Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Voting at the next election

I am not suggesting that I would vote UKIP, but I can see why people will, if you want the UK to leave the EU what other option do you have?
 Quite frankly I am very despondent about politics in the  UK right now. Cameron is bent on not only destroying marriage, but the NHS and the welfare system. It seems he has now found God but you cannot help but wonder if this is to appease his former supporters. The Labour parties economic policy is laughable and I cannot forgive them for not only selling off gold at the bottom of the market but hastening the destruction of company pension schemes. The LibDems are a joke, for Clegg to be trounced in the "debates" shows the paucity of ideas and leadership. Right now Alec "wee heck" is running rings round all the Westminster politicians.
With the EU having the clown Baroness Ashton as "Foreign Minster", to be frank she gives clowns a bad name, it shows the numpties that are leading it.
I have been able to vote for the past 46 years and I have never more felt like not doing so. I will vote but right now I feel like putting "none of the above" on my ballot paper.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Easter Festivities

On the Wednesday before Easter I was at St George's Cathedral Southwark for the Chrism Mass. This is where the oils that are used throughout the year for baptisms, confirmations and for the anointing of the sick are blessed. It is at this Mass that the priests in the diocese renew their commitment. There must have been 90+ priests, 60 or so deacons plus six bishops (some retired) and the Archbishop. The cathedral was packed so I was feeling somewhat nervous, it all seemed to go OK.
Then Maunday Thursday I preached at the Mass of the Lord's Supper - I preach quite often but I was really worried about this one as it is a very important occasion. the Church was packed which made it worse. Fortunately all seemed to go off OK and I have received a lot of favourable comments about my homily. I also preached at the 8:00am Mass on Easter Sunday, that also seemed to go OK.
Good Friday evening we went out to dinner with Andrew and Gaew - it was Andrew's birthday. We had an excellent meal at a local one starred Michelin restaurant - they paid as a thank you for us having them stay  for two months when they were selling their flat and buying the new house. The meal was excellent, it being Good Friday I was eating fish which was no hardship as the cooking is brilliant.

Lawrie, Emma and Henry were down for Easter, arriving Easter Saturday (Lawrie was working on Good Friday). Helen also came down.
It was great to see them all. On Easter Sunday we were able to have dinner with our four children which was nice.
On Easter Monday six of us - Lawrie, Emma, Henry, Helena, Julia and I went up to London. The weather was great so apart from a look at one art exhibition we spent the time walking along South Bank where there were lots of street performers. We then went into St James Park and ended up at a French bistro for an early dinner. Helena then left to go up north by train. Sam did not come down as he went to Wales with his parents. Helena said that as she sees him every day so it is no hardship being apart for the odd couple of days.

All in all it was a great holiday.
I have now finished my dissertation and all the coursework for my degree - I just hope I pass!

Friday, 25 April 2014

Surrey Mother of Three Charged with Murder

The following taken form the Daily Telegraph may help explain why she did it. We can only pray for them all.

