Monday, May 25, 2015

I blame the Bolognese


If you look at the remarks of Dr Diarmuid Martin you can see where the problem lies, and it is not just what he has said since after the vote but, maybe, always.

A friend bought an autobiography of a bishop recently and then complained how shallow, self justifying it was. How it seemed to lack any talk of Grace and seemed spiritually vacuous, as if it was written by a name dropping minor politician, rather than a Christian and a man of faith. I have yet to read it but I suspect it is typical of any apologia of any bishop today, with no attempt as Newman might have made, to reveal his method of thinking or his spiritual motivation, or the action of God in his life.

Catholics today might be divided into those influenced by the School of Bologna, who believe in rupture or discontinuity and those who believe in continuity. The documents of Vatican II as Pope Benedict suggested can be read either way, they are designed to be somewhat ambiguous, open to acceptance by even the most traditionally minded of Council Fathers but with a fair degree of play for those who would end up 'interpreting' them. There has been a great deal of talk about an actual Council and 'a Council of the media', in the same way as there is about an actual Francis and a Francis constructed by the media, I suspect that is all a little simplistic, certainly as far as the Council is concerned, one has only to look at whose hands were behind the various documents, what their intentions were. The writers invariably became the interpretors.

The hermeneutic of the Bologna School was always about rupture, its origins seem to have been in ameliorating the excesses of Mussolini's rule, of seeing the Church from the level of the poor, quite natural from Red Bologna. The problem echoes all of the movements of the early 20th century that were on the side of the poor, they created an elite to decide what the poor really wanted, and ended up by disenfranchising those whose cause they had come to power to support. We see that in Bolshevikism or Communism, Italian or Spanish Fascism, National Socialism or even in the Argentinian Pope's native Peronism. Sooner or later the poor or the 'masses' become frustrated by their new masters.

What the Church has lost, in Ireland as much as as elsewhere, are the 'toiling masses'. The Year Zero-ism that the Bologna School puts forward cuts the Church off from its roots, and not just its cultural roots but also its intellectual roots, As Monsignor Klaus Gamber says in 'Reform of the Roman liturgy' (my thanks to Viterbo).
'But what possible advantage can be gained for the pastoral care of the faithful by changing the feast days of the saints in the Church calendar, changing the way of counting Sundays during the liturgical year, or even changing the words of Consecration? What possible advantage can be gained by introducing a new Order of Readings and abolishing the old one, or by making minor and unimportant adjustments to the Traditional Rite, and then finally, by publishing a new Missal? Was all this really done because of pastoral concern about the souls of the faithful, or did it not rather represent a radical breach with the Traditional Rite, to prevent the further use of traditional liturgical texts and thus to make the celebration of the 'Tridentine Mass' impossible, because it no longer reflected the new spirit moving through the Church?" 
The act of changing the Church in fact eviscerated it, removing it even culturally from the place most of its members 'were at', as we used to say. What had stood firm for generations in its 'renewed form' was incapable of standing for a few decades after the 'New Pentecost' promised by Bl. John XXIII.

A Church that is rootless is not 'owned' by the people. A Church that is afraid to teach because it has cut itself from it previous Magisterium, and which instead sows uncertainty, has nothing to say in the daily living of its members, nor in the intellectual forum in general. In fact it is irrelevant. It has all the outward appearance that it once used for the furtherance of its mission but has lost its interior meaning. It is not so much an Emperor with no clothes, but the clothes without an Emperor, all that is left is the institution, which itself is meaningless. In Germany, as in Ireland, the real-estate portfolio seems to be what the Church is about rather than any actual teaching or revelation of Christ.

What I find so sad about Archbishop Martin's statements is that seem to be about institutional power, and influence, the very thing that disgusted the Irish during the abuse crisis. This is what even practising Catholics seem to find so objectionable about the Irish bishops, but in fact they are like many European bishops who have nothing to say and nothing to offer except a vacuous institution; the Church preaching not Jesus Christ but simply protecting its back.

I blame the Bolognese because they have emptied the Church of meaning, leaving it ineffectual, substituting for doctrine a warm feeling, for the worship of God, a celebration of community. This what the Irish Church has been offering for decades - pap!



