Picnic in the company of ducks


A photo of the Abbey from last summer.

 On the third Sunday of Lent my family and I ventured our first picnic this year at Buckfast Abbey. Memories of Lent last year were very strong as I remembered 'the journey' (as it is so often referred to by members of the Ordinariate) and how each Sunday seemed to be full of grace and sunshine. The Sundays of 'the journey' were very privileged moments for many of us, and almost always the family and I had a picnic after mass. We ventured a picnic last Sunday not sure if it was going to be fine or whether we would be sheltering in the minibus eating our sandwiches in the fog. As it turned out we basked in the sunshine.

The younger children were delighted when some ducks came by. One of the children asked what a lady duck was called. “Duck,” came the reply. “What are daddy ducks called?” “Drakes,” came the second reply. There was a pause. “So why do we call them all ducks?” “Because we do,” was the answer given! “It is just how English works. Sometimes the collective uses the male word for the animal, sometimes we use the female, like ducks and cows.” “Oh came the reply,” and he was satisfied.

Many, of course, are no longer satisfied with this argument when it comes to referring to us human beings. “Man” for many can only be used to refer to adult males and if you want to refer to males and females you are supposed to use “human beings”, “humanity” or “humans” (the worst option of all as far as I am concerned). However while throughout my twenties I was very careful (and believed it to be right too) to follow the new rules, I no longer do. I am no linguist nor am I a poet but “human”, “humanity”, and “human being” have become very burdensome to me and I no longer feel bound by these “new rules”. The “new rules” date from the 1960s and the rise of feminism. I largely reject the feminist perspective and certainly its revisionist strategies, so why should I obey these rules? It is just how English works!

At mass I read out the letter from the Archbishops defending the Christian definition of marriage, and alerting Catholics to the proposed re-definition of marriage in English law. I feel very pleased I am now in a church which knows what it believes and its leaders are prepared to go against fashionable thinking and declare the faith as received by the church. The Catholic position on marriage and homosexuality is contrary to the world, and it does make us sometimes seem unpopular, but what matters is the truth.

As far as our secularised society is concerned, truth is discerned purely from human opinion and reason; as far as the Catholic Church is concerned, truth is discerned from divine revelation and reason. This makes it not a single issue matter but a struggle about the basis of our faith. As the Holy Father, Pope Benedict, reminded the American bishops in the video clip below, this attack on the definition of marriage is an attack on our understanding of what it is to be a human being. As a society we formerly based our understanding on divine revelation, now we are being asked to go against God's revealed will. The casualty of that will be our society, for if it is based on human opinion and reason then it will crumble.