Friday, November 30, 2007

Spe Salvi: Eternal life – what is it?

I have just managed a cursory read through of Spe Salvi, it is obviously worth very serious study. It strikes me that this is a crucial document for evangelisation and for a rethink of much that passes for catechises within the Church. What is so refreshing is that there is little that is horizantalist about it, it is strictly about turning towards the Lord. This little section on Baptism for example, which draws not from the renewed Rite but from the more ancient sources, the Extraordinary Form, speaks about the role of the Church and the sacramental economy.

Eternal life – what is it?

10. We have spoken thus far of faith and hope in the New Testament and in early Christianity; yet it has always been clear that we are referring not only to the past: the entire reflection concerns living and dying in general, and therefore it also concerns us here and now. So now we must ask explicitly: is the Christian faith also for us today a life-changing and life-sustaining hope?

Is it “performative” for us—is it a message which shapes our life in a new way, or is it just “information” which, in the meantime, we have set aside and which now seems to us to have been superseded by more recent information? In the search for an answer, I would like to begin with the classical form of the dialogue with which the rite of Baptism expressed the reception of an infant into the community of believers and the infant's rebirth in Christ. First of all the priest asked what name the parents had chosen for the child, and then he continued with the question: “What do you ask of the Church?” Answer: “Faith”. “And what does faith give you?” “Eternal life”. According to this dialogue, the parents were seeking access to the faith for their child, communion with believers, because they saw in faith the key to “eternal life”. Today as in the past, this is what being baptized, becoming Christians, is all about: it is not just an act of socialization within the community, not simply a welcome into the Church. The parents expect more for the one to be baptized: they expect that faith, which includes the corporeal nature of the Church and her sacraments, will give life to their child—eternal life. Faith is the substance of hope. But then the question arises: do we really want this—to live eternally? Perhaps many people reject the faith today simply because they do not find the prospect of eternal life attractive. What they desire is not eternal life at all, but this present life, for which faith in eternal life seems something of an impediment. To continue living for ever —endlessly—appears more like a curse than a gift. Death, admittedly, one would wish to postpone for as long as possible. But to live always, without end—this, all things considered, can only be monotonous and ultimately unbearable. This is precisely the point made, for example, by Saint Ambrose, one of the Church Fathers, in the funeral discourse for his deceased brother Satyrus: “Death was not part of nature; it became part of nature. God did not decree death from the beginning; he prescribed it as a remedy. Human life, because of sin ... began to experience the burden of wretchedness in unremitting labour and unbearable sorrow. There had to be a limit to its evils; death had to restore what life had forfeited. Without the assistance of grace, immortality is more of a burden than a blessing.” 6 A little earlier, Ambrose had said: “Death is, then, no cause for mourning, for it is the cause of mankind's salvation.”

Spe Salvi - Example of St Josephine Bakhita

From Spe Salvi
3. Yet at this point a question arises: in what does this hope consist which, as hope, is “redemption”? The essence of the answer is given in the phrase from the Letter to the Ephesians quoted above: the Ephesians, before their encounter with Christ, were without hope because they were “without God in the world”. To come to know God—the true God—means to receive hope. We who have always lived with the Christian concept of God, and have grown accustomed to it, have almost ceased to notice that we possess the hope that ensues from a real encounter with this God. The example of a saint of our time can to some degree help us understand what it means to have a real encounter with this God for the first time. I am thinking of the African Josephine Bakhita, canonized by Pope John Paul II. She was born around 1869—she herself did not know the precise date—in Darfur in Sudan. At the age of nine, she was kidnapped by slave-traders, beaten till she bled, and sold five times in the slave-markets of Sudan. Eventually she found herself working as a slave for the mother and the wife of a general, and there she was flogged every day till she bled; as a result of this she bore 144 scars throughout her life. Finally, in 1882, she was bought by an Italian merchant for the Italian consul Callisto Legnani, who returned to Italy as the Mahdists advanced. Here, after the terrifying “masters” who had owned her up to that point, Bakhita came to know a totally different kind of “master”—in Venetian dialect, which she was now learning, she used the name “paron” for the living God, the God of Jesus Christ. Up to that time she had known only masters who despised and maltreated her, or at best considered her a useful slave. Now, however, she heard that there is a “paron” above all masters, the Lord of all lords, and that this Lord is good, goodness in person. She came to know that this Lord even knew her, that he had created her—that he actually loved her. She too was loved, and by none other than the supreme “Paron”, before whom all other masters are themselves no more than lowly servants. She was known and loved and she was awaited. What is more, this master had himself accepted the destiny of being flogged and now he was waiting for her “at the Father's right hand”. Now she had “hope” —no longer simply the modest hope of finding masters who would be less cruel, but the great hope: “I am definitively loved and whatever happens to me—I am awaited by this Love. And so my life is good.” Through the knowledge of this hope she was “redeemed”, no longer a slave, but a free child of God. She understood what Paul meant when he reminded the Ephesians that previously they were without hope and without God in the world—without hope because without God. Hence, when she was about to be taken back to Sudan, Bakhita refused; she did not wish to be separated again from her “Paron”. On 9 January 1890, she was baptized and confirmed and received her first Holy Communion from the hands of the Patriarch of Venice. On 8 December 1896, in Verona, she took her vows in the Congregation of the Canossian Sisters and from that time onwards, besides her work in the sacristy and in the porter's lodge at the convent, she made several journeys round Italy in order to promote the missions: the liberation that she had received through her encounter with the God of Jesus Christ, she felt she had to extend, it had to be handed on to others, to the greatest possible number of people. The hope born in her which had “redeemed” her she could not keep to herself; this hope had to reach many, to reach everybody.