In a way this video says everything about what is wrong with the Church in Ireland, it is narcissistic and feel-gooding, self-neutering, incapable of reproducing itself, neither evangelising nor being self-critical. It is shallow, self-referential, lacking the ability to speak to either the mind or the heart, only to sentiment. It neither depends on or leads to Jesus Christ, in fact it becomes a replacement for him.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Those Irish


So a victory for tolerance, equality, social justice; a defeat for intolerance, inequality and Catholicism. Couldn't be simpler!

And yet tolerance, equality and social justice are precisely what the Catholic Church in Ireland for the last few decades. What I am told has been missing has been that rather intolerant idea of a personal Saviour, with a rather rigorous, even judgemental outlook: Jesus Christ.

Presumably what the Irish vote actually reveals is the feeling of the majority of Europe, even the rest of the world. Is it that it it is only a few reactionary Catholics and fellow travellers who hold out for a traditional view of family, sex and homosexuality?

The big question is: is there as place for the 'Antis' in contemporary European society? David Cameron might have had to use the government whip to get a majority for his marriage equalities legislation through the British Parliament, in Ireland that wasn't the case, it was a popular referendum,. Yes we can argue it was funded by foreign money, that the 'No' campaign was hounded off the streets, but even so from one end of the country to the other this was a popular referendum and greeted with popular enthusiasm.

So where now for Catholics and those who hold on to traditional values? Ireland historically doesn't do tolerance, neither does it tolerate for too long an oppressor, even if it can't quite throw off the yoke, it bears it with dis-ease.

For now there is a pause for partying but soon there will be slew of legislation to facilitate the popular will and to force opposition out of society. One might have thought the Asher's bakery judgement north of the border might have been a warning but obviously not.

Would the vote had been different if the provisions at the end of Pope Benedict's letter to the Catholics of Ireland had actually been implemented? Similarly would things have turned out differently had the present Pope spoken and not allowed himself to be portrayed as 'open' to homosexual culture, or even if the Irish bishops had been stronger? Probably not.

What is so remarkable is how Ireland has thrown of Catholicism, or put it another way, what is remarkable is how easy contemporary Catholicism is thrown off. Those roots which were once presumed to run deep into the Irish psyche, that helped her survive poverty and oppression, that produce enormous numbers of priests and religious who shaped the Catholic world, are shown to have been in reality shallow indeed.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Minority Interest



Living in Brighton I was a bit shocked when a friend, a priest in central London, said that he had been talking to his godson who is in his his twenties and works in the City, apparently not only did he not have any homosexual friends but actually didn't know any either.

The Irish Association of Catholic Priests, not the most loyally Catholic of 'Catholic' groups, has produced some reflection material for the Irish referendum on marriage which take place on Friday and produced the statistics below. As a group of priests they don't seem to come down on either side, and seem happy to promote both sides, but it is the figures which I find interesting.

It is worth realising quite what a minority the LCBT community is despite its incredible strength in the arts, media and politics, and most especially as a lobby group, and the incredibly large amount of money western governments put into their cause. In the US it is less than 3.5% and in the UK even less.
We don’t have Irish statistics that I know of. The U.S. Department of Health did a survey of Sexual Orientation and Health Among U.S. Adults: National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), 2013. The survey of 34,557 adults aged 18 or over was published July 2014. They were asked: “Which of the following best represents how you think of yourself?”’ The replies were: Straight 96.6 %. Lesbian or Gay 1.6 %. Bisexual 0.7 %.UK statistics in 2013 are lower. The Integrated Household Survey (2013) found 1.2% of adults identified themselves as gay or lesbian; 0.5% of adults identified themselves as bisexual.If the US percentages are similar for Ireland, we may project the following numbers of people, based on the 2011 Census: Total population 4,588,252. Of these, 3,439,565 were aged 18 or over.We may then estimate the following aged 18 or over: Lesbian or Gay: 55,033; Bisexual: 24,076. Total: 55,033+24,076 = 79,109.The Central Statistics Office (CSO) for Ireland reported that in 2013 there were 20,680 marriages registered in the State, and 338 Civil Partnerships, making a total of 21,018. The 338 Civil Partnerships are 1.61 percent of the total. The percentages may help in having an idea of how many people in your local parish or area identify as Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual – that is, if numbers are evenly distributed around the country. It is possible that the percentages are higher in urban areas and lower in rural areas, due to migration.Same-sex couples: statistics for Ireland:According to the 2011 Census, there were 4,042 same sex couples living together in 2011. Of these, 2,321 (57.4%) were male while 1,721 (42.6%) were female. These 4,042 same-sex couples are 0.34 per cent of families in the State. The Census was taken on 10 April 2011, so we do not know how many of those 4,042 same-sex couples in the 2011 Census are included in the total of 1304 Civil Partnerships registered 2011 – 2013.According to the CSO, the number of same sex couples living with one or more children was 230 (reply received from the CSO in March 2015). This is 5.69% of all same-sex couples.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Gnosticism