How do you describe life as a parent of a child with profound or life-limiting disabilities? “Inhumane. Insane. Pushed to the wire.” Henrietta Spink veers from the language of despair to that of hope. “It has been an extraordinary journey,” she says, with some positivity, of the past 26 years spent raising her two sons, both of whom need round-the-clock care. And then: “Our life has been destroyed.”
Henrietta, 52, and her husband Michael, 57, an expert in Islamic art, understand better than most the tragedy – there is no other word – that is currently unfolding in south London, where Tania Clarence, 42, has been charged by police over the deaths of three of her four children: three‑year-old twin sons Ben and Max, and four-year-old Olivia, all of whom had a progressive genetic illness called spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), which impairs physical abilities such as moving, walking and breathing, but does not affect mental development. The children’s father Gary, 43, a director at City bank Investec, was away with the couple’s eight-year-old daughter in the family’s native South Africa when the three died.
“There have been times,” says Henrietta, “when I have wished all four of us were dead. It is remorseless, unrelenting, a situation for which there is no manual, an emotional black hole.”
Henrietta has cared for her sons Henry, 26, and Freddie, 22, unstintingly since they were born. Henry is severely epileptic, cannot walk or talk, and is incontinent. Scans have detected no brain damage but he exists in a sort of stasis: an adult body suspended in the world of a three-month-old baby. Solidly built and 5ft 11in tall, Henry is still growing, yet he is barely conscious of anything around him.
Freddie is autistic, hyperactive and, although 17 stone and 5ft 9in tall, behaves like a three-year-old. Born with a diaphragmatic hernia – his stomach organs were in his chest at birth – he was immediately placed on life support, where he suffered a stroke, which went undetected for 15 years.
The Spinks understand that there is an unknown genetic condition which affects both boys. Scientists at the University of California Irvine have been working on a sample of the boys’ DNA for five years and believe they will soon isolate the responsible gene. The hope that engenders – of an explanation, if not some possible therapy – keeps Henrietta going. But, she explains, without some prospect to look forward to, life could be too bleak to face.
“The boys are currently able to attend a specialist college in Truro [close to their home], where Henry is taken swimming and given multi-sensory experiences. Freddie is taught basic life skills there – like crossing the road. He will never learn to do it alone, but he enjoys going.” But during holidays such as Easter, the family work alongside a team of carers.
Henrietta and Michael are currently wiped out with exhaustion. Because outside term-time, life returns to the grinding routine that has dominated the past two and a half decades. “Every night, one of the boys will need help at some point. Freddie wakes properly at about 4am or 5am, and from then on one of us is up monitoring him. He could hurt himself otherwise, for instance, by pouring boiling water over himself,” she explains. “Then I do six lots of washing because Henry is incontinent [and Freddie needs total assistance] and I spend two hours a day cooking to ensure they have proper nutrition. Freddie has a severely restricted throat, so his food must be chopped minutely or he can choke.”
All day long the couple lift and carry their sons – Freddie can only walk with a carer on each arm – and they try to stimulate or calm them. Meanwhile, the financial support the couple receive is so complex that Michael spends two hours a day on spreadsheets, she estimates.
Then there are the endless legal battles to fight, which have driven Henrietta mad with frustration over the years. They challenged Wandsworth council when the couple lived in London. “We now have a good package of care in Cornwall, but we feel we have to be prepared to battle on a regular basis to keep it from being cut.”
New legislation, including the abolition of the Independent Living Fund, will see the family perilously short of money again. The forthcoming changes to the Disability Living Allowance are terrifying. “I just wish you could tick a box saying 'nothing’s changed’, but every form starts from scratch. It is exhausting.”
There is no escaping the fact that the totality of managing both boys is utterly time-consuming and the equivalent of a part-time job, meaning it is impossible for either of them to hold down full-time employment, which adds to the financial worries.
Henrietta’s friend Anne Jones, 62, who lives in west London, understands. Her son Robert, 26, was born with agenesis of the corpus callosum – a rare birth defect where the corpus callosum, the band of white matter connecting the two hemispheres in the brain, fails to develop normally.
“Robert doesn’t speak – just the odd word, although he understands us well,” Anne says. “But he has no concept of danger, so he must be watched 24 hours a day.”
Her son is now living in a care home in Suffolk and visits during the holidays, but for the first 17 years he was at home. “I was on my knees,” she says, candidly. “He’d get up at 5am and, once up, you’d have to be. My husband or I would take him to the loo, wash and dry him, dress him, get him downstairs, get him to eat. It was constant care and vigilance.”
Although she is sanguine now about the exhaustion, and tries to defuse tense situations with humour, she regrets the impact it had on his two younger siblings, who were bullied at school because of their “different” brother. “Their lives had to revolve around Robert’s needs, which wasn’t fair. We simply had no spare attention.”
There are 49,000 children and young people in the UK living with a life-limiting or life-threatening condition, according to the charity Together for Short Lives, which is campaigning for more help and support, including financial aid, for families. Until 2009, when their six-year-old son Ivan died, David and Samantha Cameron were among that number.
The disability charity Scope has just released a report that shows how life simply costs more when a family member is disabled in some way. Richard Hawkes, chief executive of Scope, says: “Disabled people and their families already have to buy things – like specialist equipment – that most families don’t have to budget for. Disabled people and their families also pay more for the everyday items such as taxis.”
The impact cannot be overstated. Anne’s husband Jeremy, an architect, is still working at 70. The Spinks were forced to sell their Battersea home due to debts. “The financial strain is overwhelming, but Michael can’t afford to fall apart,” Henrietta says. “The longing to have time for one another, for sleep, is devastating. The loneliness of our situation is unbearable at times.”
Ultimately, it is not just the forms, the worries, the loneliness, the endless broken nights that affect these families most (though none of those factors should be underestimated); it is a constant fear for the future that seems to hurt most.
“At the moment Robert is safe and well looked after,” Anne says. “But if that changed, the home was sold or closed, he would be devastated, and so would we. I hope he will be there till he dies, and that after we go, his siblings will watch out – make sure his paperwork is done, take him for weekends – but I wouldn’t want them to have to take full charge. It would destroy their lives.”
Henrietta does not even have that peace of mind. “I worry about what happens if one of us dies. How would the other cope? And what will happen when we both die? The boys – properly cared for – have a 'normal’ life expectancy. There is no reason why they should not live into their seventies.
“When I was younger I couldn’t look ahead. But now you realise you are over halfway through your life. It is a terrifying thought. Who will take my role? Who will protect them?”
She gathers herself. “Not a day passes when I don’t think we will find the answer. I believe the gene sequencing will explain what has happened and lead to a treatment. Life is about polishing the diamond – we absolutely love our boys and simply hope we are doing our best.”
The identities of the Jones family have been changed.

Pope Francis - Comments to a reamarried divorcee

The director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr Federico Lombardi, has responded to widespread media reports about an Argentinian woman who says that Pope Francis called to tell her she could take Communion, even though her husband is divorced and they have not been married in church.
News stories earlier this week ran conflicting reports about the woman, Jacquelina Lisbona, who had written to the Pope several months ago after being denied Communion by her parish priest. According to the reports, Fr Bergoglio, as he called himself, picked up the phone to respond to her letter on Monday and told her the Church was in the process of dealing with the issue of Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics.
In his brief remarks on Thursday, Fr Lombardi said such conversations should be seen in the context of the Pope’s “personal pastoral relationships” and not as an event that carries “consequences relating to the teaching of the Church”.
Below please find the English language translation of Fr Lombardi’s remarks:
Several telephone calls have taken place in the context of Pope Francis’ personal pastoral relationships. Since they do not in any way form part of the Pope’s public activities, no information or comments are to be expected from the Holy See Press Office.
That which has been communicated in relation to this matter, outside the scope of personal relationships, and the consequent media amplification, cannot be confirmed as reliable, and is a source of misunderstanding and confusion.
Therefore, consequences relating to the teaching of the Church are not to be inferred from these occurrences.

Henry in London

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Chrism Mass

This year at th Chrism Mass at Southwark Cathedral I had the honour of proclaiming the Gospel.