see here for the text of Spe Salvi


Pope Benedict XVI strongly criticized modern-day atheism in a major document released today, saying it had led to some of the "greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice" ever known to mankind.
But in his second encyclical, Benedict also critically questioned modern Christianity, saying its focus on individual salvation had ignored Jesus' message that true Christian hope involves salvation for all.
Spe Salvi (Latin for "saved by hope") is a deeply theological exploration of Christian hope in the afterlife — that in the suffering and misery of daily life, Christianity provides the faithful with a "journey of hope" to the Kingdom of God.
"We must do all we can to overcome suffering, but to banish it from the world is not in our power," Benedict wrote. "Only God is able to do this."
In the 76-page document, Benedict elaborates on how the Christian understanding of hope had changed in the modern age, when man sought to relieve the suffering and injustice around him. Benedict points to two historical upheavals: the French Revolution and the proletarian revolution instigated by Karl Marx.
Benedict sharply criticizes Marx and the 19th and 20th century atheism spawned by his revolution, although he acknowledges that both were responding to the deep injustices of the time.
"A world marked by so much injustice, innocent suffering and cynicism of power cannot be the work of a good God," he wrote. But he said the idea that man can do what God cannot by creating a new salvation on Earth was "both presumptuous and intrinsically false."
"It is no accident that this idea has led to the greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice," he wrote. "A world which has to create its own justice is a world without hope."

A Few extracts

The neglected practice of “offering up” our troubles to God:

I would like to add here another brief comment with some relevance for everyday living. There used to be a form of devotion—perhaps less practised today but quite widespread not long ago—that included the idea of “offering up” the minor daily hardships that continually strike at us like irritating “jabs”, thereby giving them a meaning. Of course, there were some exaggerations and perhaps unhealthy applications of this devotion, but we need to ask ourselves whether there may not after all have been something essential and helpful contained within it. What does it mean to offer something up? Those who did so were convinced that they could insert these little annoyances into Christ’s great “com-passion” so that they somehow became part of the treasury of compassion so greatly needed by the human race. In this way, even the small inconveniences of daily life could acquire meaning and contribute to the economy of good and of human love. Maybe we should consider whether it might be judicious to revive this practice ourselves.
(n. 40)

The importance of freedom in human affairs:

The right state of human affairs, the moral well-being of the world can never be guaranteed through structures alone, however good they are. Such structures are not only important, but necessary; yet they cannot and must not marginalize human freedom. Even the best structures function only when the community is animated by convictions capable of motivating people to assent freely to the social order. Freedom requires conviction; conviction does not exist on its own, but must always be gained anew by the community.Since man always remains free and since his freedom is always fragile, the kingdom of good will never be definitively established in this world. Anyone who promises the better world that is guaranteed to last forever is making a false promise; he is overlooking human freedom. Freedom must constantly be won over for the cause of good. Free assent to the good never exists simply by itself. If there were structures which could irrevocably guarantee a determined—good—state of the world, man’s freedom would be denied, and hence they would not be good structures at all. (n. 24a,b)

On Praying for the Dead

48. A further point must be mentioned here, because it is important for the practice of Christian hope. Early Jewish thought includes the idea that one can help the deceased in their intermediate state through prayer (see for example 2 Macc 12:38-45; first century BC). The equivalent practice was readily adopted by Christians and is common to the Eastern and Western Church. The East does not recognize the purifying and expiatory suffering of souls in the afterlife, but it does acknowledge various levels of beatitude and of suffering in the intermediate state. The souls of the departed can, however, receive “solace and refreshment” through the Eucharist, prayer and almsgiving. The belief that love can reach into the afterlife, that reciprocal giving and receiving is possible, in which our affection for one another continues beyond the limits of death—this has been a fundamental conviction of Christianity throughout the ages and it remains a source of comfort today. Who would not feel the need to convey to their departed loved ones a sign of kindness, a gesture of gratitude or even a request for pardon? Now a further question arises: if “Purgatory” is simply purification through fire in the encounter with the Lord, Judge and Saviour, how can a third person intervene, even if he or she is particularly close to the other? When we ask such a question, we should recall that no man is an island, entire of itself. Our lives are involved with one another, through innumerable interactions they are linked together. No one lives alone. No one sins alone. No one is saved alone. The lives of others continually spill over into mine: in what I think, say, do and achieve. And conversely, my life spills over into that of others: for better and for worse. So my prayer for another is not something extraneous to that person, something external, not even after death. In the interconnectedness of Being, my gratitude to the other—my prayer for him—can play a small part in his purification. And for that there is no need to convert earthly time into God's time: in the communion of souls simple terrestrial time is superseded. It is never too late to touch the heart of another, nor is it ever in vain. In this way we further clarify an important element of the Christian concept of hope. Our hope is always essentially also hope for others; only thus is it truly hope for me too.40 As Christians we should never limit ourselves to asking: how can I save myself? We should also ask: what can I do in order that others may be saved and that for them too the star of hope may rise? Then I will have done my utmost for my own personal salvation as well.