I am worried about one of parishioners, I know his parents are worried about him too, he lives in his own world. I want him to settle down find a nice girl, get married and produce good Catholic children. He lives in a world of fantasy which means any sane girl just runs a mile. Like most fantasists he seems to want to hide more deeply in his fantasies, therefore he drinks a bit more than is wise and that of course just adds to the unreality he faces, and that in turn makes him depressed so he escapes deeper into fantasy. He is heading to alcoholism and loneliness.

Christianity is about reality, the terrible reality of the Cross. No-one can embrace the Cross and live with fantasy or as Pope Benedict might have described it 'untruth' or Relativism. I like the fact that Pope Francis seems to want Christians to live in the real world, though at times his reality seems to be confused and often incoherent.

The early Church was most concerned by 'unreality', its first battles were against Gnosticism, where secret rites and secret knowledge were offered as an alternative to 'take up your Cross and follow me'. Robert Reilly makes the interesting suggestion that today's 'Gay Movement' has as its basis the creation of a whole series of false premises or false assumptions about the nature of the human person, the most foremost is that we are 'ordered' to not only union but also generation or procreation.

Using the phrase 'intrinsically disordered' can be like a red rag to a bull but human beings are in the depths of their being ordered to reproduce. A sexual act, or a sexuality, or a culture, or an economic structure that denies that, is disordered in its roots and ultimately inhuman. It creates a fantasy world. It denies something which is intrinsically human.

Not welcoming children, not being orientated to the transmission of life, as so much of our culture to is not so orientated is against nature, it is a fantasy world, that will inevitably result in serious unhappiness. Reilly makes the comparison between today's situation with the 1935 Nuremberg Laws.
Voegelin analyzed the Nazi movement as a form of Gnosticism. I do not think it is a stretch to point to Nazi Germany in 1935 as an analogy to current events and their similarly Gnostic nature. That is when the Nuremberg Laws were passed, stripping Jews of their German citizenship and forbidding marriage between non-Jews and Jews. No doubt, there were still many fine and upstanding people in Germany at the time, including many Catholics, but from then on they had to keep their mouths shut about the Nazi racial superiority teachings because they were state law. I am sure there were many people opposed to the race theory of history who said to themselves, as people do today regarding homosexual “marriage,” ‘well, this is a losing issue. Let’s leave it alone and move on.’ They were probably too frightened to consider what they were moving on to, just as people today avoid thinking about the consequences of the complete denial of reality involved in homosexual “marriage.” Anyone who thinks that we are involved in a denial of reality any less profound than that of 1935 Germany is kidding themselves. Success for the homosexual dream requires the obliteration of the real and the removal of those who insist on the existence of reality.
Pope Benedict said something similar but in much more general terms in his address to the Bundestag when speaking about the danger of law founded on ideology rather than the lived (religious) experience of humanity.
Dawkins and other Darwinians might well recognise the need for humanity to express its 'selfish gene', they might indeed express it in terms of something that is compulsive in human nature but they seem to suggest that as some kind of intellectual or spiritual ideal. Catholicism is actually more fleshy than that, it concerns itself with two creatures, a man and woman who come together in the sweat and blood conjugal act that is orientated towards the conception of a third human being.

