie, Willie, Harry Steve (I never learned that, it was not mine, no-one has made Three Alexanders John ROBERT!! David two Roberts six Jameses into a rhyme. Onywye. Why learn it? Not so’s they could understand history, but so’s they could practice learning by rote. “So’s” mightn’t be one of the contracted words included, as it is regional.

“Stories that teachers have to make checklists of hundreds of different tickboxes are just plain wrong” says Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, but this is a lie. To count as “Working at the expected standard”, the child needs to tick all the boxes on that list, and so must write exclamation sentences; and evidence of their exclamation sentence, suffixes and contracted forms must be preserved. I have no idea what “exception words” are, and this list makes it no clearer. I was right, more or less, they are exceptions to spelling rules, but the abbreviation GPC for Grapheme Phoneme correspondence did not make it easier. I also found that “ture” in creature is pronounced tʃə: so my pedantry of saying “creature” rather than creacha is condemned. You might realise from that “t” that I liked rules- until now.

The 2014 English curriculum has set out the various spelling rules (and exception words) that need to be learnt by children in each year of their primary education.

Restorative Justice

Should I say I am in favour of Restorative Justice? Oceans of complexity stretch far beyond the horizon. Perhaps better to say I like the idea. From the book Restorative Justice and Civil Society, ed. Heather Strang and John Braithwaite, and a paper by Prof. Kathleen Daly of Griffith University, Brisbane, available as a pdf.

RJ is a kind of process- decision making by interested parties- and also the values underlying it. There is debate on what those values are: healing, caring and love come high. RJ seeks to transform the offender, who should acknowledge the wrongness of the offence.

A crime can afford an opportunity not only to repair harm and prevent recurrence, but tackle underlying problems. Principles of RJ practice include, foster awareness, avoid scolding or lecturing, involve offenders actively, accept ambiguity, separate the deed from the doer, see every instance of conflict as an opportunity for learning and grace.

Some problems with restorative justice:

“Non-dominated speech” is a value of RJ, according to the book. Unfortunately it does not define the phrase, and googling reveals only one result which does not refer back to that book. What it means is anyone’s guess.

Is “Restorative justice” opposed to retribution, or can it include it? I had been familiar with retribution as a justification for punishment- the term may also mean punishment which is harsh or painful. An offender may view reparation as punishment, because it is an imposition; the intent of the one imposing it may be less important than that perception. RJ advocates reject the attitude of hostility towards the offender, but justice has been moving towards rehabilitation over the last century.

What of restorative justice where the offender believes an assault to be legitimate retaliation? What if a man says a woman is “asking for it”? RJ then requires effort to correct that view, and its success might be measured according to whether the offender feels shame.

A chapter on Quaker principles says Quakers favour reintegrative shaming rather than stigmatic shaming: rather than the Scarlet Letter, shame can allow offenders to repair the harm they have caused and proudly return to the community. However our concept of the inner light and inner-directedness can make the worst offenders feel self-justified. As a Quaker, I would say the discipline of testing leadings in community should protect us from that, but that might not apply when the faith departs but some ways of seeing the world remain in the culture.

Is RJ something that happens after an offender has served a sentence? Should the victim forgive, and what does forgiveness mean? What is its purpose- to heal the victim, or restore a relationship?

Integrating understandings- not retributive or restorative, but both- may have value.

I step back from the ocean, feeling slightly dizzy.

El Greco, the resurrection

Beating the Government

The Bedroom Tax. What did you argue? He argued that the “spare bedroom” was nothing of the kind, that it was a room to store his own equipment which he needed because of his disability. That a room is just a room, not a “bedroom” or “living room”; that it may be a store room. It had never been used as a bedroom, because even though he lived in a Housing Association house, he had paid for the extension himself. The council had opposed the appeal, yet when he went before the tribunal judge, the lawyer took on board everything he said.

Then the Government had wanted to appeal, to add itself as a party to the proceedings, to get the detailed reasons for the judgment, and there had been some delay in implementing it; they had decided in the event not to appeal, and he was disappointed because had he won in the upper tribunal he would have set a precedent.

As he tells me, his passion about the case begins to show. His voice gets harder, he speaks more quickly, he will brook no disagreement. It is time to go into Meeting.

The one who introduced me, said Abigail is also a lawyer.
-Yes, a very long time ago.
He had trained as a barrister.
And immediately my shame had started up. With all the advantages I have had, look where I am now! I am without my wig, because I have cycled here, am overheated, and the heating is on. I cannot bear to put on my jeans and am self-conscious in my shorts. I wished she had not said.

And I feel so vulnerable, and threatened.

A friend has made me a necklace, of chunky Unakite beads, said to bring grounding, gentleness and calm, and to balance emotions with spirituality. It is pretty, but at the centre is a disc, three circles of tiny hearts. At this I feel intense emotion. Really intense- what happened? I think-

she recognised, valued and celebrated my Softness, and my Softness answered, which is joyous; and I fear that softness and vulnerability because I need to be harder,

and as we leave I start to babble, because I have to justify myself- I have played my cards as best I could, we all have good and bad luck, character, choices- I have not “ended up” like this because there is always possibility- phrases I have come up with, trying to reassure myself

it is alright, really
I am alright, really

I honestly did not think until later- a barrister, pleading his own housing benefit case? I had said, “I can sort of understand prejudice against immigrants, or sexual minorities, but prejudice against disabled people, I just can’t get my head around that.”

He said, people think you’re worthless, they can look down on you. And Hindus judge you on how you must have been bad in some fictional past life in their own heads. How horrible, to see this wonderful man, and judge him on the one thing he can’t do!

Millais, Portia- Kate Dolan

Using the bathroom

Why would a trans woman want to use a woman’s loo, rather than the men’s, anyway?

It’s not because I fear violence. Men in the genteel places I frequent are not violent. The decline in violent crime may have to do with the decline in heavy industry- men do not habitually undertake hard physical labour in dangerous places, so can be softer.

I found women’s loos pleasanter. This one has a carpet, and a box of tissues by the mirror to aid repairing ones make-up. Some have comfy chairs. There are dried or plastic flowers, and an air freshener to suppress ghastly smells. Men’s loos are yuck. A trans man I met felt the opposite way.

I really don’t want to go in the gents. I get self-conscious thinking of it: “Everyone would be looking at me and judging me!” Other people think about you far less than you do, and if they do, it rarely matters; and I could overcome these feelings, as I have with taking off my wig in public. But the feelings are strong.

It would be a symbol, that I am not a woman.

A friend said trenchantly that she would go in the gents’ if there was a long queue in the ladies’. It’s only a cubicle! I have done, once, in the aforementioned Employment Tribunal offices in Manchester, and the trans woman with me was shocked. This is me, reaching the nub, getting sidetracked and avoiding.

I kind of feel alright, at the moment. I get to feel I have the right to exist if I play this game. It’s not real, though. It would all just collapse, and I would have to find some other way.

Or- I am accepted in society, sort of, like this, and part of the game is that I express myself female.

It’s a symbol that I am accepted in society. It is a symbol for other people, too: if I have to be excluded from the women’s loos because I am a threat, I am more Othered, one of those it is acceptable to detest.

I hope I could talk down the apprehension and distress in me. It is not that bad really. It is only a cubicle. I hope I could bear it. I pray I don’t have to.

How would it be for the straights, the normal folk? The social rules change. I have found a way I can bear to be me, in the world. It was difficult. I might have to find a new way. I don’t want to.

How do you feel about me in your loo, or the other loo?

Alexej von Jawlensky, The Blue Mantilla