Sociologist called Marx, new Archbishop of Munich

A few days ago I put up a short extract from the Spectator that seemed to be relevant to the Westminster Succession, it said that the Pope was anxious to appoint the right man to New York, Westminster and Munich. This report from Cathcon speaks about the first of these Benedictine appointments, Reinhard Marx, the new Archbishop of Munich.

Translation of a German press report. But nothing to get concerned about! He is in fact a cigar toting conservative. I am afraid the translation is a little stilted.

Theologically conservative but open to people, as the Trier bishop Reinhard Marx is described. The 54 year old churchman has the best prospects of being the successor to Cardinal Wetter of Munich. Limburg also gets a new bishop.

For months in Bavaria and in Rome the carousel has rotated of possible successors to the Munich-Cardinal Friedrich Wetter (79).

Now it is rumoured in church circles that the Trier bishop Reinhard Marx will move to the top of the largest Bavarian diocese. An official confirmation, there has not been as yet but the appointment seems likely soon. The 54 year old Westfalian, with the baroque form has had a steep career rise: Pope John Paul II appointed the former professor of Christian social sciences 1996 to be the Bishop in Paderborn and 2001 to be the latest diocesan bishop in Trier, Germany, the oldest Episcopal seat in Germany. In Munich Marx will not only chair the Freising Bishops' Conference (the Bavarian Bishops), but also has prospects of being the successor to Cardinal Karl Lehmann at the head of the German Bishops' Conference. Before the era of Lehmann, the Cologne and Munich archbishops alternated in this role. Furthermore, the award of the Cardinal’s hat only a matter of time. The affable churchman is quick-witted, discussion friendly and has no fears over the media. He has combined administration and pastoral care in the Diocese of Trier at the same time as a divisive structural reform and has on occasion rubbed people up the wrong way. At the same time, he sees himself as a "Merrymaker in the Faith", seeking "the witness of a happy and contented priest,". Marx likes a strong cigar and sip a good wine. In the German Bishops' Conference Marx has long acted as as a social expert. With his surname many anecdotes are entwined. When the GDR still existed, so he says, "the border guards were surprised by the “Christian Democrat Marx." When the professor after the collapse of communism held seminars in East Germany on Catholic social doctrine held, he could not resist pointed remark: "For 40 years have you been waiting for Marx. Well, he came is and Catholic priest." According to media reports, the only remaining favorite in the Cardinal Wetter-succession stakes is not a nostalgic for redistribtion of the type a "Heart of Jesus Marxist". His ideas about the reform of the welfare state in the direction of greater self-responsibility and subsidiarity are more neo-sosial and conform with the key messages of the new CSU-Basic Programme. His criticism of "inflated manager salaries" has been shared by the former Bavarian Minister-President Edmund Stoiber. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen whether and how Marx will continue the traditionally close relationship between the Catholic Church and CSU-lead state government. Theologically, ecclesiastically, and especially liturgically Marx thinks as a conservative. "We cannot depend on opinion polls to decide on what we believe," he says. And: "He who marries the spirit of the age, is tomorrow a widower (CS Lewis original Cathcon note)" When the Saarbrück priest and theology professor Gotthold Hasenhüttl on the fringes of the First Ecumenical Church Day in 2003 in Berlin invited evangelical Christians to communion although forbidden, Marx was forced to intervene. As a responsible local bishop he suspended Hasenhüttl from his offices. The professor had to demonstratively violated the order the church. Limburg also gets a new chief shepherd. Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst is to be the successor of Bishop Kamphaus.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Bear called Mohamed

I bumped into a Sudanese refugee briefly today. I allow part of my little house to be used for an ecumenical project called Voices in Exile , which helps support some of the huge number of refugees in Brighton. The man who I met had rung the wrong bell a few weeks ago, since then we meet quite often. He is a good Muslim, but doesn't go to the Mosque, I nag him as I do lapsed Catholics. He seems to enjoy that.
Today, before I had the chance to say much he asked me what I thought about the teacher and the teddy bear, then proceeded to tell me what he thought.
He said that one of the charges was "disrespect for religion", he told me that when he was in the Sudan everyone thought that being English and showing disrespect seemed to be the same. No-one expects the English to have respect for any religion, not even Christianity. Being English and having a contempt for religion seem coterminous.
Sad how others see us isn't it?

Ephrem's Hymns

The Pope spoke about St Ephrem the Syrian, Amy hast posted some of his hymns, they are deeply theological and even in translation stunningly beautiful:

“The Lord came to you
to become a servant.
The Word came to you
to be still in your womb.
Lightning came to you
without making any noise.
The Shepherd came to you -
and becomes the newborn Lamb
with his submissive plaint.

The womb of Mary
has changed the roles:
He who created all things
took possession in poverty.
The Highest came to you (Mary)
but he entered with humility.
Splendor came to you,
but dressed in humble rags.
He who makes all things grow
knew hunger.
He who waters everything
knew thirst.
Bare and stripped, he came from you,
he who clothes everything in beauty.”
(Hymn “De Nativitate”11, 6-8).