There is something profoundly Gnostic in the refusal during the 'gay marriage debate' in this country to actually discuss gay sex or to even to address adultery in a homosexual context though it seems still (for the moment) to address it in a heterosexual context. Here is a fundamental inequality. Although homosexual loving for most people might now be a non-issue there still is taboo against homosexual acts.

A friend, a political commentator, suggests that there is no big idea in politics today except growing nationalism: the rise of UKIP and the SNP, and 'Equalities' legislation. 'Equalities' is what will be the basis of so much legislation, it is going to underscore everything from economics to education, deviating from its orthodoxy will render some people unemployable. Beware if you are tempted to comment here, like those who opposed the Nuremberg Laws you will be forced to conform, eventually.  Like those laws our new laws will eventually frame our whole way thinking; how society is organised most certainly but more worrying how we think and interact with one another. They are already curtailing our freedoms and intellectual debate and investigation, even our baking.

Just like the mad social experiments of Revolutionary China which simply contradicted the Natural Law, not just the one child policy but also the reversal of the Yellow River or 'War on Sparrows' widespread catastrophe followed, so we should expect in the not too distant future similar 'ecological problems'. When apparatchiks develop policies without reference to reality disaster always follows.

I am sure that the Holy Fathers eagerly awaited Encyclical on the environment will address these issues and challenge us to look more deeply at the reality of human ecology rather than the ideological gnosticism that frames our the thinking of today's politicians who like my parishioner seems increasingly to live in a fantasy world.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Ascension/Pentecost Novena


Presume a rant here about the movement of Ascension Day to the nearest Sunday, fill in whatever you want...............

...And another thing about "Ascension Sunday", is it makes a nonsense of the idea of the Novena. The prayer of nine days used to be basic of much Catholic devotional life. All Novena have their basis in the nine days between Ascension and Pentecost when the Mother of God sat in prayer with the Apostles to await the coming of the Holy Spirit. It is bad enough that there is no Octave after Pentecost, which of course means that Trinity Sunday hangs around in Ordinary Time like a white rag in a green field unattached to the Easter Season of which the revelation of the Trinity is the natural outcome.

Both moves serve to lessen the centrality of Pentecost to the Christian Mystery.

At times one wonders whether the 'great reformers' were either mad or drunk - methystos as opposed to amethysts of course.

I am offering the Novena this year for vocation to the priesthood in my diocese, it is a powerful time of prayer, and I firmly expect God to be generous in his blessings

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.
O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Evangelising: Relics of Bl Louis and Zelie Martin visit


I like this idea, it is of course the good Bishop Egan's idea.

If you are preparing for a Synod on the family, if you are intent on raising the profile of the family in your diocese, if you want to evangelise, if you want to get to think about growing in holiness, if you find yourself in a situation where the government and practically every other political spend their time inventing Frankensteinian experiments with the family and children's futures then get the saints of God involved.

Portsmouth and Plymouth dioceses are getting the relics of Bl Louis and Zelie Martin, the parents of St Therese of Lisieux to tour the diocese. When their daughter's relics came Bishop Hollis, the former bishop, said it was the most significant occasion in his episcopate, the cathedral was crowded throughout the day and night, and wherever the relics went huge crowds followed.

They begin their UK tour on the 15th May, this Friday, by going to Plymouth Cathedral and then to Dorchester, on the 18th - 20th May where I know Fr John Rice is absolutely  delighted to welcome both the relics and pilgrims. From the Thursday 20th they go to Southampton, then Portsmouth and finishing up at Reading on Friday 22 May.

If you can get to venerate these relics do.

I just think it is such a simple idea, not a great complicated strategy or programme, I like the idea of God and his saints being expected to do the work of evangelising, I suspect he is probably better at it than us.

I hate bidding prayers


There is an interesting article about bidding prayers of the General Intercessions on NLM. I hate them and I hate writing them. I know that at some places like Fontgombault they are used in the Old Rite where they are sung by the deacon with a Kyrie Eleyson response. I still hate them.

