Behold I send my angel before thy face, who shall prepare the way before thee. A voice of one crying in the desert: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.


To Carthage I came, where a whole frying-pan full of abominable loves crackled round about me, and on every side. I was not in love as yet, yet I loved to be in loved, and with a more secret kind of want, I hated myself having little want. I sought abought for something to love, loving still to be in love: security I hated, and that way too that had no snares in it: and all because I had a famine within me, even of that inward food (thyself, O God) though that famine made me not hungry. For I continued without all appetite towards incorruptible nourishment, not because I was already full, but the more empty, the more queasy stomached. For this cause my soul was not very well, but miserably breaking out into botches, had an extreme itch to be scratched by the touch of these sensible things, which yet if they had not a life, would not be loved at all. It was very pleasureable to me, both to love, and to be loved; but much more, when I obtained to enjoy the person whom I loved.

I defiled therefore the spring of friendship with the filth of uncleanliness, and I besullied the purity of it with the hell of lustfullness. But thus filthy and dishonest as I was, with a superlative kind of vanity, I took a pride to pass for a spruce and a gentle companion. I forced myself also into love, with which I affected to be ensnared. My God, My Mercy, with how much sourness didst though of thy goodness to me, besour that sweetness? For obtaining once to be beloved again, and secretly arriving to the bond of enjoying, I was with much joy bound with sorrow-bringing embracements, even that I might be scrouged with the iron burning rods of jealousy, and suspicions, and fears, and angers, and brawls.

St Augustine, Confessions III.i, trans. Wm. Watts.

A sister who was for some time responsible for receiving guests in Tre Fontane [the house of the Little Sisters of Jesus in Rome], was on one occasion reprimanded for not receiving everyone equally warmly. “Little Sister Magdalena told me that I should examine my conscience, and when I did so, I realised that there were two people whom I could not receive warmly. They were conceited and important, accustomed to every door opening before them. I explained this to Litle Sister Magdalena. She understood my reaction, but said ‘ Of course, we receive the poor above all, but we may ot forget that there are people who are poor in other ways.'”

Katherine Spink, The Call of the Desert. A Biography of Little Sister Magdaleine of Jesus. (my translation from the Polish edition.)

lourdel_01Pere Lourdel was a missionary in Uganda in the nineteenth century, and baptised many of the Ugandan martyrs whose feast is on June 3rd. The association of Christianity with Europeans,  meant it had, nolens volens,  political connotations, and the Buganda* ruler, the Kabaka, tried to play the “Arabs”**, French and English against each other. In addition, the refusal of the Christian courtiers to assent to sodomy, a practice said to have been introduced by the Muslims and to whichthe Kabaka Mwanga had become addicted, was a source of frustration to the latter and a weapon against the Christians in the political manouevring at court.

A large group of Christians from the Kabaka’s court were arrested towards the end of May 1886 – a few were castrated or flogged and released, the rest held to be executed. Pere Lourdel, hearing of the arrest, hurried to the Kabaka’s palace to try to intercede for the prisoners, thought without result. The next morning he had to leave, as the arrival of more missionaries, a potential irritant to an irate Kabaka, needed to be carefully dealt with. He wrote later:

On my way home, I met Lusaka, an old gate-keeper who, though himself a pagan, was the father of three of our neophytes, and a good friend of ours. He was in tears. “My three sons have been arrested”, he said. “What harm have they done to the Kabaka? He says they pray; but is that a crime?” The old man wrung my hands in sorrow, but with such friendliness that I was greatly moved. Most of the relatives of our CHristians had looked at me that day as if they thought that I was the cause of their trouble. One woman had exclaimed that if she were a man she would pierce my heart for causing the death of her children …

Painful. Your friends and neighbours blame you for the death of their children and spouses and friends. And in a sense, you are to blame. That is, if you had not done what you came to do, those people would not now be about to die.

[quote taken from J. F. Faupel, African Holocaust: the story of the Uganda martyrs (London, 1962) – link is to the 2003 edition by Pauline Publications Africa]

*I hope I got the right prefix there.

** Thus Faupel, but I don’t know what their external allegiance was. Apparently Egypt was hovering around the borders at the time as well.

Things are going really badly over there. A friend just sent me this message.