To express the mystery of Christ, Ephrem used a great diversity of expressions and images. In one of his hymns, he effectively links Adam in Paradise with Christ in the Eucharist:

“It was the cherubim spade
that closed the path
to the Tree of Life.
But for the people,
the Lord of this tree
gave himself as food -
he himself as offering (Eucharistic).

The trees of Eden
were given as food
to the first Adam.
For us, the Gardener in person
has made himself food for our souls.

Indeed we all left Paradise with Adam,
who left it all behind.
Now that the sword has been taken away,
there (on the Cross), we find it again
in the lance that pierced.
(Hymn, 49,9-11).

To speak of the Eucharist, Ephrem used two images: the ember or burning coal, and the pearl. The ember comes from Isaiah (6.6), in the image of the seraphin who picks up an ember with tongs and simply brushes it across the lips of the prophet in order to purify it. The Christian, on the other hand, takes and swallows the Ember, who is Christ himself.

“In your Bread is hidden the Spirit
which cannot be consumed.
In your wine is the fire
which cannot be drunk.
The Spirit in the bread,
the fire in your wine:
behold the wonder
that we welcome to our lips.

The seraphin could not, with his fingers, touch the ember
which he could only bring close to Isaiah’s mouth.
The fingers did not hold it, nor did the mouth ingest it.
But the Lord has conceded both to us.

Fire descends with ire to destroy sinners
but the fire of grace descends on the bread and stays.
Instead of the fire which destroyed people,
we have eastern the fire in the bread
and we have been revived.
(Hymn “De Fide”10,8-10).

Finally, a last example of St. Ephrem’s hymns, where he describes the pearl as a symbol of the richness and beauty of the faith:

“I place the pearl, my brothers,
in the palm of my hand to examine it.
I look at it from one side, then the other -
and it looks the same from every side.

So it is with our search
for the inscrutable Son -
because he is all light.

In its limpidity, I see the Limpid
which does not become opaque.
In its purity, I see the symbol
of the pure Body of our Lord.
And in its indivisibility, I see
the truth which is indivisible.
(Hymn “Sulla Perla” 1, 2-3).

The Westminster Succession

There is a long article on Tony Blair's conversion in the Spectator I was struck by this little section, I wish I knew who the sources where. I almost fell about laughing recently when something I agreed with appeared in one paper, under the heading "a leading Catholic priest said", when I googled it, it was me!

There is concern in Rome, however, over the liberal direction of the Catholic Church in this country. According to a senior Vatican source: ‘The situation in England, from mass attendance to vocations, is as bad as anywhere.’ But things in the US and Germany are bad too. That is why the Pope has decided that there are three appointments that will define what is expected to be a relatively short papacy: new cardinals in New York, Munich and Westminster. All three incumbents have reached the mandatory retirement age.

But finding a successor can be a slow process even under fast-moving Popes. ‘The Holy Father is a gentle man, he works very slowly, to the frustration of some,’ I am told. Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Birmingham, has long been the frontrunner for Westminster. ‘But he is the Gordon Brown of the Church,’ says once source close to the Cardinal. ‘He thought the job should have been his last time, and he’s been gunning for it ever since.’ The Vatican suspects the Cardinal’s preferred choice is Arthur Roche, Bishop of Leeds.

Both may be in for a disappointment. I am told the Pope is sceptical about choosing anyone from England’s ‘magic circle’ of metropolitan bishops and is actively considering monastic candidates to succeed Cardinal Murphy- O’Connor — just as Basil Hume was plucked from the monastic seclusion of Ampleforth Abbey in 1976. Those already in Church hierarchy, it is feared, are liberals.

I found this little bit amusing

Mrs Blair made her position explicit in an article two years ago in which she confessed to having ‘doubts’ about some of the Church’s teachings. ‘But I have been taught that you should stay and try to change things. It’s like the Labour party in the 1980s. I wasn’t happy with the way it was going, so I tried to help change it from within. Luckily, we won that battle.’ For all the breathtaking presumptuousness, one cannot fault her ambition. Today: Westminster. Tomorrow: Rome.

Padre Pio Converts Orthodox Village

There is a fascinating story about the healing of an Orthodox Romanian woman on Zenit, through the intercession of Padre Pio. Consequently her two sons, an icon painter and a priest are also converted, eventually her whole village are converted and are building a church in the saint's honour.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ancient image of the Blessed Virgin

I went up to London yesterday and just happened to find this, which was, before you read further, dirt cheap, and is likely to increase in value. Eastern European art prices are projected to rise, even Communist era stuff.

It is a late 16th or early 17th Century image of the Mother of God, the panel is pine or spruce, extremely worm eaten, it has obviously been glued together a few times, there a holes that have been filled with bee’s wax. The panel is so light, I had to check it was wood rather than papier-mâché.
Its preservation is an indication of the devotion it had presumable for one family. It is one leaf of diptych, the other leaf would have been Christ, most probably it would have been a wedding gift. I think it is most probably Romanian, it could be Russian, though the style of painting could even suggest Northern Greece. If anyone has any expertise I would interested to know your thoughts about it. I am not sure that the photograph accurately records the depth of the colour.