Here, at a sung Mass, as we have no deacon, the lector reads the intercession and the priest sings something like 'we pray to the Lord' and the people respond, 'Lord, we ask you hear our prayer' or 'Te rogamus audi nos'. it sort of works a little better than just saying the things but I think it is really putting lipstick on a pig. After the singing of the Creed, the intercessions always feel like a downward movement, rather than a rite that the leads to the priests going up to the altar to offer the sacrifice. They are just another set of words, after a lot of other words.

Although the General Instruction of the Roman Missal calls for them on Sundays and Solemnities and even encourages their use on weekdays, especially in Lent and Advent, they are not liturgical, there is no proper liturgical text for them. I have more or less given up allowing the reader to write them, they so easily end up theologically ambiguous or politically partisan or merely twee but them I am not too happy with my own efforts either, it is not my skill.

One of the reasons I hate them is not just because they are practically always badly written but that they distract from the Canon or Eucharistic Prayer and making something which is general specific, in the sense that they should be an invitation to prayer rather than n end in themselves.

My 'feel' for the role of the laity at Mass is that they are supposed exercise their priestly role by adoring, giving thanks, making reparation and interceding with the priest who stands at the altar. As the priest prays for the living and dead, for the Church and its clergy, for those in need during the Canon or Eucharistic prayer, so too are the laity supposed to pray, bringing their world to the altar as well. They have come in from those peripheries with all the concerns and love they have for the world.

General Intercessions together with the Canon or Eucharistic prayer said aloud tend to make the role of the laity into mere listeners or bystanders rather than prayerful participants. Coming from an age when it was noteworthy that St Ambrose read without articulating the words he read, I suspect that during the reciting of the muttered Canon the faithful also muttered prayer for what they perceived to be their needs. Saying the prayer aloud, which for 1,500 years was recited quietly, has now become a distraction for the faithful from fulfilling their role, which has many including Pope Benedict to suggest 'the Eucharistic Prayer is in crisis', people simply don't know what to do when it is taking place.

In England, before the Reformation, the clerk would announce anniversaries of deaths, pray for patrons, the King, the clergy, the kingdom, great public needs such as war and plague etc., the birth of a prince etc after the sermon, generally with Paters and Aves but they were announcements not primarily intercessions and their form was more or less standard.

Friday, May 08, 2015

The morning after


Politics are always fascinating, the morning after an election the ups and downs, loss and gain show in exultation or desolation and today the resignation of three party leaders. I voted late, I suspect like many, only after a great deal of deliberation and I voted not so much for anyone but against what I know to be evil.

I know the catechism tells me I have a duty to vote and their Lordships have raised areas where we should express concern but frankly whenever I vote I feel I am co-operating with evil. Politicians might be honourable but they are concerned with power and an agenda that is increasingly distant from the Gospels. As a priest I am concerned with the one who stands before the Jerusalem politicians as a dumb lamb, before Pilate he says, 'My Kingdom is not of this world'.

My inclination is to 'flee from the world', to be 'uncontaminated by the world', like St Benedict wanting to preserve 'civilisation' in the 'closed garden' of the monastery. My inclination is to separate the Church from all that is corrupt, to draw back, to let the world go its ruinous way. There has always been that strand in Christianity, to stand in opposition to the world by creating something else, to be the beacon, the salt, the leaven, the city on the hilltop, the voice crying in the wilderness.

The alternative of course is to 'dialogue with the world', some Catholics ask  where dialogue is to found in scripture or Tradition, it is of course one translation of logos (In the beginning was the dialogue Jn 1:1). Jesus himself tells the disciples to go ad gentes, to the nations, we have a duty to bring Christian teaching into the world, sometimes directly but more often indirectly by introducing Christian values. As Christianity is pushed to the edges of society it is obvious that we so often fail in this endeavour.

The Synod on the family has highlighted the situation of the German Church, which in many ways is the epitome of 'dialogue`. What has become so apparent is that dialogue is about influence but it is also about being influenced. A weak and ill defined Church is more likely to be influenced by the world if its leaders are themselves worldly.The Catholic Herald looks briefly at the pre-war situation of the German Church, in Why did the German bishops fail to raise their voice against the Nazis? Bismark introduced Church Tax as way of ensuring the Church operated with the German state, in the same way 19th century Ireland was pacified by the British government subsidizing the Irish bishops. It was a way of smothering the Church in a suffocating embrace, rather like the Blair government's embrace of the Catholic Education Service.