Unfortunately we have not have been that great in Kenya. The elections which started so peacefully have disintegrated into chaos. there have been several deaths so far, burning of property, looting, just overall chaos. The electoral commision somehow declared the previous president as winner despite it being very clear from earlier on that his opponent was leading. The EU observers have voiced their concerns about the apparent rigging. The president was sworn in almost immediately; and subsequently the media have been banned from broadcasting anything.

Rumours are rife about what’s happening meanwhile and about the safety and fate of the main competitor of the incumbent; nobody knows what’s happening as a result of the ban on the media. Please pray for Kenya. We are all so shocked coz this is not how things have been in Kenya, we’ve been so peaceful and law-abiding but these past few days have been crazy. Please pray for us.

When the late great JPII died, the usual suspects (ah Mzzzzz Toynbee, how sadly predictable you can be) seized the occasion to remind their readers that this man could probably be held personally responsible for millions of deaths from HIV, because of his crazed fundamentalist refusal to let African Catholics use condoms.

I am still puzzled by this curious attitude of African Catholics. They, so I am told by the Pope-bashers, happily fornicate and commit adultery, but would sooner be burnt at the stake than put a rubber sock on their willy.

(Though as a male European Catholic friend pointed out, “how gross is that”. Perhaps, if Mz Toynbee’s view of the uncontrollable urges of the poor blacks is correct, their simultaneous reluctance to use the condom can be attributed to aesthetics, or squeamishness, rather than respect for the Holy Father and my idea of writing a doctorate on this very odd form of religious psychology can be binned.)

Let us suppose we are deeply concerned about preventing the spread of HIV among these poor benighted souls. We hand out condoms and conduct educational campaigns so that people are not only willing but able to use them Now, according to the (pro-artificial contraception, pro-abortion) Alan Guttmacher Institute, of every hundred women using condoms to prevent pregnancy, 15 will nonetheless conceive within a year. Bear in mind that a woman is fertile for usually much less than a quarter of her menstrual cycle. How many more could catch HIV? And their partners, if the women are infected?

Do by all means jump off that cliff! You only have 1 chance in 10 of getting killed if you let me put this mattress at the bottom first!

Note that this same AGI’s FAQ then go on to the affordability of condoms. Now I don’t even look at the things in shops, so I have no idea how much they cost. But with all the cynical comments about oil-motives for going to war in Iraq, why aren’t there more about people making money from condom contracts with the IPPF or pills for disrupting women’s hormonal cycles (women who probably then spend more money on yoga and tai chi to restore their physical and psycho-somal balance) and the gender identity of British fish?

Limited supplies and high costs. In some cases, contraceptives may simply be unavailable or too expensive for individuals. The cost can be substantial: The retail price of an annual supply of contraceptive pills exceeds $100 in some developing countries, as does the retail price of an annual supply of condoms. Contraceptive costs that reach 5 percent of average household income are common, and costs reach 20 percent of income in some Sub-Saharan countries. Family planning programs can make contraceptives more widely available and also reduce their cost for consumers by subsidizing prices.[source]

If you don’t want to catch HIV, marry someone you can trust and don’t make love to anyone else. 100% guaranteed, bar dodgy blood transplants.

If you don’t want to get pregnant for reasons of grinding poverty or family crisis or such-like, then you can save money, keep an informed eye on your reproductive health, have lots of jolly sex and not get pregnant all at the same time. For you contracepting types who don’t know – the calendar method (as disingenuously cited for NFP by the above-linked-to AGI) is history, along with the re-usable condom and crocodile-dung pessaries. I know nothing about the sympto-thermal method except that you have to mess around with thermometers in the morning – whatever floats your boat, I seem to remember the stats for it were pretty good.

The Bilings method, on the other hand, has been adopted by the bloody Chinese government, for goodness sake! You will also note that the good people of Burkina Faso, recently, if not still, the world’s poorest country, seemed to cope pretty well with the complexity of working out how sticky some mucus was and counting some days around it. Rather better than the Australians, in fact.

Now someone will write a comment about the culture problem where men have the say and women can’t say no, about adulterous husbands, blah di blah di blah. If we haven’t scared off everyone except the Ostentatiously Pious and/or Cheerfully Triumphalist Catholics. I assume no-one here will be so patronising as to write what one wifie wrote in the Observer wrote some years ago, that you can’t expect poor migrant workers, away from home for months on end, not to go to prostitutes. Does she have the same high opinion of her husband, I wondered.

Oh, and here‘s another simplified method. Scroll down to where there is a II between the paragraphs.

Someone tell me what crucial point I have missed.