Holding something this ancient makes one think of the prayers that would have been offered before it, the joys and tragedies it witnessed, newly weds, mothers giving birth, sons going off to war, famine and feasting, pestilence and plague, the state destruction of religion and its regained freedom. It presumably left its homeland with the coming of Communism.
Christianity is a religion of nostalgia, of looking back to Christ but through layers of history, having something like this in my hands reminds me of the simple handing on of faith from father to son, mother to daughter. The very fact it is here rather than in its homeland speaks of the faith’s fragility. But then somehow that is what the Incarnation is about the fragility of a child in the arms of his mother, in the arms of the Church.

Saint Ephrem: Christianity not Uniquely European, says Pope

Todays Audience -

In this week’s catechesis we turn to Saint Ephrem, the greatest of the Syriac Fathers and the most renowned poet of the patristic age. Saint Ephrem’s theology, deeply grounded in the Scriptures and profoundly orthodox in content, was expressed in poetic language marked by striking paradoxes and vivid imagery. Through his mastery of poetic symbolism, Ephrem sought to communicate, especially in his Hymns, the mystery of the trinitarian God, the incarnation of the eternal Son born of the Virgin Mary, and the spiritual treasures contained in the Eucharist. His poetry and hymns not only enriched the liturgy; they also proved an important means of catechesis for the Christian community in the fourth century. Particularly significant is Ephrem’s teaching on our redemption by Christ: his poetic descriptions of the interplay of the divine and human aspects of this great mystery foreshadowed the theology and, to some extent, even the language of the great christological definitions of the Councils of the next century. In his life-long service to the Church as a deacon, Saint Ephrem was an example of fidelity to the liturgy, meditation on the mystery of Christ and charitable service to his brothers and sisters.

In the preamble he had said:
Christianity is not and never has been a uniquely European phenomenon, and Christians of the West can learn much from the cultural expressions of Eastern Christians, especially those of the early church, Pope Benedict XVI said.

"Today it is a common opinion that Christianity is a European religion that exported European culture to other countries, but the reality is much more complicated and complex."

"It is not only that the roots of the Christian religion are found in Jerusalem, in the Old Testament, in the Semitic world and Christianity is constantly nourished by these Old Testament roots," he said, "but the expansion of Christianity in the first centuries" went simultaneously West and East.

In Europe, but also throughout the Middle East and over to India, "Christianity with a different culture was formed," he said. Christians in the East lived the faith "with their own expressions and cultural identities," demonstrating "the cultural plurality of the one faith from the beginning."

With fewer than 8,000 people present, the weekly gathering was held inside the Vatican audience hall, offering greater protection from the cold and wind for the pope, whose voice was hoarse.

Veiled thoughts

I have been think about veils lately, partly because I found some cloth of gold, the type of stuff that is made of silk thread covered in strips of gold leafed paper before it is then woven into cloth, with fine gilded wire, not your cheap tinsel stuff. Someone in the parish is going to make a veil for the tabernacle. Tabernacle of course means tent of course, so it is appropriate that cloth comes in somewhere. I think the rules are that unless it is of great artistic merit, the tabernacle should be veiled. The veiled tabernacle always reminds me of the Temple Veil before the Holy of Holies, especially if it is two parts, "torn from top to bottom".

There was this a little bit on the Anchoress about the Humeral Veil, the long shawl like piece of cloth that is used at Benediction and that the subdeacon uses in the Extraordinary Use to hold paten:

Most lay people, and even most priests, believe the minister uses it because he is unworthy to touch the monstrance or get that close to the Blessed Sacrament. Considering that the priest or deacon places the host in the monstrance, and later reposes it in the tabernacle, that’s not quite accurate. And neither is the notion that it’s just an additional sign of reverence.
So why does he use it?
It is to separate himself from the act of blessing.
The priest or deacon blesses the faithful with the Blessed Sacrament — but by wrapping his hands in the humeral veil, he signifies his own removal from the action.
He doesn’t bless the people. Christ does.

I have used a chalice veil ever since I had my own parish, partly to emphasise the holiness of the chalice and as sign of continuity, the New General Instruction of the Missal speaks of its use as being "meritorious", but also out of respect for other rites. In the Byzantine Rite is shaken over the elements during the Eucharistic Prayer as a sign of the Epiklesis, the action of the Holy Spirit. In the Syro-Malabar Rite it is rolled up, and place in the shape of a horseshoe to symbolise Christ's tomb.

I found a very interesting picture of an Orthodox deacon's ordination, where his head is covered, with an "aer" an orthodox chalice veil, as he stands with his family before being called by the bishop. It is again the separation of the sacred and the profane, which takes place at ordination. I don't know it it has a connection with English Benedictine
Monks being hooded for days after their Solemn Profession.

Pope and Khatami

( - The government of Iran is preparing to ask for Vatican mediation to stave off a possible crisis in relations with the United States, Time magazine reports.
According to Time, Iranian diplomats are ready to ask the Holy See to serve as intermediary in talks if relations with the US-- already tense-- escalate further toward a possible military conflict.
The Time report does not say whether or not the Vatican has indicated a willingness to act as a mediator. But Pope Benedict-- like his predecessor Pope John Paul II -- has consistently raised his voice in opposition to military confrontations.
In May the Holy Father received Iran's former president, Seyyed Mohammad Khatami, in an unusual private audience. (The meeting was unusual in that Khatami, who remains highly influential although he no longer holds a top government post, was accorded the diplomatic courtesies ordinarily reserved for major political leader.) After that meeting the Vatican issued a statement saying that the two had discussed their shared commitment to "overcoming the severe tensions that mark our time."