I can't help reflecting that Church in this country, insofar as it so often has been seen to cosy up to government loses it its vigour, because it serves no-one least of all its members. A healthy church is surely a church in constant and vigorous opposition to "political certainties", we simply can't afford to be bland, to constantly smile benignly, to be seen as a friend to the powerful and the wealthy. It might be Nick Clegg is right in his analysis of the demise of liberalism. "One thing seems to me is clear: liberalism, here, as well as across Europe, is not faring well against the politics of fear. Years of remorseless economic and social hardship following the crash in 2008 and the grinding insecurities of globalisation have led for people to reach to new certainties: the politics of identity, of nationalism, of us versus them is now on the rise." How we would interpret these "new certainties" would differ from Clegg, but they still need opposing, even the social certainties, he and the coalition partners took for granted, one of which is the monster of 'Equalities' that will tend to swallow all our rights to family and privacy, and ultimately conscience, opening us up to an Orwellian future.

Even Justin Welby recently said, "We need to move beyond inter-religious interaction in which we the usual suspects issue bland statements of anaemic intent with which you could paper the walls of Lambeth Palace – and much good would it do you – all desperate to agree with one another so that the very worst outcome could possibly be that we end up acknowledging our differences."

It is 'difference' that we need to take up, rather like John the Baptist in his prison discussions with Herod, as he speaks truth to power.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

No-one expects ....


I like the idea of Missionaries of Mercy sent as the Holy Father's specially envoys to release sinners from the direst of sins. It has a sense of 'no-one expects the Spanish Inquisition", gangs of clergy bursting into Mass and offering to reconcile even the foulest, most monstrous of sins.

It makes very good headlines but I am not sure what it really means.

In most diocese in the world the absolution of sins which at one time were reserved to the bishop, like procuring an abortion, are delegated to ordinary priests. I don't know if the South America experience is different but in an average parish there wouldn't be much for a Missionary of Mercy to do, except possibly amongst the clergy. Attempting assault on the person of the Sovereign Pontiff or interfering with a Papal Election, or revealing the secrets of the Conclave earn automatic excommunication, still but most sins that might need a Missionary of Mercy are very clerical in nature, for example:
Canon 1367 One who throws away the consecrated species or, for a sacrilegious purpose, takes them away or keeps them, incurs a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See; a cleric, moreover, may be punished with some other penalty, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state.
Canon 1370 §1 A person who uses physical force against the Roman Pontiff incurs a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See; if the offender is a cleric, another penalty, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state, may be added according to the gravity of the crime.
Canon 1378 §1 A priest who acts against the prescription of Can. 977 incurs a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See. [absolving an accomplice in a sin regarding the 6th Commandment]
Canon 1382 Both the Bishop who, without a pontifical mandate, consecrates a person a Bishop, and the one who receives the consecration from him, incur a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See.
Canon 1388 §1 A confessor who directly violates the sacramental seal, incurs a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See; he who does so only indirectly is to be punished according to the gravity of the offence. 
So unless these Missionaries are going to run in packs around the office of the Roman dicasteries I am left wondering is the Holy Father trying to advertise a gradation of sin? Does he want to bishops to take back and reserve to themselves abortion or child abuse or mismanagement of Church property and heresy or apostasy.

Post Script: Yes, I hate that two headed man logo too

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

A Portal of Mercy



http://www.hotels.tv/blog/brighton/wp-content/uploads/sites/51/2013/09/brighton-n-laines-1.jpgBe careful what you wish for!

Spurred on by our Beloved Supreme Pontiff's exhortation to 'go out to the peripheries', to 'bring mercy' to people, I said in a sermon that the Church needs a presence 'where people are'. Like most Catholic churches we are not in the midst of where people are, 'location, location' wasn't the first thing in the minds in of our Victorian forefathers. In our case I get the impression our Church and Presbytery was built in a side street with a strong memory of anti-Catholic riots. It wasn't built as a centre for evangelisation.

