Sunday, 5 December 2010

Slow down for Christmas

Magnificat Dec. 2010
As Christmas approaches, time seems to rush by faster and faster. There is not enough time to do all that needs to be done. Many people find it the most frantic time of year. Yet a holyday was originally supposed to be a time of leisure, a period of contemplation. This loss of leisure is a symptom of modernity. Not that people in previous ages never got in a rush, but it seems pretty clear that the effect of modern communications, personal mobility and consumerism is to multiply the things we can do do and the places we can go, not to mention the people we can talk to. Our life span may have increased, but not our time (and not just because a large number of our extra years are spent in front of the television). There is a rebellion against this in the form of the Slow Food Movement, the Slow Cities and even the Slow Book Movement. The idea of these movements, now spreading around the world, is to slow us down and encourage us to focus on the quality and appreciation of life. For a believer, setting some time aside for prayer and meditation each day, no matter how busy we are, is always beneficial. The monthly Magnificat is designed to help with this. Distributed in the UK by The Catholic Herald, it contains prayers and readings for each day of the Church year, with spiritual reading from great writers and mystics. That's one way to prepare for Christmas, which is all about God's coming into a world that was almost too busy to find a place for Him.

The Localism Bill laid before the British Parliament on 13 December is intended by the Coalition Government to help build the Big Society by putting an end to the hoarding of power within central government and top-down control of communities, and allowing local people the freedom to run their lives and neighbourhoods in their own way. The Bill contains a radical package of reforms that will devolve greater power and freedoms to councils and neighbourhoods, establish powerful new rights for communities, revolutionise the planning system, and give communities control over housing decisions. The legislation will transform relationships between central government, local government, communities and individuals. It comes right after a series of massive cuts to public spending necessitated by the recent economic crisis. For the Government summary of the legislation see here. No doubt there will be opportunities for Distributists and others to assess the reforms and their implications in the coming months.