Blessed Damien of Moloka’i

There is a good article about the Blessed Damien of Moloka'i on Roman Christendom.
I find the Blessed th most incredible, and rather frightening example of priesthood. Somehow he stands in solidarity with Christ for his people. He gives himself totally for them, apparently the greatest moment of his life was when he contracted leperosy himself and was able to say, "We lepers" to his people.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Consistory Questions

Fr Justin makes some justifiable criticisms regarding the Consistory ceremonies.

I do agree with him regarding the Chair of Peter and most especially the consecration of hosts not visible to the principle celebrant.

Looking at this picture, I hadn't realised how undignified the staging is in front of the altar.

Old Rites Priestly Spirituality

This from America Magazine, it is by a priest who desrcibes himself as "liberal", who responded to the request of some of his parishioners to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass. H/T Fr Z

One reason that commentaters have put forward for the Moto Proprio is the Pope's desire to renew the Priesthood, presumably part of that is to increase vocations, and to deepen the spirituality of priests, and therefore the Church. I continually, ask can the Novus Ordo Mass give the same spirituality?

Having decided to offer the Tridentine Mass, I began the arduous project of recovering—and reinforcing—my Latin grammar and vocabulary so that I could celebrate the liturgy in a prayerful, intelligible way. As I studied the Latin texts and intricate rituals I had never noticed as a boy, I discovered that the old rite’s priestly spirituality and theology were exactly the opposite of what I had expected. Whereas I had looked for the “high priest/king of the parish” spirituality, I found instead a spirituality of “unworthy instrument for the sake of the people.”
The old Missal’s rubrical micromanagement made me feel like a mere machine, devoid of personality; but, I wondered, is that really so bad? I actually felt liberated from a persistent need to perform, to engage, to be forever a friendly celebrant. When I saw a photo of the old Latin Mass in our local newspaper, I suddenly recognized the rite’s ingenious ability to shrink the priest. Shot from the choir loft, I was a mere speck of green, dwarfed by the high altar. The focal point was not the priest but the gathering of the people. And isn’t that a valid image of the church, the people of God?

The act of praying the Roman Canon slowly and in low voice accented my own smallness and mere instrumentality more than anything else. Plodding through the first 50 or so words of the Canon, I felt intense loneliness. As I moved along, however, I also heard the absolute silence behind me, 450 people of all ages praying, all bound mysteriously to the words I uttered and to the ritual actions I haltingly and clumsily performed. Following the consecration, I fell into a paradoxical experience of intense solitude as I gazed at the Sacrament and an inexplicable feeling of solidarity with the multitude behind me.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Christus Regnat

I have just been listening to yesterday's Vespers from Westminster Cathedral.

It is absolutely wonderful, it should be available for the next few days. Listen to the wonderful piece after the rather dull Intercessions, I have not heard it before. If he or a friends reads this, my congratulations to the soloist.

Hymn: Te saeculorum principem (Plainsong)
Psalms: 110, 145 (Plainsong)
Canticle: Salus et gloria (Plainsong)
Reading: 1 Corinthians 15 vv25-28
Magnificat: octavi toni (Vivanco)
Homily: Mgr Mark Langham
Motet: Christus vincit (James MacMillan)
Organ Voluntary: Te Deum (Demessieux)

Master of Music: Martin Baker
Assistant Master of Music: Matthew Martin
Organ Scholar: Oliver Brett

Saturno tipping vigorously to Cathcon.

It is Jesus Crucified!

Again, again and again the Holy Father speaks about the centrality of the person of Jesus Christ, Crucified, in the lives of Christians and in the life of the Church. For most of us he came to prominence with his attack Liberation Theology, not because it favoured the poor and downtrodden and was opposed to Capitalism but simply because it attempted to replace Jesus Christ, and Him Crucified with Marxist Dialectic. Any escape from the centrality of the Cross is a denial of Christianity. The celebrations over the weekend, the signs and the words, even the large image on the Cardinalation ring, were all very subtle signs of this, the Crucified. His theology of the Mass, most especially, too, is the emphasis of the Sacrifice of the Cross, hence the welcoming by so many on the blogosphere of the return traditional arrangement of the Eastward, Crucifix facing celebration on the altar of St Peter's Basilica.

In his homily, the Pontiff explained that “in Jesus crucified there is the
greatest possible revelation of God in this world, because God is love, and the
death of Jesus on the cross is the greatest act of love in all of history.”

“On the cardinal’s ring, which I will soon give to the new members of
the sacred college, the crucifixion is portrayed,” he said. “This, dear
brothers, will always be for you an invitation to remember the king whose
servants you are, on which throne he was raised up and how he remained faithful
to the very end to defeat sin and death with the power of divine mercy.