I suggested that it would be great to have a chapel, a place of 'outreach' in the main shopping area. I had some vague thought that it could be a place where people could drop in to pray or even go to Confession: a sort of 'portal of mercy', a good idea, but I hadn't quite thought it through.

Last week one of my parishioners said she knew someone who might be able to let us have a small shop for a few weeks, now I am not quite sure what to do with it, I'm in a bit of a panic.

I think that it needs to be a place of prayer, a place of conversion, more than thing else and people need to be invited to pay there, it needs to be simple, I don't have vast numbers of people who could act as counselors or even catechists.

I have been thinking about that bishop who said the Rosary will overcome Boko Harram, it seems a bit like Pius V commanding the Rosary be said before Lepanto.  I remember the valiant Hugh Thwaites' convert instruction "it works well for drug dealers and wife-beaters especially", was teaching the Rosary, and Dominic of course taught the True Faith to those Albigensians who had either never heard it or were unconvinced by it.

My thinking is is how do sow the seed of conversion in a brief conversation. The Rosary is easy to teach, most Catholics can do it. It teaches the fundamental doctrines of the faith, it opens people up to mystery and grace.

So my 'Portal of Mercy' would have a Crucifix in it, a statue of Our Lady, the opportunity to light candles, kneelers and pious men and women being seen saying the Rosary and willing to teach it, and to pray it for those in need. Say a Rosary, it may or may not come off. Even if it doesn't, it is a useful exercise to think of what is the best way to communicate our Faith.
 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Virgin Catherine, and Peacockery!


St Catherine of Sienna was a splendid women, daring to demand the Pope return from Avignon, rebuking princes, reconciling sinners, writing to practically everyone of significance in her age and being a stigmatic, but (in order to avoid peacockery?) it being invisible.

None of this seems to touch the Office for her feast. What the Church wants us to concentrate on is her virginity. It is virginity that is seen as her glory, and it supposed to be the glory of the Church too. She is no fainting virgin but a true soul united to Christ.

I know that we consecrate virginity, still. and indeed after VII it was extended to women living in the world, but I get the impression we are rather embarrassed not so much by the idea of 'consecration' but by 'virginity'. It is a sign of the time. No wonder with eleven year olds reportedly addicted to to pornography. And no wonder with a reported significant 'gay lobby' within a celibate priesthood, at least in some parts of the world.

Virginity is about bodily integrity, it is also about spiritual integrity, purposely consecrating one's mind and every thought to Jesus Christ, striving day by day for ever closer union with him. There is a heroic degree of self denial that is involved, something which demands constant serious mortification of the mind. It is certainly made much easier by strong habits of prayer, and if one is of that kind disposition, not everyone is so graced, by deep a personal affection for the person of Jesus. Everything that Catherine writes and does comes from her union with Christ, her betrothal to him, this is why the Church honours her.


Today there seems to be a tendency within the Church, even at the highest levels to question the value of virginity and celibacy, in do reality I suspect we are questioning whether it is possible to live united to Christ.

Much today that is discussed in the Church seems to be about concentrating on human weakness, rather than what Grace can achieve. I am sure one of Catherine's contemporariness illustrated a sermon by comparing the plumage of the peahen  with our natural fallen state whilst the peacock shows the nature of a peahen graced by Christ. Catherine because of her union with Christ shone with Grace

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Vocations


Apparently there are only four students for the priesthood for our diocese, whilst our parish has two students in the seminary, who used to come here to Mass. In fact both of these young men were instrumental in setting up the Old Rite in our parish, and there is apparently a third who lives a little further away but comes here most weeks to the Sunday Old Mass and often on Fridays too, he has applied to a certain religious order.

Say a prayer for our three young men.
I admit my parish is a bit strange, but before my time and during my time here it has produced priests. It might be that they might have found their way to their vocation without us but it is good we helped them on their way.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A BBC Must See

Image result for "kill the Christians" bbc
I've been away for a few days, and trying to catch up. Some of my parishioners who still own a television told me about a BBC documentary on persecuted Christians, 'Kill the Christians', I have seen a few minutes of it, it seems pretty good, you can see it too on-line.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Between Communion and Schism


Quite a few silly articles, even from normally sensible journalists are appearing speaking about schism at the the Synod, I am glad Fr Z bashes them.
I agree with Fr Z, the should always bashed and bashed hard, Schism is the ultimate extreme, the breakdown of Catholicism and the destruction of Communion. Bishop Campbell in his wise discourse against ACTA calls them to the radical alternative, which is communion, a communion of mind and heart with him as the Bishop, and therefore successor of the apostles in the local Church.

The Bishop should be the voice of Christ in his Church. He is the centre of Communion.
Vatican II, often called the 'Council of the Bishops', reiterates all the ancient titles of a Bishop, and even adds a few. He is the High Priest, the first evangelist, catechist and teacher, the supreme and ultimate judge, the centre of unity, the Father of his clergy. The description of a bishop is terrifying, because what is really being described is 'the alter Christus". A bishop is supposed to Christ.

The Council, in its stilted legalistic language really gives a description of a bishop who is actually a perfect bishop, a saint. It presumes he is perfect in his fulfilment of his role in his diocese but also in his relationship to to the Universal Church. It is after all by communion with him, that we are in communion with the Pope, and consequently with all the bishops of the Catholic Church throughout the world. If we have a 'high' (Catholic) theology of the episcopacy then on our communion with him depends our communion the Church, and consequently with Christ, in that sense salvation comes through the Bishop!
Ubi Petrus, ibi ecclesia, et ubi ecclesia vita eterna
So much is demanded of Bishops, some of the Fathers doubted any bishop could get to heaven, and urged any man chosen for the Episcopate to flee and hide in the cleft of the rocks.

The great problem today of course is that many of us are only in partial communion with our bishops and our bishops only in partial communion with the Church, far from 'smelling of the sheep', to use our beloved Pope's words, many of our bishops smell of everything but, of money, of heresy, of scandal. I am sure there is a Father who speaks of the 'smell of the sheep' as: the sweet smell of incense, the evening sacrifice offered to the Father. Bishops are above all men of the peripheries, going to the edges to find lost or wandering sheep to bring them home, home is the centre. Like St Paul's description of a good father they are not supposed to provoke their children to resentment (Col 3:21). Communion is a mutual thing depending on the bishop's ability to gather and the people's desire to be gathered.

flagsBishop Campbell is so right to issue his call to Communion, it is a bishops first task, it is the opposite of schism. The glorious image of Vatican II is one of an effective Church in which we all are united heart and soul for the effective proclamation of the Gospel. Rightly does the Council condemn division which 'openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages the holy cause of preaching the Gospel to every creature'. A Church divided cannot effectively preach Christ. Lobby groups of any kind stress division.

Damage to Communion rarely comes from below it is more likely the fruit of ineffective leadership; a failure to gather, either through leadership which favours one group or another, or fails to give clear direction because it itself is confused, or merely self referential. The images of the Church from the New Testament have hard edges like Temple of the Spirit or the Body of Christ, one knows who is inside and who is outside or else they are by way of a contrast: light and dark, the leaven in the lump, lost and found. The Church is supposed to built on rock, or firmly united to vine or planted in good soil, instability is not good for either its growth or its stability. I can't help noticing a change in Bishops appointed in the last decade, some might be time servers but most are pretty solid, there might be exceptions but the age of the Worlock and Hume men in Britain seems to be coming to an end, in the same way the Bernardin, Mahoney and |Weakland disciples are disappearing from the US. It is as if Rome is no longer choosing factionalists but Christians as bishops, or maybe those who are indeed members of factions are trying to express themselves in terms that build up the body of Christ rather than damage it. Perhaps Bishops realise they are servants of Communion rather than masters of it, that they simply cannot rely on blind obedience of either clergy or the laity.

In the spectrum between what the Church has always understood by Communion and Schism, there are a numerous degrees, unlike pregnancy we can be in degrees of Communion or Schism. Bishops have a duty of making Communion with them easy, to the point of it being desired, I think this is what Pope Francis means by 'attraction', when he speaks of evangelism. A bad bishop causes the faithful all sorts of problems of conscience and obedience, a good bishop, transparently showing Christ has an attraction which rarely needs demonstrations of power.