“Mother Church, bride of Christ, gives you this sign as a commemoration
of her Bridegroom, who loved her and gave himself up for her. Thus, wearing this
ring of the cardinalate, you are constantly called to give your life for the

From The Spirit of the Liturgy by Joseph
Cardinal Ratzinger:

"Facing toward the East, as we heard, was
linked with the "sign of the Son of Man", with the Cross, which announces Our
Lord's Second Coming. That is why, very early on, the East was linked with the
sign of the cross. Where a direct common turning toward the East is not
possible, the cross can serve as the interior "East" of faith. It should stand
in the middle of the altar and be the common point of focus for both priest and
praying community.

"In this way we obey the ancient call to prayer:
Conversi ad Dominum, "Turn to the Lord!" In this way we look together at the One
whose Death tore the veil of the Temple -- the One who stands before the Father
for us and encloses us in His arms in order to make us the new and living

"Moving the altar cross to the side to give an uninterrupted
view of the priest is something I regard as one of the truly absurd phenomena of
recent decades. Is the cross disruptive during Mass? Is the priest more
important than Our Lord?

"This mistake should be corrected as quickly as
possible; it can be done without further rebuilding. The Lord is the point of
reference. He is the rising sun of history."

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Good for Cormac

The leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales has begun an unprecedented attempt to block new laws on embryo research by contacting all Catholic MPs in a personal lobbying campaign.
The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, has invited them to a reception next week to discuss in confidence “issues likely to come before the House in the new session of Parliament”.
MPs say that the move signals a shift towards a more outspoken political role for the Church.
They told The Times that the event was the first of its kind and clearly triggered by the current legislation on fertility treatment and embryo research and by further debates on abortion law, which are expected next year.
While the Catholic Church in Scotland has traditionally enjoyed a high profile in political life, its counterpart in England has generally been more reticent.
Ministers are preparing for a parliamentary battle over the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, which Government sources told The Times would be whipped strongly to prevent its opponents from forcing through wrecking amendments.
Such tactics present a dilemma for Roman Catholic Labour MPs, including Ruth Kelly, the Transport Secretary, who as a backbencher opposed regulations on stem-cell research. She has refused to say whether she will vote for the Bill. But senior ministers told The Times that there was no prospect of Ms Kelly and other Roman Catholic Labour MPs being given a free vote on the proposals. “This is a Government Bill and Ruth will have to vote for it if she wishes to stay in the Government,” said one figure.

Rising Vocations

What I find fascinating is the rise in vocations in France amongst the Traditional Orders, Princess Elisabeth von Thurn und Taxis writes about then in the Catholic Herald. Fr Z does a friendly red ink job on the article too.

I wish I could say that I was truly a "Traditionalist", the truth is I am a pragmatist. Liberalism leads nowhere, seminaries are more-or-less empty, convents are being sold off, parishes are closing, schools are left without Catholic heads or teachers, even the vocation to marriage and therefore to the Catholic family are seriously diminishing.

I don't know why "Traditionalism" flourishes on the continent, even in liberal anti-clerical France but in England it seems to be thought of something of a specialist interest. The article deals communities which are attached to the "old rite" but this is too narrow an approach to these communities, but even the "new rite" communities are far from liberal, they too flourish.

Pontifical Dalmatic

If you look carefully you can see the Pontifcal Dalmatic, which symbolises that bishop is also a Deacon having the "fullness of order". I presume the gold cuffs are his alb and not a tunicle.

Where will the Crucifix be...

...That seemed to be the question Liturgy buffs were all asking yesterday. The issue is considered important as it signifies the centrality of Christ in the writings of the Pope, and the rediscovery of the vertical dimension of the Liturgy. In the past it has normally been placed on a corner of the altar, or even seperated from the altar. Today it was slapbang in the middle and facing the celebrant!

The Italians seem to have a preference of non-symetrical arrangements on altars, which can often be bizare, let us hope this is the beginning of the end of them.

Newly elevated Cardinals, celebrate a a Mass with Pope Benedict XVI, in which the pontiff gave each new cardinal a golden ring, inside St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican, Sunday.

Benedict XVI urged his 23 new cardinals on Sunday to pray for peace in the world and unity among Christians, and be willing to give their lives for the sake of the Catholic Church. Benedict made the appeal during a Mass in which he placed a golden ring on the finger of each of the new cardinals, a symbol of their links to the papacy, that was embossed with an image of Christ's crucifixion.

Blair's Conversion

Telgraph is running a story that Tony Blair was persuaded by Cardinal Murphy O'Connor not to announce his conversion to Catholicism during his visit to the Holy Father.

The following paragraph might indicate he has already been recieved into the Church:

Despite being asked by Cardinal Basil Hume, the previous Archbishop of Westminster, to desist from receiving Communion because he has not converted to Catholicism, Mr Blair received Communion from Fr Michael Seed while he was at Downing Street and from Fr Timothy Russ and Fr Walsh at Chequers.

This morning I heard an interview on BBC's Radio 4 with Sir Stephen Wall, the former Press Advisor to the Cardinal, who had previously advised Blair denouncing much of the Church's moral teaching, especially on abortion and on sex and sexuality. Interestingly the interviewer seemed to think that such teaching was "Infallable" rather than Magisterial, so it seemed did Sir Stephen.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Poor Soul!

All the Cardinals are in the Apostolic Palace receiving their guests, and friends, and anyone who wants to have a snoop; but this poor s___ has to stay outside on sentry duty!

Splendour that is Benedict

Each one of you, dear and venerable brothers new-Cardinals, represents, thus, a portion of the articulate Mystical Body of Christ which is the Church spread everywhere. I know well how much weariness and sacrifice the care of souls demands today, but I know the generosity that sustains your apostolic activity. Due to this, in the circumstances which we are living, it is dear to me to confirm before you my sincere appreciation for the service faithfully rendered in so many years of labor in the diverse areas of ecclesial ministry, a service which now, with the elevation to the porpora, you are called to accomplish with even greater responsibility, in extremely close communion with the Bishop of Rome.

The pictures are just coming in off the wires of the creation of the new cardinals what strikes me is the change, just visually speaking, that the Pope and Marini (mark 2), his new Master of Ceremonies are making.
In previous consistories the Holy Father wore a cassock, today it is a mitre - I think it belonged to Pius IX and what I think is a 16th century orphrey on that cope. A wonderful way of saying that the Church is about continuity and that the liturgy needs beauty.
Isn't Benedict wonderful?

Emmanuel III Delly

(AFP) — Pope Benedict XVI said Saturday that by elevating the patriarch of Babylon for the Chaldeans to the rank of cardinal he wished to express his spiritual closeness and affection for Iraqis.
By inducting Emmanuel III Delly into the College of Cardinals, "I intend to express in a concrete way my spiritual closeness and my affection for these people," the pope said at a Vatican ceremony creating 23 new cardinals.
"I think now with affection of communities entrusted to your care and, especially, to those most tried by suffering, challenges and difficulties of various kinds," he said.
"Among them, how can one not turn one's gaze with apprehension and affection, in this moment of joy, to the dear Christian communities in Iraq?" he asked, drawing loud applause from the prelates assembled in Saint Peter's Basilica.
"These brothers and sisters of the faith are experiencing in the flesh the dramatic consequences of a lasting conflict and live in a fragile and delicate political situation," he said.
Emmanuel III, the 80-year-old spiritual leader of Iraqi Christians, said Friday that the honour was for "all Iraqis."
"The title of cardinal that the pope has accorded me is not for my poor self alone but for all Iraqis, both those who still live in our tortured country and those who have emigrated," he told reporters.
"I will continue to serve Iraq and all the ethnic and religious groups of the country who should be united. I will serve my country, Iraq, to the last drop of my blood," he said.
Emmanuel III said Benedict had referred to his nomination as a "sign of reconciliation ... between Christians and all the Muslims, whether Sunni or Shiite."
The pope has repeatedly called for dialogue between Christians and Muslims to combat intolerance and violence.

Cardinal Making Rite

(Zenit) - Benedict XVI will create 23 new cardinals later today following a rite introduced in June 1991.

The ceremony will start with a liturgical greeting, followed by the Pope's reading of the formula of creation while solemnly proclaiming the names of the new cardinals.
The first of the new cardinals will then address the Holy Father on behalf of everyone. The Liturgy of the Word, the Pontiff's homily, and the profession of faith will follow.
The oath

Each cardinal will then take an oath where he will approach the Holy Father, kneel before him to receive the cardinal's biretta, and then be assigned a title or deaconry.

The Pope assigns the cardinals a Roman church as a sign of their participation with the Bishop of Rome in the pastoral care of the city.

As Benedict XVI places the biretta on the cardinal's head, he will say, in part: "(This is) red as a sign of the dignity of the office of a cardinal, signifying that you are ready to act with fortitude, even to the point of spilling your blood for the increase of the Christian faith, for peace and harmony among the people of God, for freedom and the spread of the Holy Roman Catholic Church."

The Holy Father will then hand over the cardinal's Bull of Creation and exchange a kiss of peace with the new members. The members of the College of Cardinals will also exchange such a sign among themselves.
The rite is concluded with the Prayers of the Faithful, the recitation of the Our Father and a final blessing.
Cardinal's ring

On Sunday, the solemnity of Christ the King, the Holy Father will preside at a concelebrated Mass with the new cardinals, where he will give them the cardinal's ring, representing the dignity, pastoral care and the most solid communion with the See of Peter.

As he places the ring on the new cardinal's finger, the Pope will say: "Take this ring from the hand of Peter and know that, with the love of the Prince of the Apostles, your love for the Church is strengthened."

Following Saturday's ceremony, the College of Cardinals will have 201 members, of whom 120 are electors, that is, under the age of 80. Eighteen of the new 23 cardinals are electors

Mont Saint Michel

Zenit has an article on Mont-Saint- Michel, which is now staffed by the Fraternity of Jerusalem.

The community believes beautiful liturgy is the best way to evangelize. Tourists’ children are asked to participate, gathered together to carry candles to the altar when the gifts are offered during Mass. Father De Froberville said, “When we ask the children if Mass was too long, they smile and say ‘no,’ while the parents look on with surprise. It is the richness of our liturgy that keeps them interested.”
As for the tourists who visit, Father De Froberville explained that “the age of anti-clericalism seems to be over. The young people are curious about us as compared to the older generations who still remember the anti-clerical attitude prevalent in France from the 1960s. But those younger than 60 are open to Christianity in a way not seen for a long time. They think its cool.”

The Lord’s descent into the underworld

At Matins/the Office of Readings on Holy Saturday the Church gives us this 'ancient homily', I find it incredibly moving, it is abou...